Did the historical Jesus exist?

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by wil, Mar 30, 2015.

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Click on what you believe to be true.

  1. He definitely existed.

    4 vote(s)
    40.0%
  2. He definitely existed just as the bible says.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. He might not have existed.

    3 vote(s)
    30.0%
  4. He definitely didn't exist.

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
  5. IDK, but if he didn't exist it would not affect my belief.

    2 vote(s)
    20.0%
  6. If it is proven that he didn't exist, it pulls the rug out from under everything I believe.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. These articles pose interesting questions worth contemplating.

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
  8. These articles have a preponderance of truth in them.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. These articles are convoluting the facts and making absurd connections.

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
  10. These articles are utter BS.

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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  2. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    He existed. Josephus refers to "James, the brother of Jesus," which pretty much settles the case for me. Your articles don't cast any doubt on the authenticity of this passage.
     
  3. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Wil, where's the third article?
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    a. I don't believe that quote exists in anything Josephus wrote.
    b. References from Josephus about Jesus refer to a man healing and speaking but not by name
    c. It is now thought those references were added later and not actually written by Josephus.
    d. Late night reading, now I have to go find the third article.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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  6. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Why's that? You say it's now thought those references were added later, but I find no evidence for your conclusion. You're referring to a different passage in the Antiquities than the one I have in mind:

    "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" (Antiquities 18:63-64).

    The above is an interpolation by Christians; however, with no interpolation, the passage should read as follows:

    "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonders. He drew many after him. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Antiquities 18:63-64).

    Support for this version being correct is found in an Arabic version, in circulation around the 10th century
    , that looks similar:

    "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders" (Antiquities 18:63-64).

    The passage I refer to (mentioning "James, the brother of Jesus") is in another place in the Antiquities, and its authenticity isn't questioned by modern scholarship:

    "AND now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest" (Antiquities 20.9.1).​
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
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  7. Hermes

    Hermes Zos Kia Cultus

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    According to Blavatsky and her research the "historical" Jesus existed about 100-years before the biblical one and he was not crucified but stoned to death. I do not know...I do not place a lot of importance to the current historical "evidence" as they could be forgeries just as easily. So I voted "might not have"
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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  9. EdgyDolmen

    EdgyDolmen Active Member

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    Biblical Jesus - historical Jesus = leap of faith
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Wil –

    As for the first two articles you cite ... they're both bollocks. People read this stuff and believe it, because they want to (blind faith), they don't question and they don't check the authenticity of claims made. No mention of 'Jesus Christ' anywhere before 325AD? C'mon ... LOL with incredulity.

    As for the Washington Post, I thought it had some journalistic credibility. Seems I'm wrong.

    And the other website:
    No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.
    Not true.
    Josephus (If the article can make unsupported claims, so can I! LOL). Tacitus (55-120), Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69-130), Tallus (c52), Julius Africanus, Pliny the Younger (63-113), Mara Bar-Serapion (c70) ...

    The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.
    Meaning Paul. Who mentions Christ born of a woman, Baptism, Eucharist, death and resurrection ...

    Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.
    I would have thought such honest adds to their veractity, whereas gnostic accounts claim to be first hand accounts and are often accepted without question. And we do not know John was not an eye witness, and have no reason to believe he's lying.

    The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.
    Bit tired, that one.

    Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.
    So what does that tell you? And this article is part of that sensation-seeking industry in making claims.

    It's all one sided, Wil, it trumpets the 'againsts' as if they're undeniable, and ignores the evidence 'for'. And the same half-dozen names from a vast field of scholarship get rolled out again and again, Ehrmann, Crossan, Spong, etc., who court controversy for the sake of fame and fortune, writing sensationalist books claiming to represent academia and following sound academic principle, which they've long since ceased to do ...
     
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  11. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Yes Thomas the timing of many of these articles is telling...right before Easter or right before Christmas...
     
  12. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai Moderator

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    I'd say yes. Mind you, I'm not basing that opinion on any historical fact or even the Bible for that matter. It's just something I feel in my heart. Did he exist exactly as portrayed in the Bible? Probably not, but close enough. Does it matter? Not really. The overall message conveyed by his presence is a positive and valid one regardless of historical accuracy.
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Ah ... I have to say, I agree there's a lot of nutty Christians on your side of the pond, but equally there's a lot of nutty scholars. We actually referenced Ehrman when doing my degree. He was sound on some points, but then went overboard a bit with his conspiracy theories ... started off a born-again believing in everything, seems to have ended up believing next to nothing.

    The big point is his claim that Jesus never claimed divinity, and that it was put on him by later writers ... he 'disproves' the texts that seem to assert His divinity, but accepts the texts which he suggests otherwise, yet their authenticity is equally dubious if you accept his premise. He travelled the arc from born again to agnosticism, but I would continue my line that as he cannot prove his core thesis.

    The basic problem is a logic that's flawed, he makes a step which cannot be validated and can be shown to be wrong. He's like Bultmann in that:
    A is a myth – the Jewish hope of a coming Messiah
    B reads like A – Jesus is the Messiah
    Therefore B is a myth – Jesus is not the Messiah

    But because B reads like A, it does not mean that B is also a myth.

    Take Luke. Luke uses the journey motif in his Gospel, half of his Gospel takes place along the final journey to Jerusalem. The journey motif is a common motif in fiction (then as now), it's also a common motif in biography, from rags to riches, from farm-boy to fame ... so the journey motif is mythic in some cases, factual in others.

    What Ehrman and those who follow a similar line claim is that Jesus travelled from A to (say) M, from carpenter's son to apocalyptic preacher, then later writers fabricated materials to have Him travel from A to Z, from carpenter's son to God Incarnate ... but they can no more prove A - M than they can disprove N-Z.
     
  14. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Ok. There are three different views on Josephus' references to Jesus:

    (1) They are authentic
    (2) They are forgery
    (3) They have some Christian interpolation

    I take point three; you take point two. What in particular, in your link to earlychristianwritings.com, makes you think these references are forgery? What's the smoking gun?
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I never get the 'if doesn't matter' argument ...

    If what appeals in Christianity is just its sociological dimension, its ethic – be nice to each other, love is all there is – then no, I suppose it doesn't matter whether He existed or not. 'Being nice, love is all there is' is then just a matter of social pragmatism, is it not? It's a universal, to humanist as well as religious traditions. You don't need God and all the other stuff to validate the message.

    In which case, why tag it with Jesus? It's just a romantic notion, like being 'chivalrous' because you like the tales of King Arthur and the Round Table.

    Or is tagging Jesus just Pascal's wager?

    If firm evidence popped up to show that Jesus never existed, then personally I would not continue believing in Him.

    I'd look Plotinus, no, he's too 'spiritual' ... Marcus Aurelius then – personally I think his Stoic ideals of self-restraint, duty and respect for others are well worthy embracing. Then again, you could argue that Marcus Aurelius never existed. Or that a Roman Emperor became the mythical source of the Meditations.

    Damn. There's more evidence for Christ than Aurelius! (His 'biography', supposed written by a group of authors 200 years after his death, are now held to have been the work of one man ... oh dear ...

    There ... humanist Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism etc, in a nutshell.
     
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  16. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Christianity's social message is so radical, Thomas. Many Christians today don't take Jesus' message to "go sell everything you have and give the money to the poor" literally, but early Christians did. In the Book of Acts, it reads, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need." Critics, such as Lucian, took notice of this practice: "They scorn all possession without distinction and treat them as common property." Many people wouldn't see the Christian way of life as practical. That's why Lucian saw Christians as simpletons, for anybody could take advantage of their generosity and grow rich overnight. Are you sure you don't need God to validate such a message?

    Also, looking back to Jesus' time, any Jew found submitting to Rome was a prime target for a zealot, so having a messiah not devoted to militancy was radical too. Again, are you sure you don't need God to validate such a message?

    Just considering Jesus' way of life, I say it's very important whether or not he existed. It tells us how Christ's followers should live.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  17. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    What if he wasn't real? What if it is all parables, metaphor, metaphysics and mythology?

    What if Aurelius wasn't real...does that make any of the works less poignant? What if Jesus never existed (or the stories were an amalgam of a number of folks) would that make the teachings, the discussions, the stories less valuable?

    What if Santa Claus wasn't real? Or Mark Twain? Or Adam and Eve, or Jonah? Or Gulliver? Let them eat cake.
     
  18. DavidMcCann

    DavidMcCann Hellenist

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    The historian Michael Grant, who I don't think was a Christian, wrote a book about what could be reconstructed of the life of Jesus. He remarked that there were no professional historians who questioned the existence of Jesus, and the arguments of the amateurs who did would dispose of a lot of other figures, such as Pythagoras.

    It's noteworthy that no-one in antiquity ever doubted the existence of Jesus. They said "how can you worship a Jewish peasant?" but never "this man you worship never existed."

    On the question of the text of Josephus, the techniques of textual criticism, familiar to anyone who has worked with critical editions of the Classics, enable us to spot interpolation. He wrote that James's brother was called the messiah, where a Christian interpolater would have said Jesus was the messiah. The other passage has interpolations, but the reference to Christians still being around, with its air of surprise, suggests that the passage as a whole is original. The reference to the "resurrection" is obviously an addition, since it's incompatible with the rest and with the fact that Josephus was a Jew.

    I can't understand Wil's last post. It is surely important to get our facts right and our history correct. And parables, metaphysics, and mythology are three quite different things. Jonah is mythical and his story is a parable, but neither is metaphysics.
     
  19. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    David, I do not remember you ever being so cavalier about your statements as you are here. No professional historian questioned the existence of Jesus????? None. Not a one! Down thru the millenia? That is a patently absurd statement.

    Even if we alter it to a more realistic 'very few' historians ever doubted the existence of Jesus, how does one go about proving that? Has anyone ever taken a poll of all historians of the past 2,000 years to be able to say this statement is accurate?

    And even if we were actually able to do just that, does it matter? Very few professional historians believed Troy was an actual place - until it was found. So majority opinion does not automatically equate to the truth of something either.

    Your second paragraph is even more out there. No-one in antiquity ever doubted? What possible evidence can you provide to support such an outlandish claim?
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    from one of the articles David didn't read...
    Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

    At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

    For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.

    But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

    The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All .
     

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