Does Jesus exist in historical accounts other than the Bible?

      Yes, however, there are no surviving records documenting the existence of Jesus of Nazareth written during his lifetime. The gospels and letters written by his immediate followers, who were firsthand witnesses and which comprise the New Testament, were written more than forty years after the death of Jesus. No mention of Jesus was made by Philo Judaeus (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.), the eminent Jewish historian and philosopher who lived during Jesus' time. The Jewish Talmud, completed in A.D. 200, mentions "Yeshu'a of Nazareth" in various places as a troublemaker and observes his crucifixion: "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged... but since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover" (Babylonia Sanhedrin 43A). The closest historical witness outside the early church fathers is Josephus Flavius (A.D. 37-101), a Jewish court historian for Emperor Vespasian who, in A.D. 93 in Rome, published an account of the history of the Jews. Although controversial as to its authenticity, the following excerpt comes from Josephus' Jewish Antiquities (Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3):

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

Many argue that later copyists may have added their own Christian viewpoints to this section, since it would seem that Josephus himself considered Jesus to actually be the Messiah. The secular version of this particular section goes something like this: "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonders. He drew many after him. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." From the same book (Chapter 5, Section 2) comes the following account of John the Baptist:

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him."

Josephus also reported on the death of James, the brother of Jesus. The following account comes from Josephus' Book of Antiquities (Book 20, Chapter 9, Section 1):

"And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest."

A Christian chronographer of the late second century, Julius Africanus, quoted from another, unknown, source written by Thallus, a Samaritan-born Roman historian around A.D. 52 who attempted to refute the supernatural claims of Jesus' crucifixion, mostly by claiming that the darkness which fell over Jerusalem from the sixth to the ninth hour was caused by an eclipse (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44). About the middle of the first century, a Roman leader named Cornelius Tacitus (A.D 54-119) wrote about the reign of the Emperor Nero in his second century Annals, including an episode about the followers of Christ being made scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger, circa A.D. 61-115), governor of Bithynia about A.D.112, wrote to the Emperor Trajan about his ordeals with the troublesome Christians. About A.D. 120, Suetonius (A.D. 75-160), annalist and court official of the Imperial House during the reign of Hadrian, wrote about the expulsion of Christians from Rome during the time of Paul the Apostle because "the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus" (Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 25:4). Although these secular accounts of Jesus and his immediate followers may be somewhat brief and postdate Jesus' life and death, they do lend to the historical truth of the existence of Jesus Christ by both Jewish and Roman historical accounts.

Note: Various third and fourth century Christian writers, including Justin Martyr, Euseubius, and Tertullian, have made reference to a letter written by Pontius Pilate to the Roman Emperor regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, however, no proof has been uncovered that this letter actually existed, other than a supposed copy of the letter in the third-century Gnostic Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acta Pilati, or "Acts of Pilate."

        "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Following are links to websites with information regarding the theories of who Jesus was based on available facts and documentation, as well as who his followers were and what they believed about him. There are many Internet sources for information about the historical Jesus versus the Christ of faith, however, most believers would agree that the two are inseparable. If Jesus never truly existed, then faith in his death and resurrection are false (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). Some of these links are to atheistic sites, which attempt to refute the historical existence of Jesus based on the same evidence with which others support it. Although some may argue against the historical accuracy of the New Testament -- and though third and fourth century Christian writers attempted to depict Jesus historically -- the information is directed more toward secular accounts of Christ.

ABC News - The Search for Jesus

"ABCNEWS� Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus is a journalist�s exploration of the historical figure of Jesus. The two-hour documentary provided extensive insights into the 2,000-year-old story of Christianity and the man whose life continues to inspire devotion and debate. In this Web version of The Search for Jesus, we invite you to interact with the story and to engage in discussion with others who may or may not share your views. The multimedia presentation features video excerpts from the television special plus original content created specially for the Web. In addition, we encourage you to read the transcript of the on-line chat with Peter Jennings which took place in June 1999. The basic version of this material is available to users with slower connections and can be viewed by selecting the �Basic Version� links. The enhanced version of this presentation is built for broadband users�those with at connection at or above 256 kbps�and can be viewed by clicking on the �Enhanced Version� links. Both versions features maps, an historical timeline of Christianity, user surveys, links to related stories and a discussion board where users can talk about issues and questions related to their beliefs and the life of Jesus."

