The Instigator
TouchtheSky
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Phenenas
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

Was Jesus Christ the son of God?

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Phenenas
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/27/2018 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 weeks ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 358 times Debate No: 113232
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)

 

TouchtheSky

Pro

I've been currently reading 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel, and have been thinking a lot about the evidence given. I would love to discuss these ideas with other people and hear the other side of the story. I'm sending this out to multiple people whom I've either seen debating the opposing side to this argument, or have debated in the past. You don't have to have read the book to argue this discussion- we'll be basing our debate solely on the question of Jesus' divinity.

Over two thousand years ago, one man showed up and completely changed everything. He reset the whole timeline, convinced millions of people to completely change their lifestyles, and today, practically everyone alive knows his name. Countless times, I have questioned who he is and what he came to do. His whole message, on the surface, seems utterly bizarre, but if proven true, could completely change everything.

Through research and effort, I've come to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed truly God. I am a Christian- I support Christ's teachings and believe that he was sent from heaven to die for humanity. I would love to discuss this with you and hopefully be able to hear your opinions and discuss this kindly and politely together.
Phenenas

Con

Hello, my friend and opponent (how ironic)! I"d be glad to discuss this topic with you. I haven"t read Strobel"s book, but am interested to hear what evidence he has to offer. Funnily enough, there"s a different book called "The Case Against the Case for Christ", so maybe I"ll use it if I can get my hands on it.

I will be arguing that Jesus was simply a man. I won"t doubt that Jesus was a person who existed, there is enough historical evidence to support that. I agree with many of Jesus"s teachings, and think we all have something to learn from the beautiful story of his life. And to me, it"s just that - a story. In order to disprove Jesus"s divinity, I"ll have to argue at least two other things: that much of what we know about Jesus is fiction, and that the Gospels are unreliable as historical evidence. Look forward to your opening argument!
Debate Round No. 1
TouchtheSky

Pro

Hey there! I'm so excited to be debating you again, and I'm really looking forward to hearing what you have to say. I've never heard of that book, so I'll look for it when I have the chance. Thank you for explaining the basis of your beliefs, and I'd love to see your arguments for it this round.

I think most of us will agree that Jesus claimed to be the son of God. It says so in both the Bible (John 10:30) [1], and other historical references, such as Josephus' Testimonium Flavinum [2], and Pliny the Younger's tenth letter to emperor Trajin [3]. So now we face the question: either Jesus was lying about his divinity, he was insane, or he was telling the truth. This idea was most famously addressed in C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity [4].

Let's start by asking ourselves if Jesus could have been lying. Many people stretch the truth for approval, fame, and success. Many people over the years have claimed to be God, so what makes Jesus any different? I'd like to approach this by considering Jesus' motivation to lie.

Jesus stood by what he believed even to his very death. When asked by Pilate who he was as he was tried for treason, he replied, "I am the king, and this is the reason that I have been brought into this world" [5]. Again and again throughout history, people claimed to be God, but barely any of them stood by their beliefs when put to the test [6]. Jesus was willing to lie on his cross, and still refer to God as 'abba' or father [7]. At this point, he had no motivation to continue with his claims. He had been rejected by one of his closest friends, mocked and spit at because of his claims, and was about to die. If he was simply making claims for attention, he would have turned away from this path long ago.

We must also consider the fact that if Jesus was a liar, he would have spoken words specifically to please his audience. But Jesus clearly warned people the consequences of following him, and he made it clear that they weren't going to be easy [8]. Someone who was lying for attention would have bent the truth to fit his audience, but Jesus didn't do that. He spoke the harsh truth, and let people decide for themselves.

The second thing that we must consider is whether or not Jesus was insane. Many people who suffer from mental illness will claim to be something that they are not. However, when we look closely at who Jesus was, we see no signs of insanity. Jesus showed all of the signs of a mentally healthy person. He wept when his friend died [9], showing connections between his emotions and his actions. He got angry when people were doing unjust things [10], and was fully in contact with reality (he didn't imagine that false things were going to happen, but he did accurately predict things that did [11]).

The third option is that Jesus was indeed telling the truth. If we are to grant that Jesus knew what he was saying, and he wouldn't have lied when he said it, we can assume that his words were indeed the truth [13].

But before I finish, I'd like to address a third option, and that is one that you yourself brought up. You stated that you would be trying to prove that the gospels are unreliable as historical evidence, and cannot accurately portray Jesus' claims. I'll first address this by directing you to my second paragraph, where I presented several non-biblical sources for Jesus' claims. But I'd also like to specifically address the idea of the gospels, and whether we can rely on them. This is essential, as these are our four main sources for our knowledge of Jesus.

The gospels were written by four different people, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew was a tax collector who (supposedly) was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus [14]. Mark was a friend and companion of Peter (another of the disciples) who is said to have heard it from him [15]. Luke was a doctor who traveled with Paul, and it is believed that he collaborated with the apostles when writing his book [16]. We don't know who wrote John (only his name), but the most commonly accepted answer is that this is John the disciple of Jesus [17]. All of these people claimed to be either direct or indirect eyewitnesses.

