Minimal Characteristics of a Historical Jesus

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Minimal Characteristics of a Historical Jesus

What would be the absolute minimum set of characteristics such that they would demonstrate that the stories of Jesus are 'based on' an actual historical person?

The purpose of this question is because I want to get an idea of how strong we can make the claim of Jesus mythicism. For instance, if we were to hold that Jesus must at minimum be exactly as described in the Gospels, then to me this seems an unreasonable burden, since it eliminates the possibility of even slight embellishment or error in the Gospels. On the other hand, if our minimum is so open that 'some guy who preached stuff' fits the bill, then literally any old street preacher would qualify as the 'historical Jesus'.

So, it would be nice to know what a minimum set of conditions would be that a) would correctly identify 'the real Jesus' if he really did exist, and b) demonstrates the mythicist case by being unlikely to ever be demonstrated. Now, again, I don't want to set the bar too high for b), so that we are being unfair. Remember, the condition should be able to identify 'the real Jesus' if he did in fact exist as the inspiration for the stories of Jesus. Therefore, we should seek the *minimal* characteristics.

Now, I'm no Bible scholar, and I wasn't ever a Christian, and I haven't even read the whole Gospels, so I'm no authority at all. But here's my own stab at this to give you an idea what I'm asking for:

1) He was actually a human, or of close-enough-to-human form that nobody at the time could tell the difference.

2) His first name was actually "Jesus" or the local equivalent (Yeshua, or whatever).

3) He had more than 1000 followers while alive.

4) When he died, at least 500 of his followers believed he was resurrected, and preached as such.

Now, as far as I'm aware, nobody can prove all four of these things. However, they seem completely reasonable, even if this Jesus guy was not really divine, but merely inspired the Gospels and hence the religion of Christianity.

Notice that I'm not asking about what are the valid historical methods that could possibly demonstrate these characteristics. That's a separate question to what I'm asking. Specifically, I'm not asking for the minimal evidence of a historical Jesus, just the minimal characteristics that the evidence should demonstrate.

If you think these characteristics are too loose or too restrictive, please comment. Also if you think it wouldn't be reasonably possible to demonstrate these characteristics using valid historical methods.

Would love to hear comments from those who've actually studied this area, as well. Thanks!

Notes:

- I was thinking that maybe it would even make sense to relax conditions 3 and 4 to 'at least 12 followers'. Because really, how many people in that time would have had even one or two followers, let alone 12? And of those who do, how many would be named Jesus? And of those (even if there were any), how many of those would make it into historical evidence? Unless it was 'the real Jesus', probably zero. Thus, the conditions would be incredibly easy to satisfy if 'the real Jesus' actually existed, but unlikely to be coincidentally demonstrated if he did not. Comments?

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I know this isn't what you

I know this isn't what you asked, but first of all, I think anything less than the magical demi god of the gospels is worthless from a religous standpoint.  I don't remember who, but someone here made an excellent analogy of how finding a journalist named Kent who trapled on the toes of an arms dealer named Luthor would not only fail to prove Superman, but actually make a rather strong case against Superman.

Okay, I'm not a historian, but I'll take a stab at your question.  To try to define historical Jesus and then look for him in history seems unscrupulous to me.  One needs to look at the evidence without presuppositions or prejudice to objectively determine what characters are probable, and what characters are needed to complete the picture.  If you look at history determined to find a real character you've arbitrarily defined based off a legend, you run a good risk of missing the real person, and an even greater risk of settling on the wrong person or even a person who is isn't real.  Beyond religion, we don't have a Jesus Christ and therefore can't define him without making assumptions.

Back off topic; I was told from early childhood to believe in the god who sacrificed himself to himself or burn forever, so any man he may have been based off of isn't that important to me.

 

EDIT:  I think I can simplify this.  History does not seem to need a Jesus, while Christianity depends on him, therefore there is no reason to settle for anything less than the demi god of the bible.

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 This is a great question,

 This is a great question, and is at the heart of my tendency to lean towards mythicism.  The example I've been giving recently is that Wonder Woman is a historical figure if our only criteria are that the myth had to be based on someone who lived.  Wonder Woman was inspired by her creator's wife, and is therefore historical, even though none of the circumstances or deeds of Wonder Woman's mythology actually happened.

There might be a typical or traditional answer to this to be gleaned from careful study of other mythological stories based on historical figures, but I can't think of any that rival the Jesus story in any way, so I just have to go with my own sense of reason on the matter.

For me to consider Jesus historical, I would need evidence of:

1) A man named (or renamed) Jesus or a linguistic equivalent

2) who lived in or slightly before the first century CE

3) in the same or similar region

4) who amassed a considerable number of followers before his death, preaching some form of anti-establishment message

5) and upset the Romans to the point where he was murdered by them.

The thing is, except for possibly the name part, my standards are extremely low.  I don't demand that any of the gospel accounts of miracles have any basis in fact.  For that matter, I don't even demand that his own followers believed him to be resurrected.  That sounds like an add-on to me.  I would rather expect that a historical Jesus would have predicted his own death, seeing that he had riled the Romans, and the part about predicting the resurrection would have been added on by those preaching him as a god much later.

