Did Jesus Really Exist?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by paynedaniel, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. paynedaniel

    paynedaniel New Member

    I've been studying this issue recently, and even though I am an atheist, I always believed up to this point that there was a historical Jesus. However, after much research, I'm not so sure anymore. The writers of the NT (after the writings of Paul) really have nothing historically accurate to say about Jesus, and all the miraculous writings seem to be borrowed from myths much more ancient. There's not a single secular historian (including Jospehus) whose writings verify the existence of Jesus. Jospehus' writings are hotly disputed. Philo (a contemporary of Christ) says nothing of him. This is surprising since huge volumes of their work are still extant. I'm curious if anyone has some objective proof for the existence of Jesus.

  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Have you read Josephus?

    You should look at his Antiquities, Book 18. In my copy of the writings of Josephus, page 379, I find

  3. paynedaniel

    paynedaniel New Member

    Re: Re: Did Jesus Really Exist?

    Yeah, I had to read Josephus in seminary. That passage is very hotly disputed, particularly the portion in which Josephus calls Jesus "the Christ." Many think it's a later addition.

    BTW, I would love for you to comment on my last few posts under "Jerry Falwell & Liberty Uni" since I know you'll offer something more than Pug. Thanks.

  4. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I agree that just about all of the primary evidence for Jesus comes from Christian sources.

    But certainly there was early non-Christian recognition of Christianity itself, which seems to have been thought of initially as an extremist messianic Jewish sect that was stirring up trouble in the synagogues.

    Tacitus mentions Jesus' execution in the reign of Tiberius (Annals 15:44). This historian obviously got the information second hand, but he doesn't seem to have doubted its accuracy.

    Personally, I can't be sure that Jesus ever existed, but I don't really doubt it either. He's as well attested as many ancient figures, who are known through a few writings and perhaps the school that preserved them.

    The Buddha is only known through early oral Buddhist traditions, which weren't committed to writing until several hundred years after his death. But there isn't a whole lot of doubt that the Buddha existed.

    A problem that presents itself in both the Christian and Buddhist cases is the fact that the early tradition was preserved (and inevitably elaborated) for religious rather than historical reasons. The stories told of the founder's life events were intended not as objective historical chronology, but as illustrations of religious meaning.

    The historical problem in these cases is cutting though the 'edifying stories' and trying to dissect out a core of underlying historical fact. That's not easy, and the results of the attempt have not been entirely convincing, a least to me.

    That doesn't even address the philosophical/religious aspect. After all, the real question about Jesus isn't whether he existed, it's what Jesus really was and what the answer to that question means to the rest of mankind.

    And that doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that history can grasp.
  5. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Re: Re: Did Jesus Really Exist?

    Let's not forget Jesus is mentioned in the Koran.

    Muhammad, believed Jesus was the Messiah, Allah's anointed messenger.

    The Koran tells how Allah anointed Jesus, through a virgin birth to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world, nearly five hundred and fifty years before Muhammad was born.
  6. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Re: Re: Re: Did Jesus Really Exist?

    I always find it interesting that all of us who disbelieve something challenge the literature as "hotly contested...later additions...etc." but freely and boldy quote the literature supporing our views without challenging them.

    As far the JF and Lib thread, I will look at it.
  7. suite144

    suite144 New Member

    10 Questions To Ask A Believer


    I read your post concerning the existence of Jesus etc. and as an Atheist myself I would like for you and others to answer the enclosed questions. I'm writing a book about the reasons that Atheists do not believe in the "existence of god" and I would like your imput. My reason is not to disagree with you beliefs or nonbeliefs but to better understand why believers believe etc.

    Thank you in advance!

    10 Questions To Ask A Believer

    Preparatory Question: Have you read the Bible? If so, how much and what parts?

    1) How would you define "God," and why are you convinced such a thing exists?

    2) If everything needs a creator, then who or what created God?

    3) Since there are countless religions in the world today claiming to the "one true religion," why do you think your beliefs are the correct ones?

    4) If something is not rational, should it be believed anyway?

    5) If the god of the Bible is "all-good," why does he himself say that he created evil (Isaiah 45: 7)?

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

    Isaiah 7:14-15 also states: “ behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil [ra], and choose the good.”

    The word evil is ra, such as in Genesis 2:9, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

    6) Why do so many religious people thank God when they survive a disaster, yet fail to be angry with him for causing the disaster in the first place? In the same vein, why does a professional sports figure (i.e. football, baseball or basketball) seem to praise Jesus by pointing up, I presume to him in heaven, to thank him for being successful, but fails to reprimand Jesus when he is unsuccessful?

