Physical Evidence Jesus Existed

Interior - St. Peter's BasilicaInterior – St. Peter’s Basilica as painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini
Claims that there is no evidence that Jesus ever existed are simply untrue. Here’s why.

In the companion article, Is Faith Rational, I note that many atheists claim:

In fact, there’s really no evidence that Jesus ever existed or had followers…There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the existence of Jesus.1

You’ll find this objection from bloggers and authors2 alike among other skeptics. In response,  I pointed out 4 items that are historical or archaeological evidence of the existence of Jesus to silence this claim. They are:

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
2. Nails From the Cross of Jesus
3. The Spear of Destiny (The Spear that pierced Jesus’ side)
4. The Shroud of Turin

In the companion article there was not space to discuss these issues, so here is that discussion.

Physical Evidences of Jesus’ Existence:

First, please note these are presented as evidences not proofs. It’s very difficult to “prove” anything that happened in the past. However what we do have left from events in the past is evidences that the event occurred. The following are evidences that Jesus existed.

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
Pictured above is a view inside the great St Peter’s Basilica, the centerpiece of the Vatican, named  after the apostle Peter, a follower of Jesus who is  regarded by Catholics as the first Pope. For someone who never existed, Jesus somehow managed to get multiple people to write down the names of his first followers (the apostles), and managed to get churches, cathedrals and this basilica built to honor and worship him. Unlike mythical deities, such honor and worship continues to this day.  An amazing feat for someone who never existed.
Note: while the Basilica itself is prima facie evidence of the existence of Jesus, it also contains items that also prove the existence of Jesus. (See item three.)

Before moving on – wait – I hear an atheist saying, based on that logic every pagan god for which a temple was built must also exist. Nice try. Let’s consider a pagan temple the Bible mentions – the temple of Artemis (Roman name: Diana) in the city of  Ephesus. (Acts 19.27) and compare how people treat a mythical god with how they treat  Jesus:

– Is Artemis worshipped in any significant way today? Does she have thousands of temples/churches?
(In contrast Jesus is worshipped around the world today)

– When swearing or cursing, does anyone swear by Artemis? Or use Artemis as an expletive?
(As a corollary, why do you suppose that people only use the name of Jesus as an expletive, and not other deities? After all according to atheists all deities are the same – nonexistent. What’s the significance of using Jesus’ name?)

– Does anyone claim Artemis loved mankind enough to become incarnate, live on earth and redeem mankind from his own sin and folly?

– Is time divided before and after the coming of Artemis?
(Critics who want to point to days devoted to pagan gods like Thor’s day; Saturn’s day etc. should consider that such days do not point to anything meaningful. The division of BC/AD (before Christ/in the year of our Lord [Jesus]) locates for the world when the son of God became man for our benefit, and as such is very meaningful and significant. What does Thursday represent besides the fourth day after Sunday?)

– Does Artemis have an animal marked on its body with her symbol that carried her in triumph as Jesus does? (John 12.12-15) Has her symbol inspired kings and armies like the Chi Rho did Constantine and his army?

– Did Artemis prophesy anything that was fulfilled?
(In addition to his resurrection, Jesus predicted the destruction of the second Jerusalem temple which was fulfilled in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus.)

Whether you love Jesus and revere him or despise him and use his name as an expletive, clearly the responses to Jesus has always been, and always will be  qualitatively and quantitatively different from any other so called god. This makes both the worship of Jesus and his places of worship also qualitatively different.  There is an entire fabric of evidences that St Peter’s Basilica becomes part of strengthening the entire case for the existence of Jesus.  The temple of Artemis [or substitute any false god – Zeus,  whatever] is a single thread that simply reminds man of his tendency to idolatry and folly.  So please, don’t bother with the comparisons to other fallen temples.

2. Nails From the the Cross of Jesus
In 1990, construction workers digging to build the foundation for what is now the Peace Park in Jerusalem stumbled upon the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who questioned Jesus (John 18.19) and with the elders convicted him and sent him to the Roman governor for execution (Matt 27.1-2).   (Incidentally, this is yet another discovery that verifies a historical fact recorded in the Bible – in this case the existence of Caiaphas.  Such verifications are not possible with myths – which some skeptics believe the bible to be.)

