Jesus Probably existed
Debate Rounds (4)
-I wish to conduct this debate in 3 speaker style,
so your first round which will be the later half of round two will have your opening arguments and rebuttals to my opening arguments.
Your second round will contain your secondary arguments and rebuttals to my secondary arguments.
Your third round will contain rebuttals to all of my arguments stated and a summary of your case.
I don't wish to sound demanding or anything, but I am new to debating online and I only have experience debating in real life.
Jesus. The well known historical figure of the NKJV Bible.
Probably: insofar as seems reasonably true, factual, or to be expected : without much doubt, More likely than not.
existed: Needs no defining.
If you accept, please wait for round 2 for me to present my case.
I thank my opponent for challenging me to this debate. I'm particularly glad that my other two debates on this topic have stirred up so much interest. Furthermore, it's great to do a debate in 3-speaker style again. I'm very familiar with the style because we do it in New Zealand as well, but recently most of my real-life debating has been British Parliamentry style. Anyway, enough of my personal rambling and on with the debate!
I accept your definitions, except where you define Jesus as a "historical figure." This makes the motion tautological, and besides is not within the spirit of the debate. My contention will be that Jesus cannot be presumed a historical figure, and that indeed, there is much good evidence to suggest that Jesus is not a historical figure. Although I think we both have an equal understanding of what existed means, to provide some kind of clarity to voters, pro is defending that it is probable that a physical manifestation of Jesus walked the Earth. Note that in the resolution as phrased, pro carries the burden of proof.
Good votes only please.
I look forward to a fun, spirited and exciting debate, and await my opponent's first round.
I would just like to mention that debates regarding the historicity of Christ are few simply because He has already been proven. The only people that still argue are those misinformed who have not heard the 2000 year old news. In fact, most renowned atheists attack the Divinity of Christ and not his existence, Dan Barker for example. He is an atheist who has more knowledge about Christianity than arguably any other atheist in the world. One of the most prestigious atheists, he has never once argued against the existence of Christ in Public, obviously to avoid humiliation and discrediting.
Moving on, my arguments that I will be presenting this round is evidence for Jesus secular to the bible. Next round I will be using the Bible as my main base of arguments.
1) Evidence for Jesus is presented by Roman Historians.
2) Evidence for Jesus is presented by Jewish Rabbi.
3) Evidence for Jesus is presented by Josephus.
4) Evidence for Jesus is presented by Pliny the Younger.
5) Evidence for Jesus is presented by Lucian
1) Tacitus was a Roman Historian and Senator. He is considered the father of historical texts by modern day historians. After the fire of Rome, he documented the following record:
'Nero fabricated Scapegoats, and punished with every refinement, the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this setback, the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but also in Rome.' 
Looking at the text, it can be concluded that Tacitus shared a disdain for Eastern religions along with Nero. Nero especially disliked the new religion of Christianity which can -to an extent- be associated with Tacitus.
2) Writings from the Talmud dating from 70 AD to about 200 AD depict in accurate detail, occurrences regarding Christ.
'On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu(Hebrew spelling of Jesus) was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and has enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forth in his favour, he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.'
This passage can refer to 3 possible people who were hanged on Passover. A thief, another thief and Jesus. The thieves were not accused of sorcery or enticing an entire nation to apostasy, so it must have been Jesus. The other Obvious hint is that it says it was Jesus. Yeshu is the Hebrew spelling of Jesus. 
Also note the Authors of this text, the Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbi, Pharisees and Sadducee's of the Jewish nation were all enemies of Jesus. He had undermined their teachings multiple times and made direct accusations at their integrity. There is absolutely no chance what-so-ever that these religious leaders were in a plot with the disciples of Christ to 'conjure' his existence. What they documented was text after text about Jesus that painted him in a very bad light.
3) Josephus was a Romano-Jewish historian,[5,6] who wrote hefty amounts of passage concerning Jesus.[7,8] He also fought in the war against the Romans, a war which he recorded in several Volumes after his capture. The Roman who captured him later became the emperor, and exulted him to a position of elevated status among the Roman historians. Josephus is noteworthy in this debate because in his book, the antiquities of the Jews, he makes the following statement: 'Ananus brought before the Sanhedrin "a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. he accused them of having transgressed the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death."' 
Note, Josephus was not a Christian. He was not interested in Christianity, and he showed complete impartiality to the new religion. In fact, Josephus talks very little about Christianity and instead focuses on Judeo-Roman history. But the references to this 'Jesus' who was called Christ are very present and do not fit the descriptions of any of the other 60 self-proclaiming Messiahs. James, who is the highlight of Josephus's writings here is recorded as being the brother of Jesus in Mark 6:3.
Also note: The document records Jesus as being called 'The Christ,' even though the text is not about Jesus. So why would Josephus write that Jesus was called Christ? Its because he was documenting the existence and identity of a notable historical figure. Another famous passage about Jesus is found in source 10. I will not include it in the debate due to the word count.
4) Pliny is known for his hundreds of surviving letters, which are an invaluable historical source for the time period.[11,12,13,14] In a letter he wrote around the year AD 112, Pliny stated: 'They [The Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, where they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by an solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds...' 
Pliny was affronted by a dilemma, that was, he was killing Christians and he didn't want to. He had changed his mindset so that he reasoned they were not deserving of death simply because they had done nothing wrong. Being an open-minded person, he decided to write to emperor Trajan for assistance in the matter. The above exert is from one of his letters. Throughout the entire letter, he uses the term 'Christian(s) 7 times, and Christ 3 times. 
Note how he writes about Christ assuming his audience knows he exists and is aware of some details about him.
5) Lucian was a fanatical enemy of Christianity, he used whatever opportunities available to Criticise and degrade the religion. In his book,the death of peregrin he writes:
'The Christians, as you know, worship a man to this day- the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account... You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.' 
Note where this enemy of Christ says: 'the distinguished personage,'was crucified,'original lawgiver,'crucified sage.' He knew very well about Christ and the Christians and he said all sorts of bad things about them.
If you could ask these prominent historical figures the simple question 'was there a Jesus called Christ?' All of them, be it an enemy or neutral third party, would say, yes. Jesus existed. No questions asked.
I look forward to hearing from my opponent.
 Annals 15:44
 The Babylonian Talmud. Volume 4 Seherdrin, 43a pg 281.
 Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:1
 Antiquities of the Jews 18:3:3.
 Pliny Letters, translated by William Melmoth rev by W.M.L Hutchingson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935) Vol 2, X:96.
 Lucian,the death of Peregrin pp. 11-13 In the works of Lucian of Samosta translated by H.W Fowler 1949 volume 1.
Let us start by questioning how we know a piece of literary evidence is reliable. We can examine the temporal proximity of the work to the time of the incident. We can examine the motive a writer probably had for saying something. We can examine the closeness of the source to the event (think of the game of "Chinese Whispers" to get this idea). These are all very commonly accepted metrics for determining historical reliability.
My opponent brings up five sources. Let us first look at Tacitus. My opponent correctly notes that Tacitus was generally hostile to Christians. Why then call him Christ and not Jesus? The word Christ means anointed in Greek, and was generally applied to messiahs of the day. Christ was the phrase used by the Christian community. It indicates that Tacitus was probably just repeating the Christian view, through the lens of the Roman prejudice against it. If that is true, then Tacitus could not have concluded this was the case from evidence, but rather just put it in because he had no reason to doubt the evidence. And why would he? Without carefully checking the records for many hours it would have been impossible. Two other things make that unlikely. First, if so, he would have realised that Pilate was a prefect, not a procurator, because his rank is given incorrectly in the passage. If he did make the mistake with Pilate, why assume he knew all about Jesus? Second, at a time when Christianity was illegal, it would have looked awefully suspiscious if Tacitus had decided to just head on down to Judea to find out more about Jesus. What about our three general criteria? Tacitus wrote in AD 116, which is almost a century after Jesus' alleged death. He had no motive for fact-checking the actual existence of Jesus, and textual evidence indicates he did not. Tacitus does not reveal his source, but given the temporal difference and the relatively lower life expectancy, it seems unlikely that it was anybody connected closely to Jesus.
