Early Doubts about the Gospels and Jesus


Doubts about the veracity of the Gospels, and the historicity of Jesus Christ date to the very earliest times after the Gospels came to light (early 2nd century). Below is a list of such doubts and critiques.


2 John warns of those who don't

"acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh".


Trypho, (possibly Rabbi Tarphon), in early 2nd century , reportedly claimed the Christ was unknown to history (in the Dialogue with Justin Martyr, he admits Jesus was a man who was crucified) :

“But Christ - if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere - is unknown...”


Marcion, in mid 2nd century, claimed Jesus was a phantom or spiritual entity, and not born of Mary :

“Marcion, I suppose, took sound words in a wrong sense, when he rejected His birth from Mary...”

“...they deny ... His humanity, and teach that His appearances to those who saw Him as man were illusory, inasmuch as He did not bear with Him true manhood, but was rather a kind of phantom manifestation. Of this class are, for example, Marcion...”

“Marcion, adopting these sentiments, rejected altogether the generation of our Saviour ... [who] independent of birth, Himself descended from above in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and that, as being intermediate between the good and bad Deity, He proceeded to give instruction in the synagogues.”


Polycarp's epistle refers to those who do not agree Jesus came in the flesh :

"For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist"


Basilides, in mid 2nd century, denied Jesus was really crucified, and the physical resurrection :

"Christ sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies"


Bardesanes, in mid 2nd century, denied that Christ was physical :

"...assert that the body of the Saviour was spiritual;


Minucius Felix, in mid 2nd century, explicitly denies the incarnation and crucifixion along with other horrible accusations.

"...he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men ... when you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross you wander far from the truth", and also: "Men who have died cannot become gods, because a god cannot die; nor can men who are born (become gods) ... Why, I pray, are gods not born today, if such have ever been born?" -


Tatian, in later 2nd century, compared Christianity with pagan mythology and wrote:

“Compare you own stories with our narratives. Take a look at your own records and accept us merely on the grounds that we too tell stories”


Simon and Cleobius, according to The Acts of Paul :

“For there were certain men come to Corinth, Simon and Cleobius, saying: There is no resurrection of the flesh, but that of the spirit only: and that the body of man is not the creation of God; and also concerning the world, that God did not create it, and that God knoweth not the world, and that Jesus Christ was not crucified, but it was an appearance (i.e. but only in appearance), and that lie was not born of Mary, nor of the seed of David.”


Dionysius of Corinth, in late 2nd century,

claims Christians were changing and faking his own letters just as they had changed the "scriptures of the Lord ".


Celsus, in late 2nd century, attacked the Gospels as fiction based on myths :

"Clearly the christians have used...myths... in fabricating the story of Jesus' birth...It is clear to me that the writings of the christians are a lie and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction"


Celsus also called Jesus a “shadow” (according to Origen) :

“Whereas our Jesus, who appeared to the members of His own troop--for I will take the word that Celsus employs--did really appear, and Celsus makes a false accusation against the Gospel in saying that what appeared was a shadow. “



Hegesippus, late 2nd century reports sects that did not believe in the resurrection :

' Now some persons belonging to the seven sects existing among the people, ... asked him [James]: "What is the door of Jesus? " And he replied that He was the Saviour. In Consequence of this answer, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects before mentioned did not believe, either in a resurrection or in the coming of One to requite every man according to his works; '


Caius, claimed the truth about Jesus was falsified from the late 2nd century :

"For they say that ... from ... Zephyrinus the truth was falsified ..."


Sadducees, doubted the resurrection (according to Tertullian in early 3rd century) :

“Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, sets his mark on certain who denied and doubted the resurrection. This opinion was the especial property of the Sadducees.”


Porphyry, in late 3rd century, claimed the Gospels were invented :

"... the evangelists were inventors – not historians”


Opponents of 4th century Hilary of Poitiers :

“You assert His creation, proclaim His adoption, deny His birth


Julian, in the 4th century, claimed Jesus was spurious, counterfeit, invented :

"why do you worship this spurious son...a counterfeit son", "you have invented your new kind of sacrifice ".

Julian was “convinced that the fabrication of the Galilaeans is a fiction of men composed by wickedness.. ”


Heretics, mentioned in the 4th century Constitution of the Holy Apostles :

“ ... avoid all heretics who ... also deny His generation according to the flesh; they are ashamed of the cross; they abuse His passion and His death; they know not His resurrection


Faustus, according to Augustine, denied the incarnation and the reality of the crucifixion :

“...still you deny His birth from a virgin, and assert His death on the cross to have been feigned, which is equivalent to denying it too;”


Some who denied the incarnation, according to 5th century John Cassian :

“By denying also that the Son of God was born in the flesh, you are led also to deny that He was born in the Spirit, for it is the same Person who was born in the flesh who was first born in the Spirit. If you do not believe that He was born in the flesh, the result is that you do not believe that He suffered. If you do not believe in His Passion what remains for you but to deny His resurrection?”


Various person denied the subsistence of Jesus according to 5th century Socrates Scholasticus :

“ ... deny his subsistence as Photinus and the Samosatan did, and as the Manichaeans and followers of Montanus have also dared to do.”


by Kapyong


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