Many are familiar with the famous “Trilemma” of C.S. Lewis, that Jesus was a Lunatic, a Liar, or Lord. That is, Jesus was either crazy, a deceiver, or was actually telling the truth about His status as the Son of God.
Today, there is another argument Christians must defend against, making this a Quadrilemma: Jesus was a Lunatic, a Liar, the Lord he claimed to be, or a fourth option: a Legend. This is a growing opinion of popular unbelievers, and it’s one of the easiest arguments to make for its proponents because all they purport to be their “evidence” is “lack of evidence.” This position requires a severe lack of logic, one that we don’t apply to much in life. In any case, it’s being brought up once again.
Another “scholar” has published the opinion that Jesus never existed. Michael Paulkovick, historical researcher and author of No Meek Messiah, wrote an article claiming that out of the 126 texts written in the first to third centuries, there were no mentions of Jesus of Nazareth, except for the writing of Flavius Josephus. He indicates that Jesus was invented by followers of Christianity in order to create a figure to worship.
You should know that this is no popular opinion amongst scholars and historians. Now, consensus does not make a thing true, but in this case, it helps our argument. Even the most critical and antagonistic scholars of the ancient world and mythicism do not claim that Jesus was a myth. Virtually every scholar and historian upholds His existence.
No first through third century documents? The Talmud is not Christian and opposes Jesus to a degree. The Quran even mentions of Jesus and lays several references to His mother. The Quran even notes the virginal circumstances of Jesus’ conception.
Michael mentions that Josephus was the only historian he found who mentions Jesus, but why is that unsupportive? Josephus was a Jew, a military commander, and had no interest in progressing Christianity. He never mentions Jesus as the “Lord,” but does as “Christ” in his Antiquities of the Jews, so he separates himself from the religious texts of his day. He was by all means a contemporary historian of his time. The text reads:
About this time arose Jesus, a wise man, who did good deeds and whose virtues were recognized. And many Jews and people of other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. However, those who became his disciples preached his doctrine. They related that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Perhaps he was the Messiah in connection with whom the prophets foretold wonders. (Jewish Antiquities, 28)
Now, there has been some agreement amongst scholars that this reference was somewhat tampered with by Christians. These scholars also say that this is likely as close as possible to the original, and there is no evidence that the mention of Jesus is inauthentic. Josephus even chronicles the death of John the Baptist and the “brother” of Jesus, St. James.
As did several Christian apologists, Pliny of the second century, wrote to the Emperor Trajan about the Christians,
…it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god. (Pliny, 97)
Notice the secular writer affirming the Christian dogma of Christ as divine. There are others though: Tacitus, Celsus among them.
What’s also worthy of noting is the choice of arguing for something or someone’s non-existence purely by the mention or silence from contemporary writers. Do I even have to explain why that’s absurd? Similarly, Paulkovick, mentions that one of his greatest revelations was that Jesus never wrote of himself, and never wrote of any of the events in his life or his teachings.
What ancient figure wrote an autobiography? I suppose this man’s next venture will be to convince the historical community that Socrates never existed. Socrates didn’t write but is arguably amongst the most quoted figures in history, certainly in philosophy, but we don’t dismiss his existence because he never picked up a quill.
On other ancient sources, what makes the Gospels so irrelevant to ancient history? I won’t be repetitive, so I urge you to read the excellent article by Carl Olson at Catholic Answers on the topic. Aside from these, virtually every scholar acknowledges St. Paul as a historical figure – one of the earliest converts to the faith who actually walked among the Apostles. Not just Paul, there is also John, who passed his faith to Polycarp, who then passed this faith to Irenaeus and so on. We can observe a tradition of a historical Jesus ranging from the Apostles into the 3rd century with continuity. Those have been upheld as accurate reference for centuries, they shouldn’t be discounted as irrelevant now.
There are also the problems in the claim of Michael, that Christians invented Jesus to have a person to worship. First of all, the narrative Christians hold up is that the followers of Jesus got their name from their persecutors. How can a group of people be named after a person, and subsequently go on to create this person retroactively? In any case, Paulkovick’s doesn’t even follow the Biblical narrative. Followers of Christ mentioned their faith as “The Way” before they were given the name “Christian” at Antioch, which acted as an insult to injury in their persecution.
The thing that sticks out to me most is that these “scholars” who promote the Jesus Myth cannot produce evidence of their own in order to narrow down a time frame or instances that point to their own conclusion. There would surely be someone in the history of the world who wrote that Christians just made the whole thing up, right? Or even from within the Church, with the numerous apologists throughout the centuries, there would have been at least one who points to a heretical or apostate group of Christians. Right?
I also wonder, why these 126 documents? Over 1/3 of them aren’t even available to read because they didn’t survive or aren’t available in full manuscript. Anyone who takes a course on ancient literature knows that nearly all of it has been lost. This makes it a minor miracle that the Scriptures have even survived.
As I end, you should know that these claims from Michael Paulkovick are only available in his book, mentioned above, and a paid subscription to Secular Humanism’s e-journal, Free Inquiry. This guy is making money on his fraudulent and anti-Christian works. That’s nothing new for many authors (read any of Dawkins’ books), but so you now know, his “findings” serve him a different purpose to him than research and truth.
This is the next likely course of action for some non-believers. Once facts start working against people, they tend to bury their heads. For the clever, it can be a source of income. It seems that what we have here.