Jesus Variants
A rebuttal to an argument for a historical Jesus.
by Peter Kirby (May 22, 2003)

This is an argument made by Metacrock for a historical Jesus:

No Alternate versions of Jesus' story

All of these mythical figures change over time, but not Jesus. There is basically one Jesus story and it's always the same.

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.
2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary."
3) Same principal players: Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdalene.
4) That Jesus was known as a miracle worker.
5) He claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.
6) He was crucified under Pilate.
7) Around the time of the Passover.
8) At noon.
9) Rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.
10) Several women with Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb.
11) This was in Jerusalem.

There were hundreds of sources, different books and Gospels and Acts, that never made it into the New Testament. The Jesus story is re-told countless times from early days (around AD50 first written) to the fourth century, before there was ever a major alteration in any of these basic details. Even after that time, no one ever disagreed with these points listed above.

So, the claim is being made that the story of Jesus is told over and over again without significant variation, at least up through the time of the fourth century. As a definition of what it means to have the same story without variation, Metacrock offers a list of 11 basic details that never change in the telling.

Over against this argument, I contend that there is at least one document from the fourth century or earlier that reveals that some people did not agree with at least one of the basic details above. I will show my contention by actually pointing out disagreement with each of the eleven. But note well that only one of the eleven has to fail in order for the claim to be false that these basic details were unalterable. It is as though I am firing eleven cannon balls, and only one has to hit to sink the No Alternate Versions argumentative ship.

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

Note the ambiguity in the first part of this statement. There are two basic pieces of data about the time of Jesus' birth in the Gospel of Luke, one of which is that it was before the death of Herod (circa 4 BCE) and the other is that it was during the census of Quirinius (circa 7 CE). There are ingenious attempts to harmonize this data, usually by placing Jesus' birth before 4 BCE. But we see already the tendenz of this list of eleven major points: it was designed so as to avoid mentioning details that actually disagree with each other in our sources (rather than simply picking out important claims). I intend to show that, despite this design, the list fails.

From the data provided by Josephus, we estimate that Pilate was prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 CE. The canonical Gospels do tell us that the crucifixion of Jesus was under Pilate and that its day was in some relation to the Passover, which after much puzzling over calendrical systems has produced the dates of 30 and 33 as the most popular years for scholars to place the death of Jesus. (Meier's A Marginal Jew, vol. 1, is a good source for this scholarship, with a favored year of 30 CE.) But none of the canonical Gospels give us data that would allow us to fix the date at 33 CE precisely. The closest thing to an absolute reference for dating in the Gospels is in reference to the start of John the Baptist's ministry in "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (Luke 3:1) which may be 27 or 28 or 29 CE depending on the method of calculation of the regnal years. Even if there were no data that contradicted a date of the death of Jesus as being 33 CE, there is no ancient source that says this in the first place, so it shouldn't be on the list.

But there is a fourth century tradition that Jesus was executed long before 33 CE. Maximin Daia published an "Acts of Pilate" (around 311 CE) that bear a date of circa 20 or 21 CE. F. F. Bruce writes: "These 'Acts', which were full of outrageous assertions about Jesus, had to be read and memorized by schoolchildren. They were manifestly forged, as Eusebius historian pointed out at the time; among other things, their dating was quite wrong, as they placed the death of Jesus in the seventh year of Tiberius (AD 20), whereas the testimony of Josephus' is plain that Pilate not become procurator of Judaea till Tiberius' Twelfth year (not to mention the evidence of Luke iii. 1, according to which John the Baptist began to preach in fifteenth year of Tiberius)." (The New Testament Documents) It would be interesting to know what else was contained in this document, but no copy survives.

