Apologetics Australia Evangelism Jesus Christ Uncategorized

The Evidence for Jesus

This is the last talk I gave at the lawyers breakfast in Sydney.

The evidence for Jesus – City Bible Forum

What do the historical sources tell us about Jesus?

Did Jesus exist?

What do we make of claims like the virgin birth?

IMG_3087

The others are here –

The Evidence for Miracles – City Bible Forum

Evidence for the Bible – City Bible Forum

The talks are summaries of chapters in Magnificent Obsession – Why Jesus is Great

53 comments

  1. Very good talk David. I’m not a historian by any means so it’s good for ‘ornery’ folk to have a historian to refer to. Your delivery is a nice balance between formal academic and relaxed ‘plain’ speaking so is stimulating enough for the intellectual and understandable enough for the ‘ornery’ folk. It’s laced with a bit of humour, which everyone likes and illustrations from your everyday life add credibility and a necessary ‘down-to-earthness ‘ to show that Christianity is not only a belief system but also has practical application in everyday life. Your diction is more than adequate and your pace of speaking is ideal for all ears. Stop dropping your consonants though!

  2. Hi, wee flea. I’m also interested in your evidence. In the interest of saving time and typing, can we just focus on one item at a time?

    You mentioned Josephus and the Testimonium Flavium. Please walk me through your process for determining the legitimacy and veracity of the passage?

      1. No, I’m actually very interested. I’m sort of a history fan, and I like to learn the processes of determining what we know about history. Please walk me through it.

      2. Nope…sorry – can’t be bothered. Basically I don’t believe you and even if I did I don;t have the time. I’m sure you have googled and made your mind up already….

      3. No, seriously, I’ve listened to Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier both discuss this, and they have different views. I obviously don’t think Jesus was the son of God, but there are conflicting camps on if he even actually existed. Hence I came to this post.

        I doubt you’re going to be able to provide a full argument to divinity claims in a forum like this, but since you are a historian, and mentioned Flavius, I’d like your take on the passage and how you drew those conclusions.

      4. theweeflea can you stop dodging the question and answer it
        How did you ascertain Josephus and the Testimonium Flavium to be legitimate

        And I asked you to show me the sources for your overwhelming evidence for Jesus and I have not heard from you

      5. As I have indicated several times if I thought you were serious and had real questions as opposed to accusations I would answer…but I don’t – and I don’t play those kind of games…You are well able to read the sources on Josephus yourself – here is a fair summary – http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/testimonium.html The overwhelming evidence for Jesus is listed in my book Magnificent Obsession…you’re welcome…

  3. I actually am very interested in history, and my interest is the ongoing debate on if Jesus was a historical figure, or entirely mythology. I hoped as a historian you could shed some light on that debate.

    1. No – I don’t think you did…I think you’ve made your mind up. The reason I don’t argue with those who claim Jesus is a myth is the same reason I don’t argue with those who deny the holocaust or indeed any conspiracy theorist. There is no point – there mind is made up and won’t be changed because everything you say is part of the conspiracy. As someone who is interested in the subject I’m sure you’ve read Bart Ehrman (no Christian)…perhaps try John Dickson from Sydney? And many others. No serious historian denies the existence of Jesus any more than they deny the Holocaust.

      1. The agreement among scholars is that Jesus as described in the bible did not exist, also the claim to divinity is baseless. What scholars see as the historical Jesus is far apart from the bible Jesus

        I ask you again what evidence and what are your sources to the claim that the biblical Jesus and all the miracles attributed to him have a historical base

        Keep in mind that despite the overwhelming evidence that Alexander the great existed as a historical figure, almost no one including you I presume accept the claims to divinity attributed to him. So I am not looking for evidence for any Jesus who lived in the first century, Jesus was a fairly common name, I am asking you for your overwhelming evidence in support of the biblical Jesus and the divinity claims

      2. You are wasting time….asking for evidence of the historical Jesus is one thing – asking for proof of his divinity is another – not least because you don’t accept there is such a thing as divinity….as I said – read the book…meanwhile bye..

