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The Great Jesus debate. Did he exist at all - and if he did, what reasons do we have to believe he was divine?

(326 Posts)
EllieArroway Tue 05-Mar-13 13:51:59

Madhairday and I have been plotting behind the scenes to have this debate as we think it will be interesting, both for us and for others.

Mad is a Christian & I am an atheist. I will leave it entirely up to her to present her case.

Mine is:

It's impossible to conclude that Jesus actually existed at all given that there's simply no evidence to work with. I am aware that the majority (although not all) of scholars, both secular & religious, have concluded that he did exist, but this is for inferential reasons not evidential ones, so the issue is nowhere near as cut and dried as many people suppose.

While I am generally happy to accept that there was some man, probably called Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus, who lived in the Galilean region at the beginning of the 1st century & who may have died by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans - I don't feel that this is particularly significant or justifies anyone in believing that he was divine.

I also believe that nearly all of the "Jesus story" - the nativity, the miracles, the resurrection etc is complete myth and never happened at all.

I have continually pointed out on many threads that "There's no evidence that Jesus existed" and been called ignorant and so forth. So, this is my opportunity to make my case and demonstrate that this is, in fact, a correct statement.

So, I'm kicking of this (hopefully) interesting discussion with:

There is no evidence that Jesus the man existed. Discuss wink

(By the way, this is an open discussion for anyone to join in, ask questions, make points etc, it's not just for Mad and I).

DebtfreeEarly2018 Sun 01-Jan-17 20:45:35

Marking for reading later on. A most interesting thread!

Catiemack Sun 01-Jan-17 18:43:19

Also just read the thread and found it fascinating and extremely frustrating.
EllieArroway making good point after good point after good point and being met with a complete brick wall. The other main debater was good too.
I agree, this is something for historians.

Suppermummy02 Wed 28-Dec-16 22:15:46

Just read through whole thread and despite the debate being over wanted to put a comment in.

This is the wrong place to have such a debate ( all credit to Ellie for trying ) because every christian I have ever met believes in jesus being a god because of their faith, not evidence. Therefore the evidence or lack of, is irrelevant to most christians. And every debate will be fuelled by confirmation bias. So the issue would be better debated in a history forum.

Evidence confirming the existence of a supernatural being is so world changing it requires a magnitude of 99% confidence in its accuracy. This thread is a very good example that we have little confidence in the very little evidence there is, meaning the conclusion is pretty obvious.

Where we to have an honest debate about the supernatural ability of a demigod who could 'rise' from the dead we would also have to address the previous instances of such a feat with earlier mythological beings and why jesus just repeated their mythology rather than doing anything unique.

Like Horus (3100 B.C.)
Who also had 12 disciples.
One was born of a virgin in a cave.
Like Jesus, his birth was announced via a star, And three wise men showed up!
He was baptised when he was 30.
He rose a guy from the dead and walked on water.
Lastly, he was crucified, buried like Jesus in a tomb, and resurrected.

Or Krishna (around 3000 B.C.)
A Hindu God.
Born after his mum was impregnated by a God.
Angels, wise men, and shepherds were at his birth.
Guess what gifts they gave him? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
A jealous bad guy ordered the slaughter of all newborns, just as happened with Jesus.
Baptised in a river.
Performed miracles, including raising the dead and healing the deaf and blind.
Rose from the dead to ascend to heaven.
Is expected to return to earth someday to fight the “Prince of Evil.”

Or Osiris (around 2500 B.C.)
An Egyptian God.
Killed and the resurrected after three days in hell.
Performed miracles
Had 12 disciples.
Taught rebirth through water baptism.

Or Mithra (2000 B.C.)
Virginal birth on December 25th.
Swaddled and laid in a manger.
Tended by shepherds in the manger.
He had 12 companions (or disciples).
Performed miracles.
Gave his own life to save the world.
Dead for three days, then resurrected.
Called “the Way, the Truth and the Light.”
Has his own version of a Eucharistic-style “Lord’s supper.”

