Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A collection of fictional characters?
Christ died for
our articles about

Icon christianity.svg
Devil's in the details
This article concerns the evidence put forward in favor of the suggestion that Jesus actually once existed as a real-life, flesh-and-blood human being. For the debate on whether there likely was one single founder of Christianity, or if the early church just rallied around the myth of such a man, see our article on Jesus myth theory.

Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ) occurs in several places: the Bible; other early Christian writings (including various early churches c. 100 CE); and what could be referred to as "the usual suspects", a lineup of writers generally consisting of Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger - and, on occasion, Thallus.[1]

The only known possible contemporaneous (c. 6 BCE through c. 36 CE) source regarding Jesus is Paul of Tarsus. Paul states that he personally got his information through revelation rather than through physical contact,[2] but also seems to suggest a physical Jesus who died, was buried and rose from the dead.[3]

The existence of Jesus of Nazareth is relatively agreed upon by historians, but there is much disagreement about the facts of his life. Most scholars have found consensus on only few facts: that a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine, born around 1 C.E., that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and that he crucified by the Romans.[4]

New Testament scholar Ian Howard MarshallWikipedia in his I Believe in the Historical Jesus stated "[W]e 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." laying out the range of a Historical Jesus going from "the person called Jesus really existed" to "'The description of Jesus in the Gospels corresponds to what he was actually like.'"[5] Depending on where you are on that range the evidence ranges from excellent to ridiculously bad.

Ehrman (himself not a mythicist) in his 2012 book Did Jesus Exist?, complicated matters when he summarized the views of Earl Doherty: "In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity".[6]

So by Bart Ehrman's definition a Jesus who existed but picked up the remains of an existing Chrestian/Christian cult or actually preached a form of Judaism that was turned into Christianity by others after his death would be a "nonhistorial" Jesus. What if the Gospel Jesus stripped of all the supernatural elements is a composite character with a 1st century preacher named Jesus in the mix? Is that a "Historical Jesus"? The whole issue suffers from Fallacy of ambiguity and it is trying to preemptively deal with as many of the common claims (both for and against) that has resulted in this article being a verbose train wreck on steroids.

Quality of evidence vs the historical debate[edit]

What are the kinds of evidence accepted here?
(E1) Direct empirical evidence that something’s the case
(E2) Reliable testimony from person P in his or her own words
(E3) Reliable eye-witness accounts
(E4) Expert witness testimony based on E1-3
(E5) Circumstantial evidence


We can’t or shouldn’t decide in favor of positive claims in doubtful cases, on circumstantial evidence alone.
—Narve Strand[7]

This article is NOT about the Jesus myth theory or the Christ myth theory, but about the quality of the evidence (both for and against) presented regarding his existence. The debate will come up for context but this article is NOT on the debate. In fact, as the Christ Myth article shows its very definition varies so wildly that some versions would be considered historical Jesus positions.[note 1]

For example, Constantin-François Volney[8] (1757-1820), regarded as one of the two fathers of the modern Christ Myth, allowed for the confused memories of an obscure historical figure being integrated into a mythology that had formed organically,[9] which was echoed in a 1938 Manchester University Press book.[10] Herbert George Wood in a 1934 University Press book grouped the Christ Myth theory with the "theories that regard Jesus as an historical but insignificant figure."[11] Many of these sound much like the current version of the historical Jesus don't they? And yet they are all examples of the "Christ Myth".

This is why people such as Sir James George Frazer[12] ("My theory assumes the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth"[13]) have been grouped among those "who contested the historical existence of Jesus".[14]

The elephant in the room: The Two Jesuses[edit]

Positions on Jesus: Reductivism, Triumphalism, Jesus Myth, and Ahistorical[edit]

The biggest problem with talking about evidence for the 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,[note 2] Rudolf Bultmann in 1941 (who Richard Carrier in 2014 used to form his definitions),[15] and reiterated by Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall in 2004,[5] these two ends (italics from Marshall's original text) are:

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 Dr Who [sic]

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.

Just as there is a huge spectrum regarding the historical Jesus, there is an equally large one regarding the Jesus myth theory, parts of which are really reductive historical theories such as is seen with G. A. Mead and John M. Allegro, who put Jesus c. 100 BCE, or Remsburg who said there was just enough to show Jesus existed as a human being but nothing to verify any of the New Testament account as being history.

The most common criteria for a "proper" Jesus myth theory is that Jesus was originally a celestial being (deity, archangel, angel, etc) who was put into a historical framework possibly using the exploits of real world would-be messiahs to provide details.

The final position (often classified as Jesus myth theory) is the ahistorical theory where there is nothing to show that either a pre-existing celestial being or single individual is behind the story.

This is effectively the "everything else" position where Jesus is a composite character formed out of many messiahs as seen with John Robertson's suggesting that several messiahs were composited together, G A Wells' position that a legendary figure of a previous century inspired Paul but an actual person in the 1st century inspired the Gospels, or the idea that the gospel account grew out of various other myths.

The Reductive (Historical) Jesus versus Triumphalist (Gospel) Jesus[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17]

So even if Jesus is a historical myth (i.e., 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 that he existed; as Robert Price puts it "For even if we trace Christianity back to Jesus ben Pandera or an Essene Teacher of Righteousness in the first century BCE, we still have a historical Jesus."[18] The problem is that such a reductive historical Jesus is similar to Robin Hood or King Arthur, where the core person (if there ever was one to begin with) has been effectively lost, and potential candidates are presented 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 Gospel 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."[19]

The fact that 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 its 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.[20]

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."[19]

As a result, there have been many theories conjectures put forth about what Jesus really was, ranging from Jesus actually being a Buddhist,[21] a mythologizing of King Manu of Edessa that was eventually spun off into being a separate person,[22] to the idea that Jesus was actually a spaceman and his miracles being the product of super science.[note 3] But these like all the others are simply turning Jesus into a tabula rasa ventriloquist dummy and no more give a picture of the actual man (if there was one) than the Gospels do.

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 presentations of evidence 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 refuting the reductive theory (as if that were valid)".[23]

Carrier's criteria[edit]

Some basic criteria as to what a historical Jesus even is must be set down, and, 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 worshiping 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 mythicism. 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]

As noted before, much of the debate regarding a historical Jesus conflates a possible flesh-and-blood Jesus with the Jesus of the Gospels. Note Carrier's criteria for a historical Jesus are quite broad and allow 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 uses 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 as outlined in "The correct Jesus to argue about and the gray area between historical and mythical (the Ahistorical realm)" section of the Jesus myth article.

Cavin & Colombetti's evidence[edit]

In collaboration, secular scholars of philosophy Robert G. Cavin and Carlos A. Colombetti present four items of evidence for a historical Jesus:[27]

  • The Apostle Paul met with Jesus’ relatives and closest disciples (see §.Paul);
  • There is a "coherent body of sayings and actions attributed to Jesus in the gospels, which seem to derive from a single creative and sagacious personality" (see §.Gospels as historical documents);
  • That Jesus (or someone similar) initiating the Christian movement from within Judaism is the simplest explanation (NB: non sequitur per the Doherty/Carrier thesis that Peter/Paul initiated the Christian movement);
  • The validity of the criterion of embarrassment in regards to the crucifixion of Jesus (see §.Criterion of embarrassment).

Cavin & Colombetti's evidence—presented for a historical Jesus—is comprehensively rebutted by Richard Carrier and Raphael Lataster in their individual works.[28][29]

Evidence, pseudoscience, and the issues regarding the "historical" Jesus[edit]

Getting context[edit]

When discussing the quality of the evidence for a historical Jesus Christ, one runs headlong into the matter of how he was historical, which inevitably results in the matter being pulled into the tar baby known as the Jesus Myth. As stated above, this article is NOT on the Jesus Myth (which has included concepts of a historical Jesus) but about the evidence and its quality.

There is a lot of confirmation bias and pseudoscience throughout the range of the historicity debate (from classing the Gospels as totally fictional to historical documents), where the idea of what Jesus was is used to drive every aspect of the research to a predestined conclusion.[30] The sad thing (in cases not concerning outright Biblical pseudoarchaeology) is that this may not even be the researchers' own fault, as much as that of the very model which they use, and its role in determining what is "acceptable data".[31][32][33] Further, the vast tide of "armchair experts" who provide the public with outdated and/or inaccurate information does much to further muddle people's understanding of the question. This is, we hope, where we come in.

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"[edit]

Dr. Paul L. MaierWikipedia: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Simply because something isn't mentioned doesn't mean it didn't exist.
Michael Shermer: Sorry - in science, we don't allow that form of reasoning.[34]

The main issue is "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" but (and this is the important part) the burden of saying something happened or existed should always be on those who make the claim. David Kusche's criticism regarding the Bermuda Triangle is applicable regarding both the idea of "historical" (however you want to define that) Jesus and any of the Christ Myth theories:[35]

Say I claim that a parrot has been kidnapped to teach aliens human language and I challenge you to prove that is not true. You can even use Einstein's Theory of Relativity if you like. There is simply no way to prove such a claim untrue. The burden of proof should be on the people who make these statements, to show where they got their information from, to see if their conclusions and interpretations are valid, and if they have left anything out.

As Price states in his 2011 The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems:

The silence of the sources argument at most implies a Bultmannian version of a historical Jesus whose relatively modest activity as an exorcist and faith healer would not have attracted much attention, any more than the secular media cover Peter Popoff today. It does not go all the way to imply there was no historical Jesus.

At best, all the silence of the sources argument shows is that the Gospel-Acts account is more legendary than true historical, akin to the "historical" accounts that portray Lincoln as a beloved President. Contemporary records show Lincoln was arguably the most hated President of the United States but his assassination on Good Friday resulted in Sunday sermons – originally meant to deride him — being used to turn him retroactively into a kind of "American Moses who brought his people out of slavery but was not allowed to cross over into the Promised Land".[36]

In addition to the silence of the sources argument pseudoscience, the majority of Christ Myth ideas take any piece of "evidence" they think is relevant and run with it...even if the idea has no real basis in known history or involves the most tenuous connections imaginatible. If you want to see just how bad Christ Mythism can get (and want to kill a few brain cells in the bargain) watch Zeitgeist; everything in that thing is wrong and is the poster child of bad Christ Myth.

