The failed prophecies of the historical Jesus

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The failed prophecies of the historical Jesus

I would like to let you all know what first convinced me that Jesus existed as a historical human being.

The three earliest gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) each contain roughly the same set of apocalyptic prophecies, each with a certain deadline.  The apocalyptic deadlines are as follows:

Mark 9:1

And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

Mark 13:30

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

These deadlines are in the context of Jesus predicting the details of the apocalypse.

In Mark 8, the prophecies are as follows:

  • If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it
  • Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels

And the deadline for these two prophecies is, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

Mark 13 contains much fuller detail.  In Mark 13, the prophecies are as follows:

  • Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray.
  • When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.
  • For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom
  • there will be earthquakes in various places
  • there will be famines
  • they will hand you over to councils
  • you will be beaten in synagogues
  • you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them
  • bring you to trial and hand you over
  • Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child
  • children will rise against parents and have them put to death
  • you will be hated by all because of my name
  • the one who endures to the end will be saved
  • the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be
  • those in Judea must flee to the mountains
  • Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days
  • in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be
  • for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days
  • False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
  • sun and moon will be darkened
  • the stars will be falling from heaven
  • the powers in the heavens will be shaken
  • Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory
  • Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

And the deadline for all of these prophecies is given as, "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place."

This means, at the very least, the Christian author of the gospel of Mark believed that Jesus taught the apocalypse is right around the corner.  So, what is the best explanation for this belief?  There is a known personality profile of those who lead religious movements and tell others that the end of the world is directly at hand: doomsday cult leaders.  History and the modern day is littered with those people, and they very much tend to be actual people, not mere myths.  If you take the gospel accounts at face value, even regardless of whether or not you accept the theology or miracle stories, that is the character profile that you find in Jesus.  In addition to the doomsday prophecies,

  • He strongly encouraged complete devotion to his self (Matthew 16:16-17).
  • He encouraged hatred of one's family (Luke 14:26) and complete separation from one's family (Matthew 19:29).
  • He made enemies of the religious authorities (Matthew 21:23-27).

Shortly after I found about the apparently failed doomsday prophecies of Jesus, I immediately concluded that Jesus really was a doomsday cult leader.  I then wondered why this wasn't a big rhetorical point against Christianity.  There were apparently a lot of atheists on the Internet who, rightly or wrongly, believed that Jesus never actually existed, primarily because they believed that the gospels can not be used for historical evidence.  However, the gospels do contain direct evidence of what many of the earliest Christians believed, so maybe we can make very good conclusions from what they apparently believed.  It is much more plausible that their beliefs spring from an actual single human traveling cult leader named Jesus than it is from a mere myth of such a man.

I was told that I was not the first to come up with this theory of Jesus the doomsday prophet.  In fact, it was first proposed one hundred years ago by a critical scholar named Albert Schweitzer.  Since then, a very similar model of Jesus has been predominately accepted among critical historians of the New Testament.  It is what Bart Ehrman believes, for example.  They call the model of Jesus the "apocalyptic prophet."  Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.  I strongly recommend that book.  It is the only modern book fully laying out evidence for that model of Jesus for the lay readers.


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ApostateAbe wrote:There were

ApostateAbe wrote:
There were apparently a lot of atheists on the Internet who, rightly or wrongly, believed that Jesus never actually existed, primarily because they believed that the gospels can not be used for historical evidence.  However, the gospels do contain direct evidence of what many of the earliest Christians believed, so maybe we can make very good conclusions from what they apparently believed.  It is much more plausible that their beliefs spring from an actual single human traveling cult leader named Jesus than it is from a mere myth of such a man.

You mean like this guy? Check out his hand. You can almost make out his finger prints in the smudgy photo. Almost.

Quote:
Shortly after I found about the apparently failed doomsday prophecies of Jesus, I immediately concluded that Jesus really was a doomsday cult leader.

Ummmm.... Why?

Quote:
I was told that I was not the first to come up with this theory of Jesus the doomsday prophet.  In fact, it was first proposed one hundred years ago by a critical scholar named Albert Schweitzer.  Since then, a very similar model of Jesus has been predominately accepted among critical historians of the New Testament.  It is what Bart Ehrman believes, for example.  They call the model of Jesus the "apocalyptic prophet."  Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.  I strongly recommend that book.  It is the only modern book fully laying out evidence for that model of Jesus for the lay readers.

Evidence of that model? Or evidence of an actual human named Yeshua who had hundreds of followers and was tried by Pilate?

Were there doomsday prophets in Jewish culture back then? Surely. Some were probably even named Yeshua, just like there are lots of Johns and Joshes today.

The writer of Mark surely believed in the doomsday prophecy. Just like Benjamin Creme probably actually believes in Maitreya. But what makes you think the character in the fictional gospel stories was actually a real human? Just because New York exists, and there are books about Peter Parker, doesn't mean Spider Man is real.

(By the way, love Bart Ehrman. He's got a new book: Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are)

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natural wrote:ApostateAbe

natural wrote:

ApostateAbe wrote:
There were apparently a lot of atheists on the Internet who, rightly or wrongly, believed that Jesus never actually existed, primarily because they believed that the gospels can not be used for historical evidence.  However, the gospels do contain direct evidence of what many of the earliest Christians believed, so maybe we can make very good conclusions from what they apparently believed.  It is much more plausible that their beliefs spring from an actual single human traveling cult leader named Jesus than it is from a mere myth of such a man.

You mean like this guy? Check out his hand. You can almost make out his finger prints in the smudgy photo. Almost.

Quote:
Shortly after I found about the apparently failed doomsday prophecies of Jesus, I immediately concluded that Jesus really was a doomsday cult leader.

Ummmm.... Why?

Quote:
I was told that I was not the first to come up with this theory of Jesus the doomsday prophet.  In fact, it was first proposed one hundred years ago by a critical scholar named Albert Schweitzer.  Since then, a very similar model of Jesus has been predominately accepted among critical historians of the New Testament.  It is what Bart Ehrman believes, for example.  They call the model of Jesus the "apocalyptic prophet."  Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.  I strongly recommend that book.  It is the only modern book fully laying out evidence for that model of Jesus for the lay readers.

Evidence of that model? Or evidence of an actual human named Yeshua who had hundreds of followers and was tried by Pilate?

Were there doomsday prophets in Jewish culture back then? Surely. Some were probably even named Yeshua, just like there are lots of Johns and Joshes today.

The writer of Mark surely believed in the doomsday prophecy. Just like Benjamin Creme probably actually believes in Maitreya. But what makes you think the character in the fictional gospel stories was actually a real human? Just because New York exists, and there are books about Peter Parker, doesn't mean Spider Man is real.

(By the way, love Bart Ehrman. He's got a new book: Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are)

I think those are some worthy objections.  To reiterate, the Christian religious myths contained in the canonical gospels seem to be much better explained as following from a cult founded and led by a human cult leader named Jesus.  Like I said, you can explain any evidence about Jesus as mere legend.  The issue is that we should be finding the explanations that make the most plausible sense. 

The evidence I am focusing on is about the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus.  Is this something we would expect from a merely-mythical doomsday cult leader Jesus?  Or is something we would expect from an actual human apocalyptic prophet Jesus?  When you take the gospels at face value, then Jesus was a doomsday cult leader, even with all of the miracle accounts.  Since we have many examples of actual human doomsday cult leaders throughout history, then one explanation for Jesus seems much more plausible than another, in my opinion.  How many examples of merely-mythical doomsday cult leaders do we have in history or the present time?  Does Maitreya count, in your opinion, as a close analogy to Jesus?  I don't know that much about Maitreya, so feel free to explain.

Additionally, how likely is it really that Christianity could have started as a doomsday cult with a merely-mythical founder?  Do you take that to be more likely than an actual human founder fitting the profile of Jesus?  Let me explain.  Jesus has a detailed profile according to these Christian legends.  It is not just that he reputedly lived in a specific time, place and historical culture, but he had reputed connections with known historical people--John the Baptist, James, Peter, John and Pontius Pilate.  Again, Jesus could still be myth despite this--maybe the Christian myths integrated all of these people, just like New York City is integrated into fictional accounts.  But, again, we are trying to find the explanation that is most likely, not merely what is possible.  Anything is possible, really.

