Jesus: Only a myth?

The Advent and Christmas season is a reflective time. A time of reflection on Jesus and his incarnation, a time of joy, hope and promise. People around the world are announcing their birth. A carol after the other sounds over the air. In the churches, the festival is solemnly celebrated with nativity plays, cantatas and choral singing. It is the time of year that one would think the whole world would know the truth about Jesus, the Messiah. But unfortunately many do not understand the full meaning of the Christmas season and they celebrate the festival only because of the associated festive mood. They miss so much because they either do not know Jesus or adhere to the lie that he is just a myth - a claim that holds since the dawn of Christianity.

It is commonplace at this time of the year for journalistic contributions to express "Jesus is a myth", and it is typically remarked that the Bible is implausible as a historical witness. But these claims do not take into account that they can look back on a much longer history than many "reliable" sources. Historians often cite the writings of the historian Herodotus as trustworthy testimonies. However, there are only eight known copies of his remarks, the most recent of which date back to 900 - about 1.300 years after his time.

They juxtapose this with the "degraded" New Testament written shortly after Jesus' death and resurrection. His earliest recording (a fragment of the Gospel of John) dates back to the time between 125 and 130. There are more than 5.800 complete or fragmented copies of the New Testament in Greek, such as 10.000 in Latin and 9.300 in other languages. I would like to introduce you to three well-known quotes that highlight the authenticity of the portrayals of Jesus' life.
The first goes to the Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus from the 1. Century back:

At this time Jesus lived, a wise man [...]. For he was the bearer of unbelievable deeds and the teacher of all men who joyfully took the truth. So he attracted many Jews and many Gentiles. He was the Christ. And although Pilate, at the instigation of the noblest of our people, condemned him to the crucifixion, his former followers did not become unfaithful to him. [...] And even to this day the people of the Christians, who call themselves after him, persist. [Antiquitates Judaicae, German: Jewish antiquities, Heinrich Clementz (transl.)].

FF Bruce, who translated the Latin Urtext into English, stated that "the historicity of Christ is as incontrovertible for an unbiased historian as the Julius Caesars."
The second quote goes back to the Roman historian Carius Cornelius Tacitus, who also wrote his writings in the first century. Regarding the allegations that Nero burnt down Rome and afterwards blamed the Christians, he wrote:

[...] blamed Nero for blaming others and, with the most refined punishments, took those people whom the people hated because of their atrocities and called Christians. Its namesake, Christ, had been executed under the government of Tiberius by procurator Pontius Pilate. [...] Therefore, those who made confessions were first seized, and then, according to their information, a huge number of people who were considered convicted, not so much for their arson as for their general hatred of human beings. (Annales, 15, 44, German translation by GF Strodtbeck, edited by E. Gottwein)

The third quote is from Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, the official historian of Rome during the reign of Trajan and Hadrian. In a work written in 125 on the life of the first twelve Caesars, he wrote about Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54:

The Jews, who were incited by Chrestus continually to riot, he expelled from Rome. (Sueton's imperial biographies, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Caesar, 25.4, by Adolf Stahr, note the spelling "Chrestus" for Christ.)

The statement of Suetonius refers to the expansion of Christianity in Rome before 54, only two decades after Jesus' death. The British New Testament scholar I. Howard Marshall comes to the conclusion in his consideration of these and other references: "It is not possible to explain the advent of the Christian Church or the Gospel writings and the flow of tradition behind it, without at the same time recognizing that the founder of Christianity actually lived."

Although other scholars doubt the authenticity of the first two citations, and some even consider them to be forgeries of the Christian hand, these references are based on solid ground. In this context, I am pleased to hear a commentary made by the historian Michael Grant in his book Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels: "If we talk about the new If we are to use the same criteria as in other ancient scriptures that contain historical material-what we should do-we can not deny the existence of Jesus as much as that of a number of pagan persons whose true existence as characters of contemporary history never questioned. "

Although skeptics are quick to reject what they do not want to believe, there are exceptions. The skeptical and liberal theologian John Shelby Spong wrote in Jesus for the Non-Religious: "First and foremost, Jesus was a man who actually lived in a certain place at a certain time. The human Jesus was not a myth, but a historical figure, from which a tremendous energy emanated - an energy that still requires an adequate explanation today. "
Even as an atheist, CS Lewis considered the depictions of the New Testament about Jesus to be mere legends. But after he had read them himself and compared them to the real old legends and myths he knew, he clearly recognized that these writings had nothing in common with them. Rather, they resembled in their form and format memories, which reflect the daily life of a real person. After he realized that, a belief barrier had fallen. From then on, Lewis no longer had a problem believing the historical reality of Jesus to be true.

Many skeptics argue that Albert Einstein, as an atheist, did not believe in Jesus. Although he did not believe in a "personal god," he was careful not to appeal to those who did so; because: "Such a belief seems to me always more excellent, than the absence of any transcendental view." Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology; Engl .: Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology) Einstein, who grew up as a Jew, admitted that he was "enthusiastic about the figure of the Nazarene." Asked by a conversation partner whether he recognizes Jesus' historical existence, he answered: "Without question. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality resonates in every word. No myth is filled with such a life. For example, how different is the impression we gain from a narrative of a legendary ancient hero like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of this format lack the authentic vitality of Jesus. "(George Sylvester Viereck, The Saturday Evening Post, 26, October 1929, What Life Means to Einstein: Interview: What Einstein Life Means: An Interview)

I could go on with that, but as the Roman Catholic scientist Raymond Brown rightly said, focussing on the question of whether Jesus is a myth leaves many out of sight of the true meaning of the gospel. In The Birth of the Messiah, Brown mentions that he is often approached around Christmas by those who want to write an article about the historicity of Jesus' birth. "With little success, I try to persuade them that they might be more supportive in understanding the stories of the birth of Jesus by focusing on their message, rather than on a question that was far from the focus of the evangelists "As we focus on spreading the story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, rather than trying to convince people that Jesus was not a myth, we are living proof of Jesus' reality. That living proof is the life that he now leads in us and in our community. The purpose and purpose of the Bible is not to prove the historical correctness of the Incarnation of Jesus, but to share with others why He came and what His coming means to us. The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to bring us into actual contact with the flesh-risen and risen Lord who draws us to Him, to believe in Him and to honor the Father through Him. Jesus came into the world as proof of God's love for each and every one of us (1.Joh 4,10). Here are some more reasons for coming:

- To seek and save what is lost (Lk 19,10).
- To save the sinners and to call for penance (1.Tim 1,15; Mk 2,17).
- To give his life for the salvation of man (Mt 20,28).
- To testify the truth (Joh 18,37).
- To fulfill the will of the Father and lead many children to glory (Joh 5,30, Heb 2,10).
- To be the light of the world, the way, the truth and the life (Joh 8,12; 14,6).
- To preach the good news of the Kingdom of God (Lk 4,43).
- To comply with the law (Mt 5,17).
- Because the father sent him: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through him. He who believes in him will not be judged; but he that believeth not is judged, for he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God "(Jn 3,16-18).

This month, we celebrate the truth that God came into our world through Jesus. It is good to remind ourselves that not everyone knows this truth, and we are called upon to share it with others. Jesus is more than a figure of contemporary history - he is the Son of God who came to reconcile all with the Father in the Holy Spirit. This makes this time a time of joy, hope and promise

by Joseph Tkach

pdfJesus: Only a myth?