The Instigator
MattPalumbo
Pro (for)
Winning
46 Points
The Contender
Lightkeeper
Con (against)
Losing
44 Points

Jesus Christ Existed As A Historical Figure

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Post Voting Period
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after 15 votes the winner is...
MattPalumbo
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/22/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,024 times Debate No: 13720
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (75)
Votes (15)

 

MattPalumbo

Pro

After doing some searching, I was unable to find a debate on this topic so I thought that I'd start the first. My main arguments for the existence of Jesus as a historical figure will be based on the testimony of Josephus and Tacitus, as I don't have room to discuss other sources and the NT's authorship.

Non Biblical Source 1: Josephus
The works of the first-century historian Josephus have been held in high regard by Christians throughout history. Josephus was a first century Jewish historian who survived and recorded the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In his book "Antiquities of the Jews" Josephus makes reference not only to Jesus, but confirms the existence of over 20 people in the New Testament.
The following verse is the most commonly known reference to Jesus from Josephus, and is the most commonly debated for its authenticity.
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day." (Josephus, Antiquities 18:63-64)
The Josephean account contains obvious interpolations, such as referring to Jesus as "the Christ", while this is nothing that a Jew would say. Despite having minor interpolations, the majority of the Josephean passage is consistent with the writing style of Josephus, for example: Referring to someone as a wise man is quite common for Josephus, considering he also refers to King Solomon (Testimonium Flavium 8.53) and Daniel (Ibid., 10.237) as Wisemen. Introducing someone by saying "about this time" is also common throughout the writings of Josephus. (See: Antiquities 17.19,18.39,65,80,and 19.278) Simply referring to Jesus as "Jesus" rather than "Jesus Christ" also testifies to the authenticity of the passage, considering nearly all early Christian references to Jesus refer to Jesus as "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus". Though it is likely that Josephus referred to Jesus as a wise man, the following statement "if it be lawful to call him a man" is an obvious interpolation. It's hard to interpret what Josephus means by " a doer of wonderful works" when attributing them to Jesus, many would like to interpret Josephus to mean miraculous acts, but it can't be known for sure, some translations even make it possible to interpret the phrase negatively, stating "Jesus was a doer of controversial deeds" . The term "doer" is uncommon to the writings of Josephus, however, in books 17-19 of Antiquities, Josephus uses the term "receive the truth with pleasure" more than in all his other works. The Gospel's never claim that Jesus drew over any gentiles, placing it in contradiction with the claim of Josephus', making the statement more likely to be authentic and less likely to be a Christian forgery; as that section would've been removed. The reference to Pilate is in harmony with the Gospel's narrative of the death of Jesus, though does not testify to Christian interpolation as the reference of "principal men" is common in the writings of Josephus (See: Antiquities 1.3, 10.2.2, 12.6.2, 14.10.1, 15.3.2, and 15.10.5), while a Christian forger would most likely push the blame for the death of Jesus on the Jewish Sanhedrin. The phrase "those that loved him at the first did not forsake him" is unique to the characteristic style of Josephus , although it is disturbed by the interpolated words "for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him". Lastly Josephus correctly claims that "the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day", and in addition to being historically correct, the phrase "tribe of" is typical of Josephus.

Josephus makes a second reference to Jesus when speaking about James, the brother of Jesus, this time Josephus refers to Jesus as the "so-called Christ", which is consistent with the religious beliefs of Josephus (Judaism). Also, the following passage is found in every single manuscript of Antiquities without any variation.
"But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." (Antiquities 20.1.9)

Non-Biblical Source 2: Tacitus
Tacitus was a historian and senator of the Roman Empire, his source is most likely a government official. Two of Tacitus' major works have survived in fragments, which are titled "Annals", and "Histories". Tacitus is regarded as perhaps the greatest historian and one of the greatest prose stylists to write in Latin.
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians; see below] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." (Annals, 15.44)

Four main factors attest to the authenticity of the passage:
1)It appears in every manuscript, meaning there is no evidence that this passage was ever altered.
2)It appears in perfect Tacitean style, meaning that it wasn't edited by anyone else.
3)It has a strong anti-Christian tone, one which no Christian forger would write.
4)Tacitus doesn't draw his information from Christians, as evidenced by the anti-Christian tone. Tacitus claims to source his information from other sources.
Lightkeeper

Con

Thank you for this debate.

In this debate, my opponent attempts to demonstrate that Jesus was a historical figure. In doing so, he attempts to rely on two sources; Josephus and Tacitus.

1.Josephus

Josephus was born in 37AD (http://en.wikipedia.org...). He therefore did not and could not witness any events contemporary to Jesus (who was allegedly dead by 37AD). At the most, he could rely on what he heard from other sources. There is no evidence at all that any sources he relied on were drawn from any official (or otherwise trustworthy) documentation. Rather, it seems rather probable that he is simply describing the claims put forward by a sect who believe in the existence of Jesus in the first place. And of course there is no doubt that some people have (and some still do) believed in the existence of Jesus. That fact is not in dispute. Without doubt, early Christians did too.

