On the quest for the historical Jesus


Here is a challenge on the question of the historicity of the Jeebus character.

Some time in the past when we had this debate, some theists, I recall argued that even atheist scholars agree that Jesus existed. I am not calling to question their scholarship qualifications, what I want us to agree on is which Jesus do they agree existed?

1. Do the atheists believe there was a Jesus son of a god and woman?

2. Do they believe that the accounts given in the gospels and letters of Paul are valid biographies?

3. Do they believe the Jesus fellow levitated at a later point to heaven wherever this is located?

If the Jesus they believe to have existed is not the above, then my question is why not just take the mythicist position? I think it is a consistent position. I agree with Carrier and those like him who reasonably say Jesus did not exist.

If anyone has evidence that my position is not warranted, I open to a demonstration of the same and I will gladly add Jesus to the list of eminent persons who have graced the planet with their presence and are now long dead.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

189 thoughts on “On the quest for the historical Jesus

  1. BJ says:

    So, to understand your position, you are conceding that an individual named Jesus existed in first century Palestine but you argue that this man is a far different person than the Christ of faith. Is this correct?

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    • makagutu says:

      No, I haven’t said that.

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      • BJ says:

        My apologies. I guess it is the “atheist scholars” from previous debate whose scholarship you are not calling into question who have acknowledged that there was a historical Jesus and it is your stance that the Jesus “they” acknowledge existed (which you do not argue) is not the same Jesus of the gospels which Christians believe. Is that a more accurate understanding of what you are saying?

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        • makagutu says:

          I wasn’t clear, my apologies.
          I mean to say not their qualifications. I will edit that shortly

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        • makagutu says:

          And I have stated my position clearly towards the end that I take the mythicist position with Carrier that Jesus did not exist

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          • BJ says:

            So you are not calling into question their qualifications as scholars but you are disagreeing with the findings of their scholarship, namely that a historical person named Jesus existed? Are you in essence saying, “you are very intelligent and well studied on this subject, but you are wrong.” Is that what you mean in changing “scholarship” to “qualifications”

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            • makagutu says:

              Why are we dealing with side issues?
              My question is do you have answers to the questions I have asked? Do you have any evidence that a Jesus existed and if yes what type of person was he? Are you in a position to do a biographical sketch?

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              • BJ says:

                Before a dialogue can begin there has to be a foundation of solid understanding. It isn’t a side issue and you continue to evade it. There are scholars who do come from a non Christian framework who have acknowledged a person named Jesus existed. What is your stance on this? Why do you evade answering? Once this is cleared up we can go on from there but until it is there is no point in going further. I’m at work now so I might not be able to respond eagerly but I am eagerly waiting for a clear answer given without evasion.

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                • makagutu says:

                  I haven’t evaded answering your question. You asked me if I consider the scholars wrong on their conclusions? If the Jesus they say existed did not walk on water, raise the dead, born of a virgin and so on, the fellow they are talking about is not the same guy worshiped by millions of believers. That is a different personage. And my first question if you noticed was which Jesus are they referring to? Do they mean a person answering to the name Jesus or do they mean the Jesus son of MAry?
                  IS that cleared up?

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                • archaeopteryx1 says:

                  There are scholars who do come from a non Christian framework who have acknowledged a person named Jesus existed.” – As it was a common name at the time, I have no doubt that many Yeshua’s existed, just as many Bob’s exist today.

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            • makagutu says:

              So you don’t think am evading your question; am saying that if they are saying a Jesus existed but he was a mortal, no miracle worker and was obviously no son of a virgin then the fellow they are talking about is not the one described in the gospels. Does that answer your contention?

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                So you are not calling into question their qualifications as scholars but you are disagreeing with the findings of their scholarship, namely that a historical person named Jesus existed?

                BJ – before you launch an all-out attack against Mak, could you be more specific as to what you’re taking about?

                To exactly which biblical scholars are you referring, and upon exactly what evidence is each basing their conclusions?

                Please be specific. Take them one by one, if necessary.

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      • themodernidiot says:

        Haha well you should’ve 😉

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  2. Mordanicus says:

    You address a fundamental issue. But at best we could argue that some historical dude has been the inspiration for the biblical Jesus. Also it is quite possible that multiple person with a similar name are at the base of this figure. Alternatively we could argue that this guy is just the work of a 1st century novelist and his fandom just got out of hand.

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  3. aguywithoutboxers says:

    I can offer no positive proof that such a person existed. Everything that is rumored to prove such is all limited to writings which all espouse a particular belief system. Have a great weekend!

