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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Yeah, we have plenty of indications of dispute between early Jews and early Christians; the first evidence of disputes comes hardly a decade after Jesus (supposedly, if we're still arguing on the historicity) died, and they clearly continued strong throughout.

In 41 AD (within a decade of Jesus' death) we already have Stephen getting stoned to death by the Jewish Sanhedrin for claims of heresy. And even before that, Paul tells us that he was persecuting the Early Church.
Then only a few decades later we have the gospel writers also indicating disputes, both implicitly (eg gJohn noting that people rejected Jesus because he was from Galilee rather than Bethlehem) and explicitly (eg gMatthew countering the Jewish claim that the disciples simply stole and hid Jesus’ body and faked the Resurrection)... Apparently these were criticisms that had been floating around for some time, and we can be certain that there was at least some anti-Christian preaching going on within decades of Jesus' death.

So much so, in fact, that not long afterwards, we get Justin Martyr writing a response to a Jewish critic of Christianity called "Trypho" (possibly the Jewish rabbi Tarfon). This Trypho guy has a whole laundry-list of criticisms against Christianity, which didn’t come out of thin air. He was clearly drawing on a tradition of disputes between Christians and Jews on key issues.

What we don't hear even a whisper of is any reference to people who didn't believe that Jesus existed. Which, considering that Christians were enough to be hunted down and persecuted, is another nail in the coffin of this Jesus Mythicism thesis.
He may have existed. There is some vague evidence that suggests he was a hippie type that traveled as far as India. But ultimately if he did exist, his existence has been greatly embellished over the centuries. I suppose in about say 300 years from now humankind may be worshiping some other unwitting contemporary of ours.
"Do you believe Jesus existed?"

This question, when posed by a Christian, has vastly different implications, than for the non-theistic who might wish to ponder the question.

However, since there are wide differences of opinion among scholars, the question obviously comes down to a "belief" in the research materials you find credible - and which seem to make more sense to you.

At the same time, there can be precious little meaning attached to a "belief" on either side of the argument, - beyond a purely historic interest - that can alter the absolute irrelevance of the question with regards to the later apotheosis of Jesus to god-like status.

Myth or mystic, his 'borrowed' legacy continues to 'step on the crank' - and neck - of our present-day world societies.
I'm with you on this one, D.R. Although I follow this thread with interest since I know only a little about the period and some of the contributors seem to have done a lot of research on it, for various reasons of their own, the question remains, what does it matter? It kinda surprises me this debate hasn't just run its course.

Suppose that someone discovered a relic or document, some primary, irrefutable evidence of the physical existence of Jesus? Such an unlikely event would make world headlines and for much rejoicing among the faithful. Of course, scholars would continue to debate its authenticity for years, and pseudo-historians would make a fortune in their attempts to debunk it.

But it wouldn't change a thing. The things he is claimed to have done remain impossible. His divinity is absurd. His established existence would be of passing historical interest only. How much longer must we pick over his bones, looking for the ghost of the 'messiah', 'stepping on the crank', as you aptly put it.

It's now been a century and a half since we've been able to prove that creationism and intelligent design are fairy stories for the ignorant, and that while god is unknowable, the universe is knowable, albeit gradually, as we build on the inquiries of the great thinkers and experimenters of the past, who put religion aside to give us what they learned.

The time it's taking to lift the collective consciousness out of the superstitious mire of the past kinda depresses me, and it's one of the reasons I have a healthy contempt for the bible and those who speak of the word of god.

How much longer must our governments take them seriously? How much longer will presidents and prime ministers offer their prayers to the victims of disasters and protect the rights of religious zealots not only to believe whatever they like, but to force their children to believe whatever they like as well?

As for Jesus, this ridiculous god-like pariah needs to be put back in his holy sepulchre and the stone rolled back in to place. Let him join Jupiter, Odin, Osiris, Baal and all those other fraudulent concoctions.
Hi David,

"Although I follow this thread with interest since I know only a little about the period and some of the contributors seem to have done a lot of research on it, for various reasons of their own, the question remains, what does it matter? It kinda surprises me this debate hasn't just run its course."

I care because I don't like it when history gets skewed to conform to ideological biases. Jesus Mythicism is one of the epitomes of pseudo-history.

And yes, you're right: for atheists it should be enough to simply point out that there's no good evidence to believe in the miracles of Jesus or his divinity. But no, some have to go further than that and use pseudo-history to argue something for which there is no evidence but that they would really like to be true. Which is the point they run into me and others. As soon as my fellow atheists stop trying to argue this unreasonable position and raise the level of their discourse, I'll be happy to drop these debates.
D R Hosie - However, since there are wide differences of opinion among scholars, the question obviously comes down to a "belief" in the research materials you find credible - and which seem to make more sense to you.

Very eloquently put, and a lot less wordy than I. ;-)

Put together the hard evidence and you have a handful of random pieces to a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. You say it looks like a flower, I say it looks like a giraffe, someone else says it looks like a building. Any one of us could be right. The solid truth may be lost to history forever.
Most likely "he" was several people amalgamated into one convenient archetypal hero, with the stories strongly exaggerated and manipulated to match prophecies and claims of divinity. Yeshua means salvation in Hebrew.
Hi David,

With all due respect, you are about the 900th person coming into the thread claiming this, so can you please substantiate that opinion and why it is "more likely" than that he simply existed?

When you do, however, make sure you get your facts straight: Yeshua does not mean salvation; it was simply a common name at the time.
Matt, It's kinda like swattin' flys.

Probably if they read through the previous comments before they posted, most would have their questions answered - or at least know what it is they are trying to defend.
I'm not asking questions or defending any position, and the assertion that I need to read 85 pages of comments to understand the question is ridiculous. I simply don't accept the Bible as a historically accurate source.
I would think a critical thinker would be eager to know that their assertions are more than likely false.

At the least, I would think a person entering a discussion would be interested in "discussing" their contribution to a, discussion. If you're posting under the context of a simple survey, understand that this thread has become far more than the survey of the original post, and please understand why your assertions were challenged in that context. Please do not feel as if you're being attacked for no other reason than to argue.
If 900 prior posts haven't convinced you that every element of christianity is recycled from other religions, I don't expect that anything will. Do you believe that his miracles and divinity are literally true? What about his parables and sermons?

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