The historicity of Jesus is the question of whether Jesus historically existed (as opposed to being a purely mythological figure). The question of historicity was generally settled in scholarship in the early 20th century.[1][2][3][note 1] Today scholars agree that a Jewish man called Jesus of Nazareth did exist in the Herodian Kingdom of Judea and the subsequent Herodian tetrarchy in the 1st century CE, upon whose life and teachings Christianity was later constructed,[note 1] but a distinction is made by scholars between 'the Jesus of history' and 'the Christ of faith'.[note 2]

There is no scholarly consensus concerning most elements of Jesus's life as described in the Bible stories, and only two key events of the biblical story of Jesus's life are widely accepted as historical, based on the criterion of embarrassment, namely his baptism, and his crucifixion (commonly dated to 30 or 33 CE).[4][5][6][7] The historicity of supernatural elements like his purported miracles and the purported resurrection are deemed to be solely a matter of 'faith' or of 'theology', "about which no self-respecting historian could possibly have anything to say".[note 3]

The idea that Jesus was a purely mythical figure has been, and is still considered, an untenable fringe theory in academic scholarship for more than two centuries,[note 4] but according to one source it has gained popular attention in recent decades due to the growth of the internet.[8]

Academic efforts in biblical studies to determine facts of Jesus's life are part of the "quest for the historical Jesus", and several criteria of authenticity are used in evaluating the authenticity of elements of the Gospel-story. The criterion of multiple attestation is used to argue that attestation by multiple independent sources confirms his existence. Besides the gospels and the letters of Paul, non-biblical works that are considered sources for the historicity of Jesus include two mentions in Antiquities of the Jews by Jewish historian Josephus (dated circa 93–94 CE) and a mention in Annals by Roman historian Tacitus (circa 116 CE).

Modern scholarship

Mainstream view: a historical Jesus existed

Main article: Quest for the historical Jesus

Historical Jesus

Scholars regard the question of historicity as generally settled in scholarship in the early 20th century,[1][2][3] and scholars agree that a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth did exist in Palestine in the 1st century CE.[9][note 1] Since the 18th century, three separate scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and based on different research criteria, which were often developed during that phase.[10][11] Currently modern scholarly research on the historical Jesus focuses on what is historically probable, or plausible about Jesus.[12][13]

Only two accepted facts of a historical Jesus

Main article: Historical Jesus

Part of the ancient Madaba Map showing two possible baptism locations
Bronzino's depiction of the Crucifixion with three nails, no ropes, and a hypopodium standing support, c. 1545

There is no scholarly consensus concerning most elements of Jesus's life as described in the Christian and non-Christian sources, and the only two events of this historical Jesus subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate (who officiated 26–36 AD).[14][4][5][6][7][note 5]

The criterion of embarrassment has been used to argue for the historicity of the baptism of Jesus, shown here in The Baptism of Christ by Juan Fernández Navarrete.

Based on the criterion of embarrassment, scholars argue that the early Christian Church would not have invented the painful death of their leader.[15] The criterion of embarrassment is also used to argue in favor of the historicity of the baptism of Jesus,[16][17][18] given that John baptised for the remission of sins, although Jesus was viewed as without sin and this positioned John above Jesus.[16][18][19]

Lightfoot Professor of Divinity James Dunn stated that these two facts "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical 'facts' they are obvious starting points for an attempt to clarify the what and why of Jesus' mission."[6][note 6]

In his popular book Did Jesus Exist? (2012), American New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman explained:

Nearly all critical scholars agree at least on those points about the historical Jesus. But there is obviously a lot more to say, and that is where scholarly disagreements loom large – disagreements not over whether Jesus existed but over what kind of Jewish teacher and preacher he was.[20]

A distinction is made between 'the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith',[note 2] and the historicity of the supernatural elements of the latter narrative, including his purported miracles or resurrection, are outside the reach of the historical methods.[note 3]

Fringe view: there was no historical Jesus

Main article: Christ myth theory

The Christ myth theory, which developed within the scholarly research on the historical Jesus in the 19th century, is, in Geoffrey W. Bromiley's words, the view that "the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology" possessing no "substantial claims to historical fact".[21] Alternatively, Bart Ehrman (who himself rejects the Christ myth theory) summarises Earl Doherty's view as being "that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition".[22] David Gullotta states that modern-day interest in mythicism has been "amplified by internet conspiracy culture, pseudoscience, and media sensationalism".[8] Casey and Ehrman note that many of the proponents of mythicism are either atheists or agnostics.[23][24][note 7]

Many proponents use a three-fold argument first developed in the 19th century: that the New Testament has no historical value with respect to Jesus's existence, that there are no non-Christian references to Jesus from the first century, and that Christianity had pagan and/or mythical roots.[25][26]

Virtually all scholars dismiss theories of Jesus's non-existence or regard them as refuted.[note 1] In modern scholarship, the Christ myth theory is a fringe theory and finds virtually no support from scholars.[3][27][28][web 1][note 4]

Sources for the historicity of Jesus

Main article: Sources for the historicity of Jesus

Judea Province during the 1st century

Methodological considerations

Multiple attestation

The criterion of multiple attestation looks at the number of early sources that mention, and evaluates the reliability of those sources. To establish the existence of a person without any assumptions, one source from one author (either a supporter or opponent) is needed; for Jesus there are at least twelve independent sources from five authors in the first century from supporters and two independent sources from two authors from non-supporters.[29][note 8]

There are Christian sources on the person of Jesus (the letters of Paul and the Gospels) and there are also Jewish and Roman sources (e.g. Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger) that mention Jesus,[2][31][32][33] and there are also many apocryphal texts that are examples of the wide variety of writings from early Christianity.

