Talk:Jesus

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q 1
What should this article be named?

A: To balance all religious denominations this was discussed on this talk page and it was accepted as early as 2004 that Jesus, rather than Jesus Christ, is acceptable as the article title. The title Christ for Jesus is used by Christians, but not by Jews and Muslims. Hence it should not be used in this general, overview article. Similarly in English usage the Arabic Isa and Hebrew Yeshua are less general than Jesus, and can not be used as titles for this article per WP:Commonname.

Q 2
Why does this article use the BC/AD format for dates?

A: The use of AD, CE or AD/CE was discussed on the article talk page for a few years. The article started out with BC/AD but the combined format AD/CE was then used for some time as a compromise, but was the subject of ongoing discussion, e.g. see the 2008 discussion, the 2011 discussion and the 2012 discussion, among others. In April 2013 a formal request for comment was issued and a number of users commented. In May 2013 the discussion ended and the consensus of the request for comment was to use the BC/AD format.

Q 3
Did Jesus exist?

A: Based on a preponderance of sources, this article is generally written as if he did. A more thorough discussion of the evidence establishing Jesus' historicity can be found at Historicity of Jesus and detailed criticism of the non-historicity position can be found at Christ myth theory. See the policy on the issue for more information.

Q 3a
Is "virtually all scholars" a term that can be used in Wikipedia?

A: The issue was discussed on the talk page:

  • The term is directly used by the source in the article, and is used per the WP:RS/AC guideline to reflect the academic consensus.
Q 3b
What about asking on the reliability noticeboard?

A: Yes, people involved in the page can discuss matters, but an independent opinion from the reliable source noticeboard can further clarify and confirm the sources. An outside opinion was requested on the noticeboard. The outside opinion there (by user:DGG) stated that the issue has been discussed there many times and that the statement in the article (that virtually all scholars of antiquity hold that Jesus existed) represents the academic consensus.

Q 3c
What about the books that claim Jesus never existed?

A: The internet includes some such lists, and they have been discussed at length on the talk page, e.g. a list of over 20 such books was addressed in this talk page discussion. The list came from a non-WP:RS website and once it was analyzed it became clear that:

  • Most of the authors on the list were not scholars in the field, and included an attorney, an accountant, a land surveyor, a film-maker, as well as a number of amateurs whose actual profession was less than clear, whose books were self-published and failed the WP:RS requirements. Some of the non-self-published authors on the list were found to just write popular books, have no academic position and not scholars, e.g. Christopher Hitchens.
  • Some of the books on the list did not even deny the existence of Jesus, e.g. Burton Mack (who is a scholar) holds that Jesus existed but his death was not due to his challenge to Jewish authority, etc. Finkelstein and Silberman's work is about the Old Testament and not really related to Jesus. Tom Harpur holds that Jesus existed but mythical stories were later added to the gospel narratives about him.

The analysis of the list thus indirectly shed light on the scarcity of scholars who deny the existence of Jesus.

Q 3d
Do we have to survey the scholars ourselves?

A: The formal Wikipedia guidelines require us not to do our own survey. The Wikipedia guideline WP:RS/AC specifically states: "The statement that all or most scientists or scholars hold a certain view requires reliable sourcing that directly says that all or most scientists or scholars hold that view." Given that the guideline then states: "statement in Wikipedia that academic consensus exists on a topic must be sourced rather than being based on the opinion or assessment of editors." we should not rely on our own surveys but quote a scholar who states the "academic consensus".

Q 3e
Why even mention the existence of Jesus in the article lead?

A: This was discussed on the talk page. Although scholars at large see existence as a given, there are some self-published, non-scholarly books which question it, and hence non-scholars who read this article need to to have that issue clarified. And note that the statements regarding existence and other attributes need to be kept separate and stating that "Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus was from Galilee" would not be accurate, because scholarly agreement on existence is much stronger than on other items.

Q 4
Are the scholars who study Jesus all Christian?

