Scholar Bart D. Ehrman says that we have very scanty evidence and documentation of Jesus’ life. Bart D. Ehrman says that Jesus is never mentioned in any Greek or Roman, non-Christian sources until 80 years after his death. There is no record of Jesus having lived in these sources. In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence zero, zip references. In other words, there is no non-Christian evidence from the first century of a “historical Jesus.” Is Bart D. Ehrman right? If so, does that undermine the credibility of the Christianity and our faith?
Ehrman is one of the greatest scholars we have today. He generally presents the facts truthfully and is willing to present evidence that disagrees with his thesis. This is all good, but Ehrman is an unbeliever and he has many rather obvious agendas that he brings to the table. His facts are generally good, but his conclusion are often wrong and often VERY wrong. So, you should read him with a very large grain of salt, despite his prowess as a biblical scholar.
What he says here is nearly accurate, but it is given in a highly prejudicial way. First of all, the statement implies that any Christian source is probably unbelievable, highly biased and should be rejected a priori. What is the reason for anyone to do this? Is there evidence that the writers of the New Testament were lying or were grossly exaggerating? What is that evidence? Is it relevant to note that those who wrote the gospels and the other New Testament documents were checked by people who were still alive who had seen the actual events, and that no Christian would allow a lie to enter into their scripture? Is it relevant that these men clearly believed what they wrote, since all of them were willing to die rather than admit any error or fraud? Ehrman simply ignores these questions and states a fact that is highly prejudicial against the reliability of the New Testament.
And what he says is not even correct, although it is nearly correct. Josephus wrote about 70 years after the events, not 80 years. Also, there is a man named Thallus who wrote in the 50’s AD about the darkness that came over the land, explaining that is was in fact a solar eclipse. Ehrman ignores him because he is quoted by another author in the third century and we do not have the original, but, nevertheless he is technically wrong a second time due to this example.
The fact is that the Christian movement was fairly small in the first century–perhaps totaling fifty to one hundred thousand in the Roman world. We do not have a lot of writing from this period and we can assume that an unlimited variety of things happened that are not recorded by Roman or Jewish authors. However, the life of Jesus is actually noted by dozens of authors in the first century. although all but two of them we know were believers. That is true. By the early part of the second century, when Christianity began to be a force to be reckoned with, probably passing well beyond 100,000 members, then Romans take quite a bit of note of them.
Ehrman states that Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek historian. This is an error. Luke is clearly a trained historian, given his approach to his gospel and Acts, and he was Greek. Of course, Ehrman ignores Luke, as he does all Christians, despite any qualifications they might have. He also says that there were no Greek religious scholars who mention Jesus. What about Paul? He is clearly a well-qualified religious scholar, as he was trained by Gamaliel, the greatest Jewish teacher of his day. Again, Ehrman, in his biased way, ignores Paul. He says that the name Jesus is not found in any correspondence. What about the correspondence between Paul and Timothy? Was that not correspondence? Again, the rather obvious bias of Ehrman comes out here. Christians do not count in his mind.
Ehrman makes the logical fallacy of using lack of evidence for evidence of lack. That he is using a period in the ancient past makes this particularly problematic. And besides he wants us to ignore the Christian testimony which is considerable and which, as far as we know, was extremely reliable, given the historical reliability of Luke, for example. What is Ehrman trying to imply? That Jesus did not exist? That Peter and John are lying about his miracles? If he has a thesis he ought to state it. Instead, he publishes a nearly true statement and lets the implications remain unknown so as to spread doubt among believers. I do not appreciate this at all, despite my admiration of the scholarship of Ehrman. My response is that his comments do not undermine reasonable faith in the Jesus of the Bible one tiny bit. Ehrman has an insidious agenda, which should not be ignored by either believer or non-believer.
Again, what he says is true, mostly, but not actually completely true. But the unstated things he implies are flat out false. You can trust the New Testament much more than Ehrman.