Front page: Jesus, a historical reconstruction (with website search function)
You may email the author, and learn more about him here
Some sites providing primary evidence:
- For translations of the Bible (NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, YLT & Darby), with awesome search devices: Bible Gateway
- For the KJV (and LXX) and the underlaying Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek, with outstanding tools (including many other English translations): Blue Letter Bible
- For another handy tool to check these English translations: The Greek Online Bible
- For an excellent modern translation, with notes: The NET Bible
- For writings by Christians or about them, up to the early 3rd century: Early Christian Writings
- For the writings of notable ancient Christians, including Eusebius: Fathers of the Church
- For the works of the late 1st century great Jewish historian: Josephus Flavius
- For the writings of the early 1st century influential Jewish philosopher/theologian: Philo of Alexandria
There are many more resource sites, such as Perseus Classics collection (in English and original language) and Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts.
Peter Kirby created many excellent websites. Those ones will get you almost everywhere:
A) The best entry point for early Christian writings, 1st/2nd century historians and on-line Bibles:
See also pertinent ancient texts concerning Christianity:
B) For access to many interesting links:
C) Peter Kirby new blog:
D) Whole on-line books on Christianity, including Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus:
E) Reviews of scholarly "tenors", their books and theories:
F) Essays about the Christian faith origins:
About Christianity including the early one and Jesus
Includes Christian writings and various entry points.
These sites are hosted by dear professor and scholar Malhon H.Smith, a member of the Jesus Seminar.
For details on the Jesus Seminar work:
Malhon's site about "Perspective on the world of Jesus":
Then, I'll take the opportunity here to express my humble opinion on the Seminar: I admire their courage, and I agree on some of their "findings". For example, I realized recently that J. D. Crossan came out (before me) in saying that Jesus was likely illiterate, which is one of my key observations. Other points of full agreement include:
a) Most sayings attributed to Jesus are not from him.
b) There is a clear distinction between the real Jesus and the canonical Jesus.
However, on other points, I cannot agree. Certainly, I do no see, according to my study, Jesus as a wandering Cynic/social revolutionary/Jewish sage speaking in parables. And I do not think that "Q" and the "fifth gospel" were put together as early as they propose. But my main criticism would be that the making of the N.T. and other Christian early texts should be studied before looking at the "historical Jesus", not the other way around.
This is an extensive excellent site by Wieland Willker with a lot of scholarly resources & commentaries, plus a complete catalogue of ancient Christian manuscripts.
James Still's historical Jesus site is scholarly but easy going and with interesting essays & links. I wish he did not mention a Pharisaic education for Jesus!
Jack Kilmon, a true renaissance man, has a very scholarly site which is full of resources. Thank you for the word of presentation:
The Historical Jesus, by Bernard D. Muller. You MUST visit this site!
One of the reward of having a web page is getting e-mail messages. I decided to share some of these messages with you. Respecting the confidentiality, I removed the name of my dear e-mailers.
I also included comments posted on other sites and one paper sent to me.
Your pages on Jesus are excellent. I have recommended them at: ... and have quoted them on: ...
Subject: Jesus in a historical perspective
Dear Mr. Muller,
Hello! My name is ... and I really appreciate your efforts to your homepage. It's great and informative. I'm doing a research on "Historical Evidence of Jesus' Existence". This research is to find information about Jesus' existence in history from other resources but not using the Bible. Do you know any books or resources that is related to this topic? Thank you or your kind attention.
I am fascinated and impressed. Is there a way I can get the whole work without downloading it from the net? This is a fantastic effort.
Subject: Very well done...
You left me a message from my web-site, so I decided to check out your site. You have done a very thorough job researching your material! I wish I had the courage to write my opinions of the Jesus research that I have done, but I just feel I have so much more to learn and ponder. You did a very nice job.
Thanks for directing me to your site. I will add it as a link to my site.
You are to be commended on your extensive study of these matters. You have given me much to think about. I see no reference to the work of Earl Doherty -- "The Jesus Puzzle." He has convinced me that the "historic" figure was the product of some creative writers of pious fiction.
I have just stumbled across your work, and have spent a few hours reading it. Most impressive!
However, have you ever read anything by Dr. Barbara Thiering? She takes things a few steps further than you do, and you might find her ideas on "pesher" interesting.
I don't even know if this address is still functional, or if you'll ever read this, but I was researching some information for an English paper (specifically place of birth of Jesus, historically speaking) 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 thought it would be nice to thank you and let you know that I appreciated the site.
