Monday, February 15, 2016

Did Jesus Really Exist? What are the Earliest Sources?

Did Jesus of Nazareth really exist? Many would try to advocate the 'Christ Myth' theory, that Jesus never existed while others would argue that Jesus was a copy cat of pagan deities like Osiris, or Mithra as the Zeitgeist video tries to argue. Serious historians and scholars repudiate these ideas.
Even Bart Ehrman felt compelled to expose such 'Christ Myth' advocates that he wrote a book on the subject,  Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2012). What relevance does this have to Islam? Muslims tell us that the Qur'an portrays the perfect and pure record of Jesus and his teachings and that the New Testament cannot be trusted as it has been "corrupted". The major problem here is that the New Testament documents including the gospels are the earliest historical documents or biographies on Jesus written in the first century A.D. based on eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1). The gospels were written a few decades after Jesus. The Qur'an on the other hand, comes 600 years later and borrows predominantly from apocryphal sources, folklore, and Jewish traditions. The Qur'an even implies this (Q 25:4-6). The earliest biography of Muhammad is believed to have been written by Ibn Ishaq (d. 767 A.D.) almost 150 years after Muhammad's death, but this biography does not exist in any extant copies but only in the heavily edited version of Ibn Hisham (d. 833 A.D.) which is 200 years after Muhammad's death. Most scholars believe that the earliest biography of Muhammad is actually that of al-Waqidi (d. 822 A.D.) Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi ("The Book of  History and Campaigns") which is almost 200 years after Muhammad's death. The Hadith of both Bukhari and Muslim are also over 200 years too late. The earliest, and thus most reliable historical sources for the life of Jesus and His teachings are the gospels themselves, not the Islamic texts.

Professor Stephen J. Shoemaker of the University of Oregon, who specializes in early Islam and Christianity, has openly admitted this important fact:

"the early biographies of Muhammad, the sira traditions...are not at all equal in their historical quality to the canonical Christian gospels...Despite frequent assertions to the contrary, our historical knowledge concerning Muhammad and first-century Islam is far more limited and uncertain than is the case with respect to Jesus and first-century Christianity." (Stephen J. Shoemaker, The Death of a Prophet: The End of  Muhammad's Life and Beginnings of Islam (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), p. 273.


akairey said...

and if some people are too lazy to's a video demonstrating the point of Jesus' existence:

Keith said...

I always thought evangelism should start with this question. Before Christians start to answer all the hard questions about God and evil etc that non-Christians present, Christians should first throw this question at the non-Christian, "Who is Jesus Christ to you?", assuming they are not arguing against the existence of Jesus.

It isn't much of a point if I as a Christian were to say, "I believe the Bible says this..." or "I believe this because Jesus says so...", because the non-Christian is NOT seeing things from the Christian lens yet.

Dr Costa is right. The acknowledgement of the existence of JC and the things he said has huge consequences.

Unknown said...

Why don't you fly some Planes in buildings instead of telling everyone other Religions were wrong .

Anonymous said...

Why debate this? The Koran which Muslims insist is the literal words of their god, Allah, mentions Jesus by name 27 times, and by inference another 18 times.
Quite a lot, for someone who didn't exist?

Unknown said...

Some one they learnt about as the Christians did since Jesus was who they modeled Mohamed myth from as god instead of a desert goat header who heard the story of JC too after almost 1000 yrs after JC story has been circulating, remember JC coming back is almost 2000 years now