Jesus: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? … OR!

One argument I’ve heard in defense of the Bible is one that emphasizes that Jesus is not a liar or a lunatic, so therefore he must be exactly who Christianity says he is.

Here’s a link with that argument:

http://christianstudy.homestead.com/files/classes/defending_the_faith/lesson8.htm

Now, I come from a childhood that included a desire to become a magician, so I have always kept an eye open to magic – or should I say, illusion.  I find optical illusions particularly enjoyable!  But sadly, one element of learning about magic is that you have to learn that there is no such thing as magic.  Everything that happens, happens within the boundaries of what is possible in the universe.  Maybe Jesus was tapped into some universal truths that we are far from understanding.  Maybe you really can feed thousands with a couple loaves of bread?

Another thing I learned about magicians, besides their ability to entertain with illusions, is their desire to bring understanding to deceptions.  One of the best known Magicians in recent history was Harry Houdini, and he was known to be a debunker of psychics.

Not all magicians are necessarily illusionists either.  Some do magical stunts with their scientific knowledge and abilities to endure extreme conditions.  Things that are beyond the beliefs of most people, but are actually possible with the proper training.  David Blaine would be a good example of this type of magician.

Anyways, back to the options of Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.  Here’s the breakdown of the options from the website I linked earlier:

Image

I find this to be a very limited perspective.

I had a challenging time finding an acceptable understanding of the Bible coming from a background of magic-awareness.  It resulted in a lot of research and a lot of reflection on things I’ve learned in the past.  Some historical understanding of the time-frame of when the New Testament was written in relation to Jesus’ life was also very helpful.

Alright, I’ll get to the point.

My alternative is that Jesus had a much more in-depth understanding of things than the people of the time.  He knew that sharing his ideas and understandings would get him into trouble, so he orchestrated himself a magical way out that would both emphasize his teachings and allow him an escape. 

Okay, so Jesus might have been a little deceptive in order to share his knowledge and also survive.  I think that is absolutely forgivable.  Especially considering the ideas that he was able to share that have been passed along for around 2000 years!

Unfortunately, his escape does cause some issues and has actually become an undeserving focal point for much of Christianity.

I don’t think it was an escape of certainty either.  He put himself at a huge risk of dying if he wasn’t able to endure the torture of being on the cross.

I feel for Judas.  If there is truth to this scenario, it means that Judas actually believed in Jesus the most.

[edit]As for the feeding thousands with bread and other miracles – evidence as to when the books of the Bible were written points to them being written several decades after the events occurred.  That gives plenty of time for word of mouth of the amazing things he did to snowball into greater miraculous claims.

If you are unsure, do some fact-checking on movies about famous people from the 20th century.  Chances are, some events are not completely accurate in the movie in order to bring a greater WOW sense to the retelling of the story.  Just imagine how dramatically that could happen when stories have been word-of-mouth for a number of decades.

And remember, Chuck Norris once made a lame man run for his life!

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52 Responses to Jesus: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? … OR!

  1. A few months ago a watched a movie, “The Man from Earth,” which sort of hit on this idea. The protagonist was a guy who never physically aged past 35 or so, born during the stone age, living in modern times. He turned out to be “Jesus,” crucified for spreading radical ideas, but his body healed itself in three days and he skipped town. Cool movie.

  2. Perspective Collector says:

    “He orchestrated himself a magical way out that would both emphasize his teachings and allow him an escape.”
    Care to elaborate on this sentence?
    Interesting perspective, I’m just wondering what exactly you mean. So, you’re not saying Jesus was accurate, a liar or a lunatic but something else? If you put your alternative on the diagram, where would it fit and how would you word it in under six words?
    Hope this doesn’t come across as critical cos that’s not my tone at all – I’m just trying to understand and I do that by asking lots of questions. I’m a details freak!

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Well, Jesus avoided stating absolutely that he was the literal son of God, he allowed others to come to that conclusion it seems. He made sure he was crucified on the day before a sabbath so he would have the best chance at survival, and being alive after being crucified would emphasize the idea that he actually was the son of God which would make certain that his teachings of love would be cherished and passed along. The people who wanted him dead would also believe he was dead, so he could go on his way without being followed.

