Apparently you can't do polls on here.... but

Do any of you think that Jesus actually existed? What do category do you fall into?

A. Believed he existed, claims are false

B. Believed he existed, claims are exaggerated

C. Don't believe he existed

D. Believe he existed, claims are true (sorry had to leave the idiot category open)

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"Without the hero story there is no account of a carpenter or preacher. Those characterizations only appear in the Gospels and those are hero stories."
We do have accounts of a preacher: the references found in Josephus and Tacitus.

"I certainly consider Boudicca legendary. If Hannibal is unhistorical, I'd hardly be surprised. We have always been unnecessarily uncritical of what the ancients have told us, and act too surprised when archaeology proves them wrong."
That's certainly an errrrr... intriguing way to look at history, but totally unreasonable. Being critical is good, but being hypercritical is just not workable and not consistent; when the Ancients make extraordinary claims, then we can doubt them. When they make ordinary claims (like when Tacitus and Josephus talk about a preacher, faith healer, and so-called Messiah Jesus who was crucified), then the reasonable decision is to believe them unless you have a good reason to assume that they are lying.

"Let's throw all the histories of Josephus out with the bath water and what do we lose? Nothing of any importance."
Nothing of any importance? We would lose our most productive and scrupulous source for events in First Century Palestine.
Our only productive and scrupulous source for events in First Century Palestine, actually.
Well done.

"That I am more skeptical than you proves nothing but the nature of our characters. My position is no more nor less rational than yours."
Yes, actually, your position is much less rational than mine. And the reason is this: the amount of evidence you require for a proposition needs to be scaled against the evidence that can reasonably be expected for the proposition.
For example, if I want to prove the existence of a new species of animals, I'll need to bring a specimen of said species to a laboratory for observation. However if I want to prove the existence of an electron, I won't use photographic evidence or specimen evidence: I'll just electromagnetic experiments and the like. The reason is because not all claims are the same: they all require different amounts and different kinds of evidence.

You, however, are insisting on volumes of evidence that simply cannot be expected: asking for volumes of secular, contemporary evidence for Ancient figures is like demanding DNA evidence for George Washington. It's just not to be expected.

"You think you have enough to believe in a historical Jesus. I don't. So what?"
The fact that your hyper-scepticism leads you to dismiss the existence of several of the most important characters in Ancient history, should really tell you something.
C. Don't believe he existed.

There's a stunning lack of evidence of any sort for a historical Jesus. No contemporary sources, lots of errors in the bible (errors that make it likely that the writers of the gospels didn't know much about the romans, amongst others). The only outside sources written are long after events supposedly happened and are descriptive of what others believe, not of first hand knowledge.

I'm open to the possibility that the Jesus character is based on someone real, but I think even that's relatively unlikely.
I love it, it's like we are all falling into a massive well or carnivorous plant, a place of no return. And every time we start to get familiar with and establish the "ways of the pit" with the latest new comer, a brand new victim falls down into the pit. And thus, it starts all over again.

I think the most novel thing is, a person has no interest in reading a thread this long, but once they have an invested interest by choosing to contribute, they then suddenly come back to see how we are reacting to their entry to the conversation. I was guilty of just such an entrance to this thread, I do not claim immunity. It just shows how much more interested one is in one's own personal experience than the experience of others, and can you blame us for it?
It's not always that depressing though. I remember the early days of Richarddawkins.net, where just about everyone was a Jesus Myther. Then for some reason the forum attracted some people with historical knowledge (and lots of patience), and a year later there was only one or two Jesus Mythers left.

It's really a no-brainer-issue for rationalists. Easiest historical judgement you'll ever make.

