Talk:Jesus

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 Definition Traveling preacher in first century CE, foundational figure in Christianity. [d] [e]

Archives

Archive 1, January, 2007

Archive 2, February 1-15, 2007

Jesus as historical figure

I open this article and the first sentence I read is "By virtue of the impact of Christianity, Jesus (also known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth) is one the most influential people who ever lived." Excuse me? Who says a person called Jesus of Nazareth ever lived? Where is the textual or archaeological evidence for his historicity? We will have to do better than this. Adam Carr 21:02, 23 February 2007 (CST)

See Archive 1. Stephen Ewen 21:49, 23 February 2007 (CST)
While not strictly true, if it were this is hardly an isolated case. There is only one account of the Goth's destruction of Emperor Valens' Roman army at Adrianople (August 9, 378 A.D.). One. It was written by Ammianus Marcellinus who was not even there and was a Greek, not Roman or Goth. That the accounts of Jesus' life were written by people who knew him or knew people who knew him personally and were also followers of his philosophy, believed in his assertions, whatever, is simple ad hominem and hardly grounds for dismissal. Josephus also mentions him. --Thomas Simmons 20:06, 23 June 2007 (CDT)

OK, I have read all that, for my sins. None of it seems to address my point, which is that the statement that Jesus was a person who lived (ie, a historical figure) is not universally accepted, and supported by very slender evidence (texts written by Christians). Placing such a statement in the opening paragraph as though it was an uncontested fact is POV and unacceptable. The Brittanica gets around that by prefacing its description with the phrase "In Christianity,..." In other words, "this is what Christians believe, not necessarily what we believe." That seems to be a fair solution.Adam Carr 22:28, 24 February 2007 (CST)

Adam, I respectfully disagree. There is not more than very slender evidence- in the scheme of things- that any particular named individual from a couple of thousand years ago lived in all but very few parts of the world. Here there are several texts and references. It is not limited to a Christian view. As was made very clear in the full discussion in the archives. Perhaps you missed some of it? Nancy Sculerati MD 22:34, 24 February 2007 (CST)

Oh dear - I had this argument at ENORMOUS length at Wikipedia in 2003 and I don't want to have it all again, but I suppose I must. You are wrong about the textual evidence for the life of Jesus as compared with other figures from the same period. There are NO contemporary sources for Jesus outside the Gospels and the Letters of Paul. What are these "several texts and references?" Kindly name me one. Not the reference in Josephus, please, which is a Christian forgery. In any case Josephus (born 32 AD) was not a contemporary. Pliny, writing in 112 AD, is the oldest reference by a non-Christian source. As a matter of fact, I accept that Jesus was a historical figure, although no more than that. But there are plenty of people who don't, and it can't be stated as an uncontested fact. If I am sufficiently provoked, I will write at length on this, using as my text "Modern Biblical Scholarship and the Quest for the Historical Yeshua", which appears as Appendix D to Donald H Akenson's book Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds (Harcourt and Brace 1998). Akenson argues that there is no recoverable evidence at all for a secular life of Jesus. Adam Carr 22:58, 24 February 2007 (CST)

I notice the last paragraph of the lead notes different theoretical existences for Jesus. Is there a problem with noting as the very last sentence that there is a following that doubts that Jesus even existed, or something to that extent. Or are we treading on thin ice (references?) with a statement like that? Just a thought from someone who has no real education in this field. Matt Innis (Talk) 23:13, 24 February 2007 (CST)

My view is that the whole introductory section (the first three paragraphs) are (how shall I put this politely?) ahistorical and tendentious. I will have a go at drafting a replacement. Adam Carr 23:20, 24 February 2007 (CST)

Adam, I could then pull out a shelf of books like F.F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Eerdmans 2003) (Bruce replies with a strong "yes"), dig in my heels, and argue ad infinitum for the contrary view. But we are not here to write personal position papers but an encyclopedia article on the subject "Jesus" (not "Jesus as historical figure") for general use. Stephen Ewen 23:22, 24 February 2007 (CST)

I agree. My simple point is that the opening section cannot simply assert that Jesus was a historical figure as an uncontested fact, when it is in fact contested. An article on "Jesus" must address the question of whether he was a historical figure, and not simply assume that he was or he wasn't. (I haven't read the rest of the article. If it goes on to make assertions about the life and career of Jesus as if these were historically accepted facts, then that will have to be disputed as well.) Adam Carr 23:31, 24 February 2007 (CST)

Jesus, hasn't anybody read Tacitus?  :-) --Larry Sanger 00:08, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Tacitus was writing in the 2nd century, and records no more than the fact that someone called "Christus" was executed in Palestine in the reign of Tiberius.

Here is a suggestion for a new opening section:

Jesus, known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure in Christianity, one of the world’s major religions. Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, one of the three persons of the Trinity, whose death and resurrection brought salvation to humanity, and also that he was a historical figure who lived in the Roman province of Judea from about 4BC to about 35AD. Christians believe that Jesus, after preaching to the Jews and performing various miracles, was condemned to death and crucified by the Roman authorities, and that three days after his death he rose from the dead.
The only source of historical knowledge about Jesus is the Christian Gospels, which are based on documents written within living memory of the events described in them. The Letters of St Paul, which are older than the Gospels, also attest to the historical reality of Jesus. There are however no contemporary references to Jesus from non-Christian sources. Some writers therefore deny that Jesus was a historical figure at all. Most secular historians, however, accept that Jesus existed, but do not believe that the details of his life can be known from the available evidence.

Adam Carr 00:30, 25 February 2007 (CST)

I would actually like to consult a religious scholar or a historian who studies the period to determine the neutrality of the claim, "The only source of historical knowledge about Jesus is the Christian Gospels." Is this generally accepted by the relevant scholars, i.e., is there pretty much universal agreement on that point? I very much doubt that, Adam, in which case the claim needs to be changed somehow. I think you assume, for example, that Tacitus did not have some other source of information, such as a living tradition or "common knowledge" that continued to the time in which he was writing, and that he relied on the Gospels. Otherwise, then, Tacitus too certainly does count as a "source of historical knowledge."
Perhaps this could be handily solved by simply rewording the claim, "The only source of historical knowledge that purports to be based on eyewitness accounts..." But even this might fail to be neutral; to determine whether it is we require the input of the relevant specialists.
As to whether to make the entire second paragraph of the article about doubts about the historical existence of Jesus, this seems to be a nonstarter. The introductory paragraphs of a biography in particular should concern the aspects of the person's life or thought for which he or she is most notable. Jesus is not nearly as notable for being possibly fictional as he is for many other things. --Larry Sanger 12:35, 25 February 2007 (CST)

