How to Learn About Christianity

Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
Would Roman record meet your criteria of empirical evidence?
Yes. If we have Roman records from the first Century that name Jesus then yes - that would be powerful. Sadly we just have Christian made, anonymous copies of Tacitus and Josephus that were made 800 years after Jesus died - we lost any earlier original. Those are not compelling - they are too far removed from the event, too open to error, too open to forgery. Most scholars debate those documents authenticity.

But if you have a Roman document from 80 CE that names Jesus I'd love to know what museum it is in. I do not know of one But I might be wrong.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
What evidence? I am not trying ot be a jerk - I just do not understand what evidence 'fits' when I see zero evidcne at all. Just a story in a book written 300 years later.

There is nothing to fit - what am I missing?
Paul's letters, the very fact that Christianity started, etc. There has to be some reason for these things. I think Jesus existing is the most likely.

I guess part of it is that when you strip it down, it really is not that special. Jesus was a guy who was inspired by John the Baptist, and following in those footsteps he collected his own disciples, even going so far as to get executed. Like John, he preached about the coming end times, which sounds like it was a popular topic at the time. And like John, he still had followers after his death (see Acts 19:3-4 for mention of people still following John the Baptist). Sure there were miracles, but these were ten a penny back then. Doing supposed miracles was a long way from unique.

Why make up something that was relatively common place?

What has happened is later accounts have added all sorts of embellishments, such as the virgin birth and Jesus in Jerusalem after being resurrected (Mark only says he was seen in Galilee, that might have been merely a bright light they thought was Jesus), and these later additions cloud the issue, deliberately making the story greater than it was, and so less credible to sceptics in the modern age.

OK. I actually think Jesus probably did exist - but I really cannot prove that with what we have. So I remain skeptical.

I did not conclude that. I am saying that I cannot prove he did exist. It may even be likely that Jesus existed but if I had to prove that to an independent peer review I would really struggle.
I certainly agree we cannot prove it.

I do not know of anything that mentions Jesus from before 200 CE. Which documents were created 20 years after jesus? I'd love to see them.
Paul's epistles are dated to around AD 50. Many scholars think the start of 1 Cor 15 is a creed that dates to only a few years after the crucifixion.

The only thing we have is textual criticism of the 200 CE documents that claim to have come from something created 20 years after Jesus. And that feels thin to me.
Agreed. But what we do have points to Jesus being real.

Thanks for the chat - good fun - have a great weekend pixie!
And you!
 

sbell

Active member
Yes. If we have Roman records from the first Century that name Jesus then yes - that would be powerful. Sadly we just have Christian made, anonymous copies of Tacitus and Josephus that were made 800 years after Jesus died - we lost any earlier original. Those are not compelling - they are too far removed from the event, too open to error, too open to forgery. Most scholars debate those documents authenticity.

But if you have a Roman document from 80 CE that names Jesus I'd love to know what museum it is in. I do not know of one But I might be wrong.
How is the Roman account empirical? How can you measure whether the account is true or not?
 

Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
Paul's letters, the very fact that Christianity started, etc. There has to be some reason for these things. I think Jesus existing is the most likely.
We do not have any of Paul's letters. We just have the copies that the church made in 300 CE.
I guess part of it is that when you strip it down, it really is not that special. Jesus was a guy who was inspired by John the Baptist, and following in those footsteps he collected his own disciples, even going so far as to get executed. Like John, he preached about the coming end times, which sounds like it was a popular topic at the time. And like John, he still had followers after his death (see Acts 19:3-4 for mention of people still following John the Baptist). Sure there were miracles, but these were ten a penny back then. Doing supposed miracles was a long way from unique.
I agree with this - it is why it seems likely to me. The area was replete with holy men espousing this god or that one. It is not hard to imagine someone who knew the OT prophecies was claiming that they met the criteria. Its actually almost predictable.

I'd still feel better is there was a single mention of Jesus before 300 CE.
Why make up something that was relatively common place?
It is possible that Jesus is an amalgam of several holy men - they made it into a single person to make the story easier. It would explain why Jesus is supposed to be from Bethlehem but he is really from Nazareth. That feels like them trying to wedge a Nazareth holy man into the OT prophecy.

Its definitely possible.
Paul's epistles are dated to around AD 50. Many scholars think the start of 1 Cor 15 is a creed that dates to only a few years after the crucifixion.
I question these claims. Have you read how they determined this? We have the story from 300 CE - that's it - the rest is speculation. The way they 'date' that back to 50 AD is really sketchy - you should check out some of the logic leaps they have to make to get from 300 CE to 50 CE. It would make a true historian cry.

And the claim of the creed, pushed by Lee Strobel, is just snake oil. The logic of why the creed 'had' to exist near the crucifixion is just bonkers.

