The Instigator
Wylted
Pro (for)
Tied
14 Points
The Contender
Envisage
Con (against)
Tied
14 Points

Jesus Existed

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 11/23/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,407 times Debate No: 65721
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (107)
Votes (4)

 

Wylted

Pro

Nobody with a score under 2500 ELO may vote. There is a lot of bias voting in religious debates and hopefully that will minimize that factor.

Me and my opponent are going to be arguing which theory fits the evidence better.

My theory is that The New Testament of the bible was inspired by a historical Jesus. My opponent will argue that Jesus never existed.

Me and my opponent are both atheists and arguing similar things. I'm arguing that Jesus was a real man and my opponent is arguing he never existed

There are to be no semantics. The debate is strictly to dive into as much detail about the history of Jesus (or lack of it) as possible.

Any lawyering or semantics should result in a 7 point forfeit for either side that engages in it.

Just a reminder of where the BOP lays. The burden of proof is equal in this debate. This is strictly about which theory fits the evidence better. If my theory fits the evidence better vote for me. If Envisages theory fits the evidence better vote for him. My opponent is free to argue in the first round and pass on the last or just accept in the first round and let me argue first.

Jesus will be defined as the guy who became the inspiration for the New Testament and as the guy who Paul wrote about in Epistles.
Debate Round No. 1
Wylted

Pro

THE HISTORICAL METHOD

I'll be showing how to apply the historical method to determine that Jesus most likely did exist. Here is the historical method guideline for you to use as a reference. First I'll start by examining the evidence and then we'll move onto applying the historical method to the evidence.

"1.When was the source, written or unwritten, produced (date)?
2.Where was it produced (localization)?
3.By whom was it produced (authorship)?
4.From what pre-existing material was it produced (analysis)?
5.In what original form was it produced (integrity)?
6.What is the evidential value of its contents (credibility)?"
[1]

THE WITNESSES

We have several pieces of evidence which act as a witness to a living breathing historical Jesus. There must be several parallel and independent series of witnesses testifying to the fact in question [1]. The bible meets this criteria as well. It has the 2 original sources for the gospels Q and Mark as well as the historian Josephus, the Apostle Paul, and the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Josephus

Josephus was a historian who documented the Jews at the time. He documented the existence of Jesus in "the antiquities of the Jews book 18 3:3. [2]

"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"

Now at the time, a group of Christians were the keepers of the works of Josephus and based on the fact that it wasn't uncommon for somebody to add a little to ancient documents like this and that Josephus died a traditional Jew and was never converted to Christianity we know that a lot of this verse is just forged. Most scholars do agree that there was an original authentic nucleus to this writing from Josephus. [3]

The original nucleus is typically agreed to mention Jesus's name and the crucifixion and not much else.[4] This verse also helps the later verse I'm about to mention ("the aforementioned Christ") make sense where it probably wouldn't of without a reference to it. [5]

"the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James"[6] (antiquities book 20 9:1)

Tacitus

A roman historian also happens to mention the crucifixion of Jesus in his final work "The Annals".

"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, [7] [Annals book 15 chapter 44)

Historians consider this source to be completely reliable and excellent in the fact that it is an outside source as well. [8] The verse refers to Christians as "abominations" and speaks in a very negative tone about them. This is not really something a Christian scribe would write in the book.

Q and Mark

The gospel of Q and Mark which all the gospels are written from using that as source material are accounts trustworthy as indicators of the existence of Jesus Christ. You can tell they were being honest about him existing for a number of reasons. Most importantly is the embarrassment factor which is something historians look for in determining reliability of a text. [9]

The church would have incentive to cover up the embarrassment factor and you can actually see this with the gospels written later then Mark where Jesus cursing a fig tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn't in season was left out (Mark 11:12), Or Jesus's first failed attempt at healing a blind man which makes him have to attempt it again (Mark 8:28). In the gospel of Mark John the Baptist, baptizes Jesus but the later gospels eliminate John the Baptist from the picture or the Baptism or try to down play his role.

If this document was a work of fiction, this god man wouldn't have these personal flaws.

The gospel of Mark says Jesus is from Nazareth but the church was embarrassed for him to be from that city and later on changed it to Bethlehem.

Paul's Epistles

Paul's letters are written between 40 AD and 50 AD.[10]

These are probably the earliest Christian writings you'll find. The Epistle Paul knew Jesus's family. He talks of Jesus's birth and resurrection offhand and mentions encounters with Jesus's brother James. It's pretty unlikely that Paul would lie about this because his audience would have known of James and knew he was lying and not to mention these encounters with Jesus's brother really didn't go too well.

Here are some verses by Paul which refer to Jesus as a flesh and blood man.

""Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews. (Galatians 4:4)
"Jesus was referred to as "Son of God". (1 Cor. 1:9)
"Jesus was a direct descendent of King David. (Romans 1:3)
"Jesus prayed to God using the term "abba". (Galatians 4:6)
"Jesus expressly forbid divorce. (1 Cor. 7:10)
"Jesus taught that "preachers" should be paid for their preaching. (1
Cor. 9:14) "Jesus taught about the end-time. (1 Thess. 4:15)
"Paul refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), which was the name Jesus gave to him. (1 Cor. 3:22)
"Jesus had a brother named James. (Galatians 1:19)
"Jesus initiated the Lord's supper and referred to the bread and the cup. (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
"Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord's Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
"Jesus' death was related to the Passover Celebration. (1 Cor. 5:7)
"The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly rulers. (1 Cor. 2:8)
"Jesus underwent abuse and humiliation. (Romans 15:3)
"Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus' death. (1 Thess. 2:14-16)
"Jesus died by crucifixion. (2 Cor. 13:4 et al)
"Jesus was physically buried. (1 Cor. 15:4)"
[11]

CONCLUSION

Unfortunately I don't have enough character space to really dive into how these things show Jesus to be real when applying the historical method. I will leave it up there and in my argument so it can be referred back to. I do look forward to Envisage's arguments and assume they'll be interesting. This is a debate I've been wanting to do for a while and I'm glad he is the person I could debate this with. I doubt anyone else would give me as much of a challenge on this topic.

sources
[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://en.wikisource.org...
[3] Evans 2001, p. 316.
[4] Schreckenberg & Schubert 1992a, pp. 38"41.
[5] Feldman & Hata 1987, pp. 54"57
[6] http://en.wikisource.org...
[7] http://en.wikisource.org...(Tacitus)/Book_15#44
[8] Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond 2004 ISBN 0-521-61620-4 page xi
[9] Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies, For Dummies Pub., 2007. p 14
[10] M. Coogan, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford University Press: New York, 2001), 309 NT
[11] http://www.bede.org.uk...
Envisage

Con

Envisage forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Wylted

Pro

We're just going to make this a 4 round debate.
Envisage

Con

I kindly thank Wylted for not forcing me to drop a round

Preface

As noted, the BoP is shared in this debate. So I will be using this round to present my positive case for Jesus’ absence.

State of the literature
Overview
The timeline below indicates the periods in which all the known canonical writings of the New Testament, I don’t believe Pro and I will be in any/much disagreement with this timeline, nor the trends indicated:


[1]

The main focus on my case is going to be on the Apostle Paul to which I intend to determine either of the following:

  1. The Apostle Paul’s account of Jesus is entirely/partly of revelation

  2. The Apostle Paul’s account of Jesus is entirely/partly of oral tradition


It is important to address Paul since Paul’s writings predates Mark’s by 10-20 years, and as such Paul’s writings would have been uninfluenced by any of the material written by Mark and later authors (as were Matthew & Luke with Mark). If I can demonstrate that the Apostle Paul’s writings most likely doesn’t describe a real person, then the remaining evidence is rather easy to dismiss. Moreover Paul played a major role in the early Church, and already by the time Paul authored his letters a significant number of Christian converts existed at this time (1 Cor 1:4)

It will be my contention from here that virtually all of the content within the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke are ‘generated’ entirely as a product of oral traditions and from the intentions/motives of the authors that commissioned them. I don’t anticipate Pro will disagree with me that significant portions of the synoptic gospels are quite simply, false, and that the motives of the authors give us significant reason to doubt even the mundane claims of the Old Testament.

Manuscripts

Irrespective of scholarly consensus on *which* writings are original are there questions of the quality of transmission of the New Testament. We possess 6,000 fragmented/complete manuscripts from the New Testaments which all differ from each other. The types of mistakes varies, most insignificant, but given that there are more mistakes in these manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament, the number of significant mistakes becomes very large.

This becomes worse when the process of manuscript transmission is considered, printing did not exist during this period, and copying of manuscripts was performed manually by scribes, letter by letter, and as such many, many mistakes were made. While most mistakes were minor and don’t translate, others are very significant.

Each manuscript is copied, and the copy is copied, and that manuscript is copied, and so on and so forth. Each generation of manuscripts will contain all the errors of the predecessor, plus the errors the scribe makes and other changes. What we end up with is a family tree of manuscripts as shown below:


[2]

This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if we had early copies of the manuscripts as these will avoid the majority of transmission errors, but we simply do not have that. Our earliest manuscripts (70-100AD) are fragments, and our earliest complete manuscripts don’t appear until and our earliest complete manuscripts don’t appear until nearly 300 years later (!).[4,5]

That’s 300 unaccounted for years where scribal errors can accumulate, and at a period of time when the errors are most significant!

Oral Tradition

It is significantly worse for oral traditions. Whereas we have the capacity to prune the younger branches of manuscript generations, the same is not possible with oral traditions. Stories are passed by word of mouth in the years of the early Church, and the primary intention is to create conversions. Hence the oral traditions were significantly motivated. Myths and fables, and random memes that crop up quickly spread throughout a community and like the game of Chinese whispers, ends up making part of the tradition from which the Gospels are composed.

This is extremely problematic, as the Gospels by far contain most of what is claimed about Jesus, and it becomes difficult, if not impossible to separate fact from fable.[3]

Bart Erhman affirms (emphasis mine):

“…they saw it as their mission to convert people to the belief that the death and resurrection of Jesus were the death and resurrection of God’s messiah and that by believing in his death and resurrection a person could have eternal life. The early Christian “witnesses” to Jesus had to persuade people that Jesus really was the messiah from God, and to do that they had to tell stories about him. So they did. They told stories about what happened at the end of his life—the crucifixion…”[8]

Critically, essentially all the information that was written in the Gospels was either constructed by generations of authors, or derived from these oral traditions.[9]

Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul makes very few claims about a physical Jesus in his epistles, if any. This is unexpected if we are to believe there really was a man named Jesus. IF we accept there was a man named Jesus, who was resurrected, then we can reasonably expect him to be of significance within his lifetime. Paul alludes to Jesus’ apostles, therefore Jesus must have done significant works in the way of preaching, etc. However all references to these are absent from Paul’s epistles.

Paul only spoke of a Jesus who was crucified and resurrected, of which he only came to know via. Revelation during his conversion (1 Cor 15 1-10, Acts 9:3) . Unless Pro wants to claim that Jesus appeared as a literal zombie to 500 claimed in 1 Cor 15:6, then the next best explanation is Paul came to ‘know’ this by vision(s). In Acts 9 Luke attests that Paul did not physically meet Jesus during his conversion either:

“ “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.”

Paul repeatedly expressed that the spirit supersedes the flesh (Phil 3:4, Phil 1:21-25), it would be bizarre that he would expect to see Jesus after resurrection in any other way than by spirit (hence revelation), which was his expectations of those in salvation.

Paul explicitly affirms this, and in fact does so emphatically (Gal 1:11-12)

“11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

As such, essentially everything we know about Jesus (including his existence) is on seriously dubious ground. This is especially important of Paul because he has significant possible influence on all subsequent oral traditions and writings pertaining to Jesus.

Contamination
Stephen Law attacks that the notion of the mundane claims, especially in the Gospels (and also to a large extent, to the Pauline Epistles) are made dubious by the presence of supernatural claims within the same narrative. Law Provides the following argument (rephrased by myself): [6]

1. We can be sceptical of extraordinary claims if they lack extraordinary evidence where the claim’s justification derives solely from evidence.
2. The extraordinary claims concerning supernatural miracles made in the New Testament documents have no extraordinary evidence.
3. We can be sceptical of those extraordinary claims (1&2)
4. (P2) If a testimony weave together a narrative that combines mundane claims with a significant proportion of extraordinary claims, then we have good reason to be sceptical of those mundane claims sans independent evidence
5. The New Testament documents weave together a narrative about Jesus that combines mundane claims with a significant proportion of extraordinary claims.
6. There is no good independent evidence for even the mundane claims about Jesus
7. Therefore (from 3, 4, 5, and 6), there's good reason to be sceptical about whether Jesus existed.

I expect premise 1 & 2 will be uncontested by Pro, so I only need to affirm 4,5 and 6

Premise 4 follows from the contamination principle established by Law, which he provided a prima facie case with the example:

“Let’s return to Ted and Sarah. If they tell me a man called Bert paid them an unexpected visit in their home last night, I have every reason to believe them. But if they tell me that Bert flew around the room by flapping his arms before dying, coming back to life and turning their sofa into a donkey, well then not only I am not justified, solely on the basis of their testimony, that these amazing things happened, I can no longer be at all confident that any such person as Bert exists.”

This is essentially what we have in the Gospel accounts, including Mark. With no fewer than 18 miracles affirmed, including resurrection, healing palsy, exorcism, feeding the four thousand, etc. [7] This affirms P5.

I expect Pro to contest P6, and I will expand on this some more in later rounds. The conclusion follows deductively, which given the state of the New Testament, is rather easy to affirm.

Conclusion
I have painted the framework of a case which gives us good grounds for rejecting the existence of Jesus as even an inspiring entity. The most significant case from Paul is on obviously dubious ground, and the case from the Gospels are as unlikely.

References

  1. http://triangulations.files.wordpress.com...

  2. http://kjvonly2.blogspot.co.uk...

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org...

  4. http://en.wikipedia.org...

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org...

  6. http://philpapers.org...

  7. http://www.gospelgazette.com...

  8. How Jesus Became God 2014, p47

  9. http://kjvonly2.blogspot.co.uk...

Debate Round No. 3
Wylted

Pro

It's pretty hard make an argument against the existence of Jesus based on the fact there is a scholarly consensus on the fact that he existed. [1][2]

It's going to take some serious arguing to defeat the scholarly consensus. although an appeal to authority is typically a logical fallacy, when referring to scholarly consensus, it in fact is not.[3]

This fact is something that should be heavily weighed and considered. Let's keep this fact in mind for the remainder of the debate.

THE APOSTLE PAUL

The apostle Paul was in competition with the brother of jesus (James), for the leadership of this new religious movement. With James having such a close relationship with Jesus, being his brother and all. Paul had to focus on some post mortem revelations.