Dear Mr. Muller
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 and I appreciate it. By reading the information at your website I have improved my knowledge to a large extent. Your website has helped me understand a great deal of Jesus and life of early Christians and Saints. I have also recommended this website to various friends and relatives and they are also impressed by its excellence. I thank you and also urge you to keep up the good work.
Your work is impressive, and valuable to those like myself, who eagerly worship Christ (and other spiritual leaders who teach love, service to others, and forgiveness) but have immense difficulty accepting all the add-ons that have accreted over centuries of orthodoxy.
I noted at one point a reference to Augustine - comments that I had never seen before (people in Africa with no heads and eyes in their breasts?). Can you recall what of Augustine's works were being quoted? I recently read his biography by Peter Brown, and the character painted by Brown seemed a bit more canny and skeptical than this.
Again, thanks for your work, and for sharing it with others who care to explore the truth of religious matters.
I find your writings very informative,
May GOD keep you, and Bless You.
Hi, Bernard! One of the things I like about your web site is the purely rational approach you take to the scriptures. That Jesus was some ordinary bloke who got in over his head seems the simplest and most welcome solution to the problem. That his biographers/hagiographers created the problem by embellishing his story to ridiculous lengths is obvious; but what isn't always obvious is that the different writers slipped up in so many places that they couldn't catch all their mistakes and internal contradictions. This is where your rational approach is most helpful. You not only sort out the egregious errors, but discover new ones 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 been visiting it on an irregular basis, mainly because I've had several other non-Jesus things going on. When I can, I try to concentrate on a few sections at a time. Today I focused on the parables and preaching section, just to clarify for myself why the teacher thing doesn't fly. I'm inclined to agree with you, but I have to think about it for a while, especially in the context of other points you've made about Jesus' limited wanderings, sticking close to Capernaum, etc.
Good Work. I have been reading your account of the life of Jesus, and I find it very insightful. I am curious to know where you now stand with your beliefs. Do you believe in Jesus being the Son of God, and do you believe in an afterlife? I have been struggling with my beliefs for about two years and I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks, and once again good work.
Just a note to say, Bernard, that not only does your website reveal great knowledge but it is beautiful in your presentation of paintings and background color. ...
You are being cited! Thought you might like to see this reference. ...
You have an excellent site. It's obvious you have put a lot of work/thought/effort into its construction.
Though it's been on the web since 1997, I haven't seen this site before, but now Robotwisdom points it out. Bernard D. Muller provides a beautifully presented picture of the historical Jesus. His methodology is "by inquiring about contextual facts, scrutinizing primary sources, getting free from past indoctrinations and, above all, doing a lot of thinking. Never interested in debatable views, learned opinions, dazzling rhetoric, slick verbose, lofty intellectualism or ill-validated theories, I strived to discover the bottom of things, the facts and the bare truth, as naive as it may sound." It's not naive, and 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 for anyone wondering about this guy Jesus.
I have just finished reading Jesus a historical reconstruction. Now I am not a member of the clergy, nor an author; I am your everyday Christian looking for something real to believe in. What I found in your online book is something very believable and full of spirituality. Thank you very much for your dedication to these matters.
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.
I just want to share with you something I read about the genealogy of Jesus, since the gospels of Matthew and Luke give different versions. I read this from The Daily Study Bible, the Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay, and in it, Barclay writes:
"The problem of this(Luke's) genealogy is its relationship with Matt 1:1-17. the facts are these -- only Luke gives us the section from Adam to Abraham; the section from Abraham to David is the same in both; but the section from David to Joseph is almost completely different. Ever since men studied the New Testament they have tried to explain the differences.
(i) It is said that both genealogies are symbolic and that Matthew gives the ROYAL descent of Jesus and Luke the PRIESTLY descent.
(ii) One of the earliest suggestions was that Matthew in fact gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke of Mary.
(iii) The most ingenious explanation is as follows. In Matthew 1:16 Joseph's father is Jacob; in Luke 3:23 it is Heli. according to the Jewish law of levirate marriage (Deut 25:5f) if a man died childless his brother must, if free to do so, marry the widow and ensure the continuance of the line. When that happenend a son of such a marriage could be called the son of either the first or the second husband. It is suggested that Joseph's mother married twice. Joseph was in actual fact the son of Heli, the second husband, but he was in the eyes of the law the son of Jacob, the first husband who had died. It is then suggested that while Heli and Jacob had the same mother they had different fathers and that Jacob's father was descended from David through Solomon and Heli's father was descended from David through Nathan. This ingenious theory would mean that both genealogies are correct. In fact, all we can say is that we do not know."
