Historicity of Jesus

Was Jesus a real, historical person?

Yes. The historical record shows that a man named Jesus lived in the early first century in Israel and founded Christianity.[1] Biblical scholars, both religious and secular, agree that the historical Jesus existed.[2]

A minority of biblical scholars believe Jesus did not exist as a real, historical person but instead as a literary creation or a myth.[3][4]

Early non-biblical sources for Jesus

Date text was written or translated[5]

Date of Manuscript[6]



93 AD[7]

11th Century AD[8]


First-century historian Josephus wrote the earliest and most extensive non-Biblical record of Jesus's life and ministry.[9]

121 AD[10]

820 AD[11]


In his biography of Emperor Claudius in Lives of Twelve Caesars, Suetonius mentions that Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome "since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus."[12]

2nd Century AD[13]

13th Century AD[14]


Origen records the claims Celsus made in the 2nd century about the birth of Jesus not being miraculous but the consequence of an extramarital affair.[15]

55 AD[16]

11th Century AD[17]

George Syncellus[BIO]

Byzantine chronicler George Syncellus references a secondhand quote attributed to a historian, Thallus,[BIO] about the day of Jesus' death.[18]

73-300 AD[19]

6th or 7th Century AD[20]

Mara bar Serapion[BIO]

Stoic philosopher Mara bar Serapion refers to a "Wise King" of the Jews who was murdered soon before the kingdom of the Jews was destroyed.[21]

112 AD[22]

1500 AD[23]

Pliny the Younger[BIO]

Pliny the Younger writes to Emperor Trajan,[BIO] describing his prosecution of Christians as governor in Turkey and referring to Christ.[24]

116 AD[25]

1000 AD[26]


Tacitus explains that followers of "Christus," who was killed by Pontius Pilatus, were called "Christians."[27]

Expand Table

Scholarly Statements supporting the historicity of Jesus

Name of Scholar

Religious Affiliation

Statement on the Historicity of Jesus

Bart Ehrman[BIO]

"Agnostic Atheist"[28]

"We cannot think of the early Christian Gospels as going back to a solitary source that “invented” the idea that there was a man Jesus. The view that Jesus existed is found in multiple independent sources that must have been circulating throughout various regions of the Roman Empire in the decades before the Gospels that survive were produced. Where would the solitary source that 'invented' Jesus be?"[29]

Robert E. Van Voorst[BIO]


"First, and most apparently, [the Testimonium Flavianum] (along with the later mention of Jesus at Ant. 20.9.1 §200) affirms the existence of Jesus. If any Jewish writer were ever in a position to know about the nonexistence of Jesus, it would have been Josephus. His implicit affirmation of the existence of Jesus has been, and still is, the most significant obstacle for those who argue that extra-biblical evidence is not probative on this point."[31]

George Albert Wells[BIO]


"Today, most secular scholars accept Jesus as a historical, although unimpressive, figure. They are aware that much that is said of him, and by him, in the New Testament is no longer taken at face value even by scholars within mainstream churches, who either discount much of its material as inauthentic or justify it by more novel interpretations."[33]

Graham Stanton[BIO]


"Today, nearly all historians whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the Gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence that must be weighed and assessed critically. There is general agreement that with the possible exception of Paul, we know far more about Jesus of Nazareth than any first- or second-century Jewish or pagan religious teacher."[35]

Expand Table

Is it important for Latter-day Saints to believe in a historical Jesus?


How reliable are these ancient accounts?

Scholars generally agree that these ancient accounts are authentic,[37] although there may be some evidence that Josephus's (a Jewish historian who wrote about Jewish history for the Romans) account of Jesus may have been embellished.[38]

Shouldn't more ancient historians have mentioned Jesus?

No, not necessarily. Ancient Palestine was a relatively small and historically insignificant province in the Roman Empire.[39] Another possible reason for the lack of references to Jesus is due to the early Christian movement's relatively small number.[40]

Do the Dead Sea Scrolls mention Jesus?


Does the Jewish Talmud mention Jesus?

Possibly. There are some references to a man named Jesus or anecdotes that may have been taken from Jesus narratives, but there is nothing definitive.[42]

One of the oldest known depictions of Jesus, painted on plaster and found in Syria, depicts Christ healing the paralytic. It is dated to about 235 AD.

Are there any original historical documents from eyewitnesses of Jesus?

No. There are no original manuscripts for any of the Gospel accounts.[43]

Is there any independent evidence that Jesus performed miracles or was resurrected?

Kind of. The Gospel accounts give the only direct evidence of Jesus performing miracles[44] and being resurrected,[45] but some ancient sources also reference Jesus performing miracles.[46]

Isn't it true that even Paul in the New Testament didn't refer to Christ as a historical person?

No. Paul's epistles say Jesus had a mortal brother;[47] that He ate, drank, and conversed with other people;[48] and that He appeared to numerous people after his resurrection.[49]

Could Paul have just created a fictional version of Jesus?

No, probably not. Paul wrote his first letter around 48-52 AD when people who had personally known Jesus as a real person would still have been alive.[50]

If Paul had invented Jesus, he probably would have written an introduction to who Jesus was and written about His life; however, there is no introduction or biographic information about Jesus in Paul's writings.[51]

Isn't the story of Jesus just a copy of pagan myths about miraculous births and resurrections?

Scholars have argued both for and against the idea that the story of Jesus's resurrection is similar to ancient resurrection myths.[52][53]

The Facts

  • There are no ancient texts outside of scripture that provide a firsthand account of Jesus Christ.

  • There are ancient non-Biblical references to Jesus from the first and early second centuries AD.

  • Most scholars consider Jesus to have been a literal historical person.

Our Take

The historical existence of Jesus Christ holds immense significance for all Christians, particularly for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christianity's foundation rests on Jesus's teachings, death, and resurrection. Without the historical reality of Jesus, the faith's message and purpose would lose their meaning.

While a small minority of scholars propose that Jesus was a mythological character, the scholarly consensus, among both Christian and non-Christian experts, strongly supports the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. This evidence originates not only from the Bible but also from reliable Roman histories and other texts dating within a century of Jesus's lifetime, which reference Jesus and his followers. Latter-day Saints find additional evidence in the Book of Mormon, along with the testimony of Joseph Smith affirming the reality of Jesus Christ.

The historical existence of Jesus Christ is a vital element for Christians, and the preponderance of evidence supports the reality of Jesus as a historical figure. This evidence, coupled with our personal experiences with the Spirit, strengthens our faith in Him and the relevance of His life and teachings.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Robert A.
    Jesus is my Lord and Saviour and our salvation should we choose to believe in Him. I have felt His guidance and protection throughout my life. He has led me to be humble, caring and generous in spirit.
  • BIOJosephus

    Flavius Josephus (ca. 37 AD-ca. 100 AD), a Jewish historian, was a general during the First Jewish Revolt and later associated with Emperor Vespasian. In Rome, he wrote The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, appealing to Roman readers. His works provide valuable non-biblical accounts of Jewish history, including the Old Testament and some New Testament narratives.

  • BIOSuetonius

    Suetonius (ca. 69 AD-ca. 122 AD) was an ancient Roman historian who lived during the first and second centuries AD. He served as a government official under the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Suetonius is most famous for his work called The Twelve Caesars, a book that chronicles the lives of the first twelve Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian.

  • BIOOrigen

    Origen (185 AD-253 AD) was a third-century Alexandrian Church father who wrote extensively on theology and apologetics. He joined the Alexandrian catechetical school and became a prolific writer. Some of his major works include On First Principles, which became a foundational work for Christians, and Contra Celsum, an apology against Celsus' attack on Christianity. After his death, many of his ideas were declared heretical.

  • BIOGeorge Syncellus

    George Syncellus (d. circa 810 AD) was a Byzantine historian and monk who lived in Palestine and Constantinople during the 9th century. His most important work was the "Ecloge Chronographica," which covered the history of the world from its creation to his own time.

  • BIOThallus

    Thallus was an ancient historian who lived during the 1st century AD. He was from a region called Sardis in Asia Minor, which is present-day Turkey. Thallus is most famous for his work called "The Histories," although unfortunately, it has not survived completely. His writings focused on the Mediterranean world and covered various events, including wars and important figures. Although his original writings are lost, some fragments and references to his work can be found in other ancient texts.

  • BIOMara bar Serapion

    Mara bar Serapion was an ancient philosopher and writer who likely lived during the 1st century AD. Little is known about his personal life except that he was from the region of Syria, and a letter from him to his son was found that also contained information about early Christians.

