Silver-level articleEvidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ

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Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ) as portrayed in the Bible is only found in three places: the Bible itself, other early Christian writings, and references by the various early churches (c. 100 CE) to the long dead leader of those churches. The only known possible contemporaneous (i.e. someone who lived during the supposed time of circa 6 BCE to circa 36 CE) source regarding Jesus is Paul who expressly states that he got his information through revelation not any human being.[1]

Historians focusing on this era generally accept that there was likely an individual named Jesus who lived in Palestine roughly two millennia ago, had a very small following of people studying his views, was killed by the government, and whose life became pivotal to some of the world's largest religions.[2] Beyond this, however, there is no evidence over the accuracy of any of the descriptions of his life, as described in the Bible or as understood by his believers. A small minority, past[3] and present[4] believe there is insufficient justification to assume any individual human seed for the stories, representing an extreme in the other end of belief. It should be noted that at least one anthropology paper states in both its abstract and main text "there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived"[5]


[edit] Ancient history, evidence and Jesus studies

Ancient history is a process of reconstructing entire narratives from very scant evidence, which may be overturned at any time by a new archaeological discovery. What an ancient historian means by the words "probably" or "likely" is not what a scientist means by those words.

If the question were the existence of any arbitrary first-century Judean who was not otherwise special, historians could provide the evidence, with weight, and give a nuanced answer. However, Jesus is at the core of Christian theology. His existence and death is a critical point for virtually all Christians, and his life being exactly as detailed in the Gospels is important to many Christians. The politics against any discovery of fact contradicting his existence and the details of what he said and did is vast. Further, a growing community of non-believers challenge Christian legitimacy, especially as it relates to secular laws and agendas. A lot of people are highly invested in the result either way, and have insufficient regard for the evidence or process. In studies of the history of Jesus and the New Testament in particular, some contend the epistemology and methodology used is lower quality than in the study of other areas in comparable eras.[6]

The most compelling argument for historians that "a man named Jesus existed as the leader of a religious movement" is that a handful of early Christian churches existed. The theory is that people do not usually make up leaders for all that they aggrandize and mythologize them.

Further, the existence of modern Christianity proves only that Paul of Tarsus — the man who revolutionized Christianity by pitching it to Gentiles — existed, and that Paul spoke of Jesus the Christ, based on oral stories going round and his own vision. The existence of a founding figure who can reasonably be tagged Paul is quite good as these things go, e.g. textual analysis showing that several of the Biblical texts attributed to Paul do indeed seem to have been written by the same single hand. This is comparable to the evidence we have for the existence of figures such as Socrates and Pythagoras; as with Paul, their existence is secondary to their body of work.

For comparison, other stories of semi-mythical figures such as King Arthur or Robin Hood appear to have no original author,[7] instead being legends that accreted — possibly from a basis of one original person, possibly from several, or possibly from pure invention. For example, John Frum is a claimed cargo cult founder that many anthropologists have written about since 1952, well within living memory of his supposed late 1930s appearance to the village elders, but even for him we don't have enough evidence to establish whether or not he was a real person - we just don't know whether the stories started from any actual person or just accreted spuriously.

[edit] Meanings of "historical Jesus"

Santa is real! He lives in Florida year-round, his name is Harold, he hates kids, and he’s never given anybody a Christmas present in his whole life. But he’s the real Santa!
—Ben Goren[8]

Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall cautions that the term "historical Jesus" has two meanings:

  1. a man, Jesus, existed rather the being a totally fictitious creation like King Lear or Doctor Who, and is the source of the myth but that the myth itself may not be an accurate portrayal of the man;
  2. not only did he exist, but the Gospels accounts give a reasonable account of historical events rather then being works of imagination like those of King Arthur.

Because of this slipperiness in the meaning of the term, Marshall states "We shall land in considerable confusion if we embark on an inquiry about the historical Jesus if we do not pause to ask ourselves exactly what we are talking about."[9]

In 1909 John Remsburg published The Christ where he made a very important distinction: "Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist." Remsburg then clarifies this postion by stating "That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written." and proceeds to prove this claim by including a list of 42 historians during or shortly after the supposed times of Jesus who should have, but did not record anything about Jesus, apostles, or any supposed acts that we find only in the Bible. In fact, Remsburg showed that no extra-biblical writer until the second century seems to have heard of Jesus. Remsburg, using Strauss as his basis, said that historical myth "is a real event colored by the light of antiquity" and that "(t)he event may be but slightly colored and the narrative essentially true, or it may be distorted and numberless legends attached until but a small residuum of truth remains and the narrative is essentially false" [10] This Remsburg List was improved upon in 2012 with the book No Meek Messiah, augmenting the number of "Silent Writers" to 146.[11]

Remsburg himself felt there was enough to show there was a a flesh and blood man named Jesus but also felt the Gospels told us nothing about him ie the Gospel account had no more historical validity then the stories of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, Davy Crockett and the Frozen Dawn, Jesse James and the Widow, or the many Penny Dreedful-Dime Novels starring people like Buffalo Bill, "Wild Bill" Hickok, and Annie Oakley.

It is against this slipperiness in meaning background that the whole issue regarding evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ must be viewed. Is the historical existence being presented only being used to support the idea that a flesh and blood man named Jesus existed (at some time), or is it being used to show the Gospel account has historical validity?

"For even if we trace Christianity back to Jesus ben Pandera or an Essene Teacher of Righteousness in the first century BCE, we still have a historical Jesus."[12]

[edit] What qualifies as good evidence?

In order of quality good evidence is:

1) Contemporary evidence: Evidence that dates to the time the person or event actually happened.

2) Derivative evidence: Evidence that is known to use contemporary record-evidence that has since been lost.

3) Comparative evidence: Evidence that gives details that can be checked against known factors of the time.

A good rule of thumb here is that history records the unusual, the special, and the important; and the amount history records is generally directly proportional to when these factors achieve a critical mass. If a person is said to be important and popular during their lifetime then it is reasonable to expect contemporary evidence, or at the least derivative evidence, documenting this.

In addition there are the various criteria of the Historical Method:

1) Source criticism[13]

2) Procedures for contradictory sources[14]

3) Core principles for determining reliability[15]

4) Eyewitness evidence [16]

5) Indirect witnesses and Oral tradition [17]

6) Argument to the best explanation aka Occam's Razor [18]

In many cases the evidence presented for Jesus by apologists fails one or more of these criteria with Eyewitness evidence criteria being the most abused or ignored.

[edit] The Miner issue

In 1956 American Anthropologist published a "Body Ritual among the Nacirema" by Horace Miner. On the surface the article appeared to be another 'look at this primitive culture that still believes in magic' article, so common in anthropological work of the time. In reality the piece was a sarcastic comment on how anthropologists were letting their theory drive every aspect of their research to a predestined conclusion, because the magic-using primitive culture in Miner's article was in fact the then contemporary 1950s United States.

The debate regarding evidence of Jesus has this problem on both sides of the issue. Believers in a true/historical Jesus accept any mention of Christ or Jesus as "proof" of his existence, while those who posit a legendary/mythic Jesus accept any tales remotely resembling the Christ story as "proof" there was never a flesh-and-blood man named Jesus.

[edit] Chrestus

The assumption that "Chrestus" must refer to Jesus is a prime example of the Miner issue on the historical Jesus side of the argument. Not only was "Chrestus" a familiar personal name meaning "good" or "useful",[19][20], but it was also a name of the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis,[21] who had a large following in Rome, especially among the common people.

Egypt, which you commended to me, my dearest Servianus, I have found to be wholly fickle and inconsistent, and continually wafted about by every breath of fame. The worshipers of Serapis (here) are called Christians (Chrestians), and those who are devoted to the god Serapis (I find), call themselves Bishops of Christ (Chrestus) are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian (Chrestian) presbyter, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ (Chrestus). They are a folk most seditious, most deceitful, most given to injury; but their city is prosperous, rich, and fruitful, and in it no one is idle.[22][23]

Hence pagan references to "Christians" or "Chrestians" may be to followers of the pagan god Serapis (Chrestus) and not Jesus.

The only real argument against this letter is that it appears in Historia Augusta which "In modern times most scholars read the work as a piece of deliberate mystification written much later than its purported date, however the fundamentalist view still has distinguished support. (...) The Historia Augusta is also, unfortunately, the principal Latin source for a century of Roman history. The historian must make use of it, but only with extreme circumspection and caution."[24] So the source is of questionable quality but it is basically all the historian has to work with so they are stuck with it.

However, it should be mentioned that in Panarion 29 Epiphanius in the 4th century expressly states "this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus’ own name, but Natzraya." a term that was applied to all followers of Jesus. He then relates that they were even called Jessaeans for a time. Compounding matters is that Tiberius in 19 CE expelled Jewish and Egyptian worshipers from Rome[25] which would have logically included worshipers of Serapis (Chrestus). Moreover early Christian authorities like Tertullian go to great pains in explaining that Christian and Chrestian were two different words with entirely different meanings and were not variants of each other[26], a claim supported by the evidence.[27]

It has also been suggested that "Chrestus" refers to a would-be messiah unrelated to Jesus.[28]

Another issue is Chrestos had been used as an adjective and even a title going back to the 5th century BCE and appears on tombs before, during, and after the supposed time of "Christ"[29][30]

Finally no Bible contains the actual term Christian (ie quite literally anointed men) until near the midpoint of the 5th century in the Codex Alexandrinus. Before that the term is Chrestian (or quite literally good men) a generic term used by many other groups and yet the term Christ is used.

[edit] Christ

Another Miner problem is the assumption that every mention of Christ must refer to Jesus. This forgets that Christ is a title not a name! It is in fact the Greek translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ), i.e. the Messiah. In fact, "(t)he Bible uses the term "christ" or "messiah" for a variety of figures, including all of the high priests and kings of ancient Israel"[31] and "(i)n a characteristic typological reading he asserts that Moses himself was the first to recognize the glory of the name of Christ because he applied this title (in Greek as in the Hebrew, mashiah means simply "the anointed one") to the High Priest".[32] Even Mason in Josephus and the New Testament admits that Christ simply means "wetted" or anointed, and this was the practice by which kings and high priests of Israel were installed (per Exodus 29:9 and 1 Samuel 10:1), and this could be used as a nickname rather than a title.[33]

So every reference to "Christ" is NOT a reference to Jesus!

[edit] Greek word "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ" translated as king; Which Herod is it?

The Greek word "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ" used in Luke 1:5 doesn't always translate as "king" but also can translate as leader of the people, prince, commander or lord of the land. In fact, Mark 6:14 uses this word for Herod Antipas who was Tetrarch of Galilee and not king proving this point and the title Ethnarch appears only one place in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:32)[34] and in nearly all bibles is translated as 'governor'. Moreover, if you compare Matthew 2:1 with Luke 1:5 in the original Greek you note a subtle differences in the titles. Matthew 2:1 is ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (Herod the King) but Luke 1:5 has it ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΑΣ. Herod the Great's other title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ is not given to either Herod though Matthew does give it to Herod Archelaus in Matthew 2:2 and to Jesus himself in Matthew 27:37.

If Herod the King is Herod the Great then "Herod king of Judea" Luke 1:5 could refer to Herod Archelaus the Ethnarch (ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ) of Judaea whose removal in 6 CE did require a census.[35][36] In fact, the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia calls Herod Archelaus "King of Judea"[37] and Acts 12:1 refers to another Herod as ΗΡΩΔΗΣ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ which translated is "Herod the King"...the same title used by Herod the Great!

More over even the use of ΙΟΥΔΑΙΑΣ (Judea) is not decisive various authors of the late 1st and early second century use the word to refer to the region and a specific province.[38]

It is akin to the earliest ballads of Robin Hood and saying the "King Edward"in them must be one of the Edwards that ruled England 1272-1377. But what about the "Kings" before the regal numbering system had been adopted such as Edward the Elder (c. 871–924), Edward the Martyr (c. 962–978), or Edward the Confessor (c. 1004–1066)?

[edit] Jesus as historical myth and The Tabula Rasa Jesus

Remsburg pointed out:

"A Historical myth according to Strauss, and to some extent I follow his language, is a real event colored by the light of antiquity, which confounded the human and divine, the natural and the supernatural. The event may be but slightly colored and the narrative essentially true, or it may be distorted and numberless legends attached until but a small residuum of truth remains and the narrative is essentially false.[39]
Jesus, if he existed, was a Jew, and his religion, with a few innovations, was Judaism. With his death, probably, his apotheosis began. During the first century the transformation was slow; but during the succeeding centuries rapid. The Judaic elements of his religion were, in time, nearly all eliminated, and the Pagan elements, one by one, were incorporated into the new faith.[40]

So even if Jesus is a historical myth (ie was a flesh and blood man) you could have the issue of the Gospel narrative being essentially false and telling you nothing about the actual Jesus other than he existed--effectively putting him on par with Robin Hood or King Arthur, who have had historical candidates suggested as much as 200 years from when their stories traditionally take place.

To make Jesus more than that a researcher has to assume some parts of the Gospels narrative is essentially true. But which parts? In answering that question all supporters of a "historical Jesus" get into the Miner problem of effectively turning Jesus into a Tabula Rasa on which they overlay their own views.

"The "historical Jesus" reconstructed by New Testament scholars is always a reflection of the individual scholars who reconstruct him. Albert Schweitzer was perhaps the single exception, and he made it painfully clear that previous questers for the historical Jesus had merely drawn self-portraits. All unconsciously used the historical Jesus as a ventriloquist dummy. Jesus must have taught the truth, and their own beliefs must have been true, so Jesus must have taught those beliefs."[41]

The fact this keeps happening shows just how little definitive information on Jesus there is in Paul's writings and the Gospels.

Price points out the problem and it result:

What one Jesus reconstruction leaves aside, the next one takes up and makes its cornerstone. Jesus simply wears too many hats in the Gospels – exorcist, healer, king, prophet, sage, rabbi, demigod, and so on. The Jesus Christ of the New Testament is a composite figure (...) The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.[42]
My point here is simply that, even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn't one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every "historical Jesus" is a Christ of faith, of somebody's faith. So the "historical Jesus" of modern scholarship is no less a fiction."[43]

[edit] Euhemeristic mind set of the day

Perhaps the greatest Miner issue is the fact that all claims of evidence must take into account the mind set of the day. Herodotus (c484 – 425 BCE), the father of history, had argued that myths were distorted accounts of real historical events. Euhemerus (4th century - 3rd century BCE) took that idea and kicked it up to the next level suggesting that all myths had some basis in historical fact [44]

"The work is of immense importance, for Euhemerus proposes that myth is history in disguise, that deities were originally living men and women who were elevated to divine status because of heroic feats when alive."[45]

The statement "Osiris, Attis, Adonis were men. They died as men; they rose as gods."[46] captures this mind set perfectly.