That all said, the pro-historical Jesus side has its own set of issues. 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,[37] 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.[38][39] 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[40] and he probably ticked off the wrong people and found himself dead.[38] It is likely the rest is highly embellished, made up, or recycled from other mythology. However, "Some joke that there are as many theories of Jesus as there are scholars to propose them".[41] The problem with that line of reasoning is that this argument can also be made for Robin Hood, King Arthur, John Frum, and Ned Lud...and we have reason to doubt they existed as individual people.

As with Christ Mythism, the pro-historical Jesus side has its own armchair brigade who produce stuff just as nonsensical.

The poster child of that insanity is the efforts to make Matthew and Luke agree with each other by having such ad hoc nonsense as Publius Sulpicius Quirinius doing a previously unrecorded census (let's just ignore the fact he was fighting some two provinces to the east a minimum of 6-3 BCE with him being Duumvir of the area 6-1 BCE) or moving Herod's the Great's death to 1 BCE as Jack Finegan claims.[42] Of course nothing is as bad as the totally idiotic claim 'The existence of Jesus cannot be proven scientifically'[43] or that 'history is not a science' which of course ignores the fact that in many universities and colleges either classify history as a social science or have it as part of their social science department as seen with institutions like Michigan State University, San Diego State University, and Radford University to mention a few. Prentice Hall ("nation's leading publisher of middle school and high school textbooks and technology") even printed a book titled History as social science in 1971.

Moreover, some such as Hector Avalos, a professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, state that Biblical Studies in their current state don't properly follow the historical method, and have major systemic problems so bad that the field needs a total overhaul on how it does things.[44] Richard Carrier in his personal blog is even more critical regarding New Testament studies, stating the epistemology and methodology being used is of lower quality than that seen anywhere else in the field of history.[note 4]

One need only look at the problems regarding the presentation of Thallus as "evidence" for a historical Jesus[45][46] to see that the field does have some methodology issues but then again other fields (like archeology) had similar methodology issues when they were only about 50 years old.[47]

In his peer-reviewed scholarly publication On the Historicity of Jesus, Carrier states:

They [historicists ie historical Jesus supporters] have far too quickly assumed that various fundamental conclusions in the field are settled, which in fact are not, such as the dating of New Testament documents (as I discuss in Chapter 7). They have routinely overstated what the evidence can actually prove, conflating conjecture with demonstrable facts almost as often as mythists do, and they lack anything like a coherent methodology (both of which I demonstrated in Proving History)[48]

A little later we get this:

As we saw in Chilton's case, and can see in the case of any other scholar claiming to know things about the historical Jesus, many theories of historicity are too speculative, some even more so then theories of myth, and most are much as or nearly so. [...] That means it's not wise to defend the historicity of Jesus by defending a particular theory of historicity. (sic)[49]

That all said, Carrier makes a very important point:

But all that still does not entail the mythicists are right, any more then the similar failing of the mythists entail they are wrong. In only entails that the historicists are wrong to simply dismiss all the challenges posed by the mythicists--because the historicists still have a great deal of work to do that, so far, they are only pretending has been done. But since both houses are in a mess both have a great deal of work to do. Admitting that is the first step toward progress. [sic]

Euhemerism vs Apotheosism[edit]

Perhaps the greatest confirmation bias is the idea that the people of the Roman empire in general and those of 1st century Palestine in particular were just like us in terms of their skepticism towards historical and supernatural claims.[note 5]

The reality is quite different. Herodotus (ca. 484–425 BCE), the father of history, had argued that myths were distorted accounts of real historical events. EuhemerusWikipedia (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.[50] "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."[51]

Some people confuse Euhemerism with Apotheosism. Apotheosism is the taking of someone clearly historical and turning them into a divine being (such is what was supposedly done with the Emperor of Japan before the end of WWII). Euhemerism assumes that a deity was once an actual person.

The statement "Osiris, Attis, Adonis were men. They died as men; they rose as gods."[52] captures the Euhemerism mindset 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 EuhemerismWikipedia became a favorite weapon of the Christian polemicists, a weapon they made use of at every turn".[53]

In fact, both Herodotus and Euhemerus stated that Zeus had actually been a mortal king (Euhemerus said he was buried on Crete),[54][55][56] "Plutarch (c46 – 120 CE) sought to pin Osiris down as an ancient king of Egypt",[55] 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.[57] 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."[58]

To be fair to those who believed in Euhemerism, they could easily point to the winners of the Olympiads who in Greek times were revered in their home towns as if they were gods ie Apotheosism. Then you have the great feats claimed for these winners who we know actually existed:

  • The jumping pit in the ancient games allowed for 50-foot jumps because the jumpers used weights that they swung to lengthen their jumps. During the 110th Olympiad (c 340 BCE), Phayllos of CrotonWikipedia supposedly overshot the jumping pit. The length of his jump is estimated to be 55 feet; for comparison the longest jump record in the modern games is 29 ft 4 1⁄4 in. However, it's possible that the Greeks used multiple jumps. Phayllos is also credited with throwing a discus (assumed to be 11 pounds 9 ounces based on the example in the British Museum) 99 feet; the modern discus is only 4.4 pounds.[59][note 6]
  • Milo of CrotonWikipedia is reported to have carried a full grown bull around the stadium which he followed up by killing the animal and eating it in a single day.
  • Poulydamas is said to have killed a full grown lion with his bare hands and stopped a speeding chariot by grabbing it with one hand.[60]
  • Ladas of Sparta "either jumped or flew over the stadium"[61]

With such feats recorded for people known to have actually lived and some actually done in the Olympiad stadium itself it is small wonder that even the educated could accept the view that Zeus, Osiris, and Hercules were once real people. And once they accepted that then despite the fantastic claims regarding Jesus the go-to for him would have been that he had been a living person and the stories simply exaggerations; the very idea that Jesus might be 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.[62]

As far as 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.[63]

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 'Messiahs', 'Sons of Man', 'Righteous Ones', and 'Elect [or Chosen] Ones' (i.e. "christs") showing up all over 1st century Palestine.[64][65]

Silence and censorship[edit]

Remsburg's list contains 42 historians during or shortly after the supposed times of Jesus who should have, but did not, record anything about Jesus, his 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[66]). Although it is often used by armchair Christ Myth proponents, it was arguing against the Triumphalist-Jesus of Bethlehem and not against the Reductive-Jesus of Nazareth. Remsberg, in fact, stated "it is not against the man Jesus that I write, but against the Christ Jesus of theology" and felt there was just enough evidence to show that the Triumphalist-Jesus of Bethlehem was a historical myth on "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.[67] 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.

This goes into one of the strangest things about Jesus: the Christians were the ones preserving the records through copying and logically would have preserved references to Jesus. And yet we find here a total lack of material.

Despite some efforts in damnatio memoriae (effectively erasure from history) regarding more problematic people (there was even a vote on erasing Mark Anthony), the early years of the Roman Empire are 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.[68] 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 in the 29-36 CE period.[69] This includes well-documented records from the Romans regarding criminal activities and crucifixion records.[70] "Jesus" (or "Yeshu" or "Yeshua" or "Joshua") was a very common name, with many contemporary troublemaking preachers of that name.[note 7] But even with that in mind, nothing of relevance seems to exist or if it did the Christian copyists didn't see fit to preserve it.

Numerous people who should have written about Jesus who either did not or whom the Christians did not preserve any words include:

  • Philo (ca. 25 BCE - ca. 50 CE): In nearly every list of people who should have mentioned Jesus but didn't, he appears. Philo had strong connection to both the Priesthood in Judea and the Herodian Dynasty; even if he himself didn't live in Jerusalem he had communication with those who did. Eusebius in his The History of the Church even claimed Philo not only knew the apostles but met Peter himself in Rome. Philo wrote a five volume account (c40 CE) regarding his embassy to Caligula and the events leading up to it and yet the volume that covered Pontius Pilate's rule of Judea in detail was one of the three volumes not preserved by the Christians, so if Philo did mention Jesus the Christian copyists didn't preserve it.
  • Damis, author of Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher and mystic who was a contemporary with Jesus.
  • Seneca the Younger's On Superstition (c.40 - c.62), which covered every cult in Rome, was not preserved. The only reason we know it did NOT talk about Christianity at all is because Augustine in the 4th century complained about it.[71] But if the book could have been as early as 40 CE then there would be no reason to expect notice of what at that time would have been a very small group. Despite this, 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.
  • Pliny the Elder, who wrote Natural History (77 CE), the oldest known encyclopedia. It has 37 chapters, spread over 10 books, and mentions hundreds of people (major and minor characters alike) - and yet, it contains no reference to either Christ or Christians. Pliny the Elder also wrote a history of Rome, from 31 CE to the then-present day (sometime before his death in 79 CE) with a volume for each year. This work, however, was not preserved by the Christians.
  • Celsius' The True Logos (2nd-century) is known only through Origen's rebuttal in the 3rd century.
  • Froto, a 2nd century teacher, friend, and correspondent to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180), wrote 'Discourse against the Christians' which is only known through Minucius Felix's Octavius rebuttal of the 3rd century.
  • Juvenal, Martial, Petronius, and Persius, Roman satirists who favored topics similar to Jesus's story.
  • Cassius Dio's Roman History has the sections covering 6 to 2 BC and 30 CE missing.
  • Pausanias, whose massive Guide to Greece includes mentions of thousands of names, including minor Jewish figures in Palestine.
  • Historians Epictetus and Aelius Aristides, who both recorded events and people in Palestine.
  • Clovius Rufus' detailed history of Nero, which would have documented the active persecution of Christians by Nero, was not preserved.
  • Tacitus: the entire section covering 29-31 CE of the Annals: “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two years is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.”[72]
  • Papias (2nd century): Five volume Explanations of the Stories of the Lord (c 130 - c 150) which is known only through all too brief references and quotes. What we do have makes him come off as very gullible and that he knew of the apostles only via people who had claimed that they knew them.[73]
  • Hegesippus: Five volume Memoirs (c 180) that covered various legends about the early churches and apostles as well as a list of the first bishops. As with Papias known only through all too brief references but enough to show that any actual history had been replaced by myth and legend.[74]

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.

As Carrier mentions you have this pattern of missing works that raises a few eyebrows when you look at it closely.[75]

Non-Biblical evidence[edit]

Non-Biblical evidence is preferred over Biblical evidence by both apologists and scholars, because it (if it existed) is independent confirmation of Jesus, free from the taint of Christian propagandizing, among other issues such as circular reasoning. Raphael Lataster writes, "Using the Gospels to argue for Jesus’ existence may be circular reasoning. Arguing from external sources would generally result in a much more convincing case."[76]

There is no independent evidence of Jesus’s existence outside the New Testament. All external evidence for his existence, even if it were fully authentic (though much of it isn’t), cannot be shown to be independent of the Gospels, or Christian informants relying on the Gospels. None of it can be shown to independently corroborate the Gospels as to the historicity of Jesus. Not one single item of evidence. Regardless of why no independent evidence survives (it does not matter the reason), no such evidence survives.
Richard Carrier[77]

Writers Supposedly Mentioning Jesus[edit]

The following is a list of common "evidences" proposed by apologists[78] in an attempt to provide historical proof for Jesus' existence. It is generally evidence for the existence of early Christianity, but none is evidence for Jesus per se. All of the writers were born after the Crucifixion, and therefore could not have been eyewitnesses to the things Jesus allegedly said and did. Moreover, our oldest copies of their works, in many cases, were written centuries after they were supposedly written, giving copyists ample time to "improve" them. (It should also be noted that Pliny the Younger was good friends and regularly corresponded with Tacitus and Suetonius, so anything one reports that the other two don't know about is suspect.) Furthermore, secular contemporary scholars like Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman, who have written a defense for the historicity of Jesus, do not resort to "Non-Christian sources" for attestation of the Historicity of Jesus in their works. Lataster writes:

Focussing on the non-Christian sources that are available, from within around 100 years after Jesus’ death, Ehrman generally dismisses the few extant non-Christian and non-Jewish testimonies, that of Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Tacitus. [...] Ehrman quickly discards the disputed and irrelevant Talmudic references to Jesus, which he arguably should not have even mentioned [...] Ehrman also adds that “my case for the historicity of Jesus does not depend on the reliability of Josephus’ testimony”. . . . Ehrman has been very bold — though mostly fair — so far. He has effectively ruled out the sources that we objective and secular scholars might place more confidence in...[79]

  • Josephus (ca. 37 - 100 CE; oldest Greek copy is 11th century though there is a 5th century version in Latin): The Jewish historian Josephus is claimed to be the earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus, in his Antiquities of the Jews (ca. 93-94 CE) with the two references being referred to as the Testimonium Flavianum and the "Jamesian Reference". However, there is much debate regarding how much of the Testimonium Flavianum (if any of it) was written by Josephus[80] as there is no reference to it before the 4th century.[81][82] Moreover all of the experts who say some part of the Testimonium Flavianum is genuine are basing that conclusion on information way out of date (being 10, 20 or even 50 years old) despite discoveries that invalidate those sources.[83][84][85] While Carrier uses Bayes’s Theorem to argue that both passages are not from the hand of Josephus the consensus is that some part of the Testimonium Flavianum and all of the "Jamesian Reference" are genuine,[86] but based on Carrier's examples of Ned Ludd and John Frum even if the entire passage as we have it was written by Josephus it still would not show Jesus existed as a human being simply because it is too brief and there is no consensus on exactly what parts of the Testimonium Flavianum are actually from Josephus. Moreover it has been shown that the passage as we have it has a 19-point unique correspondence between this passage and Luke's Emmaus account.[87]
  • Tacitus (ca. 55 - 117 CE; oldest relevant copy is from 11th century): In his Annals (ca. 109 CE) Tacitus gives a brief mention of a "Chrstus" (generally read as "Christus" but in reality it could just as easily be read "Chrestus"), in a passage that shows evidence of tampering and contains no source.[88][89] Also, the entire section of the Annals covering 29-31 CE is missing: “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two years is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.”[72] His account is also at odds with the Christian accounts in The apocryphal Acts of Paul (c. 160 CE) and "The Acts of Peter" (150-200 CE) where the first has Nero reacting to claims of sedition by the group and the other saying thanks to a vision he left them alone.
  • Pliny the Younger (61 – ca. 113 CE; oldest copy is 5th century and only 6 of its 218 leaves still exist; next oldest copy is from 9th century[90]): Pliny the Younger was a Roman official who wrote innumerable letters. In one (ca. 112 CE), he references "Christians" (but not Jesus), and his "Christ" could have referred to innumerable other "messiahs" that various Jews were following. Furthermore non-Christian Jews would also fail Pliny's test[91] so at best Pliny didn't know the difference between Judaism and Christianity and at worst the passage has become corrupted.
  • Suetonius (ca. 69 – after 122 CE; earliest copy is 9th century): Suetonius, a Roman historian born in 69 CE, made two statements (ca. 112 CE) that are often presented as evidence of Jesus. The first falls into the Chrestus category; the second merely references Christians, not Jesus.
  • Thallus (unknown lifespan, claimed to be active in 2nd century CE): Thallus supposedly references (date unknown) a solar eclipse at the time of Jesus' crucifixion. This reference is, at best, third-hand quotation of a summary, and is not recorded in other historic records.
  • Phlegon (unknown lifespan, 2nd century CE; no works survive): Phlegon was a writer who recorded (date unknown) an earthquake, which apologists interpreted as referring to the horrors on the day of the crucifixion. Other apologists rightly trashed this interpretation.

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."[92]

The Talmud mentioning Jesus[edit]

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, as documented by Gerald Massey, Christians themselves have claimed that this is actually a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia who lived at least a century before the alleged Christian Jesus. Epiphanius, in his 4th century Panarion 29, expressly states "For the rulers in succession from Judah came to an end with Christ's arrival. Until he came the rulers were anointed priests, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and was altered in the time of Alexander [Jannaeus], a ruler of priestly and kingly stock."[93][94] Abraham ben Daud of the 12th century writes "The Jewish history-writers say that Joshua ben Perachiah was the teacher of Yeshu ha-Notzri [the Nazarene], according to which the latter lived in the day of King Janni [Jannaeus]; the history-writers of the other nations, however, say that he was born in the days of Herod and was hanged in the days of his son Archelaus. This is a great difference, a difference of more than 110 years."[95]

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 as is true of Epiphanius or the Toledot Yeshu and the second century gospel that Price cites as a third source that also put Jesus in this time frame is only slightly more useful.

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. Furthermore Richard A. Freund writes "The difference of opinion over the positioning of the Teacher of Righteousness leads me to conclude that perhaps all of these researchers are correct. A Teacher of Righteousness did lead the group in the second century BCE when it was established. Another Teacher of Righteousness led the sect in the first century BCE and finally another Teacher emerged in the first century CE."[96]

Biblical & Christian evidence[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Authorship of the New Testament and Genealogy of Jesus

Biblical & Christian evidence is ultimately the source of most actual and claimed evidence for Jesus.


There are two main problems with Primary (Biblical and Christian) evidence:

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".[97]

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."[98]


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 historically accurate (for the time) propaganda like Frank Capra's Why we Fight series has its distortions, half-truths, omissions, and outright lies and then you have the totally fictitious propaganda like the 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.

Editorial oversight and error[edit]

One factor that is often ignored (when it is not being glossed over) on the pro-historical Jesus argument is the role of editors in creating the individual books of the New Testament.

For example, each of Paul's seven epistles is actually two or more letters edited together. Carrier spends nearly a third of a page in On the Historicity of Jesus referencing works that cover the editorial 'meddling' with Paul's writings[99] from such publishers as the Harvard Theological Review,[100] Sheffield Academic Press,[101] and Journal of Higher Criticism[102] as well as Carrier's own blog.[103]

We then get nearly another sixth of a page referring to works on the 'meddling' of the Gospels which includes two publications by Oxford University Press.[104][105] This means that any argument regarding Jesus resting on one word or even a short phrase is irrational because there is no way to tell if that is the product of the original author or some copyist-editor who thought to "improve" the work.

Moreover we have evidence there was editorial 'meddling' as shown with textual variants, interpolations and rearranged passage sequences.[106][107][108][109][110][111][112][105]

Christians were the ones 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 and 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 be that of one man over 20 years (and that estimate doesn't even take the illustrations and embellishments into account so it probably took even longer) and in addition to the entire Latin Bible the work contains many historical documents. Some Christ mythers have used the fact that 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. 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 a church of St. Bonaventure
  • Sermons preached by a Bonaventure
  • Sermons once owned by a Bonaventure
  • Sermons once owned by a 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". Even then some works were missed; for example, Books IV–X of Hippolytus's Refutation of all Heresies were found in a monastery of Mount Athos in 1842!

120 CE Cutoff[edit]

Around 120 CE is a practical cutoff 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)".[113] 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 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.[114]

For example in Book II, Chapter 22 of his Against Heresies (c180) Irenaeus of Lyons clearly states that Jesus had to be 46 or older when the preached citing John 8:56-57 "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? " Irenaeus explains "Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, You are not yet forty years old." More over in Demonstrations (also c 180) Irenaeus clearly states "For Herod the king of the Jews and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Claudius Caesar, came together and condemned Him to be crucified." Two thirds of that locks Jesus crucifixion between 42-44 CE well after Paul's vision. A 4 BCE (more likely 6 BCE per Matthew's two years and younger) birthday date does indeed result in a 45-47 range for Jesus's age just as Irenaeus said in Against Heresies. Pontius Pilate is clearly just thrown in because the Bible also said he was there to wash his hands.