      I actually welcome questions, it only helps come to a better understanding. But basically, what I am saying is that Jesus had some ideas that were pro-humanity, knew he would get in trouble for them, but found a way to effectively teach them while giving him a possible way out other than simply dying for the beliefs as the apostles apparently ended up doing.

      And to simplify the concepts Jesus was teaching, see my post “The Simple Heart of Christianity”:
      https://christianitysimplified.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/the-simple-heart-of-christianity/

      • Perspective Collector says:

        Very interesting thoughts here! I don’t think I’ve ever heard this exact perspective before so this is exciting!
        Questions are great, aren’t they! I love questions for the same reason – to gather as much info as I need to understand the nitty gritty of something. It sometimes requires a lot of questions.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        For sure! What I am amazed at is the lack of opposition for my point of view so far. I responded to what I guess was a popular Christian blog entry the other day and my response required linking to my explanations – it resulted in over 100 unique visitors in the past few days and no one is crying afoul of my ideas. I was kind of anticipating such ideas to cause debate!

      • Perspective Collector says:

        Were you wanting opposition and debate?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I was hoping for some testing of the theory to make sure it was sound. I’ve only been through the New Testament once, so I am by no means an expert. That and my mind grasps wider concepts much better than it grasps details.

      • Perspective Collector says:

        Well, from my eyes, I found I couldn’t really engage or make a judgement call, because (aside from only wanting to listen), I found I had nothing really to grab on. Hence why I wanted clarification. I found your idea quite abstract/ambiguous and wasn’t sure what you were trying to say with it. When there’s no clear stance, I find it harder to talk about it.
        Again, I hope no offence is taken here cos I’m literally just stating a fact without any offence. I’m a details person, though, so that’s why it’s kind of important to me.
        Your idea about Jesus not being God, on the other hand, is nice and clear and something that can be engaged. I could share my opinion on that one, but again, I’m only listening and seeking to understand.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Say what you like, if I become offended then that signals an issue I need to deal with. I’m just putting ideas out there that have clicked with my understanding of things.

      • Perspective Collector says:

        Dude, wonderful perspective. I always say if I get offended, it’s MY issue – I never have to have an issue with anyone else.
        And totally get that – I do the same. I’m sure people have no clue what I’m talking about sometimes, but I’m just writing my thoughts as I get insights. Thus they may not be smart or sound – but it’s a written view of the process my mind is going through.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        That’s what writing should be all about, encouraging communication and broadening understanding. Being open to being wrong demonstrates a willingness to find a greater understanding.

  3. Pingback: Jesus and God: A parable for the ages? | Christianity Simplified

  4. Arkenaten says:

    Your post and subsequent comments suggest that you consider it possible that Jesus manipulated events including his arrest, trial and “execution” to give him a greater than 50% chance of survival just to get across some sort of message concerning “universal love”.
    Are you serious?
    Do you realise how loopy this actually sounds?
    It does, in effect , make him out into be the lunatic C.S.Lewis argued against. And who, in all honesty, should believe a nutjob like this? Jesus not CS Lewis. (although….)
    Would you?

    I think the world has enough such characters.

    However, if you are right…then at least it would pu to bed once and for all the nonsense that he was the Son of God.

    In all honesty, though, prefer to adopt a Pythonesque stance a la Life of Brian:
    “He’s making it up as he goes along!”

    • jasonjshaw says:

      First off, if he just came to town suggesting these ideas, would anyone have listened? In order to get through to people, I think he had to work within the confines of what they believed.

      As for him being a lunatic, people have risked much more for much less reason. Evel Knievel comes to mind.

      And I think Jesus knew that such a deception would linger in the hearts of those his story was shared with, but he also knew that the truth would someday come out, and that it would shake the foundations of the belief based on his story. And there you have Jesus’ second coming (or second understanding) and all the turmoil of the book of Revelations. And then a great peace in the world when everyone comes to terms that their supernatural beliefs are actually based on mortal human actions.

      Just a theory!

      • Arkenaten says:

        To countenance such a suggestion is folly. There was already John the Baptist running about munching locusts and preaching a similar message.
        Besides if he had planned this to a T and got away with it then he screwed up big time as his ‘Message’ failed and the supporting evidence doesn’t match what was written.

