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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The pagans worshiped a son of god who was born at the Winter Solstice, on or about 25 December. He spent his time on earth doing good until he was killed by his enemies – but he didn't stay dead. He rose up and went to live with the other gods – but promised that he would return and judge all mankind according to their deeds.

Back in the days of Ezekiel (8:14) and Jeremiah (10:3-4) the Jews were already worshiping some of those pagan gods, and a few hundred years later, Daniel (chapter 12) casually refers to the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. It was the first time that pagan ideas were included in Jewish holy books.

The Jews enjoyed self-rule for about 100 years after the time of Daniel, but once again came under foreign domination when they were conquered by the Romans in 63 BC. Many prayed that god would send a “messiah” to lead them to freedom. They were familiar with the book of Daniel and they knew that some of his ideas came from the pagans, and that got them wondering…

Maybe the Jewish messiah was similar to the pagan “sons of god”. Maybe he had appeared in the holy land way back in the dim, distant past. Maybe he had died. Maybe he had come back to life. Maybe he had ascended into heaven. And maybe he was preparing to return to earth to judge all mankind. After all, Daniel had made it clear that such things could happen.

Naturally people wanted to know more about this messiah and there was always somebody ready to provide the details. His name was Joshua – Joshua the Messiah (which would be later translated into Greek as Jesus Christ). He was the “son of god” and he was as good as any of the pagan sons of gods being worshiped at that time:

The pagan son of god healed the sick – so did our messiah.
The pagan son of god rose from the dead – so did our messiah.
The pagan son of god changed water into wine – so did our messiah
The pagan son of god will return to judge all mankind – so will our messiah.

In 10 AD Philo wrote about one of these Jewish groups known as the Theraputae and 300 years later Eusebius declared them to be the very first Christians. They weren't – the term “Christian” hadn't been invented in 10 AD – but it's not surprising that the mistake was made, because the story told by the Theraputae was pretty much the same as that which Eusebius was reading in his own “New Testament”.

The idea spread and soon there were “messiah worshiping” churches in towns and cities all over the Roman Empire – but not in Jerusalem. That city was controlled by the temple priests, and no way were they going to let a bunch of rebel Jews start up a new religion in their jurisdiction.

It was about 30 AD when James, John, Peter and Stephen opened a Church in Jerusalem, and right away the temple priests went on the attack. They hired a gang of thugs to get rid of them. One of these bruisers was Saul of Tarsus (later known as Paul) and he boasts, in Acts 7:54-60, that he was there when Stephen was stoned to death.

Ten years later Paul changed sides and converted to the new religion. He tried preaching to the Jews, but Peter put a stop to that, and Paul found himself preaching only to the Gentiles.

As it turned out, the Jews eventually lost interest in “messiah worship” but the Gentiles stuck with it, and it was they who became known as “Christians”.

The pagans and the very early “messiah worshipers” (including Paul) had always known that their son of god was a mythical character from the world of the supernatural, but the Gentile Christians came to the opinion that Joshua the Messiah (whom they called Jesus the Christ) was an historical character who had lived on earth just a few decades earlier. They no longer regarded him as a myth and the stories about him were now interpreted literally rather than symbolically - and truth was the first casualty...

If you read the bible chronologically. You can see the myth developing over time. Paul had nothing to say about Jesus except that he died, resurrected, and promised to return. Mark adds a few more details. Matthew adds more and Luke adds even more.

Consider, for example, the healing miracle mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 1:32-34, Matthew 8:16 and Luke 4:40) where you can see the legend growing as the years pass by:

* Marks says ALL were brought to Jesus and MANY were healed.
* Ten years later Matthew says MANY were brought to Jesus and ALL were healed.
* And ten years after that, Luke says ALL were brought to Jesus and ALL were healed.

It amazes me that some people (including some atheists) think that Jesus is an historical character who lived about 30 AD. That character (who ever he was) was definitely NOT the biblical Jesus who is reputed to have performed over forty miracles during his last few years on Earth. The biblical Jesus is a myth.
Do I hear an amen for Michael ?
No, we don't hear an amen for Michael.
Michael gets to explain why, if it so "amazing that some people think that Jesus is a historical character", this is the opinion taken by every reputable scholar on the planet (with the exception of one, maybe two), Christian, agnostic, atheist, Muslim, or otherwise, and the only ones who give this theory credence are anti-Christian polemists (not objective historians) like Richard Carrier and Earl Doherty.
[Note how much this resembles the "controversy" about evolution. Reputable scholars of all kinds of backgrouns on one side, and non-scholarly individuals with a clear agenda on another... Sounds familiar?]

And then I think he can tell us how on Earth he knows so much about what James, John, Peter and Stephen were up to in the 30's, despite the fact that we have virtually no sources about that at all.