These additional sources are independent sources on Jesus's existence, and corroborate details found in other surviving sources as a "bedrock of historical tradition".[33][34] Contemporary non-Christian sources in the first and second century never deny the existence of Jesus,[35] and there is also no indication that Pagan or Jewish writers in antiquity who opposed Christianity questioned the existence of Jesus.[36][37][33] Taking into consideration that sources on other first century individuals from Galilee were also written by either supporters or enemies as well, the sources on Jesus cannot be dismissed.[29][38]

Early dates of the Christian oral traditions

Biblical scholarship assumes that the gospel-stories are based on oral traditions and memories of Jesus. These traditions precede the surviving gospels by decades, going back to the time of Jesus and the time of Paul's persecution of the early Christian Jews, prior to his conversion.[39][note 9]

According to Christopher M. Tuckett, most available sources are collections of early oral traditions about Jesus. He states that the historical value of traditions are not necessarily correlated with the later dates of composition of writings since even later sources can contain early tradition material.[42] Theissen and Merz state that these traditions can be dated back well before the composition of the synoptic gospels, that such traditions show local familiarity of the region, and that such traditions were explicitly called "memory", indicating biographical elements that included historical references such as notable people from his era.[43] According to Maurice Casey, some of the sources, such as parts of the Gospel of Mark, are translations of early Aramaic sources which indicate proximity with eyewitness testimony.[44]

Paul's letters (generally dated to circa 48–62 CE) are the earliest surviving sources on Jesus, and Paul adds autobiographical details such as that he personally knew and interacted with eyewitnesses of Jesus such as his most intimate disciples (Peter and John) and family members (his brother James) starting around 36 CE.[45][46][note 10]

Reliability of sources

Main article: Historical reliability of the Gospels

Since the third quest for the historical Jesus, the four gospels and noncanonical texts have been viewed as more useful sources to reconstruct the life of Jesus compared to the previous quests.[47][48]

On the quality of available sources, German historian of religion Hans-Joachim Schoeps argued that the Gospels are unsatisfactory as they were not written as detailed historical biographies, that the non-Christian sources provide no new information, and that the sources hopelessly intertwine history and legend, but present the views and beliefs of the early disciples and the Christian community.[49]

However, evangelical New Testament scholars like Craig Blomberg argue that the source material on Jesus does correlate significantly with historical data.[note 11]

Christian origins scholar Craig A. Evans argued that there are also archeological finds that corroborate aspects of the time of Jesus mentioned in the surviving sources, such as context from Nazareth, the High Priest Caiaphas' ossuary, numerous synagogue buildings, and Jehohanan, a crucified victim who had a Jewish burial after execution.[50][51] Written sources and archeologist Ken Dark's excavations on Nazareth correlate with Jesus' existence, Joseph and Jesus' occupation as craftworkers, presence of literacy, existence of synagogues, Gospel accounts relating to Nazareth, and other Roman period sources on Nazareth.[52]

Other historical persons in ancient sources

Historiographical approaches associated with the study of the poor in the past, such as microhistory, can help assess what type of sources can be reasonably expected in the historical record for individuals like Jesus. For instance, Justin Meggitt argues that since most people in antiquity left no sign of their existence, especially the poor, it is unreasonable to expect non-Christian sources to corroborate the specific existence of someone with Jesus's socio-economic status.[53] Ehrman argues that the historical record for the first century was so lacking that no contemporary eyewitness reports for prominent individuals such as Pontius Pilate or Josephus survive.[54] Theissen and Merz observe that even if ancient sources were to be silent on any individual, they would not impact their historicity since there are numerous instances of people whose existence is never doubted and yet were not mentioned by contemporary authors. For instance, Paul is not mentioned by Josephus or non-Christian sources; John the Baptist is not mentioned by Paul, Philo, or rabbinic writings; Rabbi Hillel is not mentioned by Josephus - despite him being a Pharisee; Bar Kochba, a leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans is not mentioned by Dio Cassius in his account of the revolt.[55]

With at least 14 sources by believers and nonbelievers within a century of the crucifixion, there is much more evidence available for Jesus than for other notable people from 1st century Galilee.[56] Non-Christian sources do exist and they corroborate some details of the life of Jesus that are also found in New Testament sources.[33] Classicist-numismatist Michael Grant argued that when the New Testament is analyzed with the same criteria used by historians on ancient writings that contain historical material, Jesus's existence cannot be denied anymore than secular figures whose existence is never questioned.[57]

New Testament sources

Synoptic Gospels

Main article: Synoptic Gospels

An 11th-century Byzantine manuscript containing the opening of the Gospel of Luke

The synoptic gospels are the primary sources of historical information about Jesus and of the religious movement he founded.[58][59] The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount the life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of a Jew named Jesus who spoke Aramaic. There are different hypotheses regarding the origin of the texts because the gospels of the New Testament were written in Greek for Greek-speaking communities,[60] and were later translated into Syriac, Latin, and Coptic.[61] Scholars argue that the surviving gospels show usage of earlier independent written and oral sources that extended back to the time of Jesus's death, but did not survive.[62][note 12] Aramaic sources have been detected in Mark's Gospel, which could indicate use of early or even eyewitness testimony when it was being written.[63][64] Historians often study the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles when studying the reliability of the gospels, as the Book of Acts was seemingly written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke.[65]

Among contemporary scholars, there is consensus that the gospels are a type of ancient biography.[66][67][68][69][70]

Pauline epistles

The seven Pauline epistles considered by scholarly consensus to be genuine were written in a span of a decade starting in the late 40s (i.e., approximately 20 to 30 years after the generally accepted time period of Jesus's death) and are the earliest surviving Christian texts that include information about Jesus.[40] Although Paul the Apostle provides relatively little biographical information about Jesus[71] and states that he never knew Jesus personally, he does make it clear that he considers Jesus to have been a real person[note 13] and a Jew.[72][73][74][75][note 14] Moreover, he interacted with eyewitnesses of Jesus since he wrote about meeting and knowing James, the brother of Jesus[76][note 15][note 10] and Jesus's apostles Peter[78][note 16] and John.[80] Additionally, there are independent sources (Mark, John, Paul, Josephus) affirming that Jesus actually had brothers.[81]

Craig A. Evans and Ehrman argue that Paul's letters are among the earliest sources that provide a direct link to people who lived with and knew Jesus since Paul was personally acquainted with Peter and John, two of Jesus's original disciples, and James, the brother of Jesus.[46][78] Paul's first meeting with Peter was around 36 AD.[78] Paul is the earliest surviving source to document Jesus' death by crucifixion and his conversion occurred two years after this event.[40] Paul mentioned details in his letters such as that Jesus was a Jew, born of the line of David, and had biological brothers.[40] According to Simon Gathercole, Paul's description of Jesus's life on Earth, his personality, and family tend to establish that Paul regarded Jesus as a natural person, rather than an allegorical figure.[82]

Non-Christian sources

Josephus and Tacitus

Main articles: Josephus on Jesus and Tacitus on Jesus

Non-Christian sources used to study and establish the historicity of Jesus include the c. first century Jewish historian Josephus and Roman historian Tacitus. These sources are compared to Christian sources, such as the Pauline letters and synoptic gospels, and are usually independent of each other; that is, the Jewish sources do not draw upon the Roman sources. Similarities and differences between these sources are used in the authentication process.[83][84][85][86] From these two independent sources alone, certain facts about Jesus can be adduced: that he existed, his personal name was Jesus, he was called a messiah, he had a brother named James, he won over Jews and gentiles, Jewish leaders had unfavorable opinions of him, Pontius Pilate decided his execution, he was executed by crucifixion, and he was executed during Pilate's governorship.[33] Josephus and Tacitus agree on four sequential points: a movement was started by Jesus, he was executed by Pontius Pilate, his movement continued after his death, and that a group of "Christians" still existed; analogous to common knowledge of founders and their followers like Plato and Platonists.[87] Josephus was personally involved in Galilee when he was the commander of Jewish forces during the revolt against Roman occupation and trained 65,000 troops in the region.[88]

Jesus is referenced by Josephus twice, once in Book 18 and once in Book 20 of Antiquities of the Jews, written around AD 93 to 94. On the first reference, the general scholarly view holds that the longer passage, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, in Book 18 most likely consists of an authentic nucleus that was subjected to later Christian interpolation or forgery.[89][90] On the second reference, Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman states that "few have doubted the genuineness" of the reference found in Antiquities 20, 9, 1 to "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James".[91][92][93][94]

Tacitus, in his Annals (written c. AD 115), book 15, chapter 44,[95] describes Nero's scapegoating of the Christians following the Fire of Rome. He writes that the founder of the sect was named Christus (the Christian title for Jesus); that he was executed under Pontius Pilate; and that the movement, initially checked, broke out again in Judea and even in Rome itself.[96] The scholarly consensus is that Tacitus' reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate is both authentic and of historical value as an independent Roman source.[97][98][99]


