Formal Debate on the Existence of the Historical Jesus

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MarkRohfrietsch

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Topic: Is there or is there not enough evidence to reasonably believe in an Historic Jesus?

Participants: Ana the Ist will be taking the negative, anonymous person the affirmative.

  1. There will be three alternating rounds rounds (three posts each, for a total of six).
  2. Ana the Ist will begin, with anonymous person responding.
  3. Post size will be limited to 1,000 words per post.
  4. Members will have one week to respond (may be extended by one week on request).
  5. Outside sources may be quoted, but be mindful that the Copyright rule applies here; as do the Community Rules of Christian Forums.
  6. Start date (to be determined).
  7. Since Apologetics type discussions are currently prohibited here at Christian Forums, the peanut gallery thread will be moderated by staff in the sub-forum in Formal Debate.
For those wishing to discuss or comment on this topic or the debate, but who are not participating in the formal debate, you may do so in this thread:
Peanut Gallery thread -- Formal Debate on the Existence of the Historical Jesus
 
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Ana the Ist

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This is a debate on whether or not there is enough historical evidence to believe that a Jewish man called Jesus, who is regarded as the basis for the christian religion, ever existed in the flesh. That's all this debate is discussing. Its not a discussion about whether or not Jesus was god, it's not about your personal relationship with Jesus, it's not about whether or not the christian religion is of any value. I feel that it's important to start with this point...because a great many who read this will be christians, and the argument I'm about to make is about as popular as me coming to your house and using your dinner table as a toilet. Many of you reading this will take it personally....but you shouldn't. Although I'm arguing that there isn't enough historical evidence to believe Jesus existed...I'm not making a commentary about you or your personal beliefs. This is about facts...about evidence....about history. I'm debating this topic because I believe the truth is important. I'm making this argument because I know a great many of you never really looked into the historicity of Jesus.

Why should you look into the historicity of Jesus? It's basically considered a fact...right? Well, I was like you once...even though I was an atheist, I accepted that Jesus existed as a real man without any doubt at all. I even remember the argument I had with another atheist...calling him ridiculous for suggesting the possibility that Jesus never existed (the very same argument I am now about to make). The truth was, I hadn't seriously looked at the evidence...I hadn't seriously considered the possibility he never existed. Once I did though, I found myself in a group smaller than "atheists". I was, and still am, someone who doesn't believe Jesus existed. For you to understand how I reached this conclusion, you'll need to look at the same evidence I did....

So are you ready? Would you like to see all the evidence that points directly to the existence of a historical Jesus? I'm now going to list all of it, so pay close attention....

There isn't any.

What's that you say? There has to be something? Well, there definitely should be something....but there simply isn't. When we look for evidence of a real walking talking Jesus with an objective viewpoint, with intellectual honesty, there's nothing. He simply disappears from history. Allow me to explain...

History is a funny field of study. History isn't so much about proving facts or establishing certainties. It's about building a narrative. That narrative is a changing thing, based upon perspective, time, and evidence. Historians may find something tomorrow morning that dramatically changes the way we understand a particular event in history. That change may be hard to accept, but it's based upon evidence. So what exactly is "historical evidence"? Well...everything is. Anything is. It could be a pair of shoes that tells us about someone's job. It could be a picture that shows us someone's appearance. It could be documents, letters, books, shipping manifests. The question isn't "what is historical evidence?"...the question is "what does this piece of evidence show us?". So when I say "there isn't enough historical evidence to believe in a historical Jesus"...what I'm saying is that "no piece of evidence shows us that a historical Jesus existed."

When it comes to physical evidence, we have none. No pair of sandals that belonged to Jesus, no cups, no robes, no saddles...nothing. This is to be expected though...Jesus lived a long long time ago, and things decay. So what do we have? Documents. Now...anyone who ever looked up the "evidence for a historical Jesus" probably got inundated with any number of christian/biblical websites that all claim there's a ton of evidence for his existence. You'll find mention of Jesus from different historians like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and others. What do these men have to say about the real Jesus? Nothing. None of these figures ever met Jesus, nor did they meet anyone who met Jesus, nor did they live when Jesus was alive. The passages where they mention Jesus are of this sort...

"There's a group of people called christians who follow a man named Jesus."

