Jesus, the so called Christ. Did Jesus exist? If Jesus did exist, did he do what he’s said to have done? Are we just telling a story that gets longer every time? To answer these questions, which are lacking in evidence, we will have to examine the documents that are from the time of Jesus. Who was alive and experienced such events? Who was alive to have of heard of these miracles?
Who was alive during Jesus’s life time?
Some of the more notable people alive during the time of Jesus were as follows:
Lucius Annaeus Seneca aka Seneca the younger.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman statesmen and historian, 4 B.C.E. – 65 CE.
Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus.
Seneca the younger’s elder brother; Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, was proconsul of the province of Achaea in Greece.
Herod the Great
The king of Judae from 74BCE – 4BCE.
The Emperor Augustus.
Emperor Augustus reigned from 27 BCE – 14 CE.
Pontius Pilate governor of Judea from 26 CE to 36 CE.
The Emperor Tiberius Caesar.
Emperor Tiberius Caesar reigned 14 CE – 37 CE.
Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas, ruled over Galilee and Perea from 6 BCE – 39 CE.
Jesus’s birth is said to have been marked with the Star of Bethlehem as the guide for the three Magi. Seneca’s book, Quaestiones Naturales, records several eclipses and other unusual natural phenomena, yet makes no mention of this star. The same can be said of Josephus’s Antiquities. It too fails to mention such a miraculous event. To grasp the importance of these two figures, and their lack of mentioning the star, we need to examine who they were. Seneca was a Roman statesman and historian alive during the event, and Josephus is a Jewish historian born in Jerusalem. Both of these men sought to write the most accurate histories they were able.
Besides the star, which is non-existent outside the bible, there was nothing in the way of the miraculous for the son of god’s birth.
In the bible, Jesus is said to perform miracles from an early age. According to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which focuses on the childhood of Jesus, Jesus was unruly and murderous.
Excerpts from The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
“when Jesus saw what was done, he was wroth and said unto him: O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee? behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root, nor fruit. 3 And straightway that lad withered up wholly”
“And Jesus was provoked and said unto him: Thou shalt not finish thy course (lit. go all thy way). And immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said: Whence was this young child born, for that every word of his is an accomplished work? And the parents of him that was dead came unto Joseph, and blamed him, saying: Thou that hast such a child canst not dwell with us in the village: or do thou teach him to bless and not to curse: for he slayeth our children.”
“the young child was hurt and cursed him, and straightway he fainted and fell to the ground on his face. 3 And the child returned unto the house of Joseph: and Joseph was grieved and commanded his mother, saying: Let him not forth without the door, for all they die that provoke him to wrath.”
Did young Jesus always inflict wrath?
There are times, according to Thomas, in which Jesus uses his powers to confirm his innocence rather than to inflict wrath. In one passage, Jesus and a friend are playing on a roof and the other boy falls to his death. The towns people, knowing of who Jesus is and what he is capable of, accuse him of murder. Previously Jesus would have used his powers to inflict harm on those who wronged him, but not this time. He brings the boy back from the dead to stand witness of the event and back Jesus as innocent. Sure enough the boy, now alive, says that he simply fell and that Jesus is free of blame.
Jesus’s existence was a miracle!
Another interesting aspect surrounding the birth and early life of Jesus is that he should not even be alive. His entire existence is a miracle, according to the texts from that time that is. Jesus, the Nazerene, Yeshua of Judea somehow avoided infanticide. According to Matthew, Herod the Great killed all male infants in Judea upon hearing the news of the birth of a king. This is known as the “Massacre of the Innocents” which is not mentioned in any history written from any source outside the bible.
Seneca the younger and Jesus Christ
Moving past the childhood of Jesus into his later years for which the majority of the text is centered. Again, we find that his existence goes largely unnoticed by every source but the bible. Consider Seneca the Younger who was born around the same time and lived through the years of Jesus’s ministry. Seneca the younger was born in 4 BCE and died sometime around 65 CE. He was a stoic philosopher and statesman. He was also regarded as a great Roman writer, especially when it came to ethics. He wrote prolifically. Interestingly enough, Seneca is rather silent on this impactious event. Jesus; the man, his miracles, his death, and his resurrection are not mentioned at all in any of his works. The closest Seneca even comes to mentioning Christians is in his “Epistulae morales ad Lucilium” or Moral Letters to Lucilius. Letter 14, “On the Reasons for Withdrawing from the World.” talks about the horrors and cruelties Emperor Nero imposes upon Christians. However, like Jesus, nowhere inside the works of Seneca is the word ‘Christians’.
