The Instigator
SkepticsAskHere
Pro (for)
Winning
34 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Losing
22 Points

Jesus Christ Existed

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
SkepticsAskHere
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/27/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 11,502 times Debate No: 16746
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (149)
Votes (12)

 

SkepticsAskHere

Pro

I will argue that that Jesus existed. First round is acceptance and then we proceed with the debate.

Good luck to my opponent.
larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for creating this enlightened debate. My argument will be that Jesus of Nazareth, who is called "the Christ," did not exist in person. I await my opponent's evidence with excitement.

Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
SkepticsAskHere

Pro

I thank my opponent for this debate and I look forward to his response!

I would like to say that the reason I put this topic up, was because several atheists I have spoken to claim that Jesus the Nazarene never existed. So let's put that claim to the test!

Jesus - the founder of the major world religion known as Christianity; Called the Christ; supposedly a Nazarene born in Bethlehem, and supposedly the son of Joseph and Mary.

Now I will present my case:

Contention 1: There are 42 different authors who wrote about Jesus within 150 years of his death.

  • 9 Traditional New Testament Authors
  1. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4

This passage actually tells us that Luke was a historian who investigated everything that had happened. So he first hand investigate everything that happened.

  • 20 Early Christian Writers Outside the New Testament
  1. Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
“THE Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.The first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians Chapter 1.
  • 4 Heretical Writings
  1. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection.

“That is the gospel of him whom they seek, which he has revealed to the perfect through the mercies of the Father as the hidden mystery, Jesus the Christ.” – Gospel of Truth

  • 9 Secular Sources
  1. Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.

Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?) mentions Jesus - Antiquities, Book 18, ch. 3, par. 3.

  1. 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 amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) 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.

As you can see there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that Jesus did indeed exist. I look forward to my opponent’s response!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sources:

http://carm.org...

http://carm.org...

http://www.gnosis.org...

http://carm.org...

http://www.biblegateway.com...

larztheloser

Con

It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic
-Robert M. Price

Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist...Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
-2 John 1

Again I would like to thank my opponent for having this discussion. It is very rare that a Christian would even debate the issue. In this round I will assess the evidence my opponent has brought up.

Gospels
1) These are not reliable sources because they are based on hearsay. Matthew and Luke, for instance, wrote primarily from Mark, who Randel McCraw Helms proved (in "Who Wrote the Gospels?") was writing "at the fourth remove from Jesus." Luke tells us he interviews eyewitnesses, but according to psychological scholarship, these are the least reliable.
2) The gospels were not written "within 150 years" as you say. Prof. Steve Mason, an expert from York University (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36), showed that the gospels appeared about the mid-second century, compiled from earlier "fragments." These only begin appearing 35-65 years after the fact. That would be, at best, as if we wrote the FIRST fragments about the Watergate scandal today, and didn't build any narrative for another 150 years or so.
3) The gospels are an unreliable source because they are rife with contradictions - BOTH internally (ie Matthew 1:17 and Matthew 1:2), across texts (ie 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:12) and between texts (ie Acts 20:35 referencing a non-existent passage)
4) None of the biblical works is scholarly, and Mark in particular is written in a very midrashic fashion. Scholarly works had a very set form - for instance, see how the forms of Livy, Tacitus and Josephus are all the same.
5) The gospels are inaccurate because they have been heavily modified and edited over time. Mark, for instance, did not originally have the resurrection ending. This would be consistent with the fact that every Old Testament verse quoted by Mark is a portent of doom and destruction.
6) The gospels defy known historical fact - for instance, the placement of Nazareth on a mountain (Luke 4.29 - Nazareth is in a depression, as it was even in ancient times).

"The fragmentary writers"
This is my group-name for all those writers who mentioned elements of the Jesus narrative in passing - including the epistles, early christian writers and secular sources. One element of all of their writing is that rather than go around investigating, these writers wrote about some of the fragments.
1) These are the same fragments used to build the gospels, which are themselves of dubious historical value. This is because almost none of the writers you mention had even been born in 30AD.
2) Others, such as Paul in Galatians 1, are even less reliable because they are made up (or "divinely revealed") by their own admission. Interestingly, Galatians 2 states that Peter did exactly the same thing.
3) Like the gospels, these works have been heavily edited, and critical sections (especially for the early christian writers) have been lost. By the 4th century, for example, there were 3 different versions of Romans floating around. The Josephus text is a known fraud - Origen proves it! The "Testimony of Thallus and Phlegon" is likewise almost certainly fraudulent.
4) The earliest external references to these texts does not appear until the 2nd century, and the earliest manuscripts for any of the texts (a small collection of Paul's letters) dates to the 3rd century.
5) Writings chronologically written before the gospels (for instance, the authentic works of Paul) write about Jesus in the future tense, as if Jesus is about to come and do his ministry. There is no mention that this has already taken place, or that Jesus is returning, but rather it is indicated that Jesus is coming for the first time in several passages.
Romans 11: "all Israel will be saved"
Philippians 3: "we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ"
6) Several of the writings you quote say absolutely nothing about Jesus. Some mention "Christ" or variations upon that name. "Christ" means anointed, a term usually used for a king who would be anointed at their inauguration. The number of kings around aside, even if they did all refer to Christians, the existence of Christians is not evidence for the existance of Jesus. Suetonius and Tacitus do not mention Christ but Chrestianos, a grammatically similar Greek word meaning "the good [person]."

"I have read the chronology of Justus of Tiberias ... he makes not one mention of Jesus, of what happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did."
Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 9th Century

Other gospels
1) Once again, these are based on those good old unreliable fragmentary sayings. There is no known alternative gospel that predates Mark.
2) These actually provide evidence of a non-bodily existence of Jesus. The vast majority are either marcionist or docetist.
3) None provides any significant details about his life other than his resurrection except for the gospels of Thomas and Judas. Those gospels deviate so strongly from the teaching of Jesus in the gospels that one wonders if they are speaking about the same Jesus. The resurrection narrative is clearly borrowed from Paul.

I look forward to hearing what other evidence my opponent might have.
Debate Round No. 2
SkepticsAskHere

Pro

I thank my opponent for once again accepting this debate, and I wish him luck.

My opponent opens the round by saying that the Gospels are very unreliable sources because they are "based on hearsay", "have contradictions", "were not written 150 years after the fact", "have been edited", and "defy historical fact". I will address a few of these points.


First of all, I am not here to debate contradictions.

All of the literature I showed as evidence for the existence of Christ was written within 150 years of Jesus's death. Most earlier than that. My opponent also provides no evidence for any of these claims.

This doesn't defy historical fact, a depression could refer to a number of different things ranging from the economy to the politics.

Let's now look at how the Gospel's mesure up to other ancient texts in the world.

We obviously don’t have the original books written in the Bible. So how do we know if what we have carries any resemblance of the original? We you look at the earliest copies that we have and we compare them. Let’s say someone wrote an essay that was 100 words. The problem is that the original essay is nowhere to be found, but there are two hand copies of the essays. Every word in the essay is the same except the last. So we would have a 99% pure text in the two manuscripts. It’s the same process when dealing with any ancient document. So let’s see how the New Testament Scriptures compare to other ancient documents.

Author

Date
Written

Earliest Copy

Approximate Time Span between original & copy

Number of Copies

Accuracy of Copies

Lucretius

died 55 or 53 B.C.

1100 yrs

2

----

Pliny

61-113 A.D.

850 A.D.

750 yrs

7

----

Plato

427-347 B.C.

900 A.D.

1200 yrs

7

----

Demosthenes

4th Cent. B.C.

1100 A.D.

800 yrs

8

----

Herodotus

480-425 B.C.

900 A.D.

1300 yrs

8

----

Suetonius

75-160 A.D.

950 A.D.

800 yrs

8

----

Thucydides

460-400 B.C.

900 A.D.

1300 yrs

8

----

Euripides

480-406 B.C.

1100 A.D.

1300 yrs

9

----

Aristophanes

450-385 B.C.

900 A.D.

1200 yrs

10

----

Caesar

100-44 B.C.

900 A.D.

1000 yrs

10

----

Livy

59 BC-AD 17

----

???

20

----

Tacitus

circa 100 A.D.

1100 A.D.

1000 yrs

20

----

Aristotle

384-322 B.C.

1100 A.D.

1400 yrs

49

----

Sophocles

496-406 B.C.

1000 A.D

1400 yrs

193

----

Homer (Iliad)

900 B.C.

400 B.C.

500 yrs

643

95%

New
Testament

1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D.

2nd Cent. A.D.
(c. 130 A.D. f.)

less than 100 years

5600

99.5%


We can see that these texts are the most reliable ancient texts in the known world. To say they have been altered or can't be trusted is completely illogical. To say that we shouldn't trust the Gospels as reliable is to say we shouldn't trust the writings of Aristotle as the original. If my opponent says that Jesus doesn't exist, then by using his logic Caesar, Aristotle, and Shakespear also never existed.