  • BIOPliny the Younger

    Pliny the Younger (67 AD-113 AD) was a Roman lawyer and magistrate. He was raised by his uncle, Pliny the Elder, and was a prolific writer. Hundreds of the letters he wrote as a magistrate have survived, and they give insight into various topics including the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and early Christianity. He wrote letters to Emperor Trajan inquiring about what to do with Christians who refuse to renounce their beliefs.

  • BIOEmperor Trajan

    Trajan (53 AD-117 AD) rose to prominence through his military career. He was adopted by Emperor Nerva, making Trajan the first Roman Emperor originating from a province. In 98 AD Trajan became emperor. He undertook many public works projects, improving Rome's infrastructure with buildings, roads, and aqueducts. As a military leader, Trajan led numerous successful campaigns that significantly expanded Rome's territory, particularly in Germany and Central Asia. Trajan's communication with Pliny the Younger, a renowned lawyer and author, has survived. Pliny sought Trajan's advice on various issues, notably how to deal with the growing Christian community. Trajan's reign, until his death in 117 AD, represents one of the most prosperous and successful periods in Roman history.

  • BIOTacitus

    Tacitus (ca. 56 AD-ca. 120 AD) was a well-known Roman historian who lived in the first century AD. Tacitus is known for his writings about the Roman Empire, especially his books "The Histories" and "The Annals."

  • BIOBart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman (b. 1955) is an American New Testament scholar and author. Ehrman is best known for his research on the historical Jesus, early Christian writings, and the development of the New Testament. He has written numerous books exploring the origins of Christianity and the complexities of biblical interpretation. He is a James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • BIORobert E. Van Voorst

    Robert E. Van Voorst (b. 1952) is an American biblical scholar and writer. Van Voorst specializes in the study of the New Testament and early Christian history. He has authored several books and articles exploring various aspects of biblical scholarship, including the reliability of the Gospels and the historical Jesus. He has taught at various universities, including Western Theological Seminary and Westminster College, before retiring in 2018.

  • BIOG.A. Wells

    George Albert Wells (1926-2017) was a British scholar and author known for his skeptical views on the historicity of Jesus. Wells argued that Jesus was not a historical figure but a mythical creation, challenging the traditional Christian narrative, which he voiced in his works "Did Jesus Exist?" and "The Jesus Myth."

  • BIOGraham Stanton

    Graham Stanton (1940-2009) was a prominent New Testament scholar from New Zealand. Stanton was known for his expertise in the study of the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Mark. He worked at King's College, London and the University of Cambridge. Stanton's works include the books The Gospels and Jesus and Jesus and Gospel.

  • The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles found in the New Testament record Jesus' ministry and the beginning of Christianity.

    The earliest attestation to Jesus and his followers outside of the New Testament comes from the Jewish historian Josephus. Important second-century AD Roman historians also mention Jesus.

  • New Testament scholar Graham Stanton stated:

    Today, nearly all historians whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically. There is general agreement that with the possible exception of Paul, we know far more about Jesus of Nazareth than about any first- or second-century Jewish or pagan religious teacher.
  • For example, Thomas Thompson maintains that "ancient wisdom sayings" were "used by both the gospel writers... to create their figures of Jesus." Robert Price has concluded that the historical reality of Jesus is unknowable:

    We have arrived at the conclusion that the gospel tradition seems completely unreliable. That is, most of the sayings and stories alike seem to be historically spurious. If any of them should chance to be genuine, we can no longer tell. We cannot render their possible authenticity possible, so they fall to the cutting room floor...
  • New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado considers the Mythical Jesus thesis (the belief that no man known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed) indefensible. Addressing the reasons why the “mythical Jesus” view lacks traction amongst scholars, Hurtado noted:

    Advocates of the “mythical Jesus” have failed to demonstrate expertise in the relevant data, and sufficient acquaintance with the methods involved in the analysis of the relevant data, and have failed to show that the dominant scholarly view (that Jesus of Nazareth was a real first-century figure) is incompatible with the data or less secure than the “mythical Jesus” claim.
  • This is the commonly accepted date of when the text could have been first written.

  • Scholars use various techniques to determine the date of a text. They examine the handwriting style and script, comparing it to known examples to estimate the text's age. They also analyze the language and vocabulary used, comparing it to how language has changed over time. References to historical events or people mentioned in the text can be checked against known timelines.

    Additionally, the physical characteristics of the manuscript, such as the type of ink and paper used, can provide clues about when it was created. These methods and contextual evidence help scholars establish a probable date for the text.

  • At the end of the Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus stated:

    I will briefly run over this war, . . . with what befell us therein to this very day, which is the thirteenth year of the reign of Caesar Domitian, and the fifty-sixth year of my own life.

    Domitian became emperor in about 81 AD, which puts the thirteenth year of his reign in about 93 AD.

  • The earliest extant manuscript of the "Testimonium Flavianum" is a Codex bible. Ambrosianae F 128, which is written in Greek on parchment. It is an excerpt from his work entitled "Antiquities of the Jews."

  • Many scholars argue that the Testimonium Flavianum was embellished to sound more like a Christian account. It reads:

    About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
  • Suetonius held several imperial positions, including secretary to Emperor Hadrian. He is supposed to have written his Lives of Twelve Caesars during this time since he would have had access to many imperial documents.

  • The earliest extant manuscript of Suetonius' Lives of Twelve Caesars is Codex Memmianus, a Latin text found in Tours, France.

  • Suetonius gave this account of Claudius, which likely refers to Jesus:

    He [Claudius] banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.
  • There is some debate regarding the original dating of Celsus' polemical work against Christianity, but there is some agreement that it can be placed in the late second century AD.

    Scholar Gary Burke explained:

    More than a century ago Keim (1873) argued so convincingly that the TD was written in the year 178 c.e. that his dating became the scholarly consensus. Certain recent studies, however, have exposed major [Fl]aws in Keim's interpretation of key passages and have, in effect, reopened the date question. If, as they should be, Keim's arguments are rejected, the TD can be dated no more precisely than the last third of the 2d century.
  • The earliest extant manuscript of Contra Celsum is Codex Vaticanus Graecus 386, located in the Vatican.

  • Origen wrote in the Contra Celsum:

    He [Celsus] accuses Him of having "invented his birth from a virgin," and upbraids Him with being "born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery; that after being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God."
  • The dating of this text is approximate since it only survives as a thirdhand reference. Dr. Van Voorst explained:

    The earliest possible reference to Jesus comes from the middle of the first century. Around 55 C.E., a historian named Thallos wrote in Greek a three-volume chronicle of the easter Mediterranean area from teh fall of Troy to about 50 C.E. Most of his book, like the vast majority of ancient literature, perished, but not before it was quoted by Sextus julius Africanus (ca. 160- ca. 240), a Christian writer, in his History of the World (ca. 220). This book likewise was lost, but one of its citations of Thallos was taken up by the Byzantine historian Georgius Syncellus in his Chronicle (ca. 800).
  • The earliest manuscript of George Syncellus' Chronography is found in the Codex Parisinus Bibl. Nat. Graecus 1711. It is a Greek manuscript written on parchment.

  • George Syncellus wrote in his Chronography:

    Concerning each of his [Jesus'] deeds and his cures, both of bodies and souls, and the secrets of his knowledge, and his Resurrection from the dead, this has been explained with complete adequacy by his disciples and the apostles before us. A most terrible darkness fell over all the world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake, and many places both in Judaea and the rest of the world were thrown down. In the third book of his Histories, Thallos dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse. In my opinion, this is nonsense. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on Luna 14, and what happened to the Saviour occurred one day before the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun takes place when the moon passes under the sun. The only time when this can happen is in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last day of the old moon, when they are in conjunction. How then could one believe an eclipse took place when the moon was almost in opposition to the sun? So be it. Let what had happened beguile the masses, and let this wonderful sign to the world be considered a solar eclipse through an optical (illusion).
  • The dating of this letter is unclear. Its contents could be placed from any time from the late first century to the fourth century.

  • The earliest known manuscript of Mara bar Serapion's letter is the Syriac manuscript called British Library Additional 14658.

