The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
11 Points

Belief in Christianity is rational

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Voting Style: Judge Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/17/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,107 times Debate No: 60538
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (18)
Votes (4)




Been itching to debate. Terms:

Rational - agreeing to reason

Belief - conviction of truth through evidence and/or experience

The rounds will go as follows:

Round 1: Opening argument - i will define the proper methods to correctly interpreting the Bible and listing the logical axioms and beliefs of early Christianity. You will counter-argue that round.
Round 2: I will then compare Christianity to other religions and explaining how Christianity is more rational and based on evidence even though the most fundamental principle is on faith.

From this round on, we will engage in rebuttals.

First round acceptance: Lets go


Go ahead.
Debate Round No. 1


In order to correctly interpret Scripture, you must apply the principles of Biblical hermenutics which are as follows (1):

1. Lexical analysis - Steps are taken to discover how words are used and way they are used. The different order of the sentence, punctuation, tenses, language, context, are all key to understanding the Bible

2. Historical/cultural analysis - Studying the surrounding history and culture of the time period. For example, if your studying the Gospels, it's best if you familiarize yourself with Rome, Greek Hellenization, rabbinic Judaism, etc.

3. Contextual analysis - Examining the context of a specific word, phrase, idiom, and so on in it's proper place.

4. Theological analysis - All verses must be taken into consideration on a topic before coming up with sound theology

5. Literary analysis - figuring out whether a book is allegorical, metaphorical, literal, historical, a parable, psalm, so on can help determine the theology

Now on to the axioms and beliefs of Christianity:

1. God exists and created the universe
2. God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost eternally existing
3. Man was created in his image, sinned, but has the free will to be saved
4. We are under a curse of the Law, but freed from the eternal salvation coming through Jesus Christ by his perfect life
5. We receive Jesus Christ on the basis of faith and not of works
6. We mature spiritually through the power of the Holy Spirit

Everything else is simply extra, now we won't be delving into the denominations of Christianity as the debate only focuses on the definition of Christianity which i have presented.




Thanks Pro.

I. Preface
Due to time limitations/procrastination and Pro's lack of argumentation last round, I will only give a brief on what I will argue.

II. Historicity of the Bible
I will argue by attacking the historicity of the Bible, especially the New Testement from which most of current Christian tenets are derived. By demonstrating the foundations of these tenets unsound, and most likely false, it will follow that belief in Christianity itself is irrational.

Back to Pro for his opening arguments.
Debate Round No. 2


In this round, i will compare the method of interpretation of Christianity with others of the major religions. Next round, i will in more detail compare the beliefs of Christianity and other religions.


Modern Judaism has strayed from the tenants of ancient Old Testament Judaism. After the destruction of the 2nd Temple, Jews began introducing their own laws and interpretations of the ancient Scriptures through the rabbis and other religious authorities. Traditional interpretations and explanations of how to follow the written Torah were compiled in the Oral Torah. Of course, any teaching coming from the rabbis of this period will probably not be the original interpretation of ancient Scripture. Even in wiki, it is noted the following:

"Ancient halakot which have no connection whatever with Scripture and can not be connected with it, thus deriving their authority only from the tradition which ascribes them to Moses on Sinai. In the case of these two groups it is impossible to ascertain which elucidations and rules were really given to Moses on Sinai, and which were added later."

Also, even if there are different opinions by the rabbis, they are still considered equal in authority. Customs and other practices were also attributed to Moses as well as other standards with no biblical support. An example is:

"Statutes and regulations for which the scholars had no tradition or allusion in Scripture, but which they accepted as standards after deriving them from the customs and laws of the country in which they were living. These are called "Hilkot Medinah"

No evidence is given to make any of these rules valid. In biblical hermenutics listed above, you are only concerned with what was originally written and the world in which the ancient Scriptures were written in.

In Christianity, the belief is that if indeed the O.T prophesies of the Messiah and we find that he fulfills many things in the Scriptures through observable supernatural events such as miracles then it is only logical to believe that not only does that invalidate the teachings of the rabbis, it makes Jesus the voice of God and establishes his authority. The Old Testament validates prophets as divinely inspired by their miracles (ex. Moses performing miracles Ex. 7). For time purposes, i will only list the predictions and messianic verses made in the O.T with Jesus being the most likely candidate for them all (1).


Islam is a religion which is monotheistic and holds Muhammad the prophet as the founder with the Koran as the central text. However, even the Koran derives itself from the divinity of the Torah and Jesus:

Qur'an 5:46/47 and 43:63;
"And in their (earlier prophets) footsteps,
We sent Jesus the son of Mary,
confirming the Taurat (the Jewish Torah),
that had come before him:
We sent him the Injeel (the Christian Gospel),
therein was Guidance and Light.
And confirmation of the Taurat ( the Torah),
that had come before him:
a Guidance and an Admonition to those who fear Allah."
"Let the People of the Injeel (the Gospel),
judge by what Allah had revealed therein.
If any do fail to judge by what Allah had revealed,
they are those who rebel."

"When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said:
'Now I have come to you with wisdom,
in order to make clear to you some of the (points)
on which you dispute*; therefore fear Allah and obey me**.
For Allah is my God and your God***;
so worship you Him****: this is a straight way."

