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Washington Post to Christians on Christmas Morning: Jesus Didn’t Exist

Stream: Washington Post to Christians on Christmas Morning: Jesus Didn’t Exist

Early Christmas morning, the Washington Post thought it would be wise to stick its thumb in the eyes of those celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Its official “Post Opinions” Twitter account tweeted “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”

Many commented on the provocative timing. Publisher of Encounter books and well known author Roger Kimball said that the Post’s tweet was “Really, all you need to know about that pathetic publication.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted “Why is this necessary today? Why insult people of a certain faith on the day they most cherish? It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of simple courtesy. #Rude”. (He added a ruder hashtag as well.) Many others were affronted.

The gibe was deliberate. It’s not that the story the Post touted was new, containing “breaking” news of some scholar unearthing new historical evidence. After all, the link in the Post’s tweet was to a four-year old already-debunked story of the same name they published in December, 2014.

The doubters

The article was by Raphael Lataster, with subtitle “There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence.”

What “good reasons” does he have? Lataster claims that there are a “lack of early sources” about the life of Jesus. What about the Gospels? He dismisses those because, he says, they

all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity — which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources — which they also fail to identify.

Dismissing antiquity

Should we dismiss Lataster’s (and, tacitly, the Washington Post’s) argument because he is eager to promote atheism? The fallacy is obvious. As is the intimation that because the authors of the Gospels were not professional historians familiar with modern footnoting techniques, they can’t be trusted. If we applied this criterion equally, we’d have to toss out nearly all ancient literature.

About non-Christian, but early professional historians, like Josephus and Tacitus, Lataster is equally disparaging. The excuse he uses for casting these men aside is to call their writings “controversial” and to say their work has “obviously been changed by Christian scribes”.

His argument can thus be boiled down to this.[]

Carrying Carrier

Lataster does himself no favor at all by leaning on the wild-eyed arch-atheist and Jesus-denier Richard Carrier (who recently “came out” as “polyamorous”). Carrier’s behavior and litigiousness is so outré it annoys even his fellow atheists.

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Doubting the doubters

And why are they appearing especially when the crank “mythicist” theories printed by the paper have been debunked repeatedly in scholarly works?

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The Post’s mysterious motivation

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Click here and unwrap your fake news.

17 thoughts on “Washington Post to Christians on Christmas Morning: Jesus Didn’t Exist Leave a comment

  1. Well, apart from all the evidence to the contrary, there is a historical and scientific consensus that Jesus didn’t exist.

  2. But there is no war on Christmas… that was the follow up to this claim of no Jesus by liberals… when Trump declared the war on Christmas over… the left went off the rails and claimed that there was never a war… yet the opinion of WAPO exists… if the WAPO claimed that Mohammed did not exist… that would not be a war on Islam, I suppose.

  3. Yet, again, the Washington Post didn’t bother to fact check this old story. Instead it chose to re-publicize it on Christmas day. Why?
    Well, one reason is to reassure the denizens of the WAPO echo-chamber that despite feelings of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” they might be absorbing from the mostly forgotten Christmas story, they can rest in ignorance while the gatekeepers fend off the advance of the Kingdom.

  4. I understand there are ten non-christian sources that refer to the existence of Jesus

    From

    https://www.bethinking.org/jesus/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian-sources

    Conclusion

    Let’s summarize what we’ve learned about Jesus from this examination of ancient non-Christian sources. First, both Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise. Second, Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher. Third, both Josephus and the Talmud indicate He performed miraculous feats. Fourth, Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And the Talmud declares it happened on the eve of Passover. Fifth, there are possible references to the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection in both Tacitus and Josephus. Sixth, Josephus records that Jesus’ followers believed He was the Christ, or Messiah. And finally, both Pliny and Lucian indicate that Christians worshipped Jesus as God!

    I hope you see how this small selection of ancient non-Christian sources helps corroborate our knowledge of Jesus from the gospels. Of course, there are many ancient Christian sources of information about Jesus as well. But since the historical reliability of the canonical gospels is so well established, I invite you to read those for an authoritative “life of Jesus!”

  5. Contra Hoyos, the historians’ consensus is that Jesus did exist. The mythers are a crackpot minority. The scientists have very little to say in the matter, since the question is not one of the metrical properties of physical bodies.