In fact, Euhemerus himself stated that Zeus had actually been a mortal king who was buried on Crete[47] and Eusebius in the 4th century CE accepted Heracles as a flesh and blood man who by birth was an Egyptian and was a king in Argos [48] This assumption of men becoming mythical gods could have been what Justin Martyr really meant when he wrote "When we say that Jesus Christ was produced without sexual union, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended to heaven, we propound nothing new or different from what you believe regarding those whom you call the sons of Jupiter."[49]

If the mindset is that every known deity is actually the distortion of a once living person then the concept that a deity was the product of hallucination with no real person behind them would never occur to you.

So in the Euhemerism mindset something like the Grim Reaper would not be viewed as the personification of a concept but rather that there once had been an emaciated person running around with a scythe killing people.

Heck, the Euhemerism concept was so strong that if you took any fictional character with a large body of material to that time, they would go from the standpoint that the character actually existed and work backwards from there.

Take Galactus, devourer of worlds, from Marvel comics for example. In the Euhemerism mindset the go-to theory is that Galactus was a once a living person. Now in Greek the term for worlds as we know them is ἀστὴρ πλανήτης (astēr planētēs), which can be shorted to πλανήτης which means "wander" or if you wish travelers. So in the Euhemerism mindset the stories of Galactus might be perversions regarding the actions of a cannibalistic innkeeper!

While overly simplistic, the Galactus example above does show the inherent problem one is dealing with.

Furthermore, Carrier demonstrated in his 1997 "Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels" that the people of that time were quite willing to use supernatural explanations to the point "Miracles were also a dime a dozen in this era."

Beyond the bible, the historian Josephus supplies some insights. Writing toward the end of the first century, himself an eye-witness of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, he tells us that the region was filled with "cheats and deceivers claiming divine inspiration" (Jewish War, 2.259-60; Jewish Antiquities, 20.167), entrancing the masses and leading them like sheep, usually to their doom. The most successful of these "tricksters" appears to be "the Egyptian" who led a flock of 30,000 believers around Palestine (Jewish War, 2.261-2; Paul is mistaken for him by a Roman officer in Acts 21:38). This fellow even claimed he could topple the walls of Jerusalem with a single word (Jewish Antiquities, 20.170), yet it took a massacre at the hands of Roman troops to finally instill doubt in his followers. [50]

So you not only have a culture that viewed the deification of once living people as a normal part of history but they were quick to claim divine inspiration and on top of that you had would be messiahs (ie "christs" coming out of the woodwork [51]:

Dositheos the Samaritan (unknown, before Simon of Peraea[52][53] or after him[54]) According to Origen Dositheus pretended to be the Christ [55]

Simon of Peraea (d 4 BCE)[56][57]

Matthias, son of Margalothus (during time of Herod the Great)[58] - thought by some to be the "Theudas" referenced in Acts 5.

Athronges (c 3 CE)[59]

Judas of Galilee (6 CE)[60]

Theudas the magician (between 44 and 46 CE)[61]

Egyptian Jew Messiah (between 52 and 58 CE)[62][63]

Menahem ben Judah (sometime between 66-73 CE)

John of Giscala (d c70 CE) [64]

And these are the ones Josephus felt were important enough to mention.

[edit] Dates or Just what year is it?

One of the biggest problems with figuring out years is that there was no standard way to denote years and so people tended to use regnal years (how long a sovereign had reigned) or Olympiads (a four year period starting 776-772 BCE) neither of which started on January 1. Compounding matters is the fact that despite the Julian calendar reform of 46 BC (708 AUC) with the coming of the Middle Ages the start of the New Year changed from the set January 1 to various other dates such as December 25, March 25, September 24, or whatever day Easter happened to fall on for those using Liturgical years.

So figuring out years involves matching regnal years and Olympiads with events of known dates.

For example, Antiquities XIV 14:5 states Herod the Great was declared king "on the 184th Olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio the first time." The 184th Olympiad gives us a range of summer 44-40 BCE and due to the policy of assuming consulship took place on January 1 regardless of when it actually happened (actually October in this case) Caius Asinius Pollio and Caius Domitius Calvinus set this at 40 BCE.[65]

Similarly Antiquities XV 5:2 tells us "At this time it was that the fight happened at Actium, between Octavius Caesar and Anthony in the seventh year of the reign of Herod; and then it was also that there was an earthquake in Judea, such a one as had not happened at any other time." We know from other records that the Battle of Actium was September 2nd, 31 BC which means Herod's actually reign began six years previously or 37 BC.

Antiquities XVII 8:1 states "When he had done those things, he (Herod) died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven." Well 37-33 is 4 BC and 40-36 is 4 BCE. So Herod died in 4 BCE.[66]

However, people try to use this relationship between rulers and other events to be a little fast and loose with the years to try and fit things when logically reading of the documents shows that such an interpretation is nonsense. As you can see from the above the claim Herod died 1 BCE is total nonsense...and yet the idea gets put out even though everything in Josephus shows the idea to be wrong.

[edit] Jesus myth theory

See the main article on this topic: Jesus myth theory

Many scholars argue that the Biblical Jesus is so full of myth, legend and deliberate propagandistic distortion of the record that determining the historical accuracy of anything reasonably close to the man described is impossible, and that there is no epistemological justification for privileging the hypothesis of even a weakly historical Jesus over the other ways the story could have arisen.[67][68][69] They also point to early beliefs in a non-corporeal Jesus (docetism, as condemned in 2 John 1:7), which would help explain the lack of historical evidence for a human seed, and close correspondence of the Jesus story to many other myths of the time (a correspondence first noted by early apologist and saint Justin Martyr). The present-day Jesus mythicist position originated with Constantin-François Volney and Charles François Dupuis around the 1790s.

[edit] Which came first: the man or the myth?

See "Jesus Frum, John Christ" section in Jesus Myth Theory article for more details

A related idea to the Jesus myth theory is that there was a Jesus myth floating around and one or more inspired believers decided to become Jesus. The idea has merits as demonstrated by John Frum. According to the cult, John Frum was a literate white US serviceman who appeared to the village elders in a vision in the 1930s.[70] However as early as 1949 there were people saying the "origin of the movement or the cause started more than thirty years ago" ie in 1910s[71]

But the closest thing actual recorded history shows are three illiterate natives taking up the name John Frum and being exiled or thrown into jail for the trouble they stirred up[72]: Manehivi (1940-41)[73][74], Neloaig (1943, inspired people to build an airstrip)[75][76], and Iokaeye (1947, preached a new color symbolism)[77]

So you have the possibility of Paul talking about a mythical Jesus that had inspired others to become Jesus who became the basis for the Gospel accounts.

[edit] Biblical evidence

Using the Bible as partial biographical evidence of Jesus is not as completely insane or wall-bangingly circular as it may first seem. Although the gospels are generally published in one compendium known as The Bible, they are separate documents and almost certainly were written by separate authors. There are also non-canonical gospels (such as the gnostic gospels) that also attest to Jesus' existence. Though the early Church excluded these texts when the Bible was being compiled, historians see them as fully relevant to the question.

Because of the way cultures have told their religious and mythic stories over time, and based in no small part on studies of modern "new" religions (especially cult religions) and how they deify their own leaders,[78] most scholars of Biblical history believe that the gospels of the Bible are sufficient evidence to say that Jesus, or some human seed for the stories who we may as well tag "Jesus", did exist, and his existence can be assumed from them.[79][80] And if such a person existed, it is equally likely that major broad themes are based in reality; he likely would have been one of the many teachers or self-proclaimed prophets of the time[81] and he probably ticked off the wrong people and found himself dead.[79] It is likely the rest is highly embellished, made up, or recycled from other mythology.

However, it must be kept in mind that all this material is propaganda; it was designed to portray Jesus, his supporters, his enemies, the Jewish community of the time, and the Romans in a particular way. As such it is subject to the same issues as all propaganda with distortions, half-truths, omitions, and outright lies.

[edit] Provenance - the dating of Paul, the Gospels, and Acts

When talking about the dates assigned to the Gospels one must keep the concept of provenance (the place of origin or earliest known history of something) in mind. No original texts of the Gospels exist, only copies and many of these copies are fragments. In the absence of reference to historical known events in the manuscript the art of paleographic dating is used for dating purposes. The problem is paleographic dating of papyri is complex and thanks to the continual accumulation of new evidence an ongoing process and dating can be influence by apparent references to passages in the work in documents of a known date range. In fact, paleographic dating is considered last resorts dating and at best has a 50 year range.[82]

Occasionally Carbon-14 dates in relationship with the Dead Sea Scroll or the Qumran caves are produced as evidence of older dates. There are two problems here. First, no work of Paul or the Gospels with dates older then those below have definitively been identified as being part of those finds. Second, Carbon-14 dates are actually a range--normally with only one standard deviation (1σ) which has only a 68% chance of being right. If you want a 94% chance of have a range that is correct you have to double the range to two standard deviation (2σ). So a 33 CE ± 100 date for a piece of cloth found with the Dead Sea Scrolls[83] becomes 33 CE ± 200 2σ. A good rule of thumb here is if a C14 date doesn't have at least the range be distrustful of it.

With that said let us look in terms of primary provenance (the documents themselves) what the oldest copies of Paul, Gospels, and Acts we have are:


Papyrus 46 (175-225 CE) - has the last 8 chapters of Romans, all of Hebrews, virtually all of 1–2 Corinthians, all of Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and two chapters of 1 Thessalonians. It is estimated there were only 5 more leaves at the end of the Papyrus; nowhere enough for 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon to fit as they would required 10 leaves. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus are also regarded as questionable... most likely NOT from Paul but much later. It should be noted that Paul's authorship of Colossians is hotly debated.


Rylands Library Papyrus P52 (125-c225) - fragment of John that could sit upon a credit card and contains no complete sentences, and only one complete word: kai (“and”). "What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries. Thus, P52 cannot be used as evidence to silence other debates about the existence (or non-existence) of the Gospel of John in the first half of the second century."[84]

Egerton Papyrus 2 (150-200) - a collection of four stories which have no equivalent in any known Gospel[85]: 1) a controversy similar to John 5:39-47 and 10:31-39; 2) curing a leper similar to Matt 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke 5:12-16 and Luke 17:11-14; 3) a controversy about paying tribute to Caesar analogous to Matt 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26; and 4) an incomplete account of a miracle on the Jordan River bank, perhaps carried out to illustrate the parable about seeds growing miraculously

Papyrus 75 (175-225) - Luke 3:18-24:53 + John 1-15

Magdalen papyrus aka Gregory-Aland P64 (c200 CE): Matthew 3, 5, 26

Papyrus 66 (c200) - John 1:1-6:11, 6:35b-14:26, 29-30; 15:2-26; 16:2-4, 6-7; 16:10-20:20, 22-23; 20:25-21:9, 12, 17. Herbert Hunger founder of the Vienna Institute of Papyrology has claimed a possible 100-150 CE date but as Brent Nongbri noted paleographic dating of papyri is complex and thanks to the continual accumulation of new evidence an ongoing process[86] so these earlier dates must be taken with a grain of salt.

Papyrus 45 (c250) - heavily damaged by time and elements. Of the 200 original pages only 30 (2 of Matthew, 6 of Mark, 7 of Luke, 2 of John, and 13 of Acts) remain. Oldest collection of canonal Gospels.

Codex Sinaiticus (330–360 CE) - missing the following verses: Gospel of Matthew 12:47, 16:2b-3, 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Matthew 24:35; Gospel of Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, 15:28, 16:9–20; Gospel of Luke 17:36; and Gospel of John 5:4, 7:53–8:11, 16:15, 20:5b-6, 21:25.


Papyrus 38 (c220): Acts 18:27-19:6.12-16

As you can see the earliest copies of anything we have is Rylands Library Papyrus P52 a minimum of 89 years or at least four (not a "couple" as is often claimed) generations for the events in question.

And Secondary provenance (reference to the Gospels) is not any better:

No mention of the Gospels is made until c130 CE and most of those are one line quotes or vague references. It isn't until Irenaeus and his c180 CE Against Heresies that we get sizable quotes of the canonal Gospels but he also makes claims that don't match up with our Gospels (Jesus being 50+ years old when crucified and this happening under Claudius Caesar ie no earlier then 42 CE, for example) raising questions of just how close the versions he was using were to the ones we have. Ironically, Irenaeus is often used regarding the reliability of the Gospels.

Irenaeus makes comments regarding Marcion's Bible (c140 CE) saying that he used altered versions of Luke and Paul. Tertullian in 206 CE gives more details about what was in Marcion's Bible but that is as far back as we can push it. So the best we have is that some version of Paul and some version of the Gospels existed c140 CE...some 100 years after Jesus was crucified. The unverifiable stories of John Frum are closer then this.

[edit] Paul

Note: for simplicity this section accepts only Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon as being the writings of Paul. It also regards Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus not being his writings but pseudepigraphical in nature.

The earliest writings about Jesus — traditionally dated[87] 52-67 CE, earlier than any gospels, canonical or not — come from Paul of Tarsus, a man who never met a physical Jesus but who claimed to have seen a light and heard a voice.[88] This conversion is accepted by Christian doctrine on its face, and as proof that Jesus not only existed but was Risen as the Messiah. (The same Christians do not accept other religions' similar visions as fact.) No witnesses to this conversion event are mentioned.

Paul had no knowledge of Jesus' early life, just his claimed ultimate activities, and his teachings sometimes seem at variance with those of Jesus in the Gospels. He also does not mention the handful of churches that arose in Jesus' name, but having nothing to do with his own Christianity. Although Paul writes about numerous other people seeing Jesus, he provides no corroborating evidence or means by which they could be identified. He does (e.g. in Galatians) speak of meeting some of the Disciples, which is evidence for their existence. Depending on how one interprets Galatians he actually refers to James (the Just) as Jesus' brother but given how John Frum got Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who has only sisters as a brother only 17 years after the first record of his movement this doesn't mean much.

Paul also conveys that the earliest Christians tended to ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues — so much so that outsiders thought they were lunatics.[89] The whole book of Revelation, for example, is a veritable acid trip,[90] and yet it got into the Bible as an authoritative document.[91] Not only were they channeling spirits and speaking in tongues and having visions of angels and strange objects in the sky, they were putting on faith-healing acts and exorcising demons by laying on hands and shouting words of power. This tendency to ecstatic religious experiences, seeing the "Son of God" in vision, dreams, and trances might bring doubt to their reliability as witnesses to that same "Son of God's" real world existence.

Finally in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul warns of minds being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by "another Jesus, whom we have not preached," "another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted" indicating that as early as 53 to 57 CE there were other views regarding the teachings of Jesus.

[edit] Evidence from the gospels

The authors of the four canonical Gospels appear to be well-educated later writers who were skilled in Greek composition, writing about what they had heard, and doing so in religio-politically motivated ways;[92] since they were not witnesses to any of the events, their works must be read as second-hand knowledge only.

Gross geographical and cultural errors suggest the author of Mark (after 70 CE[93]) had never visited and knew very little about Palestine.[94][95][96][97] The authors of Matthew (end of 1st century[98]) and Luke (end of 1st century[99]) got most of their info from Mark (Luke appearing to be a local, correcting errors of customs in Mark,[100] and who also wrote about Paul in Acts of the Apostles) and the lost Q gospel, often copying Mark verbatim. John was synthesized later, based on the same story but rewritten around 110 CE.[101]

The Gospels' stories do not line up. In multiple narratives, it's expected that there will be things that do not match, but corroborations across authors lend credence to each event of the person's life. With the Gospels, the only time they agree on events is when they have been copied nearly word for word. Even if historians assume these are good sources, which book is to be trusted about the events of his life? This leads other historians to suggest that most of the story was invented and mythologized for effect.

Mark, the earliest gospel, mentions nothing of Jesus' early life, beginning with Jesus' ministry. It appears not to discuss Jesus' rising at all. Linguists have argued that the mention of the Risen Jesus in Mark was added.[102][103] Many parts of the gospels were added after their first version, such as the end of Mark 16, and the story of Jesus saying, "Let he without sin cast the first stone." There is a whole list of fragments that were added later.[104]

[edit] Gospels as history

As with most religious texts, scholars assume some basic level of reliability on topics like "Who were the players?", "What were the major events?" and "What was the attitude of the community the texts intend to represent?"[105]

Richard Carrier wrote on the supposed resurrection:

Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well—no.[106]

As shown above the first reference to the Gospels in a manner we can cross check didn't appear until c180 CE, nearly 150 years after the supposed events and some 50 to 110 years after the Gospels are thought to have been written down. And these are the Gospels that were formally canonized by the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE; there were literally dozens of other Gospels around some of which have been reconstructed in Robert M. Price's The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts, Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures, and Robert J. Miller's The Complete Gospels.

For these reasons, as a primary historical record, the Christian gospels are dubious at best. For one, the gospels themselves are admittedly propagandist: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have through his name." (John 20:30-31) The writers peppered the gospels with Old Testament references — most details of Jesus' life are Old Testament references.[96]

[edit] Conflicts with known history

A major ding against the Gospels and Acts as history is when they can be compared with known historical events or people they spectacularly fail.

  • Herod's Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18) is not recorded in any other history (or Gospel) — not even by Josephus, who really didn't like Herod and meticulously catalogued his other misdeeds.
  • Luke 2:1-4 claims Jesus was born in the year of a universal tax census, but the first such census did not occur until 74 CE - and it is not in the other gospels. [107]
  • Luke 2:2 KJV specifically states "And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria." Cyrenius is the Greek name for Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, who came to this position in 6 CE.
  • The Sanhedrin trial account is totally at odds with the records on how that court actually operated in the 1st century.[108]
  • Jesus preaches in the open, so there is no need for the whole Judas betrayal. A real Roman official would have sent a modest group of soldiers and got the guy, which is what happened with John the Baptist.
  • Pontius Pilate is totally out of character based on other accounts. Josephus relates two accounts where Pilate's solution to mobs causing a disturbance was brutally simple--have Roman soldiers go out and kill them until they dispersed. Moreover it is never really explained in the Bible why, if Jesus' only crime was blasphemy, Pilate would need to be involved. If Jesus' crime has been sedition, then there would be no reason for Pilate to involve Herod Antipas--or for the Sanhedrin to be involved for that matter.
  • Given Jesus' short time on the cross and reports of him being out and about afterwards, certainly the Romans might have wondered if they had been tricked, yet there is nothing in the reports about the Romans acting in this matter. Carrier describe how the Romans would have handled the situation and it is totally at odds with the account in Acts. [109]
  • Jesus is depicted as hugely popular in the gospels. Yet he is unrecorded by non-Biblical historians.
  • None of the miracles described biblically, such as the dead saints rising from graves and visiting Jerusalem, or a three hour long eclipse following Jesus' death, are picked up on by contemporary writers such as Pliny or Philo. One would reasonably expect that such events would be noticed.

[edit] Matthew vs Luke problem

A major issue with using the Gospels is that in terms of time Matthew and Luke do not agree as to when Jesus was born. Matthew specifically puts it 6 to 4 BCE while Luke, with his reference to Quirinius establishes it as being no earlier then 6 CE.

Apologists try to handwave this conflict away with various claims that are not supported by history. Here is the historical reality of the period 6 BC to 6 CE:

  • Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was fighting some two provinces to the east a minimum of 6-3 BCE with him being Duumvir of the area 6-1 BCE.[110] and some say the war goes back as far as to 12 BCE.
  • Publius Quinctilius Varus oversaw the area covered by Herod the Great's kingdom from c. 8 BCE to 4 BCE as documented by Josephus and Sentius Saturninus preceded him 10 BCE - c. 8 BCE.
  • In Antiquities chapter 17 verse 27 Josephus expressly stated that as long as Herod the Great lived, the province of Judea was exempt from Roman taxation. Therefore, Luke's taxation census must have occurred after Herod's death, while Matthew requires it to have happened before.
  • While Herod Archelaus removal as Ethnarch of Judea (where Bethlehem of Judea is) made it subject to Roman taxation, Herod Antipas remained Tetrarch of Galilee (where Nazareth is) clear until 41 CE, making its subjects exempt from the Judean census, so the reason given by Luke for the trip makes no sense.
  • CBecause ΙΟΥΔΑΙΑΣ could refer to all Palestine or the southern portion of Palestine lying on this side of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, to distinguish it from Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumaea Luke 1:5's ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΑΣ could refer to either Herod the Great or Herod Archelaus with Luke 2:2 indicating the later. Herod[111]
  • A little-known fact is that in the time period Jesus supposedly lived there was a Bethlehem of Zebulun (around 10 kilometres north-west of Nazareth and 30 kilometres east of Haifa ie in Galilee) and it has been suggested that this is the Bethlehem Jesus really came from.[112]
  • Moreover, a census would not and has never meant ordering a return to the town people were born in, but rather taking records of them where they lived. The alternative would be a logistical nightmare in which the roads would be clogged with traveling returning to their home towns throughout all of Judea, making a census-taking far more difficult, if not impossible. This part of the story likely was added so that Joseph (who is said to come from the House of David-i.e. the royal line) would return to Bethlehem, so Jesus could be born there, thus fulfilling an supposed old prophecy regarding the Jewish Messiah. However, some translations of Micah 5:2 make it clear that the supposed "Bethlehem" prophecy is in reference to a group of people in Judea not a town so there is no prophecy regarding Jewish Messiah being born in the town Bethlehem but rather coming from the Bethlehem clan who could have been anywhere in the land that had once been called Judea.
  • Finally Matthew implies that nearly two years had passed since Jesus' family had fled to Egypt when Herod starting killing the children in and around Bethlehem while Luke expressly states they went to temple every year.

[edit] Picking other timelines from the Gospels

As pointed out by Robert M. Price Irenaeus had Jesus crucified under Claudius Caesar (41-54 CE)[113][114]

The Irenaeus example Price provides is actually far worse than Price presents it. The actual passage in Demonstration (74) is

"For Herod the king of the Jews and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Claudius Caesar, came together and condemned Him to be crucified."

and this one sentence is so full of historical inaccuracies that it is unbelievable that few have pointed them out.

The key issue is the title "King of the Jews". When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was broken up between this three sons: Herod Archelaus (Ethnarch of Judaea 4 BCE – 6 CE), Herod Antipas (Tetrarch of Galilee 4 BCE - 41 CE), and "Herod" Philip II (Tetrarch of Batanea 4 BCE – 34 CE). Archelaus was removed 6 CE with Judea governed by Roman prefects until Herod Agrippa I came to power in 41 CE. Furthermore, while some later books have called Herod Agrippa II "king of the Jews", he in truth never ruled over the Judea province.[115]

So the only Herods close to the supposed life of Jesus (c. 6 BCE to c. 36 CE) that were "King of the Jews" (i.e. ruled the Judea province) were Herod the Great and Herod Agrippa I. Moreover, we have a reasonable history of Herod Agrippa I from 34 CE (death of John the Baptist) to his death in 44 CE:

  1. Due to expressing the desire for Tiberius to hurry up and die so his friend Caligula could become emperor, Herod Agrippa I was thrown in prison and not released until 37 CE when Caligula came to power. By that time Pontius Pilate had been replaced by Marcellus.
  2. While Herod Agrippa I did come to Judea as governor in the final year of Caligula's rule (41 CE), he answered to Prefect Marcellus, who in turn answered to Tetrarch Herod Antipas.
  3. Due to Herod Agrippa I's advice, Claudius became Caesar in 41 and as a reward a year later Marcellus and Herod Antipas were replaced by Herod Agrippa I, resulting in him being "like Herod the Great before him, king of the Jews." [116]

More over in Against Heresies 2:22:4, Irenaeus argued that Jesus had to be a minimum of at least 46 if not 50 years old when he was crucified. Irenaeus himself quotes Luke, establishing that Jesus was about 30 when he was baptized and when this was: in the "fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (c. 29 CE).

Even if you push Jesus's supposed birth date in Matthew to c. 6 BCE (Herod the Great killing children two years old and younger), putting Jesus at 34 in c. 29 CE (there is no year zero), you don't get to the required minimum 46 years of age until 41 CE, which requires the Caesar to be Claudius (41-54 CE) and the Herod "king of the Jews" to be Agrippa I (42-44 CE). That leaves the problem of Pontius Pilate, who not only had been recalled to Rome in 36 CE, but with a Herod "king of the Jews" in charge would not have been needed.

The really curious thing in all this is Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1:27:2 stated:

But Jesus being derived from that father who is above the God that made the world, and coming into Judæa in the times of Pontius Pilate the governor, who was the procurator of Tiberius Cæsar

Showing that either Irenaeus believed Pontius Pilate was procurator under Tiberius and became governor under Claudius or that he wasn't sure when Pontius Pilate's rule was.

[edit] More reliable than Homer? Text vs history

Often, apologists make the argument that the gospel is more reliable due to the huge number of manuscripts we have discovered. Examples of this are Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in their book [11] and Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ. However, the historic reliability of Greek classics has no bearing on how closely the surviving texts of the New Testament match the originals. We have no reason to suspect that scribes altered writings from Homer to support their particular religious dogma. But we have every reason to suspect it with the New Testament – in fact, we know they did. Also, and rather very ironic, this analogy boomerangs on apologists to defend the historic evidence for Jesus since few historians today believe that a single historical individual named “Homer” ever really existed.

This argument tries to make textual reliability synonymous with historical reliability which can easily disproven once one considers that from 1436 on the printing press allowed the production of perfect copies of fantastical and now known to be totally fictitious material. More over as "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" by Islamic Awareness shows the argument is deceptive in many ways: [117]

  • The often quoted over 5000 Greek manuscripts actually covers a period of time from the 2nd century to the 16th ie 14 centuries!
  • The over 5000 Greek manuscripts also cover all 27 books of the New Testament.
  • Most of the really early manuscripts are actually fragments no larger then a modern credit card and in many cases not even forming complete words.
  • "Comparing the above-named seven major critical editions, from Tischendorf to Nestle-Aland, we can observe an agreement in wording of only 62.9% of the verses of the New Testament."
  • "The percentage agreement of the verses when all the four Gospels are considered is 54.5%."

So the Gospels, the key point of the Jesus story, has verses that have about the chance of a coin toss of matching or being different over the course 14 centuries!

Our oldest complete Bibles are the Codex Siniaticus (330–360 CE) and Codex Vaticanus (c325–350 CE) so anything regarding historical reliability must involve Greek manuscripts before those dates. This at best gets us a pathetic 48 Greek manuscripts all of which have date ranges that allow them to be after Irenaeus c180 CE work Against Heresies which extensively quotes from what would in the 4th century become the four canonal Gospels.

It should be pointed out that Christians were the ones were doing the copying and in many orders copying the New Testament in general and the Life of Jesus (Gospels) and history of the Church (Acts) in particular was regarded as an act of veneration even worship and so tended to be the most copied works. One extreme example of this view is the Codex Gigas (nicknames Devil's Bible) completed 1229 which is the world's largest medieval manuscript. As documented in National Geographic: Devil's Bible the work looks to that of one man over 20 years and addition to the entire Latin Bible the work contains many historical documents.

To be fair these Christian copyists did preserve the records of a Empire that fate seemed set on giving a historical lobotomy to. The Great Library of Alexandria was burned by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE and an Aurelian attack in the 270s CE before the Christians and Arabs burned it in 391 and 642 respectively. However, as James Burke related in the "A Matter of Fact" episode of The Day the Universe Changed Christian copyists had a load of problems finding what they did bother to copy.

There wasn't enough knowledge in any one monastery to separate the works into separate subjects or categories. As the result the "library" look more like the floor of some stereotypical bachelor pad then what we considered a library.

Then you have titles on page edges or on the first page of the book. And then the title might not tell you that much. The example Burke gives, Sermones Bonventurae (Sermons of St Bonaventure) shows just what kind of mess things were. This book could be

Sermons composed by St Bonaventure of Fidenza

Sermons composed by somebody called Bonaventure

Sermons copied by a Bonaventure

Sermons copied by somebody belonging to church of St. Bonaventure

Sermons preached by a Bonaventure

Sermons once owned by a Bonaventure

Sermons once owned by church of St. Bonaventure

Sermons by various people of whom the first or most important was by somebody called Bonaventure--the rest of the book? No clue.

With this kind of filing system you didn't need to actively destroy anything...because you may not even know you have it in the first place. In fact it was due to the Renaissance and interest in the Classical world that many copies of Greek and Roman works that monasteries didn't even know they had were as Burke put it "saved from the mildew and the rats".

