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Historical evidence for Jesus ?

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Initial post: Nov 18, 2011 8:51:16 PM PST
Greetings all,

I see there has been some discussion about whether Jesus really existed as a historical person. I see many posters claim there is "Roman records" for Jesus, and other historical evidence. Being interested in history, I have checked this evidence, and present the results here as a list of writers or documents who are claimed to be evidence for Jesus, along with analysis of how significant they are.

JOSEPHUS (c.96CE)

The famous Testamonium Flavianum (the T.F.) in the Antiquities of the Jews is considered probably the best evidence for Jesus, yet it has some serious problems :
the T.F. as it stands uses clearly Christian phrases and names Christ as Messiah, it could not possibly have been written by the devout Jew Josephus (who remained a Jew and refused to call anyone "messiah" in his book which was partly about how false messiahs kept leading Israel astray.),
The T.F. comes in several variant versions of various ages,
The T.F. was not mentioned by any of the early CHurch fathers who reviewed Josephus.
Origen even says Josephus does NOT call Jesus the Messiah, showing the passage was not present in that earlier era.
The T.F. first showed up in manuscripts of Eusebius, and was still absent from some manuscripts as late as 8th century.
The other tiny passage in Josephus aparrently refers to Jesus, son of Damneus. The phrase "so-called Christ" may have been a later addition by a Christian who also mis-understood which Jesus was refered to.
An analysis of Josephus can be found here:
http://www.humanists.net/jesuspuzzle/supp10.htm
So,
this passage is possibly a total forgery (or at best a corrupt form of a lost original.)
But, yes,
it COULD just be actual evidence for Jesus - late, corrupt, controversial but just POSSIBLY real historical evidence.

TACITUS (c.112CE)

Roughly 80 years after the alleged events (and 40 years after the war) Tacitus allegedly wrote a (now) famous passage about "Christ" - this passage has several problems however:
Tacitus uses the term "procurator", used in his later times, but not correct for the actual period, when "prefect" was used.
Tacitus names the person as "Christ", when Roman records could not possibly have used this name (it would have been "Jesus, son of Joseph" or similar.)
This passage is paraphrased by Sulpicius Severus in the 5th century without attributing it to Tacitus, and may have been inserted back into Tacitus from this work.
This evidence speaks AGAINST it being based on any Roman records -
but merely a few details which Tacitus gathered from Christian stories circulating in his time (c.f. Pliny.)

So,
this passage is NOT evidence for Jesus, it's just evidence for 2nd century Christian stories about Jesus.

PLINY the Younger (c.112CE)

About 80 years after the alleged events, (and over 40 years after the war) Pliny referred to Christians who worshipped a "Christ" as a god, but there is no reference to a historical Jesus or Gospel events.
So,
Pliny is not evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth,
just evidence for 2nd century Christians who worshipped a Christ.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/pliny.html

SUETONIUS (c.115CE)

Roughly 80-90 years after the alleged Gospel events, (about 75 years after the war) Suetonius refers to a "Chrestus" who stirred the Jews to trouble in Rome during Claudius' time, but:
this "Chrestus" is a Greek name (from "useful"), and is also a mystic name for an initiate, it is not the same as "Christos"
this Chrestus was apparently active in Rome, Jesus never was.
So,
this passage is not evidence for Jesus, it's nothing to do with Jesus, it's evidence for Christians grasping at straws.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/suetonius.html

IGNATIUS (107CE? 130-170CE?)

The letters of Ignatius are traditionally dated to c.107, yet:
it is not clear if he really existed, his story is suspicious,
his letters are notoriously corrupt and in 2 versions,
it is probable that his letters were later forgeries,
he mentions only a tiny few items about Jesus.
So,
Ignatius is no evidence for Jesus himself, at BEST it is 2nd century evidence to a few beliefs about Jesus.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ignatius.html

QUADRATUS (c.125CE)

Quadratus apparently wrote an Apology to Hadrian (117-138), but:
we have none of his works,
it is not certain when he wrote,
all we have is 1 sentence quoted much later.
So,
Quadratus is uncertain evidence from about a century later.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/quadratus.html

THALLUS (date unknown)

We have NO certain evidence when Thallus lived or wrote, there are NONE of Thallus' works extant.
What we DO have is a 9th century reference by George Syncellus who quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, who, speaking of the darkness at the crucifixion, wrote: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse".
But,
there is NO evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events at all, as there WAS an eclipse in 29. This suggests he merely referred to a known eclipse, but that LATER Christians MIS-interpreted his comment to mean their darkness. (Also note the supposed reference to Thallus in Eusebius is a false reading.)
Richard Carrier the historian has a good page on Thallus:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/thallus.html
So,
Thallus is no evidence for Jesus at all,
merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.

