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January 01, 2007

Jesus Never Existed!

I had never encountered a person who seriously questioned the existence of Jesus. Sure, I’ve known folks who said he was an admirable, if deluded teacher, or that his followers misunderstood him or elevated his status, but none have suggested that he didn’t exist.

Then, in a recent discussion with an academic philosopher, I was informed that "Biblical scholars tend to fudge the issue, but historians are much clearer: there is no evidence of Jesus’ existence. He goes completely under the radar of the Roman records, the Palestinian historians--everyone!”

Everyone? I asked. That would be news to Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, and Suetonious who, by the way, weren't particularly inclined toward this odd character or his fringe following. Unfortunately, that comment didn’t carry sufficient heft.

More recently I learned that the same argument is advanced in The God Who Wasn't There—the DVD, you will recall, offered in The Blasphemy Challenge.

Frankly, these people remind me of those conspiracy theorists who claim that the 9/11 attacks were not the work of Islamofascist terrorists, but the sinister act of the U.S.government (on its own citizens!) to justify going to war against Iraq to advance its imperialistic visions. I guess when history doesn’t jibe with their ideals, they just starting makin’ stuff up!

What is the history they don’t like?...That Jesus was a Jew who lived in early first-century Palestine; that he was executed on the order of Pontius Pilate; and that after his death his disciples began saying he had risen from the dead.

Those are the historical facts beyond competent dispute; even by some not-so-sympathetic authorities. For instance, classical historian Michael Grant admits, "Their testimonies cannot prove them to have been right in supposing that Jesus had risen from the dead. However, these accounts do prove that certain people were utterly convinced that that is what he had done."

If one dismisses all of that, there’s still the troubling question--if Jesus never existed, how did a Christian community arise within the living memory of those who were his contemporaries? Even more--why did they allow themselves to be thrown into the Coliseum by Nero for a fictitious hero?

For whatever one may believe about the historical record, one stubborn fact remains: the emergence (and persecution!) of a first-century community that grew out of the teachings of a leader whose credentials could have been checked out from any number of surviving eyewitnesses. But in a culture where the perpetrators of 9/11 are in doubt, that fact is just another casualty of revisionist history.

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Brian Sapient

How bout you come discuss it with us?


Regis Nicoll

Brian—I perused your website and arguments against the historicity of Jesus. Now, when I run into someone who tells me the Apollo missions were shot on a Hollywood set, I’ll no longer be amazed. Of course everyone has a right to his views; but those counter to the historicity of the Holocaust, moon landings and Jesus Christ are, to put it as genteelly as possible, on the fringes of the fringe.

I’ll fess up--I’m no historian; but respected scholars who are, and happen to be neutral toward Christianity, have this to say about the Jesus myth theory:

Michael Grant (atheist): “[W]e can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned....modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars. In recent years, no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.

Will Durant (Humanist): “After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of the life, character, and teaching of Christ, remain reasonably clear, and constitute the most fascinating feature of the history of Western man.”

Greg Laurich

The "Jesus does not exist" mvement is alive and well. I had no idea that so much energy and time had been spend showing that Jesus is a fraud and so is Christianity. There are numerous books out and I even read a thread where someone claimed that King David was actually gay. (unfortunately I could not find it this morning)
Just peruse some of the threads here and you will see what I mean.

Regis Nicoll

I too "had no idea that so much energy and time had been spend showing that Jesus is a fraud." As Queen Gertrude told her son, Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

C. John McCauley

Tacitus, a leading Roman historian of the 1st century, described the great fire of Rome which many have said was caused by the Emperor Nero. He states:

“Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievious superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. ...[A]n immense multitude (of Christians) was convicted”.

I wonder what Tacitus was describing as “a most mischievous superstition”. What do you think he meant? The resurrection certainly comes to mind. There must have already been a great number of Christians in Rome at this time.

Suetonius, secretary to the Emperor Hadrian who ruled Rome in the beginning of the 2nd century, wrote in his Life of Nero, 16: “Punishment was inflicted upon the Christians, a body of people addicted to a novel and mischievous superstition.”

Josephus, the reputable Jewish historian who worked for the Romans, in his books Jewish Wars (A.D. 77-78) and Antiquities of the Jews (A.D. 94) details the historic nature of both the Old and New Testaments. He describes the Old Testament Books “which contain the records of all past times”.

Josephus confirms that Jesus was a real 1st century person, who was called Christ. Josephus confirms the existence of John the Baptist, that he was called the Baptist and that he was killed by King Herod. Josephus described Jesus as a wise and virtuous man who was crucified by Pontius Pilate; that his disciples claimed that Jesus appeared to them three days after His death alive and that perhaps Jesus was the Messiah of whom the prophets foretold.

Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator, stated that Jesus was worshiped as god by the early Christians, that they were not easily swayed of their beliefs and he describes Christian morality.

Talmadic writings from the 1st century show that Jesus was hanged on the day before the feast of the Passover at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders as described in the New Testament.

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu (Jesus) was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery (healings and exorcisms) and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of Passover!”

There are other non-Christian writings that confirm the Gospel accounts of the New Testament. I am afraid to test your patience any longer. The non-Christian writings described above and others show that Jesus of Nazareth existed and that he lived a virtuous life. Many people believed that he performed healings and his critics called him a sorcerer. He was crucified at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders by Pontius Pilate during the reign of emperor Tiberius. His disciples believed that He was alive after His crucifixion. His disciples lived moral lives. Early on Jesus was worshiped as God. Christianity rapidly spread beyond Judea to Rome.

The non-Christian written sources agree with the Biblical account when speaking of the same subject matter.

Greg Laurich

Wow that is very fascinating, but are there links to this? Some of the people I discuss things like this with want proof and lots of it.


About the historical prove of the existence of Jesus -Jeshua Ben Joseph of Natzareth, Judea-, it is as non-scientific as the prove of the existence of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, King David of Jerusalem, Abraham of Ur, and thousands of historical men whose names and lives are mentioned in books without any other source of identification like the statues of Julius Caesar or the photos of Abraham Lincoln. We are convinced of the existence of the Chinese Dinasties and nobody ever saw a Tenth Century Chinese Emperor. We have to rely on books to prove those historical factors, otherwise we could not even believe our own family ancestry since in most of the cases there is no historical evidence of our family origins prior to three or four centuries. A century from now, college students will discuss about the existence of Sadam Hussein. Most of them will think that Sadam was just an exaggerated character created by Americans like some believe it happened with Adolf Hitler. Why not to trust what Pliny the Younger said about Jesus of Nazareth?

C. John McCauley

In response to Greg’s inquiry, here are the sources of my previous comment:

Tacitus. Annals. In Great Books of the Western World, ed. by Robert Maynard Hutchins. Vol. 15. at 15.44. The Annals and The Histories by Cornelius Tacitus. Chicago: William Benton, 1952.

Suetonis. Life of Nero, 16, The Twelve Caesars, Trans. by Robert Graves. Revised by Michael Grant. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1979.

Josephus Flavius. “Against Apion,”at 1.8. The Antiquities of the Jews. New York: Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co., 1900.

Josephus Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1. New York: Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co., 1900.

Josephus Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2. New York: Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co., 1900.

Id. At 18.3.3.

Pliny the Younger. Letters 10:96. Trans. by W. Melmoth. Quoted in Norman L Giesler, Bakers Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998.

Babylonian Talmud, Sanedrin 43a.

Regarding the study and acceptance of historical documents, I find it interesting that there are approximately ten good copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars with the oldest dating 900 years after Caesar; approximately 35 books of The Roman History of Livy with the oldest dating to the 4th century; approximately 14 books of The Histories of Tacitus written around 100 A.D., with the earliest copy dating to approximately the 9th century; approximately eight manuscripts of the History of Thucydides written in the 5th century B.C., with the earliest copy dating to approximately 900 A.D.; and only a few papyrus scraps of The History of Herodotus which was also written in the 5th century B.C. with the earliest manuscripts being 1,300 years old. All of these books are considered to be reliable histories. It becomes obvious that the New Testament, 1) with thousands of manuscripts and some of them within 35 years of the event and 2) with all copies being in agreement, is bibliographically reliable. No other ancient document is even close to being as reliable.

The New Testament came onto the scene within a very short time after the death of Jesus. The apostles preached the Gospels to people who knew the facts. If factual inaccuracies were contained in the New Testament many people, who actually witnessed the events, could and would have said “You’re wrong. That’s not what happened.” Though there have been many attempts at explaining away the facts alleged in the New Testament, there is nothing contradicting them. I am impressed.

As for the Old Testament, Dr. Gleason Archer has stated, “The deductions that may be validly drawn from ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, or Akkadian documents all harmonize with the biblical record”. Time after time archaeology has confirmed the bible as historically accurate. Biblical Canaanite cities mentioned in Genesis once thought not to exist have been uncovered. “For thousands of years they have been buried deep in the ground, now they stand clearly before us. Among them are many towns whose walls the patriarchs had seen: Bethel and Mizpah, Gerar and Lachish, Gezer and Gath, Askelon and Jericho.”

