My Actual Homepage - Go here for more info.


I plan to put a graphical banner here eventually...

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

31 December 2010

About.com: How to be More Skeptical

Austin Cline did a brief post on "Being more skeptical."  And this is not only about religion, but things like bigfoot, UFOs, psychics, power balance bracelets, homeopathy, etc.  I'd like to add in that if you want to have a pleasant introduction to skepticism, read Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World.  He has a way with words that speaks to people without coming across as being preachy, or even talking down to them.  I also encourage anyone wanting to be introduced to skepticism to read the Bad Astronomy blog by Dr. Phil Plait.  And of course, go over to the James Randi Educational Foundation.  Not only is it a resource for skepticism, but it is also a community!

How to Be More Skeptical - Steps to Improve Your Skeptical Thinking

Improving Your Skeptical Thinking Requires Practice & Patience

By , About.com Guide

It's easy to say "be more skeptical" or "exercise better critical thinking," but just how do you go about doing that? Where are you supposed to learn critical thinking? Learning skepticism isn't like learning history — it's not a set of facts, dates, or ideas. Skepticism is a process; critical thinking is something you do. The only way to learn skepticism and critical thinking then is to do them... but to do them, you have to learn them. How can you break out of this endless circle?

1. Learn the Basics: Logic, Arguments, Fallacies

Skepticism may be a process, but it's a process that relies on certain principles about what constitutes good and bad reasoning. There's no substitute for the basics and if you think you already know all the basics, that's probably a good sign that you really need to review them.

Even professionals who work on logic for a living get things wrong! You don't need to know as much as a professional, but there are so many different fallacies that can be used in so many different ways that there are bound to be some that you aren't familiar with, not to mention ways those fallacies can be used that you haven't seen yet.

Don't assume you know it all; instead, assume you have a lot to learn and make it a point to regularly review the different ways fallacies can be used, how logical arguments are constructed, and so forth. People are always finding new ways to mangle arguments; you should keep abreast of what they are saying.

2. Practice the Basics

It's not enough to simply read about the basics, you need to actively use what you learn as well. It's like reading about a language in books but never using it — you'll never nearly as good as a person who regularly practices using that language. The more you use logic and the principles of skepticism, the better you'll do it.
Constructing logical arguments is one obvious and helpful way to achieve this, but an even better idea may be to evaluate the arguments of others because this can teach you both what to do and what not to do. Your newspaper's editorial page is a great place to find new subject matter. It's not just the letters to the editor but also the "professional" editorials which are often filled with terrible fallacies and basic flaws. If you can't find several fallacies on any given day, you should look more closely.

3. Reflect: Think About What You're Thinking

If you can get to the point where spot fallacies without having to think about it that's great, but you can't get into the habit of not thinking about what you're doing. Quite the contrary in fact: one of the hallmarks of serious critical and skeptical thinking is that the skeptic reflects consciously and deliberately on their own thinking, even their own critical thinking. That's the whole point.

Skepticism isn't just about being skeptical of others, but also being able to train that skepticism on your own ideas, opinions, inclinations, and conclusions. To do this you need to be in the habit of reflecting on your own thoughts. In some ways, this may be harder than learning about logic, but it produces rewards in many different areas.

30 December 2010

What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know

Someone pointed me to this link, and I got enjoyment out of it.  Not because it says anything new (hey, anyone with a brain knows the bible is a bunch of primitive fairytales with no basis in reality, and is full of mistakes), but because it presents the material in another way.  It should be easy to look at the nicely done tables and see that bullshit for what it is.  I'd say that it's another nail in a coffin, but sometimes I get tired of digging up the same coffin to put more  nails in it.  I'm sure that there are probably some new weak ass apologetic explanations for some of the things that are listed here, but on a fundamental level, it's just making shit up to fit with what we already understand to be a collection of fables...

Enjoy the list and feel free to bookmark that page.  It's fun to make fundytards and theitards have aneurysms.

What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know

A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy

An essay in hypertext by Scott Bidstrup
"Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers." --Bruce Calvert


One of the bedrock beliefs of most Christian fundamentalists is in the inerrancy of their scripture, the Bible. Indeed, if it can be shown that the English-language Bible that I can obtain at my local bookseller (usually the defined as the King James Version) is absolutely inerrant, their case that it is the word of God would be greatly strengthened.

But, if, on the other hand, it can be shown that there are clearly and unquestionably errors in the Bible, from whatever source, then the position of the fundamentalist is greatly weakened, and if it is based on inerrancy of the Bible, disproven.

The purpose of this essay is to make the latter case, i.e., that when the Bible is examined with dispassion and with objectivity, it soon becomes obvious that it is so hopelessly riddled with errors, impossibilities and contradictions that it is essentially ludicrous to make the claim that it is inerrant.

Also, I'm issuing this challenge: I'm going to offer the Christian apologists equal time; below you'll see a table showing the problem, the apologist's answer if I have found one or been offered one, and the reasonable explanation, as offered by common sense or modern scholarship. In addition, if you can offer a fully harmonized account of the death and resurrection of Jesus that includes all the facts, incidents and circumstances related in the four gospels plus Acts, I'll happily post it here.

In some cases, you won't see an apologist’s explanation, because an apologetic explanation consistent with reason is simply not possible. If and when I receive an explanation from an apologist that is even halfway reasonable, I'll post it in the table. Until then, those table cells will remain devoid of explanations.
You can compare the apologists' answers to those of modern secular scholars, and do so side by side. Ask yourself which is more reasonable, which is more likely to be correct.

And so here is my challenge to the fundamentalist Christian who believes in the inerrancy of his scripture: In the light of your claim to biblical inerrancy, how do you explain the following?

Part One

In this part, I'll show you some of the obvious impossibilities in the Bible. I've left out the impossibilities that could be explained by magic and miracles, and have limited myself to only those things that just simply can't be. No way, no how - miracles included.

Obvious Impossibilities

The Problem

The Apologist's Explanation

The Rational Explanation

While describing the same incident, 2 Samuel 8:4 states that King David captured 1700 horsemen, and 1 Chron. 18:4 claims he captured 7,000. [Good News Bible, King James Version] The accounts disagree. (no explanation) If God is the author of both accounts, why do they disagree?
The authors of Ezra 2:3 and Neh. 7:8 enumerate the tribes that came back from captivity in Babylon. They disagree as to the numbers involved in some clans and tribes:
Ezra:
Arah: 775
Pahath Moab: 2812
Zattu: 945
Bebai: 623
Azgad: 1222
Adonikam: 666
Bigvai: 2056
Adin: 454
etc., etc.
Nehamiah:
Arah: 652
Pahath Moab: 2818
Zattu: 845
Bebai: 628
Azgad: 2322
Adonikam: 667
Bigvai: 2067
Adin: 655
etc., etc.
Of course, I could go on, but you get the point. The accounts differ, often by thousands, even orders of magnitude.
(no explanation) The accounts clearly differ in significant details, and by significant amounts. They obviously can't both be right. If this is God's word, He apparently can't get the story straight when telling it twice.
Leviticus 11:13-19 refers to bats as fowl, when in fact they are mammals. In the Good News bible, he then goes on in 11:20-21 to declare to be an abomination any fowl that "creep, going on all four..." when there is no such a bird. The 'revised' King James Version, distributed by the Gideons, on the other hand, distinguishes insects from birds, which the GNB does not. In 11:6, he declares "...and the hare, because he cheweth the cud." Hares don't chew a cud. Hares are lagomorphs, not ruminants (members of the cattle family). Only ruminants chew cud, lagomorphs do not. The ancients thought of the bats as birds. For hares, they note that rabbits (but don't say anything about hares, which aren't rabbits anyway even though they superficially resemble each other) occasionally chew their fecal pellets as if it were a cud. 1. As for bats being birds, where are the feathers? The skin-covered wings, and the hair are good clues that these aren't birds. Maybe a human author of Leviticus might think so, but this is God that is supposed to be writing this. If God created the bats, he surely knew he wasn't creating a bird and wouldn't have said he was. 2. The author of Leviticus obviously didn't have much of an understanding of the most rudimentary of biological science. A fecal pellet is not a cud. A cud is the product of the rumen, a chamber of the stomach of ruminants. A fecal pellet is a product of the lower intestine. Besides, coprophagy (the eating of excrement) has only very rarely been observed in hares anyway. Again, if this is God's word, he is displaying a good deal of ignorance of what he allegedly created.
3. The author of Leviticus obviously didn't have much of an understanding of the most rudimentary of biological science. A fecal pellet is not a cud. A cud is the product of the rumen, a chamber of the stomach of ruminants. A fecal pellet is a product of the lower intestine. Besides, coprophagy (the eating of excrement) has only very rarely been observed in hares anyway. Again, if this is God's word, he is displaying a good deal of ignorance of what he allegedly created.
John 12:24 says "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." How can it bring forth any fruit at all if it's dead? The reference obviously doesn't make much sense unless one assigns unusual meanings to the word "die" and assumes it means ripened and dried. The fundamentalist claims that in the context of it being a parable, the technical detail of a dead seed bringing forth fruit makes sense. The ancients believed that seeds were actually dead, not alive as we now know they are. But again, God should have known better if this is His word. If the fundamentalist's argument is correct, then Jesus' use of this analogy is a false one ("false premise" fallacy).
Matthew 13:31-32 states that "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed... is the smallest of all seeds but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree." First, mustard seeds, while small, are hardly the smallest of seeds. Many other seeds, particularly some orchid species, are much, much smaller. Second, it isn't a shrub, but an herb, and isn't particularly large as herbs go, either. There are many herbs that get much, much larger. And third, it doesn't become either a shrub or a tree. Like all other herbs, it stays an herb. It is an annual, and usually dies at the end of a single growing season, so could hardly be mistaken for a shrub. The fundamentalist claims that use of this analogy is OK, because, again, this is a parable. It’s meant to over dramatize the analogy to drive home the point. It's metaphorical, not literal. The reference simply shows an ignorance of very basic botany at best, and if one accepts the fundamentalist's claim, would make Jesus guilty of hyperbole at the least. This is another example of a false premise fallacy. Besides, without losing the power of the metaphor (if a metaphorical device was intended), the error could have simply been avoided by the insertion of the words "one of" (one of the smallest of seeds) rather than stating, without qualification, that it was the smallest.
John 12:21 states that "The same came therefore to Phillip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired of him..." Bethsaida was in the province of Gaulontinis, not the province of Galilee. Well, it was near the Sea of Galilee. The reference is obviously to the province, not the proximity, so the fundamentalist argument just doesn't wash.
Genesis 6:15 states that Noah's ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits in size. We know that a cubit was approximately 18 inches, yielding a volume (if perfectly rectangular, the most voluminous possible shape of three unequal dimensions) of 1,518,750 cubic feet. Into this, you must fit two of each of the 30,000,000 species on earth, plus all the food needed to keep all of them alive for about a year (add up the timeline). If this were true, it would not be physically possible to put two of each animal species on earth, plus a years' worth of food for all of them, in a volume of that size.
How do you know it wouldn't fit. Ever tried? Its highly questionable if the animals were simply piled in that volume, willy-nilly, with no room for bedding or even room to stand, whether there would be adequate room, even without the food. The author of the flood myth simply didn't understand the extent of faunal diversity in the world. As for the volumetric problem, you don't have to try to fit them to see that it won't work. You can simply calculate that it wouldn't fit by adding the volume of the average sized animal's body, multiplied by the number of species. Excluding bacteria, but including all insects, there are more than 30,000,000 species of land animals on earth. Multiply that volume by two, and add in the volume of food required to keep both of each species alive for as much as twenty years (see below), and its pretty obvious that this isn't going to work. Then there's the time it would take to gather up the 30 million species.
If you gathered a male and a female of one species every ten seconds, it would take about ten years to gather up 30 million of them. And mind you, you've got to go to Antarctica to get penguins, the Arctic to get polar bears, Asia to get tigers, Australia to get kangaroos, Africa to get gorillas, South America to get tapirs and agoutis, etc., and you have got to get them back with an adequate supply of their required food and put them in the Ark within ten seconds. Then when the flood's over, you've got to take another ten years to put them all back at the rate of a species every ten seconds.
Then there are all kinds of ecological questions; how are many delicate marine species going to survive when the salinity of the oceans is reduced by two thirds, as it would have been if a worldwide flood of nearly five miles in depth had occurred? How are species going to survive that require mature ecosystems which themselves require centuries to mature? Obviously, this story isn't just impossible, it’s ludicrous.
1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chron. 4:2: "He made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to another: it was round all about and its height was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about." The circumference of a circle is equal to the diameter times pi, or 3.1415. Therefore the circumference of the "sea" had to have been 31.4 cubits if its diameter was ten cubits.
1. There was a widespread belief among the less-educated ancients that the diameter of a circle was one third of its circumference. Apologists suggest that the number was "rounded off" because the Bible "resists interpretation outside a culture not it's own." (Robert Mounce in Answers to Questions About the Bible) Other fundamentalists point out that if the diameter had been measured to the outside, and the circumference the inside, it could have equaled three. 2. Another increasingly popular explanation is that the Hebrew characters for the Hebrew words for ten and thirty each have numeric values, and that if the numeric values for characters in the words from different versions are used, its possible to come pretty close to pi.
3. An additional argument is that the sea wasn't round and therefore selecting the right diameter would have led to a measurement that was one third the circumference.
1. An incorrect number is an incorrect number, regardless of culture. The laws of mathematics are consistent across all cultures and times. If this is God's word, God should certainly have known that the circumference had to be more than 30 cubits if the "sea" was round and 10 cubits in diameter. Fundamentalists counter that this is a weak argument; I disagree. I don't expect perfect mathematics, but accuracy to at least two orders of magnitude, which the ancients understood and depended on themselves, isn't unreasonable. One order of magnitude of accuracy isn't very much and wouldn't have been any more acceptable to the ancients than it is to us.
Further, the argument of the circumference being measured on the inside would have led to different wording: "round about" implies an outside measurement. When one goes "round about" something, one does not circumnavigate it's interior, but goes about the outside. If anything, the phrase "from one brim to another" would imply an interior measurement of the diameter, while "round about" implies an exterior measurement, which would make the problem even worse.
2. As for the numeric value of the Hebrew alphabet as used in different versions, I find this argument to be the weakest of all. Why can't the value of the words themselves mean what they say? Why does God have to speak in some arcane code that has meaning only in the original Hebrew contrasted with a current version of Hebrew? This numeric value argument is very reminiscent of the "Bible Code" theory, which has been so thoroughly discredited.
3. Finally, if the sea wasn't round, the problem arises as to which axis (major or minor) was measured for the diameter. One would expect the text to offer some allusion to the fact that it wasn't round if in fact it wasn't. Yet it offers no such clue - measuring but one diameter and referring to the circumference as "round about." It is unlikely that the major axis would have been precisely one third the circumference; this would have resulted in a very odd shape for which it would have been difficult to produce a mold.

