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Old 02-26-2017, 03:54 PM   #26
ecriture d'adulte
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
Short answer, yes. There's tons of it. Unless you've defined "evidence" to be a very specific collection of things that is so narrow as to preclude the existence of most people in antiquity. In which case, no.
This isn't really true. I would say the evidence for Jesus would be enough to win a civil case (proponderence of evidence) but not a criminal one (beyond reasonable doubt). There are many people in antiquity whose existence is certain to a reasonable doubt (Aristotle, Pythagoras etc), and even some contemporaries of Jesus (Herod, probaby Paul).

The main pieces of historical evidence for Jesus are few and just a couple of pieces of new evidence (a newly found earlier version on Antiquity of the Jews with no references to Jesus or ancient Jewish/Roman texts claiming Jesus didn't exist) could sway the consenses historical view to nonexiestence. This isn't possible for people even from antiquity with a ton of evidence in favor of their existence.
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Old 02-26-2017, 04:33 PM   #27
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by ecriture d'adulte View Post
This isn't really true. I would say the evidence for Jesus would be enough to win a civil case (proponderence of evidence) but not a criminal one (beyond reasonable doubt). There are many people in antiquity whose existence is certain to a reasonable doubt (Aristotle, Pythagoras etc), and even some contemporaries of Jesus (Herod, probaby Paul).
I would like to see you argue the distinctions between Jesus being not strong enough to win a criminal case while Pythagoras can.

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The main pieces of historical evidence for Jesus are few and just a couple of pieces of new evidence (a newly found earlier version on Antiquity of the Jews with no references to Jesus or ancient Jewish/Roman texts claiming Jesus didn't exist) could sway the consenses historical view to nonexiestence. This isn't possible for people even from antiquity with a ton of evidence in favor of their existence.
This paragraph makes me question how much you know regarding the evidence of Pythagoras' existence and the general level of understanding of historicity. But I'll await your argument before proceeding with that.
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Old 02-26-2017, 04:46 PM   #28
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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I would like to see you argue the distinctions between Jesus being not strong enough to win a criminal case while Pythagoras can.

This paragraph makes me question how much you know regarding the evidence of Pythagoras' existence and the general level of understanding of historicity. But I'll await your argument before proceeding with that.
The historical evidence for Jesus is at the level of individual sources. If here is a reason to start doubting Josephus or Tacitus there is close to 0 reliable historical evidence for Jesus. I don't really care what category Pythagoras fits into, he was chosen as a random name.... substitute Euclid or Archimedes or whoever else has a myriad of reliable contemporary evidence towards. There is simply not a ton of evidence that Jesus existed even at the level of antiquity.
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Old 02-26-2017, 06:47 PM   #29
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by ecriture d'adulte View Post
The historical evidence for Jesus is at the level of individual sources. If here is a reason to start doubting Josephus or Tacitus there is close to 0 reliable historical evidence for Jesus. I don't really care what category Pythagoras fits into, he was chosen as a random name.... substitute Euclid or Archimedes or whoever else has a myriad of reliable contemporary evidence towards. There is simply not a ton of evidence that Jesus existed even at the level of antiquity.
I think you've pretty much made my point for me. You really don't have a lot of evidence to back the claims you're making here. That you even jumped to Pythagoras as a "random name" "whose existence is certain to a reasonable doubt" just doesn't provide much credibility to your general level of knowledge of these types of claims.

You really have not elucidated anything specific that puts Jesus in one category but puts these other people in another. Vague assertions just don't carry much weight.
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Old 02-26-2017, 07:26 PM   #30
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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I think you've pretty much made my point for me. You really don't have a lot of evidence to back the claims you're making here. That you even jumped to Pythagoras as a "random name" "whose existence is certain to a reasonable doubt" just doesn't provide much credibility to your general level of knowledge of these types of claims.

You really have not elucidated anything specific that puts Jesus in one category but puts these other people in another. Vague assertions just don't carry much weight.
My claims aren't vague, I cited the 2 authors who are most important for historians in thinking Jesus existed. I also cited the fact that there is little if any writing from antiquity claiming Jesus was made up. Those things are major parts of the current consensus. If the validity of those things was in question the consensus would change.

There are people from antiquity who we have a ton of evidence for the existence of. Jesus isn't one of them. There is no contemporary archaeological evidence and just a handful of literary ones, believed to be accurate later translations of texts written shortly after his death. There are many figures from antiquity who have tons of archeological/physical evidence that essentially prove their existence. There aren't a handful of middle age copies of ancient texts that, if proven unreliable, would seriously call into question the existence of (say) Alexander the Great.

Its bizarre that you are attacking my credibility when I haven't even claimed any authority. If you think what I am saying is wrong, you can just say why. I'm not claiming its correct just because I am saying it. I'll probably bow out unless your posting gets alot better.

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Old 02-26-2017, 09:17 PM   #31
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by ecriture d'adulte View Post
My claims aren't vague, I cited the 2 authors who are most important for historians in thinking Jesus existed. I also cited the fact that there is little if any writing from antiquity claiming Jesus was made up. Those things are major parts of the current consensus. If the validity of those things was in question the consensus would change.
Those two authors are not the most important for historians in thinking Jesus existed. Even if neither Josephus nor Tacitus mentioned Jesus, there would not be any particular challenge to Jesus' existence. The volume of other evidences is more than sufficient.

The primary reason that those two are brought up is in counter to the "Yeah, but all those writings were by *CHRISTIANS* and shouldn't count" argument (which is an absolute failure when it comes to debating the subject).

