I know that this is a forum for Jesus mythers. I hope you won't be too harsh on someone who thought Jesus was actually a real person once upon a time, but I do want you to fully criticize. I will give my arguments for my position here.
My theory was that Jesus started as a cult leader and his character became a myth. Cult leaders have always been around, and new ones pop up all the time. Examples are Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Lyndon Larouche, Jim Jones, and David Koresh. When I say, "cult leader," I don't mean just any nutcase leading a group I don't like. Cults are a well-described sociological phenomenon. Review the "Checklist of Cult Characteristics
" published by the Cult Studies Journal to see what I am talking about. A cult is basically a group of people who adhere to the will of one central authority figure to great extremes.
Most of the largest religions in the world started as small cults led by singular men. People like Muhammad, Gautama Buddha, and Zarathustra. Very many of the denominations of Christianity started as cults. Any time a religion started in written history, it began something like a cult. The religions that started in pre-history evolved from tribal mythology (as far as we know), like Judaism and Hinduism. The rest seem to be cults that have evolved.
So how do I know that Christianity isn't an exception? Christianity, as presented in the New Testament, was a special kind of cult that we are familiar with today. We call it a "doomsday cult." The cult leader predicts a large-scale disaster--like the end of the world--and the followers are commanded to prepare for that prophetic doom. For example, the Lyndon Larouche following is this kind of cult, and it is huge (the followers bullhorn a prediction of an economic calamity). The Branch Davidians and the Heaven's Gate are other examples. The cult leader is the one who will either prevent the catastrophe if he gets enough support or his followers will be spared from it.
Here is where Jesus predicts the day of judgment and his second coming:Matthew 16:27-28Matthew 24Matthew 26:64Mark 8:38-9:1Mark 13:24-30Mark 14:62Mark 9:27Luke 9:26-27Luke 21:25-32
In all of these verses covering all three synoptic gospels, Jesus predicts that the day of judgment and the second coming will occur in the lives of his listeners. The phrases used are, "this generation will not pass away, until..." and, "some standing here will not taste of death, until..."
A different sort of prediction about the second coming is made in the non-synoptic gospel, the gospel of John. And this one has special significance. It is John 21:20-2320 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"
21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?"
22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"
23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"
Two disciples are the subject of this passage: Simon Peter and John. In verse 18, Jesus had told Simon Peter, cryptically, that Simon Peter would be killed for being a follower. John was following close behind, so Simon Peter asked Jesus what would happen to John. Jesus responded, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" The implication, at least on first blush, is that John would remain living until Jesus returns. But the writer intends to clarify, saying that Jesus did not
say John would not die. It is left up to the reader to make sense of exactly what Jesus meant.
The three synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew and Luke are thought to be derivatives of Mark because of the close similarities in language. The authorship of Mark is thought to be the late 60s and early 70s.* With the deadline being the death of Jesus' congregation, at least some of the listeners of Jesus would be thought to be still alive at that time, and the day of judgment would be thought to be any second. But the gospel of John is dated to be in the 90s. In the 90s, there would be a lot of people scratching their heads about the promised return of Jesus, because the listeners of Jesus would have almost completely died off (at best). The writer of John, living 60 years after Jesus made the prophecy, meant to justify the reason why the prophecy remains unfulfilled. Professes John: ]This whole thing about JEsus returning before the death of the last listener--well, that was merely a misunderstanding.
That may not yet convince you that Jesus existed as a failed doomsday prophet, but I think the smoking gun is found in 2 Peter 3 : 3-4,8
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
The second epistle of Peter is dated to somewhere in the second century. It would be just the right time for the mockers of Christianity to ridicule the gullible flock, because everyone who saw a glimpse of Jesus is dead for sure, and there is no sign of Jesus' return. And, here in this passage, another excuse is given to satisfy the Christian doubts and fight the mockery--the excuse that time has no meaning to the Lord, because a day is like a thousand years.
Failed doomsday prophets exist all over the place as people, but they do not seem to exist as mere myths. Religious leaders are smarter than that. If the whole thing was a lie invented by someone who isn't Jesus circa 30-70 AD, then people would probably want to talk to all of those people who saw Jesus, like those at the supposed trial. If the story was invented any time after 70 AD, then it would seem like a prophecy that failed directly upon the telling. Why not just remove that troublesome deadline? It served Jesus because Jesus wasn't expecting to live longer than his audience. But it is a great burden to Christians, even today (see this evangelistic page
on the problem). Most modern apologists interpret "generation" loosely, but the problem is big enough that a full Christian ideology has broken out of the mainstream religion in order to interpret that prophecy literally--preterism. Preterists believe that Jesus did
return in his own generation, but hardly anyone noticed.
There you go. Jesus was a failed doomsday prophet, not just a myth. He was mythologized only later on.
Feel free to criticize those arguments. I am not yet familiar with all the arguments that Jesus was a myth, but I will be in time, so there is no need to bring in those arguments here.
* These are the dates given by critical scholarly consensus, made by examining the Greek language. I know that some people date the gospels to be much later, but I'll stick with the scholarly consensus opinion if I can't make sense of the methods.