The following statement is made by Epiphanius (Haer., xxix. 3): "Now the throne and kingly seat of David is the priestly office in Holy Church; for the Lord combined the kingly and high-priestly dignities into one and the same office, and bestowed them upon His Holy Church, transferring to her the throne of David, which ceases not as long as the world endues. The throne of David continued by succession up to that time - namely, till Christ Himself - without any failure from the princes of Judah, until it came unto Him for whom were 'the things that are stored up,' who is Himself 'the expectation of the nations.' For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order [of succession] failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race; and after this Alexander this lot failed, from the times of himself and Salina, who is also called Alexandra, for the times of Herod the King and Augustus Emperor of the Romans ; and this Alexander, one of the anointed (or Christs) and ruling princes placed the crown on his own head. . . . After this a foreign king, Herod, and those who were no longer of the family of David, assumed the crown." Although Epiphanius elsewhere places the birth of Christ in the forty-second year of Augustus (about 2 BCE), this passage places the life of Jesus around 100 BCE. There is an analysis of this and similar Jewish traditions in G. R. S. Mead's book reproduced here: Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

So, while we might regard these alternative traditions about the period of Christ's life as dubious, we cannot argue as if there is universal agreement on the dates of his birth and death.

2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary."

I am not aware of any tradition in which the mother of Jesus is given a name other than Mary. But there is disagreement on whether Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus.

Origen quotes the Jewish interlocutor of Celsus in Contra Celsum 1.32: "when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera." This is a tradition that denies the Virgin birth.

In fact, there is disagreement on whether Jesus was born at all. Hippolytus of Rome writes in his Refutation of All Heresies, book 7, chapter 19: "Marcion, adopting these sentiments, rejected altogether the generation of our Saviour. He considered it to be absurd that tinder the (category of a) creature fashioned by destructive Discord should have been the Logos that was an auxiliary to Friendship--that is, the Good Deity. (His doctrine,) however, was that, independent of birth, (the Logos) Himself descended from above in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and that, as being intermediate between the good and bad Deity, He proceeded to give instruction in the synagogues. For if He is a Mediator, He has been, he says, liberated from the entire nature of the Evil Deity. Now, as he affirms, the Demiurge is evil, and his works. For this reason, he affirms, Jesus came down unbegotten, in order that He might be liberated from all (admixture of) evil."

3) Same principal players: Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdalene.

Here is some data on the "principal players" mentioned in early Christian writings.

1 Clement mentions Peter and Paul.

The Ignatian Epistles mention Peter and Paul as well as Mary.

The Gospel of Thomas mentions Thomas, James the Just, Simon Peter, Matthew, Mary, and Salome.

The Gospel of Peter mentions Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Andrew, Levi the son of Alphaeus, and most likely others in the lost portions of the text.

The Apocalypse of Peter mentions the twelve disciples but not by name.

The Secret Book of James mentions the 'twelve disciples' as well as James, Peter, and John.

The Preaching of Peter mentions the 'twelve' as well as Peter.

The Gospel of the Egyptians mentions Salome.

The Gospel of the Hebrews mentions James the Just and Simon.

The Gospel of the Ebionites mentions Simon Peter, John and James the sons of Zebedee, Simon, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thomas, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the Iscariot.

The Gospel of the Nazoreans mentions Simon.

The Traditions of Matthias mentions Zaccheus whom they call Matthias, the tax collector.

The Apology of Aristides mentions the 'twelve disciples'.

The epistle of Polycarp mentions Paul and 'the rest of the apostles'.

Papias mentions Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, and Judas.

The Gospel of Mary mentions Mary, Peter, and Andrew.

The Dialogue of the Savior mentions Judas, Matthew, and Mary.

Second Clement mentions Peter.

The Epistula Apostolorum mentions John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Batholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas as well as Joseph and Mary.

I have also written an essay on the tradition of The Seven Apostles.

It is apparent, then, that the main players are not fixed in early Christian literature. Indeed it is one of the most fluid variables.

4) That Jesus was known as a miracle worker.

This point I may have to concede, if only for the reason that anyone could be a "miracle worker" in ancient times, and the rules of riposte dictate that the refutation of a claim to miraculous powers is the charge of magic or devilry. These two charges are found frequently enough, expressing disagreement over who Jesus was and what he did.

