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The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius was the earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus. Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, means he could not have been an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., even later than the first gospels. Many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius of Caesarea).
The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius was the earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus. Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, means he could not have been an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., even later than the first gospels. Many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius of Caesarea).
Antiquities of the Jews was written sometime after the year 90 C.E. It begins, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and arduously parallels the Old Testament up to the time when Josephus is able to add equally tedious historical recountings of Jewish life during the early Roman period. In Book 18, Chapter 3, this paragraph is encountered (Whiston’s translation):  
Antiquities of the Jews was written sometime after the year 90 C.E. It begins, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and arduously parallels the Old Testament up to the time when Josephus is able to add equally tedious historical recountings of Jewish life during the early Roman period. In Book 18, Chapter 3, this paragraph known as the [[Testimonium Flavian]] is encountered (Whiston’s translation):  
"At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day" (Antiquities 20:200)
"At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day" (Antiquities 20:200)

Revision as of 04:38, 8 December 2011

Mythicism is the general position that Jesus was not a historical person but a legend, and that the gospels were therefore written as works of fiction. William Tell, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood and King Arthur are generally considered non-historical, and mythicists argue that Jesus should be added to this list. The reasons for mythicism are typically arguments from silence and parallels to other known myths.



  • There is no contemporary evidence that Jesus existed.
  • The story of Jesus resembles the stories of other generally fictional characters.
  • The onus is on those individuals who claim there was a historical Jesus to back up this positive claim.
    • One should not believe in a historical Jesus.

The Gospels

Deep investigation into the gospels casts doubt on their reliability and authenticity. The truth is we have no idea who wrote the gospels, but we can learn about their authors by examining how these texts were constructed. We find that the gospels were written by Greek-speaking, educated, rhetorically-trained writers who were skilled in Greek composition (but who never called themselves disciples) - they were not written by uneducated, illiterate, lower-class, Aramaic-speaking, disciple peasants who never went to school and who possessed no knowledge of literature.

How, then, did the story reach the actual educated authors? Not from the disciples, but from people who heard the stories, who heard about the stories, etc. They were telling stories to convert people and they improved and changed the stories to fit their audiences. By the time the stories reached these authors, they had already been cast and recast through oral traditions for several decades, all of which shines serious doubt on the validity of their claims.

Many believers maintain that the gospels provide sufficient evidence for Jesus since they are supposed to have been written by eye-witnesses during his life. The problem with this is that none of the gospel writers met Jesus and they were written many decades after Jesus supposedly died. The earliest gospel (Mark) was probably written forty to forty-five years after Jesus died. None of the gospels' authors claim to be eye-witnesses and each gospel is written in the third-person. We have no idea who wrote the gospels or where they were written; we do not know who read them prior to the second century or if they investigated their claims in any useful way; but it is clear none of them ever met Jesus. To further support the fact that the gospel writers were not eye-witnesses, we can identify large discrepancies and contradictions amongst them. Many of the gospels do not agree on what Jesus did or said, with Mark in particular having problems.

There are indications that Mark may not have been a local living in Palestine, and his Gospel may have been written as a fiction.[1] The authors Matthew and Luke got most of their information from Mark, often copying him verbatim. The gospels themselves are admittedly propagandist: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have through his name.” (John 20:30-31) This hardly sounds like the work of objective historical reporting.

Many parts of the gospels were added after their first version, such as the end of Mark 16, and the story of Jesus saying "let he without sin cast the first stone." There is a whole list of pieces that were later added in, and many of the books in the NT written by forgers [2] (all this done by early Christians). Since the gospels have been deliberately meddled with, mistranslated many times, and changed over centuries of oral traditions, there is no sound basis for trusting them as reliable historical documents. What is more problematic is that the gospels contain many events that contradict the historical record.[3]

There is no contemporary evidence for Jesus

Paul the Apostle (Paul of Tarsus)

Paul never claimed to have met Jesus in person - he claimed to have received instruction from the resurrected Jesus in a vision. His conversion happened after Jesus had already died. Paul even reveals to us that the earliest Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis, entering ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues--so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14).

How convenient that Paul should have a vision and become the new church leader, subsequently introducing many rules of his own, given that up until that point he had been working to undermine the Christian movement. However, if there were such a Christian movement it does not appear anywhere in any historical account. In fact, the earliest records of Jesus start with Paul, who knew very little of Jesus' life, and many statements in the letters of Paul only make sense if Paul does not view Jesus Christ as a historical person. [4]

Christian apocrypha

Stories about the stories do not qualify as historical evidence, any more than additional books about Superman prove the existence of Superman.


