jesus existed

I never knew Jesus was a real person until now!

Was Jesus a real person?

Absolutely YES!

However, many people still deny the existence of Jesus Christ, despite the overwhelming evidence presented by secular historians.

Using their standard of analyzing ancient texts, almost all historians fully agree that there was a man named Jesus Christ who lived in the ancient Galilee, was crucified under a Roman leader named Pontias Pilot, died, and was buried.

So what are these overwhelming pieces of evidence that Jesus existed?

Let's begin..

So what did critics and skeptics say about Jesus?

#1 Flavius Josephus

Josephus (born AD 37/38-AD 100) was an important historian, Jewish priest and scholar who wrote about the Jewish revolt of AD 66-70 and on earlier Jewish history.

He made two references to Jesus in his work, "Antiquities of the Jews" Testimonium Flavianum (meaning the testimony of Flavius Josephus):

(A) "Antiquities of the Jews," Book 18, Chapter 3, Paragraph 3.

"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works-a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

(B) "Antiquities of the Jews" Book 20, Chapter 9 paragraph 1 - Josephus briefly mentions James, who is identified as the brother of Jesus:

"Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned."

While scholars still debated the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum regarding the treatment of Christians during that time, the reference to James was considered authentic. These passages provide external evidence of Jesus and early Christianity from a non-Christian source.

 

#2 Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Tacitus (AD56-120) was a Roman historian and politician. He mentioned Jesus in his work, "Annals," Book 15, Chapter 44.

"But neither the aid of man, nor the liberality of the prince, nor the propitiations of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicion that the fire had been ordered. To suppress this rumor, Nero falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also."

This passage from Tacitus is important because it provides an independent Roman perspective on Jesus and the early Christians, confirming key details about Jesus' crucifixion and the spread of Christianity. However, it's worth noting that Tacitus wrote this account around 116-117 AD, several decades after the events he describes, so it's considered a secondary source.

 

#3 Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Tralles was a Greek historian and writer from the 2nd century CE. His work did not survive. However, there were indirect references to these works.

Julius Africanus (160-240 CE).
Julius Africanus "Chronography" (221 CE) was a Christian historian who wrote the following:

"Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Cæsar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth-manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer."

In this passage, Julius Africanus mentions Phlegon's account of an eclipse during the crucifixion but questions its significance in connection with the earthquake and other events. However, it's important to note that we do not have the original text of Phlegon's writings, and the reliability and details of his account remain a topic of debate among scholars.

 

#4 Celsus

Celsus was a 2nd-century Greek philosopher and author known for his critical work "The True Word" (or "True Doctrine," also known as "Aletheis Logos" in Greek). This work is primarily known through the writings of the early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (AD185-253), who wrote a response to Celsus' critical arguments called "Contra Celsum" (Against Celsus). Here are some references and quotes from Celsus regarding Jesus from Origen's response:

(A) Celsus on Jesus' Birth:
Celsus criticized the Christian belief in virgin birth in his work "The True Word,". Origen quotes him as saying:

"When [Christians] say that he was born of a virgin, while he, the subject of their praise, had a mother who was not a virgin, they are only inventing something that can never have happened, and perpetuating a wicked lie."

 

(B) Celsus on Jesus' Miracles:
Celsus was skeptical of Jesus' reported miracles, and he suggested that they could have been the result of sorcery. Origen quotes Celsus as saying:

"And I would ask whether they really believe, when they believe that Jesus made a lame man walk, or restored the withered hand, or cleansed the leper, or restored the deaf and dumb, or fed more than five thousand men with five loaves, and took up of the fragments that remained to them twelve baskets full."

(C) Celsus on Jesus' Parentage:
Celsus also questioned the legitimacy of Jesus' parentage. Origen cites him as saying:

"But let us return to where the Jew is introduced by Celsus as deriding Jesus as having been born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery; that after being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God."

Celsus' "The True Word" is considered a significant early critique of Christianity, but it is important to note that it is preserved through Origen's response, and the original text of Celsus has been lost.

Celsus' work provides insight into the early arguments and criticisms made against Christianity from a non-Christian perspective.

 

#5 Talmudic References

The Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish writings from the first few centuries CE, contains references to a "Yeshu," a figure who fits the description of Jesus of Nazareth. 

There are two Talmudic references that are often discussed in relation to Jesus, but it's important to note that these references are not direct quotations about Jesus and are somewhat ambiguous.  Here are the two references:

(A) Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a:

This passage is often cited in discussions about Jesus, but it doesn't mention him by name. It refers to "Yeshu" (a common Hebrew name) and describes his trial and execution. Here is a paraphrased quote:


"On the eve of the Passover, they hanged Yeshu. And the herald went before him for forty days, saying, 'Yeshu is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.'"