Archaeologist William F. Albright speaking of Egyptian finds stated, “According to our present knowledge of the topography of the eastern delta the account of the start of the Exodus, which is given in Ex. 12 and Ex. 13, is topographically absolutely correct.” This attests to the historical nature of the Exodus story.

In or about 1923, Friedrich Simon Bodenheimer and Oskar Theodor, botanical experts from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, brought back the first photographs of the biblical food called manna which is a secretion from tamarisk trees and bushes when they are pierced by a certain plant-louse which is found in the Sinai. It was about the same shape and size as a coriander seed, white in color, and tasted sweet like honey when left to solidify.

Some of the cities which the Book of Joshua describes as having been destroyed by the Jews have been discovered. The city of Jericho was found with its walls collapsed and clear traces of a tremendous fire; the city of Debir was found with a layer of ashes and considerable destruction; the city of Lachish was found and determined to have been destroyed by fire; and, the city of Hazor was found and determined to have been destroyed by fire. The remains date back to the 13th century B.C., which corresponds to the time of Joshua. It appears the battles described in the Book of Joshua happened because these cities were certainly destroyed at about the time claimed in the Bible.

Based on hieroglyphics found in Egypt it is now known that the Philistines of the Bible actually existed. The drawings show that the Philistines were much taller than the Egyptians. The city of Shiloh was discovered and its remains clearly indicate that it was destroyed around 1050 B.C. which was the approximate time of the Biblical Philistine victory over Israel.

Since the statehood of Israel in 1948, the Old Testament has acted as a guide for such practical matters as learning what plants would grow there. The ancient wells of Abraham and Isaac have been searched for and rediscovered providing water to the arid desert lands. Under the sands “the ancient wells are still there and still as before at the foot of them runs clear pure water.” Issues in the new country such as forestation of bare mountain slopes, condensation principals, copper mining and even oil wells have been resolved by reference to the Old Testament texts.

There was a time when I thought the Old Testament was similar to Aesop's Fables and that Jesus of Nazareth was merely the greatest person ever born. I was wrong. Like Alfred Hitchcock would write himself into his movies, God wrote Himself into His creation in the person of Jesus. Jesus is truly God.

Terri Hillis

While there will always be those that deny the historicity of Jesus Christ, much to their own unfortunate end...to compare that to the doubt that is raised in regard to the 911 events is a horrible comparison! I have the feeling that you do not check out YOUR facts, or you do not know HOW to check out the FACTS in regard to the 911 events! The comparison of the Historically provable events of Jesus Christ (by MANY different sources in History) and the comparison of the events of a highly suspicious act of terrorism?, in which MANY facts still remain "unclear" at best...is like comparing the Declaration of Independence to the story of Winnie the Pooh. In my viewpoint, which is only my simple opinion...you are downgrading the wonders & FACTS about our Magnificent Lord & Savior by putting them in a category that contains far too many "QUESTIONABLE facts" in regard to a horrific event!


Saying Jesus never existed is absurd. Something that concerns me is this constant use in the Christian world of phrases such as "first-century Palestine." There was no such place. Do you see that word in the Bible? Jesus of Palestine? That term started being used 132-135ad to attempt to remove all Jewish connection to the land.

Greg Laurich

Thank you for the information. I've reread it a few times. This will come in handy the next time the topic pops up.

ken humphreys

The fig leaf Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, and Suetonius no longer covers the nakedness of the "historical Jesus". For more than 200 years a minority of courageous scholars have dared to question the story of Jesus. Despite the risks of physical assault, professional ruin and social opprobrium, they have seriously doubted the veracity of the gospel saga, have peeled away the layers of fraud and deceit and eventually have challenged the very existence of the godman.


C. John McCauley

Flowery retoric is nice, but where is the proof of your statement? Those are pagan writers I used as sources, not Christians. Why would they unwittingly or otherwise support Jesus' existence? Why is it important for you to refute his existence???


It seems to me that any truth in the existence of Christ or his teachings or
the raising from the dead would possibly bring back in our modern times a sense of
what is beyond our present world.

I continue to think of Jesus Christ as a highly evolved man who was inspired and filled with the holy ghost, much like Elijah the Prophet. Did Elijah really get caught up into heaven? Did Enoch become not? are all the eastern mystical stories just alot of hubris or is there something more that the Christ Story can Teach us, pagan, Christian or Jewish?

There is more evidence that Jesus Existed
than evidence for "God's" existence.
The very power of the accomplishments of his followers then and now gives proof to some mystical, high power that he or the myth contained. Why try to steal this away from those who believe, and those who do not but appreciate the symbology?

