Does it matter if a Jewish zealot or a self-proclaimed spiritual teacher named Jesus existed?

I'm not asking if you believe that such a person could have existed in the first century C.E. I'm asking if you think that it matters. Not allowing for any supernatural claims surrounding the individual, would you find it troubling or would you claim forgery or conspiracy if apparently legitimate scholarship or archaeological evidence pointed to the existence of a man named Jesus(of course that's the English version of a Hebrew name) in Roman-controlled Judaea around the time of prefect Pontius Pilate? Would such evidence affect your atheism?

Does it really matter? If you feel that it does, can you explain why and how?

Tags: atheism, jesus

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I think it's pretty obvious that his existence (or non-existence) makes absolutely do difference in my daily life. However, it does mean something to a large section of the population, so I'd argue that it does affect me in some ways. The truth is that he probably didn't exist, but if he did he was one of many Jesus-type figures. I thoroughly believe the Jesus myth is just a bastardization of pagan understanding about the seasons. If it was somehow proven that he did exist, it wouldn't change the fact that the stories surrounding his birth, life, death, and resurrection are all mythological. After all, that's how legends work. :o)
If it was somehow proven that he did exist, it wouldn't change the fact that the stories surrounding his birth, life, death, and resurrection are all mythological. After all, that's how legends work. :o)

I agree with this completely. Hence the qualifier "Not allowing for any supernatural claims surrounding the individual".

I thoroughly believe the Jesus myth is just a bastardization of pagan understanding about the seasons.

Has your thinking on this been affected by the Zeitgeist film?
There is evidence that Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard existed, but I don't believe in their delusional crap either. They, like the mythical Jesus, do not affect my non-belief in any deity.
That's an excellent point.
I go along with Eric's response.

The existence of a historical Jesus does not in any way prove the existence of the supernatural Jesus or his father Yahweh. In fact, even if there was a supernatural Jesus and his father Yahweh existed, it does not prove that other gods dont or didn't exist, or that Yahweh's supporters tell the truth about him, or that he tells the truth about himself. Plus, if he does exist, god help us, he's an evil, amoral, cruel, nasty nasty character.

Lack of evidence for a historical Jesus, and even evidence that the circumstances of his historical story are contradictory or impossible (such as if there was no Nazareth at the time that Jesus was supposed to be there), does support the nonChristian point of view. Evidence for derivative aspects of the Jesus myth (prior myths that could be source of the Jesus myth) also strengthens the nonChristian point of view, although you can't "prove" a negative.

I think that the wealth of evidence supports the myth concept, that no evidence supports the validity of Jesus' or Yahweh's existence, and that science provides the only reasonable argument for our existence.
(such as if there was no Nazareth at the time that Jesus was supposed to be there)


From Debunking Christianity:

Richard Carrier on the Existence of Nazareth and the Movie Zeitgeist By John W. Loftus at 4/15/2009
Carrier argues that Nazareth probably existed in the time of Jesus and that the movie Zeitgeist is "absolute garbage." Don't fall for the arguments to the contrary, especially when it comes to that movie.

Amenhotep had commented:
Current "Nazareth" only seems to have acquired this title following the visit of the Empress Helena, and probably wasn't even inhabited at the time of Jesus (IIRC it's not even mentioned in Josephus, despite his extensive coverage of events in the region).
Carrier responded:
Josephus says there were hundreds of cities in Galilee. He names only a fraction. The last argument is therefore a non sequitur (typical of Nazareth ahistoricity nonsense circulating on the web, don't fall for this stuff). The first argument is refuted by an inscription of the 3rd or 4th century A.D. establishing the existence of Nazareth as a haven for refugee priests after the Jewish War (and that can only mean the first war, since the temple was then destroyed and unmanned, not later). This inscription was erected by Jews (not Christians) decades before Helena, and certainly reflects data from the 1st century (I can't imagine where else it would have come from).

