Did Jesus Exist? The Trouble with Certainty in Historical Jesus Scholarship
While Ehrman spends a great deal of time analyzing the evidence, he does so in ways which ignore the more recent critical scholarship which undercuts his entire position. In other words, the case for a historical Jesus is far weaker than Ehrman lets on.
By Thomas S. Verenna
Independent Researcher and Student
To read this article in its entirety, we have presented it here in PDF format.
Was this a case of imagining a fictional character or of recalling a real one? All fiction is based on reality to some degree and all recall, at least recall for literary purposes, involves some degree of idealisation. The narratives of Paul and of the Evangelists certainly idealise Jesus, in that they present a biography through a theological lens. But any narrative depends for its power on the readers' sense that something real is being conveyed: and these narratives are among the most powerful ever written.
Among the things conveyed are the dangers, often lethal, surrounding preachers and teachers amid the religious and political turmoil of first century Palestine. This is something that readers over the generations have grasped and which scholarship has confirmed.
To this degree Paul and the Evangelists are talking of real experience, something they did not need to imagine. Real experience has to be the experience of at least someone.
If we combine this point with the point that the narrative concerns an individual I think we can conclude with certainty that the narrated Jesus is based on a real person whom the narrators could in some degree recall, though there might have been more than one person who approximately fitted the bill.
This reality does not exclude massive misrepresentation or idealisation in highly misleading forms, of course. That is what people keep arguing about, quite legitimately. But I don't think existence is worth that much dispute.
If only that were the case. Unfortunately I do not find the case presented for the tomb to be at all convincing. Some of my colleagues, like James Tabor, find it compelling enough to argue for the position you present, but I am not alone in the opinion that the evidence just isn't there.
Many scholars have argued strongly that there are severe challenges in the argument that the tomb is the family tomb of Jesus (Mark Goodacre and Bob Cargill are good to start with). The statistics still have not been done properly, the linking of NT names to the names at Talpiot A are tenuous and the context stretched, and there is no good reason to presume that the James ossuary is in any way related to Talpiot A or B (note the many discrepancies between geological reports and the state of the tombs when they were discovered by excavators; this suggests that the James ossuary was a part of another tomb all together).
Also, I am not sure in what manner you suggest that I am giving an argument for mythicism. I was very clear in my paper that this is precisely what I was not doing. My argument is only for the acceptance of more doubt about historicity; in no way is that the same thing as arguing for mythicism.
Thanks for your comment.
The two Talpiot Tombs give me hope that one day Christianity will adopt a far less bizarre notion of resurrection, embracing the resurrection of a spiritual body as Dr. Tabor suggests (and which the "Jonah" ossuary in the "Patio tomb" gives much weight to) rather than the reanimation of a corpse. I confess to never having had much faith in the Frankensteinian view.
Fascinating new questions now emerge as well as new impetus and direction to NT studies regarding the resurrection, even as the "Jesus" tomb gives rise to questions as to the marital status of Jesus. Also, the question as to who was first responsible for the Frankenstein view of resurrection, of starting the rumor of an empty tomb and of a reanimated Jesus who got up and flew away into the sky sans aeroplane and the principles of aerodynamics.
The death of literalist, triumphalist Christianity will occur within several generations. A humbled, chastened, conciliatory and more gracious Christianity will emerge and take the place of the current versions.
That is my hope.
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