 


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 What first convinced me

 What first convinced me that Jesus didn't exist as a historical person:

- Brian Sapient


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I would like to follow up

I would like to follow up with the point that a "doomsday cult" is a sociological phenomenon, not just a derogatory name.  Wikipedia has an article on the topic, listing examples of such cults for comparison:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_cult

You can read up on it, and you can find out how easily Christianity could have started out like that, with Jesus of Nazareth being the leader. 

If mythicists have a theory that explains the evidence of early Christian belief equally well or better, then I think that would be needed for mythicism to be convincing among the critical historians.  Otherwise, I think we should accept the explanation that seems most probable at this point.


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Sapient wrote: What first

Sapient wrote:

 What first convinced me that Jesus didn't exist as a historical person:

[empty space]

I think a lot of atheists, especially us anti-religious activists, have that inclination, following from the way we view Christianity generally.  We will very much tend to think that the Christian canonical sources count for no historical evidence at all.  Or we may think that the position of falsity of Biblical claims should be the "default" position, and only the most rock-solid evidence should be able to prove otherwise.  However, I prefer, if we are rational thinkers (and we generally are), that we should be going for explanations that are most plausible given whatever evidence we have, and we certainly should not be holding dogmas or a priori conclusions of any sort.  How do you best explain the evidence of what the earliest Christians believed?  Do you make the best sense of it with a merely mythical Jesus?  If so, how is that a better explanation for the evidence than a doomsday cult leader Jesus?  Is it the myths of miracles and so on that are in the earliest sources?


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ApostateAbe wrote:I think a

ApostateAbe wrote:

I think a lot of atheists, especially us anti-religious activists, have that inclination, following from the way we view Christianity generally.  We will very much tend to think that the Christian canonical sources count for no historical evidence at all.  Or we may think that the position of falsity of Biblical claims should be the "default" position, and only the most rock-solid evidence should be able to prove otherwise.  However, I prefer, if we are rational thinkers (and we generally are), that we should be going for explanations that are most plausible given whatever evidence we have, and we certainly should not be holding dogmas or a priori conclusions of any sort.  How do you best explain the evidence of what the earliest Christians believed?  Do you make the best sense of it with a merely mythical Jesus?  If so, how is that a better explanation for the evidence than a doomsday cult leader Jesus?  Is it the myths of miracles and so on that are in the earliest sources?

You seem to be asserting a bias.  You should know that both the creator of that film and I thought people who asserted that Jesus never existed were of the crackpot variety... before changing our mind.

 

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Sapient wrote:ApostateAbe

Sapient wrote:

ApostateAbe wrote:

I think a lot of atheists, especially us anti-religious activists, have that inclination, following from the way we view Christianity generally.  We will very much tend to think that the Christian canonical sources count for no historical evidence at all.  Or we may think that the position of falsity of Biblical claims should be the "default" position, and only the most rock-solid evidence should be able to prove otherwise.  However, I prefer, if we are rational thinkers (and we generally are), that we should be going for explanations that are most plausible given whatever evidence we have, and we certainly should not be holding dogmas or a priori conclusions of any sort.  How do you best explain the evidence of what the earliest Christians believed?  Do you make the best sense of it with a merely mythical Jesus?  If so, how is that a better explanation for the evidence than a doomsday cult leader Jesus?  Is it the myths of miracles and so on that are in the earliest sources?

You seem to be asserting a bias.  You should know that both the creator of that film and I thought people who asserted that Jesus never existed were of the crackpot variety... before changing our mind.

Well, I think just about everyone has a bias.  I also think that we can correct for the influence that our biases have on our conclusions if we are conscious of our biases and we can reason our way through the evidence and the best explanations.  If not, then I would lose all hope that I myself could sufficiently reason through the subject, because I myself may possibly be the most anti-religious person that I know.  But, we don't have to keep talking about biases.  The important issues have to do with the evidence.  If you feel up to it, maybe explain why you believe it makes the most sense to explain the sources reflecting earliest Christian belief with a Jesus who never existed as a human being.


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ApostateAbe wrote:I think

ApostateAbe wrote:

I think those are some worthy objections.  To reiterate, the Christian religious myths contained in the canonical gospels seem to be much better explained as following from a cult founded and led by a human cult leader named Jesus.  Like I said, you can explain any evidence about Jesus as mere legend.

What evidence "about Jesus"? What evidence are you speaking of that is about a real, existing human, vs. a fictional character in a story?

Quote:
  The issue is that we should be finding the explanations that make the most plausible sense.

No. It is about what explanation is best supported by evidence. It is plausible that Maitreya is real. And if, by some unlucky chance, a Maitreya cult springs up in 30 years, takes over America -- the failing empire that it is -- and bolsters a thousand year Dark Age, during which time it completely wipes out any competing documents which may have shown just how silly Benjamin Creme was, well, then it would probably appear to be even more plausible than it does today. It might seem very very plausible indeed.

And yet, there would always be that nagging, missing evidence of an actual, real person named Maitreya who actually inspired Benjamin Creme's stories about him.

There would always be a lack of evidence for the real person. Because the real person never existed.

There would always be strange little bits of evidence that are contrary to the claims of his historicity, such as the contradicting stories about him, forged testaments to his existence, the fact that no historian of the time ever documented his existence, even though he supposedly had a large following. Certainly larger than a random trouble-maker like Osama bin Laden; though strangely there would be more evidence for bin Laden than for Maitreya.

And, perhaps most importantly, there would be the strange evidence that the stories about Maitreya are so contrived as to appear to be just like fictional stories with no basis in reality.

This is the case with Jesus. Except with Jesus, it is much worse, because no one who was alive when he was alive ever mentioned anything about him. Not even one little tiny peep. Not a single fact can be pinned down to the time of Jesus' alleged life. Not. Even. One. There is no Benjamin Creme to defend Jesus.

Oh, and the stories are not even re-tellings of Jesus' words himself. The Jesus Seminar could barely agree on anything that Jesus actually said, and for those few things that the majority could agree on, there were always skeptics arguing the opposite.

You do not know what Jesus spoke about. You only know what words have been inserted into the mouth of the fictional character called 'Jesus' in various writings by people who never even met him.

So, what evidence supports your theory?

Quote:
The evidence I am focusing on is about the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus.

Of who? Who is this person Jesus you speak of? When was he born? When did he die? Where did he live? What events occurred in his life? Who did he talk to? Who wrote about him during his life? Who recorded his words? What did he, himself, write? What artifacts do you have that he left behind? Who the fuck is Jesus?

Oh. You mean the failed prophecies of the writer of a story containing a fictional character named Jesus? Ah. For a second there I thought you meant "the failed prophecies of Jesus", rather than the failed prophecies of an anonymous writer who lived decades after the presumed life of the fictional character he wrote about. Apologies on the misunderstanding. Oh. You were serious? Eye-wink

You are committing a fallacy by assuming the existence of Jesus, and then using the stories written about the fictional character Jesus as 'evidence' for what an actual living human named Jesus actually said.

This is called Begging the Question.

Step 1. Show evidence that a person named Jesus actually existed in history.

Step 2. Talk about how the fictional stories written by anonymous authors decades after Jesus lived may have some relation to actual events in the life of the previously demonstrated (see Step 1) person of Jesus.

You completely forgot Step 1. You can't get to Step 2 without first doing Step 1. Step 1 is the Question. You are Begging it.

Okay, back to the evidence question.....

Quote:
Is this something we would expect from a merely-mythical doomsday cult leader Jesus?

You mean like Maitreya?

Quote:
  When you take the gospels at face value,

And that was your first mistake. Why would you do such a foolish thing? The Bible is the last book you should take at face value, with the only possible exception being the Quran.

Quote:
then Jesus was a doomsday cult leader, even with all of the miracle accounts.

Correction: the anonymous writers of the gospels were members of doomsday cults, who inserted their wild claims into the mouth of the fictional character they referred to as Jesus, portraying that character as the leader of their doomsday mystery cult.

Quote:
Since we have many examples of actual human doomsday cult leaders throughout history,

And many examples of fictional, mythical characters, who are/were widely believed to have existed, but later turned out to be not so existent.

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then one explanation for Jesus seems much more plausible than another, in my opinion.

I have no problem with your opinion. I have a problem with your evidence. Where is it?

Quote:
How many examples of merely-mythical doomsday cult leaders do we have in history or the present time?

How many examples of merely-mythical superheroes bitten by radioactive spiders do we have in history or the present time? Only one? Wow! Spider Man must have existed then!

Just about every mystery cult that ever existed has intimations about the end of the world, the afterlife, and being judged in the afterlife. End of the world prophecies are a dime a dozen in the history of religions. Heck, even the vikings had Ragnarok.

