Based on a True Story (Pt. 1)

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We are all familiar with the nativity story. The message behind it is wonderful; God broke into human history as a helpless babe to wage war against evil so that he might, out of the riches of his grace, rescue the very rebels who spit in his face. As with most aspects of the Bible, however, there are skeptics who question this story, too. Some argue that the discrepancies in the gospels mean that the nativity story is completely fictitious. Others argue that Jesus never even existed as a historical figure. What are we to make of this? Join this week’s episode with Andy, Steve, and Terry.

Links & Articles

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography by Dr. Michael Licona

Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric trans. George A. Kennedy

CORRECTION: The dialogue between Gary Habermas and Richard Carrier which Terry mentioned is NOT on the Unbelievable? podcast. It is found on a YouTube video here: The Resurrection of Jesus – Michael Licona & Gary Habermas vs. Richard Carrier & Reginald Finley


Outro Music “Breathe New Life” by Scott Holmes
Available on the Free Music Archive
Under CC BY license

Notes   [ + ]

1. Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), Kindle, location 220-221.
2. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperOne, 2012),14-17.
3. Ibid., 19. Robert Price holds Ph.D. in Systematic Theology and Ph.D. in New Testament studies, both from Drew University in Madison, NJ. Richard Carrier holds Ph.D. in classics from Columbia University in New York, NY.
4. Ibid., 23-24. Here, Ehrman refutes a number of assertions made in Murdock’s book, The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, some of which even include wordplays not in the original languages but in English! After the refutation, Ehrman notes, “In short, if there is any conspiracy here, it is not on the part of the ancient Christians who made up Jesus but on the part of modern authors who make up stories about the ancient Christians and what they believed about Jesus” (25).
5. Peter Joseph, Zeitgeist the Movie,” 0:16:30, (accessed September 24, 2013).
6. As a matter of fact, the New Testament does not say anything about the birth date of Jesus. If anything, he was born during a non-winter season. Likewise, the New Testament does not say that “three kings” came to worship him. They were “magi”, probably astrologers from Persia and there could have been two, three, four, or more. These simple errors alone are enough to cast doubt on the quality of scholarship in Zeitgeist.
7. Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 630.
8. Mark W. Foreman, “Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie,” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, ed. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (Nashville: B&H, 2012), Kindle, location 3528-3531.
9. D.M. Murdock, Christ in Egypt: The Jesus-Horus Connection (Seattle: Stellar House, 2009), 335, quoted in Foreman, “Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie.”
10. Foreman, location 3546-3552.
11. Mary Jo Sharp, “Does the Story of Jesus Mimic Pagan Mystery Stories?” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, ed. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (Nashville: B&H, 2012), Kindle, location 3255-3260.
12. Ibid.
13. I owe this illustration to Michael Licona in “Myth #2: Pagan Parallels in the Mystery Religions” from Credo House Ministries found on (accessed September 25, 2013).
14. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981), 43.
15. Suetonius Lives of the Caesars 25.4.
16. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, location 522-523.
17. Stephen Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 18-20.
18. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, location 537-569 and 617-621.
19. Ibid., location 637-641.
20. Tacitus The Annals 15.44.
21. Kenneth Humphrey, “Jesus never existed,” (accessed October 2, 2013).
22. D.M. Murdock, “Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius: No Proof of Jesus,” (accessed October 2, 2013).
23. Van Voorst, location 741-742.
24. Ibid., location 726-727.
25. Ibid., location 746-750.
26. In Zeitgeist, Peter Joseph claims that “Christ” was a title, not a personal name. However, Van Voorst would disagree. According to him, even the authors of the books of the New Testament had already begun to use “Christ” as a proper name separately from the name “Jesus.”
27. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: New Updated Version. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987). Emphasis mine.
28. Kenneth Humphrey, “Non-Christian Testimony for Jesus?: From the Authentic Pen of Lying Christian Scribes!” (accessed October 3, 2013).
29. Van Voorst, location 1449-1452.
30. Humphrey, “Non-Christian Testimony for Jesus?”
31. John Barclay, “Josephus: The Man and the Myths,” Centre for Public Christianity, 4:08, (accessed October 3, 2013). Points (1) to (3) are drawn from this source.
32. Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 43.
33. Read the Testimonium again, this time removing the italicized portions. This reconstruction was adopted from Evans’ “Jesus and His Contemporaries.”
34. Evans, 43.

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