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THE CATHOLIC BOOKLET, DID JESUS EXIST?

A Catholic Truth Society booklet called, Did Jesus Exist? gives many dubious arguments insisting that he did exist.

It insists that the gospels were written in the first century (4) against the evidence and ignores the possibility that they were confidential if they did exist that early. It says that Mark must be genuine and the work of Mark for if it were not it would have been ascribed to the apostle Peter (5) as if the authority that first made the ascription would necessarily have thought of Peter! There is no evidence for the Marcan ascription before late in the second century. And at best that evidence is merely gossip and hearsay.
 
Who was believed to have written it has nothing to do with its being authentic. What if everybody knew that Peter was against books and we don’t know? The forger would have decided then to pretend to be Peter’s associate who was writing the truth without Peter’s approval. Pages 8 and 9 respond to Wells (author of Did Jesus Exist? a book that says he did not) who wrote that if we believe in Lenin and no or hardly any evidence for him exists and nobody mentioned him we would have a strong argument from silence that he never existed. They tell us that this would show that Jesus did exist for we do have documents about him and nobody could invent a non-existent revolutionary who was spearheading the 1917 Revolution in Russia and get away with it. You can get away with it under certain circumstances and if you create a need to believe in the person.
 
Jewish tradition is held to back up the existence of Jesus on page 12 but this Jesus might not have been our Jesus but just somebody who he was based on. A fictitious character can be based on a real one and the character is still fictitious even if both characters bear the same name. If the Christians invented Jesus those who were embarrassed by this might have lied saying: “Oh Jesus was that guy that was hanged on the Eve of the Passover some decades ago. That was him you know.”
 
If you read the epistle of James you get the impression that the teaching of Jesus was plagiarised from that of James and perhaps events from the life of James were used to make stories up about Jesus.
 
A forged letter of St Paul’s, 1 Thessalonians 2:15 calls the Jews the people who put Jesus to death. Wells has expunged it as an insertion and is criticised for that (page 15). Wells is right for it was the Romans who crucified Jesus. (The Christian reply that the letter meant they indirectly crucified Jesus by getting the Romans to do it is unacceptable. It is just a speculative interpretation and makes words useless.) The statement of the booklet that Wells has no right to expunge it is slander. The passage accuses the Jews of killing Jesus and the prophets and of being foes to the whole world. This is simply anti-Semitic hysteria and incitement to hatred – the author might have lied to provoke hatred against the Jews. The next line says that the Jews sought to stop the apostles speaking to the Gentiles to convert them which is impossible to believe and it gloats that God’s wrath has visited them. Judaism was a racist religion and didn’t care what the Gentiles believed. Perhaps the text was revised by a rabid hate-monger for later it preaches love to enemies (5:15). There is no doubt that we cannot trust what the letter says about the Jews killing Jesus.
 
Now, the letter also says that the Jews killed the prophets. The Jews were accused of killing prophets by Jesus before he founded the Church. Jews in the context can mean the whole Jewish race past and present. That means the letter does not contradict the view that the Jews killed Jesus centuries before. It doesn’t help show that Jesus lived.
 
Perhaps it might be reasoned, “Jesus accused the Jews of killing the prophets meaning the Jews as a whole taking the Jews who had killed them in the past long before his generation into consideration. Maybe the Jews are being said to have killed Jesus in the same sense where the letter says they put Jesus to death though we know the Romans did it. The mention of the prophets would indicate that for the prophets mean the writers of the Old Testament and the author would have been specific if his own brand of prophets had been meant.”
 
