Amazingly, the question of an actual historical Jesus rarely confronts the religious believer. The power of faith has so forcefully driven the minds of most believers, and even apologetic scholars, that the question of reliable evidence gets obscured by tradition, religious subterfuge, and outrageous claims. The following gives a brief outlook about the claims of a historical Jesus and why the evidence the Christians present us cannot serve as justification for reliable evidence for a historical Jesus.
All claims of Jesus Derive From Hearsay Accounts: No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus got written well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources derive from hearsay accounts. Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay provides no proof or good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.If you do not understand this, imagine yourself confronted with a charge for a crime which you know you did not commit. You feel confident that no one can prove guilt because you know that there exists no evidence whatsoever for the charge against you. Now imagine that you stand present in a court of law that allows hearsay as evidence....
Comparing Jesus to
other Historical Figures: Many Christian apologists attempt to extricate themselves from their lack of evidence by claiming that if we cannot rely on the post chronicle exegesis of Jesus, then we cannot establish a historical foundation for other figures such as Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, etc. However, there sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing.
Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E. For Agustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more. Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters. We can establish some historicity to these people because we have evidence that occurred during their life times. Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people. For example, some of the stories of Alexander's conquests, or Nero starting the fire in Rome always get questioned or doubted because they contain inconsistencies or come from authors who wrote years after the alleged facts. In qualifying the history of Alexander, Pierre Briant writes, "Although more than twenty of his contemporaries chronicled Alexander's life and campaigns, none of these texts survive in original form. Many letters and speeches attributed to Alexander are ancient forgeries or reconstructions inspired by imagination or political motives. The little solid documentation we possess from Alexander's own time is mainly to be found in stone inscriptions from the Greek cities of Europe and Asia." [Briant]...
A stone in a dry creek bed in New
Mexico, discovered by early settlers in the region, is one of the most amazing
archaeological discoveries in the Western Hemisphere. It contains engraved on
its flank the entire Ten Commandments written in ancient Hebrew script! Hebrew
scholars, such as Cyrus Gordon of Brandeis University near Boston, have vouched
for its authenticity. I visited the site of the huge boulder, near Las Lunas,
New Mexico, in 1973 and photographed the Hebrew inscriptions. A local newspaper
reporter guided me to the mysterious site, located out in the middle of the New
Mexico desert. We watched for rattlesnakes, as we hiked in to the spot where the
boulder lies, unmoved and in situ for who knows how many mysterious centuries.
Who put it there? Who wrote the
incredible inscription of the TEN COMMANDMENTS in an ancient Hebrew dialect? In
December, 1989, it was reported that an American explorer in Peru's highland
jungles had found evidence that indicated king Solomon's legendary gold mines
may have been in that region. The explorer, Gene Savoy, declared that he had
found three stone tablets containing the first writing found from the ancient
civilizations of the Andes. The inscriptions, he reported, are similar to
Phoenician and Hebrew hieroglyphs! Reports the San Francisco Chronicle: "The
hieroglyphs on the tablets are similar to those used in King Solomon's time and
include one identical to the symbol that always appeared on the ships he sent to
the legendary land of Ophir, which the Bible described as the source of his
gold, Savoy said" (December 7, 1989).Savoy is no newcomer to archaeological
discoveries. He was the discoverer of the last Inca city of Vilcabamba in 1964.
Savoy declared that the three tablets each weigh several tons and measure about
5 by 10 feet. They were found in a cave near Gran Vilaya, the immense ruins of
the Chachapoyas Indian civilization which he discovered in 1985. This discovery
is not surprising to me. In my book Beyond Star Wars, I suggest strongly that
ancient Peru was the site of the mysterious "land of Ophir."
Hebrews in the Americas 1,000 B.C.?
In 1973, while traveling to do research for an article I was writing for The
Plain Truth magazine, I visited with Dr. Joseph Mahan in Atlanta, Georgia, an
expert in ancient Indian ethnology of the southeastern Indians of the United
States. He showed me samples of pottery uncovered from the waters around the
Bahamas, and told me of Indian legends, including that of the Yuchis, stating
they had migrated to the area of Florida and Georgia from the region of the
Bahamas. According to their legends, the island sank beneath the sea and they
fled for their lives.
the Bible does not specifically describe the instrument that Jesus died upon,
tradition has it that he was put to death on a cross; consisting of a stake and
a crossbeam. The Greek stauros is sometimes used to describe a simple stake, and
other times a more complex form such as the cross. To determine what appearance
the stauros took in Jesus' death, we need to consider what the Greek language
tells us, what history tells us, and most importantly, what the Bible tells us.
Furthermore, we must consider the significance of the stauros to the Christian,
and whether it is a subject of shame or of great joy.
The New International
Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about the Greek stauros:
Corresponding to the vb. (stauroo) which was more common, stauros can mean a
stake which was sometimes pointed on which an executed criminal was publicly
displayed in shame as a further punishment. It could be used for hanging (so
probably Diod. Sic., 2, 18, 2), impaling, or strangulation. stauros could also
be an instrument of torture, perhaps in the sense of the Lat. patibulum, a
crossbeam laid on the shoulders. Finally it could be an instrument of execution
in the form of a vertical stake and a crossbeam of the same length forming a
cross in the narrower sense of the term. It took the form either of a T (Lat.
crux commissa) or of a + (crux immissa). (Vol. 1, page 391) The Greek word xylon
can mean "wood, a piece of wood, or anything made of wood," and can refer to a
cross as well, as pointed out in Vine's Expository Dictionary, Vol. 4, p. 153.
Historical findings have
substantiated the traditional cross. One finding is a graffito1
dating to shortly after 200 A.D., taken from the walls of the Roman Palatine. It
is a drawing of a crucified ass; a mockery of a Christian prisoner who worships
Christ. The Romans were no doubt amused that Christians worshiped this Jesus
whom they had crucified on a cross. In June of 1968, bulldozers working north of
Jerusalem accidentally laid bare tombs dating from the first century B.C. and
the first century A.D. Greek archeologist Vasilius Tzaferis was instructed by
the Israeli Department of Antiquities to carefully excavate these tombs...