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Thursday, February 02, 2006 

Burden of Proof

Jesus the Man or Jesus the Legend?

It was only a matter of time before someone actually got up the gumption to sue the Church and question its very reason for being.

Confirmed atheist, Luigi Cascioli, has sued the Roman Catholic Church for conning its citizens. Invoking a law known in Italian as "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of Popular Belief), he wants the church to prove that Jesus actually existed as a historical figure.

Whether this actually gets past the preliminary trial remains to be seen but it would be great to see what kind of evidence the Church can come up with besides using the Bible as the sole resource as their basis proof for Jesus' existence.

I have a vested interest in this myself. Last year, while helping my son research the life of St. Thomas on the internet for his religious class in school, I could not find any concrete evidence of his existence let alone his death. This has never happened to me. I always find what I'm looking for on the internet and my own library...from the names and addresses of long lost relatives to actual CDC invoices of viruses the US shipped to Iraq. I could find tons of credible evidence of men who lived long before Jesus from many different sources but when it came to researching saints, the only 'proof' of their existence came from religious sites.

If I wanted to prove the emperor Tiberius existed, I know where his house is. If I wanted to prove Alexander the Great existed, there are hundreds of places both online and offline to confirm it. But when it comes to Jesus or the saints, the Church seems to have the monopoly on any information pertaining to them. Anything else seems to be based on legend. It's easier to prove the existence of alien abductions than the lives of Jesus and his apostles.

For those of you who do decide to comment on this post, I want to make it clear that I don't really care to have the Bible quoted back at me verse by verse. I have read it. But if anyone has credible and tangible proof of Jesus' existence without resorting to how-dare-you-question-the-bible arguments, I'd love to read it.


Sorry... couldn't resist!

Personally, this story doesn't interest me at all. I have my own personal beliefs and I'm sure other people have theirs. I don't feel the need to force my beliefs on other people and I actually wonder why this "Confirmed Athiest" guy feels the need to force his ideas on other people.

If people can respect his beliefs as an athiest then he should have the decency to respect others beliefs in that Jesus Christ did exist.

What good would this court case achieve?

Being one of the people who doesn't think Jesus actually existed and that the Bible is just good mythology - I can't provide much to the discussion.

It is a matter of a faith, for sure, and I doubt it is something that could ever be proven in court.

All the "big" religions that exist today are lacking in tangible proof in regards to the personages who make their religions what they are. Personally, I'm not sure such a question should be entered into a court of law, because to me religion needs to stay somewhere where it doesn't interfere with politics or law. It is a whole different ballgame, really.

I read an abridged version of the Bible, a few years back, when one of my daughters received it as a gift from a neighbour-lady who thought it scandalous that I hadn't baptized my children. The mini-Bible was her idea of "getting them started on the right path". Well, the reading was easy, the pretty pictures helped a lot and made it so lovable! It was a nice story. Personally, I'll stick with the theory that Jesus was a rebel, a revolutionary. Peace, bread and solidarity for all!

Scholars have devoted a great deal of effort in attempting to answer your question, and the answer remains elusive. There are many books on this topic and much web discussion (try googling "did Jesus exist." How one interprets the evidence appears to depend a great deal on ones faith, or lack thereof.

So, bottom line, I'm with your other responders that this falls in the category of items for which there is unlikely to be scientifically valid proof, and that a court of law is not well-suited to adjudicate.

As a side note, I'm thinking that it isn't really valid to use emperors or world leaders as a point of comparison for the kind of historical data that might be available about Jesus. Unlike Jesus, these folks had scribes and historians to record their comings and goings, and money enough to build grand edifices some of which remain standing. Oh wait, Jesus had the apostles, but since your question asks for evidence other than the bible, I guess their writings would not meet your need for proof.

Good question though!


This man suing the Catholic church, should turn his attention to suing the Muslim and other "religious' entities as well.
The man is an ophidian with plenty of time and cash to spare. He is also cunning, instead of taking on the Ulema, he takes on the prostrated and defanged Christian establishment. Christianity having lost its virility and in its comatose state it's a cinch, whereas against the Ulema he would not have seen the light of day facing the militancy and proselytizing zeal of the muslims.

In any case there is no interest,today, in refuting the Bible,a collection of fantastic legends without any scientific support, full of dark hints, historical mistakes and contradictions.

Ellas...The point is that it should amount to more than a belief. The Church says Jesus existed. I want them to prove his existence. The same way I would want someone who tells me the Tooth Fairy exists. This court case would force the Church to come up with concrete evidence rather than just hocus pocus stories.

Mel...Out of sheer curiosity, I would love to know if they could prove Jesus' actual existence. If I opened up a museum and claimed that Zeus lived there and charged millions of people entrance fees then I think I should have to have some proof that it was actually true or it would be nothing short of fraudulent.

Flubberwinkle...I think the guidance and information found in the Bible is of use to us even today. A lot of it is just good common sense and aims to make us all better people. I've always felt that the Bible was fact-based fiction created as a form in which to govern people and give them a code of ethics and principles. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Eleni...Why can't I compare the lives of Tiberius and Alexander the Great to Jesus? The Church states Jesus was a historical figure...just like the other two.

Maybe this?


I thought there had been several, maybe scores, of Romans who had written of Jesus?

You can if you want compare Tiberius and Alexander to Jesus if you choose to do so. I'm just questioning the validity of the comparison.

If I tried to prove the existence of my x10 great grandfather, a person who undoubtedly existed because, well, here I am, I'd be hard pressed to do so. And, if I tried to compare the historical evidece of his existence with, say, that of the King of England during my grandfathers' lifetime, there would be lots of history about the king and little about my x10 great grandfather. This is because the king had his own scribes and historians contemporaneously drafting whatever the king wanted to be remembered.

My grandfather didn't. Neither did Jesus. Except for the apostles that is. But your question rejects the bible as the source of acceptable historical "evidence." So if you reject the early Christian writings, you pretty much reject the only realistically possible source of writing about this person who just wasn't the kind of person who would be written about. Carpenter? Rabble rouser? Easily dealt with by execution, and quickly forgotten except by his friends and followers.

You say to EllasDevil "The point is that it should amount to more than a belief. The Church says Jesus existed. I want them to prove his existence." But the chuch isn't and has never been about proof. The church is about faith, which is about believing in something for which there is no proof.

And even if you are thinking about proof, there are many different kinds. In the US, people can be executed based on purely circumstantial evidence, a kind of evidence routinely accepted as sufficient to prove all manner of things. Like footprints in the snow prove someone walked across my lawn last night. I didn't see this happen, so I can't prove for sure it happened, but I certainly believe it to be true.

Is the fact that so many people who lived in a period of time when there would have been proof of Jesus' existence sacrificed their lives rather than denounce him proof? Or that Muslims as well as Christians recognize that Jesus was a real historical figure, does that mean anything? Or any other facts of this nature? If you believe it is sufficient, it is. If you don't, it isn't.

Ultimately, whether you choose to believe any "evidence" that may exist hinges on faith.

The gospels were written down several decades after Jesus' death, right? Most of the stories in the New Testament were not firsthand accounts. St. Paul was converted long, long after Jesus' death and he was the most influential writer of all. What does this mean? That Ally McBeal would have a field day. Actually, Paul didn't particularly like women. Even the leggy ones.

Finally, it's not important whether whatsisname or whatsisname actually existed. The particulars are window dressing. What's important is the message, which you know, is not actually so bad.

It is only and only a matter of faith. Nothing can be proved, because there is lack of scientific evidence. Once we immersed ouselves in the dogma of Adam's rib, the legends flourished.
God is unseen, yet it is venerated. If God had a son, he should also have been an unseen power.What business has he got to come down to earth an impersonate a human. The story of the crucifixion it is also a beautiful tale.Jesus died to save us from our sins. Perhaps he could have been a little less selfish, and laboured and blessed the needy for another year or two, before exiting earth. Humans need to have faith in something, otherwise they are lost and they will throttle each other at will. Faith is a restraining factor, and christianity as a faith has an allure for those hopeless creatures who fear death and demand to have an eternal life. Since no one has ever come back from the nether to tell us what it is like, we can only rely in faith.
If there is faith and belief, it is no one's business to discredit such faith and belittle such beliefs. Whether Jesus was a historical figure or not , it is neither here nor there, since it is a matter of faith. At the same time any doubts on christianity cast doubts on the origins of the mother of this religion, Judaism. Christianity and mahomedanism are an offspring of Judaism. If these religions are false religions, the mother religion is equally false.

How about we deconstruct the prophet Mohammad (as we see how well Muslims take to cartoon caricatures), Krishna and Vishnu, Buddha, and YHVH first and then begin to take down another pillar of western man? Shall we?

