Today all most every one of us in the world believes that Jesus Christ was a real personality. Perhaps he may not be the son of god or perhaps he may not be the real Messiah. The belief, Jesus as a human being came out as Eucharist ritual and theology concept of flesh and blood. Then what is the basis for the claim that “Jesus ever existed”?
There are two views we are going to analyze here. The first one is the Biblical or the religious view that Jesus as a real personality and the other one; The materialistic or the historical view. Here I wish to point out one thing. We have only one source of information about him which is the bible alone; that too more particularly from the Gospels. Everything we know about him is derived from the Gospels alone.
According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ was most popular and well-known personality who done splendid miracles and have the capacity of his own to pull the crowd. He not only done miracles but some revolutionary changes in religious system in the Jewish priesthood hence arrested and put to death before thousands of his followers who stood as eye witness. The historical view removes some exaggerated accounts in the life of Jesus in the Gospels taking into account.
Both of the views purely depend on the Gospels alone but, Are the Gospels give a reliable historical account? When the Gospels were written, where the gospels were written? which is the origin? Nobody knows. Earlier estimates dates the Gospels were written from 50 to 150CE and some ascertain that may be 4th Century. The traditional belief is that the Gospels had been written by the disciples of Jesus or someone who directly connected with them. It is believed that the Gospels are the eyewitness.
Let us gain some knowledge about the Gospels and its writers through the account of early church leader Papias of 130CE. According to him the Gospel Mark was not written by him but it was someone named Mark and the Gospel of Mathew was recorded by someone named Mathew in Hebrew dialect and so on… Since the Gospel of Mathew contains the virgin birth of Jesus and the hereditary lineage with David, the early theologians thought it was the first Gospel. Since the Gospel of Luke was not an eyewitness in nature and it was a self described one. So there is no possibility for it being first one.
The Gospel of Mark is also considered as second hand information since the order of events was different in order. The source of information for Mark is Peter. There is a chance that Mark might come from Rome where Peter preached. Theologian ascertains The Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel. Since Peter was shown as a fool who could not understand the messages of Jesus, Peter could not be the source of information for Gospel of Mark hence Mark is the first gospel.
According to the Gospels Jesus may crucified on the first day of the Passover or the day before (Depends upon the Gospel According to John Jesus was crucified on the day before the Passover).
The Passover is one of the holiest of Jewish holidays and it was the time for forgiveness and celebration. On those days only Jews made public scarifies to their god hence there is less chance for crucifixion. The arrest and quick trial of Jesus was happened on the pass over eve night. And the Jewish Sanhedrin could assemble in the middle of the night and spelt the quick judgment is highly impossible. The Sanhedrins were slapped and spit on Jesus could not be possible. (Sanhedrin was the Jewish judicial and administrative council which acts on set of rules). Mishnah Sanhedrin has certain rules to follow:
Tomb of Jesus • No criminal trail can be hold at night.
• The Sanhedrin session could be taken place in the temple premises.
• Capital crime could not be trailed in one day sitting alone.
• No criminal session could be happened on the Sabbath day or of any festival day.
• The own confession of the accused is not enough to judge any one guilty.
• The blasphemy charges cannot be hold good if the accused pronounced the god before the witness.
But the trial of Jesus had broken all the rules.
The crucifixions of Jesus in the Gospels are completely symbolic in nature and based on the scriptures but not on the history. His arrest, trial and the execution all flout the Jewish law. And for blasphemy stoning is the ultimate sentence and there is no reason to hand over the execution to the Romans. The famous Jewish writer Philo of 20BCE wrote elaborately about the political and religious activities of those periods but he never mentioned or wrote anything about Jesus (he wrote about the political rivalry between Pontius Pilate in Judea and the Jews)
There are four documents, in other words historical documents available. Antiquity of the Jews by Josephus, The Annals by Tacitus, Letter to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, and The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius. It is available in Catholic Encyclopedia.
According to Suetonius, “The Jews continuously made disturbance at the instigation of Chrestus and hence Chrestus was expelled”. Here we can only assume that Suetonius mentioned here Jesus as Chrestus. Chrestus is not the proper Latin translation of Greek Christos. Since the document itself talking about 49 CE by which Jesus was already dead.
Here The Annals by Tacitus mention the following,
Capernaum “Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular”
Bethany Christus mentioned here clearly refers Jesus Christ but it is not enough to establish the historical existence of himself. Keep it in mind Tacitus wrote these forty years after the ruin of Judea.
The peoples of other civilizations don’t have a religious book like Bible to refer and cross examine the religious structure in other hand Jews have a scripture based religion. The Romans and Greeks have separate Law, Philosophy etc but for Jews all come under the same religion. In Judaism more particularly in Hellenistic Judaism the cult of Jesus Christ is a very small part of their religion.
From all the above “The story of Jesus Christ” fully relay on the Gospels rather than any historical evidences. For the Jesus story you can identify plenty of literary and conventional materials which raise the possibility for the observed historical events. That much only can say.