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Old 08-22-2008, 05:22 PM   #201
Achilles
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Hmm, sorry I missed this. I've actually spent quite a bit of time arguing with the "Jesus Mythers" (people who insist that Yeshua bar Yosef, aka Jesus of Nazareth called Christ, was not a historical figure, but a purely mythical character). They're a largely uneducated lot. A few of them just think they know something because they saw Brian Flemming's film or "Zeitgeist: the Movie" but many of them have read the literature on the subject.
How unfortunate that your opening salvo is a "poisoning the well" fallacy.

We either have evidence for a historical Jesus or we do not. If you do, then such poorly formed arguments aren't necessary and only serve as a distraction. If you do not, then you're simply calling people names for the sake of either a) doing so or b) feeling superior.

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Unfortunately for them the literature is written by amateurs, based on outdated theories (ex: Kersey Graves, Gerald Massey, "Acharya S" aka Dorothy M. Murdock). Earl Doherty is the most "respected" of the lot, but he too is an amateur. Robert Price is the only real Biblical scholar amongst them, but he's considered fringe even in his field. Richard Carrier recently earned his doctorate in History and is working on a book, but I don't know if he'll submit it to peer review (and if he'll argue that Jesus isn't historical).
More poisoning of the well, with perhaps a thinly veiled appeal to authority thrown in as well (I can only assume that you're hoping to bolster the credentials of the people you hope to cite later, which I imagine will be "proper" scholars, i.e. people that got to in that category because they happened to agree with everyone else with that particular point of view)

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As for the "prove god is imaginary" crap (put out by these two different guys on youtube, iirc), those videos have been responded to several times already. You can find the responses as well.
This doesn't tell me anything. Someone can post a video about anything and get responses. Saying that something has been "responded to" says zilch about the quality of the response or the quality of the video for that matter.

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I'm starting classes Monday so I've got a lot on my mind, but I saw the title and had a flashback to all those debates.
Assuming that the class is debate related, I hope your instructor is pointing out fallacious arguments so that everyone will learn how not to make them.

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I LIKE religious debates, and the Senate is the right place for those kinds of things. It's worthwhile having them especially since the quality of "debate" coming from the Rational Responder type camp on Youtube has been so poor lately. They're like the atheist version of Chick Ministries.
Biased Sample. But yes, some people do post crap on YT. I suspect that happens everywhere on the interwebs though.

P.S. I don't know if I meet your "educated vs. uneducated" threshold or not, but I do hope that you'll consider the points raised this post on their own merits, instead of categorically dismissing them because they haven't been authorized by the orthodoxy.
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Old 08-22-2008, 08:55 PM   #202
Kurgan
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Well, now that the ice is broken... I hope you didn't think that post was my whole argument, right?

I've had this same discussion so many times, it should be sharpened to a fine point by now. But I'm always open to new insights to refine and reconstruct if necessary!

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Originally Posted by Achilles View Post
How unfortunate that your opening salvo is a "poisoning the well" fallacy.
Nice, but it won't save you.

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We either have evidence for a historical Jesus or we do not.
"We" do.

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If you do, then such poorly formed arguments aren't necessary and only serve as a distraction.
Which "poorly formed arguments"? Mine? Or someone else's? My point is that the whole Myther camp is 95% amateur crap, which has been debunked numerous times already. The burden of proof is on the Mythers to show why we should disregard the mainstream scholarly opinion (that Jesus was a historical figure upon which the Christian religion was based) and embrace one of their proposed alternative theories (ie: mushroom cult, mistaken identity, multiple character confusion, historical hoax, misread mythology, copycat conspiracy, space aliens, etc).

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If you do not, then you're simply calling people names for the sake of either a) doing so or b) feeling superior.
I am superior to those folks in the sense that I'm using credible sources, not deliberately distorting facts to promote some wild thesis, and submitting myself to academic scrutiny (as far as possible in that I'm not a professor or PhD candidate).

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More poisoning of the well, with perhaps a thinly veiled appeal to authority thrown in as well (I can only assume that you're hoping to bolster the credentials of the people you hope to cite later,
I need not, their credentials speak for themselves. Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, the late Michael Grant, etc. all are credentialed experts in their fields (New Testament scholarship, ancient Jewish studies, Classical history). None of them are Christians. The Mythers on the other hand, have no comparable credentials in the field. G.A. Wells is a professor of German (and, rumor has it, has distanced himself from the "copycat school"), Murdock has a BA in Classics, Carrier is a newly minted ancient historian (no published scholarly works on the topic yet), Massey was a "self taught" Egyptologist of the early 20th century, and Graves is described as a "mostly self educated" writer from over a hundred years ago.

Doherty has university degrees (presumably) in ancient history and "classical languages" but no evidence of an earned Doctorate in a relevant field, and Price, as I said, is the only biblical scholar in the bunch, and his peers reject his theories. If we take everyone who has a bachelor's degree as a scholarly expert, then we'll be here all day!

Unlike the amateurs, the real experts have to pass this thing called "peer review" that holds them accountable for what they claim, and unlike the writers of a century ago, they have access to far more tools and resources for studying the ancient evidence, and thus can come to a better understanding of it.

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which I imagine will be "proper" scholars, i.e. people that got to in that category because they happened to agree with everyone else with that particular point of view)
On the contrary... if you've spent any time in academia you'll realize that such a conception is mere fantasy, but used time and again as an excuse by fringe amateurs for why their work isn't taken as seriously by experts as by the masses of paperback readers. Unlike these amateurs, the real experts had to work for YEARS to earn the right to be called "Doctor so and so." We're talking grueling hours of research, writing, re-writing, editing, presentation & defense, and so forth. Plus they have access to great resources and minds. That's something no "self taught" writer is going to be able to equal. Perhaps in the olden days, when far less was known, there was more opportunity for amateurs to shine, but these days, it's far too easy for them to pass off some half-baked nonsense as "fact" and sell it for a quick buck through self publishing. It's easier than it has ever been to publish, and so we have a glut of information. Not all of it is of equal worth, I'm sorry to say.

Academia is always looking for new ideas. If you come up with the "new idea" you're going to spark a revolution. These amateurs are just recycling what they know will sell because of its shock value (or by reinforcing what certain niche markets want to hear).

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This doesn't tell me anything. Someone can post a video about anything and get responses.
Right, but I'm talking about the sheer arrogance of the "prove Jesus is imaginary in 5 minutes!" type videos. All it is is an apologetic tool, no deeper than a Chick Tract for non-believers.

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Saying that something has been "responded to" says zilch about the quality of the response or the quality of the video for that matter.
True, but again, the video makers act as if this is something that can't be responded to. Usually such things are trotted out as "stumpers" for Christians, as if they haven't heard of this before. I'm not saying everything on Youtube is true or even worth your time, far from it. However I find it funny that someone would actually be taken in by the "win all arguments instantly" hype.

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Assuming that the class is debate related, I hope your instructor is pointing out fallacious arguments so that everyone will learn how not to make them.
I've never taken debate. If you have, more points for you. However you can spend all day attacking my method, but when it comes to the historical Jesus debate, the burden of proof is on the Mythers. It's the same deal with the 9/11 Truthers who claim it was an inside job. It's not enough to simply question the "official story." They need to show why their theory better fits the evidence we have. The trouble is, the Mythers typically haven't even looked at the evidence themselves, they've only seen it filtered through some apologists eyes. Again, it's a shortcut to thinking... the same kind of crap that Christians are constantly being accused of doing.

If you've looked at everything, we can jump past that stage, and get right into the details, but perhaps we should start a new thread? The weekends are better for me for discussing.

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Biased Sample. But yes, some people do post crap on YT. I suspect that happens everywhere on the interwebs though.

P.S. I don't know if I meet your "educated vs. uneducated" threshold or not, but I do hope that you'll consider the points raised
I'm not particularly interested in your own credentials, unless your arguments are being based on appealing to your own authority as a scholar or professional historian. What I'm most interested in is whether you're familiar with the scholarly and primary source material, and whether you can interpret it accurately and present it honestly. That's what matters. That's the same thing I'd be doing. I wouldn't be going "Look at me Dr. Kurgan" (because I'm not a Phd), I'd be saying "look at Dr. So and So" and you'd be checking to see if Dr. So and So really said that and if you could argue with it from another Dr. So and So, etc.

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this post on their own merits, instead of categorically dismissing them because they haven't been authorized by the orthodoxy.
See, I think you may feel it is unfair to give experts more credibility than amateurs, but that's the way the "appeal to authority" works. It's only a fallacy if you're using people as authorities that either can't be verified (hearsay), or aren't really authorities (diploma mill types, not experts in the field at hand, etc), or are being misquoted/out of context. The authorities commonly appealed to on the Myther side are NOT experts on the subjects, or are very old, in a field where a lot has changed since their writings were published (leaving their work partially or wholly outdated). That's not to say that the Mythers couldn't make a case, but so far the ones I've seen are very weak, so much so that even non-Christian scholars find themselves on the historicist side.

As for your post, the burden of proof is not upon Christians to prove any of their supernatural claims, because that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm not demanding you accept that Jesus was divine, the Messiah, sent by God, a true prophet, a miracle worker, rose from the dead, or anything of the kind. All I'm asking is for you to accept the majority view of scholarly academics that Jesus of Nazareth, the human being, really existed, rather than some kind of fictional, mythical, purely spiritual, invented or hoaxed character (as the Mythers claim). I'm saying there's a reason why the majority view him as historical, and that's because they have seen sufficient evidence to establish his historicity, and precious little if anything to establish him as mythical. You may not like that, but that's the way it is.

Shifting the burden of proof to trying to get me to prove there's a God, and this God intervenes in history, and this God inspired the Bible, and incarnated as a man, etc. would be dishonest in this case. The claims of Christian theology are beyond the scope of science or history to "prove" (beyond reasonable doubt). They are matters of faith or philosophy. However, the existence of Jesus is accepted even by those experts who do not accept the theological claims of Christianity, just as they accept the existence of the Pharoahs of Egypt and the Caesars of Rome, when all of the latter and many of the former were claimed to be living gods, or deified after their deaths (and miracles or wonders were attributed to several of them) is accepted, without necessarily accepting the supernatural claims as well. It's not as if it requires any special faith to agree that a man existed who went around preaching doctrine, had miraculous abilities and divine personage attributed to him (or even if he were to claim these things of himself), and started a movement based on his teachings and personal charisma. Such things are not unprecedented in antiquity. We should not let personal prejudice against a religion move us to demand "greater evidence" than we would for any other ancient figure, especially one who was not a great general or powerful political leader in life.

Still today we have men who claim to be living gods (or are claimed to be by their followers), and in recent memory. There are claims of miracles, and so forth.

The Jesus we're talking about, is the Jesus spoken of in the New Testament. Yes, it was a common name, but how many Jesuses (Jesii?) do we know that gave rise to a movement known as the Christians? How many preachers from Nazareth do we know that were executed for crucifixion in this period? Had brothers named James? When we add it all up, this just comes up as another nitpick. Yes, the experts of thought of this too. Sure, some references to ancient people named "Yeshu" we're not quite sure if they're the same exact person, but many other references pretty much have to be the same guy. Otherwise one could argue if the "Jesus" spoken of in the Gospel Matthew is the same Jesus in the Gospel of John, is the same characters spoken of in the book of Acts, is the same character spoken of in Paul's letters, etc.

As for the rest of your post, I can take the time this weekend to take it apart piece by piece and respond if that's what you'd like.

I'd like to summarize the common arguments that we can't trust the gospels because they're too late, anonymous and not by eyewitnesses, etc. and the usual retort that even though Paul is much earlier and a contemporary, that he didn't actually meet Jesus face to face (only in a vision, he claims, and the author of Acts claims). The trouble is, historians and other experts still find these early records compelling. It's certainly a pretty good start for a figure of antiquity, especially one who was of such lowly status (ie: not a monarch or high ranking military figure). The preservation of these early texts is phenomenal. That doesn't mean "perfect" but it's enough to go on. And we can see from these early records that the authors were talking about a man that they thought lived on earth recently, not some spiritual figure that they dreamt of one night, or a nice metaphor for something else (which also begs the question of why make up a character that was supposed to be historical, and then why suffer ridicule and persecution for it?). I won't even bother with the theories that the apostles didn't exist, as it's so silly, but people have tried that one before as well.

Using "prophecy" is not my intention here. However the insinuation (common for the Mythers) that Jesus was simply a metaphorical figure (because as we know, there's no such thing as true predictive prophecy). However, we can easily see that the authors are freely interpreting the OT texts to have Jesus fit them, and you could also say that in many ways a Messiah wannabe (for lack of a better term) could certainly tailor their own life (or be groomed) to try to meet some of the more explicit predictions. But again, all this is not really necessary. Prophecies of Jesus in the OT no more throw his existence into question than they throw into question modern day events, as certain people claim to have foreseen them in the Bible or in Nostradamus, etc.

Revelation is not a criteria I'm using here at all, since I'm arguing a strictly historical/critical approach, not a religious one. So it's not a case of someone knowing that King Arthur is real because they had a dream about him that "felt so real."

The "uniqueness" of the Jesus story is really not important, since there are millions of people with similar life stories and experiences. However, Jesus is unique enough in his time and place that we can still determine who he is (if you get me). The common "copycat theories" of the Mythers are a load of rubbish (and I can go into more detail to show you why if you wish). The "lack of uniqueness" that people claim actually works in favor of Jesus' existence, because it shows just who plausible it is.

But it'd sort of be like arguing that Caligula didn't exist, either because he sounded like such a wild character, or because he was so much like everyone else. What... a political leader who abused his power, had some odd sexual practices, and a god-complex... who was assassinated by his own military? That's probably happened many times before in history... We could even imagine that he was invented as a character to justify some later reform or rebellion... written by some anti-Imperialist or something. Carvings? Fake, of course, propaganda for this anti-Imperialist movement, or a fictional character had his name stolen to create this fictional character. We could go on and on with a more and more convoluted story.

More will be posted time permitting, but I'd really prefer a fresh start, or you can email me (kurgan @ qwest . net).

Incidentally, can you show me exactly where the Bible says the earth is only 6,000 years old? Surely it's right next to the passages proving the "flat earth," right?


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Old 08-22-2008, 11:48 PM   #203
Achilles
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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Well, now that the ice is broken... I hope you didn't think that post was my whole argument, right?
I was hoping that it wasn't

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I've had this same discussion so many times, it should be sharpened to a fine point by now. But I'm always open to new insights to refine and reconstruct if necessary!
As am I!

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Nice, but it won't save you.
I'm not sure I need saving, as I'm not the one using logical fallacies to make my argument.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
"We" do.
Feel free to present it at any time. I will keep an eye out for said evidence elsewhere in this post.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Which "poorly formed arguments"? Mine? Or someone else's?
In this instance, I am referring to yours (hint: the one(s) with fallacies).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
My point is that the whole Myther camp is 95% amateur crap, which has been debunked numerous times already.
You'll forgive me as I'm not familiar with "Myther". I am familiar with the part where I try to find historical evidence for Jesus and can't find any. No contemporaries. No journals. No census data. No eyewitness accounts. Just a bunch of myths that sound an awful lot like other myths.

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The burden of proof is on the Mythers to show why we should disregard the mainstream scholarly opinion (that Jesus was a historical figure upon which the Christian religion was based) and embrace one of their proposed alternative theories (ie: mushroom cult, mistaken identity, multiple character confusion, historical hoax, misread mythology, copycat conspiracy, space aliens, etc).
No sir. Burden of proof is on the christian community to present evidence for jesus christ. They make the claim. They defend the claim. That's how it works.

"Mythers" is of course responsible for defending whatever claim he wishes to make, as he would have the burden of proof for that.

If the "mainstream scholarly opinion" has evidence for their claim, then great. If not, then anyone that accepts their conclusion has fallen for fallacious thinking. If that includes you, then I'm very sorry for you, but such a poorly formed argument isn't very persuasive for me. I have a thing about accepting things as true after I have evidence to think so.

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I am superior to those folks in the sense that I'm using credible sources, not deliberately distorting facts to promote some wild thesis, and submitting myself to academic scrutiny (as far as possible in that I'm not a professor or PhD candidate).
I question the integrity of anything for which "credibility" is self-assigned. Having a degree in "make believe" does not make one credible and aligning myself to a school of thought that has no objective standard sounds like a risky proposition.

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I need not, their credentials speak for themselves.
I wonder how that would sound if the topic was the field of linguistics and we were discussing "Klingon" or "Elvish".

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, the late Michael Grant, etc. all are credentialed experts in their fields (New Testament scholarship, ancient Jewish studies, Classical history). None of them are Christians. The Mythers on the other hand, have no comparable credentials in the field. G.A. Wells is a professor of German (and, rumor has it, has distanced himself from the "copycat school"), Murdock has a BA in Classics, Carrier is a newly minted ancient historian (no published scholarly works on the topic yet), Massey was a "self taught" Egyptologist of the early 20th century, and Graves is described as a "mostly self educated" writer from over a hundred years ago.
At this point, I'm simply going to point out that the constant reference to "Mythers" (et al) is a strawman. The discussion is evidence for Jesus.

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Unlike the amateurs, the real experts have to pass this thing called "peer review" that holds them accountable for what they claim, and unlike the writers of a century ago, they have access to far more tools and resources for studying the ancient evidence, and thus can come to a better understanding of it.
"Peer Review"

"Would you agree that the Emperor's vestments are indeed purple?"
"Quite right."
"It is agreed then!"
"What do you say, then, sir?"
"They look rather mauve to me."
"Oh, poor show, old man. It seems that you've failed our peer review process."

Feel free to point out how this thinking is wrong (I do hope that you won't resort to further appeals to authority to do so though, as that would be more circular reasoning).

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On the contrary... if you've spent any time in academia you'll realize that such a conception is mere fantasy, but used time and again as an excuse by fringe amateurs for why their work isn't taken as seriously by experts as by the masses of paperback readers.
I'm sorry, sir. You can repeat the fallacy as many times as you care to, however that isn't going to prevent it from being a fallacy.

Again, if you have evidence, then shoddy arguments aren't necessary.

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Unlike these amateurs, the real experts had to work for YEARS to earn the right to be called "Doctor so and so." We're talking grueling hours of research, writing, re-writing, editing, presentation & defense, and so forth. Plus they have access to great resources and minds. That's something no "self taught" writer is going to be able to equal. Perhaps in the olden days, when far less was known, there was more opportunity for amateurs to shine, but these days, it's far too easy for them to pass off some half-baked nonsense as "fact" and sell it for a quick buck through self publishing. It's easier than it has ever been to publish, and so we have a glut of information. Not all of it is of equal worth, I'm sorry to say.
Please see the above on "peer review". It addresses this as well.

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Academia is always looking for new ideas. If you come up with the "new idea" you're going to spark a revolution. These amateurs are just recycling what they know will sell because of its shock value (or by reinforcing what certain niche markets want to hear).
Funny that you would make this argument while discussing a field of study in which everyone starts with the conclusion and works backwards.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Right, but I'm talking about the sheer arrogance of the "prove Jesus is imaginary in 5 minutes!" type videos. All it is is an apologetic tool, no deeper than a Chick Tract for non-believers.
That certainly is one way to dismiss and argument that you cannot address. Another would be discount the argument itself for valid reasons.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
True, but again, the video makers act as if this is something that can't be responded to. Usually such things are trotted out as "stumpers" for Christians, as if they haven't heard of this before. I'm not saying everything on Youtube is true or even worth your time, far from it. However I find it funny that someone would actually be taken in by the "win all arguments instantly" hype.
I think you and I might quibble over what it means to "respond". Of course it can be "responded to". Whether or not the arguments that it raises can be addressed is another matter. This video has many responses, even though I've yet to see it addressed even once.

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I've never taken debate. If you have, more points for you.
I haven't either.

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However you can spend all day attacking my method, but when it comes to the historical Jesus debate, the burden of proof is on the Mythers.
For "Mythers" claim perhaps. But providing evidence for Jesus still falls squarely at the feet of the individual(s) claiming that he was an actual historical figures.

Here's how it does not work: I get to make a claim that someone existed and everyone has to accept this as true until someone else can prove me wrong.

So again, since I did not introduce "Mythers" (you did), the continued discussion regarding his arguments is a strawman (more here if you need it).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's the same deal with the 9/11 Truthers who claim it was an inside job. It's not enough to simply question the "official story." They need to show why their theory better fits the evidence we have. The trouble is, the Mythers typically haven't even looked at the evidence themselves, they've only seen it filtered through some apologists eyes. Again, it's a shortcut to thinking... the same kind of crap that Christians are constantly being accused of doing.
This is largely off-topic, so I won't be replying here.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you've looked at everything, we can jump past that stage, and get right into the details, but perhaps we should start a new thread? The weekends are better for me for discussing.
I can't promise that I'll be around much this weekend (tomorrow is my b-day and the final project for my Masters degree is due Monday), but I will try to respond as in as timely a fashion as I can (if you don't hear from me until Tuesday, you'll know why ).

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I'm not particularly interested in your own credentials, unless your arguments are being based on appealing to your own authority as a scholar or professional historian.
My argument doesn't require such credentials. That's the benefit of being a skeptic.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
What I'm most interested in is whether you're familiar with the scholarly and primary source material, and whether you can interpret it accurately and present it honestly.
The answer to that depends largely on which sources you intend to present to support your argument. I'm familiar with many, but I'm sure not all.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That's what matters. That's the same thing I'd be doing. I wouldn't be going "Look at me Dr. Kurgan" (because I'm not a Phd), I'd be saying "look at Dr. So and So" and you'd be checking to see if Dr. So and So really said that and if you could argue with it from another Dr. So and So, etc.
Exactly. You forgot to add the part where you only listen to some Dr's so and so (whom you were told it was okay to listen to by others Drs so and so) and not to others Dr's so and so (because you were told not to, but can't determine for yourself whether they are worth listening to, because you already decided to let others make the disticntion for you). I think that part is important.

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See, I think you may feel it is unfair to give experts more credibility than amateurs, but that's the way the "appeal to authority" works.
And since "appeals to authority" are recognized logical fallacies, I'm not sure what you hope to gain by advocating for them.

Does this mean that if I'm in need of medical assistance, that I'm going to take the diagnosis of a 1st year medical student over a licensed doctor who's been practicing for 20 years? Absolutely not. It does mean that I don't make the mistake of assuming that the medical student is automatically wrong because he is a student and the older doctor is automatically right because he's been at it longer. Of course I am going to take those things into consideration. Just as I am going to take other things into consideration as well, such as "which doctor can better defend his or her diagnosis", "what does a third doctor say", "does either party have a bias that I probably ought to consider" (such as not having to admit that he's devoted his career to studying make believe)?

Remember that physicians endorsed cigarettes in the 1950's.


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It's only a fallacy if you're using people as authorities that either can't be verified (hearsay), or aren't really authorities (diploma mill types, not experts in the field at hand, etc), or are being misquoted/out of context.
I'm afraid that's not the case at all.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The authorities commonly appealed to on the Myther side are NOT experts on the subjects, or are very old, in a field where a lot has changed since their writings were published (leaving their work partially or wholly outdated). That's not to say that the Mythers couldn't make a case, but so far the ones I've seen are very weak, so much so that even non-Christian scholars find themselves on the historicist side.
I've beat this to death already.

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As for your post, the burden of proof is not upon Christians to prove any of their supernatural claims, because that's not what I'm talking about.
Well actually it is, but if you're not arguing that point, then take comfort that the burden of proof doesn't extend to you. If your hope was simply to dismiss the entire argument on the basis of your feelings about some guy names "Mythers", then please consider your strawman delivered and exposed. Since I have a rule against defending arguments that I don't make, I'm not sure that you and I will have much more to discuss. If you change your mind and decide that you would like to argue for the existence of a historical jesus as some point, then please know that I will very much enjoy that discussion, but the burden of proof will be upon you to support your claim.

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I'm not demanding you accept that Jesus was divine, the Messiah, sent by God, a true prophet, a miracle worker, rose from the dead, or anything of the kind. All I'm asking is for you to accept the majority view of scholarly academics that Jesus of Nazareth, the human being, really existed, rather than some kind of fictional, mythical, purely spiritual, invented or hoaxed character (as the Mythers claim).
Nope, can't do it. Not without evidence.

