Tuesday, 26 August 2008

WRONG: Jesus definitely existed

Next time you’re in Japan, make a journey to the village of Shingo at the far north of Honshu island. You’ll find a road sign marked "Christ Grave", leading to a tomb with a cross on it. Local legend has it that rather than die on the cross, Jesus fled through Russia to Japan and lived out his days in Shingo as a rice farmer with his wife Miyuko and his three daughters.

(The dead guy on the cross was apparently Jesus’ brother Isukiri, who sneaked up there when the Romans weren’t looking so that Jesus could escape.)

The Bible disagrees. As far as Christians are concerned, Jesus lived and died in Palestine roughly between 1 and 38 CE. (CE, the secular equivalent of AD, stands for Common Era. The dating of Jesus’ birth by those who accept he existed is pretty vague in its own right. Estimates by historians place it between 18BC and 1AD.)

The trouble is, there’s no proof outside of the Bible itself. The New Testament (the part of the Bible written after Christ) is an assemblage of books written at different times by different authors, and the authenticity of the ones claiming to be eyewitness testimony is suspect. Parts of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, for example, contradict each other, while other parts appear to be copied from the Gospel of Mark. Mark, meanwhile, is suspiciously confused about Palestinian geography for a native.

Mark, incidentally, also mentions Jesus having sisters. Look it up – chapter six, verse three.

The earliest non-Biblical reference to Jesus was by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian born in 37CE. In his Antiquities Of The Jews, written about 93CE, he – improbably for an ultra-orthodox Pharisee – describes Jesus as being “the Christ”, or Messiah. Even The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges that, “The passage seems to suffer from repeated interpolations,” meaning it is very likely that the key sentences are a forgery, inserted into the text by 4th-century Christian translators.

Writing in 112CE, the Roman historian Tacitus described in his Annals Nero’s persecution of Christians 50 years earlier and mentioned their founder “Christus”. Errors in his description of Pilate imply, however, that his sources were Christians in Rome rather than offical documents. The passage itself is open to question – the radical former clergyman Robert Taylor claimed that there was no evidence for it even existing in copies of the Annals before the 15th century. More pesky forgers.

Suetonius, author of The Twelve Caesars (120CE) referred to “disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus” among Jews in Rome, though Chrestus was a common Greek name and may simply have been a local troublemaker. Aside from these three, the dozens of Greek, Roman and Jewish historians writing at the supposed time of Christ or in the century after made no reference to him whatsoever.

As Bertrand Russell wrote, “Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him.” Even the things we think we know are dubious. Belgian historian Franz Cumont, for example, uncovered the following details about Mithras, already an enormously popular deity among Romans and other gentiles by Jesus’ time. Mithras was worshipped as “The light of the world”, he was part of a holy trinity in a cosmology that invoked heaven and hell, and he would redeem his worshippers on the Day of Judgement. His birthday festival was on 25 December, and he took part in a last supper before he died and ascended to heaven. His worshippers underwent baptism, ritually consumed bread and wine on Sundays and celebrated a rite of rebirth in late March/early April[3][4]. Quite a coincidence.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Ahahahaha, Mithras. Isn't that fallacy a little outdated?