Historical fact vs Faith Reasoning

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Discussion by: karatematt

Presupposing the historical veracity of the Christ figure as a teacher, a religious leader, an iconoclast, and (most importantly) a human man, what evidence acutally exists for assuming the supernatural miracles ascribed to this one man based off of the very tenuous evidence of his existence? Being aware of confirmation bias, poor eye-witness testimony, degradation of supposed historical fact over several decades (possibly centuries), and the desire of a nascent church to control the information that gets disseminated to its followers, how can one assume anything about the supposed miracles of early Christianity? What are the overwhelming facts that apologists argue from and why isn't faith the final answer, for them, even when it's clear their making leaps in their fact checking?

What authors discuss this topic in detail, beside Ehrman? Apparently, his arguements aren't good enough for some apologists…

 

152 COMMENTS

  1. The argument I see most focuses on Jesus’ followers. Why would they stay Christians after Jesus died unless they really saw him rise from the dead.? I mean Jesus failed, he was killed but something convinced all of his followers that he really succeeded. (I’ve all ways thought that being the messiah that succeeds by getting killed is a lot easier to achieve then being the messiah who succeeds by overthrowing the Roman empire) And also why would they be willing to die unless he was truly the messiah?

    I’ve never found any of those arguments very compelling and I think you’ve got to ignore a lot of other known cults to think those are great reasons to believe.

    Harold Camping for example still has followers even after the spectacular failure of his doomsday prophecy. And there is Warren Jeffs, who told his followers that he was a great prophet of god who was going to lead the world into a new golden age but now he’s in jail for child sex crimes so his followers dropped him like a bad habit right? Nope.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/05/warren-jeffs-guilty-verdict-leaves-flds-flock-in-denial-confused.html.

    Some of the his members think he’s the US president. And this is in 2013.

    The Heaven’s Gate members, many of whom were well educated, choose to kill themselves in hopes of hoping aboard an alien space ship. And they’re not the only cult who were unafraid to die for their beliefs. Some might say that these groups were no where near as successful as Christianity, which would be a better argument if we didn’t know about other ancient religions that had millions of followers, or if Christianity was at least the only contemporary religion with millions of followers, but it’s not.

    I hate to quote a movie but I think the phrase “‘never underestimate the power of denial” is quite apt for this discussion. These cult members invest their whole lives into these beliefs, it’s what keeps them going and I can imagine Jesus’ followers asking themselves, do I want to go back to believing I’m a dirt poor peasant with only a life of hardship and pain ahead of me, or I do I want to believe that even though Jesus was killed, he really was the Messiah and my days of suffering are almost over?

    • Ah.. I’ve heard of that Warren Jeffs guy. Bad dude, he was.

      Anyway, you brought up a few cults and there have been many over the centuries. Mormonism, for example, and scientology were both started by known con-artists, yet they have massive followings. Clearly, the claims of scientology are total science fiction and golden plates? Up until the 1970′s, I believe mormonism considered darker skinned humans to bare the mark of Cain.. Considering how asinine all of this is, it’s a wonder these religions still have ANY adherents, yet people are foolish enough to believe with ferver the claims made by both.

      Now, if this seems to be the general trend of religions, why is it so far-fetched to consider Christianity in the same light? Claiming that Jesus was resurrected into a new body, in heaven, is far more easily believed than the claim that he actually rose from the dead. Especially, when these miracles seemed to have only happened for this one person, during this one specific time period. They can’t be historically verified but they have been claimed by his followers on down the centuries. I have always found it frustrating that there are special circumstances regarding Christianity, but for no other surviving religion. The unbelievable nature of these extenuating circumstances is only exacerbated when apologists agree with the weakness in all other religious claims barring theirs…

      Thanks for the reply.

      In reply to #1 by Ryan1306:

      The argument I see most focus on Jesus’ followers. Why would they stay Christians after Jesus died unless they really saw him rise from the dead.? I mean Jesus failed, he was killed but something convinced all of his followers that he really succeeded. (I’ve all ways thought that being the Messiah t…

    • The real problem in your positon is that Jesus had to become a supreme ruler to be a Messiah. But that will come in due time. But Jesus mission was not to come and rule at this time. His mission was quite different. He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” He had to die on the cross for “crimes” or “sin” that man commited against God the Father. There was only one person that could die for the sins of the world, Jesus Christ, a person who was sinless to pay for others sins.

      In reply to #1 by Ryan1306:

      The argument I see most focuses on Jesus’ followers. Why would they stay Christians after Jesus died unless they really saw him rise from the dead.? I mean Jesus failed, he was killed but something convinced all of his followers that he really succeeded. (I’ve all ways thought that being the messiah…

    • In reply to #1 by Ryan1306:

      “The argument I see most focuses on Jesus’ followers. Why would they stay Christians after Jesus died unless they really saw him rise from the dead.? I mean Jesus failed, he was killed but something convinced all of his followers that he really succeeded. (I’ve all ways thought that being the messiah that succeeds by getting killed is a lot easier to achieve then being the messiah who succeeds by overthrowing the Roman empire) And also why would they be willing to die unless he was truly the messiah?”

      I think this must be in some YEC handbook, YEC indoctrination course, a talk by Lee Strobel, or creationist web-site. I have seen this wish-thinking trotted out word for word by sheeple “faith thinkers”, on various occasions.

      • In reply to #144 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #1 by Ryan1306:

        “The argument I see most focuses on Jesus’ followers. Why would they stay Christians after Jesus died unless they really saw him rise from the dead.? I mean Jesus failed, he was killed but something convinced all of his followers that he really succeeded. (I’ve all ways thought that being the messiah that succeeds by getting killed is a lot easier to achieve then being the messiah who succeeds by overthrowing the Roman empire) And also why would they be willing to die unless he was truly the messiah?”

        I think this must be in some YEC handbook, YEC indoctrination course, a talk by Lee Strobel, or creationist web-site. I have seen this wish-thinking trotted out word for word by sheeple “faith thinkers”, on various occasions.

        Not just YEC’s Alan…in a debate going on with RC’s on another forum, the subject is “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” (Salus extra ecclesiam non est). In other words, you will go to Hell if you are not a Catholic…with some subsequent amendments. This idea was hijacked by early church fathers and adapted, it is a sure fire coercion tactic to get any dissenters on board.

        In Richard Carriers “Not the Impossible Faith”, he details how Christianity could just as easily worked out without a real figure at the core…more so in fact. Mythical figures take on the attributes invested in them by their creators. No chance of some busy body contemporary historian pitching up with a treatise debunking the central figure with some firsthand detailed knowledge of a scandal or two. These kind of problems are evident in real person religions…Mohammad, Joesph Smyth, Ron L. Hubbard…all have had bad press because of their history and look how they’ve managed to proceed. When your central figure has been made up by yourself out of whole cloth that is as pure as the driven snow, you are definitely onto a winner.

  2. From Ryan1306
    “These cult members invest their whole lives into these beliefs, it’s what keeps them going and I can imagine Jesus’ followers asking themselves, do I want to go back to believing I’m a dirt poor peasant with only a life of hardship and pain ahead of me, or I do I want to believe that even though Jesus was killed, he really was the Messiah and my days of suffering are almost over?”

    I think Ryan gets to the core of it here. It’s a state of mind similar to that of people who’ve lost loved ones in an unjust war who continue to deny the unjustness of the war. No one wants to admit they’ve been complete fools and thrown away a good part of their lives following a lie. Not to peddle my own wares here, but it so happens I wrote a whole novel about this very subject: Sarah, Son of God, in which a very nice man called Jesus died on the cross, realizing HIMSELF that he had been deluded, but his disciples had so much invested in his divinity that they were convinced by a rather ridiculous con that he had risen — and so carried on.

    But even that is a fantasy. There is no real evidence that any such person as Jesus existed, any more than Moses or Abraham.

  3. I’ll attempt an observational view here ie try to set aside my atheism for a few moments.

    A website*, picked more or less at random from Google, makes ten points to support miracle stories, which perhaps boil down to three or maybe two.

    a) The miracle stories themselves as evidence: they are (said to be) written as historical narrative, not myth and too soon after the events for myth to have crept in: they are (said by scripture) to be based upon eye witness evidence

    b) The miracles stories are backed by wider evidence: of the existence of God (making any miracle possible) and the authority of scripture as a whole.

    c) Related to (b) above, doubting miracle stories undermines wider aspects of faith: the divinity of Jesus; the basis for belief in personal resurrection and salvation; the wider authority of scripture and hence the power of Christianity.

    The last perhaps makes explicit the concern to maintain authority and power over what is believed and over people’s actions. I’d like to suggest that the first point, referring to scripture for its own authority, links to the others through an essentially Protestant, perhaps specifically Evangelical approach to Christianity: namely that faith must be self sustaining, or at least not referring to institutional authority through believers making direct reference to scripture for the miracle stories and then linking these to their other personal beliefs based upon scripture .

    This approach makes for a very personal investment of mental as well as emotional energy – and usually wider personal commitments to church social life and support. These beliefs in miracles thus become enmeshed, or if you prefer bound into, a person’s own and wider self-sustaining beliefs and life. By focusing on scripture alone as the authority and personal reflection (albeit guided by a local minister, congregation or wider websites), beliefs can operate in isolation. This might go some way to explain both the strength of these beliefs and the rejection of contradictory accounts.

    I might be wrong in my ‘evangelical’ inferences here ie ‘www.faithfacts’ might be a Catholic or other Orthodox website – but if I’m right it would be interesting to compare views. Though post Counter-Reformation and post Vatican II, Catholic and Evangelical views of miracles might not be so different to these, I think Catholicism does put more weight on Church authority and medical evidence etc for modern miracles (see Lourdes).

  4. Presupposing the historical veracity of the Christ figure as a teacher, a religious leader, an iconoclast, and (most importantly) a human man, what evidence acutally exists for assuming the supernatural miracles

    I’m inclined to agree with Ehrman that it’s impossible to have evidence for supernatural events. Occam’s razor is always going to come down on the side of a more plausible natural explanations. Maybe there was interference from aliens, maybe time travellers from the future came back and interfered, maybe some alien kid somewhere is running Sim-Universe, maybe wizards are still living amongst and Jesus was one of them … OK all unlikely but less unlikely than a God who interferes randomly with the Universe to make miracles.

    More plausible than any of these of course is that stories got made up like they always do.

    Michael

    • In reply to #5 by mmurray:

      Presupposing the historical veracity of the Christ figure as a teacher, a religious leader, an iconoclast, and (most importantly) a human man, what evidence acutally exists for assuming the supernatural miracles

      I’m inclined to agree with Ehrman that it’s impossible to have evidence for supernatura…

      I would think it is quite easy t have evidence of the supernatural. If the supernatural can interact with the natural in a none natural way, we would be able to detect this none natural interaction and claim it to be the work of supernatural. Something that has never happened. If the supernatural never interacts with the natural then it is not supernatural it is just super.

  5. People believe what they want to believe. I tried to have a conversation with a xtian friend recently about faith and proof, using the story of the Flood and Noah as an example. Our discussion basically boiled down to her admitting she didn’t care whether or not there was proof, or even whether it was true. The important thing (for her) was that she held it to be true.

    So I then put it to her that there are lots of different mythical belief systems, lots of supposed miracles from different faiths. I phrased my point ‘surely if you accept one type of miracle as ‘true’ without any evidence, then you must have an open mind to other phenomena of this kind’.

    Her response? “No”.

    And that was that. In essence; ‘I believe what I believe is true because I want to believe it’. There’s no reasoning with that sort of mind. Proof or lack therof is completely irrelevent.

  6. Mike & Bob (Comments 5&6) make excellent points.

    Once someone has invested so much – personal credibility and reputation, time and energy – as someone who describes themselves as an Apologist, ‘Scholar’ of Religion, Priest (or whatever), or Theologian forget it. These people do not have open minds – they will obfuscate, lie and dissemble ’till the cows come home.

    Jesus was probably a real guy. The fact that he was charismatic is evidenced by the fact that his Sect perhaps of as many as a hundred Jews outlasted his death. From what little fact has come down to us he appears to have been attempting to revive the Cult of the ancient Egyptian Pharoh Akhenaten who’s central religious message had been the first monotheism ‘Not about war, but peace – life is not about suffering, but love. First do no harm.’ Basically Jesus liked Akhenaten’s hippie philosophy.

    Jesus’ disciples kept the Sect up-and-running, as disciples do. As Ryan notes, Comment 1, it’s in the job description. The Old Testament – written up stories many of which came from earlier civilisations like the Summerians – was just part of the Sect’s roots.

    Then Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul) came along and opened up the Sect to non-Jews and the few remaining disciples started to get around to finding people who could write for them to make notes. Naturally, the methods they had used to continue milking the followers – sorry; continue growing the Sect’s numbers after the death of Jesus included revealing that he was the Christ, yaddah yaddah yaddah …

    At which point the Christians came up on the Romans’ political radar. Then, after making fun for a while, the Emperor Constantine spotted an opportunity to undermine the priests of the old established Roman religions of the Empire and did a deal with the top Christians: “Merge your Jesus cult with Dionysus (a.k.a. Bacchus – born to a virgin mother on December 25th, performed miracles such as changing water into wine, given epithets such as ‘Only Begotten Son’ and ‘Savior’, died and was resurrected after three days and ascending into heaven), and I’ll make you rich and powerful beyond your wildest dreams”, he said.

    The rest, as they say, is history. True, the disciples having split up as they wandered about skimming, sorry proselytising, meant their stories didn’t match, and the merger left some lose ends – but a couple of priestly meetings sorted out the most obvious problems and they continue to use smoke and mirrors for the rest.

    For Islam basically ditto – except that someone helped out Mo by basically taking the bible stories and adjusting slightly to suit. Plus they learned from the Christians and the priestly meetings burned old evidence to make newer versions of the Koran more ‘true’ – and the people in charge weren’t Roman, they were Arab – which is why the only true Koran is written in Arabic.

    After all this time that’s as close to the truth as anything you’ll find in any bible, koran, or theologian’s tract.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #7 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Mike & Bob (Comments 5&6) make excellent points.

      Once someone has invested so much – personal credibility and reputation, time and energy – as someone who describes themselves as an Apologist, ‘Scholar’ of Religion, Priest (or whatever), or Theologian forget it. These people do not have open minds…

      -applause-

    • I see where you’re going, here, about the remaining disciples and very early church leaders acquiring secretaries to write down the story of this man- a story that was buried under at least several decades of time. Not to mention, that the NT, as we know it, was actually compiled much later, by the nascent church. It’s far easier to see how information could’ve been invented or memories sensationalized the way they usually are, than it is to make sense of this story in terms of actual miracles. We know from, at least, the last 2000 years of history how POVs can be misrepresented, information added, subtracted, not recalled in the right way, etc ad infinitum, and we have proof of it! Ehrman, Richard Carrier (who is apparently frowned upon by apologist the world over), and even biblical scholars admit to this, yet they say that, in this case, the miracles did happen. This is usually when you hear a palm hitting a forehead.

      Thanks for the reply.

      In reply to #7 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Mike & Bob (Comments 5&6) make excellent points.

      Once someone has invested so much – personal credibility and reputation, time and energy – as someone who describes themselves as an Apologist, ‘Scholar’ of Religion, Priest (or whatever), or Theologian forget it. These people do not have open minds…

  7. The historian I have found most helpful on the question of the historical Jesus is Geza Vermes, who has written a few books on the subject. In particular, I recommend his books Jesus the Jew and The Changing Faces of Jesus to anyone who wants the benefit of a well-researched historical investigation of this man Jesus. In general, Professor Vermes has striven to reveal Jesus in his native first-century Jewish setting. Pace Justinesaracen at #3, historians mostly regard Jesus as a real man of history, glimpsed at through careful analysis of New Testament writings, relevant Jewish writings, and broader historical information of the period and location. What Professor Vermes proposed as the historical Jesus was rather unlike the Jesus believed in by Christians, but then historians and religious believers have very different objectives.

    • Much obliged for the book suggestions!

      In reply to #8 by Cairsley:

      The historian I have found most helpful on the question of the historical Jesus is Geza Vermes, who has written a few books on the subject. In particular, I recommend his books Jesus the Jew and The Changing Faces of Jesus to anyone who wants the benefit of a well-researched historical investigation…

  8. Lots of scholars have shown the historical antecedents for the supernatural events described in the bible coming from earlier pagan and mythological sources.
    Angels and demons, heaven and hell, virgin births and divine parentage are all found in either Greek, Persian,Babylonian or Egyptian mythologies.
    The hero born of virgin mother to a divine father seems to be an almost obligatory story for cults of this period.

    There are no historic accounts from the time in question to support any of these events, from the romans or anyone else.
    The first writings we have come from Paul and even he does not mention any of the supernatural events described but describes Jesus as being almost allegorical, rather than a real person.
    Its almost three decades after the supposed events before the first accounts are written and these are by people who are already in the first christian cult- not exactly an unbiased source of information.

