“Jesus never existed!”
“Jesus’ life story was just a copy of Egyptian & pagan myths!”
“No evidence for Jesus life can be found outside the New Testament!”
You’ve seen it on Social Media. You’ve read it on blogs. Heck, just this morning, while unwrapping his patchouli scented candles and Deepak Chopra books, your unemployed and very opinionated uncle harped on it (along with his conspiracy theories regarding Jay Z’s Illuminati connections and the reptilian heritage of former U.S. presidents). Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Jesus Myth Theory is gaining traction in many pseudo intellectual circles. However, in spite of its growing popularity, the Jesus myth theory finds virtually no support from scholars.
In general, modern scholars largely agree that Jesus did exist historically. Sure, there are differences of opinion on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life. That’s par for the course in academic discussions about the historical Jesus. However, the minimal historical facts agreed upon by virtually all scholars paint a picture of Jesus that is consistent with historic and orthodox Christian teachings.
For example: According to New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman, most people who study the historical period of Jesus do not at all support the Jesus myth theory. Ehrman also notes that Jesus myth views would prevent one from getting employment in any serious religious studies department. He says:
“These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land one in a bona fide department of biology.”
Why is this relevant? Dr. Ehrman completed his M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton Seminary. Dr. Ehrman is considered by his peers to be an expert on the New Testament and the history of Early Christianity. He’s written or edited thirty books as well as numerous scholarly articles and book reviews. Five of his books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list: Misquoting Jesus; God’s Problem; Jesus Interrupted; Forged; and How Jesus Became God.
In case you didn’t make the connection, Ehrman is not a Christian. You could even say that Ehrman is “anti-Christian” in some respects. However, Ehrman is an unlikely ally in our day to day conversations about Jesus. At a recent atheists convention, when presented with a hostile comment from a Jesus myth proponent, Ehrman puts the baby to bed. Watch the video below.
0:19 – 0:32 “I know in the crowds you all run around in it’s commonly thought that Jesus did not exist. Let me tell you, once you get outside of your conclave this is not an issue for scholars of antiquity.”
0:36 – 0:49 “There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world who teaches classics, ancient history, New Testament, early Christianity or any related field who doubts that Jesus existed”
1:59 – 2:11 “I think that atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of [Jesus] mythicism because, frankly, it makes you look foolish to the outside world.”
Friends, as Christians we have an unfair advantage in the marketplace of ideas in that what we believe is actually TRUE. That said, we have philosophy, science and, yes, history on our side. The next time your weird uncle wants to talk about Jesus myths and reptile presidents, lovingly push back on that and ask him if he’s ever heard of Bart Ehrman…