Historians Don’t Doubt Jesus’ Existence

Source: John Dickson, "Most Australians may doubt that Jesus existed, but historians don’t," ABC Religion and Ethics, 23 December 2021.

"When you apply the normal rules of history to Jesus of Nazareth, this figure is plainly a historical one not a mythical one. The early and diverse sources we have put his existence (and much more) beyond reasonable doubt."

"Take the famous single-volume Oxford Classical Dictionary. ... There is a multiple page entry on the origins of Christianity that begins with an assessment of what may be reliably known about Jesus of Nazareth."

"Or take the much larger Cambridge Ancient History in 14 volumes. Volume 10 covers the “Augustan Period”, right about the time that Tiberius, Livia, Pliny the Elder, and — yes — Jesus all lived. It has a sizeable chapter on the birth of Christianity. The entry begins with a couple of pages outlining what is known of Jesus’ life and death, including his preaching of the kingdom of God, his fraternizing with sinners, and so on."

"... we could also turn to the compendium of Jewish history, the Cambridge History of Judaism in four volumes. Volume 3 covers the “Early Roman Period”. Several different chapters refer to Jesus in passing as an interesting figure of Jewish history. One chapter — 60 pages in length — focuses entirely on Jesus and is written by two leading scholars, neither of whom has qualms dismissing bits of the New Testament when they think the evidence is against it. The chapter offers a first-rate account of what experts currently think about the historical Jesus. His teaching, fame as a healer, openness to sinners, selection of “the twelve” (apostles), prophetic actions (like cleansing the temple), clashes with elites, and, of course, and his death on a cross are all treated as beyond reasonable doubt. The authors do not tackle the resurrection (unsurprisingly), but they do acknowledge, as a matter of historical fact, that the first disciples of Jesus “were absolutely convinced that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised and was Lord and that numerous of them were certain that he had appeared to them.”

"By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory
" (I Timothy 3:16).

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