Episode 236 – Bible Study for Atheists

In this episode, we discuss the Bible as a historical document.

Throughout the episode, Trevor refers to a book called Nailed by David Fitzgerald.

Compare Jesus Vs Julius Caesar

The first century is considered one of the best documented periods in ancient history. This raises 2 issues. Ancient records categorically conflict with many events in the Bible (which is internally contradictory) and the lack of independent records about Jesus is telling in itself. Herod’s slaughter of infant boys is mentioned nowhere outside of the Bible. The so called tax census requiring the journey to Bethlehem did not happen. Mathew tells us that Jesus’s fame “went throughout all Syria” but no historians mention him. His triumphant entry into Jerusalem is not mentioned. His miracles, his trial and his crucifixion are not mentioned. Contemporary historians who wrote about all sorts of things failed to mention these events.

When did Jesus live?

Born around 8 BCE to 4BCE and died around 30 to 33 CE

Contemporaries who should have noticed Jesus but didn’t

Seneca the Younger


Justus of Tiberias

Nicolaus of Damascus

Philo of Alexandria

In summary, there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus from any source, in or outside the Bible.

Non-contemporary Accounts of Jesus

Flavius Josephus

In the year 93 or 94 he wrote “Antiquities of the Jews”.

The “Testimonium Flavianum” is fake.

The “James Reference”. Richard Carrier gives a good argument as to why it is a mistake and is actually a reference to Jesus, son of Damneus.

The Gospels

Written after Paul’s letters so post 58CE

Mark – no earlier than mid 70’s (because he alludes to the destruction of the temple)

Matthew – was post Mark because it plagiarizes Mark

Luke  – was post Mathew because it plagiarizes 50% of Mark and 90% of Matthew. And he even plagiarized Josephus so post Josephus.

John – early to mid 2nd century

All 4 gospels were originally anonymous. Lots of historical inaccuracies and internal conflicts.

In Mark, Jesus is a fallible suffering human. In Matthew Jesus is more Jewish and more perfect. In Luke, Jesus is serene, beatific and unflappable. In John, Jesus is superman without Clark Kent. He knows he is God. He is a republican Jesus who hates Jews and is the boss.

St Paul the Apostle

4 BCE to 62-64 BCE

He only wrote 7 of the 13 letters attributed to him. He wasn’t interested in biographical details. He speaks of a mythological figure rather than flesh and blood human being. The simple fact that Jesus was ever on earth at all never gets stated. All his appearances seem to be coming directly from heaven.

He vehemently denies that he has received his knowledge from any man. He has learned of the Son through revelation and scripture.

His big message is that Jesus died for our sins and all who believed in him would be saved.

His stuff was written well before the 4 gospels.

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