The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
Does Easter celebrate a man, a savior, or a myth? Some say Jesus never existed and was a myth created by early Christians.
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET

The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.

It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.

But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture.  Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of  "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"

“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

On Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.

But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age.  But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.

Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”

Your comments on Jesus deniers

He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.

“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”

Does it matter if Jesus existed?

Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.

“I don’t think I’m some Internet kook or Holocaust denier,” says Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor who argues in “Deconstructing Jesus” that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist.

“They say I’m a bitter ex-fundamentalist. It’s pathetic to see this character assassination. That’s what people resort to when they don’t have solid arguments.”

 The debate over Jesus’ existence has led to a curious role reversal. Two of the New Testament scholars who are leading the way arguing for Jesus’ existence have a reputation for attacking, not defending, traditional Christianity.

Ehrman, for example, is an agnostic who has written books that argue that virtually half  of the New Testament is forged. Another defender of Jesus’ existence is John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar who has been called a heretic because his books challenge some traditional Christian teachings.

But as to the existence of Jesus, Crossan says, he’s “certain.”

He says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.

“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American.  If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”

Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?

Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.

If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.

It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”

“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”

The evidence against Jesus’ existence

Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points:

-The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.

-No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.

-The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.

Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God.

“There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.”

Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century.

But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus.

“Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.”

Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed.

“Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.”

Those who argue for the existence of Jesus cite another source: the testimony of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ early disciples. Paul even writes in one New Testament passage about meeting James, the brother of Jesus.

These early disciples not only believed Jesus was real but were willing to die for him. People don’t die for myths, some biblical scholars say.

They will if the experience is powerful enough, says Richard Carrier, author of “Proving History.”

Carrier says it’s probable that Jesus never really existed and that early Christians experienced a mythic Jesus who came to them through visions and revelations.

Two of the most famous stories in the New Testament – the conversion of Paul and the stoning death of Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs - show that people seized by religious visions are willing to die, Carrier says.

In both the Paul and Stephen stories, the writers say that they didn’t see an actual Jesus but a heavenly vision of Jesus, Carrier says.

People “can have powerful religious experiences that don’t correspond to reality,” Carrier says.

“The perfect model is Paul himself,” Carrier says. “He never met Jesus. Paul only had an encounter with this heavenly Jesus. Paul is completely converted by this religious experience, but no historical Jesus is needed for that to happen.”

As for the passage where Paul says he met James, Jesus’ brother, Carrier says:

“The problem with that is that all baptized Christians were considered brothers of the Lord.”

The evidence for Jesus’ existence

Some scholars who argue for the existence of Jesus says the New Testament mentions actual people and events that are substantiated by historical documents and archaeological discoveries.

Ehrman, author of “Did Jesus Exist?” scoffed at the notion that the ancient world was full of pagan stories about dying deities that rose again.  Where’s the proof? he asks.

Ehrman devoted an entire section of his book to critiquing Freke, the mythicist and author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” who says there was an ancient Osiris-Dionysus figure who shares uncanny parallels to Jesus.

He says Freke can’t offer any proof that an ancient Osiris figure was born on December 25, was crucified and rose again. He says Freke is citing 20th- and 19th-century writers who tossed out the same theories.

Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”

“He doesn’t know much about ancient history,” Ehrman says of Freke. “He’s not a scholar. All he knows is what he’s read in other conspiracy books.”

Craig A. Evans, the author of “Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence,” says the notion that Paul gave his life for a mythical Jesus is absurd.

He says the New Testament clearly shows that Paul was an early enemy of the Christian church who sought to stamp out the burgeoning Jesus movement.

“Don’t you think if you were in Paul’s shoes, you would have quickly discovered that there was no Jesus?” Evans asks.  “If there was no Jesus, then how did the movement start?”

Evans also dismissed the notion that early Christians blended or adopted pagan myths to create their own mythical Jesus. He says the first Christians were Jews who despised everything about pagan culture.