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  4. Where is the bone boxes of guys named Jesus who were not miracle workers. Oh wait, that won’t work…. There was no miracle worker Jesus. To claim so must be done without evidence. The fairy tale ensures that. A real man would have had a shrine.right? The only evidence is the story making the claim.

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    • pinkagendist says:

      Much more than a shrine. The bible talks of someone who was HUGE. Apparently, the Michael Jackson of the 1st century. Or should we say David Blaine?

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      • LOL … Jesus Blaine it is

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      • makagutu says:

        Pink, the funny thing the bible says the dude had a large following and the soldiers had to bribe a fellow to identify him in a crowd and all his friends deserted him at the point when he needed them the most. Curious fellow I must add.

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        • pinkagendist says:

          Exactly. The problem with the challenge is it indulges controversy where there seriously should be none.
          The end of the controversy is simply in asking proponents of historicity to define the characteristics of historicity. Birthplace? Parents? Siblings? Notoriety? Age at death? Travels? Crucifiction?
          Once they can tell us which of those things are supposedly ‘accurate’ then we can discuss the merits of their arguments. The problem is, they don’t. They appeal to vagueness and ambiguity. “There was probably a Jesus who did this or that…”
          Well, obviously. I used to have a Jesus who cut my grass- although I’m pretty surr his mother’s name wasn’t Mary.

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          • makagutu says:

            This as you correctly put it is where the problem is. We are not asking for a probable Jesus, those could have been many. We want to know about a very specific fellow. Tell us where he was born what and where he did them and so on.

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    • makagutu says:

      For a real guy, it would be possible to at least hear he was short, fat, ugly – that kind of stuff.

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  5. john zande says:

    Yes, a worthy set of questions highlighting the conflating efforts of the apologist trying to appeal to popularism.

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    • makagutu says:

      There is this blog[can’t recall] where ark was banned where we had this discussion and the author was arguing for minimal facts the same used by I think WLC. My interest is they reconcile the Jesus they are arguing for and that believed by most believers and how they know.

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      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        There is this blog [can’t recall] where ark was banned

        Do you have any idea how long it would take, to sort through THAT list?!! There are stars in the sky, grains of sand on the beach, that are outnumbered only by the blogsites from which the Arkster has been banned! And not a moment too soon! And once, he even took me WITH him! Don’t get me started —

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  6. 1. Son of a woman? Sure. Son of a god? Nope.
    2. The gospels fall under the genre of Bios literature, an ancient forerunner to modern biography which was generally more liberal in its historiography. Paul’s epistles were instructive correspondence, not biography.
    3. Nope.

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    • makagutu says:

      1. If he is son of woman but not a god, is it still the same Jesus worshiped by millions of believers around the globe?
      2. I can take Paul out of the list. Do the gospels constitute a good bio sketch?
      Thanks for commenting. I liked your piece on time.

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      • 1. It’s the historical Jesus of Nazareth upon whom the later legends of Christianity accrued. Doc Holliday was a real person, but later legends arose about him in popular culture. Is the Doc Holliday of the legends the same Doc Holliday from history? I would say yes.
        2. The gospels provide some discernible historical data, but they are so entrenched in oral legends that it can be very difficult to extricate the historical Jesus from their accounts– which is exactly why there is an extensive field of scholarship dedicated to that subject.

        I’m glad you enjoyed my article on Eternity! I’ve got a whole slew of ’em dedicated to time, if that subject interests you.

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        • pinkagendist says:

          There are universities that offer degrees in science fiction with courses including topics like the “study of Captain Kirk’s multi-racial crew”.

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          • Captain Kirk was the 13th apostle. Well, I mean, historically speaking. He and Jesus got beamed aboard the Enterprise then sent Paul of Damascus a script for a Star Trek episode via the transporter. Paul thought he saw a vision, and, BOOM, a whole new religion was created. That Gene Roddenberry! I tell ya, that guy and his creations. But I digress, like a Christian apologetic. Please, accept my apologies, but take all I’ve said as total truth. I thought REALLY hard about it for a REALLY long time. Amen.

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          • Historical documentation is not a matter of black-and-white interpretation. We do not throw out Herodotus’ Histories as being wholly unreliable simply because he presents religiously biased records in which the gods take a physical, active part in the lives of men. Neither do we discard Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, or Porphyry’s Life of Pythagoras, or the Sagas of the Icelanders for such reasons.