There were no known competitors for the first three gospels, and the belief that each of these men were the authors is almost completely uniform. The men would have had no motivation to lie about who they were (Mark and Luke weren't even disciples, and Matthew was a tax collector, who would have been despised by the people of that time almost as much as Judas Iscariot). If they lied at all, they would have tried to make themselves seem more creditable, but they clearly presented themselves as they were. John is a little bit more uncertain, but the stories within it match so well with the other three eyewitness testamonies that it's obvious that John had very close sources. They each clearly strived hard to present the truth exactly as it was [18] [19].



[1] https://www.biblegateway.com... 10%3A30
[2] http://people.uncw.edu...
[3] https://reasonabletheology.org...
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[7] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[8] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[9] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[10] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[11] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[12] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[13] https://www.cru.org...
[14] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[15] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[16] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[17] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[18] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[19] https://www.biblegateway.com...
Phenenas

Con

Thank you for your opening argument. Glad to be facing you in another debate! This is going to be a very busy week for me, because of final exams, but I think I can manage.

You presented me with the “trilemma” of C.S. Lewis, the idea that Jesus was either Liar, Lunatic, or the Lord, and since he can’t be the first two, he must be the third. Lewis was a brilliant man for whom I have a lot of personal admiration, but there’s a major flaw in this argument. It assumes that the Gospels are reliable accounts of history. If I trusted the Gospels, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because I’d be a Christian. So in this debate, I want to first focus on whether or not our only accounts of Jesus's life are true.

Interestingly, when I questioned the reliability of the Gospels, you pointed me in the direction of two less biased sources. Neither of these, I’d like to add, are contemporary with Jesus. There is no surviving information about Jesus written within his lifetime.

The first comes from Josephus, a Jew, who wrote a history of his people about 60 years after the death of Jesus. One of the passages, where Josephus goes on a tangent about how great Jesus is, is believed by scholars to be a forgery [1] added in later by Christians. The other source hardly helps your case, because it comes from a Roman, Pliny the Younger, from around the same time. He doesn’t even mention the person of Jesus, but describes the practices of early Christians with much disdain, calling it a “superstition” and asking his Emperor to place a punishment on anyone who doesn’t follow the Roman gods. Oof.

I’m not sure how either of these passages help your case. Let’s say the Josephus passage wasn’t a forgery and he reported hearing that Jesus was resurrected. So what? It wasn’t a primary source. We have no primary sources about Jesus, and I’ll get to the Gospels in just a second. Humans are notorious for making up legends. Even in our day and age where all the knowledge in the world is just a few clicks away, there are still people who believe that the Earth is flat, that the government is controlled by shapeshifting reptiles, or that George Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. We as a species love a good story, whether or not it happens to be true. So it’s entirely possible that much of Jesus’s life was a legend. Not entirely fictional, but a mixture of truth and fable and bias, like all ancient history.

I know I’m wasting my breath, because you obviously don’t believe any of that, but I’m getting to the point. I’ll finally address the Gospels now, and I’m gonna have to pick on you a little bit. You gave two huge inaccuracies about them. In one paragraph, you describe the people you believe wrote each one of the Gospels. In truth, we don’t know who wrote them at all. The idea that these people wrote the documents comes from church tradition, and isn’t supported at all by any sort of historical evidence. You say that “the belief that each of these men were the authors is almost completely uniform”, and I would like to see a reliable source for that, because I couldn’t find any evidence in the articles you linked. But Wikipedia does state, using a book by a New Testament scholar as the source, “Despite the traditional ascriptions, all four [Gospels] are anonymous, and none were written by eyewitnesses”. [2]

The second part of that quote ties into your second inaccuracy. You say “All of these people claimed to be either direct or indirect eyewitnesses.” Indirect, yes. But none of the Gospels are eyewitness accounts. They were written decades after the death of Jesus, at various times from 60 to 110 AD. [2] Mark was written first, Luke and Matthew were based on it, and John was composed later than all the rest. But you tell me, do any of the Gospels read like they were written by somebody who has actually spoken and interacted with Jesus? If so, please give me a verse that proves it. If not, what separates them from any other unreliable secondhand account of rumors and gossip?

This ties into why I was going on about legends earlier. Myths are easily created within hours even in our Information Age. And yet the Gospels were written in an age without cameras and without phones to record the truth, where ideas had to be spread by word of mouth. You don’t need a malicious liar at the center of everything, just people embellishing stories they heard. Perhaps the historical Jesus was skilled in the arts of medicine, and those who heard of him exaggerated to say he could heal people with a touch, or even raise them from the dead. This is just an example to show you what I'm talking about, so I'm hoping you don't take it too seriously. And this isn't hours we're talking about, but thirty years. Plenty of time for those who actually knew Jesus to die and for lies to flourish. Besides, it’s not like this story came out of nowhere, because Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus, and other gods had very similar themes of miracles and resurrections [3].

I know a lot of my argument is speculation and wild guessing. But my belief is that it's all we can do. We don't know the truth about who Jesus was, and we never will, because we don't have access to his writings or to firsthand accounts. So the crux of this debate is whether or not the Gospels are reliable. Sorry if you don't like me zeroing in on that, but the burden of proof is on you, so if you have more arguments as to why Jesus was the son of God, I'd love to hear them.

