Did Jesus Really Exist?
By Paul L. Maier
“No, he didn’t!” some skeptics claim, thinking that this is a quick, powerful lever with which to pry people away from “the fable of Christianity.” But the lever crumbles at its very first use. In fact, there is more evidence that Jesus of Nazareth certainly lived than for most famous figures of the ancient past. This evidence is of two kinds: internal and external, or, if you will, sacred and secular. In both cases, the total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence. And yet this pathetic denial is still parroted by “the village atheist,” bloggers on the internet, or such organizations as the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
The Internal Evidence
Aside from the many Messianic predictions in the Old Testament, not one of the four Gospels or the 23 other documents in the New Testament would make an ounce of sense if Jesus had never lived. Did the whole cavalcade of well-known historical personalities in the first century A.D. who interacted with Jesus deal with a vacuum? Did Herod the Great try to terminate an infant ghost? Did the Jewish high priests Annas and Caiaphas interview a spirit? Did the Roman governor Pontius Pilate judge a phantom on Good Friday, or Paul and so many apostles give their lives for a myth?
No one doubts that the above names are well known from both sacred and secular sources, as well as archaeological evidence, and are therefore historical. The same is clearly true of Jesus of Nazareth. But why, then, is Jesus not permitted the “luxury” of actually having lived as did the rest of these? Why the double standard here?
From the internal, biblical evidence alone, therefore, Jesus’ existence is simply categorical. And yet there is an abundance of additional extrabiblical information on this question…