PHLEGON (c.140)

Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus (as quoted by George Syncellus) refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse. There is no evidence Phlegon actually said anything about Gospel events, he was merely talking about an eclipse (they DO happen) which LATER Christians argued was the "darkness" in their stories.
So,
Phlegon is no evidence for Jesus at all -
merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.

VALENTINUS (c.140CE)

In mid 2nd century the GNOSTIC Valentinus almost became Bishop of Rome, but:
he was several generations after the alleged events,
he wrote of an esoteric, Gnostic Jesus and Christ,
he mentioned no historical details about Jesus.
So,
Valentinus is no evidence for a historical Jesus.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/valentinus.html

POLYCARP (c.155CE)

Polycarp wrote in mid 2nd century, but :
he is several generations after the alleged events,
he gives many sayings of Jesus (some of which do NOT match the Gospels),
he does NOT name any evangelist or Gospel.
So,
Polycarp knew sayings of Jesus,
but provides no actual evidence for a historical Jesus.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/polycarp.html

LUCIAN (c.170CE)

Nearly one-and-a-half CENTURIES after the alleged events, Lucian satirised Christians, but :
this was several generations later,
Lucian does NOT even mention Jesus or Christ by name.
So,
Lucian is no evidence for a historical Jesus, merely late 2nd century lampooning of Christians.

GALEN (late 2nd C.)

Late 2nd century, Galen makes a few references to Christians, and briefly to Christ.
This is far too late to be evidence for Jesus.

NUMENIUS (2nd C.?)

In the 3rd century, Origen claimed Numenius "quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus--without, however, mentioning His name" - i.e. Numenius mentioned a story but said nothing about Jesus, but by Origen's time it had become attached to Jesus' name.
This not any evidence for Jesus, it's just later wishful thinking.

TALMUD (3rd C. and later)

There are some possible references in the Talmud, but:
these references are from 3rd century or later, and seem to be (unfriendly) Jewish responses to Christian claims.
the references are highly variant, have many cryptic names for Jesus, and very different to the Gospel stories: e.g.
* one story has "Jesus" born about 100BC.
* another has Jesus stoned to death in Lydda
* another that Jesus had 5 disciples (Matthai, Naqqai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah)
Hardly historical evidence, it's totally different to Christian beliefs.
So,
the Talmud contains NO evidence for Jesus, the Talmud merely has much later Jewish responses to the Gospel stories.

MARA BAR SERAPION (date unknown)

A fragment which includes -
"... What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?",
in the context of ancient leaders like Socrates. It is NOT at all clear WHEN this manuscript was written, nor exactly who it is referring too, but there is no evidence it is Jesus.

In short,
there are no Roman recods of Jesus,
there is no contemporary evidence for Jesus,
the claimed evidence is very weak - late, forged, suspect or not about Jesus at all.
the T.F. is probably the best "evidence", but it is at best corrupt, at worst forged.

Quentin

Posted on Nov 18, 2011 9:15:28 PM PST
D. Mulhollen says:
The TF strikes me as the work of a well-meaning scribe who simple sought to correct what he saw as an unacceptable omission. Which of course also means there is no actual historical evidence.

But to say he never existed and it is all a conspiracy is to venture into areas now populated by people who believe 9/11 to be an inside job and that the moon landing never took place. The Epistles were written 20-30 years after Jesus supposedly lived, the Gospels between 30-60 years after. It seems completely reasonable that someone did exist who inspired those writings--even if the historical personage and his messianic revision were very different.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2011 10:45:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 29, 2012 5:45:41 PM PST
I'm not going into this again, so I'll just say what I got to say.

1 Clement of Rome around 95 CE

talks about Peter and Paul and refers to the sayings of Jesus.

IF a man is referring to a saying of Jesus within 60 years of the events in question then there is clearly an existing belief that Jesus was recognized as a real person. Otherwise there is no point in saying "Jesus said this" or "Jesus said that" under the assumption that his audience knew full well of who he was talking about.

He also uses the same word structure of the Gospel of Mark when quoting scripture. He is quoting an Isaiah reference with a word structure that only ever existed in Mark. Mark is allegedly written in Rome by tradition and Clement of Rome shares that same tradition. Its circumstantial evidence.

The Apology of Justin Martyr. about 150 CE

Talks about a type of Birth narrative that are only known to have existed in the book of Matthew or Luke and is to believed to be written in the same area as Matthew.

He then goes on to use the same words as the Gospel of Matthew.

He then clearly and specifically states that they all already knew about the birth narrative from the MEMOIRS of the Apostles. Memoirs being one of the older names for an ancient narrative. Saying it in multiple and saying that everybody knew about it by the time he wrote about it around the year 150CE.

