Over at the Rational Doubt blog they’re hosting a VBS for us! All this month go over to their blog to be taught the Bible by your favorite atheist (including a post of my own!). Today’s post is Dan Barker “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?”
But perhaps the strongest argument is the fact that the New Testament itself reveals the footprints of legend. If we take the accounts of the resurrection, for example, and place them in the order in which they were written, we see a growing curve of legendary embellishment as time passes. Paul’s account, around 55, has no extraordinary events. Mark, around 70, has maybe one—the man dressed in white at the tomb. Matthew, 10 years later, has four. Luke, around the year 85, has five. The extracanonical Gospel of Peter has six. And John, writing at least 60 years after the story, has more than six extraordinary events, including “many other signs which are not written in this book.” This clear expansion of miraculous events as time passes betrays the handiwork of legend. This lowers the probability of the historicity of the Jesus stories.
Personally I don’t have a problem with the historicity of Jesus, and neither does Dan Barker, who writes:
Even if the Jesus story is not a legend—even if the miracle stories were reliably reported—this would not prove the existence of a God, nor would it mean that Jesus is our “Lord.” There is nothing Jesus said or did that causes me to respect or admire, much less worship him as a moral leader.
But I did find it interesting to track the development of Jesus as legend in his short blog piece. Head over to Rational Doubt and check it out. And stay tuned all month long to the Vacation Bible School for Atheists.