Historical Jesus — Italian Trial

From Yahoo News — Original title “Did Jesus Exist? Italian Court to Decide”

Forget the U.S. debate over intelligent design versus evolution.

An Italian court is tackling Jesus — and whether the Roman Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000 years ago.

The case pits against each other two men in their 70s, who are from the same central Italian town and even went to the same seminary school in their teenage years.

The defendant, Enrico Righi, went on to become a priest writing for the parish newspaper. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, became a vocal atheist who, after years of legal wrangling, is set to get his day in court later this month.

“I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression,” Cascioli told Reuters.

Cascioli says Righi, and by extension the whole Church, broke two Italian laws. The first is “Abuso di Credulita Popolare” (Abuse of Popular Belief) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second crime, he says, is “Sostituzione di Persona,” or impersonation.

“The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala,” Cascioli claimed, referring to the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army.

A court in Viterbo will hear from Righi, who has yet to be indicted, at a January 27 preliminary hearing meant to determine whether the case has enough merit to go forward.

“In my book, The Fable of Christ, I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof of Christ’s existence,” Cascioli said.

Speaking to Reuters, Righi, 76, sounded frustrated by the case and baffled as to why Cascioli — who, like him, came from the town of Bagnoregio — singled him out in his crusade against the Church.

“We’re both from Bagnoregio, both of us. We were in seminary together. Then he took a different path and we didn’t see each other anymore,” Righi said.

“Since I’m a priest, and I write in the parish newspaper, he is now suing me because I ‘trick’ the people.”

Righi claims there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of Jesus, including historical texts.

He also claims that justice is on his side. The judge presiding over the hearing has tried, repeatedly, to dismiss the case — prompting appeals from Cascioli.

“Cascioli says he didn’t exist. And I said that he did,” he said. “The judge will to decide if Christ exists or not.”

Even Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy.

“It would take a miracle to win,” he joked.

  • Mogget

    Bizarre. Not surprising, just bizarre.

    On edit: I suppose that it is possible to show Jesus existed to some level of appropriate proof. But could you show, as most of Christianity teaches, that he still continues to exist?

  • http://faithprorumor.weblogs.us John C.

    “In my book, The Fable of Christ, I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure.”

    Look, I have all these pictures. Christ doesn’t appear in any of them. In all the tax documents that I have from 1st century Palestine, there is no-one named Jesus. I rest my case.

  • http://iansldsblog.blogspot.com/ Ian M. Cook

    LOL.

    I was just recently made aware of a documentary called “The God that wasn’t there”. I guess it’s about the same subject, they claim that Jesus didn’t exist.

    I wanted to see the documentary just to see what they had to say. I’m not sure that we could prove that he existed at all. What, other than the Bible and countless other texts do we have that can actually “prove” that he existed? Are those those texts proof enough in a court of law? What was Jesus’ social security number? (the last question was a joke :-), albeit in poor taste.)

  • David J

    Ian, I wonder how he deals with Suetonius’ mention of “the instigation of Chrestus,” which I believe is one of the earliest (possible) mentions of Jesus. Maybe Mogget could illumine us on this? Another possible tangent for a “Jesus Seminar” posting (rubbing my hands in anxious anticipation).

    Although I haven’t read up on this guys’ stuff, I imagine he’ll take the route of the scientific implausibility of Jesus’ “miracles” in an effort to disprove his existence, which is only a tangential disproving not a direct one (IMO). Even if Jesus’ miracles were frauds or fabrications, that still doesn’t mean there wasn’t a man Jesus of Nazareth.

    But my voice on this is one of thousands who have hashed this out better than I am or ever will. So who cares.

  • Mogget

    I think this guy is just a plain kook. Here’s his argument:

    The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala,” Cascioli claimed, referring to the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army.

    But hey, what do I know? Are the courts going to decide which is more plausible, or what?

  • Mogget

    Besides Josephus and Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and Lucian of Samosata all make reference to Jesus, but unlike the first two, none of them are really independent witnesses.

    Suetonius wrote in his Claudius that the Emperor Claudius expelled the “Chrestus” from Rome, by which he may have meant the “Christians.” It is possible that he misunderstood the name, thinking that “Chrestus” was the name of some Jewish troublemaker then in Rome. It tells us nothing about Jesus, but the expulsion may have been the impetus behind the arrival of Priscilla and Aquila at Corinth.

    Pliny the Younger, proconsul in Bithynia during 111-113 CE, wrote about his methods of dealing with Christians, noting that they meet regularly on a fixed day to chant verses “to Christ as to a god,” which tells us something about the theology of early Christians, but nothing about the historical Jesus.

    Finally, Lucian of Samosata (ca 115- ca 200) wrote a satire about a convert to, and then apostate from, Christianity which tells us that he knew that the original leader of the Christians was executed in Palestine by crucifixion, and that Christians worship him. Once again, not much on the historical Jesus…


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