Jesus and history
Jesus is one of the most famous and influential people who ever lived, but what can we really know about him? How much that the Bible says about Jesus is history, and how much is legend?
It is tempting to simply allow ourselves to be convinced by writers who share the same christian or anti-christian view that we ourselves hold. But no-one who respects the evidence and truth can really do that. We must base our conclusions on research by the best unbiased scholars, who approach the New Testament neutrally, not as a holy book but as another historical document. That is what I have done here.
Based on the conclusions of expert historians, here is reliable information that will help you find your way through the maze of different ideas, and find the truth about whether we can know if Jesus was a real person and not a legend, what we can know about him, and how we should understand him.
Be prepared for some surprises – what the historians tell us isn’t always what either christian apologists or sceptics will tell you!
Was Jesus a real person?
The idea that Jesus is a myth is common on the internet. But whatever their personal beliefs about Jesus, historians are almost unanimously agreed that he was a real person and not a legend. Check out why.
Quotes on Jesus as a historical person
Relevant quotes from historians about how they see Jesus as a historical figure (for reference).
Jesus in history
Treating the New Testament as they would any other historical document (and not as a holy book), historians have concluded we can know quite a lot about Jesus. Here is a summary of the consensus, and some of the more marginal views.
Who was Jesus? (Summary).
A summary of what the gospels, understood in their historical and cultural context, tell us about Jesus. It turns out to be not quite what many churches teach, but not what the sceptics say either.
Who was Jesus?
A more detailed look at what the gospels tell us about Jesus, together with a detailed reference list of scholars and New Testament passages.
Did Jesus really perform miracles?
Most people know, even if they don’t believe in Jesus, that he was known as a teacher and healer. But what do the historians say about these stories? Was he not just another person who gullible ancient people believed was a miracles worker? And what can a thoughtful person believe about them today?
Jesus – son of God?
Did Jesus claim to be divine, or was that something made up by his followers? Check out the relevant Bible passages that most scholars accept as genuinely from Jesus, and the christian argument for his divinity.
Was Jesus raised from the dead?
The historical facts about the resurrection, and the arguments for and against, including a reconstruction of the confused events of that first easter.
Historical Jesus references
In writing about Jesus, I have depended most on the consensus of these respected scholars, both believers and non-believers.