Christianity Thomas on 12 Dec 2009 12:22 am
Question from a Christian – “What do you do with the secular writings about Jesus Christ? Please explain to me how you could say that Jesus Christ never lived, that there was no Jesus Christ.”
A question from a Christian, in the form of a YouTube video:
I would like to pose this question to anyone who says that Christianity is completely false, or that there is no God. What do you do with the secular writings about Jesus Christ? Please explain to me how you could say that Jesus Christ never lived, that there was no Jesus Christ. Because there were many, many secular writings, and to me that would be extra-biblical proof – proof outside the Bible – that definitely corresponds with what is in the Bible. What would be your answer for that?
First, we look at the evidence that Christians use to claim that Jesus did exist. The 35 minute video below (in 4 parts) provides a summary of that evidence. It opens with:
I would like to present to you the case for the historical evidence of Jesus. Lately there have been many people who have been claiming that there is no evidence to verify his actual existence… First you should know that this view is a new one. All throughout history skeptics used to claim that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that his miracles were only parlor tricks, or that his disciples stole his body from the tomb. But they never claimed he didn’t exist. Claiming he never existed only became possible recently, due to the long period of time that has passed since the first century. In actuality, there is much more evidence for Jesus’s existance than there is for almost any famous or important person of that time. In this presentation, we will be using only non-Biblical evidence. In other words, we won’t be using the Bible to prove the Bible. We will also be stopping after every account to address the typical skeptical questions about each claim. I warn you though – if you watch this video you will no longer be able to believe that there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus, and you might even start to question the integrity of the research of those who have told you that there isn’t. I will be quoting from the website TheDivineEvidence.com
The evidence includes:
1) The writings of Cornelius Tacitus (55 – 120 AD) – “considered one of the greatest historians of Rome.”
2) The writings of Lucian of Samosata – “second century satirist”
3) Flavius Josephus (37 – 100 AD)
4) Pliny the Younger
5) Celsus – Second century Roman author and opponent of Christianity
6) Gaius Suetonius Tranquilius (69 – 130 AD) – “prominent Roman historian”
So how do Atheists refute this? By noting that there are no eye-witness or contemporary accounts of anything mentioned in the Bible. Example:
Therefore, the fact that historians make small mentions of Jesus after-the-fact, and often with words like “superstition” attached, is meaningless. Note that none of the historians above was alive when Jesus was supposedly alive. They are all working with hearsay. The fact that no contemporary historian mentions Jesus is stronger than the fact that later historians did write about him using hearsay.
This page carries that argument further, noting that there is ample contemporary evidence to prove that Julius Caesar existed, but none for Jesus:
Unlike the mythical Jesus Christ, we know what Caesar looked like and we have a complete history of his life. In turn, general, orator, historian, statesman and lawgiver. We have words written by Caesar himself and words written by both his friends and his enemies. Artifacts confirm his life and death, as do his successors. Caesar established a style of government – and a calendar – which endured for centuries…
The ringing claim of “more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for any other person of his day” is followed by a potpourri of ancient sources, as if a list made long enough could disguise the fact that NOT A SINGLE SOURCE EVER QUOTED IS FROM THE TIME OF THE GODMAN.
Early non-Christian writers, including the favourite hostages – Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny and Tacitus – are discussed here.
Note what we are being asked to believe: That the God who created the universe sent his only son to earth, and that this son did things like gathering thousands of people together and feeding them with loaves and fishes that materialized out of thin air…
…But not a single eye-wittness or contemporaneous account exists.
That is not believable.