Monday, December 22, 2014

The Christmas Myth

     It's that time of the year when Christianity celebrates the birth of Jesus, although it is generally understood by non-children (and those who do not think like children) that Jesus was not born on December 25'th and most likely not in Bethlehem. Both his birth date and birth place are lost to history.  Furthermore, there are those who argue that Jesus was a myth. 
With relentless advances in fields like archeology, linguistics, forensics, and pattern analysis, most scholars, including mainstream Christian theologians, have come to agree that the Jesus stories in the Bible are woven through with legend. Over the last 200 years more than a few have devoted their life’s work to trying to excavate the “historical Jesus” behind the myths.
Was there a man behind the myths? Most scholars say yes. Bart Ehrman has done as much as anyone to make modern biblical scholarship accessible and interesting to ordinary people. In his 2012 book, Did Jesus Exist?, he comes down firmly with the majority:
As I have repeatedly noted, most scholars in both the United States and Europe over the past century have been convinced that Jesus is best understood as a Jewish apocalyptic preacher who anticipated that God was soon to intervene in history to overthrow the powers of evil now controlling this world in order to bring in a new order. . . . establishing a rule of peace and justice here on earth, sometime, Jesus thought, within his own generation.
We particularly like the way Valerie Tarico, author of the above referenced article, concludes her post
My friend understands the Jesus she seeks to be a matter of hope, not history. The power of her Jesus comes not from whatever tentative facts scholars can glimpse in the fog of history, but from yearnings of the human spirit that are as relevant today as they were in the Ancient Near East. Perhaps the centuries of desperately seeking Jesus are best thought of as a quest to find and define ourselves. Perhaps that is enough.

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