My opponent makes several arguments against all of my evidence. Well I have won the argument for the Gospels, however my opponent has not provided any sources for anything he says. He quotes verse but never releases his source of his information. If my opponent expects me to legitimately attack his case then he needs provide sources so I can evaluate them. The claims he is making does not match up with anything I have ever seen when researching this subject. So none of his arguments can be considered valid, until he provides a legitimate source.

I would also like to say that if Jesus never existed, then we are talking about the biggest lie in human history. People have died for this cause because they claimed Jesus rose from the grave. If Jesus never existed then all 42 authors must have gotten together to fake all of this. What would their motives be? Why would anyone do this? It seems to me that it would take more than a Jesus to fake a Jesus.

Because my opponent provides no sources to any of his arguments, the Gospels are the most reliable ancient documents in the known world, and there are 42 independent authors who confirm Jesus's existence, then Pro should win.
I urge a pro ballet and I look forward to my opponent's response and his sources.
larztheloser

Con

If any one ... refuses to acknowledge that He [Jesus] was made in all things like us, apart from sin, let him be excommunicated.
- Gregory Thaumaturgus, "Twelve Topics on the Faith" (3rd century)

How much we and our family have profited by the legend of Christ, is sufficiently evident to all ages.
- Pope Leo X (emphasis mine), cited in the Catholic Encyclopedia

I would like to thank my opponent for his responses. In this round I will again examine what my opponent has given us. He offers a specific response on contradictions and depressions. He then refutes the remaining dozen or so points that I brought up by criticizing my lack of sources (a rather weak response, considering how many and detailed my other points all were). Finally, he offers two new arguments - one that appeals to the historicity of other texts, and the 42-authors argument.

Contradictions
My opponent tells us he isn't here to answer the contradictions. I agree entirely. What I claim is that the existence of contradictions points to a story being mythical rather than factual. If two ancient authors say different things about the same event, then that makes BOTH sources more unreliable. I'm not asking you to answer specific contradictions. I agree this debate isn't about inerrancy, and I'm prepared to accept that some writers made some honest mistakes. However the more of these contradictions there are, the less reliable the text becomes. Therefore, again, the existence of contradictions strengthens the case that Jesus never existed.
I think Pope Leo XIII said it best in Providentissimus Deus - "Truth can never contradict truth."

Depressions
When Luke says Nazareth was on a mountain, that's not a metaphor for economics or politics. The FACT is that Nazareth is at the bottom of a massive depression in the ground. You can check on a map for yourself if you don't believe me. Therefore Luke 4:29 runs counter to known historical fact. There are also other examples of the same thing. An example might the date of John the Baptist's death (according to Josephus' record and Roman records, John the Baptist was executed in 36AD), or that the census of Quirinius took place a decade after Herod died. The point, again, is not to ask you to refute individual lies, but to ask you to show how these deviations from known historical reality do not make the gospels more unreliable as a source.

Sources
Allow me to prefix this list of sources by saying that the vast majority of my argument comes direct from the Bible. You can't criticize me for not giving my sources when I have not only clearly indicated that an argument comes directly from the text of the bible itself, but even gone to all the bother of writing book and chapter references. For instance (point taken at random, representative only) my comments on Mark in my 5th point on Gospels came direct out of the bible, and this was readily apparent. Most bibles preface Mark 16 with a message like (this one is taken from my old Zondervan NIV): "The oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not have Mark 16." The fact that Mark only references portents of doom is my own observation. How, then, have I failed to disclose all the relevant sources I have used?
Nonetheless, here are some complementary sources I have referred to in constructing my case against your evidence: While we're at it evaluating sources, my opponent didn't offer any sources last round either.

Other texts
1) If this debate isn't about contradictions, then it DEFINITELY IS NOT ABOUT THE HISTORICITY OF ANYONE ELSE. There are many, for instance, who really do deny that Homer existed - it is not as though that is a set in stone fact.
2) Just because the manuscripts of the New Testament are well-preserved doesn't make them any more accurate. Even if they were wrong in 150AD, that doesn't make them any better now.
3) Looking at the writings of Caesar or Shakespeare is not a fair comparison because:
  1. we know who the authors were - cf the New Testament, where we have not a clue who wrote it or why, other than their own claim that they had it "divinely revealed" to them.
  2. the quality of the sources is much higher - for instance, the sources for Plato are ALL primary sources.
  3. many of the ancients on your list are identified as historical by non-literary sources. Caesar is largely identified as being real because there are hundreds of temples with his name on it, thousands of coins (I own a few) bearing his portrait, a few dozen sculptures, and the fact that without Caesar the narrative of Augustus would make no sense (meaning all the sources for Augustus apply to Caesar as well). Now try tell me Jesus' life is anywhere even close to being that well recorded.
4) Much of the copying of ancient texts was done in Christian monasteries. Why I am not at all surprised they took more care copying, and copied more, what they considered to be the holy word of God, compared with pagans like Aristotle? That doesn't support the claim for Jesus' existence at all.

