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Historically Disproving Jesus Existed


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I want to know, for anyone who has studied history, is there a way to show that anybody never existed? Are there any qualifications to say that someone never existed? If a historian wrote a peer-reviewed journal could he in fact dismiss a person?


I've myself don't think Jesus was an actual physical person. To me the name Jesus is more a title and many people were probably called Jesus, Messiah or Savior. Anyway I don't think "Jesus of Nazarth" existed. But can I prove it? Yes I've been to jesusneverexisted.com but even with all that information that is presented this information I guess wouldn't be scholarly enough to be treated as fact. Well what would have to be done for it to be proven that Jesus didn't exist? At the very least what would it take for it to be nationally accepted that any historic figure was more than likely fabricated? Example if I was a historian what would I need to disprove King Arthur existed. Could I really disprove someone like Conan the Barbarian never existed or Achilles never existed?


I'm not going to go out on some mission to see if it possible to disprove Jesus. I just want to know what it would take to at least show that it is possible that he is indeed myth

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There is no way to do what you are asking without, say, an actual confession by a reliable confirmed source that said person never existed. Even then you'd still have debate.


For example, King Arthur. There is no evidence he existed. Well, I should say there is little evidence he existed. There is more evidence that King Arthur existed than jesus existed though. In reality King Arthur likely lived hundreds of years prior to the legend that is Arthur (the one with the round table and all that great stuff).


People argue whether Socrates truly existed or not. People argue whether many of those ancient people truly existed...at least in the forms we currently know them and whether they did all the things we attribute to them. The debate, it seems, never really ends (what else are historians to do? ;) ).


This reminded me of another story that I just saw on TV (this article is from http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/phanto...ra_stewart.htm). Can you create a person and have people believe in that person? Have people do things for that person? Only 2000 years ago? Not so fast:


July 30, 2006 -- She was just a rather rotund, pleasant woman - I hugged her when I met her," says author Armistead Maupin, recalling the day he first laid eyes on a woman named Vicki Johnson.


"A couple days later, when I was talking to Tony, he told me, 'Mom said the minute she met you, she knew you were going to hug her.'"


In 1992, Maupin had befriended Vicki's adopted, AIDS-stricken son, Anthony Godby Johnson, after reading a galley of his autobiography, "A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy's Triumphant Story." Moved by the harrowing memoir of child abuse, the "Tales of the City" scribe offered to blurb the book, and immediately hit it off with the dying - but effervescent - 14-year-old when they first spoke on the phone.


Despite the fact that he was perpetually at death's door, Tony Johnson was a kindred spirit to Maupin. In between fits of coughing, he was irreverent, wise beyond his years, and in need of intellectual companionship.


They had marathon conversations, with Maupin pulling Tony through the hardest times, like when he thought he might not live through the night. But it was Vicki who set the terms of their relationship, never allowing Maupin to actually meet the frail teen, despite the author's requests.


And then Maupin's partner, Terry Anderson, got a chance to chat with Vicki and Tony one day.


"Terry suggested that it was the same voice," says Maupin. "And I saw his point almost immediately."


As digital voice analysis would later show, Anthony was Vicki - the highly skilled perpetrator of a sweeping, 15-year public scam that touched thousands of people, including marquee names such as Oprah Winfrey, Keith Olbermann, Fred "Mr." Rogers, Mickey Mantle and Jermaine Jackson.


In 2000, Maupin published "The Night Listener," a fictionalized account of his six-year experience with Vicki and Tony. The screen version arrives Friday, starring Robin Williams, Toni Collette and Rory Culkin.


The bizarre story of Vicki's masquerade, in all of its incarnations, haunts most who hear it. It's hard to believe so many could be deceived by a recluse with a passable talent for voices. Yet it speaks to the nature of human compassion that even skeptics fleetingly entertain the idea that poor Anthony might, in fact, be real.


Through his literary alter ego, Gabriel Noone (played in the film by Williams), Maupin detailed the intense bond he formed with the boy (played by Culkin) on the other end of the phone line - despite the fact that, for the majority of those years, he nursed an inner debate about whether Tony really existed.


Meanwhile, the boy's strength in the face of extraordinary medical complications - an amputated leg and testicle, a stroke, shingles, constant pneumonia - inspired many celebrity supporters. They were all happy just to chat with the sick boy over the phone or by e-mail, respecting Vicki's edict about how her son was too sick to see anyone at all - ever.


