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Old 04-18-2001, 03:57 PM   #11
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
It wasn't a mistake.</font>
So, to paraphrase the Philosophical Bruces, there is nooooooo .... Point number 9?
 
Old 04-18-2001, 04:00 PM   #12
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by hezekiahjones:
So, to paraphrase the Philosophical Bruces, there is nooooooo .... Point number 9?</font>
Sure there is.

In the mind of the Jesus-mythers.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 05:00 PM   #13
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
Due to my complete and utter incapacity for critical thinking I now appeal to those far more intelligent than myself for assistance...

If you are of the belief that it is most likely that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist, then please list your criteria for determining which historical figures are actual and which are fictitious.

I'm not expecting anyone to be 100% certain in their belief, but for those who believe it to be less than 50% probable that Jesus existed - How do you determine which people actually lived in history?

Peace,

Polycarp
</font>
You first assume the person existed, and then you see if the available documents and traditions make sense. You then assume the person didn't exist, and then you see if the available documents and traditions make sense. Whichever makes more sense to you, accept it as the likely explanation.

Why is this so strange? I once accepted that the Bible was true out of faith. I later decided that Jesus existed but that the details of his life were uncertain and that the predictions of the Bible don't pan out in modern times and the lack of evidence of God working in Christians lives and the strong evidence for evolution all lead me to assume that the details of the Bible were not trustworthy. I later read Doherty and found it pretty convincing and am now toying with the idea that Jesus may not have existed. I am not a rabid Jesus-myther who has a ready-made formula for declaring people as myths. You have to examine each case and see how strong the evidence is for a historical person.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 05:30 PM   #14
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
1. If 99% of historians believe he existed, then he probably did not because history is unknowable and such a consensus could only be the result of a conspiracy and/or biased scholarship.</font>
Relevant statistics are missing. How many historians have personally looked at the evidence for Jesus' existence? How many of those that have looked into the evidence and are considered Bible scholars are Christians? I would be interested in knowing how many nonChristian Bible scholars accept the existence of Jesus. 99%? And how many scholars point out why they accept Jesus existed and why they disagree with those that think Jesus is a myth?

I don't doubt that the majority still think Jesus existed but I think that the 99% is a bit misleading.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">2. He cannot be the founder of a religion. Such claims are clearly wrong because the religious cannot be counted on to record history. Why, if we believed Jesus existed we would have to believe that Mohammed existed.</font>
Religious bias simply calls into question claims made by the followers due to possible bias. With this in mind, you view religious documents skeptically and hope for independent confirmation that the person existed. This leads to the strong suggestion that Muhammed existed. Whether or not the evidence suggests Jesus existed is what is being questioned.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">3. The person cannot be reputed to have performed miracles. We know miracles do not happen. Clearly, therefore, anyone who records miracles is obviously inventing everything he wrote. Why, if we believed in everyone who was claimed to have performed miracles, we would have to believe that Paul existed. </font>
O.K. You're obviously being sarcastic so I won't take these too seriously.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">4. The annoyance factor. The more annoying it is for me to doubt a persons' existence the more likely it is that that person did not exist. </font>
Did you get this reversed? Replace 'doubt' with 'believe'?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">5. The majority of our sources for that person cannot come from those who admired him. Such records are clearly biased and prone to inventing things. Nevermind WHY they became biased towards that alleged person in the first place. </font>
Each case is unique, and yes, we should be skeptical about information that was clearly presented in a manner to persuade and lead people to religious belief. I'm sure you are plenty skeptical about the beliefs of other religions.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">6. The "scholarship" which argues that the supposed historical figure never existed must be ignored by all mainstream scholars. Rather than demonstrating the problematic nature of such scholarship, it affirms the bias and agenda inherent in the mainstream. But this argument does not apply to those pesky Young Earth Creationists out there.</font>
Getting a bit silly, no? I would love to see some reviews by well-known scholars on Doherty.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">7. If any of the claims about the alleged person are "extraordinary," then I require "extraordinary" proof not only for the "extraordinary" event, but also the very ordinary possibility of that person's existence. </font>
I don't think most Jesus-mythers started as Jesus-mythers. I was a bit surprised at being convinced that Jesus may not have existed. You are right that most nonChristians would require extraordinary evidence to suggest Jesus rose from the dead, but not that he existed. Most have no problem with the idea.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Of course, another avenue to take is that taken by most hardcore Jesus-Mythers. It is called presuppositional skepticism. One is asked to suspend belief in the existence of Jesus and presume his nonexistence. Then use all of your imaginative powers to come up with alternative hypothesis that explains away any and all evidence. Then, presume them to be true and go about gathering "supporting" evidence. </font>
Who are these silly Jesus-mythers you are talking about?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">8. If the implications of the person's mere existence would affect my life, then that person must not have existed. At the very least I have good reason to doubt his existence. </font>
Silly Layman!

