Apparently you can't do polls on here.... but

Do any of you think that Jesus actually existed? What do category do you fall into?

A. Believed he existed, claims are false

B. Believed he existed, claims are exaggerated

C. Don't believe he existed

D. Believe he existed, claims are true (sorry had to leave the idiot category open)

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--- Matt VDB --- Look on page 88 and 49 and you'll see plenty of places where you say precisely that it is impossible to know anything about the historical Jesus,

I'm looking, and I still don't see it. I see where I've said:

"I still maintain that there very likely was a person or several people upon whom the Jesus myth got attached."

"Yes, and that is exactly my position. *A* (or even several) historical Jesus(es) [existed]."

"I said essentially that my belief is that there was most likely a real person(s) named Jesus but that person(s) most likely bears extremely little resemblance to the Jesus described by Paul and the gospels, except possibly by chance."

I do say in there that in exploring historicity, I believe one major difference is that you seem to start from a default position of "Jesus is real; prove otherwise." While I start from the skeptical default position of "Jesus is a myth; prove otherwise." I'm assuming (hoping) you understand the difference between default position and current position?

If so, then you are either flat-out lying and/or I have severely underestimated the neurotypical capability of seeing only what one wants to see, even to the point of reading "Jesus probably existed" as "It is impossible for Jesus to ever have existed."

--- This is pretty cool, actually; you're moving squarely into my camp.

I'm not moving into your anything. If anything, you have further convinced me that reasonable doubt exists. When I first saw you come on the scene here, I was half-hoping to get some confirmation of some scrap of evidence that exists I wasn't aware of. But no, I got the same arguments from you as I get from Theists and in much the same style.

E.g.; rather than providing links to where I supposedly said X, you simply state that I do and name a couple of pages. Someone else reading this, likely not wanting to sift through pages, will be more likely to simply take your word for it.

"I do say in there that in exploring historicity, I believe one major difference is that you seem to start from a default position of "Jesus is real; prove otherwise." While I start from the skeptical default position of "Jesus is a myth; prove otherwise." I'm assuming (hoping) you understand the difference between default position and current position?"

I understand that and I think we've gone over that many times already. But still, this might just be the crux of the argument so maybe if we go over this in more detail you might understand where I'm coming from better.

The question we disagree on is how to choose what the default position for something is. Do we pick the negative (proposition isn't true), or the positive (proposition is true)? Your position - at least in this case - seems to be that we (always?) need to pick the negative.
I submit that that is a mistake. What a skeptic chooses as the default position is not the negative per se, but the prima facie position.

The prima facie position is the one which, at face value, seems the most likely to be true - given our current understanding of the world.
Case in point: the cup on my table. Is the default position (pending further investigation) regarding its existence that it existsed, or that it does not? Well, considering that I can see the friggin' cup, I'd say that I'm going to presume - simply from the evidence I have at face value - that it is in fact a cup such as every other one I've ever seen. Now, if someone for some reason does not believe in the existence of the cup and believes that there might be some reason to place my visual evidence under scrutiny and perform a physical examination, then that is their prerogative, but it will not change the fact that the onus of proof is now on them because they are going against the evidence available at face value.

Another example: Caesar telling the story of the centurion Crastinus, who made a short speech before the battle at Pharsalus and then led the legions when they charged. What is our default position regarding this man? Well, considering Caesar tells us that he existed, our position at face value is going to be that he did in fact exist - possible embellishments etcetera notwithstanding. And again, if someone else comes along saying that they suspect that Caesar might be lying and the story might be a myth which served propaganda purposes, then they are free to do so, but the default position regarding this perfectly ordinary claim is still going to be the existence of Crastinus.

Map this on to our current discussion and I think you can see how it applies. We read some texts talking about a certain preacher named Jesus. The texts themselves tell us that he lived a couple of decades before. The texts are clearly embellished and contain hero-worship, but by and large they agree on several points (crucifixion, brother James, faith healer, made a disturbance in the Temple, etcetera). And this person seems - at face value - to be attested to by two historians of the timeframe. What is the prima facie case? That this person existed.
If Mythers come along and tell us "Hang on, we suspect there might be a reason to assume that this story is actually a complete myth" then again, that is fine, but the default position regarding the existence of an ordinary preacher attested to by various sources is that he existed.

Does that make my position more clear? When we are talking about an ordinary claim (which we are) then a proposition which can be made at face value is enough to change the default position to that proposition.


"Thank you, and you're welcome."

I'll note you retracting that argument then. Thanks!

"No, I'm going based on your own words that Tacitus "likely" got his information from other secular sources. As you pointed out in this same ad hominem post, qualifiers like "claim to" and "likely" imply "not absolutely certain," or that you don't necessarily believe it yourself. Elsewhere sometime back I addressed the lack of a 1st century equivalent of an MLA citation so we really don't know where Tacitus got his information. You beat me over the head with it agreeing that "Ancient historians hardly, if ever, cite their sources.""

If you were familiar with the actual evidence then you probably wouldn't need to ask that question. I said that ancient historians "hardly, if ever" cite their sources. Tacitus is an exception to this general rule, since he does tell us that he is using source material, and in fact he tells us in precisely the chapter of the Annales where he makes a reference to Jesus.