You may be surprised to learn that Christianity competed directly with Mithraism, which featured a god-man born of a stone, who would lead his followers to heaven along the Milky Way (no kidding!). They even had ritual meals featuring the sharing of bread and wine.

Too bad Christianity wiped them out once they got control of Rome. Many Christian churches were actually built on top of destroyed Mithraic temples.

And before that, there were Dionysus Cults, the Eleusian Mysteries, Orphism, the cult of Isis, and lots more. Christianity doesn't have any claim on cultism either.

And I guarantee you, none of the central figures in these cults are anything but mythical.

Jesus was late to the party. The only thing unique about Christianity is how it happened to be the one to seize control and wipe out all the other cults.

Once it grabbed the reins, there was no stopping the charging Dark Ages, and those in power (and their rabble followers) had ample opportunity to erase a good portion of the historical record, so that we actually know quite little about the specific doctrines of most mystery religions.

Your theory is on shaky ground not only because you have not a single shred of evidence that Jesus actually existed, but also because it relies upon the unsupportable premises that doomsday cults are rare, that mythical characters 'historicized' are rare, and that Christianity's current status as the only extant religion based on a 'merely-mythical doomsday cult leader' cannot better be explained by the fact that you are ignorant of the historical deicide committed by Christianity itself. (Oh and the fact that it's not the only extant such religion, as Maitreya shows.)

Quote:
  Does Maitreya count, in your opinion, as a close analogy to Jesus?  I don't know that much about Maitreya, so feel free to explain.

There is lots of stuff about Maitreya bringing about final judgment, end of the world type stuff. Just a quick skim of Wikipedia will show you that.

How close does the analogy have to be before it is valid? Do I have to show you a perfect clone of Christianity? Going down that road is a waste of my time.

It is up to you to show that your theory is supported by evidence. Lacking the crucial Step 1 evidence, you've got your work cut out for you.

Quote:
Additionally, how likely is it really that Christianity could have started as a doomsday cult with a merely-mythical founder?

It is quite plausible to me. I would put it in the neighbourhood of 95% confidence, in my personal opinion. I would make a large bet on those odds. But that's just my opinion. My opinion, however, is not evidence for or against the existence of a historical Jesus.

A large chunk of that 95% is due to the overwhelming lack of evidence that should be there, if he truly were historical. It is a Silence that Screams, to borrow a phrase.

Quote:
Do you take that to be more likely than an actual human founder fitting the profile of Jesus?  Let me explain.  Jesus has a detailed profile according to these Christian legends.  It is not just that he reputedly lived in a specific time, place and historical culture, but he had reputed connections with known historical people--John the Baptist, James, Peter, John and Pontius Pilate.  Again, Jesus could still be myth despite this--maybe the Christian myths integrated all of these people, just like New York City is integrated into fictional accounts.  But, again, we are trying to find the explanation that is most likely, not merely what is possible.  Anything is possible, really.

You are on a journey that is like peeling an onion to find a seed. There is no seed, only tears. (Sorry, I know that was a horrible metaphor, but it was too funny not to write.)

You can whittle down the character of Jesus down to nothing in an effort to try to connect him somehow into history. Maybe he was a completely unknown guy who only whispered his gospel to a single person, and that person told another person, a la Chinese Whispers, and that explains why there's not a single shred of evidence for his historical existence. Maybe. It's possible. But then, what are you arguing for?

Are you arguing that someone, who may or may not even have been named Jesus, might have existed, who might have said some nice things, who might have simply been forgotten by the scribes, could possibly, maybe have existed? Okay. Then how do you explain the massive historical claims made in the Bible? I'm not even talking miracles. I'm talking the trial by Pilate, the hundreds of followers, the persecution by the Jews. Did they just forget to write about this guy who supposedly shook their whole frigging world?

That is not a 'historical' person. That's an ahistorical person; someone who existed, but someone that the evidence of history cannot account for.

But for Jesus it's even worse, because all of the stories about him are so obviously mythological in nature. Where did these elaborate supernatural beliefs come from? If they were inspired by a real person, then where is the non-supernatural, non-mythcial, non-fictional evidence that corroborates this person's existence? It should be all over the frigging place, like for Caesar, whose faces is on coins minted in his lifetime, who is spoken of in history in his lifetime, etc. etc.

But no, the obvious mythological nature of the stories has a much easier explanation: They are works of fiction written to 'historicize' a mythological person. They are conveniently written long after-the-alleged-fact. They were created for the purpose of making this sparse, vague character more plausible-seeming. They were also composed to put forth a specific ideology that their writers wanted to champion. And what better character to champion your own human ideas than a stereotypical hero archetype, like Osiris, or Dionysus, or that bugger Mithras, whose followers refuse to believe in our saviour! Yeah and let's make him say things that hint that he's in tight with Yahweh (in Mark). But wait, that's not clear enough. We need to add more detail about his childhood and such (in Matthew and Luke). But wait, on second thought, let's make it clear that he definitely was god (in John). But wait!!!! Now all these other gospels are popping up, with lots of ideas we don't like! Let's collect our favoured four into one book and burn all the rest!

Ah, there we go. Now the story seems very plausible indeed. But wait, why is there no mention in Josephus? Let's correct that little oversight. Now that we're in power, and nobody knows dick all anymore, we can fuck with the history books all we like.

Oh damn! Some jerk realized that our stories don't quite jive together. You're not supposed to read it like that! Let us do the reading for you. Fuck! Some asshole dug up contradictory versions of our Bible. I thought we burned all those! Argh!

You get the picture.

Go with the evidence, my friend. You can see Jesus in a taco if you look hard enough. You can see him in history, too, if you squint real hard and don't care too much about actual evidence.

But if you really examine your hidden assumptions, and weed out personal biases (we all have them), without the tinge of pareidolia, and just go with the evidence as it stands, you may find that it's all just a big taco. In an onion.

(By the way, all the bluster and bold I used up there is really just a way to jolt people into thinking about this issue a bit differently, to examine their prior assumptions. After all, most everyone believes Jesus existed, even as a mere human. It's hard to think there might actually be something to mythicism, and easy to just dismiss it out of hand without following the salsa trail down the rabbit hole. Nothing personal is intended by it. Cheers! Smiling )

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It's not the scholarly view

 

according to some but a character like jesus, who blithely strolls the surface of the sea and raises dead people before walking through doors is certainly not based on any historical figure. He's just completely made up. Maybe there's a precedent in the ancient world for swathes of religious nutjobs but not for actual jesus. 

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ApostateAbe wrote:Well, I

ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, I think just about everyone has a bias.  

Then mine was to believe that Jesus existed as a historical figure.

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natural, that was very well

natural, that was very well written, and I do very much appreciate your attention and thought.  I think it will be a tough debate, but I will give it my best shot.

"What evidence "about Jesus"? What evidence are you speaking of that is about a real, existing human, vs. a fictional character in a story?"

Regardless of the writing style, I take the most relevant evidence to be the synoptic gospels and the letters of Paul.  The version of Jesus contained in those sources really is mythical in nature.  It follows that Jesus never existed if that is how to make the best sense of those myths.  Many actual human beings are at the roots of myths that succeeded them.  My favorite example is Haile Selassie.  I am not saying that mythical people always started out as real, but I am saying that we really do need to examine the evidence to find out which explanation best fits.  I am claiming that the failed apocalyptic prophecies and their quoted deadlines attributed to Jesus makes for a very good case that there was an actual human doomsday cult leader matching the profile of the mythical gospel Jesus.  Such characters are common in history and the present day, not so common in mere myth.

"No. It is about what explanation is best supported by evidence. It is plausible that Maitreya is real. And if, by some unlucky chance, a Maitreya cult springs up in 30 years, takes over America -- the failing empire that it is -- and bolsters a thousand year Dark Age, during which time it completely wipes out any competing documents which may have shown just how silly Benjamin Creme was, well, then it would probably appear to be even more plausible than it does today. It might seem very very plausible indeed."

I have no serious disagreement.  I do think, if we are focusing on the arguments, then transfer the arguments to the thought experiment.  If this new cult has historical documents that attest to the ancient belief that Maitreya leading a small cult within a specific time and social context predicted the apocalypse within a generation, then there may be critics many gnerations afterward who would use that evidence to conclude that there probably really was a human Maitreya, even if Maitreya never existed.  It would still be a reasonable thing to believe.  Why?  Because there are a bunch of other actual living doomsday cult leaders, but no known examples of mythical cult leaders.  What do you think?  Would that be reasonable?

