Sacred v Secular Ancient Historical Evidence

One-on-one debates

Moderator: Moderators

User avatar
McCulloch
Site Supporter
Posts: 24068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Been thanked: 2 times

Sacred v Secular Ancient Historical Evidence

Post #1

Post by McCulloch »

Is the Resurrection and Miracle Ministry of Jesus is more probable and is better supported than the events of Nero's reign?

This debate will consist of no more than the eighteen posts as outlined. There is no time limit, but we both agree to only post in the agreed upon sequence. Comments, queries, requests for clarification etc go here.

Round 1A: Establish and Verify the Miracle Ministry and Actions of Jesus
-Post 1: WinePusher Presents Evidence and Arguments
-Post 2: McCulloch's rebuttal
-Post 3: WinePusher' response to the rebuttal
-Post 4: McCulloch's final rebuttal

Round 1B: Establish and Verify the Life and Actions of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Roman Emperor from 54 to 68.
-Post 1: McCulloch's Presents Evidence and Arguments
-Post 2: WinePusher's rebuttal
-Post 3: McCulloch's response to the rebuttal
-Post 4: WinePusher's final rebuttal

Round 2A: Establish and Verify the Resurrection of Jesus
-Post 1: WinePusher's Presents Evidence and Arguments
-Post 2: McCulloch's rebuttal
-Post 3: WinePusher' response to the rebuttal
-Post 4: McCulloch's final rebuttal

Round 2: Establish and Verify the Death and Aftermath of Nero.
-Post 1: McCulloch's Presents Evidence and Arguments
-Post 2: WinePusher's rebuttal
-Post 3: McCulloch's response to the rebuttal
-Post 4: WinePusher's final rebuttal

Round 3: WinePusher's case as to why the Resurrection and Miracle Ministry of Jesus is more probable and is better supported than the events of Nero's reign. (1 Post)

Round 4: McCulloch's case as to why Nero's emperorship is better supported and more probable then Jesus' resurrection and miracles. (1 Post)

WinePusher

Post #2

Post by WinePusher »

First, thanks to McCulloch for accepting this debate offer, it should be interesting.

Opening Statement:

I'll begin right off by conceding to McCulloch that there is alot about the life of Jesus Christ that we are unaware of (specifically 30 years). So, in this particular debate I will be contending that the last years of Jesus' life as described in the Gospels did actually happen and can be verified using secular historical methodology. I also will not be adhering to the idea that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If the evidence which exists for Jesus' life, ministry and resurrection are just as good as the evidence surrounding Emperor Nero then it should also be considered historically factual. In this first round, my goal will be similar to the goals of the 'Jesus Seminar', which is to verify which events listed in the New Testament about Jesus Christ are true. My methodology will be to choose a few miracles and a few sayings that the Gospels report about Jesus and defend them as literally true, I will also be typing in a way that addresses the reader rather then McCulloch, and I don't expect McCulloch to give a quote by quote rebuttal since I am being messy with my font. He can respond in general to my argument, if he wants, without quoting. Now, as a disclaimer, I realize what I present will not be able to prove the life of Jesus beyond a reasonable doubt, my intent is to show what we Christians believe about Jesus is not entirely faith based and his supported with the same amount of evidence as any other historical figure is. The miracles and sayings I select should be considered representative of Jesus' entire ministry, I will defend them with historical evidence, not science or medicine. The major events and sayings of Jesus that I will defend as true are:

---Proposition A: Jesus was born in bethlehem, lost in the temple, baptized by John the Baptist, and a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. (Representing the Early Beginnings of Jesus' Public Ministry)
---Proposition B: Jesus healed many of the ill and sick with diseases we now consider uncurable, such as blindness. (Representing Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
---Proposition C: The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gave us what are now known as the Beatitudes. (Representing Jesus' Teaching Ministry)
---Proposition D: Jesus raised people from the dead, specifically Lazarus, and exorcised Demons. (Represening Jesus' Miracle Ministry)

Evidence:

Primary Sources:
1. The Gospel of Matthew
2. The Gospel of Mark
3. The Gospel of Luke
4. The Gospel of John
4. Acts of the Apostles

Secondary/Neutral Sources:
1. Origen
2. Testimonium Flavianum-Antiquities of the Jews-Flavius Josephus
3. Annals-Tacitus
4. St. Ireneus of Lugdunum
5. Papias of Hierapolis

Historical Criterion:
1. Criterion of Embarrasment
2. Criterion of Sitz im Leben (Palestinian Contextualism)
3. Criterion of Coherance
4. Criterion of Multiple Attestion

Archaeological/Physical Evidence:
1. Pool of Bethesda
2. Synagouge at Capernaum

Argument: I will list the proposition, the evidence that supports the proposition, and a brief summary tying it all together.

---Proposition A: Jesus was born in bethlehem, lost in the temple, baptized by John the Baptist, and a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him.
1. Primary Evidence for the Birth in Bethlehem and the Finding in the Temple: Gospel of Luke and Gospel of Matthew
2. Applicable Historical Criterion to the Birth, Finding in the Temple, and Baptism of Jesus: Criterion of Embarrasment and Criterion of Multiple Attestation

Jesus' childhood and teenage years lack extra-biblical attestation and can only be substantiated with biblical sources, so I was considering omitting these examples. However, when scrutinizing the Gospel accounts of the temple finding and birth in bethlehem, only Matthew and Luke list them while Mark is silent. This automatically qualifies Matthew and Luke as independent accounts, and they would also qualify as multiple attestation. According to Historical Criterion, if an event is attested to by multiple sources, and if these sources are independent from one another (as in to say tehres no way they could have copied off of eachother) then the likeliness that the claimed event actually occured increases in probability. So, even though extra-biblical evidence is lacking, the infancy narratives of Jesus should be taken as truth because they pass historical mustard. The Baptism of Jesus perfectly meets the Criterion of Embarrasment, which states that an event that harms the agenda and credibility of the author probably occured. The reason why the Baptism qualifies is that the when the Gospels were being written bythe Christian Evangelists, there goal was to show that Christ was Divine. Baptism infers humanity, so listing the baptism harms the agenda of the evanglists.