Speaking of which, I’m very confused about something. Why do you think that we should trust the Gospels? Not to be mean, but your argument about their reliability as evidence was a little flimsy and riddled with holes. If you’re willing to trust a source that easily, then why don’t you become a Muslim? The Qur’an, unlike the Gospels, is a firsthand source dictated by Muhammad himself. He was willing to be persecuted for his beliefs, which according to your logic, gives him credibility. He had no reason to lie. The Qur’an aligns closer with actual history than the Bible [4]. So why don’t you follow its laws and worship Allah? Muhammad follows your logic and criteria much better than the Evangelists do. So why Jesus and not him?

Thanks for reading. Hope to see your next argument soon!

Sources:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org...
2. https://en.wikipedia.org...
3. https://en.wikipedia.org...
4. http://www.manyprophetsonemessage.com...

Debate Round No. 2
TouchtheSky

Pro

Thank you for your quick response, Phenenas. As you suggested, I'll narrow this down specifically to the reliability of the gospels. You claimed that there was no surviving information about Jesus written within his lifetime. For the most part, this is correct. Afterall, according to Christians, Jesus' ministry took place over only three years, after which he died. This was certainly enough time to write a document, but still not a great amount of time in which we would expect a flood of documents. Many people in that time could not even write [1].

You are right that the Josephus article is not a primary source. I had never heard about the suspected forgery, so that is fascinating and something that I will do more research about. However, primary source or not, whether Josephus believed Jesus was the Christ is irrelevant. The main idea is that he heard from people who directly experienced it, and he although he lived long enough after Christ not to be a direct eyewitness, it was short enough that he would have heard from people that did. And you need to understand this: in Jesus' time, storytelling and recounting childhood was not just something you did for fun. Oral tradition was a key part of the Jewish culture, most of it being directly memorized [2]. Stories of Jesus' life would have been passed on word for word for generations. This wasn't like a game of telephone- the stories were almost sacred in the Jewish culture.

As for Pliny the Younger, I probably should have gone in much greater detail into what my point was with that passage, but I rushed my argument, and I apologize for that. Basically, I was trying to highlight the way that Christians were willing to die for something that they believed to have concretely seen. They wouldn't have died for something they knew was a lie [3]. And this was a secular source- this isn't something that would have glorified them in a deceitful way.

These aren't the only places that we can find Jesus, however. Jesus can also be found in archeology [4] and secular records [5] [6]. It is false to claim that these major events had no backing from outside sources.

However, we must also consider that, while Jesus' claims were astounding, and his miracles dramatic, Jesus himself came down in the form of an ordinary man. The people had expected a king and a warrior, perhaps someone who would descend from the clouds and prove himself to be the promised Messiah. When Jesus came as a baby, and an ordinary looking human, he didn't draw much attention [7]. However, when we look closely, we see that Jesus fulfilled precisely what the Messiah was and what he was asked to do. For example, it was predicted beforehand that he would not be extraordinarily handsome in appearance, and that he would look like an ordinary man [8].

But all of this is just a tangent from my main argument, and what seemed to be yours- the reliability of the gospels. While these other sources are indirect and occurred far afterward, many of the gospels are believed to have been written by people who walked with Jesus himself. If we can identify the reliability of the gospels, I believe we will have crucial information to finding Jesus' identity.

It's true that most scholars and theologians will agree that these were the authors (except for John, whom I've already explained). You asked a source, and here you go: [9]. Your right that it's difficult to know for sure exactly who wrote the gospels, but through logic and studying history, I believe that it is possible.

Your second point really interested me, because I really hadn't heard anyone challenge this before. I did some research and found that there really is evidence for the gospels being eyewitness accounts (sometimes indirectly, but this comes down to oral tradition as I talked about earlier). [10] [11] These books are clearly different from secondhand gossip and rumors as we see them today. There is evidence that these men were really there, and really experienced what they claimed to have seen.

This is clearly different from the example you gave of Muhammed and the Qur'an. Muhammed was alone in a cave when he supposedly received the Qur'an, but the gospels were also written by people who claimed to have been there and unlike Muhammed, it's said that Jesus was seen by hundreds of people after he had already died [12]. It's true that the evidence of these appearances is only in the Bible, but consider this. When these claims were written that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to hundreds of people, these "witnesses" would still have been alive. If these were only lies, only one person would need to step forward, but no one did. Their testimonies are still credible today. And the people that saw Jesus weren't just his followers who wanted to believe that he had come back to life. Tons of staunch atheists converted soon after Jesus had died [13]. There isn't much explanation for such a sudden turn (especially after Jesus had died), unless they had really seen him rise from the dead.

[1] http://evidenceforchristianity.org...
[2] https://www.pbs.org...
[3] http://coldcasechristianity.com...
[4] https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org...
[5] https://www.bethinking.org...
[6] http://coldcasechristianity.com...
[7] https://www.ucg.org...
[8] https://www.biblegateway.com...
[9] https://bible.org...
[10] http://str.typepad.com...
[11] https://www.bethinking.org...
[12] http://factsandfaith.com...
[13] https://www.str.org...
Phenenas

Con

Let’s get right to it! I’ll continue my argument that the Gospels aren’t reliable, and because you gave some new arguments, I’d be glad to address those. I know I made a big deal out of there being no contemporary accounts of Jesus, and this wasn’t meant to be “evidence” for my side, but a statement of fact to build other arguments on. There are many historical periods that are far more scarce in surviving documents, and that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. All I’m saying is that secondary sources aren’t trustworthy, because those who wrote them didn’t see the event with their own eyes, and the Gospels fall into that category. You argue this isn’t true, and I’ll address that later on.

