R Joseph Hoffman's Conclusion with Regard to the Historicity of Jesus

You can read about him here. This is what he wrote:
I have come to the following conclusion: Scholarship devoted to the question of the historicity of Jesus, while not a total waste of time, could be better spent gardening....I admit to being a bit prickly on the subject, having finally concluded that the sources we possess do not establish the conditions for a verdict on the historicity of Jesus. Link.

16 comments:

=^skeptic cat^= said...

...the only thing I have in common with both those who want to argue the myth theory as a provable hypothesis and those who believe the gospels provide good evidence for the life of Jesus is that we are probably all wrong...

I agree 100%

Vinny said...

I don't think that the sources are sufficient to decide between two possibilities: (a) the gospels mythologized a historical first century itinerant preacher, or (b) the gospels historicized the mythological dying and rising Messiah of the first century epistles.

GearHedEd said...

I especially identified with this comment:

"Nothing has been more depressing than the search for the Jesus of history, and nothing more hollow than the shouts of scholars who have claimed to find him. Except the shouts of scholars who claim there is nothing to find."

Paraphrased, it says that,

Either we accept the non-historicity of Jesus and feel shitty about it, or proclaim him to be historical and still feel shitty that we had to basically invent so much mythology to attempt to make the story coherent.

Steven Carr said...

Hoffman seems to agree with me that it is about 50/50 if there was any historical Jesus.

I'm not sure how much he rates the chances of a 'Jesus of Nazareth' having existed.

Hoffman still has to explain how very early Christians could write entire books without any reference to what their Lord and Saviour had allegedly done and taught while on earth.

Chris Porter said...

Well one thing I know for sure is that there is an enormous amount of information regarding the similarities of our modern religions compared to the earlier solar myths predating the time of Jesus and Christianity. Many people do not realize Christianity is just nothing but earlier mythological stories about astrological movements of the planets and pagan sun cults rehashed. I found a very interesting article here that explains it more clearly.

http://www.holyblasphemy.net/2008/10/jesus-zodiac/christmyththeory

and here at http://www.truthbeknown.com/

and here at http://www.truthbknown.org/

I am aware that some people are already familiar with this information and I am providing this for someone who may not be aware of this information.

shane said...

Steven Carr.

I would not go as far to say early christians wrote "entire" books about Christ.
All we have in the NT is the four gospels which aren't very long and the synoptics may all have had the same reference source.
Besides these we have some letters...mostly from the apostle Paul, who seemingly had his own philosophy on Christ.

shane said...

I think there is a good chance that the gospels were based on a real person and some real events.
The story of Jesus was probably based on a real individual who was a religious reformer in His day and made a large impact on many.
This also probably caused His crucifixion.

But I also think the miracles of Jesus were nothing more then a bronze age exaggeration of the story!
And I think Jesus divinity is something that was developed later on by some who actually believed it, and some who sought to rise above the challenge of any criticism.

Clare said...

Archeologists have not been able to find any evidence of a town called Nazareth.
Also, Herod (who was a real historical person) died two or three years before the alleged time of Jesus's birth.

Hendy said...

@Carr

Others have written longer books that came from 'god' with no historical references... This is like asking (in an effort to promote their truth):
- how did Joseph Smith write the book or mormon?
- How did Hubbard come up with such an elaborate religion such as Scientology?
- How did Mohammad write the Koran?
- How did Schucman write the 1000 page 'Course in Miracles'?

Anyway, I don't think that question really works so well... especially in light of confirming that stories like the Flood, the Exodus, and Jericho also have no historical details but are reasonably long and even contain details (how many days they marched, when exactly to blow the trumpets, etc.). The fiction section at your local Barnes & Noble shows our capacity for creativity.

Do I think they just 'made everything up'? Not really. I think they were superstitious and there's a way that we can have non-liars who are not in possession of the truth. I think they believed it just as believers of other traditions believe them. They just aren't right about those beliefs.

@Clare
The 'Herod issue' depends on Matthew vs. Luke. I believe that Luke is, in fact, the gospel often rejected in favor of a birth during Herod's reign. Luke is mutually exclusive because he cites the birth during the census of Quirinius and Herod was already dead during that census.

The ironic thing about this is that Luke (along with John) is the only one to make any accuracy boasts ('I have set out to study these things that you may know the certainty of what we have been taught')... yet he's the one who is wrong in the first chapter.

People try to do some acrobatics but it usually involves inventing history for which we have no evidence, like suggesting a previous census by Quirinius during Herod's reign.

Hendy said...

Also, I think Richard Carrier's 'Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story' is an excellent summary on some of the historical issues the gospels present. He links to a ton of his other articles which document, for example, what other kooky beliefs the ancient people had in support of them being, in general, incredibly superstitious.

Here's the LINK

CJO said...

I think there is a good chance that the gospels were based on a real person and some real events.

On what evidence?

The story of Jesus was probably based on a real individual who was a religious reformer in His day and made a large impact on many.

Funny that the "large impact" left no contemporary record of any sort.

This also probably caused His crucifixion.

