Why The Evidence For Jesus Hasn't Convinced Me, Yet

I have heard quite a few questions about Jesus lately, and always respond that I'm not convinced of the fellows existence to the consternation of many. I've thought about writing a little myTake about this a lot lately but kept putting it off. I finally finished reading through Dr. Carrier's peer-reviewed book, On The Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. I would highly recommend this book if you wanted the best argument for the non-existence of Jesus, but I'll just give a very brief discussion on some of the more prominent arguments for Jesus' existence that do not convince me and explain why so I don't have to keep writing the same thing each time.

Why The Evidence For Jesus Hasn't Convinced Me, Yet

It is important to clarify that the discussion here is not about the magical Jesus that changes water into wine and meets kings etc. This is about the various historical Jesus' posited. Also, whether or not some historical Jesus exists doesn't bother me either way, I just found this topic interesting.

Authentic Paulean Epistles

The paulean epistles are widely regarded to be the earliest writings of the New Testament being written within 30-50 years of Jesus' supposed death. Historians will point out that this is pretty rapid, and is the best evidence for early christian belief. If the epistles say that Jesus was historical then it's most likely that he was. People who promote the historical Jesus will point to two passages as evidence for a historical Jesus:

Romans 1

This passage is important to the historical position because of verse three in which it says Jesus, "came from the seed of David according to the flesh". The historicist argument is pretty straight forward, if Jesus came from the line of David (genealogy) and was born then he obviously was historical.

My problem with this passage is several fold. First, this is necessary according to Old Testament prophecy. It makes sense for this line to be fabricated because the Messiah needed to come from the line of David. Second, Paul never says here that Jesus was born, had a father, or anything of that nature. Thirdly, Paul uses a very strange word here. When Paul talks about normal human birth he always uses the greek word "gennaô", but here he uses a different word "ginomai". This second word, "ginomai" is never used for human birth and instead appears to mean something more akin to "manufactured" it is the word Paul also uses to describe the manufacture of Adam's body which obviously was made by god and not a natural birth. Later Christians were disturbed by this and we actually have evidence that they tried to change Paul's words to get rid of this problem.

Galations 4

This passage is important to the historical argument because it says, "God sent forth His Son, born [made] of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons". Easily, if Jesus was born of Mary, or any woman then he was a historical person.

Again however, this seems problematic. Firstly, this also has rhetorical or a theological purpose. In order for us to become brothers of the Lord we need to be of the same mother. This is explicitly stated "that we might receive the adoption". Secondly, if the whole chapter is read it appears to be quite obvious that the "woman" being referenced is an allegorical tool. He's not talking about a real woman, but our own sinful nature which breaks the "law". He later in the same chapter explains that he is talking about the bondwoman. Lastly, the word again used here is "ginomai" and not "gennao" which is troublesome for the reasons aforementioned.

Galations 1

Lastly, this passage is also proffered as evidence that Paul believed in an earthly, historical Jesus. The verse in particular that is given is, "But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother." Again, the point is clear, if Jesus had a historical brother, then he obviously was historical.

My issue here is that it isn't as clear as people make it to be. Firstly, we know that Christians utilize fictive kinship language, Paul consistently calls the church "brothers and sisters" and his other writings, ie Galations 4, make clear that all Christians are adopted brothers of the lord. We don't know whether or not Paul is intending to talk about an actual earthly biological brother, or utilizing this kinship language. Secondly, people will often pretend, or perhaps actually think, that this verse says, "James, the brother of Jesus" which may be better evidence for this biological relationship, but he doesn't, he says "Brother of the Lord" which I must say seems like a strange way to write it. Lastly, the context of this passage is that Paul is repeatedly and emphatically stating that he did not receive the message of Christ by men, rather he received it by revelation. In order to provide evidence for this he mentions all the people he met in Jerusalem three years after he had the revelation where he met Peter the apostle, and this other guy, James.

Additional Problems

That's it. This is problematic to me. Why would Paul's epistles be so void of the tale of Jesus' earthly life? Why didn't he mention Jesus' disciples? Why didn't he mention Pilate, the Sanhedrin, Jesus' travels, Pilate executing Jesus etc? This seems very strange. Paul also says that the only way he knew, and apparently anyone knew, about Jesus was from revelation. This wouldn't make sense if there was a historical Jesus who proselytized and walked around Judea.

