Evidence of a Historical Jesus





Did Jesus Actually Exist?
By Steve Benson

I would like to start with the acknowledgment that there are those who, in the name of history, claim that Jesus was, in fact, a real person.

For instance, pro-Christian apologist and author, Ian Wilson, claims in his book, Jesus: The Evidence, that “had Jesus been a mere fabrication by early Christians, we should surely expect those Jews hostile to Christianity to have produced a malicious rumor to this effect. From the fact that they concentrated instead on smearing his legitimacy, we may deduce that they had no grounds whatever for doubting his historical evidence.”

Wilson further argues that, based on accounts from other early Jewish sources (including the historian Josephus), “Jesus did indeed exist.” (Wilson, pp. 62, 64-65)

The evidence contradicting Wilson's assertions are many and compelling.


Even Wilson admits that “it has to be acknowledged that hard facts concerning Jesus and his life are remarkably hard to come by.”

He concedes, for instance, that:

--the Apostle Paul, by his own admission, never knew the person Jesus but, instead, based his entire faith on a vision he claimed came to him about Jesus’ resurrection;

--the Gospels do not provide any physical description of Jesus;

--the year of Jesus’ birth is unknown and, based on available evidence, indeterminable;

--there is no historical validation of King Herod’s supposed slaughter of Jewish children at the time of Jesus’s alleged birth;

--Jesus’ ancestry is illogically tied back to King David through Jesus’ father Joseph;

--the author of Matthew was clearly not Jewish, as evidenced by his mistranslation of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s virgin birth;

--the overall credibility of the Matthew and Luke nativity stories are seriously in doubt;

--there is no reliable evidence for the alleged crucifixion of Jesus;

--the writings of Roman historian Tacitus concerning the alleged historicity of Jesus are neither clear or specific;

--the observations of the Roman governor of Bithynia, Plithy the Younger, do not provide reliable evidence of Jesus’ actual existence; and even

--the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus on the allegedly historic Jesus have undeniably been adulterated by others with a pro-Christian spin. (Wilson, pp. 51, 54-56, 58-60)

On the question of whether Jesus really existed, the record offers an array of formidable realities. Below is an examination of some of the basic evidence against the claim that the man-god of the New Testament known as Jesus actually ever lived.


Former evangelical minister Dan Barker points out in his book, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, “[T]here is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime. This does not disprove his existence, but it certainly casts great doubt on the historicity of a man who was supposedly widely known to have made a great impact on the world. Someone should have noticed.” (Barker, p. 360)

Noted religious historian and professor of German at Birkbeck College in London, G. A. Wells, observes in his book, The Historical Evidence of Jesus, that if one places early Christian documents in chronological order, it becomes evident that “only from approximately 90 did Christians regard Jesus as a teacher, miracle-worker and a near contemporary, crucified under Pilate.”

These documents, Wells declares, are striking in their lack of detail, indicating that the claims of their authors were most likely influenced “by the Jewish wisdom literature they knew well and by traditions they must have known concerning actual crucifixions of living men in Palestine one and two centuries before their time.” (Wells, pp. 216-217)

Wells concludes that “the Jesus of the earliest documents . . . [was] someone about whose life nothing was known, who had certainly not been a contemporary or near-contemporary of Paul, but who was later regarded as having lived about A.D. 30 and has having preached in Galilee before his death in Jerusalem, perhaps because he was identified with an obscure Galilean preacher of the same name (which after all was a common one).” (Wells, p. 216)

A blow-by-blow summary of the evidence against historicity claims for Jesus is offered by Canadian historian and classical scholar Earl Doherty in his work, Why I Am Not A Christian:

“1. Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospel story cannot be found in Christian writings earlier than the Gospels, the first of which (Mark) was composed only in the late first century.

2. There is no non-Christian record of Jesus before the second century. References in Flavius Josephus (end of the first century) can be dismissed as later Christian insertions.

3. The early apostles, such as Paul and Hebrews, speak of their Christ Jesus as a spiritual, heavenly being revealed by God through scripture, and do not equate him with a recent historical man. Paul is part of a new ‘salvation’ movement acting on revelation from the Spirit.

4. Paul and other early writers place the death and resurrection of their Christ in the supernatural/mythical world, and derive their information about these events, as well as other features of their heavenly Christ, from scripture.

