Did Jesus Really Exist?
(The following two articles take different positions on the question of the actual existence of Jesus. The first article is by Deist Jayson X. Jayson was an ordained Christian Orthodox priest and earned a Masters in Theology before evolving into a Deist. He is now the Deputy Director of the World Union of Deists. Jayson takes the position that Jesus was probably a real person but definitely NOT the Son of God.
The second article takes the position that Jesus never existed and is nothing but pure ancient myth. This article is written by long time freethinker and Deist writer Stephen Van Eck.
Both articles give readers interesting facts and insights to ponder. If you'd like to contribute an article addressing the question, Did Jesus Really Exist?, please email it in the body of an email to email@example.com.)
A PROBABLE EXPLANATION OF JESUS CHRIST
by Jayson X
How can we get a fairly accurate understanding of whom Jesus Christ really was? We can rely heavily on the writing which is generally considered by modern scholars to be the oldest, still-existing biography of Jesus, that is the Gospel of Mark, and use a lot of skepticism. After all, Jesus is not the only human being in history to be mythologized into a superhuman miracle-worker. Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (c. 270-343) was a real person who is now mythologized into Santa Claus, an obese old man who miraculously keeps track of the moral character of children, travels around the Earth on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, visits millions of houses in one night without opening any door or window, and leaves presents for millions of children. A similar process happened to Jesus. He was a real person (Jesus of Nazareth) who was mythologized into a make-believe person (Jesus Christ), an even greater miracle worker than Santa Claus!
Another reason to use skepticism when theorizing about the life of the real Jesus is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. As far as I know, there is no compelling scientific evidence that the miracles ascribed to Jesus happened, or that any similar miracles ever happened in all of history. Such miracle stories are indeed extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof. Therefore, we should not believe them.
All this having been said, something like the following is probably the truth about the man known as Jesus Christ. Jesus was born in Nazareth, Galilee, between 7 and 2 B.C.E. and lived there until he was a young man, working as a carpenter. His mother was Mary, and his father was Joseph or some other man. He had brothers and sisters.
The word messiah means “the anointed one” because Jewish priests, prophets, and kings often began their respective offices after being anointed with oil that was supposedly holy. Many Jews during the time of Jesus believed that God would send a special messiah, the capital-m messiah, to liberate them and their land from foreign rule. The Messiah would also begin the Messianic Age, a time of peace and brotherhood on Earth, without crime, war, and poverty.
Christ comes from the Greek word for Messiah, Christos. Thus, Christ is NOT Jesus’ last name; it is a title given to him by Christians, expressing their belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
A man called John the Baptist taught that people should repent and be baptized so that their sins would be forgiven by God. He also preached that the Messiah would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit, which was a far greater baptism than John could do. Perhaps this literal and/or metaphorical baptism was supposed to convey what Galatians 5:22 calls “the fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”--qualities needed for and indicative of the Messianic Age.
Jesus left Nazareth to learn about God, serve God, make the world a better place, travel a little, and have some fun. He became a disciple of John, and John baptized him. Eventually, John was arrested and beheaded by King Herod's soldiers because he was openly critical of the king and inclined many citizens toward rebellion. Jesus interpreted the arrest and beheading as a sign that God would now reveal the Messiah to humanity because the Messiah's herald had accomplished his mission: preparing the Jews for the Messiah. John could do no more preparing now that he was dead.
Like many Jewish men before and after him, Jesus suspected that he himself was the Messiah. He began to gather his own disciples, preach with a very authoritative style, and try to do miracles. Many people liked his preaching and concluded that he actually did miracles. This made him very popular with many Jews, and the stories of his supposed miracles began to be embellished even in his own lifetime.
The Pharisees were an influential group of Jews who wanted all Jews to live according to the ritualistic commandments of their version of Judaism, but Jesus taught that those commandments could be violated when it was more humane or convenient to do so. This angered the Pharisees, so they sought to have Jesus executed by King Herod, who also disliked Jesus because Jesus was like John the Baptist. Jesus would periodically debate with Pharisees and other Jews on religious topics for close to the remainder of his life, making deadly enemies in the process.
Jesus's lifelong friends and family generally believed that he was insane (Mark 3:21), and many Jewish religious experts attributed his miracles to the power of Satan (Mark 3:22).
Jesus preached and tried to work miracles all around Galilee, but the people of his hometown rejected him as a holy man, let alone the Messiah. Jesus then sent out his own disciples in groups of two to preach and try to work miracles, perhaps imitating a similar practice of John the Baptist, his religious mentor.
Jesus preached and tried to work miracles in Phoenicia and Decapolis. Gradually, he began to convince many of his disciples that he was the Messiah, and he promised that some people living at that time would live to witness the Messianic Age (Mark 9:1). This means that Jesus was wrong. Every human alive then is now dead.
Jesus preached and tried to work miracles in Judea. Then he went to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people, riding on a young donkey to fulfill a Me