Philip Davies asks ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ and Offers His Answer

Philip Davies has entered the discussion and his involvement is most welcome.  He concludes:

But why care? The issue of whether history or kerygma (let’s use the fancy theological term for such fabulation) should provide the basis for New Testament theology or Christian faith has been a persistent theme of New Testament scholarship since Strauss’s Life of Jesus (where myth reared its beautiful head). Still, both history and theology converge on a proper answer to this: the historical Jesus will always be a fabrication, and the search for him antagonistic to true religious belief. Yet some peculiar literal-minded historicist brand of (largely Protestant) Christianity finds impossible the temptation to replace the icons of Orthodoxy or statues and images of Roman Catholicism with the One True Image of the Lord: the Jesus of History. The result: poor history and, dare I say, even poorer theology.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Did Jesus Exist?.

You will want to go read the whole thing.  Go read it and then come back.  Back?  Good.

His discussion of the main issues in New Testament and the problems that plague those of us who even bother to *question* historicity are spot on.  The only minor issue that I might adjust is that he writes:

But one should not argue from these, as do Thompson and Verenna, that Jesus was invented.

But to my knowledge neither Thomas or I suggest that in our articles and I certainly haven’t suggested that Jesus was invented recently.  I make a point in my chapter to distinguish the claims that ‘Jesus was invented’ and ‘Paul’s Jesus is irrelevant to the Historical Jesus’ are entirely different.  One claim does not eo ipso lead to the other.  Indeed, even if Paul believed his Jesus was a completely heavenly, he could have been completely wrong.  My article was only to support the conclusion that Paul is useless as a witness to a historical figure, not that there couldn’t have been one because of it.

Though I would remark, and Philip might agree, that traditions can be invented and thus certainly most traditions surrounding a figure of Jesus are wholly invented (they have to be since only one tradition can be the ‘right’ one, presupposing historicity).  With that in mind, it isn’t so implausible to suggest that we haven’t even stumbled across the ‘right one’ (if there is one to find) and none of the ‘Jesus’ we have concocted in our academic quests resemble that historical figure.

Other than this one minor grievance, Philip’s article is wonderful and a welcome contribution to the conversation.

5 Responses

  1. Phillip Davies proves even more now than ever that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. The Apostle Paul already dealt with this issue 2,000 years ago but the atheist just won’t let it go. Jesus existed exactly like the Bible says and He sits on the right hand of God as we speak.

    If Jesus never existed as the Bible says then there wol dbe no religion, no christianity and no hope for anyone. Just because the atheist doesn’t want hope or eternal life doesn’t mean they have the right to stop others from having it. They need to keep their unbelief to themselves.

    Oh, and Phillip Davies is not the last word on whether there was a historical Jesus or not. he wasn’t alive 2,000 years ago so he really can’t say now can he.

  2. But S/Paul himself wrote (1 Cor. 15) that Jesus had appeared to many others also after his death. The gospels (and Acts) suggest rather fewer numbers. Were these claims made by the other followers before S/Paul’s experience? What did they already believe about him that made them the object of Saul’s persecution? Can we reconstruct a reliable profile of these beliefs from the gospels, all composed later than Paul? The problem at the heart of the Historical Jesus quests is to get behind S/Paul to some earlier historical knowledge. It’s hard to see that we can, not through sources that we must suspect of having been influenced by the claims of S/Paul.

    These are precisely the questions that keep me agnostic. The historicists’ answers all seem to be based on taking Paul at face value, the justification for which I have never understood.

  3. Phillip Davies proves even more now than ever that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. The Apostle Paul already dealt with this issue 2,000 years ago but the atheist just won’t let it go. Jesus existed exactly like the Bible says and He sits on the right hand of God as we speak.

    Philip certainly knows what he is talking about; probably more than you do. Paul did not deal with this issue, actually, and when you read the book he is discussing you’ll see why I say that. Also, your claim that ‘Jesus existed exactly like the Bible says’ you reveal that you haven’t actually read the Bible (Gospels?). If you had read the Bible (I presume you mean the Gospels), you would know that the various accounts contradict each other to such a degree that “exactly like the Bible” would mean that four different Jesuses existed at the same time, each with 12 disciples with the same names, doing different things at different places. For example, when did Jesus curse the fig tree and when did it wither? Who saw it? Did it even happen (some Gospels suggest it wasn’t an event at all but a parable)? You can believe whatever you want. But bizarre claims like these which fly in the face of facts will only get you in trouble with those who have actually read the primary sources. But good luck with that.

    If Jesus never existed as the Bible says then there wol dbe no religion, no christianity and no hope for anyone.

    What a peculiar thing to say. Do you believe in Vishnu? Romulus? Zeus? Ba’al? Attis? Zoroaster> Mithras? Orpheus? Dionysus? No, you don’t? Well then I guess that just destroys your whole argument. Obviously demi-Gods and Gods don’t have to have ever existed for there to be a religion based after them. And hope is subjective; you can give hope to anything. Some people find hope in sex. Some find it in the stars. Others, like you, find it in ancient mythology.

    Just because the atheist doesn’t want hope or eternal life doesn’t mean they have the right to stop others from having it.

    Nobody is stopping anyone from believing anything. Don’t project your insecurities onto others.

    They need to keep their unbelief to themselves.

    I don’t know what sort of freedoms they have in Korea, but in the west, we have the right to say whatever we want. You have the right to speak about your faith, and Philip has the right to question it. You seem to be executing your right to speak about your faith, and I have the right to show you how you’re being a hypocrite by demanding Philip shut up about what he thinks about it.

    Oh, and Phillip Davies is not the last word on whether there was a historical Jesus or not. he wasn’t alive 2,000 years ago so he really can’t say now can he.

    Philip did not say he was the last word and neither did I. If you’re going to comment on something, read it first before just creating strawmen to attack.

  4. […] There is a new post at that site titled “Did Jesus Exist,” by my friend Philip Davies that you don’t want to miss. Among other things Philip recommends the new book of essays edited by the two Thomases, Thompson and Verenna, Is this Not the Carpenter: A Question of Historicity, which I look forward to reading. It is expensive but I hear worth the price! I always find anything Philip writes to be sharp and insightful, whether I agree or disagree, though I want to note one minor correction by Tom Verenna here. […]

  5. theologyarchaeology:

    If Jesus never existed as the Bible says then there wol dbe no religion…

    If Xenu never existed as L. Ron Hubbard says then there would be no Scientology…

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