“For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting,” Evans says. “I can’t imagine [the Gospel writer] Matthew making up a story where he is drawing parallels between Jesus’ birth and pagan stories about Zeus having sex with some fair maiden.”

The words of Jesus also offer proof that he actually existed, Evans says.  A vivid personality practically bursts from the pages of the New Testament: He speaks in riddles, talks about camels squeezing through the eye of a needle, weeps openly and even loses his temper.

Evans says he is a man who is undeniably Jewish, a genius who understands his culture but also transcends his tradition with gem-like parables.

“Who but Jesus could tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?” Evans says. “Where does this bolt of lightning come from? You don’t get this out of an Egyptian myth.”

Those who argue against the existence of Jesus say they aren’t trying to destroy people’s faith.

“I don’t have any desire to upset people,” says Freke. “I do have a passion for the truth. … I don’t think rational people in the 20th century can go down a road just on blind faith.”

Yet Easter was never just about rationale.

The Easter stories about the resurrection are strange: Disciples don’t recognize Jesus as they meet him on the road; he tells someone not to touch him; he  eats fish in another.

In the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to a group of disciples and gives them this cryptic message:

“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?

Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question.  He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.

The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Art • Belief • Books • Church • Culture wars • Easter • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus • Uncategorized • Virgin Mary

soundoff (8,773 Responses)
  1. J


    The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.


    O love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

    When years of time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men, who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.


    Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade,
    To write the love of God above,
    Would drain the ocean dry.
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Punisher2000

      The song is fine. What, however, do YOU think?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  2. Henry

    The problem is that most unbelievers judge the book by its covers, and they are oblivious to the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells the Church of Jesus Christ, having one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all. Therefore, the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah to you too.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Drew

      Most "unbelievers" actually read books too and develop informed positions on the subject matter instead of blindly listening to the rich guy you "beleivers" donate 10% of your money to. How about using your head.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, they judge it by its content.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Sybaris

      ......and if you had been born and raised in a predominately Bhuddist or Muslim or Hindu country or born and raised in central america 1000 years ago you'd be preaching about some other diety.

      No, your faith is not divinely inspiried. It's mostly culturally influenced and that is all the integrity it can claim.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Cq

      The fact that you recognize your beliefs as "foolishness" without the belief that they magically aren't somehow is an indication that you are at least half-way towards realizing the truth of it all.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Soulsnagger

      What is it about a person who has a deep faith in God that you people find so disturbing. You read books, and experience life and develop your philosophy based on nothing more than I do. I believe the Bible because its truths are profound and its path is satisfying. You read your science and philosophy books, experience life and decide how you want to live your life. Why do you even care why I think the way I do. Why is it so troublesome to you? Why does it scare you so much? I don't harm you in any way. I assure you, athiests have done way more damage in history than Christians have – Mao, Lenin, Hitler are three examples of people without belief in God who did more damage individually than all the Christians combined throughout history. To the contrary, Christianity has changed the world dramatically for the good. You would have no human rights if Jesus didn't exist. Yet you act like my beliefs are a threat to your existence. I find it interesting that you hate my beliefs so much.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Greenspam

      So why should Christian Bible have more weight than Norse mythology, or Greek mythology, or Buddhaism?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Wingrider

    I view religion as politics, designed to get people moving in the same direction. Is it only coincidence that the resurrection, Easter, occurs on the same day as the pagan holiday for fertility, or that we use rabbits and eggs as Easter symbols when they are in fact fertility symbols? Is it coincidence that Christmas is held on the same pagan holiday that marks the days getting longer? I find these particular instances as ways to assimilate the pagans. By telling them to continue celebrating, but now we will call those days Christmas and Easter, is only to be able to point to other pagans to say, "Look they are celebrating the birth of Christ, so should you." This in no way addresses the issue of whether Jesus is Christ, or just another rebel Jew.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Soulsnagger

    Could I just add that the New Testament actually gives Jesus' geneology on both his mother's and father's side. What kind of myth is that? Someone back there certainly thought he existed.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – the NT lists Jesus' geneology as "Mary and God".

