Was Jesus a REAL Historical Person?

By Andrew Herbst

Having gone to three different colleges, one Bible and two secular, I have observed my fair share of attacks against the Bible.

As a history major at Minnesota State, the Bible came up often in class discussions. Once, a classmate of mine started attacking the reliability of the New Testament. I still remember her look of annoyance, even confusion, when I asserted that the Gospels were trustworthy eyewitness accounts of actual historical events. To which she intellectually replied, "No they are not..." And the conversation did not continue. 

Why would someone feel irritated when confronted with the truthfulness of the Gospels? In today's world there is much skepticism surrounding the life of Jesus Christ. Some consider Jesus to never have existed at all. Others claim Jesus was only a minor historical character with much myth built around Him. This is not an insignificant issue. If Jesus never existed, or if He was merely a small town teacher (and not God), then we have no obligation to obey HIs word. However, if the Gospels are true, and no mythology is attached to Jesus, then those who deny Him need to think seriously about changing their wold view. 

In this three part series, we will investigate the truth of Christ's historical existence on earth. 

2000 years ago, there were very few people considered historians. These few historians reserved their writing space for wars, generals, kings, and other important events. Very rarely did authors mention obscure characters, or insignificant events.

Jesus Christ, by earthly standards, would fit into the latter category; an executed criminal from the backward region of the Roman Empire. Hardly worth a historian's ink. Awhile back, I heard an atheist say that Jesus can't be found anywhere in ancient writings. Embarrassingly, this atheist is 100% wrong. (Fact checking alert.) By 150 years after the resurrection, Jesus had 9 non-Biblical historians refer to Him. Not impressed? To put that in context, Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor during Jesus' life, also had 9 historical references! Its inconceivable to imagine how an executed criminal could match the historical impact of the leader of the Roman World (unless, of course, that criminal just happened to change the world). Within that same 150 years, if you include Christian writers, Tiberius increases to ten, while the King of Kings reaches a staggering 42 documented historical references! If you believe that Tiberius was a real person, (which everyone does), it is only logical to believe that Jesus was historical as well. 

Furthermore, these non-Biblical historians are considered some of the best historians of their day. For example, consider Tacitus and Josephus. Tacitus, who is considered the greatest Roman historian, confirms details which the New Testament also affirm. He recorded that "Christus" died while Pontius Pilate was in Jerusalem. He additionally confirms that our old friend Tiberius was the Roman Emperor around 30 AD at the time of Christ's death. Josephus, a renowned Jewish historian, mentioned Jesus on 2 occasions. He also wrote of Jesus' brother James and John the Baptist. 

Our Lord can be found in numerous other documents from all over the world: Greece, Syria, Asia Minor, and Africa. However, historians weren't the only ones that saw Jesus as a noteworthy person. Our Messiah walked beyond the pages of history and into the laws, letters, and lives of those living in the ancient world. 

Amongst modern critics its a popular practice to ignore Jesus a true historical figure and mark the Gospels as fanciful fairy tales. Unfortunately for these skeptics, the facts of history are on our side. God's Word is not only forever "settled in heaven", but is firmly established in history. According to respected apologist, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, New Testament authors adamantly taught that God came to earth as a man, and stepped into history. They weren't interested in mythology, but wrote the Gospels with the intent of sharing an accurate historical record of an ACTUAL historical man. Those who refuse the mountain of evidence supporting the life of Christ reveal themselves to be biased, closed minded, and not open to honest research. As modern Christians, we have no need to be intimidated when people say the Gospels aren't historical or that Jesus didn't exist. Flawed proofs cannot diminish, or deny, the existence of Emmanuel. He is STILL with us. 

 

"This is the disciple which testifiethh of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."

(John 21:24-25.)

 

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