Jesus: Fact or Fiction?

Into statistics? Curious what everyone else thinks? Then start a poll here.

What are your opinions about Jesus?

He never existed
9
19%
He was just a man
22
47%
He was a prophet
2
4%
He was God incarnate
14
30%
 
Total votes : 47

Re: Myth figure

Postby Slim » Thu Feb 09, 2006 6:42 am

Atheist37 wrote:Slim,

The early Catholic church did a great job of creating history where once stood only myth. I had a chance to see a short film called "The God Who Wasn't There" by a reformed born-again Christian, and the case is very compelling. Check out http://www.thegodmovie.com for details.


Many thanks, A37. Although it's painfully obvious that the mythical Jesus of miracles and divine origin isn't real, I'd always assumed that there was a real person underneath the myth somewhere. Perhaps I need to reassess that. I'll certainly look into it!
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Postby koin4life » Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:43 am

Many thanks, A37. Although it's painfully obvious that the mythical Jesus of miracles and divine origin isn't real, I'd always assumed that there was a real person underneath the myth somewhere. Perhaps I need to reassess that. I'll certainly look into it!


I don't think you can look at the situation without being swayed before you already began. You already say that Jesus wasn't a divine being, which is fine. But you will probably take that idea when looking at if Jesus really existed and come to a conclusion that goes along with your preconceived notions.

Before you think I am standing on a soap box, the same is true for anybody, especially Christians. When looking at conflicts in the Bible, Christians will look at it from a perspective that the Bible must be right, therefore they will think through it until they come to the conclusion they want.

Ultimately, it's your faith in your set of beliefs that tells you the conclusions you come to are the truth. This holds true for everyone.
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Postby Slim » Thu Feb 09, 2006 8:44 am

koin4life wrote:I don't think you can look at the situation without being swayed before you already began. You already say that Jesus wasn't a divine being, which is fine. But you will probably take that idea when looking at if Jesus really existed and come to a conclusion that goes along with your preconceived notions.


Either conclusion goes along with my preconceived notions, so that's true.
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Postby Norton » Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:34 pm

Atheist37:

I truly hope you won't simply read one website and say "the issue is closed."

I've read the article on the website you referenced and it's poor scholarship. The person is a good writer and extensive researcher, but doesn't use accepted methods of historiography or textual criticism to make his case. He just offers a bunch of quotes from random people and often makes statements that show his ignorance (e.g. that because we don't have original manuscripts of the gospels casts doubt on their reliability--we don't have original manuscripts of any ancient documents!!!). Interestingly enough the few reputable scholars quoted in and at the end of the article actually do believe that Jesus existed (e.g. Elaine Pagels, David Noel Freeman, Bruce Chilton, James Dunn, and Jeffrey Sheler.) So why is he quoting them?

I'm guessing that you rely on the best scientists for conclusions regarding science and the best philosophers for conclusions regarding logic and reason. Please do the same with history.

Read Craig Blomberg, NT Wright, Luke Timothy Johnson, Marcus Borg, or John Dominic Crossan--a very wide spectrum of NT scholars and historians, several of which I would disagree with on details, but all of which affirm the overwhelming evidence that Jesus existed.

I certainly don't want to be dogmatic on this one, I'll leave dogmatism to the fundamentalists!! :-D

But keep an open mind here. This is one of the few areas where Christians and atheists shouldn't be in disagreement.

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Open minds

Postby Atheist37 » Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:48 am

Hey Norton,

I didn't mean to imply that I've come to any firm conclusion, or that I wouldn't consider any new evidence. I just figured that further discussion in this forum probably won't accomplish much. But since you opened the door, I think it is accepted by all sides that Jesus never wrote anything, at least we have no record of it (even second or third hand). Also it is interesting to note that even though the New Testament describes the fame of Jesus in the area around Jerusalem, there is no independent record of him from that time. If he was so famous, and multitudes followed him around, one would think that a contemporary would have written about it. Instead we have historians, born after the supposed death of Jesus, who heard from Christians that Jesus existed. That's not an independent source. But for this conspiracy theory to go anywhere, there has to be some motivation for St. Paul and his followers to make up the story.

By way of analogy, ask yourself if Joseph Smith had any motivation to make up a story about gold tablets on which was written the Book of Mormon. At least in that case, we have eye-witness testimony as to their existence. Even so, that testimony itself is tainted for lots of reasons. If you do not accept the divinity of the Book of Mormon, from only 180 years ago, how can you claim better evidence for the life of Jesus?

From there, we can discuss the Gnostic Scriptures, and why or why not Christians today should accept their divinity. But it all makes perfect sense (to me) if we take the position that all of these writings are either mythology or outright hoaxes.
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Postby koin4life » Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:48 am

Personally, I think Jospeh Smith is insane. One wife is enough nagging, but more than that is just insane! :D
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Postby Norton » Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:58 am

A37,

Yes.
1. Jesus never wrote anything down that we know of... Agreed.

2. "No independent record of Jesus from Jerusalem from his time..." a) he wasn't that famous. b) I'm not sure we have any records of anyone's existence from Jerusalem during that time. c) Most, not all, people that followed Jesus would have been illiterate. d) It was an oral culture, so the non-existence of written records isn't surprising. e) The gospel accounts could be based on contempory written records (like Q or something else). So, I'm not sure if I totally agree with your statement, but even if it is true, it doesn't cast much doubt at all on Jesus' existence. This is what we would expect in the 1st century AD in a mostly illiterate culture in the armpit of the Roman Empire.

3. "...historians, born after the supposed death of Jesus, who heard from Christians that Jesus existed." We will continue to go around and around on this one, but once again, Paul's writings appear very early (when many people who witnessed Jesus' life and death would have still been alive), James appears early, and the gospels, even by liberal accounts, begin to appear at least by 70 AD, and perhaps earlier. You may disagree with the dates, etc., but these two facts are undisputably true: a) there is more and earlier manuscript evidence for the existence of Jesus than almost any other ancient figure, b) the overwhelming majority of modern historians examine this evidence and conclude he existed. Does this rule out the possibility he didn't exist? No. But it means that the claim that he didn't exist is very, very extraordinary, and by your own admission, this requires extraordinary evidence. You've got some good thoughts, and there are a few questions that remain unanswered, but nothing close to the evidence needed to overturn the conclusions that almost all historians have made.

4. The Joseph Smith case is very different and should be treated differently.

5. The Gnostic writings...this is simple, almost all of them have been shown to come much, much later than the gospel accounts. The only one with a hint of a chance is the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, which is just a collection of sayings, most of which don't contradict the gospels at all.

It doesn't seem to make good sense to take an all-or-nothing position. It doesn't work that way. The evidence varies for many different ancient documents and you make conclusions based on the evidence at hand. I'm not arguing that you take every word of every phrase of every New Testament book as Truth. I'm just suggesting that when all the factors are incorporated and all the evidence is examined, it overwhelmingly suggests that Jesus existed.

PS: I don't usually get this involved in a discussion with someone else who has a pretty firm position to the contrary. But I spent three years in graduate school studying and researching the history and these documents and even the languages in which they were written. So I guess I've got a little different perspective and it troubles me when people post articles on the web or write books about the historical evidence and use very poor practices to establish their conclusions.

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History

Postby Atheist37 » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:02 am

Norton,

Your education and knowledge clearly trumps my web surfing. :shock: Even growing up in my atheist family, I was taught that Jesus was a great teacher who taught peace and love, and changed society for the better. It's only been recently that I even realized that anybody could raise any kind of credible objection to that. I think it's been worthwhile to explore. In fact I'll continue to do that, but I don't think we need to belabor the issue here.

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Postby Kibiyama » Sun Feb 26, 2006 4:23 am

Water to wine nothin, the man just discovered grape kool-aid.
I'm a 17 year old programmer and 3d animator, I drive a white cutlass convertible, and I'm the only atheist in my extended family.
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Postby Pagan » Wed Mar 08, 2006 1:47 am

If the pharisees can remember the entire old testament, and pass that along, why would it be unlikely that the authors of the NT could not remember and pass down their stories until they are written down?




koin, have you ever seen the Psych 101 demonstration where a story is whispered to one individual and then it is whispered to the next person and so on until it reaches the last person in the room who then recites what he has heard? It is quite comical. Should we believe in Arthurian legend and the Greek mythical god structure because it has been passed down by oral tradition?
I urge you not to throw away time, for it's swift as an arrow, fast as a stream. Distraction is entirely due to lack of concentration; stupidity and blindness are caused by lack of true knowledge.

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Postby koin4life » Wed Mar 08, 2006 5:53 am

Yes I have, but not in pysch class. My pysch classes consisted of a class in logic and reasoning, and engineering ethics.

Anyway, you are comparing the abilities of people today to those of the past, and it's not the same. In a largely oral culture, it is more likely they would be able to remember a lot more things than we can today. Because we can read and write, we can store that information down in books, but most of the people of that day did not have that.
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Postby stickmangrit » Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:18 pm

this is true koin, but since Yaweh is alledgely all-knowing, and would know that in the future, we would be looking for said evidence, why wouldn't he leave any? if the man could turn water into wine and feed hundreds with a handfull of bread and fish, surely he could take the time to leave some writings for the people he knew would come looking. and yet, he didn't. if he loves us so, and wanted us to go to Heaven that badly, why not leave concrete, independant evidence? why leave it in the hands of a select few who's motivations were suspect?

the answer is because he was likely never here at all, and if he was, he was certainly not Yaweh incarnate.

i'm reminded of my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies, Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ, in which Christ comes across Paul preaching of his virgin birth and devine status, despite having been tempted off the Cross by Lucifer, and looks in puzzled astonishment at Paul's teachings. he then walks up to Paul, and tells him that he's got it all wrong, but Paul dismisses him as irellevant.
I see as much misery outta them movin' to justify theirselves as them that set out to do harm.
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Postby koin4life » Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:22 pm

Well, I wouldn't say leaving the Bible counts as no evidence. That is the evidence, it is a collection of the teachings and evidence of Jesus.

I would really like to hear how you came to the conclusion that Jesus never existed when non-Christian evidence backs up his existence.

No matter what I say, you will descredit it because you don't want it to be true. If I say Jesus is God, you say he isn't, if I say Jesus did miracles, you say it was exageration. If I say he wasn't trying to lead a military rebellion, you say his purpose was to sieze power. I say the Bible is accurate, you say it is not.

Why are you so quick to say it is all a hoax perpetrated by the writers of the NT?
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Postby whoosanightowl » Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:40 pm

Why are you so quick to say it is all a hoax perpetrated by the writers of the NT?

I can only answer for myself, but my reason for not believing is that there is no verifiable evidence to back up the supernatural claims in the bible. When claims of miracles are made, they need sound, provable evidence to support them. It is much more logical to see Christianity as a hoax than to believe it as the truth. I'd have to disregard my common sense in order to believe such stories, just like if I were to try to accept Greek mythology as real.
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Postby koin4life » Wed Mar 08, 2006 8:05 pm

Okay, here is a question then......if something occured today, such as a person being healed of blindness, and there was nobody there with a video camera recording it, yet there were plenty of witnesses that saw it and will attest to it in writing. Would that be enough evidence?
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