      April 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Drew

      Ummm, how would the "Son of God", birthed by a Virgin, have a geneolody on his fathers side??

      April 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • EJ

      Joseph was Jesus' human father – his adoptive father, if you will. There is a lineage given in the Bible.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Al

      Ah, isn't it actually the case that the whole "mother's and father's sides" thing is just a lame excuse for there being two conflicting versions of his family tree?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Soulsnagger

      The geneology of Joseph ( the adoptive father of Jesus) is listed in Matthew and it refers to Joseph as the husband of Mary – not the father of Christ. An interesting distinction. This is the "legal geneology" of Jesus and it goes back to Abraham. Just like today, if you are born into a marriage, you are legally presumed to be the legal heir of the father.

      The geneology of Mary in Luke is the "blood line" of Jesus through Mary and goes all the way back to Adam. So don't get your panties in a knot about a discrepancy in the Bible.... The point is.... for a mythical creation of some crazy guys in the first century... it is a strange thing to have such detailed geneologies.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  5. amm3770

    Everyone believed in God until the Renaissance and then it became all about "me" Now look at the world. Is it really so great to have no faith in anything but "me"? I think that sounds really lonely.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      So, having faith in a mythical, invisible, supernatural being is better than having faith in yourself?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • toxictown

      Yes, everything was peachy until the renaissance :-/

      April 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Al

      Need I remind you that the very idea of classless freedom that led to the American Revolution grew out of the Renaissance, not to mention a few little things like modern medicine, technology and science? I suppose you pine for what came before the Renaissance; the gold old Dark Ages?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  6. Rixhard Sutherland

    What about those Jewish historians ( Josephus for one) non- Christian who lived in Jerusalem in the first century and wrote about Jesus.?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Josephus' and Tacitus' accounts are rather shaky, on a good day. There's somewhat more support for Josephus, but most scholars agree that the bulk of his references were added later as self-serving, after the fact "proof". His track record on other historical events is spotty overall, as is that of Tacitus. In other words, not particularly credible.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • What IF

      Josephus (and other historians) wrote about *Christians* and what they *claimed* to believe - that's all.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Josephus made one small mention of Jesus. And even that is doubtful. Historians have pointed out that it didn't seem to be in his normal writing style and the handwriting was different. Aside from that, this is the ONLY direct mention of Jesus outside of the bible. I have no doubt the man existed, but because of the revolutionary nature of his teachings and the manner of his death he became a martyr and like most martyrs, his life and deeds were blown all out of proportion, not to mention most of the story was stolen from the Osiris myth.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Leo

      They are always great historians until they mention Jesus, then they become somehow sub standard???

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Chad

      Lucian (circa 120-after 180) Greek writer and rhetorician.
      "The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account..."

      Thallus (AD 52,)
      "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."

      Tacitus (A.D. c.55-A.D. c.117, Roman historian)
      "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures 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 one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular."

      The Talmud
      "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!"

      Pliny the Younger governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. AD 112.
      "They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food but food of an ordinary and innocent kind."

      Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?)
      "Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done."

      April 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • What IF


      Those historians that you cite prove that *Christians* existed, and that they claimed to believe such and such. So what?

      (Thallus also wrote about the battle between Cronus and Zeus - so that really happened too, eh?)

      April 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Chad

      @Josef Bleaux "Josephus made one small mention of Jesus"

      1. "And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus... Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned" – Josephus Antiquities of the Jews (Book 20, Chapter 9, 1)

      2. "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man... Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion... Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death." Antiquities of the Jews (Book 18, Chapter 5, 2)

      3. "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 amongst 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" Antiquities Book 18, Chapter 3, 3

      April 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Chad

      @What IF "Those historians that you cite prove that *Christians* existed, and that they claimed to believe such and such. So what?"

