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Some atheists say: "Jesus never lived!" Others think he was an historical figure.
Have you ever proved whether the Christ of the Bible really lived? If he performed those astonishing miracles of raising men from the dead, healing the blind and lame, and walking on water? Did Jesus really walk the dusty roads of Palestine during the time of the Roman occupation more than 1,900 years ago?
The New Testament, of course, bears record of a man named Jesus Christ. But is there evidence outside the Bible that he really lived? That he performed miracles? That he was condemned to death by the Roman governor Pilate as recorded in the New Testament?
That Jesus did live and was crucified as described in detail within the pages of the Bible itself. But can it be proven from words of Roman historians and other who wrote about him
The Biblical Evidence
This brief study presents only a fragment of the evidence from both secular and biblical sources. But before examining the secular historical evidence, let's first notice some of the details the Bible itself has to offer. So before we go any further, be sure you get your Bible. Read the verses that answer the questions asked in this revealing study.
1. Does the Bible record Christ's existence as a human being during the early days of the Roman Empire? Matthew 1:16, 18, 21; 2:1-6; Luke 20:20-25; John 11:47-48.
COMMENT: The New Testament is a record of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the church he founded. The written accounts----or gospels----of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (Jesus' disciples and apostles) clearly show that Christ was born during the closing days of the reign of Herod. King of Judea, and that he lived during the time of the earlier Roman Caesars and the Roman occupation of Palestine.
2. Was Christ's birth in the town of Bethlehem of Judea predicted hundreds of years earlier? Matthew 1:22-23; Matthew 2:4-6; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14.
COMMENT: These latter scriptures are merely two of dozens of prophecies and references to a Messiah in the Hebrew Bible that are mentioned in the New Testament as having been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. These Hebrew prophecies, as historians and linguists admit, were all written hundreds of years before Jesus was born!
3. Did Jesus point out that the Scriptures of his day (now called the Old Testament by Christians) spoke about him? John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27, 44. Also read Matthew 26:55-56 and Luke 4:17-21.
4. Let's notice several more Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and see how Jesus fulfilled them. Was the Messiah or the Christ to be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver? Psalm 41:9 and Zechariah 11:12-13 compared with Matthew 26:14-16.
5. Would the Messiah suffer a painful and agonizing death, with his hands and feet pierced? Isaiah 53:7-9; Psalm 22:14-17; Zechariah 12:10 compared with Matthew 27:31; John 19:1, 34 and 20:24-29.
6. And, yet, would the bones in his body not be broken? Psalm 34:20 compared with John 19:33, 36.
7. Would lots be cast for his robe? Psalm 22:18 compared with Matthew 27:35.
Jewish Historical Evidence
1. While on earth, what miracles did Jesus perform? Matthew 11:4-5; 15:30-31; 14:25-27; Luke 17:12-16; john 11:11-14, 38-44.
2. Did the religious leaders in Judea, who were envious of Christ's miracles and fame; claim that his power was from a source other than God? Matthew 12:24.
COMMENT: Although religious leaders were jealous of Jesus and cast doubts as to whether he was the prophesied Messiah, they were forced by the very fact of his miracles and influence among the people to give recognition of him in their records
Jesus is referred to in the Talmud. The Talmud is a Jewish record of debates, doctrines, stories and traditions covering a period from before the birth of Jesus to the centuries immediately following. In the Talmud Jesus is referred to as "that man," "dead dog," "the hanged one" and "the sorcerer." (The Jewish Encyclopaedia lists the places where Jesus is referred to in the Talmud.)
The Talmud records Jesus' healing of the blind, the lame and the leprous. It also mentions his walking on the sea! But the Talmud also speaks of Jesus as having learned sorcery in Egypt (recall Matthew 12:24), in an attempt to discredit his miracles and his claim to being the very Son of God. The Talmud also records a list of references to Jesus' mother, Mary, but in a noncomplimentary sense.
Non-Christian Historical Evidence
The envious religious leaders finally succeeded in having Jesus arrested by the Roman authorities under charges of treason and other false accusations.
1. Did Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, find Jesus not guilty of the charges after examining him? Luke 23:13-23. Nevertheless, did Pilate give in to those who demanded his crucifixion? Verses 24-25.
COMMENT: The crucifixion was recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote less than a hundred years after Christ. Writing about the Roman Emperors from Nero to Trajan, Tacitus mentions the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 and Nero's attempt to place the blame for it on the Christians.
Tacitus then wrote that "Christus [the Latin spelling of Christ], from whom the name [Christians] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty [crucifixion] during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition [referring to Christianity], thus checked for the moment, again broke out only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome..." (Annals, XV, 44).
Here is historical evidence Jesus Lived! This was not a Christian writing, but a Roman historian who abhorred things Christian! Tacitus had access to the records. He had the proof Jesus was crucified!
Suetonius, another Roman historian and a contemporary of Tacitus, tells us that about A.D. 49 the Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from the city of Rome (an incident also mentioned in Acts 18:2): "He expelled the Jews from Rome, on account of the riots in which they were constantly indulging, at the instigation of Chrestus [generally understood as a misspelling of the name of Chirst]" (The Lives of the Caesars, Book V, 25).
Reference to Jesus is also made by the Jewish historian, priest and general Flavius Josephus, who was born about A.D. 37. Writing about the death, in Jerusalem, of James, Josephus casually speaks of him as "the brother of Jesus who was called Christ" Antiquities of the Jews, XX: 9,1).
The Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, as well as the Jewish historian Josephus, were not Christians. Therefore their writing can be considered neutral historical evidence of Jesus' life and of his crucifixion by the Romans.
2. Before his crucifixion, did Christ predict that his followers would suffer severe persecution and martyrdom for their belief in him? Matthew 5:11-12; 24:9.
COMMENT: During the later first century and in the second century A.D., persecution of the Christians was common in the Roman Empire. An early reference to Christ was made by Pliny the Younger, who was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. He wrote letters to Emperor Trajan inquiring about how Christians should be dealt with. One such letter, written about A.D. 111-113, shows both Caesar and governor accepted that Jesus Christ lived and that his followers, when publicly accused, were put to death if they did not renounce their belief in Christ and curse him.
In this letter, Pliny describes Christians as coming together at fixed seasons and singing a hymn to "Christ, as to a god." This phrase clearly indicates that Pliny, in writing to Caesar, considered Christ to have been a historical figure. Both leaders knew that Jesus was a real person who lived and taught in the Roman Empire less than a hundred years earlier!
The resurrection of Christ, an established fact.
The Resurrection of Jesus, is it real?
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