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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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.

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

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