I'm not sure this question is of broad interest to SWiFT members, but as an ex-Catholic, I can't help wondering and would love to know what others think.
I raise the question of Jesus' historical authenticity in the book I wrote for my kids. It's provoked interesting responses from my family and friends. Like, "It's one thing to not believe in god, it's another to deny history." Below are the questions I raise in my book, god is redudnant. I would love to know what SWiFT members think.
I assume we can all agree that Jesus is not god, but what is the likelihood that he isn't even historical?
"Personally, I’d always assumed Jesus was a historical figure. But I now admit it may have been an assumption on my part. I thought the lack of historical evidence for Jesus was the result of him being an itinerant preacher from a backwater town. Like Thomas Jefferson, I’d always regarded Jesus as a historical figure mythologized by the evangelists to compete with the contemporary gods he was intended to replace. After all, there are other examples of historical figures being mythologized, such as Alexander the Great.
...with so many authors, so many audiences, so many motives – Judaize, Hellenize, Catholicize – and so much tampering [with the Bible], how can you possibly deduce the historical Jesus with any accuracy, or even if there was one? Jesus’ historical authenticity is largely an assumption on my part with little to no evidence. My confidence is now waning in light of the striking parallels with other ancient savior-god cults, Old Testament stories, and other historical writings. But assuming Jesus was a historical figure, I certainly don’t believe he was a god, and, frankly, I’m not convinced he thought so either.
I wonder if Jesus isn’t a little like Daniel Webster. Maybe there was a historical preacher from Galilee just like there was a historical statesman from New England. But maybe not all of the stories we associate with them are historically accurate. For example, Daniel Webster never really defended a New Hampshire farmer who sold his soul to the devil, did he? It’s just a great story based on an earlier one, The Devil and Tom Walker, which itself is really a retelling of the old German legend Faust. Similarly, maybe Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin and didn’t really survive his own death. Maybe the gospels are based on earlier stories which themselves are really a retelling of the old Egyptian myth of Horus. Once ancient tales take on mythic proportions, it becomes rather difficult to separate fact from fiction, history from theology. But this doesn't mean there wasn't a historical preacher named Jesus in first century Galilee."
Love your response. I'm also a fan of Campbell. I had read about how some scholars think the stories some people take literally today would have been understood as metaphors in their own time. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Bart D. Ehrman weighs in on the historical authenticity of Jesus (with a yes vote). My understanding is that Ehram used to be a born-again fundamentalist and is now agnostic. For a biblical scholar, he seems progressive based on his previous books. I thought I'd share this article since it speaks directly to our discussion below. Let me know what you think.