"For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed,
and whatever is concealed is meant to be
brought out in the open."
Mark's gospel 4:22
As extracted from my readers' feedback
(complete texts in "my best review"
and "... readers' comments" pages)
"Congratulations! ... easily the best
documented & most objective piece of
Jesus research that I have found on the internet
in almost a year of surfing. ... independent
evaluation of the historical evidence that
you demonstrate so well. ... such historical
clarity ..." *
"I was researching some information ... and
sifted through 10 or 20 documents before
finding yours. The others were not helpful
in the slightest, and your site was clearly
and concisely organized and had the information
I needed." *
"I have visited your website on the
historical reconstruction of Jesus and I
have found it very interesting. You have
done an excellent work on it ... Your website
has helped me understand a great deal of
Jesus and life of early Christians." *
"Your work is impressive, and valuable
to those like myself ... but have immense
difficulty accepting all the add-ons ...
Again, thanks for your work, and for sharing
it with others who care to explore the truth
of religious matters." *
"This is where your rational approach
is most helpful ... by using historical research
and factual information. It really takes
a careful eye to spot these things, some
of which are buried under layers of "over-familiarity".
This is not a criticism, rather more a compliment,
but I do want to say that your site is demanding
careful attention." *
"I have just finished reading Jesus a historical
reconstruction ... What I found in your online
book is something very believable ... Thank
you very much for your dedication to these
"You have an excellent site. It's obvious
you have put a lot of work/thought/effort
into its construction." *
"Bernard D. Muller provides a beautifully
presented picture of the historical Jesus
... he brings to the table, mostly, a lot
of common sense. It's a deep site, with a
lot to think about and ponder over. Highly
recommended ..." *
"Your history of Jesus is fascinating!
Very thorough and impressive. I was just
surfing through the net and came upon your
site, and I must say, I spent a lot of time
going through everything you wrote ... Again,
congratulations on your work!" *
"The author clearly writes with a great
deal of knowledge ... Furthermore, Bernard
does not break any academic rules ... The
amount of valuable resources available at
the site is exceptional and should not be
ignored ... this website should not be overlooked
in any study on Jesus." *
"I recently found your site and I am
very impressed, you did a lot of work! I
never read about the events at Cesarea before
and I can see how they could inspire John
the Baptist and Jesus to do what they did.
... I find your reconstruction very believable
"... what I found most refreshing about
your work is its objectivity and impartiality ... Thank you for bringing
me closer to the truth without inciting bad
emotions. And thank you for providing such
a gold mine of information. Your site is
at the top of my bookmarks! ... Keep up the
good work." *
"Here he does a good job of logically reconstructing the life and ministry of Jesus. It's a fascinating read whether you are a Christian or non-believer." *
"Pages are a little long, but easy digest. But most importantly, he usually supports his arguments with evidence, and never indulges in religious rhetoric and baseless speculations." *
"And in addition to that, I would suggest the following site for further in depth studies on "the historical Jesus". Very educative, I may say: ..."
"Yes, that is probably the best source for the historical Jesus that I have encountered. Glad you posted that link again, ..." * "I am speechless ... Now, after reading most of your site, I can see that my simple view of Jesus was closer to the truth. Thank you for helping me see this. I am still in shock. There is much to catch up on. Many ideas to rethink ... I can see that a rational or scientific view is very helpful ..." *
"I visited your website and found it quite thorough and informative ... I thought that your comments at your site regarding the beginning of Christianity, proto-Christianity, and the later date for Acts, and its problems of continuity with 'Luke' and 'Luke's' discontinuity with the rest of the Gospels to be accurate observations that have been made by many scholars. Excellent stuff. ...
I realize English is not your native tongue, but I do hope someone sometime will re-edit your articles or utilize them in their own work, since they contain some excellent observations." *
"... Truly, thank you for being so kind and taking the time to help me find answers to the questions I have never been able to resolve on my own. Your scholasticism simply amazes me. It is so honest and pure. Yes, I am very familiar with the works of other scholars who begin with a "belief" and are "bent" on proving it ...
Sorry, but so little information is available to me. I go on line to find information, and it is almost like "mission impossible". Now, you see why I am so intrigued by your web site. I am still stunned and amazed by the hours of research you invested in making this knowledge available. Thank you, again ...
Time for me to get back to your site and uncover more of the truth that I have been searching for." *
"... I feel I have wasted much time and energy piecing ideas together from my own readings, when you have done such a thorough job already!
... these [3-4] years have given me an appreciation of the work you must have put in, both in painstakingly reading, re-reading and comparing, as well as scrupulously arranging your material into coherent topics and valid conclusions.