There is nothing special about a historian describing a legend.

But the problem goes further. There is no consensus amongst scholars as to the authenticity of the works ascribed to Josephus. Many parts are, to various degrees, hotly contested. This is both for contextual reasons and linguistic reasons. It is notable that he makes no reference to "St. Paul, St.Peter or any the Twelve Apostles, nor does he refer to basic Christian doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation or the Atonement, which has led some to suggest that Josephus may have been an Ebionite Christian" (http://en.wikipedia.org...). In addition, many parts of the writings ascribed to Josephus are believed to have been altered by subsequent Christian "translations" (Ibid).

What we are therefore left with is a dual problem. Firstly, we don't know who wrote the passages in question and which parts (if any) are authentic and which parts (if any) are fraud committed subsequently by Christian translators. Secondly, and even more importantly, the passages (even if authentic) take the matters no further in any event because there is no evidence at all that they themselves are based on anything more than a legend.

2.Tacitus

In relation to Tacitus, we have the same problem as with Josephus. He was born in 56AD (http://en.wikipedia.org...) and therefore anything he did write had to rely on external sources. There is no doubt that by 56AD there were clearly visible markings of the Jesus Cult and the legend must have been alive. But of course he couldn't write the Annals in the year that he was born.

It is important to note that Tacitus' reports about Jesus are said (in my opponent's own argument) to be contained in The Annals (as opposed to The Histories). Scholars are very skeptical of the ac of accuracy the Annals because "[they] are based in part on secondary sources of unknown reliability, and there are some obvious mistakes, for instance the confusion of the two daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, both named Antonia" (http://en.wikipedia.org...). The Histories, on the other hand (which DO NOT speak of Jesus) are said to be more reliable because they are known to be based on primary sources (Ibid).

It seems, with respect, that my opponent's contention that Tacitus claimed to source his information from non-Christian sources is pure speculation, as is his contention that Tacitus most likely sourced the information from a government official.

There is a further problem with my opponent's argument. He says that Tacitus' anti-Christian tone would indicate that he could not source his information from Christians. That suggestion in itself is an attack (ironically, by my opponent!) on Tacitus' credibility and integrity. What good is a historian who will only use information from folks whom he happens to like? No good at all.

Now, let's assume that the sources of Tacitus' report were indeed not Christians. So what? By the time of his writing (50+ years after Christ's alleged death), the legend was there; there's no disputing this. There WAS a cult called "Christians" and they DID believe in the authenticity of a man named Jesus. Without doubt, there must have been others (non-Christians) who also accepted the authenticity of Jesus, based on the same legend. Legends do tend to have this effect. Once a legend gets a substantial following, there is an entire spectrum of various degrees of belief in various aspects of the legend.

What do we then get from Tacitus? How does he assist us in finding whether Jesus was a historical figure? He does not. We get nothing. Unlike Josephus, it is not really disputed that the Annals were indeed written by Tacitus. But just like Josephus, it's completely unknown where Tacitus gets his information from and the authenticity (and accuracy) of the Annals is subject to much skepticism amongst scholars.

All we can really be sure of is that a legend existed. But we already know that. The legend did exist and it continues to exist today.
Debate Round No. 1
MattPalumbo

Pro

Contemporary Evidence:
Your objection to both Josephus and Tacitus had to rely on external sources, but I doubt you would apply this standard of evidence to other historical events. By this standard of evidence, every history book you've ever read has to be thrown out; after all, the author(s) relied on external sources. Quite ironically, every single source you cited is from Wikipedia, which is (like it or not) a secondary (and external) source. We have no contemporary evidence for Socrates, would you deny the existence of Socrates? Or consider Alexander the Great, we hear nothing of him for hundreds of years after his death, how skeptical are you of his existence, there are some miraculous accounts of Alexander the Great after all.

Josephus:
"There is no evidence at all that any sources he relied on were drawn from any official (or otherwise trustworthy) documentation. Rather, it seems rather probable that he is simply describing the claims put forward by a sect who believe in the existence of Jesus in the first place. "

Had Josephus sourced a Christian sect, we would expect that Josephus mention more of the alleged miracles of Jesus, did you realized that you refuted this argument only a few paragraphs later when you point out that Josephus makes no reference to Paul, Peter, the 12, the virgin birth, incarnation, or atonement?

"There is nothing special about a historian describing a legend."

Pontius Pilate is a historical figure; it's extremely unlikely that Josephus would record a mythological figure being killed by a historical one. Josephus also doesn't indicate that he's describing a legend.

"But the problem goes further. There is no consensus amongst scholars as to the authenticity of the works ascribed to Josephus. Many parts are, to various degrees, hotly contested."

Judging from how you only cited Wikipedia, you wouldn't be familiar with any scholarly work on Josephus, I however, am. According to Louis Feldman (Feldman, Josephus, pp. 684-91) "[out of 52 scholars] 4 scholars regard the larger passage as completely genuine, 6 more as mostly genuine; 20 accept it with some interpolations, 9 with several interpolations; 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation." The consensus seems to be that the passage of Josephus is partially authentic, 0% report is as a forgery.
On a side note, would you mind listing the parts of Josephus writings that are "hotly contested"?

" It is notable that he makes no reference to "St. Paul, St.Peter or any the Twelve Apostles, nor does he refer to basic Christian doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation or the Atonement, which has led some to suggest that Josephus may have been an Ebionite Christian""

Josephus was not a Christian, why would Josephus mention basic Christian doctrines, St Paul, Peter, or the 12? Your argument basically says "if Jesus existed, even non Christians would have believed in his divinity!", though this is a contradiction in terms. Josephus wasn't giving a history of Christianity, "Antiquities of the Jews" is about Jewish culture, had Josephus been a Christian, he wouldn't have referred to Jesus as the "so-called Christ" and denied the divinity of Jesus (Antiquities 20.9.1). Also, as I've already stated in my opening argument, every Christian reference to Jesus in the 1st and 2nd century names Jesus as "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus", had Josephus been a Christian, he would've named Jesus as such.

"Firstly, we don't know who wrote the passages in question and which parts (if any) are authentic and which parts (if any) are fraud committed subsequently by Christian translators. Secondly, and even more importantly, the passages (even if authentic) take the matters no further in any event because there is no evidence at all that they themselves are based on anything more than a legend."

Have you completely ignored everything I've written in my opening argument? I cited 14 examples from the writings of Josephus demonstrating his linguistic style, and how in his reference to Jesus, it's consistent with his linguistic style.

Tacitus:

Scholars are very skeptical of the accuracy the Annals because "[they] are based in part on secondary sources of unknown reliability, and there are some obvious mistakes, for instance the confusion of the two daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, both named Antonia"
So Tacitus must be wrong that Jesus was crucified because he confused 2 people's daughters? Tacitus has to be infallible for his claim that a man was crucified to be true? Interesting.

"It seems, with respect, that my opponent's contention that Tacitus claimed to source his information from non-Christian sources is pure speculation, as is his contention that Tacitus most likely sourced the information from a government official."

Have you even read the Annals of Tacitus? He lists where he got his information from; reports and memoirs (15.16), personal testimony (11.73), physical evidence (15.42), first hand sources (15.41), and written evidence (12.67, 13.17).
"There is a further problem with my opponent's argument. He says that Tacitus' anti-Christian tone would indicate that he could not source his information from Christians. That suggestion in itself is an attack (ironically, by my opponent!) on Tacitus' credibility and integrity."

I never said this; you made this up out of thin air. My argument was that if Tacitus had been forged or sourced by a Christian his passage wouldn't contain an anti-Christian tone.

"Now, let's assume that the sources of Tacitus' report were indeed not Christians. So what? By the time of his writing (50+ years after Christ's alleged death), the legend was there; there's no disputing this."

This is the same objection you made in regard to the issue of contemporary evidence. Actually your "the legend was already there" argument can be dismissed by a reading of Josephus. Had Josephus been citing the Jesus "legend", it wouldn't explain how Josephus had knowledge about the early church NOT mentioned in the New Testament (such as the death of James).

"All we can really be sure of is that a legend existed. But we already know that. The legend did exist and it continues to exist today."

Why didn't Josephus and Tacitus point out that the existence of Jesus was a legend but instead mention Jesus being crucified by a historical figure (Pilate)?

Please understand this, believing that Jesus existed doesn't mean that you have to believe he's divine, Josephus and Tacitus would gladly agree with me.

Sources:
Habermas, Gary. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence For the Life of Christ. Missouri: College Press, 2008.
Licona, Michael. "The Christ Conspiracy". Bethinking. April 10th 2010 <http://bethinking.org...;.
Holding, J.P.. Shattering the Christ Myth. Xulon, 2008.
Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by WilliamWhiston. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1974.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Michigan: Zondervan, 1998.
Cornelius, Tacitus. Complete Works of Tacitus. New York: Random House, 1942.
Lightkeeper

Con

I thank my opponent for his prompt reply.

1.Strawman.

My attack of the credibility of Josephus' and Tacitus' accounts is that they were based on UNKNOWN and UNVERIFIABLE and UNSPECIFIED external sources. The situation with Alexander the Great is completely different.

Josephus

2.My opponent then says that if Josephus had relied on Christian accounts, he would be making references to Christ's miracles. This, of course is incorrect on several grounds.

Firstly, contrary to what my opponent says, Josephus DID make references to the sect's claims of miracles. He mentions Christ's "wonderful works" and his "resurrection on the third day". This is quoted by my opponent himself in his first round.

