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Historical Jesus

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Why do you think that the bible is a collection of historical documents?

Setting aside the fact that most contemporary historians treat the New Testament as reliable historical information, I have no reason to think that the Bible isn't historically reliable. In fact, the more we learn from archaeology, the more the reliability of the Bible is affirmed.

What is historical about the flood

Oh, you mean the global flood that every freaking ancient civilization talked about from every continent? I'm guessing it happened.

Jonah's whale

What about Jonah's whale? Some interpret that verse to mean that Jonah died in the whale but that God resurrected him. Others say Jonah survived in the whale with the help of God's divine intervention.

talking donkey's

The supernatural being/interdimensional being that talked through a donkey? What's the issue here?

Secondly, all the "books" of the bible contradict each other.

No they don't.

Finally, where is the reference of the crucifixion in Tactitus and Josephus?

Why don't you Google it? There's actually a Wikipedia article that specifically talks about what Tacitus wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus. It's crazy how lazy some of you are. A bunch of know-nothings who are too lazy to read anything.
 
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T.G.G. Moogly

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Setting aside the fact that most contemporary historians treat the New Testament as reliable historical information, I have no reason to think that the Bible isn't historically reliable. In fact, the more we learn from archaeology, the more the reliability of the Bible is affirmed.
That's a good point. I remember when I was doubting the historicity of Santa Claus. My dad told me that NORAD was tracking his sleigh this very moment. So I made the call and talked to a person who told me that Santa was on his way to my house. And the proof was that the presents were there under the tree in the morning.

I love Santa and know he loves me.
 

steve_bank

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Why do you think that the bible is a collection of historical documents?

Setting aside the fact that most contemporary historians treat the New Testament as reliable historical information, I have no reason to think that the Bible isn't historically reliable. In fact, the more we learn from archaeology, the more the reliability of the Bible is affirmed.

What is historical about the flood

Oh, you mean the global flood that every freaking ancient civilization talked about from every continent? I'm guessing it happened.

Jonah's whale

What about Jonah's whale? Some interpret that verse to mean that Jonah died in the whale but that God resurrected him. Others say Jonah survived in the whale with the help of God's divine intervention.

talking donkey's

The supernatural being/interdimensional being that talked through a donkey? What's the issue here?

Secondly, all the "books" of the bible contradict each other.

No they don't.

Finally, where is the reference of the crucifixion in Tactitus and Josephus?

Why don't you Google it? There's actually a Wikipedia article that specifically talks about what Tacitus wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus. It's crazy how lazy some of you are. A bunch of know-nothings who are too lazy to read anything.
I have holy water on sale. It will freshen the breath and cure the common cold. Interested?
 

SLD

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So what is the evidence to support the claim there was a Historical Jesus?
I'm not aware of any and don't think there is any so this should not take long. ...
Bring it,
The Bible itself is a collection of historical documents and is recognized as such by most historians, which is why they use it as evidence for the existence of Jesus. Then you have Tacitus and Josephus referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. Finally, most contemporary historians believe Jesus (as depicted in the Bible) really did exist.
Why do you think that the bible is a collection of historical documents? What is historical about the flood (no one can find it, The Chinese didn't even notice); Jonah's whale, talking donkey's, and other crazy stories. Secondly, all the "books" of the bible contradict each other. If they were intended to be historical, I'd think that they'd be more careful. Finally, where is the reference of the crucifixion in Tactitus and Josephus? I don't see why Jesus couldn't have existed. But I'm not impressed with most of the stories in bible being grounded in history. It has no more historical credibility than does the Iliad.
While I don’t entirely disagree, I do think the Bible does indeed contain a lot of historical truths, many of it surprisingly supported by archeological evidence that many historians in the past didn’t expect. It’s obviously a mixture of historical truths and myths. Obviously we cannot corroborate every detail, but if the account is not particularly unscientific is there any reason to doubt their historicity? With respect to the flood, there is evidence of such. It’s simply the creation of the Black Sea that is now pretty much scientifically accepted. And indeed there are supporting stories for it in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Obviously these are gross exaggerations of what happened.

With respect to Josephus, I do believe that part of what he wrote about Jesus is original, but obviously part of it is interpolation. What his basis for writing about him is unknown. It could have been the fledgling movement that he was familiar with, perhaps the early Jerusalem Church.

The question we should ask ourselves, about much of ancient history, is to what extent we require evidence to support the narratives that we do have. We rely on Plutarch’s histories extensively, but often don’t have corroborating evidence for a lot of it. We have no reason though to doubt much of it either. So we just accept it because we have little choice otherwise. The same can be said of numerous historical documents.

A good example is the battle of Gaugamela. How big was the Persian army that Alexander defeated? Ancient sources say 1,000,000. with Alexander having less than 50,000. Obviously that number is utter bullshit. 50,000 people did not defeat a 1 million man army. The ancients could never have fielded such a huge amount. But we don’t doubt that Alexander defeated the Persians despite being outnumbered. The story isn’t myth. Yet all of our sources come from writers who wrote centuries later. We have no first hand accounts of it. So what is it? Why do we believe it, but argue that all of the accounts of Jesus are completely made up?

I have no reason to reject a lot of the stories in the New Testament that don’t involve miracles. Much of it is historically plausible, and the philosophy that Jesus preaches would actually be standard first century Pharisaic. So why shouldn’t I believe those aspects of it? I do completely doubt the Gospel of John because it is so different from the others and it’s christology is just too well developed. It also appears to have been written in the 90’s, probably long after the eyewitnesses were dead. We have a lot of sources for the historicity of Jesus here, many part of the canon but many not. That they’re all made up whole cloth, like James Bond, is less plausible to me than the hypothesis that they’re based on a charismatic leader who really existed And was named Yeshua.
 

Harry Bosch

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So what is the evidence to support the claim there was a Historical Jesus?
I'm not aware of any and don't think there is any so this should not take long. ...
Bring it,
The Bible itself is a collection of historical documents and is recognized as such by most historians, which is why they use it as evidence for the existence of Jesus. Then you have Tacitus and Josephus referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. Finally, most contemporary historians believe Jesus (as depicted in the Bible) really did exist.
Why do you think that the bible is a collection of historical documents? What is historical about the flood (no one can find it, The Chinese didn't even notice); Jonah's whale, talking donkey's, and other crazy stories. Secondly, all the "books" of the bible contradict each other. If they were intended to be historical, I'd think that they'd be more careful. Finally, where is the reference of the crucifixion in Tactitus and Josephus? I don't see why Jesus couldn't have existed. But I'm not impressed with most of the stories in bible being grounded in history. It has no more historical credibility than does the Iliad.
While I don’t entirely disagree, I do think the Bible does indeed contain a lot of historical truths, many of it surprisingly supported by archeological evidence that many historians in the past didn’t expect. It’s obviously a mixture of historical truths and myths. Obviously we cannot corroborate every detail, but if the account is not particularly unscientific is there any reason to doubt their historicity? With respect to the flood, there is evidence of such. It’s simply the creation of the Black Sea that is now pretty much scientifically accepted. And indeed there are supporting stories for it in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Obviously these are gross exaggerations of what happened.