Do your thinking, people.
Since you are obviously a skeptic when it comes to the historicity of the gospel accounts of Jesus, why are you so quick to accept their characterization of the Temple priests? The gospels go out of their way to portray the Pharisees and Sadducees in a bad light, at times telling bald faced lies about them. For instance, the synoptics have Jesus criticizing them for saying it is permissible to refuse to support ones aged parents by donating what could have been used for their upkeep to the temple. There are no rabbinic sources, then or ever, that allow ritual offerings to absolve a Jew from his familial obligation.
The miracles you cited (including the resurrection) were most likely intended to show Jesus as equal to or greater than the prophets. There are precursors to all his miracles in the lives of the Hebrew prophets. I doubt the first Christians knew much of pagan mythology. They were Jews and would have considered it an insult to compare the messiah to a pagan god. If there is borrowing from the mystery religions, I would guess it was done by later copyists who altered the text.
Your story line is interesting, though.
Michael:
It amazes me that some people (including some atheists) think that Jesus is an historical character who lived about 30 AD. That character (who ever he was) was definitely NOT the biblical Jesus who is reputed to have performed over forty miracles during his last few years on Earth. The biblical Jesus is a myth.

John, loudly, in bold type:
Do I hear an amen for Michael ?

Matt VDB:
No, we don't hear an amen for Michael.
Michael gets to explain why, if it so "amazing that some people think that Jesus is a historical character", this is the opinion taken by every reputable scholar on the planet (with the exception of one, maybe two),



I'll give that 'amen' back to Michael, seeing as how I've read his post and he's saying that biblical Jesus and historical Jesus - if there was one - are completely different entities. Which is true and, Matt, you seem to agree. Although it sounds like you're not putting an 'if' in front of the historical Jesus.

Many/most scholars discuss Jesus as if he were a real person. But upon a closer read, most of these don't even address historical Jesus vs. biblical Jesus. They're simply talking about biblical Jesus.

Most everything I've read that directly addresses the historicity of Jesus either A) concludes there is virtually no reliable, empirical evidence that he existed, but a plethora of evidence that biblical Jesus is made-up. Or B) Christian sources that hotly defend that Jesus was totally real and just like he is described in the bible.

I think we can rule out (B) as nutjobs.

Going back to (A) most of those agree that while we don't have proof he ever existed, we also don't have proof that there wasn't such a figure: That for the legend to catch on and grow so quickly, it very likely was tacked onto an actual person or persons. But whomever that person(s) was, is, as Michael said, a completely different entity than the Jesus of the bible.

So ... Amen Michael!
Then I'll have to take that amen away again :P
Michael was not pointing out that there is a discrepancy between a Biblical Jesus and a historical Jesus, he said that:
It amazes me that some people (including some atheists) think that Jesus is an historical character who lived about 30 AD.
and he also said patently absurd things like:
It was about 30 AD when James, John, Peter and Stephen opened a Church in Jerusalem, and right away the temple priests went on the attack. They hired a gang of thugs to get rid of them.
and
The pagans and the very early “messiah worshipers” (including Paul) had always known that their son of god was a mythical character from the world of the supernatural, but the Gentile Christians came to the opinion that Joshua the Messiah (whom they called Jesus the Christ) was an historical character who had lived on earth just a few decades earlier.
He's saying that Jesus the Christ was a mythical character in a supernatural world. This is simply not true. Jesus the Christ is the tale of a historical character whose deeds as a faith healer were exaggerated and whose speeches as a preacher were overrated. But he was very much a real person.

The truth is that the Biblical Jesus is based on the historical Jesus; and that means that looking closely at the Biblical Jesus we can find a historical Jesus. The Bible account is a "mythicised" version of real events that happened to a real person.
Again, we see this happening with all kinds of historical figures, who we all believe were real: Vespasian was said to have healed the blind (according to Tacitus), Caesar was said to have ascended to heaven (according to Ovid and many other contemporaries), and Alexander the Great had more legends circulating around him than Paris Hilton has one-night-stands. Does this mean that the historical Vespasian and the "Tacitean" Vespasian are different people? Is the "Ovidian" Caesar not the historical Caesar? Of course they are the same people: it's just that the stories around them have achieved mythic proportions.

Things we can say about the historical Jesus wit high degrees of certainty:
- he was born in Nazareth in Galilee
- he was a fan of John the Baptist and started preaching after the latter got executed by the Romans
- he was a faith healer, who healed the "blind" (visually impaired due to cataract and other treatable eye diseases might be better) and drove out "demons"
- he preached about the perfection of Jewish law, and was very tough on adultery
- he was an apocalypticist and preached about the imminent Kingship of Yahweh
- he caused a disturbance in the Temple of Jerusalem at Passover somewhere in the 30's AD, and was subsequently captured by Temple authorities
- the Roman pro-curator Pontius Pilate had him executed for treason against the Roman Empire, the penalty for which was death by crucifixion
And these are just the things we can say with a high amount of certainty: the historicity of specific passages (for example a specific saying) is much harder to determine, but undoubtedly he did say some of the things he is reported to have said.

