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Existence of Jesus

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Existence of Jesus

The historicity of Jesus concerns the analysis of historical evidence to determine if Jesus of Nazareth existed as a historical figure, and if any of the major milestones in his life as portrayed in the gospels can be confirmed as historical events, as opposed to the Christ myth theory, which holds that he is a fictional figure. The related study of the historical Jesus attempts to reconstruct portraits of his life and teachings, based on methods such as biblical criticism of gospel texts and the history of first century Judea.

Historicity is the study of the historical actuality of persons and events, meaning the quality of being part of history as opposed to being a historical myth or legend, or of being part of prehistory. Questions of historicity arise where accounts of events are believed by some to be true, but cannot be verified, either due to the absence of historical records or where historical accounts incorporate folklore, theological views or literature as fact.

Most modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed,[1][2][3][4] but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus,[5] and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.[6][7][8] Biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[9][10][11] Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born between 7 and 4 BC, in the closing stages of the reign of King Herod and died 30–36 AD,[12][13][14] that he lived in Galilee and Judea, did not preach or study elsewhere,[15][16][17] and that he spoke Aramaic and perhaps also Hebrew and Greek.[18][19][20]

Since the 18th century a number of quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, and historical critical methods for studying the historicity of Jesus have been developed. Various Christian and non-Christian sources are used to study and establish the historicity of Jesus, e.g. Jewish sources such as Josephus, and Roman sources such as Tacitus. These sources are compared and contrasted to Christian sources such as the Pauline Letters and the Synoptic Gospels. These sources are usually independent of each other (e.g. Jewish sources do not draw upon Roman sources), and similarities and differences between them are used in the authentication process.[21][22]


The question of the existence of Jesus as a historical figure is distinct from the study of the historical Jesus which goes beyond the analysis of his historicity and attempts to reconstruct portraits of his life and teachings, based on methods such as biblical criticism of gospel texts and the history of first century Judea.[23][24][25][26] Nor does it concern supernatural or miraculous claims about Jesus, which historians tend to look on as questions of faith, rather than historical fact.[27]

Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[1][3][4][9][10][11] In antiquity, the existence of Jesus was never denied by those who opposed Christianity.[28][29] There is, however, widespread disagreement among scholars on the details of the life of Jesus mentioned in the gospel narratives, and on the meaning of his teachings.[5] Robert E. Van Voorst states that the idea of the non-historicity of the existence of Jesus has always been controversial, and has consistently failed to convince virtually all scholars of many disciplines.[9] Geoffrey Blainey notes that a few scholars have argued that Jesus did not exist, but writes that Jesus' life was in fact "astonishingly documented" by the standards of the time - more so than any of his contemporaries - with numerous books, stories and memoirs written about him. The problem for the historian, wrote Blainey, is not therefore, determining whether Jesus actually existed, but rather in considering the "sheer multitude of detail and its inconsistencies and contradictions".[30] Although a very small number of modern scholars argue that Jesus never existed, that view is a distinct minority and virtually all scholars consider theories that Jesus' existence was a Christian invention as implausible.[5][24] Christopher Tuckett states that the existence of Jesus and his crucifixion by Pontius Pilate seem to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition, based on the availability of non-Christian evidence.[24] Graham Stanton states that "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed".[11]

The sources for the historicity of Jesus are mainly Christian sources, but there are some mentions also in a few non-Christian Jewish and

The Mishnah (c. 200) may refer to Jesus and reflect the early Jewish traditions of portraying Jesus as a sorcerer or magician.[38][39][40][41] Other possible references to Jesus and his execution may exist in the Talmud, but they also aim to discredit his actions, not deny his existence.[38][42]

Accepted historic facts

Main article: Historical Jesus

The reconstruction of portraits of the historical Jesus along with his life story has been the subject of wide ranging debate among scholars, with no scholarly consensus.[25] In a review of the state of research Amy-Jill Levine stated that "no single picture of Jesus has convinced all, or even most scholars" and that all portraits of Jesus are subject to criticism by some group of scholars.[25] According to James Dunn , nearly all modern scholars consider the baptism of Jesus and his crucifixion to be historically certain.[6][43] He states that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus.[6] Amy-Jill Levine has summarized the situation by stating that "there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus' life" in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, debated Jewish authorities on the subject of God, performed some healings[need quotation to verify], gathered followers, and was crucified by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate who officiated 26-36 AD.[14]