On Jesus being in league with the devil, we need look no further than the canonical four (Mark 3:22 etc.). On Jesus as a magician, the Jewish Encyclopedia notes:

According to Celsus (in Origen, "Contra Celsum," i. 28) and to the Talmud (Shab. 104b), Jesus learned magic in Egypt and performed his miracles by means of it; the latter work, in addition, states that he cut the magic formulas into his skin. It does not mention, however, the nature of his magic performances (Tosef., Shab. xi. 4; Yer. Shab. 13d); but as it states that the disciples of Jesus healed the sick "in the name of Jesus Pandera" (Yer. Shab. 14d; 'Ab. Zarah 27b; Eccl. R. i. 8) it may be assumed that its author held the miracles of Jesus also to have been miraculous cures. Different in nature is the witchcraft attributed to Jesus in the "Toledot." When Jesus was expelled from the circle of scholars, he is said to have returned secretly from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he inserted a parchment containing the "declared name of God" ("Shem ha-Meforash"), which was guarded in the Temple, into his skin, carried it away, and then, taking it out of his skin, he performed his miracles by its means. This magic formula then had to be recovered from him, and Judah the Gardener (a personage of the "Toledot" corresponding to Judas Iscariot) offered to do it; he and Jesus then engaged in an aerial battle (borrowed from the legend of Simon Magus), in which Judah remained victor and Jesus fled.

The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus. Jerome mentions it, quoting the Jews: "Magum vocant et JudÃ?i Dominum meum" ("Ep. lv., ad Ascellam," i. 196, ed. Vallarsi); Marcus, of the sect of the Valentinians, was, according to Jerome, a native of Egypt, and was accused of being, like Jesus, a magician (Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergesch." p. 370, Leipsic, 1884).

Now, we might say that the sources agree in Jesus working "apparent miracles" and that the cause was interpreted variously. But, then, I cannot think of a single example in ancient literature in which it is denied that a person worked "apparent miracles." That would become an issue with the rise of naturalistic inquiry during the Enlightenment. The ancients denied the power of Jesus by accusing him of working magic, which was a regular profession in ancient times. It would make no more sense to say that Jesus didn't perform "apparent miracles" than it would to deny that he was a carpenter. Consider the statement of Julian the Apostate: "Yet Jesus, who won over the least worthy of you, has been known by name for but little more than three hundred years; and during his lifetime he accomplished nothing worth hearing of, unless anyone thinks that to heal crooked and blind men and to exorcize those who were possessed by evil demons in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany can be classed as a mighty achievement." Consider also the statement of Celsus as reported by Origen:

But after this, Celsus, having a suspicion that the great works performed by Jesus, of which we have named a few out of a great number, would be brought forward to view, affects to grant that those statements may be true which are made regarding His cures, or His resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves, from which many fragments remained over, or those other stories which Celsus thinks the disciples have recorded as of a marvellous nature; and he adds: "Well, let us believe that these were actually wrought by you." But then he immediately compares them to the tricks of jugglers, who profess to do more wonderful things, and to the feats performed by those who have been taught by Egyptians, who in the middle of the market-place, in return for a few obols, will impart the knowledge of their most venerated arts, and will expel demons from men, and dispel diseases, and invoke the souls of heroes, and exhibit expensive banquets, and tables, and dishes, and dainties having no real existence, and who will put in motion, as if alive, what are not really living animals, but which have only the appearance of life. And he asks, "Since, then, these persons can perform such feats, shall we of necessity conclude that they are 'sons of God,' or must we admit that they are the proceedings of wicked men under the influence of an evil spirit?" You see that by these expressions he allows, as it were, the existence of magic.

Granting this lack of contradiction, though, the appearance of the miracle tradition is not universal. In particular, the Gospel of Thomas presents over 114 sayings of Jesus without mentioning any of his miracles. It would not be far-fetched to suppose that the authors had no belief in Jesus as a miracle worker.