[edit] Cutting across the grain

When attempting to deal with the veracity of an action or behavior of a historical figure, you can compare what was said about that event with how that action would look or be perceived by those who are negatively affected by the event.[118] When the Jesus Seminar attempts to decide the historicity of the sayings of Jesus, their main question is whether or not the words reflected poorly on the Christians who were in power when the Bible was edited. Statements that advance a theology, actions, or challenges that run contrary to the views of the establishment when a book was written, or more importantly, edited, are considered more likely to be true.

One example is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Traditionally, the person who was spiritually superior baptized the one who was spiritually inferior. So, the argument goes, no Christian author would make up the story that John baptized Jesus and not the other way around—and the event is more likely to have happened. Ehrman concluded that "Jesus probably really did associate with John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry, and probably was baptized by him."[119]

Another example is the issue of Jesus' birth. For reasons of biblical prophecy, the Messiah was expected to come from Bethlehem. However, our earliest gospel, Mark, has Jesus coming from Nazareth (though see below). Later gospels (Matthew and Luke) disagree with this and have him born in Bethlehem—albeit via other, contradictory stories. Nevertheless, the application of the above principle, it is claimed, makes it more likely that Jesus hailed from Nazareth—and taking the point one step further, the mere presence of a story against the interest of the author implies very strongly that Jesus actually existed. (It has been suggested that the geographical and cultural errors in Mark mean that this line of argument has other problems, though, as the Christian religion was still being invented at the time the gospels were being written, we should reasonably expect such incongruities and inconsistencies.)

A similar matter is the criterion of embarrassment, where more credence is given to story elements that make the characters look bad. This criterion is not used in history outside Biblical studies.

[edit] Non-Biblical evidence

One of the most telling features when looking for the historical existence of Jesus or the Christ is not what we do find, but the screaming silence from what we don't find.

The early years of the Roman Empire is one of the best-documented eras of ancient history; Jerusalem was a center of education; Jesus is claimed even to have had scribes following him and that the population at large was aware of him. [120] Yet not one single non-Christian document written before 93 CE mentions any "Jesus", or even the crucifixion of a holy leader of the Jewish people. [96] This includes well documented records from the Romans regarding criminal activities and crucifixion records.[121] "Jesus" (or "Yeshu" or "Yeshua" or "Joshua") was a very common name, with many contemporary troublemaking preachers of that name.[122] But even with that in mind, nothing of relevance seems to exist.

[edit] Philo-Judaeus and the lack of commentary

One prolific first century writer was Philo-Judaeus (sometimes known as Philo of Alexandria). John E. Remsburg, in The Christ,[123] writes:

Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness and resurrection of the dead took place——when Christ himself rose from the dead and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not.[124]

In Embassy to Gaius (c40 CE) in addition to claiming that he was part of a embassy sent by the Alexandrian Jews to Emperor Caligula regarding his plans to erect a statue of himself in the temple of Jerusalem (showing that he and other Alexandrians were aware of major events in both Rome and Jerusalem and there is evidence in On Providence that Philo personally visited Jerusalem) he had a long chapter railing against the cruel and poor leadership of Pontius Pilate. Yet this condemnation of Pontius Pilate contains not one word regarding Jesus — not the person, not even stories. Furthermore this is supposedly not a letter by Philo but a letter to him...from Herod Agrippa[125] Agrippa is pushing the reputation of Pontius Pilate down to promote the nobility of Tiberius so as to secure his grandfather's old kingdom for himself. So if Pilate had tried to placate a Jewish mob by offering to free the killer of Roman citizens, Agrippa could have certainly wrote about it. Yet nothing of the sort appears in the letter.

The idea that a man with strong social and family ties to both the Priesthood in Judea and Herodian Dynasty would have not talked with people who should have remembered or at least heard the stories, is strange, especially in Flaccus IV (c39 CE) Philo writes about "a certain madman named Carabbas ...(that) spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths" who was driven from the public gymnasium so that some of his tormentors could dress and mock him as a king in a manner that eerily echos Matthew 27:27-29. Yet not only does Philo fail to notice Jesus but he fails to comment on any similarity to Carabbas.

In fact, Eusebius in his The History of the Church claimed "It is also recorded that under Claudius, Philo came to Rome to have conversations with Peter, then preaching to the people there ... It is plain enough that he not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day, who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in the Jewish manner, still retained most of their ancient customs." [126]

If that is not bad enough, according to Shirley Jackson Case's 1912 The History of Jesus "Epiphanius makes two further statements which are sometimes thought to point to a pre-Christian Jesus. He says that there were Nazarees (or Nasarees) before Christ, and that Philo once wrote a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt."

But it gets even better regarding Philo; according to a lecture given by Richard Carrier called "Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist":

"Philo of Alexandria Tells us:

(For sources see Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith pp 250-51)

There was a pre-Christian Jewish belief in a celestial being actually named "Jesus" who was...

  • Firstborn son of God <--Romans 8:29
  • Celestial image of God <--2 Corinthians 4:4
  • God's Agent of Creation <--1 Corinthians 8:6

(God's celestial high priest)--the angle doesn't show that one but Carrier is reading them off."[127]

And if this wasn't enough in The Contemplative Life Philo talks of the Therapeutae...which Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History as the first Christian monks and Epiphanius of Salamis calls "Jessaens" and similarly identifies as a Christian group.

So we are asked to believe that Philo not only met Peter himself but "wrote a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt" (identified by others as the Therapeutae) and yet wrote no word on Jesus himself all the while writing about a pre-Christian Jewish belief in a celestial being actually named "Jesus".

Say what?! No wonder somebody suggested that Christianity was the product of eating psychedelic mushrooms as that would seem to only way this would make any sense...and there is that thing with Revelation.

[edit] Other contemporary sources

Philo is not alone. Contemporary sources, as significant as Philo, do not mention Jesus at all. Seneca's lack of mention was sufficiently troublesome to some early Christians that they forged correspondence between Seneca and Paul of Tarsus. Jerome, in de Viris Illustribus 12, and Augustine, in Epistle 153.4 ad Macedonium, both refer to the forged communication.

Others include Damis, who wrote of Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher and mystic who was a contemporary with Jesus; Pliny the Elder, who wrote, in 80 CE, a Natural History that mentions hundreds of people, major and minor; Juvenal, Martial, Petronius, and Persius, Roman satirists who favored topics similar to Jesus's story; Pausanias, whose massive Guide to Greece includes mentions of thousands of names, including minor Jewish figures in Palestine; and historians Epictetus and Aelius Aristides, who both recorded events and people in Palestine.

David Fitzgerald's Ten Beautiful Lies About Jesus: How the myths Christians tell about Jesus Christ suggest Jesus never existed at all goes into the reasons that Seneca the Younger, Gallio, Justus of Tiberias, Nicolaus of Damascus, and Philo of Alexandria should have written about Jesus or the events surrounding his ministry and-or crucifixion if they happened as told in the Gospels.

[edit] The Jesus of c. 100 BCE

Another factor is that there were other stories of Jesus that put him in a different time and his death at the hands of another ruler. As Robert Price notes "More astonishing still is the widespread Jewish and Jewish-Christian tradition, attested in Epiphanius, the Talmud, and the Toledoth Jeschu (dependent on second-century Jewish-Christian gospel), that Jesus was born in approximately 100 BCE and was crucified under Alexander Jannaeus!" [128]

Mead 1903 version of Epiphanius' passage: For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order [of succession] failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race

Williams (Panarion 29:3:3): For the rulers in succession from Judah came to an end with Christ's arrival. Until he came the rulers were anointed priests, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and was altered in the time of Alexander, a ruler of priestly and kingly stock.

"In fact, Wells is discussing a theory defended by others, and based in actual sources: Epiphanius, in Panarion 29, says there was a sect of still-Torah-observant Christians who taught that Jesus lived and died in the time of Jannaeus, and all the Jewish sources on Christianity that we have (from the Talmud to the Toledot Yeshu) report no other view than that Jesus lived during the time of Jannaeus." [129]

"Perahia's pupil, relying on the support of Epiphanius, who sets the birth of Jesus in the reign of Alexander (Jannaeus) and Alexandra, that is, in the time of Ben Perahia or Ben Tabai." [130] Efrón does try to explain this away as a theological argument based on other Church fathers' views relating that "seventy weeks" of years according to Daniel which given that 70 weeks is only a year and 4.5 months, but this makes no blasted sense. Making the weeks into years kind of works as that gets you to 6 BCE but IMHO smacks of creative accounting that would make Enron envious.

Shirley Jackson Case in his 1912 The History of Jesus gave a far better solution:

"Thus Epiphanius, as a witness for the pre-Christian date of Jesus and of Christianity, is a distinct failure. We have dwelt thus at length upon this subject because his assertion that Jesus was born in the time of Alexander Jannaeus, his mention of pre-Christian Nazarees, and his suggestion of a connection between "Jesus" and "Therapeutes" seem to us to represent the most substantial data which the radicals have to offer in support of their position. [...]

'Then afterward a foreign king, Herod, and no longer those who were of the family of David, put on the crown; while in Christ the kingly seat passed over to the church, the kingly dignity being transferred from the fleshly house of Judah and Jerusalem; and the throne is set up in the holy church of God forever, having a double dignity because of both its kingly and its high-priestly character.'

In this argument Epiphanius' chief interest clearly is dogmatical rather than historical. Thinking, as he does, that Alexander Jannaeus (104-78 BCE) was the last of the Jewish kings to combine in one person the offices of both king and high priest, he is led by his Old Testament proof-texts to assume that Jesus was the immediate successor of Alexander. Then Jesus must have been born during Alexander's reign. (Haer., LI, 22. Epiphanius apparently reckons the beginning of Augustus' reign from Julius Caesar's death in 44 BCE) This is the logic of dogma. But with magnificent inconsistency Epiphanius returns to history and speaks of a gap extending from the time of Alexander to the time of Herod. [...] Epiphanius clearly was trapped by the logic of his dogmatic into suggesting that Jesus was born under Alexander."

While it explains Epiphanius he does NOT explain why the Talmud and the Toledoth Jeschu have this same story and more importantly why people would believe such of a man who was supposedly well recorded. Robin Hood and King Arthur have similar issues with historical basis being set as much as 200 years outside the time the most popular stories say these characters existed so why is the same hard to believe about Jesus? Can it be that dogma instead of history is at work?

[edit] Apologists' evidence

The following is a list of common evidence provided by apologists[131] in an attempt to provide historical evidence for Jesus. It is generally evidence for the existence of early Christianity, and none is evidence for Jesus per se. The writers were also born after the Crucifixion and so cannot have been eyewitnesses to Jesus.

[edit] Josephus Flavius

The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius was the earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus. Josephus' birth in 37 CE, well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, means he could not have been an eyewitness. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 CE, even later than the first gospels. Despite Josephus having long been a favourite of apologists, many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius of Caesarea).

Antiquities of the Jews begins “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and arduously parallels the Old Testament up to the time when Josephus is able to add equally tedious historical recountings of Jewish life during the early Roman period. In Book 18, Chapter 3, this paragraph is encountered (Whiston’s translation):

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 him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal man amongst 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 tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.

This truly appears to give historical confirmation for the existence of Jesus. But is it authentic? Most scholars admit that at least some parts, if not all, of this paragraph cannot be authentic,[132] even the Catholic Encyclopedia concurring.[133] Many are convinced that the entire paragraph is a forgery, an interpolation inserted by Christians at a later time.[134][135]. Even Christian scholars consider the paragraph to be an overenthusiastic forgery.[136][137][138]

  1. The first thing one notices about this paragraph is how many people do not mention it even when it would have been in their best interests to do so: Justin Martyr (c100 - c165), Theophilus (d. 180), Irenaeus (c120 - c203), Clement of Alexandria (c150-c215), Origen (c185-c254), Hippolytus (c170 - c235), Minucius Felix (d. c250), Anatolius (230-280), Chrysostom (c347-407), Methodius (9th century), and Photius (c820-891) make no mention of the Testimonium Flavianum even when it would have been in their best interests to do so.
  1. The paragraph does not appear at all until the beginning of the fourth century, at the time of Constantine, who was eager to demolish Gnostic Christianity and replace it with literalistic Christianity. Bishop Eusebius, a close ally of the emperor, was instrumental in crystallizing and defining the version of Christianity that was to become orthodox, and he is the first person known to have quoted this paragraph of Josephus. Eusebius once wrote that it was permissible "medicine" for historians to create fictions[139] — prompting historian Jacob Burckhardt to call Eusebius "the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity." Many scholars believe Eusebius was the source of the paragraph on Jesus.
  2. Josephus would not have called Jesus “the Christ” or “the truth.” Whoever wrote these phrases was a believing Christian. Josephus was a messianic Jew, and if he truly believed Jesus was the long-awaited messiah (Christ), he certainly would have given more than a passing reference to him. Josephus never converted to Christianity. Origen reported that Josephus was “not believing in Jesus as Christ.”
  3. The Greek word used in the passage for Christ is χριστος which does appear in the Old Testament...the problem is that appears to mean ointment rather than anointed one. Which would leave the poor Roman reading this scratching their head in befuddlement.[140]
  4. The passage is out of context. Book 18 (“Containing the interval of 32 years from the banishment of Archelus to the departure from Babylon”) starts with the Roman taxation under Cyrenius in 6 CE and discusses various Jewish sects at the time, including the Essenes and a sect of Judas the Galilean, to which he devotes three times more space than to Jesus; Herod’s building of various cities, the succession of priests and procurators, and so on. Chapter 3 starts with sedition against Pilate, who planned to slaughter all the Jews but changed his mind. Pilate then used sacred money to supply water to Jerusalem. The Jews protested; Pilate sent spies into Jewish ranks with concealed weapons, and there was a great massacre. Then in the middle of all these troubles comes the curiously quiet paragraph about Jesus, followed immediately by: “And about the same time another terrible misfortune confounded the Jews ...” Josephus would not have thought the Christian story to be “another terrible misfortune.” It is only a Christian (someone like Eusebius) who might have considered Jesus to be a Jewish tragedy. Paragraph three can be lifted out of the text with no damage to the chapter; in fact, it flows better without it.
  5. There was no “tribe of Christians” during Josephus’ time; Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.
  6. Josephus appears not to know anything else about the Jesus outside of this tiny paragraph and an indirect reference concerning James, the “brother of Jesus” (see below). He does not refer to the gospels now known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or to the writing or activities of Paul, though if these stories were in circulation at that time he ought to have known about them and used them as sources. Like the writings of Paul, Josephus’ account is silent about the teachings or miracle of Jesus, although he reports the antics of other prophets in great detail. He relates much more about John the Baptist. He lists the activities of many other self-proclaimed messiahs, such as Simon of Peraea (d 4 BCE)[141][142], Athronges (c 3 CE)[143], Judas of Galilee (6 CE)[144], Theudas the magician (between 44 and 46 CE)[145], Egyptian Jew Messiah (between 52 and 58 CE)[146][147], Menahem ben Judah (sometime between 66-73 CE), and John of Giscala (d c70 CE) [148], many of whom get greater detail than the passages regarding Jesus. He makes no mention of the earthquake or eclipse at the crucifixion, which would have been universally known in that area if they had truly happened. He adds nothing to the Gospel's narratives and says nothing that would not have been believed by Christians already, whether in the first or fourth century.
  7. The paragraph mentions that the “divine prophets” foretold the life of Jesus, but Josephus neglects to mention who these prophets were or what they said. In no other place does Josephus connect any Hebrew prediction with the life of Jesus.
  8. The hyperbolic language of the paragraph is uncharacteristic of a careful historian: “... as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him ...” This sounds more like sectarian propaganda — in other words, more like the New Testament — than objective reporting. It is very unlike Josephus.
  9. Josephus was in Rome from 64 to 66 CE to petition emperor Nero for the release of some Jewish priest that Gessius Florus sent there in chains.[149] Josephus makes no mention of the further misfortune of Jesus' followers that Tacitus and Suetonius record. If the Testimonium Flavianum was genuine in any way Josephus certainly have mentioned the further misfortune of Jesus followers under Nero since he was right there in Rome for two years when it was supposedly going on. So either the Testimonium Flavianum is a fake or the Tacitus and Suetonius accounts repeating are urban myth--both sets of accounts cannot be true.