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I'm saying there's a reason why the majority view him as historical, and that's because they have seen sufficient evidence to establish his historicity, and precious little if anything to establish him as mythical. You may not like that, but that's the way it is.
I will be more than happy to accept that when you provide reasonable evidence to support that argument. I don't take things on other people's say so (especially when they are asking for me to accept said thing as definitive and/or absolute).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Shifting the burden of proof to trying to get me to prove there's a God, and this God intervenes in history, and this God inspired the Bible, and incarnated as a man, etc. would be dishonest in this case.
Not if the burden of proof for you (or the person making that claim) was yours (or theirs) to begin with. Trying to shift the burden of proof away from said person (you?) would be dishonest.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The claims of Christian theology are beyond the scope of science or history to "prove" (beyond reasonable doubt).
Special Pleading

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
They are matters of faith or philosophy.
Well I don't accept that at all if said theology hinges upon the existence of a man for whom we have no evidence. Then it is very much an issue of history and is subject to the same standards of proof that any reasonable person should demand for any claim put forth by historians.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
However, the existence of Jesus is accepted even by those experts who do not accept the theological claims of Christianity, just as they accept the existence of the Pharoahs of Egypt and the Caesars of Rome, when all of the latter and many of the former were claimed to be living gods, or deified after their deaths (and miracles or wonders were attributed to several of them) is accepted, without necessarily accepting the supernatural claims as well.
Except that we have evidence for various Pharoahs and Caesars. I think you're trying to apply the logic to an argument for which it does not fit.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's not as if it requires any special faith to agree that a man existed who went around preaching doctrine, had miraculous abilities and divine personage attributed to him (or even if he were to claim these things of himself), and started a movement based on his teachings and personal charisma.
Of course it does:

Faith: firm belief in something for which there is no proof (Source).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Such things are not unprecedented in antiquity. We should not let personal prejudice against a religion move us to demand "greater evidence" than we would for any other ancient figure, especially one who was not a great general or powerful political leader in life.
I haven't

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Still today we have men who claim to be living gods (or are claimed to be by their followers), and in recent memory. There are claims of miracles, and so forth.
Care to take a stab at how much credence I give those?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The Jesus we're talking about, is the Jesus spoken of in the New Testament. Yes, it was a common name, but how many Jesuses (Jesii?) do we know that gave rise to a movement known as the Christians?
As far as I know: None.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
How many preachers from Nazareth do we know that were executed for crucifixion in this period?
As far as I know: None.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Had brothers named James?
As far as I know: None.

I've answered your questions in good faith, so I would appreciate it greatly if you would show me the same respect.

The Harry that we're talking about, is the Harry spoken of in the Chamber of Secrets. Yes, it is a common name, but how many Harry's (Harold's?) do we know that gave rise to a movement known as Harry Potter fandom? How many boy wizards from England do we know that attended Hogwarts in this period? Had friends named Ron?

If your instinctual response is, "but Harry Potter is fiction", then I challenge you to show me why it is that the story of Jesus is not. And saying that "scholars say so" will not be acceptable.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
When we add it all up, this just comes up as another nitpick. Yes, the experts of thought of this too. Sure, some references to ancient people named "Yeshu" we're not quite sure if they're the same exact person, but many other references pretty much have to be the same guy. Otherwise one could argue if the "Jesus" spoken of in the Gospel Matthew is the same Jesus in the Gospel of John, is the same characters spoken of in the book of Acts, is the same character spoken of in Paul's letters, etc.
Except that John came after Matthew, which came before Acts, but after the letters of Paul. Have you looked at the chronology of early christian writings lately? How difficult would it be for various authors over various decades to write stories about a boy wizard named Harry if they all had access to The Philosopher's Stone and other proceeding works? Hint: not very.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
As for the rest of your post, I can take the time this weekend to take it apart piece by piece and respond if that's what you'd like.
I didn't put all that work into drafting it so that it could just sit there and look pretty

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I'd like to summarize the common arguments that we can't trust the gospels because they're too late, anonymous and not by eyewitnesses, etc. and the usual retort that even though Paul is much earlier and a contemporary, that he didn't actually meet Jesus face to face (only in a vision, he claims, and the author of Acts claims).
Please provide your source showing that Paul was a contemporary of Jesus. Thanks.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The trouble is, historians and other experts still find these early records compelling.
Might it have something to do with the likelihood that they grew up believing that Jesus was real? Again, hard to be objective when you have a bias toward the conclusion that you're starting with.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's certainly a pretty good start for a figure of antiquity, especially one who was of such lowly status (ie: not a monarch or high ranking military figure).
A theme common in mythology. Side note, I've studied mythology (as a hobby), for 20 years. I'm by no means an expert, but I thought it fair to disclose that.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The preservation of these early texts is phenomenal.
At this point, I'm questioning your credibility. You reference Bart Ehrman earlier. If you've read any of his works, you know this isn't true.

Earliest known fragment of the NT

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That doesn't mean "perfect" but it's enough to go on.
Someday archaologist will make the same argument about surviving fragments of Harry Potter novels. They'll take note of how prolific the number of "existing" text and how it makes specific references to places like "London" and conclude that surely these ancient people worshiped a young man with magic powers.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And we can see from these early records that the authors were talking about a man that they thought lived on earth recently, not some spiritual figure that they dreamt of one night, or a nice metaphor for something else (which also begs the question of why make up a character that was supposed to be historical, and then why suffer ridicule and persecution for it?). I won't even bother with the theories that the apostles didn't exist, as it's so silly, but people have tried that one before as well.
Please apply this to every myth that has ever existed and then ask yourself if this is really a tack you want to take.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Using "prophecy" is not my intention here. However the insinuation (common for the Mythers) that Jesus was simply a metaphorical figure (because as we know, there's no such thing as true predictive prophecy).However, we can easily see that the authors are freely interpreting the OT texts to have Jesus fit them, and you could also say that in many ways a Messiah wannabe (for lack of a better term) could certainly tailor their own life (or be groomed) to try to meet some of the more explicit predictions. But again, all this is not really necessary. Prophecies of Jesus in the OT no more throw his existence into question than they throw into question modern day events, as certain people claim to have foreseen them in the Bible or in Nostradamus, etc.
I would agree that they aren't really relevant.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Revelation is not a criteria I'm using here at all, since I'm arguing a strictly historical/critical approach, not a religious one. So it's not a case of someone knowing that King Arthur is real because they had a dream about him that "felt so real."
That's fine, as I addressed the historial Jesus much earlier in the post. Therefore, you wouldn't need to address this unless you had first overcome that point (which you have not done here).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The "uniqueness" of the Jesus story is really not important, since there are millions of people with similar life stories and experiences. However, Jesus is unique enough in his time and place that we can still determine who he is (if you get me). The common "copycat theories" of the Mythers are a load of rubbish (and I can go into more detail to show you why if you wish). The "lack of uniqueness" that people claim actually works in favor of Jesus' existence, because it shows just who plausible it is.
Jesus is not unique. I suspect that you either skimmed that section or ignored big parts of it, as I point that out in the post.

But yes please, if you wish to put your knowledge of mythology up against mine, I would welcome the education.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
But it'd sort of be like arguing that Caligula didn't exist, either because he sounded like such a wild character, or because he was so much like everyone else.
If we didn't have evidence for a figure named Caligula and there were other contemporary sources that had similar stories, then your example might be applicable.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
What... a political leader who abused his power, had some odd sexual practices, and a god-complex... who was assassinated by his own military? That's probably happened many times before in history... We could even imagine that he was invented as a character to justify some later reform or rebellion... written by some anti-Imperialist or something. Carvings? Fake, of course, propaganda for this anti-Imperialist movement, or a fictional character had his name stolen to create this fictional character. We could go on and on with a more and more convoluted story.
Contemporary stories? Contemporary carvings? Contemporary historians writing about said events?

Again, you're bringing arguments to scenarios to which they do not apply.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
More will be posted time permitting, but I'd really prefer a fresh start, or you can email me (kurgan @ qwest . net).
I appreciate the invitation. Since I think others might benefit from this discussion, my preference is that we leave it here.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Incidentally, can you show me exactly where the Bible says the earth is only 6,000 years old? Surely it's right next to the passages proving the "flat earth," right?
Relevance?

Thanks for your post!

P.S. Normally I like to review my posts for typos, grammar errors, etc. Due to length, I won't be doing so here. Please accept my apology for any errors. Thanks.
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Old 08-23-2008, 02:53 PM   #204
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It's relevant (the 6,000 years/flat earth) thing, because you posted about it (iirc) and nobody really addressed it (it was your explanation of a claim you made that the Bible was full of "bad scientific claims," proving it was untrustworthy).

Now on to some claims you made earlier, regarding the historical Jesus:

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First, since Christianity makes the claim that Jesus existed and that he was the messiah, the burden of proof is on Christianity to support the claim.
Would 27 documents from the first century suffice?

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It is not up to non-theists or theists from other religions to disprove this claim

It is on them to explain why the above noted 27 documents are not sufficient.

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We don't have any of his personal writings
That is true of a majority of historical figures.

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nor the personal writings of anyone that knew him
The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the authors of the New Testament did not know Jesus. Paul himself admits he had not personally met Jesus (in the flesh), but he had met James, the brother of Jesus, and Cephas (Simon Peter) his chief disciple. Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, and scholars are now unanimous that we have at least seven letters that were genuinely written by Paul the apostle (Saul of Tarsus), within a few decades of Jesus' execution.

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We don't have an official record of birth, death, marriage, etc.
This equally applies to a great many historically-accepted figures.

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they cannot deny that there is no historical evidence for this specific man named Jesus. It may be that some day, we discover something
It seems you're out of the loop. Many more discoveries have been made in the last 60 years alone, which lend credence to the existence of Jesus, the figure described in the New Testament.

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Personally, I don't see how the first argument that I presented can be construed as anything other than a show stopper
Yes, you clearly have some catching up to do.

Next response...


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Old 08-23-2008, 03:59 PM   #205
Achilles
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's relevant (the 6,000 years/flat earth) thing, because you posted about it (iirc) and nobody really addressed it (it was your explanation of a claim you made that the Bible was full of "bad scientific claims," proving it was untrustworthy).
Different thread.

The 6,000 years claim is put forth by YEC based on a chronology of their devising. The flat earth is more explicit in the bible. If you need chapter and verse, let me know.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Would 27 documents from the first century suffice?
Depends on what they say and what part of the 1st century they are from.

If they talk about christians that follow christ (as most of the documents that I am familiar with do), then that doesn't tell us anything. A bunch of early 21st century writings about a group of people that followed Harry wouldn't be much of an argument for the actual existence of a historical Harry Potter or boy wizards either.

And if the writings are late 1st century, then they are not contemporary to Jesus (having died much earlier).

Remember David Koresh and the Branch Davidians? That was what, 15 years ago? If some Charley Manson type wanted to start up up a cult picking up where he left of 50 years from now, and some contemporary journalist wrote an article about it, would that be sound evidence for David Koresh's divinity? Of course my example is horribly flawed because David Koresh was an actual person for which we have evidence, but hopefully the argument speaks for itself nonetheless.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It is on them to explain why the above noted 27 documents are not sufficient.
Just did.

If the documents don't tell you anything meaningful, then they are sufficient as evidence.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That is true of a majority of historical figures.
Quite right. However it is inescapable that having them would certainly erase doubt. Luckily this is only one of the many possible pieces of corroborating evidence that could exist. I listed several others.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the authors of the New Testament did not know Jesus.
Please go back and review how burden of proof works. Repeating the fallacy will not magically shift the burden to me.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Paul himself admits he had not personally met Jesus (in the flesh), but he had met James, the brother of Jesus, and Cephas (Simon Peter) his chief disciple.
"Claims" to have met. Important distinction.

Do we have any historical evidence for either of these gentlemen either? Or just more folklore?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, and scholars are now unanimous that we have at least seven letters that were genuinely written by Paul the apostle (Saul of Tarsus), within a few decades of Jesus' execution.
We cannot know that Paul was a contemporary of Jesus because we don't know that Jesus existed (see Begging the Question). We do know that Paul wrote many letters. Those aren't in dispute (or I should say, I am not disputing that). What I am saying that letters written by someone who claims to have received a vision aren't terribly compelling as evidence for the existence of a person who allegedly died before the vision was seen.

Ask yourself this question: Is it possible that Paul simply made it all up? If yes, why would he do that that? If no, why is it not possible?

Again, these are not rhetorical questions, so I would very much appreciate it if you would show me the respect of answering them (I notice you ignored my previous request, even though I did answer your questions).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
This equally applies to a great many historically-accepted figures.
Again, one piece of the puzzle. If we have other pieces than it isn't a big deal. If we don't have other pieces, then we don't have a puzzle, now do we?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It seems you're out of the loop. Many more discoveries have been made in the last 60 years alone, which lend credence to the existence of Jesus, the figure described in the New Testament.
Telling me that you have evidence and citing your evidence are two very different things.

Just like telling you that I have a flying car that shoots lasers and showing you my flying car that shoots lasers would be two very different things.

One more time for emphasis: Presenting your evidence makes poorly formed arguments unnecessary (hint: because evidence speaks for itself).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Yes, you clearly have some catching up to do.
One of us does, I'm sure.

If you have evidence, then please present it and let us dispense with small talk. If you do not, then quitting while you're ahead would probably be best.
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Old 08-23-2008, 04:48 PM   #206
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Response part 1 of 3

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Originally Posted by Achilles View Post
I was hoping that it wasn't

As am I!

I'm not sure I need saving, as I'm not the one using logical fallacies to make my argument.
You've presented inaccurate information, claiming that we lack historical evidence of Jesus. You've also presented a standard of information that, if held to, would invalidate many other figures of antiquity. This is a standard that is above and beyond what is used by actual historians, secular and religious alike, thus it proves too much. Additionally, you've apparently forgotten that I'm not arguing that we can prove the existence of the supernatural from historical evidence alone. All I'm arguing is that we have sufficient evidence that Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef, called Christ) was a historical figure, RATHER THAN a purely mythical or fictional character as the Jesus Mythers claim.

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Feel free to present it at any time. I will keep an eye out for said evidence elsewhere in this post.
I will be happy to oblige at the end of my post! I hope you read it carefully.


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In this instance, I am referring to yours (hint: the one(s) with fallacies).

You'll forgive me as I'm not familiar with "Myther". I am familiar with the part where I try to find historical evidence for Jesus and can't find any. No contemporaries. No journals. No census data. No eyewitness accounts. Just a bunch of myths that sound an awful lot like other myths.
"Mythers" (aka "Christ Mythers" or "Jesus Mythers") are people who say that Jesus of Nazareth (aka Yeshua bar Yosef), the first century Galilean Jewish preacher (that Christians regard as their Messiah and the Son of God, you know, THAT guy), did not exist as a historical person. Instead, they claim that he was a wholly mythical, spiritual, or fictional character, perhaps even a hoax, involving some convoluted conspiracy cover-up. Basically they're saying this man never lived... never walked the earth... is made up or invented, not real. Fantasy. Get it? I didn't make up the term, but it's well known amongst myther circles and an apt description of people who reject the historicity of Jesus.

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No sir. Burden of proof is on the christian community to present evidence for jesus christ. They make the claim. They defend the claim. That's how it works.
Who cares. We're not talking about that. We're talking about whether the man ever existed. He obviously did, as that's the position of all the experts in the field (save one or two).

You want to argue instead about proof of miracles, God, and soteriology. Please realize that I'm talking about HISTORY and EVIDENCE, here, not the supernatural. If you want to believe that Jesus had super powers and was the Son of God, that's your business, but I'm just pointing out the major errors in your argument, which presume that there's no basis for a historical Jesus other than faith, which is absolutely incorrect.

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"Mythers" is of course responsible for defending whatever claim he wishes to make, as he would have the burden of proof for that.
Wrong. It's not a strawman. Ask the Mythers I've cited and they'll tell you what they believe... Jesus didn't exist as a historical person. There are plenty of Christians and others who believe Jesus was just a good man (or maybe a lunatic) but not a god, and they're not called "mythers." The Mythers are those who propose he lacked a historical existence... like Harry Potter or Superman.

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If the "mainstream scholarly opinion" has evidence for their claim, then great.
They do. Otherwise they wouldn't hold this opinion. Do you think a non-Christian would WANT to believe in the existence of the founder of some religion he or she disagreed with? Again, just as you have non-pagans who accept the historical existence of pagan figures, you have non-Christians who accept the existence of Jesus. And I'm not talking here about everyday joe blow types, I'm talking about the top experts in the field who have spent their lives studying the primary sources in the original languages.

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If not, then anyone that accepts their conclusion has fallen for fallacious thinking.

If that includes you, then I'm very sorry for you, but such a poorly formed argument isn't very persuasive for me. I have a thing about accepting things as true after I have evidence to think so.
Patience...

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I question the integrity of anything for which "credibility" is self-assigned.
It's not "self assigned." If you have earned a doctorate in subject and teach and do research in it for a living, you have credibility. If you just study it for fun, and published a book on the subject, that doesn't establish credibility.

You do realize anyone can publish these days, right? There are thousands of publishing houses all over the world that will publish any manuscript for a nominal fee. In fact, many of them won't even edit your text (beyond a spell check and formating to make sure it will fit within the margins). Therefore there's no fact-checking. However if you're going to publish through an academic press there are safeguards to prevent people from just throwing any old crap out there... it has to meet minimum quality standards. And even then, when it gets through, if it makes unfounded claims, it'll be torn to shreds by other scholars who will respond to it. Thus there's checks and balances that stop conspiracy nuts from making unverifiable claims and gaining huge followings and piles of money from such claims.

That's why conspiracy nuts avoid academic presses like the plague and stick to self publishing or vanity presses.

If a person has earned a degree, that shows they did some work. If they got it from a diploma mill, or it's only an HONORARY DEGREE, then it shows they have not. That's a pretty big red flag to consider whenever evaluating an alleged authority.

You act as if these guys and gals just said "I'm an expert!" and I believe them, or I called them experts just because they agreed with me. Things couldn't be further from the truth in that regard. Ehrman is an agnostic, and Grant was also a non-believer. Vermes is a Jew.

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Having a degree in "make believe" does not make one credible and aligning myself to a school of thought that has no objective standard sounds like a risky proposition.
Now who is "poisoning the well"? Didn't you just get through chastising me for using "logical fallacies"? You haven't demonstrated that Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, Michael Grant, etc. have earned degrees in "Make believe" and therefore can be ignored.

By the same token, the Mythers would be excluded, because some of them also have degrees (but we're talking BA's and Masters equivalents, which of course are lower than doctorates possessed by the Historicists... though Robert Price, the hero of the Myther camp, has a doctorate in NT, and is a theologian and former minister, so I guess that would make him a disreputable witness, by the standards you gave above!).

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I wonder how that would sound if the topic was the field of linguistics and we were discussing "Klingon" or "Elvish".
Except that those are made up languages, that began IN fiction, and we know who created them and why. Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek were languages spoken natively for centuries by actual people in history, and were not a fad created recently by a fiction writer to give his fiction an aura of depth.

Poo-pooing the study of ancient history and textual criticism strikes me as profoundly ignorant and foolish. Handwaving nonsense...

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At this point, I'm simply going to point out that the constant reference to "Mythers" (et al) is a strawman. The discussion is evidence for Jesus.
"Mythers" is a designation for those who believe Jesus never existed. It's not a strawman, because it represents their actual position. Yes, it's true that there are a few folks who say "Jesus PROBABLY didn't exist" or "Jesus' existence is doubtful to me" which would be a soft mythicist position.

Let me be clear that I am not calling people "Mythers" simply because they reject Jesus' divinity or miracles. I would just call those people "not traditional Christians," "atheists" or "liberals." You and I are not debating about them, we're talking about whether there is sufficient evidence to establish Jesus' historicity. Please get THAT through your head, before you reply again.

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"Peer Review"
So you'd rather we just go by self published amateurs? Okay, but then we've got our work cut out for us, because that means that every book written about space aliens is on equal footing with those written by the top astronomers and physicists in the world. If there is no fact checking, and no regard for credentials, then aren't you giving all opinions equal weight?

I'm implying that the lack of representation of "Mythers" in scholarly academia should tell us something. Either it implies that there is precious little evidence to support the Myther position, or else there is a vast conspiracy to suppress that evidence and that viewpoint. Using Occam's Razor, which is more likely?

If you want to say there is a conspiracy to suppress this information and silence these dissenters from the majority view, please show evidence of it.

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"Would you agree that the Emperor's vestments are indeed purple?"
"Quite right."
"It is agreed then!"
"What do you say, then, sir?"
"They look rather mauve to me."
"Oh, poor show, old man. It seems that you've failed our peer review process."
And that is a strawman of the peer review process. Thanks for showing us!

What other gauge would you have for accessing the factual credibility of something? Whether it makes sense to YOU (an amateur)? You're going to have to learn those ancient languages, go out and study those ancient artifacts, codices, scrolls, fragments, and so forth, and earn your own PhD. Then you're going to have the tools to determine if what they said was correct, right?

I don't see then how you can tell if what the Mythers are saying is correct either. They tell you there's evidence for a conspiracy and "no evidence" for the historical Jesus. How do you know they're telling the truth? You have no basis for evaluating that claim, do you? Please tell me, as I'm not sure how you're determing who is right, since you are not an expert yourself and you reject peer review, and seemingly scoff at "credentials."

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Feel free to point out how this thinking is wrong (I do hope that you won't resort to further appeals to authority to do so though, as that would be more circular reasoning).
How do we know something is true, or likely accurate? You've rejected means of sifting data, and you've not demonstrated personal expertise (and of course if you had, you'd have to explain away your statements to the effect that peer review and credentials didn't have importance here).

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I'm sorry, sir. You can repeat the fallacy as many times as you care to, however that isn't going to prevent it from being a fallacy.
The same is true of the fallacies you've voiced. Don't worry, we're almost done...

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Again, if you have evidence, then shoddy arguments aren't necessary.
"Shoddy arguments"? I don't think so. They're only shoddy if you've assumed a priori that I'm wrong, and speaking against an irrefutable case.

My opening post was the ice breaker. I have to do this every time I debate with a Myther. They always accuse me of having no evidence, and how I must be brainwashed by Christianity, etc. Nevermind that the burden of proof is on the Mythers, but most of them are unaware (or have convinced themselves) that scholarly academia and mainstream experts do NOT have a case for the historical Jesus (many of them can't tell the difference between an amateur and an expert, all they see is that somebody published a book that sold).

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Please see the above on "peer review". It addresses this as well.
You've given no evidence that this is what actually happens in academic peer review, you've simply created a strawman of it that dissent is automatically dismissed and sycophantic agreement rewarded. The Emperor's New Clothes was a story (an important one, but not a trump card to defend conspiracy theories and justify rejection of all expertise).

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Funny that you would make this argument while discussing a field of study in which everyone starts with the conclusion and works backwards.
How do you know that's the case? Clearly it is not, as Robert Price, one of the foremost Myther defenders himself was a Christian, and in fact was a minister. He came to believe, through his studies, presumably, that not only was Christianity full of theological errors, but that Jesus himself probably didn't exist as a historical person. He then joined the Anglican church and still attends services, for reasons known probably only to himself (I know of people who still go to church even though they don't believe... we can think of plenty of reasons... the sense of community, love of ceremonies, maybe
the food or music is good, etc).

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That certainly is one way to dismiss and argument that you cannot address. Another would be discount the argument itself for valid reasons.
You're assuming I can't address it. I've already begun to address some of your arguments, and once I show the evidence, you'll be forced to either attempt to handwave it all away (which should be amusing), or seriously evaluate it and modify your position.

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I think you and I might quibble over what it means to "respond". Of course it can be "responded to". Whether or not the arguments that it raises can be addressed is another matter. This video has many responses, even though I've yet to see it addressed even once.
Have you viewed the videos on youtube that I'm talking about? They were rather different than the postings by (I presume) Christians on that Lucasforums thread you posted. And those videos also have comments... have you read them all?


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For "Mythers" claim perhaps. But providing evidence for Jesus still falls squarely at the feet of the individual(s) claiming that he was an actual historical figures.
And they have already done so, thus this case is a bit like a Creationist demanding that the burden of proof be placed on those who believe evolution takes place to demonstrate it.

The historicity of Jesus is an already established fact! But you apparently don't believe me, so I'll kindly provide that information, even though the burden of proof is on you, as a Myther defender, to show why these experts are wrong (all you've done is accuse them of lying... but given no motive for why they would do such a thing, especially since many of them are liberals or not Christian, or even non-religious).