I strongly disagree that your version is an "improvement". The fact that there are some legitimate doubts about the historical existance of Jesus of course deserves a mention in the article, in the same way (the Jesus Talk archives has this point in depth-as made by Gareth Leng) that there is at least as much doubt over the actual authorship of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. It is just as inappropriate to insert that doubt in the introductory paragraph of Jesus as it would be to insert the authorship issue in the first paragraph of an article on Shakespeare for all the reasons that Gareth so clearly presented in his long reply - now in the Archives. We've covered this ground, Adam, and accept the first paragraph as written. I'm interested in your views, but not a de novo debate. Nancy Sculerati MD 05:58, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Well now, this is where things get interesting. If this were Wikipedia, Nancy, your view would carry as much weight as mine, and we would be deadlocked. But this is Citizendium, and this project, we are told, values the opinions of experts over those of non-experts. I have a doctorate in history, you are an otolaryngologist. I don't claim to be a particular expert in early Christian history, but nevertheless as a trained historian I think I trump you. Larry, if you are still following this thread, what is your view on this? What would happen if I were to install my text and ignore Nancy's objections on the ground that as a non-historian she has no standing? Would you say I was within my rights? Adam Carr 06:09, 25 February 2007 (CST)

There is no "rank" here to "pull." None of us is an expert on the topic, I assume. Hence none of us is an editor with respect to this topic, and we are equal when it comes to making decisions. If we wish an editor to settle this, we should look to the Religion Workgroup, or perhaps to a historian who specializes in early Christianity. --Larry Sanger 12:25, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Indeed I could argue that since Stephen is a chiropractor and you, Larry, are a philosopher, I am the only qualified historian currently editing this article, and that I can do as I please with it until someone with higher qualifications (say, a doctorate in Christian history), comes along. Adam Carr 06:20, 25 February 2007 (CST)

You would be right if the focus of this article were the historical facts relating to the story of Jesus' life, that would place this article exclusively in the History workgroup. The issue that has been gone over extensively is whether such history should indeed be the focus of the article, and the consensus was that it should not be, that the article should describe the story of Jesus, and discuss the importance of the Jesus of Christianity, and its ethical moral cultural and societal implications and consequences as well as the history, and be a gateway into specialised long articles about many things including the history. For many of the issues that this article must cobver, mostly only in outline, the historical facts of Jesus' life are actually irrelevant. The impact of the teachings ascribed to Jesus are there regardless of the truth of Jesus' life. Tracing that impact of course is something we need historians for too.... :-)Gareth Leng 06:22, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Excuse me? The historical facts about the life of Jesus are irrelevant? Dear me. If it were to be established that Jesus never existed, or indeed if it were just to be established that he was an ordinary Jewish agitator who performed no miracles and was not resurrected, the entire Christian religion would collapse in a heap. I rather think these are relevant questions in an article about Jesus. What Christians believe about Jesus is a question of theology, not history, and actually belongs in the Christianity article. This article is about "Jesus," and the first question it must address is whether any such person as jesus ever existed, and the second question is, if he did, what facts can be known about his biography. Adam Carr 06:30, 25 February 2007 (CST)

I'd encourage everyone to be as collegial as possible, please; this isn't Wikipedia. The next instance of "Excuse me? ... Dear me." We will replace with Template:Nocomplaints.
Anyway, I have to support Gareth here. For many of the issues we have to cover in this article, as he said, the actual historical facts are indeed irrelevant, no more relevant than the actual historical facts of the life of Moses are to our recounting of the Biblical story of the flight from Egypt, for example, and no more relevant than whatever Tolstoy's inspiration might have been for our account of Anna Karenina's life. More to the point, Jesus is quite obviously first and foremost a religious topic, not a historical one. Nearly every topic has multiple connections. There are, of course philosophical aspects (concerning the nature of divinity): should "Jesus" thus be a philosophy article too? Of course not. Indeed, due to the importance of the topic, there are anthropological aspects, psychological aspects, artistic aspects, and no doubt many others. We would like to cover those aspects (in this article or in other ancillary ones) but that does not mean that the topic itself belongs to all of the relevant workgroups. --Larry Sanger 13:02, 25 February 2007 (CST)

I much prefer Adam's version for stylistic reasons (it is also my unqualified opinion is that he is right about the significance of the historicity issue). The current version tells us who Jesus was in a rather roundabout way. Adam's version gets to the point immediately, in a logical order and without resorting to wrapping-paper prose like "by virtue of the impact of", "is one the most influential people who ever lived" and "The question 'Who was Jesus?' seems a simple one, yet the answers which have been proposed defy easy summary." Fredrik Johansson 07:07, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Fredrik, the first quote is very precise; the second gives the article a personable tone. "Encyclopedia" need not equate with "sterile". BTW, I am not a chiropractor. I am sure this was just an oversight by Adam. Stephen Ewen 14:49, 25 February 2007 (CST)
I concur. Adam's opening sentence is a big improvement. The current version is not what I would expect when reading an encyclopedia article on Jesus. --Tom Morris 10:34, 17 May 2008 (CDT)

Points arising

  • Sorry Stephen: someone here is a chiropractor, but not you. You have a masters' degree in education.
  • Larry, am I to understand that the use of irony in debate is banned at CZ? I won't last here very long if that's the case, and nor will many other people. I was not making a personal attack on anyone. I think you need to lighten up a little.
  • I thoroughly disagree with the views expressed about the importance of discussing Jesus as a figure in history. He is not a character in a novel, nor a figure like Moses whom many Christians and Jews agree is probably mythological or symbolic, and who in any case is not central to either religion. One can have Judaism without Moses, but not Christianity without Christ. Christians claim that Jesus was a real person, and that the events described in the Gospels actually happened.
  • Any article about Jesus must begin with that proposition, and must then point out that it is a proposition for which there is no evidence beyond the Gospels themselves and the Letters of Paul. In the view of most secular historians, that is sufficient evidence to accept that Jesus is a historical figure, but there are several perfectly respectable historians who maintain that he is a mythical figure. No secular historian accepts that the Gospels are sufficient evidence for events such as the miracles and the resurrection (if they accepted that they wouldn't be secular historians).
Does the entire article need to be a debate on whether or not Jesus existed? Could this issue be addressed in one section of the article, leaving the rest remaining? I would think the article should be mainly about what is believed about Jesus from all perspectives, including, though not solely, whether or not he existed. To make the primary thrust of the article an analysis of his existence would be inappropriate. Michael Yates 21:36, 25 February 2007 (CST)
  • All this other stuff belongs in another article, or at least in a later section of this article. I am not a theologian, but I believe that the correct term for the study of Jesus within the framework of Christian belief is Christology. I suggest that someone with expertise in that field write an appropriate article, and that this article be primarily a historical one. It is not acceptable that the principal article on Jesus be written from within the framework of Christian belief, any more than it would be acceptable that the article on Karl Marx be written from with the framework of Marxist belief. Adam Carr 19:30, 25 February 2007 (CST)
I would agree with your last sentence. However, it should be perfectly acceptable for a portion of the article to be written from within the framework of Christian belief. It is difficult to fully comprehend Jesus' influence on a particular religion without having a great deal of experience in that religion. Therefore, I would think it appropriate for the section of "Jesus in Christianity" to have a great deal of Christian authors and non-Christian authors involved. Likewise "Jesus in Islam" should have a great deal of Muslim authors and non-Muslim authors. A proper view of Jesus is not limited to the secular view of Jesus. Michael Yates 21:36, 25 February 2007 (CST)
As not Christology, so not Historical Jesus. You stated in the section above, "This article is about "Jesus," and the first question it must address is whether any such person as Jesus ever existed, and the second question is, if he did, what facts can be known about his biography." To insist that "secular historians" be given primacy in an article titled Jesus - I find this position simply very peculiar, and editorially unsound. With all due respect, the approach appears much more one of writing a position paper than a general encyclopedia article on the topic. Our job is not to assign a particular set of criteria (certain historians') of what is "knowable" about Jesus and filter everything else through that. It is to neutrally survey human knowledge, whether that is knowledge or "knowledge" in our view. Stephen Ewen 21:05, 25 February 2007 (CST)

