Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Jesus Who Never Was

One other approach to who Jesus Christ was is that He did not exist. His followers simply made Him up to serve their purposes.  The advocates of this view frequently trace the ultimate source back to the various pagan myths and claim that Jesus is merely another example of such myths. Will this stand up to examination?

How could Jesus' followers manage to convince people that a person who never existed had existed and that they should follow Him? And how did they keep the critics from finding out and blowing the scam? All the questions about how they could have got away with running a scam (see my previous post on the subject) would have come home to roost, only many times worse, because the person involved did not even exist. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 was running a major bluff before a hostile audience if the 500 witnesses he claimed for the resurrection of Christ did not exist. But he was running a colossal bluff if Jesus Himself never existed. There is also the question of why the apostles should take such a risk. Mystery religions were common, and it would have been easy to place the events of the life of Jesus either in some place and time outside real history or in great antiquity that could not be checked. Why put them in the governorship of Pontius Pilate, which was easy to investigate? Some have claimed that the gospels were intended as a novel, a work of fiction. In this case, we must either believe that people confused fiction with reality to the extent that they were willing to die for it in a really short period of time. Or that someone, after the persecution had started, would have been willing to put out as a work of fiction something that could get them and other people killed. Neither of these seems plausible to me.

This view frequently advocates the idea that the story of Jesus was based on those of various pagan gods. But if you check the primary sources and not the secondary sources, which are frequently full of speculations, you will find that the similarities with these other deities are only general and superficial. And these general and superficial similarities are not surprising. If God revealed Himself to mankind in the very beginning, it is not surprising that there should have been enough passed down to produce general similarities in all belief systems. But the kind of exact similarities which would indicate that the story of Jesus was simply cribbed from other religions do not exist. Nor is it clear that people would choose to die for just one more mystery religion, no different from the rest. But if they had solid reason to believe Jesus was a real person, who really did what He said He would do, that makes all the difference. And if so, we are left once more with the options:  the scam-artist, the madman, or the Son of God, who was who He said He was. Take your pick.

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