No Evidence Of Jesus

By Larry Sites

Recently, several fundis have asserted that there is much historical evidence that Jesus acyually existed as have alluded to a few round about references by early writers. I can accross the following in a file in America OnLine Religion library:

The early Christians, Origin, for instance, in his reply to the rationalist Celsus who questioned the reality of Jesus, instead of producing evidence of a historical nature, appealed to the mythology of the pagans to prove that the story of Jesus was no more incredible than those of the Greek and Roman gods. This is so important that we refer our readers to Origin's own words on the subject. "Before replying to Celsus, it is necessary to admit that in the matter of history, however true it might be," writes this Christian Father, "it is often very difficult and sometimes quite impossible to establish its truth by evidence which shall be considered sufficient" [Origin Contre Celsus. 1. 58 et Suiv.] This is a plain admission that, as early as the second and third centuries the claims put forth about Jesus did not admit of positive historical demonstration. But in the absence of evidence Origin offers the following metaphysical arguments against the skeptical Celsus: 1. Such stories as are told of Jesus are admitted to be true when told of pagan divinities, why can they not also be true when told of the Christian Messiah? 2. They must be true because they are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies [Ibid.] In other words, the only proofs Origin can bring forth against the rationalistic criticism of Celsus is, that to deny Jesus would be equivalent to denying both the Pagan and Jewish mythologies. If Jesus is not real, says Origin, then Apollo was not real, and the Old Testament prophecies have not been fulfilled. If we are to have any mythology at all, he seems to argue, why object to adding to it the myths of Jesus? There could not be a more damaging admission than this from one of the most conspicuous defenders of Jesus' story against early criticism.

Justin Martyr, another early Father, offers the following argument against unbelievers in the Christian legend: "When we say also that the Word, which is the first birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified, died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter." [First Apology, Chapter xxi (Anti-Niacin Library.] Which is another way of saying that the Christian myths is very similar to the pagan, and should therefore be equally true. Pressing his argument further, this interesting Father discovers many resemblances between what he himself is preaching and the pagans have always believed: "For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribe to Jupiter. Mercury, the interpreting word (he spells this word with small w, while in the above quotation he uses w to denote the Christian incarnation) and teacher of all; Aesculapius ... to heaven; one Hercules ... and Perseus; ... and Bellerophon, who, from mortals, rose to heaven on the horses of Pegasus." [Ibid.] If Jupiter can have, Justin Martyr seems to reason, half a dozen divine sons, why cannot Jehovah have at least one?

Instead of producing historical evidence or appealing to creditable documents, as one would to prove the existence of a Caesar or an Alexander, Justin Martyr draws upon pagan mythology in his reply to the critics of Christianity. All he seems to ask for is that Jesus be given a higher place among the divinities of the ancient world.