- The idea that Jesus was an invention derived from pagan myths is unfounded. There is more evidence for his existence than any other historical figure.
- Atheist Scholar, Bart Ehrman validates the existence of Jesus through extrabiblical sources.
- Roman Historian, Tacitus references “Chrestians” when speaking of the followers of Jesus Christ.
- Jewish priest, Josephus uses the phrase “brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah” when referencing James during his execution trial.
A frequent argument against the existence of Jesus Christ is that he never existed, that he was a myth or legend. But scholars attest that not only did a real person named Jesus Christ exist, but we have more evidence for his existence than we do for all of the other historical figures that we never question.
Myth #1: Jesus Invented Out of Other Pagan Myths
Many documentaries, foremost among them Zeitgeist, assert that Jesus Christ was an invention of pagan myths and/or that of dying-and-rising gods.
Internet-based conspiracy theories aside, scholars strongly disagree with this concept, as we will explain.
Did Jesus Exist? Atheist Scholar Defends Jesus
One of the most unlikely people to defend the existence of Jesus Christ is an agnostic atheist scholar and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill named Bart Ehrman. While Ehrman has written and or edited 30 books, six of them being New York Times bestsellers, and are all critical of Christianity, he is also among the first to defend the existence of a real person named Jesus Christ.
In a book called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth,” written by Ehrman in 2012, he writes that all experts in the area of study agree that “whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist.”
Further, Ehrman refutes the idea that Jesus was invented from pagan myth, says that Christians were influenced by Jewish ideas – not those of Greeks or Romans.
Historical and Independent Confirmation of Jesus Existence Outside the Bible
Logically, to avoid bias, one of the best places to prove the existence of Jesus Christ is from sources outside of the Bible. Scholars say such proof is abundant and “historically astounding.”
Ehrman actually defends the idea that Jesus Christ did exist, and he does so by taking a historical rather than religious viewpoint to prove Christ’s existence on Earth.
In his works, Ehrman reiterates what many scholars – agnostic, atheist and believers alike – have already said – Jesus is one of the most well-documented figures in all of history. The independent confirmations for the existence of Jesus are actually “astounding for an ancient figure of any kind” Ehrman says.
Confirmation by Roman Historian Tacitus
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about the crucifixion of Jesus in his last major work, titled Annals, which was written roughly in 116-117 AD.
“Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ [Christus in Latin], had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”
Confirmation by Jewish Priest Josephus
Being that the Jews did not believe Christ was the Messiah, they have no motive for proving his existence, and they certainly did not believe he was the son of God, but rather a criminal blasphemer before referring to himself as such.
The Jewish priest Josephus wrote of both Jesus and his brother James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He writes about events that occurred with the execution of James, which occurred in the temporary absence of the Roman governor between Festus’s death and Governor Albinus’s arrival in 62 CE.
“Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting ["sanhedrin”] of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned.”
Events Scholars Agree On About Jesus Christ
- Jesus Christ was born sometime before 4 BC.
- Jesus Christ grew up in Galilee.
- Jesus Christ was raised Jewish and removed deeply Jewish his entire life.
- Jesus’ father was a carpenter, and he became one, too.
- Jesus saw himself doing something within Judaism, not forming a new religion.
- Jesus became noted as a healer, teacher and prophet.
- Jesus Christ was executed by Roman Imperial authority by crucifixion.