No Contemporary Accounts of Jesus (nor Edith)

There are no contemporary accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. That matters. The normal rebuttal is to call that a lie and cite Josephus and Tacitus. However, Tacitus was born in AD 56 and Josephus was born in AD 37. Jesus died aged 33. The friendliest estimate of Jesus’ year of birth is AD 9, which means Jesus died in AD 41 (and Josephus was 8). The least palatable (but better supported) year of Jesus’ birth is 2/3 BC, meaning Jesus died in about AD 30, and Josephus wouldn’t be born for another 7 years.

Quibbling over 10 years here or ten years there might seem laughable, given that we’re talking about something that happened about 2000 years ago. But the idea of “contemporary” isn’t relative. Things do not become more “contemporary” as time passes. The account was either written at the time of the event, or it wasn’t. To illustrate the issue, I want to talk about my grandma’s friend, Edith.

Disappointingly, I didn’t realise how little I knew my grandma and granddad until after they died. I wanted to make up for that, so I started asking around my family for more information and close friends. No one really had a lot to say, and there were some rather dull stories of friends they had as a married couple. But one person stuck out: Edith. Edith was a childhood friend of my grandma. Edith, unfortunately, died before my grandma met my granddad.

My grandma used to recount stories of her childhood to her children: my mother, my uncle and my aunty. Edith was a frequent character in these stories.

My grandma had a bleak upbringing; the details aren’t too relevant, but to illuminate the issue I shall offer a brief synopsis: her father (my great granddad) was an abusive drunk and a conservative Catholic. He would beat his wife in front of his children, and ridicule, demean and threaten his children for what he perceived as ‘ungodly’ behaviour. She lived in Ireland during the troubles and World War 2 ended in her childhood. She was an unhappy and scared child.

Edith had “what you might call today, New Age-y ideas” (my mum, quoting her mum). From what I have heard, they were Buddhist in leaning: they were about understanding and controlling your own emotions, being able to detach your ego from your own feelings, that things were entwined and connected and that one day she would understand why the people who scare her behave the way they do. Into their mid-teens, they would run into the forest with a bottle of beer and they would drink and chat for hours and sleep in the woods. When her dad was dying, Edith made my grandma visit him and tell him he forgave her and that one day she would understand him. (I imagine that was meant to be an allusion to Buddhist ideas of rebirth. But, as my grandma became an alcoholic in later life, it became true in a much more literal way. Is that fulfilling a prophecy?) Edith brought peace to my grandma.

In 1954, when my grandma was 24, 6 years before the Troubles in Ireland, she found Edith hung to death from a lamppost. Her cries for help were ignored, and she eventually cut her down and carried her body to bury her in the woods where they spent their childhood and buried her there. A few days later, Police investigating Edith’s disappearance approached my grandma. People had seen her wailing, crying for help and then eventually take the body away. My grandma took the Police to where she had buried her friend, and they dug her up. She wasn’t there.

After questioning my grandma, they let her go. There was no body and no witness had seen who killed Edith. A week later, Edith bodily approached to my grandma. Edith told her to go to England “to avoid the fire that will engulf our lands” (again, my mum’s word; trying to quote Edith by proxy). 6 years later my grandma had become a nurse, married my granddad and the Troubles began Ireland.

The question of whether Edith is real is now a many-faceted question. Observe:

  1. Did my grandma have a friend called Edith?

(a) If so, did Edith feel and know the Buddhist ideas I claim she knew?

(b) If not, where did this idea of Edith come from?

(i) Did my grandma invent her as part of an alcoholic delusion based on her own spiritual leanings?

(ii) Is Edith actually a composite of many friends my grandma had, or figures of whom she knew?

  1. Did Edith appear to my grandma after my grandma buried her?

(a) If not, is Edith “real”? Or is Edith a myth that shares a name with my grandma’s “real” friend(s)?

(b) If so, is it more likely my grandma buried a semi-conscious woman in her panic or that Edith really did come back from the dead?

To investigate these questions, you may look for other records. Edith, according to this, died in 1956, 33 years before I was born. I am not contemporary with the events. You could look up the town my grandma grew up in and ask for Police records surrounding a girl named Edith who went missing in 1956. You will find, exactly as I did, no record. But we don’t expect Police to keep records that long, and given the Troubles Ireland went through, missing a few records is bound to happen. The local newspapers don’t report her missing and you can’t find an obituary or a gravestone. Why would you expect a gravestone when the body was never found? Is a newspaper guaranteed to report every missing person?

Eventually, you do find a written record of Edith. Although I was born 33 years after Edith supposedly died (and write about her 58 years after), the record you find was written by someone who was born in 1966, 10 years after Edith’s death. The record is a diary entry dated 1981, the author was 15 and the account is now 25 years after the death of Edith. The accounts don’t match up completely. What I have passively referred to as “a witness” is now referred to “another close friend: Alan”. And Alan helped my grandma get the body down and bury it. Alan was also arrested and questioned, but never charged (an interesting omission on my part). This account does not explicitly say that Edith approached my grandma “bodily” after her death, only that she “appeared to” her. However, a later diary entry, dated 1984 does say Edith was “physically there”.

An entry in the diary dated 1985 reads: “I have never believed my mother’s stories about her friend Edith coming back to life. But last night, while my mum was miraculously sober, she broke down in tears saying that Edith had appeared to her again and told her to take control of her life again. She was sober and emotional and, I think, sincere. Now I can’t shake this tingling guilt that I have been so sceptical of my mother for all these years.” And now the story has a convert. This is the last of the diary entries.

