• Searching For The Historical Hercules

    While most people today don’t believe Hercules was actually born of a virgin or was half god, there is universal agreement among Zeus-worshiping scholars that there was a real historic Hercules. In fact, only those who have an anti-Zeus bias reject the historicity of Hercules.

    University of Notre Dame Philosophy professor Gary Gutting, recently wrote an article in the New York Times arguing against the atheistic view toward Zeus. He argues that Zeus very well may have actually existed. I think that if Zeus existed, than Hercules must have existed too. If we were to reject the historicity of Hercules, then we would also have to reject the historicity of Socrates, Plato, Jesus, and Bill Clinton.

    Gutting has a PhD. in Philosophy of Religion. He studies religions for a living. This isn’t just a faith-based opinion; he is an expert and a scholar. So Fox News should stop embarrassing itself by questioning his faith. His article is a scholarly work by someone who has a PhD in Religion! This is what he does for a living. He has a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion. PhD! PhD! PhD! While you may never have heard of him, among Zeus scholars in America, he is kinda a big deal.

    Okay, this shit is about to get real. No one takes any claims about a historical Hercules or a historical Zeus seriously. Why? Because it is ridiculous to believe that there were such figures in history and there is zero contemporary evidence to support claims of their existence. Zeus was alleged to be a deity hiding out on Mount Olympus. No one saw him. Hercules was at least alleged to be a half person, but still there is no reason to believe that his exploits were based off any real person. Yahweh and Jesus are much the same. They are purely fictional characters – who are we going to look for next, the historical Superman? You don’t know that there wasn’t someone named Clark living in Kansas.

    Despite the fact that there are zero contemporary accounts of Jesus and all we have are the Gospels and some vague references to someone called “the Christ” in writings written many years after his alleged death (which may have even been forged), there is nothing and yet we have scholars and experts (mostly Christians) who assert that there must have been a historical figure that these fanciful tales were based on. Why?

    Go ahead and ask them for some evidence; I dare you. You will get a barrage of anger Christians telling you that these people are experts and scholars and that even though we have contemporary accounts both praising and criticizing Plato and Socrates by people who knew them, that we would have to immediately stop teaching all of Plato’s works because there is allegedly more evidence for a historical Jesus than there is for Plato. Really? I don’t think that is true and even if it were true, we could still teach the books, we could just add a footnote saying that we don’t know who actually wrote them.

    Okay, where is the evidence? The answer is the authoritative word of PhD scholars like Reza Aslan and others. In fact, the belief in a historical Jesus is apparently “universally accepted” by theologians and Christian historians. There is more evidence for a historical Jesus than there is for Socrates, Plato, Hercules, and Bill Clinton!

    Okay, where is the evidence? Repeat. These people have PhDs! They are scholars and therefore have authority. There is just one problem; the evidence is where the real authority lies and there is no evidence that Jesus or Hercules were anything more than fictional characters. If you strip Hercules of his half-godness, why would anyone accept anything else about his exploits as possibly true? Same thing applies to Jesus. If you strip him of his supernatural magic, then why would anyone take seriously anything else from the story?

    Why is it merely assumed and asserted that there must have been some historical figure at the core of the stories without any real evidence to back up such claims?

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    Category: Jesus Christ


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.


    1. Having read some articles on this recently, I was shocked by what is considered “nearly unimpeachable evidence” of Jesus. Here’s the various methods (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quest_for_the_historical_Jesus)

      In order to analyze biblical passages, Käsemann introduced the criterion of dissimilarity, that compares a gospel passage (e.g. a statement by Jesus) to the Jewish context of the time, and if dissimilar, places weight on its being on safe ground.[39]

      During the second quest the criterion of embarrassment was also introduced.[5] This criterion states that a group is unlikely to invent a story that would be embarrassing to themselves.

      The criterion of historical plausibility was introduced in 1997.[5] This principle analyzes the plausibility of an event in terms of components such as contextual plausibility and consequential plausibility, i.e. the historical context needs to be suitable, as well as the consequences.[5] In recent research, the criterion of plausibility has found favor among scholars over the criterion of dissimilarity, and accounts that fit the historical context are viewed as more likely to be valid.

      The criterion of rejection and execution was developed in 1985.[5] It is quite different from other criteria and does not directly point to individual saying or act of Jesus as authentic, but focuses attention on the fact that Jesus was rejected by the Jews and executed by the Romans and then asks what words and deeds would fit into this scenario.

      The criterion of congruence (also called cumulative circumstantial evidence) is a special case of the older criterion of coherence.[47] The criterion of coherence, also called the criterion of consistency and conformity, looks back at what has already been established as historical, and tests if a new hypothesis is consistent and coherent with what is already known.

      That’s is. That’s how Bible “scholars” have determined that Jesus is real. It’s because he would have embarrassed the people of the time, and his actions were relevant to the world at the time. The rest is just assuming what they want to be true and then finding supporting evidence.

