Historians Reject the Bible Story

You never find the details of the Jesus story in a history book, like you would for Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great. Why is that? Why is the Bible not cataloged in the library in the History section?

Christians correctly point out that the historical grounding for the Jesus story has some compelling points. For example, there are not one but four gospel accounts. The time gap from original manuscripts to our oldest complete copies is relatively small. And the number of Bible manuscripts is far greater than those referring to anyone else of that time.

The enormous difficulty, however, is that historians reject miracles—not just in the Bible but consistently in any book that claims to be history.

Remember the story of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon? The historian Suetonius reported that Julius saw a divine messenger who urged him to cross. This is the same Suetonius that Christians often point to when citing extra-biblical evidence for the historicity of the Jesus story.

It’s a fact of history that Suetonius wrote about the messenger, but this miraculous appearance isn’t actually part of history.

Remember Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who reportedly ordered the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1)? Augustus was himself divinely conceived, and he ascended into heaven when he died.

These reports are part of history, but the events are not.

Everyone knows about Alexander the Great, but legends about his life grew up in his own time. Did you hear the one about how the sea bowed in submission during his conquest of the Persian Empire? Or about how ravens miraculously guided his army across the desert?

Ditto—miraculous reports don’t make it into history.

The Alexander story is a plausible natural story with excellent supporting evidence (coins with his likeness, cities with his name, stele with his laws, the spread of Hellenism and the creation of the successor empires, records of his conquests from outsiders, and so on) and a few miracles. The natural part is the noteworthy part; the miracles don’t add much.

Compare this to the Jesus story, an implausible story of a god documented by religious texts and without any supporting evidence. Jesus didn’t leave any writings himself, there is nothing from contemporary historians, and later historians record only the existence of the religion. With this story, only the miraculous part is noteworthy.

Strip away the miracle claims from Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus or Alexander the Great and you’re left with precisely the story of those leaders that we have in history. But strip away the miracle claims from the Jesus story, and you have just the story of an ordinary man—a charismatic rabbi, perhaps, but hardly divine.

Christians argue that we should treat the Gospel story like any other biography of the time, and I agree—but I doubt they will like where that takes them.

I am the punishment of God …
If you had not committed great sins,
God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you
— Genghis Khan

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 9/6/11.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jim Jones

    Religion is spread by four basic methods:

    Deceit
    Fear
    Torture
    Murder

    It has always been thus.

    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

      atheism via communism you mean

  • Jim Jones

    Every piece of evidence confirms that gospel Jesus never existed.

    The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:

    Josephus, Philo-Judaeus, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Quintilian, Lucanus, Epictetus, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Hermogones, Valerius Maximus, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Appian, Theon of Smyrna, Phlegon, Pompon Mela, Quintius Curtius, Lucian, Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus, Florus Lucius, Favorinus, Phaedrus, Damis, Aulus Gellius, Columella, Dio Chrysostom, Lysias, Appion of Alexandria.

    Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.

    Philo of Alexandria was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ’s miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

    He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place — when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not.

    From “The Christ” — John E. Remsberg

    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

      funny you can only confirm these people existed because others wrote of them but at the same time deny people in the Bible existed arguing there is no proof they existed because they where only written about- your logic is as flawed as it is perverted- but what else could we expect from a homosexual religion basher- and a card carrying communist such as yourself?

  • Jim Jones

    The Jews were never slaves in Egypt. There was no Exodus. The Jews never conquered any Canaanites. Moses is a fictional character.

    Adam and Eve never existed and thus there is no original sin.

    All the chances are used up.

    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

      religion bashers hide their true agenda which is nothing more than the homosexual agenda-

  • Jim Jones

    “Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go”.

    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

      atheism 2000 years of homosexuality-

      • Jim Jones

        Stupid even for you.

  • Jim Jones

    > “The “who would die for a lie” argument is very, very flimsy.”

    You can take that from my namesake.

    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

      your name sake? do you prefer lick her license or pete r puff r

  • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

    not only that- they can only prove Plato Socrates existed because Plato wrote of him and so on- they use the flawed argument that the prominent people of the Bible never existed because they are only written about- and at the same time accept others throughout history as exiting with only the evidence that they too where written about- complete hypocrites and religion bashers- I also find them to be staunch homosexual sympathizers.

