Imagine you’re watching a Youtube video of your favorite Christian song. You decide to scroll down to the comments section. There you read three words you never expected to see:
This is exactly what happened to me almost 10 years ago. I saw those three words, and dove into a deep religious debate with atheists who piled on objections against the claims of Christianity. As a Christian who never heard these objections before, my faith was shaken up instantly.
I began an investigation into these objections, reading books from both Christians and Atheists. Many of these objections appeared convincing at first… until I started digging into them. In particular, five common objections to the life of Jesus turned out to be simply false:
1. The gospels were written 100 years after the life of Jesus
Most Biblical scholars date the gospels to 30-60 years after the life of Jesus (around 30 AD). The latest is the gospel of John, which at the latest is given a date of 110 AD (80 years after Jesus). Since the last written gospel was written at most 80 years after the life of Jesus, it is inaccurate to say the gospels (implying all four of them) were written 100 years later.
2. Stories of Jesus were copied from the stories of ancient gods
This objection usually comes from people who watched the movie “Zeigeist”, which lists traits of various ancient gods and matches them to the traits of Jesus. But many of the traits the movie lists for ancient gods are not supported by the source documents. It’s also questionable how the gospel writers would know enough about all these ancient gods to be able to copy their traits and ascribe them to Jesus. The rhetorical force of this objection is strong, but the truth behind the objection is weak.
3. Paul believed only in a spiritual Jesus, not the historical person of Jesus
The main problem with this objection is Paul’s description of Jesus rising from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15. In that passage, Paul says that Christ died, was buried, and was raised. At the time Paul was writing this passage, the Jewish concept of someone being raised from the dead involved the physical body – God’s people would have their bodies raised up and renewed. Thus when Paul says Jesus was raised, he’s talking about the raising of his physical body, not a raising of some sort of “spiritual” being.
4. The gospels we have today don’t accurately represent the originals
This objection became popular after the release of the book Misquoting Jesus written by Bart Ehrman. To make his objection, Ehrman points first to the many differences between ancient copies of the gospels. While there are many differences, a large majority of them are insignificant differences like spelling mistakes which can be easily spotted. Ehrman also points to two “problem” passages in the gospels. While scholars (and most Bibles) have identified these passages as questionable, the passages don’t impact any central Christian claims. The points Ehrman bring up do have truth to them, but they don’t give us reason to think the gospels we read today are nothing like the originals.
5. Jesus never existed
A wealth of evidence pushes back against the idea that Jesus never existed. There are Paul’s letters which give us some detail about key elements of Jesus’ life. There are ancient historians who wrote about Jesus outside of the Bible. There are early enemies of Christianity (such as Celsus) who wrote about Jesus but never denied his existence. And of course we have the key sources for Jesus’ life – the gospels. This evidence is convincing enough to cause an Atheist like Bart Ehrman to conclude – “Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not“.
More commentary will be given on these objections and similar objections in the future website for Twin Cities Apologetics.