As many of you may know, there is a growing body of books, articles and websites claiming Jesus never existed and was nothing more than a myth invented in the second century. People who hold this belief are called “Mythicists,” and they have been producing a rather large amount of skeptical literature over the last few decades. This claim is so absurd one might ask: Why waste the time to respond to it? Well it is important because sadly these voices of radical skepticism are being heard quite loudly in many places today and starting to spread rapidly. Whatever else one may think of Jesus, he most certainly did exist. Now rather one believes him to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, etc. is a matter of personnel belief or faith.
That said, it is a historical fact that Jesus existed. That he lived in Judea during Roman occupation, grew up in Nazareth, preached in the Galilee and was crucified by the Romans for sedition is not questioned by scholars. Or let me clarify, by scholars trained in the relevant field of New Testament studies and early Christianity. That’s right, all scholars in this field whether Evangelical Christian scholars, Conservative Christian scholars, Liberal Christian scholars, Jewish scholars, Agnostic scholars or Atheist scholars will all affirm the same: That Jesus of Nazareth was indeed a real historical figure. Even a self-proclaimed atheist leaning agnostic scholar in the field named Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” in which he combats mythicists claims to explain why scholars in the field are certain Jesus did exist. In the introduction to the book he states:
“I hardly need to stress what I have already intimated: the view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet. That in itself is not proof, of course. Expert opinion is, at the end of the day, still opinion. But why would you not want to know what experts have to say? When you make a dental appointment, do you want your dentist to be an expert or not? If you build a house, do you want a professional architect or your next-door neighbor to draw up the plans? … So too millions of people have acquired their “knowledge” about early Christianity – about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the emperor Constantine, the Council of Nicaea – from Dan Brown, author of .. The Da Vinci Code. But at the end of the day, is that such a wise choice?”
“Still, as is clear from the avalanche of sometime outraged postings on all the relevant Internet sites, there is simply no way to convince conspiracy theorists that the evidence for their position is too thin to be convincing and that the evidence for a traditional view is thoroughly persuasive. Anyone who chooses to believe something contrary to evidence that an overwhelming majority of people find overwhelmingly convincing – whether it involves the fact of the Holocaust, the landing on the moon, the assassination of presidents, or even a presidential place of birth – will not be convinced.”
“I am an agnostic with atheist leanings, and my life and views of the world would be approximately the same whether or not Jesus existed… But as a historian I think evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes if quite plain: Jesus did exist.”
Now I do not support or agree with the conclusions that Mr. Ehrman makes in his book regarding who he thinks Jesus was, mainly that of a scarcely known apocalyptic would be prophet preaching the end of the world. However, I site his work only to bring home the point that all Mythisists claims making their way around pop culture these days should be taken for what they are: utterly absurd notions that should not be taken serious by any serious thinking person. For a strong case for the Historical Jesus from a Christian perspective, readers may want to check out “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: A Compelling Case for His Life and Claims” from the renowned Josh McDowell Apologetics Library. Note: for those not familiar with apologetics, an “apologist” is a term that means a person who speaks or writes in defense of a position. It has nothing to do with apologizing or having something to be sorry for.
But enough bloviating on this topic by my part, it is time to wrap this blog post up. Evidence for the historical Jesus include: the first century Gospels, wether you believe their claims or not, they still attest to the existence of Jesus. The letters of Paul which predate the aforementioned gospels by decades. In particular, his letter to the Galatians (a letter that no scholar disputes he wrote I might add) where he provides a personal account of meeting the Lord’s brother James and his disciples Peter and John. If Jesus did not exist, you would think his brother and closest disciples would know about it. There is also plenty of evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament such as the Apostolic Fathers (Christian writers of the late 1st & early 2nd century) e.g. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna just to name a few. And then there are numerous Non-Christian sources, e.g. Thallus and Phlegon, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Cornelius Tacitus, Hadrian, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion and many references from ancient Rabbis. All of these sources independently attest to the existence of Jesus.
So one can answer the question posed on the title for this post (Was Jesus a Myth?) with absolute certainty: Jesus of Nazareth was NOT a myth. He really DID exist, and was a REAL person in history. Now I will close with a question from Jesus in the gospel accounts that he would often pose to his followers: Who do you say that I am?
Thank you for reading. I hope some may have found this post insightful.