I know how this title sounds, all against the law and stuff, but it’s really not.
You see, for once, a Twitter Christian has actually sent me some evidence to prove Jesus Christ was the Real Deal, El Numero Uno Honcho in old time Galilee.
The usual is for the average Christian to call me ignorant and then completely fail to provide any information to educate me before setting phasers to #Block, to say I was intrigued would be an understatement.
However, a quick glance at the ‘evidence’ and I was underwhelmed. The way this’ll work is that I will go through it piece by piece and then give you my thoughts. Okay?
Are we sitting comfortably?
Good, then I’ll begin:
Evidence for Jesus
Yes. To say that Jesus existed is one of the most non-controversial historical statements a person can make.
No it isn’t.
In regards to Jesus, we have a total of 42 sources that attest to his existence: we have all 27 of the documents in the New Testament, the writings of the early church fathers such as Tertullian or Clement of Rome, and we have certain secular sources including Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, Pliny the Younger, Phlegon, Suetonius, Thallus, and Celsus.
Sadly, those 27 documents of the New Testament can be immediately ignored. One simply cannot use the Bible to validate the Bible. We’ve been through this before!
Read my blog entry entitled ‘Irrefutable Proof’ to see what I mean. Suffice to say, a self-citation isn’t worth the papyrus it’s written on.
To give you an idea of how certain historians are that Jesus existed, consider this statistic. Gary Habermas has calculated that since 1975, only roughly 1 in 1,000 scholars have suggested that it’s even possible that Jesus survived his crucifixion. Now, if only .001% of historians say it’s even possible for Jesus to have survived his crucifixion, imagine how much smaller the statistic is for historians that say that Jesus didn’t exist.
- Your maths suck! 1 in 1,000 = 0.1%. If I may point out that 0.001% would be 1 in 100,000.
- Using the word ‘imagine’ in a document purporting to be proof is, perhaps a misunderstanding of what the word ‘proof’ actually means!
- You’ve used both an appeal to authority and an appeal to popularity here. Either one of them negates this portion of your ‘proof’. But you’ve combined them into some sort of fallacy hybrid. Sadly for you though, two fallacies don’t make a fact.
Let’s compare the sources we have on Jesus to a contemporary of Jesus: the Roman EMPEROR of Jesus’ time, Tiberius Caesar. In total, we have 10 sources, both Christian and non-Christian, that were written within 150 years of Tiberius and confirm the existence of Tiberius, Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke.
Yes, let’s do that:
Tacitus (56AD-c.117AD) – He referred to Christ, his execution and Pontius Pilate in Annals (c.116AD). However where the document refers to ‘Christus’ or ‘Annoited One’ it has been shown that the word was altered on the manuscript from the original word ‘Chrestus’ meaning ‘Slave’. Although it is generally agreed that the document is genuine, it is not an actual eye witness account, or even contemporary having been written nearly 100 years after the events it describes and no supporting documentation has been found.Suetonius (c.69AD – after 122AD)
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius, was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. He made mention of ‘Christus’ or ‘Chrestus’ in his work Claudius 25 dated at AD49 where he refers to the expulsion of Jews by Claudius and states, “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”
Most scholars infer that Suetonius misheard the name ‘Christus’ (referring to Jesus as Christ) as ‘Chrestus’, and also misunderstood the report and assumed that the followers of someone called Chrestus were causing disturbances within the Jewish community based on his instigation. Some say that the notion of a misspelling by Suetonius can never be more than a guess, and the fact that Suetonius can elsewhere speak of ‘Christians’ as members of a new cult, without any reference to Jews, surely makes it rather unlikely that he could make such a mistake.
Tertullian (160-225AD) – Born approximately 130 years after the alleged crucifixion. So not exactly an eye witness then.
Clement of Rome – Very little is known about Clement as there are few references to him in historically verified documents. We don’t even know when he lived. He is mentioned briefly in the LiberPontificalis (begun in the 3rd Century, it’s a list of church officials along with a short biography) which is the earliest known document to include him. This would suggest that he would be unlikely to be a contemporary of the mythical Jesus figure.
Josephus (37AD-c.100AD) – Born just after the time of the crucifixion, he wrote about a figure that may be Jesus of Christian mythology in the Testimonium Flavianum in AD 94. However, the current scholarly view is that his work has been subject to Christian interpolation and forgery in the 4thCentury by the apologist Eusebius, or others.
Lucian of Samosata (125AD-c.180AD) – He was a satirist and most of his work was based on Ancient Greek Mythology. Lucian also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Peregrinus Proteus, takes advantage of the generosity of Christians. As this appears to be the only work he wrote dealing with Christians at all, it seems unlikely that he can regarded as a source of accurate historical information.
Mara Bar-Serapion – His place in history is secured by a single document. A letter to his son dated sometime between 72AD and the 3rd Century, although most scholars date the letter nearer to 72AD than not. The key phrase in the letter is as follows.
“What else can we say, when the wise are forcibly dragged off by tyrants, their wisdom is captured by insults, and their minds are oppressed and without defense? What advantage did the Athenians gain from murdering Socrates? Famine and plague came upon them as a punishment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the “new law” he laid down.”
A single reference to a single king in a single letter from someone who has no other mention in history. A letter written at least 40 years after the events of the alleged crucifixion.
Pliny the Younger (61AD-c.113AD) – The Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (now in modern Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. The letter (Epistulae X.96) details an account of how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asks for the Emperor’s guidance on how they should be treated. There is no evidence that Pliny the Younger ever wrote about the crucifixion.
Phlegon – This could either refer to Phlegon of Marathon, one of the 70 disciples mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke, so he can be discounted. Or it could refer to Phlegon of Tralles, a 2nd Century Historian who restricted himself to writing about The Olympiad. I am uncertain why the author included Phlegon in his list.
Thallus – The name Thallus is too common to make a probable identification with any other known Thallus. The identification sometimes made with a certain Thallus of Samaria who is mentioned in some editions of Josephus’ Antiquities (18.167) fails because that name only appears in those editions because of an idiosyncratic alteration of the text by John Hudson in 1720. Until Hudson’s time all texts had ALLOS (meaning “another”) not THALLOS.
Celsus – According to the Christian father Origen, Celsus was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and opponent of Early Christianity. He is known for his literary work, The True Word (Account, Doctrine or Discourse), which survives exclusively in Origen’s quotations from it in Contra Celsum. This work, c. 177 is the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity. According to Origen, Celsus was the author of an anti-Christian work titled The True Word. This work was lost, but we have Origen’s account of it in his writings. It was during the reign of Philip the Arab that Origen received this work for rebuttal. Origen’s refutation of The True Word contained its text, interwoven with Origen’s replies. Origen’s work has survived and thereby preserved Celsus’ work with it.
Blimey! That was heavy going wasn’t it? Still it had to be done if only to illustrate a couple of points.
- None of the writers were contemporaries of Jesus, as all of them were born years after the alleged crucifixion event, with the possible exception of Mara Bar-Serapion, about whom nothing is known.
- None of the writers, without exception pass the scientific test with regard to writings that deal with the crucifixion as none of them can be corroborated.
So it would appear that the Bible is STILL the only document that Christians can draw upon to validate their claims and as I said earlier, self-validation ain’t allowed!
As mentioned earlier, we have 42 sources within 150 years of Jesus’ life that confirm his existence.
No you don’t.
So anyone who denies the existence of Jesus is simultaneously denying the existence of Tiberius Caesar and also Augustus Caesar (for which we only have 10 sources within 150 years of him), who is considered to be one of Rome’s most famous emperors.
Not really. You could just as easily say that Harry Potter is real, whilst JK Rowling is not, simply based on the number of books and articles they appear in.
So it’s blatantly untruthful to say that Jesus did not exist, and anyone who does say that Jesus did not exist is not someone who knows what they’re talking about extra biblical documentation for the existence of Jesus.
Again, all I can say to this is #EpicFail! And also, learn a bit of grammar. It might make this tosh easier to read. The only extra biblical mention is a of a figure known as Christus, which is more likely to be either, a typo of Chrestus or a deliberate act of fraud in order to make the documents match the mythology.Anyway, lets look at the quotes that our theological scholar has selected to back up his claims:
Cornelius Tacitus (55 – 120 AD) 1st and 2nd century Roman Historian.
“Christus, the founder of the (Christian) name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.” Annals XV,44
This passage reveals and confirms the following in the biblical account.