Your middle claim could be true (some peer reviewed discussions of late seem to concede the possibility that there is no definite evidence of an early 1st-century Nazareth), though there is a difference between not having evidence and the town not being there. Personally, I find it hard to believe the town would suddenly appear and get that name just in time to take in priests after the first Jewish War (entailing a narrow window between 36 and 66 A.D. for its founding or renaming, but if it could happen then, why not earlier?).I know Salm has arguments against all this, but they don't seem that strong to me (in his book, in fact, all he has are mere possibilities, and some quotations of Schürer, a long-dead historian whose assertions were often vague and speculative and whose work has been rendered largely obsolete by more recent scholarship on the 1st century and Judaism). I leave it to the experts to debate the matter. Until there is a consensus against an early 1st century Nazareth, we should be skeptical of claims to the contrary.
Amenhotep had commented:
There is of course the slight issue that Nazareth is not built on a hill with a cliff, making it tricky for the locals to throw Jesus off anything, without trudging a mile *outside* the town to the traditional site.
Carrier responded:
Another example of an ill-informed argument that you may be falling victim to. The Mishnah establishes that what this narrative would mean by a "brow" is a gallows ramp that must be built for the purpose if no natural one was available. And it didn't need to be very high, just enough for an uncontrolled fall to be commonly lethal. Nazareth is also in fact built on a hill, making such a ramp even easier to assemble. Yes, the "traditional" site is far away and totally implausible (it's not even traversable). But that's ignorant Christian pilgrims for you, not having any idea of Jewish law or practice, and having wild fantasies in their heads about what the Gospel stories were about. In reality, for town stoning Jesus would have been led to the town gallows ramp, and Nazareth could easily have had one, and we would have no reason to expect any evidence of it to survive.

About the movie Zeitgeist, Carrier wrote:
Zeitgeist: The Movie...has been thoroughly debunked as absolute garbage by several knowledgeable commentators...I wouldn't recommend Zeitgeist at all.

Carrier also linked to Jim Lippard's blog which contains the best critiques of that movie, so be sure to check it out.


http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/04/richard-carrier-o...
Nate,

Thanks for adding this insight.

I had first heard about the "Nazareth" issue listening to Rene Salm on the Infidel Guy. Naturally, I can't go to Nazareth and do the research myself, and I also can't read in-depth the pro and con arguments. I'm glad that I stated "if there was no Nazareth" rather than stating "the fact that there was no Nazareth", so that I don't have to back down :-) Not that I haven't bought into embarrasing things before.

Of course the reason that the Nazareth issue is important, is that if the evidence is strong that the Nazareth of Jesus doesn't match the archeological or historial evience, it throws yet another, fairly good, monkey wrench into the Gospels. That monkey wrench is helpful for the "Atheist cause". However, existence of Nazareth does not prove the Gospel (After all, the gospel mentions Jerusalem, the Sea of Gallilea, and Eqypt, and we "know" that those places existed), and nonexistence of Nazareth doesn't absolutely disprove the gospel (but there's that monkey wrench).

The important thing about your point is, just because something is "helpful to the cause" doesn't mean that we should accept it and become bobbleheads every time some one brings it up. The best way to maintain credibility is to be credible, and that means keep our bullshit detectors turned on and remain critical thinkers and skeptics in the true sense of the terms.

Getting back to the original question, the existence of Jesus does not prove the Gospel, any more than the existence of Mohammed "proving" Islam, or the existence of John Travolta "proving" Scientology.
Getting back to the original question, the existence of Jesus does not prove the Gospel, any more than the existence of Mohammed "proving" Islam, or the existence of John Travolta "proving" Scientology.

Precisely, Daniel. If we can assert that the existence of a Jesus character is irrelevant to the authenticity of the supernatural claims made by the Gospels, and we can, then we've reduced the stories surrounding such a person to exaggerations and myths. If we're too invested in the idea of discounting that such a man ever lived, we could find ourselves interpreting history from a very biased position- not where we want to be as rationalists. I've seen a rush to buy into the Zeitgeist film due to very clear confirmation bias.
If we can assert that the existence of a Jesus character

I think, Jesus CHARACTER no need to be asserted. It is realy exist! ...Like Scrooge McDuck, Pippi longstocking or Robin Hood...
As for myself it would make no difference. It'd be characteristic of the Catholic church to find some guy who did a bit of preach'n and a bit of magic (in Israel in the 1st century) and then just drape divinity all over him with cock and bull stories about the virgin birth, etc.
Even the transliteration of the name Jesus is screwed up. Yeshua, from which it is derived has been transliterated to Joshua (as in fit' the battle of) in all other instances. Only Yeshua bar Yoshev has come down to us as Jeebus Jesus.
Actually, Jesus is just the Greek form of the Aramaic name Yeshua (Hebrew Yehoshua) or English Joshua. Because the NT was written in Greek, it entered English as "Jesus" instead of through Aramaic or Hebrew.

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