There are good reasons to assume the relevant passages in Josephus are forgeries.

The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius was the earliest non-Christian to mention Jesus. Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, means he could not have been an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., even later than the first gospels. Many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius of Caesarea).

Antiquities of the Jews was written sometime after the year 90 C.E. It begins, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and arduously parallels the Old Testament up to the time when Josephus is able to add equally tedious historical recountings of Jewish life during the early Roman period. In Book 18, Chapter 3, this paragraph known as the Testimonium Flavian is encountered (Whiston’s translation):

"At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day" (Antiquities 20:200)

Many problems abound here. Firstly, this is the Arabic translation of the text. Many consider this a more accurate translation, it does not in anyway change the fact that it is an interpolation. I'm using it to show that even if we ignore that faulty greek translation which is not as accurately translated, this passage STILL does not appear until 300 years later when Eusebius, in the 4th century, cited all the "evidences" of Christianity obtained from Jewish and pagan sources. Eusebius, who admitted to forging multiple works, as well as lying for the sake of his beliefs, as Gibbon recounts: "I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace of our religion"

The text Gibbon speaks of is as follows:

"But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly? 'Truth, O Stranger, is a noble and an enduring thing; it seems, however, not easy to persuade men of it.' - d PLATO

Now you may find in the Hebrew Scriptures also thousands of such passages concerning God as though He were jealous, or sleeping, or angry, or subject to any other human passions, which passages are adopted for the benefit of those who need this mode of instruction." (Chp. 31, Book 12 of Prae Paratio Evangelica).

  • Which is also verified by Robert Ingersoll, "The great religious historian, Eusebius, ingenuously remarks that in his history he carefully omitted whatever tended to discredit the church, and that he piously magnified all that conduced to her glory." Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 293"
  • Apparently Eusebius was the first to use this passage because it didn't exist during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The passage is not found in the early copies of Josephus. Are we to assume it magically appeared there? Please. If it had been authentic you would have heard more about the passage during the centuries prior when the early chruch fathers were struggling to gather any pagan articles on such a person as Jesus. Instead their silence is deadly to this argument.
  • The early Christian fathers such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen were acquainted with Josephus' works they would have quoted this passage had it existed. Chrysostom often referred to Josephus and it's highly unlikely he would have omitted the paragraph had it been extant. Photius did not quote the text though he had three articles concerning Josephus and even expressly stated that Josephus, being a Jew, had not taken the least notice of Christ.
  • Neither Justin in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, nor Origen against Celsus ever mentioned this passage. Neither Tertullian nor Cyprian ever quoted Josephus as a witness in their controversies with Jews and pagans and Origen expressly stated that Josephus, who had mentioned John the Baptist, did not recognize Jesus as the messiah (Contra Celsum, I, 47). In Origen's own words, Contra Celsus, BOOK I., Chap XLVII :
I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people[...]
  • The passage also interrupts the narrative. Immediately before it Josephus tells of a rising of the Jews due to bitter feeling at the conduct of Pilate, and its bloody suppression by the ruling power. The words immediately following the passage are: "Also about this time another misfortune befell the Jews" and we are told of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Tiberius on account of the conduct of some of their compatriots. What is the connection between the reference to Jesus and these two narratives? That there must be some connection if Josephus wrote the passage about Jesus goes without saying in view of the character of the writer. Josephus was always careful to have a logical connection between his statements and from a rational standpoint there is no occasion whatever to put the passage about Jesus in the connection in which we find it.
  • It's so obvious, even the Catholic Encyclopedia states it as a forgery!

Here's actually not one but two references in Josephus. The latter is lesser known and cites James the brother of Jesus:

And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.Online Reader - Project Gutenberg

Though there are good reasons to think this too is not Josephus' original text:

  1. Josephus was writing for a Roman audience. A Roman audience would not have been familiar with Jewish beliefs concerning the Messiah. Indeed, they probably wouldn't even have known what the word "Christ" meant. To throw such a description in without any explanation would have confused the readers. In fact this and the Testimonium Flavium are the only places in all of Josephus works where he uses the term "Christ".
  2. Why would Josephus mention Jesus before the person that the passage is actually about? On the other hand, if this were a Christian interpolation it would make sense to have Jesus' name be in the place of status.
  3. The original Greek wording of the passage itself is extremely similar to Matthew 1:16. For an Orthodox Jew this would be extremely unlikely.
  4. After reading the rest of the text of this passage we find that the Jews were so angry about the stoning of James that they they demanded that King Agrippa fire Ananus. Why would the Jews be angered over the killing of a Christian, since Christians were seen as heathens by the Jews?
  5. The end of the paragraph seems to identify the Jesus described within as Jesus the son of Damneus, and clearly states that this Jesus was made high priest by Agrippa.