And since Barclay only suggests these theories, and ends with "we do not know", his suggestions on the differences of the genealogies are still open to much debate and discussion. However, I just wanted to share with you what I read. Hope you don't mind. Again, congratulations on your work!
A paper by Tim Jebb (the author consented to be identified)
The internet of today means that there are more resources available than ever before on the historical Jesus. However, this realization is almost as intimidating as it useful and an understanding of good and bad websites is necessary in order to make progress in the subject. In putting together this list of online resources, I have attempted to encompass all perspectives of the topic to leave the reader with the best overall understanding. As such, while these websites are exceptional in their own regard, the reader will find that they are most useful when viewed and critiqued together.
In compiling a list that is to be limited to seven high quality web-sites, critical decisions had to be made as to what should be left out. The only way that I was able to make these decisions was to set forward a number of criteria that each website should have. These included consistency in terms of what has already been written on the topic, the existence of reputable authors and publishers at the site, awards that the web-site had won and the number of links that I found to the web-site in question. Furthermore, any “hidden agendas” that were apparent on the site generally discredited it in my eyes. Nonetheless, even upon applying these criteria, there were still a large amount of sources that dealt with the subject capably. For this reason, I have included an additional section at the end of this paper which highlights other websites that are very reputable but did not quite make it into the final seven. This secondary list is compiled entirely to compliment the main list of sites and will be of great use to the historian studying Jesus.
NTgateway.com for example is the most popular site used according to www.google.com and is described by www.bbc.co.uk (the winner of the 5th Annual Webby Awards) as “probably the best web directory of New Testament Internet Resources”. However, I found the site to be no more than a web-directory. While providing links to some of the best sites available, the amount of actual information on the website was limited. Therefore, I have not included the site in the final list but rather used it as a means upon which to judge the reliability of other websites, i.e. if there was a link from NTgateway.com, I deemed this to be a good indicator of the quality of the website.
There are also a significant number of audio resources available online free of charge, such as several found at www.bbc.co.uk. While often the actual written content at these sites is limited, this is due to a large extent to the fact that the information is available from the website in spoken form. Again, these links can be found at the end of the paper.
The following list therefore represents the best written resources available online to the historian studying Jesus. The content at each of these sites is both comprehensive and accurate and every website is designed to inform and not persuade. All of the authors have satisfactory credentials and maintain their sites fairly regularly.
I hope that you find these websites as useful as I did.
1 - The Life of Jesus. Barry D Smith. Last modified February 21st 2003. Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Atlantic Baptist University. February 23, 2003. http://www.abu.nb.ca/Courses/NTIntro/LifeJ/IndexLife.htm
This site provides a detailed breakdown of all aspects of the life of Jesus life such as his role as a healer and exorcist, for example. Drawing heavily on the gospels for their accounts of his life, the site also stresses the importance of an understanding of the time in which Jesus lived and sections of the website reflect this, e.g. Healing in the Ancient World. The site is linked from NTgateway.com under the course materials section headed “the Historical Jesus”.
When I first came across this site, I was a little skeptical as I thought that it would be nothing more than pure propaganda from a bible college. An analysis of the authors credentials, however, showed a distinguished scholar with PHD from McMaster University along with an M.A, an M.Div. and two BA’s.
Clearly the purpose of the website is to inform the reader and the information available to do this at the website compares very favourably to other similar websites. Each section has an extensive bibliography along with pictures and explanations of important documents and artifacts of the time. Last modified on February 21, 2003, this website is a valuable tool to the New Testament historian.
2 - The Gospel According to the Jesus Seminar. Birger A Pearson. April 1996. University of California, Santa Barbara. February 23, 2003.
In searching the web for information on the historical Jesus, one common source of information arose. The Jesus Seminar, which began in 1985, is generally accepted as the leading attempt to unmask the real Jesus Christ and links to its official website (http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/) are found at almost any other website dealing with the topic. However, this official website appears more concerned with commercial success than it does with informing the reader as to progress made through this Seminar Series. Numerous links exist merely to sell publications and furthermore, the link to the Historical Quest Section of the site is incomplete. Nonetheless, I felt that the series was too important to be left off the list and the website entitled “The Gospel According to the Jesus Seminar” offers the best summation as to the content of the Seminars. Birger Pearson is a professor at the University of California and he holds a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University. He has published numerous articles on the New Testament during his teaching career which stretches over 40 years. As such, he is more than qualified to speak on the topic.
