Asher Norman questions whether Jesus actually existed and says that if he did exist
he was a minor first century anti-Roman zealot about whom very little was really
known. Christianity invented a mythical Jesus figure in the 2nd century and somehow
the Christians managed to persuade a sceptical and hostile Roman world to believe
in their creation.
Basically his thesis is that we only have the Christians’ word for it that Jesus
existed, they wrote highly unreliable accounts of his life a long time after it happened
and there is little or nothing of real significance in contemporary writings about
Asher Norman uses some highly selective and hostile sources to back up his claims.
One is John Remsberg (1848–1919), author of ‘The Christ’. Remsberg was an ardent
religious sceptic and member of the American Secular Society. As a rationalist Remsberg
would have been equally dismissive of Asher Norman’s view that God gave the Torah
to Moses as he was of the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah. However, consistent
with his general approach, Asher is happy to use atheists and rationalists to attack
the New Testament and Christianity, but would never accept such an approach to the
Remsberg’s contention, used by Asher Norman, is that there are 41 ‘silent historians’
from this period who should have mentioned Jesus and did not. Jesus’ miracles and
resurrection should have made the news of the day and did not so we can discount
that they really happened.
Some general points need to be made on this subject:
There was no Jerusalem Post in the period when Jesus was active and no 24 hour news
media relaying the latest events to tune in to. In fact classical historians were
reluctant to commit themselves to reporting events as they happened. Robert van
Voorst in his book ‘Jesus outside the New Testament’ writes: ‘Historical interpretation
of events was not the ‘instant analysis’ we have become accustomed to, for better
or worse, in modern times.’ (p 70)
The works of most of the writers of this period have almost completely perished.
Those whose works we do have are generally incomplete. This applies very much to
the 41 writers on Remsberg’s list. For example the main section in Tacitus’ history
covering the period AD 29-32 is missing.
Jesus and His followers were not an issue for the Romans until Christianity began
to have an impact on the Roman Empire. There is no reason why any Roman contemporary
with Jesus would write about events in what they regarded as a backwater of the Empire.
Romans looked down on Jews and what they regarded as ‘superstitions.’ In its early
stages Christianity would have been regarded as a Jewish superstition. Those who
say that the Gospel story was a fraudulent invention actually have a problem with
this one. If you are going to make up a story, why make it up about a crucified
Jew? This would be one of the last things the Romans would have believed in. One
could argue that the only reason for the spread of faith in Jesus as the Saviour
who died for our sins and rose again from the dead was that the Holy Spirit was confirming
this message to those who believed it.
Both Jewish and Roman authorities were hostile to the message of Jesus so we would
not expect them to want to draw attention to them. In a similar way we would not
expect to find much reference from the Soviet period of Russian history to the activities
of the Russian underground Christian church in Soviet Communist news media. But we
know that there was a vital Christian movement in the Soviet Union producing some
outstanding people like Georgi Vins and Aida Skripnikova who did some remarkable
The fact that someone is not mentioned in historical records does not mean they did
not exist. The most important figure in the development of Judaism from the first
century was Yohanan ben Zakkai, who laid the foundations of Rabbinic Judaism at the
academy in Yavneh after the fall of the Temple in 70 CE. There is not a word spoken
about him in any external source from the period. Josephus wrote the most detailed
account of the Jewish war and the fall of Jerusalem, but he does not mention Rabbi
Yohanan. We could say this is a very serious omission, especially as the events
surrounding Rabbi Yohanan were directly related to the main subject of Josephus’
history – the Jewish War against the Romans. One could also add that there is no
mention in any Egyptian history of the central event of the Torah – the Exodus from
Despite all this, there are references to Jesus in Josephus and in Roman histories
Christian writings, which we will look at in this article.