“The main idea is that [Josephus] heard from people who directly experienced it, and he although he lived long enough after Christ not to be a direct eyewitness, it was short enough that he would have heard from people that did.”

Was it short enough? The average life expectancy in those times was about 30-35 years [1], so that leaves two generations separating Josephus from Jesus. Still, in the non-forgery passage where he mentions Jesus, he says nothing about the man or his life other than that he was the brother of James. So even if it was technically possible for him to hear the tale of the Christ from some old disciple, he makes no mention of it. And it’s worth noting that Josephus talks about Hercules in his work too. [2]

When you mentioned Jewish oral tradition, you cited PBS, and I’m very grateful that you used an unbiased, non-partisan source. Most of your others come from Christian websites, which aren’t always reliable. Not that Christians are inherently untrustworthy, but any source trying to promote an agenda should be suspected. I read the article, and you’re right about Jewish oral tradition being a sacred practice. But does that mean they were completely true? The professor who wrote the article doesn’t seem to think so. He asks “How did the resurrection story get started?” and later remarks that “those stories had a long time to evolve and develop”. Do factual events “evolve and develop”? Dr. White, without being polemical, seems to take for granted that Jesus’s miracles were works of fiction.

You also use martyrdom to defend your point. I won’t deny that a lot of early Christians were killed. But even if Jesus was the son of God and did rise again, not everyone who followed him was a witness. Sure, maybe the early Christians thought their beliefs were as real as the ground beneath them, but even if the resurrection happened, most of them had not seen it with their own eyes.

Besides, are you ruling out other people who died for their religion? What about Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate and suicide bombers? They certainly didn’t need visible proof to be willing to die for their cause.

And many Christians fall victim to a widespread fallacy: that the beliefs of early Christians were the same as mainstream Christianity today. When the beliefs were still being formed and the canon of the Bible still wasn’t determined, there were many different Jesus-worshiping factions. There were the Ebionites [3], Jews who acknowledged him as the Messiah while denying that he was God or born of a virgin. The adoptionists [4] believed Jesus was born a normal human but was “adopted” by God at his baptism. The Gnostics [5] mixed Christianity with pagan mystery religions. These groups certainly wouldn’t be “true” Christians by a very narrow definition. But my point is, they were willing to be persecuted same as the others, so your “they wouldn’t die for a lie” point doesn’t really prove anything.

Before moving on, I’ll address the apostles. I believe that their lives are fictionalized and based in church tradition, not facts. Trying to use that as evidence against an atheist is like trying to use the behavior of Little John or Will Scarlet to defend the existence of Robin Hood. To me, they’re all part of the same myth. We have many accounts of people who claim to have seen the risen Jesus themselves, but only one Bible writer makes the claim: Paul. Again, many people throughout history claim to see a great many things, such as UFOs. This doesn’t necessarily make them liars, but perhaps victims of hallucination. This article [6] makes a convincing case that Paul was hallucinating. If we had testimony from a group of people who witnessed Jesus together, like in 1 Corinthians 15:6, that would be a different story.

“These aren't the only places that we can find Jesus, however. Jesus can also be found in archeology and secular records.”

Of course he can be found there, because he was a real person. I’ve never denied that. But I'm starting to fear we're getting sidetracked. How do these secular sources prove Jesus to be the son of God?

The prophets said that the Messiah is going to look like an ordinary man, and you say that because Jesus looked like an ordinary man, that’s an incredible miracle. Um...so Jesus wasn't as handsome as Brad Pitt, is that really unusual? Most people look “ordinary”, that’s the definition of the word. And other than that, as you could guess, I believe that much of Jesus’s “fulfillment” of Old Testament prophecies is pure myth. Feel free to dispute that.

You go on to say that “most scholars and theologians will agree that these were the authors”, “these” being the people you claim wrote the Gospels, including the disciples Matthew and Mark. Theologians may often agree, sure, because it’s convenient for their agenda. You cited one article, which hardly constitutes “most”, written by a Doctor of Theology. Not a historian. The only thing I could find that relates to your point is one sentence: “From the evidence, we can conclude the Gospels were indeed written by the authors they are attributed to.” What evidence? Oddly enough, he doesn’t give any before or after that sentence. If there’s something I missed in the article, I’d appreciate it if you could point it out. But unless “the evidence” actually exists, the simple truth is that we have no idea who wrote the Gospels.

“There is evidence that these men were really there, and really experienced what they claimed to have seen.”

Then give me one verse. Just one quote from any of the Gospels in which the author claims to have been directly present at any of the events in Jesus’s life. Show me the evidence. Do that, and I will concede the entire debate. And if there’s any account from someone who was present at the Messiah's post-resurrection appearance in front of a crowd, then I retract everything that I said in this debate, and retract my atheism, because if we have that kind of evidence, then Jesus truly is the Son of God.

