Friday, May 29, 2009

The Conspiracy of Silence

I cam across this article on on, in which the author shows how the lack of contemporary evidence for Jesus is very problematic in claiming he is a historical figure. He starts out by painting a simple picture, you are writing a paper and want to find first hand accounts of our first president:

But, as you comb the records, you find something strange: you cannot seem to locate any first-hand sources. Though Washington is claimed to have done many wonderful things - leading the Continental Army, freeing the American colonies from British rule, presiding over the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution, becoming the first President of the United States - somehow, there are no records of these deeds written by people who actually saw them happen, or even by people who were alive at the time. The historians who were alive during Washington's lifetime, as well as the ones that lived soon afterward, do not mention him at all. The first mentions of him come in disputed and scattered records written decades after his death; over time, these mentions grow more numerous until, by about a hundred years after his death, a chorus of historians who had never seen or met Washington themselves all testify to his existence and his deeds. It is their writings, not any first-hand evidence, that have filtered down to modern times to create the abundance of records we have today.

Would you begin to conclude that there was something very wrong here?

While this is not the case, and we do have a lot of contemporary evidence for George Washington, and even far back as Herod and Caeser, who existed during the same time period that Jesus is said to have existed, there is no first hand account of Jesus at all, especially the amazing miracles he is said to have performed.

To assume that not a single person who witnessed these monumental events would have felt compelled to write them down, or that no one bothered to preserve those records if they had, violates all standards of credulity. Jesus' healings alone, if news of them became generally known, would have attracted a flood of people from every corner of the Roman Empire desperate to be cured of their ailments; and if in addition news got out of his ability to revive the dead, as the gospels say it did (Matthew 9:25-26), those crowds would have been multiplied tenfold. Surely at least one person somewhere would have written about this, even if only to dismiss it as a peasant superstition. And events such as the darkening of the sun and the resurrection of the saints, if they really happened, would have left a vivid imprint on humanity's collective memory and would have produced a flood of awed and astonished records. To suggest that the succeeding generation simply let all memory of them disappear crosses the line from unbelievable to absurd.

The article goes on to discuss the Apologists's Arguments for the existence of Jesus. I recommend reading the essay in full when you get the chance.