Critics of the historicity of Jesus

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Critics of the historicity of Jesus could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.

See the main article on this topic: Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ
Robertson is prepared to concede the possibility of an historical Jesus … What the myth theory [of John Mackinnon RobertsonWikipedia] denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded.
Archibald RobertsonWikipedia[1]
Modern Christianity must always reckon with the possibility of having to abandon the historical figure of Jesus … he should never be considered its foundation.
Albert SchweitzerWikipedia[2][3]
As for the question of whether Jesus existed, the best answer is that any attempt to find a historical Jesus is a waste of time. It can’t be done, it explains nothing, and it proves nothing.
—Tom Dykstra[4]

This list in general (but not specifically) presents scholars and commentators who assert (or are at least sympathetic to the viewpoint) that Christianity and the New Testament writings can be explained without any reference to a historical Jesus. For example Philip R. Davies,Wikipedia who holds that the historicity of Jesus is more probable but writes, "the rise and growth of Christianity can be examined and explained without the need to reconstruct a particular historical Jesus."[5]

Viewpoint color legend[edit]

Despite many other flaws, the gospels support a rounded figure and a historical Jesus certainly existed.
The gospels do not support a rounded figure but a historical Jesus of some sort existed.
The gospels do not support a Jesus figure and a position of agnosticism is held on the historicity of Jesus.
Jesus is ahistorical.

A[edit]

B[edit]

Harry Elmer BarnesWikipedia (1889–1968) – American historian

Among the more eminent scholars and critics who have contended that Jesus was not an actual historical figure we mention Bruno BauerWikipedia, KalthoffWikipedia, DrewsWikipedia, Ste(u)delWikipedia, Felde(n)Wikipedia, Deÿe, JensenWikipedia, LublinskiWikipedia, BollandWikipedia, Van de(n) Berg(h)Wikipedia, VirolleaudWikipedia, CouchoudWikipedia, MasseyWikipedia, BossiWikipedia, NiemojewskiWikipedia, BrandesWikipedia, RobertsonWikipedia, MeadWikipedia, WhittakerWikipedia, CarpenterWikipedia and W. B. SmithWikipedia. While the writer does not concur in the extremely critical position taken by this group of writers, the very fact that so large a group of eminent scholars can earnestly maintain their thesis [is significant]...[6]

Rudolf BultmannWikipedia (1884–1976) – German theologian and professor of the New Testament

[Apart from the evidence sussedWiktionary by purely critical research] we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary; and other sources about Jesus do not exist.[7][8]

C[edit]

David Chumney – American freethinker and writer.

"If someone were to ask me, "Is there credible historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed?" I would say, "Yes, but precious little." If someone were to ask me, “Is some of what the gospels preserve about Jesus a product of pious imagination and religious devotion?” I would say, "Yes, nearly all of it." In other words, I am convinced that Jesus of Nazareth really did exist, but I am equally convinced that the Gospels comprise, as Randel Helms has said, "largely fictional accounts concerning an historical figure."[9][10]

D[edit]

Tom Dykstra – Independent scholar with a PhD in Renaissance Christianity and is published in the field of New Testament studies

How different is a mythical Christ from a historical Jesus that we can’t know much about with any degree of confidence? … It’s the New Testament Christ that Christianity is all about, not an imaginary historical Jesus that historians construct by accepting or rejecting various parts of the gospels by applying questionable criteria and by mining equally questionable extra-Biblical sources.[11]

E[edit]

Bart Ehrman (1955–) – American New Testament professor and author

It is true that the Gospels are riddled with other kinds of historical problems [separate from the historicity of Jesus] and that they relate events that almost certainly did not happen.[12]

F[edit]

