The Bible is filled with history, myth, wisdom, and poetry. It's a great book, but it ain't the word of God.
Who was Jesus actually?
the "return" of the spirit of Moses, Chisna, Buddah, Zoroaster and others of their quality forgotten in ancient history of human evolution. One of those who provided the spark of insite that spawned new advancements in civilization, in spite of how convoluted His/their followers twisted their individual versions of His/theirs stations and teachings for their own egotistical and political gain.
Very interesting posts...
The dominant picture seems to be a teacher of radical yet deeply humanistic wisdom (whether he existed or not, whether he survived his death and can still be met in some spiritual way or not). I guess the collection of sayings in Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5--7) is mostly responsible for it. A literary chef-d'oeuvre at the very least.
So far nobody mentioned that he could have been quite a different person, completely foreign to our (Christian or post-Christian) ideals, as some scholars have suggested on the basis of other texts -- from Albert Schweitzer's apocalyptic Jesus down to Robert Eisenman's zealot Jesus ("closer to Khomeiny than to Gandhi"). Perhaps because such reconstructions, regardless of their historical merit, just do not appeal to anyone. A connection with the Essenes is quite popular, but Jesus is rarely thought of as a highly legalistic and ritualistic mind -- which is what an Essene would have been.
Believers and unbelievers alike, we love to love Jesus, don't we?
I think we all agree with some of the good things this "jesus" is supposed to have taught like: Love your neighbor, don't judge people harshly,,help the needy, feed the poor, don't get even, and other common sense things he taught or at least is supposed to be what he taught.
So I think we can love those ideals,,if we ignore the rest of what the bible teaches namely that jesus is comming back to reward all his believers and destroy all those with out faith in him. This particular teaching does seem to go against the grain of the loving forgiving jesus we find predominate in the gospels.
I guess when one realizes that the gospels are sort of a advertising ploy to get you hooked on beleif in jesus,, and not meant to give accurate information but give the appearence of accurate information,,the only love you can have for jesus is the same love you can have for Santa Claus and all he stand for.
Here are the common historical records and accounts of a real Jesus.
Tacitus was a Roman historian who wrote 'Annals' in 115 CE. He talks about the Emperor Nero's persecution of Christians in Rome in 64 CE. There had been a great fire in Rome which people thought had been started by Nero to clear room for a big new palace. Tacitus wrote:
"To dispel the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and treated with the most extreme punishments, some people, popularly known as Christians, whose disgraceful activities were notorious. The originator of that name, Christus, had been executed when Tiberius was Emperor, by order of the procurator Pontius Pilatus. But the deadly cult, though checked for a time, was now breaking out again not only in Judea, the birthplace of this evil, but even throughout Rome, where all the nasty and disgusting ideas from all over the world pour in and find a ready following."
Annals 15 : 44.
Flavius Josephus (37-98 CE) had been a Jewish zealot fighting against the Romans until Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. He changed sides and became the Roman Emperor's adviser on Jewish affairs. His history book 'Antiquities of the Jews' describes Palestine in the time of Jesus.
In his writings, Josephus mentions the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. He mentions Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, Jesus (twice) and James the brother of Jesus. He also mentions the Essenes - the strict religious sect within Judaism that founded the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
"About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, for he was a performer of wonderful deeds, a teacher of such men as are happy to accept the truth. He won over many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the leading men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him at the first did not forsake him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day."
Antiquities, Book 18, 63-64.
He also said that the High Priest Ananias had:
"Convened the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish religious court / governing body). He had brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, who was called James, and some other men, whom he accused of having broken the law, and handed them over to be stoned."
Antiquities, Book 20, 200.
Pliny the younger was a Roman Governor in Bithynia (Turkey). He was executing Christians, but there were a lot of them! In 112 CE he wrote to the Emperor Trajan asking what he should do.
"They were in the habit of meeting before dawn on a fixed day. They would recite in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a God, and would bind themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any criminal act, but rather that they would not commit any fraud, theft or adultery, nor betray any trust nor refuse to restore a deposit on demand. This done, they would disperse, and then they would meet again later to eat together (but the food was quite ordinary and harmless)."
