An artist's rendering of what Jesus Christ may have looked like.
Call it a case of pulpit fiction.
A veteran priest in Ireland has reportedly been forced to quit a Bible-teaching job after writing a book claiming Jesus never existed.
The claim by Father Tom Brodie is made in his work, “Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus,” which debuted last fall.
The Irish Sun reports the publication of the book ignited and uproar among his colleagues, and he was ousted from his position at the Dominican Biblical Institute in Limerick, Ireland, which Brodie actually helped create.
The newspaper says it has viewed documents banning Brodie from any lecturing, teaching or writing pending the results of an investigation.
Brodie reportedly had questioned Jesus’ existence for the past four decades, but was unable until now to share his beliefs with the public.
The book, which took 12 years to complete, is said to have shocked his superiors.
Brodie claims in the book that many of Jesus’ actions were merely a rip-off of the Hebrew Bible or, in some cases, of earlier texts.
One source told the Sun: “Tom’s book has caused quite a stir and some considerable upset.
“The whole premise of his book has been questioned by biblical scholars. He was asked to step aside from his ministry and the Provincial Council unanimously backed that decision. A committee is now examining his work and will meet with Father Brodie to discuss it.”
Another source said: “The theory is a bit strange, a bit out there. He was 12 years researching it and nobody knew he would come out with something like this.”
Brodie’s replacement at the Dominican Biblical Institute is Father Gerard Norton, who told the Irish Sun: “He had reached the end of his term in office, and had served three terms instead of the usual two. He said he was not going forward for another one. His resignation was accepted.”
The historicity of Jesus is actually in little doubt today, even among people who don’t believe the Bible itself is true.
Jesus, of course, is the subject of four gospels in the New Testament, as well as numerous letters from Paul, John, and Jesus’ own brothers James and Jude.
He is also mentioned by non-biblical sources, including twice in “The Antiquities of the Jews,” written in A.D. 93 by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
One of the mentions by Josephus states: “About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease [to follow him], for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvelous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”
Later, the Roman historian Tacitus, who was hostile to Christianity, mentioned both Jesus Christ and Christianity in his Annals circa A.D. 116
While describing the Roman emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome in 64, Tacitus wrote:
“Nero fastened the guilt [of starting the blaze] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius [14-37] at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and the most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”