Has Jesus' exsistance ever been challenged?

Or does the academic world consider Him real? Was there irrefutable non-religious based proof (i.e. no “Shrouds of Turin”) of Him or His mircales?

Cites or titles of respected books on the subject would be nice.

Outside the gospels, the only references to a historical Jesus comes from the Testimonium Flavianum , written by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Flavius Josephus was an orthodox Jew, writing for the Romans, so it is unlikely that he would use such laudatory lines about someone that was judged an apostate by the orthodoxy.

Besides that, there are no mention in any acounts of the sun disapearing, or of long dead saints walking the streets of Jerusalem, as described by the gospels after the death of Jesus.

On the other hand, the Gospels have as much or more reliability than most historical documents accepted by scholars. A good overview of their reliability is provided in the book, The Case for Christ. I believe the author’s name is Strobel.

You’re joking, right?

Nobody has ever mistaken me for a Biblical Scholar but do the four Gospels not offer four different accounts of the life of Jesus? I don’t think that would necessairly negate their historical signifigance, but it probably doesn’t help matters out either.

If He wasn’t a real person and had not existed the critics and non-beleivers would not expend so much effort to attempt to nullify every aspect of the person and His teachings.

Many Christians suffered torture, burning at the stake, killed by wild animals because they firmliy believed in His existence and teachings.

People do the same with God, ghosts and UFOs, too. Must those necessarily be real, as well?

Something else that would reduce the credibility of the accounts of Jesus Christ by Josephus, was that he was born about the year 37 AD.

There is much debate concerning the exact years of Christ’s existence but I would think that around the year 37, Christ was either dead or very near His demise.
Therefore, Josephus would have had to rely on second-hand information regarding Jesus Christ. So, to me this would indicate there are no historical documents about Jesus written by one of His contemporaries.

Anyway, Josephus lived near enough to Jesus (if he existed) to have at least second hand information. Being a scholar he had access to documents from the early first century. These documents could mention Jesus.
Now we have access only to copies of the works of Josephus and other historians (including the athors of the gospels). These copies were hand made and could have errors added intentionally or not. The citation of Jesus in the testimonium seems an intentional addition, probably in the second or third century.

And Jews, Muslims, Druids, Hindus, Wiccans, and all sorts of other religions, polytheistic and otherwise, didn’t have members that suffered terribly because of their belief? Nah. The only thing that sets Christians apart from many other sects is that they’ve got power right now.

Four different accounts, all written 30 to 70 years after the events took place, by people who were not there, with all of the information coming from the same sources.


Well, Cecil says there is no real doubt Jesus existed.

Sergio, that account is somewhat doubtful. However, Josephus did write timely of the stoning of Jesus’s brother- James- and mentioned that James was the brother of Jesus.

DrDeth, do you have a link to the Cecil article you alluded to? A quick search revealed nothing related, that I could find.

Great discussion guys/gals, thanks!

I’ve heard it mentioned (I might be able to find a cite, but I’m not sure) that some think that Josephus’ writings may have been tampered with by medieval copyists. The tampering was supposed to have been things like adding praise and belief in Jesus’ actions. I’m not sure if that’s widely believed or not.

Actually, in this article, Cecil says that there is no proof he existed – at all – but that “barring an actual conspiracy, 40 years is too short a time for an entirely mythical Christ to have been fabricated out of … whole cloth.”

So, there may not be any real doubt, but there’s no real certainty either.

Also, I’ve heard repeatedly that Josephus’s references to Jesus are thought to be pious forgeries from later times … is that what Sérgio is getting at with his reference to it being doubtful that Josephus would speak so highly of somebody considered an apostate?

Is the reference to James being stoned considered legitimate? Or is that also an insertion?

Yes. There are scholars who doubt the historical existence of Jesus. Or at least of a Jesus somehow similar to the person described in the gospels. And of course, people who believe that Jesus existed don’t take the content of said gospels as an accurate account of Jesus life. Even excluding the “miracles”, there are contradictions and innacuracies in the gospels, which were, anyway, wrote down long after the fact. Besides, religious texts tend to have a very strong agenda, which doesn’t make them the most reliable documents.

As already mentionned, the only external source for the existence of Jesus is to be found in Josephus (some lines) . Unfortunately, the mention it contains is an obvious interpolation. There’s a debate, though, since some believe that he was actually originally mentionned in the document, and the mention was widely embelished by zealous christians (I’ve even read attempts made by scholars to make guesses at the original content), while others think this interpolation was completely made out of thin air (one argument being that an early bishop from the middle-east complained in a letter that Josephus didn’t even mention Jesus).

As for the second interesting mention in Josephus, concerning the execution of James, brother of Jesus, there’s no obvious reason to doubt its authenticity, but still it raises some questions : is the “Jesus” mentionned the christian Jesus (it was a rather common name : Joshuah)? And here too, some believe that the “brother of Jesus” part could have been added to Josephus’ text too. And there’s no way to tell.

In any case, this doesn’t tell us much about this character, assuming he existed.
By the way, there are threads about Jesus’ existence in the “Great debates” forum from time to time. This thread is the most recent one (one week ago) but you could find other ones.

Well here’s a page that should cover a lot about a debate I wondered about;Jesus vs. Julius Caesar. Links to Cecil’s answers included.

Then, ET abductions must be true too, because many people expend efforts to contradict this belief. Besides, since christianism is so central in our western societies, it’s not surprising that more people would be involved in the argument than say, in arguments about the “moon landing hoax”.

I could say also that if he was a real person who obviously existed, the believers wouldn’t have much need to argue about this, either. They would just have to point at the evidences. Unfortunately, these are sorely lacking.

Sure. And in what way does it prove that their beliefs were well founded? Plenty of people were persecuted, killed, etc… as a result of their (varied) religious beliefs. They couldn’t have all been right.

For instance, the members of a sect committed a collective suicide, some years ago, believing that their spirits would be brought away by a comet. According, to your logic, since they faced certain death on the basis of their beliefs, these beliefs must be the truth, right?
Sorry, but a belief, regardless how seriously it’s held by someone, doesn’t a truth make.

I agree with many of the pro- & anti- [ :slight_smile: ] Christ positions here. I think many are true and are inarguable. But it is also arguing in circles ala GD.

Let me re-phrase the OP a bit to this: Can anyone point to a published peer reviewed article by a tenured Professor of History or Archeology at an American University that argues that Jesus wasn’t a historical person?

I am 100% sure (or really +80% sure) that would not be the majority opinion among those folks in 2004 – but it would give us a good factual basis on which to answer the OP


Thanks for the links, clairobscur, Pushkin, and chorpler.