Silly season: a Christmas approaches, a scholar questions whether Jesus ever existed

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 18, 2014

Christmas is coming soon. How can you tell? Because you notice the nip in the air, the smiles on the faces of shoppers, the merry tunes of carolers… and the silly articles appearing in mass-media outlets, about the “historical” Jesus.

But now Raphael Lataster, who teaches religious studies at the University of Sydney, has gone beyond the usual skepticism of the “Jesus Seminar” with his argument that Jesus probably didn’t exist. Somehow his little essay found its way onto the Washington Post web site.

Lataster acknowledges at the outset that he is addressing a question of interest only to atheists. He quickly dismisses the “Christ of Faith” because—well, because he dismisses faith. (“There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus,” he writes—having tossed out the Gospels, which fail to meet his standards for scholarship.) But apart from the accounts left by people who revere Jesus as divine, there are few accounts of his existence, Lataster observes. Therefore we should question whether he existed at all.

Let’s see: The Spartan King Leonidas is known to history as a great warrior. The only people who wrote about his life emphasized his prowess as a military leader; few other biographical details are available. So if you decide at the outset that the battle of Thermopylae never really happened, you dismiss all the pertinent literature and you’re left with very little evidence that Leonidas existed.

We could do this all day, tearing out of the history books any pages that don’t match our preconceived notions. And call it scholarship.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 20, 2014 10:59 PM ET USA

    How can this fellow say such things when one can read Suetonius, a Roman historian, writes about Christ. He and other "non-believers" acknowledge Jesus as an historical person. There is no denying that Jesus Christ existed.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Dec. 20, 2014 3:43 PM ET USA

    I guess that Mr. Lataster didn't even bother to read "The DaVinci Code".

  • Posted by: rickt26170 - Dec. 19, 2014 11:24 PM ET USA

    The Internet is filled with this idiocy. There should be detailed response from apologists in the Social Media. The "unreliable Gospels" theory is already widely spread. People are going to believe this stuff even though it is simple rubbish.