Talk:Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ

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This article is such a mess[edit]

We really should consider nuking the whole thing and rewriting it from scratch. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 01:27, 12 February 2017 (UTC)

The problem is that much of the bloat come from the nonsense we get here in the talk page so it will become a mess again over time because the matter of the Evidence vs the interpretation of that evidence keeps coming up. I have moved a lot of the Jesus myth material to that article and trimmed a lot from this article. I agree the article needs some house cleaning but doesn't need to be nuked from orbit to fix it.--BruceGrubb (talk) 00:11, 13 February 2017 (UTC)
Yeah, it really needs to be cleaned up. It can be more organized with less rambling and more to the point as to what they're actually trying to prove. --BaileyTheDog (talk) 17:56 27 May 2017 (MTC)
I agree it does ramble on a bit but part of that is because the "evidence" presented has so many problems. Perhaps finding a way to daughter much of this out would help.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:20, 14 June 2017 (UTC)
While Bruce is strident, single-issue and obsessive, it does remain it's a seriously fucked up area for important reasons. It's been improved considerably with the split out to subarticles, for example - David Gerard (talk) 23:30, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

AcademicBiblical takes a stab[edit] FU22YC47P07470 (talk/stalk) 17:45, 1 April 2017 (UTC)

"RationalWiki wrote a page in which they attempt to argue against the historicity of Jesus."
Funny thing the very first paragraph in this article's body expressly states:
"It has become obvious that the actual scope of this article needs to be spelled out. This article is NOT about the Christ myth theory but about the quality of the evidence presented regarding his existence (both for and against). The debate will come up for context but this article is NOT on the debate. In fact, as the Christ Myth article shows its very definition varies so wildly that some versions would be considered historical Jesus positions."
It is hard to take a comment seriously when the very first sentence of it demonstrates they either didn't read the article or didn't understand the above.--BruceGrubb (talk) 22:52, 5 April 2017 (UTC)

Consensus Being Insufficient Evidence[edit]

Under Consensus regarding the existence of Jesus: "Consensus in of itself is not evidence for something. There are examples where long held consensus (such as the Sun revolving around the Earth[154]) where shown to have been flawed."

Why is it ok for us to use "Most climate scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is real" as an argument then? I'm just curious. I fully acknowledge that anthropogenic global warming is real. --Amrator (talk) 22:32, 10 January 2018 (UTC)

According to the first sentence, it talks about "consensus in of itself", meaning simply pure consensus is not enough to believe something is correct. In global warming's case, there's consensus because there's very strong, scientific evidence that it is occurring right now. It's similar to accepted consensus about the theory of gravity or continental drift. БaбyЛuigiOнФire🚓(T|C) 22:34, 10 January 2018 (UTC)
Right, and the second sentence clearly stats "Conversely, to challenge a consensus one has to provide a reasonable counter-theory to explain what ever is being presented as evidence." (sic) I would like to point out that at one time the consensus was that plate tectonics, the existence of Troy, the Norse colonization of the Americas, and the Big Bang Theory were all not "real" theories and were the domain of crackpots and lunatics! Heck plate tectonics was labeled crackpot as late as 1954 in a peer reviewed journal.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:12, 12 January 2018 (UTC)


In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman wrote, "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees".[15] Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church's imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more".[16] Robert M. Price does not believe that Jesus existed, but agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars.[17] James D. G. Dunn calls the theories of Jesus' non-existence "a thoroughly dead thesis".[18] Michael Grant (a classicist) wrote in 1977, "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary".[19] Robert E. Van Voorst states that biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted.[20] — Unsigned, by: Kingdamian1 / talk / contribs

