|Vol. 14 No. 12 December 2012||
David R. Kenney
There are those who assert that Jesus was mythological and reject the evidence of the Bible. These skeptics try to persuade others that Jesus and the New Testament are mere propaganda. However, there is evidence outside the Bible that proves that Jesus of Nazareth really lived.
Josephus, a Jewish historian during the century Jesus lived, wrote of the High Priest Ananias: “convened the court of the Sanhedrin, and brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Messiah, who was called James, and some other men, whom he accused of having broken the law, and handed them over to be stoned.” This is not the only reference Josephus makes about Jesus of Nazareth. There are also references to Jesus’ existence in the Babylonian Talmud as well. So the Jews, while some rejected Jesus as the Messiah, did not reject the fact of His existence.
Tacitus, Roman pagan historian who wrote Annals around 115 A.D., made the following statement about Nero burning the city of Rome: “To dispel the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and treated with the most extreme punishments, some people, popularly known as Christian, whose disgraceful activities were notorious. The originator of that name, Christus, had been executed when Tiberius was emperor by order of the procurator Pontius Pilate. But the deadly cult, though checked for a time, was now breaking out again not only in Judea, the birthplace of this evil, but even throughout Rome, where all the nasty and disgusting ideas from all over the world pour in and find a ready following.”
These are two examples from those antagonistic to Christianity that testify to the existence of Jesus. If these historians, who were not Christian, wrote about Jesus and did not deny His existence, then why should we?
The New Testament (NT) is one of the best evidences for Jesus’ existence. Events surrounding His life in the NT also validate its testimony. For example, people required to return to their birthplace for registration at the time of Christ (Luke 2:1-7) was attacked as inaccurate until further research substantiated its record. Some may be astonished to learn that the NT is the most validated text in antiquity. We have over 24,000 ancient copies, in whole or in part, and some copies are from within 100 years of original composition. The Iliad by Homer is the distant second most copied text at 643 copies, but 500 years separates its writing from the earliest copy. So, one cannot dismiss the evidence presented in the NT by attacking its validity. In fact, a case can be made for the validity of its testimony by efforts to ensure the text’s preservation!
Writers from the centuries immediately following the NT produced volumes testifying abundantly to the historical Christ. For example, Polycarp (69-155 AD) is believed to have known some of the apostles and was appointed bishop by the apostle John.
Additional evidence of Jesus’ existence includes the Catacombs created during 2-5th centuries. There are 600 miles of underground passages containing an estimated up to four million graves. This was one of the secret worshiping places of Christians. The artwork in these passages abundantly testifies of Jesus’ existence. The survival of Christianity alone is testimony of the existence of Christ. Multiple of thousands of people were put to death for their faith, not over the existence of Jesus, but that Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord. Did multitudes living in the shadows of the first century die for a “myth”? Such a theory makes no sense.
France, R. T. The Evidence for Jesus. Downers Grove: Intervarsity P., 1986.
Jackson, Wayne. “The Historicity of Jesus.” <https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/26-the-historicity-of-jesus-christ>.
Slick, Matthew. “Manuscript Evidence for Superior New Testament Reliability.” <https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence>.
Someone has said, “If you want good government, be a good citizen.” If we want a better church, the place to begin is with ourselves. Jesus died for the church so it could be a better church.
If we want a better church, we must realize that we are important! We must realize that we are important no matter what we can or cannot do (Romans 12:20-26). The Lord depends on us to do our part (Ephesians 4:15-16). The Lord depends on us to help the church to grow and function.
If we want a better church, we must do something for the church. One can be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving and ready to help one another (Ephesians 4:31-32; Galatians 6:1-2). We can help the church by building up the church rather than being critical of what the church is trying to do (1 Corinthians 10:10; Hebrews 12:1). One of the best ways we can help the church is to guard our lives daily against doing or saying anything that would bring shame or reproach on the church for which Jesus died (Ephesians 5:15).
If we want a better church, we must invite others to share our blessings. The Christian life is the best life and the most rewarding life that one can live. A Christian is blessed materially and spiritually. A Christian is blessed in unlimited ways. When we bring a friend to Bible classes and worship, we help that friend understand that God has provided many blessings for those in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). A Church that grows is the church that is concerned and really loves the lost (Mark 10:21).
In conclusion, a better church begins with me, and the time to begin is now. Let us be joined together in purpose (1 Corinthians 1:10). Hand in hand, let us march to the glory land.