There is a power of Evil and a power of Good that in many times in our history reveal themselves. Stop trying to obfuscate the fact that the world is a mystical wonderful place. Your disbelief adds nothing to mankind's walk through this world.


The power of Christ and the fear of the letter will make people do anything to hide or lie or refute him. It does not make them true. And actually most Christians are turning away, the poll where it says christians are dominant are adding people of differing religions and pagan christianity and people who jusst go to church. There is a difference. A major one. Only about 20 percent of the UK actually believe in Christ.

Lee Picton

Count me among those who HAVE been convinced that the Jesus of the bible never existed. All the apologists have to offer are: Josephus (a well-known forgery), and Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus, who mention Christ or Christians, but never once mention the name of a Jesus. "Christ" is a title, and in the first century, christs were a dime a dozen. All I have ever been able to determine is that desperate apologists cling to the slenderest of citations, none of which have the slightest reliability. And, of course, there is the hoariest of lying chestnuts - The bible says so! Right. Even a child can recognize the insanity of such blatant circular reasoning. But I'll be happy to re-examine my position upon presentation of real evidence. Oh, BTW, there is a tablet that has been around for awhile that is now garnering renewed attention that strongly suggests a different (and very Jewish) take on a messiah. Stay tuned.


Well, let's keep it all in the family, Lee - you're familiar with Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ", I presume.

Apparently you're also familiar with Frank Morison's "Who Moved the Stone?", which shows conclusively that no one had the means, motive and/or opportunity to open the tomb where Jesus's body lay. And thus it is patent absurdity to claim that the Romans and/or the Jewish leaders weren't able to produce the corpse and demolish this upstart movement.

And of course, Strobel's appendix lists a multitude of other works, and you've read them all. So there's no need to present any of that; you want new evidence that demands a verdict. (Which would make a catchy book title, eh?)

So what's your take on why followers of Jesus didn't just give up and go away, as followers of all the other Jewish messiahs did? The history of martyrdom is quite reliable; why were these people willing to die for centuries, following something that was dubious at best and ridiculously false at worst, had no real benefit for them compared to the status quo, and ran completely counter to their culture? (And before you trot out all the other groups who have persevered, note that those all fail at least one of those three tests.)

As to the Bible saying so, well, you might look into the New Testament manuscript reliability. You'll find that Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus have far fewer manuscripts in existence, with far less reliability - yet you accept them unquestionably, and reject the NT unquestioningly? Seems to me you would do well to read up on this a bit more.

And we'll definitely stay tuned - just as we have for all the other proofs that have come and gone for the last two millenia or so.

In apologetics, it's important to mind one's P(icton)s and Q(uod)s.

Lee Picton

Lee Strobel? Oh, please. That lame apologist, preaching to his choir. As do all apologists who have their heads so far up their butts they have never engaged reality. Seriously, I have nothing to discuss with you; the delusional have far too much invested in their myths to ever give them up, and the exercise would be rendered pointless.


In other words: I can't be bothered to do the research because my (closed) mind's already made up.

Chris Clukey

"Seriously, I have nothing to discuss with you; the delusional have far too much invested in their myths to ever give them up, and the exercise would be rendered pointless."

A perfect self-description, Mr. Picton. But don't worry, none of us will be distressed at your willful denial of the evidence. Someday, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, and that includes yours. I just hope you start before He gets here, not after.


i am not a christian. i could care less for the emotion-laced propaganda from christians or atheists. that said, i have to give this one to the christians. jesus freakin existed...get over it. quit crying, hey, it's probably a good thing.


Gospels based on hearsay.Not the slighest eye witness account of any person meeting a real live jesus. Missionaries of christianity were great forgers because of insufficient evidence.Belief in jesus is founded on secondary documents altered and edited by various hands.It is time for us to think and not to believe like sheep.


leon wrote: "It is time for us to think and not to believe like sheep."

Preach it, brother!

But... how can you show us thinkers conclusively that the Gospels were based on hearsay, etc.?

And have you read Frank Morison's "Who Moved The Stone"? A classic work that would need to be refuted before your position is tenable.

Because those who disagree with the historicity of Christianity can themselves behave like sheep - or rather, like parrots who only repeat what they've been repeatedly told.

And I say this as one who is actively seeking the latest refutations of Christianity. So far Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens have swung for the fences, but have whiffed all their pitches.

Steve (SBK)

"Not the slighest [sic] eye witness account of any person meeting a real live [J]esus"

Hehe. In other words: "The eye witness accounts we have are not eye witness accounts". Good one.

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