Evidence for Jesus outside New Testament

Dec 5, 2013


Discussion by: ask_?s

What physical evidence exists for the evidence of Jesus outside the new testament. Also, why is the new testament consider historical evidence when it is all heresay (nonwitness) accounts of Jesus. Why do so my scholars agree jesus actually existed as a person what evidence am I missing. I do not see enough to support that conclusion which so many scholars do, even Richard Dawkins says he probably existed. 

79 comments on “Evidence for Jesus outside New Testament

  • 1
    Neodarwinian says:

    ” What physical evidence exists for the evidence of Jesus “

    None that I know of and all the evidence given for Jesus is far from physical.



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  • 2
    Catfish says:

    The world population in the year 0 was around 300,000,000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates) so would be no suprise that at least one of these people would be known as Jesus.

    And the bible (ie. new and old testament combined) contain aprox. 774,746 words so we would have to accept the possibility that at least 1 sentence is basically accurate.

    But in practical terms I think The new testament would only be considered a historical document by people who value their faith above all else (ie. extremists).



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  • 3
    canadian_right says:

    There isn’t much evidence, but most scholars believe John the Baptist did in fact baptize a man named Jesus who was later crucified. See Historical Jesus at wikipiedia. There are a few non-christian writings that support there was preacher who was crucified.

    Many scholars think a lot of the gospels grew slowly and incorporated myth, legends, and prophecies that were already well established in the area to bolster Jesus’s claim as the Christ. As with many myths and legends there seems to be a grain of truth to this one too.



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  • 4
    Red Dog says:

    As far as I know there is no credible physical evidence of Jesus if by physical you mean things like Jesus DNA or some bit of clothing or cross or whatever. Regarding New Testament as history I don’t think any scholar or historian that is taken seriously in the academic community treats the New Testament as literal history say the way they would take the writings of Caesar. What they are is closer to the iliad and the odyssey or the dialogues of Plato.

    Just as the actual Socrates probably didn’t say most of what Plato’s Socrates says says so the actual Jesus probably didn’t say much of what is in the New Testament. The guys who wrote it all had agendas and they added to and distorted the actual story quite a bit to the point it’s probably impossible to say anything with strong certainty about the historical Jesus.

    However, it is possible to have an opinion on whether he existed or not and the strong academic consensus is that he did. Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman summarized the reasons in a book which is quite good and which he talks about here:

    Bart Ehrman: Did Jesus Exist?



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  • 5
    mmurray says:

    My understanding is that evidence beyond the bible is pretty thin to non-existent. Have a look here for starters. It would be interesting to know what probability people assign to the historical Jesus. In my book there is a big difference between “Jesus must have existed” and “I think it’s marginally more likely there was an historical Jesus than that there wasn’t”. I would sign up for the last of these options but I would not be greatly surprised or upset to be found wrong.

    Michael



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  • 6
    Tatslotto says:

    Even if there is evidence to support the existence of Jesus, what physical evidence could there possibly be to support the view that Jesus is the son of God, and what physical evidence could there possibly be to support the view that there IS a God to begin with?

    Jesus could have existed as a person that was preaching and healing the sick, who later got crucified. All of that is probable. But just because it’s possible he existed doesn’t mean the rest of what the New Testament said about him is true.

    As for the New Testament – it’s literature at best, a collection of stories that gets pass down from person to person. It has so many authors, can anyone be so sure to say that all of the authors are writing based on historical facts?



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  • 7
    Michael Fisher says:

    Independent physical evidence for the existence of Sherlock Holmes is greater than for Jesus. What will our descendants think when they dig up the official blue plaque placed on a wall of the Sherlock museum near to 221B Baker Street? Is Robin Hood [or Hode] based on a real character or is he spun entirely from myth?

    Entire Bible studies scholarship careers depend upon [mostly] spurious analytical techniques & one can detect the B.S. due to the overuse of technical terms to obscure the banality of the truth. The truth is that we don’t know if ANY VERSION of Jesus was a real person.

    What is the minimum acceptable description of Jesus as a real [but mortal] man anyway? I suppose we are looking for [1] an end-times preacher who roamed around in the time of Pontius Pilate [2] saying “drop what you’re doing & follow me. Abandon all your responsibilities ~ someone alive today will see the end & salvation” & [3] I suppose we must stipulate that he was crucified. I believe that [1] & [2] was quite a popular hobby at the time & a jolly decent way to be fed for nothing if you didn’t have a proper job.

    I think the most likely scenario is that Jesus is an amalgam of nutters/mystics/charlatans from the era & there’s absolutely no possibility of finding physical evidence.



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  • 8
    Michael Fisher says:

    Following on from my comment #7 ~ this is a List of 1,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees offered by Christian colleges and universities, Bible colleges, and theological seminaries. That’s an incomplete list of JUST online courses. I have no idea how to begin to calculate how many PhDs are awarded annually worldwide for Biblical scholarship & other types of Christian studies, but it must be in the 1,000s [or 10,000s?]. And what is the fruit of all this labour by hordes of brains for many decades?

    I suspect the major result is many impractical PhDs given out to newly minted borderline atheists now tied into the study of a field that’s not going to have the physics equivalent of a Eureka! moment:- One hundred years of just physics from 1905 has produced:- Relativity, “nebulae” identified as galaxy structures external to the Milky Way, quantum mechanics, Big Bang, Antimatter, Hubble expansion, superfluids, fission, QED, laser, pulsars, evidence for quarks, Dark Matter, standard model of particle physics formulated, cosmic inflation, Bose-Einstein condensate, accelerating expansion of universe, WMAP.

    I realise the comparison isn’t exactly fair, because the humanities suffer from the same problem relating to progress, but I think it’s worth mulling over the thought that the blizzard of faux Biblical analysis makes a discussion about evidence & truth pretty tough when across the table are people convinced that it’s a fruitful exercise to compare the sources of evidence for Sherlock Holmes & conclude that the differences & similarities in the various sources are in fact BOTH evidences FOR the reality of Sherlock ~ which is how a lot of Bible scholarship seems to work.



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  • 10
    Pabmusic says:

    I think that Jesus probably existed, and for the same reason that most historians might – Occam’s Razor. When you have a claim from the ancient world that has no surviving contemporary evidence for or against, the usual process historians will use is to assume it is based (at least in part) in fact, since the opposite (that it’s made up) would require a much more complex assumption.

    But all this means is that there probably was a historical figure the old tales were about. It most emphatically says nothing about the supernatural (divinity, ascending to heaven, etc.) and – most importantly – it does not amount to evidence.
    The fact remains that there is no contemporary evidence of Jesus at all. The earliest mention of him is in the writings of Paul (about 45 CE) and the earliest non-Christian mention is in the 2nd century.



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  • 11
    mmurray says:

    An interesting related phenomena is how quotes attach to famous figures. Even in our own time there are numerous anecdotal remarks supposedly said by Einstein, Churchill, Twain etc that almost certainly fictional.

    Michael



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  • 12
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #9 by Alternative Carpark:

    Even if he did exist, he was a mediocre philosopher with only rudimentary sleight-of-hand skills.

    You wouldn’t be so dismissive when the wine runs out and the bottle shop is closed. 🙂

    Michael



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  • For what it’s worth, my understanding is that there was a nomadic preacher ( one of many), called Joshua ( the Hebrew form of the name Jesus ) roaming the area at the time of Pontus Pilot. Really narrows it down, doesn’t it?



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  • 14
    petermead1 says:

    Consider the following perspective. All claims that are made are NOT created equal. As such, the willingness with which people should readily accept them as true should vary from claim to claim. Furthermore, there is, along this spectrum of believability, a certain threshold that, when crossed, requires sufficient evidence to substantiate extraordinary claims. For example. If I told you that I went to the grocery store yesterday and purchased a box of breakfast cereal, I would say that you are reasonably justified in believing me without any supporting evidence even if I was lying and your belief was false. Why? Because of the nature of my claim. It’s mundane. People go the grocery store, and breakfast cereal is a common item sold. This is demonstrable. However, if I made the claim that I saw a unicorn in my bathroom this morning and that it serenaded me in the french language, I would be making a rather unique, unusual claim. This is not a common claim. Unicorns, to the extent of our knowledge, do not exist. Therefore, in order to be reasonably justified in believing me, you should demand that I provide you with an abundance of evidence of the highest quality. To believe me without said evidence would be gullible.

    With regards to the claim that there was a man named Jesus who may have had a small following, actively traveled around preaching and was crucified, I’m willing to grant that some measure of belief without evidence. It’s not a terribly extraordinary claim. There are rather similar examples of other people, within recent history, that have existed. However, the claims of his divinity and miracles are a completely different matter altogether. They are the unicorn. I am absolutely not willing to believe them unless exceptional evidence is put forth. To do so would be gullible.



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  • 15
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #14 by Nitya:
    >

    For what it’s worth, my understanding is that there was a nomadic preacher ( one of many), called Joshua ( the Hebrew form of the name Jesus ) roaming the area at the time of Pontus Pilot. Really narrows it down, doesn’t it?

    Not a lot! There were hundreds of wandering nomadic preachers at that time, and “Jesus” was a common name in the population.
    It’s like looking for signs of a more recent Scottish preacher called Jock, a Welsh preacher called Taffy, an Irish preacher called Paddy, an English preacher called John or Bill: – or a Muslin preacher called Mohamed! There are plenty of candidates but contemporary records of any involvement in notable events outside of Bible myths are lacking!



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  • 16
    Anthony Miller says:

    In reply to #3 by canadian_right:

    There isn’t much evidence, but most scholars believe John the Baptist did in fact baptize a man named Jesus who was later crucified. See Historical Jesus at wikipiedia. There are a few non-christian writings that support there was preacher who was crucified.

    Many scholars think a lot of the gospel…

    There was a massive publishing industry in Jesus biographies from about 70-300AD …these become standardised at the Councils of Carthage and the Synod of Hippo when the RCC decided which of the many Jesus biogs was “real” or “fictional” and divided them up into canonical and non-canonical. So it’s not “not history” it is selective history. As the Master used to say “a lie to work must be shrouded in truth.



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  • 17
    muttley says:

    In reply to #7 by Michael Fisher:

    I believe that [1] & [2] was quite a popular hobby at the time & a jolly decent way to be fed for nothing if you didn’t have a proper job.

    I think [2] is still quite popular.

    I read somewhere (can’t remember exactly where) that one of the reasons for Christmas wasn’t just to “Christianize” pagan celebrations, but also to reinforce that idea that Jesus was a real person.



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  • 18
    Malaidas says:

    As someone who would say that the existence of Jesus even as a normal human being is doubtful, I have to say that there is not alot. For full details of this you should look at the works of Robert M Price and Earl Dowerty. They are heavy going, because they need to be to make their very claims

    Putting it simply though, outside of the biblical account (which I will come back to shortly) there is only one reference to Jesus’ existence which is in Josephus, unfortunately the validity of that being in the original is very much a contested claim. Outside of this the bible is the only document to mention him, (within the appropriate time period that is), even where you would expect such to be mentioned, such as a document written within a few years of the supposed period where Jesus was alive, covering messiahs, but which makes no mention of Jesus of Nazareth.

    I however am not an expert here to make the claim, and I will refer you to those who are as above.

    Coming back to the biblical account however, ignoring the OT for the moment, lets deal with the core gospels. It is undeniable that Matthew and Luke, were based on Mark and possibly a document theologians call Q. This means that their claims can be assessed by the validity of Mark, for which I have seen very good solid argument, if not actual proof that the contents of which are an imitation of Homer. Its certainly however the best explanation for the sheer implausibilities and stupidities we see in the earliest synoptic gospel. John is of course no effected by this, but it is universally considered to be written a lot later, and therefore doesn’t stand as reasonable evidence for Jesus Christ’s actual existence. This brings us to the only reputable documents that could prove his earthly existence, which are those of the Epistles of Paul (those that were actually written by this person that is). The arguments against these I’m not going to argue, firstly I’m not sure about them and secondly I’m not expert enough in the field to fairly describe their claim.

    However you are left with the question, for such an important person in history the reliable documentary evidence is almost none existent.



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  • 21
    Malaidas says:

    i think its a matter of default to be honest.It seems sensible that if a religion the size of Christianity has grown up, then they’re are likely based on at least a person who existed, for most people like Dawkins his existence as a man or none existence is unimportant, the important thing is he was not a the son of god.

    its a very difficult matter to discuss even more prove one way or the other and gets very technical based upon word meanings in Greek etc and a whole lot of other things and is not of interest to most scientists. Therefore better to say that he probably did exist, rather than commit to his not doing when you don’t have the evidence to back it up.



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  • 22
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #21 by mmurray:

    In reply to #19 by Malaidas:

    There is more than the dubious Josephus. Have a look here.

    I’m not an expert just a wikispert !

    Michael

    Yes I’ve seen the Tacticus bit, the problem is that the term Christian doesn’t necessarily refer to Jesus and his followers. There was a completely different sect called Christians during the period which had no ties to Jesus, arguments are made on this and are inconclusive, but I have to agree that a claim to the word Christian in and of itself is no evidence of Jesus.

    To back this up… a ‘Bishop’ of this church claimed that to be Christian as to be anointed with oil, no mention of Jesus or the Christ or anything else. This backs up the Christos basis for the word Christian to be honest. The word Christ had nothing to do with Jesus before his supposed mission.

    Like I said though, to truly understand all the problems, you need to read the works of an expert on this. What it comes down to however is there is no reputable evidence that Jesus existed, and a lot of evidence, circumstantial I think in many cases, but that which shows that the core elements of the dogma of Christianity can be shown in other sects at the time with no relationship to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, that could have served to create the core faith of Christianity. Plus apparently Paul didn’t believe in a physical earthly Jesus anyway, but that I don’t really accept that at the moment, the arguments are yet to sway me to that conclusion. But as he was never in the presence of Jesus anyway, I am swayed by the other arguments that he likely didn’t exist in reality.



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  • 23
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #22 by Malaidas:

    i think its a matter of default to be honest.It seems sensible that if a religion the size of Christianity has grown up, then they’re are likely based on at least a person who existed, for most people like Dawkins his existence as a man or none existence is unimportant, the important thing is he was…

    I like petermead1’s answer to this personally.

    The claim that a person, possibly called Jesus or Jeshua or some variant, wandered around preaching, was baptised by John the Baptist and was possibly crucified, isn’t an extraordinary claim, it’s mundane, and can be presumed to be probably true.

    The claim that this person was the son of God is extraordinary and is beyond reasonable belief for most people.

    To add yet another layer to this, if the first claim is mundane and thus believable, it is also believable that there could have been several preachers that fit this bill. Or perhaps several preachers who collectively make up this figure of Jesus, e.g. one who was baptised by John, one who was crucified, and one who was called Jesus.

    This, coupled with the extraordinary myths that have been tagged on to this figure or figures, can it still be said that the Jesus of the New Testament really existed? Because when it comes down to it, if this Jesus isn’t the son of God, then he’s not the Jesus from the New Testament. If he’s not even one person, or one specific person, then that’s an even more strenuous link. All we can say is that he’s a fictitious character that is somewhat, possibly very loosely, based on a possibly real person or people.

    So in light of this, I would have to say that it is in fact likely that Jesus never existed, not in any form that would be recognisable as the one of the New Testament.

    Dr Gregory House is a fictitious doctor in the TV series House M.D. He’s based on the fictitious character of Sherlock Holmes, who is in turn based on a real life surgeon by the name of Dr Joseph Bell.

    Dr Bell really existed, but Mr Holmes and Dr House never did. Would hypothetical future followers of Dr House be justified in claiming he’s real because historical accounts show that Dr Bell really existed?



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  • 24
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #24 by Seraphor:

    This is a nice answer which makes a lot of sense, the only problem though is that it is of course pure conjecture. It is certainly very possible that things happened as you say. Unfortunately without evidence we have to say that it is just an opinion, and scientifically we have to reject any truth the hypothesis, owing to lack of evidence.

    Now before anyone jumps in with ‘lack of evidence is not evidence of absence’, firstly I agree if this is a fictitious amalgamation of real basis then we would expect there to be no evidence, the character as stated didn’t exist. However in complementary to this, if we have no evidence that even the basis characters existed how can we say they existed either. Unfortunately as a society we don’t like to tell people that everything they are believing in is likely completely made up and we look to give them escape holes.



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  • 25
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #25 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #24 by Seraphor:

    This is a nice answer which makes a lot of sense, the only problem though is that it is of course pure conjecture. It is certainly very possible that things happened as you say. Unfortunately without evidence we have to say that it is just an opinion, and scientifically…

    Of course it’s conjecture, there was no fact in anything I said. (apart from the Dr House analogy at the end)

    It’s all probability. When you have no evidence that’s all you have to fall back on, and until those professional historians and theologians come to some sort of consensus that’s all we’ll ever have.



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  • 26
    achromat666 says:

    Let’s try to simplify the process a tad…

    Did a man claiming to be the son of god roam the earth around the time Christ was said to have lived? It’s certainly possible, as the idea of people making the claim is not an unusual one.

    Did someone fitting that description go through the events written in the bible (miracles aside)? Well, there’s no evidence the census that was mentioned ever took place, none of the Roman records or practices support many of the claims (including Jesus being crucified in place of Barabbas) and has been mentioned there is no contemporary records of any sort supporting any of the ‘historical’ claims. So no, nothing seems to support that.

    Is there any contemporary record or evidence of the miracles in question? Much like in the previous question, there are no records supporting any of the events, and of course any claims made by religious institutions on miracles and the like (before or since) are not likely to be taken at all seriously.

    And none of this addresses any of the books that were omitted from the NT or the numerous re-translating and re-interpreting that has been done. There are no original texts from which to draw any actual conclusions regarding what was even originally written, and no concise agreed upon volume was compiled until over 100 years after the fact, none of which are derived from a single, reliable original source.

    So, on its face the Jesus of the NT seems quite a bit less than threadbare on evidence. It’s certainly plausible that there is a historical figure that through the oral recitation (remember most people of the time could not read or write, and many of the people that passed around the books were often translating incorrectly) was made to be larger than life and suddenly was performing miracles and suffered a heroic death, only to not stay that way. Many myths were carried down through the generations this way, and it’s been put forth that many of the world’s myth may have some small fraction of truth behind them though obviously not the miraculous tripe that gets attached to it.

    Any of the claims of external contemporary sources for the events of the NT are found to not only not be contemporary, but to be second hand entirely and written years after the events in question. Neither Tacitus or Josephus lived during the events in question, and no actual evidence has been offered to support the claims of someone like Polycarp actually knowing much less talking to any of the disciples, though of course it’s considered Catholic Canon.

    Is it possible a guy named Jesus (or in Hebrew Joshua) roamed the world at that time and said stuff and did things? Sure, entirely possible.

    Is it likely that it was any of the things written in the NT? No, and certainly not in the fantastical fashion it is described in the NT.



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  • 27
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #26 by Seraphor:

    Of course it’s conjecture, there was no fact in anything I said. (apart from the Dr House analogy at the end)
    It’s all probability. When you have no evidence that’s all you have to fall back on, and until those professional historians and theologians come to some sort of consensus that’s all we’ll ever have.

    Agreed.

    Its entirely likely that this will never happen of course, and at the end of the day, as everyone with half a brain of their own realises that the biblical account is false, its merely a matter of philosophical musing anyway.



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  • 28
    Anthony Miller says:

    Well, really if you want to go on actual evidence
    http://in.christiantoday.com/articles/earliest-manuscript-of-gospel-of-mark-reportedly-found/7074.htm
    the earliest pieces of surviving text from the canonical gospels date from about the 3rd century – about the time the RCC started its attempt to make them canonical and fit their agenda. Some people believe older fragments exist. Were the originals exactly like the versions we have today? Bear in mind we are talking of the era of manual transcription. Most of the documents exist because Constantine decided to convert in the early 4th century – this meant that huge volumes of time and money were poured into copying the gospels because they became to an extent legal as well as religious documents as the laws of the Roman Empire were extensions of its religion. Before this period only fragments survive. But there is little doubt Jesus was a real person. I think some of the atheists who need to believe he didn’t exist almost as a point of faith are as bonkers as people who need to believe he was a son of God. “What evidence outside religious texts is there that he existed?” is a loaded question that is throwing away lots of the actual evidence if you ask me. Just because people are religious does not mean they were all completely deluded. A bit deluded yes… but much of what happens in the Gospels is plausible. The clues of mass hallucination and hysteria are pretty well embedded in the text for example. How many people does Jesus actually appear to after “he has risen” for example? Not that many. And then he has a habbit of dissapearing, being able to teleport himself, and not being recognised. These are clearly delusions by his followers that he is stll alive. It’s like Marian visions. When you look at them collectively its clear the same patterns of delusion and hallucination occur over and over again to the level where its all quite boring.



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  • 29
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #29 by Anthony Miller:

    Well, really if you want to go on actual evidence
    http://in.christiantoday.com/articles/earliest-manuscript-of-gospel-of-mark-reportedly-found/7074.htm
    the earliest pieces of surviving text from the canonical gospels date from about the 3rd century – about the time the RCC started its attempt to mak…

    This was probably true in the first place, but not now. The evidence makes a real claim, not because of lack of evidence, but because of evidence to the contrary,

    1) That most of the rituals associated with Christianity have sources that are external to it, and these are a core part of the faith,

    2) There’s no evidence that any of the events took place, even where you would expect to at least see some mention, in fact most of them make no sense outside of this

    3) Outside of Paul the only reputable document that states he exists may very well be a proven work of fiction, if the claims to homer can be justified

    I know a lot of it hinges on interpretations of Paul which I myself doubt which is why I stand on the fence on the issue, but you yourself are making a rather unfair claim, the claim to his existence is as weak as that to his not doing. At the end of the day we simply don;t know at the moment is the only possible answer. There is no more likelyhood that he did than he didn’t. Unless you are arguing that Acciles, Oddysius and Hercules existed as well.

    Putting it simply, remove Paul and Mark and you have absolutely no evidence of Jesus. Mark can be shown to be likely fiction, and its possible that Paul didn’t believe in an earthly Jesus. In which case where is your evidence to even consider that he existed. Lets consider Father Christmas or Jack Frost, to be seasonable. If we have no evidence, except that some people believe he existed then he is no more likely that these 2 fictitious characters to exist.

    I will accept the argument that maybe the myth grew out of 1 or more real people who have nothing to do with the stories really, although under advisement. but the idea that Jesus as described existed , even if not the son of god I find to be extremely unlikely.



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  • 30
    Anthony Miller says:

    In reply to #30 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #29 by Anthony Miller:

    Well, really if you want to go on actual evidence
    http://in.christiantoday.com/articles/earliest-manuscript-of-gospel-of-mark-reportedly-found/7074.htm
    the earliest pieces of surviving text from the canonical gospels date from about the 3rd century – about the tim…

    That any evidence exists at all suggests that something happened. “there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus’ life”Amy-Jill Levine The Historical Jesus in Context. The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physical evidence to survive from the era of manual transcription about anyone who wasn’t SOMEONE at all …therefore not suprisingly most of the physical evidence dates from the date SOMEONE decided Jesus was SOMEONE and not a nobody. So it will always be. Saying a book has no validity because it is not a 1st edition is a bit flimsy as an argument.



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  • 31
    labman says:

    There is no historical verification that Jesus Christ existed. “He” is a composite of earlier pagan gods. Plenty of literature available if you research Mythicists/ Jesus Mythology.



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  • 32
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    In reply to #30 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #29 by Anthony Miller:

    Well, really if you want to go on actual evidence
    http://in.christiantoday.com/articles/earliest-manuscript-of-gospel-of-mark-reportedly-found/7074.htm
    the earliest pieces of surviving text from the canonical gospels date from about t…

    While something may be plausible, it doesn’t mean it’s probable. It may be plausible that Jesus existed, and it may be plausible that there were various accounts of mass hallucination that were mistaken for divine miracles. However these mundane explanations are just as likely to be fictitious, especially considering that the very identity of Jesus is crucial to the faith, which makes it just as suspect as any divine claims in the books.

    How are we to decide what parts of the gospels are fiction and which parts fact? We can’t just dump everything vaguely supernatural into the fiction pile and call whatever remains fact. Mundane things can also be fictional.

    This is a bit like saying there really was a man called Billy Baggins. He was a fairly short bloke from Devon who found an old antique ring in his attic and mentioned this to Tolkein in passing one day. That’s completely plausible, that Tolkien got his inspiration from this mundane encounter, but it’s not probable. Wild rumors and theories like this can replicate like a virus, especially when all you have is word of mouth. If I had spread this Billy Baggins rumor around about 20 years ago, I’m sure there would be various sources today stating that this was the true inspiration behind the Hobbit. Then if all sources stating otherwise were destroyed by the Holy Microsoft Empire we would have no evidence to the contrary. Billy Baggins would be immortalized as the true inspiration behind a wild fantasy.

    Now, lets presume Billy Baggins did exist and was the inspiration behind The Hobbit. If I were to ask you “Did Bilbo Baggins really exist?” Would you say “Yes, but his name is Billy Baggins, and he’s a short bloke from Devon” or would you say “No, but he’s based on a short bloke called Billy Baggins from Devon”?

    As I said previously, all we have to go on is probability, and the probability that there really was a Jesus who’s life played out almost as described in the NT is next to nothing, especially his childhood which is complete fabrication, and his teenage years which are non-existent except for in apocrypha. There is so much myth and hearsay interwoven with the character that the character most likely no longer resembles the true inspiration or basis for the myth.

    Just because a real person is inspiration for a fictional character, or is the basis of a mythical character, does not mean this real person IS the character.

    Did Jesus Christ exist? No

    Did a person called Jesus on whom the character Jesus Christ was based exist? Possibly

    Was the myth of Jesus Christ based on real people and real events but not necessarily one person called Jesus? Also possibly



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  • 33
    crookedshoes says:

    Brian’s mother: He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy! Now, piss off!

    Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!

    Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.

    Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!

    Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!

    Brian: Now, fuck off!
    [silence]

    Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?



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  • 34
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #32 by labman:

    There is no historical verification that Jesus Christ existed. “He” is a composite of earlier pagan gods. Plenty of literature available if you research Mythicists/ Jesus Mythology.

    The “Mythers” as Bart Ehrman calls them are fringe theories. They are to biblical scholarship what climate change deniers are to climate science, what Creationists are to evolution and what 9/11 Truthers are to rational analysis of terrorism. Few of them have even the basic serious scholarly credentials (e.g. can read the original texts rather than translations).

    I posted this earlier but here it is again.

    Bart Ehrman: Did Jesus Exist?

    It’s ironic that the people who claim they “have no beliefs” and are “critical thinkers” end up adopting pseudoscience tactics on this issue simply because not having any historic Jesus is consistent with their atheism so they would rather believe it.

    As the OP states, Dawkins agrees that Jesus probably existed as an historical figure and the reason he believes that is because he’s a good scientist and practices the same method of critical thinking when it comes to history and scholarship as biology.



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  • 35
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    That any evidence exists at all suggests that something happened. “there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus’ life”Amy-Jill Levine The Historical Jesus in Context.

    There is only a consensus of opinion from Xtian theologians long after supposed events – just as there are stories about the “real” Hercules and the “real” Zeus in Greek mythology!

    The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physical evidence to survive from the era of manual transcription about anyone who wasn’t SOMEONE at all ..

    That is simply a misunderstanding. The bible stories make claims of large newsworthy events which Roman chroniclers would have noticed if they had happened. There are numerous records, artefacts, statues, coins, paintings etc. of other noteworthy people and events of that time. There may have been one or many more itinerant Jewish preachers called “Jesus” (or equivalent), but there is no mention of these supposed events in the extensive Roman records of the time.

    .therefore not suprisingly most of the physical evidence dates from the date SOMEONE decided Jesus was SOMEONE and not a nobody.

    What “physical evidence”? mythological tall stories of magical events are not evidence any more than the Greek myths are! There may have been some characters used as a basis for story-tellers who bore some vague resemblance to those in the myths, but that is certainly not history. There are conflicting stories from the various early Xtain sects and cults about some preacher with some followers, – just like the hundreds of other preachers wandering the Eastern Med at that time. Some may have been crucufied by the Romans as trouble-makers. Thousands of rebels were crucified by the Romans. It would seem that modern Xtians actually have the details of the cross and methods of crucifixion wrong,

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-a-stone-box-a-rare-trace-of-crucifixion/
    The position of the stake was evidence of a crucifixion technique that had not previously been known, according to museum curator David Mevorah. In the image of crucifixion made famous by Christian iconography, Jesus is pictured with both feet nailed to the front of the vertical beam of the cross. But this man’s feet had been affixed to the sides of the beam with nails hammered separately through each heel.

    His hands showed no sign of wounds, indicating that they had been tied, rather than nailed, to the horizontal bar.

    indicating the absence of any reliable eye-witness testimony to “Jesus crucifixion” .

    So it will always be. Saying a book has no validity because it is not a 1st edition is a bit flimsy as an argument.

    .. And saying it has validity without evidence for wildly outlandish and contradictory claims lacking any independent corroboration, is an even a flimsier argument!

    There is evidence of sections being mistranslated or made up at later dates, but there is no evidence of substance to support the edited version of the texts produced 300 years later as having any historical accuracy!

    @29 – What evidence outside religious texts is there that he existed?” is a loaded question that is throwing away lots of the actual evidence if you ask me.

    You have ACTUAL contemporary eye-witness evidence?????? – not made-up stuff from decades or centuries later? Please do produce it!



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  • 36
    Skeptic says:

    In reply to #35 by Red Dog:

    Few of them have even the basic serious scholarly credentials

    Hardly. Anyway, this is an appeal to authority. You should know better.

    They are to biblical scholarship what climate change deniers are to climate science,

    Bad analogy. Ancient history in no way resembles modern science. It’s largely guess work held up by scholastic inertia. Are you saying the scientific evidence for a historic Jesus is as strong as climate change? What I find interesting is people who cling feverishly to Jesus’ historicity based on very flimsy evidence even though they are atheists. It’s like they are trying to prove something.

    Personally I do think there was a central figure, but the commonality of Jesus the Christ’s central themes point to a myth.



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  • 37
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #35 by Red Dog:

    They are to biblical scholarship what climate change deniers are to climate science, what Creationists are to evolution and what 9/11 Truthers are to rational analysis of terrorism.

    Climate change has scientific evidence, as does evolution, and terrorism has plenty of contemporary sources to analyse.

    The veracity of the myth of Jesus Christ is based entirely upon the interpretation of heavily biased religious documents, impinged by centuries of censorship, hearsay and translation errors. Even the most educated biblical scholar doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. More than I do I admit, but hardly comparable to mountains of scientific evidence.



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  • 38
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #37 by Skeptic:

    In reply to #35 by Red Dog:

    Few of them have even the basic serious scholarly credentials

    Hardly. Anyway, this is an appeal to authority. You should know better.

    No it’s not and that you can say that shows you really don’t have a clue what serious research is all about. It’s no more an “appeal to authority” to say that people who can’t read ancient Greek aren’t serious bible scholars than to say people who don’t understand calculus or statistics aren’t serious climate scientists or biologists.



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  • 39
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #35 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #32 by labman:

    There is no historical verification that Jesus Christ existed. “He” is a composite of earlier pagan gods. Plenty of literature available if you research Mythicists/ Jesus Mythology.

    The “Mythers” as Bart Ehrman calls them are fringe theories. They are to biblical scholar…

    The situations really don’t compare Red Dog, in my opinion. The truth seekers about 9/11 etc are dealing with stuff for which there is reliable evidence. Those presenting the Jesus Myth are dealing with a subject for which any evidence one way or the other is very questionable. The best we can go on is conjecture as put by Seraphor.

    When you say they are fringe theologians, the problem is that theologians themselves cannot agree on this topic, except to say he probably existed as a man, without any evidence either way, As has been put, you can say what you like in conjecture on things like this, without any proof either way, its an open question.

    Now I put it again, that there is a certain amount of justification in the claim that the author of Mark, used Homer as the basis for his gospel. (I say he here as it is more likely a man writing than a woman in this period of history), if he did, this not only serious puts into question the authenticity of the life of Jesus events, (even ignoring the scientific implausibility of some of them for a second), but as homer invented Oddysius, Mark could also have readilly have invented the character Jesus.

    The problem here is that the authentic letters of Paul. Theologians would date such earlier than the gospel of Mark. Therefore any claims really hinge on these, which are a little questionable I agree. They however would hold that he believed in a heavenly Jesus revealed to him as a secret code in the bible, I do find this claim somewhat spurious. One thing we can say is that Paul never claims to be an eye witness himself, although he does claim to have spoken to Peter and James ‘brother of Jesus’. Only at one point does he mention the 12 etc, and this is likely an addition. However even if Paul doesn’t state his own basis for belief, doesn’t agree with the gospels and wasn’t an eye witness doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t exist.

    However given there is no reliable evidence for his actual life, and in fact that it doesn’t really matter except to say that people do end up believing things for no proper reason, I will say that I doubt that he actually existed, pending evidence to the contrary.

    I say again here, most scientists, Dawkins included, don’t really consider this question properly, because it really doesn’t matter if Jesus the man existed or not.If he was not the Son of God as the bible maintains, then even if he existed, the bible is still a load of cods wallop. Adding in names in like this is just ‘appealing to authority’. It doesn’t matter who believes what, what matters are the grounds upon which it is believed which is to say evidence. As it happens I cannot read ancient Greek etc, I can;t even read modern Greek. So any studies I do depend on reading the points of view of several scholars from opposing sides and then drawing logical conclusions based upon the nature of the claims, their basic sense and the relative probabilities of the each of them being correct.



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  • 40
    Malaidas says:

    whilst we are at this lets throw some other spurious characters into the mix:

    1. The Buddha

    2. The Prophet Mohammed

    3. King Solomon

    4. Abraham



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  • 41
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #27 by achromat666:

    Let’s try to simplify the process a tad…

    Did a man claiming to be the son of god roam the earth around the time Christ was said to have lived? It’s certainly possible, as the idea of people making the claim is not an unusual one.

    As with the wandering preachers with disciples – there is no shortage of claimants or claims with various levels of probability made by their followers!

    List of messiah claimants

    Many were executed by various authorities! Others would undoubtedly qualify for restraint in some mental institution.



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  • 42
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    Now Alan4Discussion has already made a very powerful answer to your post but I wish to add my own as this was addressed to me

    The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physical evidence to survive from the era of manual transcription about anyone who wasn’t SOMEONE at all …therefore not suprisingly most of the physical evidence dates from the date SOMEONE decided Jesus was SOMEONE and not a nobody. So it will always be. Saying a book has no validity because it is not a 1st edition is a bit flimsy as an argument.

    This really doesn’t matter, if we don’t have reliable evidence for something you cannot say that it is true, simple rational fact. This holds here as much as anywhere else.

    however lets for a moment consider your claim. You say that evidence only started when someone decided he was a somebody… OK lets accept this for a second. On what grounds did they suddenly decide he was special? How can we tell the difference between that person simply making the person up and it being based on a real person? Furthermore if they were not writing in a contemporary context, how can we say for sure that the writer knew if the character was real or fiction even if he was honestly writing.

    The Cargo Cults show us just how quickly a myth can grow into reality, and furthermore how quickly the existence of a stated founder can be become unknown, even in this day and age. Record keeping simply wasn’t the same back then, so how could a later author authenticate his/her claims, if he/she wasn’t around at the time. The only 2 options are (1) he/she relied on hearsay or (2) he/she relied on other documents. The former is not acceptable scientific evidence and the latter is unproven as we don’t have access to such documents. Indeed only 1 can even be conjectured… That of Q, which may or may not have actually existed.

    We come back to Paul, he is the only writer that can be said to have been writing a few years after the supposed death of Jesus. The thing is as he isn’t an eye witness, and if we are to believe this (although I think this is in Acts not Paul’s letters themselves) was converted by a vision from Jesus on the road to Damascus, there is no causal link between the supposed physical Jesus and Paul, save that he met with Peter and James and we have no reliable written works from them to go on. Mark wrote about them (perhaps), however he wasn’t contemporary, just the first gospel writer, universally thought to be later than AD 60 or so, although he precise date is the subject of debate.

    The fact is we have no physical evidence to go on and no reliable reason to suppose that the 2 earliest authors did either! So why do we believe that they are authentic accounts? We shouldn’t!



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  • 43
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    The Historical Jesus in Context. The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physical evidence to survive from the era of manual transcription about anyone who wasn’t SOMEONE at all …therefore not suprisingly most of the physical evidence dates from the date SOMEONE decided Jesus was SOMEONE and not a nobody.

    That would be after about 300 hundred years of story telling by small rival sects who were a tiny percentage of the population! http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/gods.html – While most Romans worshipped various other gods in the first century.

    The Roman Xtian establishment was busy manufacturing “evidence” once Xtianity became a tool of the empire. Constantine’s mother Helena (empress), was sent to find evidence of the “true cross” – about 300years after supposed events – and was conveniently proclaimed to have found it!! (We are not told how she would know this mundane item from the thousands of other crosses used for Roman executions, or why the wood had not rotted away.)

    There is of course evidence for existence of Empress Helena – records – coins, towns named after her, etc.

    Helena (empress)

    Saint Helena or Saint Helen (Latin: Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta; c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great, an important figure in the history of Christianity. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she discovered the True Cross of Jesus’s crucifixion.

    Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.[7] Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius’ “Breviarium,” record that she came from a low background.



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  • Well consider the evidence for hobbits, lots of people alive today have hairy feet and the dog down the road is called Bilbo. Apparently about one million guys alive today (living mainly in Mexico? ) are called Jesus, so there may have been a few around 2100 years ago. Did any of the ancient dead Jesus’s perform thaumaturgical experiments? Possibly so. But none were successful because the physical laws that controlled the Cosmos then are the same as they are now. Enough said.



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  • 45
    Mr DArcy says:

    Having read through the thread so far, it would appear that the evidence for Jesus “outside the new testament” is pretty dam thin. Josephus, an obvious forgery. Pliny, Hmm hardly convincing. Tacitus, again underwhelming.



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  • 46
    Mr DArcy says:

    Anyone who knows anything about Christianity knows it was started as a religion of the slaves of the Roman Empire. A reaction against the appalling conditions of their existences. The Roman Empire was based upon slavery. Whatever else Christianity was open to all comers. Unlike the various Roman gods, you didn’t have to buy your way in. You could believe and be saved, because there was the afterlife coming where the meek and humble would take over the Earth. It gave the slaves some sort of hope for the future. In hindsight Spartacus would have been a far better “Messiah” to have adopted, as the founder of a religion of hope. At least Spartacus was a historical figure.

    Frankly all the evidence for an actual Jesus, seems to be from his followers or from “doctored” accounts given by non Christians who were later on the scene. But as we know well, Christians never lie ! The first hard copy version of Tacitus’ description is apparently from the 1100s !

    Hardly the most inspiring way for the creator of the universe to announce His presence among us !

    Ah yes humble birth, mysterious ways, – that explains everything !

    I have absolutely no doubt that there was some sort of charismatic preacher who claimed to be the son of God, and who was crucified by the Romans. Probably there were many of them. The religion of hope would keep generating them. IMO one particular myth took hold and has been passed on down through the ages.



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  • 47
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #47 by Mr DArcy:

    Anyone who knows anything about Christianity knows it was started as a religion of the slaves of the Roman Empire

    No it didn’t. The original Christians were jews and they weren’t slaves for the most part. there was an interesting book on this by reza aslan called zealot. he claims that the first big schism in christianity was between people like james the brother of jesus who wanted to continue to follow jewish laws and paul who wanted to convert more non-jews and didn’t want to bring along the jewish laws because it was a barrier to converting them.

    aslan made a pretty compelling argument but regardless of his hypothesis the first followers of jesus were jews there isn’t much debate on that.



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  • 48
    Skeptic says:

    In reply to #48 by Red Dog:

    there was an interesting book on this by reza aslan called zealot. he claims that the first big schism in christianity was between people like james the brother of jesus who wanted to continue to follow jewish laws and paul who wanted to convert more non-jews and didn’t want to bring along the jewish laws because it was a barrier to converting them.

    Can he read ancient greek? /s



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  • In reply to #49 by Skeptic:

    Can he read ancient greek? /s

    Yes. However, much of his position is still speculation, and it is doubtful that even if true evidence will ever be conclusive. He does paint a picture of the first century that is probably much closer to what did happen than the Sunday School stories that people usually get. We don’t exactly know how Christianity got started, but if you assume Jesus was a real person with followers and was killed, it was still quite some time before a group branched off from the Jewish cult, and dead Jesus was deified by people who were mostly from the Greek speaking community. Remember, the Jews were strict monotheists; deifying a messiah (“anointed one” like King David) was so against Jewish theology that getting takers from that community was slow going, whereas deification of a formerly living person was common in any number of the mystery cults of the Greek speaking community. That is where the concept of the “Christ” was developed and the theology fought over until winners wrote the scriptures, after the fact.



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  • 50
    Anthony Miller says:

    In reply to #43 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    Now Alan4Discussion has already made a very powerful answer to your post but I wish to add my own as this was addressed to me

    The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physical evidence to survive from t…

    It’s not plausible that someone just made up the stories from all 4 gospels out of nothing. Even fictional characters like Bilbo Baggins require real life models. Many fictional characters are based on real people. You could logically argue that Jesus is a composite character … I doubt the writers of the gospels multi-sourced their stories in the way a professional journalist would do … but it is implausible to me reading the book that there was no original model(s) for this person because you cannot just create a successful fictional character out of a complete vacuum. It’s clear to me that there was someone (maybe more than one) person at the center of these stories. The stories are selected. John is very explicit about the fact that his book is a piece of edited propaganda “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” The problem with the Bible isn’t so much that it is bollocks …it is that people dont read the parts that tell you outright it is bollocks.

    Also the question of “did he exist?” and “what physical evidence is there?” is not the same as “do you believe what it says?” and “is it true?”. I’ve recently been reading a book by the Bow Group on David Cameron’s Conservatives as a piece of research. The fact it is biased and designed to try to convince the reader of a load of bollocks doesn’t mean that it cant be used as a piece of evidence to suggest that David Cameron is a real person. There’s such a thing as trying too hard…



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  • 51
    Mr DArcy says:

    In reply to #47 by Mr DArcy:

    Anyone who knows anything about Christianity knows it was started as a religion of the slaves of the Roman Empire

    No it didn’t

    Perhaps I phrased it badly. The Roman Empire was based upon slavery. Without the slaves there would have been no Empire. Yes Christianity has strong roots in Judaism and whoever the original founders of the religion were, the conditions were ripe for the religion to spread among the slaves. And it did spread far and wide, and was open to all comers. The original founder may well have been Jesus of Nazareth, I have no idea. What the OP is asking for is evidence of the man from outside of the NT. As I see it, there is very little.



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  • 52
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #51 by Anthony Miller:

    In reply to #43 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    Now Alan4Discussion has already made a very powerful answer to your post but I wish to add my own as this was addressed to me

    The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you wouldn’t generally expect much physi…

    I think this is going around in circles now, it seems people arguing against each other here are all saying the same thing.
    Nobody is claiming that the myth of Jesus isn’t based in reality, but there is a difference between saying “Jesus was a real person” and “Jesus was based on a real person or real people”.

    Jesus probably did not exist, not because he’s a complete fiction, but because whoever the character was based on likely bares little resemblance to the final fiction. In the same way that Dr House is not Dr Bell, or the latest incarnation of Sherlock is not the same Sherlock written by Arthur Conan Doyle.



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  • 53
    labman says:

    Red Dog #35.
    I completely disagree with you on this. Although I don’t expect to convince you, you can research even non mythicists such as Hayyim ben Yehosha, Jim Walker, Barbara G Walker, as well as the academic mythicists : Richard Carrier, D.M. Murdock, and Earl Doherty.
    I suspect that being a student of ancient Greek does come in handy? In no way can these people be equivalent to “pseuo-science”……Look for the evidence….



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  • 54
    Timothy McNamara says:

    The question is irrelevant, when posed to those without subscription to ‘his’ importance. Upon deducing his purported acts to be impossible, what can be gained from research other than perpetuating a cultural myth?



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  • 55
    dennis.rowe.58 says:

    Oh how the human primate loves to take its self serious. Perhaps we should put on our anti-bullshit specs and look back. I love Dr Dawkins’ idea, that if Jesus was alive today, he would probably be an atheist. I will postulate that he existed, and may have been an atheist then. Perhaps he was raised in the jewish faith, was very “bright”, came into contact with “wise men from the east”, and was possibly exposed to Hellenistic philosophy. He became a harsh critic of his native religion, made many enemies of the hierarchy, many friends of the common man. The hierarchy conspired to have him assassinated. As revenge, his followers conspired to steal the body, then start the rumor, that the jewish high council had assassinated their own messiah. We all know what rumor mills are capable of doing. Add 2,000 years of bullshit on top of it, wallah!! Modern christianity!!! So, I will also postulate (and this will probably get me in so much trouble with christians and atheists) that Christopher Hitchens could have been the return of christ (I mean no disrespect to Mr Hitchens, or his family). I’m just saying, that is the kind of man Jesus “could” have been.



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  • 56
    rowe1rn says:

    Oh how the human primate loves to take its self serious. Perhaps we should put on our anti-bullshit specs and look back. I love Dr Dawkins’ idea, that if Jesus was alive today, he would probably be an atheist. I will postulate that he existed, and may have been an atheist then. Perhaps he was raised in the jewish faith, was very “bright”, came into contact with “wise men from the east”, and was possibly exposed to Hellenistic philosophy. He became a harsh critic of his native religion, made many enemies of the hierarchy, many friends of the common man. The hierarchy conspired to have him assassinated. As revenge, his followers conspired to steal the body, then start the rumor, that the jewish high council had assassinated their own messiah. We all know what rumor mills are capable of doing. Add 2,000 years of bullshit on top of it, wallah!! Modern christianity!!! So, I will also postulate (and this will probably get me in so much trouble with christians and atheists) that Christopher Hitchens could have been the return of christ (I mean no disrespect to Mr Hitchens, or his family). I’m just saying, that is the kind of man Jesus “could” have been.



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  • 57
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #55 by Timothy McNamara:

    The question is irrelevant, when posed to those without subscription to ‘his’ importance. Upon deducing his purported acts to be impossible, what can be gained from research other than perpetuating a cultural myth?

    Again, people who claim to support science and critical thinking sounding like creationists. Creationists say the same thing about understanding the origin of humanity. What difference does it really make? Can we make a better smartphone with that knowledge? Well no and while I will totally agree that there is a lot more practical value from understanding biology and physics than ancient scholarship one of my values is that knowledge in itself is a good thing. Jesus had an enormous effect on western civilization. Understanding the actual story (as best we can) may yield some interesting insights. Why was this story so meme-able? Why where the more egalitarian and non-sexist versions of the Gospels (some of the Gnostic gospels) considered so heretical and why do most Christians not even know they exist? Why and how was a message of love and brotherhood transformed into a dogma of hate and exploitation and many other interesting questions.



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  • 58
    Mr DArcy says:

    Red Dog:

    Why and how was a message of love and brotherhood transformed into a dogma of hate and exploitation and many other interesting questions.

    Ah ! Now that would be an entirely different topic for discussion ! Can I suggest you post it ? One brief answer might be along the lines of “because the religion of the slaves became the religion of the slave owners” ? Instead of a religion of freedom from misery it became a religion of oppression and mastery. But that’s another whole discussion.



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  • In reply to #57 by Red Dog:

    Why and how was a message of love and brotherhood transformed into a dogma of hate and exploitation and many other interesting questions.>

    This aspect of the NT has intrigued me for a long time. If notions such as turning the other cheek and loving your neighbour as yourself were embraced widely after CE400, why then the degree of barbarity practised in an effort to spread the word? We get a vivid picture of the life in those times from Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World”. Could it be that only lip service was paid to these Christian ideals?

    Greater emphasis seems to be placed on the more humane lessons from the NT, in current thinking, though the old barbarism comes to the fore regularly.



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  • 60
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

    However, it is possible to have an opinion on whether he existed or not…

    Opinion? Based on probability?

    …and the strong academic consensus is that he did.

    Based on bias in a lot of cases and misapplication of the historical methods due to undeserved respect.

    Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman summarized the reasons in a book which is quite good and which he talks about here:
    Bart Ehrman: Did Jesus Exist?

    An atrocious book which is way below the authors credentials and past works in which he makes stuff up and contradicts himself. Very disappointing indeed.



