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Did the historical Jesus exist? A growing number of scholars don’t think so

By V a l e r i e   T a r i c o, Saturday, August 30, 2014 10:01 EDT      This story first appeared at AlterNet.

jesusrio.afpMost antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All . For centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

More academic arguments in support of the Jesus Myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast, writes from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest debunkers of fringe Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who tries to argue that the Romans invented Jesus) are from serious Mythicists like Fitzgerald, Carrier and Price.

The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

 No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.
In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)

 The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystallized in later texts.
Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”

 Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.
We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .

The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.
If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

 Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.

Ten Christian Myths
That Show Jesus
Never Existed at all
which critically
examines the
historical evidence
of Christ.

They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”

For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a soon-to-be-released follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.

We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell.



David Fitzgerald's
"The Mormons"

is to Mormonism
Ken. Smith's
Ken's Guide to
the Bible
is to Christianity.

An absolute Must Read -
Funny, too!

God's Debris
   by '
DILBERT's  Scott Adams...  
It's a Treasure! ... and  it's FREE


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Scholars  doubt  truth of Exodus

Some say story of Moses is more legend than truth

L o s   A n g e l e s   T i m e s     
April 21, 2001

It's one of the greatest stories ever told: A baby is found in a basket
adrift in the Egyptian Nile and is adopted into the Pharaoh's household. He
grows up as Moses, rediscovers his roots, and leads his enslaved Israelite
brethren to freedom after God sends down 10 plagues against Egypt and parts
the Red Sea to allow them to escape. They wander for 40 years in the
wilderness and, under the leadership of Joshua, conquer the land of Canaan to
enter their promised land.

For centuries, the biblical account of the Exodus has been revered as the
founding story of the Jewish people, sacred scripture for three world
religions and a universal symbol of freedom that has inspired liberation
movements around the globe.

But did the Exodus actually occur?

On Passover Sunday, Rabbi David Wolpe raised that provocative question
before 2,200 faithful at Sinai Temple on the west side of Los Angeles. He
minced no words.

"The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated
the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the
Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at
all," Wolpe told his congregants.

Wolpe's startling sermon may have seemed blasphemy to some. In fact, however,
the rabbi was merely telling his flock what scholars have known for more than
a decade. Slowly and often outside wide public purview, archeologists are
radically reshaping modern understandings of the Bible. It was time for his
people to know about it, Wolpe decided.

After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true,
archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were
ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for
40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership. To
the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua's fabled military
campaigns never occurred -- archeologists have uncovered ash layers and
other signs of destruction at the relevant time at only one of the many
battlegrounds mentioned in the Bible.

Today, the prevailing theory is that Israel probably emerged peacefully out
of Canaan -- modern-day Lebanon, southern Syria, Jordan and the West
Bank of Israel -- whose people are portrayed in the Bible as wicked
idolaters. Under this theory, the Canaanites who took on a new identity
as Israelites were perhaps joined or led by a small group of Semites from
Egypt -- explaining a possible source of the Exodus story, scholars say.
As they expanded their settlement, they may have begun to clash with
neighbors over water rights and the like, perhaps providing the historical
nuggets for the conflicts recorded in Joshua and Judges.

"Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we've broken the news
very gently," said William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archeology and
anthropology at the University of Arizona and one of America's pre-eminent










The modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach
the general public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv
University, set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories
of the  patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua's conquests
ever occurred. In the hottest controversy today, Herzog also argued that the
united monarchy of David and Solomon, described as grand and glorious in the
Bible, was at best a small tribal kingdom.

In a new book this year, "The Bible Unearthed," Israeli archeologist Israel
Finklestein of Tel Aviv University and archeological journalist Neil Asher
Silberman raised similar doubts and offered a new theory about the roots of
the Exodus story. The authors argue that the story was written during the
time of King Josia of Judah in the seventh century B.C. -- 600 years after
the Exodus supposedly occurred in 1250 B.C. -- as a political manifesto to
unite Israelites against the rival Egyptian empire as both states sought to
expand their territory. The young Israeli king's growing conflict with the
newly crowned Pharaoh Necho, the book argues, was metaphorically portrayed
through the momentous and probably mythical struggle between Moses and the

Dever argued that the Exodus story was produced for theological reasons: to
give an origin and history to a people and distinguish them from others by
claiming a divine destiny.

Some scholars, of course, still maintain that the Exodus story is basically
factual. Bryant Wood, director of The Associates for Biblical Research in
Maryland, argued that the evidence falls into place if the story is dated
back to 1450 B.C. He said that indications of destruction around that time at
Hazor, Jericho and a site he is excavating that he believes is the biblical
city of Ai support accounts of Joshua's conquests. He also cited the
documented presence of "Asiatic" slaves in Egypt who could have been
Israelites and said they wouldn't have left evidence of their wanderings
since they were nomads with no material culture. But Wood said he can't get
his research published in serious archeological journals.

