Skeptics like Robert McNair Price and others says that a historical figure Jesus Christ of the Nazareth of our Christian Bible did not exist. Is there any historical evidences to their claim that a historical figure Jesus Christ of the Nazareth of our Christian Bible did not exist? My question is: Did the historical figure Jesus Christ of the Nazareth exist with 100 percent certainty? Can you please give me an evidence? I want to defend my faith.
I happen to know Robert Price personally because the organization I am president of (Apologetics Research Society) put on a debate between Price and my friend Douglas Jacoby over the very topic you are asking about. The debate is available at www.ipibooks.com Here is a review of the debate. Price Debate Review Price is on the radical edge of scholarship–so far on the edge that it is really debatable to me whether he deserves to be called a legitimate scholar.
Be that as it may, I can say with 100% certainty that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person, that he was born and raised in Galilee, that he was a famous preacher about whom it was claimed that he worked miracles and who was killed by crucifixion in Jerusalem. There are many facts about Jesus that one could argue are debatable. It is not unreasonable to question the factuality of individual events such as the miracle of turning water to wine. However, the set of facts I just listed are all a matter of no possible serious doubt because they are confirmed by many ancient sources, including Roman historian Tacitus, Jewish historian Josephus and several others. I am copying and pasting below some notes on the non-Christian sources about Jesus of Nazareth from the late first and early second century.
Besides, all reasonable scholars, including skeptics, will agree that there is no way to explain the existence of tens of thousands of Christians in Palestine in the mid-first century unless, at the very minimum, Jesus was a real person who really preached and who great numbers believed that he did in fact work miracles and was raised from the dead (note I am saying that these things were believed, not that they were 100% for sure true).
Anyone who questions the existence of Jesus or any of the facts I listed in the previous paragraph is either not well-informed about the facts or has a serious bias which makes their testimony seriosly unreliable.
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.
(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 Chris
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. In the late first century 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.
9. Thallus We know of Thallus only from a third century Christian historian named Julius Africanus. Thallus wrote a three-volume treatise of world history in the 50s AD. In discussing the darkness at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, Julius Africanus mentions that in the 3rd book of Thallus’ history, he mentions the darkness and calls it an eclipse of the sun. Africanus believes that Thallus is wrong—that there was no eclipse at that time. Whether or not this source proves the darkness at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion is debatable, but it does support the idea that even non-Christians were aware of the resurrection as early as the 50s AD—at about the time the first book of the NT was written. It also supports the claim, not necessarily of the darkness having occurred, but of the darkness having been claimed and believed by the Christians.
The number of Pagan sources for Jesus Christ among contemporaries or within 100 years: 9