    This is not an illiterate age. Although it was the preserve of the wealthy, historians and chroniclers are writing about all sorts going on in the reign of Augustus. The fact that no one mentions some of the more dramatic events depicted in the bible (like the undead walking the streets of Jerusalem on the day of the cruficixion and the temple veil rending) is very telling .

  9. Hi karatematt,

    I recently watched a great tear-down by Steve Shives on youtube of Geisler and Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” which has chapters relevant to this topic (video playlist is here). See chapters 8-10 specifically, but it’s all worth watching IMO. Also of possible interest is his critique of Lee Strobel’s, “A Case for Christ” (playlist is here).

    I’d be interested to know if anyone can point to any other similar material.

    • I have watched the Strobel series and it is excellent proof of God. He even started his quest of God to disprove his wife’s new faith in Christianity. yet, in the process, proves it even greater. Great comment.

      In reply to #14 by Mister T:

      Hi karatematt,

      I recently watched a great tear-down by Steve Shives on youtube of Geisler and Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” which has chapters relevant to this topic (video playlist is here). See chapters 8-10 specifically, but it’s all worth watching IMO. Also of possible in…

    • Always love the video bits as I don’t have loads of time to read anymore, so much appreciated.

      In reply to #14 by Mister T:

      Hi karatematt,

      I recently watched a great tear-down by Steve Shives on youtube of Geisler and Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” which has chapters relevant to this topic (video playlist is here). See chapters 8-10 specifically, but it’s all worth watching IMO. Also of possible in…

  10. You make great asserations which are just false. Your whole statement is a sad farse. As an apologists for the One True God let me help you see your error, if you can see things with an open mind. This is probably too difficult for men that are so enveloped in their thinking. Men are like an onion that has to have layers and layers of their thinking changed, and that is only done by evidence and time. So let us see if you really want to know truth or prop up what you believe to make yourself feel secure in your “beliefs.”

    1) This “tenuous” evidence of his existence is more profound than most cases that are decided in a court of law. There is only a need of 2,3 or 4 witnesses to find enough evidence for a verdict

  11. of true and clear judgment. In Jewish culture they corrected and maintain their practices in a very strict manner. Older Men sat at the gates of the city and repeated historic events and corrected one another if there were any errors. Secondly, the Jewish people were so concerned about the Old Testament Torah that they memorized passages in 250,000 character portions. So they could later transper that information to parchment. As to the witnesses there were not just a few but over 500 WITNESSES that saw Jesus after his death and resurrection. A overwhelming preponderance of proof.

  12. But let us consider other evidences of his existence. Romans had people document the history of the conquered lands to make an historical account of what happened during their reign. The “Works of Josephus” are a collection of statements about various apostles (followers of Jesus Christ who had seen him personally) and Jesus Christ statement of death and supposed resurrection. This is a quote from him. Plus he claims that people witnessed such various miracles. Constantine, ruler of Roman, a christian himself made the gregorian calender and name its focal point ANNO DOMINI “the year of our Lord” the birth of Jesus is the starting point A.D. and B.C., Before Christ.

  13. Your evidence is so POOR, it is like stating that the founding Fathers of America did not make the Constitution. Lincoln did not cause the 13th Amendment to come to pass with the aid of Congress. That Mozart did not compose the great music he did. Just because you are closer or farther from the events does not make the proof any less valid. Yes, it is difficult and one may question the validity of documents so old, but the “Dead Sea Scrolls” found in 1967 had HUNDREDS of documents that confirmed the Bible message. There are over 25,000 documents that prove the Bible. How many are their of the constitution? One? And yet we still firmly believe the origin of its message. No, Your points are sadly week and full of falsehoods. Study up before you make such baseless accusations. Good day!

  14. Moderators’ message

    We have removed one comment which strayed over the boundary between argumentation and preaching. Arguing the case for Christianity is permitted, but preaching is not. Please see our Terms and Conditions – link at the foot of each page.

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    • Shame on you to say that this is a forum to discuss and a question of Christ being the Messiah which is prevalent throughout the Bible Scriptures. Thus, he questions his Messiahship due to not setting up a kingdom and I quote that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” Explaining that statement is needful. But don’t want to preach again. You might actually learn something as to the actual proof of such a statement. Bad Form!
      In reply to #21 by Moderator:

      Moderators’ message

      We have removed one comment which strayed over the boundary between argumentation and preaching. Arguing the case for Christianity is permitted, but preaching is not. Please see our Terms and Conditions – link at the foot of each page.

      The mods

  15. There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.
    I can refer you to “Did historical Jesus exist” by Jim Walker. http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.
    Also “Refuting Missionaries” by Hayyim ben Yehoshua. http://www.mama.indstat.edu/users/nizrael/jesusrefutation
    These sites refer mostly to biblical sources.
    However, forget Bart Ehrman. The author I rely on is the mythicist D.M.Murdock/Acharya S. who has several highly detailed, highly researched and completely logical books and essays. I can particularly recommend her “Suns of God”, and “Christ in Egypt (the Horus-Jesus Connection)”.
    Also I can recommend,in a similar vein, “Man made God” by Barbara G Walker.
    Jesus Christ, the last of the sun gods, is/was a composite of various earlier pagan gods, notably: Horus/Osiris, Attis, Mithra, Baal, Dionysis, Krishna, and Buddha.
    Like science, we have to look for the evidence.The logical explanation for religion is Mythicism.

    • In reply to #22 by labman:

      There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

      Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient world. It’s a real no-brainer (pun intended).

      As for specific accounts of miracles, Paul Barnett devotes a chapter to it in “Gospel Truth”. He points to things like the 5 sources underlying the gospel accounts as very strong historical evidence. He does a case study on the feeding of the 5000 in Mark and John. It’s pretty clear they’re written from 2 separate sources, but the key statistics all match. He suggests this is clear evidence for ‘multiple attestation’.

      There are 30 separate miracles reported in the gospel. Some of them have more evidence behind them than others. What’s most interesting, though, is that none of the gospels even attempt to argue that miracles are possible – it’s just assumed that these things happened. It seems the audiences the authors were writing for didn’t need convincing that Jesus did miracles – there was plenty of evidence around at the time (like eyewitnesses still living).

      • In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        In reply to #22 by labman:

        There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient w…

        Mate,

        Not so fast on that.

        There is absolutely NO eyewitness tesitmony for the living Jesus. Please tell me where you are getting this information. It is wrong. Who do you believe actually saw JC and wrote about him and what are your sources?

        This is simply wishful thinking on your part.

        The first of the NT writers, Paul, admits that he never met JC. Mark (whoever wrote that–it certainly wasn’t anyone called “Mark”) didn’t exist until 65-70 CE and all of the eyewitnesses would have been dead by then. And none could write Greek.

        So stop with the “I can tell you” and tell us where your authority comes from.

        • In reply to #31 by JHJEFFERY:

          There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

          i’d say there is evidence, on balance, that Jesus existed (mainly the New Testament), just that the evidence is not very good. But then, barring Emperors, artists, and other elite figures evidence for all ancient figures is usually fragmentary ie a mosaic of sounder evidence plus guesswork around the gaps. Even in the Gospels there are missing decades – they are not biographical. I think there was a mention of a Jesus-figure by a non-Christian writer (Josephus?). It does seems beyond reasonable doubt that within a few decades later, certainly a century, much was being written by followers who thought Jesus had existed.
          However, the miracle stories, visions etc are another matter – as said elsewhere, there are modern era apparent eye witness accounts that are totally unreliable. Mass suggestibility / ‘hysteria’ is recognised – then there is Derren Brown etc.

          • In reply to #43 by steve_hopker:

            In reply to #31 by JHJEFFERY:

            There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

            i’d say there is evidence, on balance, that Jesus existed (mainly the New Testament), just that the evidence is not very good.

            The problem is not in finding some passing reference to someone with the name “Jesus”. It was a common name in those parts at that time. It is that the conflicting accounts were written decades or centuries after events at a time when literacy was rare.

            The whole area was over-run with Jewish itinerant preachers with small cult followings. It would be like now trying to track a preacher called “Jock” in Scotland, “Evans” in Wales, or “Tom, Dick or Harry”, in England, in the year 1700 without contemporary written records!
            You could even have a look for a few “saintly” historical Jesuses in Mexico today!

            It was during the first antidrug campaigns that the myth of Jesus Malverde, the original narco-saint, spread beyond the borders of Sinaloa. According to legend, Malverde was a 19th-century outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, was hanged for his sins, and then worked miracles from the grave. His cult took off in the 1970s, after a former street vendor, Eligio Gonzlez, began praying to him. Sitting outside the Malverde shrine in Culiacn, Gonzlez’s sturdy, relaxed, and unsmiling young son, Jesus, told me the story of the miracle. Eligio had been working as a driver in 1976 when he was knifed and shot in a holdup and left for dead. He prayed to Malverde, whose only monument at the time was a pile of rocks where his grave was said to be, promising to erect a proper shrine in Malverde’s honor if the saintly bandit saved his life. When he survived, he kept his word. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2010/05/mexico-saints/guillermoprieto-text

          • In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

            The problem is not in finding some passing reference to someone with the name “Jesus”. It was a common name in those parts at that time. It is that the conflicting accounts were written decades or centuries after events at a time when literacy was rare.

            There are numerous references to a Jewish person, called the Christ, who had a following and was executed:
            Mara bar Serapion (c. 73),
            Josephus,
            Tacitus,
            Pliny the Younger,
            Suetonius,
            The Talmud,
            and Lucian (though we are starting to stretch it here and venturing past decades and into centuries – I assume this is what you’re referring to, because any text in the Bible was written within decades of Jesus, not centuries).

          • In reply to #53 by MKBW:

            In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

            The problem is not in finding some passing reference to someone with the name “Jesus”. It was a common name in those parts at that time. It is that the conflicting accounts were written decades or centuries after events at a time when literacy was rare.

            There are numerous references to a Jewish person, called the Christ,

            There were numerous references to a “Christ” or “messiah” for centuries before that, in OT prophesies.

            who had a following and was executed:

            The Romans crucified thousands of perceived troublemakers.

            Mara bar Serapion (c. 73), Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, The Talmud, and Lucian (though we are starting to stretch it here and venturing past decades and into centuries – I assume this is what you’re referring to,

            Nope! I am referring to the First Council of Nicaea 325AD when the Bible gospels were cherry-picked and edited to suit the Roman bishops and the political agendas of the empire, – selecting from the assorted conflicting gospels (Gnostic Gospels ) of various Xtian cults. (Gospel of Judas ) etc.

            because any text in the Bible was written within decades of Jesus, not centuries).

            Nope! There was nearly 300years of folk-law before the edited version was written.

            Then there is the question of all the translations and mistranslations leading to English language versions of “THE BIBLE“.

          • In reply to #71 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

            Nope! There was nearly 300years of folk-law before the edited version was written.

            Even Wikipedia disputes your version of the council of Nicea.

            The church did not give scripture it’s authority. Scripture is scripture because it has authority, was accepted from the first as the Word of God, and is consistent with the teaching of Jesus.

          • In reply to #85 by MKBW:

            In reply to #71 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

            Nope! There was nearly 300years of folk-law before the edited version was written.

            Even Wikipedia disputes your version of the council of Nicea.

            The church did not give scripture it’s authority. Scripture is scripture becaus…

            It is my understanding that the Council of Nicea had to pick and chose the material to be included in the bible because of various inconsistencies and contradictions. If this is the select edition, the original manuscripts must have been a mess!

            You speak knowledgeably about biblical texts, but have you actually read it? In total, cover to cover? I don’t know how anyone could actually read the bible, and be impressed!

          • In reply to #85 by MKBW:

            In reply to #71 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

            Nope! There was nearly 300years of folk-law before the edited version was written.

            Even Wikipedia disputes your version of the council of Nicea.

            Really??? Did you have a link or quote???

            The church did not give scripture it’s authority.

            Really?? All those conflicting Coptic and gnostic gospels they chose from! All with their supporters claiming divine authority for their own versions and interpretations. – All very like the Xtian sects and cults of today.

            Scripture is scripture because it has authority,

            You have not explained which versions have “authority”, or why some have more “authority” than other versions, because they were chosen at Nicaea in AD 325.

            was accepted from the first as the Word of God,

            Evidence ?????? By whom?? Records??? … and which version of god? Then you would need some evidence of the existence of this, as yet undefined “god”!

            and is consistent with the teaching of Jesus.

            So the “teaching of Jesus” in your chosen version of “THE BIBLE”, is consistent with the “teaching of Jesus”, as you perceive it from listening to those who have read your chosen version of “THE BIBLE, or from your own reading of the stories, in your chosen version of THE BIBLE”! – - – You don’t see this as a circular argument perhaps, or notice that it is inconsistent with Roman historical records, or other “gospels”?

            http://gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html

            The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary “Gnostic Gospels” — texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define “orthodoxy” — scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth.

            The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library, completed in the 1970′s, has provided impetus to a major re-evaluation of early Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism. Readers unfamiliar with this history may wish to read an excerpt from Elaine Pagels’ excellent popular introduction to the Nag Hammadi texts, “The Gnostic Gospels”.

        • In reply to #31 by JHJEFFERY:

          There is absolutely NO eyewitness tesitmony for the living Jesus. Please tell me where you are getting this information. It is wrong. Who do you believe actually saw JC and wrote about him and what are your sources?

          Well, to say Eyewitnesses would all have been dead 50 years after an event is mistaken. But Paul (who never claimed to have met Jesus before the resurrection, but certainly claimed to have met the risen Jesus!) refers the Corinthian Christians to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive when he wrote (around 53-54AD). There were definitely Eyewitnesses.

          As I pointed out before, it’s clear there are 2 separate accounts of the feeding of the 5000 – Mark’s and John’s. Mark never claims to be an eyewitness, but reports eyewitness testimony. John, though, DOES claim to be an eyewitness, and his account is full of incidental detail you’d expect from an eyewitness account. What evidence is there against these observations? To simply dismiss it and say ‘people clearly made it up’ is not an historical argument.

          The numerous extra-biblical accounts of Jesus from only decades after his death also show beyond any reasonable doubt that he existed, taught, gathered followers, and was crucified.

          • Well, to say Eyewitnesses would all have been dead 50 years after an event is mistaken. But Paul (who never claimed to have met Jesus before the resurrection, but certainly claimed to have met the risen Jesus!) refers the Corinthian Christians to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive when he wrote (around 53-54AD). There were definitely Eyewitnesses.

            In the first place, the gospels do not pretend to be first person accounts of the life of Jesus. If an adult were present at the death of Jesus, he would have been in his 70′s when “Mark” (not written by, nor claimed to have been written by a disciple) was written. SInce the average life span was in the early 30′s, this would have been extraordinary–and particularly for one of the few “eyewitnesses” to have found his way to Mark to tell the story.

            Paul never claimed to have “met the risen Jesus.” What Bible are you reading. He had two visions of him in trances. (He was in the midst of a classic Gran Mal seizure,)

            As I pointed out before, it’s clear there are 2 separate accounts of the feeding of the 5000 – Mark’s and John’s. Mark never claims to be an eyewitness, but reports eyewitness testimony. John, though, DOES claim to be an eyewitness, and his account is full of incidental detail you’d expect from an eyewitness account. What evidence is there against these observations? To simply dismiss it and say ‘people clearly made it up’ is not an historical argument.

            Sure, there are two accounts of the 5,000. One written two generations after the fact! This is not 5.000 lies. It is two. John does not claim to have been an eyewitness. Why would he speak of himself in the third person? WHy would he wait 60 years to write the story? Are you serious? When did he learn to write in Greek? Was he really 95 when he wrote it? Are you serious? How can you possibly believe that?

            The numerous extra-biblical accounts of Jesus from only decades after his death also show beyond any reasonable doubt that he existed, taught, gathered followers, and was crucified.

            I don’t know if Jesus actually existed (and neither do you). But I guarantee you he did not rise from the dead. Somebody might have written it down before 65 CE.

            That’s just nuts.

          • Hi
            I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here….except this:

            “The numerous extra-biblical accounts of Jesus from only decades after his death also show beyond any reasonable doubt that he existed, taught, gathered followers, and was crucified”

            (Apologies if I’ve formatted wrong, it’s my first post).

            Actually, there really aren’t “numerous extra-biblical accounts”. There are three – Tacitus, Pliny the Younger & Josephus. None of them are eyewitness (none of the writers would have been alive at the same time as Jesus), none of them cite their sources and none of them actually manage to tell us anything about this Jesus at all. In the case of Pliny, he doesn’t even name him. Tacitus & Pliny merely confirm (at the beginning of the next century – so around 70 years after the death of Jesus) that Christians existed & that they worshipped Christ – and when it comes to Josephus ( who really OUGHT to be a superb witness) the only time Jesus/Christians are even mentioned in his vast work is in a single, 127 word passage which shows every evidence of being an outright forgery. (People often claim that Seutonius provides evidence – but he’s talking about someone called Chrestus — a common name at the time — who is inciting Jews to riot in Rome! This is clearly not Christ).

