Instigator / Pro
21
1495
rating
9
debates
44.44%
won
Topic

Jesus of Nazareth existed

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
9
3
Sources points
6
6
Spelling and grammar points
3
3
Conduct points
3
3

With 3 votes and 6 points ahead, the winner is ...

Dustandashes
Parameters
More details
Publication date
Last update date
Category
Religion
Time for argument
Three days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
One month
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
30,000
Required rating
4
Contender / Con
15
1402
rating
44
debates
40.91%
won
Description
~ 0 / 5,000

No information

Round 1
Pro
Greetings, welcome to my first debate art debate. I would firstly like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate. I would like to thank the community for taking the time to read and judge this debate. Today's topic is whether Jesus of Nazareth existed. The case I will be presenting will be strictly historical. Now let me state unequivocally that I firmly believe in the New Testament and it's teachings and inspiration. That being said, I pretend, for the sake of this debate, that all I had were non-biblical sources to establish the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. 

I will use several of many historical witnesses from ancient history, and my opponent will then be given the chance to rebut these and explain why they feel these sources do not firmly establish the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Let me state now though, that the existence of Jesus is not disputed among reputable scholars. 

First source, and first mention:


CORNELIUS PUBLIUS TACITUS:

Roman historian and senator Cornelius Tacitus, when writing his "Annals" in the late first century/early second century, made a clear and specific reference to Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. 


But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their

centre and become popular.  Annals, Tacitus, 15:44

Here Tacitus gives reference to Christus, the founder of the movement, and references His death under Pontius Pilate. I believe the "superstition" Tacitus references is the Resurrection, but that is a debate for another day. 





SECOND REFERENCE, FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS:

Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also references Jesus Christ in his work "Antiquities of the Jews" 




Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law..  Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews" book 20.9.1) 




I could also quote the works of Lucian of Samosota, an ancient playwright who gives a reference to Jesus in his second century satire "The passing of Peregrine". Also could be quoted are the writings of Suetonius and Pliny, as well as the letter of Mara Bar Serapion, and the Jewish Talmud. 

I will leave off for here now. I believe the two quotes by reputable ancient historians are sufficient to establish that a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived in 1st century Palestine and started the Christian religion. 


If my opponent does not agree with this resolution, then my ending demand is for my opponent to better explain the founding of Christianity apart from Jesus. My opponent needs to not only dismiss the historical evidence, but also create a counter-theory as to how Christianity was founded, and show why that theory is superior to the one that is most supported by the facts. That Jesus actually lived and preached, starting a new movement. 

I look forward to hearing my opponent's treatment of the historical evidence presented, as well as hearing my opponent's alternative theory. 

Thank you all!


ICXCNIKA
Con
You're arguing in good faith.  Excellent Start. 

What year did Tacitus Write that? Because that has a lot to do with the accuracy of it. 

Same question for Josephus.  What year? 

Your other quotes were vague, but I get the picture.



I agree with the part of your resolution about historical arguments.  I'm not sure if I agree with the second part where I need an alternative.  That's an argument from ignorance fallacy.  

You're saying "We don't know, but idea X is best, so it's true"

This does not logically follow. 

However, I will admit that if you can prove it necessary for the starting of Christianity, then it will require more heavy lifting on my part. 


So the historical documents.  All of them are written long after Jesus Died.  

Actually, they were written long after the grandchildren of the people who would have seen jesus die. 

Some are even further up than that. 


There are pretty well laid out standards for historical claims and historians don't think Jesus was real, so why should I believe over them? 

Since histories not on your side, I think that settles it there for you. 


As for your claim about alternatives.  I'll fully consider that when you prove jesus necessary for the faith to have existed. 


In the mean time I'll do a couple hypotheticals in good faith that you'll be ready for me. 


1. Christianity Came From Judaism.

Just establishing this before we dive in. 

The Old Testament wrote a prophecy for the messiah.  It is possible that one or possibly even many Jews tried to fulfill the prophecy and it would not have been difficult to pass of such lies.  Even in the modern era, people get scammed by religious cult leaders all the time.  this is no different. 