This totally disproves the claim that the Bible has been corrupted in favor of the Christians. With interpretations of the Koran, there seems to be no universal method to correctly establish an interpretation. In fact, anyone can bring their own interpretations to the Koran (2).

In Christianity, this cannot be done at all. Interpretations must always be derived from the Old and New Testament with evidence to back it up. Unlike Islam which follows the revelation given by Muhammad, the Bible was written by many authors all which must validate their divine inspiration and their consistency with the Scriptures as a whole. Dating, archaeological artifacts, historical records, literary, and textual analysis are all vital to strictly finding the proper and original interpretation and eliminating any interpretations which arose later in time.

Hinduism itself is not a religion, but a culture (3). There are also no set of set beliefs, leaving it open to endless possibilities of interpretation (4). Buddhism is also the same way (5)








Thanks Pro.

I. Preface
Due to time limitations/procrastination and Pro's lack of argumentation last round, I will only give a brief on what I will argue.

II. Historicity of the Bible

The New Testament is the collection of books which underpins what Christianity is, and their respective values. Pro gave a number of tenets of Christianity from which I will be attacking all tenets related to Jesus. One of the most important Christian beliefs is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and the related effects on salvation via. Jesus’ death.

However, all works we have today that attest to this are of highly questionable historical authenticity, and by demonstrating that the primary sources by which these beliefs and tenets are formed are most likely false I will consequently demonstrate that belief in Christianity is irrational.

III. The Historical-Critical Method

There are several questions one must ask when determining the accuracy of historical writing:

  1. 1. Are they eye-witnesses
  2. 2. Are the writings contemporary?
  3. 3. Are they independent?
  4. 4. Did they survive to the present day in tact?
  5. 5. Were the authors disinterested from the events they depict?

The answer to every single one of these questions regarding the New Testament is a resounding no. It fails on every single account of these criterea of reliable authorship. There are other points, but these are the most common points to establish about any historical document.[1]

I will deal with these 1 at a time.

  1. 1. New Testament authors were most certainly not eye-witnesses

The New Testement consists of several books, including the four gospels, the Pauline Epistles and Catholic ‘General’ Epistles. I will address the former two and expand on the latter if needed.

All four of the canonical Gospels were written anonymous, and written several decades after the events they depict, and none of them claim to be eyewitnesses. This is especially important for the times of the Roman Empire since life expectancy for the people that would likely have been witnesses to Jesus was only ~35 years. Moreover we need to not only consider the events at the end of Jesus’ life, but also the events at the beginning of Jesus’ life, such as the virgin birth and the events leading up to and after the birth event itself.[2]

The earliest canonical Gospel, the so-named Gospel of Mark is most widely regarded by biblical scholars to be composed around the years 65-75AD, due to the references within to the First Jewish Revolt that occurred within Mark 13 in 70AD. This places the Gospel of mark 3-4 decades after the events of Jesus’ death, and seven decades after the events of Jesus’ birth. Considering the author would have to be older than 70 to witness all such events, it is virtually impossible, let alone improbable he was.

The Gospel of Luke is regarded to be composed ~80-100AD, which alone rules the author very unlikely to have even witnesses the events at the end of Jesus’ life, there are several reasons for this date, but the one of the most compelling is the dependency of the Gospel on the writings of Mark, as indicated by the ‘Two Source Hypothesis’ (more on this later).[4]

The Gospel of Matthew for the same reasons as Luke was also written post- 70AD, and most scholars attribute a date of 80-90AD, owing to its dependency on Mark, lack of dependence on the Gospel of Luke (meaning they are independent), and for the same reasons is extremely unlikely to contain any eye witness testimony.

Scholars set a date of late first century-early second century for the composition of the Gospel of John, and obviously such a date would preclude any chance of it being eye-witness testimony.

2. Authorship

The Gospels are traditionally attributed names of some of Jesus’ apostles, however this is a late attribution in the forth century, moreover it is virtually impossible for the apostles to have composed the Gospels themselves for several reasons. The apostles themselves would have been Hebrew-speaking (as opposed to Greek, in which the Gospels were written), moreover the the apostles most certainly could not even write, given that only a tiny fraction of peasents at the time of Jesus were indeed literate. Only a small fraction would read, and an even smaller fraction could write, especially in the highly advanced Greek in which the Gospels were composed.

Furtherstill, commissioning the authorship of the Gospels would have been near-impossible for them even if they could read and write Greek well, given that papyrus at the time (which was made from sheep-skin) cost an extortionate amount per page.[3]

3. Independancy

As I have already alluded to, the writings of the New Testement simply were not independent, the synoptic Gospels in particular, are widely regarded to have been composed according to the ‘Two-Source Hypothesis’. The Gospels of Matthew & Luke were most likely composed using the Gospel of Mark, the Hypothetical ‘Q’ Document, and other external information (oral traditions etc. more on this later).

The Gospels share the same stories, in similar sequences and wording lending significant parallelism between these texts which is best explained, and most widely regarded as due to literary interdependence.[5]. The clear consequence of this is that two of the Gospels lose much of their right to independent attestation of the events, and instead we have multiple attestations of the same attestation. We do not have multiple sources, instead we have one source written multiple ways.

