Did Muhammad Exist?

Oct 2014
24
Britain
Encyclopedia Brittanica - The Qurʾān provides very few concrete details regarding Muhammad’s life. Most such information thus comes from the sīrah (“biography”) literature, consisting of accounts of his life by various writers dating mainly from the 8th and 9th centuries. Those reports are not consistent, however, and some include miraculous elements or stories obviously adapted from the Bible. By carefully comparing accounts, scholars have identified common elements that were in circulation by the late 7th century, and some rudimentary details are confirmed by non-Islamic sources (e.g., a Syriac chronicle and an Armenian history) dating to the first few decades after his traditional death date.
The Qurʾān yields little concrete biographical information about the Islamic Prophet: it addresses an individual “messenger of God,” whom a number of verses call Muhammad (e.g., 3:144), and speaks of a pilgrimage sanctuary that is associated with the “valley of Mecca” and the Kaʿbah (e.g., 2:124–129, 5:97, 48:24–25). Certain verses assume that Muhammad and his followers dwell at a settlement called al-madīnah(“the town”) or Yathrib (e.g., 33:13, 60) after having previously been ousted by their unbelieving foes, presumably from the Meccan sanctuary (e.g., 2:191). Other passages mention military encounters between Muhammad’s followers and the unbelievers. These are sometimes linked with place-names, such as the passing reference to a victory at a place called Badr at 3:123. However, the text provides no dates for any of the historical events it alludes to, and almost none of the Qurʾānic messenger’s contemporaries are mentioned by name (a rare exception is at 33:37). Hence, even if one accepts that the Qurʾānic corpus authentically documents the preaching of Muhammad, taken by itself it simply does not provide sufficient information for even a concise biographical sketch.
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Islamic-world#ref317062
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
ad hominum, red herring, attributing motive without evidence. Red flags for weak argument.
Actually the points that you describe as being a red herring are pretty crucial to the point in question; those offering a mythicist interpreation of Jesus appeal to arguments from comparative religion that go to the 19th Century, such arguments are now viewed as very old-fashioned, and the advances that have been made by viewing the figure of Jesus in proper relation to Jewish culture have shown even further how inapposite they are; and the fact that you regard that as a red herring merely serves to confirm that you have very little knowledge of the relevant scholarship. That is why I don't want to waste my time in arguing with you, my original point was simply that the existence of Jesus is a question that hardly arises in the academic literature, and that his existence is not doubted among serious academics (no one is able to mention any tenured academic with the relevant expertise who questions Jesus's existence). That is simple and irrefutable truth that some people following threads like this may not realize, so it was worth pointing out. I had no intention of getting into any detailed discussion of such a fringe belief.
 
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Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
posturing, strawman, ad hominem, red herring: red flag
This is getting childish, as though it were a red herring to mention that the question of the existence hardly arises in the academic literature (for there is an overwhelming consensus on the matter), or that it is posturing to say that his inexistence is mainly asserted by people who would like to believe that for extraneoous reasons rather than on the basis of disinterested examination of the historical evidence. The nature of their motivation is all too clear from the tone of their posts, and their ignorance of the serious literature from the kind of arguments that they advance. (I am an agnostic so I have no axe to grind beyond standing up for proper historical standards.)
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
Is it true that Sebeos' "history" was an attribution to an anoynomously written manuscript and that there is uncertaintity in regard to the provenance of the manuscript ?

Here is my source. Am I comparing apples to apples here ?



LINK
A few points to make here. The first is that there's nothing unusual about Armenian texts only coming down to us in very late manuscripts. Sanjian's catalogue of American libraries considers eighteenth-century manuscripts as medieval, and indeed many were produced as they were in the middle ages, by hand and on animal skin. The second point is that while Bedrosian's translations are valuable for their free availability and his website is great for the sheer quantity of obscure scholarship on ancient and medieval Armenia that he has made available, he's into lizard men from outer space and his translations are not used academically when any alternative is available. The third point is that Sebeos was quoted in the tenth century by other Armenian writers. It would also be very odd to forge something completely unremarkable on Islam in Armenian, when Syriac and Greek were much more common in the Near East.

