Below is Dr. Bart Ehrman, an eminent biblical agnostic scholar who’s field is textural criticism. He is a world renown expert and has an extensive knowledge of biblical manuscripts. Ehrman can speak intelligibly about the ancient text and biblical manuscript community. His insights are even more credible being that he is a biblical skeptic and does not believe in God.
Did Jesus actually walk the earth or is he just a literary mythical character? Scholars do not argue the historicity of Jesus Christ, only laypeople do. Even skeptical scholars do not argue Jesus never existed.
The Jesus of the bible either walked the earth or he did not. Some may dispute Jesus’ claims and the claims others made about him, but the truth of the matter is, he was here or he was not.
Richard Dawkins is a well known atheist, author and evolutionary biologist. Dawkins travels the world promoting evolution and advocating for a Godless society. His recent book “The god Delusion” is the culmination of years of work that he hopes will help dispel the idea that God exists. Dawkins makes a living debating, writing and speaking on the fallacy of religion and in opposition to Intelligent Design theory.
As a biologist, researcher and author, Dawkins carries weighty credentials in the eyes of many. So when he makes statements, you expect them to be well researched, factual and accurate. But, as with anyone, you have to check the facts of what they say and not just parrot the information to others. Check it out for yourself!
- Acts 17:11; And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
The Berea didn’t just jump on the band wagon even though they were enthusiastic about what they were hearing. The checked the sources to make sure what was being said was true. In the clip below, Dawkins authoritatively states that Jesus’ historical existence is under scholarly dispute. His statement is challenged and he is forced to reverse his statement after trying to change the subject.
The internet, social media and the news media are rife with error and half truths being passed off as truth. You need to look no further than the presidential election of Donald Trump. Biblical attack media is the same. Dawkins statement about dispute was unreasonable given 99% of scholars agree Jesus is a historical figure, but Dawkins and others, parade on the 1% in spite of the evidence. So, technically, if less than 1% disagree with a position, is it a debate? The evolution debate is more like 60/40 but Dawkins will tell you there is no debate there. Dawkins and others will use these tactics because they fit their position and they hope those listening will not take the time to dig deeper and discover the context and extent of what they are purveying. Dawkins knew full well that scholars universally agree Jesus is historical, yet he mislead the audience anyway. If Lennox had not called him on it, the error, would have become fact for most watching while the inaccuracy spreads though social and multi-media.
Here is a parody some clever fellow did on the Dawkins book, The God Delusion.
ANCIENT HISTORIANS (EXTRA BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS)
Extra biblical sources are writings or artifacts outside the biblical narrative. For example, secular historians, tablets, carvings on buildings and other writings that corroborate what is stated in the bible. In addition to hundreds of archaeological artifacts that verify places, people and events stated in the biblical text, below are two accredited historians who corroborate statements made in the New Testament pertaining to Jesus and his life.
Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian and Senator, in the first century writes not only about Jesus Christ but also Pontius Pilate who condemned him. He puts the birth of Christianity in Judea and describes the persecution of Christians at that time.
- “Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate” (Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome. Rev. ed. Trans. Grant, Michael. New York: Penguin, 1971. Print. P. 365.) ( Annals (written ca.AD 116), book 15, chapter 44)
- “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome,..”(Annals 15.44, AD115)
Titus Flavius Josephus was a Roman-Jewish historian in the first century who wrote about Jesus and John the Baptist. In Antiquities of the Jews, book 20 chapter 9-1:
- “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned:”
The statement “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James”, is regarded by scholars to be authentic. Feldman states that the authenticity of the Josephus passage on James has been “almost universally acknowledged”.(Louis Feldman (ISBN 90-04-08554-8 pages 55–57)
In book 18, Antiquities of the Jews, chapter 5-2, Josephus writes about John the Baptist being put to death by Herod.
- “Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him,…” This entry about John is also universally accepted as authentic (Evans 2006, pp. 55–58. Bromiley 1982, pp. 694–695. White 2010, p. 48)
Despite the corroboration by authors outside of Christianity of Jesus existence, many on the internet hostile to the Christian faith continue to Dawkins [lie] about the evidence.
Thallus, is another ancient Roman historian who’s writings are believed to date ten to twenty year prior to the Gospels. Most scholars date the Gospel of Mark (the earliest Gospel) to be AD 66-70. Although there are no original manuscripts in existence today, Thallus is sited in (A History of the World; AD 220) by historian Julius Africanus. Agricanus, who is cited by a Byzantine chronicler Georgius Syncellus, opposes Thallus’ argument that the darkness that occurred during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion was a natural eclipse of the sun. The problem with this is that Jesus died at Passover and Passover occurs during the full moon. The eclipse though, doesn’t explain the earthquake that accompanied the darkness.
- “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)
- Mark 15:33; “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour”
- Matthew 27:50,51; “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart,…”
Phlegan (AD80-140), in his “Chronicals of History”, is cited by Julius Africanus in regard to the darkness at the time of Jesus crucifixion. Like Thallus, he also attributed the darkness to an eclipse despite the full moon.
