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The Life of Jesus from Evidence Outside Our Gospels


Deadworm
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(1) Atheist Morton Smith is a genuine scholar. In his unique book, "Jesus the Magician," he reconstructs the version of Jesus' life as told by His Jewish detractors. I have summarized his findings in the paragraph below. The main source is the Platonist Celsus, who interviewed Jewish leaders to get their version of Jesus' life. Some of what they share can be independently corroborated by earlier sources traceable to the first century. I have cited other sources in parentheses for certain negative Jewish traditions about Jesus.

Jesus is the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera and a spinner woman (Rabbi Eliezer--70 AD). Her husband disowned her for her adultery and Jesus was born while she was on the run. He got a job in Egypt as a laborer and took the opportunity to become an adept in magic there. Jesus even had himself tattooed with magical spells (Celsus--170 AD--also responsible for the ensuing claims). Returning to Galilee Jesus hung out with sailors of the worst sort, and wandered from place to place, making his living shamefully as a beggar. He recruited 10 (not 12) disciples and taught them to indulge in secret orgies in defiance of the Law of Moses. He persuaded the masses that he was the Messiah by his miracles, which were either demonically powered or nothing more than magically induced hallucinations. His cures were not real and did not last (Quadratus--100-125 AD). Even his own family rejected his claims. He was tried and executed by Pilate for sedition and the practice of magic. His disciples stole his body and then claimed that they saw him after he rose from the dead. Some say the gardener at the tomb site removed the body to discourage sightseers from stepping on his lettuce (Tertullian--208 AD). But the false claim that he rose from the dead has gained him a huge following.

Both believers and Jesus' Jewish detractors agree
(1) that Joseph is not Jesus' true father,
If Joseph is not Jesus' father, then we need to choose between His illegitimate birth and His virgin birth.
(2) that to His Jewish audience, Jesus appeared to perform miracles:
Notice that His Jewish detractors don't claim that these miracle stories are later fabrications.
(3) that Jesus' crucified body was not buried by Roman soldiers in the customary manner:
So His missing corpse forced speculation on His body's fate.
(4) that, unlike our Gospels His detractors are interested in His physical appearance:
"Was the claim that he was tattooed related to Paul's claim, "I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body (Galatians 6:17)?
Those marks are usually interpreted, rightly I think, as Paul's wounds inflicted for his Gospel witness.
 
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2 hours ago, Deadworm said:
(1) Atheist Morton Smith is a genuine scholar. In his unique book, "Jesus the Magician," he reconstructs the version of Jesus' life as told by His Jewish detractors. I have summarized his findings in the paragraph below. The main source is the Platonist Celsus, who interviewed Jewish leaders to get their version of Jesus' life. Some of what they share can be independently corroborated by earlier sources traceable to the first century. I have cited other sources in parentheses for certain negative Jewish traditions about Jesus.

Jesus is the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera and a spinner woman (Rabbi Eliezer--70 AD). Her husband disowned her for her adultery and Jesus was born while she was on the run. He got a job in Egypt as a laborer and took the opportunity to become an adept in magic there. Jesus even had himself tattooed with magical spells (Celsus--170 AD--also responsible for the ensuing claims). Returning to Galilee Jesus hung out with sailors of the worst sort, and wandered from place to place, making his living shamefully as a beggar. He recruited 10 (not 12) disciples and taught them to indulge in secret orgies in defiance of the Law of Moses. He persuaded the masses that he was the Messiah by his miracles, which were either demonically powered or nothing more than magically induced hallucinations. His cures were not real and did not last (Quadratus--100-125 AD). Even his own family rejected his claims. He was tried and executed by Pilate for sedition and the practice of magic. His disciples stole his body and then claimed that they saw him after he rose from the dead. Some say the gardener at the tomb site removed the body to discourage sightseers from stepping on his lettuce (Tertullian--208 AD). But the false claim that he rose from the dead has gained him a huge following.

