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Let's say that a long, long time ago, on a world not too different from our own, there walked a prophet, a divine figure. He went about doing various deeds, and eventually died. A religion sprung up around him.1

A long, long time later, when the religion is well-established, the prophet returns, resurrected. The trouble is, he needs to convince people that he is who he says he is - the messiah, the savior, etc. Could he simply perform some miracles? Yes. But that's way too boring. In my story, I want the deity in charge to stay out of this. The prophet has no magical powers whatsoever. He has all the normal powers of a normal human being - i.e. not much.

It boils down to this: How could a resurrected Jesus prove that he is Jesus?


1 For all intents and purposes, the technology, society, etc. were that of the area around Nazareth. Yes, this is supposed to be similar to Christianity. But don't read too much into it.

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    $\begingroup$ Insofar as this is supposed to fit within Christian theology, there’s no room for a “resurrected” Jesus, as that already happened and he’s not dead. Insofar as you mean “reincarnated”: anybody in any circumstance currently claiming to be a re-incarnation of Jesus is a fraud. $\endgroup$ – Susan Jul 10 '15 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Susan: thanks. You just gave a me a perfectly valid reason to justify my scam plot, below :) $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 10 '15 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ "The prophet has no magical powers whatsoever." So he only thinks he's a deity? Then isn't he, by definition, a crackpot? :p $\endgroup$ – bjb568 Jul 10 '15 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ The thing with religions is that they are mostly designed to be 'unprovable' and encourage widespread skepticism within their followers. $\endgroup$ – DA. Jul 10 '15 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I think you're forgetting the big hole in Jesus' side where he got stabbed with a spear. Walking around alive with those kind of wounds still on you (and large enough for someone to stick his entire hand in) is a little hard to fake. I could see that as being considered miraculous (since Jesus wasn't dying on the spot from those wounds) or as not miraculous (since they happened before and already did their damage). $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Jul 11 '15 at 16:52

18 Answers 18

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He can't

The Christian definition of Messiah requires certain signs of proof. He must:

  1. heal the wounded
  2. revive the dead
  3. Bring good news to the poor

No miracles from NotJesus means by definition he isn't the Messiah.

The Jewish Definition states that the Messiah must:

  1. gathering of the exiles (For most modern Jews, this gathering applies only to the house of Judah).
  2. restoration of the religious courts of justice
  3. an end of wickedness, sin and heresy (not sure how a no-miracles Jesus is going to be able to do this.)
  4. reward to the righteous (A no-miracles Jesus is going to have trouble scaling this up in any meaningful, tangible way.)
  5. rebuilding of Jerusalem (how would you even interpret this? Jerusalem is a living city now.)
  6. restoration of the line of King David (Not sure how you'd prove this as no DNA from that period exists or is trustworthy.)
  7. restoration of Temple service (Doing this requires removing the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A no-miracles Jesus is going to find himself very dead from some very very angry Muslims.)

Any kind of no-miracles, not-Jesus isn't going to get anywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ Brilliant. Just brilliant. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 9 '15 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ What @HDE226868 said. $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 9 '15 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ Well, admittedly, enough bribery can easily find a fake 10 lost tribes. Who's gonna check and how? Can't find a way to easily swindle and cheat through the rest of the checklist though. $\endgroup$ – user4239 Jul 9 '15 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ Are the first three items actually miracles? A doctor can do those without even stretching the interpretation. 1) Heal the wounded, obvious. 2) Revive the clinically dead, this happens often. 3) Tell the poor that their treatment is free. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jul 9 '15 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ This is assuming that the returning Jesus is "the second coming" at the end of times. But that doesn't seem to be what the question is about - it is about "Jesus popping in to check how humanity is doing". So none of the end times stuff (Jewish Messiah things) needs to happen. $\endgroup$ – Floris Jul 9 '15 at 23:21
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A Focault's Pendulum-esque idea which - I admit - is shifting the problem a bit is the following:


What would you do if you were not the Messiah?

Hire a master conman!

And maybe a spin doctor and a former secret agent.

