Was Jesus a historical figure?
Debate Rounds (5)
The minimum hypothesis of myth is as follows (as can be found in "On the Historicity of Jesus" by Richard Carrier):
1) At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.
2) Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophecy, past and present).
3) Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
4) As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.
5) Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only 'additionally' allegorical).
The minimum theory of a historical Jesus is as follows (as can be found in "On the Historicity of Jesus" by Richard Carrier):
1) An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.
2) This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.
3) This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod).
The first round is for acceptance, the second round is for arguments (not rebuttals).
All sources must be from peer reviewed historians that specialize in this field (PhD in Ancient Civilizations).
The burden of proof is shared. If neither side can fill the burden of proof, then the vote should be put at a tie.
I would prefer more recent sources of information (past few years), but that is just a preference, so I will not make it a rule.
Richard Carrier has a PhD in Ancient Civilizations, and this book of his was peer reviewed. It was published earlier this year.
***Was Jesus ever seen as a Celestial Being?***
Actually, yes, he was. The Philo of Alexandria tells us of a pre-Christian belief of a celestial being actually named 'Jesus'.
This Jesus was considered:
1) The firstborn son of God.
2) The celestial "image of God"
3) God's agent of creation
4) God's celestial high priest
This is easily seen to be the same Jesus when we look at the New Testament.
1) Romans 8:29 "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his SON, that he might be the FIRSTBORN among many brothers and sisters."
2) 2 Corinthians 4:4 "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD."
3) 1 Corinthians 8:6 "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, THROUGH WHOM ALL THINGS CAME and through whom we live."
4) Hebrews 4:14 "Therefore, since we have a GREAT HIGH PRIEST who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess."
***Was Jesus thought to have been killed, buried, and then rose again?***
Yes, but not as an Earthly figure. Jesus was thought to have been killed in the firmament by Satan and his minions. This can be seen in "The Ascension of Isaiah".
This is not actually a ridiculous view either as there was a similar view about Osiris. Early Jewish belief actually has a similar view about Adam (but being buried in the heavens, not rising though), in the "Revelations of Moses".
The Ascension of Isiah is actually though to have been written around the same time as the Gospels, and shows some early Christian views.
The New Testament is a collection of different documents, some were written earlier than others. The Epistles (the ones that were not forged) were written before the Gospels.
The Epistles actually never mention a historical Jesus. In fact, the authors of the Epistles say they learn things through Revelation.
For some examples:
Galatians 1:11-12 "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a REVELATION of Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 11:23 "For I RECEIVED IT FROM THE LORD what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,"
Remember, Paul never met Jesus in the flesh. This means that he learned about what is in 1 Corinthians 11:23 through a revelation.
Paul, one of the earliest writers of Christianity that we know about, says he only knows things through revelation and scripture.
Paul, whenever he references Jesus, only talks about a celestial Jesus.
Paul NEVER puts Jesus on Earth or connects any history to him.
The Gospels, which came decades later, are the first documents that put Jesus on Earth.
The Gospels are fictitious writings (for example, Nazareth didn't exist when Jesus was said to have been born there).
The stories have allegorical or propagandist intent.
The first written Gospel (Mark) has the appearance of an extended meta-parable.
The other Gospels borrowed HEAVILY from Mark, making them not independent sources.
What Mark is is a work of euhemerization. This actually was popular with celestial beings (Zeus, Uranus, Mithra, etc.)
What this means is it is a story that was written about a celestial being, but placing him on Earth and giving him a human family and ministry.
It actually isn't very unlikely for this to have become the commonly held belief after a while. For an analogy, let's use the Roswell myth.
A man found tinfoil in a desert. He claimed it was the remains of an alien spacecraft. Within 30 years the story had already evolved into him finding an entire spaceship, with bodies, and the bodies were autopsied by the government.
***What else is there?***
The only other things out there are either not independent (just echoing the Gospels or what Christians were saying) or were fabricated.