It's worth noting that "Yeshu" was a common name, and there is debate among scholars about whether this reference is indeed about Jesus.

But again, what other convict named Jesus crucified on a Passover?

 

(B) Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 107b:

This passage also mentions a figure named "Yeshu," but it doesn't provide much information. Here is a paraphrased quote:

"Yeshu the Nazarene practiced magic and deceived and led Israel astray."

Again, these Talmudic references are not detailed or direct quotations about Jesus, and they are not historical accounts but rather statements made within the context of Jewish religious and legal discussions.

Yet again, how many people named Jesus from Nazareth, was performing miracles as if magic?

 

#6 Suetonius 

Suetonius, a Roman historian (AD 69-122), wrote "The Twelve Caesars," a series of biographies of Roman emperors.

In one of his biographies, Suetonius mentions early Christians and their association with the Emperor Claudius. However, he does not mention Jesus by name. Here is the reference and quote from Suetonius:

Suetonius, "Life of Claudius," 25.4 (AD 121):

"[Claudius] banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances, Chrestus [or Christ] being their leader."

Suetonius' reference to "Chrestus" or "Christ" is not entirely clear, and it is a subject of scholarly debate. Some scholars believe that this passage may refer to the conflicts and disputes among Jews in Rome during Claudius's reign rather than a reference to Jesus. 

In any case, this passage from Suetonius is one of the few non-Christian references from the first century that indirectly alludes to the early Christian movement.

Even though it doesn't provide detailed information about Jesus himself, the writings pointed to the spread of Christianity.

#7 Modern Atheist Historians and Scholars

  • Bart Ehrman is a famous agnostic New Testament scholar and author. Bart said, "The historical Jesus did exist. He is better-attested than many figures from the ancient world whose existence is never doubted."
  • Gerd Lüdemann is a German New Testament scholar and agnostic. He said, "Jesus' existence is an indisputable historical fact."
  • Hector Avalos is an atheist and biblical scholar who said, "I have argued elsewhere that Jesus certainly existed as a historical person."
  • Michael Martin is an atheist, philosopher, and author. He said, "I believe that Jesus probably existed."
  • Tim O'Neill is an atheist historian and author who said: "Jesus existed. He may not have been quite the way Christianity says he was, but he certainly existed."
  • Raphael Lataster is an atheist and author who, after being a Jesus mythicist, changed his position to acknowledge the historicity of Jesus. He said, "I now consider it more likely than not that Jesus existed."

Aren't these evidences that Jesus existed?

What corroborative evidence shows that Jesus existed?

Since the start of the 18th century, scholars have critically examined and questioned every part of the Bible, from the existence of old Bethlehem to even the places where Jesus stood in Jerusalem. Simply put, if none of these exist, then Jesus is just a myth.

It was only when archeology became more advanced that certain corroborative evidences were uncovered that proved the reliability of the biblical texts and the historicity of Jesus Christ.

So far, there has not been any archeological evidence to disprove the Bible. Rather, new evidence is slowly being uncovered to prove that the biblical text is correct.

Let's take a look at the evidence to date.

We will update this list as and when new archeological evidence is uncovered.

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#1 James Ossuary Boxes

Ancient Jews used Ossuary boxes to contain the bones of their deceased.

They would inscribe the name and family name on these ancient ossuary boxes.

In 2002, an unusual ossuary box was uncovered. It bore the inscription "a'akov son of Yosef, brother of Yeshua" suggesting that the box belonged to James, the brother of Jesus.

Apart from the complications and debates surrounding the discovery in 2002, which ended in 2012, Professor Camil Fuchs from Tel Aviv University reported that it was very rare to find the inscription of an ossuary box that included the name of the brother.

He concluded that "there is little doubt that this [naming a brother or son] was done only when there was a very meaningful reason to refer to a family member of the deceased, usually due to his importance and fame."

#2 The Bethlehem Bulla

Biblical scholars and critics had denied the existence of Bethlehem in Judea during the time of Jesus' birth, but rather Bethlehem in Galilee, near Nazareth, where Jesus reported living.

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Luke 4:5

As it turned out, there were two Bethlehems in ancient times: Bethlehem in Galilee and Bethlehem in Judea. We will look at this in detail in future posts.

bulla1

In 2012, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a bulla (a clay seal impression) in Jerusalem bearing the name of Bethlehem that dates to the 7th or 8th century BC.

The seal was used to seal a document or object for shipment in Judea. It proves the existence of Bethlehem dating back to the First Temple Period, at the time of Jesus' birth.

evidence jesus exists

#3 The Siloam Pool

Skeptics had questioned the existence of such a pool mentioned in the bible (John9:7)

In 2004, archeologists uncovered the Siloam pool in Jerusalem that existed during the second temple period, in the time of Jesus. Jesus performed the miracle of healing a blind man and asked him to wash the mud off his eyes at the pool of Siloam.  (John 9:1-11)

And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.  John 9:7

Obviously, this corroborates the story of the miracle of Jesus, doesn't it?

