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Did Jesus exist?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,858 times Debate No: 51688
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Welcome everyone.

This debate is about whether a historical Jesus existed - i.e someone named Jesus whom the New Testament is based upon. This debate is not concerning the resurrection or divine status of Jesus - only the historical side, with the historical side being that the Jesus of the Gospels existed, apart from the resurrection narrative and miracles.

The BOP is shared between Pro and Con. I must attempt to prove that a historical Jesus did exist, and Con must give some form of argument that a historical Jesus did not.

Round 1: acceptance
Round 2: arguments
Round 3: rebuttals
Round 4: rebuttals and conclusion

Good luck!


I accept.
I am going to assume that for the first round acceptance means agreeing to debate with you.If so,please begin by stating your proof.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks Con for accepting this debate.

I will present 5 secular sources for the existence of Jesus.

Secular Source #1: Yosef ben Matityahus
First up, it's Yosef Ben Matityahu, otherwise known as Josephus. He states:

"Now around this time lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was a worker of amazing deeds and was a teacher of people who gladly accept the truth. He won over both many Jews and many Greeks. Pilate, when he heard him accused by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross"

So Josephus states that Jesus, a wise man, taught and coverted people around him, and was executed by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.
Josephus has no reason to lie about these events - it is not in his personal interest. He is simply recording history.
The writings of Josephus have often been criticised as being added to by Christians; but this extract is a scholarly rendition by John Meier [1] who has removed any possible corruptions.

Secular Source #2: Mara Bar-Serapion
Here is the extract:

"What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion... Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given" [2]

While there is no mention of Jesus by name, it is accepted amoung virtually all scholars that this is in reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was executed after he claimed to be the king of the Jews (hence the mention of 'wise king'). The mention that "Just after that their kingdom was abolished" fits right in with the destruction of the temple in 70AD [3].
There are no other credible explanations for who this is; the fact is, there are no other figures in 1st century Judea, who was considered the King of the Jews, who lived by his teachings, who was executed, and after which, the temple was destroyed.
This is mentioned in the same reference as Socrates, Pythagoras, so if you are to deny his credibility, then you must also deny the existence of both Socrates and Pythagoras; no serious investigator of truth would ever deny that.

Secular Source #3: Tacitus
Tacitus states:

"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" [4]

Again, Tacitus has no reason to lie about what he says - he has no personal interest in Jesus. However, he still states the crucifixion of Jesus as historical fact. We even know that he was incredibly hostile to Christians and Jews alike [4], meaning that if anything, Tacitus would want to paint anything associated with Christianity or Judaism in a negative light, but doesn't here - he simply states what he considers historical fact.

Secular Source #4 Phlegon
Phlegon states:

"And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified" [5]

This is a disinterested comment concerning Jesus; it is not the focus of the text, which is the eclipse, but an extra note for the readers. This is very important, as it shows that Jesus' crucifixion is not the purpose of the text, but considered to be wide-spread fact in order to help the reader understand the circumstances - or in this case, time period. Moreover, Phlegon is impartial to to notion of Jesus as Messiah - he was a Pagan, so this source can be seen to be reliable on that front.

Secular Source #5 the Talmud
The Talmud says:

"On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus. A herald went before him for forty days (proclaiming), "He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray. Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him." But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover" b. Sanhedrin 43a [6]

The most important thing to consider here is that the Jewish religious authorities (the writers of the Talmud) were likely to be very hostile to Jesus and Christianity as a whole, as it was a serious threat to both their authority and beliefs. This hostility brings reliability to the account - if anything, they would want to distort what the Gospels and Christians stated - not back it up as it does here.

I will present 1 contemporary source as well:

Contemporary source #1: Paul
Paul states:

"I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the Lord's brother". (Galatians 1:19) [7]

This is particularly important because it proves:
-Paul knew the apostles
-Paul knew Jesus' family
-If Paul knew Jesus' family, then Jesus must therefore exist.
But why do we know this? Well, it is because it is an 'off the cut' comment. In other words, the fact that Paul met James in Jerusalem is not the purpose of the text, is probably of little interest to the reader, yet is included anyway. A disinterested comment like this is vital for any historian in establishing reliability; Paul isn't trying to prove a point by including this. So the very fact that he does means that it is probably true.
If you have a look at the video, it is a discussion between Bart Ehrman, a Biblical scholar, and and atheist, discussing how this extract from Galatians shows the existence of Jesus.

