AMbomb wrote:Early Christianity had a whole bunch of different factions. They were divided into two groups: gnostics and literalists. The literalists believed the story of Jesus was literally true. They condemned the gnostics because the gnostics didn't. Jesus supposedly died between 30 and 35. There is no evidence of the existence of Christianity before the letters of Paul, written around 50. The original Christians knew there was no Jesus. So, the movement didn't initially grow because people believed there really was a Jesus who died and rose from the dead. [/b]
Your idea is that the Gnostics were a competing faction with Christians in the first and second centuries. This is true. I have read the writings of the Church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian on this topic. Gnosticism was a world religion prior to Christ. The threat of Gnosticism was around from the beginning, but unlike the four Christian Gospels the Gnostic Gospels didn't begin to appear until one to three hundred years later.
The problem with your argument is that you claim that prior to 50 AD there is no evidence of Jesus in the form of written testimony. However, there is no evidence either for your claim that "the original Christians knew there was no Jesus." Using your own argument, if there are no extant Christian (or Gnostic/pseudo-Christian) writings prior to Paul, then how can you make this claim?
Paul in his Epistles refers to his "Gospel" and includes many points that are corroborated by the later written histories of the four Gospels.
If the original Christians were Gnostics, then you would expect to find wide disparities between the four Christian Gospels and the Pauline Epistles. But both agree with each other.
There are only two logical possibilities accepted by either liberals or conservatives. Here they are respectively:
1. (The liberal view) - Paul's Gospel and the later Gospel histories both came from an independent common source.
2. (The conservative view) - Paul took his Gospel from the orally preached Gospels of Peter (Mark was actually Peter's scribe) and Matthew. According to the first century Church fathers Papias and Polycarp (who was a student of the Apostle John) Paul's Gospel later became known as the Gospel of Luke, since Luke was Paul's scribe. The Gospel of John was written last.
This is also how we can know that the early pagan historians' references to Christ are based on independent records and research. If these were compiled solely from the written testimony of Christians, then we would expect to find only history that is found in the New Testament. If they were based on hearsay from Christians we would also expect to find some corruption or disagreeing accounts.
For instance, Nero's persecution is alluded to in the New Testament, but he is never named. So this is a pagan record, not a Christian invention.
Also, as I posted elsewhere, the basic facts about Jesus' life listed by Paul, the writers of the four Gospels, and the pagan testimony are in agreement.
Freke and Doherty's theory is based solely on conjecture not history. Even liberals who deny the deity of Christ, know that they are not credible historians.
Earl Doherty makes a huge assumption popular among the 19th century critics that the Gospels were not written in the first century. Most scholars now admit that they were.
He then goes on to state that none of the Gospel story appears in the Epistles.
Here is just a brief summary of the “non-narrative” evidence from Paul's Epistles that also appear the Gospel stories. Those points also attested to by non-Christian writers are marked with an asterisk.
The following is from Luke Timothy Johnson’s book, The Real Jesus:
1. Jesus was a real human person (Paul, Hebrews)*
2. Jesus was a Jew (Paul, Hebrews)*
3. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews)
4. Jesus was a descendant of David (Paul)
5. Jesus mission' was to the Jews (Paul)*
6. Jesus was a teacher (Paul, James)*
7. Jesus was tested (Hebrews)
8. Jesus prayed using the word ABBA (Paul)
9. Jesus prayed for deliverance from death (Hebrews)
10. Jesus Suffered (Paul, Hebrews, Peter)
11. Jesus interpreted his last meal with reference to his death
(Paul -- mentioned also in the writings of Tacitus and Josephus)*
12. Jesus underwent a trial (Paul)*
13. Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate (Paul)*
14. Jesus death involved the Jews (Paul)*
15. Jesus was crucified (Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter)*
16. Jesus was buried (Paul)
17. Jesus appeared to witesses after death (Paul)
So it is clear to see that the most vital elements of the Gospel story appear in the Epistles.
In “The Jesus Puzzle,” Doherty then goes on to write that:
The Gospel Jesus and his story is equally missing from the non-Christian record of the time.
Ironically, what follows is the list of pagan historians who do mention Jesus. He brushes this off by claiming that they must be forgeries.
The problem is that historians do not universally consider these passages to be forgeries. In addition, Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, Lucian and Celsus refer to Christ and Christians sometimes in negative terms. This is hardly the strategy for a Christian forger who is trying to gain credibility for his movement.