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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Stump an evangelical.

I’ve asked this to some evangelicals and hardcore Catholics. They never have a good answer.

- If Jesus was standing on a rail road track…. And a train was coming…. And the only thing that would save Him was for you to push Him out of the way and you receive the brunt of the train and die…. Well…. I’m pretty sure you would push Jesus out the way and die for Him. But what if Jesus said to you just before the train hit him, “Listen… I did live 2000 years ago… I did teach all that stuff…. I was crucified…. But, I never turned water to wine… I never did any miracle….. I never died for your sin…. I never rose from the dead. I’m not the Son of God. I’m just a man.” Would you still push him off the rail road track and die for Him? If the Gospels never mentioned any miracles of Jesus would you believe he is God?

That’s when they (evangelicals) give me the deer in the headlights look.
And that's where it becomes interesting. When talking about the historical person known as Jesus, the miraculous stories aren't found in Mark, the first Gospel. In fact the earliest copy that we have ends at 16:8 with the ladies walking away from the cave, no resurrection. Most Theists will charge that this is because the copy is extant. Incorrect. The authorship changed from 16:9 on. We ended up with magic like speaking in tongues and not being afraid of snake bites. Until 16:8, the story is about a simple man.

In Matthew and Luke, the stories about Jesus aren't divine in nature. They do have some supernatural stories, but nothing more than what Lazarus did. He still has to go to John the Baptist to be Baptized. Why would the Son of God, God in the Flesh need to be Baptized?

The view of Jesus and his divinity changes with John. John was written even later after much of Jesus' generation had passed, about 90 CE. From this Gospel we go from a story about a great teacher whom may have, or may not have been divine to the Son of Man who will save everyone. "I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." John 17:4 But go back to Mark's illustration of Jesus, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." Mark 6:4 Matthew and Luke are similar in referring to him more commonly as a Propeht rather than God in the Flesh. "A great prophet has arisen among us!" Luke 7:16. Why not refer to him as God, Son of Man, the Messiah, or the King of the Jews?

If you can get anyone to hear you in a discussion, you can take it much further down that road.
Jason and Gaytor great responses! +1
So any mention of light, and it proves Jesus is there? What if my counter is that I firmly believe with the Greeks that it's a sign of Apollo? That position is just as credible because it's solely based on faith.

John 3:16 is contrary to more passages in the Bible than you can shake a stick at. Saying John 3:16, just believe, is the same as Scientologists sucking people in with a personality quiz. The real cookie is that if you have lustful thoughts, you are out. Jesus even has the great advice of popping out your eyeballs to avoid lust. Matt 5:28 You suggest faith but James 2:20 refutes that and says faith without works is dead. Hebrew 11:6 Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Paul refers to works without faith as dead works. John 3:16... please.

How about acts that in spite of faith, you are toast. Circumcision. If I'm circumcised, Jesus is of no use to me. I have to follow the whole law. But then if I break that law, not even John 3:16 will help me because I'm circumcised. However Paul circumcised Timothy, then said it's useless, then said don't do it. Peter was against it. Jesus said you have to follow the whole law until it is all finished, meaning the coming of of the Son of Man has happened, which may or may not have been him depending on the passage, and so circumcision is required. Yes, it's all so simple as John 3:16 and any light is a sign of him. I don't believe that you are being honest with yourself about your faith enoch100.

Would you still be good if you never heard of Jesus?

Of course you would. You are not good because of Jesus . . . You're good despite Jesus. The lure of Christianity is as a "wisdom cult". People recognize the saintliness of "turning the other cheek" . . . but fail to recognize that turning the other cheek -- as a matter of course -- renders you nothing more than a human punching bag. It's masochistic.

We're humans . . . not saints. Perfection is for God. And perfection is what we agree it is. God is made in man's image.

Unfortunately, the Bible was written when man's self-image was quite primitive. We're still trying to overcome our primitive past. Perhaps we're on the brink of a new self-image.

ROFLMFAO I have to show this to my family! Maybe they'll stop whining about me "using the lordd's name in vain."
I'll buy that a man lived and some believed that he was going to be the Messiah. We have those men and groups living today. Many in recent memory. I'm not impressed.

I don't buy most of the stories of Jesus. He didn't raise Lazarus, visit Hell on a three day vacation, cast out any demons (demons don't exist today, so why did they then?), and as Mark leaves out, he wasn't born of a virgin nor was his reanimated. He didn't overturn a bunch of money changers tables... one person over turning tables in a temple that was what, 7 football fields long and no one decided to find out what was harder the stone wall or his head? It isn't even plausible.

You can make arguments such as, who would write a story about a guy who is God who chose a man to be his best friend whom would eventually betray him? Whom would write a story about their God and have him Baptized by someone who wasn't divine? Whom would write a story about their God and say that he had to flee an angry mob when he cast demons into pigs? Write a story about him stealing a colt? All things that would suggest the stories must have some validity because they don't serve the story of Jesus well on their face. The dissimilarity to the rest of the character as laid out can only be there because it's a real story that the author experienced.

So the question for me is simple... Did John Lennon also live in or about 0-33 CE? Could have. And? He clearly wasn't divine. He's running from crowds, tossing tables, stealing colts, drinking alcohol, not working, hating families, and you want me to follow him?
Well it would be nice to see people following the facts and doing research instead of just having uninformed opinions.

The basics come down to this.

Based purely on the pre-Gospel writings about Jesus, there would be no reason to believe that Jesus was a real person, in fact quite the opposite. Based on the writings of Paul and other pre-gospel writings alone there is no doubt that there would not any many support for the belief in a historical Jesus today.

So, it all comes down to the Gospels. The Gospels are what brought about the belief in a real live historical Jesus,and since nothing of the other pre-Gospel writings tell us anything meaningful about Jesus the person the Gospels are the source of all of the information there is about "Jesus the person".

In fact, as early as the late first century and early 2nd century, early Christian apologists, i.e. the church fathers, had to make defenses of the idea of Jesus as a real person against a majority of Christ worshipers who did not believe in a "real live" Jesus. And when these people made their defense of the "flesh and blood" Jesus, within 150 years of his supposed life time, they did so PURELY through the use of the Gospels and the use of "Old Testament" scriptures, using arguments like "Jesus had to have been a real person because Isaiah said that the messiah would be a real person", etc. For example:

"And the first power after God the Father and Lord of all is the Word, who is also the Son; and of Him we will, in what follows, relate how He took flesh and became man. For as man did not make the blood of the vine, but God, so it was hereby intimated that the blood should not be of human seed, but of divine power, as we have said above. And Isaiah, another prophet, foretelling the same things in other words, spoke thus: "A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a flower shall spring from the root of Jesse; and His arm shall the nations trust." And a star of light has arisen, and a flower has sprung from the root of Jesse—this Christ. For by the power of God He was conceived by a virgin of the seed of Jacob, who was the father of Judah, who, as we have shown, was the father of the Jews; and Jesse was His forefather according to the oracle, and He was the son of Jacob and Judah according to lineal descent.
- First Apology; Justin Martyr, 2nd century"

Indeed when you look at Catholic doctrine, the very first "article of faith" laid out by the Catholic Church is the belief that Jesus Christ was born on earth and existed in the flesh. The reason that this is the first article of faith is because at the time this very idea was highly doubted and not believed by many people who called themselves "Christians".

Now the early defense of the "humanity" of Jesus is important because what it shows is that even in the very earliest defenses of the humanity of Jesus, the only "evidence" used by the defenders of his humanity was scripture and the Gospels. They made no appeals to external evidence, even within the first 200 years of the existence of the religion, when in fact the humanity of Jesus was highly doubted.

It is important to understand that the earliest Christian adopters of the Gospels held beliefs about the Gospels that we now know for certain to be wrong, and these are the beliefs that became the fundamental establishment of Christianity. They believed that each of the four now canonical Gospels was an independently written work, and that at least two of them were eyewitness accounts, and that the other two were second hand accounts based on eye witness accounts.

So their argument was, "We know that these things really happened because we have 4 separate independent testimonies that they did happen". So the belief in the validity of these events makes sense of you believe that these are 4 separate corroborating accounts.

The problem, however is that they aren't. The reality is that thee aren't 4 separate accounts, the reality is that the first story written was what is now called the Gospel of Mark, and each of the other 3 canonical Gospels is depended upon it. They all 4 agree with each other because the other 3 copied from the first one, so they aren't independent accounts at all, what they really are is 3 different re-tellings of the original story, each of which works in their own theological differences.

Not only are these three accounts based on the Gospel of Mark, but it can be shown that every single account of the life of Jesus is based on a Gospel account, so what we have is one story, which spawned other stories, which because the basis of the popular belief in the existence of this person.

So now, what do we know about the Gospel of Mark?

Well, from analysis we can determine that the Gospel of Mark was in fact written as an allegorical fiction, using references to the Hebrew scriptures to create symbolic scenes, which tells a story relating to the destruction of Jerusalem after the war with Rome. We can tell this because virtually every scene in the Gospel of Mark is a literary allusion to a Hebrew scripture that is talks about the destruction of the Jews and the wrath of the Jewish go against the Jews.

Furthermore, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants pretty well lays out the whole points of the story:

"Mark 12:
1 Then he began to speak to them in parables. 'A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." 7 But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture:
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes"?'

12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away."

This is, of course, a foreshadowing of the real destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which had already happened by the time the author wrote this story, indeed its the reason that he wrote it at all. This parable, BTW, is pulled directly from the book of Isaiah.

So, if the Gospel of Mark is a story written in the vein of Jewish midrash, as a commentary on the Jewish war with Rome, and all of its scenes are crafted from the use of literary allusion to the Hebrew scriptures, then what is the likelihood that these are things that really happened? Basically none at all.