Or Buddha (563 B.C.)
Who also the sick, walked on water.
Fed 500 men from one basket of cakes.
Taught a lot of the same things Jesus taught, including equality for all.
He spent three days in jail and was resurrected when he died. WTF? A common theme here!

All before jesus who was likely just another copy of a common creation myth.

GlobalTechIndustries Mon 19-Dec-16 22:58:59

so basically it all comes down to faith and that we hope they may have been something.

FannyThat Mon 19-Dec-16 19:34:30

Thank you, it's all so fascinating but mind boggling at the same time!

windingtrail Mon 19-Dec-16 19:03:03

Never really looked into that so I don't know all the details, but it seems that most countries didn't use it until international trade made it necessary to use the same system ( if I order from Taiwan on ebay I don't want to be told delivery will be in the year of the donkey ).

Apparently it wasn't even invented until 525 AD and only used in a few countries for centuries after that.

According to wiki (there may be better sources)

"Eastern Orthodox countries only began to adopt AD instead of the Byzantine calendar in 1700 when Russia did so, with others adopting it in the 19th and 20th centuries."

FannyThat Mon 19-Dec-16 00:38:46

Can someone please help me understand why all faiths and atheists use the measurement of years based on BC AD? Never understood that.

Obviously now it's because it's 2016 and if you're going to start living off your own calendar you're going to end up very confused! But how is it other religions followed it too? And non-believers?

CharleyDavidson Sun 11-Dec-16 22:40:59

Ooops - zombie thread

CharleyDavidson Sun 11-Dec-16 22:25:09

What I find fascinating is that there are so many other religions that share common elements of the stories behind Jesus. They make me question Jesus as a person but do make me ponder on the commonality of the stories as being in some way true at some time.

E.g. There are many, many parallels to the story of the egyptian Horus (3000 years predating Jesus) and that of Jesus. Just fascinating.

lasttimeround Sun 11-Dec-16 22:16:43


BackOnlyBriefly Fri 03-May-13 08:26:46

Oh he definitely had a beard! I've seen the pictures smile

MareeyaDolores Fri 03-May-13 01:38:32

Misread the title and thought it said 'what reasons to we have to believe He was bearded' blush

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Thu 02-May-13 19:26:41

I'm still lurking away. Very entertaining thread and I'm really hoping you are feeling better mad

madhairday Mon 29-Apr-13 12:06:31

Interesting about pilgrimages too, like Holo I did not know a lot about early Christian pilgrimage <or lack thereof> - I have been educated! I hadn't made the connection that Constantine, having been embedded in Roman and pagan religious practise, encouraged pilgrimage and that this is when such practises took off in the Christian world. Before that, and particularly early on, it seems that Christians were detaching from Jewish tradition and literally practising what they preached - that God was all around, so there was no need for special sites of significance in a holy sense. Early Christian writings mention journeys made to communities of Christians, including to those living in places Jesus visited, but not journeys of pilgrimage. Paul, of course, mentions meeting with Peter.

madhairday Mon 29-Apr-13 11:47:14

I'm sorry I have not been around. RL has been a bit bonkers and stressful and also poorly, so I have not had the time, headspace or energy.

Please don't leave the thread Holo - your contributions are so valuable, you say it a lot better than me. I think we have done as you said - accounted for the development of the Jesus tradition in the 1stC - and gone beyond that in fact, in providing some good arguments for historicity and for the 'historical Jesus'.

So with Paul, Ellie, am I right in thinking you go along with the C19 school of thought that he did not see Jesus as a human being or give any credence to his life and ministry? So we're talking here about Paul's perspective on Jesus rather than Paul being a good historical source to 'prove' Jesus existence - good, because that's the line of thinking I would prefer to go down. I don't think Paul could be cited as a useful historical source, if nothing else but by the nature of his epistles, which were documents as part of ongoing conversations with communities in varying situations. They were not a repetition of history in the way the gospels are purported to be - they were letters to groups addressing their own problems and misunderstandings.