@Hilde: the errors in the Bible are actually not a good reason to assume that it's a made-up story. On the contrary: made-up stories tend to involve very little contradictions and they flow much more naturally than some of the contrived scenarios we see in the gospels.
The gospels are attempts to shoe-horn a historical figure (Jesus) into a Messianic (and later a divine) role; but the very fact that they try so hard is a testimony to the fact that they are talking about a historical figure first and foremost.
If you come at it without emotional attachment to your conclusions, that is.
first to nick... yeah, i posted before looking at how long this thing was, and i'm about 4 pages into the thread now, hope to read all of it over the next week. i do enjoy these kind of discussions, so while i may have posted prematurely, i will read what everyone thinks.

matt... have you ever watched a movie or read fiction? errors, things forgotten, stuff always crop up. people get caught in lies all the time because they've made it up and it doesn't gel with the truth. but when you read accounts of the battle of ghettysburg, they all line up rather well.

i think when you say call some of the gospel scenario's contrived, you're basically admitting they're made up. my point with the error's really has more to do with the inaccuracy of the bible, and that pretty much everything in it must be questioned.

i think it's more likely that the gospels try to make up a character, rather than a historical figure, and put him in a messianic role. or do you also think there's a historic basis for the angel meroni? do you think abraham and moses were real people too? how about hercules and zeus? hell, scientology is less than 60 years old, and has many followers. but it's all based on lies. i think it's just as likely, if not more so, based on the lack of contemporary evidence, that paul (or someone else) created a small cult in the backwaters of judea and managed to pick up many adherents due to its message of salvation and heaven.

anyway, back to your post, i think by saying that "the very fact that they try so hard is a testimony to the fact that they are talking about a historical figure first and foremost" is a major assumption. if they made the jesus character up, they still would have had shoehorn him into the various prophecies, and make him say and do certain things to attract followers. the fact there are four versions of his life that all differ (but are supposed to be written by people who were with him at the same time) shows more that they were making it up as they were going along, rather than that there is any historical basis.

but if you provide me with evidence, or a good argument, that he was a real person, i'm open to hearing it. but right now i think it's more likely that he was made up. there were other people in the region saying and doing and claiming similar things. they may have been a basis for the character of jesus, but i doubt there was a person by that name going around making any of the claims found in the bible.

oh, and mentioning assumptions... besides the whole ass out of you thing (hey, you assumed it, not me), don't assume i've got an emotional investment in this. i'm not christian, was never christian, and whether jesus existed or not is merely an interesting intellectual topic. could the same be said about you? i don't know. don't really care either.
OK, if you haven't got an emotional investment then this will be over pretty quickly. The fact of the matter is that we have more evidence for Jesus than for any other Jewish preacher of the time (Theudas, the Egyptian Prophet, John the Baptist,...). Roman historians simply were not very interested in First Century Jews, which is why most of them never mention a single Jew in all of their works; there was only one historian in the Ancient world who did care a bit about what happened in Galilee and Jewish affairs, and that was Flavius Josephus. If someone would mention Jesus, it would be him. Unsurprisingly, he does mention Jesus. Twice (one time he refers to the brother of "Jesus the so-called Christ", and another time he tells us precisely this: that he was a preacher and a faith healer, that he was crucified by Pilate, and that he was called the Messiah). We know for a fact that one of these passages was altered with Christian interpolations later, but the consensus among scholars is that there was an original passage about Jesus there. And the other passage is certainly genuine.

Second of all, we get a bonus: Tacitus, arguably Rome's most important historian of all time, also mentions Jesus in his Annales. He mentions, again, that there was someone running around in Palestine who was a preacher, a faith healer, who was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and who was called the Messiah. Considering that Tacitus tells us not only that he specifically "rejects hearsay" in all cases, and that he hated Christianity as a "vile superstition" makes him a very trustworthy source.

Third of all, you get the events that took place in the 30's AD. We know for a fact that several Christians were preaching in Jerusalem at that time, yet nobody thought to say "Jesus? Jesus who? And he was crucified several years ago after causing a riot in the Temple at Passover? I don't remember any of that! That never happened!". In fact, Jewish authorities used every argument they could think of to deride Christians: they said Christ was a demon, misguided, a liar, a fraud, but nobody ever said that he didn't existed. That argument didn't arise until the Nineteenth Century based on purely speculative assumptions and bad information.