I find in the registers of the Senate that Cerialis Anicius, consul-elect, proposed a motion that a temple should as soon as possible be built at the public expense to the Divine Nero.
(Annals, XV.74)

The boundaries now fixed by Claudius may be easily recognised, as they are specified in the public records.
(Annals, XII.20)

I do not find in any historian, or in the daily register, that Antonia, Germanicus's mother, rendered any conspicuous honour to the deceased, though besides Agrippina, Drusus, and Claudius, all his other kinsfolk are mentioned by name.
(Annals, III.3)

He also specifically tells us (multiple times) that he rejects hear-say.

My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request all into whose hands my work shall come, not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumours in preference to genuine history which has not been perverted into romance.
(Annals, IV.11)

It's hard to see how he could be any more clear. That brings the arguments in favour of Tacitus' reliability to:
(i) he was known to use and have access to plenty of source material and even referenced source material in the chapter where he references Jesus
(ii) he explicitly tells us that he rejects hear-say
(iii) he tells us that he despises Christians, which makes it even more unlikely that he'd take their word for it
(iv) his reference is precisely what we'd expect him to get from source material, but nothing like what we'd expect from Christian sources.

Does that mean absolute certainty? Of course not. But it's good and reliable evidence to anyone without a big axe to grind.

"What gets me is all these not-absolutely-certain qualifiers you toss out ("likely" used secular sources, "claim to" have met Jesus or his relatives), but then you get all itchy when someone interprets those not-absolutely-certain qualifiers as therefore-not-absolutely-certain-biblical-Jesus-has-a-recognizable-historical-counterpart."

Nothing is absolutely certain. What actually gets me is your constant hanging on to slivers of doubt to try to dismiss everything we could possibly find about Jesus' historicity.
It's the same kind of insistence on doubt that I see Holocaust deniers do when they're nitpicking numbers and trying to insert the teensiest tiniest bit of doubt into the existence of the Holocaust.

Well OK, fine, we can't know the Holocaust absolutely certainly happened. But it's good enough evidence to believe it regardless.
Looking at Jo's last post in reply to me, if what is being said is clear, is that Jo's issue is just a disagreement with what Matt considers evidence, and not the conclusion Matt has been arguing for. Which seems to not follow some of the Jo's earlier statements, but perhaps you have gotten off on tangents inadvertently. Basically, what had me agreeing with Matt was what we can deduce from the evidence known. Biased evidence, yes, but a bias you can understand and ascertain probability out of. You seem to be denying the probability we can skim from these details. You seem to not be able to get past Paul's fictional embellishments, you continually discount him for not being an unbiased observer due to his agenda. His bias is exactly what contributes to what we can deduce, you are not to be relying on the validity of his actual claims. This is often what historians have to do, and you can't discount biased accounts and fabrications for the valuable evidence they can offer. Of course, what's probable or not could come down to opinion, but you don't seem to even concede that biased accounts like Paul's offer any value as evidence at all because of it's bias. Instead of attacking what is probable or not about his bias, you're aiming for Paul being truthful or not, at least this is what it has seemed like you have been saying to me. It's the lies that betray glimmers of truths to be deduced.
Either way, and I think Nick would agree with me on this, it's getting damn painful for the rest of us, watching you two beat each other up.

A couple of quotes seem apropos:

When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it, - this is knowledge. - Confucius

The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind. - Albert Camus

(Way too much fighting, for two people who aren't even married.) :-)
If it's any consolation to you, I think it's getting tedious too. I don't mind repeating myself or going over relevant evidence in detail if it means that somebody might learn something or investigate the evidence in detail, but I sure as hell am not interested in endless nitpicking of past discussions and dickwaving without any actual evidence being discussed.

All I can see currently is Jo moving so close to my position that the two become totally indistinguishable. This is encouraging because the debate might soon come to a close and I can move on to something more interesting, but also discouraging because it seems she hasn't yet realised that her position has changed.

Here's Jo six months ago:

"Going back to (A) most of those agree that while we don't have proof he ever existed, we also don't have proof that there wasn't such a figure: That for the legend to catch on and grow so quickly, it very likely was tacked onto an actual person or persons. But whomever that person(s) was, is, as Michael said, a completely different entity than the Jesus of the bible."

Here's Jo now:

"Show me a single post where I've said it's impossible or even improbable that there was a human Jesus who became the template for bible-Jesus AND bears significant resemblance to bible-Jesus.

"Completely different entity" <===> "Bears significant resemblance"

As anyone can see, she clearly hasn't changed her position one bit. Ahem.
Its possible that a man named Jesus did exist but was he the son of God? Nope and he never had any special powers so my answer would be A or B
It's possible. But if he did he exist he was just a man, not the son of a god. Though it's also very possible that it was all just made up.
No I don't think he existed.....No evidence. I suspect he is a compilation of many different ancient myths.
There's quite a bit more than "no evidence" actually.
I would say there is quite a bit more no that evidence.
Not sure what you meant to say there, but I'll assume you mean there is still no evidence. Either you're ignorant of the evidence we have, or you're just choosing to categorize evidence you don't accept as not being evidence at all. We've got reasonable evidence to suggest quite to the contrary.




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