      1) That isnt a true statement, those writers refer to Jesus as a real historical figure
      2) In addition, a historian will rightly attempt to determine where that belief arose from.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Al

      Your Talmud quote proves what then, that Jesus was a magician?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Chad

      Al "Your Talmud quote proves what then, that Jesus was a magician?"
      =>it shows that Jews of that day considered Him a real historical person, who practiced magic and deceived Israel.

      "Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
      24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
      Mathew 12

      April 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • What IF


      So then Cronus, Zeus and Hercules are all real too then?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  7. Greenspam

    Most historians believed that a man named Jesus existed; however, whether he was the Son of God was up to debate.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  8. Barowner

    I find this article interesting because it exposes the cowardice of CNN–you will not see an article that questions whether or not Mohammed is the true prophet of Islam? Christian bashing is in and everyone knows Christians will let you get away with it. CNN will not risk having their offices firebombed for trashing Islam.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Melodykari78

      You don't think any "Muslim-bashing" is going on?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  9. Josef Bleaux

    Christianity, like all religions, is nothing more than ancient mythology, written thousands of years ago by members of a primitive culture in an effort to explain existence, control the masses and comfort people in the face of their mortality. I've read both the old and new testaments cover to cover. I've read many other religious texts as well. They're all just ancient mythology from primitive cultures, nothing more.

    When I look around, I don't see a god flying around in a cloud or pillar of fire, I don't see sticks turning into snakes, I don't see rivers turning to blood or wine, seas parting, etc. etc. If that stuff was real and happened then, it would be happening now. I don't see miracles happening, all I see is a lot of ignorant people blindly accepting ancient mythology as fact, while rejecting modern scientific knowledge. If people would use their brains for a change, THINK about it using logic, reason and objectivity, then they would understand that it's just old myths. It's just so utterly obvious.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Leo

      Josef, Have you ever read the Bible? or do you look up your information on an Atheist website? I am really interested?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • NSfromIndiana

      Excellent comment! I couldn't have said it better myself.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      You obviously didn't read my post. I've read the bible from cover to cover, both old and new testaments. And I found it to be interesting, but it's just obviously ancient mythology as I said. If you would read it OBJECTIVELY, you would see that as well.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • NSfromIndiana

      @ Leo, you obviously didn't read his comment. "I've read both the old and new testaments cover to cover. I've read many other religious texts as well." Is written in the first paragraph of his statement. Geez! Talk about someone not reading...

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Soulsnagger

      The Jews asked Jesus for signs too. Instead of giving them more signs, he said you have already seen plenty of signs and you still don't believe... If you won't believe the eye witness account of a man being raised from the dead I doubt that a stick turning into a snake will do much for you... I'm sure you will find some perfectly rational explanation for it.....just like they did. People don't believe their own eyes when it doesn't fit their philosophy. Secular people accuse religious people of having blinders on.... they ought to pull the log out of their own eye before trying to pull the speck out of mine....

      I don't believe in Jesus because my mommy told me to.... my mommy challenged me to use my own mind. And, after 9 years of college.... and 53 years in this broken world....I believe even fiercer than I did before.

      And, to Drew – some people will believe anything if its written in a "science" book.... Even though scientific "truths" have been discredited over and over again.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • D. Dimas

      I am a working scientist.

      Christ is Risen! Glorify Him!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • ttwp

      "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor 2:14

      April 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  10. Soulsnagger

    There is way too much detail in the Bible and in Josephus and Tacitus to think that Jesus wasn't a real person. There was way to much of an impact on the people surrounding Jesus to think that something extraordinary didn't happen to them. You may not want to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but it is absurd to deny he existed. There was clearly someone in existence that made a huge impact on the world.... It is hard to believe this person who radically modified people's lives was just a myth. The apostles were scared and in hiding at the time of Jesus' death. They wouldn't even go to his grave for fear of being arrested, but all of a sudden (after seeing this so called myth) they couldn't be stopped, wouldn't shut up. They changed the world as it existed. They were boiled in oil, thrown off cliffs, beaten, crucified upside down, stoned, beheaded, exiled, imprisoned and hated. You can't possibly think they did this because of a mass vision of a really neat ghost. Ever heard of Occam's Razor? The best explanation of an event is the one that is the simplest, using the fewest asumptions of hypotheses.... They changed because something incredible happened to them.