What is this evidence of? Well, quite obviously, it's evidence that there were christians at the time those men wrote those things. That's all. In order to make the leap from these documents being evidence of christians to being evidence of Jesus...one has to decide that the only reason there would be christians is if there was a guy named Jesus who they followed. No real historian will make that leap though, for obvious reasons. Does the existence of the cult of Osiris mean there must've been a real walking talking Osiris at one point? Of course not. Does the existence of followers of Hercules mean there must've been a real Hercules at some time? No...that would be silly. Make no mistake...no one alive when Jesus "lived" thought him worth mentioning. Not his followers, not his enemies, not even a casual witness on the streets.

What about the gospels, you say? Well...even the earliest copies of those weren't written until decades after Jesus's "death"...and we don't really know who wrote them. The names ascribed to them are just guesses...their true authors are lost to time. More importantly though, they are religious documents. They aren't meant to stand apart from the bible, they aren't historical documents. They were written with a clear bias, a clear intent of convincing the reader that Jesus was the messiah and son of god. That bias must be considered whenever you read the gospels...and it makes them useless as historical documents.

So what else do we have? Most of those websites will stop after listing the few passages by historians who never met Jesus and the gospels. That isn't all we have though. In truth, we have a great many stories, letters, and other "documents" that most christian scholars will ignore or leave out of this discussion. Why? Because they're lies. These lies have several formal names..."pious falsehoods", "pious fiction", "non-canon stories"...but I prefer the informal term "lies". Early christians, early apologists, and early christian scholars all seem to have little ethical trouble creating outright lies about their savior. The motives behind these lies change depending on who is suspected of writing them and who their intended audience was...but make no mistake, even the Vatican acknowledges them as lies. I only mention them because I will likely need to reference them later should my opponent decide to try to turn the gospels into historical documents or try to validate the Josephus passage. We can tackle those things later though...

For now it is simply enough to realize that when we look for any credible historical evidence of Jesus Christ...we have nothing.

This concludes my first post.
 
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anonymous person

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My opponent has said that historians like Tacitus and Josephus say nothing about Jesus.

Rather than attacking strawmen, I will let my opponent explain why he thinks this.

An appeal to the gospels is not even necessary for my position so I can simply disregard what my opponent has said about them.
 
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Ana the Ist

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Anyone following this "debate" may have noticed that my opponent has decided not to present any evidence for the belief in a historical Jesus even though that is his position. Although I don't typically speculate on why my debate opponent decides to write (or not write) what they do...I feel it bears mentioning in this situation. Perhaps my opponent hasn't looked into the subject, or has decided his position isn't tenable, or simply doesn't know enough to mount a defense of his position. Since he's so kindly asked me for more information...I feel I'd be doing him and anyone else following this "debate" a disservice if I didn't oblige.

Let's start with the more difficult of the two passages...the Tacitus passage. In short, nearly 90 years after the supposed death of Jesus, Tacitus (a Roman senator and historian) is describing how Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the christians. He mentions that the christians were a following of a man named Christ who was executed by Pilate. On the surface, this seems like solid evidence...but it has some problems. Most historians believe it's an authentic passage...meaning that Tacitus wrote it. Historians who want to believe in a historical Jesus want to believe that Tacitus got this information from Roman records which he would have had access to. However, Tacitus mistakenly gives Pilate the wrong official title and refers to Jesus as "Christ" (a religious title) instead of by his name...which no Roman record would do. This means the most likely explanation is that Tacitus is just repeating information that he heard from/about christians...not copying from an official record. Some historians have even suggested the entire passage is one of those "pious frauds". Regardless of that though...since its most likely source is merely hearsay...it's basically worthless as evidence of a real historical Jesus.

