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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 (c. 6 BCE through c. 36 CE) source regarding Jesus is Paul of Tarsus who expressly states that he got his information through revelation, not any human being.[1]

The increasingly common view of Jesus among New Testament scholars as of 2007 is that "historical research can indeed disclose a core of historical facts about Jesus" but "the Jesus we find at this historical core is significantly different from the legendary view presented in the New Testament".[2] Some scholars have gone as far as to say there were several possible "Jesus" candidates with no indication of which (if any) is "the" historical Jesus.[3][4] Ironically, based on some of the definitions provided, [5][6][7] these could be said to qualify as Christ Myth Theory positions.

A small minority, past[8] and present,[9] 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".[10] In June 2014, Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-909697-49-2 became "the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review".[11]


[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. Even though history in general is sometimes classified as a social science[12] these sciences study human beings rather than the physical universe and are therefore more subject to confirmation bias than the physical sciences. As Carrier points out "Historicists have a lot of work to do before they can claim to have their house in order [...] They have routinely overstate what the evidence can actually prove, conflating conjectures with demonstrable facts almost as often as the mythicists do, and they lack anything like a coherent methodology"[13]

[edit] The two ends of the "historical Jesus" spectrum

The biggest problem with talking about evidence for historical existence of Jesus Christ is that there are two "historical" Jesus Christs forming the ends of a huge spectrum of hypothesis. Touched on by Remsberg in 1909[14] classified by Rudolf Bultmann in 1941 (and used by Richard Carrier in 2014)[15], and reiterated by Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall in 2004[16], these two ends (italics from original text) are:

  1. Reductive theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Nazareth): "Jesus was an ordinary but obscure individual who inspired a religious movement and copious legends about him" rather than being a totally fictitious creation like King Lear or Doctor Who'
  2. Triumphalist theory (Remsberg's Jesus of Bethlehem): "The Gospels are totally or almost totally true" rather than being works of imagination like those of King Arthur.

Marshall warns "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."[17]

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. As a result nearly all debates gravitate to the Triumphalist end of the spectrum; "Either side of the historicity debate will at times engage in a fallacy here, citing evidence supporting the reductive theory in defense of the triumphalist theory (as if that was valid), or citing the absurdity of the triumphalist theory as if this refuted the reductive theory (as if that were valid)"[18]

For example, Remsburg's 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, (which was improved upon in 2012 with the book No Meek Messiah, augmenting the number of "Silent Writers" to 146.[19]) often used by armchair Christ Myth proponents, was arguing against the Triumphalist-Jesus of Bethlehem and not against the Reductive-Jesus of Nazareth. Remsberg in fact, stated there were was just enough evidence to show that the Triumphalist-Jesus of Bethlehem was a historical myth on the "a real event distorted and numberless legends attached until but a small residuum of truth remains and the narrative is essentially false" side of that definition.[20] Remsburg was not saying Jesus the man didn't exist but rather the story of Jesus in the Gospels had no more historical reality than the stories of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, Davy Crockett and the Frozen Dawn, Jesse James and the Widow, or the many Penny Dreadful-Dime Novels starring people like Buffalo Bill, "Wild Bill" Hickok, and Annie Oakley.

Things are not much better for the 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.[21]

For example, it is claimed that the handful of early Christian churches "prove" "a man named Jesus existed as the leader of a religious movement" based on the theory is that people do not usually make up leaders for all that they aggrandize and mythologize them. That theory can be easily be shown to be nonsense with such counter examples as Ned Ludd and various Malaysian Cargo cults where this very thing happened.[22] Similarly, the 1982 and 1995 editions of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J use this "story of" definition for Christ Myth and make no comment regarding if Jesus the man is regarded as mythical.

Further, the existence of modern Christianity proves only that Paul of Tarsus — the man who revolutionized Christianity by pitching it to non-Jews — 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; 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,[23] 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.

The question that must be asked is: 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? If it is the latter (the Triumphalist end of the spectrum) then it can be disregard as having no more validity than using FDR: American Badass! as what FDR was like.

For the sake of simplicity this article will use Carrier's criteria for a minimal historical Jesus with regards to the evidence:

  1. An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death
  2. This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities
  3. This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshipping as a living god (or demigod)

"If any one of these premises is false, it can fairly be said there was no historical Jesus in any pertinent sense, And at least one of them must be false for any Jesus Myth theory to be true."[24]

"But notice that now we don't even require that is considered essential in many church creeds. For instance, it is not necessary that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Maybe he was, But even if we proved he wasn't that still does not vindicate mysticism. Because the 'real' Jesus may have been executed by Herod Antipas (as the Gospel of Peter in fact claims) or by Roman authorities in an earlier or later decade than Pilate (as some early Christians really did think) Some scholars even argue for an earlier century (and have some real evidence to cite)[25] ... My point at present is that even if we proved the founder of Christianity was executed by Herod the Great (not even by Romans, much less Pilate, and a whole forty years before the Gospels claim), as long as his name or nickname (whether assigned before or after his death) really was Jesus and his execution is the very thing spoken of as leading him to the status of the divine Christ venerated in the Epistles, I think it would be fair to say the mythicists are then simply wrong. I would say this even if Jesus was never really executed but only believed to have been Because even then it's still the same historical man being spoken of and worshiped."[26]

[edit] Reductive vs Triumphalist theory or debating the wrong Jesus

As noted before much of the debate regarding a historical Jesus mixes a possible flesh and blood Jesus with the Jesus of the Gospels. Note Carrier's criteria for a historical Jesus is quite broad and allows for possible time shifting for social-political reasons such as what happened with Robin Hood who instead of being in conflict with "King Edward" as in the earliest ballads was moved to the time of King Richard.

This actually gives one a lot of leeway. Points about Matthew and Luke being 10 years apart regarding the supposed birth of Jesus become less important than if one use a definition of a historical Jesus that requires following the Gospel account. Conversely there are many ways the criteria can fail even with a flesh and blood Jesus existing:

  • John Robertson's 1900 idea that the Gospel Jesus was a composite character or that a person inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, tried to preach his own version of Paul's teachings, and got killed for his troubles fails the criteria.
  • The idea expressed by Remsberg that there was a Jesus but his following wasn't an identifiable movement until Paul and later the writers of the Gospels got a hold of it also fails Carrier's criteria: "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."
  • G. A. Wells' Jesus Legend (1996) on with its mythical Paul Jesus + 1st century teacher who was not executed fails point 2 (they are not the same Jesus) so by Carrier's criteria is NOT a "historical Jesus in any pertinent sense" (This does explain Carrier's classification of this work as 'ahistoricitical')
  • Dan Barker's "Other skeptics deny that the Jesus character portrayed in the New Testament existed, but that there could have been a first century personality after whom the exaggerated myth was pattered." (2006 Losing Faith in Faith pg 372) would also fail Carrier's criteria as Baker's first century personality need not be named "Jesus" or if he was his movement was not identifiable until much later.

That said there are several Reductive-Triumphalist fallacies that must be mentioned.

[edit] Nazareth's existence and the trip to Bethlehem

The issue of Nazareth's existence in the 1st century is one of the most common Reductive-Triumphalist fallacies out there. The logic (if one can even dignify it as such) is that if Nazareth existed then so did Jesus and if it didn't exist neither did Jesus.

While it is true there are arguments regarding the existence of Nazareth in the 1st century, its existence (or nonexistence) wouldn't prove (or disprove) the existence of Jesus.[27] The existence of Nazareth no more proves Jesus existed than the existence of Atlanta, Georgia is evidence that Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara were real people.

Conversely, the non-existence of Nazareth does not prove Jesus didn't exist because as Carrier points out in On the Historicity of Jesus "Christians neither came from nor were based in Nazareth. So the word clearly meant something else."[28] In fact, the original term for Christians (Nazorian) has nothing to do with Nazareth as the words have totally different origins. It should be noted that some translations of Micah 5:2 make it clear that "Bethlehem" is reference to a group of people in Judea not a town as is claimed by apologists proving the whole town idea is on shaky ground.