Plan and conflict

It's perhaps appropriate to recall the diifferences berween this and Wikipedia. One difference that is not immediately obvious but which is very very important is that nothing written in this article will count for anything unless and until it is approved. We are working on a draft, and contriving a path that will meet defined objectives, and hopefully lead to approval. That requires a plan and clear objectives, that have been proposed and I think agreed for this article: a plan that I repeat again:

I proposed above that this article, the gateway article, be written for lay people, who may have only a very superficial knowledge of Jesus and who may never have read the Gospels. It should be written to summarise

  • a) the Story of Jesus and his teachings as represented by the Church
  • b) the place of Jesus in Christianity
  • c) the impact of his teachings on society culture and ethics
  • d) the historical basis for the Story of Jesus
  • e) Jesus in Islam
  • f) The Jewish view of Jesus
  • Other things that may be just touched on? Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the communist, Jesus the Cynic, Jesus the feminist, Jesus in the Mormon Church....

I proposed that all issues can be covered in appropriate depth within articles overseen by relevant workgroups. We cannot objectively rank the relative importance to this article of the diverse strands that must contribute to it, but we can have a plan that addresses an anticipated radership, Our job is to allow people to make up their own minds, not to try to make their minds up for them. The plan was conceived as an attempt to identify a potential readership, in order to establish a style and a level, and to anticipate the kinds of questions that those readers might ask or be interested in. I'm a scientist and an atheist so what do I know. But as I understand it, faith gives a knowledge that is different from the knowledge of experience; we may not understand it or accept it, but nor need we denigrate it, certainly not here. The notion that faith based knowledge would be threatened by evidence based knowledge is an interestng one, Is any evidence from history of any religious belief ever having been undermined in this way? I have to say that there are planty of examples of belief in scientific, political, or economic theories surviving long after refutation, but perhaps people who hold strong religious convictions are more rational than others in this respect?Gareth Leng 05:12, 26 February 2007 (CST)

I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian, so those questions are rather over my head. I adhere to a simple proposition. This article is not about the Christian religion, it is about Jesus, who was, most of us believe, a historical person (and who was, by the way, a Jew and not a Christian). Any article about any historical person must begin with the facts of their biography, so far as these are known, and only then move on to consider the impact of their career on their own and subsequent ages. In the case of a person whose historicity is disputed, and where the evidence for their biography is slight and/or in dispute, those issues must be discussed.

I therefore suggest that the scheme of this article should be:

  • a) Jesus as a historical figure, and a discussion of the sources of his biography
  • b) the life and teachings of Jesus as described in the Gospels
  • c) the career of Jesus in the context of Jewish history and thought
  • d) the place of Jesus in Christian theology
  • e) the view of Jesus by other religious traditions
  • f) the impact of Jesus on western culture
  • g) theological and historiographical controversies about Jesus in the modern age

Not being a theologian or a Christologist, I am not especially committed to the order or the wordings of points (b) through (g). I am committed to the wording of and priority of point (a). Adam Carr 05:30, 26 February 2007 (CST)

Adam, I believe the only important thing that you're disagreeing with (most of) the rest of us about is the proposition that the article must begin with a discussion of the historicity of Jesus. It's true that claims regarding the actual (and thus historical) existence of Jesus are of extreme importance for this topic. But it does not logically follow--it doesn't follow at all--from that that we must go into the issue of Jesus' historical existence in detail from the outset.

As I said, for biographical articles, the thing to begin with, in virtually every case, is not the person's life, but what the person is famous for. And, as I said before, he isn't nearly as famous for the details of what can be known through historical methods as a lot of other things, such as that (as Christians say) he died for all our sins, etc., etc. --Larry Sanger 09:36, 26 February 2007 (CST)

Some thoughts about the lead, as giving context to the article.

Having read the archive and this discussion, and the article as it now stands, I am once more struck with how easy it is for persons to misunderstand each other on a wiki, and how difficult synthesis can turn out to be. As a partial solution to one of the ongoing problems, that of the introductory section, may I suggest that a lead is not an abstract, as some seem to think. On the contrary, I think that the Wikipedia tradition of introduction-as-abstract, with the first sentence almost invariably ending up as a definition, is neither necessary, nor good style - and this article originated as a Wikipedia branch. Not requiring that, leaves one free to orientate the reader on what the article is about, rather than to try desperately to give all the relevant information right at the top. This eliminates a large part of the argumentation about the introduction, relegating controversies to the specified sections of the article. The type of lead I am thinking about is along the lines of:

Considering that Christianity has without any doubt been one of the major forces shaping European and Western civilisation in the last two millenia, the biographical facts about the person Jesus - known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth, on whose life and teachings the religion is based - are surprisingly unclear.

The difficulty arises because the most contemporaneous records of the events of his life - the New Testament Epistles of Paul, and the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - are of a religious nature, and emphasise the spiritual message that the writer wished to convey, rather than the history of Jesus himself. However, the impact of Christianity on history has been so great that the academic study of the life of Jesus, by Christians and non-Christians, has remained active for centuries. As a result the modern reader may discern two distinct histories of Jesus; the one is the rather patchy description of his life story as related in the Gospels, and the other is a group of scholarly argued opinions on what events and actions in Jesus' life are likely to be historically factual.

Most commentators agree that Jesus was a real historical person, a Jew who spent his reported life in the Roman provinces of Galilee and Iudaea - provinces which centuries later were incorporated into the larger area that came to be known as Palestine. He lived between the first decade BCE and the forth decade CE. It is accepted that he was an itinerant Jewish preacher, considered a healer and exorcist, was baptised by John the Baptist before his period of recorded teaching, and was executed by crucifixion on the order Pontius Pilate. Due to the uncertain nature of known documentation about the life of Jesus, many of these claims have been challenged, even to the extent of surmising that Jesus was not a real person at all.

