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Thread: Best evidence for a historical Joshua ben Joseph

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    It may have been Robert Price who thought that JtB was included in the gospels in order to persuade his followers that they should be Xtians.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    YES!! You understood my point exactly: you can't use literary Biblical criticism to establish the historicity of Jesus.
    Not quite, he actually rephrased it. He does better against strawmen.
    Your point was that an embarrassing detail need not be the truth, because examples.
    Lion is pretending you claimed that embarrasing details must be taken as proof it's fiction. And complaining.

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    Super Moderator Atheos's Avatar
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    For years now I've maintained that we can be certain that the Jesus who walked on water, fed thousands with mere morsels, healed blindness, paralysis, even death and levitated off into the sky never to be seen again did not exist. Such a person would have left a much more indelible mark in the historical record than any Caesar, certainly more than Pilate or JtB. The fact that not one single morsel of evidence of all these incredible goings-on are preserved in historical records from the time in question speaks volumes. These things simply did not happen.

    Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish philosopher who wrote a great deal about things going on in and around Jerusalem right in the wheelhouse of the time Jesus would have been doing his thing. He wrote about the Essenes and other Jewish sects that had somewhat similar beliefs as what would eventually become Christianity. It is very possible that he lived in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was allegedly performing all these miracles. The fact that none of his writings ever mention Jesus, any of the miracles, the dead people who came back to life when Jesus was crucified, etc., strains credulity far past the breaking point. None of these things happened.

    Having said that we're left with a possible historical nugget, a street preacher who possibly pissed off the wrong people and got himself Jimmy Hoffa'd. A guy who will never be able to speak for himself because the only thing we have is what people claim he said. And none of those people are people who actually met him (none of the books of the NT were written by anyone who actually knew Jesus). Add to that decades of legendary development before the first of the 4 gospels appears (written by people in Rome, by the way, 1500 miles away and no less than 40 years removed from the events in question). The story of Jesus the Magic Jew was certainly a popular one. But popular doesn't have anything to do with true. Never has, never will. Ask Paul Bunyan.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atheos View Post
    For years now I've maintained that we can be certain that the Jesus who walked on water, fed thousands with mere morsels, healed blindness, paralysis, even death and levitated off into the sky never to be seen again did not exist. Such a person would have left a much more indelible mark in the historical record than any Caesar, certainly more than Pilate or JtB. The fact that not one single morsel of evidence of all these incredible goings-on are preserved in historical records from the time in question speaks volumes. These things simply did not happen.

    Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish philosopher who wrote a great deal about things going on in and around Jerusalem right in the wheelhouse of the time Jesus would have been doing his thing. He wrote about the Essenes and other Jewish sects that had somewhat similar beliefs as what would eventually become Christianity. It is very possible that he lived in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was allegedly performing all these miracles. The fact that none of his writings ever mention Jesus, any of the miracles, the dead people who came back to life when Jesus was crucified, etc., strains credulity far past the breaking point. None of these things happened.

    Having said that we're left with a possible historical nugget, a street preacher who possibly pissed off the wrong people and got himself Jimmy Hoffa'd. A guy who will never be able to speak for himself because the only thing we have is what people claim he said. And none of those people are people who actually met him (none of the books of the NT were written by anyone who actually knew Jesus). Add to that decades of legendary development before the first of the 4 gospels appears (written by people in Rome, by the way, 1500 miles away and no less than 40 years removed from the events in question). The story of Jesus the Magic Jew was certainly a popular one. But popular doesn't have anything to do with true. Never has, never will. Ask Paul Bunyan.
    Paul Bunyan is potentially a good example, imo. Granted, we don't know if 'he' was based on anyone at all (ie he may have been a fictional character from the outset) but one candidate that has been suggested is Fabian Fournier, a big lumberjack who was apparently killed in a brawl in Bay City, Michigan, in 1875.



    I am not suggesting Paul Bunyan was in fact Fabian Fournier 'mythologised'. He may not have been. I only think it offers one plausible type of explanation.

    Regarding magic tricks, here is a pic of Sai Baba of Shirdi, India (1834-1918). Magic tricks, healings, preaching, small band of followers (to whom he appeared after his death) etc etc.

    Again, only an illustration of plausibility.



    There were, apparently (according to Josephus) a number of 'messianic claimants' going about Judea around the supposed time of (or before and after) Jesus, some of them with much larger numbers of followers than Jesus was said to have had (thirty thousand men in the case of the unnamed Egyptian Prophet, 52 CE). I believe one of them (Theudas) tried to part the waters of the river Jordan in 45 CE and persuaded 'a great many people' to attend the event. The Romans sent armed horsemen who killed many of the people there, took Theudas alive, and then executed him, according to Josephus. Then there was Judas, son of Hezekiah (4 BCE), Simon of Peraea (also 4 BCE), Athronges the shepherd (also 4 BCE), and The Samaritan Prophet (36 CE). And others in Judea during the later years of the 1st Century CE. If Jesus did exist, it's possible he was not even as well-known as any of these, either to Josephus or the Romans. The Romans apparently executed a large number of mostly unnamed Jews in those times, but that he was said to have been crucified suggests that if he existed he would have been a bit more of a naughty boy, from the Roman pov, than he is portrayed in the Christian texts.

    As for Philo, I am not an expert on his writings, but I understood it that he did not mention any of these sorts of people, so I don't tend to see the omission of one of them as telling us much, other than that perhaps none of them, or their exploits, were actually famous (or relevant) enough for him to mention. But then I am not even sure how many if any religious figures he mentions at all (he wasn't, as I understand it, writing history, and was more into ideas and philosophy).
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 05-07-2020 at 04:15 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by joebleaux View Post
    What do forum-dwellers view as the best evidence for a historical (as opposed to mythical) Jesus?
    I don't see it as a binary choice. It is quite possible that there was an actual character that was a religious preacher and then all sorts of mythical stories were attached to him.

