I suppose I've always assumed that there was a historical Jesus, if not a supernatural one. (The evidence isn't nearly good enough to accept the latter.)
I mean, I'd heard that some people think he was entirely fictional, but I wasn't sure if they could be taken seriously. You know how it is. Anyone can claim anything. But what did serious historians and bible scholars think?
Well, I was just listening to Robert M. Price on The Human Bible podcast (an older episode, from November, 2012) talking about Thomas L. Brodie's book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus.
Brodie is not just a Catholic priest, author, and well-known bible scholar, but the director of the Dominican Bible Centre in Limerick, Ireland, and his book describes how he came to the conclusion that Jesus never really existed, but was always just a fictional character.
Oddly, Brodie still believes in the Christian God. According to the blurb at Amazon.com, "In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of
Jesus as an icon of God's presence in the world and in human history." Nice trick, that!
So I was even more surprised to learn that Robert M. Price agrees with him. (I shouldn't have been - and wouldn't have been, if I'd known more about his own books.) Price has doctorates in both theology and the New Testament, and he teaches philosophy and theology at the Johnnie Coleman Theological Seminary. I've been listening to his Human Bible podcasts, and they've been absolutely fascinating.
Now, I know that Bart D. Ehrman disagrees with both of them. I recently read his book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, and I'm currently reading Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Both are riveting.
But he has another book, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, which argues for a historical Jesus. I haven't read that, or Brodie's book, so I really can't say, myself.
But, clearly, the Jesus myth idea has the backing of some serious, knowledgeable scholars. They're still a minority, apparently, and there are certainly serious, knowledgeable scholars on the other side, too. Well, when it comes to the events of two thousand years in the past, intelligent people can disagree.
Did a historical Jesus really exist? I have no idea. Apparently, I have some reading to do, though I'm really not expecting that to settle the matter, one way or the other.
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