Did Jesus exist? Court to decide (CNN)
Wednesday, January 4, 2006; Posted: 1:35 p.m. EST (18:35 GMT)
ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- 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.
I'm more skeptical about the Jesus traditions than a lot of people, but this is just silly -- so much so that I wonder if it's a hoax. But if it is, it sure has fooled a lot of news carriers.
Two comments. First, the case that Jesus existed and that we can know at least some things about him is quite strong and is not at issue among historical-Jesus specialists. Second, the whole discussion has no place in a court of law and -- assuming the case is real -- if the judge is responsible, he'll throw the case out as frivolous immediately. Otherwise the Italian court system is going to look pretty silly.
Cross file under "You Can't Make This Up."