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The Origin Of Jesus


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Does Paul himself refer to those he was persecuting as 'Christians'? No. In Galatians (one of the earliest NT documents btw) he says that he was persecuting 'the Church of God'.

 

Act 26:9-11:

I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests and put many of God’s people in prison; and when they were sentenced to death, I also voted against them

 

1Ti 1:12-15:

I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength for my work. I thank him for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve him, even though in the past I spoke evil of him and persecuted and insulted him.

 

Neither Acts nor Timothy was written by Paul. Both were written after Paul's death. Both the quotes you quoted refer to Paul working against Jesus. The term 'christian' is not used. So it begs the question as to who Jesus was and what he stood for.

 

A man could believe that Jesus was a literal person and so refer to his persecution of his followers as persecuting Jesus or working against Jesus's cause.

 

Another man could believe that Jesus is a mythical representation of messiah, his story telling a timeless spiritual truth rather than a historical event. He might still refer to persecuting those who held this view as persecuting Jesus or working against the cause of Jesus.

 

And what "Church of God" do you think Paul refers too if not the Christian church?

 

I already explained that - symbolic messianists. Read my posts properly.

 

'Church of God' is a very vague term. Any Jewish synagogue could be called a Church of God.

 

Why? I do not deny that Peter existed, or James, or John. Those are the three people that Paul mentions as being part of 'the Church of God'. Again you are assuming that Peter is someone who literally met Jesus and that we have some kind of separate evidence for this. All we have is gospels written later that use Peter as a character in a narrative. Doesn't necessarily make the narrative true.

Again, it seems hardly likely that Paul and Luke were telling stories about the disciples when the disciples could have been there to refute them.

 

Peter was dead by the time the gospels were written. Even if Mark was written from Peter's memory - how do you know Peter was not complicit in the writing of a symbolic story about his dawning awareness about Jesus Christ. Jesus need not have existed. If Jesus represented a timeless spiritual truth that Paul had helped Peter to realise then Peter may well have wanted to tell this mythical narrative that detailed how he was chosen by this Jesus, how he tried to deny him, but how he ultimately recognised this spiritual presence as the true messiah of Israel.

 

No doubt they were preaching the resurrection. But many pagan people preached resurrection before them. The dying and resurrecting god is a common myth.

Of course the difference being that pagan people weren't given the opportunity to validate the resurrection of their god. If Christ didn't raise from the dead, the disciples would have known it, thus making it a bit strange for them to go down swinging the way they did.

 

Ah, the "nobody would die for a belief unless it was literally true" fallacy.

 

 

Yes. It indicates that the Gospel writers worked independently and gathered their information from many different sources. It's like four different journalists working the same story; the details don't always line up, but the main points are there.

 

I don't believe in an inerrant Bible, if that's what you were trying to get at.

 

If I said Woodstock happened in 1977 then you'd say that I got my facts wrong. (not historically accurate)

 

Now if there were only two accounts in the entire world of an elf and a unicorn coming to earth and converting a bunch of punk rockers and heavy metal fans into the holy church of elves and unicorns, and one of those accounts said it happened in 1977 and the other said it happened in 1985 - wouldn't you begin to suspect that the story was fictional and totally made up? (not historically true at all)

 

And yet you say that the best thing christianity has going for it is the historical evidence.

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Neither Acts nor Timothy was written by Paul. Both were written after Paul's death.

Acts was written by Luke, a friend of Paul. I'm guessing he would be pretty familiar with Paul's background and proclamations. Luke goes into great detail talking about how Paul was a Jewish zealot who had letters from a high priest authorizing him to capture followers of Christ. And please don't say something like Luke made that up for dramatic effect or whatever...it's not a persuasive essay, it's an historical account.

 

Both the quotes you quoted refer to Paul working against Jesus. The term 'christian' is not used. So it begs the question as to who Jesus was and what he stood for.

I'm pretty sure the term "Christian" isn't used anywhere in the Bible. It was a phrase that developed later on.

 

Another man could believe that Jesus is a mythical representation of messiah, his story telling a timeless spiritual truth rather than a historical event. He might still refer to persecuting those who held this view as persecuting Jesus or working against the cause of Jesus.

Another man could, but not Paul. He speaks too literally and in too much detail about Christ as a real person.

 

I already explained that - symbolic messianists. Read my posts properly.

 

'Church of God' is a very vague term. Any Jewish synagogue could be called a Church of God.

You're really reaching with this. Any time Paul talks about the church of God, he is referring to the Christian church. Here is a verse that comes directly from Paul:

 

Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me. - Galatians 1:21-24

 

If Jesus represented a timeless spiritual truth that Paul had helped Peter to realise then Peter may well have wanted to tell this mythical narrative that detailed how he was chosen by this Jesus, how he tried to deny him, but how he ultimately recognised this spiritual presence as the true messiah of Israel.

It's easy to speculate something like that, but hardly anything in the Gospels reads like myth. It reads like biography. Four different authors, four varied accounts of the life of Jesus with all the general points lining up together.

 

Ah, the "nobody would die for a belief unless it was literally true" fallacy.

I never said or implied that; please read my posts properly. If the disciples knew that Jesus did not raise from the dead (and they would have been in pretty good position to verify such a proposition) then there's no way they would go to their deaths proclaiming that he did. I guess the principle would be something like "nobody would die for a belief if they knew it to be false."

 

If I said Woodstock happened in 1977 then you'd say that I got my facts wrong. (not historically accurate)

 

Now if there were only two accounts in the entire world of an elf and a unicorn coming to earth and converting a bunch of punk rockers and heavy metal fans into the holy church of elves and unicorns, and one of those accounts said it happened in 1977 and the other said it happened in 1985 - wouldn't you begin to suspect that the story was fictional and totally made up? (not historically true at all)

 

And yet you say that the best thing christianity has going for it is the historical evidence.