The website itself is both an excellent critique of the seminar series and a comprehensive look at Jesus life. Again, the website is linked to from numerous websites including NTgateway.com and the information contained within the web pages is relatively current.
3 - From Jesus to Christ. L Michael White et. al. 1998. PBS and WGBH/Frontline. February 23, 2003. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/
Designed to support a television series made in the US, this website is divided into 5 sections. While all of these have relevance to the topic, the first two are particularly useful. Section 1 aims to match archaeological clues found more recently with the tradition Christian view of Jesus in an effort to determine their similarities and differences while the second section provides further details on the world Jesus grew up in. The remainder of the website examines the early growth of Christianity. This has relevance in that it helps to explain how Christians today have come view Jesus in the manner that they do.
I found this site through a simple search at google.com Clearly, there is no one individual author to the website, however the organization that is represented is reputable, the website is maintained regularly and there are numerous audio links that further serve to compliment the vast array of information found within the site. Furthermore, I discovered links to the site from any search available on the Historical Jesus.
4 - Articles and Papers. William R G Loader. January 13, 1999. Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. February 23, 2003. http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/articlesindex.html
This rather basic looking site actually contains 4 incredibly useful articles on the topic of the Historical Jesus each of which deal with a different aspect of his life. One for example focuses on his life according to the gospel of Mark while another discusses his life in the context of traditional Jews of the time.
The site was actually linked to a document on the BBC webpage, which in itself should increase its validity. Furthermore, it is published by a leading Australian university in Perth and is updated on a monthly basis. Its author, William Loader has a PhD in Theology and appears to be writing without any hidden agenda. Information contained within the web-site is accurate and of great interest to the historian.
In addition, the site contains further information as to the content of the New Testament. The validity of the gospels of Matthew and Mark is discussed along with a discussion of New Testament life in general. This all adds to the overall picture that is created as to the life that Jesus was born into.
5 - Jesus, a historical reconstruction. Bernard D. Muller. March 1997. XO Communications. February 23, 2003. http://www.concentric.net/~Mullerb/
This website is actually the work of an individual and therefore when I found it, I initially treated it with a great deal of caution. However, I discovered the site is updated regularly and deals with several perspectives on Jesus. The author clearly writes with a great deal of knowledge and passion in what he is saying. Furthermore, Bernard does not break any academic rules and provides an unbelievable account of the life of Jesus.
[I asked Tim about the meaning of "unbelievable". This is his answer: "As far as my comment goes with regards to it being an unbelievable site, I clearly meant that it was, as you put it, "spectacular". I really was thoroughly impressed with your site."]
His work is now linked to by www.historian.net/links and was described by Mr. Malhon Smith, a professor at Rutgers University as “the best documented and most objective piece of Jesus research that (he had) found on the internet”.
While I accept that it is perhaps dangerous to rely on an individual's own webpage for information, I feel strongly that this site is an exception to the rule. The amount of valuable resources available at the site is exceptional and should not be ignored. To help support my case, I emailed Bernard Muller and asked him to supply his credentials to me. He was honest enough to say that held no degree in history, but instead one in engineering. He went on to say that his knowledge was from “a lot of spent time, self-studying and sweat”. His email shows that he has a passion for what he is doing and that he has no hidden agenda. I include it as an appendix to help support my case that this website should not be overlooked in any study on Jesus.
6 - The Search of the Historical Jesus. James W Reites. October 29, 2002. Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University. February 23, 2003.
This is actually a study page designed for a class at Santa Clara University on the topic which is linked at both http://historicaljesusquest.com and NTgateway.com. In particular, the section titled “An Introductory Sketch” is commended for its coverage which is very neutral and serves to inform, not to persuade the reader. The author is well qualified to speak on the topic (he hold his PhD in Philosophy) and does so in a well balanced, reasoned manner.
The site itself contains links to valuable resources but more importantly contains 10 articles all of which develop the idea of the historical Jesus. One of these articles highlights the history of the search while another discusses current academic views. The Jesus Seminar Series is critiqued and the reliability of the gospels is discussed.
While perhaps a little intimidating to read, the academic purpose for which this site was made means that it is of exceptional quality and of great value to the New Testament historian.
7 - Jesus Institute. August, 2003. Jesus Institute Corporation. February 23, 2003. http://www.jesus-institute.org/index.shtml
This site is published by a non-profit organization whose goal is to help “people of all cultural and spiritual backgrounds learn about the person of Jesus”. It is a very user-friendly site that I reached through a simple search of google.com. The information contained is taken from both the gospels, other historians such as Josephus and Tacitus along with several more recent attempts to examine the life of Jesus.