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">9. Any mistake made regarding the man's life demonstrates that the very existence of the man is just a mistake.</font>
You know, these are beginning to sound convincing.

How do we determine if the details of the Bible are correct?

(1) If believing the Bible gives you a good feeling and inspires you to be nice to people, then the details of the Bible must be true.

(2) If the Bible promises that those who disbelieve the Bible are blinded fools then you can be assured that all arguments against the Bible support its validity.

(3) If the details of the Bible give you hope that death will not be the end of your existence, then the details of the Bible must be true.

(4) If you find that you are capable of producing a scenario that 'harmonizes' different seemingly contradictory accounts in the Bible, then you can be assured that the events really happened.

(5) If the Bible makes it clear that evolution didn't occur, then all evidence for evolution is clearly false and therefore the Bible is true.

(6) If you come across an unreasonable atheist, you can be assured that they are all angry at God and simply want to avoid responsibility as the Bible predicts, and therefore the Bible is true.

(7) If you discover that most atheists don't have as much Biblical training as you, you can be assured that anything they say is wrong and therefore the Bible is true and accurate.

(8) If there are people who believe in other religions, you can be assured that they are deceived by Satan since it is unreasonable to think that a normal person, all by themselves, could believe a religion that wasn't true, and since this is consistent with the Christian worldview, you can be assured that your views are correct and that the Bible is true.

(9) If you can determine which of your prayers are answered by yes, no, maybe, or wait, then you can be assured that your prayers were answered and that the Bible is true.

(10) If you can figure out which of your thoughts were instigated by you, God, or Satan, then you have clear evidence of supernatural beings and so the Bible must be true.

(11) If you can figure out why some of your Christian friends were healed by God and some weren't, then you have a keen insight into the mysterious will of God and further evidence of his existence and the validity of the Bible.

(12) If you can rationalize why clearly 'supernatural' events always seem to happen to someone else or mainly happened in the past, then you have discovered more clearly the mysterious ways of God giving further evidence to the truth of your beliefs.
 
Old 04-19-2001, 04:59 AM   #15
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
Name one other alleged historical figure where it would make a difference whether they were real or myth.
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</font>
You seem to be saying the study of history is worthless because it wouldn't make a difference. If you think history is unknowable, then that is an acceptable answer. Is this what you’re saying?

Otherwise, if history is knowable to some degree of probability, then please tell us what conditions must be met for you to believe a person actually existed in the past.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 04-19-2001, 05:05 AM   #16
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by DougI:
Senator Frank Murkowski. There exists photographs of him and documents which he has written. He is recorded in secular documents. He is from my hometown, I've seen his house. He currently is a senator in Congress and can be visited in Washington D.C. You can get his address by visiting the Congressional website which also has his picture on file. He also files for re-election every six years and campaigns around the state.

Jesus, on the other hand, is said to have come from a town that didn't exist until 300 years after his death. Turning water into wine without the addition of other ingredients is quite impossible so it is quite improbable that this person existed, among other things.
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</font>
Doug,

Layman has already provided the main objection to your theory. Are you of the belief that Mark and the other gospel writers were somehow able to predict the future existence of a town (Nazareth)? I find it highly ironic that a person such as yourself would doubt the existence of Jesus, but still believe in the ability of gospel writers to accurately predict the future.