    People don't want Jesus to exist because if he did, he gave only two choices. You either have to choose to follow him, or turn your back on him and risk eternity without God. Those choices aren't very palatable when you want to follow your own path, so it's easier to make up your own story.

    Sorry for all you people who choose yourself over Jesus – because there are only two real choices – you are a servant of Jesus, or a servant of Satan. You might think you are in control of your life but in reality you are every bit as deceived as you think I am.

    A pity.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      I feel sorry for you that you don't have the intellect to look at the world using logic and reason and see that it's just ancient mythology, nothing more. You're so mired in your delusionary fantasy world that you can't ever escape.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      When Harry Potter is read 2000-3000 years from now, after being traslated and re-written and edited over those 3000 years, will they say that there was just too much detail in the books for Dumbledore to not have existed?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • EJ

      Josef – it is possible to be religious, and still live your life in a logical and intelligent way. I do it everyday, as do many people I know who are Christians, Jewish or Muslim.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Primewonk

      The problem is that there are no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus. Plus, experts agree that Josephus was heavily edited after the fact many many years after he wrote it.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Russ

      Even Bart Ehrman (self-proclaimed agnostic "with atheistic tendencies") has a book out stating flatly that Jesus existed. His primary thesis: no scholar who has seriously studied the evidence will deny the historical reality of Jesus.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • jrumor

      using the bible to prove the existence of god or the divinity of jesus is like using a comic book to prove the existence of superman.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Wingrider

      If we are indeed speaking of the same God, the one that created heaven and earth, all the people and planets, etc. Then to think we are all children of the same God, and you have just condemned 2/3 of this planet to Hell. If we are all brothers and sisters, children of the one merciful God, then we should all be loved equally by His perfect love. Not just the Christians, but the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddists, etc. We are all children of this one god, and equally loved by Him. I pity your narrow view of the universe.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Soulsnagger

      To Wingrider – I haven't condemned anyone to hell... you can only do that yourself. To Jrumor – I don't use the Bible to prove the existence of God – I merely state that a myth doesn't typically have a detailed geneology. The complexity of a single cell is all the proof I need that God exists. To Primework – Matthew, Luke and John were all written within 20-30 years (the exact dates are unknown) after the death of Jesus. Can you remember the death of JKF – the landing on the moon? I remember clearly.... Most biologies are written after the person is dead. To Joseph – I don't have to rely on my mythological fantasys, there is plenty of logical proof of God...

      April 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  11. Stuck in the Middle

    The Irony of all this is that if you ask most christians today they will tell you that their loved ones who have died are in heaven. Which of course in not what the bible says. Yet they will insist that this is the case none the less. Atheists are atheists because we've acutally read the bible and see it for the myth it is.
    Grow up already. We all die, deal with it.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Leo

      2 Corinthians 5

      The Temporal and Eternal

      1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

      6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Russ

      @ stuck: you are mistaken about what the Bible says.

      to be apart from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor.5:8)
      "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk.23:43)

      Heaven is being in God's gracious presence. That is exactly what the Bible teaches.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • J

      "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." – C.S.Lewis

      April 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Quoting mumbo jumbo nonsense from an ancient book of mythology means absolutely nothing.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Leo

      Atheist Read the Bible? How come you didn't know what Paul taught?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • J

      Offering opinions w/o actually reading the book in question (not just picking and choosing random passages) is a bit foolish/dishonest.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • So sorry

