Did Jesus exist as a historical figure?
Most atheists don't question the historicity of Jesus for the same reason that most Christians don't question it - they don't look at the evidence. Obviously the historicity of Jesus is not important one way or the other to atheists - but it is interesting to look at the lack of evidence.
We have looked and we conclude that there is no unbiased evidence for Jesus existing as a historical character. This page discusses what evidence there is, and what evidence is questionable. We are happy to discuss these issues at any time.
- Christians believe in a Christ - a Messiah previously anticipated by Judaism.
- The "Christ" required certain characteristics common in myth (Dionysus for example): virgin birth, preaching, miracles, being put to death, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven.
- To justify belief in a Christ is was necessary to fabricate a person onto which Christ-like characteristics could be molded.
- Jesus is a composite folkloric figure invented by Paul and steadily enhanced by the early church.
- There is not one shred of factual evidence to show that Jesus existed as a historical figure.
Some Christian theologians agree with us
Many Christian theologians share our view - ranging from J. G. Eichhorn in the 1770s through Albert Schweitzer in 1906 to people like Thomas L. Thomson in the present day.
These people remained Christians even though they accepted that there was no evidence for a real Jesus and that the myth elements (virgin birth, rising from the dead, ascent into heaven etc.) were not important. To them, it was not necessary for there to be a real person to embody the teachings of Christianity.
The foundation of Christianity
Liberal Judaism teaches (see opposite for supporting evidence):
- For forgiveness
- For doing good
- For charity
- For repentance
- For a life after death and a reward for the those who observe god's commandments
- Against violence
- Against vengefulness
The origins of Christianity:
Many modern Christians would argue that the teachings of Jesus are not the same as those of liberal Judaism.
At the time of the alleged Jesus:
- "Jesus" was a very common given name. (At least 10 high priests before the Jewish revolt were called "Jesus" and Josephus mentions 12 different people called "Jesus").
- Judaism was totally sectarian in nature. Initially it was divided into Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes but even they suffered splits within splits within splits - as does Christianity today.
- The groups hated each other almost as much as they hated the Romans and could not combine to fight a united war against the Romans. Even the siege of Jerusalem involved two different bands of zealots defending two different parts of the walls while a third group, led by Simon bar Giora, defended another.
Some of these flavours of Judaism were rigid, bigoted, authoritarian and supported the status quo while others were liberal, open-minded and supported the weak against the strong.
A quick reading of www.torah.org shows a surprising number of similarities between Judaism and the teachings of Jesus.
- "In Gen.Ch.20, Abraham prays that Avimelech be forgiven for taking Sarah; this shows that we must forgive those who wrong us."
- "Here are three Talmudic sources about the importance of our intentions:
Berachos 5b: People who do what they can, and have good intentions, are rewarded.
Shabbos 63a: If someone intends to perform a commandment, but was unable to do it, he is regarded as if he had done it. (This is derived from the phrase 'those who think of His Name' in Malachi 3:16.)
Nazir 23b: A sin performed with good intentions is as great as a good deed performed without good intentions."
- "Belief in G-d is necessary for a Jew to merit a reward in the World to Come, but it isn't sufficient; observance of G-d's commandments is also essential."
- "Teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (charity) are three powerful religious concepts."
- "The view can be found in Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5: 'Man was created singly to teach us that anyone who destroys one person is regarded as if he had destroyed an entire world, and anyone who preserves one person is regarded as if he had preserved an entire world'."
- "A Biblical verse that speaks against violence is Zechariah 4:6: 'Not through arms, and not through force, but through My spirit.'"
- "We shouldn't be vengeful; if someone who deserves punishment can't be brought to justice, we should trust in G-d to punish him"
It would not be hard to derive the sermon on the mount from liberal Judaist teachings at the time of Jesus.
The section above covered some of the core values of Judaism and Christianity so it is worthwhile taking a short break from the historical discussion and looking at secular values.
Politicians, the media and religious organisations talk about "the ethos of religious schools". Ethos means the guiding beliefs and ideals that define a community - such as a school.
