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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Did Jesus Exist?

A question that Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is often asked by his students is "Did Jesus Exist?" This may seem like an odd question to many, but there is a contingent of scholars (mythologists) who argue that he didn't. They point out that Jesus was never mentioned in any Roman sources and that there is no archeological evidence that he ever existed. Moreover, they argue that the Gospels can't be relied upon because they were written by individuals who lived several decades after Jesus is alleged to have lived. They also note that stories about gods who die and rise again were hardly unique to the ancient world. Many pagans believed in gods who did just that, so these mythologists contend that the early Christians simply made up the stories about Jesus and modeled them after stories about resurrected pagan gods.

Ehrman, a former evangelical who nows considers himself (at best) an agnostic, decided to take up this question, and that is the subject of his new book, "Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth." Ehrman's conclusion is that, yes, Jesus did exist, and he marshals historical evidence on behalf of this conclusion. Ehrman was recently interviewed on National Public Radio about his new book, and the audio recording and transcript of the interview can be found here: "'Did Jesus Exist?' A Historian Makes His Case." It's interesting and worth your time if you're interested in the subject.

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