For the purpose of clarity, this biographical article discusses the biblical writings, historical commentaries, and different religious views of Jesus separately.

Sections then: Jesus in the Canonical Gospels, The Historical Jesus, Jesus in Christianity, Jesus in Islam, Jesus in Western culture, etc; or as per other outlines; whatever.

Having described the problem that one has with writing a universal biography of Jesus, it may be possible to rewrite the whole article in a unique (and improved, one hopes) style, illuminating each part of the issue in its own section.

Something of interest to others: Seeing the section on Mandaean Views of Jesus made me recall an article I read recently about the plight of the Mandaeans following all the goings-on in Iraq ([1]). It seems as if what may be current ("M regards...") encyclopedic fact is at risk of becoming historic comment ("M regarded..."). --Christo Muller (Talk) 07:53, 26 February 2007 (CST)

I think Christo makes a good point in the discussion above about the lead "not being an abstract" for the rest of the article. This is certainly a distinction from WP format and I think an important one. However, that lead follows that same format. Combining your comments with Gareth, Larry's and Adams, it seems feasible to create the article and just add a section discussing to the historical aspects of the Jesus that flows with the rest of the article. Whether this is at the beginning or at the end is an editorial workgroup decision that says more about the direction of all of the subjects - whether Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, etc. -Matt Innis (Talk) 10:06, 26 February 2007 (CST) (the chiropractor;)

I think Christo here has elegantly made an excellent point. Escaping from the lead as a summary makes excellent sense in many contexts. I have found it often bizarre how intensely people argue about the lead, as though the lead ecapsulates some kind of editorial judgement. I think we should escape the notion of an article as summating a viewpoint, but embrace the idea that a gateway article is an open and interesting essay introducing different viewpoints and varied aspects of the subject. I think the difference between Adam and myself is actually very narrow, my concern is only that promoting the historical facts of Jesus' life seems to set a disparaging tone for the article, in making this probably eternally unresolvable questions appear to be the most important things about Jesus. I'm not sure that I'd begin any scientific article by starting with what we don't know; it would be more common I think to end with the unknowns, for the same reason. We don't know exactly how many medical interventions work, I think we'd begin by describing the interventions and the evidence that they do work before exploring the unknown mechanisms. It may not be a good analogy, but my feeling is similar, starting an article on breast cancer with an account of what we don't know is not what we would choose to do.Gareth Leng 10:39, 26 February 2007 (CST)

Well, generally (probably not always), we should begin articles about general things with definitions; that's far and away the most important piece of information about general topics, it's what users expect, and it's required in many cases to understand what follows. As to articles about particular things (like Jesus, the Taj Mahal, WWII, etc.), I have always been of the opinion that articles should begin with an account of why the thing is notable. You can't define "Jesus" because "Jesus" is a name.

Neither a definition nor an account of why something is notable, however, requires that we not develop an interesting narrative, from the very first sentence. Indeed, I am strongly in favor of regarding the introduction to a longer article as indeed an introduction to (not necessarily, or always, a detailed summary of) the article, and in any case a kick-off of the narrative that the article embodies. I enjoyed Christo's indented narrative above, and I also appreciate his point that it is more important that we create a narrative than that we try to summarize everything about a topic in a few paragraphs; but I also must agree with Gareth that starting the article with an account (however eloquent) of what we don't know about the topic is inappropriate, not just because it's a negative, but for the quite simple reason that the fact that we don't know much about Jesus (or, many of us think we don't) just isn't even close to being the most important thing about Jesus. --Larry Sanger 13:17, 26 February 2007 (CST)

Sometimes it is helpful to take one's basic assumptions and place them prominently in the article. The one I hear in the new intro goes like this: "The assumption we begin with in this article is that the Gospels are unreliable historical documents and that the millions of Christians who disagree with us on the matter are wrong." Thus it is does not achieve the neutrality to which we should strive. Stephen Ewen 15:18, 26 February 2007 (CST)

In conclusion

Since I don't intend spending time on writing or rewriting this article, I think I should probably now withdraw from this argument, having played I hope a useful role in getting people to clarify what this article should say about Jesus as a historical figure. I will however state one more time my disagreement with Larry when he says:

"For biographical articles, the thing to begin with, in virtually every case, is not the person's life, but what the person is famous for. [Jesus] isn't nearly as famous for the details of what can be known through historical methods as a lot of other things, such as that (as Christians say) he died for all our sins, etc."

So what is Jesus "famous for"? He is famous for being the Son of God, as evidenced by the miracles and above all by the resurrection. Not many historical figures get to rise from the dead, so this has ensured Jesus quite a lot of "fame." Since this is the basis for his claim to fame, surely the most fundamental question any article about Jesus must ask (and attempt to answer) is: DID THESE EVENTS IN FACT TAKE PLACE? And that leads directly to the question, what are the sources for the biography of Jesus?

As a historian, I ask about Jesus the same questions I ask about any other historical figure. What are the sources for their biography? How reliable are those sources? What claims can I make about their life based on those sources? If I wrote an article claiming that George Washington walked across the Delaware, and fed the troops at Valley Forge on five loaves and two small fishes, it would rightly be demanded that I produce a verifiable source for these claims. Why is Jesus exempt from this basic historiographical requirement?

This question is fundamental, because all the rest of the commentary about Jesus rests on it. Christians do NOT claim that Jesus was a symbolic, mythical or supernatural figure. This is not like an article about Achilles or Apollo, for example. Christians claim that Jesus was an actual living man, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the very core of Christianity. If this claim were to be falsified, the whole edifice of Christian belief would collapse. This is why this question must be addressed FIRST in any article about Jesus with any claim to intellectual integrity. Adam Carr 20:21, 26 February 2007 (CST)

I'm not sure what your worry is, Adam, so long as we are not actually asserting as facts--as we obviously will not be doing--the various things Jesus is famous for (allegedly) being or (allegedly) having done. I mean, if we aren't saying that all the things Jesus is famous for really happened or really are true, then how on Earth is there any issue of "intellectual integrity" here at all?

Besides, Adam, your argument "proves too much." If your argument were sound, then I could also make an argument that we must begin with the philosophical questions about whether God even exists, because, of course, his divinity is also the basis for Jesus' main claims to fame, and thus we must ask: DOES GOD EVEN EXIST? And that leads directly to the question what the merits of various arguments, for the existence of God and for the coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity, are. Therefore, we must begin with those things.

Nope, so long as our claims are hedged, or we are making it clear that we are engaged in reportage about belief rather than assertion of belief, these are not requirements.

If your argument were simply that it's really important if Jesus didn't exist, I would agree with that. I also think it's really important if God doesn't exist, too, and that, moreover, religion in general might be a great evil to the world. But the importance of these things doesn't have any immediate implications for how much to emphasize such doubts, no matter how well-founded, in the opening paragraphs of the article.