The case for a historical Jesus is as much of a cumulative argument than anything else - if 5 secular and at least 1 contemporary source agree that someone named Jesus, who preached in Judea and was crucified by Pontus Pilate in around 30AD, then the most reasonable conclusion to make is that at the very least, Jesus existed.

Thanks Con, I now hand the debate back over to you.

[1] Marginal Jew 1:61 by John Meier


These are my points.I can only put 1 source of info due to lack of characters.


No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.

Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.

Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay does not provide good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.

If you do not understand this, imagine yourself confronted with a charge for a crime which you know you did not commit. You feel confident that no one can prove guilt because you know that there exists no evidence whatsoever for the charge against you. Now imagine that you stand present in a court of law that allows hearsay as evidence. When the prosecution presents its case, everyone who takes the stand against you claims that you committed the crime, not as a witness themselves, but solely because they claim other people said so. None of these other people, mind you, ever show up in court, nor can anyone find them.

Hearsay does not work as evidence because we have no way of knowing whether the person lied, or simply based his or her information on wrongful belief or bias. We know from history about witchcraft trials and kangaroo courts that hearsay provides neither reliable nor fair statements of evidence. We know that mythology can arise out of no good information whatsoever. We live in a world where many people believe in demons, UFOs, ghosts, or monsters, and an innumerable number of fantasies believed as fact taken from nothing but belief and hearsay. It derives from these reasons why hearsay cannot serves as good evidence, and the same reasoning must go against the claims of a historical Jesus or any other historical person.

Authors of ancient history today, of course, can only write from indirect observation in a time far removed from their aim. But a valid historian's own writing gets cited with sources that trace to the subject themselves, or to eyewitnesses and artifacts. For example, a historian today who writes about the life of George Washington, of course, can not serve as an eyewitness, but he can provide citations to documents which give personal or eyewitness accounts. None of the historians about Jesus give reliable sources to eyewitnesses, therefore all we have remains as hearsay.


The most "authoritative" accounts of a historical Jesus come from the four canonical Gospels of the Bible. Note that these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of early church fathers, especially the most influential of them all: Irenaeus of Lyon who lived in the middle of the second century. Many heretical gospels existed by that time, but Irenaeus considered only some of them for mystical reasons. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, "like the four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man's estate, and the four forms of the first living creatures-- the lion of Mark, the calf of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John (see Against the Heresies). The four gospels then became Church cannon for the orthodox faith. Most of the other claimed gospel writings were burned, destroyed, or lost." [Romer]

Elaine Pagels writes: "Although the gospels of the New Testament-- like those discovered at Nag Hammadi-- are attributed to Jesus' followers, no one knows who actually wrote any of them." [Pagels, 1995]

Not only do we not know who wrote them, consider that none of the Gospels existed during the alleged life of Jesus, nor do the unknown authors make the claim to have met an earthly Jesus. Add to this that none of the original gospel manuscripts exist; we only have copies of copies.

The consensus of many biblical historians put the dating of the earliest Gospel, that of Mark, at sometime after 70 C.E., and the last Gospel, John after 90 C.E. [Pagels, 1995; Helms]. This would make it some 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus that we have any Gospel writings that mention him! Elaine Pagels writes that "the first Christian gospel was probably written during the last year of the war, or the year it ended. Where it was written and by whom we do not know; the work is anonymous, although tradition attributes it to Mark..." [Pagels, 1995]

The traditional Church has portrayed the authors as the apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, & John, but scholars know from critical textural research that there simply occurs no evidence that the gospel authors could have served as the apostles described in the Gospel stories. Yet even today, we hear priests and ministers describing these authors as the actual disciples of Christ. Many Bibles still continue to label the stories as "The Gospel according to St. Matthew," "St. Mark," "St. Luke," St. John." No apostle would have announced his own sainthood before the Church's establishment of sainthood. But one need not refer to scholars to determine the lack of evidence for authorship. As an experiment, imagine the Gospels without their titles. See if you can find out from the texts who wrote them; try to find their names.

