I listened to an interview today with Bart Ehrman on the "Infidel Guy Show"; was a little miffed to hear Bart pull out lines such as "no serious scholar doubts that Jesus existed" and "there is more evidence for Jesus Christ than any other figure in history."
I think whether or not Jesus existed (in some capacity), it can be shown pretty easily that the majority of the New Testament is refurbished pagan literature... something that is completely swept aside under the protection of New Testament scholars who unanimously agree that "Jesus existed" (whatever that means).
I put a post up about it, linking to the interview.
The main thing is that the evidence scholars do cite is used to gloss over all of the astonishing external evidence that undermines the historical Jesus (such as the early Church controversy over whether or not Jesus came "in the flesh", and the pre-Pauline communities who taught that Jesus was born, lived and died "in the semblance" of a man).
In my view, the issue is complex, misunderstood, and widely marginalized by biblical scholars, who usually automatically discount/refuse any "non-historical" Jesus as an impossibility.
What do you think? Your favorite evidence for/against Jesus as a historical person?
Forgive me my skepticism. It's just that the "Nazareth didn't exist" thesis was invented by piano teacher Rene Salm just a few years ago, and I've seen it pop up around the web now and then (it seems to have become one of those "facts" every atheist thinks they "know").
Salm's thesis has been largely ignored by scholars (which isn't surprising) except by archaelogist Ken Dark who was asked to do a review. The result was Salm's thesis being demolished.
If in the meantime there had been articles by archealogists who shared Salm's position, I think I'd be aware of them. I could still be mistaken however.
I just highly doubt it. I think you're perhaps misremembering either the articles or qualifications of the authors.
As far as I know, Salm's thesis remains as fringe as can be.
It really doesn't matter if there was. Especially if you are asking someone who has predetermined that there was, and they have "faith" that every account in the bible of a messiah is talking about the same "historic" figure. Its weird hearing an atheist back this sort of claim.
The Ehrman text that is most relevent to the question of the historical Jesus is, 'Jesus Apocalyptic Prophet of New Millennium'. Ehrman has also done a series of 24 lectures on this topic for the Teaching Company. Both the book and the lectures are excellent.
I've not read it yet but David Fitzgerald also has a great book called 'Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All'. He did a brilliant presentation on it at Skepticon and it's available on Youtube, probably via JREF. Robert Price, Hector Avalos, Frank Zindler and Richard Carrier are worth looking at too. You might be interested in the documentary 'The God who wasn't there', which covers this topic quite well.
As far as I have found in my own research, what Mr. Ehrman says is indeed true, but only in a certain context.
Firstly though, "serious scholar" is a very broad term. Ask a Ph.D. engineer, scientist, or medical practitioner whether or not they have any doubt at all. If demographics are any kind of indication (bearing in mind that if one doesn't believe in god(s), then it follows that they don't believe in Jesus either and the disproportionate amount of disbelievers in science than in other fields), then it would be safe to assume that most will tell you that they do in fact have doubts, if they even give two shits at all. Nevertheless, many of them are in fact "serious scholars."
Now, truth be told, I'm not terribly familiar with many (documentary-producing, i.e., famous) historians or anthropologists (history just isn't my thing although I do have a passing interest in it), but I tend to think that when people refer to "serious scholars" in regard to the factual historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, they are implicitly meaning (whether they realize it or not) historians and anthropologists (not engineers) with, at the very least, some fossils to show. Furthermore, it seems to me that physical, tangible artifacts that have been adequately dis-proven not to be fakes would carry more weight than mere stories, writings, and hearsay (as nobeliefs.com points out).
Show me, don't just tell me.
Secondly, the crux of the problem lies in the proposition being made (time to don your language lawyer caps now). The flaw in the claim that "no serious scholar doubts that Jesus existed" (emphasis mine) is that all that it takes to disprove such a claim is for 1 such person to step up and say that they do. Furthermore, Mr. Ehrman failed to quantify the degree of doubt that would be necessary to disprove his claim. So by default, all it would take is some intellectual honesty to even entertain the slightest possibility that Jesus never actually existed in order to meet the ill-defined parameters of his wager.
Is Professor Dawkins "serious scholar" enough for Bart? Am I?
It's one thing to believe the myth (and FWIW, I tend to think that those that do haven't actually read the Babble (much less the New Testament) cover to cover like any other work of fiction). But it takes quite a leap of faith to suspend all disbelief and say that it all really happened, and I think it's a safe bet that not all "serious" historians or any other scholars for that matter are willing to make such a leap (again, all it takes is one).
But the sad truth is that many people that devote their lives to such study do indeed seem to remain complicit with the legend instead of searching for physical evidence. And this is why I say that Mr. Ehrman speaks the truth, but only in a particular context.
They can believe all they want, but until they turn up a body and that body goes through forensics, I'm not buying it.
The point of my long-winded diatribe is that no, Jesus did not actually exist. The document at nobeliefs.com sets forth a mountain of convincing evidence to the contrary. Whether you choose to read my post or ignore it, I urge you to visit that site. It makes a very, very solid and documented case against Jesus of Nazareth actually existing. And it appears it's still being updated.
In conclusion, I'd like to add this last bit. The real point that "they" don't want people to get is that it doesn't matter whether Jesus actually existed or not. We've got better. We've got philosophy, not religion. We've got Socrates.
A. "No serious scholar doubts that Jesus existed"
B. "Anyone who doubts that Jesus existed is not a serious scholar."
C. "Therefore, Jesus Existed."
I agree with you about the context of Ehrman's claim; in his field, among what is considered to be reputable scholarship, the claim of a historical Jesus is incontrovertible. But there is so much else going on that he seems emphatically closed minded about.
Yup, But Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle), points to the difficulty the Josephus passages has in supporting the burden placed on it:
In the absence of any other supporting evidence from the first century that in fact the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels clearly existed, Josephus becomes the slender thread by which such an assumption hangs. And the sound and fury and desperate manoeuverings which surround the dissection of those two little passages becomes a din of astonishing proportions. The obsessive focus on this one uncertain record is necessitated by the fact that the rest of the evidence is so dismal, so contrary to the orthodox picture. If almost everything outside Josephus points in a different direction, to the essential fiction of the Gospel picture and its central figure, how can Josephus be made to bear on his shoulders, through two passages whose reliability has thus far remained unsettled, the counterweight to all this other negative evidence?13
This is the audio of the interview linked from that page: