“Jesus Did Not Exist”

by Dr. Tim Chaffey
Featured in Feedback

Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., responds to a reader who does not believe that Jesus even existed.

We recently ran an article dealing with the news reports of an alleged fourth century papyrus fragment promoting the idea that Jesus was married. This feedback will deal with a response we received that challenged Christ’s existence.

Who cares? There is no legitimate corroborating evidence that Jesus actually existed in the historical record. Works of fiction, aka the bible, are not evidence!

Thank you for your response to our article. Your brief remarks give us an excellent opportunity to set the record straight about whether or not Jesus was married and if He actually existed.

Who cares?

Apparently you care, since you bothered to take the time to comment about the subject. If you truly didn’t care, why would you expend energy to write about something that does not concern you?

Among other things, I am sincerely interested to know what it would take for you to reverse your position. If I could give you corroborating evidence, would you change your mind? If someone you knew in life came back from the dead, would that alter your view? The heart of skepticism toward the Bible is based on its morality rather than its scientific or historical claims. Ironically, since Jesus is God—He’s the Creator (Colossians 1:15–18)—you wouldn’t even be able to claim that He didn’t exist if He really didn’t exist, because none of us would have ever existed without Him. But as we’ll see, historians of all stripes agree that Jesus lived.

Many in the secular media care about the subject, as evidenced by the fact that every major network covered the story on the day it broke. It was obvious from the comments made by many of the news journalists that they loved the idea of Jesus being married.

Have you noticed that one rarely hears a peep out of them when these skeptical claims are refuted or debunked?

Why would non-Christians care if Jesus was married? For many of these people, they are desperate to find reasons to reject the Bible, so they happily promote stories that claim to contradict Scripture. They try to justify their unbelief and their problem of sin and guilt, yet deep down they know the truth (just as you do). God exists, they (and you and we) are all sinners, Jesus truly did exist and died on a cross for their (and your and our) sins, and someday they (and you and we) will all face Him as our holy Judge. By the way, have you noticed that one rarely hears a peep out of them when these skeptical claims are refuted or debunked?

Christians need to care about this issue too. We need to be able to recognize and refute the false teachings about Jesus that permeate our society. We need to give non-Christians an accurate view of Him, since so many have been deceived about the person and work of Christ.

There is no legitimate corroborating evidence that Jesus actually existed in the historical record.

As we’ll cover in the next section, the Bible is God’s Word, and since God cannot lie, we know that His Word is true. The Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would come, and the New Testament tells us a great deal about His life, ministry, and death. Therefore, we can be absolutely certain that He did exist.

Your statement would be news to the vast majority of historians, both Christian and secular. People who hold your belief have been called “Jesus Mythers,” but this notion is widely rejected by scholarly historians. Here is what some scholars have written about the Jesus Myth (these statements are not just from conservative Christians—the first four are critical scholars who have rejected the miraculous elements of Christ’s life).

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. (Rudolf Bultmann)1

To doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all … was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worthwhile to enter here. (Günther Bornkamm)2

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. (Willi Marxsen)3

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. (Michael Grant)4

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. (Robert Van Voorst)5

The total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence. (Paul L. Maier)6

Many more of these strong statements against the Jesus Myth could be cited.7 Why have so many scholars—whether liberal, critical, or conservative—agreed that there is no justification to claim that Jesus never lived? Consider the following facts and think about whether it makes more sense to believe Jesus did or did not exist:

  • Matthew (disciple of Jesus): Wrote the Gospel according to Matthew as an eyewitness account about Jesus and His ministry.
  • Mark (follower of Jesus): Wrote the Gospel according to Mark as an eyewitness account about Jesus and His ministry.
  • Luke (follower of Jesus): Interviewed eyewitnesses and then wrote the Gospel according to Luke about Jesus and His ministry.
  • John (disciple of Jesus): Wrote the Gospel according to John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation, all of which affirm the existence of Jesus.
  • Peter (disciple of Jesus): Wrote two letters about Jesus and preached about Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection just weeks after the events occurred.
  • Paul (opponent converted upon meeting the risen Lord): Wrote at least 13 books of the New Testament.
  • Josephus (AD 37–c.100, Jewish military leader and historian): Wrote about Jesus on two occasions. The authenticity of one occurrence, known as the Testimonium Flavianum, is hotly disputed, but his account of the execution of James is generally accepted, and he mentioned James, “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.”
  • Tacitus (AD 56–120, great Roman historian): Reported that after rumors spread about Nero burning Rome, Nero needed scapegoats for the crime and chose “Christians, [who were] hated for their abominable crimes. Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”8
  • Pliny the Younger (AD 61–c.112, Roman senator): Wrote to Emperor Trajan about his experience with Christians.

