A mosaic of Jesus found in Istanbul.

Forget Santa Claus, Virginia. Was there a Jesus Christ?

(RNS) As another Christmas approaches and the usual holiday laments are unpacked like so many old ornaments -- too much commercialism and too little faith, too much food and too little time -- there has always been one reassuring constant: The reason for the season is the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago.

A mosaic of Jesus found in Istanbul.

A mosaic of Jesus found in Istanbul.

Sure, you can debate exactly what year he was born, or whether it was December 25 or some other date, and if his crib was a manger or even if he was born in Bethlehem or another city. Fleshing out the scant biographical details of the historical Jesus has been a popular parlor game for centuries.

In the end, whatever version you believed, or disbelieved, Christmas -- and Christianity -- remained a fact of life because Christ was a real person.

Or was he?

An increasingly persistent line of argument is taking the quest for the historical Jesus in a whole different direction and claiming that we actually don’t know much about Jesus himself because, in fact, Jesus never existed.

Or, say the debunkers, even if there was a Jesus of Nazareth, he was an ordinary rabbi whose identity was essentially hijacked after his death to invent a divine messiah, Jesus Christ.

“There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence -- if not to think it outright improbable,” Raphael Lataster, a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Sydney, wrote in a column published Friday (Dec. 19) in The Washington Post.

Lataster is the author of “There Was No Jesus, There Is No God,” one of a growing number of books and blog posts by Jesus “mythicists” who question the very existence of the man from Galilee.

Victorian glass in St. Etheldreda's Catholic church, Ely.

Victorian glass in St. Etheldreda's Catholic Church, London.

“Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than an urban (or desert) legend, likely an agglomeration of several evangelic and deluded rabbis who might have existed,” Michael B. Paulkovich, author of “No Meek Messiah,” wrote in an article last June in Free Inquiry magazine titled, “The Fable of the Christ.”

Other books in this genre include “Christ’s Ventriloquists” by Eric Zuesse (2012); “Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus” by Richard Carrier (2012); “Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All” by David Fitzgerald (2010); “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (2001); and “Deconstructing Jesus” by Robert Price (2000).

Their thesis generally includes a number of arguments:

  • The Gospels were written decades after Jesus supposedly lived.
  • They are unreliable because they were written by promoters of the Christian myth.
  • The Gospel accounts are suspiciously incomplete, with few details of Jesus’ life.
  • Many elements of the Gospels conflict or contradict each other.
  • There are no contemporary references to Jesus from non-Christian sources.
  • The death and resurrection of Jesus mirrors other pagan myths of the time.

Needless to say, the vast majority of Bible scholars disagree with these arguments, whatever they think about Jesus as a religious figure. Yet the Jesus-as-myth meme is so persistent that many of them are publicly pushing back in order to debunk the debunkers.

Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk, for example, has a lengthy feature story in the January/February 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review that examines the extra-biblical sources -- contemporary writers outside the New Testament -- who attest to the existence of Jesus.

“As far as we know, no ancient person ever seriously argued that Jesus did not exist,” Mykytiuk writes, and he cites pagan and Jewish writers of the time who did affirm Jesus’ existence.

University of North Carolina’s Bart Ehrman, a leading New Testament scholar -- and an evangelical-turned-agnostic who has no Christian ax to grind -- grew so exasperated by the Jesus-hoax arguments that he wrote a detailed refutation in his 2012 book called “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”

Believers and skeptics can argue with each other, and among themselves, about exactly who Jesus was and what he meant, Ehrman said in an interview. But arguing that Jesus did not exist “is such a ridiculous proposition.”

Ehrman said beyond the non-Christian references to Jesus from the era, scholars can plausibly trace elements in the Gospels to shortly after the time Jesus was killed. That fact, and the historical details in the Gospels, have convinced “virtually every scholar … in the Western world” that Jesus existed.

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in "Son of God." Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in "Son of God." Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

He also noted that while the Apostle Paul never met Jesus in the flesh -- a point the Jesus deniers often make -- in his many New Testament writings Paul mentions that he does know Jesus’ brother, James. “If Jesus didn’t exist, you’d think his brother would know about it!” Ehrman said with a laugh.

But to Ehrman, the most convincing argument that Jesus was a real person is that it would have made no sense to invent a crucified messiah because that is the opposite of what everyone was expecting at the time. In other words, it wasn't a good sales pitch.

Besides, if Jesus was the product of a conspiracy, one would think that the conspirators would have gotten their stories straight and not have left lots of conflicting details.

Moreover, Ehrman said -- contrary to the claims of the mythicists -- there is no analogy in the pagan world of the time to a human being who was killed and rose from the dead and then exalted as a divine being.

So why do arguments that Jesus was a hoax persist?

For one thing, Ehrman said, “there are a lot of people who love conspiracy theories, and this is a brilliant one.”

The broader context, however, is the emergence of the assertive “New Atheists” who are both vocal and visible in seeking to criticize and undermine religion and to fight back against the culture warriors of the religious right.

A subset of those neo-atheists, as they are sometimes called, seems to want to take a shortcut in the fight against Christianity by arguing that Christ did not exist, thereby kicking the legs out from under the whole enterprise.

“I think the people who are taking that view are really shooting themselves in the foot,” Ehrman said. “If what they want to do is to counter Christianity, then they really ought to do it on some intellectually solid basis rather than arguing something that’s downright silly.”



  1. ““As far as we know, no ancient person ever seriously argued that Jesus did not exist,” Mykytiuk writes, and he cites pagan and Jewish writers of the time who did affirm Jesus’ existence.”

    An appeal to authority, but not actual evidence Mykytiuk is incorrect as well. There are no writers contemporaneous with Jesus who affirm his existence. The closest you have is around the same time the Gospels were written. A generation or two after the fact.

    That being said, I am of the mind that this will never be a resolved question. What evidence one has for the existence of Jesus can’t be considered reliable. However, the absence of such evidence would be entirely reasonable if he did exist. You can’t say Jesus definitely existed but you can’t definitely say he didn’t either.

    Jesus in his life was not someone who would have been noticed much by the Romans or their lackeys like Josephus. He preached obeying authorities. This would be unremarkable to Roman ears. Jewish writers seldom wrote histories and what few mundane records which might exist would be lost to time. What remains of ancient records is generally fragmentary in general. One cannot in good faith say, “there are no ancient records of X, therefore X did not exist”. Because we have no idea what was lost over the ages.

  2. For myself, I have no doubt jesus existed. To me, the real question is whether God had a son, and whether believing in that son, whatever that may mean, is going to save you from burning in hell forever.

    The story of Jesus was not a new one, even at the time. There were lots of saviors, virgin born, who died and were resurrected. Many even died for our sins.

    But what one cannot do is argue for Jesus as an historical person based upon the gospel account. They have too many contradictions, both factually and theologically, to argue for them as historic documents in the strictest sense of the word.

    The biggest problem for me, as it was for Sherlock Holmes, are the improbabilities, not the impossibilities. Here is the easiest one. So Jesus was born with choirs of angels, homage paid by the three kinds or magi, stars in the east, and so forth. Yet this miraculous birth is not repeated in all four gospels. And yet 12 years later, when he preached in the temple, no one said boo about it. 33 years later, not one person, not Mary, not joseph, not anyone, seemed to remember it, either. And Paul NEVER made a reference to any of it.

  3. We have no solid evidence that Jesus existed. As Dr. Ehrman points out, we do have some evidence. So did Jesus exist?

    The answer seems to be “probably, but we can’t know for sure.”

    That’s just for Jesus as a human. For Jesus as anything more than human, the evidence is clear that Jesus, if he existed at all, was no more than a regular person – that’s something that most scholars agree on.

  4. The best we have would be an off hand reference by Josephus and Tacitus 50 years after the fact. Pretty much a description of Christians as opposed to of Jesus as a person. Neither Tacitus nor Josephus are known for the accuracy of their historical writings either (as with virtually all Roman historians). In modern terms they would be the equivalent of “propagandists”.

