The youtuber who posted this video said:
“Watch this atheist get beat up by an agnostic on the historical Jesus. LOL it..”

The video is an interview with Bart Ehrman by the Infidel Guy. In general, I really like Bart Ehrman; but, he certainly flubbed this interview. I agree that the Infidel Guy did not know enough about the subject to call Ehrman on his flubs. I do not completely disagree with Ehrman about the historical Jesus. There could have been a real person called Jesus. But, Ehrman is wrong to deny that it is not also possible and actually quite likely that Jesus was completely mythical. Here are just three things that Ehrman said that made me roll my eyes.

Ehrman:  “I don’t think there are any serious historians who doubt that Jesus existed, there are a lot of people who want to write sensational books and make a lot of money.”

Few “serious” historians also doubt the existence of Zoroaster, Buddha, the Old Testament prophets, etc. Questioning the existence of these characters is a new trend in historical research because the modern history writing fashion began in the 19th century with “serious” historians who did not question the existence of Moses, Abraham, or God. The reason so few “serious” historians question the existence of ancient religious figures is because the modern history writing of the late 19th century and early 20th century was dominated by some very obtuse people. The more critical thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment were replaced in the 19th century by those inspired by the beginnings of archaeological research. The early forays of Europeans in West Asia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean turned up artifacts that were interpreted as evidence that Bible stories were true or at least symbolically true. Later 20th century historians were faced with a mountainous task of disproving the earlier history. “Facts” in history are established by consensus; so, eradicating a false “fact” means persuading the consensus to change its mind. But, just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true, even if those people are “serious” historians.

Ehrman’s second point begs the question: Do sensational books about the non-existence of Jesus make a lot of money? No. Bart Ehrman is making much more money with his book about the historical Jesus than authors who claim Jesus was a mythical character. Ehrman will probably sell more copies of his book than all mythicist books put together. Which movie made more money: “The God Who Wasn’t There” or “The Passion of Christ” flick? From a marketing perspective, Bart Ehrman made a smart choice to write about the historical Jesus rather than the mythical Jesus, because most people believe Jesus existed. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true; but, it is easier to sell them a book that appeals to their beliefs.

Ehrman:  “What hardcore evidence is there that Julius Caesar existed?”

Maybe Ehrman just had a brain fart and couldn’t think of a better example off the top of his head; but, the evidence that Julius Caesar existed is better than the evidence for Paul, who no one doubts existed because he wrote letters. Julius Caesar wrote two books that are still read to this day and some other books that were cited in ancient sources. Also, Julius Caesar was a political figure and Jesus was a religious figure, claimed to be a god. Mythical gods were the central objects of worship in all ancient cults; so, the likelihood of Jesus being a mythical character is much greater than a political figure, like Julius Caesar. Also, all the stories about Jesus life are mythical tales. Jesus never wrote anything. His words are in the form of speeches, presented within the mythical tales about him. Ancient authors regularly made up speeches for the characters in their stories; both for real people and for fictional characters. So, the existence of those speeches is not evidence that Jesus existed.

And, many of the “historical” figures who “serious” historians believe existed are probably also mythical characters. Many of the legends about ancient kings, queens, and royal children are mythical tales. Gilgamesh, Semiramis, and Attis, are three I can think of off the top of my head who are probably completely mythical royals. All of the characters in the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Argonautica, and the Torah are mythical figures. There is far more fiction than history in all ancient books, particularly religious books. The likelihood that the gospel stories about Jesus (a god) are 100% fiction is much higher than any possible kernels of historical fact. Just because a lot of people believe in Jesus does not make him real.

Ehrman claims that Paul knew Jesus’ relatives and said: “Why would he lie about it?”

There is a very good reason to believe Paul lied about knowing Jesus’ brother, James: Paul was crazy. Paul also believed he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul believed that he could talk with the supernatural, which qualifies him as "crazy" in my mind.  There is no reason why James could not have been as mythical as Jesus and the rest of Jesus’ family, like his mother (a character obviously based on a goddess) and his father, a god. Early Christianity was polytheistic. As I demonstrate in my book, all of the characters in the gospel of Mark were based on mythical characters. Perhaps some of the characters were also real people; but, the story about them is pure myth.

I didn’t listen to the rest of the interview. I was too disappointed to hear Ehrman, who is probably the best in his field, make such silly statements to listen any further. If this is the best a “serious” historian can do, then our “serious” historians are pretty sad characters.