There are actually not one but two references in Josephus. The latter is lesser known and cites James the brother of Jesus:

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was put upon the road; so he [Ananus, the Jewish high priest] assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, him called Christ, whose name was James, and some others. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

Though there are good reasons to think this too is not Josephus' original text:

  1. Josephus was writing for a Roman audience. A Roman audience would not have been familiar with Jewish beliefs concerning the Messiah. Indeed, they probably wouldn't even have known what the word "Christ" meant other then "the wetted" or perhaps "the greased".[150]
  2. The original Greek wording of the passage itself is extremely similar to Matthew 1:16.
  3. After reading the rest of the text of this passage we find that the Jews were so angry about the stoning of James that they they demanded that King Agrippa fire Ananus. Why would the Jews be angered over the killing of a Christian, since Christians were seen as heathens by the Jews?
  4. The end of the paragraph seems to identify the Jesus described within as Jesus the son of Damneus, and clearly states that this Jesus was made high priest by Agrippa.
  5. In Against Celsus 1.47, Origen states "this writer" (Josephus) ... "in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple" ... "says nevertheless" ... "that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ)". This point is repeated in Against Celsus 2.13 where Origen states "But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes dear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God." Note that the Josephus passage above does NOT connect the death of this James with the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, or any other disaster despite Origen stating twice that the passage he is referring to does.
  6. Finally, and most importantly the James of Josephus died c. 62 CE by just stoning while Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Early Christian tradition all had James the Just dying c. 70 CE by being thrown from a battlement, stoned, and finally clubbed to death by passing laundrymen.[151] In fact, Eusebius of Caesarea in his Church History, Book III, ch. 11 clearly writes "After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed..." but there are seven years and four High Priests[152] between these two events if the Josephus passage is genuine so either we have one of the wonkiest definition of "immediately followed" in the history of the world or these are two different James and the passage was added to make the connection. The later interpretation is supported by Rufinus of Aquileia in the 4th century who states James the Lord's brother was informed of the death of Peter (64 CE or 67 CE ie after the James in Josephus was dead and gone).[153]

The "him called Christ" makes most sense as a margin note by a later scribe copying the text, inserted by error in a paragraph about Jesus son of Damneus.[154]

Drews in The Witness To The Historicity of Jesus stated that, even if the passage was entirely genuine, "brother" could have just meant the James being referred to belonged to a sect that venerated a Messiah called Jesus.[155] Furthermore since "christ" means the same in Greek that "messiah" does in Hebrew ("the anointed one") it could be used in reference to the anointment of Jesus, son of Damneus as high priest.

However, Drews also stated "in the sixteenth century Vossius had a manuscript of the text of Josephus in which there was not a word about Jesus"[156] which taken literally means as late as 1600 there was a Josephus manuscript with NO reference to Jesus anywhere in it.

Literary critic Harold Bloom has suggested that in light of many other cases of Josephus falsifying evidence in his works, Josephus is motivated entirely by his own politics, and admires Jesus on account of the political actions of his followers, James and John the Baptist (who he admires for their resistance of the rise Pharisaic Judaism) but may have had no first-hand knowledge of Jesus himself.

[edit] Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger was a Roman official born in 62 CE. In one letter c. 106 CE he said “Christians were singing a hymn to Christ as to a god ...” That is all. In all of Pliny’s writings, we find one small tangential reference, and not even to Christ, but to Christians. Again, notice, the absence of the name Jesus. This could have referred to any of the other "christs"[157] who were being followed by some Jews who thought they had found the messiah.

Pliny’s report is only of what other people believed. Even if this sentence does refer to a group who followed Jesus it is not particularly enlightening as no one denies that Christianity was in existence at that time. Pliny's report might be useful in documenting the religion, but not the historic Jesus.

[edit] Tacitus

Tacitus was born in 64 C.E, well after the death of Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a "Chrestus" in his Annals (Book XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 CE. He gives no source for his material. He says:

Nero looked around for a scapegoat, and inflicted the most fiendish tortures on a group of persons already hated for their crimes. This was the sect known as Christians. Their founder, one Chrestus, had been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. This checked the abominable superstition for a while, but it broke out again and spread, not merely through Judea, where it originated, but even to Rome itself, the great reservoir and collecting ground for every kind of depravity and filth. Those who confessed to being Christians were at once arrested, but on their testimony a great crowd of people were convicted, not so much on the charge of arson, but of hatred of the entire human race.

Tacitus depicts early Christians as “hated for their crimes” and associated with “depravity and filth.” This is not a flattering picture, so is less likely to be Christian propaganda. Tacitus claims no first-hand knowledge of Christianity, but is merely repeating the then common ideas about Christians.

There is no other historical confirmation that Nero persecuted Christians. In fact, Josephus and Pliny the Elder who were both in Rome in 64 CE don't mention Christians at all which would be impossible if Nero was trying to blame them for the fire. Historians generally agree that Nero did not burn Rome, so Tacitus is in error to suggest that he would have needed to blame Christians in the first place.

A more serious problem is that no one in the second century ever quoted this passage of Tacitus, and in fact it appears almost word-for-word in the writings in someone else, Sulpicius Severus, in the fourth century, where it is mixed in with other myths.

If the passage was genuine it appears that at best Tacitus was repeating an urban myth. The passage is therefore highly suspect and adds virtually no evidence even for early Christianity.

[edit] Tampering of the Tacitus source

The surviving copies of Tacitus' works derive from two principal manuscripts, known as the Medicean manuscripts, which are held in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy, and written in Latin. The second Medicean manuscript is the oldest surviving copy of the passage describing "Christians." In this manuscript, the first 'i' of the Christianos is quite distinct in appearance from the second, looking somewhat smudged, and lacking the long tail of the second 'i'; additionally, there is a large gap between the first 'i' and the subsequent 'long s'. Latin scholar Georg Andresen was one of the first to comment on the appearance of the first 'i' and subsequent gap, suggesting in 1902 that the text had been altered, and an 'e' had originally been in the text, rather than this 'i'.

In 1950, at historian Harald Fuchs' request, Dr. Teresa Lodi, the director of the Laurentian Library, examined the features of this item of the manuscript; she concluded that there are still signs of an 'e' being erased, by removal of the upper and lower horizontal portions, and distortion of the remainder into an 'i'. In 2008, Dr. Ida Giovanna Rao, the new head of the Laurentian Library's manuscript office, repeated Lodi's study, and concluded that it is likely that the 'i' is a correction of some earlier character (like an e), the change being made an extremely subtle one. Later the same year, it was discovered that under ultraviolet light, an 'e' is clearly visible in the space, meaning that the passage must originally have referred to chrestianos, a Latinized Greek word which could be interpreted as the good, after the Greek word χρηστός (chrestos), meaning "good, useful", rather than strictly a follower of "Christ".

[edit] Mara Bar-Serapion

(circa 73 CE) There is a fragment of a personal letter from a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion to his son in prison that mentions that the Jews of that time had killed their “wise king.” However, the New Testament claims that the Romans, not the Jews, killed Jesus. The Jews had killed other leaders; for example, the Essene Teacher of Righteousness. If this truly is a report of a historical event rather than the passing on of folklore, it could have been a reference to someone else. It does not mention Jesus by name. It is near worthless as evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, yet it can be found on the lists of some Christian scholars as proof that Jesus existed.[158]

[edit] Lucian

(circa 125 - 180 CE) A second-century satirist named Lucian wrote that the basis for the Christian sect was a “man who was crucified in Palestine,” but this is merely repeating what Christians believed in the second century. Lucian does not mention Jesus by name. This reference is too late to be considered more direct historical evidence.

[edit] Suetonius

A Roman historian born in 69 CE in his Twelve Caesars circa 112 CE makes two statements that are often presented as evidence of Jesus.

The first mentions that Claudius “banished the Jews from Rome, since they had made a commotion because of Chrestus.” "Chrestus," a common name meaning “good,” was used by both slaves and free people and occurring more than 80 times in Latin inscriptions. There is nothing other then similarity in spelling to suggest that there is any relationship between Chrestus and Christ and it is unlikely that Christianity had spread as far as Rome during the reign of Claudius, or that it was large enough to have caused a revolt.

The second is in the "Life of Nero" section and states “punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief ...”. Now this occurs in the 16:2 paragraph that starts "During his reign many abuses were severely punished and put down" The fire is not mentioned in "Life of Nero" until 38:1 or nearly 16 paragraphs latter implying the punishments inflicted on the Christians occurred before the Great Fire. Also Suetonius states that Nero himself set the fire, a claim that most historians reject. Finally, as mentioned before Josephus and Pliny the Elder make no mention of Christians when in Rome in Nero's time so this appears to repeating an urban myth rather than actual history.

[edit] Talmud

Perhaps surprisingly, some Christians use brief portions of the Talmud, a collection of Jewish civil and religious law, including commentaries on the Torah, as evidence for the existence of Jesus. They claim that a man called "Yeshu" in the Talmud refers to Jesus.

However, this Jesus, according to Gerald Massey, is actually a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia who lived at least a century before the alleged Christian Jesus. And regardless of how one interprets the name "Yeshu", the Palestinian Talmud was written between the 3rd and 5th century CE, and the Babylonian Talmud was written between the 3rd and 6th century CE, at least two centuries after the alleged crucifixion.

In other words, even if it does refer to Jesus, it is even more recent then the gospels and even less useful as an eyewitness reference.

[edit] Julius Africanus and Thallus

In the ninth century a Byzantine writer named George Syncellus quoted a third-century Christian historian named Julius Africanus, who quoted an unknown writer named Thallus on the darkness at the crucifixion: "Thallus in the third book of his history calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun, but in my opinion he is wrong." All of the works of Africanus are lost, so there is no way to confirm the quote or to examine its context. We have no idea who Thallus was, or when he wrote.

Eusebius (fourth century) mentions a history of Thallus in three books that according to an Armenian translation of Eusebius ranged from the sack of Troy to the 167th Olympiad. (Actually, the manuscript is damaged, and “Thallus” is merely a guess from “_allos Samaritanos.” That word “allos” actually means “other” in Greek, so it may have been simply saying “the other Samaritan.”) There is no historical evidence of an eclipse during the time Jesus was supposedly crucified. The reason Africanus doubted the eclipse is because Easter happens near the full moon and a solar eclipse would have been impossible at that time, as was well-known. Compounding the matter is the Armenian translation of Eusebius has many corrupt numerals and so many apologists claim that 167th Olympiad (or 109 BCE) should really be 217th Olympiad. There is nothing to support this idea and plenty against it[159][160]

[edit] Other sources used by apologists

Christian apologists mostly use the above sources for their evidence of Jesus because they believe they represent the best outside sources. All other sources (Christian and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include: Ignatius (50 - 98? CE), Polycarp (69 - 155 CE), Clement of Rome (? - circa 160 CE), Justin Martyr (100 - 165 CE), Tertullian (197 CE), Clement of Alexandria (? - 215 CE), Origen (185 - 232 CE), Hippolytus (? - 236 CE), and Cyprian (? - 254 CE). All of these provide merely hearsay.

[edit] Archaeological evidence

For other examples of lack of archeological evidence to biblical stories, see Evidence for the Exodus

When dealing with any historical discovery using archaeology, it must always be remembered that we are only able to uncover a fraction of what once existed and we are only able to understand a fraction of that. So no claim about someone or something not existing can ever be made by archaeology. However, the longer we excavate in a region or analyze written documents without finding evidence of the person's or place's existence, the greater the doubt becomes about such existence.

There is no physical archaeological evidence that Jesus existed. No tombs have been found that match the description of the tomb he was buried in (or rather, one of the four descriptions), no prison cell has "Jesus was here" carved into it, no cross has been found, no drawings of a man with a crown of thorns, and of course, no body. Christians would say that is because he did not leave a corporeal body, but equally, no bodies, burial stones, or burial boxes have been found of his family or disciples.

Most of the cities mentioned in the New Testament have been identified or correlated through secondary sources (including maps) of the Palestine area. Even some of the people in the New Testament (for example, Nero, Caiaphas and Ananus) were real historical figures. However, these descriptions do not serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus any more than a fictional work which mentions Napoleon or the Hiroshima bombing would serve as evidence that the work of fiction is really truth.

Archaeological evidence exists for many of the towns and cities in the New Testament, leading to acceptance of their existence, including: Bethlehem, Capernaum, Chorazin, Ephesus, Gaza, Jaffa, Nineveh and of course Jerusalem. Critically, however, one city associated directly with Jesus, Nazareth, is a puzzle for scholars.

[edit] Nazareth

Nazareth is not mentioned by name in any pre-Christian Palestinian, Greek or Roman text. Nazareth is first noted at the beginning of the 4th century. There are towns with similar names, when you transliterate them, and there are known linguistic shifts in the region that could account for a misplaced name, but this is not evidence that any of these similar named towns are the Biblical Nazareth or that such a town even existed. There is a growing trend of scholars who doubt that the New Testament town referred to by the Greek name Nazara is the historical town of Nazareth in lower Palestine, since both its location and its description do not match what is in Luke.

After December 21, 2009 there were reports regarding evidence for some level of settlement in the area for the time of Jesus[161] but the actual Israel Antiquities Authority report does not mention first-century remains but rather Roman Period remains, "(w)hat I find most notable is that to date the excavators have yet to report even one shred of evidence that places this structure in the first century CE as opposed to the second century" "the ceramic finds are so sparse and disjointed that it is still too early to rule out stratigraphic intrusion. So, judging from the finds themselves, the “Jesus era” is apparently first-second century CE or perhaps even later"..."Neither the archeologist (Y. Alexandre) nor anyone else has published any verification of material findings or claims."..."The alleged presence of a “small camouflaged grotto” could point to a hiding place at the time of the Second Jewish Revolt (132-135 CE), consistent with other material from Nazareth, not to the time of the First Revolt (c. 70 CE)." The scholarly paper that would refute these challenges has not appeared, the site has been destroyed so no new research can be done, and there appears to have been tourist motives to spin whatever was found into "evidence" for Jesus so we have what amounts a Bermuda Triangle-like tabloid quality story.[162]

It is also possible that little if any archaeological evidence of pre-existing artifacts exists for the simple reason that many cities get built on ancient sites. But this too should be taken with caution. Given the amount of archaeological work in Palestine, if no evidence has been found, there is valid reason to be skeptical that such a town existed.

It is possible that Nazareth might have existed as an insignificant and easily missed village, and thus no one recorded it. The gospels state that it had only one synagogue, so it would not be a large city. But, even a large village would likely have been listed somewhere—especially if the Lord and Savior of a people were from this town.

Ultimately, all of these "possibles" are not as probable as the idea that Nazareth may have been invented for the Story of Jesus.[163]

Other ideas are that Nazarene was not a reference to a place but to a title such as Nazirite (meaning "one consecrated, devoted"[164]) or that it referred to a clan Jesus belonged to (some translations of Micah 5:2 make it clear that "Bethlehem" is reference to a group of people in Judea not a town so why can't Nazarene be the same sort of thing?)

[edit] Hoaxes, fakes, and frauds

[edit] Shroud of Turin

See the main article on this topic: Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is often proposed by some as historical evidence for Jesus. This mainly illustrates the deep-seated desire of many people to have some relic or physical evidence for Jesus.

The provenance and authenticity of the shroud has been debated for many centuries. There is no record of where the shroud came from before the 13th century, and indeed scientific dating tests have shown it to be from around that time. Even if the shroud was authentically proven to come from 1st century Judea, this would only show that someone was crucified, and crucifixion as a common punishment at the time has never been disputed. There would be no reason to presume it was Jesus in particular.

[edit] Ossuary of James

Biblical Archaeology Review Nov/Dec 2002 ran a story claiming the discovery in Jerusalem of an ossuary inscribed "Ya'aqov bar Yosef akhui Yeshua'" ("James/Jacob,[165] son of Joseph, brother of Jesus"). This became a major news story around the world.

The inscription was claimed to have been dated to 70 CE. If authentic, this would not have been conclusive evidence, but would have been intriguing to historians, marking the existence of a James who was the son of a Joseph who had a brother significant enough to mention, as it was uncommon on ossuaries of the day to inscribe family names other than that of the person's father.

Unfortunately, though the box was old, part of the inscription proved fraudulent. The Israeli Antiquities Authority published a report in June 2003 concluding that a part of the inscription was added recently and made to match the rest by the addition of a chalk solution. Oded Golan, the dealer who publicised the box, was arrested in July 2003; police found stencils, stones and yet-to-be-completed forgeries in his home.[166] Sadly, even with evidence it is a fake, believers still sometimes cite it as evidence for a historical Jesus.[167]

[edit] Letters of Pontius Pilate

There is a double myth that Pontius Pilate wrote letters to Seneca in Rome that mention Jesus and his reported miracles.[167]

I say double myth because it is claimed that apologists often quote letters from a 1928 book Letters of Pontius Pilate: Written During His Governorship of Judea to His Friend Seneca in Rome[168] written by W. P. Crozier, an Oxford-educated Guardian journalist (and later the paper's editor) with an interest in Greek, Latin, the Bible and Zionism.

The reality is far more interesting:

The Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Pilate), thought to have been written in the middle of the fourth century as the Acts of Peter and Paul,[169] contains a supposed letter from Pilate to Caesar. There seems to be two versions of this; one where the letter is addressed to Tiberius (d 37 CE)[170][171] and another where it is addressed to Claudius (41 CE)[172][173][174][175]

Eusebius comments on "Letters of Pilate" being referred to by Justin and Tertullian while also noting an anti-Christian text called Acts of Pilate.[176]

The often quoted letter of Pontius Pilate to Claudius is NOT from Crozier's book but from the far older The Acts of Pilate as proven by its citation in works from 1827, 1880 and 1883, so the claim the letter comes from there is false. However, The Acts of Pilate is not considered genuine, so the part about apologists using a known fiction is true.[177]

[edit] Letters to King Abgarus of Edessa

The Doctrine of Addai [178] is a 4th century Syriac text that records the letters that King Abgarus of Edessa wrote to Jesus, and the replies that Jesus sent back to Edessa. The text presents some problems to orthodox Christian teaching. Although the emperor mentioned is Tiberius, which matches the orthodox Christian chronology, the governors of Syria and Judaea mentioned do not. One was Sabinus the son of Eustorgius, who is likely to have been Cassius Longinus, the head of the Sabinians, who ruled Syria from AD 41-49; the other was Olbinus, who is likely to have been Lucceius Albinus, who was governor of Judaea in AD 62-64. Thus the Doctrine of Addai does not even support the Christian chronology.

[edit] Toledot Yeshu

The Toledot Yeshu[179] is Medieval text that has elements from the 6th century. It is presumed to be a derisive Jewish satire of Christianity as it contains heretical references from the Talmud, like Jesus being the son of of Mary's lover, Joseph Pandera. [180][181] Yet the Toledot Yeshu also contains historical elements contrary to Judaism, such as Queen Helena of Adiabene becoming the queen of Judaea. The Toledoth Yeshu also records that Jesus was brought to trial before Queen Helena, rather than Pontius Pilate, but this would have been in the late AD 40s or early AD 50s, after Queen Helena had sent famine relief to Judaea.[182] Thus, in a similar fashion to the Doctrine of Addai, the chronology of the Toledot Yeshu does not agree with Christian chronology.

[edit] Common objections about questioning the historical Jesus

[edit] I often read that most scholars think Jesus existed

What most historians and scholars think (as stated above) is that a human named Jesus was the seed for the Christian myths. But, it would be factually wrong to suggest that "most scholars think the Christ existed" — a seed is not the same as the myth.

The term "scholar" can be a weasel word. It's worth asking the question "Who is this scholar, and what are his investments in the issue?" If he is a theologian, then it is worth asking "Would this theologian ever be able to even say that the Christ did not exist, or would his theological underpinnings prevent him from saying that?" When apologists quote scholars or 'experts' of Jesus' historicity, they are often quoting theologians whose focus is theology, and whose vestment in the argument is clear.[183] Further, those who have a bias towards not challenging the theology as they know it have often preselected the texts that are "canon" and "authentic"[184]

Hector Avalos details the differences between the seminary and secular streams of Bible-related study in his 2007 book The End of Biblical Studies, which had some impact on the field.[185] It should be noted that some apologists for a historical Jesus are fundamentalists such as Lee Strobel who are rarely taken seriously in mainstream academia. Others are liberal Christians such as Marcus Borg, or flat-out agnostics such as Bart Ehrman and Robert Grant who are more respected in mainstream academic circles (there are also quite a few Jewish New Testament scholars such as Amy Jill-Levine or Geza Vermes). Even taking scholars like Ehrman into account, mythicists such as Richard Carrier believe that the methodology of Jesus-related historical studies is of a much lower standard than the methodology of other historical study of comparable periods.[6]

Historians who are skeptical of the historicity of Jesus are often painted by theologians and apologists as fringe lunatics. However, these arguments rarely go beyond ad hominem attacks.[186][187] However, secular historians can also be critical of the mythicist position. In his recent book Did Jesus Exist?, Bart Ehrman distinguishes between mythicists whom he regards as flat-out pseudo-historians (such as Tim Freke) and those he regards as responsible mythicists such as Robert Price or Richard Carrier. He regards the latter as playing by the proper rules of historical inquiry, while the former simply make up facts to support wild surmises. However, Ehrman regards even Price's views as ultimately unconvincing and as therefore "fringe" in the sense of being believed by a very small percentage of scholars.

[edit] There is more evidence for Jesus than for (insert famous ancient person or event here)

When discussing the evidence for Jesus' existence, a common claim made by apologists is that there is "more evidence for Jesus than 'X'".[188] This is often because ancient records really are sparse for the existence of some ancient kings, Pharaohs of Egypt, or other historical figures. However, what evidence we do have is higher quality than what exists for Jesus. This does not mean it is necessarily worthless, but it means it is worth questioning. Court records, birth records, even lists of property owners or tax records do not have this doubt attached. Finding a document that said "Jesus, known as the Christ, was crucified today, in the Court of..." would be this kind of evidence.

One common claim is that there are "over 5000 distinct pieces of evidence for Jesus". This number comes from counting each individual handwritten document (from full codices down to mere scraps) with New Testament text on it, including multiple copies of the same texts. The actual number is 5500 ancient fragments (dating from before the printing press) of any writings from the New Testament.[189] It should be noted that just 6.29% of these 5000 distinct pieces of evidence have been dated before the 9th century and only 48 supposedly predate our oldest intact Bibles[190]

While it is is impossible to cover all the ancient figures and events Jesus has been compared to there are a few popular ones that show just how shaky the position really is.

Pythagoras (c570 BCE – c495 BCE): more famous for founding Pythagoreanism (a way of life rather than religion) which thanks to it secretive nature we know little about there isn't much on him or the movement that he inspired. In fact the Pythagorean theorem is not formally credited to him until the 4th century. However, Milo of Croton a documented six-time Olympic victor (540 BC-520 BCE) was a Pythagorean and is said to have personally saved Pythagoras life with his great strength[191]

Sun Tzu (Sun Wu) (544–496 BCE?): his very existence is debated in scholarly circles [192] despite reference in the Records of the Grand Historian and Spring and Autumn Annals which used earlier official records that haven't survived.

Confucius (Kong Qiu) (551–479 BCE) the Records of the Grand Historian used archives and imperial records as source material (which themselves have not survived). Its author Sima Qian noted the problems with incomplete, fragmentary, and contradictory sources stating in the 18th volume of the 180-volume work "I have set down only what is certain, and in doubtful cases left a blank." Moreover, Kong Qiu was the governor of a town in Lu and ultimately held the positions of Minister of Public Works and then Minister of Crime for the whole Lu state not exactly minor positions one could create a fictitious person to fill.

Leukippos (shadowy nearly legendary figure of early 5th century BCE): very existence doubted by Epicurus (341 – 270 BCE).[193]

Socrates (c469 – 399 BCE): written about by contemporaries Plato, Xenophon (430 – 354 BCE), and Aristophanes (c446 – 386 BCE).

Hippocrates (c460 – c370 BCE): written about by contemporary Plato.

Plato (428 – 347 BCE): written about by contemporaries Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Xenophon, and Aristophanes.

Alexander the Great (July 20, 356 – June 11, 323 BCE): official historian Callisthenes of Olynthus, generals Ptolemy, Nearchus, and Aristobulus and helmsman Onesicritus where all contemporaries who wrote about Alexander. While their works were eventually lost, later works that used them as source material were not. Then you have mosaics and coins also contemporaneous with Alexander.

Hannibal (247 – 182 BCE): Written about by Silenus, a paid Greek historian who Hannibal brought with him on his journeys to write an account of what took place, and Sosylus of Lacedaemon who wrote seven volumes on the war itself. Never mind the contemporary Carthaginian coins and engraved bronze tablets.

Julius Caesar (July 100 – 15 March 44 BCE): Not only do we have the writing of contemporaries Cato the Younger and Cicero but Julius Caesar' own writings as well (Commentarii de Bello Gallico aka The Gallic Wars and Commentarii de Bello Civili aka The Civil War). Then you have the contemporary coins, statues and monuments.

Apollonius of Tyana (c15 CE - c100 CE): Often refereed to as the "Pagan Christ", fragments of Apollonius' own writings are part of the Harvard University Press edition of The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (1912) ISBN-13: 978-0674990180 as documented in Carrier's Kook article.

Boadicea (d. 60 CE): Tacitus himself would have been a 5-year old boy when she poisoned herself c. 60 CE making him contemporary to her. Furthermore, his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola served under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus during the revolt. So Tacitus was not only an actual contemporary, but he had access to Gaius Suetonius Paulinus' records and an actual eyewitness.

Muhammad (570 – c. June 8, 632 CE): Unlike the New Testament, the Quran was written during Muhammad's lifetime and there are some that say it was compiled shortly before his death. Moreover there are non-Muslim references by people who would have been contemporary to Muhammad.[194]

Now compare those to Jesus:

1) The only known possible contemporary is Paul (Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon) who not only writes some 20 years after the events but seems more intent on the Jesus in his own head than any Jesus who actually preached in Galilee. In fact, even though in his own account Paul meets "James, brother of the Lord" we get no details of Jesus' life, not even references to the famous sermons or miracles.

2) The Gospels are anonymous documents written sometime between 70 CE to 140 CE and there are no references to any of them until the early 2nd century.

As you can see from this sampling, the ancient person being compared to Jesus is generally in far better shape in terms of documentation.

[edit] Holocaust comparison or how to scrape the bottom of a barrel in the stupidest way possible

Comparing the quality of Jesus to that of any major person after the invention of the printing press in the west is bad enough but when people compare denying Jesus as a historical person to Holocaust denial they are either ignorant of just how much material evidence there is for the Holocaust or making a strawman without realizing what else they are claiming.

For the record there were 3,000 tons of truly contemporary (i.e. between 1938-1945) records presented at the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials.[195] The 1958 finding aids (eventually the index to the Holocaust evidence) was 62 volumes--just 4 books shy of the number of books (66) traditionally in the entire Bible! Then between 1958 and 2000 they added another 30 volumes, bringing the total to 92.[196]

So anyone who is comparing the denial of a historical Jesus to Holocaust denial is essentially claiming:

  1. there were 3,000 tons of written records dating from 6 BCE to 36 CE showing Jesus existed
  2. the most powerful government of the world (i.e. Rome) collected said evidence no later then 36 CE
  3. the evidence was presented no later then 37 CE; AND
  4. there was a 62 volume index of this evidence dating no later than 44 CE and a 92 volume index of this evidence dating from no later then 92 CE.

The total insanity of such a position shows just how desperate some apologists are.

[edit] No one would have noticed, because "Jesus" was a minor figure

The other argument presented is that Jesus was in reality an obscure person that was largely ignored during his lifetime. This is addressed above under "non-Biblical Evidence." Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels, was very popular and well known.

There are some figures whose existence is historically questionable. However, they tend to be more minor figures who most people haven't heard of (a non-biblical exception would be Aesop).

American historian Richard Carrier writes:

One could say that Jesus was an insignificant, illiterate, itinerant preacher with a tiny following, who went wholly unnoticed by any literate person in Judaea. However, this would not bode well for anyone who wished to maintain he was God, or did any of the more amazing things attributed to him. It is very implausible, for instance, that a biography would be written for the obscure itinerant philosopher Demonax in his own lifetime (by Lucian), yet God Incarnate, or a Great Miracle Worker who riled up all Judaea with talk, should inspire nothing like it until decades after his death. And though several historians wrote on Judaean affairs in the early 1st century (not just Josephus and Tacitus, but several others no longer extant), none apparently mentioned Jesus (see the Secular Web library on Historicity). Certainly, had anyone done so, the passages would probably have been lovingly preserved by 2nd century Christians, or else inspired angry rebuttals.

For instance, the attacks of Celsus, Hierocles, and Porphyry, though destroyed by Christians and thus no longer extant (another example of the peculiar problem of Christian history discussed above), nevertheless remain attested in the defenses written by Origen, Eusebius, and Macerius Magnes. But no earlier attacks are attested. There is no mention of Christians in Plutarch's attack On Superstition, nor a rebuttal to any attack on Christianity in Seneca's lost work On Superstition (which ruthlessly attacked pagans and Jews, as attested in book 10 of Augustine's City of God), so it seems evident Christians got no mention even there, in a text against alien cults, by a man who would have witnessed the Neronian persecution of 64 CE (alternatively, the fact that this is the only work of Seneca's not to be preserved, despite the fact that Christians must surely have been keen to preserve an anti-pagan text by a renowned pagan, might mean it contained some damning anti-Christian material and was suppressed, though Augustine clearly had access to the work and says nothing about such content). All of this suggests a troubling dichotomy for believers: either Jesus was a nobody (and therefore not even special, much less the Son of God) or he did not exist.[197]

To put it simply, is the evidence we do have consistent with what we would expect to have for a person of the stature Jesus supposedly had? Even if we take the tack that "tekton" does not only mean carpenter but also designer, construction engineer, or architect[198] just how many names of such men not associated with major projects do we know? Very few.

The objection here is that the Gospel Jesus was connected to the likes of Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate (both of whom are recorded in the standard histories and have left at least some archaeological evidence) as well as being tried on the eve of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Furthermore, Josephus mentions various Jewish rabble-rousers such as Simon of Peraea and Athronges whose movements basically died with them and predated Jesus by 30 years in far more detail than exists even in the Testimonium Flavianum, despite Mark (70-85 CE) supposedly being available to fill in the gaps.

Of course there are logic problems with the whole "Jesus was a minor figure" idea. Based on Paul's account, Paul could not have been converted any later then 37 CE. Also according to Acts 7-9, Paul as Saul was supposedly infamous regarding his persecution of Christians in three provinces (Galilee, Samaria, and Judea).[199] Now the synoptic gospels have Jesus still doing his ministry after the beheading of John the Baptist which, according to Josephus, occurred in 36 CE.[200] So Christianity had to very quickly become widespread for Saul to be able to become infamous over such a wide area (even if he was persecuting followers of Jesus before Jesus was crucified which creates other issues) and yet we are asked to believe that Jesus was a minor person next to no one had heard of.

[edit] The illiterate masses?

Related to the "Jesus" was a minor figure argument is that the people of the ancient world, like their later Medieval counterparts, were largely illiterate and so the listeners to Jesus were not able to write anything down. Like all apologist arguments it looks good...until you do some research.

According to Anthony DiRenzo Roman society was very literate:

Like all Roman children, Tiro was sent to elementary school, the ludus litterarius, to learn reading and writing. His was not an act of generosity but necessity. Rome was the most literate society of the classical world, "a civilization based on the book and the register," and "no one, either free or slave, could afford to be illiterate[201]

DiRenzo then cites a passage from Dupont's Daily Life in Ancient Rome illustrating this point:

The written word was all around them, in both public and private life: laws, calendars, regulations at shrines, and funeral epitaphs were engraved in stone or bronze. The Republic amassed huge archives of reports on every aspect of public life. Praetors and magistrates kept records of every judgment that was handed down ... [which] formed the cornerstone of Roman jurisprudence.... At home, too, writing was important. Noble families ... had their own [ancestral] archives. ... But all families ... kept books of farming tips, prayers, and remedies. Writing played a vital role in business too: contracts of sale, hire, association and estate management were all recorded on tablets and registers. Then there were the innumerable letters that Romans traveling far from home sent back to their friends in the City.[202]

To put this into proper context, Tiro was not a Roman citizen but a slave. So Roman society was such that it mandated that even slaves, the lowest rung in Roman society, were to be taught how to read and write and this was over a hundred years before Jesus supposedly preached in Galilee.

Moreover, Josephus in Against Apion (2.204) stated that the "law requires that they (children) be taught to read". Finally, based on Mark 1.39, 2.25, 12.10; Matt. 12.5, 19.4, 21.16; Luke 4.16; and John 7.15 Jesus himself appears to been able to read and write.

So instead of the largely illiterate masses the apologists claim existed in the Roman empire you have all Romans (even slaves) being taught how to read and write, there was a Jewish law requiring their children to read and write, and a culture in which if you were illiterate you were in a lot of trouble in terms of trying to live. Yet despite all this the apologists try to peddle the idea that not a single person who heard or saw Jesus could read and write and that Jesus himself couldn't be bothered to write his own Gospel clarifying exactly what he meant...I guess for their next trick the apologists will try and sell us a bridge in New York that goes to a place called Brooklyn.

[edit] The Myth, Madman, or Messiah argument

All too often historical existence of Jesus debate turns into the Myth, Madman, or Messiah argument where the concept that Jesus has to be either a (philosophical) myth, madman, or essentially what the Gospels describe. The key issue is that this really argues for the Jesus of the gospels rather than than the gospel story being inspired by an actual person.

The Argumentum ad martyrdom of "Would the Disciples die for a lie?"[203] falls into this category and ignores that there are many examples of people dying or beliefs which turned out to be false, deceptive, or poorly understood (Hong Xiuquan's Taiping Rebellion followers, Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, Branch Davidians, etc)[204]