  5. I believe Jesus existed and I am an atheist. In order to fulfil biblical prophecy, Jesus had to be born in the city of David which is Bethlehem. Jesus is obviously from Nazareth so a census was invented in order to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem (Luke chapter 2). If Jesus was simply made up the writers of the Gospels would not have gone to the convoluted trouble of making up a Roman census. They would simply have made him born and from Bethlehem from the very start.

  6. To sweep aside the historical analyses of Jesus existence as “conspiracy theories” and “downright silly” seems trite and smacks of intellectual arrogance. Moreover, apart from his appeal to authority (“virtually every scholar”), Ehrman’s most convincing argument for Jesus’ existence is that the Jesus narrative was “not a good sales pitch”? But history has shown that the crucified messiah myth was an excellent sales pitch, so where does that leave Jesus?

  7. Of course there is no shortage of media people and outlets eager to promote the latest anti-Christ theories–reputable polls repeatedly show that the secular media (probably even including RNS staff) is composed of mostly anti-religious or professionally skeptical personnel making a good buck off things they do not believe in or love to disparage.

  8. Right. Specifically, Tacitus only mentions stories about Jesus, not that he had any information himself – and even that is into the 2nd century. That’s like me mentioning that there are stories about a person from 1920. For Josephus, he was born in 37 CE – years after the crucifixion may have happened, and he too would be just repeating stories – and on top of that, it seems clear now that his “mention” was a middle ages insertion forgery by Christian monks anyway.

  9. Perhaps the most illuminating realization is made by comparing this to other disputed ideas.

    For instance – There is abundant and clear evidence that humans are causing global warming. The evidence for that far surpasses the few thin lines of evidence suggesting Jesus probably existed.

    That comparison shows that anyone who thinks Jesus existed, but denies the reality of humans causing global warming is irrational.

  10. This atheist doesn’t care whether Jesus existed. What, if he existed then I have to accept that he was Divine and everything written about him is true? Get serious, please.

    But since RNS has raised this vitally unimportant issue, I can’t help but wonder if, thousands of years from now, Harry Potter scholars will jeer at the ignorant apotterist conspiracy theorists who doubt the wizard messiah’s existence. ” What, all those people were devoted to a fictional character? And if He didn’t exist, you’d think his friends Ron and Hermione would have noticed, LMAO!”

  11. There is NO Santa Claus, who is another lie promulgated by some religions and also for commercial reasons.

    However, Jesus does exist and he is presently King of God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 1:44; Isaiah 11:1-9).

    All those persons today who actually require “proof” of those facts will literally see it with their own eyes, when God’s kingdom puts an end to all human governments and exercises its millennial rule over mankind on earth. 😀

    Then there will be no doubt that Jesus exists and that he is accomplishing the purpose of his Father, Jehovah God.
    Hopefully, the Jewish nation will accept his rule at that time.

  12. “Bart Ehrman, a leading New Testament scholar ”
    “A leading scholar”. Ho hum. He has lots of company. Way back in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, the Dutch Radical School proposed that there was no historical Jesus. Does it matter? Well, only to the folks who do not care about history anyway, but only about supernatural stories. Look at Deacon John’s comment. He refers only to Christ (a theological idea not a historical person). For most Christians that is how they think (or do not think).

  13. Hi Wil,
    You are correct that the Bethlehem story is an invention. Likely, the Nazareth story is an invention as well: (Alfred Loisy maintained that Nazareth was a mistranslation of Nazorean (a Jewish cult) *(The Birth of the Christian Religion p.70).
    I have also read that Archeological digs have indicated the site of Nazareth was simply not occupied during the period in question. Therefore I disagree with your “proof” that Jesus existed.

  14. Fran,
    re: Then there will be no doubt that Jesus exists
    ‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’ – Yogi Berra

  15. Seriously, dude? What so-called”scholars”have YOU been reading? John Shelby Spong? The discredited so-called ” Jesus Seminar? Please.Tell you what:try IVP press’ excellent tome,”Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels”.

  16. All the same arguments atheists make against the existence of Jesus you could make about Marco Polo too but nobody argues against Marco Polo existing because there’s no political points to be gained from doing so.

  17. All Josephus says about Jesus is he was a nice man who said and did some good things and there were Christians who were worshiping him. I should think if Josephus had some sort of propaganda agenda in making up that part on Jesus in his writings, he would made it a lot flashier.

  18. The question of whether Jesus existed is pretty good as a Loon Test…..As even Bart Ehrman implies, those denying he was a historical person are the laughingstock of the scholarly world…..or of any other world.

  19. Pan, the only people raising the issue of whether Jesus existed are conspiracy theorists and the some of the more far-out New Atheists. We’re talking about cranks and kooks, not serious people.

  20. If there were even a shred of credibility to skepticism about Christ’s existence, RNS would be running with that story like there was no tomorrow. You can tell by the way this story was written that RNS would just love for someone to emerge who has at least some credibility on the matter. But when even Bart Ehrman scoffs at such doubters, even RNS knows that there is no story to run with.

  21. Bill, virtually the entire scholarly world, from atheists to theistics, from liberal to conservative scholarship, believes that Jesus was not a figment of one’s imagination but was an actual person. Ehrman gives a couple of good reasons for that…..there are many, many others…

  22. Hi Jack. I used to comment at HuffPo at about the time Ehrman’s book “Did Jesus Exist” came out, and it was hysterically funny how the very same people who had sung his praises for his skepticism and unbelief only days earlier, touting him as an “eminent scholar,” suddenly turned on him in the nastiest manner imaginable for daring to admit the unfashionable but unavoidable truth of the matter. The “eminent scholar and biblical authority” suddenly became the brainwashed stooge of the religious establishment to which he owed his living, ya know. The irony of it all being, of course, that probably not one of his admirers-turned-detractors had ever read a word of his work–or anything else on the subject.

    As for the question about why empty arguments about the so-called Jesus hoax persist, I’d say it boils down to one word–and that’s fear. People can be much more comfortable with the decision they’ve made about Christ if they can convince themselves that He didn’t exist at all.

  23. Simply false. Here are just a few of the many clear reasons why we can be more sure that Marco Polo was real than Jesus was real:

    The stories about Polo were written during his lifetime, while the Gospels were written 30 to 90 years after Jesus’ death.

    The main body of them was written by someone who heard them from Marco himself – we know when and how he was with marco (in prison). The Gospels are all anonymous, so we don’t know who wrote any of them.

    The stories of marco polo are corroborated by neutral sources at the same time. Jesus’ aren’t

    The stories of marco polo don’t match earlier stories and legends. Many of the main elements of Jesus are copies of earlier Pagan god-men. (Examples here include virgin birth, resurrection, association with grapes/wine, and on and on.)

    The stories of marco polo are consistent with the real world, while those of Jesus include flying people, mind control of animals, etc.

    The stories of marco polo do not include obvious internal re-writing and changing of the story by subsequent authors, while just looking at the Gospels one can see the story being changed to suit the desires of the later authors.

    There’s more, but that’s a good start to see why we can be much more confident that Marco Polo was real than Jesus was real.

  24. Hi Laurence,
    “The discredited so-called ‘Jesus Seminar?'”
    I have an idea. Let us dispose of the persons, works, and reputations of those with whom we disagree by characterizing them with belittling insults. How about those credulous Christians, backward thinking theologists, and ruthless religious propagandists?

  25. As an atheist I really have no dog in this hunt other than to say that I believe the Jesus of Christianity is a myth. There may have been a person(s) upon whom the character is based, but even if they produced pictures and a cheek swab my position regarding ANY deity remains the same.

  26. My view is that Jesus was a composite character. The story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is an allegory of the history of Israel. Jesus is a personification of divine salvation, which is what the name “Jesus” means. Jesus is the process of God saving. Jesus is identified with a series of savior figures from Joshua to David to the Teacher of Righteousness to leaders of the war against Rome. The Gospel was written to encourage people to keep the faith after the fall of Jerusalem to Rome. Since Mark uses Jesus as a literary device, he probably did not know of a specific person who lived at the time and place of the character in the Gospel. For Mark, there were many historical Jesuses, not just one. I explore this thesis in my book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780761861454

  27. And in any case, no one has established that the entire Testimonium Flavinium, to which Jon is referring, is a “forgery.” What most scholars think is likely is that the small bit that says “he was the Christ” was an early interpolation, as it does not fit logically or stylistically within the passage. However, there is no reason to think that the passage itself is inauthentic, and no manuscripts of Josephus exist that do not have it.

