Hurtado on Did Jesus Exist?

Here is a sane response to the recent kerfuffle (which is much ado about not very much) about the existence of Jesus.

The “Did Jesus Exist” Controversy and Its Precedents
by larryhurtado

Well, the internet is buzzing nowadays with positive and negative responses to Bart Ehrman’s recent book: Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, written in response to the recent mini-wave of people denying that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure. I haven’t read Ehrman’s book, but to judge from the range of comments on the Amazon listing, it’s generating some heat.

I was emailed last week by someone asking why scholars don’t engage the “mythicists” (as they are called) on the issue. Were we afraid that we’d be out-gunned in an argument? Did we secretly know that the denyers had it all? Were we being elitist?

For me, it’s a matter of having a good many prior commitments to produce positive contributions to the study of early Christianity (e.g., right now, I’m trying to get on with an essay on “Who Read Early Christian Apocrypha?” for a multi-author volume). But another reason for feeling it less than necessary to spend a lot of time on the matter is that all the skeptical arguments have been made and effectively engaged many decades ago. Before posting this, I spent a bit of time perusing my copy of H. G. Wood, Did Christ Really Live?, which was published in 1938. In it, Wood cites various figures of the early 20th century who had claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was a fiction, and patiently and cordially engages the specifics of evidence and argument, showing that the attacks fail.

So in one sense I think I’m not alone in feeling that to show the ill-informed and illogical nature of the current wave of “mythicist” proponents is a bit like having to demonstrate that the earth isn’t flat, or that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, or that the moon-landings weren’t done on a movie lot. It’s a bit wearying to contemplate! And now, I really must get back to that essay.

Finding Jesus– Review of Part One
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’– The Interview Part 4
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’–The Interview Part Six
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’– The Interview Part 5
  • Steve Martin

    Yes, I think you are right. It’s been done before and beaten to death. But I don’t think it will ever die because as people hated him then…they hate Him today.

    They didn’t want him then…and they still don’t want Him today.

    But He wants us, in spite of all this tomfoolery.


  • Ray Pennoyer

    There is a very good interview with Bart Erhman on this issue over at the Unbelievable? website (link below). It is apparent that his new book on whether Jesus existed (yes) has suddenly put him in the odd position of being attacked by many of the critics of Christianity who usually cite him with favor.{7B0D9400-F8DF-494B-9C1F-3C5DE03E4E74}

  • Ray Pennoyer

    A better link to the Bart Ehrman interview can be found here (just scroll down the page):

  • Patrick

    I watched a documentary once on this question and one of the confessional researchers commented that “the opposition to Christ is the best intrinsic evidence of His reality”.

    Yes it is, if it did not happen, THEN we should wonder about our faith since we’re warned to expect it.

  • Ron Taska

    Didn’t you have a long civil discussion with Ehrman where you sent him questions and he replied?

  • Ron Taska

    Iam sorry that was Witherington who had this discussion.