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There are people from antiquity who we have a ton of evidence for the existence of. Jesus isn't one of them.
It's true that there is more evidence for kings and rulers than there is for Jesus. But that's not the position that you put forth. I did not claim that there's more evidence for Jesus than every other person in antiquity.

You argued that the level of evidence is insufficient for the measure of "beyond reasonable doubt." And I will assert again that you gave nothing specific in support of that distinction.

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There is no contemporary archaeological evidence and just a handful of literary ones, believed to be accurate later translations of texts written shortly after his death.
The first sentence is literally an affirmation of my statement: "Short answer, yes. There's tons of it. Unless you've defined "evidence" to be a very specific collection of things that is so narrow as to preclude the existence of most people in antiquity. In which case, no."

How many people from antiquity are there for whom we have "contemporary archaeological" evidence for? By and large, such evidence isn't even the primary means by which we learn about specific people in history. We tend to learn more general things about cultures through specific archaeological findings.

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Its bizarre that you are attacking my credibility when I haven't even claimed any authority.
You've claimed no authority, but you've attempted to speak authoritatively. You've made very specific claims about being able to distinguish this particular historical character from that one, and have not provided much in the way of a reasonable supporting argument. I've challenged those claims, and you still have not shown yourself to be knowledgeable.

So yes, I'm attacking your credibility because you've offered very little else than just your opinion. Your opinion is wrong for the types of reasons I've cited. I gave you a chance to clarify, and the strength of the position put forth in that clarification does not provide reason to even give credence to your opinion.

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If you think what I am saying is wrong, you can just say why. I'm not claiming its correct just because I am saying it.
This is an odd quote. Ponder for a moment that you're trying to both defend your credibility when it's scrutinized (and surprised by the challenge) while simultaneously trying to admit that you're not even claiming to be correct.

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I'll probably bow out unless your posting gets alot better.
Whether you choose to engage is up to you. But I'll say that it's silly to think that your posts have been good thus far.

Here's the longer argument for why I think you're wrong.

You came in claiming that you were able to make various types of distinctions between different historical figures, citing specifically Pythagoras. I would argue that Pythagoras in particular has a weaker case for historicity than Jesus.

In both cases, we have the creation of a particular collections of "followers" based on what could be broadly characterized as both intellectual, cultural, and religious influence. You have "Pythagoreanism" and "Christians." This, on its own, is sufficient reason to at least accept the plausibility of both people. It is unlikely in both cultures that a person could be made up out of nothing and still have enough influence for movements like these to take hold.

We have no writings directly from either Jesus or Pythagoras. We know of no verifiable grave locations or other pieces of "hard" evidence for either person. So at this level, they are roughly the same.

However, unlike for Pythagoras, we have a volume of contemporary writing about Jesus (note: "contemporary" here is being used to mean within a generation, so that people who could have directly known about the individual would have been alive during the time of the writing). For Pythagoras, the first more detailed accounts come about 150 years later. Setting aside the gospels and letters written about Jesus (which are often thrown out for no particularly good historical reason), we also have Josephus' writings, and he is contemporary to Jesus. Tacitus' writings are a little further out from that, but it's still within a century.

This last paragraph would place Jesus' historicity to be significantly more likely that Pythagoras'.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:18 PM   #32
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by ChrisV View Post
I read a pretty convincing argument for a historical Jesus that, for reasons which will become apparent, you will not hear from Christian scholars. The argument requires only the contents of the Gospels plus logic.

Luke and Matthew both contain a ludicrous story of how Jesus, even though he was referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth", was born in Bethlehem. The goal is to validate the supposed prophecy in Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (that Micah 5:2 prophesies this in the first place is dubious in the extreme, but that's another story). So the argument runs: how did this idea that Jesus was "Jesus of Nazareth" arise? If the earthly Jesus was a story fabricated by early Christians, wouldn't Jesus just have been "Jesus of Bethlehem" in the first place? There is no reason why Nazareth would be mentioned as Jesus' home town, it was a tiny village not appearing in the OT. Plainly the Gospel writers had to work from an existing story that was at times inconvenient. There are many other examples of them doing their best to work around incongruous facts.

Like I said, you won't hear this argument from Christians, because it requires acknowledging that the Gospel writers (or whoever they're cribbing from) were perfectly willing to just make **** up if things weren't Messiah-ish enough as they stood.
similarly, some of the things he reportedly said seem kind of awkward to just be made up
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:28 PM   #33
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Luke and Matthew both contain a ludicrous story of how Jesus, even though he was referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth", was born in Bethlehem.
Yeah. It's also completely absurd that there are "Chinese" people born in America.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:47 PM   #34
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Yeah. It's also completely absurd that there are "Chinese" people born in America.
lol, it's not the assertion that a guy called "Jesus of Nazareth" was actually born in Bethlehem which is absurd. It's the specific stories. Luke 2:1-4

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
The idea that there would be a census where everyone was required to go to the home towns of distant ancestors is ludicrous, and historical records confirm that this was not done when the Romans took census.

Matthew contains an equally fanciful story about the holy family taking a post-natal holiday to Egypt to escape an infanticidal Herod and settling in Nazareth after that.

The fact that these two stories are contradictory (Luke has Joseph living in Nazareth pre-birth and travelling to Bethlehem for the census, Matthew has Joseph settling in Nazareth only after Jesus was born) is further evidence that they are awkward attempts to reconcile the Bethlehem prophecy with the fact that Jesus was known to be from Nazareth.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:48 PM   #35
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by Diogenes of Sinope View Post
Was Isaac Newton's mind chopped liver?
You don't think he would be at least an agnostic if he lived now?
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Old 02-26-2017, 10:27 PM   #36
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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The fact that these two stories are contradictory (Luke has Joseph living in Nazareth pre-birth and travelling to Bethlehem for the census, Matthew has Joseph settling in Nazareth only after Jesus was born) is further evidence that they are awkward attempts to reconcile the Bethlehem prophecy with the fact that Jesus was known to be from Nazareth.
The bolded is a little bit of a forced reading. There's nothing specific to indicate that the "only after" part is true.

But in general, this is not new and relatively uninteresting. I guess if someone holds to an absolute textual inerrancy of the gospel accounts, one might struggle with this. Reading it as the document that it is, it's not nearly as exciting or dramatic from the "gotcha" angle.

There are other problems, such as some of the geography being not quite right in the gospels and Acts. But again, it's not that interesting.

It takes a certain level of pure incredulity to think that statements like these could be completely made up and that somehow, nobody noticed. I think the most reasonable historical reasons for discrepancies would fall into the realm of normal types of recording errors of the time. For example, the perception that "all the world" was doing something may be an artifact of information not getting around that well. If something impacts your region as the result of a government decision, you might think that it was happening everywhere.

I submit the following link as a counter-position. This is admittedly not a topic that I'm well-versed in, but merely hold that there are better and worse interpretations of both the Bible and of history. We do not have comprehensive records of all regions from the time period. So in both directions, there's a fair amount of conjecture into the dark, and we should be hesitant on both sides to try to forcefully assert conclusions into that void of information.

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/firstcensus.htm

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I. Augustus' Decree for Taxation

Caesar Augustus ruled from 44 BCE to 14 CE. An edict of Caesar Augustus decreeing a census for purposes of taxation for all the inhabited earth, or essentially the Roman Empire, is recorded by Dio Cassius.4 By 5 CE the military expenditures for the widespread Roman legions exceeded income, and "Augustus lacked funds for all these troops." (Dio Cassius, Roman History LV 24:9) No tax plan was accepted at that time. In 6 CE Augustus established a "military treasury. . . . Now Augustus made a contribution himself toward the fund and promised to do so annually, and he also accepted voluntary contributions from kings and certain communities; but he took nothing from private citizens, . . . but this proved very slight in comparison with the amount being spent." (Roman History LV 25:3-4) To overcome this deficit, Augustus "established the tax of 5%, on the inheritances and bequests which should be left by people at their death to any except very near relatives or very poor persons, representing that he had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda. It was, in fact, a method which had been introduced once before, but had been abolished later, and was now revived. In this way, then, he increased the revenues." (Roman History LV 25:5-6) In 6 CE Caesar Augustus issued a worldwide decree that for a second time there would be a 5% inheritance tax on estates, something beyond the normal taxation. Such a taxation would require a census to register transferable assets, such as land, and to record genealogies to establish "very near relatives." As the benefactor, this taxation would have had the full support of the Roman military.

Josephus noted the effects on non-citizens of this decree in Judea in 6 CE: "Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus' money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it." (Ant. XVIII 1:1) However, to the north, "a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords." (Wars II 8:1) And, later he wrote of "Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews." (Ant. XX 5:2) Caesar's 5% tax was to be on the estates, as noted by Josephus. The census attached to this taxation was also noted by Luke: "Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered." (Acts 5:37) The peoples of Judea and Galilee were already being taxed, and yet they protested this taxation. What was different this time?

When Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE, Judea came under Roman tribute. (Ant. XIV 4:4; Wars I 7:6) Although Herod later collected his own heavy taxes, some portion would have gone to Rome. It has been contended that Rome had no ability for direct taxation in Herod's territory,5 but, Augustus could interfere in local taxation. When Samaria remained loyal to Caesar after the death of Herod the Great, he "eased of one quarter of its taxes, out of regard to their not having revolted." (Wars II 6:3; also Ant. XVII 11:4) Normally, any tax money due was likely collected by Herod or his successors and paid directly to Rome by them. To the taxpayer, their money would have been seen as going primarily to their local government, and not to Rome. At the time of Jesus' birth the Romans may have required the taxation, but the money was collected by Herod's government. The military purpose of that taxation may not have been general public knowledge, but only seen as another burdensome tax collected by Herod.

The census for taxation in 6 CE was different. The Romans and their troops would have directly conducted that census. It was specifically to support the military, who were not welcomed by most of the Jews. The first Roman governor, Coponius, had just replaced Archelaus, and the Jews were suddenly under direct Roman control. This tax was on their land, which was their inheritance from God. The fanatical Judas took the opportunity to revolt against the further demands of mortal men and their military might.

There had been ongoing taxation throughout the Roman provinces. Augustus' worldwide decree in 6 CE established an additional tax to support his troops. As noted by Dio, this was the second attempt at such a taxation, as it "had been introduced once before, but had been abolished later, and was now revived." There had only been one prior 5% taxing specifically for the military, and it was probably that decree referenced by Luke, that "went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth." The decree for taxation and a census at the time of Jesus' birth was likely that first unsuccessful attempt to support the military treasury.

Since there is no specific record of the first decree for taxation for the military, but only the reference by Dio, no dating is presently available. There are, however, several related early sources. Tertullian (ca. 155-245 CE), a Christian theologian at Carthage, noted that a census in Judea took place under Sentius Saturninus, 9-6 BCE. He wrote, "But there is historical proof that at this very time there were censuses that had been taken in Judea by Sentius Saturninus, which might have satisfied their inquiry respecting the family and descent of Christ." (Against Marcion IV:19) The year, or years, of taxation is not specified. It is also not known if that census was for normal taxation of everyone, or if it was specifically related to the inheritance tax to support the military. It should be noted that `censuses' is in the plural,6 which suggests normal taxations. Tertullian may only have presumed such a census based on Luke, Josephus and his knowledge of the history of the period. He appears to have known that Quirinius was not governor of Syria at that time, or, it has been suggested, had access to an early version of Luke that described the census as conducted by Saturninus, not Quirinius. The words of Tertullian do not confirm or establish a specific date for the census.7

Justin Martyr, who was born in about 105 CE, wrote to defend the Christians against persecution, and appealed, "Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registries of the taxing under Quirinius your first procurator in Judea." (First Apology, 34) Here is an appeal to the public registries, which have, unfortunately, been lost. Whether his comments are derived only from the writings of Luke, or he had independent verification of the earlier "taxing under Quirinius" is not known. He also refers to Quirinius as the "first procurator in Judea," as opposed to governor of Syria. Again, there is no specific dating.
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Old 02-26-2017, 10:44 PM   #37
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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This kind of pure motivation guessing (called contextual analysis, historical analysis, and various other names to give wild motivation-guessing a whiff of authority) is hugely overplayed, imo. The truth is we know very little

Yes, the people (person?) who wrote the bible probably took some of it from an oral history. That's what cult leaders tend to do, takes bit and pieces from existing cultural tales and heros and religions. Was that history real? Who knows. Lots of things are passed down as folklore that aren't real, particularly as relates to messiahs. There's a pretty convincing argument the New Testament is a clever fraud form the way it's constructed.
I think this is a bit glib. Taking thematic elements of other myths (virgin births etc) is one thing. A specific name like "Jesus of Nazareth" getting co-opted is something else. If the "oral history" you think the Gospel writers sourced this from was Messiah-related, then the argument about not coming up with a guy who was from Nazareth, some village nobody has heard of, still applies. And they can't easily have sourced it from an older oral history, because they were placing Jesus quite recently in time, so it would ruin the credibility of the story to borrow an older name. Not to mention, we simply have no evidence of these older stories. To avoid the conclusion that a guy called Jesus of Nazareth existed - something we do have some limited evidence of - you're instead proposing the existence of a whole bunch of other things we have no evidence of at all. Occam's Razor says the simplest explanation is that there existed a guy called Jesus of Nazareth.

Like I said, there are other examples of the Gospel writers writing around inconvenient facts. Each one of these will require some separate complex explanation. All of them can be solved at a stroke by accepting a very limited core of truth in the Gospel stories (there was a guy called Jesus of Nazareth, he was an end-times preacher who fomented unrest, he got crucified by the Romans for his trouble). None of this is proof of course, but it's enough for me to say that the existence of this guy is probable.

I haven't read Carrier's treatise on the historicity of Jesus and likely never will, so I could well be wrong. But I think this argument is pretty good as far as it goes.
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Old 02-26-2017, 11:43 PM   #38
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
The bolded is a little bit of a forced reading. There's nothing specific to indicate that the "only after" part is true.
Mmm. Matthew records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which of course is in Judea. After the jaunt to Egypt, Matthew says:

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But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Not only is Nazareth simply introduced as "a city called Nazareth", with the implication that it has not been important in this story before, but Matthew clearly implies that the natural thing for Joseph to do would have been to return to Judea. You could argue that Matthew simply didn't know that Joseph was from Nazareth, but then you're left with him fabricating a reason why Joseph couldn't "return" to Judea after exile, something that contradicts Luke's account that he was only visiting anyway.

Edit: Rereading this, I was a bit unclear, so here's the simplified version: It is inconsistent that Joseph both lived in Nazareth (Luke) and yet had to be warned by God in a dream not to go "back" to Judea when returning to Israel (Matthew). Once again the conclusion is that Gospel writers were making **** up.

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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
It takes a certain level of pure incredulity to think that statements like these could be completely made up and that somehow, nobody noticed.
I have no idea what this means. The Gospels were written down a generation after the events. Who are these people who are supposed to "notice" and what is this source of truth they are comparing the accounts to?

That people made up stories and wrote them down in Gospels is not a theoretical possibility, it is a fact regardless of your religious persuasion. There are plenty of early apocrypha which are wildly different to the accepted Gospels and many were not disavowed until Nicaea. Why didn't people "notice" before then that these stories were made up? It's not a question that makes any sense.

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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
I submit the following link as a counter-position.

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/firstcensus.htm
Even being as generous as possible to Habermas (for instance, allowing the tortured and frankly silly translation of Luke as saying that the census was "the one before the first one conducted by Quirinius") his chronology does not make sense. Habermas argues that Joseph may have been required to visit Bethlehem because the census was for an inheritance tax and the inheritance records would have been there. His problem is that Luke places Jesus' birth in the time of Herod, who died in 4 BCE, and Augustus did not declare the tax until 6 CE. No problem, says Habermas, because the tax had been imposed once before. Quoting Dio Cassius:

Quote:
To overcome this deficit, Augustus "established the tax of 5%, on the inheritances and bequests which should be left by people at their death to any except very near relatives or very poor persons, representing that he had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda. It was, in fact, a method which had been introduced once before, but had been abolished later, and was now revived. In this way, then, he increased the revenues." (Roman History LV 25:5-6)
Not only is there, to my knowledge, no other evidence of this prior incarnation of the inheritance tax, but for Habermas's purpose, it would need to have happened earlier in Augustus's reign. Augustus could not then claim that he "had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda". There is a gulf the size of the Pacific Ocean between Habermas quoting a Roman historian in ~200 CE claiming that such a tax had been levied earlier, and demonstrating not only that this happened, but that it happened precisely when Habermas needs it to to support his story.