- Jesus did exist.
- Jesus was the founder of Christianity
- Jesus was put to death by Pilate
- Christianity originated in Judea with Jesus.
- Christianity later spread to Rome.
Where to begin? Right! This proves nothing about the existence of Jesus, or his death at the hands of Pontius Pilate, merely that Pilate had somebody put to death who’s name could have been The Annointed One or Slave. Besides, what’s in a name?
Should I start calling myself King Ratty of Mesopotamia, that’d make me the rightful heir the rule of an ancient kingdom. Just because I say it, doesn’t make it so!Two things are correct and historically verifiable here. Christianity originated in Judea and Christianity later spread to Rome. I see no evidence that Jesus existed or was in any way gifted with supernatural ability.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69-130 AD) Roman Historian, court official under Hadrian and annalist of the Imperial household.
“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, (Claudius) expelled them from Rome.”
This confirms that Christ, or Chrestus was the reason for Jews in Rome to make disturbances.
This expulsion is also recorded in Acts 18:2 “And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome: ) and came unto them.“
Chrestus again. This slave was busy wasn’t he? Also, I’m not sure why a document specifically naming Aquila is proof of Jesus. Relevance?
Thallus ( circa 52 AD)
Julius Africanus debated Thallus’ explanation of the midday darkness which occurred during the Passover of Jesus’ crucifixion. Thallus tries to dismiss the darkness as a natural occurance ( a solar eclipse) but Africanus argues, and it can be confirmed by modern astronomers, that a solar eclipse cannot occur during a full moon. The moon is simply on the wrong side of its orbit to cast the shadow that makes a solar eclipse.
From this we know that there was a darkness that decended on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion that needed an explanation. This darkness is confirmed in the gospels.
- Matthew 27:45 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.”
- Mark 15:33 “ And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
- Luke 23:44 “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.”
I’ll grant that this would be difficult to refute… If it had been mentioned anywhere else in any document of the time, other than the Bible. I would suspect that an event of this importance and magnitude would have made all the front pages of the time. Instead, I can find no mention of it anywhere else. And I’ll remind you one again that the Bible cannot be used to validate the Bible.
“Jesus must have existed in order to be crucified.“
Erm… Yeeeees… But that’s beside the point as it has nothing to do with proving Jesus was divine, crucified or even existed at all!
Lucian of Samosata (120-circa 180 AD) Greek Satirist and Rhetorician.
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day. The distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.. It was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers from the moment they are converted and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws..” The Death of Peregrinus 11-13
This passage reveals and confirms that;
1. Jesus did exist.
2. Jesus was the founder of Christianity.
3. Jesus was worshiped by his followers.
4. Jesus suffered death by crucifixion..
Like I said, The Death of Peregrinus was a work of satire aimed squarely at the institution of Christianity rather than the figure of Christ. It was a work of fiction… Much like the Bible in that respect.
- No it doesn’t.
- Not at all.
- Possibly, if he existed, which is still in doubt.
- Not really, no.
Flavius Josephus (37-100AD) 1st century Pharisee and historian.
Born only about three years after the crucifixion.
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again the third day. As the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribes of Christians so named from him are not extinct to this day.” Antiquities XVIII 3:2
Again, this is a single, uncorroborated document written well after the time of the alleged events. It’s an opinion and no more than that.
We can see that this Jewish/ Roman historian does not deny that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. And that Christianity continued after his death.
Flavius Josephus doesn’t deny that Jesus existed, that is true. My response to that is, so what?If a man named Jesus, Christus, Joshua bar Joseph or what have you was crucified by Pilate it is still not evidence for the validity of any Christian claims of his divinity.
That is quite a lot of evidence within 100 years of the death of Christ, for his existence.
No there isn’t.
You would think that if he didn’t exist, someone back then would have said, “Ahh well, they just made up this story about someone that didn’t even exist.” Instead they have detailed explanations to explain the facts of his existence or to deny his claims of deity. They all admit that he actually existed.
A few scraps of writing here and there ≠ a detailed explanation. I gotta say, I saw no proof of the existence of Jesus as a genuine historical figure and certainly no evidence of his alleged divinity.
So, this evidence you have… When do I get to see it?