These aren't accounts of elves and unicorns. They're accounts of a Jewish carpenter who went around preaching parables. Say what you want about the miracles and such, but the only thing I'm trying to argue was that Jesus existed. And there aren't just two accounts of Jesus. Just because not all of them are first-hand encounters doesn't make them invalid. Neither does the fact that most of the sources are Christian.

 

Even aside from that, there are numerous non-Christian references to Christ as well. Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata and Mara Bar-Serapion all refer to not only Christ, but his crucifixion to boot. I have the quotes and references if you would like them.

 

John Dominic Crossan, from the highly critical Jesus Seminar, said: "That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be." You would be really hard pressed to find a serious scholar who doubts the actual existence of the man Jesus.

 

And Michael Martin doesn't count :grin: .

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So why are the four chosen gospels the only ones that tell the "true story" about Jesus? Why doesn't any of the other non-canon get the same treatment? Any excuse used to reason that one of the other gospels are false gospels, can be used against the four. So what is the real reason to pick four that fits the belief, instead of picking all and realize there's more fiction that facts in them?

 

Second question, why does eyewitnesses in the Gospels talk in third person instead of first? When I write here, and tell my stories, I don't write "and Hans saw a big bear approaching", no it would be more like "and then I saw the big bear approaching". It's only when I tell a story, or tell someone else's story, when I write in third person. This means, at the best, the "eye witness" Gospels are not first hand stories, but second hand.

 

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Now compare this to the eye witness account of the French reporter that started the Raelian movement. He met extraterrestrial aliens, eye to eye. We must believe it, since he did, and he can account for it. The same goes for the cargo cult. They met John Fromm, who was a god, and he came from the heavenly U.S.A. and promised to return with blessings, food and such. Myths and legends are created fast, and people are delusional, and the majority of mankind is gullible.

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Acts was written by Luke, a friend of Paul.

 

how do you know that Acts was written by Luke?

 

Luke goes into great detail talking about how Paul was a Jewish zealot who had letters from a high priest authorizing him to capture followers of Christ. And please don't say something like Luke made that up for dramatic effect or whatever...it's not a persuasive essay, it's an historical account.

 

You do know that Christ only means Messiah, don't you? 'Persecuting followers of Christ' does not imply that there was a real person that they followed. Anyone who believed in a Messiah, whether a real person, mythical symbol or someone in the future - could be called a 'follower of Christ'.

 

I'm pretty sure the term "Christian" isn't used anywhere in the Bible. It was a phrase that developed later on.

 

Is it possible that the concept of christianity developed later? Is it possible that it was a gradual process that led Judaism to become christianity? If there is some doubt as to whether the New Testament writers actually believed as christians believe today then it makes sense to study and examine every phrase used to see if it means what christians think it means or whether it actually means something else.

 

Another man could, but not Paul. He speaks too literally and in too much detail about Christ as a real person.

 

Please give me some examples of Paul talking in detail about Christ as a real person.

 

You're really reaching with this. Any time Paul talks about the church of God, he is referring to the Christian church. Here is a verse that comes directly from Paul:

 

Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me. - Galatians 1:21-24

 

I fail to see how that proves that the Church in Judea was a christian church. It only means that they had some kind of belief in a Messiah. They seem in other ways to have been very Jewish in their customs, so why not conclude that they were simply messianic Jews of some kind? How does this prove the literal existence of Jesus?

 

 

It's easy to speculate something like that, but hardly anything in the Gospels reads like myth. It reads like biography. Four different authors, four varied accounts of the life of Jesus with all the general points lining up together.

 

The details of local geography are inaccurate. The details of local history are inaccurate. Most of the miraculous events are borrowed from pagan myth. Those that aren't are pretty obviously symbolic. Much of the final arrest, trial and crucifixion story are based on pagan myths. Much of the rest of the gospels consists of Jesus preaching or debating with the authorities. When Jesus debates and preaches in the different gospels the style and content of what he says seems to be very different from gospel to gospel, as if many of his words are being placed in his mouth by the writer of the gospel. If Luke and Matthew did not draw so heavily upon Mark then this would be even more obvious. John the Baptist is portrayed like a stereotypical member of the Qumran community, almost like a Characateur. The only part of the gospels that seems to be a portrayal of a real event is the cleansing of the temple, which really does seem to be some kind of echo of a zealot-like messiah driving people out of the temple.

 

I never said or implied that; please read my posts properly. If the disciples knew that Jesus did not raise from the dead (and they would have been in pretty good position to verify such a proposition) then there's no way they would go to their deaths proclaiming that he did. I guess the principle would be something like "nobody would die for a belief if they knew it to be false."

 

But they did believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Just like the followers of Osiris believed that he rose from the dead, and the followers of Dionysus believed that he rose from the dead, and the followers of Attis, and the followers of Adonis, and the followers of Tammuz (well, you get the idea)

 

Being willing to die for your beliefs is nothing new - and no proof that those beliefs are necessarily true.

 

These aren't accounts of elves and unicorns. They're accounts of a Jewish carpenter who went around preaching parables. Say what you want about the miracles and such, but the only thing I'm trying to argue was that Jesus existed. And there aren't just two accounts of Jesus. Just because not all of them are first-hand encounters doesn't make them invalid. Neither does the fact that most of the sources are Christian.

 

The point I was making was directly related to my example of historical inaccuracy in the birth of Jesus stories. There are only two accounts of Jesus's birth.

 

The gospels are not just an account of a Jewish carpenter who went around preaching parables though are they? They are an account of a Jewish carpenter, who is somehow divine, who goes around preaching parables, healing people and performing miracles and then is betrayed, put on trial by Pilate, put to death, then resurrected a couple of days later. Considering that the whole event was supposed to be pretty unusual (Pilate washing his hands, Jesus being given forty lashes, a murderer being released instead of him, darkness and dead rising from their graves when Jesus dies, a soldier witnessing the angel rolling the stone away) - what is truly miraculous is that no Roman historian ever makes note of any of this!

 

No there is no historical evidence to back any of this up. Just four heavily biased, heavily mythicised, heavily romanticised, heavily symbolic, heavily full of preaching, heavily flawed accounts. Hardly convincing, is it?

 

Oh, I tell a lie - there are other accounts of Jesus - the Gnostic gospels. Oh, but you're not going to claim they are historical, are you - no in the case of those gospels they are pretty obviously mythical and symbolic.

 

Even aside from that, there are numerous non-Christian references to Christ as well. Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata and Mara Bar-Serapion all refer to not only Christ, but his crucifixion to boot. I have the quotes and references if you would like them.

 

Yes, give me quotes. I've never been particularly impressed that they really give evidence for anything except the existence of Christians in the ancient world.

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Lets bring up one core doctrine by Jesus, that was presented in the Gospel of Thomas, estimated to have been written 50-90 CE:

 

(114) Simon Peter said to them: Let Mariham go out from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

So, why don't we hear this teaching in the Churches? That female can't enter Heaven, but they have to be "magically" transformed through their own power into male. The options are:

 

1. Jesus did say this, and the Church is missing out on some "wisdom"

or

2. The author is mistaken and Jesus didn't say it - which means there are Gospels with "eyewitness" accounts that are wrong

or

3. This is not an eyewitness account - which means... well, it means that one of the earliest Gospels in existence is considered heretical, while some later ones are approved by the Church, which shows it's a pick-and-choose religion, not based on "real historical events" but rather "stories we picked to be the events we claim to be historical."

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http://www.tektonics.org/copycat/copycathub.html

 

Anyone ever checked the Tektonics website about all these god's similarities with Jesus? Most is unsourced opinions.

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So, why don't we hear this teaching in the Churches? That female can't enter Heaven, but they have to be "magically" transformed through their own power into male. The options are:

 

1. Jesus did say this, and the Church is missing out on some "wisdom"

or

2. The author is mistaken and Jesus didn't say it - which means there are Gospels with "eyewitness" accounts that are wrong

or

3. This is not an eyewitness account - which means... well, it means that one of the earliest Gospels in existence is considered heretical, while some later ones are approved by the Church, which shows it's a pick-and-choose religion, not based on "real historical events" but rather "stories we picked to be the events we claim to be historical."

 

4. This was an interpolation by the Valentinian Gnostics, from whom we get the full (later) copies of the Gospel of Thomas. Really, this fits right along with Valentinian terminology. More so than any of the other sayings in the Gospel of Thomas. Most likely, this was added later by Valentinians, especially given its position at the end, and wasn't part of the original Gospel of Thomas--which may or may not be a legitimate sayings gospel.

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So, why don't we hear this teaching in the Churches? That female can't enter Heaven, but they have to be "magically" transformed through their own power into male. The options are:

 

1. Jesus did say this, and the Church is missing out on some "wisdom"

or

2. The author is mistaken and Jesus didn't say it - which means there are Gospels with "eyewitness" accounts that are wrong

or

3. This is not an eyewitness account - which means... well, it means that one of the earliest Gospels in existence is considered heretical, while some later ones are approved by the Church, which shows it's a pick-and-choose religion, not based on "real historical events" but rather "stories we picked to be the events we claim to be historical."

 

4. This was an interpolation by the Valentinian Gnostics, from whom we get the full (later) copies of the Gospel of Thomas. Really, this fits right along with Valentinian terminology. More so than any of the other sayings in the Gospel of Thomas. Most likely, this was added later by Valentinians, especially given its position at the end, and wasn't part of the original Gospel of Thomas--which may or may not be a legitimate sayings gospel.

What you're saying is that the Gospel of Thomas was redacted and changed? How can we know? Why don't we believe this Gospel as much to be "complete" as the other Gospels? Why is the evidence that any of the other four Gospels were changed considered invalid, while it's taken as 100% truth against this one?

 

And that the dating is supposed to be late for this Gospel, while maintaining early dating on the other Gospels?

 

Do you even realize how you formulated your argument? "Most likely"... means "in my opinion" or "in the opinion of those who try to defend their fragile faith."

 

There's no more evidence that this Gospel is NOT an eyewitness account than the other Gospels are or are not. Valentinus was around just after 100 CE. Which means, 200 years before the canon was established. Now, how can people 200 years later "know" that "this one" but "not that one" between many different scriptures, unless one assume divine inspiration when they argued?

 

The argument usually goes: "the four Gospels are true eyewitness accounts". If that's true, then other "eyewitness accounts" must also be true. It can't be take one, leave another, just based on personal feelings. There are just as many arguments against the four Gospels that were picked, that they were also changed and interpolated etc. And if we choose to approve early dates on the Gospels, we need to approve the early dates on other Gospels, in the name of consistency. Truth doesn't come from pick the facts that fits your wish, but the pick all facts and arguments on equal standing. If there are arguments and facts regarding one set of Gospels, the same must apply for the others, or we start dealing with special pleading. The Gnostics believed in these documents. It's not like Gospel of Thomas was made up by some anti-Christian war-monger, but it was used by religious people who where devoted to their faith! The same was as any other Christian. So it was true to them. And they lived just 100 years after the events. So if they're wrong, why the other 2-300 sects of Christians at that time?

