Greetings again Iason, and I'll commend you on your research and skilled debate before I take exception to your conclusions. I'm looking forward to
seeing you around me more often.
I'll also offer a quick disclaimer that because this is not a subject I am particularly passionate about, and therefore although I have taken the
time to do just a little research and present what I believe is a reasonable arguement, I will not even be attempting to match you for volume of
sources. I hope you'll be as tollerant of my limited scholarship in this area as I would be of yours if we engaged on an issue which I had done
extensive reading on.
So with the formalities out of the way, gentleman go to your corners and come out swinging. *DING*
Originally posted by Iasion
The evidence shows that -
* sometime 70-100 or so G.Mark was written
* as spiritual literature (not a "lie", not history)
* there is NO CLAIM in the Gospels that "these events transpired 40 years ago"
No explicit claim that they happened about 40 years ago, although the naming of officials including the chief priests that yeah certainly would have
bracketed the event into a certain timeframe, would it not?
The intent of the gospels as "spiritual literature" is never expressed in any way that I am aware of. There is no disclaimer that these are but
illustrations. The gospels speak of supposedly historical events in a matter of fact way, and would in fact be a tremendous lie if they proved
But what IS CLEARer is when the Gospel stories became known to Christians.
Consider the early Christian writings which show NO KNOWLEDGE of the Gospel events:
* Paul (50s)
* Colossians (70s?)
* James (80s)
* 1 John (80s?)
* 2 Thess. (90s)
* Eph. (90s)
* 1 Peter (90s)
* Rev. (90s)
* 1 Clement (90s)
* Jude (100s)
* Didakhe (c.100)
* Pastorals (110s?)
* 2,3 John (120s?)
I am not familiar with the extra-cannonical works you mention, but the cannonical epistles you mention do not retell the gospel in its entirety
because that is not their purpose. Those are letters between believers and seem to indicate that there was indeed a group of people organized around
some belief relating to Jesus. If the dates are as you say then clearly there was a church by the 80s AD.
Then we have the first scant mentions of Gospel like elements with e.g. Barnabas and Ignatius in early 2nd century. Then we have the first
mentions of Gospel-like documents with Papias c.130
You have already directly contradicted this above with your dating of Mark between 70-100 AD. Your attempts to push the gospels nearly into the mid
second century (and thus do the same with the formation of a church) are now contradicting the evidence offered by Jospehus (Jewish Antiquities, 94
AD, and before you contest it you should know there is an un-doctored Arab version which omits all praise) and Tacitus (Annals cease with the evens of
66AD and can not post-date Tactius' death in 117AD.)
How can late first century historical documents take note of a religion that you say didn't really grow or recieve its core teachings until the early
to mid second century? I am inclined to believe it's because Mark predates both of those histories, as do several epistles you mentioned which do
refer to Jesus heavily.
The fact that the Gospel events were not known even to CHRISTIAN writers until about a CENTURY after the alleged events (after 2 wars and
several generations, after the Temple and the whole of Jerusalem had been destroyed) shows they were legendary, not historical.
Again you are forgetting your own admission of the dating of Mark, and you are assuming that simply because nobody has repeated an entire gospel
verbatim that they had no knowledge, which is ridiculous. Do you believe that the early church was gathered around a completely hollow name to which
no history was ascribed, because we have it on good authority that there was a church AT LEAST in the 80s and 90s AD.
There ARE specific claims the Gospel were invented, but of course Christian apologists are rarely aware of these facts.
Early refutations of Christianity
The words and phrases used by early writers to refer to Christians and Christianity include :
"fables" "lie" "myths" "superstition" "empty rumour"
"alter the originals over and over" "invented"
This is not the sign of a new truth being accepted - it is obviously the EXACT OPPOSITE - a wacky new cult, initially mostly ignored, sometimes
ridiculed and rejected with dismissive comments.
Red herring, now we're talking about the truth of the gospels when the subject was simply the historical existence of a person named Jesus upon whom
a religion was based. The very people who call Chrisitianity every type of false and negative thing also acknowledge one who called himself Christus
as the founder of the order.
