The following is from a 14-year-old young man who has done extensive YouTube videos refuting atheism. He’s brilliant for his age. I’d encourage you to check out Kabane’s YouTube V-logs. (Be forewarned that he’s also a theistic evolutionist. I am a creationist, so I’d like to change his mind of course.) He contacted me about The Real Jesus and has been asking a lot of questions. We are sharing information and debating.
The Jesus Mythist movement is a weird phenomenon. During my 20 year foray as a Christian writer, editor, publisher and promoter of biblical studies, I was always under the impression that even the most skeptical of the skeptics at least admitted that Jesus was a real person. The “Jesus as myth hypothesis” was popular for a brief time among skeptics in the early 20th century, but was soon rejected by even the most liberal scholars. Now suddenly in the 21st century, it’s popped up again with a vengeance. Fueled by the Internet and the appearance of self-published “scholars,” such as one high school graduate who claims to be a historian, many are intent on enlightening the world with the “well proven fact” that the historical person Jesus did not even exist.
Intitially, I didn’t even want to give time to this idea. I put the Jesus Mythists in the same category as Roswell/Area 59 UFO believers and JFK assassination conspiracy theorists. But it’s a growing movement especially among young semi-literates, pseudo-intelletual college age atheists and fervent Neo-Gnostics who have absorbed the ideas of The God Who Wasn’t There DVD produced by Brian Fleming and other simple minded works of narcissism, such as Richard Dawkin’s The Root of All Evil DVD.
Atheist Claims Message from: KabaneTheChristian
Hey, I hate to annoy you, but an atheist is claiming some stuff, and I do not know how to respond. Here are his comments:
Let’s lay out the facts that are available. Writings of Jesus: none. Contemporaneous records, such as tax receipts, or Roman administrative documents: none. Books or other accounts written by eyewitnesses (more on the gospels further on): none. Physical descriptions, such as height, weight, eye and hair color: none. What do we have? Dozens of “gospels” composed by later followers, four of which were canonized into the New Testament. These were written between thirty and two hundred years after the claimed date of Jesus. But we also have references in the letters of Paul. Paul was a second generation Christian who probably never met Jesus. Most of the letters which bear his name are approved by scholars as really having been written by him. Incidental references to Christians and Jesus can be found in Tacitus and Suetonius.(**) Suetonius spells the name, “Chrestus”; either this is a confusion on his part, or it refers to someone else. ** Ref: Tacitus, Annales, 4.44; Suetonius Vita Claudii, 25.4, Vita Neronis, 16.
Suppose we use the canonical gospels for evidence of biographical detail about Jesus. Where was Jesus born? The writers of the gospels disagree among themselves. Matthew and Luke support the usual notion that the event took place in Bethlehem; while John and Mark give the impression that they had never heard of such a thing. Jesus was commonly known as a Nazarene, an inhabitant of Nazareth, a hundred miles away.
When was Jesus born? According to Luke, it was during the reign of the Roman governor Quirinius, during a census ordered by Augustus throughout the whole world. According to both Luke and Matthew it was also during the reign of king Herod “the Great.” The problem is that Herod died in 4 B.C.E., and this was fully ten years before Quirinius’ census. Furthermore, during Herod’s reign, no Roman census could have been held in his territory, which included both Judaea and Galilee, the locations of both Bethlehem and Nazareth. Herod would have collected his own taxes, and given tribute to the Romans.
Lastly, the existence of a census throughout the whole empire is contrary to the practice of the Romans, who collected taxes province by province, often subcontracting the process to “publicans.” Furthermore, during Herod’s reign, no Roman census could have been held in his territory, which included both Judaea and Galilee, the locations of both Bethlehem and Nazareth. Herod would have collected his own taxes, and given tribute to the Romans. Lastly, the existence of a census throughout the whole empire is contrary to the practice of the Romans, who collected taxes province by province, often subcontracting the process to “publicans.”
I respond: You have a lot of stuff here. I’ve seen it all because they usually regurgitate the same old stuff. If you haven’t seen the http://tektonics.org/ site, then check it out for extensive answers to these questions.
I’ll answer the points not covered in The Real Jesus.