Sorry to resurrect this old thread, Abe, but after reading through the debate you're recently losing, I'm wondering how this has affected your overall theory? http://www.debate.org/debates/The-histo ... -leader/2/
From what I can see you're not losing because of ZG, or Jesus mythicism; you seem to be losing the debate because your opponent made a more convincing case for the character of Jesus in the gospels as an amalgamation of various other characters rolled into one story. And the mythology is also considered too, but it's not the core of the debate.
1) John's beliefs are the EXACT same as a real tribe, the Essenes, whose beliefs are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes believed in BAPTISM to wipe away sin, asceticism (fasting), AND that the world would soon come to an end. If John the Baptist and Jesus are based on real people, it seems obvious that John must have gotten his beliefs about baptism and fasting from somewhere. Obviously, the Essenes are the perfect candidates. So if John completely mimicked their first two beliefs, why wouldn't he mimic their apocalyptic beliefs as well. Thus, why should we not believe that John was the apocalyptic and not Jesus? It fits with his other beliefs.
2) Jesus' followers completely differed from those of John. In Mark 2:18, John's followers are fasting and Jesus' are not. We can clearly see whose followers were following in the footsteps of the Essenes.
3) According to one of the Gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Philip, Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers. Since Jesus did not deny himself the pleasures of the flesh, he clearly differed in beliefs from John and his ascetic apocalyptic followers.
4) People often confused Jesus with John according to Mark 8:27-28. "On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist."" When the gospel authors took random quotes from quote books (like "Q"), they obviously made the same mistake. Or else the gospel authors borrowed from oral tradition, which would also be corrupted by people confusing Jesus with John. The concession of this point is HUGE. The gospels themselves prove that people confused Jesus with John.
5) Robert W. Funk and most Biblical scholars (two thirds of them) believe that Jesus was not predicting apocalypse when he predicted the coming of the "Kingdom of God." Instead, they believe he meant this in the Gnostic sense: that people would achieve paradise here on Earth through salvation of the soul by righteous practices. Two thirds of Jesus scholars believe that: the historical Jesus was merely a holy man and John the Baptist was the apocalyptic.
This takes out all but one of my opponent's quotes.
6) The concession of #5 only leaves my opponent one apocalyptic passage in Mark 8:34. I showed that in this passage, Jesus refers to himself and the Messiah as different people (so the true speaker probably wasn't Jesus, but John). My opponent answers this with a "Jesus scholar" who claims that Jesus did not consider himself the Messiah. We only have to go back 4 lines to see this isn't true: "Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him."" Lastly, Mark 8:34 begins with an exhortation to the audience to "deny themselves." This is yet more evidence that the doomsday predictions in the New Testament are false attributions of quotes from John the Baptist (or another ascetic apocalyptic preacher), since we saw that Jesus did not ask his followers to fast or deny themselves (Mark 2:18).
ALL of the above arguments were dropped.
Con thus doesn't defend his original apocalyptic claims from the New Testament. As such, CON HAS NO BIBLICAL EVIDENCE LEFT AT THE END OF THE ROUND PROVING A DIRECT QUOTE FROM JESUS THAT WAS APOCALYTPIC. He thus clearly fails to meet the burden of proof, especially with all his complaining that everything has to be proven by primary sources...
== Jesus as an amalgamation ==
This argument has been dropped the entire round. Many Talmudic scholars, like Hayyim ben Yehoshua, believe Jesus was based on a number of false messiahs who were all crucified, such as Yehuda, Theudas and Benjamin. Christians have many responses to this argument (and deny that any of these people were Jesus), but my opponent never ventures any. Yeishu ben Pandeira, who was branded a sorcerer by the Jews, according to Talmudic writings, had two of Jesus's disciples: Matthew and Thaddeus. If you add in enough other false messiahs, you can get all 12 disciples' names...
Your opponent pointed out that in your examples Jesus is caught referring to "the Son of Man" in such a way as would be expected of, say, John the Baptist referring off to someone other than himself coming at the end of time to deal with the world. He offered evidence of where Jesus and John the Baptist are confused in the story line as evidence that a confusion and possible amalgamation was taking place. He pinned the "doomsday cult" material on John the Baptist sayings which were probably later used in the amalgamation patch work. And also the only possible historical Jesus' to be found are the usual Yeshua Ben Pandira / Pantera, the Notzri, etc. None of these alone represent the gospel Jesus of course, but amalgamated they could all contribute to different aspects of the story, or rather various layers of this mythological onion. The mythology plays into the various layers too. The whole issue of you not being able to provide a credible, direct quote from Jesus seemed to be the down fall...
== Conclusion ==
I have proven in this debate that the gospel authors were willing to lie, borrow, and cheat to gain followers for Christianity. My opponent never disproves the Jewish claims about Jesus being a combination of false messiahs. Even if you believe the gospels, I have provided copious textual evidence that John the Baptist, not Jesus, was the apocalyptic ascetic (and two-thirds of Jesus scholars agree with my interpretation). And during this time period, asceticism and apocalypticism were completely intertwined (as seen by the Essenes). If Jesus was not an ascetic, he was not apocalyptic, and I've clearly won that he was not ascetic. For all these reasons, I urge a Con vote.
And that's what the majority have done, they've voted against the doomsday Jesus cult theory in light of the evidence presented against it and your refusal to directly address the relevant arguments...