It is possible that One of those priests succeeding in pulling off the messiah lie. 

Another possibility is that all of the candidates for the messiah got lumped into a archetype the same way JP suggests. 

Some Guy did exist, but he was a total can artist and his name was probably "Bob Christer"  and he changed his name and became the fake messiah. 


Moving forward, I have one question. 


Does jesus in your argument have the super powers? 



Round 2
Pro
Greetings again, I would like to thank my opponent for his response. My opponent has chosen to go the route of calling into question the historical validity of my citations from the works of Tacitus and Josephus by asking me "when were they written." My opponent seeks to cast doubt on these historical works by insinuating they are simply too late in the first and second century to have adequately documented anything valid in regards to Jesus. In other words, my opponent wants contemporaneous accounts of Jesus. 

My opponent however, is not taking into account the basic facts of historiography. The quotations from Tacitus and Josephus are exceptional in the historical world. Let's take some other historical figures into account:


PYTHAGORAS:


There is no reputable historian that I know of who questions the historicity of Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. His widely popular theorem is still used in mathematics across the world. However, there are no known contemporary accounts of Pythagoras. None. The first account we have of Pythagoras comes from around 150 years after Pythagoras lived. 

First, Pythagoras himself wrote nothing, so our knowledge of Pythagoras’ views is entirely derived from the reports of others. Second, there was no extensive or authoritative contemporary account of Pythagoras. No one did for Pythagoras what Plato and Xenophon did for Socrates. Third, only fragments of the first detailed accounts of Pythagoras, written about 150 years after his death, have survived 

If my opponent is going to disregard Tacitus and Josephus on Jesus, my opponent must be consistent and doubt the historicity of Pythagoras. 



ALEXANDER THE GREAT


Again, no reputable historian that I know of questions whether Alexander the great existed. They may call into question some things Alexander did, but that he existed is not called into question. Here's the issue, the first accounts of him come from a man named Arrian who wrote of Alexander's military campaigns writing in the late second century A.D.. This is a dramatic discrepancy considering Alexander died in the mid 300s B.C. Again, these types of time gaps are not an issue for historians.


JUDAS MACCABEUS:

This one hits home a bit more, because my opponent is willing to disregard what Josephus wrote concerning Jesus. I will ask my opponent a question, are you willing to disregard the very same Josephus on Jewish revolutionary Judas Maccabeus? Josephus devotes some time discussing the Jewish revolutionary Judas Maccabeus in the very same book he references Jesus. Here's the issue, Jospheus was writing in the late first century A.D. Maccabues lived around 166 B.C.

EMPEROR TIBERIUS:


Using a similar parallel for Tacitus, my opponent is willing to disregard what Tacitus wrote about Jesus, is my opponent willing to disregard what Tacitus wrote about emperor Tiberius? Tacitus and Tiberius were not contemporary, and the year gap between them was roughly the same between him and the Lord Jesus. Tacitus chronicles several details of Tiberius's life in his book. 


So, if my opponent is to be consistent, none of these figures should have existed. The accounts of them are far too late. 


Secondly, allow me to address my opponent's charge of the argument from ignorance fallacy. I never stated "we don't know but idea x is best so it's true." I stated 

"Idea x is best supported by the evidence, any alternative theory (y) needs to be supported with equal evidence."

Now, getting into my opponent's rebuttal of my demand that an alternative history of the formation of the church needs to be addressed, firstly, in this particular debate I am not calling into question whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. I believe He is, however, what this debate is about is whether or not He existed. Not whether He is the Messiah, and the same goes for your question:

"does Jesus in your argument have superpowers."

This is hardly relevant, as the debate was about the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, which many atheists assert that he did not exist. This debate does not address the Divinity of Christ, which we could save for a future debate. 


In summary, my opponent has not handled the historical evidence carefully enough. My opponent simply dismissed credible ancient historians on the account of "They're too late." My opponent is now faced with several other historical figures from which we derive primary sources sometimes centuries after their existence. 

My opponent has not come up with a satisfactory theory of how Christianity came to be without Jesus. 


For these reasons, the resolution stands. 

