Is Jesus real? (And why do I insist upon talking about him?)

jesus

It’s a bit absurd that I find myself these days advocating for the historicity of Jesus given the fact that I just released a book with the sub-title: “Dethroning God and Jesus to Save Ourselves and the World.”

If you have followed my journey through my five books, you know that since 2005 I’ve been sharing my story out of organized religion and particularly Christianity. The story was tolerable to my Christian publisher through Divine Nobodies and Wide Open SpacesBut Being Jesus in Nashville was too much to take, and they rejected my manuscript and abruptly cancelled my publishing contract under the charge of heresy. So my last two books Notes from (Over) the Edge, and the newly released Inner Anarchy have been independently published works. These last few years I have deconstructed, dismantled and discarded my Christian belief system, which was an interesting path for a guy who has a Master of Divinity degree and spent many years preaching the Christian message.

There are two groups of people who are likely to be bothered by my book Inner Anarchy: those who have fixed Christian beliefs about Jesus, and those who have written him off.

Jesus got robbed by institutional Christendom. He needs a new PR Director because the Christian religion has too often given him a bad name. Jesus did not start the Christian religion. It’s not Jesus’ fault that he got hijacked by a religious ideology that preaches God’s wrath and eternal hell. Speaking of hell, if Jesus were alive today, he would raise hell against the Christian establishment much the way he did with the religious establishment of his day. I’ve been sharing these ideas for years now, which includes the 15 Things Jesus Didn’t Say post, which went viral. I also recently did a post about how I have separated Jesus from Christianity – Why I Believe in Jesus (Why I’m Not a Christian). In my most recent book Inner Anarchy I take Christianity to task, and show how the Christian religion has in many cases misrepresented and twisted the life and teachings of Jesus.

Jesus has a message and I believe it’s worth considering. In fact I believe he bore witness to and demonstrated a truth that has the power to save ourselves and a world that is careening down a path of doom. In my view, as a reaction against the absurdities of the Christian religion, people want to write Jesus out of history itself.

There is near unanimity among scholars that Jesus existed historically, although biblical scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the details of his life that have been described in the Gospels. There are countless resources that delve into the matter of the historicity of Jesus. Here are a few I’ve read:

1. The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian by Robin Lane Fox
2. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart D. Ehrman
3. Jesus and the Politics of his Day by E. Bammel and C. F. D. Moule
4. The Historical Jesus in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine
5. Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels
6. Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels by Michael Grant
7. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Over the years, all kinds of non-Christian spiritual writers have spoken of the significance of Jesus. Sylvia Browne comes to mind. A couple interesting perspectives on the topic are: An atheist defense of the historicity of Jesus and The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus. I think one of the challenges in sorting all this out is how the Christian religion has added quite a few extracurricular ideas and teachings about Jesus that aren’t historically verifiable.

Another problem the Christian religion has caused with respect to Jesus is making Jesus’ truth and teachings exclusive. According to this mindset, one has to “become a Christian” and “accept only Jesus” in order to have the truth. So either you belong to the Christian club, or you’re out of luck, doomed, and destined for Hell. Seriously??? The truth Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated has universal significance and it doesn’t require one to become a Christian. Jesus never intended for himself or his teaching to become a religion. Instead, Jesus confronted the problem with the religious mindset altogether, and lifted up truth that any person can embrace if they are willing to look inside themselves.

It is not the “sinners” of the world who need to “accept Jesus,” it’s the Christians. They are the “unbelievers” who turned Jesus into a religion and failed to embrace his truth. Accepting the truth that Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated will make you a heretic like he was. That’s the kind of inner anarchy we need now. I count myself as one of those who had done just that. I had to apply inner anarchy to myself.

I wrote in Inner Anarchy:

“As I write this book, I send rough drafts of chapters to a few ex-Institutional-Christian friends for input and feedback. That was humbling! A few of them were like, “Seriously, Jim; we’re back to quoting Bible verses?!” That didn’t go over too well! It wasn’t easy convincing them that this was not just a rehash of their old religion. Having just spent years shedding religion, they were fearful of getting sucked right back into it. Maybe others of you felt the same.

