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Old 05-04-2001, 07:47 AM   #71
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Hi Dennis

And welcome back.

Thank you for your post, it was very informative. Just to clear up a couple of minor points in your post:

You continue to believe that I wish to equate the level of evidence that proves that Jesus is God with the level of evidence we have for the assassination of Julius Caesar. As I have said several times before, this is exactly what I am not doing. I have also said that I do not think anyone can or should do this. See my reply to bd-from-kg above. What I am saying is that the specific fact of Jesus' having once lived is better documented than is the assassination of Julius Caesar. Please note the difference, because it is crucial.

The number and independence of the sources we have for Caesar's assassination are extremely limited, and easily suspect. You trust Cicero (as do I), but let's face it, the man was a known liar, and on that basis, some of the sceptics here are forced to admit that we cannot really trust him. Antony and Octavian (and anyone dependent on them) are no more reliable, yet we trust them as well.

Finally, and I will not bet my life on this, but I suspect that it is true, I believe that there are no sources that are not, at the end of the day, dependent upon one of these three sources. This means we have no independent sources that we can really trust on this question.

Now, as you have correctly noted, with Josephus we have next to nothing on the historical Jesus. At most we have a few lines, at worst one passing reference in a larger piece on Jesus' brother James. Yet, for the historian of antiquity this source is treated (correctly) as completely independent from Christian sources, and is therefore accepted as reliable. At the same time, we do have a wide number of other sources (largely Christian) that are independent of one another as well, and for this reason we accept that they are reporting on an actual human being named Jesus of Nazareth. There is also wide general agreement on a number of the events in his life (especially on his death on a cross), but I wasn't really interested in exploring all of those points in this thread. Those are already being covered off in a couple of other very good threads right now.

Basically the sceptic is left with a choice: Either he can agree that we can't know anything about anything or anyone in antiquity, or we can trust the evidence that we do have to produce a reasonable and plausible case for certain personages and events in antiquity. The key is to be consistent, and as I have demonstrated, if one is willing to accept that Caesar was killed 15 March 44BC, then one should also accept that Jesus of Nazareth lived as a human being in Palestine in the first third of the 1st Century AD.

Thanks again Dennis,

Nomad

P.S. To Lance. I asked you a simple question Lance. It requires no more than a yes or a no answer. Rather than change the subject, would you please offer that answer? The question again is was Julius Caesar assassinated? Thanks.
 
Old 05-04-2001, 08:20 AM   #72
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Dennis,

You are entirely right and totally wrong.

My views about the 'historical Jesus' are the same as Sanders. Look at the thread started by Kate. Read it. Learn about my views. Don't misrepresent them.

Nomad, Polycarp, Layman and I have been arguing with people who don't think Jesus existed. You have admitted this view is silly so we agree. End of argument. The only reason Nomad has been making the point about Caesar is to prove Jesus existed. That's all. That is the double standard.

Incidently, if I am one of the 'big three', which specific point I've made is refuted by Sanders. Just wandering.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 05-04-2001, 08:32 AM   #73
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by DennisMcD:
I'm afraid the double standard on this board is entirely on the theistic side. Whenever I pick up a book about the historical Jesus by a serious (even one recommended by Layman himself) I find the views expressed on this board by the big three to be entirely refuted.[/B]</font>
The problem with you Dennis is that you either 1) don't know what the views expressed by "the big three" really are, or 2) you misrepresent those views.

When we last touched on this subject, I conceded that there was more information for Ceasar's existence as for Jesus' existence. I said, however, that there was plenty of information regarding Jesus' existence. On this Sanders agrees.

And I believe you are wrong that Sanders does not see any independence in the Synoptics. As far as I know, he accepts the predominant view of the two source hypothesis. That is, Mark, Q, L, and M, do contain independent sources of information regarding Jesus. Please show me where he denies Q if he does.

But I want to get back to your claim that we have been "entirely refuted." You offer no support for this, yet again, broad and sweeping claim. So, on which issues have we been entirely refuted?
 
Old 05-04-2001, 08:47 AM   #74
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bede:
Dennis,


... The only reason Nomad has been making the point about Caesar is to prove Jesus existed. That's all. That is the double standard.
</font>
Can someone put a name to the type of technique that Nomad is trying to use
in this thread. There's something nagging
at the back of my brain about some kind of
debate ploy, or maybe it's logical approach
for this type of indirection. I just can't
put my finger on it. Isn't this the same kind
of thing that Lawyers try to use to confuse
people?

Thanks.

Nomad - I can't argue with you like the better thinkers on this thread, but if you
got your login name from where I think,
(Star Trek) all I can think of is:

"Non-sequitor...does not compute"
 
Old 05-04-2001, 10:34 AM   #75
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Nomad:

I agree that the evidence that Jesus lived is sufficient, in terms of the standards ordinarily applied by historians, to draw the conclusion that He really existed. And since this assertion does not in itself involve any claims of anything miraculous or even highly improbable, this is the appropriate standard.

