Did Jesus Really Exist?

"Historical Jesus" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Historical Jesus” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

[Like this cartoon? Get a print here!]

Do you question even the most sacred ideas? So do we at The Lasting Supper. I invite you to join us!

So I wrote this in my journal:

“What if: What if there was an exceptional man who’s name is now forgotten that was an itinerant teacher who attracted a handful of devoted men and women that later became the church after he died the death of a radical, and that their stories all conspired to place him firmly within the Judaic Messianic tradition while at the same time launching a new community claiming his presence through the Spirit?”

I remember the fuss I caused in 2011 when I posted this cartoon, My Walk With Jesus Over the Years. The suggestion that Jesus disappeared was very upsetting to many of my readers.

There are books being published now questioning the historicity of Jesus and that it is all, the whole thing, an elaborately fabricated myth. I don’t dismiss these arguments. I listen to them. But to me it all doesn’t come down to whether something happened or not. Truth runs its course at a far deeper level than that.

I feel this is a real question we have to eventually ask. Those ideas or facts we assumed were true because we were told: are they? Are they true? And what does truth mean? Can something be true without being historical? What is my peace founded upon? Will I fall apart if something I believe falls apart?

Please know I am not saying Jesus did not exist as a historical person, or that he did. I’m just sharing how for me these two choices float on a deeper current of what is true.

The Lasting Supper is a community of people I work very closely with in this regard. We provide support for each other during these very unsettling times of deconstruction. Beliefs crumble. Faith wavers. Facts disappear. History wanes. Certitude languishes. I know first hand as well as through observation that this isn’t easy. But it is necessary. I must say, it is easier when not alone.



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9 Responses

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    David, you said, “Can something be true without being historical?”
    I think that Jesus can be a total fabrication, yet used by people to further either of these “truths”:

    (1) Forgiveness, selfless-love and compassion are important to nurture in ourselves and others

    (2) Some are forgiven, some aren’t — you belong to us or you deserve to die.

    So yeah, whether is it made ups stories about Jesus, Krishna, American Destiny, Mohammed or whatever, those stories can be vehicles for values for the believers — I wouldn’t call the “truths”, but vehicles or methods.

    As I have said before, the hang up with keeping the word “truth” is often a problem in itself.

  2. Sabio Lantz says:

    “Truth” has dozens of uses in English.
    David, the flavor of “truth” I hear you using here is:
    “Meaningful and beneficial to me. It works for me.”

    Is that pretty close to accurate. Sort of like Elvis works for some folks.

  3. R Vogel says:

    Can something be true without being historical?

    I give you ‘Lego Theology’ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/2014/09/a-theology-of-the-lego-movie/

  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ R Vogel:
    I think that Sarah, over at that post you offered, would agree with David’s use of “truth”. When she says of Bible stories:

    “Some were never even meant to be taken as factual. But that doesn’t make them worthless. ”

    In other words, both of them are using a sense of truth which means:

    If it works for me, it is True.

    So my question, is why hide “useful to me”, “helpful to me” and such in such lofty words as “true”

    I suggest because people really aren’t comfortable with what they are doing.
    “True” is useful for them, so they use it as they like.

  5. kris799 says:

    There’s another problem: The danger with being historical when there is only one text that claims you exist and only explains your birth, the time you got lost in a temple at 12, and your 3 year ministry that ends with your death and resurrection – people can reframe it and revise it as much as they want.

  6. Caryn LeMur says:

    Sabio: sometimes I wonder if there should be an adjective in front of the word ‘truth’, such as ‘motivational truth’ vs. ‘absolute truth’.

    For example, I adore some parts of the Book of Jude, but truly wonder if that Book should not be part of a canon of scripture. To me, there is some wonderful motivational truths within Jude (especially the liturgical call at the end of the letter). However, I am not sure the text of Jude represents absolute truth.

  7. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Caryn LeMur,

    I agree that adjectives greatly help abstract nouns & suggested so in my post on “The Myth of Definitions“.

    So what I am contending here is that David and Vogel are discussing works-for-me truth.

  8. R Vogel says:

    @ Sabio

    I have no need for qualifiers because I think virtually all truth are ‘works-for-me truth.’ I make no claims to ‘T’ truth. For me everything is contextual. Certain religions persist because their truths are flexible enough to be reinterpreted in different context. Once they can or are unwilling to do so they will die. It is what I find the most ironic of the most strident biblical literalists: by attempting to fix the bible into one single, unalterable interpretation, instead of an ongoing conversation, they are sowing the seeds for its own obsolescence. The ‘New’ Atheists seem to be aware of this, intuitively if not overtly, and join with them in declaring one plain reading interpretation. It is actually kind of humorous if you have no dog in the fight.

  9. James Banner says:

    Very good article, Really speaking for the people, I completely agree with you its hard to know if truth and history line up.