      No matter what anyone says or does. The answer will come on everyone's death bed. Then we will all know. I am happy to be a believer! If I'm wrong, then whatever happens happens, but if I'm right which I truly believe that I am, then I will live in eternity with God. Seems to be a pretty scary gamble on eternity don't you think?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Josiah Shepherd

      2 Corinthians 5:8 says, "We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Thus, as believers, our loved ones are in the presence of Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20), and this Father is "Our Father, who art in heaven." As atheists, you may have read the Bible, and may even remember many of the words, yet you have not understood them (1 Corinthians 2:14). You speak of our hate, but it is you who hate. You hate God, lest you have to answer to Him. You hate being told you are sinful, because you love yourself above all others. And those who would seek to bring to you great riches of mercy through Christ, you reject and hate – simply because it requires you to humble yourself before an almighty God. No, you are the one who hates, and those who you accuse of hating are praying for you and for your heart to change, which of course makes you hate us more because it is to you a patronizing thought that we would pray for you because your pride is so great.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  12. Henry

    Jesus said in John 3:3, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

    God the Father has granted every born again believer the same spiritual capacity that enabled Simon Peter to make the good confession, after Jesus asked His disciples "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, then Jesus replied, blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

    Those outside the kingdom of God are not only separated form the life of God, they are also darkened in their understanding because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      So according to you babies go to hell?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Quoting mumbo jumbo nonsense from an archaic old book of ancient mythology means nothing. It's just ignorant myths from a primitive culture.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      So everyone born more than two thousand years ago, and all the unbaptized infants, get to Burn in Hell for All Eternity™.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  13. AJ

    Do things good and right, even if you have to die on a cross. That is what He did. How many of us can stay that way? You have the answer, don't you?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Jon

      Of course. Most of us wouldn't go around annoying people to the point of them crucifying us. Most of us have education and common sense. Well, some of us.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • whodathunk

      "Do things good and right, even if you have to die on a cross. That is what He did. How many of us can stay that way? You have the answer, don't you?"

      I will say that I admire Martin Luther King for doing just that. Very few people have this level of courage.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      i was brought up christian too and used to believe that Jesus was the son of god or had knowledge beyond the people of his time. Unfortunately, after reading the bible, Jesus like the people of his time, thought that the earth was flat. It is because of this flaw that it makes me doubt that Jesus was godly.
      For example, Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him..." In this passage Jesus will return on judgment day in the clouds for ALL eyes to see him. All the people could see him in his return only if the world was flat. But because the world is round, less than 1/8th of the worlds population will see him. How come Jesus or the writer of revelation did not know this?
      Another example: in describing the temptation of Jesus by Satan, Matthew 4:8 says, "Once again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world (cosmos) in their glory." You see the problem with this statement too, dont u? Again, u can only see the entire earth from a mountain if the earth was flat. But because it is round, it is not possible to see the entire earth from a mountain top. Surprisingly, both satan and Jesus who were of supernatural/godly status did not know this?
      This shows that Jesus shared the same belief of the ignorant people of his time that the earth was flat as implied by the above bible quotes. It is because of these problems of the bible implying a flat earth that it is hard for me to believe that Jesus is actually the son of god.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  14. Mr. Noble

    The question about the historicity of the Biblical Jesus is irrelevant. The real question lies in whether this character or man was in fact God and the evidence here becomes scarce.

    Notice that these scholars can only defend that some one named Jesus of Nazareth existed, not that that man was actually the son of God.

    "The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us." This quote is all too telling of the real evidence of Jesus' divinity. Who cares if the man existed if he wasn't actually God?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  15. ch0673

    I hope one day the world will wake up and see the truth about all religions. The are made up stories to control the masses. Someone stated in a comment "So you don't believe in god, now what?" Here's what, if more people would get out of this fairy tale, I could guarantee wars would deminish or maybe become obsolete, people would be more accepting of differences, and we might be able to make extreme advances in science because people would stop believing in a fake god that will fix everything and actually take an interest in science. So I hope that answers your question as to "You Don't Believe in god, so now what?"

