Did Jesus Exist?
Raymond Long's blog: 2016-Mar-25

Often, people treat questions as binary: their attitude is that the question can be answered either yes or no. In other words, they consider concepts to be either true or false.
The pedant knows this is too simple. A concept can approach truth to varying degrees, and we must ask exactly what words in the question mean before evaluating its level of truth.
The English name Jesus originates from the Hebrew name יחושׁע (Yəhōshuaʕ), rendered in Greek as Ιηcουc (Iēsous). The Greek name was in turn rendered into Lain as Iesus (not Jesus, as Latin had no letter J in those days).
In the question "Did Jesus exist?", what does Jesus mean? Does it simply mean a man with that name, or does it mean a man who went through exactly the events depicted in the New Testament in every detail, or something in between?
At its simplest, the question "Did Jesus exist?" means "Was there a man with this name in Jerusalem during the time of the New Testament narrative?" But then what is the name? If it's exactly the spelling Jesus, the answer must be no, because the letter J didn't exist in the Latin of that time. If the name is the Hebrew יחושׁע, the answer is yes. This was a common Jewish name at the time and there would have been many men in Jerusalem named יחושׁע.
More likely when people ask "Did Jesus exist?" they mean "Was there a man who went through the events depicted in the New Testament?" If this is the question, how closely do the events in this man's life have to resemble the New Testament story? Would differing in a single detail make the answer no? If we allow some deviation from the the New Testament story, how much do we allow? Until you can answer this question, you cannot give a yes or no answer to the question "Was there a man who went through the events depicted in the New Testament?"
An atheist historian might say something like "Jesus did exist and was crucified, but he wasn't the son of God and didn't rise from the dead." But this answer has Jesus not undergoing some of the most important events in the New Testament story. Can we describe this as Jesus existing?
Instead of answering such questions yes or no, it's more practical to ask how closely a man's life approached the events in the New Testament. This admits shades of grey rather than insisting on the binary answers yes or no. People don't like doing that because it's more mental work.
The pedant recognises that maximising factual correctness is more important than minimising mental work.
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