Existence of Jesus Controversy
© Rae West 1998, 1999, 2000
Summary: There's nothing new in the idea that 'Jesus' never existed; some Renaissance churchmen, Voltaire, Gibbon and many modern academics and writers have all suspected or believed this. However, it's censored out of the mass media, so most people are unaware of the possibility, which I briefly look at here. I hope to add more.RW
[Fifteen years later, 2015:] I don't even know if there's a general topic of ancient revisionism, surveying what's been decoded of ancient writings, and, in this context ancient beliefs. Unfortunately the 20th-century with its disastrous incursions of 'Jewish' simple-minded parasitism has damaged, not just modern topics, but, very obviously, study of these ancient systems. Let's hope some progress begins to be made on all this, though of course it's impossible to be optimistic, or even melioristic. Vast numbers of 'scholars' have wasted time on a scale which I suppose might be regarded as amusing. To Big-Lies Home Page
Phyllis Graham's The Jesus Hoax (published by Leslie Frewin, London, apparently in 1974) seems unavailable anywhere on Internet. The author was a Carmelite nun, and there are long passages in a sort of intense neo-mystical but anthropological style, which is rather self-centred, and I imagine not to everyone's taste.
Archibald Robertson's 1946 Jesus: Myth or History, which is quite good on documents (Thallus?, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, Celsus, Josephus, Minucius Felix; but not e.g. Lucian, Corpus Inscriptionem Latinarum), is unavailable on Internet. Robertson was something of a fence-sitter and relies on the double meaning of 'myth' to avoid a definite conclusion.
Prof. G. A. Wells is one of the most interesting writers on this topic; unfortunately I couldn't persuade him to talk to me with a view to being put up on Internet. He wrote [in 1982]: 'My fundamental theses remain the same [as in 1971]: namely, the earliest references to the historical Jesus are so vague that it is not necessary to hold that he ever existed; the rise of Christianity can, from the undoubtedly historical antecedents, be explained quite well without him; and reasons can be given to show why, from about AD 80 or 90, Christians began to suppose that he had lived in Palestine about fifty years earlier.' And (in 1996) 'Clergy who are not willing simply to reject or ignore scholarly criticism on the NT are faced with a serious problem. .. they can hardy tell their congregations that what has been proclaimed as Christian truth for nearly 2,000 years is little better than moonshine. ..' As this latter quotation suggests his methodology is mainly to examine the New Testament, though of course he considers other texts in detail too. (I don't know to what extent he examines 'Talmudic' material, or such issues as the 'synagogue of Satan' of Jews not accepting Jesus as a Messiah, or Jesus as a renegade type of Jew; as far as I could see he mostly used the Old Testament for background and the New Testament as a source for 'Jesus'). He is a Professor Emeritus in German, and quotes from many German scholars, suggesting that he turned to this line as a side-effect of his German studies (though for all I know he may have become interested in German as a result of a prior interest in Biblical exegesis). His books specifically on this subject are listed as: The Jesus of the Early Christians (1971), The Historical Evidence for Jesus (1982), Who Was Jesus? A Critique of the New Testament Record (1989), The Jesus Legend (1996). He has two titles on credulity, magic, and language (1991 and 1993). His two earliest books, on Herder & Grilparzer, were published in 1959 and 1969. And Religious Postures: Essays on Modern Christian Apologists and Religious Problems is dated 1988. As his date of birth is given as 1926, if we assume 62 as his retirement age, we have as his works more or less on this subject:- two titles when a Professor of German, and five afterwards. I don't know whether his views were frowned on by his department or led to friction; it's possible, as I infer from the fact that when I spoke to a successor at UCL, also called Wells (but no relation), this man was very keen to say he disagreed with G A Wells's views.
So far as I can see, he has become, particularly in his later books, interlocked with other disputants, so that much of his work consists in picking apart opponents' arguments. This methodology has the weakness that topics which are out of favour, or happen to be overlooked by both sides, naturally are under-represented. Thus he discusses the Turin Shroud, but not I think the more traditional relics. He discusses anti-Jewishness, but seems to have no idea of the possibilities of the Khazaria theory of Judaism. He seems not to look at rather absurd translations, like the mediaeval use of 'Lord', which is common at least to western Europe (the French New Testament for example has 'Seigneur': for a modern parallel, imagine 'the Boss God'!) He discusses the Dead Sea Scrolls in what is perhaps a conventionalised way, assuming the Qumran site certainly was a monastic one. Moreover one feels many of the opponents can't be very important; who now remembers the opponents of Galileo?
Professor Wells tells me (April 2000) that four items of his work have recently been made available on Internet Infidels; they are still here (2013). I quote the blurbs they give with links to them:
Earliest Christianity (1999) [37K] Professor G.A. Wells continues the debate about the origins of Jesus and the development of Christianity. Drawing on the writings of recent theologians and historians and alluding to his latest book, The Jesus Myth, he throws light on the early history of Christianity.
G. A. Wells Replies to Criticisms of his Books on Jesus (2000) [27K] Professor Wells replies to Rev. Neals' attacks on his position.
A Reply to J.P.Holding's 'Shattering' of My Views on Jesus and an Examination of the Early Pagan and Jewish References to Jesus (2000) [55K] Wells replies to Holding's attacks, showing how Holding has misunderstood his position. Wells also defends his position on the early Pagan and Jewish references to Jesus.
A Resurrection Debate: The New Testament Evidence in Evangelical and in Critical Perspective (2000) [108K] Professor Wells' commentary on the debate between Gary Habermas and Antony Flew on the resurrection of Jesus.
Links to other sites in 2000
(external links may not work 2013):-Forgery in Christianity by Joseph Wheless, which I've laid out with hyperlinks to make navigation a (comparative) pleasure. Much of this book deals with the Old Testament, and much with the start of the Middle Ages. Chapter III has some material on 'Jesus'.
Is It God's Word? by Joseph Wheless. No, it isn't. This is an anti-Christian-fundamentalist work. Chapters XIII-XV are the ones dealing mainly with the life of Jesus.
Radikalkritik, site of Dr. theol. Herman Detering (of Berlin). Mostly in German, with some very long articles, and reproductions of books in pdf format. The links are mostly to websites in English, and include a Jewish, or 'Jewish', work (translated into English) satirising Jesus, or 'Jesus'.
Click here for another site, Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle. Doherty's methodology is to try to examine all extant genuine documents from what we now call 0-200 AD with a view to deciding whether such a personage can be shown to exist from them. His site also includes one easy-to-read article from 1997, though it's presented in parts as '12 easy pieces'. (NB 'Earl' is his first name).
The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ, site by 'Acharya S' (who is femalesee picture. I'm tempted to say she can thumb my concordances any time, but that might be regarded as sexist. I've included some e-mail exchanges with her), was, I thought, a single long file, plus over 100 footnotes in several separate footnote files. It refers to Wheless, Robertson, G A Wells and other well-known names in this field. This seems to have been replaced by a commercial book ad on another Acharya S. site; judging by the extracts it includes material of the sort in Doane's long-out-of-print book. General thesis is that Christianity was manufactured to try to keep the Roman Empire intact.
[Fifteen years later!:] Acharya S. is now known as D M Murdock. She has now written on Moses as a manufactured myth. Her books are all pay-only which is understandable, but of course may delay her message getting out.
Did Jesus Ever Live, or, Is Christianity Founded Upon A Myth? by Historicus, a Freethinkers (and Infidels) site; printed 1972, anonymously (at least, it's anonymous here). Mentions Joseph McCabe, Prof G.A. Wells, and others; also Dead Sea Scrolls.
Christ a Myth by Gary Courtney. Galatians/ an explanation of the invention of Jesus from the stage/ Caesar's life: parallels?/ Attis and Cybele. This is a new site to me; thanks to RS for e-mailing.
Christ a Fiction by Robert M. Price (1997), an ex-apologist. Arguments from common-sense, history, anthropology, general evidence. From 'Internet Infidels' library.
[What seems to be an eccentric (and badly laid-out) site devoted to the assertion that one Lucius Calpurnius Piso invented much of Christianity as a controlling device by the Romans. (This man appears e.g. in Plutarch and Tacitus, and was at any rate well-positioned for such a thing; so I've included the site here). Much on numerology and hidden codes, and quite a bit of spurious etymology, e.g. equating Babylon with Las Vegas, and 'foreskin' with earliest flesh. Anonymous, or pseudonymous, if you count 'James First Apostle to the Antichrist' as a pseudonym.]
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