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].

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The problem with the "criterion of embarrassment" is that different authors would be embarrassed about different things. If the originator of a piece of tradition was not embarrassed by something that later authors were, this criterion will lead to nothing. Here are a couple of prominent examples:

It is often argued that Jesus must've been baptized by John the Baptist because the Gospel authors were much embarrassed by this, but mentioned it anyway. However, in the 1st Gospel, that of Mark, there doesn't seem to be embarrassment about this. This is because Mark appears to be a believer in the idea that Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism - either by adoption by God or by having the Spirit of Christ enter him. Thus before that he was not divine or without sin and thus there would be no shame in him being baptized by John for the remission of sins. Later authors (such as Matthew and Luke) thought that Jesus was divine from birth, and thus altered Mark to downplay the fact (as they learned from Mark) that he was baptized. John even went so far as to eliminate Jesus' baptism entirely. But the criterion tells us nothing about whether Mark inherited this tradition or invented it.

Similarly, we have another oft-cited example of the use of this criterion: the "fact" that the first people to discover the empty tomb were women. But again, Matthew, Luke, and John all seem to downplay the importance of this discovery, by adding more significant appearances by male disciples. Meanwhile, in Mark, from which they derived the idea that the first discoverers were women (Paul makes no mention of them in 1 Cor 15), the women are not witnesses to anything, since they are explicitly said to not tell anyone out of fear. (Mark doesn't need for them to tell anyone since he has already told the reader in his story - a strong indication that he did not think of himself as writing history.)

In short, the application of the criterion of embarrassment in these 2 cases, perhaps the 2 most common use of it, yields no reliable historical information.
This is just plain dumb. The idea that you can apply "common sense" to history is simply not true.

Have a read of:

The reality is that its very likely that "Buddha" never existed, and that if Mohammad did ever exist, we know absolutely nothing about him and he probably had nothing to do with the writing of the Koran and none of the Muslim "history" about his life is true.

If you aren't going to study the facts about the early history of Christianity or study the documents, don't go around pretending that having a completely uninformed opinion based on popular misconceptions is some kind of virtue.

If you don't want to study and understand the facts, that's find, just say "I don't know and I don't care", but don't pretend like your totally ignorant views mean anything.
Its not so dramatic as that. Do you think that Hercules existed, or Zeus, or Hera, or Romulus and Remus, etc.? All of these figures have stories about them which take place on earth.

If you would actually study the facts instead of just making uninformed guesses about things you would see that its actually quite possible to make informed opinions on thee matters.

Its not just a matter of studying "history", but also HOW history was made.

Indeed to a large degree the assumption that Buddha was a real person is an invention of modern liberal professors. The idea really cropped up within the last 200 years. There was a school of thought among Western historians and cross cultural religious studies professors that all ancient myths had some core truth to them, they made this assumption based on nothing, its an assumption. Furthermore, this was done in part to, in the eyes of these Western scholars, be more respectful to these existing religions.

It really has nothing to do with real history.

Did you know that the first images of Buddha were created by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, some 300-400 years after the origin of the religion, and that the humanization of Buddha occurred largely after that time? Did you know that so-called biographies of Buddha were written hundreds of years after the origin of the religion, away from where the religion started by completely different people than the earliest practitioners?

That's all relevant information.

The same goes with Muhammad. The stories about the life of Muhammad were written hundreds of years after the origin of Islam, thousand of miles away from the location of the religion's origin, by a completely different culture. So, what is the likelihood that these are based on any kind of facts? Not very likely!

Islam actually originated as the Catholics took over in Rome and drove the non-Catholic Christian sects out of the Western Empire, along with many Jews. As these people traveled east they settled in the area of what is now Saudi Arabia and integrated with the local "pagan" cultures there. The product of this integration is Islam, a mix of early apostate Christianity, Judaism, and the local pagan religions of the Saudi natives.

There is record of some guy named Mohammad who was a marauder around the time of the origin of Islam, but all we have is one document that makes one mention of him., purely as some guy who led a band of warriors.

If you look at the actual Koran, you can plainly see that its not written in any kind of consistent style or organization.

What the Koran actually appears to be is a collection of existing laws and teachings from around the Arab world at the time, which was brought together and consolidated as part of a unification of Arab tribes.

The idea that these were a bunch of revelation to some guy named Mohammad in a cave is a bunch of nonsense, thats' just some story crafted later to try and get buy-in to the authority of the ruling leaders.

There was some biography written a couple hundred years after Mohammad supposedly lived, which is quite short on any kind of detail, and then there are a bunch of other writings about his supposed life, all written hundreds of years after that, in far off places, where, not surprisingly, his story parallels existing stories in the culture of existing gods and heroes.

So in the case of Mohammad, we can perhaps say "yeah, there was 'some guy' named Mohammad", and he probably had some role in at least part of the process of unification of Arab tribes around the 7th century.