Competition can bring out the worst in people sometimes and that's no different than what happened with some of Jesus's early disciples. Ofcourse it's possible Paul wasn't lying and in fact believed he was recieving messages from Jesus after his death but that's beyond the scope of this debate. What's important is that Paul in fact knew both Jesus and his family in the flesh and blood, and says so himself.

I actually provide some quotes from the bible in round 2 where Paul refers to a flesh and blood Jesus. let's say that Paul actually did only know Jesus by revelation, it still dismisses the fact that Paul knew the brother of Jesus very well as well as other family members.

I'll show you what I mean.

"But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother." Galatians 1:19.

We can confirm that James was in fact the blood relative of Jesus from other writings.

"some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome."[4]

"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body."[5]

"Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's sons."[6]

Just for refernce here is some referances to a physical Jesus I mentioned in round 1. I can't post them all because Paul literally refers to Jesus 200 plus times.

Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews. (Galatians 4:4)
"Jesus was referred to as "Son of God". (1 Cor. 1:9)
"Jesus was a direct descendent of King David. (Romans 1:3)
"Jesus prayed to God using the term "abba". (Galatians 4:6)
"Jesus expressly forbid divorce. (1 Cor. 7:10)
"Jesus taught that "preachers" should be paid for their preaching. (1
Cor. 9:14) "Jesus taught about the end-time. (1 Thess. 4:15)
"Paul refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), which was the name Jesus gave to him. (1 Cor. 3:22)
"Jesus had a brother named James. (Galatians 1:19)
"Jesus initiated the Lord's supper and referred to the bread and the cup. (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
"Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord's Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
"Jesus' death was related to the Passover Celebration. (1 Cor. 5:7)
"The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly rulers. (1 Cor. 2:8)
"Jesus underwent abuse and humiliation. (Romans 15:3)
"Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus' death. (1 Thess. 2:14-16)
"Jesus died by crucifixion. (2 Cor. 13:4 et al)
"Jesus was physically buried. (1 Cor. 15:4)"


THE JEWISH ORAL TRADITION AND MORE

The Jewish oral tradition and ability to pass on their history throough transcription is simply amazing. Not all oral traditions are created equal and the Jewish oral tradition probably trumps them all.

Here is one example where we can demonstrate how accurate the Jews were at preserving their texts.

The Masoretic Text is what the old Testament is derived from and dates back to about AD 935.[7] Before the dead sea scrolls were discovered this was basically the oldest text we had.

The Old Testament was often criticized for probably being inaccurately passed down based on the game of telephone theory my opponent mentions. In 1947 thes criticisms were put to rest with the discovery of the dead sea scrolls.

The dead sea scrolls were dated back as far as the 3rd century BC and no significant differences existed in that 1,000 years.[8]

“Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The five percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”[8]

This is clearly a culture that takes transmitting their stories very seriously and is resistent to making any mistake.

CONTAMINATION

I don't really buy Stephen Law's arguments. I think there is good reason to have a bias against the supernatural when evaluating ancient texts but that the mundane should be given more credibility, especially when you consider things such as the embarrasment factor which I brought up earlier.

There are are a ton of stories involving Alexander the great and Julias Caeser with supernatural elements. There is a tendency to mythicize these great men a bit and honestly we'd have to toss out a ton of stories about them and lose much of the Earths history if we had to throw out every text that mentioned the supernatural without 2nd hand accounts.

CONCLUSION

I've provided plenty of different evidence to confirm the historical Jesus in fact existed and my opponent has set a huge burden on himself arguing against scholarly consensus. I look forward to reading his rebuttals and offering my counte rebuttals and closing statements in the next round.

sources
[1] Jesus Remembered by James D. G. Dunn 2003 page 339 states of baptism and crucifixion that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent"
[2] Jesus of Nazareth by Paul Verhoeven (Apr 6, 2010) page 39
[3] https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com...
[4] Mark 15:40
[5]
Mark 16:1
[6] Matthew 27:56.
[7] Price, 280
[8] illar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking Press, 1955), 304, quoted in Norman Geisler and William Nix, General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 367

Envisage

Con

Positive Case

My case is rather simple, that Jesus, in name and person, is a euhemerised from existing oral traditions and myths at the time. This isn't a far fetched proposal, especially when we consider so much of the NT is known to be fabricated. We only need to consider the non-canonical Gospels, and non-authentic Pauline epistles that have made the canon.[1] Richard Carrier asserts:

"In Jewish and pagan antiquity, in matters of religious persuasion, fabricating stories was the norm, not the exception, even in the production of narratives purporting to be true"[2]

Therefore, I argue, it is but a minor extension to take the enormous body of mythology already associated with Jesus in even it's earliest writings (Markan Gospel & Pauline Epistles) and extend the myths about Jesus, to Jesus himself. I do not even make the claim that Paul was dishonest in his writings, only that his preachings catalysed the euhemerisation of the idea of a crucified & resurrected saviour. Carrier continues:

"The epistles written during the first generation of Christians (from the 30s to the 60s CE) reveal a highly fragmented church already from the earliest recorded time, rife with fabricated new gospels and teachings effectively beyond the control of any central authority"[2]

This we already have multiple working mechanisms (oral traditions, euhemerisation, errors, outright fabrications) by which Jesus would have emerged. There is already significant evidence that these mechanisms are more than substantial, and it can be argued it was only a matter if time before a figure like Jesus emerged. The position is greatly favoured by Occam's Razor as a result as it simply uses existing principles to yield an explanation.

