Do gods exist? 39 The historical Jesus

Image: reconstruction of face of Jesus by British medical artist Richard Neave

If Jesus existed as a human being and did so many amazing things, surely somebody at the time would have written about him? Well, actually, no.

The first time Jesus is mentioned outside the Bible is sixty years after he supposedly died.

By then, Paul had already spread the myth of a Jesus that he himself had never met, and the first gospel may have already been written.

After these sixty years of silence, there are five ‘early’ independent reports that Christians most often quote:

  • A discredited fourth-century attempt to insert Christian propaganda into a first-century history book.
  • A passing second-century reference to the death of Christ, which gets Pontius Pilate’s job title wrong.
  • Two uncontroversial second-century records of the existence of Christians in Rome and Asia Minor.
  • A claim, made in the ninth century, that somebody else wrote, in the third century, about somebody else writing about a solar eclipse in a lost first-century document.

There is no independent record, in all of recorded history, of any of the following: his alleged bloodline from Abraham and David, his alleged virgin birth, his parent’s alleged flight from Herod, his alleged baptism by John the Dipper, his alleged preaching to large multitudes, his alleged miracles (walking on water, reviving corpses etc), the nature of his alleged trial or death, or his alleged return from being dead to being alive again.

Chronologically, these claims are:

  • Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, in his Jewish Antiquities of 93 ad.
  • Gaius Tacitus, a Roman historian, in his Annals of about 110 ad.
  • Pliny the Younger, a Roman Governor, in his Letters of about 110 ad.
  • Suetonius, a Roman historian, in his Lives of the Caesars of about 120 ad.
  • Thallus, a first century historian, in an allegedly lost undated document.

I will address these claims in more detail over the next few articles.

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Do gods exist? 39 The historical Jesus

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