Did Jesus of Nazareth the legendary founder of Christianity exist? Common sense seems to say, of course, he must have!! The stories in the new testament almost certainly have to have some real figure at their core, one would think. Historically, the scholarly consensus has been one of agreement, though is at least in some part due to reliance on consensus and the dominance of religious institutions in this area of study.
As such, there has long been a minority of scholars who have shown interest in exploring the question of whether Jesus existed rather than take his existence for granted, and the number of these scholars is growing. Bart Erhman who has written extensively about how unreliable the new testament is has recently felt the need to defend his belief that while the new testament is unreliable he still finds it likely that an actual human being is at the root of it’s stories, in his new book: Did Jesus Exist?:The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.
For me, the stories associated with Jesus as being so fantastic,nonsensical and unbelievable that I and so full of legend and hearsay, that determining what if any of them is true strikes me as near impossible. I would not dismiss the possibilities that, much of the Jesus narrative, is mythology placed in a historical setting, or a tall tale of a real life wonder worker, itinerant preacher, or cult leader that got inflated through oral traditional and became legendary, or a story with elements of the lives of many individuals both real and mythical combined together through the blurring of real life an fantasy that happens in through word of mouth reporting.
Also, it seems just as likely to be a real person at the core of the Jesus legend as there is to be several. We know that there were many self-proclaimed religious leaders around the early first century, and as such elements of many of them could have fed the Jesus story. This strikes me as especially true of things that Jesus is supposed to have said (after all mus-attributed quotes are quite common).
This brings us to another issue, if Jesus did exist, as a single historical individual, we cannot know what if any parts of the story have a basis in fact or were later added to his legend. We know this happens with real historical figures, such as George Washington, who almost certainly did not chop down the famous cherry tree. I accept that George Washington existed, but reject the cherry tree sage, in much the same way I accept that Abraham Lincoln existed, but reject the notion that he hunted vampires (as a recent film suggests). It may be possible that Jesus was an iterate Jewish sectarian leader, but it seems unlikely that he walked on water, raised the dead or raised from the dead, himself. It just seems far more likely to me, that superstitious religionists of the 1st and their charismatic leaders would create tall tales about these things than it does that they would
actually happen. As such, I am agnostic on to whether a single source historical Jesus existed, but I reject claims that such a being had supernatural powers, or was the sun of God or that I am someone how culpable in his death, which took place roughly 2000 years before my birth.
None of this is to say that I accept, the notion that the Jesus story is the result of some sort of intentional conspiracy, as presented in the film Zeitgeist, which most “Jesus Myth” types, I have talked to, criticize for it’s sloppy scholarship and misleading content. It seems far more likely to me that the story of Jesus is one that grew and evolved with the telling, until it’s original sources became obscured.
That said, it does not matter to me whether the Jesus was a real man, multiple real men, a myth or some combination of all of the above. Largely because I can look at what is claimed about him see that the most important claims are logically absurd, highly unlikely to impossible, or have serious moral issues problems with them. Historical Jesus, or not Christianities teachings make no since, are immoral and I reject them. Stay tuned and I will provide a more comprehensive list of why I doubt the historicity of Jesus and question the historicity of Jesus in Part 2!!!