Sunday, July 18, 2010

did jesus really live?

Some people think that the Jesus of the gospels never existed, yet the historians (both unbelievers and believers) are almost unanimous that he did.

What have they concluded?

This quote from Prof Robert Van Voorst of Western Theological Seminary is typical of many: "Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it [the theory that Jesus didn't exist] as effectively refuted."

Read quotes from four other eminent historians.

Why have they concluded this?

The documents which make up the New Testament are considered by most scholars to be good historical sources. (This is not to say that they accept everything in them as historical.) Prof Craig Evans of Arcadia Divinity College says: "When put to the test, the original documents hold up quite well."

Van Voorst has summarised 7 reasons why the theory that Jesus was a myth is rejected by almost all scholars. Here are 4 of them:

  • The gospels are too early for invention (too many people would have remembered the real facts), and their accurate references to Palestinian geography would not have been possible if the stories were invented later.
  • No early opponents of Christianity, whether pagan or Jew, ever denied that Jesus truly lived, or even questioned it.
  • Scholars are generally agreed that references to Jesus in the Roman historian Tacitus (early second century) and the Jewish historjan Josephus (late first century) are both genuine, though some parts of Josephus appear to be later additions.
  • Proponents of the mythical Jesus view have not been able to offer any credible hypothesis that explains the stories of Jesus and the birth of Christianity.

Read more about the quality of the gospels as historical sources and the full list of Van Voorst's reasons.

It seems clear that, whatever conclusions we come to about believing in Jesus, the evidence is strong that the Jesus of the gospels really lived.

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