Regarding the historicity of Jesus,
Logician made some claims in post -
This is a subject of some interest, so I thought I'd start a post dealing with the specific evidences for Jesus of Nazareth.
Logician: "Actually, no serious scholar today doubts the historicity of Jesus."
(Or its poisoning the well by calling any scholar who disagrees not "serious".)
Several contemporary scholars and authors argue that Jesus was not historical -
* Robert Price
* Prof. G.A. Wells
* Alvar Ellegĺrd
* Earl Doherty
* Freke and Gandy
* Herman Detering
Not to mention the large number of similar sceptics over recent centuries -
* C.F. Dupuis, 1791, Abrege De L'Origine Des Cultes
* Robert Taylor, 1829, Diegesis
* Bruno Bauer, 1841, Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
* Mitchell Logan, 1842, Christian Mythology Unveiled
* David Friedrich Strauss, 1860, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined
* Kersey Graves, 1875, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours
* T.W. Doane, 1882, Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions
* Gerald Massey, 1886, Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ
* Thomas Whittaker, 1904, The Origins of Christianity
* William Benjamin Smith, 1906, Der vorchristliche Jesus
* Albert Kalthoff, 1907, The Rise of Christianity
* M.M. Mangasarian, 1909, The Truth About Jesus ? Is He a Myth?
* Arthur Drews, 1910, The Christ Myth
* John M. Robertson, 1917, The Jesus Problem
* Georg Brandes, 1926, Jesus A Myth
* Joseph Wheless, 1930, Forgery in Christianity
* L.Gordon Rylands, 1935, Did Jesus Ever Live?
* Edouard Dujardin, 1938, Ancient History of the God Jesus
* P.L. Couchoud, 1939, The Creation of Christ
* Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 1944, Who is this King of Glory?
* Karl Kautsky, 1953, The Foundations of Christianity
* Herbert Cutner, 1950, Jesus: God, Man, or Myth?
* Guy Fau, 1967, Le Fable de Jesus Christ
Logician: "All of these following historians ..."
Your list contains 13 names, which you call "historians" - yet by my count, the list contains no more than 5 historians, with the rest being various
sorts of writings, some from centuries later.
Logician: "mention Jesus of Nazareth as a historical figure who existed in the first century CE, or they mention Christ......"
There is a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE between a mention of a spiritual Christ figure, and a historical refrence to a Jesus of Nazareth.
We know early Christians worshipped a risen Christ figure even as far back as Paul but the issue is whether there was ever a historical person
Jesus of Nazareth AT THE TIME. The point is that mention of a Jesus of Nazareth all come from LONG AFTERWARDS, even by Christians.
So, let us see if the names on your list actually mention a historical figure Jesus of Nazareth -
Thallus (c. 50-75AD)
No mention of Jesus or Christ at all.
We have NO certain evidence when Thallus lived or wrote, there are NONE of Thallus works extant. The reading that Christians base this nugget on is
false (see Carrier's essay.)
What we DO have is a 9th century reference by George Syncellus who quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, who, speaking of the darkness at the
crucifixion, wrote: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse".
there is NO evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events at all, as there WAS an eclipse in 29. This suggests he merely
refered to a known eclipse, but that LATER Christians interpreted his comment to mean their darkness. (Also note the supposed reference to Thallus in
Eusebius is a mis-reading.)
Richard Carrier the historian has a good page on Thallus:
Thallus is NO evidence for Jesus at all - merely later Christian wishful thinking.
No mention of Jesus or Christ at all.
Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost, but were full of fantastic stories apparently. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus (as
quoted by George Syncellus) refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse.
There is no evidence Phlegon said anything about Gospel events.
Phlegon is NO evidence for Jesus at all - merely later Christian wishful thinking.
Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, c.93),
The T.F. is at least corrupt, at worst it is completely fabricated.
So, this passage COULD MAYBE, JUST POSSIBLY, BE early evidence for Jesus, but from a couple generations later.
Peter Kirby has an excellent overview of the Josephus debate -
Letter from Pliny the Younger to Trajan (c. 110)
A repeat of later Christian beliefs.
About 80 years after the alleged events (c.114CE), Pliny refered to Christians who worshipped a "Christ" as a god, but :
there is no reference to a historical Jesus at all,
no mention of event or actors from the Gospels,
merely a report of 2nd century Christian worship of an un-named Christ
Pliny is no evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth.
Tacitus (Annals, c.115-120)
A repeat of later Christian beliefs.
Roughly 80 years after the alleged events Tacitus allegedly wrote a (now) famous passage about "Christ" - this passage has several problems
* Tacitus uses the term "procurator", used in his later times, but not correct for the actual period, when "prefect" was used.
* Tacitus names the person as "Christ", when Roman records could not possibly have used this name (it would have been "Jesus, son of Joseph" or
* Tacitus accepts the recent advent of Christianity, which was against Roman practice (to only allow ancient and accepted cults and religions.)
* (No-one refers to this passage for a millenium, even early Christians who actively sought such passages.)
Thus, even if the Tacitus passage is not a later interpolation, it is not evidence of a historical Jesus based on earlier Roman records,
merely a few details which Tacitus gathered from Christian stories circulating in his time (c.f. Pliny.)
Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars, c. 125) ,
Not about Jesus of Nazareth.
Roughly 80-90 years after the alleged Gospel events, Suetonius refers to a "Chrestus" who stirred the Jews to trouble in Rome during Claudius'
* this "Chrestus" is a Greek name (common for slaves, from "useful") and is also a mystic name for an initiate, it is not the same as
* this Chrestus was apparently active in Rome - which Jesus never was,
* Jesus was never said to have lead the Jews in Rome into trouble during Claudius' time.
So, this passage is unlikely to refer to Jesus of Nazareth at all - I am surprised that this obviously un-related passage is cited so often.
Galen (various writings, c.150),
Later repeats of Christian beliefs.
Galen wrote a few vague comments in late 2nd century this is not historical evidence for Jesus.
Celsus (True Discourse, c.170)
Late attack on Gospels as fiction.
About a century and a half after the alleged events, Celsus attacked the Gospels as being FICTION based on MYTH just when they arose to prominance.
The church found his critique so damaging they ordered all copies burnt. Yes, its true Celsus assumed Jesus did exist he simply had no reason not to
in those primitive times.
But to claim Celsus as evidence for Jesus is ridiculous, considering he wrote things like this -
"Clearly the christians have used...myths... in fabricating the story of Jesus' birth...It is clear to me that the writings of the christians
are a lie and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction"
Mara Bar Serapion (pre-200?)
No evidence it refers to Jesus.
A fragment which says -
"... What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?",
in the context of ancient leaders like Socrates.
This fragment refer to leaders much earlier than Jesus - there is nothing to suggest it refers to Jesus.
Late, vague, conflicting Jewish polemic.
There are some possible references in the Talmud, but:
* these references are from 3rd century or later, and seem to be unfriendly Jewish responses to Christian claims.
* the references are variant and quite different to the Gospel stories (e.g. one story has "Jesus" born about 100BC.)
"(written after 300 CE, but some refs probably go back to eyewitnesses),"
It is nonsense to say these reports are from eye witnesses firstly they tell completety different stories, secondly there is no mention in the
Jewish record before the 3rd century.
Lucian (Second century)
Nearly one-and-a-half CENTURIES after the alleged events, Lucian satirised Christians and their views, but does NOT mention Jesus or Christ by
This is no evidence for Jesus.
Numenius (Second cent.)
No mention of Jesus.
We have no writings from Numenius, and know little about him.
In the 3rd century, Origen claimed Numenius "quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus--without, however, mentioning His name"
So, Numenius did NOT mention Jesus at all.
Origen merely read a story in Numenius which HE (Origen) later believed was a Jesus narrative.
Galerius (Second Cent.)
There is no such evidence.
I am not even sure who you are referring to the only mention of this Galerius seems to be on apologist web sites which mirror your post word for
word, such as -
of your 13 historians, we find -
* 5 do NOT actually mention Jesus at all (Thallus, Phlegon, Suetonius, Mara, Numenius)
* 4 are merely LATER mentions of Christian beliefs (Tacitus, Pliny, Lucian, Galen)
* 1 is a mish-mash of conflicting attacks from centuries later (Talmud)
* 1 is an attack on the Gospels as FICTION !
* 1 seems to be completely fabricated (Galerius)
The best item is Josephus -
* from 60 years after the events
* at least corrupt, at worst forged.
Such is the evidence for Jesus flimsy, fake or forged.