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  • 61
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #6 by Tatslotto:

    Jesus could have existed as a person that was preaching and healing the sick, who later got crucified. All of that is probable.

    Why? Particularly when you go on to say…

    As for the New Testament – it’s literature at best, a collection of stories that gets pass down from person to person. It has so many authors, can anyone be so sure to say that all of the authors are writing based on historical facts?

    At best, we can only be agnostic about the historical Jesus, it is irrational to say more in light of the situation as it stands today. Consensus of historians, especially from many with bias, is not the same as say, the expert consensus for AGW for example.

    The consensus up to and including the 1970’s was that Moses was an historical figure, that is not the case today…for the same reasons that more and more scholars are starting to question the historical Jesus as made up also.

    But just because it’s possible he existed doesn’t mean the rest of what the New Testament said about him is true.

    As could be said for Sherlock Holmes…not to many believe in an historical Sherlock although the Conan Doyle character may have been loosely based on a conglomeration of figures both real and fictitious.



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  • 62
    Ignorant Amos says:

    In reply to #8 by Michael Fisher:

    My apologies for the Sherlock analogy, I did what I often condemn, comment before reading the whole thread. This subject is close to my heart at the moment as I’ve been reading up on the subject extensively recently. I can assure you it was not my intention to plagiarise the idea, I use it myself regularly.

    Sherlock Holmes anology

    Best I read the whole thread now before making even more of an eejit of myself…”no surprise there” I here Red Dog think to himself…}80)~



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  • 63
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #59 by Nitya:

    In reply to #57 by Red Dog:

    Why and how was a message of love and brotherhood transformed into a dogma of hate and exploitation and many other interesting questions.>

    This aspect of the NT has intrigued me for a long time. If notions such as turning the other cheek and loving your neighbour as you…

    Exactly. Keep in mind though that the way the Bible is usually taught to people is quite different than what the original authors had in mind. So “love thy neighbor” (which of course is in the old testament) was not about universal love of all humanity but about loving your tribesmen who were of the same religion, i.e., it was about loving other Jews not humanity as a whole.

    And that book I mentioned Zealot has some interesting interpretations of the New Testament. For example Aslan thinks that the story of the good samaritan is not a parable about love for humanity but rather a dig by the gospel writers at the privilidged class of Jewish priests who had lots of power and money at the time and were seen by many Jews (including Jesus and his brother James according to Aslan) as corrupt and having perverted the ideals of Judaism.

    According to Aslan the Samritans weren’t just outsiders to the Jews. They were the people the Jews of the time hated the most. So if we were looking for analogies to current US culture the Samaritans weren’t like Canadians to the US but more like Al Queda or the Taliban, the most out group that there was hated even more than the Roman overlords. So the point of the story is “look even a disgusting Samaritan is still closer to God than those hypocritical priests”.



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  • 64
    Ken Browning says:

    “Jesus could have existed as a person that was preaching and healing the sick, who later got crucified. All of that is probable.” – Tatslotto #6

    “It’s all probability. When you have no evidence that’s all you have to fall back on….” Seraphor #26

    Historical claims are probability claims. Something is not probable unless it crosses an evidential threshold. Whether or not a wandering rabbi named Jesus existed may or may not be probably established but such a figure who is also the basis for the biblical accounts has no (virtually) or evidential basis apart from the Gospels as far as I can see. And that’s problematical to say the least.

    One of the growing problems for traditional scholarship is literary criticism. A key argument states that before trying to make arguments based in the historical reasonability of some factoid one should pay close attention to the genre of the document. The problem is that the Gospels do not appear to fit the mold of the other documents we have from the general time period that are know to be from an historical genre. It is possible that the Gospel’s genre is (using the singular here because the Gospels are clearly interdependent) not primarily historical in nature but rather theologically motivated fiction. Even if this interpretation in not probable, neither is the traditional approach and yet the subject is treated by the mainstream as if settled. The mere fact that a work contains many probable historical figures, events, locations, etc. is routine and even necessary for scene believability in historical fiction including such from that time period.



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  • 65
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    I think there used to be accounts of Him from His life, but they were destroyed by the early Xians as heresy.

    Socrates probably existed too, but I’ve never thought it mattered.



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  • 66
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #64 by Ken Browning:

    The mere fact that a work contains many probable historical figures, events, locations, etc. is routine and even necessary for scene believability in historical fiction including such from that time period.

    So kind of like claiming there must be a Platform 9 3/4 and thus Harry Himself just because we know that there was a Kings Cross Station.

    Michael



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  • 67
    Timothy McNamara says:

    In reply to #57 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #55 by Timothy McNamara:
    Again, people who claim to support science and…

    So, supporting science and critical thinking is done by spending time studying the main character in the Christian holy book?. Or did you liken me to a creationist for the absolutism I displayed? Do I find the investigation of Jesus’ life a worthwhile time expenditure as a member of this site? Absolutely not. “Knowledge for knowledge’s sake” is used as a guise for noble academic priority in some bizarre contexts, I must say. As for the questions making up the latter half of your post, those that aren’t obvious to most, are bland rhetoric.



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  • 68
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #67 by Timothy McNamara:

    So, supporting science and critical thinking is done by spending time studying the main character in the Christian holy book?. Or did you liken me to a creationist for the absolutism I displayed? Do I find the investigation of Jesus’ life a worthwhile time expenditure as a member of this site? Absolutely not. “Knowledge for knowledge’s sake” is used as a guise for noble academic priority in some bizarre contexts, I must say. As for the questions making up the latter half of your post, those that aren’t obvious to most, are bland rhetoric.

    You are like a creationist in the following ways:

    1) You prioritize knowledge based on whether it fits in with your preconceived and strongly held beliefs or not. Those ideas that do fit into your belief structure you are far more inclined to believe. Those that don’t you automatically are highly skeptical of.

    2) You scorn academics and the pursuit of knowledge if they conflict with your strongly held beliefs. Just as a creationist will scorn Prof. Dawkins.

    And the point about critical thinking is not that the ONLY place it applies is to analysis of ancient texts. If you read some of my other comments I think it’s fair to say I have a fairly broad range of interests and am capable of holding my own on many topics. But rather critical thinking should apply to ALL kinds of knowledge INCLUDING the analysis of ancient texts.



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  • 69
    Timothy McNamara says:

    In reply to #68 by Red Dog:

    In stead of spouting “You do this, you do this, you do this” as if I knew you, I will state your post is incorrect. I strive to speak against preconceived beliefs. I scorned only (my perceived) time wastage by anyone giving even a fraction of a lifetime, to such a subject, a subject of no benefit to anyone. Clicking my avatar might reveal a history of comments, which might likewise dampen your hostilities. I guess I’m not the sort of atheist that feels it worth while knit-picking theology, nor replacing scientific study with “Stuff that happened in one religious circle before it ruined a species”. (Say that quote with your tongue between your front teeth, to get my purpose). My mother has been a history and english teacher, well studied in theology since the 60s. I teach her a thing or two nowadays regarding reason and science. I am fuelled by evidence, not “belief”, contrary to your accusation.



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  • 70
    Cootabux says:

    I don’t understand any scholars who are convinced jesus really existed. I mean, it isn’t unreasonable to think it was very possible the bible jesus existed. I just don’t believe he was the son og god, did miracles, etc. And many people named jesus supposedy existed at that time.
    What started me in thinking that the jesus bibe character may have been a fabrication, is the findings in NT gospels. Why would the author of Mark plagiarize the writings of Homer to embellish his jesus story, if in fact the author “did” use the writings of Homer, which there seems to be reasonable evidence for the plagiarism. Also, theres evidence that Matthew’s author manipulated and mistated OT passages which he tried to make look like prophecies claiming jesus as the Messiah. Also, very interestingly, after the resurrection there was no tomb identity, nor tomb veneration…not for 300 years! I find that to be unbelievible, especially in that there was supposed to be the creator of the universe in that tomb for 3 days. Can’t convince me that there wouldn’t have been a big deal made about that. Then we also have the well known issues with the bible having no originals…not one. I find that very strange, to say the least. Also, no known authors of any bible text. That’s a bit weird too, IMO.
    If jesus, as depictted in the bible, was real, why all those peculiar problems? It just seems to me that we’d have more reliable evidence, and I would not expect to find all these strange problems with what we have found in relation to him.



