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Jesus was a Historical Figure

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/23/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,170 times Debate No: 74082
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (16)
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I will not be arguing for Jesus being Divine, (Even though I believe He is.) but rather that He was a real, historical person.

BOP will be on Pro on proving the Jesus was a Historical Figure.

Con and Pro must provide reliable sources.

I expect this argument to be civil, along with being taken seriously. Cheers.


I gladly accept, and look forward to hearing your arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank You. First and Foremost I would like to apologize on how I organized the debate, I was unclear on how it should be run seeing as how I am new to

Now, who was Jesus? Or "Yeshua" as He is known also by, some claim Him to be the Son of God, and some claim He is a great moral teacher and nothing else. However, that is not the purpose of this debate. The purpose of this debate is to prove that Jesus Christ was a Historical Figure, who in the end, was crucified by the Romans. I will restate that the purpose of this debate is NOT over his alleged Divinity, but of the truthfulness of his life. I will now begin.

1. The Roman Historian called Tacitus wrote:

"Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome...."

Now, who else would He have been writing about that suffered the extreme penalty from Pilate and who's followers took the name of their new belief system from? He is clearly writing of Jesus Christ, now there may be a discrepancy regarding the name "Christus" yet it's still in the same time of Jesus Christ, therefore I think we are safe in that regard. However I will continue with more sources. Also to add in, we know the extreme penalty from the Romans is crucifixion. Therefore, seeing as how that aligns perfectly with how Jesus Christ was executed according to the Gospels, it gives credence to my belief that Tacitus was writing of Jesus Christ.

2. There is also a work of writing from the Babylonian Talmund that also talks of Jesus and is dated from 70-200 A.D, however it can be trusted as a non biased source for Jesus seeing as how it is a work of the Jewish Religion, which is naturally opposed to the belief in Jesus being the so called "Messiah". Here it goes "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald...cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because He has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy". Now, Yeshu or Yeshua are actually the names of Jesus in Hebrew. This gives us even more insight on Jesus being a Historical Figure.

3. Lucian of Samosata was a second century Greek satirist. In one of his works, he wrote of the early Christians as follows:

The Christians ... worship a man to this day " the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

Although Lucian is jesting here at the early Christians, he does make some significant comments about their founder. For instance, he says the Christians worshipped a man, "who introduced their novel rites." And though this man's followers clearly thought quite highly of Him, He so angered many of His contemporaries with His teaching that He "was crucified on that account."

Although Lucian does not mention his name, he is clearly referring to Jesus. But what did Jesus teach to arouse such wrath? According to Lucian, he taught that all men are brothers from the moment of their conversion. That's harmless enough. But what did this conversion involve? It involved denying the Greek gods, worshipping Jesus, and living according to His teachings. It's not too difficult to imagine someone being killed for teaching that. Though Lucian doesn't say so explicitly, the Christian denial of other gods combined with their worship of Jesus implies the belief that Jesus was more than human. Since they denied other gods in order to worship Him, they apparently thought Jesus a greater God than any that Greece had to offer!

4. Josephus, a well known Roman Historian wrote: But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod's army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance, for his treatment of John, surnamed the Baptist. For Herod had put him to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism.

...convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them 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 delivered them up to be stoned.

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive;...

Now, I have not used any Biblical sources for this debate. Why? I have used sources that were hostile to Jesus in order to further advance my claims that He was a real historical man. Such sources would remove any Christian "bias" and would be sure to be as truthful as possible. There are hundreds of other sources that come from Jewish, Christian, Pagan, and Secular historians alike. However, I am limited by the characters that I can put in. One can't deny that they were writing of Jesus given the sheer amount of Historians that have written about him.

I eagerly wait for my opponent's rebuttal.


As the burden of proof is solely on Pro, I will just be offering rebuttals of his arguments.

1. This quote from Tacitus does not mention Jesus of Nazareth whatsoever. Pro is confusing the Christ, a messianic figure, and Jesus of Nazareth, a possible historical figure. Tacitus is clearly writing about the Christ figure, but not Jesus. While the Tacitus passage is generally accepted to be authentic, it is still written in 116 CE, almost a hundred years after the supposed death of Christ. Tacitus' account is second hand at best. He did not witness a man named Jesus. He is writing that, in the first century CE, there were Christians who worshipped a man named Jesus. This is a known fact, bu the purpose of this debate is to discuss whether these early Christians were inspired by a real man or not. Tacitus does nothing to prove this.
2. Talmud* not Talmund, and this source is also dubious. First off, it is also not written during the supposed time of Jesus, and was likely written after the death of anyone who may have know the living Jesus. It also gets crucial details of the Jesus story wrong, saying he is hanged instead of crucified. This is a pretty huge detail to get wrong. All the Talmud claims is that a man named Yeshua (a very common name) was hanged (not crucified) around the Passover for sorcery. Again, all this proves is that people had heard a story about a figure with some details similar to what we identify as Jesus. This is far from good evidence.
3. Again, this is not proof that Jesus existed as a historical figure. Pro has demonstrated that there were a group of people who identified as Christians in the first century. Great. We knew this already. Lucian is writing in the second century, way too far removed from the time of Jesus to possibly account for his existence. Once again, Pro says that Lucian is "obviously" referring to Jesus, but this is blatantly false. All he says is that the Christians worshipped "a man" and only offers the detail that "he was crucified". No name, no dates, no location, no identifying characteristics, nothing. This does not prove that Jesus was real.
4. I'm surprised to see Josephus used here, the scholarly consensus here is that the passages related to Jesus are forgeries. See my sources for details.

So here we have Pro's best arguments. One forgery, and three historians, none of whom lived within 50 years of Jesus' supposed existence, writing about early Christians, not Jesus of Nazareth. Not one source from the actual time of Jesus, not one first hand account, nothing. If Jesus was a real person, as Pro claims, how could no local historians, government officials, or religious authorities have taken note of him until decades after he died? The absence of good data speaks volumes. A man as noticeable and popular as Jesus is said to have been in his lifetime either A) never existed or B) never did anything out of the ordinary in his entire life. I believe that I have sufficiently demonstrated that Pro's arguments do not prove that Jesus of Nazareth was a real, historical person, only that there were people who identified as Christians in the first century. I await Pro's response.
Debate Round No. 2


I apologize for my misspelling of the Jewish Text, I was typing fast and not paying attention.

Now, let's continue.

1. I will also draw upon the Pauline Letters, which are dated 15-20 years after the death of Jesus. Paul knew Jesus was real for a fact. He was in touch with James (Brother of Jesus) and Peter (One of His followers). Now, these are clear "first hand" eyewitnesses to Jesus and His life who Paul came in constant contact with, they weren't made up characters, they are historically verified individuals. However, if Jesus wasn't a real person who else was Paul speaking of throughout a good quarter of the New Testament? This isn't about the supposed encounter that Paul had, or anything supernatural. But simply of Jesus himself. Who was Paul speaking of Con? If none other than a person who He believed to be real because of the information He got from multiple sources and a so called "First Hand Encounter".

2. To better understand Con I would like to know how He came to his conclusion that Jesus never existed. I would also like Con's explanation on how the Christian movement started, along with how multiple sources have written of the same man from the Middle East whose death resulted in a new movement.

3. I would also like to give quotes from various scholars and academics who support my supposition.

Jesus" death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus." " John Dominic Crossan, Co-founder of The Jesus Seminar Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pg 145