So are there differences between the historical Jesus and the man he became in the Biblical story? Absolutely. Do the gospels exaggerate his works? Sure. But to pretend that pagans and the very early “messiah worshipers” (including Paul) had always known that their son of god was a mythical character from the world of the supernatural, but the Gentile Christians came to the opinion that Joshua the Messiah (whom they called Jesus the Christ) was an historical character who had lived on earth just a few decades earlier is patently absurd. He was a historical character, just like Vespasian and Caesar were.

Sorry, but this flirting with a "mythical Jesus" from a "supernatural dimension" (the same crap Zeitgeist spouts, incidently) does not deserve an Amen.
The truth is that the Biblical Jesus is based on the historical Jesus; and that means that looking closely at the Biblical Jesus we can find a historical Jesus.

Evidence please.

Show me just one scrap of empirical, secular evidence, reliable and pre-dating the influence of religious writings, that speaks of a historical figure named Jesus/Yeshu/Yeshua/Yeshuara.

Much less a Jesus that did or said anything he was uniquely claimed to have said/done in the canon bible.
Show me just one scrap of empirical, secular evidence, reliable and pre-dating the influence of religious writings, that speaks of a historical figure named Jesus/Yeshu/Yeshua/Yeshuara.

What a crock of shit.
How about you give me one scrap of "empirical" (This one in particular is funny. What do you want? A DNA sample?) "secular evidence" (which is impossible considering everyone in the ancient world was either heavily superstitious or at least vaguely religious") that Hannibal existed? Or Boudicca? Or Theudas? Or the Egyptian Prophet?

You are insisting on putting the bar for evidence much, much higher than we can reasonably do, and you're doing this only for Jesus.

Why are you doing this, Jerome?
Hang on, I know why: you're letting your biases guide you in what you're willing to accept. You have no problem believing Boudicca and Arminius existed, even though we don't have any kind of the ridiculous amounts of quality evidence you demand for Jesus. You're doing it of sheer bias.

Which is exactly what we revile the religious for, am I right?
What a crock of shit.
How about you give me one scrap of "empirical" (This one in particular is funny. What do you want? A DNA sample?) "secular evidence" (which is impossible considering everyone in the ancient world was either heavily superstitious or at least vaguely religious") that Hannibal existed? Or Boudicca? Or Theudas? Or the Egyptian Prophet?


Because those people aren't the subject of this thread.

So I'll ask again; as you assert that biblical Jesus is based on historical Jesus, then you are asserting we have empirical, secular evidence of a historical Jesus that amazingly parallels the many deeds and sayings in the bible. Please present this evidence.

Or deflect by changing the subject. Your choice.
They are relevant to the thread, because you are making unreasonable high demands for evidence when you know fully well (well actually, you didn't know, but now you do) that we don't have these standards of evidence for thousands of other figures in history, some of them vastly more important than Jesus.
Supplying "empirical, secular" evidence showing the existence of Hitler can be done. Supplying "empirical, secular" evidence showing the existence of George Washington is possible.
For the Ancient world, things are more difficult; for the single most important people (like Caesar), we might have some "empirical, secular" evidence. But for anyone even a little less important than that, "empirical, secular" evidence is impossible.

Hannibal was Carthage's greatest general. He destroyed a dozen Roman legions, terrorised Rome for nearly two decades, and was probably the single greatest enemy they ever faced: almost bringing them to the verge of annihilation.
And what evidence do we have of the existence of this great warrior? No "empirical, secular" evidence. And this is, again, the single greatest threat the Roman Empire ever faced. That should give you an idea how scarce "empirical, secular" evidence is.

Yet you're asking me for "empirical, secular" evidence for a little-known preacher in the middle of nowhere? No such evidence exists. But that doesn't stop the case for Jesus from being conclusive, just as the lack of that sort of evidence for Hannibal doesn't make his existence any less certain. You simply need to lower your expectations to something reasonable.

So cut the crap with this "empirical, secular" evidence: we have secular evidence, but to expect it to be empirical (with a DNA sample or something) is just retarded. And don't accuse me of deflecting: showing you why your demands are unreasonable is directly relevant to the discussion.

As for the sources that parallel the Biblical story, I already showed them: we have accounts of Tacitus and Josephus detailing that Jesus was a preacher, a faith healer, was crucified by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, and was called the Messiah by his followers. This is the same person described (in detail) in the Bible.
The only difference is that the Bible is a mythicised and politically correct (for the time) version of the guy. But it's still based on a historical person.
Read Philip Pullman's new book "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Chirst". Interesting read from a good atheist. Maybe TWO Jesus's existed!
>Should I check with Matt VDB FIRST ? Sorry about that. I have to a little smart ass to make up for my lack of knowledge.

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