42-authors
1) This whole argument is an evasion of my analysis last round. Every single one of my points last round refutes this claim because I have systematically discredited all 42 of the authors.
2) The vast majority of these authors were clearly relying on each other and not independent as my opponent claims. For instance, without Mark, we would not have Luke. Don't believe me? Read Mark, and then Luke, and look for plagiarism. You'll find an abundance. These 42 authors were writing decades apart. Is it not possible 41 people repeat, innocently, the lies of but one man? Of course it is possible. I do not claim that this is what happened (I think it was a much smaller group called "the apostles"), I am simply refuting your claim that "all 42 authors must have gotten together to fake all of this" (which is impossible anyway).
3) Just because a lot of people say a lie does not make it more true. Lots of people believe in Santa, but that does not make Santa any more real.

I wish my opponent luck for the next round.

Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all
- "Why I am Not a Christian", Bertrand Russell
Debate Round No. 3
SkepticsAskHere

Pro

I thank my opponent for this debate, and I will now go on and show why it is illogical to believe Jesus Christ never existed.


Contradictions
My opponent tells us he isn't here to answer the contradictions. I agree entirely. What I claim is that the existence of contradictions points to a story being mythical rather than factual.

Well first of all I don’t think that there are any contradictions in the Bible whatsoever, but that is an entirely DIFFERENT debate. This argument is non-topical and should be thrown out. However, let’s look at my opponent’s logic. If any two documents contradict in any way then nothing else can be true about those documents. If this was true, let’s look at the following group of people who we shouldn’t say existed either: Homer, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Hammurabi, Plato, Sophocles, etc. The list could go on forever.

Other texts
1) If this debate isn't about contradictions, then it DEFINITELY IS NOT ABOUT THE HISTORICITY OF ANYONE ELSE. There are many, for instance, who really do deny that Homer existed - it is not as though that is a set in stone fact.

That’s very different, Homer lived much earlier than Jesus and there was no documentation on his life at all.


2) Just because the manuscripts of the New Testament are well-preserved doesn't make them any more accurate. Even if they were wrong in 150AD, that doesn't make them any better now.

All of the New Testament was written before the first century was completed. A fact that my opponent blatantly ignores.


3) Looking at the writings of Caesar or Shakespeare is not a fair comparison because:

  1. We know who the authors were - cf the New Testament, where we have not a clue who wrote it or why, other than their own claim that they had it "divinely revealed" to them.

Actually Matthew and John were apostles of Jesus, Mark was a scribe of Peter (another apostle), and then Luke was a historian. So, three of the four gospel writers knew Jesus.

  1. The quality of the sources is much higher - for instance, the sources for Plato are ALL primary sources.

I’m just talking about historical accuracy.

  1. Many of the ancients on your list are identified as historical by non-literary sources. Caesar is largely identified as being real because there are hundreds of temples with his name on it, thousands of coins (I own a few) bearing his portrait, a few dozen sculptures, and the fact that without Caesar the narrative of Augustus would make no sense (meaning all the sources for Augustus apply to Caesar as well). Now try telling me Jesus' life is anywhere even close to being that well recorded.

Let me apply my opponent’s logic in the case of Jesus. Jesus is largely identified as being real because there are millions of churches with his name on it, thousands of stained glass windows and paintings (I own a few) bearing his portrait, a few million sculptures, and the fact that without Jesus the writings of the early church members would make no sense (meaning all the sources for the early church members apply to Jesus as well). If my opponent applied his logic to everything he would find no doubt in his mind that Jesus existed.

4) Much of the copying of ancient texts was done in Christian monasteries. Why I am not at all surprised they took more care copying, and copied more, what they considered to be the holy word of God, compared with pagans like Aristotle? That doesn't support the claim for Jesus' existence at all.

No, however it supports that that these accounts can be trusted.

42-authors
1) This whole argument is an evasion of my analysis last round. Every single one of my points last round refutes this claim because I have systematically discredited all 42 of the authors.