            There really isn’t any primary evidence for this Jesus person whatsoever. And, as someone else said, even Paul doesn’t provide evidence, since he doesn’t appear to know that he ever lived on Earth at all!

          • In reply to #56 by EllieA:

            Hi
            I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here….except this:

            “The numerous extra-biblical accounts of Jesus from only decades after his death also show beyond any reasonable doubt that he existed, taught, gathered followers, and was crucified”

            Actually, there really aren’t “numerous extra-biblical accounts”. There are three – Tacitus, Pliny the Younger & Josephus. None of them are eyewitness (none of the writers would have been alive at the same time as Jesus), none of them cite their sources and none of them actually manage to tell us anything about this Jesus at all.

            I’d first note that, yes, these are the 3 clearest references. Also, let’s be consistent in our analysis of these sources! For example, if you doubt what Tacitus says about Jesus, then you have to doubt to the same degree everything he says about everything else. It’s interesting to note that all these sources assume the historicity of Jesus – they don’t bother trying to refute it, because they know he was as real as the other people they report.

            In the case of Pliny, he doesn’t even name him. Tacitus & Pliny merely confirm (at the beginning of the next century – so around 70 years after the death of Jesus) that Christians existed & that they worshipped Christ -

            Pliny names “Christ”, to whom people sung “as if to a god”. This clearly tallies with the Biblical account of the spread of Christianity. It’s interesting to see Pliny, who is clearly opposed by the Christians, describe them so similarly to the New Testament.

            Tacitus digresses from his description of the Roman fire to describe a crucified Christ, who’s following spread just as the New Testament describes.

            …and when it comes to Josephus ( who really OUGHT to be a superb witness) the only time Jesus/Christians are even mentioned in his vast work is in a single, 127 word passage which shows every evidence of being an outright forgery.

            There are actually 2 references in Josephus. One is to James, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ. The other has obviously been tampered with, and its hard to say how much. Certainly, Josephus didn’t think Jesus rose from the dead. But he certainly seems to report a man crucified under Pontius Pilate.

            (People often claim that Seutonius provides evidence – but he’s talking about someone called Chrestus — a common name at the time — who is inciting Jews to riot in Rome! This is clearly not Christ).

            I don’t think you can say that it clearly isn’t Christ, because this account too fits with Acts 18. But you are right – it’s not clear that this is Jesus.

            There are also references by Mara bar Serapion (73AD), who references the wise king who was killed by the Jews (a description that fits no one else we know of) and the Jewish Talmud, which reports Yeshu being hanged at the passover for sorcery.

            There really isn’t any primary evidence for this Jesus person whatsoever. And, as someone else said, even Paul doesn’t provide evidence, since he doesn’t appear to know that he ever lived on Earth at all!

            There really isn’t much primary evidence for most people of the ancient world, let alone a carpenter! But I’m not sure why you say that about Paul – it’s quite clear he believed in a real Jesus whom he met after Jesus had died. I’ve already discussed the reliability of the gospel accounts in other posts as well.

          • In reply to #64 by MKBW:

            I don’t think you can say that it clearly isn’t Christ, because this account too fits with Acts 18. But you are right – it’s not clear that this is Jesus.

            Acts is a forgery.

            … and the Jewish Talmud, which reports Yeshu being hanged at the passover for sorcery.

            The Talmud is 2 centuries after the alleged event and is useless as an historical reference.

            There really isn’t much primary evidence for most people of the ancient world,…

            More balderdash I’m afraid. You really need to revise your understanding of what historical methods really are…in this case, what “primary source” means.

            …let alone a carpenter!

            The problem is, he wasn’t just a carpenter though was he? In fact, the NT doesn’t even say he was a carpenter, but that’s another debate. This guy was running around the Palestinian Levant allegedly raising the dead, curing the afflicted, feeding multitudes out of one persons picnic, walking on water, casting out demons, turning water into wine and various other altogether extraordinary feats…yet no one thought it prudent to make a note of it. Not even within the small circle of alleged followers…not for some 40-60 years and only then by some anonymous authors who heard the stories who knows how many hands later. No one outside the circle, contemporary or later, makes a reference to any of these wondrous things, so secret they must have been…not. Not a single word about a resurrected Jewish teacher is found in any works of the first century, bar a handful of religious texts written 20 to 90 years after the so-called occurrence, and you don’t find that at all peculiar?

            • it’s quite clear he believed in a real Jesus whom he met after Jesus had died.

            Met in a vision…which is another word for a dream. Who says Paul met Jesus in a vision? Paul! Well that’s okay then because Paul has no reason to lie, has he? After all, the bible and the NT in this particular case is all about the truth, except it is chock full of lies, and demonstrably so. Something the experts agree on…indeed, even the religious experts agree on…as evidenced when taught to potentials at seminary school.

            Have you read the pseudo Clementine treatise known as the “Homilies” which polemicizes against Paul and his sect in favour of Peter and his. Not everyone in early Christendom thought Paul was all that ya know.

            I’ve already discussed the reliability of the gospel accounts in other posts as well.

            Not convincingly though.

            Reliability, like in the interpolated ending to Mark? Or the Pericope Adulterae in John? Or what about the two completely fabricated and contradictory “Nativity” narratives in Luke and Matthew? Made up to fulfill prophecy. You mean those reliable accounts? Or the different versions of the yarn which leads up to and includes the crucifixion and resurrection, ya know the ones? The contradictory accounts that were passed on by those reliable eyewitnesses. No, the gospels are not reliable and they were never intended to be. They were not written to be accurate historical accounts, but have been taken up as such centuries after they were written. They are theological treatises.

            Here’s an idea…read a book by a real scholar on the subject. I’ve just finished “Forged” by Bart Ehrman…last night in fact, for the second time, he covers a lot of the misconceptions you seem to be having about the NT. Go on, I dare you to read it. Better still, get the audio book.

            Once you’ve read that…try “Misquoting Jesus”…or Richard Carrier’s “Not the Impossible Faith, Why Christianity Didn’t Need a Miracle to Succeed”.

          • In reply to #102 by Ignorant Amos:

            In reply to #64 by MKBW:

            I don’t think you can say that it clearly isn’t Christ, because this account too fits with Acts 18. But you are right – it’s not clear that this is Jesus.

            Acts is a forgery.

            Righto. That’s a new one.

            Here’s an idea…read a book by a real scholar on the subject. I’ve just finished “Forged” by Bart Ehrman…last night in fact, for the second time, he covers a lot of the misconceptions you seem to be having about the NT. Go on, I dare you to read it.

            “Real scholar”? I have read plenty of books by real scholars employed at secular institutions and respected in their fields. This is an appeal to authority if ever there was one. Have you read anything by one of these real scholars, say Paul Barnett?

          • In reply to #128 by MKBW:

            Acts is a forgery.

            Righto. That’s a new one.

            It might be new to you, but scholars in the field have no qualms with the theses. Even religious ones like Joseph B. Tyson is professor emeritus of religious studies at Southern Methodist University.

            Building on recent scholarship that argues for a second-century date for the book of Acts, Marcion and Luke-Acts explores the probable context for the authorship not only of Acts but also of the canonical Gospel of Luke. Noted New Testament scholar Joseph B. Tyson proposes that both Acts and the final version of the Gospel of Luke were published at the time when Marcion of Pontus was beginning to proclaim his version of the Christian gospel, in the years 120-125 c.e. He suggests that although the author was subject to various influences, a prominent motivation was the need to provide the church with writings that would serve in its fight against Marcionite Christianity. Tyson positions the controversy with Marcion as a defining struggle over the very meaning of the Christian message and the author of Luke-Acts as a major participant in that contest.

            Suggesting that the primary emphases in Acts are best understood as responses to the Marcionite challenge, Tyson looks particularly at the portrait of Paul as a devoted Pharisaic Jew. He contends that this portrayal appears to have been formed by the author to counter the Marcionite understanding of Paul as rejecting both the Torah and the God of Israel. Tyson also points to stories that involve Peter and the Jerusalem apostles in Acts as arguments against the Marcionite claim that Paul was the only true apostle.

            Tyson concludes that the author of Acts made use of an earlier version of the Gospel of Luke and produced canonical Luke by adding, among other things, birth accounts and postresurrection narratives of Jesus.

            “Real scholar”? I have read plenty of books by real scholars employed at secular institutions and respected in their fields.

            This is an appeal to authority if ever there was one.

            Again, your lack of understanding of some logical fallacies is either ignorant or asinine. This informal fallacy occurs only when the authority cited either…

            (a) is not an authority Ehrman is an expert in the field of historical biblical criticism.

            (b) is not an authority on the subject on which he is being cited. Ehrman is an expert on NT scholarship.

            If someone either isn’t an authority at all, or isn’t an authority on the subject about which they’re speaking, then that undermines the value of their testimony, which is not the case with my source.

            Then, irony of ironies…you commit the crime to which I’m accused.

            Have you read anything by one of these real scholars, say Paul Barnett?

            You mean this Paul Barnett?

            Ex Bishop of Sydney? He’ll have no bias in his scholarship then?

            It’s at times like these that I enjoy making this comment available…

            Donald Akenson, Professor of Irish Studies in the department of history at Queen’s University has argued that, with very few exceptions, the historians of Yeshua have not followed sound historical practices. He has stated that there is an unhealthy reliance on consensus, for propositions which should otherwise be based on primary sources, or rigorous interpretation. He also holds that some of the criteria being used are faulty. He says that the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars are employed in institutions whose roots are in religious beliefs. Because of this, he maintains that, more than any other group in present day academia, biblical historians are under immense pressure to theologize their historical work and that it is only through considerable individual heroism that many biblical historians have managed to maintain the scholarly integrity of their work.

          • In reply to #54 by JHJEFFERY:

            In the first place, the gospels do not pretend to be first person accounts of the life of Jesus. If an adult were present at the death of Jesus, he would have been in his 70′s when “Mark” (not written by, nor claimed to have been written by a disciple) was written. SInce the average life span was in the early 30′s, this would have been extraordinary–and particularly for one of the few “eyewitnesses” to have found his way to Mark to tell the story.

            Mark doesn’t claim that. John does. Luke claims to be thoroughly researched, and parts of Acts are clearly first person. Mark was written by 70AD. Jesus was crucified c.30-33AD. A 16 year-old would have been able to follow events, and so would have been around 55 years old when Mark was written. Considering the infant mortality rate and its affect on average lifespans, it’s pretty clear there would have been plenty of people around who remembered Jesus.

            But it’s important to remember how Mark actually came to be written – it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to the events. It’s not like a written account suddenly appeared in 70AD (Luke alludes to several other accounts) where eyewitnesses were fewer and harder to access!

            Paul never claimed to have “met the risen Jesus.” What Bible are you reading. He had two visions of him in trances. (He was in the midst of a classic Gran Mal seizure,)

            You seem to be sure of something I have never heard an expert suggest. 1 Corinthians 15 is pretty clear.

            Sure, there are two accounts of the 5,000. One written two generations after the fact! This is not 5.000 lies. It is two. John does not claim to have been an eyewitness. Why would he speak of himself in the third person? WHy would he wait 60 years to write the story? Are you serious? When did he learn to write in Greek? Was he really 95 when he wrote it? Are you serious? How can you possibly believe that?

            I’m a bit confused. John was written within 10 years of Mark i.e. by 80AD. Is it inconceivable that a man could live to 80 years of age? You ask “How can you possibly believe that?” Well, I don’t!

      • In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        In reply to #22 by labman:

        There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence,

        That would be like the “textual evidence and Hogwarts’ eyewitness accounts for Harry Potter’s magic”. You seem to be confusing stories, with Historical events!

        make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient world.

        Nope! Roman emperors:- coins, stone inscriptions, statues, contemporary documents, – towns etc. named after them.

        A specific itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus:- no contemporary eyewitness accounts, no documents written at the time. Only often conflicting STORIES, written tens or hundreds of years later to establish various cults’ mythologies!

        It’s a real no-brainer (pun intended).

        Yep! None out of ten for historical research!

        • In reply to #33 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #29 by MKBW:

          Nope! Roman emperors:- coins, stone inscriptions, statues, contemporary documents, – towns etc. named after them.

          A specific itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus:- no contemporary eyewitness accounts, no documents written at the time. Only often conflicting STORIES, written tens or hundreds of years later to establish various cults’ mythologies!

          For Tiberius Cesear (contemporary of Jesus), we mainly rely on Suetonius for information. Suetonius wrote about 80 years after the death of Tiberius – well out of range of the lifetime of an eyewitness.

          Mark’s gospel was written by 70AD – 35-40 years after the death of Jesus, and well within the lifetime of potentially thousands of eyewitnesses. Paul’s summary of the good news in 1 Corinthians 15 (written around 53-54AD) was handed down to him (hence was in circulation prior to this date), and appealed specifically to living eyewitnesses by name as well as pointed to the existence of close to 500 other living witnesses of the resurrection. This source is clearly within 20 years of the death of Jesus.

          I don’t doubt Tiberius existed, nor did I say there is more certainty that Jesus existed than literally anyone else. I do assert that we can know far more of Jesus than we can of Tiberius. And this is weird precisely because, as you point out, just some itinerant Jewish preacher!

      • In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient world…

        Mate, I can tell you that you are talking balderdash.

        But, like others here, I’d be interested to view your sources.

        I’d like to use another analogy if I may? A character from history, about 130 years ago in fact, which is about the same age as the earliest existing piece of Christian text dates to after the alleged events. Sherlock Holmes has been written about, depicted, rewritten about and re-depicted since his creation. By your standards, he is multiply attested to, has hundreds of eyewitness accounts, personal eyewitness testimony and other textual evidence making him probably the most certain person to have existed in the last century… NOT!

        Sherlock Holmes

        A man biographied in his own time giving us contemporary ‘eyewitness’ testimony. Repeated in books and editorials in his own time giving us multiple attestation. A man who was a world wide phenomena within 50 years of being first written about. A man who influenced forensic science. More than ya can say about Jesus.

        If historian’s 2000 years from now apply the same historical criticism that is accepted as good practice in the case of the historical Jesus by many today, Holmes is well on his way to being an actual historical figure.

        • In reply to #34 by Ignorant Amos:

          Mate, I can tell you that you are talking balderdash…

          Nope, because you haven’t reported accurately on the historical sources, or on contemporary perceptions of both Jesus and Sherlock Holmes.

          I don’t think Benedict Cumberbatch could do quite a good a job as Jesus than he does as Sherlock, either.

      • I suppose if I really had a vested interest in believing, I would be more willing to accept the arguments for miracles, too. But, just think of Joseph Smith, for a minute, he conned people into believing his story about angels, golden plates, and magic stones and now his branch of Christianity has millions of followers. Yet, we know, for a fact, that he was a con-artist and that he was only semi-literate. His story doesn’t even take place 2000 years ago.

        The fact is, what outside sources do exist from around that time don’t give Jesus’ story much verbiage. Only his followers do. Furthermore, Paul doesn’t really talk about Jesus’ supernatural powers and more than a few historians have commented on what Paul actually meant by resurrection.

        Lastly, there is no supporting evidence from after Jesus’ time. Evidence like continuing miracles or prophecy. All of this makes a much stronger case against the Christ figures miracle working, at least. It seems more likely that whoever Jesus really was- he wasn’t the son of God.

        In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        In reply to #22 by labman:

        There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient w…

        • In reply to #35 by karatematt:

          But, just think of Joseph Smith, for a minute, he conned people into believing his story…

          Lastly, there is no supporting evidence from after Jesus’ time. Evidence like continuing miracles or prophecy. All of this makes a much stronger case against the Christ figures miracle working, at least. It seems more likely that whoever Jesus really was- he wasn’t the son of God.

          The evidence for Jesus is considerably weightier than that for Joseph Smith’s claims!

          I’m sorry, but I don’t quite follow your last argument. Are you suggesting that, if miracles continued after Jesus in a significant way, then it would be more believable that he actually performed miracles? I suppose that would be true, but would also diminish hugely from the significance of Jesus’ miracles! You would just be saying “everyone did miracles then – what makes Jesus so special?”

          It is precisely because he is reported as a uniquely prolific miracle-worker that we can say “maybe he was actually who he said he was!”

      • In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        In reply to #22 by labman:

        There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient w…

        Mate… (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

        First off i’d be highly critical of an eye witness account claiming a miracle that happened yesterday, let alone 2000 years ago.

        As for multiple attestation, particularly your example of Mark and John providing 2 separate accounts of the feeding of the 5000…

        The gospel of John identifies it’s author as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”… the text doesn’t actually name the person who wrote it! So how did Paul Bennet conclude that “John” attested??

        • In reply to #36 by alistair.scott.71:

          In reply to #29 by MKBW:

          In reply to #22 by labman:

          Mate… (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

          First off i’d be highly critical of an eye witness account claiming a miracle that happened yesterday, let alone 2000 years ago.