    • Pofarmer

      Uhm, the problem with the “prominent people in the bible”. Is that nobody else wrote about the either. The only wrotings about them are religious hagiographies. There is no indication of a great upheaval in Egypt due to a massive loss of workers. Heck, the egyptians and sumerians were fighting a war in the sinai at the time of the supposed exodus, and yet neither party ever mentions stumbling across wondering hebrews. Indeed, the best Archaelogical evidence we have indicaes the jews were there in .cannan all along, and probably made up a glorious past because in the present the were continuously getting their ass handed to them. So, it’s not only that the evidence you have is flimsy, but you also lack the corroborating evidence one would normally find of such dramatic encounters.

  • Eric Bostic

    Does’nt Josephus make mention or f Jesus in his wrting’s? Are’nt their other historical writing’s from t th at time period tell’s of Jesus? Once again we walk by faith not sight if you can’t get a hold of that you need t to find an altsr and search you heart!!!!!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Josephus did mention Jesus, twice. Unfortunately, those appear to be later additions. I’ve written more here.

      What good is faith? I don’t use it to cross a street or write a blog post. It’s useless, as far as I can tell. Why use it to analyze the most important question of all?

  • Eric Bostic

    One thing to keep in the back of narrow mind’s is this; if I’m wrong I’v lost nothing, but if your wrong you lose your sole for aii eternity.Think about it, is it worth the gamble.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      This is Pascal’s Wager. It applies to you as much as it does me. (You want to wind up in Buddhist hell? Trust me–it ain’t pretty.)

      I’ve written more here.

      • Eric Bostic

        Do you often take these opportunities to promote your book.There’s also many, many stories similiar to your’s but for the other side, this carries no weight but to you.

        • Greg G.

          It carries the weight of logic which those other stories lack.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not following your point.

          I do promote my books but probably much less than I should.

          Pascal’s Wager (which is what you presented, whether you know it or not) indeed has no effect on me. Search for more here, on this blog, or on the internet. You’ll find plent of arguments against it. Better, try to figure out arguments against it yourself.

      • Aaron Arguelles

        Buddhist hell? What is that? The doctrines of heaven and hell exist only in Christianity and Islam.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No Buddhist hell? I’ve been to the monasteries, pal. I’ve seen the paintings.

          You mean: there isn’t a concept of hell in every flavor of Buddhism.

    • Matt McDowall

      ditto from Bob…..you fail to acknowledge there are more than two options….there is an infinite amount of options.

    • Psycho Gecko

      Actually, if you’re wrong, you’ll wind up in Muslim Hell.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Or Taoist hell or Hindu hell or …

        • Aaron Arguelles

          There is no hell in those religions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Can you say, “Naraka“?

  • Eric Bostic

    What about the historian that support the bible.does that mean they arent doing as well as their counter parts, does it mean they are wrong?we are expected to believe anything that you say proves the bible wrong but anything that supports the bible you ignore it. You refuse to see with an open mind.if the best some of your followers can do is say prove there is a GOD you have some simple followers have they taken the time to read the bible or are simply listening to you folk’s and taking what you say as being “the gospel”if so these people should probably stay to themselves.

    • Greg G.

      The opinion of a historian means nothing if he doesn’t have evidence to substatiate it. If he has evidence that supports one story in the Bible, then fine, it’s likely to be true but it doesn’t lend support to other unsubstantiated parts of the Bible.

      However, the evidence we have shows that the first ten books of the Old Testament really false. Most critical New Testament scholars consider the gospels to be unreliable because there lack evidentiary support, even from the epistles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      I’m happy to investigate supporting evidence for the gospel story. What is your best argument?

      Historians aren’t your friend. They universally reject the supernatural.

      I have never demanded that anyone prove that there is a god. I simply ask for the evidence. If it’s compelling, then it carries the day.

      • Eric Bostic

        I didnt say you said prove GOD is real but some your “followers do use this as the basis of their argument, in fact I have no argument for what I beleive, I feel no need to validate my beleif, you folk’s on the other hand go out of your way to discredit GOD’s word, why is that, do you feel threatened by it? Your a smart man, probably smarter than me so why the need to do this? I enjoy your replies but some of your “follower’s” i don’t, they make some pretty stupid and unfounded comment’s

        • MNb

          “I have no argument for what I beleive, I feel no need to validate my belief”
          That’s fine with me. Neither does my female counterpart. She simply doesn’t care. It makes it easy for her to accept that I don’t believe.

          “why is that?”
          Because we don’t believe (gods word).

          “they make some pretty stupid and unfounded comment’s”
          Feel free to point out my “pretty stupid and unfounded comments.” I’m not above it, as I learned today for the gazillionth time (at Only Solitair, George Starostins site).