  4. “As I said – I don’t debate with people who don’t know that the Holocaust happened….you’re in the same league…”
    theweeflea are you trying to imply that if one day my little 2 years old relative ask me if the holocaust happened, I should not have a conversation with her because from what you said you don’t engage in a conversation with people who don’t know the holocaust happened
    How would she know about the holocaust if no one told her and I don’t see how her mind is already made up
    Now you refuse to engage in a conversation with us who are simply asking you for a list of your sources. This isn’t even a debate it just a request and if you keep avoiding to honor my request then it would be safe to assume that you have no source for your overwhelming evidence for the biblical Jesus

    1. Yes – you put it very well….it is like discussing with a two year old! If you really want to know my sources – read the book….meanwhile feel free to write away on your own blog….

      1. I see this as a weak attempt to loot money from me. I am not even asking you to post everything contained in your book. I just ask you to open the section of your book that contains your bibliography or references or whatever you call it and post it.
        From your about page I see that you are a minister. It seems that my assumption that you would want to use this as an opportunity to make Christ known to me. By making me see the wealth of scholarly sources in favor of the biblical Jesus rather the only thing you keep doing is market your book was misplaced
        If you did have an overwhelming sources in support of Jesus you would have been glad and willing to share them. Your reluctance would only mean either you have no overwhelming sources or your sources are not credible
        If you can show credibility and honestly by listing your sources then I would read your book. But all you have done so far is show your scholarly dishonesty

        A quick google search doesn’t show scholarly accepted ancient sources for the biblical Jesus. I was hoping you did have one that I am not aware of. Guess I hoped wrong

      2. Let me save you any further time. Yes I can give a list of the books and sources used….but no I can’t be bothered doing that for you – I really don’t play those kind of games. You have no interest whatsoever and are just trying (and failing) to be smart. I have no interest in getting money from you – if you bought the book I would probably get about £0.20 eventually! As for making Christ known to you – providing you a list of sources – which you will automatically reject won’t do that either. You could of course start with the primary sources – the Gospels – and read them with an open mind…but that will take a miracle…still…I believe in miracles….now please stop wasting your time…and mine…

      3. I have read the gospels and also read Hesoid theogony and Homer Iliad
        I need independent sources to verify their content
        If the gospels are your sources for Jesus why don’t you accept Herodotus, Pindar, Pausanias, Plutarch, Cicero, Apollodorus etc account of the life of Hercules. My guess is you have already made up your mind that Hercules did not exist

        See you have already made up your mind that my mind is not open and I have no interest. And you talk about keeping an open mind

        As for the gospels we have more than 4 gospels, a vote of yes and no that brought the 4 gospels into canon does not make it historical. If you read all the other gospels account with an open mind you would know that we need to verify each

        “Yes I can give a list of the books and sources used”
        Are you talking about your nonexistent sources or let me guess your sources are apologetics books and no ancient sources to back your claim. I can tell you that they is no scholarly accepted ancient sources that proofs the biblical Jesus existed as a historical figure

        Maybe you should heed your advice and keep an open mind that if you give me the list of the ancient sources for the biblical Jesus I would be interested

        Maybe you should read the Quran , the four Vedas, Upanishads, Bhramanas, Aranyakas and Bhagavad Gita with an open mind

      4. This I’m afraid is my last post – I have broken all my own rules about not engaging with Holocaust deniers…its just that your posts become increasingly ridiculous. There are no independent sources…all have a bias. I have numerous ancient sources – I am a trained historian who realises the importance of primary sources. I can tell you that there are no serious historians who deny that Jesus existed as a historical figures – and there are plenty ancient sources. I have read the Quran, some of the Veda and Gita…and yes I do read them with an open mind. But I also think. I would suggest you do so…now – no more games. Bye

  5. I actually took the time to listen to the podcast from the city legal link regarding the claimed evidence for the character Jesus of Nazareth..