It's irrelevant when the scriptures were written since they were written by people within the lifetime of Jesus. I can write about the first space flight to the moon despite it being several decades before and it would be extremely accurate. So what does that tell us? Nothing aside from the fact that it is not imperative to start scribing the gospels the moment of Jesus' last breath.

Secondly, the Bible in essence is a biography of sorts and is a written record of the life of Jesus. It most certainly should be "allowed" as testament to his life and evidence towards his existence. Looking at it logically, I would hardly think that this would be a "massive conspiracy" to create a God that was a competitor to Judaism and one that needs to discard due to potential bias.

Considering religion, all religion is faith based. Evidence to show existence is rather academic. No evidence, until the final judgement day will be enough. That is the rub with religion, i.e. one needs unrelenting faith in order to believe in its existence.

As one commenter stated, it is not coincidental that this person is suing the Church as opposed to the Rabbinical sect or heaven forbid, Islam. I'm sure there was more than a little forthought put into this in order to preserve as much life and limb as possible. Considering we have essentially destroyed Christianity and the belief of same, there isn't much negative to do what this guy is doing.

Despite being an agnostic, I think religion is useful to many, many people. What benefit would destroying one's belief in Jesus and Christianity accomplish?

Let's see SeaWitch, there was critiques on nationalism, Greek mothers, and now Christianity in a theocratic state. I guess you really do want to leave, though you won't have much of a choice the way you're writing! LOL

Praise the Lord! At least people are talking about Jesus, and in my book that means he has to be around here somewhere.

Although I'm a beer drinking Baptist Christian, I don't attend church regularly, but I agree with those who say (AS George Michael says also) "You gotta have faith".

Good Luck Seawitch on your quest for knowledge, and I'll ask a Baptist minister I know in the states (via email) if he can give me any concrete evidence for ya. It maybe a few days but I'll still post it here.

I understand you do not want to have the bible quoted back to you. Many things in the bible can be interpreted in different ways. For example, if one were to read the story of Jesus feeding the masses with loaves and fishes, could one quite possibly make the connection that Jesus was the best caterer who ever lived? Further, when he turned water into wine, that also was a wondrous feat. How many bartenders do you know today who can turn water into wine? Jesus was absolutely the best bartender and caterer the world has ever known. Is that a fact? Maybe? Another ill of modern society is substance abuse. Some could interpret from the bible, even in biblical days, there were issues regarding substance abuse. We all remember the apostle who said he saw someone walking on water. In today's society, you would accuse him of being on drugs. Yes, these assumptions are absurd, but are they not just as foolish as other interpretations we hear from some religious leaders in today's modern society.

The passages in the bible are not to be interpreted literally. We have a mass of metaphorical proverbs and quotes wrapped in hyperbole and abstruse symbolism ;to be interpreted by the whims and wits of scholars, faithful followers, and readers alike, who find as many different interpretations as there are interpreters. A fruitless exercise to occupy idle minds.

Jesus never turned water into wine, neither he walked on water, neither he raised Lazarus from his death grave. He ( if he ever did exist) carried out these deeds in a symbolical manner. What those symbolisms mean, it has been a conjecture and subject for speculation for centuries.

Personally, my opinions on this subject differ based on whether we are talking about 'Christianity' or 'The Church'. We all seem to agree on one thing - that the message of the bible, whether the stories themselves are fact or not, is, as Scarfalonios says "not so bad" Moreover, as Ethno pointed out, "religion is useful to many, many people", so why should we try to ruin happy, probably good Christians' peace of mind?
Well, the issue for me arises because the key to 'The Church' as an instituation's AUTHORITY is ENTIRELY based on the belief that the bible and the apostles were real people, who actually chose the first pope or whatever (bit fuzzy on this bit-fill me in) and therefore the pope or head of any Christian church today (they've all got their versions) is directly linked to the first pope/chosen person (since each one is chosen by the previous blessed ones - no doubt god whispers the name of the lucky successor into the ears of the holier cardinals, or something). Therefore the church claims to remain under the divine wing, so to speak, of god - meaning all its actions are sanctioned and approved by god, or, as a Christian friend of mine told me to my amusement, "god would have smote them down by now for their corruption if it was really so bad". Hmph!
I would argue, however, that the church, as we certainly have seen here in Greece in the recent past, does not always use their supposedly god-given authority to do very Christian things. In fact, through the ages they have asked their parishioners to do some pretty horrible things, by telling the poor sheep that the Church's requests came on a direct line from god.
SO in that sense, it's fair to question the authenticity of the bible - if The Church wants to go flouting it as proof of their divine autority, and asking its parishioners to believe and do what they are told based on that claim, they should damn well have to prove it! (ah blahsphemy while discussing the church - I love it!)
To answer your question, however, Seawitch, have you ever read 'Holy Blood Holy Grail'? It's a supposedly scholarly and researched book that 'the DaVinci Code' essentially stole the plot of, and claims to "prove" that Jesus in fact was married to Mary Magdalene, who made it to France with their child, and that in fact descendants of Jesus still exist in France today in the form of the Plantard family, which would pretty much prove his existence as a real person (though not the son of god). However, I thought most of the scholarly 'proof' in the book was a load of hooey. Then again, I couldn't bring myself to finish the whole thing so maybe they do come up with some conclusive evidence by the end - check it out if you're really that interested.

