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According to this article, "no one in the ancient world ever flatly denied that Jesus performed miracles – let alone that he existed." Is this historically accurate? Are there any claims in history from the first century primarily (although maybe a few centuries afterward may be allowed in the definition of "the ancient world") that deny Jesus Christ existed?

There is historical evidence that supports his existence, as I said in the comments below:

There are ancient historical documents that refer to Jesus. Some attempt to explain away certain things related to him, but none that I have found claim he never existed. For example there is a letter by Justin Martyr to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, in which he cites the official ‘Acts of Pilate’ as corroboration for the crucifixion account. The first century historian Thallus mentions the darkness that the Gospels speak of and tries to explain it as an eclipse. He doesn't make reference to Jesus as far as I know.

closed as off-topic by Alex, Pieter Geerkens, John Dallman, Ken Graham, justCal Apr 30 '17 at 1:30

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    A more reasonable question would be about the sources which claim his existence. Are there any, besides the Gospels, which were written long after his presumed death? – Alex Apr 29 '17 at 13:40
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    Is there any source stating that Biggus Dickus did not exist? – SJuan76 Apr 29 '17 at 13:50
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    @AChildofGod corrected the name and added a link. Thing is, Christianity did not became relevant until way after the supposed death of Jesus, so the lack of claims against its existence is in no way proof of anything. It would have make no sense for any serious registrar to document that "Jesus did not exist" as to claim that "Biggus Dickus did not exist"; both would have been largely irrelevant at the time these facts could have been contrasted. – SJuan76 Apr 29 '17 at 13:56
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    @SJuan76 - Not sure what you mean by "way after", but the Roman government considered Christianity relevant enough to wage war against it 30 years after the establishment of the church – Mark Anthony Songer Apr 29 '17 at 16:37
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    Mark Anthony Songer - the Roman government never aged war against Christianity. To do so they would have had to consider Christianity a foreign government. Instead various Roman officials sought to punish Christians as subjects of the empire accused of various alleged crimes. – MAGolding Apr 29 '17 at 17:05
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Actions speak louder than words, they say.

In the years following Jesus' death, the persecution against Christians came primarily from the Jews as chronicled in the book of Acts (4:3-22, 5:17-42, 6:8-8:1, 8:3, 9:2, 9:23-24, 20:19, 23:12-14, 12:1-5, 13:44-51, 14:5-6, 14:19-20, 16:16-24, 17:1-15, 18:12-17, 19:23-41, 19:27-28:30). The interesting thing about this time period (from AD33 to AD60-ish) is there is no record of claims against the existence of Jesus. There are numerous arguments against claims made by Gnostic cults (1 John, 1 Peter, and others) and one possible argument made in defense of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:12-19). However, nowhere in the New Testament is the existence of Jesus defended.

By AD64, only 30-ish years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Nero began wide-spread persecution of Christians. During this time, countless hirtory books and ancient documents record Christians being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith and their refusal to declare the emperor as god (and any other charges that could be trumped up against them such as setting Rome on fire). If, as some scholars believe, John wrote Revelation during the time of Domitian it could be a chronicling of the persecution of Christians by Rome. Polycarp, Irenaeus and other early Second Century church fathers also document the persecution during those times.

My point about the period of Roman persecution is this: There are not records of attempts to prove the Christians wrong. Rather than just killing them and thereby solidifying their faith, how much easier would it have been to issue proclamations that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that He was living in Gaul with his prostitute wife, or that He never existed? This persecution began a whole generation after the death of Jesus and establishment of the church. Even a campaign of disinformation would have made sense. But even during this time that the eradication of Christianity became a priority of State we have no indicators that denials of any of the claims made by Christians concerning Jesus were false.

To me, this silence on the part of Rome and, before that, the Jewish authorities, is strong evidence.

  • I remember reading that the Jews had to make up a story about the disciples stealing the body to account for the missing body of Jesus – A Child of God Apr 29 '17 at 16:44
  • Do you have a citation for that? I remember being told it was a possibility that they manufactured such a story, but I do not recall seeing the story or a response to it anywhere. – Mark Anthony Songer Apr 29 '17 at 16:48
  • I remember reading about it in a certain article. It mentioned that a few historians had mentioned this. I can't remember which article I had read said it, so I looked to Wikipedia for some answers. Here is one: Martyr, Justin. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CVIII. – A Child of God Apr 29 '17 at 16:59
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    The Answers in Genesis article provides a quote from Justin Martyr: "… yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before, you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilæan deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven." – A Child of God Apr 29 '17 at 17:06
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    I contend that you are indeed not. -1 – 1973 Apr 30 '17 at 3:57

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