Before you rule this out, remember than secret agents and conmen cheat banks and the military for a living, and those guys are very serious when it comes to proofs of identity and authenticity.

You know what could work for example?

Some variation on Astroturfing.

Stealing a bit from @Green's answer, have Jesus pretend to be an average guy who really doesn't care for publicity.

But have him occasionally "slipping". Revealing details that only the Messiah could know.

Meanwhile, his secret consultants (the spin doctor and the secret agent) would work so that these "slips" would have maximum publicity, would give help to a bunch of local lunatics that would worship our "reluctant" Messiah much in the style of Brian of Nazareth.

Create photo opportunities.

Maybe organize meetings with third world country dictators, just because, and then the Pope.

Once you've gained enough momentum, it's all downhill.

You have successfully started your own cult, now expand it in the traditional way cults do.

With the help of some good PR and having The Real Messiah on board, you'll get to having 10-20% of the population on your side quite easily.


EDIT

Bonus justification

While we are at it, you know why you need all these shenanigans?

Because turns out that while our guy is the Messiah and did in fact experience death and resurrection, believers have got it all wrong: as @Susan points out, there is no room for a "resurrected Jesus" in their eschatology, so you have to resort to this kind of trickery.

Of course, your arch-enemy (the Devil himself?) made sure to pollute religious scriptures historical sources to add this apocryphal clause.


Nota Bene: I've edited this answer substantially. Multiple times.

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  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned 'cryptopgraphy' as a proof? How would that work exactly as crypto was extremely primitive at 33AD? $\endgroup$ – Green Jul 9 '15 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Green: that doesn't matter much since we are talking about the present time, but you gave me a better idea anyway :) $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 9 '15 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Cool, cool :) Glad I could help. $\endgroup$ – Green Jul 9 '15 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Coincidentally this is almost exactly the plot of More than a Skeleton $\endgroup$ – Steve V. Jul 11 '15 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, @SteveV.! Actually, I had the Troma masterpiece Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter in mind :) $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 11 '15 at 7:07
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For inspiration, you might want to read the "Joshua" series of books (by Joseph Girzone). In them, there is this "ordinary" person called Joshua who wanders into (a modern) town one day. He is simply dressed, doesn't appear to have any luggage. In some stories he lives in a cabin on the outskirts of town. He is kind, soft-spoken. People are drawn to him. In return for a bed and a meal, he does odd jobs - carpentry, mostly. But the "miracle" is in how people all around react - good and bad. Sometimes, sick people do get better - but that's not central to his powerful influence. In one of the stories, "Joshua and the Children", he is in Northern Ireland, and the Catholic and Protestant children end up playing together, to the surprise (and sometimes disgust) of their parents.

Good parables - exposing how "organized" religion (of any flavor) sometimes misses the point of the original message. Actually - the current Pope seems to have read these books... And maybe they can provide some inspiration for addressing your particular story line?

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EDIT

In response to some valid objections I make the following changes.

God created the world with hidden artefacts embedded in rocks. Each time the messiah visits Earth he reveals the position of just one of these artefacts. Because he is the son of God he knows where they are.

For added interest they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The parts recovered so far are preserved in a temple and added to each time he is reborn.

HOWEVER

If the deity isn't allowed to leave artefacts, the messiah can reveal the positions of natural features such as unusually large diamonds that can be found embedded in old rocks. He knows where they are because he asked when he was in heaven. That way he didn't have to perform a miracle on earth - just remember where to look.


OLD ANSWER

He says that he comes back to Earth every 100,000 years and has been doing so since the Earth was formed.

He tells his doubters to tunnel into an ancient mountain. There, millions of years ago, he hid a time capsule. Over the aeons it has become encased in solid rock.

Hiding the time capsule didn't require a miracle because the rocks hadn't formed yet. Digging the capsule up doesn't require a miracle because it just needs dynamite and earth moving equipment. Telling people about it doesn't require a miracle because, if they believe in messiahs, they must believe he has a soul and be willing to believe his soul retains the old memories when he returns to earth each time.

