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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I have, it explicitely says year 1100...

 

We have original documents... we have the scrolls, many dating to the first century, THOSE do not speak of Jesus.

TNT666,

 

"We have original documents... we have the scrolls, many dating to the first century, THOSE do not speak of Jesus."

 

Reaaaaaaaaally. 

 

Alright Mr. I am incapable of doing my homework, please tell me (and the entire historical community who will be equally surprised) where exactly I can find the original documents of the Tacitus' Annales or Josephus' Antiquities

 

Or are you talking out of your ass once again?

I am truly starting to wonder about your reading abilities...

Truthfully, think of it for a just a second... if I was talking about your references, we wouldn't be arguing about this right???????????

 

Of course I'm talking of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other original biblical manuscripts, originals.

 

But it's become sadly obvious that discussing this with you is completely futile.... adios.

 

And if you paid any attention at all to your correspondants, you would know I was not a Mr...

"Truthfully, think of it for a just a second... if I was talking about your references, we wouldn't be arguing about this right???????????"

It indeed seemed absurd, but sadly no less absurd than what you're trying to tell me now. Which is that, because we have some very specific documents which we can date to the First Century (actually, the Dead Sea scrolls don't even count because the majority of the material dates to before 0 CE), we should automatically expect these to mention Jesus? How exactly is that not absurd?
(Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not Biblical manuscripts since they are largely Essene - and we don't have 'other' Biblical manuscripts either.)

Nobody has ever maintained that Jesus needs to be mentioned in all the manuscripts of the First Century; that would be silly. Of course he's only going to get mentioned by a couple of historians at the most. We might expect him to get mentioned in the few parchments of the DSS which date to the First Century, but since those documents also don't mention any of the other preachers running around in Palestine at the time (the Samaritan Prophet, Rabbi Hillel, the Egyptian Prophet, John the Baptist, Honi M'baGel etcetera) it's unreasonable to expect that the scrolls would make an exception just for Jesus; he's not that special.

Try this for a reasonable and accurate comparison: try and find me a manuscript which mentions other Jewish preachers, like Hillel and Honi and John, but DOES NOT mention a preacher named Jesus. Then you will have yourself an honest comparison.
But you won't be able to, because the only historian who actually mentions all those preachers is Flavius Josephus and unsurprisingly, we find that he mentions Jesus. Twice. And the same goes for Tacitus. And you still have not refuted the position that the references in Josephus and Tacitus.

And I do apologise for thinking you were male; the name TNT just did not seem particularly female ;)
That affront was not that you thought I was male, it's that you did not check before making the assumption.
Oh noes, how very affronting indeed.
I think it's obvious to say there was definitely a man named Jesus, who lived in the time described, who had some miraculous events attributed to or reported about him.  I also think that it's safe to say what is attributed to him in the way of supernatural, is in no way verifiable by the historic record as fact.  At best, you can say...."and he allegedly....or, "it is said that he"...bleh bleh bleh....so for me, PROOF, of what the bible claims about him, or what the historical record may say was said to have happened, just doesn't exist, and never will.  It's hearsay at BEST, and that isn't even admissable in a court of law to help formulate an opinion of truth! People, being the superstitious creatures they were back then, were willing to believe or relay as fact, things that would be laughable today like Jesus being a zombie.....(sorry, couldn't resist....)  Would you say that is an accurate opinion?
Kelly M,

 

"Would you say that is an accurate opinion?"

 

I would say that that is a highly accurate opinion. And I don't understand why more people can't adopt such a perfectly reasonable position. 

Of course it is entirely plausible that superstitious creatures like human beings will attribute miracles to a wandering Galilean preacher, and that the cult which formed around him will deify him after his life and will try to make sense of his humiliating death. All of that makes perfect sense, not just from what we know about human psychology but because it happens all the time. And it is also what the evidence indicates.

Yet apparently this is not 'obvious' at all, because there are many here who think it is faaaaaar more likely that Jesus is the result of some kind of mass conspiracy. Or something. 

 

And you're also right about the supernatural elements: these are not verifiable at all, and nothing a couple of texts by non-eye-witnesses say can prove that Jesus performed miracles; which is why it's so hilarious to see Christian apologists try to do exactly that.