Q Source
The Q Source is hypothetical. We do not have any copies or versions of this manuscript, and it isn't even apparent if it's a singular document or several documents. Moreover, there are numerous hypotheses for the synoptic problem which do not involve the Q document.

Hence, to state it is a witness to Jesus is dubious, since we know nothing of it's composition, or if it even originally claimed anything about Jesus.

The Markan Gospel

The author of Mark almost certainly could not have been a witness to Jesus even if Jesus did exist, because of both the language barrier, socio-economic barriers, geographical barriers as well as the fact it was written 35 years after the facts it purports to describe. The sources are at best secondary, and derived from oral tradition, hence from sources that are demonstrably full of myth, and fabrication.

Pro argues that the embarrassment factor is significant here. However, IF it was, then we have good reason to believe Mark would have excluded it from his Gospel, considering the level of euhemerisation evident within the Gospel, which meant Mark was at least comfortable with changing and distorting the facts from oral tradition (assuming that these embarrassment stories actually existed in the oral traditions, and were not just a synthesis of Mark).

"Even the earliest gospel (Mark) invents a worldwide darkness, the Sea of Galilee (he got away with inventing a Sea!), the tearing of the temple veil, the Barabbas narrative, and the empty tomb, among other things"[3]

Clearly Mark was comfortable with inventing mundane facts when required.

Pro makes the claim that the embarrassment factor increases the likelihood of the passages authenticity, however the criterion at best can only establish a "sincerity of belief" needs to be assessed in balance with other factors. Moreover virtually all supernatural entities have some element of embarrassment, so for any fictional claim we can expect at least some embarrassing references, which is unsurprising in the Mark's theology, for example:

"People invented the Romulus story, and Romulus murdered his own brother. People invented Attis, and he is said to have castrated himself. People invented scientology, and look what a crock that religion is!! The Old Testament reports the sins and follies of David, Moses (who was prideful) Adam (eating the forbidden fruit under the guidance of his wife! Imagine a patriarchal society inventing that!) and Noah (his son "saw his nakedness" when he was drunk) among others, and yet scholars are in agreement that all of these stories are probably myths."[3]

Lastly, both examples Pro cites are of Jesus attempting miracles (!), which runs into contamination considerations.

Josephus

Pro concedes that significant forgery occurred in the verses pertaining to Jesus. Hence the fact it has an "authentic nucleus" is speculative. This by itself significantly discredits the verse as reliable evidence. What is worse however is the date of composition for this was ~93AD, over 60 years after the events it purposes to describe. [5] Moreover Josephus was not born until 37 AD. The nucleus is thought to only consist of Jesus' execution under the Pontiac Pilate. However this is essentially what was already being preached at the time.

Christianity was already widespread in the region by the time of the composition of the Pauline epistles, and 40 years have since passed. We clearly know that Josephus could not have witnessed Jesus even assuming he existed, so at best Josephus is a second source. It seems the most reasonable explanation for this nucleus is that Josephus was just documenting what he was hearing the Jews were saying at the time. The reference to Jesus in Josephus does nothing to differentiate between a mythical Jesus and a historical one. Since we would expect there to be some mention of Jesus as he was preached at some later point.

Tacitus

First, this passage dates to 116AD, 80 years after the facts it purports to describe, which runs into even more severe problems than Josephus' references. Secondly, even assuming this passage is authentic, it only gives evidence if the Christian movement's existence, and what they were saying at the time. This much is not in dispute, we already know this existed from Paul's epistles. Thus it does nothing to advance the case of a historical Jesus.

Furthermore Carrier argues that the passage itself is evidently an interpolation:

"The first clue it might not be is that our one manuscript containing this passage had originally spelled the persecuted group as the "Chrestians," not the Christians, and this was subsequently corrected by erasure... And if that"s the case, it"s not believable that Tacitus would have explained the name "Chrestians" using the name "Christus." Instead, obviously, he would use "Chrestus."

His reasons for such were:

"But fifth, and most convincingly, there is no evidence that this event happened. The burning of Rome itself is well attested, by both literary and physical evidence. But no one seems to have ever known Christians were in any way connected with it, until late in the 4th century."[6]

The Apostle Paul:

James:

Note that Paul only uses "brother of The Lord" twice in his letters. The second instance is a generic use:

(1 Cor 9:5) " 5 Don"t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord"s brothers and Cephas?"

Given this to be the case, does this mean there were a multitude of brothers of Jesus? Of course not, 'Brother' in this instance is clearly a Celtic title, which remains the cleanest explanation. IF it was true James was Jesus' brother, then we would expect there to be some policing over the use of this phrase, which is clearly absent from Paul's writings. Moreover, IF policing is done, then we have no reason to believe it was for biological kinship over "rank" within the clergy at the time.

In John's view, all baptised Christians were effectively sons of God in the same way Jesus was (Romans 1:3-4). Paul affirms the former hypothesis of there being many sons when he states:

(Romans 8:29) "For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren"

Thus Jesus was the first of many Sons of God, who would have all been brothers, and he affirms this several times in his letters conceptions; there are numerous passages in Paul that confirm this (Romans 8:15-29, Romans 9:26 Gal 3:26-29, Gal 4:4-7).

I do not have space to go over Pro's Gish Gallop of Pauline claims to a physical Jesus. Nor do I have to assert Paul was lying in any of the quotes (some are known interpolations however, such as 1 Thess. 2:14-16). Since Paul never claims to have known or met a physical Jesus, and we have strong evidence that a large fraction of his claims about Jesus came via. revelation (be it genuine hallucinations, or fabricated so, is irrelevant). So, if we assume there really was a Jesus, then how did Paul come to know about him?

The only possible explanation is from second witnesses, which is quite simply, oral tradition.

Oral Traditions:

Pro attempts to affirm oral traditions by affirming Jewish written traditions (wtf?!?!), needless to say he has *spectacularly failed* to affirm it.

The Dead Sea scrolls are only evidence of accurate transmission of the Jewish manuscripts. Pro has given no reason to believe that the manuscripts of the New Testament were transmitted anywhere near as carefully as these were. Pro skips over/ignores abundant evidence last round this was not the case.

Contamination:

Pro has not challenged this argument outside of an attempted reducio with Alexander the Great & Caesar. However this ignores the fact that they would be excluded via. P6, there this is clearly false for either of the former 2, since we have a plethora of contemporary sources from both supporters & enemies of both, as well as physical evidence of their existence (coins, Alexander's existence, etc.) unlike for Jesus.

References
1. http://en.m.wikipedia.org...
2. http://www.nobeliefs.com...
3. http://www.skepticink.com...
4. http://www.hypotyposeis.org...
5. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com...
6. ibid
7. http://freethoughtblogs.com...
Debate Round No. 4
Wylted

Pro

SCHOLARLY CONSENSUS

My opponent has pretty much dropped my arguments showing a scholarly consensus. An appeal to authority is an error unless referring to something which is virtually a scholarly consensus or established historical fact such as the existence of Jesus or the holocaust.

Scholarly consensus can be wrong but when referring to a crap load of people covering a wide range of disciplines, extremely good reasons need to be given in order to dismiss the consensus.

My opponent has failed to show why this wide range of experts with no ulterior motives (wide array of atheist and Jewish people as well as Christians) should be dismissed.

MYTH THEORY

My opponent has presupposed a type of myth theory claiming Jesus is some sort of myth created by his followers.

he has failed to back up that theory with much evidence, while I've given good reason to believe in a historical Jesus. A look at the evidence shows it supports my theory better than my opponents. Looking at this evidence when not in reference to a controversial religious figure everyone would agree he existed just as they do with Pythagoras.

However for my opponents theory to work you pretty much have to presuppose that Jesus is a mythical figure.

ORAL/WRITTEN HISTORY

My opponent claims that me providing proof of how good the Jews were with their written record doesn't matter but go back to his opening arguments and take a look at his criticisms of the historical Jesus. Half of his argument is attacking the reliability of how the Jews passed on their written record.

JESUS'S FAMILY

My opponents only objection is that Paul referred to his fellow Christians as brothers and sisters but it misses the point.

Context when using the word is important and it's one thing to say somebody is your brother and have that misinterpreted, but you're not misinterpreting something when you say that James was the brother of Jesus.

If he meant it in a loving way similar to how Hawaiians use the word he would have called James his own brother instead of saying Jesus is Jame's brother or visa versa.

CONCLUSION

Me and my opponent both rushed a few things because of life circumstances at different points. I urge voters to judge this by who's arguments have more solid grounding and are deeper.
Envisage

Con

Thanks Pro for a fun debate!

Preface

I will address our cases separately in this round with conclusions and last rebuttals.


=Aff Case=

Scholarly Consensus

This is not an argument, so why should I respond to this ? We are debating the likelihood of Jesus’ existence. Pro affirmed this in the rules round:

“This is strictly about which theory fits the evidence better. If my theory fits the evidence better vote for me. If Envisages theory fits the evidence better vote for him.

Thus we should care less what the scholarly consensus is (and it rightly is an appeal to authority) for the purposes of this debate.

Evidences
I would like to relate back to Pro’s own criteria in his opening round for what constitutes reliable evidence. The following considerations are made:

1.When was the source, written or unwritten, produced (date)?
2.Where was it produced (localization)?
3.By whom was it produced (authorship)?
4.From what pre-existing material was it produced (analysis)?
5.In what original form was it produced (integrity)?
6.What is the evidential value of its contents (credibility)?

With these considerations I will summarise Pro’s case for the existence of Jesus along with the philosophical considerations.

Witnesses

Josephus
Pro doesn’t respond to my arguments regarding Josephus, thus he drops my point that it was written over 60 years after it’s purported events (hence not contemporary and failing criterea #1), moreover it is most likely derived from oral traditions and certainly not eyewitness testimony (failing #4 & 6), and has undergone significant forgery and interpolation in its manuscripts, which lays serious doubt on #5. This added to the fact that the most Josephus can affirm is the oral traditions at the time, it cannot in principle affirm a historical Jesus any more than Paul has. Josephus’ accounts do not evidence either a mythical or existent Jesus.

Tacitus
Pro drops the fact it is written 80 years after the purported fact (failing #1), moreover the fact that the passage is most likely a Christian “corrective” interpolation (failing# 4 & 6). Moreover even if the passage was accurate, it cannot in principle lend more credence to Jesus’s existence, but can only affirm the oral traditions of the Christians at the time (which were already numerous and established).

Apostle Paul
Pro drops the fact he never met Jesus (which significantly reduces it’s evidential value #6), moreover we know that Paul was obviously motivated, and not disinterested from the letters he wrote, which significantly undermines it’s credibility as accurate & reliable testimony (#3). Moreover Paul readily and explicitly admits that what he knows about Jesus came via. revelation, not from knowing/meeting Jesus, and that he never claimed to. Con never addressed these arguments. If Paul never knew Jesus, and doesn’t even claim to report on witnesses during his life, then this casts serious doubt on the validity of his claims. Moreover Pauls most frequent claim about jesus, by far is his crucifixion & resurrection, which runs slap bang into the contamination principle.

Pro’s only significant argument here is for James, “brother of the Lord” by appealing to context/misinterpretation, but doesn’t at all argue how. He literally just asserts I am misinterpreting without backing it up. He ignores the “policing” argument for the non-kinhood of James, and the fact that Paul makes several appeals to brothers of Jesus directly (1 Cor 9:5), as well as indirectly (Romans 8:15-29, Romans 9:26 Gal 3:26-29, Gal 4:4-7). Thus Pro’s arguments simply do not prove what he wants them to.

Markan Gospel & Q Source
Pro drops my arguments regarding the hypothetical nature of the Q document, and hence it’s lack of credence as an original source, and impossibility to verify any of the six criterea Pro proposed for determining the reliability of a source. The use of this source is simply an exercise in speculation.

The Markan Gospel Pro drops all my points against it, which largely are shared with Josephus & Tacitus in that they are derived from oral traditions (at best) and to make things worse, we clearly know the author of Mark had intentionality, and was motivated to promote his theology (#1, 2, 5 & 6). Pro drops the points that Mark demonstrably ‘made up’ mundane facts (which already seriously call into question other mundane facts, such as Jesus’ existence) and blends them with a healthy dose of supernaturalism in a single narrative.

Thus the Gospel of Mark is heavily compromised by the contamination principle, which lends serious doubt over the (already dubious) mundane claims of the Gospel.

Pro’s only positive argument here is for the “criterion of embarrassment” and points out a handful of embarrassing events within the Gospel, but he ignores my point that virtually all entirely mythical narratives have some embarrassing elements within them. The most it can possibly determine is the honesty of a certain passage from the eyes of an author, and not its inherent credibility. To make things worse, both of Pro’s examples are plagued with supernatural contamination.

=Neg Case=

Mythical Jesus

My theory is rather simple, and is a weaker version of Carrier’s argument. That Jesus is just an outcome of the oral tradition environment at the time. A figure like Jesus inevitably would have arisen in the environment at the time.

Moreover my position is preferred a priori as I do not need to appeal to the existence of a specific person (a man named Jesus) who had significant impact on these traditions, and that these traditions directly describe him. My argument is that virtually everything written about Jesus is:

  1. 1. Derived by the cultural stories/oral traditions/conversion efforts of the early Church
  2. 2. Could not in principle demonstrate Jesus’ existence any more likely, as they are decades removed from the purported events, with already a large church base established and thus virtually all historical references to Jesus, as well as ‘genuine’ or ‘honest’ parts of the NT books are just repeating the sayings of this culture.


Moreover, a tremendous lack of contemporary, or even closely contemporary historical attestation weights significantly against Jesus existing, since we would expect this to have happened if Jesus really did exist.

Oral Tradition

Pro provides no defence against oral traditions, and his only arguments against this by Pro was a red herring in referring to Jewish traditions, and to referring to Jewish *written* traditions instead. Pro thus concedes we have several decades of motivated oral traditions in the case of Jesus. With Christians attempting to convert non-Christians during this early period, leading to significant level of fabrication and stories being produced in this period.

This coupled with low literacy rates of the Galilee/Middle East at the time (<10%), followed by significantly lower rates of written literacy.[2] Furthermore the problem is not just in the transmission and fabrication of stories form person-to-person , but the witnessing, each event only occurs once in history, and is transmitted via the person telling that story, and that person telling another person a story etc. Thus there is no level of ‘rehersing’ that could occur between the events and their oral traditions decades later. Thus it is impossible with oral transmission to determine which stories are actually witnessed, and which were fabrications or fables since there is no evidence that it could have been after a few ‘generations’ of converts.

I have offered this environment of oral traditions as an effective mechanism by which not only the stories about Jesus end up being constructed, with previous myths and fables changed, adapted and synthesised which end up becoming euhemerised. We should prefer my position since we already know this mechanism was significantly in effect within the NT, thus it’s extension to Jesus himself is greatly favoured by Occam’s Razor, and is naturally expected to occur anyway, as it had for innumerable purely mythical characters previously.

Textual Transmission

Pro attempts a red herring fallacy here, by affirming Jewish written tradition to the written tradition of the New Testament. However this is clearly a false comparison because:

  1. 1. We already have abundant evidence from our existing manuscripts of the NT that it was poorly conserved, with hundreds of thousands of mistakes
  2. 2. The Jewish traditions were unusually good at preserving their texts, however the practices that lead to such accurate transmission are absent from the NT traditions, especially during the early Church[1]

Thus the comparison of the transmission of the (already highly dubious) original stories of the NT with the transmission of the Old Testament is frankly absurd.

Contamination Principle

Pro offers zero defence against my argument from the contamination principle, which in documents such as the Gospels significantly affects their credibility for even mundane claims. Simply appealing to other figures (such as Pythagoras, Alexander the Great, etc) considered historical just begs the question and ignores the context regarding those figures (such as significant impartial, and physical historical evidence, with independent contemporary witnesses, etc.).

Conclusion

Pro drops far too many points to be left with a credible positive case, to one should vote Con purely based on Pro’s failure to uphold his positive case alone. I have presented unchallenged mechanisms by which the mythical Jesus would have arisen in the early Middle East, and highlighted that virtually all evidence of Jesus sufferers severe scholarly drawbacks not observed for other historical figures.

References

  1. 1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
  2. 2. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Q-Z) p50.
Debate Round No. 5
107 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Envisage
*Shrug*
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
Isn't it annoying when people comment without reading the debate?
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Envisage
... Because I demonstrated great ignorance in this debate.

/sarcasm.
Posted by Esiar 2 years ago
Esiar
To believe Jesus never existed, you need to be one of these things:
-Ignorant
-Willfully ignorant
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
I thought lack of a forward argument hurt you a lot but my laziness meant I didn't capitalize on it enough.
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Envisage
I originally wrote my opening argument anticipating a 4 round debate, so it didn't really help I didn't make it very 'complete'. Should have forwarded a more rounded positive case for Jesus' non-existance from round 1. I did think I got around to presenting a positive case though in round 4, but seems Philo and Keller were unconvinced.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
Me too. I'm starting to get better at planning debates. I'm still worry about some details too late such as with the USS Liberty debate but I don't think my final argument will look much different.
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Envisage
Oo, I drew this. Nice. Guess I need to work on debate planning & direction since a lot of effort got wasted here by me.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
Awesome.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
This one's next on my list. I'll get to it before the end of the voting period.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
WyltedEnvisage
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: I thought the debate was pretty close all the way up til the final round. Con presented a lot of significant rebuttal in R4, and I just didn't see much in the way of response from Pro. I have a hard time buying that scholarly consensus alone is a reason to prefer Pro's arguments, and I get enough response on the oral/written history and Jesus's family that I'm at least wavering there. I don't end up agreeing with Con completely regarding contamination, but Pro doesn't give me enough counter rebuttal here to wholly dismiss it. I get more than enough response on each of the witnesses, much of which goes uncontested, and a significant amount of points about why I shouldn't pay attention to the written materials based on where they came from and how they got there. That throws the existence of Jesus far enough into question that I vote Con.
Vote Placed by philochristos 2 years ago
philochristos
WyltedEnvisage
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: I don't think Con made a strong case against the existence of Jesus. His strategy was primarily to cast doubt on the reliability of the sources we have about Jesus. If the dismal picture he painted was true, all that would follow is that we can't be sure that Jesus existed, but it wouldn't follow that Jesus didn't exist. Pro gave what I thought were good reasons to think Jesus existed, especially regarding James the brother of Jesus and the embarrassment of Jesus being from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. Con attempted to cast doubt on these arguments, but he didn't refute them. He raised the mere possibility that "brother" was being used of James in a general sense, but Pro showed that the context dictated James was an actual brother. It seems to me that that point alone should've won Pro the debate. Whereas Con merely raised possible doubts that Jesus existed, Pro did far more than raise possible doubts about the non-existence of Jesus. He actually gave good arguments.
Vote Placed by donald.keller 2 years ago
donald.keller
WyltedEnvisage
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: I hate Win-only voting. RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by SNP1 2 years ago
SNP1
WyltedEnvisage
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments