Was Jesus Christ a historical person?

Feb 2017
22
State of Gold
#1
There seems to be many atheists out there who allege that Jesus never existed, but the mainstream view (at least according to wikipedia) was that he did indeed exist, and that the real debate was whether or not he was the Son of God. Tacitus, Josephus, etc, are non-biblical sources who prove that Jesus Christ did in fact exist during the times the Bible said he existed, and there is proof that Pontius Pilate was governor of the area of that time.

Let's try and be objective about this and be like archaeologists and historians in this discussion.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,232
#2
Jesus did exist. His name was actually Joshua (Jesus is the latinised greek version of his name) and 'Christ' refers to a someone 'revered'. He was one of a number of charismatic prophets that attracted large groups of followers and a grisly end from authorities who not like personal influence on that scale from a rank outsider. The 'Chrestus' referred to by Tacitus might well be another man, since the name means 'The Good'. The miracles said to be performed by him are remarkably absent from Roman history and in fact resemble the same performed in Indian mythos. There is a tomb in India said to be his. Although jesus clearly did claim to have some form of divine patronage, the meaning of 'Son of God' is not so obvious. Was he referring to actual familial descent, an analogous relationship, or a Roman style adoptive title?
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,745
#5
I have the opposite opinion. That Jesus was a divine figure who received a human story. In the early first century, Philo of Alexandria wrote about the philosophical concept of the Word. He described it as the force uttered by God the unknowable at the beginning of the universe, which was then the power that created the universe based on divine knowledge of perfect forms of physical and the abstract: in other words, the creation story.

As the Word, he was able to communicate through the bodies of the Prophets and deliver information to humanity through them. So the Prophets gave the ancestors of the Israeli people their laws and practices to become closer to God. There was also a belief around this time that certain Greeks had received similar knowledge, and that is why Philo and earlier Hellenistic Jews had used the Greek framework: as the bible, by Philo's time had a good amount of Greek terminology within it... particularly given the first known writing of some of these books was in Greek.

When the Gospels were written, they were very close to the Hellenistic Jewish background of Philo of Alexandria. They had advanced moral concepts delivered in a way that was much more sophisticated and confident than the delivery of knowledge in the Pauline letters. John had a VERY Greek retelling of the creation story placed at the beginning. While Jesus himself appeared very much like a Greek hero or characterization, who were not real people, but rather made to personify the representation of philosophical ideas: including moral concepts. Some writers would occasionally use famous historical figures - Plato often used Socrates, Thrasymachus, and occasionally used Solon and others.

My The name Jesus, itself, is a directly referencing of the son of Moses. Jesus is a Hellenized version of the name Joshua. Hellenistic Judaism was the dominant culture of the time. Looking back through historical records, someone of Jesus's influence should have popped up as a historical figure, but we have no evidence for that. We have evidence of other Jesuses, lots of them, but not that Jesus. I think the idea that he was an actual human person is as much of a stretch as Hercules or Arthur King of the Britons.

The reason for Jesus's existence was revolution among the hardline Israeli people, and likely came from the Greek side, rather than the Hebrew side. At the time of the spread of Christianity, there was a hardline Jewish approach toward an almost tyrannical approach to following scripture, as well as Hebrew exclusivism, and this was not popular among the Greeks. Jesus rebells against the hardline Jewish approach to scripture by targeting the group famous for behaving that way, the Pharisees - and according to Matthew, in the way of very angry lambasting.

In addition, the issue with hardline Jews wasn't a large problem prior to 70AD, but was a HUGE problem between then and the 140s, which is where most archaeological analysis places the writing of the gospels. From a historical standpoint, that would make a lot of sense. The books are a guide to how to live up to the sacred knowledge, Jesus as a living man wasn't required, they only needed a concept of God's Word incarnate, given the Hellenized name of Joshua; and otherwise, the knowledge already had brilliant theological and philosophical minds to translate it to paper.

And personally, I don't think this is a problem for Christianity. It's a problem for literalists, but not those who instead look at the values the Gospels are trying to inspire into its readers. And in that time, almost 2000 years ago, if a person had knowledge of the sacred, then these words and stories would have the power to inspire them, and I don't think that has been different for the 2000 years since. Those who need the literal sense of the words and the authoritive exact meanings that they perceive in their current language and culture, read a little closer, the four Gospels were a rebellion against such thought.


So that's my take on a few different levels: the Gospel of the Jesus is not a historical figure. I would also say, no less important than any historical figure who ever lived.
 
Jun 2017
2,881
Connecticut
#6
Jesus was a real person who was killed by the Romans. Almost all of the stories about Jesus on the other hand probably aren't. I'm agnostic and I feel like most agnostic and atheist people believe Jesus was a real person/based on a real person.

There was an interesting theory video on youtube though suggesting that Josephus could have made him up. Sounded plausible to me. Video's below. Wonder what others think.

 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,712
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#8
There seems to be many atheists out there who allege that Jesus never existed, but the mainstream view (at least according to wikipedia) was that he did indeed exist, and that the real debate was whether or not he was the Son of God. Tacitus, Josephus, etc, are non-biblical sources who prove that Jesus Christ did in fact exist during the times the Bible said he existed, and there is proof that Pontius Pilate was governor of the area of that time.

Let's try and be objective about this and be like archaeologists and historians in this discussion.
This is not a well-formed question.

You talk about objectivity, but in your very first sentence, you load the question by saying that "atheists" "allege". You are implicitly dismissing and minimising it, as well as questioning the motives of those who hold that view. That is all sorts of fallacies rolled into one.

You say Tacitus and Josephus "prove" that Jesus existed. What, specifically, did they write that proves it?
 
May 2009
1,298
#9
Yeah, all the non-Biblical sources prove is that Christians existed. People like Josephus just wrote what early Christians were telling them. That's not really proof of a historical Jesus. With other historical figures you have direct accounts from people who met them personally (or talked to people that met them). But there's nothing like that for Jesus.
Of course, that doesn't mean it's impossible. Plenty of stuff gets lost to history.
 

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