 

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Lets take the Sophia of Jesus Christ document, it's dated between 50-200. Even with late date, it's still 100 years before the final canon. And if we like the early dating, this document is an eyewitness account too. One can't be disregarded from arbitrary rules based on religious theology, and favor another one also on religious rules. If we should consider the religious approved documents as valid, we have to allow the same for the non-religious ones. We can't have two teams playing football, and we tie up the hands and feet on one team, and let the other keep on scoring. The same rules must apply to both or we have no truth in sight.

 

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Sorry for being a bit harsh in my response above. Just too many things going on, and I kind of go straight to the point and less political when short of time.

 

Put it this way, lets agree, there's a fourth option:

 

4) Parts of the Gospel were original, and parts are not. And this would apply to the four Gospels too, and all the rest of them too. Parts true, parts false.

 

And this option might be the closest to the truth. Because there is a possibility some smart, "wise" guy, had a ministry and it grew to a legend and added on myths.

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I'm afraid you're doing a disservice to the ingenuity, insight, and careful consideration which scholars of early Church history bring to their subject.

 

Moreover, you're mischaracterizing my position, drawing vast conclusions apparently from knowledge of one tiny aspect of my view on the early Christian writings. I don't think there's any real support, for instance, for the idea that the Gospel of John was an eyewitness account. Indeed, I think we can discount it almost completely.

 

You see, I think we can distinguish what probably is from what probably isn't something like an eyewitness account of Jesus' life. Mark's gospel probably comes closest. It lacks the supernatural elements of the other gospels. Indeed, from Mark's words alone, we would only get the impression that Jesus was a particularly significant rabbi.

 

What you're saying is that the Gospel of Thomas was redacted and changed? How can we know? Why don't we believe this Gospel as much to be "complete" as the other Gospels? Why is the evidence that any of the other four Gospels were changed considered invalid, while it's taken as 100% truth against this one?

 

In favor of the Gospel of Thomas is its resemblance to the theorized Q document. The GoT is a sayings gospel, it seems. The GoT gives support to the idea that this actually was a more widespread genre of early Christian literature than heretofore thought.

 

However, against it is its lack of resemblance to any of the other gospels, and its inclusion of Gnostic ideas. There is little evidence of Gnosticism having been anything like a force in early Christianity until the second century. Hence, the GoT is probably later rather than earlier. It may be that the author was mimicking Q, while trying to lend support to Gnosticism--or perhaps even writing down Gnostic sayings he was told had origin in Jesus' words, while mixing in actual sayings from Q or the other gospels.

 

There is plenty of textual evidence of the GoT's redaction. Far more evidence than there is for the other gospels. (I do not, by the by, claim that the other gospels went unedited. They clearly were, especially in some very obvious spots. Eye of the needle, anyone?)

 

 

Do you even realize how you formulated your argument? "Most likely"... means "in my opinion" or "in the opinion of those who try to defend their fragile faith."

 

No, it doesn't. It means "most likely." As in, I think it is most likely that saying 114 is an interpolation by Valentinian Gnostics.

 

I most definitely do NOT mean "in my opinion." Whether or not they actually redacted the GoT is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. I do not support my assertion about saying 114 with feelings or intuitions, but with an analysis of the content of the saying itself. It is not a matter of opinion, but of fact, that the saying fits very closely with Valentinian notions of "spiritual masculinity" and "spiritual femininity," as found in the Gospel of Philip (which doesn't claim to be an "eyewitness account"). It is not a matter of opinion, but of fact, that the sentiment found in saying 114 is unique to the GoT. No other gospel, apocryphal or not, which claims to contain eyewitness accounts of Christ, contains any record of Jesus saying anything like saying 114.

 

And I categorically reject the interpretation that "most likely" means "in the opinion of those who try to defend their fragile faith." While they might attempt a similar line of argument, it would be foolish to dismiss the argument just because some misguided Christians attempt to use it. The soundness of the argument does not rest on

 

And I certainly don't mean "in the opinion of those who try to defend their fragile faith." The opinions of a few misguided Christians have no bearing whatever on the soundness of my argument, or the correctness of my assertions.

 

There's no more evidence that this Gospel is NOT an eyewitness account than the other Gospels are or are not. Valentinus was around just after 100 CE. Which means, 200 years before the canon was established. Now, how can people 200 years later "know" that "this one" but "not that one" between many different scriptures, unless one assume divine inspiration when they argued?

 

Tradition, for one, and the fact that people aren't always as stupid as you seem to think. Though they clearly didn't do as good a job as they thought; many of the writings are clearly not by whom they claim to be, such as 1 and 2 Peter. I have no idea why they actually included Hebrews and Revelation. That said, they did exclude a great deal which is quite obviously NOT eyewitness material. They could have done a much worse job. (The Coptic church certainly did...)

 

 

The argument usually goes: "the four Gospels are true eyewitness accounts". If that's true, then other "eyewitness accounts" must also be true. It can't be take one, leave another, just based on personal feelings. There are just as many arguments against the four Gospels that were picked, that they were also changed and interpolated etc. And if we choose to approve early dates on the Gospels, we need to approve the early dates on other Gospels, in the name of consistency. Truth doesn't come from pick the facts that fits your wish, but the pick all facts and arguments on equal standing. If there are arguments and facts regarding one set of Gospels, the same must apply for the others, or we start dealing with special pleading. The Gnostics believed in these documents. It's not like Gospel of Thomas was made up by some anti-Christian war-monger, but it was used by religious people who where devoted to their faith! The same was as any other Christian. So it was true to them. And they lived just 100 years after the events. So if they're wrong, why the other 2-300 sects of Christians at that time?

 

It's not special pleading if it's based on a close textual reading in the context of the history of early Christianity.

