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Did Jesus of Nazareth Exist?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/13/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,337 times Debate No: 43905
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)




I will be arguing that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist. My opponent will be arguing the opposite. I would also like to thank Con for accepting this debate.

Round 1: Acceptance

Round 2: Opening Argument

Round 3: Rebuttals/Counter-Claims

Round 4: Cross-Examination/Q&A/No-New Arguments

Round 5: Conclusion


I accept the challenge.

My opponent and I will take opposing sides on whether Jesus of Nazareth the man existed or not. In this debate it is unnecessary to prove that the claims of miracles are true but can be used as evidence either way. Let us begin.
Debate Round No. 1


Even though I am a Christian, I think for the sole purpose of this debate, I will sort-of argue from a neutral position, so my opponent and I can have a little bit of flexibility and analysis from each other.

A Brief Summary of the Datum:

1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts. The Gospels(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written by the 1st and 2nd hand sources of Jesus, and they were written within the 1st century from 20-70 years after they lived with him.

2. The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary "urban legends.

3. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable.

4. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision

5. The Gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability.[3]

Secular and Extra-Biblical Sources for Jesus of Nazareth outside the New Testament[1[2]]:

Ancient Historians and Scholars have corroborated at most 17 sources for Jesus outside the NT. 9 of them are within 150 years of Jesus existence. I will go ahead and list just some of them here below in order to save room.

1. Josephus- (37-100A.D.) Was a Pharisee and Historian of the Jews. Wrote his famous Antiquity of the Jews during the late 1st century. In it he mentions Jesus twice, along with Jesus brother James and John the Baptist.

“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 among 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 tribes of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day." Antiquities XVIII, 3:2

Here is the other Reference to Jesus of Nazareth, as well has his brother James, who was Bishop of Jerusalem, during the 1st century.

So [Ananus] assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together

with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." Antiquities XX 9:1

2. Tacitus- was a 1st and 2nd century Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over half a dozen Roman emperors one of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Tacitus verifies the Biblical account of Jesus' execution at the hands of Pontius Pilate who governed Judea from 26-36 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius.

"Christus, the founder of the [Christian] name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the

pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, by through the city of

Rome also." Annals XV, 44

3. Mara Bara-Serapion- (After 70 A.D.) Mara Bar-Serapion of Syria wrote this letter from prison to his son. Though it is obvious he does not deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed as real person. He also affirms some of the events in Jesus life that are mentioned in the New Testament.

"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: The Athenians died of hunger. The Samians were overwhelmed by the sea. The Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good. He lived on in the teachings of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good. He lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good. He lived on in the teaching which He had given.

4. Suetonius- (69-130 A.D.) Served as a Roman Historian and recorded the life of Caesars and other historical events around Rome and the regions surrounding Rome. He Also served as a court official under Emperor Hadrian. In his passage he records the removal or expulsion of the Christian Jews who were from Rome( Mentioned in the New Testament Acts 18). He confirms that the Christian faith was founded by Christ. “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." Life of Claudius 25.4

5. Lucian of Samosata (120-180 A.D.) -a second century Greek satirist and rhetorician who scornfully describes his views of early Christianity. Though he ridicules the Christians and their Christ, his writings confirm Jesus was executed via crucifixion and that He was the founder of Christianity.

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day- the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account... It was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers from the moment they are converted and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws..." The Death of Peregrinus 11-13

Early Church Fathers:

There couldn’t have been early Church Fathers if Jesus of Nazareth did not exist. Their accounts also verify the Bible in the New Testament and Old Testament, as they refer to him as a real historical figure. I will just list one since I don’t have enough room.

What do Historians and or New Testament Scholars Say about Jesus of Nazareth? :

Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) - possibly the most well-known early Christian apologist, was an educated pagan philosopher who converted to Christianity around 130 A.D. Though he risked losing his wealth, status, and life, Justin fearlessly spread Christianity throughout Asia Minor and Rome.

"There is a village in Judea, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was born, as you can see from the tax registers under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea..”

Jesus of Nazareth is not disputed amongst virtually any historian and New Testament Scholar. The only exception would be Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier. I will give a list of what Historians and New Testament Scholars say about Jesus of Nazareth.

Bart Ehrman (a secular agnostic) wrote: "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God.

Michael Grant (a classicist) states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non- historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." in Jesus by Michael Grant 2004.

Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould (Apr 1, 2004)

James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 2003 page 339. states of baptism and crucifixion that these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent".

John Dominic Crossan ( A former Catholic priest, and NT Scholar) states: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus...agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact." Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. p. 145.

Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16 states: "biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted"

Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus by, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, page 145 states : "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed".

“Many scholars agree that Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God's will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship ofPontius Pilate" The Historical Jesus in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine et al. Princeton Univ Press ( Princeton University is a liberal College, which means that Historians and scholars are very critical of the Bible).


Although there isn’t a whole lot of archaeological evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, we do have enough to get by.

Shroud of Turin- Burial Cloth that dates from 300 B.C. to 400 A.D. Has the appearance of a man crucified the exact same way Jesus was. Confirmed by Scientific Testing.[4]







Thanks once again to my opponent for the opportunity to debate.

Nobody can prove or disprove the existence of Jesus or any other historical figure in the ancient world. There 2.1 billion believers of not only Jesus of Nazareth"s existence but of his divinity, additionally another 1.5 billion Muslim view Jesus as a prophet. The majority of historians view Jesus as a figure who had a great impact in the world without having to verify the miracles. I'll have and uphill battle justify that there's not enough evidence to prove Jesus of Nazareth existed. Let"s begin.

There are 3 possibilities:

A. Jesus existed
A1. Jesus was divine.
A2. Jesus was an ordinary man.

B. Jesus did not exist
B1. He is mythological.
B2. He existed but not as described. (eg. there might be a Jesus like figure in the past)

I"m here to argue for possibility B. If we find a "body of Christ" from around 30 ad then this is evidence for Possibility A2 but not A1. No body is a possibility for all of them but evidence for him existing can only prove A. Lack of evidence is not proof against necessarily. All Pro has to do is prove that Jesus was alive the same way we would accept say Julius Caesar and my arguments are defeated.

There is not 1 date about Jesus that is not debatable.

1. Nobody has a reliable date for Jesus" birth, (Dec. 25th year 1 wasn"t it BTW)
2. His date of death is also unknown.
3. The Gospels have ranges not dates.

We have nothing dating to during Jesus" life as a written source.

1. All the gospels written decades after death (none credited as written by eyewitnesses)
2. Paul never met Jesus. (Some claim his conversion story is propaganda)
3. Josephus never met Jesus. (His works appears tampered with as well)
4. The Gospels are of unknown origin and all written decades after his death.
5. No historian that was an eyewitness has ever surfaced. Every source is 2nd hand post death info.

So we should not expect any contemporary records for a historical figure with a high profile for the following reason.

1. All records are lost.
2. He existed and was not well known until after his death.
3. He did not exist.

Which one applies to Jesus?

According to most accounts Jesus, if he existed, would have grown up in the town of Nazareth around year 1 AD and later. Nobody has been able to find an exact date to when he was born and anything known is deciphered through the Gospels adopted in to the New Testament. There are 2 references that narrow the search.

1st they mention Herod the Great (73/74 BCE " 4 BCE) and was mentioned by Matthew 2:1-23. (source:

In this version of his birth, Jesus was apparently known by some foreigners perhaps from as far away as Iran. However, no accounts are known of how many wise man there were or where they were from. There have been attempts to coincide Jesus' birth by using celestial records but no match has been found. There are no know records of Jesus' birth being expected except that Jews were foretold that a Messiah would come at some point in the future. Herod sees Jesus' birth as a threat and decides to kill him, when Jesus is taken to Egypt to escape Herod murders all males under 2 years old. There are no records of this happening. Herod did murder many members of the Jewish royal line including his own sons. "The first two, Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamme, were strangled in Sebaste (Samaria) in 7 BC and buried at the Alexandrium (Antiquities 16:392-394; LCL 8:365-367; Netzer 2001:68-70). The last, only five days before Herod"s own death, was Antipater who was buried without ceremony at Hyrcania (Antiquities 17:182-187; LCL 8:457-459; Netzer 2001:75; Gutfeld 2006:46-61)." (source:

2nd a census of the Jews being commissioned by Rome, ";

This account does not mention the wise men, the trip to Egypt, "slaughter of the innocents," not even Herod the great. They mention a census during the time of Caesar Augustus dated to about 6 BC but again, no records found. Also many shepherds were informed of Jesus' birth and came to worship. Mary and Joseph took Baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and headed back to Nazareth. We know nothing of Jesus' upbringing but a brief story of when he was 12. Has contradictory geneology (source:

We have 2 contradictory Bible passages and no historical or archaeologically verified accounts involving well known contemporaries.

There is a debate whether Nazareth existed around Jesus' childhood and only become prominent much after Jesus' death. Nazareth remained Jewish until much after Jesus' death. (source:

The Old Testament mention the Messiah will be a Nazarene which refers to a lifestyle choice not a description of background. It is likely Christian's tried to find an excuse to place Jesus in Jerusalem because he had to be born from the line of David and place him in the town of Nazareth because they mistook the meaning of Nazarene.

Other dates to consider:

* Jesus' ministry was preceded by John' the Baptist's ( 28"29 AD), So that places him either 37 or 27 when he began his ministries.

* The temple in John 2:13"20, which asserts that the temple in Jerusalem was in its 46th year of construction at the start of Jesus' ministry, together with Josephus' statement that the temple's reconstruction was started by Herod in the 18th year of his reign, to estimate a date around 27"29 AD again about 27-37.

* The date for the conversion of Paul (estimated to be 33"36 AD), Jesus would be about 30-43 at the time of death.

Nobody has ever located his tomb. (source:

Paul was not an eye witness to the event, Josephus either was not born or an infant when Jesus was alive, Tacitus was also not alive to see Jesus first hand. None of the Apostles were there to witness Jesus' birth or childhood.