            If we were to eliminate all documents with religious overtones from being viable for use in determining history, we would know very little history, at all.

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          • @pinkagendist That is simply not the case. Again, you cannot simply dismiss the New Testament documents just because a cult arose around them. There are hundreds of people, throughout history, who are only known by legends recorded long after their deaths by religious adherents. Applying your methodology consistently to all historiography would lead us to believe that the vast majority of ancient history is purely mythological.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              I’ll re-phrase. There’s no evidence to support the theory as it stands.
              Could there have been a minor apocalyptic preacher named Jesus? Yes. Is that what’s described in the bible? Absolutely not.
              Could someone of such purported notoriety with a huge following have gone unnoticed? Highly doubtful. Just look at the difference in precision of information we have, for example, with Judas of Galilee.

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            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              Frankly, BP, I would strongly suspect that it is.

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          • @pinkagendist You are conflating the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth with the inerrancy of the Bible. The NT documents give us very decent evidence to believe that a Galilean Jewish preacher named Jesus practiced a minor ministry which led to his execution around 30 CE. I’ll certainly agree that they don’t provide good evidence that this preacher performed miracles, was resurrected from the dead, or had a divine nature.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              The NT is simply ‘not’ a historical document in any other sense than a reflection of the mindset and customs of the time- also highly influenced by the underlying goal which was the spread of a socio-cultural/religio-political movement.

              A historical Jesus would have to have had, miracles removed, the life trajectory of the biblical character. Let’s take Cleopatra as an example. Where was she born? Who were her parents? Where did she reign? When did she reign?
              A vague, there once was a woman named Cleopatra married to a guy named Mark somewhere around the Med, just doesn’t cut it.

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            • makagutu says:

              BP please tell me where we are told he died in 30CE.

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          • @pinkagendist That’s a fairly preposterous standard of historiography. The vast majority of persons from history are known from worse and lesser data than we have for Jesus of Nazareth.

            Take, for example, one of my favorite people in all of history: Euclid of Alexandria. We do not know when or where he was born. We do not know when or where he died. In fact, we know almost nothing about his life other than the fact that he was a mathematician in Alexandria sometime around 300 BCE, and that he wrote a few treatises on the subject (most of which are entirely lost).

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          • @pinkagendist You are again conflating a person’s historicity with the legends that accrued surrounding that person. So, yes, I can honestly say that I see no difference between a mathematician and a religious leader when discussing the question of whether a person actually existed in history or not.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              Wrong. Mathematics doesn’t involve religious devotion, prayer, symbolism, burial, shrines etc. The bible goes on ad nauseum on the importance of burial to people during that time.
              You want us to realistically believe the real grave of a real cult leader would NOT have become the epicentre of a cult during that period?

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          • Religious devotion, prayer, burial, shrines, et cetera, are irrelevant to the question of historicity.

            It does not follow from the fact that there is no known gravesite shrine that Jesus did not exist. There is no known gravesite shrine for the vast majority of religious leaders– even those who were claimed to be divine– of that period.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              Also Jewish? In that region? Absolutely not irrelevant. When we study history, and I do say that as a qualified (art) historian, we look for what ‘should be there’ to support a theory.
              A Monet painting of the Houses of Parliament- when was he in London? Does the date fit? Is it architecturally accurate? etc.
              In the case of Jesus one would expect considerably more than we find. A charismatic cult leader with a following of even as little as 100 people (and growing), would be expected to have left a more significant mark. Particularly in a culture of superstition, symbolism and rituals.
              His followers didn’t chip in to get him a nice cave like Abraham purchased for Sarah? No one took his bones back to where he was born? Every single custom of the time was just ignored?

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          • @pinkagendist Your expectations are far too great. By all accounts, John the Baptist had a much larger living following than did Jesus of Nazareth, and yet we have none of the things, for him, that you demand for Jesus. Nor for any other religious leader from the first century, including a great many who had followings much larger than 100 people. There is no reason we should expect such a thing would still be extant today.

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          • @pinkagendist What makes you think Christianity was “always highly ritualized?” Our best evidence about the practices of the earliest Christians come from the Pauline epistles and from Acts. The only ritual Paul describes is the Lord’s Supper; otherwise, Paul explicitly argued against Jewish rituals for Gentile Christians. Acts describes baptism, as well, but also describes a departure from Judaic ritualism.

            Further, what makes you think there should be an “unbroken chain of evidence?” There is no reason to suspect this should be the case, outside of the particularly dubious claims of Catholic tradition. The great deal of turmoil which would have been experienced by Jewish Christians in the first century, as well as the fact that pagan sources didn’t even seem to notice Gentile Christianity until the second century, seems like a fairly strong reason to suspect there wouldn’t be such an unbroken chain.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              Interesting. So your theory is Jewish rebels joined the cult of Christianity and didn’t take into this new cult any of their customs and traditions? Including disregarding burial customs. Then they disregarded customs like pilgrimages and shrines, as we know there isn’t a pilgrimage to the house in which Jesus was born- and somehow we have very specific texts with everything the man ever said and did, but everything else is considerably more vague. And his followers also happened to not pass on any real-life information to their children, who then also didn’t pass it on to their children? That makes perfect sense!

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          • @pinkagendist You don’t seem to be very well read on early Christianity. The earliest Christians were not “Jewish rebels” who were joining a new cult. The earliest Christians were Jews, and the earliest form of Christianity was simply Judaism.

            I am saying that there are no extant shrines of the sort you are proposing for any Jewish religious leaders of the first century, including leaders with much larger followings and other Messianic candidates. There is no reason to expect that such should exist for Jesus of Nazareth.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              I don’t need to do a take-down on historicity, Carrier’s done that very well already. However, as an actual historian instead of the internet variety, like you- I can say in no uncertain terms you’re wrong.
              And not only are you wrong, you’re intentionally playing semantics to dissimulate the facts. To say early Christianity wasn’t highly ritualized? Seriously? That’s just imbecilic. To say early Christians didn’t adapt/reform Jewish customs? Every aspect of x-tianity was borrowed from what came before.
              Which part of x-tianity has no break do you find difficult to understand? We’re talking about a continuum. One in which we have extremely detailed accounts of many different things- except pinning down anything verifiable about that Jesus man.
              In any event, your pedantry is pointless, because there’s nothing you can affirm other than there was an apocalyptic preacher named Jesus who probably died around 30AD. That’s not a statement of substance. There was certainly also a Mary. In no way does that confirm the existence of a biblical Jesus. Nor where he went, nor what he actually did or didn’t do.

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          • @pinkagendist Your qualifications as an art historian hardly lend you any more credibility in the history of first century Roman Palestine than the “Internet historians” that you decry. On the other hand, while I admit that I am certainly an amateur in the field, I have some knowledge of ancient Greek, I’ve read the primary sources in the original language, and I’ve read a great deal of the respected scholarship on the topic, as well as the arguments proposed by fringe scholars like Carrier and Price.

            Touting a fringe scholar like Carrier, who has published precisely one peer-reviewed journal article on early Christianity in his career, over far more respected and prolific scholars like Gerd Ludemann, Larry Hurtado, Dale Martin, Bart Ehrman, and the like is no different than when Young Earth Creationists point to geologist Andrew Snelling while ignoring the whole of mainstream scholarship on the subject. It’s simply absurd.

            The fact remains, despite your protestations, that understanding Jesus of Nazareth as a relatively unknown backwater preacher despite the later legends which accrued around him is both substantive and quite significant.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              I suppose you’d have to know my specialization was in early Christian art- hence the necessity of my knowledge in the development of the religion itself and how it’s political nature influenced said development. But I’m not committing the fallacy of making an argument from authority by mentioning my own qualifications or Dr. Carrier’s work.
              I mentioned it in my case to explain my knowledge of methodology, and I mentioned Carrier because his critique of Ehrmans’s work is methodologically flawless.

              From your own words, I can only presume you’re an idiot, incredibly preoccupied in giving the false impression of knowledge. Calling Carrier a ‘fringe’ scholar is hardly credible or serious. He’s well published and well respected. I think the word you’re looking for is pioneering. Darwin, Kinsey, Masters, Coutinho- all scientists who dismissed pseudo-general-knowledge for which there was no evidence and did actual research into how things happened (or didn’t happen).

              Mainstream, as you’re using it, is doublespeak for argument from authority and from tradition. Technically the basis for including homosexuality in the DSM, the promotion of the alleged inferiority of minority groups, women not being permitted to vote and an infinity of ridiculousness based on tradition/religion/patriarchy.

              That fact that remains, is there is no substantial evidence to support the existence of a preacher who meets the standards of historicity which would be required to be THE SAME character depicted in the bible. The one who embarked on those travels, who had those specific encounters etc. etc.

              Some Jesus preacher, somewhere in Palestine doesn’t translate to a historical Jesus, it’s an obvious generality. And that is precisely Ehrman’s case.

              At best an academically rigorous case can be made for agnosticism; And that’s why up to now no serious non-religious historian has taken it any further.

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          • @pinkagendist I’ll itemize my responses to make them easier for reading and replying.

            1. Lovely! Your specialization is in early Christian artwork. Does that mean that you read Greek, have read the primary sources, and have read the leading scholarly work on NT research, in addition to your knowledge of fringe scholars like Carrier?

            2. I would absolutely disagree with the claim that Carrier’s critique of Ehrman is “methodologically flawless.” I’ll certainly agree that Ehrman’s popular tradebook for laymen on historicity wasn’t the most scholarly resource– but neither was it intended to be. As such, Ehrman made a few mistakes on minor points in a popular book which Carrier would have us believe invalidates the whole scholarly position.

            3. Carrier is most certainly a fringe scholar. He has precisely two published articles in peer-reviewed journals on early Christianity. He does not teach or perform research at any respected university. I actually quite enjoy some of his work, and I cite his paper on Antiquities 20.200 frequently. However, the fact remains that he is not a respected scholar in the field, and he is proposing a wildly fanciful hypothesis which is not even supported by other mythicists, let alone scholarship in general. Even Carrier, himself, warns against amateurs misusing his work as “proof” that Jesus never existed:
            http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4733

            4. ‘Mainstream’ is not doublespeak for an “argument from authority or tradition.” ‘Mainstream’ is a reference to the body of work published by respected scholars in the field. It is not an “argument from authority” to cite previous work in a field of study– otherwise, almost all of scholarship would amount to nothing more than a series of arguments from authority.

            5. If by “THE SAME character depicted in the Bible” you mean a person that performed the all of actions described by the gospels, exactly as they are described therein, I’ll completely agree with you, because that is a Straw Man argument. Historical Jesus research argues precisely against such a treatise. If you don’t even know that much about historical Jesus scholarship, perhaps you should alleviate your ignorance by reading some of the work of respected scholars in the field.

            6. The historical Jesus was not just “some preacher, somewhere,” as I have stated several times already. The historical Jesus was a Jewish preacher from Galilee in the first century around whom the legends of early Christianity accrued and to whom a cult of worship was dedicated which exists to this day.

            7. Perhaps, before calling someone an “idiot, incredibly preoccupied with giving the false impression of knowledge,” you should take a moment to evaluate your own statements, here, as that particular ad hominem seems to be very much a projection.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              You can play as many deceptive word-games as you like. You were the one who stated Christianity wasn’t highly ritualised at its inception. That’s just an outright falsehood designed to bolster your weak arguments. Even early churches themselves were based on synagogues. Baptism, the eucharist, every aspect was based on pre-existing customs.

              The concept of mainstream as you’re using it is another manipulation.All of sex scholarship until Kinsey was designed to conform to religious mores. That was mainstream. Try getting elected in America after announcing you’re an atheist. Ask Prof. Coyne about the opposition evolution still faces. Choosing to question the very basis of a religion of over 2.5 billion people, a mainstream religion in much of the western world, is poking a very, very big hornet’s nest.

              Carrier is respected enough, within real scholarship, that the ‘oh so respected’ Ehrman himself dedicated a tremendous amount of time to their public debate. And had to do a merry dance as to not look like a fool. If you want to talk fringe, I’d be more comfortable putting you there.

              Your number six is a distinction without a difference. At this point you’re arguing with the voices in your head. An apocalyptic preacher around whom legends accrued isn’t an affirmation of historicity. Such a figure could be real but could also be mythological. As there’s nothing other than interested parties proposing the idea and no other evidence to show otherwise- the most rigorous position is agnosticism, followed by mythicism.

              As for your attempt at a personal dig, great try but you failed miserably. I didn’t get to where I am by being incompetent, nor was I employed by the Vatican on two occasions because I’m some sort of imbecile who didn’t understand the development of the religion- primordial to understanding the development of the iconography that accompanied it through the ages. In that sense it’s interesting to note there’s no surviving Christian art whatsoever from the 1st century. Ample time for the Chinese whispers type legends to develop.

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          • 1. My point was not that Christianity had no rituals– though I would contend that “highly ritualized” is an overstatement. My point was that you are treating the texts inconsistently. The only evidence for any ritual practice of early Christians is the self-same documentation that you insist cannot be utilized for historical purposes, elsewhere. Your position is completely inconsistent.

            2. I’ve never associated “mainstream” with any particular religion– you are knocking down another Straw Man, here. I explicitly stated that I’m talking about the body of scholarly work produced in the field of study. I’m not talking about “mainstream religion.” I’m talking about “mainstream scholarship,” exactly as I would when I debate anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers or Young Earth Creationists.

            3. A handful of blog posts on the Internet hardly constitutes “a tremendous amount of time.” Dr. Ehrman replied to some of Dr. Carrier’s criticisms. Again, I agree that this brought to bear some minor mistakes in Ehrman’s trade book for popular audiences, but that doesn’t change the fact that Carrier remains a fringe scholar.

            4. Do you also see no difference between the historical 16th President of the United States and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Does the fact that Lincoln never killed vampires mean that Abraham Lincoln is not a historical person? There is a significant difference between an actual person whose ministry led to the foundation of the most widespread cult on the planet, and some random Jew named Joshua who had no effect on history.

            5. Again, does that mean that you have an understanding of ancient Greek, have read all of the primary sources, and have a working knowledge of the last century’s worth of scholarship on the subject of early Christianity? Vague references to having done some nebulous work for the Vatican would hardly convince anyone that you are not “incredibly preoccupied with giving the false impression of knowledge.”

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            • pinkagendist says:

              And the prize of tedious windbag goes to…

              Sorry, I have an actual job for which I’m paid actual money, for which I had to go to an actual university- so I’m not wasting any more time with you.

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            • pinkagendist says:

              …but just out of curiosity, what’s ‘nebulous work’? My specific work consisted in creating general guidelines for the dating of virgin sculptures with the intention of protecting important artifacts that could have been unnoticed in smaller churches.

              Later I was hired by the Arzobispado of Seville to catalogue their reliquary busts which was actually quite fascinating as we were a group including a forensic pathologist who was there to examine the relics themselves.

              Now why don’t you get back to your pretend job where you can put your pretend intellect to use.

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          • @pinkagendist Lovely! I also have an actual job which pays actual money for which I had to go to an actual university! Fancy that– an incredible coincidence…

            Now, if you’ve finished with yet another attempted ad hominem, I’m certainly in no rush. Feel free to respond at your leisure, if time is your only issue. I’ll even narrow the whole thing down to one single question which you have still avoided answering, so as to alleviate any unnecessary time-wasting:

            Do you have working knowledge of ancient Greek, the primary sources, and the past century’s worth of historical Jesus scholarship?

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          • @pinkagendist I said “nebulous” because you hadn’t clarified what sort of work you had done. Now that you have, it’s even more apparent that your mentioning such work was entirely irrelevant to the conversation, as it has nothing at all to do with first century Christian history.

            As to your qualifications on that account, again, do you know ancient Greek, have you read the primary sources, and are you familiar with the past century’s research on the historical Jesus?

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        • makagutu says:

          1. In what way would the legend n the real character be the same except in name?
          2. What type of historical data do we have of Jesus in the gospels? Can you outline a sketch?
          I will check them out.

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          • 1. The historical Jesus was very likely a Galilean man from the small village of Nazareth who became a follower of John the Baptist, but later split off from this more popular figure in order to form his own traveling ministry. He preached an apocalyptic message, gained a small group of followers, and was executed by Roman authorities in Jerusalem by crucifixion for the crime of sedition against the state.
            2. It’s fairly difficult to outline in a single comment on a blog, but the best introduction for the layman that I’ve yet read is Ehrman’s Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. The footnotes and bibliography for that book provide a wonderful stepping stone into more scholarly publications, if you then find yourself even more interested.

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  7. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Most of us know, so I’ll say this for the few who may not, that the very first anonymous gospel writer, pseudo-Mark, to write about Yeshua (his real name, “Jesus” was only the Greek translation of it, from the original Aramaic) wrote roughly 45 years after Yeshua was alleged to have lived. Pseudo-Matthew, about five years after that, pseudo-Luke, as much as ten years later, and pseudo-James sometime around the end of the first century. There is no evidence and little likelihood, that any of the four ever met him, and could only have been basing their stories, which begin relatively uncomplicatedly, with pseudo-Mark, and get more embellished and far more complex with his emulators on hear-say information.

    There is CERTAINLY no historical evidence, during the first century, that he ever existed – no mention in history books of the time, nor in Roman records, of a man walking on water in a choppy sea, or bringing dead people back to life.

    And Paul himself admits that he never saw Yeshua, either living, or otherwise, only a “bright light,” which could well be indicative of a psychological condition. Paul also never mentions the “virgin birth,” or any of the other nativity stories, or any of the other “miracle” stories, other than the resurrection, so either those hadn’t yet begun floating around, or Paul never moved in circles where he would have heard them, or he found no reason to mention them. Paul is certainly NOT good evidence for the existence of Jesus.

    There have been many stories of heros being nailed to trees, or crucified in some manner. – Odin, is one such example. Many, especially in the Middle-East, lived lives similar to the one attributed to Yeshua – one such, who would have been an actual contemporary of Yeshua (if he ever existed), would have been Apollonius of Tyana.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thanks arch for the valuable info you share.
      Since we have ruled Paul out, we have only the gospels left and the question is are they reliable as biographies? I think not.

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    • Well said, sir, and very informative.

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    • I would contend that there is no viable historical evidence from the first century outside of the New Testament documents that Jesus of Nazareth existed. However, I would certainly argue that the Pauline epistles and the synoptic gospels should be considered “historical evidence.”

      Paul does claim that the risen Jesus appeared to him, but I certainly wouldn’t accord that (in itself) as a good reason for believing Jesus existed. However, the fact that Paul frequently talks about Jesus’ companions, including Jesus’ brother, is fairly strong evidence for historicity.

      Odin is a fairly poor example to cite for crucified gods– take it from a Norse Heathen. Firstly, Odin wasn’t crucified, but rather hanged (as in, from a rope). Secondly, the accounts of Odin’s hanging on Yggdrasil are later, and there is a good deal of scholarly debate as to whether they were influenced by the Christianization of Scandinavia and Iceland.

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      • makagutu says:

        Why should we consider Paul’s several rambling as history? He never met the fellow in question and he claims whatever he writes has been revealed to him.
        Once you have a story to develop it is not a problem so talking of companions to Jesus cannot count as evidence.
        Paul gives no good reason to believe a Jesus existed. It is all his creation.
        I can’t make a comment on the Norse gods and how they died.

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      • pinkagendist says:

        ” The historical Jesus was very likely a Galilean man from the small village of Nazareth who became a follower of John the Baptist, but later split off from this more popular figure in order to form his own traveling ministry. He preached an apocalyptic message, gained a small group of followers, and was executed by Roman authorities in Jerusalem by crucifixion for the crime of sedition against the state.”

        That theory is so vague, it’s meritless. There once was a man born in Britain named James. He entered Her Majesty’s secret service. He probably travelled and may have had affairs. And that is proof James Bond was based on a real person? C’mon, it’s just silly.

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        • It’s not so vague as to be meritless, at all, considering the fact that after the execution of this historical Jesus, his followers came to believe that he had been divine. Legends arose regarding this historical person, and then new cults arose from these legends. These cults remained quite small and disparate for the first few centuries of their existence, until support from the Roman Emperor fostered massive unification and spread of the young religion.

          The point of mythicism is to argue that there was no historical person upon which the legends of Christianity were built. That simply does not seem to account for the historical data which we have.

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          • pinkagendist says:

            What you’re not taking into account is that a real-life demi-god isn’t really necessary. The whole process can occur, as it has many times, around a fictional character.
            And so with no substantial evidence except that of interested parties, I lean to myth.
            However small the cult was, they were of the more fanatical variety. That would lead us to conclude they would have been even more intent on symbology, shrines, tomb preservation et al

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          • I never contended that a “real-life demi-god” was necessary. Quite the contrary, I argued that the central figure was a simple Jewish preacher from the backwaters of Galilee.

            There is no substantial evidence of almost any person from that time period except that of “interested parties.” Do you also argue that John the Baptist was not a historical person? Or that Philo of Alexandria was mythological? Or that Herod Antipas was mythological?

            The simple fact is that an actual, historical person around whom legends accrued makes sense of the historical data which we have far better than any of the proposed mythicist hypotheses.

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        • makagutu says:

          🙂
          Very well put.

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  8. I don’t know about back in the day, but there’s this real Hispanic dude named Jesus who owns a Mexican restaurant near me, and I’m tellin’ ya, the way that dude makes a burrito is MIRACULOUS! Best damn thing I’ve ever eaten!

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  9. vastlycurious.com says:

    As an atheist I have already denied the existence of any of this ? So why are we having this discussion?

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  10. sophiebowns says:

    I like the portrayal of Jesus Christ Superstar!

