Joshua of Nazareth

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

For the Son of God, see Jesus Christ.

Joshua of Nazareth was an uppity carpenter. When he was about thirty years old he joined a cult led by one hairy old man named John the Baptist. When John was locked up Joshua announced he was continuing the cult, and in fact had much bigger news in store for John's followers. He preached a message of love, worked miracles, and stirred up people's emotions, connecting them directly to God. For this he was crucified, proving once and for all (you might think) that life is not fair.

The first undisputed, unbiased source we have that Joshua was a real guy is a historian named Tacitus, writing in the 110s, who tells us that "Christus" was crucified by Pontius Pilate and his line of "Christians" were blamed by Nero for the fire that caused Rome to burn while he was playing the fiddle. We also have Pliny the Younger around the same time, telling us that early Christians

were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath ... not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.

I quote this to demonstrate perhaps some distant, distorted memory of Joshua's teachings-- the only even half believable account of his message outside the Gospels. Early Christianity, though, is something that scholars try to pry apart from the historical Joshua of Nazareth, so that they can enjoy the philosophy of the man himself without worrying about how his followers put his words into practice. To a certain extent this is a silly thing to do, but of course Christians have been reforming their ranks and trying to become closer to Joshua's commandments for a long time, so it's only fair that we should have a scientific look at the whole thing.

I'm not going to go into the details of Christology here, but here are the tools Bart Ehrman summarizes as the main ways we can tell whether a Gospel story actually happened:

  1. If it was written more than a hundred years after Joshua's death we probably can't use it. This narrows us down to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Oxyrhynchus 1224, and the Fayyum Fragment.
  2. Independent attestation-- if unrelated sources say it, it is more probably accurate.
  3. Dissimilarity-- if it is a strange thing for worshipers of Joshua to write about, such as his betrayal by Judas, it probably happened.
  4. Contextual credibility-- if it makes sense in the place and time it happened, it probably happened. This rules out John entirely; a number of things happen in that gospel which could not have been said or done in 30 AD Israel. We can also use context and language to reconstruct the meaning of certain sayings.

These three things, weighed properly, give us strong evidence that Joshua really did give a sermon about the mustard seed, and that he actually said "Foxes have their dens and birds have their nests, but men have no place to call their home."

There really is a science to this and I encourage you to read some books about it. But don't read anything by the Jesus Seminar; that is a waste of your time, since they take all the fun out of research and simply vote on whether things sound real to them, compounding their opinions into an unattractive mish-mash.

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