5) He claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

The medieval Gospel of Barnabas has Jesus saying, "I am not the Messiah." It is rather ridiculous to imagine that is historical, of course, unless it played out like a scene in the Life of Brian, with would-be devotees forcing an unwilling man to be the Messiah (and they should know, they've followed a few).

Even Celsus had Jesus return from Egypt, puffed up by magical prowess, claiming to be a son of God. Paradoxically, the type of people who would circulate the idea that Jesus didn't claim to be the son of God would only be those who respected what Jesus said and thought Jesus wasn't supernatural. I am not aware of any such people until modern times, with the possible exception of the Ebionites. The Ebionites did say that Jesus was only a man, and they are recorded in the second century on that count, but I am not aware of a specific passage in which the Ebionites said Jesus didn't claim to be the Messiah.

Again, though, we do have documents that are silent on any messianic claims made by Jesus, including the collection of sayings known as the Gospel of Thomas. If these people thought Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, why wouldn't that be important enough to include in their collection?

6) He was crucified under Pilate.

This is three factoids in one: Jesus died between 26 and 36, Jesus' execution was ordered by Pilate, and the manner of his execution was crucifixion. The first factoid is touched upon in the first item of the eleven; the second two will be addressed here.

Unlike the other gospels, in the Gospel of Luke and in the Gospel of Peter, Herod Antipas plays a role in the trying of Jesus. Robert Price writes about this in Deconstructing Jesus, p. 249:

Jesus' connection with the Roman governor Pilate on one end of his biography need be no more historical than his connection with the Roman governor Quirinius on the other. Even greater doubt is thrown on the matter by the parallel tradition, still extant but just barely, that Jesus was executed under Herod Antipas! The Gospel of Peter has Herod consult with Pilate but see to the execution himself. And, as Alfred Loisy noted long ago, Luke seems to have had access to a version of the Passion in which it was Herod who had Jesus killed, not Pilate. [The Origins of the New Testament, p. 192] This becomes evident when one examines the cumbersome and improbable sequence involving Jesus being tried before Pilate, then Herod Antipas, then Pilate again. No one has ever come up with a plausible reason for Pilate remanding Jesus to Antipas, as Luke has him do. Once Jesus gets to Herod's court, it is Herod's troops who mock him, not Pilate's as in the other gospels, implying that Luke was trying to harmonize the Markan Pilate-Passion with another set in Herod's court and had to choose between mockings. The most flagrant mark of indelicate editing is Herod's acquittal of Jesus--then sending him back to Pilate! It is clear Luke must have had one Passion story in front of him, Mark's, in which Pilate ordered Jesus' execution, and another, like that in the Gospel of Peter, in which it was Herod Antipas who condemned him. To use both, he had to change Herod's verdict from guilty to innocent (otherwise, as in the Gospel of Peter, he must have Herod send him to the cross). But instead of having Herod let Jesus go in peace, as an acquittal surely would demand, he has Herod send Jesus back to Pilate--for what? And if Pilate awaited Herod's verdict, why did he not let him go, too, since Herod had acquitted Jesus? Luke has too many cooks in the kitchen, and the stew is spoiled.

But the key question is, if Jesus was known to have been crucified quite recently in dramatic public circumstances, at the behest either of Pilate or of Herod, how on earth could uncertainty over who killed him ever have arisen? If either Herod or Pilate had recently executed him, how could any belief about the involvement of the other have come about? But, on the other hand, if both were merely educated guesses as to who killed Jesus, we can easily see how the confusion arose.

And was it always said that the manner of Jesus' death was crucifixion? Apparently not. Here is what is written in Baraitha Bab. Sanhedrin 43a:

On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover! - Ulla retorted: Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning him Scripture says, Neither shalt though spare, neither shalt thou conceal him? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government for royalty [i.e., influential]. Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni, and Todah.

