A Skeptic's Guide to Jesus

A Skeptic's Guide to Jesus

A Skeptic's Guide to Jesus

A Skeptic's Guide to Jesus

Synopsis

Western civilization was for centuries held together by the glue of Christianity, the religion founded upon the teachings and actions of Jesus -- to the extent that it may be possible to infer them from the written record. This book has grown out of the conviction that the methods of history in particular and of the sciences secondarily have not been applied forcefully enough to an investigation of Jesus. We will scrutinize this written record and see how much we actually know.This book is in part a confession - a literary genre that goes back to Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa and Catholic saint. Yet my agenda differs from his. Augustine lived at a time when the Christian Church was beginning to flex its muscles and make bold claims. Today we live in the twilight of the gods, to borrow the title of one of Friedrich Nietzsche's last works. Religion as a general construct peaked long ago, probably before the Enlightenment, and is now in retreat. This period of decline and demise makes essential at long last a realistic treatment of Jesus of Nazareth.As an Italian by birth and upbringing, the author was early baptized into the Catholic Church. Then, his mother died at age 43. He was 15 years old himself, at the time, and didn't know how to reconcile the notion of a good, just, loving God with such a tragedy.Seeking to know whether the Jesus of the written records can withstand the scrutiny of the sciences and history, he eventually found what is the most probative way of examining Jesus, a task that forms the core of this book. A very long time ago, humans had little more than faith to guide them. Chris does not write for that mindset but aims to entertain other methods of understanding what we call reality, with the sciences, philosophy, and history as our guides. He hopes that their rigor will appeal to those who remain intellectually curious and open-minded.

Excerpt

This book is part confession. This literary genre goes back to Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa and Catholic saint, but my agenda differs from that of Augustine so many centuries ago. Augustine lived at a time when the Christian Church was beginning to flex its muscles and make bold claims. Today we live in the “twilight of the gods,” to borrow the title of one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s last works. Religion as a general construct peaked long ago, probably before the Enlightenment, and is now in retreat. This period of decline and demise makes essential at long last a realistic treatment of Jesus of Nazareth.

My meeting with the ghost of this legendary figure occurred decades ago. As an Italian by birth and upbringing, I was early baptized into the Catholic Church. My parents were very pious and I attended Mass weekly and on all holy days and prayed at meals and at night. My parents expected rigid devotion to the Church and, of course, to Jesus. So often was the phrase used that for many years I thought this person’s full name was Jesus Christ. I was mistaken. Jesus is the Latin name for Joshua, which was evidently a common name in first century ce Judea. Christ is not a name at all, but simply a statement of faith. Christ is short for Christos, meaning the anointed one or messiah. It is a claim that Jesus was the long sought holy man who would free the Jews from oppression.

I am not alone in finding Jesus’ name puzzling. the canonical gospels do not record an instance of a person addressing the man as Jesus. Rather terms like “rabbi” or “teacher” are used. Only the gospel authors apply the designation Jesus, which really means just Joshua, as we have seen. There were probably many Jewish men with this name, at least one of whom happened to have been crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.