Before I begin with the Debate topic... let's set some ground rules:

Mods! Please correct anyone who engages in these things! Thanks a bunch! ^_^

1. Theists are welcome to participate, with one important rule - NO PROSTHELYTIZING!!! - In other words... this debate is to strictly be a debate on the historicity of Jesus as a man, ONLY!! DO NOT use this forum to push your ideas of Jesus as the "son of god" or "god himself" ... please leave that to another debate!

2. BE POLITE!! NO TROLLS ALLOWED!! [Atheist trolls are not allowed as well!]

3. Please be respectful when providing a dissenting opinion to another individual.

 

Thank you!

 

Alright... here's the topic.

 

For many years the historicity of Jesus as a man has remained virtually undisputed among historians. However, I have noticed in recent years a rising number of historians [admittedly still a minority] who have expressed doubt that Jesus ever existed at all.

 

What do you all think?

 

[P.S. If you can... please provide evidence and sources for your opinions].

Tags: christ, debate, did, exist, he, historicity, history, intellectual, jesus, not, More…of, or

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There are two things that I feel are VERY important to keep in mind that are also overlooked when ever this conversation comes up.

1.) First and foremost, when historians talk about the likely existence of "Historical Jesus" they are not talking about the likely hood Jesus Christ actually existing nor a non-magical version of Jesus Christ. They are simply saying that some aspects of the character Jesus Christ was likely based on stories of an actual person (which I will get to in a bit). This figure is simply dubbed "Historical Jesus" because there is no name to go by. He could have been named Bob for all we know. Bottom line is that Historical Jesus is simply the Saint Nicholas of Jesus Christ. Just because some tales about the figure Saint Nicholas influenced the creation of the character Santa Claus does not suggest that Santa ever existed as an actual man. You see what I'm getting at? Also, like Jesus, Santa is a figure created out of many different stories from many different sources. He is not just based on legends surrounding one figure.

2.) Stories in the Bible evolved. The Jesus of early Christians is not the same Jesus of later Christians. This is important because the historical figure dubbed Historical Jesus only influenced later stories of Jesus. A super summed up history of the figure Jesus goes like this....

Paul invented the figure Jesus, hence why there is no mentioning of the figure in history before Paul talks of him. Paul specifically tells us that his knowledge of Jesus was based on what he said to be a divine interpretation of Hebrew scriptures. He also says that his knowledge of Jesus did not come from any other man, and knowledge of Jesus was a mystery to all other men, with the exception of the few others that were also chosen to have Jesus revealed to them through a divinely guided reading of scriptures. It was not until Paul shared his divine knowledge that it became public knowledge.

A few important notes: a.) Yes, Paul says he knew a man who claimed to be the brother of the messiah Paul was preaching about but not even Jesus' supposed brother shared such knowledge. Paul says that his knowledge of Jesus came from a divinely guided interpretation of scriptures and not from another man. b.) Wasn't Paul known for persecuting early Christians and Jesus? Paul only persecuted the rapidly spreading belief of a Jewish messiah being revealed. He was not persecuting the belief in the specific messiah Jesus Christ as no one was even mentioning such a savior. c.) Acts is not written by Paul, it is most likely written by the author of Luke. d.) The "name" Jesus, or Yahu'shuah as paul called him, simply meant "salvation" or "Yahweh saves" in case you wondered where a name came from. e.) The idea of God having a son was pulled from scripture. Psalms 2 mentions God's "begotten son" but this is actually talking about King David. Proverbs 30:4 also talks of God having a son. f.) Paul never mentions talking to or meeting Jesus and does not have him crucified by humans but rather hung on a tree by demons. Obviously if Paul said that Jesus was killed by the Romans that would go against his claim that no one knew of his sacrifice.

Moving on....

The writers of the Gospels took Paul's story of Jesus and applied to real life situations and what was going on at the time to make it more appealing to the public. This is where some legends of a historical figure get inserted into the story of Jesus.

So yeah, that is my two cents on that.
"First and foremost, when historians talk about the likely existence of "Historical Jesus" they are not talking about the likely hood Jesus Christ actually existing nor a non-magical version of Jesus Christ. They are simply saying that some aspects of the character Jesus Christ was likely based on stories of an actual person (which I will get to in a bit). This figure is simply dubbed "Historical Jesus" because there is no name to go by. He could have been named Bob for all we know. Bottom line is that Historical Jesus is simply the Saint Nicholas of Jesus Christ. Just because some tales about the figure Saint Nicholas influenced the creation of the character Santa Claus does not suggest that Santa ever existed as an actual man."

Funny think this... Its beyond highly doubtful that "Saint Nicholas" ever existed either.

I've put in years of study into early Christian history using primary sources, and the reality is that I'd say 95% of early Christian history is fabricated.

