If the only sure things in life are death and taxes, can we be sure that Jesus actually lived on Earth? The Bible says he paid taxes (Matthew 17:24-27), and it goes into graphic detail about his death (Mark 15, John 19), but for some, the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life are not enough. What about the countless personal testimonies from people whose lives have been changed by giving their lives to Jesus? Nope. Still not good enough for some.
So, can a person look at historical documents besides the Bible to see whether Jesus really lived? Is there enough evidence to overcome the obstacle that would keep someone from salvation? **
While I enjoy history, I’m not really a true historian. But I came across this article that should help those interested in researching the historical viability of Jesus to see the Bible as accurate.
Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who previously tried to explain away the darkness occurring at Jesus’ crucifixion:
“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)
Mara Bar-Serapion (70AD)
Pliny the Younger (61-113AD)
Lucian of Samosata: (115-200 A.D.)
Jewish Talmud (400-700AD)
The Toledot Yeshu (1000AD)
This is not a comprehensive list of the historical sources, but it is a good start for someone interested in checking on the Bible’s veracity.
The followup question on Jesus’ historicity would be, “Well, just because he existed, it doesn’t mean that he is God. How can we know that he was truly the God?”
This question is actually not as difficult as it appears, because Jesus claimed to be God (John 8:58). Since he made the claim to be God, he was either telling the truth, he was a liar, or he was crazy. Those are the only three choices.
- If he told the truth, then He is deserving of worship. The truth of his claim is verified mostly in the fact of his resurrection and his fulfillment of hundreds of old testament prophecies.
- If he knew that he was not the eternal Creator God, but he wanted others to believe this, then he was a liar. Liars are not generally regarded as good men, and because of his resurrection, he possesses a great deal of leverage to his divinity claim.
- Was Jesus crazy, delusional, wacko? Did he unfortunately believe that he was the eternal Creator God? Again, he would not be regarded today as a good teacher if he believed something was was sheer lunacy, and because he backed up his claim with his prophecy-fulfilling miracles and resurrection, it is certain that he was not a lunatic.
Just understanding the historicity of Jesus is not enough. If Jesus truly lived and he really is God, what does that mean for you? You are certainly paying taxes, and you certainly will die. I can’t get you out of the taxes dilemma, but you can have life without end.
UPDATE: This is a good article from the same guy that wrote Cold Case Christianity.
Ignatius and Polycarp were direct students of the Apostle John; Clement was a direct student of the Apostle Paul. These students later became leaders in the early Christian Church and wrote their own letters to local congregations.
Even if people disregard the historical veracity of the Bible, Jesus still appears in historical writings.
**Disclaimer: The authority of God’s Word is the basis for being able to know anything. In other words, if the God of the Bible is not true then we cannot know anything for certain. Because He has revealed Himself, we have the necessary preconditions for intelligibility. So believing that God is the Creator and his word is true must be the foundation of our faith. If researching historical documents and seeing the evidence of creation helps someone overcome the obstacles of unbelief as a step towards salvation, I’m more than happy to help lay out the case for a historically verifiable account of the Bible.