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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Welcome to the board and the discussion. I don't think you have much to worry about. You seem open to discussion and you're not presenting your opinions as personal revelations. Good to have you.
I believe there was a man named jesus 2000 years ago. I believe lots of guys probably had the name jesus. I think that can be proven as fact. That's about it.....
Occam's razor: The simplest explanation is that there was a person upon whom all the myths have been piled.

Robert Price has written several books explaining the case for believing that he didn't exist. There is no real evidence. Chiefly, it came down to the fact that so many of the myths about him were obviously borrowed.

But, I prefer James Carroll's version in "Constantine's Sword", that Jesus' followers were simply trying to make sense of his senseless death when they started the whole "it was a sacrifice for us" idea.

Besides, if there weren't a real person, then why bother to go to all that trouble to "explain" how the facts about his life "fit" the prophecies that they so obviously don't fit?

http://goodatheistarguments.blogspot.com/2010/12/did-jesus-actually...
Hi Scott,

That's a rather balanced treatment of the issue. One of the chief reasons the Jesus Myth hypothesis is not the best explanation of the available evidence is simply that it requires far more supposition to imagine a grand conspiracy (which nobody at the time noticed) than to imagine a group of disappointed and confused disciples trying to make sense of their leader's violent death; the latter happens all the time (and we can see the process evolve through the various gospels), while the former is an argument from conspiracy and has little precedent.

The fact that many of the elements in the Jesus story are so awkward (so much so that they get downplayed or even omitted in later gospels) like the Baptism of Jesus by John, Jesus' hometown being Nazareth, the humiliating nature of his crucifixion, the various prophecies he has to be shoe-horned into... that it makes much more sense to see this as a self-proclaimed prophet gone wrong. And we can the traces of all these things in the texts themselves.
This, along with the mentions by reliable historians and people mentioning having met Jesus' family, make for a strong case that there was indeed a person on who the legends were based. Price's case does not answer these objections, or at least not in a way that actually satisfies Occam's Razor.

The author of the blog (you?) you quote makes a pretty similar case, though he does get a few things wrong.
First of all, he says that the only passage briefly talking about Jesus is Flavius Josephus. There's actually more than that: in fact, there are two passages in Josephus' works that mention Jesus; one in Antiquities 18.63-64 (which is probably the one he's talking about) and one in Antiquities 20 Chapter 9 which talks about a man called James who is identified as the brother of Jesus. Additionally, Tacitus mentions Jesus in Annales 15.44.
Second of all, it's not correct to say about that passage in Josephus that "scholars believe that this was inserted centuries later by a Christian scribe". That simply is not the case. A study conducted by Louis Feldman found that of 52 scholars questioned on this issue, only 13 of them concluded that the passage was a forgery, with the rest largely arguing for partial authenticity. The consensus (not an absolute one, but still, quite broad) is that this passage was added by a Christian interpolator, but that there was an original passage by Josephus to be added to in the first place. Either way, the author's statement is false. And the other two references to Jesus are believed to be authentic by the vast majority of scholars.
(Which actually enables us to make three cases for the authenticity of Jesus: one from the awkwardness of the story and the way it is constructed, another one from these three references by historians, and a third one whereby we prove that there was a man called James who was identified as the brother of Jesus. Together they make for a pretty solid case, in my opinion.)

And the third mistake he makes is to mention the myths of Horus, Krishna, Dionysus etcetera, as templates (or similar stories, or whatever) for the Jesus story. That argument actually fails almost completely, and it's not taken seriously by any academic scholar I can think of (and no, Price's non-peerreviewed books don't fall into that realm either). There are certainly a lot of sites that claim that virgin births are common and that everybody had them, and that will be happy to tell you that all these gods had twelve disciples and died in a sacrificial manner, but if you actually look at the relevant texts and try to find out where they are getting these ideas from, you will return very disappointed. These parallels are either exaggerated, misrepresenting an original text, or just plain made up.

All of which I think are reasons why the Jesus Myth is not a skeptical position: it's a position fueled mainly by bias and the wish for an easy argument to disprove Christianity, rather than any sober historical analysis on a quest to find the most reasonably explanation of the evidence.

