Existence of Jesus
The existence of Jesus as a real, historical figure has been debated for centuries. Apologists who believe Jesus did actually exist try to use this purported fact to support other claims, such as that he was divine or that his teachings should be followed.
Historical and mythical theories
There are several theories about the origin of stories about Jesus:
- Jesus was deified by later Christians: Jesus historically existed and was a minor preacher who possibly claimed to be a Messiah. This gained the attention of a few fanatical followers, such as Paul the Apostle, who founded Christianity and deified Jesus. This is the mainstream view of scholars but some historians are critical of the methods and evidence used to support it. This view accepts a historical Jesus existed but stories about Jesus are partially or entirely fictional. Proponents of this theory include:
- Christ docetisc myth theory: Jesus was a spiritual (docetisc) being who some experienced in visions, or people pretended to have visions of Jesus. The gospels were an allegory of the spiritual person on Earth (i.e. Jesus was euhemerized). These myths were then taught as if they were true. Proponents of this theory include:
- Christianity is based on pagan religion: The claim that Jesus never existed and the myths about him were taken from pagan religions, such as the god Mithras. While Christianity has clear pagan influences, saying it was primarily based on pagan myths is a fringe view.
- No credible historian argues that the evidence supports Jesus actually being God or even Jesus making that claim (because being son of God or Messiah are separate claims). If there is any scholarship, it is overshadowed by the literalist view.
Many bad arguments are made, both supporting and attacking the Christ myth theories. For this reason, some writers simply argue the evidence does not support the existence of Jesus, and therefore Jesus is ahistorical.
The view held by Biblical literalists, but no credible historians, is that the New Testament is a reliable source.
Contrary to the assumption of many believers, the Bible is not a reliable historical source and Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. The Bible also contains many contradictions. These facts lead virtually every historian to conclude that some or all of the stories about Jesus are myths.
There are various sources that are cited that supposedly support the existence of Jesus. However, these only demonstrate that Christians existed (rather than Jesus) or they are forgeries. These include:
All other sources (Christian and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include: Ignatius (50 - 98? C.E.), Polycarp (69 - 155 C.E.), Clement of Rome (? - circa 160 C.E.), Justin Martyr (100 - 165 C.E.), Tertullian (197 C.E.), Clement of Alexandria (? - 215 C.E.), Origen (185 - 232 C.E.), Hippolytus (? - 236 C.E.), and Cyprian (? - 254 C.E.). All of these are merely hearsay.
- Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com