    Some interesting perspectives can be had from an unusual source: a rational atheist fed up with the poor historiography practiced by his fellow atheists.
    https://historyforatheists.com/2017/09/jesus-mythicism-1-the-tacitus-reference-to-jesus/

    The same complaints about sourcing and footnotes and the like would also “prove” that Socrates and Hannibal and, indeed, most other ancient personalities did not exist. (The only sources we have on Socrates are from his pupils; the only sources on Hannibal are from his enemies.)

    Based on Greek practice, Mark’s gospel is clearly sourced to Peter, and Mark was his secretary/scribe.

  6. @YeOlde

    Yes I know. I have been a believer in Christ since at least 12 if not before. I said “apart from all evidence to the contrary”, just a little joke. You know, if you exclude all the arguments in favor of it, you only have arguments against…

  7. This version, I must say, has a much more pleasant Comment Section than that of the original Stream article!

  8. @Ye Olde Statistician, “The mythers are a crackpot minority.”

    Minority? Yes. Crackpot? No. It clearly cannot be a “crackpot” position to doubt the existence of a figure who is claimed to have walked on water; to have raised people from the dead; or to have supernaturally killed a fig tree out of spite.

  9. @SFT

    You have it backwards; the “mythers” seem to be saying “who is claimed to have walked on water; to have raised people from the dead; or to have supernaturally killed a fig tree out of spite” could NOT have happened BECAUSE “WHO” never existed in the first place.

    It’s one thing to “deny” the attributes and actions of an historical figure, it’s another to “deny” the historical figure itself.

  10. Or to have thrown a silver dollar across the Potomac River. Or to have never told a lie, as G. Washington was said to have done.

    Or to have crossed the Alps with elephants, as Hannibal of Carthage allegedly did.

    Or to have risen into the heavens as a spark of light as proof of his deification, as did C. Julius Caesar.

    That people tell fantastic stories about a real person is not proof that the person is not real; esp. in an era that did not possess a journalistic sense of history.

  11. @ YOS: “That people tell fantastic stories about a real person is not proof that the person is not real; esp. in an era that did not possess a journalistic sense of history.”

    Can’t argue with that. Most, essentially all knowledgeable and credible historians have sufficient reason to believe Jesus existed.

    However, have to point out the flimsy logic slipping along thus far:

    Consider the reference to Tacitus mentioned repeatedly here — Tacitus mentioned a “Chrestus” at the beginning of a cultish-ish movement for which he was executed. Tacitus’ remarks are assume “Chrestus” was “Jesus” (and those might be different figures, but let’s assume they’re the same) offers zilch in support of Jesus as a deity.

    Every “pro-Jesus” believer here, and pretty much everywhere, has been implicitly assuming that evidence for the ‘man-Jesus’ as a real historical figure therefore establishes that the ‘deity-Jesus’ was likewise real. That’s logically no different than than asserting that because Bishop Nicholas (canonized to St. Nicholas) existed … therefore, Santa Claus is real. Such is the strength of “evidence” many are willing to accept if it comports with existing beliefs.

    “The Bible, or Gospels, say so” is not compelling evidence of anything until the source documentation is established as credible. Credibility is presumed [by believers]. But what about the evidence? We know its ancient tradition, hashed out over a very long time (e.g. from the outset — Corinthians describes all sorts of conflicts & heresies…to the Nicea councils, etc over the first few hundred years in particular) by an educated literate elite that gained considerable power from that story over illiterate primitive masses and carried on by unquestioning cultural inertia to the present. Paul, the earliest writings, are almost contemporary with Jesus, but focus on values; the actual Gospels were written a generation or more later, and they are chock-full of logical contradictions:

    Jesus, post-resurrection, issued His “Great Commission” to baptize all nations, necessarily including Gentiles — and he issued this directive directly, face-to-face, with the Apostles. One would think that being given a direct order by a deity, mere mortals would comply. Acts 10 & 11 establish the Apostles did not — instead, they confronted Paul about him ministering to the Gentiles (how dare he!) … and in Acts 11 it is stated unequivocally that, based on Paul’s vision, the apostles accept extending the mission & baptism to the Gentiles. Why would mortals reject a directive from God for another mortal’s vision? Because one of the stories is false; either Jesus didn’t issue the Great Commission, or, the story in Acts didn’t really happen. Such is the sort of problems when multiple authors work over time & geography to shore up & harmonize a story to meet the then-desired doctrine.