          As for multiple attestation, particularly your example of Mark and John providing 2 separate accounts of the feeding of the 5000…

          The gospel of John identifies it’s author as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”… the text doesn’t actually name the person who wrote it! So how did Paul Bennet conclude that “John” attested??

          Haha – just trying to be friendly!

          I would be critical too. It seems clear to me that the miracles of Jesus, and specifically his resurrection, meet every historical criteria. Historically speaking, they happened. I’d need pretty convincing evidence for that miracle that happened yesterday too!

          You’re right – John 21:24 identifies the author as the one Jesus loved. A process of elimination (for example, using passages like John 21:1-3) means the author is almost certainly John, son of Zebedee. What IS certain is that the author claimed to be an eyewitness!

      • In reply to #29 by MKBW:

        In reply to #22 by labman:

        There is no historical veracity for Jesus Christ.

        Mate, I can tell you that multiple attestation, hundreds of eyewitnesses, personal eyewitness testimony, and other textual evidence, make it more certain that Jesus existed than virtually any other person in the ancient w…

        There is no testimony shakier than eyewitness testimony….look at all those Elvis sightings.

  16. There was a device for cars over here in Australia that was promoted by a well known racing car driver it was basically a magnet that was meant to improve fuel flow and performance. Many people swore by it in spite of it failing every scientific test people still choose to believe it was working for them. I think the main factor here was the price tag. The more you pay the more emotional commitment. If it was a $1.50 (it wasn’t worth even that), no-one would have doubted it was a cheap fraud, but pay $150…

    • In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:

      There was a device for cars over here in Australia that was promoted by a well known racing car driver it was basically a magnet that was meant to improve fuel flow and performance. Many people swore by it in spite of it failing every scientific test people still choose to believe it was working fo…

      Like those magnetic wristbands that improved balance for athletes. They were basically those $2 rubber wristbands sold for $50!

      Not many people swear by those anymore, though!

  17. There is NO evidence anywhere that the “miracles” of Jesus ever happened, there is NO evidence that Jesus ever existed, (Jesus of Nazereth, that is). The bible is just a book of stories, the fact that they are in a book does not make them fact. It says in Harry Potter that schoolboys can fly around on broomsticks, do you think they can?

    Paul

  18. Well karatematt… there simply is no reasoning in faith. The truth is that you can argue back and forth the whole day with a theist, and the theist will most likely tell you that historical veracity does not matter, but pure faith by itself.

    On the other hand, let me put it this way for you, karatematt: Would you convert if an archeologist found Jesus’ wine? If you are an atheist, you would probably be very skeptical and perhaps point out that in the Middle Ages people found chips from the cross, nails, thorns, shrouds and called them relics.

    The same way throwing evidence is not enough to make a theist renounce to his/her faith, I think that any legitimate conversion to atheism is, for the most part, an internal process of unbridled, private reason.

  19. Stephen of Wimbledon 7

    At which point the Christians came up on the Romans’ political radar. Then, after making fun for a while, the Emperor Constantine spotted an opportunity to undermine the priests of the old established Roman religions of the Empire and did a deal with the top Christians: “Merge your Jesus cult with Dionysus (a.k.a. Bacchus – born to a virgin mother on December 25th, performed miracles such as changing water into wine, given epithets such as ‘Only Begotten Son’ and ‘Savior’, died and was resurrected after three days and ascending into heaven), and I’ll make you rich and powerful beyond your wildest dreams”, he said.

    Steven, Not aware of your source here, but my take is a little different. First, I don’t know what “point’ you speak of. Constantine came along 300 years after JC. I do know that early historians, (Gibbon, Burchhardt) assigned political motives to Constantine for his converstion, but I don’t know of anyone who thought he was afraid of the pagan priests, who were unorganized and powerless. Nor I am aware of any attempt to meld Christianity with Dionysus, which would have been an odd pairing indeed. Constantine was born of Constantius, a sun god worshipper and undoubtedly was one himself. He held the lead of the sun god sect until he died.

    But I think the true answer is that Constantine’s conversion was genuine. Nothing he did after his conversion in 312 contradicts this (unless you count having his wife and child murdered). He asked to be baptized before he died in 337. As German historian Otto van Seeck responded to Burckhardt’s theory: “Show me a man of the fourth century who was not completely superstitious and I will subscribe to the prevailing theory.”

    Best

    JHJ

    • In reply to #44 by JHJEFFERY:

      Hi JHJEFFEY,

      Interestingly, my Grandfather’s name was J. H. Jeffrey.

      • I may be guilty of stretching a point or two – not unlike the authors of the Bible.

      • I didn’t use any sources, I wrote from memory – not unlike the authors of the bible (though I did at least use my own memory).

      • My history is superior to most of the Bible as it was not later heavily re-written (sorry: edited by the divinely-inspired, whatever that means) with a political agenda.

      The priests of established religions are not (were not) powerful? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

      History is bunk.

      Peace.

      • Stephen of Wimbledon 66

        Fascinating about your grandfather. I see he used the more common spelling.

        The priests of established religions are not (were not) powerful? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

        No, Steven, I really don’t think they were. There were many different varities for all the various gods, and they were disorganized. So while I’m sure there was an individual priest with some sway over leaders, the pagan religion had none. Leading up to the conversion of Constantine there was only one man of power: Diolcetian. He kowtowed to no priest, nor even the senate. And Constantine took over under the same circumstances. (That’s why they both set up their palaces as far from Rome as they could get.)

  20. In reply to #40 by Smill:

    In reply to MKBW, post 29. Alright, mate? … If you look at the Ancient Greeks…

    You’re suggesting that reports of miracles in texts specifically stated to be reports of events are literary devices taken from Greek literature? I’m not sure I agree with you.

  21. To MKBW

    “Paul’s summary of the good news in 1 Corinthians 15 (written around 53-54AD) was handed down to him (hence was in circulation prior to this date) “

    Hi MRBW, welcome to the site. I wonder how you can call Jesus’ impact on the world ” the good news” when the situation on Earth changed from people living their lives in hardship and dying to the overwhelming majority of people on Earth living their lives in hardship and then being tortured after they die for eternity for being born to the wrong parents.

    ;

    • In reply to #55 by Ryan1306:

      To MKBW

      “Paul’s summary of the good news in 1 Corinthians 15 (written around 53-54AD) was handed down to him (hence was in circulation prior to this date) “

      Hi MRBW, welcome to the site. I wonder how you can call Jesus’ impact on the world ” the good news” when the situation on Earth changed from people living their lives in hardship and dying to the overwhelming majority of people on Earth living their lives in hardship and then being tortured after they die for eternity for being born to the wrong parents.

      Hi Ryan,

      I called it the good news because that’s what Paul calls it in the passage.

      I’m not sure where you get your version of things. It’s certainly not the picture the Bible paints. The gospel (lit:’good news’) is that Jesus died in the place of other people so they can be reconciled to God.

  22. Hey karatematt,

    Lots of great stuff on this thread so far. I just thought I’d mention the foundational text on the subject of evidence for miracles, “On Miracles” by David Hume.

    It’s a great, essay-length work which lays out the standards of evidence which we should expect in order to establish a miracle.

    If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! It’s easy to find, but you can find it in “The Protable Atheist” anthology edited by Christopher Hitchens.

    • Thanks for the book suggestion. “The Portable Atheist” has been in my book cue for forever- I have a birthday coming up, so maybe I’ll treat myself. I’m aware of Hume’s “On Miracles” but I couldn’t quote it. However, in a previous debate I found myself entrenched in, I was told by two amateur biblical scholars that they had could reference actual miracles that even Hume would believe in. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued- but I never heard their evidence, so I was ultimately disappointed. While we can never really know for certain what magic Jesus and the other prophets of God supposedly worked, or what miracles actually happened, we have good reasons to believe they didn’t happen because of what we know today. The best evidence against miracles, I would say, is our knowledge of human psychology and how our minds can trick us into seeing things that we want to see, etc. Plus, we know of so many hundreds of cases where some miracle worker/ religious leader and/ or a miracle was proven false- yet people went on believing and even swore to the efficacy of these things. I was categorically denied for trying to bring up human psychology as an explanation for miracles. I was told that “ancient peoples had a serious oral tradition, which is why we can trust the biblical accounts.” I understand where this fellow was coming from but needless to say, I was stunned at his remark…

      Anyways, thanks for chiming in.

      In reply to #58 by BanJoIvie:

      Hey karatematt,

      Lots of great stuff on this thread so far. I just thought I’d mention the foundational text on the subject of evidence for miracles, “On Miracles” by David Hume.

      It’s a great, essay-length work which lays out the standards of evidence which we should expect in order to establish a…

      • In reply to #59 by karatematt:

        Thanks for the book suggestion. “The Portable Atheist” has been in my book cue for forever- I have a birthday coming up, so maybe I’ll treat myself. I’m aware of Hume’s “On Miracles” but I couldn’t quote it.

        The august website BrainyQuote has: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its’ falsehood would be more miraculous than that fact which it endeavours to establish’

        From what I recall, having read at least some of Hume’s essay, I think (!) Hume argued that since miracles are by definition extraordinary, whereas we usually accept that x leads to y after being told about many such incidences, when we are told x has led to z, against all expectations, the evidence needs enough strength to not just convince us that x ended up as z on that one occasion, but to overturn the expectations we have from being told that every other time x led to y.

        • In reply to #60 by steve_hopker:
          A fuller quote and source:

          “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior.[3]

          The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion”.

          David Hume (1748 [1910]), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X, ‘Of Miracles’, Part 1. (Harvard Classics Volume 37, 1910, Collier & Son: available from http://18th.eserver.org/hume-enquiry.html#10) accessed 13th May 2013).

  23. So far a most entertaining discussion. Whilst MKBW is willing to believe Jesus was a real person, based on pretty dam thin evidence, and then from hardly unbiased sources, I’m completely underwhelmed by it. You’d think a man / god who created the universe would have announced his presence in a more convincing way than Jesus did !

    As to Biblical miracles here’s one that could not possibly be true. Yaweh held up the sun for a day so that Joshua could continue with the slaughtering of his enemies. Quite apart from the fact that the Chinese were avid sky watchers and never mentioned this extraordinary event, the fact that the Earth is rotating at something like 1000 mph at the equator, the sudden loss of momentum would have had catastrophic results on the continents and any life anywhere near sea level. It never happened.

    If one miracle is patently wrong, why should I believe any of the others?

    • In reply to #65 by Mr DArcy:

      You’d think a man / god who created the universe would have announced his presence in a more…

      My view – for what it’s worth – is that there probably was a Messianic preacher called Jesus, such preachers were not uncommon.

      Even the gospels do not have Jesus make an unequivocal claim to deity – surely that was a retrospective text.
      But who knows? For Christians Jesus’s historicity is vital – not the same perhaps for the Buddha or Krishna, where the sayings and stories as stories matter more. How much later Greek and Roman formality and doctrine was overlain onto an a possibly more orientally oriented (!) teacher or mystic can hardly be known.

      Indeed, though sheer speculation on my part, given the syncretic nature of Christianity (bits of Judaism, Greek philosophy, Persian Mithraism) who’s to say ‘Jesus’ himself isn’t a composite of rabbi / guru stories?

  24. MKBW 61

    I’m a bit confused. John was written within 10 years of Mark i.e. by 80AD. Is it inconceivable that a man could live to 80 years of age? You ask “How can you possibly believe that?” Well, I don’t!

    John was written between 95-100. Even the NIV gives the date at 85-90. It strains credulity beyond any limits to believe that he was still running around and had learned to write Greek at that age.

    • Apparently, not if you believe in miracles! Don’t you that all the apostles and the early disciples had the gift of tongues…

      In reply to #69 by JHJEFFERY:

      MKBW 61

      I’m a bit confused. John was written within 10 years of Mark i.e. by 80AD. Is it inconceivable that a man could live to 80 years of age? You ask “How can you possibly believe that?” Well, I don’t!

      John was written between 95-100. Even the NIV gives the date at 85-90. It strains credulity b…

  25. MKBW 64

    BTW, I just checked with Gary Habermas, chief woo-woo doctor of the infamous Liberty “University.: I have him on my “favorites list” for just such an occassion, because Habermas is the most conservative born again theologian on the planet and would love to back all of the gospels up to the time of the cruxifiction. He puts the date of John at 95.

    • In reply to #70 by JHJEFFERY:

      MKBW 64

      BTW, I just checked with Gary Habermas, chief woo-woo doctor of the infamous Liberty “University.: I have him on my “favorites list” for just such an occassion, because Habermas is the most conservative born again theologian on the planet and would love to back all of the gospels up to the…

      I don’t know anything about Habermas. Historian Paul Barnett dates John to within 10 years of Mark. Even Wikipedia cites people dating it to as early as 50-70 (pretty generous!). The arguments in favour of a later date fail to explain the eyewitness nature of the account, nor rule out John as its author. Is it so inconceivable that a person could live to 90 years of age?

  26. The amusingly named pope Sixtus the fifth had the entire buybull rewritten no less than three times in the 1140s, as what they had, obviously wasn’t tying up with what they were peddling. So what people quote from is a medieval construct anyway.

  27. MKBW 64

    Pliny names “Christ”, to whom people sung “as if to a god”. This clearly tallies with the Biblical account of the spread of Christianity. It’s interesting to see Pliny, who is clearly opposed by the Christians, describe them so similarly to the New Testament.

    An interesting comment if only because it is so disengenuous. The only reason Pliny mentioned Christians is that, despite his long and far-reaching diplomatic service, he had apparently never heard of them when he got to Judea. This is completely contrary to your primary thesis.

    When you came on to this site did you expect to find people who knew as little about the Christian religion as you do?

    • In reply to #76 by JHJEFFERY:

      MKBW 64

      Pliny names “Christ”, …

      An interesting comment if only…

      Interesting that Tacitus has heard of the Christians, who apparently were blamed for a fairly large fire in Rome.

      To be clear, what the comment by Pliny shows is that Jesus was worshipped as God, and hymns were sung to him in Christian gatherings. That is what tallies with the Net Testament.

      • In reply to #88 by MKBW:

        In reply to #76 by JHJEFFERY:

        MKBW 64

        Pliny names “Christ”, …

        An interesting comment if only…

        Interesting that Tacitus has heard of the Christians, who apparently were blamed for a fairly large fire in Rome.

        To be clear, what the comment by Pliny shows is that Jesus was worshipped as God, a…

        Yes, In Cesarea if I remember. Early “hotbed ,”of Christianity. Only then did he even hear of them–and that was the point–one you again missed. Very few people believe the Tacitus story (source unknown) of the Christians being persecuted, or even known, in Rome in 64 CE. And yes, it is practically impossible to believe that John (whose original work was not named “John”) lived to be 90 and wrote Greek. This is beyond belief gullible.

        I don’t know of Barnett, but I can send you a bibliography of dozens of scholars who disagree. Go onto Habermas’ site and see. Please stop arguing out of ignorance. It’s very frustrating to me.

      • In reply to #88 by MKBW:

        An interesting comment if only…

        Interesting that Tacitus has heard of the Christians, who apparently were blamed for a fairly large fire in Rome.

        This is just not the case. Tacitus made reference to the crucifixion of Jesus by Pilate, but so what. Tacitus was born 25 years after the alleged event and wrote his annals in the 2nd century, so hardly a contemporary attestation is it? Tacitus had ample time to hear about the Christ yarn before writing what little he did write on the subject so unimpressed he must have been about what he did hear that he wrote so little. You must also understand how historians in antiquity carried out their discipline. They were nowhere near as fastidious in research as modern scholars. A hearsay account was more often than not, sufficient for purpose and there are many examples of just such a scenario throughout antiquity as I’ve recently discovered through study.

        In his Annals, Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 CE) writes that Christians

        “…derived their name and origin from Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, had suffered death by the sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate” (Annals 15.44)

        Two questions arise concerning this passage:

        Did Tacitus really write this, or is this a later Christian interpolation?

        Is this really an independent confirmation of Jesus’s story, or is Tacitus just repeating what some Christians told him?

        Some scholars believe the passage may be a Christian interpolation into the text. However, this is not at all certain, and unlike Josephus’s Testimonium Flavianum, no clear evidence of textual tampering exists.

        The second objection is much more serious. Conceivably, Tacitus may just be repeating what he was told by Christians about Jesus. If so, then this passage merely confirms that there were Christians in Tacitus’ time, and that they believed that Pilate killed Jesus during the reign of Tiberius. This would not be independent confirmation of Jesus’s existence. If, on the other hand, Tacitus found this information in Roman imperial records (to which he had access) then that could constitute independent confirmation. There are good reasons to doubt that Tacitus is working from Roman records here, however. For one, he refers to Pilate by the wrong title (Pilate was a prefect, not a procurator). Secondly, he refers to Jesus by the religious title “Christos”. Roman records would not have referred to Jesus by a Christian title, but presumably by his given name. Thus, there is excellent reason to suppose that Tacitus is merely repeating what Christians said about Jesus, and so can tell us nothing new about Jesus’s historicity.

        I think you meant to reference Suetonius in your remark who allegedly writes about Christians being accused of burning Rome, but really doesn’t.

