Defending Truth Can Mean Defending Jesus

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/52/Jesus-Christ-from-Hagia-Sophia.jpg/170px-Jesus-Christ-from-Hagia-Sophia.jpg

Source: Jesus-Christ-from-Hagia-Sophia

Over the past few days, an announcement has been circulating primarily among atheist-focused Facebook pages.  The topic: proof that Jesus never existed according to American Joseph Atwill who will be giving a presentation in Britain this month about his “new discovery” in promotion of his books, no doubt.  As a result, I have found myself running all over Facebook as the details are shared to try to persuade people to be very skeptical of what this man has to say as atheists there get lulled into the wishful thinking that their greatest nemesis, Jesus Christ, may never have existed at all.

Denying that Jesus was a real person is just as bad as believing in supernatural explanations for things.  My criticism of religion is merely an extension of my belief that believing in lies is bad, and believing in reality is a better path for life and humanity.  For that reason, I want to let anyone know who’s listening that whatever Atwill is peddling is likely bunk.

Let me set the stage a bit and summarize for you Atwill’s claims.  According to the announcement’s website, his thesis is that “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.”

I have several problems with this and Atwill’s credentials in general.  First of all, according to Atwill’s own blog he “studied computer science in college” (never saying whether or not he obtained a degree), and prior to college he attended Japan’s Jesuit-run St. Mary’s Military Academy where his “school days was spent studying Greek, Latin, and the Bible”, but it never clarifies whether he has achieved any level of mastery of those languages (I’ve “studied” Greek and Latin myself, but couldn’t claim to even have a beginning level understanding of them).  Although the British presentation announcement lists Atwill as an “American Biblical scholar”, I would have serious issues with calling him that.  What exactly is he a scholar in?  From what I can tell, no actual Bible, Theological, or History scholar would call this man their colleague.  Recently, Bible and Christian History scholar Bart Ehrman (who I recently wrote about here) wrote on his blog about what it takes to be a Bible scholar in response to the new book “Killing Jesus: A History” written by Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly.  I think its important to understand what it takes to be recognized as an expert in the field.  According to Dr. Ehrman:

“To become an expert in the historical Jesus (or the New Testament broadly, or Hebrew Bible, or first century Roman empire, or pick your cognate field) takes years of diligent study. My own graduate students at UNC typically enter into our PhD program after already started taking ancient languages (e.g., Greek, Latin, and/or Coptic) in college; then doing a two or three year master’s degree mastering ancient languages, learning modern languages (usually French and German) so they can read scholarship done overseas, and getting sufficient background in the field that can *prepare* them to *start* doing a PhD. O’Reilly of course never even went this far. Once my students are in their PhD program, they spend two years doing seminar work – full time, two years – then they take a semester or two to prepare for their five PhD exams; after they take their PhD exams they write a dissertation, in a well-defined and narrow field in which they become absolute experts; the dissertation almost always takes two years of full time work. In other words, after a 2-3 year masters degree, they spend five years (if they’re fast) to get the PhD.

And *then* they are beginning, *junior* scholars. At that point they are not ready to write a book for a general audience even in their own field of expertise. First they have to spend years more working in their field, writing another scholarly book, and developing even further expertise.

Source: http://nttext.org/index.html

To be a real scholar of the historical Jesus you need to be able to read the New Testament in Greek; you need to be able to read Jesus’ own scriptures, the Hebrew Bible, in Hebrew. You need to be able to read all the sources about Jesus, which requires Latin and Coptic. You need to delve deeply into scholarly research, which has been going on, at intense levels, since the 1770’s. And then you’re ready to say something to the world at large. You can’t just read the Bible, take it to be historical, fill out the details with your imagination, and imagine you’ve written something that people should buy into (or buy! O’Reilly and friend will make millions on this fluff.) (Then again, maybe the rest of the book isn’t as crazily fluffy as this excerpt?).”

By those standards, Atwill doesn’t come close.

Moving to Atwill’s claims that Jesus was invented by the Romans as some kind of conspiracy to quell Jewish revolts, I’ll try very hard to not to simply say its ridiculous (because it is), but also provide a few nuggets of evidence according to what the scholars say.  Most scholars accept as fact that Jesus of Nazareth existed.  I’m going to remain brief, but if you want all of the details in an easily digestible format, I strongly recommend reading Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?.   To summarize here, the main reasons for believing this comes from several ancient sources, including those from the Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman Senator and historian Tacitus, and of course, the New Testament itself, which include writings from the most famous Christian missionary of all, Paul.  There is no archaelogical evidence, or Roman records, but that is not surprising.  There are not these kinds of things for most of the people who lived in first century Palestine.

