No. Of course not. But media, journalism, rumor are full of similarly preposterous contentions: have been for centuries (if not for much longer).
I’ve always believed that there was an historical Jesus somewhere behind all the myth, but I’d been trained to believe that since childhood. The majority will always find it’s core prejudices to be obvious. What I want to discuss here is a point less universally understood: that fashions of skepticism come and go, like tides.
As recently posted I’m reading Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist? He says that experts at accredited institutions are unanimous that he did: that’s like saying that Catholic priests subscribe to Catholic dogma.
My formal training is in English, my doctoral thesis was on Shakespeare. They’re related. A core of experts understand that Jesus lived: some skeptics deny it. The experts ignore the skeptics … welcome to civilization. A core of experts believe that Shakespeare’s plays were written by Shakespeare: though the experts also understand that Shakespeare collaborated with others: there are some scenes in some Shakespeare plays that Beaumont and Fletcher had a hand in, and there are some scenes in some Beaumont and Fletcher plays that Shakespeare had a hand in: that was common practice among the Elizabethans. But then there are retired doctors who write books saying that only a doctor could have written Shakespeare, or snobs who argue that only a royal personage could have been so brilliant to have written Shakespeare, so: Shakespeare must have been written by Queen Elizabeth! … Or Marlowe, or Bacon … or some dottard doctor.
Realize: what evidence we have is that Shakespeare’s colleagues and friends understood that he wrote the plays (and poems) published under his name. There are problems: we have no Shakespeare manuscripts, we have no testimony by Shakespeare on the subject. Understand all of this in the context that modern people, coerced into schools as their ancestors were once automatically placed in this or that church, display an appalling ignorance about availability of information then, now, when. Elizabethans didn’t keep all sorts of facts that readers of Byron and Shelley take for granted.
We know what Brangelina said, did; we have no comparable daily journals for Moses, Jesus … Shakespeare …
I’ll polish and add to this later: but for now I expand on the above tidal metaphor:
For a couple of centuries people were content to believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare; then a slew of books appeared that Shakespeare could only have been written by a ships captain, or a Latin scholar … The authors, as hinted, are typically retired ships captains, Latin teachers … But at the same time other off-the-wall skeptical tomes appear: Saint Joan was really a man — pretending to be a woman — pretending to be a man! George Washington was really a woman! and a dyke: a bull dyke! A Maoist bull dyke!
Everyone knows that Jesus existed? That doesn’t prove that he did! Strong historical evidence would prove that he did. And pay no attention to those who don’t know and won’t learn what “strong historical evidence” might consist of: and remember how commonly evidence is faked (by the FBI, not just the outlaw!)
In school I was taught that Chaucer would have pronounced the silent e’s at the end of words if it accentuated the meter of the poetry. There is zero evidence for that being true! That never stopped any of my teachers from teaching it! though Dr. Howie Berntsen taught it and disclaimed it! at the same time!
In the 1960s I read a magazine article arguing that Jesus had to have existed: because how else could we explain how the legends originated: there was an explosion, there had to have been a bomb! So we say, in our ignorance. Something had to be there, I’ll agree; but it didn’t have to be a man. The Tunguska Event was “there” but what was it? a comet? a Martian nuke?
I believe that Jesus existed; but I don’t believe we can “know” anything about it: except by gnostic revelation, which no onoe else will believe. So: those who may know the truth are isolated, powerless: unless God comes along, introduces the Gnostic targets of truth, proves that they are what God says, proves that God is what God says … but by that time human epistemology will bear no resemblance to anything we’ve known to date.
Freedom of speech in an intelligent species wouldn’t translate as freedom to promulgate lies, freedom for mischief to displace truth, but that indeed is what we have. So, for the smart individual, who’d like to survive, and maybe have children who could also survive, “free press” really means caveat emptor! Buyer beware. Uncle Sam is no more looking out for your best interests than did Lincoln, or Boss Tweed.
I don’t trust Jesus either; but I do trust the idea of Jesus, my best positive Darwinian idea of Christ: how to live so we can actually live; and not be saturated with thought pollution.