Note that if you back-pedal and accept the vastly simpler story that Luke is simply wrong that the reign of Herod and the census of Quirinius coincided, we can conclude that people did not "notice" that Luke's chronology of major events was out by a decade. Hopefully that answers your question of why people didn't "notice" that the stories of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem were made up.

Last edited by ChrisV; 02-27-2017 at 12:08 AM.
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:16 AM   #39
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Not only is Nazareth simply introduced as "a city called Nazareth", with the implication that it has not been important in this story before, but Matthew clearly implies that the natural thing for Joseph to do would have been to return to Judea. You could argue that Matthew simply didn't know that Joseph was from Nazareth, but then you're left with him fabricating a reason why Joseph couldn't "return" to Judea after exile, something that contradicts Luke's account that he was only visiting anyway.
The city was first introduced at this point. You could argue lots of things about it. What I'm saying is that the conclusion that Joseph has never been there before is forced.

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I have no idea what this means. The Gospels were written down a generation after the events. Who are these people who are supposed to "notice" and what is this source of truth they are comparing the accounts to?
I'm saying that the level of specificity in the details makes it really hard to make things up. The gospels might have been written down a generation after the events, but that doesn't mean that the stories weren't already being told before then. There's also the fact that we don't see huge numbers of variants in the story, which indicates that there's some consistency in how the stories have been passed along. If there was some detail that was so stupid that you'd have to be a moron to have accepted it, that would probably have been sniffed out before anything was ever committed to writing.

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That people made up stories and wrote them down in Gospels is not a theoretical possibility, it is a fact regardless of your religious persuasion. There are plenty of early apocrypha which are wildly different to the accepted Gospels and many were not disavowed until Nicaea. Why didn't people "notice" before then that these stories were made up? It's not a question that makes any sense.
Let me back up a bit and rephrase that. I can accept that some stories were possibly made up, especially with regards to specific incidents/conversations/interactions.

But let's take the whole taxation thing and consider it at face value through the lens of someone living at that time. We have a specific name of someone in government. If that name were made up, there's no way that the story goes anywhere. If the idea that a taxation census requires people to report here or there is so far outside of the norm for the government, someone would have said "That never happens" and the story dies.

So to just try to wash over the whole thing and assert that the whole thing was all made up just to match some prefabricated plot detail sounds like something that probably ought to have failed.

I can accept that some details got muddled or confused as being part of a reasonable explanation for things that don't exactly align in these narratives. I think those are normal sorts of things that happen in ancient documents.

You can claim that the gospel writers really, really, really needed Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and so made up a bunch of stuff to make it happen. I just find it to be such a cynical reading that I barely even know where to begin with it.

Again, I'm not that knowledgeable in this particular topic and these particular questions, so I'm not going to try to go deep with the details. The page I quoted seems to make specific references to specific documents. I have no reason to think (for example) that among all of the research that has apparently been done, that he's also just randomly making up other things along the way.

Just as above, it comes off as blindly cynical that I don't even know how to address it. Should I read what you've said and think, "ChrisV is clearly fully knowledgeable of all the historical writings of Dio Cassius and so since he doesn't know anything about it, I should trust his judgment that this is a completely made up reference"? It may be true that "to your knowledge" certain things don't exist. I wouldn't expect you to know of all the references unless you were a scholar of the era!

The type of leap I'm challenging you on is the one that says "Because I don't know about this, it's more likely true that this guy is just making stuff up." It's just really hard to take you seriously when you do that sort of thing. The reflex to "this has to be made up" isn't one that matches how historians look at history. They certainly do take into account the biases and perspectives of the writer, but they don't treat everyone as being so insincere about their efforts that they must all be trying to lie about things all the time.
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:58 AM   #40
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Again, I'm not that knowledgeable in this particular topic and these particular questions, so I'm not going to try to go deep with the details. The page I quoted seems to make specific references to specific documents. I have no reason to think (for example) that among all of the research that has apparently been done, that he's also just randomly making up other things along the way.

Just as above, it comes off as blindly cynical that I don't even know how to address it. Should I read what you've said and think, "ChrisV is clearly fully knowledgeable of all the historical writings of Dio Cassius and so since he doesn't know anything about it, I should trust his judgment that this is a completely made up reference"? It may be true that "to your knowledge" certain things don't exist. I wouldn't expect you to know of all the references unless you were a scholar of the era!