Why would secular experts at secular institutions (or tenured professors or better yet, retired professors) feel the need to "support Christianity" by proclaiming Jesus a historical figure? Even in non-Christian countries or ones with secular states? Very strange. Surely if there were sufficient evidence of the Myther position, it would have a significant presence amongst experts away from "Christian power," right?

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Here's how it does not work: I get to make a claim that someone existed and everyone has to accept this as true until someone else can prove me wrong.
You're right, it doesn't work that way, and I never said it did. This is a strawman of what I said. We're not going from the starting point that he existed and assuming he existed so anyone who questions it is wrong. We're saying the question was asked, and sufficient evidence found. He was then considered historical. Some people challenged that, using fallacious reasoning and poor arguments. These people continue to impress the unwary and willfully deluded and sell lots of books. But academia has refuted the foundations of their arguments so many times, it's not even worth bothering with... except on the internet, where information travels fast and people don't trust experts and prefer conspiracy theories for some reason (or at least a vocal minority).

I can understand the skepticism... what I can't understand is the desire to continue to hold onto these conspiracy theories even after they've been completely refuted and the evidence is readily available. I guess they just don't want to accept the truth?

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So again, since I did not introduce "Mythers" (you did), the continued discussion regarding his arguments is a strawman (more here if you need it).
It's only a strawman if it misrepresents the position in order to make it more easy to refute.

Earl Doherty doesn't believe Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef, called Christ) actually existed as a historical person. He's a Myther. Same with Dorothy Murdock. Same with Robert Price (although he says "probably" or "existence doubtful," a "soft" qualifier). Same with Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy and Brian Flemming and "Peter Joseph" (not his real name).

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This is largely off-topic, so I won't be replying here.
Feel free to reply to me via email or PM if you prefer.

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I can't promise that I'll be around much this weekend (tomorrow is my b-day and the final project for my Masters degree is due Monday), but I will try to respond as in as timely a fashion as I can (if you don't hear from me until Tuesday, you'll know why ).
Happy Birthday! What are you getting your MA in, out of curiosity? Mine will be coming up next year, if you're curious.

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My argument doesn't require such credentials. That's the benefit of being a skeptic.
Good. But I hope you also realize that anyone can doubt anything. That doesn't mean however that you have sufficient reason to doubt, or that sufficient evidence can't be provided to dispel any reasonable doubt.

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The answer to that depends largely on which sources you intend to present to support your argument. I'm familiar with many, but I'm sure not all.
Good, I hope you get a kick out of these.

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Exactly. You forgot to add the part where you only listen to some Dr's so and so (whom you were told it was okay to listen to by others Drs so and so) and not to others Dr's so and so (because you were told not to, but can't determine for yourself whether they are worth listening to, because you already decided to let others make the disticntion for you). I think that part is important.
None of these Doctors have said "don't listen to so and so" they explain WHY so and so is wrong, and I can check their opponent and see those reasons, and vice versa. I can read what both have written and compare to the ancient evidence and see that the Mythers don't know what they are talking about (or in some cases, have deliberately lied in order to further their conclusion).

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And since "appeals to authority" are recognized logical fallacies, I'm not sure what you hope to gain by advocating for them.
You don't seem to realize the difference between the fallacious use of authority and a legitimate use of authority.

If you had two little kids who didn't understand arithmetic. So you have an argument... one kid thinks 2 + 2 equals 5, the other think it equals 6. So they both appeal to authority.

First kid says "My imaginary friend Zondar says it equals 6, so I'm right!" The other kid appeals to their dog, Scruffy who is the smartest dog they have ever met. Now let's say another kid comes along and says "well my math teacher said it equaled 27!" So we could see that the imaginary friend cannot be reached for comment (unverifiable), Scruffy can't actually talk, and the math teacher, when questioned actually says it's 4, and shows WHY it is 4 (adding up various numbers of things, showing in academic math books that it's true, etc).

You could still say "well it's all made up, somebody wanted the math to end up that way so they designed it that way, it's all a hoax!" And so forth.

But I hope I've made my point. You can appeal to an authority, but not use it incorrectly. If you do so improperly, then it become the "appeal to authority fallacy." Look up "when this is not a fallacy."

If the person actually said what was quoted, and the context doesn't change that, and they were speaking from a position of expertise on that subject, and they hold a representative of leading position in their field, then yes, it is a valid and non-fallacious use.

Otherwise I could argue "how do you know it's a logical fallacy? Because some website told you?

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Does this mean that if I'm in need of medical assistance, that I'm going to take the diagnosis of a 1st year medical student over a licensed doctor who's been practicing for 20 years? Absolutely not. It does mean that I don't make the mistake of assuming that the medical student is automatically wrong because he is a student and the older doctor is automatically right because he's been at it longer.
But chances are more likely that the licensed doctor is correct. You'd want to make sure that the doctor is actually in the right field (ie: not soliciting dental advice from a gynecologist, or questions about a neurosis from a veterinarian, etc) and isn't under investigation for malpractice or fraud (or their license has been revoked). You'd want to make sure they're a "real doctor" (earned degree from an accredited school) rather than "plays one on TV."

It's possible that there was a vast conspiracy, and all the historians and experts are wrong, and a handful of amateurs is right. However, it's extremely unlikely. Hence it violates Occam's Razor.

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Of course I am going to take those things into consideration. Just as I am going to take other things into consideration as well, such as "which doctor can better defend his or her diagnosis", "what does a third doctor say", "does either party have a bias that I probably ought to consider" (such as not having to admit that he's devoted his career to studying make believe)?
You can of course, get a second opinion. That's why you can dispute the experts I will present, with other experts. The trouble is you're going to find a tiny group of scholars (most from a long time ago, only two that I know of that are living) for your side, against many many more on my side. So the question is... who is more likely to be correct?

So it'd be like if you asked one 10 doctors about the huge growth on the back of your neck and 9 of them said it was a tumor, and they'd have to operate to remove it quickly, and 1 said "it's just a zit, don't worry about it."

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Remember that physicians endorsed cigarettes in the 1950's.
I know they said this in the commercials, but you can still ask yourself... was it a biased sample? Where these actual doctors? Where they qualified to evaluate the facts of smoking's safety (ie: had they conducted tests to see if it had links to cancer)? What about the doctors who disagree with this? The Surgeon General's report was in 1962. There are still people who dispute some of the claims about smoking, but they are such a tiny minority, it's disregarded by most people (including myself).
I'm afraid that's not the case at all.

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I've beat this to death already.

Well actually it is, but if you're not arguing that point, then take comfort that the burden of proof doesn't extend to you. If your hope was simply to dismiss the entire argument on the basis of your feelings about some guy names "Mythers", then please consider your strawman delivered and exposed. Since I have a rule against defending arguments that I don't make, I'm not sure that you and I will have much more to discuss.
Easy way out. You claimed Jesus was not a historical person. Thus I presume you have experts that support your viewpoint. The trouble is the people I know of who support this viewpoint (all but about two) are non-experts. The ones who do support it, are a minority in their field, and the reasons against them are far more compelling then their own arguments. I encourage you to present those expert opinions here, not simply Q&A's from an apologetic atheist site (unless it's using in-context quotes from these expert sources, of course).

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If you change your mind and decide that you would like to argue for the existence of a historical jesus as some point, then please know that I will very much enjoy that discussion, but the burden of proof will be upon you to support your claim.
That's been my point all along. You were arguing with some people apparently about whether Christianity was true. Go back and read my earlier posts and you'll see I was always talking about the historical Jesus and challenging YOUR assertions that there was no or only questionable evidence for the existence of Jesus (and therefore we could dismiss him as a real person, apparently).

You may dislike the fact that you won't be arguing the supernatural isn't real and demanding I present evidence for it, but no matter. I'm not changing the subject. I was pointing out that claiming one needs to prove the supernatural to establish Jesus' historicity is a shifting of the burden of proof.

Otherwise, you can't try to combine these two as some kind of package deal and thus win the argument.

That'd be like me saying... "9/11 was an inside job AND 2 + 2 = 4."

Just because the second part of the statement is true, doesn't mean the first part is. A person can't say to the one disputing the first part "ah, but then you'd be saying 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4... are you some kind of idiot?"

I'm not disputing that it takes faith to believe in the supernatural. I'm disputing the claim that there is insufficient evidence to establish Jesus' historical existence (or alternately, that the Myther position better fits the evidence we have).

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Nope, can't do it. Not without evidence.

I will be more than happy to accept that when you provide reasonable evidence to support that argument. I don't take things on other people's say so (especially when they are asking for me to accept said thing as definitive and/or absolute).
So how did you come to the conclusion that the Myther position was the most likely conclusion about Jesus? I didn't say "absolute."

By that logic, nothing is absolute, since there is always room for doubt about history. That doesn't mean however that we can't be reasonably certain that certain things and people happened/existed, and that contrary claims are weaker.

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Not if the burden of proof for you (or the person making that claim) was yours (or theirs) to begin with. Trying to shift the burden of proof away from said person (you?) would be dishonest.
The Myther position as a positive assertion "Jesus was a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about Jesus, he never actually lived" is much like the Creationist assertion stated positively "evolution is a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about evolution, it doesn't actually take place." It's a familiar tactic... but it only works if the person you're talking to isn't able to present the abundant evidence that exists, or it's not widely understood and so bystanders might presume that it's a valid argument and not contest it (giving the appearance of a victory for the skeptic).

That's a perfect example of the special pleading fallacy, in the Myther position, actually. They will accept other figures of antiquity as historical (ex: Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Julius Caesar, Apollonius of Tyana, Simon Magus, John the Baptist, Caiaphas, Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Saul of Tarsus, etc), but not apply those same standards to Jesus... they demand MORE evidence for Jesus (their default position being that he was mythical) than they will of these other figures. They have to do this, because they are using these other figures to say that Jesus did not exist, or was a fictional character invented by them or their contemporaries... but how could they do so if these writers themselves did not exist? (if THEY were invented, who invented them, and so forth?)

So the special pleading is that, "well, all these other figures are historical on small amounts of evidence, but Jesus, Jesus is a special case, so we need MORE evidence for him."

Their reasoning appears to be that because Jesus is regarded as a miracling working god, he requires more evidence (they'll say things like "surely all those miracles were recorded by thousands of eyewitnesses if they really happened!")... that because there are about 2 billion Christians today and Christianity has a lot of power and influence, that its founder must be held to a higher standard of evidence. But none of those things justify applying a different standard to Jesus than to other historical figures.

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Well I don't accept that at all if said theology hinges upon the existence of a man for whom we have no evidence. Then it is very much an issue of history and is subject to the same standards of proof that any reasonable person should demand for any claim put forth by historians.
My goal here is not to prove the existence of the supernatural or the truth of Christianity, only to show that the belief in the historical existence of Christianity's founding figure (Jesus) is reasonable, and in fact more reasonable than the opposite (that he was an invented myth).

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Except that we have evidence for various Pharoahs and Caesars.
Ah, here we go again. What evidence? What experts? Where? Who?

A skeptic can dismiss these just as easily, using the standards of the Jesus Mythers. There are countless statues, carvings, paintings, and texts written about all sorts of mythological figures. Does that make them historical? These Pharoahs and Caesars were claimed to have miraculous powers and lineages from the gods, even some of them being gods themselves. Sounds like they're mythical to me! Scholars believe they existed? Clearly they just WANT TO BELIEVE and anyone who dissents from these opinions is silenced, censored or suppressed... academic orthodoxy will not tolerate it!

See? So you'll accept these figures, but not Jesus. Interesting. Sounds like the Special Pleading fallacy you cited...


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Old 08-23-2008, 04:49 PM   #207
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Response part 2 of 3

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I think you're trying to apply the logic to an argument for which it does not fit.

Of course it does:

Faith: firm belief in something for which there is no proof (Source).
Two can play that game...

Dictionary.com says:

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–noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
—Idiom
9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
[Origin: 1200–50; ME feith < AF fed, OF feid, feit < L fidem, acc. of fidés trust, akin to fīdere to trust. See confide]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
Again, this is off topic, because I'm not contending for proof of the supernatural, only sufficient evidence to establish the historical existence of Jesus, known as the founding figure of the Christian religion.


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I haven't

Care to take a stab at how much credence I give those?

As far as I know: None.

As far as I know: None.

As far as I know: None.

I've answered your questions in good faith, so I would appreciate it greatly if you would show me the same respect.
Oh I promise I will do my utmost.

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The Harry that we're talking about, is the Harry spoken of in the Chamber of Secrets. Yes, it is a common name, but how many Harry's (Harold's?) do we know that gave rise to a movement known as Harry Potter fandom? How many boy wizards from England do we know that attended Hogwarts in this period? Had friends named Ron?
Except we have documentation from JK Rowling herself that she invented the character. There's no evidence of this character outside her writings (and the movies that are directly based on them), and she doesn't claim this is a real living person. The same is not applicable to Jesus or other figures of antiquity.

A better example would be King Arthur. Incidentally, most scholars believe that quite literally, King Arthur didn't exist. However, a large number believe that the character was based on one or more real figures, though the story was spun in a legendary direction. The story of Jesus is not identical to this, but it's a much better comparison than known fictional characters like Harry Potter, Spider-Man, or even James Bond (the latter, again, apparently based on a couple of real world figures).

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If your instinctual response is, "but Harry Potter is fiction", then I challenge you to show me why it is that the story of Jesus is not. And saying that "scholars say so" will not be acceptable.
Because no credible scholars say that Harry Potter was a historical figure, while for Jesus, most do. We have no evidence of the existence of HP outside the (admittedly fiction by the living author herself) HP books. We have evidence outside the primary source for Jesus (the New Testament, which is actually 27 books that were collected long after the deaths of their authors, making many of them independent).

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Except that John came after Matthew, which came before Acts, but after the letters of Paul. Have you looked at the chronology of early christian writings lately?
Oh I have, and yet, it's not absolute either. One of my professors, Amy-Jill Levine, admits that it's possible that the Gospel of John (even though most regard it as the last of the canonical Gospels written) could have been written first.

You're assuming that every author read all the writings that came before him. That's not a given, and in fact there seems to be evidence that this is not the case, or else we might expect to find quotations from those works or responses to them within the work, and lack of responses or quotations may indicate unfamiliarity with those works.

It's not like the modern age where everyone knows when the next Harry Potter book comes out. Different communities had different books. There was no internet or blogosphere for these authors to get together and say "so, Jim's working on a new Gospel I hear... I can't wait to read it, then I'll write mine" and so forth.

The letters of Paul, most scholars feel, came first. Most scholars also accept the "Q hypothesis" that there was a written source that came before the Synoptics which was a common source. This source pre-supposes oral tradition as well. So it's not just a linear thing (some have tried to put forth that it was all a Pauline conspiracy, or a Synoptic conspiracy).


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How difficult would it be for various authors over various decades to write stories about a boy wizard named Harry if they all had access to The Philosopher's Stone and other proceeding works? Hint: not very.
True, but then we'd ask why other authors unconnected with this proposed "inner circle" of early Christians would write about Jesus, and yet seem unaware of certain parts of the story that we know so well? Authors with no reason to support any of the story if it were all just a religious tale invented by this insignificant sect.

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I didn't put all that work into drafting it so that it could just sit there and look pretty
Yeah, and while I'm talking a ton of time to respond to this post, I don't have enough time to respond to every long post you make. Not with school starting on Monday and some other concerns. You yourself took time off for your offline activities, don't begrudge me mine! I'm picking on the points that I have problems with.

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Please provide your source showing that Paul was a contemporary of Jesus. Thanks.
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings
(Third Edition: 2007), The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader (Second Edition: 2003), both by agnostic New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman. Also, the Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (I have the 1989 edition but there are newer editions), in the introductions to the New Testament Pauline epistles.

Paul was writing in the 50's and 60's, and died 66-69 CE.
He would have been alive at the time of Jesus' public ministry then, logically, and thus a contemporary.

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Might it have something to do with the likelihood that they grew up believing that Jesus was real?
Perhaps, but by that logic you're saying a person can't change their views, when it is clear that people like Dorothy Murdock and Robert Price grew up "believing that Jesus was real." If they could change their minds, why not others? So I don't buy it that they're just making up all this crap because of a childhood belief (that they've 9/10s rejected anyway, in de-converting from the Christian faith).

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Again, hard to be objective when you have a bias toward the conclusion that you're starting with.
And can you say that the Mythers and you yourself are unbiased? If not, then it's not a valid criticism.

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A theme common in mythology. Side note, I've studied mythology (as a hobby), for 20 years. I'm by no means an expert, but I thought it fair to disclose that.
Fair enough. However, there's a difference between saying that a figure within mythology had a historical basis, and saying it was wholly invented. There are mythologies about US Presidents for example, but they are still real figures, even if the "myths" about them are wrong or unverifiable. The "Mythers" are saying that Jesus was not a historical person, thus they are saying that underneath the Myth... no real person, just stories and symbols.

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At this point, I'm questioning your credibility. You reference Bart Ehrman earlier. If you've read any of his works, you know this isn't true.
I have, and I have also "read" (audio book format, so "listened") to "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" twice, wherein he rips apart the "pagan copycat theories" about Jesus, and defends the historical reliability of the canonical Gospels and letters of Paul over those of the Gnostic gospels and Christian apocrypha. He's by no means a defender of Christian doctrine, but rather an important counter to the implications by Mythers that it is only dogma and faith that is keeping scholars from denouncing Jesus as unhistorical and conceding to conspiracy theories about Christian origins.

The trouble is, I think you're assuming that this must be the original text of the Gospel of John. I don't think there are any modern experts who believe this. Rather, all the fragments we have are COPIES. There is a difference between the date of the earliest fragments/copies we have and COMPOSITION DATE. The Composition date accepted by the vast majority of scholars for the NT writings are 1st century. Yes, a portion of scholars grant later dates for composition to John and some of the non-Pauline epistles (such as 2 Peter and the Pastoral letters) to early 2nd century.

If P52 was written in 125 CE, then the Gospel of John must be AT LEAST that old. So it might have been written in 124 CE, or it might have been written in 95 CE (the latter is accepted by more modern scholars). Again, think about that a bit before you assume. The Nag Hammadi texts are another great example. They're dated to the 300's, but I don't know of a single modern scholar who believes that those texts were actually composed then. Instead, they feel that these are simply 4th century COPIES of early 2nd and 3rd century documents.

Another way to can help determine this is if we have other ancient sources that seem aware of these texts. The early Church Fathers (or "Apostolic Fathers" the term commonly used for those contemporaries or near contemporaries of the Apostles in the first century) are a good place, as they often quote or elude to these texts. And as we can't prove that they themselves wrote these texts (different writing style, language, geography, etc), then it's highly likely that the texts existed at least a few years before these guys. And so on and so forth.

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Someday archaologist will make the same argument about surviving fragments of Harry Potter novels. They'll take note of how prolific the number of "existing" text and how it makes specific references to places like "London" and conclude that surely these ancient people worshiped a young man with magic powers.
They might find proof of a "harry potter cult" but that's different than proving that Harry Potter himself was a historical figure. Not only Harry, but all of the characters in the novels are made up (though to be fair, I have not read the novels, so I can't comment on EVERY possible character... perhaps the books mention Tony Blair or Queen Elizabeth II or Princess Di, in which case those characters would be real, but none of them appear in the movies... it's just the various witches, wizards, spirit folk, talking animals, giants, monsters, and so forth).

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Please apply this to every myth that has ever existed and then ask yourself if this is really a tack you want to take.
Ask yourself why professional historians and scholars of antiquity consider some figures (like Hercules or Horus) to be purely mythical, and others (like Julius Caesar or John the Baptist) historical. Are you saying it's purely arbitrary, or are you applying special pleading to Jesus? (why? because he's a religious figure?).

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I would agree that they aren't really relevant.

That's fine, as I addressed the historial Jesus much earlier in the post. Therefore, you wouldn't need to address this unless you had first overcome that point (which you have not done here).
If the historical Jesus is established, then part of your argument is proven false. The faith stuff I couldn't care less about. If you want to agree right here, that Jesus of Nazareth (aka Yeshua bar Yosef) is a historical figure... that there is reasonable certainty (evidence beyond reasonable doubt) that he actually walked the earth as a real live, flesh and blood person, 2,000 years ago, then I'm done here.

If you don't concede that, then the debate continues... and I do hope you'll actually read my evidence, rather than just racing to find Mythers who say you shouldn't read it.

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Jesus is not unique. I suspect that you either skimmed that section or ignored big parts of it, as I point that out in the post.
I confess, I did skim it, as I've read similar lists before. Perseus appears to have had a "virgin birth" (unless you consider the golden shower from Zeus copulated with her to make her pregnant), though I've been shown no evidence that this particular story predates Matthew and Luke. However, none of that proves word one that Jesus was therefore invented. All it does is show one possibly parallel between a pagan religion and the religion about Jesus. It doesn't show that Perseus and Jesus were the same person, or even that Christians copied the Jesus character from Perseus. Again, such supposed "common parallels" are also applied to real live figures, like the Pharoahs and the Caesars (said to be descended from the gods, or living gods themselves). Even if the virgin birth story was "made up," that alone doesn't indicate Jesus is a purely mythical person.

Thus such claims have to be evaluated individually. If you want to go that route, we can do so, it'll take awhile. But I'd ask for primary sources supporting each of the claims you'd like to put forth. How about for starters, you show me pre-Christian primary sources indicating that any of the pagan gods were crucified and physically resurrected (in three days or not I don't care).

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But yes please, if you wish to put your knowledge of mythology up against mine, I would welcome the education.

If we didn't have evidence for a figure named Caligula and there were other contemporary sources that had similar stories, then your example might be applicable.
The "similar stories" thing doesn't matter unless those other stories came before, and we copying ends up being the most likely explanation for that similarity. As I see it the pagan parallels are superficial at best, post-Christian at worst. Most of this goes back to Graves, which even Richard Carrier rejects (and he says so on the Infidels site, if you don't believe me I'll dig up the link).

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Contemporary stories? Contemporary carvings? Contemporary historians writing about said events?

Again, you're bringing arguments to scenarios to which they do not apply.
Okay, what evidence do you have that the Pharoahs and Caesars who claimed godhood and had miracles attributed to them were actual historical persons, rather than myths. Just out of curiosity, how do you determine that... and then apply the same standards to Jesus and other figures of antiquity (like John the Baptist, Apollonnius of Tyana, Justin Martyr, Saul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Caiaphus, Rabbi Gamiliel, etc).

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I appreciate the invitation. Since I think others might benefit from this discussion, my preference is that we leave it here.

Relevance?

Thanks for your post!
Good. I hope it is educational, and if you were to make some good point that helped refine my argument, so much the better!

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P.S. Normally I like to review my posts for typos, grammar errors, etc. Due to length, I won't be doing so here. Please accept my apology for any errors. Thanks.
Same, though firefox has a nice little underliner when you write words not in its dictionary, so that helps.


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Old 08-23-2008, 04:53 PM   #208
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Thumbs up Response part 3 of 3: The evidence

Okay, first off, yes, this is a "canned response" but then so was the post you gave me that I was responding to, so I think it's fair. It should be chock full of useful stuff for you (and others who are curious).

This, of course, is a list of resources for evidence OUTSIDE the New Testament for the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth (the only reason I keep spelling out his name and so forth is because I want to avoid having you say, "well it was a common name back then, how do we know that's the same 'Jesus' of the Bible?").

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"the evidence"

Here are some credible scholars who consider Jesus a historical figure:

http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Jesus...f=cm_lmf_tit_3

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Historia...f=cm_lmf_tit_4

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Outside-...f=cm_lmf_tit_5

http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Fiction-...f=cm_lmf_tit_6

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Jew-Hist...2626415&sr=8-1

Ehrman, Vermes, and Grant (I know for sure) are non-Christians.

Summary of scholarly opinions:
http://www.bede.org.uk/price1.htm
http://www.worldinvisible.com/librar...i/ntdocont.htm

A run down of the extra-biblical evidence:

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/jesusref.html

The primary texts:

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.3.3:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...s/josephus.htm
(see XX.9.1: http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-20.htm,
and compare XVIII.3.3 for the "testimonium")

Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum ("Divus Claudius XXV")
http://www.fordham.edu/HALSALL/ancie...ius-rolfe.html
(see XXV)

Tacitus, Annals 15.44
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/tac/a15040.htm
(see XV.44)

Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a:
http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedr...hedrin_43.html

See also:

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html
(ref. Letter of Pliny to Trajan)


If people want to claim that these are all forgeries, interpolations or referring to some OTHER figures than the ones in the New Testament, they're welcome to provide modern credible scholars who say so.