On the Gospels being written by eyewitnesses prior to 70 A.D. Although I cover this in some detail in the video, no Jesus mythist challenges this fact: the Church Fathers, Clement, Polycarp, Papias and Ignatius claim to have known the Apostles and others who saw Jesus. They quote extensively from the Gospels and most of the letters of the New Testament. They refer to these books as authoritative, as scripture, and as written (not oral) documents. They claim to have received the books directly from the Apostles. They do not refer to the second century “Gnostic Gospels” since these were written later. If the Gospels were not written prior to 70 A.D. then these church fathers who lived at the end of the first century could not have received them as scripture nor could they have quoted from them in their works.
The demands for “contemporary” records (that is, accounts written during Jesus’ life) are as unreasonable as the demands for eye and hair color in order to prove a person existed. Many people from history were not written about during their life times. Jesus was not an internationally known figure in 30 A.D. The Jesus movement was all of 120 people — and later 500 by the time of the resurrection. Christians were initially thought of as a sect of Judaism, but as they started to grow there appeared enough literature by pagan authors to corroborate what the New Testament says about Jesus. There are hundreds of corroborating events in pagan literature that confirm the New Testament. None of the pagan or Jewish writers at the time claimed Jesus was not a real person. In trying to refute the early Christians, the Jews and pagans would have found this easy enough to do if He were not a true person. This idea has been made up in the last 150 years. No credible, credentialed historian holds this view.
The fact is that we know more about Jesus’ life than we do about William Shakespeare. There are no “contemporary” biographies of Shakespeare. However, we have to explain the body of literature bearing his name and the other contemporary playwrights of his day who mention him after his death as being the true author.
The passage by Suetonius is similar to the passage by Tacitus in that either they both are reporting the same information about the persecution under Nero, or Seutonius refers to an earlier persecution of the Jews under Claudius (I think more likely) that has nothing to do with Christ. The sense of the passage indicates that “Chrestus” was a person among the Jews who instigated a riot. Either this is the case or Suetonius is confusing what happened to the Christians under Nero with this earlier revolt under Claudius. Other accounts are stronger, Josephus, Pliny and especially Tacitus. The Jesus mythists like to say that the accounts of early Christians by pagan historians don’t prove Jesus existed as a real person, because all the early Christians were Gnostics, who believed Christ was a spiritual being only. But Gnosticism is condemned by the New Testament itself.
Quirinius was a ruler in the eastern Roman Empire from the time of 14 B.C. to 12 A.D. If it were not for Luke’ account, we would not know exactly what he was governor of at the time of Jesus birth. Quirinius, at the time of King Herod’s death was doing military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire (Tacitus, Annals 3:48; Florus, Roman History 2:31). There is some evidence indicating that he either was a co-ruler with the governor of Syria (Quintilius Varus) or at least placed in charge of the census in Palestine. Justin of Rome records that he was a “procurator” while Varus and Saturnius served as governors during this time. The word hegemonoi in Greek can mean a variety of titles meaning ruler, governor, procurator, etc. Pilate is called a hegemonoi, which is translated variously as governor, procurator, prefect, in the New Testament.
The account of Herod’s death as occurring 4 B.C. is assumed by historians who see Josephus account of a lunar eclipse shortly before his death. There was a partial lunar eclipse this year, but there was a total lunar eclipse in 1 B.C. It’s far from a settled issue when Herod died. If Luke records that he was alive during the census, then from a purely historical analytical viewpoint, this favors the later year of 1 B.C.
Mark and John are silent on the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. However, in Revelation 12 we see an allusion to Matthew’s account of Jesus birth. John records that the Pharisees thought Jesus could not have been the messiah or a prophet because he was from Nazareth. Jesus did not refute them in this account, but He almost never directly answers the Pharisees false accusations. This is a feature of John’s Gospel. That John was familiar with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke when he wrote his Gospel is assumed by most scholars and corroborated by the testimony of the Church Fathers. This is a great example of the famous “argument from silence” fallacy. It’s a stupid way of thinking: since two of the Gospels don’t mention it, then it could not have possibly happened.
There are numerous references to a worldwide census that occurred in 3 B.C. Josephus records this census as for an oath of allegiance. Some translations have “taxed,” but the Greek word apographe can mean either tax or census. Seeing that Joseph as from a line of kings it makes sense that he would be required to travel to his birth town to swear allegiance. Some have theorized that Mary was the oldest daughter of her father, since her sisters are mentioned in the Gospels but no brothers. According to Jewish law, this would have made her the heir, and as one with a kingly heritage, she would have had to register with Joseph as well.There is a great book on all this called The Star That Astonished the World by Ernest L. Martin. It can be read on-line in it’s entirety. http://www.askelm.com/star/index.asp
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