Even if the texts supported the notion that the apostles wrote them, consider the low life expectancy of humans in the first century. According to the religious scholar, J.D. Crossan, "the life expectancy of Jewish males in the Jewish state was then twenty-nine years."Some people think this age appears deceptive because of the high infant mortally rates at birth. However, at birth the inhabitants of the Roman Empire had an even lower life expectancy of around 25 years.According to Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the early third century C.E., the average life expectancy at birth came even lower to around 21. [Potter] Of course these ages represent averages and some people lived after the age of 30, but how many? According to the historian Richard Carrier: "We have reason to believe that only 4% of the population at any given time was over 50 years old; over age 70, less than 2%. And that is under normal circumstances. But the Gospels were written after two very devastating abnormal events: the Jewish War and the Neronian Persecution, both of which would have, combined, greatly reduced the life expectancy of exactly those people who were eye-witnesses to the teachings of Jesus. And it just so happens that these sorts of people are curiously missing from the historical record precisely when the Gospels began to be circulated." [Carrier] Even if they lived to those unlikely ages, consider the mental and physical toll (especially during the 1st century) which would have likely reduced their memory and capability to write. Moreover, those small percentages of people who lived past 50 years were usually wealthy people (aristocrats, politicians, land and slave owners, etc.). However, the Gospels suggest that the followers of Jesus lived poorly, and this would further reduce the chances for a long life span.
Sources :
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Con. Onto the rebuttals.

Heresay Accounts
Con's first objection to a historical Jesus is that all our sources come from heresay accounts and thus cannot be trusted. However, this is fallacious on 3 counts:

1) Jewish Oral tradition was incrediably reliable [1]
Jews prided themselves on their oral tradition - after all, It was the only way to transmit complex Jewish law to the illiterate mass. In this way, they often formed entire books of law based only on Oral tradition, which we know from the Pharisees [2] which still remains today with very few corruptions over 2000 years. However, the time span we are talking about is around 40 years; it is therefore very likely that the events told were the same as those told in the Gospels. [3]

2) We do have contemporary sources not from heresy accounts in the form of Paul's letters.
It is accepted that Paul's letter to the Corinthians and Galatians was written around 15-20 years after the death of Jesus; too soon for any corruptions to arise, as the eyewitnesses were still alive (Galatians 1:19). This is shown by the almost identical accounts of the resurrection between Corinthians 15 and the Gospel narratives.

3) Heresay accounts would only establish very minor corruptions, not fundamental core beliefs like that of the existence of Jesus.
Even if the Gospels are heresay accounts, does it seem rational to conclude that Jesus never existed? By what logical rule of inference does that follow? At most, you could conclude that minor details are corrupted. Not the existence of the central figure.

The Gospels
Con states a number of claims about the Gospels, so I'll respond to the main ones.

"these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of early church fathers"
Sure, but the Gospels never intended to be "original and authoritative from the authors themselves". Just look at Luke 1:1-4. The only intention is to record an accurate account of the events. Luke says nothing anout being original nor authoritative. However, I am at a loss as to how this affects the Gospels' reliability. Simply because the early church fathers gave authority to these 4 Gospels does nothing to invalidate the them - indeed, this comitts the genetic fallacy, where through explaining the origins of a statement, you thereby disregard the statement with no further evidence.

"Not only do we not know who wrote them, consider that none of the Gospels existed during the alleged life of Jesus, nor do the unknown authors make the claim to have met an earthly Jesus"
My question is simple. How is a Gospel, concerning especially the death and resurrection of Jesus, supposed to be written during the life of Jesus? I don't think this has been thought through. Moreover, we can just look at the first biographies of Alexander the Great, which only emerged 400 years after his death (e.g that of Arrian [4]) and yet are considered completely reliable by historians, to show the absurdity of this claim.

"This would make it some 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus that we have any Gospel writings that mention him"
Firstly, as I have explained, this is an unimportant point.
Secondly, we only know that the first Gospel was published and circulated 40 years after Jesus' death - for all we know, Mark could have been started on his Gospel 20 minutes after the crucifixion, and took 40 years to write and publish. Or at the very least, much earlier than 40 years. So all we can conclude that Mark's Gospel was published 40 years after Jesus' death; nothing can be concluded about reliability based on writing after the events.

"scholars know from critical textural research that there simply occurs no evidence that the gospel authors could have served as the apostles described in the Gospel stories"
I agree - I don't advocate the view that the Gospel writers were the apostles. This is a straw-man point.

"imagine the Gospels without their titles. See if you can find out from the texts who wrote them; try to find their names."
The names of the writers are an irrelevance in establishing their historical reliability.

