TRYPHO VIRTUALLY TESTIFIES JESUS NEVER LIVED

Jesus Christ reputedly died and rose again in the thirties of the first century. A Christian, called Justin Martyr wrote in defence of the Christian religion in the century after. Justin's writings are used in defence of the Christian claim that Jesus really existed and lived as the four gospels say.

 

"Having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, the wicked spirits put forward many to be called Sons of God, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things that were said with regard to Christ were merely marvellous tales, like the things that were said by the poets." Justin Martyr held that the demons made sure the Christ story was around before Jesus came.  He was worried people would think it was copied from the pagans so his argument was that the Christ story was copied before it happened for the demons knew the future.

 

Is it any wonder that what Trypho says about Jesus being a myth should be taken as true?  The important thing in the myth debate is that we have a man who said there was nothing to support the Jesus story which amounts to calling him a legend.
 
DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO

About 150 AD, Justin wrote his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Some think that Trypho never existed but he did for on one occasion when he and Justin were discussing the interpretation of prophecies about Jesus, Justin wandered from the subject to discuss the alleged removal by the Jews of material supportive of Jesus from the Old Testament. The dialogue then was created from an actual conversation.

Trypho said that nobody from Jesus’ time knew Jesus and that Jesus was invented. Trypho was an informed and worthy opponent when Justin had to write a book to challenge him. Justin, like Irenaeus much later, believed that Jesus lived to be an old man (page 40, St Peter and Rome) which conflicts with the gospels which we know Justin never knew completely for much of the historical part if not all of it was top secret. But there is reason to believe that Justin knew nothing but the bare skeleton of the Jesus story. Justin himself then inadvertently gives support to Trypho for Justin himself clearly knew nothing about Jesus and could not demonstrate that he must have lived. Thus we have a valuable witness to Jesus being a legend. In the Dialogue, Justin was extremely nasty to the Jew. He accused all Jews of being idolaters, spiritually ruined and depraved and incapable of honesty or fair play and said that they were the wickedest people on earth and that they fornicated like harlots (page 161, The Light Shining in Darkness). How could we trust anything – that was not bad – that Justin said about his hero Jesus when he was so keen to win the argument with the Jews even at the cost of heaping vile slander on them? His apologetic was not about real love for Jesus but winning an argument and since the Jews were blamed for Jesus’ death Jesus was a good weapon to use against them to incite hatred. Justin cannot be trusted. That the Church preserved his hate-filled writings and prays to Justin as a saint does not speak well for the Church either.

The Jew, Trypho, stated that there was no evidence for Jesus for nobody who would have known had heard of him as a real person in Palestine and so he never existed. This was about or soon after 150 AD. I quote, “if the Messiah has been born and exists somewhere, he is incognito and does not even recognise himself. He will have no power until Elijah will come and anoint him and tell all who he is. You [Christians] have listened to an unfounded rumour and have invented some kind of a Christ for yourselves” (Chapter VIII, Dialogue With Trypho). The whole point in his making this statement was to refute the rejection of circumcision and the feasts and the Sabbath among the Christians. They were using their doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah and had the authority from God to do away with these things to justify their disobedience.
 
Today, Christians say that Trypho was not rejecting the existence of Jesus. He was rejecting the view that Jesus was the Messiah (page 239, Conspiracies and the Cross). They say that Trypho complains that Christians were listening to an unfounded rumour which led them to invent a Messiah for themselves. If so, then this says that there is no evidence that Jesus was the Christ and that the Christians have invented that claim for Jesus. If the early Christians lied about something so big then that diminishes the evidence for the existence of Jesus. So if the text does not show that people were denying Jesus' existence back then it certainly shows that the evidence was not impressive.
 
But it is possible to read the text as denying that Jesus existed. Invented a Christ for yourselves sounds more like the man Jesus Christ was invented than it sounds like that his claims that he was Messiah were invented for him.
 
The Christians hope that Trypho was saying Christians invented the idea that Jesus was the Christ. Let's pretend we believe that he was. Why does Trypho not say that Jesus invented his own Messiahship claims? Why does he blame the Christians for making this claim for Jesus? If the Christians lied about something so important then we can safely assume they could have lied about Jesus' existence too. Trypho is implicitly denying that Jesus really rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to show he intended to fulfil an ancient prophecy that the Messiah would do that. He is denying an event that the gospels say was better attested and witnessed than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus! Even if you take the Christian interpretation to be correct, even if Trypho is not saying Jesus never lived he denies that there is much evidence that he ever did!
 
