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Jesus didn't exist and he lived 100BC!

Jan 06, 2006 00:15 AM
by gregory

(1) Did Jesus exist?

This is not the same as “Was Jesus the Son of God?” or some such question. It is
simply a question for the historian (as are questions like “Did Socrates exist?”
or “Did Herod exist?”).

That anyone in the 21st century would bother to assert that Jesus did not exist
is indeed extraordinary, given the vast weight of scholarship (as opposed to
“psychic revelation”) that has been devoted to this question! Scholars who are
agnostics, humanists or atheists have reached the conclusion that his existence
is a simple matter of historical fact.

For those whose intellects can’t face the burden of serious scholarship on the
subject, a good, basic introduction (written from a distinctly non- or even
anti-Christian point of view) is Ian Wilson’s "Jesus. The Evidence" [Weidenfeld
and Nicolson, London, 1984].

(2) Did Jesus live 100BC (or BCE) ?

Although this claim is put forward by Blavatsky, it was essentially G.R.S.Mead
who promoted it in his endlessly-reprinted "Did Jesus Live 100BC?" (which, it
might be remembered, was based more on Leadbeater’s clairvoyant “revelations”
than on anything else, although this is not acknowledged).

Insofar as Mead attempts to use any “ancient” source, he relies on whathe calls
the Toldoth Jeschu. Alas for Mead, and his imitators, this “ancient” source is
at best a mediaeval satire and at worst a mediaeval forgery.

The Toledot Yeshu ( literally Generations of Yeshu), is the title of several
mediaeval manuscripts containing legends and folktales but are not part of
rabbinic literature and are not considered canonical or normative. The original
text came into being in the 5th century, at the earliest, and more probably(and
according to most scholars) in the 10th century, and subsequently spread, in
Hebrew and Yiddish versions. Jewish scholars do not claim any historical basis
for it, and most critics suggest that it appeared during periods of widespread
persecution of the Jews (for example, the Crusades). The Oxford Dictionary of
Jewish Religion says of it, ".the work is an expression of vulgar polemics
written in reaction to the no less vulgar attacks on Judaism in popular
Christian teaching and writing [of that time]".

The Toledoth Yeshu blends and blurs the stories of three men who lived fromthe
second century BC to the second century AD: the late 2nd century BC religious
leader Yeshu Ha Notzri who was executed; an early second century AD Ben Stada
who was alleged to have practiced some form of "sorcery"; and an early first
century AD Ben Pandera whose disciples were healers.

The Toledoth Yeshu combines stories about of these three men, and others like
the 5th century AD Rabbi Tanhuma Bar Abba, creating what one commentator has
described as “one satirical and cautionary would-be messiah tale”.

There is nothing in the way of a scholarly work supporting Mead’s thesis:G.
Nevin Drinkwater, an English Theosophist and Liberal Catholic priest, wrotea
vast (and apparently unpublished) work to “prove” the case. I have a
manuscript of it in my archives. In the light of modern (post-1975) Biblical
scholarship such a labour seems more a tragic waste of time and energy than
anything else.

Those who want to argue that either (1) Jesus did not exist, or (2) he lived
(more or less) 100 BC (or BCE) needs to “come up with the goods”. Thosewho
argue that he lived, and around the time traditionally claimed, have produced
vast volumes of heavy research and scholarship. Medieval forgeries and “psychic
revelations” may impress the gullible; that some people are gullible is about
all that proves.

Dr Gregory Tillett

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