Gospels

I actually won't go into detail on these because most people acknowledge and admit that they can't be used as evidence, but I'll briefly explain why. The gospels can't be used as evidence because they're quite wildly deliberately fictional, appear to be extended allegories, and contradict each other in many ways. I may speak more about this another day, but I'll just point out that every professor that has studied the subject point out that the methodology utilized to get historical information out of the gospels has shown that they're either fallacious in nature or fallaciously applied.

I'll now address the secular mentions of Jesus that are given and point out why they haven't yet convinced me.

Joshephus

Josephus was a very reliable (for antiquity) "secular" meaning non-Christian Jewish historian who may have made a few references to Jesus 60 years after Jesus' supposed death. The argument of course being that if Josephus, a well known and reliable historian, knew that Jesus existed then he probably existed. There are two specific references pointed out:

James The Brother

"brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James," This passage doesn't seem Josephan at all and the researchers show that parts are likely an interpolation, namely, "the Christ." Josephus, a non-Christian jew, would not call Jesus the Christ. Secondly, Josephus as a reliable historian writing for a non-Jewish audience would have to define what the term "Christ" meant and he never does.

If this phrase is removed then we would simply have "brother of Jesus who's name was James". But which Jesus are we talking about? Josephus at the end of this passage talks about, "Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest" which would make more sense to me.

The Testimonium

The Testimonium Flavianum is incredibly problematic. It's fawning over Jesus and strange placement in the text makes no sense as being written by Josephus, this is very obvious, so I'm going to give the whole quote so you can read yourself.

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared

All scholars agree that this portion is an obvious Christian fabrication/ interpolation, but some still try to redeem the passage by saying that while it has been altered, it's likely that there was still some mention to Jesus here. Why? I don't know; however, even if so there's no way to tell what and thus this isn't good evidence to me. Additionally, no one knew about this passage until Eusebius was writing in 324AD, not even the fellow who owned the library before him.

Pliny

I don't know why, but many people will also talk about Pliny's interrogation of Christians as a proof for Jesus' existence. Pliny had no idea who the Christians were and had no idea what they believed as of 110AD and had to interrogate (torture) the Christians to find out what they believed. He never discusses a historical Jesus, just that they worship Jesus, a god.

This doesn't seem like evidence to me. We know that the gospels were in circulation by this time, and none of these people had met a historical Jesus, they were just reciting various beliefs.

Suetonius & Tacitus

These two passages compliment each other. Suetonius was writing about 20 years before Tacitus, but both reference the persecution of "Christians" during the reign of Nero. Again, this doesn't have anything to do with Jesus, rather it's about "Christians" thus this provides no evidence for Jesus. However, this doesn't even appear to be true. Suetonius told us repeatedly about the rebel Chrestus in 49AD, and says that the followers of Chrestus were in fact expelled. Tacitus' reference to Christians has also been shown (via ultra-violet examination) was actually tampered with and it had originally said Chrestians, not Christians. This seems quite telling to me.

Random Arguments

Those are the main arguments, and why I don't find them convincing yet. Here, I'll add two more random ones that seem to come up a lot.

Argument from embarrassment.

This argument is basically, "a dying god would have been incredibly embarrassing to the Jews and it's not a story they would ever come up with." This argument simply doesn't hold water. In fact Isaiah talks about the "suffering servant" and had long been believed to be a messianic prophecy. Additionally, lots of embarrassing religions were really successful at this time, one such example was a religion in which all of the priests had to castrate themselves.

Argument from recency.

This argument is basically, "the gospels were written so quickly after Jesus' death that nay-sayers could easily have decried this and pointed out that in fact he never existed." There are two problems with this. Firstly, that it wasn't that quick and rapid legendary developments can and in fact does happen. The gospels are typically dated to ~70-90AD. Taking the earliest we're still looking at about a 40 year gap in antiquity. This was the average human lifespan back then. The gospel writers (not the disciples, but pretending) were not children when they supposedly met Jesus. They were adults, and to be generous I'll say they were 20. This means that these authors were supposedly 60 (highly unlikely) at the time of writing and anyone who would have met and dealt with Jesus were at the very least 40-50 years old. Not likely to remember or have the ability to write a rebuttal. We also know that rapid legendary development can and does occur. In fact, even today in the information age it only took 30 years for thousands of people to believe that an entire UFO and alien body were recovered at Roswell... Secondly, the Christians were in charge of what information survived the middle ages. They weren't likely to preserve any information that criticized their religion.