In the end we have anonymous copies from 300 CE and the rest is speculation. I am not ready to accept it on just that. I also think it does not matter much but it is fun in an academic sense.

And we certainly have no way to prove Jesus was the son of God or rose from the dead - and that's the real question anyways.

Great talk pixie :)
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
We do not have any of Paul's letters. We just have the copies that the church made in 300 CE.
We do not have the manuscripts, but we have the content. Most scholars agree about half are authentic to Paul.

I agree with this - it is why it seems likely to me. The area was replete with holy men espousing this god or that one. It is not hard to imagine someone who knew the OT prophecies was claiming that they met the criteria. Its actually almost predictable.
I do not think Jesus was the only one. Judas of Galilee, Theudas and Simon of Peraea. They all rated a mention by Josephus, but they also led revolts. The Romans got to Jesus before he could do that (and that may not have been his intention).

I'd still feel better is there was a single mention of Jesus before 300 CE.
Sure.

It is possible that Jesus is an amalgam of several holy men - they made it into a single person to make the story easier. It would explain why Jesus is supposed to be from Bethlehem but he is really from Nazareth. That feels like them trying to wedge a Nazareth holy man into the OT prophecy.
I think there is one guy at the root, but it is certainly likely that stories about other men were adopted, just as the virgin birth got adopted from pagan myths.

I question these claims. Have you read how they determined this? We have the story from 300 CE - that's it - the rest is speculation. The way they 'date' that back to 50 AD is really sketchy - you should check out some of the logic leaps they have to make to get from 300 CE to 50 CE. It would make a true historian cry.
It is not just Christian scholars who say this; it really is pretty well accepted that the text of about half the epistles come from Paul.

And the claim of the creed, pushed by Lee Strobel, is just snake oil. The logic of why the creed 'had' to exist near the crucifixion is just bonkers.
Here is Richard Carrier on it (well known as a Jesus myther):

So, yes, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is almost certainly a pre-Pauline text composed within a few years of when Jesus was believed to have died.

He does go on to say it is not good evidence for the resurrection, and I agree.

In the end we have anonymous copies from 300 CE and the rest is speculation. I am not ready to accept it on just that. I also think it does not matter much but it is fun in an academic sense.

And we certainly have no way to prove Jesus was the son of God or rose from the dead - and that's the real question anyways.
The son of God thing is something else that got changed along the way. To the Jesus, the messiah was the king, who God adopted as his son, starting with King David. I suspect Paul believed Jesus was adopted as God's son when he was resurrected; twenty years later, Mark believed Jesus was adopted when he was baptised; twenty years after that the authors of Matthew and Luke have Jesus the son of God from birth, and a while after that the author of John has Jesus the son of God since creation. It is the standard progression from a really quite plain story in the beginning that has become more and more mythological.
 

Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
We do not have the manuscripts, but we have the content. Most scholars agree about half are authentic to Paul.


I do not think Jesus was the only one. Judas of Galilee, Theudas and Simon of Peraea. They all rated a mention by Josephus, but they also led revolts. The Romans got to Jesus before he could do that (and that may not have been his intention).


Sure.


I think there is one guy at the root, but it is certainly likely that stories about other men were adopted, just as the virgin birth got adopted from pagan myths.


It is not just Christian scholars who say this; it really is pretty well accepted that the text of about half the epistles come from Paul.


Here is Richard Carrier on it (well known as a Jesus myther):

So, yes, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is almost certainly a pre-Pauline text composed within a few years of when Jesus was believed to have died.

He does go on to say it is not good evidence for the resurrection, and I agree.


The son of God thing is something else that got changed along the way. To the Jesus, the messiah was the king, who God adopted as his son, starting with King David. I suspect Paul believed Jesus was adopted as God's son when he was resurrected; twenty years later, Mark believed Jesus was adopted when he was baptised; twenty years after that the authors of Matthew and Luke have Jesus the son of God from birth, and a while after that the author of John has Jesus the son of God since creation. It is the standard progression from a really quite plain story in the beginning that has become more and more mythological.
Great post - thank you. I may be too strident on my need for more evidence. You've given me a lot to think about.

And that's kinda the whole point here :)
 

Torin

Active member
I thought I would share my system for learning. What I have in mind is something like a book chapter or an article.

3 stages:

1) Read the text relatively quickly, like you would read a novel. Your goal is to get a general sense or overview of what is being said, explained, or argued.

2) Read through MUCH more slowly, while taking detailed notes in a notebook next to you. This produces a substantial degree of what psychologists call recall, as opposed to recognition.

3) Finally, review / self test until you get it. Flash cards are helpful for vocabulary or anything that needs to be memorized. A couple of other highly effective methods are: (a) write up a test for yourself, as if you were the professor, and take it; and (b) sit down with a sheet of paper and write out an explanation of the material from the beginning, as if to someone who did not know it.

I hope this helps someone.
 
Top