"There would always be strange little bits of evidence that are contrary to the claims of his historicity, such as the contradicting stories about him, forged testaments to his existence, the fact that no historian of the time ever documented his existence, even though he supposedly had a large following. Certainly larger than a random trouble-maker like Osama bin Laden; though strangely there would be more evidence for bin Laden than for Maitreya."

I do think that the contradicting stories and the falsified testimonies about him do at least count for some evidence against the historical Jesus.  At the very least, it counts very much for the conclusion that there false myths about Jesus whether or not he really existed.  Much of the specific content of those myths, however, seem much harder to explain if they are not original to Jesus himself, and the failed apocalyptic prophecies seem to be a good example.  Other examples include the baptism of Jesus, the hometown of Jesus as from Nazareth, and the crucifixion of Jesus, and the brother of Jesus, though those are huge topics that are probably each best left to their own threads.

You say that no historian of the time ever documented his existence.  This is true, but I think it needs to be put in the perspective that there was only one historian corresponding to the time and place Jesus--Philo of Alexandria.  Philo didn't write about Jesus, so, does it follow that Jesus didn't exist?  Philo did not write about John the Baptist, either, but the cult of John the Baptist apparently became influential enough that Josephus wrote about it in 90 CE, spending twice as much ink on it than about Jesus.  Arguments from silence have severe limitations--there are not a lot of ancient writers, and they write about only the issues they find relevant.  They write almost exclusively about the issues concerning the ruling class, and Jesus had a brush with the ruling class only very briefly.

"This is the case with Jesus. Except with Jesus, it is much worse, because no one who was alive when he was alive ever mentioned anything about him. Not even one little tiny peep. Not a single fact can be pinned down to the time of Jesus' alleged life. Not. Even. One. There is no Benjamin Creme to defend Jesus."

You seem to be exaggerating a little, or else you should explain what you make of the writings of Paul.

"You do not know what Jesus spoke about. You only know what words have been inserted into the mouth of the fictional character called 'Jesus' in various writings by people who never even met him."

Sure, that seems agreeable, but I do think that we can make some pretty good estimates about what Jesus really did say.  How would you explain the failed apocalyptic prophecies?

"['The evidence I am focusing on is about the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus.']  Of who? Who is this person Jesus you speak of? When was he born? When did he die? Where did he live? What events occurred in his life? Who did he talk to? Who wrote about him during his life? Who recorded his words? What did he, himself, write? What artifacts do you have that he left behind? Who the fuck is Jesus?"

OK, since you are curious, I'll give you what I take to be probable details of the life of Jesus.  They are not certain details, but I think they are probable, and I'll give you my reasoning if you care to know.  Jesus was born in Nazareth, probably around the turn of the first century, where he spent his childhood.  He died during the service of Pontius Pilate (around 30 CE).  He talked to John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John.  He travelled around the Galilean and Judean countryside.  He was baptized by John the Baptist.  He was killed by Pontius Pilate.  Nobody wrote about him during his life nor recorded his words--he and his cult was poor, they traveled in rural areas, and few people knew how to read, let alone write.  Any artifacts would be uncertainly connected to Jesus at best.

"Oh. You mean the failed prophecies of the writer of a story containing a fictional character named Jesus? Ah. For a second there I thought you meant 'the failed prophecies of Jesus', rather than the failed prophecies of an anonymous writer who lived decades after the presumed life of the fictional character he wrote about. Apologies on the misunderstanding. Oh. You were serious? Eye-wink"

Well, I do mean the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus, at least as those prophecies are reputed in the synoptic gospels.  I make sense of those reputed prophecies as being original to Jesus, but, if you can make better sense of them as the invention of a later writer or fiction or whatever, then I think an explanation is what is needed.

"You are committing a fallacy by assuming the existence of Jesus, and then using the stories written about the fictional character Jesus as 'evidence' for what an actual living human named Jesus actually said."

I am sorry, I thought I made this point perfectly clear--I am arguing that the conclusion about my model of Jesus follows from the evidence, and the evidence is the earliest Christian beliefs reflected in the synoptic gospels, specifically the quotes of the failed apocalyptic prophecies.  I do not assume the existence of Jesus.  The conclusion that Jesus existed follows from the evidence.

"[When you take the gospels at face value,] And that was your first mistake. Why would you do such a foolish thing? The Bible is the last book you should take at face value, with the only possible exception being the Quran."

You misunderstood, and it was my fault.  I didn't mean believe the gospels at face value.  I meant interpret the gospels at face value.  If you interpret the gospels at face value, then you get a doomsday cult leader Jesus.  I hope I am clearer now.  Sorry.

I know you wrote a bunch more, but I think I will stop here for now.  It may be better for us to focus on just a few relevant points.  I think what would help the most is a mythicist model of history that you think explains the evidence better, including the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus as told in the gospels.  What do you think best explains such myth?


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Sapient wrote:ApostateAbe

Sapient wrote:

ApostateAbe wrote:

Well, I think just about everyone has a bias.  

Then mine was to believe that Jesus existed as a historical figure.

Well, I think the bias of a strong anti-religious bent strongly caters to one conclusion about the existence of the historical Jesus and not the other, and I think we are best served by realizing such a thing.  It seems to me that the anti-religious arguments overlap with the mythicist arguments much more often than not.  There are a few historical scholars and authors that the mythicists favor, and they are all strongly engaged in anti-religious polemics.  It makes a lot of sense, in my opinion, because the point that Jesus never existed strongly undercuts Christian dogma, and it fits the viewpoint that the whole Christian canon is a set of outright lies, which so often is the perspective of anti-religious activists, as you know.  I don't doubt you when you claim that you once believed that mythicists were loony, but I don't think that bears much on the reality of how appealing the mythicist theory is to people like us.


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

according to some but a character like jesus, who blithely strolls the surface of the sea and raises dead people before walking through doors is certainly not based on any historical figure. He's just completely made up. Maybe there's a precedent in the ancient world for swathes of religious nutjobs but not for actual jesus. 

Well, I think you can say "...maybe not based on any historical figure."  I think it is taking it way too far to say, "....certainly not based on any historical figure."  The reason is because we do have plenty of examples of extraordinary myths surrounding what were historical human beings.  For one example, in the same time period of Jesus, there were two historians who wrote that the emperor Vespasian had miraculous healing powers.  These were trustworthy contemporary historians, too (Suetonius and Tacitus).

 

 


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ApostateAbe wrote:Sapient

ApostateAbe wrote:

Sapient wrote:

 What first convinced me that Jesus didn't exist as a historical person:

[empty space]

I think a lot of atheists, especially us anti-religious activists, have that inclination, following from the way we view Christianity generally.

Abe, I think you may have missed what Sapient posted, which you marked as [empty space]. It isn't actually empty. Perhaps your browser isn't showing it, but Sapient linked to the movie The God Who Wasn't There. It is an excellent independent movie by Brian Flemming, and includes some very good interviews (especially on the DVD extras) with credible mythicists Robert M. Price (biblical scholar, and one of the hosts of CFI's Point of Inquiry) and Richard Carrier (historian of science and ancient history; Carrier's blog).

Carrier, in particular, is a very sensible and well-spoken individual who is half-way through his 2-book project putting forth his evidence-based view on the question of Jesus' historicity. I highly recommend this excellent interview. He is attempting to apply Bayesian inference to the historical critical method. If he is successful, he will go down in history (somewhat ironically, for a historian) as a genius, IMNSHO.

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ApostateAbe wrote:How do you

ApostateAbe wrote:
How do you best explain the evidence of what the earliest Christians believed?  Do you make the best sense of it with a merely mythical Jesus?  If so, how is that a better explanation for the evidence than a doomsday cult leader Jesus?  Is it the myths of miracles and so on that are in the earliest sources?

For that, I refer you to another excellent work, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus, by Earl Doherty. He also novelized it, and it's actually pretty good (and free! worth reading if you want the argument before buying the non-fiction version): The Jesus Puzzle: A Novel About the Greatest Question of our Time. Also, Richard Carrier reviewed the Jesus Puzzle here.

I should mention now that I'm not a historian or a bible scholar or anything of the kind. I got all my info from Doherty, Carrier, and Price. Rook Hawkins (Tom Verenna) and todangst (and other RRS users) were also invaluable defenders of the argument. I think Carrier makes the best arguments, myself. Beware the loons out there, though. There are also many quite disreputable people who put forth wacko versions of mythicism, such as that found in the Zeitgeist movie (Link Nazi says: No link for you!).