Why The Evidence For Jesus Hasn't Convinced Me, Yet

Anyway, long one I know, but I tried to be as brief as possible. If you're aware of anything I missed please let me know. Also, if you think my understanding of the ones I mentioned were wrong feel free to call me out. For far better work visit Dr. Carrier's works or site. Thanks for reading!


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Most Helpful Girl

  • I also have a theorie that the Flavian dynasty created the mythos of Jesus to fall in line acording to Mythraism and other sun god religions. The concept of the last supper actually comes from Mithras cult and it’s not quite kosher to eat anything symbolic of human flesh or blood.

    Lastly Messanic Judaism was considered dangerous by the Romans. The Romans were content to let other conquered people to worship other gods as long as they worshiped the Roman emperor who is a symbol of the sun. This angered the Jews because they are monotheistic. Thus the Jews hid away their original writings being the Dead Sea scrolls and they shifted from Messanic Judaism to Rabbinic Judaism in order to survive.

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    • Perchance, just be wary of what information you accept as there's a lot of trash mythicism out there.

    • Yeah I kind of did a lot of reasearch and put the pieces together. I also studies gnostic Christianity

    • Yes, theory after theory. But yet, the real myth here, is that people believe a mythical person was the most powerful person in all history. Jesus was a real person, mentioned by, I believe, the historian Josephus. It was his life, death, and resurrection, that made him the most powerful person in all history. That is how he was able to influence the whole world, to a degree that no one else has ever done. You believe a mythical person did this? And you think I'm the one believing in a myth?

Most Helpful Guy

  • I take my faith from indirect logic. Just as you I am highly critical on the old texts. I might say that the Bible texts have much information between the lines. I admit that you are much more well-read than I am. I see that you have studied a large amount of information. And seemingly, it does not fully convince you. I like this: we should not agree to something unless we are convinced. Partly, the confusion comes from unlucky translations, I guess. There is also misinformation (traditions, folklore) lurking in the background that was gathered over the centuries. Like dust on a picture; it distorts our perception? One other thing I believe to see is that although we are often able to reasonably translate texts, we may have trouble to understand the way people used language long time ago. As recent examples: look at terms such as 'dating', 'ghosting', 'gay', 'centrefold', 'playboy', etc. / Language evolves and mutates. There is a chance that we do not see implications that have been obvious ca. 2000 years ago. And our own terms will be irritating to people in 4018 (if we last that long). I am no genius, but perhaps some things are not yet discovered?
    The (my) indirect logic that I mentioned is for example the inability to stop people from believing that Jesus existed, right when they began to do so. The Romans had the highest interest to get rid of Christians. If they would have had a tool to prove his non-existence - they would have used it. They were not dumb. Look at all the intelligence that was present also in those days. I could perhaps list more here, but I don't try to 'recruit' you here, now and right away. It looks to me as if you WANT to find a positive answer to your question if there is one. You already have looked at lots of places. You could look at places now, where you didn't look until now?

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    • No no, we agree on a lot. I'll try to itemize my response for ease.
      1.) What do you mean by indirect logic?
      2.) Languages most certainly mutate and even at the same time people use the exact same words in different ways. I always loved the example of "faggot". If you talk to people today fag means different things within different communities and even within different people within the same community. The reference to Paul's specific usage is, I think, valid because we're comparing Paul's use of the word to Paul's use of the word.
      3.) My point here is about why I don't accept the evidence thus far posited, new evidence can certainly change my mind. As I stated, the historicity issue isn't of import to me, I just find it interesting.
      4.) The Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic and tends to be exaggerated, but you have to remember that Christians eventually took charge of all of Rome and determined what information we get to have today.

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    • It is me to say thank you. Last night I continued some own research, because you inspired it.

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What Girls Said 9

  • oh come one, if you don't want to believe in God then don't. He will not appear infront of you because he hasn't convinced his existence to you. That's your problem not God's, he doesn't owe you anything. Stop this.

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  • As an agnostic history nerd I liken the existence of Jesus to the existence of King Arthur. I think Jesus is most likely the amalgamation of a few historical figures. In University my History professor told us that most myths are based on a kernel of truth. The Greek legend of the minotaur for example was based on the palace of King Minos being designed to trick robbers. It had false pathways and some strange features designed to trick robbers. It wasn't a literal maze, but was enough to disorientate someone who didn't know where they were going late at nigh. And the fact that the island of Crete had a very active cult of the bull. The minotaur legend erupted thanks to bards telling the story over and over again embellishing it to make it easier to remember. And to get people to listen. After all no historian worth their salt believed in Troy's existence until after it was found. Myths have historical bases their just distorted.

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    • The Upper Room still exists in Jerusalem to this day. And is preserved by the same family.

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    • And true stories, also have some sort of historical basis. Alexander the great was a real person, we don't say he was a myth, because there was some historical basis for him. Jesus was mentioned by Josephus, I believe, as being true. That does not mean his story is a myth.

    • @markscott Of course true stories have a basis in fact. That is a given. My response was directed at somebody who obviously believes the story is a complete myth. My response was an attempt to show that even the most fantastical myths have elements of truth to them. I'm personally of the opinion that historical Jesus did exist, I just don't believe he was the son of God or that he walked on water, or turned water to wine. My comment is less about Jesus and more about myths in general.

  • You are entitled to your own beliefs. I would recommend watching the movie A Case for Christ and also consider the arguments there.

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    • Oh yeah, that's quite the terrible movie. It's very gullible.

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    • @ladsin I don’t exactly understand what ur saying.

    • @GigiCat the author of the book A Case For Christ merely accepts all of the claims of apologists uncritically. The movie is worse. He doesn’t examine the arguments with any skepticism.

      I think this has something to do with the fact that his wife was convinced of Christianity and was talking about leaving him, but I wouldn’t claim to know the inner workings of his mind.

  • Look at all these triggered Christians lol
    I always knew that Josephus' 'mentions' of Christ were not consistent with his other written works. They all look misplaced, and its very obvious someone added it in.
    The Christian bible has many contradictions that I noticed while I read it. The whole religion believes and practices a book filled with so many contradictions.
    What I really struggled to understand was them including the old testament when all of their fundamental beliefs and practices are from the new testament.

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  • Try harder. Dig deeper.

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  • Die he really fucked a whore?

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    • He'd have to exist to have done that. You can't trick me that easily.

  • I didn't read all of this and I'm not going to but honestly I just thought about Christianity a lot and eventually switched over to Hinduism and Buddhism, they both make the same amount of sense and we know that they (Jesus and Buddha) both existed once no matter how people talk about it, I could care less if someone was an atheist or a Hellenic polytheist, but honestly I'm just going to believe in one God no matter who he turns out to be.

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    • That's awfully narrow-minded no? "I'm right and no one is going to tell me otherwise!"

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    • Of course Jesus existed, there are historical records. Also I did read some of it to get some of your veiws, I just didn't read it all.

    • What historical records?

  • I didn't read all of that. I read the word "I know that christians use fictitive." and stopped reading. I find the word fictional to be offensive. If you don't believe then leave the believers alone. I don't go slandering other people for their beliefs simply because I don't share them.

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    • Fictive kinship language. You should've read the rest of it, but I don't believe you're serious.

  • I was raised since 6 to love and believe in Our Father Who Art in Heaven. No contest for me. I have had a relationship with Him for many years and I try top witness to others as well, offline and offline.
    Start by getting a bible, the King James version, then if need be, find a born again Christian church with fellowship, and see if this will not get you a head and heart start.

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    • by the way, good picture of Jesus.

    • I was a christian for a long time. You should read this little article and see my points.

    • Most non-believers in Western countries were raised Christian and after a lot of thought and study found they were unable to accept Christian dogma (i. e. the Nicene Creed). We've heard it all and found none of it convincing. Without new evidence we're very unlikely to change our minds.

