One thing Christian apologists love to claim as evidence for Jesus is that there were at least 40 authors who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life:
9 traditional authors of the N.T.:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, author of Hebrews, James, Peter, Jude
20 early Christian writers outside the N.T.:
Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepard of Hermes, fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Dhognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistula Apostolorum
4 heretical writings:
Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, treatise on resurrection
9 secular sources:
Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Phlegon, Lucian, Celsus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Suetonius, Thallus.
It's not always just what devotees say that is wrong it can often be what they don't say. For example, not a single one of the "42 authors
" ever met Jesus while he was alive. The four canonical Gospel writers were all anonymous until the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added as authors late in the 2nd century. There is no contemporary eyewitness testimony for Jesus at all whatsoever. Nobody ever wrote about Jesus during his lifetime and the canonical gospels didn't exist as we have them today until around 180CE - that is what the literary and historical records show i.e. evidence that actually exists.
Even top Christian NT scholars disagree that there's credible evidence for the historical existence of Jesus:
"One would naturally expect that the Lord Jesus Christ would be sufficiently important to receive ample notice in the literature of his time, and that extensive biographical material would be available. He was observed by multitudes of people, and his own followers numbered into the hundreds (1 Cor. 15:6), whose witness was still living in the middle of the first century. As a matter of fact, the amount of information concerning him is comparatively meager. Aside from the four Gospels, and a few scattered allusions in the epistles, contemporary history is almost silent concerning him."
- Merrill C. Tenney
- Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ
* Dr. Tenney is a conservative evangelical Christian who was a professor of Theological Studies and the dean of the school of Theology at Wheaton College. Tenney was also one of the original translators of the NASB and NIV editions of the Bible.
"Apart from the New Testament writings and later writings dependent upon these, our sources of information about the life and teaching of Jesus are scanty and problematic"
- F.F. Bruce, a founder of the modern evangelical movement
- "Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ" (WWJ) page 84
"...there are very few sources for knowledge of the historical Jesus beyond the four canonical Gospels. Paul and Josephus offer little more than tidbits. Claims that later apocryphal Gospels and the Nag Hammadi material supply independent and reliable historical information about Jesus are largely fantasy. In the end, the historian is left with the difficult task of sifting through the Four Gospels for historical tradition."
- John P. Meier
- "Who Was Jesus?" page 86
* Dr. Meier is a Catholic University New Testament professor, Catholic priest and monsignor
"The gospels are in fact anonymous"
- Dr. Craig L. Blomberg
- WWJ (60)
"The Gospels are neither histories nor biographies, even within the ancient tolerances for those genres."
- Dr. John Dominic Crossan
- WWJ (24)
Jesus famed far and wide:
"These "great crowds" and "multitudes," along with Jesus's fame, are repeatedly referred to in the gospels, including at the following: Mt 4:23-25, 5:1, 8:1, 8:18, 9:8, 9:31, 9:33, 9:36, 11:7, 12:15, 13:2, 14:1, 14:13, 14:22, 15:30, 19:2, 21:9, 26:55;
Mk 1:28, 10:1; Lk 4:14, 4:37, 5:15, 14:25, etc."
- Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ" by D. M. Murdock page 85
"Additionally, even though many times in the gospels Jesus was claimed to have been famed far and wide, not one historian of the era was aware of his existence, not even individuals who lived in, traveled around, or wrote about the relevant areas. The brief mentions of Christ, Christians or Christianity we possess from non-Christian sources are late and dubious as to their authenticity and/or value. Nor is there any valid scientific archaeological evidence demonstrating the gospel story to be true or even to support the existence of Jesus Christ. Despite this utter lack of evidence, Christian apologists and authorities make erroneous and misleading claims that there are "considerable reports" and "a surprisingly large amount of detail" regarding the life of Jesus and early Christianity."
- WWJ page 257
The one constant theme is, there's no credible evidence for a historical Jesus, same as there was no valid evidence amongst the 1st Xians either. The earliest Christians never had any evidence they could point to in order to demonstrate Jesus actually existed. If Jesus was really a carpenter, there was no work done by his hands. There were no paintings, rock carvings, writings - nothing by him at all. And, there's no evidence that the earliest Christians ever tried to claim anything by him ever existed. And what about Jesus' own family? Isn't it odd that nobody ever went to them for an interview of any kind? Where's Jesus' supposed family today? If they were real people i.e. Joseph, Mary and Jesus' siblings etc. don't you think Constantine and his mother would've sought them out? NOPE, nothing, notta, zippo, ZERO! There's never been anything beyond 'anecdotal evidence' or evidence based on hearsay.
So, it appears that in 2,000 years nothing has changed. Which is significant considering all the research, investigations and all the money / funding spent on them. So, it's really bad form for NT & biblical scholars to rigidly adhere to the a priori assumption that Jesus must have existed when there's no valid evidence substantiating that claim.The Jesus ChallengeThe Nazareth / Bethlehem DebateThe Gospel Dates: A 2nd Century Composition?Religion and the Ph.D.: A Brief HistoryWhy I Am a Mythicist
Below are responses to a few Christian apologists:Dr. Chris Forbes on Zeitgeist part 1, DEBUNKEDDid Jesus Really Exist? By Paul Maier, DEBUNKEDChallenging the Zeitgeist Movie by Dr. Mark Foreman, DEBUNKEDIs Jesus a Myth? by S. Michael Houdmann, DEBUNKEDDr. John Oakes, DEBUNKED