Monday, April 09, 2018

Why are there Jesus skeptics but not Alexander the Great skeptics

Gary Habermas asks here. 

21 comments:

Charles Hennessy said...

There were quite a few men in history who claimed to be God. Alexander of Macedonia was one, as well as many of the Roman Caesars. Jesus of Nazareth is the only man who actually was God in the flesh and His enemy, Satan does not want people to come to acknowledge this truth which leads to their regeneration with the divine life of God. This truth is brought out in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." If a person believes into Christ, that person is "translated out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of the Son of His (God) love." (Colossians 1:13)

One Brow said...

Alexander the Great left four kingdoms behind in his death, whose existence makes no historical sense unless he lived. By contrast, Jesus (if he existed) left no historical trace other than the religion.

jdhuey said...

There are facts to support Alexander the Great. There are only stories to support Jesus.

Charles Hennessy said...

Well, if anyone thinks that written eyewitness accounts do not constitute history but are merely stories then that person does not know how history is constructed. Original source material is the source of history. If anyone thinks that Archaeological evidence is superior to historical witness, that person does not understand science at all. The first thing an antequarian looks for is a historical account. That being absent, the investigator must rely on archaeological evidence. The accounts of Jesus in the Gospels are not 'stories', they are eyewitness accounts and just as reliable as the accounts of Herodotus, Plutarch, Pliny, Josephus or any other ancient source and more reliable than many ancient historians who wrote centuries after the events.

Charles Hennessy said...

And we have Church History of the fact that Jesus existed as an unbroken record of His life and works stretching back the nearly 2,000 years since his birth. No other history is so complete and only a non-historian would ever doubt Jesus' existence. His is mentioned in the works of Josephus as existing and the Jewish history does not deny His existence, only His divinity.

jdhuey said...


A good historian will always examine a historical account skeptically. They will ask what is the source of the information, what are the biases the author might have, what is the purpose behind writing the account and so on. So, yes, much of what gets written as a eyewitness account gets relegated to the status of 'story'.

jdhuey said...

It is a cliche that history is written by the victors but it also has a strong element of truth in it. Church History was also written by the victors. The difference between heresy and orthodoxy was political clout.

Starhopper said...

"Alexander the Great left four kingdoms behind in his death, whose existence makes no historical sense unless he lived. By contrast, Jesus (if he existed) left no historical trace other than the religion."

"other than the religion"????

Christianity is the Biggest Thing to ever hit Western Civilization. Compared to it, the kingdoms left behind by Alexander the Great are mere soap bubbles. Who remembers them nowadays, other than professional historians and the occasional nerd (like myself), to whom words like Ptolemaic or Seleucid mean anything?

The fact that Christendom is still the largest religion on Earth after 2000 years, and that the Papacy still exists in unbroken succession since St. Peter himself, despite all the vicissitudes of history, is reason enough to take the claims of Jesus with deadly seriousness.

How does Alexander affect your day-to-day life today? Stack that up against the choices demanded of you by the Christ.

One Brow said...

Christianity is the Biggest Thing to ever hit Western Civilization.

Yet, it was not started directly by Jesus, but rather by a group of men that believed in him. While there are Jesus skeptics, to my knowledge there are no Paul skeptics.

Starhopper said...

No Jesus means no Paul.

jdhuey said...

"No Jesus means no Paul."

How do you figure? Saul was combating the belief that the Messiah had already come and Paul was promoting the belief that the Messiah had already come (plus some other stuff). An actual Jesus is not essential for the belief to be there.

(Just to be clear, I personally think that the Mythic theory is not very probable but that it is possible.)

Starhopper said...

The Mythic Theory has a 0.0000% possibility of being true. Keep in mind that the teachings of St. Paul did not come out of thin air. He was in contact with the original Apostles - in person, through intermediaries, and by letter. For the Mythic Theory to be true, these eyewitnesses would have had to be eyewitnesses of... what? A belief? Such an idea is refuted by their own words:

"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it." (1 John 1:1-2)

So there's not just Paul the Mythicists have to worry about. There is the unanimous testimony of the Apostles.

Zgob ermn said...

One Brow, "Yet, it was not started directly by Jesus, but rather by a group of men that believed in him." What???!!! This "group of men" would not have started anything extremely remotely comparable to the Christian movement if they had not been with Jesus and commissioned by him. They would have died as Tilapia catchers or tax collectors or as Zealots, completely forgotten without a trace. But then they met Jesus and rest is HISTORY, literally speaking. You really need to read the Gospels and the entire New Testament to get some understanding about these things. No offense but your statement is quite appalling for its lack of understanding.

Victor Reppert said...

The same skeptical arguments that are used against Jesus can be used against Alexander. You can say that those are just stories, too. In fact, they have been facetiously used on Napoleon in this famous essay by Whately.

http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/WhatelyNapoleon.htm

Charles Hennessy said...

Skepticism is in the mind, which is not the human organ for contacting God. God is contacted by exercising the mingled human spirit. Philosophy and science might lead to an intellectual assent as to the existence of Jesus, Paul, Alexander of Macedonia or your great grandparents, but if your goal is the truth of spiritual matters, the only way to arrive at such truth is by spiritual means and those means may include the mind if it is functioning properly, but not otherwise. Skepticism, if taken to the ultimate end results in subjective idealism where nothing exists or has existed except the individual existence of the skeptic. Hardly a desirable state of belief.

One Brow said...

Starhopper,

There is no evidence of the Apostles having written 2 Peter or 1 John, as opposed to later writers adopting their voices (something that happens in religious movements). There is only tradition that supports it.

I agree the teachings of Paul did not come out of thin air, but I would say the same for Joseph Smith.

Zgob ermn,

Men start religions all the time, and for various reasons.

Charles Hennessy,

I don't consider subjective idealism to be the ultimate end of skepticism, any more than I would consider arming babies to be the ultimate end of eliminating gun controls.

Starhopper said...

The tradition that supports their authorship is evidence for such. Admittedly, not slam dunk evidence, but nevertheless, evidence.

Meanwhile, there is zero evidence for anyone else having written them. Only opinion.

One Brow said...

Tradition is ot only "not slam dunk" evidence, it's evidence you actively distrust (when it comes from any religion you don't believe in).

Starhopper said...

"it's evidence you actively distrust"

Maybe you do, but that's not my MO. I have great respect for the traditions of religions not my own. Although by no means a syncretist, I embrace all that is worthwhile in every tradition. I've read both the Dao De Jing and the Bhagavad Gita in multiple translations and found much of value there, and greatly admire the traditions of the Hopi in Arizona, just for example.

Shackleman said...

Charles Hennessy, you mean Solipsism, not Subjective Idealism. As an occasional subjective idealist, I take offense :-)

(Occasional because sometimes I can rationally assent to be convinced of Subjective Idealism, but then, I stub my toe, and my confidence is again shaken....rinse, repeat. That Berkeley was onto something....and yet, experience always betrays him).

One Brow said...

Starhopper,

My apologies for being unclear. What I meant is that you don't trust tradition as evidence of authorship for other religions.

For example, the Dao De Jing is traditionally ascribed to Lao Tzu. Do you see this as trustworthy evidence Lao Tzu lived? Tradition says Lao Tzu lived over 990 years. Is that trustworthy evidence?

Are the traditions around the Mahabharata trustworthy evidence for the authorship of Vyasa, or for Vyasa being immortal?