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Did Jesus really exist?

Summary

Richard Burridge outlines the extra-biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

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Beyond Doubt: Evidence for Jesus’ Existence

Summary

Richard Burridge outlines the extra-biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

John Dickson chats to Reverend Professor Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College in London, about the extra-biblical evidence for the historical Jesus.

This is a short segment from a longer interview. To watch the full interview, click here.

Transcript

JOHN DICKSON: A question we like to put to New Testament specialists (especially ones with a real historical bent like you) is whether Jesus lived at all? Because there is a revival – maybe not amongst historians but amongst some sort of pop-theologians – to say “he never lived at all, we can’t have really any certainty about this”.

RICHARD BURRIDGE: I don’t think there’s any shred of doubt that any serious ancient historian or any serious academic-theologian believes that Jesus existed. These are pop-atheists, the New Atheists, that do come up with this idea that it’s a complete myth. In this period of the end of the first century the three key authors are Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus; all of them have references. In Tacitus’ Annals Book 15, or in Pliny’s letter, or in Suetonius’ Life of the Emperor Claudius – there are references to Jesus in those. It’s there in the writings of Josephus, although precisely how that is to be interpreted can be debated. The fact that all of these things are there is as clear as anybody else from the ancient world, and we have to compare the reliability with the reliability we deal with in the ancient world. The key issue is not Did Jesus exist? – he clearly did – and if he didn’t we would have needed somebody to explain why this movement gets going in the first place and changes the Roman world within a century; that’s a historical fact that requires explanation. And the only possible explanation looks like Jesus, walks like Jesus, talks like Jesus, and therefore probably is Jesus! The really important thing is What’s his significance? – and that’s what the gospels are trying to argue for. What kind of person is this, that the wind and the waves obey?