On historicity of Jesus


I have been reading Albert Schweitzer’s autobiography and in there he talks about his book the quest for historical Jesus which if you have not read yet, I suggest you do. But that’s not what caught my eye. He mentions the works of J. M Robertson, William Benjamin Smith, James George Frazer, Arthur Drews as those who have contested the historical existence of Jesus.

He writes

It is not difficult to pretend that Jesus never lived. The attempt to prove it, however, invariably produces the opposite conclusion. In the Jewish literature of the first century the existence of Jesus is not attested to with any certainty, and in the Greek and Latin literature of the same period there is no evidence for it at all. Of the two passages in his Antiquities in which the Jewish writer Joseph’s makes incidental mention of Jesus one was undoubtedly interpolated by Christian copycats.[…. ] It still has to be explained when, where and how Christianity originated without either Jesus or paul; how it later came to trace its origins back to these mythical personalities; and finally for what curious reasons they, both Jewish, were designated as the founders of Christianity. To prove that the gospels and epistles are not genuine one has to explain how they were written without being authentic.

Out of my life and thought: an autobiography

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

22 thoughts on “On historicity of Jesus

  1. Ark says:

    It still has to be explained when, where and how Christianity originated

    And let’s not forget why

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My take is that there were numerous figures in first century Israel that fit Jesus’ historical profile, and his name (Yeshua) was a common one for the time. And to Schweitzer’s point, someone started the religious movement.

    At some point, this becomes like the old scholarly joke that the Iliad was not written by Homer, but by another poet with the same name.

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    • makagutu says:

      To Schweitzer, this

      there were numerous figures in first century Israel that fit Jesus’ historical profile, and his name (Yeshua) was a common one for the time

      is not sufficient to explain Christianity.

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      • I’m sure he thinks something supernatural was required. But Bart Ehrman, in his book, The Triumph of Christianity, notes that it only took a modest growth, year after year, for centuries, for Christianity to be a substantial minority of the empire’s population by Constantine’s time.

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        • makagutu says:

          He actually thinks that Jesus had to exist to be the source of the narrative. That he and Paul developed Christianity from the existing eschatology of Judaic thought.

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          • Ah, ok. Well, to some extent he’s probably right. Although based on what I’ve read, Christianity continued developing after Paul. The gospels, for instance, were all written after he died. And there was considerable theological development over the following centuries. A Christian from Paul’s time would find the Christianity of 325 CE pretty different.

            Liked by 1 person

            • makagutu says:

              That Christian would not identify today’s Christianity and Christians, I think.
              The question really is whether the gospels are historical. I think once we get to the bottom of this, the other questions are almost all moot

              Liked by 1 person

      • basenjibrian says:

        Explain Mormonism or Scientology. Founded in relatively modern times yet with millions of acolytes. Perhaps Xenu intervened? Or God came down off his special planet to spread the faith.

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  3. Ah, I’m sick’a this Jesus stuff!!! I’m gonna do something important with my time and prove the historical accuracy of Luke Skywalker! Now, there’s a worthwhile endeavor.

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  4. Jesus might have been a well-intentioned prophet in reforming the Jewish faith, trying to give it a more progressive appeal.
    What Jesus did not understand was the historical context of the Jewish fate. By the time of Jesus Judaism had already fifteen hundred years lasting cultural history behind, it had become more than a religion, it had become cooperation of fate. Those historical experiences had fermented and solidified, were culture and believe had become personalised. It was not a religion from above, hierarchical and state-controlled, and it had penetrated their blood.
    They all carried the common understanding and pride being the first (arguably) of having invented and developed monotheism that had distinguished them from all other cultures around them.
    Did Jesus understand those complexities; did he understand what he was against up to?
    Judaism, not like Christianity, which is a religion of missionaries, imposed and hierarchical administered, has evolved from original roots, manifested in history and culture, which might explain its strength and endurance.
    Context?

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  5. It is irrelevant if Christ did exist or not, the point I am trying to make is, that the cat got out of the bag! And now we have to deal with the infestation of the oppressive dictatorships of Christianity and Islam. Christ or whoever it was who had intended to reform Judaism, did not know what they were doing. I have not come across any Jew who feels dictated or oppressed by her or his religion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. landzek says:

    Before mass media, people and ideas became popular Becuase people resonated with them, that is, could see a common experience was occcurring between some people— not all people.

    This common experience was noted by individuals as particularly unique such that using conventional idioms were not sufficient to communicate its truth.

    Jesus Christ. Was probably merely one person who came accross this particular experience of Christ Being in the “new context” of the Western developing consciousness. The discrepancy was caught upon by others who likewise came upon such an experience.

    Due to such an experince literally resonating with being human, the same way the Blues music resonated with white people even though no commercial promotion was needed.

    Over time the original resonance gave way to a “marketed” experience. That always deferred the original experience to history. Just like the development of music genres.

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