Where’s the Historical Evidence for Jesus?

This post by Dr. David E. Lee originally appeared at Real Truth About Religion.

The Fact Is… there is no extra-biblical evidence that Jesus existed, not one iota of evidence anywhere at all. Although there were over 40 major contemporary historians that produced a voluminous amount of literature in one of the most well documented periods of history, as well as the Romans who recorded everything, there is no mention whatsoever of the New Testament Jesus other than the New Testament Bible.

The following verses from the New Testament were devised to deceive us into believing that Jesus was a very famous and important person of the time, as he surely would have been had he actually lived and the things attributed to him were true.

Matthew 4:24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.

Matthew 9:26 News of this spread through all that region

Matthew 14:1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus.

Matthew 28:15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Mark 1:28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Luke 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Luke 4:37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Luke 5:15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.

Luke 7:17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jerusalem was a major trade route at that time, so if what the bible says about Jesus was true, his miracles would have certainly come to the attention of foreign travelers and been recorded somewhere. It was also under Roman control and the Romans documented everything of even minute importance that took place within their empire. It was also under the scrutiny of the governor Herod, who was in charge of tax collection for Rome, of which one of the above text claims Herod had received reports about Jesus. Yet no one recorded a single word about him.

It is true that the Romans later suppressed and destroyed practically every religious and philosophical writing in existence that opposed their sanctioned christian doctrines, but they would have had no cause to suppress information about the Jesus figure. They were the ones who invented the “Jesus is God in the flesh” fraud in the first place. For info on this please refer to the video “Caesar’s Messiah” on my blog post Who Invented Christianity. Irregardless, they certainly chronicled other Jewish rabble rousers of the time.

Christian apologist can only point to these four sources in their desperate attempt to manufacture extra-biblical literary evidence for Jesus (and hope to retain a hint of credibility) and these writers were not even alive during his supposed lifetime. They are Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius. Yet, these sources are nothing more than pious fraud. They are either forgeries or are tortured to misrepresent the truth.

Why there are no records of Jesus Christ

It is not possible to find in any legitimate religious or historical writings compiled between the beginning of the first century and well into the fourth century any reference to Jesus Christ and the spectacular events that the Church says accompanied his life.

This confirmation comes from Frederic Farrar (1831-1903) of Trinity College, Cambridge:

“It is amazing that history has not embalmed for us even one certain or definite saying or circumstance in the life of the Saviour of mankind … there is no statement in all history that says anyone saw Jesus or talked with him. Nothing in history is more astonishing than the silence of contemporary writers about events relayed in the four Gospels.” (The Life of Christ, Frederic W. Farrar, Cassell, London, 1874)

This situation arises from a conflict between history and New Testament narratives.

Dr Tischendorf made this comment:

“We must frankly admit that we have no source of information with respect to the life of Jesus Christ other than ecclesiastic writings assembled during the fourth century.” (Codex Sinaiticus, Dr Constantin von Tischendorf, British Library, London)

There is an explanation for those hundreds of years of silence: the construct of Christianity did not begin until after the first quarter of the fourth century, and that is why Pope Leo X (d. 1521) called Christ a “fable” (Cardinal Bembo: His Letters…, op. cit.).

Reprinted with permission from the author.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting observations!

    Of course, both of the scholars cited in this piece were writing before major discoveries of the 20th century, like the gnostic/apocryphal writings found at Nag Hammadi or the discovery of the lost Gospel of Judas, for example.

    So while their honesty with respect to Biblical criticism is praiseworthy, the rich scholarship of the 20th and early 21st century provides a much more detailed roadmap of the first three centuries of proto-Christian development.

    While it is difficult to follow the mythicists down the extremely skeptical path of asserting the complete fabrication of the existence of the historical Jesus, the paucity of corraborative evidence — and any contemporary evidence at all, really! — should really give one pause… and so much more than *pause*!

    If we were able to demonstrate with overwhelming certainty that the historical Jesus did, in fact, exist, we will only have begun scratching the surface of what we could really know about him — and we’d be very far from demonstrating any of the evangelical claims made about him in our hagiographic sources…

    VERY FAR, INDEED!

    • Yes, the scholars' comments cited were written before the discovery of the Gnostic gospels and etc. However, their conclusion is as accurate as ever. No documents have ever been discovered to negate their findings.

    • I will agree that there are more Christian documents known but they have the same problems as what is found in the New Testament. They were written anonymously Not one was written while the character, Jesus, was reported living. At best, if they claim to be historical, all information is hearsay. The Greek Gospel of Mark, the first gospel written, was an allegorical rewriting of the Oddesey. The Apostal Paul never met the Jesus he writes about. Having no historical evidence that the character, Jesus, ever existed, I have to conclude, the New Testament is pious fiction.

    • If you would actually do some research you to would learn what the writer of this article knows… the reference you make to Josephus mentioning Jesus has been proven to be a fraud and a later addition to the text. Research…

  2. There's always one who posts to the contrary, a deep seeded belief indoctrinated as a child. Try posting the truth of what you believe, show the evidence to back your claim.
    None, to date can show without a doubt of any existence of a said jesus. A book of fiction re-written many times isn't proof.
    Ask yourself, what will be written about you 300+ years after your death?

    • I agree. The evidence, or in this case the lack of, freaks Christians out. And they will try to deceive by grabbing at straws to try to create doubt.

