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Did Jesus even live or was he just a legend?

By February 25, 2020 2 Comments

Actually, the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus is considered excellent—even by historians who are not Christians. If one doubts the existence of the historical Jesus, then one would have to doubt the existence of nearly every person from ancient history. Scholars are as convinced that Jesus existed as they are that virtually any ancient person existed.

Perhaps no skeptical scholar is as prominent today as Bart Ehrman, an agnostic who is a professor in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While Ehrman is not a Christian and is vocal in disputing God’s existence, Ehrman is emphatic in saying that Jesus undoubtedly lived. In fact, he recently wrote a book on the subject (Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth). Ehrman says, “Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools [“the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe”], none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed” (p. 2).

There are very good reasons why historians are essentially unanimous in accepting that Jesus lived and was crucified by the Romans. Even outside of the Bible, there are over a dozen ancient secular sources that mention Jesus. Some speak of His crucifixion and many give details about the life of Jesus that agree with the Bible. For example, Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, mentions how Jesus was accused and how Pilate had Jesus crucified. The Roman historian Tacitus, also writing in the first century, describes how Christians were blamed for the fire in Rome in 64 AD. Tacitus speaks of how Pilate executed Jesus and how Jesus continued to have followers after His death. For these reasons and others, the existence of Jesus is not controversial today among scholars, even though widespread belief persistently disputes it.

[Click here for another article that discusses many of the references to Jesus from ancient non-Christian sources: Michael Gleghorn, “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.”]

Zach Breitenbach, Assistant Director of Room For Doubt and an adjunct teacher at Lincoln Christian University

Zach Breitenbach

Zach Breitenbach

Zach Breitenbach is the Assistant Director of Room For Doubt and an adjunct teacher at Lincoln Christian University (LCU). He has degrees from N.C. State (BS, MBA), LCU (MA in Apologetics), and Liberty University (PhD in Theology & Apologetics).