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You will all run into those who deny the existance of Jesus Christ, or that it is doubtful He ever existed, even by those who now claim to be Christian. When that should happen to you, the following will be a good ready defense for you.
An accurate statement by F.F. Bruce, professor at Rylands of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Michigan was the following:
"Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historocity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propogate the 'Christ-myth' theories."
Christian sources for the historicity of Jesus:
Twenty seven different New Testament Documents.
The question is then asked:
"What, then, does a historian know about Jesus Christ? He knows, first and foremost, that the New Testament documents can be relied upon to give an accurate portrait of Him. And he knows that this portrait cannot be rationalized away by wishful thinking, philosophical presuppositionalism, or literary maneuvering."
Polycarp, Eusebius, Irenaeus, Ignatius, Justin, Origen, Barnabas, Hermas Tatian, clement, Tertullian, Hippolytus, etc.
Non-biblical sources for Historicity of Jesus:
Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Flavius Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, the Samaritan, Phlegon, the Jewish Talmuds, the Quran of Islam, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (The latter uses 20,000 words to describe the person of Jesus), and all other Encycyclopedias.
One of many non-biblical Sources for the Historicity of Jesus:
Cornelius Tacitus (Born A.D.52/54)
A Roman historian, in 112 A.D., governor of Asia, son-in-law of Julius Agricola who was governor of Britain A.D. 80-84. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome:
"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, available 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 with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormaties. 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, represented, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also" (Annals XV. 44)
In a statement from Flavius Josephus, in his Antiquities. xviii,33.
He was a Jewish historian who became a Pharisee at the age of 19; in A.D. 66 he was the commander of Jewish forces in Galilee. After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says in the following quotation:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day."
(Early second century)
In another statement by Flavius Josephus, he said this about Jesus half brother, James:
"But the younger ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of Sadducees, who are severe in judgement above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." Antiquities XX9:1.
From Suetonius - in A.D. 120:
Another Roman historian, court official under Hadrian, annalist of the Imperial House, said: "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (Another spelling for Christus), he expelled them from Rome." From 'Lives of the Caesars,' 26.2
In a recorded statement by Plinius Secondus, or Pliny the Younger:
Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 112), Pliny was writing the emperor Trajan seeking counsel as to how to treat the Christians.
He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was discovered to be a Christian, or if he should kill only certain ones. He explained that he had made the Christians bow down to the statues of Trajan. He goes on to say that he also "made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do." In the same letter he says of the people who were being tried:
"They affirmed , however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when the sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultry, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up." Epistles X.96.
The next recorded documentation of interest ot us in the historicity of Jesus is one from Tertullian, as follows:
Jurist-theologian of Carthage, in defense of Christianity (A.D. 197) before the Roman authorities in Africa, mentions he exchange between Tiberius and Pontius Pilate:
"Tiberius accordingly, in those days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all the accusers of the Christians" (Apology V.2).
The next one to testify for Christ is Justin Martyr.
About A.D. 150, Justin Martyr, addressed his 'Defense to Christianity' to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, referring him to Pilate's report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. But the words, "They pierced my hands and my feet," he says, "are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the 'Acts' which were recorded under Pontius Pilate." Later he says: "That He performed these miracles you may be easily satisfied from the 'Acts' of Pontius Pilate." Apology 1.48.
And from the Jewish Talmuds:
Tol doth Yeshu. Jesus is referred to as "Ben Pandera."
Babylonian Talmud. (Giving opinion of the Amorian) writes"...and hanged him on the eve of Passover.
Talmud title referring to Jesus: "Ben Pandera (or 'Ben Pantere')" and "Jeshu ben Pandera." Many scholars say "pandera" is a play on words, a travesty on the Greek word for virgin "parthenos," calling him a "son of a virgin." Joseph Klausner, a Jew, says "the illegitimate birth of Jesus was a current idea of the Jews..."
Comments in the Baraila are of great historical value:
"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshua (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going forth to be stoned in that he hath practiced soecery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they foundnaught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover." (Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a) - "Eve of Passover."
The following excerpts are from the Quran - the Holy Book of the Islamic religion about Jesus Christ. It is to show that they too recognize the historicity of Jesus existence.
In Suras 4:157; 5:19, 75; 9:30 of the Quran it makes the following statements:
1. Jesus is not the Son of God.
2. Jesus did not die for our sins.
3. Jesus was not crucified.
4. Jesus was not divine as well as human.
5. Jesus is ot the Savior.
There are also a few of the issues in the Quran that are flat out contradictions to the Christian Bible.
