The Jesus Myth hypothesis: For itching ears only.
This is the idea that Jesus never existed in history but was made up centuries later. Supposedly his attributes were borrowed from other pagan religions.
So... yeah. I'd like to respond to that.
This is an overview approach, I'll leave the minutia to the scholars.
One of the main arguments is this:
At first, this sounds like it has some weight. However, I would compare it to this:
All the biographers that have been written about Abraham Lincoln were Americans so they are biased. Therefore they must not be trusted.
Of course, no one would have written about him if they weren't Christians. The Jews of first-century Palestine just wanted to pretend it didn't happen. Because Jesus' existence put them at great risk of being CRUSHED by the Romans. They had him executed, which points to how much they wanted to silence his story.
So of course unbelieving Jews would want to ignore him. note: that there are extra-biblical references to Jesus by an unbelieving Jewish historian. Although Christ Mythologists will claim it's entirely plagiarized.
It's like saying, "I can't believe the stories you tell about your late father, because you're his son. You loved him, so you must be biased. Therefore you must be lying."
When in fact, I should only believe you are a liar if you have proven yourself to be a liar.
What's more, let's not forget that the people who said they were eyewitnesses of Jesus DIED to prove that they had not made up the story.
(those of the Christ Myth camp will claim these church history documents are forgeries as well.)
Did early believers have an agenda? YES, of course, they did. That does not mean they were liars. They died to prove they weren't.
Another argument is:
This statement has faulty reasoning. The so-called need to see extra-biblical references is an avoidance mechanism. Here's why.
The original writings (the gospels) were "outside the bible" when they were written. The canonical writings were not organized as such until hundreds of years later. To anyone of the first few centuries, the writings about Jesus were independent documents circulated by individuals. The New Testament is simply a collection/library of works that were gathered together later because they were determined to be trustworthy. So until they were gathered together in a formal format, all of them were "outside the bible."
So let's think about the logic here.
1. Supposedly there needs to be [trustworthy writings] about Jesus that are [not in the bible] to trust Jesus' validity.
2. At a point in previous history a council gathered up all the [trustworthy writings] about Jesus and bound them in a work called the bible.
3. Therefore, there are no more [trustworthy writings] about Jesus that are outside the bible.
It's self-defeating reasoning. It's smoke and mirrors. It's just an avoidance mechanism. It's a convenient way to avoid the story of Christ. If all of the trustworthy writings are gathered together, into the bible, then of course you will not find any trustworthy references to Jesus in other outside sources.
There is a mountain of evidence. The Christ mythologist conveniently sweeps all the biblical references about Jesus into the "biased" category and all of the non-biblical references into the "plagiarized" category. So if you remove all of those very substantial writings about Jesus, then of course there is nothing left. What a straw man. It sounds like an intelligent argument until you consider what is actually going on.
Another argument is:
This argument is banking on the fact that YOU WON'T GO READ about Horus, Mithra, Osiris, etc. The so-called similarities are laughable. I'll post some links at the end of this article that point this out. Although, I'll tell you what I did when faced with this argument. I WENT AND READ ABOUT THE MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTERS DIRECTLY and decided for myself if there was any connection. Of course, I read the articles that made the Christ Myth claims first, but I went and combed through the actual mythology. It's such a stretch that this argument doesn't really even deserve a rebuttal. I'll give you an example of the ridiculous nature of this argument. (Egyptian Mythology) The god Osiris is murdered by the god Set and cut into 42 pieces. The goddess Isis, Osiris' wife, searches out the pieces and reanimates her dead husband Osiris' body, she has sex with him and gives birth to Horus. In the Christ Myth circles, this is cited as one of the plagiarized sources for Jesus' virgin birth. Notice that Isis would not have been a virgin. This is just an example. These are the kind of thin connections that the Christ Myth camp has made to claim Jesus' plagiarism. It's thin at best, and laughably ignorable at worst.
Another argument is:
The stories of Jesus are full of examples of him touching people, eating with friends, and physical interactions. So with this notion, you have to prove that the gospels are entirely made up. This unprovable premise works best on those that haven't actually read the gospels (or have read it with powerful pre-conceptions). They are not written like a work of mythology. If anything they are a record of a string of events where one of the purposes is to prove that Jesus was physically real. It's my assumption that there are many people that believe the gospels are made up, but have never read them. (hint, hint). Even secular scholars agree that there is at least a kernel of historical truth in the gospels. I of course believe there is much more than just a kernel.
Another argument is:
Why did Pontus Pilate not write about Jesus? Why didn't Herod's court make a record of Jesus? Often a string of ancient names (contemporaries of Jesus) will be listed and then it will be pointed out that none of them mentioned Jesus. That's like pulling 100 books from the 1920s off the shelves of the library and saying, "non of these books mention Babe Ruth, so he must not have existed."
The bottom line is, very few records from that time have survived. Even Pontus Pilate himself only has a few surviving references that verify his historical existence. We only have one reference to Pontus Pilate by a Roman Historian, and that reference was only there to give a frame of reference to who the sect of Christians were.
So, most of what we know about Pontus Pilate actually comes from the Bible.
There are a couple of things we need to remember. Jesus was only famous with a very small amount of people within his lifetime. Why would anyone write about him outside those who were his followers? Secondly, we don't know whether Pilate, or Herod, or any other Roman official ever wrote about Jesus, because so many of the Roman records did not survive. There may have been records about him, but we don't have any of the notes or records that Pilate's administration kept from the time frame. Be sure you caught that line. They are gone, burned, eradicated, non-existent. This is the case with most of the documents and records of the time.
The only way documents survive through the centuries is if they are copied. Copying had to be done by hand. It was expensive. Only the most important documents would be kept. Why would the execution record of one so-called insurrectionist survive? After all, people were being executed by the thousands all over the empire.
This sounds like an intelligent argument until you understand what small number of documents have survived through the centuries. When you consider the scant amount of documents that we have from antiquity, it's actually EXTREMELY stunning that we have so many documents about Jesus. It's almost unthinkable that so many were deemed valuable enough to be copied over and over. The only reason that this would be, is if something really important like a real live divine Jesus existed.
Another argument is:
This is a funny type of irony when you consider that for the first couple hundred years the opposite was true. Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians. They were killed and persecuted in a number of generations. Even today thousands are killed every year for their faith. In many places in the world in the first century, it would have been much easier to pretend as if the whole "Jesus Thing" never happened. That is, however, not what the eyewitnesses did, because they totally believed that something had happened.
I read a great quote on this subject today. It went something like, "this debate is only happening online. There are no serious NT scholars that give this theory any time." Although I don't think this is entirely true, and it is beginning to spill out into somewhat scholarly circles, most of the arguments are being made by bloggers and non-scholars. I don't mean this to be rude. I just mean to say that there is a level of respect that we should have for those that have devoted decades to the study of antiquities, as opposed to someone that pulls tidbits from Wikipedia and cobbles their own version of what happened together to try to bolster the sales of their self-published books.
The silliness of the Christ Myth propaganda is this. It implies that we should use a different method to determine if Jesus was historically real than any other historical figure. If the Mythicists (as they are called) had their way, they would have us use the historical method for all other established historical figures, except Jesus. I insist that we use the same Scholarly Historical approach in examining the historicity of Christ as we do to examine the historicity of Julias Ceasar, or Gangus Khan, or your great great Grandfather. By that tried-and-true method, Jesus historically existed. Using the scholarly approach that gives us historical confidence that all the other ancient history is true- Jesus historically existed. If you feel the need to make an isolated historical approach for Jesus - that's fine. Just don't try to pass it off as THE historical method.
For those of you that can see the connections, I'd like you to read this ancient quote. I believe it's talking about this very issue (and others of course).
"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
Please be intellectually fair. Please have the decency to actually read the source material. Please don't deny that you believe in Christ if you've never read his story. There are so many people that want to deceive you with bad historical methodology.
Some links to further reading: