Skeptics claim the Jesus Christ written about in the Bible is pure fiction. But you can know for sure that He really existed.
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Theories about the origin of arguably the most influential religious figure in human history range from bizarre to plain silly. One is that Jesus and His life are a personification of the symbols within the zodiac cross in astrology. They believe His role as a “Son” traveling with 12 disciples is a metaphor for the movement of the “sun” through the 12 constellations.
Another claim is that Jesus is a composite of several real-life first-century figures. Purportedly the notable deeds of these individuals were combined and mythologized into the person of Jesus Christ. Related is the thought that He is a fictional character cobbled together from inauthentic and over-interpreted sayings.
One particularly odd rationale is that Jesus, known to advocate peace, was a fabrication of the Roman government. Crafty officials supposedly invented Him to control their subjects with an alternative to the more threatening revolutionaries stirring up first-century Israel and posing a threat to Rome.
If any of these ideas were true, they would render numerous religious texts worthless and simultaneously shatter the hopes of billions of devoted followers. It is one thing to disagree with Jesus Christ’s teachings or to reject Christianity as a whole, but to dismiss His existence as fantasy is another matter entirely.
Though their opinions about His role may differ, most followers of the world’s major religions—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, among others—accept that a man known as Jesus walked the Earth during the first century. Christ’s actual existence impacts over three-quarters of the population alive today.
What can be confusing is that proponents of the “Christ myth” sound so confident. They seem so sure of their conclusions that they can almost sound convincing.
Their cunning arguments plant doubt in the minds of an increasingly unchurched generation, and further disaffect those fed up with the hypocrisy of mainstream religion. Even those confident of Jesus Christ’s literal existence can get hung up searching for ways to counter these claims.
The principal reasons people assert Jesus is imaginary stem from three premises: (1) the charge that there is no secular or non-biblical proof of His actual existence; (2) claims that the Bible’s New Testament record has no legitimate historical value; and (3) the belief that Jesus Christ’s profile is suspiciously similar to ancient paganism predating Christianity.
Most recognize the accusation that Jesus never existed for what it is—absurd. They do not need to be convinced otherwise. However, going through the exercise of dismantling the supposedly overwhelming evidence can still be beneficial.
Taking the time to strengthen your conviction that Jesus Christ truly existed will help you better understand who He was and His purpose.
Advocates of the Christ myth say no sources outside the Bible corroborate His existence. This assertion is patently false.
The following are a few historical accounts recorded soon after Christ’s life.
Tacitus: As a Roman historian who lived from about AD 56-117, he mentioned the person of Jesus Christ and His execution by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate in his extensive record known as the Annals, which cover the history of the Roman Empire from AD 14-68.
Suetonius: Another Roman historian who lived from about AD 70-140, he referenced Jesus Christ in his AD 121 work titled The Twelve Caesars, a set of 12 biographies of Roman emperors considered a primary source of Roman history.
In a section on Emperor Claudius, he references Jews being expelled from Rome since they “constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus.” “Chrestus” is commonly seen as a reference to Christ.
Within the section on Emperor Nero, Suetonius further speaks of inflicting punishment on “Christians…given to a new and mischievous superstition.”
Pliny the Younger: A Roman governor of the Bithynian province, who lived from AD 61-113, wrote a letter around AD 112 to Roman Emperor Trajan about dealing with “Christians” in his province. He noted that this group met “on a certain fixed day” and sang a “hymn to Christ as to a god.” In addition, he explained their commitment “not to do wicked deeds, never commit fraud, theft, adultery, not to lie nor to deny a trust.” Pliny’s remedy for dealing with Christians refusing to worship Roman gods was execution.
Flavius Josephus: This well-known Roman-Jewish historian and scholar wrote Antiquities of the Jews, a 20-volume historiographical work on the Jewish people. Within the text is written, “Jesus, a wise man…who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher…He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.” The text continues, “…[when] Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease.”
Although some allege that there is controversy on the authenticity of these direct references to Jesus Christ, indirect mentions of His person in other sections, such as a reference to “James the brother of Jesus,” are less disputed.
Note that the previously mentioned works do not defend or refute the existence of Jesus Christ. The writers acknowledge Christ as an accepted figure in history.
While admitting that unbiased men did mention Christ in their writings, determined skeptics still argue that they were not eyewitnesses of His life and, therefore, cannot be believed.
Think about what they are saying. By this “eyewitness” standard, any historical record, often a compilation of the oral and written records of others, could be dismissed as untrustworthy because the person pulling it all together did not personally see the subjects involved. This restriction would render history books from previous ages practically worthless.
Eventually, denials from skeptics of a literal Jesus become ridiculous, proving that if a person tries hard enough, they can spark doubt even in an established truth.
