Show Notes - Episode103
A 2015 survey conducted by the Church of England found that 22 percent of adults in England did not believe Jesus was a real person. That's a big number. And, oddly enough, a lot of Christians out there (not evangelicals) also hold the view that the gospel is allegory, and yet here in the states in particular, the idea that Jesus was real and that at least the less woo-rific parts of the gospels are probably true. But why? Why do so many people, even those who don't call themselves Christians so quick to simply accept at face value that this person existed with no credible proof? I'm Spider....
...and tonight we are looking at the question of whether or not Jesus ever even existed. I won't spoil it for you but I do think you'll be surprised at the answer (or lack thereof) that we will attempt to explain as we go. We'll have way more on that in just a few, but first...
Robin Bullock goes bollocks on the Constitution, the never-ending war on women, and pardon me for loving Jesus. It's Christians behaving badly: Be appalled, be VERY appalled edition...
First up, we have Robin Bullock showing us that he doesn't know his Bible OR our Constitution! The self-proclaimed prophet explained recently that our Constitution is “the only one in history that hasn't changed,” and that “it was written from the word of god.” Um. I'm not sure how he came to this conclusion. I guess he doesn't understand what an “Amendment” is and that there are 27 of them. So our Constitution has been literally changed 27 times.
He goes on to say that the idea of our three branches of Government and the separation of powers is in the Bible. I'd like to see chapter and verse on that one, buddy. The only form of government I see in all of the Bible is theocracy.
This isn't a long story, it's mainly to point out that the people that the evangelicals seem to respect the most don't know anything about the bible OR the constitution enough to speak on it with any sort of coherence. The nonsense about our “christian nation” is just that but they just don't want to admit it.
Also, as a side note, reading the replies on the Twitter feed has given me the best descriptive nicknames for Robin Bullock EVER. Twitter user @the_boris calls him “Bargain Basement Boromir”. And user @alyssagdcourage called him Nickleback Aragorn. Awesome.
I only wish my other two stories were as lighthearted, but they really arent. My next story is about a female Catholic lawmaker in Missouri who seeks to punish women leaving Missouri to get an abortion.
It's bad enough that there's only one abortion clinic in all of Missouri, and that is in St. Louis. The number of abortions that they perform is very low, only about 10 to 20 per month. However, Illinois has a Planned Parenthood right next to the border of Missouri, and thousands of Missouri residents have obtained abortions from them.
This is much to the chagrin of state representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman who has been trying to figure out ways to crack down on the residents of Missouri getting out-of-state abortions. And now she's figured out a way to get that stopped entirely.
“An unusual new provision, introduced by state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state, using the novel legal strategy behind the restrictive law in Texas that since September has banned abortions in that state after six weeks of pregnancy.
Coleman has attached the measure as an amendment to several abortion-related bills that have made it through committee and are waiting to be heard on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
I'm sure that this law is going to incur legal challenges, like the Texas law did. But with Democrats lacking the numbers to protect women's right to control their own bodies and the very conservative Supreme Court, it's worrying how many of these laws are being suggested or even enacted.
Coleman's reasons for creating this new law are extremely selfish: “While Coleman says she has been happy to see the sharp decline in abortions in Missouri, she says she can’t fully celebrate the success when so many women are obtaining the same procedure a few miles away.”
Coleman's track record in Missouri has never been good, having a long history of anti-abortion activism and more recently supporting anti-vax policies. Unfortunately her Catholic faith fully supports her cruelty.
This is a story about injustice.
In 2018, a handful of students had to cross a rural highway to get on their school bus in Fulton County, Indiana. Despite the safety arm of the school bus extended, signaling to all drivers to stop while kids crossed the road, 24-year-old Alyssa Shepherd ran through it, killing three children from the same family and severely injuring a fourth child.
Shepherd went on trial for this unintentional yet reckless accident, and was convicted of three counts of reckless homicide and one count of reckless driving. The sentence was handed down: a total of ten years, four in prison, three in home detention and three on probation. Considering she could have been sentenced to over 21 years in prison, this sounds surprisingly lenient.
