Jesus existed and was deified by later Christians

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Jesus existed and was deified by later Christians is the theory that Jesus historically existed and was a minor preacher who had some followers who believed he was the son of God and the Messiah. This gained the attention of a few fanatical followers, such as Paul the Apostle, who founded Christianity and deified Jesus. It is of the the theories about the existence of Jesus. The divinity of Jesus is a controversial subject, particularly how and when this view developed and gained general acceptance. Early Christian church encompassed a wide range of views on the subject. Summarising the general view of scholars, such as Andrew Chester and James Crossley:

"Many christians assume that Jesus was recognised as divine in his lifetime, but most scholars say that references to people “worshiping” Jesus in the gospels refer to a high degree of respect and devotion, but not to worship as to God, which would have been very difficult for a good Jew. Instead, they say, belief in Jesus’ divinity developed over time. The question at issue is over what period of time? [...] At the very least, John’s gospel (generally dated to the late first century) clearly portrays Jesus as God [...] Within this range, the scholars cannot agree – some say Jesus was worshiped as divine shortly after his death, others that this belief and practice were much slower to be adopted. [1]"

Other Christian ideas, including the Trinity, were very likely a later development which was not generally accepted by the earliest believers. One theory, advanced by historians including Bart Ehrman, is that much of the diversity of early Christianity was suppressed after the church setted on the Nicene orthodoxy in the 4th century CE. This idea is known as the Bauer Thesis and remains controversial among historians.

"Bauer argued that the existence of a central Christian orthodoxy was nowhere to be found, rather with the superior influence of the Roman church, what we know today as Christianity is merely the outpouring of the victory of one form of Christianity over many others. [...] Despite dozens upon dozens of critiques directed at Bauer and the growing number of contemporary proponents to the Bauer Thesis, the conversation shows little signs of slowing down in the near future. [2]"

Because of the lack of reliable evidence, it is quite difficult to be confident of the similarities or differences between the early church and modern Christianity.


Supporting arguments

Jesus historically existed

The existence of Jesus is the mainstream historical view but some historians criticise the historicity of Jesus, including Thomas L. Thompson. An early reference to Jesus might be in Galatians 1:19 Bible-icon.png, which says James the Just is the brother of the Lord. Historians like James F. McGrath say this statement is an indication of a family relationship. Mythicists such as Richard Carrier disagree saying this is a religious title, similar to brothers in the Lord. [3]

Jesus is a central character in the Gospels. While historians agree there are fictitious elements in the gospels, they do not agree if it is entirely fictitious.

Insufficient evidence of the divinity of Jesus

Historians would require extensive evidence to consider a person divine. The New Testament may have some historical aspects but are certainly biased in religious matters. Ernst Troeltsch argued that there must be some analogy between historical events and current events, which generally rules out supernatural causation. [4] Therefore, historians implicitly believe Jesus was not divine.

There are historians wrote argue a part of the early Christian did not accept the divinity of Jesus, including Bart D. Ehrman. One idea that is somewhat fallen from favor is that these original beliefs were gradually replaced by the more influential churches that had accepted a Pauline interpretation of Jesus; this is known as the Bauer thesis‎.

Counter arguments

Jesus was accused of blasphemy

"According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. [5]"

Jesus was called Lord

"In several of Paul’s Letters Jesus is referred to as “Lord” (Gr. kyrios).[5]"

Explicit claim in the Gospel of John

The most explicit Biblical claim of the divinity of Jesus is in the Gospel of John John 1:10 Bible-icon.png John 14:8-9 Bible-icon.png. Presumably the Gospels were a reflection of the church at that time (end of the first century).

The New Testament is not reliable

Some historians throw out the Gospels and Acts entirely as complete fiction, and focus on the early Epistles and other contemporary sources for interpretation. This approach is used by Richard Carrier.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. Michael R. Licona, Jan G. Van der Watt, Historians and miracles: The principle of analogy and antecedent probability reconsidered, HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies; Vol 65, No 1 (2009), 6 pages. doi: 10.4102/hts.v65i1.129 [4]
  5. 5.0 5.1 [5]
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