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Skeptics Desperately Try To Deny Jesus Ever Existed Despite Ancient Secular Historical Records

Edit: I ought to give credit where it's due, and THANK, Mohusk, for his multiple challenges on this very topic! If not for his repeated, stoic insistence that no secular proof of Jesus' existence could be brought forth, I probably wouldn't have searched enough to find this video, though I've heard and read parts of these historical records over the years I've dealt with these subjects. I know some think this is purely a religious subject, but actually it's about how we deal with historical records of any person or events of the past. Either we insert and maintain our prejudicial views, or else we acknowledge consistent, proven methods of confirming historical facts, and then deal with those facts fairly. Here just one of several challenges:

"Submitted by Mohusk on Sun, 12/29/2013 - 13:06. Permalink

I only have one challenge for your uncanny knowledge of hidden things no one has ever seen or that actually exist outside of doctored photos and fake website information.

Please provide just one or two non-Biblical pieces of evidence that Jesus/Yeshua actually lived. And no, the Josephus forgery does not count. Nor do the Dead Sea Scrolls - while not Biblical, they are religious texts."

Skeptics, please help Mohusk out here. I haven't heard from him for several days now since posting this video in my reply.

-------

This video is a presentation of the evidence for the existence of Jesus. It uses only non- biblical sources and goes through the skeptical arguments for each claim. It will be surprising for some to see how much evidence for the historicity of Jesus there actually is, in fact there is more evidence for Jesus' existence, as you will see, than there is for most of the prominent figures in ancient history. *Warning* Watching this video will take away your ability to claim honestly that Jesus was a myth.



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But there is no obvious sign

Of tampering where you need it most, our oldest manuscripts.

"doesn't mean it was not modified. In fact, historically, it is guaranteed."

It's not my job to prove it wasn't modified. It's my job to show that it is regular on the face, and there is no OBVIOUS SIGN of alteration.

And I can do that. Have a look at Codex Siniaticus. You will find at least four eye witness testimonies there. Those may or may not be the oldest extant manuscripts, but it a good place to start working back.

"there is no compelling reason to believe it is factual testimony of any kind"

Except that is what it says. And we typically take ancient documents at face value with few exceptions, regardless of whether or not they were copied by hand.

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Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

In principle...

In principle, original texts can be plausibly reconstructed through an understanding of textual families and textual criticism. Textual families can be compared to trace the development of textual accretions and such in particular families, giving insight to the original text of an unavailable autograph.

Textual Criticism...

of course is useful. Insight yes, confirmation that there have been no alterations, no.

Plausibility yes, absolute confirmation not necessary.

Plausibility yes, absolute confirmation not necessary. Sufficient reason to believe something is more important than perfect knowledge. With the Bible, the nature of it's early dispersal is relevant, in that it's copying wasn't regulated. It went out in every direction early on. The fact that there are different directions of transmission into different locations, groups, languages, etc. leads to textual families which makes alterations easily pinpointed, so the exceptional abundance of early unregulated manuscripts provides a good picture of the original, better than other documents from that era. With a reasonable sense of what is original, you would need a justifiable reason to believe that some other alteration is not accounted for in the textual critical assessments of the textual families. Even critics like Bart Ehrman acknowledge that the original autographs contain basically the same stuff that we have today.

Affirmation of...

...plausability is different from authentication, which is what the commenter was proposing when I responded to him up top. You have said yourself elsewhere, that the devil is in the details. A plausible reconstruction may capture a broad picture of what is advanced as true, but some very small fragments with only a few small parts have been earth-changing, in some cases. So it DOES matter that we do not have the autographs by which to be certain. The gnostic writings were also extant, early on, and just as plausible on textual criteria as any of the others. Of course, much of those textual traditions were destroyed and stamped out after the orthodoxy "won" so we don't have as much from them -- though early fathers of the church did quote from them, so they were certainly known -- and part of the tapestry of the chrisitan development right along with the rest. Ehrman's arguments on the early documents are weak and contradictory. We simply cannot, with intellectual and historical integrity, claim to have authenticated anything, regardless of how plausible. The plausibility is why more scholars are in favor of historical jesus than are mythicists. But the mythicists have not been purely debunked by the evidence. This is just the nature of what we are dealing with and so the decision to believe continues to be largely a final act of faith which is supported generally but not without question.

.

Your demand for absolute certainty seems unreasonable to me, particularly when you use the destruction and loss of gnostic texts as part of why you equate their reliability with that of a massively more available and testable text. It seems like a double standard. Nothing has really been earth changing in biblical finds as far as tenacity is concerned. Even the differences between Byzantine and Alexandrian manuscripts are theologically unimportant.

wolfe's picture

Funny.

