Jesus Did Exist

Going along with some of the things we discussed on the finances thread about faith, evidences, proof, Jesus and the resurrection, comes this piece by Daniel C. Peterson in the Deseret News entitled “An agnostic’s argument that Jesus did exist.”

Beyond doubting the literal resurrection of Christ, there are some that go so far as to disbelieve that Jesus ever even lived.  Was there really a historical person by that name that walked the land of Judea, and did the things that people generally reported he did?  Or is he a mythic figure created by a forlorn generation desperately seeking the Messiah?  

Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, who has gone from fundamentalist Protestant, to liberal Christian, to an “agnostic with atheist leanings” has published a new book entitled Did Jesus Exist?, in which he lays out the evidence.  Some might take an educated guess, based on his background, at his answer to the question, but what he says interesting.

Dan Peterson quotes some from Ehrman:

“When I started getting these emails, some years ago now, I thought the question was rather peculiar and I did not take it seriously. Of course Jesus existed. Everyone knows he existed. Don’t they?”…

Ehrman has, he says, “no vested interest in the matter.” “I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian agenda.

“My life and views of the world would be approximately the same whether or not Jesus existed. My beliefs would vary little. The answer to the question of Jesus’ historical existence will not make me more or less happy, content, hopeful, likable, rich, famous or immortal. But as a historian I think evidence matters. And the past matters. And for anyone to whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist.”…

“Jesus existed,” he writes, “and those vocal persons who deny it do so not because they have considered the evidence with the dispassionate eye of the historian, but because they have some other agenda that this denial serves. From a dispassionate point of view, there was a Jesus of Nazareth.”

The historical evidence adds up to such a degree that even someone like Ehrman cannot doubt that the person Jesus actually lived.  The evidence shows it, and tips the scales in favor of it.  Is it proof?  No, but it is near certain, even from an agnostic-atheist point of view, that Jesus did actually exist.  His mortal life was an actual reality, not myth or folklore, but true history.

So, we can put to bed the rumors that there may not have ever been a Jesus, and turn to the much more important matters of what did He actually do, and what worth did it have?

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About Bryce Haymond

Bryce grew up in Sandy, Utah, where he attended Jordan High School. He served a mission to the El Salvador San Salvador East mission, including eight months as mission financial secretary. Bryce graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 in Industrial Design and a minor in Ballroom Dance. He loves all things Nibley and the temple, and is the founder of TempleStudy.com, and also blogs at BlackpoolCreative.com. Recently Bryce joined the Executive Board of The Interpreter Foundation, where he serves as a designer and technologist. Bryce has served in numerous Church callings including ward sunday school president, first counselor in the bishopric, and currently as temple and family history instructor. He is a Product Manager and Design Director at HandStands in Salt Lake City, and lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his beautiful wife, three children, and another on the way!

12 thoughts on “Jesus Did Exist

  1. Great post, Bryce. I had this discussion very early on during my conversion process with an atheist friend who tried to argue Jesus didn’t exist. I think I convinced him, just as Ehrman concluded, that the historical figure of Jesus Christ did exist. The evidence is simply overwhelming for any dispassionate observer.

  2. I am aware of voices that try to claim Jesus never existed, but are there any credible historians doing so? It’s funny, cuz Ehrman is used authoritatively by certain people to slam Christianity, but he’s also used authoritatively by Christians to slam anyone trying to prove Jesus never existed. Of course, I’m certain he’s aware of this situation, and knows how to take advantage of it to sell more books :D

  3. @Trevor, there aren’t credible historians making that claim, as Peterson and Ehrman point out. But there are plenty of regular people that do. I just thought it was interesting to note from an evidence vs. proof vs. faith standpoint that if you have enough evidence in favor for something, you can believe in it and have faith, even though it cannot be perfectly proven. Ehrman has solid faith that Jesus lived, based on the evidence (even second hand evidence), but he lacks the evidence to have faith that He lives today. I have evidence that He lives today.

  4. Ehrman has solid faith that Jesus lived, based on the evidence (even second hand evidence), but he lacks the evidence to have faith that He lives today. I have evidence that He lives today.

    Yes!

  5. Bryce,
    I’m fairly familar with the scriptures regarding Jesus. I believe he lived but it wouldn’t matter to me if the story was fiction. If it matters to you I would like to understand why, unless you prefer to not discuss it.

  6. Howard, I think Bryce is saying that his answers to the “why” are the same as the ones in the scriptures, and that the “why” also equates to the “what” Jesus did and said.

    So rather than quote all relevant parts back you to, you may refer directly to your copy. :-)

    The problem with using the scriptures to find concise sound-bite (or even 500 word overview) style answers to big-picture questions is that the scriptures are not arranged by topic, nor in outline/hierarchical form. One must read, re-read, search, and synthesize them, picking up the various pieces of an answer from different books of the scriptures, then re-assembling them.

    I prefer the Book of Mormon for answers because the doctrinal passages in it seem to be more complete than the “here a little, there a little” scattering one finds in the Bible.

    Some of the necessary synthesizing and organizing to assemble answers has been done in part in manuals and other books published by the LDS church. My favorite gospel book that is organized by topic is “Gospel Principles”, the Sunday school manual, which can be found on line at lds.org.

    Other good sources arranged by topic are Jesus the Christ, by Talmage, Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith, Discourses of Brigham Young, compiled by Widtsoe, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith.

  7. ..Bart Ehrman has to say that JESUS Christ existed, as his money making machine is at stake! There is no use to write a book to question whether Christ existed and say in conclusion-NO!

    “The day will come when a savior coming out of the womb of a virgin is as credible as Minerva coming out of the head of Jupiter!” Thomas Jefferson

    “Christianity and Jesus Christ are just copies of the ancient Egyptian religions-HE did not exist!” Thomas Paine “The Book of Common Sense”

    “I personally do not think that this Jesus Christ was a historical person , but if the French people still believe, I will not object to it!” Napoleon Bonaparte to Charles Dupuis in Egypt to retrieve the Rosetta Stone

    “No one knows if this Jesus Christ existed,and if he did, NOTHING is known about him!”
    “Why I am not a Christian” Bertrand Russell 1928

  8. Yes, yes, because Jefferson, Pain, Bonaparte, and Russell were all acclaimed scholars on the Middle East at the meridian of time @_@

    and fyi, Jefferson isn’t denying the existence of a man named Jesus; he’s showing skepticism that this man was born of a virgin and was a savior.

  9. Mike, that quotation from Thomas Paine is completely fabricated. Paine, who believed in God, did question the divinity of Jesus Christ but not His existence.

    The rest of your quotations are very tired. I don’t consult any of the people you mention on religious matters.

    If you can believe a person named Julius Caesar existed, you can believe a person named Jesus Christ existed.

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