    • Oh Goodness! I doubt anyone will say anything about me 300 years after my death and if they did I would probably cringe in horror

  3. I find it very peculiar that some of you are more concerned with the spelling of one word than the content of the article. This speaks volumes in regard to your values and perspective.

    • No, it says NOTHING about their values and perspective. I happen to agree, that to be taken seriously in an academic-type article, it's not best to use entirely wrong words, like "irregardless". I happen to agree 100% with the author, but the use of the word still pisses me off just a tiny bit.

  4. Would a photo convince you? If hundreds of 1st century, eye witness accounts don't, nothing will. These people had nothing to gain by lying, every one of them was martyred or became refugees, leaving everything behind and fleeing for their lives.

    1 Corinthians 15:5-7 "and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles."

    Acts 3:15 "You killed the Author of Life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact."

    • There are no eyewitness accounts, even in the Bible. Get an education. The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written ANONYMOUSLY in the NAMES of the characters long after the death of the supposed Jesus – as was the style at the time. Get an education! Even famous Bible scholar Bart Ehrman finally had to admit that the Bible is just a bunch of folklore. Why? Because he had the courage to study the actual history, unlike the gullible masses.

  5. Interesting. I understand there is vastly more evidence of the life and teaching of the Buddha (from an earlier period, too) than of the Christ.
    However, both sides of this argument might consider the Buddha's advice that it is not what you believe that matters, it is what you do.

    Have compassion for all creatures.

    • Teresa, whaaa???
      Billy Graham was a nut. You think Jesus was reincarnated as a nut?
      Even in the awfully intolerant Bible, Jesus comes across as a fairly mild character most of the time. Billy Graham was an intolerant hater… not exactly the best fit.

  6. I find plenty of evidence from non Christian sources that the historical Jesus did exist
    Do your own research, but it’s there
    I am a pagan, I have no axe to grind either way

    • If you had genuinely studied the "non-Christian sources", like Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius, you would not say that. Their words mentioning Jesus are either later Christian scribal interpolations, or just indirect comments about some people who were said to be his followers. I've done my thorough research, and as an former evangelical missionary who is now an atheist, I'd be willing to bet you have NOT studied those four non-Christian sources. If you've got "plenty of evidence", then it's time to post it right here.

      • And Josephus was a tool of the Flavian Roman emperors – a Jew who was adopted by the Emperor Vespasian (hence the Romanisation of his original Jewish name), and went to live in Vespasian's palace in Rome. What he wrote was basically propaganda designed to legitimise the Roman conquest of Judaea and Israel, and to persuade the jews to accept it. He wasn't even born when Jesus is supposed to have lived.

  7. The argument for a lack of documented evidence of the historical existence of Jesus is strong, but it often overlooks two basic facts.

    The first is that the spread of the Christian faith by the end of the 1st century is well-documented and has to have been based on something, if not necessarily on the real existence of an individual by the name of Jesus.

    The second fact stems from an important aspect of pagan Rome and its belief in fame as a form of immortality. The author of this piece writes, erroneously, that while "[it] is true that the Romans later suppressed and destroyed practically every religious and philosophical writing in existence that opposed their sanctioned christian doctrines, […]they would have had no cause to suppress information about the Jesus figure."

    In reality they would have had every reason to suppress information about Jesus, for the simple reason that he was viewed as a subversive, and if the writer had even a superficial knowledge of ancient Rome, he would know this. The reason lay specifically in the Roman notion of damnatio memoriae, whereby the institutions of society would do everything in their power to negate the memory of undesirable individuals, thus depriving them of any chance of immortality. Indeed the vast outpouring of Christian writings and testimonials in the centuries that followed could, hypothetically, be viewed as an attempt to overcome, on a do-it-yourself, "underground" basis–and the early Christians were very much possessed of an "off-the-grid" mentality–the official destruction of the memory of the person constituting the object of their worship.

    Failure to take into account these plausible factors undermines the credibility of the author, whose argument here suffers from a strong element of petitio principii.

  8. in addition to the referenced already cited in other comments (IE Josephus and various Roman sources). The fact that there are references in Jewish Rabbinical writings in the centuries following. Certainly if there was evidence of his (IE "Jesus" ) the Rabbis would have left it for us, particularly the scholars based in various Talmudic Schools in Mesopotamia which were outside of the reach of Roman Authorities. It makes more sense to believe that the reactions of so many in the early centuries was based on some actual events rather than the idea that everything was made up by the Romans. Certainly much WAS made up by the Romans who were to add concepts and ideas to the story that even the original "gospel writers did not assert (for example-the "trinity"). But to assert without any evidence to the contrary, that when there was "smoke" without any fire behind it is assuming that we should believe the theory of the non-existence of Jesus "by faith" alone. If one were to seriously delve into legitimate "biblical" scholarship, see where translations of "New Testament" material had been mistakenly or deliberately altered, it would be clear that these texts stemmed from original documents written prior to official Roman control and re-direction of the material….Another thing that the author might explore would have been a thorough study of Torah (including Talmud) and Judaic "mystical" literature and philosophy and thence become aware that the (of "Jesus") teachings and likely sayings were much in keeping with a real Jewish Sage of the time. And historical references to the more Judaic "Church of Jerusalem" headed by "James the Just" and their "Ebionite" successors fits into the scenario of an actual personage.

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