Your "criteria" for testing the truthfulness of documents as applied to religious texts is insane.

That would make every major religion in the history of mankind true. Everything from the Greek gods, to Islam, Celtic gods, Norse Gods, Egyptian gods, Mormonism, etc etc.

By your logic, all religions are true and should be taken at face value. Ignoring the very real, nefarious, motivation of these documents as controlling the people.

In addition, these are hardly even close to first hand accounts. The "gospels" were stories re-told and re-told and eventually written down by people who never even knew the original story teller. (With few exceptions).

Further complicated by the fact that numerous political influences have occurred over the years to both modify the gospels, exclude some, and to include only those approved by the specific ruling class at the time.

Paul had a great deal of motivation to control the narrative and what people believed. Initially starting off persecuting Christians, and then discovering that it was easier and more profitable to control them and bend them to his will. If you read the Bible without Paul's writings, it becomes a VERY different religion in almost 100% contradiction with Paul's writings. Paul was responsible for a great many of the contradictions that exist. Paul was the pro-state version of Joseph Smith.

Even further complicated by the translations which were heavily influenced by personal interpretation.

Lastly, the idea of a -LITERAL- interpretation of the Bible is very young and by no means stretches back to their original creation. Back then, the texts were meant to teach life lessons and wisdom as well as hidden communication with each other and NOT to be interpreted literally.

Therefore, there is a motivation for lying (political control of the people).

There is not a valid cause to believe the truthfulness (unless you believe all religions, including the Gnostic variations of Christianity) and ignore the fact that many at the time did not believe the literal interpretation of them.

And there is PROOF of tampering.

And the only explanation that I have ever heard from Christians on the above subjects is that "God wouldn't allow his work to be deviated from beyond what he wanted" which is insanely circular logic. You almost have to be mentally unstable to use this kind of circular logic with a straight face.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

That's not my criteria

It's the Federal Rules of Evidence. That's not an appeal to authority, it's just a fact.

"By your logic, all religions are true and should be taken at face value. "

What does religion have to do with this topic? We are talking about the existence of one man. Period. Let's limit the rabbit trails here.

To establish the fact, we need witnesses. Two should do it. Three would be better.

"The "gospels" were stories re-told and re-told"

I never mentioned the gospels. The documents I mentioned were Peter, James, Jude, and Revelation. Is there any evidence that these were "re-told and re-told"? I'm pretty sure copies are not hearsay.

"And there is PROOF of tampering"

Do you mind sharing? Is there proof the quotes I provided were tampered with? There may be, I just don't know yet.

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Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

wolfe's picture

Wow.

"What does religion have to do with this topic? We are talking about the existence of one man. Period. Let's limit the rabbit trails here."

You can't. Applying these rules to historical religious (of almost all historical religions) texts, makes them all valid accounts, and mostly contradictory. Which means that Zues was real too.

"I never mentioned the gospels. The documents I mentioned were Peter, James, Jude, and Revelation. Is there any evidence that these were "re-told and re-told"? I'm pretty sure copies are not hearsay."

Ummm, wow. Yes. There is proof. And yes, repeating a recitation, and hand transcribing do make it hearsay. If someone gave a speech, and that speech were written down by a person, and that person handed me the document and I was told to transcribe it. For use as a testimony of the original speech, yes, that is hearsay.

"Do you mind sharing? Is there proof the quotes I provided were tampered with? There may be, I just don't know yet."

Really? You know nothing of any of the history of the Bible do you? This has happened many times throughout history.

Small example:
http://www.nola.com/religion/index.ssf/2011/03/changes_to_th...

Bigger example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

"Which means that Zues was

"Which means that Zues was real too."

If there are documented eyewitnesses of his existence, then those documents are admissible to establish the fact. Can those documents be copies of the original testimony? Sure.

The examples of tampering you mention come after the oldest manuscripts found to date. What you need is evidence that our oldest manuscripts show obvious signs of tampering.

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Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

wolfe's picture

It is a well established fact that they scribed from...

retold, verbal accounts. The actual authors were anonymous, giving them even less reason to be honest in their tall tales.

No, they can't be admitted as original testimony. Clearly you have never been to court if you believe that would in ANY way be admissible. That is me saying, "Well Tom said that Mary said...". Even worse, it's actually, "Well, I don't who the guy was, but he said that John said he saw a guy come back from the dead." If you ever find a court that would accept that, I would like to see it.

