Historical Jesus - a futile search.

Who was Jesus?

Jesus was a man who was born of a virgin, preached in Galilee, killed by Romans in Jerusalem and resurrected on the third day.
I did not say, god, even though Christians insist that he is a god. If we say he is a god and not a man; it is a tacit admission that he is mythological and not historical. Then there is no point in discussing a historical Jesus. The argument is over even before it started. Physical and biological laws, we have to assume, is the same in history as it is now. Therefore, a historian, by the very nature of his subject has to look for natural explanations. Supernatural has no role in history, so using god as an explanation transfers it to the mythical than historical. Otherwise, there is no point in keeping the distinction between history and myths. Anyone who wants god/supernatural as an explanation should look to mythology, not history.
By this, we can exclude all the demons and angel stories from the gospels. The virgin birth and Resurrection can have natural explanations so let us consider that.
Now let us see where the story stands in the light of a history.
Virgin birth: - Suppose you hear that your unmarried neighbor is pregnant, will you think that it is a divine birth, even if the woman herself insist that it is?
We always insist on a natural cause. So why do we suppose that the natural laws were any different 2000 years back? If the lady in question was pregnant before marriage there are only two explanations, either that someone impregnated her (illegitimate) or that the story is entirely false. Why false? Because it was common in ancient times for famous men to be thought of us divine or sons of the divine, to account for their skills. The story was invented by the hero himself or by his followers. Alexander said he was the son of a god while Augustus Caesar was ‘divi filius’(son of god) for his followers.
Therefore, when it comes to the Jesus’ birth story, we can have reasonable doubt that the story itself was a later creation rather than the former option. Why, because, the story was not mentioned in the first written gospel (Mark) but only in its plagiarized later versions. The two birth stories contradict each other in details. In addition, the authors, themselves were not the eyewitness, as there couldn’t be any eyewitness as, 1) the story is known only to the protagonists which cannot be known to the authors or anyone else and 2) the protagonists are all dead by the time the story was written.
So let us discount the virgin birth and rewrite what we know,
Jesus was a preacher who lived in Galilee, killed by Romans in Jerusalem, and resurrected on the third day.
Resurrection: - Now, let us take the resurrection story, what do you think if you hear a resurrection story now? Undoubtedly, you will say that the doctors mistakenly pronounced the person dead. Here there are two options, 1) Misdiagnosed as dead and 2) made up just like the virgin birth. Therefore, we can be sure that if it is not the former then latter. It cannot be the former because Jesus was crucified and was kept in a cave. Even if he had lost consciousness on the cross and mistaken to be dead, the torture, the exhaustion, the piercing by the spear while on the cross and the two-day trial (dehydration, exsanguinations) inside a covered cave was enough to cause death. Though there is a reason for suspicion about the possibility that he did not die, but escaped, from the accounts that he was moving incognito and never revealed him to the masses. However, that is ruled out as a fake story because the first author – Mark, did not know about that, the women who saw the empty tomb did not reveal it to anyone. The authors who described the ‘after death stories’ did not agree with each other and the story gets elaborated as it passed from author to author, should also raise our suspicion. In addition, nothing about him was known after the event. We have to conclude that even if he somehow escaped the ordeal, he was dead soon after. So whether he was dead immediately or later, we have to conclude that the resurrection was entirely made up. It was also not a coincidence that many hero stories that were popular, like Romulus or Innana, had the resurrection. If we can conclude that, if his followers, who might not have believed in such resurrection, were not actively trying to fool others, were simply mistaking the various visions they had as resurrection. We cannot blame them for only now we know that vivid dreams and hallucination naturally occur without any reality behind it.
