The Evidence Shows Jesus Historically Existed
Debate Rounds (4)
Jesus: Figure centred on in the Gospel accounts
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Opening Arguments
Round 3: Counter Arguments and Rebuttal
Round 4: Counter Arguments and Rebuttal
I believe the onus is on Pro to demonstrate strong (rather than undeniable) evidence to believe in the existence of the Jesus described in the Bible. I understand that his divinity or otherwise is not the subject of this debate.
Thanks to Pro for the invitation, and I look forward to an interesting debate.
1 a) First of all, Paul attests to the historicity of Jesus   . Now, Paul can be considered an extremely reliable testimony on Jesus' historicity. First of all, his first work, 1 Corinthians 15 dates right to 37 AD, or at least within five years of the Resurrection   (maximum of 38 AD) a mere four years after the death of Jesus. This is ridiculously close to the lifetime of Jesus and there can be simply no question as to whether or not Paul had certainty in ascribing the events he documents. Furthermore, there is more evidence that shows Paul is unbelievably more of an authority and evidence for Jesus' historicity than we've discussed. Let's take a look.
1 b) Paul tells us that he was a persecutor of the early Church during the time when Jesus was actually still alive with his ministry , and thus Paul was directly engaged in the ministry of Jesus and was literally hunting it down. If Jesus did not exist, then his ministry did not exist, which is an absolutely ludicrous idea as Paul was directly affiliated with it in a violent manner. There is no possible way Paul could have gotten Jesus wrong because of this.
1 c) Paul even knew the FAMILY of Jesus, such as James who was a brother of Jesus . Not only was Paul affiliated with James, he was even on the same council as James , who acknowledged Jesus during that council meeting . If there was ANYONE who can confirm Jesus existed, it is his family who literally lived together with and grew up with Jesus, and Paul gives us that confirmation.
"We have one author who knew Jesus' relatives, and knew His disciples, Paul... [We know that] because we have Paul's letters."
-Bart Ehrman, American New Testament Scholar 
2. We have various secular records of Jesus
2 a) Josephus was Jewish literary writer of Palestine in the first century, and he mentions Jesus twice.
-Jewish Antiquities 18.3.3 
-Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 
2 b) Tacitus references Jesus, writing around 107 AD
-Annals 15.44 
2 c) Clement of Rome, writing in the first century, mentions Jesus
-1Clem prologue:1 
These are just a few examples we have of non-Biblical authors who attest of Jesus' historicity. We have others like Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas, etc, etc, etc .
Now, Matthew was one of the 12 Apostles , and so if Matthew tells us Jesus existed, then it simply cannot be put into question. Amazingly enough, he did  . So, the only thing we need to do is validate that Matthew is in fact the author of the Gospel of Matthew. This can be done beyond question if we simply look at both the internal and external evidence of the Gospel of Matthew on his authorship.
We have good internal evidence that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Now, in the Gospel of Matthew, numerous financial transactions are recorded, including in Matthew 17:24-27, Matthew 18:23-35, Matthew 20:1-16, Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3-10, Matthew 28:11-15 . Furthermore, in Mark 12:15 and Luke 20:24, the Greek word for denarion is used for the money  , however in Matthew, a more advanced Greek word appears for state coin. Now, why is all this information relevant? Because actually, we are told Matthew is a TAX COLLECTOR . This is completely in line with all our evidence that the author of the Gospel of Matthew is interested in and is capable of advanced financial information, such as a tax collector would be, which perfectly fits Matthew's character, the evidence shows Matthew is the author. We have more internal evidence, though. Inn Luke 5:29 we are told that Matthew made a great feast in his house where Jesus then reclined and ate. Likewise Mark 2:15 says (his house). However, in the account in Matthew"s Gospel (9:10) we read that Jesus and the disciples reclined at the house . This shows us that Matthew is the author as the author references his own has as if it were his own in contrast to the other Gospel writers, who wrote of what happened in Matthew's house. This all conclusively shows Matthew is the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
We have very, very good external evidence that demonstrates Matthew wrote the Gospel attributed to him.
Preserved in Ecclesiastical History, Papias writes from 125 AD;
"Matthew compiled the sayings [logia of Christ] in the Hebrew language and each interpreted them as best he could." 
In 180 AD, Iraenius writes;
"Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome." 
In 200 AD, Tertullian writes
; "that the documents of the Gospels were written by the Apostles Matthew and John and the "Apostolic men of Matthew and Luke" 
We also have references from other authors, like Origen and Pant"nus . In recognition of all our internal and external evidence on the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew, we can affirm that it indeed was written by the true and original Matthew, and thus is a direct eyewitness testimony account of Jesus as an Apostle.
Conclusion: As we have scavenged through the evidence, it becomes practically undeniable to claim that Jesus did not historically exist, as we have attributions to His historicity that make the questionof His existence quite literally undeniable, from Paul, various early secular writers, and the Apostle Matthew.
22. Paul L. Maier translation found in Eusebius: The Church History Translation and Commentary, [Kregal Publications, 2007]. p. 114.
23. Irenaeus quoted in Eusebius, Church History, V.8.2
A brief disclaimer before I begin:
At various points I will refer to something Jesus did or Jesus's life or death, or make some other reference as if we are discussing an actual historical figure. I don't believe we are, but I don't want to make the discussion tedious by inserting "alleged" in every sentence. Please take it as implied.
Paul does indeed refer to Jesus. However, it is perfectly clear that Paul never claims to have met him in person. Paul claims to have heard a voice and seen a light . It is interesting that Pro refers to Paul's first letter to the Corinthians being written "within five years of the Resurrection". It would appear that resurrections were commonplace in 1st century Palestine , however if we wish to base this debate on historical fact, and are discussing a historical figure, I submit that the assumption of a resurrection is not valid. Neither does a voice and a light from heaven constitute eyewitness testimony to the existence of a historical figure.
Pro also states categorically that Paul was "a persecutor of the early Church during the time when Jesus was actually still alive with his ministry." The biblical reference he gives , does state that Paul persecuted the early church, but it certainly doesn't claim he did it while Jesus was alive. On the contrary, Paul's persecution of Christians began after he witnessed the stoning of Stephen , some time after the death of Jesus.
There are a number of other debatable issues in this section to which I will refer in later rounds if required, including the fact that Jesus having a brother called James is widely disputed , and that the earliest existing copies of any of Paul's letters date to the third century AD , but to avoid making this initial response too lengthy, I'll just point out that any evidence Paul offers for the existence of a physical person named Jesus is, by definition, hearsay, and move on to the next set of suggested "proofs" referred to by Pro.
2.Secular records of Jesus:
Early Christian writers (pre 3rd century) make no reference to either passage, and many Christian scholars regard them as fraudulent, most likely having been penned by a church historian named Eusebius . Also, even if they were authentic, these writings date from 60+ years after the death of Jesus - the author wasn't even alive at the time Jesus is supposed to have died, so again it would constitute nothing more than hearsay. The final objection I'll make here is that if we take out the two passing, and almost certainly fraudulent references, how odd is it that a conscientious, thorough Jewish historian like Josephus would have nothing to say about Jesus and the Christian movement which is supposed to have had such a massive impact on Jewish society?
Again, the authenticity of this passage is disputed, and the question remains, if it is authentic, why did none of the early church fathers quote from it? Additionally, it appears that there is photographic evidence to suggest the earliest existing copy of this document has been altered to introduce the term "Christians" .
Although some claim the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians was penned around 95 AD, internal references indicate that it couldn't have been written until the second century - long after the first generation of Christians .
It's important to note again that the earliest existing copy of the Gospel of Matthew dates to the 4th century, and the earliest suggestion of it being written by the disciple Matthew comes from the middle of the second century .
Furthermore, most scholars appear to agree that it was written between AD 80 and AD 90, and was not written by the disciple Matthew. One of the main reasons for this is that it copies almost the entirety of Mark's gospel, and an eyewitness to the life of Jesus would not need to source his information from somewhere else. It is unlikely the author of this or any other gospel ever met Jesus .
No doubt more will be said on this as the debate progresses, but at the moment we can reasonably conclude that not one of the so-called testimonials described by Pro as being "conclusive", "reliable" and "accurate" was written by anyone who had ever met the person claimed to be "the historical Jesus". Additionally, the various pieces of "evidence" range from being mildly to extremely likely to be fraudulent.
Having addressed the "evidence" presented by Pro, I would like to give a few brief excerpts from a book by one of the leading advocates of the idea of a historical Jesus. The book is Did Jesus Exist? : The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart Ehrman. These quotes are taken from a review by Jim Walker  :
"There is no hard, physical evidence for Jesus." [p.42]
"No Greek or Roman author from the first century mentions Jesus." [p.43]
"I need to stress that we do not have a single reference to Jesus by anyone---pagan, Jew, or Christian---who was a contemporary eyewitness, who recorded things he said and did." [p.46]
"The Gospels of the New Testament are not eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. Neither are the Gospels outside the New Testament, of which we have over forty, either in whole or in fragments. In fact, we do not have any eyewitness report of any kind about Jesus, written in his own day." [p.49]
Hearsay evidence is not considered proof in any civilised court of law. And yet, by Erhman's own admission, hearsay evidence is the only evidence there is that Jesus ever existed. Not one person who saw, heard or met him has left any account of his existence.