American Atheists - Did Jesus Exist? An Answer to the Christian Myth

"Although Christian apologists have listed a number of ancient historians who allegedly were witnesses to the existence of Jesus, the only two that consistently are cited are Josephus, a Pharisee, and Tacitus, a pagan. Since Josephus was born in the year 37 CE, and Tacitus was born in 55, neither could have been an eye-witness of Jesus, who supposedly was crucified in 30 CE. So we could really end our article here. But someone might claim that these historians nevertheless had access to reliable sources, now lost, which recorded the existence and execution of our friend JC. So it is desirable that we take a look at these two supposed witnesses."

Bede's Library - Refuting the Myth that Jesus Never Existed

"The thesis that Jesus never existed has hovered around the fringes of research into the New Testament for centuries but never been able to become an accepted theory. This is for good reason, as it is simply a bad hypothesis based on arguments from silence, special pleading and an awful lot of wishful thinking. It is ironic that atheists will buy into this idea and leave all their pretensions of critical thinking behind. I will adapt what has become popular usage and call people who deny Jesus' existence 'Jesus Mythologists'. A huge amount has been written on the web and elsewhere which you can find in the further reading section below. Not all Jesus Mythologists are lunatics and one at least, Earl Doherty, is extremely erudite and worth reading. Nevertheless, he is still wrong and, as I have seen myself, he reacts badly to those who demonstrate it. It is not my intention to study the minutiae of the argument but instead focus on three central points which are often brought up on discussion boards. These are the lack of secular references, the alleged similarities to paganism and the silence of Paul. Finally I want to bring all these together to show how ideas similar to those that deny Jesus' existence can be used on practically any ancient historical figure. With this in mind I set out to prove that Hannibal never existed."

Bible History Online - The Life of Jesus in Harmony

"This is an HTML version of BKA 5 [The Bible Knowledge Accelerator] - The Life of Jesus in Harmony written in 1995."

The Biblical Studies Foundation - Historical Backgrounds to the Gospels and Life of Jesus: A Listing of Extra-Biblical Citations

"The study of Jesus� life in the Gospels is a fascinating and spiritually rewarding adventure. It is even more so when you have a growing understanding of the environment into which the Son of Man came, lived, ministered, died, and rose again. But more often than not we have to completely rely on the �experts� to tell us something about the background. Actually, having the experts there to help us is most often a good thing, but so is reading these ancient texts for yourself. With this in mind, it is the point of this project to provide you with the references to extra-biblical literature (indexed according to the Gospel passages) so that you can go, look up the texts, and read the material for yourself. It is our hope to someday have English translations of these texts online, here at the Biblical Studies Foundation, so that you can easily access them. For the time being, however, a list of the relevant citations will take you a long way in accessing this material for fruitful study, teaching, and preaching. Further, many of the volumes such as Josephus, Philo, the OT Apocrypha, the Septuagint, the Mishnah, and a good translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are fairly inexpensive reference volumes that every Bible student can own. The OT Pseudepigrapha, Gnostic sources, and Mystery Religion materials are also available in English translations at quite reasonable prices. The Midrashim, Targums, and Talmud generally cost a fair amount, but are still manageable for some folks..."

Critcising Christianity - The Historical Jesus: Did He Exist?

"Possibly the most well known of all the 'questers' was the brilliant Albert Schweitzer, who wrote Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (usually called 'The Quest for the Historical Jesus') in 1906, which marked the end of the first quest. He noted that people who search for the historical Jesus usually find a Jesus they agree with! All previous scholars had sought to 'modernise' Jesus, to make him relevant to their particular time, rather than looking at him in his own time. He also noted that they practically ignored the fact that Jesus was Jewish, both in their writings and in the iconography of the day. He saw Jesus as an eschatological (end of the world) prophet, expecting a son of man to be sent by God to bring this end upon them. When this figure did not appear Jesus then thought he must be the son of man, and expected his death on the cross to bring about the end of the world. The disciples then changed his meaning when this did not happen, and moved the end of the world to some unspecified future time. Schweitzer's work effectively stopped all the quests for the historical Jesus for fifty years, although Bultmann in the third quest (the one we're in now) picked up his ideas."

