There is broad consensus amongst respected scholars that the Jesus of the gospels didn’t exist. This is hardly surprising. Gospel Jesus, as I hope I’ve demonstrated over the past few weeks, is constructed from fragments of Jewish scripture and Paul’s (and others’) visions and dreams. There is also good evidence, which I’ve not discussed, that some Jesus stories are recreations of legends and tales of other god-men (turning water into wine and the Road to Emmaus story*, for example).
All of which raises the question suggested by David Fitzgerald in Nailed, that if there was a real Jesus who was so incredible that he gave rise to an entire religion, why was almost everything about him invented? Why could his story not have been told as it was? Why didn’t his inspiring, dynamic personality speak for itself? Personally, I don’t care whether Jesus existed or not, but if the supposedly remarkable Jesus of history did once exist, he has been totally obscured by the stories, legends and myth that were constructed around him not long after he died. The celestial Jesus that today’s Christians claim to know personally, who they say inhabits their hearts while simultaneously living in heaven, is emphatically not the man who lived, but a myth. A different myth, even, than that of the New Testament. A non-existent star-man, waiting in the sky.
Jesus belongs with all those other heroes who may or may not have existed prior to their being turned into myth and legend: Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Saint Nicholas, Robin Hood, Paul Bunyan. There is very little evidence, apart from stories and legends, that any of these figures actually existed. More, it’s entirely conceivable that Jesus belongs to a still different group of super-beings: those who were created as mythic characters, including but not confined to, Osiris (and the entire Egyptian panoply), Apollo (and all the Greek gods), Romulus, Circe, Attis, the angel Gabriel, Mithras, Aladdin, the angel Moroni, Superman, Harry Potter…
There is meagre evidence there was an historical Jesus who, even if he did exist, is now buried beneath layers of make-believe. The Jesus who has come down to us through the gospels and the rest of the New Testament is fictional. From his fairy-tale origin to his fantasy ascension and beyond, he’s completely imaginary.
I’m conscious I’ve written other posts making this same point. I find that, whatever starting point I take, invariably I end up here. Whether it’s ‘prophecy’, prayer, promises, miracles, the second coming, any aspect of the faith, none has any substance. They’re ineffectual, empty and have no bearing on reality. The character who supposedly embodies and promotes them becomes, as a result, similarly void. Either Jesus was transformed into a fantasy figure soon after he lived or he was imagined, by the likes of Paul, as a magical being to begin with. Whichever it was, from the earliest days of Christianity, there was no way for people to hear of or know about a man who actually walked the Earth.
*See Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason to Doubt, pp 480-81