Christians before Christ; Did Jesus Exist; Fishers of Evidence

Posted By on September 19, 2019

This argument seeks to establish evidence
that there were Jesus worshipping communities practising before 30 A.D., the supposed date
of Jesus death. This would of course make it impossible for
the death and resurrection of Jesus to be the key event in the founding of Christianity. And from there it’s a short step to Jesus
not being a historical figure. This argument owes much to Michael Lawrence,
who’s documentary video Just suppose can be found on youtube. It is generally true that the wide distribution
and diversity of the very early Christian church places a significant time constraint
on its development between the dates of Jesus death and resurrection, and of Paul’s letters
some 20 to 25 years later, but it does seem possible. Paul’s letters make little reference to the
history of the congregations he is writing to and neither do they contain comments which
would enable us to infer how long the congregations had existed. There are however ancient writings that may
suggest the existence of Christian communities before 30 A.D. The first of these is the first Epistle of
Clement to the Corinthians. This letter has been known about since ancient
times but was lost until it was discovered in part in an ancient Greek Bible that was
given by Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem to England’s King Charles I in 1628. A complete copy was found in 1873 in the Jerusalem
Codex which was written in Greek In 1056. It is a long letter at over 12,000 words. It was occasioned by a dispute that had arisen
in the church of Corinth that resulted in several presbyters being ousted. It is dated to between 80 and 140 A.D. and
is traditionally dated to the year 96 because in the second paragraph it refers to successive
sudden and calamitous events that have occurred to the church in Rome, and this is traditionally
associated with the persecutions of Christians at the end of the reign of Domitian in A.D.
96. But there is no concrete reason for believing
that this is the calamity that the letter refers to. The other significant contributor to dating
is historical context and this means where the letter fits in our understanding of the
history of the early church. Clement refers to the Corinthian church as
being “ancient” and also mentions members who have been faithful from childhood to old
age, and beliefs held by our fathers before us and we are now old, both of which suggest
that the churches in question, their being the Roman and Corinthian churches, had been
in existence for some time. How long is not clear but it had to have been
more than about 40 years. In terms of church history then this means
the letter must have been written at least 40 years after the 30s AD and this leads to
the conclusion that the successive sudden and calamitous events were the Domitian persecution. This dating is the reason why the letter is
attributed to Clement. He was the Bishop of Rome at that time. The letter is however anonymous, simply saying
it’s from the Roman to the Corinthian church with no reference to who wrote it. There is a major and specific problem with
this dating scheme and that is that the letter refers in the present tense to sacrifices
occurring at the Temple in Jerusalem. This temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and in
Rome there had been a major victory parade after the destruction and a commemorative
arch erected with carvings of the Temple treasures that were carried off as booty such as the
seven branched candlestick. Anyone writing from Rome after this date must
therefore surely have known of the temples destruction. That means that either the letter was written
before 70 AD or we are mistaken about the accuracy and meaning of the present tense
reference to the Jerusalem Temple. The letter also refers to Peter and Paul and
apostolic writings and therefore must date from after 50 A.D. What this means is that if the letter was
not written later than 70 A.D., and it implies churches that have been in existence for over
40 years, then there had to be churches in existence before 30 A.D., and it is obviously
a damning conclusion for historicity. This can be countered in a number of ways,
the least credible being to try to squeeze the history of these churches as represented
in the letter into under 40 years. This requires that when referring to people
as old the letter means they were in their 30s. Even though life expectancy was much shorter
in the ancient world that it is today, this is a stretch and is not consistent with the
use of the term “old” in other ancient writing. Another counter is to question the accuracy
and meaning of the present tense reference to the Jerusalem Temple. The text is quite explicit and is hard to
argue this was referring to something other than the second Temple as there never has
