It was about the year 500 CE when Dennis the Short labored to figure out the date for the birth of Christ. No one knows what his methods were, and yet his date was accepted. So really, we have no idea when this Jesus person was actually born.
Calendars are just confusing. Mostly, making new calendars was done because of the inaccuracy of earlier calendars. The Anno Domini calendar originated the use of BC and AD, and it’s interesting to note that the life of Jesus seems to have been omitted from the calendar completely.
BC stands for “before Christ,” and AD stands for “after death. There was, as of that time, no concept of zero in the calculations, so there was 1 BC followed by 1 AD, with nothing in between. Where the 33 supposed years of Jesus’ life went between his birth and death are a mystery. The Anno Domini calendar was invented in 525 AD and not in wide usage until around 800 AD.
Today, we in the west use the Gregorian calendar which was instituted by a papal bull in 1582 CE (Common Era – the modern replacement for AD) and came into use over the following centuries.
Further complicating the calendar story was the Julian calendar, the earliest of the bunch. It was put into place by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE (Before the Common Era – modern usage replacing ” before Christ”) and this was actually used in some countries all the way down to the 20th century. Most of the Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar to calculate moveable feasts.
Back to the Jesus problem: we don’t know when he lived.
I’ve often thought (without proof, don’t quote me) that Jesus may actually have lived perhaps a hundred or more years before year 1 (BC or AD, take your pick.) Although the growth of Christianity seems to have been very rapid, I think that there is hype involved. And the worshiped Jesus isn’t the first rebel by that name who claimed messiahship.
I tend to agree with a growing number of scholars who think that Jesus was not a real person. Recent reading has only strengthened that idea. Richard Carrier has described the prophesies that presaged the Jesus character as very accurate in their description of events. Why, it’s almost as if the events were designed using the prophesies as a blueprint. What an idea.
As to Jesus the man, we have nothing. Was he tall? Short? Fat? Skinny? Did he limp or have distinctive scars? The stories of Jesus Hellenized could refer to a great many godmen of the period. The sayings of Jesus could have been borrowed from anyone and this Religion of the Slaves could easily have started without a real, living person at the head.
Jesus was expected to be killed.
The story is very neat. And, of course, it’s full of flaws. We know that the Slaughter of the Innocents never happened. We know that Herod died before Jesus was supposedly born. The concoctions about tax collections and traveling around don’t really make any sense with what we know of the ancient world. So it’s bad enough that we don’t have any intimate details of this godman, even the details we have are flawed.
I’ve discussed this often enough, and I insist that I’m really not trying to discredit Christianity by this argument. Naturally, if the argument is correct, it would mean that Christianity is a sham. But if there were some documents or artifacts found today that proved beyond a doubt that there really was a living human named Jesus I’d be more than happy to accept them, and it would save a lot of pondering and reflection.
Had a real Jesus lived, it would not change the fact of divinity. Whether or not there is a God or gods does not depend on this isolated bit of history. The Jesus story is bizarre enough to our modern eyes whether it’s based in reality or mythology. My opinion, based in the concocted evidence presented, is that Yehoshua bin Yusuf is a myth that was invented whole cloth by Jewish slaves, then Hellenized by Paul. Once it became popular the religion spread to the more powerful sections of the Empire, which would have been impossible had the Hellenization not occurred. Jesus becomes so like the myriad gods of the area that he is all but indistinguishable from them, and ultimately replaces them, with growing acceptance made easy by familiarity.
The only difference between Jesus and many of the gods was his Jewish roots, which gave the initial impetus among slaves to spread the “good news” that their release from their overlords was at hand.