My mum wrote that source, the very person I used to build my account. They don’t agree. You seek further information. My uncle has no written account, but his eldest son (born in 1997, 41 years after Edith’s death) has written an account. Whereas my mother and my account both suggest my grandma lived in Ireland when the Troubles started. My cousin’s account claims she left Ireland 6 years earlier, on the advice of Edith. Which is it?

You decide the “genuineness” of this Edith character could be supported by demonstrating that Buddhist-esque teachings in Catholic Ireland would show that Edith had some deeper, spiritual understanding. You convince yourself that if you can establish that Edith’s teachings were unique in her culture, you could reasonably believe that Edith had some supernatural connection that could result in, or at least explain, her resurrection. After you did some further research, you found that the first Buddhists in Ireland appear on the census in… 1871 (here). Before Edith. Worse still, it appears Buddhism was culturally popular in the 1950s (here), when the story of Edith is set.

So, I repeat my questions:

  1. Did my grandma have a friend called Edith?

(a) If so, did Edith feel and know the Buddhist ideas I claim she knew?

(b) If not, where did this idea of Edith come from?

(i) Did my grandma invent her as part of an alcoholic delusion based on her own spiritual leanings?

(ii) Is Edith actually a composite of many friends my grandma had, or figures of whom she knew?

  1. Did Edith appear to my grandma after my grandma buried her?

(a) If not, is Edith “real”? Or is Edith a myth that shares a name with my grandma’s “real” friend(s)?

(b) If so, is it more likely my grandma buried a semi-conscious woman in her panic or that Edith really did come back from the dead?


7 thoughts on “No Contemporary Accounts of Jesus (nor Edith)”

  1. There was a show on cable in which the producers claim that they may have (may have) discovered the boyhood home of Jesus. They mention that Nazareth was a very small village, so small that there were no mentions of it. They were excited because if they could identify this place as Jesus childhood home, they might be able to get some insights as to what kind of man he was.

    Do these idiots even listen to themselves? If Jesus was their god incarnate, what he was and how he behaved had absolutely nothing to do with how he was raised. I turned off the show after about five minutes because it was pandering to those who were seeking proof that Jesus was real. Even if they found the name Jesus carved into a wall there it would prove nothing, but they were still slogging away with their hopes and dreams.

    Amazingly desperate it seemed.

    1. It’s the same post. Just took it back from Atheist Enquiries, because it looked like it was being closed down. Looks like Atheist Enquiries has been saved though.

      I forget why that lost momentum.

  2. A very good narrative-comparative analysis Allallt.

    The many errors, contradictions, and obvious tampering with the Synoptic gospels are well-covered and documented by many many scholars, so much so that any intelligent reasonable person with a good amount of fairness in the process of critical-thinking and/or critical-analysis, must conclude that the gospel stories are a hodge-podge of oral storytellings (then later documented from MANY various sources) in an attempt to salvage some level of “veracity” for Gentiles completely unfamiliar with Hebrew Messianism. As you’ve illustrated here, the 2nd thru 4th-century CE church attempts for postmortem hindsight veracity fail under sufficient and broad examination.

    However, like the frog in the frying pan, “great inspiring storytelling” can and does cause comprehensive psychological denial in humans, especially when surrounded by fellow-deniers, i.e. peer-pressure/peer-assimilation, despite the facts or overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    What I’d like to contribute here to your fine gospel narrative is this: the modern Christian/Gentile ignorance to the function and form of Jewish Messianism in Antiquity. I’ll try to be as brief as possible.

    Modern Christianity essentially teaches its followers that Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, was/is the (Jewish?) Messiah as foretold by the ancient prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel. The gospel writers would have their readers believe that Jesus’ life, suffering, and crucifixion supposedly gave further divine authenticity and relavence to this supremely unique Messiah. But there’s one MAJOR problem with this proclamation, especially to the Jews, the one people who ‘rightfully own’ and know Messianic function and expectancy.

    Jewish Messianic tradition and expectancy DOES include a suffering then dead Messiah. Period. There is nothing irregular or distinct at all by what actually happened to Jesus. Furthermore, many Messianic-claimants were around prior to, during, and after Jesus. Flavius Josephus wrote about two prior Messiahs that also suffered and were killed by the Romans. And Messianic suffering traditions were not exclusive to Judaism. Expectant traditions already existed in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, religions founded well before Constantine’s Christianity began. This makes Messianic expectations in whatever form common and not unique by the time Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. If there was irrefutable weight to Christianity and its theological, Messianic, and biblical foundations, there would be no more Judaism.

    As a closing point, not even 1st-century BCE thru 2nd-century CE Judean Hebrews agreed on exact details of what, how, and when the trio of the prophet, the Messianic King, and the Messianic Priest would arrive, suffer, rule and live. Messianic prophecies, passages, and traditions were either too vague or too controversial. For more details on this I offer my May 2011 blog-post:

    How in THA HELL anyone today can expect to FULLY understand these ancient Messianic conditions when not even the 3rd-century CE Constantian church leaders could decipher and make sense of ANY Judaic Messianic eschatology reflects the obvious theatrics we infer and conclude from all the hodge-podge errors, contradictions, and tampering done with the canonical Synoptic gospels. Which make your “Edith questions” very valid indeed Allallt!

    Well done Sir. Bravo!

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