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.

Dating methods being used...and their limits[edit]

When talking about the dates assigned to Acts, the Gospels, and Paul's writings (i.e. 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 claiming that 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."[115] In a 2005 email 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."[116] 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".[117]

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 and the proper format for a 14C date is "<laboratory>: <14C year> ± <range>(1σ) BP" which only has a 68% chance of being right. Finally, Carbon-14 dates follow the 68–95–99.7 rule so double the range to two standard deviations (2σ) gets you to a 95% chance and tripling the range to three standard deviations (3σ) gets you to a 99.7% chance.

Due to this a good rule of thumb here is if either a paleographic or 14C date doesn't have at least the range disregard it; it is worse than useless. 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 help 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.

However, there does seem to be a consistency issue regarding how Textual and Historical criticism are used to date documents. For example, one of the main reasons Mark is generally viewed as being written after 70 CE is it talks about the destruction of the Temple but then you look at something like 1 Clement which gives the impression of the Temple is still intact[118] but is generally dated 80-140 CE. The reasoning for this inconstancy in dating based on context is not explained.

Dating of Acts, the Gospels, and Paul ("Primary Provenance")[edit]

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:

  • Acts:
  • Gospels:
  • Rylands Library Papyrus P52Wikipedia (125 - ca. 225 CE[120][121]): Contains seven lines from John 18:31-33 and parts of seven lines from verses 37-38. The papyrus is a 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."[122]
  • Egerton Papyrus 2 (150 - 200 CE)Wikipedia: A redaction of John (or vice versa), which is a redaction of Mark and Luke[123] – a collection of four stories which have no equivalent in any known Gospel:[124] 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 CE): Luke 3:18-24:53 + John 1-15
  • Magdalen papyrus aka Gregory-Aland P64 (ca. 200 CE): Matthew 3, 5, 26
  • Papyrus 66 (ca. 200 CE): 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[125] so these earlier dates must be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Papyrus 45 (ca. 250 CE): 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.
  • The Gospel of ThomasWikipedia: A redaction of Matthew and Luke.[126]
  • The Gospel of PeterWikipedia: An imaginative reworking of most likely Matthew.[127][128][129]

Bart Ehrman asserts in his book Did Jesus Exist?, that: The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, and Egerton Papyrus 2 are independent narratives about Jesus.[130] Whereas R. G. Price asserts that they are derivative of Mark.[131][132]

  • Paul:
  • Papyrus 46 (150 - 250 CE with 95% confidence interval[133]): 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. 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.

References to the Gospels and the Epistles ("Secondary Provenance")[edit]

Secondary provenance for the Gospels and the Epistles is a mixed bag:

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 references to the Gospels. Paul is in a little better shape with references in late 1st - early second century works such as 1 Clement and the works of Ignatius.

So the best we have is that some version of the Gospels existed c140 CE...some 100 years after Jesus was crucified and some version of Paul existed c 90 CE perhaps as early as c 70 CE. 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.

Acts as a historical document[edit]

According to Richard Carrier, "The book of Acts has been all but discredited as a work of apologetic historical fiction."[134] The best one can hope is that "maybe there was some authentic source material behind some of what appears in Acts, somewhere" [sic].[135] 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[136] 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.[137]

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.[138]

Gospels as historical documents[edit]

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; 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;[139] 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[140]) had never visited Palestine and knew very little about it.[141][142][69][143] The authors of Matthew (end of 1st century[144]) and Luke (end of 1st century[145] to as late as 115 CE[146]) got most of their information from Mark (Luke appears to be a local, correcting errors of customs in Mark,[147] and who also wrote about Paul in Acts of the Apostles) and the hypothetical lost Q gospel,[148] often copying Mark verbatim. John was synthesized later, based on the same story but rewritten somewhere between 100 and 140 CE.[149]

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.

Moreover 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.


When talking about Paul we need to remember there are four Pauls in the New Testament:[150]

  1. Authentic or Early Paul: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon (50s-60s A.D.)
  2. Disputed Paul or Deutero-Pauline: 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians (80-100 A.D.)
  3. Pseudo-Paul or the Pastorals: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (80-100 A.D.)
  4. Tendentious or Legendary Paul: Acts of the Apostles (90-130 A.D.)

When looking for evidence from Paul regarding a possible historical Jesus it makes sense to only look at the Authentic or Early Paul as "[t]he remaining letters do indeed deviate too greatly from Pauline style to be his hand or even his dictation" as, being forgeries and therefore of even more dubious provenance with no obvious link to anyone connected to Jesus, they cannot provide any information for the historicity of Jesus.[151] Simply put: We don't know who wrote the "non-Pauline" epistles, when they were penned, or whether their authors knew the first thing about any historical Jesus. Just assuming that they give useful information about the historical Jesus would be taking their content and accuracy on, well, faith.

The earliest (genuine) Pauline writings about Jesus — traditionally dated[152] 52-67 CE, earlier than any gospels, canonical or not — were composed by Paul of Tarsus, a man who never met a physical Jesus but who claimed to have seen a light and heard a voice.[153] This depiction and the conversion experience is taken at face value by Christian doctrine 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 by Paul or anyone else.

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 the 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.

This is assuming that the James who Paul is referencing is in any way connected to any of the Jameses in the Gospels or Acts. As Carrier points out:

"The entirety of Luke-Acts mentioned only two men by the name of James, yet identifies neither as the brother of Jesus. To the contrary, it specifically distinguishes both of them from his brothers (Acts 1:13-14). One of them is indeed one of the three pillars name by Paul [whole host of references], who was clearly not the brother of Jesus (as all the Gospels agree), but the brother of the other pillar, John. Acts says this James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2). The only other James in Luke-Acts is James the son of Alphaeus (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13), who therefore must be the James still around after the first one is killed,..."

...Acts has so egregiously toyed with the chronology "(contradicting the first hand accounts of Paul in almost every particular) that we might guess Luke has accidentally transposed a story about James the Pillar to a later period, forgetting he had killed him off earlier. After all, Luke does not otherwise explain why this second James is suddenly and constantly treated as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, which James the Pillar is known to have been." (sic) Later Christian legend (first attested to only late in the second century, a whole lifetime or two after Acts was written) replaced this James ben Alphaeus with James 'the brother of the Lord', but Luke clearly has no knowledge of this connection (nor, we must conclude did any source he may have had) Nor do any of the other Gospels show any awareness that any brother of Jesus ever had a role in the church at all, much less as a leader. Mark had already suggested that none of Jesus family entered the church, as he has effectively disowned them (Mark 3:31-34 (repeated in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21; echoed directly in John 7:5 and John 19:26-27 See Chapter 10 (§4).[154]

Paul also conveys that the earliest Christians tended to ecstatic trances,Wikipedia prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues — so much so that outsiders thought they were lunatics.[155] The whole book of Revelation, for example, is a veritable acid trip,[note 8] and yet it got into the Bible as an authoritative document.[note 9] Not only were they channelling 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 visions, dreams, and trances might bring doubt to their reliability as witnesses to the existence of that same "Son of God".

Moreover, 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" (or "Yeshua", etc.) preaching their own gospel or if there were variant teachings in general.

Finally there is good evidence that each of the "Authentic or Early Paul" epistles are actually two or more letters edited together[156] and in some cases the editing is so bad that the point being argued against has been lost (such as in the transition between 1 Cor. 8 and 9)[157] so in addition to Paul himself we have the editor(s) that rendered the epistles into the form we know them.

Non evidential arguments[edit]

There are several points that are presented as "evidence" but in reality aren't.

Archaeological evidence[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Pseudoarchaeology § Biblical archaeology

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[158] 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 overstated 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."[48]

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".[159] In any case as Reuben Thorpe 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."[160] To be fair to Middle Eastern archeology Åsa Berggren showed that there was a major problem with how field work was being done across the world.[161]

Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

Christians often claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the Jesus tales; however, "Dead Sea Scroll writers—contemporaneous to Christ and a mere twelve miles from Bethlehem—recorded absolutely nothing of Jesus. Those scrolls were retrieved unadulterated, and first century Qumran writings quite readily disprove the historical Jesus..."[162] and "Contrary to claims made by a few scholars, no copies of the New Testament (or precursors to it) are represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls."[163]

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

See the main article on this topic: Spider-Man fallacy

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 (unless, of course, it was found that Nazareth didn't exist, in which case it wouldn't count as evidence against him).

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.[164] The existence of Nazareth no more proves Jesus existed than the existence of Atlanta, Georgia during the United States Civil War proves that Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara were real people.

Conversely, the non-existence of Nazareth doesn't 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."[165] In fact, the original term for Christians (Nazorian) has nothing to do with Nazareth as the words have totally different origins. Epiphanius points out in that in Panarion 29 "the Nazarene[note 10] sect was before Christ and did not know Christ."

Some translations of Micah 5:2[166] make it clear that "Bethlehem" is a reference to a group of people in Judea, not a town as is claimed by apologists. Since a Bethlehem tribe could have settled anywhere...even far outside Judea, the whole town idea is on shaky ground.

The curious fact that in the time Jesus supposedly lived there were two Bethlehems...is often ignored. They were the Bethlehem of Zebulun (around 10 kilometers northwest of Nazareth and 30 kilometers east of Haifa, i.e. 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.

Finally, there are some such as Jerome (c. 347 – 420) and Eusebius who argue that "Nazareth" doesn't even refer to a town at all but comes from the term Ne·tzer meaning "branch", "flower", or "offshoot" and rather refers to a group Jesus belonged to. There was indeed a sect called the Nazarenes in 1st century Judea but it is unclear if they predated the appearance of Jesus or were the result of his preaching.

In any case, 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.


Several Jesus-related hoaxes exist, often perpetrated by believers seeking money, fame, or evidence of Jesus. Without exception, these have proven to be frauds.

Consensus regarding the existence of Jesus[edit]

Consensus in of itself is not evidence for something. There are examples where long-held consensuses (such as the Sun revolving around the Earth[167]) were shown to have been flawed. Conversely, to challenge a consensus one has to provide a reasonable counter-theory to explain whatever is being presented as evidence. This is where the matter of Occam's razor comes into play. To oversimplify, Occam's Razor says if two or more competing hypotheses explain something equally well then one should go with the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions.

The claim that the Testimonium Flavianum was forged by Eusebius of Caesarea (supported by some historicists as well as many mythists) is one such place where Occam's Razor seems to apply, as any supporter of the passage being genuine has to explain why people who cited Josephus in other regards (Origen being the main one pointed to) and in many cases would have referenced this passage in their arguments missed it. Carrier in his peer reviewed scholarly published On the Historicity of Jesus uses Bayes’s Theorem based reasoning to argue that odds are the entire thing is a forgery.[168]

Expert opinions are only of value if they are up-to-date. Christian apologists (and an inordinate number of even non-Christian historians in the Biblical Studies field) have a sad tendency to keep citing, even quoting, expert opinions from ten, twenty, even fifty years ago, as if those opinions had any value anymore. But all too often, they don’t. Because so much has happened, so much has been discovered, in just the last ten years—much more so the last half century—that the only expert opinion worth citing now, is one that is based on having evaluated all that new information. [sic][169]

In fact, recent scholarship has presented more evidence that the Testimonium Flavianum was forged by Eusebius.[170][171]

But Carrier leaves another possibly open regarding Josephus if one does research on his examples of John Frum and Ned Ludd. John Frum is academically documented potentially as close as 11 years after he supposedly founded the movement that bears his name and with Ned Ludd there are letters and proclamations supposedly with his signature only 30 years after he supposedly founded the Luddites. Yet it cannot be shown that either person actually existed. So at 60 some years there is no way to say Josephus wasn't simply repeating a myth, given the brevity of what it is thought he actually wrote. Conversely, Carrier's example of John Frum has a sting in the tail regarding Carrier's version of the Christ Myth (Jesus was, and remained, a celestial being); three natives are known to have taken up the name John Frum in a 7-year period which if there were several "Jesuses" that had been conflated into one that would also explain the unusual brevity of Josephus.

This is all ignoring that the majority of scholars can't agree on in what way Jesus "existed".

Comparison of Jesus to other people and/or events[edit]

This in and of itself is not evidence for Jesus existing as a historical person and isn't even true for many of the people Jesus is compared to.

For example, you can hold a translation of Sun Tzu's book The Art of War in your hands and read the records of his life in Records of the Grand Historian and Spring and Autumn Annals which used earlier official records and yet his very existence is debated in scholarly circles.[172] Some of the more nonsensical comparisons are to people with extensive contemporary records and evidence such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and even Pontius Pilate.

"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 to more or less the same degree that Jesus did.)"[173]

This argument gets silly when the record of Jesus is compared to that of any major person or event after the invention of the printing press in the west (1436) and totally hits rock bottom when people compare denying Jesus as a historical person to Holocaust denial.[174][175][176][177][178][179] Such people are either ignorant of just how much material evidence there is for the Holocaust or are making a strawman: the original 1958 finding aids (effectively the index books) for the evidence (some 3000 tons) has 62 volumes, far more than have ever been in the New Testament and 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.[180]

5000 Greek manuscripts ("More reliable than Homer" argument)[edit]

A claim along the lines of "over 5000 distinct pieces of evidence for Jesus" is often presented.[181] Examples of this are Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in their book I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist[1] and Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ.

This argument is absurd as textual reliability has nothing to do with historical reliability as demonstrated by how the printing press from 1436 on allowed the production of perfect copies of fantastical (and now known to be totally fictitious) material.

Moreover, 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 ironically, this analogy boomerangs on apologists trying to defend the historic evidence for Jesus since few historians today believe that a single historical individual named “Homer” ever really existed.

Finally, as "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" by Islamic Awareness[182] shows the argument is deceptive in many ways:

  • The often quoted "over 5000 Greek manuscripts" actually covers a period of time from the 2nd century to the 16th: i.e. 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[182]
  • Most of the really early manuscripts are actually fragments no larger than 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, have verses that have about the chance of a coin toss of matching or being different over the course of 14 centuries.

Our oldest complete Bibles are the Codex Siniaticus (330–360 CE) and Codex Vaticanus (c325–350 CE), so anything regarding historical reliability must involve Greek manuscripts before those dates. This at best gets us a pathetic 48 Greek manuscripts, all of which have date ranges that allow them to be after Irenaeus's c.180 CE work Against Heresies which extensively quotes from what would in the 4th century become the four canonical Gospels.


If there were any records of actual eyewitnesses to Jesus's life and deeds then that would be evidence. However the only person known to have been in the right place and right time was Paul...and he repeatedly states that everything he is relaying about Jesus is coming though visions.

In addition to the above is the assertion stemming from the historicist camp that there existed a lot of first-century eyewitnesses, who simply gave their combined testimony to the gospel writers. In reply to that idea, Robert Price identifies what he calls "two versions" of how this argument has been presented — both of them equally problematic for historicity claimants — in the historical debate on historicity.[183]

The first (and older) version, Price describes in the following terms:[184]

There is the view of F. F. BruceWikipedia and John Warwick MontgomeryWikipedia and others, who simply figure like "How do I connect the dots?".

If Jesus lived and died at around AD 30, and the Gospels are written perhaps only 40 years later, how do you get from one to the other?

And was there oral tradition, did people just repeat these stories? They might've.

And so they basically argue that "since that could be so, and since we *cough* already know there was a historical Jesus to be eyewitnessed by people, well, they must've passed this on...", and the mere possibility starts to count as evidence.

And what they're arguing is, you know, it's not out of the question that there could be eyewitness testimony, so that real information could have been passed on, but the mere possibility is good enough for them, and they say "Yeah, we know there was this sort of thing".

The second pro-historicist view on eyewitnesses, Price terms in the following way:[185]

Then there's the more liberal version of it — form criticismWikipedia and so on — where you say that there were an ongoing Jesus tradition, but it probably would not have been kept accurate.

And so, we've got our work cut out for us trying to sift through it, like the muslim tradents [...] who has sifted through the Hadith.

But you run into the same problem they did; that you may come up with some Jesus sayings and stories about him that cannot be readily debunked, but that doesn't mean whatever else is left over is true. You just may not have the ability to verify it.

And I think people are now — and a lot of scholars — beginning to rethink these criteria of authenticity. None of them really work. And so, it is a connect the dots thing, and it's circular, it seems to me.

Richard Carrier agrees with Price's above descriptions, supplying his own, shorter summary of the two views as:[186]

Like [Robert Price] said, there's a difference between people who think "Oh, this is reliably preserved", and people who think "Oh no, some of it was preserved, it just got layered with legend."

Criterion of embarrassment[edit]

One of the arguments that comes from apologists is the criterion of embarrassment.Wikipedia

The basic argument is that “since Christian authors wouldn't invent anything that would embarrass them, anything embarrassing in the tradition must be true.”[187] 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. Similarly, considering how some of their respective mythologies depict the Norse or Greek gods and their behaviour, they come off as least as, if not more, “embarrassing” (in that these examples often involve the deities themselves and not just their believers) than those biblical examples typically cited with such fervour favour by Christian apologists. In fact, as the Odyssey example and others show, the criterion of embarrassment is not used in historical arguments outside Biblical studies and being a non-standard "special case" that only applies to this narrow sub-genre makes it extremely suspect and the purported conclusions drawn from it exceedingly weak, at best. Moreover we have evidence there was editorial 'meddling' as shown with textual variants, interpolations and rearranged passage sequences.[188][189][190][191][192][193][194][105]

Besides, can we be sure that only Christians were involved in telling and retelling the Gospel narrative? Opponents of Christianity might have made up embarrassing stories in an effort to discredit Christianity (in contrast to interpreting anything embarrassing as indicative of it being true). When embarrassing material appears in Non-canonical gospels or in non-Christian writings generally, Christian apologists are quick to suggest these were lies told to discredit Jesus or Christianity. See Pantera for an example. There is no reason to assume lying to discredit Christianity did not also happen before the Canonical gospels were written down. Telling fact from fiction would have been difficult or impossible, especially for first-century people without the scientific method. Christians could sometimes have believed and retold lies started by opponents of Christianity. Such material could easily have got into the New Testament especially if it was altered to fit Christian ideas better and discredit Christianity less.

References to Chrestus/Christus and Chrestians/Christians[edit]

Sometimes works that talk about a "Chrestus", "Christus", "Chrestians", or "Christians" are presented as evidence for the existence of Jesus as a flesh and blood man.[195] This makes the unproven assumption that Chrestus and Christus must refer to Jesus and only to Jesus. The argument also assumes that "Chrestians" are "Christians", that they are different spellings for the same groups, and then makes the further assumption that the existence of the movement means its creator also must have existed. Following that line of reasoning we could claim that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were great bakers because there is only one letter difference (in US English) between chef and chief.


