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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Other than the New Testament, there is no evidence that Jesus ever existed. Some believe Jesus is a myth: a "wisdom cult" created from prior myths.

There was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING written about Jesus during his lifetime. Those who question whether he was real or myth cite the following reasons:

* no eyewitness accounts
* no direct archaeological evidence
* no contemporaneous works mentioning Jesus
* the similarities early Christianity shares with prior religions and mythologies

Combining liberal and conservative estimates, the books of the New Testament were written between 45 A.D. and 150 A.D. Biblical scholars tend to date the books of the Gospel as follows:

Mark: between 65 A.D. and 75 A.D.
Matthew: between 70 A.D. and 85 A.D.
Luke: between 80 A.D. to 95 A.D.
John: between 90 A.D. to 100 A.D.

Of the New Testament as a whole, First Thessalonians, an epistle of Paul, is considered to be the first book written (most scholars say around 51 A.D.) and Second Peter is considered the last written (as late as 150 A.D.)

The traditional view that the Gospels were written by Jesus' disciples: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a misconception. The Gospels were written in Greek but Jesus' disciples spoke Aramaic. The Gospels were also written 3.5 to 7 decades after the life of Jesus. The gospels began being attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John long after they were written. For certain, the first books of the New Testament were written by Paul -- who converted to Christianity well after Jesus was dead. Paul never knew or saw Jesus.

Other than the New Testament, the only historical references to Jesus were brief mentions by 4 early authors of the Roman Empire:

* Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 A.D.)
* Tacitus (56 - 117 A.D.)
* Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69 - 140 A.D.)
* Pliny the Younger (61 - 113 A.D.)

Except for Pliny the Younger, these authors were repeating second-hand information. In some cases, many historians doubt the authenticity of the passages cited. At any rate, all 4 authors were born long after Jesus was dead.

In the case of Josephus' mention of Jesus, even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that, "The passage seems to suffer from repeated interpolations." There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. The overwhelming majority of biblical scholars question its authenticity, in part or in whole.

Pliny the Younger's passage described (to Emperor Trajan) how he dealt with unruly Christians who worshiped Christ instead of the emperor. He mentioned the Christians and "Christus" but said nothing about the person of Jesus.

Like Pliny the Younger, Tacitus wrote a short passage about Christians and mentions "Christus" -- but only as the subject of Christian worship. Tacitus doesn't discuss the person of Jesus.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, mentioned riots which broke out in the Jewish community in Rome under the emperor Claudius. He wrote, "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, Emperor Claudius expelled them from Rome". "Chrestus", here, is thought to be a misspelling of "Christus" or Christ. However, Chrestus was also a common name in the Roman Empire. Like Pliny the Younger and Tacitus, he makes no mention of Jesus the person.

So how do we KNOW Jesus existed? It's an article of faith backed up by the New Testament. There are NO accounts of Jesus' life other than the New Testament. Outside of the New Testament, there is only 1 mention (by Josephus) of Jesus' deeds (healing), and that account is thoroughly discredited, even by the Catholic Encyclopedia. Those who claim Josephus was reliable may be right. That's not the issue. The issue is later interpolations (inserting one's own words into somebody else's text). Overzealous scribes have been known to interpolate in the name of Jesus. As I said, in the case of Josephus, even the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges the interpolations.
Obviously, one is not going to be written about unless one DOES something to garner attention. The amazing stories of Jesus' life certainly warrant a shout-out . . . not just by Roman commentators but by government documents and by Jewish commentators.
Yes, why stop at miracles? Miracles will certainly get you noticed. But so will throngs of followers sitting on a hill listening to his sermon. We can also expect government records of Jesus' arrest and appearance before Pontius Pilate (who was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26–36) -- and of his crucifixion.

If Jesus was such a historically prominent figure, then why no documentation . . . as you would expect with ANY historically prominent figure?

The problem is that not all of the early writers about Jesus thought he was executed under Pilot. Some thought that he was executed under Herod I [associated in the bible with the "Slaughter of the innocents."]. Others think he was executed a century earlier under Alexander Janeaius [spelling?]. Anyway, what I've found by digging into early christian history is that the deeper you go, the murkier and more uncertain things become. 

When was Jesus Crucified? Was he crucified [the Toldoth has him stoned]?, When did he live? Where did he live? [Jerusalem? Alexandria? Rome? Greece?], where are the supposed Roman records?, Why is it that the evidence of the census taken in Bethlehem at his birth time seems not to exist? Did Christianity start from Jewish mystic cults? Was Jesus a "savior god" who existed [originally] only in a celestial realm [like many other savior gods of the time?, Why does Jesus' story appear so similar to the other savior god figures?. The list goes on and on.


For me, I have concluded I am agnostic about Jesus' existence. I'm skeptical that the historical jesus can ever be recovered from the murky past.

If Jesus' miracles are not true (and they certainly are not); if the Sermon on the Mount never happened; if Pontius Pilate never washed his hands of him; if he was never crucified . . . then, of course, there was nothing to notice and write about.

The idealized person of Jesus, including his history from birth to death, might well be fabricated from whole cloth. I'm not saying this is the truth: only that there's precious little difference between fabricating deity stories about a real person or a mythical one.
Thanks for mentioning the Gospel of the Hebrews.

For me, the interesting historical question is not whether a human Yeshua of Nazareth existed, but how the early generations of his followers interpreted his teachings, life, and death. I believe his early Jewish followers saw him as a political Messiah, but the Pauline, Gentile churches interpreted him as a god-man. As the emerging church became increasingly Gentile, in large measure due to the Jewish civil war and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans circa 70, the Jewish branch lost influence and by 180, their views of Yeshua as a human were declared heretical.

The Gospel of the Hebrews is one of the early documents that evidences this early split in the emergent church.

With apologies for blatant self-promotion, my work of historical fiction addresses these issues. Indeed, the primary plot line is the running conflict between Paul and James, the brother of Jesus. James was the leader of the Jerusalem, Jewish faction and Paul the leader and innovator of the Gentile faction. Entitled A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle, the work was released earlier this year to critical acclaim and flattering reader response.
The Gospel According to the Hebrews, no copy of which is extant, is based on Matthew or at least an early version of the Gospel, and thus dates later than the Gospel of Mark.
I've never said Jesus is "made up" or fabricated. And I quote: "The idealized person of Jesus, including his history from birth to death, might well be fabricated from whole cloth. I'm not saying this is the truth . . ." As you can see, I'm acknowledging the mystery of Jesus' personhood. He might have existed or he might not. As I originally stated, there is absolutely no documented evidence he ever existed.

The argument then boils down to whether or not Christianity has deified an actual person or a mythological one. Nobody knows the answer.
Hey Doone,

There is ZERO documented evidence that Jesus ever existed. If you disagree, simply cite one item of documented evidence.

Do you or don't you believe Jesus was a real person? It was you (in a subsequent reply) who provided the link to "Did a historical Jesus exist?", by Jim Walker, and stated that the conclusion (copied below) is "convincing".

    "Of course a historical Jesus may have existed, perhaps based loosely on a living human even though his actual history got lost, but this amounts to nothing but speculation. However we do have an abundance of evidence supporting the mythical evolution of Jesus. Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew stories, long before the advent of Christianity. We simply do not have a shred of evidence to determine the historicity of a Jesus "the Christ." We only have evidence for the belief of Jesus."

In my reply to that subsequent post, I point out that "Whether Jesus existed or not, what we know of him is myth."

The real person, if he existed, is entirely obscured by the idealized, mythological, deified one.
Oops, I didn't address your specific assertion that "The Gospels, the epistles, and the especially the Gospels that were ignored by the Early Church do describe an real person. The 4 extent Gospels may almost completely BS but there is more than a few threads of real person in there." . . .

. . . There is no basis for that assertion. The Gospels were written generation(s) after Jesus was (allegedly) crucified*. Everything is, at best, second-hand information. In fact, no attempt to cite eye-witnesses was ever made.

    * Why is it that Roman records reveal other "Christ" figures who were sentenced to death for heresy . . . but no such records exist for Jesus?
I don't know whether or not Jesus existed, myself. But it is possible thatthere is something in between what you two are saying. Have you considered another possibility? It is possible that the Jesus story was composed of a collection of events [fictional and otherwise] from other points in time, that the sayings/ actions attributed to the 1st century Jewish Cult "heavenly messiah" came from other people entirely in other times [as would seem indicated by the conflicting times of historical events in the gospels themselves]? If this were the case, then it wouldn't be that the writers of the gospels were making it up, but rather taken a "telephone" story that had been pieced together with things that might have been falsely attributed to Jesus or that were simply rumor.
See, this is my stance as well. Those dates irk me. I'm not adverse to agreeing that Jesus might have easily been a real man, but I don't see why historians say this. I agree with what doone stated earlier, that texts about a real life person are more contextually rich, but to infer from textual analysis alone that one of the most influential figures in the history of the world really genuinely existed seems like a bit of a stretch for me.
Still, I'm not going to sit and stew in my own ignorance of the matter. I think I'm going to do some readings on the issue from as many perspectives as possible and see if I learn anything new because at the moment I simply don't know enough.


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