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  • The diary of Josephus, the Roman centurion, is sometimes used as proof of the existence of Jesus. Most people don’t write fictional accounts in their own diaries or historical accounts unless they are truly delusional. That’s not to say that Josephus wasn’t. But, he was also a historian and a scholar who wrote extensively about Jewish history, some of which, I’m sure, lines up with archeological data that has since been gathered and verified. I don’t think many people deny that Jesus lived. It’s whether or not he was a god that is in question. As for the new testament being considered “historical evidence,” its copies are no more than just artifacts (like the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.). The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is an artifact but that doesn’t mean that any of the mysticism contained within it is based in fact, but an entire society based their beliefs on it and built the great pyramids believing that its words and rituals worked. The scholars who agree that Jesus existed are most likely right, but he wasn’t a god. He was probably just either a nutter, or a con-artist. It should not bother you at all that a Jew named Jesus, who claimed to be god, existed. If you visit any local mental institution, you will meet several gods. Perhaps even some who are so deluded, they would rather be killed than deny it.



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  • 72
    Stephen Mynett says:

    In reply to #71 by Xenot:

    The diary of Josephus, the Roman centurion, is sometimes used as proof of the existence of Jesus.

    Part of the Flavium Josephus is definately a forgery, this has been shown by a succession of scolars. Exactly how much of Josephus’ account is his work and not the work of others is open to debate but I would not consider it to be of much use in an academic context.



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  • 73
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #71 by Xenot:

    The diary of Josephus, the Roman centurion, is sometimes used as proof of the existence of Jesus. Most people don’t write fictional accounts in their own diaries or historical accounts unless they are truly delusional. That’s not to say that Josephus wasn’t. But, he was also a historian and a scholar who wrote extensively about Jewish history, some of which, I’m sure, lines up with archeological data that has since been gathered and verified.

    Surely the problem is that, just as with the Bible and most ancient texts, what we don’t know what Josephus wrote.

    Josephus wrote all of his surviving works after his establishment in Rome (c. AD 71) under the patronage of the Flavian Emperor Vespasian. As is common with ancient texts, however, there are no surviving extant manuscripts of Josephus’ works that can be dated before the 11th century, and the oldest of these are all Greek minuscules, copied by Christian monks.[60] (Jews did not preserve the writings of Josephus because they considered him to be a traitor.[61])

    wikipedia

    I don’t think many people deny that Jesus lived. It’s whether or not he was a god that is in question.

    Actually for me it’s the reverse. I am 99.999% sure he wasn’t a god so that isn’t an interesting question. Whether there was a person called Jesus the New Testament is built around, whether it is a complete myth or whether Jesus the character in the New Testament was an amalgam of sayings of various wandering preachers from around that time etc these I find interesting questions. My suspicion is that the only sensible answer is we don’t know. Not a popular answer for those calling themselves Christians.

    Michael



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  • 74
    Malaidas says:

    In reply to #53 by Seraphor: also Anthony Miller

    In reply to #51 by Anthony Miller:

    In reply to #43 by Malaidas:

    In reply to #31 by Anthony Miller:

    Now Alan4Discussion has already made a very powerful answer to your post but I wish to add my own as this was addressed to me

    The question “what PHYSICAL evidence exists” is slightly loaded as you…

    All discussions on this topic seem to go round in circles. The problem is there is so little to go on to form a rational argument.My stand point is very much that if he existed at all, the stories of the gospels, at very least Mark, Matthew and Luke bear little or no resemblance to the facts. I claim this based upon the fact that I find ample argument to the fictional nature of Mark and that in turn means the other 2 synoptic gospels. John is separate, but written later, how much later is the subject of some conjecture, but certainly later.

    Paul is also separate and also earlier than any of the gospels and I think that any discussion of the reality of Jesus hinges on these.

    Any argument that he existed based upon the fact that there is so much written about him, I find dubious. The same can be said for King Arthur and the Court of Camelot. The Greek heroes and gods etc. For this reason I will say that it is possible he and much of these are based superficially on real people for inspiration but that I would strongly believe that such a relationship is probably very weak indeed.



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  • 75
    keebostick says:

    You need to distinguish between Jesus the purely historical character on the one hand and the Gospel Jesus character described in the New Testament on the other. There is a fair bit of evidence to support the existence of a historical Jesus who was in fact crucified in Jerusalem according to the Jewish historian Josephus. However, this historical Jesus is NOT the Gospel Jesus referred to in the New Testament. The only “evidence” for this Gospel Jesus character is that found in the New Testament itself.



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  • 76
    achromat666 says:

    In reply to #75 by keebostick:

    You need to distinguish between Jesus the purely historical character on the one hand and the Gospel Jesus character described in the New Testament on the other. There is a fair bit of evidence to support the existence of a historical Jesus who was in fact crucified in Jerusalem according to the Jew…

    This appears curious considering all of the info just given in recent postings on this thread about Josephus, but I’ll respond anyway…

    As has been mentioned in this thread earlier, no one has evidence of a crucified Jew that the NT refers to as Jesus. Josephus did not even live during Jesus’ presumed lifetime and neither did Tacitus or anyone else that claims to know. No one during the time Jesus was said to have lived has any record or any evidence of substantiating even the most meager of claims from the NT.

    For something like a crucifixion which weren’t done in secret, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at Roman records as they were quite meticulous about them?

    And evidence for something having happened or someone having lived needs a lot more than a NT reference, so it would be more reasonable to say there is no actual evidence for the Christ of the NT.

    So while a historical figure from which the biblical figure is based is possible (however slightly) Josephus is not really the source to rely upon. Was there a Pontius Pilate that made the call to crucify a person named Jesus? Where’s the record of that event? Was a murderer named Barabas released? We know the census the NT calls for didn’t happen, and to my knowledge there were no infant murders to reflect the events chronicled in the bible.

    Rather than rely on the hearsay testimony of someone that wasn’t even alive when the person in question lived it would make far more sense to look for records and information from his lifetime. Josephus cannot provide that.



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  • 77
    keebostick says:

    As already indicated in earlier responses, you need to distinguish between Jesus the purely historical character on the one hand and the Gospel Jesus character described in the New Testament on the other. There is a fair bit of historical evidence to support the existence of a historical Jesus who was in fact crucified in Jerusalem according to the Jewish historian Josephus. However, this historical Jesus is NOT the Gospel Jesus referred to in the New Testament. The only “evidence” for this Gospel Jesus character is that found in the New Testament itself. I deal with this distinction in more detail in my blog found at http://keebostick.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/could-christianity-have-evolved-without-gods-help-2/ Hope it’s helpful and informative.



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  • 78
    achromat666 says:

    In reply to #77 by keebostick:

    As already indicated in earlier responses, you need to distinguish between Jesus the purely historical character on the one hand and the Gospel Jesus character described in the New Testament on the other. There is a fair bit of historical evidence to support the existence of a historical Jesus who w…

    As already indicated in earlier responses, Josephus is not a solid authority on the subject of either a historical or biblical Jesus. As it has been mentioned here that some of those very texts are in question:

    Josephus wrote all of his surviving works after his establishment in Rome (c. AD 71) under the patronage of the Flavian Emperor Vespasian. As is common with ancient texts, however, there are no surviving extant manuscripts of Josephus’ works that can be dated before the 11th century, and the oldest of these are all Greek minuscules, copied by Christian monks.[60] (Jews did not preserve the writings of Josephus because they considered him to be a traitor.[61])

    So much like the NT itself we actually don’t know what Josephus wrote and certainly can’t use that as evidence of anything without verifying that just to start with.

    My point which you appear to be overlooking is that there is no such thing as an authority on the ‘historical Jesus’. All of the evidence for him to have even existed are threadbare from all sources, and none of it is contemporary to when either historical of biblical Jesus was said to have lived.

    So unless your blog covers the issues that have been mentioned including what I just repeated from an mmurray’s earlier post you have to do more than just say Josephus gives evidence to support anything.



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  • 79
    Markovich says:

    To argue the non-existence of Jesus is an intellectual cul-de-sac for persons too much concerned with literal Christianity. There is much more reason to suppose that an historical Jesus existed than that he did not. He is mentioned in Josephus, for example. But it matters not a jot in the grand debate between materialism and spiritualism.



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