So, what is the connection between Jesus and Seneca? There exists a correspondence between St Paul and Seneca which in total make 14 letters, 8 from Seneca to Paul and 6 from Paul replies to Seneca. Non existent during the time of Seneca though very well read around the time of the forth century. So, what happened? Where did these letters come from? In all honest truth, we can never know for sure. At this moment, the majority of scholars agree that the letters shared between Paul and Seneca are forgeries, meant only to draw a connection to Seneca the younger and Paul, disciple of Jesus, the so called Christ. Why would anyone desire such a connection? Seneca’s elder brother, Gallio.
Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus.
Sometime between the first century and the forth, these letters were forged with purpose and intent. Perhaps the reason is that Seneca was a great and highly regarded Roman writer and historian who just so happen to have blood relations tieing him to the story of Paul. Paul’s name was Saul before his conversion and later known as Saint Paul. Paul is said to have never actually met Jesus but did have himself a vision upon a road which turned him to this path and the cause for the change of his name. Paul is said to have had a falling out with his gentile brethren caused by differing theologies and it was due to his preaching of the message of Jesus that he was brought up on charges. He was brought to see the Proconsul of Achaea, Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, the elder brother of Seneca.
These letters would have us believe that not only did Paul share a correspondence with Seneca but his elder brother as well. Further more, the letters create a relationship between them reaching far beyond the simple mentions of the encounter in the book of Acts (18:12-17). According to the Bible, Paul was brought to see Gallio who heard Paul’s case and promptly threw it out. If the letters are accurate, then Seneca’s brother indeed had personally met Paul and would have had some knowledge over the public unrest and religious schism taking place. Strangely, in Acts, it tells us that Gallio hadn’t even heard of Jesus. Having written much and being held in high regard over his works on morals, what Seneca had to say was very important. Seneca’s silence over Christians and Jesus speaks volumes. Seneca strived for accuracy in his work and a sense of trustworthiness of his word. Ironically, these forged letters may have been the reason why Seneca’s work has survived through the ages.
Herod the Great.
Herod the Great is known for a wide range of things. One of the more well known is his order to have all the infants of Judea murdered upon hearing of the birth of the messiah. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who was born in Jerusalem authored a history of the Jews in which there is no mention of such a event. To repeat a previous statement, no such act has ever been recorded by any historian of the period nor after outside the bible. The reason for bringing this up again is to introduce his son, Herod Antipas. Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, is mostly known for ordering the execution of John the baptist. This, history does remember thanks to Josephus. “John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him” Josephus’s Antiquities Book 18, chapter 5, paragraph 2. The order to have John the baptist put to death is the only true connection to the Jesus story as this John is the same John who is said to have given Jesus his baptism.
Emperor Augustus, formally known as Octavian, became the first Emperor of Rome and reigned from 27 BCE – 14 CE. In the bible, Augustus made a decree where a census was to be taken. Again, in stark contrast to what the bible tells us, there exists no mention of this decree anywhere else but the bible. No where in any Roman record from this time does it have any decree mandating a census. Many scholars have speculated that this was an addition to tie the messiah to the mythical King David’s birthplace. In reality, if this is true than it stands as evidence of its later addition as it creates a census to explain the location of the birth. This attempts to give meaning to the birthplace itself, Bethlehem. This is also taken as evidence that the addition was added by non Jewish sources as it is expressing ignorance of Jewish messianic tradition. The messiah is only required to be of David’s bloodline and not being born literally in the house of David. So, in this light, the nativity scene losing its significance and is very possibly a forgery.
The Writings of Jesus
All the writing mentioning Jesus and his followers known as Christians is from after the time of Jesus. So, who was there after to have written about the wondrous miracles preformed by a rabbi from Judea? The earliest gospel is that of Mark’s, dated between 60-70CE. The earliest published work was by Josephus. Flavius Josephus is the author of Antiquities of the Jews published around 93 CE. Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, wrote and published the Annals around 112 CE. Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan some time between 111-113 CE. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, a Roman historian, wrote the Life of the Caesars around 120 CE.
The oldest Christian document and earliest gospel of Mark was discovered in Egypt. Big news and shines a light on some early Christian philosophy. Though the find is not as of yet published, what we do know of it is that in this Mark there is not much in the way of the divine. It speaks of the ministry of Jesus, his death, burial, and the discovery of his empty tomb. It is supposed to be published and released to the public sometime in 2016. High hopes. All in all, it makes the man, a teacher, look like a man who teaches. The empty tomb only signifies that the tomb was empty. In fact, there is an entire hypothesis known as “The stolen body hypothesis”. It theorizes that the body was stolen from his tomb and upon the discovery of his empty tomb, it was not because he had resurrected, but been misplaced. Tomb robbery was common place around this time, so much so that the Roman Emperor had issued an edict to cease the practice.