I read the Davinci code in a flight from Djakarta to Milan. Good book for a long boring flight. However I'll believe in a flying camel if I see one or a dancing tortoise than swallow the balderdash and churlish fiction contained in its pages. However I credit the author with an impeccable talent for writing , syntax, style and an amazing Dedalus flight of imaginative tour de force. There should be a Nobel or Oneiro literature Prize for unblemished mendacity.

Ameli--My 13 year old son while trying to convince me to allow him to get a tattoo and piercings attempted to use the argument that he is only trying to make a statement. My son realized that we are church going people as well. His argument was that Jesus also was trying to make a statement. My son said that Jesus loved the world so much that he had himself nailed to a cross. What bigger statement can their be than this? I had no choice but to allow my son to get his tattoo and piercings.

Jesus never wrote a few lines, never jotted down his thoughts, he did not leave any record of his statements.

Words were put into Jesus's mouth by his followers, 25 years after his death, or thereabouts.

Once I witnessed an accident on the road. The police questioned witnesses and took notes. The case became complicated because out of ten witnesses ten different flavours of reality were recorded. The questioning followed for anotehr week. In the end the police gave up , because the version of events captured in the first day varied to such a dgree in the second day, that by the fifth day of questioning the stories were not same any more.

A version of events travels fast and metamorphoses equally fast in a matter of days, weeks , months.
What are we to make of version of events captured in writing after 25 years ? Those who scripted the alleged events, underwent aging, memory lapses and other conditions associated with human life. Therefore on the surface and evidence of it ,the recollections gathered, revised and rehashed over a period of decades are subject to be unreliable and inconclusive.
Many people in their prime, if asked what they had for breakfast the day before yesterday are at a loss to answer you.
If one has faith, nothing is impossible, nothing is questionable,no evidence is reuired; since the proof can be manufactured and it needs not to be put to the test. faith is an unbreachable fortress of the soul, faith is blind. Faith can move mountains, physically this would be an impossibility, but spiritually and faithfully it is feasible, one of the metaphorical interpretations of such an hyperbolic assertion is that with sufficient will power one can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

Three weeks or so ago, the faithful muslims were stampeded to their death in South Arabia, during the haj. In a twist of irony the deaths of the faithful took place on the bridge where the worshippers were busy hurling stones stones to Satan. It is obvious that Allah ,all mighty, was looking the other way whilst "Satan" was taking due care of the followers of his competitor.

During the genocide of christian armenians in the Ottoman Empire, slaughter and mayhem was heaped on the christians. The Turkish beys, as they conducted their wholesale massacres, kept asking the infidel : why is not your God coming to your assistance ?

It was obvious that the Christian God had other urgent matters to attend than rescue his faithful. Or maybe the Christian god was being ousted by Allah in the ensuing arm wrestling of sending souls to the hereafter.

My son said that Jesus loved the world so much that he had himself nailed to a cross. What bigger statement can their be than this? I had no choice but to allow my son to get his tattoo and piercings.

How about...you my son, are not Jesus. I would have started with that and tried to use more logic than a teen in trying to convince him that there are statements and there are statements. If all that failed, then I would have resorted to the "you have lots of time to decide and right now is not the appropriate time" argument and ended it. Try some of those next time.

Oh, poor guys, u were still discussing the existence of Jesus, sure he existed, but u should discuss wether he is a God and son of God or not.what happened to your minds? u still believe in this Greek mythes of Semi Gods and sons of God like Hercules..!! wake up men! just try to use your minds.Jesus is a messenger and prophet just like Ibraham and Moses and Mohammad. God is One and Has no son.HEis the creator of everything and everyone.Try to read about Islam ,it is the right and reasonable religion that makes your hearts , minds and souls rest rest...just try and u will not regret

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