4. Lack of Contemporary Historical Evidence:

There were numerous historians and writers that were local to the events of Jesus that would most certainly have reported on the events at the time, below is a non-exhaustive list of some of these:[]

Apollonius Persius Appian Petronius
Arrian Phaedrus Aulus Gellius Philo-Judaeus
Columella Phlegon Damis Pliny the Elder
Dio Chrysostom Pliny the Younger Dion Pruseus Plutarch
Epictetus Pompon Mela Favorinus Ptolemy
Florus Lucius Quintilian Hermogones Quintius Curtius
Josephus Seneca Justus of Tiberius Silius Italicus
Juvenal Statius Lucanus Suetonius
Lucian Tacitus Lysias Theon of Smyran
Martial Valerius Flaccus Paterculus Valerius Maximus


These historians would have been ideal candidates for contemporary, and disinterested accounts of the events of Jesus, yet nothing whatsoever was reported on the events of his life. The only reports known to be written by the contemporary historians were decades later, where they were only reporting on what the Christians were saying at the time, rather than the events themselves. We have very good reason to think that there definitely would have been attestation by these historians though.

  1. 1. Earthquakes on the death & resurrection of Jesus
  2. 2. Zombies coming out of their graves and walking to Jerusalem
  3. 3. Sky blackening for three hours when Jesus died
  4. 4. The Resurrection (?!)

Note that historians widely reported on events such as solar eclipses, and earthquakes, there is no reason to think that such unusual events would not have been reported. Yet that is precisely the case.

IV. Oral Traditions

I will go into more detail on this in the following round, but given that the writings of the New Testament were written decades after the fact by non-eye witnesses, then where did the authors get there information from?

Well, the answer is most likely oral traditions, which is a polite form of ‘hear say’. Stories that have been in circulation for years, even decades. One story repeated to another and back, it’s even worse than the game of ‘chinese whispers’, which is a trivial demonstration of the unreliability of repeated oral transmission, since stories both change and get manipulated to ‘fit the facts’. This also occurred within the manuscripts themselves (more on this in the next round), and as such virtually none of what is written in the New Testement can even be considered to have reliable origin, let alone documentation and transmission.

V. Summary

I have demonstrated that the New Testement fails in every single one of the major criteria for reliable attestation for the events of Jesus. In this day and age, any belief system based of such flimsy evidence, from times where superstitions, fantasies, fear and disease were rife is virtually the definition of irrational. The resolution has been negated.

VI. References
3. Metzger, Bruce M., (1991). Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography P76
5. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze. p. 16
Debate Round No. 3


I will approach this based on the following :

1) Oral transmission:

There is evidence that oral transmission is reliable. It's been observed that people can recite long poems from memory (1). Oral transmission also has set procedures and advanced techniques for preserving information:

"The Elders would serve as mnemonic pegs to each other. They will be speaking individually uninterrupted in a circle one after another. When each Elder spoke they were conscious that other Elders would serve as "peer reviewer [and so] they did not delve into subject matter that would be questionable. They did joke with each other and they told stories, some true and some a bit exaggerated but in the end the result was a collective memory. This is the part which is exciting because when each Elder arrived they brought with them a piece of the knowledge puzzle. They had to reach back to the teachings of their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. These teachings were shared in the circle and these constituted a reconnaissance of collective memory and knowledge. In the end the Elders left with a knowledge that was built by the collectivity." (2)

According to Kenneth Bailey's studies, oral transmission has been shown to be very reliable (3). I will quote from the site:

"Bailey identifies three types of flexibility exercised by the community in these five types of traditions: 1) No flexibility - Proverbs and poems. There are reciters who are bound to repeat word for word proverbs and poems. If the reciter quotes a proverb with so much as a word missing, he subjects himself to public correction, and thereby to public humiliation. Exact memorization of these types of traditions are taken for granted, with no changes in wording allowed. "

" 2) Some flexibility - The telling of stories and parables In a story some flexibility is allowed, and the order of events could be reversed. The flows of the story and its conclusion have to remain the same. The summary punch line is inviolable, as are the names of the characters in the story. Any proverbs within the story have to be repeated verbatim, otherwise the teller would be rejected. The story teller has a certain freedom to tell the story in his own way as long as the central thrust of the story is not changed (Bailey 42-44). To change the basic story line while retelling the account is unthinkable. Historical narratives important to the lives of individuals and villages also fall into this second level of flexibility that provides for both continuity and freedom for individual interpretations of the tradition. Flexibility is possible but authenticity is assured. Many of the Synoptic Gospels narratives and parables would fall into this category of flexibility. "

"3) Total flexibility - This is the type that Bultmann and Crossan assert is standard, where the substance of things are changed. Here is where exaggerations are possible. Bailey does admit that that this does occasionally happens; nevertheless, Bailey found that this only happens in jokes, casual news of the day, and material that is irrelevant to the identity of the community and is not judged wise or valuable (Bailey 45). "

These are the kinds of flexibility allowed in oral transmission, none which alters the entire message.

"Bailey relates a tradition of the founder of the Egyptian Evangelical community, John Hogg. Hogg found the community in the 1850s and 1860s and there were many traditions of what he did. 50 years later, his daughter wrote the material based purely on oral stories told to her. Then 50 years later, Bailey separately and independently dipped into the same tradition in 1955-1965. Bailey found the same stories told with almost identical wording (Bailey 46-47). Neither exaggeration or embellishment occurred. "

2) Early date for the Gospels:

There is now an acceptance of an early date for the Gospels:

"We can already say emphatically that there is no long any basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about AD 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today." (4)

Papias living in A.D cites the Gospels, indicating that it had an earlier composition:

"And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter"s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord"s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them." ("Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord")

We can then say that there is evidence that the Gospels were very close to it's oral traditions.