    Gautama Buddha comes to mind as an example of that.

    And then there are actual known historical figures that had myths of 'magical powers' attributed to them... Like the leaders of the Kim family in North Korea.
    Can't remember the movie I watched on Netflix. It was based on an actual incident that occurred. The movie started out "The following story is true, only the facts have been changed." That's probably a fair description of Jesus legends.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    I think it is reasonable to agree that someone who now goes by the name of Paul was probably writing about someone (from Judea) and was doing it in the 1st Century CE (as it is now known). One question, regardless of the relative lack of biographical information, is, 'who was he referring to?'

    It could have been someone from the dim and distant past, but that doesn't exactly tally with the urgency about this person's death being a signal for supposed end times and the reason for joining a new cult to be a follower. It could have been someone yet to come, but that doesn't tally with him being described as having already been (apparently recently) killed. It could have been someone who was killed in an 'upper realm' but quite honestly that's such an awkward and tenuous reading of the texts that it is arguably just plain daft and imo it is astounding that so many otherwise rational skeptics would even give it the time of day after studying what is written in them. Erich Von Daniken was more plausible, imo.

    Also, almost all cults, even if not all, who claim to have had a founder, usually seem to have had one, and especially those who claim to have had a recent founder. By the standards of ancient history generally, Paul is as close to a contemporaneous source as it tends to get when the figure is minor and/or has not written about or for themselves.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I think it is reasonable to agree that someone who now goes by the name of Paul was probably writing about someone (from Judea) and was doing it in the 1st Century CE (as it is now known). One question, regardless of the relative lack of biographical information, is, 'who was he referring to?'

    It could have been someone from the dim and distant past, but that doesn't exactly tally with the urgency about this person's death being a signal for supposed end times and the reason for joining a new cult to be a follower. It could have been someone yet to come, but that doesn't tally with him being described as having already been (apparently recently) killed. It could have been someone who was killed in an 'upper realm' but quite honestly that's such an awkward and tenuous reading of the texts that it is arguably just plain daft and imo it is astounding that so many otherwise rational skeptics would even give it the time of day after studying what is written in them. Erich Von Daniken was more plausible, imo.

    Also, almost all cults, even if not all, who claim to have had a founder, usually seem to have had one, and especially those who claim to have had a recent founder. By the standards of ancient history generally, Paul is as close to a contemporaneous source as it tends to get when the figure is minor and/or has not written about or for themselves.
    It isn't really a question of historicity as much as one of inspiration. We have an anonymous author writing about a person with superhuman powers, pretty standard stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    ... I mean an actual 1st Century, Jewish, Judean, fringe ('non-establishment') preacher, who met an early death.

    But if you pressed me for one strand of evidence that I think comes closest, in itself, to being reasonably persuasive, I'd say the Pauline Epistles.
    Thanks for the response. Your description of Yeshua ben Yusuf depicts more or less my conclusion: a historical Essene preacher who somehow, despite his non-Davidic lineage and birth in Nazareth (or was it Capernaum? But that's a different thread), convinced himself that he was the Messiah.

    Having read some of the links others have shared, I'll look into the Pauline writings a bit more, thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by joebleaux View Post
    What do forum-dwellers view as the best evidence for a historical (as opposed to mythical) Jesus?

    William Harwood (Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus) argues that the recording of Josh being baptized by John the Baptist in the Gospels casts such doubt on Jesus' claim to being the Messiah (why would the real Messiah need baptism by another, imposter Messiah?) that it was only included in the Gospel because the fact of his baptism by JtB was so well-known as to be irrefutable. He concludes that Josh must have been a real dude, and separate from the Righteous Rabbi, also named Joshua, who flourished ~ 100 BCE.

    What's your take?
    Ah yes, the embarrassment argument: they wouldn’t have written this and embarrassed their hero if it weren’t true. That can be a persuasive argument for those who:

    1. Haven’t read much fiction.
    2. Have never known a good liar.
    3. Have never been to an AA meeting to hear drunks try to outdo each other with their stories of how dissolute they had been.
    4. Have never been to a (Christian) religious service where the preacher claimed to be a great sinner.

    But if JtB was a real character (and I don’t know any major arguments against that) and had a real following, what better way to establish your hero’s credentials than to have than to have him encounter JtB and then, lo and behold, JtB endorses your hero as the real deal, greater than himself? Then a miracle happens and seals the deal. Must be true.
    So my conclusion is, the argument fails because it is no more plausible than its counter argument. It doesn’t prove anything one way of the other.

    As for the embarrassment criterion in general, Paul (I preach Christ crucified) made it the central pillar of his theology. If it didn't sell tickets Christianity would have closed on opening night.
    Thanks for your comments. I especially appreciate you giving voice that Yeshua crucified doesn't exactly fit the Jewish concept of a Messiah. I'm interested in what brought Paul success in "sell[ing] tickets" to his interpretation, if you have relevant material to which you could point me, I'd be very grateful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post

    This atheist is my goto guy for impartial refutation of Jesus mythicism.
    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/ch...219.html#p4642

    He is a member here too.
    Wow, thanks for sharing those. While I haven't been able to pull up rationalskepticism.org, I've found the historyforatheists.com site and find O'Neill's arguments persuasive. Lots of well-researched and interesting material there which address my question directly, I'm very grateful.

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