Author Topic: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?  (Read 2544 times)

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Offline Lectus

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Outside of the bible are there any documents that point to Jesus having existed?
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.

Offline pianodwarf

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2013, 03:09:18 PM »
Outside of the bible are there any documents that point to Jesus having existed?

Some, but they're almost all of questionable value for one reason or another.  Some, such as the one from Josephus, are known to be forgeries.  The others have problems as well -- for instance, there's one (can't remember which one it is, someone else will probably pipe up) that supposedly proves his existence, but all it talks about is a group of people called Christians who believe that he existed, which obviously isn't worth anything.
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Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2013, 03:11:52 PM »
No - nothing that doesn't have to be shoehorned into the text, forged, or imagined...

But... haven't you seen smoke on the wall jeezus, grilled cheeze jeezus and sunburn on my shoulder jeezus?  He pops up everywhere like this and people flock to see him (nevermind we don't have a real picture, but that crap all looks like the paintings done a thousand years after they strung him up)
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline Nick

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2013, 07:16:48 PM »
I think He was listed in the phone book of the time.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

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Offline The Gawd

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2013, 08:00:10 PM »
in before "we have more evidence for Jesus than Napoleon"

Offline anthony_retford

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2013, 09:20:09 PM »
No.
People are 'erroneously confident' in their knowledge and underestimate the odds that their information or beliefs will be proved wrong. They tend to seek additional information in ways that confirm what they already believe.
Max Bazenman, Harvard University

Offline anthony_retford

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2013, 09:21:21 PM »
And what is really revealing is that there is no record of any baby slaying when Jesus was supposed to be born.
People are 'erroneously confident' in their knowledge and underestimate the odds that their information or beliefs will be proved wrong. They tend to seek additional information in ways that confirm what they already believe.
Max Bazenman, Harvard University

Offline Nick

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 09:45:38 PM »
Or the town of Nazareth at that time.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

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Offline Nam

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2013, 10:32:24 PM »
I love when people say they've seen Jesus on walls or food mainly because they actually don't know what the dude looked like, if he existed. Same with Mary, if she existed.

-Nam
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline Fenugeek

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2013, 02:18:44 AM »
Outside of the bible are there any documents that point to Jesus having existed?

Some, but they're almost all of questionable value for one reason or another.  Some, such as the one from Josephus, are known to be forgeries.  The others have problems as well -- for instance, there's one (can't remember which one it is, someone else will probably pipe up) that supposedly proves his existence, but all it talks about is a group of people called Christians who believe that he existed, which obviously isn't worth anything.

Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger all made passing references to Christians, although none of them were contemporaneous with Jesus' purported lifespan. One of them, maybe? They're a pretty well known bunch.

Tacitus' Annals is the most extensive source; the Christians are mentioned in the context of the Great Fire o' Rome. It's reasonably good independent support that a) the Christians were a distinctive group at the time, b) their team name stemmed from somebody called "Christus", and c) that this "Christus" was crucified by "Procurator" Pilate (or, technically, that Tacitus believed that this had happened).

The general historical consensus at the moment, I think, is that there probably was a man, now identified as "Jesus Christ", who inspired a religious offshoot from Judaism in roughly the period that he was thought to have done it, but most of the details get sketchy when you try cross-checking with non-Christian sources.

First post. Was that okay?
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 04:17:02 AM by Fenugeek »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2013, 03:01:50 AM »
First post. Was that okay?

It was excellent.  All you have to do is give me money and it would have been perfect!   ;D

Welcome to the forum!
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
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Offline penfold

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 05:19:40 AM »
Outside of the bible are there any documents that point to Jesus having existed?

As others have pointed out there are a few non-Christian sources, but they are of doubtful historicity. However there are many Christian sources which are not found in the bible.

As for the general question of whether Jesus is a historical figure or not we are then pretty constrained to looking at Christian sources. The earliest of these sources (Gospel of Mark and parts of Gospel of Thomas) seem to have been written in about 60AD so a generation after the supposed life of Jesus. There are however non-textual marks (the Christos cross and the Ixthis fish symbol) which implicitly refer to Jesus dated even earlier, so within the same generation of Jesus.

My own view is that it is highly probable that there was a historical figure which acted as the template for the later stories of Jesus. I would make three points to back this up:

Firstly there does seem to be a core of sayings which appear in both the canonical gospels and non-canonical gospels; given the radical differences in these texts as to story of Jesus, the exact wording of these sayings and their meaning (compare, for example Mark with Thomas) it is strongly implied that there was a group of sayings which pre-existed the writings of the Gospels that were common currency. While we cannot conclusively say that these come from one man it is by far the simplest explanation.

Secondly there are elements of the story which one struggles to find motive for lying about. If one wanted to make up a messiah then he would certainly be born in either Bethlehem or Jerusalem. Indeed the later versions of the Jesus story do include a clearly fictional account of his birth in Bethlehem - the reason for this fiction is that it fits with OT prophecy.

