Was Jesus just your average Joe?

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Many people skeptical of the truth of the Christian faith hold fast on the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary man among many others.

According to them, the origin of the Christian faith can be understood as follows:

1) After the death of Jesus the disciples experienced wonderful hallucinations which made them believe he rose from the dead

2) They didn’t believe in an empty tomb, this aspect was completely irrelevant for them

3) Paul held the same belief

4) Later writers made up stories about the honorary burial of Jesus and the empty grave

There are many not-implausible, contradictory theories about the historical Jesus which are hard to evaluate owing to the lack of hard data.

But I believe this kind of scenarios can be ruled out as being unlikely.

There were after and before Jesus time quite a few Jewish apocalyptic prophets who suffered an atrocious death as martyrs. Why did none of their followers develop a faith in the resurrection of their master? Why did none of them develop a faith that their master was God Himself?

Both aspects were present within the early Church very soon after the death of Jesus.

So I believe that the minimal conclusion that there is something special about Jesus of Nazareth is warranted.

Further conclusions are going to be hugely dependent on the presuppositions of one’s worldview.

 

Homepage of Lotharlorraine: link here
(List of topics and posts)

My other controversial blog: Shards of Magonia (link here)

 

Hauptseite von Lotharlorraine: Link hier
(Liste von Themen und Posten).

Mein anderer umstrittener Blog: Scherben von Magonia.

 

 

 

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20 responses to “Was Jesus just your average Joe?”

  1. MarkAlan says :

    Good Day!

    I just came across your comments from Dave Armstrong’s blog and read what you had typed. My apologies for you having been ‘banned” from CA, as I find it poor taste when someone is so willing to have a respectful dialogue, yet get treated unfairly. It sure doesn’t help the apologetic community when this happens. I highly recommend you keep following Mr. Armstrong and/or perhaps Dr Scott Hahn. Keep challenging those dogmas! As Jesus said: “Question all things.” I’m a revert to Catholicism myself after I spent a VERY long time studying my old faith. God Bless and keep questioning!

  2. gittegitte says :

    Can you get this thesis where you are at? A thsis on the myth of the metphorical resurrection.

    http://digital.library.sbts.edu/bitstream/handle/10392/2847/Anderson_sbts_0207D_10031.pdf?sequence=1

    Someone in the US, just gets a list. An acquaintance of mine wrote this thesis. He blogs at tawapologetics.

    My blog by the way is thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com. The WordPress one never got off the ground. There was a point where I thought WordPress would be better… but alas. Gruss, Gitte.

  3. John says :

    Hi, I am from Australia.
    Please find a radically different Understanding of the life and teaching of Saint Jesus of Galilee via these two references (there is some overlap)

    http://www.dabase.org/up-5-1.htm

    http://www.aboutadidam.org/articles/secret_identity

  4. Thomas Peace (author) says :

    Not to push it, but my book additionally shows why and how the historical Jesus was “more than special.” The way this takes place concomitantly addresses the limited approach of reductive materialism.

  5. Andy_Schueler says :

    “There were after and before Jesus time quite a few Jewish apocalyptic prophets who suffered an atrocious death as martyrs. Why did none of their followers develop a faith in the resurrection of their master? Why did none of them develop a faith that their master was God Himself?”
    – There is one obvious flaw here. The overwhelming majority of Jews were not followers of Jesus either. Christianity failed spectacularly among the Jews (the current estimation is, that the number of Christians in 1st century palestine never exceeded 1000 people – and as you know, the Jews *still* wait for a Messiah ;-) ). Christianity was a huge success among the Gentiles though.
    It is well possible that the followers of those other messiah-candidates who came before and after Jesus actually did believe that their master actually was the Messiah, but those sects then eventually vanished into obscurity and we don´t have any surviving manuscripts telling of them (which would not be surprising at all since there are countless jewish sects that we only know of because people like Philo mentioned them in passing – for almost none of those sects do we know any further details).

    • lotharson says :

      I’m not arguing for the resurrection but just for the conclusion that there is something SPECIAL about Jesus.

      The number of the Jewish Christian does not really matter, what matters is that his Jewish followers were persuaded that he rose from the dead.

      You have no evidence whatsoever that other Jewish groups thought that about their FAILED Messiah who died atrociously, you just say it is possible. Well almost everything is plausible but we have to rely on concrete facts.
      And all were as likely to experience powerful hallucinations as the first Christians were.