She was supposed to leave prison in September of 2022, but it came as a surprise to everyone when she was released from jail just this week, march of 2022. Why did she get released from prison 6 months early?
“Because Shepherd took a Bible study course called “Plus Faith 2.0: Criminal Lifestyle, Attitudes & Behavior,” and that shaved an extra six months off of her sentence.”
Really? Yeah, really.
As you can imagine, the family of the children killed because of her recklessness are not happy at all:
Family of the children killed and hurt in the crash said in November that Shepherd had not, at least at that time, attempted to reach out to them or apologize for her actions.
“To this day Shepherd has not taken responsibility for her actions, has never even apologized for killing our children and has never shown remorse for her actions. She received a 6 month reduction in her sentence for simply completing a Bible Study class which we feel was absurd,” family member said in a statement last fall.
Absurd indeed. Christianity is a religion and that should never be used as a get out of jail free card. There's not much information about the reasoning other than...
She professed faith in Jesus.
It's horrifying that simply by completing a bible study course that she escapes consequences for her actions. Christian privilege exists and our culture is steeped in it.
PROMO – The Trinity
So let's start out the conversation by tackling the real elephant in the room and it isn't whether or not Jesus was ever real. It's the VERY real problem of having to prove a negative. In most cases, this is flat out impossible and, I'm sorry to say, this subject is no exception. We have no iron clad proof that he wasn't real, but we do have a number of compelling evidences that point to that conclusion. Here are just a few:
There is no first century secular evidence that Jesus existed - all sources that purport to offer “proof” were penned by either Christians or Jews and these accounts have clear bias built in.
The earliest New Testament writings are vague and contradictory on the details of Jesus' life. First he's a baby, now he's twelve, now he's thirty. Lots of holes in the story. And yes... a lot of stories have sweeping time jumps. Historical documentation doesn't.
The accounts in the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are all second hand – there were absolutely NO eyewitness accounts in any of these texts no matter who the writers interviewed or researched. None of them witnessed anything they wrote about and, yep, the gospels are frought with contradictions, some of which we've already examined on this show.
Modern scholars who claim to have discovered the 'real Jesus' contradict each other on a broad platform of details
Now, I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Christianity is nothing more than the product of some VERY good marketing. In fact, I don't think the people who concocted this ruse even had the first clue HOW good it was. But this enigmatic marriage of hope and fear worked, and has continued to work for centuries. And it's all predicated on perpetuating the notion that this was a real person, he really did all these things, and he has the solution to the problem of death.
I think that last part is what makes the story stick more than anything. Death is the one thing that we don't have and will likely never find the answer to, no matter how science advances. I'd like to think that something like San Junipero could be a real thing one day, but even in that scenario I'm not convinced that you can capture someone's consciousness and allow them to retain it indefinitely after death. Again, there's no science that comes close to even explaining why we have consciousness in the first place – why anything lives for that matter.
But Christianity does just that, doesn't it? It makes the claim that our consciousness is eternal and our perception of things hinges on whether or not we accept this “gift” of salvation that they purport to be able to offer... well, not offer – guide you toward.
And if they're going to make the claim to be able to guide you toward something, they also need to give you something to follow. Hence, the creation of a deity – one who has the power to offer you an eternity of bliss or fate you to an eternity of anguish. The notion that these things are possible and that your fate could send you in either direction is the only thing that has kept this thing called Christainty going for so long.
Let's keep in mind that Christianity, as religions go, is fairly new. Let's also keep in mind that most of the stories in the bible have much older origins. We did an entire episode on this concept a while back. Let's further keep in mind that there are plenty of deities or god-men in mythology that share many of the characteristics that Jesus possesses. Nothing about his story is unique, but you have to be literate and have access to information to realize it. Contemporaries to to gods like Mithras and Osiris would have no clue what their stories contained. They would only know what they were told and most people will carry these beliefs in their heads for their entire existence.
