It’s also the same problem which plagues other fundamentalists as well. Anyway…
One of the common arguments against the reality of Jesus are his birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. For some reason, they think that because a man who was named Jesus (God will save, etc… ) was destined to save his people, then that points to a made up person, or at least cast doubts on the reality of a historical Jesus.
Several things are wrong with that approach.
Before I go on, let me say that this is a conversation on verifiable proof, not on matters of faith.
Okay, so here we go…
Remember, the birth narratives aren’t in Mark, but were added by both Matthew and Luke. I would say it was added by Matthew and expanded by Luke. Notice Matthew’s pattern of the validation of Jesus by the Old Testament. This is where the idea of prophecy must be understand as employed by Matthew. It wasn’t about making predictions and fulfilling them years, decades or centuries later, but for Matthew, it was validation of the mission of man of Jesus. For instance, the arrival from Egypt is put next to Hosea as a way of validating Jesus as the incarnation of Israel. So then, literally speaking, the naming of Jesus to mimic Joshua could have been ‘invented’ by Matthew as a further validation of Jesus and his mission. This doesn’t take away from the reality of Jesus as a historical person (or even the idea held by Jesus and his disciples that he was to be the second Joshua), but follows Matthew’s actions of validating Jesus through the Hebrew Scriptures. Names signify missions and were a special dispensation of God.
The problem with mythicists, and there are many, boils down to the simple fact that they still take Scripture as if it was written with the same standard of fact which Westerners have and they miss the subtle things which are extremely important in decision making. Simply because Matthew validated Jesus’s mission by various Old Testament passages, this does not take away from the reality of Jesus’ existence. I mean, Vespasian’s reign, and in some ways, his existence, was validated by the Jewish Scriptures as well, and yet, no one doubts that he was actually Caesar. An excellent book on evidence of Jesus outside the New Testament can be found here. I doubt that I’ll get to blog through it anytime soon, but hopefully.
For more, see here.
- A rational foundation for investigating the mythicist question (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Hypocritical Christ-mythers: Cameron’s response to Neil Godfrey at Vridar – & my response back (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Earliest Manuscript of the Gospel of Mark Validates Earl Doherty (vridar.wordpress.com)