Monday, April 6, 2009

What If Jesus Never Existed?

Just when you think you've seen it all, someone comes along and denies the existence of Jesus Christ. A recent documentary, The God Who Wasn't There, has just been released to DVD, which Newsweek says "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed." The writers of the New Testament Gospels, they claim, never believed that Jesus existed. Instead, these writers simply wrote about a fictitious character named "Jesus" who was nothing more than a literary reincarnation of pagan cult heroes. 

Unfortunately, these documentarians stand in opposition to the preponderance of the evidence. Take the simple fact that 11 of the 12 disciples died for their belief in a Messianic Jesus. Or, attempt to reconcile their assertions with the plethora of extra-biblical sources which reference Jesus Christ, including the revered Jewish historian, Josephus. There is more evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ than there is for many, if not most, historical figures. 

If one determines to throw out the historical Jesus on evidential grounds, then one must also throw out most every figure in pre-modern human history and virtually empty University faculty offices around the globe. That is why basically every scholar--including secular historians--agree that the Rabbi named "Jesus of Nazareth" existed in the first century A.D. and had an influential ministry. In fact, questioning the historical existence of Jesus would get you laughed out of almost any university in the world. 

The existence of a God can never be proven on this side of eternity, but the existence of Jesus Christ is historically indisputable. It just goes to illustrate the wise words of Mark Twain, who once said, "All you need in life is ignorance and confidence."



Anonymous said...

I have spoken with a number of people who don't believe that Jesus existed....and there are many "well versed" and highly opinionated thought driven reasons that they have derived to be able to conjure their claims...

I have also met some who believe that the Bible with the exception of a small portion of the beginning of Genesis is all a man-made socio-political conspiracy....

It's amazing what people will do to distort what they can not disprove - when it is the truth that they are trying to hide from.

Anonymous said...

I personally don't pay attention to any of that stuff. There will always be some one claiming to have concrete evidence that there is no God or Jesus, and then some one else will come along and refute it.

Though I must say that it seems the world is more bent on disproving Christianity than any other religion.

Big Girls Don't Cry said...

Is it possible that the writers of this ridiculous piece are taking a tongue in cheek position on their "expose"? Is it possible they are looking for fifteen minutes of fame by making a claim so outrageous people feel they have to rebut?

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the movie, and am most definitely not arguing that Jesus did not exist, but I feel compelled to point out a flawed rebuttal when I see one. You cite a "plethora" of references to Jesus, but only mention Josephus -- which is the reference EVERYBODY mentions, for lack of a plethora of other references. Saying that "11 of the 12" disciples died for Jesus is based on what is written in the gospels, not on evidence that would hold up in court. That's like saying, "So many knights died for King Arthur that he MUST have existed in real life." The reason Jesus's existence is debated more thoroughly than other historical figure is that there are greater IMPLICATIONS if he did not exist. Proving that Alexander the Great didn't exist would be a nice bit of trivia. Proving that Jesus does not exist would mean that the most influential religion of our time was based on fiction. So it is a discussion worth having, though I doubt we will ever be able to prove anything one way or the other.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Saul Christian,

In addition to Josephus see other first century historians such as Thallus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger.

Also, don't forget that some historical events become non-nonsensical under this documentation's scenario:

- The Roman govt. brutally persecuted peaceful followers of a non-historical figure?

- Not just the disciples died, but hundreds if not thousands of 1st century believers died for a mythical character?

- Saul gave up his prestigious life persecuting these believers to become a persecuted follower of a made-up character?

These are just a few reasons why the mythical Jesus theory doesn't make much sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that it is more likely than not that Jesus existed, but your arguments are flawed. "The Roman govt. brutally persecuted peaceful followers of a non-historical figure?" Is that really so far-fetched? The early Christians persecuted pagans (as have many other cultures over the years), and what are they if not the followers of non-historical figures? "hundreds if not thousands of 1st century believers died for a mythical character?" It's pretty common for people to die for mythical characters. People have died in the name of pagan gods, King Arthur, "Uncle Sam". I don't disagree with you on the likelihood that Jesus existed, since the burden of proof does seem to be on those making the claim he did not, but the arguments you've listed aren't a very convincing rebuttal. I'll have to check out the documentary and see their side of the story.

Jonathan Merritt said...


It is true that any of those things taken alone would not be a convining rebuttal. However, it is the sum of ALL of these things (the "preponderance of the evidence") that makes it convincing. Do you disagree?