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Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All Paperback – October 1, 2010
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- Item Weight : 12.9 ounces
- Paperback : 248 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0557709911
- ISBN-13 : 978-0557709915
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 0.56 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Lulu.com; null Edition (October 1, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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He says of “Jesus’ Famous Ministry,’ “with all this attention focused on him and his incredible achievements from cradle to grave, how is it that we have no contemporary record of any of this? After having won the admiration of royal officials, Roman leaders and Synagogue officials, how is it that he wasn’t whisked off to the royal court, or even Rome itself? How is it that none of his astounding new teachings were recorded by anyone at the time? We have no trace or mention of Jesus’ exploits anywhere until the New Testament Gospels are written decades later. And outside of them, there is no mention of Jesus whatsoever for nearly a century after Jesus’ alleged death.” (Pg. 24-25)
He points out, “what happens when we take a closer look at these so-called ‘eyewitnesses’ [in the Gospels]? … what is we arrange them on a timeline with Jesus? Our first problem is where to put Jesus on that timeline. Since Matthew and Luke give conflicting details of his birth, most estimates assume Luke was wrong and go with Matthew, giving estimates a range from 8 B.C.E. to 4 B.C.E. Equally problematic is the year Jesus died… it has to be when Pontius Pilate was Prefect of Judea (from 26 or 27 to about 36 or 37)… most scholars side with the Synoptic Gospels… and look for a year when Passover fell on a Friday---which leaves two possibilities, 30 or 33. That said, the early Church was no more certain then we are…” (Pg. 30)
He says of the controversial ‘Testimonium’ statement in Josephus’s ‘Antiquities’ about Jesus, “this passage does not appear UNTIL THE 4TH CENTURY. For the first 300 years of its existence, there is no mention of the ‘Testimonium.’ This couldn’t have been simply because no one happened to read it; Josephus’s histories were immensely popular and pored over by scholars… more than a dozen early Christian writers … are known to have read and commented on the works of Josephus… Origen even quotes from ‘Antiquities…’ in order to prove the existence of John the Baptist, then adds that Josephus didn’t believe in Jesus, and criticizes him for failing to mention Jesus in that book!” (Pg. 53) He adds, “Bishop Eusebius is prime suspect for the forgery.” (Pg. 57)
He wonders, “why would anyone pick Barabbas over Jesus, anyway? Famed miracle healer and teacher, just acclaimed as king by the entire city a few days ago---or a notorious killer? Which one would YOU pick? If we believe the Gospels, it was the conniving chief priests who got the crowd to root for Jesus’ death… But the people loved Jesus … and despised those fat-cat priests who cooperated with the occupying enemy. So how could those hated Roman toadies not only talk the multitudes into choosing to free a murderer over their beloved Messiah, and actually whip them up into a frenzied mob howling for Jesus’ blood?” (Pg. 97)
He observes, “Even in ancient times, scholars noticed that when plotted on a map, Jesus’ travels make no sense; he pops here and there, seemingly at random… the Gospels’ authors appeared happy to make up new towns as needed, though some seem accidentally created by later Christian scribes who misunderstood the text.. All this seems to point to the Gospels being set in a literary creation, not taking place on the real map of ancient Palestine.” (Pg. 108)
He summarizes, “we have NO authentic writings from the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, or from anyone who claimed to be a personal disciple of Jesus. Everything we know about … James, Peter/Cephas and John, comes from Paul---and Paul says nothing about Peter, John or anyone else traveling around with Jesus. Apart form one suspicious and highly uncharacteristic partial line, he says nothing that would make us think he believed James had any special relationship to Jesus. The implication here can’t be emphasized enough: there is nothing in the New Testament that was actually written by anyone who could claim to have personally known Jesus.” (Pg. 149-150)
He concludes, “If Jesus had been an actual historical figure we have a thorny paradox. Either this Jesus was a remarkable individual who said and did a host of amazing, revolutionary things---but no one outside his fringe cult noticed for over a century. Or he didn’t---and yet shortly after his death, tiny communities of worshipers that cannot agree about the most basic facts of his life spring up, scattered all across the empire. The truth is inescapable: there simply could never have been a historical Jesus.” (Pg. 187)
This book will be of keen interest to Atheists and other skeptics of traditional Christianity.
Fitzgerald has also done a much longer and expanded study of the Christ myth in "Mything In Action", a three part series that I've just started and cannot recommend highly enough for anyone who has read "Nailed". "Mything" expands on the information presented in "Nailed", once again managing to be informative, interesting and readable. Fitzgerald knows his stuff and knows how to present it.
The title doesn't quite deliver on its promise. A more accurate title would have been: Reasons the Jesus of the Gospels Never Existed.
David Fitzgerald shows quite compellingly the events of the gospels couldn't have happened as written. First, many reliable historians wrote about events in Judea during the early 1st century, including some with a special interest in religious movements. They documented the existence of other faith healers and so-called Jewish messiahs, but none makes any mention of Jesus, who was supposedly famous and had throngs of people listening to his teachings and witnessing his miracles.