Now here's the funny part, because I'm an honest person and I'm not here just to press dogma. Although the sources you name do not explicitly refer
to any controversy over the existence of Jesus, 2 John 1:7 does acknowledge that at that time there were so-called false teaching claiming that Jesus
had not come in the flesh. Therefore, I have to surrender that particular point, although I believe your interpretation of the histories to be flawed
and that in all likelihood the historicty of Christ was generally accepted towards the end of the first century. There was a controversy, but
apparently one in which the historians favored the Christian side, that their founder had indeed lived.
I've skipped a few quots on responses to Christianity because they only demonstrate that people didn't like or agree with Christianity. They come
from people who spoke of Jesus as a real person and made no mention of any controversy on that particular fact. In light of 2 John 1:7 I can't argue
that those historians were necessarily right. The presence of a controversy within the church puts the issue of Christs existence in question. If the
historians are to be referred to as evidence however, they serve the Christian arguement because they seem to believe that Jesus lived, and do not
seem to consider the arguement over his existence to be noteworthy.
Later on, when Christianity and the Gospels first rose to prominence, they DID receive detailed rebuttals.
(quote removed for brevity by Vagabond)
Celsus' attack was so damaging to the church, that they attempted to erase it from history, we only have quotes of it because of angry Christians who
answered his critique.
Detailed rebuttals of which we have no details because we only know of them from the quotes offered by Christian responses, correct? Nothing in the
quote you have given offers any material challenge to the existence of a person named Jesus, but simply claims with no support whatsoever that the
religion is "clearly" based on lies. It seems highly unlikely that one who wrote much later that the historians who watched Christianity arise would
have any actual evidence which was not available to the earlier historians. By the time Celsus wrote there could be no living witnesses, you haven't
given the date but I'm guessing not even second hand accounts. If there were noteworthy evidence against the very existence of Jesus it would most
likely have been evident in the late first century and early second. In that timeframe, the only work which seems to be remotely aware of the
controversy over Jesus' existence is the writer of 2John, and apparently the controversy was too small and short lived to have attracted the
attention of anybody else.
This is not the sign of external agreement on Christian claims - it is demonstrably the exact opposite - a specific attack that the Gospels
were FICTION, an attack so damaging the church tried to burn every copy of it.
One more time, with feeling: I haven't practiced Christianity in YEARS, I don't care to defend the gospels, I don't know if what they say is true
or not, I'm only arguing that a person called Jesus or Chistus founded Christianity. I'm arguing this because I do not believe that religion is a
threat to anybody in today's more open and intellectual society and therefore there is no reason to press unproveable attacks on any religion simply
for the sake of debunking it. If the church were still horrifyingly powerful and killing herretics it would be another story, then it might be
worthwhile to try and discredit religions. Thankfully we're past that and past the need for these endless and mostly empty arguements.
A few generations later, as the church is consolidating its power, a pagan historian Porphyry wrote another critique of Christian beliefs
"Against the Christians", including such criticism such as :
The first two quotes you offer are completely unfounded, making no mention of specific contradictions. Again you trot out some writer from decades if
not centuries later than other sources which makes nonspecific allegations with very little if any evidence.
Your third quote seems to make assumptions on the story of Mark 6:45-52 in order to make it seem foolish. No time is given for the departure of the
disciples, no time is given for Jesus' stay at the shore. All we know for sure is that Jesus caught up to them at some point around 3AM.
Additionally, Porphyry chooses to indicate a small pond North of Tiberias (I know its north because I have a map of the area) as opposed to Tiberias
itself also known as the Sea of Galilee, even though the destination (Bethsaida) is a mere 2 miles from the Sea of Galilee. Porphyry has tried to
direct us away from the actual scene of the events to make an already very unlikely story appear even less likely. This epitomizes the problem with
the rabid anti-religionists. Somebody claims that a man walked on water, and they say "why did it take so long for the disciples to cross the
lake?". Do you know how I would refute Mark 6:45? I'd say "are you friggin nuts, it says a guy walked on water!". Nothing about this little
tangent has anything to do with the historicity of Jesus though. It's nothing but an absurd and misguided arguement against something that we already
agree probably never was done by the historical character called Jesus.
Here we see Julian explicitly state that Jesus is UNKNOWN TO HISTORY.
