'evidence' of Jesus's existence can fill many pages. The $multi-billion
industry of religion quite predictably has its lionized defenders of the Faith.
Two favourites of the Born Again are pastor Lee Strobel
Case For Christ – and minister Josh
McDowell – Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Neither
pretends to a scientific impartiality. Beyond a self-claimed
'hard-nosed objectivity' they make an avowedly partisan case
evangelist cause. But for all the fulsome praise heaped upon
Apologists by a grateful Christ
evidence of their case collapses under scrutiny. The sophistry
and flimflam deceive only the gullible and the uninformed – but,
then, that is the essence of religion.
Deceiving the Unsophisticated by Trickery
have no store of unknown Jesus artifacts, no cache of Jesus's
secret memoirs– though they do have shrewd allies
relic-fabrication industry, so this may change! Rather, their circus tent
filled with nothing more substantial than subterfuge and suspect logic. What
holds it all together is that universal super glue – Faith.
of flimflam and clownish knockabout would be a cause for merriment
and laughter were it not for the sobering thought
that this is as 'rational' as some Christians get. Heaven help
us if they were ever to take over the government.
In the prelude
to the Dark Ages the original Christian Apologists engaged in
a similar pseudo-rational debate with the Greek philosophers,
who at first ignored the Christians and subsequently lampooned
them as fools. But within three generations the fanatics of Christ
had taken over the Roman Empire and the laughing
1. The "Bible Says So" Argument
or not, in a jaw-dropping departure from logical
Apologists' prime source of 'proof' for the existence of their
storybook hero is
itself. The Bible is given the special privilege
of confirming its own truth. In the
of religious deceit, the Bible is held to be "unique" and "historically
reliable". It's true because it says it's
true. Handy, that. (So handy, in fact, that
Muhammad used the same "logic" in
Can this chicanery
be remotely justified because scripture gives accurate chronologies
and verifiable descriptions of people, places and events? Not
all. Like any book of fiction
the Bible sets a series of (unlikely) events, a plethora of
names, and a mass of incidental but uncheckable detail, into
a more or less known historical setting. Roman
Judaea was real enough. 1st century Jerusalem certainly existed
visit the ruins). But any work of historical fiction makes reference
to the real world. A
novel does not cease to be fiction no matter how "believable" it
The issue is, did
a holy carpenter walk on water, raise the dead and get resurrected
and taken up to heaven?
the whole compendium of biblical half-truths, fantasy and
defined as "historical evidence", vast numbers of "witnesses" to
the Jesus superhero
can be mustered. Other characters in the fable give
testimony for the existence of the holy carpenter. This
is rather like 'proving' the existence of Batman by
quoting the words of Robin the Boy Wonder.
divine birth? We have Luke's testimony of shepherds and angels
(Luke 2). Never mind that Luke is writing at
least 60 years after the supposed birth of the godman (in
reality, more like a century), he steps forward as witness
to verbatim nocturnal dialogue in a sheep field.
turning water into wine? Why, here we have the
John as our key (indeed, only) witness, writing
even longer after the event than fellow storyteller Luke
At best, John, like Luke, is repeating hearsay and doing
the alleged incident.
who do we have to vouch for the messiah's grand
finale, the resurrection? Evidence
for the 'risen Christ' comes from Paul's testimony
of "500" unidentified witnesses, sightings
by the 12 apostles and himself (1 Corinthians 15). Matthew instead has 2 feet-worshipping women and 11 disciples on a mountainside.
Mark brings forward 3 women (Mary Magdalene,
Mary the mother of James, and Salome), 2 walkers and
the 11 having their
lunch (Mark 16). And finally John also
cites Mary Magdalene and the disciples, with special
mention of doubting Thomas (John 20).
core belief of the whole malevolent edifice of Christianity – the
resurrected saviour – rests on scarcely 500
words written in an ancient, disjointed
and thoroughly discredited book.
by this point the assumption is that all critical thinking
have ceased and another acolyte be on his knees in penitence
for ever doubting the revealed truth.
of Others is Evidence" Argument
marshalled cut-out characters from the story itself as "witnesses",
the suspect logic continues by bringing on as additional "witnesses" the
massed ranks of the brethren – well, a few isolated individuals
Christians are themselves presented as "evidence." Thus
the recorded beliefs of Church Fathers such as Ignatius,
bishop of Antioch (50-115?), become the lynchpin of Roman
Catholicism's claim for world mastery. In an impressively
entertaining tale of martyrdom and celebrity tour, the
episcopal superstar gets sentenced to wild beasts by the
Trajan (in truth, a
famously benign ruler).
asked to believe that, at a time when all of Rome's resources
were being assembled
for a war
the emperor eschewed the perfectly serviceable local
arena for Ignatius's execution and instead, assigned a
of guards to traipse their captive the long
way round the eastern empire and back to Rome. The protracted
journey afforded Ignatius the opportunity to meet
Christian worthies every step of the way. Along the journey,
Ignatius (who is quite insistent upon his own martyrdom)
writes 15 letters of a truly miraculous nature. They are
to such diverse notaries as the Virgin Mary and a bishop
not even born at the time of Ignatius's death!
of the letters is not historical veracity but Catholic
dogma. Ignatius is turned into the mouthpiece
of 4th century Orthodoxy, back-dated into a 2nd century
proselytising fantasy. The obliging bishop warns the brethren
of all-manner of "heresies" and urges
of their bishops.
fable in which he is made bishop by the apostles themselves
and then himself instructs
bishop Polycarp of Smyrna (died 166?), Ignatius
is made the "missing link" between the Palestinian pageant
the reality of
authority. The first Roman cleric
to identify himself as bishop – Anicetus (156-166) –
did so in correspondence with Polycarp.
Flavius Clements (?150-216) bishop of
Alexandria, Justin (such
a meritorious "martyr" it becomes part of his name),
and Gallic bishop Irenaeus are selectively
quoted, as if their beliefs had some special
the life and death of someone a century or more before
their own time.
put, evidence of belief is not evidence of reality –
that line of argument had any validity it would better
the 3000 plus years of Egyptian and Indian deities, and
the almost as long-lived Gods of Greece and northern Europe!
is continued into the present day, with testimony from
"expert believers" showcased as evidence for a godman
whose existence was questioned even in the 2nd century. Testimony
from equally expert non-believers, of course,
is not forthcoming.
of Belief – the tombs of the Sacred Ibis at Saqqara, Egypt
Several million mummified
birds stand testimony to centuries of an
ancient Egyptian belief. The offerings
were in honour of royal architect Imhotep,
deified as the Greek god of medicine Asclepius.
I guess that means Asclepius
was real ...
The "Suffering Disciples" Argument
one really takes the biscuit. Our Apologist, aware that
non-Christians also have beliefs, now inflates a fallacy,
invented by a triumphant Church and perpetuated by Hollywood. "Would
the disciples have suffered and died for a fabricated saviour?" (Lurid
pictures of stoning, beheading, savage beasts).
audacious nonsense is destroyed utterly by two separate
suffer and die all the time for erroneous causes.
the 9/11 terrorists go straight to the Islamic paradise?
died at the hands of Christians. Did this prove the existence
of Isis and Dionysus?
is NO evidence at all for the existence
of the Apostles and NO evidence for widespread suffering
by Christians either – until, that is, the Christian
Empire turned its ferocity upon the heretics.
for example, nowhere refers to the execution of a
though that does nothing to diminish the often reiterated
tall tale of Nero's "torching" of Christians.
not forget, in a single day in 1209 at Beziers
in the Languedoc region of southern France, more Christians
died at the hands
of fellow Christians than in the entire twenty year
reign of the
Emperor Diocletian – graphic evidence of Christian
rather than pagan savagery. One can kill for, and
die for, religion with equanimity and people usually do.
death and murder proves nothing.
4. The "Too
Soon For a Legend" Argument.
stated the argument runs like this. 'Belief in JC and
his resurrection arose almost immediately. There was not
time for this
legendary development overlying a less dramatic historical truth.' Myth,
we are told, takes a number of generations to develop. (Really? It
didn't take more than a few days for the US military and media to
finesse Pfc Jessica Lynch into a fake female Rambo. Fortunately we
own subsequent candour to squelch the counterfeit heroics.)
We are told
still living witnesses would have shouted 'false' if the story
writers had got their facts wrong – an imaginative but preposterous notion, implying
that in the ghettoes and scriptoriums of the eastern Roman Empire
an army of literary inspectors were checking on rabbinic scribbling.
This argument also sneaks in the unsubstantiated claim that the
gospels were written 'early' and yet in truth, they don't surface
until the mid-2nd century when every witness from the first half of
the 1st century would have been long dead.
the implication is that within a decade or two of JC's death "numerous" Christians
all had more or less the same conviction. "Surely," runs
the argument, "this would only be the case if something
truly remarkable had occurred?"
remind ourselves: we are looking for evidence
of JC. That doesn't mean we assume a
specific date for a crucifixion of our hero and then
count off to
a time when there were Christians. No one doubts that
a messianic godman faith emerged sometime in the late
1st/early 2nd century. The legend is
a composite construct over many generations. Its emergence
from the very real suffering of the Jews and the dispossessed
of the Roman Empire is a fascinating study.
into that development an arbitrary window of historical time
life of JC) is a deceit.
Some Contenders for 'Truth'
who had NO belief in a human Jesus:
of a man ..."
from Ignorance ..."
Gods, Jesus Beamed Down..."
Spirit Can't be Trapped..."
believed in a human Jesus but had NO belief
in his divinity:
Not Crucified ..."
for Jesus, Paul a Heretic..."
What is striking
is the sheer variety of Christianities that
proliferated from the very earliest date and
a far from universal belief either in a human Jesus
or a resurrected
of Jesus's 'human existence', far from being confirmed
and agreed by early Christians, was a matter of ferocious
Many Christians between the 1st - 4th century
had NO belief
in a flesh and blood Jesus; it was offensive
to their particular interpretation of the divine.
who did speak of a Jesus who had lived among men, many rejected the notion that their hero had been
a god – a blasphemous
assertion for any monotheist.
notion of a "wholly man, wholly god" Jesus
was not formulated as a Confession of Faith until
the first Council of Antioch in 251 AD and
was then imposed upon the world by edicts of later Roman
holding a common core of beliefs the early Christians embraced
a bizarre range of opinions and this variegation continued
despite the later State/Church persecution of unorthodox
The "Sheer Quantity of Documentation" Argument
This one really is a crude bludgeon.
you know," says the Apologist, "there is
only one manuscript copy of Caesar's Gallic Wars and that dates
the 10th century? In contrast there
are 20,000 manuscripts of the gospels, in various languages,
dating from the 6th to 12th centuries. Doesn't that PROVE the
of the New
is appalling – as if a lie repeated a hundred times bested
a single truth.
The really significant point is how few Christian manuscripts – or even
scraps of manuscripts – exist from before the cult became endorsed
as the state religion of the Roman Empire.
of ancient wisdom and erudition were torched by
the Christians. For centuries, by Church dictate, the only remaining
literature was the dreary diet of biblical fantasy.
latter-day Apologists have the effrontery to mock the dearth
of classic learning. It's as if the Nazis bemoaned the lack
exposes the barbarous nonsense of
the Bible as never before. The men who, 1800 years ago, wrote
the gospels, knew nothing of science
rationality. They could in no manner anticipate the skills and
insights which would be brought to bear on their pious fantasy
far into the future.
relatively recent times, the Bible was a forbidden book, denied
to all but the clergy. In the vast compendium of nonsense, selectively
read in Latin (or Greek) to an illiterate peasantry, who would
have noticed the myriad inconsistencies, contradictions and absurdities?
Now of course,
we know all this and more.
the Apologist boldly turns the disaster to his advantage. "The
errors obviously prove the essential truth. If the writers had
wanted to tell a lie they would have got it right."
so. The writers were con men of their time – unable
to anticipate mass literacy, the printing press, computers
or the internet.
Credible Historians" Argument
the Apologist as a last resort, "if
all what you say is true why aren't ranks of established academics
lining up to
endorse the Jesus myth idea?"
of religion, broad-brush generalists expatiating on
life, death and eternity, academia is populated by scholars who
are increasingly specialized, knowing more and more about less
and less. Personal advancement and professional kudos come
from small advances within their own narrow field of research.
Understandably many are loath to proffer commentary beyond their
own area of expertise.
confines of their own disciplines, academics
certainly do challenge and reject biblical nonsense. Many
of them are quoted in
this collection of articles, indeed have made the demolition
of the Jesus myth possible. Few choose to take on "Big
with its $billions and millions of gullible supporters. It
requires others, not constrained by the politics of academia,
to bring the thousand and one pieces together.
idea that Jesus of Nazareth never existed is not new but has
been endorsed by a minority of scholars for
more than 200 years.
the literal truth of the godman were
first raised – not by secularists – but by liberal theologians whose
reason prevailed over their faith. Sadly, fundamentalism turns
that approach on its head, allowing faith to prevail over
This is it. The best evidence for believing
in a resurrected Jesus.
3rd-hand anecdotes of "sightings" !
And you thought the evidence for WMDs was a bit thin ..
judge from the Gospels, it would seem that the
activities of the risen Jesus during the forty days
after he died
included: one breakfast; one and a half dinners; one
brief meeting in a cemetery (in fact with his clothes
walks through the countryside; at least seven conversations ...
It is clear that the scriptural stories about
this six-week period contradict one another egregiously with regard to the number and places of Jesus' appearances,
the people who were on hand for such events, and even
the date and the location of the ascension into heaven."
– T. Sheehan (The First Coming, p95,7)
1 Corinthians 15
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the
greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
And when she
had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing,
and knew not that it was Jesus. Then the same day at evening,
being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where
the disciples were assembled
for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, And
after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas
with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut,
and stood in the midst,
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together
and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though
he would have gone further.
But they constrained him. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed
it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their
sight. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst
But they were
terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen
And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,
And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
And he took it, and did eat before them. And he led them out as far as to Bethany,
and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried
up into heaven.
And as they went
to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them. And they came
and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then the eleven
disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus
had appointed them.
And when they saw him,they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came
and spake unto them.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they
mourned and wept. After that he appeared in another form
unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them
with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which
had seen him after he was risen. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them,
he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
Doomed, says Bishop
"If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except
by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the
Gospels, then Christianity is doomed.
view of resurrection is not believable, and if that
is all there is, then Christianity,
which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus'
resurrection, also is not believable."
John Shelby Spong (Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A
for the Origins of Christianity, p 238).
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Fontana, 1955)
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Fontana, 1955)
Josh McDowell, Evidence
that Demands a Verdict (Nelson, 1999)
Gary Habermas, The Verdict of History (Monarch, 1990)
Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ (Zondervan 1998)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Zondervan 2000)
M. Marty, R. Scott Appleby, The Glory & The Power (Beacon,
Philip Sampson, Six Modern Myths Challenging Christian
Faith (IVP, 2000)
The Apostolic Fathers, Early Christian Writings (Penguin, 1968)
Gore Vidal, Armageddon? Essays 1983-1987 (Andre Deutsch, 1987)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
For your copy order:
|Help burst the Jesus balloon!
Copyright © 2004
by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no
material herein is sold for profit.
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