Monday, July 14, 2014

Historical Jesus, Fact or forgery?

Judge by yourself, get hold of "The Jesus Mysteries" and check out the numbered source references.

Philo was an eminent Jewish author who lived at the same time that Jesus is supposed to have lived and wrote around 50 works that still survive. They deal with history, philosophy, and religion, and tell us much about There is still Josephus, however, a younger contemporary of the apostle Paul. He wrote two famous history books, The Jewish Wars and the monu­mental Antiquities of the Jews. These two works are our most important sources of information on the history of the Jewish people during the first century of the Christian era. And here at last, as one might expect, we seem to find the evidence we are looking for. Josephus writes:

At about this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one might call him a man. For he was one who accomplished surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as are eager for novelties. He won over many of the Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon an indictment brought by the principal men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him from the very first did not cease to be attached to him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the holy prophets had foretold this and myriads of other marvels concerning him. And the tribe of the Chris­tians, so called after him, has to this day still not disappeared. 10

Josephus also tells us that when the "miracle-worker" was brought before Pilate, he concluded that Jesus was "a benefactor, not a criminal, or agitator, or a would-be king." Josephus relates that as Jesus had miraculously cured Pilate's wife of a sickness, Pilate let him go. However, the Jewish priests later bribed Pilate to allow them to crucify Jesus "in defiance of all Jewish tradi­tion." 11 As for the resurrection, he tells us that Jesus' dead body could not have been stolen by his disciples, which was a common argument advanced against Christian claims that Jesus miraculously resurrected, since "guards were posted around his tomb, 30 Romans and 1,000 Jews"! 12

For hundreds of years these passages in Josephus were seized on by Chris­tian historians as conclusive proof that Jesus existed. Critical scholarship, however, has revealed them to be much later additions to Josephus' text.13 They are not of the same writing style as Josephus and if they are removed from the text, Josephus’ original argument runs on in proper sequence. Writ­ing at the beginning of the third century, Origen, whom modern authorities regard as one of the most conscientious scholars of the ancient Church, tells us that there is no mention of Jesus in Josephus and that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ since he did not believe in any Jewish Mes­siah figure.14
Josephus was in fact a pro-Roman Jew. He was hated by his fellow coun­trymen as a collaborator, which led him to flee Judea and live in Rome until his death.15 Here he received patronage from two Emperors and a wealthy Roman aristocrat.16
Josephus does mention various would-be Jewish Messiah figures-about whom he is entirely uncomplimentary. At the time he was writing, the long­ held belief amongst Jews that their God would send them the Messiah to free his people from oppression had become an obsession. But Josephus had his own interpretation of what he calls this " ancient oracle.”17 He did not deny that it was a divine prophecy; but believed that his fellow Jews had misun­derstood it completely. According to him, the prophesied ruler of the world had come in the person of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who had happened to be proclaimed Emperor while in Judea! 18 It is absolutely inconceivable that Josephus could have, quite suddenly, broken with his style of writing, all his philosophical beliefs! and his characteristic political pragmatism to write reverentially about Jesus!
Early Christians who, like us, searched for historical evidence of Jesus' existence, would have seized on anything written by Josephus as conclusive proof. Yet early Christians do not mention Josephus. It is not until the begin­ning of the fourth century that Bishop Eusebius, the propagandist of the Roman Church, suddenly produced a version of Josephus which contained these passages.19 From that point onward, Josephus became the foundation for the historicity of Jesus.
Unable to provide any historical evidence for Jesus, later Christians forged the proof that they so badly needed to shore up their Literalist inter­pretation of the gospels. This, as we would see repeatedly, was a common practice.

There's much more:

According to the gospels, Jesus is an innocent and just man who, at the insti­gation of the Jewish high priests, is hauled before the Roman governor Pilate and condemned to die on spurious charges. Exactly the same mythological motif is found five centuries earlier in Euripides' play The Bacchae, about Dionysus. Like Jesus in Jerusalem, Dionysus is a quiet stranger with long hair and a beard who brings a new religion. In the gospels, the Jewish high priests don't believe in Jesus and allege that "His teachings are causing disaf­fection amongst the people."146 They plot to bring about his death. In The Bacchae, King Pentheus is a tyrannical ruler who does not believe in Diony­sus. He berates him for bringing "this new disease which fouls the land" and sends out his men to capture the innocent godman, announcing:

And once you catch him, he shall be stoned to death.
He'll wish he'd never brought his Bacchic rites to Thebes.147

Like the Jewish high priests who are appalled at Jesus' blasphemous claim to be the Son of God,148 King Pentheus rants in anger at stories of Dionysus' divine parentage:

Whatever the man may be, is not his arrogance
An outrage? Has he not earned a rope around his neck?149

Like Jesus, Dionysus passively allows himself to be caught and imprisoned. The guard who apprehends him tells King Pentheus:

We hunted him, and here he is. But Sir, we found The beast was gentle; made no attempt to run away, Just held his hands out to be tied; didn't turn pale, But kept his florid colour, smiling, telling us
To tie him up and run him in; gave us no trouble
At all, just waited for us. Naturally I felt
a bit embarrassed. "You'll excuse me, Sir," I said,
"I don't want to arrest you; it's the king's command."150

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