Secondly, there's no reason to expect that Josephus, even if relying on sources from the sect, should give any credit to the sect's beliefs. The existence of a man called Jesus who had a ministry is, after all, far more plausible than any claim that said Jesus is a divine figure who performs miracles.

As it turns out, Josephus' account of Christ is VERY MUCH CONSISTENT with having been obtained from early Christians. It mentions resurrection and "wonderful works" which are unquestionably Christian doctrines. They are outside the scope of historical account of facts and are in the realm of the mythical/supernatural. Any claim of supernatural events must, for obvious reasons, be investigated with the utmost scepticism. This is where sources need to be checked with more than the usual scrutiny.

My opponent further claims that I contradicted myself because I have criticised Josephus for omitting to mention the Apostles and Christian doctrines. In response, I say that this was not a contradiction at all. The point I was making was based on scholars who question the AUTHENTICITY of the account (that is, whether the parts in question come from Josephus AT ALL as opposed to coming from a Christian who edited Josephus' works later); William Whiston, The works of Flavius Josephus, the learned and authentic Jewish historian and celebrated warrior, Volume 4, T. & J. Allman Publisher, 1826. pp 380-385.

3.My opponent then says that it's unlikely that Josephus would recount a mythical figure being killed by a historical one. Well, that argument is self-serving. If it were true, then any writing that includes even the slightest bit of truth, would have to be considered to be ENTIRELY true. Why would that be the case?

The fact of the matter is that Josephus may have himself believed the accounts of whoever it is that he sourced his information from. But that doesn't change the fact that there's no evidence that it was based on any contemporary records (and indeed there are none). And this of course means that was most likely relying on hearsay information (ie, legend) some 50+ years after Christ's death. Thus, we can't give his account any more credit than is deserved by the weakest link in his chain of information and this gives Christ the exact status I've been claiming; A LEGEND.

4.I am not interested, with respect, in my opponent's opinion regarding my personal knowledge of the matter. I consider his comments ("judging from the way you only cited Wikipedia") to be a species of Ad Hominem and in bad form. Note that this is an online forum and, in the interests of allowing judges to check our sources, it makes better sense to quote sources that are in fact available online.

That said, I agree that no scholars claim that all of Josephus' writings are a forgery. How does that help us? It does not. It's quite possible that some of the account was indeed written by him (based on the legend of Jesus) and some of it was later embellished by early Christian translators.

5.My opponent then says that Josephus was not a Christian and therefore "why would he mention Christian doctrines". The answer is that his failure to mention any of these doctrines (apart from resurrection) is consistent with the text being really written by somebody who wrote it in times when the doctrines were already well known. At least that's how I understand Whiston's reasoning. And there's no evidence that early Christians (those pre-dating Josephus) referred to Jesus as "Christ Jesus". In fact, there's no evidence what term they used at all. Even the New Testament (which was written AFTER Josephus) does not use the phrase "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ").

6.My opponent then says that I ignored his initial argument regarding linguistic style. Well, perhaps I did. For several reasons.

Firstly, linguistic analysis is a field of expertise and I don't believe my opponent is qualified to make such judgments himself. I certainly am not. This leaves us having to trust scholars. And scholars are in hot debate about the authenticity of Josephus' accounts.

Secondly, the style-related argument in my opponent's first round discusses the ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the work and therefore doesn't even qualify for any type of analysis. Linguistic analysis must be conducted in the original language of the works, if it is to be of any benefit at all.

Tacitus

7.Another strawman. My opponent claims that it is my argument that Tacitus must have been wrong about crucifixion because he confused the names of two daughters. Well, that was not my argument at all. I was citing scholars who have analysed Tacitus' Annals and concluded that their reliability is questionable for a COMBINATION OF REASONS; firstly, they're not based on any reliable sources (as opposed the The Histories) and secondly they are KNOWN to be inaccurate. This means that whatever sources Tacitus used HAVE BEEN KNOWN to be inaccurate which puts into issue his ability to select RELIABLE SOURCES when conducting second-hand work in the Annals.

8."Have you even read the Annals of Tacitus? He lists where he got his information from; reports and memoirs (15.16), personal testimony (11.73), physical evidence (15.42), first hand sources (15.41), and written evidence (12.67, 13.17)."

I have to ask for clarification of the above statement made by my opponent. What exactly does Tacitus say about his sources where it comes to accounts of Jesus?

9."My argument was that if Tacitus had been forged or sourced by a Christian his passage wouldn't contain an anti-Christian tone."

The above is non-responsive to my argument. I never attacked the authenticity of Tacitus' works. The only attack on authenticity related to Josephus. I made it clear in my first round that it's accepted that Tacitus is the true author of The Annals and The Histories.

