The first issue that needs to be addressed when we are discussing evidence for the existence of Jesus/Yeshua is the nature of a historical document. Some overaged, petulant and obstinate children will foist the argument right off the press that using the Bible to prove the existence of Jesus is circular reasoning because you cannot use the Bible to prove the Bible. This is an equivocation fallacy. They are using the word “Bible” in two different senses in this argument. In the first sense they mean the paper and ink book. In the second sense they mean the actual historical events and teachings it records. Take for instance, what kind of fool would you think of me if I said you cannot prove Herodotus’ Histories by Herodotus’ Histories. Historical documents are not conclusions to an argument. Historical documents are records of events and if you have a problem with the discipline of world History as written by conquerors and completely unreliable you have tumbled into a slippery slope that leads nowhere but nihilism and a complete abandonment of civilization. But that is only if you’re honest and consistent, which most people are not. Or what if I said, you cannot prove Aristotle’s Organon by Aristotle’s Organon. Well actually you can since these books are the definitive work on human logic and reason and define for us what it means to prove something in the first place. So this argument against using the Bible is simply obstinate, butt hurt emotions and prejudice.
Now to the documentation.
The first testimonies we have concerning the authorship of the Gospels and thus the evidence for the existence of Jesus are the following:
Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Chapter XXXIX The Writings of Papias(60 A.D. – 130 A.D.),
“15. “This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter[Eye Witness Testimony.- SI], wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.” These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: “So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.” And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.”
St. Irenaeus (130 A.D. – 202 A.D.), Against Heresies Book III, Chapter 1,
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
Of course, the problem the Christian has with these citations is that they claim the originals were in Hebrew. This destroys Christian Theology which depends on the parameters of the Greek to explain their Theology in the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, the Judaizer not the Christian platform is established.
Now to the Historical documentation to the existence of Jesus from sources unbelieving and outside of the Bible:
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (93 A.D) – Book XX, Chapter 9,
“Concerning Albinus, under whose procuratorship James was slain; as also what edifices were built by Agrippa.
1. And now Cæsar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high-priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes, that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons, who had all performed the office of an high-priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high-priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent: he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when therefore Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him, that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews(93 A.D) – Book XVIII, Chapter 3,
“3. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
Tacitus, Annals (116 A.D. – 120 A.D.), Book XV.44,
“1 So far, the precautions taken were suggested by human prudence: now means were sought for appeasing deity, and application was made to the Sibylline books; at the injunction of which public prayers were offered to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpine, while Juno was propitiated by the matrons, first in the Capitol, then at the nearest point of the sea-shore, where water was drawn for sprinkling the temple and image of the goddess. Ritual banquets and all-night vigils were celebrated by women in the married state. But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his Gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.”
We know that Pontius Pilate governed Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.
Thus, the traditional timeline of his life corresponding to the Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 is also well established.
Objection: These testimonies are decades after the man lived according to your timeline!
Ans. That is a special pleading and double standard fallacy. The source for the history of Alexander the Great comes from Arrian who lived four centuries after Alexander the Great.
Richard Whately refuted the same argument in his Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte.
Thus, when discussing the issue of Jesus and the Bible as I have said many times before it is a case either of rejecting or ignoring facts or acknowledging and accepting facts. The choice is yours. It is your life to waste and your being to destroy.