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Tucson Atheists Message Board › Did Jesus exist? Italian court to decide.

Did Jesus exist? Italian court to decide. Forget the U.S. debate over intelligent design versus evolution.An Italian court is tackling Jesus -- and whether the Roman Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000 years ago

Robert L S.
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 70
Did Jesus exist? Italian court to decide

By Phil Stewart

The case pits against each other two men in their 70s, who are from the same central Italian town and even went to the same seminary school in their teenage years.

The defendant, Enrico Righi, went on to become a priest writing for the parish newspaper. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, became a vocal atheist who, after years of legal wrangling, is set to get his day in court later this month.

"I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli told Reuters.
A former member
Post #: 1
""I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli told Reuters."

Not only do I agree that the Church is the worst offender of obscurantism, I must add that they are also the biggest disseminator of misinformation for personal gain. The Church shamelessly eternalizes their cash-flow and lines their coffers from the tables of the faithful; filling the unsuspecting mind with speculation and conjecture, based in large part on what they know as forgeries, fabrications and interpolations.

Specifically, "Our documentary sources of knowledge about the origin of Christianity and its earliest developments are chiefly the New Testament Scriptures and various sub-Apostolic writings, the authenticity of which we must to a large extent take for granted..." Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent....­

It is about time that someone had the courage and foresight to bring this conversation to the public in an unbiased forum. One we hope to be rational and logical. We, Citizens of the United States, may be well served to consider following suit. (No pun intended.)

Kevin Frad
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 2
Am I the only one who understands this fact? There are only 3 early non-Xtian references to Jesus:


1. Flavius Josephus [Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63]:

(Here is the [I]full[/I] context, which is almost [I]never[/I] quoted.)

[60] But Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this water; and many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamor against him, and insisted that he should leave off that design. Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man, as crowds of such people usually do. So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away; but they boldly casting reproaches upon him, he gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not; nor did they spare them in the least: and since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition.

[63] Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

[65] About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder, and certain shameful practices happened about the temple of Isis that was at Rome. I will now first take notice of the wicked attempt about the temple of Isis, and will then give an account of the Jewish affairs. ...


The "Testimonium Flavianum", the quote from Josephus about Jesus. This is very obviously a mid-sentence forgery, and not a single Christian author mentions this before the Emperor Constantine's "enforcer of Orthodoxy / hit man" Eusebius (circa 330 CE). None of the "Church Fathers" mention Josephus, but none seem aware of the Testimonum Flavianum. Also, this passage has been shown to be directly based on a passage in the Gospel According to "Luke".

2. Corneius Tacitus [Annals XV. 44] writing about the year 115 CE:

But all human efforts, all the emperor's gifts and propitiations of the gods, were not enough to remove the scandal or banish the belief that the fire [summer, 64 C.E.] had been ordered. And so, to get rid of this rumor Nero set up as culprits and punished with the utmost cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians. Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment this pernicious superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the source of the evil, but even in Rome, the place where everything that is sordid and degrading from every quarter of the globe finds a following. Thus those who confessed (i.e.. to being Christians) were first arrested, then on evidence from them a large multitude was convicted, not so much for the charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race. Besides being put to death they were made objects of amusement; they were clothed in hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others were set on fire to illuminate the night after sunset. Nero threw open his grounds for the display and put on a show at the circus where he mingled with the people dressed like a charioteer and driving about in his chariot. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, evens towards these men who deserved the most exemplary punishment since it was felt they were being killed, not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual.

'Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class of men, loathes for their vice', whom the crowd styled Christians. [I]Chrestus,[/I] from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor; and the pernicious superstition was checked for a short time, only to break out afresh, not only in Judaea, the home of the plague, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home."

If that sentence is may just be an Xtian interpolation. Regardless, he could have based thi s on the word of the Xtians themselves, who got it from the Gospels which may have been written just at this time (The Gospel According to "John" is thought to have been written around 110 CE), or a bit before. No Gospel could have been written before 70 CE, since "Luke" bases his text upon Matthew, which clearly refers to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

2. Suetonius, in his Lives of the Caesars, also known as The Twelve Caesars, published 119-120 CE.

Suetonius, [Life of Claudius XXV. 4] written around :
.. since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Emperor Claudius] expelled them from Rome.

Suetonius, Life of Nero XVI:
... punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a set of men adhering to a novel and mischievous superstition; ...

Chrestus vs. Christos means "the good one", but even "Christos" could just refer to any Messiah, not Jesus as such. This also implies that Jesus was in Rome in 49 CE.

Pliny, [Letters to the Emperor Trajan X. 96]. (Re: Christians in Bithynia; Province in Asia Minor)

... they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ as to a god ... I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses, but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.