Since this article expressly states "This article is NOT about the Jesus myth theory or Christ myth theory but about the quality of the evidence presented regarding his existence (both for and against)." (sic) why is this comment here? If you have problems with the Jesus/Christ myth theories then comment on those talk pages. The above has nothing to do with this article.--BruceGrubb (talk) 17:47, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
The article says that, yes, and then follows it with a rather long and rambling screed against the evidence for a historical Jesus. Evidence which is almost universally accepted by the relevant experts. While consensus is not in and of itself proof, the burden of proof in this case certainly falls on those opposing the consensus, especially when they have a clear political bias. While RationalWiki is not Wikipedia and doesn't claim to be impartial, a site supposedly dedicated to science and rationalism should at least be open to the idea that historians might have some idea what they are talking about. Sure, the argument against a historical Jesus might sound reasonable, but so do many arguments against climate change when you don't understand the relevant science.— Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs
"But I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALWiki!" Drink! LongLostLegend (talk) 07:39, 23 November 2018 (UTC)
Amusing, but this is still a terrible article. — Unsigned, by: / talk
First off, learn to sign. Second off, I love how you completely ignore @BruceGrubb's comment in favor of pushing the narrative. What is pushing the narrative you might be wondering. I'm delighted to tell you. Pushing the narrative occurs when someone has a way of seeing the world, and that, when confronted with people who, shockers, aren't strawmen, the original person pushes their worldview regardless of what someone actually says. For example, BruceGrubb, and to a lesser degree myself, have both gone into nuanced explanations of our view on the matter. What happens when we aren't converted on the spot by the possible existence of a historical "Jesus" and instead point out the nuances of the situation? Why people like this BoN, KD1, and Gewgtweg then, push the narrative that we support the idea that there is no historical basis for "Jesus", when the truth is a bit more complicated than their childish minds seem to understand. So, rather than blather onward about how terrible it is that we might not think that the Bible is the greatest book ever written (it isn't, and from a critical literary perspective it's kind of crap) how about you actually look at the complicated nature of this discussion. I'd also like to add one last thing, and is that it really irks me when Christians discover that something in their little book could possibly be based in fact, and then, through their desperate desire to spread their memetic ideas, latch onto it as if it proves every single inch of the Bible as divine truth. News flash, that is not only not how history works, that's not even how reality works. In the real world, when we prove that hey, troy existed, it does not therefore prove that Odysseus existed. Likewise, if we were to prove that Odysseus did in fact exist at one point, it would not therefore prove that the fantastical stories about him were true. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 03:09, 24 November 2018 (UTC)
I didn't ignore what they said, I just don't buy it. The article is supposedly about the evidence for a historical Jesus, but is rather obviously written from the perspective of trying to discredit that evidence, in opposition to the mainstream position among historians. Saying that the article isn't arguing against a historical Jesus comes off as rather disingenuous to me; the vast majority of the article consists of arguments that the evidence for a historical Jesus is very poor (which, again, is not the consensus among experts). If the article is supposed to be taking a more nuanced, factual position then I would argue it is at the very least poorly written. I also don't recall arguing that the bible was the greatest book ever written or that any of the stories therein are true historical accounts, so if I'm pushing the narrative I guess you're creating a strawman. (talk) 08:27, 24 November 2018 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The article quite clearly says "So even if Jesus is a historical myth (i.e., was a flesh-and-blood man), you could have the issue of the Gospel narrative being essentially false and telling you nothing about the actual Jesus other than that he existed; as Robert Price puts it "For even if we trace Christianity back to Jesus ben Pandera or an Essene Teacher of Righteousness in the first century BCE, we still have a historical Jesus. The problem is that such a reductive historical Jesus is similar to Robin Hood or King Arthur, where the core person (if there ever was one to begin with) has been effectively lost, and potential candidates are presented as much as 200 years from when their stories traditionally take place." Show that you have actually read the article rather then beating the Know Nothing Drum.--BruceGrubb (talk) 22:59, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

This reply has so little to do with anything I wrote I am forced to conclude that you are uninterested in facts or reasonable debate and care only about insulting people that disagree with you. I used to think this site served a useful purpose debunking pseudoscience, but apparently that only applies to pseudoscience your clique disagrees with, and you verbally abuse anyone who dares to suggest that an obviously biased and inaccurate article may have problems. Tell me, does insulting those who disagree with you make you feel intellectually superior, or do you just get off on it? (talk) 18:21, 21 December 2018 (UTC) DRINK! Tabula Rasa (talk) 18:27, 21 December 2018 (UTC)
This is rather the kind of thing I'm talking about. (talk) 04:00, 23 December 2018 (UTC)
You still don't get it. If Jesus did live in the 1st century BCE then the Gospels and everything based on them describe a fictional version of that man.--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:56, 18 January 2019 (UTC)

BoN is kind of right[edit]

Didn't we sort of agree to revisit this page? RoninMacbeth (talk) 08:10, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

