Jesus, the man, the myth and the truth. Did He really exist?

22 January 2020
Topic: Bart , ERhman , exist , Jesus

Speaker: Apostle Ernie

Is Jesus a myth, or did He exist?

How you answer this question depends on what you believe and what you are willing to admit. For us Christians, the answer would be a resounding yes; we know He existed and still exists. Our proof of evidence is the Bible and our personal experiences telling us beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jesus is real.

If you are an atheist, your answer could be a resounding no, or perhaps I am not sure. Proof of evidence for an atheist will never be the Bible and never personal experience. They will instead pick and choose among other atheistic scholars who dont believe He ever existed.

If we as Christians want to prove He is real, we have to come up with other sources than just the Bible. If atheists want to show He is not real, they have to come up with other sources than only other atheistic scholars. Why? Because we as Christians must be able to prove our faith without the use of biased sources. At the same time, atheists must be able to show evidence of their faith without the use of biased sources. We can only convince each other if we are unbiased.

When Jesus lived among us, He was a Jew, born into Jewish culture. If He existed, we would find evidence of His existence in rabbinical literature. To be able to remain unbiased, we have to make sure to discard any literature written by Christians and Jewish believers in the Messiah. We have several Rabbinical writings from the times of Jesus proving there was a Jewish man called Jesus whom the Rabbies believed to be a magician leading people astray.

So this is our evidence nr.1, the rabbis of Jesus day and age confirms He did exist. Their accusation of Jesus being a magician leading people astray confirms the Bible for us. In Matt 23:2, Yeshua tells us not to obey the rabbis, only to follow Moses. So the rabbis would, of course, see Yeshua as someone who was leading people astray telling people not to obey them.

Our other evidence for the existence of Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. In Jewish Antiquities, he mentions the execution of James, the brother of Jesus, who is called Messiah. Few scholars doubt the authenticity of this passage, so we know this is our evidence nr.2.

Josephus mentions Jesus one more time in “Testimonium Flavianum,” where he mentions Jesus, who did miraculous things and was crucified by Pilate. No serious scholars question if this passage is real or not, so we know for sure Josephus wrote about Jesus in “Testimonium Flavianum,” but we dont know exactly what he wrote. Evidence suggests Christians could have altered it and modified it.

What if they modified it to such an extent they changed the text, and Josephus never mentioned Jesus in Testimonium? If that were so, we would still have his text in Jewish antiques where he writes about James, the brother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

The Roman historian Tacitus writes in 116 A.D about Jesus. Writing about the burning of Rome, he mentions how Emperor Nero falsely blamed “the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”

Other Roman sources, proving the existence of Jesus, would be Pliny the Younger and Suetonius.

As we have seen today, no serious scholars questions if Jesus existed or not. The debate instead centers around the question of how to interpret Him and who He was.

In this weeks Shabbat teaching, we will take a closer look at this.