However, the very point of this thread is that the amount of evidence considered “sufficient” for historians to conclude that en event in this era occurred is much lower than most people suppose. This is because, as I commented some time ago, even those historians (and other writers) of the time who were considered reputable had much less regard for the truth than would be required to be considered reputable and reliable today. Thus their writings have considerably less evidentiary value than those of historians (or anyone else) who wrote, say, a century ago and are still considered reputable and reliable.

My comment about the significance of the fact that all competent historians believe that Jesus existed meant only that this particular piece of evidence in itself show only that the probability that Jesus existed is at least in the range of 90 to 95%. It didn’t mean that the probability is necessarily that low, only that this is all that this bit of evidence shows. But it does mean that to show that the probability is higher than this you have to produce more and better evidence than merely what historians have concluded. I am not stubborn about this, especially since I have no intention of reviewing all of the evidence myself. Statements by a number of competent non-Christian historians that they believe the probability that Jesus really existed is higher than X% would be good enough for me.

Now let’s look at some of your specific statements.

Nomad: I am unsure what you mean by the expression "extremely unusual non-miraculous event". Lots of events in history are extremely unusual.

I’m really puzzled that you should bring this up. I would have thought that anyone would know what is meant by an extremely unusual non-miraculous event. However, since you ask, I will mention a couple of common examples: eclipses and earthquakes that are alleged to accompany momentous events. There is nothing miraculous about either an eclipse or an earthquake, and historically speaking they are not all that unusual in themselves. However, it would be very unusual indeed for either of them to occur at precisely the time and place of some (other) important event. Yet the ancients reported just such occurrences almost routinely. Here is just one of numerous passages to this effect, this one from Richard Carrier’s Thallus: an Analysis:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
That a solar eclipse should mark the death of a king was common lore among Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples (Herodotus 7.37, Plutarch Pelopidas 31.3 and Aemilius Paulus 17.7-11, Dio Cassius 55.29.3, John Lydus De Ostentis 70.a), and that such events corresponded with earthquakes was also a scientific superstition (Aristotle Meteorology 367.b.2, Pliny Natural History 2.195, Virgil Georgics 2.47.478-80). It was also typical to assimilate eclipses to major historic events, even when they did not originally correspond, or to invent eclipses for this purpose (Préaux claims to have counted 200 examples in extant literature; Boeuffle and Newton have also remarked on this tendency).
</font>
I wouldn’t press this matter, Nomad. The more it is looked into, the more it undermines the Christian claims. (For instance, recall Matthew’s statements about an earthquake and prolonged darkness surrounding the crucifixion. Rather damaging to Matthew’s credibility, especially when we realize that such stories were common in those days. And if Matthew – the very first book of the NT - cannot be trusted ...)

bd: No competent historian (other than Christian historians examining alleged Christian miracles) would in fact conclude that such an event had occurred based on such evidence.

Nomad: I am curious about this one bd. Do you know a Christian historian that actually says that the evidence for the miraculous events in the Bible is sufficient to prove that they happened?


In the first place, you use the word “prove”. No one in his right mind would assert that the evidence proves that these events occurred. The question is whether they think the evidence is sufficient to justify belief in them. Maybe no Christian historian believes this, but you’d never guess it. Anyway, I didn’t even say that they claimed that the evidence was sufficient; I just suggested that they might conclude that such events had occurred based on such evidence. Since you admit to doing the very same thing yourself, you can hardly say that this is unreasonable (although I would), or that Christian scholars do not do this. In any case, my point (as usual) was a logical one: if Christian historians who go into their research believing in the Christian miracles “conclude” that they really happened, this is not significant evidence, because of their pre-existing bias. (Of course, there might be some who come to believe in these miracles as a result of their research; if so, this does not apply to them.) On the other hand, if such Christian historians conclude that the evidence is insufficient, this is strong evidence that it isn’t. “Statements against interest” have always been held to have strong evidentiary value.

Nomad: In the case of the Resurrection, I stand by my claim that it is the best documented event in antiquity.

Even if it were, that wouldn’t come close to justifying belief in it. But it isn’t. The claim is ludicrous. Caesar’s death (to stay close to the subject of this thread) is far better documented. And this is just one of numerous examples.

Nomad: At the same time, it does allow the Christian apologist to show that his or her faith is formed not against the evidence, but in accordance with it... totally irrational would mean that we have no evidence at all.

