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Old 08-17-2003, 01:28 PM   #1
Armchair dissident
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Default Books on history of Jesus?

In my christian days, I'd often heard - and as often repeated - the claim that Jesus was one of the best documented historical people. Having read many opinions since, I've become convinced that the opposite is in fact the case: that the existence of Jesus as an historical person is dubious at best.

Unfortunately, so far my opinion is based upon second-hand information, all of which is through on-line forums. I'd really like to get a better idea as to how the idea that Jesus' life was well documented, and what the proof - for and against is. Which means hitting the books.

What are the best books to read on this subject? I'd prefer to look at books that are neutral, and provide information for and against. (So the bible - whichever translation - is a no no. I've read it too many times anyway!).
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Old 08-17-2003, 04:10 PM   #2
godfry n. glad
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Welcome Armchair,

I'd recommend you consult the sticky at the top of this forum, provided by the good graces of Peter Kirby, one of the moderators.

Once on, scroll down through a lot of the Hebrew Bible stuff, until you get to the NT, Mythic Jesus, and Historical Jesus recommendations. Peter has assembled an excellent collection for anyone to start doing HJ/MJ reading.

From there...who knows?

godfry n. glad
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Old 08-18-2003, 01:10 AM   #3
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Default Re: Books on history of Jesus?

Quote:
Originally posted by Armchair dissident
In my christian days, I'd often heard - and as often repeated - the claim that Jesus was one of the best documented historical people. Having read many opinions since, I've become convinced that the opposite is in fact the case: that the existence of Jesus as an historical person is dubious at best.

Unfortunately, so far my opinion is based upon second-hand information, all of which is through on-line forums. I'd really like to get a better idea as to how the idea that Jesus' life was well documented, and what the proof - for and against is. Which means hitting the books.

What are the best books to read on this subject? I'd prefer to look at books that are neutral, and provide information for and against. (So the bible - whichever translation - is a no no. I've read it too many times anyway!).

I think I am right in saying that there are precious little references to Jesus outside of the Bible. That, of course, is not evidence that He did not exist. Billions of people existed and there is not a word about them. In fact, when I die, it is doubtful if my existence could be proved 100 years after I'm gone-let alone 2000 years!!

From memory. there are references to Jesus in Pliny and Tacitus. Josephus also mentiond Him but his references do get rubbished by sceptics.

It should come as no surprise that there are so few extra-Biblical references to Jesus. At the end of the day, Palestine was the ultimate backwater, full of stories and tales about miracle workers. Jesus would be considered just another 'crank' by whatever historians there were at that time.

Just remembered. I believe that Tacitus refers to the belief that Jesus rose from the dead.

Of course you can choose from any one of about 28,000 copies of the gospels.................!


b
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Old 08-18-2003, 03:24 AM   #4
Javaman
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A.D.,
I used to have a copy of A. N. Wilson's Jesus: A Life but I lent it out before finishing it. It was never returned but, from what I read, it seemed an excellent work. I notice that it's not listed in Peter Kirby's reading list but I don't know if that should be construed as a non-endorsement.
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Old 08-18-2003, 05:45 AM   #5
Armchair dissident
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Quote:
godfry
Once on, scroll down through a lot of the Hebrew Bible stuff, until you get to the NT, Mythic Jesus, and Historical Jesus recommendations. Peter has assembled an excellent collection for anyone to start doing HJ/MJ reading.
Ah, thanks! I managed missed that on my first peruse ! A couple of those look like they might be what I'm after.

Quote:
Braveheart
From memory. there are references to Jesus in Pliny and Tacitus. Josephus also mentiond Him but his references do get rubbished by sceptics.
It's the Josephus reference I'm particularly interested in. From what little I've read so far, it seems to be the main (and perhaps only) historical reference, but I also hear that it's widely considered a fake.

Quote:
Javaman
I used to have a copy of A. N. Wilson's Jesus: A Life but I lent it out before finishing it. It was never returned but, from what I read, it seemed an excellent work.
Thanks, I'll have a look out for that.
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Old 08-18-2003, 07:39 AM   #6
CX
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Default Re: Re: Books on history of Jesus?

