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Logical Discussion of Christianity


pzummo
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After watching the JDave posted video of the guy that claims he was a Christian until he researched it, I thought it would be fun to have a logical discussion around the facts we do have that match other historical references. This is not intended to be a discussion or debate on scripture itself. This should be discussion of the facts that are documented by history to either correlate with, support, or confirm events in the Bible.

For example. In 64 AD, Nero blamed and persecuted Christians in Rome. This was only 30 years after the claim of crucifixion. There were already thousands of Christians in Rome by this time. Many of the Apostles were still alive, with two of them being put to death during this period. 

Historians claim at least 40-80 years for a myth to develop. It's a generally accepted principle that the individuals that originate a myth are generally long dead before the myth actually establishes itself. As advanced means of communication have developed, word obviously spreads much faster in the current time we live in. 

Logically speaking, it is highly probable that there were many other first hand witnesses influenced by Jesus and the events around him that corroborated the story the Apostles were telling in order for it to spread to thousands of believers in such a short time frame. It is highly improbable 12 people could convince thousands of people to abandon their faith for another without other witnesses to corroborate their story, especially when there were so many others in positions of power trying to silence it. People are willing to die for their faith, yet thousands abandoned theirs in a matter of 30 years. 

I cannot take the time to write up every position that supports or confirms my faith. I look forward to reading what others post. I will add more of my own over time, but now it's time for me to get to work. 

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5 hours ago, Billy Ocean said:

Outside of the Bible, is there any historical record of Jesus performing miracles?

Flavius Josephus wrote about the curtain of the temple being torn in half as Jesus was crucified.

Scholars believe that most accounts of Jesus by other Jewish historians were destroyed by the early catholic church.

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6 hours ago, Billy Ocean said:

Outside of the Bible, is there any historical record of Jesus performing miracles?

This is a circular argument.  A non-believer does not believe Jesus performed miracles.  A believer does believe Jesus performed miracles.  Anyone that kept a historical record of Jesus performing miracles is considered a believer, and non-believers will not consider that source as a historical record.

That being said, there are historical records of non-believers referencing Jesus' crucifixion.  The earliest dated one was 93 AD by a Jewish historian.  There was a document written by a Pagan that referenced the crucifixion, but that was dated to some time between 73-200 AD.  Roman historians referenced the crucifixion as well, and that was prior to Christianity being adopted as their religion, which didn't happen until 400 AD.  

If you accept the historical account of obscene torture and crucifixion, I would consider that as supportive evidence of one of his miracles.  It is not typically communicated or taught as one of his miracles, but I view it as his greatest miracle.  Here was a man that was violated in every inhumanely way possible, then nailed to a cross to spend his last days bleeding out and starving to death.  In his last moments of life when normal men would be cursing the world, asking God to avenge or punish their persecutors, when even the best of humanity "might" only ask forgiveness for their own sins, he asked God to forgive the men that violated him.  In my eyes, that is a miracle.  How can a man, having been through all of that, have enough peace in his heart to ask God to forgive the very people trying to destroy him?  

I do not know of a historical document from a non-believer that confirms Jesus asked for their forgiveness.  What I do know is this. If that didn't happen, his crucifixion would not have had the immediate impact to the hearts and faith of so many people.  Even if you think almost everything about Jesus is myth or legend, that would be the one historically referenced act from where his myth or legend grew.  The legend would not be about Jesus dying for our sins.  If this didn't happen and people were just making up a mythical story, it would have ended with God's wrath coming down on his persecutors, because that is what every Jewish person in that time had been taught in accordance with the Old Testament.  

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1 minute ago, JDaveG said:

Would you believe it if there was?

That's not relevant to the question. Something doesn't exist just because one believes it. If there are historical records of Jesus performing miracles whether he believes they exist doesn't change the fact that they exist. Likewise the world is round whether one believes it or not.

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Just now, Joremarid said:

That's not relevant to the question. Something doesn't exist just because one believes it. If there are historical records of Jesus performing miracles whether he believes they exist doesn't change the fact that they exist. Likewise the world is round whether one believes it or not.

It also doesn't change the fact that historical evidence wouldn't convince someone who is convinced to be unconvinced.

There is the testimony of the Saints.  You could start there.

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Just now, JDaveG said:

It also doesn't change the fact that historical evidence wouldn't convince someone who is convinced to be unconvinced.

There is the testimony of the Saints.  You could start there.

Again whether he believes it or not doesn't change his question, that is do they exist... tell me more of the testimony of the saints.

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You have to make quite the impression of performing miracles to be relevant for two thousand years. I think Jesus was the ultimate "quantum physicist" who understood the true nature of reality and how to manipulate it by using the power of consciousness. This might sound silly if you're not familiar with quantum theories. At this point in time, we are basically cavemen trying to figure out how a microwave cooks food without a fire.