41 Silent Historians?
Asher Norman quotes Remsberg’s list of ‘forty-one silent historians’ – people who
did not mention Jesus. This is also quoted in dozens of sceptical websites as well
as in one of Asher Norman’s other sources of information, the anti-Christian ‘Jesus
Mysteries’ of Freke and Gandy. These are the historians Remsberg (and Asher Norman)
Josephus; Philo-Judææus; Seneca; Pliny the Elder; Arrian; Petronius; Dion Pruseus;
Paterculus; Suetonius; Juvenal; Martial; Persius; Plutarch; Pliny the Younger; Tacitus;
Justus of Tiberius; Apollonius; Quintilian; Lucanus; Epictetus; Hermogones Silius
Italicus; Statius; Ptolemy; Appian; Phlegon; Phæædrus; Valerius Maximus; Lucian;
Pausanias; Florus Lucius; Quintius Curtius; Aulus Gellius; Dio Chrysostom; Columella;
Valerius Flaccus; Damis; Favorinus; Lysias; Pomponius Mela; Appion of Alexandria;
and Theon of Smyrna.
The list looks fairly impressive until you dig a little deeper. The Tekton website
has done an excellent research into all these writers available at http://www.tektonics.org/qt/remslist.html
To summarise this lengthy piece of research:
The question Remsberg never answers is, ‘Why should any of these people have mentioned
For the Romans during his lifetime Jesus was just a ‘blip’ on the screen. He did
not address the Roman Senate, or write extensive Greek philosophical treatises; he
never travelled outside of Israel. First century Roman writers could hardly be expected
to have foreseen the subsequent influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire and
therefore would not have carefully documented Christian origins. How were they to
know that this prophet from Nazareth would cause such an uproar?
Jesus was executed as a criminal, providing him with the ultimate marginality. This
was one reason why historians would have ignored Jesus. He suffered the ultimate
humiliation, both in the eyes of Jews (Deuteronomy 21:23 - Anyone hung on a tree
is cursed) and the Romans (He died the death of slaves and rebels.). He was a minimal
threat to Roman power. No troops were required to suppress Jesus’ followers. To
the Romans, the primary gatekeepers of written history at the time, Jesus during
His own life would have been no different than thousands of other everyday criminals
that were crucified.
When we look at the writers Remsberg refers to (most of whom are virtually unknown
today) we find that for the most part there is no reason why they should mention
Jesus anyway (being writers of either fiction, poetry, or on practical matters like
oratory and agriculture, or historians or writers of another time or place). Here
are some examples:
Pliny the Elder was a writer on science and morality issues; none of his writings
would have had a reason to refer to Jesus.
Arrian lived in the second century, and wrote works concerned with Alexander the
Great! Alexander lived 300 years before Jesus so why would Jesus get a mention here?
Theon of Smyrna. A mathematician and astronomer who wrote a ‘handbook for philosophy
students to show how prime numbers, geometrical numbers such as squares, progressions,
music and astronomy are interrelated.’ No relation to anything to do with Jesus.
Lucanus. All we have by him is one poem and some books recording the civil war
between Pompey and Caesar. Where should Jesus have been worked into it?
Pausanias. A Greek traveller and geographer of the second century who wrote a ten-volume
work called Descriptions of Greece. Jesus never set foot in Greece, so why would
he be mentioned?
Columella wrote about agriculture and trees.
For an analysis of all the names mentioned go to http://www.tektonics.org/qt/remslist.html
What about those who do mention Christianity?