If we apply my opponent’s logic to every ancient person, then we will end up with the conclusion that no one before out time ever existed and that any history that was ever written down cannot be trusted.


2) The vast majority of these authors were clearly relying on each other and not independent as my opponent claims. For instance, without Mark, we would not have Luke. Don't believe me? Read Mark, and then Luke, and look for plagiarism. You'll find an abundance. These 42 authors were writing decades apart. Is it not possible 41 people repeat, innocently, the lies of but one man? Of course it is possible. I do not claim that this is what happened (I think it was a much smaller group called "the apostles"), I am simply refuting your claim that "all 42 authors must have gotten together to fake all of this" (which is impossible anyway).

The problem here is the motive, there is no reason for any of the apostles to make up such an elaborate hoax. This would later cost them their lives, because 11 of the 12 apostles were tortured and then killed due to their claims about Jesus Christ. Not a single one of them took back their claims, so who is willing to be boiled alive, crucified, or bleed to death for something you know is a lie.


3) Just because a lot of people say a lie does not make it more true. Lots of people believe in Santa, but that does not make Santa any more real.

Yes, but Santa actually existed. He’s not a magical fat dude living in the North Pole, but he did at one point exist.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My opponent’s arguments are illogical, because he claims that Caesar lived but yet denies that Jesus lived due to the lack of evidence, reliability, etc. However I have shown much more evidence to show how Christ existed. The New Testament Gospels are the most well documented sources and closest written to the original date than any other document in the world. Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger are among the most reliable historians known. I don't know how you can ignore those.

I wish my opponent luck in the next round and I hope that whoever reads this debate would examine the evidence with an unbiased attitude an decide whether we should accept that Jesus lived, or that we should go out of our way to doubt history.

larztheloser

Con

"What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."
- Martin Luther

"There sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing."
- Jim Walker (author's emphasis)

I'd like to thank my opponent for what I think has been a good debate. It has highlighted many of the weaknesses in the theist position. Moreover, it has shown that even to the end, the theist is unable to respond to 13 out of the 15 arguments (87% !) that I raised in round one. Here are the arguments that were so good my opponent could not respond to them:
1) gospels based on hearsay
2) gospels written more than 150 years after Jesus
3) gospels midrashic
4) gospels modified over time
5) other writers wrote based on same fragments that made up gospels
6) epistles made up by own admission
7) other writers heavily edited
8) epistles and other references are 2nd century
9) future tense in some epistles
10)several cited writings don't mention Jesus
11)other gospels based on same fragments that made up gospels
12)other gospels usually marcionist or docetist
13)other gospels offer nothing original

In round two, he did rebut contradictions and historical inaccuracy. However, my answer to the historical inaccuracy of the bible in round two was so good that my opponent dropped the point in round three. The only argument he continues to rebut is the argument from biblical contradictions. Even if I were to drop this argument, I should still win this debate because my opponent refuses to engage with my points.

Contradictions
1) My opponent claims this is non-topical. Last round I explained why it's topical - because contradictions internally, across and between texts make a text less likely to be true. My opponent does not respond other than to say he doesn't believe there are contradictions. Good thing that back in round one, I provided three strong examples.
2) Next my opponent claims that this logic also works for Caesar, Buddha and Plato. You show me one single primary source that claims Caesar did not conquer Gaul, beat Pompeius Magnus and get stabbed in the senate by Brutus and Cassius. There are none known. Add this to the numerous temples Caesar built, the busts and statues that were made of him, and the first-hand accounts he wrote. None contradict each other. My opponent offers neither evidence nor a source to back up his claim, because the claim simply does not hold true. I make an exception for Homer, who it seems we both agree there is no evidence for. There is as much evidence for Homer as there is for Jesus.