Kind regards,

Scott

I think you misunderstood my point.  I am not saying that the "Jesus myth" is in any way real under any argument. 

 

I am saying that the idea that there was some guy similar to David Koresh upon whose memory all the myths were piled is simpler than believing that there was no actual person and that some people simply decided to make him up.  Obviously, almost all the stuff they said about him was made up. 

 

Just about the only parts that are true are probably the parts they try to so hard to fit into the Messiah prophecies.  He was actually born in Nazareth, but because the Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem his followers in later years had to make up a cockamamie story about a census, accidentally getting the dates wrong and overlooking the fact that such a huge undertaking would probably have been noted in Roman records, etc., etc. 

Hi Scott,

 

I understood what you were saying just fine. It's a good argument and one that I've made in just about every post I've made in this topic (and that's quite a lot). The parts where we can see the gosel writers struggling to explaining something awkward (and usually failing rather miserably) are precisely the things we have good reason to believe have a historical basis.

 

Now that said, I think you are engaging in a little bit of rhetorical exagerration saying that almost all the stuff they said about him was made up. There are lots of little things that they have no reason to make up but are still well attested, meaning we can be pretty certain they did occur. The father of Joseph being a carpenter, for instance, or Jesus having siblings, or him being betrayed, or him being an apocalyptic preacher etcetera...

 

But as I said, I agreed with most of your post. I only took issue with the parts in the blog post you linked to that I think were false. The alleged (but overblown) simillarities with Krishna etcetera being one, and the inaccuracy concerning the references to Jesus in ancient historians being another.

 

Take care,

 

Matt

C. There is zero evidence that the Jesus religious people refer to ever existed. His name only showed up in religious documents hundreds of years later. Whether various persons bore the name Jesus is irrelevant.
I love how people come in threads like this without having done the faintest bit of research, and then consider their knowledge secure enough to make statements like this.

Tacitus writes about Jesus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ
That's a non-religious document about 70-80 years after Jesus' death.

Josephus writes about Jesus twice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
That's two references in a non-religious document about 60 years after Jesus' death.

As far as the religious documents themselves go (which can't simply be dismissed; they can still be valuable sources if used carefully), the canonical gospels are generally dated respectively 30-60 years after Jesus' death, and the authentic letters of Paul are something like 20 years.

"Hundreds of years later" and only "religious documents"? I don't think so.

You seem to have missed some pretty important aspects of those pages...

 

but that those words and phrases that correspond with standard Christian formulae are additions from a Christian copyist

 

the earliest surviving manuscript containing the passage is an 11th century Christian scribal copy

 

Confirming my point exactly... I was speaking of original documents, I give absolutely no weight to xtian copied documents.

"You seem to have missed some pretty important aspects of those pages..."

 

Oh the irony.

I've done my homework on this subject, pal. I suggest you do the same before you stumble into a discussion with no knowledge of the subject.

 

"but that those words and phrases that correspond with standard Christian formulae are additions from a Christian copyist"

 

And had you gone on to read the page in full, you would find out that most scholars agree that the Testimonium Flavianum has been altered to (that's what the word "additions" means), but that there was an authentic reference there to be altered in the first place.

But that's just talking about the TF. The other reference in Josephus is virtually uncontested, and the same goes for the reference in Tacitus.

 

Which means we have at worst two and most likely three references to Jesus in non-religious documents which were written within several decades of his death. 

 

Which means your statements were garbage.

 

"Confirming my point exactly... I was speaking of original documents, I give absolutely no weight to xtian copied documents."

 

You never actually said that you were talking about original documents, actually.

But that's not even the point: the standard you've set is completely ridiculous. We don't have any original documents of anything that anyone has ever written in the ancient world. Not from Caesar, not from Cicero, not from anyone. All documents we have are copied at least several times (usually by Christians, though not always). So if you're going to dismiss the references to Jesus on the basis of the relevant documents not being original, you might as well dismiss the existence of anything and everyone in the ancient world.

 

Well done.

Please do your homework and then try to make your case.