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I think we're agreeing then. Because my point was with my earlier post that there's no more evidence that Gospel of John or Mark is a complete, true, historical document, more than the Gospel of Thomas. And if Thomas is considered to have gone through redactions, then so we must agree that it happened to the other Gospels, and hence they're not complete and true to their originals. And since we don't have the originals, we have to guess the best we can. My point is either the rules that apply to GoT also apply to the 4 Gospels, or the rules that apply to the four Gospels, must also apply to GoT.

 

My first post, before you came with "option 4" was in response to Murphy earlier in this thread. He claims that Luke was a friend to Paul and the author of Acts. And hence is a true historical document. Now why is that one true, when most dates puts in later than Gospel of Thomas? And how can the contents of Acts be unchallenged, while the non-canon scriptures are challenged? It's basically validity from belief and not from common rules.

 

Your response for "option 4" was in line with how apologetics works. Whatever doesn't fit the established theology, must be invalidated through scrutiny and arguments, while whatever that fits established beliefs must be validated through positive arguments.

 

However, you are probably right about the redaction in GoT, and that is not really my point. The point is, same rules all over. If GoT is redacted, and Christians argue that, and say GoT is heretical, then all the other books must be put in the same pot. There are no exceptions.

 

And btw, I did look for it, but I couldn't find any references that stated what you said. The little I read, didn't mention anything about that this verse in GoT was added by Valentius. Do you have any links I can read?

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how do you know that Acts was written by Luke?

Here is the lazy man's response: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_the_Evangelist

 

Suffice it to say that even if you don't accept Luke as the author, whoever wrote the book often uses the phrase "we" instead of "they" - implying that he was Paul's traveling companion, and thus is a good source for verifying Paul's journey.

 

You do know that Christ only means Messiah, don't you? 'Persecuting followers of Christ' does not imply that there was a real person that they followed. Anyone who believed in a Messiah, whether a real person, mythical symbol or someone in the future - could be called a 'follower of Christ'.

Do you really, honestly believe what you're claiming? I know that Christ means "Messiah" - but "Jesus" doesn't; "Jesus" is a specific name and it's used extensively in Paul's letters in addition to or in conjunction with "Christ," as in "Jesus is the Christ." As in, "this is the Messiah that we've been waiting for."

 

Is it possible that the concept of christianity developed later? Is it possible that it was a gradual process that led Judaism to become christianity? If there is some doubt as to whether the New Testament writers actually believed as christians believe today then it makes sense to study and examine every phrase used to see if it means what christians think it means or whether it actually means something else.

I've had to study the Bible my whole life. I have many, many problems with it, but like I said, those are problems with theological doctrines. I could never doubt for a second that the New Testament writers believed in a literal man named Jesus who physically died on a cross and rose again from the dead. In other myths even, people who preached resurrections believed that their god or gods actually rose from the dead. Who ever preached about a god who "metaphorically" raised from the dead?

 

Please give me some examples of Paul talking in detail about Christ as a real person.

I'll give you one, but I'm not going to keep entertaining this idea for much longer:

 

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17

 

I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for. A verse that described Christ taking a bath? No, that would only be a symbol for washing away sins. A verse that described Christ combing his hair? No, that would be a symbol for straightening out one's life. Can you cite me any serious scholar who claims that Christ is used only as a metaphor in the New Testament?

 

I fail to see how that proves that the Church in Judea was a christian church. It only means that they had some kind of belief in a Messiah. They seem in other ways to have been very Jewish in their customs, so why not conclude that they were simply messianic Jews of some kind? How does this prove the literal existence of Jesus?

If Paul is "preaching the faith he once tried to destroy" and his faith is in a real man, Jesus Christ, then those churches in Judea are probably talking about the same Jesus Christ, and not some other messiah.

 

Much of the final arrest, trial and crucifixion story are based on pagan myths.

Please elaborate, and keep in mind that non-Christians in addition to Christians attest to the actual crucifixion of Christ.

 

But they did believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Just like the followers of Osiris believed that he rose from the dead, and the followers of Dionysus believed that he rose from the dead, and the followers of Attis, and the followers of Adonis, and the followers of Tammuz (well, you get the idea)

 

Being willing to die for your beliefs is nothing new - and no proof that those beliefs are necessarily true.

Wow, you're still not getting the point: followers of Osiris could not have verified if Osiris raised from the dead. This is the one thing that sets the disciples apart from all other martyrs. If the disciple's "god" did not raise from the dead, they would have known it.

I'm not saying this proves the resurrection, just that it proves the disciples had an actual teacher named Jesus and they thought they had really seen him risen from the dead.

 

Considering that the whole event was supposed to be pretty unusual (Pilate washing his hands, Jesus being given forty lashes, a murderer being released instead of him, darkness and dead rising from their graves when Jesus dies, a soldier witnessing the angel rolling the stone away) - what is truly miraculous is that no Roman historian ever makes note of any of this!

See below

 

Yes, give me quotes. I've never been particularly impressed that they really give evidence for anything except the existence of Christians in the ancient world.

"When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified..." - Josephus, Jewish historian, 1st cen. from Antiquities 18.64

 

"Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus." - Tacitus, Roman historian, c. A.D. 115 from Annals 15.44

 

"The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day-the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account." - Lucian of Samosata, Greek satirist, c. mid-second century from The Death of Peregrine 11-13

 

"Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?" - Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to son from prison

 

I found out the last document is held at the British museum and is dated c. late first-third century. The first two references are the more significant ones though.

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I think we're agreeing then. Because my point was with my earlier post that there's no more evidence that Gospel of John or Mark is a complete, true, historical document, more than the Gospel of Thomas. And if Thomas is considered to have gone through redactions, then so we must agree that it happened to the other Gospels, and hence they're not complete and true to their originals. And since we don't have the originals, we have to guess the best we can. My point is either the rules that apply to GoT also apply to the 4 Gospels, or the rules that apply to the four Gospels, must also apply to GoT.

