Tired Christian claim #3: The evidence for the existence of Jesus is overwhelming
I’ve been seeing this argument popping up more and more often these days. It’s a relative newcomer in terms of claim, but it certainly is one that’s worth discussing. Last article I mentioned how the word ‘faith’ is a misnomer; I’ve never actually met a Christian who did not think there was a mountain of evidence supporting their claim that Jesus of Nazareth was a God. Really the only time you’ll actually hear the “it’s my faith, and I believe it despite what you say” excuse is whenever you paint them in a corner.
In the early days of Christianity, there really was no debate as to whether Jesus was a real person or not. Most accepted the view that the story of Christ was a parable for living one’s life. Paul of Tarsus, who laid the foundation for Christianity, never referred to Jesus as a real person. As far as he understood it, the story of Christ was an allegory about redemption, forgiveness and finally absolution.
For a long time, Christianity developed many different branches. Some favored a more allegorical approach to the religion (see the Gnostics for more), but in 325 AD, Emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, which would be responsible for ‘organizing’ the religion. There, a committee decided what books would eventually become the Bible. The council decided a historical Jesus was needed to codify the religion. The books of Luke and Matthew, which laid the foundation for his genealogy, were included to provide evidence of his blood relation to King David in order to fulfill Old Testament prophesy. Predictably enough, both conflict with one another (with some Christians getting really creative with their explanations).
The Council had succeeded in establishing their creed, but there existed little (if any) historical corroboration of the actual existence of a man by the name of Jesus. Since the Bible was largely considered the only real necessary historical document, there was little attempt to prove his existence outside of Christian doctrine. Why would they bother? Standards of evidence in the 4th century were not the same as they are now.
Despite the extremely flimsy evidence for the historical Jesus, Christians still maintain that the New Testament is a historical document, despite the fact even the books themselves offer contradictory stories as to the origin and lineage of Jesus. The only evidence that suggests he might have existed are the writings of Josephus, a Jewish historian who makes a brief reference to a Christus figure (which translates literally to ‘Anointed One’), but even this passage is disputed. Clearly, if someone had indeed performed the supposed miracles Jesus did, there would be more corroborating evidence for multiple sources. Of course, if St. Paul and his ilk had simply made it up, it would explain everything.
I can only imagine the need to prove the existence of Jesus is a way for Christians to feel that their religion is not entirely a fabrication. Perhaps they feel if Jesus were in fact a real man then everything else in the Bible must also be true. If you’re familiar with logic, you can quickly understand how flawed this type of thinking is.
Lots of Christians believe the evidence for Jesus and their religion in general is overwhelming. In fact, it’s far too flimsy to even qualify as proper history. It demonstrates, however, human beings need more than faith to believe in something; we demand evidence. It just so happens it’s the standards of that evidence which tends to differ with Christians. They feel that by barely proving his existence, they have somehow proved he was a God.
I might be willing to go on a limb and say Jesus may have been based on a real person (the best candidate is Apollonius of Tyana), but it’s not enough to convince anyone with a sound mind this means a virgin gave birth to an all powerful savior who sacrificed himself on a cross to absolve humans from having eaten a sacred fruit in a mythical garden. Honestly guys, is that the best you can do?