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    $\begingroup$ This scenario would irk some young earth creationists and some geologists alike :P $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 9 '15 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiaTesan - AND archaeologists (real ones, not Tomb Raider variety) $\endgroup$ – user4239 Jul 9 '15 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ It's still okay. He says that God created the world with a number of artefacts in place. Each time he visits earth he indicates where one of them is located. Because he is the son of God he knows where they all are. He makes the difficulty of digging them up appropriate to the technology of the time. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Jul 9 '15 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Just so you know that is not possible within the scope of Christianity, as the Bible explicitly states that Jesus will only come twice. And the last time, well it will be pretty obvious. $\endgroup$ – veryRandomMe Jul 11 '15 at 15:17
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He might, maybe

The only thing he'd have with him is his knowledge and whatever physical marks from has past life came back with him during resurrection.

Physical marks

Physical marks could be faked because they are so well known. Anyone can put giant scars on their hands, wrists, feet and left torso so that's only proof that an imposter knows how to read. (Though that's a crazy amount of dedication for someone who's not really Jesus...though people in Mexico crucify themselves as a show of devotion.) Physical marks might be enough for some really zealous people.

Explaining the lack of a light show

He would have an incredibly hard time explaining why he didn't come back in a show of great power like the religious texts say he will. Maybe he would tell people that his appearance without power is a test. It's broadly known that the Jews were expected a political messiah to save them from the Romans and didn't get that from Jesus' first visit. What's to say his second visit won't be different than what people expect again?

Appeal to Authority

If the Pope testified to the world press that Jesus was back in the Vatican, that would convince a lot of people, not all, but very very many. So, Jesus would need to prove to all the people between the Vatican gates and the Pope that he was the resurrected Lord. Given that Jesus would be intimately acquainted with the details of his own life, he would be able to clarify and explain a lot of weird passages that don't make any sense or fill in holes where there just isn't any detail. Scholars in the Vatican have spent their lives devoted to the records of Jesus' life. For him it would be along the lines of "Yeah, I remember doing that. That wine was better at the end of the party." It will take a while to establish his knowledge as better than someone with a really good imagination but I think over time, it could be done.

Physical Presence and Intelligence

Jesus was well known to have taught "with authority and not as the priests" and to be extremely charismatic. Teaching on the streets would demonstrate this ability and begin to grow a following. Shutting down the opposition in extremely clever ways was a specialty of his. Our resurrected Jesus will need to continue the teaching, cleverness and charisma.

There won't be absolute proof

No amount of evidence is going to convince everyone. But, for people who have studied his pre-death life enough will see signs indicating who he is. Their confirmation bias should take care of the rest.

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The thing with religions is that they are mostly designed to be 'unprovable' and encourage widespread scepticism within their followers. - DA, in comments.

What if it was not? What if a religion provided strong evidence, after all if the person in question has been reincarnated/resurrected then by definition it's not fake (and beyond current science).

What kind of evidence would we need to prove that this prophet has been resurrected?

He needs to be recognisable. Jesus had eyewitnesses and would have been recognisable to a large portion of the public. If he looked even a little bit different, that would have been picked up instantly. Given the requirement for this to occur a 'long, long time later' you'd need some detailed documentation describing his appearance e.g. a painting or photo.

He needs to be identifiable/USP. I've heard in security that someone's identity is merely the thing they can do, that no one else can do. For example, I know my password for my bank, no one else does, therefore the bank can ID me. Even without supernatural powers or knowledge, holes through the hands, a second head (total recall) or some other rare attribute could ID him.

He needs to fulfil a prophecy. Jesus's entire life was a completion of thousands of years of prophecies. While I could imagine this step could be skipped, it would not be in character for a prophet not to use prophecy.

He needs to be falsifiable. Jesus's body was left in a heavily blocked tomb, guarded by soldiers and was considered a criminal. The Romans were powerful enough, motivated enough and had the evidence to show that he was really dead - but could not. In the same way it gives credence if your opponents have the motive and means but still cannot disprove your existence.

As a thought experiment, let's change from 'prophet' to 'eccentric billionaire'.

If a billionaire followed this checklist, and wanted to appear some time long in the future (e.g. cryostasis) he could:

Recognition: Ensure people know what he looks like (e.g. detailed records of his appearance made, maybe put his face on a banknote).

Identity: He knows some password, or has some physical attributes (e.g. dna) that are unique to him.

Fulfil prophecy: Just rockin' up in the future isn't going to be much good - his estate will have been distributed to his heirs. Instead he carefully wrote his will to place his fortune in trust for himself in the future.

Falsifiable: To prevent forgers/clones etc. he knows a secret password that identifies him, where the answer has been well protected (e.g. parts spread over several bank vaults - using advanced encryption techniques).

If someone rocked up tomorrow with that much evidence, even if it seemed impossible that it could occur (say Thomas Edison) then it would be hard to conclude he is not who he says he is, even if the mechanism of his appearance is inexplicable.

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Considering the fictional application, hear me out.

Because you proposed a resurrected Jesus...

Perhaps the most undeniable way to prove that he is Jesus is to die and be once again resurrected. Anyone who previously doubted that he was Jesus could certainly believe that he was dead and risen. Jesus was famous for that. Hence he is probably Jesus.

Otherwise, he has no super powers and performs no miracles, as you desire. He lives like a normal human. He dies like a normal human. But he just keeps coming back!

The second coming? How about the third, fourth, etc? This opens up many possibilities. It could become humurous and/or advantageous. Imagine what you can do with that in a story.

This is just a thought and I hope it helps. Good luck with your work.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh man, somebody write Groundhog Jesus please. Imagine Jesus having to come back until humanity stops - say, war, poverty, etc. You could do some fine comedy and write a great moral tale, all in one handy package. $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 10 '15 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ Hey somebody got the point. None of the signs are stronger than the empty tomb itself. $\endgroup$ – Joshua May 1 '17 at 1:08
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If he knows he is going to have to come back, and he will need to prove who he is, he is going to need some sort of proof that can't be faked. (And he knows he can't simply perform miracles again the second time he comes to visit.)

He will be henceforth become Fingerjesus, for he is going to abuse his ability to heal the injured by cutting off his own fingers, and then healing them again. He hands these out to all his followers, so that they will become sacred relics of sorts, I mean, who doesn't want to have a fingerbone from the prophet Fingerjesus?

Back then, DNA was something nobody understood, but these days that is no longer the case. Upon his return, he will let anybody who doubts his claim do a DNA test on his blood and one of the many relic fingers that he has spread in his "previous life".

The DNA test will come back positive because he is the same person, thus proving his claim.

The only thing people could claim at this point is:

  • He somehow altered the DNA of all the relics in the world.
  • He somehow altered his own DNA.
  • He is not actually Fingerjesus returned, just a clone.

None of those claims would get any wide credibility I think.

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    $\begingroup$ I spent a few minutes pondering whether to upvote for the sheer insanity of the idea, downvote for the very same reason or flag because the idea is kind of disgusting. Eventually, I upvoted. $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 10 '15 at 14:07
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How about a different sort of blood test?

I imagine he'd be the only living, walking haploid human in existence.

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  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted only because it's so funny, not because it's really plausible. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Jul 21 '15 at 3:42
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Chasly's revised answer isn't too bad but all you need is for the character to nonmiraculously recall from his memory that a single, sought-for object is in a certain hidden location. For example a certain clay bird is buried in a particular place in a certain Qumram cave; excavation confirms that no-one has touched the object for 2000 years. (In fact, clay birds arise in certain legends regarding JC.) Alternatively, no artifact is required. Your JC recalls some information that fills in a gap in extant Dead Sea Scrolls, and scholars unanimously agree that the new information fully explains certain mysteries, say about the role of St. James.

I interpret your question to be related to writing fiction and not to the actual questions of JC's existence, divinity, intentions, etc.

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I don't think it's possible to answer this question without getting more information about what your Messiah figure is supposed to be like.

If you're talking about the Jesus of the Bible, the whole point of the story is that he was God come to Earth as a human being, and thus able to perform all sorts of miracles. As Green says, if someone came along today claiming to be Jesus come back, but he can't perform any miracles or supernatural signs, I'd think pretty much every Christian would conclude that he is NOT Jesus.

If you're inventing some fictional religion with a fictional messiah, of course you can ascribe any characteristics to him that you want that make your story work. But if he has no supernatural powers or anything else unusual to distinguish him from a normal man, what is it about him that makes him a messiah and not just "some guy who talks about religion"?

If the idea is just that he is the reincarnation of this past religious leader and there is nothing else unusual about him, then I think almost by definition the only way he could prove that he is who he claims is if:

(a) He can be shown to be "just like" the original person, e.g. has exactly the same DNA or something of that sort. But if he's supposed to have come the first time hundreds or thousands of years ago, I don't suppose anyone back then analyzed his DNA. Maybe if some artifact with his DNA from that time still existed, it could be analyzed. Like theoretically, if someone came along today claiming to be Jesus, maybe his DNA could be compared to the DNA in the blood on the Shroud of Turin, assuming anyone could actually get an analyzable DNA sample out of that. Or you could suppose someone finds the Holy Grail, etc.

(b) He might know something that only the original religious leader would know, but that can be verified after the fact. Like he could tell people the location of some artifact, and then people go and find it. Though that wouldn't prove that he was actually "the man", but just that he was around thousands of years ago to have seen this artifact buried. Though maybe that would be enough.

Of course any proof would be subject to trickery, like if he gave the location of some artifact and then people dug it up and confirmed it, maybe he secretly buried the object himself just a few weeks ago, and in general manipulated the site to make it look ancient. Etc. But you can say that sort of thing about any sort of proof of anything. If someone claims to have proven that the butler committed the murder, maybe the evidence is fabricated, etc.

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Easy:

So, you return to the Earth, and for the moment keep absolutely silent about the fact that you are the messiah - that will get you locked away in a padded room.

Instead, write down a bunch of facts you know about the state of cities/towns/the world back when you first lived, using only the superpower of memory. THIS is what sets you apart from normal humans (of the current era).

Convince an archaeologist to investigate one of your digs, where your predictions as to locations of objects are completely correct.

Once you have one documented case, archaeologists will flock to you to get tips on where to dig next. Once you get 10/10 right, people will have no choice but to accept that you are a resurrected Jesus, because the only other possible alternative is that you are a time traveler, and that is exactly as unbelievable anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, not necessarily a resurrected or reincarnated Jesus or whatever messiah. People could believe you are the reincarnation of an ancient person without believing that you're any sort of messiah. And whether people would find reincarnation easier or harder to believe that time travel is debatable, but whatever. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jul 13 '15 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, there are several alternatives, including the reincarnation, or some sort of extremely selective and wide ranging x-ray vision that lets you see potential dig sites without disturbing them. Regardless, it at least demonstrates to most people that you are something special, and not just a nutter. $\endgroup$ – Scott Jul 13 '15 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this would work. If you were to go 1000 years into the future are you sure you could provide some relevant information to an archaeologist? "Well.. that's where Wal-mart was... so there's nothing underneath? They must have demolished it completely to build that spaceport. Makes sense. Try perhaps digging there, that's where my home was... perhaps you can still find my Simpsons coffee mug. Nothing? Just dust and a dead rat? Too bad." $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Jul 13 '15 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Tobia - there's a lot more stuff buried than you might think. For instance, England managed to bury their last King to die in battle in a church, then partially demolish the church, build over it, and forget where the church was. After some trial and error, they managed to find the church, and then find the king. $\endgroup$ – Scott Jul 13 '15 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Scott awesome, tell me more. However my point was more along the lines of - would the people who buried that king back then be able to orient themselves in modern-day London? $\endgroup$ – Tobia Tesan Feb 10 '16 at 12:49
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He can't.

The prophet may be able to convince some people that he is the resurrected Jesus$^1$, but he won't have any conclusive proof.

The earliest Gospel in the New Testament, Mark, was written sometime after 66 C.E. by an anonymous author. That's at least 35 years after the apparent crucifixion of Jesus$^1$. No one who would have actually met Jesus$^1$ actually wrote anything about him. Worse, they probably didn't get a first hand account, as any contemporaries would have to be far older than the 25 year life expectancy of the time nor did they speak the language.

So, even if this person was the actual reincarnation of Jesus$^1$, he would probably not match the description given in all existing evidence. Though people might expect that, it certainly reduces the availability for producing evidence.

His only chance of providing evidence for his divinity would be through the use of miracles or very clever magic tricks. Or simply abandon evidence and turn on the charm.

$^1$Not The Jesus

EDIT:

There seems to be a clear misunderstanding of what life expectancy means. Or at least, it's a subject everyone thinks that there are the only ones who understand it.

It's not a maximum, this is obvious because the Jesus character lived to be 33. It's an average. It includes childhood deaths, which lower the average. I linked to the table, but I'll calculate some conclusions here, for those who don't wish to do the simple math. The apostles were younger than Jesus and at least one would have needed to live 35 years to write the gospel of Mark and a couple others would need to live up to an additional 30 years to write the remaining and final gospels. Let's see what it takes assuming the apostles were all 25 year old men.

These are the dates of writing along with the probability that, when the gospel was written, any specific 25 year old man in the Roman Empire contemporary with Jesus was still alive (just alive, not the author):

Mark was written around 68 C.E. - 13.5% probability any particular contemporary of Jesus was still alive.
Matthew was written around 70 C.E. - 13.5% probability any particular contemporary of Jesus was still alive.

For the entire population of 25 year old men that were contemporary with Jesus, 13.5% would survive to be 70 years old (40,201 of 100,000 make it to 25, of those, 5,432 make it to 70 years old. 5,432/40,201 = 13.5%).

Luke was written around 85 C.E. - 2.34% probability any particular contemporary of Jesus was still alive.

For the entire population of 25 year old men that were contemporary with Jesus, 2.34% would survive to be 80 years old (40,201 of 100,000 make it to 25, of those, 944 make it to 80 years old. 944/40,201 = 2.34%).

John was written around 90 C.E. - 0.55% probability any particular contemporary of Jesus was still alive.

For the entire population of 25 year old men that were contemporary with Jesus, 0.55% would survive to be 85 years old (40,201 of 100,000 make it to 25, of those, 225 make it to 85 years old. 944/40,201 = 0.55%).

This is excluding any correlations those specific people might have, for instance the fact that nearly all of the apostles were executed for what they were teaching or the significant amount of travelling they did.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 10 '15 at 3:43
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One thing that comes to mind, especially if you're writing to an actually religious audience, is to have him come into the world as a man like the others, and throughout his life, people who get close to him, help him out, and appreciate him as the "good person" he is have good things happen to them over time.

They go on to positions of power, in the local established religion, the aristocracy, the military, etc. Everyone who was ever nice to this Jesus character ends up really well off. After all this, from their positions of power, they realise he is a bringer of good fortune, and start believing his claims of being a prophet.

This kind of gets around the miracle caveat, since it's not technically circumventing any law of nature for this to happen.

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    $\begingroup$ How could the guy make things go well for them, though? There would have to be divine intervention for that to happen. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 9 '15 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Well yes, but the idea is that it's not absolutely direct, rather the people who are nice to jesus, who appreciate the innate goodness in him, get rewarded in life because they have to be good people from the outset(and in death, you could imply). It could be essentially a Karma thing rather than direct intervention. $\endgroup$ – toasty Jul 9 '15 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe. But if he's supposed to be analogous to the Jesus of the Bible, well, his best known associates all did pretty poorly in conventional terms. Of the 11 disciples (excluding Judas), 10 were murdered, most in very painful ways. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jul 9 '15 at 22:45
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Talk is cheap and as far as I can see that's the only option you've left the returning prophet. I suppose they might possess some object or other that would be evidence, but it would depend on technology levels whether that could be tested to the point that it established the prophet's claims.