Furthermore, the Christian faith started in the heart of Judaism (Jerusalem). Right from its beginning just several weeks after Christ’s death, the central message of the church has been the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Surely it would be a strange message to tell thousands of people in Jerusalem that just a few weeks earlier they had crucified of an imaginary figure and that this was a major event that people had witnessed.

Historical research is indeed helpful. Depending on several factors, it can lead to a fairly high degree of confidence about whether certain events actually occurred or whether certain individuals actually existed. But Christians can have more than just a high degree of confidence about these things. We can be completely sure of these events because God’s infallible Word reveals that Jesus lived, was crucified, and then rose again.

Works of fiction, aka the bible, are not evidence!

Did you really mean that works of fiction are “also known as” the Bible? If so, then my youth fiction series, The Truth Chronicles, could also be known as the Bible? Perhaps you meant to use “e.g.” (“for example” from the Latin exempli gratia) instead of “aka”?

The Bible is not a work of fiction; it is the Word of God, and it is true from beginning to end. It accurately describes how God made the world in six normal-length days and made man and woman in His image before telling of man’s rebellion against his Creator. Although we deserve death for our numerous sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23), God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus into this world to die on the Cross in our place. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so we could be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God (John 3:16).

Jesus predicted His own death and burial (Matthew 12:40) as did the Old Testament prophets hundreds of years earlier (Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26). He even predicted that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 20:17–19) and said that His Resurrection would be the one miraculous sign He would perform for unbelievers (Matthew 12:38–40). In fact, the Apostle Paul told the philosophers in Athens that God furnished proof of the message he preached by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31, NASB).

The New Testament writers did not concoct these events in their minds. Instead, being guided by the Holy Spirit, they infallibly recorded history. Most of them died a martyr’s death, thereby verifying the truth of their written testimony.9 As a result, the whole world can know of the Lord’s marvelous deeds and be warned of His coming judgment. All who reject Him will suffer the eternal consequences for their sin. Those who turn from their sin (repent) and call on Jesus to save them will be forgiven and spend eternity with their Creator.

So what about you? Will you continue your prideful rebellion against the God who created you, the God you know exists? You may think that you are a good person and that, if there is a God, He would let you into heaven because you aren’t a murderer, rapist, etc. However, Jesus said that those who aren’t with Him are against Him (Luke 11:23), so unless you place your faith in Christ, you will be judged and suffer for eternity. You cannot save yourself by being a “good” person, because you’re already guilty of sinning against the infinitely holy God. Salvation from sin can only be found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), the Son of God who bore our sins on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that we could be saved.

Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.


  1. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus and the Word (London: Collins/Fontana, 1958), p. 13.
  2. Günther Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, Translated by I. and F. McLuskey with J. M. Robinson (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1960), p. 28.
  3. Willi Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1970), p. 119.
  4. Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977), p. 200.
  5. Robert Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p. 16
  6. Paul L. Maier, “Did Jesus Really Exist?” Available at www.4truth.net/DidJesusExist
  7. The above quotes were drawn from Michael Licona’s exhaustive work on the Resurrection of Jesus. In one footnote, Licona provides twelve quotes like these from historians who adamantly oppose the Jesus Myth. Licona states, “There are a few today who assert that Jesus is a myth who never existed, although it appears that no widely respected scholar holds this position. There are also those who deny there ever was a Holocaust.” Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), pp. 62–63.
  8. Tacitus, Annals 14.44.
  9. Some people object to this point by saying that many people have died for a lie. It is true that some people have been willing to die for a lie, but this misses the point, and thus the force of the argument. Many people who die for a lie have not been in a position to know the truth about their beliefs, but the disciples were in such a position. They knew whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, and they knew whether or not they were making up their message. It strains credulity to think that so many of the disciples would willingly endure a lifetime of persecution and beatings ending in martyrdom if their whole message was just a story they made up.


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