Jesus Poll – The Problem

The Blaze wants to know what readers who answer online polls think about the reality of Jesus’ existence. Here’s the question and the answer options.
Did Jesus Christ really exist?

  • Absolutely, but he wasn’t God’s son.
  • Yes, and He was the Son of God.
  • No way.
  • I’m in the middle on this one.

First, there is a problem with the question. The Jesus who some call(ed) the Christ was or was not a historical figure. “Jesus Christ” is a historical construct. So as a historical construct the second answer, “Yes, and He (as a historical construct) was the Son of God” seems beyond doubt. We might wonder if “Son of God” meant “Christ” but that is more or less a quibble. The historical construct existed and still exists; no doubt about it.
But if we are being asked, as I think we are, if some historical figure served, even in a small way, as a basis for this construct then a more complex problem arises. From this point of view I was tempted to answer “I’m in the middle on this one.” But I’m not. I think a more reasonable argument can be made for there having been such a Jesus than for there having not been one. That doesn’t put me in the middle. It puts me well on the positive side of the probability distribution on this question.
I’m far from a serious student of the historical Jesus debate but I am somewhat familiar with the arguments on both sides of the question. It appears to me that one can make a “mythist” case concerning Jesus but following the majority of those who have looked closely at the question, I think the “mythist” case is weaker than the “historical Jesus” case. Don’t get me wrong. Even if the historical Jesus case is stronger, that doesn’t mean that we can know much about him. With only a possible exception or two (and even those are questionable) everything we know about him is influenced by the belief system of the early Church.
Back to the poll: I decided not to take the poll. Like most such polls it lacked sufficient nuance. What is needed here is the choice “Probably.” But for all too many people such an answer just doesn’t cut it.
Via Pharyngula – sorry PZ, I couldn’t help with this one.

One thought on “Jesus Poll – The Problem”

  1. What a terribly constructed poll question.
    For one thing, it puts two extreme positions as answers 2 and 3, with some particular mediating position as answer 1. Properly, the extreme positions belong at either end. (I mean “extreme” strictly in terms of the construction of the question; I don’t view any of these answers as “extreme” ideologically.)
    Also, the “I’m in the middle on this” simply makes no sense: what is the “middle,” and how does it differ from answer 1? It’s entirely undefined, and so–no surprise–it becomes the leading answer, because it means whatever the respondent wants it to mean, and everybody wants to be “in the middle.”
    As far as I’m concerned, speaking as a maker of survey and test questions, the question can just get the heck off my damned lawn.

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