Not the Same Guy - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity



Defending Christianity

Not the Same Guy


I had a conversation with an atheist recently in which he insisted that Jesus Christ was a complete myth, that no such person ever existed. He said that the only evidence that Jesus lived is the Bible, and that's not a reliable source because it was written by people trying to spread this new religion.

I replied that even if we discount the Bible as a source -- which I don't think is a valid thing to do, but let's skip that point for the moment -- even if we discount the Bible as a source, there are a number of non-Christian ancient sources that mention Jesus. I mentioned a few of these that I remembered at the time. For example, I mentioned that the Roman historian Seutonius, in discussing the lives of the Caesars, makes a brief reference to Jesus. Here's the actual quote:

[Emperor Claudius] banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.

C. Suetonius Tranquillus. "Claudius, XXV". The Twelve Caesars. ca. AD 110.

This proves nothing, the atheist replied. He's just talking about someone else with a similar name.

I mentioned another Roman historian, Tacitus. He wrote:

... 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 Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome ...

Tactitus. Annals. Book XV. ca. AD 120.

(Disclaimer: I'm not saying I remembered the complete quotes at the time. I went back and looked them up for this article.)

We went through several other examples that I could think of -- Pliny, Serapion ... umm, that may have been it, of course there are others I didn't remember off the top of my head -- and in each case his reply was that these writers weren't talking about the Jesus of the Bible, but about other men.

From browsing the Internet, apparently this theory isn't an original idea by this one person, but is common among atheists. It can be summed up as: Jesus never existed. Yes, there are a number of ancient documents by non-Christians that talk about someone named "Jesus" or "Christ" or that describe him in some way, but this doesn't prove that the Jesus of the Bible really lived. They are just talking about other people with similar names and/or who did similar things.

So their position is: Jesus never existed. Okay, there was some other man who lived at the same time, who had the same name, who did the same things that the Bible says Jesus did, and who had the same things done by him to others that the Bible claims happened to Jesus. But it wasn't Jesus, it was someone else.

Umm ... what's your definition of "someone else"? If the Bible included a picture of Jesus, or his fingerprints, I guess they'd be telling us that this other man also looked exactly like Jesus, and mysteriously had the exact same fingerprints. But it wasn't Jesus, it was someone else.

© 2011 by Jay Johansen


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