What does Josephus say?  Writing in the end of the First Century (some 60 years or so after the death of Jesus), Josephus references Christians and Jesus twice in his work called, “Antiquities of the Jews”.  Certain aspects of those writings are debated among scholars, but generally speaking the conclusion of most scholars (atheists and believers alike) is that they can be used as reliable sources to show the existence of Jesus based on several criteria that I’ll not bore you with here.

What does Tacitus say?  Tacitus, a Roman pagan writing in the early decades of the second century, mentions Jesus in his work called “Annals.”  According to scholars, Tacitus provides a dispassionate perspective on the persecution of Christians after the burning of Rome (probably by Emperor Nero) in 64 CE, and on the crucifixion of Jesus.

What about the New Testament?  A full discussion of the evidence within the books of the New Testament (NT) would take too long for me to discuss here (this is already much longer than I first intended), but the key points are found in the works of Paul.

The Last Supper, Da Vinci.

There are several books written and claimed to have been written by Paul in the NT.  Scholars generally agree that 7 of the 13 letters in the NT were actually written by Paul (and 6 were forgeries or otherwise mistakenly attributed to him).  To see a detailed list, go here.

Of those letters believed to be written by Paul, the key pieces of compelling evidence for Jesus’ existence come from Galatians 1:18-24.  In these versus, Paul expressly states that three years after his conversion to Christianity, he visited the Apostle Peter (aka Cephus aka Simon Peter), and Jesus’ brother James, for fifteen days.  Peter, was known to be Jesus closest companion in the Gospels, and James is mentioned to be Jesus brother in other NT writings as well.  Scholars estimate this event likely took place less than ten years after Jesus’ death, sometime in the 30’s CE.  Basically, what this proves is that Paul has first-hand knowledge of a man who was named Jesus who died by Roman crucifixion recently, provided by people who actually knew Jesus (including his own brother).  To me, this is very compelling information.  As with the writings of Josephus and Tacitus, there is much more I could go into to show why scholars generally agree that Paul’s writing is historically reliable, but that information is out there should you want to find it.

Lastly, for me, Atwill’s claims just do not meet the smell test.  He has asserted that “Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century… When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.”  Basically, he thinks the Roman’s fabricated the myth of Jesus in some grand conspiracy to get Jews to chill out and stop revolting.  Aside from this being completely revisionist history of the first century Roman Empire and Palestine, its just absurd for this reason: If the Romans wanted to invent a story, why would they have invented the story of Jesus with so many inconsistencies and contradictions?  The NT is fraught with competing ideas about the details of Jesus’ birth and ministry and death.  Ideas that cancel each other out in many cases.  Ideas that wouldn’t convince first century Jews that he was the Messiah who should be followed.  Its just nonsense.

There was a time when I briefly flirted with the tempting notion that Jesus never existed.  It would be simpler to be an atheist if this were true.  But I am a skeptic and a truth-seeker first and foremost, and after reading about the evidence and learning what the scholars who have devoted their lives to this subject matter have said (and I’m still learning), I have accepted as fact that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist, and that he was crucified by the Romans sometime in the 30’s CE in Jerusalem.  As I’ve learned more about the history, I’ve found the reality is much more interesting than the possible myth of Jesus being a fabrication.  I do not believe that Jesus was supernatural, that he was the son of god, or god himself.  I don’t even believe that he believed that, but that is a discussion for another time.  Of course, like Atwill, I’m no scholar either, but I never claimed to be.   All I know is the evidence (as analyzed by professionals who have devoted their lives to the study of this subject matter)  for a historical Jesus is compelling, and I choose to base my conclusions (in all aspects of my life) on what can be reasonably proven, not what I want to believe, or wish to be true.   That is my wish for current believers, and my fellow atheists alike.  Don’t be sucked in by things that make no sense in reality.  The world will be better for it.

Cheers,

PersephoneK

Check out Dr. Bart Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist” for more information about what the historical evidence is for Jesus’ existence.