In the next round I will look at some examples of mythical figures who have "evidence" of their existence at least as good, if not better than the evidence for Jesus, and also at people we should expect to have much to say about Jesus who remain strangely silent.
I Corinthians 15:9
Acts 7:57 " 8:3
If anyone reads the book of Bart Ehrman, 'Did Jesus Exist', it conclusively states that Jesus did, for a fact exist. Bart Ehrman believes Jesus was a historical figure, and the book even deals with and repudiates countless arguments from people who believe Jesus did not exist . In fact, if you take a look at his main reason why he accepts Jesus existence which is simply incontestable, it is because of Paul, and the fact that Paul knew the very family of Jesus .
Now, onto my defense of my arguments.
If you recall (or just scroll up), I mentioned that exact argument, that Paul actually knew the family of Jesus (I referenced him not only knowing James, who is the brother of Jesus , but he was even on the same council as James  and had James attest to Jesus . There is no question among Historians about this, and this is my (and Bart's) main argument for Jesus' historicity. Bart Ehrman, who he repeatedly quotes as his sole authority from the Historian community, even says "Whatever you might want to say about Jesus, he certainly existed" . Thus, if my opponent wants to solely rely on the beliefs of a single Historian instead of putting out evidence, then we might as well end this. Once again, my opponent failed to address the argument from Paul knowing Jesus' family. In fact, he even knew the disciples of Jesus who had been in His ministry for its entire three years . This means that there simply could exist no mistake when Paul testifies of Jesus, as he even records the people who grew up and lived with Jesus (such as James) clearly reference him.
Now, in response to the very early testimony of Paul (within 4-5 years of the Resurrection) on Jesus that I cited, my opponent claims Resurrection's were commonplace. Now, of course, this does not refute nor respond to the argument at all that Paul's testimony is incredibly early, but what's worse is that he cites Matthew 27:51-53, which does not show Resurrection's were commonplace among 1st century Palestine, it only shows that Resurrection is commonplace in Christianity, the rest of Rome completely rejected Resurrections until the literal apocalypse had finished.
Then, my opponent claims that James' being Jesus brother is disputed, but this is ridiculous. His source is Wikipedia (I will not pick on this), but the only "dispute" is that some Christians believe that Mary never lost her virginity after Jesus. Now, obviously the beliefs of some Christian do not qualify, in any way, shape or form, as a rebuttal. He has provided no evidence in the slightest to support this claim, and in fact, it is outright rejected by even the Bible, which tells us that Joseph (her husband) DID consummate the marriage, only after Jesus was born. My opponent has given no reason to believe Jesus has no brothers, as his beliefs do not qualify as evidence. Secondly, he says Paul's earliest copy of his writing dates to 300 years after it was written. All Historians know that the earliest copy of a document of ancient antiquity is the most irrelevant thing as to when it was written. The earliest copies of Aristotle, Sophocles, Caesar, Aristophanes, Euripides, Thucydides, Suetonius, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Plato, and many others come a staggering 800 years after the original , and yet this is not contested. Outside the New Testament, there exists not one writing of ancient antiquity closer to its original than Paul. In fact, Historians agree Paul died 67 AD , and so it could not possibly be after 67 AD, and most of his writings date within the 50's AD . My opponent has no case here, his sources are flawed and the facts are stacked against him.
My opponent claims that there is an interpolation in Josephus, and this is true, but textual criticism has already deduced what the original document like says and it still references Jesus , and Josephus has a second reference to Jesus anyways  which is not thought to be an interpolation or a forgery.
My opponent claims that Tacitus' reference to Jesus is disputed, which is ridiculous.
"I"ve never come across any dispute about the authenticity of Ann. 15.44; as far as I"m aware, it"s always been accepted as genuine"
-James Rives, world-class Roman Historian 
He then tries to reject the authenticity of Tacitus' Jesus reference by claiming that it is not quoted by early Church Historians, but this is merely an Argument from Silence fallacy .