So this sums up my second amazement, which is my real joy at seeing the elegant, lucid and compelling arguments you make - 'arguments' is almost the wrong word: since you rely so much on primary sources to tell the story, your own interpretations are almost unnecessary. The texts, when arranged and compared as you do, reveal their secrets quite readily for those with eyes to see. I ... had cause to laugh out loud in pleasure at the novel (to me anyway) but straightforward and undeniable conclusions that your patient research has yielded.
And for this, I thank you.
... I shall sign off there. Once again, let me register my deep admiration and appreciation for your wonderful work, which is at the same time so unlike any of the other Jesus resources available on the web, and so reassuringly transparent despite the obvious weight of reading and careful scholarship behind it." * "... I suspect that you, as I, dislike the intellectual shallowness, strident vulgarity of expression and bad mannered tactlessness of the "New Atheists".
What really provoked this e-mail, however, was your clear concise and commonsensical methodological rules of thumb. I had to drop a line saying how much I was enjoying your work.
Many thanks" * "... I found your site a few years ago and was very impressed. I remember it being one of the best "historical Jesus" sites I've seen on the web... And I think you've come up with one of the most plausible reconstructions of a possible historical Jesus that I've seen.
To everyone else here, I would say that Mr. Muller's site is well worth reading whether or not you buy into all of his conclusions. He brings in a wide range of sources (apocryphal accounts, writings of early church fathers, etc.) which are not often discussed in one place, and provides some excellent deconstructions and analyses of the primary texts..."
About "Q", the gospel of Thomas, etc.:
"... the eloquent cases you make for
a later (and real) 'Q', 'Thomas' and the
like have given me pause over taking John
Crossan's opinions as the last word ... I
really think you are closer to disentangling
the NT mess than most."
About the epistles of Ignatius:
"I just read your website about "The
epistles of Ignatius: are they all forgeries?".
I was absolutely impressed. Zwingende Argumente!
Great work! Will this be published in a "Fachzeitschrift"?
... I appreciate good scholarship - as you
call it: "highly inquisitive"
"I discovered your admirable essay only yesterday. Your methodology is impeccable, your points are apropos & well explicated, your research is thorough and satisfying, and your speculative reconstruction of the writing of the epistles is persuasive and imho very likely to be true. I'm eager to explore & learn from the rest of your site. Thanks again, Bernard, for the opportunity to think with you on this fascinating episode!"
About a fully mythical Jesus:
"First of all, congratulations for such a great job you have done!
I have made some research by my own about this topic and I am very agreed with you. Earl Doherty has some good points about the mythological side of the Jesus conundrum but his underpinning thesis about a whole mythological Jesus is plain wrong, as you have very well proved. ...
I have found very insightful your research methodology, it is closer to natural sciences than human sciences, making the arguments based on empirical evidence more than in speculations, this is a strong point on your side, summed up in honest and realistic statements. Congratulations."
This work is based on historical objectivity
and critical research,
but not on faith.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
Note: my definition for 'historical' in "historical
Jesus" is 'having lived in the past',
based on the Collins English Dictionary (Canadian
Edition), "belonging to past", and with 'Jesus' being the name of the
man credited to have started Christianity.
Who was the historical Jesus?
On one side, his earthly existence is denied by some. On the other is
the incarnated "historic" Word
of the ecclesiastic establishment. And then
we have the scholarly renditions of the "historical
Jesus": the charismatic founder of a movement or sect, as a sage, revolutionary, healer, magician, myth maker, prophet, one "in the Spirit", etc.
This website is not about anyone of these theories. Instead, its outlook is entirely different.
First, let's keep in mind the following:
By a simple act (remaining seated in a bus, then arrested), Rosa Parks (a humble seamstress then) provided the spark which gave birth to the momentous modern Civil Rights Movement, led by others from the start. Decades later, she was considered its "Mother" and revered as an icon, despite the fact she withdrew from it early on.
Then, considering the above, can we assurely answer "no" to this question:
Could Jesus have existed as just a lowly Jew, but through circumstances leading to (& about) his execution, triggered the later development, by others, of a (religious) movement and cultic beliefs?
But do we have evidence for this minimal Jesus and (despite his low status) about how he unwittingly initiated Christianity?
As a matter of fact we do, in a surprisingly
large quantity, and many of them are found
in the gospels (some others in Paul's epistles, as shown later). But then, can the gospels,
criticized as unreliable, be used in the
quest of the real Jesus?
"the writing of each Gospel reflects the experiences and circumstances of early Christians. They do not all tell the same story of Jesus because each one is responding to a different audience and circumstances." (PBS frontline 'From Jesus to Christ')
Despite their flaws, discrepancies, unhistorical items, suspected embellishments/fiction and overall purpose of bolstering faith, these writings (and some others in the N.T.) have "down to earth" and "against the grain" bits & pieces, which make
a lot of sense on a human, social, cultural
& historical standpoint. But how can
we be sure of their truthfulness? Could these
items be outright inventions?