The type of leap I'm challenging you on is the one that says "Because I don't know about this, it's more likely true that this guy is just making stuff up." It's just really hard to take you seriously when you do that sort of thing. The reflex to "this has to be made up" isn't one that matches how historians look at history. They certainly do take into account the biases and perspectives of the writer, but they don't treat everyone as being so insincere about their efforts that they must all be trying to lie about things all the time.
I know virtually nothing about Ancient Rome. My research consisted of looking up "inheritance tax" on Wikipedia and the entry for Ancient Rome says this:

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No inheritance tax was recorded for the Roman Republic, despite abundant evidence for testamentary law. The vicesima hereditatium ("twentieth of inheritance") was levied by Rome's first emperor, Augustus, in the last decade of his reign.
According to that, there's no evidence of a prior inheritance tax. Habermas just quotes a single Roman historian alluding to the possibility, but giving no specifics. His whole argument turns on this, yet he never attempts to address the question of whether it could have happened when he needs it to, chronologically. A prior introduction of the tax during the reign of Augustus should appear somewhere in Roman history, and Cassius's account of the 6CE introduction of the tax seems to preclude Augustus having introduced it before. While, per Wiki, there's no evidence of the tax having been introduced in the days of the Roman Republic, it would not help Habermas's argument even if that had occurred.

If Habermas could have made the case for even the possibility of an inheritance tax during the reign of Herod specifically, he would have done so. Instead he cites a single source saying that such a tax had been previously introduced, at some vague point in the past, then proceeds to smoothly elide the distinction between that and what needs to have happened to make his account possible. It's just deliberate dishonesty.
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Old 02-27-2017, 01:20 AM   #41
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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But let's take the whole taxation thing and consider it at face value through the lens of someone living at that time. We have a specific name of someone in government. If that name were made up, there's no way that the story goes anywhere. If the idea that a taxation census requires people to report here or there is so far outside of the norm for the government, someone would have said "That never happens" and the story dies.
You're expecting people to be able to distinguish fact from truth in events that happened 70 years ago! Suppose you talked to an average person in Europe today. What do you think the chances are they would be able to spot falsehoods slipped into accounts of how European governments conducted their affairs circa WW2? And Europe now is educated and literate. We're talking about credulous, illiterate people with much shorter lifespans.

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The type of leap I'm challenging you on is the one that says "Because I don't know about this, it's more likely true that this guy is just making stuff up." It's just really hard to take you seriously when you do that sort of thing. The reflex to "this has to be made up" isn't one that matches how historians look at history. They certainly do take into account the biases and perspectives of the writer, but they don't treat everyone as being so insincere about their efforts that they must all be trying to lie about things all the time.
I'm saying that Luke's account flies in the face of what we know about how Roman censuses (censi?) worked. That, Habermas's argument aside, it contains big chronological errors. That there are obvious motivations for someone to have made up the Bethlehem story. It's standard practice when looking at ancient accounts to compare them to what else we know and distrust the sections that aren't in accordance. When Herodotus says that in some battle the Persians had 150,000 men and the Athenians slaughtered them all with the deaths of only three hoplites and someone's pet dog, we look at that very skeptically given what we know about how possible that is and what Herodotus's biases are. We don't desperately try to bend known facts in an effort to render the story plausible.
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Old 02-27-2017, 01:39 AM   #42
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

Also, this is not just my opinion about the story in Luke, it's historical consensus. This is from Wikipedia on the census of Quirinius:

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The author of the Gospel of Luke uses it as the narrative means by which Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5), and places the census within the reign of Herod the Great, who actually died 10 years earlier in 4 BCE. No satisfactory explanation has been put forward so far to resolve the contradiction, and most scholars think that the author of the gospel made a mistake.

...

There are major difficulties in accepting Luke's account: the census in fact took place in AD 6, ten years after Herod's death in 4 BCE; there was no single census of the entire empire under Augustus; no Roman census required people to travel from their own homes to those of distant ancestors; and the census of Judea would not have affected Joseph and his family, living in Galilee; most scholars have therefore concluded that the author of Luke's gospel made an error.
"Made an error" is pretty polite language for a story that makes no sense from start to finish.
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Old 02-27-2017, 01:57 AM   #43
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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I know virtually nothing about Ancient Rome. My research consisted of looking up "inheritance tax" on Wikipedia and the entry for Ancient Rome says this
First, Wikipedia is not the all-knowing source of information. Especially as you get into more and more technical territory, it becomes less and less reliable. But that's not relevant in this case, because in your haste you literally completely misread what was stated.

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No inheritance tax was recorded for the Roman Republic, despite abundant evidence for testamentary law. The vicesima hereditatium ("twentieth of inheritance") was levied by Rome's first emperor, Augustus, in the last decade of his reign.
Did you notice that "the Roman Republic" is not actually the Roman government when Jesus was supposedly alive? Did you recognize that Augustus' last decade coincides roughly with the time of Jesus' birth?

In your haste, you're missing all sorts of details, and it's causing you to be wrong. Like, straight up wrong.

Edit: Direct links, so that there's no possibility for confusion.

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

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The Roman Republic (Latin: Res publica Romana; Classical Latin: [ˈreːs ˈpuːb.lɪ.ka roːˈmaː.na]) was the era of ancient Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus

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Augustus (Latin: Imperātor Caesar Dīvī Fīlius Augustus;[note 1][note 2] 23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD) was the founder of the Roman Principate and considered the first Roman emperor, controlling the Roman Empire from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

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Old 02-27-2017, 02:09 AM   #44
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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You're expecting people to be able to distinguish fact from truth in events that happened 70 years ago! Suppose you talked to an average person in Europe today. What do you think the chances are they would be able to spot falsehoods slipped into accounts of how European governments conducted their affairs circa WW2? And Europe now is educated and literate. We're talking about credulous, illiterate people with much shorter lifespans.
Nope. You're conflating the time of the earliest available writings to the start of the telling of the stories. This is one of the huge mistakes that non-historically minded folks make over and over again. By the time these stories were committed to writing, they were basically canon. Otherwise, we'd find huge variations in the copies of the text.

