[9]            Christ (1): Historical Jesus


Ø       Jesus may only be a legend; not a real person in history. The record in the Bible is not accurate.

Ø       Jesus is just a man. Jesus is not God. His claim is false.

Ø       Virginal birth is a hoax because it is not scientific.

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.

        F.F. Bruce says: “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.”

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. Moreover, different books are also mutually reinforcing and consistent.

        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 (including friends and foes). 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:

        including Polycarp, Eusebius, Irenaeus, Ignatius, Justin, Origen.

(3)  Non-Biblical sources:

        Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man.” Also in numerous other non-Biblical sources, including Tacitus (AD112), Suetonius (AD120), and Pliny the Younger (AD112). Overall, at least 17 non-Christian writings record more than 50 details concerning the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

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.

        The early Christians changed the course of history, laying the foundation 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 written 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). First Corinthians was written around AD55.

        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.

(4)  Symbolic stories never claiming to record actual events, as symbolic stories were only invented to illustrate spiritual truths. But the the writers of NT books clearly intended to communicate real historical events which were open to investigation by their readers.

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.

          Mk 2:11-12 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

          Lk 8:49-56 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher any more." Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

c.  OT prophecies concerning Jesus were fulfilled.

     There are 456 separate OT passages referring to the Messiah and the messianic times. There were direct, personal messianic predictions in 574 OT verses. Some of them of course refer to the end times which are not yet fulfilled.

     However, 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 1 chance in billions, 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)

        woman’s offspring (Gen 3:15>>Gal 4:4)

        descendant of Abraham (Gen 12:2-3>>Mt 1:1), Isaac (Gen 17:19>>Mt 1:2), Jacob (Gen 28:14; Nu 24:17>>Mt 1:2), Judah (Gen 49:10>>Lk 3:33), 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)

        timing for Jesus’ birth (Dan 9:25-26>>Lk 2:1-2)

        slaughter of the innocents (Jer 31:15>>Mt 2:16-18)

        flight to Egypt (Hos 11:1>>Mt 2:14-15)

(3)  Life:

        preceded by a forerunner, John the Baptist (Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3>>Lk 7:24,27)

        declared the Son of God (Ps 2:7>>Mt 3:16-17)

        worked in Galilee (Is 9:1-2>>Mt 4:13-17)

        as a prophet (Dt 18:15 18>>Ac 3:20,22)

        as a priest (Zec 6:13; Ps 110:4>>Heb 5:5-6)

        as cornerstone and foundation (Isa 28:14-18>>1Pe 2:6; Eph 2:20; 1Co 3:11))

        healed the sick (Isa 35:5-6>>Mt 11:5)

        came to heal the brokenhearted (Isa 61:1-2>>Lk 4:18-19)

        rejected by His own, the Jews (Isa 53:3>>Jn 1:11)

        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)

        accused by false witness (Ps 35:11>>Mk 14:57-58)

        silent to accusations (Isa 53:7>>Mk 15:4-5)

        spat upon and smitten (Isa 50:6>>Mt 26:67)

        hated without reason (Ps 35:19>>Jn 15:24-25)

        vicarious sacrifice (Isa 53:5>>Ro 5:6,8)

        crucified with transgressors (Isa 53:12>>Mk 15:27-28)

        hands pierced (Zec 12:10>>Jn 20:27)

        scorned and mocked (Ps 22:7-8>>Lk 23:35)

        forsaken by God on the cross (Ps 22:1>>Mt 27:46)

        prayer for His enemies (Ps 109:4>>Lk 23:34)

        given vinegar and gall (Ps 69:21>>Mt 27:34)

        soldiers gambled for His coat (Ps 22:18>>Mt 27:35)

        no bones broken (Ps 34:20>>Jn 19:32-33,36)

        side pierced (Zec 12:10>>Jn 19:34)

        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 (John Stott considers this the most significant proof in his book Basic Christianity):

     Thomas Schultz says: “Not one recognized religious leader, not Moses, Paul, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc., has ever claimed to be God; that is, with the exception of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only religious leader who has ever claimed to be deity and the only individual ever who has convinced a great portion of the world 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 changed people’s names—something Jews believed only God could do (a name was bound up with one’s destiny and true identity). (Jn 1:42)

        He claimed to be sinless (Jn 8:46).

        He forgave all sins (Mt 9:2; Mk 2:5-12; Lk 24:45-47).

        He claimed to save us from sin and death (Jn 11:25).

        He performed many miracles. He raised the dead (Jn 11).

        He accepted the title “my Lord and my God” and accepted worship (Jn 20:28).

        He uttered the divine name “I am” in His own name (Jn 8:58).

        He promised to send the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:25-26; 16:7-15).