What Guys Said 38

  • if anything i think i could subscribe to the Judaic notion that Jesus existed but was a prophet rather than Christ.

    all of the more verifiable evidence of jesus's existence either has been proven to be not of the time of jesus, made up or simply not confirming that Jesus was the son of god but simply quotes from a prophetic type of person

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  • Paul didn't believe it necessary to mention the early life exploits, because so many others were doing the very same thing. During Paul's missions, he was running into many who'd had early exposure. He wrote his epistles in response to the church's growing pains - as well as explaining his disillusionment with the Jewish establishment.

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    • That's an assertion. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. He was the first writing though.

  • Bravo, I totally agree. All we have are writings written long after he supposedly died. Hearsay evidence is completely useless and never allowed in science. Although for some reason we have some "atheists" claiming that all scholars agree Jesus existed for some reason without any evidence to support it. We might as well put Jesus in the same field as King Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone and Robin hood. Or brave Sir Robin who bravely ran away.

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    • It's so strange particularly because we now know that almost all the patriarchs of Judaism are mythical amalgams, but they are still so vehemently against the mythicists on this one with almost no good evidence. I have no idea why...

  • This isn't 'GAG' material sonny. :)
    If you're so confused then talk to your priest or pastor.

    The mere fact that you're quoting scripture to bolster your argument should tell you something. Where do you think the topic of Jesus is the most well documented? If you can't believe the bible then there's no hope for your spirituality. It is the inspired word of God himself. And he is clear about his only begotten son.

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    • Did you read it? If so you'd note the reason that I don't accept the various purported evidences for a historical Jesus.
      I also noted that whether or not there was a historical Jesus is irrelevant to me, I'm not an atheist because I'm not convinced that Jesus existed, I'm an atheist because I'm not convinced a god exists/existed.
      I don't know what, "GAG material" is. I talk the same way to everyone I meet. I enjoy discussing religion and find it fascinating (along with philosophy, psychology, and science).

    • READ the forum name... GIRLS ASK GUYS
      It's just not the place for your topic. It doesn't matter to me, but my hunch is you're not going to get what you're looking for out of it. Wrong place and time. But whateves, you're gonna do it anyway. [shrug]

    • Oh, well I certainly won't let you get my spirits down XD

      That said, this is the religion and spirituality section, and I'm quite certain that you've responded to a lot of my questions on Society and Politics which aren't "GAG" friendly without qualm.

  • faith doesn't work like that, it wouldn't be faith if everything you read in bible was presented infront of you in a nice slideshow proving it 100% right and true, thats not how believing works, you either believe or not dont search for meanings that aren't there

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    • I agree that faith is by definition without evidence... But faith can be used to justify any position, thus it's not a valid pathway to truth.

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    • yeah even when it comes to christianity i sometimes hear about stories and just dont believe them cause they sound suspicious but sometimes it turns out real, even the church itself says that there are many fakes out there and one priest who was teaching us once told us how hard it is for a miracle to be considered one, the vatican sends experts to investigate, other experts outside of religon and church also investigate the occurance, overall a pretty long and complicated procedure.

    • How do you know that it sometimes turns out real?

  • You working for Satan, I see, in trying to overthrow the confidence weak Christians have in the

    lord. https://en. m. wikipedia. org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus

    If the lord Jesus was just a regular 'human being" that came and went then He is no different than anyone else that lived and died.

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  • It's one of those things Christians are supposed to take on faith. I think there is a case for God, but I'm not sure about the one for the Son of God.

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    • Most think, or state, that Jesus is actually the most important and well attested figure in history.

      What's the case for god that you find convincing?

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    • Some of it, yes. Some was invented by people.

    • Hmm. What're you thinking about?

  • There's just no contemporary proof.

    https://i.imgur.com/nW3QqqE.jpg

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  • Well, the thing is, it's Ok if it doesn't grab your heart! Those who REALLY believe it in their hearts without doubt follow him, but people who don't grab it don't have to have it... Christians live through faith, and that's hard!