The Talmud references, according to the latest research from Peter Schäfer, a brilliant professor of religion, probably was written in the 3rd or 4th century. By this time Christianity was already well entrenched, and Jews were merely parodying the Christian account. There is no evidence of earlier inclusion of the passage, and the passages (there's more than just that one) do read like a Jewish version of the Christian story. In terms of temporal proximity, we're now talking several centuries. In terms of closeness of sources, the Talmud was written by rabbis, but unfortunately the records of the Sanhedrin were destroyed when the Romans sacked Jerusalem under Titus. It seems unlikely that Jews in the 3rd or 4th century were allowed access to Roman records specifically so they could write their religious books, especially considering how the Talmud was largely written to preserve Judaism against the growing influence of Christianity. It seems likely they wanted to push the message that Jesus was a heretical Jew, even in the Christian scripture, because it avoids the condemnation that the Bible gives to those who do not believe in Jesus' coming in the flesh. This is assuming the passage even refers to Jesus, of course. Yeshu was a very common name, the Talmud gives a different date for the execution (by a day and a century), the Talmud says the same Yeshu "was close to the government", and this Yeshu was executed by a Jewish court, which seems improbable for the period of Roman occupation. Given how short the passage is and how many details are different, the evidence is quite strong that Yeshu is not the same as Jesus, called the Christ.
Josephus writes about Jesus twice, once being an obvious forgery by Christians. The other occassion, which my opponent uses, is only very short and has a number of flaws. First, I know several people who call themselves "brothers of Christ". Your quote from Lucian proves this was true even in ancient times. Second, we have no reliable early copies of it. If we know one part of it is a fraud, why not the other part? Third, the character of Ananus is inconsistant with that Josephus gives in other writings, making it more likely that this is an interpolation. Fourth, Christian writers fail to use it in debates until about AD 1000 (ie Photius I of Constantinople is silent about it, even though it would have been a really good argument to use in his book about Josephus). Fifth, conveniently, the earliest partial manuscript we have of this is from the 11th century. Temporally this is really bad. But let us assume it is authentic. Why did Josephus write it? Probably to indicate that James was a Christian. It does not seem likely that he had researched the family relationships of James in sufficient depth, given both the context of the passage and the huge volumne of research he was doing, to make this conclusion absolutely. It seems quite probable he was just believing what James said, like Tacitus believed what the Christians said, because he could not falsify it. Josephus wrote around 60 years after the death of Jesus so isn't a very close source either.
Pliny wrote a long time after Jesus died, and states that hymns were sung to Christ. Hymns are still sung to him today, but that does not prove he existed. Given the lack of temporal proximity it is impossible he was writing about the friends of Jesus, but rather his followers. There is nothing controversial about that, but it does not provide any evidence Jesus actually existed.
Lucian wrote even further back in history. This is not a close source. I wonder how my opponent imagines Lucian could possibly have known for a certainty that Jesus existed? He is merely repeating what the Christians believe, and the context of the passage makes that quite clear.
I'm going to point to two bodies of evidence to support my alternative view that Jesus was a story. I am basing this on the conception of Jesus my opponent defined Biblically. Character counts limit the detail I can give to these points, but they will be expanded on in later rounds.
The first body of evidence is the apparent similarity of the Jesus story to that of pre-existing saviour narratives. Given that everything we know about historical Jesus is literally by Chinese Whispers, it seems more than plausible that it developed out of other traditions. Narrative similarity is itself strong evidence that the later narrative was written to be as the earlier one.
Examples would include:
Similar or same birth, death, trial, afterlife, epithets and symbols
Similar or same birth, baptism, temptation, miracles and second coming
Egyptian religion (Horus)
Similar or same birth, baptism, miracles and death
This is not to say that Jesus was the same as these characters, but that the fitting of the Jesus narrative to these narrative archtypes indicates the the Jesus narrative is a traditional saviour narrative rather than a historical record.
The second body of evidence is that writings detailing Jesus' life are notoriously contradictory and counterfactual. The real world is completely consistant and factual, so these stories cannot possibly be both non-fiction and accurate. We have very early copies of the stories available to us in the latest Bibles, and they're pretty accurate (not entirely, but probably better than most historical texts). This shows that the stories are almost certainly not factual narratives. Some examples of contradictions:
Matthew 1:17 and Matthew 1:2 - is it 41 or 42 generations?