Darkness to Light - A New Vision of Jesus? An Evangelical Critique of the Jesus Seminar and Its Radical Skepticism

""Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actually say and do?" Why are these questions being asked afresh today, both within and without the Christian community? These questions will be addressed in this four-part article. There are several reasons why they are being asked. First, there are claims being made about the discovery of "ancient secret documents" that contradict the New Testament record of Jesus' life and ministry. When one first hears about these various "discoveries" and "secret documents" and what they are supposed to prove, they may sound plausible enough. But after careful investigation of the reports made concerning these "amazing discoveries," one soon sees that they are without any real historical substance. Indeed, they are often nothing more than a form of propaganda promoting some religious or philosophical view contrary to orthodox Christianity." (by Francis H. Geis)

Does God Exist? The Real Jesus of History

"The real Jesus of history is consistent with the glorified Christ of Christian faith, because he is one and the same. The skeptical attempt to separate the real Jesus of history from the Christ of faith is a futile attempt to separate the inseparable. The Christ of Christian faith is simply the real Jesus of history plus a developed understanding and interpretation of who he was and is. For example, the real Jesus of history was "born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4). The Christ of faith is the Word who was "with God" and "was God" and "became flesh" (Jn. 1:1, 14; 1 Tim. 3:16). The real Jesus of history was a teacher who shed light on many subjects. The Christ of faith is "the light of the world" (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; 12:46), "the light of all people" (Jn. 1:4), and "the true light" (Jn. 1:9). The real Jesus of history was a Jew, a descendant of the royal line of David. The Christ of faith is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of kings. The real Jesus of history died by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. The Christ of faith "died for our sins" (I Cor. 15:3). The real Jesus of history was resuscitated after his death. The Christ of faith was "raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25), "designated Son of God in his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4)." (by Joel Stephen Williams)

Early Christine Writings - Historical Jesus Theories

"The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ. An attempt has been made to include historical Jesus theories across the spectrum from Marcus Borg to N.T. Wright and to describe these historical Jesus theories in an accurate and concise way. The authors are listed in alphabetical order. For convenience, the authors are also listed by the general view that each has on the historical Jesus. Much information is lost when a person's view is reduced to a slogan, and even scholars placed under the same rubric have different views on Jesus. The information on this web page is no substitute for reading what these writers have to say. The recent publications of each writer on the historical Jesus are indicated, with links to to view reader reviews and buying information. Online articles by or about the author are also listed. The editor's favorites are shown in pictures on the right-hand side, and these titles are recommended for further reading on the historical Jesus."

Free America - Proving the Historic Jesus

"The New Testament refers to the High Priest Caiaphas. Records of the Temple of Jerusalem where destroyed and history has not been able to verify that Caiaphas, like Christ, existed. If no evidence existed of Caiaphas when the New Testament was embraced by the Christians of the second century, then it would have been a fact lost to history. But now, 1,950 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, a public works project building a water park in November 1990 accidentally uncovered an ancient burial cave. The inscription in the burial chamber was that of the Caiaphas family. The Caiaphas name had only been mentioned in the New Testament and by Flavius Josephus, no Jewish records have been found with Caiaphas' name linked to being the high priest. The remains of a 60-year-old man were found in the burial cave that may have been the High Priest Caiaphas. The inscription on his craved ossuary, fit for a high priest, was the name Yehosef bar Qafa (Joseph, son of Caiaphas). Coins found in the cave were bronze minted in 42/43 (C.E.) during the reign of Herod Agrippa I. These are similar to images of coins found on the Shroud of Turin �believed by many scientists to be the burial shroud of Christ. According to Ronny Reich in an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, "Very few of the hundreds of people who walk through the pages of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament have been attested in archeological finds. Now, to that small list, we may add, in all probability, the high priest who presided at Jesus' trial, or at least a member of his family." It adds, "From the period between the second century B.C.E. and the second century C.E., there are only six such names, and perhaps you will exclude one or two of these because they are names of rulers or former rulers. Three of these names, however, are especially pertinent here because they, like Caiaphas, come from priestly families." The New Testament only refers to the High Priest as Caiaphas, but Josephus refers to him as Joseph, who was called Caiaphas of the high priesthood. Joseph or Caiaphas was the high priest in Jerusalem between 18 and 36 C.E." (by Harry V. Martin)

