Originally Posted by Dusty
This is a point by point dissection of every piece of "historical evidence" Christian apologist give to support their claim that a man named Jesus even existed. You'll notice right away that none of these are contemporaries of Jesus and thus none of them were alive when Jesus was. So right away, no eyewitnesses. But this is the best of the best of what Christians will try to offer in place of actual evidence.
The famous Testamonium Flavianum is considered probably the best evidence for Jesus, yet it has some serious problems. The T.F. as it stands uses clearly Christian phrases and names Christ as Messiah, it could not possibly have been written by the Jew Josephus (who refused to call anyone "messiah"). The T.F. comes in several versions of various ages. The T.F. was not mentioned by Origen when he reviewed Josephus - Origen even says Josephus does NOT call Jesus the Messiah, showing the passage was not present in that earlier era. The T.F. first showed up in manuscripts of Eusebius, and was still absent from some manuscripts as late as 8th century. The T.F is well accepted by historical scholars, both religious and secular, as a total forgery or at best a corrupt form of a lost original.
Written roughly 80 years after the alleged events, Tacitus allegedly wrote a famous passage about "Christ" - this passage also has several problems in that Tacitus uses the term "procurator", used in his later times, but not correct for the actual period, when "prefect" was used. Tacitus names the person as "Christ", when Roman records could not possibly have used this name (it would have been "Jesus, son of Joseph" or similar.) The passage is paraphrased by Sulpicius Severus in the 5th century without attributing it to Tacitus, and may have been inserted back into Tacitus from this work.
This evidence speaks AGAINST it being based on any Roman records -
but merely a few details which Tacitus gathered from Christian stories circulating in his time. So, this passage is NOT evidence for Jesus,
it's just evidence for 2nd century Christian stories about a Jesus.
PLINY the Younger
About 80 years after the alleged events, Pliny referred to Christians who worshipped a "Christ" as a god, but there is no reference to a historical Jesus or Gospel events. So Pliny is not evidence for a historical Jesus,
just evidence for 2nd century Christians who worshipped a Christ.
Roughly 80-90 years after the alleged Gospel events, Suetonius refers to a "Chrestus" who stirred the Jews to trouble in Rome during Claudius' time, but "Chrestus" is a Greek name (from "useful"), and is also a mystic name for an initiate, it is not the same as "Christos". Also, according to Suetonius, this Chrestus was apparently active in Rome, Jesus never was. So, this passage is not evidence for Jesus, it's nothing to do with Jesus. It's evidence for Christians grasping at straws.
The letters of Ignatius are traditionally dated to c.107, yet it is not clear if he really existed. His story is suspicious, his letters are notoriously corrupt and in 2 versions, It is probable that his letters were later forgeries and he mentions only a tiny few items about a Jesus. Ignatius is no evidence for Jesus himself,
at BEST it is 2nd century evidence to a few beliefs about a Jesus.
THALLUS (date unknown)
We have NO certain evidence when Thallus lived or wrote, there are NONE of Thallus' works extant. What we DO have is a 9th century reference by George Syncellus who quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, who, speaking of the darkness at the crucifixion, wrote: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse".
But, there is NO evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events at all, as there WAS an eclipse in 29. This suggests he merely referred to a known eclipse, but that LATER Christians MIS-interpreted his comment to mean their darkness. So Thallus is no evidence for Jesus at all,
merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.
Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse. There is no evidence Phlegon actually said anything about Gospel events, he was merely talking about an eclipse (they DO happen) which LATER Christians argued was the "darkness" in their stories.
So, Phlegon is no evidence for Jesus at all - merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.
In mid 2nd century the GNOSTIC Valentinus almost became Bishop of Rome, but:
* he was several generations after the alleged events,
* he wrote of an esoteric, Gnostic Jesus and Christ,
* he mentioned no historical details about Jesus.
So, Valentinus is no evidence for a historical Jesus.
Polycarp wrote in mid 2nd century, but :
* he is several generations after the alleged events,
* he gives many sayings of Jesus (some of which do NOT match the Gospels),
* he does NOT name any evangelist or Gospel.
So, Polycarp knew sayings of Jesus but provides no actual evidence for a historical Jesus.
Nearly one-and-a-half CENTURIES after the alleged events, Lucian satirised Christians, but this was several generations later. Lucian does NOT even mention a Jesus or a Christ by name. So Lucian is no evidence for a historical Jesus, merely late 2nd century lampooning of Christians.
Late 2nd century, Galen makes a few references to 'Christians'.
There are some possible references in the Talmud, but these references are from 3rd century or later, and seem to be unfriendly Jewish responses to Christian claims. The references are highly variant, have many cryptic names for this Jesus, and very different to the Gospel stories (e.g. one story has "Jesus" born about 100BC.) So the Talmud contains NO evidence for Jesus,
the Talmud merely has much later Jewish responses to the Gospel stories.
MARA BAR SERAPION
A fragment of his work includes -
"... What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?",
in the context of ancient leaders like Socrates. It is NOT at all clear WHEN this manuscript was written, nor exactly who it is referring too, but there is no evidence it is Jesus.
In all the above, everything that was written...or alleged to have been written came between 60 - 200 years after the alleged events. There is absolutely no contemporaneous evidence whatsoever to support a Jesus of Nazareth having existed. There wasn't even a 'town' called Nazareth until 2nd or 3rd century CE.
The "evidence" of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mentions Hercules. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of JC, we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have a brief (forged) mention of Jesus by Joesphus in his Antiquities, Joesphus also mentions Hercules (more times than Jesus), in the very same work. Just as Tacitus mentions a Christus, so does he also mention Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artefacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and JC comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him? Of course not, and the same must apply to JC if we wish to hold any consistency to historicity."
There is no definitive evidence of a specific Jesus of Nazareth who preached and was crucified by the Romans.
What does one accept as evidence? Most historical figures are based on their accounts by contemporaries. The best hearsay evidence is that which is recorded by the man/woman's own people, and recorded by other people including enemies who have nothing to gain. The existence of Julius Caesar is quite reliable in that he left writings. His death led to a Roman Civil War with battles recorded. Julius was known by the Gauls, the Greeks, and the Egyptians.
The same applies to Octavian, Nero, Constantine, and Theodosius. Cyrus and Xerxes of Persia were well documented by Persian and Greek historians.
Jesus has a weaker case in that he left no writings. His only accounts claiming to know him were the Gospels which were by those who wanted to believe in him. Logically one can never prove Jesus didn't exist. But the Roman historians only mention that there were people who believed in a Jesus. The Romans meticulously recorded the execution of rebel leaders, insurrectionists, rival Emperors, rebellious native kings, or over-ambitious generals. They spread the news of such executions to serve as warnings to would be rebels or royal claimants. Examples were made of Vercingetorix of the Gauls, Boadica of the Icenii, Antonius and Cleopatra, Pompeii, and Queen Zenobia of Syria.
We should question why the Romans did not make Jesus into another "dead rebel" example. Yet they fail to even mention it in official records. All of this makes the existence of a human Jesus at the very best "controversial."
The divinity mythology is clearly myth, it seems to have been copied from perhaps a dozen older virgin born god-men redeemers who died and resurrected. It is interesting that those who made Jesus into a god were not the Jews who were around him, but pagan Romans and Greeks who, not surprisingly, used the traditional god-man redeemer story applied to him.
If Jesus actually healed lots of people, why did he do it? If he did it because he cared about them, why did he only heal a very small fraction of the sick people in the world? If he did it in order to demonstrate his power, why did he restrict demonstrating his power to a very small geographic region in the world? If you rose from the dead, and wanted people to know that you rose from the dead, you would not limit your appearances to just a few people in one small geographic region in the world. There do not seem to be sensible motives for many of the things that JC did, which suggest that he did not do many of the things that the New Testament attributes to him.
The case is weak because no one living and writing in the early to mid-first century ever seems to have heard of him.
We are left with a pile of self-serving religious documents which could easily have been tampered with throughout the years.
Philo of Alexandria wrote to Gaius Caligula, c. 40 CE, in which he spent a whole paragraph complaining what a miserable prat Pontius Pilate had been. In the course of that denunciation he never mentions that Pilate may have killed someone who "multitudes" hailed as the Messiah. Even more amazingly, he never mentions that the man that Pilate killed supposedly "came back to life" which would seem to be a pretty clear indication that "god or the gods" were not happy with Pilate's action.
Yet....not a word. Clearly, the story of Jesus had not been invented in 40 CE!!