This article could be renamed, something like Did Jesus exist?, as it's mainly about the question of whether Jesus existed at all, with a lot of philosophical arguments to that question, rather than about the quality of individual items of evidence. --Annanoon (talk) 10:56, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Re read "The elephant in the room: The Two Jesuses" section. Carrier himself admits the 'Jesus was a nobody' position is an out but then you get a Jesus who is no more "historical" then Robin Hood or King Arthur; you get a real life Swastika Night (1937) situation where the actual person had been so buried by mythology that next to nothing remains. Another issue is Paul may have been coopting the remains of previous messiah cults and convincing them that Jesus rather then their founder was the real deal. That would go a long way to explain the wild diversity. Here is a collection of "historical" but nobody Jesuses to illustrate just what the problem with a minimal Jesus is:

1) In the time of Pontius Pilate some crazy ran into the Temple trashing the place and screaming "I am Jesus, King of the Jews" before some guard ran him through with a sword. Right place right time...and that is it. No preaching, no followers, no crucifixion, nothing but some nut doing the 1st century equivalent of suicide by cop.
2) Paul's teachings ala John Frum inspired others to take up the name "Jesus" and preach their spin on Paul's visions with one of them getting crucified by the Romans by his troubles whose teachings are time shifted so he is before Paul. (John Robertson actually came up with a variant of this in 1900 with this Jesus being inspired by Paul's writings rather then teachings)
3) You could have a Jesus who was born c 12 BCE in the small town of Cana, who preached a few words of Jewish wisdom to small crowds of no more than 10 people at a time, and died due to being run over by a chariot at the age of 50.

As the article points out you have to take some of the Gospels story as true otherwise you have no clue as to where to search. But even at its most basic level that story has problems. Given how Pontius Pilate reacted to potential problems how do you get a movement large enough for him to take notice but not go "Rome Crush!" as he did with the Samaritan prophet of c 36 CE and not one non believer record of it surviving? (The Jospheus "references" are so screwed up that odds are they are forgeries)--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:09, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