Life expectancy
I have no doubt that the average age of a Jewish male was 29. But many of the disciples were indeed (the equivalent of) either middle or upper classed. We have multiple fishermen, a leader of a political group (the zealots), a tax collector and a treasurer. [5] They were barely peasants from the slums of Jerusalem; they would have been fed well, have good living conditions, had decent sanitation and had access to whatever medical care was available. Their life expectancy would have been far exceeding the average. This is a non-point.

Most of Con's points attacked the reliability of the Gospels, yet each of them fail. Moreover, even if the claims were true, they would not disprove the historical existence of Jesus. They are also an irrelevance if the external sources that I used in the first round are reliable and valid (though I'm sure my opponent will address this next round).

Thanks Con, back to you.



I promise to state my sources of my rebuttals in the next round as the lack of characters prevent me from doing so this time.


a) Yosef was a FALSE WITNESS

The earlier scholarship that proved the entire TF (Testimonium Flavianum) to be fraudulent was determined by intense scrutiny by some of the most erudite, and mainly Christian, writers of the time, in a number of countries, their works written in a variety of languages, but particularly German, French and English. Their general conclusions, as elucidated by Christian authority Dr. Lardner, and related here by the author of Christian Mythology Unveiled (c. 1842), include the following reasons for doubting the authenticity of the TF as a whole:

"Mattathias, the father of Josephus, must have been a witness to the miracles which are said to have been performed by Jesus, and Josephus was born within two years after the crucifixion, yet in all the works he says nothing whatever about the life or death of Jesus Christ; as for the interpolated passage it is now universally acknowledged to be a forgery. The arguments of the 'Christian Ajax,' even Lardner himself, against it are these: 'It was never quoted by any of our Christian ancestors before Eusebius. It disturbs the narrative. The language is quite Christian. It is not quoted by Chrysostom, though he often refers to Josephus, and could not have omitted quoting it had it been then in the text. It is not quoted by Photius [9th century], though he has three articles concerning Josephus; and this author expressly states that this historian has not taken the least notice of Christ. Neither Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew; nor Clemens Alexandrinus, who made so many extracts from ancient authors; nor Origen against Celsus, have ever mentioned this testimony. But, on the contrary, in chap. 25th of the first book of that work, Origen openly affirms that Josephus, who had mentioned John the Baptist, did not acknowledge Christ. That this passage is a false fabrication is admitted by Ittigius, Blondel, Le Clerc, Vandale, Bishop Warburton, and Tanaquil Faber.'" (CMU, 47)

Hence, by the 1840's, when the anonymous author of Christian Mythology Unveiled wrote, the Testimonium Flavanium was already "universally acknowledged to be a forgery."

b) Your paragraph used is invalid.

Josephus (Yosef) was born after Jesus died, so in the most charitable interpretation, he is simply passing along second-hand information. More damning, scholars almost universally agree that this was not original to Josephus. He was a Jew, not a Christian, and this isn"t what he would"ve written. Also, the passage interrupts the flow of the book(The TF) at this point (that is, the book would read better if this passage were removed), and it is briefer than similar summaries in the rest of the work. This is what you"d expect from a later addition.

From the Jewish standpoint, Josephus was a traitor. Formerly a Jewish commander, he defected to the Roman side during the First Jewish-Roman War in around 67, and his history was written in Rome. Jews had little interest in copying his works to keep them in circulation, and it was mostly Christians who copied them. They might have been motivated to "improve" Josephus.

The earliest copy of the Testimonium Flavianum is from Eusebius (324 CE or earlier). That it is traceable back to Eusebius raises concerns. He is not considered an especially reliable historian, and it's possible that he added this paragraph.


Sufficient reason is uncovered to doubt this Roman author's value in proving a "historical" Jesus.Besides that, your passage is incomplete.You may see the full version in my sources.

The passage regarding him is about Christus, in the reign of Tiberius, "was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate." The passage also recounts that the Christians, who constituted a "vast multitude at Rome," were then sought after and executed in ghastly manners, including by crucifixion. However, the date that a "vast multitude" of Christians was discovered and executed would be around 64 CE, and it is evident that there was no "vast multitude" of Christians at Rome by this time, as there were not even a multitude of them in Judea. Oddly, this brief mention of Christians is all there is in the voluminous works of Tacitus regarding this extraordinary movement, which allegedly possessed such power as to be able to burn Rome. Also, the Neronian persecution of Christians is unrecorded by any other historian of the day and supposedly took place at the very time when Paul was purportedly freely preaching at Rome (Acts 28:30-31), facts that cast strong doubt on whether or not it actually happened. Drews concludes that the Neronian persecution is likely "nothing but the product of a Christian's imagination in the fifth century." Eusebius, in discussing this persecution, does not avail himself of the Tacitean passage, which he surely would have done had it existed at the time. Eusebius's discussion is very short, indicating he was lacking source material; the passage in Tacitus would have provided him a very valuable resource.

