And yet, many say that either you accept him as your lord and savior or you will burn in Hell for ever. With eternal damnation at stake, I really don’t think it would be unreasonable to ask that he, you know, write it down!
The lack of evidence for Christ’s existence is the best evidence against Christianity. It is, after all, called Christianity. Also, on the Trinitarian doctrine, Christ is god. Thus, if Christ didn’t exist, the Judeo-Christian god doesn’t exist. I seriously don’t see the need for further argument. Christianity is just plain false and if there was no Christ, there’s no way to salvage it. My prediction though: gnosticism will be in style within the next five or six centuries. Christians are already retreating to Greco-Christian concepts of god based on Aristotelianism and Platonism. Soon they’ll retreat to gnosticism, which states that the Christ was a force or spirit that dwelled in Jesus the man during his life. There are vestiges of this view in the Pauline Epistles and even in the Gospels. The Gospel of Thomas was rejected for having strong gnostic overtones. The few gnostic Christians alive today base their beliefs almost entirely on that Gospel. If only I could be reborn centuries from now to find that my prediction came true. It’s the only route they have: when clear evidence isn’t available, obscurantist strategies flourish.
Not sure where all this non-evidence is.
I was recently asked if I believe that Jesus existed. This was my reply:
I don’t believe that Jesus existed. The reason I don’t believe Jesus existed is because 1) the Gospels are unreliable 2) supposed corroborative evidence is problematic 3) given (1) and (2), there’s no evidence to conclude that he did exist.
How are the Gospels problematic? For one, they’re inconsistent with one another. What day and what time did Jesus die? Who was in the tomb? A man or two men? An angel or two angels? Why does Matthew add that one angel descended upon the tomb like a lightning bolt? This wasn’t in Mark. Why does Matthew add the detail of an earthquake and zombie saints walking around Jerusalem? This isn’t in any other Gospel. Who visited Jesus’ tomb? Where did he say to meet him after his resurrection? The inconsistencies are many and known and yet, apologists have come up with the odious approach of harmonization. Well, how do you harmonize one of the questions I just asked? If you harmonize the question of who was in the tomb, you get three men and three angels in the tomb. Why is that sum not mentioned elsewhere? Such illogical mental acrobatics are not used to justify anything else, so why do Christians think it’s okay to use this shaky approach to ground what they think is true?
Another problem is the lack of corroboration from the earliest Christian writings. Why doesn’t Paul mention more about Jesus’ life—especially given that he was closer to the events? What he mentions is entirely theological and along the lines of Richard Carrier’s thinking, what he mentions can be construed from a gnostic sense—or at least in a sense that’s related to gnosticism. In other words, what Paul says applies better to a disembodied, spiritual Christ than it does to a physical, historical Christ. Some early Christians believed that the Christ was a force, so to speak, that was in Jesus. When the Bible states that “he gave up the ghost,” they interpreted that as “he gave up [the Christ].” Like Bart Erhman said, the Christian view we have today, is simply the view that won out. This is what we call Orthodox and that’s because the proto-Orthodox Christians had greater numbers and more influence. Also, they had a knack for calling Christians that held different views blasphemers and heretics.
On a tangent, one of these Unitarian views survived and headed to the area that would become the Arabic empire. This Unitarian view eventually became Islam. Why do you think there’s so much emphasis in Islam on the non-divinity of Christ? So it isn’t simply Unitarian, but it also highlights a Christology that lost to the dominant view we have today: that Christ was god incarnate and that he is now seated at the right hand of the father.
Consider some purportedly corroborative sources and you find problems. Tacitus? Problematic. Josephus? Problematic. Thallus? Problematic. Pliny? The same applies. The issue is that believers have a very hard time separating historical people and places from the myths they’re featured in. In fact, many myth makers have this in common. Since Pilate and Herod are mentioned in the Gospels, to them, it follows that Christ is historical. Yet they ignore clear cut cases in where the same feature applies (i.e. Romulus, Krishna, Hercules, etc.). This isn’t to invoke some fringe mythicism like the type Zeitgeist put forth. I am not saying that Christ and those myths share x amount of similarities and thus, Christ is based on them. Some of them do share some glaring similarities, but that’s not what I’m alluding to. What I’m alluding to is the genre of these writings—a genre the Gospels indubitably fall into. See thisvideo, in particular, for more info.
So that it doesn’t seem like I’m blowing air, let’s consider at least one of the supposed corroborative sources. Consider Josephus.
It is not possible, in any reliable way, to invoke Josephus as an independent witness to Jesus. Unreliable witness cannot be used to condemn someone to death. And neither can it be used to assert that someone lived.
Thomas Brodie (Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery)
I can summarize its problems, but a past debate does that perfectly. As you’ll see, my opponent was utterly unfamiliar with the relevant scholarship. Well, that’s what happens when you, in engaging in confirmation bias, read only the side that confirms your preconceptions.
If you want more info and sources, consider my historicity page. Also consider my #history. I can also refer you to books written by Christians—books that some Christians have read. Yet I still find it surprising that they utterly avoid doing battle on this turf. I want you to be skeptical even of what I’ve told you and look into this matter yourself. If you feel like it, become well-versed in this topic. I have no doubt that you’ll see the flawed approach of Christian writers; I have no doubt that you’ll see how much better and more honest a skeptical approach is. I think Carrier put it succinctly:
It makes no difference to me if [Jesus existed]. Believers, by contrast, and their apologists in the scholarly community, cannot say the same. For them, if Jesus didn’t exist, then their entire worldview topples. The things they believe in (and need to believe in) more than anything else in the world will then be under dire threat. It would be hard to expect them ever to overcome this bias, which makes bias a greater problem for them than for me. They need Jesus to be real; but I don’t need Jesus to be a myth.
Richard Carrier (2012. Proving History: Baye’s Theorem and The Quest for the Historical Jesus, p. 8)
The sort of thinking in that last sentence is precisely why I hold two views simultaneously. I’m not committed to just mythicism or just minimal historicity. I, instead, hold that they are more cogent than the maximal historicity of Christians—which states the Jesus existed and was Christ and thus, cast out demons, walked on water, healed lepers, transfigured before his disciples and proceeded to speak to Elijah and Moses, died, resurrected, and ultimately, ascended into heaven in broad daylight. That none of these mystical events are corroborated elsewhere is a huge problem for Christians. So, I suspect that Jesus never existed, but if he did, he wasn’t the Christ Christians worship. Thus, no Christ, no Christianity. Christianity is a religion based on a mythological character that never existed. He didn’t cleanse anyone of sins. He didn’t pay anyone’s ransom. He didn’t reconcile us to that child murdering, war god of a father of his. Given his historical status, any theology based on him is utterly irrelevant.
There is plenty more detail on my historicity page and if need be, I would expound on this brief reply. There’s no evidence and what’s offered as evidence is incredibly flawed. I encourage you to read skeptical scholars with the same level of enthusiasm used when you read Christian scholars. If everyone actually got into the practice of considering all options, false dichotomies and bias for one of the options would be nonexistent. There aren’t just two options when it comes to Christ. He either existed and was Immanuel or did exist and was a mere mortal or didn’t exist at all or so on and so forth. The many minimalist Jesus’ that have cropped up in this debate are many and diverse. Of course, you favor the maximal historicists because their conclusion aligns with your beliefs. But does that conclusion best align with the facts? It simply doesn’t.