The "him called Christ" makes most sense as a margin note by a later scribe copying the text, inserted by error in a paragraph about Jesus son of Damneus.

With respect to the "James, the brother of Jesus, the Christ" in Antiquities...

James as a Forgery

  • Remember there are good reasons to suspect the passage by Josephus is another Christian also appeared only in Eusebius' work. Keep in mind, this is the same Eusebius who forged the works as stated above, as he was writing he had more then ample time to edit in this little bit.
  • The only usually undisputed allusion to Jesus in Josephus is actually only a passing reference in the context of the trial of James. James is identified, not as James son of (whoever) as one would normally expect but as brother of Jesus. While this passage is more likely to be authentic than the one above, it is not without problems. Origen knows and cites this passage, and is unaware of the Testimonium Flavianum above, providing some evidence for its presence in the Antiquities before its Christian reworking. On the other hand, Origen's version contains the unlikely addition in which Josephus also says that it is as punishment for the execution of James that Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed. The possibility suggests itself that even Origen's Josephus has undergone Christian reworking, simply of a different variety, in which, perhaps, the insulting Testimonium has been expunged, and James has been introduced as a pious Jewish hero."

Who Was James?

  • James (the one mentioned by Paul as the bishop of Jerusalem) NEVER acknowledged Jesus as his "brother". Jesus NEVER acknowledged James as his "brother". The Gospel of Thomas, one of the gospels rejected by the framers of the Bible, tells us Jesus did not recognize James as his brother.
  • After the death of Jesus, when the Apostles scattered over the world, James the Lesser (St. James the Lesser/Just) remained behind as Bishop of Jerusalem. History supposedly has two accounts of the death of James the Lesser. According to Josephus, St. James was stoned to death in 62 A.D, but Hegesippus, a second century ecclesiastical historian, claims that James was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Pharisees and clubbed to death when the fall didn't kill him and the time markers in the account put this at c. 70. (So just how and more importantly when was he killed? Who do you believe?)
  • The question is who was James? This is not a cut and dried issue among Christians. Was he a half-brother of Jesus? A cousin?, A "brother in spirit?" Jesus never claimed James as his "brother" nor did James ever claim to be Jesus's brother. So who the hell was "James," Christians don't agree!

Which James?

  • There is a dirty little secret that Christians doesn't bother to tell you is that there are various theories about James and the brothers of Jesus, who they were , who their mother was , who their father was , what relation might they have had to the Twelve, and what sense one can make of the multiple persons named "James" in the N.T. In other words, some Christians have hinged their"proof" on a person whose identity and parentage are much disputed! You might say that the Bible's cup "runneth over with Jameses"(60 of them!)
  • One point that is ignored by Christians today is that as late as the early part of the 20th century that a c. 170 CE work by Hegesippus was often used as reference for the death of James the Just until it was realized that it put his death c. 70 while Josephus account put it at c. 64.
  • What Christians have neglected to tell us is that there are many different theories exist pertaining to the brother of Jesus. Let's ignore the minor theories and go for the two major theories that dominate the Christian culture........
  • The Eastern Theory vs The Western Theory
  • The eastern view maintains that Mary was a virgin not only at the time of the birth of Jesus, but remained so throughout her entire life. The bottom-line is that Joseph had the 4 alleged brothers with another woman prior to Mary and brought them to the marriage.
  • The western view is stricter because it claims that BOTH Mary and Joseph remained virgins throughout their entire lives. "These brothers are merely cousins that seem to come onto the scene."
  • Of course Jesus may also have had half-brothers and half-sisters via Mary and Joseph, the most common assumption among Protestants. The point is that the Bible is NOT clear about the parentage of any siblings.