With respect to Josephus, I do believe that part of what he wrote about Jesus is original, but obviously part of it is interpolation. What his basis for writing about him is unknown. It could have been the fledgling movement that he was familiar with, perhaps the early Jerusalem Church.

The question we should ask ourselves, about much of ancient history, is to what extent we require evidence to support the narratives that we do have. We rely on Plutarch’s histories extensively, but often don’t have corroborating evidence for a lot of it. We have no reason though to doubt much of it either. So we just accept it because we have little choice otherwise. The same can be said of numerous historical documents.

A good example is the battle of Gaugamela. How big was the Persian army that Alexander defeated? Ancient sources say 1,000,000. with Alexander having less than 50,000. Obviously that number is utter bullshit. 50,000 people did not defeat a 1 million man army. The ancients could never have fielded such a huge amount. But we don’t doubt that Alexander defeated the Persians despite being outnumbered. The story isn’t myth. Yet all of our sources come from writers who wrote centuries later. We have no first hand accounts of it. So what is it? Why do we believe it, but argue that all of the accounts of Jesus are completely made up?

I have no reason to reject a lot of the stories in the New Testament that don’t involve miracles. Much of it is historically plausible, and the philosophy that Jesus preaches would actually be standard first century Pharisaic. So why shouldn’t I believe those aspects of it? I do completely doubt the Gospel of John because it is so different from the others and it’s christology is just too well developed. It also appears to have been written in the 90’s, probably long after the eyewitnesses were dead. We have a lot of sources for the historicity of Jesus here, many part of the canon but many not. That they’re all made up whole cloth, like James Bond, is less plausible to me than the hypothesis that they’re based on a charismatic leader who really existed And was named Yeshua.
Agreed. There are a lot of historical facts in the bible. Just as there are historical facts in the Iliad. I see no reason to consider one book as divinely inspired while the other is fantasy (I know that you agree with me.) Yes, there is very strong evidence of a flood in the black sea. There is also evidence of a flood along the Columbia River near Astoria Oregon about 1,000 years ago. Just about every area where people are located has evidence of floods at some point. But the point here is that there is no evidence of a global flood.
 

Harry Bosch

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But the point here is that there is no evidence of a global flood.
Is that the same as saying that a biblical global flood is 100% fiction?
Yes, it's fiction. Floods are very easy to spot. There is no evidence for a global flood. The Black Seas flood referenced above wasn't noticed by most of the world.
 

steve_bank

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There was probbaly a real flood that was the source of an original myth.

In the news Tonga is flooded by a tsunami.
 

SLD

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But the point here is that there is no evidence of a global flood.
Is that the same as saying that a biblical global flood is 100% fiction?
Yes, it's fiction. Floods are very easy to spot. There is no evidence for a global flood. The Black Seas flood referenced above wasn't noticed by most of the world.
Agreed. There was no global flood. The problem with the Noah story is that it is just too remote in time to verify. Same with the Iliad. I believe the flood was sometime around 7000 BC or so. We have no other supporting historical records from that time. We don’t know of anyone alive at that time. The new testament and other apocrypha though are full of undeniable historical characters and events that we have extensive documentation Of. Therefore the basics of the story can be correlated to such things as the Roman occupation of Judea and the cruelty of men like Pilate. We know Pilate was relieved because he was too cruel during his governorship of Judea. I doubt he would’ve let the Jews decide Jesus’s fate. He probably quickly questioned him and strung him up. I think later authors added the story about the jews to distance their movement from Judaism which was in revolt against the empire at the time of the writing.

An interesting aside is the two others crucified beside him. They’re usually classified as thieves but Maccoby argues that a better understanding of them is as “bandits” which would really make them fellow revolutionaries of Jesus. The Romans probably wouldn’t give a fig for some local thief and let the locals punish them without worrying about it. They crucified people who dared to challenge their rule - a slow and cruel death that served as a deterrent. Albeit not a good one in the end.
 

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The problem with the Noah story is that it wasn't the original story, which can be found in the world's oldest recorded epic--the story of Gilgamesh (in Akkadian. "Bilgamesh" in the original Sumerian).

The problem with the historicity of Jesus is not only a lack of evidence, but the fact that none of the synoptic gospels tells exactly the same story. There are all sorts of discrepancies regarding the details of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The strongest historical evidence for a historical Jesus seems to be Paul's claim that he once had met James, the "brother" of Jesus. We have evidence that Pontius Pilate existed, but there is no evidence that Romans would even have crucified someone because he allegedly angered local Jewish authorities. It is quite possible that the legend of Jesus simply emerged as a regional tall tale, just as many other similar legends arose. Jesus was allegedly the Jewish "messiah", but a messiah figure was supposed to end up liberating the Jews, not getting himself executed.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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But the point here is that there is no evidence of a global flood.
Is that the same as saying that a biblical global flood is 100% fiction?
Yes, it's fiction. Floods are very easy to spot. There is no evidence for a global flood. The Black Seas flood referenced above wasn't noticed by most of the world.
Thanks for the response. Right. The global flood in the bible is fiction. There isn't an historical biblical global flood. That's why I say that the biblical Jesus is fiction, which I assume you would also agree. For me it's the use of the word "historical" and the fact that people use it to legitimize biblical tales about same.

So when I hear about the "historical Jesus" it's an anonymous author telling a story. If we want to defictionalize the story we need proof that certain things happened such as you and others have submitted with regards to the biblical global flood. Without that proof it's still fiction just as a biblical global flood is fiction.

Agreed. There was no global flood. The problem with the Noah story is that it is just too remote in time to verify. Same with the Iliad. I believe the flood was sometime around 7000 BC or so. We have no other supporting historical records from that time. We don’t know of anyone alive at that time. The new testament and other apocrypha though are full of undeniable historical characters and events that we have extensive documentation Of.
You make it sound like you are ready to believe something as fantastic as the claim that the earth was completely inundated with water in 7000BCE and that you would except that it's just too remote a time in the past to be sure, that we have no contemporaneous records to verify it. I'm left to wonder if you even appreciate the difference between saying something is historical and something is fictional.
 

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There are lots of stories today about bigfoot, superheroes, aliens, etc. Based on the criteria submitted to legitimize a historical Jesus we could legitimize any of these contemporary tales and find our "historical" _________(fill in the blank).
 

SLD

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There are lots of stories today about bigfoot, superheroes, aliens, etc. Based on the criteria submitted to legitimize a historical Jesus we could legitimize any of these contemporary tales and find our "historical" _________(fill in the blank).
No. We know such figures are not historical. Their very existence would violate the laws of physics and biology. We know Tony Stark for example was made up in the minds of Marvel comic writers. Big foot is patently absurd and we have no serious writings about it, not to mention, dead ones, fossils, etc. A historical Jesus is very plausible, and lots of Atheists and other non Christians believe that he likely existed and he’s the best explanation for the beginnings of Christianity.
 

