Despite overwhelming evidence, there are still those, such as some vocal atheist groups, who promote the idea that Jesus was no more than a myth. These groups typically target Christian holidays to compare Jesus to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, ignoring the fact that Jesus has been acknowledged by virtually every leading historian.
Do these doubters have a basis for their claims? What evidence is available and to what conclusion does it lead?
- Non-Christian Sources: Nine early non-Christian secular writers mention Jesus as a real person within 150 years of his death. Interestingly, that is the same number of secular writers who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor during Jesus’ time.
- All Non-Biblical Sources: If we were to consider Christian and non-Christian sources, there are 42 who mention Jesus, compared to just ten for Tiberius. Professor Gary Habermas notes, “In total, about one-third of these non-Christian sources date from the first century; a majority originate no later than the mid-second century.” According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus.”
- New Testament Manuscripts: More than 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament dating as early as 17-25 years after Christ testify to Jesus’ reality. Cambridge historian Michael Grant, an atheist, argues that the New Testament should be considered as evidence in the same way as other ancient history. He writes, “If we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.”
- Archaeological Discoveries: Many New Testament details have been confirmed by archaeological discoveries such as the ancient town of Nazareth, and confirmation of biblical characters such as Pilate and Caiaphas. Numerous details cited in the letters of Paul and in the book of Acts by Luke have been verified by archaeologists.
- Historical Impact: The historical impact of Jesus Christ far exceeds that of any other person. No myth or legend could have altered history in the way Jesus has.
For more information, read the Y-Jesus article “Was Jesus a Real Person?”