It should be mentioned that in the time Jesus supposedly lived there were two Bethlehems; the Bethlehem of Zebulun (around 10 kilometres north-west of Nazareth and 30 kilometres east of Haifa ie in Galilee) and Bethlehem of Judea (8 kilometers south of Jerusalem). Aviram Oshri's "Where was Jesus Born?" in Volume 58 Number 6, November/December 2005 of Archaeology goes into the idea of Jesus being born in Bethlehem of Zebulun.

On both sides the existence of Nazareth argument is in regards to the Gospel Jesus rather than a hypothetical flesh and blood Jesus and is therefore pointless and in the end worthless.

[edit] Dates or Just what year is it?

One of the biggest problems with figuring out when an event occurred is that, in the past, there often was no standard method of denoting years. Instead, people tended to use regnal years (how long a sovereign had reigned) or Olympiads (four year periods 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), during the Middle Ages the start of the New Year changed from 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.

Thus, figuring out when an event happened 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.[29]

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 reign actually 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.[30]

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. From the above, it's clear that the claim that Herod died 1 BCE[31] is total nonsense, but yet the idea gets put out even though everything in Josephus shows the idea to be wrong. Again this is an effort to show the Gospel Jesus rather than a hypothetical ordinary flesh and blood Jesus existed.

On occasion the "star" of Bethlehem is presented as a reference for a possible date but there are several problems here. Only Matthew mentions this "star" and there is much debate over just what (if anything) this star was. Hypothesis range from a comet (Halley's Comet of 12 BCE is popular), a nova recorded by c. 5 BCE Chinese and Korean stargazers[32][33], a series of planetary conjunctions from 3 to 2 BCE, or a pious fiction.[34] As this rough sampling above show the dates, nature of the "star", and even its very existence are guess work and and so are totally useless at forming a date. Never mind that it is trying to prove the Gospel Jesus existed rather than a hypothetical ordinary flesh and blood Jesus.

[edit] Jesus of when?

One of the curious aspects of Jesus is not all sects of Christianity put his ministry and crucifixion in the 29-36 CE time period. Some sects argued that Jesus ministry and crucifixion was in the time of Alexander Jannaeus (103 BCE to 76 BCE) while other argued it was in the time of Claudius Caesar (ie after 41 CE)[35] Both alternative dates raise the question of how a supposedly well known and documented historical person could have such uncertainty about when he preached or was crucified.

The answer seems to be 'scriptural math'. Epiphanius indicates there may have been the assumption that the Messiah would come shortly after the last 'formal' king who could claim descent from David died and therefore that is when he placed him. Irenaeus argues in Against Heresies based on what would become the four canonical Gospels that Jesus had to be a minimum of 46 years old when crucified and expressly states this was by Herod "King of the Jews" (i.e. Herod Agrippa I) during the reign of Claudius Caesar in Demonstrations 74 with Pontius Pilate not only governor but bent to Herod's will by the mob.[36]

The closest parallel to this is with Robin Hood whose earliest surviving ballads have him in the reign of a King "Edward" but is eventually time shifted to the time of King Richard I and it is unclear if Robin Hood is based on a single person or is a composite of many English outlaws.

[edit] What qualifies as good evidence? Confirmation Bias and Pseudoscience

See: Historical method

There is a lot of confirmation bias and pseudoscience on both sides of the historical Jesus where the hypothesis is being used drive every aspect of the research to a predestined conclusion.[37] The sad thing is it may not even be the researcher's fault as the very model they use can determine what is "acceptable data"[38][39] One of the criticisms of Bible Studies is not only doesn't it properly follow the historical method but that it has some major systemic problems.[40] Christ Mythism on the other hand has this annoying habit of grabbing on any idea it regards as "evidence" and running with it...even if it makes no sense in the context of history (the December 25 thing for example).

[edit] Chrestus, Christ, Chrestians, and Christians

The assumption that "Chrestus" or "Christ" must refer to Jesus and "Chrestians" to his followers is a prime example of the confirmation bias issue on the historical Jesus side of the argument as demonstrated by the claim "Jesus is also mentioned in the writings of the three main Roman historical writers from the end of the first century CE — Pliny, Tacitus, and Suetonus."[41] In reality, none of these Roman historical writers mention Jesus by name, but refer rather to Chrestus, Christ, or Christians. To make this claim one must assume Chrestus and Christ must refer to Jesus and only to Jesus and that the existence of the movement means its creator also existed.

Not only was "Chrestus" a familiar personal name meaning "good" or "useful",[42][43], but it was also a name of the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis,[44] 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.[45][46]

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."[47] So the source is of questionable quality but it is basically all the historian has to work with so they are stuck with it.

Another problem is that Acts doesn't use the actual term "Christian" (i.e. 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 in these same works. Compounding matters is 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. Then you have the fact that Tiberius in 19 CE expelled Jewish and Egyptian worshipers from Rome[48] 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[49], a claim supported by the evidence.[50][51]

It has also been suggested that "Chrestus" refers to a would-be messiah unrelated to Jesus.[52] 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"[53][54]

Similarly there seems to be this assumption that every mention of "Christ" must refer to Jesus. This forgets that Christ is a title not a name! In fact, Origen states that a man named Dositheus used the title 'Christ' sometime around the 1st century CE[55] and the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and Homilies hints that Simon Magus many have used the title "Christ" as well. In fact, there were would be 'Messiahs'. 'Sons of Man', 'the Righ­teous Ones', and 'the Elect [or Chosen] Ones' (ie "christs") showing up all over first century CE Palestine[56][57]:

  • Dositheos the Samaritan (unknown, before Simon of Peraea[58][59] or after him[60]) According to Origen Dositheus pretended to be the Christ [61]
  • Judas, son of Hezekiah (4 BCE) [64]
  • Matthias, son of Margalothus (during time of Herod the Great)[65] - thought by some to be the "Theudas" referenced in Acts 5.
  • Athronges (c 3 CE)[66]
  • Judas of Galilee (6 CE)[67]
  • The Samaritan prophet (36 CE) killed by Pontius Pilate.[68]
  • Theudas the magician (between 44 and 46 CE)[69]
  • Egyptian Jew Messiah (between 52 and 58 CE). Supposedly led an army of 30,000 people in an attempt to take Jerusalem by force which the Romans drove back killing 400 and capturing 200.[70][71]
  • An anonymous prophet (59 CE)[72]
  • Menahem, the son of Judas the Galilean (66 CE) [73]
  • Jesus ben Ananias [Ananus] (66-70 CE) [74] Suggested by Carrier as being the raw template for the Jesus of "Mark"[75]
  • Menahem ben Judah (sometime between 66-73 CE)
  • John of Giscala (d c70 CE) [76]
  • Simon bar Giora (69-70 CE) [77]
  • Jonathan, the weaver (73 CE) [78]

And these are just the ones Josephus felt were important enough to mention. There was even a "Christ" (Simon bar Kokhba) in the 130s.

Therefore Pliny the Younger's letter regarding followers of "Christ" need not denote followers of Jesus but could be regarding follows of some of other guy who took op the title of "Christ" In fact, the word χριστω (christ) appears in the Old Testament[79] but is translated literally as "anointed" or "anointed one" in many English Bible to hide this.[80]

Never mind that as the cargo cults in general and John Frum show not only does a religious cult need not need a founder but the cult can latch on to the idea a person founded their religion regardless of that person actually doing so such as is the case with the Rusefel (Roosevelt) and Johnson Cargo Cults.

[edit] Euhemerism as a view of history

Perhaps the greatest confirmation bias issue is the idea that the people of the Roman empire in general and Palatine in particular were just like us in terms of skepticism with regard to history and claims of supernatual events.