Doesn't this also make the gospel account credible?

jesus was a real person
Pilate Stone
evidence jesus exists
Pilate Ring

#4 Pontius Pilate Ring and Stone

In 1961, archeologist uncovered a limestone plague fragment in Caesarea Amphitheatre with the following inscription (translated from Latin):

"To the Divine Augusti [this] Tiberieum...Pontius Pilate...prefect of Judea...has dedicated [this]"

Pontius Pilate had dedicated the building to Emperor Tiberus at that time.

In another find, archeologists uncovered a copper alloy ring with the inscription "pilate" in King Herod's fortress, Herodium in 1969. Scholars debated that the ring did not belong to Pontius Pilate but likely to an administrator who would use the ring as an insignia seal for tax collection or other purposes in the name of Rome.

Both the ring and stone are archeological evidence that attest to the historicity of Pontius Pilate as a Roman ruler or governor at the time of Jesus. Hence, corroborating the gospel story.

evidence jesus exists

#5 Yehohanan's Heel Bone

Skeptics had always denied the story of Jesus' crucifixion and burial as told in the gospels. The argument was that since there was no archeological evidence of perforated skeletons in the world, crucifixion by nailing to the cross was unlikely.

Furthermore, critics also believed that since the purpose of crucifixion was to humiliate the convicts, Roman leaders would not have allowed burial when requested.

However, in 1968, an ossuary box containing the heel bones of a Yehohanan with an iron stake driven through it was discovered in Israel's National Museum. This obviously indicated that Yehohanan was nailed to the cross!

This discovery proved the following:

  • Romans allowed burial of people crucified
  • Crucifixion by nailing to the cross is real

Nazareth_Inscription

#6 Nazareth Inscription

In 1878, a marble tablet with a Greek inscription, dated in the early 1st century, was discovered. The text was a Roman edict ordering capital punishment for anyone caught disturbing graves or tombs:

"It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs-whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members-that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker."

Isn't it curious that there is such a law for grave robbers? What could have happened that led to this Roman edict?

Which robber do you know would want to move dead bodies from their tomb?

When robbing a grave, won't the robber just take the valuables and leave the corpse behind?

Obviously, it was pressure from the Jewish leaders at that time because they could not find the body of Jesus to prove that the resurrection did not happen and Christianity was false.

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#7 Shroud of Turin

There was a lot of debate surrounding this ancient artifact. There was a lot of history behind the artifact, which we will cover in another post. In 1978, a group of scientists (mix of believers and non-believers) were given access to the shroud for scientific analysis. The Shroud of Turin Research project found the following:

  • the image was not created by any pigment or chemical and cannot be duplicated
  • wounds and scars are consistent with the account in the gospel
  • the image was anatomically correct
  • the image, if used as a negative, would create a 3D image
  • carbon dating methods dated it to medieval times but there was debate over how the samples were taken
  • scientist theorized that a strong radiant light ray emanating from the body created the image but could not explain how

After which, the Vatican kept the shroud under lock and key. They would not allow any access for further research.

A few gnawing questions remained:

  • There were no other records of crucifixions that included a crown thorn on the head. So who could this person be apart from Jesus?
  • If scientists cannot explain its origin and cannot recreate the image, how can anyone else in medieval times forge the image?
  • Since scientists are still baffled by the creation of the images to this day, shouldn't we concede that this was done supernaturally?

How reliable is the New Testament account of Jesus?

Many skeptics still deny that the account of the gospel is true because of the supernatural events that were recorded. They just could not believe that miracles or God can exist.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days, scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires 2 Peter 3:3

How many ancient texts (apart from the Bible) were preserved?

Not many. In those days, there were hardly any ancient texts because:

  • not many people were educated
  • writing was expensive and required a specialized skill
  • most information were passed down by oral traditions

Only the rich or learned, like religious leaders, office-bearers, and scribes, can read and write. Most of the common folk were illiterate.

So how do historians evaluate the reliability of an ancient text?

  • Check the style and writing to see if they are consistent with the people and times. Historians called it paleography-the study of old writings-and it could sometimes be used to date ancient manuscripts.
  • Check if there is any corroborative evidence surrounding that incident during that time
  • Check the authorship and the time that it was written. Was it an eyewitness account? Was there any evidence of the existence of the author? When was the text written? Was it closest to the date of the incident? How many other ancient sources were there that reported the incident?
  • radiometric dating or other corroborative evidence to support the writing

So, in summary, ancient texts that were reliable would have the following three characteristics:

  • text written by eyewitnesses (primary) or re-told by someone who knew the eyewitnesses (secondary)
  • text written closest to the date of the event and the writing style matches consistently with the author and the times
  • corroborative evidence from archeology or texts from other different sources

Here, we will look at three arguments that make the New Testament's (NT) account a reliable ancient document.

