Post Author: Bill Pratt
Every once in a while, you may hear from hyper-skeptics that Jesus probably never existed, or that if he did exist, we cannot know anything about him because the historical evidence is so poor. Mike Licona, in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, provides a sampling of quotes from scholars who have studied the historical Jesus, and who regard the idea that Jesus never existed as simply false. These quotes span from 1958 to present day.
Truth is not determined by a vote, but when it comes to historical studies, it certainly is important to see where the scholarly consensus lies. After all, these people have supposedly studied the evidence far more than the average person. So, below I have copied Licona’s collection of quotes just to give you an idea of the consensus opinion on the existence of Jesus.
Bultmann (1958): “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 oldest Palestinian community.”
Bornkamm (I960): “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.”
Marxsen (1970): “I am of the opinion (and it is an opinion shared by every serious historian) that the theory [‘that Jesus never lived, that he was a purely mythical figure’] is historically untenable.”
Grant (1977): “To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.’ In recent years ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus’—or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.”
M. Martin (1991): “Well’s thesis [that Jesus never existed] is controversial and not widely accepted.”
Van Voorst (2000): “Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their [i.e., Jesus mythers] arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely.”
Burridge and Could (2004): “There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more.”
Allison (“Explaining,” 2005): “No responsible scholar can find any truth in it.”
Maier (2005): “the total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence.”
R. J. Miller in Scott, ed. (Finding, 2008): “We can be certain that Jesus really existed (despite a few hyper-historical skeptics who refuse to be convinced).”
Vermes (2008): “Let me state plainly that I accept that Jesus was a real historical person. In my opinion, the difficulties arising from the denial of his existence, still vociferously maintained in small circles of rationalist ‘dogmatists,’ far exceed those deriving from its acceptance.”
C. A. Evans in Evans and Wright (2009): “No serious historian of any religious or nonreligious stripe doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea and Samaria.”