While this find is helpful, what’s even more interesting is this: archeologist Simcha Jacobovici, noted that in the grave of the Caiaphas  were two nails.  He believes he has found the very nails used to affix Jesus to the cross, stating he has made:

“the strongest archeological argument ever that two of the nails used in the crucifixion have been found.”3

Clearly if these are the nails used to nail Jesus to the cross, Jesus existed.

3. The Spear of Destiny
The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus needed to know that Jesus was dead before they took him down from the cross. Typically to make a crucified person die more quickly (by suffocation) they would break his legs so he could no longer push himself up to get a breath.  To get such proof, the Bible records:

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
John 19.33-34

In addition  to this being a fulfillment of prophecy (predicted in Psalm 34.20; the apostle John notes the fulfillment in John 19.36), the spear itself is evidence to the existence of Jesus. Like the bronze snake Moses fashioned to heal the Israelites after their disobedience (Numbers 21.5-9)  the spear became an idol and a talisman. Just as the Israelites began worshipping the bronze snake, giving it its own name (Nehushtan 2 Ki 18.4),  likewise the spear has risen to the status of a talisman and also has its own name.  It is believed by some that whoever wields it is invincible. So rulers since Constantine the Great in the 4th century have desired to possess it. Charlemagne possessed it – and was a great conqueror. Napoleon and Hitler wanted it for that same reason.4  Even General Patton wanted it, and was so adamant on having it “that Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander of all allied troops in Europe has to intervene”5 to allow it to go back to Vienna (from where it was taken) instead of the United States.

St. Peter’s Basilica was built with four chapels that contain highly regarded relics of the Christian faith:

– The Veil that wiped Christ’s face on his way to Calvary, the place of crucifixion
– A Piece of the Cross
– It formerly housed the head of the brother of St Peter (St. Andrew)
– The spear that pierced Jesus’ side

While we don’t know whether the one at the Vatican or the one from Vienna is the real one, the point of this historical excursus is simple: some researchers have concluded the spear – the one that pierced Jesus’ side – is real and exists:

“I believe the spear of destiny existed and exists because there’s a way to take it all the way through history – from the moment of the crucifixion until Hitler.6

Naturally if the spear that pierced Jesus’ side exists; the Jesus that was pierced also existed.

4. The Shroud of Turin
After Jesus was crucified the Bible records:

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.  59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
Matt 27.47-59

These few lines of the Gospel of Matthew do much to dispel the spurious claims of  Bible doubters about the existence of Jesus and the dedication of his followers. I won’t take the time go into detail on all of it save to note in passing that the Bible records Pontius Pilate as the Governor of Judea at the time of the crucifixion, and this is corroborated by extra-biblical sources such as Josephus (Antiq of the Jews. 18.3.1(55)). (Chalk up another confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Biblical record.) But our real interest is in verse 59 – the linen cloth that Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus in after he was taken down from the cross. Many (including this writer) believe this linen cloth has been preserved, and is now in Turin, Italy known as the Shroud of Turin.

The fascinating thing about the shroud of Turin, is that when photographed, the image of a man is revealed – a man whose wounds are “totally consistent with a crucified individual”7  and “matches perfectly with everything we know about the death of Jesus”8  according to shroud researchers.  Additionally there is bleeding from the head as if a crown of thorns had been placed upon it. The Shroud was initially dismissed as a forgery, a well done painting, but that hypothesis has been proved incorrect. In 1978 a team of scientists did an extensive study of the Shroud, using a battery of non-destructive tests including a number of different photographic methods such as ultraviolet florescent photography and X-Rays. Those tests reveal a number of facts that point to the Shroud being authentic and not a fake. Here’s a few of them:

