The purpose of this post is to expand the on-going debate from an older blog posting, in which many constructive ideas and explanations were bounced around as to the historical verisimilitude of the Jesus story.
Armchair theologians are fond of recalling nuggets of received opinion that stand as unqualified proof that the Jesus of the new testament was a living, breathing single individual who really did perform miracles and preside over a ministry as not only detailed in scripture, but in the narrative of ancient historians such as Josephus.
These third party sources are widely sighted as corroborative proof that Jesus and the Nazarene, as a distinct organised group violently opposed to Roman rule, to which Jesus belonged, were known to and written about by independently reliable sources of information vouchsafed by references made in their extended works to other figures from antiquity, such as various Roman Caesars.
To that end, commentary from Nick, in what I have to say is one of the most succinct explanations of why these historical reference points are not to be considered as the hard evidence of Jesus’ existence as they are often said to be, asserted the following:
Most of the scholarly works on the Testimonium Flavianum agree that it is either partly inauthentic or wholly inauthentic. Origen was clearly familiar with the Antiquities, and writes about a far less significant brief possible allusion to Jesus via James, and yet he not only makes no mention of the Testimonium passage, he further characterizes Josephus as not believing in Jesus the Christ–totally inconsistent with the transcriptions of the Testimonium we now have. Indeed, we don’t have any reference at all to the Testimonium passage from any of the early church fathers until Eusebius, writing about three centuries after the supposed time of Jesus. So 1) the authenticity of the passage is highly suspect. 2) Even if it had been authentic, it would have been written decades after the time of Jesus, based on, at best, second-hand information taken from unreferenced sources of unknown reliability. And 3) As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck (after a few billion years) and actually lives among us for a while. Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact? Does that really sound like the modus operandi of a god? If he came to this planet to reveal himself, why did he do so in a secretive way that leaves behind the exact same lack of hard evidence that we typically have for personages of myth?
You can read the rest of Nick’s reply here, but PRETTY PLEASE WITH A CHERRY ON TOP reply in this comment block and not the original Greg Koukl thread linked here–which is too long and off-topic already. Thanks!