How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.
What do Christian writings tell us?
The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Hebrew savior figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Hebrews.
What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?
As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.
About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) and Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” and Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.
Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?
Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary and a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian and philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.
How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?
In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus and Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.
Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?
Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” and an “icon of Holy Saturday”.
It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish and Roman writers form the most significant evidence.
These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died. The more interesting question – which goes beyond history and objective fact – is whether Jesus died and lived.
Is There Evidence that Jesus Existed?
At the culmination of his investigation, Strobel locks himself in his home office to review everything he’s learned, searching for proof Jesus existed, and proof Jesus was a real person. Through his interviews and research, he’s established the following:
1. The biographies of Jesus (the gospels) can be trusted.
Whereas Strobel once thought the gospels were legends concocted by biased authors, his conversation with Blomberg confirmed that the gospels bear all the markings of trustworthy eyewitness accounts. This is proof that Jesus was a real person.
2. The biographies of Jesus stand up under examination.
That the gospels harmonize on the major points while diverging on minor ones suggests that (a) the authors are reliable and (b) the overall contours of Jesus’s story are factually accurate. Also, the early church couldn’t have thrived in Jerusalem—as it did—if the gospels had been exaggerated: everyone would have known the disciples were lying. But is this enough proof Jesus existed?
3. The text of Jesus’s biographies hasn’t been amended or adulterated by later authors.
Strobel’s interview with Bruce Metzger confirmed that the documents on which the New Testament is based date to an extremely early period in the church and are authentic.
5. Secular sources attest to Jesus’s existence.
There is more historical evidence that Jesus existed than for many historical personages whose reality we take for granted. Secular sources attest to Jesus’s ability to perform miracles, his crucifixion, and his early followers’ belief in his Resurrection.
6. The archaeological record corroborates Jesus’s biographies as well.
No archeological finding has disproved the New Testament, and Luke’s gospel has proven especially accurate, with references to geographical and cultural landmarks later confirmed by archaeological discoveries. This is further proof of Jesus Christ.
7. The historical Jesus is the same as Jesus Christ.
The Jesus Seminar has attempted to distinguish between a naturalistic Jesus and the mythological Jesus featured in the gospels, but its scholars rely on a number of specious sources to make their case. The evidence that Jesus existed for the gospels’ account is far more robust and convincing than for the Jesus Seminar’s theories.
8. Jesus believed he was the son of God.
Some skeptics have argued that Jesus didn’t actually believe he was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. However, the numerous references Jesus makes to his own provenance and deity confirm he did in fact believe he was the Christ, sent to redeem the world.
9. There is no evidence of Jesus Christ to suggest Jesus was mentally disturbed.
Those with paranoid schizophrenia or other mental illnesses exhibit an array of symptoms beyond delusions of grandeur, including antisociality and trouble expressing emotion. Jesus exhibited none of these symptoms, and he supported his claims of divinity by performing independently verified miracles.
10. Jesus exhibited all the traits of God.
Further proof of Jesus Christ is his divine traits. Although some believe Jesus voluntarily limited his divine powers when he was incarnated, the New Testament shows that he possessed all the attributes of deity, including omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
11. Unlike claimants before or since, Jesus matched all the attributes of the Messiah.
Old Testament prophets made a number of predictions about the identity of the Messiah, including minor details like his place of birth and whether he would be buried with no broken bones. The odds that someone could match these prophecies by chance is infinitesimal. Jesus, of course, fit these predictions completely.
12. Jesus died on the cross.
Skeptics of the Resurrection have attempted to explain away Jesus’s “rise” by claiming he never actually died on the cross. Detailed medical analysis of Jesus’s brutal beating before the crucifixion, as well as the damage done by the crucifixion itself, can’t but conclude that Jesus was dead when he was entombed. This is evidence that Jesus existed at one point.