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But the point here is that there is no evidence of a global flood.
Is that the same as saying that a biblical global flood is 100% fiction?
Yes, it's fiction. Floods are very easy to spot. There is no evidence for a global flood. The Black Seas flood referenced above wasn't noticed by most of the world.
Thanks for the response. Right. The global flood in the bible is fiction. There isn't an historical biblical global flood. That's why I say that the biblical Jesus is fiction, which I assume you would also agree. For me it's the use of the word "historical" and the fact that people use it to legitimize biblical tales about same.

So when I hear about the "historical Jesus" it's an anonymous author telling a story. If we want to defictionalize the story we need proof that certain things happened such as you and others have submitted with regards to the biblical global flood. Without that proof it's still fiction just as a biblical global flood is fiction.

Agreed. There was no global flood. The problem with the Noah story is that it is just too remote in time to verify. Same with the Iliad. I believe the flood was sometime around 7000 BC or so. We have no other supporting historical records from that time. We don’t know of anyone alive at that time. The new testament and other apocrypha though are full of undeniable historical characters and events that we have extensive documentation Of.
You make it sound like you are ready to believe something as fantastic as the claim that the earth was completely inundated with water in 7000BCE and that you would except that it's just too remote a time in the past to be sure, that we have no contemporaneous records to verify it. I'm left to wonder if you even appreciate the difference between saying something is historical and something is fictional.
No. I meant that I cannot be so sure that the origins of the Noah story is related to the Black Sea flood. It’s pure speculation, but not completely illogical, that it is.
 

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There are lots of stories today about bigfoot, superheroes, aliens, etc. Based on the criteria submitted to legitimize a historical Jesus we could legitimize any of these contemporary tales and find our "historical" _________(fill in the blank).
No. We know such figures are not historical. Their very existence would violate the laws of physics and biology. We know Tony Stark for example was made up in the minds of Marvel comic writers. Big foot is patently absurd and we have no serious writings about it, not to mention, dead ones, fossils, etc. A historical Jesus is very plausible, and lots of Atheists and other non Christians believe that he likely existed and he’s the best explanation for the beginnings of Christianity.
A historical gospel Jesus is not plausible. A historical bigfoot is certainly plausible if the historical bigfoot is just a mountain gorilla. Now if we had a mountain gorilla that worked miracles and preached in Times Square our bullshit meters would be going off.

But if you think are no serious accounts of bigfoot you need to get out more. I agree it's all as unscientific and fictional and legendary as is gospel Jesus but for some reason you give Jesus fiction a break. Have you ever heard about General Abraham's exploits at the battle of Gettysburg?
 

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...A historical Jesus is very plausible, and lots of Atheists and other non Christians believe that he likely existed and he’s the best explanation for the beginnings of Christianity.

Neither plausibility nor blatant appeal to authority justifies the assumption that some person we now call "Jesus" existed. Some contemporaneous historical evidence to corroborate his existence would help, but we have none. Otherwise, the historicity of Jesus is little more than a very popular belief and a lot of social pressure to maintain that belief. It is easy to show that people have embellished the historical facts with false claims about the historical person. What is difficult to show is that any particular claim ever made was true.
 

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...the historicity of Jesus is little more than a very popular belief and a lot of social pressure to maintain that belief.
Exactly. Why blackball yourself with the truth? It's historicized fiction out of which is squeezed a nugget of authenticity owing to religious and economic necessity. Speak the obvious truth and you become a pariah. You won't be selling many books or making many speaking engagements either if you aren't satisfying market demand for a historical Jesus.

Was Jesus a Real Person?
 
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SLD

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...A historical Jesus is very plausible, and lots of Atheists and other non Christians believe that he likely existed and he’s the best explanation for the beginnings of Christianity.

Neither plausibility nor blatant appeal to authority justifies the assumption that some person we now call "Jesus" existed. Some contemporaneous historical evidence to corroborate his existence would help, but we have none. Otherwise, the historicity of Jesus is little more than a very popular belief and a lot of social pressure to maintain that belief. It is easy to show that people have embellished the historical facts with false claims about the historical person. What is difficult to show is that any particular claim ever made was true.
contemporaneous historical evidence? How much more do you need? We have 27 books in the New Testament discussing either him or his movement. We have dozens more in the apocrypha discussing him. All within the lifetimes of his original followers, and one, quite possibly, from someone supposedly his brother.

compare that to our records of the battle of Guagamela that I discussed above. And many, many other historical figures whom we accept as existing.

I think the social pressures are on atheists like me. It’s like we’re not really atheists if we think there was an historical character of Jesus who started it all. The social pressures I feel in my community are to believe that Jesus is lord and savior and rose from the dead. I think it’s all rubbish of course. I’m actually still angry at being lied to about this nonsense for decades. I don’t feel any social pressures for the stand I’m taking. I suspect I’m quite in the minority - a non believer who thinks he actually existed. I believe that because I find it simply more plausible as the source of the religion rather than a completely fictional character.
 

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It's all evidence for historicized fiction, bits of holy hardware in the historical record that amount to evidence of religious zeal. Nothing new about that, but a lot of selection pressure along the way to tow the religious line or perish, which explains the phenomenon.
 

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Let me settle some of these controversies! :dancing: There was no "global flood" but if there had been: How would anyone know? There were no telegraphs or satellite imagery when the great flood myths evolved.

There may have been a stupendous inundation of the Black Sea basin but that might have occurred 6000 BC or even earlier. There were also plenty of other major floods in the Fertile Crescent region, severe enough to contribute to a Great Flood myth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My understanding is that the Romans crucified plenty of prisoners, but that gruesome punishment was reserved for insurrectionists. Is this correct? Occam's Razor suggests to me that one of these crucifixees was a Jesus from Nazareth: If some cabal wanted to start a religion based on such a crucifixion, why invent a victim? There were plenty of real crucifixees to choose from. The loss of a beloved man this way would motivate a resurrection myth (dying young and disappearing is not inspirational), and Jesus probably had disciples who could impersonate some of his techniques.

Was Jesus especially noted during his life as a preacher? A healer? A miracle worker? An insurrectionist? It may be hard to get a good handle on his life but whatever his nature, he almost certainly existed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For me, the most interesting puzzle associated with the Bible is the origin of the Jewish people and their religion. I started a thread nine months ago reviewing some of the evidence. Note that the words "Hebrew," "Yahweh" and "Israel" all appear in Egyptian documents written long BEFORE the alleged Kingdom of David.

The details are unclear and if the stories of Exodus are based on fact at all, those facts have been subjected to huge conflations, distortions and exaggerations. (For starters, Pharaoh wanted to drive the Hebrews away, not bring them back.) But still the dim outlines of early Jewish history can be guessed.

Just as one tidbit, Psalm 104 (allegedly written by King David) is almost a word-for-word translation of the Hymn to Aten, allegedly written by the Pharaoh Akhenaton during Egypt's brief experiment in monotheism.
 

steve_bank

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A flesh and blood Jesus would have been one of a number wandering Jewish prophets, using the term loosely.

Some were radical militants. Sedition against Rome was in the air. Jewish nationalism.