The reason blue ink is routinely used in signing legal documents is precisely to prove that they are originals and not potentially altered copies (though less relevant with modern technology).

Further, using these rules as applied to religious texts is simply insane on it's face because the motive for creating religious texts has clear historical evidence that it used to control and manipulate people, regardless of the religion in question.

If the very people producing the documents had motivation to lie, then it really doesn't matter if they were tampered with.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

I'm seeing no evidence

"Anonymous"

I hope you are not talking about the gospels again. Peter, James, Jude, and Revelation.

"Re-told"

By this do you mean copied?

"That is me saying, "Well Tom said that Mary said..."

No. It is you saying "Here is a copy of John's statement."

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Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

wolfe's picture

So you make the claim to know who wrote these?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation

lol, it is most certainly NOT saying "here is a copy of John's" statement.

The very act of a person copying is retelling and therefore not admissible. Hand write out your credit card contract and tell the judge you copied it verbatim, wait 20 years and see if he admits that into evidence. Let me know how that goes.

In that situation, you have clear motive to lie, as they did. It is hearsay, as that was. The only difference is at least you aren't anonymous. So instead, have a stranger do it for you, and that will be a directly representative analogy.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

The first two words are "I John"

Do you know much about the rules of evidence? I'm pretty new to this, but I'm pretty sure copies are just fine(with some exceptions).

RULE 1003. ADMISSIBILITY OF DUPLICATES
A duplicate is admissible to the same extent as the original unless a genuine question is raised about the original’s authenticity or the circumstances make it unfair to admit the duplicate.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_1003

.

Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

wolfe's picture

I am...

not a lawyer, but have been in business long enough, and have had well more than my share of court battles in various forms.

Duplicates can only be admitted if there is a stipulation by both parties that the content is correct and/or notarized (in other words, external verification). If it is in anyway contested, without third party verification it is thrown out.

In addition to that, these are not "copies" in the same sense of the word. These are "rewrites" since they could not have been copied by any means other than by hand at the time. So they do not qualify as copies, but even if they did, would require third party verification.

The idea that an old document could be considered "authenticated" by it's mere presence/untampered only means the following two things: That it could be accurate in the sense that it wasn't forged, not that it's contents are true. And second, that given the situation and the lack of motive for someone 20 years ago to effect a court case today, that there is little to no reason for the document to be a lie.

However, there was ample motive for the lie to have existed at the time which negates the second. And the first is negated by the fact that it was not an original by a named author.

Now, as for the rest....

I, John, here do by pledge that I saw a Kraken rise up and destroy 20 ships.

Wow. Not legit, is it? Even less so if you hand write that and call that copy of what I just said evidence.

Lastly, you presume to know authoriship, which no one else claims knowledge of. There are theories, but nothing more.

Edit: One more thing. Courts are NOT designed to produce the absolute truth. They are designed to resolve conflict in the fairest way possible. This whole notion of trying to use legal rules to determine truth is really a snark hunt.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Modern...

facsimile copies made ostensibly by a photograph (copy machine)are completely different than the copies we are talking about here, and in many cases the original can be produced for comparison. There is good reason to suspect problems with these documents since scholarship has already demonstrated there are falsehoods in them by virtue of false authorship attributions and more. It will not work to keep trying to apply admissibility rules of the modern court to these ancient docs. The provenance of any of them cannot be soundly demonstrated as with modern-era documents.

Greenleaf had specifically pointed out ...

Greenleaf had specifically pointed out how this criteria did not apply to things like Mormonism and Islam:

" They are found in familiar use in all the churches of Christendom, as the sacred books to which all denominations of Christians refer, as the standard of their faith. There is no pretense that they were engraved on plates of gold and discovered in a cave, nor that they were brought from heaven by angels; but they are received as the plain narratives and writings of the men whose names they respectively bear, made public at the time they were written; and though there are some slight discrepancies among the copies subsequently made, there is no pretense that the originals are lost, and that copies alone are now produced, the principles of the municipal law here also afford a satisfactory answer. For the multiplication of copies was a public fact, in the faithfulness of which all the Christian community had an interest; "
- from "Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf"

If you read the rest of Greenleaf's writings, perhaps some of your other objections will be answered as well.

clarification:

Re: "Greenleaf had specifically pointed out how this criteria did not apply to things like Mormonism and Islam:"

Sorry, the way I said that was not coming out as what I was thinking at the time. What I meant was that he pointed out how the criteria did not help things like Mormonism and Islam:" The content of the quote should show that he 'applied' the same criteria to them, but they failed to meet it.

There is...

...pretense that these were inspired by and revealed from god. Scholarship has long since understood that the writings are in many instances not those of the men whose names they bear, the originals are lost, and the copies and copies of copies have many many discrepancies. And there were numerous books "widely" used in "christendom" that did not make it into the final orthodox canon, which also included books that are not included in other canons within christendom (catholic bible diff. than protestant). "the faithfulness of which all the Christian community had an interest..." All I can say to Greenleaf is, "I have a bridge..."

The idea of inspiration does not conflict...

The idea of inspiration does not conflict with the idea that the bible texts are the plain narratives and writings of men. Inspiration does not have to be a miraculous event. Humans can inspire others to write things. It's not as if the apostles went into a trance while they were writing. They used the normal means of communicating historical events, including the use of historical research, involving regular use of sources as was seen in the first couple of verses of Luke. Your challenge misses Greenleaf's point entirely. With regards to transmission of scripture, scholarship has long understood that what he have today is basically the same as the originals. The vast majority of discrepancies are inconsequential. Most are spelling differences, and inconsequential word order issues involving Greek word endings distinguishing things in Greek which English would use word order to distinguish. The variants are well documented, and textual critical methods can tell us about the originals. The two main variants don't offer much in the way of theological impact either, as much of the content was restated in other words elsewhere. The apocryphal books are sort of irrelevant as they were not canonized by the Roman Catholic church until after the protestant reformation, and the Jews never considered them scripture. Just because a book was 'used' doesn't mean that anyone considered it authoritative in the same way as scripture. Many Christians today will 'use' books like Schaffs history of the Christian Church, or the writings of the church fathers, but that doesn't mean they are considered scripture. There is some question of authorship here and there as some books don't say who wrote them within them, but oral tradition explaining the origins is not entirely worthless and shouldn't just be dismissed. Also, many of the authorship questions are based on faulty logic which assumes that a single person can not use more than one writing style.

wolfe's picture

So...

He has a reason that the very rules he said were objective enough to be used to validate Christianity, could not be used to objectively do the same for others?

Twisted, self serving, circular logic. Re-read my post in its entirety and you will see why it is not possible to "explain away" my objections without resorting to the "but we're special" argument so routinely used by Christians.

Note: I was once a Christian. Quite likely the ONLY one on these boards that has ever ACTUALLY read the -entire- Bible many times. As well as having done the additional research into origins, translations, original intent, etc etc.

I became an atheist when I decided to read the Bible without using the assumption that "god" was good. What I discovered was a god that I didn't like or respect, or who even existed.

Most people who REALLY study the Bible come to the same conclusion, including far more religious leaders than you realize.

Much later, I began to see the harmful effects that it has on people and society, which is when I started actually talking to people about my beliefs. And having the background that I have, I have reached many. But, these days, I generally avoid the discussions except in cases where I see insane twisting of logic and reason, and I can't help myself.

If you want to "believe", that is 100% your right, and you may be a better person for it (though unlikely). But delving into logic and reason to try and "prove" any of it, is silly and requires so many logical fallacies and twisting of evidence as to turn you into a liar, even if just to yourself.

I am not lukewarm.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

huh?

Re:"He has a reason that the very rules he said were objective enough to be used to validate Christianity, could not be used to objectively do the same for others? Twisted, self serving, circular logic."

His criteria was made prior to his belief in Christianity. He wrote the books that the courts used in determining the validity of evidence before he was Christian. Then he was asked to apply his rules to Christianity and became Christian as a result. How is that self serving circularity? He gave reasons why his criteria didn't apply to the situations in Mormonism and Islam, he didn't just disqualify them arbitrarily.

Re: "it is not possible to "explain away" my objections"

The infallible atheist clergy are at it again, proud as ever. Thinking they are really something and that nobody can possibly know better than them.

Re:" I was once a Christian. Quite likely the ONLY one on these boards that has every ACTUALLY read the -entire- Bible many times. As well as having done the additional research into origins, translations, original intent, etc etc."

More pride. But most certainly false. It's really not an uncommon thing for people to have read the entire bible multiple times. It's kind of an obligation for Christians because of what Jesus said in Matthew 4:4

wolfe's picture

lol.

"The infallible atheist clergy are at it again, proud as ever. Thinking they are really something and that nobody can possibly know better than them."

I never said that. I said you can't use an objective set of criteria to analyze one thing, and then change the rules for another and call that reasonable. Can you? But that is what you do.

"More pride. But most certainly false. It's really not an uncommon thing for people to have read the entire bible multiple times."