13. Jesus’s tomb was empty.
Is this evidence of Jesus Christ? The relevant canonical sources for the empty tomb—the gospel of Mark and the creed in 1 Corinthians—have been dated to within a matter of years of Christ’s Resurrection; thus it’s highly unlikely their accounts are the product of legend. Skeptics at the time implicitly accepted that the tomb was empty, and the fact that the canonical accounts describe women discovering the empty tomb is a testament to the accounts’ reliability: If the New Testament authors were making the whole thing up, they would undoubtedly have had men discover the empty tomb (women’s testimony wasn’t admissible in the Jewish courts at the time).
14. Jesus appeared to witnesses after his death.
There are many witnesses, adding more proof of Jesus Christ. The early-authored book Acts contains references to Jesus’s appearance to people after his death, and the gospels describe encounters Jesus’s followers and others had with Jesus. There is also a wealth of circumstantial evidence of Jesus Christ that corroborates the biblical account of the resurrection, including the disciples’ martyrdom and the remarkable speed with which Jews converted to Christianity. This can all be taken as evidence that Jesus existed.
“First I will notice the history of Josephus. He lived at the time and place where Jesus, John the Baptist and all the apostles lived In his seven historical books entitled “The Jewish Wars” he gives an account of the sect called Zealots who wanted Jesus to go into battle with them as their leader Jesus spurned them and their offer telling them that he came to be a peace maker and not the destroyer of men’s lives that he that saved his life by the sword should lose this life and the life that was to come He also says that the refusal of Jesus to join the insurrectionists caused a universal detestation of Jesus among the Zealots and Essenes They thought he had power to kill by the exercise of his will and his non resistance was finally the cause of putting him to death which they did in a most cowardly and brutal manner. — Senect. 15, in brut. 15, quintil. 3 and 12.
In his twenty books on the Antiquity and Customs of the Jews he gives biographical sketches of many of the rulers priests and kings of that people He mentions the name of Jesus making reference to him in more than fifty places but does not contradict the general history in referring to him.
I will give the reference so that any one can look for himself, Suet. in dom 13, Martial 9, v 4. The history of Josephus as read in this country is merely an extract translated from the manuscripts originally by Ben Gorion who was a Jewish Rabbi and then by Havercamp of Amsterdam in 1726 and this work is the başis of our present translations.
I call the reader’s attention to the historian Philo, the greatest of his age. There are over one hundred volumes of his writings still in existence. He was a Jew, and lived in Alexandria. His first work was “The History of Creation” thirty volumes the second was on “Sacred History”; and his third the “Laws and Customs of the Jews.” He commenced his writings about A.D. 40. They were first translated by Simon, a Jewish Rabbi. His works are the most extensive of all others. He often refers to Jesus of Nazareth; but we cannot make reference to them for want of space.
In 1742 the work by Simon was translated by Mangay of London–two volumes. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote his history of Agricola in A.D. 56. It was first translated by Marcus a Jewish Rabbi; and so were all the histories written in this age. They were written in the languages of those days, and the Scribes of those days were most all Rabbis. They were the lawyers doctors politicians and statesmen of the day, for they were all students of the Hillel and Shammai schools, which were the most learned bodies of the world. As these were all opposed to Jesus of Nazareth and his followers, of course they kept every thing concealed they could that would advance the cause of the Christians. This is the reason why we never have had any knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth from the outside world or from his enemies. After making mention of these former things, the question comes up, Are these things so? The British museum has lately acquired a grand addition to their library, containing 128 volumes of manuscripts, the writings of great and good men of old. This is enough to start a few enquiries: Who wrote them? When were they written? How were they preserved so long? Some years ago when I published a little book entitled “Acta Pilati” the same questions were started. The reader is referred to the chapter just read for an answer on this subject. The question also comes up: Why have not these matters of history been discovered before by our wise men of former ages?…
…They perhaps like many others took for granted what the Jewish Rabbis said in their histories, that all these records were destroyed, burned up in the great Alexandrian library. Another reason was perhaps this: It may not have been noticed by many that in the year 748 of the Roman Empire and 337 of the Christian Era. Constantine the Third removed his seat of empire from Rome to Byzantium, and took with him all the records of the Christians to that city, as will be shown in a letter from him in this book in regard to having the holy Scriptures written in manuscript, and having fifty volumes bound and kept on deposit. When Mohammed took possession of Constantinople, he had too much respect for these sacred scrolls to let them be destroyed, but had them all nicely cased and deposited in the St Sophia Mosque. History informs us of the dreadful struggle that took place between the Greeks and Romans over the sacred parchments in the day of the Crusades…”
~Archaeological Writings of the Sanhedrin and Talmuds of the Jews – read full book as pdf here:Archaeological_Writings_of_the_Sanhedrin
Greenleaf, one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. You can read it in his book Testimony of the Evangelists here:
Even the very way we keep time is attests to the birth (and death) of Yeshuah.