The reality is quite different. 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 [81] "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."[82]

The statement "Osiris, Attis, Adonis were men. They died as men; they rose as gods."[83] captures this mind set perfectly. This is reflected in Clement of Alexandria's triumphant cry in Cohortatio ad gentes of "Those to whom you bow were once men like yourselves". "Thus Euhemerism became a favorite weapon of the Christian polemicists, a weapon they made use of at every turn"[84]

In fact, both Herodotus and Euhemerus stated that Zeus had actually been a mortal king (Euhemerus said he was buried on Crete)[85][86], Plutarch (c46 – 120 CE) sought to pin "Osiris down as an ancient king of Egypt"[87], 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 [88] 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."[89]

If Zeus, Osiris, and Hercules were viewed as once living people by the educated then the go to for the fantastic stories of Jesus would have been that Jesus had been a living person and the stories simply exaggerations; the very idea that Jesus might nothing more than hallucination with no real person behind him would never occur to one with such a view. Carrier goes over Euhemerism as Element 45 in On the Historicity of Jesus.[90]

As far a skepticism goes, 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 instil doubt in his followers. [91]

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 as mentioned before you had would be 'Messiah's. 'Sons of Man', 'the Righteous Ones', and 'the Elect [or Chosen] Ones' (ie "christs") showing up all over first century CE Palestine[92][93].

[edit] Criterion of Embarrassment

One of the arguments that comes from apologists is the Criterion of Embarrassment.

The basic argument is “since Christian authors would not invent anything that would embarrass them, anything embarrassing in the tradition must be true.”[94] As Carrier points out the moment you apply this to any other mythical story the total absurdity of the position becomes obvious. For example, compare the astonishing stupidity of the Disciples to the equally unrealistic stupidity of the crew of Odysseus in the Odyssey and you quickly see that efforts at trying to portray moral or doctrinal or symbolic truth can just as easily result in embarrassing things in the narrative. In fact, as the Odyssey example shows this Criterion of Embarrassment argument is not used in historical arguments outside Biblical studies and being a nonstandard "special case" that only applies to this narrow sub-genre immediately invalidates it per the historical method.

[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.[95]
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.[96]

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 confirmation bias 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."[97]

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.[98]
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."[99]

[edit] More reliable than Homer? Text vs history

A particularly annoying argument by apologists that pops up from time to time seeks to confuse textual accuracy with historical reliability and tends to get mixed in with the 'Jesus is more historical than ancient person or event' argument.

The claim is along the lines of "over 5000 distinct pieces of evidence for Jesus" is often presented[100]). Examples of this are Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in their book [7] 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.

Furthermore the printing press from 1436 on allowed the production of perfect copies of fantastical and now known to be totally fictitious material. Finally, as "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" by Islamic Awareness shows the argument is deceptive in many ways: [101]

  • 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.
  • 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[102]
  • 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!

More over we have evidence there was editorial 'meddling' as shown with textual variants, interpolations and rearranged passage sequences.[103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110]

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 canonical 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 (nicknamed 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. Some Christ mythers have used the fact there are no original copies of most documents to claim that what little there is about Jesus are forgeries and-or interpolations -- some to the point of claiming that Paul himself was a fictional creation.

To be fair these Christian copyists did preserve the records of an 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. Texts had their titles inscribed on page edges or on the first page of the book, and those titles often said little about the contents of the text. Worst of all the "library" was more often than not a spare room where anything extra got dumped a "medieval Higgledy-piggledy" as Burke puts it. Burke's example, 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 it is clear why the claim Christians were actively destroying what had been saved from the collapse of Rome is insane...odds are they didn't know what they had 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". And even then some works were missed; for example, Books IV–X of Hippolytus's Refutation of all Heresies was found in a monastery of Mount Athos in 1842!

That all said there are some really peculiar gaps in what the Christians took the trouble to preserve and has come down to us. The more notable of these missing records are:

  • On Superstition by Seneca the Younger c40 - c62: covered every cult in Rome and yet the only reason we know it did NOT talk about Christianity at all is Augustine in the 4th century complained about it; which if it was closer to the 40 than the 62 doesn't make sense.
  • Three of the five books that made up Philo's Embassy to Gaius (c40 CE): the volume that covered Pontius Pilate's rule of Judea in detail at best survives as mangled fragments.[111]
  • Clovius Rufus' detailed history of Nero
  • Pliny the Elder's history of Rome from 31 to then present day (sometime before his death in 79) with a volume for each year
  • Annals of Tacitus: entire section covering 29-31 CE
  • Cassius Dio's Roman History - sections covering 6 to 2 BC and 30 CE

As Carrier mentions you have this pattern of missing works that raises a few eyebrows the more you look at it.[112]

[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.[113][114][115] 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] When Jesus Myth and Historical Jesus collide

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

Carrier states regarding the plugging of a mythical person into history "the same thing happened in Melanesian Cargo Cults, which still revere completely mythical heroes who were nevertheless quite rapidly placed in history and believed to be real (most famously 'Tom Navy' and 'John Frum'), again within decades of their supposed appearance." [116]

"Further supporting the previous element is the fact that what are now called 'Cargo Cults' are the modern movement most culturally and socially similar to earliest Christianity, so much so that Christianity is best understood in light of them."[117]

However, if you examine the John Frum cargo cult in particular one can see possibly of one or more inspired believers deciding to become Jesus even if Jesus originally started out as nothing more than a celestial being.

In the period from 1940 to 1947 not only were there three illiterate natives who took up the name John Frum (Manehevi (1940-41), Neloaig (1943, inspired people to build an airstrip) and Iokaeye (1947, preached a new color symbolism) and were exiled or thrown into jail for the trouble they stirred up but there were also three people saying they were the "sons" of John Frum in 1942.[118] And as early as 1949 there were people saying the "origin of the movement or the cause started more than thirty years ago" ie in the 1910s. To further complicate matters Tom Navy is thought by some to be based in part on Tom Beatty of Mississippi, who served in the New Hebrides both as a missionary, and as a Navy Seabee during the war.

So it is well with in reason as John Robertson implied in 1900 that one or more people inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, preached their own view of Paul's message, and possibly got killed for it. It is one way to read Paul's 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 warning 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"

Alternatively, Ralph Ellis has proposed that Jesus was a real king and the gospel account and mythology was weaved around the life of this historical monarch. Ralph Ellis claims that Jesus was a known 1st century king of Edessa. [119] According to Ellis the prophesied name EmManuel for Jesus was based upon his real name, King Manu of Edessa. He also claims that the plaited crown of thorns was a description of the standard Edessan crown, which is plaited and has projections along its ridge. This author then indicates that the real life of this warrior monarch was so different to the manufactured gospel version on his life, that the two characters had to be separated.

[edit] Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern

Every so often Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is presented as "evidence" that Jesus is a philosophical myth. The flaw here is it can be shown that known historical people can score high on Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern and known fictional characters come in on par with known historical figures of antiquity. For example, Tsar Nicholas II comes in at 14[120] or higher than the Jesus described in Mark (11) or John (13) or even Apollo (11). Similarly, Anakin Skywalker gets a 10.5[121] or roughly on par with Augustus Caesar (10). For reference, King Arthur and Robin Hood whose historical existence is debated scored 19 and 13 respectively.

So the Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is not definitive proof of a character being a philosophical myth.

[edit] Fictional or Fictionalized Paul?

Some versions of the Christ Myth theory (such as Kenneth Humphreys'[122]) suggest that Paul was a fictional person.

While it can be shown that Acts is a literary creation where at best "maybe there was some authentic source material behind some of what appears in Acts somewhere" [sic] [123] it doesn't logically follow that Paul himself was a fictional creation (one need only read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or watch FDR: American Badass! to see the flaw in that argument).

