Back in episode 2.1 I spoke about Andrew Finden's (Findo) 12 facts of Jesus and largely dismissed them out of hand. After Andrew made a few comments on this web site (see here, here, here, and here) we reignited our conversation. After a short salvos each way, we agreed that I should look at "the 12 factual claims historian agree upon" before proceeding onto any implications resulting. So let's have a look at these 12 facts:
1) Jesus died due to crucifixion
Really? The Romans were apparently meticulous record keepers. Surely one of them would have written down the names of those executed and Jesus would appear on a list dated to around 36 AD? Nope, nothing. Also keep these curious facts in mind:

1. Jesus is reported to have only written a few things down, then immediately erased them leaving no trace.
2. There are no depictions of Jesus from the times he was reported to have lived. We have no idea what he looked like.
3. Jesus left no physical trace for any supposed miracle. Walking on water, feeding people, and healing disease do not leave long lasting evidence.
4. The reported pieces of the cross would probably fill an ark.
5. The Shroud of Turin is a proven fraud. It's even been accurately copied.
6. All we have are reports from self confessed eye witnesses (see this post), and
7. The documents we have date to decades after the supposed events.

This is shaky data indeed. It's like Jesus never really existed at all.
2) ...was buried afterwards
Not an amazing claim. I would expect people have been burying the dead for a long time. They stink up the place.
3) Jesus' death caused the disciples to experience despair and lose hope, believing that their master was dead.
Follows. No big deal there. Perfectly believable.
4) The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
This of course assumes there was a guy called "Jesus" in the first place, and he was buried honourably to spite the extreme humiliation he experienced leading up to his death. While this point does not mention it directly, it does elude to the central miraculous claim of Christianity - Jesus rose. Assuming there was a Jesus for the sake of argument, there are still many more plausible explanations for empty tombs without resorting to the supernatural.
5) The disciples had real experiences which they thought were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
I do not doubt that people have "experiences" which they can believe to be many things. People report seeing Elvis is Michael Jackson, or describe in great detail being abducted by aliens and experimented on, often sexually. Many of these people are totally convinced their experiences are real, does this make them so?
6) The disciples were transformed from timid and troubled doubters afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold preachers of his death and resurrection who were more than willing to die for their faith in him.
Ahh, the old "people wouldn't die for a lie" line. Problem is - they do. It is sufficient for people to really believe their claims in order to perform extraordinary acts based upon those beliefs. For example, the Heaven's Gate Cult committed suicide to hitch a ride on an alien space craft hidden in the tail of Haley's comet. Crazy, to be sure. Are we to believe that based solely on this fact that their beliefs were somehow true?
7) This message was the center of preaching in the earliest church.
And? Many religions were started by small groups of people making extraordinary claims. This does not make any of them true, but they can all be wrong.
8) Was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, the same city where Jesus had recently died and had been buried.
Errr - where is the surprise?
9) As a direct result of this preaching, the church was born.
This is a restating of "facts" 7 and 8.
10) Featuring Sunday as the special day of worship.
Completely non spectacular. It's also contested within the Christian community. Waving your hands and saying Jesus or the disciples abandoned the existing Sabbath to establish their own does not make it fact. It hardly makes any sense.
(11) James, a brother of Jesus who had been a skeptic, was converted when he believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus.
There once was a skeptic, just like you. He saw the risen Jesus and instantly converted to the one true religion. You should too. Blergh.
11) A few years later, Paul was also converted to the Christian faith by an experience which he, likewise, thought was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
According to the primary sources of this "fact", Paul never met Jesus nor was a follower his prior to this reported experience. While books could, and have, been written about Paul, all I need demonstrate here is that revelations are necessarily first person. Paul says he had an experience. He says is was Jesus. He says.

Ultimately, I am not that impressed with these "factual" claims, but I will persist with the exercise. There are a number of documents Findo has referred me towards which (I believe) make the historical case behind these facts undeniable. I will post my thoughts on these soon.

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Comment by Todd on June 26, 2010 at 10:57pm
It's so annoying that christians try to prove the truth of the bible by using .... the bible. If I do not accept the historical accuracy of the bible, how about referring to some outside sources that corroborate the bible narrative? Oh, that's right, there aren't any. Christians assume, a priori, that the bible is true. Then, they use stories from the bible to illustrate the truth of the bible.

If historians all agree on these facts, I assume there would be plenty of documentation by, uh, actual historians, but I don't imagine that he cites any such people when claiming that historians all agree on these points. I would also guess that he never mentions any of the evidence that such historians used to arrive at this conclusion. Probably because there isn't any.

Okay. I'll just repeat the following mantra until I believe it.

The bible is true because the bible is true.

The bible is true because the bible is true.

The bible is true because the bible is true.

The bible is true because the bible is true.

The bible is true because the bible is true.

........ Sleepy now.


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