Why are there no contemporary accounts of Jesus?

Buff Jesus

An essay containing a list the supposed historical Jesus’s contemporaries who likely would have written about him if, as is claimed in Mark, he his public appearances were attracting thousands of people. Good reference material.

While some apologists attempt to wave this problem away by claiming that “Jesus” would not have been a noteworthy figure, this apologetic tactic contradicts what the Gospels say about Jesus. One cannot hold, at the same time, that the Gospels are true eyewitness accounts of actual events, AND that the Jesus figure in those works would not attract the attention of men like Philo, Pliny or Seneca. It’s an absurd contradiction.
Even the relatively sober account of Jesus found in the first gospel, The Gospel of ‘Mark’, presents us with a Jesus who garnered quite a bit of attention. Consider for example, Mark 2:1-12, where the crowd coming to see Jesus is so great, that a paralytic has to be lowered through the roof of a building Jesus is in, in order for Jesus to see him. Elsewhere Mark tells us that the crowds that Jesus drew were so overflowing that he has to lecture from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus travels from Bethany to Jerusalem, throngs of people line the roads to welcome him. Mark also tells us of how Jesus performed miracles before thousands: on two different occasions Jesus feeds thousands through miracles.[2]
In short, ‘Mark’ gives us a ‘Jesus’ who is bigger than the Beatles, and I believe the Beatles analogy is a good one: we even have a nice parallel between the story of Jesus’ lecture from a ship at Galilee, and the Beatles famous ‘rooftop’ audition, where they were forced to play an impromptu concert on a rooftop, lest the crowds that would rush to see them cause a riot. In both cases, the crowds had reached, hysterical, historically noteworthy, proportions. Yet, John E. Remsberg, in ‘The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence'[3] makes the curious observation that no one from this era wrote a single word about the Jesus Hysteria. Remsberg notes: “(While) Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library, (no where)… in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged brief passages in the works of a Jewish author (Josephus), and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.”

A Silence That Screams

(Thanks Paul!)

The Bible Doesn’t Say Jesus was Crucified, Christian Scholar Claims

Historical Jesus

I’ve read before that although the Romans kept meticulous records of crucifixions, there is no surviving record of a Jewish radical from Nazareth being crucified in the claimed time period. I don’t have references handy, but I can dig some up if anyone’s interested. Christian scholars, when presented with this lack of evidence, have sometimes argued the lack of a record is due to the fact that Jesus was crucified by Jews, not by Romans. However, this Christian scholar actually argues that Jesus wasn’t crucified at all:

The legend of his execution is based on the traditions of the Christian church and artistic illustrations rather than antique texts, according to theologian Gunnar Samuelsson.

He claims the Bible has been misinterpreted as there are no explicit references the use of nails or to crucifixion – only that Jesus bore a “staurus” towards Calvary which is not necessarily a cross but can also mean a “pole”. […]

The ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew literature from Homer to the first century AD describe an arsenal of suspension punishments but none mention “crosses” or “crucifixion.”

Mr Samuelsson, of Gothenburg University, said: “Consequently, the contemporary understanding of crucifixion as a punishment is severely challenged.

“And what’s even more challenging is the same can be concluded about the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. The New Testament doesn’t say as much as we’d like to believe.”

Telegraph: Jesus did not die on cross, says scholar

(via Dangerous Meme)

However, I would expect the Romans would have kept records of all executions, crucifixions or not, though I suppose the “he was executed by Jews” caveat would still apply.

Samuelsson also claims “That a man named Jesus existed in that part of the world and in that time is well-documented. He left a rather good foot-print in the literature of the time.” My understanding is that there are no surviving contemporary accounts of Jesus, but I could be wrong.

(I still subscribe the “composite character” theory of Jesus – he was based on several historical Jewish radicals, not a historical single person, and later sexed up with Pagan mythology to make Christianity more palatable)

See also:

Paul Verhoeven’s book on Jesus

The God Who Wasn’t There

Jesus Never Existed

What Did Jesus Do?

The Historical Jesus FAQ

What did Jesus do?


