Re: The Existence of Jesus
Aug 06, 1996 04:31 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
Paul K. writes:
>Yes - the winners DO writes the history books. But here we are
>dealing with a massive cover-up of what surely would have been a
>major controversy. That is much more difficult. Before the
>discovery at Nag Hammadi, a lot was known of the gnostics from
>the writings of the Church Fathers because gnosticism was a
>major controversy and its challenge had to be met. Is Jerry
>suggesting that these same people ignored a controversy on the
>existence of Jesus, or did they attack it first and then burn
>their own writings. The latter is highly implausible.
Apparently you are putting forth the argument concerning the
first century B.C. Jesus should have been taken up by the non
Jewish religions, and there is no evidence that it was. I agree;
we do not have evidence of such first century arguments.
Actually, there is a dearth of first century pagan writings on
the subject of Jesus one way or the other. Most commentators
have concluded that this is because outside of the traditions
forming among the church writers from Paul onward, no one had
heard of him. A further problem is that even among the writings
of Paul that are generally agreed to be authentic, Jesus is not
treated as a person in any particular historical setting. i.e.,
there is no mention of Pilate etc. This seems to be also true of
Gnostic writings in general. When they speak of Jesus, they have
little interest in an historical person. Unlike the Roman
Church, vicarious atonement was not a Gnostic doctrine, therefore
Jesus' historicity would not be an issue. i.e., their salvation
did not depend upon an historical Jesus that was crucified. I
submit that this accounts for the Gnostic's lack of interest in
debating Jesus' birth date. Therefore, since there was no reason
for a massive controversy among the Gnostics, there would have
been no reason for a "massive cover-up".
However, my original point was more general--that we have little
documentation of ANY arguments against the church except those
answered by the church fathers. Whether the Toldoth story
concerning the dating of Jesus was ignored or used by the
Gnostics, I don't know, but I rather doubt it, because as I
stated above, this issue of historicity would not have been
meaningful to them.
As for the Gnostic texts known before and after the Nag Hammadi
find, as far as I have seen of them, they are philosophical works
and religious scripture--not debates with early church fathers.
Are you suggesting that preserved among the Gnostic texts you
mention are debates with early church fathers written by
Gnostics? Where are they? I must have missed them.
>I submit that the evidence indicates that that particular
>controversy (about the existence of Jesus, or him having lived
>100 BC), never existed in the early first or second centuries.
>And this can be taken as indicating that there was enough
>evidence in those days to refute such accusations should these
>arise. Of course, much of what the person we call Jesus can be
>debated, and the canonical gospels are hardly a reliable source
>of information. But it's tough to explain away the entire person
>as HPB or GRS Meade have tried in the light of the above
You seem to be making two statements here:
1. that a controversy concerning the Toldoth Jesus did not exist
in the first or second centuries, and this indicates that if it
had been, evidence must have existed then to completely refute
such a person, and;
2. that you find it difficult to understand why HPB and Mead
tried to support the Toldoth Jesus in light of the argument you
Regarding your first statement, I agree that there is no evidence
of such a debate among the Gnostic, but as I indicated above, I
see no reason why such a debate would have arisen between the
Gnostics and the early church fathers in the first place.
Therefore, I cannot go along with your secondary conclusion that
some evidence proving the historicity of the Biblical Jesus
existed then that would have precluded any debate. However, such
a debate between the Jews and the Christian sects in the early
first century would have made sense, and must have occurred. But
such debates we not preserved by the Jews nor the Christians (who
have no documentation of this nature whatsoever for this period).
Surely if the Jews had such records, the Christians would have
destroyed them early on--as we know that the destruction of
Jewish documents was a common Christian practice for centuries.
Even the earliest Toldoth story fragments only dates to the 13th
century, though Tertullian refers to the main elements of it,
thus showing that this story must date at least to the second
Regarding your second statement; it seems that HPB and Mead,
unlike the Christian theologians of the time, felt that the Jews'
and the Pagan's accounts of themselves during that period
deserved serious consideration. After all, the Biblical accounts
appear to have been written by Greeks, or at least by Hellenized
Jews during the mid first through the third century, and the
conflicting Jewish accounts tended to be systematically ignored.
HPB and Mead were going with the higher biblical criticism
movement that was developing at the time. This movement regarded
the Bible as a work that developed within an historical milieu,
rather than as the word of God. My own comparisons of HPB's and
Mead's arguments to those of modern Biblical critics indicates to
me that HPB's and Mead's arguments are still quite relevant and
much of it is still discussed. But perhaps you have also studied
this material and have come to other conclusions. I would be
interested in hearing them.
|Jerry Hejka-Ekins, |
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