(A) Number of Manuscripts & Early Writings

Modern historians believe that an ancient document is reliable if it has many different sources that one can compare to ascertain its credibility and consistent message.

So, what if we compare biblical texts with the other notable ancient texts that we deem to be reliable, according to historians? When were they written? How many documents were copied and preserved?

Aristotle’s work 1000 384-322BC AD 850 1200
Plato's work 210 427-347BC AD 900 1200
Pliny the Younger 200 61-113AD AD850 750
Pliny the Elder 200 23-79AD AD1000 900
Herodotus 109 480-425BC AD900 1350
Caesears Gallic Wars 251 10-44BC AD1000 900
Tacitus' Annals 33 AD100 AD850 750
Thucydides’ work 50 460-400BC AD900 1300
Sophocles’ work 193 496-406BC AD900 1200
Livy’s work 150 59BC-17AD AD400 400
Demosthenes’ Speeches 340 300BC AD1100 1400
Homer’s Iliad 1757 800BC AD400 400
New Testement Greek 5,795 AD49-95 AD117 30-150
(Armenian, coptic, Gothic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Georgian and Slavic) 7974 AD30 early 2nd century 100-150
(Latin Vulgate) 10,000 early 3rd century 300-350

As you can see, the NT has more manuscripts than any other ancient document texts that we have today.

And more so, most of them were written near the date of Jesus' death!

Early Writings

Biblical scholars dated the NT as being written early and very close to the date of Christ's crucifixion. The authors were supposedly primary (eyewitness) and secondary sources

  • Gospel of Mark - written in AD 66-70 (30 years after Christ's death)
  • Gospel of Matthew & Luke - written in AD 85-90
  • Gospel of John - written in AD 90-110

Note: assuming Paul wrote the letters to Corinthians in AD 52, the dates of the gospel of Mark would have been reduced to AD50 or less (20 years after Christ's death)

The biblical document has met and exceeded the criteria set by historians. And yet, many critics still deny its credibility.

Why?

Because critics do not believe in the supernatural or God.

(B) Motives

If the life of Jesus and the NT account were fabricated, then what motives did the disciplines have to create the fake religion?

People are generally motivated to commit crime/fraud for three simple reasons:

  • Greed or gain
  • Sexual lust or relational desires
  • Power or Influence

If you look at the lives of the disciples, did they gain monetary rewards from preaching the good news? Absolutely not. In fact, they led a life of poverty by selling what they had to give to the poor.

Did the disciples gain favour with women for sex and relationships? The religious Jewish leaders would have sounded the alarm!

Remember that under Jewish law, committing adultery is punishable by death!

How about power?

Paul the apostle was one of the top Jewish intellectual Pharisees who was out to destroy Christianity. He wielded much power and commanded the respect of the Jewish leaders at that time. But he left all the prestige and became a tent maker after his conversion.

Ask yourself: Why would a notable Pharisee who wielded power in his homeland throw away everything to fabricate a religion, knowing it to be a lie?

It just doesn't make sense.

(C) Embarrassing Story

If the NT account is fabricated, why would it be filled with stories that put a bad light on this new religion?

A good story for a religion would have painted a super-powerful messiah and downplayed unimportant characters. However, the NT account is simply the opposite.

What are some of the embarrassing story plots that prove the reliability of the NT account?

  • Women were the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus. Women at that time were of lower status, and their words and opinions do not carry much weight. If the story was fabricated, men would be the first to visit the empty tomb.
  • The Messiah was shamed, crucified, and died like a common thief. The Jews at that time had expected a powerful conquering messiah and king to free the Jews from the Romans. If the story is fabricated, Jesus would be riding into the city with a great army and vanquishing the enemy. 
  • The Messiah was born into a poor family and was a carpenter.

Historians believed that the disciples, like Paul, James, Peter, and John, experienced a supernatural encounter that changed their lives from being unbelievers to fervent followers of Christ.

So much so that they were willing to forgo all they had, preach the good news, and even die for their beliefs.

Would they die for a belief that they know for a fact, was a lie?

Conclusion

So was Jesus a real person in history? 

With the evidence above, it is beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • Jesus Christ was a man who lived in Galilee.
  • Jesus was a great teacher and worked miracles
  • Jesus crucified and died under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate
  • the New Testament account of the life of Jesus is reliable
  • Many of Jesus' disciples had a supernatural experience which led them to willingly die for what they believed

Don't just listen to what I say.. check out the evidence above for yourself!

I will update this post when more evidence is uncovered.

In the meantime, an age-old question by skeptics, which we will address in another post, is:

Did Jesus' resurrect from the dead? 

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