As the title of one of his book elucidates, Raphael Lataster claim to know that “There Was No Jesus, There is No God.” As another book title claims, Lataster also holds that “Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists” meaning that, as Richard Carrier put it, “the debate over the historicity of Jesus” is to be conducted “by focusing only on what atheist and agnostic experts are saying, and not Christian believers—regarding the latter as too biased to consider.”
Apparently, Atheist who claim to know that “There Was No Jesus, There is No God” that “Jesus Did Not Exist” and describe themselves, as Lataster does, as “a professionally secular PhD researcher” are not in the least bit bias. Carrier notes that “really we should only be looking at the debate among atheists” and that this is “a good point.”
Also, note that Lataster wrote, “I just want to know if particular religious claims are true” in which case, I cannot wait to read his books “There Was No Muhammad, There is No Allah” and “Muhammad Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists.”
Lataster refers to the “independent historian Richard Carrier’s recent defence of” a theory which is “Namely, that the belief in Jesus started as the belief in a purely celestial being (who was killed by demons in an upper realm), who became historicised over time.” He then seeks to summarize Carrier’s book as follows:
…that Jesus was a historical figure who became mythicised over time – both align well with the Gospels, which are later mixtures of obvious myth and what at least “sounds” historical. The Pauline Epistles, however, overwhelmingly support the “celestial Jesus” theory, particularly with the passage indicating that demons killed Jesus, and would not have done so if they knew who he was (see: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10). [“Weighing up the evidence for the ‘Historical Jesus,’” The Conversation, December 14, 2014 AD]
Well, this is very clear indeed as he states that Paul held to the view that “demons killed Jesus, and would not have done so if they knew who he was.” Now, the honest skeptic would read the text and would find that it states:
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Well, this is rather confusing as Lataster is affirming that Paul preached a real, historical Jesus who was, after all, “crucified” so where is the celestial Jesus? Perhaps he has allotted himself some wiggle room so that, when it is convenient, he can claim a “celestial being” Jesus but, when it is convenient, he can claim a Jesus “who became historicised.”
Setting Carrier aside now, Lataster himself asserts that that Paul did not even make it clear that Jesus was a person who died on Earth and builds his concept of the celestial Jesus upon this assertion.
Now, the bottom line is another mere assertion which is that Raphael Lataster seems to presuppose that Paul should have written a historical account of Jesus yet, of course, this is but an arbitrary demand. Obviously, he read Paul, noted no synoptic-gospel-like chronological style retelling of the life of Jesus and concludes that Paul did not view Jesus as historical but celestial. But this is no way to do history; to demand who should have written what. The fact is that Paul’s writings are mostly answers to questions and guidance on early church issues. In other words, it was not his job to do history but to lead and guide the church as to doctrine, order, ethics, etc. Lataster does not get to come around two millennia later and demand that Paul ought to have done otherwise. In other words, Lataster sees what is missing in Paul, points it out and demands that it is problematic yet, this is simply unfounded.
It seems that Lataster references a celestial Jesus whilst not seeming to consider that at the time of Paul writing Jesus was no longer on Earth and so was, at that time, a “celestial Jesus” of sorts: an incarnated, glorified, spiritual (not spirit) resurrected Jesus.
Lataster also asserts that when Paul claims to know something about Jesus, he claims that it came straight from God; thus, not from common historical knowledge. Yet, in Galatians 1:17-19 Paul notes that after spending time in Arabia and Damascus he “went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” and also spent time with “James the Lord’s brother.” In 2:1, 9 he notes “I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John…gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.”
In Acts 9:19, Luke relates that “Then was Saul [Paul] certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.” In 21:16 he notes “There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.”
We have seen, by Lataster’s own citation, that Paul held to a crucified Jesus. Let us now survey that which Paul did write about the historical Jesus. That which follows amounts to Paul’s view being that Jesus was a real historical person who came to live on Earth, being born to Mary through a Jewish genealogy. He was crucified after being on trial before Pontius Pilate, died for our sins, resurrected, will return after having been, as He presently is, at God’s right hand.
1:1 “Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”
3:1 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”
4:4 “when the fullness of the time” temporal, linear, Earthly time, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman” so not some celestial spirit but born on Earth to a human, “made under the law” meaning born Jewish.
1:13, 18, 23 “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?…For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”
2:2, 8 “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
8:11 “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?”
10:16-17 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
11:23 “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:”
15:3 Paul employs technical terminology about how tradition was passed on to him with regards to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received.” Paul even encourages people to seek out and question the eye witnesses “the greater part remain unto this present,” which is what Paul personally did.
4:10 “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
5:14 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:”
1:3 “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
4:25 “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
5:6, 8-10 “…Christ died for the ungodly…Christ died for us…being now justified by his blood…we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
6:4-5, 9-10 “…like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father…in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.”
8:3, 32 “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…He that spared not his own Son.”
3:1 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”
1:7, 20 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace…Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
2:13, 16 “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ…And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
3:10-11 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
1:10 “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
4:16-17 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
5:9-10 “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”
1:15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
2:6 Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
6:13 “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.”
2:8 “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.”
Hebrews—may have been written by Paul:
Hebrews 1:6 “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
2:9, 14, 16 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man…Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil…For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”
9:15 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
10:10 “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Acts—Luke wrote Acts but it is telling, nevertheless, as he accompanied Paul and wrote accounts of his doings and words:
20:28 has Paul stating, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
22:8 “And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.”
26:8-9 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Therefore, based on actual historical evidence, it is clear that Paul most certainly believed in a real, historical Jesus.
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