3) Authorship:

Con claims that the disciples could not write, but evidence taken from shows that it was very likely for the disciples to be literate (5):

"The only hypothesis with enough flexibility to meet the requirements is that a body of loose notes stands behind the bulk of the synoptic tradition. The wide use of shorthand and the carrying of notebooks in the Graeco-Roman world, the school practice of circulating lecture notes and utilizing them in published works, and the later transmission of rabbinic tradition through shorthand notes support this hypothesis"

" The time-estimates of the recording of these words/deeds continue to move earlier and earlier in history. So E.E. Ellis (Criswell Theological Review, Fall 88, p.7)"

Matthew is also said to have an aramaic diary "N. Walker even suggests that Matthew kept an Aramaic 'diary' ("The Alleged Matthean Errata", New Testament Studies, 1963, 9: 391-4),"

Greek was widespread in the ancient world

"Greek, of course, was in widespread use in the Roman empire at this time. Even the Romans spoke Greek, as inscriptions in Rome and elsewhere attest. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Greek was also in common use among the Jews of Palestine. The Hellenization of Palestine began even before the fourth-century B.C. conquest by Alexander the Great. Hellenistic culture among the Jews of Palestine spread more quickly after Alexander's conquest, especially when the country was ruled by the Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes (second century B.C.), and later under certain Jewish Hasmonean and Herodian kings" (p.59)." (5)

The disciples are thus very likely to have written the Gospels.

4) Independacy

This does not show that the Gospels are unreliable, but that it simply has an interdependent relationship.

5) Evidence for Jesus:

While it's arguable that no contemporary historians actually lived in Jesus' time period, archaeological evidence clearly shows that Jesus existed (6).

Other religions do not have the historical accuracy of the Bible minus the ones who simply teach religious philosophy.

"Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds." (7).

Critics did not find any archaeological, historical, or scientific evidence supporting the book of mormon (8). Other faiths such as the Baha'i are obviously made of many different existing religions (9). Religious philosophies such as new age cults cannot be proven.


There is more reason to believe in the beliefs of Christianity based on empirical evidence and logic. Many of the prophecies, historical, physical claims, and observations of human nature of the Bible can be tested and observed.


1. Honko, "Introduction: Oral and Semiliterary Epics," in The Epic: Oral and Written (eds., L. Honko, J. Handoo, and J. M. Foley; Mysore, India: Central Institute of Indian Languages, 1998) 9.

2. Stephen J. Augustine, ""Oral Histories and Oral Traditions, in Aboriginal Oral Traditions: Theory, Practice, Ethics, ed. Rene Hulan and Renate Eigenbrod (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2008), ".


4. Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands. 136



7. Archaeology and the Old Testament, Unger, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954, p.15




Thanks Pro.

  1. I. Preface

I will finish off my arguments before rebutting Con’s arguments.

  1. II. Textual transmission

I spoke about Oral Traditions and the issues surrounding it (akin to the ‘telephone game’ or ‘Chinese whispers’. Another severe issue we have is with the manuscripts themselves. We do not have the original manuscripts which were written 70-100AD, our earliest fragment of the New Testament manuscripts is a credit card sized piece of Mark containing less than a handful of verses which dates 117-138AD. Our earliest complete manuscripts don’t appear until nearly 300 years later (!).[1, 2]

Printing did not exist during this period, and copying of manuscripts needed to be performed manually by hand, letter by letter by scribes at the time, and as such many, many mistakes were made. Some were unintentional mistakes which number in the thousands, which while often minor, can and do change much of the original meaning of the text over many iterations. There are other far more serious changes which are ‘intentional mistakes’ (more on this later)

Each manuscript is copied, and the copy is copied, and that manuscript is copied, and so on and so forth. Each generation of manuscripts will contain all the errors of the predecessor, plus the errors the scribe makes and other changes. We have approximately 6,000 fragmented/complete manuscripts and they all differ from each other, with more mistakes contained within them than there are words in the new testament (!!).[3]

There are serious errors made that are known, such as the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark, which are now regarded as most likely a forgery, the famous story of “Pericope Adulterae”, is also known to have been an evolution on earlier manuscripts, as scribes made changes to the story which made the narrative fit Jesus’ perceived character.[4]

The take-home message from this argument is:

  1. 1. We do not know what the original texts state
  2. 2. We have abundant evidence that the manuscripts we currently have are significantly different from the original text
  3. 3. We know that the scribes were not without motivation to make intentional changes (and hence fabrications/significant alterations)

  1. III. Rebuttals

Pro presented zero arguments in R2 for me to rebut, and wasted his entire Round 3 by comparing Christianity to other religions. There is simply no way that demonstrating that belief Christianity is more rational than other religions would in turn demonstrate that belief in Christianity itself is rational.

To present an analogy, we could have the best boy athlete of all the schools in a district, who runs the best 800m times, but this does in no way qualify him to run in the Olympics. His performance against his fellow schoolmates in no way demonstrates his performance is adequate for such a level of competition. Similarly demonstrating that Christianity is more rational than other Religions only demonstrates what is said at face-value. As such Pro’s entire R3 fails to affirm the resolution whatsoever.

