These Sources Don’t Prove Jesus Existed
Today we are going to go over 4 more sources that don’t prove that Jesus existed. Even worse, this guy uses the Talmud which talks about Jesus ben Stada who has a similar story to Jesus but is set more than 100 years prior to the Jesus of Christianity. He claims that Celsus is a historical reference to Jesus which is absurd. For one thing, he places Celsus in the first century when he actually was writing at the end of the second century. He also uses Mara bar Serapion who I have covered before. He can’t be used to prove Jesus existed because of when he wrote and what he said.
All in all, this guy claims to give us 9 sources for Jesus within a hundred years of his life but that isn’t what he gives us. he gives us a handful of second-century references to common Christian beliefs of the second century.
On Passover Eve they hung the corpse of Jesus the Nazarene after they killed him by way of stoning. And a crier went out before him for forty days, publicly proclaiming: Jesus the Nazarene is going out to be stoned because he practiced sorcery, incited people to idol worship, and led the Jewish people astray. Anyone who knows of a reason to acquit him should come forward and teach it on his behalf. And the court did not find a reason to acquit him, and so they stoned him and hung his corpse on Passover eve.
This is very odd to bring up because this particular reference is very ambiguous in it’s time frame and doesn’t paint a picture of anything that we would identify as Jesus. There are many points that don’t line up with the Jesus of Paul and the Gospels. He was executed for sorcery and not blasphemy. He was executed by the Jews and not Romans. He was stoned then crucified not just crucified. He was executed in Lyddah not Jerusalem.
The passage goes on to say that this Yeshua was connected with the government and had 5 disciples all of whom were put to death immediately. This entire narrative is contrary to what we are looking for in a historical Jesus Christ.
In Sanhedrin 107b, it references this Jesus of Nazareth living in 104-78 BC under King Jannaeus. This Jesus of Nazareth is concretely identified as Jesus ben Stada and Jesus ben Pantera in reliable versions of the Babylonian talmud. This is important because “ben Stada” means “Son of the Unfaithful.” The unfaithful being Mary. This stems from a rumour that Origen replies to in Contra Celsus where it’s proposed that Mary cheated on Joseph with a Roman soldier.
So the best we can say is that the Talmud completely contradicts the narrative of Paul and the Gospels and even places Jesus in 100BC. So nothing about this Jesus ben Stada matches up with the supposed historical Jesus we are looking for.
Jesus on account of his poverty was hired out to go to Egypt while there he acquired certain magical powers he returned home highly elated at possessing these powers and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god it was by these means of sorcery that he was able to accomplish the wonders which he performed let us believe that these cures or the resurrection or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves these are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers is by the names of certain demons and by his use of incantations that the Christians appear to be possessed of miraculous power.
Celsus, 175 AD
Now, we don’t have Celsus’ work. We have references to his work. Origen wrote an extensive response to celsus about 70 years after he published. This fact plays a significant part in the Josephus source as well because Origen was defending his religion here. Why wouldn’t Origen reference either passage from Josephus in his response to Celsus.
The best we can figure Celsus wrote around 175 CE. He shows signs of having at least read Matthew, Luke, and 1 Corinthians. As well as writings and personal contact with other Christians themselves.
Philosophical, not Historical
Mainly Celsus has a philosophical case against Christianity and not a Historical one. Since he’s neither independent nor providing historical quotations from any primary evidence, we can’t use Celsus as a historical reference to Jesus Christ.
Mara Bar Serapion
I have covered Mara bar Serapion before on both my channel and this blog. If you want a more indepth look at this source, check out that video / post.
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting socrates to death famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime one advantage of 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 after that that their kingdom was abolished God justly avenged these three wise men the Athenians died of hunger 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 didn’t die for good he lived on in the teachings of Plato Pythagoras didn’t 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’d given
Mara Bar Serapion, mid-second century AD
Dating Mara bar Serapion
Scholars have dated this letter as early as 73 AD and as late as the 3rd century but it was most likely written in the second century based on some of the issues he described having with the Romans and it fitting in with situations at that time. That places this text being written at best 40 years and at the worst 200 years after the events it supposedly describes.
Given that it’s mid-second century, he most likely got his information from common christian theology. There are several reasons to think this. For one, he links the destruction of the Jewish temple to the death of a “Wise King.” And two, he blames the Jews for Jesus’s wrongful death which he would only know from the Gospels.
So no this isn’t a historical reference to Jesus but a regurgitation of commonly held Christian beliefs.
Josephus on Jesus
There is a lot of argument around Josephus. I will be covering this particular source in more detail in another post. If you want more information, I suggest you look at that post.
In a nutshell, Josephus cannot be used as a historical account for a Jesus Christ existing. The first passage normally quoted is the Testamonium Flavianum. The only real debate on this reference is how much it is interoplated. Some say it is only partially interpolated and the correct answer is that it was completely inserted. Nothing about the reference suggests that Josephus actually wrote it. The verb usage is wrong, the general structure is not Josephan, and it can be completely ripped out with no effect on the surrounding passages.
The second reference is about James, Jesus’ supposed brother. Some say this particular reference is an actual reference to a Jesus Christ but I am convinced that it is interpolated. The section “who was called Christ” reads like a scribal note. Originally there was probably some reference to Damneus here. If the Testamonium Flavianum existed, we should expect to see a reference back to it in this section. If the Testamonium Flavianum wasn’t there, then we should expect an explanation of what a Christ was since Josephus was writing for a Gentile audience.
Nothing about either of these passages seems to indicate that Josephus wrote them.