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Old 6th November 2012, 05:12 AM   #1
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Evidence for Jesus

Hi

I heard an argument from a ex-catholic atheist who proposed that there is no physical evidence of Jesus's existance dated from around the time he was supposed to have been alive.

I was wondering if this is infact the case?
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Old 6th November 2012, 05:57 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by BadBoy View Post
Hi

I heard an argument from a ex-catholic atheist who proposed that there is no physical evidence of Jesus's existance dated from around the time he was supposed to have been alive.

I was wondering if this is infact the case?
See the discussion in the currently active thread Jesus Christ?
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:03 AM   #3
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Well, I think it's a bit unfair to dump ye ole' Jesus threads on him, because he asks for something much more narrow: physical evidence, and the threads mostly revolve around something else: how much you can take the Bible as evidence for stuff in the Bible.

The short answer is that no, there is no physical evidence of Jesus. There is no tombstone with his name on it, no first edition gospel signed by him, nor anything else which would count as physical evidence.

In fact, if we had any such evidence outside the bible, then we wouldn't be having such threads going in circles.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:14 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, I think it's a bit unfair to dump ye ole' Jesus threads on him, because he asks for something much more narrow: physical evidence, and the threads mostly revolve around something else: how much you can take the Bible as evidence for stuff in the Bible.

The short answer is that no, there is no physical evidence of Jesus. There is no tombstone with his name on it, no first edition gospel signed by him, nor anything else which would count as physical evidence.

In fact, if we had any such evidence outside the bible, then we wouldn't be having such threads going in circles.
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at the time and that Yeshua was a not uncommon name. This is all necessary but not sufficient evidence. For instance, if there was no such execution method as crucifiction, or if Romans were not active in that part of the world, that would kill the hypothesis that Jesus as described above existed.

Compare with Aslan, the talking lion from Narnia. We have no evidence that lions can talk or that aplace called Narnia might be home to them, so Aslan lags a bit behind historical Jesus.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:22 AM   #5
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While that's true, it can also be summarized as: we have no evidence against Jesus either. Which is true too. But it's not the same as evidence for Jesus.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:31 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
While that's true, it can also be summarized as: we have no evidence against Jesus either. Which is true too. But it's not the same as evidence for Jesus.
I'd say it's slightly different. I don't have very good evidence against Narnia's existence.

I'd say that we have evidence enough for the mundane parts of a Jesus description that it's more parsimonious for the character to be based on a real individual rather than made up from whole cloth.

If you tell me your uncle is a fire breather from Prague, then learning that your last name is common there and fire breathing is a popular profession is all evidence towards that. It's not enough to form a lot of confidence in the claim, but it's distinct from a lack of evidence against.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:36 AM   #7
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Without trying to reopen that discussion, everything you mentioned is not evidence even for that. In fact it's not even evidence that you can't disprove Jesus. It's just evidence that the SETUP of the story can't be disproved. That's nowhere near the same as evidence for Jesus.

I mean just to have the same kind of irrelevant handwaving about background details: we know that Moskow was a real place. We know that Paris was a real place. We know that many Russian youth did travel to Paris for studies. We know that the war between Napoleon and Russia was a real thing. Yet none of that is even close to being evidence that specifically Piotr Bezukhov from War And Peace is real.

ETA: In fact, even your example shows what's wrong with it. I COULD tell you that my uncle is a fire-breather in Prague, but actually he isn't. AFAIK he never even visited Prague. That you think you can support HIM just because Prague or fire-breathing aren't tripping your BS detector just shows what's wrong with that kind of support.

ETA 2: and since that will still get some to resolve it as "ah-ha, but you do have an uncle", I could say the same about my AUNT. Except I don't have one. Yet you'd apparently deduce that it's the most likely explanation because Prague is real and fire-breathing is real.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:37 AM   #8
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By your logic, postulating an invisible pink dragon who does a girlie show at the Pink Pussycat Club on Fridays under the name "Candy" is enough evidence to make the existence of IPDs "parsimonious," just because strippers named Candy, the Pink Pussycat Club and Fridays exist.