Moreover Pro has only attacked 3 other religions (Judaism, Islam and Hinduism), but a sobering thought is that this is a drop in the ocean when stood against all the religions that exist and ever existed. Pro has failed to attack Taoism, Theistic Buddhism, Pagan, Krishna, FSM etc etc. Pro’s strategy to demonstrate Christianity the most rational is untenable and unworkable.

  1. IV. Counter-Rebuttals

As it stands, Pro has yet positively demonstrates the rationality of belief in Christianity, so these rebuttals aren’t even needed to win the debate, as he has spectacularly failed to uphold his BoP.

Oral Tradition:

Pro attempts to demonstrate that oral transmission CAN be reliable, but this is completely irrelevant to the debate. I CAN hit a target from 1000m away with a gun, but I need all the right conditions and healthy dose of luck in order to succeed.

Pro presented examples of trained people who commit to memory by repetition, and other ‘advanced techniques’, but none of this has the least to do with the oral transmission of the stories of the new testament.

First consider that the stories were in circulation for at least 40 years (70 for the events of Jesus’ birth) before they were documented, for which pro has provided no evidence that even ‘advanced oral techniques’ could maintain long stories (many thousands of words) in even rudimentary condition. But then also consider that it’s not just oral transmission, but witnessing, each even only occurs once in history, and is transmitted via the person telling that story, and that person telling another person a story etc. It will clearly undergo many iterations and transmissions before any formal oral could ever set it in stone.

Moreover, it is impossible with oral transmission to determine which stories are actually witnessed, and which were fabrications or fables since there is no evidence that it could have been after a few ‘generations’ of converts.

Oral traditions simply amount to hearsay, and simply cannot be reliable, especially considering the time and location involved, where there were many oral traditions of obviously false stories.

Gospels Dating:

Pro has failed to demonstrate what an ‘early date’ means, and given that the consensus of Scholars is Mark was written ~70AD and the others written up until the early first century, I am not sure we disagree much here.

If Pro asserts that the Gospel of John was written earlier than 80AD, then he actually needs to provide opposing evidence of this, as this goes against scholar consensus, but I don’t see how this makes much difference for the purposes of this debate anyway, the issues are pretty much the same in oral attestation.


Is Pro advocating that the labels on the Gospels actually represent the alleged disciples that authored them?

Pro ignores my point that the Gospels are internally anonymous, moreover none of them even claimed to be eye-witnesses. He also ignores that commissioning and executing the authorship of an entire gospel would have been impossible for most people who could write at the time, due to the high-level writing skills, the availability of paper and the manufacture of ink, all of which cannot be taken for granted at the time they were composed.

Pro provided zero reason to think that the disciples were even literate, remember that most of them were fisherman and peasants (which the disciples were), and such families did not receive an education. These families are part of the lower soceo-economy classes in Galilee has approximately 3-10% literacy rates, and much lower read & writing rates (literacy =/= ability to write). [5]

Moreover he ignores that the timeframes involved in Jesus’ death and the composition of the manuscripts almost certainly rules this out given the life expectancies at the time.[6]
Pro affirms that green was widespread in the ancient world, but how on Earth does this affirm that the disciples spoke, let alone read AND wrote Greek? Mandarin (Chinese) is widespread in the modern world, but that doesn’t mean a random stranger plucked from London is going to be likely to speak it.

Moreover, in Galilee where Jesus and his disciples lived the predominant languages were Aramaic and Hebrew, and the consensus is that Jesus would have likely spoke in Aramaic, which diminishes the chances of his disciples speaking Greek.



It demonstrates that we do not have multiple independent attestations of the same event (which would be ideal if we are trying to determine if these events really happened, since multiple attestation would make a fabrication less likely), and hence the stories are much less well attested than would be acceptable for a reliable story. We have many copies of one source, and very strong reasons to believe that this one source is full of falsehoods.

Therefore it really does matter that they are not independent.

Jesus’s Existence:

Even if Pro demonstrated Jesus existed, he in no way demonstrates that Christianity is rational. The Christian tenets depend on what Jesus did, and who he was (see his opening round), Pro needs to affirm that the stories written about him are actually true.

Pro tries to affirm Jesus’ existence by affirming the veracity of the Old Testament….. which has precisely zero to do with Jesus. How on earth does demonstrating some feats of the Old Testament actually show that the New Testement is reliable? The jump in logic here is as wide as the grand canyon… Pro’s other positive arguments here are completely irrelevant to demonstrating his existence, let alone his feats.

  1. V. Summary

Pro has:

  1. 1. Failed to affirm the resolution in any way
  2. 2. Failed to rebut my refutations of the resolution

As such Pro has already dropped this debate, back to Pro for his closing.

  1. VI. References

  1. 1.
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4. P365
  5. 5. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Q-Z) p50.
  6. 6.
  7. 7. 313-315
Debate Round No. 4


1) Textual transmission:

Con is wrong in saying that we have late manuscripts. Some date back to as early as 20-30 years from the originals (1). The former director of the British museum said:

"The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established" (2)

Con did not provide evidence explaining the errors of the New Testament, so instead i will show the types of errors made:

1) spelling errors - some manuscripts read "we were horses [hippoi] among you" rather than in others which have the Greek "apioi" or gentle. Obviously the disciples would not be horses.