 

 

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 Just to be clear, I don't

 Just to be clear, I don't expect that such a figure would have caused much of a ruckus, except perhaps in his local government, so we might not expect there to be substantial records of his existence.  People who say a historical Jesus would have left a huge mark on history are talking about the Biblical Jesus, and they're right.  All I say is that IF the Jesus myth (which is obviously false) was based on a real person, that person need not have been anything more than locally significant for a year or two, and we might not expect to ever find evidence of his existence.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: Just to

Hambydammit wrote:

 Just to be clear, I don't expect that such a figure would have caused much of a ruckus, except perhaps in his local government, so we might not expect there to be substantial records of his existence.  People who say a historical Jesus would have left a huge mark on history are talking about the Biblical Jesus, and they're right.  All I say is that IF the Jesus myth (which is obviously false) was based on a real person, that person need not have been anything more than locally significant for a year or two, and we might not expect to ever find evidence of his existence.

Here's where a slight wrinkle can cause the mythicist position problems: If the characteristics are too weak, such that the person is unlikely to have ever been recorded in history (aside from the subsequent stories in the Bible), then it could be argued by the Jesus historian that 'the real Jesus' really did exist, but he just happened to be lost to history. And so, the Jesus historian could claim that the mythicist position (i.e. that there was no 'real Jesus' and the story is purely myth) fails to make its case.

It seems to me that for the mythicist position to be argued positively (rather than just passively), the characteristics need to be sufficient such that the person would more than likely have been recorded in history. For example, it is more than likely that a greek ruler, named Alexander, who conquered large parts of Asia, would have been recorded in history, simply because of the magnitude of these characteristics.

How would you respond to that argument, seeing as you yourself hold that your characteristics are insufficient to believe that the historical Jesus would have been recorded in history?

The point being that I'm looking to see how *strong* the Jesus mythicist case can be made. So, a weak version "my minimal characteristics are so weak that such a person may not have ever been recorded, and so I can only argue that there is no good reason to believe he existed," is inferior to a stronger version "my minimal characteristics make it likely that this person would have been recorded and history, and so I can therefore argue that it is more likely than not that this person never existed." Let's call these Weak Mythicist and Strong Mythicist. How strong can the strong mythicist position be made?

I guess I'm looking for the knife-edge. Sufficiently strong to make the strong mythicist case, but minimal so that the strong mythicist case has the greatest possible impact.

Here's my dream case: We put out a 'Jesus Challenge', similar to Randi's challenge. We raise a million dollars and put out a reward. "Whoever can demonstrate, using only valid historical methods, in a peer reviewed journal, that there was a person who met these minimal characteristics in history, will get the $1 million."

So, the knife-edge is: How low can we set the bar so that the offer is as enticing as possible, while at the same time being nearly impossible to meet by coincidence (by a person who did not actually inspire the gospels), while at the same time being the most acidic lemon juice in the paper cut by making it clear that such a person SHOULD be able to be found in historical records if he really existed. The longer such a challenge stands, the more embarassing it becomes for Jesus historians.

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Quote:Here's my dream case:

Quote:
Here's my dream case: We put out a 'Jesus Challenge', similar to Randi's challenge. We raise a million dollars and put out a reward. "Whoever can demonstrate, using only valid historical methods, in a peer reviewed journal, that there was a person who met these minimal characteristics in history, will get the $1 million."

So, the knife-edge is: How low can we set the bar so that the offer is as enticing as possible, while at the same time being nearly impossible to meet by coincidence (by a person who did not actually inspire the gospels), while at the same time being the most acidic lemon juice in the paper cut by making it clear that such a person SHOULD be able to be found in historical records if he really existed. The longer such a challenge stands, the more embarassing it becomes for Jesus historians.

Given that the Jesus is only needed to make xianity work and not history, I still think an all or nothing attitude is appropriate, but to play the game:

1. We do need some kind of threat to his infant life.  It doesn't have to be a mass baby slaughter and it doesn't need to be Herrod.

2. I think we can be pretty strickt on the region, but have some flexibility on the timing.  Maybe anywhere between 100 B.C.E. and 60 C.E.

3. He does need to be a radical preacher, and an influential one.  I expect hundreds of followers.

4. He does need to have been crucified.

5. I can do without all the magic including the resurrection.

6. He does need either the name Emanuel, and\or the title equivolent to Jesus Christ.

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hazindu wrote:Given that the

hazindu wrote:

Given that the Jesus is only needed to make xianity work and not history, I still think an all or nothing attitude is appropriate, but to play the game:

1. We do need some kind of threat to his infant life.  It doesn't have to be a mass baby slaughter and it doesn't need to be Herrod.

2. I think we can be pretty strickt on the region, but have some flexibility on the timing.  Maybe anywhere between 100 B.C.E. and 60 C.E.

