The other day, the supreme leader of the Idiot Party, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, found time to call the Holocaust a "lie."
If you've been following me for a while, it won't surprise you if say that I sorta believe that "G-d" is just a shorthand for that which is most awesome in all of us. For some reason, I feel that it's important to emphasize the universality of that "divine" inner thing, whatever we call it. And if I sometimes think it's important to recognize that Jesus was G-d, it's only because I mean to say even that poor sucker was "It." And I sometimes think that that's what the first century Jews who took up his name were trying to communicate and commemorate: even that guy was divine.
See, it's easy to be persuaded that the President speaks with authority, that you should listen to what he says, that you should carefully consider it, and so on. Same with the good-looking wealthy people you're acquainted with. But it's more difficult to imagine that you should pay such close and careful attention to what a guy eating locusts and wild honey and living in the desert in a hair skirt is saying. Or a guy getting crucified for claiming to be the son of G-d.
Obviously, the word "G-d" is annoying and overused--to the point of being meaningless for most people. So leave that issue aside. Answer only this: was there a Jesus back then, who got crucified by a combination of the powers-that-were (Caiaphas and Pilate, etc.)?
Most people will say "yes" easily enough. However, some people are willing to question the historicity of Jesus' life and death. They will say, "Maybe there was no Jesus at all." One of my blogging friends used to make that claim.
Now then, to my controversial question: how is denying the life and death of this poor wretch living under Roman authority 2000 years ago different from denying the Holocaust? Is it only a matter of degree? Is it worse to suggest that "only" 4,000,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust than it is to estimate that 15,000,000 were killed? Is fifteen million too many to forget, but one not enough?
What I'm suggesting is that it is right, true, and correct to effectively disallow serious academics from denying the historicity of the Holocaust. To deny the Holocaust is the taboo it should be. But I'm adding to that: serious academics ought also to disallow one another from denying the historicity of the existence of this guy named Jesus. They may debate his ontological status or his divinity or even the place of his birth or the circumstances of his death. They may call him different names in different languages. But to deny his human existence seems just awful to me. I have personally read serious references to Jesus not only in the Bible, but also in the work of Josephus, and also in the work of Tacitus. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and Justin Martyr all make reference to Jesus and his followers fewer than sixty years after his death. On the other hand, the earliest documents explicitly denying the existence of Jesus don't show up until the 18th century. The Wikipedia page on the historicity of Jesus can supplement/support what I'm saying here.
So I'm on record suggesting that we refuse to take any scholar (or novelist!) seriously who refuses to acknowledge the historicity of this poor, possibly delusional, Jewish wretch named Jesus. Repent, Mxrk! ;)