As far as your belief in the existence of Senator Murkowski is concerned, you are to be commended for your belief in other people who are currently living. However, did any people exist before you were alive? Specifically, did any people exist prior to 1000 C.E. If you believe they did, then please tell me what conditions must be met in order for you to believe a specific person actually existed prior to 1000 C.E.

Peace,

Polycarp

 
Old 04-19-2001, 05:29 AM   #17
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by diana:
Let's see...if the person in question was rumored to perform feats that defy natural explanation, feats that were seen by "multitudes," yet there is for some reason no record of it outside of the writings of believers who didn't even claim to witness a whit of it, it's reasonable to assume that these stories are fanciful tales.
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</font>
Diana’s mistake #1 – The Talmud acknowledges the fact that Jesus performed feats which defied “natural explanation”, and the Talmud certainly was not written by “believers”.

Diana’s mistake #2 – There is a reference to a person who claims to have directly witnessed the actions of Jesus. John 21:24 says, “This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.” This is said in the context of summarizing all of the information in the gospel of John and identify the “beloved disciple” mentioned in the gospel. It is a claim to eyewitness testimony.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If anyone has a vested interest in convincing me that this person really existed (by "vested interest," I'm referring to his wallet), I smell a rat. If the details of that person's supposed life are contradictory AND coincidentally happen to parallel standard myth stories, I lean toward the idea that the whole character is a figment of imagination.
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</font>
Diana’s mistake #3 – Nobody is trying to make any money off of you.

Diana’s mistake #4 – There was a story in the news in my area last week about a woman who had been kidnapped. The story I saw on a TV station conflicted with the story I read the next day in the newspaper. Their timeframes were slightly different, they listed different occupations for the woman, etc. Should I now believe that the woman did not exist, or that she was not kidnapped? I would hope not…

Diana’s mistake #5 – I’m sure you’re aware that William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) meets most of the criteria for myth stories. Historians don’t doubt his existence. The stories of Roman emperors were told in similar fashion. Are you saying you don’t believe Roman emperors existed?


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I don't know whether there was a real Robin Hood, but it's clear that the stories accredited to him are only fanciful tales. Why Christians can see this so clearly while they're blind to the direct analogy to their religion is beyond my capacity to understand.
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</font>
This is because you are well-versed in critical thinking skills while Christians are totally lacking in the area and dependent entirely on blind faith. I am a Christian. The reason I started this thread is so that I can learn how to become a better critical thinker. If you’ll address the items above that I believe to be mistakes on your part, then perhaps I will have taken a small step towards honing my skills as a critical thinker.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 04-19-2001, 06:02 AM   #18
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by PhysicsGuy: You first assume the person existed, and then you see if the available documents and traditions make sense. You then assume the person didn't exist, and then you see if the available documents and traditions make sense. Whichever makes more sense to you, accept it as the likely explanation.

Why is this so strange? I once accepted that the Bible was true out of faith. I later decided that Jesus existed but that the details of his life were uncertain and that the predictions of the Bible don't pan out in modern times and the lack of evidence of God working in Christians lives and the strong evidence for evolution all lead me to assume that the details of the Bible were not trustworthy. I later read Doherty and found it pretty convincing and am now toying with the idea that Jesus may not have existed. I am not a rabid Jesus-myther who has a ready-made formula for declaring people as myths. You have to examine each case and see how strong the evidence is for a historical person.
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</font>
I think I understand what you’re saying, and I certainly respect your conclusions on the falsity of Christianity. However, as you know, determining the truthfulness of Christianity is an entirely separate issue from determining whether or not Jesus existed. So I’ll focus on the existence of Jesus.