Some of the historians on this list do mention Jesus, but Asher Norman dismisses
the significance of this because he wants them to support his thesis of the insignificance
The most important extra-biblical references to Jesus are found in the writings of
Josephus. Of all the writers concerned, Josephus was closest in time and place to
Jesus (though not contemporary with him). He was born in 37 CE in Jerusalem, only
a few years after Jesus’ execution. Josephus was well educated in biblical law and
history. On his mother’s side he was a descendent of the Hasmonean Kings. On his
father’s side he came from a priestly family. He was a commander of the Jewish
forces in Galilee against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66–73. After
the Jewish garrison of Yodfat in Galilee fell under siege, the Romans killed thousands
of Jews, many of whom committed suicide. Josephus survived and surrendered to the
Romans in 67 CE. He was later released by the Romans in 69 CE and appears to have
played a role as a negotiator with the defenders during the siege of Jerusalem in
70 CE. In 71 CE he went to Rome and became a Roman citizen. While in Rome he wrote
his histories of this period in particular ‘The Jewish War’ (c 75 CE) and ‘The Antiquities’
(c 94 CE). He was regarded by most Jews as a traitor and a turncoat after accepting
Roman patronage and calling on them to surrender to the Roman forces at the siege
Josephus’ writings cover a number of figures familiar to Bible readers. He discusses
John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, the Sadducees, the
Sanhedrin, the High Priests, and the Pharisees. As for Jesus, there are two references
to him in Antiquities.
First, in a section in Book 18 dealing with various actions of Pilate, Josephus refers
to Jesus and his ministry. This passage is known as the Testimonium Flavianum referred
to as ‘TF’ in the rest of this article.
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man,
for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth
with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.
He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among
us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake
him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had
foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe
of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Jewish Antiquities 18.3.3
There are three possible views on this passage.
It is a complete forgery added by a later Christian editor (the view taken by Asher
It is a testimony by Josephus to Jesus as the Messiah.
It is largely authentic and written by Josephus, but also contains later embellishments
and additions by a Christian editor.
The consensus of scholars, both Jewish and Christian, is view 3. The list of those
who take this view includes Jewish scholars such as Geza Vermes, Louis H. Feldman,
and Paul Winter and secular scholars such as E.P. Sanders and Paula Fredrikson. Even
Jeff Lowder, co-founder of the Secular Web, recognizes the merits of the partial
authenticity theory. Paula Fredrikson sums up the state of the question among scholars:
‘Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with
a few later insertions by Christian scribes.’ (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,
Christopher Price (Did Josephus refer to Jesus? www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm) does
a phrase by phrase analysis of the TF in which he takes the third view listed above
and shows how the language of the text fits in with Josephus’ use of Greek and is
unlikely to be used by a Christian. In particular he notes that the phrase ‘wise
man’ is used by Josephus to apply to Solomon and Daniel, but is not the kind of phrase
a Christian would use about Jesus. The phrase for wonderful works (‘paradoxa’) is
used by Josephus to describe incredible deeds, but is nowhere used in the New Testament
or in early Christian literature to describe the miracles of Jesus. It would be
unlikely that a Christian would say that Jesus drew over many Jews and Gentiles,
since the Gospels record that Jesus did not go to the Gentiles or send the disciples
to them until after the resurrection. By the time Josephus was writing though this
would be a reasonable statement to make for one who was not on the inside of the
Messianic movement, but saw that both Jews and Gentiles followed Jesus. Christopher
Price says ‘Josephus simply retrojected the situation of his own day, into the time
The parts of the TF which are most clearly disputed as original and probably were
inserted by a later Christian writer are the phrases ‘If it be lawful to call him
a man’ and ‘He was the Christ.’ A Christian writer may have inserted these phrases
to show that Jesus was more than a wise man and was the Messiah. On the other hand
some scholars say the original may have read ‘He was the so-called Christ’ and a
later Christian writer deleted ‘so-called.’ Also the section ‘for he appeared to
them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten
thousand other wonderful things concerning him’ is likely to be a later addition.
If we take these sections out we have a statement which is still significant in what
it tells us about Jesus:
At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds,
a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following
among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin. And when Pilate, because of an
accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who
had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe
of Christians (named after him) had not died out.
The second reference in Josephus, in Book 20 describes the murder of Jesus’ brother,
James (Yakov), at the hands of Ananus, the High Priest.
But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold
disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who
are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore
Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus
was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges,
and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James,
together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them
over to be stoned.
Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1
This passage is found in every copy of the Antiquities we have and there is no textual
evidence against it. It uses non-Christian terminology. The designation of James
as the ‘brother of Jesus’ contrasts with Christian practice of referring to him as
the ‘brother of the Lord’ or ‘brother of the Saviour.’ The emphasis of the passage
is not on Jesus or even James, but on Ananus the high priest and the turbulence he
caused. There is no praise for James or Jesus. This is not what we would expect if
this were an interpolation. Neither this passage nor the larger one connects Jesus
with John the Baptist, whom Josephus also writes about, as we would expect from a
Christian interpolator. The bulk of the evidence therefore favours highly the genuineness
of this passage. Josephus does not say that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) but that
he was the so-called Messiah. In other words he is saying this is not his belief,
but implies that there are those who do believe Jesus to be the Messiah.
Josephus ends up being a rich source for confirmation of the Gospel record:
Jesus had a brother named James, who was an important member of the church.
Jesus was a wise and virtuous man.
Jesus had disciples, both among the Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus was called ‘Christ’ / Messiah by some.
Jesus was a worker of surprising deeds - an allusion perhaps to miracle-working power.
Jesus was executed by Pilate by means of crucifixion.
His execution was prompted in part by the leaders among the Jews.
Christians were ‘named’ from Him.
Information on Josephus taken from http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/josephus.html
and ‘Did Josephus refer to Jesus?’ by Christopher Price www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm
The Talmud and Rabbinic writings.
The Talmud (from the Hebrew word meaning ‘instruction or learning’) is a central
text of mainstream Judaism, in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining
to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. The Talmud has two components:
the Mishna (c. 200 CE), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the
Gemara (c. 500 CE), a discussion of the Mishna and related Tannaitic writings that
often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Tanakh.
In around 200 CE when Rabbi Judah Hanasi compiled the document called the Mishna.
He saw that the conditions for the Jews were going from bad to worse, with the Temple
destroyed, the Sanhedrin no longer able to meet and no central authority functioning
as Jews fled the land of Israel and endured persecutions. In order to preserve what
Judaism calls the Oral Torah, he decided the time had come to write it down so he
went to as many rabbis as he could in order to extract from them their entire memories.
He put those recollections together, edited them and the result was the Mishna (which
means repetition). A commentary on the Mishna was added called the Gemara, the entire
compilation being known as the Talmud.
When considering the Talmud in relation to Jesus we have to remember three things:
It was written a long time after Jesus.
It was written at a time when there was a total division between those who believed
Jesus to be the Messiah and those who did not.
It was written by those who were strongly opposed to belief in Jesus as the Messiah.
In his book ‘Answering Jewish objections to Jesus’ (volume 4), Michael Brown writes
on this subject (p 63-4):
‘As for the Rabbinic writings, there are numerous possible references to Jesus, under
the name of Balaam, Ben Stada, or ‘a certain one,’ but there is dispute about whether
they really refer to him … There are also clear references to a certain ‘Yeshu’,
but either the Talmud has its chronology totally amiss, placing him in different
centuries more than a hundred years apart (see b. Sanhedrin 107b; b. Sotah 47a, placing
him during the time of King Jannaeus, who died in 76 BCE), or else at least one of
the references does not speak of Jesus (it is, however, possible that the Talmudic
editors did in fact make such a chronological error). In these various accounts
Jesus is seen among other things, as a deceiver, idolater and apostate, but, to repeat,
it is uncertain as to how many of these texts, if any, intended to speak of Jesus
Having said that there are some definite references to Jesus in the Talmud (always
spelt Yeshu), most prominently the following account:
On the ever of Passover they hanged Yeshu the Nazarene. And a herald went before
him for forty days, saying, ‘He is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery
and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favour let him come and
plead on his behalf.’ But not having found anything in his favour, they hanged him
on the eve of Passover.’ (b. Sanh. 43a, t. Sanh. 10.11, y. Sanh. 7.16, 67a).