So no, OP, there is no physical evidence. What there is is a lot of specious arguing that things which aren't physical evidence can maybe sorta resemble evidence if you squint at them in the right light.

[ETA] Damnit Hans! I'm leaving mine up, even if ninjad, because of the mental image of a dragon stripper. We're talking Skyrim dragons here, not furry ones.

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Old 6th November 2012, 08:46 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough....
It's less than "not nearly enough". What is there is questionable, a stretch and includes some that looks outright forged, while evidence one would expect to find following someone who had the impact at the time Jesus supposedly had, is non-existant.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:47 AM   #10
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Imagine I told you about my Uncle Hans, the fire breather from Prague.

If you discovered that 99% of the population of Prague were professional fire breathers, would that add to known likelihood of my claim being correct, subtract, or make no difference?
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:53 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at the time and that Yeshua was a not uncommon name. This is all necessary but not sufficient evidence. For instance, if there was no such execution method as crucifiction, or if Romans were not active in that part of the world, that would kill the hypothesis that Jesus as described above existed.

Compare with Aslan, the talking lion from Narnia. We have no evidence that lions can talk or that aplace called Narnia might be home to them, so Aslan lags a bit behind historical Jesus.
Is your argument that if we strip Jesus of everything supernatural or even unusual then there is nothing impossible about his existence?

Isn't that then kind of working backwards from the myth to arrive at something that can't be disproved and then extrapolating from that basis that the myth was probably based on something real?

If so, it sounds like very shaky reasoning.

If you have to strip away all the made-up bollocks to arrive at something that could or could not be just as made up then isn't it more likely that the whole thing is simply made up?
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:55 AM   #12
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It would make no existence about the existence of your uncle or his being in Prague. The city of Prague, the existence of the occupation, and your uncle, are three different entities, each of which could be true or false independent of the others. Something that supports entity A, does not support entity B.

And at the end of it, all I'd have is that I haven't found easy clues that your story is false, but I'd still have no evidence that it's true. That I can't disprove your story via finding something that contradicts various elements of it, is not the same as that I have stuff supporting it as true.

Again, look at the example base on War And Peace that i gave. That the cities Moskow and Paris are real, and that the Napoleonic war did happen, do NOT mean or even support the idea that Count Pierre Bezukhov is also real.
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Old 6th November 2012, 08:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
Is your argument that if we strip Jesus of everything supernatural or even unusual then there is nothing impossible about his existence?
I assumed we were talking about the "historical jesus", the religious figure is just silly.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:00 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Imagine I told you about my Uncle Hans, the fire breather from Prague.

If you discovered that 99% of the population of Prague were professional fire breathers, would that add to known likelihood of my claim being correct, subtract, or make no difference?
tbh, it would subtract from it. Consider:

Cavemonster: Funnily enough, I have an uncle named Hans who's a fire breather in Prague.
Hans: Bull. There is only one Hans.
Cavemonster: No, it's true! Lots of people in Prague are fire breathers!

It becomes obvious you're just dodging the question, making even your mild assertion dubious.

Similarly, we're not asking if someone in Jerusalem was named Jesus, nor if anyone was crucified by the Romans. A simple "no, there's no evidence for Jesus, we must take it on faith that He existed" would have far more honesty and integrity than any amount of weasel-worded offerings.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:05 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I assumed we were talking about the "historical jesus", the religious figure is just silly.
Either way, you are stripping the story back to the mundane and then using evidence of the mundane to support something larger.

If I say my grandad was a plumber from London who was Prince Charles's real father then the existence of London plumbers does not corroborate my story nor does it mean that my tale was probably based on a real London plumber.

Furthermore it would be silly to postulate a 'historical plumber' that wasn't my grandad nor did he father a prince but is nonetheless still the same character from my story based solely on the fact that London plumbers happen to be common and provable.