2) Minor changes such as the absence of the definite article "the." Changes also occur in word order, however Greek allows for a sentence to be written 18 times saying the same thing. Meaning is not lost.

3) Almost all manuscripts read (1 Thess. 2:9) "gospel of God" but a late copy says "gospel of Christ." Theologically and textually, it points to "gospel of God."

4) The errors accounting for alternate readings of original wordings is less than 1% and center around a word or phrase (3)

None of these errors affect a single doctrine (4).

The story of the adulteress is canonical based on evidence:

Jerome stated:

"in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord."

Con's claim that it was a forgery is false.

2) Religions - Earlier, i explained i was only going to focus on the major religions and neglect the rest seeing they fall under the same almost in the same category as Hinduism and Buddhism. Should you consider which religion to pick, note that the Bible has an abundant amount of evidence.

3) Oral tradition:

There have been cases of people reciting poems lasting several days from memory (6). Studies also show that the use of mnemonic devices in oral transmission increase memory (7). It's very unlikely for myths to have emerged with the amount of time the oral traditions were passed down (8).

Con's claim that they were false stories is a false claim.

4) Authorship:

Con claims that the Gospels were anonymous, however that is false. A researcher scanned the earliest N.T manuscript for the names of the authors and they are found on the headers (9). In ancient practices, that's how authors were identified.

As for the disciples being able to write, Jewish scholar, Saul Lieberman wrote:

"Now the Jewish disciples of Jesus, in accordance with the general rabbinic practice, wrote the sayings which their master pronounced not in a form of a book to be published, but as notes in their . . . codices [plural of codex or early book], in their note-books (or in private small rolls). They did this because otherwise they would have transgressed the law. In line with the foregoing we would naturally expect the logia [sayings] of Jesus to be originally copied in codices." (10)

An expert notes that writings were passed along Jesus earthly ministry (11). A Hellenistic building with a storeroom of clay jars and papyri was discovered. According to an expert:

"This new piece of evidence offer a good fit with the broader picture that emerges from the wealth of evidence amassed by Millard, and as the jig-saw takes shape the emerging picture suggests that the production of written records would have had a place in the cultural milieu of the Galilean disciples of Jesus"" (12)

I have a lot more evidence to give, but in brief conclusion:

"The picture of Jesus followers as simple, illiterate peasants is a romantic notion without historical basis. Unless it can be shown otherwise, it must be assumed that some of the disciples and / or their converts were capable of composing written traditions"" (13)

5) Interdependancy

Most scholars accept the four-source theory as a solution to the synoptic problem (14).

6) Jesus Existence:

If by stories you mean miracles, there's evidence. Experts can accept extra-biblical sources, but also indirect witnesses (people living after Jesus' time).

a. Miracles -

" About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared. " - Jewish Antiquities, (Based on the translation of Louis H. Feldman, The Loeb Classical Library.)

Some say that this was a Christian insertion, but the ancient manuscripts of Antiquities has this passage (15).

Julian the Apostate:

"Jesus . . . has now been honored for about three hundred years; having done nothing throughout his lifetime that was worthy of fame, unless anyone thinks it a very great work to heal the lame and the blind and to cast out demons in the towns of Bethsaida and Bethany."

Even the Talmud agrees that Jesus miracles (16).

c. Death -

Tacitus on Jesus

"To suppress therefore the common rumour, Nero procured others to be accused, and inflicted exquisite punishments upon those people, who were in abhorrence for their crimes, and were commonly known as Christians. They had their denomination from Christus [Christ], who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious superstition, though checked for a while, broke out again, and spread, not only over Judea, the source of this evil, but reached the city [Rome] also" (17)

d. Resurrection:

Most scholars agree that the tomb Jesus died in was later empty (18). Michael Green cites a source which goes as follows:

"This piece of evidence is also called the Nazareth Inscription, after the town where it was found. It is an imperial edict, belonging either to the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) or of Claudius (A.D. 41-54). And it is an invective, backed with heavy sanctions, against meddling around with tombs and graves! It looks very much as if the news of the empty tomb had reached Rome in a garbled form (Pilate would have had to report: and he would obviously have said that the tomb had been rifled). This edict, it seems, is the imperial reaction." (19)

In closing, i prove Christian doctrine briefly:

1. God exists and created the universe (Gen. 1:1)
2. God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost eternally existing (Gen. 1:26 in Hebrew, verbs identify the # of person, God is plural as "make" has a plural prefix)
3. Man was created in his image, sinned, but has the free will to be saved (John 6:44)
4. We are under a curse of the Law, but freed from the eternal salvation coming through Jesus Christ by his perfect life
(Romans 1-5)
5. We receive Jesus Christ on the basis of faith and not of works (Eph. 2:8)
6. We mature spiritually through the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5)


1. McDowell, Josh 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict' Here's Life 1979 p.43

2. Comfort, Philip W. 'The Origin of the Bible' Tyndale House 1992 p.181


4. Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 475

5. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, vol. 23, col. 579.