Because of this, we can also surmise that it would be odd if Paul did repeat history in them. We join them as part of a conversation - would we expect single letters to go into a depth of explanation about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ? It is certain that Paul places most importance on the death and atonement of Jesus, but there are references to Jesus as man, to his life as well as his death. There are also interesting semantic and etymological points - Paul's use of the word euangelion for example <'gospel'>, pointing back to the use of the word in Isaiah - the one who was sent to bring good news to the poor. There are also striking parallels between Jesus' and Paul's teaching on the kingdom of God - the central feature of Jesus' teaching. The use of such language implies a knowledge of such categories in early Christian thought - again, it would be odd if Paul repeated events in addressing particular circumstances, and would be beyond astonishing if Paul's early audience did not possess their own knowledge of Jesus traditions - ludicrous to say that they knew nothing of them until the appearance of the gospel of Mark. Where was the material Mark drew upon from? The early traditions referred to in Pauline epistles point to the fact that Christians had well formed credal statements from incredibly early after the events.

I'd thoroughly recommend reading this book if you have the time and inclination, it goes into this subject in a great amount of depth and has fascinating insight into 1st Century practise and belief and formation of Christianity as well as into the theology of Paul himself.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 27-Apr-13 17:33:59

Holo sad, I have been enjoying this thread, but I understand your decision.
Mad, hope you are feeling better and can return soon.

HolofernesesHead Sat 27-Apr-13 13:47:19

And I set out to do what I wanted, which was to put forward an account of the development of Jesus traditions in the first century. You called me stupid. I'm sure that if I'd agreed with your version of events, you'd have hailed me as a genius.

See ya smile

EllieArroway Sat 27-Apr-13 13:08:00

That you are incapable of understanding what the debate is actually supposed to be about, Holo is your problem, please don't pretend that it's mine.

Anyway, I set out to do what I wanted - to show that there's no reliable historical evidence for Jesus. You helped me to show that by being completely unable to refute a single fact that I produced - all the time attempting to patronise me by implying that I don't know what I'm talking about.

See ya smile

HolofernesesHead Sat 27-Apr-13 13:03:01

Ellie, I'm going to leave this thread now. I'm not here for 'apologetic' reasons, I'm here for a good discussion, and it's impossible to have a good discussion with someone who has no respect for or confidence in one's ability to contribute. You obviously think I'm some delusionist who's just read a few modern apologetic books and Googled a few Bible passages. This is objectively and provably untrue.

Anyway, I have much bigger fish to fry in my life right now, so I'm going to stick to MN threads which are, in that popular phrase, radiators and not drains.

EllieArroway Sat 27-Apr-13 10:44:20

I didn't mean YOU think that! But you'd be amazed how many people do smile

dogsandcats Sat 27-Apr-13 10:36:31

I do not think that you are ignorant or a fool.
And I would be happy for you to link to this. smile

EllieArroway Sat 27-Apr-13 10:21:37

I get what you're trying to say, dogs, but that's not really a good analogy. We know (all of us) that pain exists, and there's no biological reason why it should be the case that one particular part of the body should be immune from it - so can only really conclude that it does exist.

Of course, strictly speaking, you're right. Someone who has never had backache can only surmise that it genuinely exists in others - but that's based on some pretty solid evidence.

The point of this discussion was to make clear that when people say "Oh, it's a fact that Jesus existed. There's loads of historical evidence proving it..." which we hear continually from all Christians and an awful lot of atheists/agnostics too, they are not correct.

And next time an MNer calls me an ignorant fool for pointing out, entirely correctly, that there's no evidence for an historical Jesus, I can post a link to this.

dogsandcats Sat 27-Apr-13 10:14:25

Back pain. I have never had it badly.
But it exists. We all know it exists.
How,or why, if we have never had it ourselves?

Partly because we believe those we trust who say they have it,
partly because we believe specialists who diagnose it and have no reason to believe that they are lying,
partly because we read about it, and again, have no reason to doubt the ones who wrote the articles,
and partly because it makes sense.

dogsandcats Sat 27-Apr-13 10:04:08

I dont have a problem with that, but now I am looking at it form non-christians points of views, I can see why that is problematic for many.

technodad Sat 27-Apr-13 09:57:55

So, not evidence at all then! And people of religion wonder why they are patronised by non-believers!

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