The gospel Jesus may be a composite. What became know as Aesop's Fables are not attributed to one person. Gospel Jesus swings between tranquility and anger, the bipolar Jesus?

Look at the Palestinians toda. and Israel. Palestinians want their own homeland. A mix of religion and militant nationalism. It is not hard to see want Israel was like in the day.
 

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Was Jesus especially noted during his life as a preacher? A healer? A miracle worker? An insurrectionist? It may be hard to get a good handle on his life but whatever his nature, he almost certainly existed.
But existed as what? Did Superman really exist as Clark Kent? Clark Kent is quite believable.

It's obvious gospel Jesus is a composite of many different traits and with many things attributed to the character and many fine words put into his mouth. That's likely why Jesus is whatever you want him to be. He's been reinvented so many times as so many different things to so many different groups and that's been happening since the tale was first written. It's actually how the tale got first written and nothing has changed since.
 

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...A historical Jesus is very plausible, and lots of Atheists and other non Christians believe that he likely existed and he’s the best explanation for the beginnings of Christianity.

Neither plausibility nor blatant appeal to authority justifies the assumption that some person we now call "Jesus" existed. Some contemporaneous historical evidence to corroborate his existence would help, but we have none. Otherwise, the historicity of Jesus is little more than a very popular belief and a lot of social pressure to maintain that belief. It is easy to show that people have embellished the historical facts with false claims about the historical person. What is difficult to show is that any particular claim ever made was true.
contemporaneous historical evidence? How much more do you need? We have 27 books in the New Testament discussing either him or his movement. We have dozens more in the apocrypha discussing him. All within the lifetimes of his original followers, and one, quite possibly, from someone supposedly his brother.

Let's start with more than zero. Zero is what we have now. Paul was apparently locked in a struggle with Peter over who should control the growing cult missions among gentiles. In particular, Paul didn't think that Gentiles needed to submit to circumcision or always eating kosher. Peter and James apparently disagreed. So Paul promoted his credentials to those in the Christian cults that might be tempted to break away from his teachings. In his letter to Galatians, Paul claims to have met Peter and James. He describes the latter as the "brother" of Jesus, but cult members speaking Greek also used that rubric to describe fellow members of the cult. This meeting allegedly happened three years after Paul was converted and well after the alleged crucifixion. If you choose to believe hearsay from Paul, fine. That's the best evidence we have. It isn't contemporary with the life of Jesus, and I don't find it particularly convincing.

compare that to our records of the battle of Guagamela that I discussed above. And many, many other historical figures whom we accept as existing.

Er, okay. Did you actually intend to do that? The evidence for the battle of Gaugamela is actually quite good, as it is for many, many other historical figures. For Jesus, not so good. The Achaemenid Empire was actually crushed by Alexander the Great, you know, and there is a lot of historical and archaeological evidence to support that fact. You didn't dispute it in your point above. You just focused on one detail. If we compare that to the evidence for Jesus, we have zero contemporaneous evidence, only works written decades after the fact. And there is physical evidence for Alexander's conquests but none for any detail of Jesus's existence or public appearances during the alleged time of his life. Not even a record of his trial or his popular following.

I think the social pressures are on atheists like me. It’s like we’re not really atheists if we think there was an historical character of Jesus who started it all. The social pressures I feel in my community are to believe that Jesus is lord and savior and rose from the dead. I think it’s all rubbish of course. I’m actually still angry at being lied to about this nonsense for decades. I don’t feel any social pressures for the stand I’m taking. I suspect I’m quite in the minority - a non believer who thinks he actually existed. I believe that because I find it simply more plausible as the source of the religion rather than a completely fictional character.

Right, but I wasn't making this about you. The social pressure to believe in the existence of Jesus is quite pervasive, and it doesn't just come from Christians. A lot of it is from people who think that challenging the historicity of Jesus is needlessly and outrageously insulting to believers. When I hear these repeated claims about the majority of scholars believe, I wonder just how the people making those claims came to know that. If they are thinking of actual surveys that have been conducted, how were the "scholars" defined? And how did they collect their sample of scholars to survey? I'm not sure that most historical scholars would even bother to participate in such a survey. But I suspect that the claim is taken for granted because it is repeated so often. Even so, what would it prove in the face of all that social pressure to believe it? It would still be a fallacy based on popularity of a belief.
 
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Swammerdami

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Do those who think Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist think that John the Baptist existed? AFAIK, the earliest sources are the same for the two men: Josephus' Antiquities and the Gospels. (John may have been more "famous", in part because his death was more interesting!)

Let's not succumb to circular arguments. "If Jesus really fed a large crowd with five loaves and three fish, someone in the crowd might have been impressed enough to hire a scribe and write about the incident on a clay tablet." But few, if any, of us here believe in the literal truth of such stories and anyway, few of his followers could afford to hire a scribe. How many non-Roman documents of ANY sort survive from Syria or Judea in that era?

No, Jesus would have been MUCH less famous than, say, Pontius Pilate and we would expect MUCH less to be written about Jesus than about Pilate. And yet, documentary proof that Pontius Pilate existed is almost non-existent. Until a minor archaeological find in 1961 the best evidence that Pilate existed was from Roman histories which mentioned that Procurator in connection with Jesus' crucifixion! IIRC the earliest surviving histories of Alexander the Great — one of the most famous persons in ancient times — were written about two centuries AFTER his death! Sure, those histories cite the memories and prior writings of men who knew Alexander personally. ... But similarly the New Testament cites people who knew Jesus personally.

If I were on the jury and a suspect's guilt depended on Jesus' historicity being "certain beyond any reasonable doubt" would I acquit or convict? Acquit, perhaps. Jesus' historicity is an inference: there may be no obvious "smoking gun." It is Occam's Razor which leads me to the high probability that Pontius Pilate DID order the crucifixation of a Nazarene named Jesus.

contemporaneous historical evidence? How much more do you need? We have 27 books in the New Testament discussing either him or his movement. We have dozens more in the apocrypha discussing him. All within the lifetimes of his original followers, and one, quite possibly, from someone supposedly his brother.

Let's start with more than zero. Zero is what we have now. Paul was apparently locked in a struggle with Peter over who should control the growing cult missions among gentiles. In particular, Paul didn't think that Gentiles needed to submit to circumcision or always eating kosher. Peter and James apparently disagreed. So Paul promoted his credentials to those in the Christian cults that might be tempted to break away from his teachings. In his letter to Galatians, Paul claims to have met Peter and James. He describes the latter as the "brother" of Jesus, but cult members speaking Greek also used that rubric to describe fellow members of the cult. This meeting allegedly happened three years after Paul was converted and well after the alleged crucifixion. If you choose to believe hearsay from Paul, fine. That's the best evidence we have. It isn't contemporary with the life of Jesus, and I don't find it particularly convincing.
The apparent struggle between Peter and Paul, at a time when many people would have remembered a living Jesus, is good evidence of historicity. If Peter and Paul dared to introduce fictional Messiahs at all, why — if they were in conflict — would they use the SAME fiction?