6. Honko himself has witnessed one oral narrative that took seven days to complete. Honko, Textualizing the Siri Epic, 15. - See more at:


8. Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics [Baker Books, Grand Rapids; 1999], p. 530


10. Saul Lieberman. Hellenism in Jewish Palestine. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1962. p. 205.

11. E. Earle Ellis. "New Directions in Form Criticism." In Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity: New Testament Essays. Mohr, 1978. Pp. 243

12. Peter M. Head. "A Further Note on Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus." Evangelical Quarterly 75 (2003) 345.

13. E. Earle Ellis. "New Directions in Form Criticism." In Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity: New Testament Essays. Mohr, 1978. P. 243. .


15. He Walked Among Us, Josh Mcdowell, Bill Wilson, Here's Life Publishers, pg. 37


17. (Annals of Imperial Rome, XV 44).

18. Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004.



Thanks Pro.

  1. I. Preface

So this debate has taken a different tack to my usual debates, which is refreshing, anyway time to tie things up.

  1. II. Overview

I have attacked the rationality of belief in Christianity by attacking the historical reliability of the New Testament, from which I have come from several angles.

I have argued that the New Testament does not qualify under the criteria set by the Historical-Critical method, and is a long way from being close to ideal as good, substantiated sources of information for regular historical events, let alone supernatural historical events for which there are further philosophical considerations (which have and will not been discussed in this debate).

To summarize, the New Testament fails on numerous levels:

  1. 1. The authors were not eye-witnesses
  2. 2. The authors almost certainly could not be eye-witnesses
  3. 3. The documents were not contemporary
  4. 4. The earliest original Gospels were written nearly four decades after the latest events (resurrection), and seven decades after the earliest events (birth of Jesus)
  5. 5. The mode of information transfer between these periods were oral tradition, which is completely unreliable in the circumstances described
  6. 6. The Gospels are not independent, with the important events (resurrection, baptism of Jesus, immaculate conception etc.) not independently attested. As such we have far fewer sources for these
  7. 7. The Gospels were not disinterested, and the contents not corroborated by the dozens historians that lived during that time period in that location
  8. 8. The Gospels are not textually preserved, we do not have the originals and our earliest complete Gospels are over 200 years after they were originally authored

This is certainly not a complete list, but this is exactly what I have argued for so far in this debate. To accept Christianity one needs to accept the religion based on evidence that fails spectacularly to meet even rudimentary historical standards. The standards by which the New Testament is attested is far lower than those that would be accepted for the events of other historical figures such as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Julius Caeser, etc.

Because of just these facts, belief in Christianity is plainly irrational.

  1. III. Final Rebuttals

Textual transmission:

Pro pretty much ignores what I said about the manuscripts, where I listed the earliest manuscript (P52) which was at ~50 years after it’s original authorship and the fact that the earliest complete manuscripts are over 200, nearly 300 years after they were originally written.

In fact Pro grossly overstates and fails to mention just what the earliest manuscripts look like, here are some pictures of the earliest manuscripts




As you can see, our earliest manuscripts contain barely a fragment of a fragment of the text, and it isn’t until centuries later where we have manuscripts from which we can construct a Gospel from.

To quote Bart Erhman, a New Testament textual critic:

“"It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes - altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament...."”

Indeed Pro ignores the enormous number of errors that are clearly contained within the manuscripts, which gives abundant evidence that the scribes can and do make mistakes, more mistakes than there are words in the New Testament (!), which numbers over 200,000 from the ~6,000 manuscripts (including the tiny fragments like I have already shown).

Pro’s quote is rather laughable and misrepresentative of the facts.

Pro moreover mistates the types of errors, yes many do not affect the reading of the script, but many indeed do affect how it reads, and I provided 2 major examples of forgeries or major changes that is known by the Scribes.

Oral Traditions:

Pro again provides completely irrelevant information regarding oral traditions, his argument:

“There have been cases of people reciting poems lasting several days from memory”

Excellent…. What about 40+ years?! The most likely chain of events are that multiple people lie within a chain of oral traditions, akin to the telephone game or Chinese whispers. Moreover the stories can and do change. The fact that the four Gospels themselves hardly agree on many facts is plain evidence of this. Different times, days for Jesus’ , three kings/wise men, how many blind men besought Jesus, was there one angel or three at the tomb, etc.

Hundreds of such contradictions which would at the very least attest to the unreliability of the sources from which the Gospel writers were obtaining their information.


Pro didn’t actually present any positive evidence that would lead us to believe that the apostles actually did author the New Testament, and therefore he has spectacularly failed to fulfil his burden of proof here, much less managed to refute my multiple points against the possibility of them authoring them. He has left my points regarding literacy and commissioning unrefuted, and the timescales involved making such even more unlikely.


“Most scholars accept the four-source theory as a solution to the synoptic problem”

Exactly, The Gospel of Mark, the ‘Q’ Gospel, and Mark & Luke’s independent sources (oral traditions most likely), which I gave a diagram and pie charts in my opening round. The core points regarding Jesus, the resurrection, baptism, crucifixion and immaculate conception are all part of Mark, and as such we do not have independent attestation of these events, we just have copies of the same attestation, which we already know is not first hand.

Pro essentially concedes this point.

6) Jesus Existence:

Again nothing concrete provided by Pro.

Tacticus only mentioned Jesus in passing, and only what other Christians were saying at the time.