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As to the thread topic, the claim that Jesus never existed is such an absurd position that I'm surprised anyone believes it.  It proves what a friend of mine once said -- atheism is no more than a Protestant heresy.  It relies on a sola scriptura worldview and Protestant arguments against the Church Fathers (such as the Calvinist claim that Ignatius did not write the letters nearly all historians attribute to him).  That isn't to say Protestants are responsible for atheism, only that these particular claims of atheists flow from specifically Protestant thinking -- that is, not all Protestants agree on all of these points, and most would reject the more nuda scriptura views along with the historical claims, but they flow from those particular Protestant sectarian beliefs.  The thought is, if you can knock out the Bible, you can knock out Christianity.  And it ends with a denial that the Apostles and other disciples ever existed, which is absurd beyond absurd.

The problem is the Bible is pretty far from the only source of information about Christ and His Apostles.  We have the witness of numerous communities, geographically distinct communities that were founded by the Apostles.  We know who they were.  Their lives were recorded.  For example, the woman at the well -- she has a name.  St. Photini.  It's not in the Bible, but we know it from other sources.  We know where she lived, we know about her family, and we know that she was martyred by Nero.  This is true of the Apostles as well.  It is also true of Mary.  There are numerous historical documents dealing with these people.  We know who they were, and we know about their lives.

Now, it is a somewhat valid objection that these are explicitly Christian documents, but that doesn't save the claim that they never existed, because the documents were produced by the communities founded by the Apostles, and which still exist to this day.  We have a seamless record of writings from the Apostles to the present.  We have succession of bishops from the Apostles to the present.  And the claim that the Apostles never existed falls flat when confronted with the communities.  Because what you would have to believe in order to believe they never existed is that the Bible was written (at much later dates than the Church which produced and preserved it suggest), and then following the Bible (an oddly anachronistic claim), these communities sprang up all over the Middle East and Europe and Asia and Africa, and all of them just happened to claim to be founded by an Apostle and preserved through Apostolic succession, but nobody in …. when ….. the 3rd or 4th century? …. bothered to ask "wait, who is this Peter person again?  You say you succeeded Pope Urban?  Who is that?  And who are Callixtus, Zephyrinis, Victor, Eleuterus,  Soter, Anicetus, Pius, Hyginus, Telesphoros, Sixtus, Alexander, Evaristus, Clement, Anacietus and Linus?  We don't know any of these people, and our families have been here for hundreds of years!"

And then, on top of that, you can't just believe that this happened in Rome, the example I give above, but you ALSO have to believe this happened in Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, Ephesus, Cyprus, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Corinth, Ethiopia……in each and every one of these areas and too many more to count, you have to believe the same thing happened.  That some jackleg showed up several hundred years after the fact and started a Church that never existed before in that place, while claiming it had been there the whole time and he was the successor to a long line of mostly martyred bishops.  You literally have to believe that the Apostles are mythical creatures written about in a book called "the Bible," which was widely circulated in its complete form (a laughable assertion if you know anything at all about the development of the canon), and that someone hundreds of years later managed to convince believers in all of these geographically diverse cities that these Apostles founded a church in their city a few hundred years ago that has been here the whole time, and he was the latest in that line of succession.

Atheists decry blind faith, but it doesn't get much blinder than that.

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25 minutes ago, Joremarid said:

Again whether he believes it or not doesn't change his question, that is do they exist... tell me more of the testimony of the saints.

First, see above regarding the historical witness of the Church. Then look into miracles performed either by or to saints in the Church, such as St. John of Damascus having his hand restored after it was severed, or St. Catherine surviving the breaking wheel or the incorrupt relics of the saints (something that happens to this very day -- an Orthodox bishop in Dallas, Texas was recently found incorrupt when they went to move his relics to his Cathedral).  These miracles were either attributed to Christ or, in the case of St. John, to the Theotokos.  Then there is the miracle of the Holy Fire in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem every Pascha, or the reversal of the flow of the Jordan River at Theophany. 

There is a ton of historical evidence of miracles.

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10 minutes ago, Billy Ocean said:

I thought there might possibly be accounts/rumors by nonbelievers of a Jewish carpenter performing acts of sorcery or smsht. dunno.gif

So "outside of the Bible" means "nonbelievers."

9 hours ago, JDaveG said:

It relies on a sola scriptura worldview and Protestant arguments against the Church Fathers (such as the Calvinist claim that Ignatius did not write the letters nearly all historians attribute to him)…..The thought is, if you can knock out the Bible, you can knock out Christianity.  

