Did Jesus Really Exist?

John Nettleship
Hi, I’m Severus Snape!

This is a very common question, one that has the religious coming down solidly on one side and the non-religious somewhat split on the other.  It seems to be something that you’ll never get everyone to agree on, mostly because the religious have a vested interest in believing that Jesus was real, even if there is no objective evidence whatsoever to support it.  You even have atheist writers like Richard Carrier and Bart Ehrman writing controversial books on whether or not Jesus was real, but at the end of the day, all the belief in the world doesn’t matter, it depends on what you mean by Jesus.

There are a couple of options and this really makes a big difference.  First, the Jesus, as described in the Bible, could have been a real person. This is really what Christians mean when they talk about Jesus, even though they are often blatantly, although probably ignorantly, trying to claim that whatever real person that Jesus might have been based on, was real.  This brings us to our second and perhaps most likely possibility, that the Biblical character of Jesus could have been based on a real, or a group of real individuals which were “spiced up” in the Biblical narrative as the son of God.  Most people don’t know that Severus Snape from the Harry Potter books was  based on a real person, a teacher that J.K. Rowling had named John Nettleship. Certainly, there’s a lot that changed between Nettleship and Snape, I’m sure Nettleship isn’t a master of the dark arts, doesn’t own a wand and cannot fly on a broom.  It is therefore absurd to claim that because you have evidence that John Nettleship was real (he died in 2011), therefore, Severus Snape was real.  The same is true of Jesus.  Even if it could be shown that some precursor to the Jesus myth was real, that doesn’t mean that Jesus, the born-of-a-virgin, miracle-performing, rising-from-the-dead Messiah was real, yet this is exactly what most Christian apologists want to believe.

But desire for something to be true doesn’t make it true and it requires more evidence to prove that a specific individual existed than it does to find a moderately close analogue and demand that it’s the same thing.  There are a handful of historical sources they trot out, none of them written by direct eyewitnesses, none of them describe miraculous events and some of them, like the source from Suetonius, clearly don’t describe Jesus at all because, according to the Bible, Jesus never went to Rome.  That doesn’t stop anyone though, any straws at which they can grasp is a-ok with them!  They don’t care if they’re not legitimate, they don’t even care if they only show a wholly human entity, it’s got to be the Biblical Jesus!  That’s why, in any debate, you have to be careful to get your opponent to define what they mean by Jesus and then hold them to that definition.  If you want the magical Jesus from the Bible, you need to prove actual magic.  Funny how none of them can actually do that.

5 thoughts on “Did Jesus Really Exist?

  1. Agreed, it does not matter whether Jesus was real or not when you start moving into the supernatural aspect. If someone wants to believe in the supernatural then they need to prove the supernatural first. It actually is pretty amazing that many theists are not prepared to debate the historicity of Jesus, yet are more than willing to make Jesus magical.
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  2. It's amazing how anti-theists (atheists don't exist except as agnostics) are quick to believe unsubstantiated, non-eyewitness reports on the origins of man and the universe, though, isn't it? Any infidel wish to show me a photo of the Big Bang? I thought not. That's because it's all speculation… a weird form of faith all it's own. Science, you say? More speculation, which is why they call it "theory".

    On the other hand, the Gospels are eye-witness accounts by real human beings, not the suppositions of 'scientists' writing on the Big Bang billions of years after the fact. The fact that the name of Jesus is pretty much a household word throughout most of the civilized world, even when used derogatorily in infidel homes, having withstood centuries of censure and deliberate attempts to eradicate it. How many people have heard of Richard Dawkins in the same light… or even Charles Darwin? EVERYONE knows Jesus, by comparison. Something happened at some point in time to ingrain His name upon the collective consciousness, something very significant!

    How many infidels have passed through the scene of life and died forgotten, yet the name of Jesus lives on? Many of those had determined to eradicate His name from history, instead it was THEY that died and were forgotten. The eyewitness accounts of the Bible supersede the grumblings and protests of infidels and their ridiculous evolutionary theories, the latter merely speculation and a twisting of geological and historical evidences to make them fit their particular fantasies.

    The evidence for intelligent design is overpowering, except to those that have trained themselves to ignore anything that they don't wish to see or believe. It is possible, too, that these same individuals might have a smaller brain and or the intellectual capacity necessary to comprehend the weightier matters of existence. This will prove to be a definite handicap in their search for truth, being capable of only the most rudimentary understanding of the natural/physical world… much less the spiritual.

    1. Anti-theists and atheists are two entirely different things. Atheists do not believe in gods. Anti-theists reject the idea of religion, especially organized religion, as harmful. There are plenty of religious anti-theists out there, people who do not subscribe to any particular organized religion and think that such things are dangerous.

      And while nobody can show you a photo of the Big Bang, we do have all the evidence we need from cosmic background radiation, the echo of the event. Science isn't just speculation, it evaluates the evidence and comes to conclusions based entirely on those conclusions. Religion does no such thing. Nobody with a clue thinks that the Gospels were written by actual eye-witnesses. The evidence simply does not support such a conclusion. You really ought to read some decent scholarship on the subject because you're laughably wrong.

      And then you go pulling the argument from popularity, a logical fallacy. Can't say I'm surprised. Just because lots of people believe a thing doesn't make that thing true. Lots of people believed the Earth was flat at one time, they were all wrong.

      Seriously, you need a decent education in the facts and less reliance on blind faith. It might make comments like this a little less laughably ignorant.

      1. Ok, so I'm a novice in terms of understanding cosmic radiation. Can you explain how it points to the Big Bang? I tried to find a bit on Wiki about Einstein's theory of relativity and also his backward mathematising which lead him to the Big Bang, but that's as far as I got. Yep. So have you got any clues for me? CHEEERRRRSSSSS! 🙂

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