Was Jesus a real person?

Jesus Christ is perhaps one of the most well-known historical figures. However, some believe that Jesus was not a historical figure, but a mythical one. In this short article I will try to answer the simple question, was Jesus a real person?

The person of Jesus is verified through several sources. Though the New Testament is the primary source of information about the life of Jesus, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other, independent sources. Let’s look at some of the historical texts that talk about Jesus. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote the following:

“Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . . .”v{5}

This quote is rather useful in making the conclusion that Jesus was indeed a real person and that he was–as the Gospels say–crucified. Tacitus says that Christus (Christ) “suffered the extreme penalty” which one can easily determine is death. And it just so happens that a popular Roman execution method at the time of Christ was crucifixion. According to the Jewish historian Josephus as well as others, thousands of people were crucified by the Romans.

Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had this interesting point:

“The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies – and so if you’re going to make up a messiah, you’d make up a powerful messiah,” he says. “You wouldn’t make up somebody who was humiliated, tortured and then killed by the enemies.”

Keep in mind that Professor Ehrman is an agnostic, so proving that Jesus existed isn’t some personal religious quest for him. If a small group of Jews were trying to form a new religion, why would they fabricate a messiah like Jesus? Or better yet, why would Jesus’ apostles all die (except for John) for a false, made up religion?

Virtually all historians don’t even question the fact that Jesus was a real person. The truth is, we have much more evidence that Jesus lived than we do with other historical figures like Socrates. So believing that Jesus was real isn’t controversial; it’s the opposite.

 

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