Below is a list of the very best possible examples of "evidence"
that Jesus existed. Many of you may be surprised to learn
how weak a case there is that Jesus ever really lived. Open
your mind and carefully review the analysis below.
Let's examine all the "evidence" of a historical Jesus,
followed by a conclusion at the end. The "evidence" is in
italics, the responses are in bold:
Josephus, a court historian for Emperor Vespasian,(37-94
"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 Jews, and many of the
Gentiles. [He was the Messiah.] And when Pilate, at the
suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned
him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did
not forsake him [for he appeared to them alive again at
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 date." (Jewish Antiquities XVIII 63f, later
interpolations in brackets)
For hundreds of years, Catholic historians have used
these paragraphs in Josephus' writings as "proof' that Jesus
existed. That is, until scholars began to examine the text
a little more critically. No serious scholar now believes
that any of these passages mentioning Jesus were actually
written by Josephus. They have been clearly identified as
much later additions. They are not the same writing style
as Josephus and if they are removed from the text, Josephus'
original arguments run in their proper sequence.
In other writings supposedly attributed to Josephus, we
read that as Jesus had miraculously cured Pilate's wife
of a sickness, Pilate let him go. However, the Jewish priests
later bribed Pilate to allow them to crucify Jesus "in defiance
of all Jewish tradition." As for the resurrection, Josephus'
alleged writings say Jesus' body could not have been stolen
by his disciples, since "guards were posted around his tomb,
30 Romans and 1,000 Jews"!
Further proof that these references to Jesus are fake, scholars
point to the fact that Origen, writing in the third century
tells us that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the
A letter to the Corinthian church, By Clement (elder
of Rome) in 95 CE:
"The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus
Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ
is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore
came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore
received a charge, and having been fully assured through
the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed
in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost,
they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of
God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and
town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved
them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them
that should believe.
This quote supposedly from Clement of Rome, was said
by Eusebius,to have been the fourth Bishop of Rome around
90 C.E. However, scholars now know that numerous letters
attributed to this "Clement of Rome" were forged in the
fourth and fifth centuries. The above quote is among those
For those who still insist that the above quote from Clement
is accurate, then read the whole letter, in which Clement
vigorously attacks Paul as a misguided heretic. These fake
Clement letters also describe Peter as vehemently denying
Paul's status as an apostle. Clement supposedly says Paul's
vision on the road to Damascus was from an evil demon or
lying spirit and that Jesus is angry with Paul and that
Paul is his "adversary." Those Clement letters are known
forgeries written hundreds of years after the supposed events.
Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia
Minor around 110 CE, wrote a Letter to Trajan, saying:
.. For the moment this is the line I have taken with all
persons brought to me on the charge of being Christians.
I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and
if the admit it, I repeat the questions a second and third
time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If
they persist, I order them to be led away to execution ...
There have been others similarly fanatical who have been
Roman citizens. I have entered them on the list of persons
to be sent to Rome for trial... the charges are becoming
more widespread ... an anonymous pamphlet has been circulated
which contains the names of a number of accused persons.
Amongst these I considered I should dismiss any who denied
that they were or ever had been Christians when they had
repeated after me a formula of invocation to the gods and
made offerings of wine and incense to your statue ... and
furthermore had reviled the name of Christ; none of which
things, I understand, any genuine Christian can be induced
Others ... first admitted the charge and then denied it;
they said they had ceased to be Christians two or more years
previously, and some even 20 years ago. ... They also declared
that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no
more than this: that they had met regularly before dawn
on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves
in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves
by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from
theft, robbery, and adultery ... After this ceremony it
had been their custom to disperse and re-assemble later
for food of an ordinary harmless kind; but they had in fact
given up this practice since my edict, issued on your instructions,
which banned all political societies. This made me decide
it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture
from two slave-women, whom they call deaconesses. I found
nothing but a degenerate cult carried to extravagant lengths
... a great many individuals of every age and class, both
men and women, are being brought to trial, and this is likely
to continue. It is not only the towns, but villages and
rural districts too which are infected through contact with
this wretched cult. (Letters X 96)
The above quote only proves that there were Christians,
which is not in question here. Notice that it never mentions
an alleged historical figure named "Jesus" but refers to
a Christ figure. Remember, the term "Christ" simply means
a Messiah. This quote tells us nothing about a historical
Jesus and is not evidence of his existence.
A letter to the Trallians, written by Ignatius (Bishop
of Antioch), between 110-115 CE:
"Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the
Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly
persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and
died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those
under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the
dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion
will so raise us also who believe on Him."
Much like the fake letters of Clement, the supposed writings
of Ignatius of Antioch are known by modern scholars as forgeries.
The above quote comes from six spurious letters written
in the fourth century and attributed to Ignatius of Antioch.
The church historian Eusebius (260-340 C.E.), known as "the
father of Church history" noted in his diary that letters
attributed to Clement and Ignatius had "appeared recently."
When historical documents were found, Eusebius referred
to them as "discovered" and he always used the word "appeared'
for works of known contemporary (fourth century) origin.
In other words, the above quote comes from a work which
is now known to be a forgery.
Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 CE) was considered to be "the
greatest historian" of ancient Rome. In the Roman Annals
15.44, he speaks of Emperor Nero going after Christians,
in hopes to draw away attention from himself after Rome's
fire of 64 CE.:
"But not all the relief that could come from man, not all
the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements
which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve
Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the
conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor,
he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians,
who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder
of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator
of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition,
repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea,
where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome
also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part
of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly,
an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then,
upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted,
not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred
"Consequently ... Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted
the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations.
Called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the
name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during
the reign of Tiberias at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus,
and a deadly superstition, thus checked for a moment, again
broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil,
but also in the City."
This writing from Tacitus is not contemporary, however,
but dates from about 50 years after the event. The only
thing that would make Tacitus' writings an independent testimony
to the existence of Jesus and not merely the repetition
of Christian beliefs would be if he had gained this information
about Christ being crucified under Pontius Pilot from the
copious records the Romans kept of their legal dealings.
But this is not the case, for Tacitus calls Pilate the "procurator"
of Judea, when he was in fact a "prefect," so Tacitus is
clearly not returning to the records of the time but quoting
hearsay information from his own day. Again, no proof here
that a historical Jesus ever existed.
Around 221 CE, Julius Africanus writes about a discovered
reference in the writings of Thallus, dealing with the darkness
that covered the land during Christ's crucifixion. Thallus'
book was a history of the Eastern Mediterranean that was
written around 52 CE:
"Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away
the darkness as an eclipse of the sun--unreasonably, as
it seems to me." [A solar eclipse could not take place during
a full moon, as was the case during Passover season.]
The fact that a solar eclipse did or did not occur is
not in question here. This reference does not refer directly
to a historical Jesus, nor does it imply that Jesus ever
existed. The most this quote could possibly prove is that
Thallus is a real historical figure who recorded it, which
itself is in doubt, since no astronomers of the time in
China - or anywhere in the west recorded such an event in
the sky. But even if the eclipse occurred, it is not evidence
that Jesus existed outside the imagination of early Christians.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, a contemporary of Tacitus
and chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE),records
in his Life of Claudius (XXv.4):
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation
of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
The term "Chrestus" is a generic term for "Messiah."
Josephus also mentions various would-be Jewish Messiah figures
in Judea yet none of them are described as the alleged Jesus
of Christianity. This is a far cry from proof that Jesus
was a historical figure.
In his Life of Nero (XV1.2) he says "punishment was inflicted
on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and wicked
Nobody is disputing that there were Christians in Rome.
This is not proof of a historical Jesus any more than saying
Christmas parties are proof that Santa Claus is real.
Tosefta Hullin 2:22-24 tells us of a Rabbi Ishmael, who
died around 135CE:
"Rabbi Eleazar ben Dama was bitten by a snake. And Jacob
of Kefar Sama came to heal him in the name of Jesus ...
and Rabbi Ishmael did not allow him" and Eleazar died.
Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a, compiled between 70 and
200 CE, speaks of Jesus' crucifixion, saying:
"On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty
days before the execution took place, a herald went forth
and cried, `He is going forth to be stoned because he has
practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone
who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward
and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought
forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover."
Both of these come from the Talmud, which was written
in Hebrew, not English. The word "Yeshu" is a shortened
form of "Yehoshua" or "Joshua," which in Greek becomes "Jesus."
The fact that the talmud mentions the word "Yeshu" is not
extraordinary. Yeshu was an extremely common name that could
refer to any number of people. In fact, Josephus mentions
at least 10 different Jesuses, although it is revealing
to note that some translations of Josephus only translate
the passages that they want the reader to identify with
Jesus Christ using the Greek version of the name we all
recognize, while leaving the names of all the other Jesuses
in the un-translated Hebrew.
Even if the above sentence does refer to Jesus and not some
other Yeshu, it cannot be taken as proof of Jesus' existence,
because it was written so late. Although based on older
writings, the Talmud was not written until 200 C.E., and
we do not know whether these were early passages. Anyway,
the rabbis of the Talmud are so vague in their chronology
that they differ by as much as 200 years in the dates they
assign to the figure that may or may not be Jesus!"
The Greek satirist Lucian, of second century, said:
"The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day, the
distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites,
and was crucified on that account...You see, these misguided
creatures start with the general conviction that they are
immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death
and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them;
and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver
that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are
converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the
crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take
quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly
goods, alike, regarding them merely as common property."
Again, this is not about Jesus, but about his followers
and was written hundreds of years too late to be an actual
account of a historical Jesus. Lucian is commenting on the
beliefs of Christians, not Jesus. If this is proof of Jesus,
then Star Trek fans are proof that Captian Kirk is real,
Star Wars fans are proof that Obi Wan Kanobi is real, and
Christmas parties are proof the Santa Claus is real.
Mara Bar-Serapion, of Syria wrote to his son from prison,
to motivate him to emulate great teachers like Socrates,
Pythagoras, and Jesus Christ. In this letter, dating between
70 and 200 CE, He tells his son:
"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates
to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment
for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain
from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered
with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing
their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom
was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men:
the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed
by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land,
live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for
good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did
not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor
did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching
which he had given."
