Atlantis or Jesus?

Which do you believe in, Atlantis or Jesus? When we consider the evidence, is there a reasonable amount for us to reach a conclusion? Which is there more evidence for, Atlantis or Jesus?

Atlantis comes to us from the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato. He recorded his account of Atlantis in 1 and ½ dialogues, half because it is unfinished, and according to the first dialogue there were supposed to be three dialogues. It is unclear whether Plato intended these works as fictional dialogues intended to present teaching on philosophy or whether it was intended as an historical work. It should be noted that Plato wrote no historical works before this and fictional dialogues were his method of teaching, therefore it seems likely that Atlantis was not a real place.

As these works were unfinished it is assumed by some that they written at the end of Plato’s life, therefore sometime about the period 347 B.C. The earliest manuscripts we have for them are from 900 A.D., so about 1200 years after they were supposed to be written. In total there are only 7 copies from this time period.

The books of the New Testament which tell us about Jesus were completed by the end of the first century AD with the earliest copies dating from that period. This puts them within 100 years of the life of Jesus, some scholars go so far as to suggest within 50 years. In total there are over 24,000 pieces and manuscripts of the New Testament. Based on volume alone there is reason to believe in the historical Jesus.

Archaeology makes things more difficult. Unless an individual is a VIP they are unlikely to appear in the archaeological record. But some cities do appear, some don’t. Atlantis does not. At this point Atlantis is claimed to be in the Atlantic, in the Black Sea, in Sweden, in the Caribbean, in the Andes mountains, and is either one of the islands of the Mediterranean or a feature on the bottom of the Mediterranean. Archaeology to this point has not verified the existence of Atlantis yet millions believe that it existed and every year there are expeditions to uncover evidence of its existence.

That being said, archaeology does show that the places mentioned in the New Testament did exist. We know that the customs detailed are appropriate for the time. When the value of Luke as an historian is examined he is shown to be reliable on all other counts. Only on miracles and Jesus is there really doubt as to Luke’s veracity as an historian, but when we consider what has been substantiated these doubts really exist only in the mind of someone unwilling to believe.

Atlantis is mentioned by either by Plato’s students (including Aristotle) or students of his students, referring to his work. Jesus on the other hand, is mentioned by 6 writers (Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, James, Jude) of the New Testament who would have been eye witnesses and two (Luke, Paul) who knew these eyewitnesses. Jesus is also mentioned by Flavius Josephus and is referred to by Roman writers as they deprecate the Christians.

The excitement of Atlantis is that it would be the discovery of an ancient and advanced civilization with who knows what technologies that we do not possess today. The disappointment of Atlantis is that they were defeated by Stone Age Greeks who possessed only a superior culture, or at least that seems to be the direction in which Plato was heading. If the dialogues concerning Atlantis were ever finished we might have found them to be an ancient version of Gattaca or Star Trek’s Space Seed and Wrath of Khan. The direction in which Plato appears headed is that it was a republican Athenian society that was to be admired and not the more technologically advanced Atlantis.

When we compare the results of a belief in Atlantis with a belief in Jesus we find a few similarities. Both have spurred the academic and archaeological interests in society. A specialist literature has risen around both. Great evil has been justified by referring to each. But there they begin to part company. The evil done by referring to Atlantis was in keeping with what little we know about Atlantis, a society that attempted to conquer the world. The evil done in the name of Jesus is totally contrary to what he taught.

What Jesus taught was a personal relationship with God based on belief in himself as saviour. He taught about restraining one’s appetites and behaviour, and doing good to others, even those that were enemies. Today there are thousands of Christians doing good works among the poor and sick, seeking to alleviate suffering and the inequalities inherent in our economic structure. What are the believers in Atlantis doing?

What then constitutes reasonable evidence? Atlantis which is based on a single document by an author not known for recording history? Or Jesus who is witnessed by multiple authors? If you require an evidence based belief then which subject has more evidence? I would submit that a belief in Jesus has the most evidence and is the more reasonable of the two.

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