2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:12 - one says all scripture is of God, the other that some was written by the author (apparently Paul) and is not of God.
Acts 20:35 - references a passage that does not exist
Luke 4:29 - Nazareth is not on a mountain
'Why call him Christ and not Jesus?'
Tacitus uses this term to justify his claim of the Christians originator. Not because he was hearing whispers. Tacitus was a renowned historian by Roman standards and even by modern standards, as he is still exulted as a great person today. He never once let slip in his integrity by publishing a historical document that made an unasserted claim. When he said 'Christ,' he indicated that Jesus was called the Christ all over the Eastern World. Furthermore, he made it clear that Christ was well known and not a rumor. people travelled far and wide to see Jesus teach, if they never saw him, the rumor would have been killed instantly. But it only grew, as those people who had travelled dispersed back to their homelands with accounts of the famous teacher. Let it be noted that it is impossible to fabricate a rumor of a person to fool an entire country, especially when everyone wishes to see him.
2) The Talmud
'Jews were merely parodying the Christian account.'
Other way around, Christians were a big minority in the first century and everyone had the same account of events as each other. The debate therefore in early years between Jews and Christians was whether or not Jesus was who he claimed to be: The Son of God. The Jewish leaders had no need to approach a Christian for information about Christ considering they knew more about him than many Christians. The fact of the matter, is that the Jewish leaders knew him personally, and recorded events in present speech, which were later transferred into the Talmud.
This is were I laughed, he says Josephus's account was a forgery by Christians despite modern day historians and scholars having the surving original copies. On the documents, there are no signs of erasures or editing, the writing is from the hand of Josephus and the only reason why my opponent claims they are forgery is because of some colourful adjectives about Christ that doesn't agree with his case.
I would like to conclude this section by showing how my opponent is either a hypocrite or historically illiterate.
His most constant argument is that the further away something is written from the time of the event, the less reliable it is. If that is the case then he has claimed that the New Testament is the most reliable documents ever written and that nearly every ancient historical figure that we know to exist is actually all just a hoax! These documents written by famous historians are much closer to their date of publication than many others that we accept as accurate. Are we to discredit everything based on his claim? Historians certainly don't think so.
His claim also supports my upcoming arguments about the New Testament, but first, lets have a look at what else he had to say in his Case.
1) The account of Jesus is similar to that of pre-existing saviours.
Another laugh here, this argument only ever gets used to attack the divinity of Christ, not his historicity. But for the time being, lets give my opponent the benefit of the doubt and play along with what he has to say.
Dionysus: Was the Greek god of wine. [1,2] However, his background story was exactly that, a narrative to go along with the history of one of their gods, as was traditional with most pagans. They did not provide any sort of evidence what-so-ever that Dionysus may have been a real person once, it was all based on faith.
The same applies to the other gods he mentions. However, saying that people constantly rise up claiming to be a Messiah advances that claim that Jesus was not the Son of God. However, it does not at all seek to help the claim that Jesus did not exist. I would like to remind my opponent of the topic: 'Jesus probably existed.' Not 'Jesus was the Son of God.'
His next claim is more ludicrous than the first. He brings up long-debunked allegations of so called 'contradictions' in the Bible. Before I address this, I would like to observe that we may be seeing an admittance by Con that the New Testament is reliable considering that he only brings up a single set of old claims against it. Or else he just got bored and ended his case. Which is hardly sporting.
Matthew 1:17 and Matthew 1:2
Matthew 1:2-16 gives names of family members, father to son, to son etc starting from Abraham and ending with Jesus. Every couple versus it stops and says something like: '...They were carried away to Babylon.' In Matthew 1:17 the list ends and it adds up each section, from Abraham to David, 14 generations; David to captivity in Babylon, 14 generations; Babylon until Christ, 14 generations. Each passage says 14x3 overall. 14x3 according to the first passage equals 42. 14x3=42 according to the second passage as well. Either my opponent is not the best at maths, or he was using material from someone else, that someone else being very bad at maths. Next time my opponent claims a contradiction is happening, please look it up in the Bible first.
2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:12
One passage says that all scripture is inspired by God the other says the inspired writer of many of the letters was Paul. No Contradiction here people, just an overworking imagination. Move on...
Acts 20:35 Does not reference other passages, it just quotes Jesus. A very funny misinterpretation/mistake by my opponent.
Luke 4:29 says that there is a hill with a cliff face in Nazareth. My opponent says Nazareth is not on a mountain. Luke agrees, there are multiple mountains IN Nazareth, not the other way around.
My argument for this round: The New testament is accurate and therefore Jesus probably existed.
The New testament documents enjoy far more historical references and citations than any other historical article in existence. Its been documented by so many people so many times that we can now piece it all back together if we were to completely lose it. The same cannot be said of ANYTHING else.
Referring back to where my opponent claimed that the longer the time gap, the more obliged we are to have to throw out the material. I would just like to say that I completely agree this argument in my favour. All the secular evidence I gave may be accurate according to modern day scholars and in comparison to other documents, but it isn't as good as the New Testament, so I will now advance my opponent's argument, that the New Testament is more accurate than anything else.
First lets compare it to the very best and famous historical references we have
Earliest manuscript: Unknown
Number of surviving manuscripts: 643
History of Herodotus:
Earliest manuscript: 900AD
Number of surviving Manuscripts: 8
Josephus' Jewish wars:
Earliest manuscript: 400AD
Number of surviving Manuscripts: 9
Earliest Manuscript: 125AD
Number of surviving Manuscripts: 5725
So my opponent argues that everything we know about Rome, Greece and Every other ancient source is invalid if he does not accept that the New Testament is more authentic than all of them.
Furthermore, if you were to ask any honest historian this question: 'Are the New Testament Documents the most authenticated documents based on manuscript evidence?' they will always say yes. Whether to preserve their integrity or because they already know the answer, either way, its because they are forced to.
I would like to conclude my case by asking you the date. Today, as I post this argument, its the 15th of the 9th 2012. But what is it the 2012th year from? A big rumor? No, Its the 2012th year from the most famous and most documented person ever to walk this planet.
The resolution is affirmed.
1AD is actually almost certainly wrong for the date of Jesus' birth, but that is an issue for another debate because it almost certainly didn't even happen. The calender was made up in medieval europe when the Catholic church was seeking to expand their hegemony into time, having already reached great distances into space (at that time the whole world was centered on Jerusalem in maps). The significance of a day does not prove something happened then, by the way. That's why we have things like Friday the 13th superstitions.
At this point in the debate, we are discussing four candidate historical sources for Jesus' existance.
Tacitus - my opponent's entire case was that the Christians could not fabricate a rumor about a prophet who did not exist. Suppose that I was to tell you that the messiah has come and died a week ago in New Zealand, but then rose again to a heavenly plane. How would you know if I was lying? You might check the net, or newspapers. Those did not exist in ancient Judea. You might ask people who knew the guy - but of course if he's fictional, then everyone who "knew him" would back up my story that he has come. You might find his tomb - but Jesus didn't have a tomb, he borrowed the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea (according to Luke) which was sealed with Joseph in it by the time the gospels were published. So the people literally had no way of knowing, and Tacitus clearly had no reason for caring strongly enough to presume the account was true.
Talmud - my opponent's entire case is premised on the Talmud being written in the first century AD. Not only has he not provided any evidence to back up this claim, but he's wrong - the Talmud was written in the 3rd or 4th century (http://en.wikipedia.org...). This is, of course, supposing that the Jesus in the Torah is in fact the same Jesus, which I provided evidence last round it is not.
Josephus - here my opponent's whole argument is that we have surviving original copies of Josephus. This is wrong - the earliest copy dates from a Christian monastery in the 11th century (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Note that the Antiquities is a different book from the Histories, which curiously enough do not mention Jesus at all.
New Testament - my opponent believes these are the most historically proximate documents, and therefore most accurate, ever written. Historical proximity is but one measure of likely accuracy, but let us entertain that notion for a moment. Christ was born around 1BC-1AD, according to convention. The gospels record he lived 33 years, and therefore must have died around AD 33. There are four gospels, of which the earliest is Mark. According to the Christian view (I'm grabbing these dates from the introduction to Mark in my Zondervan NIV study bible) Mark was composed between the mid 50s to just before AD 70. From a sceptical perspective I think anything far before the destruction of the temple in AD 70 is quite ridiculous, both for textual and historical reasons, but let us grant that the gospel was written in AD 55, the earliest possible date, 22 years after Jesus' death. Now note the average Judean life expectancy was around 29. In real terms it's equivalent to making the first mention of the Kuwait war today, adjusting for the life expectancy, it's like first mentioning the moon landing today. And if we take the better estimate of AD 70, these dates become more ridiculous. So you see that even this is not proximate enough.
Note that other historical figures are far more proximate. For the emporer Augustus, the Roman emporer when Jesus was born, we have records of him dating to before his death, for instance his own Res Gestae. Surviving copies is a poor indicator because the number of copies is determined not by what happened at the time but what happpened after (in this case, the New Testament was extremely well preserved because Christianity flourished). It's also not an indicator of truth. Many do believe that Homer's Illiad is mostly mythic, for example, and that's reasonable given the lack of historical evidence.
That's not the only criteria for reliability though. According to Randall Helm's lengthy, landmark investigation in "Who Wrote The Gospels?", none of the gospels were in fact authored by the people who they are today named after, and Mark, the most proximate, must have been writing at the third, or more probably the fourth remove from Jesus himself if Jesus was real. The problem with just accepting the kind of hearsay that the gospel authors did and writing it all down is that you don't know if the other person is lying, or has been genuinely misled. All that would be true even if the gospel writers were truthful, which my literary evidence shows they are probably not.
Dionysus was not just a Greek god but also an Orphic god. The traditions are not the same. Anyway, my opponent notes that the other Gods may have been real once too. However, once again, this is an assertion without evidence. My opponent says it is all based on faith, and that's exactly the problem. But consider why you would write a story in a style conforming to beliefs you think are mythic. The gospel writers would probably not have written the story as they did (ie their use of midrash) if they wanted the story to be interpreted as a factual and historical account.
That's the only thing he could say against this point, which brings me on to my second argument, about contradictions.
On Matthew's geneology list, my opponent is the one who clearly cannot count, because not both of the lists add up to 42 (http://skepticsannotatedbible.com...)
Timothy and Corinthians cannot both be true, because Paul is not God. All scripture being by God means that none is by Paul. Brushing this aside and saying there is no contradiction without evidence for that is not a good counter-argument.
Acts quotes Jesus on something he clearly never said. Remember that Acts was written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, who is usually very careful to put Jesus' sayings into his own gospel. At the start of Luke the author even makes a point of writing a complete and orderly account.
Luke still has his geography wrong because there are not multiple mountains or cliff faces in Nazareth. It lies, as it did in ancient times, at the bottom of a smooth valley.
But before I go on to rebuttals, I've come to the conclusion that after reading this debate, many people will assume it is a merely a squabble between an atheist and a christian apologist. I do not doubt this view in light of Con's last post.
So lets take a moment to examine things that actual credible people have to say on this matter. Once you have read it all, you will be able to conclude the following:
>The majority of atheist doubt the historicity of Christ.
>The majority of of historians and scholars do not doubt the historicity of Christ.
I find that summary rather amusing.
In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman wrote: "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" 
Van Voorst, Robert E (2000) states that modern scholarship views the theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted. 
Michael Grant states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary."
James D. G. Dunn states that the theories of non-existence of Jesus are "a thoroughly dead thesis" 
Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church"s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." 
The only thing that my opponent can refute here is that I am wrong when I say that most athiests doubt the historicity of Christ. He can do this by arguing that very few athiests doubt the historicity of Christ, which I encourage him to do. These quotes from modern day historians confirms my claim that my opponent is in the habit of using debunked arguments in an attempt to support his case. The fact is, his case has been thoroughly refuted and disproven countless times in the past. I suspect my opponent hasn't been told this and thus, believes that Christ might actually be a myth. Which is a myth in itself. Moving away from the topic for one moment, I just wish to say that I hope this is the first debate in DDO that actually manages to convince the opposition, Its bad enough being wrong without having to make a show of it.
Progressing on, I want to look through his patchy rebuttals. Here, I must assume that my opponent used his own mind or unknown sources to base his work on. Lets look at his assault on Tacitus. My opponent attacks the forefather of written history by saying that the Roman Historian was only writing down unverified rumors. However, he has failed to prove the following misconceptions that must be true before he can procede to attack the Historian.
a) The rumor started AFTER the death of Jesus and not during his life.
b) The rumor was unverifiable.
c) Eye witness accounts that were not documented due to their numbers were all false.
d) The Eye witnesses were under the influence of a mass-hypnotist who convinced them to go back home with the same story.
Once my opponent proves that all the above were true, which is unproveable, then he has the right to attack the integrity of Tacitus. Until then, his BoP that Tacitus was dishonestly documenting rumors remains unfulfilled and Tacitus remains innocent of that charge until proven guilty.
The Talmud: 'my opponent's entire case is premised in the Talmud being written in the first century.' There is no need to overexhadurate Con. I might as well say: Con's rebuttal's are all based on the assertion that something cannot be accurate at all if it is written more than 50 years after the event happened. In which case, nearly everthing we know about our past over 1000 years ago is compeltely and utterly innacurate. Which is an accurate summary of his claims. Furthermore, he didn't actually provide an argument as to why we cannot use the Talmud, beside saying that it might be speaking of a different Jesus, in which case I say that the religious leaders did not document unimportant figures, and documenting a minor Jesus would be a large break in tradition. And we do not need to dispute that the religious leaders of the Jews were a big fan of tradition, 6000 years of history, they still havent changed, prefering even to abstain from modern day technology too. So my opponents rebuttal of the Talmud is based on assumptions instead of hard facts.
I would like to point out now that my opponent quotes from a source that contradicts his case. He uses a wikipedia article (which can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org... ) to claim that we cannot trust documents recovered in the 11th century. But the article says that Josephus's work was in fact done in the first century. I can't imagine what my opponent is trying to claim. "...we have surviving original copies of Josephus. This is wrong," Is my opponent claiming that none of the copies survived? In which case, he certainly disagrees with the source of his information. "Note that the Antiquities is a different book from the Histories, which curiously enough do not mention Jesus at all." Yes, it's obvious, in the histories, you find a record of Jesus, because he was historical, and in the Antiquities, you find a completely different saga about completely different things. I dont find anything suspicious about it with the exception of my opponents overworking imagination trying to justify a long dead claim.
New Testament. 'Christ was born around 1BC-1AD according to convention.' According to convention is not according to evidence, I personally, disagree that the year of Christ's birth can be pinpointed down to a few years simply because most evidence came about during his life, during the time he got famous. he wasn't famous at birth, and thus, logically, there is little evidence to assume that it was exactly 1BC-1AD.
Now note this quote from my opponent: 'Historical proximity is but one measure of likely accuracy.' Do you see him telling us that the dates between the documents publication and the actual event matter? Its right in that quote. But notice how I have been trying to advocate that claim to my opponents deaf ears and even though he says it himself, he still doesn't believe it. All throughout his rebuttals, my opponent has been reiterating on the point that Histoical proximity is everything, nearly every rebuttal he has, he has pointed out that the Historical proximity is no enough to satisfy his uneducated guesses. So now that he has aknowledged that Historical proximity is but one measure, I would like to dismiss all his rebuttals that are completely centered around historical proximity. Even though I have rebutted, his words have contradicted his behaviour and he therefore, has not refuted anything adequately enough to dismiss it. All my arguments stand.
His final statement against the New Testament is by far his strongest. 'Many do believe that Homer's Illiad is mostly mythic.' Thats his closing argument against the NT and I'm not going to bother pointing out why its a rubbish rebuttal.
In his failed contradictions, my opponent used a website and not a bible, I used a bible and found nothing wrong. You should read one too and see.
The resolution is affirmed. Vote Pro.