On Clement of Rome, he claims internal evidence suggest that it does not date to the 90's AD, but to the second century. I went through his source. The first thing to point out is that it was not written by any credible Historian, this hardly qualifies as quality evidence. It accuses evidence of early dating to 95 AD of being vague, when the evidence is very good. Clement references a major persecution of the Church, and this persecution happened after Nero. The only possible answer is the persecution under the reign of Domitian, and Domitian died 95-96 AD, which makes it abundantly clear that the maximum dating is 95-96 AD . Rather, the evidence posed for it being written in the second century from his source is vague, as it is entirely based on the fact that Clement references the Churh of Rome as "ancient". This gives us no methodology, whatsoever, of dating this passage, it is extremely spurious and in fact could easily be referencing the ministry of Jesus from 30-33 AD, but the writer seems to think it must be the ministries of some of the Apostle and gives us no reason why. No Historian uses such erroneous and flawed dating methods.
The first argument my opponent makes is yet again, the earliest copy of Matthew goes 300 years after the original. Now, I have already rebuked that this is at all relevant, and the fact is no Historian or peer-reviewed historical paper in the world dates documents by their earliest copy, but there is another major error here. The fact is, the earliest copy of Matthew could literally date as early as 60-65 AD, dated by Carsten Peter Thiede using papryology and state-of-the-art technology . Even the latest critical dating puts this fragment between 150-200 AD , so my opponent has simply errored here, but this is hardly relevant, as I must repeat, because the earliest fragment is meaningless in respect to its dating. Using such methodology could literally tear apart all our records of ancient history, no Historian does or takes such a dating seriously.
Now, let's take a look at this quotation by my opponent;
"most scholars appear to agree that it was written between AD 80 and AD 90, and was not written by the disciple Matthew"
Firstly, he does not give a source for this because Scholars actually put it between 65-70 AD . Secondly, I presented overwhelming evidence to suggest that the Gospel of Matthew was written from by Matthew himself, taking into account both massive internal and external records. My opponent has not responded to any of this, and his entire position is based upon what authorities have told him. This does not qualify as a viable argument, as the sources clearly indicate Matthew as the author, and thus we have undeniable eyewitness testimony of Jesus from one of His very Apostles.
Now, lastly, I'd like to deal with his argument that Paul, Josephus, Tacitus, and Clement of Rome are not eyewitnesses of Jesus and thus somehow do not qualify as evidence to testify of His existence. The idea that someone needs to be an eyewitness to validate a historical event is simply incorrect. The earliest biography of Alexander the Great was written 400 years after his death, and is still accepted as reliable by Historians . Tacitus and Pliny writes of events as early as 17 AD , much after Jesus and events they certainly were not alive to see, yet again, no Historians question the reliability of these things. If Tacitus can accurately document events from 17 AD writing from 107 AD, then he can document Jesus in 33 AD, and Josephus writing in the 90's AD certainly can as well.
Now, back to the subject of Jesus's family, which Pro makes so much of, and which he claims is the one overriding factor that causes Ehrman to ignore all the missing evidence of every other sort. The actual words of the disputed text are as follows:
"But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." - Galatians 1:19 KJV.
The problem with this is that there are only two apostles named James - one is the sone of Zebidee, and the other is the son of Alphaeus . Clearly there isn't room for one to be the literal brother of Jesus.
Pro appears to be unaware that is that the word "brother" is used very loosely in the New Testament. In some cases it simply means in a spiriitual sense, and in others it means kinship - as in a male relative. Calvin  and Clarke  both take the James of Galatians to be the Son of Alphaeus. Gill  and Barnes  offer other possible explanations of who this might be, but neither take it to be Jesus's literal brother.
Since it seems to offend my opponent so much when I quote his favourite source (and also because it leads in to a very important point in this discussion), I'll refer yet again to Ehrman , speaking about Biblical documents:
Not only do we not have the originals, we don't have the first copies of the originals. We don't even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later"much later. In most instances, they are copies made many centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places. As we will see later in this book, these copies differ from one another in so many places that we don't even know how many differences there are. Possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms: there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.
There couldn't be a better summary of how unreliable the New Testament documents are. And this is why the earliest version of a manuscript matters. Pro has tried to create a straw man by suggesting that I attempted to tie the earliest extant version of a manuscript in with the date the original was written - I did no such thing. The reason the earliest available version is important is that it gives us some clue as to how many centuries of copying, recopying, tampering, merging, etc may have gone on before the version we know appeared, and thus at least a dim possibility as to whether we can take anything the manuscript contains seriously.
Clearly Pro didn't bother to read my reference regarding Josephus, which dicusses the subject in great depth, including identifying the "brother of Jesus" phrase as a forgery .