So, "no" is the answer, given your restrictions. But the other side of that is that there's no more stopping the prophet from being believed than there has been for a legion of fakers down the centuries of our world. Assuming Jesus existed in our world there were numerous "messiahs" before and after him* and they all had some followers. Sometimes a lot of followers. There's no reason the real deal couldn't drum up support by simple charisma and talking.

*Simon of Peraea (rebelled agains Roman rule), Anthronges the shepherd (another revolt), John the Baptist, Judas the Gallilean (leader of a tax revolt), the unnamed opposing Christ mentioned in Acts (although he was probably John the Baptist again), Jim Jones (Jonestown massacre), David Koresh (Waco massacre), David Ike (just plain mad), have all either claimed to be or had substantial numbers of followers who believed they were the messiah and/or the son of god. I'm sure other religions have their own roll-call of similar claimants.

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  • $\begingroup$ An interesting point about John the Baptist, whom you mentioned: He specifically told people he was not the messiah and that he was not some other reincarnated prophet either. People thought he was, and he corrected them. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Jun 13 '17 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @aaron John's followers very definitely thought he was the messiah, a belief that lasted for hundreds of years afterwards. Almost everything Jesus was supposed to have done was believed to have been done first by John - the Bible specifically informs us that his believers even thought/claimed that he had been resurrected. The Gospels are the work of followers of Jesus Christ; they're not going to be very dependable about the rival sect of John Christ, are they? $\endgroup$ – Nagora Jan 8 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ "The Gospels are the work of followers of Jesus Christ; they're not going to be very dependable about the rival sect of John Christ, are they?" Why not? You seem to be implying some very big things here, namely that they were competing, that John the Baptist did not tell people he was not the messiah, and that Jesus and John were rivals. This is an extraordinary claim which requires evidence. Please tell us where we can read more about this idea you are putting forth so that we can inform ourselves about it. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Jan 8 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Read your Bible. The book ascribed to Luke is pretty clear about the rivalry and there is also a very suspicious reference in Acts to 12 followers of a different messiah. There are of course no eye-witness accounts (and none that even claim to be) about the living Jesus or John in the Bible, and since the books in the NT were written long after John died, the authors were free to say whatever they wanted. The fact that there was a long-standing church of John Christ in Ethiopia up until the 5th century makes it clear that someone thought he was the messiah despite supposed clear denials. $\endgroup$ – Nagora Jan 9 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ I did not say nobody thought John was the messiah. That is a related point but not the same. I have read my bible, many times. Perhaps you should read the accounts where it demonstrates John specifically claiming to be the one preparing the way for Jesus. What is this claim about no eye-witness accounts?!? This is yet another humongous, extraordinary claim. However, I will go reread it again (you cannot read it too many times) and report back. In the meantime, could you share any public material discussing your claims? I assume you are not the only one with your belief. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Jan 9 at 16:12
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Have them find the body and actually witness the resurrection themselves.

Remains are excavated from deep in the earth. Piece by piece, and artifact by artifact, they are realizing what it is they have found. The remains of Jesus! Day after day the remains become more human than they were before, slowly growing ligaments, and muscles, and finally skin. The final result is a resurrected Jesus and that in itself is a miracle. The transformation could be broadcast across the world for all to see and Jesus wouldn't need to perform any more miracles to prove his identity.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't resurrection a miracle, err, a "magical power" as the OP puts it? $\endgroup$ – adamdport Aug 28 '15 at 22:09
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Absolutely by providing archaeological links to his former miracles. Assume he's Jesus- he should be able to point out where he was buried. Where a set of wine containing containers are which were transformed from water - they survive they are holy and he put one aside. A totally blind- broken eyes man that is recorded as seeing- I assume its just holy vision not really fixed eyes.

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This is similar to the "time capsule" approach some others have mooted, but: Maybe he knows the rest mass of the Higgs boson to fifteen decimal places?

Or some other science or math fact, or more likely a whole collection of them, always just out of reach of the day's scientists or mathematicians?

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