Is Jesus Christ historical? I have to skip the final part of my current series to focus on this one. Actually, I think I lack the necessary skills because I am no religion historian. Thus, I do not see why this article would not also be subject to change anytime soon. What a disclaimer I have given just now, but is it not better to admit what you lack than attempt to sugarcoat it with perceived strength on a field you are not so strong?

Going back, it has recently come to my attention that Jesus Christ, in one of the most famous social media sites in the world, is portrayed as a Fictional Character, as opposed to other religion founders who were labelled as Public Figures (like Siddhartha Gautama, the one called Buddha). What is aimed here is to trace, at least in the preliminary sense, the historicity of Jesus, the one called Christ. Besides, it is around five weeks before Christmas will be commemorated this year. Very timely indeed. A monumental, if not daring, work for this emerging history blog as well. It took me two days to finish this series.

Most liked Facebook page of Jesus Christ - 662 of my 862 friends (77%)
in the famous social media site liked the page
Apparently, they might have overlooked the fact
that Jesus here is labeled as "Fictional Character"
or else, it seems that they also liked the label for Jesus as well
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See the Alpha of the historicity of Jesus series by clicking here.

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The tirade on the historical basis of Jesus continues this 2014. Writer and researcher Michael Paulkovich broke news last October when he claimed in his No Meek Messiah that he had examined 126 historical texts contemporary with the supposed lifetime of Jesus (7 BCE - 26 CE, 4 BCE - 29 CE, or 2 BCE - 31 CE) and found that there has been no mention of Him in any of them. He even doubts the veracity of Paul's knowledge on Jesus Christ. Paul was supposedly the missionary who had initiated the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire outside Judea, Galilee and Samaria. He also writes,
"Jesus of Nazareth" was nothing more than urban (or desert) legend, likely an agglomeration of several evangelic and deluded rabbis who might have existed.
The 126 authors whom Paulkovich says were silent about Jesus
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail Online

Since these authors had not mentioned a supposedly popular leader, Paulkovich came to conclude that Jesus was nothing more than a myth. He adds,
The Jesus character is a phantom of a wisp of a personage who never wrote anything. So, add one more: 127.
The popular counterargument to this was the mention of other religious and philosophical figures like Confucius, Pythagoras, Socrates, and the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) who themselves had not written anything. In the Philippine setting, one may even cite Lapu-Lapu, dubbed as the "First Filipino Hero," to be under this category. If Jesus was an urban legend, then maybe it can be said that Buddha, who taught in forests, be called a jungle legend, and Socrates, who most probably taught at the agora (marketplace), be called a market legend. Also, if Jesus was always on the go, and we all know we only have two major ways to be to travel at that time (on animal or on foot), how would he have time to actually write anything? For that matter, if one is to take note of the wisdom He possessed, is it even possible for Him to be illiterate?

On the downplaying of Paul's knowledge, especially since he had no mentions from major contemporary sources outside the Bible, Paul would have likely to ignore what you think of him as what you think of the church. He did encounter such issues during his lifetime, especially since he was not one of the 12 original disciples of Jesus and many begin to claim that his knowledge of Christ was secondhand and unreliable. That is, if one is to believe the Biblical accounts. Is it not that the Council of Jerusalem was held to bring reconciliation and resolution to the brewing problems of the early Christian Church? On the historicity of Paul, which could be another story, is it possible that Paul (formerly called Saul) assumed other names as he moved on within an empire that does not welcome his newly found faith? If Simon was also Cephas, or Peter, can Paul not assume at least one other name as well? Also, if that is the case, then it would really increase the difficulty of tracing Paul in contemporary historical sources.

Besides his defense in 2 Corinthians 10, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight... So, there are no boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [Peter] or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Depiciton of Paul
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Another thing of note is his inclusion of historians that have already been previously mentioned in this article to have had a reference to Jesus, such as Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger. Did he really study the texts himself? How did he study them, in the original or translated form? If it took hundreds, if not thousands, of scholars to translate the 66 books of the Bible, how can Paulkovich translate the works of 126 authors (if he had access to the original form of the documents) and carefully study them to finally claim that they really had no mention of the Christ? If Christian translators can translate the documents to their favor, as argued on the account of Josephus, then it may not be far from possible that non-Christian translators manipulate the texts in their favor as well. Paulkovich, if he did translate, may not be an exception.

Is it also a possibility that these authors, mostly Roman, simply decided to exclude Jesus altogether in their accounts in attempts to erase any trace of Jesus, the religious and provincial leader that gained a huge following in the periphery? Besides, persecutions began as early as Nero (37-68). Perhaps even earlier, as noted by Suetonius. If one persecutes another, it is only logical to suppress any medium the latter can use to further gain or retain influence. One can easily remember the "burning of books and burying of scholars" incident that occurred in China in 213 and 210 BCE.

Given that Jesus can fairly be proven to have existed historically in at least a number of historical works, what then makes people continue to think that the Christ is ahistorical? His miracles? Hollister writes that,
According to the Gospels, Jesus's greatest miracle was his resurrection - his return to life three days after he died on the Cross.
His resurrection on the third day after his crucifixion unbelievable? Perhaps, but one who claims to possess the power to give life can also give life to himself, is it not? Also, Paul himself would defend the resurrection of Jesus in his letter to the Corinthians,
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred [500] of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
One may ask what methodology Paul used to ascertain the 500+ figure, which he claimed to have seen Jesus after His death, but is it possible for 500 people to believe the same deception at the same time? Perhaps, but it would take a lot of gall for the remaining disciples to do so. More so for Paul, who apparently was the only scholar among the disciples and missionaries of the early Church, as evidenced by his writing of around half of the New Testament. Actually, he studied in Tarsus, one of the university cities in the empire next only to Athens and Alexandria.

Going back to the question of lacking or unreliable written sources from the disciples themselves, is it not a possibility that they were illiterate, a feature that was almost synonymous with poverty at that time? Peter had Silas, who was apparently literate, to write for him the letters now recognized as 1 and 2 Peter. If that is the case, then the Gospels were likely to have been written in a period after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus. Also, it is not far from possible that the Gospels suffered from cloudy memory, future embellishment, or even the discretion of the disciples' writers.

In any case, whether referring to the Biblical or non-Biblical sources, there were a fair amount of documents already presented that actually mention Christ. This already makes Him at the least historical. As if these were not enough, then one has to wait for more sources to arise and get examined.

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In the Philippines, people have attempted to build a localized Christ figure. Tamblot, in 1621 and 1622, created his own Trinity with his babaylan father replacing God the Father, himself as the Son, Jesus Christ, and a diwata figure as the Holy Spirit. They also acquired a prostitute to make her replace Mary. Taking account of Tamblot, he had less documents and authors to mention him and his revolt than Jesus Christ had. That is, even if Tamblot was 1600 years nearer our era than Jesus Christ did.

Another localized Christ figure, even though it might have been against his will, was Jose Rizal. Aglipayans may only elevate him to the point of sainthood, but some Rizalists recognize him to be the Tagalog Christ - Kristo ng Katagalugan. Well, for that matter, Tamblot apparently did not resurrect, and so did Rizal, whose remains one can visit at Luneta. If it meant anything, this may be a manifestation of the widespread influence Jesus Christ had struck in the archipelago. A parting message fitting for this article may be John the Baptist's testimony of Jesus. John, like Jesus, had been documented by Josephus.
Depiction of John the Baptist
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.
Meanwhile, as a parting message, this was John's testimony.
A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, "I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him." The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.
Update as of December 2016: Jesus Christ relabeled as "Public Figure" but with less followers at more or less 5 million (down from around 12 million at the time this article was published).


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