Scholars attribute varying levels of certainty to other episodes. E.P. Sanders and Craig A. Evans independently state that there are two other incidents in the life of Jesus that can be considered historical: that Jesus called disciples, and that he caused a controversy at the Temple.[44] This extended view assumes that there are eight elements about Jesus and his followers that can be viewed as historical facts—four episodes in the life of Jesus and four about him and his followers, namely:[7][44]

  • Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He called disciples. He had a controversy at the Temple. Jesus was crucified by the Romans near Jerusalem.[7][44]
  • Jesus was a Galilean. His activities were confined to Galilee and Judea. After his death his disciples continued. Some of his disciples were persecuted.[7][44]

Scholarly agreement on this extended list is not universal.[7][44][45]

Myth theory

Main article: Christ myth theory

"Christ myth theory" is an umbrella term that applies to a range of arguments that question the existence of Jesus as described in the Christian gospels.[46][47][48][49] The theory that Jesus never existed at all has support from only a small minority of modern scholars.[9][50][51][52][53]

Quest for the historical Jesus

In the early church, there were already tendencies to portray Jesus as a verifiable demonstration of the extraordinary.[54] Since the 18th century, scholars have taken part in three separate "quests" for the historical Jesus, attempting to reconstruct various portraits of his life using historical methods.[55][56] Although textual criticism of Biblical sources had been practiced for centuries, these quests introduced new methods and specific methodologies to determine the historical validity of their conclusions.[57]

While textual criticism (or lower criticism) had been practiced for centuries, a number of approaches to historical analysis and a number of criteria for evaluating the historicity of events emerged as of 18th century, as a series of "Quests for the historical Jesus" took place. At each stage of development, scholars suggested specific forms and methodologies of analysis and specific criteria to be used to determine historical validity.[57]

See also



  • Brown, Raymond E. (1997) An Introduction to the New Testament. Doubleday ISBN 0-385-24767-2
  • Daniel Boyarin (2004). Border Lines. The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Doherty, Earl (1999). The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? : Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. ISBN 0-9686014-0-5
  • Drews, Arthur & Burns, C. Deslisle (1998). The Christ Myth (Westminster College-Oxford Classics in the Study of Religion). ISBN 1-57392-190-4
  • Ellegård, Alvar Jesus – One Hundred Years Before Christ: A Study in Creative Mythology, (London 1999).
  • France, R.T. (2001). The Evidence for Jesus. Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Freke, Timothy & Gandy, Peter. The Jesus Mysteries - was the original Jesus a pagan god? ISBN 0-7225-3677-1
  • George, Augustin & Grelot, Pierre (Eds.) (1992). Introducción Crítica al Nuevo Testamento. Herder. ISBN 84-254-1277-3
  • Gowler, David B. (2007). What Are They Saying About the Historical Jesus?. Paulist Press.
  • Grant, Michael, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, Scribner, 1995. ISBN 0-684-81867-1
  • Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Anchor Bible Reference Library, Doubleday
(1991), v. 1, The Roots of the Problem and the Person, ISBN 0-385-26425-9
(1994), v. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, ISBN 0-385-46992-6
(2001), v. 3, Companions and Competitors, ISBN 0-385-46993-4
(2009), v. 4, Law and Love, ISBN 978-0-300-14096-5
  • Mendenhall, George E. (2001). Ancient Israel's Faith and History: An Introduction to the Bible in Context. ISBN 0-664-22313-3
  • Messori, Vittorio (1977). Jesus hypotheses. St Paul Publications. ISBN 0-85439-154-1
  • New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version. (1991) New York, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-528356-2
  • Wells, George A. (1988). The Historical Evidence for Jesus. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-429-X
  • Wells, George A. (1998). The Jesus Myth. ISBN 0-8126-9392-2
  • Wells, George A. (2004). Can We Trust the New Testament?: Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony. ISBN 0-8126-9567-4
  • Wilson, Ian (2000). Jesus: The Evidence (1st ed.). Regnery Publishing.

cz:Historický Ježíš

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