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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Even if somebody did exist who was the seed of the character we now know as Jesus, that guy would fall far short of living up to the mythos of the religious symbol. Personally, I don't really see the significance of of whether Jesus actually existed. It has no bearing on the fact that, even if he did, he was still just a man.
You are wise, Thomas :-)

I better bow out before acrimony sets in. If we beat this dead horse any longer, he might resurrect.
wow, 99 pages of Jesus rant. Didn't think it make it this far.
See what you went and started Jennifer?

;-)
What I forgot to mention in my last post was that even if the historicity of Jesus is just as likely or even more likely than that of Hannibal, that still wouldn't prove the Jesus of the gospels as being a real historical figure, because perhaps in this scenario we should re-consider the supposed historicity of everything from antiquity, because we should always be striving to be better skeptics.
@Matt,

We know certain stars have planets orbiting them despite not being able to see them. The gravitational effect of the planet causes a slight wobble of the star. We know that Hannibal had contemporaneous records of his exploits, despite those records being lost, because those records were referenced by other commentators, both Roman and Carthaginian.

My distinction between Hannibal and Jesus, which I've admitted is a minor one, is that there are no references to contemporaneous records of Jesus. Yes, neither Hannibal or Jesus have any surviving contemporaneous records but, unlike Hannibal, Jesus doesn't have references to contemporaneous records either. There is only a void where evidence of Jesus should be . . . not even a wobble. That's not sophistry . . . that's a real (albeit minor) distinction.
Paul mentions having met the brother of Jesus: James. That's a reference to a "contemporary record".
Tacitus likely got his information from a Roman record. That's contemporary too.
All the gospel writers claim to transmit the word of mouth accounts of eye-witnesses (contemporary).
And later Jewish polemics referred to a long history of previous records too (contemporary).

I'm glad you admit that this is a minor (and practically non-existent) distinction though. Now compare the stature of Hannibal and Jesus and think about the implications of the fact that these small distinctions are the only differences between the source material for them.

What does that tell you about this void you're trying to claim?
--- Matt VDB says --- Paul mentions having met the brother of Jesus: James. That's a reference to a "contemporary record".
Tacitus likely got his information from a Roman record. That's contemporary too.
All the gospel writers claim to transmit the word of mouth accounts of eye-witnesses (contemporary).


Paul also believes in divine miracles performed by Jesus and via his writings, appears to have a hard agenda of 'selling' religion. I don't trust a snake oil salesman to be telling me the truth.

Tacitus "likely" getting his information from contemporary sources is not a reference. It's an opinion/inference of later historians.

The gospel writers ... Damn, this is an Atheist website. Do I really need to explain as I would to a Theist why the gospel writers might not have been totally accurate or altruistic?

The bible is not true just because the bible says its true.
And the ridiculous double standards continue...

"Paul also believes in divine miracles performed by Jesus and via his writings, appears to have a hard agenda of 'selling' religion. I don't trust a snake oil salesman to be telling me the truth."

And Tacitus believed that Caesar ascended to heaven and described various other supernatural events. Thus - according to the syllogism you just made - he's a snake oil salesman and he's obviously not to be trusted. There goes our best source from the ancient world. Well done.

"Tacitus "likely" getting his information from contemporary sources is not a reference. It's an opinion/inference of later historians."

How the fuck would getting your information from a senatorial record made by Pilate or one of his assistants be an "opinion" of later historians? Seriously Jo, now you're just nitpicking and being deliberately obtuse.

"The gospel writers ... Damn, this is an Atheist website. Do I really need to explain as I would to a Theist why the gospel writers might not have been totally accurate or altruistic?"

That's why I said they "claim" to do so - that implies that I don't necessarily believe that myself (yes, I know, those little words are so annoying). But Polybius telling us that he used Roman records (who always happen to make Hannibal look pretty cruel) isn't much better than the gospel writers telling us that they rely on oral tradition from eye-witnesses.
Just a head's up for Matt and other people interested in discussing this topic, there's an interesting thread on the histrorical Jesus here at the JREF forums, James Randi's forum dedicated to skeptical inquiry ( a forum I am enjoying quite a bit)

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=177059
--- Matt VDB says --- And the ridiculous double standards continue...

And the ad hominems continue. What double standard?

--- And Tacitus believed that Caesar ascended to heaven and described various other supernatural events. Thus - according to the syllogism you just made - he's a snake oil salesman and he's obviously not to be trusted. There goes our best source from the ancient world. Well done.

Thank you, and you're welcome.

--- How the fuck would getting your information from a senatorial record made by Pilate or one of his assistants be an "opinion" of later historians? Seriously Jo, now you're just nitpicking and being deliberately obtuse.

No, I'm going based on your own words that Tacitus "likely" got his information from other secular sources. As you pointed out in this same ad hominem post, qualifiers like "claim to" and "likely" imply "not absolutely certain," or that you don't necessarily believe it yourself. Elsewhere sometime back I addressed the lack of a 1st century equivalent of an MLA citation so we really don't know where Tacitus got his information. You beat me over the head with it agreeing that "Ancient historians hardly, if ever, cite their sources."

Although points for making it sound like agreeing with a point I'd already made was actually you schooling me on that point.

What gets me is all these not-absolutely-certain qualifiers you toss out ("likely" used secular sources, "claim to" have met Jesus or his relatives), but then you get all itchy when someone interprets those not-absolutely-certain qualifiers as therefore-not-absolutely-certain-biblical-Jesus-has-a-recognizable-historical-counterpart.

Where I do hear that argument all the time is from Christians. Christians desperate to validate their faith as absolutely true, desperate to not have to say, "Oops, I spent the last few decades and wrote three books based on a possible lie." The ones who will concede to all the evidence, or lack thereof, and in the end tell me I therefore must believe and I'm an uneducated idiot if I don't.

That sounds good to an eager audience, but it's not a critical, logical reason for me to believe in Jesus.
--- John D ---

Show me a single post where I've said it's impossible or even improbable that there was a human Jesus who became the template for bible-Jesus AND bears significant resemblance to bible-Jesus.

But Matt is doing a great job of making it look like that's my claim.

My claim is and always has been that based on evidence, lack of evidence, and how legends/myths form, there was most likely a human Jesus who was the template for bible-Jesus. But A) Most-likely is not absolutely-certain and B) for all the evidence for a historical template, we have virtually no evidence what that person's ideology/deeds/sayings were versus those injected by the scriptural authors.

If Matt is also saying the existence of historical-Jesus is likely but not certain, why are you not asking him to "let it go?" Because if you're right, then Matt and I are saying the same thing. Except I'm underlining the "probably" in "probably existed."

Examples:

Someone says that bible-Jesus is a myth and historical-Jesus, if he existed, was not someone who performed miracles.

Matt says this is wrong; that "every reputable scholar" says otherwise.

Later on, even uses the gospels to tell us how we can know historical-Jesus the person. I.e.; the bible is true because the bible says its true. The same way a Christian tells me he can know "real" Jesus based on what parts of the bible he likes/doesn't like.

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