Is There Evidence Jesus Was A Real Person?

What evidence can we provide about Jesus’ historicity in the Bible and outside of the Bible?  Is there any concrete evidence that Jesus was a real person?

History is His-Story

The authenticity of Jesus’ existence is easily proven.  Not only are there the genealogical studies of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but we have extra-biblical sources that are simply too numerous to include in one article.  The plain, historical truth is that there is no single person in all of human history that more has been written about more than Jesus Christ.  From Roman and Jewish historians to secular historians of the present age and from the age of antiquities, there is no shortage of the Man from Galilee.  Based upon historical methods, which include a critical analysis, the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars and modern and ancient historians all agree that Jesus lived on earth, lived in Judea, was a real Man in space and time, and His teachings have been the single, greatest influence that the world has ever known.  There may be significant differences on His teachings but there is major agreement on His historicity, most modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed.1

Josephus, Jewish Historian

Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100) wrote extensively about the Jews, from the time of Abraham up to day in which he lived.  He was a Romano-Jewish historian and scholar. He was and still is well respected and what he wrote about Jesus in the Antiquities of the Jews was impressive. He writes in Book 18, chapter 3 that “Jesus was a wise teacher who was crucified by Pontius Pilate…”  His accounts are held to be of the highest of authenticity.2 Josephus accurately describes the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Roman authorities.3  Some of Josephus’ writings include very convincing testimony of Christ like:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah.  And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate, had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”4

Historical Records

The New Testament scholar, James Dunn states that nearly all modern scholars consider Jesus’ baptism and, especially important, His crucifixion, historical certainties.5  Bart D. Ehrman states as a matter of fact that there is a wide range of sources including Josephus and Tacitus that attests to Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and death6 and John P. Meier thinks it ridiculous that Christians would invent such a horrific ending for their leader.7

Roman Historian Tacitus

Tacitus, a professional, Roman historian, referenced some of Pliny’s sources about Jesus and accepted them as fact in his own accounts.8   Tacitus, who was considered one of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, verifies the Biblical account of Jesus’ execution at the hands of Pontius Pilate who governed Judea from 26-36 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius.  His historical accounts precisely match those accounts recorded in the gospels.

Other Historians

If Jesus Christ was a Christian invention, then why would more than one hundred ancient Historians include Christ in their writings if they knew he didn’t exist? We have already mentioned Josephus and touched on Tacitus, but there are so many others like Gibbons, where it was written of his accounts that “church historians allow the substantial justness of [Gibbon's] main positions” on the founder of and the religion of Christianity.9  We can be certain that historians, both secular and Christian, would not have written about someone that was only a myth. They wrote with certainty when speaking of Jesus. Even skeptical historians agree that the New Testament is a remarkable historical document and has stronger manuscript support than any other work of classical literature, including Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Caesar, who all pale in evidential comparison.

Jesus: An Historical Fact

It is no accident that Jesus Christ is the most widely recognized, well known and written about Person that has ever existed. You cannot ignore the enormous number of original documents that make up the Canonized books of the Bible. These are the most valued of all sources to Historians (a primary source) in validating past events. The Word of God (the Bible) was inspired by the Spirit of God, therefore the Bible’s testimony is true about Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus lived, was buried and then resurrected has evidence that would be considered admissible evidence in a court of law. Even the Chief Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees said as much and acknowledged that Jesus told the truth. Many of these religious rulers knew He was from God but for fear of losing their authority and positions, conspired to kill Him anyway (John 3; Luke 19:28-20, 20:20-26).

In any court of law, witnesses are invaluable. In the whole of Judea and Samaria, there were several hundred eye-witnesses who saw Jesus before and after His crucifixion (Luke 24:15-24; Act 1:3-4, 2:31-32, 9:3, 17; 1 Cor 15:4-8, 9:1; 2 Pet 1:16-21; John 2:3, 15:27; 1 John 1:1-3, 14). Hundreds more saw the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which Joseph had given for Jesus’ burial site. He lives today and has lived for eternity. There is an absolute avalanche of evidence for His resurrection, including over 500 eye-witnesses who had seen the resurrected Christ, many of whom were still alive, at the time of Paul’s writings (1 Cor 15:1-8).  Paul writes that “he [Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present” (1 Cor 15:6) so many were still alive and testified to this fact while Paul was writing to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians).

Overwhelming Evidence

Dr. Thomas Arnold, 19th-century history professor at Oxford, said, “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer…”  Scholar Gary Habermas has pointed out that five historical facts about Christ are all agreed to by nearly all ancient Historians [three of which are] that He was crucified, buried and was seen again afterward.  One of the world’s foremost experts in lines of evidence was Simon Greenleaf, an American attorney and jurist (1783-1853). In his book the “Testimony of the Evangelists” he views the multiple eye-witness accounts of Jesus and His death and resurrection as being valid lines of evidence. They meet or exceed evidential requirements, so much so that Greenleaf saw the “martyrdoms, exponential church growth and the persistent-through-persecution faith of the believers” (often up to the point of death), as solid of evidence that there can possibly be.  A leading British philosopher, Anthony Flew, who after fifty years of atheism, came to the conclusion that God must exist, saying “The evidence for the resurrection alone is better than for claimed miracles of all other religions.  There leaders are buried and still in their graves.  Jesus tomb was found empty!”

Jesus Was Real Evidence

Conclusion

It would be maniacal to believe in something that you knew was a lie and then die for that lie.  You can choose to believe or not to believe but your belief does not change the historical evidence that Jesus indeed did exist and that He continues to exist.  For many, they will believe too late (Dan 12:2; Rev 20:11-15).  If I am wrong, then you have nothing to lose and you will cease to exist at death but if the Bible is right, and I am convinced that it is, you will have to give an account for your life after you die (Heb 9:27) but “Those who are wise shall shine. Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness. Like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).  Reject this truth and you will face “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2c).

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

1. While discussing the “striking” fact that “we don’t have any Roman records, of any kind, that attest to the existence of Jesus,” Ehrman dismisses claims that this means Jesus never existed, saying, “He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees, based on clear and certain evidence.” B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged: writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285.

 

  1.   Louis Feldman ISBN 90-04-08554-8 pages 55–57) states that the authenticity of the Josephus passage on James has been “almost universally acknowledged.”

3. Flavius Josephus, Whiston and Maier, 1999, p. 662.

4. Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3.

  1.   Jesus Remembered by James D. G. Dunn 2003 ISBN 0-8028-3931-2 page 339 states of baptism and crucifixion that these “two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent.”

6. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman 1999 ISBN 0-19-512639-4 page 248.

  1.   John P. Meier “How do we decide what comes from Jesus” in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research by James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight 2006 ISBN 1-57506-100-7 pages 126-128.
  2.   Complete Works of Tacitus. Tacitus. Alfred John Church. William Jackson Brodribb. Sara Bryant. edited for Perseus. New York. : Random House, Inc. Random House, Inc. reprinted 1942.
  3.   The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. IV, eds. S.M. Jackson, et al. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1952), 483–484.

 

  • james V

    Lets assume for a moment that what the atheists say is true that a man wrote the bible. A very imaginary creative writer as the skeptics would say. OK I can give one particular aspect in the bible that would prove this not true. The bible states that man is born a sinner because sin is carried through the blood. Mary in the story is a virgin and Jesus was not born by sexual intercourse but by the power of the holy spirit. Why would the writer put this in as part of the whole story? In those days the writer did not know that the blood does not pass from the mother to the child in the womb. The blood of the man passes through the semen but not the mother. We, as a society, only recently learned this was true in the early 1900′s. So why would any creative writer have this as part of his so called “phony” story. He would not be aware of this scientific fact and it would have been left out of the story. Check it out and see if what I am saying is true.

    • Matt McDowall

      James, I’m going to assume you haven’t studied the historicity of the bible much and how it came about.
      Man, many men actually, authorship unknown in many cases and written in Greek well after Jesus’s death wrote the bible. Its not like god put pen to paper now is it. They had their own interpretations and stories in which was circulated for decades by word of mouth by early Jews. There were many gospels.
      The Virgin birth is widely regarded by scholars as a mistranslation by the author of Matthew from the OT – Book of Isaiah. From Hebrew to Greek. It was meant to say “Young women”. The virgin birth was placed in there by the authors to convince other Jews that Jesus was the messiah because the old prophecies predicted this from king David..This is why Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Matthew and Luke made up two completely different accounts (Census & slaughter of the innocents), which are both false and rejected by Historians.

      This is only a small account of which the majority of Historians have known for a long time regarding discrepancies and insertions into the bible to fit the authors agenda. As you go through the timeline of the first gospel – Mark (70 AD) to John (100-120 AD) you will see how the stories are changed and Jesus is mythicized.
      there are only three main areas in which the majority of historians agree with regarding the historicity of Jesus.
      a) He was born and from Nazareth. – NOT Bethlehem.
      b) he was a follower of John the Baptist.
      c) he was executed.
      All these rest, miracles and so on – are rejected. you believe this on faith alone, not because historians agree with you…do some research and you find they sincerely don’t.

      • james V

        Sorry but I dont argue with atheists. You cannot receive the truth until you submit to Gods authority-the bible. Intellectuals and the rebelious are most at danger of never being saved. Watch the move God is not dead

        • Kathleen

          James, you know nothing. It is likely Jesus didn’t exist – and certainly not as he is portrayed in the Bible. If he did so many miracles how come there is absolutely not one mentioned by any historian – or heck, anyone – during the time he supposedly lived?

          • Kathleen

            And I mean outside of the Bible.

          • james V

            The bible is the only truth. There is no other truth. Why would I look outside the bible so I can back up and verify the truth with lies?

          • Kathleen

            So you agree there is no mention of Jesus during his lifetime outside of the Bible (which was written years after). Those miracles must not have caused much of a stir. Especially since many other supposed messiahs ARE mentioned by historians during the same period.

            Looks James, you obviously find comfort in believing in god and that’s good for you. However, your implying I’m going to be in hell with satan is ridiculous as it doesn’t exist for me. If I said to you “wait until you die and you are going to be reincarnated as a warthog” are you worried?

            There is exactly the same evidence that Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Buddhism and every other religion is real – that is, NONE.

            I live my life without a god and it makes perfect sense. When a tsunami kills 200,000 people, I know it’s due to natural causes. I don’t try to make excuses why a god would allow that suffering. When no real measurable miracles occur, like an amputee regrowing a limb, I know it’s because it’s not possible. I don’t try to explain why god hates amputees but apparently likes some cancer victims. When a 9 year old girl prays to god while being raped and is still murdered, I know it’s because there are some sick people in the world. I don’t try to attribute it to “god works in mysterious ways”. If god really was loving he would want everyone in heaven and would reveal himself in a very clear manner. That he hides himself is completely due to the fact that he doesn’t exist.

          • james V

            Its interesting that God led you to me and you use the example of an amputee. I am an amputee. Lost my leg 30 years ago to cancer. Never grew back a leg. I agree with almost everything you are saying about disasters and the bible says that the world has fallen. But you see death as being a bad thing. And if you look at it thru worldly eyes then it’s the end. But it’s not the end. Its the beginning. As a Christian I will enter into a new body-as it says in the Bible by Jesus. And because you have created your own reality and that happens to be a sin also. “You shall not have any Graven images and create your own idols”. You and I can’t avoid sin. You set yourself up as the person who figures out what is right and wrong. This is the rebellion of man. But dont trust yourself because you are being deceived. There are things you and I dont know yet. As an example 100 years ago you would have never understood that you can talk to a person on the other side of the world with a little box in you pocket. But now you know you can. God want to be sure that you have accepted Jesus as the savior BEFORE your sins are judged. If Jesus is your savior then your sins are looked at by God thru what Jesus did on the cross. You and I cannot achieve this, only by Grace and the blood of Jesus. If I see you standing on the street and a bus is about to hit you I think I should tell you. Or should I say there is really no bus? God has given everyone a way to be saved and all you have to do is receive it. He wants everyone to live with him but some people just dont want it. I see it as craziness that people dont want him but it is what it is. I also notice that you want to have this told to you in a very clear manner. Thats why God has the bible for you to dig in and understand. It isn’t easy but He helps you with the Holy Spirit that you recieve when you believe. Just because you dont understand doesnt mean stop trying. it’s all in the bible. Many people just never read it or just give up when they dont understand something.

          • Kathleen

            James, I love how you totally ignore everything I say and just go on babbling about your faith. You truly are too far gone to have a discussion with. A bus about to hit me is real. A god who hides is not. There is not one atom in my body that believes in the kind of god in your bible. I know you have to cling to the hope of a better life after this one but I live fully in the only life we know we have for sure – the present one!

          • james V

            Ok you were told the truth and now you insult. Typical response when the going gets tough. It goes back to the thought that you can lead an atheist to the truth but you cant make her think. Best and blessings to you. Hopefully that bus doesnt hit you before its too late. Watch the movie “God is not dead” Maybe that will help.

          • james V

            I am glad you are asking questions. Its mentioned in the bible by Matthew Mark Luke John Saul Paul Peter Timothy Ceaser Etc etc.. He is alive now for you. He loves you. Yes you! Isn’t it interesting how history is spelled. HIS STORY. God bless you and I pray now that you will shed all you rebeliousness and find Jesus.

            I wrote this for you:

            Lets look a a few facts about Jesus. WHAT HE DID: 1. He came to the earth to save people from hell and death and sin. Making one final perfect sacrifice for sin. 2. He conquered death for us. 3. He Raised the dead and raised from death. 4. He healed the sick the lame the desperate. 5. He gave comfort to the people. 6. He fed the hungry. 7. He taught us the truth about life and God and sin. He gave us Grace and all we have to do is believe. WHAT HE DIDNT DO: He didn’t oppress people, kill people, lie to people, hurt anyone. WHAT DID WE DO? 1. We use his name as a curse. The gentlest and kindest and most loving person in the history of mankind. We use his name all the time as a curse. With all the terrible men in history, we use only His name. We dont say, “Adolf f’n Hitler” or “Ghengis f’n Kahn” or “Mao tse f’n tung.” 2. We convicted him of crimes he didnt commit. 3. We spit on Him and whipped Him bloody and beaten. His skin and tendons ripped from his body, His bones exposed and carrying our cross he said “forgive them father” then we nailed Him to a cross. How can we not love him for what he did for us? How could we do what we did to Him? And now I am forgiven for the sin of man. When God looks at me He sees His wonderful, loving, sinless son and I am innocent. Can you imagine that God loves us this much? The maker of heaven and earth wants me and loves me. Thank you Jesus Thank you Jesus

        • james V

          You can lead an atheist to the truth but you cant make him think!

      • RealityBetraysUs

        Go pick up a copy of Josh Mcdowells book “Evidence that demands a verdict” if you really want to scrutinize historical and scientific evidence of the bible, your complaints are merely straw men erected by skeptics who have not seriously studied the facts historical and scientific.

        • Kathleen

          Go pick up a copy of Richard Carrier’s book On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt if you want a peer reviewed academic look at it.

          • james V

            Doubt is from Satan. He wants you to keep doubting and comfortable until the day he you die and he gets to keep you forever where he is.

