Did Jesus exist?
Bible disputes: there are some people who say Jesus never really lived—or that the Bible is forged. As it happens, Christians, like Muslims and Jews, do not believe it is wrong to lie—once, when I was naïve, I assumed that religious people would be honest; and yet, on examination, I find that the Christians have always held that it is acceptable to lie to advance the faith—hence we have good reason to distrust them.
To consider the historical reality of Jesus, think about a more recent event—9/11. It happened 22 years ago. If you want to find out about 9/11 you can view raw news footage from the day itself, amateur video footage, you can read government reports, newspaper reports, you can view oral history projects, you can read amateur poems and view art projects, you can read first-hand accounts written on blogs, you can read novelisations, and you can read official histories…
You can also read a vast, popular, and often convincing array of material that claims that the towers were not, for example, collapsed by aircraft but were blown up—and that the people widely held to have carried out the act never did it. There are even people who will go so far as to claim that the entire event was computer-generated…
That has all happened within the space of 22 years—the array of material, both straightforwardly factual and interpretative, around the event is vast. To master all the material about 9/11 is already beyond a lifetime’s work. Much of the material is flat-out contradictory—even eyewitness testimony is flat-out contradictory (which is, in part, how people with “alternative narratives” find their foothold—they pick on a contradiction in eyewitness testimony and place great emphasis on it).
Even though this event was filmed extensively, there are massive doubts about it (not entirely sincere, in my view, but that’s my intuition not an argument). Of course, the statement “the camera never lies” exists as an ironic testament to the fact it so often does. For example, you can watch footage where it appears the building explodes before the aircraft hits it—real evidence of conspiracy within the conspiracy, or a trick of the eye?
So, did 9/11 really happen? Or did it happen as it was purported to have happened? Well, for many people it’s a controversial topic—flat-out denial is rare, but it does exist, and we haven’t already had, say, a civil war in America where the Federal archives were destroyed, followed by a prolonged dark age where most modern technology fell into disuse.
Indeed, it’s plausible to imagine a world where easy international travel has broken down, where aircraft are rare and unsophisticated, and where most skyscrapers have fallen down (not being as well-built as Roman artefacts) and where much knowledge has been lost; and where, say, only Loose Change, a popular amateur documentary in the 2000s which put forward an “alternative narrative” for 9/11, remains the only well-known record of an event called “9/11”—which many people find difficult to credit happened.
And that’s before you consider the possibility that for about 1400 years a politico-religious faction with a particular interpretation of 9/11 seized power in the West and suppressed all other narratives and interpretations, often under the pain of torture.
For people who “lived through it”—mostly vicariously, through a TV screen, as it happens—then it seems ridiculous to say it never happened. Yet there are now adults, men and women aged 22, who have no memory of it. For me, as a teenager, even though I was a child when it happened, the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed like “ancient history” and events in “the 70s” were as real to me as an event in 1940—which was, thanks to film, more real to me than the Elizabethan age, though still not “really real”.
So already there exists a group of people for whom 9/11 is not a visceral event—and has the same reality as the Cuban Missile Crisis does for me (an event that was visceral and terrifying for people who lived through it, but seems barely real to me). In other words, what seems self-evident to one generation can become barely real for the next generation—even in an advanced society with extensive documentation of events and where eyewitnesses are still alive.
What can we conclude from the nature of history? I think we can conclude that amid the “dust and ruins” of any event the basic storyline is intact. Aside from a tiny minority, even the most vociferous “9/11 truthers” don’t dispute the fact that there were towers and the towers were hit by aircraft (even if the aircraft were decoys for explosive charges). Hence we can be pretty sure of the basic story—in the case of Christianity, there was a man called Jesus who was crucified.
However, even in the immediate aftermath of the event, there are contradictory eyewitness accounts and there are also multiple interpretations of the event. These have various motives. I think that “9/11 truthers” exist because they really protest the extensive influence and de facto control Jews exercise over America—and 9/11 benefitted the Jews and Israel.
Now it is not possible to say that directly without opprobrium being heaped upon you, so you “question the narrative” instead (i.e. you cast doubts over this event that was useful to the Jews, but you don’t critique Jewsh influence itself).
This is what gives “9/11 truthers” their contrived feel—because they don’t really say what they mean. It’s like that they know there’s a murderer on the loose but he’s too powerful to be named, so they drop hints that the way certain murders in the district have been committed do not accord with the known facts and so point to “someone else”.
To return to Christ, there were many, many gospels—there were gospels that reported the early life of Jesus where he acts like a young character in a superhero film, so he kills a friend he is angry with and then, full of remorse, revives him. There is even a gospel, which I think is fake, where Jesus is portrayed as homosexual—and this has been publicised and taken up by the gay lobby.
The point remains that a lot of material about Jesus was not just lost but actively suppressed and also forged—aside from the fact that, as with 9/11, as with any historical event, there are contradictory eyewitness statements and tendentious interpretations that appear almost at once.
However, there is also a tendency to go the other way—recently, I read a book called Forgery in Christianity, published by an American lawyer in the 1930s. Although it made some sound points it also tended just to say “it’s forgery, total forgery” for several paragraphs with no evidence presented and to do things like put “Jesus” in scare quotes (which no more or less makes Jesus real or unreal, but creates an emotional view that he was unreal—just like your so-called “Antarctica” that so many people claim exist, yet I’ve never seen).
This approach is, in fairness, a reaction to the total nature of Christianity—the way it crushes and demonises (literally, for Christians all other gods are Satanic demons, imps of the devil) other religions. So it tends to evoke the desire to totally refute it in response—and, given Christianity, just like its Marxist cousin, leaves a scorched earth as it kills off any other competitors there is almost no alternative in a post-Christian world but atheism once you realise the Christians lie a lot.
Yet it’s as incorrect to become an atheist “child of the light” in conflict against the Christian “child of the dark”—in a reversal of the Zarathustrian-inspired Christian story. Hence the author of Forgery in the Bible quotes Pope Leo X as saying, “What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!”. Now, it’s obvious to me from the way it’s said that the pope is engaged in a joke—an ironic jest. Yet atheists of the HL Mencken variety take it in a tendentious way as a literal confession that “even the priests admit they’re running a money-making con”—because Christians are now “total evil”, the “children of the dark”.
Well, here is my view: the story of Jesus—the story of Mohammad, Buddha, Zarathustra—happened basically as recounted. The backbone, like the backbone to 9/11, is true—“the towers were knocked down by men actuated by religious beliefs who hijacked aircraft”; or, in this case, “there was a man called Jesus Christ who preached forgiveness, performed miracles, and was executed”.
However, there’s more to it than that—and we’ve lost a great many specifics, some of them bound to be truthful, along the way; and we’ve also had a great many interpretations foisted upon us (often under pain of social ostracism or torture). But the bare bones are true.
Perhaps this is why, in fact, prophets and holy men come again and again—Zarathustra was once as widely known, worshipped, and followed as Jesus; and now his message is mostly lost and only a few Parsees in India (like Freddy Mercury) carry on his message—a great many people would say he never existed at all. The well must be refreshed.