The Josephus passage is actually far simpler to explain...it's a fake. There is a lot of debate about the Josephus passage amongst scholars...but the one fact that is almost universally agreed upon is that it is at least partially fraudulent. Anyone can look up the Josephus passage and read the various debates about which words were those of Josephus and which words were inserted later by christians. Some arguments are more convincing than others...and I'm in the camp that says the entire passage is false. Why? I'll give what I feel are the most compelling reasons....
1. It's length. Josephus, as a jewish historian, wrote at length about minor characters of his time...people whose exploits have no significant impact on history whatsoever. He would go on about events and people who did things of little to no real significance. When it comes to Jesus though, a man who supposedly shook the foundations of Judaism so dramatically that he had to be executed for it...he writes but one tiny paragraph. It smacks of fraud.
2. The wording. This tiny passage speaks so highly of Jesus that it's hard to imagine a proud Jewish historian wrote it...it reads as if a christian wrote it.
3. The fact that it's blatantly a falsehood. Think about it for a moment...early christians have no mention of Jesus from any sources outside the bible....why would you then alter the only outside mention of Jesus by a non-christian? Wouldn't it make far more sense to preserve it exactly as it is? Wouldn't it be infinitely more valuable even if it painted Jesus in an unfavorable light?

Ultimately, what good is a document where the only thing that can be ascertained for certain is the fact that it's at least partially (if not entirely) faked? Is such a document a reasonable piece of evidence for someone's entire existence? Of course not...

Hopefully now both my opponent and anyone following this debate has a clearer picture of just how bad the case for a historical Jesus is. These two documents are the best two non-biblical references of Jesus Christ...and both would be inadmissible in any modern day court as evidence of a person's existence. Rife with mistakes and blatant deceptions....the only thing that they're possible evidence of is the existence of early christians and their desperation to turn their mythical savior into a real person.

At this point, I'd usually be explaining just how poor my opponent's position is...but fortunately for me, his silence regarding the evidence for a historical Jesus is far more damaging than any argument I can offer. If he had any convincing evidence...he would've presented it.

This concludes my second post.
 
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anonymous person

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Most historians believe it's an authentic passage...meaning that Tacitus wrote it. Historians who want to believe in a historical Jesus want to believe that Tacitus got this information from Roman records which he would have had access to.

My opponent concedes that the Tacitean passage is considered authentic by most historians but hints at a confirmation bias among some. That there are atheist/agnostic historians who are not even theists let alone Christians, affirming extra-biblical evidence for Jesus in both the Annals and the Antiquities would show that historians can come to the aforementioned conclusion without it being because they are wanting to confirm some bias.

..Tacitus mistakenly gives Pilate the wrong official title

1. Atheist Richard Carrier remarks, "It seems evident from all the source material available that the post was always a prefecture, and also a procuratorship. Pilate was almost certainly holding both posts simultaneously, a practice that was likely established from the start when Judaea was annexed in 6 A.D. And since it is more insulting (to an elitist like Tacitus and his readers) to be a procurator, and even more insulting to be executed by one, it is likely Tacitus chose that office out of his well-known sense of malicious wit....So, there is nothing unusual about his choice here."

2. Both Philo and Josephus use the term procurator to describe Pilate's rank. Think about it, would we label a historian as mistaken if he were to label Eisenhower as Commander in Chief instead of President or Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces?

...refers to Jesus as "Christ" (a religious title) instead of by his name...which no Roman record would do.

Tacitus refers to Jesus as "Christ" because he is writing specifically about what Christians were doing at the time in question and appeals to the title to show where the word "Christian" is derived. He even says this in the passage, "... called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin ..."

..the most likely explanation is that Tacitus is just repeating information that he heard from/about christians...not copying from an official record.

...since its most likely source is merely hearsay...it's basically worthless as evidence of a real historical Jesus.

Tacitus' reliability as an historian counts against his having borrowed information uncritically from any source. Tacitean historians observe his methodical and almost obsessive preoccupation with details and the validation of source material, no doubt lending to his work being regarded as the Historian Ronald Mellor would say, the "crowning achievement" which represents the "pinnacle of Roman historical writing". In Annals 13, Tacitus quotes three divergent opinions from three different historians on a story involving Nero. [Mende.Tac, 208]. In Books 11-16 of the Annals (the Jesus cite is in 15) Tacitus "concerns himself with the evidence and source references to a greater extent than in the earlier books." He relies on other historians, a bronze inscription (11.14), reports or memoirs (15.16), personal testimonies (15.73), and physical evidence (15.42). There are indications of searches for first-hand (15.41) and written (12.67, 13.17) evidence [Mende.Tac, 207].

We see that Tacitus' mention of Jesus falls right in the middle of one of Tacitus' most carefully-sourced and referenced works.

It seems unlikely he would trust a source that he held in such disdain as he did Christians, and he would carefully authenticate material he secured.

