Richard Dawkins wrote, “Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.” 1
Marcus Borg posted, “The gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles belong together. For about a century, the conventional wisdom of mainline scholarship has dated Luke and Acts to the late 80s or 90s. But in the last decade, a growing number of scholars have dated them significantly later, in the first decade or two of the second century.” 2
In the New York Times best seller, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “The best argument I know for the highly questionable existence of Jesus is this. His illiterate living disciples left us no record and in any event could not have been ‘Christians,’ since they were never to read those later books in which Christians must affirm belief, and in any case had no idea that anyone would ever found a church on their master’s announcements.”3
The claims that Jesus may not have existed are nothing new. Skeptics and atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, and others, commonly allude to the poor historical record, the late dating of the New Testament books, and other short comings within scripture that should keep any sensible person from considering the New Testament as any kind of credible or accurate ancient record.
So lets back up for a moment and compare apples to apples.
In 66 AD the Jews revolted against the Romans and destroyed a Roman cohort stationed in Jerusalem. A Roman cohort usually had six centurions, who lead about 80 men each giving a cohort about 480 men total. Not surprisingly, Rome was not too happy about this, so the Roman emperor sent General Vespasian to crush the rebellion. On his way to Jerusalem they parked around a rebel town named Jotapata in the region of Galilee. On the 47th day of that siege a Jewish rebel named Flavius Josephus surrendered and was one of the few survivors of that engagement.
What is significant about Flavius Josephus is he sweet talked his way into the inner circle of the Roman empire, and eventually became a historian for the Roman emperor. That is a long step from hiding out in a cave with his Jewish buddies with a Roman centurion out side, threatening them to give up or die. He had been Jewish, and was one of the rebels that fought against Rome. He was quite familiar with the culture and surrounding area and wrote about the Jewish history, which has survived to this day.
Josephus wrote in Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3, “No there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day…” 4
Josephus also mentioned James, the brother of Jesus and how he was stoned by the Sanhedrin. Some scholars believe James may have been head of the Jerusalem church and that was enough reason for the Jewish authorities to stone him. Acts 21:17-18
There are several non-Christians sources that mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. If we include Josephus above, there is a total of 10 non-Christian. In the same 150 year period, you will find 9 non-Christian sources that mention the Roman Emperor Tiberius, at the time of Christ. Now add in the Christian sources and we find Christ is documented in 43 sources and the Roman Emperor Tiberius only 10 times. 5
Norman Geisler and Frank Turek pieced together the non-Christian sources and came up with an impressive list. Keep in mind this list is from the non-Christian sources.
1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. Jesus lived a virtuous life.
3. Jesus was a wonder worker.
4. Jesus had a brother named James.
5. Jesus was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earth quake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God. 6
To even suggest, or hint, that Jesus may not have existed is silly when you consider just the sources that would be hostile to Christianity. Then, when those sources confirm the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament you have what seems to an accurate account of the life of Christ and his followers from over 2000 years ago.
When researching this post I came across another blog that pointed out, “There is a fundamental difference between the claims of history and the claims of inspiration. The claims of history are simply speaking to what actually happened; the claims of inspiration speak to the character and ultimate origin of a work (i.e., is God ultimately behind it?). We are capable of studying the historical claims without first having to prove inspiration.” 7
Dating the New Testament letters centuries after the life of Christ is another common attempt of non-believers to discredit scriptures as the author of the Huffington Post alluded to up above. What I find amusing at times is the skeptics lack of explanation to the omission of the 70 AD event throughout scripture. James Wallace put it this way, “We begin with perhaps the most significant Jewish historical event of the first century, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70. Rome dispatched an army to Jerusalem in response to the Jewish rebellion of AD 66. The Roman army (under the leadership of Titus) ultimately destroyed the temple in 70 just as Jesus predicted in the Gospels, (Matthew 24:1-3)” 8
Here we have a culture that surrounds, and worships within the city of Jerusalem. The center of the Jewish culture, its economy, its religious practices, its traditions, were all housed within the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. The temple was considered to be the worldly dwelling place of God and was of vital importance to the Jews of that day.
When the revolt started in 66 AD, four years later in 70 AD, not only was Jerusalem leveled, but the temple also. To say the Jews defended the city and temple would be an understatement. In the final day when the city walls were breached many rallied and surrounded the temple, but it caught fire. Despite the efforts of the Jews, and some Roman commanders who were ordered to keep the temple intact, it burned to the ground and was destroyed.
The fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple would have been mentioned by the New Testament authors, but not a single one mentions this monumental event in Jewish history. The omission of this historical fact is just one strong argument that all the New Testament authors penned their letters before the fall of Jerusalem.
Dismissing the Bible viable historical evidence, questioning if Jesus actually lived, and claims of the New Testament written centuries after Christ can all be dismissed after some careful research on the part of any Christian apologist who wants to defend their faith. 1 Peter 3:15
1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. Print.
2. Borg, Marcus. “A Chronological New Testament” Huffington Post. Huffingtonpost.com, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
3. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007. Print.
4. Josephus,Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
5. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
7. Moyer, Doy, “On Using the Bible to Prove the Bible” La Vista Church of Christ. Church of Christ, 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2015
8. Wallace, James J. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013. Print.
You mean you actually believe in the Bible and all that Jesus stuff? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.