26 Powerful Reasons Why Scholars Know Jesus Existed
By James Bishop
1. Nothing to the Contrary
If Jesus really were a non-existent figure of history it would be expected that some anti-Christian group would have made this known at some point. In fact the most hostile group towards Jesus and early Christianity were the Jews, yet they affirmed Jesus’ existence by trying to accuse the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body from the tomb (Matthew 28:13, Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, 108; Tertullian’s On Spectacles, 30)).
We also find anti-Jesus material in the much later Jewish Talmud accusing him of treachery and leading Israel astray. Those that hated Christianity the most just had to discover that Jesus was a figment of the early Christians imagination and expose it, and that would be the end of Christianity, however, not once does this ever happen.
Take, for example, the polemic against the empty tomb. Paul Maier in his work ‘In the Fullness of Time’ tells us that: “Jewish polemic shared with Christians the conviction that the sepulcher was empty, but gave natural explanations for it. And such positive evidence within a hostile source is the strongest kind off evidence.”
We should ask ourselves, why did the Jews try to explain away Jesus’ tomb if there was no Jesus in the first place? It’s almost certainly because Jesus existed. To continue with Paul Maier: “Now you can argue about whether he was the Son of God or not, you can argue about the supernatural aspects of his life, but in terms of the historical character there is absolutely no evidence to the contrary and all the evidence is in the favor.”
2. Scholars Think the Evidence is Persuasive
The most credible New Testament, Biblical, historical, and early Christianity scholars today, from all backgrounds of belief, agree wholeheartedly that Jesus once existed. Of course the debate arises in what we can know about Jesus but that is beyond our purposes here. As Professor Bultmann, Professor of New Testament studies, once remarked:
“OF COURSE THE DOUBT AS TO WHETHER JESUS REALLY EXISTED IS UNFOUNDED AND NOT WORTH REFUTATION. NO SANE PERSON CAN DOUBT THAT JESUS STANDS AS FOUNDER BEHIND THE HISTORICAL MOVEMENT WHOSE FIRST DISTINCT STAGE IS REPRESENTED BY THE OLDEST PALESTINIAN COMMUNITY.”
Paul Maier, former Professor of Ancient History, pens that: “The total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence.”
Also, Craig Evans who is widely known for his writings on the subject of the historical Jesus says that: “No serious historian of any religious or nonreligious stripe doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea and Samaria.”
Skeptical New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman (who is certainly no friend of Christianity) states that: “These views are so extreme (that Jesus did not exist) and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.”
Scholar Michael Grant says: “To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.”
In truth, the claim that Jesus never existed as a historical person is not on the table of historical scholarship, in the words of Richard Burridge: “I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that (that Jesus did not exist) anymore.”
3. Jesus Crucifixion is Historically Certain
There are many independent sources that attest to Jesus’ crucifixion. So many in fact that it is beyond doubt that Jesus really died on a cross. We find that all four canonical gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) attesting to this fact.
We also find Serapion, in his letter, refers to the crucifixion of the “wise king”. Josephus Flavius, writing within the 1st century, refers to Jesus’ crucifixion very vividly, “And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross.” Cornelius Tacitus, writing in the early 2nd century, in his work Annals also refers to Jesus’ crucifixion. Eddy and Boyd state that it is now “firmly established” that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.
The much later Jewish Talmud states that “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu (Jesus) was hanged.” The early Church fathers unanimously believed that Jesus was crucified on a cross, for instance Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp…
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