THE SHORT ANSWER: The Bible (New Testament) is a collection of all the reliable historical (eye witness) accounts of Jesus. Therefore we should expect there to be no reliable eye witness accounts outside of the Bible.
This question came in from a youtube comment. It's a good one.
"Why are there no eyewitnesses of Jesus outside of the Bible accounts? You would have thought just one historian at the time would have licked his pencil and jotted it down."
Being included in the bible doesn't make the gospels "not history."Why would you assume that the writings in the bible are not history? They were eye witness accounts written during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. The writers of the gospels are historians. To claim that no historian wrote anything down about Jesus is ridiculous.
We have an entire collection of writings about Jesus. They are ancient. They tell a story of past events. They were not written as fiction. That's the definition of history. The burden of proving those are NOT HISTORY is on the person who claims they are not history.
Luke for one, certainly seemed to think he was a historian. After all, he tells us what his goal was when he said,
"It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write and orderly account..."
Luke was convinced he was qualified to write the history of Jesus. All the other apostles would be shocked to find that you've removed them from the category of history. It makes me wonder what qualifies as history to anyone who denies the bible.
Let's take a look at the other part of this question.
"Why are there no eyewitnesses of Jesus outside of the bible?"
There probably were other eye witness accounts.The VAST MAJORITY of ancient manuscripts did not survive the last 20 centuries. We would expect for them to. Only the most important documents were copied, since it was an expensive, hand written process.
The fact that everyone has a blog, and multiple half filled journals and diaries on the shelf today contributes to the confusion on this subject. The people of the ancient world didn't keep written records as we do. In the Roman empire, many things were recorded on temporary wax tablets, but would be erased often. Paper wasn't introduced to the region until the Abbasid empire imported it from the East around the 9th century. Ink had to be made by hand, usually with soot, vegetable oil, and beeswax. Oil and Beeswax were commodities. In most places only the rich could afford to have things written down. The writing technology of their day did not lend it self to the common person.
In reality, the amount of new testament manuscripts and fragments that we have (around 6000) is astounding in terms of history. Jesus' life is well attested. Virtually all secular scholars are confident in the existence of a man named Jesus, from first century Palestine. They may disagree about his divine nature, but they agree he existed.
I know, I know. The history channel digs up these "scholars" who believe Jesus never existed... but let's remember that the history channel also has that crazy haired ancient aliens guy (Giorgio A. Tsoukalos) as a regular.
It doesn't invalidate an eye witness account for it to be included in the bible.It might help to read our post on why books were left out of the bible. The basic notion is, the bible didn't start out as a bible. It started out as a bunch of independent documents that claimed to be eye witness accounts. They were written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses. So they were falsifiable. Falsifiability is very important when you're trying to determine if something is a valid eye witness account. The church went through a near 400 year period where it examined, tested, and considered which accounts were authentic. The ones in the modern bible are the ones that were universally accepted.
Here's how we put it in a previous post.
To anyone of the first few centuries, the writings about Jesus were independent documents circulated by individuals. The New Testament is simply a collection / library of works that were gathered together later because they were determined to be trustworthy. So until they were gathered together in a formal format, all of them were “outside the bible.”
So let’s think about the logic here.
1. Supposedly there needs to be [trustworthy writings] about Jesus that are [not in the bible] to trust Jesus’ validity.
2. At a point in previous history a council gathered up all the [trustworthy writings] about Jesus and bound them in a work called the bible.
3. Therefore, there are no more [trustworthy writings] about Jesus that are outside the bible.
You can see that the reasoning is faulty. If the New Testament is the collection of all the reliable eye witness accounts, then we shouldn't expect there to be reliable eye witness accounts outside the bible.
The problem is not the existence of eyewitness accounts, it's what's in those accounts that bothers you.
(I'm making an assumption here, so feel free to disagree in the comment section.) The problem is that these eye witness accounts claim supernatural events. If all that was contained in the gospels was a 30 year old man teaching his fellow countrymen, Then no one would think twice. It's the fact that his witnesses claim he walked on water, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and rose from the dead. They then carried that story throughout the world, and eventually chose to be executed in order to prove they had not made it up.
Hypothetically speaking, supernatural activity is what we should expect.Let's say for the sake of argument that there is a God. Now lets say he intends to appear to mankind. So that he doesn't strike fear into the mortals, he chooses to appear as a moral man himself. What would that God-man have to do to convince us that he was more than a mere mortal. He'd do, basically what Jesus did. He would prove himself to be supernatural through supernatural means.
Excluding the possibility for the supernatural is refusing to look at the evidence.Imagine a juror in a court of law plugged his ears and covered his eyes while evidence was being presented. I'm actually not sure what the judge would do in that case. I can assure you though, that the jurors that juror will not be able to make an accurate judgment. To exclude the possibility of the supernatural is the equivalent of not looking at the evidence. It's important that we at least consider the supernatural as a possibility.
For him to prove his divinity, Jesus had to perform miracles to validate his divinity. The Apostle Paul said, "The Son is the image of the invisible God."
Peter said it this way, "Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know."
You may say, "I don't believe in miracles." Yeah that's the point.No one believes in miracles as a default position. That is the point of miracles. A miracle, by nature, is something that should be impossible. That is why it is valuable in giving accreditation to the miracle worker.
You may say, "but I haven't seen a miracle, so I don't believe."Understandable. However, I haven't seen a miracle and I do believe. I believe that the historical method has given us enough evidence to be convinced that Jesus was divine. I take the words of Jesus, recorded by his friend John, to heart when he says, "anyone who believes has eternal life."
This is a bold claim for Jesus to make. For us to have any chance of believing that Jesus is truly the giver of eternal life, he'd have to prove it with miracles. If he did no miracles, we'd have no reason to believe.
It's easier to believe that Jesus did miracles, than it is to invalidate the historical evidence.The fact is, belief would not have been my default position. Like many, I find miracles hard to believe. However, I find it more difficult to invalidate the historical evidence.
One of two options arrises. Either:
A mountain of historical evidence was fabricated. A conspiracy was perpetuated through 20 Centuries.
A guy did miracles.
Faced with these two options, I go with the most elegant conclusion, which in my opinion is that Jesus did miracles. This kind of faith doesn't come from closing my eyes and plugging my ears. It comes from years of study.
I didn't just wake up one day and decide that I would disregard my instinct. My instinct was to deny the possibility of miracles. Had there been no evidence of Jesus' life (the eye witness accounts) that's exactly what I would have done. I would have walked away, if there had been no evidence.
Jesus said this to his disciples after he raised from the dead, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Although I haven't seen him, I have done as much as I can to verify Jesus in history, and I have come to the conclusion that the most reasonable explanation is that Jesus is who he claimed to be.
How could Judas not believe.
Why are there no roman records of Jesus
How could Judas not believe?