    And of course no claims of inauthenticity exist at all around his reference to the death of James, the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.

  28. Why? Because we will always have foolish people in this world.

  29. Yup. and day, week, month, year, decade, century or millennium, HE WILL APPEAR!

  30. And God made them all so he could have lots of folks for the devil to torture for ever and ever. What a guy!

  31. Yes Mr. Johnston, the **discredited** Jesus Seminar. That’s not an ad-hominem attack, that’s simply how it turned out after several years.

    I remember listening to an E.P. Sanders lecture at a university, (this was back when the Jesus Seminar was still getting lots of big publicity), and New Testament professor Sanders simply raked them over the coals.

    It wasn’t so much for denying various Scriptural claims about Jesus, but for the WAY they were doing it — especially that infamous “voting system” they used.

    “They’re just playing a fantasy game!” Sanders remarked, clearly taking some liberals and skeptics in the audience by surprise.

    Of course, more conservative New Testament scholars rose up not long afterward (NT Wright, Craig Blomberg, etc) and they wrote a battery of textbooks that countered — and in Wright’s case, smashed — the Jesus Seminar stuff.

    So yes, the Jesus Seminar era is pretty much over, Mr. Johnston (although the individual scholars are still around, doing their usual skeptical stuff). But as a whole, the organization is discredited, yes.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish, of course!

  32. Hi Sid,
    Christianity is a synthetic religion. The man that the Greeks called Jesus, (if he existed) likely spoke Aramaic in public. If so, his public words are lost forever. The Bible is certainly not a reliable guide to facts, but is rather a testament to faith, finalized only in 419 C.E., and not even in Rome, but in Carthage.
    The human individual (if any) is buried forever in the Christ myth. No amount of scholarly digging will resurrect him. I think it past time to rebury the remains, and get on with more urgent matters- like saving the planet from ourselves and the
    human race from extinction.

  33. I’m pretty user the Teacher of righteousness wasn’t Jesus, but john the Baptist.

    Jesus may well have been Judas the Galilean. Or a composite, as you say.

    Or simply the latest in a long line of semi-divine saviours, born of a virgin, who dies and were resurrected.

  34. A little bit of reading, thought, psychology, and tossing the magic, and you realize what’s probably the truth.

    Jesus was the priest king, the anointed one, the descendant of David on both sides of his family, who was the long awaited messiah who would lead the Jews in freedom from Rome. The Jews were constantly waiting for this messiah to show up; he never seemed to.

    Being far more priest than king, he had no interest in politics. “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Jews were sore disappointed that he wasn’t the revolutionary leader they had hoped for. And also, some of his more megalomaniacal comments about his expectations for himself in this future world were also probably a turn-off.

    So they tossed him.

    Pilate clearly could see no political threat in Jesus. “I… have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him.” King of the Jews was not an accident of history; it was sarcasm. But he didn’t wish to get the religio-political leaders too riled up, so he agreed. Crucifixion was reserved for political troublemakers. “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.”

    Those that followed Jesus the priest became Christians, including Paul. Notice that none of his letters refer to the more mythological elements of the gospels at all. You’d think the choirs of angels thing would have attracted his attentio0n, but no. Those that were hoping for the political leader just weren’t interested anymore. It’s why you find the Jews being called stiff necked in the gospel of john. They had already had enough of Jesus the political failure. They weren’t interested in the heretical religious message– the god had a son.

    Meanwhile, who was this Bar Abbas, aka Son of the Father? Who was Judas the Galilean? Who was it that was freed? Who was it that was crucified? Why didn’t the one that was crucified stay dead, like every other REAL person in the history of the world? And why do we dismiss the mythology of the Babylonians, the sumerians, the Persians, the Greeks and the romans, mythologies which were at least as “well documented” as our biblical accounts?

  35. Not even close. Besides it is not just atheists making the claims against the historicity of Jesus. It merely is a matter of taking the evidence in a way not tainted by a given religious faith. Its telling you have to drag all historical research and evidence down in order to bolster support for Jesus.

    There are mundane records of Marco Polo’s existence as well as writings in his own hand. None of which applies to Jesus. He returned from China wealthy and was even imprisoned by Genoan officials. [Records abound about those details as well]

    Unlike Jesus, Marco Polo married and had 3 children. We know his wife and children existed as well from mundane records.

    My point was, even if evidence for Jesus had existed, it is unlikely to have survived all this time. Few records and writings did. Physical evidence is not only going to be sketchy but overburdened with the confirmation bias that plagues “Biblical archaeology” in general.

    So it is highly presumptive to say he didn’t exist. Just as it is highly presumptive to claim with the level certainty people employ, that he did.

    But the standards for acceptance of evidence when relating to the Bible are extremely lax in comparison to any other historical claims. There is far too much reliance on assumption and confirmation rather than real objective support.

  36. The problem being that there are so many people insisting Jesus existed based on rather shaky forms of support. It makes it easy to attack. Nobody from a standpoint of Christian belief wants to cough up the slightest notion of doubt or critical evaluation of the evidence in an objective manner.

  37. @ Doc,
    A quick count of my list of Jesus Scholars is 71. Virtually all have Ph.D.s from those Universities recognized in the fields studied. You mention four scholars. Not exactly a landslide. Naturally the “faithful” were outraged. Get a grip Doc. Your group is in decline, and you have nothing to stop it but arrogance and contempt.

  38. @ Frank,
    Now that is what I call a pure ad-hominem attack.
    The creationists want to have it both ways. God is the cause, but he is not to blame. William of Ockham (1287 – 1347) claimed that God could do anything but contradict himself. The Creationists apparently disagree.
    Must be that “freewill” loophole in the fine print.

  39. Wrong again. You really have problems with what constitutes reliable evidence.

    Global warming produces tons of presently observable evidence and is the subject of numerous studies which are vetted for methodology and findings. People don’t guess or assume global warming exists. They make reasonable conclusions based on evidence presented.

    Nobody does that for Jesus. They take it on faith he existed, make assumptions and attack what we use as benchmarks for reliable objectively credible evidence. The comparison between the two shows what lengths Christians will take to avoid subjecting their articles of faith and belief to objective scrutiny.

  40. Actually it shows how shoddy evidence and arguments can be if they validate Christian beliefs. How much confirmation bias informs the discussion.

    If believers weren’t so lazy and presumptive in what they accept as evidence, such questions would not have much merit. But it is much better for belief to say, “We know Jesus existed” (which has no evidence but requires it for support) than it is to say, “Jesus might have existed” (doesn’t require evidence to support).

  41. Good point, Fallacy Spotting 101 — if, that is, I were resting my case for Jesus being a real person on the fact that those who deny it tend to be tin-foil types of one sort or another. But I’m not. I’m simply remarking on that fact.

  42. See above, Fallacy Guy. Even if the Jesus-never-existed crowd were made up of intellectual geniuses and emotionally stable people, the evidence for his existence is what it is…..strong enough to be relied upon. But the fact that this crowd tends to be populated with tub-thumping hysterics, tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists, and other odd ducks is good for a few laughs.

  43. Please watch the smithsonian channel “Mystery Files: Marco Polo”. It is available on Netflix. Marco Polo is a myth and this explains why historians know this.

  44. Lots of people argue against Marco Polo. His story is mythical and most educated people should not consider it to be true. Watch the smithsonian channels ” Mystery Files: Marco Polo” and then you can see how unrealistic the legend is. But I do like how you compared Jesus and Marco Polo, they are both in the same pot in my book as well. More myth than reality.