Frenchy's Website - Did Jesus Exist? An Answer to the Christian Myth

"One of the most important aspects of Christianity pertains to whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was a real, live, flesh and blood individual who walked the earth approximately 2,000 years ago. If he didn't Christianity would be dealt a blow from which it could never recover. The most significant aspect of this matter is that there is no reference to Jesus of Nazareth in any non-Christian writings of antiquity. One can peruse all the great literature of that era and find nothing proving the man even existed. "There is no history written at the time Jesus Christ is said to have lived that speaks of the existence of such a person, even as a man" (The Life and Works of Paine, Vol 9, p. 271). "We know nothing certainly of Jesus Christ. We know nothing of his infancy, nothing of his youth, and we are not sure that such a person even existed" (Interviews, Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 5, p. 273. Anyone wishing to believe in the reality of Jesus will have to rely upon the New Testament and the NT alone. There is no other source."

From Jesus to Constantine: 30-313

"Imagine a time when Christians had no written Gospels but only a spoken tradition of the sayings and stories of Jesus. So it was for the earliest Christians. Between Jesus' life and the year 313, the church went through many changes. At first, Christians' Scriptures were only the Jewish Law and the Prophets and some of the Jewish Writings, such as the Psalms. Though they used simple affirmations of faith, such as "Jesus is Lord," they did not have formal creeds or confessions. Worship was not highly structured and existed in a variety of forms. The earliest center of Christianity was Jerusalem but, in 70 A.D. a Jewish revolt failed. The Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. These events were a major turning for both Judaism and Christianity. After 70, Christians became dispersed, moving out more and more beyond Israel. Christianity increasingly became Hellenized. Greek, not Aramaic, became the primary language of Christians..." (General Board of Global Ministries - United Methodist Church)

Frontline: From Jesus to Christ - The First Christians

"This FRONTLINE series is an intellectual and visual guide to the new and controversial historical evidence which challenges familiar assumptions about the life of Jesus and the epic rise of Christianity. For an overview of the series read the Synopsis. It includes links to some of the stories and material on this web site which expand the narrative. This site is anchored by the testimony of New Testament theologians, archaeologists and historians who serve as both critics and storytellers. They address dozens of key issues, disagreements and critical problems relating to Jesus' life and the evolution of Christianity. Throughout the site, maps, charts (for example, the fortress of Masada), ancient texts (including Perpetua's diary), pictures of the archaeological discoveries, ancient imagery, and audio excerpts from the television program complement and illuminate the scholars' commentary. A new addition to this site is the edited transcript of a two-day symposium at Harvard University. This symposium was a follow-up to the FRONTLINE broadcast and featured scholars' presentations, workshops and audience discussion."

Into His Own - Perspective on the World of Jesus

"Into His Own is designed as a tool for the historical study of Christian scriptures. Since the works in the New Testament were composed in implicit & often explicit dialog with first century champions of Jewish tradition, the bulk of the passages included here have been excerpted from works written by Jewish authors, especially those composed after the Hebrew scriptures that can be found in any Christian "Old Testament." But there are also selections from non-Jewish sources that help bring the writings of Christian authors into a clearer cultural perspective. The world in which Jesus lived & out of which Christianity emerged was not simply Jewish, but rather a complex cultural cauldron in which the ideologies, social standards & politics of Jews & non-Jews interacted, often with explosive results. One cannot properly understand the composition of the by-product of these explosions that we call "Christianity" in isolation from the elements & catalysts that precipitated its formation. Like any chemical reaction, however, few of the elements that went into the creation of Christianity --- the events, ideas & values that shaped the mindset of early Christians & Jews --- can now be retrieved in their pristine pre-Christian form, since they & the world in which they were preserved were themselves impacted by the cultural explosion that produced Christianity. Some important Jewish texts, such as the works of Josephus & the Pseudepigrapha were preserved, copied---and in some cases edited---only by later Christian scribes. Others, such as the rabbinic Talmud & biblical commentaries, were committed to writing only after the composition of the Christian scriptures. So, these passages should not be na�ly interpreted as direct sources of Christian tradition. But as records of those who did not endorse Jesus, they offer modern interpreters of the New Testament a historical gateway into the world with which Jesus, his supporters & early Christian writers interacted."

Jerusalem Perspective Online

"Jerusalem Perspective is a unique, Jerusalem-based work dedicated to better understanding the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Jerusalem Perspective aims to present the life and teaching of Jesus in their original cultural and linguistic settings."

Jesus, A Historical Reconstruction

"Who was the historical Jesus? On one side, his existence is denied by some ("mythicists"). On the other is the incarnated "historic" Word of the ecclesiastic establishment. And then we have the scholarly renditions of the "historical Jesus": the Cynic, the Pharisee, the Essene, the Zealot, the sage, the healer, the teacher (rabbi), the revolutionary, the magician, the spiritualist, the myth maker, the social prophet, etc. Like the vast majority of the people of his generation, could this Jesus have existed as just a man swayed by the ideas of his days? With the social, religious & political situation of the times affecting the last part of his life & circumstances of his death? (And, by flukes & unintentionally, triggering the development by others of a major faith, Christianity?) Do we have items of evidence supporting this? As a matter of fact we do, in a surprisingly large quantity, and many of them are found in the gospels. But then, can the gospels, criticized as unreliable, be used in the quest of the real Jesus?"

Jesus, History, and Judaism

"We know today that there can be no quest for a historical Jesus apart from the quest to understand better from the inside that Judaism which was a part of Jesus and of which he was a part as well. If Jesus was anything, he was a Jew par excellence."

The Jesus Puzzle - Was There No Historical Jesus?

"Did Christianity begin with an historical Jesus or a Jesus myth? Was the original Jesus a man or a mythical savior god? Solving the Jesus Puzzle through the Christian and ancient-world record, from the Pauline epistles to the Gospels to the second century Christian apologists, from Philo to Josephus to Jewish and Hellenistic philosophy. Christian faith evolved from a Jesus myth to an historical Jesus. New Testament scholarship needs to uncover that original evolution and rewrite the history of Western religion."

The Jesus Seminar

"The Jesus Seminar was organized under the auspices of the Westar Institute to renew the quest of the historical Jesus and to report the results of its research to more than a handful of gospel specialists. At its inception in 1985, thirty scholars took up the challenge. Eventually more than two hundred professionally trained specialists, called Fellows, joined the group. The Seminar meets twice a year to debate technical papers that have been prepared and circulated in advance. At the close of debate on each agenda item, Fellows of the Seminar vote, using colored beads to indicate the degree of authenticity of Jesus' words or deeds. Dropping colored beads into a box has become a trademark of the Seminar."

The Jesus Seminar Forum

"The Jesus Seminar Forum is an introduction to the research of the Jesus Seminar of the Westar Institute & a bridge to Jesus scholarship on line."

The Jewish Roman World of Jesus

"The Hellenistic/Roman world of Jesus is a fascinating one, but unfortunately, more often than not, it is largely ignored by students of the New Testament and Christian Origins. It is important to become familiar with the political, social, cultural, and religious ideas and realities of this wider Mediterranean context. Even Judaism, as particular and different as it was from other religions of the time, can only properly be understood as set against this broad background. This is even more the case in trying to come to an understanding of Jesus as a Jew in Palestine in his time, but also a subject of the mighty Roman Empire. We can take several approaches here. There is the political point of view that emphasizes the arena of struggling empires that waged war until one military dictatorship, the Roman Empire, gained control over the lands that border the Mediterranean Sea. There is the economic point of view that examines a vast system of business and finance dominated by international trade, an enforced system of taxation, and large bodies of slave labor. There is the sociological approach that looks at the pluralistic assortment of ethnic peoples, high government officials, merchants, small business people, slaves and minorities. This world has its literature, sculpture, philosophy, art, and architecture from the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Canaan (the area settled by the ancient Hebrews, called Palestine by the Romans). Finally, this ancient Mediterranean world gave rise to a diverse and often, from the modern western point of view, exotic religious life. It is impossible in an introduction such as this to study all of these facets of ancient Mediterranean civilization in detail, but it is important to gain some knowledge of the civilization in order to bring the New Testament--as a collection of books of particular times and of particular places--to life." (Dr. James D. Tabor)

