What do you know? The historicity of Jesus is once again something that people are talking about.
Two separate sources recently questioned the historicity of Jesus. But let us set the record straight.
Whether or not Jesus was a historical figure is probably not susceptible of objective resolution; there is too little surviving evidence to settle the question. That ought to make preachers uncomfortable when they howl that “Jesus wants this” and “Jesus wants that” but … you know.
My own view is that the literary Jesus, the 1st-Century hippie portrayed in the Bible, the guy who went around raising the dead and making certain there was plenty of alcohol for parties, is a fraud — but that there probably was a rabble-rousing rabbi upon whom the literary figure is based.
The article I linked to is interesting only because of the poor quality of the arguments.
Of course, there are many Christian sources that testify to Jesus’ existence, such as His apostles like Peter, John, Matthew, and Andrew. There was also the implacable enemy of the Christian Church, Saul of Tarsus, who once dedicated his life to uprooting the fledgling faith. He became converted after having met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was transformed into the Apostle Paul, an implacable promoter of faith in Christ Jesus, as he often called Him – that is, Messiah Jesus.
Most of these historical sources not only testified that Jesus was real; they were martyred because they refused to deny Him. This was Someone they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.
The first-written of the canonical gospels was Mark, approximately 35-years after the crucifixion according to most Biblical scholars — just before the failure of the Jewish Rebellion and the Christian sect’s eviction from the Temple; Matthew, Luke, and John are generally agreed to have been written after the sect’s eviction, possibly as much as 70-years after the crucifixion. They are political texts based upon hearsay, written by anonymities about whom nothing is known, and which justify their beliefs and condemn their former co-religionissts; as history, they are almost valueless.
Paul’s private psychological experience is totally valueless as history; it tells us nothing. And consider how much easier it must have been 2000-years ago to perform miracles when tricksters Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn have made fortunes by ‘healing’ the afflicted in our own time.
My view that there was probably a cult-leader named Jesus, upon whom the literary Jesus is based, is grounded on an analogy from modern time.
Does anybody, anywhere, believe that Paul Bunyan was a historical figure? A giant lumberjack with a colossal blue ox whose hooves gouged-out the Great Lakes? Of course not — but many folklorists believe that the literary Paul Bunyan is based upon a historical lumberjack around whom tall tales began to accumulate.
At the same time, several authors have come forward to propose alternative origins for Paul Bunyan. D. Laurence Rogers and others have suggested a possible connection between Paul Bunyan tales and the exploits of French-Canadian lumberjack Fabian Fournier (1845 – 1875). From 1865 to 1875, Fournier worked for the H. M. Loud Company in the Grayling, Michigan area. James Stevens in his 1925 book Paul Bunyan makes another unverified claim that Paul Bunyan was a soldier in the Papineau Rebellion named Paul Bon Jean, and this is occasionally repeated in other accounts.
Stewart and Watt acknowledge that they have not yet succeeded in definitively finding out whether Bunyan actually lived or was wholly mythical. They have noted, however, that some of the older lumberjacks whom they interviewed claimed to have known him or members of his crew, and the supposed location of his grave was actually pointed out in northern Minnesota.
I think the growth of the modern Paul Bunyan mythology is probably analogous to what actually happened in the case of Jesus. There was a noteworthy figure about whom stories began to be told, and then the profiteers moved in.