Maybe the article could be restricted to extra-biblical evidence for the New Testament account. And by evidence I mean documents and archaeology/inscriptions not vague speculation. The question of whether Jesus was intrinsically plausible a priori is entirely separate. --Annanoon (talk) 00:01, 5 January 2019 (UTC)
Level-headed speculation is fine when it is based on documents and archaeology/inscriptions. But it can be a problem when the person doing the speculating has an ax to grind (as quite a few people on this website do in regards to Christianity). Take for instance a quote from this very page: "First, early Christian authorities like Tertullian went to great pains in explaining that Christian and Chrestian were two different words with entirely different meanings and were not variants of each other, a claim supported by the evidence. So right out of the gate the premise that the two words are variants has to ignore what the people of the time were saying." The argument, as it is presented in this specific passage, is idiotic and the last sentence is demonstrably false. The only thing it proves is that Tertullian did not like people confusing the words "Christian" and "Chrestian." Why exactly would Tertullian even bring this topic up if it were not already common practice to refer to Christians as Chrestians? It is as ridiculous as quoting anti-idolatry rant of an Old Testament prophet and using it as proof that the ancient Hebrews were staunch monotheists! It is rare to find a compact argument that actually proves the opposite of what it says it does, yet I have found one right here on this page. — Unsigned, by: / talk
See those little numbers after the section you quoted? They are called references. For some reason the url for the reference (from a christian website I should point out) now produces "This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine." at Internet Archive. The original article is not available. So what are these Christians so afraid of that they have the URL expunged from Wayback Machine? Thankfully there are other archive services and the information is still preserved.
"Now then, if this hatred is directed against the name, what is the guilt attaching to names? What accusation can be brought against words, except that a certain pronunciation of a name sounds barbarous, or is unlucky or abusive or obscene? But 'Christian,' as far as its etymology goes, is derived from 'anointing.' And even when it is incorrectly pronounced by you 'Chrestian' (for not even is your acquaintance with the name accurate), it is formed from 'sweetness' or 'kindness.' In innocent men, therefore, even an innocent name is hated." - Apology Ch.III.
Yet is was Christians themselves who clear into the 5th century who were using "Chrestian" in their own Bible! How does that happen if the group always called itself "Christian"? As far as that "last sentence is demonstrably false" that is NOT to Tertullian both to two other references...which are still accessible. Some .of the material in those are
"When one investigates the earliest explicit references to "Christian" in the earliest sources of the common era, one comes away empty handed. The earliest evidence is dominated by the occurrence of the term Chrestian , as is tabulated below. In the Greek language the word Christian is χριστιανος, while the word Chrestian is χρηστιανος. In the Greek manuscript sources which are presented below, the eta (η) invariably occurs instead of the iota (ι). What does this mean? The evidence tabulated below strongly implies that the earliest form of the term "Christian" does not occur until Codex Alexandrinus, at least the 5th century, and may in fact not enter the chronological record [C14!?!] until substantially later. In place of the term "Christian" in the evidence is instead, and quite invariably, is found the term "Chrestian". " (sic) and a table of when Christian and Chrestian appear in the other reference.
Demonstrate that you have actually followed and read the references rather then posting what amounts to Know Nothing nonsense.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:08, 18 January 2019 (UTC)
"See those little numbers after the section you quoted? They are called references." I did see them! I took them out because I saw no reason to include them in this little argument we are having. Obsessive compulsive perhaps, but this is not the main page, this is a talk page, they serve no purpose but to clutter up this talk page. I have never seen anyone be so pedantic as to demand that I include (the exact same) references from the main page on the talk page. Maybe you are the first? Hopefully not, in addition to being unnecessary it would also be a massive pain in the neck. "So what are these Christians so afraid of that they have the URL expunged from Wayback Machine?" Well that rather eccentric Christian is probably afraid that other Christians will take issue with his eccentricity. You of all people should know that Christians frequently take issue with the eccentricities of other Christians if those eccentricities happen to be related to the practice of their religion.
"How does that happen if the group always called itself 'Christian'?" Who cares what the called themselves? Other people called them "Chrestians" and we know that because Tertullian complained about it. In any event it is not so uncommon for two similar words to be effectively used as variants of the same word as a label for adherents of one religion/sect. Compare "Muslim" versus "Moslem" they are two similar words, used as variants of each other, to describe the same religion.
"So right out of the gate the premise that the two words are variants has to ignore what the people of the time were saying." That is the sentence I said was demonstrably false and indeed it is. It is not from Tertullian it is from some shmuck's interpretation of his work. "When one investigates the earliest explicit references to 'Christian' in the earliest sources of the common era, one comes away empty handed." Except Apologeticus apparently, which was written at the end of second century as that very source states. The author of that source amusingly does not bother to highlight the word "Christian" in Tertullian's quote which we are arguing about. That remind's me, let us go back to Tertullian's quote:
"Now then, if this hatred is directed against the name, what is the guilt attaching to names? What accusation can be brought against words, except that a certain pronunciation of a name sounds barbarous, or is unlucky or abusive or obscene? But 'Christian,' as far as its etymology goes, is derived from 'anointing.' And even when it is incorrectly pronounced by you 'Chrestian' (for not even is your acquaintance with the name accurate), it is formed from 'sweetness' or 'kindness.' In innocent men, therefore, even an innocent name is hated." - Apology Ch.III.
The part of that quote which I have highlighted demonstrates that both terms were used to refer to the sect to which Tertullian belonged, which (at least at that point in Tertullian's life) was the sect which turned in to Orthodox Christianity. That Tertullian takes issue with the term "Christian" being "incorrectly pronounced" as "Chrestian" demonstrates that it was in fact a common practice to confuse the two terms as though they were variants of the same word. Therefore the claim which this sentence from the main page advances: "So right out of the gate the premise that the two words are variants has to ignore what the people of the time were saying." implicitly conflicts with one of the major pieces of evidence that is being used to support it (i.e. Tertullian's quote). Last but not least, looking at the rest of the talk page I feel the need to remind you that I'm not arguing against all of what is on the main page. I'm taking issue with one particularly ridiculous claim on the main page and calling the person who wrote it a shmuck. Any issues that I have (or issues that you would presume that I might have) with the rest of the main page are irrelevant. The rest of the main page could be one hundred percent accurate or logically sound and it would not change the fact that the sentence that I called "demonstrably false" is exactly that. — Unsigned, by: / talk
On talk pages, please sign your comments using four tildes (~~~~) or by clicking on the sign button: SigButt.png on the toolbar above the edit panel. You can also indent successive talk page comments using one more colon (:) for each line. Thank you. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 04:31, 20 January 2019 (UTC)
My apologies, I will do so in the future.-- (talk) 04:43, 20 January 2019 (UTC) A

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── "Who cares what the called themselves?" Considering there is evidence there there was an earlier or co-existent group called "CHRESTIANI" it does matter. If we believe Epiphanius in Panarion 29 then this cannot be the followers of Jesus as he expressly states "this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus’ own name, but Natzraya." And they were even called Jessaeans for a time until (supposedly) settling on "Chrestian" around 44 CE...well after the 37 CE cutoff of the inscription and the inscription could be even older (going back as 36 BCE). Tertullian is ignoring the fact that the followers of Jesus were themselves using the term "Chrestian" and would continue to use it in their writing and in inscriptions until the 5th century CE. This what I meant about the references. It had nothing to do with putting them here on the talk page but demonstrate that you had actually followed them, read, and understood the implications of them. --BruceGrubb (talk) 02:25, 24 January 2019 (UTC)

While we may disagree on the relevance of Tertullian's assertions, your edits to the main page have more or less solved the problem that I had taken issue with. I apologize for calling you an idiot, willful misrepresentation to make you look like an uber-shmuck rather than just a normal shmuck, my condescending tone, etc. The other reservations I have regarding this topic would probably be better addressed on the other talk page concerning it, but definitely not any time soon. -- (talk) 13:31, 25 January 2019 (UTC) Alex

Diversification of sources regarding non-Biblical evidence[edit]

Looking specifically at the "Silence and censorship" section and its list of ancient authors who did not (but ought to) mention Jesus, I'm getting the distinct impression that, while a few other sources are cited, the structure of that list and the arguments made therein more or less come from Carrier alone. (I suppose the author of this particular article could have originally generated those assertions as well, but that's not the sense I'm getting.) I find this problematic in terms of the quality of said list's argument given that it consists specifically of discussions of the works of classical authors, since, y'know, Classics is an entire independent field of study (full disclosure: I'm partway through a Classics degree myself) with considerations and contexts distinct from other historical fields, and Richard Carrier is not a classicist. (I would have a similar problem with such a list compiled solely by a Biblical scholar or theologian.)

In particular, I find the implication that it's suspicious that particular works or sections of works have been lost because if they had talked about Jesus, Christian monks would have preserved them to be, frankly, laughable. To me it indicates a fundamental ignorance of just how many Ancient Roman texts that we know about have been lost, including ones which other authors praised effusively. For any given topic you care to research in Roman texts, you will get an awful lot of "well, we know this used to exist, but all we have left is the title..." It is not suspicious, it does not indicate an agenda on anybody's part; it's just what happens to handwritten texts over a period of 2,000 years. The section would be much improved by adding commentary from a classicist source, or at the very least other non-classicist sources, instead of uncritically parroting one layman's opinion. (The second list of classical authors, in the subsequent "Non-Biblical evidence" section, may suffer from similar issues, given that most of its citations regarding classical texts appear to be to non-Classics journals, but because it does have a greater variety of sources, it doesn't bother me as much.)

That being said, anyone have any insights on the section I'm talking about or any potential sources to add? Esoteric24 (talk) 22:02, 30 July 2019 (UTC)

Carrier is cited so much because the editors prefer him. Anti-theism is the one bias which pervades this wiki in unhealthy quantities. And since many of the editors are anti-theist, they prefer Carrier's work. I will say that it's a little odd that no one responded to you yet. Perhaps you should bring up your concerns on BruceGrubb's talk page. But beware, he is not very level headed when it comes to this topic. (talk) 07:28, 25 August 2019 (UTC) Alex on a different computer
Actually, Carrier is cited so much because he is the only one to have gotten a pro mythist book through peer review (and what he did is perfectly normal of peer review in the UK, deal with it) This is the go to source for anything reasonable on the matter.
Esoteric24, you seemed to have missed the "Editorial oversight and error" section which obliquely addresses this matter: "With this kind of filing system it is clear why the claim Christians were actively destroying what had been saved from the collapse of Rome is insane...odds are they didn't know what they had in the first place. In fact it was due to the Renaissance and interest in the Classical world that many copies of Greek and Roman works that monasteries didn't even know they had were, as Burke put it, "saved from the mildew and the rats". And even then some works were missed; for example, Books IV–X of Hippolytus's Refutation of all Heresies were found in a monastery of Mount Athos in 1842!"--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:07, 6 April 2020 (UTC)