---Proposition B: Jesus healed many of the ill and sick with diseases we now consider uncurable, such as blindness. (Representing Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
1. Primary Evidence: Gospel of John (for he pool of bethesda miracle) all 4 Gospels (for his miracle ministry in general)
2. Secondary Evidence: Testimonium Flavianum-Antiquities of the Jews-Flavius Josephus, Origen
3. Archaeological/Physical Evidence: The Pool of Bethesda
4. Historical Criterion: Criterion of Coherance

Obviously Jesus is claimed to have performed many supernatural healings throughout his life on earth, so I will focus on one specific one and tie this back to the Criterion of Coherance. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is at a place called the pool of Bethesda and heals an ill man (the illness is not specified but can be inferred by John 5:3). This specific event is confirmed by the remains of the pool (which we have) and his supported in general by the other Gospels claiming Jesus worked miracles and an extrabiblical reference to the miraculous nature of Jesus by Flavius Josephus (the important parts are underlined). However, before we get to Josephus this event needs to be tied back to the Criterion of Coherance. This criterion states that if unestablished (unproven events) correlate and are consistent with established (proven events) then the unproven events probably did occur. I will submitt that the healing at the pool at bethesda is an historically authentic event and gives a firm ground to believe in the other miraculous healings Jesus was claimed to have done.
Josephus, in Testimonium Flavianum wrote:About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvellous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.
This is very strong extra-biblical attestation to the miraculous nature and divinity of Jesus Christ. Now, I will anticipate McCulloch will object on the grounds of bias, as Josephus claims Jesus was the Christ. However, Origen (another secondary source of evidence) records that Josephus, although writing this, did not believe Jesus was the Christ. So, Josephus not only qualifies as extra-biblical attestion but also as enemy attestation (because he was a Jewish historian).

---Proposition C: The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gave us what are now known as the Beatitudes. (Representing Jesus' Teaching Ministry)

For this proposition I will just give a summary outlining the evidence rather then listing it in numerical order. We obviously do not have time to go down through all the red lines in my Bible and verify that Jesus actually said them all, however the Beatitudes represent a bulk of what Jesus taught so I will be using that as a representative sample. I will be appealing to the Criterion of Sitz im Leben, Papias of Hieropolis and St. Ireneus of Lugdunum. Sitz am Leben states that what Jesus said and did should not contradict palestinian culture. This does not neccesarily mean that Jesus did not make polemic statements, it would be similar to me saying "let's go offer up some baby calves to president obama." This is problematic because American Culture does not practice animal sacrifice to our head of state. If we apply Sitz am Leben to the Beatitudes, we see no contradiction between the words and the culture.

•Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
•Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
•Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
•Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
•Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
•Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
•Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
•Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now, I appeal to Papias and Ireneus to give additional support to the writers who wrote down the Beatitudes and to help verify the Gospels as authentic in regards to the beatitudes. Here is what Papias wrote about the Evangelists:
Papias wrote:Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.
---Proposition D: Jesus raised people from the dead, specifically Lazarus, and exorcised Demons. (Represening Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
1. Archaeological Evidence: Synaouge at Capernaum and the Tomb of Lazarus
2. The 4 Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles
3. Criterion of Sitz im Leben and Criterion of Embarrasment

We have several factors that are associated with this story: the tomb in which Lazarus laid (which still exists), and the fact that the text reports Jesus weeping. Using historical standards to assess the validity of this story, we must determine wonder why a writer (determined to persuade an audience) would list such an amazing feat if it were not actually true. In the art of persuation and rhetoric, if one wants to persuade the reader the argument one presents must be reasonable. So, the criterion of embarrasment applies here as well because this event would hurt the authors credibility if he simply made it up since the raising of a person from the dead is considered extraordinary. A syllogism of this argument would be:

1) The text reports Jesus raising someone from the dead.
2) The author of the text has the intent of persuading his reader to his belief about Jesus.
3) Persuasion is denegrated by making up events that are extraordinary and unlikely to occur, and it would harm to authors agenda if he made up this story.
4) Therefore: the event actually occured.

The exorcism at the Synagouge of Capernaum is listed in both Mark and Luke, and the Synagouge itself still remains there. A large part of Jesus' ministry was made up of exorcisms, which conforms with Palestinian Culture and meets the standard of Sitz am Leben. However, I will try and address this more in detail in my rebuttal and forego this claim for the time being.

WinePusher

Post #3

Post by WinePusher »

First, thanks to McCulloch for accepting this debate offer, it should be interesting.

Opening Statement:

I'll begin right off by conceding to McCulloch that there is alot about the life of Jesus Christ that we are unaware of (specifically 30 years). So, in this particular debate I will be contending that the last years of Jesus' life as described in the Gospels did actually happen and can be verified using secular historical methodology. I also will not be adhering to the idea that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If the evidence which exists for Jesus' life, ministry and resurrection are just as good as the evidence surrounding Emperor Nero then it should also be considered historically factual. In this first round, my goal will be similar to the goals of the 'Jesus Seminar', which is to verify which events listed in the New Testament about Jesus Christ are true. My methodology will be to choose a few miracles and a few sayings that the Gospels report about Jesus and defend them as literally true, I will also be typing in a way that addresses the reader rather then McCulloch, and I don't expect McCulloch to give a quote by quote rebuttal since I am being messy with my font. He can respond in general to my argument, if he wants, without quoting. Now, as a disclaimer, I realize what I present will not be able to prove the life of Jesus beyond a reasonable doubt, my intent is to show what we Christians believe about Jesus is not entirely faith based and his supported with the same amount of evidence as any other historical figure is. The miracles and sayings I select should be considered representative of Jesus' entire ministry, I will defend them with historical evidence, not science or medicine. The major events and sayings of Jesus that I will defend as true are:

