Was there really a historical Jesus? Was there a religious teacher that started a new movement in the first century? I’m not even talking about whether he was the Christ or the Son of God. I’m just talking about his existence as a historical figure. Or was Jesus just a myth? Was he just something created by the early Christians? I would like to share ten reasons why I believe that Jesus really existed.
1. The Gospels are good historical sources. Aside from any doctrines of inspiration or infallibility, the Gospels are very good historical sources. It is not enough to just dismiss them based on religious reasons. Compared to other first century texts, they are very reliable.
2. Paul believed in a historical Jesus. People make a big deal about Paul not mentioning a historical Jesus in his letters. That is simply not true. It is correct that Paul’s emphasis is on the resurrected Christ, but he recounts events and cites sayings of the historical Jesus.
3. We have records of Jesus’ brother. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament and other early church writings. It is difficult to imagine how someone could have a myth as a brother.
4. Josephus testifies to the existence of Jesus. It is true that some early Christian did exaggerate Josephus’ testimony about Jesus, but scholars are able to reconstruct with a high degree of confidence what the original statement was. Josephus did say something about Jesus.
5. The early church unanimously accepted Jesus as historical. Even Origen, who was overly fond of allegory, accepted that the Gospels were based on a real historical figure named Jesus.
6. A historical Jesus is the best explanation for the origin of the church. How could the church begin without a historical Jesus? It is one thing to say that Jesus was only a legend, it is another to account for how that legend could lead to the Christian church.
7. A plain reading of the New Testament points to a historical Jesus. If one sat down and read the New Testament, one would naturally read it as being about a historical figure. Unless one began with the assumption that it was legendary, one would never see that in the text.
8. The mythicist explanation lacks credibility. If Jesus was not historical, the other explanation is that he was based on other myths. However, an examination of the other “parallels” reveals that they have almost nothing in common with Jesus. Jesus mythicists reword pagan myths in Christian terms and hope that people will not read the myths themselves. There is no real parallel among the pagan myths to Jesus.
9. Rejecting a historical Jesus would mean rejecting most ancient historical figures. If one took the same historical standards used my mythicists to other ancient historical figures, almost all of them would have to be rejected. The standards held up by some critics are just not realistic and they are not the standards used by historians. The mythicist position is based on faulty historiography.
10. The vast majority of scholars accept the historical Jesus. I’m not talking about just evangelical scholars. Almost all New Testament scholars accept that Jesus existed without question. In addition, scholars of religion, history and just about every other field accept Jesus as real. Truth is not determined by vote, but sometimes there is a consensus for a reason.
Will this prove to everyone that Jesus existed? No. There are some who will hold to the mythicist position no matter what evidence is offered. But for those who are open, these points may be helpful for understanding why there was indeed a historical Jesus.