Alan H wrote:
Alternatively: EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS
by Stephen Law.
The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of independent evidence for an historical Jesus, remain sceptical about his existence.
I have only quickly read the full paper, and the contamination principle does seem to be interesting. But I would query its basis, which is comparing the Gospels with some hypothetical account from contemporary friends about their claimed acquaintance whom, they claimed, did miraculous things. In fact, we would I think consider this couple to be somewhat deranged if they came up with some such story. I don't think that the miracles etc claimed for Jesus do quite contaminate the claims for his existence in the same way, unless we consider all the gospellers to be deranged; the background to the Gospels is just so remote from us that I don't think the contamination idea works. (This is quite apart from the non-Xian evidences for Jesus's existence which of course do not attribute any miraculous powers to him). Unlike the stories in pagan myths about Jupiter etc doing wondrous things in virtue of the supposed fact that they were obviously divine, the Gospels appear IMO to be "about" someone not clearly divine at the outset of his life.
This is probably not too clear, and I will try to improve it!