Is History Knowable? Implications for Christianity

Some of our skeptical friends tend to apply an odd methodology when claiming “Jesus wasn’t a real historical figure.” Under normal circumstances, you would never deny the existence of a historical figure that was supported by as much evidence as Jesus is. But because it’s Jesus, the evidence doesn’t seem to matter to some. Nonetheless, as Sheri Bell points out in this article, Jesus passes the historical test.

Is History Knowable? Implications for Christianity | Sheri Bell

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116 Comments »

  1. There is no evidence whatsoever of anyone that remotely resembles the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth.
    He is most certainly a narrative construct.

    It didn’t help the case one iota that every rebuttal in that horribly skewed article just happened to be a Christian and Licona and Geisler are fundamentalists, Geisler believing in a literal understanding of the text.
    If you were looking for any degree of objectivity then you just shot yourself in the foot, I’m afraid.

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    • It must be convenient, dismissing arguments because you don’t like the people making the arguments. “I don’t accept arguments made by atheists because atheists are biased against Christianity.”

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      • Not in the least.
        I am always open to historical evidence, especially when it concerns Christianity.
        So, when you feature a post about historical veracity with specific focus on the character Jesus of Nazareth, I was hoping it would be very interesting.
        However, your link is to a McDowell Ministeries site and an article featuring a Christian writer and Christian scholars refuting claims!
        Licona is on record stating that Christian scholars/historians do not work to the same standards as normal historian and take many liberties.
        You can read his quotes on the Wiki link if you care to search
        So how much more biased can one get?

        And I reiterate, there is no evidence whatsoever for the character Jesus of Nazareth as reflected in the bible. None. He is simply a narrative construct.

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      • Tacitus never mentions Christ,Furthermore the passage quotes no source and suggest hearsay at best. And some scholars are now considering that, like the TF there is more than a hint of interpolation. Forgery, innother words.

        Perhaps you should read Annals? I would lend you my copy if you were closer.

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  2. Richard Whately in 1819 wrote a little book regarding historical ‘doubts’ about Napoleon Bonaparte. Whately took the same types of arguments that had been used to try to subvert the historical evidence for Jesus Christ and applied them to Napoleon, thereby ‘proving’ that the accounts regarding Bonaparte were clearly miraculous and therefore fictional. This was four years after the battle of Waterloo. Whately’s work suggests that postmodernism was a product of this attempt to undercut the evidence for Jesus. People would rather destroy all history rather than believe the evidence for Christ.

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    • There is no such person as ”Jesus Christ.”

      And there is no evidence whatsoever for the character as presented in the bible.
      However, I get the impression that you feel you do have some evidence, so please, feel free to present it..
      I am more than willing to discuss this evidence with you if you have it.
      Regards.
      Ark

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      • Then you are deluded. And is clearly not logical. To say Jesus Christ is not the Son of God or the promised Messiah is one thing. But to say He DID NOT exist is completely biased with no logical basis. You don’t believe in Wikipedia? You don’t believe in Science or History? Archeology? You shouldnt go to the doctor the next time you get a check up because the foundation of their studies are the of the same nature that proves Jesus Christ existed. You say you want evidences, but your heart and mind are closed. I am speaking not to you but the spirit of the anti-Christ living inside of you and I command it to leave in the name of the resurrected Jesus Christ. One day you will die and you will face judgment, you need a Savior in Jesus to access eternal life in heaven. If you keep that pride and continue rejecting Jesus, you will burn in hell in complete anguish, a suffering thats forever and theres no getting out of it. The time to believe and accept the salvation Jesus freely gives is now. But its all up to you to accept.

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      • The biblical character Jesus of Nazareth or … Jesus Christ is a narrative construct.
        Christ is not a surname for one thing, but a title.

        If you keep that pride and continue rejecting Jesus, you will burn in hell in complete anguish …

        The character Jesus as portrayed in the bible, was a Jew. Born a Jew, raised a Jew, studied the Torah and finally, died a Jew,
        There is no Hell as per the Christian definition in Judaism, this Jesus never taught this nonsensical doctrine.
        Please do yourself a favour an learn some proper history for goodness sake!

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    • There is no evidence for the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth.
      There may have been an itinerant, 1st century Rabbi named Yeshua who was eventually crucified for sedition.
      Josephus mentions several people called Yeshua.
      But the character in the bible, the water walking wonder worker who developed a new form of viticulture and eventually came back to life after being crucified for sedition?
      No, sorry, that is just plain silly, and there is no evidence to support such claims for anyone of this description.

