Did Jesus really exist?

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chakka35 | 18:06 Thu 10th Feb 2011 | Religion & Spirituality
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My sixpenn’orth first, please.

Putting aside all religious considerations and all matters of faith, I maintain that if you look cold-bloodedly and objectively at the provenance of the Jesus story you must conclude that the probability that Jesus did not exist is greater than the probability that he did. Here’s why:

STAGE 1: the years 6BC to AD54
Jesus is supposed to have lived sometime during this period but there is no record of such a person. Not a word from anyone who supposedly knew him or debated with him; nothing from the rich men he counselled, the sick he healed or the thousands he preached to. No mention in Jewish or Roman records of the time or by any contemporary historians. So, two possibilities:

A: Jesus did not exist.
B: Jesus did exist but there was a conspiracy of silence lasting over half a century among a large number of people most of whom had no connection with each other.

STAGE 2: Paul’s epistles AD55 to AD60
There is where Jesus first appears. But Paul, who introduces the idea to the world, offers no evidence to back his claims or any eye-witness testimony that we can examine for ourselves. So, two possibilities:

A. Jesus did not exist.
B. Jesus did exist but Paul deliberately kept from us anything that could vouch for him.

STAGE 3: The gospels, AD70 to AD 90 -120??
As with Paul, these four unknown people also offer no evidence or first-hand testimony. So, two possibilities:

A: Jesus did not exist
B: Jesus did exist but the gospel writers continued the conspiracy that had started a century earlier.

Which is more probable - that A is correct or that all those Bs are simultaneously correct? I know where my money is.

Over to you, folks.


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Crisgal – Thanks. I often spend ages researching and typing out my thoughts on matters such as this and I do sometimes wonder why I bother... but it's nice to know that at least someone's interested!
Question Author
Well done, birdie! Saved me all that time and space in sayng exactly what you have said!

I still think it odd that no-one has discussed my exercise in probability. As birdie has said, the chances that the man Jesus, a man supposed to have done astonishing things, should be the only man of that period not mentioned by any contemporary individual, group or establishment are surely so small as to be negligible.

Reason is on my side: no evidence at all for Jesus .. unless, of course, one of you can astound the world by producing some.
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Well that's because some of us are contesting your original premises - unless you back them up a bit better it's a straw man argument.

Why don't you start with Josephus - one of those references is clearly faked but the other is less easy to reject
Question Author
Jake, as I explained earlier, Josephus was not even alive when Jesus was supposed to have lived so he cannot provide evidence. By the time he wrote his very few words most of the gospels had been written, giving anyone the chance to make secondhand comments.

Please read my original post, which contains nothing but irrefutable facts, and explain why the probability that Jesus existed is greater than the probability that he didn't.

Incidentally, what I have said about Josephus also applies to Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and all other post-facto commentators often quoted by the faithful without realising (or not caring) that thay were not around at the relevant time.
I don't know much about this but I seem to recall that in addition to its adherence to the Ra template, the overall concept of Jesus:

son of god
sent down to earth
model citizen
rejected and killed by people
reborn, ascends, forgives and takes on people's sins etc

is a concept that reappears in several belief systems spanning human kind and stretching back to prehistory.
and I repeat we don't know who the gospel authors were so you can't dismiss their accounts as not first hand - the best you can say is we don't know their accounts are first hand.

Josephus's accounts are not first hand but requiring first hand evidence to believe in someone's existance is a pretty high bar for 2000 years ago.

He was close enough in time to have been able to have met people who did meet Jesus. Of course we don't know his sources but as ancient sources go he's pretty good

There is no first hand documentary evidence for many of the asopstles - do you believe they were all fictitious too?

Seems to me you are looking for evidence on a "beyond reasonable doubt" basis - I am proceding on a "balance of probabilities basis"
I would have thought first hand experience was required more for something 2000 years ago than something 100 years ago.

We have documentary evidence of all kinds for more recent events not least photography.

The chances of an oral tradition recording anything reliably 2000 years ago seem remote. Much easier to retrospectively make things up 'on the basis of probabiliites'. Blimey, scholars can't even agree if such a place as Nazareth existed at the time for him to grow up in or whether Nazarine refers to sect membership.

If I was paying £500 for an antique I'd want a darn sight more provenance than many people seem to need for a story they build their lives around.
Question Author
Come off it, jake. Julius Caesar preceded the supposed time of Jesus by a century or so and we have lots of first-hand evidence of him, including his own writings. There are lots of other undoubted historical figures for whose existence there is plenty of satifactory evidence - including those who lived during Jesus' supposed time.

You are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. In trying to justify Jesus' existence you are relying on speculation, assumption, intellectual indulgence. Why are you afraid to admit that there is no evidence, only belief? Do you have the same latitude towards the existence of Apollo, Venus and Hercules?

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