Letter of Barnabas 110CE

On top of that The letter of Barnabas states that there is existing Christian "Scripture" existing at the time.

Ignatius 110-130CE

The letters traditions that are known to be his go back to the time of roughly 110. There are 15 letters. 8 of them are fake because there is no tradition for them until 4th century. The rest are considered as is he in part because he is talked about by some of the Church fathers less and quoted as if his work was commonplace. This is true for his letter to Ephesians which is quoted by Origen who attributes it to Ignatius. Its fair evidence since it tells us that in the time of Origen the knowledge of that letter is commonplace and Ignatius is fairly well known since he is being quoted.

You also forgot to say that the one of the genuine letters does describe narrative found in Luke for the post resurrection.

Letter to the Smyrnaeans 3:1-2

Tacticus 116CE

http://www.opposingviews.com/arguments/procurator-vs-prefect-an-ineffectual-argument-against-tacitus

"Procurator vs. Prefect: An Ineffectual Argument Against Tacitus"

Two reasons may be cited for why this is a non-issue:

1. Evidence indicates that there was a certain fluidity in the usage of these terms.

2. Tacitus may have been anachronizing on purpose.

We should first consider the difference between these two titles. A procurator, as the word implies, was a financial administrator who acted as the emperor's personal agent. A prefect was a military official.

1. What evidence is there for the easy interchange of these terms? Meier notes that in a "backwater province" like Judea, there was probably not much difference between the two roles. This assertion is backed up by literary evidence. Philo and Josephus were not consistent in the usage of the terms either: Josephus calls Pilate a "procurator" in Antiquities 18.5.6, the story about Pilate bringing images into Jerusalem. (It has not been suggested, but we may wonder if, in a backwater like Judea, Pilate may have held both titles!) In practical terms, "both the procurators and prefects in Judea had the power to execute criminals who were not Roman citizens." Practically, in this context, "A difference that is no difference, is no difference."

2. Tacitus may have used an anachronistic term for his own reasons. The first reason may have been to avoid confusion. Sanders cites inscriptional evidence that the position held by Pilate was called "prefect " in 6-41 A.D., but "procurator" in the years 44-66, so he deduces that Tacitus was simply using the term with which his readers would be most familiar. (This is a far better point than we may realize: Being that Tacitus' readers were - like he had been - members of the Senate and holders of political office, we must suppose that this "error" escaped not only Tacitus' attention, but theirs as well. We may as well suggest that a United States Senate historian's error of the same rank would pass without comment.

The second reason for this use of terminology may be deliberate anachronizing on Tacitus' part. Kraus and Woodman note that Tacitus often uses "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" and also "avoids, varies, or 'misuses' technical terms." They do not cite the prefect/procurator issue specifically, but it is worth asking, in light of this comment, if the usage might not have been simply part of Tacitus' normal practice.

All of the above, therefore - along with the fact that this is not cited by Tactiean scholars as a problem - shows that there is certainly no grounds for charging Tacitus with error or degrading the reference to Jesus because of the alleged procurator/prefect mixup."

___

"The rank of Pilate

Pilate's rank while he was governor of Iudaea province appeared in a Latin inscription which called him a prefect,[19] exactly as stated in the Gospel of Luke, while this Tacitean passage calls him a procurator. Josephus refers to him with the generic Greek term ηγεμων, or governor. Van Voorst thinks that the use of such different terms is what one would expect from witnesses writing in different languages, at different times in history.[20]

Tacitus records that Claudius was the ruler who gave procurators governing power.[21][22] After Herod Agrippa's death in 44 A.D., when Judea reverted to direct Roman rule, Claudius gave procurators control over Judea.[1][23][24]
Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans state that Tacitus apparently used the title "procurator" because it was more common at the time of his writing and that this variation in the use of the title should not be taken as evidence to doubt the correctness of the information Tacitus provides."

Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 199

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ#cite_note-ChilEvans465-24

In short, Tacticus is known for using Archaic terminology in his writings, Ignatius is recognized and commonplace fairly early in his time along with at least one letter. The Epistle of Barnabas gives fair circumstantial evidence with some strong literary evidence in terms of Markan language. Barnabas uses circumstantial evidence, refers to a writing that only exists today in Matthew and gives a narrative that only exists in Matthew and Luke, all the while telling us that there were in fact "other Christian writings" that existed in his time. At the same time there are references by the church fathers of the Gospel of the Egyptians and the Gospel of the Hebrews. A tradition that existed and was mentioned as if it were well known and commonplace. And If I may, the experts who actually study Josephus say that Josephus actually wrote about Jesus.