Once you have a cycle in place of a good story coupled with indoctrination (particularly of the young), you have a recipe for sustaining an idea practically indefinitely. The Internet in its current form has been here for nearly thirty years now and yet, people still flock to churches every single Sunday. Even with evidences well in place that contradict their beliefs, even with full access to every point of view out there, those pews still fill up along with the offering plates and the lies continue to spread and take root in the minds of believers.
Now, you would think that once we had advanced to the point where we were able to look at the broader history of religion and mythology, when we have access to all kinds of opposing views and the ability to examine comparative religions, the similarities would stand out, we would see the stories for what they are and that would be the end of it. But that isn't what has happened. Why?
Well, according to Psychology Today, a vast majority of people who believe in a god do so because they consider the truth of a god's existence as self evident. All the intricacies of life and the universe had to have an origin and a design. Science has proven over and over that this is not true. New species of animals still crop up all the time and the sheer chaotic nature of the universe and how it functions strongly suggests that the notion of intelligent design is, at best, fallacious.
Here's the thing, though: most people are never going to look far enough into this to even have the notion of questioning. Most people are, in fact, followers. They take their cues from others about almost everything. So if mom sits you on her knee and reads you Bible stories when you're two (guilty as charged – and Liam was much younger) that is what your perception of god is likely to be when you're ninety-two. And let's not forget that belief in higher powers and beings is likely to have been hard-wired into our DNA for aeons. Even Psychology Today agrees:
“Religious belief of some sort is a nearly universal feature of humanity, so there’s quite likely some ultimate evolutionary cause that explains it. At the same time, not all people are religious, and furthermore the forms of belief among the religious range widely, so we need to understand the proximate causes for this variation.”
Before going further into this, I just want to interject that there are non-religious people now because we have largely moved away from primitive existences and we have answers to a lot of questions that for the majority of our species' existence was summed up with “the gods did it.” Well, we know better now. Our brains now have the data and input necessary to weigh the details and make intelligent observations about the world around us. Religion is no longer a necessary element to our experience as humans, but it is definitely a motivating thought process even among people who don't experience heavy indoctrination as children.
The PT article cites the difference between ultimate and proximate causes. An ultimate cause explains how a behavior evolves, a proximate cause deals with the conditions under which behaviors present. Even though we know that religious belief has been a thing in our species from at least Sumer forward, we still don't know what the ultimate cause for this tendency is. The proximate causes are abundant and all stem from delivery and propagation of information, observation of other humans, and the emotional response that the other two elicits.
The article goes on to point out that people whose thoughts are more driven by intellect tend to discount or reject the concept of religion while those who think more emotionally tend to gravitate toward it. I am a very emotional person which is probably why even though I always knew I was smart (and smarter than a lot of my peers in evangelicalism) I remained rooted in those beliefs for a long time. My own savior complex kept me active in this thing for far longer than I can honestly say I actually believed in it. My belief had started to diminish in the mid 90s. The last time I went to church was in 2011.
So when it comes to the question of whether or not Jesus ever existed, there are some very powerful opposing intellectual factions out there all of which seem to think they have the proof needed to justify their position. Here's the thing: none of us do. But some of us have better data to support our positions than others.
If you are someone who listens to this show frequently or if you willingly tapped the link your friend sent you knowing full well what we were going to be talking about and the concepts we hope you will at least consider by the end, congratulations. You are clearly thinking more about this than the average pew-sitter and as a means of saying thank you for at least hearing what we have to say, we are about to give you a lot more to think about.
So... is Jesus real? I'm not going to pretend to have a definitive answer. All I can do is present evidence for and against and let you draw your own conclusions. If you were to ask my opinion directly, I would say, without hesitation, that the answer is no. Jesus is a concept. He was never a living person. He is an expertly constructed avatar that has been used to control people for centuries. I do, however, think that the people who created the avatar of Jesus understood a lot about human nature and took their cues from other influencers of their day to get the right levels of charisma, relatability and supernatural attributes. I also think they knew all the old mythologies and were able to pinpoint parts of those stories that would impress people to the point of wanting to know more. The marriage of these two concepts resulted in a contemporary version of a lot of the older gods that the common person could relate to and follow.
