“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savoir of the world” (4:42) According to the Christian Gospels Jesus was born in Bethlehem between 6 BC and 6 AD. The Gospel Mark reports that Jesus was “the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon” he also states that Jesus had sisters. Nothing of Jesus is recorded between 7 AD (Jesus visits the Temple in Jerusalem as a boy) and 25 AD (John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan). The Gospels state that starting around 27 AD Jesus began traveling the country side performing miracles and preaching sermons around Galilee.
Jesus reportedly preformed many amazing miracles on numerous occasions during his ministry. It has been said in the Gospels that among other things Jesus brought the dead back to life, calmed storms, walked on water, cured blindness, and was himself resurrected form the dead. In 28 AD Jesus chooses 12 disciples to teach and spread the gospel, among those were John and Matthew who later wrote two of the four Christian Gospels. Then in 30 AD the Roman authorities decided to arrest Jesus due to his growing popularity and his new interpretations of scripture were seen as a threat.
Jesus was brought before the Jewish authorities, and, after implying affirmative when asked if he was the son of God, was handed over to Pontius Pilate, the local governor in the occupying Roman government. Pilate asked Jesus whether he considered himself the king of the Jews , which could have been considered an attempt at usurping Roman authority, and either received no answer from Jesus, or the reply, It is you who say it . Pilate then allowed a crowd that had gathered to decide whether Jesus, or another prisoner, should be released.
The crowd decided that Jesus should not be released so Pilate, attempting to appease the crowd, had Jesus scourged, and some Roman soldiers fashioned a crown out of thorns and placed it on Jesus’ head. The crowd demanded that Jesus be crucified and Pilate relented. That same day, having carried his own cross, he was crucified on Golgotha, with a sign reading (in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek) Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews placed on the cross upon the direction of Pilate. According to the Gospel of Luke, as he was crucified, Jesus said, Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.
He hung on the cross until his death was confirmed by a Roman soldier piercing his side with a spear. After observing the Sabbath, some of Jesus’ female followers returned to the tomb to complete the Burial rites. When they arrived they discovered the body was gone, and they returned with some of the male disciples. According to the New testament, Jesus rose from the dead in the third day following his crucifixion and appeared to his disciples; the Acts of the Apostles reports that forty days later he ascended bodily into Heaven.
The Apostle Paul’s letters to the Romans, Ephesians and Colossians, as well as a letter to the Hebrews (traditionally attributed to Paul) claim that Jesus presently exercises all the authority and on earth for the sake of the Church. Based on the New Testament, Christians believe that Jesus will return from heaven at the end of the age, to judge the living and the dead. Academics use a logical structure to assess the credibility of sources of information and, faith not being asserted as proof, the Gospels has a very difficult time holding up to these standards.
The first thing that would call the accuracy of the Gospels into to question is that the claims in themselves are highly improbable. The more improbable a claim is, the less willing we should be to accept it merely on the say-so of a witness. Many historians immediately dismiss most of the claims of supernatural activity on the premises that they simply do not accept that God intervenes in human existence.
Other scholars attempt to stay away from such preconceived notions, but still dismiss the more miraculous claims maintaining that extraordinary claims need to supported by (require) extraordinary evidence, and the Gospels are not generally thought of as “extraordinary” evidence. Groups such as the Jesus Seminar (a group of some very prominent scholars that are attempting to illuminate who Jesus was, what he did, and what he said based on textual analysis) have identified numerous fallacies within Biblical text.
One of which is that the Gospels are too limited of a source, that is to say that there are only four (accepted) accounts of Jesus life. Of these few sources none of them completely agree with each other on important issues. This pertains to some of the more critical beliefs in Christianity such as his birth and resurrection. This creates a serious problem for those who wish to interpret the Gospels literately; if the same account is recorded two different ways by equally creditable sources it’s very difficult to distinguish which is the correct one.
In the case of the Gospels there numerous motivations could easily be pointed out as to why the people establishing the story of Jesus Christ would have ulterior incentives to present him in a certain light. For instance, the Gospel of Mark the Gospel on which Matthew and John was written for the Romans while he was in Rome. According to Mark, the Jews are the ones pushing for the crucifixion while the Roman governor Pilate is advising against this action. There is reason to believe that Mark would not write badly about the Roman Empire while in Rome and if he had, it may not have survived for others to read.
Christian belief is also faced with the problem of alleged censorship and so called pseudepigraphical writing (works written by an unknown individual under another name). Morton Smith, a professor at such and such a school widely accepted as a first scholar) claims to have found an excerpt from the Gospel of Mark pasted into the inside of 17th century printed book in the monastery of Mar Saba, twelve miles south of Jerusalem. When found, the letter was photographed bye Morton Smith, and the monks at the monastery separated it from the book, for analysis and reiteration.
