Nigel Barber recently wrote an article called “If Jesus Never Existed, Religion May Be Fiction” in the Huffington Post. While he deals with a few religious movements, I will only deal with Jesus in this response.
While I do not believe that we should dismiss views based on credentials, I do believe that we should take them into account. Barber happens to be a biopsychologist and so we perhaps should be forgiving with any historical errors that he makes. In this article he seems to be relying on one article written by Michael Paulkovich. I will take a shot at his article here.
Barber claims that “in history, Jesus was a no show.” In other words, Jesus leaves little to no historical footprint. Barber dismisses the testimony of Josephus. While admitting that most historians accept that Josephus said something about Jesus, he seems to think that the Christian interpolation pretty much destroys any historical value. This is unfortunate. A historical mention is a historical mention.
He also speaks of the lack of Roman records of Jesus. If Jesus was who he said he was, the Romans should have been very interested. I would ask, why would you say that? Why should Roman historians be interested in a Jewish religious squabble? There were plenty of radical religious leaders in the first century, the Romans would not be interested in one Jewish carpenter that would not have any effect on the Romans until many decades later. That is of course when the Romans start talking about him.
So where are the historical records of Jesus? They are called the New Testament. Inclusion into Scripture does not take away their value as historical documents. He quotes Paulkovich who complains about the different descriptions of Jesus. Historians will tell you that these differences increase historical reliability because they are evidence of independent traditions.
Should the Church be worried that Jesus may not have existed? Not at all. There is more historical evidence for Jesus than for many other historical figures. The only way to deny the historical Jesus is to begin with the assumption that he never existed.