***What about Josephus? He had two writings that mention Jesus***
One was forged, the other was interpolated.
The one that was forged was the mention in the Testimonia Flaviana. This passage has a devout Jew pretty much saying Jesus was the messiah. Josephus was also a sophisticated author who otherwise writes far more elegant prose, and usually explains to his readers anything strange.
This passage does not fit with anything in Josephus' works.
The interpolated one is the mention "the brother of Jesus (who was called Christ), the name for whom was James, and some others" were tried and stoned bt the high priest Ananus for unspecified crimes and in defiance of proper criminal procedure.
The interpolation here is the part that says "who was called Christ". And it was an accidental interpolation that entered manuscripts sometime in the late third century.
One reason for this position is that Origen never quotes this passage, and shows no knowledge of this passage as we have it, or the story it relates, or where it was located in the works of Josephus. The first person to quote the passage we have is Eusebius (by the way, a known forger).
The original text probably read, "the brother of Jesus, the name for whom was James, and some others" OR "the brother of Jesus the son of Damneus, the name for whom was James, and some others" (Jesus the son of Damneus is actually mentioned later in the same passage).
It was probably incorporating (accidentally) a Christian marginal or interlinear note (by insertion or replacement, to correct what a later copyist mistook as an error), changing the passage.
Reasoning for this position is as follows:
1) The words and structure chosen here are ones that would commonly be used in an interlinear note. In fact, if it was written by Josephus, we would expect him to clarify. Why was Jesus called "Christ"? What does the word mean? This passage was not written for Jews or Christians, it was written for the Romans.
2) There is no stated reason for either Jesus or Christ to be mentioned at all, which would not be expected if it was written by Josephus since he usually expands on these types of things.
3) The story as we have it makes no sense. No basis is mentioned for the execution, which Josephus would write about. It also says that many Jews were outraged by the execution of James and that they wanted Ananus punished, which makes no sense since the Jews and Christians did not get along. In fact, since this was written for a Roman audience, Josephus would actually explain things better here as well.
4) Acts shows no knowledge of this event, and if this did happen it almost certainly would have been included in Acts.
For more reasons, read the book.
***What about Pliny the Younger?***
"They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up."
This says nothing about a historical Jesus, just what Christians were doing/preaching at the time.
Pliny the Younger also said that he never attended a trial of Christians, knew nothing of what they believed, or were guilty of, until he interrogated them for this letter. This means that Pliny the Elder almost certainly never wrote about them either, even in his account of the Neronian fire, to which he was an eye-witness of and devoted an entire volume of work to that year.
Pliny the Younger, being an admirer of Pliny the Elder, would have known about any record of Pliny the Elder's work on Christians if it existed.
One passage refers to JEWISH rioters. He says, of Emperor Claudius, "since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.'.
1) This would have been a near impossible feat, giving reason to doubt it.
2) Acts shows no knowledge of this event, yet the author would have every reason to do so when he was writing about the Jews making trouble for Christians in Rome.
3) He says the riots were instigated by Chrestus himself, but Jesus was neither alive or in Rome at any time under Claudius.
4) Acts depicts Jews at Rome knowing little about Christianity beyond distant rumors, which makes no sense if the whole Jewish population rioted over it a decade earlier.
This gives huge reason to doubt it is authentic.
His second passage only says 'punishments were inflicted on the Christians, a class if men given to a new and mischievous superstition'. This says nothing about a historical Jesus, but it does say that Suetonius knew the difference between Jews and Christians. This gives more reason to believe that the first passage actual talks about the Jews.
Was not relaying accurate information, only what Christians said at the time.
This HEAVILY contradicts the what we would expect of Pliny the Elder's work (as mentioned above).
There were also no reliable sources for Tacitus to get this information.
There are no documents that are reliable that place Jesus in history. We actually see that Jesus was conceived to be a celestial being.
All this information can be found in the book "On the Historicity of Jesus" by Richard Carrier, which was published by Sheffield Phoenix Press, one of the most respected publishing companies when it comes to history.