James Howard-Johnston, Witnesses to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 72-3:

It is a substantial text which runs to 113 pages in the modern critical edition. The manuscript tradition is thin and late. But the text was known in the early middle ages when it was quarried extensively by two noted tenthcentury historians, John Catholicos and Thomas Artsruni. The first witness to the text, a manuscript dated to 1568, has now disappeared. More important, though, is the second witness, a manuscript copied from an ancient codex (in uncial script) in 1672 at the monastery of St John the Baptist in Bitlis (near the west end of Lake Van). Its version of the text is of high quality but not quite as full as that used by Thomas Artsruni. This manuscript, now in the Matenadaran in Erevan, is a famous one, since it contains the full canon of early Armenian historical texts, dealing with the conversion of the country to Christianity, its early history, and two great rebellions against Sasanian rule in the fifth century. Our text picks up the story from the middle of the fifth century and carries it on for two centuries, ending with the first and most dramatic phase of Arab expansion. All other extant manuscript versions of the text were copied from it. Neither the title of the text nor the name of the author is recorded in the manuscript. But an early note of its contents was made (around 1675) by Vardan Balishets‘i who had commissioned it. After identifying the five preceding texts, four by author’s name, one by title, he ended his list with an enigmatic name, Khosrov. Since the only historian of this name is very obscure, mentioned in two medieval lists of historical writers, and since the main subject of the text is the shahanshah Khusro II (‘the story of the destructive and ruinous Khosrov, cursed by God’), Vardan should be taken to be referring to the title rather than the author, his Khosrov being shorthand for the History of Khosrov. An earlier identification with a lost History of Heraclius by a certain Sebeos (proposed by Shahkhat‘unean in 1833 and accepted by the first editor Mihrdatean in 1851) may be rejected: apart from the obvious discrepancy between that title and the text (Heraclius’ role being that of supporting actor for part of the story told), a passage quoted by Ukhtanes, a late tenth-century church historian, as well as extracts included in collections of liturgical readings, are not to be found in our text. For ease of reference—the false attribution being deeply embedded in scholarship—the author will be designated ps. Sebeos henceforth.
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,260
This is getting childish, as though it were a red herring to mention that the question of the existence hardly arises in the academic literature (for there is an overwhelming consensus on the matter), or that it is posturing to say that his inexistence is mainly asserted by people who would like to believe that for extraneoous reasons rather than on the basis of disinterested examination of the historical evidence. The nature of their motivation is all too clear from the tone of their posts, and their ignorance of the serious literature from the kind of arguments that they advance. (I am an agnostic so I have no axe to grind beyond standing up for proper historical standards.)
No.

The continued posturing, attribution of motivation without evidence and ad hominem is not evidence: These are red flags for a weak argument.

Additionally, your assertion false as to the issue in academic literature. All of the mainstream academics I have read have address the issue; Ehrman, Crosson, Armstrong, Levin, Pagels.

It would be strange for academics to avoid addressing the evidence in play, yes ?

Most "believe" that Jesus did exist but acknowledge the ambiguity of the evidence. All acknowledge that there is no proof of his existence. The language they use is statistical.

There is no basis to assert the certainty of Jesus' existence.
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,260
Actually the points that you describe as being a red herring are pretty crucial to the point in question; those offering a mythicist interpreation of Jesus appeal to arguments from comparative religion that go to the 19th Century, such arguments are now viewed as very old-fashioned, and the advances that have been made by viewing the figure of Jesus in proper relation to Jewish culture have shown even further how inapposite they are; and the fact that you regard that as a red herring merely serves to confirm that you have very little knowledge of the relevant scholarship. That is why I don't want to waste my time in arguing with you, my original point was simply that the existence of Jesus is a question that hardly arises in the academic literature, and that his existence is not doubted among serious academics (no one is able to mention any tenured academic with the relevant expertise who questions Jesus's existence). That is simple and irrefutable truth that some people following threads like this may not realize, so it was worth pointing out. I had no intention of getting into any detailed discussion of such a fringe belief.
red herring, non-essential information, diversion: red flags for a weak argument or position.

Also, I see that you have hinged your qualifications to included "tenured academic with the relevant expertise." Goal post moving is another sign of a weak argument.

Well, the point in question is actually about the evidence of Jesus' historicity.

Additionally, as I pointed out, one of the mainstream academics (Ehrman) asserted an opinion contrary to your POV.

