Friday, January 9, 2015

The Historical Existence Of Jesus (Part 2)

Today's post features the same two questions posted yesterday, followed by Thomas' responses to them.

Question 1: For the general public, including Christians, belief in the historical existence of Jesus is more a matter of faith than a certainty. What would you say to those who are hesitant about Jesus’ historical existence to show them that Jesus could have actually existed? And what arguments exist to continue doubting or denying his historical existence?

TWH: The idea that Jesus never existed traces back to some people trained by Lord Bolingbroke in England. Early arguments (and by early I mean 18th-19th centuries) against the historical existence of Jesus can be found in the works of Constantin-Fran├žois Volley and Charles Fran├žois Dupuis, both of whom were French. The big name, though, that espoused Jesus as myth is none other than Bruno Bauer. But think about this. For 1800 years, no one believed that Jesus did not exist. Such a view is a modern belief. I'm not one to bank on consensus, but the overwhelming consensus over the last 2000 years is that Jesus existed. Arguments against that belief hinge on an improper understanding of the nature of the text of the New Testament. In my opinion, there are no valid arguments to continue doubting or denying the historical existence of Jesus Christ. Are there arguments? Sure. Are they valid and trustworthy? No. The common denominator to all of them is the New Testament texts cannot be trusted, and I argue the exact opposite. They can be trusted wholeheartedly.

Question 2: In your opinion, what are the most compelling evidences in favor of the historical existence of Jesus?

TWH: First and foremost, the most compelling evidences are the four Gospels. They are attentive and detailed (although not exhaustive) presentations of the ministry of Jesus Christ. From the human standpoint, these were dedicated individuals who were interested in sharing the significance of Jesus' life and ministry with wider audiences and for the purpose of furthering the influence of the one they now worshipped as Lord and Savior.

Consider the record of Thallos (in Syncellus), Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus (as Antonio pointed out), Josephus (also as Antonio mentioned), Mara bar Serapion, Lucian of Samosata. For a discussion of all of these in their historical contexts, see Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000). Another helpful resource is Graham Stanton's The Gospels And Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

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