It's also important to remember that the Bible as we know it today was not collected into a canon until many centuries after it was written. The New Testament, most scholars agree, was completed by the end of the first century (c.100). The first "canon list" of New Testament books we have a record of that matches the one we have today was in 367 (Athanasius' 39th Festal Letter). The NT, though a "biased" proto-orthodox Christian collection of works, still represents the work of at least a dozen independent writers.

Finally, logic (Occam's razor) tells us to select the simplest explanation and it usually tends to be the right one. That Christianity had a historical human founder, by and upon whom doctrine was built... is simpler than that a complex mythology was invented and then a fake human founder was created and worked into texts, and a massive conspiracy constructed to suppress all knowledge that it was a hoax, within a very short time of the actual events that supposedly transpired, involving other historical figures and hostile witnesses that could have refuted the material... and supported by persons who would willingly suffer torture and death for what they would have had to have known to be a lie, with no political gain possible for hundreds of years into the future.

You're welcome to come to your own conclusions, but the other thing to ponder is that if Jesus is merely a "myth" and not a historical figure, why is it that the overwhelming majority of scholarly experts in relevant fields and all professional modern historians consider him a historical figure, even those who have no allegiance to traditional Christianity (or any religion in particular)... why would all these folks get together and lie? Why would only amateurs be able to figure it out, and then be unable to prove it with any substantial evidence?

The following site isn't really about the historical Jesus, but it does nicely refute many of the historical claims about the origins of Christianity (see especially chapter 55), written by an atheist (for what it's worth):

http://www.historyvsthedavincicode.c...htm#borrowings


Enjoy! (and if you want more, just ask, though it will take some time to format all the links and so forth)


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Old 08-23-2008, 07:26 PM   #209
Nedak
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M@RS
Answer the question will you? You'll get it later...
I think it's cute that you want Achilles to answer your question (regardless on how rhetorical it sounds) yet you didn't answer anybody else's question in the other thread.

Funny how things work.
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Old 08-24-2008, 05:34 AM   #210
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Response to the response: part 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You've presented inaccurate information, claiming that we lack historical evidence of Jesus.
That's an "argument" not "information". One cannot prove a negative, therefore I think it would be quite impossible for me to present information (inaccurate or otherwise) showing the non-existence of anything. This is precisely why we have burden of proof in the first place (see Russell's Teapot.

If you wish to argue that my argument is flawed, then that's another matter entirely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You've also presented a standard of information that, if held to, would invalidate many other figures of antiquity.
And I'm prefectly okay with that.

FWIW, this is also known as Appeal to Consequences of a Belief. Having a potential negative impact on other historical figures doesn't make this argument any more or less valid. Introducing the idea as a means to attempt to disarm the argument doesn't strengthen your case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
This is a standard that is above and beyond what is used by actual historians, secular and religious alike, thus it proves too much.
I hope this isn't true. If it is then it would seem that I've held entirely too much regard for historians in the past. My understanding was that history was a tentative science, similar to the physical sciences (i.e. we believe something to the degree that we should, not that we want to).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Additionally, you've apparently forgotten that I'm not arguing that we can prove the existence of the supernatural from historical evidence alone.
Possibly. I try to respond to the arguments as it seems that you're presenting them. If something is being lost in translation, I shall do my best to account for that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
All I'm arguing is that we have sufficient evidence that Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef, called Christ) was a historical figure, RATHER THAN a purely mythical or fictional character as the Jesus Mythers claim.
Sounds good. Can't wait to see it.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I will be happy to oblige at the end of my post! I hope you read it carefully.
I skipped ahead, but will offer my rebuttal at the end.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
"Mythers" (aka "Christ Mythers" or "Jesus Mythers") are people who say that Jesus of Nazareth (aka Yeshua bar Yosef), the first century Galilean Jewish preacher (that Christians regard as their Messiah and the Son of God, you know, THAT guy), did not exist as a historical person. Instead, they claim that he was a wholly mythical, spiritual, or fictional character, perhaps even a hoax, involving some convoluted conspiracy cover-up. Basically they're saying this man never lived... never walked the earth... is made up or invented, not real. Fantasy. Get it? I didn't make up the term, but it's well known amongst myther circles and an apt description of people who reject the historicity of Jesus.
Sounds good.

I have not read Mythers. I did not cite Mythers. I did not introduce Mythers. Therefore, any discussion regarding Mythers is a strawman introduced by you and any reference to such (as a means to address my arguments) will be ignored from this point forward.

Again, if you're not sure why I'm referring to this as a strawman, you can find more here (also, see Red Herring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Who cares. We're not talking about that. We're talking about whether the man ever existed.
I know we are. Are you arguing that christianity has a separate claim about the historical jesus? Yes, they also have another claim regarding his divinity which we can say is separate, but the first claim is still there and is very much applicable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
He obviously did, as that's the position of all the experts in the field (save one or two).
Appeal to Authority. And I can argue for Biased Sample too, if you'd like. Or you could come up with better arguments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You want to argue instead about proof of miracles, God, and soteriology.
Red Herring. Historical jesus is fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Please realize that I'm talking about HISTORY and EVIDENCE, here, not the supernatural.
As am I, sir. As am I.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you want to believe that Jesus had super powers and was the Son of God, that's your business, but I'm just pointing out the major errors in your argument, which presume that there's no basis for a historical Jesus other than faith, which is absolutely incorrect.
Saying that you're doing it and actually doing it are two different things (hint: presenting arguments that are based on logical fallacies is not "doing it". It's trying and failing).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Wrong. It's not a strawman. Ask the Mythers I've cited and they'll tell you what they believe... Jesus didn't exist as a historical person.
It absolutely is a strawman, as you've spent several posts attacking a source I did not introduce as part of my argument. So while you're busy trying to discount and discredit some guy I've never heard of, my argument sits over here unmolested. When you get finished with him, and then come back to address some of things I say, then we will have dispensed with that strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
There are plenty of Christians and others who believe Jesus was just a good man (or maybe a lunatic) but not a god, and they're not called "mythers." The Mythers are those who propose he lacked a historical existence... like Harry Potter or Superman.
Appeal to Popularity.

10,000,000 Britney Spears fans, can't be wrong, right? Surely, her music wouldn't be popular unless it was good, right?

Is it possible that millions of people might be raised to believe something that isn't true? If no, then how do you explain islam, judaism, or any of the myriad of pagan religions that mankind lived with prior to the advent of christianity ~2,000 years ago?

And before you mistakenly accuse me of trying to make this a "divinity" argument again, I am not. Feel free to answer this question strictly within the context of a historical jesus that a lot of people are told to believe in from a very young age.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
They do. Otherwise they wouldn't hold this opinion.
Begging the Question.

Why is jesus real? Because we believe it. Why do we believe it? Because jesus is real.

How much evidence do we have? As much as the experts tell us we have. Why do we believe them? Because they're experts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Do you think a non-Christian would WANT to believe in the existence of the founder of some religion he or she disagreed with?
You'll have to let me in on who it is you're referencing. Are you arguing that most (all? A significant number?) of theologians are non-christian? If not, then I'm not sure the argument makes a whole lot of sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Again, just as you have non-pagans who accept the historical existence of pagan figures, you have non-Christians who accept the existence of Jesus.
What do you mean by "pagan figures"? Historical figures that worshipped pagan gods? That's an entirely different matter altogether. Pagan gods themselves? Then you're delving back into the whole divinity thing that you just got finished telling me you didn't want to debate.

Either way, I'm afraid the argument doesn't make much sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And I'm not talking here about everyday joe blow types, I'm talking about the top experts in the field who have spent their lives studying the primary sources in the original languages.
???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's not "self assigned."
It absolutely is.

How gets to decide what is "legitimate" and what is not? I encourage you to go back to the peer review example that I provided in the earlier post. I think it is quite apt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you have earned a doctorate in subject and teach and do research in it for a living, you have credibility.
Really? Does this include the people that you dismiss as being non-credible because they don't hold a orthodox viewpoint? Can't have your cake and eat it too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you just study it for fun, and published a book on the subject, that doesn't establish credibility.
The quality of your arguments establishes credibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You do realize anyone can publish these days, right? There are thousands of publishing houses all over the world that will publish any manuscript for a nominal fee. In fact, many of them won't even edit your text (beyond a spell check and formating to make sure it will fit within the margins). Therefore there's no fact-checking. However if you're going to publish through an academic press there are safeguards to prevent people from just throwing any old crap out there... it has to meet minimum quality standards. And even then, when it gets through, if it makes unfounded claims, it'll be torn to shreds by other scholars who will respond to it. Thus there's checks and balances that stop conspiracy nuts from making unverifiable claims and gaining huge followings and piles of money from such claims.

That's why conspiracy nuts avoid academic presses like the plague and stick to self publishing or vanity presses.
Ignored because of aforementioned strawman. Please address my points when you feel like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If a person has earned a degree, that shows they did some work. If they got it from a diploma mill, or it's only an HONORARY DEGREE, then it shows they have not. That's a pretty big red flag to consider whenever evaluating an alleged authority.
Still a strawman. Still ignored.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You act as if these guys and gals just said "I'm an expert!" and I believe them, or I called them experts just because they agreed with me.
If the shoe fits...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Things couldn't be further from the truth in that regard. Ehrman is an agnostic, and Grant was also a non-believer. Vermes is a Jew.
Great for them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Now who is "poisoning the well"? Didn't you just get through chastising me for using "logical fallacies"? You haven't demonstrated that Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, Michael Grant, etc. have earned degrees in "Make believe" and therefore can be ignored.
They absolutely have. "Theology" = "Make believe". Unless of course you can establish definitive, objective evidence that any of the claims made by christianity have a sound basis in reality. If you cannot, then there is no reason to accept "theology" as a legitimate field of study. Which has nothing to do with "poisoning of wells" though I appreciate the attempt to raise the quality of the discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
By the same token, the Mythers would be excluded, because some of them also have degrees (but we're talking BA's and Masters equivalents, which of course are lower than doctorates possessed by the Historicists... though Robert Price, the hero of the Myther camp, has a doctorate in NT, and is a theologian and former minister, so I guess that would make him a disreputable witness, by the standards you gave above!).
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Except that those are made up languages, that began IN fiction, and we know who created them and why.
So close to getting the point and then you missed it...

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek were languages spoken natively for centuries by actual people in history, and were not a fad created recently by a fiction writer to give his fiction an aura of depth.
..and this is completely irrelevant to anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Poo-pooing the study of ancient history and textual criticism strikes me as profoundly ignorant and foolish. Handwaving nonsense...
More strawmen. I never suggested ignoring ancient history or textual criticism. Please try again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
"Mythers" is a designation for those who believe Jesus never existed. It's not a strawman, because it represents their actual position. Yes, it's true that there are a few folks who say "Jesus PROBABLY didn't exist" or "Jesus' existence is doubtful to me" which would be a soft mythicist position.

Let me be clear that I am not calling people "Mythers" simply because they reject Jesus' divinity or miracles. I would just call those people "not traditional Christians," "atheists" or "liberals." You and I are not debating about them, we're talking about whether there is sufficient evidence to establish Jesus' historicity. Please get THAT through your head, before you reply again.
Ignored. Strawmen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So you'd rather we just go by self published amateurs?
I'd rather we go by people who say things that make sense. Starting with a belief that Christ was real and then try to find evidence to support that theory does not make sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Okay, but then we've got our work cut out for us, because that means that every book written about space aliens is on equal footing with those written by the top astronomers and physicists in the world.
HOLY ****!!! You mean we might actually have to think for ourselves?! Wouldn't we have to learn how to recognize poorly formed hypothesis and stuff like that? How in the heck will we ever be able to tell what's real and what isn't? Sorry man, I much rather let the "experts" decide stuff for me. That other stuff sounds like work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If there is no fact checking, and no regard for credentials, then aren't you giving all opinions equal weight?
False dichotomy. Either we let the experts think for us or all hell breaks loose. The truth is that there are other options, including: mankind isn't as dumb as you think it is and while some people will fall for anything, educated people stand a good chance of figuring most of this out okay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I'm implying that the lack of representation of "Mythers" in scholarly academia should tell us something. Either it implies that there is precious little evidence to support the Myther position, or else there is a vast conspiracy to suppress that evidence and that viewpoint. Using Occam's Razor, which is more likely?
Occam's Razor doesn't apply. Occam's Razor says "don't use 2+2+x=4, when 2+2=4 will do".

And please stop erroneously shifting the burden of proof and mischaracterizing the true nature of the argument. One cannot prove a negative. There is a huge difference between being skeptical of an unsupported claim and making a claim to the negative. You would do well to recognize this distinction because you've failed miserably at it thus far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you want to say there is a conspiracy to suppress this information and silence these dissenters from the majority view, please show evidence of it.
Not necessary as your "conspiracy" is a strawman, and as such will not be defended by me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And that is a strawman of the peer review process. Thanks for showing us!
That is the peer review process. If you want to blow my argument completely out of the water, here's how you do it: you show definitive evidence for a historical figure named Jesus Christ. Until you do, then the entire process is completely subjective and my example stands.

Just because you call something a strawman (inappropriate use, btw) doesn't mean that it is.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
What other gauge would you have for accessing the factual credibility of something?
How about facts? It works well enough for every other branch of science.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Whether it makes sense to YOU (an amateur)?
Yes, absolutely it should make sense to me. I'm not exactly slouching in the "brains" department. I think I would be able to keep up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You're going to have to learn those ancient languages, go out and study those ancient artifacts, codices, scrolls, fragments, and so forth, and earn your own PhD.
Ridiculous. Of course I don't.

This is like saying I need to go to medical school to be able to understand an x-ray. Doctor shows me an unbroken bone next to a broken bone and explains that one of these things is not like the other.

I don't need to understand kione Greek to know that reliable dating methods put P52 somewhere in the 2nd century. Heck, I don't even have to be a trained lab tech to understand how the process works. I don't need to have a degree in theology to get that G.Mark was written at least 40 years after Jesus was believed to have died. I don't need much at all to know how to tell when someone isn't answering my questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Then you're going to have the tools to determine if what they said was correct, right?
Maybe I do and maybe I don't. Perhaps that's why science is tentative. And perhaps that's why I'm suspicious of anything that claims to be "true" without a truckload of evidence. But we don't have said "truckload of evidence" do we (yes, I've seen part 3 of 3)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I don't see then how you can tell if what the Mythers are saying is correct either. They tell you there's evidence for a conspiracy and "no evidence" for the historical Jesus. How do you know they're telling the truth? You have no basis for evaluating that claim, do you? Please tell me, as I'm not sure how you're determing who is right, since you are not an expert yourself and you reject peer review, and seemingly scoff at "credentials."
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
How do we know something is true, or likely accurate?
Depends on the subject. You'll need to provide specifics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You've rejected means of sifting data, and you've not demonstrated personal expertise (and of course if you had, you'd have to explain away your statements to the effect that peer review and credentials didn't have importance here).
I've rejected the model because the model is flawed. If presented exactly how it was flawed and invited you to show me how my analysis is incorrect. This is isn't doing that.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The same is true of the fallacies you've voiced. Don't worry, we're almost done...
You're going to have to try harder. Saying something doesn't make it true.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
"Shoddy arguments"? I don't think so. They're only shoddy if you've assumed a priori that I'm wrong, and speaking against an irrefutable case.
No, sir, I can also determine that they're shoddy by their shoddiness (i.e. being or containing logical fallacies). I've introduced you to the resources. A reasonably intelligent person should be able to figure it out in a short period of time and master fallacy recognition with a little practice. If I can figure it out, anyone can. Really.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
My opening post was the ice breaker. I have to do this every time I debate with a Myther. They always accuse me of having no evidence, and how I must be brainwashed by Christianity, etc. Nevermind that the burden of proof is on the Mythers, but most of them are unaware (or have convinced themselves) that scholarly academia and mainstream experts do NOT have a case for the historical Jesus (many of them can't tell the difference between an amateur and an expert, all they see is that somebody published a book that sold).
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You've given no evidence that this is what actually happens in academic peer review, you've simply created a strawman of it that dissent is automatically dismissed and sycophantic agreement rewarded.
You can absolutely, wholeheartedly, immediately disarm my example of providing an example of a piece of evience for Jesus that didn't first begin with someone somewhere saying "Okay, we're going to go out and try to find some evidence for Jesus". Just one.

Otherwise, we have an intellectually dishonest process because the conclusion is the starting point rather than the ending point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The Emperor's New Clothes was a story (an important one, but not a trump card to defend conspiracy theories and justify rejection of all expertise).
Your point please, sir?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
How do you know that's the case?
Because if it wasn't, we would have started with evidence for Jesus and worked forward from there. Instead we're 2,000 years out from his alleged death and trying to find evidence to support what we believe about him now.

It's amazing what kinda stuff is obvious when you look at it objectively.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Clearly it is not, as Robert Price, one of the foremost Myther defenders himself was a Christian, and in fact was a minister. He came to believe, through his studies, presumably, that not only was Christianity full of theological errors, but that Jesus himself probably didn't exist as a historical person. He then joined the Anglican church and still attends services, for reasons known probably only to himself (I know of people who still go to church even though they don't believe... we can think of plenty of reasons... the sense of community, love of ceremonies, maybe the food or music is good, etc).
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You're assuming I can't address it. I've already begun to address some of your arguments, and once I show the evidence, you'll be forced to either attempt to handwave it all away (which should be amusing), or seriously evaluate it and modify your position.
Yes, I've seen it and it isn't impressive. First, it isn't "evidence", it's links to other sources that allegedly contain "evidence" and second, you obviously missed where I've already addressed some of the arguments presented by those sources in the other post I referenced earlier. So dismissing it won't be difficult as you haven't actually provided any.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Have you viewed the videos on youtube that I'm talking about? They were rather different than the postings by (I presume) Christians on that Lucasforums thread you posted. And those videos also have comments... have you read them all?
All? No. Is there one that you feel is particularly meaningful. I'll be happy to review and post an analysis if there is.

(hint: this is called "me calling your bluff").

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And they have already done so, thus this case is a bit like a Creationist demanding that the burden of proof be placed on those who believe evolution takes place to demonstrate it.
Poor example as there is evidence for evolution and it has been presented. No such luck for creationism and (thus far) historical jesus.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The historicity of Jesus is an already established fact!
Careful...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
But you apparently don't believe me, so I'll kindly provide that information, even though the burden of proof is on you, as a Myther defender, to show why these experts are wrong (all you've done is accuse them of lying... but given no motive for why they would do such a thing, especially since many of them are liberals or not Christian, or even non-religious).
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Why would secular experts at secular institutions (or tenured professors or better yet, retired professors) feel the need to "support Christianity" by proclaiming Jesus a historical figure?
This is rather vague. Specific examples please. Also, please establish relevance in your reply. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Even in non-Christian countries or ones with secular states? Very strange. Surely if there were sufficient evidence of the Myther position, it would have a significant presence amongst experts away from "Christian power," right?
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You're right, it doesn't work that way, and I never said it did.
You want that rationale to work for Jesus though, so yeah, you kinda did.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
This is a strawman of what I said.
Nope, but nice try

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
We're not going from the starting point that he existed and assuming he existed so anyone who questions it is wrong.
Actually, that exactly the argument. I've provide the supporting rationale above.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
We're saying the question was asked, and sufficient evidence found.
Sufficient evidence for whom?

Skeptics? Historians? Or more like true believers?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
He was then considered historical.
Same question as above

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Some people challenged that, using fallacious reasoning and poor arguments.
Okay, now we're getting silly. Source please?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
These people continue to impress the unwary and willfully deluded and sell lots of books. But academia has refuted the foundations of their arguments so many times, it's not even worth bothering with... except on the internet, where information travels fast and people don't trust experts and prefer conspiracy theories for some reason (or at least a vocal minority).
Oh, these vague boogeymen exist now? Okay. Still, source please? Or is this simply your unfounded opinion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I can understand the skepticism... what I can't understand is the desire to continue to hold onto these conspiracy theories even after they've been completely refuted and the evidence is readily available. I guess they just don't want to accept the truth?
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's only a strawman if it misrepresents the position in order to make it more easy to refute.
Negative. Any false argument presented by the speaker which doesn't address the actual argument made by the first party is a strawman. There is no "easy" or "difficult" requirement to it.

As I've already pointed out, Mythers has nothing to do with anything I've said. That was introduced by you. Therefore strawman. Feel free to address the arguments I have made at any time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Earl Doherty doesn't believe Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef, called Christ) actually existed as a historical person. He's a Myther. Same with Dorothy Murdock. Same with Robert Price (although he says "probably" or "existence doubtful," a "soft" qualifier). Same with Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy and Brian Flemming and "Peter Joseph" (not his real name).
And I have referenced any of them. Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Happy Birthday! What are you getting your MA in, out of curiosity? Mine will be coming up next year, if you're curious.
Thank you!

Organizational Management.

Congratulations in advance on your achievement!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Good. But I hope you also realize that anyone can doubt anything. That doesn't mean however that you have sufficient reason to doubt, or that sufficient evidence can't be provided to dispel any reasonable doubt.
"Reasonable" doubt you say? Wouldn't that be "unreasonable" doubt?

As no evidence for said argument has been presented, my doubt is quite reasonable. As soon as some evidence, which a reasonable person would find convincing, is presented, then I'll be happy to accept that conclusion to the degree that it is reasonable to do so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Good, I hope you get a kick out of these.
As a matter of fact, I consider your offering rather lacking. I asked for evidence, not a recommended reading list. I'm sure that it wasn't your intention to be inconsiderate of my time, but I'm sure that we can clear things up pretty easily.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
None of these Doctors have said "don't listen to so and so" they explain WHY so and so is wrong, and I can check their opponent and see those reasons, and vice versa.
Sir, if their arguments contain as many logical fallacies as yours (and I've read some of them, so I know that they do), then I regret to inform you that you've been duped.

"Don't read so-and-so because his arguments fail to address the point I raised on page 25 of my book. He said my point is wrong and anyone who knows that jesus was an actual historical figure will know that I'm right"

And sure enough you go to so-and-so's book (do you really? I really want to take your word for it, but then again, I know how most people are) and sure enough it does disagree with the first source.

Wow. Problem sovled.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I can read what both have written and compare to the ancient evidence and see that the Mythers don't know what they are talking about (or in some cases, have deliberately lied in order to further their conclusion).
Ignored. Strawman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You don't seem to realize the difference between the fallacious use of authority and a legitimate use of authority.
No such thing. Any argument that hinges on "because I'm the expert" is a fallacy.

Would you trust a doctor that couldn't explain to you why he or she came up with a certain diagnosis? I sure as hell wouldn't. They might talk over my head at times, but if they can't even offer an explanation, then how in the heck can I know they simply didn't guess.

And yes, "educated guesses" do count, but they are tentative and everyone knows that going into things.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you had two little kids who didn't understand arithmetic. So you have an argument... one kid thinks 2 + 2 equals 5, the other think it equals 6. So they both appeal to authority.

First kid says "My imaginary friend Zondar says it equals 6, so I'm right!" The other kid appeals to their dog, Scruffy who is the smartest dog they have ever met. Now let's say another kid comes along and says "well my math teacher said it equaled 27!" So we could see that the imaginary friend cannot be reached for comment (unverifiable), Scruffy can't actually talk, and the math teacher, when questioned actually says it's 4, and shows WHY it is 4 (adding up various numbers of things, showing in academic math books that it's true, etc).
Your example doesn't work because the teacher didn't appeal to his or her authority to solve the problem. He/she actually showed why. Please try again.

P.S. The earlier examples made by the kids are appeals to authority and demonstrate perfectly why such arguments should be dismissed, as none of the "expert" repsonses were correct. A for effort though.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You could still say "well it's all made up, somebody wanted the math to end up that way so they designed it that way, it's all a hoax!" And so forth.
I could but then again, this part of your response is a red herring anyway, so...