So your response is to call me a liar? I have met thousands of Christians over my lifetime, and relatively few outside clergy, preachers, etc who have ever claimed to have read it. And those that have, including clergy, usually admit their personal beliefs, quietly. Most people stick to the "important" bits, and completely ignore the rest, and NEVER read it from cover to cover.

You presume to judge over me and call me a liar? And despite your judgment, pride is a sin in your religion, not an actual character flaw. Very common traits in practitioners of a religion that tells you not to do so. If you can dispute my points, do so.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Re:" I never said that."

Re:" I never said that."

You said what I quoted, and I gave my commentary of a common thread I've seen from several atheists. My point is to show the unreasonableness of those who say it is impossible to counter their presentations. Your words speak for themselves.

Re:"So your response is to call me a liar?"

I wasn't commenting on your knowledge of your error, just that fact that you are wrong. It is not likely at all that you are the only one here who has read the entire bible from cover to cover several times, because I already know I've done that, and I'm here. I'm simply saying I have personal knowledge that your claim is false. And I don't think it's an exceptional thing to have done that. Perhaps your perception of the scope of Christianity is different from mine. I wouldn't expect nominal Christians to have read much, but I wouldn't really consider nominalism or lip service to Christianity to be considered Christianity either.

wolfe's picture

Except...

That a sampling of thousands is considered statistically relevant, while your response of, "Well, I have." is not. I have no reason to believe you are not telling the truth but hardly counters my statement factually. The odds that anyone here has actually read the entire thing, especially the zealots is quite slim.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/americans-love-the-...

And that study is just about the "important" bits. Not even about having read the whole thing.

Google it. You will find MANY references like this one that support my statement and contradict you.

http://www.christianity.com/1270946/

Your response to my logic and reasoning was to effectively say, "But I don't like that outcome, so let me show you how I can twist the logic to make it say what I want it to."

In order to counter my arguments you would have to supply facts or logic that can be agreed to negate mine. You have not done so, nor even attempted to beyond the "we're special" argument.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

I think you are missing my point.

I think you are missing my point.

You said: "Quite likely the ONLY one on these boards that has every ACTUALLY read the -entire- Bible many times. "

And I am saying it is not quite likely at all that you are the "ONLY" one, when I have direct knowledge of at least one other person. How likely is it that there is only one person in a room with 2 or more people? So what you said is obviously false. Any study showing trends elsewhere is irrelevant to the fact that you are wrong here.

wolfe's picture

We are not a room of 2...

We are a room of hundreds at least, possibly thousands if you count actual readers.

I did not say guaranteed, I said, "quite likely". Which it is. And if you are telling the truth, then it is -even more- likely that we are the only two.

You do understand statistics, correct?

Further, you still avoid all of my initial points without attempting to address them, and get caught up on something entirely irrelevant to my points and was a -personal aside- to the original topic.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

irrelivant

Again, how likely is it that there is only one person in a room of 2 or more people? I'm not saying there are only 2 people here, I'm saying that if you read the Bible the way you said you did, then there are at least two people who read it like that here. It doesn't matter how many more people are in the room. If it's established that there are 2 that have read in the room, then the likelihood that there is only 1 is zero.

wolfe's picture

lol...

So you really don't understand statistics do you? 2 is not a statistically valid sampling, especially if self-selected.

In addition to that, this isn't anonymous polling in the sense that we both have a vested interest in credibility during these discussions and so it is quite possible that one or both of us is lying. Since neither of us can know for sure the other is being honest about personal experience. I know I am not lying, and will agree to stipulate to your honesty in the matter, so accept 2 as a tentative fact. But, in an open discussion like this, it is not reasonable to expect everyone to be honest when they have an interest in the outcome.

If we go by your logic on statistics, then it could be said that 50% of those who read the Bible fully became atheist with Buddhist leanings. Two self-selected individuals in an open discussion is NOT statistically important, and it feels a little silly that I even have to explain that.

And, once again, if you would like to discuss my -actual- points instead of my offering up of a -personal experience-, then please do. Otherwise, this conversation has reached a conclusion.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

This is simply a matter of logic.

This is simply a matter of logic.

I understand that in your mind it seemed likely, But it's as much of an impossibility for 2 people to be present in a room of only 1 person as it would be for 2 million people to be in a room of only 1 million. Impossibilities are by definition not likely. And I know that given your premise, your claim is false. You have a point that you could be telling a lie about having read, but then your presentation would be compromised, so in one way or another your presentation is wrong from my perspective.