As related below Epistle Paul brings so little to the pro historical Jesus argument that claiming he is fictional makes little sense. If anything, claiming Paul is a fictional creation smacks of the kind of Illuminati level conspiracy theory nonsense seen in Joseph Wheless' 1930 Forgery In Christianity and makes the idea that Jesus was philosophical myth that much harder to accept.

[edit] Primary (Biblical-Christian) evidence

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,[124] 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.[125][126] 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[127] and he probably ticked off the wrong people and found himself dead.[125] It is likely the rest is highly embellished, made up, or recycled from other mythology.

The main problem with Primary evidence is two fold. First, "(a) We have no credible or explicit record of what happened with the Christian movement between 64 and 95 CE (or possibly even as late as 110 CE). And (b) unlike almost any other cult we might consider for comparison, we know the leadership of the Christian church has been catastrophically decimated by the beginning of that period" [128]. Second, "in Jewish and pagan antiquity, in matter of religious persuasion, fabricating stories was the norm, not the exception, even in the introduction of narrative purporting to be true." [129]

This makes 120 CE as a practical cut off point because "after that time we can't reasonably expect there to have been any surviving witness in the original decade of the cult's creation (in the 30 CE), due to the the limits of life expectancy (Element 22)" and "the quantity of bogus literature about Jesus and early Christianity exploded to an immense scope, making the task of sorting truth from fiction effectively impossible (Element 44)"[130] Of the Primary writings only Paul's seven letters, a supposed letter of Clement of Rome, and the writings of Ignatius fall before this critical c 120 CE cutoff date. After that date the only writings that of any possible use are the writings of Papias and Hegesippus somewhere between 120 and 180 CE. All writings after "this are so rife with legend and dogma as to be useless" in determining the historicity of Jesus.[131]

So this eliminates things like the Letters to King Abgarus of Edessa (4th century) and Toledot Yeshu (6th century) from consideration as they are far too late to be of any use.

A key point to remember is that all Christian work was propaganda; it was designed to portray Jesus, his supporters, his enemies, the Jewish community of the time, and the Romans in a particular way. Even largely historical accurate (for the time) propaganda like Frank Capra's Why we Fight series has is distortions, half-truths, omissions, and outright lies and then you have the totally fictitious propaganda like 1567 A Discovery and plain Declaration of the Sundry Subtill practices of the Holy Inquisition Of Spain, the 1927 Tanaka Memorial, and the infamous 1903 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Only by comparing with known history and with the structure of other works of the time can one assess where a work falls on this spectrum of propaganda.

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

When talking about the dates assigned to Acts, the Gospels, and Paul's writings (ie Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon) one must keep the concept of provenance (the place of origin or earliest known history of something) in mind.

No original texts of any part of the New Testament or supporting documents exist, only copies and many of these copies are fragments; this has resulted in some Christ Myth theorists in claiming most works are out and out forgeries and Christianity is more recent than apologists claim. However, in the absence of reference to historical known events in the manuscript the arts of Textual and Historical criticism as well as paleography are used for dating purposes.

Paleographic dating deals with the forms and processes of writing NOT the textual content of documents. As a result, paleographic dating is considered "last resort dating" and at best has a 50 year range and "the "rule of thumb" should probably be to avoid dating a hand more precisely than a range of at least seventy or eighty years."[132] In an 2005 e-mail addendum to his 1996 "The Paleographical Dating of P-46" paper Bruce W. Griffin stated "Until more rigorous methodologies are developed, it is difficult to construct a 95% confidence interval for NT manuscripts without allowing a century for an assigned date."[133] William M Schniedewind went even further in the abstract to his 2005 paper "Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions" and stated that "The so-called science of paleography often relies on circular reasoning because there is insufficient data to draw precise conclusion about dating. Scholars also tend to oversimplify diachronic development, assuming models of simplicity rather than complexity".[134]

Occasionally Carbon-14 dates in relationship with the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran caves) library are produced as evidence of older dates. There are two problems here. First, no work of the New Testament with dates older than 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. In fact, Carbon-14 dates follow the 68–95–99.7 rule so double the range to two standard deviation (2σ) gets you to 95% chance and tripling the the range to three standard deviation (3σ) gets you to 99.7% chance.

So the 151 BCE +- 233 @ 1σ range (ie estimated range of 385 BCE to 82 CE with a 68% accuracy rate)[135]sometimes given becomes 151 CE ± 466 2σ for 95% and 151 CE ± 699 3σ for 99.7%

A good rule of thumb here is if either a paleographic or C14 date doesn't have at least the range be distrustful of it. The Nag Hammadi Library find may also come up — but it is from the 3rd to 4th centuries, and is thus useless in terms of provenance, as there are older works.

Since grammar, syntax, and rhythm helps denote the period a piece likely originated from Textual and Historical criticism are more helpful in determining when a work was originally written. For example, if someone in the 1990s hand copied a work from the 19th century then paleographic dating would say it came from the 20th century but Textual and Historical criticism would show the work the copyist used was from the 19th. However what we have are copies of copies which distorts and limits the temporal placement of the hypothetical original documents.

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


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."[136]

Egerton Papyrus 2 (150-200) - a collection of four stories which have no equivalent in any known Gospel[137]: 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[138] 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 canonical 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 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.

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 canonical Gospels so we know that they had to exist in some form before that date. 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. As John Frum shows this is more than enough time for any potential real founder to be eradicated from oral tradition to be replaced by one better suited to the cult's views.

[edit] Acts as a historical document

"The book of Acts has been all but discredited as a work of apologetic historical fiction."[139] The best one can hope is that "maybe there was some authentic source material behind some of what appears in Acts, somewhere" [sic][140]. However, Acts resembles so many non-canonical works that obviously are not historical either (such as Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul, Acts of Andrews, Acts of John, and Acts of Thomas) and has a structure exactly like a novel of the period[141] that even that hope sputters and dies.

Not only is Acts filled with historical fantasy regarding the behavior of the Romans and Jews, but nearly everyone seen in Luke simply vanishes from the record, and when it comes to Paul's actual "trial transcripts" the detailed Jesus of Luke also vanishes to be replaced by the vague Jesus of the epistles[142]

At best, Acts is nothing more than the ancient equivalent of a penny-dreadful or dime novel starring people like Buffalo Bill, "Wild Bill" Hickok, and Annie Oakley and when it comes to Jesus himself there is no more than in the epistles.

[edit] Gospels as historical documents

It must be remembered that the four canonical Gospels were selected by one particular sect of Christianity as "proper" and all others labeled heresy c180 CE in Against Heresies and 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.

Against Heresies is also our first reference to the canonical Gospels that provides extensive quotes of them and it is nearly 150 years after the supposed events and some 50 to 110 years after the Gospels are thought to have been written down.

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;[143] since they were not witnesses to any of the events, their works must be read as second-hand knowledge only. Also the works were originally anonymous with names added far later.

Gross geographical and cultural errors suggest the author of Mark (after 70 CE[144]) had never visited and knew very little about Palestine.[145][146][147][148] The authors of Matthew (end of 1st century[149]) and Luke (end of 1st century[150] to as late as 115 CE[151]) got most of their info from Mark (Luke appearing to be a local, correcting errors of customs in Mark,[152] and who also wrote about Paul in Acts of the Apostles) and the hypothetical lost Q gospel,[153] often copying Mark verbatim. John was synthesized later, based on the same story but rewritten some where between 100 and 140 CE.[154]

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. But 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.

More over there is no agreement on what is the earliest gospel or how they came into being. There is Marcan priority (Mark first) with four main sub-theories, Matthaean priority (Matthew first) with two main main sub-theories, Lucan priority (Luke first), and finally the No Gospel with its Multi‑source, Proto‑gospel, and Independence theories. While Two‑source Marcan priority is the most popular the fact there are other theories among scholars shows there are questions about the theory.

[edit] Paul

Note: for simplicity this section accepts only Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon as "to be authentically written by the apostle Paul in or around the 50s." "The remaining letters do indeed deviate too greatly from Pauline style to be his hand or even his dictation" and concludes from this that they are forgeries and therefore cannot provide any information for the historicity of Jesus.[155]

The earliest writings about Jesus — traditionally dated[156] 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.[157] 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, but as John Frum cult shows even the mention of James (the Just) as Jesus' brother doesn't mean much as 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.

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.[158] The whole book of Revelation, for example, is a veritable acid trip,[159] and yet it got into the Bible as an authoritative document.[160] 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 (53 to 57 CE) 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" but it is not clear if Paul meant there were others using the name "Jesus" preaching their own gospel or if there were variant teachings in general.

[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. [161] 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. [147] This includes well documented records from the Romans regarding criminal activities and crucifixion records.[162] "Jesus" (or "Yeshu" or "Yeshua" or "Joshua") was a very common name, with many contemporary troublemaking preachers of that name.[163] But even with that in mind, nothing of relevance seems to exist.

[edit] The Curious Case of Philo-Judaeus

In nearly every list of people who should have mentioned Jesus but didn't appears Philo-Judaeus (sometimes known as Philo of Alexandria). Born c 20 BCE and died c. 50 CE Philo had strong connection to both the Priesthood in Judea and Herodian Dynasty so even if he himself didn't live in Jerusalem he had communication with those who did.

As Carrier notes there is a strange gap in the surviving writings of Philo. His Embassy to Gaius (c40 CE) originally covered five books and yet only two survive. Interesting, one of those volumes covered in detail Pontius Pilate's rule of Judea and yet other than somewhat mangled fragments nothing of this work has survived.[164] and the little Herod Agrippa writes about the poor leadership of Pontius Pilate (in an effort secure his grandfather's old kingdom for himself) that still exists in Philo says nothing about Pilate trying to placate a Jewish mob by offering to free the killer of Roman citizens or that there were followers of a crucified seditionist in the area.

Moreover, 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 echoes Matthew 27:27-29. Yet no similarity to the Jesus story is noted.

Not that any of this stopped Christians from spinning nonsensical tales about Philo knowing about Jesus long after the fact. On such example is Eusebius who 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." [165] As if to compound this piece of blatant nonsense in his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius identifies the Therapeutae as the first Christian monks despite Philo in The Contemplative Life writing about them but saying nothing about them being Christian. Epiphanius of Salamis calls the Therapeutae "Jessaens" and similarly identifies them as a Christian group.

More over 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 Richard Carrier in the Jesus of Nazareth: Man or Myth? A Discussion with Zeba Crook and Richard Carrier :

"Philo of Alexandria Tells us:

(Confusion of Tongues 62-63, 146-47; On Dreams 1.215, etc)

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 <--Hebrews 2:17 4:14, etc [166]

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". And to top it off we are asked to believe that the Christian copiers did not take pains to preserve the main volume of Philo's work that would have covered the time of Jesus' ministry and formally documented their founder's life.

So the apologists have this Catch-22 of explaining why if (as they claim) Philo had no reason to know of Jesus why 4th century Christians were saying not only did Philo write "a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt" but met Peter and "not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day" while the one work that would have supported all this some how got lost.

[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] Apologists' evidence

The following is a list of common evidence provided by apologists[167] 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

See: Josephus on Jesus

The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius is claimed to be earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus. However there is much debate regarding two supposed passages in Antiquities of the Jews. There is agreement that the first passage, the Testimonium Flavianum, has been tampered with by Christian copyists but none on how much. Some skeptics claim the entire paragraph is an interpolation by Eusebius in the 4th century while apologists claim that part of the passage is genuine. The second passage in reference to James brother of Jesus is also debated though not as hotly. Even if both supposed passages were genuine Josephus was not an eyewitness and at 94 CE the passage was written minimum of 58 years or nearly three generations after Jesus was supposedly crucified.

[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 if 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"[168] who were being followed by some Jews who thought they had found the messiah.

An important fact often ignored is Roman culture of this time of had the concepts of numen ("divinity", "divine presence", or "divine will." depending on context) and genius loci (guardian spirit) and the Emperor was worshiped as both rather than as a deus (deity). The closest modern term is the Japanese kami and this means that the worship Pliny describes could have been to a deus (actually to a deity), a numen (on par with archangels and saints), or a genius loci (akin to a guardian angel)

"Note that Pliny's hesitant phrase 'as if to a God' (quasi deo) could reflect his response to the exoteric myth (if his Christian informants were simply repeating the Gospels in which Jesus allegorically presented as a historical man) or the esoteric one (Jesus then being confusingly explained to him as a celestial archangel or demigod they pray to, but not exactly to 'God'). It could also be a textual corruption, as there is some external evidence Pliny may have originally written Christo et Deo, 'to Christ and God' or Christo ut Deo 'to Christ as God' See Doherty, Jesus: Neither God nor Man pg 640" [169]

The idea possible textual corruption is demonstrated in Tertullian who refence to this passage says ad canendum Christo ut deo. It should be also be noted that the actual phrase quasi deo is sometimes translated as 'as to a God'[170]

An important detail not normally mentioned is the fact that Pliny and Tacitus were close friends, corresponded with each other regularly, and were even governing adjacent provinces at the very time Pliny wrote his letter.[171]

So with Pliny we have translation issues, possible transcription issues, and the possibly Pliny misunderstood what the Christians and-or Tacitus was telling him. Even if ignore all that at best 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 Chrestians. Their founder, one Christ, 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.

Even assuming the passage is totally genuine, due to two fires it is unlikely Tacitus had much in the way of official documents to work with and equally unlikely that he would sift through what he did have to find the record of an obscure crucifixion; so likely Tacitus was repeating an urban myth whose source was likely the Christians themselves.[172]

However, there is much to question the validity of the passage. There is no other historical confirmation that Nero persecuted Christians...not even in Christian works after Tacitus such as The apocryphal Acts of Paul (c. 160 CE) which has Nero burning Christians to death around the death of Paul (i.e., 67 CE) and "The Acts of Peter" (late 2nd century CE) which claims Nero considered to "destroy all those brethren who had been made disciples by Peter" but had a dream after Peter's death (either 64 or 67 CE) which said 'you cannot now persecute or destroy the servants of Christ.' and a frightened Nero 'kept away from the disciples . . . and thereafter the brethren kept together with one accord . . .'.

In fact, it isn't until Sulpicius Severus c. 400 CE that the Christians themselves start writing about Nero persecuting them for the burning of Rome. Moreover, 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. Furthermore, Seneca the Younger's lost On Superstition didn't even mention Christianity according to Augustine in the 4th century.

So not only do non-Christians who were in Rome at the time not notice Nero's persecution of Christians for the burning of Rome, but the Christians themselves appear to be unaware of it as well and instead give two wildly contradictory accounts--either Nero killed Christians with Paul some three years after the fire, or he had a dream resulting him leaving them alone which could have been as early as 64...the year of the fire. The passage is therefore highly suspect and adds virtually no evidence even for early Christianity. In fact, Richard Carrier in "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44" Vigiliae Christianae, Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 264 – 283 (an earlier and more detailed version appears in Hitler Homer Bible Christ) shows strong evidence that the passage is an interpolation, And if that wasn't enough we have proof the earliest copy of Tacitus we have has been tampered with.

[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] Suetonius

A Roman historian born in 69 CE in his Twelve Caesars (also known as Lives of the 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 than 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 goes as follows:

During his reign many abuses were severely punished and put down, and no fewer new laws were made: a limit was set to expenditures; the public banquets were confined to a distribution of food; the sale of any kind of cooked viands in the taverns was forbidden, with the exception of pulse and vegetables, whereas before every sort of dainty was exposed for sale. Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. He put an end to the diversions of the chariot drivers, who from immunity of long standing claimed the right of ranging at large and amusing themselves by cheating and robbing the people. The pantomimic actors and their partisans were banished from the city."

