Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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Historically, Who Was Jesus?

          There is no doubt that Jesus was born, existed, died on the cross and rose again, from the dead.  The historical facts verify these things.  The only question the skeptic has left is who was He, in comparison to who He and others said He was.    

Jesus' resurrection seems to be the major sticking point. The following are the facts -
1. The tomb was found to be empty.

2. The belief of the disciples, that He appeared to them after His death and who then went around telling the people about Him.  Presently, two and a half  billion people claim to be Christian.

3. He was pronounced dead, by a Roman soldier, to Pilot. He would not have lied to Pilot, the head Roman leader, to whom he was subject.

4. The first few reports of His resurrection were not believed by His disciples.  When they saw Him they believed.

5. Over 500 witnesses saw Him alive, throughout a 40 day period of time.  Most of these witnesses were still alive when it was written, in the Gospels, that they saw Him.

What historical writings, other than the Bible, told about Jesus?

1. Flavius Josephus:  Josephus wrote “Antiquities of the Jews” in about 94AD. In it he mentions Jesus twice.

2. In his Annals, Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 CE) writes that Christians "derived their name and origin from Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, had suffered death by the sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate" (Annals 15.44)

3. In his The Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius, writing around 120 CE, states: "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Emperor Claudius in 49 CE] expelled them from Rome." (Claudius 5.25.4)

4. In a lost work referred to by Julius Africanus in the third century, the pagan writer Thallus reportedly claimed that Jesus' death was accompanied by an earthquake and darkness.

5. Pliny the Younger, writing near 100 CE, corresponded regularly with the emperor Trajan. In these writings, Pliny specifically mentions and describes the beliefs and practices of Christians in Asia Minor, and asks Trajan's advice about what action to take against them, if any. However, Pliny's writings provide no independent confirmation of the events of the New Testament, but merely show that there were indeed Christians living in Asia Minor.

6. There are only a few clear references to Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings compiled between approximately A.D. 70-500.

7. In  c170 Lucian wrote a satire on a Greek philosopher in which the philosopher spent some time with Christians. In the course of this, Jesus is mentioned.

8. Celsus was a philosopher who wrote a treatise against Christianity (c180AD) in which he mentions Jesus.

9. Thallus: Wrote a history in the mid first century AD which mentions the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion. The work is lost but was quoted by the second century Julius Africanus.

10. Phlegon: Wrote an astronomical treatise which mentions the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion.

11. Clement of Rome:  In 96AD Clement wrote a letter to the church in Corinth. In this he mentions Jesus and alludes to the New Testament.

12. Ignatius of Antioch:  Wrote a series of letters as he was taken to Rome to be killed for his faith in 117AD. He mentions Jesus and quotes from the New Testament.

13. Polycarp:  Polycarp wrote a letter at the start of the second century AD in which he mentions Jesus and quotes from the New Testament.

14. The Didache:  This is a work of uncertain date but probably from the first century AD. It mentions Jesus and quotes from the New Testament.

These are so close to the time of Jesus that to ignore them would be an example of complete bigotry.

"The wealth of these sayings is evidence that Jesus was a historical figure. From only the non-Christian sources we can find out:-

1. when Jesus lived, where he was born and brought up,

2. where he carried out his teaching,

3. that he had influence as a teacher,

4. that he performed actions considered to be miraculous,

5. that he was executed,

6. that people claimed to have seen him alive afterwards,

7. that he was widely described as “Christ”

8. that he had a brother called James" (http://www.biblethink.org.uk/page26.html)

"Most modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts, and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. There is a significant debate about his nature, his actions and his sayings, but most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born between 7-4 BC and died 30–36 AD, that he lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere, and that he spoke Aramaic and perhaps also Hebrew and Greek.

Scholars attribute varying levels of certainty to other episodes. E.P. Sanders and Craig A. Evans independently state that there are two other incidents in the life of Jesus that can be considered historical: that Jesus called disciples, and that he caused a controversy at the Temple. This extended view assumes that there are eight elements about Jesus and his followers that can be viewed as historical facts—four episodes in the life of Jesus and four about him and his followers, namely:

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He called disciples. He had a controversy at the Temple. Jesus was crucified by the Romans near Jerusalem.

Jesus was a Galilean. His activities were confined to Galilee and Judea. After his death his disciples continued. Some of his disciples were persecuted ." (Wikipedia)

          We can see that Jesus was an actual historical figure.  He, His disciples and many others said that He was the Messiah.  He said He was the Son of God.  He admitted to being the Christ of God.  He said He was born to be a king - not of this world.  He said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He said the only way to the Father was through Him.  He said the only way to Heaven is through Him.  He also said: If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.
          The foundation of the Christian experience is not the fact that Jesus lived here as a man on earth.  Jesus always was, is now and will be forever.  The foundation of Christianity is that He, who lives forever, for a short time, came to be with us, in the flesh, to establish the personal relationship with us that He intended to have when He created the heavens and the earth.  

          Now we can see that the question is not who Jesus was; that is well established.  The most important question now is, who is Jesus in your life?


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