I know that sounds extreme, but its really not once you get familiar with the material and understand what was going on.

Most of "early Christian history" was written in the 4th through 9th centuries, by people who had no direct knowledge of anything they were writing about. On top of that, there was simply a dearth of material to go on. On top of that the early Christians were completely unskeptical and took every prior story at face value. On top of that the culture in which Christianity was taking over was a culture that had literally tens of thousands of gods and heroes, with basically every village having its own patron god and the whole region of the Roman Empire was an amalgam hundreds of different religions.

So, what happened was stories were built upon stories, no fact checking was done, and existing stories about "pagan" gods and heroes were integrated into the pantheon of Christian saints and martyrs.

The only thing truly known about "Saint Nicholas" is that there is a list of early Christian leaders from the late 2nd century that has the name Nicholas on it. That's it. But absolutely nothing is known about him.

Everything else is pure fabrication. The stories about Saint Nicholas giving fits, etc. is all borrowed from existing pagan mythology about the patron gods that he displaced as a patron saint. Every story about St. Nicholas is patterned on existing pagan mythology. Its just one of those other issues that I find really fascinating about early Christian history.

But I will say that, the origins of the Jesus story are very different from the origins of most of the other stories in early Christian history. I don't think that the Jesus story was heavily influenced by existing pagan mythology, its clearly based on Jewish mythology and prior Jewish writings.

Back to the Jesus story, however, I'm absolutely convinced that not one single element of the Jesus story is based on anything to do with any real "Jesus" type person.

And the reason for that is well laid out in the links I provided in my earlier post. My analysis of the Gospel of Mark shows, I think convincingly, that the author of "Mark" created his story on his own as an original work of fiction, using the Hebrew scriptures as source material for an allegorical story about the destruction of Jerusalem shortly after the war, with virtually all of the scenes being literary allusions to other Jewish stories and to scriptures about the depravity and coming destruction of the Jews.
Can I get a link to your books? I'm interested in checking them out.
I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed so far with regards to the possibility that Jesus was a real person once upon a time. I also think it is highly likely that he existed as a Ghandi or Madiba figure for his time.

With regards to dates (since SkyComet so kindly requested that we provide some evidence:)) I posted a blog post about my problems with the historicity of Jesus a short while back. Essentially what I ask is that, if Jesus lived between 5BC - 29/30AD and was so monumentally important, then why are the earliest records we have of Jesus in writing by Paul of Tarsus, a first century Hellenistic Jew, who dictated letters to various churches and individuals from 48 - 68 AD? Furthermore, the Gospels in the New Testament are written even later.
Matthew: 80 - 90 AD
Mark: Just prior to 70 AD
Luke: 80 - 90 AD
John: 90 -100 AD

Comments on that post included mention of the hypothetical Q document.

Disregarding the obvious room for embellishment, elaboration, and filling the gaps of forgetfulness in these vast stretches of historical time, how is it possible to conclude that Jesus is more than just a myth if these are the only things we have to work with? A book that I have yet to read but that claims to delve more deeply into this issue is Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box? – Kris D Komarnitsky. It examines the life of Jesus before and after his death, but tries to figure out what happened in between the two that would have led people to think he was the son of God, since, as the author claims, there is no real reason for this myth to have arisen.

I feel as though I've confused the issue though. My question is not whether or not Jesus existed, but rather whether he was indeed divine or not. Although rationally we can conclude that he was probably not the son of God, I think the earliest dates we have for him speak more highly of this unlikelihood.
The problem is that these late recordings of his life also call into question the possibility of him having existed at all. Even if he was simply an influential human being, that nothing was written about him for two decades after his death definitely calls his concrete existence into question. But then, as someone has already mentioned, most serious historians, secular and theological, seem to accept that Jesus was a real historical figure. If anyone has any book recommendations that would be great, since I don't know what their evidence is for this. My own research has just turned up the confusing dates I've mentioned.
Thanks for the reply, doone. That was actually really helpful. There's just so much information of this online that it's always a mission trying to find the right tid-bits of information.

I checked out the link you posted to an earlier thread in which Nelson discussed it. I'm sorry for not following it earlier, there's a lot of good information there as well (though it seems to be quite a heated debated). I've also checked out your informal bibliography to add some more books to my already far too extensive reading list for the end of the year. Hopefully that'll answer some more of my questions.

That the documents show that he (Jesus, not Nelson... although I do believe Nelson is a real person) existed as a real person but not as the son of God is extremely interesting.
I was under the impression that the Q document was a hypothetical text that has been identified but never found, a text apparently written during the time of Jesus which contains quotes by him. If this document isn't found then there is still a two decade gap between the death of Jesus and textual mentions of him. I can understand that textual mentions of an early Jesus would be more suspicious, but there are hardly any mentions of the Jesus that we know during his lifetime or even in the decades immediately following his crucifixion. I find this strange.

The link to information about the Jesus Seminar was also quite interesting.

I guess by the standard of a gospel being a "narrative" you could consider the Toldoth Yeshu to be a gospel... right?

I did find the Jesus portrayed in the Sepher Toldoth Yeshu as vastly different a character than the traditional Jesus of the gospels.

Although, in some ways [perhaps because I have read the 4 gospels so much that I can't find them interesting anymore] the Toldoth Yeshu seemed even more interesting than the traditional gospels. Although the Toldoth Yeshu is DEFINITELY NOT CREDIBLE! In fact it is as useless as a "historical document" as are the four gospels.

It is highly fascinating though.

The Jesus [called "Yeshu/ Jeshu" in the text] of the Toldoth is not the noble pious prophet of the gospels, but an arrogant, attention-hungry, trickster who fools the people into believing him the son of god and finds a tragic end as he is revealed as a fraud. Maybe the reason this is more interesting to me is because the Jesus of the Toldoth is a classic "tragic hero" who is brought down [like all tragic heros of fiction] by his own major character flaw.

 

The story is long, and has only recently been revealed to laypeople [because in the past the few clergy who knew of the Toldoth also knew of it's potential to cause pogroms as it is supposedly a "Jewish Criticism of Jesus and Christianity."]

 

The story is just as fantastical as the gospels... but has more "human" characters.

Miriam [Mary] who is raped by a criminal [or in some versions of the story - a Roman soldier] named Joseph Panthera [Panther]... and gives birth to a son who is applied the shameful label of "Jeshu" by the Jewish authorities who recognize him as "the child of an adultress."

Even as a child, the Toldoth shows Jesus as an impertinant, angry boy who [for example] refuses to cover his head [as is proper] in the presence of the Jewish elders.

 

The tragic flaw of this Jesus is his hunger for power and attention and his anger and bitterness. He seals his fate when he discovers the power of the unmentionable name of God in the temple of Jerusalem [YHWH]. By uttering this name he performs miracles with the magical utterance and proclaims himself the "son of a virgin and a god" [quote: "Who are these bad men who report me to be a bastard and of impure birth? They are themselves bastards and impure. Did not a virgin bear me? Did not my mother conceive me in the top of her head? Indeed I am the son of a God, and concerning me the prophet Esais spoke saying, 'Behold a virgin shall conceive, etc.'" - Jeshu Ch. 1 verses 46 - 48 of the Toldoth - English Translation]

 

Jeshu claims himself to be the son of YHWH and convinces even King Alexander Janiaeus' wife, the Queen that he is by doing many of the same type of miracles described in the Bible. But his power in the story comes only from the name of God... and when he forgets it because the parchment he wrote it on is stolen by his enemy, Judas, he loses his power and is executed as a blasphemer. [Not on a cross... he is stoned and then his body is hung from a branch of a cabbage plant and buried under the part of the street where he was stoned.]

 

Quite an interesting piece of fiction... and I guess it could be considered a gospel. *thoughtful* 

This is a book that [in my opinion] has dealt a devasting blow to my firm belief that there WAS a historical Jesus and reduced me to agnostic about Jesus' exisence at all.

It's called "The Jesus the Jews Never Knew" by Frank Zindler.
It's rather technical.

But it has a lot of information.

https://atheists.org/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPa...
The methods of the Jesus seminar are complete bunk and useless.

The problems with the Jesus seminar are that they don't fully address the issue of textual reliance. They almost completely fail to address the origins of Mark. They use assumptions about "Q" which are completely unfounded. They make assumptions about other aspects of early Christina history which are completely unfounded.

What they did largely was they took passages that seemed scientifically unreasonable, such as walking on water, and they then just tossed those out and said, okay, that's not true.

Then they took what was left and then looked at how often those events were repeated in different materials and how likely they though it was that such events could have been remembered and passed down, etc.

This is all bogus working on nonsense assumptions.

Start with my article on the Gospel of Mark:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/gospel_mark.htm

Let's take the example of Jesus's actions at the temple, "throwing out the money changers".

The Jesus Seminar identifies this event is likely to have been a real event in the life of the real Jesus.

Now look at my analysis, from the link:

"The Cursing of the Fig Tree and the Disruption at the Temple:

The cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple in the Gospel of Mark are based on a passage from the Hebrew scriptures. This is a significant scene and use of literary allusion because the cursing of the fig tree seems very hard to explain or understand if one does not understand that the scene is actually a reference to another text. This is also significant because it undermines the historical credibility of the temple scenario.

Mark 11:
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, they went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

This entire scene is based on Hosea 9, and refers to the destruction of Israel.

NIV

Hosea 9:
1 Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; ...
7 The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.
8 The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.
9 They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.
10 'When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer."
14 Give them, O LORD—what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
15 "Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.'
17 My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him;

We can clearly see here that the author of Mark uses Hosea 9 for his motif, because in Mark 11 the fig tree is in leaf but not in season, meaning that it was early in the growing season. Then Jesus goes to the temple to drive the people "out of his house". After that they return to the fig tree where they see that it was withered "from the root." This makes the parallel between Mark and Hosea 9 very clear, and shows that Hosea 9 was the inspiration for all of these scenes. The author of Mark was also clearly making a reference to the meaning in the text of Hosea 9. Hosea 9 is talking about the destruction of Israel in no uncertain terms.

This is quite significant because it strongly undercuts the the temple disruption scene as a historical event, despite the fact that the temple scene is contained in all three of the other Gospels. The temple scenes in all three of the other Gospels are based on this scene in the Gospel of Mark, which is really a literary allusion."

What virtually all so-called Jesus scholars do is they fail to put everything into context and to understand the actual origins of the Gospels. They do this because of starting assumptions.

What I'm saying is that the Gospel of Mark can clearly be shown do be an allegorical fiction, in which the scenes are based on literary allusions, which indicates that the whole story was cleverly crafted by the author, and has no basis in prior "oral traditions".

Every single other account of the life and deeds of Jesus stems from this one original story, which was itself a fiction.

The fact that every other account is based o this one fictional story itself indicates that there WAS NO OTHER "information" to be had about this "person", the reason for which is that he never existed. Jesus was "born" with the writing of the "Gospel of Mark".

Prior to the writing of that story Jesus was a mythical heavenly messiah worshiped by a small Jewish cult as a future destroyer of the evil material world.

"Q" is just a theoretical construct, a hypothesis formed 100 years ago. There is no Q.

The explanation for the similarities between Matthew and Luke, which aren't found in Mark is that there was a longer version of Mark, which has now been lost. In fact some of the early Christians father talked about a lost version of Mark. There is no Q, there was just Mark, in longer form, and "Mark" was a purely fictional story, which became popular and expanded upon by others and changed around, and every single story about Jesus comes from that original fictional story.

It might sound odd, but I'm telling you, review the material and you'll see.

The other link again...

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

When you talked about the old testament allusions and allegorical fiction it reminded me of this:

The real question, Nelson, is WHO WAS the "historical Jesus?" Can he be separated from all the woo-woo that surrounds him in the few documents that mention him in an early enough time frame to be AT ALL credible? Can we know this historical Jesus? Or is he lost to time? 

In "The Jesus the Jews Never Knew" Zindler makes the ironic observation that the Christians may have destroyed the historical Jesus in their quest to solidify the mythical one.

@Salsola Tragus

While your dates are common, must wider date ranges are possible. For example, many NT scholars believe that Mark was written after 70 CE, not before it, for the obvious reason that the author was aware that the temple was destroyed in that year. Moreover, and this is not often mentioned when discussing the Gospel, but Mark refers to the Pharisees who came up to Galilee from Jerusalem, but this migration occurred after the war. A date from the late 1st c. would be more consistent with this evidence.

Matthew was written sometime after Mark, but the terminus ante quem is around 150, when Justin Matyr's Apology was written. The earliest version of Luke must've been written before the time of Marcion in the 140s (unless Marcion actually wrote the earliest version of Luke, which I personally don't believe). OTOH, if the author of Luke was the same person as Acts, as is commonly believed, then it was probably written around the same time, but Acts is a 2nd-c. document, using Josephus' Antiquities (published in 93 CE) as a source. In fact, the Gospel of Luke also seems to be using the Antiquities, but this is less certain.

It is often supposed, based upon the well-developed Christology and lack of apocalyptic expectations, as well as the fact that no one mentions it before the year 175 CE, that John was the last of the 4 Gospels to be written. The main reason why more critical scholars don't date it well into the 2nd .c is probably the John Rylands papyrus, which is commonly dated to around 125 CE +/- 25 years. But paleography is not a particularly exact science, especially for that time period since there so few surviving specimens for comparison. It could easily date from the second half of the 2nd c.

As for the date of last of Paul's authentic letters (generally taken to be Romans), this would've had to have been written before his arrest and trial in Rome, hence before the year 60.
I think Jesus as a man existed but the story that was written about him was changed over the years and he became an god like figure.I tend to think jesus was a rebel political leader who wanted to overthrow Roman occupation.The so called desciples were members of that organized party.Desciple Peter was a bodyguard and thats why at the time of jesus arrest he was currying a sword(swords were weapons)which he used.Why would Jesus think of freeing people spiritually and leave them in conditions that create disharmony?why would Romans excute a man who was asking people not to resist their occupation!it does not make sence.Think of a modern situation where lets say Nelson Mandela was asking south Africans to liberate themselves emotionally without dismantling the Infrastructure of Apartheid???It does not make sence at all

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