"Keith Olbermann doesn't like to talk about it," says Maupin. The sportscaster had reportedly been collaborating with Tony on a novel about baseball.


"I talked to [author] Tom Robbins about it - he had called Tony for medical advice for someone - and I saw a fax Tony got from Jermaine Jackson, chatting about the trials of the Jackson family. Something like 'We don't know what to do about La Toya'," Maupin says with a laugh.


Vicki - whose real name is Vicki Fraginals Zackheim - also had the audacity to scam Rogers, who penned an afterword for "A Rock and a Hard Place."


She even suckered the queen of daytime. "Oprah fell in love with this kid!" says Patrick Stettner, director of "The Night Listener."


"Way before James Frey, she was majorly duped by him," Stettner says. "She fell in love with his story, loved the autobiography. She hosted this film [in 1997] about child abuse, and in the middle there's this whole section where they have images of this boy being abused - very tactfully, of course. And there's this voiceover, which is actually Vicki, pretending to be Tony."


A recent "20/20" special showed a clip from that special, featuring the voice of "Tony." It's high-pitched for a teenage boy - but, perhaps, not for one who claimed that the ravages of AIDS had stunted his puberty.


The one person who didn't believe the hype was a Newsweek reporter, Michele Ingrassia, who in 1993 published an article titled, "The Author Nobody's Met."


"I started reading [Tony's] book, and the whole thing set off every bulls--t meter I had," she says. "His cultural references were too old. He happened to be the same age as my daughter - she would never have talked about 'Coke-bottle glasses.' That's a term out of the '50s. And being a Mickey Mantle fan? No boy is a Mickey Mantle fan in the '90s.


"And then I started noticing," she adds, "there wasn't a single thing in the entire book you could follow through and track to a logical conclusion."


That fact - in conjunction with the book's lack of an author photo - led Ingrassia to call Tony's publisher, Crown, to request an in-person meeting with the author. Denied a visit by Vicki, who, as always, cited the boy's rapidly declining health, Ingrassia checked with a pediatric AIDS expert, who told her there was no medical reason she couldn't meet the boy.


"I started getting a really weird feeling about it," she says. "I started calling everyone on the acknowledgements page. It turned out that of every person who had a relationship with him, not one had ever met him!"


Ingrassia also went to Union Hill, the Union City N.J. neighborhood where Vicki and Tony supposedly lived. The apartment was on the second floor, over a drugstore.


"This is a kid who's dying of AIDS," she says, "and the pharmacy downstairs had never heard of him."


When Ingrassia's story ran, Tony was devastated. Maupin comforted him, keeping his doubts to himself.


"Tony was crying with me on the phone about it," the author says. "He was saying, 'You always believed in me, didn't you?'


"'Believed in me?'" Maupin repeats. "He was talking about himself like a deity."


But despite the sick boy's existential anguish, not one person came forward to confirm that they'd met or even glimpsed him - no doctor or caseworker, no one who had been involved with the gut-churning legal battle that put Tony's abusive parents in jail for 25 years. No cop who'd worked with Tony's father, who, before the arrest, had supposedly been a New York City police officer.


Like Santa Claus, Tony existed only in the hearts and minds of those who believed in him.


"In some ways, it's the ultimate ghost story," says Robert Kessel, a "Night Listener" producer. "Anytime you start telling people the plot of the book, and how it relates to real life, it's amazing how much people respond."


"She's a creative lady, obviously extremely intelligent," says Dr. Marc Feldman, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama. He's an expert on factitious disorder (a k a Munchausen by proxy) a condition in which a person invents or induces an illness in another person, usually a child, to gain attention they feel they cannot get any other way.


In extreme cases, says Feldman, author of the book "Playing Sick," they might even conjure a person.


"Tony Johnson tapped into people's needs for rescuing, for feeling big-hearted, and there may be other weaknesses that Vicki could discern and tap into," Feldman says. "Some of these people are, undeniably, a little sadistic. This is one way they manipulate people. Misleading people, especially famous people, is very gratifying for them."


The pull on human heartstrings was something Vicki played expertly, tailoring its appeal to each person with whom Tony communicated.


"This character, she's a performer and a shape shifter," says Collette, who plays Donna Logand, the fictional version of Vicki, in the film. "She goes to such lengths to get attention."


Even at its most far-fetched - like the vengeful pedophilia ring that had a hit out on Tony, making it doubly necessary to keep him away from the public eye - the tortured history Vicki created made him ever more deserving of pity and understanding.