Another interesting recorded document from the historicity of Jesus is Phlegon, a first century historian.
His 'Chronicles' have been lost, but a small fragment of that work, which confirms the darkness upon the earth at the crucifixion, is also mentioned by Julius Africanus. After his (Africanus) remarks about Thallus unreasonable opinion of the darkness, he quotes Phlegon that "during the time of Tiberius Caesar and eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon" 7/11B, sect. 256 f16,p. 1165.
Phlegon is also mentioned by Origen in Contra Celsum, Book 2, section 14, 33, 59.
"Philopon (De. opif. mund. ll 21) says: And about this darkness...Phlegon recalls it in the 'Olympiads' (The title of his history). He says that Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the Lord Christ, and no other (eclipse) , it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any (similar) eclipse in previous times...and this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar." 4/ll B, sect. 257 f16, c, p. 1165.
Then there is the Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion which was written sometime around A.D.73 - which follows:
"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgement for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gainfrom executing their wise King? It was just after their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their l;and, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching he had given." 2/114.
One of the first Gentile writers who mentions Christ is Thallus,
who wrote in A.D.52. A fragment of what is now left of his writings is found in one of Julius Africanus own writings - who wrote this from Thallus's writings:
"Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun - unreasonably, as it seems to me" (unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of a full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).
Thus, from this reference we see the Gospel account of the darkness which fell upon the land during Christ's crucifxion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from those non-believers who witnessed it. 2/113.
Sanhedrin 43a also makes reference to the disciples of Jesus.
Yeb. IV 3; 49a:
"R. Shimeon ben Azzai said [concerning Jesus]: 'I found a genealogy roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, such an one is a bastard of an adultress.'"
Klausner [A Jewish scholar] adds to the above:
Current additions to the Mishnah add: To support the words of R. Yehoshua' [who in the same Mishnah, says: 'What is a bastard?' [Everyone whose parents are liableto death by Beth Din]. That Jesus is here referred to seems to be beyond doubt..." 5/35.
The Jewish authorities did not deny that Jesus performed signs and miracles [Mt.9:34; 12:24; Mk.3:22] but they attributed them to acts of sorcery.
And there is much more!
These independent accounts prove that in ancient times, even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries. 3/145.
This one is from Aristides, a second-century Christian apologist and philosopher of Athens.
His work was lost until the late nineteenth century when it was discovered in three separate versions - Armenian, Syriac, and Greek. He addressed his defense of Christianity to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, who reigned between A.D. 138 and A.D. 161. In part of this treatise, Aristides described Jesus Christ as:
"the Son of the most high God, revealed by the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven, born of a Hebrew Virgin. His flesh He received from the Virgin, and He revealed Himself in the human nature as the Son of God. In His goodness which brought the glad tidings, He has won the whole world by His life giving preaching...He selected twelve apostles and taught the whole world by His mediatorial, light giving truth. And He was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews; and He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He sent the apostles into the world and instructed all by divine miracles full of wisdom. Their preaching bears blossoms and fruits to this day, and calls the whole world to illumination." (Carey, "Aristides," NIDCC,6)
The epistle of Barnabas is another reference to the historicity of Jesus, about 130-138 A.D.
"He Himself endured that He might destroy and show forth the resurrection of the dead, for that He must needs be manifested in the flesh; that at the same time He might redeem the promise made to the fathers, and by preparing the new people for Himself might show, while He was on earth, and having brought about the resurrection He will Himself exercise judgement. Yea and further, He preached teaching Israel and performing so many miracles, and He loved him (Israel) exceedingly. And when He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel, who, that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners, were sinners above every sin, then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God." McDowell/Wilson, HWAU, 83.
In a later Talmudic passage on Jesus crucifixion comes a passage that asserts that "Yeshu had five disciples:
Mattai, Nakkai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah." (b. Sanh. 107b). While "Mattai" may have reference to Matthew, no one is sure the other names can be identified with any of the other disciples named in the gospel accounts. The claim that Jesus had five disciples "could be explained by the fact that other teachers in the Talmud, viz. Yohanan ben Zakkai and Akiba, are also described as having five disciples or students." (McDowell/Wilson, HWAU, 65) At any rate, one thing is sure: this text makes it clear that the Jewish tradition accepts the fact that Jesus did have followers.
In His Love,