Think again. Jesus is mentioned first and the prophets after, implying that Jesus might have died before these prophets. And why would the letter writer abuse the Jews here when it would have been enough and better to say it was an evil few? There were Jews in Thessalonica and he would have desired to convert them and not alienate them. The writer abused the Jews because they killed Jesus ages before and not in the first century for if Pilate had killed him he could have said so. It had to be ages for only centuries before could there have been a possibility that all the Jews had killed Jesus. He must have meant that the Jews killed him directly for we have no evidence that he could have meant indirectly through Pilate. Jesus might have been stoned and then crucified as a display by Jewish dissidents who did not mind that crucifixion was considered an unlawful method of execution for Jews for the writer never said that Jesus died on the cross. Or perhaps they nailed Jesus up as some kind of display knowing he was about to die anyway. It is important to realise that though the apostle Paul says only once that Jesus died on the cross (Philippians 2:8) and he says he bears the crucifixion marks of Jesus on his own body, he does not say that Jesus was nailed to the cross. If Jesus was tied there would still have been marks. Perhaps he was tied to the cross and stoned and these are the marks Paul means for Paul was certainly stoned a few times. These interpretations are probably right and they totally demolish the gospel account of the death of Jesus.
 
The Jews did not kill Jesus personally if he was crucified unless the Thessalonians author is supporting the Jewish Talmud which says that Jesus was hanged up for stoning on the Eve of the Passover.
 
The wrath the letter says was visited upon the Jews is probably the disaster of 70 AD which means the letter is a forgery for Paul was dead then. There is no other disaster that could have affected all the Jews at the time and the letter has it in for them all. So even if the letter did say Jesus was slain by Jews in recent times it would still not count as evidence for Jesus for it came from a liar’s quill.
 
Page 16 says that Paul said that a wife must stay with her husband and this is not from Paul but the Lord (1 Cor. 7) and this may be from oral tradition so Jesus must have existed. It says that this is the most simple and straightforward interpretation. That is a lie for Paul never hinted that he used oral tradition though he did expect others to use the verified tradition he started himself. Paul had a lot of visions so that is where it came from. The visions is the simplest explanation considering he had lots of them. He never asked the people to hold fast to the traditions about Jesus or even mentioned them but he did ask them to hold fast to the apostolic tradition embodied in himself. He did speak of visions, nothing else, so visions it is. The revelation about marriage came from a vision of Jesus.

The author of the booklet would have said if it had occurred to him that Wells was wrong to say that the persons who fleshed out Jesus the myth plotted him in the time of Pilate for that was a time of great suffering. He would say it would be silly to pick Pilate and then exonerate him and not to put Jesus in the time of Herod the Great which saw worse suffering. But the gospellers had to pick a time in which there was not so much excessive suffering but excessive crucifixions. And why not pick Pilate and then make excuses for what he did to please Roman readers? Also, the prophecy of Daniel concerning the seventy weeks seemed to the Church to have required that the Messiah die about the time of Pilate.
 
The author would be glad to know that Wells has come to believe not that Jesus existed but that he was based on some first century people on account of the Book of Q. Q is the alleged forerunner of Mark’s gospel which was allegedly used to help create the gospel and the other synoptic ones too. Q might only prove that there was some character that the Jesus character was modelled on but since it is so based on teaching that may be an overstatement. No two scholars agree on exactly what material in Mark constituted Q. A growing number hold that Q exists only in the imagination of the scholars for Mark could have invented and plagiarised from Pharisee teachers all the things he says Jesus said in his gospel without using any specific sources – people inventing stuff tend to subconsciously reproduce what they have heard or seen and that is all they need. The book of Q can be explained without a historical Jesus and it never says the son of God will be crucified on earth or gives any concrete statement that he was a real person and every single thing Mark, the first gospel, says happened during the execution of Jesus can be traced back to an Old Testament verse and anything that isn’t is just an elaboration of what was found in the Old Testament suggesting that the whole story was made up from the Jewish Bible (The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth, http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/partthre.htm). Christians complain that literary dependence of the gospellers on Q needs proof and then they say then that the commonality between the synoptics can be explained by there having been a historical Jesus! (What About the Discovery of Q? by Brad Bromling D.Min). The similarity suggests the contrary, that there was no Jesus and myths and legends or lies had to be used to make up his story because there is too much similarity. Eyewitness reports would have been very difficult to make tally especially in the wording of what Jesus said. The Christians will grasp at any straw no matter how silly it is to get people to agree with them.