And to defend that position, I would like to turn your attention to a significant historical event called the Council of Nicea.
First, I need to clarify a statement that I've made before on this show. In past episodes, I've postulated that Jesus was invented at the Council of Nicea. That statement is partially true but incomplete. There was already enough raw data out there to construct the avatar. In fact, there were multiple avatars with multiple attributes but all of them seemed to have many of the same core attributes.
There were even several primitive “denominations” of Christianity out there, one of which was Arianism. And no, this form of arianism wasn't about white supremacy or anti-semitism. In simplest terms, it was a growing niche of religious thought that postulated that Jesus was not a god, just a created being. So the notion of Christ's deity was already out there but under a lot of debate. So the council was called by Emperor Constantine to settle that argument along with a couple others. A politician called the council of Nicea. Why? Well... “render unto Caesar hits different when it comes from a deity now doesn't it?
So, at that time, It was accepted that Jesus was human by a large percentage of people who called themselves Christians. From Antioch forward, most people had a deep affection for this MAN Jesus, but only saw him as a man, even down to him being referred to as Y'Shua Bar Yosef or, literally translated “Joshua son of Joseph.” I can see wanting him to be called Joshua to a predominantly jewish audience. The name is already associated with salvation. It was Joshua who led nearly three million israelites into god's promised land, complete with toppling a big wall by yelling at it so... yeah. There's power in that name. Jesus is simply another derivative of the same name and likely the result of cross-cultural oral tradition that gave him certain hellenistic qualities over time. The Latin IESOUS, which is also close to the greek translation of the name, became the moniker in the predominantly Roman culture out of which the mythology grew. But for non-jewish audiences, it was advantageous to rewrite his narrative with stories of healings and resurrections, including his own. If the ancient mythologies taught us anything it's that a little mysticism goes a long way.
So Jesus himself was not created at the council. What happened there was that he got elevated to god status. And with that came the need to develop a mythos of not just a charismatic teacher, but one with superpowers who also held the keys to death and hell in is hand. The earliest mythologies made no such claims about him and, again, there is no historical record of a guy stirring shit up in Palestine on either a social or metaphysical level at that time. Period.
Fun fact about the council: [Easter – ad lib]
Now, because I am not a fan of confirmation bias, I did go searching for arguments for and against the existence of Jesus, but all the “for” examples have the same problem. At some point they all reach brick walls with “I don't know” emblazoned over their entire surface and just decide that this is where we're going to just insert opinion and belief without proof.
One such example is an article on STR.org (stand to reason - “Clear-Thinking Christianity” - oh if ever there was an oxymoron in life...)
The author of this article, Tim Bennet starts out by whining about being “tired” of hearing people say that the deity of Christ was invented at the Council of Nicea. To which I would respond, “of course. Anything that flies in the face of something you believe and hearing the counterpoint over and over and over again is going to be irritating to ears not tuned for discussion or debate.”
So knowing what these people are like and how narrow their thinking is about everything, I also know that none of their arguments about this are going to be rooted in anything besides what they want to believe... what was that about confirmation bias?
He goes on to dismiss any notion of Jesus being real as the imagiations of “cultists and skeptics.” As someone who falls in the latter category, all I can say to that is “Well Duuuhhh! That is the definition of skepticism, isn't it? We question things. We look for proof. That's why we ask these questions. I mean, you're banking your so-called eternity on this thing. Doesn't it matter whether or not it's real?
He then goes on to cite The DaVinci Code as a problematic text. Here's the thing: the DaVinci Code is fiction regardless of the views of the author. And Dan Brown does have some very strong views on this subject but even his work lacks a certain crucial element that makes it impossible to take seriously or consider it a legit threat: It contains no observable facts to back up the claims, mostly because IT'S FICTION. So now we're going to argue the validity of fiction by citing fiction as a key detractor to your belief system? Lots of books decry the deity of Christ. Why not go after His Dark Materials while you're at it? Or literally any book by Stephen King?