The Mishnah (c. 200) may refer to Jesus as it reflects the early Jewish traditions of portraying Jesus as a sorcerer or magician.[100][101][102][103] Other references to Jesus and his execution exist in the Talmud, but they aim to discredit his actions, not deny his existence.[100][104]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Jesus existed:
    • Stanton (2002, p. 145): Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically. There is general agreement that, with the possible exception of Paul, we know far more about Jesus of Nazareth than about any first or second century Jewish or pagan religious teacher.
    • Burridge & Gould (2004, p. 34): "There's a lot of evidence for his existence."
    • Ehrman (2011, p. 256-257): "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees, based on certain and clear evidence."
    • Ehrman (2012, pp. 4–5): "Serious historians of the early Christian movement—all of them—have spent many years preparing to be experts in their field. Just to read the ancient sources requires expertise in a range of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and often Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic, not to mention the modern languages of scholarship (for example, German and French). And that is just for starters. Expertise requires years of patiently examining ancient texts and a thorough grounding in the history and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the religions of the ancient Mediterranean world, both pagan and Jewish, knowledge of the history of the Christian church and the development of its social life and theology, and, well, lots of other things. It is striking that virtually everyone who has spent all the years needed to attain these qualifications is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure."
    • Ehrman (2012, pp. 13): In agreement with the view of Albert Schweitzer: "The Jesus proclaimed by preachers and theologians today had no existence. That particular Jesus is (or those particular Jesuses are) a myth. But there was a historical Jesus, who was very much a man of his time"
    • Hurtado (2017): "The overwhelming body of scholars, in New Testament, Christian Origins, Ancient History, Ancient Judaism, Roman-era Religion, Archaeology/History of Roman Judea, and a good many related fields as well, hold that there was a first-century Jewish man known as Jesus of Nazareth, that he engaged in an itinerant preaching/prophetic activity in Galilee, that he drew to himself a band of close followers, and that he was executed by the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate."
    This broad consensus is acknowledged by mythicists:
    • Wells (2007, p. 446):"Today, most secular scholars accept Jesus as a historical, although unimpressive, figure."
    • Carrier (2014, pp. 2–3, 21): "The historicity of Jesus Christ is currently the default consensus."
  2. ^ a b Jesus of history, Christ of faith:
    • Charlesworth (2008, pp. xix): "The term the historical Jesus denotes the life and teachings of Jesus that are reconstructed by specialists in Jesus Research. The Jesus of history is the real person of history who will always remain elusive and cannot be presented again on a reconstructed stage of history. The term the Christ of faith signifies the present and living Lord known by Christians in various church liturgies and in daily life."
    • Ehrman (2012, pp. 13): In agreement with the view of Albert Schweitzer: "The Jesus proclaimed by preachers and theologians today had no existence. That particular Jesus is (or those particular Jesuses are) a myth. But there was a historical Jesus, who was very much a man of his time."
  3. ^ a b Miracles:
    • Beilby & Eddy (2009, pp. 38–39): "Contrary to previous times, virtually everyone in the field today acknowledges that Jesus was considered by his contemporaries to be an exorcist and a worker of miracles. However, when it comes to historical assessment of the miracles tradition itself, the consensus quickly shatters. Some, following in the footsteps of Bultmann, embrace an explicit methodological naturalism such that the very idea of a miracle is ruled out a priori. Others defend the logical possibility of miracle at the theoretical level, but, in practice, retain a functional methodological naturalism, maintaining that we could never be in possession of the type and/or amount of evidence that would justify a historical judgment in favor of the occurrence of a miracle. Still others, suspicious that an uncompromising methodological naturalism most likely reflects an unwarranted metaphysical naturalism, find such a priori skepticism unwarranted and either remain open to, or even explicitly defend, the historicity of miracles within the Jesus tradition."
    • Ehrman (2001, pp. 196–197): "I should emphasize that historians do not have to deny the possibility of miracles or deny that miracles have actually happened in the past. Many historians, for example, committed Christians and observant Jews and practicing Muslims, believe that they have in fact happened. When they think or say this, however, they do so not in the capacity of the historian, but in the capacity of the believer. In the present discussion, I am not taking the position of the believer, nor am I saying that one should or should not take such a position. I am taking the position of the historian, who on the basis of a limited number of problematic sources has to determine to the best of his or her ability what the historical Jesus actually did. As a result, when reconstructing Jesus' activities, I will not be able to affirm or deny the miracles that he is reported to have done [...] This is not a problem for only one kind of historian—for atheists or agnostics or Buddhists or Roman Catholics or Baptists or Jews or Muslims; it is a problem for all historians of every stripe."
    • Bockmuehl (2001, p. 103): "Nevertheless, what is perhaps most surprising is the extent to which contemporary scholarly literature on the 'historical Jesus' has studiously ignored and downplayed the question of the resurrection [...] But even the more mainstream participants in the late twentieth-century 'historical Jesus' bonanza have tended to avoid the subject of the resurrection—usually on the pretext that this is solely a matter of 'faith' or of 'theology', about which no self-respecting historian could possibly have anything to say. Precisely that scholarly silence, however, renders a good many recent 'historical Jesus' studies methodologically hamstrung, and unable to deliver what they promise [...] In this respect, benign neglect ranks alongside dogmatic denial and naive credulity in guaranteeing the avoidance of historical truth."
  4. ^ a b The Christ myth theory is rejected by mainstream scholarship as fringe:
    • James D. G. Dunn (1974) Paul's understanding of the death of Jesus in Reconciliation and Hope. New Testament Essays on Atonement and Eschatology Presented to L.L. Morris on his 60th Birthday. Robert Banks, ed., Carlisle: The Paternoster Press, pp. 125–141, citing G. A. Wells (The Jesus of the Early Christians (1971)): "Perhaps we should also mention that at the other end of the spectrum Paul's apparent lack of knowledge of the historical Jesus has been made the major plank in an attempt to revive the nevertheless thoroughly dead thesis that the Jesus of the Gospels was a mythical figure." An almost identical quotation is included in Dunn, James DG (1998) The Christ and the Spirit: Collected Essays of James D.G. Dunn, Volume 1, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., p. 191, and Sykes, S. (1991) Sacrifice and redemption: Durham essays in theology. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–36.
    • Grant (1977, p. 200) Classicist-numismatist Michael Grant stated in 1977: "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 recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus', or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary."
    • Grant (1977, p. 200): "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'"
    • Robert E. Van Voorst, New testament scholar:
    • Van Voorst (2000, p. 16), referring to G. A. Wells: "The nonhistoricity thesis has always been controversial, and it has consistently failed to convince scholars of many disciplines and religious creeds. Moreover, it has also consistently failed to convince many who for reasons of religious skepticism might have been expected to entertain it, from Voltaire to Bertrand Russell. Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted."
