5 Reasons Why Jesus Was a Real Person

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.

JesusHere 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.

  1. The Gospels have been extensively studied and compared to other contemporary writings and the general consensus is that they are ancient biographies.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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  1. I agree 100%, but how do you answer those who say #5 could then substantiate Vishnu or Zeus? (A religion sprang up, ergo their god must be real.)

  2. 1. The vast majority of scholars agree that the Gospel of John is of little to no historical value.

    2. The Pauline epistles that we have went through extensive editing. Tertullian and Epiphanius both quote from the Marcionite epistles, which were much smaller and did not include references to David’s seed, etc. The epistles as they are now include no indication that the Jesus being referred to was a recent Galilean exorcist or teacher. The dating for the epistles are based on the assumption that they were written shortly after the historical Jesus lived, so to use them to prove that Jesus was historical is circular reasoning.

    3. Before the 20th century, scholars unanimously agreed the passage was completely fraudulent. A survey in 1980 showed there were still 13 Josephus scholars who still consider it an interpolation. The fact that the context makes more sense when you take the passage out and that a large number of patriarchs quoted Josephus but not that passage is strong evidence against it. A volume on linguistics and literary studies published last year contained a chapter by Paul Hopper concludes that the uses of the Greek verb forms such as aorists and participles are distinct in the Jesus passage from those in the other Pilate episodes, and that these differences amount to a difference in genre. It is suggested that the Jesus passage is close in style and content to the creeds that were composed two to three centuries after Josephus.

    As for James, the gospels of Mark and John say that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him and there are no Christian stories about him converting after Jesus’ death. The James passage makes far more sense if it originally read Jesus, son of Damneus, since he was the brother of the high priest killed, which would have made his replacement relevant. Identifying that James as a peasant from Galilee brings many problems with it, as pointed out by John Dominic Crossan:

    “Josephus’ phrase ‘inhabitants…who were strict in observance of the law’ probably means Pharisees. Was James a Pharisee? And, more important, how long had he been in Jerusalem? We know for sure, as seen earlier, that he was there by about 38 C.E., when Paul first met him. Did he come there only after the execution of Jesus, or had he been there long before it? I realize how tentative all this is, but much more explanation for James’s presence and standing in Jerusalem needs be given than is usually offered. Did he leave Nazareth long before and become both literate and involved within scribal circles in Jerusalem? Could his earlier presence there and Jesus’ (single?) visit to Jerusalem be somehow connected with this unit in John 7:3-5?… “If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”… All of that is terribly hypothetical, and I am quite well aware that it is. But we need to think much more about James and how he reached such status among Jewish circles that, on the one hand, he had to be executed by a Sadducee and that, on the other, his death could cause a High Priest to be deposed after only three months in office.” (Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, 135)

    4. The Gospel of John does place Jesus in the beginning of time immemorial. If you mean Jesus the Galilean peasant, this is like the argument that no one would invent a crucified messiah. It begs the question: How would the gospel describe a successful military Messiah without a good explanation as to why they keep bumping into Romans? The same logic applies here: Christianity was relatively new. If a mythological founder of Christianity is placed in the ancient past, then how do they explain the fact that Christianity is not in any of their histories? The other dying-and-rising gods had been around since prehistory.

    5. That is the same mindset that led the Church Fathers to invent founders for all of the different Christian sects. Cerinthus for the Cerinthians, Merinthus for the Merinthians, etc. But no one suggests that there needed to be a founder for any of the other bread-and-wine dying-and-rising god cults.


  3. Well clearly religious scholars will think Jesus is historical. I think I would be more interested in the % of non-religious scholars (which I still expect a majority) to remove bias.

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