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
But I hope I've made my point. You can appeal to an authority, but not use it incorrectly. If you do so improperly, then it become the "appeal to authority fallacy." Look up "when this is not a fallacy."
*Looks at what you said before. Looks at what you said here. Moves on*

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If the person actually said what was quoted, and the context doesn't change that, and they were speaking from a position of expertise on that subject, and they hold a representative of leading position in their field, then yes, it is a valid and non-fallacious use.
No sir, you're confused. That's called citing your work. If the "expert" explains something (i.e. the teacher that explained why 2+2=4) then no logical fallacy is being made.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Otherwise I could argue "how do you know it's a logical fallacy? Because some website told you?
Interestingly, it's kinda like checking your math. If you can ask yourself "Am I being asked to accept this on someone's say-so without them actually explaining why?" and the answer is "yes" then it's a fallacy. See? Not that hard.

I attended public grade school in the worst performing state in a poorly performing nation. If I can figure that out without smoke billowing out of my ears, I'd like to think that anyone can.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
But chances are more likely that the licensed doctor is correct.
Chances are irrelevant. We aren't discussing odds.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You'd want to make sure that the doctor is actually in the right field (ie: not soliciting dental advice from a gynecologist, or questions about a neurosis from a veterinarian, etc) and isn't under investigation for malpractice or fraud (or their license has been revoked). You'd want to make sure they're a "real doctor" (earned degree from an accredited school) rather than "plays one on TV."
Of course.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's possible that there was a vast conspiracy, and all the historians and experts are wrong, and a handful of amateurs is right. However, it's extremely unlikely. Hence it violates Occam's Razor.
As I've already pointed out, you are using Occam's Razor incorrectly. Reality is that I should have simply ignored this section because it references your conspiracy strawman, but I thought that was important to point out.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You can of course, get a second opinion. That's why you can dispute the experts I will present, with other experts. The trouble is you're going to find a tiny group of scholars (most from a long time ago, only two that I know of that are living) for your side, against many many more on my side. So the question is... who is more likely to be correct?
Appeal to Popularity.

And if we lived in Backwards World, where most of "The Experts" believed that he didn't exist, would that automatically make that viewpoint the correct one?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So it'd be like if you asked one 10 doctors about the huge growth on the back of your neck and 9 of them said it was a tumor, and they'd have to operate to remove it quickly, and 1 said "it's just a zit, don't worry about it."
Unless of course the one was a dermatologist and the nine were psychatrists. Right?

(hint: hence why this is a fallacy).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I know they said this in the commercials, but you can still ask yourself... was it a biased sample?
Making my point for me, eh? Is is possible that your "experts" constitute a biased sample (i.e. people that have staked a career on a specific side of an argument, etc).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Where these actual doctors? Where they qualified to evaluate the facts of smoking's safety (ie: had they conducted tests to see if it had links to cancer)? What about the doctors who disagree with this? The Surgeon General's report was in 1962. There are still people who dispute some of the claims about smoking, but they are such a tiny minority, it's disregarded by most people (including myself).
Glad to see you thinking critically. Go forth and apply it to everything

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Easy way out. You claimed Jesus was not a historical person.
I believe my statement was that I have no evidence that would cause me to believe that he was a historical person. I like to think that I've been very consistent in acknowledging that just because we don't have any now doesn't mean that we won't ever. In other words, my position has been to advocate skepticism of said unsupported claim.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Thus I presume you have experts that support your viewpoint.
No expertise required for skepticism.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The trouble is the people I know of who support this viewpoint (all but about two) are non-experts.
Quite irrelevant. Do you need to be an expert in teapots in order to be skeptical of Russell's claim?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The ones who do support it, are a minority in their field, and the reasons against them are far more compelling then their own arguments.
To some perhaps.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I encourage you to present those expert opinions here, not simply Q&A's from an apologetic atheist site (unless it's using in-context quotes from these expert sources, of course).
Not necessary for reasons I've already presented.

I do hope that this section has been a genuine misunderstanding on your part and not another red herring/strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That's been my point all along. You were arguing with some people apparently about whether Christianity was true. Go back and read my earlier posts and you'll see I was always talking about the historical Jesus and challenging YOUR assertions that there was no or only questionable evidence for the existence of Jesus (and therefore we could dismiss him as a real person, apparently).
That is partially correct. My position is that there is no or only questionable evidence for the existence of jesus. If you would like for me to point out specifically what I find lacking in the existing "evidence" then you will need to present specific evidence for me to discuss. Pointing me at a list of books isn't going to cut it. You either have valid support for your argument or you do not. Asking me to read someone else's work would seem to indicate that you do not (which means that your list is one big fat gigantic appeal to authority and a waste of my time).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You may dislike the fact that you won't be arguing the supernatural isn't real and demanding I present evidence for it, but no matter. I'm not changing the subject.
Strawman. Please stop.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I was pointing out that claiming one needs to prove the supernatural to establish Jesus' historicity is a shifting of the burden of proof.
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that I suspect that you've misinterpreted something I've said.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Otherwise, you can't try to combine these two as some kind of package deal and thus win the argument.

That'd be like me saying... "9/11 was an inside job AND 2 + 2 = 4."

Just because the second part of the statement is true, doesn't mean the first part is. A person can't say to the one disputing the first part "ah, but then you'd be saying 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4... are you some kind of idiot?"
No idea what you're talking about here.

If the existing myth surrounding a divine jesus is dependent upon a historical jesus, then a lack of a historical jesus endangers both narratives. That was the point that I raised in a completely separate thread that I referenced in passing, which you have happily used as a strawman in several posts throughout this thread.
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Old 08-24-2008, 05:42 AM   #211
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Response to the response: part 2

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So the special pleading is that, "well, all these other figures are historical on small amounts of evidence, but Jesus, Jesus is a special case, so we need MORE evidence for him."
Strawman. This isn't an argument that I have presented, so I won't be defending it.

We could probably reduce the lengths of our responses significantly if you stuck to arguements I have made and eliminated the use of strawman fallacies.
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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I'm not disputing that it takes faith to believe in the supernatural. I'm disputing the claim that there is insufficient evidence to establish Jesus' historical existence (or alternately, that the Myther position better fits the evidence we have).
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So how did you come to the conclusion that the Myther position was the most likely conclusion about Jesus? I didn't say "absolute."
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
By that logic, nothing is absolute, since there is always room for doubt about history.
Yep. Somehow that doesn't cause me to lose sleep at night. Sometimes (especially when it comes to stuff that really isn't that important anyway) being "pretty sure" is good enough.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That doesn't mean however that we can't be reasonably certain that certain things and people happened/existed, and that contrary claims are weaker.
Emphasis on "reasonably", yes.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The Myther position as a positive assertion "Jesus was a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about Jesus, he never actually lived" is much like the Creationist assertion stated positively "evolution is a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about evolution, it doesn't actually take place." It's a familiar tactic... but it only works if the person you're talking to isn't able to present the abundant evidence that exists, or it's not widely understood and so bystanders might presume that it's a valid argument and not contest it (giving the appearance of a victory for the skeptic).
Ignored. Strawman.


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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That's a perfect example of the special pleading fallacy, in the Myther position, actually. They will accept other figures of antiquity as historical (ex: Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Julius Caesar, Apollonius of Tyana, Simon Magus, John the Baptist, Caiaphas, Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Saul of Tarsus, etc), but not apply those same standards to Jesus... they demand MORE evidence for Jesus (their default position being that he was mythical) than they will of these other figures. They have to do this, because they are using these other figures to say that Jesus did not exist, or was a fictional character invented by them or their contemporaries... but how could they do so if these writers themselves did not exist? (if THEY were invented, who invented them, and so forth?)
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Their reasoning appears to be that because Jesus is regarded as a miracling working god, he requires more evidence (they'll say things like "surely all those miracles were recorded by thousands of eyewitnesses if they really happened!")... that because there are about 2 billion Christians today and Christianity has a lot of power and influence, that its founder must be held to a higher standard of evidence. But none of those things justify applying a different standard to Jesus than to other historical figures.
I thought you didn't want to discuss divinity? Regardless, it's a strawman, so I won't be replying further.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
My goal here is not to prove the existence of the supernatural or the truth of Christianity, only to show that the belief in the historical existence of Christianity's founding figure (Jesus) is reasonable, and in fact more reasonable than the opposite (that he was an invented myth).
Looking forward to it!

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Ah, here we go again. What evidence? What experts? Where? Who?
Which figures? You don't give me much to work with.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
A skeptic can dismiss these just as easily, using the standards of the Jesus Mythers.
In which cases? If it's reasonable to do so, why shouldn't they?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
There are countless statues, carvings, paintings, and texts written about all sorts of mythological figures. Does that make them historical?
Hehe, my point exactly! Do a lot of references to christianity make christ real? No more so than a lot of references to greek paganism makes zeus real, right? Double-standard.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
These Pharoahs and Caesars were claimed to have miraculous powers and lineages from the gods, even some of them being gods themselves. Sounds like they're mythical to me!
Or we have actual historical figures which claimed or were believed to have powers...which is exactly the point I raised in the other thread in Kavar's.

I can have evidence that someone existed but no evidence that they were divine. Similarly a lack of evidence for existence would immediately nullify any need to even consider the claims of divinity. Make sense now?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Scholars believe they existed? Clearly they just WANT TO BELIEVE and anyone who dissents from these opinions is silenced, censored or suppressed... academic orthodoxy will not tolerate it!
Sure, if you want to present an example of such a case, that's fine. I think that there are probably examples of hoaxes in every field of study, no?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
See? So you'll accept these figures, but not Jesus. Interesting. Sounds like the Special Pleading fallacy you cited...
What's interesting is that you accuse me of one fallacy to execute another

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Two can play that game...

Dictionary.com says:
<snip>
Ahem:

"belief that is not based on proof"

We can use your source too, I don't mind.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Again, this is off topic, because I'm not contending for proof of the supernatural, only sufficient evidence to establish the historical existence of Jesus, known as the founding figure of the Christian religion.
It's not off topic because the context in which you used the word is applicable. It does require special faith to believe in historic jesus because there is no proof. We can use the merriam-webster definition or we can use the dictionary.com definition. It all comes out the same in the wash.

In other words, it is you assigning spiritual baggage to the usage, not me.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Except we have documentation from JK Rowling herself that she invented the character.
This is a dodge. No promise that future archeologists will have this, just as there is no promise that such a document existed at one time re: jesus which is lost to us now.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
There's no evidence of this character outside her writings...
My point re: jesus precisely (aside from the fact that both stories have fan clubs)

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
...(and the movies that are directly based on them), and she doesn't claim this is a real living person.
She doesn't but then again you're still dodging my point.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The same is not applicable to Jesus or other figures of antiquity.
Bold claim, but says you nonetheless.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
A better example would be King Arthur. Incidentally, most scholars believe that quite literally, King Arthur didn't exist. However, a large number believe that the character was based on one or more real figures, though the story was spun in a legendary direction. The story of Jesus is not identical to this, but it's a much better comparison than known fictional characters like Harry Potter, Spider-Man, or even James Bond (the latter, again, apparently based on a couple of real world figures).
Another bold claim. Please provide evidence for your argument that the story of jesus does not match this pattern (even though you claim to have read my post where I pointed out precisely how it does).
Interestingly, Jesus ties with King Arthur on Lord Raglan's scale even though you wish to claim here they aren't similar. Wonderful.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Because no credible scholars say that Harry Potter was a historical figure, while for Jesus, most do.
I told you that such a response would not be considered acceptable, yet you posted it anyway

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
We have no evidence of the existence of HP outside the (admittedly fiction by the living author herself) HP books.
This is a dodge. You have no way of knowing what sources will or will not be available to historians in the future. Rather than answer the question honestly, you've sidestepped it.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
We have evidence outside the primary source for Jesus (the New Testament, which is actually 27 books that were collected long after the deaths of their authors, making many of them independent).
Repeating it won't make it true.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Oh I have, and yet, it's not absolute either. One of my professors, Amy-Jill Levine, admits that it's possible that the Gospel of John (even though most regard it as the last of the canonical Gospels written) could have been written first.
Of course it's possible. It's also possible that I'll write it two weeks from now, be abducted by aliens with time travel technology, who will wisk me back to the past to plant it in between Mark and Luke/Matthew. Lots of things are possible.

I guess we have to ask ourselves what good reasons we have for thinking things are probable.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You're assuming that every author read all the writings that came before him.
Yep. Based on the similarities between the canonical gospels. It's called the synoptic problem, but then again, I'm sure you're already aware of that.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
That's not a given, and in fact there seems to be evidence that this is not the case, or else we might expect to find quotations from those works or responses to them within the work, and lack of responses or quotations may indicate unfamiliarity with those works.
I'm back to questioning your credibility again.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's not like the modern age where everyone knows when the next Harry Potter book comes out. Different communities had different books. There was no internet or blogosphere for these authors to get together and say "so, Jim's working on a new Gospel I hear... I can't wait to read it, then I'll write mine" and so forth.
Yep. Why we have so many non-canonical writings. But then again, we're not dealing with 2 week publisher deadlines are we? At least a decade (or more) between canonical gospels, right (except Matthew and Luke)? That's a lot more wiggle room than you seem to want us to acknowledge.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The letters of Paul, most scholars feel, came first.
Yep.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Most scholars also accept the "Q hypothesis" that there was a written source that came before the Synoptics which was a common source. This source pre-supposes oral tradition as well.
Irrelevant, but yep.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So it's not just a linear thing (some have tried to put forth that it was all a Pauline conspiracy, or a Synoptic conspiracy).
In some cases, I'm sure that this is true. Assertions that this is true in all cases would be silly (as the early christian writings span over 200 years, some will obviously come before others).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
True, but then we'd ask why other authors unconnected with this proposed "inner circle" of early Christians would write about Jesus, and yet seem unaware of certain parts of the story that we know so well?
I'm trying to think of a Bart Ehrman book that doesn't address this. I'm sure one will come to me later.

This "inner circle" was Paul, travelling around to various communities. Why? Good question, but I suspect that it was probably for fame, attention, money, power, or some mix of those things and others.

Some parts of the story would be unknown to others because the letters he wrote to the Galatians would have been to address the problems his new church was having there. As you like to point out, it's not like he had a Xerox copier or email.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Authors with no reason to support any of the story if it were all just a religious tale invented by this insignificant sect.
Well, unless they were members of course

Funny how Mormons tend to spread the word about Mormonism, no? I imagine some of them might actually believe the stuff.


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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Yeah, and while I'm talking a ton of time to respond to this post, I don't have enough time to respond to every long post you make. Not with school starting on Monday and some other concerns. You yourself took time off for your offline activities, don't begrudge me mine! I'm picking on the points that I have problems with.
You offered to reply and I acknowledged. *shrug*

If you changed your mind that's fine, but I certainly wasn't biting your head off.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings
(Third Edition: 2007), The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader (Second Edition: 2003), both by agnostic New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman. Also, the Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (I have the 1989 edition but there are newer editions), in the introductions to the New Testament Pauline epistles.

Paul was writing in the 50's and 60's, and died 66-69 CE.
He would have been alive at the time of Jesus' public ministry then, logically, and thus a contemporary.
Nice try.

Paul, by his own admission, never saw Jesus except for in a vision. He was not writing when jesus was alive, therefore was not a contemporary.

Also, since the rationale for Paul's alleged status as a "contemporary" is circular, let's step back for a moment and ask how difficult would it be to create a fictional character that "lived" prior to the time the author decided to write about him? Or to put it another way, if jesus was a real person, then why was Paul the only person writing about him between the time of his death and ~70 AD? He lived, everyone except Paul forgot and then suddenly everyone remembered?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Perhaps, but by that logic you're saying a person can't change their views, when it is clear that people like Dorothy Murdock and Robert Price grew up "believing that Jesus was real."
Not at all. That's an argument that you're introducing.

By my logic a person that grows up believing that something is real or true will be enculturated to believe that thing is real or true. The phenomenon is so pervasive that it even has a name in sociology (hint: enculturation).

Yes, once you are programmed it is incredibly difficult to change your programming. Impossible, no? Difficult, yes? Even more difficult if you don't want to change, or fear changing? You betcha.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If they could change their minds, why not others?
Why are some people morning people and others night owls? We can take this as far off the beaten path as you'd like.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So I don't buy it that they're just making up all this crap because of a childhood belief (that they've 9/10s rejected anyway, in de-converting from the Christian faith).
That's fine. I didn't ask you to accept it, only to try to rule it out, which you can't. It's up to the reasonable person reading our exchange to determine whether my point holds any merit or not.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And can you say that the Mythers and you yourself are unbiased? If not, then it's not a valid criticism.
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Fair enough. However, there's a difference between saying that a figure within mythology had a historical basis, and saying it was wholly invented. There are mythologies about US Presidents for example, but they are still real figures, even if the "myths" about them are wrong or unverifiable.
You're taking "mythology" out of context.

It's pretty difficult to argue that the figure of jesus is special or unique when it is not only neither, but common.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The "Mythers" are saying that Jesus was not a historical person, thus they are saying that underneath the Myth... no real person, just stories and symbols.
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I have, and I have also "read" (audio book format, so "listened") to "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" twice, wherein he rips apart the "pagan copycat theories" about Jesus,
This is completely unrelated to the discussion. Your comment was that we have a remarkable number of extant works. If you've read Misquoting Jesus, The Lost Gospel of Judas, etc (or even listened to any number of his clips on YouTube), then you know this isn't true.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
...and defends the historical reliability of the canonical Gospels and letters of Paul over those of the Gnostic gospels and Christian apocrypha.
This is complete bs unless he had a radical change of heart between this book and any of the others that I've read (specifically Misquoting Jesus).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
He's by no means a defender of Christian doctrine, but rather an important counter to the implications by Mythers that it is only dogma and faith that is keeping scholars from denouncing Jesus as unhistorical and conceding to conspiracy theories about Christian origins.
Ignored. Strawman.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The trouble is, I think you're assuming that this must be the original text of the Gospel of John.
No, I'm simply pointing out that your claim that we have remarkable access to early writings isn't worth the paper equivalent of P52.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I don't think there are any modern experts who believe this. Rather, all the fragments we have are COPIES. There is a difference between the date of the earliest fragments/copies we have and COMPOSITION DATE.
All copied by hand with errors and edits made in each copying. Hence why Ehrman likes to point out that we have more unique copies of NT writings than words in the NT itself. So much for dependability.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The Composition date accepted by the vast majority of scholars for the NT writings are 1st century. Yes, a portion of scholars grant later dates for composition to John and some of the non-Pauline epistles (such as 2 Peter and the Pastoral letters) to early 2nd century.

If P52 was written in 125 CE, then the Gospel of John must be AT LEAST that old. So it might have been written in 124 CE, or it might have been written in 95 CE (the latter is accepted by more modern scholars). Again, think about that a bit before you assume. The Nag Hammadi texts are another great example. They're dated to the 300's, but I don't know of a single modern scholar who believes that those texts were actually composed then. Instead, they feel that these are simply 4th century COPIES of early 2nd and 3rd century documents.

Another way to can help determine this is if we have other ancient sources that seem aware of these texts. The early Church Fathers (or "Apostolic Fathers" the term commonly used for those contemporaries or near contemporaries of the Apostles in the first century) are a good place, as they often quote or elude to these texts. And as we can't prove that they themselves wrote these texts (different writing style, language, geography, etc), then it's highly likely that the texts existed at least a few years before these guys. And so on and so forth.
Ignored because none of this has anything to do with the point you were making or my refutation of that point.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
They might find proof of a "harry potter cult" but that's different than proving that Harry Potter himself was a historical figure.
You win a cigar.

A bunch of proof of "jesus christ cult" is very different from proof for a historical jesus christ. Make sure you keep this in mind when you're posting your next reply which will hopefully have actual evidence in it.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Not only Harry, but all of the characters in the novels are made up (though to be fair, I have not read the novels, so I can't comment on EVERY possible character... perhaps the books mention Tony Blair or Queen Elizabeth II or Princess Di, in which case those characters would be real, but none of them appear in the movies... it's just the various witches, wizards, spirit folk, talking animals, giants, monsters, and so forth).
Neither have I, but my kids have.

And yes, just as your very astute argument regarding Harry Potter would extend to all the other fictional characters contained within the story, so would it extend to other fictional characters in the jesus narrative too.


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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Ask yourself why professional historians and scholars of antiquity consider some figures (like Hercules or Horus) to be purely mythical, and others (like Julius Caesar or John the Baptist) historical.
Okay, I have. Now what?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Are you saying it's purely arbitrary, or are you applying special pleading to Jesus? (why? because he's a religious figure?).
False dichotomy. I am neither saying that it is arbitary, nor I am making a special plea for a historical jesus. Quite the contrary, I would argue that we should question the validity of any claim put forth historians for which we have no evidence. Whether it be Jesus Christ or William Shakespeare (unfair example as we have writings penned under the name Shakespeare that most likely didn't write themselves).

What I am saying is that we should accept the historical argument for any figure to the degree that the evidences says that it is reasonable to do so.
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Old 08-24-2008, 05:44 AM   #212
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Response to the response: part 3

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If the historical Jesus is established, then part of your argument is proven false.
Right, except it's not.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you want to agree right here, that Jesus of Nazareth (aka Yeshua bar Yosef) is a historical figure... that there is reasonable certainty (evidence beyond reasonable doubt) that he actually walked the earth as a real live, flesh and blood person, 2,000 years ago, then I'm done here.
Except I don't. I don't have evidence for the existence of such a person, therefore I am skeptical of the claim. When you do get around to posting evidence (which you haven't done here), then we can talk about changing that.

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If you don't concede that, then the debate continues... and I do hope you'll actually read my evidence, rather than just racing to find Mythers who say you shouldn't read it.
No sir, you don't get to plop down a stack of books and declare yourself winner. You're going to actually have to present evidence. When you do, I will read it.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I confess, I did skim it, as I've read similar lists before.
That's good to know. Maybe that explains all the strawmen: Since you don't actually bother to read what I write, it makes it easier to respond to arguments that you think I made but didn't. It all makes sense now.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Perseus appears to have had a "virgin birth" (unless you consider the golden shower from Zeus copulated with her to make her pregnant), though I've been shown no evidence that this particular story predates Matthew and Luke. However, none of that proves word one that Jesus was therefore invented.
It doesn't have to. It only has to show that the virgin birth is not unique.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
All it does is show one possibly parallel between a pagan religion and the religion about Jesus.
Yep, for that one key part of the story. There are others and not just from Greek mythology.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It doesn't show that Perseus and Jesus were the same person, or even that Christians copied the Jesus character from Perseus.
You didn't do much better on your 2nd pass. Slow down and read the post again if you're interested in what it does say.

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Again, such supposed "common parallels" are also applied to real live figures, like the Pharoahs and the Caesars (said to be descended from the gods, or living gods themselves).
Indeed such common themes are fascinating.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Even if the virgin birth story was "made up," that alone doesn't indicate Jesus is a purely mythical person.
Nope, but it isn't a check mark in the "special and unique" column either. At some point the jesus story starts to sound like nothing more than another myth.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Thus such claims have to be evaluated individually. If you want to go that route, we can do so, it'll take awhile. But I'd ask for primary sources supporting each of the claims you'd like to put forth. How about for starters, you show me pre-Christian primary sources indicating that any of the pagan gods were crucified and physically resurrected (in three days or not I don't care).
Why don't you start defending your arguments with evidence before you decide to dictate to me how to defend mine? Especially if they are regarding an aspect of an argument that you've repeatedly stated you aren't interested in discussing (jesus divinity).

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The "similar stories" thing doesn't matter unless those other stories came before, and we copying ends up being the most likely explanation for that similarity. As I see it the pagan parallels are superficial at best, post-Christian at worst. Most of this goes back to Graves, which even Richard Carrier rejects (and he says so on the Infidels site, if you don't believe me I'll dig up the link).
Please cite whatever you'd like to, however I doubt they will have much of a leg to stand on unless they encompass every mythology we know about and have figured out a way to account for the fact that pagan religions did not have a literary tradition.

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Okay, what evidence do you have that the Pharoahs and Caesars who claimed godhood and had miracles attributed to them were actual historical persons, rather than myths. Just out of curiosity, how do you determine that... and then apply the same standards to Jesus and other figures of antiquity (like John the Baptist, Apollonnius of Tyana, Justin Martyr, Saul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Caiaphus, Rabbi Gamiliel, etc).
You've either lost track of the conversation or are trying to pull a fast one. This argument has nothing to do with what we were discussing.

Your sarcastic comment that any evidence of commonality between stories must mean that they are fictional misses several points and is a gross over-simplification of the argument.

You can either back track and try to address my questions seriously or decide that your argument was out of line and drop it. Either scenario is fine with me.