- “Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth to the ninth hour.” (Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)
Mara Bar-Serapion (AD70) a Syrian philosopher wrote to his son Serapion about people who were persecuted for their ideas. He describes that the Jews murdered their “wise king”.
- “What benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgment for their crime. Or, the people of Samos for burning Pythagoras? In one moment their country was covered with sand. Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?…After that their kingdom was abolished. God rightly avenged these men…The wise king…Lived on in the teachings he enacted.”
Many scholars believe the above reference is to Jesus and his death. (Jesus outside the New Testament: an introduction to the ancient evidence by Robert E. Van Voorst 2000 ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 pages 53-55)
Below are scriptures that describe Christ being a king in the eyes officials as Pilot fastened such a sign above Jesus when he was crucified.
- Luke 23:3; “So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
- Matthew 27:37; “A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Suetonius was a Roman historian (AD 69-122). In “Lives of the Twelve Caesars”, his biography of the Emperor Claudius mentions the expulsion of the Jews from Rome during Claudius’ reign (AD 41-54) which agrees with the account in the book Acts of the Apostles.
- “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” (The_Lives_of_the_Twelve_Caesars-Claudius-25)
- Acts 18:2; “There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome.”
Chrestus is believed by many scholars to be a reference to Christ (Suetonius, Catharine Edwards. Lives of the Caesars (2001) ISBN 0192832719 pp. 184, 203 John Dominic Crossan, Birth of Christianity (1999) ISBN 0567086682. Van Voorst, Jesus, 2000. pp. 29-30, 38-39)
Suetonius also mentions the Great Fire of Rome during Nero’s reign and how he blamed the Christians for it. (biography of the Emperor Nero, Nero 16)
Celsus (AD 175) was a second century Greek philosopher who was hostile to Christian belief. His original writings called “The True Word” have been lost but scholars agree that an early theologian Origen Adamantius has preserved Celsus writings. Origen wrote a rebuttal (Contra Celsum; Against Celsus) to Celsus’ attack on Christianity which has survived. (Sir DavidBrewster, Sir David Brewster & Richard R. Yeo, The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, Volume 8, Routledge, 1999. p 362)(H.Chadwick, Origen:Contra Celsum, CUP 1965. p xxviii).
In these writings Celsus although attacking Christianity and its beliefs, actually confirms several accounts. Celsus tries to refute Jesus virgin birth with a story some Jews believed Jesus father to be a Roman soldier with the name Pantera. Biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown states there is no evidence supporting this story (Mary in the New Testament by Raymond Edward Brown, et al., 1978, ISBN 0-8091-2168-9, page 262)
Celsus also attacks the reported miracles of Jesus as magical powers he attributed to sorcery. (Hendrik van der Loos (1965). The Miracles of Jesus. Brill Publishers. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
According to Celsus Jesus performed His miracles by sorcery (γοητεία); ditto in II, 14; II, 16; II, 44; II, 48; II, 49 (Celsus puts Jesus’ miraculous signs on a par with those among men)).
- “as ye yourselves have recorded, that there will come to you even others, employing miracles of a similar kind, who are wicked men, and sorcerers; and Satan. So that Jesus himself does not deny that these works at least are not at all divine, but are the acts of wicked men; and being compelled by the force of truth, he at the same time not only laid open the doings of others, but convicted himself of the same acts. Is it not, then, a miserable inference, to conclude from the same works that the one is God and the other sorcerers? Why ought the others, because of these acts, to be accounted wicked rather than this man, seeing they have him as their witness against himself? For he has himself acknowledged that these are not the works of a divine nature, but the inventions of certain deceivers, and of thoroughly wicked men.” (Origen (30 June 2004). Origen Against Celsus, Volume 2. Kessinger Publishing.)
If that sounds familiar it should, that is what the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of as well.
- Matthew 9:34; But the Pharisees said, “He can cast out demons because he is empowered by the prince of demons.”
- Luke 11:14,15; The crowds were amazed, but some of them said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
There are more examples demonstrating the birth of Christianity and that Jesus Christ was an actual person not a myth. While many may dispute Jesus is the Son of God, a person has to go to great lengths to dismiss the overwhelming evidence supporting Jesus human existence.
When you take the time to dig into and research the bible’s claims, places, people and events, you will begin to realize why it is the best selling book of all time.
Archaeology, documentary evidence, scholarly textual criticism of scripture and extra biblical evidence gives us a great confidence of the historical validity of the people, places and events described in the bible.
The greatest criticism of the biblical record over the ages has been the lack of evidence confirming events. As any evolutionist will argue about the fossil record, a lack of evidence does not prove an event did not occur. Over the centuries, with every turn of the archaeologists shovel, more and more of what was thought to be myth, is being confirmed as reality.
As the evidence piles up, the criticism changes from no evidence to the evidence is a lie, corrupt or is tainted in some way. Those who just want to appose the biblical record can come up with enumerable reasons to do so and defend them despite the facts. The question is, who is being reasonable and who is not?
Science cannot prove God exists and cannot prove God does not exist, that is a choice of the one seeking. You are free to accept or deny the evidence and your experiences.
I have often wondered, why so many go to such great lengths, to try and persuade so many, that somebody never existed?