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*10/10/2013: Some edits made to fix typos and remove my annoying misuse of apostrophes.  No content altered.

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  • Mark Fulton

    You obviously haven’t read the book. Half your article is about the credentials of the author, not the issues at hand.

    You fail to appreciate that the gospels took a few hundred years to develop into their present form, hence all the inconsistencies, so your point doesn’t invalidate the possibility that they were first written under the auspices of the Roman government.

    You write

    “Aside from this being completely revisionist history of the first century Roman Empire and Palestine,” yet you don’t expand on this. I, and your other readers, have no idea what you’re referring to.

    Your statement that Saint Paul gives good evidence for the existence of an historical Jesus is fundamentally flawed. Paul says almost nothing about Jesus the person, an impossible omission, if Jesus was in fact the character depicted in the Gospels.

    You have obviously read that Bart’s books and are a big fan. Good for you. So am I. You, however, need to expand your horizons and keep your mind open. The world will be better for it.

    • I never claimed to have read his book, nor do I intend to. Its clear from his credentials, and the information provided on Atwill’s blog that his primary thesis is seriously lacking in evidence that could overturn the evidence that, according to most experts, shows that Jesus existed. I have far too little time in my life, and far too many things I want to read that will enhance my understanding of the world, to bother with Atwill any further. I was trying to save others from wasting their tim eas well.

      Just because I cite Bart heavily, and yes, I’m a big fan, doesn’t mean I haven’t “expanded my horizons”. I have read from a variety of sources, that point in the same direction as my analysis. I like citing Bart’s work because I think he does the best job of laying out the evidence for the layman from a non-dogmatic (either Christian or atheist) perspective. For that reason, I trust his scholarship and analysis above some others. As I said, I’m not a scholar, so in light of that, and my limited time, I do put a lot of weight behind a scholar like Bart Ehrman who said on his blog that he knows “sophomores in college who could rip this assertion to shreds.” http://ehrmanblog.org/conspiracy-nonsense/

      Regarding Paul… I think what I cited in Galatians is actually good evidence. Why does Paul even bother saying he visited Peter and James (the brother of Jesus)? He wanted to establish some credibility (I know you disagree with that analysis) among Jesus’ followers by saying he consulted with people who actually had met Jesus and were his closest friends/family. There is nothing I’ve read from Paul’s writings that give any indication that he made Jesus up or thought he was a myth. Paul clearly thinks that Jesus was a real person, and if he didn’t think so before he met with Peter and James, I’m sure I got the answer to that question afterwards. This is evidence to me that Jesus probably existed. It would take some considerable evidence to dis-prove that Jesus existed in light of that (and Josephus, Tacitus, and the rest of the historical trail from the New Testament writings). I have yet to see any evidence, and would rather not waste my time listening to a man that has no credibility among Bible scholars, even those like Richard Carrier who essentially agree with Atwill’s ultimate conclusion.

      This blog isn’t meant to be a graduate school level source of scholarly information. Its one that covers a lot of topics that I have a passion and interest in, where I find small windows of time to practice my writing. I recommend to anyone who wants to see the evidence to start with Ehrman’s books and follow the evidence he outlines from there. There’s no need for me to rehash what has already been expertly put forth and is easily available.

      Cheers,
      PersephoneK

      • Mark Fulton

        Re “I never claimed to have read his book, nor do I intend to.”

        Why, then, did you heap shit on an author you haven’t even read? That does nothing for your credibility, irrespective of what you write.

        Let me help you look at this whole scenario from another angle. Firstly, as I’ve already said, I have a lot of respect for Bart. Yet I don’t like the way he and some others badmouth genuine people like Mr Atwill. It’s childish. It’s also all about jealousy, because if Mr Atwill is correct, or sells a lot of books, that means he has come up with something that Bart hasn’t. Bart does the same to (ie badmouths) Richard Carrier, I think also out of jealousy. Richard has just as many qualifications, yet thinks that Jesus never existed, so pisses Bart off. I really like Richard too. They don’t like each other, and they’re like two little children squabbling, heaping shit on the other. It’s pathetic.

        You’re doing the same bitching about Atwill.

        I think Mr Atwill’s ideas deserve serious consideration, as he’s spent 10 years studying the topic, so who cares about his lack of qualifications? (that’s not to say I’m not interested in his professional qualifications, but they’re not the only badges for legitimacy.)