B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285
Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16
in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels by Micjhael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200
James D. G. Dunn "Paul's understanding of the death of Jesus" in Sacrifice and Redemption edited by S. W. Sykes (2007) Cambridge University Press ISBN 052104460X pages 35-36
in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould
It's interesting that in both this and my other debate, my opponent brings up a new point in the last round I respond to (in this case, contrary to the rules of the debate), and it's always the same - I'm wrong not because of the evidence I have given you, nor because of the evidence my opponent has been able to present, but rather because other athiests said so. Not only does this not follow, but it's an ad populum fallacy. Copernicus went against the views of hundreds of astronomers, both secular and theist. Martin Luther declared that Copernicus wished to reverse the whole science of astronomy. Today I have presented evidence that others, both secular and theist, disagree with. Chances are, you probably disagree with me too. My opponent is pretty much saying I am flying in the face of the whole science of historiography. Well, Copernicus was right.
In this debate, you have to judge the evidence we have presented, not your own beliefs, nor those of the other scholars my opponent has quoted. Here's why I think I've won this debate.
I argued that there is good reason to believe Jesus did not exist. I had two reasons - similarity with other Gods being the first. This proves that Jesus fitted to that particular narrative archtype and is therefore evidence that Jesus was a fable. This was not addressed in any depth by my opponent at all throughout the debate, and his shallow rebuttals I have already dealt with at length. My other point was about the contradictions. These have all stood, except that my opponent's Bible apparently doesn't have them. I only used a single website for a single one of my five contradictions, and other than that have been referring only to the text of the Bible. When I first gave you the contradictions it was only with the Bible verses - the website is more like a visual aide because my opponent accused me of not being able to count.
To meet my burden of proof, I believe I have shown at least one of these two arguments to be evidence Jesus was not real, especially given how little engagement there has been on them.
My opponent finishes his case by writing what he believes to be my "strongest argument", and then declaring it "rubbish" and not worthy of rebuttal. If it's so strong, then it does require some answering. We cannot just presume an argument to be false, particularly given my opponent's double standard in giving rebuttals to all my (apparently) weaker arguments.
There's been a lot of talk in this debate about candidates for scholars who may have written something that also incidentally provides evidence that Jesus was real. The New Testament is indeed the foremost of these, and I have launched a large number of specific attacks against it. Only one has been really contested in my opponent's rebuttal, and that's my use of factors other than historical proximity (the birth date doesn't need to be exact for my argument to hold). Just because temporal proximity is one measure doesn't mean it is the only one, however. A restaurant with great food but poor service is probably just as good as one with poor food and good service, but ultimately niether restaurant can be said to be good all around. So too have my opponent's sources failed for various different reasons, including but not limited to the time delay (which, as I mentioned last round, is still really bad for the New Testament).
My opponent also used a number of non-Christian sources, though he has long conceeded all but three - Josephus, Tacitus and the Talmud. On Josephus, I argued the recieved text is a fraud. The original was indeed authored in the first century, but we have no surviving copies of the originals from the first century as my opponent once claimed. What happened for the next ten centuries is a mystery. Incidentally it's the Histories that do not mention Jesus, and the Antiquities that do mention Jesus, so I can understand the confusion. If my opponent asserts that the Antiquities are non-historical then he has conceeeded the Josephus argument. The point being that we know the copy must be a fraud for all the reasons I gave in round two, and my evidence proves that the text was not sufficiently well preserved to allow it to happen.
What about Tacitus? Recall that my case was that Tacitus did not press the matter of Jesus because he could not falsify it. My opponent has asserted that Tacitus wouldn't have done that, without giving historical evidence for that assertion. This isn't even necessarily dishonest. And all this is made even more likely by the fact that, as I pointed out last round, there literally was no way to falsify the information, meaning Tacitus cannot possibly have confirmed it.
Finally, the Talmud. I had two main objections. The first is that it isn't a good source, the criteria for which my opponent conceeds but does not claim. 50 years is a long time for a source to be published, and the Talmud was published hundreds of years later. This is not to mention the apparent parodying of established history, as presented by the dominant Christian church. And all this would be true even if the Jesus talked about was, in fact, Jesus. My opponent claims that they wouldn't have written about him if he wasn't important. In that case, perhaps he could tell us about the other six "important" people with the same name who come up in the Talmud (see my angelfire link for the answers). Few Jews themselves believe it is the same Jesus, and certainly the text does not imply that it is the same.
So where does this leave us?
At the end of the debate, my opponent has given us no good reason to think Jesus was real, that I have not fully refuted. Conversely, I have shown two strong reasons why Jesus probably did exist.
The motion falls.
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