Jesus probably didn't exist
Hello and welcome! My opponent couldn't finish his last debate with me on this topic, so here we go again! In this debate, I will advance the proposition that on the balance of the evidence available to us, there is good reason to believe that the figure of Jesus of Nazareth is probably not historical. I intend to meet this burden of proof using two key contentions: first, that there is no good evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed, and second, that there is good evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is mythic. I have the burden of proof.
If you don't know how to judge a debate without bringing in your own biases, beliefs or facts from outside the debate, please go away and learn to judge. Or judge not, lest ye be judged. That works too.
I'm going to define Jesus very broadly as the character talked about in the Bible. I do not contest that nobody in Nazareth had the name "Jesus" in the first century AD, but rather that the specific "Jesus" talked about in the Bible is probably a fictional character. "Existance" is pretty self-evident, but I do mean in the physical sense of the word. My opponent will be free to challenge these definitions within the context of the spirit of the motion, but if they do so they must provide an alternative definition for me to argue in favor of.
To enable me to both state the rules and start immediately, I'm going to ask people to just read what I wrote in round 2 of the last debate (don't worry, it's the only round there was). See the debate here: http://www.debate.org.... I hope my opponent is alright with this, which will allow us to get underway without the need for an acceptance round.
I wish my opponent very good luck and look forward to a great debate.
Thanks Larz (Pro) for the debate. I hope many will learn a great deal from the debate.
The field of historiography is just like science. The scholars and historian’s work is to sift the most reliable and compelling historical facts from the available sources. In such debate of historicity of a person like Jesus, we should rather take a look at the contemporary historians to know what the established facts are concerning him. Just as we’d search the conclusions of the majority of contemporary scientists on scientific matters, to know what is the current best attested theory. If a common man wishes to argue on science without any science background whatsoever, will end up being as much irrational on many areas as someone who believes modern myths & misconceptions without confirming contemporary scholarship on them.
Today virtually no historian holds this radical belief that Jesus did not exist. However there has been couple of “scholars” who have argued for such a contention. Few exist among historians, just as some radical skeptics exist among philosophers who seriously doubt the existence of objective reality & external world, holding solipsism; or some scientists who openly go against all established scientific theories. For example if you know a scholar, Bart Ehrman, you’d know that it is like his mission of life to disprove Christianity. His whole life is dedicated completely on work of radical skepticism; debating top Christian scholars and all. Ehrman himself has published a book Did Jesus Exist? this year, refuting the modern Mythicists who have quite propagated their conspiracies against historical facts. Especially the makers of Zeitgeist movie, Acharya S. etc who are no scholars but their myths have been quite popularized on the internet.
It is wrong if you assume there are none or minute pieces of archaeological evidence for Jesus; refer to Craig Evan’s “Jesus and his World”. So presence of such evidences makes Pro’s case nearly impossible to be held by a rational man.
Pro says that not all ancient literature present Jesus as human. The Gnostic writings that started developing in second century considered that Jesus was too divine to die and suffer. They didn’t accept his humanity; hence invented their fables showing him as omnipresent divine person who cannot be a human. They believed all matter is evil and impure that God would wish to come in flesh. So these Gnostic writings that are from 2nd century have been rejected by historians as later fables; hence they cannot be used to support the doubt of Jesus’ existence at any stretch of imagination, at the most you can only use them for what has been already established about them.
He asserts that Mark is fictional nature as opposed to historical. Midrash is actually interpretation of the Jewish scriptures, it’s not fables. His argument (based on Robert Price’s link) seems that the Gospels heavily quote and allude to the Jewish scripture, hence they are not historical in nature. I doubt if Price himself argued that; but if that’s the objection, it’s just false for the Gospels claim to be fulfillment of whole Prophets and the Law of Judaism, they alluded and appealed to the Jewish scripture only to present the harmony with them.
Gary Habermas said in a 2009 Ankerberg video, "If we start with the cross approximately 30 AD and call that ground zero, 1 Corinthians 15 checks in at about 55 AD whatever the writer, conservative or not conservative, we have 25 years. In ancient historiography this is incredible in a time when the best known biography of Alexander the Great is that of Plutarch almost 400 years after Plutarch. When we learn about the early Caesars from Tacitus to Suetonius a 'good gap' is 100 years; 25 is incredible [for Jesus]. Paul says, 'I am passing onto you as first importance that which I also received' (1 Cor. 15.3)." Paul said, "I make known to you brethren the gospel which I preached to you" (1 Cor. 15.1). Gary says, "This earlier preaching may have taken place 51 AD about 21 years after the cross." But point of fact, Jesus died not in 30 AD, but 33 AD on April Fool's Day, Friday, April 1 (Gregorian) which I am sure of just +18 years after the cross. Also see about the 12 facts about Jesus compiled by Habermas by collecting 22000 sources of historians http://www3.telus.net...
Pro knows that many non-biblical secular sources have recorded about Jesus, who lived in second century- for example Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny the younger, Babylonian Talmud. All he did is to picked a couple and criticized them. A contemporary of Tacitus, Caius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 69-140), overseer of Rome's libraries and court official to several emperors, writes that the emperor Claudius "banished the Jews from Rome, who were continually making disturbances, Chrestus [Christ] being their leader" ( Lives of the First Twelve Caesars: Life of Claudius, quoted by Grant Jeffrey, Jesus: The Great Debate, 1999, p163). This banishment of Jews from Rome is mentioned in Acts 18:2. So Suetonius was referring to the same Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the historians do recognize this explicit fact and the fact that only Jesus was made popular as the Messiah or Christ in Israel 1st century since the context of their writings approve him.
Pro objected to the authenticity of a passage of Josephus, but actually Josephus mentioned him in other chapters of Antiquity as well. He noted the martyrdom of James and John the Baptist mentioning also about Jesus (Antiquities, 20:9:1 and 18:5:2) these chapters are not questioned by scholars. Pro’s says that Romans and others knew little about Christians and their faith is easily refuted in light of vast historical recording of them, that even the killing of disciples were recorded, since the faith grew like wild fire within few years. I didn’t even get his objection on Tacitus, where he said we don’t have access to his writings? But you can see Annals, 15:44 online easily.
When he addressed NT, he said epistles are not eyewitness accounts. This is no criterion for historiography at all. Secondly it’s false, only Paul did not meet Jesus in his earthly life. James was Jesus’ half brother and Peter, John were his very disciples who lived with him. He made another error by saying Origen questioned the authorship of book of revelation.
One extreme error was asserting that NONE of the epistle presents Jesus as human. How can Pro make such blunder when repeatedly they mentioned of the sacrifice and death of Jesus, and his bodily resurrection? The books of NT were consistent in proclaiming the true nature of Jesus Christ, as true human to die and suffer and resurrect and truly divine to be God and the author of life. (Heb 2:14-18; 12:1-2, Peter 1:18-19, Rom 5:15)
Paralleling Pagan myths with Christianity
The arguments were mainly invented and made famous by pseudo scholars, rather internet Mythicists wrote some books and a movie namely Zeitgeist. You can see the scholar’s views on those modern myths as Christians have written articles and books refuting them with help of true historians. So I’d not even like to specifically refute those annoying internet myths. Please see here:
http://www.philvaz.com... (and #Dionysos)
Even if the Gospels consist minor peripheral errors, the general reliability of them cannot be questioned based on such minor errors. Those minor points are so irrelevant to the general historical reliability of the NT. Such as Gnostic Gospels are not historically reliable at all but they do have some true specific facts for example existence of Jesus and apostles. Read my debate# 25508 for the textual reliability of the NT, It is easily demonstrable by evidence that the transmission line of the NT as well as the oral tradition that began by apostles were no way like a single line of Chinese whispers as he says rather many independent lines. Hope he concedes.
I'm going to start with three quick admissions (not concessions, because I never argued for them).
The first is that the text of the New Testament has been relatively well preserved. Compared to other texts, the New Testament has not been changed much through the ages - although of course, this does not help it much if it was mythic to begin with.
The second is that the Zeitgeist movie is really, really bad, and that most serious scholars disagree with me. My position in this debate is, unfortunately, one mostly held by crazy internet lurkers who enjoy trolling Christians. This is the only argument all my debates on this subject so far have had in common, which is funny. This is the most obvious ever ad populum fallacy. An argument is not true or logical just because everyone believes in it, nor is an argument false just because everyone disbelieves in it. Like I keep saying, chances are excellent that you, as a random voter, disagree with everything I say. However, this debate is about who is right on the balance of the evidence given by myself and my opponent - not you, not some other scholars, and not crappy YouTube videos.
The third is that there is no good literary evidence for Alexander the Great. Were it not for the abundance of archeological evidence, I probably would be sceptical about his existence too. We can discuss the historiography of other characters on another occasion.
Is there evidence for Jesus?
My opponent cites Craig Evan's book "Jesus and his World", which as chance would have it, I possess and have read a copy of. He does not tell us what archeological evidence Evans brings up for Jesus, which is a real shame. In fact, the book gives no archeological evidence that I have not refuted as a Christian relic in the previous round. Almost all of the archeological evidence is not for "Jesus" but for "his world", over which I think there need be no contention.
Next my opponent dismisses the gnostic authors as writing fables. Perhaps they did - and perhaps, the mainstream church wrote fables and the gnostics corrected them. Historically there is no real way of telling, as each side accused the other of being wrong. My point is that the existence of historical writings characterising somebody as mythical lends some evidence that perhaps they were, even if there is the possibility (as there is with any text) that the text is mythical.
I identified three main bodies of historical literature that believe Jesus existed, and these are the only other points of contention.
First we turn to the gospels. I said I was willing to accept that Mark's style wasn't that which would be expected of a history, but this was not my argument. Until my opponent engages with my material there's nothing more I can say.
Second we have the other historians. I criticised Suetonius, Tacitus and Josephus. My opponent adds the Babylonian Talmud to the mix, and Pliny the Younger, but he does not cite the specific passage in either. This is problematic because the Talmud contains reference to four different people who all share the same name and who all seem to have experienced a part of Jesus' life, although there is specific evidence for each of them also showing that that is not the Jesus we are talking about (http://www.angelfire.com...). Pliny does not mention Jesus at all, merely that Christians existed and that they sang hymns to Christ. People still do that today, but that does not provide evidence that he ever existed.
My opponent dodges my criticism of Tacitus. All he says is that he doesn't get my argument, so let me explain again in slightly different terms. The problem with Tacitus is that there is historical evidence to suggest that he got his information from either what Christians told him, or what Romans thought Christians believed. Because the evidence they gave could not be falsified, it was accepted. The only other possible source is an official record - which would have a) yielded Jesus' name instead of his title, and b) made it near-impossible for Tacitus to get Pilate's rank wrong in the same passage.
My opponent ignores my criticism of Suetonius, despite talking about him for ages. Until he engages with my material there's nothing more I can say.
On Josephus, my opponent conceeds that the Testimonium is not authentic but argues for the authenticity of another passage with a much more passing reference to being Jesus' brother. This fails on two levels - first because "brother" is frequently used in a metaphoric sense to mean "bretheren", and second because it's an arbritrary place to draw the line. If one passage is edited, that fact provides really good evidence that the other passage might be edited too.
The strongest evidence there is for Jesus are the letters. My opponent cites three passages that show the letter authors wrote Jesus had flesh and blood, but my point was that he is never explicitly called a human. Therefore this is not an "extreme error", nor even an "error". He says that witnessing is no criteria for historiography. That's a poor standard because of the Chinese whispering factor I talked about last round. Of course this happens through multiple independant lines, but that only makes it less accurate, as you cannot know which of the lines is accurate. He adds his belief that St Peter wrote Peter, which not even Christian scholars would defend (http://en.wikipedia.org...); moreover he does so without any evidence. That St John wrote the epistles of John has been rejected by the church for well over a millenium (http://en.wikipedia.org...). St James has the same problem with the word "brother", besides the epistle is generally considered to have been written after St James death, in the late first or early second century (http://earlychristianwritings.com...). That's not to mention the theological argument and the "divine revelation" argument against the letters. And this is presuming the letter writers are all absolutely truthful.
Is there evidence against Jesus?
First, my opponent conceeds (at least for the purposes of his argument) that the gospels contain contradictions. He claims that this is irrelevant to historical reliability, without addressing my argument that it is. To say it again: reality has no contradictions, so the words of the recieved writings about Jesus cannot be both real and contain contradictions. As Pope Leo XIII once said, "Truth can never contradict truth."
Second, my opponent refuses to refute what he calls "annoying internet myths". In fact, I very nearly plagiarised my whole argument from early Christian theologian Celcius. The idea that Jesus' divinity fits a certain archtype of literature isn't some recent "discovery" of the internet but an ancient observation that the stories of Jesus are apparently mythic. But even if it were a recent discovery, that does not show it false. My opponent may not want to, but so long as he does not advance an argument for why Jesus does not fit the general mold of what makes a "saviour", I have managed to give you strong evidence against the existence of Jesus.
Pro says he copied his arguments from some Christian theologican Celsius, again without any reference whatsoever. He says I didn’t quote some references, whereas he actually doesn’t. I seldom quote details of secular non-biblical historical sources for Jesus since that are very well known and available on net, also due to the word limit. See for the particular one of the Talmud www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_the_Talmud
Josh McDowell also quoted other historical sources as well. His given link where some internet lurker questioned the Talmud’s reference for Jesus is doesn’t hold any weight. You can read the details along with some other extra biblical sources. (Evidence that Demands a Verdict Chapter 5: Jesus, a Man of History ) http://tinyurl.com......
He also denied the authenticity of the narration of Pliny the Younger. It is ignorance to the historical evidences, which can be easily corrected as well.
Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia (AD 61-113) likewise writes of his actions against Christians. He interrogated Christians, asking if they were believers. If they answered, "yes," he asked them two more times, threatening to kill them if they refused to recant. If they continued their confession, he had them executed. Of Pliny, Murdock states, "One of the pitifully few ‘references’ held up by Christians as evidence of Jesus’s existence is the letter to Trajan supposedly written by the Roman historian Pliny the Younger. However, in this letter there is but one word that is applicable, ‘Christians,’ and that has been demonstrated to be spurious, as is also suspected of the entire ‘document.’"
The objection against Tacitus: He said he should have referred to him Yeshu instead of Christ, but that’s wrong expectation since he was not a Jew who’d not refer to him as his popular title.
Objection: Tacitus may have borrowed his information of Jesus from Christians or from Pliny the Younger, or from some other secondhand source.
Overall, Tacitus' reliability as a historian counts against his having borrowed information uncritically from any source. Moreover, and as further support:
Tacitus also "turned to Pliny for first-hand material for his Histories", so he was not hesitant to use Pliny as a source.
However, this does not mean that Tacitus accepted Pliny's information on Jesus, or on any topic, uncritically. Annals 15.53 indicates that Tacitus did collect some information from Pliny - and that he disputed it, and even considered it wholly absurd. Simply because Pliny was Tacitus' friend and confidant does not mean that he believed everything that Pliny told him.(..more)
Objection:Tacitus is in error because he refers to Pilate as a "procurator" when in reality Pilate was a prefect. This means that he is unreliable, or that he probably did not consult written documents.
In practical terms, "both the procurators and prefects in Judea had the power to execute criminals who were not Roman citizens" Practically, in this context, "A difference that is no difference, is no difference." Mythicist sympathizer atheist scholar Richard Carrier agreed that Pilate was both procurator and prefect. Read http://www.tektonics.org......
I also showed that the Christ, Suetonius mentioned is the same Jesus reading in context; we even have specific reference of the banishment of Jews from Rome he talked about. Moreover objections like “this doesn’t prove he was a physical person or that there could by other Messiahs apart from Jesus” these doesn’t even deserve to be addressed since no historian holds such view that the Christ he mentioned is an ambiguous figure, rather the only Christ all independent historians mentioned was only Jesus of Nazareth that the Christians believed. There were no other Christians who believed in some other Christ that time. Moreover that is no method of historiography the historians use to establish facts, that Josephus, Pliny, and Tacitus had to be eyewitnesses (to see the physical Jesus) in order to be historically reliable. For how do you appeal to historians like Tacitus and Josephus, and other historians of today’s time who attest their writings, when neither the modern historians nor you have ever been eyewitnesses to those ancient historians?