The kinship between Jesus and James is also mentioned in Antiquities of the Jews:
Flavius Josephus as translated said:
But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; ...
 
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So what is the evidence to support the claim there was a Historical Jesus?
All we have are stories and testimonies about Jesus. We have nothing he wrote nor do we have any solid evidence for him.
I'm not aware of any and don't think there is any so this should not take long. ...
Bring it,
There is a lot of evidence for Jesus, but that evidence is very weak and ambiguous. It's like my saying I have a lot of money, but that money is a bathtub full of pennies.

Anyway, I'm not sure if the Jesus who inspired the New Testament existed or not. A piece of papyrus will stand still for writing about an imaginary person as readily as it will stand still for writing about a real person. In fact, we have writings about both real and imaginary people. Both kinds of documents were popular in antiquity.
 

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Do those who think Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist think that John the Baptist existed? AFAIK, the earliest sources are the same for the two men: Josephus' Antiquities and the Gospels. (John may have been more "famous", in part because his death was more interesting!)

Josephus was not the earliest reference to Jesus. That is Paul. Josephus wrote between 75-79 AD, and the authenticity of his references to Jesus is in dispute. Unfortunately, most of the text concerning early Christianity has been filtered through later Christian scribes, who were known to make mistakes, reinterpret, and embellish things from time to time.

Let's not succumb to circular arguments. "If Jesus really fed a large crowd with five loaves and three fish, someone in the crowd might have been impressed enough to hire a scribe and write about the incident on a clay tablet." But few, if any, of us here believe in the literal truth of such stories and anyway, few of his followers could afford to hire a scribe. How many non-Roman documents of ANY sort survive from Syria or Judea in that era?

Quite a few actually. Some owned literate slaves. Paul himself had an amanuensis. It was common for illiterates to hire scribes to record things that they wished preserved, and there were apparently a lot of cults back then that left traces of their presence. It's odd that we have nothing from anyone who had dealings with his followers, if he was as popular as reported in the gospels.

No, Jesus would have been MUCH less famous than, say, Pontius Pilate and we would expect MUCH less to be written about Jesus than about Pilate. And yet, documentary proof that Pontius Pilate existed is almost non-existent. Until a minor archaeological find in 1961 the best evidence that Pilate existed was from Roman histories which mentioned that Procurator in connection with Jesus' crucifixion! IIRC the earliest surviving histories of Alexander the Great — one of the most famous persons in ancient times — were written about two centuries AFTER his death! Sure, those histories cite the memories and prior writings of men who knew Alexander personally. ... But similarly the New Testament cites people who knew Jesus personally.

There is too much physical archaeological evidence and contemporary mention of Alexander to dismiss him as fictional, not to mention the fact that there are no alternative theories of how the world changed the way it did in that time and location. You really need to pick a lesser known figure to make your argument. All we have for Jesus is texts written by Christians decades and centuries after his crucifixion. The smattering of early non-Christian sources either just speak about the existence of a cult (Tacitus, Pliny) and are somewhat contested as possible interpolations. As for Pontius Pilate, the archaeological evidence only corroborates his existence, not any connection to the trial of Jesus. I think that there are other sources to corroborate his existence, as well, but not in the exact capacity attributed to him in the NT.

...The apparent struggle between Peter and Paul, at a time when many people would have remembered a living Jesus, is good evidence of historicity. If Peter and Paul dared to introduce fictional Messiahs at all, why — if they were in conflict — would they use the SAME fiction?

It is evidence of nothing other than a struggle between Paul and Peter over the spread of the Jesus cult beyond the Jewish community and among gentiles. Paul never even met Jesus, who had allegedly died well before Paul converted. For all we know, he was scammed by Peter and some guy claiming to be Jesus's brother. Don't forget that these people were all professional cult leaders. That's how they made their living. They wouldn't be the first religious scammers to exist, and there are plenty of modern ones around even in modern times. This kind of evidence for historicity is really flimsy.

BTW, I'm not going to get into a discussion of the Flavian texts here. Josephus is a notoriously controversial source of information, and the authenticity of those passages are debated by people far more knowledgeable about them than me. I would only point out that Josephus wrote decades after the alleged crucifixion, so even the authenticity of his opinions is little more than that of someone with no contemporary perspective on the events.
 
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The only explanation I've heard that makes me think a historical Jesus might have existed is the Criterion of Embarrassment. Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist kind of makes Jesus look less than godlike. Being hung or nailed to a tree is also usually the fate of the most worthless people according to Jewish tradition, so it's less likely to be made up.
There are numerous problems with the Criterion of Embarrassment. One difficulty is that we can't mindread the Gospel writers to see what they were truly ashamed of. Another quandary is that if the Gospel writers were embarrassed by anything they wrote, then it seems less likely that they would have recorded it at all. Besides, many of the early Christians seemed quote proud of what they wrote including the crucifixion story. If we place that story in its proper context, then we see that it sets up the resurrection. A Messiah who can overcome death is very impressive indeed! So I can easily see how the Gospel writers might make up the crucifixion story. Finally, it was the Romans who thought of those they crucified as worthless rather than the Jews. Many of the Jews of that day could have seen crucified Jews as courageous and heroic.
But it does seem a bit odd that none of the Roman historians mentioned this guy during his lifetime if he was supposedly performing miracles all over the place.
The common argument from real-Jesus apologists regarding this matter is that Jesus was only a "smalltime preacher," and therefore he wouldn't have attracted the attention of the historians of his day. This argument contradicts the Gospels which say Jesus was very famous at that time. Also, if nobody bothered to write about a smalltime Jesus while he lived, then it seems reasonable to me that they would have been even less likely to have written about him decades later.
If the story of Jesus is supposed to be the most important message from God that mankind ever received, you would hope God would make the story a little more different than all the other myths we have created.
Now we're talking theology rather than history. You are correct, though; any God who knew what he was doing is not likely to act in ways very similar to the ways of "false" gods.
 

steve_bank

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Christianity sholud be called Paulism. He dipsensed with the Jewish requirements.

Paraphrasing Peter on Paul, dude I was there!!!
 

Swammerdami

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Let's suppose for a moment that Jesus of Nazareth was a fiction, that some group wanted to start a new religion and invented some "Messiah" to suit their purposes. What stories would they invent about him? Preaching, healing, transfiguration, insurrection — these all fit. (Though one might as well start with a non-fictional preacher/insurrectionist and add on a transfiguration myth.) But, as mentioned above, they might avoid stories that were embarrassing or easily disproven. Baptism by John might be embarrassing; and what about "without honor in his own country" — what was the didactic purpose of revealing that embarrassment? Crucifixation on a specific date would be too easily disproven. The Christian church was flourishing about ten years after Jesus' death: there would be many people who'd recall that no "Jesus" was crucified that day; yet non-existence was never raised as an objection to the Jesus cult for many centuries.

But they'd want to focus on something very special. In Jesus' case this was the Resurrection. Let's listen to what Mark, the earliest Gospel, says about that (omitting the verses generally agreed to be later additions):

Gospel of Mark said:
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

"[H]e goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." THAT'S IT!! That's the entirety of what Mark writes about the Resurrection. Serious question: What do the Non-historicity fans say about this? The cabal forgot to clue Mark in that he was writing a fiction?
 

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Let's suppose for a moment that Jesus of Nazareth was a fiction, that some group wanted to start a new religion and invented some "Messiah" to suit their purposes. What stories would they invent about him? Preaching, healing, transfiguration, insurrection — these all fit. (Though one might as well start with a non-fictional preacher/insurrectionist and add on a transfiguration myth.) But, as mentioned above, they might avoid stories that were embarrassing or easily disproven. Baptism by John might be embarrassing; and what about "without honor in his own country" — what was the didactic purpose of revealing that embarrassment? Crucifixation on a specific date would be too easily disproven. The Christian church was flourishing about ten years after Jesus' death: there would be many people who'd recall that no "Jesus" was crucified that day; yet non-existence was never raised as an objection to the Jesus cult for many centuries.

But they'd want to focus on something very special. In Jesus' case this was the Resurrection. Let's listen to what Mark, the earliest Gospel, says about that (omitting the verses generally agreed to be later additions):

Gospel of Mark said:
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

"[H]e goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." THAT'S IT!! That's the entirety of what Mark writes about the Resurrection. Serious question: What do the Non-historicity fans say about this? The cabal forgot to clue Mark in that he was writing a fiction?
Your argument here appears to be that badly written fiction must be true, because people don't write truly awful, even embarrassingly awful, fiction, without realising how embarrassingly bad it is and at least editing it somewhat.

I can think of a dozen modern works off the top of my head that refute this hypothesis.

And the idea that Mark's failure to explicitly expound upon a critical plot point makes the whole set of tales more plausible (or even just less awful), is hilarious.

"It's shit, therefore it must be true!"
 

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"[H]e goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." THAT'S IT!! That's the entirety of what Mark writes about the Resurrection. Serious question: What do the Non-historicity fans say about this? The cabal forgot to clue Mark in that he was writing a fiction?
If I understand your question I would say that it's pretty easy to write prophecy generations after the alleged fact. Considering the destruction of the Temple it also makes sense.
 

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Your argument here appears to be that badly written fiction must be true, because people don't write truly awful, even embarrassingly awful, fiction, without realising how embarrassingly bad it is and at least editing it somewhat.

I can think of a dozen modern works off the top of my head that refute this hypothesis.

And the idea that Mark's failure to explicitly expound upon a critical plot point makes the whole set of tales more plausible (or even just less awful), is hilarious.

"It's shit, therefore it must be true!"

I am confused by your comments, which seem to completely miss the point. You DO understand that I do NOT believe the historic Jesus was really resurrected, right?
 

steve_bank

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Trump pamdered to Christians on the right, and a group of them clamed Trump was an agnet of god sent to help them.

This in our rime of so called education and enlightenment.

A thousand years from now Trump will likely be part of Christian lore for some Christians. He may even become a Chrtian martyr who suffered for the faith.

In a book I read on Islam it was said it was not unheard of for someone or group to spread a prophesy and then have someone show up to fulfill it.

There were multiple Jews claiming to be the messiah.
 

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There were multiple Jews claiming to be the messiah.
Considering the religious milieu of the times it's beyond understandable how Mark's story could become historicized. The story is about a man that lived a couple generations ago. The story gets appended with more religious woo in the midst of religious and political calamity. The story becomes more and more popular to the point that it achieves political favor and dominance for centuries and millennia afterwards owing to its stark differences from Pagan ritual. Game theory alone predicts its ascendancy.

It's advocates gain control of political institutions and are able to suppress competing versions at pain of death. It's a no brainer.
 

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Your argument here appears to be that badly written fiction must be true, because people don't write truly awful, even embarrassingly awful, fiction, without realising how embarrassingly bad it is and at least editing it somewhat.

I can think of a dozen modern works off the top of my head that refute this hypothesis.

And the idea that Mark's failure to explicitly expound upon a critical plot point makes the whole set of tales more plausible (or even just less awful), is hilarious.

"It's shit, therefore it must be true!"

I am confused by your comments, which seem to completely miss the point. You DO understand that I do NOT believe the historic Jesus was really resurrected, right?

Just to be clear:

IF some cabal concocted a fiction, it would likely have been a thoughtfully constructed fiction; and we know resurrection was a key part of that fiction. For the primary fictional account of that character to barely mention a resurrection (and to mention ZERO post-death sightings of the resurrected man) would be quite unusual. (Bilby suggests, I think, that the author of Mark was too incompetent to mention the sightings, even though his account was edited several decades after the alleged resurrection. Given the success of early Christianity it would be odd for the primary biographer to be that incompetent).

But IF Jesus was a real inspirational person, biographies might have been written with little mention of the resurrection fiction. That fiction would have been embellished later.
 

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Without the resurrection there is no Christianity.

The kids game. Line up a bunch of kids, whisper a story in the first kid's ear and it gets passed along. Invincibly it gets changed.

In the time there was no objective reporting and history, people freely interpreted and invented a narrative from hearsay.

Herodotus the Greek historian was known for turning what he heard into alleged first hand observations of places he never visited.

In the media today we see different interpretations of of events. I watched CNN commentators turning hearsay from the Trump White House into fabricated narratives and interpreting details without first hand knowledge. Not that there wasn't things going on in the WH, but CNN put out an endless stream of hearsay as fact.

Look at a wall map of the refion. today. Israel is a tiny spot. The area where it all would have happened is small. Gossip would be rampant.

The small area and lack of corobortion of the events indicates Jesus whoever he was was not very well known when alive. There are no Roman records.
 

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Just to be clear:

IF some cabal concocted a fiction, it would likely have been a thoughtfully constructed fiction;
There is no need for a cabal and a conspiracy, just an attractive story. Remember that we're talking religion here. Is there a cabal and a carefully constructed fiction behind Mormonism? These additions come well after the story. Bigfoot, Cain, you get the idea.

I should add that the original story was no doubt an embellishment of common talk and experience so it was already concocted. But that's precisely what an author does when he writes stories that are fictional.
 

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Are we all debating the same question here? My position is that a man called Jesus of Nazareth probably DID exist who was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. I am NOT claiming that that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, or was resurrected from the dead.

For those judging historicity by the number of early documents which mention the person, note that Pontius Pilate — the most powerful man in Judea during the time of Jesus — is hardly mentioned at all, except in documents which connect him to the Jesus story.


Just to be clear:

IF some cabal concocted a fiction, it would likely have been a thoughtfully constructed fiction;
There is no need for a cabal and a conspiracy, just an attractive story. Remember that we're talking religion here. Is there a cabal and a carefully constructed fiction behind Mormonism? These additions come well after the story. Bigfoot, Cain, you get the idea.

I should add that the original story was no doubt an embellishment of common talk and experience so it was already concocted. But that's precisely what an author does when he writes stories that are fictional.