Tertullian claimed 'We read the lives of the Cæsars: At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising faith."

But that is NOT what Suetonius says in this passage. Rather Christians are just one of the "many abuses were severely punished and put down" ie part of a general house cleaning of Rome. The passage gives no indication any of the groups were killed and only in the case of the pantomimic actor and their partisans are we even told what the punishment inflicted even was (banishment in their case). The Christians could have simply been driven from Rome as had been the case with Jewish and Egyptian worshipers under Tiberius in 19 CE[173]. Their lands and wealth could have been confiscated for the good of the state or they may have been enslaved or many other non bloody ways of punishment.

Tertullian is (surprise, surprise) claiming something that is NOT in the material he is citing.

Moreover 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. Then you have, as mentioned before, Josephus and Pliny the Elder making no mention of Christians when in Rome in Nero's time. Finally, as also mentioned before the Christens who wrote "The Acts of Peter" (late 2nd century CE) claimed thanks to a vision Nero left them alone in Rome from as early as 64 onwards.

Again 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 than the gospels and even less useful as an eyewitness reference.

A handful of people point to the Teacher of Righteousness of the Dead Sea Scrolls as the source for the Talmud Jesus but there is not much on the Teacher of Righteousness available to the non scholar to confirm such a connection.

[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[174][175]

[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. "Every other author is much too late to be relevant--Celsus, Lucian, and Mara bar Serapion, e.g. all wrote in the 150s or later, and no other non-Christian text mentioning Jesus predates them"[176]

[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 direct relevant archaeological evidence that Jesus existed and no indirect evidence is relevant to determining historicity"[177] In any case as Reuben Thorpe's "Which way is up? Context formation and transformation: The life and deaths of a hot bath in Beirut" (Assemblage 1998) points out there are serious issues with how stratigraphy is used as a dating tool in the Middle East. Thorpe concluded that archaeological methodology as it is practiced in the Middle East "fails to address deposit, site and stratigraphic complexity adequately." To be fair to Middle Eastern archeology Åsa Berggren's "The relevance of stratigraphy" American Antiquity, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Jul., 2003), pp. 421-434 went further showing a major problem with how field work was being done across the world.

[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,[178] 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.[179] Sadly, even with evidence it is a fake, believers still sometimes cite it as evidence for a historical Jesus.[180]

[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.[180]

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[181] 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,[182] 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)[183][184] and another where it is addressed to Claudius (41 CE)[185][186][187][188]

Eusebius comments on "Letters of Pilate" being referred to by Justin and Tertullian while also noting an anti-Christian text called Acts of Pilate.[189]

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.[190]

[edit] Common objections about questioning the historical Jesus

[edit] "Most scholars think Jesus existed"

As stated above, arguments regarding Jesus as a historical person tend to improperly mix reductive and triumphalist theories. So instead of debating the existence of an ordinary man one gets a lot of nonsense about miracles, earthquake, and darkness (any argument involving Thallos).

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.[191] 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"[192]

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.[193] 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.[21]

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.[194] To be fair there is as much or even more nonsense on the Christ Myth side of things but trying to say people like Robert M Price and Richard Carrier are on in the same class as Acharya S. or Joseph Wheless is at best an insult.

As Richard Carrier correctly points there is a large variety of material on both sides of the historicity argument ranging from the absurd to the somewhat reasonable. The problem on the mythicist side is that most of the theories involve great amount of elaborations making the theory more complicated than it needs to be. The problem on the historical side of things is "arguing there are flaws (mostly flaws of exaggeration) in the scholarship of the mythicists, yet without demonstrating that any of these flaws are actually relevant."[195]

[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'".[196]

Regarding this position Richard Carrier in one of his blogs states

Just FYI, most experts are historicity agnostics about Aesop and Zoroaster, and odds favor non-existence for both.

Meanwhile, many scholars are agnostic about Homer and Pythagoras (the latter is outside our ability to know, while every expert agrees no one author composed the works of Homer any more than one author composed Genesis, so the historicity of Homer is on the same level as “the author of Genesis”: obviously such an author existed, since the text didn’t write itself, but there was more than one of them over centuries, and we know nothing about them).

Similarly, all experts agree no one person lies behind the writings of “Hippocrates” and we know nothing reliable about “Democritus,” only that he wrote some things that were later quoted and talked about–which entails someone wrote those things, regardless of their name, so “Democritus” is as good a stand-in term for them as anything.

Likewise the evidence for Epicurus is a bit better than we have for Jesus (e.g., unlike Jesus, we have the actual writings of Epicurus himself.)

And so on.

So you really don’t get anywhere with an argument like this. Especially since no good case for the non-existence of Jesus rests on our merely not having records of him.[197]

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 (It should be noted that this sometimes mixed with the more accurate than Homer argument).

Sun Tzu (Sun Wu) (544–496 BCE?): his very existence is debated in scholarly circles [198] 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).[199]

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

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)[200]: 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. Additionally there are known contemporary accounts that survive: Isocrates, Demosthenes, Aeschines, Hyperides, Dinarchus, Theocritus, Theophrastus, and Menander.[201] And on top off all that there are the contemporary inscriptions and coins.

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): Contrary to the picture some apologists like to point there are non-Muslim references by people who would have been contemporary with Muhammad. The earliest is the personal notes of an unnamed monk c 636 CE mixed in with his copying of the gospels that talks of the "many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Mụhammad and a great number of people were killed and captives"[202] and in 661 CE Sebeos writes about Mụhammad and it is believed to be an eyewitness to many of the events he recorded. As if that wasn't enough,, the Quran and other writings about Muhammad can be traced to identifiable people who actually were with him during his lifetime (as in the case of Alexander the Great).[203]

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.

"A viable theory of historicity for Jesus must therefore instead resemble a theory of historicity for Apollonius of Tyana or Musonin Rufus or Judas the Galilean (to list a few very famous men who escaped the expected record more or less the same degree Jesus did.)"[204]

[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[205][206][207][208][209][210] they are either ignorant of just how much material evidence there is for the Holocaust or making a strawman.

For the record there were 3,000 tons of truly contemporary (i.e. between 1938-1945) records presented at the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials.[211] 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.[212]

It is an emotional argument and a totally unfair one as Jesus to the best of our knowledge never had the quantity or quality of evidence that shows the Holocaust happened.

[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. 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 on the problems with this view:

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.[213]

In one of his blogs Carrier spelled out the problem:

It is also problematic to claim Jesus was a nobody. I grant that’s an out. But it comes with consequences. Because if it’s so, you are conceding the Gospels are lying (egregiously…and evidently, successfully) and that Jesus never said or did anything in life that would inspire fanatical worshipers or warrant anyone considering him worth dying for–because nothing Jesus ever said or did in life is ever relevant to the gospel preached anywhere in the authentic letters of Paul…which begs the question how he convinced anyone he was the Messiah and Savior who would soon return on clouds of glory if he never said or did anything anyone thought impressive enough to ever discuss until a lifetime later.[214]

So this line of reasoning creates the issue of how did such a supposedly minor person get elevated to the status of the character in the Gospels and if Acts 7-9 is to be believed had supposedly had inspired followers in three provinces (Galilee, Samaria, and Judea) by 37 CE?[215] Similar, if the Gospels are Acts are wild propaganda then how can anything they stated about Jesus or his following be regarded as history?

[edit] The majority of the people Jesus preached to were illiterate

One hypothesis that comes up with regards to the nonexistence of truly contemporary evidence for Jesus is that he preached to people who were illiterate.

The problem with this idea is it is basically ad hoc (i.e. untestable). There is no agreement on the literacy level of the Roman Empire in general (ranging from 5% to 30%) or Palestine in particular. In fact, there is argument that the Roman Empire in general and Palestine in a particular was far more literate than once supposed[216][217][218]

But even if Palestine was more literate there is still the issue of any contemporary writing of Jesus' actions and deeds either surviving the elements and two revolts that followed 36 CE or being copied by someone else.

[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?"[219] 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)[220]

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 category. 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. Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25
  3. Is This Not the Carpenter?: The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus, Ed. By Thomas L. Thompson and Thomas S. Verenna, 2012
  4. Philip Davies' article Does Jesus Exist? at bibleinterp.com
  5. Robertson, Archibald (1946) Jesus: Myth Or History
  6. Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85
  7. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J 1982, 1995 by Geoffrey W. Bromiley
  8. Bruno Bauer (19th century German Biblical historian), George Wells (20th century historian of Germany)
  9. scholars Richard Carrier (historian), Robert M. Price (theologian), and author Earl Doherty (writer),
  10. Fischer, Roland (1994) "On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind" Anthropology of Consciousness. Dec 1994, Vol. 5, No. 4: 16
  11. Richard Carrier (July 17, 2013) Update on Historicity of Jesus
  12. Scott Gordon and James Gordon Irving, The History and Philosophy of Social Science. Routledge 1991. Page 1. ISBN 0-415-05682-9
  13. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 12
  14. "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 position 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."
  15. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 26-30
  16. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  17. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  18. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 30
  19. Paulkovich, Michael, No Meek Messiah. Annapolis: Spillix, 2012, pp. 199-200.
  20. Remsburg, John (1909) "The Christ a Myth" chapter, The Christ
  21. 21.0 21.1 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".
  22. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 9-11
  23. Although Geoffrey of Monmouth has a fair claim with King Arthur.
  24. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 34
  25. Price, Robert (2012) The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems pg 387-8
  26. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 33
  27. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 238n8
  28. "For Christians to call themselves Nazarenes because their founder was from Nazareth would make no more than Plantonists calling themselves Athenians because their founder was from Athens," (Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 400)
  29. Turner, Gary H () When was Jesus born?
  30. Turner, Gary H () When was Jesus born?
  31. Finegan, Jack (1998) Handbook of Biblical Chronology, rev. ed.
  32. Mark, Kidger. "Chinese and Babylonian Observations"
  33. Colin Humphreys, 'The Star of Bethlehem', in Science and Christian Belief 5 (1995), 83–101.
  34. Brown, Raymond E. (1993), The Birth of the Messiah, Anchor Bible Reference Library, p. 188
  35. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 281-288
  36. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 281-288
  37. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 3-13
  38. Burke, James The Day the Universe Changed
  39. Zukav, Gary (1979) The Dancing Wu Li Masters
  40. Avalos, Hector (2007) The End of Biblical Studies, Prometheus Books. some snippets of book
  41. Burridge, Richard A. and Graham Gould (2004) "Jesus Then and Now Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing pg 37.
  42. McClintock, John; James Strong (1894) Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Volume 2 Page 259
  43. Porter, Stanley E.; Matthew Brook O'Donnell, Wendy J. Porter (eds.) (2004) Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism - Volume 1, 2000. Page 102
  44. Serapis (Sarapis) Egypt Travel Guide
  45. Hadrian to Servianus, 134 CE (Quoted by Giles, Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. II, p86, 1877
  46. Drews, Arthur (1912) The witnesses to the historicity of Jesus for Chrestian/Chrestus version
  47. 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
  48. Boatwright, Mary T. (2012) Peoples of the Roman World Cambridge University Press pg 123
  49. Christian, Yeremyah
  50. The sources of "Chrestian" (χρηστιανος) and "Christian" (χριστιανος) in Antiquity
  51. The sources of CHRESTOS and CHRISTOS in Antiquity
  52. E. A. Judge and G. S. R. Thomas, “The Origin of the Church at Rome: A New Solution,” RTR 25 (1966): 85
  53. Mitchell, James Barr (1880) Chrestos: a religious epithet; its import and influence
  54. 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.
  55. Contra Celsum," i. 57, vi. 11; in Matth. Comm. ser. xxxiii.; "Homil." xxv. in Lucam; "De Principiis," iv. 17.
  56. Jewish Antiquities 17.269-270
  57. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 67-73
  58. Clement of Rome, l.c. ii. 8; several passages in Origen; Epiphanius, l.c.
  59. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Prmitive Christianity", Jean Danielou, p. 95-96, 1958, Mentor edition 1962
  60. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iv. 22, § 5
  61. Contra Celsum," i. 57, vi. 11; in Matth. Comm. ser. xxxiii.; "Homil." xxv. in Lucam; "De Principiis," iv. 17.
  62. Jewish War 2.57-59
  63. Jewish Antiquities 17.273-277
  64. Jewish Antiquities 17.271-272
  65. Jewish Antiquities 18.147-150
  66. Jewish Antiquities 17.278-284
  67. Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 1; death of sons in Antiquities 20.5.2 102. Also refereed to in Acts 5:37
  68. Jewish Antiquities 18.85-87
  69. Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98
  70. Jewish War 2.259-263
  71. Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171
  72. Jewish Antiquities 20.188
  73. Jewish War 2.433-434; Jewish War 2.442-448
  74. Jewish War 6.301-302
  75. JW 6.301 = Mk 14.2; Mk 11-17; Both quote the same chapter of Jeremiah; JW 6.306 = Mk 14.49; JW 6.304, 306, 309 = Mk 13.17; JW 6.300, 309 = Mk 13.2; JW 6.302 = Mk 14.43; Mk 14.58; Mk 14.60; Mk 14.65; Mk 15.1; JW 6.305 = Mk 15.2-4 (this is actually three different points); JW 6.304 = Mk 15.15 JW 6.305 is inverted in Mk 15.34; JW 6.308-309 = Mk 15.34 (two points); Mk 15.37 - Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 428-430
  76. appears periodically in Book IV, V, and VII of The Jewish War
  77. Jewish War 7.26-32
  78. Jewish War 7.437-450
  79. Wright, Stuart A. (1995) Armageddon in Waco University of Chicago Press pg 296
  80. The Many "Christs" in the Bible
  81. Spence, Lewis (1921) An introduction to mythology p. 42
  82. Neusner, Jacob; Alan Jeffery Avery-Peck (2007) Encyclopedia of religious and philosophical writings in late antiquity Brill, Page 369
  83. Hastings, James; John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray (1919) Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, Volume 10
  84. Seznec (1995) The Survival of the Pagan Gods Princeton University Press pg 12-13
  85. Zeus Is Dead: Euhemerus and Crete, S. Spyridakis, The Classical Journal, Vol. 63, No. 8, May, 1968, pp. 337-340.
  86. Price. Robert M (2011). The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems, p. 49-51)
  87. Price. Robert M (2011). The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems, p. 49-51)
  88. 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."
  89. Justin Martyr,First Apology [21:30]
  90. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 45
  91. Carrier, Richard (1997) "Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels"
  92. Jewish Antiquities 17.269-270
  93. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 67-73
  94. Carrier, Richard (2008) “Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method — Adjunct Materials and Tutorial”
  95. Remsburg, John (1909) "Chapter 9: Christ a Myth", The Christ)
  96. Remsburg, John (1909) "Chapter 12: Sources of the Christ Myth: Conclusion", The Christ)
  97. Price, Robert (1997) Christ a Fiction)
  98. Price, Robert (2000) Deconstructing Jesus, pp. 15-16
  99. Price, Robert (1997) Christ a Fiction)
  100. Robert Stewart, The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue p17
  101. M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires (2007) "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" Islamic Awareness
  102. M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires (2007) "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" Islamic Awareness
  103. Philip Sellew "Laodiceans and the Philippians Fragments Hypothesis" Harvard Theological Review. 1994; 87:17-28.
  104. William Walker (2001) Interpolations in the Pauline Letters Sheffield Academic Press,
  105. Richard Carrier blog (2011) Pauline Interpolations
  106. Rainer Reuter 'Introduction to Synoptic Work on the New Testament Epistles' Journal of Higher Criticism. - (2002) vol.9 1 2 SPR FALL, p.246-258
  107. E. Randolph Richards (2004) Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection pg 99-121
  108. Robert B. Stewart (2011) The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue
  109. Bart D. Ehrman (1993) The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Oxford University Press
  110. Bruce Metzger (1992) The Text of the New Testament Oxford University press
  111. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 304
  112. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 305
  113. Holding, J. P. Shattering the Christ Myth, 277
  114. Houlden, J. L. Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia, Volume 1, 660
  115. 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.
  116. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 9-10
  117. Carrier, Richard (2014) Element 29 On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 159
  118. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
  119. Ellis, Ralph (2011). Jesus, King of Edessa. Edfu Books. p. 620. 
  120. Nicholas II, Tsar of All the Russias (14 points)
  121. List of Lord Raglan evaluations from Beacon Library
  122. St Paul the Apostle – Could it all be a fabrication?
  123. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 363
  124. Dawson, 1998 Sociology of New Religious Movements; R Robertson (1975) Religious Movements and Modern Society; Blackhorn (1985) Death and Deification
  125. 125.0 125.1 Funk, (1996) Honest to Jesus
  126. Funk et al., The Five Gospels
  127. WP:Jewish_messianic_claimants#Before_the_Common_Era
  128. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Element 22; Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 148-152
  129. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Element 22; Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 214-222
  130. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 259
  131. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 306
  132. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  133. Griffin, Bruce W. (1996), "The Paleographical Dating of P-46"
  134. Schniedewind, William M. (2005) "Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions" in Thomas Levy, Thomas Higham (ed) (2014) The Bible and Radiocarbon Dating: Archaeology, Text and Science Routledge.
  135. Grossman, Maxine. (2010) "Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls." Pgs. 48–51.
  136. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24-52.
  137. Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-514182-2.
  138. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  139. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 359
  140. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 362
  141. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 364-8
  142. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 375-6
  143. Crossan (1995) Who killed Jesus
  144. 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.
  145. 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.
  146. [1] has a good overview.
  147. 147.0 147.1 R.G. Price, 2007-01-03. "Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ".
  148. Wall (2010) Opening and Entering Mark (a discussion of the place and space in the Gospel of Mark)
  149. 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.
  150. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" p. 266-268; Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament
  151. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 267
  152. But who made a mistake in Luke 8 -Archive copy at the Wayback Machine “Did Jesus Even Exist?” by Frank Zindler
  153. The Two-source hypothesis[wp] explains the synoptic problem[wp] by invoking Q, whereas the competing Farrer hypothesis[wp] simply assumes that the author of Luke had read the gospels of Mark and Matthew and edited what he didn't like.
  154. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 427-433; the earliest fragment we have of John is the Rylands Library Papyrus 𝔓52, which based on the limitations in handwriting analysis the library has not allowed a sample to be taken for carbon dating) can range any when from 125 to 225 CE.
  155. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 261-262
  156. Based mainly on internal evidence of order of writing, with a few correspondences to known history, c.f. [2]. R.G Price dates them to the end of the 1st century or early 2nd century (see The Amazing Colossal Apostle).
  157. Acts 9:20
  158. e.g., 1 Corinthians 14.
  159. 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 movie...at least twice--live action and animated
  160. Numerous scholars, most notably Martin Luther, believed Revelation should not be included in the main Bible for this reason.
  161. Matthew 21:10
  162. [3], Do Any First Century Historians Mention the Jesus of Christianity?
  163. 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.
  164. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 304
  165. Eusebius, The History of the Church, p50,52
  166. slide 14 of PDF slide show provided by Carrier
  167. Scott Oser (1994) Historicity Of Jesus FAQ
  168. “Christs”
  169. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 26-30
  170. Ralph P. Martin, “A Footnote To Pliny’ Account of Christian Worship,” Vox Evangelica 3 (1964): 51-57.
  171. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 342
  172. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 344
  173. Boatwright, Mary T. (2012) Peoples of the Roman World Cambridge University Press pg 123
  174. Carrier, Richard (1999) Thallus: An Analysis
  175. Carrier, Richard (2011–12) "Thallus and the Darkness at Christ's Death" Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011–12) 185-91
  176. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 275
  177. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 257-258
  178. "James" and "Jacob" are the same name in Hebrew.
  179. Michael Foust, 2003-07-25. "A fake? James Ossuary dealer arrested, suspected of forgery." Baptist Press.
  180. 180.0 180.1 Jim Walker, 2001-01-30. "Did a historical Jesus exist?" NoBeliefs.com.
  181. Complete text
  182. Reid, George (1913). "Acta Pilati". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  183. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1 by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and R. Mcl. Wilson (Dec 1, 1990) ISBN 066422721X pages 501-502
  184. Letter of Pilate to Tiberius" New Advent
  185. Houston, George (1827) The Correspondent Vol 1 pg 354-355.
  186. Clough, William Overton; (1880) Gesta Pilati University of Michigan ASIN: B0038QONFQ pgs 97-98
  187. Huidekoper, Frederic (1883) Indirect testimony of history of the genuineness of the Gospels. 4th ed pg pg 143-144
  188. M. R. James as given in Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 117
  189. Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha (1963 ed.) vol. 1 p. 445.
  190. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1 by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and R. Mcl. Wilson (Dec 1, 1990) ISBN 066422721X pages 501-502
  191. 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]..."
  192. 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..."
  193. Hector Avalos. The End Of Biblical Studies. Prometheus, 2007. ISBN 1591025362.
  194. e.g. [4], [5]
  195. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 6-8
  196. e.g. "There's More Evidence that Jesus Lived than x Person" Statements thread" at bibleforums.org
  197. Richard Carrier (May 10, 2014) "On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up?"
  198. Sawyer, Ralph D. (2005), The Essential Art of War, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-07204-6
  199. Diogenes Laërtius x. 7
  200. E P Sanders as cited by Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 21
  201. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 22
  202. W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, 1870, Part I, Printed by order of the Trustees: London, No. XCIV, pp. 65-66. This book was republished in 2002 by Gorgias Press.
  203. Nigosian, Solomon Alexander (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21627-3. pg 6
  204. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 291
  205. Bart Ehrman, interview with Reginald V. Finley Sr., "Who Changed The New Testament and Why", The Infidel Guy Show, 2008 repeated in Ehrman, Bart D. (March 20, 2012) Did Jesus Exist? Huffington Post and referenced by John Blake, CNN (April 7th, 2012) The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
  206. Nicholas Perrin (2008) Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus pg 32)
  207. McClymond, Michael James (2004) Familiar Stranger: an Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth pp. 23-24
  208. Powell, Mark Allan (1998), Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, Louisville: Westminster John Knox p. 168
  209. Piper, John (2006) Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, Wheaton: Crossway, pp. 14-15
  210. Micael R. Licona, in Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, p. 112
  211. Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  212. Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  213. Richard Carrier, 2002. "Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument to Ahistoricity (2002)" infidels.org.
  214. Richard Carrier (May 12, 2014) On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up? comment 33.1
  215. Oxford University Press (2006) The Catholic Comparative New Testament pg 851-967
  216. 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
  217. Dupont, Florence. (1989) Daily Life in Ancient Rome Tr. Christopher Woodall. Oxford: Blackwell; pg 223
  218. Millard, Alan (2003) Literacy in the Time of Jesus - Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime? Biblical Archaeology Review 29:04, Jul/Aug 2003.
  219. e.g. [6]
  220. "Would someone die for a lie?" (ironchariots.org)
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