--Larry Sanger 20:32, 26 February 2007 (CST)

Looking at the article as it is now, I don't detect in it any assertion of the story of Jesus as historically established fact, only a reporting of the received accounts of his life; if the article did assert these events as facts then I would share your concerns Adam. Instead as I read the article, I see it made very clear that the actual events are all shrouded in uncertainty as far as the historical evidence goes. Christians claim that he exists, and indeed that he still lives, but these are claims based on faith that transcend evidence of the sort you talk about. The article is not asserting the truth of these faith based claims either. So I don't think that this article is constructed from a Christian perspective or asserting the truth of any claim of fact that is seriously disputed, but is "sympathetic to its subject", as it should be, in my view. Gareth Leng 03:35, 27 February 2007 (CST)

To return to my orginal point, the opening paragraph still asserts that Jesus was a person who lived, as though this was an uncontested fact, which it isn't. I have proposed an alternative introduction, which I think has had one negative comment and one positive comment. I now propose inserting that text in the article. Adam Carr 04:28, 27 February 2007 (CST)

Now I see what everyone is saying. It does look awkward from just the secular historian view. One thing for sure, it makes the neutral view look better. Let's go back to that. Matt Innis (Talk) 20:05, 27 February 2007 (CST)

Question of Dating

On the dates of the birth and death of Jesus one can hardly reach a consensus. If we accept the Biblical record, then his birth can be no later than the death of Herod in 4BC. In Matthew 2:16, Herod ordered the slaughter of all children under 2 years of age in Jerusalem, which would place the birth of Jesus between 6BC-4BC. However, I have never heard a specific date for his death. Based on Luke 3:23, Jesus was "about" 30 years old when he began his ministry. The gospels mention three (separate?) Passovers during his ministry. Therefore, many Biblical scholars believe that he was crucified at age 33-34, which would put his death 26AD-30AD. Currently the intro to the article reads 4BC-35AD. What are your thoughts? Michael Yates 01:06, 28 February 2007 (CST)

Change 35 to 30 if that is a more widely accepted date. But I reverted "late 1st c BC to early 1st c AD" as both obvious and too vague. There seems to be a reasonable scholarly consensus on the dates so they should be used. Adam Carr 01:28, 28 February 2007 (CST)

I will make the change to 30. I understand the changes you made, and posting a specific year does look a lot better than the vague centuries I put up there. Thanks for your help. (To others:) If there is further discussion on an appropriate date, let me know. Michael Yates 10:35, 28 February 2007 (CST)

The most important thing about Jesus

I'm not competent to contribute to this article, but as someone deeply ignorant I am competent to read it. At present it doesn't begin to answer for me what was so important about Jesus, the history doesn't begin to help me understand why he is remembered. Where, in this article, is the answer to the question of why the story of his life was so influential? The former lead, that I preferred and still do, introduced something that is still unwritten - the explanation of the moral and ethical message of his (attributed) teachings and of the example of his (reported) life, and an account of the influence of that message on the world since. This to me seems by far the most important thing about Jesus. However, his message still isn't part of the article, but it surely must be to make sense of anything.Gareth Leng 06:28, 28 February 2007 (CST)

Since I am neither a Christian nor a theologian, I don't intend getting into a debate about what Jesus's message was (or at least the message attributed to him in the Gospels), or how it should be described here. Earlier I proposed the following structure for the article:

  • a) Jesus as a historical figure, and a discussion of the sources of his biography
  • b) the life and teachings of Jesus as described in the Gospels
  • c) the career of Jesus in the context of Jewish history and thought
  • d) the place of Jesus in Christian theology
  • e) the view of Jesus by other religious traditions
  • f) the impact of Jesus on western culture
  • g) theological and historiographical controversies about Jesus in the modern age

It seems to me that the appropriate place to describe his "message" is in section (b). There could be some reference to it in the opening section, but I suspect it will difficult to write a single-sentence (and NPOV) summary of the teachings of someone who said both "I say unto you, love your enemies" and "I come not to bring peace, but a sword." Adam Carr 07:22, 28 February 2007 (CST)

My Christian friends advise me that if the importance of Jesus has to be summarised in a single sentence, it is this: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). If a direct quote from Jesus to the same effect is required, it is this: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) Either one of these could go in the opening section. Adam Carr 00:44, 1 March 2007 (CST)

"a) Jesus as a historical figure, and a discussion of the sources of his biography" - Placing this as a is the problem, and I think that is why it reads to Gareth as it does. I agree that the initial version of the Intro was a better starting point. Adam's contention that the Intro did not from the get-go assume Jesus' non-historicity goes too far, I think. To make my point by analogy, take the intro to anthropology which I am working on. It states, "[anthropologists] seek answers to benefit humankind". The article will later re-visit this statement and discuss examples where this was far, far from the case, e.g., here. Stephen Ewen 01:26, 1 March 2007 (CST)

I agree with Stephen, and think Adam (and Stephen also) has missed what I was looking for: I found examples on [2] of the sort of elements I was expecting, the elements that summarise the important message of Jesus' life for Christians, and indications of the message that has been so admired too by non-Christians, and a clear statement that Jesus' life is a moral example for Christians and what exactly is meant by that. : "..it is the person and work of Jesus Christ that shapes morals and motivates right behaviour. Through faith, Christians participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, being made new creatures by dying to sin and rising again to righteousness. As new creatures 'in Christ' they are called to imitate Him. Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in a Christlike manner. Jesus, the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve. The overruling idea of imitating Christ encompasses a humility and self-abasement before God and a self-giving service toone's neighbours. The New Testament contains numerous moral virtues, the chief of which is love. While 'love fulfils the law' it goes beyond it. It not only refuses to harm others, it counts others greater than self. The Christian ethic is not an ethic of power but an ethic of service. It focuses on what canbe done for others rather than what can be demanded from others as a right. Every Christian is expected to exhibit the attitudes, values and commitment which characterise their new nature in Christ. For those who occupy positions of leadership, an ethic of service means that as leaders they are not only responsible for, but also accountable to,those whom they serve.The Christian ethic is also an ethic of love. Love demands a concern for the spiritual welfare of the offender as well as the offended. Any discipline should include a call to the offender for change and renewal."

