31 comments on “Stark study presented to ruling General Synod shows 40 per cent of adults unsure if Jesus even existed

  1. I read the post body wrong the first time. I chuckled to myself when I thought you had said “75% of the clergy unsure about 100% of the bishops.”

    Rather suspect that that’s true too…

  2. I forget the study details, but I seem to recall a survey of Anglican Priests about ten years ago did find about 25% of them didn’t believe in God but presumably were too intellectually feeble to act on this by seeking other employment.

    From a historical point of view, that 40% of people aren’t convinced someone called Jesus Christ really existed is depressing. There is better evidence for that than there is evidence that Julius Caesar existed, but I’d imagine 95% of the population believe Caesar was around for real. I can understand plenty of argument about the details, but that there was a religious leader called Jesus, who was around at the AD 30ish mark, who was executed by the Romans, and whose followers were shortly afterwards claiming had risen from the dead seems pretty solid historical fact.

    As for the report’s other conclusion – that the solution to empty churches is to stop telling people what christianity is about (not that the general synod appears to know either), I find that beyond baffling. Few people are going to randomly come to churches from curiosity, and between every generation of existing churchgoers there will be leakage – currently that’s largely being offset by the evangelicals recruiting people who actually believe the Christian message. Stop them doing that, and the whole edifice comes crashing down much faster.

  3. “There is better evidence for that than there is evidence that Julius Caesar existed”

    Entirely the wrong way around. There is no contemporaneous record of Jesus Christ, whereas there are still statues to Julius Caeser.

  4. And you know when they built said statues? I’m willing to believe they are contemporaneous, but I’d like to see your proof.

    I’d argue Josephus and Mark’s gospel are both contemporaneous documentary evidence of Jesus’s existence (that doesn’t mean you have to believe every word in either, but they would have been laughed out of town by people with long enough memories had Jesus been entirely fictional).

  5. theProle,
    There’s written evidence for Julius. There are still people using the calendar he introduced.

    There are no contemporaneous Gospels.

  6. The problem is that the CofE just got overrun by utter incompetents who are more interested in politics and social matters than making a successful church (and mostly speaks out on political and social matters that are against its congregation).

    I saw a vicar on Newsnight once saying that of course a Jew could get into heaven, and I’m sorry, but there’s specific verses in the Bible where Jesus says that (I paraphrase) the only way to the Father is through him. That’s basically telling people they don’t need to go to church, that they can just be nice people outside of church. And they wonder why it’s falling apart.

    There’s already a revolution going on where the evangelicals are growing and a lot of that is because the basis of their work is the bible.

  7. Entirely the wrong way around. There is no contemporaneous record of Jesus Christ, whereas there are still statues to Julius Caeser.
    Hmm, some bloggers are getting silly here.
    There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, and a third written within recent living memory.
    And numerous records of the early Christians, who had presumably become Christians for some reason.
    Julius Caesar is also well documented.

    My eldest declared to me his atheism before his sixth birthday, as also did not believe in Jesus. Took some effort on my part to make him see that Jesus is a historical fact, its only the other stuff that is dubious.

  8. “There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, and a third written within recent living memory.”

    Really, which are these?

  9. “I’d argue Josephus and Mark’s gospel are both contemporaneous documentary evidence of Jesus’s existence”

    Mark’s 70 AD

    Josephus 100 AD

    “There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus”

    OH MY, you have found what scholars have been looking for for 2 millenia ?!?! You will become fabulously wealthy!!!

  10. “There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, and a third written within recent living memory.”
    There are several contemporary films of Luke Skywalker.. How much more evidence do you want?

  11. To be fair, I certainly recall Jesus-as-historical-fact being taught at school as an absolute, the clincher being that He appeared in Roman accounts of the period.

    In fact, He does not appear in Roman accounts of the period, but there was no Google in those days.

  12. Stigler,
    “The problem is that the CofE just got overrun by utter incompetents who are more interested in politics and social matters than making a successful church”

    I’m not sure incompetence can be proved: other courses of action may have been worse, and the pass may already have been sold with the acceptance of Evolution, along with other un-Biblical ideas. In the US, it’s the “Whole Bible” Christians who are on the front foot.

    The Anglican leadership deserves some credit for keeping the show on the road all these years. Schism has been inevitable and imminent for as long as I can remember, however it hasn’t happened yet.

  13. “(that doesn’t mean you have to believe every word in either, but they would have been laughed out of town by people with long enough memories had Jesus been entirely fictional).”

    The existence of Ritchiebollocks firmly disproves that contention. Just because someone (correctly) points out that someone else is talking complete bollocks doesn’t mean everyone will listen. There’ll always be some who want to believe in whatever snake-oil is being sold to them, for whatever reason.

    It’s not in the least implausible to suggest that some very, very poor people (by modern standards), with few (what we’d consider) normal civil rights or freedoms, would want to believe in pie-in-the-sky and an eternal reward for being a good person.

    So, just as the Ritchiejugend want to believe their hatred of ‘the jooz’ is justified and therefore will buy the most ridiculous nonsense if it ‘proves’ that, early Christians would have had every incentive to believe a far less implausible story.

  14. I think it’s more likely than not that Jesus existed. That’s to say there was a chap of that name, or rather the Aramaic version of that name, who was baptised by John the B, went about Galilee preaching and teaching, recruited a bunch of disciples, and then sloped off to Jerusalem to meet a grisly fate. His followers believed that he performed magic tricks and that he was resurrected after his death.

