In a previous post, I mentioned various things in the Bible that I consider to be fiction: God, Jonah and Noah, along with the entirety of the Bible itself. I did not mention Jesus and someone has taken me to task for that. I replied with a bit of a (admittedly) confusing double negative, which I won't bother to reprint here because it really was confusing.
So do I believe that Jesus was a fictional character? First of all, this is not the sort of question that I am qualified to answer definitively, so I will not attempt to do so. From what I can gather, there may well have been some sort of actual person named Jesus (or some variation thereof), and he may have even done some of the things that are described in the Bible. But the things that make him an important, significant and necessary element in the Christian faith I wholeheartedly reject as false: the virgin birth, all of the miracles and the resurrection.
In his comments to me, (which I sincerely appreciate) Makarios lists a large number of historical examples that are supposed to convince me that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the dead. The examples do not cite the Bible as a source, which is fantastic. They are independent, secular writings that mention Jesus in one way or another. I have not heard of many of the writers he mentioned and I will certainly do my best to research them for myself. But the thing is, historical writing is not - forgive the term - gospel. As time advances and technology improves, journalism and historical writing improve alongside, but even now there are glaring holes in what we know about recent events. Consider the assassination of JFK - cameras everywhere, eyewitnesses aplenty and still there is debate about how many shooters there were (that's a nod to conspiracy theorists - I do not mean to imply that there is truly mystery in this case, but there is enough reasonable doubt for some people to seek alternate explanations). We are accustomed to taking current news stories with a grain of salt to account for misperception and journalistic bias. How much salt do you need to take to accept the disperate and fragmentary (and often contradictory) writings of people who lived years, decades and even centuries after the facts that they are claiming? The writings themselves have been translated, miscopied and tampered with for centuries. Add to that the fantastic claim that a man - not just a man, a god! - rose from the dead and then ascended into heaven. I'm sorry, but I really do need more than a few lines by a handful of historians. I am not going to trot out examples of my own, the well-worn rebuttals of Josephus and the gospel writers themselves. These rebuttals are almost as well known as the claims themselves and need no repetition here.
The next part of the Jesus argument is that no one would have died for such a cause if it were not true - at least, if they did not believe it were true. Well then I present to you the terrorists of 9/11 and the unfortunates of the Heaven's Gate cult. Does their devotion to (what we would consider) patently false claims make them true?
I will also mention here that the tale of Jesus is not unique. Many, many stories have been told of men sent from heaven, often born of virgin mothers, who died and were resurrected. I do not bring this up as proof that Jesus was a myth but as a reminder that those who lived during those times would have been familiar with this storyline. Their thinking and assumptions would have been informed by these tales. So just because Mark (allegedly) wrote an account 70 years after the fact it does not mean that the events actually happened.
Makarios concludes his comments:
'The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus demands a verdict. With the evidence so overwhelmingly pointing to the fact of His resurrection, one can do three things:
. Submit to Jesus as Lord and Saviour - Or
. Lie to yourself that none of this proves anything - Or
. Say to yourself, “I don’t care if God is real, I’m going to live my life, my way.”'
I reject (obviously) those options as the only ones, because I do not believe that the evidence provided does point overwhelmingly in favor of his resurrection. I will do some research, but I'll admit that I don't have high hopes. If the evidence were, indeed overwhelming, then there would be no doubt at all. Faith would not be a virtue, much less essential. Faith is essential preciesly because the evidence is so thin. If I do find evidence that I consider irrefutable and compelling, I will convert, and happily so. Who doesn't want to live forever with 42 delicious raisins?