Gareth Leng 03:15, 1 March 2007 (CST)

  • Comment on the message of Jesus - "to redeem the fallen race of mankind and the earth from the Genesis 3 curse of sin". Stephen Ewen 01:51, 1 March 2007 (CST)
I see, Gareth, that my above verbiage is more an attempt at encapsulating the mission of Jesus, as opposed to what you are talking about. Stephen Ewen 04:24, 1 March 2007 (CST)

Problems in the second paragraph

I have yet to really closely look at the first and third paragraphs, but as to the second:

  • "The major source of historical knowledge about Jesus is the Christian Gospels, which are based on documents written within living memory of the events described in them." I think you are giving too much to the "Q" hypothesis to which it seems you are at least in part referring. Luke claims his account comes from "investigating everything carefully from the very first". Mark was said to be an associate of Peter, an eyewitness who along with Matthew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John, also one of the twelve, claims that his account was from his being an eyewitness. Mark more than any would have relied on any "Q", Luke certainly as well.
  • "The Letters of St Paul, which are older than the Gospels, also attest to the historical reality of Jesus." Yes, but so do the other New Testament letters.
  • "Some writers therefore deny that Jesus was a historical figure at all." This is clearly overstating the case. A "small minority" is more accurate.
  • "Most secular historians, however, accept that Jesus existed, but do not believe that the details of his life can be known from the available evidence." This is problematic on account that it is privileging "secular" historians and what does and does not count as "available evidence" to this sub-group among all scholars of Jesus. It is thus acting as if there is not a vast array of scholars who accept the historicity of the Gospels (and New Testament letters) and accord them as credible "available evidence".

I favor restoring the prior version of the Intro and taking up from there.

Stephen Ewen 01:13, 1 March 2007 (CST)

Intro - again

Here is Adam's version:

Jesus, known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure in Christianity, one of the world’s major religions. Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God the Father, one of the three persons of the Trinity, whose death and resurrection brought salvation to humanity, and also that he was a historical figure who lived in the Roman province of Judea from about 4BC to about 30AD. Christians believe that Jesus, after preaching to the Jews and performing various miracles, was condemned to death and crucified by the Roman authorities, and that three days after his death he rose from the dead.

The major source of historical knowledge about Jesus is the Christian Gospels, which are based on documents written within living memory of the events described in them. The Letters of St Paul, which are older than the Gospels, also attest to the historical reality of Jesus. There are no contemporary references to Jesus from non-Christian sources, although there are a few from the following decades, in writers such as Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. Some writers therefore deny that Jesus was a historical figure at all. Most secular historians, however, accept that Jesus existed, but do not believe that the details of his life can be known from the available evidence.

Most scholars would accept that Jesus was a Jewish preacher, healer and exorcist active in Galilee and Judea in early first century AD. Many accept that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Some writers have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher, a social reformer, a rabbi, a folk magician or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Writers continue to debate whether Jesus intended to found the religion of Christianity and whether he saw himself as the Messiah of Judaism.

February 7 version:

By virtue of the impact of Christianity, Jesus (also known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth) is one the most influential people who ever lived. The history of European literature, art and music would be unimaginable without its Christian heritage. Translations of the Christian Bible number among the foundational literature of many languages. Most of the world now follows the Gregorian calendar, based on the number of years since Jesus's birth.

The question "Who was Jesus?" seems a simple one, yet the answers which have been proposed defy easy summary. Most people regard him as the founder of Christianity. Christians (with some exceptions) worship him as God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity. Muslims recognize Jesus as one of the prophets of Islam, without attributing divinity to him. Even humanists who reject these religious claims, or who doubt the miracles attributed to him, have been known to admire Jesus as a great moral teacher.

Among historians, almost every aspect of Jesus's life is either unknown or disputed. Most scholars would accept the description of him as a first-century Palestinian Jew--more specifically, as an itinerate preacher / healer / exorcist active in Galilee and Judea. We may be reasonably confident that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's AD. With less certainty, scholars have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Especially controversial would be the suggestions that he intended to found the religion of Christianity, or that he believed (or declared) himself to be the Messiah.

Version I was trying to hash out:

By virtue of the impact of Christianity, Jesus (also known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth) is one of the most influential persons who ever lived. The history of European literature, art and music would be unimaginable without its Christian heritage. Translations of the Christian Bible number among the foundational literature of many languages. Most of the world now follows the Gregorian calendar, based on the number of years since Jesus's birth.

The question "Who was Jesus?" seems a simple one, yet the answers which have been proposed defy easy summary. Most people regard him as the founder of Christianity. The vast majority of groups calling themselves Christians, including all Catholics and Protestants, worship Jesus as the one and only divine Son of God who died for the sins of the world; others who self-identify as Christians maintain that Jesus is unique in various ways but deny his divinity.

Historians and scholars of Jesus range from those who maintain that the Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life, to those who assert that Jesus was not a real person, and many positions in between. Accordingly, characterizations of Jesus vary widely: the Messiah and deliberate inaugurator of Christianity; a prophet; a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; an apocalyptic who expected the world to end; a fictional persona syncretized from various deities and heroes. Especially controversial to some is that he intended to found Christianity, or that he believed or declared himself the Messiah. Most would concur that Jesus was a first-century Palestinian Jew who was an itinerate preacher, healer, and exorcist in Galilee and Judea; that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's; and, was crucified for sedition by command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's A.D.

And a subsequent partial version offered by Bei Dawei:

In addition to his religious and cultural roles, Jesus is also the object of secular historical investigation. Scholars researching the historical Jesus have reached diverse conclusions, which not infrequently diverge from the images presented by Christianity and Islam (though conservative positions are represented in this literature as well). Given the wide disagreement within this field, what can we safely say about Jesus?

That Jesus was a first-century Palestinian Jewish religious figure (more specifically, an itinerate preacher / healer / exorcist active in Galilee and Judea) is all but universally acknowledged. Most scholars would agree that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's AD. With less confidence, scholars have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Scholars are especially divided as to whether Jesus intended to found something like Christianity, or whether he believed (or declared) himself to be the Messiah.

Thanks for this extremely instructive comparism of introductions. Let me add to this by quoting the Encyclopedia Britannica introduction. Matthias Röder 17:03, 12 August 2007 (CDT)

Jesus Christ born c. 6–4 BC, Bethlehem died c. AD 30, Jerusalem also called Jesus of Galilee or Jesus of Nazareth founder of Christianity, one of the world's largest religions, and the incarnation of God according to most Christians. His teachings and deeds are recorded in the New Testament, which is essentially a theological document that makes discovery of the “historical Jesus” difficult. The basic outlines of his career and message, however, can be characterized when considered in the context of 1st-century Judaism and, especially, Jewish eschatology. The history of Christian reflection on the teachings and nature of Jesus is examined in the article Christology.