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Old 6th November 2012, 09:08 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at .


None of the above is evidence of the existence of the biblical figure named "Jesus".

The fact that a place called Jerusalem existed, is clearly not any kind of evidence to show that a biblical Jesus figure existed. The fact that New York exists is not evidence of the existence of Superman!
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:09 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
tbh, it would subtract from it. Consider:

Cavemonster: Funnily enough, I have an uncle named Hans who's a fire breather in Prague.
Hans: Bull. There is only one Hans.
Cavemonster: No, it's true! Lots of people in Prague are fire breathers!

It becomes obvious you're just dodging the question, making even your mild assertion dubious.

Similarly, we're not asking if someone in Jerusalem was named Jesus, nor if anyone was crucified by the Romans. A simple "no, there's no evidence for Jesus, we must take it on faith that He existed" would have far more honesty and integrity than any amount of weasel-worded offerings.
Are you assuming I'm Christian?
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:10 AM   #18
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Let me quote myself from another thread:
Originally Posted by Jorghnassen View Post
The proper way to answer that is as follows: if there exists such surviving documents, they have yet to be found. If you think of HJ as a potential crime scene, any evidence has been tainted or tempered with long ago. Christianity took over the Roman Empire decades after it was founded, and grew from a small cult slowly so finding contemporary physical evidence (be it artifacts or original written documents) about its founding figure is by nature highly unlikely. So whether there is a founding Jesus or a founding Brian (say) who made up stories about some dude named Jesus, there's no way to get a definitive answer, only conjectures based on different interpretations of circumstantial evidence.
Any conclusion one comes to on the existence of a historical Jesus is just a lousy attempt at Bayesian inference.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:10 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
None of the above is evidence of the existence of the biblical figure named "Jesus".

The fact that a place called Jerusalem existed, is clearly not any kind of evidence to show that a biblical Jesus figure existed. The fact that New York exists is not evidence of the existence of Superman!
It is evidence of Superman, it's just far outweighed by the evidence against.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:12 AM   #20
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TBH, the idea that I'm left with after all this threads is that some people firmly believe the following:
[indent]I could tell if someone were lying to me.[/i]

How? Well, obviously they'd include non-existing cities, talking lions, etc. OR they'd make any made up character such a complete and impossibly perfect and glorious Mary Sue, that, clearly, you could tell that it's something made up.

Not an exact quote, but the general gist I'm left with.

But it's really a rather silly assumption. If there is stuff that would tip someone off that a con-man is lying, then any good con-man, unless they're terminally retarded and disconnected from real people, would at least try to avoid such tell-tale elements.

E.g., if I wanted to scam you into joining my cult of our prophet and saviour Ivan, I wouldn't make up an Ivan who lives on Pluto and tames Mi-Go for a living. I'd make up exactly an Ivan who was in Prague.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:14 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
E.g., if I wanted to scam you into joining my cult of our prophet and saviour Ivan, I wouldn't make up an Ivan who lives on Pluto and tames Mi-Go for a living. I'd make up exactly an Ivan who was in Prague.
The reasons liars will tell you about Ivan from Prague rather than Pluto, is BECAUSE Ivan from Prague is more probable to exist given no other information.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:15 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Are you assuming I'm Christian?
Are you avoiding the post?
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:17 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
It is evidence of Superman, it's just far outweighed by the evidence against.
Actually, no, it's not evidence at all in the first place. (Also because it was Spiderman who was in New York, not Superman, you heathens!) The idea that using a real place name in a story, somehow is evidence for the characters in the story is just silly.

What you're trying to do is AT BEST just a 'by association' fallacy. Namely:

P1: Place X and person Y are mentioned in the same story.
P2: Place X has the property of being real.
C: Then so does person Y.

