Jesus — ever heard of him? He’s kind of a big deal. Did you know, though, that there’s a controversial theory that suggests Jesus didn’t even exist? Talk to the average biblical scholar, and they’ll tell you that Jesus most certainly was real, and interestingly enough, it’s also widely accepted that in the ancient world nobody doubted that Jesus was a living, breathing person (via History).
The fact of the matter is, though, most of what we know through written records, including detailed biographical information from the epistles of St. Paul, among others. The first written references came from both Roman and Jewish historians, as well as a number of Christian writings. It also wasn’t just Christian writers mentioning Jesus — Jewish historian Flavius Josephus brought up Jesus in his writing within a century after the crucifixion (via The Guardian).
There are also several historical artifacts associated with the person. So, all this begs the question: What now, after all this time, is leading people to suggest that Jesus didn’t even exist?
There's no concrete proof
Like previously mentioned, most of what we know about Jesus came from writings. None of those writings, however, came from when Jesus was alive. Most were written decades and sometimes even centuries after he supposedly died. Furthermore, few archaeological artifacts associated with Jesus can be authenticated. Still others came about much later, including the crown of thorns, the Holy Grail, and even crucifixion nails (via Live Science). For example, studies have shown the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that Jesus is said to have been wrapped in following the crucifixion, is likely a medieval forgery (via Discover Magazine).
The earliest sources mentioning Jesus refer to “Christ of Faith,” widely believed to be fictional. What’s more, those early scribes had an ulterior motive to invent a figure like Jesus: spreading the word about this new religion they were eager to promote called Christianity. The earliest written accounts of Jesus’ life collected in the Gospels also have no author by-line and never mention why they’re qualified to write about the life of Jesus in the first place. On top of all that, they never cite their sources (via The Washington Post).
Whether or not any of this is unusual for writing from the period is a matter of debate, but all this combined leads some scholars to suggest whether or not Jesus even existed is far from settled, and that it should be a matter that’s open for discussion. Real or not, the teachings attributed to Jesus founded one of the world’s leading religions, without a doubt influencing the course of human history for millennia. For many, that’s proof enough, but for some, whether or not Jesus was real is an article of faith.
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