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  1. #61
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    From BR's link of Ehrman:
    Q: As you explain in your book, many mythicists continue to try to debunk the very existence of Jesus Christ. What's the motivation of those who try to turn Jesus into an imaginary figure?

    A: It's been a bit of a mystery. I don't have a solid answer, but I have a hunch. It's based on the fact that everybody who’s a mythicist is a very strong agnostic or, more typically, a hard-core atheist.

    And virtually [all mythicists are] diehard opponent[s] of organized religion. They think it's done so much harm in the world, not just crusades and inquisitions, but by supporting slavery and racism and sexism and so forth.

    These people, who are quite strongly opposed to religion, live in a culture where the dominant religion is Christianity. These people think that by showing Christianity is founded on a myth, they can show that it's in fact a fairy tale not worthy of belief.

    Q: How influential are these people?

    A: They are not influential among scholars of antiquity, historians of the ancient world, classicists, and biblical scholars. There, they've made virtually no impact.
    Where they have made an impact is in popular circles, especially with the advent of the Internet. There is an increasing following of these people on the Internet, and a number of them have written books that have sold a lot of copies.

    ...Q: Many biblical scholars believe that the canonical Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – weren't written by anyone who personally knew Jesus. Does that make it difficult to rely on them as historical narratives of what really happened?

    A: Scholars have worked on this problem for a very long time, starting in the 1770s. We're talking about a discipline that’s hundreds of years old.

    For about the last century, the majority of scholars in Europe and North America have agreed that the earliest gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, do contain historically reliable information.

    And the majority of scholars have believed that Jesus is best understood as a Jewish apocalypticist. Jesus believed there were forces of evil that were in charge of this world, and that's why there's so much pain and suffering, but God would soon intervene to overthrow the forces of evil. Jesus probably expected this to happen within his own lifetime or his disciples' lifetimes.
    So just to reiterate, there are no accepted scholars in the field who contest the existence of Jesus as a historical figure--none. These are not religious adherents, but rather scholars fluent in the many source languages and history of antiquity, are expert hermeneuticists who have studied the literature and archaeological data of that era on an extraordinarily detailed level, and where the scholarly consensus has remained constant over time on this issue (it's probably the only issue for which there is such broad based agreement).

    In contrast, figures like David and Solomon are not considered to have existed by many scholars. Ditto with several other figures. So it's not like scholars aren't willing to contest some major things. But the historical evidence for Jesus is just too strong to be reasonably contested.

    And just to speak plainly, scholars would consider mythicists to be whackadoodles on par with fundamentalists who believe the world is only 6,000 years old. It's that fringe and that unsupported by evidence.

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    Why do you think mainstream scholarship is wrong on this?
    Because there is no record of a man name Pontius Pilate crucifying a man named Jesus. To me, that's huge.
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  3. #63
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    I found something pretty interesting after you mentioned that.

    Historical Errors in the Gospels
    Angie
    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

  4. #64
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    Actually there is a record of Jesus' crucifixion by order of Pilate in Tacitus' Annals.

    Here's Ehrman describing in an interview the breadth of scholarly consensus on this issue and why.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPvbQ...e_gdata_player

    Eta: the vid was posted by a theist rather contemptuous of mon-theists, so please ignore the opening screed.

  5. #65
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    Tacitus' Annals were not written contemporary to Jesus's supposed crucifixion. The Romans were kick-ass record keepers. They kept records of EVERYTHING. And many of those records are still around. Yet none of them mention any of the stuff that supposedly happened to Jesus and his family. There is no record of Joseph & Mary in the census they were going to when Jesus was born, no record of Jesus' crucifixion, etc., etc.

    I find that suspicious and none of the defenses of Jesus as an historical person address these gaps in a way I find convincing.
    Actual bumper sticker series: Jesus is my co-pilot. Satan is my financial advisor. Budha is my therapist. L. Ron Hubbard owes me $50.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAngel View Post
    why is lacking a belief in God a leap of faith?
    I think believers believe that non-believers come to their opinions the same way they do. With the usual retort being, it's not a leap of faith not to believe in the Easter bunny.
    What would Jenny do?

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    th whole post
    Could you please comment on whether there is any academic consensus or any seriously considered evidence of Jesus' wife?
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    There isn't enough evidence to develop a consensus view re: Jesus' wife, and I can't think of a scholar that would disagree with that. Scholars don't typically set out to make a consensus view, but rather to point to credible possibilities within a text.

    I've posted about arguments in favor of Jesus being married before, so people can look that up if they're interested. The most well-known proponent of such views has been John Shelby Spong. His arguments are credible, but not compelling. By that I mean they are intellectually sound arguments, but are of insufficient scope to dispel other possibilities.

    The main issue with this fragment appears to be whether it's authentic or not. I've only looked at transcriptions of the Coptic, but the Coptic word used for wife here is pretty unambiguous (there's another related term in Coptic which can be used for wife, but which also has other meanings. That more ambiguous term wasn't used here though).

    Anyhow, King was rightly careful to say this doesn't prove anything about Jesus being married. But it does point to the contestation over celibacy in the early church, and potentially the status and role of women in that. If the fragment is genuine (and sadly there are a lot of forgeries out there, so this is a real concern), I find interesting that this is proof of a definite oral tradition related to Jesus potentially being married. We've seen possible indications of that from a rhetorical analysis of early polemical writings, but to have the actual text in hand is of course incredibly exciting .

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacMadame
    The Romans were kick-ass record keepers. They kept records of EVERYTHING. And many of those records are still around.
    Perhaps you could give us the names and locations of these extant records that cover that specific time and geographic area.

    And if your response is you can't do that because you aren't a specialist, then maybe listen to actual specialists in the field when they tell you you are wrong about the historical data, what is proper attestation in antiquity and why, and what is currently extant or not.

    Then ask yourself if you also question the existence of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Judas Maccabeus, Pontius Pilate, Hillel, the Baal Shem Tov, etc. Because if you don't, there is less historical attestation for those figures than there is for Jesus. So ask yourself why that doesn't bother you and why you trust historians then, but not with Jesus?

  10. #70
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    I think its interesting to look at what we can know and how about the distant past. I don't know much about the subject but I've also not encountered the claim that there is not enough evidence of Jesus' historical existence in anything serious which I've read. The only place I've seen that is in little advertisements in the back pages of skeptic magazines for self-published books that say something like "Jesus Fictional!"

    So encountering the suggestion here piqued my interest enough to look around the internet. That search certainly leads me to the opinion that scholars in the field do feel that there is enough evidence of the historical existence of Jesus.

    There are a couple of extensive articles in Wikipedia:

    Historicity of Jesus

    The notes to this contain quotes from several more scholars besides Bart Ehrman. For instance:

    Michael Grant states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary."
    Historical Jesus

    Its pretty interesting stuff in terms of knowledge of the past and what we can know.
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  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacMadame View Post
    Tacitus' Annals were not written contemporary to Jesus's supposed crucifixion. The Romans were kick-ass record keepers. They kept records of EVERYTHING. And many of those records are still around. Yet none of them mention any of the stuff that supposedly happened to Jesus and his family. There is no record of Joseph & Mary in the census they were going to when Jesus was born, no record of Jesus' crucifixion, etc., etc.

    I find that suspicious and none of the defenses of Jesus as an historical person address these gaps in a way I find convincing.
    But, that does not mean that the Romans were capable of keeping record of everything. It makes sense that they could be "kick-ass" keeping records within the cities. But in rural areas, not so much. People traveling, a woman giving birth in the barn of an inn, very possible that the birth was not recorded. It is also possible, that because the Romans wanted to remove themselves from responsibility for the death of Jesus, the records for Jesus' crucifixion were destroyed. Just suggesting that there could be any number of reasons for why certain "facts" are not recorded. We simply don't know. That is what faith is about. I do believe that Jesus existed as a man. Whether or not he had a wife, I don't know. But, it certainly would not bother me to know that he did.