Wrong twice. A belief is formed “in accordance with the evidence” if it is based on an objective evaluation of all of the evidence. In the case of a miracle, this includes all of the evidence as to whether miracles happen, and in particular whether miracles of the type in question ever happen. Belief can certainly be totally irrational even though there is some evidence for it. Case in point: Smith’s two-year-old son says that there’s a monster under his bed. If Smith believes there’s a monster under the bed based on this evidence, he’s being totally irrational. Yet the boy’s statement is evidence – just not very good evidence, for something absurdly unlikely.

Nomad: To reject a miracle only because the evidence is insufficient to believe it with 100% certainty may be rational, but may also be wrong.

Reasonable skeptics don’t insist on 100% certainty. A probability of 50% or better should be good enough. Believing something with a probability less than that is irrational. Believing something with a probability of less than, say, 1% is totally irrational.

Nomad: My experience with those that reject miracles like the Resurrection is that this rejection is not based on the lack of evidence, but on an a priori assumption that such things do not happen.

This is not an a priori assumption, but a conclusion based on the evidence. Billions of people have died, so we have a pretty good database here. How many of them have been resurrected? (Exclude the resurrections claimed by Christianity; they cannot be allowed as evidence in their own behalf.) Granted, this does not show that such a thing absolutely cannot happen, but it certainly justifies the belief that it is extremely unlikely in any particular case, and a belief that it very probably does not happen ever. But because these are rational beliefs based on evidence, they could be changed by sufficiently good evidence to the contrary. Your problem is that you don’t have it.

Nomad: I have not claimed that the evidence is sufficient in and of itself to form belief, and have told you this in the past bd.

Say what? Didn’t you read my post? Let me run the quote by you again:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
... the amount of evidence for the Resurrection as believed by Christians is FAR greater than is the evidence for any other alternative explanation. On this basis it becomes more reasonable to believe in the Resurrection than to not believe.
</font>
So maybe you weren’t saying that the evidence was enough to form belief, but only enough to make belief more reasonable (that is, rational) than disbelief? Then your statement is meaningless. No amount of evidence is sufficient to form belief if one refuses to go by the evidence.


[This message has been edited by bd-from-kg (edited May 04, 2001).]
 
Old 05-04-2001, 10:52 AM   #76
Lance
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Nomad: Sorry, yes I believe he was assasinated during March as some histories indicate.

I've also told you countless times that I do tend to think there is a historical man at the bottom of the Jesus myth. Can I prove this with any great reliability? No. Can I disprove it? No.

Speaking of known liars, then should we throw out the entire gospels? Because we know they lie in the details so while we think Cicero may be a liar, we know the gospels lie.

For example, not a resurrection account agrees in detail...therefore there is some degree of untruth here. We know the geneology accounts do not match in the two gospels which contain them...so someone is wrong. We have some facts in Matthew's gospel that are so historically outrageous that they would have been recorded elsewhere (the killing of the newborns), yet they are not. Therefore, Matthew is likely exageratting...if this is the case, what else is stretched?

Likewise, where are independent accounts of the horrendous grievings of heaven as hyperboled in Matthew? Where are reports of earthquakes, darkness, et al? If that truly happened, it would have panicked people all over...and naturalists would have noticed and remarked on it. Suspicious, eh?

So I think its safe to conclude that Matthew is an over-exageratting liar, correct? Or whoever Matthew really is...which we don't even know THAT!

Plus and you conveniently forget this...we are dealing with original source material in Caesar (what he wrote), Cicero, and so on.

We are NOT dealing with it in the gospels. So there could have been any kind of revision or spin put on it from copy #1 to copy #2...and we would not know.

Nomad, keep telling yourself the evidence for the resurrection is there...it isn't. We *might* have evidence to tend to indicate that a Jesus figure (cult leader) existed in ancient Palestine. We do NOT have good evidence of the resurrection as all accounts are factually flawed and impossible to harmonize.

And there is ZERO independent secular source to validate the resurrection.
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Old 05-04-2001, 11:42 AM   #77
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Nomad: In the case of the Resurrection, I stand by my claim that it is the best documented event in antiquity.

Nomad, we have NO documents from the (alleged) Resurrection by eyewitnesses. We have NO documents from secular historians, government archives, travel accounts or similar. In short, we have no documentation of this alleged event.

All accounts of Jesus' execution were written 30 or more years later and are second-hand accounts. The execution of Jesus, if indeed it actually occurred, was so minor an affair nobody bothered to record it.

In other words, Nomad, since we have no documentation of any Resurrection, there is hardly a major event in antiquity that is NOT better documented than the Resurrection.

Michael
 
Old 05-04-2001, 11:47 AM   #78
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Nomad: In the case of the Resurrection, I stand by my claim that it is the best documented event in antiquity.

Nomad: I have not claimed that the evidence is sufficient in and of itself to form belief, and have told you this in the past bd


Nomad, since there is not enough evidence to form a belief about the Resurrection, I would assume, since you believe it is the "best documented event in antiquity," that all of antiquity is a giant gray area about which we can know nothing, since none of it is as well-documented as the fictional Resurrection.

