Monday, December 23, 2013

Did Jesus Really Live?

Did Jesus really live? Apparently, yes!
by Charlie Leck

An edited, smaller version of this blog was published today as a status update on my Facebook page.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are some documents dating back to only 60 to 70 years after the time Jesus lived (perhaps even only 35 years). In them there is clear mention of the death of Jesus by crucifixion. It appears certain that the very religious men who wrote these documents were “aware of a new religious leader (or at least a teacher and preacher) in Israel known as Jesus of Nazareth and of a group of writings about him known as the New Testament.” [Grant R. Jeffrey] It is possible that some of these Essenes, who squirreled away the ancient scrolls, were somewhat influenced by the life and message of Jesus.

I have accepted as fact that Jesus was an actual figure of history. Josephus, the great historian of that era and region, has also made mention of the man Jesus (referencing his execution by Pontius Pilate). The church’s writings after the death of Jesus embellished his life and accomplishments in order to establish its own authority. One of my quests has been to understand the real man who is hidden behind those superfluities. I have a feeling he was much more remarkable and amazing than the man the early church portrayed.

Most scholars accept the references of the historian, Josephus. There were only two. The one mentioned above and this quite remarkable one: “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.” Josephus also makes mention of the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist.

People who want to delve more deeply into this question ought to get to know about the work of the Jesus Seminar, a group of significant theologians and scholars from various fields have been working for a few decades to determine what statements recorded in the gospel can be historically attributed to Jesus and which are embellishments authored by the early church as an effort to establish its own authority. There work is absolutely fascinating and significant. Their studies led them to believe that the little known work, the Gospel of Thomas, to be more significant and historically important than the gospels included in the work popularly known as the New Testament. In 2007, I wrote here about this gospel and provided a reprint of its verses. It is a long, but fascinating document. As an example, among the quotations was this one…

The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are, you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."
(James, the Just, was the biological brother of Jesus.)

Albert Schweitzer, highly acclaimed and widely known pastor and scholar of his time, wrote The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906. Though this new group of scholars has gone significantly beyond what Schweitzer was able to do on his own, this book had a gigantic impact on scholarship of the time and remains important even today.


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