    As to the earthquake, there seems to be some geological proof that there was earthquake activity in the area, at the appropriate time: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47555983.../#.UFsZpULle-I
    Last edited by cruisin; 09-20-2012 at 02:31 PM.

  12. #72

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    Quote Originally Posted by cruisin View Post
    But, that does not mean that the Romans were capable of keeping record of everything. It makes sense that they could be "kick-ass" keeping records within the cities. But in rural areas, not so much. People traveling, a woman giving birth in the barn of an inn, very possible that the birth was not recorded. It is also possible, that because the Romans wanted to remove themselves from responsibility for the death of Jesus, the records for Jesus' crucifixion were destroyed.
    Wouldn't at least some of the records kept by the Roman government been destroyed either by war or old age?

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex View Post
    Wouldn't at least some of the records kept by the Roman government been destroyed either by war or old age?
    That is another very good possibility. We cannot state with any certainty that the records did not exist at some time. They could have, and have been lost or destroyed, accidentally or intentionally. And, as good as the Romans may have been at keeping records, they had to have missed a lot.

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    Nero's Great Fire did a lot of damage to Rome, as did numerous other fires, riots, and the sheer incompetience of the very human record keepers.
    I'd rather be thought of as absolutely ridiculous than as absolutely boring.

  15. #75
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    We should also remember that parts of Rome (especially the Forum area) were effected by flooding from the Tiber River. Sediment would cover areas and raise the ground level. As buildings were damaged and the ground level rose, the people just leveled buildings and build on top of what existed. There are layers of "city" in Rome. Not all of it is excavated.

  16. #76
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    As a non-theist I agree with agal. I'm an amateur reader of many books about the birth of Christianity and the early relationships between the nascent Christians, Jewish leadership, Hellenist thinkers and so on. And whereas I certainly don't believe Jesus was the son of god, the evidence that he existed historically is pretty overwhelming.

    IIRC, scholars postulate that the synoptic Gospels were sourced to an original document (known as the Q document) that was contemporary with Jesus. But I studied this many years ago and don't know if that's still the consensus.

    What IS evident in the gospels is the beginning of the struggle to differentiate Christianity from its Jewish roots, providing fodder for 2000 years of antisemitism by those who didn't see the argument in historical context. Pharisees, for example, were just thought-leaders who were not of the priestly caste, but the designation came to be negative because of how it was used in the New Testament.

    The New Testament is responsible for a lot more Jewish suffering than the Koran is, ironically enough.
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  17. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaphyre14 View Post
    Nero's Great Fire did a lot of damage to Rome, as did numerous other fires, riots, and the sheer incompetience of the very human record keepers.
    So the fires (and human incompetence) managed to destroy every piece of evidence that Jesus existed but not every piece of evidence that other historical figures existed? That reminds me of the arguments of the Italian police that Amanda Knox was able to destroy only her DNA in her apartment.

    And the argument that Jesus' crucifixion was such a political hot potato that it would be destroyed always amuses me because it presumes he was a much more important figure than he actually was at the time.
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    MacMadame, why do you think most scholars in the field believe Jesus did exist historically, if you think it is clear that evidence for that does not exist? (I'm asking this seriously not snarkily.)
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    Here's Ehrman addressing some of the misperceptions behind MacMadame's argument:
    What do mythicists argue?

    If Jesus really existed, mythicists ask why so few first-century writers mention him. These mythicists dismiss the Gospel accounts as biased and therefore non-historical. To many mythicists, the Jesus story is based on pagan myths about dying and rising gods.

    What does Ehrman argue?

    Ehrman points out that only about 3 percent of Jews in Jesus' time were literate, and Romans never kept detailed records. (Decades after Jesus' crucifixion, three Roman writers mention Jesus in passing, as does the Jewish historian Josephus.) Though the Gospel accounts are biased, they cannot be discounted as non-historical. As for Jesus being a Jewish version of the pagan dying and rising god, Ehrman shows that there is no evidence the Jews of Jesus' day worshipped pagan gods. If anything, Jesus was deeply rooted in Jewish, rather than Roman, traditions.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobile...n_1400465.html

    And the following is a compendium of views from top biblical scholars around the world re: the existence of Jesus.
    Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.” – John Dominic Crossan, Co-founder of The Jesus Seminar Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pg 145

    “Jesus death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”- Atheist Gerd Ludemann-The Resurrection of Christ, Pg 50.

    E.P. Sanders: The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York: Penguin Books, 1993, says:

    “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know” pgs 279-280. “I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: ‘I saw him first!’ ‘No! I did.’ Paul’s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus’ followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions.” Pgs. 279-280. “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it.” Pg 280

    Robert E. Van Voorst, Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary, in his discussion on the historical evidence of Jesus outside of the New Testament states:

    “The theory of Jesus’ nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question.” – Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Pg 14.

    Mark Allan Powell, a professor of NT and chairman for Historical Jesus at the Society of Biblical Literature puts it harsh stating: “Anyone who says that today [i.e. that Jesus didn't exist]–in the academic world at least–gets grouped with the skinheads who say there was no Holocaust and the scientific holdouts who want to believe the world is flat.” -Mark A Powell, Jesus As a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. 168.

    The late F.F. Bruce in his popular The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? said:

    “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.” -Bruce, The New Testament Documents. 123.

    “No one. No one in scholarly circles dealing with ancient Judaism and early Christianity, of any religious or non-religious persuasion holds the view that Jesus never existed. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own truth.”—Larry Hurtado, specialist in New Testament and Christian origins, former Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology (University of Edinburgh).

    “Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the oldest Palestinian community.”- Rudolph Bultmann, Jesus And The Word, pg 13, 1958.

    “To doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all… was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worthwhile to enter in here.” –G. Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, 1960

    “I am of the opinion (and it is an opinion shared by every serious historian) that the theory [‘that Jesus never lived, that he was a purely mythical figure”] is historically untenable.” W. Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, pg 119.

    ‘To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars,’ In recent years ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus’—or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger -, indeed abundant, evidence on the contrary.” –Historian Michael Grant, Jesus, An Historians Review of the Gospels, pg 200,

    “There are those who argue that Jesus was a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there was never a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that...” Richard Burridge and Graham Gould, Jesus, Now and Then, 2004, pg 34.

    “Let me state it plainly that I accept that Jesus was a real historical person, In my opinion, the difficulties arising from the denial of his existence still vociferously maintained in small circles of rationalist ‘dogmatists’ far exceed those deriving its acceptance”- Geza Vermes, The Resurrection, 2008, (ix)

    “No serious historian of any religious or nonreligious stripe doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea and Samaria.” Craig Evans in Evans and Wright, Jesus, The Final Days, 2009, pg 3.
    http://chab123.wordpress.com/2012/03...istence-jesus/

    People can believe what they want obviously, but arguing for the non-existence of Jesus is the intellectual equivalent of birtherism. Personally I wouldn't want to be associated with something that ignorant, but it's a free country and all that.
    Last edited by agalisgv; 09-20-2012 at 05:18 PM.

  20. #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by PRlady View Post
    What IS evident in the gospels is the beginning of the struggle to differentiate Christianity from its Jewish roots, providing fodder for 2000 years of antisemitism by those who didn't see the argument in historical context.
    I have always wondered how Christian antisemites reconciled the notion with their belief in Jesus. "They killed OUR Jesus!" was/is the popular accusation. Do people ever stop and think that Jesus was a Jew or does it fall by the wayside?

    Whoa, wait a minute:
    “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know” pgs 279-280. “I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: ‘I saw him first!’ ‘No! I did.’ Paul’s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus’ followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions.” Pgs. 279-280. “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it.” Pg 280

    Thanks for the post, ag. Please please elaborate on the first and last sentences. What does he mean by "resurrection experiences" and why exactly is that a fact?
    Last edited by IceAlisa; 09-20-2012 at 05:08 PM.
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