I know that sounds dramatic, but I really do mean it. I’m completely confident that no such account exists, and that none of the Gospel writers had ever met or spoken with Jesus. You are under the impression that oral tradition counts as eyewitness accounts. I dealt with this earlier: just because they tell stories doesn’t make the stories true, and definitely not primary sources. Even in the two other sources you cited, “the evidence” still eludes us. In the lecture you sent me, you can simply take a look at the title and see that Mr. Williams is arguing that they were based on eyewitness accounts. The other was written by a random blogger with no credentials, and he makes a very flimsy case. A simple glance at the comments will show you how no one was convinced by his bizarre logic. I’m surprised that no one has challenged you on the Gospels being eyewitness accounts, because the scholars universally agree that they aren’t. [7] [8]

I’m well aware of the story that Jesus appeared to 500 people. To me, it is a legend. This goes back to the Robin Hood comparison. You can’t convince someone to believe in a story by citing another story they don’t believe in.

“When these claims were written that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to hundreds of people, these ‘witnesses’ would still have been alive. If these were only lies, only one person would need to step forward, but no one did.”

I’m confused. You’re saying that if anyone claimed to have been one of the 500 witnesses (which we have no record of) then people would “step forward” to disprove them. But...how? If an old man claimed to have been in that crowd and some skeptic called him a liar, the man could retort “Well, you weren’t there, were you?” And if the resurrection never happened, then nobody was there, and therefore nobody could disprove him unless they were completely omniscient. So I'm not entirely sure what you mean.

And that’s about all I got for now. Good luck in Round 4, Mercy!

Sources:
1. https://earlychurchhistory.org...
2. https://lexundria.com...
3. https://en.wikipedia.org...
4. https://en.wikipedia.org...
5. https://en.m.wikipedia.org...
6. http://formerfundy.blogspot.com...
7. https://en.wikipedia.org...
8. Reddish, Mitchell (2011). An Introduction to The Gospels. Abingdon Press. ISBN 9781426750083.

Debate Round No. 3
TouchtheSky

Pro

Thank you for clarifying your position. Your ideas make a lot of sense and you presented a lot of points that really got me thinking. I'm going to try to look at both atheist and Christian points of view to be able to evaluate the truth from the lies. You're right that many historical periods have much less documents, and I wholly agree with you that this does not deny the fact that it happened. However, I believe that, if we can establish the credibility of the documents that we do have (i.e. the Gospels) we will have reached the core of the issue.

Your point about the life expectancy is valid, but if you think about it, this is still only two generations- short enough for some older men to have memories of Jesus' time. You are right that Josephus says little about who Jesus was except that he was James' brother, but if you think about it, what he says about Jesus' identity isn't important for this case. My point is not to prove that Josephus believed that Jesus was the Christ, but that Josephus believed that Jesus existed in the first place, and clearly, Josephus did. And if Josephus believed that Jesus existed in the first place, and wrote about it, it wouldn't have been so long after Jesus' death that someone couldn't step forward and accuse him of being a liar. If he wrote such a thing, claiming that Jesus existed, and people were still alive that knew that he didn't, then Josephus would never have written what he did.

To be honest, I think we're getting a little sidetracked with Josephus, because neither of us have been really clear about our point. I first presented Josephus as evidence that Jesus is a real historical figure, which you agree on. This wasn't meant to be about whether or not Jesus believed that he was the Christ. So the argument is just getting pointless and sort of rambling.

You are completely right that stories such as the resurrection had a long time to grow and be exaggerated but in the case of people like Paul, the Jewish oral tradition would have been preserved almost exactly. So, while over several generations, the story can massively change, many of the sources that we have been preserved from only one or two generations [1]. And the gospels claim to be written by eyewitnesses themselves.

You are completely right that millions of people are willing to die for their religion. But out of all of those millions, almost none of them would be willing to die for something that they knew was a lie. The disciples claimed that they had actually seen the risen Christ, and they were willing to die for this. Many people will be willing to die for something that they sincerely believe, and that belief may or may not be true. But the disciples could not have been mistaken or confused- they were either lying, or they were telling the truth. And almost no one will be willing to die for something that they know is a lie [2].

I'm a little confused by how your point about the factions proves your point. I agree with your evaluation of it, and I think that it is a dangerous assumption to make, but it has very little to do with the actual point.

You claimed that you believe that "the apostles' lives are fictionalized and based on church tradition, not facts. Trying to use their behavior as evidence is like trying to use the behavior of little John to defend the existence of Robin Hood. To me, their all part of the same myth." I'm confused by this point- you said previously that you believe Jesus was a real historical figure. We are debating his actual identity. Are you arguing that the disciples never died for their faith at all, and that was only a myth? Most of their deaths are not even in the Bible- we know about them from real historical sources [3]. This isn't mythology- this is cold facts.

My point in portraying Jesus as an ordinary man wasn't to say that it was an 'incredible miracle'. As a matter of fact, my context for saying that was completely different. I was trying to point out that he wouldn't have drawn as much attention because he wasn't what the Jews believed the Messiah would look like. That may be part of why there are fewer sources about him then you might expect. I wasn't trying to prove that it was a 'miracle'. I think you simply misunderstood my context.