---Proposition A: Jesus was born in bethlehem, lost in the temple, baptized by John the Baptist, and a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. (Representing the Early Beginnings of Jesus' Public Ministry)
---Proposition B: Jesus healed many of the ill and sick with diseases we now consider uncurable, such as blindness. (Representing Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
---Proposition C: The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gave us what are now known as the Beatitudes. (Representing Jesus' Teaching Ministry)
---Proposition D: Jesus raised people from the dead, specifically Lazarus, and exorcised Demons. (Represening Jesus' Miracle Ministry)

Evidence:

Primary Sources:
1. The Gospel of Matthew
2. The Gospel of Mark
3. The Gospel of Luke
4. The Gospel of John
4. Acts of the Apostles

Secondary/Neutral Sources:
1. Origen
2. Testimonium Flavianum-Antiquities of the Jews-Flavius Josephus
3. Annals-Tacitus
4. St. Ireneus of Lugdunum
5. Papias of Hierapolis

Historical Criterion:
1. Criterion of Embarrasment
2. Criterion of Sitz im Leben (Palestinian Contextualism)
3. Criterion of Coherance
4. Criterion of Multiple Attestion

Archaeological/Physical Evidence:
1. Pool of Bethesda
2. Synagouge at Capernaum

Argument: I will list the proposition, the evidence that supports the proposition, and a brief summary tying it all together.

---Proposition A: Jesus was born in bethlehem, lost in the temple, baptized by John the Baptist, and a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him.
1. Primary Evidence for the Birth in Bethlehem and the Finding in the Temple: Gospel of Luke and Gospel of Matthew
2. Applicable Historical Criterion to the Birth, Finding in the Temple, and Baptism of Jesus: Criterion of Embarrasment and Criterion of Multiple Attestation

Jesus' childhood and teenage years lack extra-biblical attestation and can only be substantiated with biblical sources, so I was considering omitting these examples. However, when scrutinizing the Gospel accounts of the temple finding and birth in bethlehem, only Matthew and Luke list them while Mark is silent. This automatically qualifies Matthew and Luke as independent accounts, and they would also qualify as multiple attestation. According to Historical Criterion, if an event is attested to by multiple sources, and if these sources are independent from one another (as in to say tehres no way they could have copied off of eachother) then the likeliness that the claimed event actually occured increases in probability. So, even though extra-biblical evidence is lacking, the infancy narratives of Jesus should be taken as truth because they pass historical muster. The Baptism of Jesus perfectly meets the Criterion of Embarrasment, which states that an event that harms the agenda and credibility of the author probably occured. The reason why the Baptism qualifies is that the when the Gospels were being written bythe Christian Evangelists, there goal was to show that Christ was Divine. Baptism infers humanity, so listing the baptism harms the agenda of the evangelists.

---Proposition B: Jesus healed many of the ill and sick with diseases we now consider uncurable, such as blindness. (Representing Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
1. Primary Evidence: Gospel of John (for he pool of bethesda miracle) all 4 Gospels (for his miracle ministry in general)
2. Secondary Evidence: Testimonium Flavianum-Antiquities of the Jews-Flavius Josephus, Origen
3. Archaeological/Physical Evidence: The Pool of Bethesda
4. Historical Criterion: Criterion of Coherance

Obviously Jesus is claimed to have performed many supernatural healings throughout his life on earth, so I will focus on one specific one and tie this back to the Criterion of Coherance. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is at a place called the pool of Bethesda and heals an ill man (the illness is not specified but can be inferred by John 5:3). This specific event is confirmed by the remains of the pool (which we have) and his supported in general by the other Gospels claiming Jesus worked miracles and an extrabiblical reference to the miraculous nature of Jesus by Flavius Josephus (the important parts are underlined). However, before we get to Josephus this event needs to be tied back to the Criterion of Coherance. This criterion states that if unestablished (unproven events) correlate and are consistent with established (proven events) then the unproven events probably did occur. I will submitt that the healing at the pool at bethesda is an historically authentic event and gives a firm ground to believe in the other miraculous healings Jesus was claimed to have done.
Josephus, in Testimonium Flavianum wrote:About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvellous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.
This is very strong extra-biblical attestation to the miraculous nature and divinity of Jesus Christ. Now, I will anticipate McCulloch will object on the grounds of bias, as Josephus claims Jesus was the Christ. However, Origen (another secondary source of evidence) records that Josephus, although writing this, did not believe Jesus was the Christ. So, Josephus not only qualifies as extra-biblical attestion but also as enemy attestation (because he was a Jewish historian).

---Proposition C: The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gave us what are now known as the Beatitudes. (Representing Jesus' Teaching Ministry)

For this proposition I will just give a summary outlining the evidence rather then listing it in numerical order. We obviously do not have time to go down through all the red lines in my Bible and verify that Jesus actually said them all, however the Beatitudes represent a bulk of what Jesus taught so I will be using that as a representative sample. I will be appealing to the Criterion of Sitz im Leben, Papias of Hieropolis and St. Ireneus of Lugdunum. Sitz am Leben states that what Jesus said and did should not contradict palestinian culture. This does not neccesarily mean that Jesus did not make polemic statements, it would be similar to me saying "let's go offer up some baby calves to president obama." This is problematic because American Culture does not practice animal sacrifice to our head of state. If we apply Sitz am Leben to the Beatitudes, we see no contradiction between the words and the culture.

•Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
•Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
•Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
•Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
•Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
•Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
•Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
•Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now, I appeal to Papias and Ireneus to give additional support to the writers who wrote down the Beatitudes and to help verify the Gospels as authentic in regards to the beatitudes. Here is what Papias wrote about the Evangelists:
Papias wrote:Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.
---Proposition D: Jesus raised people from the dead, specifically Lazarus, and exorcised Demons. (Represening Jesus' Miracle Ministry)
1. Archaeological Evidence: Synaouge at Capernaum and the Tomb of Lazarus
2. The 4 Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles
3. Criterion of Sitz im Leben and Criterion of Embarrasment

We have several factors that are associated with this story: the tomb in which Lazarus laid (which still exists), and the fact that the text reports Jesus weeping. Using historical standards to assess the validity of this story, we must determine wonder why a writer (determined to persuade an audience) would list such an amazing feat if it were not actually true. In the art of persuation and rhetoric, if one wants to persuade the reader the argument one presents must be reasonable. So, the criterion of embarrasment applies here as well because this event would hurt the authors credibility if he simply made it up since the raising of a person from the dead is considered extraordinary. A syllogism of this argument would be:

1) The text reports Jesus raising someone from the dead.
2) The author of the text has the intent of persuading his reader to his belief about Jesus.
3) Persuasion is denegrated by making up events that are extraordinary and unlikely to occur, and it would harm to authors agenda if he made up this story.
4) Therefore: the event actually occured.