"The trick here," says Maupin, "was that she created a situation where anyone who doubted her story was put in the position of looking like they were doubting the existence of child abuse itself. If you cast doubt on the story of a child, you seem to deny the existence of child abuse."


By the time journalist Tad Friend published a lengthy story about the fictional boy, "Virtual Love," in the New Yorker in 2001, it seemed the question of Tony's existence had been definitively answered.


The only person Friend found who had, in all those years, claimed to have met Tony was an AP reporter named Lesley Dreyfous, who had glimpsed the boy under very vague circumstances and then disappeared from her profession afterward.


"She wrote me a letter after 'The Night Listener' came out," says Maupin, "assuming the thing had all been laid to rest. She said, 'You took the courageous way. I ended up leaving my career in journalism because of this story.' It was a whole confession."


Yet Vicki maintains that Tony is still alive and unwell. Married and living in Lake Bluff, Ill., she hands media inquiries over to her child-psychologist husband, Dr. Marc Zackheim, who threatens legal action against those who want to investigate Tony's story.


Tony would now be almost 30, which, says Dr. Feldman, "would be one of the most incredible medical miracles in history." But he's still said to be communicating with friends who believe.


Notably, Jack Godby, an AIDS counselor and one of Tony's earliest friends - inspiring his middle name - refuses to consider that his long-ill friend is a phantom.


When "The Night Listener" began filming, Stettner says, a peculiar incident had the cast and crew watching their backs.


"The second week into shooting, somebody wrote both Robin and Toni letters, saying 'Best of luck with the project.'," he says. "They were signed different names, but Terry [Anderson] recognized them as both being the same handwriting as Vicki's."


From then on, Stettner says, the on-set atmosphere got a little Stephen King-esque.


"Sometimes late at night, walking toward the makeup tent, I would see somebody coming toward me out of the dark, and get freaked out," he says with a laugh. "When I left the set, I always kept my assistant in front of me."




Even in this day and age they're not positive that this person exists.



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i think you've raised a really great question!


imo, to verify ancient people's existence historically there are big problems:


1. they may have been catalogued in "official" or "government" records... court historians... but these people often lied about their enemies and "fluffed" their own kings and royal policies.


2. they may have a grave or tomb but often these locations were fabricated in order to make money offa pilgrimage schemes. i think most of the so-called graves of saints and holy people are just as well fake. most of them have some sort of "legend" attached, anyway.


3. but on the other hand... we don't doubt the existence of say, Ramses II or Alexander the Great because they put their name on everything... and we seem to understand how one real person could rule many people in the ancient world.


4. Christian monks were the curators of most of the sources of "Classical" and "Ancient" periods, good evidence they "edited" Philo, Josephus, Suetonius, etc...


5. maybe somebody wrote a book and we recognize them as the author... but it was common for many ancient texts to be written under assumed names.



i dunno, i guess as historian you've got to consider the integrity of the individual original sources, check out what the academicians are saying about them these days, weigh them together if in multiples.


as far as Jesus goes... i'm sure the sources are dubious, they copy each other way too much and too closely to have been independently compiled... aside from the individual "editorial decisions" of the "authors"/communities. hell, more than 80% of the stuff Jesus "said" had already been said by prior rabbis and sages according to the Jesus Seminar... ie. The Golden Rule was Hillel's and the Buddha had the same version. (do either of them really exist though??) but that does leave 20% of "original material"


because of that i do have a hunch that there was a real person behind "the Jesus movement" who was a Zealot of sorts who caused a problem in the Temple and then he did get crucifed and died. Then Christians conflated that guy with the Christ myth in a reaction against the Judaism of the Temple (the Pharisees and the Sadducees).

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i guess i think you can read between the "theological lines" in the gospels to get a small nugget of history.

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Taylork said...

is there a way to show that anybody never existed? Are there any qualifications to say that someone never existed? If a historian wrote a peer-reviewed journal could he in fact dismiss a person?


No - its not a 'logical' endeavor for the so called 'historian' to persue- its impossible to prove a 'negative'. In this case ...that jesus "never existed".....until you 'prove' that he did. see here for ( logical fallacy)

To prove that he did exist seems a little easier at first glance (at least people throughout history have tried their little hearts out)..usually by using questionable sources as the bible itself. (but that's typical isn't it) :grin:

Also the individual can rely on sources such relics etc. - that "stuff" can also be disputed. In fact heaps of 'books' have been written based on 'relics'.......