10.My opponent then claims that if Josephus was citing Jesus as a legend, he wouldn't have knowledge about the death of James because this event was not contained in the Bible. But let's remember that the New Testament wasn't written until later. Let's also remember that the canons selected FOUR gospels out of some TWENTY candidates. And let's also remember that not everything that early Christians told each other by way of legend had to make its way to the New Testament or be written down AT ALL. The fact that accounts of James' death are not in the New Testament is therefore irrelevant.

11."Why didn't Josephus and Tacitus point out that the existence of Jesus was a legend but instead mention Jesus being crucified by a historical figure (Pilate)?"

The answer is simple:

a) Josephus. Josephus mentions resurrection as if it is a fact. I would venture, however, that he did not believe in Christ's resurrection. This clearly indicates that Josephus in fact omits to mention that his account is a legend, although he must believe that it is a legend. Unless it was a forgery in the first place.

b) Tacitus. As mentioned above, Tacitus is known to rely (in The Annals) on inaccurate and questionable sources and to get things wrong. This is consistent with him lacking judgment (in The Annals) about whether a sources is to be accepted or rejected.
Debate Round No. 2
MattPalumbo

Pro

I also thank my opponent for his prompt reply 

1.Strawmen?

"My attack of the credibility of Josephus' and Tacitus' accounts is that they were based on UNKNOWN and UNVERIFIABLE and UNSPECIFIED external sources."

How reliable does a source be to claim that a man was crucified? In your third argument, please try to make an argument against the existence of Jesus that can't be used against these historical figures; Alexander the Great, Socrates, Muhammad, Buddha (the earliest biographies of Buddha come over 800 years after his death), and Abe Lincoln (There are contradictions in the biographies of Abe Lincoln after all, and if you're as skeptical about a man being crucified, apply this skepticism to a man being shot.)

2.Josephus
"Firstly, contrary to what my opponent says, Josephus DID make references to the sect's claims of miracles. He mentions Christ's "wonderful works" and his "resurrection on the third day".

The "resurrection on the third day" part of the Testimonium was added on or altered by a Christian scribe, however the following phrase is in agreement with the Josephean linguistic style, (Josephus, Jewish War 3.354,7.327).

"As it turns out, Josephus' account of Christ is VERY MUCH CONSISTENT with having been obtained from early Christians. It mentions resurrection and "wonderful works" which are unquestionably Christian doctrines. They are outside the scope of historical account of facts and are in the realm of the mythical/supernatural. Any claim of supernatural events must, for obvious reasons, be investigated with the utmost scepticism."

Claiming that a man lived and was crucified is NOT a supernatural phenomenon. As for mentions of the resurrection, I've already pointed out that the part of the Testimonium mentioning the resurrection is an interpolation, while referring to something as "wonderful works" isn't uncommon in the writings of Josephus.

"And there's no evidence that early Christians (those pre-dating Josephus) referred to Jesus as "Christ Jesus". In fact, there's no evidence what term they used at all. Even the New Testament (which was written AFTER Josephus) does not use the phrase "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ")."

Actually they do, see: Ignatius: Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, to Polycarp, The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and the Epistle to Diognetius. I'd list hundreds more but I don't have room for that. As for the New Testament being written after Josephus,Pauls letters are written in the AD 50's, while the Book of Acts fails to mention information post- 62 AD, placing its date before 62 AD. (See: Robinson, Redating the New Testament). Please read the New Testament, it's easy it is to falsify the argument that the NT never refers to Jesus as Christ Jesus or Jesus Christp; 1 Cor 1:1: From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's Will""

"Secondly, the style-related argument in my opponent's first round discusses the ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the work and therefore doesn't even qualify for any type of analysis. Linguistic analysis must be conducted in the original language of the works, if it is to be of any benefit at all."

If in the English translation of Josephus, a certain word is mentioned twice, it's probably the same word in the original Hebrew translation mentioned twice.

"Firstly, linguistic analysis is a field of expertise and I don't believe my opponent is qualified to make such judgments himself. I certainly am not. This leaves us having to trust scholars. And scholars are in hot debate about the authenticity of Josephus' accounts"

I have every single thing Josephus wrote on my bookshelf, I'm not "trusting" scholars, I've checked everything they've said about the linguistic style of Josephus, and I've quoted the passages to boot. Your lack of knowledge on the subject doesn't disqualify my research. Claiming that something is "hotly debated" doesn't disqualify my conclusions, please tell me the last time a debate between scholars occurred on the writings of Josephus, and what parts of Josephus are in question, if there was no mention of Jesus you would have no problem accepting Josephus as genuine.

"This means that whatever sources Tacitus used HAVE BEEN KNOWN to be inaccurate which puts into issue his ability to select RELIABLE SOURCES when conducting second-hand work in the Annals."

Please cite me where Tacitus says that Annals are based on unreliable information.

"What exactly does Tacitus say about his sources where it comes to accounts of Jesus?"

I listed where Tacitus gets his sources from, Tacitus hated Christianity, do you really think he got his information from Christians? Tacitus doesn't list where he gets information for every specific event he mentions, I seriously doubt you question every event Tacitus mentions that he doesn't cite specifically?