The biggest advantage of this site however is the learning guide that accompanies it. A topic as broad as that of the Historical Jesus is intimidating to grasp but the guide helps navigate the reader through the website and aid the learning process.
The site satisfies the criteria established earlier. It has been updated in the past 2 months and the authors of the site have no agenda and seek only to inform.
Websites to Avoid
1 - The Sins of Jesus. Richard Muller. February 23, 2003. http://www.richardmuller.com/
The purpose of this site which I found through a search at google.com is to persuade the reader to buy his book “The Sins of Jesus” from Amazon. At first glance the site appears respectable. Muller is a professor at Berkeley and has received awards from the University of California among others.
However, the information contained within the site is limited at best. There are 3 documents on Jesus contained within the site. However, all three prove to be no more than extracts from the beginning of 3 chapters in his book. Furthermore, the only review that this site receives regards the book, “Had I read this book, I might not have become an Atheist”.
The site is called Historical Jesus but the reality is that a visit to the site will serve only as a commercial for a book much like many others that we read everyday.
2 - Historical Jesus FAQ. John Barger. January, 2002. John Barger. February 23, 2003. http://www.robotwisdom.com/science/jesus.html
The link this URL reaches is actually a page that appears quite respectable. A reasoned approach is taken when describing the events of Jesus’ lifetime. Information contained within the page appears to be both extensive and respectable and furthermore the site itself is well designed and full of links to help clarify issues.
However, a visit to the home page of the website reveals the complete picture. The author is representing a new conservative left party called Robot Wisdom. The aim of this party is to “create a model of the human predicament that can unflinchingly put the lie to their rationalizations.” The controversial doctrine behind the party which can be viewed extensively at http://www.robotwisdom.com/home.html leads me to the conclusion that this website should not be viewed seriously.
3 - Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Sister Tracy. September 1996. Sister Tracy. February 23, 2003. http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/historcl.htm
Once again, this site does not immediately look like one that one should be cautious about although, the URL does appear a little controversial. However, effectively, this page tells the reader to disregard all historical theories about Jesus and continue on to the main home page where they will reveal the true Jesus. Upon visiting this page, the site deteriorates into a “bible-bashing” attempt to convert the reader to Christianity. Now, regardless of whether one accepts Jesus as their Saviour, there is little doubt in my mind that controversial websites such as these (it condemns all forms of the bible with the exception of the King James version for example) are of little use to biblical historian.
The author appears to have little authority to speak on the subject and in truth is only speaking on it with an ulterior motive. Effectively, this site attracts you to it by the title “The Historical Jesus”. It then offers little to no information that is of relevance and proceeds to condemn you. Don’t waste your time here!
Useful Audio Links
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio (click on listen to FiveLive, then “The Real Jesus Christ)
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.
While I find your reconstruction very believable, I still have to wonder what happened to Paul to convert him from an enemy of the Christian movement to becoming one of its leaders. I suppose he may have really had some kind of spiritual experience but I am still skeptical. If you have any thoughts on that I'd like to hear them.
Your website on your research about Jesus is fascinating and thorough.
After all of your study and pursuit of knowledge on Christ, I have one question for you: Do you have anything that approaches a personal relationship with Jesus (or "God", for that matter)? With all of my Catholic background and education, I cannot honestly that say I do. Yet, others claim to have such a relationship. Would a real Jesus or God be so arbitrary as to be absent from some and present to others? (Whoops, a second question!) Somehow, I think not. We are a species whose defining characteristic (in my opinion) is a passion for belief. We need to believe in something. Finally, at this stage of my life, the only thing I've come to believe in is truth (and the openness to it) and the goodness that my limited mind can understand. Just wondering what YOU think/believe about the personal nature of Jesus and God (all scholarship and research aside).
I feel like the kid about to cry The Emperor Has No Clothes! Thanks
Thanks for your efforts at disentangling the many threads that make up the NT. I am not sure I agree with all your conclusions, but 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 - though I do still like his "Cross Gospel" idea [major source of Peter's Gospel.] Your challenge to Mark Goodacre's central thesis was a welcome re-examination of 'Q', though I have no doubt your discussions with Mark will continue.
