December 20, 2014

The Historical Jesus

English: 4th century depiction of Christ as th...
4th century depiction of Christ as the Good Shepherd, Museum for Epigraphy, Terme di Diocleziano, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most of the Christians I encounter, both in my day-to-day life and on the Internet, treat the existence of a historical Jesus as fact. I have spent most of my life, including the post-Christian portion, assuming that there probably was a historical Jesus. Even though it has been a long time since I believed that this person bore any resemblance to the character described in the Christian bible, I've assumed that the stories were probably based, however loosely, on a real person.

Of course, the question of whether there was a historical Jesus and the degree to which such a person may have resembled the biblical version is not without controversy. Some argue that there likely was no historical Jesus. Others suggest that there may have been a historical person but that the biblical stories of him are exaggerations or outright fabrications. Here are just a few resources that fall into one of these camps:
  1. Pagan origins of the Christ myth
  2. No historical evidence of Jesus: Christianity revealed
  3. Examining all the evidence for a historical Jesus
  4. Did a historical Jesus exist?
  5. The myth of the historical Jesus
  6. Historical "evidence" of Jesus?
Needless to say, these views do not reflect the opinion of the majority of scholars, with some going so far as to compare them with conspiracy theories.

I have not devoted much time or effort to researching the Jesus question because I don't see it as being terribly important. Christians are not going to abandon their faith based on any sort of evidence, and the existence of a historical Jesus still leaves the question of gods unanswered. That is to say, it has little relevance to atheism one way or another. I have found it interesting just how little evidence there is clearly pointing to the existence of a historical Jesus who did many of the things he is said to have done in the Christian bible. And the lack of originality in the Jesus story is also interesting. But still, I can't say that it matters to me greatly whether there was a historical Jesus figure or not.

I suspect that many atheists roll the questions about a historical Jesus out every year around this time not because they are convinced that it matters but simply to take a poke at the Christians who are frantically completing their holiday shopping. I can't say I blame them. The whole Jesus thing really does become tiring after awhile, especially when it seems so pervasive this time of year.

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