    • Van Voorst (2003, p. 658): "debate on the existence of Jesus has been in the fringes of scholarship...for more than two centuries."
    • Van Voorst (2003, p. 660): "Among New Testament scholars and historians, the theory of Jesus' nonexistence remains effectively dead as a scholarly question."
    • Tuckett (2001, pp. 123–124): "[F]arfetched theories that Jesus' existence was a Christian invention are highly implausible."
    • Burridge & Gould (2004, p. 34): "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church's imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more."
    • Price (2010, p. 200) Robert M. Price, former apologist and prominent mythicist, agrees that his perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars to the point that they "dismiss Christ Myth theory as a discredited piece of lunatic fringe thought alongside Holocaust Denial and skepticism about the Apollo moon landings."
    • Johnson (2011, p. 4) Paul Johnson, a popular historian: "His life has been written more often than that of any other human being, with infinite variations of detail, employing vast resources of scholarship, and often controversially, not to say acrimoniously. Scholarship, like everything else, is subject to fashion, and it was the fashion, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for some to deny that Jesus existed. No serious scholar holds that view now, and it is hard to see how it ever took hold, for the evidence of Jesus's existence is abundant."
    • Martin (2014, p. 285) Michael Martin, skeptic philosopher of religion: "Some skeptics have maintained that the best account of biblical and historical evidence is the theory that Jesus never existed; that is, that Jesus' existence is a myth (Wells 1999). Such a view is controversial and not widely held even by anti-Christian thinkers."
    • Casey (2014, p. 243) Maurice Casey, an irreligious Emeritus Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the University of Nottingham, concludes in his book Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? that "the whole idea that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as a historical figure is verifiably false. Moreover, it has not been produced by anyone or anything with any reasonable relationship to critical scholarship. It belongs to the fantasy lives of people who used to be fundamentalist Christians. They did not believe in critical scholarship then, and they do not do so now. I cannot find any evidence that any of them have adequate professional qualifications."
    • Gray (2016, p. 113–114) Patrick Gray, religious studies scholar, "Christian and non-Christian scholars alike now almost universally reject the "Christ myth" hypothesis. That Jesus did in fact walk the face of the earth in the first century is no longer seriously doubted even by those who believe that very little about his life or death can be known with any certainty. [Note 4:] Although it remains a fringe phenomenon, familiarity with the Christ myth theory has become much more widespread among the general public with the advent of the Internet."
    • Gullotta (2017, pp. 312, 314), historian of religion: "Given the fringe status of these theories, the vast majority have remained unnoticed and unaddressed within scholarly circles." "In short, the majority of mythicist literature is composed of wild theories, which are poorly researched, historically inaccurate, and written with a sensationalist bent for popular audiences."
    • Hurtado (2017) Larry Hurtado, Christian origins scholar: "The "mythical Jesus" view doesn't have any traction among the overwhelming number of scholars working in these fields, whether they be declared Christians, Jewish, atheists, or undeclared as to their personal stance. Advocates of the "mythical Jesus" may dismiss this statement, but it ought to count for something if, after some 250 years of critical investigation of the historical figure of Jesus and of Christian Origins, and the due consideration of "mythical Jesus" claims over the last century or more, this spectrum of scholars have judged them unpersuasive (to put it mildly)."
  5. ^ Two facts:
    • Dunn (2003, p. 339) states of "baptism and crucifixion", these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent".
    • Crossan (1994, p. 45) "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus ... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."
  6. ^ The scare quotes for 'facts' are copied verbatim from the cited source
  7. ^ Ehrman (2012, pp. 336–338): "It is no accident that virtually all mythicists (in fact, all of them, to my knowledge) are either atheists or agnostics. The ones I know anything about are quite virulently, even militantly, atheist."
  8. ^ In a blog post, Bart D. Ehrman argued that there are about 25 to 30 "independent sources that know there was a man Jesus", including 16 in the New Testament,[30] which represents sources that have become canonical for Christianity.
  9. ^ Paul's conversion occurred two years after the crucifixion of Jesus.[40][41]
  10. ^ a b Ehrman (2012, pp. 144–146): "In one of his rare autobiographical passages, Paul indicates that just a few years after his conversion he went to Jerusalem and met face-to-face with two significant figures in the early Christian movement: "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to consult with Cephas. And I remained with him for fifteen days. I did not see any of the other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. What I am writing to you, I tell you before God, I am not lying!" (Galatians 1:18–20) [...] He was a member of an even closer inner circle made up of Peter, James, and John. In the Gospels these three spend more time with Jesus than anyone else does during his entire ministry. And of these three, it is Peter, again according to all our traditions, who was the closest [...] In about the year 36, Paul went to Jerusalem to confer with Peter (Galatians 1:18–20). Paul spent fifteen days there. He may not have gone only or even principally to get a rundown on what Jesus said and did during his public ministry. It is plausible, in fact, that Paul wanted to strategize with Peter, as the leader (or one of the leaders) among the Jerusalem Christians, about Paul's own missionary activities, not among the Jews (Peter's concern) but among the Gentiles (Paul's). This was the reason stated for Paul's second visit to see Peter and the others fourteen years later, according to Galatians 2:1–10. But it defies belief that Paul would have spent over two weeks with Jesus's closest companion and not learned something about him—for example, that he lived. Even more telling is the much-noted fact that Paul claims that he met with, and therefore personally knew, Jesus's own brother James. It is true that Paul calls him the "brother of the Lord," not "the brother of Jesus." But that means very little since Paul typically calls Jesus the Lord and rarely uses the name Jesus (without adding "Christ" or other titles). And so in the letter to the Galatians Paul states as clearly as possible that he knew Jesus's brother. Can we get any closer to an eyewitness report than this? The fact that Paul knew Jesus's closest disciple and his own brother throws a real monkey wrench into the mythicist view that Jesus never lived."
  11. ^ Blomberg (2011, p. 282): "The fruit of a decade of work by the IBR Historical Jesus Study Group, Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence [Ed. Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming).] takes a dozen core themes or events from Jesus' life and ministry and details the case for their authenticity via all the standard historical criteria, as well as assessing their significance. The results show significant correlation between what historians can demonstrate and what evangelical theology has classically asserted about the life of Christ.
  12. ^ The Gospel of Luke states that "many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us."[49]
  13. ^ In Galatians 4:4, Paul states that Jesus was "born of a woman."
  14. ^ In Romans 1:3, Paul states that Jesus was "born under the law."
  15. ^ That Jesus had a brother named James is corroborated by Josephus.[77]
  16. ^ According to Gullotta, James in particular is distinctive.[79]