But that's so invalid, it's not even funny. As a trivial example, consider applying the same reasoning for such properties as "has a surface of 54,556 square miles". Try to get that one from New York to Spiderman
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:17 AM   #24
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But we have alleged evidence in the form of his foreskin, umbilical cord, tears, phials of his mother's milk, bits of the manger in which he was born, samples of his blood; as well as the nails and bits of the cross used to crucify him, the notice pinned to his cross, samples of his swaddling clothes, and innumerable other things. Crowns of thorns. There's no end to them! What more could we need? His shroud? Well, we've got that too!
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:19 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
It is evidence of Superman
No, it really isn't.

And it really really isn't evidence that Batman exists, even though Gotham City is clearly based on New York.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:39 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
Are you avoiding the post?
I honestly don't see what you'd like me to address in it.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:45 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, no, it's not evidence at all in the first place. (Also because it was Spiderman who was in New York, not Superman, you heathens!) The idea that using a real place name in a story, somehow is evidence for the characters in the story is just silly.

What you're trying to do is AT BEST just a 'by association' fallacy. Namely:

P1: Place X and person Y are mentioned in the same story.
P2: Place X has the property of being real.
C: Then so does person Y.

But that's so invalid, it's not even funny. As a trivial example, consider applying the same reasoning for such properties as "has a surface of 54,556 square miles". Try to get that one from New York to Spiderman
You're given two stories to choose from.
One takes place in a location you know is real.
One takes place in a location that may or may not be real.

You are asked to choose based on this information alone which story is more likely to be true.

Notice "Based on this information alone" which means you should not try to imagine that someone has chosen the place names to throw you off the scent. If you are basing your choice on the idea that someone is trying to trick you, you are not using "This information alone".
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:49 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
You're given two stories to choose from.
One takes place in a location you know is real.
One takes place in a location that may or may not be real.

You are asked to choose based on this information alone which story is more likely to be true.

Notice "Based on this information alone" which means you should not try to imagine that someone has chosen the place names to throw you off the scent. If you are basing your choice on the idea that someone is trying to trick you, you are not using "This information alone".
So given two stories:

1. A man cooked a sausage in Gotham City
2. A man turned into a sausage and cooked himself in Boston

You're saying the 2nd is more likely to be true because Boston is real?
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:51 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at the time and that Yeshua was a not uncommon name. This is all necessary but not sufficient evidence. For instance, if there was no such execution method as crucifiction, or if Romans were not active in that part of the world, that would kill the hypothesis that Jesus as described above existed.

None of this is actually evidence for the existence of this particular Jesus. It's evidence that his existence is not impossible, but that isn't the same thing.

In any case, the Jesus you have defined ("historical Jesus") isn't the Jesus defined by the New Testament and the Christian religion. That Jesus was the son of God, could perform miracles, and came back from the dead.

Quote:
Compare with Aslan, the talking lion from Narnia. We have no evidence that lions can talk or that aplace called Narnia might be home to them, so Aslan lags a bit behind historical Jesus.

And so, for similar reasons, does Jesus the son of God, who could perform miracles and came back from the dead.

If we redefine Aslan as a lion without the extraordinary characteristics (much as you redefined Jesus as "historical Jesus"), then we have just as much evidence that Aslan existed as that Jesus existed.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:02 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at the time and that Yeshua was a not uncommon name. This is all necessary but not sufficient evidence. For instance, if there was no such execution method as crucifiction, or if Romans were not active in that part of the world, that would kill the hypothesis that Jesus as described above existed.

We have just as much evidence that Brian* of Nazareth existed.


*Naughtius Maximus could have been of Breton extraction. The Roman empire certainly extended that far well before the time of Brian's birth.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:05 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
So given two stories:

1. A man cooked a sausage in Gotham City
2. A man turned into a sausage and cooked himself in Boston

You're saying the 2nd is more likely to be true because Boston is real?
No: Remember the "NO OTHER INFORMATION" part I highlighted?
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:08 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
We have just as much evidence that Brian* of Nazareth existed.