I don't think a 'peer-reviewed journal' gives an article any more credibilty or guarantee for the reader that its viable or some kind of 'truth'


How would you rate an article appearing in the Catholic journals.?

for example: The catholic 'historians' have made that 'search' and collection of relics into a science (sarcasm)....Here's a sample of that from...wikipedia


remember this 'stuff'.. its basically a matter 'faith'...imo whether you believe it or not.


There are also many relics attributed to Jesus, perhaps most famously the Shroud of Turin, which is claimed to be the burial shroud of Jesus, although this is disputed. Pieces of the True Cross were one of the most highly sought after such relics; many churches claimed to possess a piece of it, so many that John Calvin famously remarked that there were enough pieces of the True Cross to build a ship from[1], although a study in 1870[2] found that put together the claimed relics weighed less than 1.7kg (0.04m³), suggesting that's Calvin wasn't accurate in his estimate. The abbey church of Coulombs in France, among several others, claims to possess the relic of Jesus' circumcision — the Holy Prepuce.


^ Calvin, Traité Des Reliques

^ de Fleury, Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion




Basically I think the rationale behind this obsession of finding and proving these kinds of myths or supernatural phenomenon..........such as the stigmata is so the 'faithfull' can have more of sense of being right when selling their religion to new recruits.

to me...that's all it is. Btw...I use the term 'phenomenon' very loosely.

("No phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon" Niels Bohr.)


Historians are basically theorising....and analysing what other's before hand have written.

I agree with this statement on Wikipedia


indicating there is no such thing as impartial 'history' but that 'history' is created to suit whoever is writing it.


Although references are often made to the ancient writers such as Herodotus, the so-called father of history, or Tacitus (c. 56–c. 117) as historians, their works do not meet the modern standards of impartiality and objectivity. Many of the historians of the past have been called upon to write histories either to furnish a king or a ruling class with a lineage, thereby offering it legitimacy, or to give a people a cultural heritage and sense of identity (see aetiology). This meant that the works of these historians openly mixed oratory, poetry and literature in a way which is incompatible with the contemporary concern for impartiality and objectivity. This does not necessarily devalue their work but does require that their efforts be considered within their cultural context.



In short there is not the "authority" in historical writings as commonly thought...no neutrality now and in the past.


Of course its possible that jesus is a myth. ......why do ya think there's so much energy used to prove that he existed. ...........(so people don't look like idiots for giving their lives to it)

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Can I offer to simplify this issue?


It's really a moot point whether or not there really was a mortal human religious leader named "Jesus" who created a splinter faction of Judaism, later was crucified and then deified. If Jesus was a mortal human and nothing more, than his life is little more to us than an interesting story. At most, his life contains moral lessons for us to consider but we can't have a "personal relationship with him" nor can he be our "savior". If it turns out that he didn't exist at all, what's he to Hecuba?


The only important issue is was there a godly wonder worker who died for our sins and wants to be our savior, just as the Gospels claim?


We can make the case that this Jesus didn't exist, at least beyond reasonable doubt.


Jesus is said to have fed thousands of families with magically generated food, healed countless injuries and illnesses before many astounded witnesses and even brought back the dead. Surely some historian who lived in that area must have made some mention of such supernatural feats!


Not a single historian who lived at the time of Jesus and in the area had anything to say about Jesus.


Govenor Pilate, according to all Gospel accounts, had no idea who this Jesus was. Shouldn't such fantastic miracles gain the attention of the local authorities? Surely, Pilate, the ruler of the most rebellious province of Rome, was keeping tabs on any unusual activities.


The Jewish guards who came to arrest Jesus, according to all Gospel accounts, had no idea who the wonder worker was. Jesus had to be pointed out through Judas' betrayal. Not very famous for a wonder worker.


Even the Gospels themselves weren't penned until generations later, at the earliest 70 AD. If I had the matchless honor of traveling with God's earthly avatar, you can be certain that no force on earth could pry the pen and parchment from my hand until I had recorded my experiences for posterity. Why did the desciples have such procrastination problems?


Bottom line, the Jesus of the Gospels didn't exist. If there was a human religious leader Jesus, it's of no significance to us.

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What if you could prove Nazareth never existed. Then Jesus of Nazareth could have never existed right?



Or is this still proving a negative thus making it impossible?


I always thought there was something similar to the scientific method that historians would do to prove something. Guess it's just not that simple huh?

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Or is this still proving a negative thus making it impossible?

Establishing a negative beyond reasonable doubt (important qualifier) isn't impossible but why make it harder for us than it has to be?