Other texts
1) My opponent asserts the New Testament was written before the end of the first century. This is false, as I have shown way back in round one. I even provided my source for this - Prof. Steve Mason, York University. Then my opponent says I ignore this! Clearly he did not read my argument.
2) He then claims all four gospel writers knew Jesus. First, Mark and Luke themselves admit they did not - Luke claims to be reporting what Paul told him, Mark (according to Iraeneus) reported what Peter told him. There are reasons to doubt even this, which I have explained above and given sources for - for instance, the fact Luke plagiarizes Mark extensively and the research conducted by Randel McCraw Helms. He then claims Matthew and John were Jesus' apostles. The word "apostle" means "preacher." Anyone can be an apostle, even today. If they did know Jesus, even if they were 10 years old when Jesus preached, they would be shattering world records by writing the gospels at an age of over 110, at a time when the average life expectancy in Judea was 29 and in the Roman Empire was 24. Added to this the fact that Matthew also borrows liberally from Mark, that both borrow from earlier fragments (why would they need to if they knew Jesus?) and that there is no ancient source even suggesting that they knew Jesus. On top of all this, my opponent's evidence for each text assumes the texts have never been modified, which I have proven to be false. I think that pretty much destroys my opponent's assertion.
3) He rebuts my argument on source quality by saying it's not about quality, but about accuracy. I agree. A higher quality source (ie primary as opposed to secondary) is more likely to be accurate.
4) Caesar vs Jesus. My opponent claims Jesus is as good as Caesar because Jesus has churches (but none say "This Temple Was Built By JESUS CHRIST"), Jesus has art made about him (but none made of him during his lifetime, so we don't know what he looked like - meaning the guy in your artwork is just some random dude), and early church writings would otherwise make no sense (err, yes they would. Early church writings are completely consistent with the idea that Jesus was a hoax). Sorry, but Caesar wins.
5) My opponent's logic - if Christian monasteries think that one text is more important than another, that text must be more trustworthy. Again wrong. Importance has nothing to do with trustworthiness.

42-authors
1) applies to everyone. Oh wait, you've made that argument already.
2) What is the motive for such a hoax? There are many possibilities, however, anything I suggest is just speculation. I am here to debate known historical fact. That it was a hoax is pointed to by historical fact. Why it was set up is unclear. Some possibilities include that they weren't really martyred, because this story on appears in the writings of Church fathers writing generations later. Maybe they really believed in their own "divine revelations." Whatever the truth, all I need to show is that alternative possibilities exist, because the motivation cannot be known.
3) No, Santa did not once exist. St Nicholas probably existed, but St Nicholas is very far removed from Santa.

Finally my opponent steals an argument made by TheFreeThinker in the comments section: "Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger are among the most reliable historians known. I don't know how you can ignore those."
To rebut this, let me steal my response: "You clearly did not read my argument. Josephus (at least in the Testimonium) is a later addition to his work. Pliny mentions Christ (see point 6), Tactitus mentions the good man, and the sources for both are the same as for the gospels (see point 1)."

Conclusion
Because my opponent has not put forward any convincing evidence, because the evidence that he has put forward is factually inaccurate in any event, because there really is more evidence for Caesar than for Jesus, because my opponent didn't engage with the vast majority of my analysis, and because where my opponent did engage his arguments have been demolished, I am proud to oppose.

Please vote con.


"My present opinion is that, in the case of Jesus, we simply do not know for certain anything about his biography, not even that he existed."
- George Walsh
Debate Round No. 4
149 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
I have to say I agree with SkepticsAskHere and Man-is-good. This is where you comment on the current debate, between SkepticsAskHere and myself, not argue between two competing views of textual criticism, neither of which was addressed in the debate.

I do want to say again that I think it's good that this debate has provoked some discussion, however, even if at times it has been a little uncivil. I want to encourage more people to just look at the evidence, consider its validity for themselves in light of modern scholarship, and come to their own conclusions. Debates can be an awesome way to get information out there - regardless of the result.
Posted by Man-is-good 6 years ago
Man-is-good
That what's I said. This is getting out of hand. You're spending all of your best arguments in a comment page. A debate (or maybe DEBATES) would be much better.
Posted by SkepticsAskHere 6 years ago
SkepticsAskHere
Guys seriously, if you want to talk about your theories or whatever then make a forum or do it in a debate.
Posted by Tatarize 6 years ago
Tatarize
@meatros, it is a pressing note. With criteria like "embarassment" where people determine the gospels are true because they portray the apostles in a poor light, as being more or less bumbling fools, and then abandoning Jesus in his hour of need. You're only going to preach that if it's true! -- But, then it really doesn't work that well, I mean at this time there was a popular dying and rising God who died by castrating himself and bleeding out. And yet it was popular. Many modern day witnessing start out by saying like I was an atheist, I was always strung out on drugs (typically meaning they weren't a dedicated Christian and smoked a joint), which is commonly used to make the story more compelling by making it embarrassing. Ultimately one of the reasons why one should be agnostic on the issue is because there's no real methods out there for determining historicity. And you need something that can parse between two such figures and figure out which is more likely. Without that, the best you can do is point out Josephus is a fraud and shrug at why the gospels exist.
Posted by Man-is-good 6 years ago
Man-is-good
Tatarize,
I was asking the people to calm down, because the arguments between you and Reformed Arsenal were getting too touchy and controversial. Reformed Arsenal himself was not too pleased by the debate, writing "As I said, you've crossed the line from civil and respectful discourse into ad hominem mockery. There's no place for that" in his response yesterday.
The above quote was from one of Reformed Arsenal's response. I should have placed quotation marks around it to show that it was from ReformedArsenal's own quotes.