This list of values was collected from teachers in non-religious schools in Derby:
- Valuing the distinctiveness of the individual
- Development of personal moral values
- Mutual respect in relationships
- Caring for others
- Inclusiveness and non-discrimination
- Listening to others and exchanging views in a civilised way
- Working co-operatively with others
- An open-minded spirit of enquiry: questioning, challenging, finding out
- Treating other people as you would like to be treated yourself
- Respect for the environment
- Respect for people as individuals - but not necessarily for their beliefs.
How do these secular values differ from those in religious schools? In what way are the values of religious schools "unique" - apart from god and worship?
Given recent scandals relating to religion (abuse by priests, homophobia, misogyny, Al Madinah, financial corruption, CofE problems with its African churches, etc.) are we sure that religion is setting a suitable moral tone?
Is it implied that non-religious schools do not promote personal responsibility and strong moral values? This would be deeply insulting to all schools. Try telling the head teachers of our outstanding Littleover, John Port and Ecclesbourne secondary schools that their schools lack a "strong moral ethos"!
We have added some brief comments after some of the claims that are not dealt with in detail latter on this page.
- Jesus was a real person, the son of god, born of a virgin in Bethlehem in Judea. (Wrong Bethlehem - too far from Galilee. Virgin birth a common story about heroes at the time.)
- Joseph and Mary had come from Nazareth to Bethlehem as part of a Roman census. (No historical record of such a census.**)
- Three wise men from the East visited Jesus soon after his birth. (No mention of "three" and not referred to in all Gospels. Christians even claim to know their names: Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar but they are not named in the bible and the first place they appear is on a wall in Ravenna!)
- King Herod ordered the killing of male babies of every family. (No historical record of such an act.**)
- Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt. (No historical record.)
- Little or nothing is known of his childhood in Nazareth working with Joseph. (No archeological evidence for the occupation of Nazareth at the time.)
- At the age of 12/13 he was found arguing with the teachers in the temple. (No historical record.)
- His preaching started at about the age of about 30. (Why no record of what happened between puberty and 30?)
- He spent 40 days in the desert resisting the temptations of the devil. (No historical record.)
- He preached (Sermon on the Mount) and taught with parables (Good Samaritan, Talents etc.) (These ideas were taught by liberal Judaism at the time and Luke 19, 27 shows that he also had a nasty side.)
- He performed miracles: cures, walking on water, feeding the 5,000, raising the dead. (Spectacular claims require spectacular evidence - there is no impartial evidence for this.)
- He was persecuted, condemned to death and crucified. (No historical evidence for this.)
- He rose from the dead on the third day. (No historical record. Common claim for heroes at the time.)
- He ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of god. (No historical record.)
** there was "a" census at some time but Herod died a full ten years before the census of Quirinius and the dates are all over the place.
Comment on Christian claims
Alan Dundees, Professor of Folk Lore at the University of California, Berkeley points out that Jesus scores third in the list of points assigned to folk-heros in the ancient world counting everything from virgin birth to ascending into heaven.
Jesus (on 19 out of 22) comes behind Oedipus (22) and Theseus (20) and just ahead of Romulus, founder of Rome (17), and Hercules (17). No wonder he was so quickly forgotten after his supposed death - folk-stories like his were ten-a-penny at the time.
Roman-occupied Palestine was full of itinerant preachers, many of them claiming to be the long-awaiting Messiah, In fact, there were so many people preaching the same things and claiming the same things, that Jesus went totally unnoticed at the time.
The role of Paul
It is most likely that almost everything we know about Jesus, and what became known as Christianity. originated with Paul after his "road to Damascus" hallucination.
The apostle formerly known as Saul, was a trained Pharisee, a Roman citizen and a tentmaker by profession. Very importantly, he never met the human Jesus. His conversion was a purely personal hallucinatory experience.
The theology of the atonement did not originate from Jesus. It originated from Paul of Tarsus! It is in the epistles of Paul that we find the kernels of many tenets and dogmas of modern Christian theology. Paul's theology expressly contradicts many of Jesus' teachings.
