On the Historicity of Jesus: What Would You Look Up?

Here’s a request to those keen to see my next book: since I am nearing completion of my subject index for On the Historicity of Jesus (the scripture index is long since finished and submitted), and the publisher wants to release it in June (at that link you can also see the book’s description and a detailed table of contents), it occurred to me that it couldn’t hurt to ask everyone who is interested: what would you look up in the index to such a book? Don’t worry whether I’ve already thought of it. If you are keen to, just list anything in comments here that you would expect, or hope, or want, or need to be there. And if you know anyone interested in this book, let them know to come here and weigh in if they want to.

For the purposes of this post only, all I want in comments are words and names you’d like to see in the index (or attempts to describe such, if you aren’t sure how something would be indexed). No other questions or commentary, please. I have plenty of other posts on the subject where those can be submitted. Thanks!


  1. ROO BOOKAROO says

    Here are some of the names I would wish to see appear in the Index (and of course in the text of the book)

    2 Maccabees
    4 Maccabees
    A. D. (Arthur Denner) Howell Smith – Jesus Not A Myth
    Albert Kalthoff
    Albert Schweitzer
    Alfred Firmin Loisy
    Alvar Ellegard
    Ancient Wisdom in OT and NT
    Archibald Robertson
    Archibald Sayce
    Arthur Drews – The Christ Myth; The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus
    Baron d’Holbach
    Bolingbroke, Henry St. John
    Book of Baruch
    Book of Daniel
    Book of Enoch
    Book of Ezra
    Book of Job
    Book of Koheleth
    Book of Proverbs
    Book of Psalms
    Book of Sirach
    Book of Tobit
    Book of Wisdom of Solomon
    Bruno Bauer
    Burton L. Mack
    Charles Guignebert
    Charles-François Dupuis
    Christopher Hitchens
    Constantin F. Comte de Volney – Ruins or Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires and the Law of Nature
    David Friedrich Strauss
    Denial of Historicity of Jesus Christ
    Dennis R. MacDonald
    Dutch Radical School
    Edward Carpenter – Pagan and Christian Creeds
    Edwin Johnson
    Elijah/Elisha – model for Mark
    Emil Schürer
    Ernst Haenchen
    F.C. Bauer – Tübingen School
    Foote & Wheeler
    Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare
    Georg Brandes – Jesus, A Myth
    George Albert Wells – The Jesus of the Early Christians; Did Jesus Exist?; The Historical Evidence for Jesus; Who Was Jesus?; Belief & Make-Believe; The Jesus Legend; The Jesus Myth; Earliest Christianity; Can We Trust the New Testament?; Cutting Jesus Down to Size.
    Gerd Lüdemann
    Geza Vermes
    Gilbert Murray
    G.R.S. Mead/
    Gnostic Society
    Gustav van den Bergh van Eysinga
    Harold Leidner
    Heikki Räisänen
    Herbert Cutner
    Hermann Detering – Radikalkritik
    Hermann Gunkel
    Hermann Samuel Reimarus
    Holy Spirit in Judaism
    Hyam Maccoby
    H.W.Ph. van den Bergh van Eysinga
    Isaiah 53
    Joachim Kahl
    Johannes Weiss
    John Frum/Cargo Cult
    John G. Jackson
    John McKinnon Robertson
    John Marco Allegro
    John E. Remsberg
    John J. Collins – Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age
    John P Meier – A Marginal Jew
    John S. Kloppenborg
    John Shelby Spong
    Joseph Campbell
    Joseph Klausner
    Joseph McCabe
    Joseph Wheless – Forgery in Christianity
    Julian the Apostate
    Justin Martyr – The First Apology; The Sons of Jupiter
    Karl Kautsky
    Ludwig Feuerbach
    Luigi Cascioli – The Fable of Christ
    Marcus Borg
    Mark Goodacre
    Martin Dibelius
    Maurice Goguel
    Michael Grant
    Michael Douglas Goulder
    Michael Martin
    Michael V. Fox – Proverbs; Ecclesiastes
    M. M. Mangasarian
    Morna Hooker
    Morton Smith
    Names of God
    Names of Savior – Joshua, Jeshua, Iesous, Jesus
    Paul-Louis Couchoud – The Enigma of Jesus; the Mystery of Jesus; The Creation of Christ
    Paul Wilhelm. Schmiedel
    Peter Jensen
    Psalm 22
    R.E. Witt
    R. Joseph Hoffmann-Historical Jesus
    Randel Helms
    Richard A. Burridge – Gospels & Greco-Roman biographies
    Robert Eisenman
    Robert Eisler
    Robert Ingersoll
    Robert M Price-The Christ Myth Theory & its Problems
    Ronald L. Troxel – Hebrew & Semitic Studies
    Rudolf Bultmann
    Samuel G. F. Brandon
    Savitri Devi – Incurable decadence
    Shirley Jackson Case – The Historicity of Jesus
    Talmud & Jesus
    The “Branch” and the Messiah in OT
    Thomas Brodie – The Birthing of the NT
    Thomas Kelly Cheyne – Encyclopaedia Biblica
    Thomas L. Thompson- Is This Not the Carpenter?
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas W. Doane – Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions,
    Thomas Whittaker
    Tom Harpur – The Pagan Christ
    Walter Richard Cassels – Supernatural Religion
    Walter P. Weaver-The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1950
    Walter Schmithals – The Theology of the First Christians
    Wilhelm Bousset – Kyrios Christos
    William Benjamin Smith
    William R. Cooper – The Horus Myth
    William Wrede