There is actually a lot of evidence that the gospels were written by the people whom it claimed [4] [5]. Our conclusion of the authors is not simply random guesses- it's an educated study of each of the gospels. You're right that theologians will tend to bend the truth- it's an unfortunate fact that makes me doubt why these men really believe. But not every theologian is like that, and many people who have taken the time to question this have come to the same conclusion as I. The book that I'm sourcing, Case for Christ, is written by an atheist who wanted to prove God wrong, and asked this same question about who wrote each of the gospels. He is an example of a non-biased source who looked at the evidence and felt that each book pointed to the authors that we have attributed to it.

You're right that one of my sources was very flimsy, and reading over it, I agree that he offers very little evidence at all. At the time, it seemed good, but I understand why it was a really negative source, so I apologize for that. But there is also still a lot of strong evidence for the gospels being eyewitnesses.

The gospels use the most common names that many other texts (Josephus, dead sea scrolls, etc.) use, showing that the apostles were familiar with names of that time. Jesus' speech is much different from that used in the later Christian church and confirmed a lot more with the teaching styles of that time, such as parables. The names of the towns are the same as they were in Jesus' time, whereas some of the names changed several hundred years later. They also went into meticulous detail, verses gospels written later had far smaller word counts and used vague language that made them sound very unsure of themselves, and it was clear that they weren't really there. For example, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each included at least five place names per thousand words, but Philip, Thomas, Judas, and Mary included less than one. They were aware of tree types (Luke 19:4), population (Mark 6:39-40), and Jewish traditions (John 12:13). I got this from one of the video links in my last argument (number 10, if you're interested in listening to it).

[1] http://web.ccbce.com...
[2] https://www.josh.org...
[3] https://www.christianitytoday.com...
[4] https://zondervanacademic.com...
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org...
Phenenas

Con


Thank you for another well-spoken argument! I appreciate that you’re keeping an open mind, and I’ve been trying to do the same. However, we are getting sidetracked on a few things, and this is partially my fault.


For example, Josephus. Maybe he could’ve talked to someone who had actually met Jesus. We don’t know. But that doesn’t really matter, because he mentions Jesus only once, and doesn’t name his source. You’re right, we should drop Josephus. There’s little point in talking about him, except for that other passage you brought up. But you’re willing to agree with the scholars that it was a forgery.


One thing that I doubt we’ll reach a compromise on, though, is the Gospels and who wrote them. I respect your views, but it’s not like Christianity is proven false if the Gospels aren’t eyewitness accounts. It doesn't say so anywhere in the Bible; in fact, the very idea was an invention of the Catholic Church. Most Biblical scholars, many of them being men and women of faith, agree on this. I think I understand why you defend it so passionately, though - it’s more comforting if we actually know who wrote the Gospels. But the simple fact is that you haven’t been able to produce one iota of evidence for your side, while I've given you plenty.


I asked you to give me one verse from the Gospels that proved any of them were a firsthand account. You didn’t, and ignored the question. Instead, you claim there is “a lot of evidence”, and again linked two sources. I feel a bit awkward about having to tell you this, but both of them say I’m right. The Wikipedia article you linked states “Strictly speaking, each Gospel is anonymous.” The other article, in its conclusion, says “At the end of the day, the gospels are still anonymous.”


Just curious, what is Mr. Strobel’s argument that the gospels were written by witnesses? And does he make any other arguments you’d like to share in the final round? You can definitely use his book as a source. If you want to.


You link to an excerpt from a book I actually have read, More Than a Carpenter. I think you would enjoy it, but I wasn’t convinced. Sure, no one would die for a lie. But as I’ve said several times, I believe that the story of the apostles is fiction. And there is no evidence to prove me wrong.


Let me clarify what I said when talking about Robin Hood. He may have existed, but all we know of him, and the people who followed him, come from ballads and tales and legends. Was he a heroic rebel, or a murderous robber? We can never know, because there’s no evidence about the actual person. I could say almost the same things about Christ. My main point is that regardless of whether or not Jesus existed, we know nothing about the actual man, and all we know comes from stories. The main difference is that I believe Jesus was a real person, and that Robin Hood wasn't.


“Are you arguing that the disciples never died for their faith at all, and that was only a myth?”


I’m arguing that everything we know about the disciples is a myth. I don’t know whether they were martyred, but given the average treatment of early Christians, that wouldn’t surprise me. You claim that there’s some extra-Biblical evidence for the apostles’ deaths, and I’m interested in that. But your source prevented me from reading it and said I had to subscribe to Christianity Today to continue, which I won’t because I’m poor.


Besides, the only way that could prove your point is if we had testimony from one of the 12. I know it probably annoys you that I refer to beliefs you’re so passionate about as “myths”, and I apologize for that. But it’s not based on any resentment of Christianity. I’m committed to finding the truth. And if new truths are discovered, my mind is open and my heart is willing to change. Which is why I’m so hung up on Jesus appearing to people after his death. If we have evidence for that being a real event, not only do you win, but I have to change my entire worldview. But we have no such thing. The stories are based on faith, not facts. And Jesus is certainly not the son of God.


Now only one round remains for each one of us. Can’t wait to see your last argument!


Debate Round No. 4
TouchtheSky

Pro

I can't believe it's our last round! It's been such a pleasure to debate you, and a lot of what you said has really gotten me thinking. I'd like to keep looking into both atheist and Christian answers to this question.

