Leading Historical Jesus Scholars
Most scholars would recognise the following as leading historical Jesus scholars (in no particular order): E.P. Sanders, John P. Meier, Geza Vermes, N.T. Wright, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, James D.G. Dunn, Scot McKnight and the late Ben F. Meyer. This list is not exclusive, and other notable historical Jesus scholars who make important contributions in the field include Paul Barnett, Ben Witherington, Maurice Casey, Darrell Bock, Richard Bauckham, Michael Grant, Raymond E. Brown, Dale Allison and Bart Ehrman just to name a few. These scholars cover a wide range of ideological backgrounds - Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Liberal Christians, Agnostics and Atheists. None of these scholars show any attitude towards the non-existence hypothesis of Jesus as current within academic historical studies. In fact, no academic in the field has academically published (i.e. through academic press or academic journals) in a number of decades. As far as I am aware, there is one proponent who is "agnostic" about the existence of Jesus who holds academic degrees but he is yet to publish it in the peer-review, let alone influence any scholar.
- Leading historical Jesus scholar Professor E.P. Sanders of Duke University has written that :"There are no substantial doubts about the general course of Jesus' life: when and where he lived, and the sort of things that he did during his public activity."
- Prominent New Testament scholar and editor and contributor to Authenticating the Activities of Jesus and Authenticating the words of Jesus' states that: "The scholarly mainstream, in contrast to Bauer and company, never doubted the existence of Jesus or his relevance for the founding of the Church."
- Dr John Dickson, an ancient historian at Macquarie University has written: "To describe Jesus' non-existence as "not widely supported" is an understatement. It would be akin to me saying, "It is possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, scientific case that the 1969 lunar landing never happened." There are fringe conspiracy theorists who believe such things - but no expert does. Likewise with the Jesus question: his non-existence is not regarded even as a possibility in historical scholarship. Dismissing him from the ancient record would amount to a wholesale abandonment of the historical method.
- Professor Graeme Clarke, a prominent ancient historian states: "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."
Representative of the Consensus
Having outlined that the non-existence theory is most fringe position within the academic study of Jesus we come to the question of what most scholars agree we can know about Jesus. E.P. Sanders in his two historical Jesus books has produced a widely cited list. William R. Telford of the University of Durham states that "E.P. Sanders proceeds by deducing answers to these questions from the basis of the consensus of known facts about Jesus. What does this consensus list of facts affirm?
- Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist
- Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed
- Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve
- Jesus confined his activity to Israel
- Jesus engaged in controversy about the temple
- Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities
- After his death Jesus' followers continued an identifiable movement
- At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement.
- Jesus was born circa 4 B.C., at the approximate time of the death of Herod the Great
- Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee
- Jesus taught in small villages and towns and seemed to avoid citied
- Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples
- Jesus was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, apparently at the orders of the high priest
- although they abandoned Jesus after his arrest, the disciples later "saw" him after his death. This led the disciples to believe that Jesus would return and found the kingdom.
Christ Myth and Historical Jesus Studies
User:AKMask appears to hold an opinion different to the mainstream. The specific issue stated is, "The language in the lead cites a evangelical Christian blanket asserting that the view Jesus existed is held universally without revealing possible bias from the source." The lead statement in the article states "While scholars often draw a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith (and debate what specifics can be known concerning his character and ministry) essentially all scholars in the relevant fields agree that the existence of Jesus as a historical figure can be established using documentary and other evidence." The citation following is Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus (2nd ed.), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) p. xxiii.
First of all, I am not aware of Stanton's status as an "evangelical Christian" although he was a Christian. Secondly, a brief view of Stanton's WP biography which includes things such as his professorship at Cambridge is evident that he is a reliable source.
In essence, contrary to the consensus statements of many scholars (Christian, Jew, Agnostic and Atheist) user:AKMask engages in some original research and synthesis in order to challenge the consensus statements of numbers scholars. As no reliable source has been presented that challenges the multiple consensus statements to the contrary this original synthesis should be rejected out of hand. However, some clarification should be made for those unfamiliar with the topic.
The Original Research
- Robert M. Price - Price is the only proponent in the field who holds a Jesus agnosticism point of view. For example, he writes "Might there still have been a historical Jesus who, however, has been irretrievably lost behind the stained glass curtain of his own glorification? Indeed. But I should think the burden of proof lies with the one who would affirm such a text." However, Price has never published his views in an academic context - neither academic journals or university academic press. His writings on the subject are popular level and generally polemics (e.g. Jesus is Dead published by American Atheist Press). Popular level views of an individual that have never been peer-reviewed or subject to academic scrutiny do not redefine the consensus of scholarship. At best, it is original research. When James D.G. Dunn, a prolific mainstream scholar in the field, responded to Dunn he began "Gosh! So there are still serious scholars who put forward the view that the whole account of Jesus' doing and teachings are a later myth foisted on an unknown, obscure historical figure."
- "Even Christian scholars acknowledge that all sources for the life of Jesus came generations after he lived. The Gospels were written, according to mainline theologians from the Christian faith, up to as late as 150 CE." This is original research and advocacy. Furthermore, it is factually incorrect. For example, Paul who says a number of details about Jesus was writing from the early 50s and had direct contact with Jesus' disciples and his brother James. Furthermore, mainstream scholarship holds that the latest of the gospels was the Gospel of John which was written around 85-105, with the majority of hovering around 90AD. Other scholars hold to eyewitness testimony making up the Gospels, etc. However, there is no reason to bother disputing this original research.
