The Instigator
TheSquirrel
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points
The Contender
chengste
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Jesus as a historical figure.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
TheSquirrel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/31/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 448 times Debate No: 43182
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

TheSquirrel

Con

I find no good evidence for the actual historical existence of Jesus. Pro will have the burden of proof to provide evidence showing Jesus existed. I shall merely have to refute his evidence.

The bible may not be used as a source of evidence as it is not contemporary and is clearly biased on the subject of Jesus' existence (for obvious reasons).

Pro may use round 1 to provide an opening argument. If he does so, he must post "No Arguments as Agreed" in round 3.
chengste

Pro

thanks for the patience I await your post
Debate Round No. 1
TheSquirrel

Con

[If my opponent posts evidence I can not refute and convinces me to concede the debate please consider giving Pro full marks when you vote. Thank you.]

Pro does not use Round 1 to post arguments giving me nothing to refute, but I suppose I can start out with some common arguments for the existence of Jesus, and explain why they do not work.

The first and most common source is Josephus Flavius. It should be pointed out at the start that Josephus wasn't even born until 37 CE, well after the alleged death of Jesus. The source that people draw this "evidence" from (Antiquities) wasn't even written until 93 CE, almost a century after the life of Jesus and after the writing of the gospels. Therefore, this is not a contemporary source and amounts merely to hearsay. There is also some debate as to the authenticity of certain passages, questions of doctoring by zealous priests, but this is really neither here nor there. The evidence from Flavius is sufficiently discounted as being a non-contemporary hearsay account.

Every other source that Pro can site (as far as I know, feel free to surprise me!) Is written AFTER Josephus (except for the gospels, but those still came well after the supposed life of Jesus and I've already dismissed them in my opening statement so no need to get into that nonsense.) None of these sources are contemporary, and this is as close to a positive claim as I can make, being Con. The argument from silence.

Where is the contemporary evidence? Where are the artifacts? Is Jesus not described in the bible as being well known all over? Wasn't he followed by disciples, did he not speak with scribes and challenge the dominate social order? Did no one write of him at all?

During the entirety of his alleged life, we have NOTHING. Not one wood carving, not one John Hancock, not one bar bill, not one word, not one mention of him. No one, Jew, Greek or Roman has anything to say about "Jesus" until almost a century after his "death".

The argument from silence is compelling, and the closest I can come to a positive claim that can be tested by Pro. I want to clarify that Pro still has the burden of proof, but here we find the outline for what is acceptable in a piece of historical evidence. Many an apologist will accept hearsay and rumors as evidence and say "we must lower our standards because of the quality of ancient historical evidence" but this is wrong. We must simply lower our expectations of what can actually be known, and if in fact, hearsay and rumor are good enough for you to establish the existence of a person, allow me to introduce you to your new lord and savior, Hercules! There is just as much "evidence" for the existence of Hercules (widely regarded to be myth) as there is for Jesus (contrary to the ridiculously bold claim by some that there is "more evidence for Jesus than there is for Caesar").

I await my opponent on the other side of Round 2.

Sources:
http://www.nobeliefs.com...
http://www.ex-christadelphians.com...
chengste

Pro

Well first thanks for the debate I would like to point out that CON stated that I had a choice of either posting an argument in first round and not the last or not posting in the first round and being able to post in the last.

Using CON"s "argument from silence" then many others thru history would not be accepted either for example. Alexander the Great nothing is written down about him until 300 years after his death. So does that mean CON also denies the existence of Alexander the Great?

Now moving on to Josephus, who is a Jewish Historian who wrote 4 major books about Jewish History his most ambitious was "The Antiquities" which is a recount of Jewish history from creation until the point in history that he finished the book. This book is still looked upon as a great writing of Jewish History, so then CON must question everything written in this book if he does not believe parts of it why believe any of it. However, "The Antiquities", is not the only place Josephus writes of Jesus he also writes of him in "Testimonium Flavianum" It is not uncommon for someone to written about well after their passing and if Josephus was the only writer to mention Jesus then I would agree that maybe something is fishy, CON however seems to then also deny the writings of Tactis (a Roman Historian), Pliny the Younger (a Roman Senator), Phlegon (a secular historian), Origen (a Roman Historian) and The Talmud. All of which refer to Jesus in one form another.

CON next questions the concept of why no one from Jesus writes of him, CON must have never read the Bible for that is all it talks about. With further statements CON implies that if Jesus was then someone should have written of Him other then the writers of the Bible, why would this be true? Just because He, Jesus, had a large following you think that historians of the day would write about Him, a carpenter from Nazareth? The historians of the times only wrote of the aristocrats not the normal Joe on the street, what is most remarkable indeed is that any historian would write of Jesus, but as cited above many wrote of Him, why? How can this simple man make such a mark that history would even see him?