Part Two

Here are a few (but by no means all) of the direct contradictions that the Bible contains that simply can't be explained away by any reasonable argument. Again, I've limited myself to those contradictions that can't be explained by magic and miracles. This doesn't mean that the inerrantist won't try to explain these contradictions; it’s just that he can't.

Direct Contradictions

The Problem

The Apologist's Explanation

The Rational Explanation

Exodus 20:5 "I the lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations." Ezek 18:2 "What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel? The parents ate the sour grapes, but the children got the sour taste."
The Bible is clear in many places (not just Ezekiel 18:2) that God punishes people for their own sins, not for the sins of their fathers. Examples of this abound in the books of Kings and Chronicles in which kings who did what was right were never held accountable for the sins of their fathers. However, this does not mean that the effects of sin will not continue to future generations. If a father sins by squandering all of his money and leaving his family destitute, his descendants are not personally responsible for their father’s actions. Nevertheless, they most certainly will feel the effects of the sins of their father. Thus, the iniquity of the father is visited upon the children. This argument fails to consider the fact that God himself is accepting responsibility for the visiting of the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. Well, this does not speak very highly of the sense of justice of the supposedly omnibenevolent god. Of course that's not the only problem with the omnibenevolence doctrine, is it?
Jeremiah 3:12 "...for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever." Jeremiah 17:4 "Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall be forever." First of all, these verses are stated in separate contexts-in the first God is talking about Israel and in the second he is referring to Judah. Judah and Israel were two separate countries at the time. Second, the word forever in the original Hebrew (and Greek) does not always been forever in the way that we understand it. It means that something will continue as long as the conditions that allows it to exist last. As an example, slaves were to be servants of their masters in Israel (Exodus) forever. Obviously, their slave ship terminated upon their deaths. If one accepts that God is speaking to one nation in one scripture and to the other in the remaining scripture, it implies that God is certainly, if nothing else, discriminatory. Forever is a long time, and to curse Judah forever and forgive Israel at minimum shows God to be a discriminatory god, even to those under his "covenant." Again, does this fit the definition of omnibenevolence? And where is there justice in an infinite punishment for a finite crime?
Ecclesiastes 1:4 "...the earth abideth forever" 2 Peter 3:10 "the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also, and works that are therein shall be burned up." The writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely Solomon) is writing in the context of his own lifetime. Compared to his own lifetime, the earth does remain forever. Peter is saying that the world will end in an absolute sense and is writing in a different context. Think of it this way. I could say that critics come and critics go, but the Bible remains forever. However, in a different context I might say that Christians won’t need the Bible when we are in heaven. These two statements are written in different contexts but are not contradictory. The notion that Solomon, if he was the writer (and there is good reason to doubt this for archaeological reasons), would think of the world as eternal in comparison to his own life, should certainly have known better if he was writing under the inspiration of God. After all, this is supposed to be the word of God, isn't it? Then why can't God get his two oracles to say the same thing? The notion that the 2nd Peter reference is metaphorical doesn't wash. The earth is eternal or it is not, so if is, let's not use metaphors implying that it isn't. Of course, science has answered that it is the latter.
Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good." Genesis 6:6 "And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved at his heart." The creation was very good until Adam and Eve sinned. At that point it was no longer very good and that is what Genesis 6:6 is referring to. Whether or not God foresaw the sin occurring is irrelevant to the fact that sin HAD NOT YET OCCURRED and thus God is correct to pronounce the world good in Genesis 1:31. If the fundamentalist's argument were true, then obviously God must not have foreseen the consequences of Eve's eating of the fruit; otherwise he would have known from the outset that there was a problem. And 6:6 has god repenting. Repentance implies mistakenness at minimum, so their argument would undermine the claim of God's perfection. The argument that the sin had not yet occurred, and thus the creation was still perfect denies that creation isn't perfect if it isn't going to remain so.
John 10:30 "I and my father are one." John 14:28 "I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I." Here we get into a discussion of the trinity. The standard doctrine of the trinity is that Jesus and the Father are one and yet are separate persons. While Jesus and the Father are both God and equal in that respect, Jesus voluntarily subordinated himself to the Father when he became human on earth. It would be similar (although not exactly the same) to saying that a king and a peasant are equal (as humans) but that one is in a greater position than the other. If the fundamentalist’s argument is true, then John 10:30 makes no sense at all. How can you be one and still be separate? They are either one or they are not. The states are mutually exclusive.
2 Kings 2:11 "...and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Luke 24:51"...and [Jesus] was taken up into heaven."
John 3:13 "And no man hath ascended up into heaven, except the one who came from heaven."
It is important to look at the context of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. Jesus is contrasting himself with Nicodemus and the other Jews. He is pointing out that he has firsthand knowledge of heavenly things and that he is the only one on earth who has come down from heaven with this message. If the fundamentalists' argument were true, then Jesus couldn't have ascended into heaven because 3:13 states "one" not "two." So it would have had to be either Jesus or Elijah. Take your pick. Either way, there's an unresolved problem. The scripture does not make an exception for what the fundamentalist considers to be a messenger - that's actually irrelevant to the contradiction.
Genesis 32:30 "Jacob said, 'I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'" John 1:18 "No man hath seen God at any time." Jacob is referring to the fact that he spoke to God in a very intimate, personal setting. Face to face does not necessarily mean that he literally saw God directly. Another possible explanation is that Jacob saw only a small aspect of God and he leaped to the conclusion that he saw God face to face. After all, the Genesis author does not say that Jacob was correct in his statement, merely that he said it. This argument is obviously weak, in that it entails an interpretation of "face to face" as simply not meaning what it says - which is contrary to the literalists' position. If one is seeing an "aspect" of God, but not his face, why does this perfect god who is speaking through Jacob allow Jacob to record an error in this perfect book? Why does the Genesis author not set the record straight? After all, leaving it uncorrected certainly causes a problem with interpretation.



The Crucifixion and Resurrection Mess

or just how contradictory can we make an account of the same events?

Of all the contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible, few make more of a mess of things than the four accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection as given in the four gospels.

Here we have a single narrative, told by four different authors, that is so contradictory that I've never seen an explanation of it. It will be interesting to see the fundamentalists untangle this mess. For the sake of brevity, we'll just pick up the story on that first Easter Sunday:

When the sun was coming up (Matt. 28:1) while it was still dark (John 20:1), Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) or Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt 28:1) or "the women" [note the plural] (Luke 24:1) went to the tomb. There was an earthquake, and an angel came down and rolled the stone away (Matt. 28:2) from the entrance of the tomb and sat on it, even though it had apparently already been rolled away when Mary Magdalene had got there (John 20:1, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2). The reason for the visit was to anoint the body with spices (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1) or just to look at the tomb (Matt. 28:1), take your pick.
When she or they, take your pick, arrived, she/they witnessed the earthquake and angel coming down from heaven (Matt. 28:1), or they walked into the tomb to discover a young man dressed in white sitting on the right (Mark 16:5) or two men in bright shining clothes (Luke 24:4), take your pick.

At this point, John says that Mary had run back to fetch Peter and another disciple. The other gospel writers make no mention of Mary taking leave of the tomb to go back and get any of the men at this point.
If/when she/they returned, the angel (Mark 15:6) or the angels (Luke 24:5) is/are quoted by the gospel writers as having said one of three things. Either "He is not here, he is raised, just as he said." (Matt. 28:6) or "He is not here, he has been raised." (Mark 15:6, Luke 24:6) or "Woman, why are you crying?" (John 20:13).
So the woman or women ran from the tomb to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8) or they left, too terrified to say anything to anyone (Mark 16:8), take your pick.

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus appear to her and decided he'd been resurrected (John 20:14-18). Or the women, having left the tomb and thinking things over, were sure that Jesus' body had been stolen, so they tried to bribe the soldiers guarding the tomb to tell them where the body had been taken (Matt. 28:11-15).
I'm sorry, but at this point, the stories diverge so completely, it is not possible to correlate them any further. But that's OK, because by now, you get the point. There are just too many glaring inconsistencies here, most of which are mutually exclusive without some really implausible apologetics. So much so that it’s ludicrous to claim that the four accounts are all true. As you've seen, they can't possibly be.

If you want to get a real sense of the inconsistencies in the narrative of the four gospels, start with the trial of Jesus, and compare the accounts in the gospels side by side, reading the account of each incident in the narrative in each gospel before going on to the next incident in the narrative. It will quickly become obvious just how inconsistent the Bible really is.

As you do this, you'll come to realize just how imperfect this supposedly perfect document has to be. And as such, the reasonableness of one of the basic claims of the fundamentalist Christians, that of the inerrancy of the Bible, will evaporate like the dew on a summer morning.


A Note And A Challenge to Fundamentalists Who Read This Essay

I get a LOT of mail about this essay; more than any other essay on my site. If you're planning to respond to what I have written here, PLEASE read and comply with the following. Otherwise, you will probably not get a response from me.
Many if not most of you who write to me about it (and there have been thousands) make the totally unsupported claim that you can explain everything in here, but none of you ever do. And of course, I'm not surprised. So please don't write saying you can explain everything in it unless you take the time to actually do so. I'm not interested in unsupported claims; I'm interested in reality. So don't just make the claim; back it up with your explanations. If you don't do so, don't expect an answer from me. An explanation based on "copyist errors" or "translation errors" isn't an explanation, either, it's a cop-out for the reasons delineated below.

I am not interested, either, in answering letters from people who claim that most or all of these problems are errors in translation and editing. That's not inerrancy, as I have defined it here. If you concede that the Bible contains errors that have been made by translators or editors, then you can conceivably explain anything in it as a copyist, translational or editing error. That's an easy way out, that also has the effect of saying that since the Bible is actually does have errors in it, it can't reliably be considered to be the infallible word of God, either. If you want to take that easy way out, then you're not talking about the inerrant Bible that the fundamentalists claim I can pick up off of my local bookshop shelf. My essay is aimed at them, not you. So PLEASE don't bother to tell me that these are all translator's, copyist's and editor's errors. If it is going to be the reliable word of God, it has to be inerrant, and that means truly inerrant; i.e., devoid of all translational, copyist or editing errors.

In addition, I'm making all of you this offer and issuing this challenge: Give me novel, logically consistent and factually correct explanations for any or all of the problems I list above, and I'll put them on this web site. If you can offer me a complete, logically consistent harmonization of the problem of the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus that accounts for all the facts, places and incidents recorded in the four gospels plus Acts, I'll post it here. Don't just tell me it exists, send it to me. I genuinely want to see it, and I am honest enough to post it here and publicly eat crow over it. Furthermore, I'll go even one better, and that will be to help you claim the $10,000 prize that the Skeptics Society has offered for such an account.

For some peculiar reason I haven't figured out, I get a lot of mail about the "molten sea" item in the last row of the first table. All of them revolve around the very same arguments that are listed in the fundamentalists' explanations; I've yet to get anything novel on that problem. So please, read the explanations, and unless you have something new to offer, don't bother to write about it or other items in the tables.

And finally, if you feel "called by God" to write to me and "bring me to Jesus," save yourself the trouble. Do you seriously think you're the first? My web site gets a lot of traffic (thousands of hits per day) and I get emails like that without exception with every single email session I download, and I'm getting awfully tired of hitting the delete button over and over and over. You're not making Christianity or Jesus any more appealing to me by pestering me about Jesus blessing me, or my impending residence in Hell, or doing the work of Satan, or my lack of reading the Bible in the "spirit," etc. Believe me, I've heard it all a thousand times before, and I'm not impressed. All you're doing by trying to evangelize me is to lend additional credence to my contention that Christianity is nothing more than a highly evolved and infective meme complex.