What I meant to say is: there is a distinct possibility that the "literary Jesus" we are fond of is very different from the historical character (if any). That was about the conclusion of Albert Schweitzer nearly one century ago. Not that it changes so much. To follow on your analogy, perhaps we can love him as grown-ups love Santa Claus...
Christian apologetes make a big issue of those quotations, because they sound "independent". However, aside from the question of authenticity (re: Josephus), what do they really tell us? That by the end of the 1st century or the beginning of the 2nd there was one or several groups which circulated stories about their supposed "founder". Not the tiniest piece of first-hand information on Jesus except what was gathered from the lips of Christians. Coming back to Terry's illustration: the "blip" on the Roman radar is caused by the group, and its interpretation is derived from the group itself.
How many early references have to be provided to show that Jesus Christ existed, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate?
Are there any first century sources making similar arguments against Jesus being a living person?
(and I'm not going into the theological and divinity aspects here)
I ask, because it's easy enough to make elaborate claims and all pat ourselves on the backs at our ingenuity, with a further 1900 years of distance between ourselves and the object of discussion. What were the points raised by contemporaries of those early writers?
(My answer is addressed to the original question "was" instead of "is", which is a whole other topic.)
Are there any first century sources making similar arguments against Jesus being a living person?
Certainly not! Why would such a debate happen while the (real or fictitious) character has not yet become famous outside the groups referring to him? One of the first adversaries of Christianity is Celsus (178 AD), and he does not deny the historical existence of Jesus. He's a good read though:
Btw, Ross, what is your present take on the initial question, provisional as it may (should?) be? As you know I am very interested in the interaction between historical studies and religious experience on such issues.
One of the first adversaries of Christianity is Celsus (178 AD), and he does not deny the historical existence of Jesus. He's a good read though
He's a fascinating read, though it's been a few years since I last read what he had to say. I am, perhaps, overdue revisiting some of that early material.
..what is your present take on the initial question, provisional as it may (should?) be?
I wanted to wait until other folks had their say, before replying to that, but it does appear that the thread is quietening down enough to do so.
I see a wide spectrum of belief on the subject, from authoritarian judge, stern taskmaster, through namby-pamby dweeb. And that's just amongst those that believe in his existence!
I think my current understanding would be that the reported comments are generally around the subject of "radical love". That would be in line with my experiential faith (there being elements of being held by the hand, but also weaning, as time goes on).
The recent thread on worship was taken from entirely the wrong angle, IMHO, in that I don't believe it's something that is so much demanded as is spontaneous. Many other things are seen to be like that, too (pretty much all the things the WTS said we had to work at, e.g. fruit of the Spirit, loving your neighbour, etc.).
It should be understood that my take on the bible is that I have little cause to believe that the writers lacked honesty, even if their judgement and interpretive skills may have been lacking at times. I see elements in the recorded experiences, within my own experience. At times I think that I couldn't put it better myself, but at other times, I just sit and wonder (though I am increasing in understanding of the time periods and dynamics in which such accounts were likely written).
So, do I take the orthodox view that the NT provides a clear picture? No I don't.
I think that each author revealed a different facet, through the filter of their own experience, and to that end it would be quite appropriate for me to write a "Gospel of LittleToe" (albeit it probably wouldn't gain much acceptance in mainstream circles ). It's a living, personal relationship wherein there's lots of head-nodding as individuals accept a common experience without necessarily being able to put certain things into words.
Let me give an analogy, There is something special about your life-partner, something to do with the way they touch their hair, before dipping their head and then glancing into the depths of your soul, with the most innocent of looks on their faces. Something passes between you, and your heart leaps. Feelings are stirred that are akin to pure an unadulterated love, where a moment is caught in eternity.
I've done my best to describe an event, but have I really been able to convey the depth of meaning for me?
If you've felt the same yourself, then you may have half a clue (though your own subjectivity would also come into play), but for one who has never experienced love, what baseline do they use?
It is but an analogy, for my own feelings for Jesus, that has little to do with the printed page. But you already know this...