Both believers and Jesus' Jewish detractors agree
(1) that Joseph is not Jesus' true father,
If Joseph is not Jesus' father, then we need to choose between His illegitimate birth and His virgin birth.
(2) that to His Jewish audience, Jesus appeared to perform miracles:
Notice that His Jewish detractors don't claim that these miracle stories are later fabrications.
(3) that Jesus' crucified body was not buried by Roman soldiers in the customary manner:
So His missing corpse forced speculation on His body's fate.
(4) that, unlike our Gospels His detractors are interested in His physical appearance:
"Was the claim that he was tattooed related to Paul's claim, "I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body (Galatians 6:17)?
Those marks are usually interpreted, rightly I think, as Paul's wounds inflicted for his Gospel witness.
 

You can add that pilgrimage to the tomb is evidence Jesus was popular.  And to this day we still say, "Lettuce pray" before group prayer.

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*2( The Nazareth inscription is a tablet from the emperor, warning that the penalty for grave robbing is death. Most scholars date it to the time of Claudius (c. 41 AD). In 1878 it was initially brought to Nazareth, Jesus' home town. If Claudius is indeed the inscription's source. and if it was found near Nazareth, then it would likely be prompted by a Roman belief in the same charge that Jews made against Jesus' disciples: that the disciples stole Jesus' body. If so, these charges likely mean that neither the Jews nor the Romans know why Jesus' body was missing from the tomb. There is scant evidence that the Romans executed ordinary grave robbers. So the death penalty here probably reflects a Roman belief in Christianity as a troublesome cult focused on someone who committed a crime against Rome (e. g. sedition).

Unfortunately, the original locale of the tablet is unknown, but it is brought to officials in Nazareth. So it is probably discovered near there. Still, it seems unlikely Claudius would bother authorizing such a tablet to be written and sent to Palestine, unless a charge of notorious grave robbing had been leveled. Based on the style of lettering, the Decapolis has been proposed as an alternative place of origin. But the Decapolis is a hotbed of early Christianity. So whether it comes from Nazareth or the Decapolis, the tablet indirectly seems to attest the mystery of Jesus' empty tomb.
Of course, the earliest Gospel tradition about Jesus' burial (Mark) identifies a member of the 'Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, as sympathetic to Jesus (though not a disciple!) of Jesus and as gaining permission to bury a prematurely dead Jesus so as not to profane the Sabbath. In short, apologists are overreaching to claim this as proof of the resurrection, but the tablet looms as a relevant artifact possibly alluding to the witness to Jesus' bodily resurrection.

For a scholarly discussion, see:

http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/07/22/The-Nazareth-Inscription-Proof-of-the-Resurrection-of-Christ.aspx
 

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(3) In 670 AD bishop Arculf visited the site of a church built over a house at Nazareth and reported the tradition that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived in that house.  Surrounding ancient inscriptional evidence supports that identification.  The house referenced by Arculf clearly has a much longer history than 670AD.  But how many centuries before Arcult was the house built?  Till now, this tradition has been widely dismissed as legendary.  But recently archaeologists have been able to scientifically date the house to the time of Joseph and Mary.  Ancient fragments of a woman's spinning equipment have been found there.  For a more detailed account of this house, see:

https://zenit.org/articles/the-home-of-joseph-the-just-one-in-nazareth/

About 8 years ago, I led a small academic Bible study for 4 people,  Attendees went on to get an MDiv and 2 MAs in Theology.  One of them, Ebb, a janitor, got an MDiv from Princeton and then spent a summer on the archaeological dig at Bethsaida, the  home of 3-5 of Jesus' disciples.  Another Bible study member ,Ken (a young retired architect) then asked me if he could also participate in that dig.  I encouraged him to apply and he was accepted. Indeed, he made some important archaeological discoveries there and that success earned him an invitation to join a team searching for the tunnel entrance of Jewish Holocaust escapees in Vilnius Lithuania.  I'm proud of Ken because he  quickly discovered that entrance, when many LIthuanian archaeologists had previously failed to locate it.  For this achievement, Ken  was even featured on the Nova science program.

I tell you this because an Israeli archaeologist then invited Ken to join his team in their effort to find a safe  way to penetrate a wall in "the Jesus house" to enter a room on the other side that is closed off.  So far Ken has declined the invitation.  But just think of it:  if this really is Jesus' childhood home, then artifacts from that room might me located in this closed off room!  Well, at least it's fun to speculate about the possibilities.

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