The Existence of Jesus

A Brief Survey

The reason that I'm writing this article is that I recently saw an interview on a show called "The Atheist Experience" which in it of itself is a hilarious title for an atheistic show, as their experience is limited to what is natural [Richard Dawkins, 2012]. However, that's neither here nor there! 

The host of the show, I don't know her name, claims that the historical consensus on Jesus Christ is that He probably did not exist. However, she immediately does three things with the statement. She shows that she does NOT understand how historical works operate - there is no consensus (two historians consenting on the idea), this isn't a medical field. The majority, however, will state that Jesus existed. She then goes to quote Richard Carrier, who has presented a theory by which showing Jesus was fantasized by people and essentially a myth. The issue with presenting Carrier as someone showing that Jesus didn't exist, is that Carrier admits Jesus, the Rabbi, existed. In his 800-page roundabout work, he states many things but never refutes that claim. Finally, she creates for herself a logical fallacy known as appeal to authority (although it fails because the majority would be the authority) [Link to the show I'm speaking of: 


Now, onto the actual premise of this article which shows the reason why the majority believe that Jesus Christ existed as a historical figure. Most Scholars would agree that Jesus existed, where they differ is the reliability of the stories around Jesus Christ found in the Gospels. That's not the essential point of this article, I want to remain on the solid fact that the majority show that Jesus, did in fact, exist. 

In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (a secular agnostic) wrote:

"He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" [B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God p. 285]

Further we see an Atheist Historian,

"Scholars who specialize in the origins of Christianity agree on very little, but they do generally agree that the historical preacher, Jesus Christ, existed. The numbers of professional scholars, out of the many thousands in this and related fields, who don't accept this consensus, can be counted on the fingers of one hand." Quoted from Atheist Historicial Writer Tim O'Neill

Michael Grant (a classicist) states that

"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." [in Jesus by Michael Grant 2004  p. 200]

Even those who are in the minority, like Robert Price, who denies the existence of Jesus agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars. 

Now, there is debate among many of Jesus' teachings as far as what they meant, the implications and so forth. However, there is almost universal consent that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and crucified by Pontius Pilate. (Herzog;Powell;Dunn;Crossan) [Note: The ancient extra-biblical writings affirm this as well]. These two agreements have strong implications and not only for the Christian's but for those who try to oppose that Jesus didn't exist.

Further, Amy-Jill Levine has summarized the situation by stating that:

"there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus' life" in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and over a period of one to three years debated Jewish authorities on the subject of God, gathered followers, and was crucified by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate who officiated 26–36 AD [Amy-Jill Levine; Dale C. Allison Jr.; John Dominic Crossan (2006). The Historical Jesus in Context. Princeton University Press. p. 4]. 

Scholars attribute various height levels of certainty to other episodes. Some state that there are eight elements about Jesus and his followers that can be viewed as historical facts, which are the following: [William A. Herzog. Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus (4 Jul 2005)] [Authenticating the Activities of Jesus by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans 2002]

  • Jesus was a Galilean Jew.

  • His activities were confined to Galilee and Judea.

  • He was baptized by John the Baptist.

  • He called disciples.

  • He had a controversy at the Temple.

  • Jesus was crucified by the Romans near Jerusalem.

  • After his death, his disciples continued.

  • Some of his disciples were persecuted.

So it seems that the Scholars, both atheist, agnostic and Christian, agree that Jesus not only existed but they verify various accounts that show the reliability of the New Testament accounts. For one to claim that Jesus did not exist, they must go against the majority and derive at a theory that is based of myth, mysticism or something else. In a follow up article, I will attempt to refute all of these other theories. 

To close, I will admit that the burden of proof is on those who need to show Jesus existed. I believe the proof is there, I believe the evidence is substantial, I believe that there is a good rationale for the belief in Jesus Christ's existence. On the other side, while the unbeliever in Jesus does not need to provide proof of a negative (that is that He did not exist) they should weigh the consideration of the evidence carefully and ponder the implications if He did in fact, exist.