Some historians have even suggested the entire passage is one of those "pious frauds".

To the pious fraud charge, Meier concludes, "Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine.” (Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN 90-04-11142-5 pages 465-466)

The Josephus passage is... fake.... I'm in the camp that says the entire passage is false. Why? I'll give what I feel are the most compelling reasons....

To Josephus, he defends his contention that the passage is fake. But there are two passages where Jesus is mentioned in the Antiquities.

Since contemporary scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the reference in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1 i.e. to "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James" and considers it as having the highest level of authenticity among the references of Josephus to Christianity. (wikipedia), then I take it my opponent argues as entirely fake, the Testimonium Flavianum.

He gives three reasons for this position.

1. It's length. Josephus, as a jewish historian, wrote at length about minor characters of his time...people whose exploits have no significant impact on history whatsoever. He would go on about events and people who did things of little to no real significance. When it comes to Jesus though, a man who supposedly shook the foundations of Judaism so dramatically that he had to be executed for it...he writes but one tiny paragraph. It smacks of fraud.

The brevity of the passage sans interpolation is in keeping with what a Jewish historian would have written about Jesus and supports the view that it was authentic. A Christian interpolator would have had much more to say about Jesus than the few lines we find in the "nucleus" of the passage. Compare this nucleus with a known Christian interpolation in the Slavonic Josephus. This particular interpolation contained more than four hundred words about Jesus' activities, divine nature and exploits. It stands in stark contrast to the unembellished and rather neutral account we have sans interpolation.

2. The wording. This tiny passage speaks so highly of Jesus that it's hard to imagine a proud Jewish historian wrote it...it reads as if a christian wrote it.

Some of the words and phrases used in the Testimonium Flavianum passage do lend themselves to being viewed as additions by a Christian interpolator rather than words that Josephus would have used. Contemporary scholars remove these and are left with a core which fits perfectly within the Josephan style.

3. The fact that it's blatantly a falsehood. Think about it for a moment...early christians have no mention of Jesus from any sources outside the bible....why would you then alter the only outside mention of Jesus by a non-christian? Wouldn't it make far more sense to preserve it exactly as it is? Wouldn't it be infinitely more valuable even if it painted Jesus in an unfavorable light?

My opponent reasons that the entire Testimonium Flavianum is fake because it paints Jesus in a favorable light as opposed to an unfavorable one. The underlying assumption my opponent is basing this argument off of is that if it were authentic, it would have spoken of Jesus unfavorably. Two things can be said about this:

1a. I have already stated that there is good evidence that the passage contains material in it Josephus probably would not have written. What is left when these interpolations are removed is a kernel or nucleus which accords with other contemporaneous sources and speaks neither overtly positively of Him nor overtly negatively of Him which is what we would expect had it indeed been written by a credible historian.

2a. Just because parts of the passage show evidence of having been interpolated, it does not follow that the entire passage is fake. Indeed, the fact that scholars are able to discern what is and is not likely an interpolation demonstrates that there is that authentic core from which the interpolation would deviate.

Ultimately, what good is a document where the only thing that can be ascertained for certain is the fact that it's at least partially (if not entirely) faked? Is such a document a reasonable piece of evidence for someone's entire existence? Of course not...

Hopefully now both my opponent and anyone following this debate has a clearer picture of just how bad the case for a historical Jesus is. These two documents are the best two non-biblical references of Jesus Christ...and both would be inadmissible in any modern day court as evidence of a person's existence. Rife with mistakes and blatant deceptions....the only thing that they're possible evidence of is the existence of early christians and their desperation to turn their mythical savior into a real person.

At this point, I'd usually be explaining just how poor my opponent's position is...but fortunately for me, his silence regarding the evidence for a historical Jesus is far more damaging than any argument I can offer. If he had any convincing evidence...he would've presented it.

This concludes my second post.

"He [Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees, based on clear and certain evidence." Bart D. Ehrman (22 March 2011). Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. HarperCollins. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6.
 
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Ana the Ist

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I'd like to thank my opponent for finally joining the debate. While he still hasn't given us any evidence for a historical Jesus...at least he's demonstrating my earlier point that early non-christian references to Jesus are highly controversial and unreliable as evidence. I'd also like to thank him for mentioning Carrier's explanation of Pilate's title in Tacitus...I hadn't read this before, and frankly it's interesting. Carrier is one of the historians who feels that the Tacitus passage is entirely false and the result of later christians who changed the word "crestus" to "christus" and added the rest as fiction. He cites the work of Van Voorst, so let's see what else Carrier has to say about Tacitus...