        In his The Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius, writing around 120 CE, states:

        “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Emperor Claudius in 49 CE] expelled them from Rome.” (Claudius 5.25.4)

        Occasionally this passage is cited as evidence for Jesus’s historicity. However, there are serious problems with this interpretation:

        “Chrestus” is the correct Latin form of an actual Greek name, and is not obviously a mispelling of “Christus”, meaning Christ.

        The passage seems to imply that there was actually someone named Chrestus at Rome at the time. This rules out a reference to Jesus.

        Even if Suetonius is referring to Christians in Rome, this only confirms the existence of Christians, not the existence of Jesus. There is no doubt that there were Christians in Rome during the first century CE–this of course does NOT imply that Jesus actually lived during the first half of this century.

        Thus, Suetonius fails to confirm the historicity of Jesus.

        Again, even if the reference had any veracity, so what, the same criteria applies here as to Tacitus.

        To be clear, what the comment by Pliny shows is that Jesus was worshipped as God, a…

        Pliny doesn’t mention the character Jesus per se, just a group of religious fanatics he is having issues in dealing with…

        Pliny the Younger, writing near 100 CE, corresponded regularly with the emperor Trajan. In these writings, Pliny specifically mentions and describes the beliefs and practices of Christians in Asia Minor, and asks Trajan’s advice about what action to take against them, if any. However, Pliny’s writings provide no independent confirmation of the events of the New Testament, but merely show that there were indeed Christians living in Asia Minor.

        …also…

        In any event, the value of the Pliny letter as “evidence” of Christ’s existence is worthless, as it makes no mention of “Jesus of Nazareth,” nor does it refer to any event in his purported life. There is not even a clue in it that such a man existed. As Taylor remarks, “We have the name of Christ, and nothing else but the name, where the name of Apollo or Bacchus would have filled up the sense quite as well.” Taylor then casts doubt on the authenticity of the letter as a whole, recounting the work of German critics, who “have maintained that this celebrated letter is another instance to be added to the long list of Christian forgeries…” One of these German luminaries, Dr. Semler of Leipsic provided “nine arguments against its authenticity…” He also notes that the Pliny epistle is quite similar to that allegedly written by “Tiberianus, Governor of Syria” to Trajan, which has been universally denounced as a forgery.

        …the Taylor being cited here is one [Rev. Robert Taylor](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Taylor_(Radical) btw…a gamekeeper turned poacher.

        I just don’t get this whole nonsense about the slack handful of dubious references to Christians and a Christ figure outside the NT texts like it is some sort of grand proof that the sect was a well established religion and evidence for an historical Christ character as it’s influence. On the contrary, the fact that in the first 100 years of the sects existence there is nothing written of any substance on the subject outside the circular reasoning within the sects own texts, speaks volumes about how serious the rubbish wasn’t being taken by the populace in general.

        • In reply to #101 by Ignorant Amos:

          In reply to #88 by MKBW:

          This is just not the case. Tacitus made reference to the crucifixion of Jesus by Pilate, but so what. Tacitus was born 25 years…

          It’s interesting to see you be so critical of sources for the distance between the events and the writing of the source. The sources describing in detail the events were well and truly written by then. You seem to be implying this lends the biblical accounts historical veracity.

          I wouldn’t suggest Roman sources would refer specifically to Jesus himself – there wouldn’t be a reason to, as his “rebellion” was squashed early on. The 5 separate identifiable primary sources for Jesus are found in the Bible.

          • In reply to #127 by MKBW:

            It’s interesting to see you be so critical of sources for the distance between the events and the writing of the source.

            I’m critical because they do not fulfill the criteria of multiple attestation. A detail being missed in your commenting.

            This criterion cannot be used for sources that are not independent. For example, a saying that occurs in all three Synoptic Gospels may only represent one source. Under the two-source hypothesis, both the authors of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke used the Gospel of Mark in their writings; therefore, triple-tradition material represents only a single source, Mark. (The Augustinian hypothesis posits that Mark and Luke used Matthew, so once again triple-tradition material would have originated in a single source). Another limitation is that some sayings or deeds attributed to Jesus could have originated in the first Christian communities early enough in the tradition to be attested to by a number of independent sources, thus not representing the historical Jesus. Finally, there are some sayings or deeds of Jesus that only appear in one form or source that scholars still consider historically probable. Multiple attestation is not always a requisite for historicity, nor is it enough to determine accuracy by itself.

            The sources describing in detail the events were well and truly written by then. You seem to be implying this lends the biblical accounts historical veracity.

            That the cult of Christianity was known outside it’s followers is not in dispute. What is in dispute is who knew what about the cult. Was there Christian texts in circulation 20 years after the alleged events? Probably. So what. All religions can make the same claim. Does that give the texts veracity. Absolutely not and not even you would contend they do. The four dubious references to the Christian sect in the first 100 years is more of a problem to you than I, even if I grant you the references are to Christianity, which I’m not. That in the first 100 years of the sect just four scant and indirect references might have been made, tells us that no one outside the handful of adherents to the new Jewish sect gave two hoots enough to write anything substantial or comprehensive about the yarn being bandied about. Historians of the time knew little or nothing about this new God who the Romans executed for sedition, to give him any consideration in the libraries of texts from the first century…a wee bit strange don’t ya think considering what modern Christians believe about the beginnings of their faith?

            I wouldn’t suggest Roman sources would refer specifically to Jesus himself – there wouldn’t be a reason to, as his “rebellion” was squashed early on.

            What “rebellion” was that then?

            The 5 separate identifiable primary sources for Jesus are found in the Bible.

            They are not five primary sources. Again, your ignorance of definitions is surprising.

            Primary Source

            A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.

            Secondary Source

            A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them.

            Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.

            Development of the New Testament canon

            The books contained in the NT were not the only Christian texts being used by the various factions of the early church. History is told by the victors as they say…the Christian faith was no different.

  28. MKBW comment 61

    Your comment re Mark..”it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to events” doesn’t ring alarm bells? In your own experience of life, have you found that comments passed around 35 years after an event by eyewitnesses are very reliable?

    Maybe it’s just me.

    • In reply to #77 by Nitya:

      MKBW comment 61

      Your comment re Mark..”it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to events” doesn’t ring alarm bells? In your own experience of life, have you found that comments passed around 35 years after an event by eyewitnesses are very reliable?

      The point is that the accounts can be traced back to eyewitnesses to the events themselves.

      35 years ago a bomb exploded outside a hotel in Sydney. I wasn’t alive, but many eyewitnesses to events are still alive. If I was so inclined, I could quite easily find out from the witnesses alone what happened that day.

      • In reply to #89 by MKBW:

        In reply to #77 by Nitya:

        MKBW comment 61

        Your comment re Mark..”it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to events” doesn’t ring alarm bells? In your own experience of life, have you found that comments passed around 35 years after an event by eyewitnes…

        I suggest their recall (of the Hilton bombing) was enhanced because their testimonies were taken and recorded at the time. The written records would reinforce their memories. If events were just left to their memories,they would be far less reliable.

        You can put this to the test. If you have siblings, compare recollections of past events. In my experience, even extremely significant events in our family have been recalled very differently. The emphasis is placed in different places and whole sequences are “wrongly remembered”.

        To add to the recollections of witnesses to the Hilton bombings, there was an abundance of newspaper articles to help confirm their memories.

        A lot of weight can be put on eyewitness testimonies in legal cases, but it can in certain situations , be demolished by a skilled barrister. I’m trying to point out that the human brain can be easily tricked. Just because a number of witnesses can agree on a certain happening taking place, it may not be the actual case.

      • In reply to #89 by MKBW:

        In reply to #77 by Nitya:

        MKBW comment 61

        Your comment re Mark..”it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to events” doesn’t ring alarm bells? In your own experience of life, have you found that comments passed around 35 years after an event by eyewitnes…

        Well, I was alive, and remember the reports reasonably well. I’m afraid you’re missing my point! Newspaper articles were written at the time! Testimonies were recorded,at the time! These things reinforce the recollections of the eyewitnesses. Even then, they can still be wrong!

        I may be contradicted here, but I doubt that newspaper articles were written or testimonies taken and recorded at the time of biblical happenings. Even if they were, there is no guarantee of their veracity.

        By way of example, if you were reporting an act put on by an illusionist, it would appear that what you were seeing was in accordance with the actual event. However, you would not be factoring in misdirection, sleight of hand and the other tricks of the illusionists trade. I’m not saying that the crucifixion was a conjuring trick, but I am saying that reports of the risen Christ were dubious, to say the least.

        Your interpretations are substantiated by your belief! Believing something to be true, is absolutely no guarantee that it is thus. An effort is made to bolster this set of beliefs by supporting evidence though the evidence for these events is extremely shaky…and contradictory!

    • Nitya,

      I’ve had the same response to the supposed oral traditions of ancient cultures argument, and have been rebuked severely by the apologetic scholars. I understand that the oral tradition was probably really important back then, but it doesn’t excuse human psychology and error. I can accept that these people well recalling actual events about a beloved teacher. I can even believe that they think they saw some of the supposed miracles of the NT, but I find it hard to believe that they were recording actual miracles. Often times there is a big difference between what we think we have witnessed and what actually happened.. Now, despite all this, I find it difficult to get past the very real possibility that the gospels were heavily doctored before they made it into the mainstream…

      In reply to #77 by Nitya:

      MKBW comment 61

      Your comment re Mark..”it’s the result of oral traditions being passed around for 35 years by eyewitnesses to events” doesn’t ring alarm bells? In your own experience of life, have you found that comments passed around 35 years after an event by eyewitnesses are very reliable?

      May…

      • In reply to #120 by karatematt:

        Nitya,

        I’ve had the same response to the supposed oral traditions of ancient cultures argument, and have been rebuked severely by the apologetic scholars. I understand that the oral tradition was probably really important back then, but it doesn’t excuse human psychology and error. I can accept tha…

        I think Schliemann did the world a disservice when he validated the existence of Homer’s city of Troy. Ever since then, there has been the thought that oral traditions may contain at least a grain of truth.

        Instead of being considered a completely ficticious, people think that there just may be some truth in there somewhere. I’ll attribute the practice to the case of Troy, because any other explanation for people believing such tripe is truly depressing.

        • In reply to #121 by Nitya:

          I don’t think the assertation that most myths may have a grain of truth can really be held up in support of the reliability of oral sources in terms of the story of Jesus. If anything, it can provide a typical example of how myths can grown from a real event.

          The Troy analogy is a good one – finding the city proves that there was probably an element of the Iliad baed on real events, but that doesn’t prove that Zeus sat on Mt Olympus or that Pallas Athena joined in the fighting.

          I’d imagine most myths evolved from sort sort of history, so they show how real events can become magical, supernatural. Which is why even if conclusive proof of Jesus having lived were found, it wouldn’t make the case for his resurrection, walking on water, etc any more persuasive.

          • In reply to #122 by bob_e_s:

            In reply to #121 by Nitya:

            I don’t think the assertation that most myths may have a grain of truth can really be held up in support of the reliability of oral sources in terms of the story of Jesus. If anything, it can provide a typical example of how myths can grown from a real event.

            Had it not been for the fairly recent discovery of Troy, I think the current trend of looking for clues to validate the story may not have gained traction. It seems to me that there are constant searches for the Ark etc, but I may well be mistaken. Probably no connection, just thinking along those lines actually.

            The Troy an…

  29. In reply to #67 by JHJEFFERY:

    Hi JHJEFFERY,

    First off – I apologise for mis-spelling your name last time (typo). My name, by the way, is spelled Stephen.

    The priests of established religions are not (were not) powerful? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

    No, Steven, I really don’t think they were.

    [sigh]

    You can think whatever you like – do you have any evidence for your opinion?

    There are, admittedly, several problems with trying to identify the political influence of any religion. Rome adds other difficulties. They include, but are not limited to:

    • 1,200 years of history when Rome rose from being an obscure village in central Italy to the greatest empire in the ancient world. Clearly, their religions changed a great deal in that time.

    • Christianity, once on top, pursued pogroms against all non-Christian religions and philosophies – culminating in the oppression of the Inquisitions. History is written by the winners, and the losers are often misrepresented as a result.

    • Rome had the rather practical habit of adopting religions of regions it conquered – with the result that they had a lot, and that meant they looked rather like religions do today. They ranged from local folk myths and ‘spiritual’ worship, ancestor worship and basic animism on the one end of the range, and established (i.e. integral parts of the State’s calendar and institutions) religions with imposing temples and organised priesthoods with links to the political class at the other extreme.

    • Religious power is often defined by its ability to influence, rather than control.

    How to interpret Rome’s religions at the time of Constantine?

    From what little, independent, evidence survives we can say that while there were established religions like the Vestal Virgins, and the Priests of Jupiter being the best known, they probably leaned more towards the influential and well-connected kind of power as opposed to being in charge of things like road building or running military schools. They would know the people in charge, have access to them and have influence over them.

    The various religions of Rome almost certainly competed – rather like the various Christian groups do in the West today. But, when their interests were aligned …

    In addition, we can look for evidence of how power through influence works for religions today. This ranges from the political success of the US’ Moral Majority (as a political success at getting religion into politics and promoting religious candidates, an outstanding success – a modern lesson in what happens when religions find common cause … just like their Roman forebears) to the Church of England (established in a similar sense to the religions of late Pagan Rome – but probably not as powerful).

    If you really think it’s all that important here is a detailed treatment, by a Professor who should know about these things, of the astonishing rise of christianity (or, at least, it would be astonishing but for the intervention of the Emperor). It is not vastly different from my jottings from memory.

    This paper, from Bryn Mawr College, summarises a list of books that cover the area of interest. I’m not going to read them – but if, after you do, you find evidence from more than one that the priests of Pagan Rome had no power whatsoever, please feel free to take me to task again.

    Until then.

    History is bunk.

    Peace.

  30. Stephen of Wimbledon:

    History is bunk

    I know Henry Ford said this. All he was interested in was making profits from his car company. But what do you mean by this Stephen ?

    Clearly you don’t actually believe this throwaway remark ? If you do then I will have to disagree with you.

    • In reply to #80 by Mr DArcy:

      Hi DArcy,

      History is bunk

      I know Henry Ford said this … but what do you mean by this Stephen ?

      Thank you. I’m flattered that you think my opinion is worth requesting.

      My position is on record in this forum, but you would have to read a lot of comments to find it. History, it seems to me, can be viewed in two ways which at times can both confound each other and combine to reinforce each other:

      • History: The revisionism of past, inaccurately and incompletely recorded, events.

      • As Edmund Burke noted: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

      I simply wonder how valuable history really is – given its malleability.

      In more detail; while many historians attempt to record history accurately they are constrained by:

      • The very fact that history is the art of summarising. By definition, history must be about taking the Reader down a certain path. A relationship of trust – that the Reader is not being shown some things because they are not pertinent to the main story – is assumed. But did the Historian choose correctly?

      • Inaccurate sources (and necessarily subjective, and necessary, interpretations of sources)

      • Incomplete data

      • Political agenda (of witnesses, of those who made records, of editors and publishers, of politicians influencing recorders, historians, editors and publishers … )

      • The cultural, political and generational perspective of the Historian

      All of that comes before one of the main – if not the main – incentive or motivation of the Historian behind the writing of any history. Far too much history, it seems to me, is driven by a campaigning zeal to put one perspective over other, possibly more factual, interpretations of events.

      As anyone who has actually attempted to read, for example, Holocaust denial histories will tell you – Richard Feynman’s advice (“First, don’t fool yourself”) is easily ignored when writing history.

      Going back to the OP: Anyone who thinks that the Torah, Bible or Koran are accurate histories is not merely deluded, that’s not a strong enough word. Indeed, words fail me – such people have lost all contact with any reality that I am aware of, they really, really have.

      I was reminded of this quite recently when a journalist, presenting a retrospective on the life of the politician Tony Benn. Benn is famous for frequently, and publicly, noting the fact that he has kept ‘accurate’ diaries. The BBC journalist in question referred to a recent Benn pronouncement in which he claimed a certain discussion and outcome. The journalist (who was a major player in said historic conversation) said, simply: “That’s not the way I remember it”.

      We are far too ready to accept something simply because it is written down.

      So, in conclusion, I believed it to be important – on the above evidence – to remind people that history is never to be taken too seriously. Nothing says that more succinctly than:

      History is bunk.

      Peace.

  31. Stephen of Wimbledon 79

    In reply to #67 by JHJEFFERY:

    Hi JHJEFFERY,

    First off – I apologise for mis-spelling your name last time (typo). My name, by the way, is spelled Stephen.

    Worry not. Everybody gets it wrong.

    The priests of established religions are not (were not) powerful? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

    No, Steven, I really don’t think they were.

    [sigh]

    You can think whatever you like – do you have any evidence for your opinion?

