Quick response to Sam
You’re going to give me the evidence for Jesus’ historicity. But you start with more questions. Gosh, a lot of questions. Here are answers to some.
First you say:
P1: there are various historical texts which describe Jesus
P2: these texts explicitly or implicitly refer to miraculous events
P3: miraculous events cannot happen (they are ‘pretty obviously silly’)
P4: these texts have no (or: very little?) historical validity.
Is that a fair summary?”
No. It’s not. It’s a bit of a caricature. I don’t say miracles are impossible. My view is miracles are extraordinary events such that, to be reasonably confident one happened, we need more than just the kind of evidence that would be reasonable for mundane events. We need really good evidence. As Carl Sagan said – “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Do you disagree (yes or no)?
I then say that the fact that there are very many miracles attributed to Jesus in these stories means we then need really good – indeed, pretty extraordinary – evidence before it is reasonable to accept the miracle reports. Again, do you agree (yes or no)?
I also then run the Bert analogy, which is very clear – if my friends say someone called Bert visited them last night, I’ll take their word for it. But if they say Bert did amazing miracles in their front room before leaving, well their claim that these things happened is now no longer nearly good enough evidence even for the claim that Bert really exists, let alone that he did any of the things they claim. Do you agree with me about that? (yes or no).
In a nutshell: as things stand – with no independent corroboration of either claim, my friends’ miracles claim severely reduce the credibility even of their claim that there was such a person.
Conclusion, then, is – the many miracles (constituting a very substantial chunk of the text – not a few passages) in the Jesus stories mean these texts need to provide much higher quality evidence for J’s existence than we possess for, say, Socrates’ existence. Either that or we need some independent corroboration that J exists.
As it is, setting aside the miraculous stuff, the stories in the NT look to me otherwise really no better, and probably rather worse, for Jesus’ existence than it is for Socrates’ existence.
That, then, makes it, prima facie, very reasonable to doubt whether there was a Jesus. Which is all I am suggesting, remember. I can’t see where my reasoning goes wrong here, can you?
Second, you ask the following:
SAM ALSO ASKS
“I would next want to ask: what sort of evidence could reasonably be expected? Video testimony is out, for example, as is detailed scientific analysis along the lines of a crime scene investigation. I agree that records of a crucifixion that named ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ would be very helpful, but is the absence of such evidence particularly surprising?”
MY REPLY. Are you suggesting that, because, if J existed, we shouldn’t expect particularly good evidence for J’s existence beyond what we have, then that’s good enough evidence that he did exist?
If so, I say “Cobblers!”
First off: the answer to the question “what evidence should be expected if true?” depends which particular claim is in question. If it’s the tombs opening after the crucifixion and the dead walking the streets of the city, etc. then I would expect some independent corroboration. The truth of other claims might be less likely to result in such corroboration.
However, this question is in any case a red herring. The question is not: what evidence should we expect if it’s true? But: what evidence is there that it’s true? It’s the latter claim we are looking at, not the former.
Compare the Bert case. If Bert does exist and did perform those miracles before my friends in their sitting room, what further evidence should I expect that this happened, beyond their testimony? None, particularly. But that’s not to say that their testimony is, then, pretty good evidence either that Bert exist or that he did those miraculous things. It’s very clearly neither.
all the best