So please, don't try to proselytize, evangelize or harangue me about the above issues. If you have something genuinely novel to offer, or are interested in genuine, open-minded debate, I welcome your response. But if your intent is to convert me into a follower of Jesus, or simply reiterate the same hopelessly inadequate explanations I've already listed here, forget it. Been there, done that. Not interested any longer.

Books (which, if you wish, you can purchase on-line safely from Amazon.com by pursuing the links here) used in the research of this essay (some not specifically cited here):

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origins of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Niel Asher Silberman is a remarkably thorough and well documented survey of the current state of Biblical archaeology. Must reading for those who mistakenly believe that modern archaeology supports the Bible story.

The Case Against Christianity, by Michael Martin is easily the best philosophical analysis of Christian doctrine I've yet seen. He dispassionately examines each major Christian doctrine, one by one, and shows why it is either inconsistent with other doctrine or provable reality. Quoting liberally from many Christian apologists, he gives a good overview of apologetic thinking. A deep read, but well worth the effort - it will give anyone who takes the trouble to read it plenty of food for thought.

Science on Trial: the Case For Evolution, by Douglas Futuyama makes the best case yet for evolution and shows, point by point, why the creationist interpretation of Genesis is unreasonable. Fascinating reading, its a valuable resource for every high school biology teacher faced with defending science from creationism. Deserves to be much more widely read than it is.

The Complete Gospels: The Annotated Scholars Version by Robert J. Miller is the only translation I know of that has made a serious, scholarly attempt at objective translation. It includes translations of many fragmentary gospels that were not included in the canonized New Testament, and has annotations explaining the differences and what they mean. Highly recommended.

In God We Trust: But Which One? by Judith Hayes gives a generally well reasoned summary of the nonsense of Christian inerrancy claims and points out many of the inconsistencies in Christian doctrine in general. Includes a lot of material on the basic problems with the Bible.

The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey is the best compilation (running to well over 500 pages) of biblical errors and impossibilities I have yet encountered. It was invaluable in the production of this work, and while it has a lot of material in it for which "magic" explanations are possible, it is also a gold mine of outright obvious impossibilities.

The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations is a fabulous little volume full of many, many quotations showing, for example, that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and several other American founding fathers were hardly the Christians that the radical religious right likes to portray them as being. It also has a long, long list of biblical contradictions -- far more than are presented here. This book was also invaluable in the production of this essay.


Source URL: http://www.bidstrup.com/bible2.htm Back to Scott's Home Page
Write to Scott

Copyright © 1998, 2001, by Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved
revised 10/9/01

26 December 2010

Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

I swear that I could repeat the whole thing from my point of view, with the exception of ever having believed in any god(s), or living in England.  I must admit, I had Ricky's voice in my head as I was reading this!  Anyway, I think a lot of his post actually repeats a lot of things that I have said in the past, but since people seem to think it's okay to be less than kind to atheists just for calling into question their delusions, I suppose these sort of things need to be repeated.  And I thought it would be fun to publish this on Boxer Day, since that seems to be a big time over in Jolly England.

Thank you Ricky for all you do!

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

By Ricky Gervais

Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith”. I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe”, comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­‐ evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe”, this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me”, but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith”. If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”

This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-­‐powerful all knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god”, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)

When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”

But what are atheists really being accused of?

The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe”. Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God”, I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.

I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him.

One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible-­‐studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world.

I lived in a very poor, working-­‐class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross.

I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God – what a relief for a working-­‐class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.

But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.
Oh … hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.

Wow. No God. If mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? Yes, of course, but who cares? The gifts kept coming. And so did the gifts of my new found atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution – a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us – with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

But living an honest life – for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that; they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine. “Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. Buts that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Ricky Gervais is the writer and star of HBO’s “Ricky Gervais Out of England 2: The Stand-Up Special"

25 December 2010

Even Less Evidence for jebus

As most of you are getting up today, I have set this blog to automatically publish.  Consider this as a follow up to yesterdays recycled blog post.  Now, I am going to say this isn't my original work, but rather some one else's research.  I have, however, looked into the claims of this individual, and I find them backed up with great research.  This is extracted from a 16+ page thread (with hundreds if not approaching a thousand) posts arguing this back and forth.  One of the central arguments is why there are no contemporary writers that mention the jebus myth.  A poster that goes by the name of Kapyong collected all this info.

There are further reasons why someone would mention jebus in contemporary writings that he doesn't get into.  Suffice it to say that events such as described in Matthew 27:51-53 would certainly rate a mention.  Or the fact that a purple trimmed robe was used.  However, here is the collation of the writers.  Notice the incredible consistency!

How Likely was a mention of Jesus?

The issue is really HOW LIKELY they would be to mention Jesus.

Factors which increase the expectation that Jesus would be mentioned in a work include :
* a large work (i.e. one which has large index of names)
* a work on an issue somehow related to Jesus or the Gospel events,
* a work whose genre tends to frequently mention or allude to many subjects and people,


I have thus classified these writers into broad categories -
* writers who surely SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (5),
* writers who PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (4,3),
* writers who COULD have mentioned Jesus (2,1, or even 0.5),
* writers who WOULDN'T have mentioned Jesus (0)

I have given each writer a WEIGHT out of 5 as indicated.

As well as -
* writers CLAIMED to mention Jesus.



Of course, one writer who didn't mention Jesus means nothing.
But, when DOZENS of writers from the period in question fail to mention anything about Jesus (or the the Gospel events or actors), this argues against historicity.


The argument is sometimes made that these writers could not possibly have mentioned Jesus - because he was a minor figure and unrelated to the issues at hand.

This assumes that no such writer ever mentions a minor figure in passing, that they never make an aside about other events or figures who are not specially related to the subject.

Of course, this is not true, as the evidence below shows that many of the writers mentioned make many references to many other minor figures and often make excuses about other subjects and events and people.


I have also included astronomers on the list who might have mentioned the Star of Bethlehem and/or the darkness at the crucifixion - if they had heard of them.



Summary of Results

The results of my current classifications is:

1 writer who surely SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (Philo.)

3 writers who PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus (Seneca, Plutarch, Justus.)

31 writers who COULD have mentioned Jesus.


(20 writers who could not be expected to.  6 writers claimed to mention Jesus, but disputed or suspect.)


WRITERS WHO SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED JESUS

PHILO

Philo Judaeus wrote very many books about Jewish religion and history, in the 30s and 40s, living in Alexandria, and visiting Jerusalem.

Philo was contemporary with Jesus and Paul,
Philo visited Jerusalem and had family there,
he developed the concept of the Logos and the holy spirit,
he was considered a Christian by some later Christians,
he wrote a great deal about related times and peoples and issues.

If Jesus had existed, Philo would almost certainly have written about him and his teachings.

Rating: SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 5



WRITERS WHO PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED JESUS

SENECA

Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote many philosophic (Stoic) and satirical books and letters (and Tragedies) in Rome.

Seneca wrote a great deal on many subjects and mentioned many people. He was a Stoic, a school of thought considered sympathetic to Christian teachings.

In fact, early Christians seemed to have expected him to discuss Christianity - they FORGED letters between him and Paul.

How else to explain these forgeries, except as Christian responses to a surprising VOID in Seneca's writings?

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 4


PLUTARCH

Plutarch of Chaeronea wrote many works on history and philosophy in Rome and Boetia in about 90-120 CE.

Plutarch wrote about influential Roman figures, including some contemporary to Jesus,
Plutarch wrote on Oracles (prophesies),
Plutarch wrote on moral issues,
Plutarch wrote on spiritual and religious issues.

If Plutarch knew of Jesus or the Gospel events, it is highly likely he would have mentioned them.

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus or his teachings, but did not.
Weight: 4



JUSTUS

Justus of Tiberias wrote a History of Jewish Kings in Galilee in late 1st century.

Photius read Justus in the 8th century and noted that he did not mention anything: "He (Justus of Tiberias) makes not one mention of Jesus, of what happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did."

It is surprising that a contemporary writer from the very region of Jesus' alleged acts did not mention him.

Rating: PROBABLY SHOULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 3 

WRITERS WHO COULD HAVE MENTIONED JESUS


DAMIS

Damis wrote most of what we know about Apollonius of Tyana. He was a philosopher and mystic exactly contemporary with Jesus and who was rather similar to Jesus - enough for some authors to argue they were one and the same person.

If Damis/Apollonius had known of Jesus, he could have easily have been mentioned as a competitor. A story in which Apollonius bested Jesus in debate would not be un-expected.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



APOLLONIUS

See Damis.


PLINY THE ELDER

Gaius Plinius Secundus wrote a large Natural History in Rome c.80CE

Pliny wrote a great deal - his Natural History mentions HUNDREDS of people, major & minor - writers, leaders, poets, artists - often with as much reason as mentioning Jesus. (Of course like many other writers he talks about astronomy too, but never mentions the Star of Bethlehem or the darkness.)

It is not at all un-reasonable for this prolific writer to have mentioned Jesus or the Gospels events.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



JUVENAL

Decimus Junius Juvenalis wrote sixteen satires in Rome in early 2nd century.

Lucian the Roman satirist DID ridicule Christians (as gullible, easily lead fools) in mid 2nd century. By the later time of Lucian, Christianity obviously was known to the wider Roman community. Whereas Juvenal wrote at a time when Christianity had only just started to rate a few tiny mentions (Pliny the Younger, Tacitus.)

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



MARTIAL

Marcus Valerius Martialus wrote satires in Rome in late 1st century.

Martial wrote a large body of poems about all sorts of things. He mentions many people, places, stories and issues - major and minor, within and without Rome, such as :
* Stoic suffering of discomfort and death,
* virgin's blood,
* Roman funerary practices,
* the way accused men look in court,
* Roman soldiers mocking their leaders,
* anointing the body with oil,
* Molorchus the good shepherd,
* Tutilius a minor rhetorician, Nestor the wise,
* the (ugly) Temple of Jupiter,

This shows Martial mentions or alludes to many and varied people and issues.

He could easily have mentioned Jesus (or the Gospel events).

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



PETRONIUS

Petronius Arbiter wrote a large novel (a bawdy drama) the "Satyricon" c.60CE.

Petronius mentions all sorts of people and events in this large work, including :
** a CRUCIFIXION !
** a scene where guards are posted to stop a corpse being stolen,
** a tomb scene of someone mistaking a person for a supernatural vision,
* gods such as Bacchus and Ceres,
* writers such as Sophocles and Euripides and Epicurus,
* books such as the Iliad,
* Romans such as Cato and Pompey,
* people such as Hannibal, and the Governor of Ephesus,
* female charioteers, slaves, merchants, Arabs, lawyers
* baths, shipwrecks, meals...

This large work, cover MANY topics, including a CRUCIFIXION, and it was written just as Peter and Paul had come to Rome, allegedly. It could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



PAUSANIAS

Pausanias wrote the massive Guide to Greece in mid 2nd century.

Pausanias' work is vast and the index covers over 70 pages of small print, I estimate a couple of THOUSAND names are mentioned. He mentions a large number of minor figues from within and without Greece.

He even mentions a Jewish prophetess - a figure so minor she is essentially unknown: "Then later than Demo there was a prophetic woman reared among the Jews beyond Palestine; her name was Sabbe." Phokis, Book X, 12, [5]

Pausanias also mentions the Jewish rebellion under Hadrian.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



EPICTETUS

Epictetus is known for several books of Stoic religious and philosophic discourses in the early 2nd century. One of his disciples was Arrian, and thanks to him much of Epictetus' works are extant.

Epictetus DID apparently mention "the Galileans", which could be a reference to :
* the early Christians,
or
* the revolt under Judas the Galilean in early 1st century.

Either way, this shows quite clearly that Epictetus could refer to a figure such as Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



AELIUS ARISTIDES

Aelius Aristides the Greek Orator spoke and wrote a History of Rome and other subjects - he seems to refer to the Christians as "impious men from Palestine" (Orations 46.2)

If he could mention people from Palestine, he could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



FRONTO

Marcus Cornelius Fronto of Rome wrote several letters in mid 2nd century.

According to Minucius Felix, he scandalized rites practiced by Roman Christians - so he could easily have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD easily have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 2



PERSIUS

Aulus Persius Flaccus wrote six fairly long satires in Rome in the mid 1st century, of a rather philosophic nature.

The argument that no Roman satirist could be expected to mention Jesus, is proven wrong by the case of a Roman satirist who DID mention Jesus (but only as echoes of later Christian beliefs.)

Persius wrote a reasonably large body of work that mentions many people and issues.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



DIO CHRYSOSTOM

Dio Chrysostom (Cocceianus Dio) wrote many works and gave many speeches in various Roman and Greek centers in late 1st century, of which 80 survive e.g. the Euboicus.