    7) In order to be good Christians, must we really do as Jesus says in Luke 14: 26 and hate ourselves and our families?

    “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. “ (Like 14:26)

    In addition, Mathew 10:37-38 also reflects the concept of devaluing your family: “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Doesn’t this sound like what a dictator would say?

    8) Why does history show that every time a fundamentalist religion has gained political power, tyranny and persecutions have soon followed?

    9) Have you ever heard of or known anyone who has been killed in the name of Atheism?

    10) Do you think that people who use Reason to govern or live their lives are good people?
  8. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    But the Koran itself is a much later work than the Christian bible.

    I have heard one variation or another of the "Did Jesus exist?" controversy for years. Sometimes the answer offered is, "He didn't exist but there was a fellow called the Teacher of Righteousness who said and did the things attributed to Jesus but wasn't he."

    Does it matter? As an historic force, the Christian Church certainly exists. As a practical matter, if Jesus didn't exist, someone would have had to invent him.

    Maybe they DID!
  9. BrianH

    BrianH Member

    I think when looking at the historicity of Jesus it is best to think of it in layers.
    We have Paul's writings first. Granted, there is much discussion about how Paul viewed Jesus. Those who say, "look how scant the biographical information is". Those who say, "look how human" this person is. I tend to think Paul had limited information about the person, and was not that particularly interested in biography. I think this is the first layer we have, although I know there are those who think a "signs gospel" and the hypothetical Q document predate Paul's writings.

    I do give credence to this who think that Paul was at odds with the "Jerusalem church", the cleaned up version which is recorded much later in Acts, imo.
    The whole Paul is the founder of Gentile Christianity which replaced the influence of the Jerusalem church after AD 70 thing.

    So then we go to Mark, which I think most accurately reflects(well compared to the other three) the life of Jesus.
    This Jesus, to me, retains many of the human elements which I do not think would occur if we had been talking about a purely mythological figure.

    The growth of the mythology surrounding the person leads me to believe he did exist and the mythology, as it would any extraordinary person, grew.

  10. So what are we supposed to believe?

    The myths? Or the reality? And how do we determine what reality is? Oh yes... that's where "faith" comes in...

    Sorry, I find it hard to believe in things I can neither see, touch, smell, nor otherwise observe. Myths don't cut it for me, because I'd just as soon be worshipping Odin as Jesus in that case.

    It is really, really hard for me to see otherwise intelligent people lining up to say "but of COURSE this is all true! We believe it, and we have faith, and you are WRONG to challenge it all. We don't need evidence....".

    I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or ask for a pistol in these situations.....
  11. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    Re: 10 Questions To Ask A Believer

    You may have solid points to your questions. However, technically, you can argue that Leninist brand of Communism is a sect of Atheism. It is based on "reason" and "scientific materialism" and such. Loads of people were killed in the name of these.

    I thinj you can make an oppressive cult out of any belief system.
  12. Re: Re: 10 Questions To Ask A Believer

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. In THIS we agree....
    - Carl
  13. BrianH

    BrianH Member

    Re: So what are we supposed to believe?

    I would argue, even though I disagree with some of their presuppositions, that the Jesus Seminar's work in this field was a scholarly approach to seperating myth from reality.
  14. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Brian H:

    I think that there's something in what you say. One reason that I consider most of Torah and the Writings to be reasonably historically accurate is that these works preserve the human foibles, errors, and even crimes of their otherwise heroic subjects.

    But a second personal rule is that any divine revelation should be discounted AT ONCE and considered to be a device for claiming authority or making an excuse by some human or other.

    Odd...suddenly many things started to make excellent sense once I hit on this method...
  15. suite144

    suite144 New Member

    10 Questions Reply


    I was hoping that someone would actually attempt to answer those 10 questions. By just isolating one question to make a point is not what I was asking. But as far as your reply is concerned, calling Atheism a belief system is erroneous. Atheists do not know (as no person does)that a God exist, they only do not believe in the "existence of a God or gods".

    FYI: Let's don't forget, Hitler believed in God!

    P.S. It would be nice if someone would, at their convenience take the time to answer my questions. Your answers are neither right or wrong they're just your opinion.

  16. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    Re: 10 Questions Reply

    Communism is Atheistic, and it is a faith. Communist Party of the SU was your typical state church.