Now, if all of the other Gospels are based on this story, then what does that tell us about the other Gospels?....

Now, if this story became the basis for all other Jesus stories, and each of the other Gospels repeats scenes from this story, which can be proven never to have happened because they are in fact literary allusions, then what does that tell us about the writers of the other Gospels, and the existence of other "information" about Jesus?...

If the writers of Matthew, Luke, and John all repeated things that were clearly fictional, under the belief themselves that these things really happened that tells us that there was no other contradictory information out there about Jesus, and the only reason that would be is because Jesus never existed in the first place.

For example, all three of the other Gospel writers repeats the claim that during the crucifixion of Jesus Roman soldiers "cast lots" to gamble over getting this clothing.

This is a line directly lifted from Psalm 22 by the author of Mark. What we know that the th account of the crucifixion in mark is based heavily on Psalm 22.

So if the other writers all included stuff that didn't really happen, but was in Marks story as a literary allusion, then we know that NONE OF THEM had any real knowledge of the crucifixion either, because if they did have real knowledge of it, they wouldn't have repeated something that clearly never happened in the first place.

So the only way that the most important documents of this "person's life" could be written by people who had no information about him, other than one fabrication story is if he never existed at all, and thus is the reason that no one else had any knowledge of the "real events" of his life which contradicted this fictional account.

There is no case at all of anyone saying "no, that's not what really happened", etc. because there was no real event for anyone to recall.

So this leaves us with the only reasonable conclusion that the Jesus of the Gospels never existed, at the very least. And as I've said in my articles on my website, there are solid reason to believe that a crucifixion during Passover, as depicted in the Gospels, would never have happened. That would be like Muslims executing someone during Ramadan, or Christians killing someone on Christmas, but actually even less likely back in those days. It was in fact against Jewish law to even hold trials or have executions during religious festivals.

The point of the "Passover sacrifice" is clearly symbolic in its origin, not historical, so again...
The Gospel of Thomas contains elements that are clearly derived from the other gospels as well actually. I think the GoT was probably written by a group derived from the "original" Jewish sect that was a follower of James who was trying to reconcile the later Christian beliefs about Jesus with earlier Jamsean teachings.

To answer my own question: I'm skeptical, but not entirely denying the existence of Jesus. The problem is, as several recent books and the documentary The God Who Wasn't There have laid out, there are MASSIVE problems with the entire story of Jesus and just about every document proposed as evidence of his existence. The God Who Wasn't There, points out that most of the elements of the stories, as laid out in the canocal gospels, have too many of the "mythic hero traits" laid out by a historian interviewed in the documentary.

Secondly, as the book The Jesus the Jews Never Knew lays out, much of the evidence for the existence of Jesus that MAY have been there at one time has been destroyed, ironically by Christians themselve... desperate to preserve the traditional story of their savior.

One particular tragic destruction of possible evidence that I myself mourn is the burning of the wonderous ancient library at Alexandria. Sadly, some of the documents that were destroyed, and therefore lost to time, WERE from the first century in the Roman Empire and therefore may have INDEED included accounts of the life of Jesus from wittnesses thereof. In their zeal to destroy heretical literature, the christians destroyed all of these first century documents.

Furthermore, for obvious reasons, the canoical gospels themselves CANNOT be used as evidence for his existence! Neither can the letters of Paul! These documents were writen after a "black hole" in the history of christianity between the supposed events of the life of christ and the developing sects of christianity from at least 60 years later! It is well known that of the canocal gospels, Mark is the oldest. When one examines the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, they appear too similar to have been written without prior reading of the gospel of Mark [or whatever lost manuscript that came from] by the scribes who wrote these later gospels. Of course, some details differ. But reading them seems to remind me too much of interrogating wittnesses to a murder that have rehearsed a story together about their whereabouts during the event. Too suspicious and written FAR too late to be credible evidence.

Furthermore, many documents [such as Josephus] taken as evidence for Jesus' existence, seem to have significant evidence in them of TAMPERING!!! Some of them have been confirmed partial or total forgeries by christians as late as the middle ages. Once again, this seems to be a sad reoccuring theme among christians throughout their history. So desperate to preserve Jesus that they tear apart his credibility by forging evidence of him and also destroying or attempting to destroy any non-traditional "heretical accounts." [Let me state here how delighted I am on the recent rediscovery and publication of some of these lost non-traditional accounts - The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Mary Magdelene, The Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Thomas [aka the Gospel of the Infancy], all of the rediscovered Gnostic Gospels, The Sepher Toldoth Yeshu - What a wonderful bunch of alternative, yet equally implausable, stories! - If only we could discover a document written by a true wittness! ^_^]

Because of all the document supression, destruction, "editing," and forgery... I cannot conclusively say that I am sure that Jesus ever existed at all.

That's my opinion on this matter.


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