    You stated that Tacitus mentions Jesus Christ.
    This is not true.
    In the passage he mentions a Chrestus… you are aware , I’m sure that the word Christus has been deemed to be a gloss, possible made by a Christian scholar?

    Modern scholarship also rejects the Testimonium Flavianum as an interpolation i its entirety just as it was once regarded, even by Christians.

    What other verifiable evidence is there?

    1. Ark – just because you read something that confirms your bias does not make it true. Citing your opinions as authority (and then backing them up with ‘experts say’ – ie. those who agree with me) is not evidence. Tacitus does mention Jesus and the Testimonium Flavianum is disputed – but then so is every ancient document by someone.

      1. Nope. Tacitus mentions Chrestus. I have Annals and Histories.

        As a historian you should know the history behind Annals and the Chrestus piece especially.
        How many copies were discovered, where when and how many Church fathers and other Christians quoted this particular passage in Tacitus prior to its discovery.
        And which pats/years are considered incomplete.

        You are the one who is showing your bias, David.

        And I repeat, when the TF was first mentioned -Eusebius wasn’t it? – it was Christian scholars who rejected it in its entirety.

        I wonder why this is?
        You’re the one with the history degree – you tell me the reason!

        No doubt your fellow evangelical, John, will soon leap into the fray and with his usual aplomb, claim to dismantle my comment/s and dismiss me as ignorant.,
        Par for the course I suppose.
        This will look great to those other evangelical Christians reading along.

      2. Can you give us your list of sources

        “Ark – just because you read something that confirms your bias does not make it true. Citing your opinions as authority (and then backing them up with ‘experts say’ – ie. those who agree with me) is not evidence. ”
        Ark, why do you even bother. David does not care about what the “real” scholars say only what he wants them to say

      3. “Tacitus does mention Jesus and the Testimonium Flavianum is disputed – but then so is every ancient document by someone.”
        What are your sources that show that the biblical Jesus existed as a historical figure. I’m aware of who the historical Jesus is and how he deviates greatly from the biblical Jesus. What are your sources in favor of the biblical Jesus

        “but then so is every ancient document by someone.”
        I’m quite certain that you don’t take Perseus, Achilles, Hercules to be historical figures. On what bases other than you don’t believe it to you arrive at this stance

  6. If you talk to Christians long enough you realize that for most of them their belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the Creator and Master of the universe is not primarily based on scholarship or historical evidence but on their own personal experiences involving this belief.

    “Jesus has performed amazing miracles for me.  There is no way they could have been coincidences.”

    “Jesus dramatically changed my life.  I could never have become the person I am today without Him.”

    “I was very sick.  I prayed to Jesus and shortly thereafter I was healed.  There is no explanation for my healing other than:  Jesus healed me!”

    The problem with this “evidence” is that people from every other religion, sect, and cult (Heaven’s Gate, for example) on the planet say the very same things!  Can they all be right?  Either Jesus is answering prayers, changing lives, and performing miracles for millions of people who don’t believe in him, or, all these religious people are delusional:  their personal experiences and changed lives have nothing to do with an invisible superhero in the sky!

    Check out this video for the evidence disproving this very common Christian delusion:

    1. Gary – you are of course correct – that people’s ‘experience’ cannot be the absolute for everyone. Our hearts are deceitful and our experience can be wrong and misinterpreted. But you are missing certain things – that also applies to you, to atheists and others – I usually hear them argue from experience as well (I wonder why the video didn’t include atheists experiences?) . And that is not necessarily wrong – experience is one of the ways we ascertain truth. But we cannot let our experience be the absolute. You for example cite your experiences of talking to Christians as ‘the truth’ and you then pronounce that ‘most of their belief is based on experience. So why should your experience be any more valid? Why should your experience enable you to stay with absolute certainty that there is no God and mock ‘the invisible superhero in the sky”.

      The trouble is that you are basing your belief on a false premise – your own experience and your belief that Christians rely on experience more than anything else.