Now, when we dismiss the supernatural elements for what they are (i.e. the product of superstitious people) I do think we can - carefully - analyse what we do know about him and come to some conclusions about who he was. For example, I think we can pretty reasonably deduce that the historical Jesus was a wandering preacher, probably of the apocalyptic variety. And that he was crucified by Pontius Pilate, etcetera.

Once we realise the supernatural elements are bogus and can actually easily be discarded, we are left with a bunch of normal ancient texts which we can analyse the way we do with any other text.

So yeah, I think you have it pretty much dead on.

 

Kind regards,

 

Matt

So what really gets me about "Christian Apologists" trying to use hearsay as proof of the supernatural events that were reported about Jesus?  These same people, would have to come to a completely different decision using the same logic they use as proof jesus was divine, if they were a juror in a murder case, because evidence of that sort would not be acceptable as proof and they freekin KNOW it, and accept it, yet still have the audacity to imply the same rules don't apply to ANCIENT hearsay?  I'm gonna call bull shit on that one!

 

I can equally understand where people might think that the whole jesus thing was a conspiracy considering how these viral stories got bastardized into something used to control whole populations of people.  But I gotta agree, there was a jesus.  It just turned into a giant snow ball once that first little snow ball started rolling down hill.  I think it's just hard to believe that something so wrong would have occurred naturally, and not been invented.  There's really not much difference in my opinion though, because past whether or not a man named jesus existed, the things he supposedly did, and the events that supposedly occurred concerning his divinity were pretty much certainly invented at some point, passed on, then added to when someone figured out what to add to gain control over believers. It was happening well before jesus and I think we all can agree that religion has been and continues to be a conspiracy to control people.  I find it ironic that the bible openly refers to jesus as the shepherd and the people his flock (Sheep).  Who's the freekin joke on I wonder?? rofl

Nice discussion Matt!  You know your shit! 

Yep, they're trying to conflate types of evidence, even though they would not accept it in similar situations themselves.
What Christian apologists try to do is get the historical method to work on supernatural events, which simply does not work.
For example, much of the gospels will be a combination of oral traditions, maybe a few phrases of Jesus' life actually written down (Q, perhaps) and creativity on the part of the gospel writer to fit in into a specific ideology.
Now, Christian apologists have it right when they say that this is actually not all that different from many other ancient texts; most of our other sources are based on orally passed on information as well. So when, say, several sources tell us that there was an uprising around 15 CE by a German-Roman traitor called Arminius, historians would have no trouble saying that that is probably true. In other words, they argue, if all the gospels agree that Jesus was crucified, historians have no trouble saying that that is probably true. Up to this point, they largely have it correct.
But then they try to say that a similar standard of evidence should also be good enough for Jesus' miracles! In other words, if the 4 gospels agreeing that Jesus was crucified is good enough to be believed by historians, the 4 gospels agreeing that Jesus healed the blind and raised Lazarus from the dead ought to also be good enough. This is of course total garbage and violates the principle of 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary claims'. For ordinary claims (like: Jesus was born here, Jesus was crucified, Jezus had parents named so and so) I do think the gospels are good enough - unless we have indications that they are trying to push a theological point by inventing such things. But for extraordinary claims like miracles we need far more evidence.

But the truly hilarious part of Christian apologists is that when arguing for the resurrection, they will implicitly assume that we all agree that everything the Bible says is true, except perhaps about the resurrection. So they'll say: "Well hey, we all agree that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, right? And we all agree that the apostles claimed they were visited by Jesus after 40 days right? And we all agree that Mary and some other women saw the empty tomb, right?" WAIT A SECOND MR. APOLOGIST. No we don't agree with all that!
Basically they are being inerrantists three quarters of the way, and then they're saying that you might as well go the final quarter. As Price says, it's like saying the City of Oz must have existed otherwise, where does the Yellow Road lead?

Now, I actually have to disagree with you about the conspiracy aspect. I don't think we need to demonize ancient people into utterly pragmatic Real-Politikers when we know fully well that that's not how modern people behave either.
By and large, I think religious people really believe what they're trying to sell, and I think the same went for most of early Christianity. I do not believe that early Christians sat down and said: "Alright guys, we're going to suffer through 250 years of persecution under the Roman Empire and put our own lives at stake, but when that's done with, the Christians that come after us are going to be very rich and have an easy time controlling people!". I think that's ridiculous; humans do not work that way.

I think human psychology, and our strange needs for hierarchy and leadership, explain rather well how and why a religion like Christianity eventually solidified into a government branch of the Roman Empire (and obviously into later Empires as well). I don't think we need a formal conspiracy by evil Christians to make that happen ;)

Kind regards,

Matt
I should have clarified what I meant by conspiracy.  I am with you about there being no merit in trying to invent a way to control people through christianity in the beginning.  That's yet another reason I believe that there must have been a man named jesus who was a preacher.  What I'm saying is that I could see, that considering the evolution that christianity made later in history, and how it has been used to justify and even encourage abominable behavior, war and empire building and pretty much the dismal sum result of it's parts, how people could try to view the whole thing as a conspiracy.  I am not by any means saying it's right.  I guess I'm playing devil's advocate (rofl).  My point though, was does it really matter if there was a preacher named Jesus? Since NONE of what's said about him can be proven...EVER?  Past the fact that there is guy in the bible named Jesus that was crucified and then there was a guy mentioned in a few other historical records that's name happened to be jesus who was also crucified, that's really all there is.  That only really presents a probability at best, and can't be taken as fact. So does it really matter if there was a man named jesus if nothing else can be proven? As an atheist and thinker, to me, I don't think it does, because I don't believe what can't be proven.  That was what I was trying to say.  No need for a conspiracy.  There is no fact in contention.  Only conjecture.  :)

Hi Kelly,

 

I don't think it really 'matters' to humanity in the sense that stoppping nuclear proliferation 'matters', I just think it's very interesting. I mean, most of us are at least slightly interested in the study of history, whether for inspiration, life lessons, knowing where institutions and customs came from, or just for wanting to understand how the world we live came to be from a human perspective.

Now, say what you will about Christianity, but it did become the world's largest religion in a relatively short period of time, and the teachings of a certain Galilean preacher did come to be regarded as the word of God for millions (even billions) of people all over the people. I don't think anyone can truthfully say that finding out how this came to be is not even a little bit intriguing and interesting - though obviously the extent will differ from person to person. That's why I really like to learn about Early Christianity, and the history of other world religions. I find it incredibly fascinating.

 

Now, I think the reason a lot of scientifically literate folks (and I'm one of those myself, so I know what it's like) tend to look down on history is because - as you allude to in your post - there are different standards of evidence at work.

In hard sciences like physics or chemistry we can usually test phenomena as many times as we like, and in pretty much whatever quantities we like. If we missed something or are not 100% sure, we just go back and do it again. In sciences like history, things are obviously not that simple, and we can only work with what we have. Sometimes that means having to draw inferences from very limited amounts of source material, and sometimes it means recognising that it's impossible to draw inferences at all. Even when historians talk about a multitude of sources for an event in the ancient world, we're usually not talking about more than half a dozen - we consider that a lot.

 

It's probably for this reason that historians and history enthusiasts often face the charge that they can't prove x or y. You for instance note that nothing Jesus ever said can ever be 'proven'. Well, OK, but historians don't prove anything most of the time: what they do is contrast and compare evidence. Depending on your definition of proving, we can't prove that Caesar said anything at all either. We can't prove that Hannibal defeated the Romans at Trebia. We can't prove that George Washington is the founder of the United States. In fact, unless we have explicit video documentation (which is obviously very rare) we can't prove anything about pretty much any figure who has ever existed on this planet.

 

The thing is, the methods of historical analysis don't require us to prove anything in that manner: they just require marshalling evidence for your case, and trying to make a better case than competing theories. And some cases will be better than others; and some are so well supported that it becomes silly to try to deny them.

Using reasonable standards of historical analysis, I think we can make a case about who Jesus most likely was that goes further than simply seeing that he's a guy who got crucified. And I think people can learn a lot from doing so.

 

In fact, I think I could argue on that basis that for the general public, a workable knowledge of history and understanding how historical skepticism is performed, is even better than understanding how science works and what principles science uses. Though knowing about both is obviously preferable.

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