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  3. His name is Jesus. Christ is a title. Whoever said it’s a surname? Christ is Jesus’ rightful title. The Messiah. The one recorded in Torah. And there were eye witnesses of His resurrected body, archeological findings of His empty tomb. So all of those, you don’t consider facts? What’s your basis for not believing? Whatever you are reading is clearly one sided. I do know my history! But history won’t get you anywhere. And yes He did teach about hell. If you really read the Bible, you’d know it. But clearly you have not. Anyway, I can sense you are here for a different purpose and not really to look for answers so I won’t be replying to you anymore. I shake the dust off my feet and will move on. But I do hope and pray that you find whatever you are looking for!

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    • And there were eye witnesses of His resurrected body, archeological findings of His empty tomb.

      Excellent! Now we are moving into the territory of (claimed) evidence.
      So, what evidence do you have to substantiate the claims that there were ”eyewitnesses” ?
      And before you rush to your bible. For what it’s worth, the ”500 brethren” claim is not evidence but merely a claim.

      Archaeological findings? Feel free to enlighten us.

      And where exactlyis this tomb you claim in which the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth was interred?

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  4. Eye witnesses, writings, archeological findings, genealogy…. evidences are there everywhere. But for one who does not want to believe, no evidences will never be enough. So, I shake the dust off my feet and will move on to one who is willing to believe.

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  5. And FYI, Jesus and Yeshua are the same, Jesus is the english translation of Yeshua. The Yeshua whom the Pharisees crucified. Same reason you probably have, cos his name is a threat to the title of the high priests, the pride of their position, the holy temple, it’s all political. Has always been. And these Pharisees are purposefully hiding His name until now. Jews are raised to hate his name. But to many nations His name is known. Because of Saul/Paul, a Jew himself who received a revelation from the resurrected Jesus, worked with the disciples in bringing the good news first to the Jews who rejected it and then to the Gentiles through Paul. Your material is one sided and only contains a part of the truth.

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    • Actually, Joshua is the English translation of Yeshua! And the English language did not even have an official ‘J ‘until … when? Come on, Miss Clever, let’s see if you know?

      Jews are not raised to hate his name at all! Where on earth are you finding this rubbish?
      You are one seriously messed up child.

      My material is based on historical evidence. Yours on the other hand is based on the bible. In other words, not evidence but arguments and … faith.

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  6. Your material is your own opinion. Not history. If you are not aware that Jews are raised to hate Jesus then your argument is not valid at all. You clearly are the child here. Parsimonious, you don’t get it so you won’t believe it. Its the usual escape. But you will know the truth, soon enough. Hopefully, when that time comes it won’t be too late for you. Our motivation to share the good news of Jesus’ salvation is mercy, of what unbelievers like you will become after life. However for people like you, your motive of argument is pride. To prove you are right -thats clearly a place where God is not represented. Good bye and good luck to you!

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    • Your material is your own opinion. Not history. If you are not aware that Jews are raised to hate Jesus then your argument is not valid at all …

      No , dear, not my opinion. The views expressed are based on evidence. Historical, archaeological etc

      Feel free to present any evidence you have that demonstrates that Jews are raised to hate Jesus.
      Your assertion strikes me as an extreme position that has no foundation in evidence.

      In fact if anyone was raised to hate, it would be Christians who traditionally have often labelled the Jews as ”Christ Killers”.
      .
      Luther, for one, was a raving antisemitic and during the time of the Crusades Jews were routinely slaughtered when the occasion or the mood arose.
      Such pogroms are documented.
      Perhaps you should investigate the history of the Jews throughout Europe?

      However, as you seem convinced of the veracity of this claim please feel free to offer the evidence you have and if it pans out I will apologise, no problem.

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  7. Claims? Why do you discredit actual recordings, writings, letters, written by eye witnesses themselves that were verified by scholars, acknowledged by historians, even scientists like Albert Einstein, archeologists and etc? You put yourself above these people? Wow! You have some serious problem here. You will not find the evidence you are looking for (which I doubt if youre really looking) if you continue going this direction. The evidence you are looking for is when you see Jesus face to face. Oh you will! Say 10,20,30, 50 years? Thats a short time. But I hope when that time comes, it wont be too late for you. I genuinely hope so.

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    • Which eyewitness claims are you talking about?
      Which archaeologists and what exactly has Einstein got to do with anything here on this topic?

      Can you please be specific. It is extremely difficult to know how to respond to your sweeping generalized statements.