      What is more, it does not appear very likely that the FIRST Christians believed in a spiritual resurrection (with no raised body) although no Jews believing in an afterlife thought that, and then within only ONE generation they began believing that Jesus was bodily resurrected.

      I believe that there is a not implausible naturalistic explanation for the origins of Christianity and it would be:

      1) the first disciples truly discovered an empty tomb (because the body of Jesus was stolen) and they were very puzzled about that.

      2) they experienced powerful hallucinations about Jesus which gave them the conviction that their master was truly risen.

      So I think the empty tomb has a strong explanatory power which is buttressed by other factors such as the UNLIKELIHOOD (but not impossibility) for Mark (not I but the Gospel writer :=) ) to have made up a story with women as the first witnesses and many other things.

      I believe that this is the best naturalistic explanation one can come up with.
      Since I am not able to refute it, I HOPE on the resurrection of Christ even though I cannot demonstrate it.

      Liebe Grüsse.

      • Andy_Schueler says :

        “I’m not arguing for the resurrection but just for the conclusion that there is something SPECIAL about Jesus. ”
        – Alright, I wouldn´t disagree with that. Although when it comes to being SPECIAL, I would consider to be Paul more “special” then Jesus (certainly more influential).

        “You have no evidence whatsoever that other Jewish groups thought that about their FAILED Messiah who died atrociously, you just say it is possible. Well almost everything is plausible but we have to rely on concrete facts.”
        – The point is, that you cannot know whether Jesus was the only one who had such followers among the Jews because we know next to nothing about all the countless sects there were among early Judaism.
        So whether this was actually unique or not is unknown. You would have a point here if it should be expected that we would have manuscripts attesting to the other Messiah candidates if they would have existed, but we would NOT expect that, because none of them became successful as a religious movement.
        And since you emphasize the FAILED, I (and virtually everyone who is not a christian as well) consider Jesus to be a failed Messiah as well because his predicted *immediate* second coming in power and glory never happened (and yes, I know the alternative interpretations, and I don´t buy them ;-) ).

        “What is more, it does not appear very likely that the FIRST Christians believed in a spiritual resurrection (with no raised body) although no Jews believing in an afterlife thought that, and then within only ONE generation they began believing that Jesus was bodily resurrected. ”
        – I consider it to be extremely likely and one of the reasons why Christianity became a success among the pagans and a failure among the Jews. A bodily resurrection would be extraordinary in jewish mythology but for pagan mythology, this is standard stuff. To me, this is *the* explanation for why we see references to a spiritual entity in Paul´s epistles, but references to a bodily risen Christ in the later gospels – because this mythological motif made a lot of sense to the pagans (but no sense to the Jews).

        “I believe that there is a not implausible naturalistic explanation for the origins of Christianity and it would be:
        1) the first disciples truly discovered an empty tomb (because the body of Jesus was stolen) and they were very puzzled about that. ”
        – And this explanation I consider to be unlikely because I don´t believe that the first disciples did believe in a *bodily* risen Christ (and if he didn´t rise bodily, there is no need for his corpse to be missing) and because I don´t even believe that the first disciples even did believe that Jesus was buried in a tomb (Paul certainly never mentions either a tomb or a bodily risen Christ).

        “So I think the empty tomb has a strong explanatory power which is buttressed by other factors such as the UNLIKELIHOOD (but not impossibility) for Mark (not I but the Gospel writer :=) ) to have made up a story with women as the first witnesses and many other things.”
        – No one believes that the authors of the gospels made the story up out of thin air. It is obvious that they based their stories on oral traditions that circulated at the time. They might have added new stuff to those stories but no one believes that they just made the whole story up out of thin air.

        “I believe that this is the best naturalistic explanation one can come up with.”
        – Mine would be that Paul actually had visions of Jesus and that schizotypical people were enriched among his early followers (which is not at all unlikely – it is actually very plausible that schizotypical people would congregate in the same communities), which means that there were others having similar visions and religious experiences as well (comparable to what we nowadays can observe with the “born-again experience” and with the mass hysteria in Christian revival meetings). After the first generation of followers died, the spiritually risen Christ motif gradually evolved into a bodily risen Christ motif, and this version of the story eventually became a huge success among the pagans but failed completely among the Jews.

      • lotharson says :

        Yeah but do you have another example anywhere on the world where people first believed in a mythological being having raised from the dead and in ONE generation most of the follower of the cult believed he was a real human having bodily raised from the dead?