Please, I do agree that the history presented by the bible cannot be proved by historical evidence.
That is all I have to say. Judging from what you wrote, "And yes the scholars generally do know what they are talking about, and any theory that starts with the premise damn the scholars is going to lose, when really winning them over should be the preferred stance. Because really higher criticism is not a stale field. There' actually a good amount of advancement in it even in the last few decades. I mean it's nothing compared to a proper hard science, but supposing that any of these questions were raised hundreds of years ago is absurd." you seemed to respond to the quote that I placed ("I read your argument, and I disagree. I've studied Text Criticism in depth and I'm confident in the manuscripts and in the scholars who know a heck of a lot more about it than you or I ever will.") as my own.
Tatarize, as you can see, this debate is a rather controversial one. While you may reply that controversy itself is a part of debate, I must argue that it only matters when the individuals themselves are involved. ReformedArsenal was clearly rather upset by his debate with larztheloser, considering his own Christian belief, and I was trying to ask him to calm down as well. In no way was I arguing with you. It may have been a misconception since my comment was posted after yours.
Let's hope for the best.
Posted by Meatros 6 years ago
Meatros
One of the problems with historicity *is* the method as you suggest. This is one of the things that Richard Carrier is working on. He is *trying* to get the conversation started with scholars. I'm not entirely sure what you mean when you suggest he's working within the valid methodologies, since he says they are fatally flawed:
http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com...
"The gist of my paper came in two parts, which were both well received: (1) that the method currently employed (of building and using historicity criteria) is fatally flawed (both in logic and in practice) to the point of bankruptcy, and has to be replaced (a conclusion that is not my own, but is already the rising view in the community, particularly demonstrated of late in the works of Porter, Theissen, and Winter); and (2) that the only available solution to this problem lies in Bayes' Theorem (which I argued represents all sound historical reasoning even when we don't know it, then I described the structure and logic of the theorem in a manner pertinent to historians, and addressed a few common objections to it). Though I think much of the material on Bayes' Theorem went over the heads of most, and of course I couldn't convince anyone in such a short talk that this is the way to go, it was a necessary first step, and something I can build on (as indicated by the interest and response I received)."
Posted by Tatarize 6 years ago
Tatarize
Meatos, I'm generally of the opinion that if a lot of very smart people who know the relevant data on a subject tend to agree on some points that that is, all things being equal, likely the best answer we know of currently. While there's not any good contemporary evidence for the existence of Jesus, it is the general consensus amongst scholars that he existed, and so arguments to the contrary need to work within that framework to find compelling reasons to abandon those beliefs. Richard Carrier for example generally accepts mythicism but only tries to work within the system to establish valid methodologies for making such determinations, and allowing those methodologies to either prove or refute the case.

A lot of the methodologies used are currently are complete crap, that could likewise be used to prove nearly anything. You need something that fails where it should fail and succeeds where it should succeed. And to apply that objectively to the question you have. That's the only way such things would ever work. And the goal would be to shift the consensus not to ignore it.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
"You set up a false dichotomy between my position and "trusting in logic and reason.""
When you say the reason for your belief is because a lot of people with degrees told you so, that is not a belief formed out of either logic or reason. That's ad populum, in fact a form of logical fallacy. You might additionally have logical arguments. However these were answered by others and myself in great detail, and you kept on falling back on your trust in the scholars. I merely am pointing out that trusting the scholars is not logical or reasonable. Anything else is out of context. I did not say your position was not trusting in logic and reason - simply that you, as an individual, fell back on trust in others instead of me, where I fell back on logical argument.

It is logically rationalisable to say "smoking is bad." It is not trusting in the logic or reason of the case, however, to say "smoking is bad because the TV ad said so."

"I gave you very specific evidence for why I think the Gospels are reliable historical evidence, which flows through to argue for the historical Jesus."
I've been through the comments several times. You have offered no evidence that was not offered in the debate, where I showed why all that evidence is not good evidence. I also rebutted your evidence in comments. Therefore I claimed you offered no good reasons.
None of this justifies the hateful words you put in my mouth. It is another thing entirely to say that certain scholars are necessarily illogical.

"You made statements that are clear rhetorical jabs"
Not true. Every statement I have made is based on fact and logical argument. Nothing was intended to attack you based on rhetoric.

