My friend is a devout atheist who adheres to the Jesus-Myth hypothesis that Jesus Christ did not exist historically and that early Christians instead viewed him as some sort of mystical being. I already know about the major sites (Tektonics, etc.) that disprove this nonsense, but are there any scholarly books that can show that a historical Jesus did exist, and moreover showing the veracity of the gospels? I’d prefer something peer-reviewed. Thanks a lot!
*]The Real Jesus, Luke Timothy Johnson.
*]Hidden Gospels: How the Search for the Historical Jesus Lost its Way, Philip Jenkins.
*]Jesus Under Fire, Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland.[/LIST]There are modern, easy-to-obtain works.
I’ve read the first two and have bought the third for someone (although I have yet to buy it for myself. The first two place a special emphasis on the debate concerning the “historical” Jesus. I’m sure the third does too, but I can’t say for sure having not read the book.
But there are commonsense approaches too to demolish the hypothesis, which is a bizarre one to begin with.
From as far back as we have records, nobody ever used the NT without assuming, rightly, it was historical in style and substance.
Nor could the writers of the NT have realized that their record would be closer, chronologically, than what we now have from Roman biography, excepting, I think, Caesar, who is auto-biographical.
Nobody–this is a kind of argument from authority, perhaps–who has read widely or deeply in ancient and modern languages and literatures can at all feel, free from interest of any sort, that the NT reads like fiction, anymore than Shakespeare reads like fact.
The first chapter of this book (recommended ), he goes through all the evidence outside the New Testament.
“Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their * arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely…The theory of Jesus’ nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question…Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted.” (Robert Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, 6, 14, 16)
And some more quotes…
Jeffery Jay Lowder of Internet Infidels: “There is simply nothing intrinsically improbable about a historical Jesus; the New Testament alone (or at least portions of it) are reliable enough to provide evidence of a historical Jesus. On this point, it is important to note that even G.A. Wells, who until recently was the champion of the christ-myth hypothesis, now accepts the historicity of Jesus on the basis of ‘Q’.” (“Josh McDowell’s ‘Evidence’ for Jesus,” also Wells The Jesus Myth [Open Court, 1999])
Secular historian Will Durant: “The Christian evidence for Christ begins with the letters ascribed to Saint Paul…No one has questioned the existence of Paul, or his repeated meetings with Peter, James, and John; and Paul enviously admits that these men had known Christ in his flesh. The accepted epistles frequently refer to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion…in essentials the synoptic gospels agree remarkably well, and form a consistent portrait of Christ…no one reading these scenes can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so loft an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospel.” (Ceasar and Christ, volume 3 of Story of Civilization)
Graham Stanton of Cambridge: “Today, nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically. There is general agreement that, with the possible exception of Paul, we know far more about Jesus of Nazareth than about any first or second century Jewish or pagan religious teacher.” (The Gospels and Jesus)
I’m trying to write a reply to all this “Jesus myth” stuff, but there is too much I just don’t know, so I’ve had to get a lot of books, its another “unfinished” project and slow going.
This might also help you. It’s from a post I gave when I was debating atheists at the “Rational Responders” and the “Jesus Mythicist” forum.
Here is what leading Jesus scholars have to say about the “Jesus is myth” theory. But first I want to invite you to read every encyclopedia under the section of “Jesus.”
This is a partial list
“Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the Palestinian community” (Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, p.13).
The modern Father of the “Jesus is myth” theory is G.A. Wells who himself was not an NT scholar. But he also came to his senses and changed his position.
“G.A. Wells has now abandoned the Christ-Myth hypothesis and has accepted the historicity of Jesus on the basis of the “Q” document” (The Jesus Myth, 1999).
Van Voorst: “Although Wells has been probably the most able advocate of the nonhistoricity theory, he has not been pursuasive and is now almost a lone voice for it. The theory of Jesus nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question” (Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.14).
F.F. Bruce: “The historicity of Christ is axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the “Christ-myth’ theories”(The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable”, 1972).
Otto Betz: “No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus” (What do We Know about Jesus," p.9).
E.P. Sanders: “We know a lot about Jesus, vastly more than about John the Baptist, Theudas, Judas the Galilean, or any of the other figures whose names we have from approximately the same date and place” (The Historical Figure of Jesus, 1993).
A.E. Harvey: It would be no exaggeration to say that this event [the Crucifixtion] is better attested, and supported by a more impressive array of evidence, than any other event of comparable importance of which we have knowledge from the ancient world" (Jesus and the Constraints of History,"1982).
Morton Smith: “I don’t think the arguments from in (Wells) book deserve detailed refutation…he argues mostly from silence…many of his arguments are incorrect, far too many to discuss in this space”.
R.J. Hoffmann: “Wells presents us with a piece of private mythology that I find incredible beyond anything in the Gospels,” (Jesus in History and Myth), pp.47-48).
Werner Kummel: “The denial of the existence of Jesus. [is] arbitrary and ill-founded” (The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of its Problems, p.447, n. 367).
Gunter Bornkamm: “To doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all, was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worth while to enter here” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.28).
Van Voorst (referring to the mythicists) states: “Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely” (Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.6).
James Charlesworth: “Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E.” (Jesus Within Judaism, pp.168-169).
Dominic Crossan: “That he was crucified, is as sure as anything historical can ever be” (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p.145)
Note: Crossan is considered by the liberal school of scholars to be the greatest Jesus historian in the world.