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  8. The name Jesus is a transliteration! Disputing his name by its origins is poor argument. And claims? Why do you discredit actual recordings, writings, letters, written by eye witnesses themselves that were verified by scholars, acknowledged by historians, even scientists like Albert Einstein, archeologists and etc? You put yourself above these people? Wow! You have some serious problem here. You will not find the evidence you are looking for (which I doubt if youre really looking) if you continue going this direction. The evidence you are looking for is when you see Jesus face to face. Oh you will! Say 10,20,30, 50 years? Thats a short time. But I hope when that time comes, it wont be too late for you. I genuinely hope so.

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    • The name Jesus is a transliteration! Disputing his name by its origins is poor argument.

      A transliteration is sometimes used when a word in one language would be too difficult or awkward to understand/pronounce in its original language.

      Yeshua is not difficult to write or pronounce.
      The character, Jesus was a Jew. Born and raised, so he would have been known as, and been addressed as Yeshua or perhaps the longer form Yehoshuah by everyone he encountered during his lifetime, and especially his family and friends

      The name “Jesus” comes from the Greek way of expressing his name: Ἰησοῦς, which is pronounced “Yay-soos”.

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      • You seem to be going back and forth and all over the place so let me this perfectly clear for you.
        The character, Jesus of Nazareth as described in the bible is a narrative construct.
        There is no evidence for this character.

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      • And I am still waiting for you to offer evidence for these ”eyewitnesses”, you claim, as well aso the archaeological evidence of the tomb he is supposed to have been buried in.
        I presume you do have evidence, yes?

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  9. … you would never deny the existence of a historical figure that was supported by as much evidence as Jesus is.

    The ONLY evidence for Jesus is in the bible. And contrary to claims by believers, none of the stories within its pages can be verified or proven. Christianity as a whole is simply a belief … a feeling, an impression, a persuasion, a TEACHING … and is entirely dependent on the desire of the individual to accept it as truth.

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  10. You are the one going back and forth if you look at this whole thread. You spend so much time asking for evidences you are never going to believe in. Your thinking is not logical, you claim its historical but you are one sided, biased. For one who claims for evidences, you state without evidences. Your material is not history. Your Foundation is one-sided and it sounds pretty Jewish to me. The Jews hated Jesus because they do not want to be in a position of weakness, in a position that they are in need of a Messiah, they deng the teachings of the Old Testament and its fulfillment written in the New Testament that are prohibited to be read. So, your basis is not valid. Its incomplete. If you have broader source I will be more interested to listen to you however, you dont! Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah Isaiah prophecied about whether a man like you claims his just a narrative character or not (which again is funny cos no logical person in search for evidences will really have this claim)

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    • I’m sorry, you are simply espousing fundamentalist apologetic nonsense.
      It sounds as if English is not your first language and I am making allowances for this.
      But your knowledge and understanding of the history of your religion and its main characters is woefully way off the mark.

      Your Foundation is one-sided and it sounds pretty Jewish to me.

      I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. In fact, should I take an guess i might think it was bordering on antisemitic

      I suggest you ”dial it back” a little and put aside your Christian bias for a moment and think carefully about your next reply.
      And please, instead of punting indoctrinated biblical views offer me some evidence for the claims you are making.

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      • That’s a foul argument. What a juvenile behavior. Is this how you argue when you can’t support your ideas, attacking people personally? I’ve read the thread and this is how you always end up. But with me you just have to try harder. Don’t hide behind your wide array of terminologies. Bottomline, you are simply describing, not supporting your idea of Jesus Christ’ not existing. You discredit historian’s writings believing you are above them. Information will not lead you to salvation, Jesus Christ will. Whether you find your so called evidences or not.

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      • Chickens make fowl arguments.

        No historian worth his or her salt will ever credit any veracity to the water-walking came-back-from-the-dead miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth – as described in the gospels.
        Feel free to provide me with any bona fide – genuine historian who makes a claim that this character was a genuine historical figure.

        I’ll sit and twiddle my thumbs while you furiously search through Wikipedia shall I?

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    • @Princessdiarrhoea

      You don’t get to revile the Jews AND lay claim to their mythologized history, in order to try and buttress the dubious foundations of Christianity; not without coming off as an anti-Semitic crank, at least.

      If you worship a Hebrew deity to begin with, then logically you should follow the Jews when it comes to rejecting Jesus as Messiah. The Tanakh is Jewish mythology — or highly embellished “history”, to put it generously. Christians don’t get to co-opt it for their own fanciful interpretations.

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    • Historical data outside the bible?
      Please offer me a link for the claims that the miracle-working biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth is a historical reality..I prefer not to use Wiki for such things.

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      • Then that ends our conversation. If you do not prefer Wiki, no other links or evidences will ever suffice. You do not respect researches, studies or other sources. You will only get one when you face a Holy God afterlife though. Thats it when its too late. Goodbye. For real.

