Was There Really a Jesus of Nazareth?

Take note of this post from Ari’s Blog of Awesome which focuses on the historicity of Jesus. Ari says, “Many may be misled in their investigation [of the historicity of Jesus] that the view that Jesus did not exist is popular or that those who affirm the positive do so on shaky evidence.” He then begins to describe the strength of the case for the historical Jesus, quoting three respected historians:

1) Robert E. Van Voorst, Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary, in his discussion on the historical evidence of Jesus outside of the New Testament states:

“The theory of Jesus’ nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question.” (Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence.14.)

2) Mark Allan Powell, a professor of NT and chairman for Historical Jesus at the Society of Biblical Literature puts it harsh stating:

Anyone who says that today [i.e. that Jesus didn’t exist]–in the academic world at least–gets grouped with the skinheads who say there was no Holocaust and the scientific holdouts who want to believe the world is flat. (Mark A Powell, Jesus As a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. 168)

3) The late F.F. Bruce in his popular The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? said:

“Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.” (Bruce, The New Testament Documents. 123.)

The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is a settled fact of history.  Those who say or suggest otherwise are simply not informed.

4 Replies to “Was There Really a Jesus of Nazareth?”

  1. The existence of Jesus of Nazareth is not questioned by all that many.

    I acknowledge he probably existed in some form. He was probably a travelling teacher/healer/mystic, who was a follower of the much-more-famous-in-his-day John the Baptist. Jesus probably had a bit of a following, and he was probably executed by crucifixion. None of this is particularly extraordinary, though.

    Beyond that, the only reason we know about Jesus today is because of Paul/Saul of Tarsus, a person who never actually met Jesus, but managed to spread stories about him in a way that people found compelling. If it hadn’t been for Paul, Jesus would simply have been forgotten just like hundreds of other similar figures.

    None of this conflicts with what you quote above (even though those are heavily biased sources).

    1. Rob, can we establish some ground rules for sources? You are obvious quoting sources, though you do not name yours as I name mine. Morever, you quote yours as if they are unquestioned and objective, while you characterize mine as “heavily biased.” I feel like I’m playing a game where, in addition to being my opponent, you get to be the referee, too. Do I have a point here? (Note that I’m asking the referee im you, not the opponent in you 😉

  2. Given that I am not debating the main premise of your post, I don’t see why I need to provide sources.

    All I’m saying is that this one atheist, me, does not argue that Jesus didn’t actually exist. My guesses at what the reality are are based on a lifetime of taking in information on Jesus, initially with the assumption that he was the son of God and was very famous in his day. I could try to back that up with sources, but I don’t want to get into an interminable debate with you, sorry. If you want to write a few thousand words on why my version is incorrect, feel free.

    1. Rob, you are right that you are not obligated to provide your sources. I was merely asking – not trying to lay a burden on you.

      Therefore, I’ll just say, as I have before, that biblical historians exist across a wide spectrum of views about the historicity of biblical events. Whether one trusts the historical reliability of the New Testament or distrusts it, there is always a biblical scholar willing to back you up.

      In the end, you have to read the New Testament documents themselves and make up your own mind as to their reliability. The only point I have been trying to clarify for you and other readers is that this notion that historical scholarship is united in its distrust of the New Testament’s historical reliability is an urban myth.

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