Quote:
Originally posted by Braveheart
From memory. there are references to Jesus in Pliny and Tacitus.
Actually, Pliny the Younger only refers to Xians in a letter to the emperor about how to deal with those accused of being Xian. Tacitus refers to the crucifixion, but it is unclear whether or not he is just relaying a kerygmatic statement learned from contemporary Xians. In any event neither author offers any details about the HJ.

Quote:
Josephus also mentiond Him but his references do get rubbished by sceptics.
Not just sceptics, but many scholars. There are good reasons for thinking the Testamonium Flavianum contains interpolations at the least or is an outright fabrication. In any event this extremely brief passage also offers no confirmation of the details of the HJ's life and ministry as portrayed in the gospels.

Quote:
It should come as no surprise that there are so few extra-Biblical references to Jesus. At the end of the day, Palestine was the ultimate backwater, full of stories and tales about miracle workers. Jesus would be considered just another 'crank' by whatever historians there were at that time.
Except that according to the gospels some rather extraordinary things happened when Jesus was crucified which we would expect to have been noted by nearly everyone.

Quote:
Just remembered. I believe that Tacitus refers to the belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
I don't think so. The most famous passage in Tacitus vis-a-vis Xianity comes in The Annals:

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

Quote:
Of course you can choose from any one of about 28,000 copies of the gospels.................!
Yah shoore! Do you know what that 28,000 number which is bandied about by apologists all the time is based on? If not, there is a lengthy thread here
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Old 08-18-2003, 08:17 AM   #7
Bernard Muller
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Quote:
In my christian days, I'd often heard - and as often repeated - the claim that Jesus was one of the best documented historical people. Having read many opinions since, I've become convinced that the opposite is in fact the case: that the existence of Jesus as an historical person is dubious at best.
Ya, AD, I heard that too. The problem with the documentation is that it comes from flawed gospels, with conflicts, bias, propaganda and many unhistorical things. Those gospels in turn got a lot of spin. So a huge volume of so-called documentation.
Once again, I want to caution about the meaning of "historical", which should not be confused with "historic". The meaning for "historical" in "historical Jesus" should be:
'having lived in the past', and with 'Jesus' being the name of the man credited to have started Christianity.

Quote:
Unfortunately, so far my opinion is based upon second-hand information, all of which is through on-line forums. I'd really like to get a better idea as to how the idea that Jesus' life was well documented, and what the proof - for and against is. Which means hitting the books.
I think the idea you are going to get from on-line forum (as long as you select them from all sides) will be the same as consulting books (from all sides), except that in the former case, that costs you a lot less. Also useful is seaching on "historical Jesus" and looking at reviews of books on the web. The best site for that would be from my friend Kirby (!!!):
Historical Jesus Theories
He has also some on-line books, not so current mind you, but adequate (I am not saying recent books on the subject are better, actually they become more far-fetched by the year):
On-line books
BTW, if you accept what I told you when I commented on the first quote, plus consider the few tidbits in Paul's epistles & "Hebrews" about a human, humble, unhistoric, crucified Jesus the Jew who dealt with Jews, and had brothers, plus two little pieces of external evidence, one from Josephus (James, the brother of Jesus called Christ) and Tacitus (Christus punished by Pilate), that would save you a lot of reading.
Note: The Testimonium Flavianum, as a whole, is a Christian interpolation and Tacitus' testimony means only one thing: in the Roman elite, there was no doubt "Christus" existed (if any doubt, Tacitus would not have risked to look naive).

Quote:
What are the best books to read on this subject? I'd prefer to look at books that are neutral, and provide information for and against. (So the bible - whichever translation - is a no no. I've read it too many times anyway!).
Looking for a neutral book might be a problem. Some pretend to be (by being low-key) but actually are not. And if you remove the bible, then we are back to the few words of Josephus and Tacitus (even that is contested!).
Let me plug my website here, about a human, humble, unhistoric, crucified Jesus the Jew who dealt with Jews. At least, read the intro page and decide from here:
Jesus, a historical reconstruction

Best regards, Bernard
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