- Bertrand Russell - in 1927 Russell stated he does not believe Jesus existed. Russell is not a biblical scholar or ancient historian, so his personal opinion from 80 years ago is not reflective of the mainstream consensus, nor should it evidence an OR qualification of it.
- "Taking a look at another historian, rather then theologian, Earl Doherty" - Doherty is not a historian (unless having an undergraduate Arts degree suddenly made everyone an academic) nor is he a professional in the field. He is a polemicist against Christianity and has self-published a number of works against Christianity - including those where he advocates the believe that Jesus did not exist. In short - not a scholar or academic, nor does he talk of a new consensus. Of his theory he states, "Van Voorst is quite right in saying that 'mainstream scholarship today finds it unimportant' [to engage the Christ myth theory seriously]."
- George A Larue - does not hold that Jesus did not exist, reference to him is only for the sake of original research by the individual editor.
Quran All of the Qur'anic traditions are dependent on the New Testament and/or Christian teachings (or in the example paralleled in Irenaeus, on Christian heresy). Much of it reflects Islamic ideas. Some of it may reflect apsects of Jewish-Christian poelmic. None derives from early, independent sources." Craig A. Evans, "Jesus in Non-Christian Sources" in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Vol 4 pp.381 Footnote: For selections from the Qur'an and other Islamic writings, see Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins, 167-86; Evans, Life of Jesus Research, 185-87.
- Do any reliable sources explicitly challenge the consensus statement regarding mainstream scholarship? No.
- Does a reliable source state that Robert Price's views are mainstream? No.
- Does original research and synthesis (e.g. misusing references to Freedman and Larue to advance a theory neither hold) take precedent over reliably sourced consensus statements? No.
- Does the personal belief on the topic by philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1927 replace reliable consensus statements on the state of scholarship? No.
- Do mainstream reliable sources from a wide range of religious and non-religious perspectives agree that there is a clear consensus within scholarship that Jesus existed as a historical figure? Yes.
- Fischer, Roland (1994) "On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind" Anthropology of Consciousness Volume 5. Issue 4. December 1994 (Pages 16 - 18)
- Not a historian, etc.
- Makes basic assertions no scholar agrees with. E.g. claims no evidence for Jesus, oddly enough missing all the sources except one of the two mentions on Josephus.
- Josephus' TF was a forgery because Hubert van Gtfifen b.1534 said so
- In the footnote, Fischer thanks Michael Whitefield as the source for this theory on the origins of Christianity. Like Fischer, Whitefield was not a historian etc but a mystic and mathematician.
- Is this Fischer admitting that there is a historical Jesus?
- "Who was then "Jesus the Jew". Was he a fiction that became flesh or was he of flesh and bones to become narrative fiction. Jesus, the Galilean Jew, was independent minded, unscholarly (compared with Jerusalem Pharisees), "charismatic," a hasid, exorcist, healer, popular teacher—in short, a remarkable and in many ways admirable representative of a known type of first century Judaism. It was a type not much approved of by official Judaism, and totally ignored by subsequent Christian dogmatism" (p.17)
- I am not sure that Fischer rejects the historicity of Jesus. It is simply an odd and confused article. For example, his arguments against Josephus are quite elementary (he is not even aware that there are two refs in Josephus to Jesus!) and he references obscure sources. For example, his arguments against the TF includes citing the opinion of "Hubert van Gtfifen (Giphanius), a Protestant scholar (born 1534)", Tanaquil Faber (1655) and Emil Schurer (1890). When it comes to modern sources, he cites book reviews of them (Times Literary Supplement and New York Review of Books). I would say 500 years behind modern scholarship is a bit of a lag.
- It is just as dubious when we note Fischer's source for the information about Christian origins in the article. It is informal unpublished information, the acknowledgement reading: "I am deeply indebted to Professor Michael Whiteman, friend, scholar, and practising mystic, University of Capetown, South Africa, for sharing with me his superb pluridisciplinary knowledge about the origins of Christianity." I believe Whiteman was professor in the field of mathematics at the time.
- Fischer does seem to talk of a historical Jesus: ""Who was then "Jesus the Jew". Was he a fiction that became flesh or was he of flesh and bones to become narrative fiction. Jesus, the Galilean Jew, was independent minded, unscholarly (compared with Jerusalem Pharisees), "charismatic," a hasid, exorcist, healer, popular teacher—in short, a remarkable and in many ways admirable representative of a known type of first century Judaism. It was a type not much approved of by official Judaism, and totally ignored by subsequent Christian dogmatism" (p.17)--Ari (talk) 13:21, 31 July 2010 (UTC)
- E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus. Penguin books, 1993, 11.)
- Craig A. Evans, "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology", Theological Studies 54, 1993, p. 8
- John Dickson, Jesus: A Short Life (Oxford: Lion, 2008) 22-23.
- Graeme Clarke, quoted by John Dickson in "Facts and friction of Easter", The Sydney Morning Herald, March 21, 2008
- William R. Telford, "Major Trends and Interpretive Issues in the study of Jesus" in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluation of the State of Current Research ed. B Chilton and C.A. Evans. p.50
- "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" p.83