Did Jesus Exist : The Historical Argument For J...
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Reconstructions of the historical Jesus are based on the Pauline epistles and the gospels, while several non-biblical sources also support his historical existence. Since the 18th century, three separate scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and developing new and different research criteria. Scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the biblical accounts, with two events being supported by nearly universal scholarly consensus: Jesus was baptized and crucified. Historical Jesus scholars typically contend that he was a Galilean Jew and living in a time of messianic and apocalyptic expectations. Some scholars credit the apocalyptic declarations of the gospels to him, while others portray his "Kingdom of God" as a moral one, and not apocalyptic in nature.
Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed. Historian Michael Grant asserts that if conventional standards of historical criticism are applied to the New Testament, "we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned." There is no indication that writers in antiquity who opposed Christianity questioned the existence of Jesus.
The existence of John the Baptist within the same time frame as Jesus, and his eventual execution by Herod Antipas is attested to by 1st-century historian Josephus and the overwhelming majority of modern scholars view Josephus' accounts of the activities of John the Baptist as authentic. One of the arguments in favor of the historicity of the Baptism of Jesus by John is the criterion of embarrassment, i.e. that it is a story which the early Christian Church would have never wanted to invent, as it implies that Jesus was subservient to John. Another argument used in favour of the historicity of the baptism is that multiple accounts refer to it, usually called the criterion of multiple attestation. Technically, multiple attestation does not guarantee authenticity, but only determines antiquity. However, for most scholars, together with the criterion of embarrassment it lends credibility to the baptism of Jesus by John being a historical event.
The Christ myth theory, also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism, or the Jesus ahistoricity theory,[q 1] is the view that the story of Jesus is a work of mythology with no historical substantiality. Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman paraphrasing Earl Doherty, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."[q 2]
Mythicism "goes back to Enlightenment times, when the historical-critical study of the past was born," and was revived in the 1970s. Proponents broadly argue that a historical Jesus never existed, and that a mythological character was later historicized in the gospels.[q 2][q 5] Some authors have argued that the sources on Jesus are so obscured by myths and dogma that "we could no longer be sure there had ever been a real person at the root of the whole thing."[q 6] A view closer to the mainstream position is that the historical Jesus was the Galilean preacher preserved in the hypothetical Q-source, and that details about him were added to Paul's mythical Jesus.[q 7]
These critical methods have led to a demythologization of Jesus. The mainstream scholarly view is that the Pauline epistles and the gospels describe the "Christ of faith", presenting a religious narrative that replaced the historical Jesus who lived in 1st-century Roman Palestine,[q 11] but that there is no doubt that a historical Jesus did exist. New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman states that Jesus "certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or n