Jesus Christ

Historical Jesus

Main Article: Existence of Jesus

Today, there exists no historical documentation for Jesus’ life beyond the Biblical Gospel, Acts and the epistles, and it is likely that these accounts were not written by eyewitnesses. This lack of evidence makes it very difficult to discern actual historical facts behind the Christian stories that describe him. This, however, has not stopped scholars from defending the existence of a historical Jesus, as well as specific views of who Jesus was.

There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. [2]

— Bart Ehrman
“Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. [2]
“So this is the state of the Gospels: Four contradictory, convoluted and reworked writings set down decades after the supposed events by unknown author or authors falsely being passed off as eyewitnesses[3]

Some atheists consider discussion of a historical Jesus to be a red herring and argue that, while a person named Jesus may or may not have existed, there is clearly no reason to believe that he had special powers, was the son of God, or performed miracles. Even if it could be firmly established that Jesus, the man, existed, this would not be evidence for the extraordinary claims that make up the foundation of the Christian religion.

“Jesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (YES HE WAS Matthew 6:5 Bible-icon.png), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didn’t mention abortion, didn’t mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor ‘lazy’, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (that’s in revelations), homeless, middle eastern Jew?[4]

We don’t know the exact dates for most biographical events from the life of Jesus, unlike many other events in ancient history.[3] We also don’t know many of the locations in the narrative, some of which are only mentioned in the Gospels.[3]

Mythic Jesus

Main Article: Mythicism

A few well-publicized writers have argued that Jesus probably never existed. Although, these scholars are in a minority amid Biblical scholarship circles. Examples include G. A. Wells and Earl Doherty. A major argument against the historicity of Jesus is that Paul’s letters seem to show no awareness of such an individual (see Hebrews 8:4 Bible-icon.png). This is disputed by other scholars, however, who argue that Paul’s letters contain clear references to a historical Jesus.



Jesus and the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes

Main Article: Argument from scriptural miracles

There is almost no evidence for the miracles of Jesus outside the hearsay reports of the Gospels. For this reason, there is no basis for accepting that he worked actual miracles. On the other hand, faith healings and exorcisms happen today, though investigations show there is no reason to regard them as actual supernatural events. This suggests a possibility that Jesus was a fraudulent or self-deceived wonder worker and there were witnesses who really believed they had seen him work miracles.

Unlike Jesus’ other miracles, Paul mentions post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in I Corinthians. Unlike the Gospels, I Corinthians probably was written by its traditionally assigned author. However, the reference provides no better evidence for the resurrection than the evidence for angelical authentication of the Book of the Mormon. It is also not the sort of evidence that many psychical researchers would demand for the existence of ghosts or telepathy.

Jesus died for our sins

Main Article: Jesus died for your sins

Depiction of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in a 6th century illuminated manuscript

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

substitutionary atonement

Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins by human sacrifice as a form of replacement sacrifice Romans 4:25 Bible-icon.png. Sin is said to carry a penalty or punishment. Jesus took on that punishment for the sins of mankind on himself. Exactly how a replacement sacrifice is in any way just is difficult to explain.

Why did Jesus wait so long to arrive? If Jesus truly is the only path to salvation, then people lived and died for thousands of years with no chance to escape hell.

Resurrection and possible claim of divinity


For more information, see the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible article:

Who was God’s firstborn son?
Main Article: Christological argument

Perhaps the most fundamental belief of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. There are no reliable testimony of the resurrection.

Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews Mark 15:2 Bible-icon.png, Son of Man Mark 14:62 Bible-icon.png and son of God John 10:36 Bible-icon.png. However, Jesus not explicitly claim to be God or divine in the New Testament. Arguably, the clearest claim was John 8:58 Bible-icon.png saying “Before Abraham was, I am”. Even this could be interpreted as Jesus “merely” claiming to be superior to Abraham and his words only have a passing resemblance to “I am what I am” Exodus 3:14 Bible-icon.png which would imply divinity. [5] Apologists claim that Jesus often implied that he was God, particularly by allowing believers to worship him and his forgiveness of sins. [6] However, the outrage caused by Jesus may have been simply due to his claim that he was Son of God rather than actually being God. At the trial at Caiaphas’s house, Jesus was accused of claiming to be “son of God” not “God”. The sign put on the cross was “King of the Jews” not “God” John 19:19 Bible-icon.png. The lack of an explicit claim of Godhood by Jesus and the lack of accusations of this specific claim by his critics in most or all gospels is a rather striking omission. One theory is that the concept of the divinity of Jesus was added by later interpreters and authors. This manipulation of the New Testament may have occurred progressively and begin in the 1st century [7].

Even the epistles do not clearly address the issue but certainly begin to imply the divinity of Jesus. In a handful of cases, early Christians proclaiming Jesus is God and Jesus does not comment further on the matter John 20:28 Bible-icon.png Hebrews 1:8 Bible-icon.png, which is hardly a compelling or unequivocal message.

Apologists attempt to reconcile the lack of a divinity claim with their beliefs by pointing out that if Jesus was divine, he may have not known his own divinity or he only realised his divinity later in life. [8] It is unclear how Jesus could be unaware of being God, given that God is supposedly omniscient.

Jesus did not even claim to be the only son of God. This idea was added later and incorporated into the concept of the Trinity. The term “son of God” is mentioned in several other places in the Bible and refers to various holy people [9] Therefore, being a “son of God” (or claiming to be one) does not automatically imply being God.


Many Christian apologists have claimed that the high quality of Jesus’ moral teachings is undisputed and is evidence of his divinity. However, Jesus’ status as a moral teacher has been disputed on many occasions.

Good stuff

The teachings of Jesus on forgiveness, tolerance, charity, non-violence and anti-materialism are arguably more relevant than ever.

It should be noted that some secularists hold very positive views of Jesus’ ethics. For example, there is a website called Atheists for Jesus [10] whose stated mission is “to provide a method of communication between religious and nonreligious people who believe in the message of love and kindness put forth by Jesus”. It also argues that Jesus’ actual teachings were at odds with the stance of modern Christian fundamentalists.

In chapter 7 of his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins praised Jesus because:

“[he] was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures of his upbringing. […] Since a principle thesis of this chapter is that we do not, and should not, derive our morals from scripture, Jesus has to be honoured as a model for that very thesis.”

However, this is questionable since Jesus said he did not come to abolish Old Testament law. Matthew 5:18 Bible-icon.png


Jesus taught that evil should not be resisted, which is grossly negligent. Matthew 5:39 Bible-icon.png

Friedrich Nietzsche was critical of his teaching on weakness and victimhood being virtues, as Jesus taught in the Beatitudes. He also criticised Jesus for waging war against human instincts:

And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out

— Matthew 5:29 Bible-icon.png

In Why I Am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell argued that while many of Jesus’ teachings were good, the Gospels clearly portray him as believing in eternal punishment, and this is unbecoming of a truly humane person. Jesus taught that hell existed and people are sent there Luke 16:22-28 Bible-icon.png. This is eternal punishment after death for finite crimes. In contrast, the Old Testament refers to Sheol which does not imply eternal punishment.

Dawkins criticizes New Testament ethics on the issues of original sin and Jesus’ demand that people must abandon their families to follow him.

Jesus teaches to take no thought for the future (Matthew 6:25-34 Bible-icon.png Luke 12:22-31 Bible-icon.png), which is a very reckless attitude. He also taught that what is esteemed among men (strength, wisdom, etc.) is of little worth:

that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

— Luke 16:15 Bible-icon.png

Jesus also praised being child-like Matthew 19:14 Bible-icon.png. Many of these difficult teachings are ignored by Christians.

Oh, that some one would save them from their Saviour!

— Friedrich Nietzsche


Since Jesus focused a great deal on individual behaviour in the context of his time, he neglected to provide guidance on important issues of our age. He did not teach many of the principles that are now usually considered fundamental to modern life: [11]

  • He did not abolish slavery.
  • He did not explicitly support racial or gender equality.
  • Nothing on education, science policy, health care, child labour or employment.
  • Nothing on human rights, fair trials or free speech.
  • He seemed disinterested in politics, governmental systems, earthly justice systems, personal weapon ownership and macro-economics.
  • Nothing on toleration of homosexuality.
  • Very little on sexuality. Nothing on contraception.
  • No special knowledge on relativity, evolution, the big bang, atomic theory or even world geography.
  • No view on art and culture.
  • Very little advice on inter-personal relationships (beyond loving everyone) and child raising.
  • No guidance on alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • Next to nothing on medical ethics, abortion or stem cell research.
  • Nothing explicit on the Trinity.
  • Little on the organisation and operation of the institutional church. (It’s almost as if Jesus did not intend there to be any such institution!)

If the Bible was intended to be a useful guide to life, it is spectacularly deficient in many areas. We should have a higher expectation of a book that was supposedly divinely inspired. Christians often try to extrapolate from the teachings of Jesus to justify their views on contemporary issues but this is of questionable validity. In terms of guidance for the modern age, the epistles strangely have more to say than Jesus of the gospels, although they differ from Jesus in a number of areas.

Teachings compared to other thinkers

Richard Carrier has argued that the Roman Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus (born 20 AD–30 AD, died as late as 101 AD) was a better moral teacher than Jesus. [12] Among other things, Carrier cites Rufus’ belief in equality for slaves and his belief that “freedom of speech means not suppressing whatever one chances to think.”

Jesus only came for Jews

Jesus claimed he was only interested in reforming Judaism and therefore he was not interested in non-Jewish (gentile) believers, who he compared to “dogs”. Matthew 15:21-28 Bible-icon.png Matthew 10:5-6 Bible-icon.png

“it is clear that Jesus’ focus was on reforming Israel, not bringing his kingdom message to the rest of the world [13]

Based on this, Jesus was not interested in non-Jewish believers, which means the entirety of Christianity is based on a lie!

The contradictory idea that Jesus came for non-Jews was an invention in the later chapters, primarily Acts and the epistles 1 John 2:2 Bible-icon.png. The accounts of Jesus changing his mind after his resurrection to teach his message to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20 Bible-icon.png) were probably added to the story by the early Christian church to suit their agenda. Modern apologists claim that the later writings in the New Testament are valid and justify their belief that Jesus is relevant to gentiles and Christians. [14]

Imminent end of the world

Jesus believed the world would end within his lifetime, and is based on numerous passages within the Gospels, such as Mark 13 Bible-icon.png, where Jesus at least seems to express such a view. It makes sense within the context of the general apocalyptic fervor of the time, as well as the beliefs of John the baptist and early Christians such as Paul and the author of the book of Revelation. Its most famous proponent was Albert Schweitzer. Since the publication of Schweitzer’s book The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906, it has been embraced by a large number of Biblical scholars. Modern proponents include Dale Allison, Bart Ehrman, Gerd Ludemann, and E. P. Sanders.

The Jesus Seminar argued that there are passages in the Gospels where Jesus expressed the view that the Kingdom of Heaven was not something that was coming through radical future changes but existed at the time in a spiritual sense. An apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus may have been invented by later Christians.

I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: ‘Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.’ Then He says: ‘There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom’; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.

— Bertrand Russell[15]


According to the Bible, Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary. Many historians consider James the Just to be Jesus’s full or half brother. The Bible mentions other brothers and sisters but these may or may not have been referring to their status in the religious community.

“Matthew, Mark, Paul, Josephus, and Hegesippus all appear to say that James was a full brother, and most modern scholars have reached the same conclusion. [16]


“Jesus” is the anglicised version of the Latin Iesus, from the Greek Iesous, from the Hebrew Yeshua (which translates ‘salvation’), from which we get the modern westernised name Joshua (in Hebrew, Yehoshua, derived from same root as Yeshua; translates ‘YHWH is salvation’).

“Christ” is the anglicised version of the Greek word christos, which is a translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed”. Contrary to the popular opinion, Christ isn’t a reference to Jesus’ family or surname in the modern western tradition. Christ refers to the state of being “annointed” (a common reference to being a teacher or priest or some form of authority). Many Christian sects refer to him as Christ Jesus.

More precisely, he should be referred to as Jesus the Christ. As a person, he is normally referred to as Jesus of Nazareth.


Mary and Jesus, icon dated to around 600 C.E.

Jesus was the son of Mary (mother of Jesus), who according to the Bible was a virgin. Matthew 1:18-23 Bible-icon.png This was likely invented to fulfil the prophesy in Isaiah 7:14 Bible-icon.png.

Year of birth


For more information, see the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible article:

When was Jesus born?

Jesus was from Nazareth Luke 4:16 Bible-icon.png. However, prophecy required that Jesus should be associated with the royal house of David and Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem needed to be added to the myth. The Bible claims that Jesus’s parents travelled to Bethlehem as part of a mandatory Roman census that required men to return to the town of their birth (which is itself absurd). The Bible says Jesus was born in the reign of Herod the Great Matthew 2:1 Bible-icon.png, i.e. before Herod the Death’s death in 4 BC. The census was conducted in 6/7 CE when Quirinius was governor of Syria Luke 2:2 Bible-icon.png. Therefore the census could not have been the reason for Joseph to return to Bethlehem since it occurred 10 years after the birth of Jesus! A common apologetic response to the discrepancy is to suppose that perhaps Quirinius served as legate to Syria twice, thus allowing his earlier service to coincide with the life of Herod the Great. This is unlikely, however because:

  • Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was fighting some two provinces to the east from 12 BCE to 1 BC so he could not have effectively done a census during this time.
  • Publius Quinctilius Varus oversaw the area covered by Herod the Great’s kingdom from c. 8 BCE to 4 BCE as documented by Josephus.
  • In Antiquities chapter 17 verse 27 Josephus expressly stated as long as Herod the Great lived the province of Judea was exempt from Roman taxation. Ergo Luke’s taxation census must have occurred after Herod’s death while Matthew requires it to have happened before.

Based on these three facts there is no way to reconcile Luke and Matthew.

Time of year

Traditionally on December 25th, although the Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to celebrate Christmas for the reason that the gospels suggest that sheep were still out in the fields suggesting that it wasn’t the start of winter (among other reasons). In fact, the December 25 date was by Emperor decree to compete with the popular Sol Invictus worship and first appears on a Roman calendar in 334 CE. Before the decree there was much debate regarding when Jesus was born. Tertullian (c 160–220 CE) and Hippolytus (c 170-235 CE) said March 25; Clement (c 150-215 CE) said May 20, some were saying January 6 (the birthday of Osiris), and still others pointed to the Essenes whose couples had sex in December so their child would be born September (the holy month of Atonement).[17]

Jesus’ Race and Ancestry


For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Race and appearance of Jesus

For more information, see the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible article:

Was Joseph the father of Jesus?

A traditional but inaccurate depiction of Jesus in Leonado da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper”

Jesus, if he existed, would have been a dark/olive skinned Jewish Arab with short hair. According to the Bible, Jesus was descended from King David via Joseph (however, Joseph is not claimed to be Jesus’s biological father). The exact ancestry is debatable because the genealogies in the Bible are inconsistent.

The debate about the appearance of Jesus has continued for centuries. [18] Traditionally, white skinned people represent Jesus with Leonado da Vinci’s painting being typical in Western countries. He is often shown as white, long haired and blue eyed. However, other churches around the world depict him differently, such as having black skin in the early Ethiopian church.

“The first images of Jesus as an adult date back to the fourth century, showing him with short hair, a beard and “melanated” skin, [Franchesa] Ramsey said.[19]

Jesus was a white man too.

— Megyn Kelly [20]
“The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man.[21]

Islamic view

Jesus is mentioned many times in the Qur’an in which he is referred to by the name Isa. Islam affirms some of the conventional Christian beliefs, such his miracles and being the son of Mary, but denies he was anything other than a prophet or that he was crucified Surah 4:157 Bible-icon.png.

Apologists claim that Jesus was a prophet and taught a message that was supportive of Islam. This was allegedly distorted by the later Christian church.

“[Jesus] taught, for example, that only those who submitted would inherit paradise. [22]
“Jesus himself did what a sincere Muslim would have done. He submitted to the will of God. He, further, prophesied the corning of Prophet Muhammad.[23]

This is largely explained by Islamic apologists cherry picking parts of the Bible they accept and ignoring the parts they find objectionable.


According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified by the Romans. On the third day, he was resurrected and appeared to many people. He then ascended to heaven.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is killed on the day before Passover, rather than on the day of Passover according to the other Gospels.

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