  2. Stephen Stallebrass says

    Off the top of my head… Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Pilate, Sarapion, Suetonius, Constantine, Nicaea, historical criteria: multiple independent attestation, dissimilarity/embarrassment, coherence/consistency/conformity.. silence, the oral tradition, exegesis: grammar, syntax, transliterations, semantics, redaction criticism, arrangement, editing, modification, additions, deletions, contradictions, apocalypticism, eschatology, Asceticism, charismatic healer, messiah, gnosticism, Price, Erhman, Murdock/Acharya, zeitgeist-myth-conspiracy, and the wiki list of notable biblical scholars, Jesus seminar, non-canonical, synoptic gospels, parallel reading, Pauline Epistles, baptised, supper, passion, crucified, resurrection, empty tomb, Galilean, census, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, Hebrew, Hellenistic, Semitic, archaeology, first-second-third quests. Can’t wait to read your book.

  3. says

    Orphism: Orpheos Bakkikos amulet
    Logia: Dominical …
    Price, Robert M. …
    MacDonald, Ronald …
    Josephus: Testimonium Flavianum; Wars; Antiquities
    Barker, Margaret
    Bousset, Wilhelm
    Detering, Hermann: Synoptic Apocalpse; Bar Kochba
    Memoirs of the Apostles
    Q (Quelle) …
    Synoptic gospels: Synoptic problem
    Mark (Gospel of): Homeric influences on

  4. Diana MacPherson says

    Without looking at what you already have so as to eliminate any bias on my part, the first thing I’d go for (because I hear it ALL the time) would be Josephus. Then I’d want to look up a list of scholars who deal with the historicity of Jesus and also a list of primary sources.

    Hope this helps. :)

  5. David Madison says

    Two items I’d like to see in the index:

    Q, sources of

    Contemporary documentation, importance of & lack of for the gospel

  6. says

    Here are some things I would index:

    “Brother of the Lord”
    “seed of david”
    “born of a woman”
    Mystery Religion
    Dying and Rising god
    Ehrman, Bart

    Make sure the index has references that cover all of the common objections to the Jesus myth theory.

  7. Jeremy L says

    Craig, William Lane
    Ass, Pulled Right out of

    Logical fallacy
    Appeal to Authority
    Prior probability
    Consequent probability
    A fortiori
    Canon of probabilities

    Gospel Peter
    Gospel of Thomas


    John the Baptist
    James the Just

    Epistemic probability
    Argument from Silence




  8. Gary Longsine says

    (1) The Sermon on the Mount — If I recall correctly, this story appears in two of the four Gospels, with substantial difference between the two accounts. In Mathew the preaching is done from a mount, in Luke from a plain (and it’s actually called “the sermon on the plains”). In both accounts, they take place at the same point in the story arc. Certainly, like a musician, a wandering preacher might have given similar but slightly different sermons, which some theologians suggest as the reason for the differences in the two accounts.