And as I scrolled further, all I found was a mish-mosh of confirmation bias and that signature evangelical fallaciousness they call “proof.” But I did find this line a bit ironic so I'm going to just share this before we move on...
“The fact is, most people in our culture make claims they are not equipped to defend.”
You don't say... pffft....
And I'm going to stay on the Pro side of the argument for just a couple more minutes, but only to demonstrate how devoid of secular, observable, scholarly proof exists for Jesus' existence. When you ask a Christian professor or theologian to cite proof that Jesus was real, all you get is a parade of early church fathers all parroting each-other with nothing to by but their own convictions. Here's a little who's who and a couple snippets of what they say. All very passionate, but evidence-free:
These examples were drawn from a blog post run by the John Ankerberg Show, a Christian media source that even has a link in the upper left hand corner of the home page that promises to show you “how to become a Christian.” But enough of that, here are some of the opinions they call proof:
Ignatius (30-107 A.D.), who was born before Christ died, consistently spoke of the deity of Jesus Christ. Consider a few examples: In To the Ephesians, and other letters, we find references such as the following: “Jesus Christ our God”; “who is God and man”; “received knowledge of God, that is, Jesus Christ”; “for our God, Jesus the Christ”; “for God was manifest as man”; “Christ, who was from eternity with the Father”; “from God, from Jesus Christ”; “from Jesus Christ, our God”; “Our God, Jesus Christ”; “suffer me to follow the example of the passion of my God”; “Jesus Christ the God” and “Our God Jesus Christ.” The fact that Ignatius was not rebuked, nor branded as teaching heresy by any of the churches or Christian leaders he sent letters to proves that the early church, long before 107 A.D., accepted the deity of Christ.
Polycarp (69-155 A.D.) possibly spoke of “Our Lord and God Jesus Christ.”
Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) wrote of Jesus, “who,… being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.” In his Dialogue with Trypho, he stated that “God was born from a virgin” and that Jesus was “worthy of worship” and of being “called Lord and God.”
Tatian (110-172 A.D.), the early apologist wrote, “We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales when we announce that God was born in the form of man.”
Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.), wrote that Jesus was “perfect God and perfect man”; “not a mere man…but was very God”; and that “He is in Himself in His own right…God, and Lord, and King Eternal” and spoke of “Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour and King”
Tertullian (145-220 A.D.), said of Jesus “Christ is also God” because “that which has come forth from God [in the virgin birth] is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one…in His birth, God and man united.”
Caius (180-217 A.D.), a Roman Presbyter, wrote of the universal Christian attestation to the deity of Christ in his refutation of Artemon, who maintained that Christ was only a man. Note that before 217 A.D., Caius appealed to much earlier writers, all of whom taught Christ’s deity: “Justin and Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement, and many others,—who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus and Melito, and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man? All the psalms, too, and hymns of brethren, which have been written from the beginning by the faithful, celebrate Christ the Word of God, ascribing divinity to Him…. [This] doctrine of the Church, then, has been proclaimed so many years ago,…”
Gregory Thaumaturgus (205-265 A.D.) declared in On the Trinity, that “All [the persons] are one nature, one essence, one will, and are called the Holy Trinity; and these also are names subsistent, one nature in three persons, and one genus [kind].”
Novatian (210-280 A.D.) wrote in his On The Trinity, of Jesus being truly a man but that “He was also God according to the Scriptures…. Scripture has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God.” (Note then, that in the 200’s we already had discourses on the Trinity.)
Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), the keen defender of New Testament teaching against the early Arian heresy, which taught that Jesus Christ was not God, declared of Jesus, “He always was and is God and Son” and “He who is eternally God,… also became man for our sake.”
Alexander of Alexandria spoke in reference to Jesus of “his highest and essential divinity” and that he was “an exact and identical image of the Father.”