been the third Temple. There is evidence from the Talmud that Jewish
worship at the Temple site did continue after the end of the war in A.D. 70 until Jews were
banished from Jerusalem by Hadrian after the Bar Kokbar revolt was put down in AD 135. And Clement could have been referring to these
practices but his wording is quite explicit here in chapter 41 of his letter: “Not in every place, brethren, are the daily
sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin- offerings and the trespass-offerings,
but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any
place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully
examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned.” Also, no one has come up with an argument
that this bit was added or altered after the writing of the original letter, partly because
the likely motivation to alter it would simply delete it or place in the past tense as such
alterations were either accidental or motivated by the church’s desire to suppress heresy. As a reference to the second Temple has a
much harder dating than the non-specific reference to calamities which are used to date the letter
to 96 A.D., the case for Christians prior to 30 A.D. from Clement’s letter seems fairly
strong. Another text used by Laurence is the epistle
of Barnabus. We have a complete an early version of this
Epistle, which appears at the end of the new Testament in the Codex sinacticus. It is written in Greek. It is dated in the range 100 to 131 A.D. The main theme of the letter is that Christianity
has superseded the religion of second Temple Judaism. We don’t know who wrote it, when was written,
or who it was written to. The dating issue arises in chapter 16 verses
3 and 4 where the author states “Furthermore he says again, ‘Behold, those
who tore down this temple will themselves build it.’ It is happening now. For because of their fighting it was torn
down by the enemies. And now the very servants of the enemies will
themselves rebuild it”. The problem is that the only occasion on which
a Jewish temple was destroyed, and then rebuilt was when Solomon’s temple was destroyed by
Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC and then rebuilt at date we don’t know, but given the Old Testament
as being 516 BC, 70 years after the destruction. Michael Lawrence argues that this means that
Barnabas’s epistles should be re-dated to the late sixth century BC. The fact that the epistle contains extensive
references to Christianity would then place a Christian community in the 6th century BC. This assertion is much more problematic than
the one concerning Clement’s Epistle. For one thing such a large re-dating placing
a Christian community or communities in six century BC is not supported by any other evidence. Although no third Temple was never completed,
there was considerable Temple site activity that persisted after the destruction of the
Temple in 70 A.D. This area has been extensively researched
because of its connection with the rival claims of historical precedence over the Temple Mount
today. Emperor Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138,
granted permission for the Jews to rebuild the Temple in order to secure their corporation. Preparations began but Hadrian changed his
mind and the project was stopped. Bar Kokbar took control of Jerusalem in 132
in the course of his ill-fated revolt and it is entirely possible that building work
on the new Temple resumed. Bar Kokbar was finally defeated in 135 at
which point Hadrian banished Jews from Jerusalem and had the Temple Mount area raised. He forbade Jews from worshipping on the site,
the first such restriction by the Romans. It is therefore not at all unreasonable to
infer that Barnabas was referring to these activities, which are consistent with modern
dating is of his epistle. So while the case that Jesus worshiping communities
predating 30 A.D. is not proven, there are reasons from Clement and the known diversity
and distribution of early Jesus worshiping congregations to believe it credible. If that is accepted, then it weakens the case
for a historical Jesus substantially. Overall therefore this is a moderately powerful
argument that does favour mythecism. Before I go there is one other point about
Clement and Barnabas. Whenever their dates, all agree they are relatively
early Christian texts, and as with many other early Christian texts, such as the genuine
epistles of Paul, they appear to be completely unaware of the gospel stories. They refer to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection,
but never to his sayings or deeds, nor his historical or geographical context. They therefore appear to support the basic
tenet of the argument I discuss in my video on the silence of Paul.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 21 comments