Naming the Jameses

  • Let's keep it simple and concentrate on just 4 of these "Jameses" and use their "common" names to keep them straight. If you explore the literature you will come across the appellations for James:
  1. James the Great
  2. James the Lesser (Little)
  3. Jame the Just
  4. James, son of Alphaeus
  • Now the plethora of James is just one problem (I've only listed a minimum ) The second one is that the Catholic Church and many Protestant sects don't agree on just "who" the "Jameses" are! Now if you really want to know just how contentious the "James" situation is go here and read more scenarios of how Jesus came by a half-brother (a true blood-brother because Mary is hypothesized to have been married to or inpregnated out of wedlock by a number of different candidates for the father of "James"):
  • Essays on James the Brother of Jesus
  • The real truth is that James, the alleged brother of Jesus is a shadowy figure of unknown and highly disputed pedigree (is he a cousin/brother, a step-brother, a true half-brother?). Realize what MacDowell et al have done is attached the historicality of another shadowy, disputed figure (Jesus) to that of an individual whose existence is not certain. He then uses a DISPUTED passage from Josephus as an extra-biblical source to claim that this James (a cousin/brother? or a step-brother, or is he a half-brother?) and Jesus are both true historical figures.


Tacitus (A.D. c.55-A.D. c.117, Roman historian) mentions "christus." The mistake in the use of the title of "procurator" for Pontius Pilatus rather than his actual title of prefect convince many Jesus Myth theory supporters that the passage it at best Tacitus repeating what the Christians claimed.