"There's a definite anti-Bible bias," Wood said.

Evidence? Egyptian chariot wheels
discovered in the Dead Sea.

The revisionist view, however, is not necessarily publicly popular. Herzog,
Finklestein and others have been attacked for everything from faulty logic to
pro- Palestinian political agendas that undermine Israel's land claims. Dever --
a former Protestant minister who converted to Judaism 12 years ago -- says
he gets "hissed and booed" when he speaks about the lack of evidence for
the Exodus, and regularly receives letters and calls offering prayers or
telling him he's headed for hell.

Many of Wolpe's congregants said the story of the Exodus has been
personally true for them even if the details are not factual: when they
fled the Nazis during World War II, for instance, or, more recently, the
Islamic revolution in Iran. Daniel Navid Rastein, a Los Angeles medical
professional, said he has always regarded the story as a metaphor for a
greater truth: "We all have our own Egypts -- we are prisoners of something,
either alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, overeating. We have to use (the story) as a
way to free ourselves from difficulty and make ourselves a better person."

Judaism has also been more open to non-literal interpretations of the text
than some Christian traditions.

"Among Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews, there is a much
greater willingness to see the Torah as an extended metaphor in which truth
comes through story and law," said Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los

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Australian scientist faces excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Published Thursday, July 21st, 2005

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - An Australian scientist who wrote a book saying DNA evidence contradicts ancestry claims in the Book of Mormon faces disciplinary action in a separate case that could bring excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Simon Southerton told The Associated Press he's been ordered to a July 31 hearing before church leaders in Canberra, Australia.

Southerton's book "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church" uses DNA data to argue against Book of Mormon teachings that ancient America's inhabitants descended from Israelites.

Yet Southerton, a plant geneticist in Canberra, faces charges of adultery, not heresy. He acknowledges an affair five years ago, after separating from his wife, but contends church authorities are using that against him while the more difficult apostasy charge is "obviously the major issue."

Southerton says church authorities never mentioned adultery when they paid him a recent visit, instead bringing up his book, abandonment of the church in 1998 (though he technically remains a member) and postings on the Web site.

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Did Jesus exist? Italian court to decide
By P h i l   S t e w a r t

ROME (Reuters) - Forget the U.S. debate over intelligent design versus evolution.

An Italian court is tackling Jesus -- and whether the Roman Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000 years ago.

The case pits against each other two men in their 70s, who are from the same central Italian town and even went to the same seminary school in their teenage years.

The defendant, Enrico Righi, went on to become a priest writing for the parish newspaper. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, became a vocal atheist who, after years of legal wrangling, is set to get his day in court later this month.

"I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli told Reuters.

Cascioli says Righi, and by extension the whole Church, broke two Italian laws. The first is "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of Popular Belief) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second crime, he says, is "Sostituzione di Persona," or impersonation.

"The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala," Cascioli claimed, referring to the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army.

A court in Viterbo will hear from Righi, who has yet to be indicted, at a January 27 preliminary hearing meant to determine whether the case has enough merit to go forward.

"In my book, The Fable of Christ, I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof of Christ's existence," Cascioli said.

Speaking to Reuters, Righi, 76, sounded frustrated by the case and baffled as to why Cascioli -- who, like him, came from the town of Bagnoregio -- singled him out in his crusade against the Church.

"We're both from Bagnoregio, both of us. We were in seminary together. Then he took a different path and we didn't see each other anymore," Righi said.

"Since I'm a priest, and I write in the parish newspaper, he is now suing me because I 'trick' the people."

Righi claims there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of Jesus, including historical texts.

He also claims that justice is on his side. The judge presiding over the hearing has tried, repeatedly, to dismiss the case -- prompting appeals from Cascioli.

"Cascioli says he didn't exist. And I said that he did," he said. "The judge will to decide if Christ exists or not."

Even Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy.

"It would take a miracle to win," he joked.
01/04/06 12:35  



Historicity of Mohammed --
Mohammed myth sparks outcry

Muslim academic says Mohammed didn't exist   December 23, 2008    T o m   H a r p u r
T o r s t a r   N e w s   S e r v i ce

A noted Muslim scholar has provoked a huge controversy in Europe by openly questioning the existence of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Islamist at the centre of the storm in Germany over whether Mohammed ever existed as an historical figure says he is simply following the conclusions of many years of rigorous research.

Mohammed Sven Kalisch, 42, the chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Muenster and whose duties include training teachers for the rising number of Muslim students in German high schools, has created a furor by stating that in all probability Mohammed was a mythical creation.

He told the Star in a recent phone interview that his research leads him to believe that the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have mythical origins.

German police worried about a possible violent backlash have told the professor to move his offices to more secure premises. But Kalisch says there have been no specific threats and he is far from being "in hiding" as some bloggers and other rumour-mongers have claimed.

However, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany to which the four largest organizations of the country's 3 million-strong Muslim community belong, has stopped its co-operation with the university's Centre for Religious Studies over the professor's stand.

A spokesperson for the council, Ali Kizilkaya, has said if the Prophet Mohammed didn't exist then the Qur'an doesn't exist.

"This would mean that we would have to abolish the religion altogether," Kizilkaya said. "We are convinced the Prophet did indeed exist and that the Qur'an is the word of God."

Michael Marx, a Qur'an specialist at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, has warned his colleagues that Kalisch's views will "make it difficult" for German scholars to work in Muslim lands.

The traditional view of Mohammed is that he was born in Mecca in Arabia, about AD 570 and died in Medina around AD 632. The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, is composed of revelations believed to have been given to him by God through the archangel Gabriel. There are about one billion Muslims in the world today.

"My position with regard to the historical existence of Mohammed is that I believe neither his existence nor his non-existence can be proven," Kalisch said in a statement. "I, however, lean toward the non-existence."

He told the Star he holds the same position regarding Abraham, Moses and the other Jewish patriarchs, as well as Jesus Christ.

There have been threats, campaigns for his dismissal from his post, and dozens of media interviews, commentaries and editorials. According to Der Spiegel magazine, a group of more than 30 German academics have signed a petition supporting Kalisch's right to scholarly freedom of expression.

Kalisch studied and practised law before returning to college to take a Ph.D. in religious studies. He speaks fluent English, Turkish and Arabic as well as German.

He was born in Hamburg of a German father and a mother of Mongolian descent. They were nominal Protestants and when he began early in his teens to follow up on the Asian line of his heritage he decided to learn Turkish.

That led directly to an exposure to Islamic teaching and at 15 he decided to convert. "I was attracted by the emphasis on one God instead of a trinity," he says. "It seemed in many ways a very rational religion."

But, he differed from typical religious converts to a new faith in that he never stopped questioning. "Religion should never contradict reason," he says. "I could never accept any doctrine or belief that goes against my rational mind."

Kalisch said he realized early in 2001 that when the same scientific methods are applied to investigate Muslim claims of historicity as are used on Jewish and Christian origins, similar problems arise at once. He found that traditional theological positions soon collapse once hard evidence is sought. He discovered there is as much "myth-making" in Islam as in Judaism and Christianity. And so his current process of "rethinking Islam" was begun.

Asked whether he thought his public airings of his findings will destroy peoples' faith, he said: "It will destroy a literalist faith, a faith no longer reliable because of reason. But, the God I believe in is not a god of literalists. He is the Ultimate One. God doesn't write books. All the various sacred books are the product of human minds and experiences. They can be helpful but they must be interpreted for today."

Kalisch maintains non-Muslim scholars who agree with his hypothesis but keep silent out of "respect" for Muslims are in fact treating them as though they can't handle the truth.

"That's not respect, it's putting Muslims on the same level as small children who can't think and decide for themselves and whose illusions of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny one doesn't want to destroy."


Historicity of Mormons "Lamanites"

New Change made to Book of Mormon

B y   A n d r e w   A d a m s,    KSL Newsradio    --  Thursday, November 8, 2007
Prof. Trent Stephens (BOOK) says this is not simply science versus religion. DNA testing does not have all the answers. He says, "You may be descended from a person 10 generations back, but the chances are almost zero that you actually have any genetic material from any given ancestor that far back".

Small, but Important Change Made in Book of Mormon Introduction

There's been a small but significant change to the Book of Mormon. It's in the introduction.

The old version said: "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."

The new version, which will first be seen in DoubleDay's revised edition reads, "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."

Kerry Muhlestein, BYU ancient scripture assistant professor, says it's not a major change, but "in some ways, it may reflect that we weren't as careful writing the first introduction as we should have been."

Muhlestein says the change makes sense. He says, "The picture of the Book of Mormon and the peoples that the Nephites and Lamanites interact with is probably more complex than we have typically supposed or assumed."

Muhlestein says he doesn't believe it's in response to some DNA research that shows the continent's early inhabitants are of Asian descent.

Article from KSL the original link is here
[ in Spanish ]


in_hand.gif (14310 bytes)Evolution and Mormonism:
A Quest for Understanding

By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus

3 Nephites !