Christians say that if you take Christ to be a name of Jesus then the text denies Jesus' existence. They say the proper understanding is that Christ is a title not a name. When you take that understanding, that it is a title, the text becomes not a denial of the existence of Jesus but that he was the Messiah. But many Christians then used Christ like a name and not as a title or used it both as name and title for Jesus. Some used it as a title one day and as a name the next. The Jews would have called Jesus Jesus Christ as in name not as title for they didn't believe he really was the Christ. The Christians are totally unable to prove that Trypho thought that Jesus existed.
 
Trypho's words to the Christian Justin, "But Christ — if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere — is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing."

 

This is the first time Trypho mentions Jesus or Christ.  The discussions about Jesus afterwards must be seen as being based on Trypho assuming Jesus is true for the sake of argument.  Let us use another wording.  Trypho's words, "You [Christians] have listened to an unfounded rumour and have invented some kind of a Christ for yourselves".  This is undeniably saying that Jesus was the unfounded rumour for on the basis that he existed they invented the idea that he was the Christ!   This is so important that we have to shout it!  To call Jesus an unfounded rumour is an admission that there was no proper evidence for him.
 
Trypho was denying that there was evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.
 
Justin made no effort to reply to this charge. He just tried to show that Jesus was the Messiah. Justin couldn't come up with any evidence that Jesus existed so he just evaded the problem.  His response never improved from, "I excuse and forgive you, my friend, for you know not what you say, but have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures; and you speak, like a diviner, whatever comes into your mind. But if you are willing to listen to an account of Him, how we have not been deceived, and shall not cease to confess Him — although men's reproaches be heaped upon us, although the most terrible tyrant compel us to deny Him — I shall prove to you as you stand here that we have not believed empty fables, or words without any foundation but words filled with the Spirit of God, and big with power, and flourishing with grace."  Trypho's view then was not a mere one off.
 
It is interesting that Trypho voices the unbiblical Jewish belief as fact that the Messiah will not know who he is until Elijah the precursor anoints him and reveals him. If the Jews had been as antichrist as Justin would like to think they would have vanquished the legend. Why? Because the Christians were saying John the Baptist was Elijah and John anointed Jesus with the spirit and revealed him in the River Jordan. It is a bit disturbing if Christian myths were following Jewish legends! It shows the Christians were reading back Jewish legends into the Jesus story as they helped it to incubate.
 
Trypho seems to surmise that the New Testament authors created the story of Jesus’ baptism and anointing by the Spirit with the Baptiser John, Elijah, in the Jordan from Jewish legends. And as well that there is no evidence for the gospel tales that Jesus had an origin surrounded by miracles and which convinced many that the baby was the Messiah for Jesus would have known if he was the Messiah before his Elijah came.
 
It is one thing for Jesus to fulfil God’s prophecies but there is something amiss if he manages to fulfil prophecies that God never made! The Old Testament never says that Elijah will come to prepare the way for Jesus though Jesus and his Church imagined it did!
 
Trypho was asserting that even if the Jesus of the Christians existed that nobody claiming to be Elijah declared him to be a Messiah to open his eyes that he was the Messiah so he rejects the gospels saying that John did tell Jesus in the waters of the Jordan that he was the Messiah. Justin did not try to defend the story on historical grounds because he couldn’t. John never claimed to be Elijah in any sense – Jesus and his entourage made that claim for him which smacks of dishonesty. To fulfil the alleged prophecy it would be necessary to have independent evidence that John claimed to be Elijah. Christians say John claimed to be Elijah when he claimed to be the precursor of the Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah but there is no evidence that the passage predicts an Elijah. Trypho was rejecting the Jesus story as authentic and Justin never tried to set him straight because the man was right. Any psychologist reading the Dialogue with Trypho would see that Justin was being canny and evasive and knew fine well that his idol, Jesus, was a fiction.
 
We are told that the Christ of the Christians did not fit the criterion for being a real Christ but was an invention. However, Trypho does not concentrate on the existence of Jesus. His purpose was to show that the Messiah of the Christians could not have been a real Messiah and that the Christian view of the Messiah was not supported by the Old Testament. The reason he did that was because the Christians believed in the existence of Jesus on the basis of the prophecies.

Justin replies in Chapter 9 that he forgives Trypho for saying those things for Trypho has been misled by false scripture teachers and he promises to prove to Trypho that the stories are not fables. He means by proving the Old Testament prophesied Jesus. Now Justin never ever tries to prove that Jesus did x, y and z according to the scriptures or historical data. He looks at Jesus through the scriptures. This tells us that Justin could not prove the existence of Jesus for what you have to do is to prove that Jesus did this and that and then that this was foreseen in the Old Testament criteria for a true Messiah. Justin did it the other way around.