Vardis FisherWikipedia (1895–1968) – American novelist

Was Jesus of Nazareth a historic person? We do not know, and unless documents turn up of which we have no knowledge we cannot hope ever to know. … says Schmiedel: "the view that Jesus never really lived has gained in ever-growing number of supporters. It is no use to ignore it, or to frame resolutions against it." [says] Weigell: "Many of the most erudite critics are convinced that no such person ever lived." Among those so convinced [that no such person ever lived], some of them internationally known scholars, are Bauer, B(ö)htlingk, Bolland, Bossi, E. Carpenter, Couchoud, D(u)puis, Drews, Dujardin, Fran(c)k(e), Hannay, Heulhard, Jensen, Kalthoff, Kulischer, Loman, Lublinski, Matthas, Mead, Naber, Pierson, Robertson, Rylands, G. Smith, W. B. Smith, Stahl, Van Eysinga, Virolleaud, Volney and Whittaker.[13]

David Fitzgerald (born 1964) – American atheist activist and writer.

Are the mythicists really on the fringe – or is it more accurate to say that the consensus breaks down on close inspection? In actuality, the difference between the majority opinion of secular biblical scholars and the mythicists is simply the ultimate conclusion; merely the tip of the iceberg. Both sides largely agree (sometimes reluctantly) on virtually all of the evidence serious mythicists build their case upon.[14]

G[edit]

Neil Godfrey

Certain Christ Myth proponents (Couchoud, Doherty, Carrier) have proposed the celestial origin of the Christ (Jesus?) figure but that leaves unaddressed the question of growth of the new belief system. Can anyone imagine Christianity getting a hold without the gospel narratives or something akin to those narratives? The point of the celestial origin perspective, from what I recall, is that it adapted into a set of narratives (allegorical at first, perhaps, but not necessarily) that involved that celestial figure descending to earth, to his people, in some form of fleshly aspect.

[...]

by the time Christianity is making some noticeable gains in society it has most certainly moved on from any supposed celestial origin. It is from the time Jesus is believed to have been "a man" visiting his people etc that the faith takes off in a more popular way.

The question of celestial origins of the Christ belief is about getting to — well — "the origins". But those arguments, at least the ones I am familiar with, also contain a part 2: that that celestial figure was "given flesh" by gospel-like narratives that present him as a human figure. I think the Gospel of Mark is an especially strong piece of evidence that those narratives originated as some sort of intertextual/midrashic type creativity.

Mythicists make a mistake if they merely argue for a celestial origin of Christ and leave it at that.[15]

[T]he position that Jesus had no historical existence … is in itself a perfectly legitimate theory entitled to serious discussion.[16]

H[edit]

R. Joseph HoffmannWikipedia (1947–) – American theologian and writer

I no longer believe it is possible to answer the 'historicity question'. … Whether the New Testament runs from Christ to Jesus or Jesus to Christ is not a question we can answer. [17]

J[edit]

K[edit]

Paul [is], admitting, after having preached a considerable number of years, that he knows nothing true of Jesus Christ, but that which Jesus Christ had revealed to himself; and expressly declaring that this had been a mystery kept secret since the world began, and was only then first preached by himself.

This declaration were there nothing else, would be sufficient to destroy all idea of the four gospels being authentic.[18]

L[edit]

Raphael Lataster (1984–) – Australian secular teacher of religious studies and writer

IT'S OFFICIAL: WE CAN NOW DOUBT JESUS' HISTORICAL EXISTENCE.[19]

Stephen LawWikipedia (1960–) – English philosopher and editor of the philosophical journal ThinkWikipedia

My concern … is with the claim that there is, indeed, historical evidence sufficient firmly to establish the existence of Jesus. Note that while I question whether there is, in fact, such historical evidence, I do not argue that we are justified in supposing that Jesus is an entirely mythical figure (I remain no less sceptical about that claim).[20]

M[edit]

N[edit]

O[edit]

P[edit]

  • Minas Papageorgiou (1983–) — Greek journalist and author
  • Allard PiersonWikipedia (1831–1896) – Dutch theologian and historian
  • Robert M. PriceWikipedia (1954–) – American theologian and writer

R[edit]

Archibald Robertson (1886–1961) – English civil servant and writer.

