Historical Jesus Part 1: The Source Documents Are Forgeries


Onfray begins his critique of the historical Jesus by arguing that the documents that pronounce Jesus’ existence are forgeries. Onfray challenges, “Jesus’ existence has not been historically established.” [Onfray, In Defense of Atheism, 115.] Onfray further suggests, “Nothing of what remains can be trusted. The Christian archives are the result of ideological fabrication.” [Onfray, In Defense of Atheism, 117.] Even the historical documents of Flavius Josephus, Suetonius and Tacitus are, to Onfray, of questionable accuracy. Ultimately, Onfray charges that the winners throughout history have been guilty of manipulating historical records to suit their own needs.

It is important to note that the New Testament actually did not go through numerous revisions. In fact, many of the books of the New Testament were originally collected as letters that were sent to various Christian Churches. Revisions were not made to these letters over time. Archeological research and comparison of ancient documents has proven that the New Testament is extremely accurate when compared to fragments that date from the earliest sources. Thus, the Christian archives are not as unreliable as Onfray would have his reader believe.

As an example of the accuracy of the New Testament Gospels, consider the Dead Sea Scrolls [Ehrman, The New Testament – A Historical Introduction, 237-240.]. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain hundreds of documents that scholars estimate have been hidden away since the middle of the first century. These documents are over a thousand years older than the oldest copies of the Hebrew Scriptures that were previously available. Comparing these older documents showed that “for the most part, they did” [Ehrman, The New Testament – A Historical Introduction, 239.] match up with the newer documents that were previously available.

Similar comparisons have been done for the historical writing of Josephus, for the Gospels and for the rest of the canon as well. This means that there is little debate over the literal accuracy of the texts themselves. Thus, Onfray’s point about forged documents is really a red herring with no evidence to support his claim.

Next up: “Jesus as Fantasy

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