Historical Jesus

I was wondering if there is any historical evidence that Jesus actually lived and was executed as recorded in the Bible.  Determining if Jesus was God is beyond the scope of this blog post, that is a whole other conversation.

I did some research and this is what I discovered.

  • Tacitus was a Roman historian and he wrote about Christians.  He called them followers of Jesus Christ.  He also wrote about Jesus being crucified during the reign of Tiberius and sentenced by Pontius Pilate.
  • Josephus was a Jewish historian that wrote about Jesus and made references to the miracles and resurrection stories.
  • The Babylonian Talmud (a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings) also mentioned Jesus and his crucification.

(source: Michael Gleghorn, http://www.probe.com)

While reading articles on this subject, I found a quote that was really interesting.

“There is no evidence that the existence of Jesus was ever denied in antiquity by those who opposed Christianity.”

(source:  Historicity of Jesus, http://www.wikipedia.com)

This is an area of research that I have just recently started, so I know there is a lot more information out there.

If you are aware of information that confirms or denies the existence of Jesus, please let me know in the comment section below.  You can disagree with me or other commenters, but please don’t be rude.

26 thoughts on “Historical Jesus

  1. As the last time I commented on one of your religious posts it caused a storm of protest from several believers, especially the more fundamentalist variety, I shall be more circumspect this time around.

    Tacitus used the wordschrestus and chrestianos.
    The ´e’ was overwritten with an `i´ by a later hand.

    Furthermore, the word Jesus does not appear in any of his writings and certainly there are no allusions in this passage.
    According to a number of scholars Tacitus is merely quoting hearsay, likely derived from another historian or even Christians.
    It is worth noting that, no Christian apologist for centuries ever quoted the passage of Tacitus – not in fact, until it had appeared almost word-for-word in the writings of Sulpicius Severus.

    There are several other reasons to doubt the authenticity of this passage but considering what happened to me last time I think it best readers do a little homework on their own, if they are really interested.

    This is interesting. Some of your readers might consider it worth a read.

    http://www.textexcavation.com/documents/zaratacituschrestianos.pdf

    Josephus is even more dubious and it would be prudent to research the most up to date info on the interpretations of what Josephus actually wrote and what scholars have traditionally interpreted as references to Jesus.

    As for the Talmud: While there is little or no doubt that the references are about the character, Jesus of Nazareth, there is a scholarly view that considering how late these references appear it has been suggested that the gospels were used as the source rather than recording any actual testimony and were merely in response to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s interesting and thanks for the information. I just started looking into the idea of historical proof for Jesus and I know there is a lot of information out there that I haven’t had a chance to read. For this study, I was just wondering if there is a chance that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified during that time frame. There seems to be conflicting information on the subject and it can get a bit confusing.

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      • If you read Josephus he lists quite a few Jesuses – although, of course, the name would have likely been Yeshua or Joshua but most definitely not Jesus!
        He actually mentions one that was nailed to a tree as well but in a later period.

        The consensus is that there was an individual named Jesus, but that is all that the current consensus can agree upon, and even this position is beginning to come under scrutiny.

        It is a very, very difficult position for Christians to even contemplate that he was simply a myth based on a conglomerate of characters and until recently almost no scholar who valued their career would dare even suggest such a thing!

        But many esteemed scholars have had their doubts , you can count on that!

        Carrier and Price are two that were once ´´not sure´´ and at one time Richard Carrier flatly rejected the notion of the Jesus Myth hypothesis.
        However …. not any more!

        No reputable scholar believes Moses was a real historical character any more and I suspect that this will eventually be the position regarding the character, Jesus of Nazareth as well.

        But you really should research for yourself and try to read all sides of the coin.
        As they say, forewarned is forearmed and as much info as you can glean the better you will be able to make a well informed decision regarding your own beliefs.
        Wish you well in you studies! 🙂

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  2. My approach is simplistic but I think makes sense. The church was established by St. Peter who was given the command by Christ to build the church. From scripture you have the Apostle Paul who did a great deal of the heavy lifting in organizing churches in various places in the known world. The legacy of Christ is found in those who have advanced his cause for centuries. Much of church teaching and scripture comes from oral tradition and eyewitness accounts of what happened when Jesus was living on Earth. Of course the whole thing is based upon faith of things unseen and when faith is put into action interesting things can happen..

    Liked by 1 person

      • Read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of them were an eyewitness account of the ministry of Jesus as told from different perspectives based upon the writer. I would say Luke would give you a more scholarly, scientific approach to knowing about the life of Jesus because Luke was a man of medicine and science.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi, Tony. As no recognized biblical scholar ( excluding biblical literalists, of course) considers the gospels eye-witness accounts-and the writer of John is quite specific on this point-and even the names of the gospels were added a considerable length of time after the supposed date of writing, may I ask on what evidence you base your belief they are eye-witness accounts?
        Thanks.
        Ark

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    • I understand oral tradition was probably the primary way of spreading the gospel message. I assume the population was mostly illiterate during that time. Do you know if that is an accurate assumption?

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      • Very accurate. Basic literacy is being able to read and write one’s own name, and outside of people who were specifically trained in the art within learning centers (universities, monasteries, etc.) the majority of populations during western history were at the aforementioned level. And they were considered literate for legal reasons – to engage in trade and enter into contracts. The pool of people able to write and comprehend texts was always limited.

