“The question which has so much exercised the minds of men — whether Jesus was the historic Christ (= Messiah) — is answered in the sense that everything
that is said of Him, everything that is known of Him, belongs to the
world of imagination, that is, of the imagination of the Christian community,
and therefore has nothing to do with any man who belongs to the real
This has been said by Bauer in 1850-51.
Jesus of Nazareth also known as Jesus Christ is the central figure in the Christianity.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on Jesus of Nazareth and his life, death, resurrection, and teachings as presented in the New Testament. Christianity is based on a belief that Jesus is the Son Of God and the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the gospels has been for a long time one of the principal dogmas of all Christian denominations.
The scope of this article is to analyze the historicity of the Jesus of Nazareth.
Jewish historians who lived and wrote during the same period or a little
later, fail to notice him as well as the religion supposed to have been
founded by him. It may be Philo, who wrote a history of the Jews, Justus of Tiberius,
or Flavius Josephus who lived from AD 36 or 37 to 99 or 100 knows no Jesus Christ and no Christians. The Greeks and Romans have left to posterity a vast historical and philosophical literature written in or referring to the time-bracket when Jesus is supposed to have lived. But it is unaware of him. Seneca (2 BC-66 AD), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Martial (40-102 AD), Plutarch(45-125 AD), Juvenal (55-140 AD), Apuleius (d. 170 AD), Pausanius(d. 185 AD), and Dio Casius (155-240 AD) do not mention any Jesus or
Christ. Referring to Jesus Christ of the Gospels, Sita Ram Goel, noted scholar and historian writes-“ All languages which have been influenced by Christianity contain the
expression, “gospel truth”. But truth is exactly what we find completely
missing from the gospels when it comes to the life and teaching of
their hero — Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the gospels violate one of the
Ten Commandments — thou shalt not bear false witness — and can be
easily caught in the act.”.
When we analyze the different gospels we see that there is contradicting data relating to the year,date and the place of birth of Jesus, his genealogy and parentage.Luke places the birth of Jesus to 2BC. Whereas John places at 22-15 BC. Eusebius placeshis death in 22 AD, which takes his birth to 9 BC if he was 30 when hedied, to 12 BC if he was 33, and to 28 BC if he was nearing 50. Theyear 1 AD as the year of his birth was assumed by the sixth century Romanmonk, Dionysius Exiguus. Christmas, the day of the birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25th December. Reffering to the inconsistancy of this date of Christmas, Sita Ram Goel writes-“As for the date of Christmas, the chances are no better than 1 in 365 that Jesus’ birthday fell on 25 December. A number of different dates have contended for the title — including 20 May, 19 April, 17 November, 28 March, 25 March and 6 January — and it took nearly five hundred years before 25 December
came to be generally accepted. The reason for the choice of this dat eowes nothing to historical evidence but a great deal to the influence of other religions. It was no accident that 25 December happened to be the birthday of the ‘Unconquered Sun’ (Sol Invictus), the chief festival of the Mithraic cult, a popular mystery religion of the late Roman Empire which shared quite a number of elements with Christianity, notably its emphasis on rebirth and salvation.” About the place of birth Goel asks-“ Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Unfortunately, even the Christian scriptures disagree among themselves. Matthew and Luke both say yes, while John (7: 41-2) and Mark (1:9 ; 6:1) give the impression of never even having heard of Jesus’ supposed birth at Bethlehem but
assume that his birthplace was Nazareth, a small town in the northern region of Galilee, at the opposite end of the country from Bethlehem.” He continues-“ Nazareth fares no better as the place of Jesus’ birth. There is no positive proof that this place existed at the time when he is supposed to have been born. It does not occur in any Roman maps, records or documents relating to that time. It is not mentioned in the Talmud. It is not associated with Jesus in any of the writings of Paul. Josephus who commanded troops in Galilee does not mention it. It appears for the first time in Jewish records of the seventh century”. In clears words Goel demonstrates that even if we assume that Jesus was a historical Charater and not a myth there are only few evidences about the time and place of birth of Jesus which are contradictory among themselves.
Mathew and Luke try to trace Jesus back to King David. But here also both differ in facts and figures. Matthew accommodates 28 and Luke 41 generations of Jesus’ ancestors in the same span of time.There are only three names that are common in the two family trees. Even the name of Joseph’s father and Jesus’ grandfather is not the same. About Virgin Mary, Goel quotes Ian Stephens- “Tamar was a temple prostitute; Rahab was the madam of a brothel; Ruth, the most moral, indulged in some pretty shameless sexual exploitation; and Bathsheba committed adultery with King David. Was the author of the Matthew genealogy implying something about the only other woman mentioned, Mary herself?”. Further, Goel quotes Michael Arnheim -“ The real reason for floating the myth of virgin birth seems to be that “there had always been a question mark hanging over Mary’s sexual morality” and that “it was clearly a subject which caused the early Christians acute embarrassment”. In fact, there has been a long-standing tradition among the Jews that Jesus was the fruit of an adulterous union between Mary and a Roman soldier named Panthera”. These are beautifully summarized by Will Durant when he says- “The virgin birth is not mentioned by
Paul or John, and Matthew and Luke trace Jesus back to David through
Joseph by conflicting genealogies; apparently the belief in the virgin birth
rose later than in the Davidic descent.”
When the Gospels are studied in the light of the prevalent Jewish laws and administration in Palestine, some difficulties arises in the story of Gospels. Goel quotes Paul Winter-“ Jewish scholars have examined the gospel accounts in the light of Jewish laws and administration prevailing in Palestine at the time Jesus is supposed to have been tried by the Jewish authorities. They have come to the conclusion that the whole story of Jesus being tried by the Jewish authorities for blasphemy sounds spurious. Firstly, they hold that in terms of the Jewish law it was not blasphemy for any Jew to claim to be the Messiah or the Son of God. Secondly, they point out that sessions of the Sanhedrin could not be held at the times and in the ways mentioned in the three gospels. Finally, they maintain that if Jesus had been found guilty of blasphemy for saying something which is not mentioned in the gospels, the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem were quite competent to get him stoned to death, the penalty prescribed by Jewish law, and were not at all called upon to hand him over to the Roman governor for getting him crucified. The very fact that Jesus was crucified and not stoned to death goes to prove that he must have violated a Roman and not a Jewish law”. We can further recognize the contradictions among the Gospels about the details of Crucifixion. Regarding Resurrection Goel writes-“ We are entitled to dismiss the gospel stories of Resurrection like the rest of Jesus’ miracles. We are entitled not to treat it as history at all. But as Resurrection happens to be the core of the Christian creed, we will better see what sort of puerile invention it is.” According to scholars, Jesus’ appearance after his death formed no part of the original gospel of Mark and has been appended to it later. Now Mark being one of the four Gospels, which is written about thirty years after Jesus’ death, it is impossible to imagine that Mark had failed to recognize this, if Jesus really had appeared after his death. The accounts of Resurrection of all the four Gospels differ in their details. Goel writes-““There seems even less prospect,” observes James P. Mackey, “of arriving at a concordant account of the details of the appearances of Jesus than there is in the case of the empty tomb stories, when at least Mary Magdalene is consistently a principal character. That has to be recognized at the very outset. Apart from the major discrepancy amongst the gospels as to whether the appearances of Jesus took place in Galilee or in and around Jerusalem, all the appearance stories have different settings, details and messages. As Reumann, I think, it was, pointed out, there is not even, as in the case of passion narratives, an agreed framework for the appearance narratives within which discrepancies of detail occur and by comparison to which they could reasonably he counted as negligible...”Further, the Jewish tradition confirms that the story of Resurrection and Ascension were created by the diciples.
Gospels claims to be the witness and the recorders of truth. But on closer observation we see that it had been distorted over the years and also that they contradict each other.Goel observes-“We have, however, seen that the gospels contradict and cancel out each other when it comes to the salient features in the story of Jesus — the date and year and place of his birth, his ancestry and parentage, his ministry, his trial and death, and his resurrection. This claim on behalf the gospels, therefore, falls to the ground.”Goel continues-“ In fact, this claim was dismissed most forcefully by David Friedrich
Strauss who published his two-volume work, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, in 1835-36. “Because of the discrepancies he found, he cogently argued that none of the gospels could have been by eye-witnesses, but instead must have been the work of writers of a much later generation, freely constructing their material from probably garbled traditions about Jesus in circulation in the early Church.”
Will Durant, noted historian obsevers that-“Matthew relies more than the other evangelists on the miracles ascribed to Jesus, and is suspiciously eager to prove that many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ... The Fourth Gospel does not pretend to be a biography of Jesus; it is a presentation of Christ from the theological point of view, as the divine Logos or Word, creator of the world and redeemer of mankind. It contradicts the synoptic gospels in a hundred details and in its general picture of Christ... In summary, it is clear that there are many contradictions between one gospel and another, many dubious statements of history, many suspicious resemblances to the legends told of pagan gods, many incidents apparently designed to prove the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, many passages possibly aiming to establish a historical basis for some later doctrine or ritual of the Church.”
On every points Gospels contradict themselves and no other evidences corroborated their stories. Gospels and its Jesus Christ has been proved to be a product of imagination and not of reality. Albert Schweitzer, the world famous theologian and missionary, has traced in a well-known book published in 1906 the progress of Christology from Hermann Samuel Reimarus, who wrote in the middle of the eighteenth century, to Wilhelm Wrede whose book on this subject was published in 1901. “The study of the Life of Jesus,” he says, “has had a curious history. It set out in quest of the historical Jesus, believing that when it had found Him it could bring Him straight into our time as a Teacher and Saviour...” Coming to the “Results”, he mourns, “There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. This image has not been destroyed from without. It has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by the concrete historical problems which came to the surface one after another, and in spite of all the artifice, art, artificiality, and violence which was applied to them, refused to be planed down to fit the design on which Jesus of the theology of the last hundred and thirty years had been constructed and were no sooner covered over than they appeared again in a new form..” He concludes, “We thought that it was for us to lead our time by the roundabout way through the historical Jesus, as we understood Him, in order to bring it to the Jesus who is a spiritual power in the present. This roundabout way has now been closed by genuine history.”
The basic foundation on which Christianity survived so long has been crushed. The Jesus of Nazareth or the so called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, is no more a Historical Character, but the invention the followers of the monotheistic theology of Christianity. Today Christianity has been reduced to a hollow religion without any historical or philosophical foundation. This plight of Christianity is well explained by Michael Arnheim. He writes-““By the early twentieth century the so-called ‘quest for the historical Jesus’ was bogged down in negativism. The Gospels, according toan influential schools of Protestant theologians, were to be taken as theological rather than as historical documents, and they could yield no authentic information about the life and deeds, or even the sayings and teachings, of Jesus. Such a conclusion might have been expected to have a cataclysmic effect upon Christianity. For, after all, there could surely be no Christianity without Christ, and there could be no Christ without Jesus? But if Jesus were so shadowy a figure as to belong more to the realm of myth and legend than to that of history and fact, the whole edifice of Christianity must surely crumble?”
Today, the Church and the Christians who for centuries had been committing atrocities against people of other religions in the name of Jesus, who had been proselytizing people in order to save them has no justification. There is no Christianity without Jesus and Jesus has been proved a myth. Hence Christianity can no longer claim to be the Only True Religion.
An Artifice for Aggression
Sita Ram Goel
VOICE OF INDIA