Fourthly, the Gospel stories. What you say is not true: yes, the stories differ, but they are remarkably similar in several elements; just to pick two, the crucifixion and Jesus' birth in Nazareth (by the way, funny how nobody in Nazareth ever noticed that there was never a Jesus born there). The reason these elements are both significant is that they are both embarrasing. Both of these were things Christians got mocked for and they were huge stumbling blocks for converts: first of all the fact that your Messiah was fucking nailed to a cross instead of triumphing over his enemies was a no-no for many coverts; ditto for the fact that Jesus came from a tiny town like Nazareth instead of the town where the Messiah had to be born (according to prophecy) was Bethlehem. What we see in the gospels are the desperate gospels are attempts to sweettalk these things: first of all constructing a (contrived) scenario to suggest that dying a humiliating death was really part of the plan all along (despite this having no precedent in Jewish eschatology), and second of all we see several Gospel writers try really hard to get Jesus from Nazareth to Bethlehem so he can still fulfill the prophecy. Matt and Luke trip each other up in the process and the whole business is contradictory, but if this is all fabricated, why is Nazareth in the story at all?
This is not what we see in fiction; this is a clear sign of a historical figure around which historical facts were known (crucifixion, Nazareth) get shoe-horned into a Messianic role, and the parts that don't fit with the Messianic role have to be either downplayed, spinned or discarded.

Add all these pieces of evidence and you get a case for a historical Jesus stronger than for any other Jew of the time period. Jesus Mythers who do not accept this have to explain (i) why, how, who and when someone fabricated Jesus (ii) why nobody noticed until the Nineteenth Century (!) AD (iii) why are the gospels so contrived if they're simply making someone up (iv) how managed to trick two of the best historians of the time, both of whom regarded Christianity as a vile superstition and (v) how it is possible that when Christians were preaching Jerusalem as soon as 38 AD (just several years after Jesus supposedly died) nobody in Jerusalem would have remembered that there had in fact never been such a person and that the whole story was fabricated.
And there's no Myther on the planet who can answer these concerns without making major and unjustified assumptions, which are quickly dealt with with Occam's Razor: it makes much more sense that there was indeed a preacher and faith healer named Jesus, who was mythicised by the cult that took on his name.

That's why there's a grand total of one scholar on the planet who still takes this thesis seriously; the rest has discarded it a long time ago, for very good reasons. You should do the same.
Wow, long response. Much appreciated. Before I get to it, though, let me specifically say that my opinion has always been that Jesus was never a living being and is purely fictional or that he is based on a real person (more likely many) but has very little in common with the Jesus portrayed in the bible (and did not do most, if anything, he is claimed to have done, beyond preaching his own offshoot of Judaism). But for the sake of argument, I always take the former because it is the more interesting of the two positions.
I'm going to answer the questions you bring up at the end of your post, and I'll try to also hit points that you mention in the full post, but there's a lot so I may miss something. If there is anything I haven't fully answered or missed, let me know and I'll be happy to return to it.

(i) why, how, who and when someone fabricated Jesus

Well, I'd say Paul would be a good person to have fabricated Jesus. He could easily have gone to a smaller town, one that would have known about wandering messianic preachers going around, and claimed to the be the follower of one named Jesus, what he did, etc. All he had to do was say to people "my lord was crucified a few years ago, and I've been preaching his word since." it's not like they had Google or Facebook back then. lies wouldn't need to go far before it would be tough to fact check them. we know rumors spread easily and can often be resistant to fact (Obama's a Muslim Kenyan commu-nazi and had his Jew horns surgically removed when working for the CIA in college). That's just one possibility. Considering how easily cults still get started in the modern, educated, Western world, I have a hard time seeing Christianity starting out as a made up cult during a superstitious time as being more unlikely than being based on a real person who has no contemporary evidence.

(ii) why nobody noticed until the Nineteenth Century (!) AD

Well, probably because a) most people (today) have a better education by 3rd grade than all but the most educated throughout most of history. To say that it would have been politically and socially unpopular for someone to claim Jesus didn't exist for most of post-Milvian Bridge history would be an understatement. It would also be deadly. Consider the number of people killed over the Aryan Heresy, the Cathar's, the wars caused by the Reformation, etc. To have made claims of Jesus not existing would have ended in death throughout most of Christian history. And I'm guessing most people just took it for granted that he was real, kinda like how the Greek's took the existence of Hercules, etc., for being real. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a widespread questioning of the existence of Jesus until Christianity has become a dead religion of myth like the that of the Greeks and Romans.

(iii) why are the gospels so contrived if they're simply making someone up

If you're making something up for, essentially, propaganda purposes, it's going to be very contrived. Now I'll grant you that either his birth in Bethlehem or growing up in Nazareth is contrived, somewhat nonsensical. But much of the story is nonsensical. I would personally say that growing up in Nazareth is the more contrived part, because that doesn't seem necessary (based on my current knowledge). But I can pretty easily see Paul (or whomever started the religion) claiming that Jesus was from Nazareth, and then being asked by a follower "Micah prophesizes that the messiah would be from Bethlehem." And Paul replying, "True. Jesus was born in Bethlehem as he was born while his parents were traveling." It wouldn't be the first time someone being questioned on a lie embellished it in order to keep from being found out.
I do think that this is one of the more interesting questions you've asked. This is the first time I've been asked it and will think upon it more.

(iv) how managed to trick two of the best historians of the time, both of whom regarded Christianity as a vile superstition and

Okay, this question is just... well, dumb, and I think hurts your argument quite a bit both because it is not a good question and because your thinking it is shows a lack of good thinking.

So the two historians you mentioned were Flavius Josephus and Tacitus. You wrote, " Considering that Tacitus tells us not only that he specifically "rejects hearsay" in all cases, and that he hated Christianity as a "vile superstition" makes him a very trustworthy source." Well, that right there is a bullshit argument. I can tell you that I'm the most honest man alive, and then write a book on how I met the real Harry Potter and he did magic for me, but that doesn't make it true. And Nixon really wasn't a crook. Considering Tacitus was born about 26 years after Jesus supposedly died, everything he wrote about Jesus was hearsay. Not to mention that there is some dispute over the authenticity of his reference to Jesus, I'd say he's not a good source for proof of a historical Jesus, more just a proof that people believed that someone a generation or two earlier (by the time he would have written about it) named Jesus lived/did the things he did.

Flavius Josephus has the same problem. He's not a contemporary of Jesus, had no first-hand knowledge of him, and had to rely on hearsay. He also suffers from an authenticity problem for one of his two passages related to Jesus. But again, he's relaying what others have told him, aka hearsay.

(v) how it is possible that when Christians were preaching Jerusalem as soon as 38 AD (just several years after Jesus supposedly died) nobody in Jerusalem would have remembered that there had in fact never been such a person and that the whole story was fabricated.

How is it possible that people have been claiming that the US Government was responsible for 9/11 from pretty much the day it happened? How is it possible that Mormons and Scientologists and other cults (many of which are incredibly bizarre) get followers? How did Hitler make it so easy for the Germans to attempt genocide on the Jews, gays, Gypsies, etc.? I think it would be very easy for Paul or any other charismatic person to make up the story about Jesus (for his own personal gain) and start a cult of brainwashed followers (easy enough when you start out as a back-water cult of the poor and sick and other powerless members of society). If one of his followers heard from someone that Jesus didn't exist, wasn't real, none of the stuff in the bible happened, well, my guess is that the early Christians would have ignored them just as the creationists deny evidence for evolution.
By no means is it a stretch to think that Christianity started out as a cult of true believers who ignored evidence and considered persecution and martyrdom as proof of their being right (why else would they be persecuted other than those in power not wanting to accept the truth?).

And there's no Myther on the planet who can answer these concerns without making major and unjustified assumptions, which are quickly dealt with Occam's Razor: it makes much more sense that there was indeed a preacher and faith healer named Jesus, who was mythicised by the cult that took on his name.

I realize that we've gotten to this place in our culture where we try to marginailze and trivialize those who disagree with us by calling them "___-ers." It's sad to see here. But I also realize that you think that the matter is open and shut on his existence, so I guess it's understandable. I do hope that you consider using a bit more respectful of a term if you actually want to change people's minds.
Using Occam's Razor, I think the easiest explanation is that Jesus was fully fictional (made up just like Scientology) and based on the fact there were wandering preachers at that time. The lack of contemporary evidence for his existence, in my opinion, supports this.
I think, due to the lack of historical evidence, we may both be making assumptions here, but mine is the null hypothesis, which leads me to ask that he be proved to be real. Your assumptions seem to ask in the opposite direction.

That's why there's a grand total of one scholar on the planet who still takes this thesis seriously; the rest has discarded it a long time ago, for very good reasons. You should do the same.

I didn't realize that the argument to authority became legitimate when you agreed with it. Good to know. I don't think most scholars have discarded this question a long time ago. I think most have never seriously asked the question, most have just assumed. We give religion an undue respect in this country and I think there may be scholars who would openly question if Jesus was real or not (regardless of what conclusion they came to) but don't even bother to because they just take it for granted. Same as how we generally accept Abraham, Moses, and the exodus from Egypt, the Egyptian enslavement of the Jews (I was raised Jewish, btw), for granted even though there's no real evidence for any of them other than the Torah. I've heard some questioning of them, but it's not often and I do keep hearing of more archeological evidence that the Jews were not in Egypt at that time nor would they have been slaves if they had been. The point being, we don't question these things.

Another thing you mentioned was that the early Christians were laughed at and derided for their silly beliefs. That their beliefs were embarrassing. So what? We laugh at the Mormons. We laugh at the Scientologists and the Raelians. That doesn't stop them from keeping their silly beliefs. Same thing with conspiracy theorists.

And as a last thing before I go visit the grandma for Mothers Day... you do bring up some interesting lines of inquiry. I do not know much about early Christian writing and plan on reading up on that along with professional arguments for the historical existence of Jesus. I think overall, the arguments you've made are circumstantial and unconvincing. Most likely, we will never truly know whether Jesus was real or not (which was why the James Ossuary was such a big find before being determined to be a fake, it would have been the closest thing to contemporary evidence to date). The Jesus claim is a pretty big one, in my opinion, and big claims require big evidence. Even giving leeway due to the time in history he was to have lived, I don't see you presenting more than circumstantial evidence, which really just backs up that Christianity entered the scene in the decade following his supposed death.

Questions? Concerns? Comments?
Lots of concerns and comments ;)

Considering the first point, you say: "Well, I'd say Paul would be a good person to have fabricated Jesus. He could easily have gone to a smaller town, one that would have known about wandering messianic preachers going around, and claimed to the be the follower of one named Jesus, what he did, etc. All he had to do was say to people "my lord was crucified a few years ago, and I've been preaching his word since." it's not like they had Google or Facebook back then. lies wouldn't need to go far before it would be tough to fact check them."
This right here shows you do not understand the social or historical situation of the time we are talking about. Palestine in the First Century AD had a total population of about 1.6 million Jews at its height; and a large percentage of these were in Jerusalem. These were very close-knit communities and stories and gossip were widespread. Much, much closer-knit (and smaller) than many current cities. For Paul and others to say that there was a preacher named Jesus "the Christ" who was wandering around Palestine just a couple of years earlier and got crucified for causing a disturbance in the Temple at Passover, would be the equivalent of walking into Washington and claiming that just a couple of years earlier, someone had received a lethal injection for causing a riot at the Washington Christmas Party. In a small community like Jerusalem where few events took place, these things would be even more rememberable.

Second of all, and this is where things get totally absurd, Paul says he was persecuting Christians prior to his conversion. So if Paul was the one who invented Jesus, then he also lied about there being Christians prior to the moment he invented his thesis; which would be hard to convince people of if nobody had ever heard of Christians prior to Paul's invention.

That absolutely nobody noticed this elaborate fraud, even the people who had an interest in finding arguments against the young Jesus sect, is absurd. So that's one major assumption you'll have to make right there:

"Well, probably because a) most people (today) have a better education by 3rd grade than all but the most educated throughout most of history. To say that it would have been politically and socially unpopular for someone to claim Jesus didn't exist for most of post-Milvian Bridge history would be an understatement. It would also be deadly. Consider the number of people killed over the Aryan Heresy, the Cathar's, the wars caused by the Reformation, etc. To have made claims of Jesus not existing would have ended in death throughout most of Christian history. And I'm guessing most people just took it for granted that he was real, kinda like how the Greek's took the existence of Hercules, etc., for being real. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a widespread questioning of the existence of Jesus until Christianity has become a dead religion of myth like the that of the Greeks and Romans."
Again, the wheels fall completely off this argument once you realise that for at least the first three centuries of its existence, Christians' major concern was not getting persecuted, not persecuting people who were claiming Jesus did not exist. All kinds of arguments were made against early Christians but you're seriously maintaining that they missed the biggest and most obvious one of all: that Christ didn't actually exist? Again, that's absurd: Jewish rabbis were trying to get as much dirt on Jesus as they could (they claimed for a long time that he was Mary's illegitimate son); the idea that they wouldn't have tried to get more background information on Jesus is strange.
And don't make comparisons with Hercules, please. There is a major difference between claiming "There was a legendary hero who lived somewhere in the past" and "There was a preacher who got crucified for causing a riot in the temple just a couple of years ago."