(Jesus Christ. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 12, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9106456)

Not so bad, huh? Matthias Röder 17:03, 12 August 2007 (CDT)

person who ever lived

It seems that, -as far as content goes- the objection is the phrase:"person who ever lived". Is there a way to change this-such as "names in history" that allows us to replace the pre-Adam Carr version, which had reached a considered consensus, that is agreeable to all? Or is it better to let the original stand for now? Nancy Sculerati MD 05:55, 1 March 2007 (CST)

Got my vote. Matt Innis (Talk) 12:37, 1 March 2007 (CST)
Very tactful, Nancy. Seconded. Stephen Ewen 15:02, 1 March 2007 (CST)
I agreeGareth Leng 05:22, 2 March 2007 (CST)

Let the editors decide that, both versions will do for me - as I have no preference for any what so ever, and not many seem to have complained Robert Tito | Talk

Robert, as far as I can tell, there are no Religion editors actively working on this article--or, more to the point, no experts about Jesus. Hence, the procedure the above contributors engage in, i.e., trying to come to a reasonable consensus, is all that we can employ right now, short of imposing upon one of our Religion editors to make an executive decision. --Larry Sanger 15:48, 1 March 2007 (CST)

why not, then, take the talk jesus and jesus page down BOTH and wait till ANY sensible decision has been taken and restore the approved pages? Free for any to go on editing. Robert Tito | Talk 15:51, 1 March 2007 (CST)

third paragraph

The third paragraph places too much emphasis on the historicity, or lack thereof, of Jesus. The issue has been raised in the second paragraph; making it the focus of the third is placing undue weight on the controversy. I'd suggest changing the current second and third paras to somehting like:

The major source of historical knowledge about Jesus is the Christian Gospels, which are based on documents written within living memory of the events described in them. The Letters of St Paul, which are older than the Gospels, also attest to the historical reality of Jesus. There are no contemporary references to Jesus from non-Christian sources, although there are a few from the following decades, in writers such as Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. Some writers therefore deny that Jesus was a historical figure at all. Most secular historians, however, accept that Jesus existed, but do not believe that the details of his life can be known from independent (non-Christian) evidence. Most scholars would accept that Jesus was a Jewish preacher, healer and exorcist active in Galilee and Judea in early first century AD. Many accept that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

Muslims see Jesus as one of the prophets, though they do not believe that he was divine, nor that he actually died at the crucifixion. Jews do not believe that Jesus was divine, nor that he was the Messiah or a prophet. Mormons believe that Jesus came to North America and preached to the inhabitants after leaving Judea. Some writers have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher, a social reformer, a rabbi, a folk magician or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Writers continue to debate whether Jesus intended to found the religion of Christianity and whether he saw himself as the Messiah of Judaism.

Anthony Argyriou 16:06, 1 March 2007 (CST)

To move forward, I've restored the opening section simply because it had been reached after very considerable discussion and consensus, and it's I feel a bad precedent to accept reversion of such agreed text without achieving comparable consensus: I think we have to actively promote editing by co-operation. However, I have adjusted it to take account as above of Adam's uncontested point that it could have been read as asserting his historical existence as established fact, and have added Anthony's reference to Mormons and Jews. The other text from Anthony I've placed at the start of the Sources section, which I think should also accomodate some of Adam's concerns. Gareth Leng 08:14, 2 March 2007 (CST)

I'm having trouble with the word "unimaginable" in the second sentence, mostly because I can imagine all kinds of other possibilities. But I cannot think of a better substitution. I would welcome a change there. Matt Innis (Talk) 09:01, 2 March 2007 (CST)

something like-"nearly entirely different" might work, but unimaginable sounds better in a literary sense, what unimaginable means there is implied: take away the Christian religion and the entire European art/music etc. has to be re-imagined, because the most major common theme is gone.Nancy Sculerati MD 09:08, 2 March 2007 (CST)

I agree. I would even venture to say it would be "entirely different". Especially when we consider the the evolution into other sects and other religions. Certainly the possibilities are endless, so in that sense it is unimaginable (or too many to fathom), isn't it. Maybe they haven't made that word yet. Matt Innis (Talk) 09:41, 2 March 2007 (CST)

Edited "people" in first line to "names", I think that statement is absolutely true and allows the historical reality question to be raised later, without implying any particular view upfront. Nancy Sculerati MD 09:13, 2 March 2007 (CST)

That is better. Matt Innis (Talk) 09:41, 2 March 2007 (CST)

I'm wondering about the "some writers" who deny that Jesus was a historical figure at all. Having done some informal research into the question on wikipedia as a result of similar, but rather less civil, arguments over there, the conclusion I came to is that it's really hard to find actual academic scholars who are willing to explicitly make the argument that Jesus never lived. Most such writing has been done by popular writers of various sorts, frequently ones with no clear credentials. people like G.A. Wells and Earl Doherty seem to be the most respectable of the bunch, but they aren't proper scholars of early Christianity, and I'm not sure that anything on the subject has recently appeared in actual peer-reviewed scholarly journals. As such, I don't really think there's any need to mention or refer to these theories, which are really rather fringe, in the introduction. On the other hand, over all I much prefer Adam's version of the intro, which seems clear and straightforward, whereas the other version seems kind of mushy and lacking in clear statements by comparison. John Kenney 01:15, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

4 editors of the Bible

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe in theology class I learned about 4 main editors of the bible, their approximate time of editing, and their approximate location in the world. Is that addressed in this article? Also, one thing that I can hear my theology teacher saying (in my head) is that Jesus' message was "the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe." -Tom Kelly (Talk) 13:20, 17 March 2007 (CDT)

I'm not sure what you mean about 4 main editors of the Bible. Are you perhaps thinking of the Documentary Hypothesis, which deals with the 4 main sources of the Pentateuch? That only applies to the first five books of the Old Testament (and, to some extent, with some of the later books - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are generally considered to be the same redactor as Deuteronomy, and thus form the "Deuteronomic History," I believe). It doesn't apply to the New Testament. John Kenney 13:09, 18 March 2007 (CDT)
Dealing with Thomas's second point, it is very possible that that was Jesus' message, especially from a Christian point of view. However, in the interest of maintaining a neutral POV, we should probably not assume that Jesus's primary goal was evangelistic and apocalyptic in nature. I would attribute that particular message more to John the Baptist. Michael Yates 23:17, 22 June 2007 (CDT)

Wikipedia credit

For what it is worth, the two following sentences (out of more than 200) appear in Wikipedia. Shall we credit Wikipedia for that or simply forget? Or just rework?

  • Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers that many consider to have been a deist, created a "Jefferson Bible" for the Indians entitled "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" that included only Jesus' ethical teachings.
  • Thus, for example, Theosophy and its offshoots have Jesus studying esotericism in the Himalayas or Egypt during his "lost years.

