National Geographic : 2017 Dec
42 national geographic • december 2017 Even John Dominic Crossan, a former priest and co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, a controver- sial scholarly forum, believes the radical skeptics go too far. Granted, stories of Christ’s miraculous deeds—healing the sick with his words, feeding a multitude with a few morsels of bread and fish, even restoring life to a corpse four days dead— are hard for modern minds to embrace. But that’s no reason to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was a religious fable. “Now, you can say he walks on water and no- body can do that, so therefore he doesn’t exist. Well, that’s something else,” Crossan told me when we spoke by phone. “The general fact that he did certain things in Galilee, that he did certain things in Jerusalem, that he got himself executed—all of that, I think, fits perfectly into a certain scenario.” possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is pure invention? It’s an assertion that’s championed by some out- spoken skeptics—but not, I discovered, by schol- ars, particularly archaeologists, whose work tends to bring flights of fancy down to literal earth. “I don’t know any mainstream scholar who doubts the historicity of Jesus,” said Eric Mey- ers, an archaeologist and emeritus professor in Judaic studies at Duke University. “ The details have been debated for centuries, but no one who is serious doubts that he’s a historical figure.” I heard much the same from Byron McCane, an archaeologist and history professor at Florida Atlantic University. “I can think of no other ex- ample who fits into their time and place so well but people say doesn’t exist,” he said.