"This makes the possibility of interpolation substantially more credible. This would also explain why no one else mentions this event (for centuries), and no other historians of Nero’s reign (like Pliny the Elder) were ever quoted or had their histories preserved (as we would normally expect if they had mentioned Christ or Christians–which fact supports the conclusion that they didn’t, which then entails Tacitus didn’t, unless he was repeating what was by then a Christian legend about the fire at Rome, about a persecution that never actually happened, and not anything actually recorded by historians contemporary with the fire)."

Much like there are both secular and theist scholars who believe the passage is genuine....there are also both who believe it entirely worthless. Professor R. T. France (New Testament scholar and Anglican cleric) concludes that "the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he has heard through Christians."

Similar problems are abound with the Josephus passage. You may have noticed that my opponent mentioned the "nucleus" of the passage...but never said what exactly that nucleus is. That's because there's no agreement on which words are fraudulent or not. Even worse...the passage is ignored by every christian apologist/leader/advocate until the fourth century when a self-proclaimed liar called Eusebius is compiling all of christian history. This is around 340AD when christianity is now the official religion of the Roman empire and Eusebius can easily get away with such a forgery. It's almost inconceivable that early church apologist Origen, who spent most of his life defending christianity and quoted Josephus extensively would never mention a passage that confirms every important point of Jesus's life...it's as if this passage simply doesn't exist in Origen's copy of Antiquities.

This is all a bit beside the point though...scholars who want to talk about a historical Jesus need to believe in these passages because without them, there simply isn't any reference to a Jesus outside of the bible. These almost comically poor passages are the "best" of just a few non-biblical references of Jesus. Were we speaking about the existence of someone far more mundane...someone who isn't the basis of a religion of a billion people...evidence this poor wouldn't even be controversial, it would simply be dismissed as worthless.

What are we left with then? The gospels. For most people on this website....that's enough. After all, if you did not believe the gospels to be true...would you even be a christian? If you're a historian though...the gospels are a nightmarish task to undertake in any attempt at historical validity. Take out the parts that we don't believe people can do...like pulling demons from people and placing them into pigs, bringing the dead back to life, making food from thin air, water into wine, etc....and we're left with a bunch of things that we would still expect historians like Josephus and Philo to write about, but didn't. Things like the whipping of the money changers at the temple....this would've been fairly big news. Even simply claims of being the messiah were enough to earn pages (not a mere paragraph) from Josephus who wrote in great detail about John the Baptist, Judas of Galilee, Theudas the magician, and if I'm not mistaken some nameless Egyptian Jew messiah claimant.

The problems with the gospels don't stop there either, they're rife with historical inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. Any number of events depicted in the gospels aren't controversial at all...they're almost universally agreed to be false. Regarding the birth of Jesus...king Herod's murdering of children, the great census, the idea that everyone had to travel to their hometown for the census....none of these things happened. The releasing of the criminal BarAbbas, the earthquake and darkening of the sky....I could literally have another ten posts in this debate and not be able to unpack all the mistakes made in the gospels. I'm not even going to get into the geographical errors...I would simply ask that anyone interested look into it themselves.

If all that I've listed (and much more I simply don't have room to list) were the only problems with the gospels...historians could still pick through them for bits and pieces of valid information. There is also the problem of the way they were written. They're a mish mash of oral tradition over decades passed along by non-witnesses. They were compiled (maybe) into "theoretical" documents which may or may not exist (we don't know because we have no copies of the "Q" document) and then assigned the names of authors based upon....guesswork and wishful thinking. Then, they've been heavily edited, re-edited, added to, and embellished upon.

I know all that sounds pretty awful to a lot of you...but I couldn't make this up if I tried. That's what modern gospel scholarship looks like when one examines their historical validity. As I said before....were this a story of someone more mundane, not the basis of a religion, the gospels would be rightly treated for what they are...allegory and myth. However, since there is no other real references to Jesus...many a "NT scholar/historian" must attempt to extract some plausible bits of history from these stories.