Tags: Agnostic, Atheist, Ehrman, Guy, Infidel, Jesus, The

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I seriously doubt any conclusive evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus will ever be found; Certainly not the one as portrayed in the Gospels. The Jesus of the gospels, was for the most part a creation of Paul.
Paul was either a con man. (ala L Ron Hubbard), or an epileptic that took his hallucinations as the word of god or Jesus. If there was an individual upon which the figure of Jesus was based I doubt he bore much resemblance to the Jesus depicted in the gospels or by Paul.
Jim,
You are right on all counts. The whole "historical" Jesus thing is really irrelevant. Even if there was a real Jesus, it is pretty clear that very few people were impressed by him. It was the mythical tale of Jesus that won converts; and, not many people were turned on by the myth either. The biggest conversion factor was that it became politically advantageous to have the same religion as the Roman emperor. Then, it became compulsory.
Diana,
There have been thousands of words on this site debating the historical/biblical Jesus as well as the motivation and influence of Constantine on the Council of Nicocea and the content of the bible. There is a faction who contend that Constantine had only a minimum influence while others believe it was a calculated political move to curb the religious infighting in the Empire and he was very involved with the Council.
I would be interested in your take on Constantine.
Jim,
The Council of Nicea is not something I claim any great insight about; but, what I learned in school and from books that I read was that Constantine was very involved in the council.
Jim,
I just saw a comment on my personal blog (not on A/N) with a claim that "Jesus" was derived from a Celtic god and something to the effect that Jesus was invented at the Council of Nicea. I guess this has something to do with Acharya Sanning's work, which I have not read. I also don't know much about Celtic mythology and fail to see its' connection to Christianity. Regardless, I make no such claims about the Council of Nicea. I trace the origins of Christianity from Palestinian mythology, not Celtic.
Diana,
It doesn't seem likely that a Celtic myth made it to the Mideast with any significant impact.
I tend to favor the idea that Paul constructed the mythical Jesus using a Greek Mystery Cult template. The tale has many of the hallmarks of a mystery cult - Mortal mother bearing the child of a god - champions the common man - persecuted by the powers that be - tortured and killed - raised to godhood by his father.
Many of the words and persona ascribed to Jesus by Paul would have been wildly divergent from the cultural and religious environment in which the alleged Jesus lived.
I posted a video version of this discussion: http://www.atheistnexus.org/video/did-this-atheist-get-beat-up
Oh goodie, more Myther nonsense. You know, for an supposed oasis of clear-thinking this is rapidly descending into a whirlpool of barely substantiated theories...

But in all seriousness, I agree that Ehrman did a terrible job on debating this point. As easy as it is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a historical Jesus, Ehrman apparently just doesn't know how to go about it. I know several people who would have done volumes better and - if I dare say it without saying like a pompous ass - I think I could have done better too. I certainly wouldn't have compared the evidence for Jesus with that for fucking Julius Caesar.
Still, I didn't expect different. Ehrman is an academic; not a good debater - as evidenced by the fact that he skullfucked twice by Christian uberapologist William Lane Craig on the historicity of the resurrection (another one of those arguments that I don't see how anybody could lose, yet Ehrman somehow lost).

Speaking of fallacious arguments though:

"There is a very good reason to believe Paul lied about knowing Jesus’ brother, James: Paul was crazy. Paul believed that he could talk with the supernatural, which qualifies him as "crazy" in my mind."

That's certainly a convenient way of dismissing every early Christian source that we don't like, because let's face it: they all believed they could interact with the supernatural. Hell, religious people today still believe they can.
Let's look at the facts:
- Paul mentions James as the brother of Jesus: a reference which undermines a point he's making (which means he has absolutely no reason to make it up at all)
- Flavius Josephus talks about James as a minor character in the deposition of Ananus, and identifies him in passing as the brother of a guy called "Jesus who was called Christ"
- all four gospels (along independent traditions: Mark, Special M, John) mention James as a brother of Jesus

How anyone can look at this evidence and then pretend that the most likely conclusion is something else than "Jesus had a flesh-and-blood brother called James" I really have no idea. Which is possibly why Ehrman can't get it through his head why anyone would be obtuse enough to deny it.

Jim,

"I tend to favor the idea that Paul constructed the mythical Jesus using a Greek Mystery Cult template. The tale has many of the hallmarks of a mystery cult - Mortal mother bearing the child of a god - champions the common man - persecuted by the powers that be - tortured and killed - raised to godhood by his father."

Errrm, you know what other type of cult had that template (not that tortured and killed was big template for Greek mystery cults anyway)? Jewish apocalypticism that arose from Intertestamental Second Temple Judaism ;)

Cheers
Well said.
even if jesus existed, what does that have to do with the actual existence of god?

nada

Old thread, but what the hell.  Why doubt the existence of Jesus?  The existence of a wandering rabbi named Yeshua in first century Judea is a perfectly ordinary claim.  Doubt the extraordinary claims: the walking on water, the transforming water into wine, the miracles of the loaves and fishes, the exorcisms, the healings, the resurrections.  Dude didn't do that shit.

Craig

I've always felt whether or not Jesus the human actually existed to be a matter of supreme indifference.

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