Good luck on your opening round.
First, I would like to tell voters on this debate what I am arguing for. I am not arguing for Jesus being God. I am arguing for the major events in his life, as detailed in the Gospels, actually occurring. History does not concern itself with paranormal phenomena, as proving them is too great a strain for it to bear.
My opponents first objection to Jesus being historical are that he there was a celestial being called Jesus mentioned before Jesus was alive. It is actually untrue that Philo of Alexandria talked of "Jesus" who was a "celestial being". He actually spoke of a "man whose name is in the East". Quite how Carrier relates a "man whose name is in the East" to "Jesus" is unknown to me.
My opponents next, connected objection is that Jesus in the New Testament is connected by the writers of the New Testament to the old Testament God. This is true, but it is important to remember that the traditions of the Old Testament were believe by the followers of Jesus, so it is unsurprising they reverse-engineered their description of Jesus to match the prophecies of the Old Testament. What Carrier has done here is completely ignore the traditions of the people and time he is writing about. This is fallacious reasoning.
Since I have disproved my opponents connecting of Jesus to the Old Testament as fallacious, I will ignore his third point as it is based off the same fallacy as the previous stuff.
My opponent complains that the epistles do not mention a historical Jesus. This is once again proven by fallacious reasoning. The epistles are cherry-picked to just the ones given to the early Church which only mention the traditional early Christian risen Jesus. In Paul there are many accounts of Jesus being born as a Nazarene, etc.
My opponent next attacks the Gospels. The Gospels did not come decades after Jesus was alive. Indeed there are parts of the Gospels that can be dated back to 30AD, when Jesus began preaching, they are Gospels of Lost Sayings, aka the MGospel and the QGospel.
My opponents claims that the various etraneous mentions of Jesus were forged are answered here: http://thedevineevidence.com.... Even though that is a Christian site, it sources everything it says to reliable historical sites.
Now, onto the evidence that Jesus existed.
My first bit of evidence is the oral tradition of Paul, which dates back to at least 33AD. It mentions Jesus arguing with the Pharisees, being called Christ, and being a "Nazarene". Another source is the M source of Marks Gospel, going back to at least 30AD, it describes various things mentioned in Marks Gospel, such as the census that forces Mary and Joseph to leave Egypt.
Evidence for other events in Jesus' life can be gotten from Josephus' testimonium flavianum. Most scholars believe that the testimonium is partially interpolated, but believe they have found the synoptic gospel from which certain parts of text appearing in the testimonium was interpolated. Here is a site showing the interpolations in the passage: http://www.josephus.org.... This passage, with authentic parts in details how Jesus' followers believed he was risen, how he did certain seemingly miraculous deeds, how he started a religion named after him, and how he was condemned to the cross by Pilate. (See source )
Another piece of evidence is Tacitus. Tacitus says that Pilate gave Jesus (Christus) the supreme punishment (crucifixion) and that he was the founder of the "sect" of Christianity. Here we have an account which is extremely negative towards Christianity. Also Tacitus would regularly mark out information he received as hearsay or as true accounts in his chronicles of Rome[, but he does not do that in the passage on Jesus.
So that's my evidence. I believe from these five hitorical accounts of Jesus we can understand a lot about him, and at least establish the minimum hypothesis about him in the OP.
 "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, p.200
 http://www.ewtn.com... by David Palm, an historian
Quoting the rules stated in my first round:
"The first round is for acceptance, the second round is for arguments (not rebuttals)."
My opponent decided to through out the second half of this, and head straight to trying to make rebuttals.
***"I thank my opponent for wishing me good luck, although I doubt I'll need it. Jesus' existence is not doubted by any critical scholars, and most of the arguments my opponents source material makes for Jesus being a celestial being are fallacious."***
Actually, Richard Carrier points out in "On the Historicity of Jesus" that more and more historians are actually saying that this is an issue that needs to be debated.