I guess you've just invalidated the last couple of millenia of historical scholarship here.

You've been prone to gross error in the past, but this morass of howlers and contradictions is really one of your most priceless compositions.

Michael
 
Old 05-04-2001, 08:09 PM   #79
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
I did. I asked for primary sources that are not from Cicero (a known liar), Mark Antony (politically motivated), Augustus (ditto), or anyone dependent on these sources or who would have been beholden to these people or their successors. Do you know of any?
</font>
Your characterization of the reasons skeptics would dismiss these sources is simply a straw man and needs no rebuttal. The fact is historians and skeptics alike consider these very important sources of Roman history. Are they biased? Of course. But it's the work of historians to compensate for that.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Since you are new to this discussion forum, I will assume that you are unaware of the arguments put forward by sceptics here in the past.

I will quote from Earl on the What Happened? thread to help illustrate my point:

(Earl's quote deleted for brevity)

Now, the discussion was long, and no doubt too boring for most to care, but bottom line we can see the essentials of Earl's beliefs visa vie what is expected from the sceptic in a debate:

1) The sceptic is not required to offer a plausible alternative to the stated belief
2) The sceptic need only offer reasons to doubt the plausibility of the account given by the traditionalist
3) Once that is done, the discussion is over. The sceptic wins by default, since it is perfectly reasonable to doubt an argument against which one can present reasonable doubts.
</font>
You're right -- I have no idea where the heck this came from. I thought the topic under discussion was Julius Caesar, not "Earl".
Whatever those three points are supposed to mean, I don't care. The point still stands. If you want to cast reasonable doubt on Caesar's assassination, you're going to have to show that there is some other explanation that fits the facts (and there are a lot of them) at least as well.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Since I have offered more than enough reasons to doubt that Julius Caesar was assassinated, at least as described by the traditional historians, I consider the case to be closed. What happened? Who knows? Maybe he slipped in the tub. Maybe he was killed by a spurned lover. Maybe a chicken bone got stuck in his throat. After any of these scenarios, Octavian, Antony and Cicero get together and concoct a convenient and plausible assassination story, deliver it to the masses (and Senate) during public orations where the accused cannot defend themselves, the accused flee, and the rest is, as they say, history.
</font>
Well, since you haven't offered hardly any real reason to doubt that Caesar was assassinated, we can just ignore the rest of this rant, I guess.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
I call this the "if you can dream it up, who knows, it might have happened" thesis, and it works for many of the sceptics here, even on the mundane details of Jesus' life and death.
</font>
There you go tearing down straw men again...

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
True. And would the existence of Jesus, and should the mundane events of his life be ruled unknown or unknowable because we cannot be certain about all the details?
</font>
I think the existence of Julius Caesar is pretty well established. The last I heard the question of Jesus' existence was still kinda up in the air (at least for people who don't just accept it on faith).
Also, are you acknowledging that we can't be certain about the details of Jesus' life? -- what he said, what he did, how he was born, and how he died? Great!

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
All of what you said was very true, and excellent points. As to what actually happened, sceptics don't really need to know I suppose. The evidence just isn't sufficient to decide one way or the other.
</font>
Hey, that's sarcasm, isn't it?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Thanks again for helping to make my point. Perhaps you could account for all of the events that followed the presumed crucifixion of Jesus, and do so on the basis that Jesus never existed as a real life human being. Can you do this?
</font>
If we had any evidence that those events really happened, I might be concerned. We don't, so I'm not.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
According to many sceptics on these boards, if an eyewitness is not giving the testimony, it must be disregarded as hearsay. This is why I eliminate Plutarch and Suetonius as possible sources, as well as any other that did not witness the events. At the same time, since any confession offered by one of the presumed conspirators could easily have been forged or interpolated by apologists for Augustus or Antony, we must not accept them either.
</font>
Straw man argument, your honor! Move to strike...

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Do you have any independent non-interested sources that Julius Caesar was actually assassinated. If not, that is cool. We can then agree that we don't really know what happened to him and move on.
</font>
Again, your assertion that this is the skeptical position is yet another in a long line of straw men.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Thank you for the feedback CheeseHead.
</font>
You're welcome.

(Sorry for the long delay in responding - I am a recovering Survivor addict)
 
Old 05-04-2001, 08:21 PM   #80
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Stop wasting everyone's time with silly semantic games. From what I can tell of this thread, these are your key claims:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
We have far more evidence for the life and death of Jesus than we have for the assassination of Julius...
</font>
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
In the case of the Resurrection, I stand by my claim that it is the best documented event in antiquity.
</font>
These claims seem pretty bold and outrageous to me. I presume you have some pretty compelling argument to back them up?
 
 

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