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Within Jesus's lifetime:

  • I expect that Jesus would have written or dictated thousands of documents, and insured their preservation.
  • I expect that Jesus's disciples would have written or dictated tens of thousands of documents.
  • I expect to find detailed eyewitness testimony of Jesus's ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection.
  • I expect to find independent attestation of the events in the gospels, such as the blackening of the Earth for 3 hours, from all over the world.
  • I expect thousands of depictions of Jesus: drawings, stone etchings, and busts.

Instead today we find none of these things. There is not a single piece of contemporary evidence for Jesus:

  • There is no archaeological evidence of Jesus.
  • There are no surviving writings about Jesus that date to his lifetime.
  • There are no drawings of Jesus from his lifetime.

Why is there no contemporary evidence for Jesus? I can think of possible explanations, but none are satisfactory:

  • This evidence at one point existed, but was destroyed or damaged.
  • There were no available raw materials.
  • Jesus wasn't noteworthy enough to merit documenting.
  • People believed the world would end soon and so there would be no point of documentation.

Update: this question was closed for being off-topic. Why?

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    There is no contemporary evidence for most of the population of the Roman Empire at that time, partly because nearly ALL the documentation has perished, unless it was buried in the sand, or carved into stone, or survived in the form of a succession of copies. The expectation of evidence of individuals is not historically realistic. Sep 4, 2023 at 19:54
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    Please take this as helpful advise, I suggest you reread the tour and review the Help Center's sections on asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Sep 4, 2023 at 20:54
  • @StephenDisraeli I agree that evidence of individuals is not historically realistic. The reason I am asking is because it is noteworthy that Jesus created the universe. In addition, Jesus's powers are especially noteworthy: they have enormous implications for the economy (multiplying food) and medicine (healing the sick), even by moderns standards. Sep 5, 2023 at 3:25
  • There's a KFC in Kampala, Uganda. I'll state with some confidence that that KFC has a cashier (probably more than one, but pick one). I'll also state with some confidence that less has been written about that person in his or her lifetime than has been written about, say, Putin. Do you, on that basis, deny that this person exists? Because that's the argument you're making against Jesus' existence.
    – Matthew
    Sep 5, 2023 at 4:47
  • Update: this question was closed for being off-topic. Why? Because it's off-topic, as judged by the community. See 'on topic and constructive examples' here -----> Link.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 5, 2023 at 6:45

1 Answer 1

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Why is there no contemporary evidence for Jesus?

This is, of course, patently false, as has been shown any number of times merely on this site (never mind other sources). For example, Why is there no pagan historical evidence written by authors who were alive during the life of Jesus? and Refutation of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All (David Fitzgerald). At any rate, I might call the claims in the Question "absurd"... if I was prone to making statements like "the surface of the sun is mildly warm". So, let's examine those:

I expect that Jesus would have written or dictated thousands of documents, and insured their preservation.

Almost no one today produces thousands of "documents" (unless your standard of "document" is a post-it that says "buy milk"), when the cost of doing so is negligible. A couple thousand years, paper was expensive, ink was expensive, and the time it took to write things down was non-trivial. A government might produce thousands of documents. Maybe someone whose job revolved around producing documents (i.e. someone working in government) might do so. No ordinary individual would, and plenty of people might not produce any written documents. Also, aside from government records, the likelihood of any such documents surviving is extremely low, especially if the media used for recording could be reused. (How many people preserve their grocery lists for posterity?)

I expect that Jesus's disciples would have written or dictated tens of thousands of documents.

Same problem. To be fair, if they understood why they might want to do so, we might expect a handful.

Oh, wait; we do have written accounts. In fact, we have about as many unique accounts, with more copies and better preserved of Jesus ministry than we have written documentation of anything else from that point in history. If one employs a reasonable metric of comparing sources that describe the events surrounding Christ with sources describing anything else from that time period, rather than inventing a completely unreasonable standard that isn't satisfied by anything, then the quality and quantity of evidence is actually remarkable.

I expect to find detailed eyewitness testimony of Jesus's ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection.