The exorcism at the Synagouge of Capernaum is listed in both Mark and Luke, and the Synagouge itself still remains there. A large part of Jesus' ministry was made up of exorcisms, which conforms with Palestinian Culture and meets the standard of Sitz am Leben. However, I will try and address this more in detail in my rebuttal and forego this claim for the time being.

User avatar
McCulloch
Site Supporter
Posts: 24068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Been thanked: 2 times

Post #4

Post by McCulloch »

All three synoptic gospels claim that while Jesus was on the cross, darkness fell over all the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. Who can seriously imagine a three-hour period of darkness happening in midday without references to it being recorded in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Arabia, Persia, and the other nations that would have experienced it? Even if it were merely a regional darkness, we can reasonably expect that other writers of the time would have referred to it. The fact that no such records exist is reason to believe that this midday darkness was simply another part of the legends and myths that evolved as Christianity grew.

We can say the same about Matthew's reference to the many saints who were resurrected after an earthquake opened their tombs at the moment of Jesus' death and who later went into the city and appeared unto "many". Such an event as this would have attracted far more attention than the resurrection of one man, Jesus, because its results would have been witnessed by far more people. But no one else besides Matthew (not even Mark or Luke) mentioned this remarkable event. Rationality, then, requires us to interpret this story as just another legend that developed along with Christianity. Such an event simply would not have passed unnoticed by historians of the time.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

User avatar
McCulloch
Site Supporter
Posts: 24068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Been thanked: 2 times

Post #5

Post by McCulloch »

I do apologize for the long delay in replying to this post. I also thank WinePusher for his well crafted opening statement. He has set the bar quite high for the tone of this debate.

I will start of with a couple of comments. Firstly, what this debate is not about. WinePusher and I have agreed that this is not to be a debate about whether or not there is an historic Jesus. The claims that there really was an individual human, namely Jesus of Nazareth, who was born and lived in the early first century, who preached the kingdom of heaven and was sentenced to die by the occupying Roman authorities, while denied by only a small minority of scholars, is not what we are debating. We are debating about whether the resurrection and miracle ministry of Jesus is more probable and is better supported than the events of a somewhat arbitrarily selected set of secular non-miraculous events.

Which leads me to my second comment. What constitutes good support for the probability of an event? Does the nature of the event itself not affect the answer to this question? Let me illustrate. I can claim that I flew to Scotland last May. In support of that claim, I could produce my own passport, testimony from my sister in Glasgow and from my wife who traveled with me and other such evidence. Hypothetical historians from the future, who inexplicably found themselves interested in my travel itinerary, would probably find such evidence, if available, sufficient to assign a reasonably high probability to the truth of my claim. However, if my claim was that I flew to Scotland by flapping my arms rather than boarding an aircraft, then certainly a higher degree of evidence would be required. The same amount of evidence testifying to such an extraordinary event would not convince.

And so it is with the tales of Jesus. The evidence necessary to convince one that Jesus was born is significantly less than the evidence necessary to convince one that Jesus was born of a virgin. The evidence necessary to establish that Jesus was crucified, along with others who found themselves persecuted by the Roman armies, is quite a bit less than the amount of evidence necessary to support the claim that Jesus rose from the grave.

So, in some ways, this is an unfair debate. The ordinary claims that I will be supporting in stage 1B of this debate are light, requiring less support than the miraculous claims being made by WinePusher. I require merely a folding card table while he needs to construct a heavy duty workbench in order to adequately support our very different claims.
WinePusher wrote: If the evidence which exists for Jesus' life, ministry and resurrection are just as good as the evidence surrounding Emperor Nero then it should also be considered historically factual.
Obviously, we disagree on this point. I know of no historian who agrees with WinePusher's lack of skepticism and discernment relating to the evaluation of evidence. Even the ones who accept Jesus' miracles, do so hypocritically, in that they do not generally open the floodgates to other extraordinary events.

On WinePusher's Proposition A, the only point of interest is the final one, that a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. This is supposed to have occurred during his baptism by John. It is recorded the Gospels according Matthew, Mark and Luke as well as in the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews. The baptism itself is credible because it satisfies the criteria of multiple attestation and dissimilarity, that is, multiple sources attest to its happening, and it is not the sort of detail that early Christians would make up. John's ministry of baptism is attested to in Josephus. But a dove descending and a voice which says, "You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased. Today I have begotten You." | "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased. " | "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." [the sources don't entirely agree], this claim requires more support. Just as I believe my neighbor who says that she is going to some sort of religious meeting; I don't believe her when she claims to have had her rheumatism cured there. I need more than just here say-so to believe such a thing.

On the miracles:
John 5 wrote: After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.

In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
Please notice that even before Jesus was said to have performed any miracle, that miraculous events were alleged to be occurring in this place. Miracle claims can often be found in the writings of that period. No reputable historian gives credence to every miraculous claim written by anyone anywhere at any time. Of course those writing about Jesus included miraculous claims. It was expected.