The problem is that "Chrestus" (meaning "good" or "useful"[196][197]) appears as a familiar personal name, adjective, and even a title as far back as the 5th century BCE.[198][199][200]

Moreover Christus (Christ) is a title, not a name. For example, Origen states that a man named Dositheus used the title 'Christ' sometime around the 1st century CE[201] 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' (i.e. "christs") showing up all over first century CE Palestine.[202][65] One of these (Dositheos the Samaritan) was so obscure that the Christians couldn't agree if he was before[203][204] or after[205] Simon of Peraea. (killed sometime between 4 BCE and 15 CE). The only Dositheus Josephus mentions lived in the time of Herod the Great and there is nothing in that passage to confirm that this is the Dositheus Origen wrote about.[206] and there is nothing in the passage to confirm Origen's claim that Dositheus pretended to be the Christ.[207]

There is even possible evidence that "Chrestus" was another name for the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis,[208] who had a large following in Rome, especially among the common people. Yes, the evidence is from the supposed Hadrian to Servianus letter[209][210] from the somewhat questionable Historia Augusta[211] but it still exists and historians are reluctant to throw the entire piece out as a forgery,[212] Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica (between 60 and 30 BCE) says Sarapis is another name for Osiris, Dionysus, Pluto, Ammon, Zeus, and Pan depending on the sect one is dealing with.[213] Sure there are references to Jesus Chrestos (Jesus the Good) rather than Jesus Christ (Jesus the Messiah): a record of baptism in a Cemetery of Callisto's sepulchral inscription (268 CE), the Deir Ali Inscription (318 CE) PGM IV. 3007-86 (c 4th century), and The Manichaean Manuscripts (4th century). Lactantius (c. 250 – c. 325) tried to explain this in Divine Institutes, Book IV Ch. VII but the explanation doesn't acknowledge the variant of the term "Chrestian" for "Christian" which was used by Christians themselves[214] but there is nothing to connect that Jesus to the one in the New Testament.

Then there is the fact that "Chrestus" has been suggested to refer to a would-be messiah unrelated to Jesus.[215]

Finally, "Chrestus" has related derivatives that far better fit Jesus than "Christ" does, especially to a non-Jewish audience:

  • chraomai: consulting an oracle
  • chresterion: "the seat of an oracle" and "an offering to, or for, the oracle."
  • Chrestes: one who expounds or explains oracles, "a prophet, a soothsayer"
  • chresterios (χρηστήριος): one who belongs to, or is in the service of, an oracle, a god, or a "Master"
  • theochrestos: "God-declared," or one who is declared by god.
  • Χρη̃̃σις –ιος, Att. – εως, ή (fr. χράω to use) use, utility, profit; a loan, an oracle, response; a quotation, extract, passage from another writer a χρησιν.
  • Χρησμολογίω - ω̄, (fr. Χρηςμὸς an oracle, and λέγω to speak) to speak oracles, prophesy, foretell; to interpret omens, explain oracles.
  • Χρησμολογίa –ας ή (fr. same) delivery of an oracle, prophecy, divination, foretelling; interpretation or application of an oracle.
  • Χρησμολόγος, -ου ό ή (fr. same) a deliverer of oracles, a diviner, prophet; an interpreter or expounder of oracles.
  • Χρησήρ, -η̃ρος, ό (fr. χράω to deliver oracles) giving oracles, oracular.
  • Χρηστήριος, - ον, ό (fr. χράω to deliver oracles) oracular, foreboding, prophetic.
  • Χρήστης, -ου, ό (fr. χράω to lend) a creditor, lender of money, usurer; a debtor, borrower; a declarer of oracles, prophet.[216][217]

χρηστιανος/χριστιανος aka Chrestian/Christian[edit]

Setting aside the fact that the Luddites and John Frum cargo cult show that movements do not necessarily have to have flesh-and-blood founders (or if they do they latch onto people who had nothing to do with founding their cult as is the case with the Rusefel (Roosevelt) and Johnson Cargo Cults), the term Chrestian has its own set of problems.

First, early Christian authorities like Tertullian went to great pains in explaining that Christian and Chrestian were two different words with entirely different meanings and were not variants of each other,[218] a claim supported by the evidence.[219][220] So right out of the gate the premise that the two words are variants has to ignore what the people of the time (including ironically the followers of Jesus) were saying and writing.

Furthermore. it is ad hoc to say christos and chrestos were homophones because there is no real evidence for it. Compare how English sounded in Shakespeare's time to say the 19th century. 'Here' was spelled 'heare' and rhymed with 'air'; 'reason' was pronounced 'raisin'; 'creature' was pronounced 'crater', and 'boiled' pronounced 'bile'.[221] and regional dialects made things even more then a mess as 'Egges' was 'Eyren' in some localities.[note 11] Latin wasn't immune from this[222] So just like 'chief' and 'chef' are pronounced differently despite their similar spelling the same could be true of 'christos' and 'chrestos' when they were commonly used. Close homophones like lavatory (a bathroom) and laboratory (a lab) show the regional issue as some people pronounce the 'v' as a 'b' creating confusion between the two words.

Second, the earliest versions of Acts we have don'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 those copies use an abbreviation assumed to mean "Christ". This is what shows Tertullian's claim that only others call the group Chrestian is a lie as followers of Jesus were using that spelling in their own Bible up to the Codex Alexandrinus (c 450) were using Chrestian and there are Christian works that use the "Chrestian" spelling clear into the 13th century[223] In fact not a single piece of material that actually dates before the Codex Alexandrinus (rather than being a copy of such material) uses "Christian" but rather "Chrestian" and that word for a group may predate Christ. Clemens Alexandrinus Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria for the 3rd century CE states "All who believe in Chrest (a good man) both are, and are called Chrestians, that is good men". Note he uses "Chrest" not "Christ.

Third, Epiphanius in Panarion 29 (4th century CE) 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. In fact, there is a inscription dated from 36 BCE - 37 CE that uses the Latin form "CHRESTIANI" when at best the followers of Jesus weren't calling themselves Chrestians until c 44 CE.[224] Then you have the fact that Tiberius in 19 CE expelled Jewish and Egyptian worshippers from Rome[225] which would have logically included worshippers of Serapis (Chrestus). So you have a movement that was called "Natzraya" by everybody outside the movement and called itself different things until one sect took up the term "chrestian".

Fourth, at least one scholar connects Pliny's Nazerini with early Christians and then they go on to date Pliny's source to between 30 and 20 BCE and estimates given the lapse of time required for the installation in Syria of a sect born in Israel/Judea, that the Nasoraean existed 50 BCE[226]

Finally, the Codex Vaticanus (300–325) uses Koine Greek which uses a diphthongizing of the iota into an epsilon-iota resulting in the really odd spelling of "Chreistian". The Codex Bezae (c. 400) also uses this particular spelling. It is like a missing link in the "evolution" of "Chrestian" into "Christian".

"Myth, Madman, or Messiah"[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Lewis Trilemma

Alternately, the "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord" argument and a specific case of a false dichotomy. Again this is not evidence.

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 myth (both types), 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. It also relies on the (false) a priori assumption that the Gospels are essentially providing us with an unvarnished historical record of Jesus' life.

The Argumentum ad martyrdom of "Would the Disciples die for a lie?" falls into this category and ignores that there are many examples of people dying for beliefs which turned out to be false, deceptive, or poorly understood (Hong Xiuquan's Taiping Rebellion followers, Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, Branch Davidians, etc.)[227]

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.

So, did Jesus exist?[edit]

Short answer, we don't know. Many scholars of Christianity dedicate part of their lives to answering the question, which we strongly advise against. As stated at the start of this page arguments depend on the admitted evidence. The extreme "Triumphalist theory (Remsberg's Jesus of Bethlehem)" certainly didn't exist and the extreme "Reductive theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Nazareth)" is so broad you could point to any 1st century BCE to 1st century CE would be messiah and say 'that was the historical Jesus'. It is very possible that the deeds and words of other would be messiahs were attributed to a Jesus who lived from 6 BCE to 36 CE; that view would present an excellent Occam's razor way of explaining many of the historical hiccups in the Gospels; keeping in mind, Occam's razor is only a rule that favors simplicity. If you want to get really flippantly silly you could come up with a "historical Jesus" that existed as human being but whose relevance to the Gospels is effectively nil:

  1. In the time of Pontius Pilate some crazy ran into the Temple trashing the place and screaming "I am Jesus, King of the Jews" before some guard ran him through with a sword. Right place right time...and that is it. No preaching, no followers, no crucifixion, nothing but some nut doing the 1st century equivalent of suicide by cop.
  2. Paul's teachings ala John Frum inspired others to take up the name "Jesus" and preach their spin on Paul's visions with one of them getting crucified by the Romans by his troubles whose teachings are time shifted so he is before Paul. (John Robertson actually came up with a variant of this in 1900 with this Jesus being inspired by Paul's writings rather than teachings)
  3. You could have a Jesus who was born c 12 BCE in the small town of Cana, who preached a few words of Jewish wisdom to small crowds of no more than 10 people at a time, and died due to being run over by a chariot at the age of 50.

Yes, two of them are ridiculous absurd examples, but that is the point. One need not go all the way to 'Jesus never existed as a human being' to claim "Jesus didn't exist" (more actually "A Jesus we would recognize didn't exist"), yet for some reason, many mythists go that way.

Recommended reading[edit]

Pro historical Jesus[edit]

  • Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ASIN B003VPWXH4. 
  • Theissen, Gerd; Annette, Merz (1998). Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0800631222. 

Jesus Agnosticism[edit]

Pro Jesus myth in the "Jesus didn't exist at all as a human being" vein[edit]

  • Doherty, Earl The Jesus Puzzle (The work that inspired Carrier to produce his peer reviewed book)
  • Brodie, Thomas L. (2012). Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 978-1907534584.  (A Catholic priest's conclusion that Jesus didn't exist.)
  • Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2.  (only detailed peer reviewed published by a recognized academic publisher work written by a historian that is known to exist)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. The Jesus myth theory article is on the debate itself.
  2. "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."
  3. This UFO religion concept comes off as someone having read EC Comics' "He Walked Among Us" (Weird Science #13) and Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods one too many times and then following it up with a Star Trek original series marathon.
  4. 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".
  5. Though considering the gullibility of some people even today, we should not be too quick to toot the horn for the level of present rationality either.
  6. This difference in the weights between the discus of the ancient and modern games was dramatized in the 1984 TV series The First Olympics Athens 1896.
  7. 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.
  8. Carrier in one of his lectures describes Revelation as a "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--several of them in fact - with one of them adding the Uncanny Valley of CGI to the already off the wall bonkers story
  9. Numerous scholars, most notably Martin Luther, believed Revelation should not be included in the main Bible for this reason.
  10. sometimes spelled Nasaraean
  11. The result of this change is that many puns Shakespeare's plays had to no longer work.


