Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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1. Did Jesus exist?

Would it not be strange if the single most influential person in the history of the world never existed? Yet there are people who affirm that Jesus never lived, that there is no evidence to the contrary, and that any historical reference to Jesus can’t be trusted.

Earl Doherty defines “Jesus mythicism” as “the theory that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition.”  New Testament scholar I. Howard Marshall refers to a Russian encyclopedia written during the days of Communism that reserves one sentence for Jesus containing this phrase: “the mythological founder of Christianity.”  All you have to do is google “Jesus never existed” or read the Wikipedia article on the “Christ Myth Theory” to see many more examples.

It’s amazing that this idea is repeated over and over again, despite clear, factual evidence to the contrary.

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Discussion questions

  1. Why do you think some people dispute Christ’s existence?
  2. Is it true that there is no historical mention of Jesus outside of the Bible? What would you say if someone made this claim?
  3. In what ways are the reliability of the Bible and Jesus’ existence tied together? Can you explain the rise of Christianity without an historical Jesus?
  4. What is oral tradition? What are some of the ways in which the telephone game is not like oral tradition? What are some personal examples of accurate memorization when something is at stake?
  5. Do you think that Paul’s writings give us assurance that Jesus existed? Couldn’t he have simply been writing about a group of ethical concerns?
  6. What first convinced you of Jesus’ existence? How has the information in this chapter reinforced that belief?