5. The ancients viewed the universe as multi-layered: matter below, spirit above. The higher world was regarded as the superior, genuine reality, containing spiritual processes and heavenly counterparts to earthly things. Paul’s Christ operates within this system.

6. The pagan ‘mystery cults’ of the period worshiped savior deities who had performed salvific acts which took place in the supernatural/mythical world, not
on earth or in history. Paul’s Christ shares many features with these deities.

7. The prominent philosophical-religious concept of the age was the intermediary Son, a spiritual channel between the ultimate transcendent God and humanity. Such intermediary concepts as the Greek Logos and Jewish Wisdom were models for Paul’s heavenly Christ.

8. All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from one source: whoever wrote the Gospel of Mark. The Acts of the Apostles, as an account of the beginnings of the Christian apostolic movement, is a second century piece of myth-making.

9. The Gospels are not historical events, but constructed through a process of ‘midrash,’ a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion is a pastiche of verses from scripture.

10. ‘Q,’ a lost sayings collection extracted from Matthew and Luke, made no reference to a death and resurrection and can be shown to have had no Jesus at its roots: roots which were ultimately non-Jewish. The Q community preached the kingdom of God, and its traditions were eventually assigned to an invented founder who was linked to the heavenly Jesus of Paul in the Gospel of Mark.

11. The initial variety of sects and beliefs about a spiritual Christ shows that the movement began as a multiplicity of largely independent and spontaneous
developments based on the religious trends and philosophy of the time, not as a response to a single individual.

12. Well into the second century, many Christian documents lack or reject the notion of a human man as an element of their faith. Only gradually did the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels come to be accepted as historical.” (Doherty, pp. vii-viii)


Early Christian writings are noticeably vague about the details of Jesus’ life. Wells quotes Gager’s observation: ”We know virtually nothing of [Jesus’] parents, siblings, early years (childhood, adolescence, early adulthood), friends, education, religious training, profession, or contacts with the broader Graeco-Roman world. We know neither the date of his birth, not the lengthy of his public ministry (the modern consensus of two or three years is an educated guess based largely on the Gospel of John), nor his age at death (Luke 3:23 states that he was ‘about thirty when he began’). Thus even an optimistic view of the quest (of the historical Jesus) can envisage no more than a collection of ‘authentic’ sayings and motifs devoid of context.” (Wells, p. 217)

Similarly, former evangelical minister-turned-non-Christian Charles Templeton points to the paucity of evidence concerning Jesus’ life. In his book, Farewell to God: My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith, Templeton writes:

“It may come as something as a surprise to the reader to learn that we know remarkably little about Jesus of Nazareth. . . .

We don’t know the date of his birth--it was certainly not December 25 in the Year One. Nor do we know for certain where he was born, although it was in all likelihood in the city of his childhood, Nazareth--certainly not in a Bethlehem stable. Nor do we know the exact date of his death, although it would seem to have been around the year 30 A.D. The great secular historians of that time (Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and others) mention Jesus only briefly, making passing reference to the fact that he preached in occupied Palestine and was crucified by the Roman government.” (Templeton, p. 85)


As Wells notes, “The Gospels are widely agreed to have been written between forty and eighty years after his [Jesus’] supposed lifetime by unknown authors who were not personally acquainted with him. And their miracle stories are nearly all couched in general terms, with no indication of time or place or details concerning the person or persons who benefited.” (Wells, p. 206)

Raising further questions about their credibility, many of Paul’s letters are obvious “fusions” that were “not written as they now stand.” (Wells, pp. 8-9)

Not only are Paul's epistles composite stories, they are notoriously non-factual. Historian Will Durant observes: “Paul created a theology about the man Jesus, a man that he did not even know, 50 or more years after the death of Jesus, with complete disregard and neglect for even the sayings that are attributed to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels. The simple teachings attributed to Jesus become lost in the metaphysical fog of Paul’s theology.” (cited in Edelen, Toward the Mystery [Boise, Idaho: Josylyn & Morris, Inc.], p. 76)

As to the origination period of the New Testament itself, its 27 books have defied repeated attempts at reliable, universal dating. Those portions which can be most firmly dated are, as has been noted, the letters of Paul, which have been determined to have been penned by 60 A.D. (Wells, p. 10)

In addition, none of the four Gospels represent the “original” texts. As Templeton writes, “The earliest Christian records extant are the Pauline epistles, and they were written around 50 A.D. It was another ten years or so before the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were completed. But the names attached to the gospels are pseudonyms--none of the authors were among Jesus’ apostles and it is likely that none of them so much as saw or heard him.”

Moreover, Templeton notes that these accounts “are mutually contradictory, lack authenticity, and are in large part of the nature of legends. The stories of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his cleansing of the Temple, and his arrest, trial, and crucifixion have about them an aura of reality but, beyond that, the various accounts differ so radically and at so many points that, with all the good will in the world, they cannot be reconciled.” (Templeton, pp. 85-86)

In terms of which Gospel begat which Gospel, that of Mark appears to have been the source for those of Matthew and Luke, based on the virtual identicalness of many passages. Thus, the latter two gospels “are not acceptable as independent testimony.” The Gospel of John gives indications of reliance on phraseology from the other three Gospels. (Wells, p. 11)

Not only are the names attached to the synoptic Gospels pseudo in nature, the authors of the four Gospels remain, as Wells notes, virtually anonymous, with the books offering no proof within their texts of who actually wrote them. Adding to the confusion, present claims to their authorship were not part of the original documents. (Wells, p. 11)

The legitimacy of statements in the Gospels attributed to Jesus are also suspect. For example, teachings supposedly given by Jesus on the subject of women of Palestine divorcing their husbands lack historical veracity, since only men were allowed to divorce. (Wells, p. 13)

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion are also replete with significant historical difficulties. Luke’s account of the trial is an obvious summary of Mark’s. Mark’s, in turn, is full of imaginary dialogue and scenes concocted by Christian writers who, believing in the Messianic mission of Jesus, invented trial scenes and dialogue in which the Jews condemned Jesus for his status as the Christ. (Wells, pp. 14-15).

Keith M. Parsons, in his Why I Am Not a Christian, summarizes the case against the reliability of the canonical Gospels as follows:

1. The Gospels were written by unknown persons.

“Not only did Jesus himself write nothing, but the attribution of the gospels to his disciples did not occur until the late first century at the earliest. . . .

‘Matthew: Written by an unknown Jewish Christian of the second generation, probably a resident of Antioch in Syria.

‘Mark: [There is] confusion in the traditional identification of the author . . .

‘Luke: Possibly written by a resident of Antioch and an occasional companion of the apostle Paul.

‘John: Composed and edited in stages by unknown followers of the apostle John, probably residents of Ephesus.’ “(cited by Kingsbury, J.D., “Matthew, The Gospel According to,” in Metzger and Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible [Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1993], pp. 502-506

2. The dates of the Gospels preclude them having been written by eyewitnesses.

“. . . New Testament scholars agree fairly closely on a rather late date for the writing of the gospels . . . Generations of New Testament scholarship have produced a very broad consensus that the gospels from around 70 to as late as the early second century.”

3. The Gospels are rooted in unreliable oral traditions.

“Written records of Jesus’s words or ministry were simply not needed or wanted until the end of the apostolic age with the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in 64. The writing of [the] Gospels was a task for second-generation Christians. . . .

“[T]he word-for-word similarities of the synoptic Gospels are very unlikely to be due to the verbatim recollection of the original eyewitness. Oral traditions simply do not form that way. Rather, those precise parallels are much more likely due to common use of written sources. Hence, the synoptic Gospels are not independent eyewitness accounts but textually interdependent syntheses of earlier oral traditions.”

4. The Gospels are theologically biased with an apologetic agenda.

“'[The Gospels] . . . can no longer be read as direct accounts of what happened, but rather as vehicles for proclamation. Such was their original intention.’" (cited in Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives [New York, New York: The Macmillan Company,1971] p. 172)

5. The Gospels contain fictional forms.

“The gospels are clearly not biography in the modern sense . . .

‘Christians have never been reluctant to write fiction about Jesus, and we must remember that our four canonical Gospels are only the cream of a larger and varied literature.’" (cited in Helms, R., Gospel Fictions [Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1988], pp. 11-12)

6. The Gospels are inconsistent with each other.

“A careful study of the four Gospels in comparison with each other will show that there is little agreement among the Gospel writers as to the order in which Jesus said and did what is reported of him. . . .

“A striking discrepancy concerns the accounts in the synoptics of Jesus’s resurrection appearances to his disciples. . . .

“[There is] inconsistency between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies [of Jesus].”

7. The Gospels are inconsistent with known facts.

“Luke’s nativity story [is] demonstrably false . . .

