Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Traditio: Did Jesus Exist?

In his landmark essay known as Why I am Not a Christian, mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell expresses doubt about not only the traditional arguments concerning the existence of a deity, but also about the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. This characteristic of skepticism about the historical existence of Jesus was echoed by Christopher Hitchens in his book god is not Great, and an entire group of people known as the mythicists have come together to as a sort of quasi-intellectual movement, publishing multiple articles and books showing it is unlikely that Jesus existed, or if he did he likely had nothing to do with the Jesus as presented in the gospel narratives.

I bring this up because I have done my series answering questions raised in Letter to a CES Director, I have come to realize that many people of faith are not aware of many things regarding the history of how texts came into existence, as well as lack of knowledge of how exegesis works. So, I thought that for this weeks traditio we examine the evidence about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person.

Taking the side that he did is Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray distinguished professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is considered one of the top New Testament historians in the world, having written three college textbooks on the New Testament and books on various other topics related to the New Testament and early Christianity. I highly recommend his work, as Ehrman is able to stay objective, and not bring his personal bias into his work as much as others do. His best books include A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, Misquoting Jesus, Forged, and Did Jesus Exist?

Taking the opposite side is Robert Price, who is one of the chief mythicists. He is a professor at the Center for Inquiry, and is a former Christian theologian.


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