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Same, though firefox has a nice little underliner when you write words not in its dictionary, so that helps.
Yep, I have it and I normally use it. I was posting to let you know that I wouldn't be using it in that post. I won't be using it in these either.

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Okay, first off, yes, this is a "canned response" but then so was the post you gave me that I was responding to, so I think it's fair.
Nope on all counts. I referred you to another post (which was not "canned") as an aside to the arguments that I made here. So, no, my first response was not "canned" and no your canned response is not acceptable.

I will not be speeding off to read each of these resources in the hopes of figuring out which arguments you thought were relevant, etc.

You have evidence. You present evidence. Sending me on a wild goose chase to make your arguments for you is not acceptable.

When you are ready to present your evidence let me know and we can pick up from there.

Thanks for reading (and writing!). Take care.
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Old 08-28-2008, 01:24 AM   #213
Agent_Katarn00
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I personally think that jesus was a good person and should be mentioned.
I mean he dealed with all that crap to be a good person.
It's just that we are all made by god and pretty much we are the sons and daughters of god.So i don't why they mention that he is the son of god all the time if we are too.
But I don't think this is the right place to talk about this anyway...
This place is a place for nerds or people that like games.
Not for religous beliefs and opinions and fighting.
Also i do believe in god because i mean why would we just die and nothing else happens and everbody else lives?
That would suck!



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Old 08-28-2008, 03:21 AM   #214
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But I don't think this is the right place to talk about this anyway...
This place is a place for nerds or people that like games.
Not for religous beliefs and opinions and fighting.
Nope. This is the Senate Chambers and in here there's just this is happening: serious discussion.

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Also i do believe in god because i mean why would we just die and nothing else happens and everbody else lives?
That would suck!
So you'd be jealous that you're dead and some others still live? THAT is your reason to believe in god?


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Old 11-02-2008, 01:13 AM   #215
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The god of the desert is a violent one, jealous and easily offended in a myriad of ways. A domineering father figure who demands that his little people behave his laws.

Five minutes of reading through the violence displayed in the Bible (and the Quran) should be enough for anyone I'd think. Even if God does exist I still can't rationalize myself with anyone who condones wiping out entire villages or killing non-believers. Sorry but even if God does exist (and he doesn't), he can give me an apology as far as I'm concerned.

That or he can send me to hell... I don't feel like walking around on egg shells in heaven, just cut to the chase.
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Old 11-20-2008, 04:14 AM   #216
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The thing people forget (and so many skeptics fail to learn) is that the vast majority of Christians (and Jews for that matter) are NOT "sola scriptura."

So let a fundie explain to you why simply picking up the King James and reading it turns you off, or doesn't convince you that their religion is the one true belief system...

Most modern Jews interpret the Tanakh (Torah - the Law, Neviim - Prophets, Ketuvim - Writings) through the lense of the Babylonian Talmud.

Most modern Christians interpret the Bible (66 books for Protestants, 73+ for Catholics/Orthodox) through the lens of Tradition (Church Fathers, Councils, Creeds), as well as things like reason and experience.

As an educated Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, etc. and you'll get a much more complete answer than from a believer in Sola Scriptura. While it's true that is the classic teaching of Protestantism, mainline Protestants don't adhere to this as strictly as you might think.

So the notion that you can just read the Bible like a novel or a newspaper and conclude that it's immoral, just isn't a very good argument. At best that will let you trash some fundies, but most Christians won't be phazed by it. As for Islam, they have the Hadith, but as I'm not a Muslim, and I know less about their religion, I'll let an educated Muslim address your concerns there.

And yeah, welcome to the Senate Chambers, where we discuss the more "serious" topics (like politics, religion, etc)!


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Old 11-20-2008, 04:31 AM   #217
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So the notion that you can just read the Bible like a novel or a newspaper and conclude that it's immoral, just isn't a very good argument.
Just so I'm understanding this correctly, is the argument that an omniscient being gave us a book (either directly or via revelation) however reading it directly won't tell directly anything about him or what he wants from us?

I never ceased to be amazed how obviously intelligent people can spin their wheels studying apologetics until the cows come home and still somehow fail to grasp just how intellectually bankrupt the entire exercise is.

The fact that some of these people turn around and accuse others of missing the point would be funny if it weren't so sad.

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At best that will let you trash some fundies, but most Christians won't be phazed by it.
Let's be honest: this is an argument about how faith shields believers from critical thinking, not an argument about the value of apologetics as you would seem to suggest.
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Old 11-20-2008, 04:41 AM   #218
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Oops, I was gone for a bit, and I see you had three replies, this was the last one, I'll respond to the next two after this!

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Right, except it's not.
Then how do you explain the utter lack of credentialled historians and biblical scholars who dismiss Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef) as a purely mythical or fictional character?

I know of approximately two scholars who make this claim (or a soft version of it: ie: would agree to the statement, "his existence is doubtful")... Robert M. Price (a New Testament scholar) and Richard Carrier (who earned his doctorate in ancient history last June). Every other living (and recent) expert I've ever read has indicated adherence to the mainstream theory that Jesus was historical, even if they have no religious beliefs whatsoever that would incline them to be "biased" in favor of his existence (and simply being Christian isn't sufficient evidence to believe Jesus had to have existed, since you could be some kind of liberal who believed Jesus was just a spirit, or a Gnostic, etc).

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Except I don't. I don't have evidence for the existence of such a person, therefore I am skeptical of the claim. When you do get around to posting evidence (which you haven't done here), then we can talk about changing that.
Do you have evidence of anything? Many people use the same logic to say they're skeptical of evolution (I'm not, I accept it, just so you know). Does that mean they have a legitimate reason to dispute it, and this places the burden of proof on everyone who affirms it to "prove" it to your satisfaction?

I suggested many texts on the historical Jesus by some of the top scholars in the field. These are standard texts that you'd be introduced to in a university or graduate level course on the matter. It's not as if these are hard to find. Google up a rebuttal from a Myther site, or grab the text and we can compare the problems... I gave you a reading list because I think it's sad some people still think that established facts are up for grabs because of conspiracy theories... but I believe in education, so I hope you eventually see that you were wrong!

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No sir, you don't get to plop down a stack of books and declare yourself winner. You're going to actually have to present evidence. When you do, I will read it.
So you want me to post a research paper I've written on proving the Historical Jesus?

How about the links I provided? Those are primary source texts, and you can read them in about ten minutes. Even if you're the most lazy person in the world, I've spoon fed it for you. I think I've done everything short of write the research paper and post it for you, necessary to provide the evidence that was requested.

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That's good to know. Maybe that explains all the strawmen: Since you don't actually bother to read what I write, it makes it easier to respond to arguments that you think I made but didn't. It all makes sense now.
I'm anticipating the usual arguments for Jesus' non-existence. The Mythers don't have many arguments, so I've covered all the bases. Pick the one you like and show me how I've mischaracterized it, and why it's more credible than the historicist position, please.

Or am I supposed to guess what you really believe when you say you're "skeptical" of Jesus' existence.

How many other characters are you skeptical of? I presume you're skeptical of all of them and not just Jesus because he's the figure worshiped by 2 billion Christians... right?

I believe Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Socrates also existed, and so do most relevant experts, last I checked.

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It doesn't have to. It only has to show that the virgin birth is not unique.
And what does that have to do with the historical Jesus?

The fact that the Mythers typically can't even get their facts straight and just blindly claim that any story of an unusual birth from mythology is automatically proof that Jesus' birth was copied from paganism (and try to use that as leverage to say the rest of the story was too, therefore he didn't exist).

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Yep, for that one key part of the story. There are others and not just from Greek mythology.
Great, then you should have no problem showing us these things, right?

You don't like what I provided for evidence, so let's see you provide some for your claims... only fair, right?

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You didn't do much better on your 2nd pass. Slow down and read the post again if you're interested in what it does say.
So you're just going to sit here and claim I didn't answer your specific concerns? Give me a break!

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Indeed such common themes are fascinating.
They are, as is the way in which the Mythers twist them to try to concoct a conspiracy theory, where none exists. My point in bringing up the fact that human beings HAVE been worshiped as gods in the past, is to show that it's not so unusual and unbelievable that Jesus was worshiped.

The Mythers sometimes imply that because a man was worshiped, we should conclude that he must never have actually existed AS A MAN... and is rather a spiritual being that has been anthropomorphized in literature.

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Nope, but it isn't a check mark in the "special and unique" column either. At some point the jesus story starts to sound like nothing more than another myth.
"Starts to sound like,"...?

What it sounds like to a layman, is irrelevant. To many laymen, evolution or the big bang sounds like magic. So it's no wonder a lot of people are skeptical. But that doesn't mean that these theories aren't sound and well supported. Rather, it just points to the widespread ignorance in the non-expert community, and perhaps the failure of experts to better educate the public. But if people can't be bothered to learn about these things, it's not our fault, is it?

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Why don't you start defending your arguments with evidence before you decide to dictate to me how to defend mine?
You'll be required to defend your arguments according to the same standards I have.

But really, just as a lay person disputing evolution has the burden of proof, so too does a lay person disputing the historicity of Jesus.

And as I've backed up my opinion (which is merely communicating the expert community's consensus) with evidence, it's now your turn to either show me better evidence, or show me why the evidence I presented is wrong.


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Especially if they are regarding an aspect of an argument that you've repeatedly stated you aren't interested in discussing (jesus divinity).
It doesn't matter if Jesus was just an ordinary man with no super powers. All we're doing is comparing the STORIES about other gods and characters ALLEDGED to have had similar powers, which are favorites of the Mythers, who try to use these other characters and stories to show that the early Christians PLAGIARIZED these stories in order to create their "JESUS FICTION."

Don't tell me you aren't aware of that fact...

If you think the "parallels" are meaningless, then drop them already. My point is that 9 times out of 10 the alledged parallel is nothing of the sort, because it either comes from a post Christian story (meaning it could have been copying the other way), or it's nothing like they described it (ie: Osirus' body was torn to pieces and thrown into the Nile by his enemy Seth, and they think this somehow "parallels" Jesus being baptized in the Jordan river by John... or Zeus turns into an animal to have sex with a human woman to produce a half god/half man hero and this somehow parallels the Holy Spirit "overshadowing" Mary to make her pregnant, while still a virgin, with Jesus, God incarnate).

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Please cite whatever you'd like to, however I doubt they will have much of a leg to stand on unless they encompass every mythology we know about and have figured out a way to account for the fact that pagan religions did not have a literary tradition.
I don't have to encompass every mythology that ever existed. All I have to do is refute the specific examples you give me. That's how this works.

If you want to say these pagan religions had no literary tradition, then how do you know what they believed, and that it influenced Christianity?

Right there, you would have to concede the argument, and say you're now just speculating that they did!

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You've either lost track of the conversation or are trying to pull a fast one. This argument has nothing to do with what we were discussing.

Your sarcastic comment that any evidence of commonality between stories must mean that they are fictional misses several points and is a gross over-simplification of the argument.

You can either back track and try to address my questions seriously or decide that your argument was out of line and drop it. Either scenario is fine with me.
Then please show me what you think the specific parallels (once you've established that they are TRUE parallels, and not simply vague references that have been massaged to "sound like Jesus" by Christian word substitution) mean, and what bearing they have on the Historical Jesus.

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Nope on all counts. I referred you to another post (which was not "canned") as an aside to the arguments that I made here. So, no, my first response was not "canned" and no your canned response is not acceptable.
So nothing I said in my post was of any relevance to what you believe? Fine then, start over and tell me what you really believe on this matter, especially if your beliefs have changed since you last posted.

Were you just playing devil's advocate? Or do you believe that Jesus is imaginary?

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I will not be speeding off to read each of these resources in the hopes of figuring out which arguments you thought were relevant, etc.
Then what do you expect me to do? Write a 30 page research paper quoting every source in the list to convince you that Jesus is historical, rather than mythical?

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You have evidence. You present evidence. Sending me on a wild goose chase to make your arguments for you is not acceptable.
It's not a wild goose chase. These sources are readily available, and I have access to many of them myself. You'll learn a lot more reading them than you will sparring with me on here, guaranteed. And these are written by actual scholars in the field (in all but one case), in most cases.

There's no excuse for you not to read the primary sources I posted.

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When you are ready to present your evidence let me know and we can pick up from there.
Baloney, I've already presented it. If you post a new thread saying there's no evidence for Jesus, I'll just repost what I did here. How does that sound?


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Thanks for reading (and writing!). Take care.
You too! I would rather have a civil, rational debate, than just canned responses. Let me know your specific questions and I'll do my best to answer them in a reasonable time frame, since my (brief) vacation is coming up!


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Old 11-20-2008, 06:33 AM   #219
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Oops, I was gone for a bit, and I see you had three replies, this was the last one, I'll respond to the next two after this!
I look forward to reading them.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Then how do you explain the utter lack of credentialled historians and biblical scholars who dismiss Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua bar Yosef) as a purely mythical or fictional character?
We could allow ourselves to get distracted once more by the point (which you didn't address earlier) by the house of cards which is also known as "credentialed historians and biblical scholars", however I'll simply point out that this isn't my positions problem.

Skepticism doesn't require a source. I don't need to cite sufficiently credentialed Elvis-non-death deniers in order to confidently state that there is insufficient evidence to accept that he's still alive. Of course it's possible, but I have no reason to accept that it's true without good evidence and providing said evidence is not my burden.

Same thing applies here. It is not up to me to provide sources for why your position is bankrupt. Christianity makes fantastic claims at it is up to supporters of christianity to provide evidence to support those claims when participating in discussions such as these.

Housekeeping note: per our earlier exchange, I will be skipping over fallacies in order to keep post sizes manageable. If there is something specific you were hoping that I would address and you don't agree that it's a fallacy, let me know and I'll try to circle back as best I can.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Do you have evidence of anything? Many people use the same logic to say they're skeptical of evolution (I'm not, I accept it, just so you know). Does that mean they have a legitimate reason to dispute it, and this places the burden of proof on everyone who affirms it to "prove" it to your satisfaction?
It's not the same argument. The evidence for evolution is right there for anyone to see any time they choose to. How that evidence is perceived is largely dependent upon the individual's learning curve (i.e. an evolutionary biologist understands the topic much better than I do, whereas I understand it much better than my 9 year old son, etc). Whether it is there or not is not up for debate. The same situation does not apply with regards to relgion in general or Christianity specifically. The learning curve for historical Jesus is not any steeper for say the learning curve for Abraham Lincoln or the pyramids. At some point, you can either point to something and show that it is evidence for historical jesus or you cannot. Reams of self-referencing sources that depend on one another to establish credibility with nothing in the middle to hold the whole thing up doesn't satisfy this.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I suggested many texts on the historical Jesus by some of the top scholars in the field. These are standard texts that you'd be introduced to in a university or graduate level course on the matter. It's not as if these are hard to find. Google up a rebuttal from a Myther site, or grab the text and we can compare the problems... I gave you a reading list because I think it's sad some people still think that established facts are up for grabs because of conspiracy theories... but I believe in education, so I hope you eventually see that you were wrong!
I think it's obvious that you do and I congratulate you on that. I do hope at some point you are able to synthesize all that you have learned on a deeper level than you have here.

People with sharp, disciplined minds have put a great deal of effort into becoming scholars of elvish and klingon. However, calling them "linguists" will not magically mean that they aren't studying something invented. Telling me to read the collected works of Tolkien and suggesting that I take a few classes to brush up on my elvish might be fun, but it will never, ever in a million years do anything to progress the discussion about whether elves ever walked middle earth.

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So you want me to post a research paper I've written on proving the Historical Jesus?
If you have one that provides actual evidence I'll be happy to read it. If you intend to post something that simply references other sources which don't have evidence themselves and you don't provide any either, then please don't waste my time.

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I'm anticipating the usual arguments for Jesus' non-existence.
This is the 2nd time you've confirmed that you're not actually addressing my arguments and instead attacking strawmen. I appreciate you confirming it the first time, however continuing to do so will most likely only serve as a distraction. My 2 cents.

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Or am I supposed to guess what you really believe when you say you're "skeptical" of Jesus' existence.
I don't think guesswork is necessary. I am skeptical of historical jesus based on the lack of historical evidence for jesus. If you or anyone else can provide historical evidence for historical jesus, then I will recalibrate my level of skepticism commensurate with the quality of the evidence. Passing references of questionable authenticity to "christianity" do absolutely nothing to address the question of whether or not a man named jesus ever existed. Just a future historians of any worth will take one look at references to "harry potter fan clubs" and be able to figure out that harry potter could've been an actual celebrity or a fictional character, but won't bet the farm on the former without something like a birth certificate.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
How many other characters are you skeptical of? I presume you're skeptical of all of them and not just Jesus because he's the figure worshiped by 2 billion Christians... right?
Correct.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I believe Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Socrates also existed, and so do most relevant experts, last I checked.
I agree that it's reasonable to believe that Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great lived as well. The last I heard (and I don't follow this closely at all), the jury was still out on Socrates.

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And what does that have to do with the historical Jesus?
Sir, if you don't want to discuss virgin births, please don't bring them up. I was responding to the point that you raised. Please try to keep up.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Great, then you should have no problem showing us these things, right?
Sure, however I really do wish you would make up your mind as to whether or not you want to discuss mythology. One moment you're railing against it, the next you're bringing it up as a talking point, the next your trying to take me to task for not discussing it more. It's getting very difficult for me to follow along.

If you are interested in reading what I do have to say on the subject, please see the link to the Kavar's thread that I referenced before. You've already admitted that you didn't read it the first time, however if you go back, you'll see that I did address this point there.

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You don't like what I provided for evidence, so let's see you provide some for your claims... only fair, right?
Your "hard-on" act would be infinitely more effective if you actually took the time to read what I posted. It is fair, and the fact that I provided you a link with my arguments very early in our exchange just makes you look like an ass-hat for trying to insinuate that I'm unable or unwilling to do so.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So you're just going to sit here and claim I didn't answer your specific concerns? Give me a break!
You didn't. Links to apologetics aren't sufficient. If I ask for evidence and you link me to a web site that discusses why people that ask for evidence "don't get it", then you aren't providing me with evidence. You're providing me with hand-waving and excuses. When you have evidence, I will look at it. Apologetics will not be considered acceptable for reason which I hope are obvious.

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What it sounds like to a layman, is irrelevant. To many laymen, evolution or the big bang sounds like magic. So it's no wonder a lot of people are skeptical.
Apples and oranges. It does take some degree of proficiency to be able to understand evolution and big bang theory. But just as a teacher can easily explain the concepts to school children without having to delve into string theory or explain deoxyribonucleic acid, I don't need to read koine Greek to accept that that there census document really does read "Jesus Christ, party of one". You provide me the document and I'll take your word for it that it says what you say it does. However I do my homework and some one argues that "Jesus Christ" was a common name or experts use carbon dating to show that said document is a 14th century forgery, we're going to be back at square one.

To summarize: please don't try to make this more complicated than it really is. I don't need specialized knowledge in order for your evidence to "work".

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You'll be required to defend your arguments according to the same standards I have.

But really, just as a lay person disputing evolution has the burden of proof, so too does a lay person disputing the historicity of Jesus.
This isn't how burden of proof works. If a lay person is skeptical of the claim that the theory of evolution makes, then of course it's on the ToE to rise to the task. If it can't then it shouldn't be accepted.

Now, if a layman claims that "the ToE is false", then they are making a claim and they do have the burden of proof. Unfortunately, just by the nature of the position (proving a negative), they aren't likely to succeed.

The difference it not subtle. I would absolutely be foolish to say "there was no jesus". That's a definitive claim and there's no way I could ever find evidence to support a negative. What I have said consistently is that I'm skeptical of the claim that both bibical historians and theologians make regarding the existence of a historical jesus and/or a divine jesus. This is their (your) claim to support. My position is not a claim and therefore there is no burden of proof for my position.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And as I've backed up my opinion (which is merely communicating the expert community's consensus) with evidence, it's now your turn to either show me better evidence, or show me why the evidence I presented is wrong.
Your evidence is not evidence. I've mentioned this repeatedly. Hopefully I was sufficiently clear here.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It doesn't matter if Jesus was just an ordinary man with no super powers.
Indeed.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you think the "parallels" are meaningless, then drop them already.
I don't recall asserting any such thing. I don't think the parallels are meaningless at all.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I don't have to encompass every mythology that ever existed. All I have to do is refute the specific examples you give me. That's how this works.
Of course you do because you would have to in order to satisfy the burden of proof for the (rather foolish) claim that you made. Feel free to retract it at any time.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
If you want to say these pagan religions had no literary tradition, then how do you know what they believed, and that it influenced Christianity?

Right there, you would have to concede the argument, and say you're now just speculating that they did!
1) Lack of a literary tradition does not signify a lack of any tradition at all and 2) just because a written book was not the centerpiece of the religion (ala judaism and subsequently christianity) doesn't mean that nothing was recorded. But nice try.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Then please show me what you think the specific parallels (once you've established that they are TRUE parallels, and not simply vague references that have been massaged to "sound like Jesus" by Christian word substitution) mean, and what bearing they have on the Historical Jesus.
This doesn't look like option A or option B, so I'm forced to proceed as though you were trying to pull a fast one.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So nothing I said in my post was of any relevance to what you believe? Fine then, start over and tell me what you really believe on this matter, especially if your beliefs have changed since you last posted.

Were you just playing devil's advocate? Or do you believe that Jesus is imaginary?
I believe that we have no good reason to accept that a specific historical figure named "jesus" ever existed based on a lack of evidence for said figure. I am both willing and able to change my stance on this should sufficient evidence cause me to do so at some future time.

This poses significant problems for the divine jesus myth for obvious reasons. This in turn poses a serious problem for christianity, as a whole.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Then what do you expect me to do? Write a 30 page research paper quoting every source in the list to convince you that Jesus is historical, rather than mythical?
birth certificate, census data, eyewitness account, whatever.

Pretend that I came to you with the claim that a man named Bob Smith III lived in ancient Egypt. What sort of evidence would you require in order to make you accept that I wasn't just making Bob up out of thin air? Would you agree or disagree that some form of evidence should be required before accepting such a claim? Would you agree or disagree that some reasonable test should be applied for any claim about any historical figure?

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
It's not a wild goose chase. These sources are readily available, and I have access to many of them myself. You'll learn a lot more reading them than you will sparring with me on here, guaranteed. And these are written by actual scholars in the field (in all but one case), in most cases.

There's no excuse for you not to read the primary sources I posted.
Please don't presume to waste my time. Evidence. You either have it or you do not. I do not need to read dozens of web sites or digest hundreds of pages of text to recognize a birth certificate, census data, an eyewitness account, etc.

"Hey, Kurgan, how do we know that Abraham Lincoln really existed?"
"Hey, Achilles, we have photos, copies of his writings, newspaper clippings reporting his assassination, and much much more."
"Cool. Thanks, Kurgan!"
"Don't mention it!"

What you pointed me towards were alleged eyewitness accounts that were written by anonymous authors decades after anyone alive during that time had died, some historical accounts which reference christianity, and that's pretty much about it. Never mind that these sources contradict each other, get basic facts wrong, have been subject to numerous revisions, etc, etc.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Baloney, I've already presented it.
No you haven't. You posted a list of sources which you may feel have your evidence, but at no point did you post evidence yourself.

Another analogy for you. You and I make a bet and I lose. I agree that I lost and acknowledge that I'm going to get you some money to cover the wager. You ask me where the money is and I tell you that John Doe has it. You go to Joe Blow to get the money, and Joe tells you that if you want the money, you're going to have to do some work to earn it. First off, if I make an agreement to give you money (or if you make an agreement to provide me with evidence), you shouldn't have to chase it down (just like I shouldn't have to sift through multiple sources and try to guess at which arguments you were hoping I would be astounded by). Second off, you shouldn't have to work for the money once you get there (just as I shouldn't haven't to waste my valuable time reading sources which make fallacious arguments). I agreed to give you the money, it's my responsibility to get it to you and if work has to be done to get it, then I should be the one doing the work (just as the burden of proof is yours and it is your responsibility to provide the evidence that you said you had).

I don't think you're dumb, so I have to assume that you're trying to jerk me around. Please don't do that. It isn't nice.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
You too! I would rather have a civil, rational debate, than just canned responses.
Says the man that just tried to justify sending me off to find his evidence for him on a bunch of websites. How's that for canned?!

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Let me know your specific questions and I'll do my best to answer them in a reasonable time frame, since my (brief) vacation is coming up!
Sure. Let's take this again from the top:

What evidence do we have for a historical jesus?
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Old 11-20-2008, 06:45 AM   #220
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Originally Posted by Achilles View Post
Strawman. This isn't an argument that I have presented, so I won't be defending it.
Fair enough. So you agree that most historical figures are suspect, since you haven't seen their cases proved to your satisfaction. I'm curious... are you skeptical that I said the majority of experts consider them historical, or just skeptical that these experts are correct in their views?

In other words, are you mistrusting me, or the scholarly establishment (or maybe the historical method in general)?

What have they (or I) done to earn your skepticism? Just curious.

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We could probably reduce the lengths of our responses significantly if you stuck to arguements I have made and eliminated the use of strawman fallacies.
I'll do my best.

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I wrote:
I'm not disputing that it takes faith to believe in the supernatural. I'm disputing the claim that there is insufficient evidence to establish Jesus' historical existence (or alternately, that the Myther position better fits the evidence we have).

I also wrote:
So how did you come to the conclusion that the Myther position was the most likely conclusion about Jesus? I didn't say "absolute."

You wrote in reply:
Ignored. Strawman.
So you agree that Jesus is a historical figure? We can stop right there then...!

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I wrote: The Myther position as a positive assertion "Jesus was a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about Jesus, he never actually lived" is much like the Creationist assertion stated positively "evolution is a hoax" or "the experts are wrong about evolution, it doesn't actually take place." It's a familiar tactic... but it only works if the person you're talking to isn't able to present the abundant evidence that exists, or it's not widely understood and so bystanders might presume that it's a valid argument and not contest it (giving the appearance of a victory for the skeptic).

You wrote:
Ignored. Strawman.
How is that a strawman? The Mythers do indeed assert that Jesus did not have an existence as a historical person. Those who say that someone LIKE Jesus (or several people with some of the traits of Jesus) existed and were conflated or exaggerated into the Jesus "of history" I would call "soft Mythers." But I'm mainly here discussing the ones who say that there is either "insufficient evidence for his existence" (therefore they assume he did not exist until convinced otherwise) or that because (they think) he was so similar to earlier pagan mythological figures, that he didn't exist (since he didn't "need to" to explain the stories... they were just copies of the pagan fictional characters).

The situation IS akin to Creationists attacking evolution, because it's a case of a small group of (mostly) amateurs attacking the dominant expert view on a subject. And just as is the case with evolution, it's a complex subject that is not widely understood by the general public, and so it is far easier to make their (Myther/Creationist) case sound convincing and the dominant position (historicist/evolution) sound "crazy" by comparison, because the audience isn't well versed in the material.

I've witnessed this kind of thing before... if the one speaking for the conspiracy theorist side is eloquent, and the expert is not, the most natural reaction (from a person who hasn't studied the subject in depth) is to conclude that the conspiracy theorist is probably right, and the expert probably wrong.

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Ignored. Strawman.
So you're saying it's NOT special pleading, because you are equally skeptical about Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Julius Caesar, Apollonius of Tyana, Simon Magus, John the Baptist, Caiaphas, Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Saul of Tarsus, etc, and you will demand the SAME amount of evidence for these figures as for Jesus?

If not, please explain. I'm saying the Mythers are making a case of special pleading, because they would NOT make the same arguments about the other figures, but they single out Jesus. The other figures don't need such careful scrutiny, but somehow Jesus does. If you don't believe it, I suppose you're going to demand now that I provide evidence that the above mentioned figures are real too?

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I thought you didn't want to discuss divinity? Regardless, it's a strawman, so I won't be replying further.
Okay good. I was only trying to point out that his being deified is no impediment to his being a historical figure, and the alledged "parallels" with other "gods" is relevant, because it's a tactic used by Mythers commonly to try to argue for his non-existence. But you won't use it, so I'll drop it.

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Looking forward to it!
Already done so...

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Which figures? You don't give me much to work with.
Here is what I wrote again:

Okay, what evidence do you have that the Pharoahs and Caesars who claimed godhood and had miracles attributed to them were actual historical persons, rather than myths. Just out of curiosity, how do you determine that... and then apply the same standards to Jesus and other figures of antiquity (like John the Baptist, Apollonnius of Tyana, Justin Martyr, Saul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Caiaphus, Rabbi Gamiliel, etc).

If you tell me how you know the above were real historical figures (or myths, then presumably we can know how you feel about Jesus using the same criteria.

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In which cases? If it's reasonable to do so, why shouldn't they?
I gave you the common arguments I've heard the Mythers use. I've never seen them use the same standards against other ancient figures (except perhaps Christian figures, like people claiming Paul, Peter, James, John, etc didn't exist or that Josephus was somebody other than Josephus).

They should use an argument if it's reasonable, but so far they've haven't.
I'd love to see YOUR arguments for it, rather than just a general dismissal.

If I'm strawmanning you, please show me your actual argument for why you don't believe Jesus existed. If you're simply undecided, please tell me why you are undecided or what made you change your mind.

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Hehe, my point exactly! Do a lot of references to christianity make christ real? No more so than a lot of references to greek paganism makes zeus real, right? Double-standard.
But you said above, earlier that you accepted certain things as evidence (like inscriptions, carvings, contemporary records, etc). I was pointing out that even these could be "questioned."

So is the doing of history a useless exercise for you? Or what?


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Or we have actual historical figures which claimed or were believed to have powers...which is exactly the point I raised in the other thread in Kavar's.
So are you hinting that you believe Jesus was a real historical figure, but had no miraculous powers, and that these powers were just made up? You could have saved a lot of time and effort but just saying so, if that's indeed your position (ie: you doubt miracles, not the persons the miracles were attributed to).

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I can have evidence that someone existed but no evidence that they were divine.
I'd say the way history is done, you can never have evidence that they were divine, period, since miracles are outside the realm of historical inquiry. They can neither be proven, nor disproven, using this academic method of analysis. Some will disagree with me, but that's the standard position in the field.

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Similarly a lack of evidence for existence would immediately nullify any need to even consider the claims of divinity. Make sense now?
Except that as you and I both know, Gods don't necessarily have to possess human bodies that exist upon earth. They might float about through time and space doing whatever they please (they are GODS after all, right?). The claim here is rather that a certain God had a historical life as a man.

A non-believer would thus see only a man, a believer would see a God in a man. But to say you saw nothing would be nonsensical, or imply a conspiracy to create a false history of a non-existent being. That's my point.

Most of the gods of history had no bodies, but when you have a body, then you have a person, whether you think him divine or not.

Now, it sounds in these last few replies that you're arguing NOT that Jesus never existed, but that you don't believe in his divinity (Ie: you're not a Christian). We can save a lot of time and effort just by stopping here.

The Myther position is something else entirely than simple non-belief in Christian theology. Believing Jesus was an ordinary (albeit deluded) man, simply makes you non-Christian. Believing he never existed, makes you a kook, and that's really the sort of position I was "attacking" in my initial posts.


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Sure, if you want to present an example of such a case, that's fine. I think that there are probably examples of hoaxes in every field of study, no?
Surely, but what evidence could you present that Jesus was a hoax? Again though, it sounds like you've either shifted your position to only disbelieving in his divinity/miracles, or never supported the Myther position in the first place.

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It's not off topic because the context in which you used the word is applicable.
One of the definitions of "Myth" is also "a widely believed falsehood." But that's not the sense that I'm using it in, and that's not the sense experts use it in either. When anti-religious skeptics use the term "faith" they mean something akin to blind faith, in something the skeptic believes is false. In the context of the texts it's more properly trust in something that one doesn't know for sure, but one is convinced will take place based on prior evidence. In the Scriptures the disciples experience the miracles first hand, and "believe." Yes, it is true that Jesus also praises those who believe without seeing, but this is often isolated to characterize all faith as belief without evidence, to characterize it as dangerous and/or stupid.

I think it's clear that the early Christians believed Jesus was somehow divine. Whether they were right or wrong is unknown, and it requires a choice on our part, if we "believe" them or not. Now if you think there's insufficient evidence to establish them as trustworthy, that's another matter.

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It does require special faith to believe in historic jesus because there is no proof.
Perhaps you're using the term "proof" in a way I didn't intend. Historians deal in probability, based on evidence. They can say something most likely happened. Without a time machine (and a guarantee that the time traveler is not hallucinating) it's impossible to "prove" (in the sense of some kind of absolute certainty) anything happened in the past. Mathematics deals in "proofs." Yes, colloquially we speak of "proof" as in "convince me."


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We can use the merriam-webster definition or we can use the dictionary.com definition. It all comes out the same in the wash.
Whatever. How much evidence do you need to see before you'll say that Jesus was a historical figure (as well as can be established, in other words, to the point where you won't still remain "skeptical")?

But again, are you really skeptical of Jesus' existence, or just denying the supernatural claims about him (divinity/miracles)?

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In other words, it is you assigning spiritual baggage to the usage, not me.
I was just trying to sort out the fact that it doesn't matter if you believe in miracles or gods or not, you can still admit Jesus was historical. Likewise, disbelief in these things is NOT a sufficient reason to dismiss Jesus as a historical person. If you agree, then we'll move on...

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This is a dodge. No promise that future archeologists will have this, just as there is no promise that such a document existed at one time re: jesus which is lost to us now.
But we have proof now, so we're in a better position to decide than some hypothetical future archeologists.

We can't base our theory on non-existent evidence, we can only work with what we have. There might have once been evidence that proved Jesus was a black acrobatic dwarf. We don't have that evidence, so we can't really work with it, now can we?

I bring up the Harry Potter example because it's so often used to claim that texts are not admissible evidence of historical figures.

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My point re: jesus precisely (aside from the fact that both stories have fan clubs)
On the contrary, unlike Harry Potter, Jesus was written about by over a dozen different contemporary and near contemporary writers, some of which had no vested interest in perpetuating the story of his existence as if he were real. Likewise, we have no indication that these writings were intended as fictional entertainment.

And I don't know of any sane adult who believes Harry Potter is a real historical person. Yet the top experts in the field, who are non-Christians, believe Jesus existed. What's more likely... that they're insane, or that there's a solid case for this person existing?

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She doesn't but then again you're still dodging my point.
Your point is invalid, because Harry Potter is a completely different case from Jesus. And since we are not some hypothetical people living in the future who have no way of telling whether Harry Potter is real or made-up, we don't have to consider it a parallel to push us to a conclusion. Besides, the "Harry Potter" argument (or the "Spider-Man" argument or whatever) can be used to attack the existence of ANY historical figure of antiquity, since a great number of them are found in fewer sources than Jesus.

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Bold claim, but says you nonetheless.
We don't have anyone from the time of Julius Caesar, admitting they made up Julius Caesar, now do we?

It's hardly bold, since you cannot find one literary expert who will claim that Harry Potter is real (or that we can't tell if he's real or fake), and you'll be hard pressed to present any (but the two I mentioned in my earlier post) experts in a relevant field who contend that Jesus is fake. The two I did post appear to be "soft" Mythers, anyway, though Carrier has yet to publish a scholarly paper in his capacity as a doctorate level expert to that effect yet.

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Another bold claim. Please provide evidence for your argument that the story of jesus does not match this pattern (even though you claim to have read my post where I pointed out precisely how it does).
Interestingly, Jesus ties with King Arthur on Lord Raglan's scale even though you wish to claim here they aren't similar. Wonderful.
I would be happy to show you in a future post how Jesus doesn't fit this pattern. Besides, the "pattern" is sounds completely arbitrary anyway. How many pre-Christian figures were used to create it?

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I told you that such a response would not be considered acceptable, yet you posted it anyway
It seemed I was justified in posting it though because you don't seem to see why it's fallacious to say Harry Potter as a literary figure challenges the assumption of a historical Jesus.

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This is a dodge. You have no way of knowing what sources will or will not be available to historians in the future. Rather than answer the question honestly, you've sidestepped it.
Exactly. But as we cannot draw conclusions from non-existent sources, or know what non-existent hypothetical individuals will think, based on events that are impossible to predict, it's completely pointless. I only bring it up, because some person will always come forward to say that since Jesus lived 2,000 years ago and we only have a pile of texts saying he really existed, that therefore in the future historians will take a character from our time that is clearly intended as fiction, and turn him into history.

The trouble is that they've already assumed what they've set out to prove... that Jesus was fictional, 2,000 years ago, and turned into historical, because of modern experts who are either too stupid to figure it out (how did the skeptics figure it out?) or because we don't have enough info to know one way or the other.

I'm contending that as we have equal or less evidence for other figures of antiquity, then we might as well conclude they were intended as fiction also.

However we cannot reasonably assume they were intended as fiction without evidence that they were. So it's a rather foolish argument to make.

Conspiracies do happen in real life, however it's not reasonable to assume one happened in the absence of evidence that it did. Likewise, hoaxes happen in real life, etc. but, you know the drill.

Without evidence that Jesus was intended as fiction, it's not an assumption we can reasonably make, especially if we're going to base it on an untestable hypothesis that historians in 2,000 years might think Harry Potter was a real person.

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Repeating it won't make it true.
No, but you can read those sources yourself to see that I'm not bluffing. Josephus exists, so does Tacitus, Suetonius, etc. And the fact is that any idiot can see that the 27 books of the NT were not all written by the same person. The experts agree that they were not all written at the same time either. So what is your excuse?

This reply was addressed to the common assumption by pro-Mythers that the Bible is one book, created by the Church in the 4th century, and that outside of it, there's no evidence for Jesus actually existing. That's not a strawman... millions of people actually believe that (thanks in large part to Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code").

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Of course it's possible. It's also possible that I'll write it two weeks from now, be abducted by aliens with time travel technology, who will wisk me back to the past to plant it in between Mark and Luke/Matthew. Lots of things are possible.
Which requires a chain of improbable assumptions... ie: the existence of time travel to change the past (and wouldn't it thus have already happened?), and aliens who abduct people. Plus, I somehow doubt you know Koine Greek and how to use ancient writing implements.

The notion that John was written first, rather than last, does not require any such incredibly implausible assumptions. Rather, it's just a simple fact that most experts are swayed by the arguments that it was written later, independently from the other three.

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I guess we have to ask ourselves what good reasons we have for thinking things are probable.
Splendid. So how do you do it? I do it because I've spent the last 4 years of Grad school, and four in undergrad reading the works of the brightest minds in the field, and even reading portions of the primary texts in the original languages (albeit slowly, because I'm not a Greek expert) myself. That's a heck of a lot more than the average Myther has done, and yet somehow they are supposed to be a better judge? I don't get it.


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Yep. Based on the similarities between the canonical gospels. It's called the synoptic problem, but then again, I'm sure you're already aware of that.
It's not necessary to assume they read each other, and wrote their texts sequentially, however. I'm sure you've heard of the "Q" hypothesis, right?

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I'm back to questioning your credibility again.
You wrote this:

Except that John came after Matthew, which came before Acts, but after the letters of Paul. Have you looked at the chronology of early christian writings lately?

To which I responded:
Oh I have, and yet, it's not absolute either. One of my professors, Amy-Jill Levine, admits that it's possible that the Gospel of John (even though most regard it as the last of the canonical Gospels written) could have been written first.

You're assuming that every author read all the writings that came before him. That's not a given, and in fact there seems to be evidence that this is not the case, or else we might expect to find quotations from those works or responses to them within the work, and lack of responses or quotations may indicate unfamiliarity with those works.


Upon what are you basing the "Chronology of early Christian works"?

Show me your source. What makes a source "credible" to you? Since you apparently don't value the consensus of scholarship, I wonder where your standards come from. Is this from Peter Kirby's (defunct) site, perchance? Wikipedia? Be honest.

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Yep. Why we have so many non-canonical writings. But then again, we're not dealing with 2 week publisher deadlines are we? At least a decade (or more) between canonical gospels, right (except Matthew and Luke)? That's a lot more wiggle room than you seem to want us to acknowledge.
I don't see how it matters, because unless we're assuming that nothing was happening in these communities, that it was just one person who came up with a fiction story and somebody else copied it and changed it into their own story and another person copied and changed it into their story... and then 2,000 years later non-Christians thought it was about a real person...

Most dates I've seen for these texts have quite a bit of possible overlap. In any case, this really isn't a major problem for historicists.

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Irrelevant, but yep.
"Q" is quite relevant (are you saying you dispute the "Q" hypothesis? On what grounds?). It's a quite solid explanation for the similarities (as well as differences) between the Gospels. It's an alternative to assuming that Mark wrote something completely original and then Matthew and Luke took and copied some of what he wrote, changed some and made up the rest. Rather, they happened to use a common source (now lost to us).


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In some cases, I'm sure that this is true. Assertions that this is true in all cases would be silly (as the early christian writings span over 200 years, some will obviously come before others).
My point is that a conspiracy is the least likely explanation on the face of it, so it must be demonstrated why we should believe in such a thing, rather than assumed (as many Mythers do).

It's an unfortunate leap in logic that conspiracy theorists make, that when we don't know 100% about something, that therefore, there must be a cover-up going on.


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I'm trying to think of a Bart Ehrman book that doesn't address this. I'm sure one will come to me later.

This "inner circle" was Paul, travelling around to various communities. Why? Good question, but I suspect that it was probably for fame, attention, money, power, or some mix of those things and others.
Why would Paul have sought those things in this relatively small, obscure, and hated cult? He readily admits that he was a rising star in the Pharisee community. Surely he could have stayed there and been perfectly happy. Plus, the traditions of his later martyrdom seem to indicate it was a bad career move to become and "apostle to the gentiles" after all (assuming you don't believe he went to his heavenly reward shortly thereafter of course!).

The other explanation commonly given is that Paul was simply insane, but that's such a cop-out.

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Some parts of the story would be unknown to others because the letters he wrote to the Galatians would have been to address the problems his new church was having there. As you like to point out, it's not like he had a Xerox copier or email.
I think the point to keep in mind is that we're dealing with an oral culture, and his letters are full of references to him speaking there previously or going there to speak in person. The letters are just the tip of the iceberg as far as communication is concerned. So we're only viewing part of a conversation from back then. So while we can't assume stuff we don't see, we also can't assume that this letter contains all the information anyone had back then.

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Well, unless they were members of course
What evidence do you have that Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, etc. were members of the Christian church?

Besides, we both know that there were various groups that considered themselves the "true" believers who were at odds with one another. Some of these groups believed Jesus had no physical body. So why would they all collaborate to create this vast hoax?

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Funny how Mormons tend to spread the word about Mormonism, no? I imagine some of them might actually believe the stuff.
Very funny, I was talking about the fact that non-Christian scholars seem to accept Jesus as a historical figure (both in ancient times and today). Why would they do that, unless there was sufficient evidence to convince them that he was historical and not mythical? Especially when you consider opponents of Christianity like the Rabbinical sages, or Celsus, wouldn't they do their dardest to prove that Jesus was a hoax, if such evidence existed?

Remember, these folks were writing in the early periods, before the Church had any temporal power to suppress anything or imprison anyone for attacking their beliefs.

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Old 11-20-2008, 06:46 AM   #221
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Still replying... thanks for your patience!

I need to get some rest, but I'll try to reply to the final portion sometime by Thanksgiving!

Quote:
You offered to reply and I acknowledged. *shrug*

If you changed your mind that's fine, but I certainly wasn't biting your head off.
Okay.

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Nice try.

Paul, by his own admission, never saw Jesus except for in a vision. He was not writing when jesus was alive, therefore was not a contemporary.
WRONG. Contemporary means "lived at the same time." You're changing the definition to "eyewitness."

Since he saw Jesus, he was literally an "eyewitness" but of course since you deny miracles, you say it was not an eyewitness testimony (and that's fair enough).

But he is quite literally a contemporary, since he was alive at the time Jesus was alive. He was even geographically close to where Jesus was in his lifetime. He also had personal contact with Jesus' inner circle. So it doesn't matter if he saw Jesus in a vision or never saw him, he could have learned about Jesus from the disciples and what they were saying. In fact, he had to have done that, because even before his alleged vision, he was actively persecuting this sect. Why would he do so unless he knew something about their beliefs and disagreed with them (so strongly that he was willing to employ violence to silence them)?

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Also, since the rationale for Paul's alleged status as a "contemporary" is circular,
It's not.

Jesus lived from roughly 4 BCE to 26 CE. I confess, I got Paul's birth date from Wikipedia (5 BCE), but I can try and track down a scholarly source for that if you wish. He claimed to have studied under Gamiliel and tradition has him being martyred under Nero, so that may have something to do with it.

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let's step back for a moment and ask how difficult would it be to create a fictional character that "lived" prior to the time the author decided to write about him? Or to put it another way, if jesus was a real person, then why was Paul the only person writing about him between the time of his death and ~70 AD?
So did he make up Peter, James, John, and the other disciples as well? They were contemporaries of Jesus as well, and could have contradicted his story. He freely admits to having conflicts with them, so it's not as if he's pretending that all is fine and dandy. It's perfectly understandable that he was the "only one writing about them" (nevermind the "Q" gospel!) since none of his early followers were probably literate. Likewise there appears to have been an expectation that Jesus would return soon, which mean that the urgency of writing down his biography for posterity was probably not a high priority. Also, when a movement is small you can spread the word by oral teaching. By the time Paul has set up his communities, he has to rely upon letters to communicate with them all, so it makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, you think it's suspicious, I don't.

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He lived, everyone except Paul forgot and then suddenly everyone remembered?
Who says they forgot?

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Not at all. That's an argument that you're introducing.
You wrote:

Might it have something to do with the likelihood that they grew up believing that Jesus was real?

I took that to mean you were implying that scholars believed Jesus was real, because they'd been indoctrinated into Christianity at birth (I was pointing out that even the scholars who are not Christians agree Jesus existed).

I then said:


Perhaps, but by that logic you're saying a person can't change their views, when it is clear that people like Dorothy Murdock and Robert Price grew up "believing that Jesus was real." If they could change their minds, why not others? So I don't buy it that they're just making up all this crap because of a childhood belief (that they've 9/10s rejected anyway, in de-converting from the Christian faith).


Which means that if it's so hard to shake what you were raised to believe, then we shouldn't have these Mythers saying Jesus didn't exist, because they were undoubtedly also raised to believe Jesus was real (Price and Murdock iirc, are both confirmed ex-Christians).

Non-Mythers like Ehrman ex-Christian and Vermes are also ex-Christians, however, so this proves nothing.


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By my logic a person that grows up believing that something is real or true will be enculturated to believe that thing is real or true. The phenomenon is so pervasive that it even has a name in sociology (hint: enculturation).
But you will find that across the board (two exceptions) scholars, whether they were raised as non-Christians or as Christians, what religion they hold to (or none) today, they agree Jesus existed, based on the historical evidence.

You can't say that people reasonably reject Jesus' existence based on their ability to shake "enculturation" and that other people somehow remain "enculturated" to believe Jesus existed, even if they have no stake in believing in any religion based on him.

Most children in Western countries are enculturated to believe that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are real. At a certain age they are then shown (or figure out) that these are imaginary characters. So much for the implication that "enculturation" creates unshakable loyalty to an idea.


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Yes, once you are programmed it is incredibly difficult to change your programming. Impossible, no? Difficult, yes? Even more difficult if you don't want to change, or fear changing? You betcha.
So Bart Ehrman didn't want to stop being a Christian, but he was forced too because he lost faith, as the problems in the world seemed insurmountably incompatible with his prior belief in an all powerful and all loving and just God. Yet he believes Jesus really existed. The late historian Michael Grant believed Jesus was sorely mistaken (deluded), and an ordinary man who died on the cross disappointed that God wasn't intervening in history as he expected. Geza Vermes believes that Jesus was a traveling charismatic holy man who performed faith healing and would be horrified to know that people believed he was literally God in the flesh and worshiped him as such.

So why don't these non-Christians just "admit" Jesus didn't exist? They apparently have no problem believing he was a fool, or completely misunderstood (and thus not a divine being who can help them or save them in any way), so why bother?

I don't see why they would cling to his existence, if he can do nothing for them in a religious sense. And before you say he can be an inspiration... remember, we can be inspired by non-existent characters as well. Superman can be a model for a virtuous life, even if he's just a comic book creation from a couple of Jewish guys in 1938.

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Why are some people morning people and others night owls? We can take this as far off the beaten path as you'd like.
Unnecessary. I've already shown that Jesus historicism is so compelling it convinces non-believers as well, and that the mythers are such a fringe minority it's completely laughable.