‘. . . [T]he Roman census would not have affected Nazareth in any case, as Galilee was not under Roman rule but had its own ruler, the ‘tetrach’ Herod Antipas, son of King Herod.’" (cited in Arnheim, M., Is Christianity True? [Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984], pp. 10-11)

8. There is no independent support of Gospel claims.

‘ . . . [P]agan sources do not confirm the resurrection. . . . [T]here is good reason to suppose that [a well-known passage from Tacitus] was written nearly ninety years after the alleged death of Jesus and was based not on historical research but on information provided by Christians of the second century. . . .

‘Other pagan writers such as Suetonius and Pliny the Younger provide no support for the Resurrection of Jesus since they make no mention of it. . . . Thallus, in a work now lost but referred to by Africanus in the third century, is alleged to have said that Jesus' death was accompanied by an earthquake and an unusual darkness that he, Thallus, according to Africanus, wrongly attributed to an eclipse of the sun. However . . . it is unclear when Thallus wrote his history or how reliable Africanus’s account of Thallus is. Some scholars believe that Thallus wrote as late as the second century and consequently could have obtained his ideas from Christian opinion of his time.’" (cited in Martin, M., The Case Against Christianity [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1991], p. 86)

“’Non-Christian evidence is too late to give any independent support to the gospels. . . .

“’Rabbinic references to Jesus are entirely dependent on Christian claims, as both Christian and Jewish scholars have conceded.’" (cited in Wells, G.A., Who Was Jesus? [La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1989], pl. 20)

9. The Gospels testify to matters beyond belief.

“The Gospels are full of miraculous tales that, in any other context, would be taken to completely destroy the author’s credibility. What would we think of an alleged witness who swears that he saw Ms. Smith commit the murder and then abscond quickly on her broomstick? Why not regard reports of walking on water or raising the dead in the same light? Religious people often employ a curious doublethink here that permits them to treat reverently stories that, encountered anywhere else, would get very short shrift.” (Parsons, pp. 43-70)


A favorite pagan source cited by Christian believers verifying the life of a “real” Jesus is that of the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote that “Christians derive their name and origin from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.”

Ample evidence exists, however, to show that Tacitus was simply repeating what he had been told by Christian informants.

First, as Wells demonstrates, Tacitus identified Pilate by the rank of procurator, which title was a Roman administrative office from the second half of the first century.

Next, Tacitus failed to identify Jesus by name, but merely referred to a person put to death who went by the title of Christ.

Finally, Tacitus was an opponent of Christianity and therefore would have been inclined to repeat the Christian view of the day that Christianity was of recent vintage, given that the Roman government countenanced only ancient cults. (Wells, pp. 16-17)

Barker observes that even if other pagan writers had made reliable reference to Christianity, they did so too late in the game to be considered first-century witnesses. These include the writings in of Suetonius in his Twelve Caesars, as well as the record in 112 A.D. by Pliny the Younger--both of which fail to mention Jesus by name.

Barker notes that also failing to specifically mention Jesus was a second-century Roman satirist name Lucian who wrote of a “man crucified in Palestine,” whose death provided the foundation for the Christian faith. However, Lucian was simply repeating the beliefs of Christians and not presenting compelling historical evidence.

Barker further mentions the Christian believer's penchant for invoking an undated fragment from a personal letter written by a Syrian named Mara Serapion to his imprisoned son, in which the father mentions that the Jews had killed their “wise king.” This purported evidence, nonetheless, contradicts the New Testament version of Jesus’ death, in which, of course, the Romans are blamed for his crucifixion. Even if it is an authentic letter, Barker argues that it most likely refers to someone else, since the Jews had, in fact, killed other religions leaders, including the Essene Teacher of Righteousness. (Barker, pp. 364-366)


In his work (circa 90 A.D.), The Antiquities of the Jews, Flavious Josephus, a messianic Jew and respected Roman historian, supposedly wrote:

“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Hews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that love him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive against the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

Barker dispenses with the claim that this is the authentic Josephus with the following observations:

1. This paragraph about Jesus did not appear until the advent of the fourth century.

The disputed writing surfaced during the time that Bishop Eusebius, a close ally of the Roman emperor Constantine, was helping to fashion what would eventually become the orthodox version of Christianity. Barker notes that it was Eusebius who had argued it was justifiable for Christians to, in effect, “lie for the Lord” and that it was he who was the first person known to have cited this alleged Josephus account. As Barker notes, many Bible experts have concluded, in fact, that Eusebius forged the paragraph in question and then attributed it to Josephus.

2. The paragraph in doubt appears completely out of context.

It is dropped into Josephus’ writings after the historian gives an account of Roman taxation, various Jewish religious sects, Herod’s municipal building projects, the comings and goings of priests and procurators, the planning of seditious plots against Pilate, and Pilate’s construction of Jerusalem’s water supply using religious monies, which led to a Jewish protest, followed by Pilate’s bloody suppression of it. The questionable paragraph then follows, after which Josephus goes on to speak of “another terrible misfortune [that] confounded the Jews . . .” As Barker notes, only a Christian would have regarded this as a misfortune for Jews. Josephus himself was an orthodox Jew and would not have so described it.

3. Not being a believer in Christianity, Josephus would also not have used the language of a Christian convert in referring to Jesus as “the Christ.”

4. Josephus would also not have used the term “tribe of Christians,” since Christianity did not achieve organizational status until the second century.

5. Josephus’ alleged paragraph on Jesus portrays Josephus as having no other familiarity with the alleged Christian Messiah.

Barker observes that the Roman historian thus simply repeats what Christians would have already known, while adding virtually nothing to the Gospel accounts. In fact, Josephus’ supposed brief mention of Jesus is the only reference in all of his expansive writings to Christianity.

6. The paragraph does not reflect the careful wording of a responsible historian.

Rather, says Barker, it is written in the fervent language of a believing Christian and, further, is given with no citation of predictions from Hebrew prophets who supposedly foretold Jesus’ advent. (Barker, pp. 362-363)

Other weaknesses in the Gospel tales which undermine claims to their accounts of an historical Jesus include the following:


Templeton points out that the accounts of Matthew and Luke differ on fundamental points regarding the birth of Jesus. For example, at the time Luke says Jesus was being circumcised and Mary was being purified in Jerusalem, Matthew claims Joseph, Mary and Jesus were in hiding in Egypt, waiting for Herod to die.

Additionally, there is nothing in the historical record that mentions the supposed Herod-ordered slaughter of every male child in Bethlehem. Concludes Templeton, “It seems likely that the birth in Bethlehem was inserted into the story at a later date to validate the clams made by Jesus’ followers that, through Joseph, he stood in a direct line of descent from King David, whose roots were in Bethlehem.” (Templeton, p. 91)

As to the Christian claim that Jesus was God, born of an unwed Jewish virgin who conceived through the power of the Holy Ghost, Templeton bluntly concludes, “If one approaches the New Testament account with an open mind and unflinching realism, the evidence clearly indicates that Jesus was an illegitimate child who, when he came to maturity, resented it and was alienated from his parents and siblings.” (Templeton, p. 93)


Except for the claims made by anonymous Gospel writers, no evidence exists that Jesus ever rose from the dead. In fact, Gospel accounts of the alleged resurrection are, from a realistic point of view, completely implausible.

If, as Templeton observes, Jesus’ resurrection was accompanied by a extraordinary earthquake, the wholesale rending of the Temple veil and a large-group resurrection of the dead witnessed by many, why do these phenomenal events merit but a single sentence in Matthew--and virtually no mention in the other Gospels or in contemporary historical accounts?

Writes an understandably skeptical Templeton: “Let the reader imagine the scene: The astonished spectators, the gathering crowd, the family members and friends, weeping and delirious with excitement. Surely someone would have plied them with questions: ‘What happened as you died?’ ‘Did you see God?’ ‘What is Heaven like?’ ‘Were you reunited with our parents and other members of your family?’ Surely the answers to these and other questions like them would have flashed across Palestine within hours and been recorded somewhere. But there is not one word of it in history. The entire resurrection story is not credible.”

Add to this the fact that the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection not only differ from one another on many major points but are irreconcilably at odds with Paul’s account in I Corinthians on who Jesus supposedly appeared to after rising from the dead. (Templeton, pp. 120-122)


Templeton persuasively explains the afflictions suffered by those in the Gospel accounts, which were supposedly healed by Jesus’ miraculous powers:

“Most of the illnesses that afflict humans were beyond the comprehension of the men and women of that day and, of course, beyond Jesus’ comprehension, too. No one at that point in history had even a rudimentary understanding of the causes of physiological or psychological illnesses or of the various other afflictions to which humankind is subject. Most thought of them as punishments from God or the machinations of Satan or other evil spirits.

