“Key Data” in Proving Jesus’ Historicity – The Crucified Messiah
COVERED IN THIS POST:
- The conflict between messianic expectation and result
- Assumptions based on the Gospels and Acts
- Why did Paul persecute the early church?
- Paul’s gospel vs. Ehrman’s view of early church beliefs
- Christ as “curse” for being “hanged on a tree”
- Paul switching horses in mid-stream
- A new view of Christian origins
- The traditional Jewish Messiah
- Jesus as lower class Galilean peasant
- Who would make up a crucified Messiah?
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The Crucified Messiah
(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 156-174)
A conflict between expectation and history
To introduce his second piece of “Key Data” which confer a “high degree of certainty that (Jesus) was an historical figure,” (p. 144) Bart Ehrman offers this:
These early Christians from day one believed that Jesus was the messiah. But they knew that he had been crucified. (p. 156)
This is a good example of what happens when one’s thinking is stuck firmly inside the box. The point Ehrman is making is that the concept of the “messiah,” the expectation of what he would be and what he would do, conflicted with the fact that Jesus had been crucified. In other words, historical expectations were at odds with (alleged) historical events. But if that is indeed one’s starting assumption, and if it is wrong, then it will lead us down all sorts of problematic garden paths and into conclusions which are not only erroneous but unnecessary.
The first part of this assumption, entirely based on the Gospels and Acts, is that certain people made judgments about a certain historical man. If that were the case, then an anomaly would certainly exist between traditional ideas about the messiah and what the life of that man actually entailed. Why, then, the question arises, did those people come to such a judgment when it conflicted so much with standard messianic expectation?
But all we have to do is ask: what if no judgment was initially made about any historical man? Everything that follows would then be entirely different, and perhaps more amenable to understanding how Christianity began and showing a conformity to what some of the texts themselves are telling us.
Paul’s persecution of the church
For reasons that may not seem self-evident at first, claiming that Jesus was crucified is a powerful argument that Jesus actually lived. (p. 156)
Ehrman’s route to supporting this statement is a complicated one. He first calls attention to Paul’s persecution of the church in Judea prior to his conversion. He notes that Paul says nothing specific about what the beliefs of that early church were, or on what particular grounds it was subjected to persecution by the authorities, with himself acting as their agent. Nothing daunted, Ehrman steps into that breach. But because he has made the initial assumption that an historical man was interpreted as the messiah, he embarks on a chain of speculation which not only contains problems, but also looks to be completely off the path of reality. read more