Jesus may have attracted a following, however it isn't reasonable to believe that vast multitudes thronged to him in the manner described in the New Testament. Mark said that "a great multitude from Galilee... and from Jerusalem, Idumea and beyond the Jordan, and... from Tyre and Sidon" once followed him to the Sea of Galilee. So huge was the multitude that Jesus told his disciples to keep a boat ready for him to board, "lest [the multitude] crush him". Matthew claimed that "great multitudes followed [Jesus] from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan". Matthew said that "his fame went throughout all Syria" so that the people there "brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics." No one in Syria, Idumea, Tyre, or Sidon left any record of the mass hysteria that Jesus is alleged to have created. Only the New Testament gospels mention the huge crowds that he attracted. The historical silence in this matter is quite telling. If these gospel accounts are even reasonably close to being accurate, why did no one in the regions from which the multitudes came ever mention the crowds that thronged around Jesus? Why did no one in the places where the crowds gathered (with the exception of the biased gospel writers) mention these huge crowds? The answer is that such multitudes probably never existed, because Jesus wasn't nearly so popular with his contemporaries as the gospel writers allege.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

WinePusher

Post #6

Post by WinePusher »

McCulloch wrote:Which leads me to my second comment. What constitutes good support for the probability of an event? Does the nature of the event itself not affect the answer to this question? Let me illustrate. I can claim that I flew to Scotland last May. In support of that claim, I could produce my own passport, testimony from my sister in Glasgow and from my wife who traveled with me and other such evidence. Hypothetical historians from the future, who inexplicably found themselves interested in my travel itinerary, would probably find such evidence, if available, sufficient to assign a reasonably high probability to the truth of my claim. However, if my claim was that I flew to Scotland by flapping my arms rather than boarding an aircraft, then certainly a higher degree of evidence would be required. The same amount of evidence testifying to such an extraordinary event would not convince.

And so it is with the tales of Jesus. The evidence necessary to convince one that Jesus was born is significantly less than the evidence necessary to convince one that Jesus was born of a virgin. The evidence necessary to establish that Jesus was crucified, along with others who found themselves persecuted by the Roman armies, is quite a bit less than the amount of evidence necessary to support the claim that Jesus rose from the grave.
The argument here seems to be Carl Sagan's quote "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence." This is an important topic that probably would require much more posting, but I'll address this with 3 points:

The first thing that should be considered is what the assumptions of the person requesting "Extraordinary Evidence" are. In this case, the strong atheist has a preconceived assumption that There is no God or no Supernatural and therefore there is no supernatural intervention in the natural world. This assumption can not be proven, but it hinders and dilutes the atheist and thus "Extraordinary Evidence" becomes a requirement in order to get past the assumption. For example, if I firmly believe that it is impossible for a cat to walk on two legs and a person comes up to me and says their cat can walk on two legs, I will raise the standard of evidence because I am approaching the claim with preconceived bias. However, if I have no bias and approach this with an open (but somewhat skeptical) mind, then the regular evidentiary standards should suffice. Essentially, my argument is: to an unbeliever, no amount of evidence will do."

My second point encompasses two facts: That Extraordinary Evidence is completely subjective and there is no criteria for what qualifies as "Extraordinary Evidence", as in to say if I asked McCulloch for an example of a piece of evidence that would suffice and prove and extraordinary claim, I doubt he could guide me to a specific example. I challenge him to do so. But let's say he did, let's say the Virgin Birth could be proven if I could get Mary's body and medically verify that she was indeed and virgin. Well, that request is unreasonable because it is physically impossible. So, the "Extraordinary Claims requires Extraordinary Evidence" motto is self defeating because the criteria for "Extraordinary Evidence" is unreasonable and impossible to obtain in most cases. It is not a genuine means of discernment.
WinePusher wrote:If the evidence which exists for Jesus' life, ministry and resurrection are just as good as the evidence surrounding Emperor Nero then it should also be considered historically factual.
McCulloch wrote:Obviously, we disagree on this point. I know of no historian who agrees with WinePusher's lack of skepticism and discernment relating to the evaluation of evidence. Even the ones who accept Jesus' miracles, do so hypocritically, in that they do not generally open the floodgates to other extraordinary events.
The problem here lies in what amount of skepticism is good and healthy. I'd like to point out the difference between what a skeptic is and what and atheist is. A skeptic does not make assertions, rather they are a person who doubts and questions. An atheist does not simply doubt, they assert and claim just like a theist. In the evaluation of evidence, moderate skepticism should be applied. We should not accept everything at face value, however, we also should not throw out the baby with the bath water and begin abusing evidentiary methods. A skeptic would question the validity of Jesus' miracles, an atheist would reject them a priori because their worldview requires them to do so.
McCulloch wrote:On WinePusher's Proposition A, the only point of interest is the final one, that a the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. This is supposed to have occurred during his baptism by John. It is recorded the Gospels according Matthew, Mark and Luke as well as in the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews. The baptism itself is credible because it satisfies the criteria of multiple attestation and dissimilarity, that is, multiple sources attest to its happening, and it is not the sort of detail that early Christians would make up. John's ministry of baptism is attested to in Josephus. But a dove descending and a voice which says, "You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased. Today I have begotten You." | "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased. " | "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." [the sources don't entirely agree], this claim requires more support. Just as I believe my neighbor who says that she is going to some sort of religious meeting; I don't believe her when she claims to have had her rheumatism cured there. I need more than just here say-so to believe such a thing.
After some recent debates with fredonly, I am willingly to moderate my position here and possibly attribute this as a fictional insertion in order to emphasize the importance of the event. However, it is important to note that the disagreement among the sources are simply their failure to match up verbatim. Leaving out an "are" or substituting "with" with "in" is unimportant to determining whether this was actually said.
McCulloch wrote:Jesus may have attracted a following, however it isn't reasonable to believe that vast multitudes thronged to him in the manner described in the New Testament. Mark said that "a great multitude from Galilee... and from Jerusalem, Idumea and beyond the Jordan, and... from Tyre and Sidon" once followed him to the Sea of Galilee. So huge was the multitude that Jesus told his disciples to keep a boat ready for him to board, "lest [the multitude] crush him". Matthew claimed that "great multitudes followed [Jesus] from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan". Matthew said that "his fame went throughout all Syria" so that the people there "brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics." No one in Syria, Idumea, Tyre, or Sidon left any record of the mass hysteria that Jesus is alleged to have created. Only the New Testament gospels mention the huge crowds that he attracted. The historical silence in this matter is quite telling. If these gospel accounts are even reasonably close to being accurate, why did no one in the regions from which the multitudes came ever mention the crowds that thronged around Jesus? Why did no one in the places where the crowds gathered (with the exception of the biased gospel writers) mention these huge crowds? The answer is that such multitudes probably never existed, because Jesus wasn't nearly so popular with his contemporaries as the gospel writers allege.
The argument here is that the Gospel claims extremely large crowds were attracted to Jesus but only the Gospels mention this and there lacks extrabiblical support. I'll ask McCulloch to specify what the point exactly is. Does the concern have to do with the quantity of followers or the claim in the general that Jesus had large groups of followers.

