Jesus and the Italian Judges January 25, 2006 | 07:13 am

Italian court to decide whether Jesus existed – Yahoo! News

Okay…this guy called Jesus who grew up in Nazareth existed, and was crucified under Pontias Pilate. There’s pretty much zero actual contestation over that, and if that’s what the law suit hinges on, then it’s just a stupid atheist making trouble for a church he’s angry at. And it looks like that is what this hinges on:

“This complaint does not wish to contest the freedom of Christians to profess their faith…but wishes to denounce the abuse that the Catholic Church commits by profiting from its prestige to present historical facts as if they are real when they are only inventions,” the atheist says on his website.


  • bhurt-aw

    Here’s the problem: is the historical existance of Jesus beyond question? Mind you, I haven’t dug into this deeply. But consider, for example, the following page on the arguments in favor of the historical Jesus:

    Now, let’s applied the same sort of argument to the historical authenticity of the existence of Forrest Gump. We have a story of Forrest Gump meeting and interacting with a number of important people- JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, etc. And we have mountains of other evidence that these important people did, in fact, exist. The story places Forrest Gump in a number of memorable places as well- the White House, the National Mall, Vietnam, etc. And once again, we discover that these places existed, pretty much exactly as depiced in the story. The very stones cry out the authenticity of Forrest Gump!

    This isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t exist. The lives of the kings and important people are recorded much better than the lives of ordinary folk. That is as true today as it was back then. And after 2000 years, a lot of records get lost and/or destroyed- as anyone who tries to do genealogy can attest to. But is incorrect (to my knowledge) to say that it is beyond question that Jesus actually lived- any more than Forrest Gump did.

  • Candide

    We’ve got a death record for Jesus, though — his crucifixion was documented by the Romans. We’ve also got Josephius (a non-Christian) talking about how this Jesus of Nazareth guy started a cult of rather annoying Jews. So at least two non-Christians were willing to document his existence, which isn’t bad for 2000 years ago.

    Sure, you can run with a kind of Kaiser Soze theory, but I can do that with practically any person or event in existence.

  • bhurt-aw

    I haven’t found anything yet about the death record, but here’s an interesting comment on Josephius:

    One important thing to note was the Josephius was writting about 100 years after Jesus’s death. “There’s a bunch of people who swear this Forrest Gump fellow really lived…”

    I’ll reiterate: lack of evidence that the hypothesis is true does not qualify as evidence that the hypothesis is false. But it does fail to prove the hypothesis true.

  • Candide

    I had seen what that article identifies as the Arabic re-translation of the Josephus entry.

    Their complaint that referring to Jesus as the Massiah sounds like a Christian interpolation isn’t nearly as shocking as they make it out to be — there were lots of Massiahs floating around around Jesus’s time, and John the Baptist was one of the more popular ones, many of whose followers remained loyal Jews (and, hence, got more paper in Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities text). Referring to Jesus as a Wise Man is also pretty nominal, since he certainly was a Rabbi active in Jerusalem — he was kind of a religious John Stewart of his time.

    The death record I referred to was the Tactitus entry, which they claim to be from some Christians he happened to bump into as opposed to the Roman records. Beyond that, if you look at the full entry, it’s pretty clear that Tactitus wasn’t exactly a fan of Christians:

    The reason the name “Christ” was used instead of the proper name “Jesus” was used was twofold: 1) Tactitus was a gentile, not a Jew, and so they used the gentile title instead of the Jewish proper name (as was standard practice in the early Paulean church); 2) Christians were called Christians, not Jesusians, and he was explicitly referring to where their name came from.

    I haven’t encountered the complaint that they referred to Pilate by the wrong title before — that’s curious, but why would him getting it wrong necessarilly imply that he’s just getting his information from Christian hear-say?

    This is all assuming, as well, that the documentation of Jesus’s existence based out of the New Testament is tainted — for instance, the Epistles of John (but probably not the Gospel of John) were written by John the Disciple, who explicitly references the life and death of Jesus with some proto-trinitarian discussion.

    Now, there is no good extra-textual documentation for the Resurrection or the Baptism of Jesus, which are two pretty fundamental aspects of Christianity. If this guy wanted a better case, he could use those.

    For the argument at hand, though, all of this really comes down to how much evidence is needed before you’re willing to accept Jesus existed. You’re not going to find a body, so what *is* enough evidence, particularly after 2000 years…?

  • bhurt-aw

    How much evidence you need depends upon what you want to do. How much evidence do you need that Jesus really existed to accept him as your personal savior? None whatsoever. How much evidence do you need to prove in a court of law that he existed? Rather more.

    Something happened in and around Jeruslem about 2000 years ago. Actually, one of the more probable (IMHO) scenarios is that there actually was a Rabbi named Jesus who got the right followers, made a pest of himself, and then got nailed to tree. There is boatloads of evidence that lots of annoying people, including not a few of the more annoying rabbis, got nailed to trees.

    But it’s not the only plausible scenario. We may have just discovered implanted memories, but they’ve been there all along. They’re part and parcel of being human. That’s another.

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