Mormonism was an odd choice of example for your point.
Joseph Smith Jr. and Oliver H. P. Cowdery in March 1830 said:
PREFACE. To the Reader --

As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again -- and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold ye shall publish it as a record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater then the cunning of the Devil. Wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, I have, through his grace and mercy, accomplished that which he hath commanded me respecting this thing. I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New-York. The Author.

THE FIRST BOOK OF NEPHI. HIS REIGN AND MINISTRY.

CHAPTER I. An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah, and his four Sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest,) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity; and they seek to destroy his life. He taketh three days journey into the wilderness with his family. Nephi taketh his brethren and returns to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews. The account of their sufferings. They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife. They take their families and depart into the wilderness. Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness. The course of their travels. They come to the large waters. Nephi's brethren rebelled against him. He confounded them, and buildeth a Ship. They call the place Bountiful. They cross the large waters into the promised land, &c. This is according to the account of Nephi; or in other words, I Nephi wrote this record.

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days -- nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days; yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make, to be true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father Lehi having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days) and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people, that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed. ...
 

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Are we all debating the same question here? My position is that a man called Jesus of Nazareth probably DID exist who was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. I am NOT claiming that that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, or was resurrected from the dead.

For those judging historicity by the number of early documents which mention the person, note that Pontius Pilate — the most powerful man in Judea during the time of Jesus — is hardly mentioned at all, except in documents which connect him to the Jesus story.
That's not true. The first record we have of Pilate was by Philon of Alexandria, who characterized him as a very cruel, corrupt governor who had lots of people executed. Josephus later wrote some things about him, very little of which said anything about Jesus. Given Pilate's reputation as a long-serving, cruel Roman governor of Judea, he would have been the ideal candidate for someone who would have ordered the crucifixion of Jesus in a story that someone made up out of whole cloth. It would have lent plausibility to the tale. OTOH, maybe Jesus did exist and the tale was true. How are we to know? Of course, we can ignore the obvious lies that are also contained in those stories.

And TGG Moogly's reference to Mormonism was right on point. Joseph Smith was a known fraudster before he suddenly got visited by the angel Mormoni, who gave him his true calling. Mormonism is a perfect example of how utter bullshit can turn into a major religion in relatively recent times. If you are going to argue for the plausibility of Jesus on the basis of nothing other than popular stories, Josephus Smith has some revelations to sell you. We know this is true, because he was able to translate sacred text into the Book of Mormon with nothing more than a stone in a hat. Now it might seem that his followers were just being gullible, but here is a good explanation of why the stone and the hat actually make the story MORE plausible. ;)

Joseph, the stone and the hat: Why it all matters


...
Now consider Joseph Smith. According to those familiar with the process, he dictated the Book of Mormon from words that somehow appeared in a “seer stone” or (much the same thing) in the Urim and Thummim. He rarely if ever actually had the plates with him; he couldn’t read what was on them except through revelation anyway, and he could receive revelation (via the “interpreters”) just as easily without the plates as with them. (So why were the plates necessary? Perhaps, among other things, to reassure him and the witnesses who saw and testified of them — and, thus also, us — that he was dealing with something objectively real and external to himself.)

Evidence indicates that Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon over the course of three months (or perhaps somewhat less). His scribes needed light in order to work, but it’s quite understandable that Joseph sought to reduce the fatigue of his eyes by using a hat to exclude the ambient light.

The implications of this, however, are intriguing. A manuscript hidden in the bottom of a hat would be difficult if not impossible to read. Yet Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon — roughly 270,000 words — in somewhere between 60 and 90 days. That’s approximately 3,000 to 4,500 words each and every day, without rewrites or significant revisions. (Practiced writers will instantly recognize this as a stunning pace.) Or, to put it another way, this young man, with only about two months of schooling, dictated roughly six to nine pages of today’s printed English edition every single day for two or three months.

etc., etc...

It is not at all implausible that the Jesus story attracted a wide cult following in the early years of the Roman Empire, especially if the fantastic tales of miracles contained references to real people and places to lend them credibility. That's just sugar coating to help the bullshit go down.
 

steve_bank

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Look at Scientology.

Hubbard was a third rate scifi writer who crated a mythology and Dianetics. He borrowed the skin galvanic response meter from lie detectors and called the E-Meter. In a lie detector it measures changes in skin resistance when somebody starts to sweat. Believers think it has some mystical power.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Are we all debating the same question here? My position is that a man called Jesus of Nazareth probably DID exist who was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. I am NOT claiming that that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, or was resurrected from the dead.
I'm just using the literature we have. I used the Mormon example because it is exactly the same thing happening at a later time and which has received embellishments since its inception.

I think the reason people like to extract a living Jesus from the Jesus tales is because of social pressure and necessity owing to two thousand years of intense and grave selection pressure. After all, Jesus is presented as a real person albeit with godly powers. Joseph Smith gave us Moroni and Moroni magic while James gave us Jesus and Jesus magic, but they're both from the same author's cloth. Should we try to extract the historical Moroni from the Book of Mormon Too? We don't because Moroni isn't invented as a person. That's the difference. That and two thousand years of selection pressure.

"The Historical Jesus" is a modern phenomenon. Up until the age of scientific thinking we were content to have Jesus just as he was. Scientific observation and the scientific method came along and all of a sudden gospel Jesus looks kinda dopey, kinda like believing in Santa. Okay, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a real person from which the tales were spun and embellished. Right? Right? Right? It's still all about Jesus. Right?

Why not just admit that Jesus was the last of a long line of Mediterranean demigods? That makes the most sense. Even though Jesus is a demigod his name doesn't come up as such anywhere. Why is that? Could it be bias? Do a search for famous demigods and you never see Jesus even though he is clearly a demigod. Maybe we shouldn't look for the historical person behind demigods. or maybe we should recognize selection pressure and cultural bias when it's as obvious as our noses.
 
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bilby

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Your argument here appears to be that badly written fiction must be true, because people don't write truly awful, even embarrassingly awful, fiction, without realising how embarrassingly bad it is and at least editing it somewhat.

I can think of a dozen modern works off the top of my head that refute this hypothesis.

And the idea that Mark's failure to explicitly expound upon a critical plot point makes the whole set of tales more plausible (or even just less awful), is hilarious.

"It's shit, therefore it must be true!"

I am confused by your comments, which seem to completely miss the point. You DO understand that I do NOT believe the historic Jesus was really resurrected, right?
I understand that. But your "evidence" for an historical Jesus is no better than the evidence you (rightly) reject for his resurrection. There's exactly the same evidence for Jesus's existence as there is for his resurrection: Nothing except bad (but hugely and inexplicably popular) fiction. Including a massive amount of fanfic, and squabbling sects of diehard fans who will fight to the death over which minutiae are or are not canon.

You might as well be arguing for the existence of the historical Harry Potter, who wasn't a wizard, but must have been a real person, because there are books.

J K Rowling wouldn't have written anything so awful if Harry wasn't a real person, because that would be terribly embarrassing for her.

:rolleyes:
 

Tharmas

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I had promised myself I wouldn't get involved in this perennial topic again, but somehow I can't stop myself. :)

It seems to me that judging the historicity of Jesus should not be seen as a binary proposition, that is, either the character is totally fiction or on the other hand he existed largely as he is depicted in the Gospels, saving perhaps the miracles, resurrection, etc.