Did he write the Koran? Not likely. Are any of the Muslim sanctioned biographies about him even remotely true? Not likely. Do we know anything about him other than his name and the fact that he was some kind of small time military leader? Not likely.
And furthermore, do you think that Adam and Eve were real, Abraham, Issac, Noah, etc.?

There is no reasonable basis for thinking that any of these people were real, much less even Moses.

The real scholarship today, if you read the research from books like The Bible Unearthed, is that the Torah (first 5 books of the "old testament") was written in the 7th century BCE as part of a political propaganda project of a Jewish ruler trying to create a unified empire.

There is no basis for believing that any of the history presented in Exodus, etc. is real or that most of those people even existed at all.

Surely you don't think that the story of Noah records the life and deeds of a real person, and YET, there were dozens of biographies of Noah written in ancient times, and multiple stories that expand upon the story line found in the Torah. The same with Moses, with Enoch, with Isaiah, with Adam and Even, with Cain, with Able, with virtually everyone mentioned in the Torah.

There are hundreds of additional stories written about all of these people, and yet, the reality is that none of them ever existed any more than Zeus or Hercules or Achilles, etc.

Its interesting that people have no problem believing that none of the figures of Greek mythology were real, but when it comes to religions that are still practiced today, everyone assumes that the figures in those mythologies were real.
First of all, blanket statements can't be applied, you have to look at everything on a case by case basis and dig into the actual facts. You can't simply say that religious founders are all myths or that they are all real people.

The origin of most religions historically is not one single individual, it is a collective accumulation of practices and teachings.

There is little reason to doubt that Thales was real, and since there really isn't much in the way of a biography about him, there isn't much being ascribed to him anyway.

Confucius is a little more doubtful, especially given the color of some of the stories about him, but to be honest I haven't researched him enough to form an opinion on him.

There have been literally thousands of different religions around the world over time, perhaps millions. Most are the product of collective practices and myths which accumulate in a culture over time. Most of the subjects of these religions are themselves characters invented by story tellers. Much of the practice of inventing central founding characters for religions is based on the fact that people simply identify better with such stories.

People don't identify with "Well let me tell you about how over multiple generations, which no one really knows exactly how many, or where these ideas came from, we collected a set of beliefs, from vast unknown sources."

That's not very compelling.

Instead, "Let me tell you about Moses, who went up on top of a mountain and talked directly to God and received the laws of our people."

That's compelling.

The reality is that in most cases the real origin of religions is the former story.
you forgot Ron L Hubbard :-)
it was stated tongue in cheek...Hubbard is not my cup of tea..
Exactly what I was thinking!  LOL 
I also did some serious research over ten years and have come to very much the same conclusions as you did, which led to my book (fiction as a genre to sketch how religions mislead and interpret things to suit themselves) " Moses was a Liar" Raider Books NY 2009. An excerpt:

"Christine, the Bible is all the proof you need! All you need is you need to love and cherish the Lord Jesus Christ who died as much for you on the cross as He did for those who worship Him. I believe and have the utmost faith that He exists. To prove it, is impossible. That is why science is weak and has many times misled the fainthearted and proved nothing. That is why I must believe because it is this faith in His existence which distinguishes those of true faith from people like you."
"Believe in what Suzette? Have faith in whom? I have no doubt that Jesus walked the earth, but I don’t buy the notion that he was Jehovah’s son should Jehovah even exist. Tell me; do you know who wrote the Bible that you hold up as a record of the one and only truth?" Christine asked with some irritation. She had heard these emotional arguments before.
"The Bible was written by God Almighty through the hands of Moses and many others and the New Testament by Jesus’ disciples."
"Now this may come as a bit of a shock to you. The Bible is so inconsistent and full of gaps and historically inaccurate that faith is really needed to believe it! If indeed it was inspired by God, he made quite a hash of it," Christine responded angrily; angry because so few Christians actually study the Bible, let alone read it critically. "Are you aware that the Bible was only written on scrolls or paper after centuries of an oral tradition by the end of the second millennium BC and completed some 500 years later? Are you also aware that the Pentateuch, in other words the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus were not written by Moses? The Bible is a compendium of works, some of historic significance such as Kings; other supposedly prophetic while some are mere poems. In many cases the actual authors are unknown and their names have been lost in antiquity. While the first five books are traditionally ascribed to Moses, they were the product of the oral traditions of the Israelites. It is generally accepted by scholars that these books were written by a variety of authors and not by Moses. They are quite different in style and context. As for the New Testament, are you aware that the so-called Gospels were never written by the disciples of Jesus but by Greek-speaking Jews 70 AD and much later?"
My point of departure is that Jesus actually lived. The most authoritative evidence I believe are the writings of Josephus (37 – c.100 AD/CE) but even here there are disagreements.

I don't subscribe to the notion that he was the 'son of God' though. At best he was a spiritual teacher in the tradition of the Jewish sage Hillel (preaching the Golden Rule) and possibly even a reformist who didn't like the Jewish moneychangers and defiling the Temple.

1. The parables are related to his teachings and it is noteworthy that the gospels give different parables (remember they were written by Hellenistic Jews who lived long after Jesus died ref: Fredericksen, P. ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity’ London, 2000, p.19. ) The gospel of John contains no parables. The teachers of old often used parables to teach a basically illiterate, uneducated people...Aesop probably the most well known; also Chinese sages used parables notably ZhuangZi, Confucious etc. The actions of Jesus (or his life I think you mean) is enigmatic to say the least. The gospels are not in agreement and contain conflicting 'facts' about quite important matters such as his birth, his descent, the last words he uttered on the cross etc. They can't all be right! Remember also that a number of gospels have been suppressed (e.g. Thomas (a collection of secret sayings (Armstrong K, The Bible 2007)
2. I've answered this one.
3. Paul is the clue here. Paul in effect shunts aside Jehovah and establishes for the first time, the worship of Jesus -- Jesus as a kind of equivalent of Horus, Adonis, Tammuz, Attis or of any of the dying and reviving gods who populated the Middle East at the time and even thousands of years earlier. It is at this stage that miraculous elements become associated with Jesus’ biography, including his birth of a virgin mother and his resurrection from the dead. Paul deviates from the Law as taught by James and Jesus by the way, and in Gal 2:16 he states "faith in Christ rather than fidelity to the Law is what justifies us, and can be justified by keeping the Law." Acts 22:22 reflects the utter rejection of Paul by the people adhering to the Judaic Law (Hallakah) "Rid the earth of this man!" they cry. "He is not fit to live!" He escapes them as a Roman citizen until eventually Nero orders his execution many years later."
4. To them their belief was certainly not silly and Jesus was real. Faith and facts are often mutually exclusive.

It is fundamental to understand Jewish Law and Jesus' life in the political context as well (Roman domination etc). Jesus never intended to create a new religion in my view, possibly tweaking the noses of the Sanhedrin and leading the Jews out of the Roman clutches. If one understands the Jewish religion, it is very strict and adherence to the Judaic Law or Halakha as its called in Hebrew, at the different levels it functions on, is paramount. Having said that, it would have been highly inflammatory, sacrilegious and indeed blasphemous for a Jewish Rabbi or any Jew for that matter, to call for the creation of a religion which promotes a break-away from the Jewish religion. Jesus never did this. This was done by Paul who had never met Jesus. (source "Moses was a Liar" Stewart, B Raider Books 2009)
"My point of departure is that Jesus actually lived. The most authoritative evidence I believe are the writings of Josephus (37 – c.100 AD/CE) but even here there are disagreements."

This is another perfect example of the claims of apologists being more complex and convoluted. This is also addressed in my article:

Firstly, there is only one way that the passage from Josephus can support the "existence of a historical Jesus", and that is if only select parts of it were written by Josephus and other parts were later added by Christians.

So those advocating that this passage confirms the existence of Jesus end up arguing that about half of the passage is original, and the other half is a later interpolation.

The interpolations in this argument are mixed through the passage,and are identified not based on any evidence, but on the obvious fact that if they aren't interpolations then the passage is meaningless.

The better and much simpler explanations are either that the entire passage is a later interpolation, probably the accidental insertion of a marginal note, or that the whole passage is original, in which case its obvious that the source of the information is the Gospels, so again it proves nothing.

Here is the passage in question:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

The problems with the passage are obvious. There is no way that Josephus would have written those parts in bold. Everyone acknowledges this.

That's why apologists, based on no other evidence, say that those sections in bold must be later interpolations, BUT, they argue, the rest of the passage is authentic.

Again, the simpler explanations are that the whole passage is an insertion or the whole passage is original. If its an insertion then its clearly no evidence of anything other than later modification of the text. If its all original then its just evidence that Josephus had heard the popular Gospel version of events (unless you think that the resurrection and miracles were true :p )
Thanks for the information. As I point out the writings of Josephus are problematic and there are disagreements. The same applies to the Gospels which in my mind were fabrications to suit the specific agendas of Pauline doctrine. Whether Jesus was a real human (he was certainly not a god...there are no gods except in people's minds) or not doesn't bother me. Arguing that he was real doesn't prove the miracles, resurrection etc either. As I say, if he did indeed exist he was at best a spiritual teacher IF the gospels are to be used as historical base and obviously therein lies the rub....either you believe the gospels or you don't...I don't.

Pauline Christianity was a departure from the Jewish religion and the thought that Gentiles could also have a claim to salvation and heaven was a marketing masterstroke...cladding the Jesus fable with miracles, virgin birth and resurrection was detail added later and let's face it, this makes fertile soil for willing believers. Who would believe in an unknown preacher who could not do miracles? All smoke and mirrors!


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