*snip*

The problem is the Bible is pretty far from the only source of information about Christ and His Apostles.  We have the witness of numerous communities, geographically distinct communities that were founded by the Apostles.  We know who they were.  Their lives were recorded.  For example, the woman at the well -- she has a name.  St. Photini.  It's not in the Bible, but we know it from other sources.  We know where she lived, we know about her family, and we know that she was martyred by Nero.  This is true of the Apostles as well.  It is also true of Mary.  There are numerous historical documents dealing with these people.  We know who they were, and we know about their lives.

 

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I also find it interesting that you think there are people who would be eyewitnesses to miracles being performed, but still somehow should be classified as "nonbelievers."

Like they said "yeah, I know he raised Lazarus from the dead, but I'm really not convinced."

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2 minutes ago, Billy Ocean said:

Well I once saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear, but I didn't start believing in magic.

Why don't you just say "I don't believe in miracles and so no evidence is sufficient for me?"

It would be more honest, and we could stop the charade where you pretend to ask questions and I pretend you are respectfully seeking information.

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Tell you what -- put that on hold for a minute.  Specifically referring to Lazarus, how do you relate Jesus raising him from the dead to David Copperfield doing a magic trick?  Is that what you think happened -- that Jesus played a trick?  If so, on what basis -- how do you support that conclusion?

I think your answer to those questions will be instructive as to whether my previous comment is on point or not.

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45 minutes ago, Billy Ocean said:

I thought there might possibly be accounts/rumors from nonbelievers of a Jewish carpenter performing acts of sorcery or smsht. dunno.gif

This thread is supposed to be about historical fact. For example:

Fact: Christianity was actually illegal in Rome until early 300 AD. Christians were even put to death. Non-believers and believers lived in fear having any reference to Jesus. Most references were destroyed.

Fact: In 64 AD, Rome burned and the emporer, Nero, blamed and killed Christians. I'm pretty sure they didn't have a high priority on preserving any documents that referenced Jesus.

Fact: The Jewish population that were not witness did not want Jesus worshipped or even remembered. They weren't preserving historical references to him.

Fact: The Bible is not one book with one author. It is a collection of historical writings by different authors.

Fact: The first hand witnesses that documented the miracles held to their belief in the face of torture and death. 

Fact: When Rome did unite Christianity, they reviewed the preserved texts to see which one's would go into the Bible. The other texts were destroyed. 

Fact: There have been entire civilizations lost in history because of a conqueror destroying all references to them. We only find out about them by an indirect reference that was somehow missed.

Fact: It is a miracle we have as many historical accounts surviving the level of persecution Christians experienced so early on. It was only because so many first hand witnesses maintained their belief in the face of overwhelming massacre that so many references survived to this day.

Fact: It's ignorant to expect any person without unwavering belief during the time of Jesus would write and preserve any reference to him when anyone with Christian writings were being hunted and massacred. Seriously, it's a ridiculous notion.

Fact: If people were being hunted and massacred for having references to someone's name, how incredible was his influence that so many gave their lives just to ensure that name was preserved? They didn't do it for their own name. They gave their lives just to make sure his name was preserved in history. Their witness and belief was so profound, they were unwilling to deny him in the face of Rome's army a mere 30 years after his death. Many of those people were witnesses or first generation siblings of their parents that were witnesses.

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18 minutes ago, pzummo said:

Fact: When Rome did unite Christianity, they reviewed the preserved texts to see which one's would go into the Bible. The other texts were destroyed. 

This is actually not true.  This never happened.  It is a script from a Dan Brown novel.  What actually happened was the canon developed gradually, over time.  There are non-canonical writings such as the Shepherd of Hermes and the Protoevangelium of James which were preserved. What were destroyed at Nicea were the works of Arius, and this was largely symbolic.  The canon was not decided there, and other non-canonical writings (such as Gnostic works) are well preserved.

But this is why I allude above that this silly notion that the only source for Christianity is "the Bible" is anachronistic.  Christianity existed before there WAS a Bible.  The Church pre-dates the New Testament.  And this is well attested in non-canonical sources.

It is accurate to note the Church was under persecution at the time, and therefore it is remarkable that we have any surviving histories at all.  Most were preserved orally by Christians through the era of persecution, though there are writings (such the Didache, or the writings of Ignatius or Clement) that we have from the very earliest periods.  So we know the Church existed from the earliest times.  And we know Ignatius was a student of St. John, who knew Christ (this is why atheists love to pretend Ignatius too never existed -- he absolutely destroys the whole "Jesus myth" theory).  So the supposed lack of historical sources only works, well, if you ignore all the historical sources.

Such as demanding proof from nonbelievers, who had no reason to preserve any such proof.

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1 hour ago, JDaveG said:

Why don't you just say "I don't believe in miracles and so no evidence is sufficient for me?"

It would be more honest, and we could stop the charade where you pretend to ask questions and I pretend you are respectfully seeking information.

 

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