  • While not an explicit reference to Jesus, some believe "the murder of their Wise King" is a reference to Jesus. Mara bar Serapion's letter states:

    What are we to say, when the wise are dragged by force by the hands of tyrants, and their wisdom is deprived of its freedom by slander, and they are plundered for their superior intelligence, without the opportunity of making a defense? They are not wholly to be pitied. For what benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death, seeing that they received as retribution for it famine and pestilence? Or the people of Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, seeing that in one hour the whole of their country was covered with sand? Or the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them? For with justice did God grant a recompense to the wisdom of all three of them. For the Athenians died by famine; and the people of Samos were covered by the sea without remedy; and the Jews, brought to desolation and expelled from their kingdom, are driven away into every land. Nay, Socrates did not die, because of Plato; nor yet Pythagoras, because of the statue of Hera; nor yet the Wise King, because of the new laws which he enacted.
  • Pliny's letters were published over a number of years. The letters he wrote to Trajan were published after his death (circa AD 110). Historian Brian Jones explained:

    The first nine books, consisting of 247 personal letters, were published at intervals between ca. 100 and 109, while the tenth appeared posthumously and contained 121 official letters written during his term in Pontus-Bithynia... Of particular interest is Pliny's request to Trajan for guidance on the treatment of Christians (Ep. 10.96) and Trajan's reply (Ep. 10.97).
  • Book Ten of Pliny the Younger's letters were originally preserved in the larger Latin manuscript "Π." It is no longer fully extant, but the earliest manuscript of Book Ten is found in A, from Venice, Italy.

  • While describing the trials of Jesus's followers in the Roman Empire, Pliny the Younger refers to a figure known as Christ:

    If a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished. . . . They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.
  • Historian Scott Carroll described Tacitus's career (including self-references found in Tacitus' works):

    Tacitus began his politicai career as quaestor in 81/2 c.e., and praetor in 88 c.e. during the reign of Domitian (Agr. 9.6; Hist. 1.1; and Ann. 11.11). He left Rome on an official commission in 90 c.e. and returned in 93 c.e. shortly after his father-in-law’s death. In Rome, Tacitus witnessed the final years of Domitian’s criminal atrocities (Agr. lff.; 3.2, and 44ff.; and Hist. 1.1). In 97 c.e., Tacitus was made consul suffectus under Nerva and as Rome’s leading orator, gave the eulogy for Verginius Rufus. In 100 c.e. with his friend Pliny (the future governor of Bithynia), he prosecuted Marius Priscus for extortion (Pliny Ep. 2.12.2). He may have governed a military province and later served as proconsul of Asia in 112/13 c.e. If a sentence in Ann. 2.61 was written after 115 c.e., Tacitus may have survived to the accession of Hadrian in 117 c.e.
  • Codex Mediceus 68 II fol. 38 r is the earliest example of Tacitus' Annals books 11-16. It is written in Latin.

  • In Annals, Tacitus wrote:

    To get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
  • Bart Ehrman described his beliefs in this way:

    So I’m an agnostic atheist. Or an atheistic agnostic. Take your pick! I don’t know if there’s one (or very, very many) greater, superhuman intelligence in the multiverse; but I really, really doubt it and simply don’t believe it. For what it’s worth, I sometimes call myself a “Christian atheist.” That’s because I try to implement what I see to be the best moral teachings of the Christian religion in my life. But usually, I just call myself that to myself and to close friends, since most people get confused enough when I say that I’m an agnostic atheist, and throwing “Christian” in there does not do much to unmuddy the waters.
  • Dr. Robert E. Van Voorst is an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church in America.

  • From Dr. Van Voorst's book Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, published in 2000.

  • G. A. Wells said that he initially rejected the existence of Jesus, but that he later recognized there was a man named Jesus (while still rejecting most of the records of Jesus in the New Testament).

  • Wells continued:

    However, from about 1960 an increasing number of skeptics have come forward with denials of Jesus's historicity. In my first books on Christian origins, I myself denied it, but in works published since 1995 I am not quite as radical, although I still go further than critical Christian scholars in t\hat I regard even the Jerusalem Passion and execution under Pilate as non historical, and am concerned to argue the case here.
  • Graham Stanton was a New Testament scholar and licensed by the Presbyterian Church.

  • From Graham Stanton's 2002 book The Gospels and Jesus.