If the charges against Jesus were all related to his impact as a religious reformer, then why did the Romans get involved at all? And if the Romans did crucify him, a severe and public punishment used to set an example against insurrection, why were his supposed followers then allowed to act with impunity in his name, in the very same city where he had been arrested and executed? Why do the Romans seem to take no interest in the years that followed about issues like, oh, what ever became of the body?

But I also think the miracles of Jesus were nothing more then a bronze age exaggeration of the story!

You're off by about a thousand years. And this standard approach, to de-mythologize and thus rehabilitate the gospels as transmitting a kernel of historical truth ends up making the stories nonsensical as either history or theology. The first Christ we meet, in the writings of Paul, is already a cosmic redeemer figure. If anything, the later gospels with their comparatively modest healings and miracles, all of which carry symbolic, literary import, are a toned down version of an obvious myth.

And I think Jesus divinity is something that was developed later on by some who actually believed it, and some who sought to rise above the challenge of any criticism.

And I think it should be treated the same way we treat all other ancient stories about wonder-working demigods: presumed to be fiction in the absence of supporting evidence outside of literary narratives.

Chris Jones said...

Chris Porter:

I don't think we can go so far as to conclude that because of certain similarities to earlier/contemporary religions, the entirety of the story need be concluded to be mythical. There are examples of other verifiable historical figures for whom mythical details have come to be associated. Likewise, a largely unremarkable fully human Jesus could very well have become legendary over time, the "fish story" so to speak.

Clare: I don't believe anyone in present day is actually considering Year 1 to be Jesus' birth year, and this would include the fundamentalists. The calendar as we have it came from Bishop Usher some centuries later and was without question in error. The only census that could make sense for Luke's story (which was likely used as a literary device only) was 6 CE, while Herod the Great died in 4 BCE. We just don't know exactly when Jesus presumably was born but those who do guess at it are never guessing Year 1.

CJO:

Josephus did mention Jesus. It is debatable whether there is actually an "authentic core" in the Testimonium (Antiquities 18.63) as proposed by John Meier, Geza Vermes, and some others, and the Arabic copy of Antiquities does have something a lot like Meier's reconstruction which lends some credence to an authentic core. That passage is essentially unimportant.

Josephus does mention in Antiquities 20.9 that a Jesus who is called Christ was the brother of a certain James, all of which (including the details regarding this James) are consistent with the New Testament assertion that Jesus had a brother named James who was an early leader. Paul mentions James as "Brother of the Lord".

CJO said...

I consider both references in Josephus to be later scribal interpolations. The Arabic "translation" was made from a paraphrase from after the time the interpolation was added, not a copy of the full Greek text of Antiquities. The very idea that such a document would be a better witness to the original text than ancient sources like Origen just shows the desperation on the part of believers to salvage the historical basis of their faith.

If you read the "Brother of Jesus called Christ" passage in Antiquities, it makes perfect sense, better sense actually, if you remove the "called Christ" and take the reference to be to the brother of the same Jesus who is referred to later in the same passage. Also, outside of these two likely spurious passages, Josephus never uses the term "Christ" and never passes up the opportunity to denigrate the religious radicals he does mention in other contexts. Such a neutral and off-hand mention of such a fraught topic is enough to call the passage into question.

Paul also refers to a group known as "the Brothers of the Lord." It's perfectly reasonable to suppose that James was one of these.

One single stray mention in Paul is, in any case, not enough to overcome the thoroughgoing ignorance in Paul of any of the details of what was later the basis of the Synoptic narrative.

Chasuk said...

I also have concluded that arguing the historicity of Jesus is largely a waste of time, and for the same reasons.

Still, before I reached that conclusion, I did spend a fair amount of time researching it, and even writing about it.

If you don't mind the self-promotion, the fruits of that research are recorded here:

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Historicity-of-Jesus

Anyway, thank you for the interesting discussion.

Chris Jones said...

Sorry, but it isn't clear that Paul's reference to "the brothers of the Lord" is actually referring to some group who goes by that name. The passage in 1 Corinthians appears as likely to literally refer to Jesus' brothers, at least two of which are purported to have become evangelists for his movement.

I didn't go to any length to defend the Testimonium Flavianum. In fact, I noted that whether there is even an authentic core is controversial and questionable, though I did post the views of those who think there is at least a core while pointing out that the TF itself is actually unimportant.

The argument against the authenticity of the Antiquities 20.9 passage is unpersuasive. Realize that even among critical scholars this passage is generally considered authentic as it is written. Very few have taken up the position of arguing against it, as it has early testimony (Origen and others cite it).

Besides Paul's contention that Jesus had a brother, that Jesus was "born of a woman", and Josephus's mention of the same, the gospels themselves contain polemical features which make more sense in connection with a real human Jesus than a complete myth that was concocted from whole cloth.

Steven Carr said...

CJO
Paul mentions James as "Brother of the Lord".

CARR
And 1 Samuel 14 says that Ahijah was the 'Brother of the Lord'.

That is what the name means.

Ahijah means 'brother of the Lord'.

As we have been repeatedly told, 'brother of the Lord' can only have one possible meaning - a blood relative of a real person.

So Ahijah must literally have been the brother of Yahweh.

Unless all of mainstream Biblical scholarship is wrong, and 'brother of the Lord' is not always to be taken with a heavy dose of literalism?