3. He does need to be a radical preacher, and an influential one.  I expect hundreds of followers.

4. He does need to have been crucified.

5. I can do without all the magic including the resurrection.

6. He does need either the name Emanuel, and\or the title equivolent to Jesus Christ.

Hazindu, here is the scenario I am imagining *could* have happened: A real person, not a God, just a real person, just happened to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right things that just happened to inspire the idea of Jesus. There was one particular individual who was the inspiration of the stories. The stories got pumped up and embellished, as ancient stories do, and we have the magical fictional mythological gospels. But it all started with one ordinary human.

Now, as far as I know, the mythicist position is that, in fact, there was no such person, but the idea of Jesus Christ is entirely a fictional character, not based on one original human, but based more on his mythological role. A Captain Kirk instead of a Captain Blackbeard.

So, the point I'm trying to make is that if there was such a human, the minimal characteristics should be able to identify him without ruling him out by being too strict. If there wasn't, then the absence of any evidence of him should be able to prove the mythicist case as strongly as possible.

With that in mind, I don't think your characteristic #1 is appropriate, since it seems reasonable to me that there could have been a single individual who inspired the Jesus idea who was not in fact threatened as an infant. I agree with your #2 and #3. I think your #4 is too specific. To me it only seems important that he was killed somehow, not necessarily that the method was crucifixion.

Whether his name could have been Emanuel is an interesting question. What do Jesus mythicist experts opine on that topic? Is it critical his name was Jesus, or could it have been otherwise, and he got renamed to Jesus later on, either during his life or afterwards as part of the legend-making?

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Here's an interesting list

Here's an interesting list of Jesuses from the period (from http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/surfeit.htm):

Quote:

Was there a Jesus? Of course there was a Jesus – many!


The archetypal Jewish hero was Joshua (the successor of Moses) otherwise known as Yeshua ben Nun (‘Jesus of the fish&rsquoEye-wink. Since the name Jesus (Yeshua or Yeshu in Hebrew, Ioshu in Greek, source of the English spelling) originally was a title (meaning ‘saviour’, derived from ‘Yahweh Saves’) probably every band in the Jewish resistance had its own hero figure sporting this moniker, among others.

Josephus, the first century Jewish historian mentions no fewer than nineteen different Yeshuas/Jesii, about half of them contemporaries of the supposed Christ! In his Antiquities, of the twenty-eight high priests who held office from the reign of Herod the Great to the fall of the Temple, no fewer than four bore the name Jesus: Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus and Jesus ben Gamaliel. Even Saint Paul makes reference to a rival magician, preaching ‘another Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 11,4). The surfeit of early Jesuses includes:

Jesus ben Sirach. This Jesus was reputedly the author of the Book of Sirach (aka 'Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach'), part of Old Testament Apocrypha. Ben Sirach, writing in Greek about 180 BC, brought together Jewish 'wisdom' and Homeric-style heroes.

Jesus ben Pandira. A wonder-worker during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (106-79 BC), one of the most ruthless of the Maccabean kings. Imprudently, this Jesus launched into a career of end-time prophesy and agitation which upset the king. He met his own premature end-time by being hung on a tree – and on the eve of a Passover. Scholars have speculated this Jesus founded the Essene sect.

Jesus ben Ananias. Beginning in 62AD, this Jesus had caused disquiet in Jerusalem with a non-stop doom-laden mantra of ‘Woe to the city’. He prophesied rather vaguely:

"A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against the whole people."
– Josephus, Wars 6.3.

Arrested and flogged by the Romans, he was released as nothing more dangerous than a mad man. He died during the siege of Jerusalem from a rock hurled by a Roman catapult.

Jesus ben Saphat. In the insurrection of 68AD that wrought havoc in Galilee, this Jesus had led the rebels in Tiberias. When the city was about to fall to Vespasian’s legionaries he fled north to Tarichea on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus ben Gamala. During 68/69 AD this Jesus was a leader of the ‘peace party’ in the civil war wrecking Judaea. From the walls of Jerusalem he had remonstrated with the besieging Idumeans (led by ‘James and John, sons of Susa&rsquoEye-wink. It did him no good. When the Idumeans breached the walls he was put to death and his body thrown to the dogs and carrion birds.

Jesus ben Thebuth. A priest who, in the final capitulation of the upper city in 69AD, saved his own skin by surrendering the treasures of the Temple, which included two holy candlesticks, goblets of pure gold, sacred curtains and robes of the high priests. The booty figured prominently in the Triumph held for Vespasian and his son Titus.

Any minimally strong set of characteristics should disqualify these Jesuses.

I wonder if there's a correlation between how many followers these guys had vs. how many historical references there are to them. If there were a correlation, you could make the case that Jesus had more followers than any of these particular guys, and so would likely have had at least as many historical references.

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 Quote:Here's where a

 

Quote:
Here's where a slight wrinkle can cause the mythicist position problems: If the characteristics are too weak, such that the person is unlikely to have ever been recorded in history (aside from the subsequent stories in the Bible), then it could be argued by the Jesus historian that 'the real Jesus' really did exist, but he just happened to be lost to history. And so, the Jesus historian could claim that the mythicist position (i.e. that there was no 'real Jesus' and the story is purely myth) fails to make its case.

I'm not a Jesus Mythicist.  To be one, I'd have to have enough knowledge to make the claim, and I don't.  I don't know if there's a word for what I am.  I think of myself as a Jesus-was-irrelevant-if-he-existed-ist.