In terms of historical evidence, its not that bad and according to Ehrman better than most of the figures of the era. Its not about a lack of evidence its about accepting the evidence of the actual experts as opposed to claims by writers who are not actually qualified to make such claims. Its all about actually knowing what evidence is in historical circles and the different types of evidence that exist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY

Papias 130 CE

Finally the Writings of Mark being mentioned in 130 as quoted by Eusubius.

Papias talking about how Mark wrote an Account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and even criticizing Mark's account of the narrative. He tells us of an existing narrative at the time of 130CE for Mark. And places it in the time of the Apostle Peter around early to mid 60's. Which is about the time that Mark's gospel is said to have been written in majority non Christian dating.

I find it amusing that you selectively forgot to quote the two references of that second century that actually do give what you say didn't exist.

You forgot Papias and you forgot Justin Marty both of which actually do discuss a narrative of the life of Jesus as found in Mark, Matthew and Luke. Describing narratives from what they describe as MULTIPLE works of literature.

Your entire list is full of half truths and disnformation.

Its like saying "If a book is not called a book by second century, then books did not exist until second century". That's your argument. Its a bad argument when everybody knows that books were called other names before they were called books aka "scrolls."

The same logic applies for the gospels. They could easily have gone by other names before they were called the "gospels"

According to Justin Martyr who first uses the term "gospel" as a written work, an older name for Christian writings with Jesus Life Narratives was "MEMOIRS".

Posted on Nov 18, 2011 11:12:21 PM PST
Gday,

Elias Vasquez says:
<<<<I'm not going into this again, so I'll just say what I got to say.>>>>

You ARE going into it again, why say you aren't?

<<<<<1 Clement of Rome around 95 CE
talks about Peter and Paul >>>>>

So what?
Why keep bringing up totally irrelevent issues?
Peter and Paul's existence isn't in question.

<<<<<and refers to the sayings of Jesus.>>>>>

He mentions two brief sayings that are NOT the same as the Gospels.
So what?

Everyone knows who said :
"no, Luke, *I* am your father".
That doesn't make Darth Vader real.

Many sayings come from Shakespeare - does that make the stories true?
Of course not.

But when it comes to Jesus - oh well, anything seems to count as evidence.

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2011 11:16:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2011 11:22:08 PM PST
"He mentions two brief sayings that are NOT the same as the Gospels."

It matches the Paleography dating. Evidence is paleography. The same kind of dating we use for everything else and the methodology has proven fairly reliable.

He mentions one scriptural saying from the Old testament that only exists in the book of Mark in that specific wording. They both come from the same place that traditions claim to add circumstantial evidence to paleography. Its fair evidence to the use of Mark by a gentile.

"But when it comes to Jesus - oh well, anything seems to count as evidence."

Its the same standards for evidence that we use for every other historical figure that exists. The same ones for all ancient figures are applied to Jesus. For some reason people tend to contest Jesus more than the others saying that such is not evidence, or it doesn't count because it was written years later, all the while ignoring that such is true about everyone from all ancient time periods.

Its purely an argument based on a double standard.

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 12:39:38 AM PST
<<<<<He also uses the same word structure of the Gospel of Mark when quoting scripture. He is quoting an Isaiah reference with a word structure that only ever existed in Mark. Mark is allegedly written in Rome by tradition and Clement of Rome shares that same tradition. Its circumstantial evidence. >>>>>

So, G.Mark copied from Clement.

Q.

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 1:03:40 AM PST
Gday,

<<<<<The Letter of Barnabas 110 CE.
Talks about a type of Birth narrative that are only known to have existed in the book of Matthew or Luke and is to believed to be written in the same area as Matthew. >>>>>

Stories about Jesus developed around the turn of the century.
Barnabas mentions the developing stories.

Later, the Gospels also mention the stories.

But the Gospels themselves, and their stories, only developed around the turn of the century and after.

Religious stories, mirroring the Jewish scriptures, full of magic and supernatural beings, written by people from somewhere else, who never met Jesus, after two wars and several generations after the alleged events.

No history there.

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 1:14:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2011 1:28:43 AM PST
"So, G.Mark copied from Clement."

That would violate the paleography evidence that is generally used for all document dating. Its the least probable explanation that contradicts the paleography and the fact that by this time there were already various writings by Christians as identified by the multiple writings the letter of Barnabas talks about. They would have been well known among the Christians for the author to feel free to mention them as if they were common knowledge among a fairly large and widespread community. It does not describe a developing narrative, it describes a well known existing narrative.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 1:27:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2011 1:33:40 AM PST
"Stories about Jesus developed around the turn of the century.
Barnabas mentions the developing stories."

No. The context of Barnabas says something completely different. What he is saying is not that there are stories emerging but that there are common stories that have already existed. So much so that he feels free to quote Christian writings that refer to Jesus exact words in the gospel of Matthew. He even says that he is quoting a writing when making that Jesus quote. This means that the story is quite old by that time.

He talks about writings that have existed for some time now since he is referring to Christian writings as if they were well known. He talks about them like they were popular among the Christian communities which would mean that those various writing he refers to were written in the first century. They would have been written years apart from each other as he is referring to the plural and separate narratives take years to develop and form popular writings.

The idea that the gospels only develop as you say is contradicted by the fact that the gospel of Matthew is given a middle eastern location of writing around Alexandria or Syrian and the writing of Barnabas is alleged to come from the same area while coincidentally referring to the exact words found in Matthew all the while saying that he is quoting a writing. It would suggest a narrative of popularity that existed well before he wrote it.

He writing to a nonbeliever about writings that are popular among Christians even if they are not popular among non Christians.

This would support the paleography dating of the gospel as Bart D. Ehermans claims beginning with Mark in 70 CE.

What you are saying contradicts the synoptic solution of the non Christian that Mark was first. It would suggest that the Christians are right in saying that Matthew was first and that simply does not hold given the challenge of the synoptic problem.

Its a complete violation of every standard of evidence for historical figures. It does not hold up as a whole, at best it attempts to explain individual points but not the entirety.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 4:07:08 AM PST
Bubba says:
"So, G.Mark copied from Clement."

Plagiarism? in the Bible? Oh no!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 5:32:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2011 5:35:46 AM PST
The OP is a posting that's surfaced at any number of message boards under any number of author's names. My best guess is that Quentin is probably not the original author, because Quentin shows very little knowledge of ancient history in the replies. If true, that does not invalidate the OP, it just makes a really great irony with someone posting someone else's work as their own, and that post itself is asking questions about the authenticity of ancient documents.

As to the points in the OP, they show a broad but shallow knowledge of the world of ancient history. A few points:

"there is no contemporary evidence for Jesus"
Correct. In fact, there are no contemporary records for 80-90% of what we know from ancient history. A favorite example is Hannibal crossing the Alps. Our first source is taken from an oral tradition a generation later - and that author admits he was not a witness. There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to support Hannibal crossing the Alps. Ditto for many, many, many other events in ancient history. The lack of contemporary evidence is not evidence that a person or event is fiction.

"there are no Roman recods of Jesus"
Again, basic ancient history is illustrative here. One very critical point is that historians have said that approximately (and this is very obviously an approximation) 80-90% - and possibly more - of the documents from the ancient world are lost to us. They simply did not survive, for whatever reason. We don't know what was written about Jesus back then, except for what has survived to our day, and what is cited in writings but did not survive. If 2000 years from now there are no surviving records about you, does that mean you did not exist?

"the T.F. is probably the best "evidence", but it is at best corrupt, at worst forged."
Whether it's the "best" is an opinion. It is forged, virtually everyone agrees on that. However, I agree with the consensus of scholarship on this one - there was something in the original. It's not difficult to piece together from the surviving mss some of what was in the original, but there is not enough surviving evidence to get a definitive reading. One such example (by a non-believer) is here: http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/2507/full

"the claimed evidence is very weak - late, forged, suspect or not about Jesus at all."
Again, "weak" a matter of opinion. The evidence for Jesus is much stronger than for many other people and events of ancient history. If someone wishes to chose to say Jesus is not historical, that's their decision. Applying the same standards as the OP to other people and events in ancient history would render the vast majority of what we know from the ancient world to be worthless - but history is a very rich field that can use incredibly intelligent methods and resources to draw deductions where we may lack contemporary evidence or multiple sources. I would suggest any basic course in ancient history as a good starting point. Dr. Garrett Fagan's History of Ancient Rome is a good point to start with: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=340. The one thing to note is that that course is mostly about the Republic, but it also lays down the basic methods of ancient history in a very approachable style. There are any number of good sources once the basic skills and ideas of ancient history are acquired, which I'm sure many others can cite better than I can.

Russ Conte

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 12:22:17 PM PST
Gday all,

Russell Conte says:
<<<<<The OP is a posting that's surfaced at any number of message boards under any number of author's names. My best guess is that Quentin is probably not the original author, because Quentin shows very little knowledge of ancient history in the replies.>>>>>

Your best guess is simply wrong.
I researched and wrote it myself.

How pathetic that you had to make a false accusation and attack me personally.
I await your apololgy.

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 12:52:22 PM PST
Russell Conte: The evidence for Jesus is much stronger than for many other people and events of ancient history. If someone wishes to chose to say Jesus is not historical, that's their decision. Applying the same standards as the OP to other people and events in ancient history would render the vast majority of what we know from the ancient world to be worthless - but history is a very rich field that can use incredibly intelligent methods and resources to draw deductions where we may lack contemporary evidence or multiple sources.