        Whether or not Jesus was a failure depends on what his goals were or for theists on what God intended to achieve with him.
        I don’t believe that Jesus was inerrant because otherwise he could not be a human being.

      • Andy_Schueler says :

        “Yeah but do you have another example anywhere on the world where people first believed in a mythological being having raised from the dead and in ONE generation most of the follower of the cult believed he was a real human having bodily raised from the dead?”
        – Nope, but the same applies to all examples of syncretism, the result is always unique and no two religions are exactly the same.
        And whether it is *most* of the followers is hard to say. It took centuries until the proto-orthodox Christians “won” the culture war with the other christian sects. The Marcionites, the Gnostics and the jewish Christians in Jerusalem had very different beliefs compared to proto-orthodox Christianity and they didn´t all believe in a resurrection as you would understand it.
        I don´t say that “most” Christians believed that, what I believe is, that some proto-orthodox views, including the belief in a bodily risen Christ, emerged only AFTER Paul was dead. That doesn´t mean that most people believed it at the time, only that this version of the story eventually “won”.

        “Whether or not Jesus was a failure depends on what his goals were or for theists on what God intended to achieve with him.
        I don’t believe that Jesus was inerrant because otherwise he could not be a human being. ”
        – But you could say the same about every other failed prophet and messiah as well, “maybe they didn´t fail, maybe we just don´t understand their goals.”

  6. Patrick says :

    Andy Schueler: “- I consider it to be extremely likely and one of the reasons why Christianity became a success among the pagans and a failure among the Jews. A bodily resurrection would be extraordinary in jewish mythology but for pagan mythology, this is standard stuff. To me, this is *the* explanation for why we see references to a spiritual entity in Paul´s epistles, but references to a bodily risen Christ in the later gospels – because this mythological motif made a lot of sense to the pagans (but no sense to the Jews).”

    For all I know it’s the other way round. The Jews had a rather “material” view of the afterlife, whereas the Greeks thought that in the afterlife there would only be immaterial souls. A typical expression of the Greek view may be the Neo-Platonic idea that the body is the prison of the soul.

    As for the idea of a bodily resurrection versus the idea of a spiritual resurrection, the following contribution, written by William Lane Craig, is very informative:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/bodily.html

    Quote from the contribution:

    “For a Jew the very term ‘resurrection’ entailed a physical resurrection of the dead man in the tomb. The notion of a ‘spiritual resurrection’ was not merely unknown; it was a contradiction in terms.”

    • Andy Schueler says :

      “For all I know it’s the other way round. The Jews had a rather “material” view of the afterlife, whereas the Greeks thought that in the afterlife there would only be immaterial souls. A typical expression of the Greek view may be the Neo-Platonic idea that the body is the prison of the soul.”
      – This belief was not uncommon among the pagans. Take Mithraism for example, the parallels between Mithraism and Christianity were so obvious that early church fathers assumed that Mithraists stole Christian ideas (although Mithraism is much older than Christianity is and it thus could have only been the other way around).

      “For a Jew the very term ‘resurrection’ entailed a physical resurrection of the dead man in the tomb. The notion of a ‘spiritual resurrection’ was not merely unknown; it was a contradiction in terms.””
      – Maybe, but again, that the resurrection actually happened (be it physical or spiritual) never was a popular view among the Jews, so the point is kind of moot.
      And Paul certainly never wrote anything that would indicate a bodily resurrection, but rather indicates the opposite, saying that Christ appeared to others as he appeared to him (which was not as a *corporeal* Jesus…)

      • lotharson says :

        Yeah but did Paul write that the resurrection of Christ was only an apparition?
        Moreover, do you have evidence of fundamentalist pharisees (nowadays he would have been called a fundie) holding unorthodox beliefs about a “spiritual resurrection”?

      • Andy Schueler says :

        “Yeah but did Paul write that the resurrection of Christ was only an apparition?”
        – Why should he have done that? When Paul describes the road to Damascus event, he clearly describes a vision, not a bodily risen Christ (and the people that travelled with him couldn´t see anything, further supporting that this was a vision). Yet Paul did not say “I ONLY saw a vision of Christ” – and why should he devalue his experience with a label like “only”?
        Do you have an explanation for why none of the material in Paul´s epistles support the view of a bodily risen Christ while all of it is compatible with visions as the one that Paul had on the road to Damascus? Remember, when Paul describes how Jesus appeared to people and finishes with “and finally, he appeared to me” – he does not distinguish between Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus and the other appearances. If the other appearances involve something completely different than the appearance that he experienced, why did he leave this (extremely important!) part out?