It's hard to prove that there wasn't some guy named "Jesus" who lived at the time of the beginning of the first century, was some kind of religious leader, got himself crucified and was later deified in legend. After all, there were a lot of splinter faction religious leaders at that time. Certainly it's plausable and therefore the negative is much harder to establish.


On the other hand, it's pretty easy to establish beyond reasonable doubt that all this supernatural upheaval and miracles didn't really happen. Under such conditions, Jesus should be famous and secular historians should have made some note of these events.



Ooops, you said "Nazarath", not "Jesus of Nazarath".


Sorry, my bad.

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What if you could prove Nazareth never existed. Then Jesus of Nazareth could have never existed right?



Or is this still proving a negative thus making it impossible?


I always thought there was something similar to the scientific method that historians would do to prove something. Guess it's just not that simple huh?

This is about the best you can do. If you can show that this particular incarnation of jesus can't exist then he can't exist but that doesn't mean a jesus couldn't have existed. You just knocked the legs out from under one of them is all.


It's like Noah and the ark. There is zero evidence for any of that story. So did Noah exist or not? Based on all the evidence the best you can ever say is "probably not." Did a Noah exist that did exactly those things as written in the bible? Nope. That Noah did not exist. Was there a Noah that ran around holding two lizards and jumped into a canoe when it started to rain one day? Maybe.


Perhaps a better example would be the exodus. All evidence points to a different story happening than the one than is presented in the bible. So even though the biblical account contains some truth, it is cobbled together from many different pieces of truth with a lot of fiction holding it together. So since that events, as written, simply never happened that means that the Moses character, as written, never lived.


So back to what you're getting at. The jesus character, as written, I would argue never lived. Not simply because of the supernatural claims but because of all the rest of the inconsistancies that are in the stories.


If your goal is to prove a jesus (that possibly inspired or founded xianity) never existed then you're out of luck.


If your goal is to show that the jesus character, the one as written in the gospels, never existed, then you simply need to use the information that is there to show he could not have existed. Unfortunately, people will not accept the evidence for this argument since they need this particular jesus to exist (not just any old jesus). The conflicting birthdates, birth stories, birth announcements, geneologies, birth locations, non-existant Nazareth, inconsistancies with Herod and the numerous trumped up "fulfilled" prophecies are just the tip of the iceberg to show the character of jesus was simply never born.



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There is nothing recorded by contemporary historians and essayists, Jew or Gentile, that even mentions a Jesus of Nazareth. There are no reports of angels swarming the heavens and singing of the birth of a king, of Magi’I coming from Persia looking for a newborn king, of water being turned to wine, a man calming a storm, a man walking on water, thousands of people being fed by a few fishes and a few loaves, of day turning to night (at the times he supposedly died), of the dead coming out of the grave and walking among the living or a dead man arising from his grave and walking and talking with his followers, eventually ascending to the heavens….NOT ONE WORD! Until the gospels were written in the very late 1st century (Mark) and the early to middle 2nd century (Matthew, Luke, and John), there is not one peek from anyone about the miraculous little god man. There were mentions by some of the early church fathers in the 2nd century of Jesus, but he really isn’t the Jesus of the NT and then there is Paul! Paul who seems to know little or nothing of a corporeal Jesus and treats Jesus in the same manner that the Gnostics did. More as a spirit than a real human. Paul makes no mention of a miraculous birth, miracles, etc….almost as if these stories came later.

Christians do not like to admit it, but they can’t even tell you what century this little man god was born in. One scripture sets it in the 1st century BCE (While Herod was king) and the other sets it in the 1st century CE (while Cyrenius was governor of Syria). They can’t tell you even roughly when he was supposedly executed…none of the criteria can be lined up (see Censuses and Taxation and Dating John’s death by Josephus on my blog).

Was Jesus and actual person? Possibly. If he actually existed, the historical Jesus was probably an amalgamation of several different 1st century BCE and 1st century CE individuals of the same name and bearing no resemblance to the Jesus of the New Testament and the Cult that bears his name, Christianity. Was Jesus the Son of God and the second member of a Trinity (might want to check out my blog again, page 2 – the Trinity), second only to the Father (now there is a picture, either the Christians are polytheists or they worship a god with multiple personality syndrome)? No way, no how! Christianity is a mythological belief built on top of another mythological belief. You can not “prove” anything in history, every historian add his on bias to the observations, but you can remove the props of that “accepted fact” by showing what the evidence actually says - Heimdall :yellow:

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