Did Jesus Really Exist?

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Skeptics can’t seem to come to an agreement about which aspects of Christianity to attack. As addressed in my previous post, some admit that Jesus was a real historical figure, but allege that He never claimed to be God. Others, however, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater by claiming that He never even existed. The proponents of such intellectual dishonesty are even denounced by those on their own side. For example…

The consensus of scholars, including non-Christian scholars, is that a historical Jesus most likely existed and the later stories about “Jesus Christ” were told about him. The idea that there was no such historical person at all and that “Jesus Christ” was a purely mythical figure has been posited in one form or another since the eighteenth century, but is not taken seriously by anyone but a tiny handful of fringe scholars and amateurs.”

~ Tim O’Neill, History for Atheists

This billboard for poor method, we are now asked to believe by freethought’s bad boy, PZ Myers, has cold-cocked a senior New Testament scholar for saying something as reasonable as “Jesus existed.” Only in the age of instant misinformation and net-attack is this kind of idiocy possible. Only in the atheist universe where the major premise– “religion is a lie so the study of religion is a study of lying”—infects everything is this kind of lunacy possible. Unfortunately, we have Richard Dawkins to thank for the original formulation of that premise.”

~R. Joseph Hoffmann, The New Oxonian

Even though the, “Jesus Myth Theory,” is not taken seriously by most serious scholars, it is important to be equipped to respond to challenges such as these. Just like everything else presented in the Bible, there is ample evidence for the existence of Jesus. An article published on carm.org entitled, “Did Jesus Ever Exist,” outlines, “over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.”

It is clear that the claims that no evidence of Jesus exists outside of the pages of the Bible are false. I want to spotlight a few of the writings here (I have displayed some parts in bold for emphasis), but as always, I encourage you to investigate them for yourself. Links are provided at the end of this article to help you get started. There are also hyperlinks within the text that will point you to articles referenced here.

Biblical Writings

While others might conclude with the biblical evidence since it is not necessarily trusted by those outside of the faith, I have chosen to open with it. The Bible is God’s Word and as followers of Christ, we should not be ashamed to refer to it first and often. More than that, the Bible is an extremely reliable historical document that was finalized before the end of the first century (not canonized, but all books were written), and likely before 70 AD. The 27 books of the New Testament were written by 4 close friends who were eye witnesses to virtually every event in Jesus’ life, 2 of His brothers who had previously been hostile to His ministry, a physician who painstakingly interviewed eyewitnesses, a Pharisee who was killing Christians prior to his conversion, and a young man who was close to the apostles and wrote his Gospel from the testimony of Peter. We have more and earlier manuscripts for all of these books than for any other trusted historical document. But what is even more significant is the fact that these men and others were all willing to be tortured, imprisoned and murdered for what they believed about Jesus. It is inconceivable that anyone would do that for a fictional person.

Other Christian Writings

Aristides was a second century philosopher and Christian apologist who wrote, “The Apology of Aristides,” between 120-130 A.D. It was a defense of the Christian faith written and delivered to Emperor Hadrian. Among other things, he confirms the virgin birth to a Jewish woman, the fact that Jesus chose twelve disciples, that he was crucified, died and buried and subsequently rose from the dead after three days.

The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.”

By James Rendel Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, no attribution required

The Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was written very early between 50-120 A.D. and referenced by Eusebius, Athanasius, the Epistle of Barnabas and likely Origen. It is highly respected and considered helpful, though not canonical. The entire Didache is based on the teachings of Jesus, but mentions His name specifically in the context of the Eucharist or communion.

“Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup: We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

But after you are filled, give thanks this way: We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.”

Secular, Jewish and Other Sources

The Works of Josephus, By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Flavius Josephus, or Josephus as he is more commonly known, was born in Jerusalem in 37 A.D. He was a Jewish historian who wrote volumes on Jewish history. His work, Antiquities of the Jews, includes a section called the “Testimonium Flavianum,” which confirms the existence of the Jesus of the Bible. While there have been some disputes about this section, they do not negate the fact that he did write about Jesus as a real person who existed in the first century. This is one translation of his account.

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”

Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian who lived from 56-120 A.D. and is greatly renowned for his works. He wrote about the Christian persecution by Nero, the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate, as well as explains that Christianity got its name from its founder, Christ.  (Continue reading.)

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