Again, your "original point that the existence of Jesus is a question that hardly arises in the academic literature" is a diversion and arguably false. There is some equivocation in the semantics we could address but, generally, the evidence of Jesus' historicity is a central point usually addressed by mainstream scholars now.

I do agree that most biblical scholars would say they think Jesus' existed, but like me, they cannot project this with 100% certainty. By definition they can't. There is no primary source material to do so.
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,260
That is why I don't want to waste my time in arguing with you...
You are choosing to argue with me. All I have pointed out is the nature of the evidence.

Professor Ehrman takes the same position that I do in regard to the evidence. It is ambiguous at best.

However you have discounted his comments.

You keep asking for "academic" "tenured" "with relevant expertise" and when I give it to you (Ehrman) it is dismissed by you.
 
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Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,260
A few points to make here. The first is that there's nothing unusual about Armenian texts only coming down to us in very late manuscripts. Sanjian's catalogue of American libraries considers eighteenth-century manuscripts as medieval, and indeed many were produced as they were in the middle ages, by hand and on animal skin. The second point is that while Bedrosian's translations are valuable for their free availability and his website is great for the sheer quantity of obscure scholarship on ancient and medieval Armenia that he has made available, he's into lizard men from outer space and his translations are not used academically when any alternative is available. The third point is that Sebeos was quoted in the tenth century by other Armenian writers. It would also be very odd to forge something completely unremarkable on Islam in Armenian, when Syriac and Greek were much more common in the Near East.

James Howard-Johnston, Witnesses to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 72-3:

It is a substantial text which runs to 113 pages in the modern critical edition. The manuscript tradition is thin and late. But the text was known in the early middle ages when it was quarried extensively by two noted tenthcentury historians, John Catholicos and Thomas Artsruni. The first witness to the text, a manuscript dated to 1568, has now disappeared. More important, though, is the second witness, a manuscript copied from an ancient codex (in uncial script) in 1672 at the monastery of St John the Baptist in Bitlis (near the west end of Lake Van). Its version of the text is of high quality but not quite as full as that used by Thomas Artsruni. This manuscript, now in the Matenadaran in Erevan, is a famous one, since it contains the full canon of early Armenian historical texts, dealing with the conversion of the country to Christianity, its early history, and two great rebellions against Sasanian rule in the fifth century. Our text picks up the story from the middle of the fifth century and carries it on for two centuries, ending with the first and most dramatic phase of Arab expansion. All other extant manuscript versions of the text were copied from it. Neither the title of the text nor the name of the author is recorded in the manuscript. But an early note of its contents was made (around 1675) by Vardan Balishets‘i who had commissioned it. After identifying the five preceding texts, four by author’s name, one by title, he ended his list with an enigmatic name, Khosrov. Since the only historian of this name is very obscure, mentioned in two medieval lists of historical writers, and since the main subject of the text is the shahanshah Khusro II (‘the story of the destructive and ruinous Khosrov, cursed by God’), Vardan should be taken to be referring to the title rather than the author, his Khosrov being shorthand for the History of Khosrov. An earlier identification with a lost History of Heraclius by a certain Sebeos (proposed by Shahkhat‘unean in 1833 and accepted by the first editor Mihrdatean in 1851) may be rejected: apart from the obvious discrepancy between that title and the text (Heraclius’ role being that of supporting actor for part of the story told), a passage quoted by Ukhtanes, a late tenth-century church historian, as well as extracts included in collections of liturgical readings, are not to be found in our text. For ease of reference—the false attribution being deeply embedded in scholarship—the author will be designated ps. Sebeos henceforth.
So you agree that Sebeos' "history" was an attribution to an anoynomously written manuscript and that there is uncertaintity in regard to the provenance of the manuscript ?
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,260
Professor Ehrman is "fringe" ?

"It was a surprise to me to see how influential these mythicists are," Ehrman says. "Historically, they've been significant and in the Soviet Union, in fact, the mythicist view was the dominant view, and even today, in some parts of the West – in parts of Scandinavia — it is a dominant view that Jesus never existed," he says.

Mythicists' arguments are fairly plausible, Ehrman says. According to them, Jesus was never mentioned in any Roman sources and there is no archeological evidence that Jesus ever existed. Even Christian sources are problematic – the Gospels come long after Jesus' death, written by people who never saw the man.
LINK

Highlights are mine.
 

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