IV. Conclusion:

As attested to in the overview, belief in Christianity can only be irrational, in the face of what I provided. And Pro has simply not met any burden of proof to demonstrate otherwise.

  1. IV. References

Debate Round No. 5
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Wylted 1 year ago
Not bad
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
yeee!! Gimme that 50,000 something I put on envisage!
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Still, the Gospels would need to be written down as civilizations adapted from oral traditions to written transmission. I find invalid reasons for voting Con in your RFD.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Still even more attempts have been made to corrupt or destroy the Bible, none which succeeded.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Ragnar, just because it's flawless doesn't mean there's no reason to write it down. The downside to oral tradition is that if all of it's members are killed (very likely scenario with the Gospels) then the oral tradition would be completely wiped out from history.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Yea you do have a point, the debate drifted into a different direction than originally intended
Posted by RoyLatham 2 years ago
I think Pro had a way to win the debate. He gave the tenets of Christianity in R2, and Con didn't object. Pro could then argue that the tenets of Christianity could not be proved or disproved. The tenets that Pro claimed do not require the tri-omni God, so standard disproofs do not apply. Pro could then claim that Christianity could only be said to be irrational if a belief could be disproved. Since it cannot be disproved, belief not irrational, and hence is rational. By analogy, String Theory has not been proved or disproved, so we wouldn't say that a physicist who believes it is true is irrational.

No matter, the debate didn't go there.
Posted by RoyLatham 2 years ago
Pro pointless procrastination on debating the topic was annoying. Waiting beyond the first round challenge to define important elements of the debate, such as the tenets of Christianity to be judged rational or irrational, means that those assertions are not premises of the debate, but points subject to argument.

Pro claimed that Hinduism is not a religion, and gave as reference a document that says Hinduism is "not just a religion" -- clearly asserting it is a religion as well as a way of life. Pro reference that Buddhism is not a religion has as it's first sentence, "Buddhism is a non-theistic religion." Still, Con didn't really cash in on these gross errors. Since a non-theistic religion doesn't have to prove the existence of God, it would be prima facie to argue it is more rational.

The debate moved to the question of the historical accuracy of the account of Jesus. the move was not expected given the resolution, but both sides liked the move. I think Con should have argued more boldly that resurrection was a strong claim requiring strong evidence, and that the historical evidence was not that strong. The existence of true magic had to be proved. But boldly stated or not, the divinity of Jesus was not adequately proved. As Con pointed out, it is not only whether the story was passed down correctly, but whether the story was true in the first place. For example, the myth of Paul Bunyan may have been accurately repeated for many decades, but that only establishes it as an attractive myth, not as truth. Pro's rebuttals on the historical issues were good, but ultimately not convincing.

Con did not entirely abandon the apparent meaning of the resolution and questioned several times whether proving the historical Jesus actually proved the rationality of Christianity. That supports Con's case. In fact, Con could have argued that Pro's refusal to debate the resolution is a conduct violation.
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago

1. Ok
2. I never made that claim
3. Irrelevant, I argued that the apostles specifically most likely could not have read & wrote (and mostly likely could not have even spoke) Greek, due to where they originated and their socio economic class
4. I agree, and I said as much in the debate, but there are still major differences that exist, a small portion of a massive number is still a significant number.

Ok about your justification for RFD tho.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago

In R1 you said: "I will then compare Christianity to other religions and explaining how Christianity is more rational and based on evidence", not mentioning that you'd only be looking at the "major" ones.

In R3, you said you'd compare with "others of the major religions".

Now, first, I still think it lacks relevance for the reasons that your opponent noted.

Second, though: You didn't focus on the "major religions".

Judaism falls far behind Hinduism (by a factor of almost 100) and Buddhism (by a factor of around 40) , and even Shinto and Sikhism have more adherents. So what made you choose Judaism over those? It seems only that you wanted to focus on judeochristian tradition.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The side tangents greatly distracted from quality of arguments (other religions being less rational, has zero to do with the resolution... seemed more of an attack on site members of said religions). I do agree with pro that people can accurately repeat long poems through memory, but depending on decades (or longer) of a game of Chinese Whispers to give the truth of what happened, then write it down, well it seems highly dubious (not rational), even more so when we see clear evidence of overlapping (yet different) material resulting from it. If said game of Chinese Whispers had no flaws, than there would have been no need to ever write it down, if it has flaws than it's not rational to trust the results after 40+ years. Than having the results outright edited... claiming "Con's claim that it was a forgery is false" without a verifiable source to back it (con did have a verifiable source) is pretty weak to say the least.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by mishapqueen 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con, a few points. 1. Papyrus was not made from sheep's skin. It was made from plants that were beaten into strips. 2. Each Gospel author is distinct in his style, and whoever said that Matthew and Luke could have the same author obviously has never looked at them in the Greek. 3. Greek was the Lingua Franca of the ancient world; mostly because of Alexander the Great. The Greek that the NT was written in was a common, simple form that everyone was familiar with. 4. I've done some translation of the Greek New Testament, and the majority of the discrepancies are extremely minor. Sorry if I got too didactic, you kinda touched on some pet peeves of mine. Putting all that aside, however, I was disappointed that there was so little clash until like the last round. In addition, the majority of the debate had only very little to do with resolution. Con did not quite overcome Pro's argument about the contemporary historians.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.