  • The image on the Shroud was not made with any kind of paints, dyes or pigments. In fact there are no particles resting on the image fibers at all. Thus the image was most emphatically not painted!
  • The image is not the normal picture you would see, when photographed it produces what photographers call a “negative” – where dark and light areas are reversed. To be more precise, “The shroud image itself is a sepia image rather lightly etched on the cloth which when photographed reveals a positive on a negative slide.”9  This means if it were somehow painted the artist would need to understand photographic concepts hundreds of  years before photography was invented. (Another question – why paint it as a negative producing sepia image in the first place?)
  • The image contains 3D information. A device called the VP-8 Image Analyzer was created to analyze images from medical resources and satellites. When the Shroud image is analyzed by it, it maps out a 3D image; This is not the result when a regular 2D picture is analyzed. This 3D result is unique to the image on the shroud of Turin.
  • Modern science does not know how the image was created, nor does the technology exist today to recreate the image.
  • There are wounds in the image that are consistent with crucifixion that the average person (who hadn’t seen a crucified body) would not know about.
  • Most of the pollen spores found on the shroud originate from the areas surrounding Jerusalem. (Scripture indicates Jesus was crucified “outside the city” Heb 13.12). As criminologist and botanist Dr. Max Frei put it, “The presence of such a significant number of pollens from plants growing exclusively in the land of the Bible and the surrounding desert permits only one conclusion: that sometime in its history, the shroud was exposed to the open air in Palestine.10

Modern science can not figure out how to produce such an image with all of its characteristics. How could a medieval forger do it? There are many more persuasive pieces of evidence but let me jump to the summary as stated by shroud researcher and author Michael Minor:

“There are literally thousands of pieces of scientific data which support the conclusion that the shroud is not a fake or a forgery. However, only one piece of evidence – the carbon 14 dating – indicates the shroud is of medieval origin.”11

The medieval date that he refers to is from a Carbon 14 test done in 1988. It returned a date for the shroud originating between 1260-1390. If that were correct, the shroud could not be the burial cloth of Jesus since the crucifixion happened about 30 AD. However further research and tests12 have shown that the Carbon 14 date is in error because it is based on a contaminated sample (or had a “material intrusion” – the preferred term – in it). Further investigation proved the sample taken from the Shroud for Carbon 14 testing had medieval aged material  re-woven into it to repair and strengthen it after it was burned in a fire in 1532. This fact invalidates the date arrived at by the Carbon 14 testing.  Thus there is no evidence that suggests the Shroud is not authentic.

So much for there being no evidence of Jesus’ existence. When you hear such claims you will know the person making them either doesn’t know what he or she is talking about or is pressing an agenda and is surpressing the evidence to do so.

Finally, as I said above, these are not presented as definitive “proofs”, rather like the miracles of Jesus they are presented as evidences “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  (John 20.31)

Duane Caldwell | posted 10/28/2014 | print format
updated 11/7/2014

Related Article:
Finding Jesus” – The Shroud of Turin – A Review


1.  From the article Faith is not Rational by “Cephus”

2. For example Author Clint Blauer says much the same thing.
Jesus the Evidence  Documentary, 2001

3 Simcha Jacobovic Secrets of Christianity episode “The Nails of the Cross
Documentary,  12/18/2010,

4 Brad Meltzer’s Decoded episode “Spear of Destiny
Documentary, 11/16/2011

5 Myth Hunters episode “Hitler and the Spear of Destiny
Documentary, 12/9/2013

6 Buddy Levy, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded episode “Spear of Destiny
Documentary, 11/16/2011

7 Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe, Forensic Pathologist
Unwrapping the Shroud: New Evidence
Documentary 2008

8 Dr. Firpo Carr – Professor of Semitic Languages
Jesus the Evidence
Documentary, 2001

9 Kenneth Stevenson, co-author The Verdict on the Shroud,
Narrator, Behold the Man: The Shroud of Turin
Documentary, 1985

10 Dr. Max Frei, Criminologist and Botanist
Behold The Man: The Shroud of Turin 

11Michael Manor, author: A Lawyer argues for the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin,
referenced from Jesus the Evidence
Documentary, 2001

12  Shroud researchers  Sue Benford and Joe Marion proposed the piece cut from the Shroud for Carbon 14 testing had medieval aged material invisibly re-woven into the fabric, invalidating the test. Their theory was confirmed by Ray Rogers, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory
Unwrapping the Shroud: New Evidence
Documentary, 2008


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