"Jesus death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable."- Atheist Gerd Ludemann-The Resurrection of Christ, Pg 50.
E.P. Sanders: The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York: Penguin Books, 1993, says:
"That Jesus" followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know" pgs 279-280. "I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: "I saw him first!" "No! I did." Paul"s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus" followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions." Pgs. 279-280. "Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the "resurrection": the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it." Pg 280.
Marcus Borg (The Jesus Seminar)
"An examination of the claims for and against the historicity of Jesus thus reveals that the difficulties faced by those undertaking to prove that he is not historical, in the fields both of the history of religion and the history of doctrine, and not least in the interpretation of the earliest tradition are far more numerous and profound than those which face their opponents. Seen in their totality, they must be considered as having no possible solution. Added to this, all hypotheses which have so far been put forward to the effect that Jesus never lived are in the strangest opposition to each other, both in their method of working and their interpretation of the Gospel reports, and thus merely cancel each other out. Hence we must conclude that the supposition that Jesus did exist is exceedingly likely, whereas its converse is exceedingly unlikely. This does not mean that the latter will not be proposed again from time to time, just as the romantic view of the life of Jesus is also destined for immortality. It is even able to dress itself up with certain scholarly technique, and with a little skillful manipulation can have much influence on the mass of people. But as soon as it does more than engage in noisy polemics with "theology" and hazards an attempt to produce real evidence, it immediately reveals itself to be an implausible hypothesis""Marcus Borg and N. T. Wright "A Vision of the Christian Life", The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2007), 236
Robert J. Miller (The Jesus Seminar)
"We can be certain that Jesus really existed (despite a few highly motivated skeptics who refuse to be convinced), that he was a Jewish teacher in Galilee, and that he was crucified by the Roman government around 30 CE""Robert J. Miller, The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics, Santa Rosa: Polebridge, 1999, p. 38
Michael Martin: Atheist
"Some skeptics have maintained that the best account of the biblical and historical evidence is the theory that Jesus never existed; that is, that Jesus" existence is a myth (Well 1999). Such a view is controversial and not widely held even by anti-Christian thinkers." "Michael Martin, "Skeptical Perspectives on Jesus" Resurrection", in Delbert Burkett"s The Blackwell Companion to Jesus, Oxford: Blackwell, 2011), 285
Bart Ehrman quote:
"It is a historical fact that some of Jesus" followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. Thus, for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in the resurrection" The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.276).
More quotes about the existence of Jesus:
"What about those writers like Acharya S (The Christ Conspiracy) and Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy (The Jesus Mysteries), who say that Jesus never existed, and that Christianity was an invented religion, the Jewish equivalent of the Greek mystery religions? This is an old argument, even though it shows up every 10 years or so. This current craze that Christianity was a mystery religion like these other mystery religions-the people who are saying this are almost always people who know nothing about the mystery religions; they"ve read a few popular books, but they"re not scholars of mystery religions. The reality is, we know very little about mystery religions-the whole point of mystery religions is that they"re secret! So I think it"s crazy to build on ignorance in order to make a claim like this. I think the evidence is just so overwhelming that Jesus existed, that it"s silly to talk about him not existing. I don"t know anyone who is a responsible historian, who is actually trained in the historical method, or anybody who is a biblical scholar who does this for a living, who gives any credence at all to any of this." Bart Ehrman, interview with David V. Barrett, "The Gospel According to Bart", Fortean Times (221), 2007
Robert E. Van Voorst, Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary, in his discussion on the historical evidence of Jesus outside of the New Testament states:
"The theory of Jesus" nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question." " Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Pg 14.
Mark Allan Powell, a professor of NT and chairman for Historical Jesus at the Society of Biblical Literature puts it harsh stating: "Anyone who says that today [i.e. that Jesus didn"t exist]"in the academic world at least"gets grouped with the skinheads who say there was no Holocaust and the scientific holdouts who want to believe the world is flat." -Mark A Powell, Jesus As a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. 168.
The late F.F. Bruce in his popular The


1. I do not know why Pro insists on putting quotation marks around the term first-hand source. First-hand sources are usually much more accurate than second-hand or even further removed sources, and thus incredibly valuable to historians. I am very justified in asking for first hand sources, as it seems pretty incredible that a miracle worker like Jesus never inspired anyone to write anything about him during his life. Now Paul is generally accepted as a real historical figure by historians. The authorship of the majority of the Pauline letters are believed to be genuine, and the ones that are forgeries or psuedoforgeries are to be expected after so many centuries of revision by the church. However, Paul never met Jesus by his own admission. Paul met with early Christians who allegedly told him about Jesus. If this is the best evidence Pro can produce, it is not a good sign for his argument. If I told you that I met a guy who told me that he knew a guy who could turn Skittles into M&Ms, would you be rationally justified in believing me? Of course not. I could very easily be lying, and so could my friend. Or one of us could be mistaken, or exaggerating, or insane. However Paul has much more incentive to be lying; by doing so he positions himself as the head of the fledgling church, and his writings become it's central dogma. Remember, Paul is writing decades before any of the gospels, so he did not have the gospels as a resource to draw inspiration from, rather the gospels were inspired by Paul's writing. Paul's moral code now influences billions of people across the globe, a power greater than he could possibly have dreamed of. So is Paul a liar? Have his writings been altered over the years to fit the church's changing position? Are his sources lying, or crazy? Or, is the fourth possibility, that Paul met a man who gave him true accounts about a magic man healing people in the boondocks of the Roman Empire on some bizarre quest to save humanity from his own misplaced anger, entirely true? Any rational person will recognize that the fourth possibility is the least likely of the above to be true.
2. The burden of proof does not rest on me. I am not arguing in favour of the Jesus myth theory, I am merely refuting Pro's arguments, in an attempt to show that there are no arguments compelling enough to convince any rational, unbiased person. I would like Pro to explain how the Greek, Roman, Hindu, Druid, Aztec, Egyptian, Native American, Muslim, Mormon, Scientological, and various other religions started. In addition, I would like Pro to demonstrate how multiple sources have written about the existence of King Arthur, the same man from Briton whose brave deeds inspired millions. This request is rhetorical, of course. I merely want to illustrate that A. religions have been popping up all over the world, from as soon as humans could communicate to the present day, and Christianity has about the same odds as any other of actually being factually correct, as well as B. multiple stories about a central, mythical figure crop up all over the world all across history. People love to tell stories; they inspire our imaginations, and make a hard life bearable. Sometimes the line between fact and fiction gets blurred, and oral tradition is one of the easiest ways for blurring to take place, whether they be about King Arthur, or Achilles, or Jesus of Nazareth.
3. Pro throws out a wall of text containing scholarly quotes arguing in favour of a historical Jesus. I think that this is overkill, as all of his quotes essentially say the same thing without offering any new evidence. While many historians do support the Historical Jesus theory currently, there are plenty who support the Jesus Myth theory. This is why we debate, to go over evidence, examine it critically, and challenge the status quo. I won't offer a wall of text to illustrate this point, but I will include links in my sources as verification.

So here is the TL;DR of round 3. Pro argues that because Paul says he heard from a guy that Jesus was real we should accept this. Pro says that because we do not know the exact details of the origin of Christianity we should accept that Jesus is real. Pro does not think that multiple tales of the same person could possibly be fictional. Finally, Pro argues that because a lot of historians currently think one way, we should accept this and not continue to ask hard questions. I feel I have successfully refuted all of these arguments. Paul is not necessarily a reliable narrator, and as all of the gospels stem from his writings, the entire New Testament hinges on the very thin possibility Paul is an honest historian. Not knowing the origins of Christianity does not mean we should accept a bad explanation instead of saying "I don't know" and continuing to research. People have created mythical heroes for centuries; multiple people writing about the supposed existence of one hundreds of years after the fact does not qualify as proof. Finally, just because a lot of experts agree with Pro does not automatically make him correct. He is still responsible for providing solid arguments, and I think I have proven that he has not. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SNP1 3 years ago
Tschuk: in response to your message on my profile (as I cannot respond on your profile), I mentioned me majoring in history because I hear (too often) that the only people that take the Jesus Myth position seriously don't know a thing about history. I put it there so people know I am not just a layman when it comes to history. I'm no expert, but I do know a thing or two.
Posted by SNP1 3 years ago
Tschuk: in response to your message on my profile (as I cannot respond on your profile), I mentioned me majoring in history because I hear (too often) that the only people that take the Jesus Myth position seriously don't know a thing about history. I put it there so people know I am not just a layman when it comes to history. I'm no expert, but I do know a thing or two.
Posted by tschuk 3 years ago
Oh well, Con is right in regards to my behavior.
Posted by Canuckleball 3 years ago
I've been on this site for about a week, not exactly a lot of seniority. And if you read the comments, I said before the debate I do not support the CMT. Religions don't form out of thin air. Scientology formed around L. Ron Hubbard, Mormonism around Joseph Smith, etc. The evidence for Jesus' existence is circumstantial, but there's more than enough to conclude a man by that name was executed by the Romans. We wouldn't expect anyone to write anything about him during his life, because he was unremarkable. It was only after the religion started picking up steam he became noteworthy.

So I don't appreciate being called not remotely intelligent and ignorant. I use this site to practice debating, and sometimes choose to play devil's advocate. I would hope that voters take note that tschuk has resorted to name-calling in the comments section to make his point, to an opponent who agreed with him all along.
Posted by tschuk 3 years ago
is same man was the one who persecuted and killed Christians. Nothing would've changed His mind short of a religious experience. This was the most shocking part of Con's argument, that He said that Paul gained from proclaiming Christianity. The evidence clearly shows otherwise. However, ignorance is bliss. Therefore I rest my case.
Posted by tschuk 3 years ago
I am a poor debater, and this debate will show that clearly.

As I am new to I will touch upon this subject in the future. However, one of the major problems I noticed with my fellow debater was his mistake in saying that there are plenty of Scholars that support the "Jesus Myth" theory. This is ignorance at it's finest, the Jesus Myth theory has been destroyed time and time again by scholars. It is a position that is held by the minority in the historical field, similar to the amount of scientists that are young earth creationists in the science field.

I did this debate as a warm up, seeing as how I didn't believe there was anyone remotely intelligent that would accept this debate. I had been hoping to have an easy debate with someone, however I was outmatched clearly by opponent due to his seniority on My apologies.

Also, my fellow debater says "It is a position held currently". This position will not change, yet he implies that it will. Time and Time again the New Testament has been subject to intense scrutiny, and has held up admirably. It has even at times gotten history right when modern day Historians haven't. I know of few modern day Atheist's (Save Richard Dawkins) who still believe that Jesus was a myth, to me that speaks volumes, even though Bart Ehrman is no Christian by any means, He still gives the best argument for Jesus existing.

I think now I understand the anger Atheist's have towards Christians who don't believe evolution. Just know that we feel the same way towards Atheists who don't believe in Jesus. Also, Paul's letters weren't written decades after Christ's death. They were written anywhere from 3-15 years at the most.

You speak of the gains Paul made. Yet what you ignore is that He gained nothing except beatings, scorn, shipwrecks, etc from proclaiming the Gospel. He didn't get anything in the end except for a beheading in Rome. What man would die for beliefs that He knew to be a lie? Don't forget that th
Posted by SNP1 3 years ago
Certain documents can be argued for as evidence of Yeshua, but they are (when you actually look at them) unconvincing. A lot of documents have interpolations, forgeries, or do not even address Yeshua. Even more come from a period of time too late after the fact to be able to support the existence of Yeshua.

Right now, with my personal research while trying to get my degree, I am actually looking into Paul mythicism,
Posted by Canuckleball 3 years ago
I'm not a supporter of the Jesus Myth theory myself. However, since the BOP is on Pro, and there really aren't any surviving historical records (which you would expect from a man who gallivanted around the Roman Empire healing the sick) its very tough to prove Yeshua existed.
Posted by SNP1 3 years ago
Though I am one of the few that actively pushes for the Jesus myth theory on DDO, I am not going to debate it for a while. I am actually researching different documents right now and am considering a different Jesus Myth Theory than what has previously been proposed. It needs more research, and if it turns out to actually be a good theory then I will write about it when i get my history degree.
Posted by YaHey 3 years ago
Is round one just for accepting the debate?
No votes have been placed for this debate.