"My opponent then claims that if Josephus was citing Jesus as a legend, he wouldn't have knowledge about the death of James because this event was not contained in the Bible. But let's remember that the New Testament wasn't written until later. Let's also remember that the canons selected FOUR gospels out of some TWENTY candidates"

Can you please list me the other 20 candidates? The other Gospels (there weren't 20) were written hundreds of years after the death of Christ, the canonical Gospels were written decades after. Manuscripts of Mark have been discovered dating to 50 AD, numerous factors point to the book of Acts written before 62 AD (http://www.bethinking.org...) , Josephus' Antiquities was written around 90 AD.

"a) Josephus mentions resurrection as if it is a fact. I would venture, however, that he did not believe in Christ's resurrection. This clearly indicates that Josephus in fact omits to mention that his account is a legend, although he must believe that it is a legend. Unless it was a forgery in the first place."

No, Josephus does not claim the resurrection of Jesus as a fact, the earliest manuscripts of the Testimonium don't contain the part mentioning the resurrection but do mention Jesus and his death. This doesn't indicate a legend, it indicates that Josephus was tampered with, and you never even bothered to respond to the second reference to Jesus made my Josephus. Allow me to explain the difference between a forgery and interpolation, a forgery is when something is invented out of thin air, an interpolation is when a passage is added on to.

"b) Tacitus. As mentioned above, Tacitus is known to rely (in The Annals) on inaccurate and questionable sources and to get things wrong. This is consistent with him lacking judgment (in The Annals) about whether a sources is to be accepted or rejected."

You listed one event in history that Tacitus got wrong, and it was a confusion of 2 people. If you're going to throw out hundreds of pages of history because of 1 error, you might as well re-write every argument you've made so far, afterall there were errors in your arguments:
1.You incorrectly dated the Gospels as being written after Josephus
2.You claimed that the New Testament never refers to Jesus as "Christ Jesus"
3.You claimed that early Christians never refer to Jesus as "Christ Jesus"
4.You claimed that Tacitus doesn't list his sources
5.You claimed that "wondrous works" is a Christian doctrine.

This isn't to say that my arguments are infallible, though if we toss out history by rhese standards almost nothing about the past can be known.

Thank you for the debate.

-Matt
Lightkeeper

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate. Now, to the issues.

1.Strawman is a logical fallacy which consists of attacking a point that your opponent has never made; first by distorting a point that he did make ("building a man of straw") and then by destroying that distorted version ("destroying the man of straw").

How reliable does a source have to be to claim that a man was crucified? The answer is that it has to be as reliable as any historical claim. Claims based on legend are not reliable claims. Claims based on unknown sources are not reliable claims. The better known the sources, the more reliable the claim. I think that should be obvious.

I will not enter into a debate about Buudha or Muhammad, simply due to time and character limits. The existence of Alexander the Great is well documented and it comes from first-hand sources. These sources are identified by the writers as coming from men who served under Alexander the Great. However, fragments of first-hand accounts by those who served under Alexander the Great, also survive: http://en.wikipedia.org...

In relation to Abraham Lincoln, with respect, my opponent is now stepping into the realm of the ridiculous. There are SCORES of accounts about Lincoln written by his contemporaries and there are scores of things written by Lincoln himself.

2.Josephus

Here, my opponent is again making claims about Josephus' style without citing any expert evidence. He provides no evidence and no argument to support his claim that Josephus' mention of the crucifixion is consistent with Josephus' style.

As for "Christ Jesus", I will concede that early Christians (but not those predating Josephus) did on occasion refer to Jesus as "Christ Jesus". If you do a phrase search on www.biblegateway.com, you will find that the phrases "Christ Jesus" and "Jesus Christ" were used precisely 219 times (mostly in the letters and in Acts). By contrast, however, the word "Jesus" appears in the New Testament as many as 1,310 times! The terms "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" are therefore in a definite minority. Note that the majority of the New Testament was written around the same time and after the writings of Josephus and therefore should be expected to reflect the common usage amongst contemporary Christians.

Now, since the writers of the New Testament used the phrase "Jesus Christ" and "Christ Jesus" so rarely, why is it surprising that Josephus (even if basing his writing on the same legendary accounts of members of the cult) did not use the phrase? And why WOULD he use the phrase? "Christ" means "the anointed one" (http://en.wikipedia.org...). It's a phrase of respect and one that would give credit to supernatural claims about Jesus. Josephus was not a Christian!

"If in the English translation of Josephus, a certain word is mentioned twice, it's probably the same word in the original Hebrew translation mentioned twice."

No, it just means that the translator used the same word twice.

"I have every single thing Josephus wrote on my bookshelf, I'm not "trusting" scholars, I've checked everything they've said about the linguistic style of Josephus, and I've quoted the passages to boot."

