Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
22-07-2014, 01:04 AM
Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
Hi all, so I got into a spat with a friend about whether or not there is any evidence for the historical Jesus. I think that there is none and my friend thinks there is mountains. The 'debate' almost immediately devolved into an "I'm right! no I'm right!" sort of thing. So I demanded he stop on the condition I get him sources and evidence at a later time and he's the sort who might care about such things so I'm going to do it.

My first idea is to buy him a copy of one of Richard Carrier's books on the topic as that seems more authoritative than a link to rationalwiki's article on the subject. But I was wondering if anyone here might know of a good overview of the question/subject of "do we have solid evidence for Jesus?". Something that might be a good starting point.

Thank you for any ideas or suggestions.

Also, if you know of someone who has proved Jesus is real I'd like to know that instead, so I can not be wrong in the future.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
22-07-2014, 07:26 AM
RE: Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
Carrier knows far more about this than me, so right there, that's a good start. Hopefully your friend won't immediately shoot it down because Carrier says things he doesn't like.

Other than that, the "mountains of evidence" that are referenced are typically overstated. It tends to come down to a few things:

Talking about tens of thousands of "copies of the New Testament"
First of all, the number of copies is only indicative of how much people felt like copying it. It has no bearing on some thing's authenticity. Secondly, there are very few surviving manuscripts from within a hundred years of the event, and the oldest fragments are about the size of my thumb nail. This doesn't prove Jesus wrong; it's just not the evidence they're claiming it is.

Invoking "there's more evidence for Jesus than X historical figure"
This is frequently doubtful (it depends on who they cite). Also, the "strongest" evidence they have also makes unsubstantiated supernatural claims (see below).

Many secular sources mention Jesus
It is true that Jesus is mentioned in several sources from the first few centuries. Do note that the one that makes any real claim about Jesus' abilities (one of Josephus' two sources) is likely a forgery. Most of the other sources are very vague and only make a brief mentioning of his existence, and in no other way corroborate what was said in the Gospels. So, yes, it is evidence that Jesus existed, but fairly week evidence. No one mentions much information of any use outside of the Gospels. Also, there are notable historians who didn't mention Jesus, as well.

The Gospels are evidence
Well, yes and no. There are several problems, here:
  • None of the Gospels were written by eye witnesses, nor do they even claim to be.
  • The Gospels frequently contradict each other, or at a minimum omit things that would be seemingly important. One has to wonder how reliable any one of the four are in the first place.
  • The Gospels all mention a bunch of supernatural miracles (sometimes cited to be performed in front of "multitudes"), yet these are never corroborated outside of the Bible. What seems more reasonable: a source talking about Alexander the Great conquering much of the known world or a source that says he did so while flying and shooting eye lasers? Especially if no other source mentions these powers when they'd be quite noteworthy.
  • What about the other Gospels. I can name three other non-canonical Gospels off the top of my head (The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth, and the Secret Gospel of John), and I know there are others. Heck, I think even Judas is credited with one. Now this is sort of a mixed bag. Technically, yes, they are all also "evidence" of Jesus in the same way that the other four Gospels are. Also, they add even more contradictions and questions into the mix, making you wonder how valid any of them are.


TL;DR version: yes, there is "evidence" that Jesus existed, but it's all sketchy as hell when taken in context. It's impossible to say whether or not Jesus existed, but there is no definitive proof that he did.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
22-07-2014, 07:39 AM
RE: Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
(22-07-2014 07:26 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  Carrier knows far more about this than me, so right there, that's a good start. Hopefully your friend won't immediately shoot it down because Carrier says things he doesn't like.

Invoking "there's more evidence for Jesus than X historical figure"
This is frequently doubtful (it depends on who they cite). Also, the "strongest" evidence they have also makes unsubstantiated supernatural claims (see below).