Pauline theology was to be fully developed by later Christian theologians but it cannot be doubted that Paul metaphorically planted the seeds for the subsequent development and evolution of Christian theology.
Paul was the founder of Christianity. He invented the character of Jesus to embody its ideas, and to give it an air of supernatural magic to fit in with Jewish expectations of their Messiah. At the same time, many of the writings of Paul are an embarrassment to modern Christians - particularly his disgraceful attitude to women.
The Bible Gospels
It is a sad reflection on the way Christian preachers treat their "flocks" that most Christians believe that the Gospels were written by the disciples of Jesus. To them, "apostle" = "disciple" - as in one of the original twelve. (There is no historical evidence for the existence of any of the original disciples outside the gospels.)
It is beyond us as to why those who study these matters in seminaries fail to point this out.
Some facts about the four Gospels:
- They were not written by anyone who knew Jesus personally.
- They were not written by any of the disciples.
- They are not contemporary records - the earliest was written 85 - 100 years after the death of the alleged Jesus.
- They conflict with one another. For example:
- Mark had never heard of the virgin birth or the Nativity
- Matthew and Luke disagree about the ancestors of Jesus. Matthew tried to show that he was a descendant of Abraham and David. Luke tried to show that he was a descendant of Adam.
- Matthew states that there was a guard on the tomb of Jesus - not so in Mark and Luke.
- Matthew seems to have made up the story about the slaughter of the innocents.
- They are only a selected four from the many "Good News" gospels that were written during the first and second century. They were selected and edited by early church leaders to fit in with the Jesus myth they were creating. The names "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John", first appeared in the second century.
The primary objection to Jesus as a historical figure
- everything that Jesus is supposed to have done,
- the fact that the Jews had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah,
- both the Jews and the Romans kept detailed records,
it is strange that Jesus is not recorded as being a real person by any of the historians of the time:
|Josephus (See below)
||Justus of Tiberius
||Pliny the Elder
||Pliny the Younger
||Theon of Smyran
The primary Christian "evidence"
Please click here for a general note about ancient sources.
Christianity relies almost entirely on a few sentences written by the Jewish historian, Josephus.
Josephus was a Jewish rebel leader defeated by the Emperor Vespasian at Jotapata in 67AD. Hiding in a cave, he and fellow survivors decided to commit suicide and draw lots as to who would kill whom. For some reason, Josephus was last on the list and, after the others had been killed, changed his mind and decided to surrender to the Romans. He became a collaborator working on the Roman side for the rest of the campaign against the Jewish revolt and he was present at the final defeat of the Jews in Jerusalem.
Josephus did his final write-up in Rome and his works are full of sycophantic comments about the Romans; he even refers to the Emperor as "the Messiah, the liberator of the Jews".
- Josephus was a Pharisee born in Jerusalem but living in Rome.
- Josephus remained a committed Judaist until his death - he did not become a Christian.
- The original works of Josephus have been lost: "History of the Jews", 79AD and "Antiquities of the Jews", 93AD.
- The key sentences are "Antiquities of the Jews", Book XVIII, Chapter iii, Section 3:
"Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.
He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
- The statement, "he was the Christ" is saying that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for.
It is strange that not a single other Jewish writer mentions Jesus or the possibility of him being the Messiah/Christ.
- Josephus wrote chapter after chapter about the most insignificant people and events - so why are there so few sentences about such a significant figure as Jesus?
- The key sentences of Josephus exist only in quotations by early Christians. It is first quoted by Eusebius in 324AD and was not mentioned by Origen when writing in 240AD.
- The paragraph immediately before the key ones concerning Jesus describes Romans killing Jews.
The paragraph immediately after the key one concerning Jesus begins:
"About the same time another sad calamity put the Jews in disorder".
Would the "sad calamity" refer to the previous paragraph (about Jesus) or the one before that (the killing of Jews)?
The Jesus sentence is clearly a later insertions which is out of context.
- If Josephus had actually written about Jesus, Christian church leaders in the following 200 years would surely refer to it in fending off criticism of Jesus being just another myth.