It was either Emperor Tiberius Caesar or Tiberius Claudius Caesar who set an edict and that is the complete extent of their involvement in the Jesus story. The reasoning behind this edict has been hottly debated. It could provide strong reason to consider the existence of a person who today we know as Jesus whom was not found in his tomb.
“EDICT OF CAESAR”
“It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honour those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.”
With that, the death of Jesus. In the bible, the gospel of Matthew describes earthquakes and people rising from their graves to walk about. It goes on to say that these events were witnessed by many. Seneca as well as Flavius Josephus and every other historian fail to mention this most morbid happening. Not even the darkness at Jesus’s crucifixion is mentioned. This is what Josephus had to say concerning those times as he wrote them down in his The Antiquities of the Jews.
Skipping the introductions into who these people are and to just shorten the following to ‘Historians and or important historical figures’ to save time. Drawing from the existing body of documents from Roman and Jewish sources, these are the oldest documents containing mentions of either Jesus or Christians.
Excerpts from the works of Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. ”
Scholars argue that due to fact that the Arabic citation of Josephus from the 10th century work doesn’t match this passage, it supports the notion that this is a later addition. They conclude that this passage is a forgery.
Excerpt 2 – Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9, paragraph 1.
“And now Cæsar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high-priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes, that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons, who had all performed the office of an high-priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgement above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought it before the brother of Jesus who was the Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him, that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened, that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high-priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high-priest.”
This passage is found in every copy of Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews and is taken as authentic with the exception of the line “Jesus who was the Christ”. This is considered by most scholars to have been a late addition in support of furthering the growing Christian theology.
Justus of Tiberias, a contemporary of Flavius Josephus and literary rival from the same region, wrote many histories that did not make it through the times. All of his work is lost to us. However, a review of his book ‘Histories’ has survived thanks to Phontius, the Patriarch of Constantinople from the 9th century. Phontius – c. 810 – c. 893
” I have read the chronology of Justus of Tiberias … and being under the Jewish prejudices, as indeed he was himself also a Jew by birth, he makes not one mention of Jesus, of what happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did.”
– From The Bibliotheca, Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 9th Century
Excerpts from the works of Cornelius Tacitus.
Excerpt from Annals (Book 15, chapter 44) .
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, 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 Judæa, 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. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
This passage, believed by most scholars to be authentic, says nothing of the divinity of Jesus nor his supposed miracles. In recent years an excerpt from the passage “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” has come under extreme scrutiny. Many scholars today believe this was added later on to support early christian theology. Still debated.
Excerpt from Pliny the Younger’s letter to Emperor Trajan.
“I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.”
It is clear that this is just an appeal to the Emperor for advice on how to deal out punishment towards Christians. This only supports the existence of Christians, not Jesus himself nor any of the supposed miracles.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus published ‘About the Life of the Caesars’ in 121AD.
Excerpts from About the Life of the Caesars.
“Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.”
The Life of Claudius 25.4
“Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”
Both these excerpts are just more references to the growing body of people who were named after Jesus’s title of Christ. This once again in no way supports the existence of Jesus as we know him today. Speaking explicitly about the excerpt taken from Claudius, the issue with this is not that it is any way considered a forgery but rather the spelling of the word chrestus. It is yet another debated topic, though the conclusion will again not be supporting the existence of Jesus but will show that there was at this time a growing acceptance of either his existence or influence.
Many hold to a belief that Pontius Pilate wrote letters to Seneca where he mentions Jesus and his miracles. This is due to a book titled “The Letters of Pontius Pilate”. It was written by W. P. Crozier and published in 1928. It marked Crozier’s first novel, an account of what he thought Pilate perhaps would have written. It was written as fiction. A fact made painfully clear in the novels own book review. The belief in Pilate’s letters is a very interesting aspect of the human condition. We reveal ourselves in just how we allow myths and other fictions to become religious beliefs. Who knows, possibly, years from now, Crozier’s novel may be viewed as a reliable source.
The Antiquities passage taken with the ‘letters of Pilate’ are the only mentionings of Jesus from the entire first century after the life and death of a man whom is said have walked on water and brought people back from the dead and they are forgeries. What is most telling of all, is not what people wrote about Jesus but the fact that so many people did not. There is no historian, philosopher, or follower who lived during the time of Jesus who mentions him.
The mythical King David whose existence outside the bible is to be found on the Tel Dan Stele tablet piece with the inscription “House of David”. This is not a reference to David himself but the house, bloodline, in which he is believed to come from. The tablet describes a victory of an unknown king over the king of Israel and his ally from the ‘House of David’. The confirmation of the existence of David is of vast importance for it is an integral part of the messianic prophecies. The messiah is to be born in the ‘House of David’. If David is not a real person, this is not a possibility.