Basically, I think it's essentially irrelevant -- except to historians -- whether or not there was a historical Jesus.  The complete lack of contemporary evidence for Jesus points strongly to one of two conclusions:

1) There was no historical Jesus.

2) The historical Jesus was insignificant.

Either way, it hardly matters.  Why spend millions of hours digging for an insignificant homeless guy?  If there was a Jesus, he was nothing like the Gospel Jesus.  I'm convinced the Gospels are midrash, and that the author of Mark was a Hellenized Jew who thought up a very clever story melding myths from both cultures.  I do have enough knowledge to make that claim, by the way.

Quote:
It seems to me that for the mythicist position to be argued positively (rather than just passively), the characteristics need to be sufficient such that the person would more than likely have been recorded in history. For example, it is more than likely that a greek ruler, named Alexander, who conquered large parts of Asia, would have been recorded in history, simply because of the magnitude of these characteristics.

Well, this creates a problem.  In order to try to prove the nonexistence of Jesus, you have to invent a Jesus to disprove, which seems a bit silly to me.  If there was a historical Jesus, and he was insignificant, disproving a significant Jesus is really not doing anything at all.

Of course, history is not the same as a logic text.  Some people never existed.  It's not really proving a negative, though.  It's proving enough positives to assert a negative.  That is, we can find enough positive evidence that Dudley the First was king of Nod in 1450, so that proves that Crumb the Second was just a legend, since they both could not have existed at the same time and been king.

Quote:
 How would you respond to that argument, seeing as you yourself hold that your characteristics are insufficient to believe that the historical Jesus would have been recorded in history?

Like I said, I'm not a mythicist.  I'm an "Irrelevantist."  The argument doesn't particularly threaten my position.  I'm not even sure it demands a response from me.

Quote:
The point being that I'm looking to see how *strong* the Jesus mythicist case can be made

It all depends on which Jesus you're looking for.  A strong mythicist position towards the Gospel Jesus is well justified by the total lack of contemporary evidence.  A strong mythicist position for any historical Jesus at all is very hard to justify because it's damn hard to prove that the author of Mark wasn't thinking of his crazy uncle Ahab when he wrote the Gospel.  This is why I keep bringing up Wonder Woman.  I'm perfectly happy to grant that at some point, one of the early authors of some Jesus text or other might have used a human model for parts of the story.  However, the evidence for midrash is so compelling that we have to admit that such a human model was not, in any meaningful sense, the Gospel Jesus.

Quote:
How strong can the strong mythicist position be made?

It's a damn compelling argument.  Jesus Historians have to make up new historical criteria so that they can claim a historical Jesus is likely.  That's a bad sign.  Basically, every Jesus historian I've ever read resorts to a kind of special pleading.  That is, they say, "Jesus is unique in history, so we get to use unique criteria to justify his existence."

Furthermore, the analyses of the Gospels that I've read make very compelling arguments that nearly every element of the story is midrash.

Furthermore, there are no comparable mythological figures of which I'm aware that were actually based on a real person.  Every other story that is equally laden with magic, mysticism, and god figures turns out to be fiction.

Quote:
So, the knife-edge is: How low can we set the bar so that the offer is as enticing as possible, while at the same time being nearly impossible to meet by coincidence (by a person who did not actually inspire the gospels), while at the same time being the most acidic lemon juice in the paper cut by making it clear that such a person SHOULD be able to be found in historical records if he really existed. The longer such a challenge stands, the more embarassing it becomes for Jesus historians.

Good luck with this.  Not even Christians can agree on who Jesus was.  Personally, I think it's kind of silly to invent someone to disprove when all the evidence points to the myth being fabricated in the first place.

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:It

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
It seems to me that for the mythicist position to be argued positively (rather than just passively), the characteristics need to be sufficient such that the person would more than likely have been recorded in history. For example, it is more than likely that a greek ruler, named Alexander, who conquered large parts of Asia, would have been recorded in history, simply because of the magnitude of these characteristics.

Well, this creates a problem.  In order to try to prove the nonexistence of Jesus, you have to invent a Jesus to disprove, which seems a bit silly to me.  If there was a historical Jesus, and he was insignificant, disproving a significant Jesus is really not doing anything at all.

Quote:
So, the knife-edge is: How low can we set the bar so that the offer is as enticing as possible, while at the same time being nearly impossible to meet by coincidence (by a person who did not actually inspire the gospels), while at the same time being the most acidic lemon juice in the paper cut by making it clear that such a person SHOULD be able to be found in historical records if he really existed. The longer such a challenge stands, the more embarassing it becomes for Jesus historians.

Good luck with this.  Not even Christians can agree on who Jesus was.  Personally, I think it's kind of silly to invent someone to disprove when all the evidence points to the myth being fabricated in the first place.

If you read my comment about a Jesus Challenge, you should be able to get my drift. The point is not to invent a Jesus just to disprove him. The point is to find a Jesus that many Christians will readily admit *should* be found in history, and then showing that he has not been. This is more about being a thorn in the side of theistic belief than it is about knowing whether such a Jesus is an accurate representation of 'the real Jesus'. It only matters that Christians, who for the most part take a historical Jesus completely for granted, be shown that their assumptions are not held up by history.

Just like Randi's paranormal challenge, a Jesus Challenge would be a huge rhetorical win. The longer the challenge stands, the more of a win it becomes.

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 Quote:The point is to find

 

Quote:
The point is to find a Jesus that many Christians will readily admit *should* be found in history, and then showing that he has not been.

That's actually what I think you'll have a hard time doing.  I've heard Christians say with a straight face that it adds to the miracle of his existence that there was no evidence for his existence.

Quote:
It only matters that Christians, who for the most part take a historical Jesus completely for granted, be shown that their assumptions are not held up by history.

I totally agree.  The thing is, this isn't old news.  It's just very poorly distributed news.  The problem I see is that Jesus historians are very biased towards his existence, and their sheer numbers give apparent credibility to a hypothesis that has always been shaky at best.

Quote:
Just like Randi's paranormal challenge, a Jesus Challenge would be a huge rhetorical win. The longer the challenge stands, the more of a win it becomes.

I suppose.  I just think you'll run into the same problem that Randi runs into.  The "true believers" will think you're shifting the goalposts.

 

 

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
The point is to find a Jesus that many Christians will readily admit *should* be found in history, and then showing that he has not been.

That's actually what I think you'll have a hard time doing.  I've heard Christians say with a straight face that it adds to the miracle of his existence that there was no evidence for his existence.

And there are Christians who deny that it's even possible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but the Blasphemy Challenge was still a huge success.

Quote:
Quote:

Just like Randi's paranormal challenge, a Jesus Challenge would be a huge rhetorical win. The longer the challenge stands, the more of a win it becomes.

I suppose.  I just think you'll run into the same problem that Randi runs into.  The "true believers" will think you're shifting the goalposts.

Which is exactly the reason for deciding on a minimal set of characteristics. Once you lay down the characteristics clearly, and say, "My argument is that a person with these X characteristics more than likely did not exist," then anyone who claims you're shifting goalposts loses all credibility. You just say, "These are the characteristics I started with, and these are the characteristics I hold today. The goal posts are exactly the same as before." I think having a clear set of characteristics would make the mythicist position FAR stronger and more convincing and/or annoying for Christians.

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 Well, you'll never get the

 Well, you'll never get the bible literalists to care because they don't give a damn about reason or evidence, so you need to try to extract from the Gospels all the parts that can't be traced to midrash and have a reasonable chance of having a historical referent.

This kind of proves my Irrelevantist position.  The amount of material that isn't midrash is extremely limited.  At best, maybe we can say that the historical Jesus would have been a teacher with followers who got himself killed.  That narrows it down to any one of a hundred figures at any given moment.

If you accept some of the midrash, you're just arbitrarily inventing a figure, which is what I think is a silly idea.

Quote:
1:1-8..........NONE KNOWN (OT parallels)

 

1:9-11........(OT Parallels)
1:12-13......1 Kings 19, The Fall
1:14-20......1 Kings 19:19-21 (Galilee Isa (9:1)
1:21-28......(many OT/Jewish lit echoes)
1:29-39......NONE KNOWN
1:40-45......2 Kings 5, Nm 5:1-2
2:1-12........2 Kings 1:2-17
2:13-17......1 Kings 19:19-21
2:18-22......CHREIA SAYING
2:23-28......(v25=2 Sam 15-16)
3:1-6..........1 Kings 13:4-6
3:7-12........Invention
3:13-19......Exodus 18:2-26
3:20-30......(Zech 3:13), Exodus 18:2-26
3:31-35......CHREIA SAYING, Exodus 18:2-26
4:1-20........(many to OT/Hellenistic culture)
4:21-25......SAYING (OT/Jewish parallels)
4:26-29......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:30-34......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:35-41......Jonah through Psalm 107
5:1-20........(Isa 65:1-7)
5:21-43.....2 Kings 4:8-37
6:1-6..........CHREIA SAYING
6:7-13........MISSION CHARGE (CYNIC)
6:14-29......Esther
6:30-44......2 Kings 4:38-44
6:45-56......(Psalm 77, Isa 43, Job 9)
7:1-23........(many OT, anachronism)
7:24-30......Elijah-Elisha echoes, CHREIA SAYING
7:31-37......Isa 35:5-6
8:1-13........2 Kings 4:38-44
8:14-21......Non-Markan
8:22-26......Interpolation based on 7:31-7
8:27-33......Invention (Peter's Confession)
8:34-38......Hellenistic Philosophical Concepts
9:1-13........2 Kings 1, other OT
9:14-29......NONE KNOWN
9:30-37......Invention (2nd passion prediction
9:38-41......Num 11:26-29
9:42-50......(Isa, Num, Lev)
10:1-12......OT, CHREIA (Paul on Divorce)
10:13-16....CHREIA
10:17-31[color=white]....[/colorCHREIA
10:32-34....Invention (3rd passion prediction)
10:35-45....Invention/anachronism (OT parallels)
10:46-52....Plato? NONE KNOWN
11:1-11......2 Kings 9:13, 1 Samuel 9 & 10 (OT parallels)
11:12-14....(Jeremiah 8, 29, Joel 1, Hosea 9)
11:15-19....2 Kings (OT parallels)
11:20-25....Invention -- 2nd fig tree
11:27-33....Baptism authority? SAYING
12:1-12......PARABLE, 2 Kings 9:22-10:27 (OT parallels)
12:13-17....CHREIA (Paul?)
12:18-27....CHREIA (OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
12:28-34....(OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
12:35-44....2 Kings 12:5-17
13:1-31......2 Kings 10:26-28, anachronisms, (OT parallels)
13:32-37....PARABLE
14:1-11......2 Kings 9:1-13 (OT parallels)
14:12-25....1 Samuel 10:1-7 (Paul?)
14:26-31....(OT parallels)
14:32-42....1 Kings 19:1-5 (Psalm 78:39-41)
14:43-52....2 Samuel 15-16
14:53-65....Invention (OT parallels)
14:66-72....NONE KNOWN (Peter's denial= invention)
15:1-15......Daniel 6 (Josephus War?)
15:16-20....(OT parallels, Roman procession)
15:21-32....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:33-41....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:42-47....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
16:1-8........Daniel 6, 2 Kgs 13: 20-1 (OT parallels)