 

I'm not sure I've made myself clear.

 

I do, in fact, apply the same rules to the GoT that I do to the other four gospels. They were all redacted, to be sure, but some more than others. Many of the interpolations are obvious, and there are places where it is unclear whether there were changes or not. That said, we can have a lot more confidence about the first four gospels than we can about the GoT. This is because of close textual analysis as well as the far greater number of copies (even early copies) that we have of the original four gospels; we can have a pretty good idea, from how the copies we have change as you look at later and earlier years, how the first four gospels changed, and what they were originally, for the most part. One cannot say the same about the GoT.

 

Moreover, there is reason to believe that the synoptic gospels contain at least some real information about the figure who goes by the name Jesus Christ. The thesis that Jesus was just a myth made up later on simply doesn't fly. One simply doesn't make up myths about non-existent people that claim said people existed within the living memory of one's audience. Like it or not, the evidence seems to point to Christianity having started in Judaea and having spread to the rest of the Roman empire. The people in Judaea would have been able to confirm, at the very least, whether this figure lived or not.

 

Moreover, an analysis of the text seems to show that Mark was earliest. Strangely (or perhaps not), Mark contains little or no indication that Jesus was actually a divine figure. Going on the text of Mark alone, I would conclude that Jesus was a fine rabbi blessed by God, perhaps even a prophet of God, but not God himself. This conforms to the hypothesis that Jesus was a man who actually lived, but about whom myths and legends accreted posthumously.

 

Moreover, the text of the synoptic gospels seems to confirm this. My suspicion is that actual words of Jesus were recorded, though probably not verbatim, in the gospels.

 

 

My first post, before you came with "option 4" was in response to Murphy earlier in this thread. He claims that Luke was a friend to Paul and the author of Acts. And hence is a true historical document. Now why is that one true, when most dates puts in later than Gospel of Thomas? And how can the contents of Acts be unchallenged, while the non-canon scriptures are challenged? It's basically validity from belief and not from common rules.

 

First, the textual content makes a big difference. Determining the provenance of a work does not depend only on its date.

 

Moreover, it is not quite correct to say that "most dates" put Acts and Luke later than the Gospel of Thomas. The actual date of the GoT is a matter of serious scholarly debate that has not yet been (and may never be) resolved. Some scholars put the date between 50-100 CE, and others put it mid-second century.

 

Your response for "option 4" was in line with how apologetics works. Whatever doesn't fit the established theology, must be invalidated through scrutiny and arguments, while whatever that fits established beliefs must be validated through positive arguments.

 

Why, yes, that is how scholarly discussions and debates proceed. Both sides present arguments, and each side tries to undermine the other's positions.

 

I agree that "apologists" tend to be pig-headed and fail to accept the outcome of the discussion, not recognizing when their arguments have been successfully undermined, but that has nothing to do with method, but with pig-headedness. One sees exactly the same kind of thing on the atheist/non-Christian side of the discussion frequently as well. (Though less often, and to much less vexation)

 

However, you are probably right about the redaction in GoT, and that is not really my point. The point is, same rules all over. If GoT is redacted, and Christians argue that, and say GoT is heretical, then all the other books must be put in the same pot. There are no exceptions.

 

The GoT isn't considered heretical because it was redacted, but because it seems to contradict orthodox theology.

 

And btw, I did look for it, but I couldn't find any references that stated what you said. The little I read, didn't mention anything about that this verse in GoT was added by Valentius. Do you have any links I can read?

 

Bollocks, I wish I did. I got that from a translation with commentary of the Nag Hammadi codices that I read in the UCO library.

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I'm sorry if I upset you. I overreacted before, and I hope you can take my apologies. When I read your response it sounded to me like you defended the position that the four Gospels are more historical than the GoT, but I think we agree there's no difference. Both should be equally handled. (Air condition broken, and close to 100 outside... not an excuse, but at least an explanation to my hot temper right now.)

 

With that said, I also agree, they consider GoT heretical because of orthodox theology, which is my point. They treat it based on belief, not equal historical methods. Christians prefer to think that Gospel of Mark is accurate, while Gospel of Thomas is not. And there's nothing in the documents themselves that support such a separation. What is considered "orthodox theology" was something that was made, not found. There were (according to the books I've read) hundreds of different Christian sects at the time. So the "historically accurate" was decided based on political preference, not on "truth" or "research". After all, the selected bishops voted for what they believed was real or not, and not by what they could establish to be the real deal.

 

Regarding the references, the text I'm reading is from the Early Christian Writings website: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thom...lthomas114.html

And here are several comments by several scholars, and no one claims this part is redacted. So that's why I wonder what reference you have. Bullocks or not, I haven't found that claim. I did however found one place that said Helmut Koester regarded the 100 last sayings as doubtful.

 

Moreover, an analysis of the text seems to show that Mark was earliest. Strangely (or perhaps not), Mark contains little or no indication that Jesus was actually a divine figure. Going on the text of Mark alone, I would conclude that Jesus was a fine rabbi blessed by God, perhaps even a prophet of God, but not God himself. This conforms to the hypothesis that Jesus was a man who actually lived, but about whom myths and legends accreted posthumously.

Do understand that I agree with this. With the modification (which I think you meant) that the Gospel writer "Mark" considered Jesus as blessed or sent by God as a prophet. Or is it that you consider it too?

 

I do think there was some teacher or rabbit, and maybe not even with the name "Jesus", that had a bunch of clever words of wisdom, and it took of from there. My issue is with the Gospels as historical documents. The sayings are "prescriptive words", while a historical document would be "descriptive" of what happened. And even here we have plenty of scholars that agree that the stories very well are exaggerated and added on. And I think it makes more sense, since there are similarities between the stories themselves and the OT stories (midrash) and even some links to Greek literature. Some additions were made to make the "wise man" become more believable as a real person, by putting him into other hero stories (with modification).

