Jesus -- an unusual lack of evidence?

Reading some threads about there being no concrete evidence that Jesus existed, just a lot of overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Is this situation typical for religious figureheads? Is this also the state of proof of Abraham, Mohammad, Moses, Buddha, or Confuscious?

Have any of these people been absolutely proven to have existed?

I’m not exactly religious, but faith is all the proof a Christian needs to prove Jesus lived. Asking for physical proof, such as DNA evidence, for example, would seem to fly in the face of “having faith”.

Well, let’s address this from a scientific perspective. Many scholars believe he existed, but their only basis is circumstantial evidence. The only artifacts that indicate he was real are from well after he died.

Is this the standard for religious figures? I’ve been reading several books on the history of Islam lately and I’m pretty sure there is scientific proof for Mohammad, given his descending lineage can be traced for centuries.

It’s pretty typical for almost any non-political entity in the ancient world. Our knowledge of Socrates essentially comes down to one author for example. Publishing wasn’t a big industry so the only people likely to write about a figure were his students and followers. In the case of Jesus we have four follower’s accounts and three or four independent accounts written shortly after his death. That’s fairly typical

The exceptions are usually political figures who are recorded on bureaucratic documents as much as actual biographies.

Evidence of Moses and Abraham is limited to the Bible, so we could say that there is absolutely no contemporary evidence that they ever existed.

Mohammed, or usually his family, are reasonably well documented, partly because he was a local noble who kept records for themselves. There is little doubt that a man of tha name existed or even when he was born. Even with Mohammed though, it is largely from his followers that we get our information on what he actually did and where he went.

Buddha is a largely legendary figure. He was reputedly a minor Prince of whose family some evidence has survived, but the actual evidence of the Buddha himself outside of Buddhist writings is extremely slim and mostly seems to consist of naming independently identified princes as being the one.

No idea on Confuscious.

Overall Jesus is neither more nor less well recorded than most non-political historical figures.

I don’t think that anyone doubts that a man called Joshua lived at that time and was the leader of a small personality cult. That is the simplest explanation for the beginnings of Christianity. Denying he existed altogether would require that the early Christians conspired to create a cult out of whole cloth without taking power for themselves. That would be extremely odd. Far simpler to believe that Jesus existed.

What we have an absence of evidence for is his place of birth, age, works etc. But that is the case for almost any commoner born before about 600 AD. Records just weren’t kept, what were kept have been long since lost because no one in a position of authority has any interest in commoners.

As far as physical proof of Jesus’ existence, I remember reading about this ossuary.

I seem to recall that its authenticity was called into question, but don’t recall if it was settled or not, so that may be a shaky example.

The ossuary has been disccredited. Part of the inscription was added at a much later date.

Even if it hadn’t been debunked it wouldn’t be evidence of Jesus. To begin with Jesus left no corpse, so no ossuary. If anything this could only disprove the existence of Jesus. More importantly Joshua and Joseph were common enough names in that area at that time. There would have been many hundreds of Joshua bar Josephs running around alongside the religious Jesus.

I doubt that you could find any evidence that Fred existed. Records weren’t so hot back then.

Vague Buddha evidence.

Well, of course he left a corpse someplace. If he existed at all, he was undeniably human. People just don’t evaporate at death, regardless of what is written in the Bible. Of course, finding and indentifying his remains is problematic and likely impossible, given that no writings have been found indicationg where his remains might be.

Or are you actually suggestiong that if he did exist, he ascended into heaven in toto, leaving behind no body, as the Bible states?


Incorrect. The ossuary is alleged to be that of “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” not that of Jesus.

Well, yeah, fair point. :smiley:

I meant that the religious Jesus was meant to have left no corpse, so an ossuary couldn’t have belonged to that person. It could of course have belonged to the inspiration for the myth if you accept that it is just a myth.

See, that is what you call a stuff-up. Thanks for the clarification.

Basically, Jesus is as well-documented as anyone who wasn’t a king or emperor could hope to be.

There is the view that Jesus may have been a reworking of the “god-man” theme that was prevalent in the Middle East around that time. There are some interesting parallels between the Christ myth and that of Mithras, for instance. Of course, there still could have been a real teacher and prophet around whom the god-man legend was later built so this doesn’t necessarily mean he never existed.

No, this is simply not true. There are hundreds if not thousands of personages from ancient Greece, Rome and the whole rest of the Mediterranean world from 1000 years before to 500 years after the supposed time of Jesus for whom there is ample documentation of one sort of another. Writers, athletes, sculptors, engineers, mathematicians, architects, gladiators, people from all walks of life. Fame rests on any number of possible supports.

As has been said, there is no contemporary evidence whatsoever for Jesus. The few other mentions appear to occur after the date of writing of some of the Biblical materials, so there is no solid evidence that these are necessarily historical rather than literary references.

No documentation whatsoever is not “well-documented,” even for the ancient world.

My post was directed at Diceman. I previewed and Dr. Zoidberg’s post wasn’t there. Not the first time this has happened recently.

Aren’t the boards incoherent enough without mysteriously appearing intervening posts?:dubious:

Wouldn’t part of the reason for lack of documentation be his earliest followers expected the second coming to be short and within their lifetimes.

So in an age when few people read or wrote and there wasn’t much to read or write on, why would one bother if he was coming back soon.

Hundreds out of how many hundreds of millions? You would have to conclude that a total absence of documentation is typical and that documenttion is atypical wouldn’t you?

Some sculptors and athletes were doubtless recorded, but how many scupltors and athletes were there in the Roman empire, and how many do we have records for?

It would seem that based on random chance a non-political figure has less than a one-in-a-million chance of being independantly recorded.

You know, Cecil has written about this very topic. It’s part of an article about the Shroud of Turin here.

The relevant part is this:

Note the 40-year time between Jesus’s death and the writing of the gospels. This is within the lifespan of the original disciples. Someone who was 20 when Jesus died would have been in his 60’s when the gospels were written. I point this out because many atheists believe (wrongly) that the gospels were not written down until centuries after Christ’s time.