Also, doubters cannot label everyone acknowledging the literal existence of Jesus as merely “pro-Christian” and thus biased. One would be hard-pressed to describe Muslims, Hindus, or Jews as such. Muslims commonly recognize Jesus as an important prophet, and Hindus acknowledge His teachings and effect on history.
The acknowledgment by the Jews is even more powerful. Jewish leaders had a hand in Christ’s execution since they did not believe Him to be the coming Messiah. They had every incentive to deny the existence of an actual Jesus Christ, given the criticism they have received regarding His death and their continued belief in a coming savior. Though they did not see Him as the “Son of God,” even Jews acknowledge He existed.
In reality, many religious alternatives to the Christian faith could easily dismiss Christianity as a legitimate religion by alleging that the figure central to its belief system never lived—but they do not.
Book of History?
Bible critics are also wrong to believe the New Testament has no historical value. The New Testament contains provable historical facts, such as the construction of Herod’s temple—remains of which still stand today, including the foundation and Western Wall.
There are also multiple references in the New Testament to Roman rule and the destruction of Jerusalem, which are all facts of history. Even Christ’s human genealogy is listed in the gospels. Therefore, scriptures that detail the birth, life, and death of a literal man named Jesus cannot be reduced to a fairy tale.
In addition, archaeologists of every stripe and flavor agree that the Bible contains much factual information.
Millar Burrows, a professor who worked at Yale University, stated in his book What Mean These Stones?: “On the whole…archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine.”
Later in the book, he wrote, “Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics.”
William F. Albright strengthens this case in his book The Archaeology of Palestine: “The excessive scepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth-and-nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”
Jonathan L. Reed observed in The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament: “The many archaeological discoveries relating to people, places, or titles mentioned in Acts do lend credence to its historicity at one level; many of the specific details in Acts are factual.”
Yet even beyond establishing simple historical facts, you can prove the Bible is God’s Word.
What sets Scripture apart from all other history books is prophecy, history written in advance. Events foretold hundreds of years before they occurred prove that the Bible was divinely inspired.
In Isaiah 46:9-10, God challenges skeptics to place fulfilled prophecy next to the historical record. The booklet Bible Authority...Can It Be Proven?, available for free at rcg.org/bacibp, will remove any doubt of the Bible’s validity. Read it or request a copy today.
What about the supposed pagan roots of Christianity? Are they proof that Jesus Christ is a figment of imagination or a compilation of pagan mythology?
A shocking, little-known warning from the apostle Paul in II Corinthians begins to answer this question: “But I [Paul] fear, lest by any means, as the serpent [Satan] beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him” (II Cor. 11:3-4).
Did you catch that? This passage does not describe someone preaching about the authentic Jesus Christ. Instead, it speaks of false ministers preaching about another Jesus—a false Christ different than the true one! This “Jesus,” empowered by another spirit, and bringing another gospel, was being imposed upon true believers.
As astonishing as it may sound, this counterfeit Jesus Christ deceives millions today—and he does have pagan roots!
Why would Satan bother to spread the idea of “another Jesus”? Why not promote another false god entirely unrelated to the Jesus Christ of the Bible?
As any con man will tell you, the most effective lies contain elements of truth. What better way to deceive millions about the true Jesus Christ than to devise an alternative similar to the genuine Christ—even down to His very name! It is no accident that the devil is known as a master deceiver and the father of lies (John 8:44).
As Paul stated in II Corinthians 11, the devil has done this kind of deception from the beginning. He deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden into eating fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17; 3:6). Recognize that God said the fruit of this tree had some “good” in it.
This false Jesus is a relative clone of many pagan gods in ancient societies such as Babylon and Egypt. Skeptics do not realize this wrong version of Jesus is the character at the center of the “Christ myth.” This made-up person did not exist historically! This phony Jesus has deceived billions throughout history.
The book Christianity and Mythology explains the heathen connection: “…the conception of a Saviour-God was quite normal in the ancient pagan world…a conception of salvation underlies the notion of such Gods as Osiris, Attis, and Adonis…”
Why are there so many stories similar to Jesus’ death and resurrection? The short answer is that instead of paganism influencing Christianity, as many claim, it is the other way around. God’s plan for mankind long predated paganism. For instance, God’s promise of a savior was first revealed in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). Other prophecies foretold Christ’s coming: Genesis 12:3, 49:10; Numbers 24:17; and Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-5. These words were written thousands of years ago.
Many pagan stories appropriate their themes from what God said He would do!
Perhaps the most famous examples of worshipping “another Jesus,” a false Christ, are the observance of Christmas and Easter. Both of these holidays are deeply rooted in paganism and focus on a “Jesus Christ” far different from the true one.