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how do you know that Acts was written by Luke?

Here is the lazy man's response: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_the_Evangelist

 

Suffice it to say that even if you don't accept Luke as the author, whoever wrote the book often uses the phrase "we" instead of "they" - implying that he was Paul's traveling companion, and thus is a good source for verifying Paul's journey.

 

Ok, I'll give you that one. Even if Acts (and Luke) were not actually written by Luke, they were still very likely written by a companion of Paul.

 

Do you really, honestly believe what you're claiming? I know that Christ means "Messiah" - but "Jesus" doesn't; "Jesus" is a specific name and it's used extensively in Paul's letters in addition to or in conjunction with "Christ," as in "Jesus is the Christ." As in, "this is the Messiah that we've been waiting for."

 

So Paul called the Messiah he believed in Jesus. So what? That doesn't by itself prove whether this Jesus Messiah (or Joshua Messiah, as it could also be translated) was a real man, or a spiritual presence.

 

I've had to study the Bible my whole life. I have many, many problems with it, but like I said, those are problems with theological doctrines. I could never doubt for a second that the New Testament writers believed in a literal man named Jesus who physically died on a cross and rose again from the dead. In other myths even, people who preached resurrections believed that their god or gods actually rose from the dead. Who ever preached about a god who "metaphorically" raised from the dead?

 

He would only have 'metaphorically' risen from the dead if they were talking about a real person. A myth is told about God dying and rising from the dead. This is just as much 'really' raising from the dead as the stories of other gods rising from the dead. So, what was your point again?

 

Please give me some examples of Paul talking in detail about Christ as a real person.

I'll give you one, but I'm not going to keep entertaining this idea for much longer:

 

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17

 

I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for. A verse that described Christ taking a bath? No, that would only be a symbol for washing away sins. A verse that described Christ combing his hair? No, that would be a symbol for straightening out one's life. Can you cite me any serious scholar who claims that Christ is used only as a metaphor in the New Testament?

 

It'd be nice to have Paul talking about any of the parables or teachings that Jesus gave during his life, it'd be nice to have him tell any of the details of his life such as meeting Martha and Mary, cleansing the temple etc etc. He doesn't. All we have is theology, stories of a last supper and stories of death and resurrection. The net result is something that sounds more like a mythical figure than an actual person. Ergo, I conclude that Paul did not believe in a literal Christ. The gospels come later and need to be interpreted in light of that fact.

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If Paul is "preaching the faith he once tried to destroy"

 

he was - but he also heavily interpreted it his own way, which is why the church in Judaea seemed to be a little embarrassed by him.

 

and his faith is in a real man, Jesus Christ,

 

Which it probably wasn't. It was more likely some mythical combination of the hoped-for Jewish Messiah and a mystery religion god.

 

then those churches in Judea are probably talking about the same Jesus Christ, and not some other messiah.

 

A similar Messiah - ie. a symbolic one - God himself as the promised King of Israel.

 

Much of the final arrest, trial and crucifixion story are based on pagan myths.

Please elaborate, and keep in mind that non-Christians in addition to Christians attest to the actual crucifixion of Christ.

 

Dionysus was portrayed with a purple robe and a crown of ivy. Attis was 'hung from a tree' (the exact words Paul uses of Jesus). Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, Osiris - all of them died and rose again.

 

Wow, you're still not getting the point: followers of Osiris could not have verified if Osiris raised from the dead. This is the one thing that sets the disciples apart from all other martyrs. If the disciple's "god" did not raise from the dead, they would have known it.

I'm not saying this proves the resurrection, just that it proves the disciples had an actual teacher named Jesus and they thought they had really seen him risen from the dead.

 

It proves nothing of the sort really. Define 'verify'. When did the disciples verify the resurrection of Jesus. I'm sure you're going to say the empty tomb - but we only know of that story from the gospels themselves.

 

On no occasion that we have any independent historical knowledge of has anyone ever been shown the grave of Jesus and that it's empty.

 

If your argument is that people who were close enough to the time of Jesus to have known whether his grave was empty or not nevertheless believed very strongly that he resurrected - then I'm afraid that the argument begs the question. If Jesus never existed then there would be no grave to know whether it was empty or not.

 

We cannot conclude one way or the other without moving round in circles on this one.

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Considering that the whole event was supposed to be pretty unusual (Pilate washing his hands, Jesus being given forty lashes, a murderer being released instead of him, darkness and dead rising from their graves when Jesus dies, a soldier witnessing the angel rolling the stone away) - what is truly miraculous is that no Roman historian ever makes note of any of this!

See below

 

Yes, give me quotes. I've never been particularly impressed that they really give evidence for anything except the existence of Christians in the ancient world.

"When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified..." - Josephus, Jewish historian, 1st cen. from Antiquities 18.64

 

Is this from the passage of Josephus that is meant to be a later addition because it's style and viewpoints differ so strongly from the original author?

 

"Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus." - Tacitus, Roman historian, c. A.D. 115 from Annals 15.44

 

It's not a contemporary account. How do we know he's not just regurgitating the beliefs of Christians?

 

"The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day-the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account." - Lucian of Samosata, Greek satirist, c. mid-second century from The Death of Peregrine 11-13

 

Proves nothing except that christians were known to exist.

 

"Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?" - Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to son from prison

 

I found out the last document is held at the British museum and is dated c. late first-third century. The first two references are the more significant ones though.

 

I don't think this proves anything much either.