But if it is the case:
- Why give Jesus four brothers and at least two sisters (Mk6:3), rather than emphasize his uniqueness?
- Why base him among the uneducated villagers
of Capernaum, his new home (Mt4:13), a poor
town in Galilee?
- Why bother to have him get a "mother-in-law" (Mk1:30) out of bed?
- Why give him a few "unschooled" fishermen (Mk1:16-20, Ac4:13) as his main followers?
- Why have him say: "you are worth more than many sparrows" (Lk12:7/Mt10:31)?
- Why tell his own people wanted "to take charge of him" and saying: "he is out of his mind" (Mk3:21)?
- Why reveal the disciples as "questioning what the rising from the dead meant" (Mk9:10) (after they supposedly saw an alive Moses!)?
- Why start Jesus' public life right after the arrest of John the Baptist, who attracted a much larger audience: "Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him [John]" (Mk1:5a)?
- Why have Jesus declare "among those born of women there is no one greater than John [the Baptist]" (Lk7:28a/Mt11:11a), lowering Jesus below John (conflicting with Mk1:7!)?
- Why write "Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John [the Baptist], whether he was the Christ or not" (Lk3:15)?
- Why relate, after John's execution, ""Who do people say that I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah"" (Mk8:27b-28a), when Christ is set far above
John (and John himself as Elijah: Mk9:12-13)?
- Why report on failed expectations: "he [Jesus] was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once." (Lk19:11b)?
- Why have Jesus disowned by his companions and crucified as "king of the Jews" (Mk15:26) for the benefit of Gentile Christians?
- Why would the most reliable early manuscripts of Mark's gospel end as such, with the "empty tomb" undivulged and without reappearance: "... And they [the women who allegedly witnessed the empty tomb] said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." (Mk16:8)?
Some of these points, and a lot of other
ones, are certainly creating doubts about
Jesus as the Son of God, Lord or Christ (Anointed
One). And some of them were troublesome for
the early Christian writers/preachers, as
1Co1:23 YLT "... Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a stumbling-block, and to Greeks foolishness ..."
Gal5:11 "... the offense of the cross ..."
2Co13:4 "... He was crucified in weakness ..."
However, these overlooked pieces of
data, and many others, shed a lot of light on the real Jesus
and why he set off unintentionally the evolution of Christian beliefs. Furthermore --and somewhat
unexpected-- from them (& Josephus' works) the resulting reconstruction
fits too well together (and explains so many things) that it cannot
be easily dismissed.
It took me three years doing research on the history of (very) early Christianity. Then, with no predetermined agenda, I decided to write this reconstruction about the historical Jesus and the sequence of events ('historical thread') leading to the earliest Christian doctrine. It is a sincere conclusion of a personal exercise motivated by my curiosity and not any anti-Christian propaganda or apologetic effort.
My approach, as an investigative and critical
historian, will appear radically new. The
research was not based on studying extensively
scholarly works; but instead by inquiring
about contextual facts, scrutinizing primary
sources, getting free from past indoctrinations
and, above all, doing a lot of thinking.
Never interested in learned opinions, lofty ("high context")
intellectualism, slick or bullying rhetoric, agenda-driven
"studies" or ill-validated theories, I strived to discover the bottom of things,
the facts and the bare truth, as naive as
it may sound.
"Hypotheses are established as valid when they are able to account for the bulk of the evidence."
Malhon H.Smith With its many components backed up by series of attestations & short arguments, this reconstruction (with its associated "deconstructions") is thoroughly documented. Furthermore,
- Contrary pieces of evidence & interpretations are flagged and addressed (which is usually not done in scholarly works!).
- Great care is taken about the dating, authorship & later alterations of crucial early Christian texts.
- Loose ends and miscellaneous critical issues are examined in the appendices.
I think you will find this work, as a whole, to be solidly stand-alone and fully coherent, despite covering a lot of ground before
& after the crucifixion and handling
a huge amount of multi-sourced evidence!
No other "historical Jesus" inquiry
goes as far!
Some elements have already been reported by others. But you will be astonished, just as I was, when stumbling upon the unexpected!
The reconstruction will show that, among other things, the main events of Jesus' last year & days are best explained by the peculiar historical context, and also, with the religious/political background, were likely to start later cultic beliefs (which they did). A far-fetched supposition? Too big of a challenge? Not at all: surprisingly, the numerous pieces fit easily into place, like the ones of a jigsaw puzzle, with no need for delicate argumentations, convoluted interpretations and long discussions.
