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Historic Jesus

Aug 16, 1996 04:23 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Hi Abrantes,

     As I understand it, HPB, GRS Mead, Hayyim ben Yehoshua, and
other 19th and 20th century writers on Biblical criticism all
agree that the story of a Jesus born of a virgin and executed
under Pilate evolved late in the first century when the
Christians began to organize themselves as a separate tradition.
As I read them, HPB, Mead and Yehoshua are all saying that the
Jewish tradition shows a Jesus of 100 years earlier.  The above
writers are offering arguments that the Biblical Jesus is
partially based upon this person.  By the very nature of their
argument, I don't see how it can be disproved by citing
statements of commentators who had written after the Jesus/Pilate
tradition had been established.  If you are interested in
exploring this argument, we will have to look at Jewish tradition
and historical documents and commentaries written BEFORE the

To respond to you last three postings:

>>There is no question that by 110 A.D., when the above was
>>written, the story of a Jesus crucified under Pilate was well
>>established in the Christian community.  Therefore Tacitus'
>>explanation is not historical evidence of the event, but merely
>>a repetition of Christian belief, which Tacitus would have no
>>reason to question.

>It is interesting to conclude that the history about Jesus was
>probably before 110 AD, and as you agree, reflects a christian
>belief that is present in gospel today. Why Tatian and Suetonius
>never mentions the history about Jesus living one century
>before? Probably this question only arises several centuries
>later, and was never mentioned at early times. In
> Hayyim ben Yehoshua writes:

>>It is certainly true that the name "Christians" is derived from
>>Christ or Christus (=Messiah), but Tacitus' claim that he was
>>executed by Pilate during the reign of Tiberias is based purely
>>on the claims being made by the Christians themselves and
>>appearing in the gospels of _Mark_, _Matthew _and _Luke_ which
>>had already been widely circulated when the _Annals_ were being
>>written.  (The _Annals_ were published after 115 C.E.  and were
>>certainly not written before 110 C.E.)

>Tacitus, moreover, describes some of the horrible torments to
>which Nero subjected the Christians (Ann., XV, xliv). The Roman
>writer confounds the Christians with the Jews, considering them
>as a especially abject Jewish sect; how little he investigated
>the historical truth of even the Jewish records may be inferred
>from the credulity with which he accepted the absurd legends and
>calumnies about the origin of he Hebrew people (Hist., V, iii,

Yes, Yehoshua's comment here is pretty standard.  Christian
evangelists often cite Tacitus' mention of a Jesus Crucified
under Pilate as historical proof of the event.  After all,
Tacitus was a historian.  The argument Yehoshua is alluding to
here is that Tacitus has no reason to doubt this story, because
from a Roman point of view, it puts Christianity in a bad light.
At the time, the Romans had a law against the practice of new
religions in Rome.  Only ancient religions were legal.  Though
the Romans knew nothing of Jesus, they knew about Pilate.  Since
Pilate lived only a century earlier, the information would make
Christianity a new religion.   Therefore, Tacitus would have no
reason to question information furnished by a Christian that
incriminates the religion under Roman law.

I suppose that one could argue that since only ancient religions
were legal in Rome, the Christians would want to represent their
religion to be as old as possible.  But obviously, for whatever
reasons--they didn't.  However, it would not have mattered
whether the Christians living in Tacitus' time believed in a
Jesus that lived one or two hundred years earlier: Christianity
would have still been classified as a "new religion."


>BOOK III, chapter V (191,217) page 210 HPB states that Paul was
>the only apostle to receive gnosis from Jesus. But at chapter
>III (116,145) page 134 she says that Jesus taught magi to John,
>and at chapter IV (153,185) page 167 she says that Jesus teach
>his gnosis to SOME disciples (more than one disciple).
>So, what did HPB want to say? How many disciples receive Jesus
>gnosis from Jesus himself?

I have already mentioned several times that HPB speaks of three
Jesus: an historical, a Biblical and a theological.  Unless those
distinctions are made, HPB will appear to contradict herself in
every chapter.  In chapter V, HPB is writing here of the
historical Paul who received gnosis from the Christ through
visions.  The other references you mention concern the Biblical

>>As I understand it, your argument is this: You say that Luke
>>was a disciple of Paul, who was orthodox, therefore Luke had
>>"good relations with orthodoxy"; that Luke "wrote the Gospel"
>>[of Luke]; Luke talks about Pilate; therefore Jesus lived under
>>Pilate.  Your logic would be solid if Paul had written the
>>Epistles and Luke the Gospel of Luke, or at least that the
>>Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of Luke represent the ideas of
>>their respective name sakes.  But here lies the great flaw:

>No. I think that Luke composed the gospel collecting some pieces
>of information found in the oral and written tradition. I
>include Luke as orthodox because he is cited by others orthodox
>such as Iraenaus and Eusebius. They would never cited a person
>that had relations with heretics (groups that did not follow the
>ortodoxy, the vitorious sect of christians at century IV).

Your opinion that Luke compiled the Gospel of Luke is a minority
one, not supportable by evidence presently known.  The thinking
of Biblical scholars, (even most who are in the church) is that
the Gospels (whether written or compiled) are anonymous.  We know
that the attributing authors to the gospels was begun in the
second century and the present attributions were canonized by
Iraenaus.  As I explained in the last post, the phrase "according
to xxxx" was not a part of the original gospels--the authorship
of the Gospels is unknown.

I think that even in the material you posted regarding Marcion,
it was clear to me that Tertullian's idea of Luke was very
different from Marcion's.  Therefore, I see no reason why Marcion
would not embrace his Gnostic conceptions of Luke and Tertullian
embrace his orthodox conceptions of Luke.  It is a matter of
one's point of view.  It is clear that Marcion had his own ideas
regarding what is authentic and what are interpolations
concerning the Gospel of Luke.  My impression is that Marcion's
vision of Jesus is much like that found in the most authentic
epistles of Paul i.e. a non historical Jesus.  If Luke is a
disciple of Paul, then it would follow that Marcion would expect
Luke to also write about a non historical Jesus.   This also
appears to be the reason behind Marcion's rejection of portions
of Tertullian's Gospel of Luke as being interpolations.

>Early in this discussion, I mentioned that only two of the
>fourteen epistles of Paul are generally accepted to be genuine.

>You cited before that Paul had written four epistles. At that
>time I mention two references about Elaine Pagels ("Adam,Eve and
>the serpent",1988 I,52)and Daniel Rops (LEglise des apostres et
>des Martyrs,Paris,1948 II,68) states that scholars recognice
>that Paul wrote seven epistles: Romans,I and II Corinthians,
>Galatians, Filipenses, I Tessalonics and Filemon. You (without
>mention any reference) agreed that at least four are genuine and

>Your earlier posting was:
>>Of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul, only the letter to
>>the Romans, the two to the Corinthians and the one to the
>>Galatians are universally accepted as genuine by modern
>>Biblical scholars.

>Now you reduces the number to two. I will repeat the question is
>not the authenticity, to our discussion (that Jesus did not live
>one century before as stated in Toldoth). These epistles
>reflects the doctrines of Paul, as the early church, and were
>considered so by many others such as Marcion, paulicians and
>cathars that accepted pauline epistles and an adultered
>version fo gospel of Luke. Luke refers to Jesus living under
>Pilate, and never one century before as stated in Toldoth.

There are a lot of grey areas concerning the authenticity of the
Epistles.  Some are accepted by some scholars and rejected by
others.  Some of them are believed to be from Paul's writings
with interpolations added later.  Therefore, some authorities
will call these "authentic" because the interpolations are minor,
where others will reject them.  But even those Epistles that are
considered the most authentic are not Paul's letters as he had
written them, but compilations from many of his letters.
However, my original point concerning Paul's letters, is that
1Tim. is not considered to be authentic.  Even if we agree to
accept Elaine Pagel's list of seven authentic epistles, 1Tim is
still not one of them.  Therefore it doesn't matter whether I
allude to one scholar who accepts four Epistles or another who
accepts only two.  The point is that 1Tim. does not appear on
anyone's list.

>Jerry wrote that 1Tm was written most probably in the second
>century, too late to be contemporary with the accepted dates of
>the Biblical Jesus. Jerry recognices that the epistle is not a
>forgery, but wrote by someone "under inspiration gained from
>knowing Paul".

I suggested that 1Tim *could* have been written by someone who
knew Paul.  I also suggested that it *could* have been written by
someone who communicated with the deceased Paul through visions.
These are only conjectures based upon how things were done in
those days.  Either way, the Epistle would not be a forgery, nor
would it have been written by Paul.  Keep in mind that writing
under the inspiration of Paul's memory, either through
inspiration or visions, and attributing that writing to Paul
would not have been considered a forgery in those days.

>But I disagree with you, that 1Tm6:18 have no historical
>significance. Your mention of Pilate and Baptism, don't modify
>this historical value. If Jesus had lived one century before,
>this passage referrring to a baptism at this date, would use the
>name of another person than Pilate.

You mean 1Tim 6:13.  I think you have mis-understood what I said
about 1Tm6:13.  I said that this is not an historical passage
concerning Jesus and Pilate at all.  Therefore, it has no
historical value concerning the dating of Jesus.   I already
mentioned that 1Tim is a late first/early second century pastoral
document, written after the Jesus/Pilate story was already
adopted.  Therefore it is expected that the anonymous author of
1Tim. would have reference to it.  As to my reference to an
earlier tradition of baptism, keep in mind that the rite of
baptism long predates Christianity and was part of the Nazar
tradition--therefore it does not have to concern Jesus or Pilate
at all.

Looking at your above argument, It appears that another one seems
to be implied: that the writers of the Gospels somehow were
compelled to choose between a Toldoth Jesus or a Pilate Jesus.
Why would this be so?  Even in the writings of the early church
fathers, there is evidence of lots of ideas concerning Jesus--
some orthodox--some not.  I believe that one of your earliest
posts discussed one of these concerning the length of time Jesus
taught.  The further back we go, the more unsettled all of these
conflicting ideas seem to be.  So it is not so simple as a choice
of one scenerio over the other.  There were many ideas floating
around and none were necessarily accepted or rejected until
canonized.  Rather, the evidence presented in Paul's authentic
epistles is that Jesus' historicity was not an issue at all, and
the historical data was chosen (or devised) at a later time in
order to fit prophecy and the political needs of the Church.

I suggest that we abandon this well worn road of attempting to
prove the existence of Jesus from evidence in the Bible and the
Early Church Fathers.  All of the evidence you have so far raised
have been raised for over 100 years and successfully argued to
not establish the existence of a historical Jesus under Pilate.
Rather then re-arguing these old arguments, why don't you just
pick up a current text on Biblical criticism that reviews all of
the arguments.  I would make a recommendation, but everything I
have here is out of print.  Pagels touches on some of the
arguments, but here books are not really focused in that area.

For our discussion, I think it would be more productive to
explore the Hebrew, Gnostic and pre-Christian traditions in light
of Christianity.  I have no doubt that the Jesus of the Toldoth,
though historical, cannot be proven to be the bases of the
Biblical Jesus either.  But my interest is in the exploration of
the material--not to prove or disprove anything.


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