  1. It is extremely improbable that a special report found by Tacitus had been sent earlier to Rome and incorporated into the records of the Senate, in regard to the death of a Jewish provincial, Jesus. The execution of a Nazareth carpenter would have been one of the most insignificant events conceivable among the movements of Roman history in those decades; it would have completely disappeared beneath the innumerable executions inflicted by Roman provincial authorities. For it to have been kept in any report would have been a most remarkable instance of chance.
  2. The phrase "multitudo ingens" which means "a great number" is opposed to all that we know of the spread of the new faith in Rome at the time. A vast multitude in 64 A.D.? There were not more than a few thousand Christians 200 years later. The idea of so many just 30 years after his supposed death is just a falsehood.
  3. The use of the Christians as "living torches," as Tacitus describes, and all the other atrocities that were committed against them, have little title to credence, and suggest an imagination exalted by reading stories of the later Christian martyrs. Death by fire was not a punishment inflicted at Rome in the time of Nero. It is opposed to the moderate principles on which the accused were then dealt with by the State.
  4. The Roman authorities can have had no reason to inflict special punishment on the new faith. How could the non-initiated Romans know what were the concerns of a comparatively small religious sect, which was connected with Judaism and must have seemed to the impartial observer wholly identical with it.
  5. Suetonius says that Nero showed the utmost indifference, even contempt in regard to religious sects. Even afterwards the Christians were not persecuted for their faith, but for political reasons, for their contempt of the Roman state and emperor, and as disturbers of the unity and peace of the empire. What reason can Nero have had to proceed against the Christians, hardly distinguishable from the Jews, as a new and criminal sect?
  6. It is inconceivable that the followers of Jesus formed a community in the city at that time of sufficient importance to attract public attention and the ill-feeling of the people. It isn't the most popular way to convert and bring people into their religion.
  7. The victims could not have been given to the flames in the gardens of Nero, as Tacitus allegedly said. According to another account by Tacitus these gardens were the refuge of those whose homes had been burned and were full of tents and wooden sheds. Why would he risk burning these by lighting human fires amidst all these shelters?
  8. According to Tacitus, Nero was in Antium, not Rome, when the fire occurred.
  9. The blood-curdling story about the frightful orgies of Nero reads like some Christian romance of the Dark Ages and not like Tacitus. Suetonius, while mercilessly condemning the reign of Nero, says that in his public entertainments Nero took particular care that no lives should be sacrificed, "not even those of condemned criminals."
  10. It is highly unlikely that he mingled with the crowd and feasted his eyes on the ghastly spectacle. Tacitus tells us in his life of Agricola that Nero had crimes committed, but kept his own eyes off them.
  11. Some authorities allege that the passage in Tacitus could not have been interpolated because his style of writing could not have been copied. But this argument is without merit since there is no "inimitable" style for the clever forger, and the more unususal, distinctive, and peculiar a style is, like that of Tacitus, the easier it is to imitate. Moreover, as far as the historicity of Jesus is concerned we are, perhaps, interested only in one sentence of the passage and that has nothing distinctively Tacitan about it.
  12. Tacitus is assumed to have written this about 117 A.D., about 80 years after the death of Jesus, when Christianity was already an organized religion with a settled tradition. The gospels, or at least 3 of them, are supposed to have been in existence. Hence Tacitus might have derived his information about Jesus, if not directly from the gospels, indirectly from them by means of oral tradition. This is the view of Dupuis, who wrote: "Tacitus says what the legend said." In 117 A.D. Tacitus could only know about Christ by what reached him from Christian or intermediate circles. He merely reproduced rumors.
  13. In no other part of his writings did Tacitus make the least allusion to "Christ" or "Christians." Christus was a very common name, as was Jesus. In fact Jospehus lists about 20 in the time Jesus was supposedly said to have existed.
  14. Tacitus is also made to say that the Christians took their denomination from Christ which could apply to any of the so-called Christs who were put to death in Judea, including Christ Jesus.
  15. The expression "Christians" which Tacitus applies to the followers of Jesus, was by no means common in the time of Nero. Not a single Greek or Roman writer of the first century mentions the name. The Christians who called themselves Jessaeans, Nazoraeans, the Elect, the Saints, the Faithful, etc. were universally regarded as Jews. They observed the Mosaic law and the people could not distinguish them from the other Jews. The Greek word Christus (the anointed) for Messiah, and the derivative word, Christian, first came into use under Trajan in the time of Tacitus. Even then, however, the word Christus could not mean Jesus of Nazareth. All the Jews without exception looked forward to a Christus or Messiah. It is, therefore, not clear how the fact of being a "Christian" could, in the time of Nero or of Tacitus, distinguish the followers of Jesus from other believers in a Christus or Messiah. Not one of the gospels applies the name Christians to the followers of Jesus. It is never used in the New Testament as a description of themselves by the believers in Jesus.
  16. Most scholars admit that the works of Tacitus have not been preserved with any degree of fidelity.
  17. This passage which could have served Christian writers better than any other writing of Tacitus, is not quoted by any of the Christian Fathers. It is not quoted by Tertullian, though he often quoted the works of Tacitus. Tertullian's arguments called for the use of this passage with so loud a voice that his omission of it, if it had really existed, amounted to a violent improbability.
  18. Eusebius in the 4th century cited all the evidence of Christianity obtained from Jewish and pagan sources but makes no mention of Tacitus.
  19. This passage is not quoted by Clement of Alexandria who at the beginning of the 3rd century set himself entirely to the work of adducing and bringing together all the admissions and recognitions which pagan authors had made of the existence of Christ Jesus or Christians before his time.
  20. Origen in his controversy with Celsus would undoubtedly have used it had it existed.
  21. There is no vestige or trace of this passage anywhere in the world before the 15th century. Its use as part of the evidences of the Christian religion is absolutely modern. Although no reference whatever is made to it by any writer or historian, monkish or otherwise, before the 15th century (1468 A.D.), after that time it is quoted or referred to in an endless list of works including by your supposed historian.
  22. The fidelity of the passage rests entirely upon the fidelity of one individual (first published in a copy of the annals of Tacitus in the year 1468 by Johannes de Spire of Venice who took his imprint of it from a single manuscript) who would have every opportunity and inducement to insert such an interpolation.
  23. In all the Roman records there was to be found no evidence that Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate. If genuine, such a sentence would be the most important evidence in pagan literature. How could it have been overlooked for 1360 years?
  24. Richard Carrier explains that we are actually missing three years in Tacitus, "We are enormously lucky to have Tacitus--only two unrelated Christian monasteries had any interest in preserving his Annals, for example, and neither of them preserved the whole thing, but each less than half of it, nd by shear luck alone, they each preserved a different half. And yet we still have large gaps in it. One of those gaps is the removal of the years 29, 30, and 31 (precisely, the latter part of 29, all of 30, and the earlier part of 31), which is probably the deliberate excision of Christian scribes who were embarrassed by the lack of any mention of Jesus or Gospel events in those years (the years Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection were widely believed at the time to have occurred). There is otherwise no known explanation for why those three years were removed. The other large gap is the material between the two halves that neither institution preserved. And yet another is the end of the second half, which scribes also chose not to preserve (or lost through negligent care of the manuscript, etc.)."
  25. Suetonius doesn't mention this event in his histories.
  26. And lastly, the style of the passage is not consistent with the usually mild and classic language of Tacitus


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

The use of Suetonius' "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Emperor Claudius in 49 CE] expelled them from Rome." as evidence for Jesus smacks of desperation time. Elsewhere in the same work (The Lives of the Caesars) Suetonius talks about how "Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition." under Nero demonstrating that Suetonius knew the difference between Jews and Christians.

  1. Suetonius wrote in the year 115 CE, so this is FAR from a contemporary account. He doesn't cite or list sources and Christianity would have been decently established by this time.
  2. Surely no one will contend that Christ was inciting riots at Rome 15 years after he was supposedly crucified at Jerusalem. And why would Jews be led by Jesus to begin with? But by citing this you are assuming this is the case.
  3. This passage contains no evidence for the historicity of Jesus, even if we substitute "Christus" for "Chrestus." Christus is merely the Greek-Latin translation of "anointed" and the phrase "at the instigation of Christus" could refer to a group of people just as much as it could have meant one person. This is reminiscent of the name Theophilus mentioned in the beginning of Acts and Luke, (whom the narrator/author of the books are addressing the prose too) which simply means "lover/friend of God." Which can apply to many people instead of one singular person (maybe even a congregation of people).
  4. "Chrestus" was not only a familiar personal name, it was also a name of the Egyptian Serapis or Osiris, who had a large following at Rome, especially among the common people. Hence "Christians" may be either the followers of a man named Chrestus, or of Serapis. Historians know what evil repute the Egyptian people, which consisted mainly of Alexandrian elements, had at Rome. While other foreign cults that had been introduced into Rome enjoyed the utmost toleration, the cult of Serapis and Isis was exposed repeatedly to persecution. The lax morality associated with their worship of the Egyptian gods and the fanaticism of their worshippers repelled the Romans, and excited the suspicion that their cults might be directed against the State.
  5. Vopiscus said, "Those who worship Serapis and the Chrestians,.... They are a turbulent, inflated, lawless body of men." Is it not possible that the reference to Chrestus and the Chrestians has been too hastily applied to Christos and Christians? The "Chrestians," who were detested by the people for their crimes,..., are not Christians at all, but followers of Chrestus, the scum of Egypt, the apaches of Rome, a people on whom Nero could very easily cast the suspicion of having set fire to Rome.
  6. The name in the text is not "Christus" but "Chrestus," which by no means is the usual designation of Jesus. It was a common name, especially among Roman freedman. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, book 2, letter 8, section 1; "What! Do you suppose that I meant you to send me an account of gladiatorial matches, of postponements of trials, of robberies by Chrestus, and such things as, when I am at Rome, nobody ventures to retail to me?&quotEye-wink Hence, the whole passage may have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.

Pliny the Younger

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.

Pliny the Younger only mentions the existence of the Christian sect and gives no name to the "Christ" or details about him.

  1. It proves nothing in regard to the existence of Jesus, but only affirms the existence of Christians.
  2. If the passage is referring to Christians, then it is also saying Christians sold the flesh of their sacrificial victims.
  3. Roman laws accorded religious liberty to all. Before Constantine there was not a single law opposed to freedom of thought.
  4. Trajan was one of the most tolerant of Roman emperors.
  5. Pliny is universally conceded to have been one of the most humane of men. That Pliny would have tortured two women is highly unlikely. The person and character of women in Pagan Rome were held in high esteem.
  6. The letter implies Bithynia had a large Christian population which is improbable at that early date.
  7. The passage implies Trajan was not acquainted with Christian beliefs and customs even though Christians were quite prominent in his capital.
  8. Cool For Christians to be found in so remote a province as Bithynia before acquiring notoriety in Rome is unlikely.
  9. Pliny says they sing a hymn to Christ as to God which Christians in Pliny's time would consider blasphemous since Jesus was no more than a man to them. His divinity was not established until 325 A.D.
  10. This letter is found in only one ancient copy of Pliny.
  11. The German literati, the most learned, say the epistle is not genuine.
  12. The genuineness of this correspondence of Pliny and Trajan is by no means certain. The tendency of the letters to put the Christians in as favorable a light as possible is too obvious not to excite some suspicion. For these and other reasons the correspondence was declared by experts to be spurious even at the time of its first publication in the 16th century.
  13. The undeniable fact is that some of the first Christians were among the greatest forgers who ever lived.[5] This letter was first quoted by Tertullian and the age immediately preceding him was known for fraudulent writings. Tertullian and Eusebius, the people infavor of the passage's genuineness, were by no means the most reliablesources


Thallus is the worse of the lot as it is in reality. We don't have Thallus' writings, only comments from Julius Africanus in the 3rd Century CE. The earliest manuscript of Africanus' work was done by George Syncellus in the 9th Century CE. Also Julius goes on to criticise him for saying this because a solar eclipse is impossible during a full moon. Even Bede (a Christian apologist) notes this is impossible because an eclipse can't take place during a full moon. For more on the dynamics of solar eclipses go here. However there was an eclipse in November of 29 CE, which may have been the one that Thallus referred to. Note the date of the only recorded solar eclipse occurred 4 years PRIOR to the date Christians give for the death of Jesus. Both F.Jacoby and R.T.France note that this does NOT in any way prove Thallus mentioned Jesus at all - it seems that it was Julius, nearly 2 centuries after Thallus alleged wrote about it, who made the connection. The supposed identification of Thallus depends entirely on a misreading of Josephus, which even the author F.F.Bruce admits is "doubtful. Dr. R.T.Frances (a conservative Christian) also rejects this dating of Thallus. Finally, Josephus mentions .. "allos Samareus genos" which has to be amended to read "Thallos" to support this identification. All Josephus mentions is that "Thallos" loaned money to Agrippa. This is very non-specific because even if Josephus had said "Thallos", there is no way to be sure that this is in fact the historian Thallus because during that time Thallos was a common name (the "which Thallus? problem")


Lucian, 175 CE, refers to "the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world." Regardless of the fact that this is NOT an eyewitness account but written 120 years after the supposed death of Jesus, nowhere in any of his writings does Lucian mention the man's name, or the cult he brought into the world. Using Lucian as an argument for the historicity of Jesus is special pleading on the Christian's part, that is we are too assume Lucian is talking about Jesus. Except that thousands of people were crucified in Palestine, and many of these men were known to start new religions, especially around the time of Lucian. Palestine covers an area roughly hundreds of miles from north to south and east to west, it spreads from north of Damascus to the far south, past Masada and the Dead Sea. The ONLY thing this proves is that a man was killed because he started a cult.

Other sources

Christian apologists mostly use the above sources for their "evidence" of Jesus because they believe they represent the best outside sources. 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 provide merely hearsay.

Many early Christians died for their beliefs, and they wouldn't die for a lie.

Their willingness to die shows that they believed firmly in their religious ideal, not that they believed Jesus was a real person. The religious ideal could easily have been considered a worthy cause, whether or not its founder was invented.

If they did in fact die specifically for holding to the claim that Jesus was real (which has in no way been demonstrated), that only indicates that they believed it, not that they were correct.

Many people from different faiths have died for their beliefs. Christianity is not special in this respect.

The story of Jesus resembles other myths

  • Those stories are invented by the devil.
  • A lot of parallels are stretches. For example, Horus is said to be born of a virgin, when he was born (in one telling of the story) of Hathor and the reassembled body of Osiris.
  • Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces showed a general outline for myths, even without the myths being inter-related. A notable amount of the argument for mythicism is that the early Christians stole the God ideas from other groups rather than invent them outright. This is not necessarily the case.

The burden is on those who argue there is a historical Jesus

  • It is generally accepted that there is a historical Jesus, but this is an argument of ad populum. What really matters is what the evidence says.

Archaeological evidence?

Although the New Testament mentions various cities, geological sites, kings and people that existed or lived during the alleged life of Jesus, these descriptions cannot serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus any more than works of fiction that include recognizable locations, and which make mention of actual people. Spider-Man was well known in New York City, but we all know he is just a work of fiction.

Homer's Odyssey, for example, describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek Islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. Mythical stories, fictions, and narratives almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories. The authors of the Greek tragedies not only put their stories in plausible settings as happening in the real world, but also gave their supernatural characters the desires, flaws and failures of mortal human beings. Consider that fictions such as King Kong, Superman, and Star Trek include recognizable cities, planets, and landmarks, with their protagonists and antagonists miming human emotions.

Before the 1970s one could have been forgiven for thinking that archeology is the greatest tool for supporting the Bible. These days, however, Scholars are questioning the whole model of "biblical archaeology," which starts with the assumption that the Bible is a reliable guide for field research. Indeed, there is now so much contrary evidence against the historical accuracy of the Bible that the term "biblical archaeology" has been discarded by professional archaeologists, and Syro-Palestinian archaeology has been suggested by some practicing in the field as a more appropriate term.


There is not a shred of evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus, [Leedom; Gauvin].[6] [7] One single house apparently was found [8], however examples like these are fallacious, since no one knows where Nazareth was, but it was big enough to be a city that had a synagogue. No ancient historian or geographer mentions Nazareth. Nazareth is first noted at the beginning of the 4th century. Luke 28-30 tells that Nazareth was on a hill and that the hill had a cliff high enough that a man falling off it would be killed. The recently occupied town now called Nazareth, however, has never occupied the top of a hill.[9]

Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament. The Book of Joshua (19.10,16) – in what it claims is the process of settlement by the tribe of Zebulon in the area – records twelve towns and six villages and yet omits any 'Nazareth' from its list. Nazareth does not appear in the volumes of Josephus's writings (even though he provides a detailed list of the cities of Galilee). The Talmud, although it names 63 Galilean towns, knows nothing of Nazareth, nor does early rabbinic literature. Oddly, St Paul knows nothing of 'Nazareth'. Rabbi Solly's epistles (real and fake) mention Jesus 221 times, Nazareth not at all. None of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles got written before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn't come into existence until about 40 years after the hypothetical death of Jesus. Apologists attempt to dismiss this by claiming that Nazareth existed as an insignificant and easily missed village (how would they know?), thus no one recorded it. However, whenever the Gospels speak of Nazareth, they always refer to it as a city, never a village (Luke1.26,27; Luke 2.3,4; Matthew 2.22,23; Luke 2.39,40), and a historian of that period would surely have noticed a city. (Note the New Testament uses the terms village, town, and city.) Nor can apologists fall on archeological evidence of preexisting artifacts for the simple reason that many cities get built on ancient sites. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as historical.

Itinerarium Burdigalense – the Itinerary of the Anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux – is the earliest description left by a pious tourist. It is dated to 333 AD. The itinerary is a Roman-style list of towns and distances with the occasional comment. As the pilgrim passes Jezreel (Stradela) he mentions King Ahab and Goliath. At Aser (Teyasir) he mentions Job. At Neopolis his reference is to Mount Gerizim, Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob's well at Sichar (where JC 'asked water of a Samaritan woman'). He passes the village of Bethel (Beitin) and mentions Jacob's wrestling match with God, and Jeroboam. He moves on to Jerusalem. Our pilgrim – preoccupied with Old rather than New Testament stories – makes no single reference to 'Nazareth.'

James Randi made a video clip "Questioning the Bible" in 2009 critically examining many things, including the existence of Nazareth. He concluded that Nazareth is a fictional site that did not exist at the time of Jesus. The current city of Nazareth is nothing more than a tourist marketing site that is being maintained by pseudoarcheology.

Where is the Tomb?

We don't know if Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. What we have are Gospel stories written decades later by people who had heard stories in circulation.

There have been reports claiming Jesus was not buried in ancient Judea, but rather in countries far away. Jesus has been reported to be buried in Srinagar, western Kashmir. Another report claims Jesus is buried in Shingo, northern Honshu, Japan.[10]


  • Mythicism is a fringe position. Counter arguments to mythicists like this rarely go beyond ad hominem attacks. Mythicists use the same historical method used to establish the historicity of other historical figures, such as the following,
  • Alexander the Great: Unlike Jesus, we actually do have historical evidence for Alexander the Great. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios engraved in stone (332 B.C.E). Alexander left a mass of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name.
  • Julius Caesar: We have portraits and artifacts of Caesar, contemporary witnesses, even letters written by his own hand. We have a number of inscriptions and coins produced contributed to Caesar. Contemporary and reliable historians (Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch) all mention and describe the life and actions of Caesar. They often quote and name many different sources (both friendly and hostile to Caesar), showing a wide reading of the witnesses and documents. We have letters from his enemies, including Cicero, that mention Caesar. [11] Also, the history of Rome could not have proceeded as it did had Caesar not physically moved an army into Italy.
  • Augustus: For Augustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more.
  • Napoleon: Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters. We have contemporary eye-witnesses, journals, even a portraits of Napoleon.


  • In the weak form — "we shouldn't believe in a historical Jesus or actively disbelieve the proposition" — it is hard to argue that a character should be accepted as due to the lack of good evidence of historicity. Keeping this in mind, it becomes progressively harder to accept a divine one if there doesn't exist the grounds for a historical one.
  • Even experts have to give evidence for their beliefs, their opinions are based more on assumption and tradition than a thorough survey of the evidence.
  • Nonetheless, there are still scholars that are mythicists such as theologians Robert M. Price, Thomas L. Thompson, and Tom Harpur, as well as historians Bruno Bauer, Edwin Johnson, and Bertrand Russell.
  • Jesus's biography fits Lord Raglan's hero pattern remarkably well, with this source giving him a score of 18 out of 22, and this one giving him 20. This makes him comparable with several legendary heroes, like Romulus and King Arthur (both 19). Well-documented heroes typically score much lower; Lord Raglan could not find anyone with a score greater than 6 or 7 (The Hero, pp. 184-85).
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