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Evidence of a Historical Jesus and Resurrection

Reader comment on item: A Christian Boom
in response to reader comment: prove it.

Submitted by Servant of Christ (United States), Aug 13, 2007 at 16:38

Go on and prove it.

We have four Gospels of Jesus and a quotation of an early church creed from Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Let me show you first that Jesus was a real person and even secular history doesn't disagree:

Ananus thought that he had a favourable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinus was still on the way. And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought them a man called James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. (Josephus, Antiquities) emphasis added

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not cease. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life. For the prophets of God had prophesied these and myriads of other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still up to now, not disappeared.
(Josephus, Testimonium Flavianium) emphasis added

The above passage is agreed by scholars to have Christian additions but also authentic words of Josephus. For example, phrases like, "if indeed one ought to call him a man", "He was the Messiah", and "On the third day he appeared to them restored to life" are unJewish beliefs. Therefore we must conclude that Christians have added it or rewrote what Josephus wrote.

Generally scholars agree to something like this as what Josephus wrote (at a minimum):

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) had not died out. (Josephus, Testimonium Flavianium) emphasis added

There is also an Arabic version of the Testimonium Flavianium.

But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. (Tacitus, Annals) emphasis added

Hmmm, the repressed for a time broke out again seems to indicate something that sparked a revival in the interest about Jesus... Like the Resurrection perhaps?

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food.
(Pliny the Younger) emphasis added

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws (
Lucian, The Passing Peregrinus)

There are other people who write about Jesus or support his historicity such as Celsus who called Jesus a mere sorcerer but did not doubt his existence, Seutonius who said many Jews were being expelled from Rome because of the instigation of Chrestus, and Mara bar Serapion who talks shortly about a king with descriptions very similar to a certain Yeshua.

The Jewish Talmud also writes about him as an evil sorcerer (not surprising because Jesus was rejected by them).

The early Church fathers wrote about Jesus and never doubted his existence.

But I see no reason why the Gospels are not reliable enough. I will demonstrate that the Resurrection is the best attested ancient event. I will not use the Gospels as 'inerrant, God-breathed' but only as reliable eyewitness material (as archaeology and manuscript studies have shown them to be, I can elaborate if you wish).

I will use five facts that are known to historians concerning Jesus.

1. Jesus died.
There is no doubt about it. The Swoon Theory was devised to explain that he wasn't but it's not possible for a man who was scourged until he was unable to walk to be crucified and survive in a tomb for Saturday and Sunday in 75 pounds of spices without food and water (John 19:35). And after that, he must push aside a rock that weighs about 1.5-2 tons (the seal that covered Jesus' tomb) and then defeat a squad of armed Roman soldiers and then appear to his disciples. If Jesus did do that and showed up before his disciples, then I doubt the disciples would be too eager to be 'resurrected' like Jesus was in his state. But we can see that any attempt to prove that Jesus was alive is ridiculous.

2. The tomb of Jesus was empty
Everybody agrees to this. The Romans, Jews, and Christians all agreed that the tomb was empty. They knew which tomb it was (the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea). The question was not if the tomb was empty but how. The Jews believed that the disciples stole the body. Now how would 11 disciples who scattered in fear because of the crucifixion and then suddenly have the ability to take down a squad of Roman guards and push aside the rock. This is more probable than the Swoon Theory but still ridiculous.

The ones who discovered the empty tomb were women. In the ancient world, women were looked down upon and not trusted as accurate sources. Why would the disciples use women as the ones who discovered the empty tomb when it would HURT THEIR STORY. The only logical explanation is that it was the truth.

3. There were eyewitnesses
The disciples all said they saw him. Skeptics said that they saw him such as James and Paul. 500 people saw Jesus walk and talk around them (check the 1 Corinthian 15 creed).

Now you may say that the disciples said that they saw that Jesus rose because they were lying. Possibly, but why would these Eleven men lie about such a thing. The Romans and Jews persecuted them until death. Tradition says that ten of these eleven were KILLED for their faith. Would these people die for a lie?

I know that many people die for their beliefs but what they die for is just a belief. These disciples were in a unique position. These disciples did not say, "We believe that Jesus was resurrected". NO! These disciples said that they SAW the risen Lord. It was not mere belief. These people claimed to SEE him. They either lied about seeing Jesus or told the truth. Once again, who would die for a lie?

Some people say that the disciples were hallucinating. Hallucinations do not occur in groups, especially when there are 500 people seeing him. Furthermore, skeptics were changed like James, Paul, and Thomas. In fact, Jesus Christ even let these disciples touch him to prove that he was there.

4. There were early writings
The Gospels and the 1 Corinthian 15 creed are very early writings. The creed existed when Paul became a Christian which was around 2-5 years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though many liberal scholars say that the gospels were written far too late, evidence points otherwise.

In all four gospels, there is no mention of the destruction of the Temple of Herod (A.D. 70). Three of the four prophesy about its destruction but none of them mention it. Wouldn't it logically be a good idea to mention the fulfillment of the prophecy to strengthen your case that Jesus is God by talking about the destruction of the temple if it was written after A.D. 70? Furthermore, after the temple's destruction, Christians were scattered and so writing the Gospels would have been difficult.

The Book of Luke and Acts are both written by Luke the doctor. The book of Acts is the second book and ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome. Paul dies in A.D. 67 which pushes the book of Acts to a date of the early 60s, thus pushing the Gospel of Luke even earlier.

The Gospel of John is usually said to be the last gospel written. The earliest copy of John is found on an Egyptian papyrus in Egypt dating to around A.D. 125. The gospel is said to originate from Ephesus so we can see that even in A.D. 125, John's Gospel was widely circulated to reach Egypt.

5. The church's emergence
Immediately after Jesus' death the disciples and Jesus' followers went into hiding. Suddenly, these same disciples emerged from hiding proclaiming the news that Jesus was resurrected into heaven and boldly spread this message even until death. James, Jesus' brother, doubted that Jesus was any different than himself but suddenly he became the leader of the Church of Jerusalem, even until death in the hand of the Jews. Paul, a zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians, became a devout follower of Jesus, spreading the message across the Roman world even until his martyrdom in Rome. Churches were planted everywhere and people believed.

So what explanation can there be. Secular sources show that Jesus of Nazareth existed. We know that the Resurrection is evidenced by five things: Jesus death and empty tomb, eyewitnesses and early writings, and an emergence of a church even under persecution.

I await your response :D.

God Bless!


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