In his essay “Why I am not a Christian, ” philosopher Bertrand Russell asserts, “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him.” (Russell, Bertrand. Why I am not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, 1957)
That is a bold statement from one of the most influential writers of the 20thC. But is his comment supportable? Is it accurate? The answer to both these questions is an emphatic ‘No!’
It is true that many people have raised questions about Jesus Christ, and some have doubted that what the Bible says about him is true. But very few would agree with Russell’s radical claim that Jesus never existed. Even the American revolutionary Thomas Paine (who held Christianity in utter contempt), did not question the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. The evidence presented in detail in the following essay should make it abundantly clear that the historical evidence for Jesus’ existence is very strong indeed.
Indeed, the words of F.F.Bruce, (Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the university of Manchester) homes in on the truth when he says: “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.” (Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable?, 1964)
How is it possible to be so sure that Jesus is a historical figure, and not a religious invention? There are 3 main areas that provide evidence. Christian Sources, secular authorities, and Jewish references to the life of Jesus – all of which put his historicity beyond reasonable doubt.