We know next to nothing about this Jesus. He is not the founder of anything that we can recognize as Christianity. He is a mere postulate of historical criticism—a dead leader of a lost cause, to whom sayings could be credited and round whom a legend could be written.[21]

J. M. RobertsonWikipedia (1856–1933) – Scottish journalist, politician and writer

[Even] though it is not recorded that any reports of Jesuine sayings existed in any form in Paul's time we are asked to believe that a multitude of Jesuine discourses delivered about the year 30 were accurately reproduced, without additions, forty or more years later; and that documents to which during a century anybody might add, in an age of habitual forgery, are valid evidence. Clearly this is the merest fanaticism. All that can rationally be claimed is that a teacher or teachers named Jesus, or several differently named teachers called Messiahs, may have Messianically uttered some of these teachings at various periods, presumably after the writing of the Pauline epistles.[22]

  • Nikolai Rumyantsev (1892–1956) – Russian historian.
  • L. Gordon Rylands (1862-1942) – British criminologist and writer.

S[edit]

René Salm

I am persuaded that the incipient Church invented the figure Jesus of Nazareth and did so in the second century of our era. That invention, however, was not of whole cloth. There was in fact a Jesus known to history and vilified in Talmudic annals as Yeshu ha-Notsri (literally, Jesus the Nazarene). This 'real' Jesus was born about one hundred years before the turn of the era and was tried and crucified by the Pharisees for apostasy and heresy. Please see my website www.mythicistpapers.com for more details.

Albert SchweitzerWikipedia (1875–1965) – German critical scholar who wrote a history of the research on the "Life of Jesus" [Leben-Jesu-Forschung].

Against the historicity of the oldest Gospel tradition

Arthur Böhtlingk (Professor in Karlsruhe), Zur Aufbellung der Christus-Mythologie (Towards the Elucidation of the Christ Mythology), Frankfurt am Main 1911, 15 pp.

Peter Jensen, Hat der Jesus der Evangelien wirklich gelebt? Eine Antwort an Professor Jilicher (Did the Jesus of the Gospels Really Live? A Reply to Professor Jiilicher), Frankfurt am Main 1910, 32 pp.

Ernst Krieck (teacher in Mannheim), Die neueste Orthodoxie und das Christusproblem (The Most Recent Orthodoxy and the Christ Problem, directed particularly against Weinel), Jena 1910, 63 pp.

Friedrich Steudel (Preacher at St Remberti, Bremen, grandson of Friedrich Steudel, the chief opponent of David Friedrich Strauss), Im Kampf um die Christusmythe (The Battle over the Christ Myth, directed against P. W. Schmeidel and Johannes Weiss in particular), Jena 1910, 119 pp.

Wir Gelebrten vom Fach (We Scholars on the Subject. A Polemical Treatise against von Soden’s ‘Did Jesus live?’), Frankfurt am Main 1910, 95 pp.

Heinrich Zimmern, Zum Streit um die Christusmythe. Das babylonische Material (The Christ Myth Controversy. The Babylonian Material), Berlin 1910, 66 pp.

Varia: Hat Jesus gelebt? (Did Jesus live?). Talks given at the Berliner Religionsgesprach of the German Society of Monists on 31 January and 1 February 1910 in the Berlin Zoological Garden: A. Drews, von Soden, F. Steudel, G. Hollmann, Max Fischer, F. Lipsius, H. Francke, T. Kappstein, Max Maurenbrecher, Berlin and Leipzig 1910, 93 pp.

Diskussion (journal) No.1, Lebte Jesus?, F. Steudel, H. Francke, H. Lhotsky, M. Maurenbrecher, M. Ruland, H. Buber, Berlin 1910, 57 pp.[23]

T[edit]

V[edit]

W[edit]

