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David Fitzgerald published a book called Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All in 2010. Are there any published refutations or rebuttals to this work?

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    Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange. You may want to read our Tour guide and the section on asking questions. Part of it says: "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do." Do you expect us to read the entire book and then respond to those supposed Ten Christian Myths in order to find a source that refutes all of them?
    – Lesley
    Aug 15, 2023 at 12:00
  • @Lesley I find Fitzgerald's arguments convincing and I am unable to refute them. I am just looking for a source that refutes his work so that I can read it. Aug 16, 2023 at 1:43
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    @user1010110 please see our comment policy long strings of comments are most certainly a violation of it.
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 18, 2023 at 12:52
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    The very title of the book " ....Never existed AT All " betrays its lack of confidence in itself. It is in a hurry to convince the Christians as well as the Non- Christians , irrespective of whether they see Jesus as Son of God, that he is a myth. That zeal itself is the proof that he exists. Which sensible person goes around proving that such and such things don't exist, say twin- suns and moons ? In fact, the spirit of Science stands for proving the existence of something that does exist, and in letting alone what does not exist. Aug 22, 2023 at 14:18

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Fitzgerald's arguments are not academically accepted, even by fellow atheists :

Fitzgerald also charges that there is no physical archaeological evidence for Jesus. But this is unproblematic because we lack any physical archaeological evidence for most people who have existed in human history and who we know to be historical figures. Moreover, this is what we would expect with the historical Jesus who was an itinerant preacher from rural backwater that hardly anyone knew about. This challenge is further diminished in light of the surplus of textual sources we have for the historical Jesus that alone establishes his existence.

A Critical Evaluation of David Fitzgerald’s Jesus Mythicism Hypothesis

David Fitzgerald is an atheist activist and Jesus mythicist who gives public lectures primarily to secularist organizations and conventions. He authored a book on the topic of Jesus mythicism called NAILED: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All (2010). In this entry, we look at several responses to this book provided by atheist writer and critic of Jesus mythicism Tim O’Neill (1)

A Critical Evaluation of David Fitzgerald’s Jesus Mythicism Hypothesis

The Critical Evaluation demonstrates the weakness - in terms of academic, historical analysis - of Fitzgerald's arguments.

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  • @user1010110 Comments should comment upon the answer, not enlarge upon the question. Perhaps you should be answering your own question since you now seem very much in favour of the un-christian and atheistic book you have advertised.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 10:48
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    @user1010110 a question like "are there any rebuttals" is simply a yes or no question, Nigel brought some links that are a refutation, it is immaterial to the question you asked whether the rebuttals are good or not
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 18, 2023 at 12:50
  • I'm not sure why you deleted my comments. My point was that the link here is very sloppy, even originally spelling the author's name they frequently quoted wrong, and I am looking for a published rebuttal. Aug 19, 2023 at 2:40
  • @NigelJ I don't reject this. I expressed concerns with it it my comments that were deleted such as the fact that the author at times disagrees with all basically all scholarship with no supporting reasoning, and unlike Fitzgerald argues on the assumption that certain passages in the Bible are not historical. Aug 19, 2023 at 15:19
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I'm not going to answer the Question, per se. Instead, I'm going to go a step beyond Ray's Answer and respond to some of the absurd allegations being made by the OP in comments. As these are theoretically related to the claims made in the aforementioned book, hopefully these responses can serve at least in part as the refutation thereof that the OP is seeking.

Before beginning, I'm going to point out something that should be obvious: sources such as the book in question, and even Wikipedia, are extremely biased and should not be trusted on their own. Make no mistake; the authors behind the claims you'll find in such sources absolutely have an anti-Christian agenda.

Jesus never existed at all

To start with, this cannot be proven. At best, one could argue that the evidence is insufficient to be persuasive, but it would be extremely difficult to prove that no "Jesus of Nazareth" exists... in 15 AD. Trying to do so in 20xx AD is futile to the point of absurdity. That the author purports to do so is a glaring indication of the author's (lack of) integrity; something to keep in mind when considering his claims...

... the fact that no writer of any part of the New Testament could possibly claim to have known Jesus

There is no such "fact", because this assertion is categorically wrong. The pessimistic dates for the Gospels' authorship are between (roughly) 70 AD and 110 AD. If one of Jesus' disciples were 15 years old (a bit of a stretch but not impossible in the culture of the day), he would be only 55 years old in 70 AD. Even assuming a more reasonable age during Jesus' ministry, the Gospels are likely being written when the disciples are about 80-90 years old; advanced in age, certainly, but still easily possible that eyewitnesses are still alive. (Keep in mind that the historically low life expectancy is substantially skewed by early mortality.) Therefore, this claim, as stated, is absolute garbage.

This, however, ignores the strong possibility that one or more of the Gospels may have existed as early as 40 AD. (Keep in mind, also, that the date of authorship and the date of the earliest known manuscripts are not the same thing!) It also ignores that other pre-100 AD manuscripts, were already citing the Gospels, which utterly falsifies the claim that authorship may date as late as 110 AD, as well as internal evidence that makes it unlikely any Gospels were written after approximately 70 AD.

Further, of course, this ignores that the Gospel of John intrinsically claims (John 21:24) to have been written by an eyewitness, or any of the evidences that exist to the effect that it was, indeed, written by the disciple John.

I've seen quite a few more claims along similar lines (e.g. "the Gospels were written anonymously") that are, at best half truths, and as noted above, almost always come from heavily biased sources.

Another is that we have no contemporary accounts of Jesus whatsoever: no writings or dictations by Jesus or His disciples, no records of sermons or ministry, no historical account from anyone

Well, this is patently absurd. But, fine, let's look at some evidence we have that isn't from Christian sources:

  • Josephus (37-101AD) briefly mentions Jesus. Given that Josephus was a Jew, the brevity of his account is strongly suggestive of how much immediate influence (or rather, lack thereof) Jesus had, which strongly suggests that we shouldn't expect much in the way of contemporary accounts, and that the fact we have any at all is in itself noteworthy.
  • Tacitus (56-120AD) doesn't mention the name "Jesus", but does clearly identify Christ, including specific details of His trial and crucifixion.
  • Suetonius (69-140AD) also identifies Christ as a historic person.

...and many sources agree that a group known as "Christians" arose as followers of a person knows as "Christ", many in a way which strongly implies the belief of the authors that they refer to a person that genuinely existed. While one could argue that these don't qualify as "contemporary accounts of Jesus" in that they don't clearly establish the existence of the man Jesus, I find this a rather suspect, if not outright disingenuous, argument.

Moreover, the question of the existence or lack thereof of "contemporary accounts of Jesus" completely ignores the extremely compelling evidence, in the form of the early Christian movement, that something or someone was clearly responsible for the same.

(Note also that this objection is very similar to this Question; additional information can be found in the Answers there.)

The Gospels and Josephus are not contemporary accounts

Okay, while this is technically true, it's also, as noted, an incredibly poor argument. Hardly anyone took note of Jesus until after His crucifixion, which means you've categorically excluded the time period in which people were most likely to create written records. This also ignores the incredible scarcity of records from that long ago; we actually have better evidence that Jesus existed than we have for many other historical figures of the early centuries AD. (How many "contemporary", by this definition, accounts of Spartacus exist?)

Additionally, in order to make this argument, one necessarily deems historians of that era to be incompetent.

No one writing in the New Testament claims to have met [Jesus]

We established earlier that this is blatantly false in at least the case of the Gospel of John. Anyone seriously promoting this argument is either severely ignorant, or dishonest.

Moreover, such a claim necessarily relies on a blatant double standard. Very little of accepted history has been recorded by direct eyewitnesses. Most of what we claim to know from around the BC/AD divide comes from second-hand testimony, which is, at worst, the same standard upheld by the Gospels.

And much of the New Testament was written long after the death of Jesus (40 to 100+ years, we are note sure)

The Gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus

We've established above that this is most likely incorrect, and therefore invalid.

Life expectancy was short in ancient times

Technically true, but if nine out of ten people die before the age of 10, and the tenth lives to be 210, life expectancy is 30. So how do you explain the person that lived two centuries?

As the famous quote goes, "there are [in order] lies, damned lies, and statistics", and this is a classic example of abusing statistics to tell a lie. Average life expectancy was "short". Actual life expectancy (of those that survived to adulthood) was a bit over 70 years based on secular sources... this number might be low. (Many Biblical Patriarchs lived for over a century.)


In summary, the claims being presented here are based on an incredibly biased — and often counter-factual — view of the evidence which blithely ignores anything and everything that doesn't support the desired conclusion. They make lovely talking points for people that have already made up their minds, but, as Nigel observes, they're hardly worth refuting, let alone believing.

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  • Excellent piece of work. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 17, 2023 at 9:25
  • It seems that Nigel J and I occasionally do agree. Aug 17, 2023 at 15:27
  • @user1010110 Please see the Tour and the Help as to the purpose and use of comments.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 10:51
  • It is messed up that you would delete my comments. I gave a well-reasoned, factual response to the answer posted here. Aug 19, 2023 at 2:44
  • @user1010110, comments are not for extended discussion. I'll grant that moving them to a chat room would probably have been better than nuking the comments entirely, but I wasn't the one that made that call. 🤷
    – Matthew
    Aug 19, 2023 at 4:14
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(I'd normally not post an answer to this kind of question, but since there already is an answer, and since I seem to have already been answering the question in the comments, …)

This book really doesn't need refuting. It was written for two kinds of people:

  • very gullible people that accept "facts" because the author sounds like he knows what he's talking about.
  • people that already believe the basic thesis and want to have their faith confirmed.

It is so badly written that most of it can be dismissed simply because its logical arguments are so poorly presented, and that's without even arguing about the claims themselves.

In the comments, the OP gave an example of a "convincing argument":

One is the fact that no writer of any part of the New Testament could possibly claim to have known Jesus.

But where did the established fact that John didn't write the Gospel of John, and Peter didn't write the Epistles of Peter, and so on come from?

The answer provides an excellent example of the style of reasoning used by the author (my emphasis):

It is a similar situation with the forger(s) of the apostle Peter’s letters. Though in both letters the author tries to pass himself off as the apostle Peter and an eyewitness to Jesus (1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16,18) you would never know from reading either of Peter’s supposed “letters” that he was a simple fisherman from the Galilee (both uneducated and illiterate, according to Acts 4:13) who really knew Jesus personally and spent time with him.

So, Peter's epistles are forgeries.
And we know this because Peter was "illiterate".
And we know this because of Acts 4:13.

But what does Acts 4:13 actually say:

King James Version:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

New Living Translation:
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

Somehow, the author thinks "no special training in the Scriptures" means "illiterate". And not only that, that "illiterate" means incapable of hiring a scribe to record what one dictates.

His entire argument is equivalent to saying that Stevie Wonder couldn't possibly have written the song "Superstition" because he was blind and therefore incapable of writing the score.

Even worse, the argument is not only weak and flawed, it actually shoots itself in the foot. The very scripture that is referenced (though not quoted, and most readers won't bother to look it up) says that the Jewish council "marvelled" and was "amazed" at Peter's ability to discuss scriptural matters, when only 5 verses earlier, Peter is "filled with the holy spirit". Is it so inconceivable that Peter might have been similarly assisted when writing his epistles?

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  • OP here, your quote from me is one of my "takeaways" from the book, not a "convincing argument". Aug 17, 2023 at 3:13
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    @user1010110, I said "If you give an explicit quotation of the most convincing argument, I expect many people will be willing to refute it." and that was your response. If you have a better example of "the most convincing argument" in the book, I'll change this answer accordingly. Aug 17, 2023 at 3:21
  • There are many reasons besides fluency in Greek that there is a near consensus that the gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Literacy rates were very low in the ancient world, perhaps 10%. It is very unlikely that fisherman from Galilee would have known to write, but if they did, it would have been Aramaic. It is extremely unlikely that they would have been well versed in academic Greek on the level the gospels were written, or able to dictate in it. Aug 18, 2023 at 0:42
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    @user1010110 1. Greek was the lingua franca of the entire Medditeranean basin at the time. The apostles, Jesus himself, the Jewish nation - all were bilingual. 2 A 'near consensus' - among whom ? ? ! ? I can gather a 'consensus' of any kind at any time if I pick my consenters carefully. 3. 'Literacy rates' - ? ! ? The Jewish nation were extremely literate. Their whole heritage and national foundation was built on 39 books of scripture. 4. I really think you need to check your facts.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 19:11
  • @NigelJ A near consensus among unbiased scholars that study this material for a living. I don't think this point is controversial. There are Bibles that state this outright. Aug 19, 2023 at 2:34

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