  1. ^ a b Casey 2010, p. 33.
  2. ^ a b c Johnson 2011, p. 4.
  3. ^ a b c Van Voorst 2003, pp. 658, 660.
  4. ^ a b Herzog 2005, pp. 1–6.
  5. ^ a b Powell 1998, pp. 168–173.
  6. ^ a b c Dunn 2003, p. 339.
  7. ^ a b Crossan 1994, p. 145.
  8. ^ a b Gullotta 2017, pp. 313–314, 346.
  9. ^ Robert M. Price (a Christian atheist) who denies the existence of Jesus agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars: Robert M. Price "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in The Historical Jesus: Five Views edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy, 2009 InterVarsity, ISBN 0830838686 p. 61
  10. ^ Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (1997) ISBN 0830815449 pp. 9–13
  11. ^ Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell (1999) ISBN 0664257038 pp. 19–23
  12. ^ John, Jesus, and History Volume 1 by Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just and Tom Thatcher (2007) ISBN 1589832930 p. 131
  13. ^ John P. Meier "Criteria: How do we decide what comes from Jesus?" in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research by James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight (2006) ISBN 1575061007 p. 124 "Since in the quest for the historical Jesus almost anything is possible, the function of the criteria is to pass from the merely possible to the really probable, to inspect various probabilities, and to decide which candidate is most probable. Ordinarily the criteria can not hope to do more."
  14. ^ Amy-Jill Levine; Dale C. Allison Jr.; John Dominic Crossan (2006). The Historical Jesus in Context. Princeton University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-691-00992-6.
  15. ^ John P. Meier "How do we decide what comes from Jesus" in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research by James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight 2006 ISBN 1-57506-100-7 pp. 126–128
  16. ^ a b Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell 1998 ISBN 0-664-25703-8 p. 47
  17. ^ Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan, Richard G. Watts 1999 ISBN 0664258425 pp. 31–32
  18. ^ a b Casey 2010, p. 35.
  19. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, p. 207.
  20. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 269–270.
  21. ^ Bromiley 1982, p. 1034.
  22. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 12, 347, n.1.
  23. ^ Casey 2014, pp. 41, 243–245.
  24. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 336–338.
  25. ^ "Jesus Outside the New Testament" Robert E. Van Voorst, 2000, pp. 8–9
  26. ^ Price, Robert M. (2009). "Jesus at the Vanishing Point". In Beilby, James K.; Eddy, Paul R. (eds.). The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity Press. pp. 55–83. ISBN 978-0-8308-3868-4
  27. ^ Fox 2005, p. 48.
  28. ^ Burridge & Gould 2004, p. 34.
  29. ^ a b Dark 2023, p. 150-151.
  30. ^ Ehrman, Bart (28 October 2016). "Gospel Evidence that Jesus Existed". Ehrman Blog.
  31. ^ Tuckett 2001, p. 122-125, 127.
  32. ^ Van Voorst 2000, pp. 19, 75.
  33. ^ a b c d e Mykytiuk, Lawrence (January 2015). "Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible". Biblical Archaeology Society.
  34. ^ Tuckett 2001, p. 124 "All this does at least render highly implausible any far-fetched theories that even Jesus' very existence was a Christian invention. The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (for whatever reason) and that he had a band of followers who continued to support his cause, seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score..
  35. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, p. 63.
  36. ^ Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0860120066 pp. 730–731
  37. ^ Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0802843689 p. 15
  38. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, p. 59.
  39. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 83–85.
  40. ^ a b c d Byrskog 2011, p. 2189.
  41. ^ Ehrman 2012, p. 144.
  42. ^ Tuckett 2001, p. 122.
  43. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, p. 100-104.
  44. ^ Casey 2010, p. 63-64 "It also provides evidence that Mark is an unrevised literal translation of an Aramaic source, and this at a point where there is every reason to believe that the story is literally true. This means that our oldest source is sometimes perfectly accurate, because parts of it were originally written by people who were in close touch with the events of the historic ministry. This is only one short step away from eyewitness testimony"..
  45. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 144–146.
  46. ^ a b Evans 2016.
  47. ^ "Historical Criticism". The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Routledge. 2008. p. 283. ISBN 9780415880886.
  48. ^ Craig Evans, "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology," Theological Studies 54 (1993) p. 13-14
