Jesus and Christian Apologetics.  A class taught by John Oakes PhD 9/26/09, on question, Who is Jesus Christ and evidence that the real Jesus is the Jesus of the gospels.  See the notes below and the attached Power Point.

ppt Power Point Jesus and Christian Apologetics 2.25 Mb


Who was Jesus of Nazareth?

Our recent debate   Jesus: Man, Myth or Messiah?

The trilemma (C. S. Lewis)  Liar, Lord, Lunatic

More modern version (Doug Jacoby)  Liar, Lord, Lunatic, Legend

Ideas about Jesus:  He is




Crazy person


Son of Man

God in the flesh


Man  (ie. mere man)

An important religious leader (among many)

Q:  Specific examples of people or groups of people who accept some of these?

Some of these do not contradict

Example:    Liar and crazy

Sage, prophet, Messiah, God in the flesh.

Robert Price:    Man and Myth      (he was a real person, but his followers made him into a mythical miracle-working, dying-and-raising man/god)

Our Outline:

I  Claims of Jesus

II   Jesus and Other Religious Leaders

III   Extra-Biblical sources on Jesus

IV  The Miracles of Jesus

V  Reliability of the Witnesses

VI  Messianic Prophecies

VII  The Jesus Myth Hypothesis

VIII  Transformed Lives

I.  Claims of Jesus

These claims were made publicly, more often than not in front of hundreds of people, most likely made dozens of times, even if we only have one or two records of the claim.

1.  I am the subject of the Old Testament!  John 5:39  "These are the scriptures that testify about me."     Imagine the audacity in the context.

2.  John 6:35f  I am the bread of life.       (I am spiritual food which, when eaten, will result in eternal life v. 40   6:44   I will raise him up    v 51  I am the living bread   v 54  I will raise him up.

            a. Note how Jesus backed up this claim  John 6:1-15

3.   Jn 8:49-59 and Jn 10:27-33   Jesus claimed to be God.

            Jn 8:58   "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!"  Here of course, Jesus is referring directly back to Exodus 3:14.

            a. Note the response 8:59 At this they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds

            John 10:30   I and the Father are one.  

a. Out of context, we could debate the implications, but look what happened.

    10:31-32   Again, the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them,  "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.  For which of these do you stone me?"   "We are not stoning you for any of these," Replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

4.  A life without sin.   John 8:46     Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?

            a. Note their response.   "Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"     Accusing him of being crazy or attacking his heritage.  Not very rational!

5.  I am the resurrection and the life.  John 11:25  "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even if he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

            a. Note how Jesus backed this up.  Jn 11:38-44.    Lazarus come out.

            b. Note hundreds of witnesses.    Note the response was either to believe in Jesus or to want to kill him.     Jn 11:45-48.

6.  I am the only way to God.  No other way.   John 14:6

Q:   Other claims?  (most will perhaps fall into a previous category)

7.  Forgive sins.  Mark 2:1-12  "Son, your sins are forgiven."

            a. He’s blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone.

The point:   anyone making these claims is either crazy, a liar or…..

Is there any evidence Jesus was crazy?   Does anyone claim this?

Mark 3:22-30  His family: "He is out of his mind."

                        Rabbis: "He is possessed by a demon."

                        Jesus:  This is totally illogical

Is there any evidence Jesus was a liar?   What do liars do?

Two possibilities:  Either Jesus made these claims or he did not.   If he did not, then he is, at least in some sense a "myth."

If he did, then he is who he claimed to be, unless we can prove he is a liar or a crazy person.


Claim of Jesus


Hearer’s Response

Fulfilled all the O.T. prophecies of the Messiah

John 5:39

Refused to come to him

I am the bread of life

John 6:35


A life without sin

John 8:46

Jesus is demon-possessed (crazy)

I AM God

John 8:58

Attempted to stone him

I and the Father are one

John 10:30

Attempted to stone him

I am the resurrection and the life

John 11:25

Plotted to murder him

I am the only way to God

John 14:6

No negative response (Jesus talking to disciples)

II.  Jesus and other religious leaders.  

What did Buddha, Mohammed, etc. claim about themselves and what did their immediate followers claim about them?

Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) about 567-487  BC

Claimed to be a wise teacher.   Did NOT claim to work miracles.   Did NOT claim to be God.   Did NOT claim to be a prophet, per se.  Did not claim to be perfect.

Muhammed  AD 570-632  

Claimed to be a prophet.   Claimed to receive revelation directly from an angel.   Did NOT claim to be God.   Did NOT claim to be able to work miracles.   Did NOT claim to be perfect (but Muslims are a bit shaky on this)

Zoroaster (Zarathustra)  Founder of Zoroastrianism.   (about 1000 BC, but we do not know plus or minus a few centuries when or where he lived.  Maybe in Eastern Iran, maybe in central Asia)   We do not know when or how he died.   In fact, he may very well be a completely legendary figure.    Claims: a prophet and good teacher.

Moses (about 1460-1380 BC?)    Claimed to be a prophet.  Claimed to receive knowledge directly from God.   Did claim to work miracles.   Did NOT claim to be perfect.   Did NOT claim to be God.

Lao Tzu  Similar claims to those of the Buddha

Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White, Joseph Smith, Baha’Ullah   All claimed to be prophets and to provide inspired teaching.   Did NOT claim to work miracles.   Did NOT claim to be God.   Joseph Smith did claim that parts of the OT were about him and he did make claims which gave him an almost messiah-like figure.

Bottom line, Jesus is the only figure in the entire history of mankind who has made such outrageous claims who has ever been taken seriously by more than a tiny lunatic fringe.

Jesus is very different.   In fact, Jesus is completely unique.

The only figures Jesus is even slightly similar to is completely mythical "people."

III.  What do we know about Jesus from extra-Biblical sources?

Extra-Biblical references to Jesus:

1. Tacitus, Roman historian  (AD 56-118)(about AD 115 concerning Nero in AD 64);

Not all the relief that could come from the man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of bbeing believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome.  Therefore, to squelch the rumor, Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called ‘Christians,’ [a group] hated for their abominable crimes.  Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.  Suppressed for the moment, the deadly superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the land which originated this evil, but also in the city of Rome, where all sorts of horrendous and shameful practices, from every part of the world converge and are fervently cultivated.

Annals 15.44

(note:  Tacitus has it wrong.  He was prefect, not a procurator acc to the Pilate inscription from Caesarea Maritima.  Also note:  The Annals have lost the years 29-32 which most likely also mention Jesus as this passage seems to look back to his earlier mention of Jesus)

Tacitus probably reports from second hand information regarding Christians in Rome and in Asia Minor where he served AD 112

2.  Flavius Josephus (AD 38-100) Writing about AD 94 under Domitian.  Concerning events he had indirect knowledge of.  Josephus was a Pharisee.  Jewish historian who was a turncoat, switching from the Jewish rebel side to Rome to serve under Nero and Vespasian.  Josephus is a relatively reliable historian.

The "Testimonium Flavium" (Antiquities 18:3.3)

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly.  He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.  He was the Messiah.  When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.  On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.  And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

Agapius, an Arab Christian in 9th century probably quotes the original, leaving out the parts in parenthesis.  Note the passage reads grammatically well without the parts in parenthesis.

There is little doubt that Josephus wrote the passage as it presents Jesus in a light Christians would never accept. 

Note:  Josephus also reports the martyrdom of "James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ"   (Antiquities 20:20)

3.  Babylonian Talmud  (late first or second century AD)  Babylonian Sanhedrin43a-b   

On the eve of the Passover they hanged Yeshu and the herald went before him for forty days saying [Yeshu] is going forth to be stoned in that he hate practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel

It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that "[Yeshu] is going to be stoned for practicing witchcraft, for enticing and leading Israel astray. Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him." But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover. Ulla said: Would one think that we should look for exonerating evidence for him? He was an enticer and G-d said (Deuteronomy 13:9) "Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him." Yeshu was different because he was close to the government

Here Jesus is accused of sorcery, in obvious parallel with the charge leveled in Matthew 12:22-23.

    Babylonian Sanhedrin107b  Jesus practiced magic.   tHul2:22-23  Healings done in the name of Jesus.

So we have confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus and indirect confirmation of his working of public miracles-only charging that the miracles were worked by Satan, not God.

