On Christmas morning, a Twitter account associated with the Washington Post called “Post Opinons” tweeted out one of their old op-ed pieces denying that Jesus existed. The tweet read: “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”
Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn't add up. https://t.co/eXKkrclMLz
— Washington Post Opinions (@PostOpinions) December 25, 2017
As clickbait trolling, the tweet was inspired. As historical scholarship, the piece it promotes is trash. This should be obvious to most people, but I thought I’d toss a couple of links your way in case people are once again spreading this nonsense on social media.
The piece first appeared on the Post’s op-ed page in 2014, and was written by a fellow named Raphael Lataster. Very soon thereafter, a thorough and amusing rebuttal appeared online, written by Lataster’s former professor, who said he would have given the piece a failing grade. Here is a taste of the good professor’s rebuttal:
This time, however, I was particularly interested, not because Raphael Lataster’s piece in The Conversation had anything new to say but because it was written by a young man who just three years ago sat in my Sydney University class on “Historical Jesus to Written Gospels.” . . . As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship.
. . . .
Finally, Raphael Lataster reveals that his real interest is in sceptical apologetics rather than ancient history when he opines, “There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses.” Leaving aside the question of whether there are eyewitness accounts in the New Testament – many think there are – such a statement overlooks the fact that virtually everything we know from ancient history comes to us from sources that are neither “contemporary” with events, nor written by eyewitnesses. What we know of Emperor Tiberius, for instance, comes mainly from the Roman chronicler Tacitus, who writes some 80 years after the emperor’s death. This is typical of ancient history, and it poses no dilemma to the contemporary scholar because it is clear that authors such as Tacitus, like the Gospel writers, employed earlier sources within their works.
. . . .
. . . Raphael Lataster’s arguments amount to an unfortunate disregard toward mainstream scholarship and highlight a worrying trend in new atheist literature generally: the tendency to pontificate on topics well outside one’s area of expertise.
The second link is from RedState, from Erick Erickson, who wrote in 2014:
The common thread of all these columns, articles, and expositions are unbelievers writing to reassure other unbelievers at a time of year billions of people are celebrating either the miraculous burning of oil for eight days or a virgin giving birth to a child. The secular left can abide no miracles.
It is not particularly surprising that the Washington Post once printed this garbage. It is a little surprising, given how laughably slipshod the piece is, that they continue to promote it three years later.