His objection to Josephus’ writings is usually silly. Josephus clearly writes the details which Jesus Christ he is talking about, the person is unambiguous. It’s also absurd to argue that if a passage of his writing is in dispute that entails whole writings are in dispute, this is no historiography method.
He accepts that the NT epistles do ascribe human attributes to Jesus, mentioning his flesh and blood and that how he died on the cross, suffered in humanity at all; BUT they never explicitly called him “human”; this objection despite my references like (NASB) Hebrews 2: 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.". Romans 5:15 "the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many".
I’d call this the Muslim objection just like they object that the Bible does not present him to be God because he himself did not explicitly uttered these three words “I am God” despite of his many other deity claims. I never saw any news agency calling Obama as human, let’s assume Obama is a mythological creature. I don’t think any contemporary historian refer to historical figures homo sapien and human being either; I hope none of you rejects that historians believe them to be humans.
The independent transmission chain of NT, I mentioned is the textual authenticity and reliability of whole it the various independent lines of manuscript are seen in full agreement as I shown in my other debate of NT’s textual authenticity. Same is with oral history of the Gospel found in whole world where apostles planted churches and kept refuting the Heretics preserving the same message & tradition. None of the four claims that Jesus was a myth or that some guys are inventing imaginary character named Jesus. Pro only argued for extremely minor contradictions. I said that even if we assume them are true, they don’t affect the core facts about Jesus (far from creating a doubt on Jesus’ existence). Such as the 12 Facts that Habermas compiled attesting 22000 sources of scholars. The foundational facts such as “Jesus Existed” or the first among those 12 facts: “Jesus died by crucifixion”
As I do this, please bear in mind that the source of an argument does not affect it's veracity. For example, we know Celsius wondered about whether Christ was real because Origen argued against it, even if I can't source Celsius because the original has been lost (http://en.wikipedia.org...). It's interesting also that on Wikipedia, my opponent's link on Jesus in the Talmud gives a very pro-Christian view of Jesus in the Talmud, while entering his Jewish name (http://en.wikipedia.org...) gives a very pro-Jewish one (which also just so happens to confirm everything that "some internet lurker", according to my opponent (actually a top Jewish rabbi) has written), illustrating the ridicliousness of deciding veracity based on source. Arguments are correct not because of who made them, but because of the inherent strength of the argument itself. The ironic thing here is that none of my opponent's links from last round go to the correct page. As can be seen from his indentations, many of my opponent's arguments are taken verbatim from other websites.
Also, bear in mind that since I cannot respond to any new evidence or arguments my opponent uses in his final round, they should not be counted as part of the debate.
Is there evidence against Jesus?
This is my contention. As I have the burden of proof, it is the most important issue in the debate. My opponent has ignored, and therefore conceeded, one-half of this argument. He has said nothing against my case that Jesus fits the narrative archtype of saviour literature, and is therefore more likely to be an example of such literature.
He also ignores the crux of my argument around contradictions - the existence of contradictions, which he has conceeded, makes the whole story less likely to be true. If the stories were absolute truth, they could not contradict. They must contain fiction - and if they contain fiction, why not assume they are wholly fiction? My opponent never engages with this material and therefore my point stands.
Is there evidence for Jesus?
This is where most of the engagement actually happened in the debate.
Contrary to my opponent's assertion, I did not dispute the veracity of Pliny the Younger. I am sure Pliny probably did write that Christians sang hymns about Christ. That does not prove, however, that Christ existed. People sing hymns for all kinds of mythical figures, but that doesn't make them real.
On the Talmud, he has still not told me which Jesus he is referring to, so I'll assume it's the one who got hanged on the passover. The trouble with this Jesus is that he was hanged a century and a day before the Jesus we are discussing, this Jesus was said to be "close to the government", and this Jesus was executed by Jews as opposed to Romans.
Moving on to Tacitus, who my opponent finally argues against. He said that it would be expected to use the popular title. This is true only if Tacitus was echoing popular opinion, or perhaps writing for a popular audience. While Pilate's rank or Jesus' name may make no difference, they suggest that this particular element of information was accepted on the Christian account because there was no good reason to disbelieve it. Logically the argument still stands.
