Did Jesus ever exist?

There are a number of radical skeptics today who claim that Jesus did not exist, or they seriously doubt his existence.  However, there are a number of critical problems with doubting Jesus’ existence due to the early and abundant evidence that we have of Jesus’ life and deeds.  In fact, there is almost unanimous consent among critical scholars today that Jesus existed.

Historical Textual Evidence for Jesus’ Existence

There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.1

  1. 9 Traditional New Testament Authors
    1. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
  2. 20 Early Christian Writers Outside the New Testament
    1. Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
  3. 4 Heretical Writings
    1. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection.
  4. 9 Secular Sources
    1. Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.

Why is there not even more evidence for Jesus’ existence?

The fact is that few records survive for thousands of years.  There are a number of ancient writings that have been lost, including 50% of the Roman historian Tacitus’ works, all of the writings of Thallus and Asclepiades of Mendes.  In fact, Herod the Great’s secretary named Nicolas of Damascus wrote a Universal History of Roman history which comprised nearly 144 books and none of them have survived.2 Based on the textual evidence, there is no reason to doubt the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • 1. Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004, p. 233.
  • 2. Ibid., p. 232.

 

 

 

 
 
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