As-Salāmu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wabarakathuhu

May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon you beautiful people

"Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish." [Qur'an 17:81]

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Did Jesus exist?

Regarding the existence of Jesus, i have seen alot of stuff on it inluding the zeitgeist movie which tries to cast doubt. As Muslims, we believe that everything recounted in the noble Quran is true. This means that every historical event narrated in the Quran has really happened, inlcuding Jesus.

Our faith needs no external corroboration from historians or researchers to "prove" the veracity of these narrations. But as we have been blessed with powers of reasoning such as induction and deduction as well as a number of other faculties, we need to use them for the purpose of studying nature and history. The Quran however is our evidence and yardstick

As for the story of Jesus and the New Testament narrations, difficulties of a different nature were encountered. First it was seen that the New Testament documents were arranged to serve a theological purpose, and not according to chronology.

Of the New Testament stories, we are concerned in particular with the Gospels which tell the story of Jesus himself. The first problem with the Gospels was that the earliest of them was written some 60 years after Jesus' disappearance. Secondly, they were the compositions of several persons that significantly differed from one another as to details.

Speaking of the historicity of Jesus, a former evangelical minister called Dan Baker wrote in his book, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist:

"[T]here is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime. This does not disprove his existence, but it certainly casts great doubt on the historicity of a man who was supposedly widely known to have made a great impact on the world. Someone should have noticed." (Barker, Dan, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, Madison, Wisconsin: Freedom from Religion Foundation, 1992, p. 360)

Prof G.A Wells in his "The Historical Evidence for Jesus" noted:

"The Gospels are widely agreed to have been written between forty and eighty years after his [Jesus'] supposed lifetime by unknown authors who were not personally acquainted with him. And their miracle stories are nearly all couched in general terms, with no indication of time or place or details concerning the person or persons who benefited." (Wells, G.A., The Historical Evidence for Jesus, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1988, p. 206)

It is such studies as referred to above that cast serious doubts on the historicity of Jesus, which led some freethinkers to hold the view that the religion of Christianity built around the crucifixion and resurrection of "the Son of God" was a pure invention of Saul of Tarsus, the self-styled "Apostle to the Gentiles", St Paul.

Historian Will Durant observes:

"Paul created a theology about the man Jesus, a man that he did not even know, 50 or more years after the death of Jesus, with complete disregard and neglect for even the sayings that are attributed to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels. The simple teachings attributed to Jesus become lost in the metaphysical fog of Paul's theology." (Cited in Edelen, William, Toward the Mystery [Boise, Idaho: Josylyn & Morris, Inc.], p. 76)

Ian Wilson in his significant work, "Jesus the Evidence" acknowledges the shortcomings of the gospels as history; but at the same time maintains that Jesus did exist. (Wilson, Ian, Jesus: The Evidence, San Francisco, California: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984)

Outside the New Testament, we have contemporary evidence for the life of Jesus in the apocryphal writings as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So the claim that Paul invented Jesus stretches the available historical evidence to the breaking point; while the truth is that Paul has actually subverted Jesus' teachings under pagan influences.

Indeed we have absolutely no teaching of Jesus in the Gospels to prove his divinity or the claim that he came to die on the cross to redeem mankind from a mythical Original Sin.

God in the Quran says what means:

*{He (Jesus) said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet. And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live.

(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable. "So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)" Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is. Verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight.}* (Maryam 19:30-36)

There are first and second century writes who wrote about Jesus, including:

• Clement (A.D. c. 30-100) the Bishop of Rome

• The writer of the Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. c. 70-130)

• Polycarp (A.D. 70-155) the Bishop of Smyrna, a student of the Apostle John

• Ignatius (A.D. 35-110) the Bishop of Antioch

• Irenaeus (A.D. 130 -200) the second century Bishop of Lyons

• Tertullian (A.D. 160 -220) the second century apologist

• Clement (A.D. 150 -215) the second century Bishop of Alexandria

• Tacitus in his Annals (c.115 A.D.)

• Flavius Josephus (37-100 A.D.)

• The correspondence between Pliny the younger and the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.)

• Gaius Suetonius

• Lucian

• The Didache, a late first century catechism, quotes extensively from the New Testament.

• Ignatius (A.D. 35-110), the Bishop of Antioch, quotes from 16 New Testament books.

• Irenaeus (A.D. 130 -200), the second century Bishop of Lyons, makes 1,819 references to New Testament scriptures.

• Tertullian (A.D. 160 -220) quotes from the New Testament 7,258 times

This is sufficient proof the A man called Jesus existed, however there is no verification on the nature of the man as described by christianity. So the evidence shows that the christian Jesus didnt exist, but a man called Jesus who fits the Islamic description did exist

Its a fact that no one can cannot account for the New Testament being written in the first century if Jesus did not exist. The only real doubt is regarding the existence of the historical Jesus, i.e the one who was crucified, killed, ressurected, the one who was God. This is where the myths from ancient civilisations have interpolated christian teachings. However most historians, even most critics accept that a man called Jesus existed. (Well Esau was his given name in hebrew, Isa in arabic - the greeks latinised it by adding the J and the S at the end hence you have Jesus)

Alot of people raise the question why there is no record of Jesus in Roman records. The answer is that there are no surviving Roman records but only highly parochial Roman historians who had little interest in the comings and goings of minor cults and were far more concerned about Emperors and Kings. Jesus made a very small splash while he was alive and there was no reason for Roman historians to notice him. Because he was seen as a threat and the romans and the jews were embarrassed about the fact that he was causing so much of a rebellion, it is clear they would want to deal with him and remove him from the pages of history - which they tried to do

Once Christianity was established as a major force in the empire then Jesus became rather more interesting and he is mentioned by Tacitus in the early second century

Until Christianity had spread no one except Christians would be interested in Jesus but all later records are ruled out because they are from christian sources. This however is unfair in my opinion as later evidence for a human Jesus is trustworthy and should not simply be ruled out because of the circumstances of the times. As mentioned only the christians would really have been interested in Jesus in a time of such political turmoil in the Roman and jewish world, so it is only natural that most of the documented evidence is recorded by christians, the people most interested and those in closest proximity. It is the same for any historical figure, around 2000+ years ago so i dont think its anything unusual

Ofcourse all the ideas did not come out of thin air so again it is likely a man named Jesus existed, only dispute is regarding his qualities. Sadly the christians have removed alot of credibilty for the existence of Jesus by adopting and adding alot of mythical ideas to his story

It is also important to recognize that in 70 A.D, the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and most of Israel, slaughtering its inhabitants. Entire cities were literally burned to the ground! We should not be surprised then, if much evidence of Jesus' existence was destroyed. Many of the eye-witnesses of Jesus would have been killed. These facts likely limited the amount of surviving eyewitness testimony of Jesus

Considering the fact that Jesus' ministry was largely confined to a relatively unimportant backwater area in a small corner of the Roman Empire, a surprising amount of information about Jesus can be drawn from historical sources, as i previously posted. We cant forget that this was over 2000 years ago

I think realistically there is too much evidence showing Jesus the man did exist. Only doubts are concerning the characteristics assigned to him and as such doubts are regarding the historical Jesus as described in the Bible. These in my opinion were stolen from ancient myths, namely son of god, crucifiction, death, ressurection, 25th december, easter, christmas etc etc.

Please see my response to the Zeitgeist movie for more details

No comments: