Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Somewhat related to this question:

Is there any record of when people started to give the idea that Jesus never existed? Is this a 19th - 21th century phenomena, or did it arise earlier?

I frequently meet people that say Jesus never existed and at best they pull forth Josephus as an argument to back up their standpoint. A lot of people also argue that Jesus was a common name and it was likely a collection of fantasy stories and myths about a lot of people of the time, etc., etc.

So, again, I'm not after contemporary or other sources mentioning Jesus, but wondered when the denial of Jesus as a historical person came about. Is there for example a specific historical person, work or society that is seen as a milestone for this etc?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The 'Christ myth theory' Wikipedia page actually provides quite an in-depth exposition on the development of the concept Jesus wasn't a historical person:

The beginnings of the formal denial of the existence of Jesus can be traced to late 18th century France, and the works of Constantin François Chassebœuf de Volney (1757–1820) and Charles-François Dupuis (1742–1809). Volney and Dupuis argued that Christianity was an amalgamation of various ancient mythologies and that Jesus was a totally mythical character.

Later still...

In 1835, German theologian David Friedrich Strauß (1808–1874) published his extremely controversial The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (Das Leben Jesu). While not denying that Jesus existed, he did argue that the miracles in the New Testament were mythical retellings of normal events as supernatural happenings.


German Bruno Bauer (1809–1882), who taught at the University of Bonn, took Strauss' arguments further and became the first author to systematically argue that Jesus did not exist.

A key component of the theory is the supposition that the new testament texts are utterly useless in providing any accurate historical data regarding 'the person of Jesus of Nazareth'.

However, most scholars today, even those with a critical view of the new testament, agree that Jesus certainly existed and made some manner of impact on the religious-political scene of first-century Judea. His crucifixion during the governorship of Pilate is a historical fact taken for granted, and his baptism by John is usually admitted even by those who criticize the reliability of the new testament in its depiction of historical events.

share|improve this answer
Great. Was not aware of that name or page. It is surely a topic where a lot of people have a meaning. –  user129107 May 15 '14 at 23:32
Lovely answer. Straight and to the point and taught me something. Thank you. –  gideon marx May 17 '14 at 9:55

People started to deny that Jesus was a historical person as early as the writing of 1 John which is approximated to 90-120 AD.

1 John 4:3 NKJV

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.


An early Roman who documented things for Rome:


Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit: Life of Claudius 25.4; discussed by C. Adrian Thomas, A Case for Mixed-Audience With Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews, Peter Lang Pub, 2008, p 116.

Also in the Septuagint considered extra biblical to some denominations, also explains a version of Daniel 9:25-27 a prophecy was given to prove to the Jews about Jesus.

Source: http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Daniel/index.htm

Now This source (http://www.baseinstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53&Itemid=67) points out how in the Book of Acts a ship wreck occurred. Helping to prove the Case for Paul. Paul also journeyed to Jerusalem and talked directly to people that touched and saw and heard Jesus. Yet the Anchor is extra biblical.

Also the Roman Emperors of that time believed themselves to be God. So logically it would have taken a powerful demonstration to convince an Emperor that he wasn't. Constantine being an Emperor and choosing Christianity has a certain validity to it as well.

Also I am in need for documentation concerning the Ancient Iranian Religion called Zoroastrianism that at one time was placed in charge of the Prophet Daniel. For within their teachings (I assume here) they decided to follow a star and give gifts to baby Jesus (As recorded in Matthew).

A researcher did extensive study on the Star of Bethlehem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzWi0tWKoxo) He stayed strict to the biblical account and for the star charts to correctly define the historical Star of Bethlehem he explains that their was 9 determining factors that all needed to be in agreement to conclude his findings as correct.

share|improve this answer
Sorry, this answer starts OK but then seems to wander into something that doesn't seem to be answering the question, and is not very easy to understand I'm afraid. And I think that you are misunderstanding the verse you cite: the part you put in bold is talking about the spirit of antichrist, not Jesus. And also, in this context, I'm fairly certain that confessing that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" was not about the historical person, but his identity as the promised Messiah. –  Benjol May 16 '14 at 13:01
I have never heard that interpretation of the cited verse. I have always heard it as the denial of Jesus as son of God, not the denial of Jesus as a historical person. More explicitly "confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh". This is one of the attributes of the spirit of anti-Christ, whom we both see as a spirit and (for most?) a person to come. But also false teachers can have the spirit of anti-Christ, where denial of Jesus, not necessarily as a person; but the son of God is one of the traits. Now that spirit is already in the world. Guess it could be good -> –  user129107 May 16 '14 at 15:27
... as a separate question. You have interesting links and material, but it is off mark when it comes to the question at hand. I appreciate sources and material on extra biblical sources regarding the existence of Jesus as a historical person; but believe this has already been asked and answered in separate question(s). –  user129107 May 16 '14 at 15:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.