The Historical Jesus

Z10

Jesus Christ Pantocrator

Skeptics like to presume that Jesus never existed before there is no archaeological evidence of His existence.  To be technical, the same can be said of Confucius, Buddha, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Hannibal to name a few.  Yet, we don’t hear skeptics say they didn’t exist.

There is a plethora of Christian and non-Christian historians and chroniclers who wrote about Jesus Christ in the historical sense.  Skeptics are just cherry-picking for what to accept as historical because it doesn’t fit their beliefs.

“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: . . .” ~ Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:1)

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds 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 Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” ~ (Ibid, 18:3:3)

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man… Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion… Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.” ~ (Ibid, 18:5:2)

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” ~ Tacitus (Annals 15:44)

“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.” ~ Pliny the Younger (Letter 10:96-97 [to Emperor Trajan])

“Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, . . .” ~ Suetonius (Divus Claudius 25)

“It is taught: On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu . . .” ~ Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a)

We know the New Testament writings date to the first century since they are quoted by first and second century Church Fathers.  Whether these writings were written by those for whom they are named may be disputed even among Catholic scholars, but the evidence suggests these writings are authentic.  Furthermore, some Apostolic Fathers like Saint Ignatius of Antioch have a personal connection to the apostles; Ignatius for example was a student of Saint John the Evangelist, one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ who personally knew Him and witnessed His deeds; the same can be said for Saint Polycarp.  Saint Clement I, a pope, personally knew Saint Peter who was appointed by Christ as the rock upon which the Church was founded (rf. Matthew 16:17-19).  To be short, apostolic succession proves the historicity of Jesus, because a valid ordination must start with Christ and continue onward for all ages through the imposition of hands, an external sign of the inward grace received in Holy Orders.  Saint Quadratus of Athens was allegedly one of the seventy disciples of Jesus Christ and who later wrote Fragments in the second century.

So it all comes to the idea that skeptics think the doubt in a Resurrection is more powerful than the personal witness of those who saw Jesus and passed on this teaching and was affirmed as historical by non-Christian historians of the first century.  So, it can be historically proven Jesus Christ existed in time as we do; so as for His miracles, that is a matter of faith.  Critics will automatically assume this means we always resort to blind faith, but we have affirmed the historicity of Christ and now must admit we do not know scientifically understand everything.  Besides, Julius Caesar was an historical figure who was deified yet I don’t hear critics using this to protest his historicity.  Even Agnostic biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has attested to the historicity of Jesus.

So, how about the Resurrection of Jesus?  It had to happen, seeing that in spite of the chief priests and Pharisees requesting Pontius Pilate’s permission to seal the tomb where Jesus laid in case the disciples stole His body (rf. Matthew 27:64-66), the tomb was later empty (28:6), and sure enough the disciples witnessed His Resurrection (28:9).  To say Jesus did not rise is to say the witnesses either lied or were insane, which still goes against the evidence previously shown.  The problem with critics is they go back to the texts to re-analyze them, acting as if their assumptions are more correct than the testimony of witnesses.  We may not be able to explain how this could have happened, but there are many things we cannot affirm which we have not seen (i.e. aliens).  We rely on the testimony of witnesses and those who were told these things by witnesses as we trust what they say is true.

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