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    • Hmm, did you read it?
      I'm surprised at how frequently this has turned to a discussion about faith, but I suppose I'll go along with it.
      Can faith lead to contradictory claims? Can I, for example, believe that Mohammed is the last prophet, the Buddha is the true god, and that if I throw a ball in the air it won't come back down on faith?

  • It's a little winded, but it brings up a lot of interesting points. As always, I enjoy reading your views on things, even if sometimes i can't understand a few things.

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    • Haha really? I figured I made it as short as possible and left a lot out XD
      I agree though that it's a little long for the site, but if interested, this is the absolute shortest I think it can be.
      It's about 12,000 words XP

    • I didn't mean that was a bad thing.

  • wow after reading this, i don't think i can even say "jesus was gay" any more. All i can say now is that had he been real he would have been gay

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  • I too don´t believe in jesus as a historical figure , but a mythological figure that recycles various other mythological figures with the same tematics , such as Horus, Krishna Buda

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  • i'm an atheist but i believe that jesus existed xD don't mix up god and jesus. it's not the same.

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    • I'm not, you should read it. I think it's quite enlightening, and if you're aware of evidence I missed I'm more than happy to here it. I don't care whether or not the fellow existed, I'm just not convinced he did (as stated in the Take).

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    • As always, I'm right XD

    • dude that wasn't a very elaborate prediction to make xD

  • Jesus had a birth certificate and was in at least one census. He did exist. Last (legal) documented evidence was that he had married and moved to France. The Vatican for obvious reasons keeps a lot of that evidence under lock and key... and only high ranking advanced scholars have access.

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    • Oh, so there's secret evidence that conveniently no one can access?

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    • Well, that's quite the conspiracy, but if it's not information that I have access to then I can't count it as evidence.

    • And the Bible is more accurate than court records? If you think about it, a lot of religious texts start with ancient versions of "My friend Dave heard from a mate whose wife told him her best mate had seen/heard...". It's not quite as a legal census. Or maybe I'm nitpicking.

  • ... sorry i didn't read all that.
    you don't need to be Convinced to believe in something?
    all religion mean well. just take positive part of it.
    if you don't believe in Jesus don't, fanaticism become a problem on its own.

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    • Perhaps you're using the term belief in a different way than I.

  • Jesus doesn't listen to the prayers of non-believers. Evidence concerning Gods spirit aren't tangible , faith required instead.

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    • Hmm, did you read it?
      I'm surprised at how frequently this has turned to a discussion about faith, but I suppose I'll go along with it.
      Can faith lead to contradictory claims? Can I, for example, believe that Mohammed is the last prophet, the Buddha is the true god, and that if I throw a ball in the air it won't come back down on faith?

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    • NOPE...

  • Sounds like you use a whole lot of supposition to make your point.

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  • There is plenty of evidence that there was a philosopher named Jesus who had a huge influence.

    There is zero evidence he was supernatural.

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  • So in short, your position on Jesus not being real is lack of physical evidence on him as well as lack of clarity/description about his life while he was alive?

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    • Depends on what you mean by "physical evidence" I suppose. I'm not expecting coins minted with Jesus' face or the shroud of Turin or any other such silly things.

      I'm just saying that the evidence in support isn't enough for me. The proposed evidence is all problematic and I pointed out why. If Paul had even so much as said, "The disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Judas, etc sat at the feet of Jesus as he committed many great works" I'd probably think the fellow existed. If Josephus talked about Jesus in the manner that he talked about any number of other rebels, then I'd probably believe. Etc.

      If you're aware of something I've missed I'm more than happy to hear it, as I said above it doesn't really matter to me either way. I just find it interesting.

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    • All that really doesn't matter. If you're having a conversation with someone and he asked you "do you think Jesus is real?", you're not going to lecture him a page and a half long take. You're going to answer "no I don't, because of x, y, and z." and then if he wanted to go into details, then you'd start explain further as you did here. That's a straight, summarized answer.

      Give me a straight answer. You do not think Jesus is real because of the lack of description and/or clarity on his life. Right?

    • I'm not convinced of Jesus' existence because all of the evidence posited for his existence is poor, fabricated, or doesn't say what it's proponents state it says. Above I went into all the evidences given and pointed out in each case why.

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