In fact the earliest stories of Jesus call him Nazareen which fails to fit any Old Testament prophecy at all; Nazareth was such a little backwater that we do not even have any records of it (though the notion that this fertile valley was uninhibited at the time is a massive stretch - pace Nick). This is frankly an embarrassing place for a Messiah to hail from, and thus the later stories make up a story about Bethlehem - the city of David.  This adds weight to the hypothesis that there is some historical figure underlying the stories - if he were entirely fictional why make up something which detracts from his authority?

Thirdly, we know that from very early on (by 80AD) there are many within the Jewish community attacking Christianity; if there was a question of Jesus' historicity it is surprising that no one mentions it. Many reasons are given for why Christianity (and other contemporary messianic cults such as one centering on John the Baptist) is a false religion yet all of those early critiques seem to accept the premise that Jesus was an historical figure.

While none of this is conclusive I would maintain that a proper historical analysis of the evidence we do have (ie Christian writings) it is far more likely than not that there was some historical figure who 'became' Jesus. The evidence, as I read it, points to the following; this figure left a core group of sayings - mostly in line with Essene philosophy, ie ascetic and apocalyptic - these sayings became the basis for a large messiah myth which drew from myriad other sources - mostly Greek philosophy and Egyptian mysticism - to end up with the Jesus of the bible.
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Offline Nick

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 07:03:06 AM »
I love when people say they've seen Jesus on walls or food mainly because they actually don't know what the dude looked like, if he existed. Same with Mary, if she existed.

-Nam
That is easy, Nam.  He is a white guy who looks like the Zig Zag Man.
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

Tide goes in, tide goes out !!!

Offline bertatberts

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2013, 08:07:09 AM »
There may have been a person that Christianity was based on, or even someone taken from older religions. But it does seem strange that a person as remarkable as he. Wasn't very well thought of, or talked about.

Here is a list of historians who may have mentioned Christians or even a person known as Christ. None of them provide any evidence for a historical or biblical Jesus.

JOSEPHUS (c.96CE)
TACITUS (c.112CE)
PLINY the Younger (c.112CE)
SUETONIUS (c.115CE)
IGNATIUS (107CE? 130-170CE?)
QUADRATUS (c.125CE)
THALLUS (date unknown)
PHLEGON (c.140)
VALENTINUS (c.140CE)
POLYCARP (c.155CE)
LUCIAN (c.170CE)
GALEN (late 2nd C.)
NUMENIUS (2nd C.?)
and the TALMUD (3rd C. and later)


Below is a list of other writers (apart from the ones in the above) who were around at the time of Jesus, that wrote nothing whatsoever about him.
Some even walked the same paths, but heard and wrote nothing.

Philo Judaeus (20 BC-50 AD)
Valerius Maximus (fl. c. 20 AD).
Marcus Manilius


This next list is from historical writers from shortly after Jesus' time. none of which even mention a Jesus not even as an aside.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC?-65 AD)
Petronius Arbiter
C. Musonius Rufus
Aulus Persius Flaccus
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
Hero(n) of Alexandria
Geminus
Plutarch of Chaeronea
Justus of Tiberias
Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople
Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus)
Dio Chrysostom (Cocceianus Dio)
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus .
Publius Papinius Statius

And here is a random list of some others you may want to look up.
None wrote anything regarding a Jesus.

Aulus Perseus (60 AD)
Columella (1 st. cent. AD)
Dio Chrysostom (c. 40-c. 112 AD)
Justus of Tiberious (c. 80 AD)
Livy (59 BC-17 AD)
Lucanus (fl. 63 AD)
Lucius Flours (1st-2nd -cent. AD)
Petronius (d. 66 AD)
Phaedrus (c. 15 BC-c. 50 AD)
Phlegon (1st cent. AD)
Pliny the Elder (23?-69 AD)
Plutarch (c.46-c. 119 AD)
Pomponius Mela (40 AD)
Rufus Curtius (1st cent. AD)
Quintilian (c. 35-c. 100 AD)
Quintus Curtius (1st cent. AD)
Silius Italicus (.25-101 AD)
Statius Caelicius (1st cent. AD)
Theon of Smyrna (c. 70-c.135 AD)

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/
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Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2013, 08:44:49 AM »
There is also the issue of the date of his birth - about a 10 year window based on which Herod you go with...

Also, no Roman record of the kind of census the gospels describe where one must return to the place of his birth.

The gospels turned out to be a big issue with me in my decon. I mean, the earliest is 30 or so years AFTER jeezus supposedly died, written by Mark who was not even a disciple but a pal of Peter?  I'm trying to put myself in those shoes - could I write something relatively accurate about a guy a friend of mine knew for three years but waited 30 years to put it to paper?  Even in our modern times, it would be a struggle and as far as I know jeezus didn't write notes for them to keep or leave his iPad for them...
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline Nick

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2013, 10:49:54 AM »
Yeah, if Jesus wanted to hide He came at the right period of history.  You know, if He had come in our time He probably would have been a FOX News contributor. ;)
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

Tide goes in, tide goes out !!!

Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2013, 10:57:50 AM »
 :laugh:  jeezus as FOX news reporter:

Blonde anchorbabe:   "We now go to jeezus, who's reporting from a pier in New Orleans where hurricane Christos is bearing down and ready to take another crack at the disaster-weary area - jeezus, what are you seeing?"

jeezus:  "Blessed are the storm ravaged, for they shall be insured.  Blessed are the donut shops, for they shal be made hole.  Blassed are the...."

BA:  "Umm, jeezus, we seem to be losing you there, but love how your long flowing locks are impervious to the wind and rain.  By the way, your tunic has gone see through in the rain and... uhh, are you sure your jewish?"

(not a real quote)   :P
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline Cycle4Fun

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2013, 01:48:18 PM »
As others have said, there isn't any evidence.  The very few writings we have that aren't forgeries mention Christians, who believe the man existed.  That's like someone writing that Greeks believed in Hercules.

My personal leanings are that a mystical holy man did exist and spawn a cult.  The Biblical stories were then built up around him.  For instance, Nazareth, the town of Jesus' birth was at best the home of a couple of families of farmers.  Far from a city, or even a village.  The evidence points to the area being a tomb, an ancient cemetery.  These were always placed outside of town because tombs were unclean.  Only much later after Jesus' time was the area actually settled into a village.

http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html

How then, did Jesus come from Nazareth?  Translation error.  The writer of Matthew was a Greek.  In the Hebrew Bible, a Nazirite or Nazarite, (in Hebrew: ????, nazir), refers to one who voluntarily took a vow described in Numbers 6:1–21

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazarite

What is prophesized in the Old Testament is a Nazarite who will rescue the Jewish people (IE: Judges 13.5).  No mention of a Nazarene, or somebody from a town that didn't exist at the time.

What have I concluded?  Jesus, the man in the Bible never existed.  However, it is likely there was a prophet that spanned a cult that later became Christianity.  It's happened over and over and continues to happen today.  The likely real "Jesus" bears no resemblance to the fictional biblical Jesus.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_considered_deities
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Offline epidemic

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2013, 06:33:39 AM »
I know I could not have written about anyone from my youth.

I cant imagine going back 30 years and trying to describe my coworkers in detail including more than a couple of conversations

Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2013, 08:58:42 AM »
I know I could not have written about anyone from my youth.

I cant imagine going back 30 years and trying to describe my coworkers in detail including more than a couple of conversations

Bingo!  And these folks recalled whole sermons, parables and conversations they were not even around to hear.  (i.e. - who heard what Pilate had to say, yet we get quotes).  At best, we get third hand testimony 30+ years later.  I call BS
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 10:57:41 AM by neopagan »
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline maryr_32

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2013, 02:53:24 PM »
anyone read Richard Carrier's books that touch on this subject?  I have just learned of his scholarly work, and I had a guy recently who tried to say Carrier did sloppy research.  I heard him on The Thinking Atheist podcast and he sounded like he had really done his homework but I need to read and check the questions.
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
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Offline maryr_32

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2013, 02:55:08 PM »
On that podcast Carrier also says the Nazareth theory goes too far and that the town probably did exist. But just because it existed doesn't mean there was a miracle working god man named Jesus associated with it.
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2013, 09:20:50 AM »
No more so than just because the Mississippi River exists means Tom Sawyer Sawyer was a real person with a cursing disciple named Huck.  But... they made for a good story
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline maryr_32

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2013, 06:12:34 PM »
exactly!  If there was REAL evidence we wouldn't be arguing about it 2000 years later.  If God is not the God of confusion..... well.... u get the idea :)
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Offline median

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2013, 04:57:12 PM »
I think Bart Ehrman also has some valuable insights on this subject as well.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2013, 05:55:55 PM »
While I certainly have no argument with complaints that Tacitus and others weren't writing during the life of JC, etc., nor with  whether some are forgeries and others too generic to be specifically about one particular son of god, for us to compare the stories of ancient oral traditions and our currently deficient memories is hazardous. While I too would find it impossible to write anything accurate about a friends old buddy, such stories were much more valued in the past, as was memory in general. And I've no doubt that, in general, they would have been able to do a better job than me.

So while our only recent oral tradition involves Bill Clinton, such methods of conveying information were all they had before the invention of the newspaper and books. They used, and valued, that method of transferring information from person to person and community to community. So while I can't even remember any of the tweets I read yesterday, people in the past could do much better about everything they heard, routinely. It was normal for the young, who were not going to school or otherwise being educated, to be taught methods of memorization. For the sake of remembering the past.

Note: I don't remember where I heard this  ;D
Jesus, the cracker flavored treat!

Offline neopagan

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2013, 06:02:10 PM »
given that supposed ability the ancients had, one might have expected they should have done a much better job at it. some of their stories don't come close to matching up in their holy book
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline median

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2013, 12:01:37 AM »
I actually just found out (suppose it's old news now, but new for me) that Richard Carrier and Bart Ehrman have a bit of a "tiff" debate going on online. Here's the link:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1794

According to Richard Carrier, Ehrman gets really illogical when debating the existence of an actual Jesus of Nazareth.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Nick

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Re: Is there any historical evidence that a man named Jesus existed?
« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2013, 12:32:08 PM »
I think maybe that overdue library book from Bethlehem might be the evidence you are looking for. ;)
Yo, put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Quit ragging on my Lord.

Tide goes in, tide goes out !!!