I have problems with the whole schema though because all the sources -except Paul - are so late. Years ago John Robinson's "Redating the New Testament" tackled a lot of the post 70 CE dating arguments quite rightly pointing out the Jewish OT commentary and apocalyptic that the NT bases its "fall of Jerusalem" motifs on. Paul's writings certainly hint strongly at the expectation of judgement and the Qumran community prophesised similar events years before. What lines of evidence aside from the mini-Apocalypses hint at a post-70 CE dating? And what did the first writers use as sources about Jesus???
Having said that I really think you are closer to disentangling the NT mess than most.
PS: Where do you think the Resurrection stories of JC arose from? I'm inclined to go with Crossan's ideas that see the Resurrection growing out of the Jerusalem community's experiences of persecution in the early 40s CE.
Dear Mr. Muller
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 have linked this site with my www.radikalkritik.de. I hope this is OK.
Freundliche Grüße aus Berlin Hermann Detering
Dear Mr Muller
Thank for your answer. You asked:
"I'll used your reply below on my front page of the aforementioned web site, but without any ID of you, direct or indirect (such as indicating your web site), as I do for very favorable comments sent personally to me. Is it OK? Can I also identify you as its author?"
Yes, it`s Ok. Different opinions - that doesnt`t matter. I appreciate good scholarship - as you call it: "highly inquisitive" (there is actually one decisive point where I differ from others & which has generally been underestimated: Marcion and his influence). ...
Thank you, thank you! All my life I've struggled with skepticism concerning my Christian faith. I've always felt that something just wasn't right. And not just with Christianity but with all religions. I've always suspected that religion really has nothing to do with any God. It's a man made thing. And just another method of controlling the masses.
Being raised in a "Born Again" Christian atmosphere it was nearly impossible to discuss my feelings and thoughts with others close to me. It was a very lonely existence. To cite an example of the single minded hypocrisy of those people I am going to quote something said to me at my father's funeral just a few months ago. A good friend of his said "You know your father's biggest fear was that you might not come back to the Lord." (I've been considered a backslider for some time now). How dare she said something like that to me at my Dad's funeral??!! What kind of guilt trip was she trying to lay on me?!
I thank you because now I no longer have to question my doubts or feel that kind of guilt. If I'm asked the question; "Are you saved?" I will be able to say; "From what? From you? Oh yes my friend I have been finally saved from the likes of you!". I am proud to be an Agnostic. I would rather spend my life not believing in anything than waste it believing lies.
Don't get me wrong, I am not a hater of Christians (or Muslims or Jews or anyone else). In fact what I found most refreshing about your work is its objectivity and impartiality. I've been searching for some time for someone who could help fill in the gaps and mostly have found Jesus bashers full of the same sort of hate and prejudice I see in the world religions. These people are no better than those they criticize. 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!
By the way have you considered doing any research into other religious texts such as the Quran? I think it would be interesting.
Keep up the good work.
This very issue is what caused me to rethink my faith. It caused me to have a critical reading of the NT, and to do some research and try to familiarize myself with the facts of the day during those times. The more I looked the more disheartened I became on the whole idea.
Like Jezz, I didn't care about how many people were at the tomb, or who saw Jesus first or any other of those little things that seem to contradict. My problem came with the gospel writers themselves. Matthew tried too hard to tie Jesus with the OT prophesies of the Messiah. The birth story, Jesus' lineage to David, his incredible resurrection account... the silence of Paul on an earthly Jesus and his earthly teachings. Modern Christianity is really based on what Paul told us. He says one thing, and Luke (the author of Acts) says he does something else.
Since the whole faith system hinges on Jesus and his death/resurrection, I wanted to make sure and try and convince myself the story is true. I've had a hard time doing that. When I asked other Christians some of my questions I had about events in the bible, they often told me it was just an allegory with a different meaning altogether. Wrong answer.
So, if they can't agree on how Jesus was actually born and some of these other things, what other stuff isn't correct? Was Isaiah really talking about Jesus when he prophesied about a Messiah? Jesus didn't do what the Jews of the day expected their Messiah to do.
From a human standpoint the following link is a great read regarding the historic life of Jesus. This is from a guy (Bernard Muller) who argued against "the Jesus Puzzle" by Earl Doherty. So he isn't an atheist per say [!!! Why not?], but not a Christian either. He believed Jesus actually lived on earth. 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. The story is towards the bottom of the page. Also, check out the commentary on Daniel and the book of Revelation at the bottom. Good stuff.
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. Additionally, I have founded in Galatians letter Paul indirectly shows a very earthly Jesus through James.
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.
