I am deeply disturbed that a recent study in the UK showed that 40% of people believe that Jesus was a mythical or fictional character and not a real historical figure. Even though 99.9% of scholars (religious and non-religious) would strongly disagree, it is still worth responding to.
Here are five reasons that we can be confident that Jesus was a real person. Please note that none of these reasons require religious faith or a belief in an inspired or inerrant Bible.
- The Gospels have been extensively studied and compared to other contemporary writings and the general consensus is that they are ancient biographies.
- The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus as a real person (not just as a glorified, heavenly Christ) only a couple of decades after the events.
- Josephus mentions Jesus (and his brother). The claim that the entire passage mentioning Jesus is a forgery is completely false. A Christian did add to the passage but we can reconstruct the original passage by Josephus.
- Writings about mythical figures (such as Horus or Dionysus) are not written in the same time period of the supposed events. Mythical figures are placed in the mythical past, that is what makes them so universal. Jesus is placed in history and the stories are written while people contemporary with Jesus were still alive.
- The origin of the Christian church does not make sense without a real Jesus. Try to push the origins of the church to the very beginning and it is difficult to see how it could have started without a real Jesus being preached.
None of these reasons are an attempt to make a person become a Christian. This is simply about looking at the historical evidence and concluding that we are on firm ground with a historical Jesus.