Jesus Christ was a Historical Person
1. Be civil
2. Round 1 is acceptance for Con.
3. Round 2 is Con's Argument and Pro's Argument (No rebuttals)
4. Round 3 is Rebuttals from both sides
5. Round 4 is Rebuttals
6. Round 5 is conclusion
Pro: Jesus Christ was a historical person
Con: Jesus Christ was not a historical person
Acceptable sources include:
Original Sources (Canonical and Noncanonical works, historians, etc)
Fairly reliable and unbiased sources (Not blogs or Wikipedia)
Again, round one is acceptance
The burden of proof is shared. This means that the person who provides the most evidence that would come to the rational conclusion of their side wins. There does not need to be absolute proof for either side for them to win.
When it comes to the existence of Jesus, there is a growing trend to deny His very existence, or at least most of His life. In this, I hope to lay out evidence for His existence and basic impact points of His life.
To begin, then, we need to look at the composition as the groundwork for the arguments. There are four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as noncanonical Gospels of interest such as the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas. We also have a great deal of undisputed Pauline literature as well.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be clumped together into what are called the “Synoptic Gospels.” The word synoptic comes from the Greek word meaning “Seeing Together.” While about 90% of John is unique from other Gospels, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke share large amounts of material.
Mark has been the Gospel most often depicted as the first written Gospel, and for good reason. Its Greek is atrocious, with misalignments in Subject-Verb-Adjective agreement in number, gender, and tense. It also is the simplest of the Gospels, with less detail and much quicker. The Greek word εP16;θ^1;ως being used often, which means immediately or at that moment.
Luke and Matthew appear to have used Mark as a source. About 40% of Luke and 50% of Matthew is, in fact, Mark restated. It contains Greek parallels so verbatim to Mark that it seems impossible to say otherwise. Matthew and Luke also improve Mark’s grammar and add details, something that would not make sense for Mark to undo if he used Matthew or Luke as a source.
There is also a further large amount of verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke that is NOT in Mark. This is Q, a Gospel written parallel, but separate from Mark. Luke and Matthew used this source in their Gospels. At the end of the day, 80-90% of Luke and Matthew are just copies of Mark and Q.
Thomas is a noncanonical sayings Gospel from the Nag Hammadi Library that was also separate from the Synoptics (Unlike the Secret Gospel of James from the same collection, which acknowledges reliance on them in its use of parables).
Peter is perhaps, although it is not as certain as Thomas, separate from all the Gospels and written by a highly Gentile, antisemitic community in Syrian or Egyptian Docetic community.
Now, this means that separate works without knowledge or use of each other are as follows Q, Mark, John, Thomas, M (Matthew’s unique material), L (Luke’s unique material), and perhaps Peter. We also have large amounts of early Pauline literature that mention Christ’s death and resurrection explicitly (1 Thessalonians 4:14, Galatians 1:1)
This means we have 4-6 known communities of religious people who spoke of a man named Jesus… all independent of each other. Now, these communities have vast differences. Thomas if Protognostic, Paul is Gentile, Mark and Q are apocalyptic and oriented towards the Son of Man and 2nd Temple Judaism, John could be considered protognostic as well, and Peter seems to be docetic in nature (This can be seen in Jesus’ talk of “power’ and the Christ “leaving Him.”)
Now that we have the groundwork of the written works out of the way, we can talk about the system used to establish historicity. The two primary modes of this system are independent attestation embarrassment. For the purposes of this argument, we will be using the crucifixion and mustard seed saying of Jesus as case examples.
1. Independent Attestation
Taking the “mustard seed saying” as an example, it is found in both Q and Thomas, not verbatim and from different traditions, further solidifying that they did not use each other, but the saying is still used. What are the odds that two people making up a religion would happen to make up the same saying? Quite slim.
This also goes with the crucifixion. Mark, Peter, AND Paul talk about the crucifixion. If THREE people are making up a religion separately at the same time, what are the odds they’ll come up with the same story? Extremely small.
2. Criteria of Embarrassment
Take the crucifixion then. Crucifixion was not a normal execution. It was for the lowest of the low. Thieves. Rebels. Rapists. You were hung naked on a cross, mocked, and left to slowly asphyxiate. If you were making up a religion that was aimed at Jews or Gentiles, would you want to make it up so that your leader was executed naked and humiliated?
Along those same lines, Judas is said to have betrayed Jesus. If you were making up a religion story, would you want it to be make it so that the leader of your religion couldn’t even keep control of his closest followers?
