[Jesus] had shown Himself alive to them after His Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days He had continued to appear to them and tell them about the Kingdom of God
(Acts 1:3, NJB).
More and more I hear the claim made that Jesus didn’t actually exist, and that there’s no good historical reason to believe that He did. When the claim is made in a person-to-person setting (as opposed to chatting with someone online), I’m often left at a loss for words—not because I don’t have an answer, but because no matter how often I hear the claim made, the utter ridiculousness of it continues to bewilder me. The ideology that holds that Jesus never actually existed holds that the early Christians made Jesus up in order to base their new religious movement on something, and so they co-opted aspects of another myth or mishmash of myths in order to fashion their deity. But this claim always seems to me to be grasping at straws. Claiming that Jesus wasn’t real, but that people made Him up in order to start their new religion seems rather like claiming that the Roman Empire wasn’t real, but that politicians invented the myth of Rome because they like the idea of a senate-run government.
The problem I have with the arguments is, while at first glance they might seem plausible (though any depth of actual research shows that they really aren’t), they make a lot more sense to people who want to believe that Jesus wasn’t real. That is to say, the argument, for example, that the early Christians ripped off their teachings about Jesus’ life from ancient myths about the Egyptian god Horus, really sounds like “I don’t want Jesus to be real, so I’ll come up with any alternative in order to not have to believe in Him.”
I mean, what motivation could there possibly be for first-century Jews to fabricate a figure like Jesus, then claim that not only was He the long-expected Jewish Messiah, but that, to make things interesting, they claim that He was also divine? Moreover, contrary to all Jewish expectation, they claim that He was crucified and died, and then, to further strain credulity, state that He came back from the dead! On top of which, these folks claimed that all of these things happened in a very specific time and place, under a very specific set of circumstances. They even named names, like Pontius Pilate! And they claimed to be eye-witnesses, and that they knew many other eye-witnesses (St. Paul himself mentions over 500 people saw the risen Jesus on one occasion)!
So, again, what motivation would a group of people have to make up such an otherwise unbelievable (and oddly specific) story, in order to form a religion out of it, in a time and place where the people around them were overly hostile to new religious ideas—like, death-penalty hostile? Did they expect fame? Fortune? Not likely, from their writings. They expected persecution, suffering, and death. And they got it! And if they had made it all up, then why would they have willingly died for their lie? Why would they have bothered repackaging some other pagan god, if they fully expected to pay for it with their lives? Why not simply just worship whichever pagan god that they allegedly co-opted in order to “create” Jesus?
This is what I find devastatingly weak about the mythicist position. Even if their arguments held any factual weight, the simple question of “why” undermines their entire system.
A few years back, I wrote a series of articles examining St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways to prove the existence of God. In a similar vein, I’m going to write a series of arguments offering historical and archaeological evidences for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, and then conclude with a demonstration that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, the same Jesus that Christians worship as God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
Read the other posts of the series Was Jesus Real:
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