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Did Christianity start with a real human Jesus?


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There's one big difference between religious writing and history. And that is the level of invention. 

People often compare Caesar to Jesus for documentations. But it's like comparing chalk and cheese. When it comes to religion, people invent, hallucinate, lie, change old stories, repeat things wrongly, and just generally don't care about any truth. And that's obvious when you look at the hundreds and thousands of gods, and the thousands and thousands of stories about each. Storytelling and religion are merged into one, there is no dividing line. That was true 2,000 years ago, and it's still true today. And people especially lie and invent when it's something that they WANT to be true.

History in contrast suffers far less from invention and storytelling, and it's usually fairly easy to tell which is which.

The old truism popularised by Carl Sagan should come into play with religion, but it doesn't. And that is, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". David Hume said much the same. 

So a man rising from the dead needs to be ratified beyond doubt. Not beyond reasonable doubt. We use that for cases of theft. Rising from the dead needs evidence that can't possibly have been faked. Especially when you look at what you are supposed to do with your life, if you believe it all.

The question of "was there a real Jesus" I admit does require lesser evidence. Not because it's necessarily any more likely, but because it doesn't really matter. A fanatical Jew getting crucified 2000 years ago was no big deal then, and is even less of a big deal now, so it really doesn't matter that much whether you get it right or wrong. There's no real cost either way, unless you buy into the rest of the religious stuff.

I'm just guessing that there was no human originator. I have to concede there might have been, but I haven't seen good evidence either way. And that's not so surprising, 2,000 years later, in the minefield of religious invention.

 

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Suits me. Your expectation of a pat on the back, for the lamest of argument is tiresome. And claiming a consensus for it, as justification is laughable. What it says is, I can't justify it with my own

Eise often backs up his claims with an imaginary consensus. He often claims to know what many/most/all scholars/historians/scientists think. If this is a scienceforum then his comments in this thread

That's a lie. Did you watch his videos?

13 minutes ago, mistermack said:

There's one big difference between religious writing and history. And that is the level of invention.

Why? Both happened in the past and both are interpreted.

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1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

Why? Both happened in the past and both are interpreted.

The reason why deserves it's own thread. But if people didn't invent, there wouldn't be any gods at all. 

You only have to look up Mormonism, or Waco, or Koran, or Gospels, or Branch Davidian or Hinduism etc to get an idea of the sheer quantity of invention that went on, and is still going on.

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6 hours ago, Eise said:

It seems that you forget that history is also a kind of empirical science: without any artifacts found, without any written documents or even time witnesses (yes, events of 30 years ago also belong to history). So no, logic definitely doesn't suffice. 

The only evidence for Jesus's existence is in religious scripture….It's unknown who wrote the gospels, they where written a lot later then Jesus's supposed Death. and were written in third person. Many stories are definitely made up. They are either scientifically impossible(miracles) and many stories that belong to the same Gospel are impossible to be written by one person(like the  Birth and Death of Jesus)). There is no reason to believe Jesus existed.

6 hours ago, Eise said:

For Dawkins it is rather easy: he is not a historian, so he accepts what the majority of scientists says: that it is very probably Jesus existed. It seems that some of you (Itoero, Ten oz, mistermack) think you are historians and can give arguments against historians, even without knowing how these historians come to the conclusion that Jesus existed.

That's nonsense. Dawkins thinks its a fact Jesus existed...that's unscientific. And how do you know what the majoraty of  scientists say about Jesus?

This is part of your first post in this thread:

"It is true that the historical evidence is not strong, but most academic historians agree that Jesus existed."

=>Why do you say that? How can you know most academic historians agree Jesus existed?

6 hours ago, Eise said:

Nonsense. Jesus' followers were illiterate, so how could they write down anything? One assumes that Jesus could read (no, there are only weak hints for that, so it is not very sure), but not write. We had to wait until literate people decided to collect write down the oral stories about Jesus. Is this an example of your logic? Stating something without any knowledge about the field in question?

Ten Oz said this. I repeated it because it makes a lot of sense.   Why do you think he had followers? Why illiterate? Why do you think Jesus could read but not write? If so, why didn't he learn? You talk with your faith.

Edited by Itoero
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1 hour ago, Itoero said:

Ten Oz said this. I repeated it because it makes a lot of sense.   Why do you think he had followers? Why illiterate? Why do you think Jesus could read but not write? If so, why didn't he learn? You talk with your faith

Right, too many arguments are based on assumptions in Eise's post. It is assume that because none of his followers wrote anything down that they were all illiterate. I don't see any reason to assume that. Clearly they were people of great enough influence that they themselves were written about. The argument attempts to have it both ways by first insisting they were illiterate poor people of zero stature but then insisting that decades later people all over even in other countries were still memorizing and repeating their tales. Besides there are ways to record someones existence without writing. I guess we also must assume none of his followers could draw, sculpt, hang on to a piece of his carpentry, save a lock of his hair, or etc.A pair of Jesus's sandals passed on by followers would be a long way here considering nothing contemporary exists. The references to James also require many assumptions.James was said to have been, decades later, Jesus's brother but  that doesn't literally mean he must have been. People who never meant Jesus, weren't even aware of his existence contemporary to the time of his supposed life, describing James as Jesus's brother isn't actually good evidence. Especially when those same people state many other inaccurate things. 

To my knowledge Eise is not deeply religious. I do not believe his opinion on this stems from personal faith. 

1 hour ago, Itoero said:

"It is true that the historical evidence is not strong, but most academic historians agree that Jesus existed."

=>Why do you say that? How can you know most academic historians agree Jesus existed?

Christian's have dominated Western Society for hundreds of years and during that time the Western World has dominate the whole world. So it has long been understood that Jesus was real. That is what has been taught. That is where the needle has been. It is a self affirming notion. To move the needle one would need evidence that Jesus never existed. What would even be evidence of none existence? To me lack of contemporary evidence is a good start but is it enough?

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18 hours ago, mistermack said:

So a man rising from the dead needs to be ratified beyond doubt. Not beyond reasonable doubt. We use that for cases of theft. Rising from the dead needs evidence that can't possibly have been faked.

Full ack. On this we completely agree.

18 hours ago, mistermack said:

The question of "was there a real Jesus" I admit does require lesser evidence.

Exactly. It is even slightly better. We can ask ourselves what the best explanation is for the course of events before, during and after Jesus life and death (like the development of the literature about Jesus). To explain everything we have by stating Jesus never existed, but was faked, is more of a stretch than assuming he existed, and a lot of legend was built up around his life.

12 hours ago, Itoero said:

many stories that belong to the same Gospel are impossible to be written by one person(like the  Birth and Death of Jesus

Repeating this stupid argument doesn't make it work better. You think the same person should have been there at Napoleon's birth and death to have a complete overview of his life? In Jesus' case however the situation is easier: nobody knows the circumstances of his birth. The only thing that is pretty sure is that he was born in Nazareth, for the simple reason that he was known like that ('Jesus of Nazareth'), and that Matthew and Luke must bend his birth story to explain that he was born in Bethlehem, but grew up in Nazareth. This bending would not be necessary if his life story was faked. He could have been just 'Jesus of Bethlehem'.

12 hours ago, Itoero said:

That's nonsense. Dawkins thinks its a fact Jesus existed...that's unscientific.

You mean it does not fit to your 'logic'. 

12 hours ago, Itoero said:

How can you know most academic historians agree Jesus existed?

Because he is not contradicted by the majority of New Testament scholars. None of his popularising and critical books (see the list in my previous posting) has produced any outcry under theologians and New Testament scholars.

12 hours ago, Itoero said:

You talk with your faith.

If any faith, it is my faith that historians are doing their jobs honest and critically. Seeing how Ehrman develops his argument why historians think that Jesus existed, confirm this 'faith'. You should know me by now, but once again for you: I am an atheist, and do not believe in anything supernatural.

@Ten oz: To assume that all references to Jesus are fake is also a a strong assumption, that would need proof in itself.

Again, you both behave like relativity skeptics: without really knowing the scientific arguments, and because the scientific viewpoint goes against your intuitions, you deny what the science states. And, Itoero, taking your (lack of) imagination as argument is really very weak.

And, also once again, Ehrman, as all New Testament scholars, are fully aware of the forgeries, deceits, errors, theological biases of our sources. Look at the book list I provided in my previous posting. Be assured, no Christian fundamentalist likes Ehrman.

Edited by Eise
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2 hours ago, Eise said:

To assume that all references to Jesus are fake is also a a strong assumption, that would need proof in itself.

Again, you both behave like relativity skeptics: without really knowing the scientific arguments, and because the scientific viewpoint goes against your intuitions, you deny what the science states. And, Itoero, taking your (lack of) imagination as argument is really very weak.

And, also once again, Ehrman, as all New Testament scholars, are fully aware of the forgeries, deceits, errors, theological biases of our sources. Look at the book list I provided in my previous posting. Be assured, no Christian fundamentalist likes Ehrman.

The arguments here are not rooted is any natural science Eise. In natural science things are not claimed to be true till proven so. For example all evidence very strongly suggests that life should exist elsewhere in the universe however it has never been proven to so that matter remains an unknown. Scientists say they "think" or there "probably" is, there "should" be, and etc when talking about life in the Universe. I am not claiming Jesus absolutely did or didn't exist. I am merely saying that issue is not known, can't be proved, either way. Ehrman doesn't know that Jesus existed. Ehrman believes Jesus probably existed. Ehrman is not trained in Natural Science. Ehrman studies the Net Testament. Ehrman is an expert in Christian belief. Theology is the study of the nature of a religion. It is not a discipline which proves things about the real world. Archaeology proves things through  excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains. That isn't what Ehrman does. Knowing something and believing something are not equals. You yourself have already acknowledged numerous times that not all scholars agree and have yet to provide any reason why Ehrman's work is superior to  those scholar who disagree with it. 

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9 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

The arguments here are not rooted is any natural science Eise.

Exactly. Therefore one cannot use the same criteria as in natural science. But this is the measure you take. 

13 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

Ehrman is not trained in Natural Science.

Relevance?

But he is trained in historical methods. And as far as I can see, you haven't even started to understand historical method.

15 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

Ehrman believes Jesus probably existed.

True. Weighing all hints we have, knowing the history of the sources we have, he comes to this viewpoint.

16 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

Ehrman is an expert in Christian belief. Theology is the study of the nature of a religion.

But Ehrman is not a theologian. He is a historian, specialised in the early history of Christianity.

And theology is not the study of the 'nature of a religion'. For that you must go to the philosophy of religion, which also should be aware of what all kind of other sciences have to say about this topic: sociology, psychology, history, cultural anthropology. This would be what Daniel Dennett calls 'the study of religion as a natural phenomenon'.

Theology is the study of the divine (which in my opinion just means it is a study without object...).

22 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

Archaeology proves things through  excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains. That isn't what Ehrman does.

But Ehrman takes inputs from archaeology. E.g. he describes what archaeologists have found out about Nazareth, how small and minor it was in the beginnings of the 1st century.

34 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

You yourself have already acknowledged numerous times that not all scholars agree and have yet to provide any reason why Ehrman's work is superior to  those scholar who disagree with it. 

He is well known and respected in academic circles. He has written several text books used at universities, and, as said before, if he really would stand for a minority viewpoint this would not happen, and the critique of colleagues would be much louder. 

I like this critic,  being a theologian himself:

Quote

For conservative Christians, Ehrman is a bit of a bogeyman, the Prof. Moriarty of biblical studies, constantly pressing an attack on their long-held beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible.... For secularists, the emerging generation of 'nones' (who claim no religion, even if they are not committed to atheism or agnosticism), Ehrman is a godsend.

 

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If you go by Ehrman, then Moses didn't exist. The consensus among scholars is now that he didn't exist as a person. So the argument that Jesus most probably existed, because of all the stories about him, is contradicted by the Moses situation. 

Like I said earlier, religion and storytelling go hand in hand. Or they did 2,000 years ago. The environment has changed, but people are judging what happened 2,000 years ago by 2018 standards.

You have to put yourself in their shoes. A flash of lightning is most likely a god showing his power. Thunder is him stamping his feet. An earthquake is him shaking the Earth because you have sinned. Healthy people get sick and die for no reason. Devils possess people, and talk gibberish through their mouths. That's the kind of environment in which people make up these stories. Plus the fact that they have been told wild superstitions since birth. And yet even today, there are suggestible people who will believe in modern miracles.

On the tv you hear people thanking god for not dying in earthquakes and fires. Luck doesn't come into it. They'd rather believe in the invisible guardian. Some people go further. They invent "messages" from god, telling them not to travel, the day the aeroplane went down.

Storytelling is still alive, but it's only a pale shadow of what it was. 

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33 minutes ago, mistermack said:

If you go by Ehrman, then Moses didn't exist. The consensus among scholars is now that he didn't exist as a person. So the argument that Jesus most probably existed, because of all the stories about him, is contradicted by the Moses situation.

Think of it in terms of experts in fine art that determine whats fake and whats original, their determination is considered fact by the whole community (unless new evidence comes to light). 

Moses has no evidence of existence other than as a story; someone told the story, they just don't know who that is.

 

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34 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Think of it in terms of experts in fine art that determine whats fake and whats original, their determination is considered fact by the whole community (unless new evidence comes to light). 

Moses has no evidence of existence other than as a story; someone told the story, they just don't know who that is.

So, is the Shroud of Turin fake or original, or what about the blessed foreskin of Jesus, and all the bits of the cross around the world? There's supposedly enough wood from the cross to build a church, if you gathered it all up. 

There are plenty of "experts" who think the Turin shroud is genuine. I'm not going to just take their word for it. I want to see proper proof, not somebody just saying so.

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@Eise, the difference here between you and I is that you are treating Ehrman's, best guess is equal to fact and I don't. It is merely a guess. An educated guess but still a guess. I prefer tangible proof. For history that would come in the from of archaeology and not theology. There is currently no way to prove Jesus was real. That is simply a fact. You can argue he probably existed but can't say it is a fact he did. That is just a simple truth. 

 

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23 minutes ago, mistermack said:

So, is the Shroud of Turin fake or original,

or what about the blessed foreskin of Jesus, and all the bits of the cross around the world? There's supposedly enough wood from the cross to build a church, if you gathered it all up. 

There are plenty of "experts" who think the Turin shroud is genuine. I'm not going to just take their word for it. I want to see proper proof, not somebody just saying so.

Are you seriously suggesting that is a valid argument?  

7 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

There is currently no way to prove Jesus was real. That is simply a fact. You can argue he probably existed but can't say it is a fact he did. That is just a simple truth. 

Can you provide a fact? Or just the best guess based on the available evidence?

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@Eise, you are natural science has no place here but science is used to prove history all the time. That is what carbon dating is, ice core are, DNA does, and etc. There is lots of history proved by real science. 

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5 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

@Eise, you are natural science has no place here but science is used to prove history all the time. That is what carbon dating is, ice core are, DNA does, and etc. There is lots of history proved by real science. 

And who said the evidence of science isn't used by historians? 

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6 hours ago, dimreepr said:

Are you seriously suggesting that is a valid argument?  

It's valid to not take the word of anybody at face value, when religion is involved. The Shroud of Turin is relevant. They did a carbon dating. It came back with a date of around 1300 to 1400 (from memory). Normally, that would settle the matter.

But since then, lots of committed Christian so-called scientists have been performing cartwheels to try to nullify that unbiased test. When it comes to religion, even some scientists are prepared to lie and bend the truth, to make it match what they would LIKE to be true.  

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15 hours ago, mistermack said:

It's valid to not take the word of anybody at face value, when religion is involved.

Dawkins isn't religious why not take his word? 

15 hours ago, mistermack said:

But since then, lots of committed Christian so-called scientists have been performing cartwheels to try to nullify that unbiased test. When it comes to religion, even some scientists are prepared to lie and bend the truth, to make it match what they would LIKE to be true. 

Citation, please 

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21 hours ago, Ten oz said:

@Eise, the difference here between you and I is that you are treating Ehrman's, best guess is equal to fact and I don't.

First, my viewpoint is that the existence of a real person Jesus can better explain what happened in early Christianity than a fictional person. As an example, already mentioned, the fact that Matthew and Luke have different birth stories (Matthew: Maria and Joseph lived in Bethlehem, then they fled to Egypt, and when they came back they settled in Nazareth; Luke: Maria and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but had to go to Bethlehem because of the census), but they have one thing in common: Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but grew up in Nazareth. Obviously both had to cope with the fact that Jesus was from Nazareth, but that the prophecies had said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It would have been much easier for a fictional story to let Jesus be born just in Bethlehem. Conclusion: Jesus was born in Nazareth.

21 hours ago, Ten oz said:

I prefer tangible proof.

If you prefer tangible proof in history, then there would not be much of history left. It has a reason that the pre-historic period is called that: we have no written records, which makes interpretation of artifacts very difficult, and is prone to change when new artifacts are found that do not fit the existing historical reconstruction.

For written records, the difficulty is of course to see through the biases of the (often unknown) authors of the texts. In this respect history is not different than natural science: try to cut through prejudices and biases. That is difficult with religious texts, but not totally impossible. Just think about all the gospels we have (not just those that made it into the New Testament). So many stories about Jesus! (One fundamentalist once said me that we know more about Jesus' life than of Napoleon's...) Compare that with the facts historians agree on (my four points in the second posting). That is not much. There might be more truths in the gospels, but historians cannot filter out anymore based on their criteria. 

21 hours ago, Ten oz said:

I prefer tangible proof. For history that would come in the from of archaeology and not theology.

It seems you leave no room for written sources, that can be used in historical research.

21 hours ago, Ten oz said:

@Eise, you are natural science has no place here but science is used to prove history all the time. That is what carbon dating is, ice core are, DNA does, and etc. There is lots of history proved by real science. 

No, I never said natural science has no place: I said history as a science needs other methods additional to exact science. Just count on it, most new found documents (and there are many) are carbon dated to find out when they were written (e.g. Dead Sea scrolls, dated around 0 CE, the Nag Hammadi library, dated around 350 CE; that fits to when Saint Athanasius condemned the use of non-canonical books). Of course the contents may be much older.

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17 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Dawkins isn't religious why not take his word? 

I haven't heard his reasoning. Why should he know any more than me? And if he does, I want to hear it. 

18 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Citation, please 

Youtube is full of "scientists" trying to wriggle round the carbon dating of the Turin Shroud.  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=turin+shroud+new+evidence  

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12 minutes ago, mistermack said:

I haven't heard his reasoning. Why should he know any more than me? And if he does, I want to hear it. 

Youtube is full of "scientists" trying to wriggle round the carbon dating of the Turin Shroud.  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=turin+shroud+new+evidence  

You seem to be getting emotional; scientists tend not to use Youtube and besides Eise has presented other non-theologians that assert similarly, do you know more than them?   

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36 minutes ago, Eise said:

It would have been much easier for a fictional story to let Jesus be born just in Bethlehem. Conclusion: Jesus was born in Nazareth.

Firstly, that's an amazing conclusion, based on your assessment of what someone would do, 2,000 years ago, without knowing his pressures and environment, including what rival stories were saying. 

And secondly, even today, you can go wildly wrong by using the argument, "why would he say this". It's the easiest trick in the book for a liar or story teller, to throw in the odd illogical element, to make it look authentic. People who invent, lie and make up stories, don't think like you and me. Sometimes they lie for no logical reason whatsoever. And then normal people think it must be true, because THEY wouldn't do it like that.

Example : I have a friend who I knew years ago at school. I hadn't seen him for years, and met him at a car auction. We talked computers for some reason, and I mentioned that I needed a certain part (kind of graphics card) and he said that he had loads of them the week before, but had binned them, as they were just gathering dust. I was really disappointed.

Later the same day, I was talking to another friend who knew him, and mentioned it. He said, "don't believe it, he says that to everyone!" and told me that he'd said the same thing to him on a number of occasions. I was sucked in, because there was no logical reason for him to lie. (I tested him out the next time I saw him, told him I wanted a particular sound card, and sure  enough, he had just thrown out a bunch of them !!)

I felt an idiot for believing him the first time, but he's a good liar, and now I know, I see he's lying all the time, he can't help it. 

There are people out there who lie and lie. In Ireland in the old days, before tv, people used to lie for entertainment, and liars were in demand as the life and soul of the party. They used to gather in a house with some booze and put up the biggest liar. A bit like the origin of stand up comedy.

6 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

You seem to be getting emotional; scientists tend not to use Youtube and besides Eise has presented other non-theologians that assert similarly, do you know more than them?   

Dawkins is all over youtube. So is Bart Ehrman. 

Checkmate !!   :D

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5 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Firstly, that's an amazing conclusion, based on your assessment of what someone would do, 2,000 years ago, without knowing his pressures and environment, including what rival stories were saying. 

Hmm, the evidence leads to Nazareth but the story leads to Bethlehem, what do you think Holmes?

7 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Dawkins is all over youtube. So is Bart Ehrman. 

Checkmate !!   :D

Sigh, well you got me, of course,:doh: that's where they publish their papers...

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5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Hmm, the evidence leads to Nazareth but the story leads to Bethlehem, what do you think Holmes?

Bad example Watson. It was Watson that always went for the bleedin obvious, while Holmes worked out what really happened.

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