Eusebius of Caesarea stated that “the Son of God bears no resemblance to originated creatures but…is alike in every way only to the Father who has begotten [Him] and that he is not from any other hypostasis and substance but from the Father.”
Augustine declared that Christians “…believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, maker and ruler of the whole creation: that Father is not Son, nor Holy Spirit Father or Son; but a Trinity of mutually related Persons, and a unity of equal essence” and that therefore, “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit God; and all together are one God.”
Origen stated that Christ was “God and man.”
Tertullian wrote of Jesus that “He is God and man…. We have here a dual condition—not fused but united—in one person, Jesus as God and man.”
Proclus wrote, “He was born of woman, God but not solely God, and man but not merely man…. Christ did not by progress become God—heaven forbid!—but in mercy he became man, as we believe. We do not preach a deified man; we confess an incarnate God…him alone who was born of a virgin, God and man.”
Cyril of Alexandria wrote of Jesus, “For he remained what he was; that is, by nature God. But…he took it on himself to be man as well” and “There is nothing to prevent us from thinking of Christ as being the one and only Son at once both God and man, perfect in deity and perfect in humanity…he is conceived of as God and is God,…”
My only question here, after poring over all of that is simple: so what? Just because you say it doesn't make it so. And you can fire off as many Bible verses as you want. You can't use fiction to prove facts. It doesn't matter that some of these people lived when Jesus was supposed to have lived. They never saw him, met him, or sat him down for an interview. By the time anyone significant had heard of Jesus, all the alleged events regarding his public ministry, death, and resurrection had already “happened.” That leave nothing in the way of proof for anyone outside the pull of their own convictions as each and every one of the above examples demonstrates.
I'm going to round things out with a discussion of someone I'm AMAZED didn't make Ankerberg's list... probably because it's such a hot button issue.
Let's talk about the most pervasive voice in the argument over the reality of Jesus: Flavius Josephus.
Let's start out with a quote that I find rather scathing from a source like Encyclopedia Britannica, but whoever was tasked with writing this entry didn't get the memo about keeping commentary neutral. When the encyclopedia describes you this way, why would anyone pay you any mind?
“As a historian, Josephus shares the faults of most ancient writers: his analyses are superficial, his chronology faulty, his facts exaggerated, his speeches contrived. He is especially tendentious when his own reputation is at stake. Josephus was vain, callous, and self-seeking. There was not a shred of heroism in his character, and for his toadyism he well deserved the scorn heaped upon him by his countrymen. But it may be said in his defense that he remained true to his Pharisee beliefs and, being no martyr, did what he could for his people.”
Interesting commentary they chose to include. Looks like someone at EB has some strong opinions on this...
So Josephus was a prolific writer and “historian” but he put so much of a spin on everything he wrote that it is impossible to take him seriously. Here's what his wikipedia page has to say:
The extant manuscripts of the book Antiquities of the Jews, written by the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus around 93–94 AD, contain two references to Jesus of Nazareth and one reference to John the Baptist The first and most extensive reference to Jesus in the Antiquities, found in Book 18, states that Jesus was the Messiah and a wise teacher who was crucified by Pontius Pilate. It is commonly called the Testimonium Flavianum.
Almost all modern scholars reject the authenticity of this passage in its present form, while most scholars nevertheless hold that it contains an authentic nucleus referencing the life and execution of Jesus by Pilate, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or alteration. However, the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear.
And that brings me to my final point on this matter. While I maintain that I have no proof, I think that the most practical way of dealing with the reality of Jesus lies in assuming that his story had to be based on someone. I have no issues with the idea that some zealot was running around Palestine rousing the rabble and upsetting the scribes and Pharisees. There are zealots and extremist thinkers out there in every school of thought there is.
So if there is even a small core group of secular historians who say that it's possible Jesus existed, I'm fine with that. I still hold to my own opinion that he was either pure fiction or an amalgam of a lot of different religious figures over time, but that's all it is: an opinion that is subject to change or revision at any time.