    April 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • D. Dimas

      Dear ch0673,
      Your faith in the inherent goodness of human beings is touching. Psychotic, but touching.
      The Khmer Rouge (good atheists all) killed ~40% of their countrymen. Stalin stopped the slaughter only because it was affecting the tax base. Mao's Cultural Revolution was one of the great disasters of modern history. I'm not even going to talk about Hitler. All of these groups and men were atheists. All of them committed their atrocities in living memory.
      I trust that you will forgive my skepticism about the moral superiority of a belief system that does not even have a moral code to fail to live up to.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  16. John


    No one can prove the existence of Jesus without accepting the Koran. Because in the Koran Jesus is cited it is a reality and he is a prophet and not a son of God

    April 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Jon

      The only flaw in that is the Koran was written centuries after the time of Christ. It would be like you trying to guess what Henry VIII said to his 3rd wife on a random friday during his reign.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  17. Bible Clown©

    You cannot reason someone away from a position they didn't reason themselves into. People are taught by their moms that Jesus exists; therefore, if you say Jesus exists, you are contradicting Mom. Sorry, that's just how it is. People don't like to think, it hurts their heads.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin would see to it that we all get more of the baby jesus in our daily lives. And more nascar,too. More jesus !! More nascar !! More jesus !!! YYYeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhawwww !!!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      And there you have it boys and girls...

      April 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bible clown: your argument works just the same for atheist moms.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  18. Robert

    You want proof, albeit supositional? Muslims and Jews both say that he existed, and they never agree on anything.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  19. Joseph

    11 out the 12 Apostles died in the name of Jesus. They died as martyrs for a myth? I don't think so! Somthing happened that made them die the way that they did.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      They were myths, too. Whatever they may have thought, God certainly doesn't exist today, and neither does aether or phlogiston. Flies are not caused by rotting meat and geese don't hatch from barnacles.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      So are Islamic martyrs dying for a myth?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • What IF


      The eventual fates, and even the true ident'ities of the alleged 'Apostles' is unknown. Legends concerning them abound, however.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Reason

      @Stuck in the Middle, The fact that the disciples were willing to die for their faith may not prove their faith, but it makes a pretty compelling case that a man named Jesus existed and interacted with them, even if you don't believe in his divinity. The same logic would extend to Muslim martyrs... it doesn't prove the right or wrong of the belief, but not many deny that a man named Mohammed was a flesh and blood historical figure who founded a faith.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • bobeharris

      Well it occurs to me that people are willing to die for Jesus even today though they've never seen any actual evidence of his existence as are Muslims for Mohammed i.e. I don't accep the premise that someone would not die for a myth.

      Moreover, didn't the ancient people make various sacrifices, including their own children, to various "gods" of ancient times. Don't we accept that they gods of the ancients were entirely fictional?

      I also find it somewhat odd that we presume the ancients (Egyptians, Aztecs, Chinease, Romans, Greeks, etc.) were all deluded (no doubt by their parents and communities) in their beliefs but that WE, Christians have the one true faith (even though no faith actually has a majority of the earth's population.

      And though a little off topic, doesn't it bother anyone that people tend to be whatever religion they are born into i.e. you are probably not Christian by choice but rather by luck. Had you been born in India you would have been Hindu, or in the Middle East – you would have been Muslim. I have a hangup with the idea of salvation by luck.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  20. Jim970

    Some people will believe anything, especially if it is on the Internet. After all everything posted has to be true doesn't it. And. If what they read can in any way be construed as a conspiracy, well so much the better. Then to top it all off, the whole idea is anti Christianity. What could be better? Get off it people. Take your conspiracies and religious hatred somewhere else.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Drew

      Some people will also believe anything if it's written in a book, especially if that book is old.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.