Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?

The reliable Gospel eyewitness accounts aren’t the only ancient description of Jesus. There are also non-Christian descriptions of Jesus from the late 1st to 5th Century. What do the non-Biblical accounts say about Jesus and how are we to assess them? It’s been my experience that two people can examine the same event (or even the same historical character) and disagree about what they have seen. Many years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and the entire event was captured on video tape. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses. The tapes were watched over and over again. Yet, in the midst of such a robust eyewitness record, people still argue to this day about what they saw and what actually happened. Was it a lone shooter or an elaborate conspiracy? Something very similar occurred when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. Most of us either saw the attack live on television or watched the video for months afterward. But the event is still interpreted in a variety of ways. Was this the act of international terrorists or an elaborate governmental conspiracy? Two well documented historical events with a rich set of evidences. In spite of this, both events have been interpreted in a variety of ways. It shouldn’t surprise us then to find the historical records of Jesus Christ might also experience the same type of scrutiny and diverse interpretation. Did Jesus truly live, minister, died and rise from the grave as the Gospels record or was it an elaborate conspiracy? One thing we know about the Kennedy assassination and the World Trade Center attack: regardless of interpretation, there were eyewitnesses to the events, and the events did truly occur. In a similar manner, the ancient evidence related to Jesus reveals there were eyewitnesses and He did exist in history. Is there any evidence for Jesus outside the Bible? Yes, and the ancient non-Christian interpretations (and critical commentaries) of the Gospel accounts serve to strengthen the core claims of the New Testament.

Hostile Non-Biblical Pagan Accounts
There are a number of ancient classical accounts of Jesus from pagan, non-Christian sources. These accounts are generally hostile to Christianity; some ancient authors denied the miraculous nature of Jesus and the events surrounding His life:


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11 replies
  1. David says:

    The fact that you still appeal to the Testimonium Flavianum, even in what you dishonestly call a version stripped of it’s Christian embellishments, proves that you have no desire for truth. This statement is a total obfuscation, “So to be fair, we’ll examine a “scholarly” reconstruction stripped of Christian embellishment:” This is not a “scholarly” reconstruction stripped of Christian embellishment. It is still packed with Christian embellishment. It is more honestly a “Christian apologetic” reconstruction that conservative evangelicals hope they can succeed in hanging on to despite the fact that the consensus of scholars argue convincingly against it in its entirety. The whole of the TF has been debunked as a fully Christian interpolation. There is much evidence to support this conclusion but one of the easiest ways to demonstrate the fact is, remove the whole passage and notice how smoothly the text on either side flows back together. Compare the style of its writing to the surrounding text. Read Richard Carrier’s, “On The Historicity of Jesus”. He and many other scholars do a fine job of debunking most of what you cite in your section on hostile eyewitnesses. Carrier addresses all of this in great detail and in a much more convincing way than is provided here. The external evidence for Jesus is almost nil. Mr. Wallace, I challenge you to thoroughly refute Carrier’s argument against the TF.

    • Mike Edwwards says:

      “The fact that you still appeal to the Testimonium Flavianum, even in what you dishonestly call a version stripped of it’s Christian embellishments, proves that you have no desire for truth. “–right off the cuff..taking it personally and offensively with a dash of ad-hominem assertions. No desire for a presentation of the truth is a knowledgeable discussion, but the Old ” i dont k want to it to be true, because if it is, im accountable, and i want to do what I want to do”

      • Andy Ryan says:

        David made no ad hominem – that is, he didn’t criticise the article via an irrelevant attack on its author. Instead he made a direct and relevant critique of the article itself.

        Do you have anything to add to defend it?

      • David says:

        Mike, explain why the 3rd century church father Origin, did not know of the TF? In his attempt to defend Christianity from the slanders of second century Greek philosopher and opponent of early Christianity Celsus, Origin never cites the TF. He quotes other portions of Josephus, but never the TF. Celsus makes many specific criticisms of Christianity that the text of the TF would have perfectly served to refute yet, Origin says nothing of it. No author that we know from antiquity cites or quotes the TF until Eusebius in the early fourth century. How do you explain that Mike? The straight forward answer which Christians refuse to accept is, because it didn’t exist until near that time. The whole thing is a late, Christian interpolation that many scholars believe Eusebius wrote himself. But you could never accept this could you Mike? There is a ton of scholarship on this and it is full of well argued and logical proofs that the TF is not original to the text. Of course, like all other fields of apologetics, you can find some fringe scholarship on the matter but why would you give it any weight? That Christians are still citing a text that has been so thoroughly debunked is embarrassing. Stop seeking an indoctrination Mike and seek an education. There, that is my “knowledgeable discussion” Mike. Please enlighten me with your “knowledgeable” refutation of it.
        This is the ad-hominem attack Mike, “but the Old ” i dont k want to it to be true, because if it is, im accountable, and i want to do what I want to do”. You’re saying I’m sinful because I don’t believe what Christians believe. Maybe I’m not sinful but simply right. I would be glad to return to my Christian roots if someone could convince me that there was any truth to it. Maybe you can Mike.

  2. Andy Ryan says:

    Wow, just seen J Warner Wallace has blocked me on twitter. No, I was never rude to him – just asked him the same kind of questions I pose in the comments here. He blocked the counter-apologist @secularoutpost too. Guess he really can’t handle anyone questioning him. As he never answers anyone’s questions here I reckoned he just doesn’t read comments, but hilariously a few days ago someone posted a ‘nice article’ reply to him here and he responded with a ‘Thanks!’ very quickly.

  3. David says:

    Haha! I noticed the quick thank you too Andy. It would be nice if he ever engaged on this site. Wallace, like all other apologists, is a hack. He has no interest in evidence or honesty. He is only interested in spinning data in support of his Christian worldview. There is so much solid scholarship that refutes almost all the arguments he puts forth in this post but he doesn’t care. He’s preaching to the choir. Christians lap up this drivel and then go out and repeat it a million times to other uninformed listeners. Christian apologetics has to be one of the most dishonest enterprises known to man. It’s ok though. All these books and blogs on Christian apologetics will eventually be debunked. They just throw so much of it up on the wall to see if it will stick that it will take real scholars decades to dismantle all of it with real arguments. I noticed Mike went kind of silent too after I responded to his whining.

  4. bob says:

    “Christians lap up this drivel and then go out and repeat it a million times to other uninformed listeners.”
    David, I tend to disagree. If you notice, pretty much the most active respondents to this blog are non believers, like me…like you. I mean, just look at the popular atheist blogs. With in hours of a new post (or perhaps a day) there can be hundreds of comments, but visit most any apologetic blog, and it may take a few days for there to be even 10-15 comments.
    My point…Christians don’t care. They don’t practice apologetics, they don’t read apologetics, they don’t think apologetics. They are content to just live their life and not have any meaningful interaction with a single non believer. Even those TRAINED in the field of Christian apologetics don’t care. They write books and hold conferences but they don’t actually seek to engage in the practice.
    So – it’s basically harmless to the Christian masses because THEY DON’T CARE.

  5. David says:

    I always wondered about that too Bob but I recently noticed the view counts at the top of each post. This one has been viewed over 1000 times in four days. I have seen others with tens of thousands of views. So it seems that Christians actually do read this stuff but it might be more accurate to say they don’t do anything with it. If they really believed that most people around them were going to hell and they cared at all you would have one of them knocking on your door and in your face 24 hours a day.

    • bob says:

      David, I have lived in my little part of South Central Virginia for 27 years. If I drive 10 miles in any direction I will pass 6-8 churches. I literally live between two churches, no more than a one minute walk from the end of my driveway – they are my neighbors. I have never, in 27 years, had a Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, or any member of any other protestant denomination approach me and ask if I know Jesus, either at home, in public, at the grocery store, even on the occasions I have visited churches. The only people who have knocked on my door are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses…and I always invite them in. CHRISTIANS DON’T CARE!

  6. Andrew says:

    David, I see that you come from a Christian background which you have decided to abandon. May I ask at what conclusion you have arrived concerning what then is true? You argue against Christianity, which as we all know consists of far more than just the historicity of Jesus or the attitude of modern Evangelicals or the ability of apologists to defend their position. The Bible presents an entire worldview with a huge scope, starting with the universe’s creation by God and proceeding through the history of the Israeli people and culminating in the person of Jesus, all the while making claims to actual historicity and to being the inspired word of God.

    So my question is, if you succeed in proving that all written records of Jesus are bogus, where does that leave us? What worldview is then true? Did God create the universe at all, or do the atheists win? Or was Jesus just not the fulfillment of prophecy, and the Jews win? Not crucified, and the Muslims win? I would be very interested to hear which alternative you hold to be true.


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