Thank you all!


ICXCNIKA

Con
I'll keep this simple. 


Your evidence only shows that people mentioned Jesus, it doesn't prove they were telling the truth.  

It is only the opinions of people quoted who happened to have heard the extremely popular Jesus story. 


Furthermore, it is fallacious to say that your claim is proven because there is no alternative theory, that is not true. 

The theory has to fall or stand on it's own merits.  Theories don't use the principle of "being right by default" and that's what you're trying to say here. 

The only other theory that matters is the negation of your theory "Jesus doesn't exist"  or any other theory that is more likely, but that wouldn't prove the more likely theory, it would just show the unlikeliness of your theory. 


Now, getting into my opponent's rebuttal of my demand that an alternative history of the formation of the church needs to be addressed, firstly, in this particular debate I am not calling into question whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. I believe He is, however, what this debate is about is whether or not He existed. Not whether He is the Messiah, and the same goes for your question:
This was what you said earlier.  You can't have it both ways.  If the jesus that you're talking about actually existed, then you have to assume what the accounts are telling you.  You can't use the accounts as evidence and then discount the parts that don't fit your evidence.  That's Ad Hoc arguing.  The accounts clearly state him as being claimed the messiah. 

So if there was more than one "messiah" then we have no way of knowing if any of them existed and most historians would probably lead to the conclusion that jesus was not an actual man, but rather an Archertype that was extrapolated from those other "messiahs" 

Furthermore, historical evidence is limited in it's application.  Even historians know that even there best assessments can easily be wrong. Without artifacts to verify this, It's all speculation. 



No need to be sensitive about the super power thing.  I just wanted to know more about your position. 


Your floor. 
Round 3
Pro
Thank you again for your response, I apologize if I came across a little strong in response to your superpower question, I was just trying to keep the debate on track, it wasn't personal. In my defense I am used to debating some pretty mean people, it seems a little more relaxed at this site. Sorry again. 

Moving on, I think I will use this round to respond to some things that you have brought up. I will use this round as a sort of cross examination. 

Your evidence only shows that people mentioned Jesus, it doesn't prove they were telling the truth.  

It is only the opinions of people quoted who happened to have heard the extremely popular Jesus story. 
Ok, so, not only could this literally be said about every figure from ancient history, but it just isn't a reasonable level of skepticism. Let's say this was about you and I. Let's say that there were a group of historians from the future trying to figure out if Wrick it Ralph existed. After scouring some old internet archives, they came across some old quotes from a debate moderator saying "One of our members Wrick it Ralph destroyed some guy in a debate about Jesus." Let's say we only had about two or three short lines like that. This is about 1000 years in the future. 

One could point to these quotes from the archives and say "See, Wrick it Ralph was a real user! Not just a debate legend." 

However, some person with an anti-Ralph bias could say:

Your evidence only shows that people mentioned Wrick It Ralph, it doesn't prove they were telling the truth.  

It is only the opinions of people quoted who happened to have heard the extremely popular Wrick it Ralph story. 

Is this a justifiable level of skepticism? What WOULD prove they were telling the truth? Are the facts that they mentioned you as a real person not enough??




Moving on, again, the same level you apply to Jesus, can easily be applied to Pythagoras, or any other historical figure out there, namely the ones I mentioned. I would like to point out that I do not believe the list of historical figures I brought up were handled adequately. 


This was what you said earlier.  You can't have it both ways.  If the jesus that you're talking about actually existed, then you have to assume what the accounts are telling you.  You can't use the accounts as evidence and then discount the parts that don't fit your evidence.  That's Ad Hoc arguing.  The accounts clearly state him as being claimed the messiah
Yes, the accounts do state Him as claiming to be the Messiah. And I do believe He claimed to be the Messiah. I do believe He IS the Messiah, however, it's just not in the scope of the debate to question whether or not He is the Messiah, we're trying to establish His existence first, I'm certainly not discounting the parts that talk about Him being called Christ, I'm simply saying His Messiaship is not yet relevant to the discussion. 