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That's fine. I didn't ask you to accept it, only to try to rule it out, which you can't. It's up to the reasonable person reading our exchange to determine whether my point holds any merit or not.
I see no evidence that Jesus was a myth, and some that he wasn't. I see the experts agreeing with me. Therefore, it's reasonable for me to assume his historicity, and demand the Mythers provide me with what they think is a better explanation.

It's not up to me to convince a person what to believe, it's up to them to figure out for themselves how the study of history works. If I haven't presented the case convincingly to everyone's satisfaction, that doesn't mean the scholars are wrong and the Mythers are right.

I hope people won't take my word for it, but will go read the texts I linked to, and see that I'm not making this stuff up.

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Ignored. Strawman.
So you agree that everyone is biased. GOOD!

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You're taking "mythology" out of context.
Okay, in popular usage "Mythology" means a widely believed, but false story. Like rumors or urban legends. Tales that are not factual but fanciful.

In the anthropological sense these are tales involving god-like beings that are often morally instructive and symbolic/allegorical. These tales encapsulate the values or ideals of the group that told them, and are often adapted for the situation to teach something.

In referring to Jesus as a "myth" people are either saying he was a HOAX (ie: didn't exist) or that his story is merely an allegory... that he's a symbol for something else... in other words, he didn't need to exist in that sense either.

I was pointing out that while certainly there are mythological elements within the stories about Jesus, and his life is interpreted symbolically (ie: in the letter to the Hebrews), it is simply untrue to say that he is wholly Mythical.

The people I refer to as "Jesus Mythers" are anyone who says Jesus didn't exist as a historical person. I'm not saying if you think he didn't do miracles, or that the NT is not 100% infallible fact, that you're a Myther.

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It's pretty difficult to argue that the figure of jesus is special or unique when it is not only neither, but common.

Show me the "common" figures that are like Jesus. Where did you learn about them?


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Ignored. Strawman.
I know what the Mythers are saying. They're saying Jesus didn't exist! Underneath the "stories" of Jesus are just more stories, which they attempt to trace to OTHER non-existent gods, or astrology. A few try to say that Jesus was actually Julius Caesar (Jesus Christ/Julius Caesar... "JC" get it? yep, it's stupid) or a code word for magic mushrooms (yes, John Allegro actually argued that).

If you're offended because you consider yourself a "Myther" yet believe there is a historical core to Jesus, then I stand corrected, but would urge you to not accept the label, because it implies something you don't believe (if you agree Jesus really existed).

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This is completely unrelated to the discussion. Your comment was that we have a remarkable number of extant works. If you've read Misquoting Jesus, The Lost Gospel of Judas, etc (or even listened to any number of his clips on YouTube), then you know this isn't true.
I was pointing out that Ehrman explicitly writes that the pagan copycat thesis is not true, by pointing out the fact that these pagan gods are very different from Jesus, come from later and less reliable sources, and that the non-canonical works cited in the Da Vinci Code as "more accurate" are actually less reliable than the canonical works. While Ehrman is a non-Christian who rejects miracles and believes there are lots of mistakes in the Bible, and even deliberately inserted words put into the text by monks for propaganda value, he nevertheless defends the overall historical reliability of the NT as an important piece of evidence for establishing the historical Jesus.

It's quite possible for a layman to misunderstand what a scholar is saying by focusing on soundbytes (I did this myself with Elaine Pagels some time ago, I'm sorry to admit). Have you read his books cover to cover? Unless Ehrman has radically changed his views on the Bible in the last four years, I stand by what I said.

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This is complete bs unless he had a radical change of heart between this book and any of the others that I've read (specifically Misquoting Jesus).
Then I urge you to read "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" specifically the chapters discussing the origins of the New Testament and the historical Jesus. You'll see that any assumption that Ehrman supports Mythicism or believes Jesus was copied from the pagan gods, is quite a mischaracterization. I admit I haven't read "Misquoting" from cover to cover, so if there's some damning piece of insight in there I somehow missed, please give me the quote and I'll verify it and admit I was wrong about that. But again, he'd be contradicting what he said in the 2004 work.

I've had people "misquote" Misquoting Jesus to me before, for example claiming that he's an Evangelical Christian believer (the book says he was ONCE a believer, but makes it quite clear that he isn't anymore and hasn't been for many years). So pardon me for asking for something to chew on... it's only fair!

Once again, I'm not saying Ehrman believes the NT is flawless in the way a fundamentalist Christian would, far from it. Rather, he considers these writings to be more historically reliable than say, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th century non-canonical writings, like the Nag Hammadi codicies (ie: the "Gnostic Gospels"). And he considers Jesus a historical person, rather than a shadowy spirit like the docetic Gnostics, so that already puts him more in the "orthodox" tradition, even though he's a non-believer. The Da Vinci Code creates the false impression that the Gnostic texts were written earlier, and describe Jesus in "more human terms" while the Canonical texts were written later, and modified by the Imperial Church for reasons of propaganda. Ehrman refutes this nicely, as he does in his soundbytes whenever he's quoted on some documentary about the Bible.

Quote:
I wrote:
He's by no means a defender of Christian doctrine, but rather an important counter to the implications by Mythers that it is only dogma and faith that is keeping scholars from denouncing Jesus as unhistorical and conceding to conspiracy theories about Christian origins.
You wrote:

Ignored. Strawman.
How is that a strawman? Show me the relevant passages that demonstrate this is a characterization of Ehrman's thought.

I love using Ehrman, because here's a non-believer and critic of Christianity who doesn't believe in the pagan copycat thesis, and accepts the historical Jesus. This counters the Mythers who like to argue (and they really do like to argue this) that the reason scholars say Jesus existed, is because they're Christians (your "well they were raised to believe he existed" was fairly close to this).

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No, I'm simply pointing out that your claim that we have remarkable access to early writings isn't worth the paper equivalent of P52.
Can you explain further? You're saying that we have only such small fragments we don't know what they belong to? I'm saying we have sufficient fragments and quotations before we have whole quality copies, that we cannot possibly presume that the NT was written late (ie: in the 3rd century, as the conspiracy theorists, influenced by the Da Vinci Code and other non-scholarly works seem to want to imply).

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All copied by hand with errors and edits made in each copying. Hence why Ehrman likes to point out that we have more unique copies of NT writings than words in the NT itself. So much for dependability.
Since I'm not here arguing for inerrancy, or assuming inerrancy to establish Jesus' existence, this is not a problem. In fact it enhances my position, because Ehrman, a skeptic, believes Jesus existed DESPITE the fact that he sees the many errors and fragmentary nature of these documents.

Remember that ALL of the documents of antiquity suffer from these same problems, so the fact that we can still do history at all is quite remarkable. But again, this gets back to my "special pleading" complaints from earlier.

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Ignored because none of this has anything to do with the point you were making or my refutation of that point.
I thought perhaps you'd like to know, because it sounded as if you were saying that the document was only as old as our earliest full copy.


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A bunch of proof of "jesus christ cult" is very different from proof for a historical jesus christ. Make sure you keep this in mind when you're posting your next reply which will hopefully have actual evidence in it.
But weren't you implying that the future existence of a "Harry Potter cult" would result because future archeologists might lack all the clues that we have that HP is a fictional character? You also said "both have fan clubs" as if to say that Christianity was as silly as Harry Potter.

The trouble is that you can't demonstrate that Jesus was a fiction, but we can both easily show that HP is clearly fiction. I again ask you why you think the experts are fooled into thinking that Jesus is real... other than your silly "enculturated" excuse.

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Neither have I, but my kids have.

And yes, just as your very astute argument regarding Harry Potter would extend to all the other fictional characters contained within the story, so would it extend to other fictional characters in the jesus narrative too.
But all you've done thus far is say that they're fiction.

Okay, I'll try your tactic.

Show me that the fictional character known as Julius Caesar really existed. He's fiction, don't you know. Cleopatra and Mark Antony were also fiction. They have their fan clubs today, but these people are just enculturated!

How'se that?

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Okay, I have. Now what?
And your answer is "they were enculturated"? I think I've shown why that's a weak excuse above. Try again. Tell me why you believe in Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra.


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False dichotomy. I am neither saying that it is arbitary, nor I am making a special plea for a historical jesus. Quite the contrary, I would argue that we should question the validity of any claim put forth historians for which we have no evidence.
But you're taking the evidence we do have and saying it's NOT evidence. I don't see how you can get away with doing that.

So again, I ask you... show me how the fictional, pretend, made-up, imaginary characters known by delusional people as "Julius Caesar," "Mark Antony," and "Cleopatra" are anything but literary fancy.

I'll show you just how irritating sophistry can be... if you wish.

In fact, I'll show you that you can claim there is "no evidence" for anyone in antiquity, if you go the route of presuming that any evidence is not really evidence, and that any expert who agrees with historicity is doing so because of "enculturation."


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Whether it be Jesus Christ or William Shakespeare (unfair example as we have writings penned under the name Shakespeare that most likely didn't write themselves).
So someone couldn't have written something and attributed it to a fake name "Shakespeare"? Amazing!

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What I am saying is that we should accept the historical argument for any figure to the degree that the evidences says that it is reasonable to do so.
Can you explain to me why you think the evidence doesn't point in a reasonable degree to the historical existence of Jesus? Concrete examples, this time? You did a fine job nitpicking everything I said, but can you do any substantive work on this topic?


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Old 11-20-2008, 06:56 AM   #222
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Holey cow, you've already replied with a long post, Achilles (while I was composing my multi-part answer to two of your three)? At this rate I'll never catch up this week...

Please, tell me you're going to do more than just nitpick everything I said line by line...

I want you to start providing me positive evidence that we should doubt the historical consensus (or that my claiming there is a historical consensus in favor of Jesus actually existing, is in error).

What you still haven't admitted is that while I posted links to BOOKS, which granted, you'd have to actually go out and either buy or check out from the library, and I didn't provide quotes and page numbers to "prove" to you that my arguments are supported in the book (nevermind that the title, author bio and dust jacket information alone should provide hints that this is indeed what the text is about), I also posted E-TEXTS OF JOSEPHUS (for one) which you can read RIGHT NOW and see that it mentions Jesus. The same page also lists some information that is widely recognized as accurate about Josephus.

So some of the text requires no work on your part. But apparently I need to post the quotes IN THIS FORUM to be useful to you? Strange.

Since you've provided no scholarly data to support your skepticism, you're losing this one, big time. You can't just claim "skepticism requires no source."

The burden of proof is not on me to prove Jesus existed, anymore than it's on me to prove evolution is scientific fact to a creationist who disputes it, or a flat earther, or an alien abduction believer. It's already been established by the experts, which I gave you access to.

Now again, please present the positive evidence that Jesus was a fiction, copied from the pagan gods, or whatever it is you believe, since you appear to reject historicism (without actually saying anything of substance except that I'm wrong).

And if you say "strawman, ignored" to everything I say, that's not a debate, that's more nitpicking (and some of those things I fail to see how they are true strawmen).

State your position clearly, and show me your evidence. And please READ the primary texts I linked, they are very short.


Is that too much to ask?


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Old 11-20-2008, 09:15 AM   #223
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Please, tell me you're going to do more than just nitpick everything I said line by line...
Sir, you are free to post whatever you would like. If you would like for me to not respond to every point you make, make fewer points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
I want you to start providing me positive evidence that we should doubt the historical consensus (or that my claiming there is a historical consensus in favor of Jesus actually existing, is in error).
For what feels like the millionth time, I'm going to remind you about how burden of proof and skepticism work.

I'm not making a claim, so there is no evidence for me to provide. Your claim (and the claim made by christianity), that jesus was a historical figure is up to you to support with evidence. Trying to shift the burden of proof to me is a dishonest debate tactic and it won't work on me.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
What you still haven't admitted is that while I posted links to BOOKS, which granted, you'd have to actually go out and either buy or check out from the library, and I didn't provide quotes and page numbers to "prove" to you that my arguments are supported in the book (nevermind that the title, author bio and dust jacket information alone should provide hints that this is indeed what the text is about), I also posted E-TEXTS OF JOSEPHUS (for one) which you can read RIGHT NOW and see that it mentions Jesus. The same page also lists some information that is widely recognized as accurate about Josephus.
Sir, you're making the assumption that I am unfamiliar with the sources you directed me to. Nothing you linked me to is evidence for Jesus. It's evidence for people writing about the early christian church years after jesus allegedly died, but nothing you sent me looked like a birth certificate, census data, the personal writings of jesus, the personal writings of eyewitnesses, etc.

You gave me a bunch of crap and the crap doesn't say what you've convinced yourself it does. It isn't evidence. No matter how many times you respond imporing me to waste my time or insisting that it really, truly is evidence, it won't change the fact that it isn't.

When you get some, let me know and I'll be happy to take a look at it. Pushing the same tired sources that every apologist and true believer I've debated with in the last 10 years isn't going to magically become a path to victory for you.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
So some of the text requires no work on your part. But apparently I need to post the quotes IN THIS FORUM to be useful to you? Strange.
Yes, sir, IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND WHICH SPECIFIC ARGUMENTS YOU FEEL ARE SIGNIFICANT, YOU HAVE TO INDICATE FOR ME WHICH ONES THEY ARE. When you ask someone for their phone number, you don't expect them to hand you a phone book and say "it's in there". While that might be true, you might be hoping for specific information relevant to the discussion at hand.

This is not the first time I've made this point.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Since you've provided no scholarly data to support your skepticism, you're losing this one, big time. You can't just claim "skepticism requires no source."
That's because skepticism requires no source

I'm not the one that gets do decide how these things work.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
The burden of proof is not on me to prove Jesus existed, anymore than it's on me to prove evolution is scientific fact to a creationist who disputes it, or a flat earther, or an alien abduction believer. It's already been established by the experts, which I gave you access to.
Yes it is. And the burden of proof would be mine if I were debating with a creationist that was skeptical of evolution (a creationist disputing evolution would be something else entirely). And experts have biases, make mistakes, get it wrong, etc. That's why we have appeal to authority fallacies.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Now again, please present the positive evidence that Jesus was a fiction, copied from the pagan gods, or whatever it is you believe, since you appear to reject historicism (without actually saying anything of substance except that I'm wrong).
I am skeptical of the claim by christians (et al) regarding the existence of a historical jesus, for the reasons provided here.

No burden of proof, therefore no "positive evidence" required...from my end.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And if you say "strawman, ignored" to everything I say, that's not a debate, that's more nitpicking (and some of those things I fail to see how they are true strawmen).
As I stated before, sir, I'll be more than happy to help if you're confused about which part of your strawman arguments are strawman arguments.

To be fair, I did warn you that I wouldn't be responding to them in advance. You made the choice to continue to make them anyway. It's not as though I just sprung it on ya.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post

State your position clearly
Did.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
and show me your evidence.
Not applicable.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
And please READ the primary texts I linked, they are very short.
No.

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Originally Posted by Kurgan View Post
Is that too much to ask?
Yes. I'm not doing your leg work for you. It's your claim. Either support it with evidence or excuse yourself from the discussion.
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Old 11-20-2008, 09:35 PM   #224
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Basically, Achilles is saying that he doesn't have to prove anything. Not even that the evidence is either from fraudulent sources, nor that his speculative position is based on anything factual.

I gotta admit, I find it rather ironic that he's using the same arguments creationists use against evolution. Shifting goal posts, and all haha.
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Old 11-21-2008, 12:02 AM   #225
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommycat View Post
Basically, Achilles is saying that he doesn't have to prove anything. Not even that the evidence is either from fraudulent sources, nor that his speculative position is based on anything factual.
I’d really like Achilles to disprove something that cannot be proven. Maybe then, he could solve world hunger too.


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Old 11-21-2008, 12:16 AM   #226
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Apparently I need to host a burden of proof workshop or something.
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Old 11-21-2008, 03:00 AM   #227
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I’d really like Achilles to disprove something that cannot be proven. Maybe then, he could solve world hunger too.
No, he could show some factual evidence that those that have given evidence of a historical person going by Jesus of Nasereth have falsified their data. He's basically making the same argument as the creationists "No transitional fossils" argument. Some evidence that those making the claims of a historical Jesus falsified data. Much like how the Shroud of Turin at least a reason to doubt it's credibility.

Even people that do not believe in Christianity or that Jesus the Christ was the son of god have stated that he existed. Achilles has basically taken an irrational opinion and run with it. Heck he doesn't even have a "sacred text" to fall back on for his faith in the non-existance of a historical Jesus. Whereas historians, and archaeologists have found evidence of Jesus(the person, not the supernatural Jesus). There are the writings of Thallus in I think 52AD(someone might have to check that on me, Not sure, been a while). Which was before the deification of Jesus, and long before the New Testament, and also included in the Talmud as Yeshu and his five deciples.

Granted since there were not as many historical documents around at the time, most of it had to be passed down orally until the early second century.

Oh well. Guess Socrates never existed either.

Of course there is also evidence that Christ existed as early as the second century BC. At least if archaeological evidence is to be believed.

Try finding evidence of any person who was not wealthy as far back and you have trouble. Try tracing your own family history back 2000 years.

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Old 11-21-2008, 11:57 AM   #228
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Well first Achilles “the Original Poster” of the thread made it clear what type of evidence he would accept. I would believe that Achilles would accept more scientific evidence than speculation by religious scholars. So if I were to look for evidence to prove the existence of Jesus to Achilles that is where I would look and then if I found any I would expect him to disprove that evidence because that would change the burden of proof.

So for example, while the physical evidence Achilles requires to prove Jesus existed is lacking I may start with trying to prove certain aspects of the story of Christ were true. So where can we start, perhaps with a block of limestone found in the excavation of ancient theater in 1961. The theater was actually built in 30 BC. The block of stone is known as the Pilate Stone and bares a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate. Source 1 and Source 2

However does this prove the story of Christ is true? After all Pontius Pilate is a central character in the death of Christ. No, because most legends have an element of truth and we have no evidence beyond the Bible that Pontius Pilate and Jesus ever came into contact with each other.

The same can be stated for the Caiaphas Ossuary found in 1990. While it may prove the Jewish High Priest from the betrayal and death of Christ existed, it does nothing to prove that Jesus actually existed.

The burden of proof is on us, the Christian to prove Jesus existed, does exist. Without actual physical proof then I am afraid us Christian’s should avoid these threads.



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Old 11-21-2008, 08:58 PM   #229
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Quote:
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Well first Achilles “the Original Poster” of the thread made it clear what type of evidence he would accept. I would believe that Achilles would accept more scientific evidence than speculation by religious scholars. So if I were to look for evidence to prove the existence of Jesus to Achilles that is where I would look and then if I found any I would expect him to disprove that evidence because that would change the burden of proof.

So for example, while the physical evidence Achilles requires to prove Jesus existed is lacking I may start with trying to prove certain aspects of the story of Christ were true. So where can we start, perhaps with a block of limestone found in the excavation of ancient theater in 1961. The theater was actually built in 30 BC. The block of stone is known as the Pilate Stone and bares a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate. Source 1 and Source 2

However does this prove the story of Christ is true? After all Pontius Pilate is a central character in the death of Christ. No, because most legends have an element of truth and we have no evidence beyond the Bible that Pontius Pilate and Jesus ever came into contact with each other.

The same can be stated for the Caiaphas Ossuary found in 1990. While it may prove the Jewish High Priest from the betrayal and death of Christ existed, it does nothing to prove that Jesus actually existed.

The burden of proof is on us, the Christian to prove Jesus existed, does exist. Without actual physical proof then I am afraid us Christian’s should avoid these threads.
First, I am not Christian. I am Agnostic. While I follow a lot of the Christian teachings, as a general good set of values to live by, I am not Christian in the sense that I do not believe he was the son of God. Quite frankly I am more inclined to believe the story of Jesus may have been inspired by the story of Attis and Cybelle(an allegory for the death and rebirth of love, and an interesting read). However I think there is enough evidence to show that the person may have existed, however, much as legends grow and expand to include fantastic tales, I believe the person's deeds have been exaggerated.

Sadly his demand for proof is the same level of proof required by creationists. Granted, as I said, finding proof of a poor man in ancient times is near impossible to come by. I would ask him who the youngest born relative of his was 2000 years ago. What proof would he have of that relative's existance.
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:37 AM   #230
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I used to have time for long-winded arguments like this on the intertubes.

Maybe Kurgan and Achilles could each post some summaries of where they're at in their arguments which could inspire others to participate & pick up from there.

For example: is the point of contention that there was an historical person whom the Biblical mythology of Jesus was based upon? Or is the contention that the Jesus myth was constructed a generation or more after the alleged messiah was to have lived? Or something else?


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Old 11-22-2008, 04:09 PM   #231
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My point of contention is that we should accept any claim (historical or otherwise) only to the degree which the supporting evidence allows us to do so.

In this case, we should accept the claim that there was a specific historical figure named Jesus only if we have evidence that shows such a figure existed. Thus far we have none. Therefore it makes no sense at all to accept such a claim.
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:37 PM   #232
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What about Josephus? He was a Jewish historian who wrote about Jesus... You think a Historian is going to lie?


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Old 11-22-2008, 06:10 PM   #233
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What about Josephus? What he write (or allegedly write) that would function as evidence for a historical jesus? When did he write it? When jesus was still alive (i.e. before Josephus was even born) or more than 50 years after jesus' alleged death (meaning that he was in no way a contemporary)?

Or were you hoping that simply dropping Josephus' name would be a sufficient counter-argument?
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Old 11-22-2008, 06:49 PM   #234
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What about Josephus? What he write (or allegedly write) that would function as evidence for a historical jesus? When did he write it? When jesus was still alive (i.e. before Josephus was even born) or more than 50 years after jesus' alleged death (meaning that he was in no way a contemporary)?

Or were you hoping that simply dropping Josephus' name would be a sufficient counter-argument?
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Old 11-22-2008, 07:07 PM   #235
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What about Josephus? He was a Jewish historian who wrote about Jesus... You think a Historian is going to lie?
Flavius Josephus was a Pharisaic Jew and the passage in Antiquities of the Jews you're referring to is commonly accepted by scholars and historians as being an insertion by a later copyist and not Josephus.

The reasons are many, but notable among them is the fact that the passage appears written from a Christian apologist point of view and with a different literary style than the rest of Josephus' work. But Josephus was a Jew and had no motivation to write in such a manner about another Jew allegedly put to death for blasphemy.

In addition, no other Christian writers contemporaneous to Josephus quoted the passage even though they cited or quoted other sections. This is curious since it would benefit their cause greatly (as evidenced by the heavy reliance on the passage by much later Christians).

The alleged passage -the very likely insertion by Christian propagandists- is this:
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About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
No serious scholar or historian that I've seen accepts this passage as completely genuine. I'm sure there are some, but the consensus is that this passage is not worth trusting. Moreover, I don't believe Josephus was writing at the time of the alleged Jesus, but years later.

Also, to your point of trusting historians not to lie (even though I assume it was tongue-in-cheek), it's worth pointing out that many ancient historians (i.e Herodotus; Plinys the Elder and the Younger; et al) were given to hyperbole and repeating tales of others as if it were first hand. We have archaeological evidence of the embellishments and misstatements of facts by these "historians" and their words are generally accepted as interesting and worthy of investigation but to be taken with liberal pinches of salt.


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Old 11-23-2008, 12:16 PM   #236
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Also, to your point of trusting historians not to lie (even though I assume it was tongue-in-cheek), it's worth pointing out that many ancient historians (i.e Herodotus; Plinys the Elder and the Younger; et al) were given to hyperbole and repeating tales of others as if it were first hand. We have archaeological evidence of the embellishments and misstatements of facts by these "historians" and their words are generally accepted as interesting and worthy of investigation but to be taken with liberal pinches of salt.
It wasn't tongue-in-cheek... you don't know m@rs

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Old 11-25-2008, 01:03 PM   #237
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What about Josephus? He was a Jewish historian who wrote about Jesus... You think a Historian is going to lie?
Although I'm a Christian, I think that's not a valid argument.



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Old 11-25-2008, 01:12 PM   #238
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My point of contention is that we should accept any claim (historical or otherwise) only to the degree which the supporting evidence allows us to do so.
From your point of view Achilles, this works only for Jesus or to any other known historic figure?



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Old 11-25-2008, 04:15 PM   #239
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From your point of view Achilles, this works only for Jesus or to any other known historic figure?
This works for any historic figure.
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:22 PM   #240
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Particularly those figures alleged to be both historic and magical. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.


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