    I estimate that more is known about him than is known about Mahomet, for example. That there was a merchant who became a military leader and bore the name – or perhaps it’s a title – seems clear. Very little else is. I don’t know how much is known about Buddha. Moses is clearly a fiction, as is Abraham.

  15. Gamecock>

    That guy’s a nutty neo-Nazi of some description. His publisher is http://www.hrp.co.uk/ – the very first book listed on their site is the fucking Protocols.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jesus-Never-Existed-Kenneth-Humphreys/dp/0906879140 – note the publisher.

    See also: http://tektonticker.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/ken-humphreys-and-holocaust-deniers.html

    Oh, and apparently he has his very own little Wormtongue, just as humourless as Arnald:

    https://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/the-humphreys-intervention/

  16. Dave, are you going to refute anything he says? You think some name calling is sufficient? I think you look silly.

  17. Oh, and to add to the above, since that might seem a bit ad-hom-ish, he’s either ignorant of or denying the most basic facts about the period, such as that Jesus could not have been ‘Jewish’ because Judaism didn’t exist – both (any kind of) Judaism (we recognise as such) and Christianity both came along from the same roots at the same time.

    He also claims that the story of the Israelites coming from Egypt is impossible. Now, it may or may not be pure fiction, but it’s entirely plausible that a tribe migrated from Egypt to Palestine/Israel/what-have-you.

  18. Mark’s 70 AD

    Josephus 100 AD

    “There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus”

    Not sure how tightly we are drawing contemporaneous, but I’m inclined to say that the author’s lifespan overlapping is good enough for reasonable certainty the person existing.

    It’s like in AD4000 someone finding a scrap of paper with a comment from 2030 about someone having hand-bagged some institution in a rather Thatchersque manner. That comment might not tell you a great deal about Thatcher’s actual acts, but would be sufficient to give reasonable certainty she actually existed.

  19. theProle,
    I’m taking “contemporaneous” to mean “contemporaneous”.

    There is circumstantial evidence that Jesus existed, and circumstantial evidence that he didn’t (he wasn’t mentioned by Roman historians for example).

    There is no factual evidence either way.

  20. It’s just the usual special pleading, isn’t it.

    And all to maintain the pretense that the magical creature which allegedly drowned every man, woman, child and unborn in the world was real. So we can worship it, naturally.

  21. There’s little doubt charismatic leaders arose from humble beginnings, in that era. Made their well documented mark on history. Spartacus was almost a contemporary.
    Strange that the actual Son of God never even got a footnote.

  22. The first written gospels are from much later, around 130-150 AD or later, and th mentions in Josephus are at least reasonably likely to be later interpolations. However we do have Paul’s letters from the 50’s AD and they do mention Jesus extensively, thought admittedly Paul did not meet Jesus and was writing “propaganda” as it were for his version of Christianity.

    We do have very firm evidence in Josephus for Jesus’s brother, James, but not to the extent that we are sure that he is Jesus’s brother !

    However it seems fairly certain that such a person did exist, and that he was a Jewish messianic leader of some kind, preaching a relatively peaceful version of very orthodox Jewish beliefs combined with resurrection. The Christianity we have today derives from Paul’s recasting of those beliefs into something quite distinct.

  23. My understanding is that the normal academic view of Josephus is that he clearly references James, Jesus and John the Baptist, but that his comments on Jesus’s death and resurrection are probably later interpolations.

    I think there is general agreement that Mark’s gospel is close to AD70 rather than post AD100.

    “Strange that the actual Son of God never even got a footnote”

    He seems to have had more influence on the subsequent 2000 years of Western civilisation than most people, with most ages from the letters of Paul in AD50 on having something to say about him… Spartacus is pretty little known by comparision, and that anyone has heard of him at-all in this century is mainly thanks to hollywood.

  24. @me There are two contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, and a third written within recent living memory. this turns out to be pants, sure i remember it from school, i’ll leave this thread to those who know something about it. apologies to all.

  25. Take the bible out of the equation, what OTHER source of information exists to suggest jesus was real? I’d like a source or a quote. If it’s just the bible, we can confidently say we have no idea, given it’s filled to the brim with make-believe magic tricks and supposed happenings which we know never happened. If a person is willing to fabricate an entirely false narrative about the period in question, they hardly seem like a reliable source for the more specific details.

  26. Mr. Black, (in the spirit of debate) what other sources could there be? There are only three likely sources, Hebrew, Greek and Roman. The Hebrew and Greek became the Bible, so your argument is that if the Romans didn’t document Him, (apart from the reference to “rioting at the instigation of Chrestus”) then He didn’t exist.

    All religions like to pretend they sprang from nothing, but close examination tends to disprove this. Christianity is the synthesis of Hebrew theology and Greek philosophy, and this process was documented from about 50BC, when Greeks would go to synagogues to hear well known rabbis speak. Theses guys were politely told to piss off and find their own church, which they did.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several messianic preachers around and their deeds were conflated into a single individual, but that’s just my opinion. Jesus is a rather suspicious name.

  27. Just to be irrelevant here, it was my great uncle who did the standard modern (and penguin) translation of Josephus.

    There have actually been people in the distant family with some brains.

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