Z[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bultmann, Rudolf (1926) (in de). Jesus. Die Unsterblichen: Die geistigen Heroen der Menschheit in ihrem Leben und Wirken, Vol. 1. Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek. 
  • Bultmann, Rudolf (1934) [1926 in German] (in en). Jesus and the Word [Jesus]. New York: Scribner. 
  • Chumney, David (2017). Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-5441-2558-9. 
  • Dykstra, Tom (2015). "Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship". The Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS) 8 (1): 1–32. 
  • Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins–HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-220460-8. 
  • Fisher, Vardis (1956). Jesus Came Again: A Parable. Testament of Man, Vol. 8. Swallow Press. 
  • Guignebert, Charles (1933) (in fr). Jésus. L'Évolution de l'humanité,Wikipedia synthèse collective 29. Paris: La Renaissance du Livre. 
  • Guignebert, Charles (1956) [1933 in French] (in en). Jesus [Jésus]. New York: University Books. 
  • Lataster, Raphael (2016). "IT'S OFFICIAL: WE CAN NOW DOUBT JESUS' HISTORICAL EXISTENCE". Think 15 (43): 65–79. doiWikipedia:10.1017/S1477175616000117. ISSN 1477-1756. 
  • Law, Stephen (2011). "Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus". Faith and Philosophy 28 (2): 129–151.  doi:10.5840/faithphil20112821. (Available Online)
  • Robertson, Archibald (1946). Jesus: Myth or History?. Thinker's Library,Wikipedia No. 110. London: Watts & Co. 
  • Schweitzer, Albert (1913) [1906, 1st ed.] (in de). Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (2nd revised and expanded ed.). Tübingen: Mohr. 
  • Schweitzer, Albert (2001) [1913 in German] (in en). The Quest of the Historical Jesus [Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung]. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-4514-0354-1.  translated by John Bowden et al.

References[edit]

  1. Robertson 1946, p. 44.
  2. Schweitzer 1913, p. 512. "Das moderne Christentum muss von vornherein und immer mit der Möglichkeit einer eventuellen Preisgabe der Geschichtlichkeit Jesu rechnen."
  3. Schweitzer 2001, p. 402.
  4. Dykstra 2015, p. 29.
  5. Davies, Philip R. (2012). "Did Jesus Exist?".  The Bible and Interpretation.
  6. Barnes, Harry Elmer (1929). "Was Jesus an Historic Figure?". The Twilight of Christianity. New York: Vanguard Press. pp. 390–391. 
  7. Bultmann 1926, p. 10. "[W]ir vom Leben und von der Persönlichkeit Jesu so gut wie nichts mehr wissen können, da die christlichen Quellen sich dafür nicht interessiert haben, außerdem sehr fragmentarisch und von der Legende überwuchert sind, und da andere Quellen über Jesus nicht existieren."
  8. Bultmann 1934, p. 8.
  9. David Chumney ap.Tarico, Valerie (3 May 2017). "Fabricating Jesus — An Interview with Former Minister David Chumney".  AwayPoint.
  10. Chumney 2017.
  11. Dykstra, Tom (1 December 2012). "Did Jesus Exist?–-Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book".  Mandatory for Decent Human Life. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  12. Ehrman 2012, Ch. 6 §. The Gospels Contain Nonhistorical Materials.
  13. Fisher 1956, pp. 258–259.
  14. "Jesus Did Not Exist reviewed by David Fitzgerald". 6 September 2015.  Raphael Lataster. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  15. Comment by Neil Godfrey—17 February 2021—per "A Response to Dr Sarah, Geeky Humanist, on the Jesus Question". Vridar. 26 November 2018.
  16. Guignebert 1956, p. 64.
  17. Hoffmann, R. Joseph (2009). "Threnody: Rethinking the Thinking behind The Jesus Project". Archived from the original on 9 October 2009.  The Bible and Interpretation.
  18. Kneeland, Abner; Wyttenbach, Daniel Albert (1831). A review of the evidences of Christianity: in a series of lectures, delivered in Broadway hall, New York, August, 1829. To which is prefixed, an extract from Wyttenbach's Opuscula, on the ancient notices of the Jewish nation previous to the time of Alexander the Great. Office of the Investigator. p. 174. 
  19. Lataster 2016. "All caps §. Association with shouting"Wikipedia is the correct case and intention.
  20. Law 2011, §. The Consensus View.
  21. Robertson 1946, p. 107.
  22. Robertson, John MacKinnon (1910). Christianity and Mythology. Watts & Co.. p. 125. 
  23. Schweitzer 2001, p. 393.