  • Matt McDowall

    just because he existed gives no credence to miraculous claims….I hope the author understands this premise…
    And yes, people believe stupid things all the time and are willing to die for them! your country is missing two sky scrapers as evidence of this…

    • Guest

      Because apples are oranges and William Shakespeare was a hippopotamus.
      Sure fella, anything you say.

    • RealityBetraysUs

      Our country is missing 2 skyscrapers because in a free society that is what it takes to get everyone on board in order to fight world terrorism. We can not have terrorists running around the USA like they do in the middle east, that is why we are missing 2 skyscrapers! If you do not believe me than why not ask yourself the same question about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Our gov. knew it would happen before it did, but did not try to stop it! Why because we had to have every American behind the war effort to defeat what was in that day a threat to the free world.The same is true today about the threat to our free world by Muslim terrorists, we can NOT afford to let ISIS TAKE OVER THE FREE WORLD OR THE MIDDLE EAST. It may seem extreme but letting evil conquer by doing nothing is far worse! So even if your simplistic mind or thinking refuses to acknowledge historical facts, there is proof that governments make choices that seem extreme but long term are made for the greater good! Ask yourself how many lives were saved and years that wwii was shortened by dropping 2 nuclear bombs on Japan in wwii? We are facing the same threat today with muslim extremist’s groups who want to set up a caliphate (world leader under Islam) and all who disagree will be beheaded! The bible warned that in the last days such things would occur.

      • james V

        I know atheists in reality dont want to open their mind. They think they know it all and thats it. Sarcasm is used because atheists think thats their way of being smarter. But if you really want to be smarter and are interested in why the twin towers fell then read the book “the Harbinger” by Jonathan Cahn. I dare you to read somethig that isnt always trying to prove God is bad or there is no God.

  • RealityBetraysUs

    it is impossible to please God except by faith, faith comes by hearing the word of
    God and allowing the Holy Spirit to confirm that faith in God. Despite the fact that there is more than enough evidence to prove the existence of God (and the incarnate manifestation of God in the real physical person of Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin into this world) more evidence that he lived and was indeed a human being without sin who died on a cross was buried and rose on the 3rd day from the grave and was eyewitnessed as living by more than 500 living people of that day. So despite the fact that there is more evidence to convict the world of Jesus and that he lived and proved he was God in the flesh, there are still those who refuse to believe he is the Christ and they will stand before him on judgement day and be condemned to hell by their own testimony. The question is not so much that there is enough evidence to prove his story, but rather personally if you want to acknowledge him as your Lord and Savior. What will it take? Recall that in the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, The rich man begs God to let him go warn his brothers, God tells the man they have the whole witness of the bible and the prophets and if they will not listen to that as proof then surely even if someone were to come back from the dead and (hell) they would not listen to them either. People are still the same today!

    • Kathleen

      Really, are you an adult? And you actually believe someone has come back from the dead? If he was witnessed by 500 living people of that day, how come not a single one ever told anyone about it? Not one single solitary witness account outside of that propaganda tool, the Bible.

  • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike

    Other’s have said it, but it bears restating: That a preacher named Jesus from Nazareth walked the earth two millennia ago is immaterial. What is important is whether he was…as claimed…the son of God. There were plenty of messiahs walking around in the first century performing “miracles” and preaching. To people dying for their mythology; …the author clearly hasn’t done ANY research. Nor has the author done any serious research on the authorship of the Bible.

    The author then eludes to Pascal’s Wager, which fails left and right: http://mikeponders.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/reviewing-pascals-wager/

  • JeffWest

    “Not only are there the genealogical studies of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but we have extra-biblical sources that are simply too numerous to include in one article.” So you included none? Not one, two or three? Doesn’t that undercut your entire argument?

    • Guest

      Read the whole post, duh.

  • Guest
  • Guest
  • Austin Hill

    This article is a little ridiculous. “Overwhelming evidence?” Yea, no. Some evidence, much of it arguable. That’s about all there is. Do most historians believe the easiest explanation is that there was a real man this was based on, yes, but it’s not the only explanation.


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