“The terms “A.D.” and “B.C.” have their roots in Christianity. “A.D.” stands for anno domini (Latin for “in the year of the lord”), and it refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ. “B.C.” stands for “before Christ.”
The system labels years based on a traditional notion of when Jesus was born — with the “A.D.” denoting years after his birth and “B.C.” designating the years that predate his birth.
In English, it is common for “A.D.” to precede the year, so that the translation of “A.D. 2022” would read “in the year of our lord 2022.” In recent years, an alternative form of B.C./A.D. has gained traction. Many publications use “C.E.,” or “common era,” and “B.C.E.,” or “before common era” in order to make non-Christians more comfortable using the system. Before we talk about how and why the system was invented, let’s get some historical context.”
I am loathe to even mention this source, but the Canaanites (Modern Jewry) also wrote extensively about Yeshuah in their own texts, which were based on earlier carefully memorized oral traditions – most agree that Jewish Historians and Scholars (including their Oral Histories) are legitimate historical accounts, and here we have an entire people cursing Yeshuah’s name and blaspheming against him: See Babylon’s Most Unholy Book – AntiChrist Talmud, Sin to Win for examples – including the Jewish Supreme Court (The Sanhedrin) such as: Sanhedrin 105ab: “Jesus fornicated with his jackass.” – It’s worth mentioning in this context that the “Jews , who say , they are Jews , and are not , but are of “ the synagogue of Satan” are actually Canaanites, not The True Hebrew Israelites – The Caucasian Race (The Lost Tribes of Israel).
I also to address the Zeitgeist thesis that Jesus was just one of many copies of the same story. (In fact, Zeitgeist was my first Red Pill, I’ve even enjoyed a very lengthy discussion with the creator who was visiting his mother in Winston Salem NC and we got together for an Impromptu Zeitgeist fan gathering – pictured below.)
Addressed here: Zeitgeist Debunked: Jesus Is Not a Copy of Pagan Gods
“The following HISTORIANS also confirmed, in writing, Messiah’s existence:
Tacitus referred to Christ’s death at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Phlegon wrote of the daytime
darkness that fell at the time of the crucifixion, as did the Theologian, Origen. Criticism by
Thallus of Phlegon’s account, inadvertently confirmed the crucifixion. Josephus referred to
Christ as a miracle worker, reported his resurrection & confirmed Christ’s brother, James, was
stoned to death. The compilation of Rabbinical Traditions [traditions of men], called the
Talmud, state Jesus was a ‘false messiah’. The historical FACT that JESUS was real was never
in question; rather, the disputes concerned His Divinity, not His actual existence.”
Debate from ending of Gods not Dead 1:
God’s Not Dead – J. Warner Wallace – Atheist Converts After Investigating Jesus:
Lee Strobel – Proving The Existence Of Jesus Christ
Audio of an atheist, live on a radio show he is hosting) who turns to a liberal scholar (Bart Ehrman) hoping to get agreement on the zany idea that Jesus didn’t even exist. However, all he succeeds in getting is a public slap down and a lesson in history!
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