To sum it up, we can say that Jesus existed, and pinpoint parts of His life as historical. What are the odds that multiple different religious communities would make up stories in which their leader was named Jesus, humbled in baptism to a homeless man, betrayed by His own follower, and executed like the lowest of the lowest criminal? It’s not a possibility.
There must then have been a common source for this religion, but not a common teaching. All the books claim that common source as the man Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus is not a historical person because we have no historical record of his life. He was the exact opposite, a legendary person. The record of his life is so muddled by heresay and religious dogma that it’s impossible to get an accurate record of the man’s life beyond a few details. Santa clause is a historical person. We have an accurate record of his life in addition to the legend ascribed to him after the fact . With Jesus we only have the legend and we can’t even establish that he existed.
Historical vs existence
Note that pro’s resolution argues that Jesus is a certain type of person, a historical person. He does not mention historicity or existence. He is trying to attach the biblical account to history somehow when the record of Jesus that we do have is unequivocally fiction.
I’m sure there have been many rabbis named Jesus (a few were probably crucified in the first century) but they were irreconcilably different from the biblical account. They were not God, did not produce miracles and most certainly were not raised from the dead. Jesus is most definitely a myth or a legend as opposed to a historical person.
Legendary vs historical religious leaders
John Frum & Cargo cults:
John frum is a religious legend and Illustrates how difficult it is to distinguish fact from fiction with religious figures. In World War II many cargo cults sprang up in the South pacific. To those unfamiliar native tribes watched a constant stream of ‘cargo’ or supplies, food technology etc., flown in for GIs to support the war effort . They reasoned that by recreating the rituals of the American soldiers they would also receive supplies.
They built fake airports and planes out of bamboo and carried stick rifles to emulate the soldiers. Their religious leader, an American John Frum, is said to have promised to return one day with food, clothing, housing, transport and other supplies. He taught that the locales should reject European culture, that one Day the missionaries, soldiers and immigrants would all leave them alone and leave their wealth with the cargo cultists. Less than one century later no one knows If John Frum existed or of if anything about the record of his involvement is accurate, he’s a legend not a historical figure. We have no accurate account of him or his life and the same is true of Jesus.
Joseph Smith and Mormonism:
Joseph smith, however, we know a lot about. When he found the golden tablets containing the book of Morman or the other miraculous aspects of his life and the book we can say that is part of the legend of his life and religion. We also have a historical record and timeline of his life .
For him we can observe and distinguish between the two. We have a historical Joseph Smith along side of the legendary account. With Jesus all we have is the legend. Jesus is most certainly a religious legend as opposed to a historical person.
Problem of miracles
According to the bible Jesus fed 5,000 people with two loafs and fish,( John 6:1-14; Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17) he heals the blind and deaf, (John 9:1-41, Mark 7:31-37) raises the dead, (John 11:1-46) and was raised from the dead to fly to heaven (Matthew 28:6). When he was raised himself many saints were also raised from their graves and wandered around town appearing to many people (Matthew 27:52-54).
Today we understand that miracles do not occur. Since the majority of Jesus’ life is surrounded by miracles, and that this was a major proof for his Messianic persona, we understand that his life is a fiction. Since the majority of his life is a fiction Jesus is accurately described as a legend as opposed to a historical person.
No contemporary historical documents even mention Jesus (there is no historical record of Jesus).
If Jesus had in fact produced miracles and followed with apocalyptic warnings its strange that no historian documented anything about his life. There is not one contemporary historical source that even mentions his existence much less his miraculous evidence and apocalyptic warnings and solution to the one grave problem of hell . Something truly historical was happening but no historian was even interested. From the classic work “The Christ” the author lists 40 famous historians who documented Jewish history at the time of Jesus’ supposed miraculous life.
One example, “Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place -- when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven.”
We have 40 well known historians that would have had knowledge of the amazing supernatural events of the gospels that mention nothing of the life of Jesus. They don’t mention the slaughter of thousands of baby boys in Bethlaham , the resurrection of the dead saints in Jerusalem or the many miracles of Jesus. The bible is a book full of religious legends not confirmed by history.
This makes all of the gospels nothing more than heresay. Jesus is not a historical person because history does not mention him. Did he exist? That’s another question but we have a religious/legendary account of Jesus, not a historical account.
It’s more likely that Jesus did not exist.