Second, the gospels as written have historical problems. The trial of Jesus could not have taken place as described, for it contradicts known Jewish legal practice. The real historical Pilate was very different from the indecisive figure of the Gospels. Mark alone made many mistakes about Judean geography and custom, which Matthew corrected in his gospel.
Fitzgerald also documents the surprising lack of biographical details about Jesus in the epistles of Paul, the earliest written sections of the New Testament. It's as if Paul were writing about a purely spiritual figure, not an historical one. Fitzgerald also notes the allegorical style of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest account of Jesus on which all the others are based. He shows the gospel writers weren't composing biographies or writing down eyewitness testimony. They each wrote for different audiences with different portrayals of Jesus.
The author presents enough material to make listeners at least consider the possibility that Jesus the man never existed. However, I don't think he constructs an open-and-shut case, as the title promises. The book actually works best as a primer on New Testament scholarship. It would serve as eye-opening reading for any Christian who still believes the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, or that historical research confirms them.
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My own view was that a Jesus character probably existed and was elevated to god status by Christian leaders in the centuries following his death, in much the same way that many other gods were made. That opinion was strengthened when I learned some years later that the Josephus quote is almost certainly a forgery inserted into the original by a Christian writer intent on spreading the myth.
This author lists and explains the other tenuous 'historical' references to a Christ figure and emphasises the fact that the earliest Christian writings are extremely vague, to say the least, about any detail of Jesus as an actual person. It's also interesting to note how the miracle tales became more miraculous as the centuries passed.
The author presents a sound case for Jesus being a fictional character. He has put an enormous amount of research into his work and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. The remarkable similarity between the Jesus story and other, older belief systems is well presented. I respect his view, especially after seeing him on a phone-in TV programme trying to explain pertinent facts to a woefully ignorant Christian caller who thought the gospels were written by four men called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who were eyewitnesses at the time of Christ. The mind boggles.
Have I changed my mind after reading this book? No, I still think that a charismatic preacher, possibly one of many, teaching stuff of varying value may have been around at the right time. Am I more sceptical than previously? Yes. Have I learnt anything? Yes lots. I recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in the subject. Unless you are already one of the world's leading experts, you will come away from it better informed and with much food for thought.
The author says Yes to that question. However, I should have welcomed a discussion of a few considerations not treated in his book:
First, there is the famous statement in Galatians 4:4 that Jesus was born of a woman, born under the [Jewish]law. These are not, of course, the most stunning biographic titbits, but they do indicate that Paul regarded Jesus as a real man. Has the author of Nailed got reason to consider this to be an interpolation by a dishonest Christian scribe? Or anything else to say about it?
Then there are the famous Jesus sayings, such as those about "pearls before swine" and "the blind leading the blind". Would it not be remarkable if such memorable dictums had somehow become attributed to a man that never was? Again, a discussion by the author would be welcome.
Lastly, some of the blatant fabrications in the New Testament, namely the Birth accounts in Matthew and Luke, and the Passion accounts in all four Gospels, in a perverse way argue that there was a Jesus.
To take the first of these, the Birth narrative in Matthew is inconsistent with that in Luke, and neither account viewed in isolation looks as if it could be anything other than fiction. But we can understand what was going on in their authors' minds given that Jews at the time expected their Messiah to be born in Bethlehem. If we suppose Jesus was remembered as a Galilee man, not from Bethlehem or indeed from Judea at all, it is clear that Matthew and Luke wanted to explain an awkward fact away. But if Jesus was fictitious there could have been no awkward facts for them to tame: they would simply have invented a Savior born and brought up in Bethlehem.
As for the events leading up to the trial and execution of Jesus, the four irreconcilably different Gospel accounts hardly make sense: they might as well have been titled "The Trials of an Obstreperous Jew, Presented as a Farce". But why were a quartet of writers driven to such drivelling? Presumably it was because of a need to put a favourable slant on the fact that Jesus was executed as a criminal, a rebel against Roman rule, dealt with by harsh Roman justice. Could an imaginary Jesus not have been conveniently stoned by the Jews, so that early Christians would not have risked offending Romans by being supporters of an agitator against their rule, or by suggesting the Romans were at fault for executing their Messiah?
Probably like most readers of Nailed, I am not trained in historical inquiry, and so I realise that there may be simple answers to the quibbles raised above. I should accordingly welcome a second edition of the book that took account of them.
Two other things:
the author makes the surprisingly common mistake of saying that Herod's demise in 4 BC was ten years before Quirinius became Governor of Syria in AD 6. Actually the interval is nine years, as there was never a zero year: nought was not at the time recognised as a number.
could the author forbear from using the term CE? I should be very unhappy if someone told me I was not to speak of Wednesday or Thursday for fear of displeasing people that do not believe in Woden and Thor. Something similar goes for AD and BC. To me, the term CE is both fatuous and offensive.
I had the only problem that although I managed to get through the book, it seemed to want to jam my Kindle app a lot. I had to struggle to turn pages, or return to the point at which I'd left the book after I'd picked it up after a pause. I do not have this problem with any other book that's on my tablet. That's the only reason I subtract a star. Can you please sort this problem out?
Many thanks - read and learn, read and learn. SJ.