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    • @GPD

      “you can Wikipedia it too” … ??? Surely you jest!

      The only “historical data” and/or “genealogy” of Jesus is found in the bible — which goes back to what I said above. Let me reiterate: any belief in the bible or its contents is entirely dependent on the desire of the individual to accept it as truth. There are NO factual, hardcore, undeniable sources to confirm its contents.

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      • Let me toss that back to you … can you provide a bona-fide (meaning unquestionable) source that confirms the existence of Jesus?

        Let me make it easy. There are none. Jesus is presented in one place and one place only — the bible. It’s entirely your prerogative to believe or disbelieve its contents.

        It’s unfortunate for believers that Jesus flew off into the wild, blue yonder without leaving any traces of himself behind.

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      • This claim is completely outrageous! One can say he is not the Jewish Messiah but to say he didn’t exist at all is completely illogical.

        Tacitus for one, a Roman senator and historian wrote about Jesus, during the time of Nero where Christians were being persecuted. He did not just refer to the followers of Christ that were being persecuted, in his writing he also identified the actual execution of Christ. So how is his existence disputable? Are you going to dispute the existence of Tacitus as well? Or discredit his being historian?

        And there are a lot more out there. But one who is not looking will never find it. But you’re right. It’s really up to one’s faith. Even if you prove anything, what good does it do? All you get is information, not salvation, not revelation and not transformation. The spirit of God will give revelation to those who are willing to believe. Those who are not, it is hidden.

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      • Wrong. Tacitus wrote a short passage in Annals about someone called Chrestus.
        The names Jesus,Yeshua, or Christus,are not mentioned.

        I have the book and would lend it to you if you lived closer as I suspect you haven’t actually read Annals or Histories have you?

        It is, at best hearsay as he never quotes his source and the passage is considered a possible interpolation by several historians.
        Furthermore, Tertullian, who is known to have quoted Tacitus quiote extensively never refers to this passage.

        Oh, and there is no independent evidence to suggest Nero persecuted Christians. ( as far as I am aware) Domitian, yes. Nero… no.
        Unless you can provide a verified independent source?

        Again, I am not particularly bothered about some 1st century itinerant rabbi who may have been strung up for sedition.
        Who cares?
        It is the biblical wonder-worker who is simply a narrative construct for whom there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

        And there are a lot more out there.

        Really? Where? The passage by Josephus is a Christian interpolation. Pliny mentions Christians, no Jesus and no ”Christ” and his ”letter” is also coming under more serious scrutiny as a possible forgery.

        So, in actual fact you really have no idea of where or what these ”lot more” references/sources are do you?

        Your final sentence is the most illuminating of the entire reply. Rather stick to faith as your knowledge of the history of your religion is confined almost exclusively to what you have absorbed via apologetics.

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  11. @Princessdiarrhoea

    “Or discredit his being [sic] historian?”

    What gave you the strange idea that ancient “historians” like Tacitus and Josephus practiced that discipline with anything of the rigor and scholarship that modern historians would apply?

    Hell, Josephus probably didn’t even get the supposed mass suicide at Masada correct, based on what the actual archaeology is revealing at that site. People embellished stories, and in the constant telling, the stories became more and more fantastic. For hard evidence, we need to look at the archaeology. When it comes to many of the foundational stories in the Bible, the myths are not borne out by the on-the-ground, hard physical evidence.

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  12. I wash my hands from your blood for I shared the Word with you in boldness the direction you wanted to take yet you still denied Christ. I am no longer interested in this conversation for you are foul-mouthed and you will be accountable for every word you let out of your mouth. Information is your God and you will take that with you in hell if you do not believe and accept the salvation that Jesus offers. Sure laugh now and deny the existence of hell Durban to its lack of concrete evidence but be on your guard. Once you are there, it’s the point of no return. A suffering unimaginable that’s eternal. Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah. The Son of God Isaiah prophecies about. He died the death you are bound to die and offers you substitution. The only qualified Savior because death cant hold him down and so he resurrected and is alive and will return. He offers you love and forgiveness and he knows you by name. But an unaccepted gift cannot be enjoyed. It’s only a matter of time before you face Him at judgment. Laugh now, but I tell you, it’s only a matter of time. And your evidences won’t save you. I rest my case. In Christ, so long!

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      • In truth, the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth never taught this nonsensical doctrine that some Christians so love to espouse and threaten with.
        Is it any wonder when kids are indoctrinated with such blatant rubbish – which is a corruption of scripture in any case – that adults such as this woman are produced?

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