Josephus' Account of Jesus, The Testimonium Flavianum

"In 1995 a discovery was published that brought important new evidence to the debate over the Testimonium Flavianum. For the first time it was pointed out that Josephus' description of Jesus showed an unusual similarity with another early description of Jesus. It was established statistically that the similarity was too close to have appeared by chance. Further study showed that Josephus' description was not derived from this other text, but rather that both were based on a Jewish-Christian "gospel" that has since been lost. For the first time, it has become possible to prove that the Jesus account cannot have been a complete forgery and even to identify which parts were written by Josephus and which were added by a later interpolator. Read about this discovery here!" - The Historical Jesus

"In recent years, there has been a renewed discussion as to who Jesus of Nazareth was. The general consensus among non evangelical scholars has been that the Jesus presented in the Bible, and the one who actually walked on the earth are two distinctly different people. The Bias of the Gospel and Epistles authors is often cited as the problem. Was Jesus the Messiah, God in the flesh, Savior, and Son of God as Christians proclaim Him to be? Or was He just a teacher of wisdom who lived in first century Palestine? Does Jesus have relevance in our lives today? Though I am a Christian � some would say that this biases me � I will show that my faith, and my fellow believers' faith in Jesus Christ is rooted in historical fact -- not on mythology."

Leadership U - Jesus the Jew

"Why study the historical Jesus? Because our faith is based upon a historical figure for whom more evidence exists than for Julius Caesar. Christians, Jews, journalists, theologians, historians and sceptics all take an active interest in every archaeological or manuscript discovery that might shed light or doubt on the origins of our faith. We, too, must be armed with these facts to confirm our faith and equip ourselves with reasons for the faith we hold in order to answer enquirers (1 Peter 3.15)."

Leadership U - Writings from William Lane Craig on the Historical Jesus

Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar; Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Evidence for Jesus; Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd L�n's Hallucination Hypothesis; Reply to Evan Fales: On the Empty Tomb of Jesus; From Easter to Valentinus and the Apostles' Creed Once More: Examination of James Robinson's Proposed Resurrection Appearance Trajectories; The Guard at the Tomb; The Problem Of Miracles: Historical And Philosophical Perspective; The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus; Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus; The Disciples' Inspection of the Empty Tomb

Life of Christ

"History shows that Jesus was a real person. The life of Christ can be placed in a historical context. This section is presented to affirm the historical Jesus, and to stimulate further personal study on the history of Christ."

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia - Early Historical Documents on Jesus Christ

"The historical documents referring to Christ's life and work may be divided into three classes: pagan sources, Jewish sources, and Christian sources. We shall study the three in succession."

A Portrait of Jesus - From Galilean Jew to the Face of God

"The Christian faith is a historical faith which emerged from a historical person: Jesus of Nazareth. History has always informed the Christian faith - creeds, councils, and developing traditions over the centuries have led to present day belief systems. This study takes a step further back in history to learn more about the historical Jesus. Who was this man from Galilee and how did he become "the face of God" as Paul describes him in 2 Corinthians 4:6?"