In Aramaic there is a word for virgin, bethulah, as well as a separate word for girl, almah. Almah was the word used not bethulah. So, if Mary was just a young mother, not a virgin, the birth looks rather normal. A virgin birth also bars any would-be messiah due to the lack of bloodline on the father’s side. When you apply this to the story of Jesus and his birth, you actually end up with something that bars Jesus from being the messiah twice over again. If we look past the birth as lacking a direct blood tie to David via the father, we can go through Jesus’s mother Mary. This is where the issue arises. According to the Talmud, no Moabite male will be permitted to kingship. King David’s grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabite. Many scholars view Ruth’s existence as fictional, that would spell disaster for David, and therefore down the line, Jesus. Without a direct, blood tie, No one would have accepted Jesus. However, since Hebrew society is a patriarchal one, this may have been the reason why it wasn’t a barring factor to his ascendency to the throne. Jesus is said to be the descendant of David, or born in the house of David yet his mother knew no man at the time of the birth of Jesus. His genealogy must be taken from his mother, Mary. But if we are all the sudden to take into account what blood lines women bring to the table, David is not king for David is a Moabite. This is an issue for the messianic prophecies clearly state that the messiah would be born of the house of David and sit upon his throne to be king once again of the Israelites. This can not be if David was never a king to begin with. Never mind the question of his existence.
If an individual fails to fulfil even one of these conditions, then he cannot be the messiah. Since no one has ever fulfilled the Bible’s description of this future King, Jews still await the coming of the messiah. Christians believe that Jesus will fulfil the prophecies left unfulfilled upon the second coming.
The only reason why people believe Jesus is the messiah spoken of in Jewish tradition is either they want to see it that way, or they are simply ignorant of the text and told the story as fact. So, in short, if Jesus existed at all, he was merely a man with a message. In keeping with the notion he was a real person but just a man with a message. What was his message? “Matthew 5:1 – Matthew 7:29”
A Philosophical Jesus.
Many people, even those that do not believe in Jesus as the divine, look to the teachings of the supposed Jesus for guidance on how to treat and love others. What Jesus preached was literally peace and love. Jesus was a rabbi and so what he taught was in direct reference to the Old Testament. Though his message was one of peace and love, his message advocates at the same time the same figure from the Old Testament who indiscriminately kills first borns and at times entire populations. If we remove the overbearing behavioural modification aspect of the teachings, we are left with a parallel to Buddhism. A philosophy which pre-dates Christianity by over 500 years.
For many, the belief of Jesus as the divine is found in the way he died and in the notion of his resurrection. However, as stated already, there is no early writing confirming this act. The newly discovered Gospel of Mark dated to be the earliest yet has no mentioning of this grand feat. Some, though they may doubt his origins and factuality, still find the story of Jesus’s death moving and inspiring. Let us now examine the crucifixion of Jesus.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The historical origins and use of crucifixion and the death of Jesus.
Believed to have originated with the Assyrians and Babylonians, crucifixion was used systematically by the Persians in the 6th century BC. Alexander’s army brought the practice back with them after their conquests. The Romans took it to a new level. They perfected it to the point where they could make sure the criminal wouldn’t die for 1-4 days maximizing the torture. Soldiers were stationed at most state crucifixions and they weren’t allowed to leave the area until the criminal was dead, which often would result in the soldiers using their spears to finish the criminal before ‘natural’ death. It was the favoured method to achieve both torture and death for the state ‘criminals’ of the Romans. They were excellent multi-taskers. Some 70 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, the Romans fought an army of slaves lead by Spartacus. Upon victory, the Romans crucified some 6,000 of the slaves along the Via Appia just to make a point. The method in which Jesus was said to have been put to death wasn’t unique in any sense of the word.
Jesus, his birth denies him being the messiah. His miracles are groundless, his teachings misleading, his death normal practice, and his resurrection nonexistent even by those closest to his supposed life. The time between the supposed Jesus’s death and his teachings being recorded was 60 – 70 years after. The way the story was passed on in those early years was in the traditional form, orally. Like the game of telephone, as the story was retold over and over again, it became an entity onto itself. In fact, after a period of time, the separation had become so great, the story had changed so much that it no longer resembled Judaism but became a new religion and those who believed became known as Christians.
So did Jesus exist?
Based purely on the evidence, the man today known as Jesus never existed at all. The person who is said to have existed is most likely the combined grouping of socio political views, real historical figures, and fictional characters. Jesus is an amalgamation of historical and fictional characters culminating in what we view today as the ‘Christ’. The fact is, there is no historic record of anyone who healed the masses, fed over 4,000 people, calmed storms, exorcised demons, raised people from the dead, walked on water, and rose from the dead himself. Why do people believe that this person was the messiah spoken of in the Jewish tradition? They are ignorant of the criteria found in the tradition itself.