Well... by most reasonable standards, we have this. As just noted, we have better documentation of such than of just about anything else contemporary. If that isn't "good enough", then the standard being applied is completely unreasonable.

Oh, wait. You want these "within Jesus' lifetime"? Well, that's as unreasonable as you can possibly get. You might as well ask for a complete biography of George Washington written in 1000 AD; it would be no less logically contradictory.

Also, go back and re-read Why is there no pagan historical evidence written by authors who were alive during the life of Jesus? again.

I expect to find independent attestation of the events in the gospels, such as the blackening of the Earth for 3 hours, from all over the world. I expect thousands of depictions of Jesus: drawings, stone etchings, and busts.

Again, totally absurd. No one outside Israel knew about Jesus until after His death. You might as well insist on European depictions of a 25 AD Mayan leader.

As for the crucifixion darkness, the word used in the gospels doesn't necessarily imply that the darkness was worldwide. Ironically, the best evidences that it was are extra-Scriptural, which also means that the claim of there being "[no] independent attestation", at least to those specifics, is simply false.

There is no archaeological evidence of Jesus.

False. Since this has been covered before, I'm not going to rehash it.

There are no surviving writings about Jesus that date to his lifetime.

There are no surviving writings about many historical figures from that period within their own lifetimes, including ones who were much more notable while they were still alive than Jesus. Since the quantity, quality, and temporal proximity of postmortem writings about Jesus are superior to those of many figures who were more notable while still alive, the available evidence actually points strongly to Jesus a) existing, and b) being someone very significant in history.

There are no drawings of Jesus from his lifetime.

...So what? There are very few drawings of anyone from that time period. Exceptions are almost always significant government figures. Jesus wasn't in government, and wasn't very notable until after His death, so there would have been very little reason to produce such artifacts in the first place.

This evidence at one point existed, but was destroyed or damaged.

There were no available raw materials.

We've already established that the written evidence for Jesus is notably superior to that of many contemporary figures who would have been more notable during their lifetimes. To claim it is still insufficient is either to reject all history from that time period, or to employ a blatant double standard.

Jesus wasn't noteworthy enough to merit documenting.

Jesus wasn't noteworthy enough, during his lifetime, to merit the sort of wide-spread documentation being demanded. Almost no one outside of Israel would have even knew He existed, just as virtually no one at the time took note of a twenty-year-old homeless German in Vienna who worked as a day laborer and sold the occasional painting. Even when Jesus did miracles, those miracles were for Israel, whose people would have had little motivation to announce them to other nations.

People believed the world would end soon and so there would be no point of documentation

This is entirely reasonable, especially given that society relied far more on word-of-mouth than written records at the time. Our modern fetish for only believing things that are written down is a function of nearly-universal literacy (not a thing back then) and the incredibly low cost of producing written records. Back then, if a living witness is available, you wouldn't need a written testimony.

...and that still discounts that the Gospels may have been written within a few years of the Resurrection. Seeing as the authors probably wanted to track down witnesses in the process (and travel was a lot harder back then), it might well have taken quite a few years even if they started just after Pentecost. However, the idea that the apostles wouldn't have immediately realized the need to produce a written record is entirely plausible for the culture of the time.


Ultimately, the trend seen here (in this and similar Questions) seems to be looking for a reason — any reason, no matter how ludicrous — that can be used to reject Jesus... and if I were prone to the sort of understatement previously suggested, I might describe the quality of those attempts as "low".

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  • If you think my claims is false, can you provide an example? Thanks. Sep 5, 2023 at 3:18
  • Luke 23:44 says there was "darkness over all the earth" See also Mark 15:33 and Matthew 27:45 Sep 5, 2023 at 3:21
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    @user1010110, you keep asking questions that have already been answered. There's a limit to my willingness to rehash the same points over and over. Go back and read the linked content.
    – Matthew
    Sep 5, 2023 at 4:52
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    Up-voted, primarily for having the patience, good humour and goodwill to answer, logically and point by point, arguments that have, long since and often, been rejected as insubstantial and purely adversarial. I am sure you speak for many of us. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 5, 2023 at 7:44
  • A large number of non-examples does not contain an actual example Sep 9, 2023 at 17:25

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