“When, for instance, epilepsy brought on a seizure that caused the victim to collapse and writhe on the ground as though struggling with an internal enemy, when food poisoning produced a paroxysm of vomiting, when a raging fever led to intense shivering and delirium, or when a migraine attack produced visual aberrations and excruciating pain, it seemed reasonable in that pre-scientific time to interpret such phenomena as the work of an evil spirit. And, when the affliction passed, it was equally reasonable to interpret it as the triumph of a benign spirit over a malign.

“Many illnesses, then as now, were psychosomatic and could be ‘cured’ when the sufferer’s perception changed. Just as today a placebo prescribed by a physician in whom the patient has faith can effect an apparent cure, so, in earlier time, faith in the healer could banish adverse symptoms. With each success the healer’s reputation would grow and his powers would, as a consequence, become more efficacious.

“It would appear evident that this is what happened with Jesus . . .

“It is clear in the text that Jesus was seen by the general populace as a wonder-worker. The stories of his exploits were before him--by word of mouth, of course, and thus subject to embellishing--and when he entered a town the state of heightened expectation would often be close to mass hysteria. As a consequence, the apparently miraculous would happen.” (Templeton, pp. 111-112)

Finally, as Barker points outs, a miracle cannot be considered historical if it is “defined as some kind of violation, suspension, overriding, or punctuation of natural law. . . . In order for history to have any strength at all, it must adhere to a very strict assumption: that natural law is regular over time.

“Without the assumption of natural regularity, no history can be done. There would be no criteria for discarding fantastic stories. Everything that has ever been recorded would have to be taken as literal truth.

“Therefore, if a miracle did happen, it would pull the rug out from history. The very basis of the historical method would have to be discarded. You can have miracles, or you can have history, but you can’t have both.” (Barker, p. 377)


Various propositions have been advanced to account for the rise of the Jesus myth. Barker lists the following as possibilities:

1. It was “patterned from a story in the Jewish Talmudic literature about the illegitimate son of a woman named Miriam (Mary) and a Roman soldier named Pandera, sometimes called Joseph Pandera.”

2. It “grew out of a pre-Christian cult of Joshua,” originating in tensions between two different Joshua factions.

Interesting in this regard is the fact that “Jesus” is the Greek word for “Joshua." As Barker notes, in Mark 9:38, “the disciples of Jesus saw another man who was casting out devils in the name of Jesus (Joshua).”

3. It was “simply a fanciful patchwork of pieces borrowed from other religions.”

Pagan myths are peppered with their own pre-Jesus accounts of Last Suppers, passion play-outs, crucifixions of sun gods, virgin births and latter-day climatic battles between the forces of good and evil.

4. It followed from “a pre-Christian Jesus cult of gnosticism,” based on since-discovered ancient writings which declare, “I adjure thee by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus.”

5. It could have arisen “as the personification of Old Testament ‘wisdom,'" which did not rely on any historical basis for claims of a pre-existent, literal redeemer.

6. It may have resulted from so-called “self-reflective fiction,” wherein “literary parallels [are drawn] between Old and New Testament stories” through the use of “skeletal templates into which the Jews placed [them].”

In such cases, the tales are similar in not only content, but in structure, as with stories from the Old and New Testaments involving storms, the raising of widows’ sons from the dead, and miraculous episodes of so-called “food multiplication.”

7. It could have found origin in an earlier account of the crucifixion of a Messiah and Lawgiver figure known as the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, who was put to death in 88 B.C.

8. It could have been based on a naturalistic explanation that the resurrection story was essentially historically reliable, “but that Jesus merely fainted, and was presumed to be dead, coming back to consciousness later.” (Barker, pp. 372-376)



Barker, Dan, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist [Madison, Wisconsin: Freedom from Religion Foundation, 1992)

Doherty, Earl, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? (Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Humanist Publications, 1999)

Edelen, William, Toward the Mystery (Boise, Idaho: Joslyn & Morris, Inc., no publication date)

Parsons, Keith M., Why I Am Not A Christian [Atlanta, Georgia: Freethought Press, 2000]

Templeton, Charles, Farewell to God: My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith [Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McClelland & Stewart, Inc., 1996)

Wells, G.A., The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1988)

Wilson, Ian, Jesus: The Evidence [San Francisco, California: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984)

Top of Page | Home Page | Mormon Biographies | E-Mail

Copyright © www.think-link.org, all rights reserved.
Terms of Use