  49. ^ a b Schoeps, Hans-Joachim (1968) [1961]. The Religions of Mankind. Translated by Winston, Richard; Winston, Clara. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books. pp. 261–262. ISBN 978-0-385-04080-8. The Gospels cannot be equated with ... biographies. ... [Their] primary purpose was not to present a detailed historical picture of the life of Jesus. And the non-Christian materials ... provide us with no essential new knowledge beyond the accounts of the Gospels. ... [Thus] the situation in regard to sources is highly unsatisfactory; legendary and historical accounts are hopelessly intertwined. The historian must recognize that the materials available to us do not enable us to reconstruct Jesus as he really was. [They have] only the Jesus the early disciples saw, the Christ who has survived in the beliefs of the Christian community.
  50. ^ Evans, Craig A. (2013). Jesus and his World: The Archaeological Evidence (Paperback ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664239329.
  51. ^ Evans, Craig (26 March 2012). "The Archaeological Evidence for Jesus". HuffPost.
  52. ^ Dark 2023, p. 160,162.
  53. ^ Meggitt, Justin J. (October 2019). "'More Ingenious than Learned'? Examining the Quest for the Non-Historical Jesus". New Testament Studies. 65 (4): 458–459. doi:10.1017/S0028688519000213. S2CID 203247861. For example, given that most human beings in antiquity left no sign of their existence, and the poor as individuals are virtually invisible, all we can hope to do is try to establish, in a general sense, the lives that they lived. Why would we expect any non-Christian evidence for the specific existence of someone of the socio-economic status of a figure such as Jesus at all? To deny his existence based on the absence of such evidence, even if that were the case, has problematic implications; you may as well deny the existence of pretty much everyone in the ancient world.
  54. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 49–50: "Think again of our earlier point of comparison, Pontius Pilate. Here is a figure who was immensely significant in every way to the life and history of Palestine during the adult life of Jesus (assuming Jesus lived), politically, economically, culturally, socially. As I have indicated, there was arguably no one more important. And how many eyewitness reports of Pilate do we have from his day? None. Not a single one. The same is true of Josephus. And these are figures who were of the highest prominence in their own day."
  55. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, p. 93.
  56. ^ Dark 2023, p. 151-152.
  57. ^ Grant 1977, p. 199-200 "But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned".
  58. ^ "Jesus Christ". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 3 May 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2010. The Synoptic Gospels, then, are the primary sources for knowledge of the historical Jesus
  59. ^ Vermes, Geza. The authentic gospel of Jesus. London, Penguin Books. 2004.
  60. ^ Mark Allan Powell (editor), The New Testament Today, p. 50 (Westminster John Knox Press, 1999). ISBN 0-664-25824-7
  61. ^ Stanley E. Porter (editor), Handbook to Exegesis of the New Testament, p. 68 (Leiden, 1997). ISBN 90-04-09921-2
  62. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 83–85: "All of these written sources I have mentioned are earlier than the surviving Gospels; they all corroborate many of the key things said of Jesus in the Gospels; and most important they are all independent of one another. Let me stress the latter point. We cannot think of the early Christian Gospels as going back to a solitary source that “invented” the idea that there was a man Jesus. The view that Jesus existed is found in multiple independent sources that must have been circulating throughout various regions of the Roman Empire in the decades before the Gospels that survive were produced. Where would the solitary source that “invented” Jesus be? Within a couple of decades of the traditional date of his death, we have numerous accounts of his life found in a broad geographical span. In addition to Mark, we have Q, M (which is possibly made of multiple sources), L (also possibly multiple sources), two or more passion narratives, a signs source, two discourse sources, the kernel (or original) Gospel behind the Gospel of Thomas, and possibly others. And these are just the ones we know about, that we can reasonably infer from the scant literary remains that survive from the early years of the Christian church. No one knows how many there actually were. Luke says there were “many” of them, and he may well have been right. And once again, this is not the end of the story." (page 83) and "The reality appears to be that there were stories being told about Jesus for a very long time not just before our surviving Gospels but even before their sources had been produced. If scholars are right that Q and the core of the Gospel of Thomas, to pick just two examples, do date from the 50s, and that they were based on oral traditions that had already been in circulation for a long time, how far back do these traditions go? Anyone who thinks that Jesus existed has no problem answering the question: they ultimately go back to things Jesus said and did while he was engaged in his public ministry, say, around the year 29 or 30. But even anyone who just wonders if Jesus existed has to assume that there were stories being told about him in the 30s and 40s. For one thing, as we will see in the next chapter, how else would someone like Paul have known to persecute the Christians, if Christians didn’t exist? And how could they exist if they didn’t know anything about Jesus?" (page 85)"
