Your One Best Answer to People Who Say Jesus Never Existed (And Other Skeptical Claims)
by Tom Gilson
It’s that time of the year again, when magazines, newspapers, websites and cable channels will try to tell us again that Jesus never existed, or He was married to Mary Magdalene, or that He blessed a gay marriage.
Are you ready for the challenge? You can be. I’ve got one answer that will work for a whole bunch of them. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of study at all. Enjoy that while it lasts: Usually I’m big on encouraging everyone to bone up.
So here’s the one quick answer for a host of challenges: What’s your evidence for that?
Let me show you a few examples of how it works; then I’ll explain a couple of general principles at the end.
”Jesus never existed.”
My daughter got that one from a biology prof in college. Really?Sorry, prof, but you’re in the wrong discipline for that; it’s not a biology question, it’s a history question. And serious, credible scholars in the field, both Christian and non-Christian, all agree that Jesus really lived. Most of them even agree that he was a teacher who did extraordinary works. Of course not all go all the way to believing he was the Son of God who lived, died, and rose again. But they believe a lot more than the “Jesus mythicists” would have you think.
Yes, the mythicists are out there. In their private conversations at least, however, true academic historians of the Ancient Near East call the mythicists cranks. I won’t name names, but one of them gets a good talking-to here. The famous skeptic Bart Ehrman — who in fact recently declared himself an atheist — devoted a book to debunking this fringe belief. There’s a lot in Christianity Ehrman disagrees with, but not this much of it.
So when you ask, then, “Where’s your evidence for this?” watch out for who they rely on for authorities. Chances are pretty much 100 percent that they’re calling on a verifiable crank to support their theory…