The same passage from b. Sanh 43a also states that ‘Jesus practiced magic and led
Israel astray’ (b Sanh 43a, cf. t. Shabbat 11.15, b. Shabbat 104b), making reference
to five of his disciples, although only some of their names agree with their New
Testament counterparts, pointing to the Talmud’s vague and largely erroneous recollection
of the details surrounding the life and death of Jesus. There is also a negative
reference to ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in b. Sanh 103a, cf Berakhot 17b) and there are
negative references to some of his followers in the early Tannaitic literature, notably
as having the power to heal (see t. Hul 2.22-23).
Also of significance to traditional Jews, despite its late date, is the testimony
of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204). In its original form (before being edited because
of Catholic Church censors), Maimonides, in his law code, speaks of ‘Jesus of Nazareth
who aspired to be the Messiah and was executed by the court,’ going on to explain
why he could not be the Messiah but how, despite the false nature of their teachings,
Christianity and Islam would still help prepare the world for the knowledge of the
one true God (Hilcot Melachim 11.4).
For a religious Jew, this settles the question, since both the Talmud and Maimonides
state clearly that Jesus lived and was put to death. In fact for the traditional
Jew the existence of Jesus has never been questioned. Rather the question has been,
Who is he really? And that question remains relevant for every reader, both Jewish
Tacitus. (56-120 CE)
Asher Norman says Tacitus provided ‘no credible evidence for a historical Jesus.’
Tacitus mentions Christians and ‘Christus’ in Annals 15.44. This is an account of
how the Emperor Nero attacked Christians (whom Tacitus wrongly calls ‘Chrestians’)
in order to draw attention away from himself after the fire of Rome of 64 CE:
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince
could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed
to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration,
the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumour, he falsely charged with the guilt,
and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder
of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign
of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again,
not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome
also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their
centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded
guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so
much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.
Very few historians would assert that this quote is a forgery. It is written in
the style of Tacitus and appears in every known copy of the Annals. The anti-Christian
tone is so strong that it is extremely unlikely that a Christian could have written
it. Tacitus was known as a very careful historian who checked his sources.
Tacitus turns out to be an extremely rich source of data that confirms important
aspects of Christian history:
He regards ‘Christus’ as the founder of the movement. This militates against ideas
that Paul or some other person was the ideological head of Christianity.
He confirms the execution of Jesus under Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius.
He indicates that Jesus’ death ‘checked’ Christianity for a time. This would hint
at the probability that Christianity was recognised to have had some status as a
movement (albeit not under the name ‘Christianity’) prior to the death of Jesus.
He identifies Judaea as the ‘source’ of the movement. This mitigates against ideas
that Christianity was designed piecemeal from pagan religious ideas.
He indicates that Christians in Rome in the mid-60s A.D. were dying for their faith.
For a detailed analysis of the quotation from Tacitus go to http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/tacitus.html
Pliny the Younger (62?-c.113).
He was Governor of Bithynia. His correspondence in 106 AD with the emperor Trajan
included a report on proceedings against Christians. In his letter 96 of Book 10
he spoke of false Christians who willingly ‘reviled Christ’ but also described the
actions and practices of those who remained faithful:
In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have denounced to
me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they
confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment;
if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature
of their creed might be, I could at least feel not doubt that contumacy and inflexible
obstinacy deserved chastisement. There were others also possessed with the same infatuation,
but being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried thither.
They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that
they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when
they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to
a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery,
never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon
to deliver it up.
Like Tacitus, Pliny is hostile to Christianity and describes how as a governor he
tried Christians. There is no question about this being a later Christian addition
and the style of writing matches perfectly with Pliny’s usual style. Pliny was in
a position of power as a governor and clearly encountered Christians in the course
of his duties.
