In an article published by the Council for Secular Humanism, historical researcher and author Michael Paulkovich claims that Jesus of Nazareth never existed and is a mythical character. In addition, Richard Dawkins, atheist and author of “The God Delusion,” has previously described the evidence for Jesus’ existence as “shaky.” Self-proclaimed Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill said that Jesus was manufactured by Roman aristocrats in a government effort to control citizens — a plot he speaks about in his book, “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus.”
Are these authors accurate? Could it be that Jesus never existed at all? Is the silence from over 100 ancient historians really proof of Jesus being a fallacy? Or, are they wrong? Is there historical proof of Jesus existing?
First, it should be noted there is an overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is a reliable record composed by contemporaries and eyewitnesses of the events…and that Archaeology is continually confirming details of their writing. Nevertheless, though the Bible is indeed a reliable source, many still desire for sources/evidence outside of the Biblical text. After all, as Paulkovich points out, if Jesus did exist, then there should be other writings available.
However, before exploring further, the error of Paulkovich’s logic should be noted. Just because 100+ historians did not write about Jesus does not mean no historians from that time period wrote about Jesus, and the argument from silence certainly does not prove a lack of existence. Many historians never wrote about Abraham Lincoln, yet he existed. To only site the historians who did not mention Honest Abe does not mean Abe did not honestly exist (as they are not the only historians who wrote). Second, many historical documents have been forever lost because of various library burnings and demolished civilizations. Thus, because data may be either limited or missing presently does not mean such data was always missing or limited.
Ancient Historical Evidences
There are many non-Christian ancient historians who not only wrote about Jesus, but either lived while Jesus was alive or lived and wrote soon after Jesus’ ascension. There’s the first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered to be one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world. He wrote about Christians and the resurrected Christ. Suetonius was the chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian who wrote about Christ (he uses the name Chrestus for Jesus the Christ) who lived, and certain Jews who followed Him caused disturbances. There is also Flavius Josephus who became a historian working under Emperor Vespasian. He wrote two passages about Jesus in his work “Antiquities.” Thallus, who wrote around 52AD, described the darkness which followed the crucifixion of Jesus.
Beyond ancient historians, there are also ancient non-Christian Government officials offered official information concerning Jesus: Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan (in reply to Pliny’s letter), and Emperor Hadrian writing to Mincius Fundanus are a few examples. There are also other sources like the Jewish Talmud and Toledoth Jesu, or even non-Christian, non-Jewish, and non-Roman Lucian of Samosata (a Greek), and Mara Bar-Serapion (a Syrian).
These are but the tip of the iceberg. Needless to say, not only is the Bible a historically reliable document, there are also a plethora of other sources available indicating the historicity of Jesus the Christ.
2) Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books Publishing, 1999).
3) Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 2003).
4) Habermas, Gary, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (St. Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, Inc., 1996).
5) McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999).