  1. Oser, Scott "Historicity Of Jesus FAQ (1994)" infidels
  2. Galatians 1:11-12
  3. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
  4. Dunn, James D. G. (2003), Jesus Remembered, p. 339
  5. 5.0 5.1 Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  6. Ehrman, Bart, Did Jesus Exist? (2012), Harper Collins, p. 12.
  7. Strand, Narve (5 May 2019). [1.1 ver]. “Why Jesus Most Probably Never Existed: Ehrman’s Double Standards”. Academia.edu.
  8. See the Wikipedia article on Constantin-François Volney.
  9. Wells, G. A. "Stages of New Testament Criticism", Journal of the History of Ideas, volume 30, issue 2, 1969.
  10. Dodd, C. H. (1938). "Christ Myth Theory". History and the Gospel. Manchester University Press.
  11. Wood, Herbert George (1934) Christianity and the nature of history MacMillan (New York, Cambridge, [Eng.]: The University Press pg 40
  12. See the Wikipedia article on James George Frazer.
  13. Frazer, James George (1913). The golden bough: a study in magic and religion. 9. London: Macmillan. p. 412.
  14. Schweitzer, Albert (2014). "Literary Studies During My Medical Course". Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781466882942. Retrieved 5 January 2021. "[...] the works of John M. Robertson, William Benjamin Smith, James George Frazer, Arthur Drews, and others, who contested the historical evidence of Jesus." 
  15. Carrier 2014, pp. 26-30.
  16. Remsburg, John 1909, Chapter 9.
  17. Remsburg, John 1909, Chapter 12.
  18. Price, Robert (2012) The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems pg 387-8
  19. 19.0 19.1 Price, Robert (1997) Christ a Fiction
  20. Price, Robert (2000) Deconstructing Jesus, pp. 15-16
  21. James M. Hanson. Was Jesus a Buddhist? Buddhist-Christian Studies, Annual 2005 v25 p75(15)
  22. Ellis, Ralph (2011). Jesus, King of Edessa. Edfu Books. p. 620. 
  23. Carrier 2014, pp. 30.
  24. Carrier 2014, pp. 34.
  25. Price, Robert (2012) The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems pg 387-8
  26. Carrier 2014, pp. 33.
  27. Cavin, Robert Greg; Colombetti, Carlos A. (2014). "Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus [PDF]". Faith and Philosophy. 31 (2): 204–216. doi:10.5840/faithphil20146511.
  28. Carrier (27 November 2017). "For the Existence of Jesus, Is the Principle of Contamination Invalid? Cavin & Colombetti vs. Law".  Richard Carrier Blogs.
  29. Lataster 2019a, pp. 81–91.
  30. Carrier 2014, pp. 3-13.
  31. Miner, H.M., "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema", American Anthropologist, vol 58: pp. 503-507, June 1956.
  32. Burke, James The Day the Universe Changed
  33. Zukav, Gary (1979) The Dancing Wu Li Masters
  34. Penn & Teller: Bullshit! - "The Bible - Fact or Fiction?" (S02E06)
  35. "The Case of the Bermuda Triangle" NOVA Original air date: 1976-06-27
  36. Tagg, Larry The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America's Most Reviled President Savas Beatie
  37. Dawson, 1998 Sociology of New Religious Movements; R Robertson (1975) Religious Movements and Modern Society; Blackhorn (1985) Death and Deification
  38. 38.0 38.1 Funk, (1996) Honest to Jesus
  39. Funk et al., The Five Gospels
  40. Jewish messianic claimants § Before the Common EraWikipedia
  41. Carrier 2014, pp. 7.
  42. Handbook of Biblical Chronology, rev. ed., 1998
  43. Hatfield, Charles Wilson (2013) The First Peace; My Search For The Better Angels pg 258
  44. Avalos, Hector (2007) The End of Biblical Studies, Prometheus Books. some snippets of book
  45. Carrier, Richard (1999) Thallus: An Analysis
  46. Carrier, Richard (2011–12) "Thallus and the Darkness at Christ's Death" Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011–12) 185-91
  47. Trigger, Bruce (2006) A History of Archaeological Thought. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  48. 48.0 48.1 Carrier 2014, pp. 12.
  49. Carrier 2014, pp. 27.
  50. Spence, Lewis (1921) An introduction to mythology p. 42
  51. Neusner, Jacob; Alan Jeffery Avery-Peck (2007) Encyclopedia of religious and philosophical writings in late antiquity Brill, Page 369
  52. Hastings, James; John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray (1919) Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, Volume 10
  53. Seznec (1995) The Survival of the Pagan Gods Princeton University Press pg 12-13
  54. Zeus Is Dead: Euhemerus and Crete, S. Spyridakis, The Classical Journal, Vol. 63, No. 8, May, 1968, pp. 337-340.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Price, Robert M (2011). The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems, p. 49-51)
  56. "For Euhemerus, Zeus was a human who came from Crete, acted as a lawgiver, and eventually returned to Crete, where he died and was buried." - Stephens, Susan A. (2003) Seeing Double University of California Press, pg 90
  57. 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."
  58. Justin Martyr,First Apology [21:30]
  59. Phayllos of Kroton. Archived from kuleuven.be, 2012.
  60. "The Old Olympic Games" The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Volume 51 (Nov 1895-April 1896) pg 803-816
  61. Anthologia Palatina 16.53; Luxorius, ‎Morris Rosenblum (1961) Latin Poet Among the Vandals Columbia University Press Page 248
  62. Carrier 2014, pp. 45.
  63. Carrier, Richard (1997) Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels
  64. Josephus 94, 17.269-270.
  65. 65.0 65.1 Carrier 2014, pp. 67-73.
  66. Paulkovich, Michael, No Meek Messiah. Annapolis: Spillix, 2012, pp. 199-200.
  67. Remsburg, John 1909, Chapter 8.
  68. Matthew 21:10
  69. 69.0 69.1 R.G. Price, 2007-01-03. "Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ".
  70. Do Any First Century Historians Mention the Jesus of Christianity?
  71. Augustine, City of God 6.10-1 1
  72. 72.0 72.1 Carrier 2014, pp. 303.
  73. Carrier 2014, pp. 323-326.
  74. Carrier 2014, pp. 326-331.
  75. Carrier 2014, pp. 305.
  76. Lataster 2019b, p. 151.
  77. Lataster, Raphael (November 12, 2015). "Afterword by Richard Carrier". Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists. p. 418. ISBN 1514814420. 
  78. Scott Oser (1994) Historicity Of Jesus FAQ
  79. Lataster 2019b, pp. 34, 36, 38.
  80. "The Coincidences of the Testimonium of Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative of Luke", Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha (vol. 13, 1995), pp. 59-77.
  81. Jesus in Josephus by Richard Carrier, Freethougth Blogs (archived from April 3 2016)>
  82. Eddy, Paul Rhodes; Gregory A. Boyd (2007) The Jesus Legend Baker Academic ISBN-13: 978-0801031144 pg 152-157
  83. Olson, Ken (2013) “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum.” Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations, eds. Aaron Johnson and Jeremy Schott (Harvard University Press), pp. 97–114.
  84. Hopper, Paul (2014) "A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63." Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers, eds. Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob (de Gruyter), pp. 147–169.
  85. Carrier, Richard (15 Feb 2017) Josephus on Jesus? Why You Can’t Cite Opinions Before 2014
  86. Eddy, Paul Rhodes; Gregory A. Boyd (2007) The Jesus Legend Baker Academic ISBN-13: 978-0801031144 pg 157
  87. Goldberg, Gary J. (1995) "The Coincidences of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus" The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 pp. 59-77
  88. Proof Tacitus Manuscript was Altered
  89. Carrier, Richard (2014) "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44" Vigiliae Christianae, Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 264 – 283
  90. >C. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) : Letters: Manuscripts and transmission The Tertullian Project
  91. Benko, Stephen (1986) Pagan Rome and the Early Christians Indiana University Press ISBN: 978-0-253-20385-4
  92. Carrier 2014, pp. 275.
  93. Carpenter, Joseph Estlin (1904) The first three Gospels: their origin and relations - Page 313
  94. Efrón, Joshua (1987) Studies on the Hasmonean Period Brill Academic Pub Page 158
  95. 20 Reasons that Jesus Lived in the First Century B.C
  96. Freund,Richard A (2009) Digging through the Bible: modern archaeology and the ancient Bible Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 978-0742546455 pg 287
  97. Carrier 2014, pp. 148-152.
  98. Carrier 2014, pp. 214-222.
  99. Carrier 2014, pp. 361.
  100. Philip Sellew "Laodiceans and the Philippians Fragments Hypothesis" Harvard Theological Review. 1994; 87:17-28.
  101. William Walker (2001) Interpolations in the Pauline Letters Sheffield Academic Press
  102. 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
  103. Carrier, Richard (June 01, 2011) Pauline Interpolations
  104. Bart D. Ehrman (1993) The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Oxford University Press
  105. 105.0 105.1 105.2 Metzger, Bruce (1992) The Text of the New Testament Oxford University press
  106. Philip Sellew "Laodiceans and the Philippians Fragments Hypothesis" Harvard Theological Review. 1994; 87:17-28.
  107. William Walker (2001) Interpolations in the Pauline Letters Sheffield Academic Press,
  108. Richard Carrier blog (2011) Pauline Interpolations
  109. 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
  110. E. Randolph Richards (2004) Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection pg 99-121
  111. Robert B. Stewart (2011) The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue
  112. Bart D. Ehrman (1993) The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Oxford University Press
  113. Carrier 2014, pp. 259.
  114. Carrier 2014, pp. 306.
  115. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  116. Griffin, Bruce W. (1996), "The Paleographical Dating of P-46"
  117. 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.
  118. "Not in every place, brethren, are sacrifices offered continually, either in answer to prayer, or concerning sin and neglect, but in Jerusalem only; and even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the temple in the court of the altar, after that which is offered has been diligently examined by the high priest and the appointed ministers" - 1 Clement 41:2
  119. Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett. The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Incorporated, 2001, p. 145.
  120. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24-52.
  121. Smith, Geoffrey S. (2014) Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity Oxford University Press pg 73
  122. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24-52.
  123. Carrier, Richard (2014) (in en). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. p. 492, n. 217. ISBN 9781909697355. 
  124. Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-514182-2.
  125. Nongbr, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.
  126. Goodacre, Mark (2012) (in en). Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas's Familiarity with the Synoptics. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802867483. 
  127. Doherty, Earl (2012). The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest. Age of Reason Publications, Online Kindle.Wikipedia  asin B00A2XN7EQ.Wikipedia
  128. Godfrey, Neil. "Gospel of Peter" Cf. Table: Comparing the Gospel of Peter with the Canonical Gospels.  Vridar.
  129. Kirby, Peter. "Gospel of Peter".  Early Christian Writings.
  130. Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperOne. pp. 75–78. ISBN 978-0-06-208994-6. 
  131. Price, R. G. (1 November 2018). "On the Origin of Jesus by Means of Mythical Propagation".  rationalrevolution.
  132. Comment by R. G. Price—28 August 2019—per Godfrey, Neil (25 August 2019). "The Tone of a Mythicist-Agnostic Debate".  Vridar. "Thomas contains nothing old, it’s just a collection of quotes and paraphrases from the canonical Gospels. And furthermore, we have to be very wary of works like Thomas because in fact there were forgers working quite diligently at this time to produce fake ancient writings. Indeed there was actually a huge market for these types of works throughout the period of classical Rome. This wasn’t just a Christian thing. Literally thousands of fake documents that were crafted to be passed off as authentic writings or accounts of prophets and heroes, and Thomas bears hallmarks of such a document."
  133. Griffin, Bruce W. (1996), "The aleographical Dating of P-46" with 2005 email
  134. Carrier 2014, pp. 359.
  135. Carrier 2014, pp. 362.
  136. Carrier 2014, pp. 364-368.
  137. Carrier 2014, pp. 375-6.
  138. Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report; Polebridge Press, 2013
  139. Crossan (1995) Who killed Jesus
  140. 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.
  141. 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.
  142. Usman Sheikh's Geographical Errors Within the New Testament has a good overview.
  143. Wall (2010) Opening and Entering Mark (a discussion of the place and space in the Gospel of Mark)
  144. 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.
  145. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" p. 266-268; Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament
  146. Carrier 2014, pp. 267.
  147. But who made a mistake in Luke 8 -Archive copy at the Wayback Machine “Did Jesus Even Exist?” by Frank Zindler
  148. The Two-source hypothesisWikipedia explains the synoptic problemWikipedia by invoking Q, whereas the competing Farrer hypothesisWikipedia simply assumes that the author of Luke had read the gospels of Mark and Matthew and edited what he didn't like.
  149. Carrier 2014, pp. 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.
  150. James Tabor (08/14/2014) The Quest for the Historical Paul
  151. Carrier 2014, pp. 261-262.
  152. Based mainly on internal evidence of order of writing, with a few correspondences to known history, c.f. [Troxel, Ronald L. (2010) Dating the Pauline Epistles. R.G Price dates them to the end of the 1st century or early 2nd century (see The Amazing Colossal Apostle).
  153. Acts 9:20
  154. Carrier 2014, pp. 373.
  155. e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:23
  156. Carrier 2014, pp. 511.
  157. Carrier 2014, pp. 582-3.
  158. Scott Gordon and James Gordon Irving, The History and Philosophy of Social Science. Routledge 1991. Page 1. ISBN 0-415-05682-9
  159. Carrier 2014, pp. 257-258.
  160. Reuben Thorpe "Which way is up? Context formation and transformation: The life and deaths of a hot bath in Beirut" (Assemblage 1998)
  161. Åsa Berggren "The relevance of stratigraphy" American Antiquity, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Jul., 2003), pp. 421-434
  162. No Meek Messiah by Michael Paulkovich (2012) Page 208.
  163. Magness, Jodi, The Archaelogoy of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 34.
  164. Carrier 2014, p. 258n8.
  165. Carrier 2014, p. 400, "For Christians to call themselves Nazarenes because their founder was from Nazareth would make no more sense than Platonists calling themselves Athenians because their founder was from Athens."
  166. Compare Translations for Micah 5:2. Bible Study Tools.
  167. God Who Wasn't There (2005)
  168. Carrier 2014, pp. 332-337.
  169. Carrier, Richard (15 Feb 2017) Josephus on Jesus? Why You Can’t Cite Opinions Before 2014
  170. Olson, Ken (2013) “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum.” Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations, eds. Aaron Johnson and Jeremy Schott (Harvard University Press), pp. 97–114.
  171. Hopper, Paul (2014) "A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63." Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers, eds. Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob (de Gruyter), pp. 147–169.
  172. Sawyer, Ralph D. (2005), The Essential Art of War, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-07204-6
  173. Carrier 2014, pp. 291.
  174. 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
  175. Nicholas Perrin (2008) Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus pg 32)
  176. McClymond, Michael James (2004) Familiar Stranger: an Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth pp. 23-24
  177. Powell, Mark Allan (1998), Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, Louisville: Westminster John Knox p. 168
  178. Piper, John (2006) Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, Wheaton: Crossway, pp. 14-15
  179. Micael R. Licona, in Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, p. 112
  180. Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust presented at Nuremberg United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  181. Robert Stewart, The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue p17
  182. 182.0 182.1 M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires (2007) "Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament" Islamic Awareness
  183. YouTube: Did Jesus Exist? Dr. Robert M Price, Dr. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald Interview Part 1, SanJoseAtheists, (14:18)
  184. YouTube: Did Jesus Exist? Dr. Robert M Price, Dr. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald Interview Part 1, SanJoseAtheists, (14:40)
  185. YouTube: Did Jesus Exist? Dr. Robert M Price, Dr. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald Interview Part 1, SanJoseAtheists, (15:42)
  186. YouTube: Did Jesus Exist? Dr. Robert M Price, Dr. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald Interview Part 1, SanJoseAtheists, (16:51)
  187. Carrier, Richard (2008) “Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method — Adjunct Materials and Tutorial”
  188. Philip Sellew "Laodiceans and the Philippians Fragments Hypothesis" Harvard Theological Review. 1994; 87:17-28.
  189. William Walker (2001) Interpolations in the Pauline Letters Sheffield Academic Press,
  190. Richard Carrier blog (2011) Pauline Interpolations
  191. 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
  192. E. Randolph Richards (2004) Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection pg 99-121
  193. Robert B. Stewart (2011) The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue
  194. Bart D. Ehrman (1993) The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Oxford University Press
  195. "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 Suetonius." (Burridge, Richard A. and Graham Gould (2004) "Jesus Then and Now Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing pg 37). In reality, none of these Roman historical writers mention Jesus by name, but refer rather to Chrestus, Christus, or Christians.
  196. McClintock, John; James Strong (1894) Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Volume 2 Page 259
  197. Porter, Stanley E.; Matthew Brook O'Donnell, Wendy J. Porter (eds.) (2004) Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism - Volume 1, 2000. Page 102
  198. Mitchell, James Barr (1880) Chrestos: a religious epithet; its import and influence
  199. 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.
  200. "Archaeology of 'Chrest'" History Hunters International
  201. Contra Celsum," i. 57, vi. 11; in Matth. Comm. ser. xxxiii.; "Homil." xxv. in Lucam; "De Principiis," iv. 17.
  202. Jewish Antiquities 17.269-270
  203. Clement of Rome, l.c. ii. 8; several passages in Origen; Epiphanius, l.c.
  204. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Prmitive Christianity", Jean Danielou, p. 95-96, 1958, Mentor edition 1962
  205. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, iv. 22, § 5
  206. Josephus 94, 15.165.
  207. Contra Celsum," i. 57, vi. 11; in Matth. Comm. ser. xxxiii.; "Homil." xxv. in Lucam; "De Principiis," iv. 17.
  208. Serapis (Sarapis) Egypt Travel Guide
  209. Drews, Arthur (1912) The witnesses to the historicity of Jesus
  210. Hadrian to Servianus, 134 CE (bolded part Quoted by Giles, Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. II, p86, 1877
  211. 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
  212. Breisach, Ernst (2007). Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-07284-5.
  213. "Osiris has been given the name Sarapis by some, Dionysus by others, Pluto by others, Ammon by others, Zeus by some, and many have considered Pan to be the same god; and some say that Sarapis is the god whom the Greeks call Pluto."The Library of History of Diodorus Siculus published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1933
  214. The sources of "Chrestian" [χρηστιανος]and "Christian" [χριστιανος] in Antiquity
  215. E. A. Judge and G. S. R. Thomas, “The Origin of the Church at Rome: A New Solution,” RTR 25 (1966): 85
  216. The sources of CHRESTOS and CHRISTOS in Antiquity
  217. Rev. John Groves' Greek-English Dictionary (Classical and New Testament Usages) 1828 page 605
  218. Christian, Yeremyah (archive.today)
  219. The sources of "Chrestian" (χρηστιανος) and "Christian" (χριστιανος) in Antiquity
  220. The sources of CHRESTOS and CHRISTOS in Antiquity
  221. What Shakespeare's English Sounded Like - and how we know
  222. What Latin Sounded Like - and how we know
  223. The sources of "Chrestian" (χρηστιανος) and "Christian" (χριστιανος) in Antiquity
  224. Erík Zara (2009) "Chrestians before Christians? An Old Inscription Revisited"
  225. Boatwright, Mary T. (2012) Peoples of the Roman World Cambridge University Press pg 123
  226. Bernard. Dubourg, L'Invention de Jesus, Gallimard Paris 1987, II, p. 157
  227. "Would someone die for a lie?" (religions.wiki)