The Skeptics just don't want to be accountable for their sins and Skeptics have blind faith in the words of man are essentially two sides of the same argument that also fall into this catagory. Here again this is arguing that the Gospel Jesus is a historical person not arguing that the stories were inspired by a quite normal man.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Galatians 1:11-12
  2. B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285
  3. Bruno Bauer (19th century German Biblical historian), George Wells (20th century historian of Germany)
  4. scholars Richard Carrier (historian), Robert M. Price (theologian), and author Earl Doherty (writer),
  5. Fischer, Roland (1994) "On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind" Anthropology of Consciousness. Dec 1994, Vol. 5, No. 4: 16
  6. 6.0 6.1 Richard Carrier puts it rather more bluntly: "Then I discovered that the field of New Testament studies was so monumentally fucked the task wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped ... the biggest thing I discovered is that every expert who is a specialist in methodology has concluded, one and all, that the methods now used in Jesus studies are also totally fucked".
  7. Although Geoffrey of Monmouth has a fair claim with King Arthur.
  8. Ben Goren, coment on Can philosophy or religion alone establish facts?, November 18, 2011
  9. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  10. Remsburg, John (1909) "The Christ a Myth" chapter, The Christ
  11. Paulkovich, Michael, No Meek Messiah. Annapolis: Spillix, 2012, pp. 199-200.
  12. Price, Robert (2012) The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems pg 387-8
  13. Garraghan, Gilbert J. (1946) A Guide to Historical Method, Fordham University Press: New York . ISBN 0-8371-7132-6)
  14. Howell, Martha & Prevenier, Walter (2001). From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8560-6.
  15. Olden-Jørgensen and Thurén Källkritik. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell
  16. Shafer, R. J. (1974) A Guide to Historical Method, The Dorsey Press: Illinois . ISBN 0-534-10825-3.)
  17. Garraghan, Gilbert J. (1946) A Guide to Historical Method, Fordham University Press: New York . ISBN 0-8371-7132-6)
  18. McCullagh, C. Behan (1984) Justifying Historical Descriptions, Cambridge University Press: New York . ISBN 0-521-31830-0.
  19. McClintock, ‎John; James Strong (1894) Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Volume 2 Page 259
  20. Porter, Stanley E.; Matthew Brook O'Donnell, Wendy J. Porter (eds.) (2004) Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism - Volume 1, 2000. Page 102
  21. Serapis (Sarapis) Egypt Travel Guide
  22. Hadrian to Servianus, 134 CE (Quoted by Giles, Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. II, p86, 1877
  23. Drews, Arthur (1912) The witnesses to the historicity of Jesus for Chrestian/Chrestus version
  24. The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Volume 2, Latin Literature, Part 5, The Later Principate, E. J. Kenney, Wendell Vernon Clausen, p43, 45, Cambridge University Press, 1983,ISBN 0521273714
  25. Boatwright, Mary T. (2012) Peoples of the Roman World Cambridge University Press pg 123
  26. Christian, Yeremyah
  27. The sources of "Chrestian" (χρηστιανος) and "Christian" (χριστιανος) in Antiquity
  28. E. A. Judge and G. S. R. Thomas, “The Origin of the Church at Rome: A New Solution,” RTR 25 (1966): 85
  29. Mitchell, James Barr (1880) Chrestos: a religious epithet; its import and influence
  30. Pleket, H.W.; Stroud, R.S.. "Egypt. Funerary epithets in Egypt.(26-1702)." Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. Current editors: A. T. R.S. R.A. Chaniotis Corsten Stroud Tybout. Brill Online, 2013.
  31. Wright, Stuart A. (1995) Armageddon in Waco University of Chicago Press pg 296
  32. Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim (1993) Freud's Moses Yale University Press pg 91
  33. Mason, Steve (2002) Josephus and the New Testament Baker Academic; 2 edition ISBN 978-0-8010-4700-8 pg 228
  34. Carrier, Richard (2011) The Date of the Nativity in Luke (6th ed., 2011)
  35. Carrier, Richard (2011) The Date of the Nativity in Luke (6th ed., 2011)
  36. Smith, Mark (2000) "Of Jesus and Quirinius," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 62:2 (April, 2000): pp. 278-93.
  37. 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia Archelaus
  38. David Goodblatt's "Dating Documents in Herodian Judaea" in Jacobson, David M. (2005) Herod and Augustus: Papers Presented at the IJS Conference, 21st-23rd June 2005 pg 127 - 154
  39. Remsburg, John (1909) "Chapter 9: Christ a Myth", The Christ)
  40. Remsburg, John (1909) "Chapter 12: Sources of the Christ Myth: Conclusion", The Christ)
  41. Price, Robert (1997) Christ a Fiction)
  42. Price, Robert (2000) Deconstructing Jesus, pp. 15-16
  43. Price, Robert (1997) Christ a Fiction)
  44. Spence, Lewis (1921) An introduction to mythology p. 42
  45. Neusner, Jacob; Alan Jeffery Avery-Peck (2007) Encyclopedia of religious and philosophical writings in late antiquity Brill, Page 369
  46. Hastings, James; John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray (1919) Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, Volume 10
  47. Zeus Is Dead: Euhemerus and Crete, S. Spyridakis, The Classical Journal, Vol. 63, No. 8, May, 1968, pp. 337-340.
  48. Preparation of the Gospel (10.12) "from the reign of Hercules in Argos to the deification of Hercules himself and of Asclepius there are comprised thirty-eight years, according to Apollodorus the chronicler: and from that point to the deification of Castor and Pollux fifty-three years: and somewhere about this time was the capture of Troy."
  49. Justin Martyr,First Apology [21:30]
  50. Carrier, Richard (1997) "Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels"
  51. Jewish Antiquities 17.269-270
  52. Clement of Rome, l.c. ii. 8; several passages in Origen; Epiphanius, l.c.
  53. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Prmitive Christianity", Jean Danielou, p. 95-96, 1958, Mentor edition 1962
  54. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iv. 22, § 5
  55. Contra Celsum," i. 57, vi. 11; in Matth. Comm. ser. xxxiii.; "Homil." xxv. in Lucam; "De Principiis," iv. 17.
  56. Jewish War 2.57-59
  57. Jewish Antiquities 17.273-277
  58. Jewish Antiquities 18.147-150
  59. Jewish Antiquities 17.278-284
  60. Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 1; death of sons in Antiquities 20.5.2 102. Also refereed to in Acts 5:37
  61. Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98
  62. Jewish War 2.259-263
  63. Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171
  64. appears periodically in Book IV, V, and VII of The Jewish War
  65. Turner, Gary H () When was Jesus born?
  66. Turner, Gary H () When was Jesus born?
  67. Holding, J. P. Shattering the Christ Myth, 277
  68. Houlden, J. L. Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia, Volume 1, 660
  69. Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Baker Academic, 2007, pp. 24–27.
  70. Raffaele, Paul "In John They Trust" Smithsonian magazine, February 2006. 18 Sept 2013
  71. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
  72. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
  73. Worsley, Peter (1957). The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of 'Cargo' Cults in Melanesia London: MacGibbon & Kee. pp. 153-9.
  74. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165
  75. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 169
  76. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 169
  77. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 169
  78. Dawson, 1998 Sociology of New Religious Movements; R Robertson (1975) Religious Movements and Modern Society; Blackhorn (1985) Death and Deification
  79. 79.0 79.1 Funk, (1996) Honest to Jesus
  80. Funk et al., The Five Gospels
  81. WP:Jewish_messianic_claimants#Before_the_Common_Era
  82. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  83. Cook, Edward M. (1994) Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Light on the Bible pg 84
  84. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24-52.
  85. Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-514182-2.
  86. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  87. Based mainly on internal evidence of order of writing, with a few correspondences to known history, c.f. [1]. R.G Price dates them to the end of the 1st century or early 2nd century (see The Amazing Colossal Apostie).
  88. Acts 9:20
  89. e.g., 1 Corinthians 14.
  90. Carrier in one of his lectures describes Revelation as s "Five hour acid trip so bizarre if you actually made it into a movie it would actually outdo Eraserhead for the title of ‘Most Annoying Weird Movie Ever Made’. It’s basically the ramblings of a guy who has an hours long conversation with the dead spirit of Jesus who appears in the form of fucked up mutant that makes John Carpenter’s The Thing look cuddly.” and in case you are wondering yes somebody did make it into a least twice--live action and animated
  91. Numerous scholars, most notably Martin Luther, believed Revelation should not be included in the main Bible for this reason.
  92. Crossan (1995) Who killed Jesus
  93. Mark alludes to the Siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. See Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 24-27.
  94. In Mark 5 and Luke 8, Jesus went to the country of the Gerasenes, transferred demons from a man into 2000 pigs, and drowned them in the sea. However, that was about 31 miles from Galilee, the nearest body of water. The King James translators realized his, and changed the location to “the country of the Gadarenes,” which was close to the sea. Later translators used the original. (Compare translations of Matthew 8:28 for different locations.) In Mark 10, Jesus said that a woman could divorce her husband, which was impossible in Palestine at that time.
  95. [2] has a good overview.
  96. 96.0 96.1 96.2 R.G. Price, 2007-01-03. "Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ".
  97. Wall (2010) Opening and Entering Mark (a discussion of the place and space in the Gospel of Mark)
  98. Duling, Dennis C. "The Gospel of Matthew"., in Aune, David E. (ed.) (2010). The Blackwell companion to the New Testament. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405108256.
  99. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" p. 266-268; Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament
  100. But who made a mistake in Luke 8 -Archive copy at the Wayback Machine “Did Jesus Even Exist?” by Frank Zindler
  101. Harris 1985 pp. 302–10. "John." 90-110 CE is the optimistic "traditional" date; the earliest fragment we have of John is the Rylands Library Papyrus 𝔓52, dated around 170 CE based on handwriting analysis (the library has not allowed a sample to be taken for carbon dating).
  102. Crossan, Who killed Jesus
  103. MD Mathews - Neotestamentica, 2010, Does the synoptic tradition resolve this synoptic relationship
  104. B.A. Robinson, 2003-10-03. "Translation errors and forgeries in the bible." Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
  105. e.g. JD Crossan, Historical Jesus, Life of a Jewish Peasant; A Schweitzer, Quest for the Historical Jesus; W. Blanton, Shadow of the Galilean.
  106. Richard Carrier. "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story." (6th ed., 2006)
  107. Carrier, Richard (2011) The Date of the Nativity in Luke (6th ed., 2011) Secular Web
  108. Reverend Kenny Nailimup THE TRIAL THAT NEVER TOOK PLACE
  109. Did Jesus Even Exist? (Carrier's Missouri State University lecture) YouTube
  110. Carrier, Richard (2011) "The Date of the Nativity in Luke (6th ed., 2011)"
  111. David Goodblatt's "Dating Documents in Herodian Judaea" in Herod and Augustus: Papers Presented at the IJS Conference, 21st-23rd June 2005
  112. see Aviram Oshri's "Where was Jesus Born?" in Volume 58 Number 6, November/December 2005 of Archaeology for more details on the Bethlehem of Zebulun idea.
  113. Irenaeus (c180 CE)Demonstration (74)
  114. See Robert M Price. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point," in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 80-81.
  115. Gelb, Norman (2010) Kings of the Jews: The Origins of the Jewish Nation pg 205
  116. Crossan, John Dominic (1996) Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story pg 94
  117. M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires (2007) "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" Islamic Awareness
  118. Bart Ehrman. Jesus Interrupted. 2009. pp153 - 155
  119. Ehrman (2009), p 153
  120. Matthew 21:10
  121. [3], Do Any First Century Historians Mention the Jesus of Christianity?
  122. e.g. Jesus ben Pandira, a miracle-working apocalyptic preacher executed 1st century BCE; Jesus ben Ananias, an apocalyptic preacher who died in the Siege of Jerusalem; Jesus ben Gamala, a politician advocating peace; Jesus ben Thebuth, a priest who sold precious artefacts from the Temple; Jesus ben Stada, a 2nd century CE agitator; Jesus ben Damneus, an early 1st century high priest mentioned in Josephus.
  123. John E. Remsburg. The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence. New York: The Truth Seeker Company, 1909.
  124. The Christ, chapter 2.
  125. Lendering, Jona "Pontius Pilate"
  126. Eusebius, The History of the Church, p50,52
  127. "Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist" time stamp 23:24 and 23:52
  128. Price, Robert (2003) Incredible Shrinking Son of Man pg 40)
  129. Carrier, Richard (2012) "Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic"
  130. Efrón, Joshua (1987) Studies on the Hasmonean Period Brill Academic Pub Page 158
  131. e.g. [4]
  132. [5], Testimonium Flavianum
  133. "Flavius Josephus." Catholic Encyclopedia. "Attempts have been made to refute the objections brought against this passage both for internal and external reasons, but the difficulty has not been definitively settled. The passage seems to suffer from repeated interpolations."
  134. [6], Josephus on Jesus: Forgery and Fraud?.
  135. [7], Eusebius of Caesarea forged Testimonium Flavianum.
  136. Bishop Warburton: "If a Jew owned the truth of Christianity, he must needs embrace it. We, therefore, certainly conclude that the paragraph where Josephus, who was as much a Jew as the religion of Moses could make him, is made to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, in terms as strong as words could do it, is a rank forgery, and a very stupid one, too." Quoted by Lardner, Works, Vol. I, chap. iv.
  137. The Rev. Dr. Giles, of the Established Church of England: "Those who are best acquainted with the character of Josephus, and the style of his writings, have no hesitation in condemning this passage as a forgery, interpolated in the text during the third century by some pious Christian, who was scandalized that so famous a writer as Josephus should have taken no notice of the gospels, or of Christ, their subject. But the zeal of the interpolator has outrun his discretion, for we might as well expect to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, as to find this notice of Christ among the Judaizing writings of Josephus. It is well known that this author was a zealous Jew, devoted to the laws of Moses and the traditions of his countrymen. How, then, could he have written that Jesus was the Christ? Such an admission would have proved him to be a Christian himself, in which case the passage under consideration, too long for a Jew, would have been far too short for a believer in the new religion, and thus the passage stands forth, like an ill-set jewel, contrasting most inharmoniously with everything around it. If it had been genuine, we might be sure that Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Chrysostom would have quoted it in their controversies with the Jews, and that Origen or Photius would have mentioned it. But Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian (I, ii), is the first who quotes it, and our reliance on the judgment or even honesty of this writer is not so great as to allow our considering everything found in his works as undoubtedly genuine." (Christian Records, p. 30)
  138. Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in Lost and Hostile Gospels: "This passage is first quoted by Eusebius (fl. A. D. 315) in two places (Hist. Eccl., lib. i, c. xi ; Demonst. Evang., lib. iii); but it was unknown to Justin Martyr (A. D. 140) Clement of Alexandria (A. D. 192), Tertullian (A. D. 193) and Origen (A. D. 230). Such a testimony would certainly have been produced by Justin in his apology or in his controversy with Trypho the Jew, had it existed in the copies of Josephus at his time. The silence of Origen is still more significant. Celsus, in his book against Christianity, introduces a Jew. Origen attacks the argument of Celsus and his Jew. He could not have failed to quote the words of Josephus, whose writings he knew, had the passage existed in the genuine text. He, indeed, distinctly affirms that Josephus did not believe in Christ (Contr. Cels. i)."
  139. "How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived." (translation by Gibbon, who really didn't like Eusebius)
  140. The Anointed One, Or The Ointment?
  141. Jewish War 2.57-59
  142. Jewish Antiquities 17.273-277
  143. Jewish Antiquities 17.278-284
  144. Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 1; death of sons in Antiquities 20.5.2 102. Also refereed to in Acts 5:37
  145. Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98
  146. Jewish War 2.259-263
  147. Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171
  148. appears periodically in Book IV, V, and VII of The Jewish War
  149. When Gessius Florus sent some priests that Josephus knew in chains to Rome (64 CE), he followed to petition the emperor [Nero] to release them. The emperor's consort, Poppea, introduced the 26 year old Jewish aristocrat to the imperial court & supported his cause. This successful mission left Josephus favorably impressed by the grandeur & power of Rome & with a first-hand familiarity with imperial circles that few of his contemporary Jews could match. By the time he returned to Jerusalem, however, the Jewish revolt had already begun (66 CE). (Josephus [37-ca 100 CE])
  150. Mason, Steve (2002) Josephus and the New Testament Baker Academic; 2 edition ISBN 978-0-8010-4700-8 pg 228
  151. Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. (2007) The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Baker Academic, pg 189
  152. Joshua ben Damneus (ie Jesus son of Damneus) (63); Joshua ben Gamaliel (63-64); Mattathias ben Theophilus (65-66); and Phannias ben Samuel (67-70)
  153. "The epistle in which the same Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, informs him of the death of Peter, and that he had left him his successor in his chair and teaching..." Recognitions (Preface)
  154. Richard Carrier. "Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.4 (Winter 2012).
  155. Drews, Arthur (1912) The Witness To The Historicity of Jesus, page 9 (London: Watts & Co., 1912)
  156. Drews, Arthur (1912) The Witness To The Historicity of Jesus, page 9 (London: Watts & Co., 1912)
  157. “Christs”
  158. Enough so for him to rate a Wikipedia article over the letter.
  159. Carrier, Richard (1999) Thallus: An Analysis
  160. Carrier, Richard (2011–12) "Thallus and the Darkness at Christ's Death" Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011–12) 185-91
  161. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Residential building from the time of Jesus exposed in Nazareth." (press release, 2009-12-21)
  162. "No “house from the time of Jesus” has been found at Nazareth"
  163. James Randi made a video clip "Questioning the Bible" in 2009 critically examining many things, including the existence of Nazareth. He concluded that Nazareth is a fictional site that did not exist at the time of Jesus, and that the current city of Nazareth is a tourist marketing site living off pseudoarcheology.
  164. Strong number 5139.
  165. "James" and "Jacob" are the same name in Hebrew.
  166. Michael Foust, 2003-07-25. "A fake? James Ossuary dealer arrested, suspected of forgery." Baptist Press.
  167. 167.0 167.1 Jim Walker, 2001-01-30. "Did a historical Jesus exist?"
  168. Complete text
  169. Reid, George (1913). "Acta Pilati". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  170. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1 by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and R. Mcl. Wilson (Dec 1, 1990) ISBN 066422721X pages 501-502
  171. Letter of Pilate to Tiberius" New Advent
  172. Houston, George (1827) The Correspondent Vol 1 pg 354-355.
  173. Clough, William Overton; (1880) Gesta Pilati University of Michigan ASIN: B0038QONFQ pgs 97-98
  174. Huidekoper, Frederic (1883) Indirect testimony of history of the genuineness of the Gospels. 4th ed pg pg 143-144
  175. M. R. James as given in Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 117
  176. Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha (1963 ed.) vol. 1 p. 445.
  177. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1 by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and R. Mcl. Wilson (Dec 1, 1990) ISBN 066422721X pages 501-502
  178. Doctrine of Addai
  179. Toledot Yeshu
  180. Princeton University, Toledot Yeshu
  181. The paramour Pandira. See Talmud Sanhedrin 67a
  182. Josephus Flavius, Antiquities 20:2:5.
  183. Meier, John. "Finding the Historical Jesus: An Interview With John P. Meier". St. Anthony Messenger. "...I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that people claim they are doing a quest for the historical Jesus when de facto they’re doing theology, albeit a theology that is indeed historically informed. Go all the way back to Reimarus, through Schleiermacher, all the way down the line through Bultmann, Kasemann, Bornkamm. These are basically people who are theologians, doing a more modern type of Christology [a faith-based study of Jesus Christ]..."
  184. Akenson, Donald (1998). Surpassing wonder: the invention of the Bible and the Talmuds. University of Chicago Press. pp. 539–555. "...The point I shall argue below is that, the agreed evidentiary practices of the historians of Yeshua, despite their best efforts, have not been those of sound historical practice..."
  185. Hector Avalos. The End Of Biblical Studies. Prometheus, 2007. ISBN 1591025362.
  186. e.g. [8], [9]
  187. Some are actual cranks, such as Acharya S. However, historicists who call mythicists "cranks" tend to go quiet when asked if they mean Richard Carrier.
  188. e.g. "There's More Evidence that Jesus Lived than x Person" Statements thread" at
  189. Robert Stewart, The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue p17
  190. M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires (2007) "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" Islamic Awareness
  191. Poliakoff, Michael B. (1987). Combat Sports in the Ancient World. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 117–119, 182–183. ISBN 0-300-03768-6 (cloth); 0-300-06312-1 (pbk.)
  192. Sawyer, Ralph D. (2005), The Essential Art of War, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-07204-6
  193. Diogenes Laërtius x. 7
  194. Nigosian, Solomon Alexander (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21627-3.
  195. Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  196. Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  197. Richard Carrier, 2002. "Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument to Ahistoricity (2002)"
  198. Jesus was a Carpenter Jesus Police via internet archive''
  199. Oxford University Press (2006) The Catholic Comparative New Testament pg 851-967.
  200. Goldberg, G. J (2001) "John the Baptist and Josephus"
  201. Di Renzo, A (2000) “His master's voice: Tiro and the rise of the roman secretarial class,” Journal of technical writing and communication, vol. 30, (2) 155-168
  202. Dupont, Florence. (1989) Daily Life in Ancient Rome Tr. Christopher Woodall. Oxford: Blackwell; pg 223
  203. e.g. [10]
  204. "Would someone die for a lie?" (
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