I like your ability to make sense out of things. To tell you the truth, I have a difficult time keeping up, though your explanation seems to make sense. When I went over the nativity accounts with my mom (who takes pleasure in studying the Bible), the Gospels seemed to be in line.
Also, thank you for your second comment, I had not seen that they had gone to Jerusalem in lk 2:22.
I find that your reasoning is very laid out. Though it might be difficult for certain readers to follow. I might have an idea for your site. Since you said you would be going over your work, maybe during the subsequent rewrites, you could use teaching tools like drawings or tables? So, for example, in the explanation you gave me, it would be nice to have something like a travel route.
Well, thanks for the exchange. Glad to participate in your website,
I am speechless. The closest thing to your site I have seen in my life is as a child 5-6 years old learning about Jesus in Sunday school at church. I loved this, but hated “preaching” right afterward. I hated all the emotions of heaven and hell being forced on me (Southern Baptist, in USA), I still do. 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 have been trained in science and I can see that a rational or scientific view is very helpful, but certainly isn’t the last word. Many things must be looked at..
Merci mille fois!
Like you, I identify myself as a humanist in my maturity (I'm 61 & retired) - I call myself a third millennium Spinozan - and have retained a lifelong interest in the history of the Christian church.
For the last 20 years or so, I've picked up my Lightfoot 'Fathers' only to reread the Didache, which I consider worth all the other entries put together. About a week ago, I reread the 'Ignatian' letters & as always finished reading with more questions than answers. This time I had the internet to consult. What a frustrating experience it can be!
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!
All the best!..
I visited your website and found it quite thorough and informative, ... [a misunderstanding which was clarified later] ...
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 also applaud your remarks concerning Revelation and the book of Daniel, and, your comments concerning the nearness of the final judgment of all mankind and its connection in the minds of Gospel writers with the destruction of Jerusalem. Some excellent points made on all of those topics.
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.
Dear Bernard, although a little shocked to find a reply from you (most scholars are either too busy or feel it is beneath them to respond), you will never know the joy and happiness I felt when I saw your email this morning. 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.
As I was reading about "you", as you suggested, I thought to myself, "Bernard is a Humanist". I wasn't familiar with this philosophy until a few months ago. I did take the time to go on line and read about Humanism and thought "that sounds a whole lot like me".
You ask where I got the information on the sacrifices or deaths of the first believers. Actually, just from Catholic tradition of how the 12 apostles died. Yes, I know... not very factual. 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. I will begin again this morning reading the rest of your work.
Please, don't laugh, but may I mention to you things in the Bible that have always bothered and worried me?
1. If God made the angels and 1/3 of them rebelled against Him, why bother with creating another life form (especially if as God, you already know how it is going to turn out)?
2. Why put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden if Adam and Eve weren't to eat of it?
3. Without the knowledge of good and evil, how could Adam and Eve made an intelligent choice? How could their actions be sinful when they had no concept of right and wrong?
4. Why must blood be shed before there can be forgiveness of sin? (All of those constant sacrifices at the Tabernacle and the Temple... the place must have stunk to high heaven). And, requiring the sacrifice of your son to rid Man of his sin? Really, now?????
5. Why must morality rest on religion? Some things are obvious... don't kill, don't lie, don't steal, treat other people the way you want to be treated, etc.
6. People say "God does not interfere with Man's choices". WOAH... seems like He is saying, "Do it MY WAY or I will send you to hell". This list just goes on and on ...
Goodness, have written too much. Please forgive me. Have a wonderful day.... time for me to get back to your site and uncover more of the truth that I have been searching for.
Dear Bernard (if I may?),
I wonder if you are still using this email address. I notice that your site on the historical Jesus and all aspects of Gospel history has been online since 1997, and I dearly hope (since GeoCities only expired late last year) that, despite the 13-year lapse since your csite's creation, that your contact details remain the same.
First, excuse my writing 'out of the blue'! I felt compelled, however, to signal something of my astonished admiration and sincere pleasure at finding and working through your research.
I am not an ancient historian, but have a profound and long-standing interest in matters of New Testament historicity. Even from my amateur standpoint (though I am an academic professional in another field of literary study), your website amazed me.
Partly I was amazed because, in the three or four years now that I have been 'seriously' (as an amateur) looking into NT apologetics, in print and (more cautiously) on the web, I only came across your website a few days ago. 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!
Of course - this was not time wasted, but rather was crucial for familiarizing myself personally with sources and approaches. More to the point of this email, these 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 have only made my way through a fraction of your outstandingly comprehensive writings, but have already 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.