My opponent also asserts here that the evidence I used for a celestial Jesus is fallacious. This is a claim that needs quite a bit of support.
***"My opponents first objection to Jesus being historical are that he there was a celestial being called Jesus mentioned before Jesus was alive. It is actually untrue that Philo of Alexandria talked of "Jesus" who was a "celestial being". He actually spoke of a "man whose name is in the East". Quite how Carrier relates a "man whose name is in the East" to "Jesus" is unknown to me."***
I have looked at this citation of yours, and it was not written by a historian. What was written is not even peer-reviewed. It is also on a Christian website. This is not a reliable source, and it violates the rules that you agreed to by accepting this debate.
"All sources must be from peer reviewed historians that specialize in this field (PhD in Ancient Civilizations)."
***"My opponents next, connected objection is that Jesus in the New Testament is connected by the writers of the New Testament to the old Testament God. This is true, but it is important to remember that the traditions of the Old Testament were believe by the followers of Jesus, so it is unsurprising they reverse-engineered their description of Jesus to match the prophecies of the Old Testament. What Carrier has done here is completely ignore the traditions of the people and time he is writing about. This is fallacious reasoning."***
This was not actually the point I was making. I brought up a text that was written around the same time as the Gospels, the Ascension of Isaiah, and showed that there was a belief in a celestial Jesus.
I referenced some older Jewish beliefs to show that it is not a crazy idea that a burial can happen in the heavens.
Unless you are saying that Corinthians, Hebrews, etc. were my 2nd point, but those were quotes from EPISTLES, from the New Testament. That makes your whole argument here invalid.
This rebuttal was not sourced, and did not even address what was being said. It was also a rebuttal in a round where there were not supposed to be any rebuttals.
***"My opponent complains that the epistles do not mention a historical Jesus. This is once again proven by fallacious reasoning. The epistles are cherry-picked to just the ones given to the early Church which only mention the traditional early Christian risen Jesus. In Paul there are many accounts of Jesus being born as a Nazarene, etc."***
Here my opponent has made unsupported claims.
The epistles that we have do not mention a historical Jesus. The writers say they gained their knowledge through revelation. The only ones that do mention a historical Jesus are actually agreed upon by historians to be forgeries.
He also says that Paul makes accounts of Jesus being born as a Nazarene without giving a single example or sourcing a single cite.
***"My opponent next attacks the Gospels. The Gospels did not come decades after Jesus was alive. Indeed there are parts of the Gospels that can be dated back to 30AD, when Jesus began preaching, they are Gospels of Lost Sayings, aka the MGospel and the QGospel."***
The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, didn't appear until the 60's CE.
My opponent makes the claim that parts are dated back to 30CE, but provides no evidence. This might be because the Qgospel mentioned is only hypothetical, and the MGospel is a hypothetical source that Mark's author used. They are only hypothesized, nothing more.
***"My opponents claims that the various etraneous mentions of Jesus were forged are answered here: http://thedevineevidence.com....... Even though that is a Christian site, it sources everything it says to reliable historical sites."***
My opponent has not made an argument, he has only sourced a Christian website. Even if the website sources historical sites, that does not make it a peer reviewed work by a PhD in the field.
This is yet another rule violation.
***" My first bit of evidence is the oral tradition of Paul, which dates back to at least 33AD. It mentions Jesus arguing with the Pharisees, being called Christ, and being a "Nazarene"."***
I cannot find any information on David Paul, so I do not know if he does or does not have a PhD in Ancient Civilizations, but that is not the violation I am referring to.
What you cited was (from your own source):
"This article is reprinted from the May 1995 issue of
Which is not a source of peer-reviewed work. Catholic answers even says that their magazines are "The premier magazine of Catholic apologetics and evangelization"
That means that the source you used still does not fit in the acceptable sources rule.
Not only that, but when looking for the terms "Nazarene" and "Pharisees" in your source, it only goes to mentions in the Gospels. This does not help your case in the slightest.
