When questioning the historical case for Jesus it’s clear that there is zero evidence that he existed, other than the claims early Christians made, which later Christians simply repeat, often thinking that the more people believe a lie the more truth it gives to the claim. Non-Christian scholars that investigate the Historicity of Jesus are relying on no additional evidence.
The stories in the gospels are all we have. Other so called independent claims about Jesus, such as those from Josephus, are no more than hearsay. Josephus merely states what he was told by Christians, or by others repeating what Christians told them. The stories about Jesus may be based on a singular real man, or the mix of a number of stories of one or more of the many prophets of the time, or they may be entirely fictional, or any combination. There is zero evidence of any asserted miracles: making a blind man see, turning water into wine, … the resurrection – all fiction, because there is never any evidence to support the supernatural claims for any religion. At best, we might act as if a mortal fake prophet existed, who might have been called Jesus, but even then it is probable that any factual truth was embelished; and the ‘miracles’ are pure fantasy.
The Christian response to this is often a complaint that this point of view is far too sceptical and biased, because we would not be as sceptical about the existance of Plato, for example, or any historical figure from the past for which there is no direct record.
What’s your take on Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Were they fictional too?https://twitter.com/Rightysneedlove/status/1493614371414712326
But it is not the case that philosophers don’t question the existence of anciant philosophers. We can be just as sceptical about the existence of Jesus and Plato. The crucial point is, what are the relative consequences of such scepticism, or specifically, what are the consequences of both Plato and Jesus not having actually existed?
Doubting The Existence of Plato
Taking Plato first, what would it mean had he not existed at all? Well, it would mean all the works attributed to him were not his, but were authored by one or more other people. Even if Plato was responsible for compiling the works attributed to him, perhaps he plagerised the work of others. So one way or another, Plato, as a living person, might have been a fiction or a fraud.
What would be the consequences of this being the case? Very little. Suppose evidence came to light, some unearthed documents, that made it highly likely he did not exist. Some historians might have to revise their texts in light of this evidence – not an uncommon occurrence in history. Nevertheless, to philosophers it wouldn’t mean much at all, because the body of work attributed to Plato stands alone, whoever the actual author or athors were. But this is nothing new. Philosophers already accept that there can be doubts about the real source of much ancient philosopy. Worse case is that the term ‘Plato’ is no more than a label for a body of work, the ‘Platonic’ work. The philosophy contained in that work is what is important.
Doubting the Existence of Jesus
Now, apply the same scepticism to Jesus. Suppose it came about that new evidence revealed the the religion built around a fictional Jesus was made up by some very mortal Jewish revolutionaries. What would be the consequences?
They would be catestrophic for Christianity. It would show clearly that it was a cult. No Jesus, no miracles … no Christian God! Every Pope, every bishop, priest, nun, monk, pastor for 2000 years would have been living a lie, no matter how much they believed it to be true. Every church and cathedral would be monuments to a man and a god that never existed. Every child indoctrinated into Christianity would have been raised on lies.
Even without such evidence it’s easy to see the consequences of an ever decreasing number of religious believers over generations. Church congregations dwindle, churches decline into a state of disrepair.
But try to imagine what would happen to the Vatican, today, if evidence emerged that completely repudiated the Christian story.
First there would be denial of the evidence. If they can cover up the abuse of children by priests, for the sake of the good name of the church, imagine how far they would go to bury this news.
And, believers need to believe. Islam claims Jesus was a prophet, not the son of God, not Christ. But even the Muslim religion would be damaged, since Islam relies on at least Jesus being a prophet. If the new evidence disprove Jesus existed, it would mean he was not a prophet of Islam, and so Islam would be damaged, because Mohammed could no longer be trusted. Nevertheless, some Christians might turn to Islam, ignoring this difficulty, or perhaps to Scientology, or Buddhism, Hinduism, who knows.
But I suspect many Christians would just ignore this revelation of the falsity of Christianity. The cost of giving up would be too much.
My mother, who was raised as a child to be a Catholic and converted to Protestantism when she married my father, had many conflicts with the two churches, and eventually gave up on organised religion. But she never gave up praying, to a God she could not be sure was what she had been taught. When I questioned her, should could not, would not, explain what she actually thought this God entity was. He amounted to no more than a sky fairy she thought was listening to her prayers. She wasn’t even sure she was a Christian in any meaningful sense – it became a label she used on official forms that asked for one’s religion.
So, if it could be shown Christianity is fake, academically it would destroy the religion’s credibility … if it’s possible to have any less cerdibility among atheists.
But Christianity as a religion would likely live on. Too many professions rely on it.
We have seen many ‘Christian’ scholars make hilarious claims about how the Jesus story need not be literally true while being true in some other mysterious sense all the same. Surely this is how the bishops at the First Council of Nicea fooled themselves while trying to figure out what the Trinity really meant.
Remember, in living memory, a failed science fiction writer stated he would start a religion, did so, … ridiculous I know, and still Scientology has believers. There are serious flat earthers. There are 9/11 truthers (“it was a false flag job, the towers were not brought down by planes but by explosives”, etc.) There are many crazy beliefs in the world. Christianity is merely the biggest. One has to be the biggest, and one day that may be Islam. But the argumentum ad populum fallacy is strong among the religious.
Plato v Jesus?
If Plato did not exist, then no big deal, no consequences of any consequence at all. Just a shrug of the shoulders of philosophers, and some book editing by historians.
If Jesus did not exist, it would mean the total collapse of any Christian claims about Jesus.
But in reality, many if not most Christians would keep on following the lie, the fantasy; and children would continue to be indoctrinated.
The many failed ‘End of the World’ prophecies didn’t make the next prophet pause to think it through.
Perhaps the realisation of that last point will make some Christians pause and think about how gullible they are being. Christians KNOW how gullible are Muslims, Hindus and other believers of other fake religions.
What does it take to make YOU wonder how gullible you are?