Strangely, I cannot now even remember by what route I found your website! Perhaps through a discussion on Richard Carrier's blog or in one of his essays, of which I have been an admirer too for a while now. I must say I think I lean towards his sense that Acts relies on Josephus's Antiquities (as opposed to exclusively on the Wars); but on the matter of the mythical Jesus, I very much appreciated your marshalling of evidence in favour of Paul's 'historical' Jesus. I do think the absence of real preaching about Jesus's life in Paul and in Acts says *something* unusual about the early Christian view of Jesus, but am still working my way towards what this might be (and look forward to finding out more on your site!).
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.
Very best wishes
I am thoroughly enjoying your website.
I surfed in from the Early Christian Writings' page "The Lost Sayings Gospel Q" (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/q.html) on a link called "Q & Its Late Dating (By Bernard Muller)"*. I clicked through to your website because I have always thought Q to be early (ie c 55 CE) so I just had to see why you would think otherwise. Although I am not yet convinced that Q is dependent on Mark (I have to investigate the possibility that they shared a common written source though, I must say, I cannot imagine what such a document could possibly look like) I am convinced now that the form of Q used in Matthew and Luke is late (c 75-80 CE)**.
Your page "The Q source" (http://historical-jesus.info/q.html) was far too interesting for my own good for I then had to read your views on the Gospel of Thomas (http://historical-jesus.info/thomas.html). I have not yet gone past your discussion of the prologue because, although was able to rest clicking through to your page "Parables and gospels", I could not ignore your link to "John's gospel, from original to canonical", which necessarily led to "The gospels according to "John" and then to "The complete text of the original John's gospel". I am now moving backwards and forwards betwen the last two as I try to grasp what you think the earliest version of John looked like. Worse! Lurking at the bottom of "The complete text of the original John's gospel" I see "What's next? To review the additions, click Here"... Will I still be able to ignore "Parables and gospels" after that? I doubt it.
Realising that I am going to be on your site a good deal longer than I ever anticipated I decided to see what you have to say about yourself. I was amazed to find that you are not a Biblical scholar by training, though your systematic and meticulous treatment of texts and your avoidance of slick elisions and wordy vagueness should have alerted me. Like you I am a Humanist, but perhaps not as optimistic as you are, and like you I am religiously tolerant***. 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.
Mr. Muller, welcome to WWGHA!
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. I've come to have my doubts about the possibility of ever really knowing anything about the historical Jesus (including knowing for certain that he existed.) I suspect that whatever lies behind the theological and mythical Jesus that's come down to us may ultimately be lost to history. Still and all, it's worth trying for what we can learn along the way. 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.
I'll put the main link here again, since you didn't:
If we leave open the POSSIBILITY that Jesus didn't exist (whether or not Mr. Muller would agree), couldn't it still be worthwhile to proceed under the working assumption that he did, in order to investigate the most plausible scenario for who he was and what he did/taught? That's where I see the value of Mr. Muller's site.
The question of a human Jesus is not the same as the question of a supernatural God. When we are looking at supernatural claims about a deity, I think it's justifiable that, given a lack of evidence, we assume lack of existence.
In the case of Jesus, I don't think lack of existence is a better "default position", as some atheists seem to think. We have no direct or contemporary evidence of Jesus, to be sure, but we DO have evidence of a variety of individuals, communities and sources from the following decades which all believed or pre-supposed that Jesus was a specific individual living in a particular place and time in their very recent history. We have to decide whether that evidence is better explained by an ENTIRELY mythical construct, or by stories which, however mythicized and exaggerated, ultimately derive from an actual person.
I think it's wrong to place the burden of proof merely upon the historicist here. Lack of evidence for the historicist case does not automatically advance a mythicist one. (And there are many different 'Jesus myth' theories, some of which are contradictory and mutually exclusive.) The mythicist has the same burden of explaining just how his fictional construct could have accounted for the evidence that we DO have. Some people rightly question assumptions, uncertainties, lack of evidence, etc on the historicist side, but fail to hold mythicist claims to the same level of scrutiny.
I would also point out that in a sense, we're ALL "mythicists" here, Bernard as much as Earl Doherty. All of us stand apart from the Christian apologists who insist that theological/biblical Jesus and historical Jesus are one and the same, and who bring faith-based assumptions to history. I think that's a much more important dividing line than the differing opinions that arise among people who use secular methods and objectively study the evidence in good faith. I think boiling the positions down to "mythicism vs. historicism" is too reductionist and not the best way to approach the issue - i.e, it may not really be the most important question.