    And such inconsistencies go on & on (e.g., If the Trinity is three co-equal beings in one, why is the only “Unforgivable Sin” [per two books] applicable only to blaspheming the Holy Spirit? If Jesus was/is a member of the Trinity, how did He forget this on the cross (“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”)? The Adoptionist view, that Jesus was a man later, at baptism, possessed by the spirit of god and then abandoned moments before dying on the cross, makes perfect sense and appears to be an example of a now heretical belief about the nature of Jesus surviving in an older story … … and so the contradictions go, though not without valiant and, unless one is determined to believe, flimsy and unpersuasive rationalizations that invariably employ circular reasoning).

  12. Consider the reference to Tacitus mentioned repeatedly here — Tacitus mentioned a “Chrestus” at the beginning of a cultish-ish movement for which he was executed. Tacitus’ remarks are assume “Chrestus” was “Jesus” (and those might be different figures, but let’s assume they’re the same) offers zilch in support of Jesus as a deity.

    The only point at issue here is whether the prophet Jesus existed. Whether he was the incarnate Deity or not is a separate issue. The notion that a title/name might be misspelled is no gobsmacking astonishment. Happens all the time in hand-made books. Chrestus was apparently a common Greek name at the time. However, the notion that there was a second messianic cult originating in Judea whose leader was executed by Pontius Pilate and whose name was eerily similar to Christus requires a greater suspension of disbelief than walking on water.

    Tim O’Neill, that great rarity — a rational atheist who insists on not doing sloppy history — addresses this very issue here: https://historyforatheists.com/2017/09/jesus-mythicism-1-the-tacitus-reference-to-jesus/

    We know [the Gospels are] ancient tradition, hashed out over a very long time

    Not that long. As Greek bioi go, they appeared sooner after the life described than most others of its genre in the ancient world. They were already well-known and established when Papias wrote ca. AD 100, and so must have been written considerably prior to then. Jesus was said to be about 33 years old when he was executed and his followers were being executed from AD 60 onward; so the gospels were written within the living memory of the witnesses to the events. Mark, believed to be the earliest of the Greek gospels was written ca. AD 60, shortly after its source, Peter, was executed.

    [This was SOP for Greek bioi. The Greeks distrusted written documents: you couldn’t look them in the eye, cross-examine them, and resolve ambiguous language. They much preferred what they called “the living word,” i.e., eyewitnesses. Hence, bioi were committed to writing only as the primary eyewitnesses were dying off or otherwise becoming unavailable. Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus is a good example of this: it was written thirty years after Plotinus’ death, about the same span as between the death of Jesus and the writing of Mark’s gospel. Both Mark and Porphyry include the standard Greek historiographical tropes of the times, such as the inclusio and the “shout out,” which is how Papias, who was “a hearer of John” could be so certain that Mark had the gospel directly by jotting notes of Peter’s stories.]

    Matthew’s gospel was earlier, but was written in Aramaic. The Matthew we have now was written in Greek, so the original Matthew was possibly the hypothetical Q document and was used by the Ebionites.

    gospels hashed out over a very long time (e.g. from the outset — Corinthians describes all sorts of conflicts & heresies…to the Nicea councils, etc over the first few hundred years in particular) by an educated literate elite that gained considerable power from that story over illiterate primitive masses

    Although it is true that the new religion had a special appeal to the masses — especially to women — the typical citizen of the Roman Empire was not “primitive.” The religion seems to have caught on initially among the urban middle classes and elite, particularly in Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. And it is no coincidence that its spread was matched by the spread of the book (folio) versus the scroll. A religion that hearkens to the Word and to the Book is hardly the religion of the illiterate, at least at first. Most of the initial converts were Jews, who were already highly literate because of their own bookish traditions. The illiterate peasants in the countryside were those who remained stubbornly pagan. (The Latin word paganus actually means “countryman” or “hick” and the polytheists obtained the sobriquet because toward the end, they were mostly found in the countryside.