Dio wrote a large number of works in the late 1st century - he certainly could have mentioned Jesus, if he knew of him.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



AULUS GELLIUS

Aulus Gellius wrote Attic Nights (Nights in Athens), a large compendium of many topics and which mentioned many people.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



LUCIUS APULEIUS

Lucius Apuleius wrote the Metamorphoses (the Golden Ass or Transformations of Lucius) and many other spiritual, historical, and philosophic works - several survive.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



MARCUS AURELIUS

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus wrote the Stoic Meditations in mid 2nd century - he (apparently) refers once to the Christians in XI, 3.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



MUSONIUS RUFUS

C. Musonius Rufus wrote on Stoic philosophy in Rome in mid 1st century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



HIEROCLES

Hierocles of Alexandria wrote on Stoic philosophy in late 1st century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1



MAXIMUS of TYRE

Cassius Maximus Tyrius, a Greek NeoPlatonic philosopher, wrote many works in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 1

ARRIAN

Arrian wrote a History of Alexander c.120CE.

The subject is not related, but Arrian wrote a very large work which mentioned HUNDREDS of people, some not from Alexander's time.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



APPIAN

Appian wrote a large Roman History (from the Gracchi to Caesar) in mid 2nd century.

It's not particularly likely that this specific writer would mention Jesus.
But, he wrote a LARGE work which mentions HUNDREDS of people.
Appian does mention some issues of HIS day (mid 2nd century), e.g. a decision by Hadrian.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



THEON of SMYRNA

Theon of Smyrna wrote on astronomy/philosophy in early 2nd century.

Theon wrote about philosophy. If Jesus and his teachings were known, it is entirely plausible for to mention them.

Theon also wrote about astronomy.
If he had heard about the Star of Bethlehem or the Darkness (as an event, or from the Gospels) he could easily have mentioned it.

Apologists frequently cite Phlegon and Thallus, astronomers who mentioned eclipses (but NOT Jesus or the Gospel events, that is merely later Christian wishful thinking) as evidence for Jesus.

An astronomer could easily be expected to mention those incidents, especially when apologists claim other astronomers of the period did exactly that.

The silence of early astronomers about the Star of Bethlehem or the crucifixion darkness argues these "events" were unknown until later.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



QUINTILIAN

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, wrote the "Education of an Orator" in Rome in late 1st century.

One of the things Jesus was allegedly noted for was his PUBLIC SPEECHES - e.g. the Sermon on the Mount, which supposedly drew and influenced large crowds.

If Quintilian had heard of Jesus or the Gospels events, he could have mentioned the allegedly famous speeches of Jesus.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



LUCIUS ANNAEUS FLORUS

Lucius Annaeus Florus wrote an Epitome of Roman History.

Although not directly on subject, Florus wrote a large work which mentions many names. He could have mentioned Jesus if he had known of him.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



LUCAN

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus wrote the Pharsalia (Civil War) in Rome in mid 1st century.

In his large poem, the Pharsalia, he mentions some events from later times, and he covers many different issues and people in passing.
He:
* mentions an event from 56CE,
* refers to places as far afield as Sicily and Kent,
* refered to Stoic religious beliefs about the end of the world,
* refers to many books and myths and persons and events not part of the main story.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



STATIUS

Publius Papinius Statius wrote numerous minor and epic poems (e.g. Ode to Sleep and the Thebaid) in Rome in late 1st century.

Statius wrote many works on several subjects, he could have mentioned Jesus.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



HERO of ALEXANDRIA

Hero(n) of Alexandria wrote many technical works, including astronomy.

If he had known of the Gospel stories about Jesus, he could have mentioned them.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



GEMINUS

Geminus wrote on mathematics astronomy in Greece.

If he had known of the Gospel stories about Jesus, he could have mentioned them.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



ALBINUS

Albinus taught on (neo-)Platonism in early 2nd century, a little survives.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



ARISTOCLES

Aristocles of Messene wrote On Philosophy, early 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



APOLLODORUS

Apollodorus compiled a large Mythology in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



HEPHAESTION

Hephaestion of Alexandria wrote many works in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5



SEXTUS EMPIRICUS

Sextus Empiricus wrote Outlines of Scepticism in mid 2nd century.

Rating: COULD possibly have mentioned Jesus, but did not.
Weight: 0.5 


WRITERS CLAIMED TO MENTION JESUS

JOSEPHUS

Much has been said about Josephus, but not here.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but may not have.



TACITUS

Cornelius Tacitus wrote a celebrated passage about Jesus roughly 80 years or so after the alleged events - but he seems to be reporting Christian beliefs of his later times, not using earlier documents: he uses the incorrect title 'procurator' - the term used in Tacitus' time, not Pilate's; he fails to name the executed man (Roman records could not possibly have called him 'Christ '); and he accepts the recent advent of the Christians, when Rome was known to allow only ancient cults and religions.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but probably late hearsay.



NUMENIUS

In the 3rd century, Origen claimed Numenius "quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus--without, however, mentioning His name"

Numenius does not mention Jesus, just a story that was later attributed to him.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but probably late hearsay.



SUETONIUS

Gaius SUETONIUS Tranquillus wrote a histories/biographies of Roman Caesars c.120CE.

He mentions a "Chrestus" (a common slave name meaning "Useful") who caused disturbance in Rome in 49CE.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.



PHLEGON

Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus (as quoted by much later George Syncellus) refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse. There is no evidence Phlegon said anything about Gospel events - just evidence for later Christians believing his statements about an eclipse (there WAS an eclipse in this period) was really about the Gospel darkness.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.



THALLUS

Thallus perhaps wrote in early 2nd century or somewhat earlier (his works are lost, there is no evidence he wrote in the 1st century, in fact there is some evidence he wrote around 109 BCE, and some authors refer to him for events before the Trojan War!) - 9th century George Syncellus quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, speaking of the darkness at the crucifixion: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse". There is no evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events, as there was an eclipse in 29, the subject in question. Furthermore the supposed reference to Thallus in Eusebius is likely a mis-reading.

Rating: CLAIMED to mention Jesus, but did not.


WRITERS WHO COULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO HAVE MENTIONED JESUS

Dion Prusaeus
Paterculus
Ptolemy
Valerius Maximus
Pomponius Mela
Quintus Curtus Rufus
Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella
Favorinus
Phaedrus
Babrius
Silius Italicus
Marcus Manilius
Cleomedes
Dioscorides
Sextus Julius Frontinus
Nicomachus of Gerasa
Menelaus of Alexandria
Menodotus of Nicomedia
Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus
Valerius Flaccus

24 December 2010

Merry christMyth: Basically, there is no evidence at all for Jebus's existence

I am recycling this post today just because it seemed appropriate.  This isn't so much a post as it is a collection of essays for someone else. Not much to it really, just a series of things for them to read. Yes, basically the most important figure in xtianity is a made up person. Much of the writings and research on the Jesus figure is amazingly biased, vague, tendentious and pervaded with wishful thinking. The apologists that have "reasonable explanations" for the lack of real data are using arguments that could just as easily be applied to Beowulf's fantastic stories, or the latter mythical stories attributed to Gilgamesh. We look at those stories as OBVIOUS myths, yet we tell an equally fantastic story only supported by circular logic, and it's somehow accepted because of a mass delusion?

One should in general be a bit skeptical to Christian scholars who often (obviously) don't have the necessary distance to their subject and obviously seem to be on a mission to prove the statements in the Bible, no matter what the real evidence say. As Christians they are usually convinced that Jesus did once exist as a real person in the first place, and are just looking for a confirmation.

The reader should of course not take my assertions for granted either, but investigate the sources themselves, also the critical literature. The conclusions are then just a matter of honesty. Anyway, here are a bunch of old essays that have been discussed ad nauseum, yet seem to get ignored because of their inconvenience. Enjoy:

Religions all over the world have experienced a phenomenon which has been given the label "crisis cults." Although the religious and cultural circumstances vary, these movements nevertheless share important similarities. Early Christianity itself can easily be described as such a "crisis cult" - but interestingly, not one which arose without contemporary precedent.
Recent evidence suggests very strongly that similar apocalyptic movements had already existed in Roman-occupied Judea starting about 100 years before Jesus would have lived. Understanding early Christianity, therefore, would be benefited both by a better knowledge of those earlier movements (insofar as it is possible) and a deeper appreciation for the nature of crisis cults generally.
How do crisis cults get started? The first ingredient is to have enough people in society who start feeling that their culture and traditional way of life no longer "work" for them anymore. The problem is that major changes are occurring in society - perhaps they are occupied by foreign invaders, or new discoveries and technologies are transforming the culture too quickly.
Because of this, people seek to recapture what they perceive to be a purer, more righteous age by creating new systems and relationships within the larger society. From this nucleus, society as a whole is supposed to be improved and re-aligned.
People are drawn to these efforts by the second important ingredient, their own insecurities: they are frightened by the new ideas or alien influences. They are under a great deal of stress, attempting to function in a culture they no longer quite recognize as their own. With this, the stage is set for the coming of a charismatic figure who is seen as a prophet or messiah.
Max Weber defines such a prophet figure as "a purely individual bearer of charisma, who by virtue of his mission proclaims a religious doctrine or divine commandment. The prophet's claim is based on personal revelation and charisma. This qualification must be regarded as the decisive hallmark of prophecy."
The intermediary between humans and the divine is characterized first and foremost by his personal charisma, as Weber emphasizes. This is not so much a character trait as it is a form of relationship between the prophet and his followers. What happens is that, over time, the emotions and the personalities of the two begin to mingle.
What results is similar to a chemical reaction when people who are willing to be led meet up with a person who has the ability to identify himself with the followers and get them to identify themselves with the prophet. The prophet becomes a sort of "empathetic mirror," reflecting back to people not only their own sufferings and desires, but also their hopes for an ultimate resolution and victory.
When these two find each other during a period amenable to the development of a crisis cult, the power of the relationship is increased dramatically. People under stress and alienated from their culture suddenly are made to feel important and wonderful in a way they are no longer accustomed to.
All of this easily describes the situation experienced by the people in Judea under Roman rule. Their culture and religion were being heavily influenced by Roman and Hellenistic philosophy. In this situation, prophetic and messianic figures could find very fertile soil. It was here that Christianity developed during its earliest years, but other, similar movements preceded it and probably influenced it.
Two recent books discuss the nature of such crisis cults, focusing upon such movements which appeared in Roman-occupied Judea before the development of Christianity. Evidence for at least one alleged "Messiah" before Jesus can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and could have serious consequences for our understanding of how and why Christianity first appeared.
The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior before Jesus, by Michael O. Wise.
The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Israel Knohl.
Why a historical Jesus never existed

There is no contemporary historical record of any kind of Jesus!! No written Roman, Greek or Jewish sources from this time (apart from the gospels) know of any historical Jesus or Christ. The name "Christ" is mentioned in some later texts (Tacitus, Suetonius Pliny d.y.) but then merely as the name of the idol of the Christians' worship (Read what these sources really say here). We don't even know who the writers of the Gospels were, and don't have the original manuscripts themselves either. We just have later copies of copies of copies of copies … of copies of the assumed lost originals. And with each copy the copyist usually felt free to alter details or rewrite whole parts of the manuscript. (We usually don't trust dubious anonymous sources as evidence for anything, do we?)
All the divine aspects of the Jesus figure are "stolen" from earlier similar dying and resurrected godmen, such as Dionysos, Osiris, Hercules, Attis, Mithra, Horus, Zarathustra and others. Actually there are few (if any) things about Jesus that are original at all. Jesus is just the Jewish version of this popular mythic Saviour- character in the Mystery-religions of Antiquity. (See the similarities here).
All the teachings of Jesus are "borrowed" from older sources, for example from the teachings of Buddha. Many of Jesus teachings are almost word for word identical with some of Buddhas sayings (400 years earlier). The so-called "Golden rule" can be found in several earlier pagan Greek (and Jewish) texts. The famous "Sermon on the Mount" was never held by Jesus (of course, since he never existed), but also because it was actually first produced in the second century AD by Christian priests, assembled from what they assumed were sayings of Jesus in different other texts.
The "birthday" of Jesus is of course unknown, not even the year of his miraculous birth is known. The church just stole the already popular date of the 25th December, which in Antiquity was an immensely popular celebration of the birth of the sungod Mithra, - "the light of the world".
More on the origin of Christmas - see the here

The story of Jesus was originally an allegorical story based partly on the Jewish exodus myth and Joshua/Jesus ben Nun, successor of Moses, the Jewish Messiah-myth and the widespread pagan myth of the dying and resurrected godman Dionysos-Osiris. Later uneducated Christians in Rome, people without the insight and understanding of the deeper meaning of the texts, started to take these allegorical stories for their face value, and Literary Christianity as we know it was born.

Did a historical Jesus exist?


by Jim Walker
originated: 12 June 1997 / additions: 10 Jan. 2008

Amazingly, the question of an actual historical Jesus rarely confronts the religious believer. The power of faith has so forcefully driven the minds of most believers, and even apologetic scholars, that the question of reliable evidence gets obscured by tradition, religious subterfuge, and outrageous claims. The following gives a brief outlook about the claims of a historical Jesus and why the evidence the Christians present us cannot serve as justification for reliable evidence for a historical Jesus.