Well, does this qualify my opponent as an expert in linguistic analysis? Of course not. And my opponent has not cited any scholars in support of his claims about style consistencies.

"…please tell me the last time a debate between scholars occurred on the writings of Josephus, and what parts of Josephus are in question…"

Here comes: "A third passage, the famous Testimonium Flavianum found in the Antiquities of the Jews 18.63-64, in its current form summarises the ministry and death of Jesus; but the authenticity of this passage *remains contested by many scholars*, and has been the topic of *ongoing debate since the 17th century*." http://en.wikipedia.org...
("*" emphasis is mine)

Here's another quote: "In those parts of the Testimonium that are commonly regarded as authentic, Josephus describes Jesus as a teacher and miracle worker, attracting a large following who revered him after his death" http://en.wikipedia.org.... This quote for example shows that most scholars agree that the part that of Josephus' works that describes miracles and resurrection are authentic. But we know that Josephus did not believe in Christ's deity. Where then is he getting this information from? He's surely basing it on the claims of members of the Christian cult.

"Please cite me where Tacitus says that Annals are based on unreliable information."

Here again my opponent commits a strawman. I never said that Tacitus said that Annals were based on inaccurate information.

"I listed where Tacitus gets his sources from, Tacitus hated Christianity, do you really think he got his information from Christians? Tacitus doesn't list where he gets information for every specific event he mentions, I seriously doubt you question every event Tacitus mentions that he doesn't cite specifically?"

My opponent had NOT told us where Tacitus claims to have gotten his information from. He listed a generic TYPE of source. For example, personal testimonials. Well what does that mean? Personal testimonials of whom?

Again, let's keep in mind that the legend, although spread by Christians, was not known solely to Christians.

Would I question every event Tacitus mentions if he doesn't cite it specifically? I'm not an expert. But given that the experts distrust The Annals (and my opponent showed no experts who do trust them), I have absolutely no reason to do otherwise.

"No, Josephus does not claim the resurrection of Jesus as a fact, the earliest manuscripts of the Testimonium don't contain the part mentioning the resurrection but do mention Jesus and his death."

Well, this is what my opponent says now, in the final round. He never mentioned early manuscripts. And he never cited any scholar who held this opinion. But we have seen that according to Whiston (as cited in wiki) Josephus' account of resurrection is commonly believed to be authentic (ie, coming from Josephus). And this DOES place it in the realm of legend. But even if that were not the case, the entire account is based on legend because there's no reason to believe that Josephus based his accounts on anything other than Christian (or derived from Christians) claims in the first place.

"You listed one event in history that Tacitus got wrong, and it was a confusion of 2 people. If you're going to throw out hundreds of pages of history because of 1 error, you might as well re-write every argument you've made so far, afterall there were errors in your arguments…."

Sure, I get things wrong. I do that often. And when I do, I get corrected. I'm using an open forum where I am subject to scrutiny. You don't have to rely on what I say without an ability to check it. It wouldn't be reasonable. And that's where we are with Tacitus.

I can only conclude that, apart from bad temper, my opponent has not demonstrated anything in this debate. He relies on two sources. One is partially unauthentic (with scholars still debating which parts are authentic) and partially sourced on unknown sources, quite possibly early Christians. The other one is The Annals, largely distrusted by scholars insofar as historical accuracy goes.

There's no reliable evidence here that Jesus was a historical figure.

Vote Con.

Thank you for the debte.
Debate Round No. 3
75 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by gavin.ogden 6 years ago
gavin.ogden
Hahahahaha! That is hilarious!
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
Speaking of miracles...Here's a joke to lighten up the mood:

The morning after the wedding at Cana (where, as we know, Jesus apparently turned water into wine), people are waking up with a horrible hangover. They all have a headache and struggle to get out of bed. Somebody then says:

"Can somebody please go and get some water? NOT JESUS!"
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
@GodSands:

I don't know what votes you looked at but they can't have been on this debate. On this debate, at this point in time, there have been 13 votes and, of those, only 3 believe that Jesus did not exist.

Unless you are confused, of course and count the actual scores (as opposed to the votes on the "who do you agree with" categor - which carry no score at all). But that would mean you fail to understand the concept of debate.

We're not here to vote on whether Jesus existed, you see. We are here to vote on specific aspects of a specific debate.

I'm currently 2 points behind in the votes PRECISELY BECAUSE of people who don't understand what a debate is and think we're voting Jesus into/out of existence.

As for miracles, no comment. But do feel free to start a debate about miracles. I'll gladly take you up on it.
Posted by GodSands 6 years ago
GodSands
I've just looked through the votes, and saw that practically half of those who have voted believe Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Son of David did not exist, that He was all made up? It is harder to believe that than it is for me to believe in evolution. Despite the miracles, put them aside for a second, some people on here are quite confused with the historical data base.
Posted by GodSands 6 years ago
GodSands
@Lightkeeper: I'll get back to you shortly.

