The New Testament Was Designed To Promote Christianity Not Document Historical Fact.
In the early years of Christianity there were a number of different and competing interpretations. We have already mentioned the wealth of different books and gospels that were discovered at the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi. Many of these writings followed a gnostic tradition that was at odds with what became the orthodox interpretation of Christianity.
In the second century Irenaeus of Lyon started to codify the New Testament and identified the four Gospels which we use today as part of the Canon, rejecting all other interpretations. He wrote eloquently and vehemently in his book Against Heresies to establish exactly what should be included and excluded in the definition of Christianity. Our modern day New Testament is, therefore, very much one man’s vision and interpretation of what Christianity should be. Irenaeus was not interested in documenting the facts, he was interested in setting out his beliefs and ensuring that others followed him.
This tradition has been well entrenched in the Church over the succeeding centuries with any sects deemed as heretical being put down violently or even eliminated altogether (eg the Cathars). Writing towards the end of the 4th Century St Jerome said ‘assurance often explains that of which it knows nothing; and when it has convinced others imposes on itself.’. The thoroughly unpleasant Ignatius Loyola famously said that he was willing to believe that white is black if required to by the church.
Why should the early Christian zealots have been any different? They were not, their behavior set the tone for the rest of the church through history and for that reason we should be extremely skeptical of the New Testament and any claims it makes about the life of Jesus. It is nothing more than a propaganda treatise.
There Is No Historical Evidence Of An Eclipse, Earthquake Or Rending Of The Veil In The Temple Supposed To Have Happened At The Moment Of Jesus’ Death.
The Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 27) and the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 23) give an in-depth account of the events of the crucifixion. Both agree that there was a sudden darkness (possibly an eclipse or a dust cloud from a volcano) that fell on the land between the 6th and 9th hours of the day. They also explain that at the moment of Jesus’ death ‘the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent’. The earthquake is said to have been so severe that the graves of the dead burst open which must have been an extremely traumatic event, particularly when combined with an eclipse.
Except it did not happen! Key events such as earthquakes and eclipses would have been recorded in detail by contemporary historians and an earthquake severe enough to burst graves would have been recorded both by the Jewish court and by the Roman administrators. There are no secular records at all of any relief efforts being sent to Jerusalem or of any rebuilding works. Finally the veil in the temple was extremely precious and any damage to it would have been recorded.
The only explanation for this lack of reporting is that the earthquake and eclipse simply did not occur, at least not in that time and place. There were contemporary earthquakes elsewhere in the Empire (to which aid was sent) and we know that earthquakes happened in Jerusalem over that period but nothing in the geologic record can pin one exactly to the alleged date and time of the crucifixion. Indeed the only sources to link an eclipse (or volcanic debris) are Christian, clearly trying to establish a link between the supposed death of Jesus and the divine.
There Are No Tangible Historical Artifacts Linked To Jesus.
Anyone who has lived, even a simple carpenter, will leave possessions after their death. The Gospels claim that the soldiers on duty at the crucifixion cast lots to share out Jesus’ clothing amongst them. Had he really had many devoted disciples (who would have been disgusted at their failure to protect him in the Garden) they or his grieving family would surely have tried to purchase or barter back the clothing. Such items would have been invaluable in the formation of the new church.
Nevertheless, nothing, absolutely nothing from Jesus’ life remained, even shortly after his demise. In the 12th Century people started to mention that they owned the shroud in which Jesus had been wrapped and, years later it surfaced in Turin. It was accepted as a genuine artifact for many years but carbon dating in the 20th Century showed it to be a 12th Century forgery. An ossuary claiming to hold the bones of James, brother of Jesus was also found to be a forgery. There is not one single, verifiable, tangible object in existence today or known to have existed at any time in the past 2,000 years that belonged to Jesus.