ALL CLAIMS OF JESUS DERIVE FROM HEARSAY ACCOUNTS
No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.
Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.
Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay provides no proof or good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.
If you do not understand this, imagine yourself confronted with a charge for a crime which you know you did not commit. You feel confident that no one can prove guilt because you know that there exists no evidence whatsoever for the charge against you. Now imagine that you stand present in a court of law that allows hearsay as evidence. When the prosecution presents its case, everyone who takes the stand against you claims that you committed the crime, not as a witness themselves, but solely because other people said so. None of these other people, mind you, ever show up in court, nor can anyone find them.
Hearsay does not work as evidence because we have no way of knowing whether the person lies, or simply bases his or her information on wrongful belief or bias. We know from history about witchcraft trials and kangaroo courts that hearsay provides neither reliable nor fair statements of evidence. We know that mythology can arise out of no good information whatsoever. We live in a world where many people believe in demons, UFOs, ghosts, or monsters, and an innumerable number of fantasies believed as fact taken from nothing but belief and hearsay. It derives from these reasons why hearsay cannot serves as good evidence, and the same reasoning must go against the claims of a historical Jesus or any other historical person.
Authors of ancient history today, of course, can only write from indirect observation in a time far removed from their aim. But a valid historian's own writing gets cited with sources that trace to the subject themselves, or to eyewitnesses and artifacts. For example a historian today who writes about the life of George Washington, of course, can not serve as an eyewitness, but he can provide citations to documents which give personal or eyewitness accounts. None of the historians about Jesus give reliable sources to eyewitnesses, therefore all we have remains as hearsay.
THE BIBLE GOSPELS
The most "authoritative" accounts of a historical Jesus come from the four canonical Gospels of the Bible. Note that these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of early church fathers, especially the most influential of them all: Irenaeus of Lyon who lived in the middle of the second century. Many heretical gospels existed by that time, but Irenaeus considered only some of them for mystical reasons. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, "like the four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man's estate, and the four forms of the first living creatures-- the lion of Mark, the calf of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John (see Against the Heresies). The four gospels then became Church cannon for the orthodox faith. Most of the other claimed gospel writings were burned, destroyed, or lost." [Romer]
Elaine Pagels writes: "Although the gospels of the New Testament-- like those discovered at Nag Hammadi-- are attributed to Jesus' followers, no one knows who actually wrote any of them." [Pagels, 1995]
Not only do we not know who wrote them, consider that none of the Gospels existed during the alleged life of Jesus, nor do the unknown authors make the claim to have met an earthly Jesus. Add to this that none of the original gospel manuscripts exist; we only have copies of copies.
The consensus of many biblical historians put the dating of the earliest Gospel, that of Mark, at sometime after 70 C.E., and the last Gospel, John after 90 C.E. [Pagels, 1995; Helms]. This would make it some 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus that we have any Gospel writings that mention him! Elaine Pagels writes that "the first Christian gospel was probably written during the last year of the war, or the year it ended. Where it was written and by whom we do not know; the work is anonymous, although tradition attributes it to Mark..." [Pagels, 1995]
The traditional Church has portrayed the authors as the apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, & John, but scholars know from critical textural research that there simply occurs no evidence that the gospel authors could have served as the apostles described in the Gospel stories. Yet even today, we hear priests and ministers describing these authors as the actual disciples of Christ. Many Bibles still continue to label the stories as "The Gospel according to St. Matthew," "St. Mark," "St. Luke," St. John." No apostle would have announced his own sainthood before the Church's establishment of sainthood. But one need not refer to scholars to determine the lack of evidence for authorship. As an experiment, imagine the Gospels without their titles. See if you can find out from the texts who wrote them; try to find their names.
Even if the texts supported the notion that the apostles wrote them, consider that the average life span of humans in the first century came to around 30, and very few people lived to 70. If the apostles births occurred at about the same time as the alleged Jesus, and wrote their gospels in their old age, that would put Mark at least 70 years old, and John at over 110.
The gospel of Mark describes the first written Bible gospel. And although Mark appears deceptively after the Matthew gospel, the gospel of Mark got written at least a generation before Matthew. From its own words, we can deduce that the author of Mark had neither heard Jesus nor served as his personal follower. Whoever wrote the gospel, he simply accepted the mythology of Jesus without question and wrote a crude an ungrammatical account of the popular story at the time. Any careful reading of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) will reveal that Mark served as the common element between Matthew and Luke and gave the main source for both of them. Of Mark's 666* verses, some 600 appear in Matthew, some 300 in Luke. According to Randel Helms, the author of Mark, stands at least at a third remove from Jesus and more likely at the fourth remove. [Helms]
* Most Bibles show 678 verses for Mark, not 666, but many Biblical scholars think the last 12 verses came later from interpolation. The earliest manuscripts and other ancient sources do not have Mark 16: 9-20. Moreover the text style does not match and the transition between verse 8 and 9 appears awkward. Even some of today's Bibles such as the NIV exclude the last 12 verses.
The author of Matthew had obviously gotten his information from Mark's gospel and used them for his own needs. He fashioned his narrative to appeal to Jewish tradition and Scripture. He improved the grammar of Mark's Gospel, corrected what he felt theologically important, and heightened the miracles and magic.
The author of Luke admits himself as an interpreter of earlier material and not an eyewitness (Luke 1:1-4). Many scholars think the author of Luke lived as a gentile, or at the very least, a Hellenized Jew and even possibly a woman. He (or she) wrote at a time of tension in the Roman empire along with its fever of persecution. Many modern scholars think that the Gospel of Matthew and Luke came from the Mark gospel and a hypothetical document called "Q" (German Quelle, which means "source"). [Helms; Wilson] . However, since we have no manuscript from Q, no one could possibly determine its author or where or how he got his information or the date of its authorship. Again we get faced with unreliable methodology and obscure sources.
John, the last appearing Bible Gospel, presents us with long theological discourses from Jesus and could not possibly have come as literal words from a historical Jesus. The Gospel of John disagrees with events described in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Moreover the unknown author(s) of this gospel wrote it in Greek near the end of the first century, and according to Bishop Shelby Spong, the book "carried within it a very obvious reference to the death of John Zebedee (John 21:23)." [Spong]
Please understand that the stories themselves cannot serve as examples of eyewitness accounts since they came as products of the minds of the unknown authors, and not from the characters themselves. The Gospels describe narrative stories, written almost virtually in the third person. People who wish to portray themselves as eyewitnesses will write in the first person, not in the third person. Moreover, many of the passages attributed to Jesus could only have come from the invention of its authors. For example, many of the statements of Jesus claim to have come from him while allegedly alone. If so, who heard him? It becomes even more marked when the evangelists report about what Jesus thought. To whom did Jesus confide his thoughts? Clearly, the Gospels employ techniques that fictional writers use. In any case the Gospels can only serve, at best, as hearsay, and at worst, as fictional, mythological, or falsified stories.
OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS
Even in antiquity people like Origen and Eusebius raised doubts about the authenticity of other books in the New Testament such as Hebrews, James, John 2 & 3, Peter 2, Jude, and Revelation. Martin Luther rejected the Epistle of James calling it worthless and an "epistle of straw" and questioned Jude, Hebrews and the Apocalypse in Revelation. Nevertheless, all New Testament writings came well after the alleged death of Jesus from unknown authors (with the possible exception of Paul, although still after the alleged death).
Epistles of Paul: Paul's biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. However, there occurs not a single instance in all of Paul's writings that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does he give any reference to Jesus' life on earth. Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. Hearsay.
Epistle of James: Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? Many claim him as the gospel disciple but the gospels mention several different James. Which one? Or maybe this James has nothing to do with any of the gospel James. Perhaps this writer comes from any one of innumerable James outside the gospels. James served as a common name in the first centuries and we simply have no way to tell who this James refers to. More to the point, the Epistle of James mentions Jesus only once as an introduction to his belief. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from an historical account. [1]
Epistles of John: The epistles of John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation appear so different in style and content that they could hardly have the same author. Some suggest that these writings of John come from the work of a group of scholars in Asia Minor who followed a "John" or they came from the work of church fathers who aimed to further the interests of the Church. Or they could have simply come from people also named John (a very common name). No one knows. Also note that nowhere in the body of the three epistles of "John" does it mention a John. In any case, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. Not only do we not know who wrote these epistles, they can only serve as hearsay accounts. [2]
Epistles of Peter: Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery (for some examples, see the introduction to 2 Peter in the full edition of The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985, and [3]). In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an unknown author also named Peter (a common name) or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church.
Of the remaining books and letters in the Bible, there occurs no other stretched claims or eyewitness accounts for a historical Jesus and needs no mention of them here for this deliberation.
As for the existence of original New Testament documents, none exist. No book of the New Testament survives in the original autograph copy. What we have then come from copies, and copies of copies, of questionable originals (if the stories came piecemeal over time, as it appears it has, then there may never have existed an original). The earliest copies we have came more than a century later than the autographs, and these exist on fragments of papyrus. [Pritchard; Graham] According to Hugh Schonfield, "It would be impossible to find any manuscript of the New Testament older than the late third century, and we actually have copies from the fourth and fifth. [Schonfield]
LYING FOR THE CHURCH
The editing and formation of the Bible came from members of the early Christian Church. Since the fathers of the Church possessed the scriptoria and determined what would appear in the Bible, there occurred plenty of opportunity and motive to change, modify, or create texts that might bolster the position of the Church or the members of the Church themselves.
The orthodox Church also fought against competing Christian cults. Irenaeus, who determined the inclusion of the four (now canonical) gospels, wrote his infamous book, "Against the Heresies." According to Romer, "Irenaeus' great book not only became the yardstick of major heresies and their refutations, the starting-point of later inquisitions, but simply by saying what Christianity was not it also, in a curious inverted way, became a definition of the orthodox faith." [Romer] If a Jesus did exist, perhaps eyewitness writings got burnt along with them because of their heretical nature. We will never know.
In attempting to salvage the Bible the respected revisionist and scholar, Bruce Metzger has written extensively on the problems of the New Testament. In his book, "The Text of the New Testament-- Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Metzger addresses: Errors arising from faulty eyesight; Errors arising from faulty hearing; Errors of the mind; Errors of judgment; Clearing up historical and geographical difficulties; and Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations. [Metzger]
The Church had such power over people, that to question the Church could result in death. Regardless of what the Church claimed, most people simply believed what their priests told them.
In letter LII To Nepotian, Jerome writes about his teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus when he asked him to explain a phrase in Luke, Nazianzus evaded his request by saying “I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool." Jerome responds with, "There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation."
In the 5th century, John Chrysostom in his "Treatise on the Priesthood, Book 1," wrote, "And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived."
Ignatius Loyola of the 16th century wrote in his Spiritual Exercises: "To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it"
Martin Luther opined: "What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."
With such admission to accepting lies, the burning of heretical texts, Bible errors and alterations, how could any honest scholar take any book from the New Testament as absolute, much less using extraneous texts that support a Church's intransigent and biased position, as reliable evidence?
GNOSTIC GOSPELS
In 1945, an Arab made an archeological discovery in Upper Egypt of several ancient papyrus books. They have since referred to it as The Nag Hammadi texts. They contained fifty-two heretical books written in Coptic script which include gospels of Thomas, Philip, James, John, Thomas, and many others. Archeologists have dated them at around 350-400 C.E. They represent copies from previous copies. None of the original texts exist and scholars argue about a possible date of the originals. Some of them think that they can hardly have dates later than 120-150 C.E. Others have put it closer to 140 C.E. [Pagels, 1979]
Other Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Judas, found near the Egyptian site of the Nag Hammadi texts, shows a diverse pattern of story telling, always a mark of myth. The Judas gospel tells of Judas Iscariot as Jesus' most loyal disciple, just opposite that of the canonical gospel stories. Note that the text does not claim that Judas Iscariot wrote it. The Judas gospel, a copy written in Coptic, dates to around the third-to fourth-century. The original Greek version probably dates to between 130 and 170 C.E., around the same tine as the Nag Hammadi texts. Irenaeus first mentions this gospel in Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) written around 180 C.E., so we know that this represented a heretical gospel.
Since these Gnostic texts could only have its unknown authors writing well after the alleged life of Jesus, they cannot serve as historical evidence of Jesus anymore than the canonical versions. Again, we only have "heretical" hearsay.
NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES
Virtually all other claims of Jesus come from sources outside of Christian writings. Devastating to the claims of Christians, however, comes from the fact that all of these accounts come from authors who lived after the alleged life of Jesus. Since they did not live during the time of the hypothetical Jesus, none of their accounts serve as eyewitness evidence.
Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius), Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay.
Pliny the Younger (born: 62 C.E.) His letter about the Christians only shows that he got his information from Christian believers themselves. Regardless, his birth date puts him out of range as an eyewitness account.
Tacitus, the Roman historian's birth year at 64 C.E., puts him well after the alleged life of Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a "Christus" in his Annals (Book XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 C.E. He gives no source for his material. Although many have disputed the authenticity of Tacitus' mention of Jesus, the very fact that his birth happened after the alleged Jesus and wrote the Annals during the formation of Christianity, shows that his writing can only provide us with hearsay accounts.
Suetonius, a Roman historian, born in 69 C.E. mentions a "Chrestus," a common name. Apologists assume that "Chrestus" means "Christ" (a disputable claim). But even if Seutonius had meant "Christ," it still says nothing about an earthly Jesus. Just like all the others, Suetonius' birth occurred well after the purported Jesus. Again, only hearsay.
Talmud: Amazingly some Christians use brief portions of the Talmud, (a collection of Jewish civil a religious law, including commentaries on the Torah), as evidence for Jesus. They claim that Yeshu in the Talmud refers to Jesus. However, this Yeshu, according to scholars depicts a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia at least a century before the alleged Christian Jesus or it may refer to Yeshu ben Pandera, a teacher of the 2nd centuy CE. Regardless of how one interprets this, the Palestinian Talmud didn't come into existence until the 3rd and 5th century C.E., and the Babylonian Talmud between the 3rd and 6th century C.E., at least two centuries after the alleged crucifixion. At best it can only serve as a controversial Christian or Jewish legend; it cannot possibly serve as evidence for a historical Jesus.
Christian apologists mostly use the above sources for their "evidence" of Jesus because they believe they represent the best outside sources. All other sources (Christian and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include: Mara Bar-Serapion (circa 73 C.E.), Ignatius (50 - 98? C.E.), Polycarp (69 - 155 C.E.), Clement of Rome (? - circa 160 C.E.), Justin Martyr (100 - 165 C.E.), Lucian (circa 125 - 180 C.E.), Tertullian (160 - ? C.E.), Clement of Alexandria (? - 215 C.E.), Origen (185 - 232 C.E.), Hippolytus (? - 236 C.E.), and Cyprian (? - 254 C.E.). As you can see, all these people lived well after the alleged death of Jesus. Not one of them provides an eyewitness account, all of them simply spout hearsay.
As you can see, apologist Christians embarrass themselves when they unwittingly or deceptively violate the rules of historiography by using after-the-event writings as evidence for the event itself. Not one of these writers gives a source or backs up his claims with evidential material about Jesus. Although we can provide numerous reasons why the Christian and non-Christian sources prove spurious, and argue endlessly about them, we can cut to the chase by simply determining the dates of the documents and the birth dates of the authors. It doesn't matter what these people wrote about Jesus, an author who writes after the alleged happening and gives no detectable sources for his material can only give example of hearsay. All of these anachronistic writings about Jesus could easily have come from the beliefs and stories from Christian believers themselves. And as we know from myth, superstition, and faith, beliefs do not require facts or evidence for their propagation and circulation. Thus we have only beliefs about Jesus' existence, and nothing more.

FAKES, FRAUDS, AND FICTIONS
Because the religious mind relies on belief and faith, the religious person can inherit a dependence on any information that supports a belief and that includes fraudulent stories, rumors, unreliable data, and fictions, without the need to check sources, or to investigate the reliability of the information. Although hundreds of fraudulent claims exist for the artifacts of Jesus, I will present only three examples which seem to have a life of their own and have spread through the religious community and especially on internet discussion groups.
The Shroud of Turin
Many faithful people believe the shroud represents the actual burial cloth of Jesus where they claim the image on the cloth represents an actual 'photographic' image left behind by the crucified body.
The first mention of the shroud comes from a treatise (written or dictated) by Geoffroi de Charny in 1356 and who claims to have owned the cloth (see The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny). Later, in the 16th century, it suddenly appeared in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. (Note that thousands of claimed Jesus relics appeared in cathedrals throughout Europe, including the wood from the cross, chalices, blood of Jesus, etc. These artifacts proved popular and served as a prosperous commercial device which filled the money coffers of the churches.) [See The Family Jewels for some examples.]
Sadly, many people of faith believe that there actually exists scientific evidence to support their beliefs in the shroud's authenticity. Considering how the Shroud's apologists use the words, "science," "fact," and "authentic," without actual scientific justification, and even include pseudo-scientists (without mentioning the 'pseudo') to testify to their conclusions, it should not come to any surprise why a faithful person would not question their information or their motives. Television specials have also appeared that purport the authenticity of the shroud. Science, however, does not operate though television specials who have a commercial interest and have no qualms about deceiving the public.
Experts around the world consider the 14-foot-long linen sheet, which has remained in a cathedral in Turin since 1578, a forgery because of carbon-dating tests performed in 1988. Three different independent radiocarbon dating laboratories in Zurich, Oxford and the University of Arizona yielded a date range of 1260-1390 C.E. (consistent with the time period of Charny's claimed ownership). Joe Zias of Hebrew University of Jerusalem calls the shroud indisputably a fake. "Not only is it a forgery, but it's a bad forgery." The shroud actually depicts a man whose front measures 2 inches taller than his back and whose elongated hands and arms would indicate that he had the affliction of gigantism if he actually lived. (Also read Joe Nickell's, Inquest On The Shroud Of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings)
Walter C. McCrone, et al, (see Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin) discovered red ochre (a pigment found in earth and widely used in Italy during the Middle Ages) on the cloth which formed the body image and vermilion paint, made from mercuric sulphide, used to represent blood. The actual scientific findings reveal the shroud as a 14th century painting, not a two-thousand year-old cloth with Christ's image. Revealingly, no Biblical scholar or scientist (with any credibility), cites the shroud of Turin as evidence for a historical Jesus.
The Burial box of James
Even many credible theologians bought this fraud, hook-line-and-sinker. The Nov./Dec. 2002, issue of Biblical Archeology Review magazine announced a "world exclusive!" article about evidence of Jesus written in stone, claiming that they found the actual ossuary of "James, Brother of Jesus" in Jerusalem. This story exploded on the news and appeared widely on television and newspapers around the world.
Interestingly, they announced the find as the "earliest historical reference of Jesus yet found." Since they claimed the inscription on the box occurred around 70 C.E., that would agree with everything claimed by this thesis (that no contemporary evidence exists for Jesus). (Note that even if the box script proved authentic, it would not provide evidence for Jesus simply because no one knew who wrote the script or why. It would only show the first indirect mention of an alleged Jesus and it could not serve as contemporary evidence simply because it didn't come into existence until long after the alleged death of Jesus.)
The claim for authenticity of the burial box of James, however, proved particularly embarrassing for the Biblical Archeology Review and for those who believed them without question. Just a few months later, archaeologists determined the inscription as a forgery (and an obvious one at that) and they found the perpetrator and had him arrested (see 'Jesus box' exposed as fake and A fake? James Ossuary dealer arrested, suspected of forgery).
Regrettably, the news about the fraud never matched the euphoria of the numerous stories of the find and many people today still believe the story as true.
Letters of Pontius Pilate
This would appear hilarious if not for the tragic results that can occur from believing in fiction: many faithful (especially on the internet) have a strong belief that Pontius Pilate actually wrote letters to Seneca in Rome where he mentions Jesus and his reported healing miracles.
Considering the lack of investigational temper of the religious mind, it might prove interesting to the critical reader that the main source for the letters of Pilate come from W. P. Crozier's 1928 book titled, "Letters of Pontius Pilate: Written During His Governorship of Judea to His Friend Seneca in Rome." The book cites Crozier as the editor as if he represented a scholar who edited Pilate's letters. Well, from the title, it certainly seems to indicate that Pilate wrote some letters doesn't it? However, unbeknownst or ignored by the uncritical faithful, this book represents Crozier's first novel, a fictionalized account of what he thought Pilate would have written.
During the first publication, no one believed this novel represented fact and reviews of the day reveal it as a work of fiction.
Crozier, a newspaper editor, went to Oxford University and retained an interest in Latin, Greek and the Bible. He wrote this novel as if it represented the actual letters of Pilate. Of course no scholar would cite this as evidence because no letters exist of Pilate to Seneca, and Seneca never mentions Jesus in any of his writings.
The belief in Pilate's letters represents one of the more amusing fad beliefs in evidential Jesus, however, it also reveals just how myths, fakes, and fictions can leak into religious thought. Hundreds of years from now, Crozier's fictionalized account may very well end up just as 'reliable' as the gospels.
WHAT ABOUT WRITINGS DURING THE LIFE OF JESUS?
What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what people later wrote about Jesus but what people did not write about him. Consider that not a single historian, philosopher, scribe or follower who lived before or during the alleged time of Jesus ever mentions him!
If, indeed, the Gospels portray a historical look at the life of Jesus, then the one feature that stands out prominently within the stories shows that people claimed to know Jesus far and wide, not only by a great multitude of followers but by the great priests, the Roman governor Pilate, and Herod who claims that he had heard "of the fame of Jesus" (Matt 14:1)". One need only read Matt: 4:25 where it claims that "there followed him [Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." The gospels mention, countless times, the great multitude that followed Jesus and crowds of people who congregated to hear him. So crowded had some of these gatherings grown, that Luke 12:1 alleges that an "innumerable multitude of people... trode one upon another." Luke 5:15 says that there grew "a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear..." The persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem drew so much attention that all the chief priests and scribes, including the high priest Caiaphas, not only knew about him but helped in his alleged crucifixion. (see Matt 21:15-23, 26:3, Luke 19:47, 23:13). The multitude of people thought of Jesus, not only as a teacher and a miracle healer, but a prophet (see Matt:14:5).
So here we have the gospels portraying Jesus as famous far and wide, a prophet and healer, with great multitudes of people who knew about him, including the greatest Jewish high priests and the Roman authorities of the area, and not one person records his existence during his lifetime? If the poor, the rich, the rulers, the highest priests, and the scribes knew about Jesus, who would not have heard of him?
Then we have a particular astronomical event that would have attracted the attention of anyone interested in the "heavens." According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Yet not a single mention of such a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone, including the astronomers and astrologers, anywhere in the world, including Pliny the Elder and Seneca who both recorded eclipses from other dates. Note also that, for obvious reasons, solar eclipses can't occur during a full moon (passovers always occur during full moons), Nor does a single contemporary person write about the earthquake described in Matthew 27:51-54 where the earth shook, rocks ripped apart (rent), and graves opened.
Matthew 2 describes Herod and all of Jerusalem as troubled by the worship of the infant Jesus. Herod then had all of the children of Bethlehem slain. If such extraordinary infanticides of this magnitude had occurred, why didn't anyone write about it?
Some apologists attempt to dig themselves out of this problem by claiming that there lived no capable historians during that period, or due to the lack of education of the people with a writing capacity, or even sillier, the scarcity of paper gave reason why no one recorded their "savior." But the area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records. Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And as for historians, there lived plenty at the time who had the capacity and capability to record, not only insignificant gossip, but significant events, especially from a religious sect who drew so much popular attention through an allegedly famous and infamous Jesus.
Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus who's birth occurred in 20 B.C.E. and died 50 C.E. He lived as the greatest Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the Jewish events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus "the Christ." Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca's (4? B.C.E. - 65 C.E.) writings, nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? - 79 C.E.).
If, indeed, such a well known Jesus existed, as the gospels allege, does any reader here think it reasonable that, at the very least, the fame of Jesus would not have reached the ears of one of these men?
Amazingly, we have not one Jewish, Greek, or Roman writer, even those who lived in the Middle East, much less anywhere else on the earth, who ever mention him during his supposed life time. This appears quite extraordinary, and you will find few Christian apologists who dare mention this embarrassing fact.
To illustrate this extraordinary absence of Jesus Christ literature, just imagine going through nineteenth century literature looking for an Abraham Lincoln but unable to find a single mention of him in any writing on earth until the 20th century. Yet straight-faced Christian apologists and historians want you to buy a factual Jesus out of a dearth void of evidence, and rely on nothing but hearsay written well after his purported life. Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus lived as God on earth, the Almighty gives an embarrassing example for explaining his existence. You'd think a Creator might at least have the ability to bark up some good solid evidence.
HISTORICAL SCHOLARS
Many problems occur with the reliability of the accounts from ancient historians. Most of them did not provide sources for their claims, as they rarely included bibliographic listings, or supporting claims. They did not have access to modern scholarly techniques, and many times would include hearsay as evidence. No one today would take a modern scholar seriously who used the standards of ancient historians, yet this proves as the only kind of source that Christology comes from. Couple this with the fact that many historians believed as Christians themselves, sometimes members of the Church, and you have a built-in prejudice towards supporting a "real" Jesus.
In modern scholarship, even the best historians and Christian apologists play the historian game. They can only use what documents they have available to them. If they only have hearsay accounts then they have to play the cards that history deals them. Many historians feel compelled to use interpolation or guesses from hearsay, and yet this very dubious information sometimes ends up in encyclopedias and history books as fact.
In other words, Biblical scholarship gets forced into a lower standard by the very sources they examine. A renowned Biblical scholar illustrated this clearly in an interview when asked about Biblical interpretation. David Noel Freeman (the General editor of the Anchor Bible Series and many other works) responded with:
"We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything."
-David Noel Freedman (in Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)
The implications appear obvious. If one wishes to believe in a historical Jesus, he or she must accept this based on loose standards. Couple this with the fact that all of the claims come from hearsay, and we have a foundation made of sand, and a castle of information built of cards.
CITING GEOGRAPHY, AND KNOWN HISTORICAL FIGURES AS "EVIDENCE"
Although the New Testament mentions various cities, geological sites, kings and people that existed or lived during the alleged life of Jesus, these descriptions cannot serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus anymore than works of fiction that include recognizable locations, and make mention of actual people.
Homer's Odyssey, for example, describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. Mythical stories, fictions, and narratives almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories. The authors of the Greek tragedies not only put their stories in plausible settings as happening in the real world but their supernatural characters took on the desires, flaws and failures of mortal human beings. Consider that fictions such as King Kong, Superman, and Star Trek include recognizable cities, planets, and landmarks, with their protagonists and antagonists miming human emotions.
Likewise, just because the Gospels mention cities and locations in Judea, and known historical people, with Jesus behaving like an actual human being (with the added dimension of supernatural curses, miracles, etc.) but this says nothing about the actuality of the characters portrayed in the stories. However, when a story uses impossible historical locations, or geographical errors, we may question the authority of the claims.
For example, in Matt 4:8, the author describes the devil taking Jesus into an exceedingly high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world. Since there exists no spot on the spheroid earth to view "all the kingdoms," we know that the Bible errs here.
John 12:21 says, "The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee. . . ." Bethsaida resided in Gaulonitis (Golan region), east of the Jordan river, not Galilee, which resided west of the river.
John 3:23 says, "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . ." Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.
There occurs not a shred of evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus's writings (even though he provides a detailed list of the cities of Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles appeared before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn't come into existence until about 40 years after the hypothetical death of Jesus. Apologists attempt to dismiss this by claiming that Nazareth existed as an insignificant and easily missed village (how would they know?), thus no one recorded it. However, whenever the Gospels speak of Nazareth, they always refer to it as a city, never a village, and a historian of that period would surely have noticed a city. (Note the New Testament uses the terms village, town, and city.) Nor can apologists fall on archaeological evidence of preexisting artifacts for the simple reason that many cities get built on ancient sites. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as historical.
Many more errors and unsupported geographical locations appear in the New Testament. And although one cannot use these as evidence against a historical Jesus, we can certainly question the reliability of the texts. If the scriptures make so many factual errors about geology, science, and contain so many contradictions, falsehoods could occur any in area.
If we have a coupling with historical people and locations, then we should also have some historical reference of a Jesus to these locations and people. But just the opposite proves the case. The Bible depicts Herod, the Ruler of Jewish Palestine under Rome as sending out men to search and kill the infant Jesus, yet nothing in history supports such a story. Pontius Pilate supposedly performed as judge in the trial and execution of Jesus, yet no Roman record mentions such a trial. The gospels portray a multitude of believers throughout the land spreading tales of a teacher, prophet, and healer, yet nobody in Jesus' life time or several decades after, ever records such a human figure. The lack of a historical Jesus in the known historical record speaks for itself.
COMPARING JESUS TO OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURES
Many Christian apologists attempt to extricate themselves from their lack of evidence by claiming that if we cannot rely on the post chronicle exegesis of Jesus, then we cannot establish a historical foundation for other figures such as Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, etc. However, there sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing.
Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E. For Augustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more. Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters. We can establish some historicity to these people because we have evidence that occurred during their life times. Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people. For example, some of the stories of Alexander's conquests, or Nero starting the fire in Rome always get questioned or doubted because they contain inconsistencies or come from authors who wrote years after the alleged facts. In qualifying the history of Alexander, Pierre Briant writes, "Although more than twenty of his contemporaries chronicled Alexander's life and campaigns, none of these texts survive in original form. Many letters and speeches attributed to Alexander are ancient forgeries or reconstructions inspired by imagination or political motives. The little solid documentation we possess from Alexander's own time is mainly to be found in stone inscriptions from the Greek cities of Europe and Asia." [Briant]
Inventing histories out of whole cloth or embellished from a seed of an actual historical event appears common throughout the chronicle of human thought. Robert Price observes, "Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Cyrus, King Arthur, and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle." [Price, pp. 260-261]
Interestingly, almost all important historical people have descriptions of what they looked like. We have the image of Augustus Caesar cast on denarius coins, busts of Greek and Roman aristocrats, artwork of Napoleon, etc. We have descriptions of facial qualities, height, weight, hair length & color, age and even portraits of most important historical figures. But for Jesus, we have nothing. Nowhere in the Bible do we have a description of the human shape of Jesus. How can we rely on the Gospels as the word of Jesus when no one even describes what he looked like? How odd that none of the disciple characters record what he looked like, yet believers attribute them to know exactly what he said. Indeed, this gives us a clue that Jesus came to the gospel writers and indirect and through myth. Not until hundreds of years after the alleged Jesus did pictures emerge as to what he looked like from cult Christians, and these widely differed from a blond clean shaven, curly haired Apollonian youth (found in the Roman catacombs) to a long-bearded Italian as depicted to this day. This mimics the pattern of Greek mythological figures as their believers constructed various images of what their gods looked like according to their own cultural image.
Historical people leave us with contemporary evidence, but for Jesus we have nothing. If we wanted to present a fair comparison of the type of information about Jesus to another example of equal historical value, we could do no better than to compare Jesus with the mythical figure of Hercules.
IF JESUS, THEN WHY NOT HERCULES?
If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then shouldn't they act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?
To take one example, examine the evidence for Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the "historicity" of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus.
Note that Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. The mortal and chaste Alcmene, the mother of Hercules, gave birth to him from a union with God (Zeus). Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Similar to Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules gives example of perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.
Likewise the "evidence" of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mention Hercules in their writings. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have a brief mention of Jesus by Joesphus in his Antiquities, Joesphus also mentions Hercules (more times than Jesus), in the very same work (see: 1.15; 8.5.3; 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Christus, so does he also mention Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him? Of course not, and the same must apply to Jesus if we wish to hold any consistency to historicity.
Some critics doubt that a historicized Jesus could develop from myth because they think there never occurred any precedence for it. We have many examples of myth from history but what about the other way around? This doubt fails in the light of the most obvious example-- the Greek mythologies where Greek and Roman writers including Diodorus, Cicero, Livy, etc., assumed that there must have existed a historical root for figures such as Hercules, Theseus, Odysseus, Minos, Dionysus, etc. These writers put their mythological heroes into an invented historical time chart. Herodotus, for example, tried to determine when Hercules lived. As Robert M. Price revealed, "The whole approach earned the name of Euhemerism, from Euhemerus who originated it." [Price, p. 250] Even today, we see many examples of seedling historicized mythologies: UFO adherents who's beliefs began as a dream of alien bodily invasion, and then expressed as actually having occurred (some of which have formed religious cults); beliefs of urban legends which started as pure fiction or hoaxes; propaganda spread by politicians which stem from fiction but believed by their constituents.
People consider Hercules and other Greek gods as myth because people no longer believe in the Greek and Roman stories. When a civilization dies, so go their gods. Christianity and its church authorities, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations or fear embarrassment against their Christian friends. Christianity depends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources. The faithful want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical "experts" around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic. The establishment of history should never reside with the "experts" words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian. Historical review has yet to achieve the reliability of scientific investigation, (and in fact, many times ignores it). If a scholar makes a historical claim, his assertion should depend primarily with the evidence itself and not just because he or she says so. Facts do not require belief. And whereas beliefs can live comfortably without evidence at all, facts depend on evidence.
THEN WHY THE MYTH OF JESUS?
Some people actually believe that just because so much voice and ink has spread the word of a character named Jesus throughout history, that this must mean that he actually lived. This argument simply does not hold. The number of people who believe or write about something or the professional degrees they hold say nothing at all about fact. Facts derive out of evidence, not from hearsay, not from hubris scholars, and certainly not from faithful believers. Regardless of the position or admiration held by a scholar, believer, or priest, if he or she cannot support their hypothesis with good evidence, then it can only remain a hypothesis.
While the possibility exists that an actual Jesus lived, a more likely possibility reveals that a mythology could have arrived totally out of earlier mythologies. Although we have no evidence for a historical Jesus, we certainly have many accounts for the mythologies of the Middle East and Egypt during the first century and before. Many of these stories appear similar to the Christ saviour story.
Just before and during the first century, the Jews had prophesied about an upcoming Messiah based on Jewish scripture. Their beliefs influenced many of their followers. We know that powerful beliefs can create self-fulfilling prophesies, and surely this proved just as true in ancient times. It served as a popular dream expressed in Hebrew Scripture for the promise of an "end-time" with a savior to lead them to the promised land. Indeed, Roman records show executions of several would-be Messiahs, (but not a single record mentions a Jesus). Many ancients believed that there could come a final war against the "Sons of Darkness"-- the Romans.
This then could very well have served as the ignition and flame for the future growth of Christianity. We know that the early Christians lived within pagan communities. Jewish scriptural beliefs coupled with the pagan myths of the time give sufficient information about how such a religion could have formed. Many of the Hellenistic and pagan myths parallel so closely to the alleged Jesus that to ignore its similarities means to ignore the mythological beliefs of history. Dozens of similar savior stories propagated the minds of humans long before the alleged life of Jesus. Virtually nothing about Jesus "the Christ" came to the Christians as original or new.
For example, the religion of Zoroaster, founded circa 628-551 B.C.E. in ancient Persia, roused mankind in the need for hating a devil, the belief of a paradise, last judgment and resurrection of the dead. Mithraism, an offshoot of Zoroastrianism probably influenced early Christianity. The Magi described in the New Testament appears as Zoroastrian priests. Note the word "paradise" came from the Persian pairidaeza.
Osiris, Hercules, Mithra, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus and others compare to the Christian myth. According to Patrick Campbell of The Mythical Jesus, all served as pre-Christian sun gods, yet all allegedly had gods for fathers, virgins for mothers; had their births announced by stars; got born on the solstice around December 25th; had tyrants who tried to kill them in their infancy; met violent deaths; rose from the dead; and nearly all got worshiped by "wise men" and had allegedly fasted for forty days. [McKinsey, Chapter 5]
The pre-Christian cult of Mithra had a deity of light and truth, son of the Most High, fought against evil, presented the idea of the Logos. Pagan Mithraism mysteries had the burial in a rock tomb, resurrection, sacrament of bread & water (Eucharist), the marking on the forehead with a mystic mark, the symbol of the Rock, the Seven Spirits and seven stars, all before the advent of Christianity.
Even Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. To the Pagans, he wrote: "When we say that the Word, who is first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus)." [First Apology, ch. xxi]
Virtually all of the mythical accounts of a savior Jesus have parallels to past pagan mythologies which existed long before Christianity and from the Jewish scriptures that we now call the Old Testament. The accounts of these myths say nothing about historical reality, but they do say a lot about believers, how they believed, and how their beliefs spread.
In the book The Jesus Puzzle, the biblical scholar, Earl Doherty, presents not only a challenge to the existence of an historical Jesus but reveals that early pre-Gospel Christian documents show that the concept of Jesus sprang from non-historical spiritual beliefs of a Christ derived from Jewish scripture and Hellenized myths of savior gods. Nowhere do any of the New Testament epistle writers describe a human Jesus, including Paul. None of the epistles mention a Jesus from Nazareth, an earthly teacher, or as a human miracle worker. Nowhere do we find these writers quoting Jesus. Nowhere do we find them describing any details of Jesus' life on earth or his followers. Nowhere do we find the epistle writers even using the word "disciple" (they of course use the term "apostle" but the word simply means messenger, as Paul saw himself). Except for two well known interpolations, Jesus always gets presented as a spiritual being that existed before all time with God, and that knowledge of Christ came directly from God or as a revelation from the word of scripture. Doherty writes, "Christian documents outside the Gospels, even at the end of the first century and beyond, show no evidence that any tradition about an earthly life and ministry of Jesus were in circulation."
Furthermore, the epistle to the Hebrews (8:4), makes it explicitly clear that the epistle writer did not believe in a historical Jesus: "If He [Jesus] had been on earth, He would not be a priest."
These early historical documents can prove nothing about an actual Jesus but they do show an evolution of belief derived from varied and diverse concepts of Christianity, starting from a purely spiritual form of Christ to a human figure who embodied that spirit, as portrayed in the Gospels. The New Testament stories appears as an eclectic hodgepodge of Jewish, Hellenized and pagan stories compiled by pietistic believers to appeal to an audience for their particular religious times.