*Naughtius Maximus could have been of Breton extraction. The Roman empire certainly extended that far well before the time of Brian's birth.
Slightly less. For one thing Brian is an Irish name of comparatively modern origin.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:10 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
And so, for similar reasons, does Jesus the son of God, who could perform miracles and came back from the dead.

If we redefine Aslan as a lion without the extraordinary characteristics (much as you redefined Jesus as "historical Jesus"), then we have just as much evidence that Aslan existed as that Jesus existed.
But of course we're taling about the historical Jesus, that's not MY redefinition, it's a valid question of interest to a lot of people. Maybe not to you, but to many on this forum.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:13 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Slightly less. For one thing Brian is an Irish name of comparatively modern origin.

See my footnote.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:21 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
But of course we're taling about the historical Jesus, that's not MY redefinition, it's a valid question of interest to a lot of people. Maybe not to you, but to many on this forum.

There's planty of evidence that lions exist, therefore plenty of evidence for historical Aslan.
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Old 6th November 2012, 11:10 AM   #36
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Was John the Baptist real? It seems like an inconvenient hoop to force Jesus to jump through. Clearly baptism was an already-important thing?
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Old 6th November 2012, 11:19 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I'd say that we have physical evidence in the broad sense, just not nearly enough.

If we define Jesus as a Jewish son of a carpenter named Yeshua living and preching in Jerusalem around the beginning of the first century who was executed by the Romans, then the evidence that the definition demands must cover all of that.

We have evidence that the city of Jerusalem existed at the time, that the Romans occupied it. We have evidence that carpentry was a trade, that crucifiction was a form of execution. We know that Jews lived in the area at the time and that Yeshua was a not uncommon name. This is all necessary but not sufficient evidence. For instance, if there was no such execution method as crucifiction, or if Romans were not active in that part of the world, that would kill the hypothesis that Jesus as described above existed.

Compare with Aslan, the talking lion from Narnia. We have no evidence that lions can talk or that aplace called Narnia might be home to them, so Aslan lags a bit behind historical Jesus.
This is very flawed logic and countered by a character known to have never lived--Sherlock Holmes.

We know there was not only a London but a Baker Street from 1881-1914.

William Baring-Gould's Annotated Sherlock Holmes shows that there was a John H. Watson listed among the casualties of the First Boer War (1880-1881) and in the stories Watson's war wound is sometimes referred to.

By the logic (and I use the word very loosely) presented above Sherlock Holmes must have existed.


Robin Hood, King Arthur, and John Frum, characters on the fringes of historical existence, also serve as counter examples. Unlike the first two John Frum has the advantage of his story being intensely studied by scientists as early as 1957, just 27 years after his supposed appearance via a vision to the Elders on February 15, 1931 (Worsley, Peter (1957). The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of 'Cargo' Cults in Melanesia London: MacGibbon & Kee. p. 154.)

However despite the fact of John Frum being studied 'within living memory it is not certain whether he lived at all'.' (paraphrase, Dawkins, Richard (2006) The God Delusion pg 239)

Robin Hood and King Arthur are in far worst shape then John Frum with the stories about them being written centuries after the facts though there are tantalizing bits of evidence for their existence before these stories were written down.

Last edited by maximara; 6th November 2012 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 6th November 2012, 11:26 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
It is evidence of Superman, it's just far outweighed by the evidence against.


No it's not lol.

The fact that a geographical place exists is not evidence that some named individual was ever present there. The fact that Mars exists is not evidence that Martians exist!
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Old 6th November 2012, 11:37 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
There's planty of evidence that lions exist, therefore plenty of evidence for historical Aslan.
If you define "Historical Aslan" as a non talking lion that existed somewhere on earth, then yes. But it's not a very interesting claim.
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Old 6th November 2012, 11:44 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
No: Remember the "NO OTHER INFORMATION" part I highlighted?
You said we were given 2 stories though. The point is that its the content of the stories in their entirety that determines whether they are true or not.

Try reversing the flow of logic.

Does knowing New York exists suggest that there is a man who can fly living there? Clearly not.
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