Give me your comments on the following:

A group of Jews claimed a person named Jesus was killed by the Romans. They then claim this Jesus had risen from the dead and was the long-promised messiah. These claims are made less than a year or two after the time they claim Jesus died. Some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem oppose this new movement, and one of the members of this opposition is a man named Paul (or Saul). Paul actively opposes this messiah movement, but then later joins the movement for reasons unknown. None of the Jewish opposition ever doubts the existence of Jesus. In addition, Roman historians refer to Jesus and Jewish historians refer to Jesus.

Is there any aspect of this reconstruction to which you would object ? If so, then please say why. After that, think about why you (or Earl Doherty) are in a better position than the following people to know whether or not Jesus existed:

1. Jewish leaders in Jerusalem in 30-33 C.E.
2. Josephus – a Jewish/Roman historian writing between 80-95 C.E.
3. Tacitus – a Roman historian writing around 110 C.E.
4. Lucian of Samosata – Greek writer of the second century.
5. Celsus – Greek opponent of Christianity in the second century.
6. Trypho – Jewish opponent of Christianity in the second century.
7. Opponents of Christianity throughout the first and second centuries.

All of these people seemingly believed that Jesus of Nazareth existed, and they were not Christians. What information do you know that they would not have known? There is no evidence to indicate any opponents of Christianity in the first few centuries ever doubted the existence of Jesus. What is your explanation of this?

Peace,

Polycarp


 
Old 04-19-2001, 06:30 AM   #19
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
Specifically, did any people exist prior to 1000 C.E. If you believe they did, then please tell me what conditions must be met in order for you to believe a specific person actually existed prior to 1000 C.E.

Peace,

Polycarp
</font>
It is not as simple as "conditions." One must review the evidence as to quality and copiousness, and the arguments as well. For example, if all we had on Alexander was the works of later Greco-Roman scholars, and no evidence of empire, we'd be on solid ground to question his existence. However, since we have those plus archaeological evidence, and inscriptions from other cultures, we can be pretty confident about the major facts of his life, if not the details.

Most of the time, when historians write about someone, they give some kind of judgement about his or her possible existence, unless (like a Roman Emperor) it is too obvious to question. Note the debate over whether Socrates was real, or whether Plato made him up. Similar debates go on about many foundational figures, in part because some ARE made up.

People are quick to raise questions where religious figures are involved because the level of exaggeration is typically unusually high and supporters are powerfully motivated to cheat and lie about their leaders. In the Jesus case it is notable that the oldest stratum of evidence, Q, contains no miracle stories and no Resurrection. That makes the Jesus stories look like a very typical historical process of grafting myths onto foundational figures. Since Paul can be read either way, and since we know stories of messiahs were swirling around the Jewish communities along the Med, well....

Further, when looking at Christianity in the light of other religious movements that took place in relatively impoverished, colonized areas, or among marginalized outgroups, the generic resemblance is striking. "The end is near! God's Kingdom is at hand!" was a cry raised by Hong Xiuquan in the desperately poor, bandit-riddled, famine-ravished Hakka villages in Guangdong in the 1840s, by Wovoka in the 1880s among the starving, colonized, brutalized Indians of the American West (who looked forward to a flood that would wipe out all Whites), among the Maji-Maji of Africans colonized German East Africa. Today God's Army battles for the outgroup Karen tribe along the Thai-Burma border, in a colonized region, notably making the claim that the enemy's bullets would turn to water thanks to their magic. Wovoka and the Maji-maji leader made the same claim. The Christians never went to war, but they did not receive the kind of persecution that Wovoka, the Maji-maji, and Hong did.

As I said before, this sort of thing can happen quickly or slowly. When Wovoka started the Ghost Dance religious cult, within days it was reported that he had done miraculous things. Imagine if it had become a serious religion (and not ended by the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890). A thousand years from now scholars would probably say the same thing about Wovoka that we are saying about Jesus, namely, it is impossible to recover the real man under the myth, because so much myth has been added. This is true of many religious figures. Many of the Taoist immortals were real people once, but so many layers of myth have been added that it is impossible to peel them away now.

