Saturday, September 08, 2012

Common Objection #18- "Jesus Never Existed."

When someone makes the claim that Jesus never existed, you may be tempted to respond like this.

Then, you may want to follow that up with this.

However, the best way to respond to such claims is always with good evidence and when it comes to Jesus' existence, we have more than enough data to satisfy the honest inquirer that Jesus did indeed walk this earth.

In Lesson 10 of TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable?, Dr. Stephen Meyer presents some of this evidence:


"In religious sources, in the Bible itself, you’ve got the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which now look increasingly like very significant historical sources in their own rights.  We don’t just need extra-Biblical sources to corroborate them—they’re very significant pieces of historical writing.  We have the Acts of the Apostles, the NT letters, the ancient creeds of the Christian church; we’ve got the apocryphal literature.  We have the Gnostic gospels that come later that are maybe not as historically valuable, but still mention Jesus as well.  We have the writings of the early church fathers.  We have the Mishnah, a Jewish source, which gives an unflattering picture of Jesus, but one which nevertheless establishes his historical existence. 

Jesus of Nazareth as a Historical Person
:


  • Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • New Testament letters
  • Ancient creeds
  • Apocryphal literature
  • Gnostic gospels
  • Early church fathers
  • The Mishnah (ca. 70-200 A.D.)
  • Historians of the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.
And we have all the historians of the 1st and 2nd century.  I just mentioned a few, but in addition to Joesphus and Tactitus, there’s Bar-Serapion and Justin Martyr, we’ve also got Suetonius, Pliny the Younger Lucian, Celsus. 

Historians Mentioning Jesus

  • Titus Flavius Josephus, Yosef Ben Matityahu (ca. 37-100 A.D.)
  • Publius Gaius Cornelius Tactius (ca. 56-117 A.D.)
  • Mara Bar-Serapion (late 1st century A.D.)
  • Flavius lustinus, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.)
  • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 69-130 A.D.)
  • Pliny the Younger, (ca. 61-113 A.D.)
  • Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125-180 A.D.)
  • Celsus (late 2nd-century A.D.)" [1]
For those interested in a more in-depth look at the ancient non-Christian sources attesting to Jesus' existence and deeds, please see here.

For a look at more of our answers to common objections, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resources:

1. TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable?, Lesson 10: The Trial of Jesus with Dr. Stephen Meyer.

8 comments:

MaryLou said...

I find that there are a lot of obscurantists among the atheist crowd. They simply bury their heads in the sand re: the evidence for the existence of Jesus and keep repeating, "Jesus never existed" as if just saying it makes it so. It's SOOOOOOOOOOOO frustrating. That's why I appreciated the two Youtube clips. You gave me a chance to laugh instead of get angry. Thank you for that!

bob said...

FACT - many if not most atheists admit that there may well have been a "Jesus" that is represented by the Jesus of the NT. I (and you) at this point have no way of actually KNOWING if the Jesus of the bible actually existed. I think the bible Jesus is most likely "based on" an actual man that lived around that time.
But, I don't know for sure because the evidence is rather sketchy.

Secondly - were any of the below mentioned historians actually alive when Jesus was alive? If they were not, then they did not attest to what they witnessed, but simply attested to what others claimed to have witnessed. So, if they did not actually see Jesus, their testimony can only help in determining what people who lived during that time believed, not what actually transpired.

Historians Mentioning Jesus

Titus Flavius Josephus, Yosef Ben Matityahu (ca. 37-100 A.D.)
Publius Gaius Cornelius Tactius (ca. 56-117 A.D.)
Mara Bar-Serapion (late 1st century A.D.)
Flavius lustinus, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.)
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 69-130 A.D.)
Pliny the Younger, (ca. 61-113 A.D.)
Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125-180 A.D.)
Celsus (late 2nd-century A.D.)"

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob,
I’m just curious as to how far you think one can be removed from an event before a historical document about the event is unreliable? In other words, what prof do you need before you will accept any historical account of that event as reliable or truthful? At what point does the event become unknowable?

What is the “sketchy” evidence, that can back up your speculation that the Biblical Jesus is “most likely” based on an actual man that lived around that time? I think if there was any credible evidence that showed that, it would have been presented long ago. (But not too long ago or we couldn’t believe it.)

To try and summarize your second point… Someone (Historians, in this case) cannot attest to what actually transpired if they did not witness the events for themselves - They can only give an account of events or people that “others” reported to have happened or to have existed. Therefore, the implied conclusion is that their (the historians) accounts cannot be trusted because they were not an eyewitness.

I also tend to be skeptical of what others tell me, even if they are an eyewitness (people lie). That’s why I consider the entire body of evidence and base my conclusions on the best explanation of the evidence as a whole. Which is the point of the post - There is a lot of highly scrutinized evidence out there that points to the existence of Jesus Christ. I personally am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

Oh, by the way, if I’m ever on trial for a crime, I want you on the jury, unless of course you were an eyewitness.

God bless,
Ron

bob said...

Ron, you asked a lot of questions and I would be glad to try to answer but I am a tad confused at first and would probably some clairification before stumbling through.
I don't want to take up a lot of space here at Chad's blog, so feel free to email me:

r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

Just in case that is not acceptable, let me ask you - would you say it is "unreasonable" for me to be unconvinced (skeptical) as to whether Jesus existed?

How about this - would you say it is "unreasonable" for me to be unconvinced (skeptical) as to whether Jesus is God?

What evidence convinced you that Jesus existed, and was that evedence different than the evidence that convinced you that Jesus was God?

Andrew Ryan said...

"Therefore, the implied conclusion is that their (the historians) accounts cannot be trusted because they were not an eyewitness."

The point is that there are few to no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus' existence outside of the bible.

I've not come across anyone who claims Jesus never existed. The claim is generally that the evidence for his existence is very poor. It's possible that there was a man called Jesus who inspired the stories we have, but we can't really say for sure.

The analogy that Russell Glaser gives on The Atheist Experience is that Kramer in Seinfeld was based on a real person, but that doesn't mean an episode of Seinfeld is a true account of the man. Or for a sillier example, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" features a real-life person, but that doesn't mean any of the supernatural events in the story are true.

Chad said...

Hello Andrew,

It would seem we agree on a few things:

1. Jesus existed

2. The Abe Lincoln Vampire Slayer example is silly.

3. Further argument is necessary to sustain the supernatural elements of Jesus' life and ministry. If you are interested in researching these matters more in-depth, please let me know and I will be happy to provide you with some resources.

Have a pleasant weekend!

Respectfully

Robert Burnam said...

I would say do some research... you can't use the Bible as, a source you must use historical data outside the Bible in which there should be plenty... but there's not... Egyptian mythology, Sumerian text with s Greek twist.. serapis christos look him up

Chad said...

Hello Robert,

Thank you for taking the time to comment!

You wrote-"you can't use the Bible as, a source"

It seems to me that at the very least the Bible, in this case the New Testament in particular, is at the very least a collection of documents that claim to record history. On what grounds do you reject all of these documents as sources?

Respectfully