Christmas is a combination of several pagan symbols and principles. It has no actual Christian connection outside of the partial truths from the birth account of the child Jesus (think “knowledge of good and evil”) later attached to it. For instance, the supposed December 25 birth is a continuation of the Roman observance of Saturnalia, which involved worshipping a sun god. The Christmas tree is a holdover from a Babylonian idol people bowed under (Jer. 10:3-4).
Easter observance began anciently as a tribute to the “goddess of spring” or “queen of heaven” for the arrival of the spring season. The name Easter came from the Germanic goddess of fertility, Austron. She inarguably resembles the ancient mythological figures Ishtar, Ashtoreth, and Astarte.
The concepts of a “mother and savior” and a “savior-god,” prevalent in ancient cultures, were combined with facts about the true Jesus Christ’s birth from a human mother and His torture, death, and eventual resurrection. These all combined to form the modern observance of Easter.
The truth explains why both Christmas and Easter celebrations are so inconsistent with the worship of God in Scripture. Christmas trees and mistletoe? Santa Claus and reindeer? Easter eggs and bunny rabbits? Sunrise services and hot-cross buns? These “Christianized” symbols are all absent from the Bible yet prevalent in long-held pagan observances.
Exposing these pagan roots of Christmas and Easter is not new. Countless people have heard this before, with more discovering it every year. Some deny or choose to ignore this connection to continue keeping these days guilt-free. But many openly admit the true origins of these holidays. They justify keeping them by claiming they are not worshipping false gods but worshipping Jesus Christ instead.
The God of the Bible directly warns against this practice: “This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men…Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:6-7, 9).
God never commanded the observance of these days—He condemns it! Tragically, people think they are honoring the God of the Bible with these celebrations, but their worship is in vain.
All Christian practices and beliefs with pagan roots describe another Jesus about whom Paul warned. Making matters worse, Christians ignoring the pagan origins of traditional holidays gives anti-religious skeptics fodder to poke holes in Christianity.
This is evidence of the incredible influence of Satan, whom the Bible says “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). The devil is such an effective counterfeiter of truth that he has successfully deceived billions into unwittingly worshipping false gods!
In II Corinthians 4:4, Paul reveals the reason the devil is bent on keeping people away from the true Jesus Christ: “In whom the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
The devil’s goal is to keep people ignorant of the actual Christ and a significant reason He came to Earth as a human being. God the Father sent Jesus to announce the gospel or good news of His coming Kingdom. Christ was a messenger of the wonderful opportunity for human beings to inherit eternal life!
Related to this gospel message is that the true Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1), allowed Himself to be killed, thus becoming the perfect sacrifice required to redeem sinful mankind cut off from God. His shed blood was the payment necessary to deliver man from the death penalty due to sin (Rom. 6:23).
If Jesus Christ never existed and is simply a made-up idea, people would have no relationship with God and no chance at eternal life!
Recognizing the true Jesus Christ includes acknowledging the one Church He said He would build that would never be destroyed (Matt. 16:18). Finding and being part of this Church is how it becomes possible to attain the tremendous opportunities available to all in God’s Plan.
You should better understand why Satan is so determined to separate you from the true Jesus Christ preached in the Bible. It is the devil’s most effective weapon in preventing you from receiving all the wonderful things God has put in place for human beings.
Inherent within Paul’s warning to the Corinthians about worshipping the wrong Jesus is that there must be a way to tell the difference. As confusing as it may be to wade through the vast amount of information on the subject, there is a path to identifying and understanding the true Jesus Christ.
A vast difference exists between the popular Jesus Christ known to most and the Jesus Christ who walked Earth. The true Jesus Christ was not a weakling with long hair who taught people that God’s Law was no longer in effect. Instead, Jesus was a powerful man known for His ruggedness and masculinity, who taught that God requires obedience to His Commandments.
Perhaps the most vital difference between the two Jesus figures is that people believe the false one’s blood saves them. That is not what the Bible teaches. God’s Word clearly states mankind is “saved by His [Christ’s] life” (Rom. 5:10), while he is “reconciled to God” and “justified by His [Christ’s] blood” (vs. 9). We are saved by the true Jesus Christ’s resurrected life!
The false Jesus is a myth—an utter fabrication! Yet the actual, living Jesus Christ reveals an abundant life (John 10:10) for all who follow His teachings.
This article only begins to demonstrate the contrast between the true and false Christ. Much more than you may realize is at stake for not following the correct one.
Determine to know the truth! Order Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David Pack’s thorough book The True Jesus Christ – Unknown to Christianity. The only book of its kind, it lays out Christ’s life in detail.
After reading this free book, you will be able to recognize the true Jesus Christ among the counterfeits. You will also have a much better understanding of His purpose for coming to Earth and how belief in Him can lead to a sense of purpose and a lifetime of happiness.
The true Jesus Christ is unknown to almost all—but He can be known to you!