Concerning Tacitus, rather than claiming my assertion is "ridiculous", and brushing it aside, perhaps Pro could have consulted the reference provided. Along with a useful discussion of the issues, it gives a link to an article where the alteration of the document is discussed at length, with photographic evidence . Furthermore, although Wikipedia may not live up to my opponent's rigorous academic requirements, it does contain an article  which references many authors who question the document's value for various reasons, such as:
Hochart - regards it as a "pious fraud"
Carrier - Christian interpolation
Martin - fraud
Guiginbert (and many others) have pointed out that since Tactitus was born 25 years after Jesus's death, it is only repeating claims of Christians, and is therefore of little value.
So, world-class historian or not, it would appear that Rives (and therefore Pro) is mistaken.
Concerning Clement, firstly I would like to point out that although I'm not a fan of appeals to authority, I find the reverse (denying someone's opinion because they aren't "worthy") equally as unacceptable. Pro dismisses the validity of the reference I provide on the grounds that the author is not a "credible historian". Laurence Welborn is Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University and Professor of Early Christianity at Fordham University in New York City. He was educated at Yale (M.A.), Vanderbilt (Ph.D). T"bingen (Germany) and Chicago University. He has written many published books on Biblical history. So, my question to Pro is: if these are not good enough credentials to qualify as a credible historian, what do you require?
As far as Matthew is concerned, I've already provided references that show it is widely believed that none of the gospels (which, without exception, bear no authorship information) were written by the apostles of the same name, and none of the writers had personally met Jesus. Furthermore, none of the earliest church fathers, including Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius or Polycarp contain any references to any of the four gospels. Justin Martyr quotes more than 300 times from the old testament and 100 times from the Apocrypha, but not once from any of the four gospels .
One final point before I move on to some new material. Pro claims that the reference to "many people" being resurrected at the time of Jesus's crucifixion  doesn't mean it was a common thing in 1st century Palestine. I'm not sure why he tries to make this point, but in case that isn't evidence enough, here are a few more:
Jesus raises a widow's son at Nain 
Jesus raises Jairus's daughter from the dead 
Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus 
Peter raises Tabitha 
Eutychus resurrected by Paul 
I'd say that's relatively common. How many people does Pro know who have been resurrected?
Speaking of such stories, let's consider Hercules:
A mortal and upright woman (Alcmene), is impregnated by a God (Zeus). Just as Herod wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performing miraculous deeds. After enduring appalling suffering, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Ancient Greeks and Romans actually believed that Hercules lived, they told stories about him, worshiped him, and built temples dedicated to him. Sound familiar?
The evidence for the existence of Hercules is quite impressive. Just as Jesus's life is described in the Gospels, Hercules's life is described in The Iliad (the chief difference being we know who wrote the Iliad). Josephus's writings contain more references to Hercules than to Jesus (even disregarding the fact that the ones to Jesus aren't genuine), and Tacitus, who has at most one (disputed) reference to Jesus makes many references to Hercules. Other writers like Hesiod and Plato also write about Hercules .
Almost nobody today spends any time considering the idea that Hercules might be an actual historical figure. Why should we regard Jesus as such when the "evidence" is no better? Ancient mythology is full of stories like Hercules and Jesus, and many of them share a lot of core concepts. The difference is that once a religion dies out, nobody feels a need to tie in the myth with fact any more.
One thing which the gospels claim is that Jesus's fame spread far and wide, even during his lifetime. Consider the following:
Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. 
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." 
Massive popularity, and notoriety. And yet how is it that there is not one single reference to Jesus written by anyone - friend or foe - during his lifetime? Not one of his thousands of followers thought to write a word, nor historians of the time, nor any other figures. As Walker  points out, Philo of Alexander was born in 20 B.C. and died 50 A.D. He was the greatest philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus* "the Christ."' Seneca (4? B.C. - 65 A.D. ) says not a word about Jesus, nor does Pliny the Elder (23? - 79 A.D.).
Pro can try to dismiss this as "appeal to silence" - but it is a perfectly valid question, and requires answering. It is as if not a word had been written by anyone about John Lennon until decades after his death - unthinkable.
Something I want to pick on is when he says "I could have quoted any number of deniers of the historical Jesus", when in reality, 99% of all Historians fervently accept Jesus existence. Bart Ehrman says "this is not even a question among Historians", and it is true.
First, he quotes a passage of Matthew referencing another James, that is not Jesus' brother but an Apostle. Well, this is clearly irrelevant, Paul never references James' the Apostle, there is simply no question it is the brother that he is referencing (it literally says brother), but let's accept for a second it's the one of the 12 Apostle's -- he has basically refuted himself, as by confirming this is an Apostle, he has conceded this man is a direct undeniable eyewitness of Jesus who travelled with Jesus for 3 years. Either way, it must be one of them and either way, it's an eyewitness. He also tries to say it does not literally mean "brother", however that is purely ridiculous, it is playing with words, this can be completely refuted with the following verse;
Mark 6:3; "Isn"t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren"t His sisters here with us" as well? And they took offense at Him."
There is no question among Historians that Paul knew James, the brother of Jesus, and the fact that it has been made certain to us by Paul himself, as well as Luke in Acts 15, validates all of this. If Paul knew the family of Jesus, which is exactly what the evidence indicates, there can be no question that Jesus lived. Paul gives us direct witness testimony from Jesus' own family.
He then says we do not have the "copies of the copies of the copies" of the originals. That's true for every document of ancient antiquity, ever. Using such methodology and applying it to all ancient history would devastate our knowledge on the past -- no Historian uses such erroneous methods, and for the record, Bart Ehrman (who he quoted on this) concedes that the New Testament is almost exactly the same .
He also says "there are more variants in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament". The only reason for this is because we have so many ancient manuscripts. We have 2.6 million pages of New Testament from the ancient world , and with 400,000 variants, that's 1 variant every 6.5 pages. But it gets worse for my opponent, because textual critics (Bart Ehrman being one of them) have already solved more than 99% of all variants . Thus, we know almost exactly, to the letter, what the originals said.
My opponent reiterates that Josephus is a fraud, but as I've said, textual critics have already deduced what the original Josephus' passage said, and it still references Jesus. Allow me to expand, we have an Arabic manuscript of Josephus of Jewish Antiquities 18 that contains no interpolation and still references Jesus .
Then, he goes on to accuse Tacitus of being fraudulent again, however none of his references are from Roman Historians, all these references he gives have no academic training to accuse Tacitus' reference as being a fraud, none of them are peer-reviewed, and their arguments (such as saying a single one of all of Tacitus manuscripts have a single word possibly messed with) are rejected. If you actually take a look at what Roman Historians have to say, as I've cited in my previous comment, James Rives explains that there exists not even a question on whether this is an interpolation or not. Some of the people he quotes like Richard Carrier receive no respect whatsoever in the academic community, Richard Carrier does not even know basic things about Roman History such as the fact that prefects and procurators are the same thing.
When it comes to Clement, Con completely ignores the argument I gave for this being dated to 95-96 AD, and the fact that the 2nd century dating given by his source is based on the most ambiguous reason possible, "Clement references the Church as ancient". This gives us no methodology, whatsoever, to put any date on Clement. Rather, we have a good source to date Clement, and that is the confirmed persecution under Domitian in the 90's AD that Clement speaks of, meaning Clement must be dated to that time. Con then says the following;
"Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius or Polycarp contain any references to any of the four gospels"
This is ridiculous, Ignatius quotes verses from both Luke and Mark  from the 1st century, Polycarp quotes verses from Matthew, Luke, and Mark , and Clement of Rome quotes both Matthew and Mark . These are all first century and very early quotations and thus references.
Now, on "resurrections being common" in 1st century Palestine. Once again, all the references of my opponent quote Resurrections from the New Testament. As I've explained, this only means Resurrection's were common in Christianity, the fact is that only Christians were claiming any resurrections, no one else was.
Anyways, my opponent hilariously attempts to quote the ridiculous idea that deities predating Jesus have the same story. Not a single Historian in the world takes this seriously, all of these "similarities" are fabrications, and you will never see my opponent quote primary sources to affirm this. Let me tell you the real story of Hercules, that is not copied and pasted from an anti-Christian website. First, Alcmene was not an "upright woman" like Mary was, she slept with Zeus when she was already married and had kids  (thus not a virgin, rather an adulterer, there is no existing correlation with Mary). Then, the rest of the story goes like this (http://www.gradesaver.com...), Hera does not try to kill Zeus' illicit son with Alcene, rather she drives Zeus into insanity making Zeus kill all of Hercules' kids. Zeus does not kill his own kids, he kills Hercules' three kids, and that's all (whereas Herod tried slaying all the children of the entire land, and it was for Jesus', not any kid of Jesus). After that, Zeus tries to kill himself (unlike Herod, of course). Hercules also never dies and rises to Mount Olympus, that's just a fabrication, Greek mythology has no reference to Hercules' death. Anyways, the mythology of Hercules literally has hundreds of differences with Jesus. Hercules is a mass-murderer, regularly put under spells, has a wife and kids, has a mother (Jesus certainly didn't have a mother). He was not sinless, did not get crucified or pay for anyones sins, did not have any disciples, etc, etc, etc. See the initial source I pasted on Hercules if you want to read up on these things. The fact is, all supposed parallels with Jesus of any mythological character (Horus, Osiris, Buddha, Mithras, Krishna) is all based on fabricated history . He will never be able to provide us with primary sources to substantiate any of these, as they don't exist .
For the record, Hercules was actually a real person, he ruled a city, but was deified after his death, unlike Jesus who our earliest records (Clement, Ignatius, earliest manuscripts) all attribute divinity to from the start.
He then tries to argue that Jesus didn't exist because Philo of Alexandria did not write about him, this is merely an Argument from Silence fallacy. The fact is, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius killed 16,000-60,000 people, and was witnessed by over 250,000, yet we have zero contemporary sources of it, none, nadda. The earliest record of it comes 30 years later by Pliny the Younger , and yet it had a much greater impact on the world than Jesus during His time. If Mount Vesuvius' eruption can go undocumented for three decades from the event, then the fact that Jesus can go undocumented for four years, with a much smaller direct impact, is not a problem whatsoever. As Bart Ehrman says, in respect to no contemporary sources whilst the person is alive, "that's true for billions of people we're sure lived" .
On Matthew, he provides not a single rebuttal to the overwhelming internal and external evidence for the historicity for Matthean authorship, rather he goes with a classical Argument from Authority, "your arguments are wrong because lots of historians say it is anonymous". I can quote just as many Historians who accept Matthew as the author as he can give against. Let me give you a few examples, Wayne Stiles, William Lane Craig (yes, he is a Historian, he has a Masters Degree in it), Daniel Wallace, N.T. Wright, Geza Vermes, Peter Williams, James White, Mike Licona, David Wood, Sam Shamoun, etc, etc, etc. This is certainly a major position taken by Historians, and discrediting the landslide evidence on the basis of "some Historians are not in agreement with you" is ludicrous. We have shown that the evidence, as well as the entirety early Church writers unanimously recognized the four Gospels as being authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. My opponent has offered no rebuttal to the evidence for Matthean authorship, and I have shown not only the evidence, but much of the Historians are stacked against him if he wishes to play the authority game.
I'd like to thank my opponent for this debate. Vote Pro.
Final rebuttals :
"99% of all Historians fervently accept Jesus existence"
Ad-populum, and also, invented. No source is provided to show who did the research to arrive at this figure, which leads me to the '99.73% of all statistics are made up' response.
"Paul never references James the Apostle"
Perhaps it was the King James translation that threw Pro off here - let me quote the English Standard Version: 'But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.' . It could not be more clear that the subject of this sentence is an apostle. Yet he can't be, because we are clearly told in the passage I quoted that there are only two apostles called James, and neither is Jesus's brother . So this is yet another contradiction which makes the very document Pro is basing his arguments on unreliable.
"Using such methodology and applying it to all ancient history would devastate our knowledge on the past"
Ad-consequentiam. We don't choose our methodology based on adverse effects it may have on our cherished beliefs - or shouldn't. That anyone could attempt to argue that a series of manipulations, each of which introduces more noise, results in a reduction in noise, beggars belief.
"Then, he goes on to accuse Tacitus of being fraudulent again, however none of his references are from Roman Historians, all these references he gives have no academic training to accuse Tacitus' reference as being a fraud, none of them are peer-reviewed, and their arguments (such as saying a single one of all of Tacitus manuscripts have a single word possibly messed with) are rejected."
Rejected by whom? Clearly, Pro picks and chooses who he accepts as "credible" authorities based on who agrees with his position, as we saw in the previous round. Fortunately, anyone who doubts the authenticity of this research can check it out, because I've made it available in the references . The "single word possibly messed with" that Pro refers to is the word that changes "good ones" to "Christ" - not an insignificant change, as it fraudulently establishes it as a document referring to Jesus. Note also that I'm not accusing Tacitus of being a fraud, but whomever changed the manuscript, possibly centuries later.
[neither] "Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius or Polycarp contain any references to any of the four gospels" (quoting me)
"This is ridiculous, Ignatius quotes verses from both Luke and Mark  from the 1st century, Polycarp quotes verses from Matthew, Luke, and Mark , and Clement of Rome quotes both Matthew and Mark . These are all first century and very early quotations and thus references."
I thank Pro for introducing this, at it shows exactly the hoops through which Christian historians will jump to try and prove "internal consistency" and make associations that aren't there.
Firstly (and due to word restriction I"ll only refer to Ignatius and Polycarp, as the site referencing Clement would require different treatment), we have the following admissions:
Ignatius does not refer to older Christian writings by name , and
Polycarp does not refer to older Christian writings by name 
So what have we got? Lists of words quoted from the source, along with Bible passages from which they supposedly quote. Here is one example:
"Keep on praying" for others too, for there is a chance of their being converted and getting to God. Let them, then, learn from you at least from your actions. 
Which supposedly references
"Pray continually" 
So because Ignatius writes a letter which happens to say "keep praying", and similar words occur in a letter written by someone purporting to be Paul, this is a reference to that letter? Rubbish. And if you go through all of the supposed references, they are all the same - a word or two in common out of a paragraph of maybe 40, and it's a "hit". How unlikely is it that two early Christian writers would happen to independently write letters that say "keep praying"? Not very.
"Anyways, my opponent hilariously attempts to quote the ridiculous idea that deities predating Jesus have the same story"
Pro's objection to my introduction of Hercules is unfounded. There are varying versions of the story of Hercules, as there are of the story of Jesus. His version (about the "real historical Hercules") comes from an early Christian cult that was started by Eusebius (yes, the same proven fraudster responsible for many dodgy ancient manuscripts). The gist of it is that Eusebius says Clement says Apollodorus says Hercules was a King in Argos - which makes it about as creditable as the information we have about Jesus . Nobody claims that the story of Hercules (or Osiris, or Mithras) is the same in every detail as the story of Jesus (as my opponent tries to make me say), but there are amazing parallels. And they were all actually believed at the time. They weren't considered "myths" with the exception of one. The heroic myth tale was rampant in ancient Greek and Roman times.
There is no point going over yet again the evidence regarding of the gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of Paul. I reported earlier that none of the early church fathers quoted any of the gospels (including Matthew), and have shown why Pro's claims to the contrary are false. Paul had no personal knowledge of Jesus, and most of what we know of him comes from Acts, one of the most disputed books of the New Testament.
Is there conclusive historical proof that Jesus actually existed? No, and this is why:
*There is no hard, physical evidence for Jesus. True, there are enough pieces of wood from the "true cross" to build several arks, there are bleeding statues and the shroud of Turin, and pieces of toast bearing Jesus's image, but not a single verifiable piece of real evidence.
*No Greek or Roman author from the first century mentions Jesus, and there is not a single reference to Jesus by anyone of any race or religion who was a contemporary eyewitness, who recorded things he said and did.
*The existing copies of biblical documents are copies of copies of copies which have been shown to contain errors, omissions and forgeries.
*The gospels and other biblical documents contain numerous errors and flat out contradictions about where and when Jesus was born, what he did, said, and when he died. In short, every aspect of his life.
*Notwithstanding the above, three of the four gospels are basically copied from one, with certain bits added or removed.
*All of the main features of the story of Jesus as presented by his followers have parallels in other ancient mythical stories, some of which actually have more supporting evidence than the Jesus story, even though they are universally understood to be made up.
Is there a possibility that in spite of all this there could be a figure who vaguely resembles the picture painted in the gospels? Yes, it's possible - but to claim it as a fact is a matter of faith rather than hard evidence.
Therefore, the only vote which matches the evidence is a vote for CON.
(Ignatius) Eph 10:1
(Paul, allegedly) 1 Thessalonians 5:17
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by SchinkBR 8 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: Both sides were respectful, tie SP/Grammar: I found no errors by either, tie Sources: Both use and cite credible sources well. Arguments: Both parties make compelling arguments and this debate was a tough call. Ultimately I side with pro because I think Con fails to refute the arguments about Paul. Con focuses on the term brother, and whether it meant biological or spiritual. It's really a moot point as in either case, it means Paul knew someone who knew Jesus. Also he puts a lot of effort into proving that resurrections were common, but that claim really helps Pro more than Con. Additionally his point about mythical beings have similar stories to Jesus does not disprove the existence of Jesus. This leaves most of con's case relying on his believe the Pro's sources are bias, but I don't agree as noted above so this point washes out. Finally, Con's best arguments were added in the last round after Pro was done. I've ignored these since Pro was never given a chance to refute
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