So if there was more than one "messiah" then we have no way of knowing if any of them existed and most historians would probably lead to the conclusion that jesus was not an actual man, but rather an Archertype that was extrapolated from those other "messiahs" 
What other "messiahs" would those be? And if they were real people why could not Jesus have been one of them?


Furthermore, historical evidence is limited in it's application.  Even historians know that even there best assessments can easily be wrong. Without artifacts to verify this, It's all speculation. 
I think you pretty much just discarded the vast majority of ancient history. 


Again, Tacitus and Josephus, I believe I have shown, do not need to be treated with your level of skepticism. That would make ancient studies virtually impossible, and lead us into historical solipsism .
Con
Excellent response.  Lets dive in. 

You said:


Your evidence only shows that people mentioned Wrick It Ralph, it doesn't prove they were telling the truth.  

It is only the opinions of people quoted who happened to have heard the extremely popular Wrick it Ralph story. 

Is this a justifiable level of skepticism? What WOULD prove they were telling the truth? Are the facts that they mentioned you as a real person not enough??


Well if you're talking about the Wrick It Ralph you're talking about.  There's plenty of evidence for me, so they don't have to rely on testimony at all.  They can just walk up to me and  meet me. 


But let's say I was a historical figure.  I would say that people are not justified to say that Wrick It Ralph existed in this case.  Even if it would be really cool that I was named after a historical figure. 


You said: 
Is this a justifiable level of skepticism? What WOULD prove they were telling the truth? Are the facts that they mentioned you as a real person not enough??
To the first question, Yes, it's a justified level of skepticism.  

To the second question.  Nothing can prove their testimony because they didn't live in the right time period.  The only way to prove them right would be to prove the claim Jesus existed, which would render their testimony redundant.

No, the fact that they said he was real is not enough.  They didn't live in Jesus's lifetime, so they never could have met Jesus.  Therefore, their testimony is necessarily not justified.  They could be right, but it doesn't matter, because they don't have evidence anymore than you do. 

You said:
Moving on, again, the same level you apply to Jesus, can easily be applied to Pythagoras, or any other historical figure out there, namely the ones I mentioned. I would like to point out that I do not believe the list of historical figures I brought up were handled adequately. 
I agree that any potential historical figure that has the same level of evidence as Jesus should not be accepted.  As for other historical figures, they meet a standard of evidence that Jesus did not.  Some of them raised armies and left physical evidence of themselves everywhere.  We have no physical evidence for Jesus.  Not a cloth nary a beard among it. 


Yes, the accounts do state Him as claiming to be the Messiah. And I do believe He claimed to be the Messiah. I do believe He IS the Messiah, however, it's just not in the scope of the debate to question whether or not He is the Messiah, we're trying to establish His existence first, I'm certainly not discounting the parts that talk about Him being called Christ, I'm simply saying His Messiaship is not yet relevant to the discussion. 
Well you're just splitting hairs here.  We're talking about the history of a biblical figure, so if The Bible predicts a messiah and Jesus is the messiah, then it actually does matter because other wise you could just say it was any guy named Jesus walking around during 20 AD. 

It could be Jesus Jones. 
Or Jesus Peters. 
Or John Jesus Jinglemeyer down the street. 

I think it matters a lot. 


You said:

What other "messiahs" would those be? And if they were real people why could not Jesus have been one of them?
Excellent question and it gets to the heart of the problem.  If there were multiple messiahs around, how can we tell which one was real?  What if none of them were actually name Jesus but somebody just named him Jesus after the fact?  Would it even matter which messiah they picked to be the real one?  What if Jesus was one they didn't pick? 


There's too many variables and it was over 2,000 years ago.  The problem isn't ONLY the history end, it's the fact that it was a long time ago.  

It happened during a time when we didn't have a lot of good evidence for things. 

If this was evidence about artifacts, it would be easier. 

But we're talking about one specific person existing.  That makes it difficult. 





In conclusion, I don't really see any good evidence that should get us past "I don't know"   and saying we don't know is a lot different than saying it happened or even than saying it was likely. 






I thank my opponent for the debate and commend him on taking an evidentiary approach to this.