A NOTE ABOUT DATING:
The A.D. (Anno Domini, or "year of our Lord") dating method derived from a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little), in the sixth-century who used it in his Easter tables. Oddly, some people seem to think this has relevance to a historical Jesus. But of course it has nothing at all to do with it. In the time before and during the 6th century, people used various other dating methods. The Romans used A.U.C. (anno urbis conditae, "year of the founded city," that being Rome). The Jews had their own dating system. Not until the tenth century did most churches accept the new dating system. The A.D. system simply reset the time of January 1, 754 A.U.C. to January 1, of year one A.D., which Dionysius obliquely derived from the belief of the date of "incarnation" of Jesus. The date, if one uses the Bible as history, can't possibly hold true. *
Instead of B.C. and A.D., I have used the convention of B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) as often used in scholarly literature. They correspond to the same dates as B.C. and A.D., but without alluding to the birth or death of an alleged Christ.
* Dionysius believed that the conception (incarnation) of Jesus occurred on March 25. This meant that the conception must have occurred nine months later on December 25, probably not coincidentally, the very same date that the Emperor Aurelian, in 274 C.E., declared December 25 a holiday in celebration of the birth of Mithras, the sun god. By 336 C.E., Christians replaced Mithras with Jesus' birth on the same date. Dionysius then declared the new year several days later on January 1, probably to coincide with the traditional Roman year starting on January 1st. Dionysius probably never read the gospel account of the birth of Jesus because the Matthew gospel says his birth occurred while Herod served as King. That meant that if he did exist, his birth would have to occur in 4 B.C.E. or earlier. He made another mistake by assigning the first year as 1 instead of 0 (everyone's birthday starts at year 0, not 1). The concept of zero (invented from Arabia and India) didn't come into Europe until about two hundred years later.


QUOTES FROM A FEW SCHOLARS:

Although apologist scholars believe that an actual Jesus lived on earth, the reasons for this appear obvious considering their Christian beliefs. Although some secular freethinkers and atheists accept a historical Jesus (minus the miracles), they, like most Christians, simply accept the traditional view without question. As time goes on, more and more scholars have begun to open the way to a more honest look at the evidence, or should I say, the lack of evidence. So for those who wish to rely on scholarly opinion, I will give a few quotes from Biblical scholars, past and present:
When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up. -Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)
The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus... The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information -- not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life. -Moncure D. Conway [1832 - 1907] (Modern Thought)
It is only in comparatively modern times that the possibility was considered that Jesus does not belong to history at all. -J.M. Robertson (Pagan Christs)
Many people-- then and now-- have assumed that these letters [of Paul] are genuine, and five of them were in fact incorporated into the New Testament as "letters of Paul." Even today, scholars dispute which are authentic and which are not. Most scholars, however, agree that Paul actually wrote only eight of the thirteen "Pauline" letters now included in the New Testament. collection: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul himself did not write 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus-- letters written in a style different from Paul's and reflecting situations and viewpoints in a style different from those in Paul's own letters. About the authorship of Ephesias, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, debate continues; but the majority of scholars include these, too, among the "deutero-Pauline"-- literally, secondarily Pauline-- letters." -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent)
We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)
Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the "historical Jesus". . . and that sorting out "authentic" material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence." -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University
We can recreate dimensions of the world in which he lived, but outside of the Christian scriptures, we cannot locate him historically within that world. -Gerald A. Larue (The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You To Read)
The gospels are so anonymous that their titles, all second-century guesses, are all four wrong. -Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
Far from being an intimate of an intimate of Jesus, Mark wrote at the forth remove from Jesus. -Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
Mark himself clearly did not know any eyewitnesses of Jesus. -Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
All four gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid-second century and later and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions. -Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36)
The question must also be raised as to whether we have the actual words of Jesus in any Gospel. -Bishop John Shelby Spong
Many modern Biblical archaeologists now believe that the village of Nazareth did not exist at the time of the birth and early life of Jesus. There is simply no evidence for it. -Alan Albert Snow (The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You To Read)
But even if it could be proved that John's Gospel had been the first of the four to be written down, there would still be considerable confusion as to who "John" was. For the various styles of the New Testament texts ascribed to John- The Gospel, the letters, and the Book of Revelations-- are each so different in their style that it is extremely unlikely that they had been written by one person. -John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)
It was not until the third century that Jesus' cross of execution became a common symbol of the Christian faith. -John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)
What one believes and what one can demonstrate historically are usually two different things. -Robert J. Miller, Bible scholar, (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p. 9)
When it comes to the historical question about the Gospels, I adopt a mediating position-- that is, these are religious records, close to the sources, but they are not in accordance with modern historiographic requirements or professional standards. -David Noel Freedman, Bible scholar and general editor of the Anchor Bible series (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p.34)
It is said that the last recourse of the Bible apologist is to fall back upon allegory. After all, when confronted with the many hundreds of biblical problems, allegory permits one to interpret anything however one might please. -Gene Kasmar, Minnesota Atheists
Paul did not write the letters to Timothy to Titus or several others published under his name; and it is unlikely that the apostles Matthew, James, Jude, Peter and John had anything to do with the canonical books ascribed to them. -Michael D. Coogan, Professor of religious studies at Stonehill College (Bible Review, June 1994)
A generation after Jesus' death, when the Gospels were written, the Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (in 70 C.E.); the most influential centers of Christianity were cities of the Mediterranean world such as Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth, Damascus, Ephesus and Rome. Although large number of Jews were also followers of Jesus, non-Jews came to predominate in the early Church. They controlled how the Gospels were written after 70 C.E. -Bruce Chilton, Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College (Bible Review, Dec. 1994, p. 37)
James Dunn says that the Sermon on the Mount, mentioned only by Matthew, "is in fact not historical." How historical can the Gospels be? Are Murphy-O-Conner's speculations concerning Jesus' baptism by John simply wrong-headed? How can we really know if the baptism, or any other event written about in the Gospels, is historical? -Daniel P. Sullivan (Bible Review, June 1996, Vol. XII, Number 3, p. 5)
David Friedrich Strauss (The Life of Jesus, 1836), had argued that the Gospels could not be read as straightforward accounts of what Jesus actually did and said; rather, the evangelists and later redactors and commentators, influenced by their religious beliefs, had made use of myths and legends that rendered the gospel narratives, and traditional accounts of Jesus' life, unreliable as sources of historical information. -Bible Review, October 1996, Vol. XII, Number 5, p. 39
The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts. -Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels

Other scholars have concluded that the Bible is the product of a purely human endeavor, that the identity of the authors is forever lost and that their work has been largely obliterated by centuries of translation and editing. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "Who Wrote the Bible," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Yet today, there are few Biblical scholars-- from liberal skeptics to conservative evangelicals- who believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually wrote the Gospels. Nowhere do the writers of the texts identify themselves by name or claim unambiguously to have known or traveled with Jesus. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Once written, many experts believe, the Gospels were redacted, or edited, repeatedly as they were copied and circulated among church elders during the last first and early second centuries. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
The tradition attributing the fourth Gospel to the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, is first noted by Irenaeus in A.D. 180. It is a tradition based largely on what some view as the writer's reference to himself as "the beloved disciple" and "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Current objection to John's authorship are based largely on modern textural analyses that strongly suggest the fourth Gospel was the work of several hands, probably followers of an elderly teacher in Asia Minor named John who claimed as a young man to have been a disciple of Jesus. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Some scholars say so many revisions occurred in the 100 years following Jesus' death that no one can be absolutely sure of the accuracy or authenticity of the Gospels, especially of the words the authors attributed to Jesus himself. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Three letters that Paul allegedly wrote to his friends and former co-workers Timothy and Titus are now widely disputed as having come from Paul's hand. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
The Epistle of James is a practical book, light on theology and full of advice on ethical behavior. Even so, its place in the Bible has been challenged repeatedly over the years. It is generally believed to have been written near the end of the first century to Jewish Christians. . . but scholars are unable conclusively to identify the writer. Five men named James appear in the New Testament: the brother of Jesus, the son of Zebedee, the son of Alphaeus, "James the younger" and the father of the Apostle Jude. Little is known of the last three, and since the son of Zebedee was martyred in A.D. 44, tradition has leaned toward the brother of Jesus. However, the writer never claims to be Jesus' brother. And scholars find the language too erudite for a simple Palestinian. This letter is also disputed on theological grounds. Martin Luther called it "an epistle of straw" that did not belong in the Bible because it seemed to contradict Paul's teachings that salvation comes by faith as a "gift of God"-- not by good works. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
The origins of the three letters of John are also far from certain. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Christian tradition has held that the Apostle Peter wrote the first [letter], probably in Rome shortly before his martyrdom about A.D. 65. However, some modern scholars cite the epistle's cultivated language and its references to persecutions that did not occur until the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) as evidence that it was actually written by Peter's disciples sometime later. Second Peter has suffered even harsher scrutiny. Many scholars consider it the latest of all New Testament books, written around A.D. 125. The letter was never mentioned in second-century writings and was excluded from some church canons into the fifth century. "This letter cannot have been written by Peter," wrote Werner Kummel, a Heidelberg University scholar, in his highly regarded Introduction to the New Testament. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
The letter of Jude also is considered too late to have been written by the attested author-- "the brother of James" and, thus, of Jesus. The letter, believed written early in the second century. -Jeffery L. Sheler, "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
According to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, a faithful account of the actions and words of Jesus is to be found in the Gospels; but it is impossible to reconcile this with the existence in the text of contradictions, improbabilities, things which are materially impossible or statements which run contrary to firmly established reality. -Maurice Bucaille (The Bible, the Quran, and Science)
The bottom line is we really don't know for sure who wrote the Gospels. -Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Most scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers' followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus' life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion. -David Van Biema, "The Gospel Truth?" (Time, April 8, 1996)
So unreliable were the Gospel accounts that "we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus." -Rudolf Bultmann, University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field in 1926
The Synoptic Gospels employ techniques that we today associate with fiction. -Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)
Josephus says that he himself witnessed a certain Eleazar casting out demons by a method of exorcism that had been given to Solomon by God himself-- while Vespasian watched! In the same work, Josephus tells the story of a rainmaker, Onias (14.2.1). -Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)
For Mark's gospel to work, for instance, you must believe that Isaiah 40:3 (quoted, in a slightly distorted form, in Mark 1:2-3) correctly predicted that a stranger named John would come out of the desert to prepare the way for Jesus. It will then come as something of a surprise to learn in the first chapter of Luke that John is a near relative, well known to Jesus' family. -Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)
The narrative conventions and world outlook of the gospel prohibit our using it as a historical record of that year. -Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 54)
Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it. -C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)
The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They're not biographies. -Paula Fredriksen, Professor and historian of early Christianity, Boston University (in the PBS documentary, From Jesus to Christ, aired in 1998)
The gospels are not eyewitness accounts -Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School
We are led to conclude that, in Paul's past, there was no historical Jesus. Rather, the activities of the Son about which God's gospel in scripture told, as interpreted by Paul, had taken place in the spiritual realm and were accessible only through revelation. -Earl Doherty, "The Jesus Puzzle," p.83
Before the Gospels were adopted as history, no record exists that he was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all-- or anywhere else on earth. -Earl Doherty, "The Jesus Puzzle," p.141
Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn't one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every "historical Jesus" is a Christ of faith, of somebody's faith. So the "historical Jesus" of modern scholarship is no less a fiction. -Robert M. Price, "Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin," Opening Statement
It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last." -Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 260)
CONCLUSION
Belief cannot produce historical fact, and claims that come from nothing but hearsay do not amount to an honest attempt to get at the facts. Even with eyewitness accounts we must tread carefully. Simply because someone makes a claim, does not mean it represents reality. For example, consider some of the bogus claims that supposedly come from many eyewitness accounts of alien extraterrestrials and their space craft. They not only assert eyewitnesses but present blurry photos to boot! If we can question these accounts, then why should we not question claims that come from hearsay even more? Moreover, consider that the hearsay comes from ancient and unknown people that no longer live.
Unfortunately, belief and faith substitute as knowledge in many people's minds and nothing, even direct evidence thrust on the feet of their claims, could possibly change their minds. We have many stories, myths and beliefs of a Jesus but if we wish to establish the facts of history, we cannot even begin to put together a knowledgeable account without at least a few reliable eyewitness accounts.
Of course a historical Jesus may have existed, perhaps based loosely on a living human even though his actual history got lost, but this amounts to nothing but speculation. However we do have an abundance of evidence supporting the mythical evolution of Jesus. Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew stories, long before the advent of Christianity. We simply do not have a shred of evidence to determine the historicity of a Jesus "the Christ." We only have evidence for the belief of Jesus.
So if you hear anyone who claims to have evidence for a witness of a historical Jesus, simply ask for the author's birth date. Anyone who's birth occurred after an event cannot serve as an eyewitness, nor can their words alone serve as evidence for that event.


Sources (click on a blue highlighted book title if you'd like to obtain it):

Briant, Pierre, "Alexander the Great: Man of Action Man of Spirit," Harry N. Abrams, 1996

Doherty, Earl, "The Jesus Puzzle," Canadian Humanist Publications, 1999

Flavius, Josephus (37 or 38-circa 101 C.E.), Antiquities

Gauvin, Marshall J., "Did Jesus Christ Really Live?" (from: www.infidels.org/)

Gould, Stephen Jay "Dinosaur in a Haystack," (Chapter 2), Harmony Books, New York, 1995

Graham, Henry Grey, Rev., "Where we got the Bible," B. Heder Book Company, 1960

Helms, Randel McCraw , "Who Wrote the Gospels?", Millennium Press

Irenaeus of Lyon (140?-202? C.E.), Against the Heresies

McKinsey, C. Dennis "The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy," Prometheus Books, 1995

Metzger, Bruce,"The Text of the New Testament-- Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration," Oxford University Press, 1968

Pagels, Elaine, "The Gnostic Gospels," Vintage Books, New York, 1979

Pagels, Elaine, "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent," Vintage Books, New York, 1888

Pagels, Elaine, "The Origin of Satan," Random House, New York, 1995

Price, Robert M.," Deconstructing Jesus," Prometheus Books, 2000

Pritchard, John Paul, "A Literary Approach to the New Testament," Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1972

Robertson, J.M. "Pagan Christs," Barnes & Noble Books, 1966

Romer, John, "Testament : The Bible and History," Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1988

Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, "A History of Biblical Literature," New American Library, 1962

Spong, Bishop Shelby, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism," HarperSanFrancisco, 1991

Tacitus (55?-117? C.E.), Annals

Wilson, Dorothy Frances, "The Gospel Sources, some results of modern scholarship," London, Student Christian Movement press, 1938

The Revell Bible Dictionary," Wynwood Press, New York, 1990

King James Bible, 1611

U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990

Various issues of Bible Review magazine, published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington D.C.

Online sources:

[1] "James (book of Bible)," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001

[2] "John, Epistles of," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001

[3] "Peter, Epistles of," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001