    You seem to have an odd notion of what the Council of Nicaea was all about. They were not “hashing out” the gospels.

    they are chock-full of logical contradictions

    What, wait? You mean they were not written as mathematical or philosophical texts? Who knew?

    one of the stories is false; either Jesus didn’t issue the Great Commission, or, the story in Acts didn’t really happen.

    Or they did not initially trust Paul. cf. St. Stephen, martyrdom of.

    And such inconsistencies go on & on (e.g., If the Trinity is three co-equal beings in one, why is the only “Unforgivable Sin” [per two books] applicable only to blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

    a) They are one being, not three beings.
    b) It is one thing to get screwed up over the nature of the Son; but if you get the Spirit wrong, you are wrong, full stop. That is, you can have all the words and prophecy and faith enough to move mountains — but if you do not have love, you are nothing more than a clanging gong.

    And so on through all efforts to “decode words” without the benefit of two thousand years of teaching. If you don’t think that any man dying in a particularly gruesome manner might cry out in despair, you don’t understand humanity, let alone divinity.

  13. …the Tacitean passage next states that these fire-setting agitators were followers of “Christus” (Christos), who, in the reign of Tiberius, “was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate.” The passage also recounts that the Christians, who constituted a “vast multitude at Rome,” were then sought after and executed in ghastly manners, including by crucifixion. However, the date that a “vast multitude” of Christians was discovered and executed would be around 64 CE, and it is evident that there was no “vast multitude” of Christians at Rome by this time, as there were not even a multitude of them in Judea. Oddly, this brief mention of Christians is all there is in the voluminous works of Tacitus regarding this extraordinary movement, which allegedly possessed such power as to be able to burn Rome. Also, the Neronian persecution of Christians is unrecorded by any other historian of the day and supposedly took place at the very time when Paul was purportedly freely preaching at Rome (Acts 28:30-31), facts that cast strong doubt on whether or not it actually happened. Drews concludes that the Neronian persecution is likely “nothing but the product of a Christian’s imagination in the fifth century.” Eusebius, in discussing this persecution, does not avail himself of the Tacitean passage, which he surely would have done had it existed at the time. Eusebius’s discussion is very short, indicating he was lacking source material; the passage in Tacitus would have provided him a very valuable resource.

    http://www.truthbeknown.com/pliny.htm

  14. The passage reads in full:

    Et haec quidem humanis consiliis providebantur. mox petita [a] dis piacula aditique Sibyllae libri, ex quibus supplicatum Volcano et Cereri Proserpinaeque, ac propitiata Iuno per matronas, primum in Capitolio, deinde apud proximum mare, unde hausta aqua templum et simulacrum deae perspersum est; et sellisternia ac pervigilia celebravere feminae, quibus mariti erant.
    Sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia, quin iussum incendium crederetur. ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiablilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt. et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent aut crucibus adfixi [aut flammandi atque], ubi defecisset dies, in usu[m] nocturni luminis urerentur. hortos suos ei spectaculo Nero obtulerat, et circense ludicrum edebat, habitu aurigae permixtus plebi vel curriculo insistens. unde quamquam adversus sontes et novissima exempla meritos miseratio oriebatur, tamquam non utilitate publica, sed in saevitiam unius absumerentur.

    So where does P. Cornelius claim the Christians constituted a “vast multitude” in Rome? And how many exactly constitute a “multitude”? The Latin word multitido denotes “great number; crowd; rabble, mob” and so may refer to perhaps several score; enough to constitute the community to which Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans.

    Suetonius refers to the same persecution in his Life of Nero, 16. “…afflicti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae ac maleficae…” although he does not pin it down to time and cause due to the non-chronological organization of his bioi.

    Suetonius also refers to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome mentioned by Paul in his Life of the God Claudius, 25: 4. Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit.

    Not being privy to the future, neither Tacitus not Suetonius ascribed any importance to the doings of the Christians, or to any of the oriental cults from Syria-Palaestina finding their way into Roma. (Tacitus spent more time on the propitiation of the particular gods after the Great Fire than on the scape-goating of the Christians by Nero. Suetonius’ shorter work didn’t bother: he thought Nero clearly guilty and described how he sang the entire “Sack of Ilium” as he watched the City burn.

    Why should Eusebius refer to Tacitus to discuss something that was still well-known in his time? Do we need a reference to affirm that the Civil War took place?

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