        I’ve spent seven years studying the origins of Christianity. I don’t think I’m more clever then Bart or Richard ( they are professionals and know much more than me,) but I can find faults in some of their arguments. I can find faults in some of Atwill’s arguments too. Yet I’m not going to bitch about any of them personally. If they happen to read my book I’m sure they’ll point out errors in my thinking as well, which I would feel honoured to discuss with them. We are all on a learning curve.

        • RE “Why, then, did you heap shit on an author you haven’t even read? That does nothing for your credibility, irrespective of what you write.”

          I’m not heaping shit on the author, just his conclusions which appear evident from the summary I read. Hey, I’ll concede its a fair criticism of me. One should read books they criticize as a general rule. I really can’t argue with that. But this blog is not meant to be a scholarly exercise. Its meant to be off the cuff thoughts that I have and feel like writing about. My readers can take anything I say with a grain of salt (as they should). I’m not hiding that at all. Why should you believe anything I say? You shouldn’t. Find out for yourself. I’m just providing a possible directional jumping point.

          I already have mentioned that I don’t have infinite time to spend on everything I’d like to, and one thing I’m trying to do here is suggest that my readers spend their time on something with the likelihood of being more reliable based on my understanding of the known evidence. Atwill might have a great theory, but I seriously doubt he has actual new evidence. Most likely its just an interpretation of existing evidence. I could be wrong. Decide for yourself.

          If I were writing a book for people to buy (as you have done), I’d be more concerned with proper sourcing, citation, etc, and reading whatever I’m critiquing. This is just a blog mostly designed as an exercise in practicing regular writing, and getting whatever is on my mind out of my brain. Feel free to beat a dead horse on this, but I’m not really too worried about your concerns for my credibility. I’m not claiming to be anything I’m not… unlike Mr. Atwill’s claim to be an “American Bible scholar.”

          RE “Let me help you look at this whole scenario from another angle.”

          Thanks, I appreciate your help. 🙂 Obviously Carrier and Ehrman have issues with each other. That’s totally irrelevant to this blog, but it is telling that they both agree on the topic of Atwill’s credibility.

          RE: “I think Mr Atwill’s ideas deserve serious consideration, as he’s spent 10 years studying the topic, so who cares about his lack of qualifications? (that’s not to say I’m not interested in his professional qualifications, but they’re not the only badges for legitimacy.)”

          I don’t think his ideas deserve serious consideration. I don’t intend to spend much more thought on his ideas until I see them credibly discussed by experts in the field. Who cares about his lack of qualifications? I do. As I’ve mentioned before, as a layman, I have to appeal to a person’s qualifications because I don’t understand all of the nuances of the field. I don’t think a person has to have qualifications to know what they’re talking about, but they have a much higher level of burden of proof for me before I’ll give them any of my precious time. I’d do the same for any other field.

          If 9 out of 10 Physicists say something, I as a non-physicist, am going to go with the majority position until I have a very good reason not to. It doesn’t mean eventually the minority opinion might not one day take over. It just means that I do not feel qualified to decide that.

          May I ask, what for you is the most compelling piece of evidence for Atwill’s theory, or the theory in general that Jesus did not exist? Insulting my critique of him, or of that position, or my credibility, will do little to get me on your side. What might is pointing me down a specific road of evidence.

          • Mark Fulton

            Ok. I’ve digested what you’ve written. We can be friends and we can discuss history if you want. I’m happy to share what I’ve learnt with you.

            Please give me a consistent message. I’ll discuss Atwill if you’re interested, but if you’re not then I won’t waste your and my time.

            I’m also happy to discuss Jesus’ existence. Here’s a “cut and paste” from my book…

            “Did Yeshua Exist?

            The Gospel writers and editors were myth-makers. Many historians suspect the authors didn’t base their writings on a genuine character, and they may be right. No contemporary archaeological evidence has ever been found for Yeshua’s existence. Do contemporary historians mention him?

            Flavius Josephus (37–100 CE) (http://www.josephus.org), a prolific and comprehensive Jewish historian, who would frequently write a few pages on the execution of common Jewish thieves, has not one authentic line that mentions Yeshua. “He” does mention “Christ” on two occasions, yet both have been convincingly exposed as interpolations (http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/josephus-etal.html). So if Yeshua existed, either Josephus chose not to write about him, or early Christians destroyed his record because it didn’t fit with their manufactured image.

