Did Jesus Exist?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

It continues to surprise me that many people believe that Jesus did not exist. Further, even if he did exist, his teachings have done incredible harm.

For instance, here’s a recent discussion on reddit about this question:

(Warning: some of the language used in this forum is not acceptable in our context).

One comment, by a gnostic atheist, goes like this:

I think he didn’t exist and that the lessons he supposedly taught are terrible for humanity.

Let’s consider together how to respond. Two kinds of response are needed:

  1. What are the key historical facts you would say establish the existence of Jesus as a real person?
  2. How would you engage in the conversation so as to have the opportunity to respectfully bring forward the evidence on the question?

(Dave Kenny) #2

I’ll start off and leave a bunch of room for others to chime in:

Key historical facts:

a) Documentary evidence, multiple attestation and identification by both neutral and hostile audiences
b) Historical impact (Kingdoms, empires, calendar, global masses of followers, personal testimony)
c) lack of a credible alternative hypothesis that explains the existence of the above evidence plausibly

How to engage:

this may sound rather plain, but I would go straight for the “source of authority” conversation. Some starter questions might sounds something like this:

“Have you studied history before at the academic level?”
“Are you familiar with the historical tests for authenticity?”
“Do you believe that King Edward existed? Why?”
“Do you believe that your great, great, great Aunt Bertha ever existed? Says who? How can you trust them?”
“When is enough evidence enough? When do you become reasonably certain of a historical fact? What are your tests?”
“Do you believe that anything is real?”:
“Which point do you feel more strongly about? The point that he didn’t exist? Or the point that his teachings were terrible for humanity? Is there a teacher of antiquity that you believe offered better teaching for humanity than Jesus? Who would that be? What do you like about those teachings?”

There’s a bit to get this post going…

Dave


(Jimmy Sellers) #3

If there is a real opportunity to engage with someone about Jesus and they are not just setting me up to tap dance I have always found that a good place to start is, “What do you know about Jesus?” This is done to find a jumping on place. No need in swinging for the fence if pitch and catch is what is required. It would be nice know how they concluded that Jesus did not exist. I think for contrast I might ask if they believed that Homer, Pythagoras and Shakespeare were historical figure? If so, how could they be sure? How much evidence and consensus can be found?

I would see were this went and leave them with a challenge to read secular historic accounts of the man Jesus. I have found this book to be very helpful, Jesus Outside the New Testament An introduction to the Ancient Evidence.

I would leave him with a point to ponder, if Homer, Pythagoras and Shakespeare really didn’t exist what difference would it make in your life? Geometry and literature would not change but if Jesus was real and I believe him to be so, this could change your life and your very destiny.


(Kevin Abshire) #4

Great questions!

  1. I would start with showing them non Biblical ancient writings about Jesus. (Josephus) and Christ followers (Suetonius, Tacitus,etc.). I had a dialogue not too long ago with someone that had never heard of outside Biblical sources for the proof that Jesus even existed.

  2. To engage respectfully I would start by acknowledging the difficulty in knowing something to be 100% true from history, without being there to verify it. I think then I would move to other examples of Historical people that we all believe to have existed and never seem to question. Socrates and Alexander The Great for example, and gently press into why they are never questioned.

I think we all know why The existence of Jesus is questioned by some non believers. If it’s proven He did exist , then the next question is why did He exist. That of course opens the heart up to some very difficult realities.


(Carson Weitnauer) #5

Hi friends, here are some nice quotes in a recent National Geographic article:

“I don’t know any mainstream scholar who doubts the historicity of Jesus,” said Eric Meyers, an archaeologist and emeritus professor in Judaic studies at Duke University. “The details have been debated for centuries, but no one who is serious doubts that he’s a historical figure.”

I heard much the same from Byron McCane, an archaeologist and history professor at Florida Atlantic University. “I can think of no other example who fits into their time and place so well but people say doesn’t exist,” he said.

Even John Dominic Crossan, a former priest and co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, a controversial scholarly forum, believes the radical skeptics go too far. Granted, stories of Christ’s miraculous deeds—healing the sick with his words, feeding a multitude with a few morsels of bread and fish, even restoring life to a corpse four days dead—are hard for modern minds to embrace. But that’s no reason to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was a religious fable.

“Now, you can say he walks on water and nobody can do that, so therefore he doesn’t exist. Well, that’s something else,” Crossan told me when we spoke by phone. “The general fact that he did certain things in Galilee, that he did certain things in Jerusalem, that he got himself executed—all of that, I think, fits perfectly into a certain scenario.”

These are nice quotes because they appear in a contemporary edition of National Geographic, which is likely to be a cultural authority that a skeptic would accept as believable and persuasive.


(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Also, here is a nice round-up of quotes from the ancient world that reference Jesus as a real person:


(Carson Weitnauer) #7

A post was split to a new topic: When are we ‘casting our pearls before swine’?


(Helen Tan) #8

Here are some resources from Gary Habermas:

http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm#ch9

http://www.garyhabermas.com/Evidence/index.htm


(Dave Kenny) #9

I love Habermas’ writing


(Sameh Magdy) #10

I love these questions Dave. Although they sound generic, they are in fact very specific to help the questioner challenge his own general and cultural assumptions !


(Dave Kenny) #11

.Thanks for the feedback. You’re very kind!