Adam Gopnik reviews recent literature deciphering the gospels:

And yet a single figure who “projects” two personae at the same time, or in close sequence, one dark and one dreamy, is a commonplace among charismatic prophets. That’s what a charismatic prophet is: someone whose aura of personal conviction manages to reconcile a hard doctrine with a humane manner. The leaders of the African-American community before the civil-rights era, for instance, had to be both prophets and political agitators to an oppressed and persecuted people in a way not unlike that of the real Jesus (and all the other forgotten zealots and rabbis whom the first-century Jewish historian Josephus names and sighs over). They, too, tended to oscillate between the comforting and the catastrophic. Malcolm X was the very model of a modern apocalyptic prophet-politician, unambiguously preaching violence and a doctrine of millennial revenge, all fuelled by a set of cult beliefs—a hovering U.F.O., a strange racial myth. But Malcolm was also a community builder, a moral reformer (genuinely distraught over the sexual sins of his leader), who refused to carry weapons, and who ended, within the constraints of his faith, as some kind of universalist. When he was martyred, he was called a prophet of hate; within three decades of his death—about the time that separates the Gospels from Jesus—he could be the cover subject of a liberal humanist magazine like this one. One can even see how martyrdom and “beatification” draws out more personal detail, almost perfectly on schedule: Alex Haley, Malcolm’s Paul, is long on doctrine and short on details; thirty years on, Spike Lee, his Mark, has a full role for a wife and children, and a universalist message that manages to blend Malcolm into Mandela. (As if to prove this point, just the other week came news of suppressed chapters of Haley’s “Autobiography,” which, according to Malcolm’s daughter, “showed too much of my father’s humanity.”)

New Yorker: What Did Jesus Do?

See also: Paul Verhoeven talks about his new book on Jesus

(Thanks Paul)

Paul Verhoeven talks about his new book on Jesus

Paul Verhoeven

I saw Verhoeven speak about his new book Jesus of Nazareth last night. It was a great talk and I really look forward to reading the book. I particularly liked the comparison of the last year of Jesus’s life with the final year of Che Guevara’s life.

Here’s an interview Verhoeven did with a local alt weekly:

WW: Many books have been written about Jesus, at least one of which is still in print. So why this book, and why now?

Paul Verhoeven: You could argue that nearly all books that are written about Jesus where people have done thorough research, are written by Christians. And here is somebody [me] who looks at it from a completely secular point of view. So I think that would be interesting for people who also have their doubts about divinity, but are still perhaps interested in the figure of Jesus, as a historical person who changed the whole world by his teachings. That’s what it is all about and not, not in my opinion, that Jesus was elevated to divine status. That, I think, was a mistake.

You’re trying to restore what you see as his ecumenical ethics to the man himself.

Yeah, clear. In my opinion Jesus was wrong about certain things, but even as he was really wrong in thinking that the Kingdom of God was going to be there shortly, and that the exorcisms were approved, at the same time—I call it a paradox nearly—he invented these parables, and the parables are expression of an innovative ethics.

Willamette Week: The man who made RoboCop dies for our sins.

Nina Hagen writing a book on Jesus

German punk pioneer and scandal queen Nina Hagen is writing a book about Jesus, she said on her website Thursday. […]

“Nina tells how she, at an early age in an atheist environment, came upon a forbidden but fascinating being named God. She takes the reader with her on a wild road movie in which she has demonic experiences in an Indian ashram.

“On the way, she looked love, drugs and death in the eye. But above all, she encountered God.”

AFP: German hell-raiser Nina Hagen pens Jesus book

(via Religion News)

Axial Tilt celebration season links

axial tilt is the reason for the season

satan santa evil twins

Snopes: Christmas myths confirmed or debunked

Most of my other favorite links are compiled in my Ontological Terrorism for the Holidays article.

Goldman Sachs Official Says Jesus Embraced Greed

I didn’t believe this story was true at first — thought it had to be a spoof. But it turns out to be true. The great banks of the world have gone on a p.r. counteroffensive in Europe, and are sending spokescrooks in shiny suits into churches to persuade the masses that Christ would have approved of the latest round of obscene bonuses.

Goldman Sachs international adviser Brian Griffiths explains it this way: that Christ’s famous injunction to love others as one would love oneself actually means that one should love oneself as one would love oneself. This seemingly baffling outburst by a Goldman executive in what appears to have been a prepared speech — someone actually wrote this, and thought about it, before saying it out loud — gets even weirder when one tries to figure out what could possibly have motivated this person, and by extension his employer Goldman Sachs, to make such statements in such a place as St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Matt Taibbi: Goldman One-Ups Gordon Gekko, Says Jesus Embraced Greed

Update: Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while will be familiar with The Family. Reader Joe points out in the comments:

This shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who has read Jeff Sharlet’s book _The Family_. This rhetoric is straight out of their play book. This guy is likely a member (he *spoke at* the funeral of Wallace Haines, The Family’s ‘man in Europe’, in 2007). http://www.wallacehaines.com/inmemoryof.htm

The plot sickens.

Ontological Terrorism for the Holidays

santa shroom

(Above: a holiday card taken from the Amanita muscaria – Holiday Cards gallery)

Christmas is always a good time of year for ontological terrorism. For example, “The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus” by Dana Larsen from Cannabis Culture Magazine is one of my favorite links to spread around Christmas time. Larsen makes the case that though Santa Claus is now a symbol of our annual collective consumer-orgy, he may originally have been inspired by amanita muscaria mushroom eating shamans. That the very same politicians that enforce and promote the war on drugs tend to also whole heartily endorse a religious figure birthed of ancient drug culture amuses me to no end. Larsen’s idea, apparently taken from Jonathan Ott, might not pass skeptics’ muster. But most, if not all, of Christmas traditions stem from pagan practices.


Another of my favorite Christmas links is Patrick Farley‘s Chick tract parody about the pagan roots of Christmas. But Chick himself is all too aware of the Christianizing of pagan practices and publishes tracts warning Christians against paganism. In Are Roman Catholics Christians?, Chick portrays Roman Catholicism as a pagan religion. In The Death Cookie he compares communion with various pagan traditions, and in Fairy Tales a kid goes on a murder spree when he learns that there is no Santa.

chick tract

What you’ll never see acknowledged in the Chick tracts is that it’s not just Santa with pagan origins: the real “reason for the season” has pagan roots as well. What better holiday gift can you give your Christian loved ones this holiday season than an e-mail with a link to jesusneverexisted.com? In addition to covering the lack of historical evidence that Jesus ever existed, they take a look at pagan sources of “son of god” myths and Christ’s various predecessors such as Osiris, Apollo, Hercules, and Odin.

Alas, even the staunchest of atheists, like Dawkins and Sam Harris celebrate Christmas with their families, according to the New York Times. And despite my misgivings about consumer-binging and hazardous winter travel, I too find myself celebrating Christmas every year. Astronomer Carolyn Porco has argued in favor of creating science rituals and customs to replace religion:

Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way. Or others rejoicing in the nuclear force that makes possible the sunlight of our star and the starlight of distant suns. And can’t you just hear the hymns sung to the antiquity of the universe, its abiding laws, and the heaven above that ‘we’ will all one day inhabit, together, commingled, spread out like a nebula against a diamond sky?.

And in a recent Reason Magazine column Greg Beato has made the case for an increase in atheist or secular humanist merchandise, along the insane lines of Christian merchandising. Neither one of these things has much appeal to me. As Beato says, “One virtue of non-belief is that not every aspect of your life has to be yoked to some clingy deity who feels totally left out if you don’t include Him in everything you do.”

Yet, I’ve come up with an idea for a “secular humanist” celebration for December 25th, for anyone dying for something to celebrate. In Divine Horseman, Maya Deren describes the loa Ghede Nimbo as the first human who ever lived (page 38). Michael Bertiaux’s hypersyncretic Voudon Gnostic Workbook describes Baron Legbha-Nibbho as a Christ figure (page 48) and says that his death is to be recognized on Fridays. This gave me the idea of celebrating the 25th as the birth of the very first human. Not as a Voudon loa, but as a secular humanist celebration of the origin of our species.

Zeitgeist: Addendum released on the web for free

The second film, Zeitgeist: Addendum, attempts to locate the root causes of this pervasive social corruption, while offering a solution. This solution is not based on politics, morality, laws, or any other “establishment” notions of human affairs, but rather on a modern, non-superstitious based understanding of what we are and how we align with nature, to which we are a part. The work advocates a new social system which is updated to present day knowledge, highly influenced by the life long work of Jacque Fresco and The Venus Project.

More info: Zeitgeist the Movie

The Jesus myth may not have been unique, but part of a recognized Jewish tradition

A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Full Story: New York Times

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