 

I'd like a contemporary historical account ( by the Romans - perhaps some official list of people crucified, or a letter or report from Pilate to Caesar - that mentions Jesus of Nazareth among those crucified, with some kind of footnote about the strange miraculous events that were witnessed. I don't know what kind of evidence we have from the ancient Roman world. Perhaps I'm being unreasonable. But I've given a good example of what would be incontrovertible proof that the Jesus of the gospels physically existed as a real flesh-and-blood human being.

 

But you've given me much food for thought, I'll give you that. I'm seriously thinking about starting again on my analysis of the New Testament and rigorously applying the scientific method to make sure that I don't make any errors.

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I'm seriously thinking about starting again on my analysis of the New Testament and rigorously applying the scientific method to make sure that I don't make any errors.

 

Well, your first error is applying the scientific method to textual analysis.

 

You're going to be dealing with history, literary criticism, and possibly theology. All of which are areas of the liberal arts, and not of the sciences.

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Well, your first error is applying the scientific method to textual analysis.

 

You're going to be dealing with history, literary criticism, and possibly theology. All of which are areas of the liberal arts, and not of the sciences.

That's true. There's a lot of probability and 'guess' work involved.

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I'm seriously thinking about starting again on my analysis of the New Testament and rigorously applying the scientific method to make sure that I don't make any errors.

 

Well, your first error is applying the scientific method to textual analysis.

 

You're going to be dealing with history, literary criticism, and possibly theology. All of which are areas of the liberal arts, and not of the sciences.

 

But why can't you use scientific method to test any theory? Make an educated guess, then determine what you would expect to be the result of that theory being correct, then look for evidence that contradicts it :shrug:

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But why can't you use scientific method to test any theory? Make an educated guess, then determine what you would expect to be the result of that theory being correct, then look for evidence that contradicts it :shrug:

The scientific method is based on being able to have repeated tests and observations. With any historical event, this is not possible.

 

Maaan...I responded to all your posts last night, but I just checked and it looks like they didn't go through...I'll catch up tonight!

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It'd be nice to have Paul talking about any of the parables or teachings that Jesus gave during his life, it'd be nice to have him tell any of the details of his life such as meeting Martha and Mary, cleansing the temple etc etc. He doesn't. All we have is theology, stories of a last supper and stories of death and resurrection. The net result is something that sounds more like a mythical figure than an actual person. Ergo, I conclude that Paul did not believe in a literal Christ. The gospels come later and need to be interpreted in light of that fact.

Why would Paul talk about that kind of stuff? He didn't know him in person. Anyways, I forgot to mention earlier a significant verse from Paul's letter to the Corinthian church, c. A.D. 55. It's considered one of the earliest Christian creeds:

 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. - 1 Cor. 15:3-5

 

I'd like a contemporary historical account ( by the Romans - perhaps some official list of people crucified, or a letter or report from Pilate to Caesar - that mentions Jesus of Nazareth among those crucified, with some kind of footnote about the strange miraculous events that were witnessed. I don't know what kind of evidence we have from the ancient Roman world. Perhaps I'm being unreasonable. But I've given a good example of what would be incontrovertible proof that the Jesus of the gospels physically existed as a real flesh-and-blood human being.

Dude - this was the first and second century. The fact that this kind of documentation still exists today is mind-boggling to me. I read somewhere one time that there is no other figure in antiquity more referenced than Christ; that's pretty impressive to me. You can always ask for more evidence, but if you've already made up your mind, there'll be no way of persuading you.

 

Anyways, I'm glad you've decided to take on some N.T. research - this conversation has also inspired me to start reading again. I just ordered a book by F.F. Bruce, a Biblical historian, I'm pretty psyched.

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Why would Paul talk about that kind of stuff? He didn't know him in person.

 

It would be natural to use some of Jesus's teachings and parables when they would illustrate the points that Paul is making. It would also be natural to tell some stories and anecdotes about Jesus, when these would illustrate Paul's points.

 

Yet, despite Jesus being the entire focus of what Paul was talking about, he fails to ever use anything that Jesus actually said. And the stories we are told of Jesus are last supper, death and resurrection. And that's it!

 

Anyways, I forgot to mention earlier a significant verse from Paul's letter to the Corinthian church, c. A.D. 55. It's considered one of the earliest Christian creeds:

 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. - 1 Cor. 15:3-5

 

Like I said, death and resurrection only.

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The scientific method is based on being able to have repeated tests and observations. With any historical event, this is not possible.
Then, how exactly are you trying to prove the existence of Jesus? What method are you using to prove your claims? Blind faith?

 

Dude - this was the first and second century. The fact that this kind of documentation still exists today is mind-boggling to me. I read somewhere one time that there is no other figure in antiquity more referenced than Christ; that's pretty impressive to me
Isn't there more evidence for the existence of Muhammad than the existence of Jesus? Or at least that's what I heard?

 

"When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified..." - Josephus, Jewish historian, 1st cen. from Antiquities 18.64
I thought that biblical scholars already proved that these are forgeries?
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Then, how exactly are you trying to prove the existence of Jesus? What method are you using to prove your claims? Blind faith?

First off, I'm not out to prove anything. I believe that aside from some very basic laws of logic and mathematics, nothing can absolutely be proven. Second, the historical method is used to offer a best explanation. How do I know George Washington was the first president? I wasn't there, I never saw him in real life. I have historical documents and testimonies that lead me to make the reasonable assumption that he was a real man and also the first president. I try to do the same with ancient documents that reference Christ, although admittedly there isn't hardly as much evidence.

 

Isn't there more evidence for the existence of Muhammad than the existence of Jesus? Or at least that's what I heard?

I don't doubt there is, namely because Muhammad came about 500 years after Christ and also because he actually wrote scriptures himself. But I was talking about first and second century antiquity.

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