        Here, once again , we have a “magic bullet’ theory a la Kennedy to try and justify what is patently a story.

        If he existed..he likely died.
        Of he didn’t exist then they could write what the hell they liked.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        The message has failed so far, and yes, with John the Baptist preaching a similar message, we have a basis for Jesus’ teaching. Jesus provided a larger reach for the message by connecting himself with God.

        That’s not to say that it isn’t a fabrication to some degree, but I am working under the assumption that it is all historically-based and logically explainable.

        Under this assumption, I don’t think Jesus’ message is able to truly succeed until his connection to God is set aside and his humanity is embraced.

      • Arkenaten says:

        But there were numerous eschatological itinerant preachers. “Some historian called Josephus” mentions a couple, 😉 A few were also called ”Jesus”.
        One could afford Jesus some credence if he did in fact consider he was the Son of God in which case he was chuffing nuts. The lunacy part of CS Lewis’s hypothesis.

        Of course he could have been a member of the Essenes and been brainwashed like they do to some extremist Jihad Islamists.

        He could also have been a Sicari in disguise, keeping his dagger under his nightshirt, or a Jedi knight or even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

        Or he could simply have been a delusional dickhead with a smart mouth who got nabbed by the Romans and executed for sedition.

        Which is the more likely?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        True enough, Jesus did tell the apostles to let the others making claims like Jesus to do their thing. Why would he be threatened by what they’re doing when he had a plan to one-up them beyond anything they would be prepared to do!

        So what about Edward Snowden? He seems to have put his life on the line to share understandings in a big way with humanity in mind. Some see him as a traitor, some as a hero. I think there’s some parallels to be drawn there.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Parallels?
        Well, one can make this parallel if one wants but i don’t believe it is quite the same. One could just as éasily use Rushdie as an example.

        And with Jesus, he was in competition with quite a few others, was he not? ( though not necessarily at the same time)
        So unless he did believe he was something special ( which would lead one to believe he was off his rocker) what possible motivation could he have for creating a situation that virtually guaranteed his execution?
        If we ditch logic, then fine, it may have been possible he would have conceived of such a plan but not to guarantee its outcome, and he would have to have been nuts.
        Otherwise…not a chance. The argument is so fraught with virtual impossibilities as to make it untenable.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Definitely not a guaranteed outcome, just like a criminal planning a heist. But for him to actually go through with it, he would have had to have a reasonable confidence that he could get through it.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Honestly, all things considered ( especially for such a small payoff) is this what you truly believe?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I accept it as a more reasonable possibility than what Christianity typically suggests. What I believe is that all beliefs are attempts to understand our existence from different perspectives. My personal issue with Christianity is the high level of hypocrisy I’ve experienced with Christians when the concepts Jesus taught were so simple.

      • Arkenaten says:

        More reasonable than being a man god and rising from the dead and going to heaven? Sure.

        But plausible? No…

      • jasonjshaw says:

        You have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Taking a trip to hang out with those of other beliefs with an ability to connect with their understandings.

      • Arkenaten says:

        This is vague. Please be specific.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        You know, helping the Christians of strong faith drop their superiority complex.

      • Arkenaten says:

        with the ultimate aim of…..

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Bringing more connectivity to humanity.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Are you suggesting the eventual voluntary eradication of religion?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Yeah, I guess an increase in understanding would lead to a decrease in religion, wouldn’t it?

      • Arkenaten says:

        Then we are the same page. Excellent!

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Oh, and I exercised some belief in some of my comments in our exchange there. Just FYI! Seemed to work out though!

  5. jblondie09 says:

    Hmmmm I liked your diagram…I don’t know if I truly understand your magicians perspective …but I enjoyed this post nonetheless. Glad I’m a new follower 🙂

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Welcome jblondie09!

      Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you are curious, the way I have connected things is a little different than the ways most people approach an understanding of Jesus.

