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When it comes to the existence of historical figures, there is often controversy and debate, especially when it comes to figures of religious significance. One such debate is around the historicity of Socrates and Jesus. In this article, we will compare and contrast the evidence for their existence and explore the impact of their teachings.

Socrates: Plausible or Not?

Socrates is one of the most famous philosophers in history, yet there is no concrete evidence that he existed. The records of his life and his words are secondhand, making it difficult to determine the veracity of his existence. However, there are some descriptions of his life that make his existence plausible.

The method of reasoning, testing of evidence against experience, and commitment to dialectical honesty that Socrates advanced are what make him precious. Even if he never existed, someone else would have advanced these ideas eventually.

Jesus: The Fakery of the Story

In contrast, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is also shrouded in mystery. The records of his life and his words, as documented in the Jewish and Christian Bible and the hadiths of Islam, are almost entirely secondhand. However, the evidence for Jesus’ existence is less plausible than that of Socrates.

For instance, the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is fabricated, with no census or requirement for people to go back to their hometown to be registered. Quirinius was not governor of Syria in that year as stated in the Gospels, and not one Gospel agrees with each other on this fabrication. The very falsity of the Nativity story suggests that there may have been a charismatic, deluded individual wandering around at that time.

Furthermore, most of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women, “illiterate and hysterical females” of the kind who, in a Jewish court at that time, would have had little chance of being listened to. This lack of evidence is impressive, indicating that the story of Jesus is a human and pitiable practice of fraud that may have worked on stupefied peasants in the Greater Jerusalem area but should not have any power to influence anyone today.

The Impact of Their Teachings

Whether or not Socrates or Jesus existed, their teachings have had a significant impact on the world. The ideas and methods of reasoning advanced by Socrates continue to illuminate our path today. On the other hand, Jesus’ central doctrine of taking no thought for the morrow, no investment, no thrift, no care for your children, is ridiculous and immoral.

The inconsistency and lack of evidence for Jesus’ teachings make them less impactful than Socrates’. Socrates’ noble methods and words will continue to inspire and guide us as long as we care about the only real gift we have, which is our independent intelligence.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the historicity of Socrates and Jesus is a contentious topic, with evidence pointing to both the existence and non-existence of these figures. However, regardless of whether they existed or not, their teachings have had a profound impact on the world. While Socrates’ ideas and methods of reasoning continue to inspire and guide us, the inconsistent and often fabricated teachings of Jesus are less impactful.

Full Transcript:

In my book, I say that there’s no reason it’s also believed that the so-called Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. But here’s what I say about Socrates: the original collision between our reasoning faculties and any form of organized faith. This is my book, though it must have occurred before in the minds of many, is probably exemplified in the trial of Socrates in 399 BC. It does not matter at all to me that we have no absolute certainty that Socrates even existed. The records of his life and his words are secondhand, almost but not quite as much as are the books of the Jewish and Christian Bible and the hadiths of Islam. Philosophy, however, has no need of such demonstrations because it does not deal in revealed wisdom.

Now, as it happens, we do have some very good descriptions of the life of Socrates that make his existence to me plausible. But it doesn’t matter to me at all whether he was real or not. What matters is that someone advanced his method of reasoning, his testing of evidence against experience, his commitment to a certain kind of dialectical honesty, and that if it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. And that’s what’s precious to me. And that he never said, “You’ve got to believe in everything I say or go to hell or heaven because…and here’s why you’ve got to agree with me, because my mother never went to bed with anybody, and that proves the truth of what I say,” or that “I taught, by the way, it looks at, I must have looked very dead when they took me down from the cross, but I didn’t die, and that proves my point.”

“I’m willing to grant it all. I’m willing to grant the Immaculate Conception first, then the virgin birth, then the resurrection, and the Annunciation, and the Assumption. I want to grant all of it. It doesn’t prove the truth of the proposition that you should take no thought for the morrow, the central doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth. Take no thought for the morrow, no investment, no thrift, no care for your children, that you should abandon your family, not worry about construction, about investment, about anything, just follow me. Ridiculous and immoral proposition that C.S. Lewis so cleverly, and I must say for him very honestly, puts it means that the man must either have been a maniac, a sick man, an evil man, or he must have believed that the world was coming immediately to an end and that he was commanded to announce this fact to the deluded Bronze Age inhabitants of Palestine, because if he didn’t believe that, if he didn’t believe he was divinely mandated, then his words would not have been inaccurate or false. They would have been wicked. That’s what you have to be talking about.”

“Now, there is, on the historicity point, there are only two reasons, I think, to suppose that there may have been the figure of some kind of deluded rabbi present at that time. The first is the fakery of the story. The faker itself proves something. The prophecy says this man must be born in the house of David, of David’s lion, in David’s town. Means he must be born in Bethlehem. Jesus of Nazareth is well-known to have been born in Nazareth. In order to get him to Bethlehem, a huge fabrication has to be undertaken. A census is proposed by Caesar Augustus. No such census ever took place. The people of the region were not required to go back to their hometown to be registered.

That’s never happened. Quirinius was not governor of Syria in that year, as the Gospels say. None of the story of the Nativity is true in any detail, and not one of the Gospels agrees with each other on this fabrication. But the fabrication itself suggests something. If they were simply going to make up the whole thing and there had never been any such person, then why not just have him born in Bethlehem right there and leave out the Nazarene business? So, the very falsity of it, the very fanatical attempt to make it come right, suggests that, yes, there may have been a charismatic, deluded individual wandering around at that time.”

“But which is most impressive to you, the fantastic fabrications, the unbelievably inane and inarticulate preachments, or the inconsistencies in the story? You could mention another thing about the resurrection. Most of the witnesses to this are women – illiterate, stupid, deluded, hysterical females of the kind who, in a Jewish court at that time, would have had about as much chance of being listened to as they would in an Islamic court today. What religion that wants its fabrication to be believed is going to say, ‘You’ve got to believe it because we have some illiterate, hysterical girls who said they saw this’? No, it’s impressive to me that the evidence is so thin and is so historical and is so feeble and is so obviously strenuously cobbled together because it suggests, well, something was going on. There was some character, and I don’t want to, therefore, to profane those who think that no, there must have been something and say no, there was nothing. This is not a whole cloth fabrication, but it is a very human and very intelligible and very pitiable, I think, practice of fraud that may have worked on stupefied peasants in the Greater Jerusalem area but should really have no power to influence anyone in this room, whereas the noble methods and words and systems by which Socrates reasoned will continue to illuminate our path for as long as we care about the only real gift we have, which is our independent intelligence.”

“Now, I think that’ll do for now, but if you want to ask me, yes, I’ve run out of time. But if you would care just to look at the chapter I’ve written about the discovery, the concession now by every Israeli archaeologist, by the whole school now of Israeli archaeology, that the entire story of the Exodus, the captivity, the wandering, the conquest of Canaan rested is also a complete fabrication, you will see a perfect, a perfect collision between the two things that do allow us to make progress as scholars and intellectuals – the way of evidence against interest and that the great school of Jewish archaeology, given every motive to find the contrary, giving every motive and every chance in the Sinai and in the region to dig up and find what David Ben-Gurion, the founding of the state, called the title deeds of Zionism, to come back empty-handed and say, ‘We admit it. This story has no basis of any kind whatever.’ Is, I submit to you, something far more noble, far more worthwhile, far more honest, far more courageous, far more moral, and far more Socratic than any of the nonsense that Dinesh just tried to pass off on you. Thanks.

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