    Quite a bit. I wrote my master’s thesis on it. If you will contact the mods, they will facilitate the transmission of my bibliography. Or, if you want, I can send you the entire thesis. The best modern scholars on the subject are H.A. Drake (“Constantine and the Bishops”) and Elizabeth DePalma Digeser (“The Making of a Christian Empire”). Also see T.D. Barnes and Mark Edwards. It was Drake’s early thesis that Constantine admired the organization of the Christians–a view from which I think he has now receded. Digeser’s is probably the most concise work. Recommended. Along with my own :).

    • In reply to #83 by JHJEFFERY:

      Hi JH,

      The priests of established religions are not (were not) powerful? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

      No, Steven, I really don’t think they were.

      [sigh]
      ]
      You can think whatever you like – do you have any evidence for your opinion?

      Quite a bit. I wrote my master’s thesis on it.

      Well you kept that quiet.

      It is my understanding that registered users can e-mail each other via the profile pages. It is a feature I requested (though I was probably not the only one). It may not be up-and-running yet but we should try it. You first have to agree, in your Profile, to allow other users to contact you. I have done so.

      Nothing personal, but I won’t be reading any books on Roman history any time soon. But I would like to see your thesis. I will be fascinated to read the study of the role and influence of the organised pagan priesthoods in Rome.

      It was Drake’s early thesis that Constantine admired the organization of the Christians–a view from which I think he has now receded.

      From what I have read it has always seemed to me that Constantine was seeking a way to consolidate power in an increasingly fractious empire – and a religion that promoted monotheism and hierarchy as an established religion would have been – if you’ll forgive the phrase – a godsend.

      My unstructured learning also reminds me that Constantine started by flip-flopping between religions, even after the supposed Christian vision that he claimed ‘led’ to a military victory? That has always suggested to me that his supposed, indeed personally claimed, conversion was little more than a political convenience? But then I’m proud to call myself a cynic.

      I remain convinced, for the moment, that organised religions are primarily political in nature – and the evidence still suggests to me that Pagan Roman Established religions were no different. I await your thesis with baited breath.

      History is still bunk.

      Peace.

  32. In reply to #74 by Smill:

    In reply to MKBW, post 52. If you’re not happy with Ancient Greece, what about Ancient Sumeria? You can read the temple hymns of Enheduanna, and discover an early form of literary religiosity. All I am saying is that it’s possible to trace similar themes, so what is unique about the way Bible god…

    Theres a big difference in genre between biography and temple hymns.

  33. Stephen of Wimbledon 84

    I’ll give it a shot to get you the thesis. Never done that before.

    Paul (IGAmos) has read it, as have several scholars. A fascinating time in history–maybe the most important ever.

    I’m sure you read quite a bit about the cold Constantine pretending to convert for political purposes. As I indicated, that was the prevailing theory until fairly recently. Can’t blame you for that. But that is anachronistic thinking. You must get your mind back to the early fourth century to understand what happened.

    Notes: My paper does not, except by implication, deal with the pagan priests. I agree that they had lots of power over individuals, but none over Diocletian or Constantine, who were gods themselves.

    • In reply to #94 by JHJEFFERY:

      Stephen of Wimbledon 84

      I’ll give it a shot to get you the thesis. Never done that before.

      Paul (IGAmos) has read it, as have several scholars. A fascinating time in history–maybe the most important ever.

      Yes I have indeed…and an enlightening read it is too. I’ve also read the critical acclaim of the thesis by none other than probably one of the foremost authorities on the subject, one Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, which has to account for something in my book.

  34. I have written several comments in the previous discussions about historical records about Jesus and resurection. You can read them. To make it short: Tacitus, Talmud, Jospehus Flavius (which is considered to be a bit interpolated by majority of historians). Talking about miracles, in Talmud it is written that Jesus was a magician.
    From nonchristian sources you get the information that: Jesus was crusified, his desciples believed they had seen him risen, christianity spread and was in Rome in AD 64, perhaps even 10 years earlier during the reign of emperor Claudius (Suetonius).
    But if you search in Wiki about historical records about Jesus it is not a problem to find everything.

  35. @ MKBW

    35 years ago a bomb exploded outside a hotel in Sydney. I wasn’t alive, but many eyewitnesses to events are still alive. If I was so inclined, I could quite easily find out from the witnesses alone what happened that day.

    Yes you could find some eyewitnesses and they would be wholly unreliable in a lot of the detail, especially if relayed by you…as it would then have become hearsay.

    Do you believe the author of the gospel according to Mark went looking for eyewitnesses to the events in his book before writing it?

    What about the gospels according to Luke and Matthew? Who were the eyewitnesses to the nativity narrative and how did the they get the details between both versions so contradictory and wrong?

    • In reply to #100 by Robert Kubik:

      Historian Gary Habermas in his book the Verdict of history collected 39 ancient sources about Jesus and first church. 7 of them are secular.

      Cite the secular please.

      When Habermas talks about the resurrection, he is not talking as an historian, but from his primary credentials as a professor of Christian apologetic.

      Miraclulous events are outside the realms of the historian…see here what critical biblical historian Bart Ehrman has to say on the subject from his book “Jesus Interrupted”.

    • In reply to #100 by Robert Kubik:

      Historian Gary Habermas in his book the Verdict of history collected 39 ancient sources about Jesus and first church. 7 of them are secular.

      Robert, Gary Habermas is not a historian. He is a born again theologian who works for the lowest rated “university” in the U.S., Liberty. He is a walking, talking joke, just like his “university.” He is a theologian, if you can use that term loosely. See my earlier comment about him, and never cite him on this site again unless in jest.

  36. Friggin hilarious.
    There is absolutely no eye witness testimonies that a Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. As for the 4 gospels, not one of them were written by the names ascribed to them, lolz. Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons is the one responsible for both, choosing those 4 gospels and naming them, for inclusion in the accepted books that became the bible. His reasoning for choosing just those four anonymous books was hilarious. He said that since there was four winds and four cardinal directions that there should be four gospels, hahahaha. Also, Irenaues was a proto-orthodox christian (later known as catholic), who was famous for his work of seeking out anything in a gospel that may have been from his enemies (the gnostics or any of the other 85 sects of christians at that time) and deeming there wpork heretical and having it destroyed (very catholic, indeed). Point being, no one knows the true authors of those four gospels and they certainly were not picked thru any divine process, lmao. Getting back to the so-called witnesses to Jesus, there is not one that was alive to even be considered an eyewitness to anything having to do with a Jesus that allegedly lived and died early in the 1st century. The one person that was alive and would have been an eyewitness was Josephus. Of course, we all know about the two infamous interpolations in his work by dishonest religious people, in an effort to try and penn a Jesus into Josephus’ work.

    • In reply to #103 by Disturbed:

      Friggin hilarious.
      There is absolutely no eye witness testimonies that a Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. As for the 4 gospels, not one of them were written by the names ascribed to them, lolz. Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons is the one responsible for both, choosing those 4 gospels and naming them, for…

      Nice, accurate post.

      JHJ

      • In reply to #110 by JHJEFFERY:

        In reply to #103 by Disturbed:

        Friggin hilarious.
        There is absolutely no eye witness testimonies that a Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. As for the 4 gospels, not one of them were written by the names ascribed to them, lolz. Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons is the one responsible for both, choosing thos…

        Ditto

        I was reminded last night while listening to “Forged” how the gospel according to Luke got its name by none other than Irenaeus. It goes something like this…The author of Acts was the same author that wrote one of the selected gospels. As it was assumed at the time that the author of Acts was a gentile travelling companion of Paul and had to be one of three gentiles travelling with Paul, by a process of elimination, it must have been the physician Luke. The other two only traveled with Paul on part of his tour, hence being ruled out.

        That we now know that the author of Acts never traveled with Paul and therefore the inference in that book that he did is a deception and makes Acts a forgery, would be lost on Ireneaus and his choice of that particular nomenclature.

        Never has the ‘truth’ been based on such a pile of lies.

        • This is quite a simple question, for me. If you spell out some of the varying propositions regarding the origin of stories about Jesus, I’d say we can describe 3 main possibilities:-

          1. There was a real preacher called Jesus (or Yeshua, to be more precise) who was murdered by the Romans, and (exaggerated) stories of his life and death were spread by Paul and other followers of their new religion.

          2. There was no such person, but the stories about him were cobbled together from various different myths.

          3. Jesus was the son of god, was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. The stories spread about Jesus are therefore 100% true and the veracity of the bible is proved.

          I think most people would admit that the evidence required to support hypotheses 1 and 2 is similar. However, the evidence required to support the extraordinary claims of number 3 would be extraordinary in itself.

          I’m happy to wait for this evidence to be found (I’ve seen nothing to suggest it has been provided as yet), but for now I’d say the balance of probablity seems to favour 1 or 2.

          • _In reply to #112 by bobe_s:

            This is quite a simple question, for me. If you spell out some of the varying propositions regarding the origin of stories about Jesus, I’d say we can describe 3 main possibilities:-

            There was a real preacher called Jesus (or Yeshua, to be more precise) who was murdered by the Romans, and (exagger…

            Just about sums it up in a nutshell…I’m currently 60-40 in favour of the probability of 2 given the details and lack of irrefutable evidence we have. Subject to change in the event of said irrefutable evidence turning up mind you.

            I could also be swayed further in favour of 2 the compelling the arguments I read. Anticipating Richard Carrier’s long awaited second installment on the historical Jesus.

          • In reply to #113 by Ignorant Amos:

            The fact that there is any doubt at all about whether Yeshua actually existed even in a non-supernatural sense should ring big alarm bells (I know it doesn’t with believers, faith is an extraordinary thing). If the fact of his mere existence cannot be conclusively proved then any proof of his miracles must be difficult to take seriously.

            The trouble is, the Christian faith really is a house of cards based on this one premise, i.e Jesus being the son of god and the link with original sin, so if he wasn’t real then it all falls down. You can see why you’d gravitate towards any opinion which supported the proposition of his existence if you were a christian.

            Doesn’t get any closer to making it true, however.

          • In reply to #115 by bob_e_s:

            The trouble is, the Christian faith really is a house of cards based on this one premise, i.e Jesus being the son of god and the link with original sin, so if he wasn’t real then it all falls down. You can see why you’d gravitate towards any opinion which supported the proposition of his existence if you were a christian.

            Well, along with what you say and regardless of whether Jesus was historical or myth, the “original sin” yarn was defo a lot of bollocks, so the premise on what Christianity was constructed is the biggest pile of nonsense ever conspired. Or at least it’s up there with the best of them.

            It really isn’t rocket science is it?

  37. @ MKBW

    In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:

    There was a device for cars over here in Australia that was promoted by a well known racing car driver it was basically a magnet that was meant to improve fuel flow and performance. Many people swore by it in spite of it failing every scientific test people still choose to believe it was working fo…

    Like those magnetic wristbands that improved balance for athletes. They were basically those $2 rubber wristbands sold for $50!

    Not many people swear by those anymore, though!

    SPOING!!!!…which is precisely the point RM was trying to make in his analogy and obviously went right over your head going by that reply.

    • In reply to #106 by Ignorant Amos:

      In reply to #24 by Reckless Monkey:

      SPOING!!!!…which is precisely the point RM was trying to make in his analogy and obviously went right over your head going by that reply.

      Yes thanks, I got the point. Perhaps you missed my point – No one is fooled by that stuff a matter of months after they become known. There is no credibility there.

      There is credibility in the Biblical accounts.

      • In reply to #129 by MKBW:

        SPOING!!!!…which is precisely the point RM was trying to make in his analogy and obviously went right over your head going by that reply.

        Yes thanks, I got the point. Perhaps you missed my point – No one is fooled by that stuff a matter of months after they become known.

        Really? What you meant to say is that most are not fooled by that stuff once it is demonstrated to be a lot of woo woo bollocks, right?

        There is no credibility there.

        What? Like in Islam? Mormonism? Scientology? Homeopathy? Paganism? Pastafarianism? etc., etc., ad infinitum.

        There is credibility in the Biblical accounts.

        Of course there is…in the irrational compartmentalization of your Christian religious mind. All the rest are batshit crazy for believing all that other woo woo bollocks, yes?

        Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

        • In reply to 135

          With no “dislike” to click on that I can find, this’ll have to do. The discussion was going fine and MKBW was getting creamed, I believe, by the accuracy of the well-marshalled and well-documented arguments offered in opposition to his. He was polite, his scholarly refuters equally so, in general. Then you offer your impatient little diatribe whose tone I object to. I don’t support MKBW’s position which seems to me to have been very convincingly demolished (if it ever existed) but I support his right to believe the Foundation for REASON and Science offers what’s on the tin. And if MKBW should fail in this respect, ditto. I believe we should be looking for converts, not bloodied bodies.

          (#comment-box-135′) by Ignorant Amos:*

          In reply to #129 by MKBW:

          SPOING!!!!…which is precisely the point RM was trying to make in his analogy and obviously went right over your head going by that reply.

          Yes thanks, I got the point. Perhaps you missed my point – No one is fooled by that stuff a matter of months after they become known…

          • In reply to #136 by jburnforti:

            In reply to 135

            With no “dislike” to click on that I can find, this’ll have to do. The discussion was going fine and MKBW was getting creamed, I believe, by the accuracy of the well-marshalled and well-documented arguments offered in opposition to his. He was polite, his scholarly refuters equally…

            Of course you are entitled to your opinion…and I mine. I’m also entitled to express it in my own fashion as long as I don’t fall foul of the moderators and you in a fashion that suits you.

            What you are not entitled to be is one of these…

            Tone trolls

            I don’t know what it is about atheism, but we sure do get a lot of tone trolls. A ‘tone troll’ is like a concern troll, but is especially concerned about the lack of civility in the discourse. The tone troll wants everyone to be nice. That, and to make everyone else be the same kind of atheist that he is.

            I’ve had to deal with atheist tone trolls, and even a theist tone troll or two. Here’s how this plays out.

            Atheist tone troll: Atheism can be polarising. Don’t make it ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ — they’ll only resist us harder. We need to take a more conciliatory approach. We need to work together with people on issues where we agree.
            That’s a good aim. If someone wants to take that approach, I think that’s fine. We need more ‘nice atheists’.

            But we also need ‘mean atheists’ like me, who take opportunities to call out religious foolishness with ridicule and a sledgehammer, and who explain about good reasoning and critical thinking. (Of course, you pick your battles, and sometimes the best thing is to say nothing. I don’t always walk around in my stomping boots, but I’m not afraid to pull ‘em on if I think the time is right.)

            Think of these approaches as complementary. Or perhaps evolutionary. We don’t know what will work in each case, so let’s try everything. I want lots of atheists putting the heat to religion in all kinds of ways. Mockery, sympathy, calumny, there’s no wrong way to do it.

            The wrong thing to do, however, is wring one’s hands in dismay, and lecture other atheists on how they’re doing it wrong. Oh, my ears and whiskers! How teddibly uncivil! Theists will never agree with us if we challenge them! (See also: ‘I’m an atheist, BUT…’)

            Well, frankly, not challenging them doesn’t do much to move their opinion either. How well did not challenging them work for the last 50 years? Dumping your religion and becoming an atheist is hard. What could possibly be the impetus for someone to do it if all they hear is comforting church hymns, along with the song of the non-confrontational atheist? I know people don’t like hearing that their religion is wrong. But I do say it from time to time because I think it’s important to keep pushing the Overton Window in that direction. I don’t know whether my sledgehammer wakes people up, or whether it just attracts the newly awakened, but more and more people are becoming aware of the absurdities of religion, and we’re forming a vibrant and noisy community of non-believers.

            Pick your approach. Choose the kind of atheist you’re going to be. But having chosen, please spare the rest of us the lecturing about tone. It’s just a way of trying to control the communication of other people. Letting go of that need for control can be freeing.

          • In reply to #136 by jburnforti:

            Then you offer your impatient little diatribe whose tone I object to.

            What exactly in my “diatribe” was it you specifically objected to anyway?

            Yes thanks, I got the point. Perhaps you missed my point – No one is fooled by that stuff a matter of months after they become known.

            Really? What you meant to say is that most are not fooled by that stuff once it is demonstrated to be a lot of woo woo bollocks, right?

            MKBW was erroneously using RM’s analogy back at him. I was pointing out that believing in woo woo as a lot of bollocks once it has been laid bare. Whether that is done straight away or takes 2 millennia matters not.

            There is no credibility there.

            What? Like in Islam? Mormonism? Scientology? Homeopathy? Paganism? Pastafarianism? etc., etc., ad infinitum.

            I’m assuming that MKBW finds no credibility in an infinite number of woo woo, just not the one to which he has tied his colours to the mast of…that is irrational.

            There is credibility in the Biblical accounts.

            Of course there is…in the irrational compartmentalization of your Christian religious mind. All the rest are batshit crazy for believing all that other woo woo bollocks, yes?

            Again, MKBW has put Christianity in a box in his brain where it garners undeserved respect. By virtue of this, and therefore by default, all other religions are batshit crazy. That is irrational. All religions are either equally batshit crazy, or credible. The bible is demonstrably lacking in credibility.

            Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

            Drinking the Kool-Aid

            If my argument is faulty, I’ll take any rebutal on board. [Sentence removed by moderator]

            Links provided on definitions for clarity.

  38. Stephen of Wimbledon 84

    I could not figure out how to send the thesis on your home page. Give me a hint or contact the moderators who promise to facilitate the transmission. Happy to do this for you. I think you’ll find it an interesting read.

    • JHJEFFERY, if you’d like to email it to us at the moderator@ address, we’ll forward it to Stephen for you.
      The mods.

      In reply to #108 by JHJEFFERY:

      Stephen of Wimbledon 84

      I could not figure out how to send the thesis on your home page. Give me a hint or contact the moderators who promise to facilitate the transmission. Happy to do this for you. I think you’ll find it an interesting read.

      • In reply to #109 by Moderator:

        JHJEFFERY, if you’d like to email it to us at the moderator@ address, we’ll forward it to Stephen for you.
        The mods.

        In reply to #108 by JHJEFFERY:

        Stephen of Wimbledon 84

        I could not figure out how to send the thesis on your home page. Give me a hint or contact the moderators who promise to fac…

        WILCO

          • In reply to #116 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            In reply to #109 by Moderator, and

            In reply to #108 & #114 by JHJEFFERY:

            Received with thanks.

            My Pleasure. Any comments are welcome. And if you change your mind about reading any of the books cited, try Digeser’s The Making of a Christian Empire. It’s a nice, short, easy but informative read.

  39. I saw a Geofrey Robertson hypotheical many years ago. There was a theologian (Cambridge I think) named Theogood (long since buried by counter claimants on the net) who’d done PhD thesis on the life of Christ using the achive of Byzantium, Turkey. This was opened to western scholars when Turkey became a secular state. (The inspiration for this was when Attaturk found out that you don’t need to believe in gods to be really good at soldiering- after fighting the ANZACs at Gallipolli he found out Australia is a secular nation)

    Amongst the clobber stashed in the archives was Pontius Pilate’s personal and official diaries, including Jesus’ rap sheet. Third offence breach of the Pax Romana for inciting the murder of two Jewish tax collectors (Pharisees) Well, full marks for the tax collectors, no marks for getting caught…

    The backlash against the TV program must have been of the same level as the Atheist census denial of service attack, because I havn’t been able to find it amonst the myriad of religious articles with the same keywords attached. Anyone who knows anything about Eigenvectors and the Google algorythm will know just how easy it is to jigger it and make something disappear off the web…

    I havn’t had a chance to find out much about Augustine and the congress of Nicea (320 AD) and I’m not even sure if I’ve got the spelling right. I have seen a bit of info which suggests Augustine would qualify as an ‘organizational psychopath’ (see http://www.drjohnclarke.com.au) which would make founding the Catholic church the most ambitious bit of workplace bullying ever conceived!

    I don’t think there’s a lot of value in looking at the miracles. It isn’t what religion does or claims that is important it is why and how it works, why it doesn’t work for some (atheists) and why it stops working for others (Clergy project)

    Who’s up for a research program?

  40. This should put this article to rest:

    “The new testament of the bible was supposedly written by several authors in the first few centuries AD. But few Christians understand how it was put together – many think it is the inspired Word of God so it is useful to investigate just how it came to be put together. Several scholars have done this – one is William Hopper and I have summarized his description here.http://www.cobourgatheist.com/index.php/christians/the-bible/74-early-christians-covered-up-the-truth-the-bible-is-a-hoax [Early Christians covered up the truth. The bible is a hoax. ]. Hopper loses some credibility by finding religion funny – although it is – but another more serious scholar is Australian Tony Bushby who wrote The Bible Fraud. Bushby has done extensive research with access to material not available to everyone so I think his work should be accepted. So what does he say? The following is a summary of an article outlining his work that was originally published in Australia’s Nexus magazine in 2007.

    The world before Constantine in around 325 AD was dominated by a large number of illiterate “holy men” who taught equally illiterate peasants about multiple gods and multiple doctrines. These characters “openly declared that none but the ignorant was fit to hear their discourses … they never appeared in the circles of the wiser and better sort, but always took care to intrude themselves among the ignorant and uncultured, rambling around to play tricks at fairs and markets”. Constantine’s wanted a single religion so that there would be less in-fighting but to do that, he needed to satisfy several factions. So he issued a decree commanding all these “leaders” “be mounted on asses, mules and horses belonging to the public, and travel to the city of Nicaea” in the Roman province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. They were instructed to bring with them the testimonies they orated to the rabble, “bound in leather” for protection during the long journey, and surrender them to Constantine upon arrival in Nicaea. Their writings totaled “in all, two thousand two hundred and thirty-one scrolls and legendary tales of gods and saviours, together with a record of the doctrines orated by them”.

    Thus were assembled a total of 318 “bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes and exorcists” gathered to debate and decide upon a unified belief system that encompassed only one god. The gods that were followed by these “bishops” included: Jove, Jupiter, Salenus, Baal, Thor, Gade, Apollo, Juno, Aries, Taurus, Minerva, Rhets, Mithra, Theo, Fragapatti, Atys, Durga, Indra, Neptune, Vulcan, Kriste, Agni, Croesus, Pelides, Huit, Hermes, Thulis, Thammus, Eguptus, Iao, Aph, Saturn, Gitchens, Minos, Maximo, Hecla and Phernes. Up until the First Council of Nicaea, the Roman aristocracy primarily worshipped two Greek gods – Apollo and Zeus – but the great bulk of common people idolized either Julius Caesar or Mithras.

    Constantine’s intention at Nicaea was to create an entirely new god for his empire who would unite all religious factions under one deity. Those attending were asked to debate and decide who their new god would be. After more than a year of debate, there was a shortlist of five prospects: Caesar, Krishna, Mithra, Horus and Zeus. Constantine was the ruling spirit at Nicaea and he ultimately decided upon a new god for them. To involve British factions, he ruled that the name of the great Druid god, Hesus, be joined with the Eastern Saviour-god, Krishna (Krishna is Sanskrit for Christ), and thus Hesus Krishna would be the official name of the new Roman god. A vote was taken and it was with a majority show of hands (161 votes to 157) that both divinities became one God. A new god was proclaimed and “officially” ratified by Constantine. That abstraction lent Earthly existence to amalgamated doctrines for the Empire’s new religion; and because there was no letter “J” in alphabets until around the ninth century, the name subsequently evolved into “Jesus Christ”.

    How the Gospels were created

    Constantine then ordered the compilation of a uniform collection of new writings developed from primary aspects of the religious texts submitted at the council. His instructions were:

    “Search ye these books, and whatever is good in them, that retain; but whatsoever is evil, that cast away. What is good in one book, unite ye with that which is good in another book. And whatsoever is thus brought together shall be called The Book of Books. And it shall be the doctrine of my people, which I will recommend unto all nations, that there shall be no more war for religions’ sake.”

    “Make them to astonish” said Constantine, and “the books were written accordingly”

    Eusebius (the scribe) amalgamated the “legendary tales of all the religious doctrines of the world together as one”, using the standard god-myths from the (bishops) manuscripts as his exemplars. Merging the supernatural “god” stories of Mithra and Krishna with British Culdean beliefs effectively joined the orations of Eastern and Western presbyters together “to form a new universal belief”. Constantine believed that the amalgamated collection of myths would unite variant and opposing religious factions under one representative story. Eusebius then arranged for scribes to produce “fifty sumptuous copies … to be written on parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient portable form, by professional scribes thoroughly accomplished in their art”. “These orders,” said Eusebius, “were followed by the immediate execution of the work itself … we sent him [Constantine] magnificently and elaborately bound volumes of three-fold and four-fold forms” They were the “New Testimonies”, and this is the first mention (c. 331) of the New Testament in the historical record.

    With his instructions fulfilled, Constantine then decreed that the New Testimonies would thereafter be called the “word of the Roman Saviour God”. He then ordered earlier manuscripts and the records of the council “burnt” and declared that “any man found concealing writings should be stricken off from his shoulders” (beheaded). As the record shows, writings previous to the Council of Nicaea no longer exist, except for some fragments that have survived.

    Some council records also survived, and they provide alarming ramifications for the Church. The Second Council of Nicaea in 786-87 denounced the First Council of Nicaea as “a synod of fools and madmen” and sought to annul “decisions passed by men with troubled brains”.

    Over the ensuing centuries, Constantine’s New Testimonies were expanded upon, “interpolations” were added and other writings included. For example, in 397 John “golden-mouthed” Chrysostom restructured the writings of Apollonius of Tyana, a first-century wandering sage, and made them part of the New Testimonies. The Latinised name for Apollonius is Paulus and the Church today calls those writings the Epistles of Paul.

    The Church hierarchy knows the truth about the origin of its Epistles, for Cardinal Bembo (d. 1547), secretary to Pope Leo X (d. 1521), advised his associate, Cardinal Sadoleto, to disregard them, saying “put away these trifles, for such absurdities do not become a man of dignity; they were introduced on the scene later by a sly voice from heaven”.

    The shock discovery of an ancient Bible

    The New Testament subsequently evolved into a fulsome piece of priesthood propaganda, and the Church claimed it recorded the intervention of a divine Jesus Christ into Earthly affairs. However, a spectacular discovery in a remote Egyptian monastery revealed to the world the extent of later falsifications of the Christian texts, themselves only an “assemblage of legendary tales”. On 4 February 1859, 346 leaves of an ancient codex were discovered in the furnace room at St Catherine’s monastery at Mt Sinai, and its contents sent shockwaves through the Christian world. Along with other old codices, it was scheduled to be burned in the kilns to provide winter warmth for the inhabitants of the monastery. Written in Greek on donkey skins, it carried both the Old and New Testaments, and later in time archaeologists dated its composition to around the year 380. It was discovered by Dr Constantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874), a brilliant and pious German biblical scholar, and he called it the Sinaiticus, the Sinai Bible. (More on Sinaiticus here)

    During his lifetime, Tischendorf had access to other ancient Bibles unavailable to the public, such as the Alexandrian (or Alexandrinus) Bible and the Vaticanus, the Vatican Bible, believed to be the third oldest in the world and dated to the mid-sixth century. It was locked away in the Vatican’s inner library. Today, there are several other Bibles written in various languages during the fifth and sixth centuries, examples being the Syriacus, the Cantabrigiensis (Bezae), the Sarravianus and the Marchalianus.

    A shudder of apprehension echoed through Christendom in the last quarter of the 19th century when English-language versions of the Sinai Bible were published. Recorded within these pages is information that disputes Christianity’s claim of historicity. Christians were provided with irrefutable evidence of willful falsifications in all modern New Testaments. So different was the Sinai Bible’s New Testament from versions then being published that the Church angrily tried to annul the dramatic new evidence that challenged its very existence. In a series of articles published in the London Quarterly Review in 1883, John W. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, used every rhetorical device at his disposal to attack the Sinaiticus’ earlier and opposing story of Jesus Christ, saying that “…without a particle of hesitation, the Sinaiticus is scandalously corrupt … exhibiting the most shamefully mutilated texts which are anywhere to be met with; they have become, by whatever process, the depositories of the largest amount of fabricated readings, ancient blunders and intentional perversions of the truth which are discoverable in any known copies of the word of God”. Dean Burgon’s concerns mirror opposing aspects of Gospel stories then current, having by now evolved to a new stage through centuries of tampering with the fabric of an already unhistorical document.

    The revelations of ultraviolet light testing

    In 1933, the British Museum in London purchased the Sinai Bible from the Soviet government and discovered using ultra-violet light that the document had been edited many times in its lifetime.

    Forgery in the Gospels

    When the New Testament in the Sinai Bible is compared with a modern-day New Testament, a staggering 14,800 editorial alterations can be identified. These amendments can be recognized by a simple comparative exercise that anybody can and should do. Serious study of Christian origins must emanate from the Sinai Bible’s version of the New Testament, not modern editions.

    Of importance is the fact that the Sinaiticus carries three Gospels since rejected: the Shepherd of Hermas (written by two resurrected ghosts, Charinus and Lenthius), the Missive of Barnabas and the Odes of Solomon. Space excludes elaboration on these bizarre writings and also discussion on dilemmas associated with translation variations.

    Modern Bibles are five removes in translation from early editions, and disputes rage between translators over variant interpretations of more than 5,000 ancient words. However, it is what is not written in that old Bible that embarrasses the Church, and this article discusses only a few of those omissions. One glaring example is subtly revealed in the Encyclopaedia Biblica where the Church divulges its knowledge about exclusions in old Bibles, saying: “The remark has long ago and often been made that, like Paul, even the earliest Gospels knew nothing of the miraculous birth of our Saviour”. That is because there never was a virgin birth.

    It is apparent that when Eusebius assembled scribes to write the New Testimonies, he first produced a single document that provided an exemplar or master version. Today it is called the Gospel of Mark, and the Church admits that it was “the first Gospel written” even though it appears second in the New Testament today. The scribes of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were dependent upon the Mark writing as the source and framework for the compilation of their works. The Gospel of John is independent of those writings, and the late-15th-century theory that it was written later to support the earlier writings is the truth.

    Thus, the Gospel of Mark in the Sinai Bible carries the “first” story of Jesus Christ in history, one completely different to what is in modern Bibles. It starts with Jesus “at about the age of thirty” (Mark 1:9), and doesn’t know of Mary, a virgin birth or mass murders of baby boys by Herod. Words describing Jesus Christ as “the son of God” do not appear in the opening narrative as they do in today’s editions (Mark 1:1), and the modern-day family tree tracing a “messianic bloodline” back to King David is non-existent in all ancient Bibles, as are the now-called “messianic prophecies” (51 in total). The Sinai Bible carries a conflicting version of events surrounding the “raising of Lazarus”, and reveals an extraordinary omission that later became the central doctrine of the Christian faith: the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ and his ascension into Heaven. No supernatural appearance of a resurrected Jesus Christ is recorded in any ancient Gospels of Mark, but a description of over 500 words now appears in modern Bibles (Mark 16:9-20).

    Despite a multitude of long-drawn-out self-justifications by Church apologists, there is no unanimity of Christian opinion regarding the non-existence of “resurrection” appearances in ancient Gospel accounts of the story. Not only are those narratives missing in the Sinai Bible, but they are absent in the Alexandrian Bible, the Vatican Bible, the Bezae Bible and an ancient Latin manuscript of Mark, code-named “K” by analysts. They are also lacking in the oldest Armenian version of the New Testament, in sixth-century manuscripts of the Ethiopic version and ninth-century Anglo-Saxon Bibles. However, some 12th-century Gospels have the now-known resurrection verses written within asterisks marks used by scribes to indicate spurious passages in a literary document.

    In fact large parts of the new testament have been re-written even since Constantine’s time. In 1562, the Vatican established a special censoring office called Index Expurgatorius. Its purpose was to prohibit publication of “erroneous passages of the early Church Fathers” that carried statements opposing modern-day doctrine.

    When Vatican archivists came across “genuine copies of the Fathers, they corrected them according to the Expurgatory Index”. The Church ante-dated all her late works, some newly made, some revised and some counterfeited, which contained the final expression of her history … her technique was to make it appear that much later works written by Church writers were composed a long time earlier, so that they might become evidence of the first, second or third centuries.

    Why there are no records of Jesus Christ

    It is not possible to find in any legitimate religious or historical writings compiled between the beginning of the first century and well into the fourth century any reference to Jesus Christ and the spectacular events that the Church says accompanied his life. This confirmation comes from Frederic Farrar (1831-1903) of Trinity College, Cambridge:
    “It is amazing that history has not embalmed for us even one certain or definite saying or circumstance in the life of the Saviour of mankind … there is no statement in all history that says anyone saw Jesus or talked with him. Nothing in history is more astonishing than the silence of contemporary writers about events relayed in the four Gospels.”

    This situation arises from a conflict between history and New Testament narratives. Dr Tischendorf made this comment:

    “We must frankly admit that we have no source of information with respect to the life of Jesus Christ other than ecclesiastic writings assembled during the fourth century.”

    There is an explanation for those hundreds of years of silence: the construct of Christianity did not begin until after the first quarter of the fourth century, and that is why Pope Leo X (d. 1521) called Christ a “fable”.

    Published on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 06:40
    Written by John Draper

    Or if you want, order Tony Bushby’s Book The Bible Fraud. http://www.tonybushby.com/

    Nuff Said…….

  41. In reply to #98 by Ignorant Amos:

    Do you believe the author of the gospel according to Mark went looking for eyewitnesses to the events in his book before writing it?

    What about the gospels according to Luke and Matthew? Who were the eyewitnesses to the nativity narrative and how did the they get the details between both versions so contradictory and wrong?

    It seems clear there are separate narrative streams that incorporate eyewitness detail. So the evidence suggests Mark used eyewitness material, yes.

    Luke starts by explaining his method. He himself was an eyewitness to several years worth of material in Acts as well.

    I think its remarkable that anything to do with the birth of a carpenter’s son survives at all.