--AlekStos 15:21, 28 March 2007 (CDT)

The first sentence should probably be entirely rewritten - the apositive is kind of awkward. John Kenney 18:46, 28 March 2007 (CDT)

Let's rework. Thanks for the data, Alex. --Larry Sanger 18:48, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

Influential name

Recently added "if he really existed" in the first sentence does not make much sense for me. Now it seems to imply "if he existed, the name was influential". Well, the "name" was influential anyway. So, to be neutral we do not really need this conditional "if" added -- as it overloads the sentence and looks just awkward. I'm not really following the development here, but as far as I remember some discussions, there was a consensus to put the relevant perspectives on the issue of existence in the body of the article, not in the opening. If so, let's delete this "if he really existed" from the lead. --AlekStos 10:16, 27 April 2007 (CDT)

Many theories

The current draft reads "More than one of these may be true (or partly true) simultaneously. Many other theories have been proposed, but have received less scholarly support." This seems a bit dodgy. It may well be difficult, but some notions of Jesus (such as 'Jesus as Pharisee') require far more laborious conjectures than others. Why would a man who is attested as condemning the Pharisees in most of the earliest witnesses *be* a Pharisee? I think some more synthetic assessment needed. Russell Potter 19:39, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

Thomas

References to Q here seem to flatten out the Gospel of Thomas with other witnesses, whereas there's a substantial body of scholarly work which sees Thomas as potentially an equally valid witness of Q, and much earlier than any of the other non-Canonical gospels. I think some way should be found to reference this in the entry. Russell Potter 19:45, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

One problem with giving too much credibility to the Gospel of Thomas is that it was written so late that it would be difficult to consider it as a source for the other Gospels. Thomas himself may have been a contributor to Q, but the Gospel was not likely written by him. Based on my understanding of Q, it is usually compose of the common saying from Matthew and Luke that are excluded by Mark. There are some saying in the Gospel of Thomas among these, but not independent of these. Even if the Gospel of Thomas had more influence on Q than is presently stated, is going in to that much detail over it appropriate for an article on Jesus? Perhaps that should be saved for an article on Q, the Gospels, or the Gospel of Thomas. Michael Yates 23:12, 22 June 2007 (CDT)


Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds that it is needlessly inflammatory. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)


Influential NAME??!!

THe opening para is very poor. What does it mean to say that Jesus was an influential name? That his name was continuously "dropped' in social or financial circles since his adulthood and to date? It is obviously a device to escape making the decision whether he was a real-life person or not, but it doesnt work. As far as Christianity is concerned, he is the major figure in that religion and therefore highly influential through that. He is portrayed as real in the New Testament, therefore you can say so. You can also state that there is little historical evidence supporting that, so some people doubt his historical existence. But his name has nothing to do with it!!!--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:16, 19 August 2007 (CDT)

The draft looks good on cursory glance...just checking in

I'm checking in on the talk page because I plan to do some editing of this page, as I had promised long ago on the Religion project page to do, but had gotten sidetracked. Is there anyone who wants to suggest some of the more notable changes desired for the draft as it exists? --Peter Kirby 08:39, 11 January 2008 (CST)

Neutral historical accounts

In the historical Jesus section, it says "2.the writers were not setting out to write neutral historical accounts". Luke, who wrote his gospel and Acts asserts that he is writing a neutral historical account. Could we maybe change this to says something that reflects this as the view of some scholars, maybe "scholars don't believe the writers set out to write a neutral historical account"? Jonathan Beshears 13:52, 18 January 2008 (CST)

I agree with the above comment by Jonathon Beshears so I edited the text. Cleaned up a few other parts of the section also. Mark Jones 09:37, 17 May 2008 (CDT)

On the Virgin Birth

This bit is misleading: "Mary's virginal conception of Jesus (not to be confused with the immaculate conception, or the virgin birth), .."

1. Non-christians won't know what is being talked about.

2. Most Christians think of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as referring to the virginal conception. Roman Catholics and many (most?) Orthodox have an additional, separate Doctrine of the Virgin Birth separate to the Doctrine of the Virgin Conception. Almost every Roman Catholic I have ever met has confused the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the Doctrine of the Virginal Conception (despite the fact that the Church's position is clear).

I suggest that even most Christians, regardless of denomination, won't follow this paragraph, so a little rewrite is needed to make things clear(er).

Aleta Curry 23:12, 16 May 2008 (CDT)

Sources & evidence

I think some of what's said is misleading.

Although Paul certainly asserts the historical existence of Jesus, he nowhere, at least in those letters generally accepted by scholars as being genuine, gives a clear indication of when Jesus lived. That is, he doesn't assert that Jesus was within living memory.

Most scholars date the gospels to late 1st century, ie within living memory, but this has been questioned on the grounds of lack of mention of them in other Christian literature. Matthew & Mark are first mentioned about 135-140, Luke about 160, John maybe even later (though there's a manuscript of part of what is now John dated about 150).

I don't think that Roman governors were in the habit of sending reports of all executions to archives in Rome. Tacitus' statement seems more likely to be simply derived from simply what the Christians at the time said.

The above points are made by Wells, who also draws the analogy with Faust. The full-blown story of his selling his soul to the devil, raising Helen of Troy from the dead &c was printed in 1587, while contemporary documents show he was alive in 1540. Peter Jackson 17:50, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Dates & age

There's a problematic paragraph in the article:
None of the historical sources give the year of Jesus' birth, the year of his death, or his age at death in unambiguous form. Tradition says that he was born towards the end of the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC. Some of the earliest estimates of his birth are 6-7 BC, and it is widely agreed that Jesus was executed during the governorship of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). Biblical scholars believe he lived roughly 33 1/2 years. Recent scholarship has focused on the years AD 29, 30, or 33 as the most likely possibilities of the date of his crucifixion.
  1. "Tradition says that he was born towards the end of the reign of Herod the Great". The only tradition about this dating is based on Matthew. In Luke Jesus' birth is set at the time of the census of Quirinius, 6-7 CE. John and (more importantly) Mark, the oldest gospel, don't have anything on the date of birth.
  2. "Biblical scholars believe he lived roughly 33 1/2 years" plus "none of the historical sources give […] his age at death in unambiguous form". (a) First of all: Which historical sources? I only know Biblical and Patristic sources. (b) Secondly: There are in fact two references to Jesus' age at the beginning of his mission. One is in Luke 3:23, which has a λ for 30. This is not regarded as an admissable source, because it's mentioned in the context of Jesus' genealogy, and the two lines of ancestors given in Luke and Matthew do not correspond. Therefore the passages are unstable and meaningless, and the age reference invalid. Furthermore, Mark neither mentions a genealogy nor any age at the beginning of his mission. The other one is in John 8.57 (after Jesus came from Galilee), where it says πεντηκοντα together with οὔπω, i.e. "not yet fifty". A minority reading in a later codex has τεσσερακοντα, i.e. "not yet forty", which shows that later scribes tried to harmonize John with Luke. Irenaeus only knew the majority reading (50 years) and accepts the passage in John as true, specifically stating that he was almost 50 and referring to Jesus' "old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify", and also mentioning a longer mission. While the commentary states that "it is most certain that our Lord’s ministry extended but little over three years", John in his gospel mentions at least four Passovers during the mission until the passion account.

In any case, we do have a valid reference to Jesus' age at the beginning of his mission, i.e. approximately 50 years of age, which is backed up by Irenaeus' commentary. I have yet to find a scientific analysis of John plus Irenaeus which refutes these passages. —Arne Eickenberg 15:21, 7 September 2009 (UTC)