    Like

  11. nannus says:

    There seems to have been a Jewish sect in the first century BCE that later split away from Judaism and developed into christianity. Initialy the christians saw themselves as Jews but then the relationship between them and other Jewisch groups deteriorated and they separated.
    Such sects are in most cases started by an individual (in most cases these are charismatic crackpots who are able to gather some followers arround them, the history of religions is full of such people), so I find it likely that such an individual existed and that this individual is the historical core of the Jesus story. However, the gospels are already mythological works with all kinds of miracle stories. This is a quite normal process, for example, there are many cases of people who where declared saints and then all kinds of miracle legends started to accumulate arround them.
    Without such a sect founder, it is hard to explain how the christian religion could emerge.
    Such sect founders tend to be trouble makers (at least they are perceived as such by their conservative, orthodox contemporaries – just think of that crazy guy John just posted something about) and it is not so implausible that he was killed as a result. His followers than had to reconcile this fact with their belief and find some explanation for it within their belief system.
    There are also several examples in history where people claimed to be the messiah. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbatai_Zevi. Note that Zevi was forced to convert to Islam, but this did not cause all of his followers to turn their back on him. Instead, they constructed some metaphysical explanation or rationalization to make sense of this.

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    • makagutu says:

      In principle, I agree with you. The question I don’t think has been about whether there was a character about him Christianity was built but rather whether Jesus of Nazareth really was?

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      • nannus says:

        Jesus is an as-if-construction, a fiction. I think it is very probable there is a historical core, but since there are no independent sources and all the sources are highly ideologized records of his followers, written down decades later, we will never know what that historical core really was like. The fact that there are no other historical sources makes it likely he was an unimportant figure, a small local guru like probably many others. We will probably never know.

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        • “a small local guru like probably many others. We will probably never know.”

          nannus, I agree with this scenario. He certainly wasn’t the originator of the Golden Rule. But, if he did exist, and allowed suicide-by-proxy, then it’s likely he was a guru with psychosis.

          http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=1476850

          “Jesus is the foundation figure of Christianity, who is thought to have lived between 7–2 BCE and 26–36 CE. The New Testament (NT) recalls Jesus as having experienced and shown behavior closely resembling the DSM-IV-TR–defined phenomena of AHs, VHs [auditory and visual hallucinations], delusions, referential thinking (see Figure 3), paranoid-type (PS subtype) thought content, and hyperreligiosity (see Table 1).”

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          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            I am SO stealing that as a “Good Morning” gift to Kathy!

            Like

          • Too bad no one dropped Haldol in water back then. Woulda saved us a whole lotta pain today. Come to think of it, Haldol in the water might help today’s world with a whole lotta B.S. too.

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          • nannus says:

            Well possible. However, this is an interpretation that might take the reports of the NT too serious. We cannot take them at face value. One should be very critical with these texts, they might be a result of rumors, misunderstandings, exagerations, grafting of other stories on top of the historical story, poitically motivated fake etc. Since there are no independent sources, it is impossible here to separate fact from fiction. So a psychiatric interpretation might try to explain things that simply where added to the story later. So we have to take into account the psychology of his followers as well. A certain type of personality is susceptible to such gurus and their teachings. Such people seem to be susceptible also to something like quasi-psychotic behaviour, i.e. a religion can easily take the form of a closed delusional system. Among such people, all kinds of miracle believes can easily spring up, especially in a crisis, e.g. when there guru has been killed. However, with respect to Jesus, I think it is all speculation. As a student of history (which I am) I would say that the available sources do not provide enough information.

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            • Well stated.

              “A certain type of personality is susceptible to such gurus and their teachings. Such people seem to be susceptible also to something like quasi-psychotic behaviour.”

              A lot of people — most.

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              • See what I mean? A shit-load of Haldol in the H2O would have completely eradicated the problem, as it would today. Granted, we’d all be sittin’ around staring at the ground, drooling, and twitching from tardive dyskinesia, but sometimes I do think that just might beat the hell outta the crazy fuckin’ world we live in now. Arguing over whether a guy named Jesus lived, a real guy, is irrelevant. The real question is, did a God named Jesus live who could raise the dead, walk on water, heal lepers, make wine from water, and resurrect himself after death from crucifixion only to later levitate his entire resurrected self into the heavens and disappear in front of hundreds of people. That is the more poignant question. One to which I wholeheartedly say, “No fuckin’ way, man!”

                Like

        • makagutu says:

          I agree. I like the as if construction

          Like

  12. […] Now and then , when I am reading a post, I will read several linked posts, and this morning,  I came across these two comments on Mak’s blog. Made me smile. makagutu says: September 6, 2014 at 19:26 […]

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