        • Eric Bostic

          Once again you didnt read what was written i did not say you but some of your “followers.While it is superstition to you and your kind it isn’t to Christian’s.Please explain how Christianty has been bad for society. Has it brought about the down fall of society? I don’ think so on the contrary the lack of moral’s in the U.S. is terrible.Is that the fault of Christian’s no it’s in my opinion the lack of.Have you ever taken the LORD’S name invane? (Humor me) if you did or any other of your colaberator’s did why? If HE doesn’t exist .look forward to hearing from you, take care

        • Ron

          Have you ever taken the LORD’S name invane? [sic]

          That depends. What exactly is the LORD’s name?

        • adam

          Isnt is “Jealous”?

          That seems like a good name for a ‘perfect god’

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          No–“Jealous” is his middle name. (Or is it “Danger”?)

          Anyway, there’s the idea of the 70 (or 72) names of God. I think that’s Kabbalistic.

          Wikipedia has a long list.

          Ron raises a good point. How can you properly blaspheme if you don’t use the right name? And since we don’t have a record of the vowels, maybe even words like “Yahweh” are wrong.

          Aarg! Have I been blaspheming all these years and doing it wrong?! God dammit!

        • Pofarmer

          Just let out a long string of explicatives in hopes of hitting the right ones?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          So back to Plan A, then? OK–that’s good advice.

        • adam

          vain adjective ˈvān

          : too proud of your own appearance, abilities, achievements, etc.

          : having no success : not producing a desired result

          It would seem that ‘christians’ take the name of god in vain EVERY TIME they invoke it.

          Blasphemy the VERY BEST reason is here::

        • Ron

          In the words of Carly Simon…

          God’s so vain
          He probably thinks this curse is about him

        • adam

          ….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          C’mon–you know his name, by Jove!

          (Oops … I may have blasphemed …)

        • MNb

          I’m one of BobS’ followers, so I am entitled to react.

          “Please explain how Christianty has been bad for society.”
          You are the one whow doesn’t read what others write. Where did I claim that? The question is irrelevant for my atheism.

          “the contrary the lack of moral’s in the U.S. is terrible.”
          Agreed. At the other hand the morals in my native country The Netherlands are generally fine. As you don’t seem too smart to me I’ll add immediately: the morals in the country where I live, Suriname, are generally fine too. And Surinamese people are about as religious as Americans. About half of them are non-christians though.

          “Have you ever taken the LORD’S name invane?”
          Probably, I’m not perfect. I don’t like swearing though. But why would I tell you why? Your question is indecent. Moreover it has no relevance at all for my atheism.
          It would be nice if you could focus on one topic. Now you come across as a scatterbrain.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          “There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.”

        • Aaron Arguelles

          Educate yourself. The Dark Ages were a result of the collapse of the civilization not because of religion. Religion had to take in charge because there was no secular gov’t powerful enough to rule.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Not the point. Christianity was in charge for a thousand years. It had its chance, but good things didn’t happen. That’s all I’m saying.

        • Pofarmer

          “I don’ think so on the contrary the lack of moral’s in the U.S. is terrible.”

          So, O.K. In what areas do you think morals are failing? I’ll tell you what I think. I think that kids are hidden from consequences, so they don’t make good decisions. Kids are sheltered from making decisions for too long, and then, when those decisions turn bad, they aren’t made to take responsibility for them. Kids should fail early, and often, in safe ways of course. Know that they have your support, but they have to live by what they decide to do. I’ve seen this lack of decision making demonstrated over, and over and over again, and it’s horrible in religious kids. The idea that “God will provide” is the ultimate get out of jail free card. Doesn’t matter what you decide. And it’s all down hill from there. I bet if kids knew the consequences of their actions, and knew that they would have to live with those decisions, that most of your “lack of morals” would pretty much go away.

        • Pofarmer

          Most of us feel threatened by it because superstitious nonsense thinking is bad for societies.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Show me an atheist who demands that the Christian prove God. I’m guessing that any that do are using that colloquially and mean instead, “Show me that the Christian argument has the most evidence.”

  • Pofarmer

    Pretty sure we do have writings from julius ceasar, and we also have dorect writings of his biographers, and accounts of him from his generals. You seem to be implying Alexander did more wonders than. Jesus? I would agree. More here.

    http://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/ten-reasons-to-reject-the-apologetic-1042-source-slogan/

  • Pofarmer

    Two books you should read, “true believers” bupy Eric Hoffer is the first one. “Not the impossible faith” by Richard Carrier is the second one.

  • Pofarmer
  • Eric Bostic

    That’s my point, anything found to discredit the bible you will accept, anything that supports the bible you dismiss, for example evidence found at the bottom of the Gulf of Aqaba in depths of 60-200 ft scattered over 2.5 km or the post found in Nuweiba in 1978, and the other found in 1984 on the Saudi coastline opposite off and identical to the first, inscription intact written in Phoenican letters (Archaic Hebrew) containing these words “Mizraim (Egypt), Solomon, Edom, death, Pharaoh, Moses,Yahweh this indicates that Solomon set up these post as a memorial to the crossing.But as the pattern goes you say it means nothing.Have you ever read the Bible for yourself? Or do you just take other peoples word at face value?

    • MNb

      Sources?
      You start off your comment by nonsense btw. Nobody disputes Pontius Pilatus or the Babylonian Exile.

      • Pofarmer

        I’m trying to remember. There’s a U.S. Evangelical spreading this stuff, but they won’t tell exactly where it is for fear of it being scavenged or something. As opposed to atheists willing to accept anything that would discredit the bible, it seems eric has his gullibility meter cranked way, way up, would be interesting what Israel Finklestein says about this stuff.

        • MNb

          “they won’t tell exactly where it is”
          That violates an important scientific principle, especially important when observations are not repeatable. We can safely shrug it off if you’re right.

      • Ron

        He’s probably referring to the “discoveries” made by Ron Wyatt.

        • MNb

          Ah, that guy gained some fame in The Netherlands as well.

          http://www.skepsis.nl/wyatt.html

          “If he was right he was without any doubt the most important archeologist of the 20th Century. If he was right.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      anything found to discredit the bible you will accept, anything that supports the bible you dismiss

      So I’m closed minded? Could be, but you’ve provided no such evidence.

      Give me a link to this information about the memorial to the Exodus crossing. I’m not sure what you’re saying. Sounds like you’re saying that we have one clue to the Exodus so therefore the supernatural parts of the Bible must also be correct.

  • Eric Bostic

    I believe whole heartedly , why is it archeological findings for the Bible are excused by you there are findings atesting to the exodus as I stated before there are other finding’s that support Bible such as the Merneptah Stele, However slight the writting’s Cassius Dio mention the tomb of Solomon, the Amarna tablet’s but as normal you will discredit them any way you can you will give it no though it’s a patteren you all seem to have your not open to anything but your beleif and that’s o.k.and if you scoll through the comment’s below y you will see the comment’s I was speaking of wheather it was you or not make’s no difference take care

    • MNb

      “there are findings atesting to the exodus”
      Then why does Israel Finkelstein, who has dug the entire Sinai, not mention them?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      It would help if you’d click Reply so we have the context.

      I can’t imagine what archaeological evidence would be sufficient to prove the supernatural, since we have no credible evidence of that today.

    • Psycho Gecko

      Actually, the archeological evidence shows that Jews were a breakaway group of Canaanites whose early sites were distinguishable mainly due to their lack of pig bones. The Jews came out of Canaan and settled in an area under Egyptian control, but the Exodus story was conceived later, at a time when that area was no longer part of the Egyptian Empire.

      • Greg G.

        Excellent points. Didn’t Egypt control all of Canaan? I have speculated recently that the early Hebrews were under Egyptian rule but it left them due to a weakening of Egypt rather than they left Egypt. Later generations had tales of their ancestors being ruled by Egyptians and made up the Exodus story to reconcile the conflict without considering that empires ebb and flow.

  • Eric Bostic

    MNb as far as how smart I am or aint makes no diference to me what you think the one comment about not reading was for bob, if I hurt your feelings im very sorry
    as far as the Netherlands go statisticly they are’nt heaven on earth, you must live there, you also must have a problem with others opinions, if you can’t take one don’t give one. Take care

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      The interesting thing about the Netherlands and some of the other countries in northern Europe is that they spank the U.S. on social metrics–homicide, abortions, unwanted pregnancies, STDs, prison population, and so on. It’s pretty embarrassing.

      Unfortunately, devotedness to Christianity is correlated with worse social metrics, not better ones.

    • Pofarmer

      O.K. So, statistically, what’s so bad about the Netherlands?

  • Aaron Arguelles

    Not even the Greek mythology can be found in the fiction category of the library. It’s considered nonfiction.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Nonfiction? Really? Zeus and Hera all the rest are part of history? I don’t think mythology is nonfiction.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X