When eyewitnesses were still alive, Paul wrote about a minimal Jesus (but also, for Paul, pre/post-existent as a heavenly deity) who, from "Israelites, ... whose [are] the fathers,
and of whom [is] the Christ, according to
the flesh ..." (Ro9:4-5 YLT) and "come of a woman, come under law" (Gal4:4 YLT) (as a descendant of (allegedly) Abraham (Gal3:16), Jesse (Ro15:12) & David (Ro1:3)), "found in appearance as a man" (Php2:8) "in the likeness of sinful flesh"
(Ro8:3), "the one man, Jesus Christ" (Ro5:15) (who had brothers (1Co9:5), one of them called "James", whom Paul met (Gal1:19)), "humbled himself" (Php2:8) in "poverty" (2Co8:9) as "servant of the Jews" (Ro15:8) and, after "the night in which he was delivered up" (1Co11:23 Darby), "was crucified in weakness" (2Co13:4) in "Zion" (Ro9:31-33 & Ro11:26-27).
And the same picture can also be seen at
the bottom of the earliest gospels, especially
the first one, Mark's.
The early Christians did not seem to consider the earthly Jesus as (theologically) sacred:
speaks a word against
the Son of Man
will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven"
(Mt12:32a) His historic presence appears to have been rather minimal:
"but made himself
of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant" (Paul in Php2:7) Very little external evidence about him is available. But then, according to Paul:
"... we speak not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]." (1Co2:13 Darby)
"we speak of God's secret wisdom, a
wisdom that has been hidden
"For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? ..." (Ro3:7 KJV)
"... I laid a foundation
as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it."
"... it pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles." (Gal1:15-16)
"Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast." (2Co11:18)
"I must go on boasting. ... I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord." (2Co12:1)
"I did not receive it [Paul's good news] from any man [Paul had met Peter & other eyewitnesses], nor was I taught it; rather, ... by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Gal1:11-12)
"... we have the mind of Christ." (1Co2:16)
Christianity did not grow from the sayings or deeds of an earthly Jesus! Still later, step by step, in order to propel the actual Jesus as "evidence" for the divine entity claimed by Paul: "... Christ the
power of God
and the wisdom of God."
"... one Lord, Jesus Christ,
"... God sent forth His Son, come of a woman ..."
the successive gospels considerably enhanced
him beyond measure:
are written that
you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God
I trust the quotes (mostly from first century
authors) and data used here to be truthful
or, at least, providing valid information.
For example, I consider Mk14:27 (with Mt26:31
& Jn16:32) as an indication on what really
happened, as the gospel author (and his community)
I carefully extracted any "truthfulness"
and avoided the rest, but not the concealments,
(St. Augustine, 4-5th century bishop of Hippo. 'On lying 17':
"It is lawful then either to him that discourses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates or speaks of things temporal pertaining to edification of religion and piety, to conceal at fitting time whatever seems fit to be concealed")
from my study on early Christianity (with the political, social, religious and cultural background) and the making of the New Testament (and other early Christian writings), plus, of course, a review of the critical studies on the subject.
Finally, I hope you'll find this work to be informative, concise and relevant. Step back into time and make a journey of discovery (and keep an open mind!).
Note: for best reading sequence, please follow
the blue arrow.
In and around Capernaum: Jesus' public life (HJ-2a) The "miraculous" Sabbath => Subsequent credited healing => Short-lived hysteria around Jesus Jesus' message (HJ-2b)
Jesus' appealing, clear & simple message, inspired from his time & background. Also afterlife beliefs and Paul with Peter, James (Jesus' brother) & the "Nazarenes"; Didache & Ebionites
From Jerusalem to Son of God: Jesus' last days (HJ-3a) The "new John" and the "royalish" welcome, "disturbance" in the Temple, arrest & crucifixion. Also discussions about the Last Supper and the Empty Tomb The beginning of Christianity (up to 58) (HJ-3b) The group of Seven (proto-Christianity) => The church of Antioch (Jewish Christianity) => Paul (embryonic Gentile Christianity) => Apollos of Alexandria (full Gentile Christianity) HJ-3b extension: interpolations in '1Thessalonians' &
'Hebrews' and dating of 'Galatians'
Last notes: All Bible quotes are from the NKJV or the NIV, except indicated otherwise. The abbreviations are according to the NIV. Here they are, with range of years for time of (initial)
publishing and place of origin, according to my own understanding: Mk: Mark's gospel (GMark) (the earliest) late 70 to early 71, probably Corinth Mt: Matthew's gospel (GMatthew), 81 to 93, a city in Syria, probably Antioch Lk: Luke's gospel (GLuke), 81 to 93, Philippi in Macedonia Ac: Acts of the apostles ('Acts'), months or a few years after GLuke, Philippi Jn: John's gospel (GJohn), 97 to 105, a city of Asia Minor, probably Ephesus
(the dates and 'Philippi' are fully explained in my website)