            Justus of Tiberias (35–100 CE) was a first-century Jewish author born in Galilee. Although he wrote extensively about contemporary Jewish history, there
            is no record that he ever mentioned Jesus. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0011_0_10505.html).

            Philo-Judæus, a prolific writer and historian, was an Alexandrian Jew who visited Jerusalem in the years Jesus was allegedly teaching and working miracles. He too failed to mention Jesus. ( http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=281&letter=P ).

            We might expect Jewish religious officials to have said a significant amount about him, but they didn’t. The earliest references to him in Judaic rabbinical literature didn’t occur before the third century CE and bear little relation to the Jesus of the Gospels.

            What about the Roman writers of the first century? There are no Roman records of Pilate’s or Herod’s dealings with Jesus. The Roman world left behind senate records and volumes of other writings, which provide historians with a large amount of data, yet nothing about Jesus. Edward Gibbon, (http://kirjasto.sci.fi/egibbon.htm) writing in the latter half of the eighteenth century in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated:

            “How shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to those evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of
            Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind
            saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled, and the laws of nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the Church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any
            alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.” Gibbon devoted twenty or so years of his life to his classic seventeen-volume work on the Roman Empire. It’s the result of exhaustive research, so we can trust that his comments are authoritative.

            Saint Paul, (discussed in chapter four,) the creator of Christian theology, probably appeared on the historical scene only fifteen plus years after Yeshua’s death, does repeatedly commend his Christ, but some scholars suspect he refers to a different
            character to the human Yeshua. (http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/parttwo.htm). If this is so, his references to “Jesus” are interpolations. Whether or not Paul’s Christ was Yeshua, his writings are remarkably deficient in facts about Jesus.

            Paul claimed he met James and Peter, who may have been Yeshua’s brother and disciple.

            Pliny the younger did mention the existence of Christians
            in Asia Minor in 112 CE, but wrote nothing about Jesus the person (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/pliny.html).

            It’s said that in 115 CE, the Roman historian Tacitus made the first mention of Jesus. However, this reference isn’t mentioned by any of the church Fathers (eminent priests and theologians of early Christianity,) and is considered by many historians to be a forgery. This reference is frequently referred to in pro-Christian literature.

            The surprising truth is that no contemporary literate official, scribe, merchant, soldier or priest documented details about Jesus that have survived. If he’d preached to thousands, cured cripples, expelled demons, and risen from the dead, surely some of these people would have jotted down some notes about him, but it appears they didn’t.

            Despite the dearth of reputable evidence, I think a man named Yeshua probably did exist, and that parts of the Gospel plots are loosely based on his life. My reasoning is as follows.

            There is non-biblical evidence for the existence of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, and for James, Jesus’ brother (discussed shortly.) John and James were leaders of a Jewish sect, the Nazarenes (also discussed soon,)
            and many scholars claim Yeshua was their boss between these two, an idea that fits with what we know about Yeshua. The Nazarenes soldiered on for a few centuries
            after Jesus’death, (discussed in chapter 13,) weren’t Christians, and there’s evidence from the church fathers’ writings that the Nazarenes believed Yeshua had existed.

            I propose that Yeshua probably existed, but his life story was far less remarkable than the Gospels would have us believe. I think his genuine historical record, if it ever existed, would have recorded his insignificance, so
            was destroyed by evangelical Christians sometime in the second, third or fourth centuries.

            Once Yeshua’s existence is assumed, anyone who writes about him must comb through the Gospels to get specifics about his life. This is unfortunate, because – as discussed in depth in chapter 15 – the Gospels are
            unreliable records; yet to do so is unavoidable because details about him are lacking in other literature. I’ll give good reasons for assuming that some parts of the Gospels fit with a realistic story about him.”

            For your information Atwill’s theory is much more interesting than just that.

            Richard Carrier is very good on why he thinks Jesus is mythical and it’s easy enough just to google one of his U-tube videos about that.

            • I’m happy to be friends with just about anyone who is a nice human, regardless of whether or not I disagree with them. Most of my friends and I disagree on a great many things.

              You certainly have a passion for this, which is great. Ultimately, you and I agree on this point: “I propose that Yeshua probably existed, but his life story was far less remarkable than the Gospels would have us believe.” Where we disagree widely is on the Roman conspiracy aspect. I think mythmaking/legend making is far less complex and hard to understand. The legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood for example are widely believed to have been based on actual living humans. But its doubtful those real humans were anything like their legendary counterparts.

              I think the gospels are more reliable at piecing the historical Jesus together than you give them credit for (as do most Biblical historians). You can sort through the clear Christian propaganda to get to the gems of probable truth. Of course, with all history, it is a game of probability. No one can recreate the past perfectly to know exactly what happened. But we can make good assumptions based on evidence. I just don’t see the evidence for your conclusions. Again, its a fun theory, but I think it is highly implausible.

              Lastly, the absence of evidence is not evidence for the non-existence of someone or of things they did or didn’t do. Most people in history have no surviving records of their existence or daily lives. Sure, perhaps someone who actually raised the dead and healed the sick and had thousands of followers would be mentioned. But that’s just probably not the reality of Jesus’ ministry (as much as Christian’s would like to believe it was). He was a minor apocaplytic “prophet” — one of many in his time — who managed to catch fire after his death (much like famous artists, lol). Most people, Romans included, didn’t think enough of him to record his life while he was living.

              At the end of the day though, we might agree more than we disagree. You agree that Jesus probably existed. So do I. I agree that the Jesus worshipped by Christians today was probably not the Jesus that actually lived on earth. Where we disagree is on the reliability of sources that paint the overall picture of “why” the “myth” of Jesus was created. You seem to be a proponent of a grand conspiracy by his followers and Rome. I’m a proponent of a more organic 2000 year process of legend-building. Do I have us characterized correctly?

    • RE This point “You fail to appreciate that the gospels took a few hundred years to develop into their present form, hence all the inconsistencies, so your point doesn’t invalidate the possibility that they were first written under the auspices of the Roman government.”

      I do not fail to appreciate that in the slightest. But you have failed to provide any evidence to support your much more extraordinary claim that the Roman government created some conspiracy. For me this comes down to Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably true. For me, as supported by the known evidence, there was probably a man named Jesus, who lived in Galilee during the first century, who somehow annoyed the Roman authorities enough with his ministry to be executed by crucifixion, and then after his death, legends about his life and ministry were transformed, first by oral storytelling, then by writing, and re-writing, and a few forgeries, by his followers, many of which had very different interpretations of his message.

      • Mark Fulton

        ok. I’ve digested that.

        Consider the circumstantial evidence.

        Ask yourself why this particular rabble-rouser had so many fans so quickly. It wasn’t because he said or did anything that was particularly new or different. It wasn’t because his genuine friends and family thought he was anything more than a man.

        Legends are created, you and I think, in this case, it was the government who did the creating.

        Please have a read of this…http://www.markfulton.org/was-christianity-a-roman-government-plot

        • You’re asking me to consider the circumstantial evidence? That seems like a bit of a hypocrisy considering your criticism of me.

          Its frankly impossible to know exactly what was the spark that lead to the widespread adoption of Christianity based on our sparse source material. Most interpretations are just theories, some more educated than others. I see no evidence for the government’s creation of anything. Frankly, I see this kind of conspiracy theory as silly, both when they’re from the past and in the present. Its hard to invent a story that meets the smell test. Governments today can’t keep secrets that well. This is something I do know a little bit about… Government’s are not things… they’re collections of individuals with varying motives and abilities.

          You’re telling a fun story in your post (that yes I did read), but where’s the hard evidence for it? Again, I appeal to Occam’s Razor.

          I for one, believe one reason Jesus’ message stuck more than the other apocalyptic prophets out there was because of his focus on lifting up the lowest of people to the highest levels. His ministry focused on the powerless and downtrodden, which frankly was most of society. If you are powerless, and shit on all the time, and you hear that you’re going to be raised up to the level of the Kings one day, and oh, by the way, peace is cool and loving your neighbor is cool instead of violence, etc… It doesn’t seem like rocket science why this message would appeal to many people pretty much over the entire life of Christianity. Besides, Christianity didn’t really catch on until Constantine normalized it in the Roman Empire. I think if that had never happened, few of us still would have ever heard of the cult of Jesus Christ.