Did Jesus of Nazareth Really Exist?

Some years ago, Dr. Lawrence Mykytiuk, Professor of Library Science at Purdue University, published an article titled, “Did Jesus Exist?” In his search for historical evidence beyond the Bible, from non-Christian Roman and Jewish sources, he found sufficient documentation to corroborate the account of his life as recorded in the four New Testament gospels. His conclusions are worth considering.

  1. Jesus existed as a man. This is confirmed by the historical references to Jesus in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus, and the Roman historian Tacitus.
  2. His personal name was Jesus, as Josephus informs us.
  3. He was called Christos, a Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” meaning anointed one.
  4. He had a brother named James (Jacob), as reported by Josephus.
  5. He won over both Jews and Gentiles as his followers.
  6. The Jewish leaders of his day expressed unfavorable opinions about him, as acknowledged by Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum.
  7. Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, rendered the decision that Jesus should be executed.
  8. Jesus’ execution was carried out by Roman soldiers by means of crucifixion.
  9. His death occurred during Pontius Pilate’s governorship of over Judea (AD 26-36) as Josephus implies and Tacitus states.
  10. No first century pagans or Jews who opposed the movement that developed after his death ever questioned or denied the historicity of Jesus.

Professor Mykytiuk concludes his review of the historical evidence stating, “Thus the birth, ministry and death occasioned claims that his birth was illegitimate and that he performed miracles by evil magic, encouraged apostasy and was justly executed for his own sins. But they do not deny his existence” (p. 51). For further study, see “Did Jesus Exist,” Biblical Archaeology Review (January/February 2015), pp. 45ff. Photo courtesy of EvidenceUnseen.com.