        Our view of literacy wasn’t considered a useful skill (not required for success in vocations) and the pool of people beyond emergent literacy did not expand until governments made a concentrated effort to spread the liberal arts among the general population. This began around the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

        Oral tradition was very important in the communication and spread of early forms (there were several) of Christianity. As scriptures were written down from oral tradition often decades or a century after the events described, we must keep in mind they cannot be considered primary source documents.

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  3. I wrote a post once about a house that was either built in 1679 or 1769. There are records supporting both dates and enough evidence to keep the results murky.

    I don’t offer that to direct you to my blog. Rather to illustrate that, even in relatively modern times, history is intertwined with folklore. In this case, even the National Registry of Historic places lists both dates as possible.

    So, for me, I don’t plan on focusing on the “facts”, as we have them 2,000 years later. I’ll stick with faith. Jesus lived as described in the Bible. The words might not mean what they mean today, but enough people contributed, either by writing or by telling stories, that I don’t think it was a grand conspiracy. I believe for other reasons, personal reasons that cause me to know that my faith is justified.

    I hope you find interesting information. It will all be subject to zealous support and “enlightened” ridicule, but if you find it interesting, then it’s worth your effort. Decide for yourself.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Given the survival of the story of Jesus, and the information that you noted, there is no doubt in my mind that he existed. The question of whether he was “sent” by God, or whether he just made a huge impact on his limited part of the world with his social conscience, as perceived by a relatively poorly educated population, is open to debate of course.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And pondering is all we can do. Allowing for the differing capabilities of various scholars; the expectations of various beliefs that ancient texts will support their specific belief; the translations of colloquial expressions and idiosyncrasies within the language in question, and a desire to live which may influence the end result …….. I cannot accept that any translation should be taken literally.

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  5. This is a leap of faith that some people can’t make for one or another reason. Christ is as real as the couch I’m sitting on just now. The Bible is truth from start to finish, all the proof I could ever need.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Bible is truth from start to finish,

      Hi, John. As critical biblical scholars of every stripe flatly disagree with your comment may I ask on what do you base your point of view regarding the bible?

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    • Blind faith scares me. People have been known to commit all sorts of atrocities, due to blind faith. I understand faith is important in Christianity, but shouldn’t it also have some tangible basis that can be proven?

      Liked by 3 people

      • I would like to suggest that any “faith” should scare you if you are so inclined. Blind faith is simply taking a stance without the facts. Faith is accepting the facts as presented. The difference is simply subjective, and even those people who devote their lives to understanding their particular religion, still have to have faith that what they are discovering and interpreting is beyond any reproach, which I would suggest can never be a 100% situation.

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  6. An interesting bit of research Lynn. I personally have no doubt that Jesus lived and that he was a teacher of sorts…..perhaps the first ever Hippy. I do have a problem with so many of the things attributed to him but only because the gospels are not written contemporaneous with his life, but years later so not by people who actually knew him or ever saw him.
    If you read up on Mithras who was the god of the Roman soldiers you’ll see such similarities in the two stories because Mithras was kind of carried over to help the soldiers accept the new State Religion decreed by the Emperor.
    Of those gospels not included in the bible (the gnostic gospels) some tell a slightly different story of the life of Jesus.Just like today, it seems two people can’t agree on the same thing.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

      • Loved your last statement Lynn. It reminded me of a project a long time ago in which a group of us were presented with a short video of a man breaking into a house and stealing some items. We were then asked a number of key questions such as What was the man wearing? What color was his skin? Did he have a hat on? What did he steal? What was on the wall in the room etc. etc.
        The end result was that we had all focused on different aspects of the events and not only remembered very well the aspects that were important to us as individuals, and not only failed miserably at less important aspects, but also created details that simply did not exist.

        I am no scholar of religious studies, but it seems reasonable to me to take any account of Jesus in an extremely open minded way. The scholars/scribes of the time were surely influenced by their own perspectives just as we were.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t want to aggravate an already sensitive topic because “belief” is always going to be the only answer that makes sense to me however, it does seem that as parts of the Holy Bible surface in the texts of other religions (including a great flood, and an execution of a perceived savior), it is hard to dismiss the potential basis for Jesus. Once again we are back to belief.

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  8. @John
    Underwater searches where Moses parted the sea have revealed ancient chariots on the sea floor. Far from land.

    One of a great many spurious claims made by the late Ron Wyatt.
    And sadly , you are another who has been duped by this nonsense.

    I once had an online discussion with a Christian – a qualified minister no less named Christopher who cited the same ´´evidence´´ after I mentioned Moses was a work of fiction.

    The truly sad thing in his case is that he had been preaching this garbage to his congregation.
    After I provided him with a link completely debunking Wyatt for the fraud he was , Christopher immediately ceased all dialogue and deleted his evangelist blog.

    Ron Wyatt conned a great many people out of an awful lot of money.

    I won´t provide you with a link, John as I think you are capable of doing a bit of research yourself, yes?

    That I am not a Christian should have no bearing on the fact it is immoral for anyone to take such liberties with people of faith.

    But please come back and tell us what you find, for your own piece of mind and also for fellow Christians who may also have been duped into believing this nonsense.

    Ark

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