    "Atheists do not know (as no person does)that a God exist, they only do not believe in the "existence of a God or gods"." - this is just contradictory. AFAIK atheists say "there is no God"; agnostics say "we don't know" (and I agree).

    As I understand, actual educated Christians have very good, plausible-sounding answers to all your 10 questions, and more. What they don't have is means to actually PROVE TO YOU that they are right, just as you can't prove them wrong. I hope someone like Janko could take time and actually answer.
  17. Tom57

    Tom57 Member

    Re: Re: 10 Questions To Ask A Believer

    No, you've made an assumption. It is certainly possible for all atheists to believe in reason, but that not all who believe in reason are necessarily atheists.
  18. marilynd

    marilynd New Member

    Re: 10 Questions Reply

    Historically, at least, atheism claims that no god or gods exist. As such, it is a truth claim and at least analogous to a belief system, although I'm not sure I would want to call it a system.

    Agnosticism claims not to be able to resolve the question one way or another.

    I have often found that in today's parlance, those who claim to be atheists actually turn out to be agnostics.

    And Uncle Joe didn't. What could this possibly have to do with anything?


  19. marilynd

    marilynd New Member

    In response to the original post about the existence of Jesus, there is another way to approach the problem besides looking for affirmative citations. Historians often look for absence of evidence as well as presence. While not always indicative, it is often suggestive, particularly in the presence of controversy.

    If the Biblical scholars who taught me were correct, Paul and the authors of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Acts wrote within the lifetime of Jesus' contemporaries; that is, during a period in which there would have been plenty of people who would have known that this Jesus guy was a fiction. Such information would certainly have been handed down well into the grandchildren's generation in the midst of growing controversy. The earliest texts where we get some inkling of the anti-Christian Greek side of the controversy are Athenagoras and Justin Martyr. They are defending what Jesus was, not that Jesus was. As prolific a critic as Philo Judaeus, as I recall, does not deny the existence of Jesus. He and the other ancient Jewish authors would certainly have been privy to claims of "making it all up" and "no person such as Jesus ever existed" in the context of a Jewish community where the controversy over the legitimacy of Christianity was at its zenith.

    While the status of the texts are somewhat problematical, something in the way of accusation of fraud would be discernible if there had been a long, drawn-out controversy over it.

    At least if I'm remembering the old texts right, which was many moons ago. I'm sure if anyone will know, Uncle Janko will.

    The "that" question in regard to Jesus is not much of an issue in my view. It would be if you could prove definitively that Jesus was a fictitious character, but that's not going to happen unless there is another Nag Hammadi-type find. The "that" question, while it has not been definitively resolved, has been done to death by historical scholarship since Renan. The best you can conclude, in my view? The presumption from all available evidence (positive and negative) is that Jesus was a real historical person.

    But that doesn't get us very far, does it? The greater, more difficult question, of course, is not "that" but "what."

    Now, that's a question.


  20. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Re: Re: 10 Questions Reply

    I agree.

    Marxism is obviously the largest and historically the most important of the modern quasi-religions. Naziism was a fire bright faith that immediately self-immolated, taking half of Europe with it. More quietly, some brands of psychology address issues that were traditionally in the realm of religion. And personally, I'm interested in the flying-saucer faith, as an illustration of 20'th century popular street-religiosity. (Angels and demons redrawn as space-aliens.)

    So do I.

    I think that you are right about the technical meaning of 'atheist' and 'agnostic'. But in actual practice, many self-avowed atheists turn out to be philosophical agnostics if you question them.

    In real life, what seems to distinguish atheists from agnostics isn't epistemology, but rather passion.

    Atheists tend to be passionately anti-Christian. That's generally what seems to motivate them.

    In fact, I've often observed that many atheists sound suspiciously like Protestant fundamentalists. They tend towards sola-scriptura principles and insist on literal readings of the Bible. They dismiss liberal theological ideas as un-Christian. When they denounce religion as they often do, it's always the Bible verses that they go after. They care little or nothing about Hindus or Sikhs.

    My speculation is that many of these people were raised Christian, often very conservative Christian, and they are violently reacting against all that.

    Agnostics usually seem much more placid. Probably most of them, like myself, were raised in non-Christian homes and don't feel any particular reason to rebel against a faith that they have never shared. I think that most agnostics actually kind of like Christianity, they just don't see any reason why they should believe it. To them, Christianity isn't really any different than the other world religions, except that (in the West at least) it's closer.

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