And I'm also not saying that the memory needs to be perfect! There's just lots more going on that you're missing because you're putting way too much weight on your own speculations.

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I'm saying that Luke's account flies in the face of what we know about how Roman censuses (censi?) worked. That, Habermas's argument aside, it contains big chronological errors.
It flies in the face of what we know about large scale Roman census worked. But it's not as if that's the *ONLY* way that taxes were taken (extorted) from the people under Roman rule.

Be specific about the chronological errors. After all, you've literally been shown to have made very obvious chronological errors of your own.

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That there are obvious motivations for someone to have made up the Bethlehem story. It's standard practice when looking at ancient accounts to compare them to what else we know and distrust the sections that aren't in accordance.
Ummmmm... it's common practice to consider biases in writings, but to "distrust" them requires a bit more than "well, they had a motivation." Everyone has a motivation all the time! And things aren't out of accordance nearly as bad as you keep assuming they are.

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When Herodotus says that in some battle the Persians had 150,000 men and the Athenians slaughtered them all with the deaths of only three hoplites and someone's pet dog, we look at that very skeptically given what we know about how possible that is and what Herodotus's biases are. We don't desperately try to bend known facts in an effort to render the story plausible.
Right. And therefore, the whole episode is entirely made up and nothing at all resembling that ever possibly happened. There is a huge gap between distrusting the details and distrusting the entire incident.
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Old 02-27-2017, 02:13 AM   #45
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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Also, this is not just my opinion about the story in Luke, it's historical consensus.
It's historical consensus that there was no nation-wide census. Yes. I agree with that 100%. But that's not the same as saying that the historical consensus is that there was absolutely nothing resembling some sort of taxation census that ever happened in or around the area at that time.

You need to stop using such a broad tool when looking at find details.

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This is from Wikipedia on the census of Quirinius:



"Made an error" is pretty polite language for a story that makes no sense from start to finish.
In that case, I'd say that you "made an error" in your analysis. You have demonstrated a high propensity in this conversation of greatly overstating your position, and it's on display right here.

You talk about biases, but your bias towards thinking that everything has to point towards the gospels being totally made up must be the answer to all the questions. I cannot help you get past this. You have to find your own intellectual honesty and come to that yourself.
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Old 02-27-2017, 02:29 AM   #46
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Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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what are the odds that a miracle has ever happened and what is a miracle?


Grunching..
I don't believe in miracles in the biblical sense. But these days the word miracle gets thrown about for all kinds of scenarios that seem improbable but when accomplished bring much joy to others. And I do believe these things occurred in biblical times.

The water into wine for instance I'm pretty sure was just Jman sprinkling a bit of the up until then unknown go fast powder in and 20-30 doods tripping balls for few hours. No one was much hungry so the loaf of bread n 2 fish on hand tied everyone over aswell even though there was some (usually) huge appetites in the crowd. Great story tho
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Old 02-27-2017, 03:34 AM   #47
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

Come on man. Read my frigging posts before you accuse me of not knowing when the Roman Republic was. I'm not THAT clueless about Rome.

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According to that, there's no evidence of a prior inheritance tax. Habermas just quotes a single Roman historian alluding to the possibility, but giving no specifics. His whole argument turns on this, yet he never attempts to address the question of whether it could have happened when he needs it to, chronologically. A prior introduction of the tax during the reign of Augustus should appear somewhere in Roman history, and Cassius's account of the 6CE introduction of the tax seems to preclude Augustus having introduced it before. While, per Wiki, there's no evidence of the tax having been introduced in the days of the Roman Republic, it would not help Habermas's argument even if that had occurred.
It's becoming clear that you have not read and understood Habermas's argument either. He requires this tax to have been introduced TWO SEPARATE TIMES DURING THE REIGN OF AUGUSTUS, the first time in 4BC or earlier so as to coincide with Herod. If you don't agree with Habermas here you should outline your own position.

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It's historical consensus that there was no nation-wide census. Yes. I agree with that 100%. But that's not the same as saying that the historical consensus is that there was absolutely nothing resembling some sort of taxation census that ever happened in or around the area at that time.
You don't have a point here beyond "it's impossible to prove a negative". I can't prove there isn't a teacup orbiting Jupiter, you're right. But:

1. The story of travelling for the census appears in no other text, including the other Gospels
2. According to every translation of the Bible ever, Luke places the birth both during the census of Quirinius and the reign of Herod, a decade apart.
3. The census of Quirinius was Judea only and would not have affected Joseph.
4. If you want to disregard every translation of the Bible ever, we have no record of any earlier census.
5. No known Roman census required people to travel.
6. Judea was not a Roman province under Herod, but rather a client state. Even assuming it would be possible, why would the Romans conduct a census of a client state? The census of Quirinius was precisely because Judea had just become a Roman province.

The story appears in one source and is contradicted in every conceivable detail by everything we know from other sources. I'm genuinely bemused by your accusation that I am distrusting it for no reason. Aside from a primary source documenting the birth of Jesus not in Bethlehem, can you suggest a way in which the story could be less credible than it is?

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Nope. You're conflating the time of the earliest available writings to the start of the telling of the stories. This is one of the huge mistakes that non-historically minded folks make over and over again. By the time these stories were committed to writing, they were basically canon. Otherwise, we'd find huge variations in the copies of the text.
WE DO! The church had to convene a meeting in 325 CE to throw out a bunch of material they didn't like. According to you, this material should never have survived in the first place, because people would just obviously recognise what was true and what wasn't? And there are entire books written about how even the canonical Gospels were altered over time. That there have never been varying accounts of Jesus' life is a pretty jaw dropping assertion. We have literally just been discussing varying accounts of his birth in even the surviving documents.

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Old 02-27-2017, 03:40 AM   #48
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

I remember NotReady used to cite Habermas all the time and I never read his stuff. If this is a representative example of his work, then lol. His argument here is that because Augustus introduced an inheritance tax in 6CE and Cassius says it was introduced before, then maybe it was also introduced during Herod's reign, even though we have no evidence of that and it contradicts what Cassius said, and maybe there was a census of Judea then, even though there's no evidence of one and Judea wasn't a Roman province at the time, and maybe people had to travel for that census, even though nobody ever had to travel for any census. Sure bro. Maybe.
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Old 02-27-2017, 04:46 PM   #49
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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It's becoming clear that you have not read and understood Habermas's argument either. He requires this tax to have been introduced TWO SEPARATE TIMES DURING THE REIGN OF AUGUSTUS, the first time in 4BC or earlier so as to coincide with Herod.
He's not arguing that. He's quoting a source for that.

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/firstcensus.htm

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Caesar Augustus ruled from 44 BCE to 14 CE. An edict of Caesar Augustus decreeing a census for purposes of taxation for all the inhabited earth, or essentially the Roman Empire, is recorded by Dio Cassius.4 By 5 CE the military expenditures for the widespread Roman legions exceeded income, and "Augustus lacked funds for all these troops." (Dio Cassius, Roman History LV 24:9) No tax plan was accepted at that time. In 6 CE Augustus established a "military treasury. . . . Now Augustus made a contribution himself toward the fund and promised to do so annually, and he also accepted voluntary contributions from kings and certain communities; but he took nothing from private citizens, . . . but this proved very slight in comparison with the amount being spent." (Roman History LV 25:3-4) To overcome this deficit, Augustus "established the tax of 5%, on the inheritances and bequests which should be left by people at their death to any except very near relatives or very poor persons, representing that he had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda. It was, in fact, a method which had been introduced once before, but had been abolished later, and was now revived. In this way, then, he increased the revenues." (Roman History LV 25:5-6) In 6 CE Caesar Augustus issued a worldwide decree that for a second time there would be a 5% inheritance tax on estates, something beyond the normal taxation. Such a taxation would require a census to register transferable assets, such as land, and to record genealogies to establish "very near relatives." As the benefactor, this taxation would have had the full support of the Roman military.
So if you want to say that he's making up his source, then do that. Say that this guy is just an utter fraud. But you can't sit there in your professed level of ignorance and say "There's no way this could have happened" when the guy is quoting a source that says "this happened." (And no, wikipedia doesn't count as a source.)

Quote:
You don't have a point here beyond "it's impossible to prove a negative".
Nope. I'm challenging that you can forcefully assert your negative conclusion into the void of information. There are multiple things going on.

1) You're insisting on a particular way of reading the text.
2) You're insisting a specific motive AND asserting actions as a consequence of those motives.
3) You're rejecting external references.

There's not much I can do with that.

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WE DO! The church had to convene a meeting in 325 CE to throw out a bunch of material they didn't like. According to you, this material should never have survived in the first place, because people would just obviously recognise what was true and what wasn't? And there are entire books written about how even the canonical Gospels were altered over time. That there have never been varying accounts of Jesus' life is a pretty jaw dropping assertion. We have literally just been discussing varying accounts of his birth in even the surviving documents.
Right. Because we have no evidence that those things existed, or that there was debate/discussion about those texts or anything. <sigh>

The texts that were rejected were rejected for all sorts of reasons. Among those reasons, many of the gnostic texts were written much after the time of the canonical books and so would (for all the historical reasons that you can imagine) be viewed as being less reliable. But now you're arguing that these books that were written later deserve to be treated as if they were as reliable as the original writings so that they undermine the consistency of the earlier writings?

(Incidentally, we know that they were altered over time because we can track those changes by finding earlier and earlier manuscripts. This is not new. Or interesting. Many of the "changes" that people tend to count are misspellings and other such errors. What you're not seeing are people inserting a bunch of extra details randomly in those counts. The various gnostic texts are not things like minor modifications of stories. They're literally a completely different style of text containing completely different theological perspectives that look and feel a lot like the philosophy of a different time and location. It's not even close to the same thing.)

This whole position is quite stupid because you're using information to make an argument that's utterly unrelated to the actual argument at hand.

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Old 02-27-2017, 07:50 PM   #50
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Re: Is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed?

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To overcome this deficit, Augustus "established the tax of 5%, on the inheritances and bequests which should be left by people at their death to any except very near relatives or very poor persons, representing that he had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda. It was, in fact, a method which had been introduced once before, but had been abolished later, and was now revived. In this way, then, he increased the revenues."
Augustus would not be "representing that he had found this tax set down in Caesar's memoranda" (saying essentially that it was Caesar's idea) in 6CE if he had already introduced the tax once before during his reign. That makes no sense. Cassius is saying the tax had been introduced once before prior to Augustus being Emperor. Cassius is right in the middle of writing a complete history of Augustus's reign! If he meant that Augustus had introduced this tax before, he would have noted it earlier in his history, and would make specific reference to this earlier event when discussing the 6CE tax.
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