Analysis of the writing and vocabulary shows that the document expresses authenticity. However, the letter quickly became lost prompting accusations of a conspiracy by the Church. Among other later pseudepigraphical writings there is an alleged letter from Herod Antipas (ruler of Judea and tetrarch in Galilee in 4 BC-40 AD) purporting to be directed to the Roman Senate defending his (Herod’s) actions concerning both John the Baptist and Jesus. This letter was said to be found among the records of the Roman Senate but is now commonly seen as a fraud.
These types of writing do hold a historical value though; the very existence of this type of document show an apparent need on the part of Christians to supplement existing documents for Jesus that they felt should have existed. Although the Bible is standard Christian teaching, more liberal Christians do not as strongly agree with the accounts of miracles and supernatural activity. For example, liberal Christians generally attribute the miraculous healing to medicines. Some scholars, such as Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, even go so far as to criticize Jesus Seminar type thinking.
Johnson reports: “Far from displaying a more scientific, critical view of the New Testament, many of these scholars are touchingly naive in the way they approach historical sources and in their understanding of what history is or can achieve. . . The problem that underlies much of contemporary New Testament scholarship is a serious misunderstanding as to what constitutes historical knowledge. ” In fact, Johnson argues, “Authentic Christian faith is not now, nor ever had been based on the historical reconstruction of who Jesus was. He also reminds his readers that, “Christians do not have faith in this or that scholarly account of the historical Jesus, but in the living Christ rose from the dead. The ‘real Jesus’ for Christian faith is the resurrected Jesus, whom ‘God had made both the Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36). ” Mainly though Johnson asserts, as do other scholars, that modern critics ask too much out of the Gospels, and that these documents obviously cannot withstand a court-like investigation.
In response to the criticism of the inconsistencies of the Gospels, Christians have claimed that that its self speaks to their credibility. It has been argued that had the documents been edited and revised by the Roman Empire that they would have altered them to agree with one another, and if they had been completely fabricated to begin with, they then too would be made to correspond. The Romans would not have altered them in a way that would create problems for them in the future.
Johnson’s argument regarding the intensity in which the Gospels are critiqued has been given some credibility in the academic community. His stance on the foundation of Christianity, however, has been questioned. Johnson’s claim that the Christian faith is not based on the history of Jesus but instead on the history of his resurrection is a contradiction in itself. Johnson discredits his own source of information, saying that the Gospels cannot be asked to yield a reliable historical Jesus.
As to the level of inspection applied to the Gospels, it is generally agreed that the more a historical event is studied the more that can be learned about it. Furthermore, when conservative Christians present the Gospels as a historical document, an educated society has no choice but to critique and analyze the sources. This also does not account for the lack of the other recorded history of the time taking any interest in the miraculous and amazing ministry of Jesus. Jewish records, both oral and written, of that period, were complied into the Talmud, a work so large that it fills at least 32 volumes.
Within this vast record there is very little mention of anyone called Jesus, the closest match being a person called Yeshu. However the description of Yeshu is very different from the Biblical accounts of Jesus. There are other documents that mention the early Christians but they are not seen as a testament to Jesus’ divinity. One non-secular source is Pliny the Younger, the Governor of Bithynia, who mentions the early Christians in a letter to the Emperor in about 112 AD; in his writings he says that he had discovered Christianity was a foolish superstition.
A few other writings of the time mention the early Christians but usually in relation to being “misled” and “superstitious”. Many Christians also cite a passage from Josephus as evidence that the Bible is not the only contemporary document proclaiming the history of their faith (such as the Resurrection of Jesus). Many historians have noted that has many internal indicators that seem to be inconsistent with the rest of Josephus’ writings, along with Josephus’ cooperation with the Romans has lead them to believe that part or all of these passages may have been foraged or fabricated.
The popular historian Will Durant wrote about the history of Jesus in his book Caesar and Christ, Durant stated, “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 deigned to prove the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, many passages possibly aiming to establish a basis for some later doctrine or ritual of the Church. ”.
The original Gospels have long been lost, and there is no record of anyone ever having seen them. The oldest authentic New Testament material that has been discovered consists of a few tiny scraps of papyrus possibly dating to the early second century. The evidence presented to support the claim that Jesus is the son of God does not seem to posses the necessary and sufficient proof that is required. More historically credible sources must be available to defend such a strong and improbable claim.
Bruce Milne, The Message of JOHN
http://www.answers.com/topic/historical-jesus -Christian Gospels and New Testament Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Major Bible Themes. Dallas: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953. Revised, Grand Rapids, Michigan: John F. Walvoord, 1974. Leon Morris, Jesus Is The Christ (STUDIES IN THE THEOLOGY OF JOHN)