***" Another source is the M source of Marks Gospel, going back to at least 30AD, it describes various things mentioned in Marks Gospel, such as the census that forces Mary and Joseph to leave Egypt."***
Your source for this is Wikipedia. This makes it obvious that it violates the acceptable sources rule. Not only that, but the Wikipedia page itself says that the M source is HYPOTHETICAL. Unlike other hypothetical sources, this one is only proposed to find a way to understand how the synoptic Gospels were written in a way that they did not copy from Mark. There is no mention of the source by any document we have.
***" Evidence for other events in Jesus' life can be gotten from Josephus' testimonium flavianum. Most scholars believe that the testimonium is partially interpolated, but believe they have found the synoptic gospel from which certain parts of text appearing in the testimonium was interpolated. Here is a site showing the interpolations in the passage:http://www.josephus.org....... This passage, with authentic parts in details how Jesus' followers believed he was risen, how he did certain seemingly miraculous deeds, how he started a religion named after him, and how he was condemned to the cross by Pilate. (See source )"***
I will quote from "On the Historicity of Jesus", page2 333-4.
"Historians have tried to rescue this passage be "rewriting" it, removing everything that Josephus would surely never say, and then claiming he surely said what"s left and Christians just changed it up. But this is such an extraordinary improbable thesis it must be rejected outright. For example, Josephus must have mentioned "Christ" because he presumes it when he explains the name "Christian" in the last line, but there is no plausible way Josephus would say this (or even "he believed to be the Christ", as some later quotations have it) without explaining to his intended Gentile readers what a "Christ" was and what it means for Jesus to have been one, and thus why Josephus is mentioning it or how Jesus even came to acquire the moniker" (the Antiquities was written specifically for a Gentile audience).
There are also some fawning, unintelligible things written in the passage that does not match up with the writing style of Josephus. The passage does not even explain many parts the Josephus would have expounded on. There are too many missing parts and too many questions for this to actually be an interpolation and not a complete forgery.
Also, while you did link a PhD"s work, it does not appear to be peer reviewed.
***" Another piece of evidence is Tacitus. Tacitus says that Pilate gave Jesus (Christus) the supreme punishment (crucifixion) and that he was the founder of the "sect" of Christianity. Here we have an account which is extremely negative towards Christianity. Also Tacitus would regularly mark out information he received as hearsay or as true accounts in his chronicles of Rome[, but he does not do that in the passage on Jesus."***
Your link of this doesn't even mention Jesus at all. You also say that he would mark out information he received as hearsay or as true accounts in his chronicles, yet you provide absolutely no reasoning for that.
The link also only goes to a copy of the text in the Annals.
My opponent has not made a single argument that does not violate a rule (except maybe the Tacitus, which was linked to irrelevant information), which is agreed upon by accepting the debate. This means that his entire second round of his was wasted.
I hope that my opponent can actually follow the rules in round 3, which would give me something to actually address.
Again, all information I have used comes from "On the Historicity of Jesus" by Richard Carrier, unless stated otherwise.
My opponent has forfeited the debate by claiming (in the comments) that I was committing the genetic fallacy.
I was attacking sources of his, yes, but that was because of the rules established in round 1 that were accepted by my opponent by accepting this debate and saying that he accepted it in round 1.
My opponent also says that I have lied about his sources, but that is not true.
My first claim about his sources was that his second source was not written by a PhD in the field, was not peer-reviewed, and was on a Christian website.
His source is here:
ratiochristi.org is also known as "Student Apologetics Alliance". Which is obviously Christian.
The link goes to a blog, which shows no peer review.
The author's name is Adam Tucker, and there is nothing that connects him with even a Bachelor's degree in History.
I did not lie about this source.
My second claim when it came to his sources was that thedevineevidence.com is not a peer-reviewed website, even if it does link to historical websites. This is clearly true, and requires no further explanation.
