[9]            Christ (1): Historical Jesus

37.            Was Jesus an authentic person in history?

a.  Historicity:

     Jesus was a man in history, not a myth. Before the 18th century, there was no serious challenge to the fact that Jesus was a real person in history, not even from anti-Christian non-believers. The doubt about the historicity of Jesus was only raised in the past 3 centuries.

b.  Documentary support for the authenticity of Jesus:

(1)  New Testament:

        The historical authority of the NT is so complete that to deny its historicity is equivalent to denying the whole history and literature of the classical world.

        The state of the NT manuscripts is very good, compared with any other ancient documents.

        The NT records of Jesus are personal witnesses of the authors. These records were already circulated before the death of the people who knew Jesus. If there are any exaggerations, inaccuracies, or falsifications, they would have been disputed by the people at that time.

(2)  Records from the Church Fathers, including followers of the apostles.

(3)  Non-Biblical sources: At least 17 non-Christian historical writings record more than 50 details concerning the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, such as Josephus.

C.  Incomparable influence of Jesus in human history:

     It is incredible and impossible to imagine that a non-historic mythical figure (that is, lies) can influence the world so much.

        Christianity decided the course of history in the last two millennia.

        The impact was so great that an entire civilization renumbered its calendar in His honour. The numbering system (BC and AD) is now used in the whole world.

        Christianity has inspired art, literature, and music throughout human history, even today.

D.  Explanation of NT as legends unsupportable:

(1)  Legends were usually spread by those far removed historically from the events.

        The first books in the NT (possibly First Thessalonians was first, about AD51) were written less than 30 years after Jesus’ death. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries were still alive. If the written works about Jesus were incorrect, there would be much refutations.

        Early NT books already contains the complete confession of Christian faith (1Co 15:3-8).

        The very people closest to the events of Jesus’ life — Peter, John, James, Thomas and others — were prominent leaders in the early church. They personally experienced what was written.

(2)  Some claim that those involved in the events spread lies. But this is impossible because:

        Liars always lie for selfish reasons. Yet the consequence of proclaiming the gospel was misunderstanding, rejection, persecution, imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom.

        The disciples described the events with such breathless enthusiasm.

        It is mind-boggling to estimate the large number of people who would have had to coordinate their stories without contradictions.

(3)  Some claim that the disciplies hallucinate in a collective insanity. But this would occur to only one person for a short time. There could not be mass hallucination for so long.

38.            How do we prove that Jesus is God?

a.  The disciples witnessed that Jesus is God: Paul (Php 2:9-11; Titus 2:13); John the Baptist (Lk 3:22); Peter (Mt 16:15-17; Ac 2:36); Thomas (Jn 20:28)

b.  The miracles of Jesus were not denied (Mk 2:11-12; Lk 8:49-56; 9:37-43). There were numerous witnesses and some of them did not believe in miracles before they occurred.

c.  OT prophecies concerning Jesus were fulfilled.

     There are 456 separate OT passages referring to the Messiah and the messianic times; 109 OT predictions literally fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. The odds of one man fulfilling every one of these predictions by chance or by human manipulation is practically impossible.

     Jesus said clearly that the OT prophecies are fulfilled by Him (Lk 16:31; 24:25-27,44-48; Jn 5:39). The early church also emphasized the same point (Ac 2:22-32; 13:26-31; Ro 15:2-4; 1Co 15:1-8).

(1)  Lineage: (verses after “>>” indicate fulfilment) descendant of David (2Sa 7:12-16>>Lk 1:32-33)

(2)  Birth: born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2>>Lk 2:4-7), born of a virgin (Isa 7:14>>Lk 1:26-27,30-31)

(3)  Life: declared the Son of God (Ps 2:7>>Mt 3:16-17), as a prophet (Dt 18:15,18>>Ac 3:20,22), healed the sick (Isa 35:5-6>>Mt 11:5), triumphant entry (Zec 9:9>>Mk 11:7,9,11)

(4)  Death: betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9>>Lk 22:47-48), sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zec 11:12-13>>Mt 26:15; 27:5-7), silent to accusations (Isa 53:7>>Mk 15:4-5), vicarious sacrifice (Isa 53:5>>Ro 5:6,8), crucified with transgressors (Isa 53:12>>Mk 15:27-28), no bones broken (Ps 34:20>>Jn 19:32-33,36), buried with the rich (Isa 53:9>>Mt 27:57-60)

(5)  Resurrection (Ps 16:10; 49:15>>Mk 16:6-7; Ac 2:25-31; 13:34-37)

(6)  Ascension to God’s right hand (Ps 68:18>>Mk 16:19; Ac 7:55)

(7)  To be fulfilled in the future: [1] will come back in glory (Ps 24; 72; Dan 7:13-14), [2] as a king (Ps 2; 110; Nu 24:17; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5-6; Zec 9:9)

d.  The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is difficult to refute.

e.  Self proclamation of Jesus that He is God: He called Himself the “Son of God” (same substance as God) (Jn 10:30-33; 5:17-18; 3:35; 14:1; Mt 5:20-28; Mk 2:10; 13:31). He forgave all sins (Mt 9:2; Mk 2:5-12; Lk 24:45-47). He accepted worship (Jn 20:28). He said He will come at the end of time to judge the world (Mt 25:31-33).

f.   The two alternatives for the claim by Jesus that He is God:

(1)  If His Claims were FALSE, then there are two possibilities:

(a)  He KNEW His claims were FALSE, then He was a LIAR. BUT: A liar is a bad man but Jesus was universally recognized as a good man. If He was a liar, why would He sacrifice His life? Therefore, this alternative is impossible.

(b)  He DID NOT KNOW His claims were FALSE, then He was a LUNATIC. BUT: A lunatic possesses certain psychological profiles but the wisdom, love, and creativity of Jesus reflect that He could not be a lunatic. Therefore, this alternative is impossible.

(2)  His claims were TRUE: that He is GOD.

g.  The divinity of Jesus cannot be a myth. (1) The NT texts were eyewitness descriptions. (2) The texts were claimed to be literal descriptions (Jn 19:35; 2Pe 1:16). (3) No myth has ever so revolutionized the world and billions of lives. (4) It is arrogant to claim that all Christians (now and in history) misread myth for history, and that the texts are only understood today.