Notice that none of these references date to before about 115-120 CE. Nothing does. There were many Roman authors writing in the 1st century, but none of them mention Jesus or the Xtians. Seneca the Elder, a supposed contempoary of Jesus, and who wrote a now lost History of Rome to his own day, doesn't mention Jesus either. Neither does his pupil Pliny the Elder.

I would say that the Jesus Seminar and the "Historical Jesus" critical scholarly movement are last-ditch efforts to salvage the unsalvageable.

If you are curious, the idea of making gods into actual historical figures dates to ancient Greece, and ist called "Euhemerism".

A former member
Post #: 2
Am I the only one who understands this fact? There are only 3 early non-Xtian references to Jesus:

I hear an echo!

Albert Schweitzer declared some fifty years ago that the search for a Historical Jesus was bankrupt; yet the dialogue continues. The references you mentioned have been dissected ad-nauseum and are widely dismissed as spurious.

With an audience of Engineers, Doctors, Professors and other well educated and literate people, your opening statement is considerably hubristic.

You are not alone: As evidenced by this post, humility is not one of my stronger points either.

It is apparent that the authors of the quoted Catholic Encyclopedia article understood that when carefully measured, the citations you mentioned must be summarily dismissed. Those citations were strategically and conspicuously omitted. I do not find this remarkable.

I understand the sub-Apostolic writings mentioned in the article to be those of Ignatius and Clement. Texts by Papias, Eusebius, Tertullian, Polycarp, Diognetus and Barnabas may also be included but the authors meaning of the term is not readily apparent.

What the Church is saying is that the foundation of their belief system is fanciful, unverified information.

I have never heard the works of Josephus, Tacitus or Suetonius referred to as sub-Apostolic.

I believed that my post was clear in its intent and content. None the less, I will try to illuminate and flesh out the text for you.

1) I believe the Church (meant to be all-inclusive) tells everyone their “truths” based upon writings known as fabrications and "late productions."

2) The Church takes money from the poor, who then need to get food boxes to feed their families.

3) I think it is good that the Italian court is hearing this issue. There will still be "Ussherians" and soothsayers but the rational mind may prevail; mythology may be understood and accepted as mythology by the majority.

4) It may well serve the Citizens of the United States of America to “hear” this conversation in a medium of open discussion, such as a Court of Law, a newspaper or a radio or television program that is characterized by a lack of partiality.

Such a conversation may contribute to maintaining religious diversity in our Nation through governmental secularism. I am not deluded enough to think that all people will adopt a rational perspective, or versed enough to speak on the biology of belief so I will not broach that subject at this time.

It is possible that these statements may need some disambiguation. (But "[t]hat depends on what your definition of is is.")

Tucson, AZ
Post #: 3
Sorry about that, I wasn't meaning to sound "hubristic" to this group, rather I was referring to the general thinking out there in the vast majority of the public at large.

I wasn't quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia btw, but an assortment of Atheist sites, and only the actual references to the original sources.

I didn't mean to say that Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny and Suetonius were "sub-apostolic" but rather Greco-Roman non-Christian authors (Josephus wrote in Greek.) There are those many other sub-apostolic reference that you refer to that I didn't mention, since they aren't "primary sources". Of course these references are widely regarded by educated people as spurious. However, just google them, and you'll see a whole load of Xtian sites that use them as "proof", compared to the tiny number of critical sites that dismiss them. Even the Testimonum Flavianum, so obviously a forgery, is thought by many "scholars" to have had a "core" that was distorted that *did* refer to Jesus, incredible as it may seem - "He was the Christ."

So, to you and I, and the rest of us, this just might seem old hat, but this is still a living, breathing "intellectual controversy" even among "scholars". That was the reason for my cynicism and a bit of anger. Also, I just thought it good to for those few of us who might not be familiar with these references to actually know about them, so that they could look them up for themselves if they wished. A very few of us also might still just be thinking "Oh Jesus was just some sort of megalomaniacal lunatic, but a historical figure ...", you never know, with all the "scholarly" propaganda out there.

Seriously, I've read John Dominic Crossan, etc. who is actually quite a good writer, and a real NT critic, which also makes him especially attractive to the intellectual people out there, because he is part of the Historical Jesus movement and the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar, for those who don't know, color-codes the NT according to what Jesus could never have said, what he might have said, and what he probably did say. An important lesson against Fundamentalist Literalism, and it makes the covers of Time and Newsweek (IIRC) but not what I would call "responsible scholarship' / history.

BTW, any thoughts on Robert Eisenman's theories? I don't buy into the entire "James the brother of the Lord" thing, the earliest Christians being identical with the Dead Sea Sect, but I do concur that Saul / Paulus of Tarsus was a historical figure and also a "Herodian". Yes, Josephus mentions just such a person in passing, who goes to get help from the Emperor Nero in Corinth. "Paul" himself refers to his kinsman "Herodion" = descendant of Herod in one of his letters, if it is authentic ... all this opens up some interesting possiblilities about the origins of Xtianity as an attempt by the Herodians to create a "universal" form of Judaism, parallel with Mithraism as a universal form of Zoroastrianism possibly created by the Mithraditic dynasty of Pontus in Asia Minor and Crimea ...

There is however the newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll document where the messiah is referred to as "Son of the Most High" [bar elyon] who will give the blind sight, heal the sick, calm the seas ... of course this is either contemporary with the supposed dates of Jesus (a later chronology, which has become popular lately) or clearly predates them. It is a quite remarkable parallel with the Gospel According to "Luke". (Again, most of you probably know this, but if anyone doesn't, I can post the short text and reference in a followup, just ask.)

Paul claims himself to have lectured for 20 years in a rented hall in Ephesus. I would say that this alone was enough of a spark to ignite an Xtian movement among Hellenistic sympathizers with Judaism who just wouldn't undergo circumcision (aside from the cultural "shame" that this incurred for Greeks, who exercised and competed naked, this of course was a time without anesthesia ...)

Oh, and that damned obvious forgery: James (Yaakov) son of Joseph the brother of "Jesus" (Yeshu) ossurary ... don't get me started ... and the other ones too, from the "Temple Pomegranate" to the "Temple Tablet" (OT forgeries.) Somehow, most "scholars" didn't catch that one, even Herschel Shanks of BAR, even though any idiot could see by looking at the inscription that "Ahui D'Yeshu" was crudely added ... give people what they are hoping for, and they will buy it.

An idea: Lets make an ossuary that says "Yeshu Bar Elyon" and put some 1st century bones with a nail hole driven through the heel ... oops! I guess he didn't resurrect ... do you think people will buy that one too? J.D. Crossan, who sees the Resurrection as purely symbolic, and the Anglican Bishop Sprong will, and the Unitarians will go nuts ...

One other thing: If people aren't aware of this, they should check out Apollonius of Tyana in Wikipedia, a historical "contemporary of Jesus", a Pagan prophet who performs miracles, etc. In some ways the literary career of Jesus could have been inspired by this as well.

Again, forgive my cynicism about this issue - nowhere is this a given except in our tiny circle, and it is very well hidden from the public, even in magazines that puport to discuss it (Except in an issue of BAR btw, the one with the crucifixion on the cover.)

Tucson, AZ
Post #: 4
Actually, there is some mention of this in contemporary American culture, although in a somewhat oblique way, from an unexpected source:

The song "Chop Suey!" by the alternative rock band, System of a Down:

System of a Down - "Chop Suey!"

System of a Down are pretty popular, and this song does get a lot of airplay, but the reference is oblique enough not to attract the attention of the Religious Right. If the Right did notice, the song would be boycotted and banned.

Wake up,
Grab a brush and put a little (makeup),
Grab a brush and put a little,
Hide the scars to fade away the (shakeup)
Hide the scars to fade away the,
Why'd you leave the keys upon the table?
Here you go create another fable

You wanted to,
Grab a brush and put a little makeup,
You wanted to,
Hide the scars to fade away the shakeup,
You wanted to,
Why'd you leave the keys upon the table,
You wanted to,

I don't think you trust,
In, my, self righteous suicide,
I, cry, when angels deserve to die, Die,

Father! Father! Father! Father!
Father/ Into your hands/I/commend my spirit,
Father, into your hands,

Why have you forsaken me,
In your eyes forsaken me,
In your thoughts forsaken me,
In your heart forsaken, me oh,

Trust in my self righteous suicide,
I, cry, when angels deserve to die,
In my self righteous suicide,
I, cry, when angels deserve to die.
Rio Rico, AZ
Post #: 12
Who cares if Jesus existed? I don't. If he existed, he was a man, not a God. If he didn't exist, he is a made-up man.

I see this debate as to whether Jesus existed as being nearly worthless (at best) and idiotic and damaging at worst.... putting the entire atheist/theist debate ENTIRELY on the wrong footing.

The central and legitimately important question is: whether there is a "God" or not.

The important question is NOT whether Jesus existed. It is sort of an interesting historical secular question, but to debate it as though it will prove some theistic point is to concede a malicious and confusing point.... as though showing that Jesus existed will somehow prove all of the Christians' mystical theistic points.

It's absolutely astonishing to me to see otherwise seemingly intelligent people debating the point of Jesus's existence as though it will prove or disprove any critical theistic points.

The only significance to me of answering the question of whether he existed or not is that it will help in a forensic anthropological analysis of our civilization as to whether we deluded ourselves with a story we built up around a real man or whether it was a story we built up around a made-up man.

It is embarrassing to watch other Atheists debate Jesus's existence as though it is, in any way, important to discussing whether or not there is a God.

It is, as best I can tell, irrelevant to discussing whether or not there is a God.
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 5
No, the point of discussing this isn't to prove or disprove any "theological" point. It's about reigion dominating the discussion and critical thinking about history and archaeology. You could pick any other topic you wanted to, anywhere from Creationism in the public schools, to the Biblical Flood being thought of in some quarters and popular culture as a historical event (I've seen "Noah's Ark" children's books for example), and the Biblical Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

This extends to other religions of course: The idea that Rama and Krishna and the events in the Ramayana and Mahabharata were historical, for example, which is widely accepted in India.

Even more important, just try some to have some critical historical discourse about the origins of Islam: That could get you killed, and pretty quickly too.

So, this discussion isn't about theology at all, or even trying to "prove or disprove the existence of God". (As should be obvious to everyone, that concept is a sheer logical impossibility right there on the surface, so that doesn't really need discussing, except to argue obvious points with Theists about an "infinite" entity who is inherently non-infinite ...

It's about the censorship of ideas, and how science and inquiry is limited in this society, and around the world. If you'd like, we can discuss any of these other historical issues (and I'd like to!), although, as I said, perhaps the Islamic area is best avoided on the net for reasons of personal safety ...
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 6
BTW, why limit ourselves to the more well-known religions?

Seriously, there is a lot of "historical criticism" to discuss about some bona-fide historical religious figures too. An obvious one is the career of Joseph Smith. I mentioned the Prophet Muhammad, who almost universally acknowledged to be a historical figure (even with the lack of outside contemporary documentation, for someone who established a state in Arabia 622-632.) In that category too would be the Shia Imams, Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha), the Mahavira (Jainism, a more shadowy figure, and apparently and elder contemporary of the Buddha), Zoroaster (another extremely shadowy figure - there are no real dates for him, just estimates within 1000 years! and not even a precise location either ...), Confucius, and the early Emperors of Shinto Japan (again, some were historical and some were legendary.)

I'm not being "politically correct" here. All these historical concepts profoundly influence people's lives in various parts of the world, and even here in Tucson, with plentyo of people, if you think about it. Did you know for example that Lao Tzu ("the old sage"), the supposed author of the Tao Te Ching, isn't thought to be historical at all?

Just add up the sheer numbers of people that hold these other non-Christian historical ideas dear, and you'll see that whether Jesus did or didn't exist is a very parochial discussion, and also there isn't that much written debate about these other historical and pseudo-historical personages, unlike about Jesus. And if you think this stuff just is trival and unimportant, just go too Karbala in Iraq (the supposed site of the martyrdom of the Imam Hussein) or Ayodhya in India, and see the uncontrolled violence that broke out in these places.

And if that isn't enough, how many Americans have even heard of Karbala? Yet US troops, even from Tucson itself, are being killed every single day over that ... remarkable, no? Like a Taoist going to Jerusalem, and never having even heard the name, and wondering why people are killing each other over a small patch of ground ...

Try this experiment: Ask someone you know who has a relative or a loved one in Iraq, or someone who's served there themselves, what (supposedly) happened in Karbala and why that's very critical to some people, and to whom ... and you'll see the vast degree of ignorance of most Americans. This isn't some obscure pseudo-religious question, this can be a bullet to the head or a roadside bomb! How can we even debate the Iraq war if 99.9% of the people don't even know the first thing about what motivates many Iraqis religously? (And Iranians too I might add, another current hotspot.) I'm not making any assumptions here, so don't take this the wrong way, but do "you" (the reader) know what the significance of it is too? Have you yourself heard of it? And if not, it's not due to "ignorance" because certainly people in this group are really well-educated and intelligent, way above the average. There is something about this society ...

So, lets start by talking about whether Jesus was historical or not, or just skip that and start talking about the history that is getting our friends, neighbors and loved ones killed, and that no one else has the courage to debate.
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 7
If you think I'm kidding about the importance of some of these non-Western historical delusions, have a look at this:­

Yeah, and they've got archaeology lined up to prove the sacred texts. Sound familiar? And lots of people have died and will continue to die over that ...
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