Hopefully I succeeded in persuading them that what this book is about is nothing like that. But to lift up what is real and shine the light on where all this is going, it was necessary to untangle the mess the Christian religion had made of Jesus and his teachings. It was critical to see that Jesus taught that the God and heaven we have all been waiting for up in the sky have been in us all along. Once we get that, we can let that entire mindset and system die off and become obsolete.”

(Image by Gregilnero/deviantart.com)

Latest Comments

  1. Don Rogers says:

    Jim- I have something I need to get off my chest. We’ve both been at this deconstructing of our Christian lives for some time now. I have watched (read) as you have tried in various books and ways to find what the answer is to this question we both have asked ourselves numerous times. What do we do with Jesus? “Being Jesus in Nashville” was the first time I felt we were about to head in a vastly different direction. “Notes from the Edge..” further convinced me things would never be the same for me again. “Inner Anarchy” scared the …. out of me. But, through them all, you quoted scripture. This puzzled me. I have trouble with that. Early in my journey, I made a pretty comprehensive study of the early church (people) and the institution as it seemed to create itself (without much help from Jesus).

    I will admit I lost touch with scripture because I had, through my studies, given up on it being anything close to the original manuscripts….you know copies of copies of copies. Not that I necessarily would have believed all that even the original manuscripts said (if we had them). Scribal additions, and errors convinced me that basically none of scripture could be relied on with any veracity. How do you decide which scriptures point to truth and therefore can be relied on our journey? I admit I have pretty much given up on scripture being anything close to being something (God) or as I refer to as the ground of being. had for us.I don’t ever remember you saying anything about the veracity of the Bible as a whole, the NT in particular. I need direction here. It seems that we have so little, if anything, that we can trace directly to Jesus that it makes knowing what he taught or thought dicey to say the least. I am a believer and most likely always will be. But finding a source for that belief is very difficult if not next to impossible. That is one of the main reasons I have turned within myself for enlightenment on the subject of Jesus. I want to be a part of this “reclaiming” of the real Jesus. I am with you on this quest. I just don’t know what to make of “his” story. Thanks for listening. Love you Brother!

  2. jim hibbett says:

    Hi Jim. Does this train of thought imply that the last 2000 years is simply a big mistake? That we should only regret that any of it happened as it did? To the extent it takes that point of view does it not cut one off from our actual roots, even if a good part of roots are ugly and imperfect? Does this risk the over simplified notion, ‘human kind has totally screwed up, now lets go out and do it right.’ Has our past not in some sense been evolutioarily necessary for us to be who we are? I surely track with you on many of the areas you address, such as the importance of looking within for new answers, something we have not been taught how to do and I think necessarily implies the use of the tools of depth psychology which we have now. I see the many tragic turns of history but I think care should be taken to not be throwing out the baby with the bath water. I doubt it is ever a good to decide to let any part of the history of our development ‘die off’ and be forgotten. We are how we are much due to that story and the evolution that carried it along. We will need to consult it and ask questions of it for a very long time.

    • jimpalmer1 says:

      Jim, left out of the history books of institutional Christianity there is a wonderful tradition and history of people and communities that truly took a hold of and lived the truth Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated. Most of them were labeled heretics, marginalized, demonized, and often burned at the stake. I owe a great debt of gratitude to these folks who the world mostly will never hear of. and how they have been a light down through the ages.

  3. Jan says:

    For 35 years, my husband and I were fully engaged with an elitist religious group. We met there, we married there, we raised our children there. One of the beliefs there was that being part of that group was the “only way to make it to heaven”. The idea was taught that they were “Little David on the back side of the mountain”, and that “the way” was hidden and secret. After years of witnessing the increasing dysfunction in the group, we left more than five years ago. Leaving has allowed me to seek only the pure essence of God in my life, minus all the politics, manipulation, backbiting, programs and positions. I now feel that I am TRULY Little David on the back side of the mountain, away from all the fluff and distraction that would keep me from experiencing exactly what Jesus came to this earth to teach us. I follow you on Facebook, but have yet to read any of your books, so I cannot express my thoughts regarding the full content of them, but I do want to thank you for shaking things up and helping people to go inward and seek for truth in themselves.

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