Thursday, April 9, 2009

Was Jesus a real person?

Was Jesus a real person?

Did Jesus Christ really exist, or is Christianity built upon a legend? Few scholars question Jesus' existence, but some enemies of Christianity are attempting to prove otherwise.

In a lawsuit against the Vatican, the Church was accused of inventing the story of Jesus' existence. Although the case was thrown out of court in February, 2006, the plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, appealed, but ultimately his case was closed.

The argument against Jesus' existence was made public on CNN TV when Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, declared:

“The reality is there is not one shred of secular evidence there ever was a Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and Christianity is a modern religion. And Jesus Christ is a compilation from other gods: Osiris, Mithras, who had the same origins, the same death as the mythological Jesus Christ.” - Ellen Johnson, atheist

Johnson and a blue-ribbon panel of religious leaders were discussing the question, “What happens after we die?” on a Larry King Live CNN broadcast. The usually unflappable King paused reflectively and then replied, “So you don’t believe there was a Jesus Christ?”

With an air of certainty, Johnson responded, “There was not. It is not what I believe; there is no secular evidence that JC, Jesus Christ, ever existed.”

King had no follow-up and went to a commercial break. No discussion of any evidence for or against Jesus’ existence was forthcoming. The international television audience was left wondering.

ifty years earlier, in his book Why I Am Not a Christian, atheist Bertrand Russell shocked his generation by questioning Jesus’ existence. He wrote: “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one.”2

Is it possible that the Jesus so many believe to be real never existed? In The Story of Civilization, secular historian Will Durant posed this question: “Did Christ exist? Is the life story of the founder of Christianity the product of human sorrow, imagination, and hope—a myth comparable to the legends of Krishna, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, and Mithras?”3 Durant pointed out how the story of Christianity has “many suspicious resemblances to the legends of pagan gods.”4 Later in this article we will see how this great historian answered his own question about the existence of Jesus.

So, how can we know for sure that this man, whom many worship and others curse, was real? Is Johnson right when she asserts that Jesus Christ is a “compilation from other gods”? And is Russell right when he says that Jesus’ existence is “quite doubtful”?