However, not once do Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, or Origen ever refer to Josephus’ writings about Jesus.
- We know that at least one Church leader, Origen, read Josephus because he criticises Josephus for attributing the destruction of Jerusalem to the killing of James.
Origen makes no reference to Josephus’ alleged writing about Jesus because it was not in Josephus’ original writing.
- The language used by Josephus about Jesus is Christian. Every line proclaims it the work of a Christian writer.
'If it be lawful to call him a man.' 'He was the Christ.' 'He appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.'
These are the words of a Christian, a believer in the divinity of Jesus. Josephus was a Jew, a devout believer in the Jewish faith, the last man in the world to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.
Is it probable, as the Encyclopedia Britannica asserts, that Christian copyists distorted truth by inserting the Jesus sentences?
Eusebius (265-339AD), acknowledged as "Father of Church History" and known to be the emperor Constantine’s overseer of doctrine writes in his "The Preparation of the Gospel" published by Baker House (a Christian company) on page 619:
"it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such treatment".
As one of the most influential Christians in church history, Eusebius condoned fraud as a tool to promote Christianity since without Josephus’ alleged Jesus testimony there is no credible first century non-Christian evidence of a historical Jesus.
The inconsistency of this evidence was early recognised, and Abrose, writing in the generation succeeding its first appearance (360AD), offers the following explanation, which only a theologian could frame:
"If the Jews do not believe us, let them, at least, believe their own writers. Josephus, whom they esteem a great man, hath said this, and yet hath he spoken truth after such a manner; and so far was his mind wandered from the right way, that even he was not a believer as to what he himself said; but thus he spake, in order to deliver historical truth, because he thought it not lawful for him to deceive, while yet he was no believer, because of the hardness of his heart, and his perfidious intention."
Its brevity disproves its authenticity. Josephus' work is voluminous and exhaustive. It comprises twenty books. Whole pages are devoted to petty robbers and obscure seditious leaders. Nearly forty chapters are devoted to the life of a single king. Yet this remarkable being, the greatest product of his race, a being of whom the prophets foretold ten thousand wonderful things, a being greater than any earthly king, is dismissed with a dozen lines.
Other references to Christians/Jesus in Roman writing
- Pliny the Younger, 61-113AD Governor of Bithynia.
In a letter in 112AD asking Emperor Trajan about prosecuting Christians who:
"met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Jesus as to a G-d."
Some eighty years after Calvary, somebody was worshiping a Jesus (Hebrew equivalent for Messiah)! But, nothing is said as to whether this Jesus was Jesus, a teacher and miracle working man who was crucified and resurrected in Judea or a mythic Jesus of the pagan mystery religions. Even Jesus allegedly said there would be many false Jesuses, so Pliny’s statement lends little if any credence for Jesus of Nazareth historicity.
- Suetonius, 69-122AD
Lives of the Emperors, a history of 11 emperors; writing in 120 about Emperor Claudius 41-54AD who
"expelled from Rome the Jews who under the influence of Chrestus, did not cease to cause unrest."
Who is Chrestus? No mention of Jesus. Is this Chrestus a Jewish agitator, one of many false Messiah’s or a mythic Jesus? This statement proves nothing for a historical Jesus of Nazareth.
- Tacitus, 56-120AD. Noted Roman historian
In his Annuals 14-68AD Book 15, chapter 44 written about 115CE, he gives the first non-Christian reference to Jesus as a man executed in Judea by Pontius Pilate. Tacitus states:
"Jesus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate."
Scholars point out several reasons to suspect this statement was not from Tacitus or any Roman records, but instead a later insertion in Tacitus’ Annuals.
- Pilate is referred to as "procurator" which is appropriate in Tacitus’ day, but in Pilate’s day the correct title was "prefect".
- If Tacitus’s comment was written in the early 2nd Century, why didn’t later church fathers who all sought to find proofs for Jesus historicity such as Tertullian, Clement, Origen, even Eusebius (Father of Church History) quote Tacitus?
- Tacitus is not quoted by any Christian writer prior to the 15th Century.
This quotation's inaccuracy and lack of use strongly suggest it is a later insertion.
Lack of references in Jewish writing
- Philo-Judaeus, 15BC - 50AD of Alexandria
A Greek speaking Jewish theologian-philosopher, personally knew Jerusalem because of family living there. He wrote extensively on Jewish history and religion from a Greek perspective and taught the following concepts all prominent in John’s Gospel and Paul’s epistles: God and His Word are one; the Word is the first-begotten Son of God; God created the world through His Word; God holds all things together through His Word; the Word is the fountain of eternal life; the Word dwells in and among us; all judgment is committed to God’s Word; and the Word never changes. Philo also taught on God as Spirit, the Trinity, the virgin birth, Jews who sin will go to hell, Gentiles who come to God will be saved and go to heaven, and God is love and forgives.
Yet, Philo, a Jew in nearby Alexandria, who would have been a contemporary of Jesus never once mentions anybody named Jesus nor any miracle worker being crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem, let alone an eclipse, an earthquake, or graves opening and resurrected Jewish saints walking the streets of Jerusalem. Why?
Philo’s total silence about a Jesus is deafening!
- Justus of Tiberius 1st Century Jewish writer
The writings of Justus of Tiberius have been lost, but Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople 878-886AD wrote Bibleotheca in which he reviewed the writings of Justus of Tiberius.
"of the advent of Jesus, of the things that befell him one way or another, or of the miracles that he performed, (Justus) makes absolutely no mention".
Justus’ home was Tiberius in Galilee (Jn 6:23). Justus’ writing preceded Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 93AD, so it is probable he lived and wrote during or immediately after the alleged era of Jesus, yet remarkably
"makes absolutely no mention of him
Rabbinic literature would logically be the one final inquiry for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible’s New Testament alleges Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy for the Messiah, having been crucified on Passover Day. On that day allegedly Jerusalem had an earthquake, its temple veil was split in two, there was an eclipse of the sun, Jesus is resurrected, even resurrected Jewish saints walked the streets of Jerusalem, a few days later on the Day of Pentecost Jews gathered from every nation to witness the Holy Ghost descending with tongues of fire, and the Christian church growth exploded with both Jewish and Gentile converts, signs and miracles being unleashed in abundance.
In 70AD Jerusalem is besieged by the Roman army and Israel as a nation is destroyed and dispersed.
Regardless of Rabbinic rejection of Jesus as Messiah, the historical impact of events surrounding Jesus would logically be noted in Israel’s Talmudic commentaries known as the Midrash. Jewish oral traditions and history recorded in the Midrash were updated and given final form by Rabbi Jehudah ha-Qadosh around 220AD.
Frank Zindler in "The Jesus The Jews Never Knew" says:
"Remarkably, not a single early rabbinic source so much as hints at the events of a 1st Century false Messiah, of the events alleged surrounding Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, or for that matter of anyone identifiable with the Jesus of Christianity."
Biblical towns/cities do not exist
The Holy Land’s historic landmarks do not confirm the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Local monks, priests, and tour guides pointing Christian pilgrims (donations accepted) to the locations of events described in the Bible can hardly be considered as objective.
"Unbiased confirmation of these locations is severely lacking. Nazareth is not mentioned once in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Talmud mentions 63 Galilean towns, yet never mentions Nazareth. Josephus mentions 45 Galilean towns or villages, yet never once mentions Nazareth. Josephus does mention a Japha which is a suburb of present-day Nazareth. Lk 4:28-30 describes Nazareth having a synagogue and a 'brow of a hill whereon their city was built' presumably steep enough to kill Jesus had they succeeded in throwing him over it. But, present-day Nazareth occupies a valley floor and the lower half of a hillside. There is no hill. Further, present-day Nazareth has no 1st Century synagogue ruins."
Origen 182-254AD who lived in Caesarea, 30 miles from present-day Nazareth, does not mention Nazareth. The first solid reference to Nazareth comes from Eusebius in the 4th Century. The best guesti-mates are that Nazareth, while it may have been an early iron-age settlement, was not occupied again until the 2nd Century. There are no archeological remains from the 1st Century.
This historic evidence strongly suggests why no 1st Century non-Christian Roman, Greek, Jewish historian, or Rabbinic literature mentions a Jesus of Nazareth, i.e. there was no 1st Century Nazareth.
Time and space do not allow for discussion of other significant New Testament towns. The historical and archaeological evidence for 1st Century Capernaum (mentioned 16 times in the New Testament), Bethany, Bethpage, Bethabara, and Calvary, like Nazareth is equally unconvincing or even counter-indicative.
The Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran
- relate to the old testament;
- have no bearing on the existence of a real historical Jesus;
- clearly indicate that the Jews (Essenes in this case) were expecting a Messiah/Christ;
- reinforce the model that Paul used when creating the character of Jesus.
There are hundreds of sites on the web that cover this - and a number of books. This is a small selection:
"Although the Qumran community existed during the time of the ministry of Jesus, none of the Scrolls refer to Him, nor do they mention any of His follower's described in the New Testament."
This is primarily concerned with the so-called "Crucified Messiah Scroll" and The "Son of God Scroll".
Both are not records of historical fact, they relate to what is expected - they prophesy future events, not something that is or has happened.
It would seem that there are some wild flights of interpretive fantasy being indulged in by Christians desperate to prove the historicity of Jesus. If they are confident about his historicity (based on Josephus or others) why are they so desperate to interpret the scrolls in the way they do?
The very fact that Jesus is not mentioned as a real person in documents written at the time he allegedly lived, by a group of people why were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their Messiah, is further evidence that he did not exist. Had he existed, they would have mentioned him - even if they rejected him as a false prophet. If they had accepted him as the real Christ, then the documents would be full of the good news.
Note: Geza Vermes, Fellow of the British Academy and Prof. Emeritus of Jewish Studies in the University of Oxford, was a Priest in the Sion Order but left the Priesthood and the Catholic church after his ground breaking work on the Dead Sea scrolls, no longer considering himself a Christian.
Please click here for more background information on Geza Vermes' studies of the Qumran scrolls - with some interesting asides about the Catholic Church actually forbidding academic study of the Bible unless it resulted in material that reinforced the views of the church. Even in the 21st century, the church remains closed-minded and opposed to critical thinking.
The mark of an objective, critical thinking mind is to seek non-biased confirmation of alleged facts. When the only available evidence for something is suspiciously questionable, and exclusively provided by those who believe in that something, then "Buyer Beware".
The facts are that non-Christian Jewish, Greek, and Roman writers of the decades following the alleged events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are silent about any person named Jesus of Nazareth. Though the fair-minded critical thinker is always willing to consider further evidence, today 2,000 years later, Christianity has no more 1st Century objective, unbiased evidence for its historicity then Santa Claus, Bilbo Baggins or Harry Potter.
Note about ancient sources
There were no printing presses in the Middle East at the time of the alleged Jesus. Everything was hand-written and hand-copied. Documents, especially, histories, were very expensive and were reserved for those in positions of religious and political power.
Most people could not read or write - any writing or reading they required was done by scribes who charged for their services. If Jesus had existed it is most likely that he could neither read nor write - another factor in explaining his very narrow world-view.
It is extraordinarily rare for an original document to survive until the present day. Usually we rely on copies, or copies of copies.
There are several factors in assessing the validity of a document.
- Where is the original - or the oldest copy - the one closest to the time when it was originally written?
- What language was the original written in?
- Is the oldest copy in the original language or is it a translation? Translations are notorious for introducing subtle, and not so subtle, changes to the original.
- When was this oldest copy written - and by whom?
- Did the person owning or writing the oldest copy have a personal axe to grind which might account for changes from the original?
- Do other people quote the document? If so, when did they quote it and what is the documentary evidence for them quoting it?
Obviously the same rules must be applied to anyone quoting an original document as to the original document itself.
A gap of 300/400 years between an event happening and the oldest copy of any document referring to it must be looked upon with great suspicion. Even worse, an original written 300/400 years after an event cannot be relied upon as an accurate record of fact.