From Pliny we learn that Jesus was worshipped, and that some believers died for belief
in Him, in the early second century. We learn of several aspects of worship that
correspond with the New Testament - Worshipping Jesus as a divine person and living
an ethical life based on God’s commandments.
For more information on Pliny go to http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/pliny.html
The references in Suetonius’ writings are not very conclusive. In his book the ‘Deified
Claudius’ he writes: ‘Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome since they were always
making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus.’ It is not certain that this
is really a reference to Christ because he spells the word Chrestos (rather than
Christos) and it also implies that ‘Chrestos’ was alive at the time when Claudius
expelled the Jews from Rome (c 49CE). It may be that Suetonius was writing about
the activities of Christians and wrongly presumed from one of his sources that ‘Chrestus’
had at some time in the past personally delivered his message to Rome. That is why
he seems to indicate that Chrestus was directly behind the agitation, whereas it
was in fact his followers who were involved. Or it may be that he was writing about
a man called Chrestus who was behind the disturbances in Rome and this quote had
nothing to do with Jesus.
This passage does confirm the expulsion of Jews from Rome referred to in Acts. Acts
18.2 refers to this event and shows that there were Jewish believers in Jesus living
in Rome at that time (Aquila and Priscilla). This is commonly dated in 49 CE, though
some prefer 41 CE. If there were Christians in Rome in 41-49 AD, that is a strong
indication that Jesus existed, since His life would have been well within the memories
of those living at the time.
For more information go to http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/suey.html
Thallus was a historian who wrote in Greek in approximately 55 CE. His works have
been completely lost. A third-century Christian historian, Julius Africanus, composed
a History of the World down to around 220 CE in five volumes. In one of the surviving
fragments, Julius discussed the three-hour darkness which occurred at the crucifixion
of Jesus and makes this comment:
‘On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent
by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.
This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me
without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on
the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day
before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes
under the sun.’
For more information on this subject go to http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html
. Here Glenn Miller does a lengthy study of this passage in which he gives evidence
that both Thallus and Julius Africanus were reliable historians and draws this conclusion.
‘The reference to the miraculous darkness around the Crucifixion of my Lord--even
documented as to the hours by Phlegon!--is powerful evidence not only for the ‘existence
of Jesus’, but for the reliability of those portions of the gospel accounts that
describe that phenomena. In the public records of the day, a ‘most fearful darkness’
followed our rejection of the Light of the World.’
Other less important classical writers also speak of the historical Jesus, including
Mara bar Serapion, (c 73 CE) who speaks of Jesus as the ‘wise king’ of the Jews;
Lucian of Samosata (c 115-200 CE) writes of ‘that one whom they still worship today,
the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation
into the world’ (for more information on Lucian go to http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/lucian.html).
In the end none of these writers can be held up to prove or disprove the case for
Jesus as the Messiah. The fact that these writings exist, as well as numerous writings
by believing Christians from this period, does show us that Jesus existed. It is
interesting that the prophecy of Isaiah 53 indicates the obscure origins of the ‘Servant’
and the unbelief and rejection he would experience:
‘Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He
has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should
desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted
with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we
did not esteem Him.’ Isaiah 53.1-3.
The rejection of Jesus and of his message is a fulfilment of this scripture. Nevertheless
this prophecy goes on to indicate that there would be those who would profit from
his sacrifice and the he would bear ‘the sin of many’ and ‘see his seed’ (those who
believe) and ‘prolong his days’ (through the resurrection from the dead).
‘Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His
soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the
pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labour of His soul,
and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He
shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto
death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and
made intercession for the transgressors.’ Isaiah 53.10-12.
The New Testament also speaks of both a rejection and an acceptance of Jesus as the
‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know
Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received
Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in
His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will
of man, but of God.’ John 1.10-13
In the end the real question we have to ask is not whether Jesus existed, which in
reality is a no starter. The question is ‘Who is He really?’ As Michael Brown has
said in our quote above, ‘That question remains relevant for every reader, both Jewish