Here’s an overview of the Biblical stories of Jesus and the independent records of Jesus by Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, and Thallus.
The Biblical character of Jesus began as a human Jewish preacher, and gradually evolved into part of a newly invented Christian god. I’ve examined this in more detail in posts 33 to 38 of this series.
- Paul wrote his letters first, about 48-62 CE and he wrote almost nothing about the earthly life of Jesus.
- The Book of Revelation, with its violent, avenging Jesus, was written in stages between about 60-95 CE.
- The Gospel called Mark was written about 65-70 CE, and it has no virgin birth and no detail of the resurrection.
- At this stage, the Jesus character was still an apocalyptic preacher warning people that the world was coming to an end within the lifetime of those listening to him.
- The virgin birth and resurrection stories first appear in the Gospels called Matthew and Luke, which were written about 80-85 CE, as was the Book of Acts, some of which contradicts what Paul earlier wrote about himself.
- The Gospel called John was written about 90-95 CE and is the first book that suggests Jesus was actually a god, as distinct from a human being who had a special relationship with a god.
Based on the early records of Jesus that are independent of the Bible, the most that can be said about the life of Jesus is this. I’ve examined this in more detail in posts 39 to 43 of this series.
- During the reign of Tiberius, Pontius Pilate may have executed a criminal called Jesus. This probably happened; Jesus was a common name and the Romans executed many criminals.
- If he existed, this Jesus was not a major figure, as nobody other than his followers wrote about him for over half a century.
- Whether or not he existed, his name became the symbol of a religious movement that spread to at least Rome and Asia Minor.
- There is no independent record, in all of recorded history, of any of the following: his alleged bloodline from Abraham and David, his alleged virgin birth, his parent’s alleged flight from Herod, his alleged baptism by John the Dipper, his alleged preaching to large multitudes, his alleged miracles (walking on water, reviving corpses etc), the nature of his trial or his death, or his alleged return from being dead to being alive again.
On balance I believe that the mythical figure of a divine Jesus was invented and tacked onto exaggerated stories based on several real-life human Jewish preachers.
Whether this is true or not, it does not add any credibility to the claim that any of these preachers were in any way divine or that any gods exist.
Like this article? It is one of a series on this topic.
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