This post is part of a series, “Jesus: The Living God.” See other posts in the series here.
The belief that Jesus existed is, quite simply, historical fact. The historical figure of Jesus is beyond denial. Jesus walked on this planet. There are those who actually deny this fact. They say things about our knowledge of Jesus being derived only from “hearsay” accounts, or that the other historical sources outside the Gospels aren’t reliable because they were written after Jesus died.
What people who try to deny Jesus as a historical fact don’t realize is that we have more evidence for the historicity of Jesus than we do for historical figures such as Alexander the Great. Our sources on Alexander the Great date from sources written utilizing biographical accounts about him. This is hearsay, if that is how those who want to attack the historicity of Jesus want to define such historical accounts. The sources we do have date at least 200 years after Alexander’s death (derived from Green, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age, pp. xxii–xxviii). But according to the “historical standards” set by those who wish to deny that Jesus ever existed, we absolutely must accept that Alexander the Great existed either!
We know of Alexander the Great only through accounts written hundreds of years after his death (scholars date the Gospels to about 70AD–40 years after the death of Jesus [see Blomberg, Craig, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels)! Sure, there are many reasons to think Alexander existed, such as the shape of western civilization, various corroborating evidence, etc… but we have reasons like that to believe Jesus existed too!
The reality is that no serious scholar denies the historicity of Jesus, due not only to the Gospel accounts, but also Josephus, Tacitus, etc. Those who wish to discredit the accounts of the Gospel, Josephus, etc. should realize they should be consistent in their “historiography” and discredit the accounts written about Alexander the Great, not to mention other figures like Attila the Hun, Confucius, etc.! If this is the kind of historical relativism and denial we are forced to embrace due to the denial of the historical Jesus, then almost all ancient history is thrown into question.
The fact of the matter is that the reason people try to deny the historicity of Jesus isn’t due to historical reasons, it’s either due to ignorance about how historiography operates or simply willingness to blatantly deny historical fact.
Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus, The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God
Blomberg, Craig The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Strobel, Lee The Case for the Real Jesus and The Case for Christ
Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace Reinventing Jesus
Note that even accounts critical of Jesus do not deny his historicity, cf Crossan, John Historical Jesus or Borg, Marcus Jesus
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