  63. ^ Casey 2010, p. 63-64.
  64. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 88–91.
  65. ^ Green, Joel B. (2013). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2nd ed.). IVP Academic. p. 541. ISBN 978-0830824564.
  66. ^ Stanton, G. H. (2004). Jesus and Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 192.
  67. ^ Burridge, R. A. (2006). Gospels. In J. W. Rogerson & Judith M. Lieu (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 437
  68. ^ Talbert, C. H. (1977). What is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
  69. ^ Wills, L. M. (1997). The Quest of the Historical Gospel: Mark, John and the Origins of the Gospel Genre. London: Routledge. p. 10.
  70. ^ Burridge, R. A. (2004). What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. rev. updated edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.
  71. ^ Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 202.
  72. ^ Tuckett 2001, pp. 122–126.
  73. ^ Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making by James D. G. Dunn (2003) ISBN 0802839312 p. 143
  74. ^ Jesus Christ in History and Scripture by Edgar V. McKnight (1999) ISBN 0865546770 p. 38
  75. ^ Jesus according to Paul by Victor Paul Furnish (1994) ISBN 0521458242 pp. 19–20
  76. ^ Galatians 1:19
  77. ^ Murphy, Caherine M. (2007). The Historical Jesus For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 140. ISBN 978-0470167854.
  78. ^ a b c Ehrman 2012, pp. 145–146.
  79. ^ Gullotta 2017, p. 334-336.
  80. ^ Galatians 2:9
  81. ^ Ehrman 2012, p. 151.
  82. ^ Gathercole, Simon. "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters." Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 16.2–3 (2018): 191, n. 32.
  83. ^ Tuckett 2001, pp. 121–125.
  84. ^ Bruce David Chilton; Craig Alan Evans (1998). Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research. BRILL. pp. 460–470. ISBN 978-90-04-11142-4. Archived from the original on 4 October 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  85. ^ Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey by Craig L. Blomberg (2009) ISBN 0-8054-4482-3 pp. 431–436
  86. ^ Van Voorst 2000, pp. 39–53.
  87. ^ Crossan, John (2009). "Response to Robert M. Price". In Beilby, James K.; Eddy, Paul R. (eds.). The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity Press. pp. 86. ISBN 978-0-8308-3868-4
  88. ^ Josephus, Flavius; Whiston, William; Maier, Paul L. (1999). The New Complete Works of Josephus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. p. 8. ISBN 9780825429484.
  89. ^ Schreckenberg, Heinz; Kurt Schubert (1992). Jewish Traditions in Early Christian Literature. ISBN 978-90-232-2653-6.
  90. ^ Kostenberger, Andreas J.; L. Scott Kellum; Charles L. Quarles (2009). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. B&H Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3.
  91. ^ The new complete works of Josephus by Flavius Josephus, William Whiston, Paul L. Maier ISBN 0-8254-2924-2 pp. 662–663
  92. ^ Josephus XX by Louis H. Feldman (1965), ISBN 0674995023 p. 496
  93. ^ Van Voorst 2000, p. 83.
  94. ^ Flavius Josephus; Maier, Paul L. (December 1995). Josephus, the Essential Works: A Condensation of Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish war ISBN 978-0-8254-3260-6 pp. 284–285
  95. ^ P.E. Easterling, E. J. Kenney (general editors), The Cambridge History of Latin Literature, p. 892 (Cambridge University Press, 1982, reprinted 1996) ISBN 0-521-21043-7
  96. ^ Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 179–180.
  97. ^ Evans 2001, p. 42.
  98. ^ Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard (2001) ISBN 0-86554-373-9 page 343
  99. ^ Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond (2004) ISBN 0-521-61620-4 page xi
  100. ^ a b Jesus and the Politics of his Day by E. Bammel and C. F. D. Moule (1985) ISBN 0521313449 p. 393
  101. ^ In Jesus: The Complete Guide edited by J. L. Houlden (8 Feb 2006) ISBN 082648011X pp. 693–694
  102. ^ Jesus in the Talmud by Peter Schäfer (24 Aug 2009) ISBN 0691143188 pp. 9, 141
  103. ^ Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey by Craig L. Blomberg (1 Aug 2009) ISBN 0805444823 p. 280
  104. ^ Kostenberger, Andreas J.; Kellum, L. Scott; Quarles, Charles L. (2009). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament ISBN 0-8054-4365-7. pp. 107–109


Printed sources
(1991), v. 1, The Roots of the Problem and the Person, ISBN 0385264259
(1994), v. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, ISBN 0385469926
(2001), v. 3, Companions and Competitors, ISBN 0385469934
(2009), v. 4, Law and Love, ISBN 978-0300140965
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