  6. It’s good to see your thinking process here. You’ve definitely done well to question such a simple diagram! In the theology I have studied, Jesus was the human manifestation of God. In other words, Jesus perfectly manifested the Spirit of God, although he was fully human. In this sense, Jesus was the incarnation of God. The reason the apostles, who were approved by God, originated the belief that Jesus was in some sense divine is because God resurrected him. It had nothing to do with miracles during the ministry. In fact, we could toss all of the miracles. If God resurrected this man, then this man sent the apostles out, and the apostles preached that Jesus was divine, then why should we doubt that Jesus is divine?

  7. Soduhson says:

    Your “magic Jesus” theory actually parallels to the “Jesus was a really good prophet” interpretation. To me, I would argue that Christianity requires that Jesus is more than human in some sense. To be divine doesn’t necessarily equal being God, it implies having a nature distinct from humanity. The problem I have with the humanized versions of Jesus (from adoptionism to regular teacher) is that it implies Jesus’ nature can be shared (or surpassed) by one of us. This undermines his authority in my opinion.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Why couldn’t he be human while being distinctly head and shoulders above everyone else in his understanding of the nature of things? He clearly had a fantastic grip on the OT at a young age from what the NT mentions. He had over a decade and a half to continue to expand his understandings and application of them. It’s not like he’d be the only human in history to excel at something to the point of seeming supernatural.

      For a modern connection of this idea, take a look at some of the sports stars of the past century. Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky. They are in leagues of their own beyond any known capabilities. Babe Ruth in particular – in an era of news reporting, his storied baseball career has been elevated beyond fact and accepted as something bordering on supernatural at times. This is even with direct evidence and first-hand witness stories that were captured on the day of events happening.

      If such things occur with people in modern times, is it really a stretch to consider Jesus’ story may have had such similarities?

      • Soduhson says:

        It actually proves my point with the modern day examples. While they are still remembered for their skills and setting a higher standard in their respective fields, they have also been surpassed by subsequent players who (in many respects) sought out to surpass them. So Human Jesus can be organized like this:

        Adoptionism: Jesus became the divine son of God via the Baptism/Transfiguration/Resurrection. (God “can” adopt another person if he so wills)

        Prophet: Jesus was an Elijah-esque prophet (Elijah had Elisha, Jesus had the twelve and Paul. Being a prophet is impressive but by no means out of the ordinary. God can call “another” if he so wills.)

        Magi: Jesus was an intelligent Man with “magic awareness”. (Many miracle workers were reported as contemporaries of Jesus. Apparently, magic awareness can surpass a particular ideology. You can have Jesus’ power without having his wisdom.)

        Symbol: Jesus was apparently a popularly figure who started a major following that was greater than he actually was. (Historical Jesus interpretation).()Modern day examples, if the symbol wasn’t as great as they are idealized they are pushed off the pedestal. Or if the symbol has been easily overshadowed.)

        Composite/Never existed: Skeptical interpretation.

        Once again, it’s a possibility that needs to be accepted by believers, as God could use any means to bring forth the message Christ sent. However, I’ve seen the effects this belief has in the theology of many believers. It leaves them seeing Christ as a peer rather than as a leader (let alone savior). This also makes Paul, a guy who reportedly performed miracles like Jesus and his disciples, extremely modest about his role in the faith.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky have been surpassed? I’ll give you Babe Ruth – though he has become larger than life in that maybe some of his stats have been surpassed (maybe not legitimately) – but no one has come close to capturing the imagination in any way like he did. I don’t think it to be that much of a stretch comparing him to Jesus in that manner.

        Your final statement, in having people see Jesus as a peer – I think that is a very positive thing! I have heard far too many stories of churches being more like social clubs than taking the initiative to understand that we all do have the ability to do what Jesus did in bringing connection to all.

        I’ve actually got a book, “The Irresistible Revolution”, where the author actually follows Jesus’ lead in the way he lives his life and writes about it. With such results, it’s a shame that Christians see Jesus more as a leader than as someone they can knowingly take steps to emulate.

      • Soduhson says:

        My issue isn’t with emulation, but surpassing (or attempting to surpass) Jesus. When I said “peer” I meant “equal”.

        Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature. Through his human nature he is a peer and through his divine nature he is unobtainable. I actually discussed this in my blog post Christianity is not humanistic part one.

        http://soduhson.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/christianity-is-not-humanistic-part-1/

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Ok, I think I am better understanding the suggestion of Jesus being both fully human and fully God, though how does one not negate the other in any way? It seems like a duality claim that is great from a marketing perspective, but can lead to confusion in practice.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Actually, thinking more about your comment, what issue is there with people attempting to surpass Jesus? Wouldn’t that actually result in a lot of positivity for those in darker corners of humanity? What if uplifting those who are disconnected became like a sport? It would certainly be something worth cheering for!

      • Soduhson says:

        I have no issue with taking on his example. My issue is attempting to apprehend his authority. Trying to become equal with Jesus in order to essentially usurp his position in the faith. Particularly if the humanized Jesus is presented as a human being with our emotions and irrationalities based on particular situations. A more educated person, through this theological position, can say, “I know better than Jesus did” or “Jesus was wrong when he said this”. If Jesus becomes an ordinary person, someone whose example can be surpassed and authority can be commandeered, than Christianity dissolves. Though some people would see the dilution of Christianity as a good thing. Personally, I would not. The authority of Jesus gives us a figure to humble ourselves before. I would argue that this sentiment, considering yourself “closer to”, “equal to” or “greater than” Jesus is one of the causes of corruption in the church today. Many people don’t always vocalize this sentiment, but their actions show that they think this way.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        People can say “I know better than Jesus did” if he is seen as a peer or “I know what Jesus was saying better” if he is seen as an authority. I’m not sure that I see a significant difference in that sense.

        If someone claims to know better than Jesus, they should be challenged to demonstrate it. As the saying goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

      • Soduhson says:

        I’m not trying to be obstinate, but it seems like you don’t really understand (or empathize) with what I’m saying. When Jesus becomes a pure human being, the issue isn’t taking his teachings to another level or to the “next step”. But deconstructing his teachings (through an usurping of his authority) is my issue. In the field of religious study and Biblical criticism, we already question the translations and sayings attributed to Jesus. If his authority can be usurped we can say, “yes Jesus said X,Y, and Z but he was wrong when he said that.”

        Much of Jesus’ teachings were about walking in opposition to human nature. Taking the law to the next step beyond ritual acknowledgement of it. Whereas modern thought, particularly secular humanism, is about embracing human nature (as long as no one is ‘harmed’ in the process). Jesus’ teachings (if he is no longer unobtainable) can be considered “wrong” because he goes against the modern narrative.

        This is an issue for believers, non-believers wouldn’t see this as a problem (in fact, they would see it as a goal for the Church). A Christian fighting for the deconstruction of the faith will always be granted support from non-Christian groups. The deconstructionist Christian thinks they are doing something good because of their band-wagon support. Technically, it’s not much different for other faiths. Many Christians would stand hand in hand with atheists who seek to stomp out Islam. Kind of getting off topic admittedly, but I think the goal should be to say/think I disagree with you, and that’s okay. Instead of unifying at the expense of another belief, we should unite despite our differences.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I’m having a difficult time following what you are saying. Jesus was an authority in his understanding of humanity. His life was devoted to it, and he lived it. I find it difficult to question that authority alone.

        I agree, Jesus was about walking against human nature. I’m not familiar with secular humanism, but upon viewing its Wikipedia page, it does not come across as embracing human nature. It seems to be more about finding greater understandings of what will be best for humanity. I would suggest Capitalism is far more about embracing human nature, considering the income inequality it has resulted in.

        I’m not fighting for a deconstruction of the faith. I have experienced first-hand the positivity in the community aspect that builds naturally from Christianity. What I am fighting for is a more connective understanding of the the ideas Jesus presents. It would be wonderful if Christianity loosened its grip on Jesus so that more people would be opened up to learn the concepts he teaches. I also see great disconnect from Jesus in the lack of humanity that comes from many areas of Christianity. That is why I see a need for better connection and understanding. I am sure Islam could benefit from better connection as well.

        We should unite on our common ground (our humanity) and then build greater understanding from there. You know, like Jesus did.

      • Soduhson says:

        I think I’m going to make a blog post on this issue. Honestly, no slight against you, but I don’t think you misunderstand my argument. You just don’t see the problem that I see.

  8. Pingback: Christians love their false dilemmas | Christianity Simplified

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