A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

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Jagella
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A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

Post #1

Post by Jagella »

Some of you may be familiar with the argument from silence advanced by many mythicists in which it is claimed that the historians of the early first century never mentioned Jesus. If he really lived, then how could they have missed him? One person in particular who might be expected to have mentioned Jesus is Philo of Alexandria. Richard Carrier writes:
Philo made pilgrimages to Jerusalem and knew about Palestinian affairs and wrote about the Herods and Pontius Pilate. And Christians must have begun evangelizing the Jewish community in Alexandria almost immediately: it was the single largest population center, with a large and diverse Jewish Community, almost directly adjacent to Judea, along a well-established trade route well traveled by Jewish pilgrims. So it's not as if Philo would not have heard of their claims even if he had never left Egypt; and yet we know he did, having traveled to Judea and Rome. Moreover, Philo just happens to be one Jew of the period whose work Christians bothered to preserve. He would not have been alone. (1)
To counter this argument, historicists have come up with an ad hoc explanation: Jesus was a small-time preacher who would not have been noticed by historians like Philo. Although this argument might seem superficially convincing, it argues against another historicist claim: Jesus inspired the New Testament writers to make a god out of him decades after he died.

So will the real Jesus please stand up? Was Jesus so small-time that nobody bothered to write about him while he yet lived, or was he such a powerful, big-time figure that many years after his death he was deified?

(1) Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Sheffield, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, Page 294

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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

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Post by Wootah »

[Replying to Jagella]

In general terms many famous people are famous after their death.

Its not such a major issue.
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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

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Post by Jagella »

Wootah wrote: [Replying to Jagella]

In general terms many famous people are famous after their death.

Its not such a major issue.
You might be missing my point. To preserve a historical Jesus, historicists make conflicting claims about him. To counter the argument from silence, they say he wasn't noticeable while living. To make him the man who inspired the New Testament, they must make him out to be a man who was in fact noticed but many years after lying in a lonely grave. While not impossible, this scenario is unlikely to be historical.

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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

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Post by Wootah »

[Replying to post 3 by Jagella]

No I think my answer makes sense of it. It's not uncommon to become famous in death rather than in life.
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Post by Divine Insight »

Everyone has to assess this for themselves, but for me only one conclusion makes sense.

The Gospel authors claim that Jesus was well-known and that people from far off nations were coming to be healed by Jesus. That requires that Jesus was in fact quite popular and well-known even in "far-off" nations. Of course, back in those days, "far off" could pretty much mean the next nation over.

Still, if Jesus was this famous then I would expect to see historical writings about Jesus in the history of these other nations. Yet we don't see anything. There simply is no historical record outside of the Gospels.

So for me, absence of this independent historical evidence is a clear indication that at the very best the claims made about Jesus in the Gospels are highly exaggerated, if not totally false.

In fact, I go further and point out that the authors of these Gospels also have God himself speaking from the clouds proclaiming Jesus to be his Son. From my perspective this is nothing short of extreme desperation on the part of these authors to try to convince their readers of extremely outrageous things about Jesus.

I personally have huge problems with a God speaking from the clouds to verify that Jesus is his Son. For one thing, if a God had done that, this would mean that God himself did not expect anyone to believe in Jesus directly. After all, why should God need to verify that Jesus is his Son if Jesus himself was so convincing?

Not only this, but this also flies in the face of the idea that we are supposed to believe in these entire stories without having either met Jesus in person, or heard any God speaking from any cloud.

In other words, why should we have to believe in Jesus based on nothing more than extremely questionable and self-contradictory ancient stories, while the people back then supposedly not only met Jesus in person, but saw him performing miracles, and then being raised from the dead, and also having God speak out from the clouds.

As far as I'm concerned there's just way too many problems with these ancient stories. In fact, I would have every justification for not believing them. The idea that this God would condemn me for not believing in such incredible and unverified tales that contain so many contradictions is itself absurd.

The mere fact that this religion claims that non-belief in Jesus is grounds for condemnation is proof of its fraudulent nature as far as I'm concerned.

And I haven't even bothered to mention the myriad of problems and self-contradictions in the Old Testament stories that must be believed before we even consider Jesus being the Son of Yahweh.

As far as I'm concerned this religion shoots itself in the foot in the Old Testament. And the stories of Jesus don't do anything to remedy those problems. In anything the stories of Jesus have their own self-contradictory problems. It's not better, it's just more of the same nonsense. I just don't know how else to put it.

The Bible is even immoral, including the idea that a God would send his Son to be crucified by his very own corrupt priests to become the centerfold of his religious Holy Book.

I just don't agree with the moral compass of this God if he were real. Yet he's supposed to be the epitome of morality. It simply doesn't add up.
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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

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Post by Divine Insight »

Wootah wrote: [Replying to post 3 by Jagella]

No I think my answer makes sense of it. It's not uncommon to become famous in death rather than in life.
The problem is that this doesn't match up with the Gospel Testimony. According to the Gospels Jesus was famous in life. So trying to make him become famous after death doesn't match up with the Gospel stories.
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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

Post #7

Post by Mithrae »

[Replying to post 1 by Jagella]

The population of Judea in Jesus' day was around 1 million, possibly even as much as twice that. The smaller but more fertile region of Galilee may have had similar numbers. It is estimated that as many as 1 million Jews died in the first revolt of 66-73CE (Josephus' figure is 1.1 million), and yet enough apparently remained to attempt a second revolt scarcely 60 years later.

The biggest crowd recorded in the gospels included 5,000 men. Even assuming that figure to be accurate and unembellished and that traveling around the region he'd managed to attract a dozen such crowds on different occasions, without overlap, it would still be probably less than 10% of Galilee's population even hearing Jesus preach, let alone witnessing and believing any alleged miracles - and much less in Judea, where he was less active.

Of course to simple fisher-folk following him around that might seem like Jesus was a massive superstar who everyone in the world was hearing about; such descriptive language can be found in the gospels. But based on the actual figures included, and his actual deeds - the most noteworthy 'accomplishment' in his own lifetime from any historian's perspective was attacking some money changers in the temple courtyard one year, which was probably a significant factor in his subsequent death - there's no particular reason to suppose that he would receive any mention by Philo even if the gospel stories were true and unembellished.

Quite possibly of course, the crowds were not even as large and fascinated by Jesus as the gospels imply, and the miracle stories are even more questionable.

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Post by Furrowed Brow »

If we allow for embellishment it is easy to see how Jesus and the early the disciples went more or less unnoticed. Claims of multitudes and some of the crowds coming from afar to see Jesus is a puzzle given the historical silence.

At the trial Pontius Pilate seems to have no idea who Jesus is or seems that concerned. He is administering a local dispute he'd like off his plate. It is doubtful he realised he was dealing with a man who could walk on water and raise people from the dead. And if he did know those claims his disinterest would point to him clearly not believing them.

Barely registering with the Romans we do know Jesus did enough to tick off the Jewish leaders, priest and council. The charges were political but were a question of a local disorder. If the trial was of little concern to the Romans then they have no reason to give it special record. It was just one trial amongst tens of thousands in the history of the empire. This line of though points to just how unimportant Jesus' ministry was at the time.

If the deification happened much later after Jesus' death then that is an argument that it is nothing more than propaganda. But let's look at this other way. If the idea Jesus was divine was fermented within Jesus' original ministry that is plausible too. But that gives credence to the marginal nature of the ministry with the news of his divinity kept local and within his immediate followers.If for example there was stories of people walking on water and raising of the dead I'd expect those stories to spread rapidly and afar raising the chances of Pontius Pilate being far more well informed at the trial and the chances of records and writings about Jesus in his own lifetime. All this points to only a very few number of people making public announcements to the major miracles in Jesus' lifetime or maybe even keeping hem quiet.

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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

Post #9

Post by Goose »

Jagella wrote:Some of you may be familiar with the argument from silence advanced by many mythicists in which it is claimed that the historians of the early first century never mentioned Jesus.
Patently false claim. Two historians from the first century who record events of the first century Judaea mention Jesus – i.e. Tacitus and Josephus.
One person in particular who might be expected to have mentioned Jesus is Philo of Alexandria.
Using your reasoning we must also conclude Christians didn’t exist either since Philo fails to mention them.

For an argument from silence to carry weight it's not enough to simply argue something/someone wasn't mentioned. There are many reasons why something/someone may not be mentioned. You have to establish why we would expect Philo to mention Jesus if he knew about him. And the location Philo should have mentioned Jesus.

Philo wasn’t writing a history of first century Judaea. Although Philo does, for example, mention Pilate (in his Embassy to Gaius ) he does so in context to his overall argument regarding the plight of the Jews. How would Jesus, a rebellious blaspheming messiah claimant crucified at the request of the Jews and for treason by the Romans, have fit in or helped Philo’s case here? Assuming Philo was around at the time of Jesus and did know about him, Philo probably didn’t mentioned Jesus for the same reason he didn’t mention Christians. Because they, along with Jesus, were known to be a trouble making Jewish cult and bringing them up would only hurt Philo’s case, not help it.
Was Jesus so small-time that nobody bothered to write about him while he yet lived, or was he such a powerful, big-time figure that many years after his death he was deified?
It depends upon the perspective from which one asks. Think of it from the other way. Why didn’t the followers of Jesus (or Jews in general) write lengthy biographies about Pilate or Tiberius? Well, why would they? Romans wrote about Romans. Jews wrote about Jews and so on.

From a Roman perspective Jesus was a troublesome Jew convicted and crucified for treason. Hardly worthy of more than a mere derogatory mention; a happenstance remark as the result of recording other more important events. Which is exactly what we get from Tacitus in regards to mentioning Jesus.

From a Jewish (i.e. the non-believing Jews) perspective Jesus was just another failed messiah claimant. And a troublesome blaspheming one at that. Again, not worth much more than a mention in this regard which is basically what Jesus gets from Josephus.

From the perspective of Jesus’ followers he was the unique Son of God. Which would explain why we have four ancient biographies all within 70 years. And numerous letters and so on.

Luke’s opening words in his Gospel are also suggestive here. He tells us that, “many have undertaken to set down an orderly account.� Was Luke referring to Mark's Gospel (and maybe Matthew)? Or perhaps something like Q? It seems unlikely Luke had just one or two written narratives in mind when he said “many.� So how many is many? Well, we don’t know. But it seems likely that by “many� Luke meant more than Mark and Matthew.
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Re: A Major Conflict in Jesus Historicity

Post #10

Post by DanieltheDragon »

[Replying to post 2 by Wootah]

This begs the question though doesn't it? What about his death made him famous? Why was he executed?

If he was executed as a political/religious revolutionary he would have had to have had enough notoriety/fame in the region to be a big enough threat worthy of execution in such a public manner. Hence the proposition is contradictory.

If he wasn't famous during his life he wouldn't have gained enough attention to be worthy of execution. If he was executed for his religious/political beliefs it was because he was famous.
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