  1. Brilliant. I think the basis for Christianity was 1st temple Judaism, and the return of the Queen of heaven, and other Jewish attributes prior to the deuteronomic reform

  2. Is not John the Baptist proof enough that the belief in a massiah predates the Christian religion? SOMEONE PLEASE response to this!!

  3. "Christians" are Salvationists: you may believe in any messiah or Divine Messenger to follow for your eternal bliss.
    Christians show a letter as proof for Jesus (not "The Christ") having been a historical figure.
    In the ancient world letters were neither signed, nor were author, place and date given.
    The letter says that the same powers that had destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem had reconstructed it, and the aforementioned destruction was God's punishment for the Jews having rejected the Messiah (=Jesus).
    Christian apologists tell you that Pope Clemens wrote it in the year 96 A.D. and pious monkes copied it throughout the centuries in their monastries until ……
    Until one not only half-wit noticed one suspicious thing and tore away the last page.
    The thing may have been that the Romans did not rebuild the temple they destroyed, the banned any settlement around former Jerusalem until 130 A.D., and they would have done anything but rebuild the symbol of one of the fiercest revolution they had to face.
    Only the first temple ("Temple of Salomon") had been rebuilt – and even by the Babylonians who had destroyed it some 70 years before.
    This letter shows that the "Jesus" cult already existed when Rome was a village fighting Etruscans and Gauls. The modern-day Christian cults fought for centuries until one of them happened to get the ear of the Roman Emperor Constantin, and then the infighting between different Christian sects was ended, most of them believed that everything happened in the Heavenly Realms, and not to real persons.

  4. All it took was a Bible to make us believe…but mountains upon mountains of scholarship…only to sort of show that he kind of maybe did not smdh..

  5. Further mudding the waters is there seems to be a pagan group called Chrestians that could have existed from at least the 1st century BCE on. In fact, there is a inscription dated from 36 BCE – 37 CE (CIL VI 24944) that uses the Latin form "CHRESTIANI" when at best the followers of Jesus weren't calling themselves Chrestians until c 44 CE if Acts and Epiphanius are giving us correct information.

  6. An interesting thing is the preamble Rufinus of Aquileia gives in his Recognitions (late 4th century CE): "The epistle in which the same Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, informs him of the death of Peter,…" If this is in reference to 1Clem 5:4 then this sets 1 Clement as well before 70 CE as the latest Peter died was 67 CE and the latest James the Lord's brother died was 69 CE.

    Funny thing about that reference. The James in Josephus died in 62 CE but the earliest Peter could have died was 64 CE.

    Since Recognitions not only proves the James in Josephus is NOT the same one Paul referenced and that Christianity existed in the 20s (if not earlier) it is small wonder historical Jesus supporters avoid Recognitions like the plague.

  7. "Jesus" not immanuEL.immanuEL is home FATHER EL YAHU.EL in n israEL,,gabriEL,michaEL,bethEL,ismaEL,ELi ELi lama sabhakrani

  8. The narrator needs to slow down and give some weight to his words. Pause a bit please. He talks too fast and hurries. There is not sufficient time to digest the information presented.

    You have to examine this individuals other you tube videos to understand he may be telling the truth or what he believes occurred .he is an attorney based out of Moscow ibelieve

  10. There is so overwhelming evidence that the Christian church drew their doctrine and teachings from so many different sources when they established it in the 4th century CE.

  11. A Bible-critical assessment indicates that Clement's letter is just a forgery like the pastoral epistles that were probably written in the middle of the 2nd century in order to make an otherwise Gnostic Paul look like a true Catholic. The main argument for that is that 1 Clement refers too much to other epistles of the New Testament that were only canonized in the late part of the 2nd century, or later.

  12. not a historical FIGGAH? Good thing you used an F instead of an N right there!

    2:57 not necessarily. He may be engaging in hyperbole to make it SEEM that Christianity was already a firm and established thing by the time of his letter. ! Or, he may be telling the truth as he sees it.

    The knowledge of apostles and the catholic terms bishops and deacons…. that places the letter WELL into the 2nd century, in my book. I would not doubt it was written near 140 CE. There were no numbers of Christians in Rome in 64 CE or even later. How could Christianity arise in Israel and migrate to Rome in numbers within a few decades? It couldn't.

    4:40 I see where you're taking this but I don't think the letter is written post 70 because it uses firmly established Catholic terms such as bishop and deacon and so on. This is SECOND CENTURY language. The author also would need to be 2nd century to be aware of the disciples listed in the gospels and even the epistles. The whole "church" idea didn't start until after the notion Jesus would return had waned. Thus, we see these ideas emerge in the SECOND century. There is no reference to Jesus by name until the…. SECOND CENTURY.

    Ref 6:09, read chapter 40 from the start. No one has to have inserted it later. This is "Clement" giving a WARNING and using the old template of temple sacrifice as an example and the verse you didn't put there immediately after (1 Clem 41:3) talks about the penalty for not adhering to the PROPER way to sacrifice – death. It's all one big treatise, not a chronological historical listing of events. The reference to apostles and deacons and bishops firmly place 1 Clement into the 2nd century.

    Links to the letter:

    Thus, it seems pretty well impossible to date 1 Clement pre-70 in order to do damage to the historical Jesus claim. 🙁 Interesting vid, tho. I'm a Jesus mythicist, btw.

    Uh, Codex Sinaiticus not Codex Sinacticus. ? You said Sinacticus in the vid at 6:59. 🙁

    You say we don't know when the G. of Barnabas was written but at 7:02 you clearly say that the date range given by scholars for the G. of Barnabas is 100 to 131 CE. ? Which is it? Nailing it down to a 3 decade range is a PRETTY good notion of when it was and more importantly when it was NOT written, I'd say.

    7:45 "the enemies" who are the enemies and who are their servants? If Rome, why would a Christian view Rome as an enemy if there were popes and leaders of Christianity IN ROME at an early date, earlier than Barnabas' letter??? Is it possible that Christianity was not at all in Rome until the LATTER part of the 2nd century? Thus, a date of 100 to 131 for Barnabas would have a Christian viewing Rome as an enemy because Christianity had not yet filtered over there in large enough numbers and certainly, no control from Rome began until after Constantine.

    8:16 LOL!

    Your conclusion: yes, this point DOES favor mythicism. Problem is, it doesn't favor the facts. Hey, sorry, but I just happen to know a few things about this topic. Someone suggested I look at your vids.

  13. Mr. Fishers:

    I learned something intriguing tonight:

    Have you explored that the worshippers of Sarapus (Serapus), the Greek/Egyptian sun god, were called 'Christians' in the time of Plutarch in 323 B.C. and Ptolemy I.?


    Is there scholarly merit in this line of inquiry? Forgive me if you've already presented / debunked it.

    In the link, wiki sites Augustan History (Firmus et al. 8): "….There, those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis."

    The term 'Christ' meaning 'anointed one' in Greek was an honorific applied apparently to many deity figures, including Serapus.

    So perhaps there were in fact 'Christians' before 30 CE, but they worshipped a different 'Christ', not Jesus.

    Perhaps the various 'Christians' that Paul went around and preached to were devotees of 'Serapis Christ' or 'Mythras Christ' (allowing for 'old' and 'ancient' churches) and Paul was trying to convert them to 'Jewish Christ'.

    I'm afraid I haven't read Carrier or Fitzgerald myself to determine if they've already explored this.

    If there's merit to this, then it still allows for a Paul who himself wrote before CE. (I'm still stumped on the date stamp in 1 Corinthians, if it's Aretas III or IV, which puts Paul at either ~100 BCE or ~40 CE, if it's not simply an interpolation)

    Also, ive seen that the Greek word 'Christ' derived from 'Krishna'…. perhaps worth exploring.

  14. General question:

    Why do we trust Josephus so much?

    We are confident that his two mentions of 'Christ' are heavy interpolations, so why don't we question more of his work?

    Wasn't Josephus basically a shill for the Flavians? Perhaps the war didn't go exactly as told.

    If Josephus is our only source for certain things, then I think we need to give him a much closer eye.

    That sounds like a new R&D project for Carrier… but I'd love to watch your take on it!

    Mike Lawrence put this thought in my head indirectly, when one of his videos suggested that we misinterpreted a date about King Herod's death because of Josephus' dating of an eclipse, which when re-examined might actually put the birth narrative closer to 1 CE (his claim, not mine).


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