4. Seutonius about AD 120  Very reliable historian wrote concerning the times of Claudius about AD 50  

"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he Claudius) expelled them from Rome"

5.  Lucian of Samosata  Social commentator and critic of Christianity

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day-the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…  You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and life after his laws.        (Lucian The Death of Peregrine 11-13)

6.  Pliny the Younger  AD 112  Writing to Emperor Trajan.

Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ – none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do – these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ

7.  Celsus  (mentioned in Origen Contra Celsus 1:38 and 2:48).   A Greek philosopher and bitter critic of Christianity.  He accepted that Jesus worked miracles, but contended that he did so by the power of Satan.

8.  Mara bar Sarapion

The pagan philosopher Mara bar Sarapion wrote a letter to his son in which he mentions Jesus as the wise king of the Jews. Mara was a Syrian Stoic.  He describes the fall of Jerusalem as the gods’ punishment for the Jews having killed Jesus. Mara includes Jesus as one of three wise men, along with Socrates and Pythagoras, who were killed and whose deaths were met with divine retaliation. Jesus is not named in the letter but referred to as the Jews’ "wise king." Mara refers to Jesus as primarily a lawgiver, with no mention of his resurrection.

The number of Pagan sources for Jesus Christ among contemporaries or within 100 years:  9

The number of Pagan sources for Tiberius among contemporaries or within 100 years:  9 (or 10 if you count Luke)

Christian sources:  (33 before AD 150)

Clement of Rome (about AD 100)

Ignatius (about AD 110)

Papias  (Ecc History, Eusebius)   Collected his information in the early 90s.  Met eye-witnesses, almost certainly including John.

…if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders – that is, what according to the elders Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying.

Quadratus  Wrote an apology to Hadrian about  AD 117-124

…if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders – that is, what according to the elders Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying.

IV. Jesus and miracles.  

Four possibilities:

1.  He neither worked miracles at all, nor claimed to work miracles.

2.  He claimed to work great miracles, but was a charlatan.

3.  He worked genuine miracles, but he was a sorcerer/worked for Satan.

4.  He worked genuine miracles.

If Jesus worked miracles then which possibilities are ruled out?

Man, Myth, Liar, Crazy person

Look at the Mishna:    alternative 1 is ruled out.

It seems impossible to explain the growth of the church, the change in the apostles unless Jesus did in fact work miracles.

The Jews expected the Messiah to work miracles.   4Q5:21 Dead Sea Scrolls

Reasons to believe that Jesus did in fact work wonders, signs and miracles.

1. A great number of the miracles were done publicly, often in front of the greatest skeptics and harshest critics of Jesus.

Acts 2:22 "As you yourselves know."

2. There were tens of thousands of eyewitnesses from every background to these events.

3. The apostles openly proclaimed that Jesus worked a great variety of miracles during the lifetime of those who could have refuted the claims. This is a matter of historical record. (This fact is a notable exception to the claims the believers in other great religious leaders have made.)

4. Both Roman and Jewish histories report at least the general fact that Jesus worked "wonders."   (Josephus, Talmud)

5. Because the wonders and signs of Jesus were common knowledge, the Pharisees and Rabbis in the time period in question tended to claim Jesus did his signs by the power of demons, rather than refute that the miracles occurred.

6. Those who recorded the miracles most carefully and thoroughly (the gospel writers) have every appearance of being absolutely reliable and from eyewitnesses.


V.   Reliablility of the witnesses.

Might the gospel writers be liars?

•a.       If not, then liar, lunatic and man are ruled out.

Quality of the witnesses.

(example of the "witnesses" of the Book of Mormon)

The Three Witnesses were Oliver Crowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer,  whose joint testimony, in conjunction with a separate statement by the Eight Witnesses, has been printed with nearly every edition of the Book of Mormon since its first publication in 1830. All three witnesses eventually broke with Smith and were excommunicated from the church. In 1838, Joseph Smith called Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer "too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them." In later years, all three testified to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon and, at least near the end of their lives, all were members of one denomination or another of the Latter Day Saints.

