This post is a first draft of an argument I am formulating as I continue to read Majella Franzmann’s “Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings“, and is partly posted in iidb.
We have NO primary or secondary historical evidence for Jesus comparable for our historical evidence for Julius Caesar (his own writing and references by contemporaries) or Alexander (coins).
The earliest references to Jesus in secular histories (found in Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius and Pliny) are either challenged by reasonable arguments as forgeries and/or contain no certain reference to a historical Jesus at all.
Our evidence for Jesus is nonhistorical (it is theological or theo-philosophical) and describes him as a being who is either not human — he is a heavenly agent, he walks on water, was not begotten by human sperm, rose from the dead, etc. — or is a human being possessed unnaturally by a spirit (at conception in the gospel of Philip and at baptism in the gospel of Mark) and who subsequently behaves and speaks unlike a real human being.
It is more plausible that a mythical concept of a heavenly being who makes decisive contact with the earthly creation would evolve over time in some schools into a human-like character than it is that a historical person would evolve over time into a mystical entity with God.
The earliest debates over Jesus included disagreements over whether he was a real human or something else, and this fact also sets him apart from historical persons. (The assertion that “he was both god and man” is illogical nonsense and also disqualifies him from having historical existence.)
Therefore in a truly rational world the burden of proof for a historical Jesus ought to be on those who want to prove such a person really did exist.
christian+origins, historical+jesus, jesus+myth
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