My third claim about his sources was that his 3rd source did not go to a peer-reviewed document, but a reprinted one that originated in one of Catholic Answers magazines.
I will quote again what is at the bottom of his source (http://www.ewtn.com...)
"This article is reprinted from the May 1995 issue of
Again, this was not a lie.
The forth claim about his sources was that the M-Source is a hypothetical source.
This is said on his own source provided (https://en.wikipedia.org...):
"M-source, which is sometimes referred to as M document, or simply M, comes from the M in "Matthean material". It is a hypothetical textual source for the Gospel of Matthew."
I also said that it was developed in order to show that other gospels did not copy off of Mark.
"Nineteenth century New Testament scholars who rejected the traditional perspective of the priority of Matthew in favor of Marcan priority speculated that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew the material they have in common with the Gospel of Mark from that Gospel. Matthew and Luke, however, also share large sections of text which are not found in Mark. They suggested that neither Gospel drew upon the other, but upon second common source, termed the Q."
"In The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (1924), Burnett Hillman Streeter argued that a third source, referred to as M and also hypothetical, lies behind the material in Matthew that has no parallel in Mark or Luke."
As well as other quotes show that this is not a lie either.
The next thing I said about his sources was that it appeared that he provided a piece from a PhD, but that was not peer reviewed (http://www.josephus.org...).
There is no evidence that this was peer reviewed. The only thing we have is the words, "A version of this discussion was originally published in The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995), pp. 59-77."
It says a version, not exact. Because of this, however, I did respond with a more recent, peer-reviewed quote from "On the Historicity of Jesus" that explains why it is not good to assume that what is left is actually what was written by Josephus.
I did not lie here, though I might have been wrong. This does not mean that the quote I provided means any less.
The final thing I said about his sources was that his source did not mention Jesus (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu...)
To make it easier, I will quote what it says,
"ROME at the beginning was ruled by kings. Freedom and the consulship were established by Lucius Brutus. Dictatorships were held for a temporary crisis. The power of the decemvirs did not last beyond two years, nor was the consular jurisdiction of the military tribunes of long duration. The despotisms of Cinna and Sulla were brief; the rule of Pompeius and of Crassus soon yielded before C"sar; the arms of Lepidus and Antonius before Augustus; who, when the world was wearied by civil strife, subjected it to empire under the title of "Prince." But the successes and reverses of the old Roman people have been recorded by famous historians; and fine intellects were not wanting to describe the times of Augustus, till growing sycophancy scared them away. The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus"more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed."
I did not lie about this source.
He then said that I lied about his rebuttals, but I do not see where that could possibly be.
He then says that it is clear to any unbiased observer that a historical Jesus has been established, but I do not see that as the case. By no means has a historical Jesus been debunked (as I never showed any of the 3 requirements of the minimum hypothesis of historicity to be flawed), but that does not mean that it is established.
The purpose of this debate was to show that, while possible that a Jesus did exist, it is more probable that he was a celestial being.
Once again, I apologize to those that agreed to vote for this debate. I will take my opponents concession:
" I won't debate this anymore "
Here it is: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu....
I included the non-specific link to his book "Annals" to allow users to see themselves where he demarcates true and hearsay accounts. The fact he does not label his account of Jesus as hearsay suggests he had good reason to believe it was reliable, was my point.
I still wish for people to vote on this debate, but snp1 and I have reached an impasse.
That is very helpful.
Now, you said,
"The fact he does not label his account of Jesus as hearsay suggests he had good reason to believe it was reliable, was my point."
This is actually explained in "On the Historicity of Jesus".
Tacitus and Pliny the Younger were really good friends. Tacitus wrote the Annals close to 120 CE (just barely outside the cut off of reliable information).
It is very possible that Pliny the Younger was finding out what Christians believed, then relaying it to Tacitus, who then wrote about it in his Annals.
If you do not want to see a lot of quoting from "On the Historicity of Jesus", and just a summary of what is said, jump to after you see "%%%%%%".