  • "The Living Christ: The Testimony of The Apostles" reads:

    As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. [Emphasis added]

    Additionally, the April 2020 "Restoration Proclamation" states:

    We solemnly proclaim that God loves His children in every nation of the world. God the Father has given us the divine birth, the incomparable life, and the infinite atoning sacrifice of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. By the power of the Father, Jesus rose again and gained the victory over death. He is our Savior, our Exemplar, and our Redeemer. . . . God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph and inaugurated the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) as foretold in the Bible. In this vision, he learned that following the death of the original Apostles, Christ’s New Testament Church was lost from the earth. Joseph would be instrumental in its return.
  • The majority of scholars, including Bart Ehrman, Robert E. Van Voorst, and Willem Blom, accept the authenticity of Tacitus, Pliny, and Suetonius' references to Jesus. They reject the position that Christians later edited all of their works to include Jesus.

    Keith W. Whitelam wrote:

    The commonest error respecting nonhistoricity turns on a false analogy. It is the assumption that since discontinuity with the transmitting church establishes historicity, continuity with the transmitting church establishes nonhistoricity. In fact, no conclusion can be legitimately drawn from the mere presence of such continuity. A true index to nonhistoricity is the incompatibility of data under examination either with data established as historical or with solidly grounded historical conclusions. If, for example, the historian were to succeed in recovering the eschatological scheme supposed by words of Jesus on the future, and if according to this scheme there was to be no interval between the vindication/glorification of Jesus and the consummation of history, then gospel tests positing such an interim would be nonhistorical.
  • Some consider the text of Josephus's Testimonium Flavianum, which refers to Jesus as possibly being edited by Christians. New Testament Scholar Mark Allan Powell presented what he considers to be the probable original text:

    At the time there appeared Jesus a wise man [a] For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among Jews and among many of Greek origin.[b] And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so.[c] And up until this day the very tribe of Christians (named after him) has not died out. (Antiquities 18.3.3) [5]
  • Historian C. C. McCown estimated that the total population of Western Palestine totaled between 300,000 and 500,000. Palestine's main importance came from its location between Egypt (Rome's breadbasket) and Syria (which bordered the Parthian Empire).

    Additionally, historian Margaret Williams argued:

    The main focus of most Roman prose-writers of the early imperial period tended to be on Rome itself, its elite citizens and their political concerns, the most important of which was their relationship with the emperor. Their subjects in the provinces, by contrast, were of little interest to them and so receive relatively little attention in their works.

    This is evident in second-temple Jewish writings and first-century AD Roman histories.

  • Sociologist and historian Rodney Stark estimates that there were only about 1,000 Christians in 100 CE.

    Third-century Christian commentator Origen acknowledged "that Christians were few in number at the beginning."

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls were written at various times between 250 BC and 68 AD. Scrolls include copies of almost every book in the Old Testament, commentaries on scripture, and writings about the community; however, Jesus does not appear in any of these texts.

  • There are certain sayings in the Talmud that some scholars believe might pertain to Jesus, but there is ongoing debate regarding whether they truly refer to Jesus of Nazareth or another individual named Jesus. The Talmud was compiled centuries after Jesus' lifetime and underwent numerous additions. Its late compilation raises questions about its usefulness in verifying the historical existence of Jesus and necessitates caution due to historical tensions between Christianity and Judaism.

  • All the surviving manuscripts are copies of earlier manuscripts, with the earliest known fragment dating to around the early second century.

    Bible scholars David P. Barrett and Phillip Wesley Comfort have explained the dating of the earliest New Testament manuscript:

    The earliest known New Testament manuscript is P52, a fragment of John's Gospel. The papyrus fragment was dated by various paleographers to the first half of the second century--even to the first quarter (see discussion under P52). . .no one would commit to a date earlier than A.D. 125. . . No other New Testament manuscript has been assigned a date prior to A.D. 150 with any kind of consensus.
  • According to John 2:1-11, Jesus's first public miracle was turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana. The purpose of this, as recorded in verse 11, was the "[manifestation of] his glory; and his disciples believed on him."

    Matthew 8:28-34 records the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac:

    28. And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. 29. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? 30. And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. 31. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. 34. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
  • Mark 16:3-8 (written c. AD 70) reads:

    3. And they said among themselves: Who shall roll away for us the stone from the door of the sepulcher? 4. And looking up they see that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very great. 5. And they entered the sepulcher and saw a young man, sitting at the right side, clothed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6. But he says to them: Be not amazed. You seek Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified; he has risen, he is not here: see the place where they laid him. 7. But go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee: there you shall see him, as he said to you. 8. And going out they fled from the sepulcher; for trembling and astonishment had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.
  • Both Josephus and Celsus described Jesus performing miracles.

    Bible scholar Richard Bauckham asserts that the Gospels circulated in early Christianity reflected eyewitness testimony.

    Gospel traditions did not, for the most part, circulate anonymously but in the name of the eyewitnesses to whom they were due. Throughout the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, Christians remained interested in and aware of the ways the eyewitnesses themselves told their stories. So, in imagining how the traditions reached the Gospel writers, not oral tradition but eyewitness testimony should be our principal.
  • See Galatians 1:18-20:

    18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

    Some scholars have debated the meaning of "brother" in Pauline discourse. L. P. Trudinger argues that "brother" refers not to a biological brother but rather, to a common believer. F.F. Bruce argues, however, that Galatians 1:19 separates the class of "apostles" from the identity of "brother."

  • Paul referenced the Last Supper in his first letter to the Corinthians:

    For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul lists the people who saw Jesus after his resurrection. While we may categorize these as appearances of the heavenly Jesus, Paul seems to consider them to be historical events:

    For I delivered to you, among the first things, that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain till now, but some have also fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, after that to all the apostles. But, last of all, as to the one born out of due time, he appeared to me also.
  • According to New Testament scholar Mark Allan Powell:

    Paul's second missionary journey brought him to Thessalonica around 48-51 AD. According to the book of Acts, he crossed over to Europe from what is now Western Turkey. He landed at Necropolis. . . and went first to Phillippi, where he managed to found the church to which he would later write his letter to the Phillippians (Acts 16:11-40).
  • Paul wrote very little about the life of Jesus. The longest references are:

    • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

    • 1 Corinthians 15:3-11

    • Philippians 2:5-11

    • Galatians 1:18-19

    Craig Blomberg proposed six reasons why there are not more references to the life of Jesus in Paul's letters:

    First, we must remember that none of Paul's letters represents first-time evangelism of unsaved people or even the beginning of the discipleship process for brand-new Christians... Second, none of the rest of the New Testament epistles has any greater frequency in using the Gospel tradition of Jesus's words and deeds... Third, following from these first two points, early Christian epistles were apparently not the preferred genre or context for catechetical instruction about the life and teaching of Jesus...Fourth, as briefly noted above, Jesus's followers, quickly recognized that the most important features of his life were his death and resurrection... Fifth, the sense of divine inspiration or guidance that Paul experienced would have freed him up to write in the words he sensed he was supposed to use... Sixth, on more than one occasion Paul has to stress that he has as much authority as the apostles in Jerusalem do, against those who doubt or oppose him (esp. Galatians 1-2; cf. Acts 15).
  • Historian T.N.D. Mettinger argues that there is no evidence that the narrative of Jesus' resurrection is based on common legends:

    There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world. While studied with profit against the background of Jewish resurrection belief, the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus retains its unique character in the history of religions.

    However, Richard Carrier, a proponent of Jesus mythicism, argues that Plutarch's book on the mystery cult of Isis and Osiris is a meaningful parallel to Jesus's resurrection and proposed "euhemerization." He notes that Plutarch's work states that the purpose of the myths was to learn the deeper truths behind them.

  • Some have suggested that the Osiris myth, which is a foundational myth for Egyptian religion, could be the origin for Jesus. While Osiris overcame death, he generally has little in common with Jesus. They share no birth-date, no place of birth, no angelic chorus attending their births, and no immaculate conception. Some mythicists argue that Horus, Osiris's son, was alleged to be born to a virgin. However, Egyptian pyramid texts celebrate how Isis, Osiris's sister, used Osiris's body to conceive Horus after piecing together Osiris's body: either through a flash of lightning or through Osiris's breath. Additionally, Pyramid Text 366 offers an account of the conception, which has clearly sexual components: "Your sister Isis has come to you, aroused [for] love of you. You have put her on your phallus so that your seed might emerge into her." Osiris, too, was not resurrected in any way similar to how Jesus was said to be resurrected.