Many secular sources mention Jesus
It is true that Jesus is mentioned in several sources from the first few centuries. Do note that the one that makes any real claim about Jesus' abilities (one of Josephus' two sources) is likely a forgery. Most of the other sources are very vague and only make a brief mentioning of his existence, and in no other way corroborate what was said in the Gospels. So, yes, it is evidence that Jesus existed, but fairly week evidence. No one mentions much information of any use outside of the Gospels. Also, there are notable historians who didn't mention Jesus, as well.

The Gospels are evidence
Well, yes and no. There are several problems, here:
  • None of the Gospels were written by eye witnesses, nor do they even claim to be.
  • The Gospels frequently contradict each other, or at a minimum omit things that would be seemingly important. One has to wonder how reliable any one of the four are in the first place.
  • The Gospels all mention a bunch of supernatural miracles (sometimes cited to be performed in front of "multitudes"), yet these are never corroborated outside of the Bible. What seems more reasonable: a source talking about Alexander the Great conquering much of the known world or a source that says he did so while flying and shooting eye lasers? Especially if no other source mentions these powers when they'd be quite noteworthy.
  • What about the other Gospels. I can name three other non-canonical Gospels off the top of my head (The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth, and the Secret Gospel of John), and I know there are others. Heck, I think even Judas is credited with one. Now this is sort of a mixed bag. Technically, yes, they are all also "evidence" of Jesus in the same way that the other four Gospels are. Also, they add even more contradictions and questions into the mix, making you wonder how valid any of them are.


TL;DR version: yes, there is "evidence" that Jesus existed, but it's all sketchy as hell when taken in context. It's impossible to say whether or not Jesus existed, but there is no definitive proof that he did.

Richard Carrier's blog links to a great takedown of the 10/42 apologetic

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-07-2014, 06:06 AM
RE: Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
(22-07-2014 07:39 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  Richard Carrier's blog links to a great takedown of the 10/42 apologetic

Thanks. I hadn't read his blog before. Sigh. There goes the remnants of my free time...
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
25-07-2014, 10:32 AM
RE: Historical Jesus yes/no? need sources for ongoing talk
(22-07-2014 01:04 AM)bronzedivision Wrote:  Hi all, so I got into a spat with a friend about whether or not there is any evidence for the historical Jesus. I think that there is none and my friend thinks there is mountains. The 'debate' almost immediately devolved into an "I'm right! no I'm right!" sort of thing. So I demanded he stop on the condition I get him sources and evidence at a later time and he's the sort who might care about such things so I'm going to do it.

My first idea is to buy him a copy of one of Richard Carrier's books on the topic as that seems more authoritative than a link to rationalwiki's article on the subject. But I was wondering if anyone here might know of a good overview of the question/subject of "do we have solid evidence for Jesus?". Something that might be a good starting point.

Thank you for any ideas or suggestions.

Also, if you know of someone who has proved Jesus is real I'd like to know that instead, so I can not be wrong in the future.


The most radical new views on this are from Joe Atwill in Caesar's Messiah and Ralph Ellis who has written a number of e-books on the subject. Both say that the New Testament was written after and about the Jewish Revolt of 63-67 AD. Both say there was an historical figure on whom "Jesus" was based. Atwill says that this figure was Eleazar, a Rabbi from Galillee. Ellis says it is Jesus of Gamala who he identifies as also named "Izates Manu Monobasus", a king of Edessa in what is now southern Turkey and called "Sanliurfu", the supposed birthplace of Abraham.

I would say more but some folks here just get hysterical when these names are mentioned. The generally accepted view is that there was a historical figure behind the name. My own view is that Atwill and Ellis are on the right track in saying that he was not a figure from the 30's AD but from the later period of the Jewish Revolt. I have also read somewhere that he was the Teacher of Righteousness who I think was a figure who was around in the 60's AD. I think a lot of people here are mythicists who say Jesus was never more than a myth but this whole approach to the subject is of very recent origin and doesn't explain adequately, in my opinion why we have records of the Egyptians making up god figures like Serapis, who was clearly mythological, why there are no similar records or evidence of an effort to construct yet another myth.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: