It seems like every Christmas season the very existence of Jesus is debated. Here is one article from this year.
The lady who wrote this article is a former evangelical and sadly demonstrates the failure of many evangelical churches in grounding people in the truth. Her points (in bold) and my brief refutations of them are below.
- No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.
How about Josephus? Or Tacitus? Neither were Christians, both were respected 1st century historians who support the actuality of Jesus from both the Jewish and Roman perspective. And by the way, both Yeshua (Joshua) and Yosef (Joseph) were very common Hebrew names. There were likely several men among the 1st century Jews who fit that designation. But the “historical” Jesus is confirmed by secular sources.
- The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.
She cites the “silence of Paul” on such things as the virgin birth, wise men, etc. Her argument centers on omission. That is, since Paul and other NT writers may not have mentioned something about Jesus’ life, then it never happened. Really?! This is like saying that if President Obama doesn’t mention the War of 1812, then it never happened. A better conclusion (even for a secularist) would be that Paul wrote about other issues central to the Christian faith, which is why he didn’t mention previously established facts (even if they hadn’t been written down yet).
- Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.
Luke 1:2 “Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word”
Although Luke himself didn’t claim a first-hand account, his sources did. This is often how lawyers make a case and historians write history. They gather eyewitness testimony and put the pieces together to make a case or demonstrate a fact.
John 21:24 “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.”
John claims a first-hand account. Other examples could be given, but at this point, her assertion has been refuted.
- The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.
No specifics are given by her, but she does mention incompatible Easter stories. I firmly disagree. Freethinkers/atheists see a contradiction under every rock. So if one gospel mentions only one woman going to Jesus’ tomb and another mentions more than one, they see that as a contradiction. That’s like me telling someone that me and my brother walked into the kitchen at 5pm this past Monday, then my sister telling the same person that all 3 of us walked into the kitchen at the same time. We all 3 could have walked in together, but since I didn’t mention my sister, that’s perceived as a contraction. But in fact I may have only mentioned my brother and myself because only we two were pertinent to what I was discussing. These instances are not contradictions, but rather are selective accounts from a writer’s perspective.
- Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.
The problem here is her subjective selection of “scholars”. Sure, I can find diverse scholars who disagree on who the “historical” Jesus was. But I can also find a lot more scholars who agree that He did exist, died, rose again, did miracles, etc.
She may find her arguments persuasive, but with just a little reasoning, their effectiveness quickly disappears. I think even most atheists would find holes in her arguments. However, impressionable people who are not grounded in the truth may accept her arguments readily, including those who grow up in church. That’s the frightening part and why we must teach people to think logically from a biblical perspective.