Many believers like to point out this dubious assertion. In reality it is the fallacy of proof by analogy. Essentially, what you are saying is that if we accept other historical personages as historical based on this scanty evidence, then we must accept Jesus as a historical person also. I recently wrote the following to another believer engaged in the same fallacy:

...Pirie states that the "analogical fallacy consists of supposing that things which are similar in some respects must be similar in others. It draws a comparison on the basis of what is known, and proceeds to assume that the unknown parts must be similar. [...] It is fallacious because analogies are tools of communication more than sources of knowledge. An analogy may suggest lines of enquiry to us, but it does not provide a basis for establishing discoveries." (Pirie, pp. 11-12; Gula, pp. 154-156)

Regarding the application of analogy to history, [...] David Hackett Fischer notes, "The fallacy of proof by analogy is a functional form of error, which violates a cardinal rule of analogical inference--analogy is a useful tool of historical understanding only as an auxiliary to proof. It is never a substitute for it, however great the temptation may be or however difficult the empirical task at hand may seem."

source: Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 1:05:19 PM PST
In reply,

"Your best guess is simply wrong.
I researched and wrote it myself."
That was not what I expected, since I've seen it several on several other places copied word for word, under numerous authors. Obviously my error.

"How pathetic that you had to make a false accusation and attack me personally.
I await your apololgy."
Pathetic is a matter of opinion. It is not my intent to attack - I've seen enough of those in my many years reading these boards to know that's not good or healthy. I do want to engage in discussion and to learn. I do not and will not engage in attacks against anyone. Again, my apologies that it was perceived as an attack, I will be more careful with my wording in the future.

Best wishes,

Russ Conte

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 1:22:09 PM PST
Gday all,

Russell Conte
<<<<<The evidence for Jesus is much stronger than for many other people and events of ancient history. >>>>>

So what?
The historicity of Jesus depends on the evidence for Jesus.
The historicity of OTHERS has no bearing on Jesus, as Rebecca points out.

In fact -
the alleged evidence for Jesus is very weak indeed :
* religious books written to convince people to believe
* by unknown people
* who never met Jesus
* who never lived in Judea
* stories lifted from Jewish scriptures and pagan literature
* full of magic and supernatural beings.

If you want to make an analogy, then Jesus is just as historical as :
* Krishna
* Bacchus
* Osiris and Isis
* Xenu
* Zeus
* Hercules

Q.

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 1:24:44 PM PST
Well, let's compare evidence - Jesus compared with Augustus :

Books :
We have books written by Augustus himself e.g. the "Res Gestae Divi Augusti".
Nothing by Jesus

History:
Several contemporary writers, and numerous later ones, record Augustus' actions.
There is NO contemporary historical evidence for Jesus.

Statues :
We have about TWO DOZEN statues of Augustus made in his life, showing what he looked like, and even how he changed over the years.
Nothing for Jesus. No Christian even knows what he looked like.

Family:
We have hard and contemporary historical evidence for Augustus family.
No details are know about Jesus. None of the people in the Gospels left ANY records in history. NOT ONE Christian even mentions meeting Joseph and Mary.

Archeology :
We have buildings made by Augustus - still standing.
Nothing for Jesus - not one single artifact.

Eye-witness accounts :
We have several contemporary eye-witness evidence for Augustus (e.g. Nicolaus and Horace.)
There are NO eye-witness accounts of Jesus. No Christian ever claimed to have met Jesus (except the late forgery 2 Peter.)

Birth date :
We have historical evidence for Augustus' birth date - to the DAY (23rd Sept, 63BCE)
Jesus birthdate is unknown - the evidence varies by YEARS. The 25th December date has nothing to do with history, it was decided centuries after the alleged Jesus.

Death date :
We have historical evidence for Augustus death - to the DAY (August 19, 14CE)
Jesus death date is unknown - guesses vary by YEARS, the actual date cannot be determined because the sources conflict.

Tomb :
The original tomb of Augustus is still known to this day. A historical place.
Jesus original tomb is UNKNOWN - but FIVE different places claim it (Calvary, Golgotha, Talpiot, Japan, Kashmir.) Myths and legends.

Coins:
We have 100s of coins made during Augustus' life, noting his various historical actions, and even showing how he aged over the years.
Nothing like that for Jesus. No-one ever claimed to have met Jesus. No-one knows what he looked like.

Jesus is MISSING the vast majority of what we call historical evidence.
All we have is magical religious stories from long afterwards.
The worst sort of evidence.

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 1:25:31 PM PST
In reply,

"The fallacy of proof by analogy is a functional form of error..."
First of all, thank you for the book reference. I'm surprised there are so few on these boards (since it is an Amazon board!) I've put it on my list of books to read at some point (admittedly a long list!)