  45. If Jesus is the one true son of God and savior of mankind and healer of the sick and raiser of the dead then why is it so hard to find him in historical records. If God is as great as the bible says then it seems there would be no reason to question the existence of Jesus because the evidence would be so obvious and overwhelming that the belief in Jesus would actually be called historical fact of Jesus. It makes no sense that there is this much mystery shrouding the “one true Gods son” unless this God is so weak he can’t even drum up a birth certificate.

  46. Re: “That being said, I am of the mind that this will never be a resolved question. What evidence one has for the existence of Jesus can’t be considered reliable. However, the absence of such evidence would be entirely reasonable if he did exist. You can’t say Jesus definitely existed but you can’t definitely say he didn’t either.”

    Agreed, and therein lies the problem. No one is going to make money selling a book (or a movie, or touring as a lecturer, or whatever) by pointing out the evidence for and against Jesus’ existence as a historical figure is unclear on either side. It’s an emotionally-unsatisfying conclusion that few people would want to hear. Believers in Jesus want to hear only that he did exist, and aren’t going to tolerate anything else; and non-Christians find the prospect of him being a fictional concoction potentially exciting (even if not all of them agree with that proposition).

    Since there’s no profit in saying so, you’ll never hear people publicly make such a statement … even if it’s the only viable conclusion one can reach, given the evidence we currently have.

  47. Seems to me people (mostly Christians) are barking up the wrong logical tree and pursuing an argument that inevitably will fail. It’s all well and good to look at the evidence and decide there must have been some historical Jesus at some point in the past, as most scholars (including non-believers like Ehrman) have done. But to take that and extrapolate out of it that “Jesus was real” (as in, the supernaturally-empowered divine or divinely-inspired Jesus of the gospels), therefore, the gospels are 100% accurate in every possible detail and Christianity is 100% true.

    It just doesn’t work that way.

    To say that there might have been a real human being behind the tales which eventually became the gospels, doesn’t mean that at all. That historical Jesus might well have been a very different person from the one we read about in the gospels. A lot of the stories told about him, which became gospel content, may have been embellishments of things the historical Jesus did, or confabulations, or they might even be outright fabrications. (Yes, it’s true. Sometimes people make things up about real people. A great example that most will find familiar, is the legend about George Washington and the cherry-tree he supposedly cut down as a boy, then admitted to doing. People can, and sometimes do, make up fictional tales about actual people.)

    By the same token, somehow “proving” Jesus could not have existed, certainly doesn’t obviate the content of the teachings the gospels report he delivered. Notions such as the Golden Rule (aka the Ethic of Reciprocity, or “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”) can have value, without regard to whether or not a historical Jesus existed to have said them. People can, and do, sometimes take ideas and wrap them into narratives in order to make them presentable and acceptable to others.

    The sad truth is that the evidence both for and against Jesus’ existence as a historical figure isn’t as compelling as either side would like it to be. Barring some monumental discovery (whose veracity is upheld), that’s unfortunately the way it will remain.

  48. Re: “If Jesus is the one true son of God and savior of mankind and healer of the sick and raiser of the dead then why is it so hard to find him in historical records.”

    There are a number of events recorded in the gospels which, had they actually occurred as stated, can’t possibly have gone unreported in other records of the era (of which there are quite a few). Among the more obvious examples is this:

    “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Mt 27:51-53)

    While only the priests would have known about the Temple veil tearing, and thus could have kept it quiet, tombs spontaneously opening and the dead wandering around would have been quite noteworthy (especially since the evangelist specifically mentions that they “appeared to many”).

    It’s easy to retort with something like, “People were frightened/scared/embarrassed this happened, so they purposely kept a lid on it,” and I suppose that’s possible … but it’s not safe to assume total silence could have been maintained about it.

  49. Except that was exactly what you are doing. Dismissing the whole question because you think those raising it are unworthy of serious discussion.

    Its exactly this kind of laziness which emboldens the people you are insulting.

  50. HE will NOT appear to your FALSE Religion with no Hell forever.

  51. Does your mommy know you’re playing with her phone?

    Mods, do your job and quit letting these idiots disrupt conversations.

  52. An honest person who reads the Gospels, cannot help but recognize the truth! The words that Yeshua spoke, His actions, are unique.

    People who don’t want to believe have their reasons, but in my opinion, they just want things their own way, not God’s way. He will reveal Himself to those who are sincerely seeking Him. The others He leaves to their own devices to deny Him!
    Which of you can prove your OWN existence at this moment?!

  53. Hi Sister,
    “An honest person who reads the Gospels, cannot help but recognize the truth!”
    Now that is what I call another, pure ad-hominem attack.
    Calling folks dishonest because they don’t agree with you is arrogant and mean spirited.

  54. There is no record of an Empire-wide “census” or registration around that time. Furthermore, it is ludicrous to think that any such census would have required people to return to the place of their birth. What would be the purpose of that? It would be hugely disruptive and pointless. Just another indication that the Bethlehem narrative was myth, not so much in the sense of falsehood as it was a story that people told to express their understanding of the importance of Jesus and to tie him to the prophecies about the Messiah.

  55. Romans 1:18-32 says who created the world. God/Jesus are real. For
    somone to look out at the universe then say that this is all just chance
    is being blind and it takes more faith to believe the world formed out of
    nothing then became everything. Psalm 22:16-18 and Isaiah 53:3-7
    both are very specific about Jesus/the Messiah. Many people don’t
    want God/Jesus to be real because then they have to change how
    they live. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel/Jesus among other gods
    by Ravi Zacharias are both good books to read. God/Jesus are real!

  56. Romans 1:18-32 says who created the world. If Jesus was still in the grave
    why would people that didn’t believe in Him/the Roman soldiers lie and say
    His body was stolen? They lied cause they didn’t want the Bible to be true
    and the same thing is going on today. Many people don’t want God/Jesus
    to be real because they don’t want to be told how to live. Jesus fulfilled all
    the Bible prophecy and was raised from the dead which is why the Roman
    soldiers lied/said His body was stolen because they didn’t want the Bible to
    be true but the Bible is Truth/prophecy 100% accurate. Jesus/God are real!

  57. The overly and overtly liberal media is part of the problem, as usual I believe.

  58. Just a quick point that it’s not an “appeal to authority fallacy” when the people to whom he is referring *are* actual authorities in the field.

  59. Karla,

    When millions of persons worldwide are resurrected back to life on earth (John 5:28,29), during the 1,000-year rule of God’s kingdom in the near future, that will only confirm what the “hellfire” doctrine truly is, a lie.

    It will also prove what a loving and powerful Creator and God that we humans have by the name of Jehovah.

  60. Karla,

    Of course God’s kingdom is not earthly. Jesus taught about that government as being heavenly (Matthew 4:17) and said his kingdom was no part of this world. But it will rule over mankind on earth; that is why that heavenly government was established, for imperfect mankind.

    Mankind will regain perfection on earth which was lost by our first parents.

  61. A very merry and blessed Christ-Mass [Christmas] and Happy New Year to all!

    The Messiah has come and is coming!

  62. Dear Laurence

    IVP is a pretty conservative outfit, so bear that in mind when reading their material.

    best wishes

  63. Bart Ehrnan has taken the trouble to communicate with the general public about modern New Testament scholarship. He really is an effective lecturer, and has several courses available at the Teaching Company.

  64. Has it ever occurred to you that some folks do not want to go to your heaven or be with your god? That does not make the evil, only subjected to the curses of your intolerant religion.
    Have a Super Winter Solstice, dear Sister. The return of the sun was celebrated long before Christianity, and will likely be long after it has been forgotten.

  65. I don’t celebrate Christmas and New Years at all, but have a satisfying and happy day all the time! 😀

    And yes, God’s kingdom will soon come and provide blessings to mankind and there will finally be peace on earth from the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus!

  66. “Has it ever occurred to you that some folks do not want to go to your heaven or be with your god?”

    Absolutely. It is that very fact which makes sense of the “second death.”

  67. I see that someone just hijacked shawnie5’s name. Very mature….and quite telling.

  68. Not so, Larry. If it is a fact that most people who harbor a certain belief are kooks in other respects, there’s nothing wrong in saying so. It so happens that people who doubt Jesus’ existence tend disproportionately to be people who believe wildly improbable conspiracy theories of various kinds or who are driven by ideology above all else. Does that prove they are wrong in their belief that Jesus was a fictional character? Of course not. But it does suggest, if they are wrong, how they went wrong.

  69. No scholar in the world would say that Jesus being a historical figure by itself proves the miraculous claims about Jesus’ identity and fate. So you’re addressing a problem that doesn’t exist and preaching to a choir that includes pretty much everybody — from Christians to atheists and everybody in between.

  70. The article we’re all commenting on speaks for itself. If we’re going to accept the authority of scholarship on Jesus, we’re going to have to accept that Jesus was a historical person. And to those who say we should reject any argument which is based on an appeal to authority, understand that this would mean rejecting many things about most subjects, because nobody is an expert on everything, and thus on most matters, we routinely rely on the consensus of experts without even thinking about it.

  71. Jack, just let it go already. You’re just digging a deeper hole for yourself. We should start calling you “Mr. Ad Hominem”.

  72. Jack, you can’t possibly speak for every scholar. And you clearly aren’t one yourself; the arguments that you are attempting to promulgate have common, basic flaws. That’s very telling.

  73. Slippery slope fallacy there, Jack. Better tie those shoelaces better next time!


  74. No, “second death” has no sense to it at all. Nor does much else about your intolerant, backward belief system.

  75. Your first statement is circular, your second is not proof of anything, and the authors that you reference have been pretty thoroughly discredited.

  76. Ben-Explain how we got here? Of course people that don’t want to
    believe in Jesus want to discredit Him. When Jesus was here on the
    earth people lied after He rose from the dead because they wanted
    to discredit the Bible. Creation is proof of God which is why people
    need to read Romans 1:18-32. Bible prophecy accuracy is why the
    Bible can be trusted. You need to do some more research and not
    just listen to people that only want to try to discredit the Bible but do
    the research/investigate the Bible truth for yourself. God bless.

  77. Hi dmj76,
    I own and have read two of his books, and yes they are accessible to the layman, which is a very good thing. Only, Dr. Funk did it a decade before, and Dr. Will Durant made his living in between the two world wars riding the trains and giving lectures in movie houses to mostly immigrant audiences hungry for knowledge. Dr. Durant’s books are available at almost any library.

  78. Karla, I’ve likely done more research than you have. And your bible argument remains circular. The claims about prophecy in the bible are also flimsy; funny that their success rate is oh, about 50%, max, and they are often plainly wrong.

    For that matter, why should I have to research your mythical creature? Why can’t he just make himself visible – or isn’t he powerful enough to do that?

    Stow your useless blessings. Do some critical thinking for a change.

  79. Oh, this crew luuuuuuvs experts and authority, but only if they’re not saying anything that might validate any scripture accounts.

    My all time favorite snafu of the “biblical scholars” was when they used to attack the book of Daniel by claiming that Belshazzar didn’t exist because Herodotus never mentioned him (nor did anyone else). Until, of course, Babylon was excavated — leaving the “experts” like R.H. Pfeiffer with nothing more to say on the subject other than “”We shall presumably never know how our author learned … that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Babylonian records, in Daniel, and in Baruch 1:11, which is based on Daniel, was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon.”

  80. LOL! So, you think there ARE scholars who claim that the existence of Jesus as a historical figure by itself proves His divinity? Who might they be?

    Your objection was rash and quite silly.

  81. Jesus did not obey the authorities, nor did he preach to anyone to obey the authorities, and it’s silly to assert that he did.

  82. Marianne’s statement is right on the mark. It is ridiculous when someone like Jack claims to speak for everyone, and of a group that he isn’t even part of.

    Calling her “silly” and “rash” doesn’t help your case. It just makes you look desperate.

  83. Indeed. We can fairly get a bit indignant when it is claimed that Daniel and Joshua are in disagreement too. Flax and onions do grow together, and hayseeds belong with corn. And that’s before we even get into the nitty gritty of whether shepherds should lie with their sheep.

  84. Yes -no claims about James at all. I’m surprised that we don’t see that fact cited more often. But I’ll take Wild Strawberry over Testimonium Flavinium any day.

  85. Charming. just charming.

    But thanks for going right to anal sex, Frank. It proves what I have thought with yet one more example.

  86. Ben, why are you invariably fooled by these “look at me” trolls? The same toddler who posted with my name above also hijacked Jack’s name and that of several others including Fran and Karla. Perhaps the mods aren’t doing their job here because they’re as obtuse as you are being.

  87. Personally, I think Ridikulus is a much more effective spell than Sectumsempra when one comes face to face with a Balrog. Then again, I’m not one to use a chainsaw in an enchanted forest.

  88. Jack’s point, and mine, flew right over the heads of both of you. He was pointing out PsiCop’s obvious nonsequitur, not trying to speak for any scholars. Get a clue already.

  89. Make that “hijacked Frank’s name.”. Although Jack’s name has been misused as well.

    Just more demonstrations of how great life would be if everyone were atheists –not.

  90. Shawnie5, chill pill time for you. And duck and cover. There’s a whole lot flying over your head here, plus some seagulls having movements above you.

  91. Mr. 101 nailed you right there, Jack. Maybe you should cool down some. It’s holiday time so play nice nice with the other children. Don’t be so insulting.

  92. Obviously the middle-schoolers are out for the holidays. Sigh.

  93. Honestly what’s the point. We can debate this till the end of time. We will never know if he existed. The only thing we can count on is that every year another article like this will come out around christmas speculating Jesus’s existence.

  94. Shawnie, pot calling kettle…

    It is very telling that you again resorted to a personal attack. Desperation again, as your religion crumbles.

  95. Did that show go on after Ancient Aliens? I will check it out but the History Channel is garbage. There is definitely debate as to whether Marco Polo actually visited China. Some have speculated that his accounts where stolen from others who had been there.

  96. Shawnie, hold off on the personal attacks please. You weaken whatever case you might have had by calling others “toddlers” or “obtuse”.

  97. Seriously, if you represent the best that religion has to offer, I’m losing my religion.(yeah, cue the R.E.M if you insist).

  98. LOL! My religion has been pronounced “crumbling” by someone ever since the first century AD, and it will be around long after all the “stop-discussing-and-look-at-me” trolls around here are six feet under and all done with disrupting conversations by usurping other people’s names to make meaningless comments. THAT is the main kind of “personal attack” that is rampant around here, and yes it IS very “telling.”

  99. “Religion” offers nothing. Jesus offers the best — Himself.

  100. Oh? You consider posting disruptive comments under other people’s names an “adult” activity?

  101. Perhaps, also, Ben’s immediate seizure of the troll’s fraudulent comment to slip in a tired jibe about Frank’s sexuality makes his “case” in some way.

  102. Uh, no. The point is, God doesn’t offer people, because we are hopelessly corrupt in and of ourselves (the whole point behind the sermon on the mount). He offers Himself. The Light came into the world, and men preferred the darkness.

  103. I hope I HAVE called some attention to the nonsense that’s allowed to go on around here. RNS has the potential to be a serious and intelligent discusion forum but that can’t happen with people (or more likely, one person) going around pranking instead of.making real contributions. It’s irritating to those who know better, and misleading and diversionary to those who don’t.

  104. So your perfect god made us badly corrupt and then needed to sacrifice himself to fix us but it wasn’t a sacrifice because he lived afterward, and then he’ll be back soon in a few thousand years maybe. Yeah, great point. Sheesh!

  105. “If it is a fact that most people who harbor a certain belief are kooks in other respects, there’s nothing wrong in saying so.”

    Actually there is, if you are doing so to automatically dismiss their views without bothering to show why they lack merit. Which is precisely what an ad hominem argument is.

    Its exactly this kind of laziness which drives more “improbable conspiracy theories”. Instead of trying to tar and feather opponents with labels and insults, try supporting a claim on the merits and facts instead. This way you can be taken seriously.

    Right now all I see is someone who doesn’t understand the rhetorical fallacy they are employing.

  106. Unless you are a theologian or just a religious believer who has a problem understanding the nature of faith. Then evidence of Jesus as a historical figure gets conflated to proof of miraculous claims and support for religious beliefs. Actual historians and archaeologists wouldn’t do such a thing. The “Biblical” variants of such fields do so on a regular basis.

    If it wasn’t, you would not be chiming in so vociferously to denounce and denigrate those claiming Jesus was purely mythical. Especially since evidence of the historicity of Jesus will probably never be found to any objectively credible degree.

  107. Sorry, “Philip,” but repeating a charge is not the same thing as proving it.

    Nice try, though.

  108. Ad Hominem Jack, your record above proves what you are charged with.

    Ad Hominem Jack, so you will now be called here until you repent of your insulting ways, Christian!

    Cheer up, Ad Hominem Jack. There’s hope that you can. Smile! Don’t be so insulting next time. You’ll feel better too.

  109. Ad Hominem Jack insults again. No one is surprised by Ad Hominem Jack and his inability to understand a basic fallacy.

    Come on, smile, Ad Hominem Jack, and tone down on the insults. Have someone tickle you or hug you or something. You obviously need it.

  110. So would the throwing around of “fallacies” by people who don’t understand them in the least in order to shut down discussion that they don’t like. When it comes to insults around here, Jack is far from the worst offender.

    You plunged right in with the “ad hom” business because Jack echoed Ehrman’s comments quoted in the article. Do you have a problem with Dr. Ehrman’s position? Here’s an idea — instead of simply yelling shut up, how about presenting a counter position and defending it?

  111. Re: “So you’re addressing a problem that doesn’t exist and preaching to a choir that includes pretty much everybody — from Christians to atheists and everybody in between.”

    Actually … no I’m not. Reality is that a lot of Christians (whether they’re “scholars” or not is irrelevant) misconstrue the notion of a “historical Jesus” as total, 100% confirmation of the “gospel Jesus” they believe in. “Scholars” have not done a very good job of disabusing them of this notion (probably because they won’t want to hear it and would just get mad at them over it).

    And let’s face it, there are a lot of Christians who think their belief in Jesus is a scholarly credential entitling them to declare that Jesus must have existed. That they have no sheepskins or published journal articles to show they actually understand the discipline of history and can apply it to the problem of Jesus’ historicity, is something they more or less don’t give a crap about. They believe, therefore, Jesus lived … and for them, that’s the end of the matter.

  112. Re: “The words that Yeshua spoke, His actions, are unique.”

    Not so. Jesus changing water into wine (i.e. the Cana miracle) had also been said of the Greek god Dionysius.

    Not “unique” at all.

  113. “There is no record of an Empire-wide “census” or registration around that time. ”

    On the contrary, there are references to many censuses, three of them occurring during the reign of Augustus. Including a special one that coincided with an event Augustus himself wrote about: “While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country” Orosius later tells us that a census was held when Augustus was made “the first of men” at a time when all the great nations gave an oath of obedience to Augustus, and dated this registration to 3 BC. Josephus mentions the same event in Antiquities of the Jews 17:42: “Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their goodwill to Caesar, and to the king’s government, these very men [the Pharisees] did not swear, being above six thousand…and the king imposed a fine upon them…”

    “Furthermore, it is ludicrous to think that any such census would have required people to return to the place of their birth. What would be the purpose of that?”

    Obviously, for the purpose of later assessing inheritance tax upon family lands, which by Jewish custom were not permanently transferable.

    And in fact, it is known that in the Egyptian portion of the empire, at least, people returned home for censuses: “From the Prefect of Egypt, Gaius Vibius Maximus. Being that the time has come for the house to house census, it is mandatory that all men who are living outside of their districts return to their own homelands, that the census may be carried out …” (AD 104). There is no reason to think it would have been different in Judea.

  114. Shawnie, those accusations of Jack re him posting fallacies look to be accurate and quite obviously supported by the content of several of his posts.

    Furthermore, the primary person in the comments above who seems to be yelling anything close to “shut up” is actually yourself. Time for you to take a long hard look in the mirror.

    Go get a holiday hug from someone to cheer you up. You badly need one.

  115. Shawnie, those accusations of Jack re him posting fallacies look to be accurate and quite obviously supported by the content of several of his posts.

    Furthermore, the primary person in the comments above who seems to be yelling anything close to “shut up” is actually yourself. Time for you to take a long hard look in the mirror.

    Go get a holiday hug from someone now to cheer you up. You badly need one.

  116. Fallacies like that most Jesus-mythers tend not to be serious academecians, and are far afield of the nearly unanimous scholarly consensus on the subject? That’s not a fallacy– it’s true. Which does not constitute an argument for the historic existence of Jesus, of course, but neither was it presented as such–which is why all this ad hom talk is beside the point and diversionary.

    And unlike many here I NEVER try to silence someone else’s arguments; that defeats the whole purpose of being here. The only instance in which I freely admit to expressing a “shut up” sentiment is toward this person who insists on making a mockery of real discussions by posting fraudulent comments, most of them insulting, under others’ names. Not just here but in many other threads as well.

    Perhaps you find this kind of disruption to be an acceptable activity? Sorry but I don’t. It’s childish and if anything it bolsters the position of those attacked-at least to those bright enough to see through it. For the others, it’s just confusing

  117. Shawnie, your statements and Jack’s clearly show fundamental misunderstanding of some common fallacies. That points to an obvious subject that you should brush up on.

    Suggesting that an opponent isn’t “bright enough” is part and parcel of the same problem you have, that you have just fallen into again. In flagrante delicto.

    As for “NEVER” try[ing] to silence”, your own shouting therein is yet another kin act to your previous material. Your claimed high ground is soaking wet.

  118. Shawnie, your statements and Jack’s clearly show fundamental misunderstanding of common fallacies. That points to an obvious subject that you should brush up on.

    Suggesting that an opponent isn’t “bright enough” is part and parcel of the same problem you have, that you have just fallen into again. In flagrante delicto.

    As for “NEVER” try[ing] to silence”, your own shouting therein is yet another kin act to your previous material. Your claimed high ground is soaking wet.

  119. Everything was different in Judea. And I mean EVERYTHING. It still isn’t sorted out.

  120. And my statement that some posters aren’t bright enough to see through a fraudulent poster relates to the historicity of Jesus– how?

    A fallacy may not be “false” at all–but it is nonetheless a fallacy if it is offered to prove a proposition to which it is not logically related. Philip obviously did not get it,, and contributed nothing else.

    You have not yet answered about whether or not you consider fraudulent posting to be acceptable. If so, why? If not, why are you defending those who do it?

  121. Oh wow, greaaaaaat rebuttal. Really made a contribution there.

  122. Here’s an umbrella, some rubber boots, and a towel for you, Shawnie.

    Season’s Greetings and a big hug too! Keep on smiling in 2015.

  123. A fallacy is an argument which avoids discussion of the merits of one’s position nor attacks those of an opponent. It is simply an end run around well reasoned and well supported debate. Hence pointing it out is an easy way to shut down a fruitless and fact-free discussion when necessary.

    Flinging one’s r poo, will not endear one to others, nor makes an opponent believe you are an intelligent person worthy of carrying out a discussion.

    Just a reminder, those denying the existence of Jesus are just as shoddy in their scholarship as those who claim he did.

  124. Here’s an umbrella, some rubber boots, and a towel for you, Shawnie.

    Season’s Greetings and a huge hug too! Keep on smiling in 2015 :-).

  125. Cute cut and paste from a source of questionable reliability and obvious confirmation bias. Ernest L. Martin (whose citation you copied without attribution). Martin as a self-proclaimed Christian scholar is not going to be an objective source.

    What you have is an unsupported conclusion that you are pretending has to be taken as an objective fact.

    It is precisely this kind of sloppy work which encourages people to consider Jesus as purely mythical with their own sloppy work.

  126. No they argue about the content of his writings. Not the man’s existence.

  127. 😀

    Firstly, what portion of my post was copied and pasted from this person? And secondly, why are you automatically dismissing their views without bothering to show why they lack merit. Which is precisely what an ad hominem argument is.