Let’s say I’d like to argue that batman existed in the 1950s but he really didn’t have a cape or a mask. He didn’t really fight crime, didn’t call himself batman and most certainly wasn’t a hero. Virtually all information about him was fabricated. Bruce Wayne was middle class and got in a fight with a guy named Joker who wore eyeliner at a bar once.
This is about the situation Jesus is in. We can’t confirm he lived or died because there is no historical record. All we have about him is unreliable fantastical religious texts we classify as fiction. Everything that makes him Jesus is an obvious fabrication. We have no evidence that God’s can exist much less that Jesus was part of a god trio. No evidence that he rose from the dead, produced miracles or even taught the things the bible says he did. We have no historical confirmation to verify anything about Jesus. In fact, all evidence we have collected suggests that miracles are impossible and gods do not exist.
Was there a rabbi named Jesus? I’m sure there were a few, but virtually everything related to the biblical Jesus mythos is false. He is most certainly more a religious/legendary figure than he is a historical person.
The gospels (only record of Jesus) are based on heresay
The earliest gospel was written around 70 AD , almost 40 years after the supposed crucifixion, and we have no idea who the authors were. They are full of miracles, inaccurate historical accounts (such as the slaughter of all baby boys in Bethlehem) and prophetic pronouncements. Nothing significant about the life of Jesus is confirmed by history. Jesus is a religious legend as opposed to a historical figure.
The accounts of Jesus life are wildly different
There are many accounts of Jesus’ life (roughly 30) and they are very different . There is no reason so expect that the biblical accounts of his life are more accurate. If the gospels were based on one Jesus, that is a big if, we have no idea which record is accurate.
Several Rabbis named Jesus undoubtedly existed in the first century AD. None of them had the iconic features ascribed to the biblical Jesus. They were not Messiahs, did not produce miracles, were not gods, did not rise from the dead and were in no way supernatural. The biblical Jesus is most accurately described as a religious legend as opposed to a historical person.
Hello and welcome to Round Three of this debate.
Now, for this round and the ones to follow, there are merely rebuttals on the initial arguments of the debaters.
I will be step by step providing a rebuttal of my opponent's arguments before turning it back to him.
Opponent Argument #1: Historical vs. Existence
My opponent began with a strawman account of my resolution. First, "Jesus Christ" is a term that is used to identify Jesus out of the various Yeshuas that did live during the first century. This debate is not about proving the claims of Jesus, whether it be His miracles or His divinity. It is instead a debate about His existence and knowing historical facts about Him.
Opponent Argument #2: Legendary vs. historical religious figures
Whether it be John Frum and the cargo cults or John Smith and Mormonism, they are not analogous to Jesus and Orthodoxy. Allow me to explain:
For the Cargo Cults
1. John Frum is not independently attested. Unlike Jesus, where we have Josephus, Gospel of Mark, Q Source, Gospel of Thomas, perhaps the Gospels of John and Peter, and writings of Paul all are independent of each other.
2. If 5-7 different and independent islands developed a religious system at the same time, based on John Frum and similarly described events, we could be reasonably certain that John Frum does exist.
3. However, independent attestation is not found in the John Frum story, but it is found in the Jesus narratives
1. Again, independent attestation for the events of John Smith's founding of Mormonism cannot be independently collaborated by other sources.
2. Jesus is independently collaborated
Argument #3: The "Problem" of miracles
Miracles do not happen. And since miracles cannot happen, Jesus did not exist.
Let's look at one major flaw with this argument:
Claimed miracles do not make someone historical or nonhistorical
This can be most easily seen in the life of Caesar Augustus as described in the historian Seutonius' work The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. In this book, he describes this of Augustus:
Whilst he was yet an infant, as Caius Drusus relates, being laid in his cradle by his nurse, and in a low place, the next day he was not to be found, and after he had been sought for a long time, he was at last discovered upon a lofty tower, lying with his face towards the rising sun 249. When he first began to speak, he ordered the frogs that happened to make a troublesome noise, upon an estate belonging to the family near the town, to be silent; and there goes a report that frogs never croaked there since that time. As he was dining in a grove at the fourth mile-stone on the Campanian road, an eagle suddenly snatched a piece of bread out of his hand, and, soaring to a prodigious height, after hovering, came down most unexpectedly, and returned it to him. (1)
Augustus was also thought to have been divine, as were all Caesars.
Just because supernatural claims are made about a person, it does not mean that person did not exist.
With my opponent's argument, not only did Jesus not exist, neither did historical figures like Augustus. This is purest folly and a leap in reasoning.