    However, I find it curious that the form of these sermons more resembles some of the known later forgeries, the “lost sayings of Jesus” stuff which was apparently known to the authors of the KJV and rejected as inauthentic.

    Does modern textual analysis suggest that these were inserted into these two gospels at a later time, from another source?

    I think this question is important, because it’s one of the most widely known and referenced stories from the gospels. It’s often cited as the core of the moral authority of the gospels and the religion. It would be interesting to know if they appear to have been later inserts.

    • says

      (Just FYI, there is a growing consensus that the Sermon on the Mount is a late invention and does not go back to Jesus. I effectively prove this is the case in my book, but it’s not a hard sell. Several leading scholars already agree. So it’s not even very controversial in the field, outside of fundamentalism.)

  9. Gary Longsine says

    (2) Index by Dogma — The relevant portions of your book, indexed to important dogma, the symbolic icons for members of the Christian religion.
    – the Virgin Birth
    – the Trinity
    – the Divinity of Jesus
    – throwing the moneychangers from the Temple
    – the Resurrection
    – fulfillment of prophecy

  10. Ceres says

    Fisher, Stephanie
    Evans , Craig

    Feldman , Louis
    Mcullagh, CB

    Clement of Rome


  11. says

    Alexander Jannaeus
    Tacitus fragment 2
    netser (“branch”)
    Simon Magus
    Einhorn, Lena
    Graves, Robert
    Stephen (martyr)
    Hilgenfeld, Adolf Bernhard
    Baur, Ferdinand Christian
    O’Callaghan, Jose
    Eisenman, Robert
    Huller, Stephan
    Elymas Bar-Jesus
    Podro, Joshua

  12. says

    (Apologies if you’re not covering any of the following)

    Chronology of Authorship
    Official Chronology vs. Historical
    In Historical Context
    Language (i.e. Greek rather than Hebrew or Aramaic)
    Retcons in

    Infancy Stories
    Non-biblical References
    Contemporary Messianic Figures and Mystery Cults
    Comparable Mythic Figures
    As Apocalyptic Prophet

    Pontius Pilate
    Historical Documentation
    As Gospel Character
    In Non-Canonical Gospels and Later Christian Literature

    Historical Documentation
    As Gospel Character
    In Non-Canonical Gospels and Later Christian Literature

    Son of Man

    Temple in Jerusalem
    History of
    Gospel References
    Temple Cult

  13. Tal says

    * Earl Doherty’s “the Galilean Tradition (or movement) and Q document” hypothesis – your thoughts on the

    * The original Christianity (that of the celestial Jesus) – an explanation to why and how did it vanish so fast without leaving evidence (except the epistles).

    * When did people start believing that there were hidden clues about Jesus in the old testament?

  14. Latverian Diplomat says

    I wouldn’t say any of these are essential but they are things I might look for. If they are already covered by related terms of slightly different word orders, I could find them that way.

    beloved disciple
    brothers of Jesus
    dating (of epistles) (of gospels)
    interpolations (detection of?)(in Paul?)
    James the Just
    John the Baptist
    Simon Magus
    temple (destruction of, knowledge of destruction of)

    If you talk much about sources for Gospel stories,

    Not sure if you even get into previous myth proposals much (perhaps just to contrast with or dismiss them) but if so. many readers might expect to see?