I actually did write out several facts that I believe hint at the gospels being eyewitnesses, and you didn't really address it. I'd like to draw your attention to these points:

The gospels use the most common names that many other texts (Josephus, dead sea scrolls, etc.) use, showing that the apostles were familiar with names of that time. Jesus' speech is much different from that used in the later Christian church and confirmed a lot more with the teaching styles of that time, such as parables. The names of the towns are the same as they were in Jesus' time, whereas some of the names changed several hundred years later. They also went into meticulous detail, verses gospels written later had far smaller word counts and used vague language that made them sound very unsure of themselves, and it was clear that they weren't really there. For example, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each included at least five place names per thousand words, but Philip, Thomas, Judas, and Mary included less than one. They were aware of tree types (Luke 19:4), population (Mark 6:39-40), and Jewish traditions (John 12:13). I got this from one of the video links in Round 3 (number 10, if you're interested in listening to it).

Actually, both of the links that I gave you don't say that you are right. They say that 'each Gospel is anonymous', which simply means that it does not have a name attributed to it. I agree on this- none of the gospels are actually signed. But both the links discuss why we have attributed the names that we have, and convey, in my opinion, a strong argument,

Lee Strobel actually only briefly addresses this argument, saying, "The four Gospels in the Bible have ties to the apostles themselves. They're either written by apostles or by people who were working with the apostles, like Mark, who worked with Peter, and Luke, who was a close associate of Paul, the eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus. So, we have eyewitness testimony that goes into the Gospels that are in the Bible. They also come very soon after the events themselves, so soon that we don't have legend coming in and wiping out a solid core of historical truth." This addresses many of the points that I have already brought up, but you challenged this by asking, "How do we know that these are eyewitness testimonies, and they hear from the people that we claim?" So that's what I hoped to address in the paragraph above.

I believe that Jesus' existence is much more credible than legends such as Robin Hood. We have multiple different accounts that all seem to match up to one another and provide a lot of detail that establishes their identity as eyewitnesses. All four gospels match in the details that they give- that's four different stories that each align extraordinarily well.

It's really strange that my source didn't work- I'm not a subscriber, but I could still read it. Let me see what else I can find. Here is a link to some information about the martyrdom of the disciples: http://www.equip.org.... As you can see, much of it is just speculations, but more than a few of them are proven by non-biblical documents.

I'd like to say one last thing before I send this in. This isn't an argument, but I want you to know that nothing that you said offended me. You're right, I am passionate about my beliefs, but I'm also trying hard to keep an open mind. I wouldn't be doing this debate if I wasn't willin to be persuaded. I really admire your search to find the truth for yourself- so many people box themselves into one point of view and aren't even willing to consider any others. I just hope I haven't come off as one of them.

I wish you good luck with your final argument!
Phenenas

Con


The pleasure’s all mine! Thank you for giving such a well-worded and spirited argument. But all good things must come to an end.


You repeated a paragraph that you typed up in round 4, because I didn’t respond to it. I will admit, I ignored it on purpose. If Dr. Williams is using that as evidence for the gospels being eyewitness accounts (even though the lecture title says something different), he is really grasping at straws. So, the apostles were familiar with the names at the time. What does that prove? You’re the one who argued so strongly for Jewish oral tradition, so what if the names were just perfectly preserved for the evangelists who weren’t actually present? Or what if the evangelists just happened to be familiar with names around the area in which they lived?


“The names of the towns are the same as they were in Jesus' time, whereas some of the names changed several hundred years later.”


Several hundred years later? The Gospels were written decades after Jesus’s death, not centuries.


“...gospels written later had far smaller word counts and used vague language that made them sound very unsure of themselves, and it was clear that they weren't really there.”


I admire that you were able to follow a college-level lecture, but I think you may have missed the big picture. Dr. Williams seems to be comparing the original Gospels to the apocryphal Gospels written later, such as the Gospel of Thomas. And of course they’re less sure of themselves and won’t know as much about names or population or tree types, because many of these books were written outside Judea. I have no idea why this lends any credence to the idea that the four Gospels were authored by eyewitnesses, much less Jesus being the son of God. I wish I could hear your explanation, but this is the last round.


“Actually, both of the links that I gave you don't say that you are right ... both the links discuss why we have attributed the names that we have, and convey, in my opinion, a strong argument,”


Again, I wish you would have pointed out exactly where these arguments were. Because I can offer quotes from both your sources that disprove once and for all this erroneous idea of the Gospels as eyewitness accounts.


Matthew


Wikipedia: “According to the majority viewpoint, this gospel is unlikely to have been written by an eyewitness.”


Zondervan: “...there isn’t enough evidence to prove or disprove Matthew’s authorship.”


Mark


Wikipedia: “Most scholars believe that Mark was written by a second-generation Christian, around or shortly after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple in year 70.”


Zondervan: “He wasn’t an apostle, and he wasn’t an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, but we have good reason to believe John Mark was in fact the author of the gospel that bears his name.”


Luke


I need not quote your sources here, the Gospel of Luke itself can speak for me: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus...” (Luke 1:1-3, NRSV)


John


Wikipedia: “In the majority viewpoint, it is unlikely that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John.”