My opponent does provide two reasons why Tacitus should be considered reliable. First, that he presents Christians in a bad light. This is, however, consistent with the theory that the source of his information was not Christians themselves, who after all were banned at that time, but popular anti-Christian sentiments in Rome that he was merely echoing. When common people heard that Christians believed Jesus was killed by Romans, they would exclaim "ha ha, your leader was killed by us!" (as confirmed by Lucian) and that would be that. No in-depth study would need be made. Secondly, he says Tacitus may have heard about Jesus from Pliny. That may be true, but it does not prove that Pliny was right either. Besides, there is no evidence Pliny believed Jesus existed, merely evidence that Pliny believed Christians were singing songs about Christ.
On to Suetonius. My opponent says that if Christians worshipped Christ in the early days then Christ must have existed. I seriously fail to see how this follows. I could start worshipping Waggaoohgaoohgahstan the Invincible right now and that would not cause him to have existed.
Next we have Josephus, who he says is unambiguous. I didn't say he was ambiguous about Jesus. I said he was ambiguous about the meaning of "brother". My opponent does not refute this, nor does he refute my other argument that if one part is edited, it makes it more likely that the other part is edited too, since an editor was clearly going through the work.
Let us turn to the texts of the bible. My opponent continues to maintain proximity is no test for accuracy. There is a temporal factor - facts from long ago get forgotten unless written down at some point - but this is not it. This is the simple fact that if I write something down myself, it will be a more accurate copy than if I tell my friend and they write it down. This is of course assuming that the Biblical texts were derived directly from a "Jesus", which is rather begging the question, besides which the Galatians texts I cited in the first round prove it wrong. The further removed our evidence is from the person, the less likely the person was real. The fact, for instance, that we have texts by Cicero makes it quite likely Cicero is real. If we only had what Augustus said about Cicero, that would make it less likely. If we only had texts from people who had never met Cicero, and had only heard about him from people who had only heard about him from people who, in turn, had never met him - then we'd be getting to about the level of the gospel of Mark. If Mark had himself known Jesus, the transmission could have been more accurate (not the transmission of the gospel, but that of the evidence).
I feel like my point about the epistles has been missed, so I'm going to randomly conceed that Jesus was human in the eyes of those writing the epistles. I could argue it further, but I've already won the point. Why? Because my opponent hasn't responded at all to my other two arguments against the epistles, which if you read round one are far more important and integral to my case. Since it's too late for my opponent to bring up new arguments now that I cannot respond to, these two points are enough to show that the epistles are a poor source of information.
All of my other points about the gospels have also been completely ignored by my opponent, thus I feel that they have been conceeded.
In history we don't talk in absolutes like; it's inductive reasoning as opposed to deductive. For ex. our daily experience of sunrise doesn't make it logically necessary to happen tomorrow. Same with history, there are no absolutes; you can't prove in absolute certainty what you did yesterday, because you can't bring others to past, all you can do is to present some evidences supporting your testimony. That's what historian's job to establish best evidences as facts which are most plausible and convincing. If you wish you can deny them just as you can deny possibly any science. I didn't appeal to authority of historians, but to their evidences showing they don't believe things without any reason.
Epistemic Skepticism: There have been all sorts of ridiculous skepticism in philosophy, but on rational grounds one needs to hold the view that is more reasonable and plausible from available evidences. Many things are possible, though their mere possibility doesn't entail good probability and plausibility. Philosophers in past entertained certain possibilities -Some suggested that we are merely brains in vats, kept alive by a mad scientist who feeds us patterns of electrical impulses that mimic our sensory organs.
Consider also the possibility that you are at this very moment dreaming. (This example originates with Descartes [1596-1650].) Whatever you see, touch and read-is simply part of your dream. Because such radical skeptical possibilities, should we go on to agree with them and deny the objective reasons and external reality? This is what a rational man should be mindful of holding the rational theory of epistemology.
Let me address Pro's arguments. The handful of Jews who deny the reference of Jesus in Talmud is not surprising because the religious rabbinic Jews have been holding the greatest enmity against him even today those Jews who reject him never write or utter his name because of their tradition, a phrase is well known in their tradition Y'mach Sh'mo V'Zichro(no) meaning "may his name and memory be obliterated" (from wiki/Yeshu) that's a good reason for why they kept his name as Yeshu instead of Yeshua. Though even some other Jewish scholars admit and agree to the clear references of his in Talmud. There is such dispute among historians on this.
The [rich text] editing has been very annoying for me. The links couldn't properly get posted; here are the sources once again. (Licona's refutations to Murdock; Evidence that demands verdict; response on Tacitus' records)
Mythicists theory was easily refuted in light of actual evidences, where we see that the conspirators like Zeitgeist failed miserably in manipulating the historical evidences and actual mythologies, though they continue to propagate their work even today. This is what I said earlier as well. Pro repeated the false claim that I conceded to those alleged contradictions (he even mentioned Gospel of Thomas' as NT Gospel there). I explained how they are irrelevant to the core message of the Gospels; even if we grant them, they don"t affect the core message. We gather specific evidences from historical records be it from NT or from non-secular records. Such as the list of 12 facts I shared that Habermas made by collecting more than 22000 sources from historians:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion
2. He was buried
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested)
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof)
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic)
12. Paul was converted (He was an enemy earlier)
None of these established facts are affected by those absurd contradictions of extremely peripheral accounts. For example if the way of Judas' death is mistaken by one or both accounts where we found seemingly discrepancy, this affect no other vital message of Gospels. If there are certain mistakes and contradictions in Josephus' Antiquity, no one can deny the reliability of other specific facts because of them. Pro assumes "if they contain fiction, why not assume they are wholly fiction?" Not only historian can't but this reasoning can't be taken by any one for any text. Suppose you find few spelling, grammatical, factual errors in your academic book or any book; that doesn't lead you to assume that the whole book is full of mistakes and no information. That's fallacy of composition, as well as a straw man. Same reasoning was against Josephus' account.
Pliny didn't just record the activities of Christians and their worship; he also recorded that he "made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do." He also recorded how Christians were punished and other information about them - http://tinyurl.com... Pro will say, well that doesn't prove he really existed. That's plain denial.
His denial to Tacitus also holds no weight, as there is no such criterion and condition as to from whom did Tacitus or Pliny got their information from, Christians or non-Christians doesn't matter. Pliny and Tacitus being from the very first century and being a secular non-christian source of history makes the skeptic having no room to hold his denial on the evidence concerning early Christianity or existence of Christ.
Pro says "Tacitus may have heard about Jesus from Pliny. That may be true, but it does not prove that Pliny was right either." This objection again is fallacious; for how does the skeptic know that Pliny himself existed in first place? He denies Pliny's source because it might have come from his contemporary Tacitus; for the same ground he will reject Tacitus saying his source doesn't mean Pliny was right. The denial is absurd, as the two contemporary sources are commutative thus greatly reliable. He maintained that the evidence from Pliny (or anyone else) doesn't imply that Jesus existed. That's purely argument from silence and radical denial; moreover he assumed the false criteria for historiography that historians must be eyewitnesses as well.
He asserts- the historical evidences doesn't follow Jesus existed. No one argued for absolutes, the non-biblical evidences only attest to the already existing best attested historical books of Bible. The early records of Christian's practices give evidence concerning Jesus. If my opponent accepts only the sources from eyewitnesses of Jesus, then he has the New Testament which we didn't even discuss, he only objected to the secular sources by attacking mythicist arguments. The authors of NT are those who lived with Jesus and their companions.
Another fallacy: the text should be written by the person himself concerning any information about his own. This is absurd first because how does the skeptic know that the record is really written by the guy in the first place? Second, if we were to adopt this criterion then we would only believe those historical records to be reliable which are written by someone about himself. See Scholar's approach to reliability criteria -wiki http://tinyurl.com...
Anything's possible; it's possible we are fooled by everyone from the past in all knowledge of history. We may be brains in the vat operated by mad scientist or we are dreaming this life all along. Some believe 9/11 and holocaust didn't happen, they also believe Quran's testimony that Jesus wasn't crucified and killed. I have even debated people who reject the absolute nature of logic. If you vote for Pro, you are agreeing with such an extreme (irrational) contention.
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