    Dutch radicals
    dying and rising god
    solar deity

  15. Logan says

    Literary Styles/Forms
    [sub-list of the terms that describe the story flow in the gospels that I can’t remember at the moment]
    Miracles (Jesus-focused, natch)
    [sub-list of specific miracles by “standard/common” name, if any]
    Scotch & Whiskeys
    [Sub-list of favorite spirits]

  16. No Way says

    testimonium flavianum
    Jesus’ date of birth
    Date of crucifixion
    G. A. Wells
    Earl Doherty
    Pauline Epistles
    Accounts of resurrection
    Chasing money lenders from the temple/ cleansing of the temple
    Christ figures
    Pagan deities like christ

  17. says

    Philo of Alexandria
    Joseph of Arimathea
    Wisdom of Sirach
    Book of Wisdom
    Pliny (the Elder and the Younger)
    John the Baptist
    Apollonius of Tyrana

  18. Robert Jones says

    What I would look up in the index would be things like:-
    Paul and his concept of Christ
    Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
    Primary source evidence
    Evidence for Alexander and Socrates etc
    Biblical Scholars who are mythicists

    Anyway, can’t wait to get my hands on your book!

    Regards, Rob

  19. Tal says

    (Richard, can you please delete my first post?)

    Earl Doherty
    Q document
    Galilean tradition
    Galilean movement
    Jerusalem tradition
    Ascension of Isaiah
    On the Confusion of Tongues
    James brother of the Lord
    The twelve
    excess of “Mary”s in the NT
    Book of Revelation
    Demise of Paul’s Christianity
    Paul’s persecution of Christians

  20. says

    What I’d like to see if you’re doing a significant amount on the Passion:

    – lack of obvious linguistic evidence
    – of Jesus, based on Psalm 22
    – of Jesus, based on Roman Triumph
    – of Jesus, based on funeral of Julius Caesar
    cross, similarity with a Roman tropaeum
    Samuelsson, Gunnar – Crucifixion in Antiquity
    Carotta, Francesco – Jesus Was Caesar ( even if he is crank)

    Julius Caesar
    Augustus Caesar
    Jesus Ben Ananius

  21. Friendly says

    Given that I will be attempting to share this book with my fundamentalist family and friends, but will probably end up arguing from the text instead when they decline to read it, here are some subjects I would like to be able to look up quickly based on the objections and arguments I predict that they’ll raise. Thanks again for your awesome work; finding it really hard to wait for the book to launch!

    Acts of the Apostles
    Anointed One
    authority (argument from, nature of, trustworthiness of)
    Biblical inerrancy
    Chesterton, G. K.
    Collins, Francis
    conversion [particularly of “skeptics”]
    Craig, William Lane
    credentials / qualifications / resume [some quick link to Dr. Carrier’s bona fides]
    Cyrenius / Quirinius
    denial (nature of) [looking for a link to a passage, if there is one, explaining why “denial” better describes the standard historicist position rather than the mythicist position]
    divine nature / divinity
    empty tomb
    evidence (definition or nature of)
    false equivalence [especially “You have your (belief/faith/religion/etc.) and I have mine”]
    Geisler, Norman
    God the Father
    Herod Agrippa
    Herod the Great
    Holy Spirit
    Isaiah 7:14
    Isaiah 9:6-7
    Isaiah 53
    John (and his Gospel)
    John the Baptist
    Lamb of God
    Lewis, C. S. (and his Trilemma)
    Luke (and his Gospel)
    McDowell, Josh
    Mark (and his Gospel)
    Mary, mother of Jesus
    Mary Magdalene
    Massacre of the Innocents
    Matthew (and his Gospel)
    Micah 5:2
    Pascal, Blaise (and his Wager)
    perfection [as in, “perfect man and perfect God”]
    Pilate, Pontius
    prophecy / prophecies, esp. of Jesus
    Psalm(s) [including entries for specific verses in the Book of Psalms that the NT writers identify as prophecies of Jesus]
    purpose (of your book) [looking for a link to a passage in which you explain why you wrote it]
    Schaeffer, Francis
    seal (on the tomb)
    soldiers (guarding the tomb)
    Son of David
    Son of God
    Son of Man
    Star of Bethlehem
    Strobel, Lee
    swoon theory
    veil (of the temple)
    virgin birth
    wise men
    Zacharias, Ravi

  22. Florian Blaschke says

    I saw someone employ the Ancient Person Historicity Double Standard Defense lately who appears to favour a completely non-supernatural Nobody Jesus. He complained that no mythicist extensively reviews the evidence for the historicity of figures like Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Zoroaster, Confucius, Homer, Epicurus, Democritus, Leucippus, Spartacus, Zeno, Aesop (he called them “simple examples” so he may or may not have many more people in mind), and seriously seems to think that the evidence for most of them is as poor as that for Jesus (he appears to have backpedalled by essentially admitting that his list is basically taking random potshots and hoping that some will stick: he does not appear to have researched them all in detail, either). Of course I brought up Adversus Apologetica, but he complained that the comparison was unfair because Tiberius was a ruler. I also pointed out how neither of the cases is anything close to comparable, how RationalWiki already destroys many of his cases by showing they have far more reliable evidence in their favour (writings by followers or disciples, or otherwise credible witnesses), and how several entries on his list are figures whose historicity is not actually free of doubt. Finally, I noted that his obscure Nobody Jesus is unrecoverably generic, which bodes ill for the construction of a pro-historicity argument. So, can he rest assured that you will treat this issue in great detail in your upcoming book (which must presumably be expected of any serious book on the historicity of Jesus which tries to convince the reader that the case for historicity is extraordinarily poor, and that mythicism is a superior explanation), and that you will field the evidence in favour of the historicity of ancient personages often brought up by historicists and apologists? (Of course you cannot cover dozens and dozens of figures, but those brought up most frequently might do. If apologists seriously expect taken seriously when, after finding an initial list of examples debunked, they throw more and more examples at their opponents, they’re simply deluded, of course.)

    • says

      Just FYI, most experts are historicity agnostics about Aesop and Zoroaster, and odds favor non-existence for both.

      Meanwhile, many scholars are agnostic about Homer and Pythagoras (the latter is outside our ability to know, while every expert agrees no one author composed the works of Homer any more than one author composed Genesis, so the historicity of Homer is on the same level as “the author of Genesis”: obviously such an author existed, since the text didn’t write itself, but there was more than one of them over centuries, and we know nothing about them).

      Similarly, all experts agree no one person lies behind the writings of “Hippocrates” and we know nothing reliable about “Democritus,” only that he wrote some things that were later quoted and talked about–which entails someone wrote those things, regardless of their name, so “Democritus” is as good a stand-in term for them as anything.

      Likewise the evidence for Epicurus is a bit better than we have for Jesus (e.g., unlike Jesus, we have the actual writings of Epicurus himself.)

      And so on.

      So you really don’t get anywhere with an argument like this. Especially since no good case for the non-existence of Jesus rests on our merely not having records of him.

      And though Tiberius was a ruler, Jesus was the Most Important Man in Human History, the One True Agent of God and Savior of the Whole Universe. That kind of outranks “ruler” in importance. Perhaps this guy is forgetting that not even the Christians themselves preserved any reliable historical documentation of Jesus. And that’s weird.

      It is also problematic to claim Jesus was a nobody. I grant that’s an out. But it comes with consequences. Because if it’s so, you are conceding the Gospels are lying (egregiously…and evidently, successfully) and that Jesus never said or did anything in life that would inspire fanatical worshipers or warrant anyone considering him worth dying for–because nothing Jesus ever said or did in life is ever relevant to the gospel preached anywhere in the authentic letters of Paul…which begs the question how he convinced anyone he was the Messiah and Savior who would soon return on clouds of glory if he never said or did anything anyone thought impressive enough to ever discuss until a lifetime later.

      In any event, these kinds of arguments are addressed in the book.

  23. says

    Let me add these (I couldn’t remember them yesterday):

    – archaeological evidence
    – in epigraphy (non-Christian depictions of a Roman crux, Alexamenos depicting a crucified god)

    Ethelbert Stauffer – Jerusalem und Rom, Christ and the Caesars

  24. Pierce R. Butler says

    births, miraculous
    Cynics (Greek philosophical school), presence and influence of in Roman Palestine
    deaths, cosmic
    Jeshua ben Ananias
    messiahs, expectations of

    Slightly OT: A clear timeline often helps greatly in historical studies; a glossary, ditto.

  25. Tom Higgs says

    Chrest – the good
    Chrest in early manuscripts (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus) and inscriptions
    Changing of Chrest to Christ
    Modern scholars not givinf correct translations
    Normal methods of historians compared to methods used by NT scholars
    Do NT scholars even do history
    Hector Avalos, End of Biblical Studies
    NT Minimalism
    Applying Copenhagen school of thought to the NT
    Thomas L Thompson
    Palaeography pseudoscience?
    Scientific testing of all manuscripts
    NT Manuscript provenance revisited
    Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman failed cases for Jesus historicism

  26. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Translation, History of [biblical books/epistles]
    …should include references to original language of authorship for different books as well as how books reached English (since that’s the language we’re reading in). Did the translation pass through Latin on the way? Is this a book that started in Aramaic or Greek? That sort of thing would be useful to be able to find.

    Consensus, argument from (see also, Authority, Argument from and Populum, Argumentum ad)

    Zombie, Invasion of Jerusalem by (Not)

    Geza Vermes was mentioned earlier, but I’d like a separate index citation to “Dead Sea Scrolls” [even if it redirects to a more appropriate entry, like “Bible, early manuscripts” or some such].

    “Teacher of Righteousness”

    John Dominic Crossan (as a popularizer of the idea we can “know” the “historical Jesus” he might be in your book; alternatively “historical Jesuses, conflicts between” might be even better than simply listing the popularizers)

    Second Temple, destruction of
    …I’m rather hoping these events are mentioned in setting the stage for understanding what the political environment was, so that we can better understand the context in which people might feel motivation X or undertake action Y.

    other things I wanted were already covered, but include things like Maccabees (the book and the family and revolution with which they are associated), John the Baptist, Q, Saul/Paul, Bart Ehrman, Avalos, Tacitus, Pliny, Josephus, etc.)

  27. junego says

    Ascension of Isaiah
    Earl Doherty
    All the non-canonical gospels, acts, etc.
    Enoch, Books of
    Maccabees, Books of
    Diatesseron (sp?)

  28. roiderien says

    Bart Ehrman–He’s a formidable biblical scholar and atheist whose recent book argues for the existence of Jesus the man.

  29. Seanbruck says

    Chronology of theologies and events between ~6bce – 100ce according to ahistoricity vs the chronology in the strongest version of the argument for historicity.

    Theology ex: most historicists propose a low christology (Q) evolving to a high christology (John). Your model is I believe high christology (Paul) followed by lower (Mark) followed by higher (John). It would be helpful to see these models lined up in sequence to highlight their differences.

  30. Jeremy L says

    I’m reading the Richard Bauckham book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” to understand some of the apologist “arguments” in anticipation of OHJ. While there are some really ridiculous things in this, one thing that I’ve found useful is his division of the index into four separate sections, namely “Ancient Persons”, “Modern Authors”, “Places” and “Scriptures and Other Ancient Writings”. I know you’ve done a scripture index, but are you thinking of further breaking down the index along the lines mentioned above?

    • says

      Not exactly. That would be too tedious (and not terribly useful). Ancient passages relating directly to historicity (e.g. in Josephus, Tacitus, etc.) are in the subject index. Everything else is in the NT, so covered by the scripture index. The only other things that matter are modern authors (for which there will be a separate index) and ancient authors and persons mentioned in the main body (and not just in notes), which are in the subject index (likewise places that matter).

  31. Jeremy L says

    Slightly off topic, but probably a question that many people are asking: Sheffield Phoenix are still saying on their website that “On the Historicity of Jesus” will be published in June. Can you give any indication of when electronic versions (Kindle and/or epub) will be available?

    • says

      Much later than that. They haven’t even started discussing an e-edition contract with me, much less beginning production. I estimate (very roughly and out of the blue) that an e-version will arrive a year after print. Insofar as I ever have any ability to, I shall try to accelerate that outcome. But right now I am not optimistic.