Let's now group them:

DIRECT OT PARALLELING:

1:12-13......1 Kings 19, The Fall
1:14-20......1 Kings 19:19-21 (Galilee Isa (9:1)
1:40-45......2 Kings 5, Nm 5:1-2
2:1-12........2 Kings 1:2-17
2:13-17......1 Kings 19:19-21
3:1-6..........1 Kings 13:4-6
3:13-19......Exodus 18:2-26
3:20-30......(Zech 3:13), Exodus 18:2-26
3:31-35......CHREIA SAYING, Exodus 18:2-26
4:35-41......Jonah through Psalm 107
5:21-43.....2 Kings 4:8-37, Num 5:1-2
6:14-29......Esther
6:30-44......2 Kings 4:38-44
6:45-56......(Psalm 77, Isa 43, Job 9)
7:31-37......Isa 35:5-6
8:1-13........2 Kings 4:38-44
9:1-13........2 Kings 1, other OT
9:38-41......Num 11:26-29
11:1-11......2 Kings 9:13, 1 Samuel 9 & 10 (OT parallels)
11:12-14....(OT: Jeremiah 8, 29, Joel 1, Hosea 9)
11:15-19....2 Kings (OT parallels)
12:1-12......PARABLE, 2 Kings 9:22-10:27 (OT parallels)
12:35-44....2 Kings 12:5-17
13:1-31......2 Kings 10:26-28, anachronisms, (OT parallels)
14:1-11......2 Kings 9:1-13 (OT parallels)
14:12-25....1 Samuel 10:1-7 (Paul?)
14:32-42....1 Kings 19:1-5 (Psalm 78:39-41)
14:43-52....2 Samuel 15-16
15:1-15......Daniel 6 (Josephus War?)
15:21-32....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:33-41....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:42-47....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
16:1-8........Daniel 6, 2 Kgs 13: 20-1 (OT parallels)
------------------
DIRECT PARALLELS 33/71

OT VERSE CONSTRUCTION (built out of individual Verses)

1:9-11........(OT Parallels)
1:21-28......(many OT echoes) also 1 Enoch, Tobit
9:42-50......(Isa, Num, Lev)
12:28-34....(OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
14:26-31....(OT parallels)
15:16-20....(OT parallels, Roman procession)
14:53-65....Invention (OT parallels)
6:7-13........MISSION CHARGE (CYNIC) (OT parallels)
4:1-20........PARABLE (many to OT/Hellenistic culture)
4:21-25......SAYING (OT/Jewish parallels)
4:26-29......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:30-34......SAYING (OT parallels)
------------------
plus 12 = 45/71 or 63.3%

CHREIA

2:18-22......CHREIA SAYING
2:23-28......CHREIA (OT parallels)
6:1-6..........CHREIA SAYING
7:24-30......Elijah-Elisha echoes, CHREIA SAYING
10:1-12......OT, CHREIA (Paul on Divorce)
10:13-16....CHREIA
10:17-31....CHREIA
12:13-17....CHREIA (Paul?)
12:18-27....CHREIA (OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
-------------------

9/71

OUTRIGHT INVENTION

3:7-12........Invention
7:1-23........(many OT, anachronism)
8:27-33......Invention (Peter's Confession)
9:30-37......Invention (2nd passion prediction
10:32-34....Invention (3rd passion prediction)
10:35-45....Invention/anachronism (OT parallels)
11:20-25....Invention -- 2nd fig tree
13:32-37....PARABLE
14:66-72....NONE KNOWN (Peter's denial= invention)
----------------
8/71

UNKNOWN or SOURCE NOT OT

9:14-29......NONE KNOWN
10:46-52....Plato? NONE KNOWN
5:1-20........Josephus? (OT Parallels=Isa 65:1-7)
8:34-38......Hellenistic Philosophical Concepts
8:22-26......Interpolation based on 7:31-7
8:14-21......NONE KNOWN Non-Markan
11:27-33....Baptism authority? SAYING
1:1-8..........NONE KNOWN (OT parallels)
1:29-39......NONE KNOWN

-------------------
9/71 = 13.8%

 

 

 

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hazindu
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natural wrote

natural wrote:
Hazindu, here is the scenario I am imagining *could* have happened: A real person, not a God, just a real person, just happened to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right things that just happened to inspire the idea of Jesus. There was one particular individual who was the inspiration of the stories. The stories got pumped up and embellished, as ancient stories do, and we have the magical fictional mythological gospels. But it all started with one ordinary human.

Now, as far as I know, the mythicist position is that, in fact, there was no such person, but the idea of Jesus Christ is entirely a fictional character, not based on one original human, but based more on his mythological role. A Captain Kirk instead of a Captain Blackbeard.

So, the point I'm trying to make is that if there was such a human, the minimal characteristics should be able to identify him without ruling him out by being too strict. If there wasn't, then the absence of any evidence of him should be able to prove the mythicist case as strongly as possible.

In that case, I don't think you can define a minimum set of characteristics without first finding the character and then looking at his\her\its characteristics which would of course defeat the purpose.  Evidence of inspiration would be needed, characteristics would be irrelevant.

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natural wrote:Hambydammit

natural wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:

 Just to be clear, I don't expect that such a figure would have caused much of a ruckus, except perhaps in his local government, so we might not expect there to be substantial records of his existence.  People who say a historical Jesus would have left a huge mark on history are talking about the Biblical Jesus, and they're right.  All I say is that IF the Jesus myth (which is obviously false) was based on a real person, that person need not have been anything more than locally significant for a year or two, and we might not expect to ever find evidence of his existence.

Here's where a slight wrinkle can cause the mythicist position problems: If the characteristics are too weak, such that the person is unlikely to have ever been recorded in history (aside from the subsequent stories in the Bible), then it could be argued by the Jesus historian that 'the real Jesus' really did exist, but he just happened to be lost to history. And so, the Jesus historian could claim that the mythicist position (i.e. that there was no 'real Jesus' and the story is purely myth) fails to make its case.

It seems to me that for the mythicist position to be argued positively (rather than just passively), the characteristics need to be sufficient such that the person would more than likely have been recorded in history. For example, it is more than likely that a greek ruler, named Alexander, who conquered large parts of Asia, would have been recorded in history, simply because of the magnitude of these characteristics.

How would you respond to that argument, seeing as you yourself hold that your characteristics are insufficient to believe that the historical Jesus would have been recorded in history?

The point being that I'm looking to see how *strong* the Jesus mythicist case can be made. So, a weak version "my minimal characteristics are so weak that such a person may not have ever been recorded, and so I can only argue that there is no good reason to believe he existed," is inferior to a stronger version "my minimal characteristics make it likely that this person would have been recorded and history, and so I can therefore argue that it is more likely than not that this person never existed." Let's call these Weak Mythicist and Strong Mythicist. How strong can the strong mythicist position be made?

I guess I'm looking for the knife-edge. Sufficiently strong to make the strong mythicist case, but minimal so that the strong mythicist case has the greatest possible impact.

Here's my dream case: We put out a 'Jesus Challenge', similar to Randi's challenge. We raise a million dollars and put out a reward. "Whoever can demonstrate, using only valid historical methods, in a peer reviewed journal, that there was a person who met these minimal characteristics in history, will get the $1 million."

So, the knife-edge is: How low can we set the bar so that the offer is as enticing as possible, while at the same time being nearly impossible to meet by coincidence (by a person who did not actually inspire the gospels), while at the same time being the most acidic lemon juice in the paper cut by making it clear that such a person SHOULD be able to be found in historical records if he really existed. The longer such a challenge stands, the more embarassing it becomes for Jesus historians.

I think you might be focusing too much on the idea of whether a real/physical Jesus existed.

I think the positive mythicist case (the one Carrier and Doherty argue) is made through studying the writings of Paul and the gospels. Essentially, you show that is was more likely that Christianity started as a mystery religion based on a spiritual saviour. Although you cannot disprove the existence of physical Jesus directly, especially if he was an insignificant preacher, you can however try to show that he didn't need to exist as a real person in the first place, and if the overall hypothesis which does not require a real Jesus is strong (i.e. legitimate reading/interpretation of scripture, proper historical method applied, is plausible/has historical precedence, etc), then you have a good mythicist case.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Hambydammit wrote:The

Hambydammit wrote:
The complete lack of contemporary evidence for Jesus points strongly to one of two conclusions:

1) There was no historical Jesus.

2) The historical Jesus was insignificant.

I wouldn't call my self a mythicisit either, and so consider either as possible, although I think there is a good case for ahistoricity.

Regarding the claim that Jesus was insignificant. He could have been, although one problem with that is many authors of the time were not just interested in significant people, indeed many Jesus' (such as those posted above, including the 19 Josephus mentions) were noticed, yet they didn't seem to be significant, or at least any more noticeable that what Jesus Christ may have been. It could have been that Jesus and his followers were so underground they went unnoticed, but then I think that goes against some required aspects of a real Jesus: he amassed some followers and preached a message for which he was killed by the Romans. If he has followers and more importantly was noticed by the Romans, then I think it is likely he would have been noticed by writers of the time.