"I don't know what it is like in New Zealand, but in America 19 year old's are adults, your accusations of cyber bullying are absolutely laughable."
Do you reject that adults can be bullied? Bullying happens far beyond the schoolyard. Don't think that just because you're old you can slander me onlin
Posted by Tatarize 6 years ago
Tatarize
@Reformed, "Genesis 1-12 is something that we cannot prove either way. "

Um. it's something that bizarre and clearly false. That's not something that describes the actual formation of the planet but gives a general Semitic creation story much the same as you find around the Middle East amongst other such groups. For example rather than being spoke into existence, light, stars, planets, oceans, and living creatures form through natural and rather well understood processes. It's really weird to claim otherwise.

Would you likewise suppose that the Norse creation story isn't something we can prove either way? That maybe the Earth is made out of the remains of a giant and humans really are formed out of driftwood?

It's *entirely* called for the dismiss them. To do anything else would be special pleading.

>>"There is evidence that points to those events happening in some fashion even if it is somewhat of an exaggerated claim."

Sure, if we make them vague enough to mean the world was formed. Then sure, a giant dollop of special pleading and we could argue for just about anything. The question should be is whether Near East creation myths contribute anything to our understanding. The answer is definitely no. We need to hop through some rather giant hoops to mesh them with anything approximating reality. So they dealing with them, actually makes the job of understanding history harder.

While one could go through a lengthy treatise about day-age creationism and trying to explain how people made out of dust conforms to the known origins of human beings, it is necessarily correct to disregard them, because you spend longer trying to explain why they aren't laughable than you would need to just explain the origins of such things correctly.
Posted by ReformedArsenal 6 years ago
ReformedArsenal
Larz, when you make a statement like "I trust in logic and reason" in contrast to my statement "I trust the manuscripts and scholars" you make a clear statement. You set up a false dichotomy between my position and "trusting in logic and reason."

I gave you very specific evidence for why I think the Gospels are reliable historical evidence, which flows through to argue for the historical Jesus.

If you are traumatized by someone vocally and vigorously disagreeing with you and calling you to task on false dichotomies that you have set up then perhaps you should find another hobby. You made statements that are clear rhetorical jabs and I called you on it. According to your profile, you are 19. I don't know what it is like in New Zealand, but in America 19 year old's are adults, your accusations of cyber bullying are absolutely laughable.
12 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Mixer 6 years ago
Mixer
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Reasons for voting decision: I gave con conduct because of the sheer disrespect pro had by using information to try and mislead. I was disappointed with con for not arguing better when he had a very easy target.
Vote Placed by ExNihilo 6 years ago
ExNihilo
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Reasons for voting decision: Very close. The arguments on the pro were more compelling. The contradictions argument was not very good. Inconsistencies can exist but that in no way nullifies the existence of Jesus, as Pro pointed out. The fundamentals are consistent.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 6 years ago
Dimmitri.C
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Reasons for voting decision: SkepticsAskHere delivered stronger arguments.
Vote Placed by potatolover 6 years ago
potatolover
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Reasons for voting decision: Both delivered good arguments, but I have to give it to SkepticsAskHere for this debate.
Vote Placed by feverish 6 years ago
feverish
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Reasons for voting decision: Good job on a tough topic larz. Not a very strong constructive from Pro and a complete failure to rebut many of Con's arguments.
Vote Placed by MrCarroll 6 years ago
MrCarroll
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Reasons for voting decision: Firstly, I wasn't by any of larz's arguments, yet Pro didn't really respond to many. Probably because he gave 15 arguments. That's excessive thus he loses conduct. Also those sources were sketchy.
Vote Placed by mcc1789 6 years ago
mcc1789
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro failed to prove that Jesus existed, while Con gave us more than enough good evidence to reasonably doubt it, most of which went unanswered in Pro's rounds.
Vote Placed by medic0506 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm skeptical of con's sources. If Helms "proved" anything, why do so many still differ? Mason "showed"? How did he show that? What did he use for evidence? Lots of assertions, but no actual "proof".
Vote Placed by NextLevelSwag 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: That's f***ing retarded, Jesus didn't have super powers but he existed. And pros point that if you were to discredit al of those sources then you would have to say so many people didn't exist oh and larz didn't put sources till round 3
Vote Placed by Tatarize 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Wow. I'm actually impressed. It's a remarkably uphill battle to defend even agnostic mythicism and Larz did so with proper arguments and evidence that suffices to rebut the arguments pro made.