Now that you've read my final post, take a deep breath lol...you're ok. You're still a christian, you'll still be one tomorrow. After all, I've never met a christian who told me the reason he/she was a christian was because they seriously looked into the historicity of Jesus and decided he existed. If these sort of things mattered to you...chances are you already knew most of what I've told you here.
The point of this little debate isn't to "prove" Jesus didn't exist...my position was to simply show that there's no real evidence to support the narrative that he existed in history. Maybe that evidence will exist one day...and you'll see me on the other side of this debate. On that note, I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite christian historians, Eusebius, which is actually from the title to a chapter in his 12th book of Evangelical Preparation...

""How it may be Lawful and Fitting to use Falsehood as a Medicine and for the Benefit of those who Want to be Deceived."
 
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anonymous person

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In this debate, my opponent has attempted to show that there is no real evidence to support the historicity of Jesus. This approach was three fold. He dealt with the Tacitus passage, the Josephus passage, and the gospels. Since in this debate I am not utilizing the gospels in my defense of the claim that there is evidence for the historicity of Jesus, any mention of the gospels is simply impertinent. My case does not involve appealing to the gospels at all.

My opponent at the beginning of the second round attempted to show that the Tacitus passage should not be viewed as historical evidence for the historicity of Jesus. He did so by providing several arguments. I addressed these arguments in my last post and in so doing not only showed his arguments to be unpersuasive, but furnished good reasons for thinking that the Tacitus passage should be viewed as historical evidence for the historicity of Jesus.

So what has my opponent to say about these points I made?

He does two things.

1. He quotes a statement from Carrier, the man who demonstrated that one of his very own arguments against Tacitus, i.e. that Tacitus was wrong in labeling Pilate a procurator, was unpersuasive!

2. He says
"there are both secular and theist scholars who believe the passage is genuine....there are also both who believe it entirely worthless. Professor R. T. France (New Testament scholar and Anglican cleric) concludes that "the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he has heard through Christians."


To 1.

1a. The quote from Carrier is incomplete. The "this" at the beginning of the quote refers to something Carrier has been writing about but is not quoted. This is the quote:

"This makes the possibility of interpolation substantially more credible. This would also explain why no one else mentions this event (for centuries), and no other historians of Nero’s reign (like Pliny the Elder) were ever quoted or had their histories preserved (as we would normally expect if they had mentioned Christ or Christians–which fact supports the conclusion that they didn’t, which then entails Tacitus didn’t, unless he was repeating what was by then a Christian legend about the fire at Rome, about a persecution that never actually happened, and not anything actually recorded by historians contemporary with the fire)."

2a. Carrier says that no one else mentions Jesus or His death for centuries. This is simply false and raises the question as to why Carrier would even say something so demonstrably false.

3a. Even if we accept it as a fact that no other historian of Nero's reign was ever quoted or had their histories preserved, this does not demonstrate that Tacitus' reference is completely fictitious. That there are accounts that contain references to persons or events not found in works contemporaneous to them that are nevertheless regarded as reliable sources for historical information for said persons and events would argue against the notion that an account is totally unreliable if it is not corroborated by contemporaneous historians.

To 2.

I have never ventured to claim that there are not both theist and atheist scholars who view the passage as worthless. Secondly, highlighting the fact that an Anglican cleric and historian thinks the passage is worthless to help support your case is like me highlighting the fact that a handful of scientists think that the earth was created in six literal 24 hour periods. Would anyone see this as evidence that the earth was actually formed in six literal 24 hour days? The fact that a few historians think Tacitus to be worthless while the vast majority of them, whether they be theist or atheist, view it as reliable seems only to support my case. Thirdly, I addressed the notion which France propagates, i.e. that Tacitus is just relaying stuff he heard from Christians, but my opponent was conspicuously silent when it came to the points I made and does not even address them.

My opponent, in response to my comments on his argument about the word "procurator", simply says that he found it "interesting".

My opponent did not even respond to my rebuttal of his argument about Tacitus' usage of the religious title "Christ".

My opponent did not even respond to my rebuttal of his argument that Tacitus was simply relaying hearsay.

My opponent did not even respond to my rebuttal of his argument that the passage may have been a "pious fraud".

My opponent did quote Carrier, who basically said that Tacitus was just probably giving an account of stuff he heard from Christians. So basically my opponent instead of actually responding to my rebuttal of this argument I gave, just simply restates the argument, using Carrier's quote.

Regarding Tacitus:

In light of my opponent saying that one of the rebuttals I made was "interesting" and in light of the fact that he did not even address the other rebuttals I made, and in light of him simply restating an argument I responded to without actually engaging it, it seems to me that my opponent has failed to even deal seriously with the material I have offered for consideration.


Now to Josephus.

My opponent says this regarding the aforementioned Josephan core:


.....there's no agreement on which words are fraudulent or not.

This is demonstrably false.

Historian James Dunn states that the works of Josephus include two separate references to Jesus and although there are some interpolations in the Testimonium, there is "broad consensus" among scholars regarding the nature of an authentic reference to Jesus in the Testimonium and what the passage would look like without the interpolation. (Dunn, James (2003). Jesus remembered. ISBN0-8028-3931-2). Based on this reconstruction, it is likely the original passage read: (Joel B. Green "Crucifixion" in the The Cambridge Companion to Jesusedited by Markus N. A. Bockmuehl 2001 ISBN 0-521-79678-4 page 89)

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, 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.

Even worse...the passage is ignored by every christian apologist/leader/advocate until the fourth century..... It's almost inconceivable that early church apologist Origen, who spent most of his life defending christianity and quoted Josephus extensively would never mention a passage that confirms every important point of Jesus's life...it's as if this passage simply doesn't exist in Origen's copy of Antiquities.

This rejoinder seems flimsy at best. Even conceding that it is true that no apologist or church leader mentions Josephus until the fourth century, this in no way necessitates we conclude that the Josephan passage is an unreliable historical source of information for the historicity of Jesus. The simple fact of the matter is that the Antiquities was written at the end of the first century and is referenced in the fourth. During the second and third centuries, Christian apologists would not have been needing to provide evidence that Jesus lived by appealing to extra-biblical accounts, for their detractors were not arguing that Jesus never lived, but rather, they would have been primarily promoting some form of gnosticism. Even with just a cursory examination of Origen's written work, you will find that it is not concerned primarily with Jesus' existence as a person of history, for this was not even in debate at the time, but rather, refutations of gnosticism. In light of this, it is not at all surprising that men like Origen spent their time addressing the controversial topics of their day, which simply would not have required them to make mention of extra biblical accounts of Jesus' life and death.

My opponent then says:

This is all a bit beside the point though...scholars who want to talk about a historical Jesus need to believe in these passages because without them, there simply isn't any reference to a Jesus outside of the bible.

And even if this were true, ironically, it is beside the point. Either Tacitus and Josephus are reliable sources for the historicity of Jesus or they are not. The desires or wants or wishes of some historians that they be authentic and reliable is irrelevant. If my opponent is here again bringing up the argument that there is some sort of confirmation bias, I can happily refer him back to my rejoinder to that argument in my previous post which he did not even address.

Speaking of what my opponent has not addressed, he addressed none of my rejoinders to his arguments against Josephus' reliability.

From everything that has transpired during this debate, from my opponent's not addressing my arguments and evidence, to his simply restating arguments I addressed, it seems to me that he has failed to show that Tacitus and Josephus are unreliable extra-biblical sources for the historicity of Jesus.

I will leave you with some quotes of my own.

Michael Grant (a classicist) 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." Michael Grant (January 2004). Jesus. Orion. p. 200. ISBN978-1-898799-88-7.

"There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." Richard A. Burridge; Graham Gould (2004). Jesus Now and Then. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 34. ISBN978-0-8028-0977-3.

Of "baptism and crucifixion", these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent". James D. G. Dunn (2003). Jesus Remembered. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 339. ISBN978-0-8028-3931-2.

"That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus ... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact." John Dominic Crossan (1994). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperCollins. p. 45. ISBN978-0-06-061662-5.

"[F]arfetched theories that Jesus' existence was a Christian invention are highly implausible." Markus Bockmuehl (8 November 2001). The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge University Press. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-0-521-79678-1.

Robert E. Van Voorst, referring to G.A. Wells: "The nonhistoricity thesis has always been controversial, and it has consistently failed to convince scholars of many disciplines and religious creeds... Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted" Robert E. Van Voorst (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-4368-5.
 
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