We must also take into account how the story continued after Jesus death (assuming he did exist) and why that too didn't get noticed, despite it starting to pick up followers.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote:I think you

Topher wrote:

I think you might be focusing too much on the idea of whether a real/physical Jesus existed.

I think the positive mythicist case (the one Carrier and Doherty argue) is made through studying the writings of Paul and the gospels. Essentially, you show that is was more likely that Christianity started as a mystery religion based on a spiritual saviour. Although you cannot disprove the existence of physical Jesus directly, especially if he was an insignificant preacher, you can however try to show that he didn't need to exist as a real person in the first place, and if the overall hypothesis which does not require a real Jesus is strong (i.e. legitimate reading/interpretation of scripture, proper historical method applied, is plausible/has historical precedence, etc), then you have a good mythicist case.

I agree, actually. My point is more to get a rise out of Christians who believe there is solid evidence of Jesus than to present the stronger (but more complex) argument that the religion started on a spiritual basis. Of these three arguments:

1) There's no good evidence Jesus existed

2) If Jesus did exist, there should probably be evidence, but there isn't. Therefore it's more likely he didn't.

3) The religion itself didn't need a real Jesus, and is more likely to be based on a spiritual Jesus.

I'm targeting argument #2, simply because it is easier to make that argument, and would be really irritating to a Christian who doesn't even accept argument #1.

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natural wrote:Topher wrote:I

natural wrote:

Topher wrote:

I think you might be focusing too much on the idea of whether a real/physical Jesus existed.

I think the positive mythicist case (the one Carrier and Doherty argue) is made through studying the writings of Paul and the gospels. Essentially, you show that is was more likely that Christianity started as a mystery religion based on a spiritual saviour. Although you cannot disprove the existence of physical Jesus directly, especially if he was an insignificant preacher, you can however try to show that he didn't need to exist as a real person in the first place, and if the overall hypothesis which does not require a real Jesus is strong (i.e. legitimate reading/interpretation of scripture, proper historical method applied, is plausible/has historical precedence, etc), then you have a good mythicist case.

I agree, actually. My point is more to get a rise out of Christians who believe there is solid evidence of Jesus than to present the stronger (but more complex) argument that the religion started on a spiritual basis. Of these three arguments:

1) There's no good evidence Jesus existed

2) If Jesus did exist, there should probably be evidence, but there isn't. Therefore it's more likely he didn't.

3) The religion itself didn't need a real Jesus, and is more likely to be based on a spiritual Jesus.

I'm targeting argument #2, simply because it is easier to make that argument, and would be really irritating to a Christian who doesn't even accept argument #1.

If Christians are your target then just keep citing the lack of evidence for the gospel Jesus. That is who they claim to believe in and so that is what we should be dealing with if we are just responding to Christianity. In fact, building a human Jesus is technically a straw man of Christianity and what Christians claim to believe (which is why find it humorous to find Christians cite their 'evidence' of Jesus--supposed Roman and Jewish sources--which even if true references still contradict the gospel Jesus! Then there is Stroble's contradictory Case for Christ and Case for the Real Jesus books. Okay, which is it? Jesus the christ, or Jesus the human? LMAO!)

If actual history is our goal the we should use the more complex mythicist argument about the origin or Christianity.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote:I think the

Topher wrote:

I think the positive mythicist case (the one Carrier and Doherty argue) is made through studying the writings of Paul and the gospels. Essentially, you show that is was more likely that Christianity started as a mystery religion based on a spiritual saviour.

this is the most likely case if one only considers the gospels (particular luke-acts and john) and the pauline and non-pauline epistles.  however, i think to totally chalk up the origins of christianity to mystery religions is to deny not only the historicity of jesus but of any jesus movement among first century palestinian jews.  the closest thing in rabbinic judaism to mystery religion is the kabbalah, and we have no evidence of kabbalah in the first century (in fact, christian gnosticism may have been a big influence on its first formations centuries later).  scholars who argue for a jesus movement usually identify it as an apocalyptic sect, which bears little resemblance to a mystery religion. 

of course, the NT is pretty much the only source we have that tells us such a movement existed, so i suppose this isn't such a hard step to take.  however, the question remains, why, with so many extremely popular mystery religions already existent at the time (mithras, isis, etc.), would someone go out of their way to make a new one with a mythological foundation in a backwater province among the lowest classes of a despised people group?  who would make up such a story? 

i've always found the most plausible explanation to be that christianity is an accretion of mystery religions, neoplatanism, etc., etc. over a historical core of a failed first century apocalyptic movement with a charismatic leader who may or may not have been executed for trifling with the roman authorities (the implications that the jewish sanhedrin had any hand in it were probably polemic).  then again, i believe that almost all myths began with some kind historical catalyst, which is probably impossible to trace.

"I asked my father,
I said, 'Father change my name.'
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame."
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