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The Catholics made purely theological arguments as to why Jesus Christ had to have existed "in the flesh" None of these points are meant to stand on their own, but collectively they provide a very strong argument against the story of Jesus Christ being based on a real person.
It is important to note that we have one, and only one, source of information about the life of Jesus and that is the Christian Gospels. The Gospels are the sole source of information about this figure; everything that we "know" about "him" depends on these sources. There are two basic views of the Biblical Jesus as a real person today, the religious Christian view and the secular historical view.
The religious Christian view takes the Gospels as accurate and reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, including all of the miracles. The religious Christian view demands that Jesus Christ was a popular and well known figure in the region, who drew crowds of thousands of people and performed great miracles, who was such a revolutionary figure that the Jewish priesthood was compelled to have him arrested and put to death in dramatic fashion before hundreds or thousands of witnesses.
The secular historical view basically starts with the Gospels and then removes the fantastic or "supernatural" claims in the Gospels and accepts what is left as history.
The secular historical view tends to minimize the role of Jesus in the region, stating instead that he was barely noticed by others. Secular historians who believe that Jesus existed rely on the Gospels as essentially historical, but inflated, accounts of his life.
But are the Gospels reliable historical accounts? The Gospel of Mark is the first story of Jesus that was written, and all others are dependent on it The origin of the Gospels has always been unknown.
At no point has anyone that we know of really known who wrote any Conflicts between me and my parents the Gospels, when they were written, or even where they were written. Each of the Gospels could have been written anywhere from Egypt to Rome, and the estimated dates for their writing range from around 50 CE at the earliest estimates to about CE at the latest, with a minority of people proposing dates into the 4th century.
The traditional explanation for the origin of the Gospels has been that they were each written independently by people who were either disciples of Jesus or who received their information from disciples of Jesus. This is called the apostolistic tradition, and according to the apostolistic tradition a Gospel could only be considered "authentic" if it had a direct lineage to an apostle, thus the names Conflicts between me and my parents to each of the Gospels were given in order to help establish their authenticity.
It has not always been believed, however, that each of the Gospels is an eyewitness account. Indeed, the Gospel of Luke explicitly states that it is compiled from the research of the author.
The earliest account for the origin of some of the Gospels comes to us from the early church leader Papias, from about CE: Wherefore Mark has not erred in any thing, by writing some things as lie has recorded them; for lie was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by any thing that he heard, or to state any thing falsely in these accounts.
Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect, and every one translated it as he was able. He then goes on to state that the Gospel called Matthew was written by someone named Matthew who wrote his Gospel in "the Hebrew dialect", which would have been Aramaic.
We'll go ahead and look at one more early explanation for the origin of the Gospels and then analyze these statements. Around CE the early church leader Irenaeus expounded upon the information of Papias when he gave an account of the origin of each of the four Gospels that later became canon.
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.
Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. There are several problems with what Papias and Irenaeus state, but first let's see what they are saying and why they are saying it.
Early Christian theologians believed the Gospel of Matthew to be the first Gospel that was written, and, by many accounts, the most important of course there was disagreement among them, as there was on all doctrinal issues. The reason that Matthew was viewed by many as the earliest Gospel and the most important was because it contained the virgin birth story and the lineage to David, and the Gospel of Luke was self-described as not an eyewitness account, so it could not have been the first.
Some people claimed that they had seen the original copy of Matthew, and that it was in Aramaic, but the real motivation behind this story of being written "in the language of the Hebrews" was an effort to establish its primacy and authority.
It makes sense that an account would be written in the same language that Jesus spoke to his followers, yet all of the Gospels were written in Greek, so this idea of an original Hebrew or Aramaic Gospel had a lot of draw to it. Jesus was presumed to have spoken in Aramaic because the Gospels "quote him" as saying things in Aramaic, such as his last words in the crucifixion scenes.
Mark was said to have been a second-hand account which was out of order because events in the Gospel of Mark are the same as in the Gospel of Matthew, but in a different order, and Mark does not contain the virgin birth story so it was seen as less valuable, thus, to resolve the contradiction between the order of events in Mark and Matthew, the idea that Mark was a second-hand account gained favor.
The attribution of Peter as the source of information for Mark comes from the fact that in order to be viewed as legitimate the Gospel had to be tied back to an apostle, and the Gospel of Mark seemed to come from Rome due to linguistic reasons, where the "apostle Peter" supposedly preached, as well as the fact that Peter was the most highly esteemed apostle, so Peter was proposed as Mark's source of information.
The Gospel of Luke was obviously not a first-hand account, but the author of Luke is also thought to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles, in which there are several "we" passages that refer to Paul, thus the conclusion was that the author of Luke was in the company of Paul and got his information from Paul.
The Gospel of John states, "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true," from which from which Irenaeus and others believed that the author of the Gospel was the disciple John son of Zebedee, the "Beloved Disciple".
There are several problems with all of these explanations however. Scholars are now certain that the Gospel called Mark was actually the first Gospel that was written, for reasons which will be explained.
The idea that Mark got his information from "Peter" does not make sense because the apostle Peter is poorly portrayed in the Gospel of Mark.
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