@Elmakai: I agree that Jesus Christ cares about what people have to say about their own beliefs, but you didn't quite interpret what I meant by caring. Jesus Christ cares for every individual individually, but I would doubt that Jesus Christ would care much about their beliefs. Atheism for example, that belief clearly pushes forward the concept that God is not real and therefore Jesus Christ is not God but either a liar or a insane person. Jesus Christ hates everything not of Him. He does not want anything other than people to believe in Him.
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
@GodSands

Then you say that if Christ was an overrated story then THE WHOLE OF THE BIBLE must have been too. Why? Why do you even mix the New Testament with the rest of the Bible? The canons of the New Testament were included with the rest of the Bible by those who believed in Jesus IN THE FIRST PLACE and this was a human selection based on human vote and took place 300 years later!

There is no such thing as "the whole of the bible" anyway because ALL the canons are simply selected by humans.

And is the Old Testament an overrated collection? You bet it is! Read it! It's FILLED with strange and mythical claims, self-contradictions, morally appalling divine propositions, claims contradictory to science and to common sense. The Bible is one of the most overblown and overrated works known to mankind.

And again no masterminds. Just legend. And no, the Bible does not fit together at all. But even if it did, so what? There have been lots of mythologies created over long periods of time in lots of cultures.

Myth and legend, my friend.
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
@GodSands:

Mastermind? Well, you have Paul. Many people believe that Paul is the creator of the entire thing. This of course doesn't mean that Paul thought Jesus up out of thin air. The fact that the figure of Christ becomes increasingly more magical from the oldest to the newest of the gospels is well known. That's exactly how legends are born.

There are thousands of legends worldwide, claiming the existence of thousands of heroes of various types. Does this mean that either they are true or there must be a MASTERMIND? No. Legends form when stories (whether or not based on a grain of truth) are steadily embellished by their tellers.

Did a Jesus exist? Yes! The name was very common in the region in that day. Preachers were also fairly popular. In fact, there are accounts of people who preached, were killed and resurrected on the 3rd day EVEN BEFORE Jesus.
Posted by Elmakai 6 years ago
Elmakai
@GodSands: "In this case, the possibility of Jesus Christ not existing is real, but I would have to bring the concept of metaphysics into it." I don't think it's difficult to see the possibility of Jesus not existing without resulting to metaphysics. Any scholar and/or Christian apologetic may not necessarily agree, but they can at least understand the position. Hence why people like MattPalumbo are so good at debating it, because they can entertain the thought.

". . .but if you look at the complexity of the Bible you will see that for it to simply a story and no more, there must have been a group of master minds behind it." This may be. Not for me to say, considering I'm no expert at what a mastermind is in the first place.

"When someone has their idea of what humanity is, and how it derived, it is common for a person to defend those issues, since their own idea of philosophy and self recognition is at steak." I agree. People do tend to put a lot of self worth into their paradigm, and when threatened, they feel attacked.

". . . even though something is obviously right, not everyone will see it as obvious or right." For the same reason above, it's because people don't agree what is "right" (I'll assume you mean "correct" or "truth"). Hence the nature of human beings.

"I wish all the beliefs that oppose mine to dissipate and wither." I hate to break it to you, it will probably never happen.

"I do not care about what you think. . ." Have you ever considered that this is the cause of most, if not all, of the world's problems? I would think that if Jesus were in your shoes, he would care what people have to say. I'm sure that if Jesus did exist, and he indeed was the son of God, he would very much care about every human being. In fact, he commanded us to.
Posted by Woodycanuck 6 years ago
Woodycanuck
Dude, you would have awesome during the Crusades :)
Posted by GodSands 6 years ago
GodSands
@Elmakai: People agree and disagree with things for different reasons. In this case, the possibility of Jesus Christ not existing is real, but I would have to bring the concept of metaphysics into it. Reality as we know it would have to be something other than how we know it to be.

Was Christ an over rated story? Probably not, if it was, then the whole of the Bible would have to be also. That might sound like a normal thing, but if you look at the complexity of the Bible you will see that for it to simply a story and no more, there must have been a group of master minds behind it. No other book is written in the same way or function as the Bible.

When someone has their idea of what humanity is, and how it derived, it is common for a person to defend those issues, since their own idea of philosophy and self recognition is at steak. It is like I speak out acid against another. You have seen how creatures fight for survival, they have no sympathy for their prey, we are like that with our reasoning and words.

Even if someone is fundamentally correct, the very thing they are fighting is far better, what else can be done but to die in style? In other words I am saying that even though something is obviously right, not everyone will see it as obvious or right. Rather illogical and wrong. But of course words don't die and so neither does our arguments, but the intensity and horror of survival is just as present. I speak as if I were acid and you were wood. I do not care about what you think, but to kill your arguments, I will listen to what you think. I wish all the beliefs that oppose mine to dissipate and wither. This is natural selection on paper.
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