I've said about as much as I'm comfortable defending. The others I've named and provided links to can do a much more thorough job than I. If necessary, I'll clarify any of the points I've made, though.

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natural wrote:ApostateAbe

natural wrote:

ApostateAbe wrote:

Sapient wrote:

 What first convinced me that Jesus didn't exist as a historical person:

[empty space]

I think a lot of atheists, especially us anti-religious activists, have that inclination, following from the way we view Christianity generally.

Abe, I think you may have missed what Sapient posted, which you marked as [empty space]. It isn't actually empty. Perhaps your browser isn't showing it, but Sapient linked to the movie The God Who Wasn't There. It is an excellent independent movie by Brian Flemming, and includes some very good interviews (especially on the DVD extras) with credible mythicists Robert M. Price (biblical scholar, and one of the hosts of CFI's Point of Inquiry) and Richard Carrier (historian of science and ancient history; Carrier's blog).

Carrier, in particular, is a very sensible and well-spoken individual who is half-way through his 2-book project putting forth his evidence-based view on the question of Jesus' historicity. I highly recommend this excellent interview. He is attempting to apply Bayesian inference to the historical critical method. If he is successful, he will go down in history (somewhat ironically, for a historian) as a genius, IMNSHO.

Thank you.  It is some kind of Amazon link that doesn't show up in Firefox or Chrome--only Internet Explorer.  I thought he really did say that he was convinced by nothing!


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ApostateAbe wrote:Well, I

ApostateAbe wrote:
Well, I think just about everyone has a bias.  I also think that we can correct for the influence that our biases have on our conclusions if we are conscious of our biases and we can reason our way through the evidence and the best explanations.  If not, then I would lose all hope that I myself could sufficiently reason through the subject, because I myself may possibly be the most anti-religious person that I know.  But, we don't have to keep talking about biases.  The important issues have to do with the evidence.

Abe, you certainly sound like 'my kind' of Apostate. I am all about evidence and eliminating my own bias. One of my favourite things to do is sit back, introspect, examine my beliefs, and ask myself, "How do I really know that?" I've overcome a lot of personal bias that way.

Interestingly, though you make a distinction between issues of bias and issues of evidence, the two are not as unrelated as you seem to be saying. If you are interested in promoting evidence over bias, you may want to look into the concept of Bayesian inference (link above). Here is a classic Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem, by Eliezar Yudkowsky, and here is one person's attempt to make EY's intro even more intro.

 

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I use Firefox and I can see

I use Firefox and I can see it. Perhaps you have a plug-in that blocks certain kinds of HTML?


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natural wrote:I use Firefox

natural wrote:

I use Firefox and I can see it. Perhaps you have a plug-in that blocks certain kinds of HTML?

Come to think of it, it must be Adblock.


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Hi Abe, I'm going to keep my

Hi Abe, I'm going to keep my responses as short as I can, due to the length of time it takes to do a thorough reply, and to give you an opportunity to check out the many sources of the original arguments that I just linked to in the last few comments. I'm trying to be less obsessively ADHD on the internet these days, so forgive me if my responses feel short. (NB: I so badly failed at this, that I thought I'd leave in my 'failed prophecy' just for a joke. Eye-wink )

ApostateAbe wrote:

natural, that was very well written, and I do very much appreciate your attention and thought.

Thank you. Glad you didn't take my style personally.

Quote:
"What evidence "about Jesus"? What evidence are you speaking of that is about a real, existing human, vs. a fictional character in a story?"

Regardless of the writing style, I take the most relevant evidence to be the synoptic gospels and the letters of Paul.  The version of Jesus contained in those sources really is mythical in nature.  It follows that Jesus never existed if that is how to make the best sense of those myths.  Many actual human beings are at the roots of myths that succeeded them.  My favorite example is Haile Selassie.  I am not saying that mythical people always started out as real, but I am saying that we really do need to examine the evidence to find out which explanation best fits.  I am claiming that the failed apocalyptic prophecies and their quoted deadlines attributed to Jesus makes for a very good case that there was an actual human doomsday cult leader matching the profile of the mythical gospel Jesus.  Such characters are common in history and the present day, not so common in mere myth.

There are far more purely fictional mythical characters than ones based on real people. You must see that?! Your conclusion that he was a doomsday cult leader continues to beg the question of whether or not he ever existed in the first place. You are still just assuming that he did. I know it may be hard for you to see that, but that's what you're doing.

Imagine this: A doomsday cult forms based on a mythical personage. The initial mythical personage is extremely vague, more of a feeling of a person in your head, much as many people still speak of the Holy Ghost. There is this feeling that this person made a huge sacrifice to pay for humanity's sins. This is a common trope for any hero archetype, and especially in the mystery religions which were so prevalent at the time of the inception of Christianity.

This feeling gives downtrodden people great hope, even if they can't really understand anything about this imaginary mythical person they are essentially deluding themselves into believing they have telepathic communication with, like a kind of invisible friend for adults. Invisible friends are extremely common. This is just a mythologized invisible friend.

The feeling that a sacrifice was made gives the feeling that a) this person is fighting for you, helping you, no matter your crappy life circumstances, b) this person loves you. Wonderful feelings all around. I'm not surprised such a vague, amorphous belief could get started in the first place, and spread around to a highly superstitious people like the Jews at the time.

(This is all my own conjecture. Doherty has his own interesting theory on the origins. The point is simply that it's not as implausible as it sounds that this could be sparked by a totally imaginary concept.)

Now, if Jesus was a real human, you would expect that those closer to the time of his life would have the most detailed information about his life, and those living decades later would have only vague recollections and rumours of his life. Thus, you would expect that earlier accounts would be the most detailed and most historically grounded.

If Jesus was initially a purely mythical concept-person as I'm defending, then you would expect that as people tried to understand their self-delusions, and/or the delusions of their friends and family members, there would be a gradual accumulation of more and more detail about this mythical character as time goes on, as more and more stories and characteristics are glommed on to the concept. This phenomenon occurs in every legend and myth. It even occurs quite obviously with things like alien abduction stories. Remember little green men? Now it's little grey men with black bulgy eyes, and everyone knows that's what an alien looks like. And they use anal probes and eye probes, and elude people like Fox Mulder, and implant things into people's bodies, etc. Even the SciFi series StarGate introduced a whole culture to the so-called 'Asgaard' who are suspiciously nearly identical to the little grey bulgy eye archetype.

Myths become more detailed and more concrete as time goes by. Historical accounts become more fuzzy and vague.

What do we see with Jesus? Paul, the first person to contribute to the history of Jesus sounds remarkably similar to Benjamin Creme, except way more sparse on details, and way more specific on mythy kinds of things, like Jesus' telepathic messages to him.

Paul picks up the concept of Jesus from the pre-existing Christians around him, who already have his title, Christ, but not his first name yet. They already have him being crucified as the mythical form of his sacrifice, as many Jews of the time were crucified, but they don't yet have when or where or why. It's all a mythos, a mythology that makes sense of this invisible friend idea that's floating around in the culture. It's just made-up rationalizations based on the hopes and fears of a superstitious people, just like every other god/hero-concept in existence.

It takes decades before the first gospel appears. Well, I'm no expert, but many years, anyway. Up to this time, people have collected anonymous sayings that they find inspirational, and they start to attribute this folk-wisdom to the actual words of their invisible friend. Now Jesus has a voice besides Paul.

Of course, you can't popularize a vague, nameless invisible friend character by saying, Hey, believe in my invisible friend! Some people will fall for that, but you need to make it more plausible. So Mark is written. It's a fictional story that places this invisible friend (newly named Jesus) and his collectively-agreed-upon crucifixion into a historical era (conveniently in the previous generation, doncha know). It even ties in some famous people like John the Baptist. (By the way, have you ever wondered why John the Baptist, who by all accounts is a much less important and historically significant person than Jesus, nevertheless has more evidence for his existence than Jesus himself???)

But Mark is the work of a gifted amateur. It is rough. It is still sparse. It's missing important 'back story' like "Who the heck was this guy? Where did he come from?" Also, he forgot to include all the great and wise folk-sayings that the Christians had been collecting. So, you get Matthew and Luke, incorporating a birth narrative and many sayings attributed to Jesus. And then later you get the extravagant John, with it's cosmic mysticism and all that jazz, making it clear that Jesus is the only 'true' way to heaven.

