Jesus – historicity debate continues
Gosh I really have upset a lot of people by simply questioning whether Jesus is a historical figure!
Remember, I don’t say he wasn’t a historical figure (some of you seem to have missed this; even Rev. Sam suggests I “deny” – I don’t). I just have my doubts whether he was. It may be those doubts can be allayed by the empirical evidence.
If Sam has the evidence, let’s see it.
I am simply refusing to accept Jesus’ historicity on the say so of “biblical scholars”, the majority of whom are Christian. (I also note anon said in his comment: “MANY of the Jewish historians and Biblical scholars I read then… doubted the historicity of Jesus”.) If I am going to be convinced of the historicity of Jesus, it will be by the evidence itself.
So let’s see it.
[NB. I TWEAKED THE ABOVE SLIGHTLY 14.00HRS ON THURS 28TH AUG]
TWO SMALLER POINTS:
1. By the way Peter, in your comment you say:
[quoting Stephen] “Hmm. Are you nuts, or significantly biased, for not taking the vast majority of Koranic scholars’ word for it that Mohummad was God’s prophet?”
– This really isn’t fair. Presumably, Sam believes that Muhammad existed. That Muhammad was God’s prophet is not analogous to Jesus *existing*.
My reply: Peter I think you miss my point about Koranic scholars – the point is, very many religious textual scholars are highly partisan. They are – it’s just a fact. That’s just one of the several reasons I have for not unquestioningly accepting their say so on this matter. I am illustrating the point that it’s not “nuts” to be cautious, even when they are more or less unanimous. (EDITED SLIGHTLY 2PM 28THAUGUST)
2. I ran this analogy earlier (in response to the claim that there’s as much evidence for the existence of Jesus as there is for the existence of Socrates):
If two friends tell me that a man called Bert visited them at home last night, I have every reason to believe them. That’s evidence enough.
But if they then tell me that Bert flew around the room, then dropped dead, and them came back to life again, before turning the sofa into a donkey, well then that’s no longer nearly good enough evidence that they are telling the truth, is it?
In fact, not only am I justified in rejecting their testimony about the miracles, I would now also be wise to suspend judgement on whether any such person as Bert even exists, let alone did the things they claim.
The moral is pretty obvious, I think. No one claims Socrates performed extraordinary miracles in front of audiences of thousands. The gospels claim Jesus did. That is why we need rather better evidence for his existence than just the say so of four rather inconsistent documents written by the faithful decades after the event.
Kosh 3 now says:
I do think the distinction between whether “there was a man x”, and whether “there was a man x bearing supernatural properties y” is one worth making. The evidence may much more easily support the former and not the latter.
Bert works against the latter, not the former. In the Bert scenario the claims of supernatural powers are so incredible as to undermine the idea that there was any such person as Bert at all in the house (perhaps the two were on LSD). In the case of Jesus I don’t see that same ‘washing out’ applying, because I can see a plausible way in which the supernatural stories were simply added.
Yes of course the distinction is worth making Kosh. I make it. I also agree that the evidence could support the view that Jesus existed more than it supports the view he did miraculous things. In fact I think it does (very slightly!).
But you objection to my Bert analogy is no good, I think. For compare: I can similarly see a plausible way in which there was a person called Bert, and he spiked my friends’ drinks and made them think he did miraculous things in their living room. That’s possible, I agree. Indeed, that there was a person called Bert that visited them is indeed a little more supported by the evidence than is the hypothesis he flew around the room. But notice that that doesn’t mean I am now justified in thinking there was any such a person Bert. I’m clearly not.
Precisely because of all the extraordinary claims of many miraculous things done by Jesus, I need rather more evidence for his existence than just four rather inconsistent documents (plus Paul, who has no first hand knowledge, and in fact knows remarkably little about Jesus) written decades after the event.