    Its exactly this kind of laziness which drives more “improbable conspiracy theories”. Instead of trying to tar and feather opponents with labels and insults, try supporting a claim on the merits and facts instead. This way you can be taken seriously.

    Right now all I see is someone who doesn’t understand the rhetorical fallacy they are employing.

  128. Didn’t think so. Oh well, season’s greetings back’atcha.

  129. Playing dumb will get you nowhere but it is not unexpected. You obviously did not look at the link I sent or are playing the denial game.

    Whatever. I don’t care.

  130. Well, you’re right that I didn’t look at the link because I did not copy or paste from any Ernest L. Martin. Augustus’s words come from Res Gestae 5 which you can easily look up. Josephus is referenced from my own desk copy of his complete works. And the details about the edict of G. Vibius Maximus come from Light From the Ancient Near East by Dr. Adolf Deissman of the University of Berlin — which luckily for you is available online if you wish to learn more.

    “Whatever. I don’t care.”

    Of course you don’t — if it means you have to actually defend your position.

  131. Let them shout out from the highest mountains, let them steal a grand stage, let them catch the fleeting last breath of one that is dying, all to say one thing: the truth is a lie. Let them shout it out over a single martyr’s blood. Or better yet, 70,000,000.

  132. “Philip,” based on your overly broad and erroneous definition of “ad hominem,” you just did it yourself.

  133. Actually, Larry, the problem is that most people insisting Jesus did not exist don’t seem to understand or care to understand how historians normally go about deciding such things. This has been pointed out repeatedly, but to no avail.

  134. “Philip,” I realize you’re excited at having found a new rhetorical toy in the words, “ad hominem,” but before playing with them, you first need to understand what they mean.

  135. Actually, Larry, I’ve discussed repeatedly why the “Jesus-never-existed” view lacks merit. It’s based on turning burden of proof upside down on the question of what constitutes historical evidence. I’ve noted the difference between the normal standard of refutation — presence of material contradiction — and the standard used by the nay sayers — absence of abundant corroboration.

    There is no reason to change the normal rules of evidence when it comes to the existence of Jesus. I’ve said so a zillion times.

  136. If I based my argument on my opinion of the nay sayers, that would amount to ad hominem fallacy. But I don’t. My argument is based on the fact that based on the normal rules of evidence, the burden is on those who claim that a person never existed, not on those who claim the opposite. You can’t suddenly change the rules of the game when the person in question is Jesus.

  137. If anyone is wondering, neither Shawnie nor I paid the poster with the multiple screen names to behave like an unprepared student trying to bluff his way past an exam. He’s doing it all by his lonesome.

  138. Larry, it’s been noted repeatedly that proving Jesus was a historical person doesn’t prove the miraculous claims made about Jesus. I realize you’d feel better if you could find someone who conflates the two, but I’m sorry I can’t help you on this.

  139. PsiCop, nobody denies that in a world of billions of people, somebody somewhere believes that to show Jesus existed is to prove the miracles took place as well. But I see no signs that conflating the two is anything like a common occurrence. I don’t know anyone who does so.

  140. Carol, “second death” does make sense if there is life after death. It does not make sense if there isn’t.

    You are assuming to know for a fact that there isn’t.

  141. Ian, but you’re misapplying that fallacy to the post. I was not appealing to a slippery slope. I was countering an absolutist assumption that all appeals to authority were worthless. I was pointing out that all means all. Reread the post and see.

  142. Interesting, Shawnie. Without God, all things become permissible, to paraphrase Dostoevsky.

  143. Ravi, you’re misunderstanding what an “ad hominem” fallacy means. There are plenty of negative assessments of other people posted on any message board. They only become an ad hominem logical fallacy when they are deployed specifically to refute a person’s position as opposed to being there for some other reason, such as to explain why someone would arrive at a conclusion that has already been refuted handily.

    For example, to point out that 9/11 truthers are gullible about conspiracy theories is not to commit an ad hominem fallacy, especially if preceded by a refutation of the content of what the truthers are saying. It is simply to explain why, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, they still cling on to a discredited theory.

  144. Larry, your statement that “those denying the existence of Jesus are as shoddy in their scholarship as those who claim he did” sounds nice, but presumes an equivalence that really isn’t there.

    It presumes that both sides shoulder a roughly equal burden of proof. Again, that’s not how historians normally evaluate texts. If a person is mentioned in a text, that person is presumed to exist unless there is something in or about the text, or some information we already have outside the text, which would call the person’s existence into question. Examples would include evidence that the writer intended to write fiction rather than history, evidence of material contradictions or of contemporaneous texts written by others which call it into direct question, etc. So long as no such problems arise, the assumption is that the person exists.

  145. What would really help would be for people to refrain from hijacking other people’s names. But I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

  146. Marianne, you would be very hard-pressed to find a scholar anywhere who would commit that glaring of an error in thinking. It’s far too obvious of a blunder.

  147. Thanks, shawnie. Have you ever been to Judea? It’s pretty cool but you have to be careful of the People’s Front.

  148. Ad Hominem Jack is back! Let’s see how long it take for him to start insulting…

  149. Do you have a real contribution to make, Philip? Like some information or original insight that debuts Jack’s position about the standard method of appraising historical document and their contents (which is pretty sound) or some statistics about the number and proportion of scholars who are Jesus-mythers that would refute Dr. Ehrman’s point about their extreme scarcity in academia?

  150. Obviously fraudulent posting becomes permissible, at least.

  151. Among all the non-fallacies being thrown around here, finally we have a real one–the straw man. That is, rather than addressing the actual argument, you set up an argument that your opponent is NOT making and attack that instead. In flagrante delicto, as Ravi might say if he/she really cared about fallacies.

  152. Jack, your early comments here will serve as a history that others can form conclusions on, re certain fallacies. I think the arguments there have reached the point of “nuff said”.

    What I am pleased to see is that your tone and your knowledge of fallacies has improved in the discourse since. You’ll likely be taking what you’ve learned here on that subject forward, and that should improve your communication, and possibly your critical thinking, for use on this blog and elsewhere in your life. That’s great to see. As my colleague Stephen Pinker said far more eloquently, often the best learning comes not to the audience, but to the speaker.

    I do hope that you take your newly found knowledge and critical thinking skills forward to the rest of your life.

    Season’s Greetings!

  153. Ad Hominem Jack is on the attack! We aren’t exactly trembling.

  154. Ad Hominem Jack you are weaving and bobbing but denial doesn’t change what you said.

  155. No. It’s false. You and Ad Hominem Jack make a great couple.

  156. Ad Hominem Jack is slip sliding away down that slope. Slip sliding away…

  157. I was referring to Larry’s fallacy, not Jack’s. Learn to read.

  158. No Jack, you just hold Biblical scholarship to a lower standard of evidence and proof than any other subject. Exactly the kind of poor forms of proof which invite criticism and attack. You have shown in the past that you have no idea how legitimate historical research and conclusions are made. This is just more of the same.

    The fact that you are presuming a prior already pegs methods as sloppy, and weak from an objective point of view. Its telling you have to attack all methods of objective proof and burdens of production to bolster your claims. You are too afraid to leave a question open due to lack of evidence.

    Lets make this simple. No evidence = no proof = no supportable conclusion.

    Those making the claim have the burden to produce evidence to support it. Asking someone to disprove an assumption is not proper support of a claim.

    The proof for the existence of jesus is as weak as those trying to disprove it. Evidence is lacking to support either conclusion. Evidence is unlikely to exist to support either conclusion.

  159. Nobody proves he exists either. Especially since those who believe in Jesus as a religious figure do so through faith, not evidence.

    Your religious belief and faith do not permit you to give an honest reflection of the objective and credible evidence on the subject. Those affirming and those denying the existence of Jesus do so with shoddy methods, assumptions and selective interpretation of what little evidence exists.

    PsiCop had you pegged.

    “They believe, therefore, Jesus lived … and for them, that’s the end of the matter.”

    After all that is the argument you are employing here.