Again, there is no direct reference to a historical Jesus
here. It mentions the Jews executing a wise king, but since
the author mentions Pythagoras, who died in 497 B.C. and
Socrates who died in 399 B.C., it's more likely that he
is referring to an ancient "wise man" king, not Jesus.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of Gnostic writings
about Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Liabrary.
The Gospel of Truth, written around 135-160 CE, by Valentius
(most likely), says:
"For when they had seen him and had heard him, he granted
them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved
Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father...
For he came by means of fleshly appearance."
"Jesus, was patient in accepting sufferings... since he
knows that his death is life for many... he was nailed to
a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross...
He draws himself down to death through life... eternal clothes
him. Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he
put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away
The Aprocryphon of John, written around 120-130 CE, by Saturninus
(most likely), says:
"It happened one day when John, the brother of James,--who
are the sons of Zebedee--went up and came to the temple,
that a Pharisee named Arimanius approached him and said
to him, `Where is your master whom you followed?' And he
said to him, `He has gone to the place from which he came.'
The Pharisee said to him,`This Nazarene deceived you with
deception and filled your ears with lies and closed your
hearts and turned you from the traditions of your fathers.'"
The Treatise On Resurrection, written by an unknown author
of the second century:
"The Lord... existed in flesh and... revealed himself as
Son of God... Now the Son of God, Rheginos, was Son of Man.
He embraced them both, possessing the humanity and the divinity,
so that on the one hand he might vanquish death through
his being Son of God, and that on the other through the
Son of Man the restoration to the Pleroma might occur; because
he was originally from above, a seed of the Truth, before
this structure of the cosmos had come into being."
"For we have known the Son of Man, and we have believed
that he rose from among the dead. This is he of whom we
say, `He became the destruction of death, as he is a great
one in whom they believe.' Great are those who believe."
"The Savior swallowed up death... He transformed himself
into an imperishable Aeon and raised himself up, having
swallowed the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the
way of our immortality."
"Do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no
illusion, but it is truth. Indeed, it is more fitting to
say that the world is an illusion, rather than the resurrection
which has come into being through our Lord the Savior, Jesus
Gospel of Thomas, from 140-200 CE:
"Jesus said, 'It is to those [who are worthy of my] mysteries
that I tell my mysteries. Do not ley your left hand know
what your right hand is doing.'"
"Jesus said, 'Blessed is the man who has suffered and found
life.'" The Gospel of Thomas contains many more alleged
quotations of Jesus Christ.
This is the most damning evidence against the existence
of a historical Jesus. Christians mistakenly quote the Gnostic
writings as proof of a real Jesus. In fact, the Gnostic
movement was all about Jesus NOT being a historical figure,
but a spiritual guide and myth, much like Dionysus and other
ancient religious heroes. These references are from mythical
STORIES of Jesus. They are not literal history. Just like
the story "Twas the Night Before Christmas" describes the
appearance of Santa Claus and him winking his eye, so too,
Gnostic authors told stories about Jesus. But just like
the New Testament, they are inspiring stories, not historical
If you disagree and insist that the Gnostic texts are true,
literal history, then why are they not part of any modern
Christian scripture? And why do the Gnostic texts so strongly
contradict the Christian creeds? Up until now, Christians
have not claimed that the Gnostic texts are fact. Modern
Christian (and non-Christian) scholars agree with the authors
of the Gnostic texts that they are mythical writings and
should not be taken literally.
Surprisingly, the above "evidences" are all the best hopes
for a historical Jesus. And all of them have been thoroughly
researched by scholars and found lacking as proof of a historical
Jesus. The only people still using such known fake references
and mythical Gnostic stories are those who ignore the many
hard evidences that the life of Jesus is an allegory.
The time of Jesus' alleged life was an extremely literate
period in Human history. Here are a list of known writers
who wrote at or within a century of the time Jesus is said
to have lived:
Arrian, Pliny the Elder, Martial, Petronius, Appian, Plutarch,
Seneca, Juvenal, Apollonius, Dion Preseus, Theon of Smyrna,
Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus, Damis, Ptolmy, Florus Lucius,
Silius Italicus, Dio Chrysostom, Quintilian, Aulus Gellius,
Hermogeones, Favorinus, Statius, Lysias, Lucanus, Columella
and Valerius Maximus.
The works of these writers would be enough to fill a library,
but NOT ONE OF THEM refers to Jesus. Pretty damn suspicious.
Also, the Romans were obsessed with records and histories,
yet there is no mention of a historical Jesus. It could
be argued that Roman literature that mentioned Jesus has
been lost over time. But surely any such texts would have
been carefully preserved by the Roman Church once it held
power in the Empire. Not only this, but it is safe to assume
that well-educated early Christians, such as Justin Martyr,
would have quoted these text in support of Christianity,
but they DO NOT. A historical Jesus is missing from ALL
the writing of the time, even though writing about historical
people was common.
Like countless scholars who have made this quest before,
there is no real evidence of a historical Jesus.
Now think about the implications this has for Mormonism...