You mention other literary works, I am not concerned with the 'veracity' of other literary works. The point is on an issue as controversial as 'Jesus' to take the word of xtian historians written 100s of years later is not a far cry from taking the bible as fact. On this matter, I clearly side with the detractors and you side with the promoters. That is an irreconcilable difference of interpretation of history, and history has been notorious at bad reporting.
"You mention other literary works, I am not concerned with the 'veracity' of other literary works."

I understand that, but surely you must understand that you've set yourself up for a position that is completely unfalsifiable.
As I said, every work we have from the ancient world was passsed down to us by Christian transscribers and copyists. So obviously every work of an ancient historian that has been passed on to us will have gone through this process as well.

That means that you have adopted a position where no matter how many references in no matter how many different historians in no matter how shortly after his death, will be dismissed by a simple "The work was passed on to us by Christian copyists".
That's unfalsifiable and completely unreasonable.

And it's also not how proper historical analysis works. You can't simply say that you're going to dismiss all works which were passed down to us by Christians because you have a hunch or a funny feeling that they might have been tampered with.
Yes, it's possible that every work that has ever been passed on to us has suffered from interpolations and additions. No, simply stating that possibility is not enough to dismiss whatever source we want. You actually need some EVIDENCE (there's that magic word that rationalists like myself are so fond of).

As it happens, we have plenty of ways to figure out whether a work has been interpolated or not. We can compare different versions of the same document that have been passed on to us by different sources, we can check the syntax of suspicious sentences to the syntax in the general work, we can check the grammar and whether it corresponds to the writer's style, and much more.
So we're actually pretty good at finding interpolations; the ones in the Testimonium Flavianum, for instance, stand out like a sore thumb: the majority of the passage fits perfectly with Josephus' style, and then we have these awkward additions in broken Latin of "He was the Christ" and "He was raised after three days". Clearly those are interpolations, but there's no reason to dismiss the entire passage on that basis - in fact it would be unreasonable to do so.
Furthermore, we have versions of Josephus' work in Arabic and Syriac (NOT passed on to us by Christians), and guess what? They do have most of the passage, just not the awkward interpolations I've stated above. That makes for a strong case that there was an original passage there.

The second passage in Josephus is even better attested, because it is referenced multiple times by the Christian writer Origen in the early Second Century - at a time when Christianity was far too weak and persecuted to do any kind of interpolating (let alone copying). Thus, the reference to Jesus' brother James was clearly there already in the early Second Century. That's a strong case that that passage is genuine.

And then there's the passage in Tacitus. That passage is perfect Tacitean prose (despite being one of the hardest styles to master, especially for copyists and interpolators centuries later), and the passage also says some particularly nasty things about Christianity: that they are a "vile, mischieveous superstition" and other things.
In other words, for us to believe that this passage is a forgery requires us to believes in a Christian interpolator who was not only able to master perfect Silver-Age grammer and Tacitean prose (in an age known for its rough Latin) but was also so fiendishly clever as to resist the temptation of having Tacitus say nice things about Jesus, and instead say negative things about him to make the passage look more genuine.
Needless to say, that's absolutely absurd too.

See how real history works? We don't just guess blindly at the correct results; we work from evidence, from literary analysis and from contemporary evidence and clues. That's how we know that the evidence stacks up against these passages being interpolations.

Which means that even if we leave the tainted Testimonium Flavianum out of the picture (which most historians do not), then we still have two well-attested references to Jesus in two non-Christian historians, only several decades after his death: exactly the kind of evidence we could reasonably expect.

Which means your hypersceptical Jesus Mythicism fails.

"The point is on an issue as controversial as 'Jesus' to take the word of xtian historians written 100s of years later is not a far cry from taking the bible as fact."

Josephus and Tacitus are NOT Christians, and they were NOT written hundreds of years after the fact. Why can't you even get these basic facts right?
Tacitus even explicitly tells us in his report that he hates Christianity and that it is a vile cult, for cyring out loud.

Please at least read the wikipedia page on these issues, so you have the faintest clue what you're talking about.

"On this matter, I clearly side with the detractors and you side with the promoters."

Well yeah, but the arguments you're using right now would make the few academic proponents of Jesus Mythicism squirm. And that's saying a lot, since Jesus Mythicism is a fringe position in modern scholarship - and yes, even among non-Christian scholars.

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