Since I have written a book on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a book on the Jesus Myth, I was quite interested when some ladies came to my door and gave me the latest issue of Awake! with the headline “Did Jesus Exist?”.
Although I disagree with the Jehovah’s Witnesses on a number of issues, we do agree on this one thing and that is that Jesus did exist. I think that it says something about the popularity of the Jesus Myth Theory that the Watchtower has felt the need to respond.
When I say that they deal with the Jesus Myth, I need to clarify that they only present the evidence for the existence of Jesus and do not respond to the supposed pagan origins.
So how did the Jehovah’s Witnesses do? They did okay, although I have a few comments. They begin with some quotes by Michael Grant, Rudolf Bultmann, Will Durant and Albert Einstein on the reality of Jesus. This is good, as this is more convincing than just the opinions of anonymous Watchtower writers.
They then present the extra-biblical evidence from Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Josephus and the Talmud. Although these sources are part of the story, they (apart from Josephus) are the weakest evidence. They don’t mention the Christian interpolation in the Josephus passage. I believe that Josephus wrote something about Jesus, but skeptics will be quick to point out that there was some Christian tampering.
In terms of evidence from the Bible, they present the Gospels as good historical sources. I agree with them on that. However, they do not mention Paul’s letters at all. While some skeptics argue that Paul never mentions the historical Jesus, which is not true. But by leaving out Paul, this article gives implicit agreement to those claims.
I will say that they use this article to introduce their concept of the kingdom of God. I think that their understanding of the kingdom is deficient but that is a post for another day.