Originally posted:1—if Jesus ever existed as a human being at all. We know this because of things like basic errors in geography and local customs that would be impossible for anyone that actually traveled where Jesus did to make. We also know that after a period of oral tradition there were many gospels and they were circulated without names. The names the accepted gospels were eventually given were only second century guesses—and of course we can show now that they guessed wrong.
“…we can see clearly the progress in the developing supernatural nature of Christ as we follow the evolution of the early Christian scriptures. Paul set the stage for that progress with his movement from his first acclamation that in Christ God was 'reconciling the world to himself' (2 Cor. 5:19) to his later interpretation that God had declared Jesus to be God’s son, by the Spirit of Holiness, at the time of the resurrection (Rom. 1:1-4). Next Mark declared that God had made Jesus God’s son not at the resurrection but at the baptism (Mark1:1-11). Then Matthew and Luke moved the decisive moment when Jesus was recognized as God to the conception (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2). Finally the idea of the enfleshment of the preexistent word or Logos emerged as John’s way of portraying the meaning of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ humanity faded with each evolutionary step, while his divinity was heightened. His capture by the prevailing God-definition became increasingly accepted.” (Spong, 109-10)
Jesus’s personality also evolved with each retelling, as Dr. William Abruzzi explains:
The movie The God Who Wasn’t There has this to say about Paul, the first confirmed Christian writer:
“Paul wrote lots of letters about Christianity. In fact, he wrote eighty thousand words about the Christian religion. These documents represent almost all we have of the history of Christianity during this decades-long gap.2 And here's the interesting thing. If Jesus was a human who had recently lived, nobody told Paul. Paul never heard of Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist. He never heard about any of these miracles. He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said. He never mentions Jesus having a ministry of any kind at all. He doesn't know about any entrance into Jerusalem, he never mentions Pontius Pilate or a Jewish mob or any trials at all. Paul doesn't know any of what we would call the story of Jesus, except for these last three events [crucifixion, resurrection, ascension]. And even these, Paul never places on Earth. Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm. Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea. And he's the link between the time-frame given for the life of Jesus and the appearance of the first Gospel account of that life.”
Scholar Richard Carrier reviews the details of these claims here:
For the better part of two thousand years, the majority of scholars have just assumed that there had to be an historical Jesus at the base of Christianity. Mythicist arguments have been largely laughed out as being absurd instead of actually being treated seriously. Recently, Luigi Cascioli and Earl Doherty have made modern attempts to articulate the mythicist position, and would seem to have paid more careful attention to the details in the evidence than the historicists ever had. I will get to Casioli shortly, but first, Doherty. Earl Doherty wrote a book called The Jesus Puzzle in which he argues that Christianity is more likely to have started without a single founder and that the Jesus character was a later mythical creation. Carrier reviewed Doherty’s book and concluded that Doherty’s theory is at least as coherent with all the data that we have as the historical Jesus theory. Do we know for sure whether or not there was an historical Jesus at Christianity’s founding? No we do not. But what is perhaps more important, and what we do know for sure, is that the Jesus persona that is presented to us through Christianity is so clothed by the philosophy and mythology of others that whether there is a man or a mannequin beneath the costume is practically irrelevant—either way it is only a prop for an imaginary character that we know did not actually exist.
The earliest records we have attesting to an experience of the resurrection are from Paul, and he describes his experience as being on par with those of the other “Christians” (technically the original “Christian” groups did not call themselves Christians and remained observant members of Judaism). Yet Paul’s experience of the resurrection is notably spiritual, and not physical, in nature. He did not sit down to supper with Jesus. He did not talk to Jesus face to face. Rather, he describes seeing a light and hearing a voice. This, by the way, is not an uncommon experience for individuals that suffer from epileptic seizures, as Paul likely did. But even if his experiences were not merely hallucinatory and he actually did make contact with spiritual forces, what are we left with? Paul, essentially, saw a ghost.3 Cross-culturally, reports of this kind of thing happen all the time—across all cultures, and across all eras. There is nothing at all unique about Jesus’s case. This type of experience might be particularly jarring for individuals coming from a Jewish background that traditionally rejected the belief in the existence of a soul independent of a physical body, but the experience itself is relatively common. Reports of physically interacting with a Jesus who had a physically resurrected body (as well as finding an empty tomb) do not come into the tradition until much later, and the later in the tradition we look, the more stories saying that the resurrection had happened physically we are offered. It seems clear that this is just more of the tall tale, “big fish” phenomena that we see occurring with everything else in the Christian story.
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