Zondurvan: “Some scholars have suggested the apostle John was martyred too early to have written this gospel…”


That is my final argument concerning whether or not the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. We were unable to reach a compromise, but that’s often the reality of debate. As for Lee Strobel’s points, I already addressed this when talking about myth. Legends can be created in days. To say thirty years is too short of a time to create a myth is deductive reasoning of the lowest order.


“We have multiple different accounts that all seem to match up to one another…”


Hmmm, well...I don’t want to get into how much the Gospels contradict each other. Because they do. A lot. But I don’t want to present all kinds of new evidence on the very last round and leave my opponent unable to respond and give her side of the story.


Thank you for linking some information about the martyrdom of the disciples. However, this only relates to the idea of Jesus being the son of God if any of the apostles themselves claimed to have seen the risen Christ. The article only cites early Christian writings, none from the apostles themselves, which covers up the truth in a layer of bias which our eyes can’t pierce through.


Conclusion


The burden of proof was on Pro for this debate, so my job was to discredit the evidence she offered. The bulk of our argument in the later rounds was whether or not the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. She gave a passionate defense, so I’m afraid the fault was not on her, but on the lack of evidence for this idea. I asked her for even one verse from the Bible that proved her point, and she didn’t address the question. She linked sources that actually went against her. Most of her sources were wonderful and scholarly, but none really proved Christianity to be correct.


We got so bogged down in the details that we eventually stopped talking about the debate’s topic: was Jesus the son of God? I will give my final position on this in light of our arguments. I believe that there simply isn’t enough evidence about the historical Jesus to believe that he was anything more than a man. The Gospels are unreliable secondhand sources, based on myths and legends already forming, and their stories about Jesus and the apostles should be taken as literature rather than history. Pro and I agree that Jesus existed, and that his message in the Gospels was inspiring, but there are simply no contemporary accounts of him.


I’d like to thank Pro for another fantastic debate; I enjoyed it very much. The only problem I had was with your sources, but your grammar and conduct were perfect as always. Good luck in the voting period!


Debate Round No. 5
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Leaning 1 week ago
Leaning
Well thank you for responding Phenenas. For me, I tend to be doubtful of even first person events unless the first person is me. Even with modern people we talk to today, no matte their occupation I tend to be salty with accepting what they say. Even more salt I hear in the news with politics. Problem with verifying history always get's worse and worse the farther back you go.

As for being a Christian, perhaps the values it taught back in the older days were new to the people then and seen as valuable concepts of ways to live and follow life. Even as time has gone by people see value in living with many of Christianity's values. Not that it has necessarily stayed the same over time or is facing the same environment. Much of it is culture I am sure.
Posted by Phenenas 1 week ago
Phenenas
@Leaning If we had actual testimony from anyone claiming to have seen the risen Christ when he supposedly appeared, especially before the crowd of 500 people, I would be convinced and would convert to Christianity. As it stands, we don't have enough evidence to prove either side.

I'm glad you asked about other texts as well. Why are sources about, say, Julius Caesar more reliable than those about Jesus? First of all, we have writings from Caesar himself, such as "The Conquest of Gaul". All we know about Jesus comes not only from other people, but from people who never met him.

That doesn't mean we should completely trust ancient sources, though. Just look at Herodotus, he's hysterical. And perhaps we shouldn't take Caesar's writings at face value either, because they've been passed down through manuscripts that, for all we know, are riddled with errors. But we have no doubt that Caesar conquered Gaul, because we have contemporary accounts besides Caesar's, and archaeological evidence. Two types of evidence that don't exist for, say, Jesus's resurrection.

I am very much a Doubting Thomas. I don't know about you, but I need concrete evidence before believing anything. If the Bible is historically inaccurate, I see little point in being a Christian.
Posted by Leaning 1 week ago
Leaning
Phenenas, what would you consider significant enough evidence?

On a side note, what is it that gives veracity to other ancient texts? Rome has some reallllly old and surprisingly vast historical texts about certain events in their history. How much can we know about Hannibal, Vercingetorix, or Julius Caesar?

Agamemnon or Odysseus in the in the Iliad or the Odyssey were (I think) clearly fiction based on nonfiction. But the Bible has the unfortunate hapstance of of being a nonfiction with fiction (To some peoples interpretations).

It seems difficult to say it is divinely inspired when in the modern day you can view quite easily people using cookie cutters upon it.

What is it that makes to make faith or the lack of? Many people in the bible would only believe after viewing a miracle, which makes many nonbelievers of today understandable. Proof then and now seems important. Eh, I'm just rambling now.
Posted by TouchtheSky 3 weeks ago
TouchtheSky
No problem, I don't mind! :) Good luck!
Posted by Phenenas 3 weeks ago
Phenenas
Sorry my apostrophes keep showing up as quotation marks. I dunno why it does that.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Leaning 1 week ago
Leaning
TouchtheSkyPhenenasTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro failed to give sufficient evidence that the writers of the book were properly informed about all the minutia of the aforementioned in the debate persons life. Con also noted that people are able to follow a faith or belief through mistaken belief, implying that there are not only 3 options of truth, crazy, or liar. Con was able to cast sufficient doubt on the sources of earliest information we have about the aforementioned person in the debate. If anyone Pro or Con feels I could make my vote better, I'd appreciate it if you message me and let me know how to improve. I'm also willing to help you ask for more people to vote if you feel it was biased or unfair.