We know from sad experience that such foundational myths are often wrong. The Chinese god Tsai Shen is generally credited with inventing paper in contemporaneus accounts, but we know paper predates him by a couple of centuries. Should we believe Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, or should we go with archaeologica evidence of ancient occupation of the area?

Another problem is the relentless way in which religions assimilate history into themselves, and remake it. Look at the struggle in our own nation on the Christian Right, to eradicate the painful fact that our nation was founded by men who were not Christians, and feared and disliked the religion. Or to make a Christian out of the atheist (later Deist) Lincoln. These drives to normalize and incorporate are so powerful few outside of academia are aware that Lincoln apparently had male lovers (Tripp is supposed to have a book out this year on the topic).

The fact that Jesus is a religious figure and not an ordinary historical figure thus creates special problems for the scholar. When one of the Roman historians mentions a person, such as when Plutarch adds in passing that Caesar worked for a praetor named Vetus, we have no solid reason to be suspicious of Vetus' mere existence. There is nothing there that calls for suspicion. Thus, for ordinary historic figures the generally default position is belief, unless they are doing something extraordinary and suspiciously mythological. Sometimes this leads to error, as when the Norse voyages to N. America were dismissed as myth, but later confirmed by archaeology, but in the main this is a useful critical stance. For religious figures, scrutiny must be harder, because of the well-known propensity of religious followers to lie, cheat, edit and exaggerate, and to subordinate other history to their aims.

I do not know what is so difficult about understanding that. In the face of individuals with strong incentive to lie, you have to raise the critical bar. We do this as a normal and natural part of everyday life.

Michael
 
Old 04-19-2001, 08:21 AM   #20
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How do you determine which people actually lived in history?

COMMON SENSE. Frankly, I never gave it much thought. Although I am a lifelong atheist, I didn’t question the existence of JC until several years ago. I also used to believe that King Arthur was an actual historical figure.

As someone else pointed out there is a big difference between the two in the way they affect people’s lives. Most people, when told that King Arthur didn’t exist, would not care very much. Tell people that JC did not exist, and you get a much different reaction. If JC did not exist, the entire basis for their religion goes out the window. Many of these people would probably not then become skeptics. Rather, they would turn to another religion. Every day people are converted from Christianity to Islam. Far fewer are converted from Christianity to skepticism.

It amazes me that people who so readily believe in the JC miracles would never believe in miracles of other god figures.

The more I read and learn about JC, the less I believe in his historicity as depicted in the bible. Every religion has its point man: someone who performed miracles, someone who is directly related to, or is part of, a god; someone who promises a better life after earthly death (this is especially appealing to the downtrodden).

My current thinking goes something like this.
A new, non-Jewish religion was spreading (perhaps several). It had its followers and it’s leaders who preached the new religion. At some time in it’s early gestation it needed a point man, every religion does. Perhaps one of the preachers of the new religion, after his death, was used as this point man. Perhaps he was entirely concocted. Stories were spread about miracles he performed: note that none of these miracles were ever reported at the time they took place, only long after. Stories were spread about when and where he was born: note that the date attributed to his birth was the same date as other pre-christian deities. Stories were spread about his lineage: note how they conform to some OT predictions. Stories were spread about who his mother was and that she was a virgin impregnated by god: note how this also follows the story line of other pre-christian religions. Stories were spread about how he died: nailed to a cross (popular at the time and therefore believable); and when he died (co-opted another pagan holiday).

It is much easier for a skeptic to believe this (or a similar) scenario than to believe the alternative:

god impregnated a virgin nine months before a pagan holiday; Twenty-five to thirty years later the offspring of this union goes around preaching a new religion and turning water to wine; Several years later he gets nailed to a cross and is buried; At the time of another traditional pagan holiday he comes back to life, walks around for a while, talks to a few people and then is taken into heaven. During all these thirty something years no one writes anything about him: no one records the miracles first hand; no one writes about his death and resurrection first hand; no one writes a first hand account of talking to him afterward.

As I said, COMMON SENSE.


[This message has been edited by ecco (edited April 19, 2001).]
 
 

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