      Because my experience is that most of the Christians I know base their belief on the Bible as the authoritative word of God – we subject our experiences to that. Gods Word is true. Christ is true. My experience of that is important, but not absolute…Reason, logic, facts and truth all work with experience. You seem to just have faith that your position can be the only logical one. Your video is a straw man….arguing against a position that we do not hold.

      1. Hi David. Thank you for responding to my comment.

        I definitely agree with you. If an atheist or other skeptic bases “truth” on his or her experiences, this is just as unreliable as the Christian or other theist who does the same.

        But I am not claiming that reason and the scientific method are the only methods of determining truth, only that they are the most reliable methods discovered so far in human history for evaluating universal truth claims (truths that are always true, for all people, in all situations, and in all times). There is only one scientific method as the basis of science all over the world, regardless of culture and religion. There is no such thing as Muslim science, Jewish science, Hindu science, or Christian science. When scientists from all over the world get together to evaluate new truth claims about our world, they all speak the same scientific language and all use the same method to evaluate truth claims.

        What I am suggesting is not that faith as a method of evaluating truth claims is wrong, only that it is not very reliable. Modern people have a much more reliable method of evaluating universal truth claims. What do you think?

      2. Thanks Gary- it all depends on what you mean by science and what you mean by faith. And the interconnection between the two. Empirical science is great for discovering things that empirical science can discover! But it is not a catch all – and there are many things that it cannot and never will be able to explain. Everyone has faith of some kind. As a Christian I base my faith upon reason, evidence and revelation. I don’t think neither you nor I have the ability to evaluate all truth claims and I don’t truth should be limited to what we can evaluate!

      3. I agree, David, people can use the terms “science” and “faith” differently. When I use the term “science” I am referring to the scientific method. In this process, a scientist forms an hypothesis about some aspect of our universe and then tests it. If his or her testing of this hypothesis holds up, the hypothesis is presented to other scientists for rigorous review and further testing. Only if this additional testing supports the hypothesis, does the hypothesis then become an accepted theory. All theories, even those referred to as “laws”, are open to revision. There are no sacred cows in science.

        As to faith, I use the definition given in Hebrews 11:1: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In this definition, one can believe something even if the evidence is otherwise inadequate to support its validity. One HOPES it is true.

        Based on these definitions, I view the processes of faith and the scientific method as two very different methods of determining universal truth claims. What are your definitions, David?

      4. There are no sacred cows in science?! I suggest that is a somewhat naive view! Fitting your definition of faith. You clearly havn’t read the rest of Hebrews 11 which is about knowledge. Sadly you have adopted an atheist definition of faith – one that has only become generally accepted in dictionaries in the past 50 years. Science has empirical observations for what can we seen and tested empirically. No problem with that…but there are therefore many things that are true that science cannot even begin to answer. Faith is believe based upon knowledge and reason.

      5. So when Jesus said, “Blessed are they who believe without seeing (the evidence)” what did he mean? How does his statement comport your definition of belief based on knowledge and reason?

      6. Thats not what Jesus said…..After Thomas expressed doubt that he really was alive and said that unless he saw it for himself he would not believe, Jesus said to him “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” – he was referring to actually physically seeing him – he was not referring to believing without evidence. In fact the next verse goes on to say that the evidence has been written down so that you may believe. Blind faith is not what the Bible teaches. Its the atheist version of faith – which they have made up so they can easily dismiss it. .

      7. You said above that your definition of faith is: belief based upon knowledge and reason. How confident are you, David, that knowledge and reason support your belief that Jesus is the Creator and Lord of the universe, using a scale of 0 -100%?

      8. Thats a trick and daft question….how can you put percentages and even if you could – what would be the point? Its like you asking on what percentage basis do I think that my wife is real and loves me?!

      9. What I’m getting at is this: Is your belief in the resurrection of Jesus and his status as the Lord of the universe based on evidence and reason entirely or is some part of your belief based on faith?