  160. Except you can’t prove he is a historical figure, and your support of such a contention is precisely to support the miraculous claims associated with him. Because you believe he is the son of God and want to give your religious belief a patina of objective credibility.

  161. “Except you can’t prove he is a historical figure, and your support of such a contention is precisely to support the miraculous claims associated with him. ”

    Dr. Ehrman supports the historicity of Jesus (as do almost all historians), and he has no interest whatsoever in supporting the miraculous claims associated with Him because he is an atheist (as are many, perhaps most historians). When are you going to stop trying to tell everyone what they think?

  162. Hey Ravi, BTW, would I be a big old meanie to point out the immaturity of someone who would intrude into a conversation with a thoroughly silly comment like the one three posts above, and attach my name to it?

    I mean, perhaps we don’t want to discourage the atheists around here from revealing their true selves and the quality of their positions in this manner…authenticity above all, of course.

  163. Uh huh. And there’s life after life after life after life.. Jack’s into reincarnation…what a dunce.

  164. It sounds like “Philip” has paper-thin skin….and a propensity to create lots of names for himself.

  165. “Philip,” I don’t picture you “trembling,” but I do picture you dreaming up new names for posting. You have a nice collection already.

  166. “Philip,” I understand why you might think I’m “weaving and bobbing,” given how you’re spinning like a top. Try reading people’s posts in a stationary position and you’ll be glad you did.

  167. Terry, you need to read through a thread before commenting. Otherwise, you’re not going to make much sense.

  168. Larry, read the article again. The question it discusses — whether Jesus existed — is distinct from whether the miracles attributed to him or associated with him happened. And on that first question, the article makes clear that modern scholarship affirms that Jesus existed. That includes skeptics like Bart Ehrmann….

    If you wish to accuse almost the entire scholarly community, ranging from skeptics to believers, of “shoddy” scholarship on the evidence-for-existence question, you’re of course free to do so. But as has been previously noted, the heart of the matter concerns the way burden of proof works on historical questions. You think it should work one way, but the history profession thinks otherwise. And that influences the conclusions scholars reach.

  169. Larry (or Larty — not sure if that was a typo of yours), it’s the other way around. You are asking the history profession to change the rules of the game when it comes to the existence of people mentioned in the Bible. You want the bar raised, but that’s not how historians and other scholars work. The bar remains the same because the methodology is the same. If a name is mentioned in a text, and the text is not an obvious work of fiction, the person is deemed to be real until proven otherwise. If that standard bothers you, take it up with the history profession. But understand that if the standard is to be changed, any new standard cannot be selectively applied to the Bible. It must be applied to other texts as well.

  170. Sorry, Ravi, but I stand by my earlier comment about your confusion between a making a negative personal assessment and committing an ad hominem logical fallacy.

    A negative assessment by itself is no fallacy. It becomes a fallacy only when used to refute the person’s position.

    The bottom line — the one I highlighted from the start — is that the article speaks for itself: Scholars across the board, including Bart Ehrman, a renowned skeptic about miracles associated with Jesus, affirm the historicity of Jesus. Ehrman even said that virtually no scholar disagrees. And there’s no way to spin that into a complimentary nod to Jesus-deniers.

    If you dispute that conclusion, your ultimate argument is with the overwhelming scholarly consensus cited in the article. In that case, you should explain why and how you disagree with that consensus.

  171. The article’s title and occasional turns of phrase try to humor the Jesus-deniers, but the actual gist of it relays the overwhelming scholarly consensus that Jesus was a real person. More than 200 posts later, the verdict remains.

  172. Larry, again, it comes down to what constitutes refutation of a claim about someone’s existence in the past. Is it the absence of corroboration or the presence of contradiction? That simple question is the heart of the whole matter.

    From believers to skeptics, scholars embrace the “presence-of-contradiction” standard. That is why they deem it significant that, as Mykytiuk says, “no ancient person” denied that Jesus existed. Without such denial, the “presence-of-contradiction” standard is not met.

    You are assuming use of an “absence-of-corroboration” standard, but again, that is not how historians and allied scholars work.

  173. The problem, Sid, is that Mark, which scholars believe was the first of the four gospels written, was likely penned before, not after, “the fall of Jerusalem to Rome.” Moreover, the trend over the decades in modern scholarship has been progressively earlier dating of all four of them. Thus even John’s Gospel, the latest gospel, was very likely written in the first century, partly since a copy of a manuscript fragment of it was discovered which was dated approximately 110 AD, and partly since the writer’s knowledge of pre-70 AD Judea and Galilee is rich and extensive.

  174. Shawnie5, you punctured a fragile ego who couldn’t stand being knocked silly again by an intellectually superior woman, so he responded predictably, by stealing your name.

  175. Mike, according to the article, it’s not even close when it comes to a scholarly verdict — the overwhelming majority of scholars say he existed. Renowned skeptic Bart Ehrman is even quoted in the piece as saying that, given the evidence, to assert otherwise is “ridiculous.”

  176. “You may think it should work one way…”

    Well, only if that leads to a conclusion she doesn’t like. Otherwise she’s as good with historians’ standard methods as she is with anything else, since she doesn’t grasp any of it very well anyway.

    The depressing truth of the matter is, these guys are not about getting to the facts but about getting to the desired conclusion, true or false, and persuading as many people as possible. Which is, of course, what propaganda is all about.

  177. Re: “But I see no signs that conflating the two is anything like a common occurrence. I don’t know anyone who does so.”

    Actually I know plenty of Christians who think this way. They’re also the same people who think that speculations about some kind of regional flood, such as in the Black Sea basin, account for the story of Noah’s flood, somehow magically means the Genesis tale is “true.” Or that someone can show there was a conjunction of two planets around the time Jesus supposedly was born, somehow magically means the Nativity tale with its “star of Bethlehem,” is “true.”

    You can’t be serious, claiming no Christians you know of think this way. Lots of them do. All you need to do is be honest and admit it’s the case. Denying it is laughable, and doesn’t serve you well at all. Ignorant, foolish Christians who think this way don’t deserve your defense of them. So don’t oblige them any more.

  178. Ad Hominem Jack, your record above proves what you are charged with.

    Ad Hominem Jack, so you will now be called here until you repent of your insulting ways, Christian!

  179. Note the response of “Philip,” the man of many names, to shawnie5’s name being stolen.

  180. PsiCop, I don’t know of any Christians who don’t understand the difference between the affirmation of Jesus’ existence and the affirmation of the claims made about miracles and his divinity. Obviously, to show someone’s divinity, one has to show they exist, but people understand that existence does not prove divinity. I exist and am hardly divine.

  181. Ad Hominem Jack, your record here proves what you are charged with.

    Ad Hominem Jack, so you will be called here until you repent of your insulting ways, Christian!

  182. Ad Hominem Jack is what you will be called here until you repent of your insulting ways, Christian!

  183. There is no evidence for Marco Polo with his travels and life only being chronicled by the jailed prisoner Rustichello of Pisa. Polo does not exist in the Chinese historical records as it would if he was advising the upper echelons of aristocracy and his story details people in distant lands without mid-sections. Polo is most probably an invention of Rustichello of Pisa and pure fiction.

  184. Diego Dan, if you’re going to criticize someone’s views, the first rule is to state them accurately. No Christian believes that God created humanity “badly corrupt,” nor does the Bible teach this view.

  185. Shawnie, I suppose he thinks he’s making a contribution by stealing your name and posting misogynistic messages.

  186. Jack you can not know what every Christian believes and you do not speak for me. It is arrogant and wrong of you to claim that you know what every Christian believes on this topic.

  187. You had me going there until I read your last line. Good one.

  188. You are definitely guilty of some nasty insults Jack. Doesn’t seem a good Christian way.

  189. Your earlier post does appear to show you making that blunder Jack. I’d agree with Terry.
    Try avoiding such blanket statements as “no ___________ said” -that might help you.

  190. Looks like the argument seems to be shifting from none-ness to scarcity. That’s more realistic.

  191. Not really. The consensus was that Jesus might have existed but wasn’t divine and wasn’t divine in origin.

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