But I can pretty easily see Paul (or whomever started the religion) claiming that Jesus was from Nazareth, and then being asked by a follower "Micah prophesizes that the messiah would be from Bethlehem." And Paul replying, "True. Jesus was born in Bethlehem as he was born while his parents were traveling."
Er... yup. Two major problems here: first of all, Paul never says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and two, do you really think Paul knew so little of the Old Testament that he wouldn't have been caught off guard like this?

Again: there's a more sensible and straightforward explanation here.

"Considering Tacitus was born about 26 years after Jesus supposedly died, everything he wrote about Jesus was hearsay. Not to mention that there is some dispute over the authenticity of his reference to Jesus, I'd say he's not a good source for proof of a historical Jesus, more just a proof that people believed that someone a generation or two earlier (by the time he would have written about it) named Jesus lived/did the things he did."
But Tacitus tells us that he specifically rejects hearsay. To pretend that when researching a "vile superstition" like Christianity, he would make an exception to that rule, is a major assumption. And notice how Tacitus' account tells us nothing he would have got from Christian hear-say (resurrection, miracles, wise teachings...); he only tells us the cold hard facts, exactly what you'd get from a Roman rapport (preacher, faith healer, crucifixion by Pilate under the reign of Tiberius). That's a hint from where he got his information.
Oh, and there's no authenticity problem. Even the most fervent Mythers accept that this passage is genuine (as evidenced by the perfect Tacitean Latin and the scorn Tacitus pours on Christianity).

"Flavius Josephus has the same problem. He's not a contemporary of Jesus, had no first-hand knowledge of him, and had to rely on hearsay. He also suffers from an authenticity problem for one of his two passages related to Jesus. But again, he's relaying what others have told him, aka hearsay."
He also mentions James, the brother of Christ, who was a minor character in the deposal of the High Priest Ananus in the 30's AD. Mythical creatures don't have live-and-blood brothers, which means we now also have to account for how James and his role were a big elaborate hoax.

See the amount of your assumptions sky-rocketing yet?

"If one of his followers heard from someone that Jesus didn't exist, wasn't real, none of the stuff in the bible happened, well, my guess is that the early Christians would have ignored them just as the creationists deny evidence for evolution."
And that also doesn't work, for this reason: the reason we know about every single counter-argument people made against early Christians is because Christians spent a great amount of time and effort writing books listing every counter-argument and trying to debunk them, just so that their belief seemed the most reasonable. To pretend that there was this major counter-argument floating around ("Your Lord didn't even exist!") floating around that they didn't want to tackle, is again absurd. As is the idea that this counter-argument was suddenly forgotten by Christianity's many adversaries.

"I realize that we've gotten to this place in our culture where we try to marginailze and trivialize those who disagree with us by calling them "___-ers." It's sad to see here. But I also realize that you think that the matter is open and shut on his existence, so I guess it's understandable. I do hope that you consider using a bit more respectful of a term if you actually want to change people's minds."
I'm sorry, but that's what you get for holding a fringe position with no academic credibility... I don't mean this as an insult, it's just a fact. And the reason some us affectionately call the ones who hold this position "Mythers" is because of the emotional tenacity some of them refuse to think critically. I hope you're not of them; but I don't think so.

"Using Occam's Razor, I think the easiest explanation is that Jesus was fully fictional (made up just like Scientology) and based on the fact there were wandering preachers at that time. The lack of contemporary evidence for his existence, in my opinion, supports this.
I think, due to the lack of historical evidence, we may both be making assumptions here, but mine is the null hypothesis, which leads me to ask that he be proved to be real. Your assumptions seem to ask in the opposite direction."

