It is sometimes interesting when a comment rolls in for a posting from over a year ago, in this case for Bart Ehrman’s new book: ‘Did Jesus Exist? It is always interesting and particularly nice when the new comment is thoughtfully written, meaningful and provocative, as this one is by Albert Bodt. He begins by quoting from a comment by Tony dated March 21, 2012. Dr. Bodt then writes:
“Modern day Christianity-loathing Academia is almost unanimous in saying that Jesus did in fact exist.”
Tony, it seems from your post that you have a distinct bias against academia. As an academician and scientist, while there may be individual academics that have objections to Christianity, I cannot vouch for them. I can frankly tell you that academics who study the historicity of religions, Christianity included, in general do not “loath” Christianity, or for that matter, any other religion. Biblical history academics are not concerned with theology but they are interested in the history, the actual events of the the formative Christian era. Whether this coincides with the theology is irrelevant. There is no judgment as to the beliefs of those who adhere to the theological precepts of Christianity, even if they themselves are not believers such as as myself. I do however have an abiding interest in history including ancient history. As a (non-blblical) scientist ( I am involved mostly in Medical as well as Anthropological research) and medical clinician (my background is in Biology and Cellular Biology), I am interested only in the physical evidence to determine what is going on in my fields of interest. That evidence has to be supportive of ones hypothesis, determined by diligent research and experimentation. The studies (experiments) must be reviewed by experts in the field (peer reviewed) before the results of the study can be published in a specialty journal. The study has to reproducible and yield the same results by other scientists in the field to be eventually accepted as hard evidence in support of one’s hypothesis. After several attempts to disprove one’s results, there being no evidence to falsify the conclusions, the hypothesis becomes a “theory”. After further time, and efforts to disprove the theory, it becomes generally accepted as fact, bearing in mind that science only determines the probability of a theory being true. Such is the case with several theories in biology including Evolution, which is considered fact due to the high degree of probability of it being true, as all attempts to disprove it over the last 155 years–haven’t. Obviously, historians, including Biblical New Testament historians cannot use the scientific method to the same degree as biologists or physicists, however they are quite diligent in their efforts to tease the physical historical evidence from the literature, which includes the ancient documents (most of which, if not all, are copies, as the originals are lost), in Greek, Latin and some in Aramaic. Some devote their careers to analyzing one document or even one chapter. These individuals are dedicated to discovering what really happened as opposed to those that believe what happened (despite their lack of evidence).
To respond to the second half of your statement. I am inclined to believe the evidence as cited by the academic experts in the field of Biblical, New Testament, history. The prevailing evidence seems to suggest that there was in fact an individual named Yeshua of Nazareth, who was probably baptized by a person who we know as John the Baptist, around 27CE and preached in Judea until 30CE when he was arrested for sedition and sentenced to death by the common Roman method of execution for enemies of the Roman State, crucifixion, by the governor of Judea, one Pontius Pilatus, who we know was governor from 26-36 CE. There is plentiful physical evidence to support this. The four (three synoptic) Gospels themselves, even though written decades (between 60-90 CE) after the death of Jesus, are sources that can be combed and teased for evidence for the historical Jesus. These were obviously based on earlier writings and oral traditions that go back to around 30CE. Paul’s letters offer much the same titillating tidbits of historical evidence. The picture of the historical Jesus is not at all the image that Christians see in their Jesus. The real history is nothing like what Christians believe what happened. The modern story is a construct that has been embellished by supernatural and fantastical events through the millennia, by hundreds of believers who added them for their own purposes, never mind the translational mistakes that occurred. We as scientists, have no opinion, or professional interest in theology, only in the physical evidence that describes the physical universe and what happened in it.
Kind of sweeping assumptions in those last three sentences.