My approach is first to examine our sources, which are primarily the Gospels, but before the Gospels there are the genuine epistles of Paul, perhaps the Revelation of John, and perhaps some other early Christian documents of uncertain provenance. Paul says surprisingly little about the life of Jesus, other than that he was crucified. He does claim to have met the apostles John and Peter. What we learn from Paul and some of the other early documents is that in its early days Christianity consisted of a loose federation of disparate communities which often differed considerably in doctrine.

That leaves the Gospels, and naturally the first question is, what is the nature of the Gospels?. They are narratives, written for the most part in “3rd person omniscient” (as opposed to 1st person or “eyewitness”) in scope. They are in part hagiography. They can be said to be “Lives of Jesus,” but only in the ancient, not the modern, sense. That is, rigorously accurate reporting is not valued as much as conveying an impression. In addition, frequently the author’s purpose in writing is to express his own personal philosophy.

The Gospels display all of those characteristics. In terms of the last mentioned characteristic, expressing the author’s own opinion, it is widely accepted by modern scholars that each of the Gospels displays a particular spin on the story. For instance, Matthew has been said to shape the story to lessen some of the anti-Semitism of earlier versions, and be friendlier to the Jews somewhat.

It should also be noted that the Gospels were somewhat plastic documents, subject to re-writes, additions and subtractions over the course of decades before they were canonized in official versions. For instance, Marcion in the 2nd century heavily edited Luke and Acts to conform to his vision of Christianity. How much of his editing was accurately redacted later is not entirely certain. Or the famous story of the woman taken in adultery was added to John much later that the original version; early Church fathers did not know the story.

But even before the extant gospels was Q, a hypothesized “sayings” Gospel (similar in many ways to the Gospel of Thomas) that leant much of its material to the later Matthew and Luke. This would be the first “layer” of information about the Jesus figure, and he comes across as a wise rabbi and teacher.

This picture forms one part of a mosaic. Other pieces of the mosaic include Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher, Jesus as a miracle worker, Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as a God, and others.

Burton Mack, author of Who Wrote the New Testament, sees these mosaic pieces as expressions of different nascent Christian communities with different “takes” and different reactions to current events.

Enter the author of The Gospel of Mark. He takes many of these elements and combines them into a new kind of narrative, a “life” in the classical sense. Mack says:

Thus Mark’s story is best understood as a studied combination of Jesus traditions with the Christ myth. The combination enhanced Jesus’ importance as a historical figure by casting him as the son of God or the Christ and by working out an elaborate plot to link his fate to the history of Mark’s community. We may therefore call Mark’s gospel a myth of origin for the Markan community. It was imagined in order to understand how history could have gone the way it had and the Jesus movement still be right about its loyalties and views.

Mack, Burton L.. Who Wrote the New Testament? (p. 152). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Even the Passion story was a complete fabrication.

The conclusion must be that the identity of the man, or men, whatever their name(s), who inspired the Jesus stories, is lost to history.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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The conclusion must be that the identity of the man, or men, whatever their name(s), who inspired the Jesus stories, is lost to history.
As someone who composed fiction I would not go so far as to say "man or men." Rather I would leave it at "events" because that's how authors write. They collect their experiences into a tale they deem to be attractive. Mark is a piece of art, not history. And like any piece of art it appeals to some people more than others.

Thank-you for the great addition to the thread.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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It seems to me that judging the historicity of Jesus should not be seen as a binary proposition, that is, either the character is totally fiction or on the other hand he existed largely as he is depicted in the Gospels, saving perhaps the miracles, resurrection, etc.
This is a point I've tried to make repeatedly. But looking for the real jesus is a bit of a personal treasure hunt, not unlike looking for the Lost Dutchman mine or the real explanation behind the Bermuda Triangle or finding Atlantis on the Bimini Road. The real historical Jesus is the treasure. Problem is it isn't there and never has been. It's an author's creation that piques human desire, aka fantasy. There isn't anything about a dragon that isn't real except the dragon.

The same is true for the Historical Jesus but that's not enough to stop some from believing in the treasure. All those facets of the Jesus Story may in fact be real, and we know that most of them are, just like all those aspects of the dragon. Roman occupation, crucifixion, lots of people named Jesus, cults, Jews, messianic prophecy, rebellion, healers, etc. All this was followed by centuries of selection pressure for orthodox belief in the Jesus Story. So welcome to today.
 

steve_bank

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I watched a show on a search for possible locations of Atalanta based on the story. A sea going culture destroyed by a cataclysmic event. One can objectively fit several actual volcanic locations to the story , but it is obviously not proof That is what theists do with Jesus. Any number of narratives are plausible historically.
 

steve_bank

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When I see the thread title I keep seing Hysterical Jesus.
 

steve_bank

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When taking power in history there are two main themes.

1. Establish legitimacy through blood lines.
2. Establish authority from a deity.

If the gospels were about creating a movement it follows the pattern.

1. Jesus is said to be in the line of King David.
2. His father was a deity.

If the historical Jesus was actually more militant and making a power play the narrative makes sense. The Romans crowned him with thorns and put King Of The Jews on his cross.

Yet another possible narrative.



In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the King of the Jews (or King of the Judeans), both at the beginning of his life and at the end. In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, e.g., in John 19:3, this is written as Basileus ton Ioudaion (βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων).[1]

Both uses of the title lead to dramatic results in the New Testament accounts. In the account of the nativity of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the Biblical Magi who come from the east call Jesus the "King of the Jews", causing Herod the Great to order the Massacre of the Innocents. Towards the end of the accounts of all four canonical Gospels, in the narrative of the Passion of Jesus, the title "King of the Jews" leads to charges against Jesus that result in his crucifixion.[2][3]

The initialism INRI (Latin: Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum) represents the Latin inscription (in John 19:19), which in English translates to "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews", and John 19:20 states that this was written in three languages—Hebrew, Latin, and Greek—during the crucifixion of Jesus.

The title "King of the Jews" is only used in the New Testament by gentiles, namely by the Magi, Pontius Pilate, and the Roman soldiers. In contrast, the Jewish leaders use the designation "Christ", which means "Messiah"[4] Although the phrase "King of the Jews" is used in most English translations,[a] it has also been translated "King of the Judeans" (see Ioudaioi).[5]
 

Tharmas

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These are interesting observations, Steve. Thanks.

One can wonder where the author of Mark got the idea of having Jesus executed as “King of the Jews,” and the answer isn’t really hard to find.

In the chaos surrounding the Jewish wars in the late 60s, there were apparently a number of warring factions supporting candidates for High Priest. When Titus entered Jerusalem in 70, he found one of last surviving pretenders, Simon bar Giora, dressed in purple robes and standing in the Temple. Titus laid waste to Jerusalem and the temple, and took Simon back to Rome to be displayed as "King of the Jews" in a triumphal march, and then executed.”

The author of Mark who, as tradition has it, lived and wrote in Rome, would have been very familiar with this episode.
 
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