Even conservative writers such as James Still have problems with the authenticity of the Tacitus passage: For one, Tacitus was an imperial writer, and no imperial document would ever refer to Jesus as "Christ." Also, Pilate was not a "procurator" but a prefect, which Tacitus would have known. Nevertheless, not willing to throw out the entire passage, some researchers have concluded that Tacitus "was merely repeating a story told to him by contemporary Christians."


The paragraph you used is invalid.Emphasizing that the other characters Bar-Serapion mentions by name lived long before Jesus, Farrell Till argues that Messianic pretenders in Judea were a dime a dozen" and that the 'wise King' could have been the "Teacher of Righteousness" mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, it now seems to me that this is nothing more than a bare possibility. Just because Bar-Serapion discusses Pythagoras and Socrates in the same passage as he mentions this 'wise King' does not make it likely that this 'Wise King' lived during roughly the same period as them. Moreover, given that Jesus was crucified by the Romans, not the Jews, Bar-Serapion's choice of words is inexplicable unless we assume that he received his information about this 'wise King' from Christians. (Remember that the Christians held the Jews at least partially responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.) However, if Bar-Serapion received his information from Christians, two conclusions follow. First, it is highly likely that this 'wise King' was Jesus.Second, Bar-Serapion does not provide independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus.


As for your passage, it is unclear whether this passage refers to Jesus. As Goldstein admits, "the possibility of the Jesus named in the Talmud being someone other than Jesus of Nazareth, and identified as such only because of confusion, cannot be entirely dismissed."[56] But even if the passage does refer to the Jesus of the New Testament, according to Goldstein, "it is of no help one way or the other in the question of the historicity of Jesus."


Paul's biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. Of the thirteen epistles, bible scholars think he wrote only eight of them, and even here, there occurs interpolations. Not a single instance in any of Paul's writings claims that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does Paul give any reference to Jesus' life on earth (except for a few well known interpolations). Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. hearsay.Why, by human nature it would suggest the same thing.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks Con.

Yosef Ben Matityahu
Con makes a number of sweeping claims concerning Jospehus, stating that due to several fraudulent parts in Josephus, the writings of Josephus are not reliable.
I don't necessarily deny that there are certain parts in Josephus that are unreliable. But to say that because parts of Josephus are fraudulent, therefore the whole of Josephus' writings are fraudulent, would be a failure in reasoning, more specifically the fallacy of composition. [1]
Indeed, the passage that I quoted is a scholarly reconstruction by John Meier, which removes any chance of corruption. The passage that I quoted is reliable. [2]
Next, Con makes 3 claims.
The first claim is that Jospehus was born after the events and relied upon second hand information and thus cannot be trusted. But if you are to believe that second hand information is unreliable, then you have to dismiss every work of historians today as unreliable. No rational person would believe that. Moreover, through the same line of reasoning, you have to believe that no modern historian can write about events before his birth date. That would obviously be absurd. Josephus was a historian, and should be treated as such.
The second claim Con made is that Christians improved Josephus to meet their own needs, but this is pure speculation, and no evidence can be used to back this up.
The third claim Con makes is that Eusebius is unreliable so the manuscripts cannot be trusted. But this is a blatant genetic fallacy.

Con makes a number of statements including:
i) There was no vast multitude of Christians at the time
ii) Tacitus is the only one who records Christian persecution
iii) Tacitus wouldn't have called Jesus 'Christ'

I'll respond to each claim.
i) While there may not have been a 'mass' of Christians, there would certainly have been a noticeable community in Rome. Indeed, Paul mentions a sizeable Christian community in Rome in Romans 16. [3]
ii)Suetonius also mentions prediction of Christians, describing Nero 'inflicting punishment' on Christians. [4]
iii) I think this is simply not true; 'Christ' is not an explicitly Christian term - it is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew word 'moshiach' (משיח), meaning 'anointed one'. Anyone can use this term and was often used to distinguish Jesus from others; it was not a statement of personal faith.

Mara Bar-Serapion
Firstly, Con's claim is that there was a multitude of 'messiahs' and the 'wise king' could have been any of them.
But the simple fact is, these messiahs would have been so minor that their record would never have transpired into the second century.
Moreover they will have been so minor and influence so little that they could never 'lead Israel astray'. And so only Jesus made such an impact that:
i) Israel was led astray
ii) Left an influence great enough that a 1st to 2nd century Syrian Philosopher and historian had access to his information
iii) The Jewish authorities killed him.

These couldn't have been achieved by the minor 'messiahs' of the first century. Only Jesus fits the criteria.
The second claim is that Jesus wasn't killed by the Jews but rather the Romans. But any 1st century historian knows that the Romans only passed the death penalty; usually the Jews provided the criminals, tried them, and presented them to the Roman authorities for punishment. Bar-Serapion would have known this, hence referring to the Jews as killing Jesus.

The first claim here is that we don't know whether the references are to Jesus. But while this may be the case through large portions of the Talmud, there are explicit mentions of Jesus, such as:

"rabbis taught Jesus the Nazarene had five disciples, and these are they: Mattai, Naqqai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah" -b.Sanhedrin 43 a-b [5]

The passage I mentioned is in conjunction to this passage, and thus still referring to Jesus the Nazerene. [6]
The second claim is that even if the passage does refer to Jesus, it doesn't prove the historically of Jesus. But I would disagree. Think about it - if Jesus was hanged on the day before Passover, Practiced miracles and led Israel astray, This fundamentally means that Jesus existed. He would have to exist for him to do any of these things!

The claim here is that Paul never claims that he met an earthly Jesus; but Paul records that he met Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:8 [7] and also in Galatians 1:11-17. [8]

Though Con did not respond to Phlegon, I'm sure he will next round.

First off, thanks to Youth for this great, interesting debate. Thanks also to the commenters, viewers and future voters.
I have presented 6 sources for the existence of a historical Jesus, from secular, Jewish and Christian authors. Despite criticism, these sources have maintained their reliability as sources for the historical Jesus. Moreover, I have successfully rebutted Con's objections to the historical Jesus and so the resolution stands - Jesus existed.

Thanks everyone, see you around.

[5] Peter Schafer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, 2007. p 75


A. Pro has used certain parts of my arguments to twist my words. Allow me to twist them back and defend my arguments.

1) Pro said I stated second-hand information cannot be trusted.

I did not say that second-hand information cannot be trusted. I merely said that it was second-hand information Yosef used and that means Yosef lied when he stated he was a witness.

2) Pro states that I said since certain parts of Yosef's writing are unreliable I say that the whole passage is fraudulent.

As for this one I agree. Besides, Pro even agreed with me that some parts of Yosef's works are unreliable so doesn't that, using logic, mean that the whole passage is unreliable? Allow me to use an analogy to explain. If someone were to have a loaf of bread but find out parts of it are stale wouldn't that someone throw the whole loaf away? I shall use yet another analogy to further convince the voters. Should someone discover certain parts of his or her vehicle to be unreliable, how trustworthy are the other parts of the vehicle to the user in the future or other people should they ever know about it and was offered a ride?

3) "you have to believe that no modern historian can write about events before his birth date. That would obviously be absurd. Josephus was a historian, and should be treated as such." said Pro.

I did not say that modern historians should write about events before his birth date and that Josephus was not a historian.

4) "The third claim Con makes is that Eusebius is unreliable so the manuscripts cannot be trusted. But this is a blatant genetic fallacy." said Pro.

I said this because the passage Pro used could not have been Yosef's and this was in fact universally agreed by scholars and was also universally acknowledged to be a forgery.

5) Pro stated in round 3 that we have contemporary sources not from hearsay accounts in the form of Paul's letters

I stated that there is no contemporary ROMAN record of Jesus' crucifixion. As for Paul's letters, there are still a few known interpolations in the 8 letters BIBLE scholars agreed he wrote.

6) Pro said I stated Tacitus was the only one who recorded Christian persecution.

I did not say that.

7) Pro stated in Round 3 that my claims of all accounts of Jesus derive from hearsay accounts are fallacious because Jewish Oral Tradition was incredibly reliable.

That tradition focused on laws. Not the historicity of Jesus.

B. Now for my rebuttals.

1. Pro did not argue on this argument entirely. Merely the first line which is not strong enough because of the FACTS stated in the second and third line.

Even conservative writers such as James Still have problems with the authenticity of the Tacitus passage: For one, Tacitus was an imperial writer, and no imperial document would ever refer to Jesus as "Christ." Also, Pilate was not a "procurator" but a prefect, which Tacitus would have known. Nevertheless, not willing to throw out the entire passage, some researchers have concluded that Tacitus "was merely repeating a story told to him by contemporary Christians."

2. Pro did not argue on this argument involving Mara Bar-Serapion.

Farrell Till argues that Messianic pretenders in Judea were a dime a dozen" and that the 'wise King' could have been the "Teacher of Righteousness" mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3. Pro says Suetonius also mentions prediction of Christians besides Tacitus.

I agree. Then again, I have something on Suetonius as well.

We see that the reference is to "Chresto," not "Christo." In any case, Claudius reigned from 41-54, while Christ was purported to have been crucified around 30, so the great Jewish sage could not have been in Rome personally at that time. Even such an eager believer and mesmerized apologist as Shirley Jackson Case must admit that Christ himself couldn't have been at Rome then, that the "natural meaning" of the remark is that "a disturbance was caused by a Jew named Chrestus" living in Rome at the time, and that Suetonius' references to Christianity itself are very obscure."

It is possible that these diasporic Jews"a mixture of Hebrew, Jewish, Samaritan and Pagan descent"revered their god under the epithet of "Chresto." Or, as Eisenman suggests, the incident may record Jews agitating over the appointment of Herod Agrippa I as king of Judea by his friend Claudius in 41 CE. In this regard, Agrippa I is called "chrestos" by Josephus.

In his Life of Nero, Suetonius refers to "Christiani," whom he calls "a race of men of a new and villainous, wicked or magical superstition," who "were visited with punishment." This passage, although establishing that there were people called "Christiani" who were a fairly recent cult in Suetonius's time, obviously does not serve as evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed.

Regarding these "references," if they were genuine they would no more prove the existence of Jesus Christ than do writings about other gods prove their existence. In other words, by this same argument we could provide many "references" from ancient writers that the numerous Pagan gods also existed as "real people." In this case, Jesus would be merely a johnny-come-lately in a long line of "historical" godmen.

4. Pro stated that Paul records he met Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:8 and Galatians 1:11-17

I'm not sure if Pro knows this but I myself read The Bible and agree that Paul records his encounter with Jesus. However, I bet Pro does not remember that Paul did not meet an EARTHLY Jesus but a Jesus that appeared to him in a VISION on his way to Damascus. A mere vision.

5. You want my response to Phlegon? Here you go.

References to Phlegon of Tralles provide inconclusive evidence for Jesus. Phlegon's works are no longer extant, but they are referenced by Julius Africanus and Philopon. Josh McDowell cites the following comment made by Africanus:

[Phlegon] records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth.[130]

Although Josh McDowell and Wilson assume without argument that this passage is authentic, Carrier has convincingly shown that the passage is an interpolation and he is by no means the only scholar to hold this view.[131] Some of the reasons for believing this passage to be an interpolation include (i) Eusebius' quotation of Phlegon does not include a reference to a full moon or a three-hour eclipse;[132] and (ii) "we cannot accept that, having just found fault with Thallus for calling this darkness an eclipse of the sun, Africanus then went on to cite Phlegon, without any censure at all, as calling it just that, and as adding, what he has just stated to be an absurdity, that it occurred at full moon."[133]

Conclusion :

First off, thank YOU Nzrsaa for this great, interesting debate. I would also like to thank the ones who commented, viewers and future voters. I have also successfully rebutted all of Pro's sources especially the main parts. Pro has merely converted my factual arguments into claims in order to rebut them easily but ineffectively as I have proven. This also proves that I have met the criteria of my job in showing a lack of proof as the burden of proof is on Pro.

Oh if I could only rebut everything Pro has said. Sadly, I deeply regret having to say once again that the lack of characters and my promise to state my sources here prevent me from doing so.

My sources throughout this debate :

Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Youth 7 years ago
I appreciate your help.I really do.But please, leave this debate be.Anyways, thank you because I myself am a Christian seeking to find evidence to prove Jesus' very existence.Regardless, let not what I have said affect the voters' decisions.
Posted by Historian 7 years ago
You have misunderstood the evidence from Mara bar Serapion. Farrell Till appears to be some sort of amateur atheist. Please consult recent historical research, such as this conference that was held in 2009 by secular historians, now in book format:

They argue the best evidence shows Mara bar Serapion was written in 73 A.D. and does reference Jesus.