Just to make sure we're on the same page, you do acknowledge that just because the emperor says it doesn't make it so, correct? His assertion is
just as fallacious as it was when you asserted it, he gets no special privlidges from me just because he was Rome's head of state.
I suppose you would agree that there were other "messiah" figures both before and after Jesus, correct? And I can only assume that they are hardly
mentioned if at all by Roman writers of the time, since as I understand it the Romans didn't exactly have their finger on the pulse of Jewish
religion and politics at the time. Correct me if I'm wrong of course, but there were so-called messiahs who didn't merit mention at the time in the
works of a handful of historians. When the importance of their followers became clear, historians acknowledged the existence of Jesus as a person (and
the founder of a religion based on lies) and met with no noteworthy dispute on the fact of Jesus existence. The ignorance of historians who had yet to
see the political impact of the religion founded by Jesus does not constitute a contradiction to those a generation later who recorded the events in
light of the significance it was proving to have (if only as a scape-goat religion).
lets not forget the Gospels arose sometime after the war, the Jews had a LOT more to worry about than refuting some a new cult.
As a result they did not refute it and therefore it would seem to be a moot point. Who cares why they didn't refute it?
Later, of course, when Christianity is rising to power, and the Jews have recovered from the Roman destructions, they DO try to discredit Jesus
with all sorts of horrible stories being told -
* Jesus is a bastard (a mamzer) born from Mary's adultery with a Roman soldier,
* Jesus is a child conceived in the "time of separation" (during menstruation),
* Jesus was a evil magician who tried to lead people astray,
This is not the sign of the Jews unable to refute Christianity - on the contrary - it's the sign of a new cult which is at first ignored, then
ridiculed and attacked when it starts to become a threat.
That the new cult became a threat and merited ridicule and attack does not run contrary to the inability of Jews to refute it. Do you argue that the
Jews were in fact able to refute Christianity but decided not to? The Jews, who had every reason to know if Jesus had existed or not (afterall he had
made a scene in their temple and been tried by their Sanhedrin just a generation or two ago) never claimed that Jesus didn't exist. Their disbelief
in his story does not contradict their belief in his existence.
In the formative period of Christianity, the 2nd century, we see all sorts of disagreement about specific Christian claims :
The epistles of John mention other Christians who do not believe in a son of God, and attack Christians who do not believe Jesus came in the
Good job, above I was under the impression you had missed this. As I have said, this does in fact put the issue "in play" but by no means resolves
it. We don't know which side was wrong, but we know that neither Jews nor Historians ever saw this controversy as a legitimate angle to attack Jesus
because they never used it.
Many other disagreements are expressed in the 2nd century :
* Timothy warning against the fables of genealogies,
* Marcion denied Jesus was born of Mary,
With good reason. For one there was a phenomenon borrowed from Judaism whereby people were glorifying themselves with fake geneologies which tied them
to various characters, perhaps even Jesus. Additionally, the geneology attributed to Jesus would have made him nobility to the Hebrews, would it not?
His geneology was supposedly traced all the way back through King David to Abraham. This doesn't discredit Jesus existence though, only the
phenomenon of attributing noble geneologies to anybody and everybody who wanted one.
* gnostics such as Basilides and Bardesanes claimed Jesus was a phantom or spiritual being,
* the docetae argue Jesus was an illusion,
Which would necessarily mean that they believed somebody called Jesus did appear and interact with his followers though. Whatever kind of being he
was, they are making the case for an existence rather than a ficticious character.
* forged letters warning about forgeries and "other christs"
Because there were a lot of people pretending to be the Messiah in that timeframe, and Jesus was probably just another one of them. Again this
actually reinforces that there was a Jesus, no matter how much harm it does to the gospel accounts.
In short - the 2nd century is full of refutations and rebuttals as the varying Christian sub-sects argued about what was "really true" about
All with the overwhelming agreement that somebody or something named Jesus did in fact found the religion. Amazing that all of these people who
rivaled and probably hated one another would agree on anything, isn't it?
Better stated there is no PERFECT evidence for a historical Jesus.
You are dodging the FACTS.
No-one expects "perfect" evidence.
It is absolutelty true that there is no contemporary evidence for Jesus - you produced none because there is none.
What we do have however is a vast collection of first and second hand accounts from the a few decades after his death which should have been soundly
refuted if he had not in fact existed. That one little word "contemporary" is all you have to disqualify the consensus between a multitude of
otherwise contradictory sources that there was in fact a historical character named Jesus. In a civil court, based on the preponderance of the
evidence, this case is open and shut in favor of Jesus because the opposing side has nothing but unfounded opinions from generations after the
If the case which spawed this thread were in a criminal court for whatever reason (presumably charging the church with fraud) then the burden of proof
lies with the prosecution, and again they have no proof of Fraud.
This ridiculous lawsuit against the church can go nowhere because the arguement over Jesus existence is a stalemate at best, but there is plenty of
testimony to the fact that a person or entity named Jesus once existed and absolutely no surviving testimony or evidence claiming that he did not
My main argument is about the Chronology -
* there is NO CONTEMPORARY EVIDENCE for Jesus
A semantical point at best, phrased in a way that hides the fact that there is no contemporary evidence of any kind, but that in reasonable proximity
to the events there is a wealth of testimony which seems entirely one-sided on the point that a character named Jesus did in fact exist, regardless of
whatever other controversy there may be.
* there is NO external mention of Jesus until almost a century after the alleged events
More like 50-60 years, and keep in mind that we didn't have the internet back then. For a set of obscure (and likely heavily mis-reported) events to
become widely known, widely recorded, and historically improtant enough to merit mention would take time. By the end of the first century we know that
there was enough of a church to merit mention by two well known historians, which indicates that the belief had been spreading for a time prior to
* there is NO CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE of the Gospel stories until about a century after the alleged events
Except of course for the Gospel of Mark itself written between more like 40-60 years afterward and a growing religion somehow founded upon the
existence of Jesus as evidence by the epistles, and the historical ackowledgement that there was enough doctrine in Christianity as of Nero's reign
that people were allowing themselves to be martyred for it.
I have no problem offering the possibility that the gospels have been doctored, may not have initially been very popular, may be full of lies and have
little if any basis on the teachings of Jesus. Your points raise very little question though as to the topic which you have raised, which is the
historocity of Jesus.
The catch is that none of the increasingly available information directly contradicts the historocity of Jesus.
On the contrary, I have produced some of the evidence which directly contradicts it. You seemed to be unaware of this evidence (Celsus, Porphyry,
Julian, Aristides, Minucius e.g.)
Once agian, just to make sure the message gets across, these later attacks on the gospel stories DO NOT contradict the existence of Jesus himself, nor
do they have much authority to do so considering that to do so would fly in the face of all that has been written and gone unchallenged by earlier
historians. You insist on contemporary evidence yet the evidence you bring is much further from contemporary than the abundant testimony that Jesus
did in fact exist.
It appears you have not studied modern NT scholarship - scholars are increasingly seeing Jesus as originally a spiritual being, only later
mistaken as historical (e.g. Earl Doherty, Richard Carrier, Robert Price)
I am not familiar with nodern NT scholarship in the least. I don't even read the book itself unless I'm referencing it for discussion on ATS. What I
can tell you with a high degree of confidence is that my point stands that the decline of the church has far less to do with any growing realization
of Christ as a myth than it has to do with a rejection of the church and its deeds. Go engage any person on the street in a discussion on the matter
and see if they know the first thing about the evidence for or against the existence of Jesus as a historical person.
As for the opinions of the academic community, I have neither read their work not heard any quotes from them to my knowledge so I can make no comment.
What I can say is that if your arguements are based on their work, they are merely drawing the conclusion they desire to draw, because for whatever
reason rejecting the content of the gospels is simply not enough for them. I do not find it suprising in the least, because it seems that
"intellectuals" (and those who wish they were) have a desire to emulate past intellectuals who have taken a stand against the horrors of the church-
unfortunately the church is lame and dying shadow of its former self and these would-be herretics are accomplishing little more than providing for
their own entertainment.
Anyway, it's been fun and I appreciate your very well reseached arguements, but I strongly disagree with both the points you make and the percieved
motives of those who first advanced such ideas. Sorry I haven't got a Way Above vote to give you for your effort, but I'm fresh out for this month.