Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Bookworm Report #5 The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer

    Submitted by Russell Pizer

    The Quest of the Historical Jesus
    by Albert Schweitzer

    There are a large number of books that are supposed to show that the man the Christians call Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Nazarene was an historical figure, i.e., was a real person that lived and walked the roads of Galilee 2000 years ago.  One great attempt is by an almost saintly figure, Albert Schweitzer. His book is titled: The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The paperback dated 2001 contains 562 pages.

    For the most part, there are 354 pages of typical Christian dogmatic prose and “interpolations”* of what The Bible is supposed to teach or what should be a true interpretation of the original written materials. It includes discussions of eschatology and contain citations from biblical literature and what those citations should really mean.  Schweitzer then gets to the subject of the book – the quest of the historical Jesus. However, he never gets to the point in question: Was there ever a person named Jesus as depicted in The Bible that appear in any historical source other than that which can be found only in religiously-biased writings?

    The title of Chapter 22 (page 355) is: “The Most Recent Disputing of the Historicity of Jesus.”  Christians who are looking for an historical Jesus – as was Schweitzer – often quote from Flavius Josephus who wrote The Jewish Antiquities ca. 93-94 A.D.  On page 359, Schweitzer uses a questionable quotation from Josephus’ book 18, chapter 3, section 3.  That quotation consists of a 126-word highly disputed passage. That passage begins with these words:  “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. . .”  It then goes on to state that: “He was the Christ; and when Pilate, on the indictment . . . condemned him to the cross . . . [but he] [re]appeared on the third day . . .” At the end of this section it is alleged that Josephus recorded that: [his followers were considered] to be “the tribe of Christians . . .”

    Strangely, following this Josephus quotation presented by Schweitzer, Schweitzer states, “This note is either inauthentic or so extravagantly interpolated that it can no longer be presented as credible evidence.”  (Here Schweitzer appears to be destroying his own thesis.)

    A complete condemnation of this passage as being a fraudulent interpolation by an unknown Christian copyist is presented in The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey.  Beginning on page 100, McKinsey presents 18 major errors in this oft-quoted section from Josepheus beginning with: “[Josephus], a devout Jew, would not imply that [Jesus] was divine.”  And, “a devout Jew would never say that Jesus was the Christ.”

    After fully describing 18 major errors in this passage, this is added, “[O]n page 50 of The Mythical Jesus, Patrick Campbell notes that the historian Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, considered this passage to be a forgery as do many theologians.” 

    Question: Did Schweitzer achieve his quest, i.e., show there was an historical Jesus?  Not in these 562 pages!
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    * The word “interpolation” in this case means inserted information that is believed to be true or is believed to have actually occurred or been handed down by oral tradition. For example: The Bible states that wise men from the east visited the baby Jesus after having followed a star in the east. Somehow the wise men became the three kings. The names of the three kings are somehow known to be Balthasar, Caspar, Melchior. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Somehow we now know their mode of transportation.  It should be noted that many astronomers have searched ancient astronomical records and attempted to recreated events that could have caused a conjunction of stars, or planets or asteroids or comets that would have resulted in the star of Bethlehem. No such phenomenon has ever been found or replicated in a planetarium.


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