First, we should not expect extrabiblical attestation to Jesus' "popularity" because in that time there were many "Messiah Figures." Judaism, an extremely small and monotheistic religion, would have been eccentric and marginalized by the Roman Empire which was dominated by polytheistic religions. So a self proclaimed Jewish Messiah would not have been given much importance by outside authors. However, even with a lack of extrabiblical support the McCulloch's argument is refuted by the Crucifixion. I see no reason why he would have been crucified if it were not for the fact that he attracted a large crowd to the point where Herod and Rome were threatened.

User avatar
McCulloch
Site Supporter
Posts: 24068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Been thanked: 2 times

Post #7

Post by McCulloch »

WinePusher seems to attribute skeptics dismissal of supernatural events to a preconception and bias, where it is not so. The matter of extraordinary while it does relate to alleged evidence of supernatural events, applies equally to other highly unusual events. For example, if I claim that snow fell from the sky into my yard, many people will believe me. Snow in Toronto is a regular ordinary January event. However, if I claim that an asteroid fell from the sky into my yard, easy belief in my claim will be more difficult to get. If I have never seen a cat walk on two legs, then I will require more evidence to support someone's claim that their cat does so than someone who regularly deals with bipedal felines. Furthermore, if someone claims that they have a cat who speaks fluent Urdu, it is not preconceived assumptions that hinders belief. It is the fact that an Urdu speaking cat would be such an extraordinary event that it would not go unnoticed. No one I know knows anyone with an Urdu speaking cat. Furthermore, cats are not known to have any language and there is no reason to believe that they can produce spoken language physiologically or neurologically. Certainly a higher degree of evidence would be required to support the claim of an Urdu speaking cat than a bipedal one, n'est-ce-pas ?

Now apply this very common sense principle to claims of supernatural events. No supernatural event has ever been objectively or conclusively documented. This is not bias or presumption, this is just simple fact. Supernatural events, by definition, defy what is known about the operation of the universe. It only stands to reason that a greater degree of evidence is required to substantiate a supernatural claim than a mundane ordinary one.

Now, let's say that my talking cat does not speak Urdu, a living language with human interpreters who could validate my claim, but Sumerian, a language extinct since the early second millennium BCE. It was an isolated language, unrelated to any other known language. But my cat spoke it fluently. Poor cat will not speak into a microphone, so there is no recording and he died last week. Therefore evidence to support my claim is impossible and unreasonable. Thus, by WinePusher's criterion, we must accept this claim by the same level of evidence that one would approach the claim of a bipedal cat. Right? No! The fact that sufficient evidence to support a particular extraordinary claim is impossible to get means that such claims cannot be validly made, not such claims have been downgraded to merely ordinary claims.

It also seems that WinePusher is advocating the principle that if something is not quantifiable, then it is not valid. I cannot measure how extraordinary the virgin birth, or an Urdu speaking cat is, therefore, I cannot insist on greater evidence to support such claims than the claim that Jesus was the apparent son of a carpenter or that my cat rolls on his back.

As WinePusher says, "A skeptic would question the validity of Jesus' miracles," and to this I agree. A skeptic would question the validity of anyone's claims to miraculous powers, more than they question the validity of someone's claims to unusual but naturally possible powers. Such discernment is not an a priori dismissal based on a worldview, but practical common sense.

I agree with WinePusher that the actual text of the words attending the dove at Jesus' baptism, while theologically important, are not critical to the topic at hand. The mere allegation of a voice from heaven, transcribed however inaccurately is. Could this be a fictional insertion? Do I see a crack in the armor? If the voice from heaven could be fictional then why not the virgin birth? Or is there some a priori assumption that the events recorded in the gospels are all historical with no mythic elements?
WinePusher wrote: I'll ask McCulloch to specify what the point exactly is. Does the concern have to do with the quantity of followers or the claim in the general that Jesus had large groups of followers.
The claim is that it was in the interest of the early promoters of the Christian religion to exaggerate the importance and impact of Jesus in his lifetime. To that end, they might attribute miracles to him, they could find fulfilled prophesy that they could insert into his biography and they could multiply the crowds of believers that followed him. For the same reason that you never trust a preacher to estimate the size of the congregation, one should approach the claims of any promoter of a new religion with measured skepticism. Jesus may well have had the size of following enjoyed by Simon of Peraea or Athronges who were both killed by the Romans for the trouble they caused, but there is no evidence that he attracted the size of crowds described in the New Testament.


Thus ends Round 1A: Establish and Verify the Miracle Ministry and Actions of Jesus
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

User avatar
McCulloch
Site Supporter
Posts: 24068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2005 9:10 pm
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Been thanked: 2 times

Round 1B: Establish and Verify the Life and Actions of Nero

Post #8

Post by McCulloch »

Round 1B: Establish and Verify the Life and Actions of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Roman Emperor from 54 to 68.

[center]Primary Evidence. [/center]

Image
Roman coins excavated in Pudukottai India. One Caligula and two Neros.

Image
Portrait of Nero. Marble, Roman artwork, 1st century CE. From the Augustan area on the Palatine Hill. Antiquarium of the Palatine, Inv. 618.

Image
Nero coin, c. 66. Ara Pacis on the reverse.

Image
Unknown artist, Graffiti portrait of Nero, c. 1st century found at the Domus Tiberiana.

Image
Nero AE Sestertius. 64-66 AD. NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate head right / CONG II DAT POP S-C, Nero, bare-headed & togate, seated left on curule chair on low platform, prefect standing behind him, on ground an attendant standing left distributes coins to a citizen holding out folds of his toga to receive them, Minerva standing before temple in background. BMC 139.

Image
EGYPT, Alexandria. Nero, with Poppaea.
AD 54-68. Tetradrachm (24mm, 12.49 g, 12h). Dated RY 10 (AD 63/4).
Radiate head of Nero right
Draped bust of Poppaea Sabina right; date in right field.

Image
Nero & Agrippina II Aureus. Struck 54 AD, Lugdunum mint. AGRIPP AVG DIVI CLAVD NERONIS CAES MATER, confronted heads of Nero & Agrippina, Nero is bare-headed facing right, Agrippina is draped facing left / NERONI CLAVD DIVI F CAES AVG GERM IMP TR P around, EX S C within oak wreath. RIC 1. BMC 6. C 6. CBN 5. Vagi 656. Calicó 399.

Image
Claudius & Nero AR Tetradrachm of Antioch, Syria. 50-54 AD. (eight in existence)

Image

How many images of Jesus made during his life do we have?

Tacitus (56 – 117), Histories, I–IV (c. 105), Tacitus, Annals, XIII–XVI (c. 117)
Tacitus grew up during a the reign of Nero, and may have been a teenager when Nero died and the Roman empire was plunged into civil war. In his later years he became interested in writing an unbiased account of those times, starting his account just before Tiberius came to the throne. We do not have a complete account of either the Annals or the Histories, but what has been preserved provides an interesting look at Roman life, written by one who lived close to those times. Yes, this is the same Tacitus who makes a brief reference to the crucifixion of a Christ. How many major references to Jesus are there by historians in his own lifetime?

Josephus (37 – c.100), War of the Jews, Books II–VI (c. 94). Josephus was sent as a young man in his early twenties for negotiations with Emperor Nero for the release of several Jewish priests.

Plutarch (46 – 120 ), was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia. The Live of Nero is extant only as fragments, but his work on Galba (75) includes significant detail about Nero.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (ca. 69/75 – after 130), was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of twelve successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian, entitled De Vita Caesarum. Suetonius mentions that the Christiani were active in Rome by the time of the fire of 64.


[center]Historical Details[/center]

His father was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus who was Consul of the Roman Empire together with Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus.
Image
How much do we know of Jesus' apparent father?

His mother was Julia Augusta Agrippina Empress of Rome, 49–54
Image
How many images of Jesus' mother do we have dating from her lifetime? How much is known about Jesus' mother?

His paternal grandfather was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 16 BC), his paternal grandmother was Antonia Major.
Image
His maternal grandfather was Germanicus Julius Caesar. Germanicus Germanicus wrote a Latin version of Aratus's Phainomena, which survives, for which reason he is ranked among Roman writers on astrology. His work was popular enough for scholia to be written on it, which have survived.
Image
His maternal grandmother was Vipsania Agrippina.
Image

Do we even have an accurate record of the names of Jesus' grandparents? All of Nero's grandparents are in the historical record. And we have the names of all eight of Nero's great-grandparents and thirteen of his sixteen of Nero's great-great-grandparents. (Missing: his father's father's mother' parents and his mother's mother's father's mother; three persons). Twenty-one of the thirty-two people in the next generation can be named, many with significant levels of details of their biographies. It makes the two contradictory alleged genealogies of Jesus pale in comparison. Of the mere 10 people listed in the five generations from the two genealogies of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, (Heli, Matthat, Levi, Melchi ) from Luke, (Jacob, Matthan, Eleazar, Eliud) from Matthew, virtually nothing is known other than their names.

Nero was born 15 December 37. What day of which year was Jesus born?

Nero was the Roman emperor from 13 October, 54 to 9 June, 68. It would be a gross understatement to say that the Roman empire during that period is well attested to. Nero was preceded by Claudius and succeeded by Galba when Nero died on 9 June 68 at his own hand. What day of which year did Jesus die? How well attested is the movement that Jesus is said to have founded during his own lifetime or even within two decades of his death?

[center]Lack of Viable Alternatives[/center]

Nero was one in a series of emperors which ruled an empire both prior to him and subsequent to him. There are no viable alternatives to him being emperor and doing emperor-like things. Jesus, on the other hand, is the nominal founder of the Church. Numerous theologians (Christian and otherwise) and historians have put forth alternatives to the notion that Jesus actually did the miracles attributed to him or that he was raised bodily from the dead. I need not assess these alternatives other than to point out that they are taken seriously by scholars and not dismissed out-of-hand. Thus, if there is even the smallest modicum of academic integrity, the claim that Nero performed the duties of Emperor is a more probable than the claims that Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead.

[center]Ordinary v Extraordinary Claim[/center]

Nero is said to have done many of the same things that other emperors, before and since, have done. His achievements, if believed, require no suspension of the observable principles of nature, physics, biology, meteorology, geology or history. The claims of Jesus' activity are, while not quite unique to him, are not the actions that can be verified to have been done by anyone else and require the suspension of the normal observable principles of nature, physics, biology, meteorology, geology and history. This common sense principle of having different levels of evidence necessary to support different types of claims, is in no way a presumption against the supernatural. It is merely that claims of improbable events, events that fly in the face of verifiable or observable types of activities, require more support, in order to be believed than those that don't. For example, the claim that Jesus taught about the kingdom and had crowds of followers is an ordinary claim. Preachers and evangelists then and now, hold sway, teach and inspire various numbers of followers. The bar is fairly low to support this claim. However, the claim that he could cure blindness with muddy spit is outside of what we call ordinary. No one has a confirmed instance of this happening. It is outside of the realm of what we have or even can observe. This claim must be viewed with more skepticism than the previous one. Similarly, the Nero Redivivus legend, a popular belief during the last part of the 1st century that Nero would return after his death in 68 AD can be easily dismissed.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

WinePusher

Post #9

Post by WinePusher »

Great post! I wish all debated like McCulloch.

Coins and Busts

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what do Coins and Busts indicate? Well, they merely indicate that the person they are created after existed which is not a point of disputation. Producing a coin or a sculpture of said person doesn't prove or establish what they did in life was actually true. Even so, all Roman Emperors had their image inscribed upon coins, how are we to determine which are genuine portrayals of Nero and which aren't? Are we supposed to blindly trust what the inscription says?

The problem with busts is that they are, for the most part, romanticized portrayals. Romanticized is the opposite from realism, it's a form of art and/or literature that contains features which deviate from reality in order to create a ideal and perfect situations. Refer to the sculpture below, which I believe is one of Aeneas, the hero of Vergil's Aeneid:

Image

Notice the unusual position and posture, and how he is standing so awkwardly. This shows that the sculptor intended to focus on a romanticized aspect of the person rather than a realistic aspect. The ancient sculptor was not interested in providing a realistic portrayal of their subject. Also, how are we supposed to know which bust is Nero if there is no objective image of Nero originating from that time period that we can compare it to?

Written Evidence: Tacitus, Josephus, Plutarch and Suetonius

One of the attacks skeptics level at apologists is that the Gospels are biased, therefore they aren't reliable. Yet, McCulloch uses sources that are biased in order to support his case. Yes, they're biased. It's called Patrician Bias. In Roman Society, the social order was broken down between Patricians and Plebians, Patricians were the upper class while Plebians were the lower class.

WinePusher

Post #10

Post by WinePusher »

Great post! I wish all debated like McCulloch.

Coins and Busts

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what do Coins and Busts indicate? Well, they merely indicate that the person they are created after existed which is not a point of disputation. Producing a coin or a sculpture of said person doesn't prove or establish what they did in life was actually true. Even so, all Roman Emperors had their image inscribed upon coins, how are we to determine which are genuine portrayals of Nero and which aren't? Are we supposed to blindly trust what the inscription says?

The problem with busts is that they are, for the most part, romanticized portrayals. Romanticized is the opposite from realism, it's a form of art and/or literature that contains features which deviate from reality in order to create a ideal and perfect situations. Refer to the sculpture below, which I believe is one of Aeneas, the hero of Vergil's Aeneid:

Image

Notice the unusual position and posture, and how he is standing so awkwardly. This shows that the sculptor intended to focus on a romanticized aspect of the person rather than a realistic aspect. The ancient sculptor was not interested in providing a realistic portrayal of their subject. Also, how are we supposed to know which bust is Nero if there is no objective image of Nero originating from that time period that we can compare it to?
McCulloch wrote:How many images of Jesus made during his life do we have?
None, but please rethink the legitimacy of this question. Why should we expect busts and sculptures of Jesus, a little messiah figure in the back waters of the Roman Empire who was eventually crucified, to be produced during his lifetime?

Written Evidence: Tacitus, Josephus, Plutarch and Suetonius

One of the attacks skeptics level at apologists is that the Gospels are biased, therefore they aren't reliable. Yet, McCulloch uses sources that are biased in order to support his case. Yes, they're biased. It's called Patrician Bias. In Roman Society, the social order was broken down between Patricians and Plebians, Patricians were the upper class while Plebians were the lower class. Tacitus qualifies, however Suetonious, Josephus and Plutarch don't. Tacitus may not have been operating as a completely objective historian, I will also note that Josephus' works are called into question when referencing Christ but are left unquestioned by McCulloch when he uses them to support his case about Nero. This goes to show that the problems of bias within ancient texts are not reasonable as all texts are biased in some shape or form.
McCulloch wrote:How many major references to Jesus are there by historians in his own lifetime?


Do the Gospels not count as major references to Jesus? Nero, being an emperor, would have attracted many historians and biographers to document his life. Jesus was a polemic preacher who was eventually deemed an enemy of the state, so there is no expectation for major references about him by outside historians. Yet, in light of this, we do have references to Jesus by three out of four of the historians McCulloch lists.

Historical Details

Knowing background information about a person's family isn't necessary, but it is helpful. McCulloch makes two claims:

1) That Nero's father was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus who was Consul of the Roman Empire together with Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus.
2) That Nero's mother was Julia Augusta Agrippina Empress of Rome, 49–54

He inadvertenly makes use of the Principle of Credulity, which states that if there is no good reason to doubt an occurence, it should be taken as truth.
McCulloch wrote:How much do we know of Jesus' apparent father?....
How many images of Jesus' mother do we have dating from her lifetime? How much is known about Jesus' mother?
1) Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and was the primary person who orchestrated the journey to Egypt where Jesus was born.
2) Mary was a Jew living in Galilee. We have no images of her surviving from her time, but we have good interpretative images (of her and Jesus) in artwork based off of the Renaissance.

Genealogies

The Genealogies that the Gospels list are abridged and inconcise Genealogies. There purpose was to show Christ's link to David, there purpose was not to provide a comprehensive listing of Jesus' family tree.
McCulloch wrote:Nero was born 15 December 37. What day of which year was Jesus born?...How well attested is the movement that Jesus is said to have founded during his own lifetime or even within two decades of his death?
1) Jesus was born ca. 5BC. How do you know that Nero was born on that day?
2) There are two claims about the movement attributed to Jesus, that it was large in number and that it unrelentlessly spread the Gospel in spite of persecution. Those two claims are well attested two and considered facts by contemporary scholars.

The Nature of Miracles

A large part of this debate hinges on what these two people actually did when they were alive. As McCulloch says, normal and natural feats are attributed to Nero while supernatural feats are attributed to Jesus. First, I would like to pose a question to McCulloch: Are Miracles Possible or Impossible? And what are the alternatives to explaining the miracles attributed to Jesus?

1) Perhaps the disciples and apostles fabricated all the miracles stories in order to give more credibility to their leader?
2) Perhaps all these miracles have natural explanations for their occurences and aren't actually/genuinely miracles?
3) Or perhaps Jesus was actually who he claimed to be and did genuinely perform miracles so that people might believe in him and his message?

In evaluating these three alternatives, explanations 1 and 2 are historically invalid because they assume far to much. The only assumption within explanation 3 is that God exists, and this God is theistic. So, if we approach this with an open mind, then explanation 3 becomes the best choice, in my opinion.

Post Reply