He interacted with the most prominent historical people of the area but not one written thing we have ever dates back to Jesus' lifetime. There is not one letter that can be attribute to him, although presumably he was literate, and seems not to have made an attempt to record the Gospels in his lifetime. No known contemporary historical figure ever mentions him while they both were living or writes about him if they outlived him, or at least there are no known records of such. All we have is historian's recording information maintained by word of mouth or contradictory written accounts from followers, which themselves are recordings of accounts transmitted by word of mouth.

We don't have proof of the following:

* We don't know when he was born. (10 year range.)

* When he died. ( 10 year range with 6 years more likely.)

* Where he was buried. (2 likely locations but none verifiable or certain.)

* What house he grew up in.

* Whether he had sibling or not.

* Where anyone intimately tied to him is buried. (mom, dad, siblings or Mary of Magdalene.)

Any of which gives proof to possibility A.

If someone did not exist we should not expect evidence or undetermined claims. Jesus was at best a person that had very few followers, maybe just a dozen or so, and died. His followers grew his legend he became what we know him to be today.
Jesus is definitely the most worshiped human being in history we have on record. If he did exist his teachings never took much hold in the town he was born, the town he was raised, or the province he lived in. his legend grew mostly among people who never met him or met people who met him, far away from where he ever stepped foot and where he practiced his teachings. The people who were around either didn't notice or were never convinced. At best his followers left contradictory or flat out erroneous claims about him.

Possibility B

This is hard to prove that he doesn't exist because we should expect a lack of evidence for his existence. That could also mean that there is no evidence for other reasons. There is a possibility Hercules could have been a real man and did an amazing feat. Each generation heard a more fantastic and elaborate story of this legendary man. At some point somebody decided to write what they heard. He was the son of a God, he used his godly gifts to defeat evil and help his fellow man, he advocated for the weak. Heracles dies but his legend continues (in Hades). He is recorded as to influencing real events by a well respected historian (Herodotus 900 years after his death). So we can see how a completely fictional character can either be placed among a real time with real people or a real person can be mythologized beyond any real resemblance to an actual living person.

An empty tomb is as much evidence for a resurrected demigod as there is for a person who never was born and died. There is such vivid detail in what exactly happened when Jesus supposedly lived but nothing good enough to give him a date. Anything about him dates no earlier than 20 years after his death. By today's standards personal account is the weakest form of evidence and hearsay, second hand telling of information, is not admissible by court. Jesus apparently raised the dead and fed 5000 people miraculously but decided to do it before there were any newspapers. All we are going to here about Jesus from people who believe he existed is that he must have existed true on the account of a handful of follower alone. By that standards Heracles must have been one heck of a dude.
Debate Round No. 2


janetsanders733 forfeited this round.


abelsmack forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


janetsanders733 forfeited this round.


abelsmack forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


janetsanders733 forfeited this round.


abelsmack forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Leo.Messi 3 years ago
Jesus does exist, you have the BIBLE and other archeological sources to support Jesus of Nazareth's existence.
Posted by janetsanders733 4 years ago
I think we just kind of got behind, so were both just going to cancel. Maybe someday in the future we can do this again.
Posted by janetsanders733 4 years ago
The Shroud of Turin actually matches the exact method by which Jesus was whipped and Crucified. So it is more likely his than any other criminals. However, even if it were his, we wouldn't need the Shroud of Turin to confirm that he existed.
Posted by Romanii 4 years ago
By the way, is there a particular reason both Pro and Con abstained from participating in Round 5?
The debate was going really well, and I definitely want to see it finish out...
Posted by Romanii 4 years ago
I do believe that Jesus existed though. The Gospels aren't very historically accurate, but they are certainly reliable enough that the very figure whose life they were chronicling exists.
Posted by Romanii 4 years ago
Crucifixion was a very common method of execution in the Roman Empire. The Shroud of Turin could have been any common criminal's shroud.
Posted by Grandbudda 4 years ago
Jesus the man certainly existed because written records of the time say he did. Whether or not he was the son of god is another matter. But the man certainly did exist!
Posted by janetsanders733 4 years ago
@Magic8000 Hmmm. I don't think so. The first time Scientists rejected the Shroud in the 80's because of a faulty misreading. But then they confirmed it again after the second time. The Shroud shows the nails going through the wrists, but it looks like the hand because of how close it is toward the hand.

*Here is the picture of the Shroud up close.*
Posted by janetsanders733 4 years ago
@Magic8000 Hmmm. I don't think so. The first time Scientists rejected the Shroud in the 80's because of a faulty misreading. But then they confirmed it again after the second time. The Shroud shows the nails going through the wrists, but it looks like the hand because of how close it is toward the hand.

*Here is the picture of the Shroud up close.*
Posted by Magic8000 4 years ago
Isn't the Shroud of Turin pretty much rejected by historians? I remember it shows nails through the hands, which is impossible. They drove the nails through the wrists. If it was in the hands they would have slid right off the cross.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Romanii 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: I would have liked to see this debate finish out, but Pro proved that it is very likely for Jesus to have existed. Con mostly just pointed out missing information. Great debate while it lasted!