Did the historical Jesus exist? A growing number of scholars don’t think so

DerverzweifelteJesusMost antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

By Valerie Tarico—The Raw Story/Alternet

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth.  Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and  How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.”  In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position.  Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All . For centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

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Science Is Changing What It Means to Be Dead

Illustration by Hsiao-Ron Cheng/newrepublic.com
If you could freeze yourself until a future age, are you sure you’d want to?

By Judith ShulevitzNew Republic

There are worse ways to die than by freezing. To be sure, it’s extremely unpleasant, but only for a while. At first, the cold gnaws at your skin, which soon goes slightly numb, the blood shunted away from the surface to protect your inner organs. Your body shakes as it tries to gin up heat, your heartbeat quickens, your breath comes faster, but the farther your body temperature drops from its usual 98-plus degrees, the less you feel or understand. At about five degrees below normal, you develop amnesia. As more warmth seeps out, you grow apathetic, then fall into a stupor. Just before you lose consciousness, you may engage in a mysterious activity called „paradoxical undressing“ripping your clothes offprobably because at this point the blood floods back to your skin and you are suddenly very hot. Your kidneys start to fail. Urine may flow out of you, though you probably won’t notice; nor will you be aware that your breathing has now slowed while carbon monoxide builds up inside you. Your metabolism sputters like an engine out of gas. Your heartbeat becomes erratic. When your temperature sinks to about 75 degrees, your heart stops. Very shortly after that, your brain flatlines.

One of the ironies of hypothermia, the extreme loss of body heat, is that the attendant shutdown of somatic processes can save as well as kill you. A stilled heart and brain need little oxygen. A stalled metabolism slows the breakdown of cells and organs. This is why the frozen can sometimes be brought back to life. It’s also the reason doctors deliberately chill the living; it buys them time to operate on people suffering from cardiac arrest, extreme bodily trauma, and stroke. The virtues of cooling the injured have been known since the Greek physician Hippocrates recommended packing wounded soldiers in snow and ice, but the modern science of therapeutic freezing dates back around 80 years. Emergency-room physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are preparing to take the procedure further by removing the blood of people likely to die from knife and gunshot wounds and pumping icy saltwater into their veins, reducing their body temperatures to 50 degrees. This is an unprecedented degree of frigidity, to be imposed with record swiftness. These doctors will flash-freeze their patients to apparent death in order to then have a better chance of keeping them alive.

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