Argument #4: No historical documents
There are two major issues with this argument, and we can unpack them here
1. Definition of "historical document"
We, as 21st century inhabitants, are used to accuracy. The modern journalism understanding is absolutely factual all the time. This is a modern development, however, and, as we have already seen from Seutonius, they were not always correct. They gave their heroes qualities that may not be factual. This is not a sign of deceit, but simply one of the times.
2. Jesus was not a big deal for from 30 CE to 200 CE
Despite what we may think, Jesus was not a big deal during the first two centuries of the world. by 100 CE, there were only about 40 churches in the entire Roman Empire. Assuming there were even 100 members (fairly large) in each church, there were only 4,000 Christians. (2)
By contrast, the Roman Empire had a population, based of Karl Beloch's estimates (which are quite conservative), of around 45,000,000 around 15 CE and 61,400,000 by 165 CE. Averaging these two out, you get a population of approximately 53,200,000. (3)
This mean only .0075% of those residing in the Roman Empire.
Only .0075% of the Roman Empire was Christian. Christianity was not widespread, not that big of a deal, by the time the witnesses within a lifetime of Him died. And again, this is not an argument about whether Jesus was God or miraculous, only that He existed as a historically rooted figure.
Argument #5: More Probable
My opponent denies the basic tenets of historical criticism used by all secular scholars of the Bible including Bart Ehrman, Borg, Spong, Crossan, and many others.
We can, again, using the basic criteria of independent attestation and embarrassment, find several historical events in the life of Jesus
My examples of Judas, crucifixion, and various sayings of Jesus still stand these texts.
My opponent continues to try to force spirituality into the debate on whether Jesus was a historical person. I'd like to point out that only Johannine and Petrine literature ascribes obvious and detailed divinity to Christ, and the trinity appears nowhere by name in the Bible. This debate is about the person of Jesus, not whether or not He was God and miracles.
Argument #6: The Gospels are the only record of Jesus and based on hearsay
False! Absolutely 100% false in every single way.
Pauline literature such as 1 Thessalonians and Galatians date to around 50 CE, only 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Not only that, passages such as Kenosis passages of Philippians 2:5-11 show signs of doxology and writing unusual to Paul. This means that many statements that Paul writes even date back perhaps 10+ years before the letters were written, back to 40 CE. Only ten years after the crucifixion. (4)
Not just that, Paul records for us that he knew the apostles that knew Jesus, including Jesus' own brother, James, as well as His closest disciple, Peter. We also see that Paul disagreed with both parties from Galatians 2. If you are going to make up knowing the apostles, you would think you would want them to agree with you, not make you an outsider!
Then, we have the fact that Mark is in fact from before 70 CE (as attested to by the lack of mention of the fall of Jerusalem), as well as the Q source's probable composition around the same time.
Argument #7: The Accounts of Jesus are wildly different
Of the independent accounts, which rank only between 5-7 sources, there is actually a surprising amount of similarity, including:
Betrayal by Judas
Mustard Seed Saying
Birth to Mary and Joseph
Burial by Joseph of Aramathia
"Who do you say that I am?" discourse
"Anyone with ears, hear" saying
No prophet is accepted in His home country
Do not fret about eating or drinking saying
Sly as snakes and gentle as doves saying
Old Wineskins saying
And many, many other pieces of Christ's life.
The contradiction my opponent brought up makes it clear: these are independent accounts not based on one another, but if they are not based on one another, then they are independent and trace back to a single source that dates to the apostles themselves, and then to Jesus.
Finally, I would like to leave you with this quote from Bart Ehrman. Ehrman is an Agnostic New Testament scholar from UNC-Chapel Hill:
" To state openly that Jesus never existed is to automatically lump oneself into the same sort who denies the world is over 6,000 years old." (5)
That is coming from the leading Agnostic scholar on this subject. Keep that in mind as the debate progresses. My opponent's position in the academic world is considered equivalent to a Young Earth Creationist's view in the academic world.
(1) THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE CAESARS By C. Suetonius Tranquillus; Translator.:Alexander Thomson, M.D.Revised and corrected by T.Forester, Esq., A.M.
(2) Hitchcock, Geography of Religion (2004), p.281
(3) Frier, Demography, Contours of the World Economy, 32–33.
2-D forfeited this round.
Well, that was dissapointing.
2-D forfeited this round.
jkgraves735 forfeited this round.
2-D forfeited this round.
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