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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two Fantastic Debunkings of the "Evidence" for Jesus' Existence

First up, we have Acharya S. who provides an excellent examination of the supposed reference to Jesus in the writings of the Roman historian Suetonius. As she concludes at the end of her article:
The bottom line is that the Suetonian sentence in question apparently used originally the word "Chresto." Combined with the facts that Christ was never related as having been at Rome, that the phrase "Jesus the Good" evidently does not make its appearance until the third or late second century at the earliest, and that the word chrestos was used to describe gods and many other figures in antiquity, doubt is cast upon the value of this passage as providing any evidence that "Jesus of Nazareth" was an actual historical figure. 
Moreover, the fact that Suetonius called Chresto's followers "Judeans" or "Jews," rather than associating them with the "Christians" or, rather, "Chrestians" of his Nero passage, tends to negate the idea that the Roman historian is referring to a historical "Jesus Christ." The evidence points, rather, to another individual or, more likely, their tribal god, Yahweh the Good, as the "Chresto" of Suetonius's Jews.
In summary, the "Chrest" under whose instigation at Rome the Jews were revolting could have been their Lord God, called "the Good" or chrestos in the Old Testament. No "historical Jesus of Nazareth" would be needed, and we may retire this purported Suetonian "proof" from Christian apologetics.
Next up, Richard Carrier reports that blogger Matthew Ferguson has taken on the “42 sources within 150 years of his life argument” used by many Christian apologists (including scholars Mike Licona and Gary Habermas, and Zeitgeist debunkers Elliot Nesch, Keith “Truth” Thompson, and Chris White). Richard Carrier writes:
[Ferguson] ends up showing that in fact the number of references to a historical Jesus in that 150-year window that aren’t just in Christian propaganda is actually 3 or 4, and those all obviously derive their information from Christian propaganda and thus the number of independent references in this category is, well, zero. But more impressive is his demonstration that the number of literary references to Tiberius in that same window is not 10, but a whopping 43 (and thus Habermas and Licona missed a whole 33 literary references to Tiberius–if only we had that for Jesus from non-Christian sources!), and then of course, um, there’s all the other evidence: inscriptions, coins, busts, architecture, papyri. Which is kind of a big reason we are so sure there was a Tiberius.
The evidence for Tiberius, in other words, is vastly better, in every conceivable way, than the evidence for Jesus. So the 10/42 apologetic gets a decisive smackdown here. I’m sure we’ll never hear of it again.
The evidence for Jesus’ existence just continues to get smaller and smaller.


  1. Adam,

    Have you read Ehrman's book, yet?

    1. Not yet. But I've read every review of his book out so far, which has now risen to 80 responses.

      I have very little confidence in Ehrman after reading these reviews. He just seems to get so much wrong on this particular topic. Even in the promotions for his book I pointed out large flaws he was making in discussing Jesus' historicity:

      If this is really the best arguments for Jesus' existence we have, I'm honestly not impressed. Ehrman has certainly not offered any substantial refutation of Richard Carrier's critique of his book.