    1. Yes – I’ve seen it…and you are not succeeding. You presuppose too much about your own abilities and you carry a sense of smug superiority which is sadly all too typical of the new atheists…but doesn’t really wash. There are other points of views…

  7. Actually I don’t have much confidence at all in my abilities as a street epistemologist because I am a newbie. I have just started doing it. But as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

    I think it is a great strategy for non-supernaturalists to engage supernaturalists about their beliefs. It strongly emphasizes avoiding confrontational or condescending interactions with theists. Our goal is to encourage everyone to base their beliefs on reliable methods of knowledge investigation. Specifically, our goal is to encourage people to examine the wisdom of using “faith” as a method for evaluating universal truth claims (Is there a God? Did Jesus rise from the dead?). If a Christian tells me that his or her belief in the Resurrection of Jesus is based 100% on evidence. My response is, “Great!”

    1. It is actually as condescending and patronising as a Jehovah’s witness technique…Given that your definition of faith is faulty from the start the whole project fails…but its really the arrogance of the whole thing that gets me….I don’t like Christian techniques – but it appears that atheist are worse!

      1. I apologize for projecting my definition of faith. I should have asked for your definition first.

        You said above that your definition of faith is: belief based upon knowledge and reason. If that is how you come to believe in the supernatural claims of Christianity, I applaud you. If you believe that there is sufficient historical evidence for any educated, thinking, mature adult to believe that the three day brain-dead body of one first century man was brought back to life, I have no problem with that. To me that is logical, reasoned thinking. I may question the sufficiency of your evidence, but I cannot question the rationality of your method in arriving at that belief.

        If however, you had said that your belief in the resurrection of Jesus was based on evidence AND hope/faith in things that cannot be seen, personal feelings, perceptions, and personal experiences, then I would want to probe further.

      2. Yes – I find there is no logical inconsistency in believing that an Almighty God could raise his Son from the dead. The problem is for those who believe that there can be no such being as Almighty God. Their faith is philosophical naturalism and they believe that nothing CAN exist outside of that…therefore every claim to the supernatural is false. It is logical to be Christian….it is illogical to be atheist…

  8. I agree with you 100%. For any atheist to say that “nothing can exist outside of the natural world” is illogical. Street epistemologists would attempt to dissuade atheists from this type of thinking. There is no way to prove that the supernatural is not real or that a God or Gods do not exist. The best answer an atheist can give on the existence of these alleged entities is:

    “I don’t know if they exist. I doubt that they exist due to insufficient evidence. I refer to myself as an “atheist” not because I KNOW that a God or Gods do not exist but because I do not believe that they exist in the same way that I do not believe in leprechauns and unicorns. Could there be leprechauns and unicorns? Sure. But due to insufficient evidence, I do not believe in their existence.”

    1. Gary forgive me but you need to stop reading from the manual and start doing some thinking! Once you start referring to unicorns as being equivalent to God you have lost the plot! Why do you make your ability to judge the be all and end all?!

      1. I am not the judge of what is true and what is not. My position on the existence of supernatural beings and entities IN OUR UNIVERSE is simply my opinion based on what I see as a lack of evidence. By the way, I would give the probability of the existence of a Creator to be 50/50. However, I believe that the probability of the existence of the Jewish god, the Muslim god, and the Christian god, all who claim to perform supernatural events in our universe, to be very low. The evidence is poor for the existence of these gods.

        I believe that the most reliable method of evaluating universal truth claims is using the Scientific Method and reason. I do not believe that tarot cards, crystal balls, personal feelings, personal perceptions, and prayer to invisible entities are reliable methods of determining universal truth claims. You said above that your method of evaluating truth claims is by knowledge and reason, so maybe we are saying the same thing?

      2. Your opinion is that the possibility of there being a Creator is 50/50….but why should your feeling/opinion be of any interest to anyone else? Its your opinion that tarot cards and prayer are the same thing…we are saying the same thing about knowledge and reason…the trouble is that you seem to be equating knowledge and reason with yourself alone…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *