Was Jesus historical?

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Resha Caner
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 09:45 am
hue-man wrote:
Of course Jesus wasn't the king of the Jews! I was saying that they supposedly put that on his crucifix when he died!!! Jesus Christ, my point was that if this man was so important why is he not in any of the records?

I am not saying that he did not historically exist. I am saying that I wont believe that he did until they find hard, contemporary evidence to support it! The same goes for the other messiah Gods; I don't discriminate.

You seem to be confusing several issues here. Yes, there were others during Jesus time claiming to be a god. Caesar claimed to be a god. Does Caesar's claim invalidate his historicity? No. And yet we accept as historical evidence the same documents in which he claims to be a god.

So, claiming to be a god does not invalidate the historical value of a document. That cannot be your reason for dismissing the Gospels and Epistles, or you must also deny the historicity of Caesar and the Babylonian kings and the Chinese emperors and the Egyptian pharohs and ...

Maybe Jesus was among the madmen of the time claiming to be a god. That is not the point we're debating. It is his historicity.

Next, if Pilate put the sign above his head the way the Gospels claim, then the Gospels are the only source we have for that claim. As such, we must study what the Gospels say about that claim. Pilate's only purpose was to keep order and collect taxes for Rome. The Jews wanted Jesus' death, and the only way they could legally do that was for Pilate to levy the sentence. In order for him to levy that sentence, it had to be a crime against Rome. For it to be a crime against Rome, Jesus had to claim to be king. Pilate knew the Jews made up the charge. He states that he believes Jesus was innocent. But think of the political benefit he gets from this. He gets to humiliate the Jewish leaders by a tacit recognition of Jesus' kingship (through judgement of the crime) while at the same time accepting their overture that Rome is in charge and they have to appeal to him, and further sending a message that those who oppose Rome will be killed. It's all win-win for him.

Yes, Pilate would have recorded this incident in his Acta. But who else would? Pilate was the governor. And Pilate's Acta have been lost. Again, this is not an argument. You need to address the Gospels and Epistles directly.
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 10:03 am
xris wrote:
Why is the book on Robin Hood not proof, why is any book on myths proof.

Exactly, any book with unbelievable, and clearly mythological claims should be questioned more. Believing in the historicity of a man who supposedly rose from the dead and walked on water is hard to do if you apply reason. What we're simply saying is that any claim of the historicity of a myth or legend should be subject to more doubt. The fact that Jesus' historicity is not supported by contemporary (at the time he lived and when he died) evidence makes the claim more unbelievable.

People like to point to Josephus, but Josephus didn't write about Jesus until the late 1st century A.D, and the authenticity of the documents are very questionable. Paul by his own admission never knew Jesus, and based his entire faith on a vision he supposedly had. Some believe that Paul's writings on Jesus were allegorical metaphors.
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 11:52 am
Hue-man, I think you've wasted your time trying to prove Jesus did not exist (BTW, you ought to get your own history right before criticizing "believers" . . . Mark, a companion of Peter, and Luke, a companion of Paul, were not apostles). But my main criticism of your historical critique is that you apply your analysis narrowly, ignoring anything that supports Jesus having lived, and then paint a one-sided picture clearly intended to take a stab at the religious. (Just so you know my bias, I am not religious; so nothing I say is meant to defend Christian belief.)

I say you waste your time because I suspect the historicity you really doubt is the miracles of Jesus. Really, if it weren't for the supernatural claims followers have linked to Jesus, would you go to all the trouble to disprove he existed? This common strategy of the atheist or anti-religious seems to conclude that if one can get rid of Jesus then we get rid of any rationale for Christianity. There is, of course, another logical possibility and that is that Jesus existed, but his followers made up the supernatural stuff to help convince a very superstitious population that Jesus was from God.

Getting back to what's wrong with your critique, traditionally history has been based on written documents; since some events really happened that weren't written about, and because there are those who write things with spin (even witnesses) to present a picture to support some ideology, written documents may or may not be an accurate representation of the facts.

The more recent field of prehistory has produced some great evidence. A painted clay pot found in ancient Mesopotamia proves they knew pottery and painting. Do we need written documents to confirm that? No.

Another source of records (notice I didn't use the term "history") is myths. The story of Noah for example, is also known to be similar to a Babylonian flood story in the Gilgamesh myth, and of course Jewish records tell us that the Jews were in Babylonian captivity for a time. Over 2500 years later two oceanographers, Dr.s Pitman and Ryan, find evidence of the collapse of the Bosporus strait causing the Mediterranean to pour into the Black Sea. Follow up investigations find clear signs of culture buried under the Black Sea dating to the time of that devastating flood. A link to the book: Amazon.com: Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History: William Ryan, Walter Pitman: Books

Besides archeology and myths, there are more important indicators of past events, and that is influences found in people alive today. Genetics, for example identify our ancestors, and even indicate such seemingly impossible to verify facts like homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals. Do we have any written records of cross-caveman romances? Nope. Yet another type of past influence is found in language, as the great work of Franz Bopp demonstrated through his comparisons of the Indo-European languages. Can you believe that English and German were once the same language, and that the languages came to differ by segments of an original common population splitting off and moving away?

Are there other past influences alive in us today? What about the passion for reason the Greeks gave the West, the passion for studying the effects of polar forces given to the Chinese by early enthusiasts like the Duke of Chou and Confucius, the passion for looking inward so revered by the Indians after first developed by the Buddha and many other early practitioners, etc. And this brings us to Jesus. Can we see an "influence" alive today that indicates a past source?

As much as you may dislike religion, what do you think made Rome turn from thinking a fun Sunday afternoon was watching people get eaten by lions, to living with more compassion? Greco-Roman culture greatly influenced European culture, and America derived from European culture. Can you imagine what views we might have toward our fellow human today if Constantine hadn't declared the Empire Christian some 1700 years ago?

Of course I don't know whether we might have come to more compassion without those Christians who bravely prayed while the lions ate them and so through that act of faith moved many Roman spectators to compassion. But it does seem that without some sort of influence to give them such faith, they would not have behaved so.

My point is that while we might not have definitive written records, we do have an influence that dates from the time of Jesus, and that influence seems to inspired early followers to bravely face death (just as Jesus is reported to have done), and to stand up for love and goodness (again, as reports say of Jesus). And before this influence, look at what was going on. Something changed the normal behavior of people at that time, and since all those reports claim it was the personage of someone called "Jesus," what better evidence do you have for this influence? None I've heard.

If you want you can ignore all the good people do and have done from that influence, and point to the excesses and silly beliefs of some religious, but that isn't a fair presentation of all the evidence. Further, there is no reason to assume that Jesus wanted "religion" to develop at all; to the contrary, the reports we have show him a religion iconoclast, which is in fact exactly what got religious leaders of the time plotting against him!

In conclusion, I'd suggest a better way to spend your time is proving supernaturalism is nonsense . . . and leave Jesus be.
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 01:30 pm
If you wish to take the route of the faithful are beyond question retire but dont expect us to take the easy road to Damascus..Im not blinded by the Myth. I can remember a radio programme sending citizens into frenzy of fear in just one hour so dont think a story built up over a hundreds of years will not result in exaltation by its believers.

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