See also this forthcoming book:

Also on the Talmudic evidence for Jesus one of Britian's leading experts on the Talmud thinks that this is a contemporary account of Jesus' crucifixion:
Posted by Youth 7 years ago
Please do not interfere with this debate while it is currently being debated.Let the voters decide based on what WE have said.
Posted by Historian 7 years ago
2/2 Read Professor Robert Garland"s "Celebrity in Antiquity: From Media Tarts to Tabloid Queens" and Graham Anderon"s "Sage, Saint and Sophist: Holy Men and Their Associates in the Early Roman Empire", trying to note down in a word document how close the extant records we have for apparently well-known people in antiquity (including actors, philosophers, religious charismatics etc") are. All are pretty much written about decades, even hundreds of years after their lives, and are almost always only referenced in one solitary source. Look at Josephus" works. He lists many Jewish leaders who were equal to Jesus in fame. Who else records them? No one, just Josephus. So perhaps they all are made up. Andersons" monograph details antiquities most famous religious figures.Try and figure out, again, how many times they are mentioned by their contemporaries- hardly at all. We just do not get multiple records of people close to their time (apart from some notable politicians"). So either almost no one in antiquity was ever real or you need a new argument and approach when discussing ancient history. The argument betrays a mistaken and anachronistic assumption that writing and the transmission of knowledge in antiquity works as it does today, and on a completely errant understanding of the availability of ancient sources. Once that is understood the force of the argument completely dissipates.

One interesting exercise that I should probably do to show how ancient fame vis-a-vis ancient literary records works is to compare Jesus with Cato the Younger. Cato (though then deceased) was probably the most famous person by the time of Christ. We even have two classical authors saying they are fed up having with having stories of his live being constantly recollected by everyone. Now how many records of his life now exist? One; by Plutarch who wrote it over a hundred years after his life.

Conclusion: amateur historians who argue Jesus didn't exist need a new argument.
Posted by Historian 7 years ago
1/2 The argument against seems to be "yes you have sources, but they aren't contemporary to Jesus: ergo he didn't exist". This completely misunderstands the nature of ancient source material. For any person in antiquity who would not likely be recorded about in physical assets such as coins, epigraphs (etc"), we are dependent upon literary documents. These are extremely rare from antiquity. We probably have less than .001% of all literature from Classical period currently extant. Apart from a few examples, and most of these during specific events such as the Athenian-Spartan conflict, the Second Punic War, or the fall of the Roman Republic, we do not have sources from the time on people in Classical history. We have almost nothing written from the time about dozens of Roman Emperors who ruled one of the largest and most literate societies pre-enlightenment Europe. We only hear of great generals, such as Scipio, decades after the event. Perhaps we might suggest that he didn"t exist too?

Great philosophers who mingled with Emperors, politicians and business men, who would have had infinitely more influence (and connections with literate people) than the itinerant failed messiah figure Jesus in rural Palestine with twelve regular followers! How much do we know of them from the time of their lives? Practically nothing. People like the founders of Stoicism and Epicureanism (Epicurus, Chrysippus, and Zeno) "the two most popular philosophical schools in the late-Roman Republic/ Early Empire" their writings were part of every educated Romans" libraries. They had students and followers (like Christianity) in every major city. So there must be thousands of copies of their writings" No. Apart from three letters of Epicurus almost nothing. Alexander the Great who conquered the whole known world. Well, we must have thousands of reports about him from the time? Think again. We can fit it on about half a page of A4.
Posted by The_Scapegoat_bleats 7 years ago
*clears* it up. Sorry.
Posted by The_Scapegoat_bleats 7 years ago
Thank you. That cears it up. And, as I feared, makes this impossible to debate.
This cannot be actively disproved.
Burden of proof needs to lie on you, as you're making the positive statement.

Your opponent would have to point out a lack of proof, as you cannot prove something did not exist.
Posted by Nzrsaa 7 years ago
Posted by grandvillegamers 7 years ago
Good luck, I fully agree with you. I also believe Christ died, and rose again for my sins.
Posted by The_Scapegoat_bleats 7 years ago
Please specify "the historical side".
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