The Eight Witnesses were the second of the two groups of "special witnesses" to the Book of Mormon’s golden plates.  They were all members of the Whitmer or Smith families:  Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr. John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith Sr. Hyrum Smith and Samuel Harrison Smith.  Joseph Smith Sr. was Joseph’s father, and Hyrum and Samuel H. Smith were his brothers. Christian, Jacob, Peter Jr. and John were David Whitmer’s brothers, and Hiram Page was his brother-in-law.  Unlike the Three Witnesses, the Eight testified that they both saw and handled the plates. Another difference is that the Eight testified they were shown the plates by Joseph Smith rather than by an angel as had the Three Witnesses. Christian Whitmer died in 1835 and his brother Peter Whitmer, Jr. died the following year. In 1838, the surviving Whitmers became estranged from Joseph Smith Jr. during a leadership struggle in Far West, Missouri,  and all were excommunicated with other dissenters and fled Caldwell County after receiving an ultimatum from the Danites. None of the Whitmers ever rejoined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although none of the Eight Witnesses is known to have denied his testimony to the authenticity of Book of Mormon or the golden plates, in 1838 a former Mormon leader, Stephen Burnett, claimed Martin Harris had told him that "the eight witnesses never saw [the plates] & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it.

All the "witnesses" to the original Book of Mormon later apostasized.

Romans 5:6-8   Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die…..

Martyrdoms    1.  James, brother of Jesus confirmed by Josephus  Antiquities xx.9.1

2. Apostle James (Acts 12:1-2) 

3. Peter and Paul sufficiently well attested at a sufficiently early date to be almost certain

4. Traditionally, all the apostles but John

Will anyone die for a lie?

Will every single bogus eye-witness hold to it until death?

500+ eye-witnesses to the resurrection.   Paul (AD 55 1 Cor 15:6 almost seems to be saying, "I dare you.  Ask them."

Will hundreds of eye-witnesses refuse to change their story, even upon pain of death?

Do liars make up lots of specifics which can readily be refuted by enemies or do they give as few specifics as possible.

Even most fair-minded skeptics acknowledge that the early church believed he resurrected.

The embarrassment factor.   Peter denies Jesus, James and John vie to be on the right and left hand of Jesus.   All three want to call down fire on Capernaeum.   All deny Jesus.  Thomas refuses to believe the resurrection.

Unnecessary details.   Details such as the 30 pieces of silver naming the owner of the tomb and so forth were written and circulated in Jerusalem while thousands of witnesses, including non-believers were still alive.

Date of writing.

1 Corinthians   55AD

Mark, probably the earliest.   Those who do not believe in biblical inspiration put it at or just after AD 70.  This is because of its rather obvious prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.    The problem is that, as Eusebius reports, the Christians in Jerusalem were well aware of Jesus’ prophecy and, because of it, fled Jerusalem when the Romans came and surrounded the city as prophesied.

More likely in the early 60s AD or possibly even the late 50s AD.

Matthew and Luke also pre-AD 70

Luke post AD 63 pre AD 70

Could we start a false rumor in San Deigo about who was mayor in 1978?

NT authors:  evidence of independent witnesses.    If all the same…    If contradictory….

Are the letters in red an exact quote of Jesus?   No!   He spoke in Aramaic, not Greek.   Rather they are faithful renderings, in Greek, of the things Jesus said and did.

Luke as an historian.   (important to some extent because Luke is not an eye-witness, as are the other gospel writers).

He records more than ninety-five places and dozens of rulers.  In every case we can verify from outside sources, he gets the name of the person and even the title right, when these are very difficult to get right in the confusing world of Roman rulers in the Near East. 

Therefore since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3,4)

There is hardly a single historical detail in Luke or Acts that has not been challenged for its accuracy by one skeptic or another. Luke’s writings hold up just fine to the criticism. For example, consider Luke 2:1-3.

In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

1.  Census

2. Go to own town to register

3. Quirinius governor or Syria

Claim:   Augustus did not call a census

              People would not be required to travel for the census

              Quirinius was not governor (Josephus:  AD 6)

Augustus decreed censuses  22 BC 8 BC and 6 AD

An inscription in Egypt:   "Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them."

Quirinius was governor of Syria beginning in AD 6 during which he brought about a census, as reported by Josephus.

Quirinius was consul and governor of Galatia and Cilicia with broad powers (a larger area of which Syria may have been considered part) in 5 BC.

Being the careful historian that he was Luke dated the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry as follows:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. (Luke 3:1-3)


1. No evidence of Pilate as prefect of Judea.  (Pilate inscription, 1961 Caesarea Maritima)

                        "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea."

2. Herod a king, not a tetrarch.      Confirmed.

3. Lysanias.   Records showed a Lysanius who ruled in the area and was killed in 36 BC.

An inscription was found in Abila, near Damascus, which reads, "Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch." This inscription has been dated to between ad 14 and 29.

In fact, Luke named thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without error. He specifically said that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia and that Iconium was not (Acts 14:6). Cicero, the great Latin debater, stated that Iconium was in Lycaonia, causing some to claim that Luke had made another mistake. Sorry, Cicero, but an inscription found by Sir William Ramsay in 1910 confirmed that Iconium was in Phrygia, not Lycaonia. Cicero may be excused for his mistake, as he was not an historian, but Luke proves to be an historian of the first rank.

Luke and Caiaphas:    Caiaphas is the one who charged and convicted Jesus.

Caiaphas was high priest from AD 18-36 (requiring him to make many compromises with the Romans)

The tomb of Caiaphas and his ossuary were discovered in 1990.

 "Caiaphas, Joseph, son of Caiaphas."

Sir William Ramsay, the great archaeologist began as a skeptic of Luke in particular and of the New Testament in general.

I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.[1]

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.[2]

Archaeology and Jesus:

1. Pilate Inscription Cesaerea Maritima 1961.   Confirms that Pilate was in fact Procurator of Judea under Tiberius.

2. Anna’s Tomb   High Priest AD 6-15.   Jesus went to him before his trial before his son Caiaphas.  

3. Caiaphas Ossuary    High Priest AD 18-36      His family’s tomb and an ossuary bearing his name, Joseph Caiaphas were found south of Jerusalem’s walls.

4.  Heel of a crucified Jew named Jehohanan found north of Jerusalem.   His bones were found in an ossuary in 1968, showing that it is not inconceivable that a crucified man might be given an honorable burial.

5. Tombs reminiscent of Jesus’ tomb.

VI.  Messianic prophecies.

From the very beginning, the apostles and evangelists claimed that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of the Messiah.   If this is true, it certainly validates that Jesus was not just a man.

Acts  2  Peter quotes several prophecies concerning the Messiah.  (Psalms 110:1, Psalm 16:8-11)

 Acts 3:18  "But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that the Christ would suffer."   v. 24    Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days.

Acts 4:11  Uses Psalm 118:22    The stone the builders have rejected.

1 Cor 15:3-4  "according to the scriptures."

They did not invent the idea that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies 50 years later as critics claim.

Jesus is the one the Jews were waiting for.   He is the Messiah.

•n      Questions:

•n      Are the messianic prophecies?

••        Were they written beforehand (or were they Christian interpolations)

••        Is the fulfillment attested to outside the NT?

••        Did Jesus do this to support his messianic claims?

Isaiah 53:1-12.    Despised, rejected, silent when accused and pierced.

Micah 5:2    Born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 9:1   From the land of Zebulun and Naphtali

Psalms 22:14-18    crucified, garments divided and gambled over

Zechariah 11:12-13    betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, money thrown to the potter.

Daniel 9:24-25   The Messiah to come to Jerusalem about AD 33.

Add to this historical foreshadows and prefigures such as Abraham offering his son Isaac and Jonah being in the heart of the fish for 3 days.

•¨     Prophet, Priest and King

•¨     One like Moses (Deut 18:17-19)

•¨     Genesis 22  Abraham and Isaac

•¡        Raised from the dead on the 3rd day 1 Cor 15:4 , Heb 11:19

•¨     Moses and the snake (Numbers 21:4-9)

•¨     Jonah (Matthew 12:39-40)

•¨     Joseph

•¨     David

VII.   The Jesus Myth Myth


Jesus may well have been an actual person who was a controversial religious teacher and who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago.  He may even have been killed by the Romans under Pontius Pilate around AD 30, but most of what is claimed about Jesus is mythical/legendary material interpolated onto him after he died based on other parallel mythical ideas from the surrounding pagan religious ideas.

In other words, Jesus is like King Arthur or Robin Hood or Romulus.  Probably a real person, but almost nothing said about him is true.

For this to work, he must be almost totally mythical.

Robert Price:   Not even sure he actually lived.    Accounts of him feeding 5000 are taken from the story of Elisha.

Supposed mythical parallels to Jesus:   God/man   dying and rising savior myths.

Adonis (Greek)

Osiris (Egypt)

Tammuz (Egypt)

Dionysus (Greek)

Mithra (Persia)

Krishna (India)

Appolonius of Tyana








Parallels:   miraculous birth,  tested by demons, worked miracles, execution on a hilltop, betrayal by brothers, 12 disciples, killed, raised from dead, ascension.

Problems with this view:

1.  It requires cherry picking.   If you have hundreds of myths, you can scan them all for supposed parallels.  No single myth has much at all parallel to Jesus.

2.  Most of these stories were written AFTER Jesus (the only one which for sure predates Jesus is Osiris).   Who stole from whom?   Most come from the first few centuries AD when the story of Jesus had become quite influential.

3.  Most of these "people" never lived!  Only Appolonius, Peregrinus and (maybe) Romulus and Empodocles even lived.  Two of them after Jesus.

Jacoby to Price:   Which are your favorite parallels which prove the Jesus story is literary rather than historical.

Price:   Appolonius of Tyana and Osiris

Osiris:   An Egyptian god/man.  Very obviously a mythical figure.

Killed by his brother.   Body cut up into 13 pieces.   His wife Isis reassembles and sews back together 12 of the 13 pieces (see the parallel to the apostles?)   He comes back to life and goes to rule in the underworld to judge the living and dead.

Appolonius of Tyana.  (ca 15-100 AD)  A miracle worker.   A Pythagorean in the city of Tyana in 1st century AD.   Saves a friend in Corinth.  Predicts a plague in Ephesus.  Says:  stone this beggar to death to end the plague.   The do so, and when they remove the stones they find a large dog who was the cause of the plague.   Appolonius disappears and is never seen again.

No death.  No resurrection.  No ascension.  

Only one very unreliable source by Philostratus.   Completed about AD 230.  A literarly fiction.   No eye witness testimony.  He is probably a real person who had a group of followers.  His followers claimed that he worked miracles, but Philostratus’s book may well have been written to make Appolonius a rival of Jesus.

Empodocles:   Died at 60 years of age.   Jumped into Mt. Aetna.  He rises up in the fire and ascends to the moon, living on the dew on the moon.

Did the Christians steal the resurrection from Osiris?   Is it believable that Jews would make up the story of Jesus’ resurrection, modeling it on Osiris, to make Jesus into something he was not?

Are ANY of these parallels?

No parallel to the idea of a god-made-man dying for the sins of the people to save them from their sins, then resurrecting from the dead and ascending to heaven to be with God.

Nothing even close to this.

Robert Price:   "Gnostic writers put a truck load of their own sayings in the mouth of Jesus."

Did early Christians do this sort of thing?  Yes.

Acts of Peter (3rd century)   Peter squares off with Simon Magus.   A dog tells Simon Magus to repent.   Jesus raises a smoked fish to life.

Gospel of Thomas.   Jesus works whacky miracles as a baby which seem quite silly.   Jesus kills a child for carelessly bumping into him.

Christians took stories in the Old Testament of Greek sources and attributed them to Jesus.

Jesus sending demons into the pigs and they run into the lake is parallel with a story in the Odyssey of Homer.

Feeding 5000 taken from the story of Elisha.  


The idea that the Jesus of the gospel is an interpolated myth simply does not hold up to the evidence.   Purported parallels do not hold up to scrutiny.   Even if they did, all the evidence point to the historical veracity of the NT accounts.

VIII   Transformed lives.

•¨     Jesus has had more influence on human history than any other person.

How to explain the radical change of these "unschooled, ordinary men?"

•¨     How to explain the vitality and growth of a religious movement started by uneducated, ordinary men.

•¨     Millions of lives transformed by a personal experience with Jesus Christ.


[1] Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul, the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1920).

[2] Sir William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (Hodder

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