The point I'm making is not one of analogy. My training is in math, not history. I'm simply saying (and hopefully this is clearer than the previous attempt this morning) that if we take the evidence of ancient history and apply the standards of the OP, then much of ancient history vanishes. That's not an analogy.

A few examples (with many, many, many more possible) might clarify the point. The vast majority of the writings of Tacitus are of people and events he never saw. Same for Suetonious. Pliny. Plutarch. Josephus. Dio Cassius. The Talmuds. Polybius. The Gospels. Livy. The list goes on and on and on. If the standard is to have a contemporary witness, as the OP asserted, then virtually all of those writings vanish, and many, many, many more. Whether the subject of the writings is Jesus or a Roman emperor or some event, we simply do not have contemporary sources for the vast majority of the people and events in ancient history. I'm not making any analogy, and I apologize if that was the perception. I'm simply pointing out the available evidence that has survived to the 21st century, and looking at the quality of that evidence against given standards.

If there is a serious issue with the historicity of Jesus because of the lack of contemporary evidence, what do we do with a pivotal character in Roman history like Sejanus? Virtually everything we know about his reign of terror is from authors who lived at least a generation later (Tacitus, Suetonious, Josephus, Dio). The closest we have to a contemporary source (unless by my error) are a few coins that were minted with his name obliterated on the coins by the Romans. Is he not historical? I'm asking that science be applied to the question - use the same standards, applied the same way, to the same evidence, and draw conclusions which are based on clear reasoning, and consistent with the evidence and methods. If someone wishes to reject the historicity of Jesus, that's fine with me. I'm always interested to see the scientific evidence and reasoning and methods used to reach that conclusion, and why it applies to Jesus not being historical, but not, say, Hannibal's crossing of the Alps or Sejanus.

Hopefully this clears things up a bit. My apologies that my prior post was not written clearly.

Best wishes,

Russ Conte

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 1:40:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2011 1:44:12 PM PST
How about apologising for your rude and arrogant false accusation?

I, Quentin David Jones, researched and wrote that essay myself, and have posted it under the name Kapyong, and possibly Iasion earlier.

Now I decided to use my real name here, and the result?
False accusations of plagiarism!

I wonder if R has the basic decency and honesty to apologise?

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 1:44:58 PM PST
In reply,

Totally agree, without question, the evidence for Augustus is virtually the gold standard from ancient history. We have better evidence for Augustus than almost anyone else from the ancient world. I would hasten to correct a few factual errors - the Rex Augusti is not a book. It's a listing he made on his deathbed of his accomplishments, on a temple in Ankara. We have it in stone, not any form of writing. It was possibly originally in some form of writing, but that has not survived to our day. There are several mentions of the family of Jesus by early Christian writers. Early Christians reported that all likenesses of Jesus were destroyed, so there were some images, but none survived.

There are a few other examples from the ancient world where the evidence is that good. The Roman attack on Masada comes to mind. But these are the exceptions against the vast historical record from the ancients.

The evidence for (and against) Jesus from the ancient world is not as strong as Augustus or Masada. But I find it strong enough to be persuasive, as I do for other people and events in ancient history, where the evidence is not as strong as Augustus. If the standard was to have evidence as strong as we have for Augustus, virtually everyone we know about in ancient history would vanish. I do not find that to be a standard that helps me to uncover the truth about the people and events in the ancient world. I can clearly tell that your perspective is the opposite, and I enjoy learning how others see the world - thank you for sharing! :)

Best wishes,

Russ Conte

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 1:47:35 PM PST
<<<<<If the standard is to have a contemporary witness, as the OP asserted,>>>>>

I asserted NO such thing!
Why do you have to make false accusations so much?

I pointed out the lack of evidence for Jesus.
And lack there is - which argues against historicity.

But I NEVER said the lack of contemporary witness is the STANDARD for historicity.
Please stop with the false accusations.
Do you have no shame?

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 2:43:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2011 2:47:35 PM PST
Russell Conte: The point I'm making is not one of analogy.

This is a misstatement, as will be seen. It is indeed remarkable that I have encountered 2 people in as many weeks who insist that they don't use of the proof by analogy fallacy, when they clearly do.

Russell Conte: A few examples (with many, many, many more possible) might clarify the point. The vast majority of the writings of Tacitus are of people and events he never saw. Same for Suetonious. Pliny. Plutarch. Josephus. Dio Cassius. The Talmuds. Polybius. The Gospels. Livy. The list goes on and on and on. If the standard is to have a contemporary witness, as the OP asserted, then virtually all of those writings vanish, and many, many, many more. Whether the subject of the writings is Jesus or a Roman emperor or some event, we simply do not have contemporary sources for the vast majority of the people and events in ancient history.