Finally, CON asks where is the artifacts of this man to show that he even lived? Before I answer that the biggest question is again why would a simple persons artifacts even important. Why would a commoner even be considered by history to be important enough to look for artifacts, it is obvious that Jesus was more then that just by the writings of the historians from the time frame to take note of Him he must have made some type of mark on the world. However you would hope to find some type of artifact that showed he was alive, in 2002 a remarkable find was unearthed. The find was an ossuary; a small box used between 20 and 70 AD for burials, upon this ossuary in Aramaic was the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." (1) So where CON claims there is no artifacts that refer to Jesus there is this ossuary.

So then what do historians of today say is Jesus a real historical person?

To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has "again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars." 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. (Michael Grant author of numerous books on ancient history)(2)

The total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus" existence. (Paul L. Maier, historian and novelist)(3)

"The Christian evidence for Christ begins with the letters ascribed to Saint Paul....No one has questioned the existence of Paul, or his repeated meetings with Peter, James, and John; and Paul enviously admits that these men had known Christ in his flesh. . . That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so loft an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospel." (Will Durant, American writer historian and philosopher)(4)

Given this data and the writing thru history, and the vast majority of historians it is only logical to believe that yes Jesus walked this earth and died around 36 AD. The overwhelming data supports PRO vote PRO

1.http://news.nationalgeographic.com...
2.Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell 1998
ISBN 0-664-25703-8 page 181
3.Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus by William R. Herzog (4 Jul 2005) ISBN 0664225284
pages 1-6
4.Ceasar and Christ, volume 3 of Story of Civilization
Debate Round No. 2
TheSquirrel

Con

Let's start off right away by responding to Pro's points.

1. Alexander the Great
I'm not really sure how Pro thinks this is analogous or where he was getting his information about Alexander the Great, because we have CONTEMPORARY evidence to support his existence.
- The Babylonian Royal Diary mentions the date of Alexander's death, and calls him by name saying "The king died".
- An administrative document from Bactria records Alexander's arrival in Bactria.
These contemporary sources record the action and movement of an actual living person, putting him in a different category from Jesus, who has none of that.

2. Josephus
Pro's assertion that I must doubt or discredit everything written by Josephus is not only ridiculous, it misses the point. Not only is the authenticity of certain passages that mention Jesus hotly contested, but this is not the writing of a man who knew or even knew of Jesus. How could he? He wasn't even alive at the time. For other historical peoples and events mentioned we have other, contemporary sources of evidence to back him up. This is not the case for Jesus! We still have no contemporary evidence for his existence. Everything Josephus writes about Jesus is at best second hand; hearsay, no matter how many books he wrote.

3. THE BIBLE (It should be noted that in my opening statement I insisted the Bible not be used as a evidence for the existence of Jesus.)
Pro's assertion that I "must have never read the Bible" is incorrect. As an evangelical christian I read the bible over many times, and as an ex-christian I have read it many more times over. I'm going to do Pro the favor of explaining WHY exactly we aren't using the bible as a source of evidence in this debate, and then I expect the matter to be settled.
- Non contemporary source. Whatever your excuse (and some are plausible and believable) the gospels were still not written until well after the alleged life of Jesus.
- Anonymous authors. No one knows who wrote the gospels. We have no good reason to believe that they were contemporaries of Jesus (although the timing makes it certainly possible) or that they were his disciples or even knew of him personally. The authenticity of their testimony is suspect.
- Inconsistencies. There are inconsistencies, contradictions and errors in the gospel accounts. The two gospels that mention a genealogy for Jesus record different people, and even a different number of generations between Abraham and David. Other inconsistencies include the time of his death, how many people came to the tomb, the number of them that were or weren't women, and various errors including the "slaughter of innocents", the ordered killing of male babies by Herod. Interestingly enough no one else seems to mention this (and historians in his time were not otherwise kind to him at all, he was kind of a jerk.) Futhermore, the bible describes Jesus being born during the census of Quirinius, who was governor of Syria, in 6 AD. But Jesus was clearly born before the death of Herod, because the bible puts the death of Herod during Mary and Joseph's exile in Egypt when Jesus was young (Herod being the reason for their exodus to begin with). The problem with this is that Herod died in 4 BC. These are clearly contradictory accounts. This is not an exhaustive list of all the things that are wrong with taking the bible at it's word on the life and times of Jesus, but it should suffice to show Pro why it has been discounted as a source of evidence, especially if Pro is then going to contradict his own evidence and proclaim that Jesus was a "simple man", not worth a mention by the scholars and scribes he argued with, or the politicians he pissed off, clearly against the biblical account that he was well known.

4. The Ossuary
The authenticity of the inscription (particularly the part that says "brother of Jesus") was deemed fraudulent in 2003 by The Israeli Antiquities Authority, the dealer who publicised the box was found with forgery tools in his home. At BEST Pro can claim the authenticity of this evidence is hotly debated.

People's opinions, even historians, are no good without the evidence to back it up. No evidence, the opinions mean nothing. I could just as easily quote historians who aren't sure Jesus existed, but that again would be immaterial. Opinions are not evidence.

5. The other stuff
Just so Pro doesn't think I'm ignoring him, Tactis, Pliny the Younger, Phlegon and Origen are all non contemporary sources and the same argument for Josephus extends to them. More so since they are so much more set apart from the time. Much of the "evidence" in this list is merely the mentioning of the existence of christians who worshiped their "christ" character, this is not evidence for the existence of christ.
The Talmud wasn't even written until 200 CE, so that's nice.

Sources
http://infidels.org...
http://rationalwiki.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
chengste

Pro

Thanks again for this opportunity

1) Let me first explain the tie in with Alexander the Great, the history of Alexander was kept verbally for hundreds of years and then written down with the most complete work written by Arrian 500 years later. (1) CON cites contemporary ties to his life with the statement from Babylonian Royal Diary however there are questions to the authenticity of this document (2) that is why historians rely on other documents such as that written by Arrian but remember that was 500 years later. So why is it that writings 500 years after someone"s death are accepted as fact, but those written within 20 years of a death are not.

2)The question of Josephus: Josephus wrote of Jesus twice as I posted there is some question about one phrase in the, "He was the Christ" is in question.(3) However with Josephus" other statement the phrase, "He was the Christ" makes good sense and seems to fit. The evidence I cited is kind of long and I apologize, yet it is the most complete discussion on this as I could find.

3)CON would prefer I do not mention the Bible which is odd because the Gospels, where in fact written by Jesus" followers, he feels may be written in to deceive people. The problem is this discussion is not the authenticity of Bible, but to prove if Jesus was and actual person. He points to some supposed contradictions in the Bible but again this is not a discussion on the Bible. I would point out that archeologist still use the Bible to assist them in locating places of ancient times and to date has not been proven wrong archeologically.(4) Having said that has everything been discovered no not yet but nothing has been shown to be wrong.

4)The Ossuary CON states that "was deemed fraudulent in 2003 by The Israeli Antiquities Authority" that is not entirely true. What was stated was "Israeli authorities have indicted the owner of the "James Ossuary" as a serial forger" he was indicted for forging something else some use this to question the box, however many other things point to this be the real thing. (5)

Had CON bothered to investigate the historians that I listed he would have run into the evidence they used for the proof of Jesus existence. By any standard the existence of Jesus has been well proven and thought thru, to just simply brush off the leading historians of several decades as opinions is false and very misleading. It seems as if CON is saying he knows more then these accepted scholars even those who are anti-Christian like Will Durant.

Jesus existed the proof is here vote PRO

1.http://www.1stmuse.com...
2.http://www.livius.org...
3.http://www.bede.org.uk...
4.http://www.ucg.org...
5.http://www.thenazareneway.com...
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by chengste 2 years ago
chengste
Thanks for the debate I enjoyed the distraction from things that are happening
Posted by TheSquirrel 2 years ago
TheSquirrel
@chengste
Of course, I totally understand. This challenge is open for 6 more days (until Tuesday) and I'm not in any hurry or anything. If you need more time I can always cancel and re-challenge.
Posted by chengste 2 years ago
chengste
I must wait to after the weekend which is what I thought you where going to do
Posted by TheSquirrel 2 years ago
TheSquirrel
That debate I was waiting to finish before starting this one... yeah, it's not going to be a problem.
OH I should have put this in opening statements, but I'll reiterate it each round.
If Pro can convince me and make me concede the debate please award full points to Pro.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
TheSquirrelchengsteTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's argument was just incredibly unconvincing. The main argument that Pro keeps missing from Con is damning - if they weren't written by someone who lived at the same time as Jesus, then we can make no statement of certainty as to whether they knew that he existed. The best response we hear to this is about Alexander the Great, and while some of the writings that were contemporary to him are in question, there is at least a debate to be had there, some uncertainty. Even if I buy that Josephus was being as honest as he could be, he could never have validated Jesus's existence himself. The Ossuary simply isn't compelling evidence, especially since it came from a source known to be engaged in forgery. It's just not proof positive that Jesus was a historical figure.
Vote Placed by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
TheSquirrelchengsteTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con refuted everything pretty well. The only thing con didn't do a good job refuting is the historical accuracy of the bible as pertaining to the existence of Jesus. However when pro accepted he did so with the understanding that the gospels can't be used as evidence. Had the gospels been legally allowed to be used as evidence in this debate I would have voted pro.