        “Moreover, do you have evidence of fundamentalist pharisees (nowadays he would have been called a fundie) holding unorthodox beliefs about a “spiritual resurrection”?”
        – Nope. But is that surprising? We have plenty of sources written by Christians but virtually nothing written by people that were critical of Christianity (most of the critics of Christianity are only known because we have material written by Christians writing to refute them! The material written by people critical of Christianity was not preserved).

  7. Patrick says :

    Andy Schueler: “It took centuries until the proto-orthodox Christians “won” the culture war with the other christian sects. The Marcionites, the Gnostics and the jewish Christians in Jerusalem had very different beliefs compared to proto-orthodox Christianity and they didn´t all believe in a resurrection as you would understand it.”

    If Paul had had a view of the Resurrection that was different from what the Christians in Judea believed this certainly would have resulted in a controversy that would have left traces in the New Testament. After all, there were indeed such controversies, like the question whether or not pagan Christians should be circumcised.

    • Andy Schueler says :

      “If Paul had had a view of the Resurrection that was different from what the Christians in Judea believed this certainly would have resulted in a controversy that would have left traces in the New Testament. After all, there were indeed such controversies, like the question whether or not pagan Christians should be circumcised.”
      – Paul addressed the controversies that existed in his time, but again, I don´t believe that the view that Christ rose *bodily* from the dead emerged while Paul was alive, I rather believe that it only emerged after Paul was already dead.

  8. jasonjshaw says :

    Jesus taught and understood well the concept of a loving God and loving each other, and he was the only one to successfully pull off a believable resurrection of himself. I think that pretty much sums up why he became a significant historical character.

  9. jesuswithoutbaggage says :

    I agree that Jesus was special–even unique. I also believe in the resurrection because of the impact it had on his earliest followers.

  10. democraticdeist says :

    First off, whom put together the New Testament? It was the Roman church. Just as there were different strains of Christianity, each believing different things about the nature of Jesus, so there were various gospels accepted by respectively by rival sects as authoritative scripture that differed from that that which was later to be accepted into the biblical canon. Also besides there having been the Hebrew Christians/Ebionites whom did not view Jesus as being a divine incarnation, there have been various people, namely Aryans/Hindus whom have believed in “avatara” (godmen). Amongst these godmen were those whom were said to have likewise died, and then rose again. Namely Mitra, and Krishna http://jdstone.org/cr/files/mithraschristianity.html.

  11. Nick Mudge says :

    So many misrepresentations and lack of credence here.

    The idea that early christians thought only in terms of a “spiritual resurrection” is completely squashed by the narratives of the gospels which had Jesus touchable and eating. Peter preached on the day of Pentecost to gathered jews and said………………..

    29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

    “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Sit at my right hand,
    35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
    36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

    Note His flesh would not see corruption. Around 4000 were saved and added that day followed by a similar number not long afterwards so the idea that believing jews never numbered more than about a thousand is also untenable!

    • Andy Schueler says :

      It seems that you are addressing my claims,

      So many misrepresentations and lack of credence here.

      You say “lack of credence” as if it were a bad thing.

      The idea that early christians thought only in terms of a “spiritual resurrection” is completely squashed by the narratives of the gospels which had Jesus touchable and eating.

      And the gospel narratives were written long after Paul´s epistles – which are much more compatible with a belief in a spiritual instead of a bodily resurrection.

      Around 4000 were saved and added that day followed by a similar number not long afterwards so the idea that believing jews never numbered more than about a thousand is also untenable!

      1. What is your evidence for this claim?
      2. I refer to Sim´s “How many Jews became Christians in the first century? The failure of the Christian mission to the Jews” (2005):
      “This study examines the early Christian mission(s) to the Jews, and attempts to determine, albeit speculatively, the number of Jews in the Christian movement in the first century. It is argued that the combined Christian mission was marked by a distinct lack of success. Neither the Law-observant gospel of the Jerusalem church nor the Law-free gospel of the Hellenists and Paul made much impression upon the people of Israel. Throughout the first century the total number of Jews in the Christian movement probably never exceeded 1 000 and by the end of the century the Christian church was largely Gentile.”

      http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/430

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