Some Indirect Proof of the Historical Jesus
Josephus also mentions James the brother of Jesus and Ananias the high priest the year Jesus was tried and crucified. This can be counted as indirect proof for the existence of a historical man upon which the tradition is based on. Again, I accept the existence of Jesus in the flesh and blood. But, this does not count for proof of the extraordinary claims made by his followers including the resurrection.
A Talmudic reference says:
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!"
But, once again we are looking at evidence that suggests that a historical person existed. But, not evidence of the extraordinary claims of his resurrection. It should also be noted that Jesus does not fit the bill of the Jewish messiah. As the book of Deuteronomy suggests, “cursed be anyone who hangs from a tree. (Deut 21:23).
you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Whether or not you can equate the cross to being a tree is a debate we won’t have here. Let’s leave it that Jesus did not live up to the claims of the promised messiah to the majority of the Jews at this time. Once can almost imagine in the weeks following the death of their messiah Jesus’ followers struggling to understand and to come to terms with what happened. They would have scoured the scriptures (those who were literate) struggling to find some scriptural precedence for what happened.
In defense of the Jewish religious authority of the time we must note that they gospel depictions of them are rather one dimensional. This is to be expected. They were the “bad guys” and gospel writers were discrediting them and worked to make them appear foolish in order to make their version the holy truth.
Judaism is messianic in nature and Jesus was not the first to appear on the scene. We see the Pharisees colluding with each other worrying that his disciples might actually steal the body of their teacher from his tomb, making Jesus “worst than the last one.” It was this concern that prompted the Jewish leaders to request a guard be placed in front of the tomb
This concern is not proof that the disciples snuck in and stole Jesus body. It is just an expressed concern. Rome had allowed the Jewish state of Palestine a lot of leeway and freedom in regards to the practice of their religion and customs. The leadership was concerned that Jesus followers – many who were zealots looking for a military and political victory against Rome – could spark a civil uprising that would be the end of their way of life. Indeed, their fear proved to be dead on and less than a generation later such an uprising would occur. The civil war started in 66 C.E. and ended with the aforementioned sacking of Jerusalem in 70.C.E.
In some ways it might be reasonable to sympathize with the Jewish leadership. It was a precarious razor’s edge they were walking. The arrest, trial and execution of Jesus may have well been an attempt to protect the Jewish state. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate is painted as a sympathetic villain and afforded more respect than the Jewish leaders. It is a clear indication that the writers of the gospels intended to discredit Judaism and put forth their emerging cult of Jesus as the new and improved religion.
Yet, Pilate could easily have orchestrated the whole event himself as it would be in his best interest to quell any potential uprising before it happened. At any rate the real motivations behind the “bad guys” actions is really lost to us in history. They cannot speak for themselves and offer an argument in their defense. We only know of them through the words of their detractors.
In the final analysis none of these events provide evidence of Jesus resurrection. It is reasonable to assume that it might very well have been a fabrication of a fledgling cult whose leader was executed in the prime of his life. Jesus may or may not have made actual claims to being a messiah. We see him being somewhat coy at times, especially while he is being interrogated by Pilate.
When it comes to Jesus we have no reliable historical documentation. What we have is the accepted canon – the traditions of Christianity and what its believers say about whom Jesus is and what he taught. Even among the canonical gospels there is inconsistencies and disagreement. The bible is the only real context in which to review Jesus and biblical scholarship shows us what a slippery slope that can be.
We have spoken of above of Christianities or Christianity in the plural. When we get right down to it the cult of the historical Jesus may bear no resemblance the emergence of Pauline Christianity that later became the basis for what has become our post modern Christianity.
Pauline tradition appears to blend various threads together to create an emerging tradition of Jesus the risen Christ vs. Jesus the earthly messiah as would be expected by the traditions of the Jews. We can find elements of the Essene story of the Teacher of Righteousness and elements similar to the mystery traditions of Egypt and Greece. Indeed the Hellenist culture would exercise a profound influence over many of the areas in which the early Christian missionaries would come. The so-called heterodox schools classified as Gnostic would be the extreme, but even the orthodoxy would be influenced by the philosophical traditions of this era.
Even if we were able to provide proof positive of the evidence of a historical Jesus we are left with nothing that proves any of the fantastic claims made regarding Jesus. The Jesus of tradition is no more tenable than the angel Moroni, the Qu’ran or the hundreds of other holy scriptures and the tales of gods, demons and holy men and women they contain.