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Do you think Jesus existed?

2023-01-04

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/07/25

I was asked, sincerely, by a reasonably intelligent younger man. He asked, “Do you think Jesus existed?” He noted some of the mixed opinion “folks” have on the issue of the extant nature of the god-man, God made flesh. I thought about it. With the sincerity behind the request, I provided an answer to him.

I responded more less with the following about religious ideologies in general. I take it as timelines. Some have worldviews from the 1st century, most Christians. Some have philosophies from the 7th century, most Muslims. Some have philosophies from the middle 20th century, many Rationalists and Humanists. I take them as frozen ways of looking at the world plus some modern updates.

Then I moved to the meat of the discussion.

Most historians — secular and religious — agree Jesus Christ existed with the real, proper, name as “Yeshua ben Josef.” Taking a modern scientific skeptic view on the Gospels, it becomes a charismatic figure among many in the Middle East who was Jewish, formulated a religion of the poor, argued for a revolutionary religion in a way, and was persecuted by state authorities for it, eventually killed for this including the rest of the Apostles. Why would the powerful tolerate violation or challenges of their own power? Emperor Constantine turned the Roman Empire on the Christian religion to make this, the religion of the poor, become the religion of the rich, the powerful, and the persecutors — the sword and the shield.

As a pre-scientific era, the main philosophical leaning for explaining the world was metaphysics, not physics, which means people took intuition, immediate experience, and failures of intuition and failures of the ability of immediate experience, to give accurate images of reality, i.e., a world in which assertions of burning bushes that don’t burn down and can talk, virgin births, walking on water, multiplication of loaves and fishes, healing of lepers via miraculous touch, of immediate creation of living things rather than slow and deep time evolution of organisms, of spirits, of demons and demonic possession, of the divine inspiration of holy texts, of resurrection of the dead including Jesus and Lazarus and others, become real propositions for consideration as what are called justified true beliefs. They seemed real, at the time, but shouldn’t now. In empirical terms, these wouldn’t stand scrutiny to modern scientifically minded people. However, even the most advanced societies have large numbers of people who believe in magical thinking and miracles, many people pray for miraculous cures and the like. So, Jesus existed, though the claims about this man as a wise and charismatic, and moral, figure rather than the God of the Bible made flesh or the Son of God who performed miraculous things, cast out evil spirits, died for our ‘sins,’ and rose on the third day in triumph of death.

Here’s a quote from the “Sermon on the Mount” of Jesus:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

It’s beautiful and mostly wise.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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