      Using those pieces of logic, I don’t see how we could accurately judge whether Bill Clinton existed or not.

      I honestly don’t know how anyone can use these criteria to judge the historical accuracy of anything.

      1. I compare the gospels to Superman comic books. They parallel quite nicely, leading to the conclusion that either Superman is real or Jesus isn’t.

    2. There is one tiny part of the Hercules legend that to me indicates the stories are based on a historical figure.

    3. Congrats, you literally said nothing in an entirely too long post that has nothing to do with any evidence towards a historical figure who may have inspired the character of Heracles. I hope you blog nonsense for an eternity in Tartarus. Also, no, I’m not defending the existence of Jesus, I agree completely, however the title is completely misleading and I hate you for that. Better luck next time.

      -the Motherfucker

      1. I think you missed the context of this post which was written in August of last year. It was a satire about Reza Aslan’s Fox News appearance. When he kept pointing out that he was a religion scholar and that he does this for a living.

        As for the title of the article, it fits the article completely. The article is about the silliness in a claim to search for an historical Jesus by showing the silliness of searching for an historical Hercules. Sorry you didn’t like the article. If you like, I’ll refund your money. 😉

    4. I thought it was funny and clear right away where it was going. I’m an atheist though I shouldn’t feel I even need to say that. But I don’t think a historical Heracles is remotely comparable in terms of the evidence even if the difference is none a little. In fact, I’ve seen that very example brought up in arguments on forums and get cut down as a ridiculous comparison because we have historical sources outside of religious/ mythical texts for some sort of real person as at least a rudimentary basis for Jesus. Also, throwing in the idea that someone believes in Yahweh because they think there might have been a historical Jesus is just, well, satire. 🙂

      1. There is zero contempory accounts of Jesus. Zero, as in none, zip, zilch, Nada. The best they have is Josephus. Most scholars admit that much of his writing related to Jesus are forgeries and he was born 30 years after Jesus was alledged to have died.

    5. You left out Tacitus who was not exactly complementary in his description which makes it harder to argue for a forgery. But contemporary accounts of figures of antiquity are the exception. Most accounts are from after their time. An account estimated at 80 years later isn’t bad in the overall scheme of things for those days. He may not have existed but arguing no evidence is stretching it. The problem with these HJ debates is that it is almost impossible to have one that is not confirmation biased. We have religious people who want to believe everything and there are people who hate it if even one little vestige of it might be true even if nothing more than a loose basis in a real person.

      1. The Annals are most likely another interpolated forgery by the Church. No original copies. Oldest one dates to no later then the 14th or 15th century. Maybe 11th, can’t exactly temember, and were in possession of the Church. Several books are missing. It mentions Nero blaming Christians for the burning of Rome, and is the only source claiming so. No other works by Tacitus mention Christians. There is no evidence for Christianity’s existence in the 1st Century outside the religion. We have evidence under UV light that Chrestians was changed to Christians innthe Annals.

        So there ya go.

    6. I actually covered Tacitus in the Atheism 101 article: http://www.examiner.com/article/atheism-101-the-jesus-myth

      Some people say God exists and some people say he doesn’t. Some people say invisible pink unicorns exist and some people say they don’t. I guess we have to call it all even since there in no evidence either way. NO! No we don’t! If someone makes a claim then they have to back up that claim with evidence. The claim is that there was a historical Jesus. Where is the evidence for that claim? It doesn’t exist! So no, I have no reason to believe that there was a historical Jesus. No contemporaries of this alleged figure wrote about him despite being “known far and wide” and performing magic tricks all over the place. No one wrote about him who was critical of his teachings. He allegedly raised people from the dead and no one wrote about that? That’s strange. All we have are accounts from decades later that claim that Christians existed and that they presumably followed some guy named “Christ.” No one even used the name Jesus until centuries later. Well shit, I could tell you that Christians exist. That doesn’t prove that Jesus existed.

      To claim that other historical figures have less evidence is simply not true. I had one person tell me that there was more evidence for Jesus than there was for Bill The Kid. That’s laughable since we actually have a photo of Bill The Kid. Alexander the Great is another often used historical figure. The problem is that he conquered half the world. We tons of evidence for his existence. Socrates is another. We have Plato’s first hand accounts (which to be fair may have been completely made up), but we also have Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato. Aristotle also taught Alexander the Great, so there we can knock out two birds with one Philosopher.

      Sure, there might have been a historical Jesus, but there is no valid evidence that there was and without valid evidence, no one has any valid reason to believe there was. The fact is that Jesus is a character of mythology. There may have been some real person that character is based on, but you could say the same thing about Hercules and that is my point.

      1. Sorry for late, but there’s a stone marked with the name of Pilate, and Jesus wasn’t exactly a unique name back then. Several of these people named Jesus were probably crucified as a punishment for whatever, I recall hearing about a Roman account scroll (or book, if you have to trust Romans and think a roll of paper is a book) in which there appeared as many as 3 different criminals named Jesus who were crucified. I tried to find this source later on, but couldn’t. Still, whatever the name, some common guy who was the son of a carpenter and had different ideals than the common Hebrew of the time and preached them wouldn’t be so hard to believe. Maybe he even found his own followers. Maybe he was crucified by Pilate on grounds of whatever. And maybe his followers tried to convince more people to follow them. Maybe they made quite a too big deal about him having “helped” a guy who was suffering a seizure and happened to get better by chance when he was around. Maybe he actually faked that magic. People could have built a legend around him as easy as that.

        I’ll also call you out on this: first, you claim that Christians use historical figures to back themselves up, saying there’s no proof about his existance, but you, and many like you, also use mythical figures of which we know nothing about to disprove that people 2000 years ago would start following a guy with an idea they liked and would start worshipping him. Drop that argument and stop basing the historicity of Jesus on the myth of Jesus and you’ll be ok. Second, you claim Alexander the Great was real because he conquered half the world and Aristotle taught him and we know Aristotle existed. Well, guess what? Jesus was real because half the world follows his teachings and Pontius Pilate crucified him and we know Pilate existed.

        If you’re going to deny it, do it right.

        1. I’m sorry, I missed Pilate’s account of him crucifying Jesus. We have Aristotle’s account of teaching Alexander the Great. Is there a record of Pilate executing Jesus? That would be some pretty big news. I bet the Catholic Church and every other religious group would be posting that shit everywhere… if only it actually exited.

    7. I really don’t care whether you think there was such a person or not. You say yourself we don’t know. I don’t know that there was either. Sometimes, with fellow atheists, it’s just the criterion by which they make the judgement that I find “interesting”. For instance, the nature of your arguments. You equate the possibility of a real person as a basis for the myths with believing in Yahweh or Zeus. You further assert that, if Jesus had existed, there would have been all sorts of writings about him since he did all sorts of magic stuff like healing people and even raising them from the dead. Huh? I thought this was about a historical basis for the myths, not about the myths themselves. You are drawing no distinction. That’s pretty typical for Myther arguments and an indication why they’ve mostly remained amateur Net arguments that most scholars don’t bother with. A real person who was a basis for the myths would not be performing magic and known far and wide for it. So you’re not even looking at what the evidence would be for a real person. You’re looking for evidence of a myth.

      Also, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone compare Jesus to George Washington or Billy the Kid. That’s usually myther parodies of the historical argument. The comparison they usually make is to other figures of antiquity who would have been fairly obscure in their own lifetimes regardless of what myths later arose about them.

      1. I’m on my phone so bear with me. I think it really comes down to how watered down do you want to strip the myth. I think you want to strip it to a dude lived during x time period and water executedby Romans. Would it make a difference if his name was Bob? My point is that there is no reason to believe any of it is based on any actual person – magic or not. If there was a dude with any kind of following inciting rebellion against the Romans, some living in that time and place would have written about it. But all we have are crickets. Nothing.

        As for Christians using washingtob, Lincoln, Billy the Kid, etc. They do it all the time. I’m not making that up. There was a recent article about the best 4 arguments for a historical jesuson beliefnet. In the comments section of that article, you will see these arguments made. In fact on almost any forum where historicity of Jesus is questioned, you will see these types of arguments made.

    8. Oh, just to tone this down a bit, I don’t doubt there could have been multiple “messiahs” and would be “end of the world” doomsayers and that there could have been “multiple Jesuses” or multiple people who could have been a basis. I find the Gabriel Stone discovery to be most interesting on the point of this resurrection myth within Judaism being older than previously thought. If it pans out, it creates a whole new point of view on the concept of a historical Jesus or a need for one to explain Christianity’s core origin. So apologies and some valid research springing up in the early 21st century.

    9. I agree, the evidence for a historical Jesus is downright dismal. I think its plausible that a historical Jesus, but after looking at the case for history against the case for myth, I think the case for myth is vastly stronger.

    10. Actually scientists ignore the evidence just like the evidence of giant skeletons found all over the world. This is why I can’t trust everything they said because they are not up to actually find the true they only want to be right against religion. Which is kind of inmature, if you ask me, if you actually curious to find the mysteries of this world, you’ll search everywhere. Right? Why are they ignoring the giant skeletons, with this means that the Nephilim, (which are possibly the gods of Greek too) are real, because they ARE real. I mean they just found out the fossils of this amazing creatures…you just can’t be like, yeah they are not real. Why ignore this, I don’t get it.

    11. Curious as to your take on oral traditions in relation to your claims? Written histories often happened well after historical figures existed…

    12. There is a history channel on TV that features scientist proving that the things in the bible happened, i just don’t remeber the name.

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