But let's just keep in mind that if Jesus or a Jesus-like person, or a lot of Jesus-like people who got amalgamated into this avatar happened to exist, his or their story got very inflated over time. I think back to the musical The Book Of Mormon and how Arnold had to start injecting the scriptures with pop culture references to pique people's interest. I feel like this had to be at least partly how this story got turned into one revolving around a god and not just a religious nutter. People were deseperate to spread the “good news” so they added details to the story over time to make it more exiciting, more engaging, more... marketable.
If I were to assume that the character of Jesus was based on one single real person, it does not surprise me in the least that his mouth won him the ire of the religious and political leaders of the day and bough him a death sentence to shut him up and prevent a social or religious uprising. But that would clearly be where his story, and most of his influence, would have to come to an end.
And yet, here we are, two millennia later and even secular journalists speak of Jesus as someone who actually, unquestionably lived. Why? Where's the proof? You can't say the Bible because that's a book that none of us were around to witness the events it contains. Even the Gospel writers never saw, spoke to, or interviewed Jesus. All they did was compile a lot of oral tradition with each account fraught with contradictions to the others. Josephus never met Jesus even though he was purported to have lived at the same time. The council of Nicea proceeded from the undisputed notion that Jesus was real, also with no measurable proof. So when you come together to agree upon the details of a fairy tale, it remains a fairy tale no matter how serious you want to be about it.
Now I'd like to address the evangelicals and fence-sitters out there for just a minute.
With the notion firmly in place that at least the Biblical Jesus is a work of fiction, let me ask you this: what are you going to do with this information? As an evangelical who has spent your entire life just believing without questioning, what can you say to yourself about the things we discussed in this episode? Knowing full well that both sides of the argument are only capable of delivering conjecture, it boils down to this: what's the better story?
I revisit this concept a lot because human nature is always going to make a B-line for things magical and mystical and when you throw the promise of eternal life into the mix, it's hard to look away from that and see nothing but words in a book – in a lot of books.
The question here is simple: with so many conflicting viewpoints, with so little evidence to support the claim of Christ's actual existence, why do you still believe? Jesus himself warned of houses built on sand and if ever there was one, the concept of the existence of the Jesus of the bible is.
So try and take a step beyond the “better story” concept here and consider not which is best, but which is most beneficial? What benefit is there in following an imaginary deity into an imaginary eternity that you will never, ever know you've been duped out of? What is the benefit of denying yourself even some of the simplest pleasures in life because you've had it pounded into your head that it's a sin?
I see far more benefit in seeking the truth wherever it leads. I see far more benefit in thinking critically and practically about things. I see far more benefit in getting comfortable with the phrase “I don't know” and remaining committed to looking for answers as opposed to manufacturing them in a way that makes me feel comfortable and secure. What good is a false sense of security after all?
I'm going to issue you a challenge: consider everything you heard tonight. Consider the pros. Consider the cons. Consider what the proponents of Jesus' existence have to offer as proof and how thin it is. Consider also the practicality of schools of thought that leave room for certain details but reject others on the basic of logic and reason. It's reasonable to believe that there was a first-century rabble rouser causing trouble in Palestine. It's impractical to believe that the same person had god traits and could perform miracles and wound up tried and convicted by the same people who witnessed his miracles. And lastly, it is very impractical to believe that any of the above would have missed the attention of any legit secular scholar or historian. There are a handful that corroborate the existence of a “Jesus man” at that time but none who can confirm the details of him being anything but a man.
Think on these things. Force yourself to steer your thoughts toward truth, even at the expense of comfort and it will become apparent that the Jesus you are staking your eternity on simply is not real. There. I said it. The Jesus you think you know is fiction, even if he actually existed. Historical fiction is a thing and it's also big business. Just ask James Cameron. Take the information presented here, examine it, mull it over as much as you want because even if it doesn't change your mind immediately, the fact that you're willing to do that much gives me great hope that you're at least on your way to getting – and staying - unbound.