Evidence For The Historical Jesus

jesus-reaching-outDr. William Lane Craig answers the Jesus-mythers who deny the existence of the historical Jesus (original source found the man?

There exists not a single contemporary reference to such a character. Not a single genuine artifact. Nothing to substantiate that he ever walked the earth.

We don’t even really have any evidence that those particular individuals – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – actually lived.

He leaves no trace in the historical record.

There is absolutely no historical evidence that Jesus existed, period. Not a single person wrote a single word about him in the time he supposedly lived. Not a single painting. Not a single artifact. He didn’t write anything himself down.

Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, we are taking a look at something that is making the rounds and haunting the blogosphere, and that is that Jesus never existed. One of the articles that is often quoted on this is from Valerie Tarico who writes for AlterNet – “5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed.”[1] The leading headline is “A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity.” This is from September 1, 2014.

Dr. Craig: My initial response to that claim is that if the number grew from 0 to 1 then it might be true to say a growing number of scholars doubts Jesus’ existence. The trouble is, when you read the article, this is one of those things that you just have to roll your eyes at. It hasn’t even increased from 0 to 1. It is still 0. The people that she talks about in this article are people like David Fitzgerald who has written a new sensationalist book on Jesus. He is no scholar. His best credentials is that he has a degree in history from Fresno State, and that may well be a B.A. He is an atheist activist and speaker. So the fact of the matter is that there are no scholars who deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed. People like Robert Price and Richard Carrier that are named in the article do not hold professorships at academic institutions or read papers at scholarly societies or publish with academic presses. There aren’t any bona fide scholars that hold to this extreme and, frankly, silly view.

Kevin Harris: It really is a ridiculous notion. Talk about sensationalist. I would hate to besmirch people’s motivations, but if you say something sensational like this you do get invited on a lot of talk shows and it could help your book.

Dr. Craig: Yes, it is the old man-bites-dog notion. That’s what makes the news.

Kevin Harris: Fitzgerald says that he wanted to correct the errors in the Zeitgeist movie that gave the mythic background and tried to eradicate the existence of Jesus and show “young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.”

Dr. Craig: Even he acknowledges that things like that Zeitgeist movie are irresponsible and inaccurate.

Kevin Harris: It still makes the round, so I’m glad at least there he is saying, “Come on.”

Dr. Craig: So he backs away from that but then continues to make claims just as extreme in the sense that he thinks Jesus never existed and that it is to be explained in some way mythologically, which Valerie never goes into in this article. She never actually gives what their positive account is of how all of this evidence for Jesus of Nazareth came to be if there never was such a person. The article is completely negative in offering what they think are reasons to doubt Jesus existed. Continue reading

Addressing the Fourth Option of Jesus as Legend

Lord, Lunatic…or Legend?

Tom Gilson, in an article entitled “The Gospel Truth Of Jesus – What Happens to Apologetics If We Add “Legend” to the Trilemma “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord”?” writes:

He did not leave us that option: he did not intend to.” Thus C. S. Lewis closes out his famous “Trilemma” argument on the impossibility of Jesus being a great moral teacher and nothing more. The argument is beautiful in its simplicity: it calls for no deep familiarity with New Testament theology or history, only knowledge of the Gospels themselves, and some understanding of human nature. A man claiming to be God, says Lewis, could hardly be good unless he really was God. If Jesus was not the Lord, then (to borrow Josh McDowell’s alliterative version of the argument), he must have been a liar or a lunatic.

The questions have changed since Lewis wrote that, though, and it’s less common these days to hear Jesus honored as a great moral teacher by those who doubt his deity. Today’s skepticism runs deeper than that. The skeptics’ line now is that Jesus probably never claimed to be God at all, that the whole story of Jesus, or at least significant portions of it, is nothing more than legend.

Christian apologists have responded with arguments hinging on the correct dates for the composition of the Gospels, the identities of their authors, external corroborating evidence, and the like. All this has been enormously helpful, but one could wish for a more Lewis-like approach to that new l-word, legend—that is, for a way of recognizing the necessary truthfulness of the Gospels from their internal content alone.

Lewis was always more at home looking at the evidence of the Gospels themselves than at the historical circumstances surrounding them. In one classic essay (variously titled “Fern-Seed and Elephants” or “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism,” depending on where you find it) he delineates the Gospels as true “reportage” rather than fable, and concludes, “The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.” Continue reading