No, we simply have different standards of evidence. Yours is, in my opinion, unreasonable: we don't have contemporary evidence for just about any Jewish preacher in the First Century AD, so expecting it for Jesus is not reasonable. Hell, we have no contemporary evidence for some of the most important historical figures of Ancient times: Hannibal, Boudicca, Arminius. These were giants of their times and yet still get no mentions; expecting contemporary evidence for a scruffy preacher like Jesus is unreasonable.

So in short: I'll start giving contemporary evidence for Jesus when you start giving me contemporary evidence for Hannibal.

"I didn't realize that the argument to authority became legitimate when you agreed with it. Good to know."
No, arguments from authority become legitimate when they are valid. When you have an entire planet full of historical scholars who accept that Jesus existed (save one, Robert Price) and you find yourself disagreeing with them, then that's a nail in your coffin. It doesn't mean you're necessarily wrong, but it should tell you where the evidence points.

"I don't think most scholars have discarded this question a long time ago. I think most have never seriously asked the question, most have just assumed."
The same could be said for any number of academic discoveries: scholars usually don't bother to reinvent the wheel. But the reasons why the Jesus Myth hypothesis doesn't hold water are known by all scholars and have been known since the beginning of the 20th century, when its mangled corpse was swept off the floor of the academic arena.

"The Jesus claim is a pretty big one, in my opinion, and big claims require big evidence."
And as I've pointed out many times, that's unreasonable: the historical Jesus is not a big claim: it's a claim that a Galilean preacher and faith healer existed who was crucified after pissing off the Romans. That's a perfectly ordinary claim and requires the ordinary evidence we expect for other Jewish preachers; not more, not less.
And compared with other preachers of the time, Jesus is among the best attested.
The idea of the historical Jesus seems very unclear to Hilde, which really jumps up when she(he?)asks for extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. Carl Sagan was a great mind, but when he said that he was talking about religious claims there, claims of universal origins and religious truths. As you've already responded to and highlighted that Matt, perhaps you should expand a bit more on the idea of who this person was, and how he came to be known as a divine child of God after he was dead. What was the concept of a Jewish messiah before Jesus came around, for instance?
He. Shortened last name. Sigh. Anyway, in general, the bigger the claim requires bigger evidence. Doesn't matter that whether it's cosmological or if you're spouse is cheating on you. A matchbook from a bar you've never been to would not be sufficient evidence for infidelity, just as an oral history shouldn't be considered conclusive evidence for Moses.
Thanks for the reply...

I would have to say that you do make a persuasive argument over-all. There are a few things that I would nit-pick with, where I don't think you read my argument correctly (dealing mainly with reasons I thought the mythical Jesus could be plausible and whatnot), but your general response covers things well enough.

Regardless, there is more to the consider than I was aware of. Am I 100% convinced? No. But enough that I think it's more likely than not.

I am curious, though, what sources detail the Jewish priests trying to get as much dirt on Jesus as they could? And other general sources on the general topic? I've only ever done some basic internet searches (which is why I said I also considered him being an amalgamation as being likely, I was hardly solid on a position and had read arguments for his non-existence that seemed reasonable).

Oh, one last thing, speaking of assumptions... "And the reason some us affectionately call the ones who hold this position "Mythers" is because of the emotional tenacity some of them refuse to think critically. I hope you're not of them; but I don't think so."

I'll "assume" that you've had many discussions of this type which is why you're quick to assume this conclusion, but you might want to give people the benefit of the doubt when a discussion is only 2 or 3 posts long. If we got to 65 pages though...
"He. Shortened last name. Sigh. Anyway, in general, the bigger the claim requires bigger evidence. Doesn't matter that whether it's cosmological or if you're spouse is cheating on you. A matchbook from a bar you've never been to would not be sufficient evidence for infidelity, just as an oral history shouldn't be considered conclusive evidence for Moses."

Sigh?

You missed the point, the idea of a historical Jesus is not an extraordinary claim. The idea of the biblical Jesus is. You have tangled up the concepts. I was not saying it only applies to cosmic and universal origins, i was saying it applies to things of that scale and are akin to,... well, it's obvious what I meant, how do you not see what I meant?

How in any way is the suggestion that a historical Jesus existed extraordinary? It is more extraordinary to suggest a conspiracy.

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