So, with Jesus, you see a clear pattern of the details getting more specific as time goes by. Paul knows the least about Jesus, Mark a bit more, Luke and Matthew a bit more, and John adds some finishing touches.

Which is not even to mention all the other gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, etc. These are like the different versions of the myths of Heracles or Achilles or Odysseus. Some of them become Homer, some of them are 'apocryphal'. (Hint: All the gospels are apocryphal; some are just more dogmatically convenient.)

I may be wrong on some of the specifics, and some of it is my own conjecture. Go to Doherty, Carrier, and Price for authority.

Quote:
I do think, if we are focusing on the arguments, then transfer the arguments to the thought experiment.  If this new cult has historical documents that attest to the ancient belief that Maitreya leading a small cult within a specific time and social context predicted the apocalypse within a generation, then there may be critics many gnerations afterward who would use that evidence to conclude that there probably really was a human Maitreya, even if Maitreya never existed.  It would still be a reasonable thing to believe.  Why?  Because there are a bunch of other actual living doomsday cult leaders, but no known examples of mythical cult leaders.  What do you think?  Would that be reasonable?

No. Again, it misses Step 1. These accounts would be found to have been written decades after the life of Maitreya. If the claims that this guy led a large cult of doomsday fanatics, why is Osama bin Laden more well-documented than Maitreya. Why is there zero evidence of Maitreya (except for Creme's claims; again, for Jesus it is worse because Paul spoke after Jesus had supposedly died) during his supposed life?

Surely, it might happen that there's less evidence than bin Laden. But ZERO???? NOTHING????! Not even a note? Not even a social security number? Not even a street address? Not even the name of a friend or family member? Only the claims of a nutbar?

Quote:
Much of the specific content of those myths, however, seem much harder to explain if they are not original to Jesus himself, and the failed apocalyptic prophecies seem to be a good example.

Remember, you are speaking of a time when there were a whole bunch of Jews preaching their various conspiracy theories about the end of the world and God's imminent wrath upon humanity (especially the Romans). We have a similar situation today with Islam and America.

Doomsday prophecies are a dime a dozen.

2012??!?!? Never heard of that? There was even of movie about it! So, if some cult sprung up tying in the ubiquitous doomsday prophecies of the era into the sayings of their mythical invisible friend that they desperately want to make seem more plausible, that in no way makes the character any more historical. It just makes its believers more irrational. Irrationality is not hard to find in a superstitious culture like the ancient Jews.

Quote:
  Other examples include the baptism of Jesus,

What historical evidence attests to this event?

Quote:
the hometown of Jesus as from Nazareth,

Again, what evidence? These are just claims. Many of them derived from Jewish scriptures in an effort to tie in their new mythology to the old mythology.

Quote:
and the crucifixion of Jesus,

Read Doherty. The crucifixion is very plausible as a mythical event, rather than a historical one.

Quote:
and the brother of Jesus,

A nutbar claimed to be the brother of the invisible friend everybody's raving about? Nothing like that has EVER happened before.

Quote:
You say that no historian of the time ever documented his existence.  This is true, but I think it needs to be put in the perspective that there was only one historian corresponding to the time and place Jesus--Philo of Alexandria.  Philo didn't write about Jesus, so, does it follow that Jesus didn't exist?  Philo did not write about John the Baptist, either, but the cult of John the Baptist apparently became influential enough that Josephus wrote about it in 90 CE, spending twice as much ink on it than about Jesus.

Josephus didn't write about Jesus Christ. That's the forgery I was referring to.

And isn't it strange that Christians had to forge the history books to fit their invisible friend in? Again, as time goes on, the myth becomes more concrete, as fabrication upon fabrication glom on to it. This is not indicative of a historical person, but of a historicized myth. And historicized by those who had the agenda and the absolute power to do exactly that.

Quote:
Arguments from silence have severe limitations

If you read carefully again, I made it clear that the silence is only part of the argument. It is the ginormous red flag that you go, "Hmmm..." and look closer. The nail in the coffin is that the myths of Jesus are the only source of any historical claims about Jesus, and they are clearly written as myths.

You only have the Spider Man comics, and the claims of Spider Manists who lived decades after Spider Man's heroic sacrificial death to save humanity from the Evil Dr. Whoever, the dreaded Terrorist of Zombieland, who would have destroyed the Earth if not for Spider Man's suicide bombing Mission of Justice. Now make sure you dangle your newborn infant out of a high-rise window like Michael Jackson did when he was showing respect to Spider Man! Otherwise, it's your fault if Spider Man sends you to Zombieland after you die. You don't want to end up like Bill Murray in the historical documentary Zombieland, do you?

Are you now claiming that Spider Man has less historical evidence than Michael Jackson and Bill Murray? Pfft. The number of history books about Spider Man -- not to mention documentary footage of his battles with the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus, titled Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (by famed historian Sam Raimi, and based of the trusted testimony of Saint Stan Lee) -- attests to the obvious historicity of Spider-Man. Though, personally I have a theory that he was really just a rogue news photographer who gained an enormous cult following, for some reason.

Quote:
They write almost exclusively about the issues concerning the ruling class, and Jesus had a brush with the ruling class only very briefly.

This is called 'peeling the onion'. Peel away. The more plausible you make the explanation for the staggering lack of evidence for the existence of Jesus, the less plausible you make the explanation for how he could possibly have influenced history as much as the myth-based religion did. If he was such an inconsequential figure (and all of his contemporary followers were too), then how do you know anything about him historically speaking (i.e. evidentially)? The only 'evidence' you have are comic books without the art.

Quote:
"This is the case with Jesus. Except with Jesus, it is much worse, because no one who was alive when he was alive ever mentioned anything about him. Not even one little tiny peep. Not a single fact can be pinned down to the time of Jesus' alleged life. Not. Even. One. There is no Benjamin Creme to defend Jesus."

You seem to be exaggerating a little, or else you should explain what you make of the writings of Paul.

Doherty gives a good explanation of Paul. I'm no Doherty.

Quote:
Sure, that seems agreeable, but I do think that we can make some pretty good estimates about what Jesus really did say.

How? With what evidence to support your conjectures?

Quote:
How would you explain the failed apocalyptic prophecies?

Bzzt! Step 1 has not yet been established. All you have are comic books with prophecies in them. You've got the equivalent of the Left Behind series. How do you explain the fact that Buck Williams had never heard of 9/11 and the WTC bombings?!!?!?! Obviously, Buck was a failed doomsday prophet who really existed!

Quote:
Jesus was born in Nazareth, probably around the turn of the first century, where he spent his childhood.  He died during the service of Pontius Pilate (around 30 CE).  He talked to John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John.  He travelled around the Galilean and Judean countryside.  He was baptized by John the Baptist.  He was killed by Pontius Pilate.  Nobody wrote about him during his life nor recorded his words--he and his cult was poor, they traveled in rural areas, and few people knew how to read, let alone write.  Any artifacts would be uncertainly connected to Jesus at best.

I asked for evidence. You are giving me more claims. Go with the evidence, man.

How do you know any of these details, except through the comic book stories or the claims of deluded, fanatical Christians? Where is the evidence?

Quote:
Well, I do mean the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus, at least as those prophecies are reputed in the synoptic gospels.

Bingo. You've got comic book evidence. That's it! That's all! NOTHING more! The comic books weren't even written in his supposed lifetime, but several decades later, by deluded, superstitious, myth-loving people. Who, by the way, were surrounded by failed apocalyptic prophecies every day as crazy messiah-wannabes preached their revenge fantasies in the streets.

Quote:
I make sense of those reputed prophecies as being original to Jesus, but, if you can make better sense of them as the invention of a later writer or fiction or whatever, then I think an explanation is what is needed.

No more explanation is needed than is needed to explain the bizarre end-of-the-world scenarios touted by 2012 nuts every day all around the world. And after 2012, it'll be 2020, and after that, 2025, and so on and so on. You don't need to be a cult leader to prophesy doomsday in a comic book.

Quote:
I am arguing that the conclusion about my model of Jesus follows from the evidence, and the evidence is the earliest Christian beliefs reflected in the synoptic gospels, specifically the quotes of the failed apocalyptic prophecies.  I do not assume the existence of Jesus.

You assume the existence of Jesus when you sub-consciously use the word 'quote' to describe Tobey Maguire's lines in the screenplay to Spider-Man.

How do you know it's a quote? What evidence do you have that there was even a person to quote, rather than some fanboy writing slash-fic about his favourite LARPG characters?

Quote:
  The conclusion that Jesus existed follows from the evidence.

How does this evidence show that a real live flesh and blood human named Jesus existed? This is not evidence. It's 'quoting' a fictional character.

Quote:
I meant interpret the gospels at face value.

I know you meant that. I don't harbour any suspicion that you actually believe the Bible, or the Quran. The question remains why you would take them at face value in the first place? They are propaganda tools. Do you take L Ron Hubbard's story about Xenu at face value when discussing the likely existence of Xenu?

Quote:
I know you wrote a bunch more, but I think I will stop here for now.  It may be better for us to focus on just a few relevant points.  I think what would help the most is a mythicist model of history that you think explains the evidence better, including the failed apocalyptic prophecies of Jesus as told in the gospels.  What do you think best explains such myth?

Doherty, Carrier, Price. You've got the reading list.

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ApostateAbe wrote:Well, I

ApostateAbe wrote:
Well, I think the bias of a strong anti-religious bent strongly caters to one conclusion about the existence of the historical Jesus and not the other, and I think we are best served by realizing such a thing.

My bent is not anti-religion per se, it is pro-evidence. It just so happens that so much of religion happens to be anti-evidence that I almost always clash with religious opinion/dogma.

Quote:
There are a few historical scholars and authors that the mythicists favor, and they are all strongly engaged in anti-religious polemics.

Dr. Robert M. Price is a glaring exception to that. He is definitely not 'anti-religion'. He even still goes to church!

What makes Price so fitting to this discussion is that he's also a huge fan of myths, especially of the modern kind such as comic books and horror fiction. That's basically what religion is, except that it is believed comic book/horror. Come on. Xenu? Joseph Smith and the golden tablets and the Sci Fi gods of Mormonism? Mohammed and his Fantastical Voyage to Heaven on a Magical Winged Horsey? Paul and the Gospel writers and their Telepathic Zombie Apocalypse Uprising! Fricken George Romero did a better one! Lovecraft's Cthulu is more realistic!

There is no difference between the stories of the alien abuctees vs. the stories of the latter seasons of Star Gate, except for the thing called 'suspension of disbelief' and the other thing called 'faith-inflicted credulity'.

Quote:
  It makes a lot of sense, in my opinion, because the point that Jesus never existed strongly undercuts Christian dogma, and it fits the viewpoint that the whole Christian canon is a set of outright lies, which so often is the perspective of anti-religious activists, as you know.  I don't doubt you when you claim that you once believed that mythicists were loony, but I don't think that bears much on the reality of how appealing the mythicist theory is to people like us.

This is the Rational Response Squad, not Myth Conspiracy Friends Network. We debunk conspiracy theories too. We trashed Zeitgeist, although ideologically (well, not our actual ideology, but the one you are hinting that we might have) it would suit our purposes if people believed the mythicist portion of Zeitgeist.

This is not about political expediency. If that were the case, we wouldn't use the tactics we use. This is about the promotion of evidence-based reasoning over and above traditional/authoritative/cherished/dogmatic beliefs.

We challenge any belief that lacks sufficient supporting evidence to defend it. We love Occam's Razor because it so usefully slices and dices away unfounded, unsubstantiated, and superstitious beliefs. When in doubt, we say, "Show me the evidence," and if the evidence turns out to go the opposite way we had hoped, we follow the evidence. We are also wary of 'too good to be true' claims that are backed up by flimsy evidence. We don't like to back the bad guy or the liar. We say, Fuck that asshole! Put up (the evidence) or shut up (if you don't want to get ridiculed).

If I were living a lie, I would want to know so that I could break out of it and live in reality, even if that reality was ugly and unsatisfying. I would rather fight to fix reality than die with a smile on my face, unaware that under my faith-goggle-tainted fantasy-vision the world was falling apart around me.

In any case, I only say this because it seems to me like you are probably open to hearing it, having said what you have about evidence vs. bias. I don't feel a need to defend myself or the Jesus myth hypothesis. If they found Jesus' day journal tomorrow, I'd happily admit I had been confidently wrong. I've done it many times before, and I'm willing to do it as much as possible in the future. It all comes down to the evidence of reality, the only 'true book' that is our universe. The universe is my bible, if I had to name one. I'd rather be a mistaken student than an idiotic teacher.

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natural, again, thanks for

natural, again, thanks for your attention and thought.  I appreciate it.  I think, more than anything, I would like to focus on one particular hang-up.

The first very big issue concerns the use of "evidence."  You keep repeating your demand for evidence, and I repeat my answer that the primary evidence is contained in the set of the early Christian sources.  I know you think this is very bad, very unreasonable, so I would like to explain.

To me, evidence isn't even the final destination.  The final goal is to find the best explanations for the evidence, or to find explanations for the evidence that are most probable.  The methods of finding the best explanations are such criteria as explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, consistency, and minimum ad hoc.  This set of criteria is known as the "Inference to the Best Explanation" or "Argument to the Best Explanation."  It is designed for critical New Testament scholarship, but it can actually be applied to anything, and it is a great way to model debates in any subject of deciding beliefs concerning the objective reality.

Anything can be evidence if it relates to the origins of Christianity.  The origins of Christianity are best reflected in the manuscripts of the Pauline epistles and the synoptic gospels (earliest compositions).  Therefore, the most relevant evidence for any explanation relating to the origins of Christianity are the Pauline epistles and the synoptic gospels.

There is a continuing widespread error in the way we talk about "evidence."  We conflate two very different principles of empiricism in our everyday language: evidence and explanations.  When we talk about evaluating the evidence, it should be about evaluating the various explanations for the evidence.  The "evidence" is actually somewhat fixed.  It is the directly-observed objective reality.  The evidence does not change, unless it is destroyed or if a researcher discovers something new about it.  The evidence does not actually have values on a scales of quality.  We should not be ranking some evidence as better than other evidence (though some evidence can be more relevant than others).  If evidence in any form exists, then we are terribly misleading ourselves if we think of the evidence as non-existent, even if a hypothesis is extraordinary and the conclusions are extremely unlikely.  I know that is generally the way everyone talks, but it can lead to a lot of unnecessary confusion, especially in a subject where evidence is scarce and ambiguous.  Instead, the explanations for the evidence have values on a scale of quality.  We can rank some explanations for the evidence as better than others.

So, when you say, "(By the way, have you ever wondered why John the Baptist, who by all accounts is a much less important and historically significant person than Jesus, nevertheless has more evidence for his existence than Jesus himself???)", I think it is a big mistake to quantify evidence like that, because the sources found in the Christian canon count as evidence!  They are evidence that can have a bunch of explanations, and our goal should be to find the best explanation.

Let me give you an example.  When Earl Doherty makes his case that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was merely spiritual, he can't possibly do it by starting out with, "The Christian sources are not evidence."  Anyone who says that can not possibly have any knowledge about how Christianity may have begun.  Instead, he does and should use the Christian sources--the Pauline epistles and the synoptic gospels--as evidence.  That evidence directly reflects what the earliest known Christians believed.  Based on what Christians apparently believed, then we can try to find the best explanations for those beliefs.

I recently wrote a thread about the baptism accounts contained in the gospels.  You asked me, "What historical evidence attests to this event?", and I explain most fully in that thread.  Many of the other issues can be worked out in that debate.  Here it is:

The awkward fact of the baptism of Jesus


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ApostateAbe wrote:The first

ApostateAbe wrote:
The first very big issue concerns the use of "evidence."

I've started a new thread to discuss this issue: The Bible, History, and Bayes' Theorem

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"And if, by some unlucky

"And if, by some unlucky chance, a Maitreya cult springs up in 30 years, takes over America -- the failing empire that it is -- and bolsters a thousand year Dark Age, during which time it completely wipes out any competing documents which may have shown just how silly Benjamin Creme was, well, then it would probably appear to be even more plausible than it does today. It might seem very very plausible indeed."

Yes, it might seem very plausible, indeed, but you severely undermine your own argument by pointing out that it would take an "unlucky chance."  Quite a very unlikely chance at that.  What is the likelihood that a Maitreya cult could actually spring up?  What is the likelihood that there was a first century Binyamin Creme running about successfully telling everyone about his "savior" without giggling?  Theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely.  In the historical view you must seek the most probable explanation, which is simply that some guy named Jesus  preached an apocalyptic message (like many others of the period), got himself crucified as a troublemaker by that law-and-order governor of Judea, Pontious Pilate (like many others of the period) and then had his message warped into something unique that proved extremely popular and durable.