Positive Atheism - The Christ, A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence

"Another proof that the Christ of Christianity is a fabulous and not a historical character is the silence of the writers who lived during and immediately following the time he is said to have existed. That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written. A Renan and others have attempted to write it, but have failed -- have failed because no materials for such a work exist. Contemporary writers have left us not one word concerning him. For generations afterward, outside of a few theological epistles, we find no mention of him." (John E. Remsberg)

Refuting Missionaries

"Firstly, Christians claim that the Jewish historian Josephus recorded information about Jesus in his book Jewish Antiquities (published c. 93 - 94 C.E.) It is true that this book contains information about the three false Messiahs, Yehuda of Galilee, Theudas and Benjamin the Egyptian, and it is true that the character of Jesus appears to be based on all of them in part, but none of them can be regarded as the historical Jesus. Moreover, in the book of Acts, these people are mentioned as being different people to Jesus and so modern Christianity actually rejects any connection between them and Jesus. In the Christian edited versions of the Jewish Antiquities there are two passages dealing with Jesus as portrayed in Christian religious works. Neither of these passages are found in the original version of the Jewish Antiquities which was preserved by the Jews. The first passage (XVII, 3, 3) was quoted by Eusebius writing in c. 320 C.E. and so we can conclude that it was added in some time between the time Christians got hold of the Jewish Antiquities and c. 320 C.E. It is not known when the other passage (XX, 9, 1) was added in. Neither passage is based on any reliable sources. It is fraudulent to claim that these passages were written by Josephus and that they provide evidence for Jesus. They were written by Christian redactors and were based purely on Christian belief..." (by Hayyim ben Yehoshua

Religious - Did Jesus of Nazareth Actually Exist?

"Some theologians and historians believe that many of the details of Jesus' life were "borrowed" from a competing, contemporary religion, Mithraism. Mithra was a fictional character who was worshipped as a Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Light, the Redeemer, the Savior, and the Messiah. A religion in his name was founded in the 6th century BCE. Mithraism one of the most popular of religions in the Roman Empire, particularly among its soldiers and civil servants. It was Christianity's leading rival. Mithra was also believed to have been born of a virgin. Like Jesus, their births were celebrated yearly on DEC-25. Mithra was also visited by shepherds and by Magi. He traveled through the countryside, taught, and performed miracles with his 12 disciples. He cast out devils, returned sight to the blind, healed the lame, etc. Symbols associated with Mithra were a Lion and a Lamb. He held a last supper, was killed, buried in a rock tomb. He rose again after three days later, at the time of the spring equinox, circa MAR-21. He later ascended into heaven. Mithraism celebrated the anniversary of his resurrection, similar to the Christian Easter. They held services on Sunday. Rituals included a Eucharist and six other sacraments that corresponded to the rituals of the Catholic church. Some individuals who are skeptical about stories of Jesus' life suspect that Christianity may have appropriated many details of Mithraism in order to make their religion more acceptable to Pagans. St. Augustine even stated that the priests of Mithra worshipped the same God as he did. Other early Christians believed that Satan invented Mithraism and that he made Mithra's life and the practices of the religion identical to what Christianity would become centuries later. They felt that Satan's purpose was to confuse believers."

Religious - The Search for the Historical Jesus: History

"The term "historical Jesus" refers to events in the life of Yeshua of Nazareth, from his birth in Palestine to his execution in Jerusalem. Starting in the early 18th century, liberal theologians and other scholars began to interpret the Bible as a historical document, rather than as the inerrant Word of God. They concluded the Gospels were not really a biography of Jesus; they were actually theological documents -- largely fictional -- which were intended to promote the rapidly developing Christian faith. Thus began the search for the historical Jesus: the story of the real Jesus hidden in the Gospels. The "search" can be divided into three periods:

The Old Quest: from the early 18th century to about 1906.
The New Quest: (aka Second Quest) from about 1953 to 1980.
The Third Quest: from 1980 to the present time, and continuing."

Secular Web - The Search for the Historical Jesus

" Before the nineteenth century, when Christians sought to understand Jesus and the ancient world depicted in the gospels, they adhered to naturalistic literalism. Naturalistic literalism is the practice of reading the Scriptures and accepting the events that are described therein as the literal truth. No one had ever given much thought to reading the New Testament (NT) any other way. Things have changed dramatically since then. Today, the only Christians that still hold to a natural-literal reading of the NT are Fundamentalists who believe it to be "plenary," which is to say that every word is inspired by God. However, even a quick glance at the NT reveals inconsistencies. In Matthew, for example, the Capernaum centurion himself approaches Jesus while in Luke the centurion sends elders to speak for him (Mt.8:5; Lk.7:1). Matthew also tells us that Judas hung himself after his betrayal of Jesus, but we learn in Acts that Judas died from an accidental fall (Mt. 27:5; Acts 1:18).It is clear that the NT is not infallible. Modern biblical criticism is the attempt to study the NT�s literary, stylistic, rhetorical, and doctrinal patterns in order to understand what its human authors are expressing. Criticism is not to be confused with being "critical" or negative, but rather, criticism is the freedom to come to interpretive conclusions that do not necessarily conform to traditional religious views. If the study of the Bible must agree with doctrinal norms, then the enterprise is a mere pretense from the start. Criticism is a tool for looking at the NT from many fresh and exciting directions in order to better understand what its authors were trying to communicate." (James Still)

Truth Be Known - The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ

"Around the world over the centuries, much has been written about religion, its meaning, its relevance and contribution to humanity. In the West particularly, sizable tomes have been composed speculating upon the nature and historical background of the main character of Western religions, Jesus Christ. Many have tried to dig into the precious few clues as to Jesus's identity and come up with a biographical sketch that either bolsters faith or reveals a more human side of this godman to which we can all relate. Obviously, considering the time and energy spent on them, the subjects of Christianity and its legendary founder are very important to the Western mind and culture. Despite all of this literature continuously being cranked out and the significance of the issue, in the public at large there is a serious lack of formal and broad education regarding religion and mythology, and most individuals are highly uninformed in this area. Concerning the issue of Christianity, for example, the majority of people are taught in most schools and churches that Jesus Christ was an actual historical figure and that the only controversy regarding him is that some people accept him as the Son of God and the Messiah, while others do not. However, whereas this is the raging debate most evident in this field today, it is not the most important. Shocking as it may seem to the general populace, the most enduring and profound controversy in this subject is whether or not a person named Jesus Christ ever really existed." (by Acharya S)

What Do The Scriptures Say? - Christian Evidences, Jesus and History

"We have all made admissions to one thing or another, while we were unaware that we had admitted to other things at the same time. If, for example, we say that the Bible is the word of God, we are admitting that there is a God. By the same token, if we admit that Jesus was a great man of history, as most of us certainly do, though we may not be aware of it, we have also admitted that the New Testament is historically reliable. To determine this, consider three things: First, Jesus has received a place of preeminence among the great men of history. Second, men do not receive such recognition merely because they have existed; they must either say or do something that is considered to be truly great. Third, the only source of information from which we can reproduce the great life of Jesus Christ is the New Testament. Beyond the New Testament books, we can know only that he lived and that he was crucified by Pilate in Jerusalem. To know of his works, his personality, his life and teachings, his death and resurrection, in short, what it was that made him great, we are totally dependent on the New Testament. It seems conclusive that a recognition of the greatness of Jesus is, at least to an appreciable degree, an admission of the historical reliability of the New Testament which tells us about him. This conclusion is of great practical value to those who would know whether the New Testament expresses an outdated sentiment or whether it is actually a historical revelation from God for the redemption of ruined humanity." (Edward C. Wharton)

Who Was Jesus?

"A skeptical look at the influence of the Greco-Roman culture and Judaism on Paul and the Gospel According to Mark in an effort to uncover the "real" historical Jesus and the origins of Christianity."

Yahoo! Groups - JesusMysteries � Was Jesus an Historical Figure?

"In the course of our examination we have found that most sceptics accept that there is the clear possibility that an itinerant preacher with the common name, Yeshua, may have existed, but that eponymous person shared few of the many and varied characteristics and acts which were later accumulated into the gospels. Rather than simply assert or deny whether the word 'Historical' applies using a variety of possible definitions which suit various proponents' stances, our endeavours are therefore centred on the sources which made up the Gospel Jesus and how they were accreted into that complex combination of several characters represented in the canonical gospels under the name: Jesus. JesusMysteries is an ongoing historical inquiry through 425 CE and not a religious one--omit apologetics. Exploration of the widely varied theories is encouraged in your search for truth."

        Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:24-29)