    • In reply to #126 by MKBW:

      It seems clear there are separate narrative streams that incorporate eyewitness detail. So the evidence suggests Mark used eyewitness material, yes.

      To begin with, this is circular reasoning. Without any corroboration, the book can’t be used as proof of it’s own veracity.

      Then you need to get the definition of what an “eyewitness account” is. The author of Mark, whoever that was, appears not to be from the part of the world he was writing about.

      Mark 7:31 Returning from the territory of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, right through the Decapolis territory.

      The author of Mark did not seem to know that you would not go through Sidon to go from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee, and there was no road from Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the 1st century, only one from Tyre.

      If the author of Mark didn’t see Jesus himself, then saying he was told by someone claiming they had, is pure hearsay.

      1. Unverified information heard or received from another; rumor.

      2. Law Evidence based on the reports of others rather than the personal knowledge of a witness and therefore generally not admissible as testimony. Gossip; rumour

      Mark was authored 70-80 AD. It is said to be an account of Peter written after Peters demise in 67 AD. One wonders why he waited until Pete was dead. Incidentally, Peter would’ve been 101 when he jossed it, something of a miracle for the time in itself…all rather suspect I’d say.

      The fact of the matter is, the author of the gospel according to Mark is unknown.

      Luke starts by explaining his method. He himself was an eyewitness to several years worth of material in Acts as well.

      Whoever wrote the gospel according to Luke, was not Luke the physician and travelling companion to Paul. The author of Acts does not claim to be Luke, but that inference has been drawn because the rapscallion claims to be a travelling companion of Paul. By deduction, Luke has been attributed to the Acts because the other two Gentiles that accompanied Paul only did so for part of his travels, leaving the Gentile, Luke, as favorite. The problem arises in that the author of Acts doesn’t seem to be up to scratch with the theology in Paul’s teachings.

      A key contested issue is the historicity of Luke’s depiction of Paul. According to the majority viewpoint, Acts described Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically. Acts differed with Paul’s letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul’s own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.

      So, because Acts makes a claim to be something it isn’t…a personal first hand account of the Pauline ministry, which it isn’t…it is pseudepigraphy, which is a swanky name for forgery, or lies if ya like.

      Luke stated that there are many accounts in circulation at the time of his writing. He says that these are eye-witness testimonies. He says he has carefully investigated “everything from the beginning” and is editing the historical material into one comprehensive, orderly and accurate account from the birth of Jesus to his own time. Like other historians of his time, he clearly defines what he is doing stating that the reader can rely on the “certainty” of the facts given.

      Well then, if the liar that wrote these texts says it is so, then it must be so. Except the author fails to carry out the basics of the historical method. He cites no sources to check out and verify his work, which means we have to take his word it. But then when we actually get down to the job of checking the content of the works, we find all sorts of discrepancies of which this is a brief example…

      “Acts 6:9 mentions the Province of Cilicia during a scene allegedly taking place in mid-30s AD. The Roman province by that name had been on hiatus from 27 BC and was re-established by Emperor Vespasian only in 72 AD.”

      You’d think the author might know that little detail.

      I think its remarkable that anything to do with the birth of a carpenter’s son survives at all.

      I think it’s remarkable that apologists bend over backwards to pretzelmania the two completely contradictory nativity narratives in order to square a circle. They both cannot be right. Just about all right thinking scholars agree that the nativity narratives are theological literary devices to confirm the fulfillment of old testament prophecies and have no historical value. The fact that they fecked it up so dramatically confirms this. You know what that means? Luke fails as an historical work at the first hurdle regardless of what the author claims.

      What is more interesting is the fact that the earliest Christian authors seem to be oblivious to the extraordinary events surrounding the alleged birth of their hero. I mean, is it possible that Paul and the author of Mark had heard of such a conglomeration of feats and thought it unworthy of mention? I don’t think so. More likely two later authors thought they’d independently jazz the yarn up a bit to give the messiah angle a bit more substance…it’s just a pity the continuity boys at Nicaea failed to notice when selecting which yarns to include in the canon from the plethora they had to choose from. Then again, few Christians I discuss this issue with today haven’t noticed the elephant in the room either.

      I have said this before and I’ll say it again. According to believers he wasn’t just the son of carpenter…even if Joseph was a carpenter, which the word Tekton in the bible from which the idea comes seems to house some ambiguity on. Carpenter or stone cutter who cares…the important claim being made is an extraordinary one, and one that you want me to believe was contemporaneous to the time of the central character, or at least common knowledge soon after his vanquish, yet no one mentions it for a good forty years after the Romans vanquish this god on Earth. Astonishing in my book, but not that unusual according to Christians.

      The Magi thought it prudent to travel across the land following a “heavenly body” and seeking an audience with Herod to discuss the subject, and in doing so, cause Herod to commit infanticide, yet no one, not the Magi, not one of the historians of Herod’s court, or wider circle, nor earlier Christian authors, found it prudent to record such an event…really? I mean, REALLY?

  42. Disturbed 125

    Congratulations on a well researched and well written post. I agree with almost all of it. . . .

    I do disagree with your treatment of Constantine. He never was, nor pretended to be a theologian. He was, from October 28, 312 CE, a committed Christian, even though he never understood his religion that well. I don’t know where you get the information that the Council of Nicaea was anything more than a gathering of Christians, or that multiple gods were represented at the meeting. Only Christian clergy attended. The primary reason for the Council was to decide upon the divinity of Christ–to resolve the dispute between Arius and Alexander (later Athanasius).

    Constantine had no role in choosing the books that would make up the new Bible. He could not have cared less. His quest was, as you intimated, for unanimity.

    There are a few other nuances in your post which I might take issue with, but given its overall value, I will decline.

    Thanks for your submittal.

    Best

    JHJ

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  44. MKBW 126

    It seems clear there are separate narrative streams that incorporate eyewitness detail. So the evidence suggests Mark used eyewitness material, yes.

    Luke starts by explaining his method. He himself was an eyewitness to several years worth of material in Acts as well.

    Are you kidding? How deluded are you? Or you a simple troll?This is ridiculous. See a phsyachrist. Or read Andy Thompson’s “Why we Believe in Gods.”

    But I fear, like Elvis, you have left the building.

  45. If you re-read what I wrote, you will not be in any doubt whatsoever about what I objected to – which was your tone. I think it does clear thinking, which I note elsewhere you do well, interestingly and convincingly, a disservice. Also, Kool Aid associates in many people’s minds with the Jonestown mass suicide, not with Ken Kesey.
    . to #139 by Ignorant Amos:*

    In reply to #136 by jburnforti:

    Then you offer your impatient little diatribe whose tone I object to.

    What exactly in my “diatribe” was it you specifically objected to anyway?

    Yes thanks, I got the point. Perhaps you missed my point – No one is fooled by that stuff a matter of months after they b…

    • In reply to #141 by jburnforti:

      If you re-read what I wrote, you will not be in any doubt whatsoever about what I objected to – which was your tone.

      That’s what I thought. I was just confirming it.

      I think it does clear thinking, which I note elsewhere you do well, interestingly and convincingly, a disservice.

      Well thanks for the compliment, such that it is…you are no slouch yourself. If you noticed, the comment to which you objected the tone of, was at the end of a number of comments. There comes a point when the discussing of facts that are being willfully ignored gets boring and it is time for a helping of ridicule. Some here can do this with the precision of a laser surgeon, others with the skill of an artisan, still others, like an Irish navvy…unfortunately I’m in the later category. Perhaps it might be better if I ceased and desisted commenting altogether, but unfortunately that’s not likely to happen, this site is like catnip to me and I get withdrawal when I can’t get online.

      Also, Kool Aid associates in many people’s minds with the Jonestown mass suicide, not with Ken Kesey.

      Well I can’t help that and it wasn’t my intention to allude to such a thing. The context in which I used it was to describe blind, uncritical acceptance or following, that was all. I was first introduced to the phrase on these very boards many moons ago, by none other than a neuroscientist.

      Anyway, I’ve been suitably chastised by yourself and the moderators, but I can’t promise it won’t happen again. I’ll leave it there.

      Incidentally, it was Jonestown mass murder according to the testimony of at least one survivor.

      • In reply to #142 by Ignorant Amos:

        No, don’t cease and desist.

        Your correction surely is right, I was slightly hedging my bets about mass suicide which I think it technically was – in any case, that’s charismatic leaders for you who promise comfort in the sweet bye’n’bye! The moral being: don’t take any wooden nickels.

        In reply to #141 by jburnforti:

        If you re-read what I wrote, you will not be in any doubt whatsoever about what I objected to – which was your tone.

        That’s what I thought. I was just confirming it.

        I think it does clear thinking, which I note elsewhere you do well, interestingly and convincingly,…

  46. In reply to #144 by Alan4discussion:

    “I think this must be in some YEC handbook, YEC indoctrination course, a talk by Lee Strobel, or creationist web-site.”

    Maybe it is. It sure turns up enough. I can’t think of another situation where someone would say “Well the cults members believed in the message of their cult ” and try to use that as objective evidence that their beliefs were in fact true.

  47. http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/oldest-complete-torah-scroll-reportedly-found-in-italy-1.526531

    Oldest complete Torah scroll reportedly found in Italy
    University of Bologna says 850-year-old Jewish text, belonging to Babylonian tradition, was mislabeled by a librarian in 1889.

    An Italian university has found what it claims to be the oldest complete Torah scroll known to exist, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

    The scroll, which was found at the library of the University of Bologna, was believed to be no more than a few hundred years old, the report said. But recent carbon dating tests suggest it was written some 850 years ago, making it the oldest complete Torah ever found, Mauro Perani, the university’s Hebrew professor said.

    According to the university, the ancient text was not lost, but was mislabeled in 1889 after one of the its librarians dated it to the 17th century.

    After re-examining the scroll, Perani determined it belongs to the Babylonian tradition. Perani also recognized in the writings features that were forbidden in later versions of the Torah.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22697098

    So much for Biblical Literalists who claim “the bible” was written as a contemporary historical account!

  48. christianity should be called paulianity. The biblical jesus(christ was not part of his name-his parents were not mr and mrs christ)was born a jew, raised a jew and died a jew. Paul was the guy who created and spread the stories that later were called christianity

  49. People believe what they would like to believe. I tried to truly have a conversation with a xtian friend recently about faith and proof, utilising the story of the Flood and Noah being an example. Our discussion basically boiled down to her admitting she didn’t care if there clearly was proof, or even if it was true. The biggest thing (for her) was that she held it to be true.

    So I then put it to her that there are lots of different mythical belief systems, lots of supposed miracles from different faiths. I phrased my point’surely in the event that you accept one type of miracle as’true’without the evidence, then you must have an open mind to other phenomena of this type ‘.

  50. This has been a very interesting discussion to follow when time has permitted occasional look-ins. Whether there was any historical person behind the Jesus of the New Testament writings is a question that should not be confused with the very different question concerning the nature of the Jesus Christ of Christian belief. It is very clear that the Jesus Christ of Christian belief is not a historical person but a theological construct; there is simply no evidence of such a person ever having existed.

    There is, however, some evidence in the Gospels, in the form of texts collected, put together and in many cases amended to serve the theological intentions of the editors in composing each of the Gospels. These texts, when considered independently of the Gospels into which they have been incorporated, do serve as fragments of evidence pointing to a historical person. As Geza Vermes has very well shown, what little can be teased out about that historical person indicates that he was very different from anything the Christians have believed in since the second century. It seems to me, then, that those who hold that there was a historical Jesus and those who hold that Jesus was not a historical person are both right, for each group is referring to a different entity: a historical person and a theological construct.

    The historical person can be shown to have had no intention of founding anything like the Christian church and to have had nothing to do with its founding. The theological construct Jesus the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer and so on is the object of the belief developed first among the disciples of the historical Jesus to make sense of their teacher’s unexpected death by drawing on the resources of their Judaic heritage. Most influential in this ongoing process, however, was Paul of Tarsus, who has more claim than most to the title of founder of Christianity. Whereas the original followers of Jesus remained mostly within Judaism, it was the genius of Paul of Tarsus that constructed the theological edifice of redemption and salvation centred on a theologically reinterpreted messianic Jesus that was to characterize Christianity from then on and lead to its rupture with Judaism.

    There is, then, the somewhat ironical observation that the historical man in and through whom God is believed by Christians to have wrought his salvific action is in fact irrelevant to Christian beliefs. Christians believe what they believe, regardless of any historical facts or evidence.

  51. There were, in the first century, contemporamous with the life of Jesus, around thirty non-Christian commentators, historians, philosophers, scribes and writers – Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc. Not one of them, not a single one, mentioned Jesus, his life or work. Had he made such an impact during his life or in the century following, it would have been reasonable to suppose that he would have merited some comment from those whose duty it was to record the life and times of notable people. The only mention, in the so-called “Golden Paragraph”, was from Josephus (“There was about this time a man…..”), and this has been firmly identified as a forgery even by scholars of the church for several quite logical reasons. The paragraph was not used by the early fathers of the church, for example, when it would have been highly useful and important to them, had they been aware of it at the time. It simply did not exist.

    Also there is not a single, solitary motif associated with Christianity that was not copied from other religions at the founding of the early church:- the virgin birth, the visit of the three magi, the directional star in the east, the miracles such as the raising of Lazarus, the feeding of the five thousand, the resurrection, the ascent into heaven, the Trinity. All were borrowed, all were copied wholesale from other religions. They were, in effect, a stable constituent of other beliefs at that time, in the middle east and throughout the Roman empire.

  52. There were, in the first century, contemporamous with the life of Jesus, around thirty non-Christian commentators, historians, philosophers, scribes and writers – Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc. Not one of them, not a single one, mentioned Jesus, his life or work. Had he made such an impact during his life or in the century following, it would have been reasonable to suppose that he would have merited some comment from those whose duty it was to record the life and times of notable people. The only mention, in the so-called “Golden Paragraph”, was from Josephus (“There was about this time a man…..”), and this has been firmly identified as a forgery even by scholars of the church for several quite logical reasons. The paragraph was not used by the early fathers of the church, for example, when it would have been highly useful and important to them, had they been aware of it at the time. It simply did not exist.

    Also there is not a single, solitary motif associated with Christianity that was not copied from other religions at the founding of the early church:- the virgin birth, the visit of the three magi, the directional star in the east, the miracles such as the raising of Lazarus, the feeding of the five thousand, the resurrection, the ascent into heaven, the Trinity. All were borrowed, all were copied wholesale from other religions. They were, in effect, a stable constituent of other beliefs at that time, in the middle east and throughout the Roman empire.

    • In reply to #154 by EugeneKaufmann:

      There were, in the first century, contemporamous with the life of Jesus, around thirty non-Christian commentators, historians, philosophers, scribes and writers – Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc. Not one of them, not a single one, mentioned Jesus, his life or work. Had he made such an impact during…

      Absolutely correct.
      Heck, even from the Jewish view concerning their Messianic Prophecies, Jesus, actually did the opposite of what their Messiah was supposed to do. Jesus, according to the Gospels, did not gather the Jews, he caused them to be spread all over because of the Romans killing them, he did not rebuild the Temple, it was destroyed in 70ad, he did not create a Jewish currency, he did not free the Jews from their Roman occupiers, he did not sacrifice 100 bulls to atone for his own sin, he did not do anything the Messianic Prophecies stated.

      So from Jewish theological view and the historical view, Jesus, has simply struck out.

  53. In reply to #152 by jocuri:

    People believe what they would like to believe. I tried to truly have a conversation with a xtian friend recently about faith and proof, utilising the story of the Flood and Noah being an example. Our discussion basically boiled down to her admitting she didn’t care if there clearly was proof, or ev…

    And what did she answer ??

    And what about if you had told her that you know there is a murder conspiracy against her, and thus she should not go outside for one month ? Would she believe it without evidence ?

    I mean… how can such people walk around in life, based on such a silly mind ??
    If they applied their own attitude concerning “miracles”…. to daily life, they could barely survive more than one month ! !

  54. Besides the attestations of Christ in the New Testament, we have over 300 Messianic prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. Two examples. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are clear and indisputable proofs of Christ in that OT. Moreover, we have numerous texts, giving veracity to Christ’s pre-incarnate existence in the Old Testament. In these texts, we encounter many dialogues and interactions between Christ and Old Testament figures.

    • In reply to #157 by Soli Deo Gloria:

      Besides the attestations of Christ in the New Testament, we have over 300 Messianic prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. Two examples. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are clear and indisputable proofs of Christ in that OT. Moreover, we have numerous texts, giving veracity to Christ’s pre-incarnate exis…

      Suppose there is a THOUSAND press articles announcing… “the arrival of E.T.”. Ok. Then —say in a century from now—, someone pops up and (fallaciously) tells his then-contemporaries…. that E.T. actually came into this world, but, unfortunately, no-one noticed his passage on our planet.

      People would say : « Then.. how can you prove what you say ? », and the bloke would just reply : « Look ! We have over 300 Messianic prophecies announcing E.T.’s oncoming ! Isn’t that sufficient enough ?? »

      How long would it take before you burst out laughing ??

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