Now our story is reduced to a preacher of Galilee killed in Rome. However, why should a preacher of Galilee be killed by Rome, especially since he was not known to anyone (which can be deduced from the fact that there was no mention of him anywhere outside the gospels)? Why did the Jews not kill him if they really wanted that? Why should priests in Jerusalem kill a preacher only known in Galilee, especially since his teachings were not much different from the Pharisees? The standard answer is that Jews did not have the authority to do that. However, as we can see from the Acts, Stephen was killed by Jews, without any permission from the Romans. There is also a story in the gospels (John 8) where a woman about to be stoned was taken to Jesus for his opinion. That tells us that, the death story is also a fabrication. Our deduction gets more credibility if we consider that the whole passion story is not only contradictory but has episodes which no one can know (the disciples were sleeping in Gethsemane, but the author know exactly what happened). We should also consider that the priests should also be made to kill an unknown person. OK, he may be arrested for creating disturbances in the temple, but when did that happen? In the beginning of his mission according to one and at the end according to another, but if it is at the beginning, who is going to remember and recognize him after one to three years (depending on which version you reads)? If it is at the end, there is definitely a chance that the Romans might have caught and executed him. But the gospels are unanimous that it was the Jews wanted him dead, who handed him to the Romans. Romans could not identify him for all the disturbances he caused. Even the Jews could not identify him (so got the help of his disciple) whom they desperately want dead should raise our suspicion. In addition, in such a huge complex, a slight disturbance, which might be happening almost regularly, is it enough to make the Romans wait until night to arrest him instead of arresting immediately. In addition, the gospels say the Romans didn’t want to kill him.
On the other hand, was it the circus he did by riding a donkey and colt that attracted attention? There the Jews might be offended but not the Romans. Even if Jesus was making a point there (that he is king), who will notice a man coming on a donkey (unless he was riding both the colt and donkey at the same time), unless they were seeing a donkey for the first time, which obviously they were not. Are we to suppose that the priests were roaming around that huge complex looking for anyone who rides a donkey? In addition, even if they saw and understood, with more fanatics like the Sicarii to consider, unlike someone would be considered a madman at the most and mostly unknown, for after the show he simply moved away, why should they be more bothered. Even if he was mistaken for a terrorist, he was not important enough for both the Jewish priests and Pilate to be concerned about. He would be executed like a common criminal (instead of Pilate and Herod giving special hearings). If he was known to Herod, as the gospel alleges then we should have a contemporary reference, which is not there. We also have to consider that there were other preachers with followers (John the Baptist is a prominent example), zealots and reformers the Jewish priests mostly did not concern themselves with them. So they have no reason to be bothered by someone they have not even heard about. We see from history that it was the Romans who were bothered about them, not the Jewish priests. Here the Romans are the most reluctant accomplices. The reasons for the Jewish rage given in the gospels are also not convincing. We also have to take into account that the authors of gospels cannot know the trial. So we have to conclude that the trial and execution of Jesus by Romans was also made up just like the resurrection and virgin birth story
Now what is left, a preacher in Galilee probably killed by someone?
So shall we take any preacher in Galilee or Jerusalem as “our” Jesus? According to the gospels, his friends and relatives did not respect him and most of his followers were the dregs of the society. He also had imperial aspirations (according to the gospel – he wanted to be treated like a king e.g.: He wanted armed assistants to accompany him, want to enter Jerusalem on a donkey ‘fulfilling a king prophecy’, wanted everyone to love him more than their dear ones, wanted anointment with costly oils). We can obviously ignore the ‘multitudes’ the gospels say were following him because if it was so, someone would have noticed him and we could have some non-Christian references.
So our story becomes some outcast in Galilee probably killed by some authority or Judge. His followers would lament only if he was a very good man, unlike the ’Mafioso’ he was portrayed in the gospels. If he was a good man, there was no reason for anybody to kill him (We saw how Jews have no reason to kill him and gospels say Roman did not want to kill him). If he was killed, by a judge of some sort (as said in the gospels), then he was a Mafioso and not one to be lamented. [If he were a Robin Hood-like figure, he certainly would not act like a king among his followers. Even if he was a real Robin Hood, for him to be executed, then he would have been known, be noticed and pages were written on but the gospels do not give us any indication that he was such a figure]. If he were not to be lamented then there would not be a cult that would form around him.
The gospels were obviously lying in the most important details, so we have no reason to conclude that the gospels are telling the truth in the less important ones. Therefore, it follows that the gospels are a lie. Alternately, we have to say that the gospels are a purely religious book saying some religious/allegorical truth that has no relevance outside its followers. It is not some story that happened, by a method to convey the religions ‘truths’. As it happens, religious truths are mostly historical lies.

What is the conclusion?
 
Jesus was a common name then, and there would be many Jesus. There could be a Jesus among the many executed. So shall we take anyone among them as our Jesus? Then how can we say one executed Jesus is ours while another is not ours? No, any executed Jesus cannot be ours. Our Jesus should be someone who had a large following, who would be noticed by someone of import and who would have a good social standing, in spite of having humble beginnings, but still is considered an outlaw (more or less, may not be an official outlaw) and not an official.
Unfortunately, there was no Jesus that could fulfill these criteria. We see many Jesus in history like Jesus ben Ananias or Jesus be Damneus. Nevertheless, no Jesus we know can be the Jesus we are looking for, for he does not fulfill our criteria. In addition, any Jesus we cannot or do not know, cannot be ‘our’ Jesus for the criteria was that someone of import noticed him, that we have some reference (may not be detailed) of him.
To add to the confusion, we do not even know whether his name really was Jesus, for Paul says that the name was given after his death.
As there is no Jesus like that, we have to look for some other reason why the gospels were written especially as they are telling fictional (from the perspective of a historian) stories. It certainly was not based on a man who lived anywhere on earth.
So who was Jesus? Jesus was a celestial being who lived and died in heaven who later got an earthly existence as the followers increased and the story molded according to their need, as can be deduced from St. Paul’s epistles. The story started as the ‘suffering servant’ in Isaiah, to the Messiah in Daniel and other old testament and inter-testament books, then the Messiah in Paul and finally the Messiah of Mark and then John. So we can see that some of the stories are pre-Christian. As it was a story developed from the above sources and gospels are historical lies and cannot be historical as we concluded, there was no historical Jesus. There is no point in searching for one either.
There was no one who could fill the minimum criteria to be our Jesus, and even if we find someone no Christian, not even the Bible writers are going to agree that it was their Jesus. Moreover, it really does not matter whether Jesus lived in heaven or earth, for the religious. Similarly, the heavenly and religious questions are entirely irrelevant to the historian.
A criterion is essential
We just saw there was no historical Jesus or that possibility is the rarest of the rarest one. So let us assume that there was a historical Jesus for the historicists’ sake. Then why are the historicists agreeing with each other in the details?
Many historicists have come up with many different Jesuses, some say he was a preacher, some say he was a miracle worker, others say he was a faith healer. The question arises, which of them is correct. If there were a minimum criterion, at least we would not have to worry about the different Jesuses. Once we know which Jesus to search for, the search becomes easy and more focused. Even if it is difficult, we will at least know whether to search instead of pointing at so many imaginary people and say that is Jesus.
Without knowing what to search and searching for a vague historical Jesus, historicists are making a mistake. It is as if they have already agreed that Jesus is historical and searching for reasons to substantiate. What they should do instead is to establish the minimum criteria to recognize one as Jesus and see whether anyone can fulfill those criteria and then search. It is imperative that anyone should know what he or she should search before beginning the search. If there is none that can fulfill those criteria then there is no point in searching for one or insisting that Jesus is historical. As mythcisists and historicists are both historians, they should work out criteria by which they should search for a historical Jesus. Without a criterion, they will search for a non-existing needle in a haystack.
For a Christian, Jesus is not Jesus if he did not resurrect. For a historian, there can never be such a historical Jesus. Therefore, a historical Jesus that fulfills a Christian’s criteria is impossible and conversely, a historian’s Jesus can never be a Christians’ Jesus. We can clearly state that a Christian’s Jesus is a celestial/mythical (mythical –sacred legend) one. Historian has no role in a Christian’s Jesus while a Christian should not bother to prove his historical Jesus for in history, as we have seen, there is no supernatural. A historian will have to go for a natural explanation, always; otherwise, he is not a historian. This imperative cannot be slacked for anyone, even if it is the most preferred if we do not want to commit the fallacy of special pleading. History, by its very nature, has supernatural in it.
I have established a small criterion here, I am not saying that it is a foolproof criterion. However, something is always better than nothing is and people can always bring about better criteria. We also know what should be eliminated, in history virgin birth or resurrection or miraculous deeds have no role.
A preacher who was thought to perform miracles who was widely known or a charlatan who is not known can be our criteria, or a little-known reformer (not saying that should be) but that is not sufficient for there will be many. According to my criterion, there cannot be a historical Jesus, but if anyone can bring about working criteria with which we can search, you are welcome. Until then Jesus is a myth.
The lack of criteria is why different historicists come with different Jesuses. What they are doing is striping the gospels according to their wish and what remains, they call historical. What they should do instead is that establish the minimum criteria for historical Jesus and see whether anyone can fit that criterion and if they fit whether we have any evidence for them. If they want to insist that Jesus is historical, at least they should know and tell us what they mean by 'historical Jesus'. Gospels cannot be a source, for as we already saw it is all lies and a historical Jesus was not needed for those stories. Therefore, instead of striping gospels, which are not biographies, establish the minimum criteria.
Jesus historicity cannot be established nor disproven as long as there are no criteria with which we can pinpoint a historical Jesus. When we introduce (my) criteria, we can know that a historical Jesus is not possible and all searches for a historical Jesus are in vain. However, if there anybody can come with another criterion, criteria without supernatural in it, search, by all means. We may at least reach a conclusion instead of the bickering.

Why should we look for a historical Jesus?

It is clear that whatever criteria a historian comes up with,  he can never be the Bible, Jesus. We do not, cannot know what he said. If there ever was a real man behind Christianity, he was a rather obscure unknown man who may not even be named Jesus. It will not be this man but his followers that started Christianity. And the followers to start the religion they don't even need a real man. Literature of Jesus like figures are indeed pre Christian. It has all the precursors of a Christian religion as formed in history - different sects that coalesced and disjointed and various times in history. It turns that it is not one man but many who were behind Christianity and all had different names. The name Jesus was just a name for them because of what it implies - Yahweh saves. The earthy story was developed by Mark with plots copied from Homer's epics with the storyline as developed by Paul and his predecessors.  Alternatively, it can be an explanation of what Paul wrote. So what is the point in trying to pinpoint it to one man when obviously the origin of Christianity is the work of many, spanning over centuries?

No comments:

Post a Comment