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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe

An Italian Judge has ordered a priest to prove that Jesus existed. The difficulty with this argument as a historian is attempting to prove that anyone existed in an age dominated by oral history. Certainly there are lots of early references to to Jesus in the Scriptures but those who don't want to believe that Jesus existed argue that those references can be ruled out because they can't be judged as unbiased. Josephus and Tacitus each mentioned Jesus - but those are later sources and those who don't want to believe argue that these sources are not eyewitnesses. You make the point that even the hostile references to Jesus in early Jewish history do not deny Jesus' existence but those who don't want to believe argue that these sources are also not eyewitness reports. If someone doesn't want to believe, no evidence will prove to be convincing especially in an age that believes a conspiracy is always behind every corner.

It reminds me of my undergraduate philosophy courses when studying the skeptics. Our instructor, playing devil's advocate, tried to get us to prove that anything existed and wasn't just a figment of his imagination. Fortunately, American pragmatism won out when one student said, "Look, I'm sitting in this chair. It's holding me up. It works for me." So, in the same way the evidence for Jesus' existence "works for me".


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