Top 10 Reasons Jesus Christ Never Existed
Religion is one of the most enduringly powerful forces on earth. Two of the most influential, both today and in the past, Christianity and Islam, believe that Jesus Christ played a pivotal role in both faiths.
Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, born of a virgin birth, was crucified and resurrected for the remission of sins. Muslims believe that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth brought forth by the command of Allah and became one of his most important (and subsequently revered) prophets. Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified but that another man died in his place.
Whether or not we believe in the existence and life of Christ as a matter of faith most people are prepared to accept that Jesus was a real and verifiable historical figure; that he was born, lived and died in Judea between around 4BC and 33AD. This has been repeated so many times that most people do not ever think to challenge it but should they? Did a man called Jesus, son of Mary (and adoptive son of Joseph) walk the paths of Judea or was he merely a figment of imagination? A group of stories and myths pulled together by a range of cynical individuals for a particular purpose?
If you are a Christian, of course, the existence of Christ is a matter of faith but should non-Christians believe in Jesus so readily? Here are our top 10 reasons to claim that Jesus never existed.
There is no contemporaneous account of the life of Jesus
Not only is nothing in the bible capable of being directly linked to the time in which Jesus was reputed to be alive (see below) but there are absolutely no contemporaneous accounts that speak of Jesus. As far as the historical record is concerned he just did not exist. The Gospels claim that Jesus’ ministry was famous across the region and well known to people such as Herod and Pontius Pilate. In the later part of his ministry it is claimed that he was followed by great multitudes of people and, of course, in one instance that he fed 5,000.
There is not a single mention in him in military records or dispatches back to Rome (surely anyone who could command huge gatherings of people in a potentially disruptive province should be of interest). He is not mentioned in the records of Herod’s court nor is he mentioned in the records of the Temple or by any Priests. Surely if he was believed by some to be a prophet and others to be a false prophet some mention of the ructions he was causing in Judean civic and religious society should have been recorded. Some people like to point to the supposed letters of Pontius Pilate as evidence of Jesus’ life but these were a work of fiction.
Of course it is possible (although unlikely, the Roman Empire was very efficient) that contemporaneous accounts existed but disappeared.
All Later Accounts Of The Life Of Jesus Are Pure Hearsay
Even though there are no contemporaneous lifetime reports of the existence of Jesus there are references to him in Christian writing (see below) and non-Christian texts in the decades after his alleged death.
Not a single one of these accounts is a credible account of his life. None of them reference any earlier texts and are therefore nothing more than hearsay and, as such unreliable. If we condemn hearsay evidence as unreliable in our court systems why should it be sufficient to establish the existence of an important historical figure?
The evidence that is usually cited in support for the existence of Jesus comes from the writings of Josephus Flavius who was born in 37AD (some years after the crucifixion) and wrote about the life of Jesus in 93AD, after the Gospels were written. He cited no sources for his materials. Similarly Pliny the Younger (born around 62BC, Tacitus (64AD) and Suetonius (69AD) all wrote about Jesus but without any reference to contemporaneous sources. It is likely they got their information from believers but without sources the passages do nothing more than document a social phenomenon.
In the previous point we mentioned that it is possible that contemporaneous sources existed but have since been destroyed or disappeared. If they did exist it is likely that these three respected historians (Tacitus in particular was known for the high quality of his research and referencing) would have referred to it directly rather than have relied on hearsay.
The Gospels Were Written As Christian Propaganda
To Christians everywhere the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the authoritative sources of the happenings of the life of Christ as written by his disciples, those who knew him best and observed his ministry.
Originally there were many more Gospels. When the final four were settled on as the orthodox account in the second century the other gospels were denounced as heretical. Copies of these ‘spare’ gospels were found in the Dead Sea, and at Nag Hammadi during the previous century but there is no evidence of who wrote them and none appear to be copies of a contemporaneous source. One of these documents, however, the Gospel of Thomas, does appear to predate the Gospel of Mark. It does not contain any reference to Jesus as a historical figure, as the messiah or any reference to the resurrection. It is, instead, a collection of ‘sayings’. It was denounced as heresy.
The fact that the leaders of the early church denounced this original Gospel in favor of four mostly narrative pieces of writing, shows that they were selecting works for the purpose of creating an evidentiary trail for the existence of Jesus.
The Gospels Are Unlikely To Have Been Written By Disciples Who Knew Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark, although the second in the New Testament, was the first to be written, probably around 70AD while the gospel of John was written in around 90AD.
Nowhere in any of the gospels do the authors identify themselves as the disciples and their companions of the same name. The average life expectancy in Judea at the time of Christ and shortly thereafter was around 29-30 years. Although that number is an average and people did live to an old age very few of them made it to 50 (around 4%) and even fewer to 70 (2%). Shortly after the Crucifixion was meant to have taken place the Jewish wars decimated the population of Judea. Many of those who would have known Jesus personally (in the event he had existed) would most likely have been caught up in the war. The disciples were probably about the same age as Jesus or perhaps just a few years younger. This would have made the disciples around 70 years old at the time the Gospel of Mark was written and over 90 at the time John was authored. It is, therefore almost impossible for the disciples to have authored the Gospels. It is far more likely that they were penned by much younger men.
Mark, as the original Gospel appears to have served as the source material for the gospels of Matthew and Luke and there are significant overlaps between those three. Each author changes the narrative slightly to suit the time in which they are writing and the target audience their news is aimed at. John is the most troubling of all the gospels and appears to have been written by a number of different authors.
The Earliest Books Of The New Testament, The Epistles Of Paul, Do Not Ever Refer To Jesus As A Living Being.
The Epistles of St Paul are the earliest books of the New Testament but St Paul did not know Jesus during his supposed lifetime.
St Paul was born in around 10 AD to an Israelite family. He served as a tax collector and was well known for his anti-Christian views and is said to have participated in the stoning of St Stephen. He became one of the most high profile converts to the new religion when he was said to have had a divine vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. He was subsequently baptized and went to Arabia before returning to work on behalf of the early church. He made long journeys around the Mediterranean during which he spread the word and wrote his now famous epistles.
13 of the Epistles, which predate both Acts and the Gospels were included in the New Testament but only 7 of them (Philemon, Romans, Corinthians I, II, Philippians, Thessalonians I and Galatians) are considered to have been written by him directly.
Paul would not, of course, have known Jesus personally but he makes no claim of such knowledge in his epistles. Indeed he makes practically no references to an earthly life for Jesus instead advising fellow Christians on how to live their lives. In this way Paul sets out what it means to be a Christian, creating a framework which has survived to this day.