I used to think that "hanged" in this passage was a euphemism for crucifixion. But that cannot be. The passage clearly states that Jesus is going forth to be stoned. And, of course, the prescription for those stoned included hanging after death. To read crucifixion into this passage is to Christianize a fully Jewish account of Jesus, one in which Jesus is stoned by Jewish authorities for violating Jewish laws and leading Israel astray.

But we don't have to turn to Jewish traditions to find those who disagree that Jesus was crucified. This is found in the Apocalypse of Peter in the Nag Hammadi Library:

When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said "What do I see, O Lord? That it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?"

The Savior said to me, "He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."

Sure, this passage says that some substitute was placed on the cross instead of Jesus, but is that the best we can do? The fundamental bedrock is that someone, which some people thought to be Jesus, was crucified under Pilate, even if the real Jesus could have been laughing at the whole affair? It strains credulity to say that this is the same story that is always told by Christians everywhere. The difference is significant, which is why the church fathers objected. Hippolytus, in a tract formerly attributed to Tertullian under the title Against All Heresies, writes of the second century Basilides:

Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. He affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, . . . Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.

The difference is crucial: according to these, Jesus was not crucified, and those who worship one crucified are in error. So it clear that even the matter of the crucifixion of Jesus under Pilate is not a uniform trait of ancient accounts of Jesus.

7) Around the time of the Passover.

Here the bias of this collection of eleven main points about Jesus is clear, as it is clearly constructed with an attempt to avoid contradiction, using the vague language of "around the time of the Passover." But there is a contradiction nonetheless. According to the synoptic gospels, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples and was executed on the day of the Passover. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was crucified at noon on the day before Passover, at the same time that the lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple (for the Passover meal). It is telling that only ambiguous language can force a point of agreement out of these disparate accounts.

8) At noon.

Here again there is a discrepancy between the synoptics and John. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was still not crucified until noon. John says: "About the sixth hour . . . they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'" (John 19:14-15 NIV) People in the ancient Roman empire reckoned daytime from 6 A.M. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is already crucified at 9 A.M.: "And it was the third hour when they crucified Him." (Mark 15:25) The most common way to reconcile these accounts--and it's a stretch--is to say that the Gospel of John is counting from midnight, and thus that these crowds are shouting at 6 A.M. Not only does this go against the standard reckoning of time, but it would still contradict Metacrock's point: Metacrock has the crucifixion timed at noon. Of course, if Metacrock is saying merely that the period of crucifixion extended through the noon hour, then this would apply to almost all crucifixions. It was (usually) a slow death.

9) Rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

I have a brief section on the burial traditions as part of my empty tomb essay on the Secular Web. Note especially the Secret Book of James. It is known from a copy in Coptic found at Nag Hammadi. The setting of the work is a post-resurrection encounter with the risen Lord. The summary description of the hardships undergone by Jesus includes that Jesus was buried "in the sand." This Coptic phrase is sometimes translated nonliterally to mean "shamefully," but it should be made clear that the very reason why the burial is shameful is that it is a burial in the sand. To be wrapped in a new linen cloth and placed in a rock-hewn tomb is not the description of a shameful burial. Thus, the Secret Book of James reflects a tradition that Jesus was buried in the sand or, to speak generally, in a dishonorable makeshift shallow grave instead of in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Of course, most non-Christians contended that Jesus didn't rise from the dead at all. The hallucination theory can be traced back as far as Celsus (Origen, Contra Celsum, Book II, Chapter 60):