Some quotes from Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus" pages 344-5:
"The key line here is 'Christ, the author of this name, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius"
The translation that he used is different from the source, but the same meaning behind it.
My opponent's source says,
"Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus"
To continue with Richard Carrier's quote,
"This is the first-ever reference to a historical Jesus outside of the NT, dating around 116 CE (very near our cut-off date for usable evidence)."
The part where it says first ever is due to him already addressing appearances of him that came before Tacitus.
"If the passage is authentic. I elsewhere demonstrate (following the arguments of scholars before me who have argued the same) that this line is probably an interpolation, and that Tacitus in fact originally described not the Christians being scapegoated for the fire, but followers of the Jewish instigator Chrestus first suppressed under Claudius (as reported by Suetonius: see&11). The line about Christ being executed by Pilate was added sometime after the mid-fourth century. Before then, no one, Christian or non-Christian, ever heard of this persecution event under Nero, or any reference to Christians in Tacitus; this event is not mentioned even when second-century Christians told stories of Nero persecuting Christians! However, we need not rely on that conclusion for the present analysis, and to demonstrate that I will simply assume for the sake of argument that this passage is entirely authentic."
As you can see, the passage might not even be authentic, but even if it is, that poses little problem.
"If we assume that the passage has not been tampered with, then where would Tacitus have learned this? Not likely from government records. His report contains no distinctive information that one would expect from such a source, and Tacitus would not have wasted countless hours of his life hunting through obscure archives just to verify a single embarrassing anecdote the Christians themselves were already admitting to. Moreover, it is very unlikely any such records would have survived in Rome for Tacitus to consult, the capitol's libraries having burned to the ground at least twice in the interim, once under Nero, and again under Titus."
I do apologize if it seems unsportsmanlike to quote most of this argument, but I feel like it is most effective, especially after how my opponent has handled the previous 2 rounds.
Now, to continue:
"It's also unlikely Tacitus learned of this from earlier historians of Nero (such as Pliny the Elder, as discussed in &3), since had they written about Christians we would probably know of this, from their histories having been preserved (precisely because they mentioned Christ) or quoted (by Christians or their critics). Likewise, the Christians appear to have had no knowledge of the Neronian persecution having any connection whatever with the burning of Rome further entails no earlier historian is likely to have made such a connection either (as otherwise such pervasive ignorance even by the Christians themselves in nearly inexplicable). If Tacitus really made such a connection, he was apparently the first, and possibly by mistake (conflating some other persecution of Christians, or even a Christian legend about a persecution that never really happened, with the burning of Rome; for as we shall see, Suetonius had no knowledge of such a connection, either)."
Can you see where this is going?
"But we know Tacitus asked Pliny for information to include in his historical books. Thus the fact that Pliny discovered what Christians preached in 110 CE, right when Tacitus was governing an adjoining province and writing his histories, and just a few years before Tacitus completed his Annals before 117 CE, suggests the most likely chain of information what Christians telling Pliny about the Gospels, then Pliny telling Tacitus, and Tacitus then reporting (what would be to him) the most embarrassing details in his Annals. That would explain why his information matches what was already reported in the Gospels by that time and gives no further detail. At the very least, this cannot be ruled out. Accordingly, we cannot verify that the information in Tacitus comes from any source independent of the Gospels. And non-independent evidence carries zero weight."
As you can see, there were no reliable sources for Tacitus to use. No official records, no works from previous historians, nothing. He was reporting what Christians told Pliny, and Pliny, in turn, told him.
I also believe Tacitus would have admitted if he had got the information he writes from Pliny by calling it hearsay. He does not do this, however, so that suggests he got it from a person who had been much closer to the Government and knew of the controversy stirred up by Jesus. Tacitus at least trusts the information he received, else he would have tagged it as he does 70 times throughout "Annals".
Thank you and vote in an unbiased manner on both sides, both atheist and theist.
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