A: No. According to Bart D. Ehrman in How Jesus Became God (ISBN: 978-0-06-177818-6, page 187), "most New Testament scholars are themselves Christian". However, scholars of many faiths have studied Jesus. There are 3 aspects to this question:

  • Some of the most respected late 20th century scholars involved in the study of the historical Jesus, e.g. Amy-Jill Levine, Geza Vermes, Paula Fredriksen, etc. are Jewish. This trend is discussed in the 2012 book "Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship by Bruce Chilton Anthony Le Donne and Jacob Neusner (ISBN 0800698010 page 132). While much of the older research in the 1950-1970 time frame may have involved Christian scholars (mostly in Europe) the 1980s saw an international effect and since then Jewish scholars have brought their knowledge of the field and made significant contributions. And one should note that the book is coauthored by the likes of Chilton and Neusner with quite different backgrounds. Similarly one of the main books in the field "The Historical Jesus in Context by Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison Jr., John Dominic Crossan 2006 ISBN 0691009929" is jointly edited by scholars with quite different backgrounds. In the late 20th and the 21st century Jewish, Christian and secular agnostic scholars have widely cooperated in research.
  • Regarding the existence of a historical Jesus, the article lead quotes Ehrman who is an agnostic and Price who is an atheist. Moreover, G. A. Wells who was widely accepted as the leader of the non-existence movement in the 20th century, abandoned that position and now accepts that the Q source refers to "a preacher" on whom parts of the gospels were based - although he believes that the supernatural claims were just stories that were then attributed to that preacher. That is reflected in his 2004 book "Can we Trust the New Testament", pages 49-50. While scholars continue to debate the historicity of specific gospel narratives, the agreement on the existence of Jesus is quite global.
  • Finally, Wikipedia policies do not prohibit Buddhist scholars as sources on the history of Buddhism, Jewish scholars on Judaism, or Muslim scholars as sources on the history of Islam provided they are respected scholars whose works meet the general WP:RS requirements in terms of publisher reputation, etc.
Q 5
Why are some historical facts stated to be less certain than others?

A: The difference is "historically certain" versus "historically probable" and "historically plausible". There are a number of subtle issues and this is a somewhat complicated topic, although it may seem simple at first:

  • Hardly any scholars dispute the existence of Jesus or his crucifixion.
  • A large majority of scholars agree that he debated the authorities and had "followers" - some scholars say there was a hierarchy among the followers, a few think it was a flat organization.
  • More scholars think he performed some healings (given that Rabbinic sources criticize him for that etc., among other reasons) than those who say he never did, but less agreement on than the debates with authorities, etc.

As the article states Amy-Jill Levine summarized the situation by stating: "Most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John, debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God's will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate." In that statement Levine chose her words very carefully. If she had said "disciples" instead of followers there would have been serious objections from other scholars, if she had said "called" instead of "gathered", there would have also been objections in that some scholars hold that Jesus preached equally to all, never imposed a hierarchy among his followers, etc. Scholars have very specific positions and the strength of the consensus among them can vary by changing just one word, e.g. follower to disciple or apostle, etc.

Q 6
Why is the info box so brief?

A: The infobox is intended to give a summary of the essential pieces of information, and not be a place to discuss issues in any detail. So it has been kept brief, and to the point, based on the issues discussed below.

Q 6a
Was Jesus Jewish?

A: Yes. As the article states in a review of the state of modern scholarship, Amy-Jill Levine stated that scholars agree that Jesus was Jewish, but she adds that: "Beyond recognizing that 'Jesus was Jewish' rarely does scholarship address what being 'Jewish' means." Hence, discussions on the talk page decided that the article and the infobox do not mention anything further than that regarding his race, a possible nationality designator, etc.

Q 6b
Why is the birthplace not mentioned in the infobox?

A: The question came up in this discussion and there is no solid scholarly agreement on Bethlehem, so the infobox does not address that.

Q 7
Why is there no discussion of the legacy/impact of Jesus?

A: That issue is inherently controversial, and has been discussed on the talk page for many years, e.g. see the 2006 discussion, the June 2010 discussion, the Nov 2010 discussion, etc. One user commented that it would turn out to be a discussion of the "impact of Christianity" in the end; because all impact was through the spread of Christianity in any case. So it has been left out due to those discussions.

Q 8
Why is there no discussion of Christian denominational differences?

A: Christianity includes a large number of denominations, and their differences can be diverse. Some denominations do not have a central teaching office and it is quite hard to characterize and categorize these issues without a long discussion that will exceed the length limits imposed by WP:Length on articles. The discussion of the theological variations among the multitude of Christian denominations is beyond the scope of this article, as in this talk page discussion. Hence the majority and common views are briefly sketched and hyper-links are provided to other articles that deal with the theological differences among Christians.

Q 9
What is the correct possessive of Jesus?

A: This article uses the apostrophe-only possessive: Jesus' not Jesus's Do not change usage within quotes. That was decided in this discussion.

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Rabbi[edit]

What qualifications were needed to qualify as a Jewish Rabbi, and are there any evidence that Jesus did Rabbi training? 86.178.174.199 (talk) 23:36, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

Well, back then, with the large number of universities and governments organizing over the internet, it was no trouble for Jesus to get a online degree from the Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen Rabbinical seminary.
In all seriousness, Roman dominated Judea bordered on what we'd now call a third world country. There weren't really many institutions to officially declare someone a rabbi or not. The Sadducees and Pharisees were doing well to simply maintain their own orthodoxies in the face of each other as well as the Essenes, Zealots, and Hellenistic Jews; and each group was doing well enough to make their beliefs known. If a guy had a bunch of people calling him "teacher" in Aramaic, he was a rabbi (rabbi just means "teacher"). It's only after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE that Rabbinic Judaism became a thing (and even then, there were only three Yeshivas, or rabbinical schools, from the third to thirteenth centuries). Ian.thomson (talk) 23:56, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

Birthplace[edit]

The supposed census has no historical support. Likewise Bethlehem as a birthplace. Not unless we count the contradictory narratives of Luke and Matthew. John and Mark make no mention of Bethlehem. Most historians who have expressed an opinion (as opposed to "biblical scholars" whose agenda is obvious) note the unlikelihood of Jesus having been born in Bethlehem. It was a long way to travel, there was no good reason to do so, the means of travel impractical and so on. Likewise the massacre of innocents and flight to Egypt. No historical sources.

However, if one were attempting to construct a narrative consistent with popular beliefs about the Messiah, Bethlehem and Egypt must be worked into the story. Regardless of fact.

I don't think we should list Bethlehem as a birthplace without noting the unlikelihood of this. --Pete (talk) 22:44, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

The actual article refers to Luke and Matthew placing the nativity in Bethlehem, not that it definitely really did happen there. I think you are referring to a back and forth about categories that has been going on the last few days. The category "People born in Bethlehem" does not say "People who were born in Bethlehem, 100% for sure" it could be taken to mean "People whose birth is said to have been in Bethlehem". Anyway the information in the article is much more important than categories in my opinion.Smeat75 (talk) 23:05, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
I would highly recommend keeping some traditional content such as the categories removed. Mark and John don't recount the birth of Jesus. -- JudeccaXIII (talk) 23:54, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Santa Claus is traditionally said to reside at the North Pole, but Wikipedia does not state it as a fact. Matthew and Luke have quite different nativity stories. It is impossible to align them in any plausible way. But if we regard them as narratives without the need for actual truth, that's fine. Jesus himself uses similar stories - the mote and beam, for example - to illustrate various points in ways that his audience could understand and appreciate. We can easily accept that Jesus was said by the author of Mark to have been born in Bethlehem in the same way that Santa Claus is said to be a resident of the North Pole. Not in a factual sense, but a metaphorical way that is patently untrue but coloured for narrative effect.
However, if we are reporting fables, then we cannot report them as facts. --Pete (talk) 00:30, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Yea, really appreciate your smart ass comment. JudeccaXIII (talk) 00:47, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I wasn't aware I'd made one, but thank you anyway. I've just checked and the Santa Claus article, while being an entertaining read, does not record him in the category of North Pole residents --Pete (talk) 00:50, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Santa Claus doesn't have hundreds of texts from Egypt to Syria or mainly the Middle East in general based on him. Also, Santa didn't have an empire built under his name, just some western folklore attributed to him. Since you like to bracket Santa Claus, you should read the article yourself to build some intellectual foundation inside that empty head of yours. -- JudeccaXIII (talk) 01:43, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Ah. I see now. The cult of Santa Claus is as real as Christianity, and has as many popular narratives to depict the existence and the philosophy. Some of these cannot be true. This sort of thing applies to all major cults. Buddha cannot possibly have performed all the feats attributed to him. Likewise Muhammad. We have a duty to list and describe the most popular narratives, but only the staunchest supporters of each would claim them to be true, and hence we follow NPOV in giving due weight to such claims. --Pete (talk) 05:50, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
But, getting back to the subject in hand. We don't have any contemporary accounts of the birth of Jesus, and those that were recorded after his death are contradictory. The historical references - including the Gospels - overwhelmingly describe him as Jesus of Nazareth or the Nazarene. There seems to be little doubt as to his residence before his ministry, and few serious historians place much credence in the stories linking him to Bethlehem, let alone Egypt. --Pete (talk) 05:56, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
You talk about NPOV, yet you call religious sects. "cults". Simply, you want to remove traditional content because what you believe is false based on who scholars? from where?. Anyone can believe in anything based on whatever religious sect they are part of, it is their personal choice. Text and artifacts are what keep scholars alive in their job, but their personal opinion is what makes them different from other scholars. The debate of Jesus's birthplace is as debatable as creationism. -- JudeccaXIII (talk) 06:18, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Well, I was looking for a useful word to link Santa Claus, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. "a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society." It's just a word. It's not a matter of what I personally believe is true or false. Hell, I could be wrong. NPOV is about finding reliable sources and seeing what their opinions are. I'm not seeing a real lot of scholarly support for the Bethlehem notion. --Pete (talk) 09:18, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I just want to clarify, for myself and possibly for others who may read this - this discussion is about categories, right? It doesn't say anywhere in the article that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as a historical fact or the flight to Egypt, does it?Smeat75 (talk) 16:00, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes. --Pete (talk) 18:46, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

Existence[edit]

The example given after 'For example, the same "argument from ignorance" could apply' is illogical and irrelevant. Socrates cannot be used as a parallel to Jesus' case as Socrates (as mentioned in the example) DID have several contemporary accounts. Also, this has nothing to do with argument from ignorance in general.

|I would agree that the comparison to Socrates should either be cited to a reliable source, which it is not at the moment, or removed.Smeat75 (talk) 16:03, 23 July 2014 (UTC)


New Section 8[edit]

I propose to add an 8th section providing a brief synopsis of the differences between historical, classic archaeological, archaeological and theological approaches to the study of the past, with pertinent academic references. The scholarly references used in this article are strongly biased to a single approach consisting largely of theological exegesis ("historical-critical") methodologies as contextualised by faith-based perspectives and old school classical archaeology. This does NOT reflect the breadth or depth of mainstream modern historical or archaeological theory, data collection or analysis in early first century research. There are many critics of the scholarly approach taken by the theologians mentioned in this article, of their findings, and their extrapolations, especially where these are derived from selective use of historical and archaeological research conducted by other professionals from outside of theological circles. It is broadly accepted in (non-theological) archaeological circles, for example, that there is no evidence of Jesus, period. Recognition of the absence of knowledge allows us to accurately devise means to effectively pursue new knowledge. To not mention this is a disservice to the readers of this article, and antithetical to the purpose of Wikipedia. A more balanced approach is necessary to allow the reader to understand the topic more thoroughly. Thoughts? If there are no substantive objections I'll add the new section in 48 hours. --IseeEwe (talk) 06:45, 1 August 2014 (UTC)

It is broadly accepted in (non-theological) archaeological circles, for example, that there is no evidence of Jesus, period. Do you mean "there is no archaeological evidence for Jesus?" No there isn't and there is no reason why there should be. If you mean "there is no evidence of Jesus at all" exactly the opposite is true. "Graeme Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Classical (Ancient) History and Archaeology at Australian National University has stated "Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ - the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming...Co-director of Ancient Cultures Research Centre at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia Alanna Nobbs has stated "While historical and theological debates remain about the actions and significance of this figure, his fame as a teacher, and his crucifixion under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, may be described as historically certain." For instance (they are historians) There is no debate among historians about Jesus' existence.Smeat75 (talk) 13:17, 1 August 2014 (UTC)
All the references in this article, including the ones you cite, come from one school (albeit a vocal one with many practitioners)of historical methodology. There are many other philosophical, theoretical and methodological approaches in academic history and archaeology, with a diversity of opinions on this question. It is disingenuous to continue to assert that "scholars" exist as a singular homogeneous group, that other schools of thought do not exist, and that other forms of knowledge development utterly outside the context of the historical-critical approach are unable to contribute meaningfully to this conversation. The editors of this page do not take into consideration other schools of historical and archaeological research. This is an encyclopaedic endeavour. Nuanced, dissenting and different reliable, verifiable, cited and relevant studies can not be bared, nor dismissed. --IseeEwe (talk) 20:14, 1 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm puzzled. If you could strip away all the jargon and give us the guts of your position, that would help. --Pete (talk) 20:23, 1 August 2014 (UTC)
I just did. This is not the place to discuss the content or findings of this article. All I am trying to do, stated very simply is to point out that saying something is true because "It is written on paper, I say so, all my friends say so, and all the people like me say so" is not how academia works. Archaeologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers of science and scholars in other fields, outside of biblical studies, question simple textual and linguistic analysis as a means to understand history. Western biblical scholars say Jesus is historical, others do not. I wish to present the case that there are other opinions that must be taken into consideration and to provide references for the reader. --IseeEwe (talk) 03:14, 2 August 2014 (UTC)
So how does this relate to NPOV, which seems to be adequately covered in the article? --Pete (talk) 05:13, 2 August 2014 (UTC)