In the next place, as if this were possible, viz., that the image of a man who was dead could appear to another as if he were still living, he adopts this opinion as an Epicurean, and says, "That some one having so dreamed owing to a peculiar state of mind, or having, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed such an appearance as he himself desired, reported that such had been seen; and this," he continues, "has been the case with numberless individuals." But even if this statement of his seems to have a considerable degree of force, it is nevertheless only fitted to confirm a necessary doctrine, that the soul of the dead exists in a separate state (from the body); and he who adopts such an opinion does not believe without good reason in the immortality, or at least continued existence, of the soul, as even Plato says in his treatise on the Soul that shadowy phantoms of persons already dead have appeared to some around their sepulchres. Now the phantoms which exist about the soul of the dead are produced by some substance, and this substance is in the soul, which exists apart in a body said to be of splendid appearance.146 But Celsus, unwilling to admit any such view, will have it that some dreamed a waking dream,147 and, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed to themselves such an image as they desired. Now it is not irrational to believe that a dream may take place while one is asleep; but to suppose a waking vision in the case of those who are not altogether out of their senses, and under the influence of delirium or hypochondria, is incredible. And Celsus, seeing this, called the woman "half-mad,"-a statement which is not made by the history recording the fact, but from which he took occasion to charge the occurrences with being untrue.

Celsus goes on to argue, "if Jesus desired to show that his power was really divine, he ought to have appeared to those who had ill-treated him, and to him who had condemned him, and to all men universally." The resurrection of Jesus must have been disbelieved by many others besides Celsus who had heard about Jesus.

10) Several women with Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb.

And the women named vary in each account.

Gospel of Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Gospel of Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome
Gospel of Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women
Gospel of John: Mary Magdalene
Gospel of Peter: Mary Magdalene and her women friends
Epistula Apostolorum Coptic: Three women, Mary, she that was kin to Martha, and Mary Magdalene
Epistula Apostolorum Ethiopic: Sarrha, Martha, and Mary
Gospel of Nicodemus: Unnamed women

Of course, in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Peter, the guards are the first to discover the empty tomb.

11) This was in Jerusalem.

At first I thought that this one was unassailable, but by chance I crossed a reference that could show the contrary. Revelation 11:8 says, "Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names 'Sodom' and 'Egypt,' where indeed their Lord was crucified." The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, p. 481, states: "the great city: This expression is constantly used in the Apocalypse for Bablyon, i.e., Rome (14:8; 16:19; 17:5,18; 18:2,10,21), and it is difficult, in spite of the following characteristics, to see Jerusalem in this passage." As the "following chracteristics," the JBC refers solely to "where their Lord was crucified: Some commentators consider this detail a gloss, and although it seems to clinch the argument that the 'great city' is Jerusalem, such an interpretation would contradict the beginning of the verse. The most acceptable of many different interpretations is the one that universalizes the entire passage. Both Rome and Jerusalem furnish details that John applies to the terrestrial city of evil, i.e., the pagan world inimical to God and his people. This city is eager to annihilate the Church; it continues to crucify Christ in his faithful." Of course, the only necessity for such a universalizing interpretation is the axiom that the Lord was crucified in Jerusalem and not Rome. If this axiom is removed from our system of thought, the conclusion is permitted that Revelation speaks of the Lord being crucified in the 'great city' that is the object of its attacks throughout the document, namely Rome. Although I have argued against the identification, perhaps it is right to think of the Jews in Rome acting up under Claudius, as Suetonius reports, at the instigation of Christ!

Although others are free to draw their own conclusions, I have not catalogued these variant stories about Jesus in order to form an argument against the historicity of Jesus. I am responding to a positive argument for the historicity of Jesus, specifically that a non-historical Jesus would have resulted in multiple versions of the Jesus story. Although what it would mean for there to be multiple versions was not defined in a general way, the specific claim was made that no ancient account goes against eleven points enumerated of the Jesus story. Even though this list was specifically designed to avoid contrary stories, there are still traditions that vary on these very points. If a list of major points were drawn up without attention to possible contradictions, we would have seen even more discrepancies, such as the matter of whether the Temple cleansing occurred at the very start or near the end of Jesus' ministry. And, naturally, there is the unproven premise that a non-factual story will always have wildly variant versions (which could be disproven if a definition of "multiple versions" were provided). No evidence for the historical Jesus is found in this argument.