You could easily argue that the history in the gospels is a mish-mash of stories of more than one real Jesus who were contemporaries, but that is needlessly multiplying explanations.  You could argue that some components of the gospels were cribbed from stories of other people, and that certainly seems to be the case as those stories still exist in their original form, but many important parts of the Gospels are original, and even bizarre when compared to what Jews of the period expected of their Messiah.  The very poor attempt by the Gospel writers to connect Jesus to Biblcal prophecy is telling.  If someone were making the stories of Jesus up from whole cloth they would have done a much better job.  In short, Jesus appears real to me simply because the Gospels do such a poor job of trying to convince me that he was divine.  In the unlikely event that Maitreya's "unlucky chance" works out for him he ought to have a better go at it.


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ApostateAbe wrote:I would

ApostateAbe wrote:

I would like to let you all know what first convinced me that Jesus existed as a historical human being.

The three earliest gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) each contain roughly the same set of apocalyptic prophecies, each with a certain deadline.  The apocalyptic deadlines are as follows:

Mark 9:1

And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

Mark 13:30

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

These deadlines are in the context of Jesus predicting the details of the apocalypse.

In Mark 8, the prophecies are as follows:

  • If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it
  • Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels

And the deadline for these two prophecies is, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

Mark 13 contains much fuller detail.  In Mark 13, the prophecies are as follows:

  • Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray.
  • When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.
  • For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom
  • there will be earthquakes in various places
  • there will be famines
  • they will hand you over to councils
  • you will be beaten in synagogues
  • you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them
  • bring you to trial and hand you over
  • Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child
  • children will rise against parents and have them put to death
  • you will be hated by all because of my name
  • the one who endures to the end will be saved
  • the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be
  • those in Judea must flee to the mountains
  • Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days
  • in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be
  • for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days
  • False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
  • sun and moon will be darkened
  • the stars will be falling from heaven
  • the powers in the heavens will be shaken
  • Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory
  • Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

And the deadline for all of these prophecies is given as, "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place."

This means, at the very least, the Christian author of the gospel of Mark believed that Jesus taught the apocalypse is right around the corner.  So, what is the best explanation for this belief?  There is a known personality profile of those who lead religious movements and tell others that the end of the world is directly at hand: doomsday cult leaders.  History and the modern day is littered with those people, and they very much tend to be actual people, not mere myths.  If you take the gospel accounts at face value, even regardless of whether or not you accept the theology or miracle stories, that is the character profile that you find in Jesus.  In addition to the doomsday prophecies,

  • He strongly encouraged complete devotion to his self (Matthew 16:16-17).
  • He encouraged hatred of one's family (Luke 14:26) and complete separation from one's family (Matthew 19:29).
  • He made enemies of the religious authorities (Matthew 21:23-27).

Shortly after I found about the apparently failed doomsday prophecies of Jesus, I immediately concluded that Jesus really was a doomsday cult leader.  I then wondered why this wasn't a big rhetorical point against Christianity.  There were apparently a lot of atheists on the Internet who, rightly or wrongly, believed that Jesus never actually existed, primarily because they believed that the gospels can not be used for historical evidence.  However, the gospels do contain direct evidence of what many of the earliest Christians believed, so maybe we can make very good conclusions from what they apparently believed.  It is much more plausible that their beliefs spring from an actual single human traveling cult leader named Jesus than it is from a mere myth of such a man.

I was told that I was not the first to come up with this theory of Jesus the doomsday prophet.  In fact, it was first proposed one hundred years ago by a critical scholar named Albert Schweitzer.  Since then, a very similar model of Jesus has been predominately accepted among critical historians of the New Testament.  It is what Bart Ehrman believes, for example.  They call the model of Jesus the "apocalyptic prophet."  Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.  I strongly recommend that book.  It is the only modern book fully laying out evidence for that model of Jesus for the lay readers.

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days

the powers in the heavens will be shaken

Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven

What do these verses mean? "The powers", "the four winds", Ends of the earth"? Whats wrong with being pregnant can you not get into heavne if your pregnant?

 


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ymalmsteen887 wrote:Woe to

ymalmsteen887 wrote:
Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days

the powers in the heavens will be shaken

Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven

What do these verses mean? "The powers", "the four winds", Ends of the earth"? Whats wrong with being pregnant can you not get into heavne if your pregnant?

Jesus apparently envisioned that the apocalyptic events would be catastrophic in both heaven and earth.  The four winds are North, South, East and West, and the ends of the earth are allegorical references to of the far-reaches of the world, the edges of the map (they visualized the world as like a map, a vestige of the flat-Earth model, though external evidence indicates that the Greeks likely believed the Earth to be spherical).  Jesus said, "Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days," but he likely wasn't referring to the women who are part of the elect.  The women who are not part of the elect would bear the punishment of the doomsday warfare.  Their children will likely die.


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Not only did the Greeks

Not only did the Greeks 'believe' the world was spherical, Eratosthenes measured its circumference with surprising accuracy, in the third century BCE. 

The bits about women and pregnancy are just another example of the primitive attitude to women that pervades the Bible, especially the OT - women are property, either of their father or their husband. And blood, especially menstrual blood, had magical and potentially evil attributes. And anything connected with sex and reproduction.

The Book is rife with such primitive ignorance and superstition, including the Crucifixion sacrifice nonsense, another example of the superstition connected with blood.

There may well have been a historical figure, or figures, who inspired the stories, but the supernatural Jesus of the Bible did not exist.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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ApostateAbe wrote: There is

ApostateAbe wrote:
There is a continuing widespread error in the way we talk about "evidence."

Patently false.

All you people (apologists) do is equivocate, and argue.

All you people have is conjecture. 

Mythology.

That's not even 'history'. It's mythory.

ApostateAbe wrote:
 We conflate two very different principles of empiricism in our everyday language: evidence and explanations. 

No.

That's what you people do, is conflate conjecture and evidence, and use the terms interchangeably, when they are not synonymous.

The 'buck' stops at the evidence.

Got none?

Then you have none.

You just have a 'claim'.

A 'claim' is not 'evidence'. It's a 'claim'.

ApostateAbe wrote:
 When we talk about evaluating the evidence, it should be about evaluating the various explanations for the evidence. 

No

You're equivocating.

Your statement should read :  "When we talk about evaluating the claim, it should be about evaluating the various explanations for the claim.

 

 

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy" : David Brooks

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We should compare how well

We should compare how well whatever evidence we have supports, or is consistent with, the various claims

The claims, in this context, are themselves proposed explanations of various basic facts, or aspects, of our experience.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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Curious. Have U an answer to something you were wondering about

> Curious. Have U an answer to something you were wondering about ? 

ApostateAbe asked & wrote:
I then wondered why this wasn't a big rhetorical point against Christianity.

I am not advancing anything  but am very curious. I am wanting to know if this thread (in its' entirity) helps answer a question of yours  (Ref and See: Quoted). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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danatemporary wrote:>

danatemporary wrote:

> Curious. Have U an answer to something you were wondering about ? 

ApostateAbe asked & wrote:
I then wondered why this wasn't a big rhetorical point against Christianity.

I am not advancing anything  but am very curious. I am wanting to know if this thread (in its' entirity) helps answer a question of yours  (Ref and See: Quoted).

 Sure.  Such a rhetorical point against Christianity requires believing that Jesus really existed as an actual-living human being who was speaking to actual-living people.  Otherwise, I think you would have to be favoring the interpretation that the character of Jesus was speaking directly to the gospel readers, which isn't a rhetorical advantage against Christianity at all.  Non-religious activists against the Christian religion very often tend to be Jesus-mythicists, meaning that they believe Jesus never existed as a human being, so this is a rhetorical point that wouldn't be available to them.  Encouragingly, there are some authors who really do take advantage of this weakness in the character of Jesus, such as John W. Loftus and Bart Ehrman.  I figure that Jesus-mythicism tends to be more powerful of an anti-Christianity war machine, but I think it has a strong disadvatage--it just isn't correct.


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I recently rewrote and

I recently rewrote and re-posted this thread to the Apologetics forum of CARM.  It is a popular conservative Christian forum.

How I know that Jesus existed: the end-times prophecies of the doomsday cult leader

I think it will be interesting to review the replies.