No, the writings don't vanish, but their content should be re-evaluated from history to hearsay or fables.

Russell Conte: If someone wishes to reject the historicity of Jesus, that's fine with me. I'm always interested to see the scientific evidence and reasoning and methods used to reach that conclusion, and why it applies to Jesus not being historical, but not, say, Hannibal's crossing of the Alps or Sejanus.

You have the reasoning before you. There are also 2 pieces of argument from silence as well that should be considered: the failure of 2 contemporary non-Christian writers to mention Jesus, when they certainly should have known about him. I am speaking of Philo-Judaeus and Justus of Tiberius. The argument from silence is valid in cases where there is failure to mention a fact considered so natural that its omission provides good reason to assume ignorance. It only becomes a fallacy when the omission is not particularly unusual.

Philo-Judaeus (15 BCE - 50 CE) of Alexandria was a Greek speaking Jewish theologian-philosopher. He was a contemporary of Jesus. He knew Jerusalem personally because of family living there. He wrote extensively on Jewish history and religion from a Greek perspective and taught the following concepts all prominent in John's Gospel and Paul's epistles: God and His Word are one; the Word is the first-begotten Son of God; God created the world through His Word; God holds all things together through His Word; the Word is the fountain of eternal life; the Word dwells in and among us; all judgment is committed to God's Word; and the Word never changes. Philo also taught on God as Spirit, the Trinity, the virgin birth, Jews who sin will go to hell, Gentiles who come to God will be saved and go to heaven, and God is love and forgives. Yet Philo never once mentions anybody named Jesus nor any miracle worker being crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem, let alone an eclipse, an earthquake, or graves opening and resurrected Jewish saints walking the streets of Jerusalem.

The writings of Justus of Tiberius have been lost, but Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople 878-886 CE wrote Bibleotheca in which he reviewed the writings of Justus of Tiberius: "of the advent of Jesus, of the things that befell him one way or another, or of the miracles that he performed, (Justus) makes absolutely no mention." Justus' home was Tiberius in Galilee (Jn 6:23). Justus' writing preceded Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews c. 93 CE, so it is probable he lived and wrote during or immediately after the alleged era of Jesus, yet remarkably he makes absolutely no mention of him.

In closing let me point out to you that your comparison of the historicity of Jesus with Hannibal's crossing of the Alps is indeed the fallacy of proof by analogy. Remember that I originally wrote, "Essentially, what you are saying is that if we accept other historical personages as historical based on this scanty evidence, then we must accept Jesus as a historical person also." That is precisely what you are saying.

Further, you compound your error by demanding negative proof, implying the fallacy argumentum ad ignorantiam. The argument from ignorance is an often used and frequently misunderstood fallacy where a proposition is true unless disproved. It is up to the person making the assertion to provide the substantive evidence for it. In the case for the existence of Jesus, which stands as a case unto itself, as is the case of the historicity of all alleged historical personages, there is absolutely no secular contemporary evidence supporting the contention that he existed.

Your writing in both your posts was clear enough. The problem is that you were wrong in your assertion and your reliance on logical fallacies.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 3:30:18 PM PST
B. Josephson says:
As I have asserted in several threads, there are plenty of people named Jesus aka Joshua aka Yeshua who lived at the time of the Jesus of the Bible. So I could never assert Jesus did not exist. However, the quesiton is how closely did any of these people correspond to the biblical Jesus. This is a question that scholars raise, and try to find out.

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 3:50:37 PM PST
B. Josephson says:
Don't know about Krishna, but some people believe that Rama (another avatar of Vishnu) was based on a historical person. As well gods like Quetzalcoatl may have been based on people who lived in the past.

From Wikipedia:

It is a matter of much debate among historians to which degree, or whether at all, these narratives about this legendary Toltec ruler Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl describe actual historical events.[4
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuetzalcoatlAcatl

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

Posted on Nov 19, 2011 3:56:45 PM PST
Gday BJ,

I express the problem in terms of Paul :

What sort of Jesus did Paul believe in?

I argue Paul believed in a spiritual Jesus who descended down through the planes of heaven until he reached the Air Beneath the Moon - the lowest of the heavenly planes, that overlapped the sphere of "flesh".

Jesus was crucified in that fleshly plane called 'Air' - above the physical but beneath the Moon, by the Prince of Powers of the Air.

But he never descended to Earth.

Q.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2011 4:09:45 PM PST
It seems to me that scholars assume that is the case and proceed from there. I suppose if they really need an answer, that will do as well as anything, but "I don't know" is more honest. In the end, it just seems that the claims of the Gospels fail on at least this account: there were apparently not "multitudes" following Jesus around. Certainly such crowds would have been mentioned by others, like Philo or Justus. I still find the silence to be curious at the very least.
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