        He claimed to give eternal life (Jn 3:16; 5:39-40).

        He claimed the authority to change the Mosaic Law (Mt 5:21-48; 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12).

        He foretold the future (Mt 24; Lk 24:1-7; Jn 6:64).

        He caled Himself “your Lord and Teacher” (Jn 13:14).

        He said He will come at the end of time to judge the world (Mt 25:31-33).

        He said we will be judged by how we have treated Him (Mt 25:31-46).

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

     Jesus Claims to be God (two alternatives):

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

(a)  He KNEW His claims were FALSE, then He made a deliberate misrepresentation, therefore 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 sincerely deluded, therefore 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. If He was a lunatic, how would He teach and live like He was? Therefore, this alternative is impossible.

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

     Moral argument: How could Christ be good without being true? How could Christianity be so morally right if it is intellectually wrong? How could a lie made people better people than any truth has ever made them?

g.  The divinity of Jesus cannot be a myth.

     Were the supernatural events in the NT written as a myth, to be read only symbolically?

(1)  The texts were eyewitness descriptions.

(2)  The texts were explicitly claimed to be literal eyewitness descriptions (Jn 19:35; 2Pe 1:16; 1Jn 1:1).

(3)  No mythical symbol has ever so revolutionized the world and billions of lives.

(4)  It is arrogant to claim that all Christians (now and in the past) misread myth for history, and that the texts are now understood for the first time in history.

(5)  How can a lie be the basis for good life?

     If Jesus is a myth invented by later generations, then there must have been at least two or three generations between the original eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus and the universal belief in the divinized Jesus; otherwise, it would have been refuted by eyewitnesses of the real Jesus.

     But Jesus’ divinity was already a universal Christian doctrine in the first century. Other religious founders, like Buddha and Muhammad, were indeed “divinized” by later myths, and at least two or three generations were passed before those myths were believed.

h.  The divinity of Jesus was accepted by the brightest minds in history including Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Dante, Kepler, Luther, Calvin, da Vinci, Pascal, Copernicus, Newton, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky.



Supplement to Q.27: Recent challenge from radical scholars: the Jesus Seminar:

     Over the past few years, one of the most radical quests for the historical Jesus has been the so-called “Jesus Seminar”. The Seminar is a consortium of liberal New Testament scholars, directed by Robert Funk of California. From its beginning, the group has sought to gain publicity in their campaign of anti-supernatural theology, including TV summit, articles, press interviews, and even movies.

     More than 70 scholars met twice a year to make pronouncements on the authenticity of the words and deeds of Jesus. The Jesus Seminar votes on the accuracy of Jesus’ sayings by using coloured beads (red, pink, grey, and black). According to the seminar participants, only 2% of those recorded in the Bible can absolutely be considered as Jesus’ actual words.

     Similar challenges on virginal birth and miracles recorded in the Bible came from an anti-supernatural bias.

     Despite their intention and success for drawing wide publicity, nothing is essentially new in the Jesus Seminar’s radical conclusions which we have seen in the past. This is just another example of unsubstantiated negative Bible criticism with an unsubstantiated anti-supernatural bias. Their work contradicts the overwhelming evidence for the historicity in the New Testament and other witnesses. This is a classic example of the danger of believing that the Bible only “contains” (instead of “is”) the Word of God.


Supplement to Q.38: The prophece of Isaiah that even Jews find it difficult to refute (Leventhal in Geisler and Hoffman’s book)

§        The 4 “Servant Songs” of Isaiah:

[1]  The call of the Servant (Isa 42:1-9);

[2]  The commission of the Servant (Isa 49:1-3);

[3]  The commitment of the Servant (Isa 50:4-11);

[4]  The career of the Servant (Isa 52:13-53:12)

§        Specific prophecies:

[1]  He is elected by the Lord, anointed by the Spirit, and promised success in His endeavour (42:1,4)

[2]  Justice is a prime concern of his ministry (42:1,4)

[3]  His ministry has an international scope (42:1,6)

[4]  God predestined Him to His calling (49:1)

[5]  He is a gifted teacher (49:2)

[6]  He experiences discouragement in His ministry (49:4)

[7]  His ministry extends to the Gentiles (49:6)

[8]  The Servant encounters strong opposition and resistance to His teaching, even of a physically violent nature (49:5-6)

[9]  He is determined to finish what God called Him to do (49:7)

[10]   The Servant has humble origins with little outward prospects for success (53:1-2)

[11]   He experiences suffering and affliction (53:3)

[12]   The servant accepts vicarious and substitutionary suffering on behalf of His people (43:4-6,12)

[13]   He is put to death after being condemned (53:7-9)

[14]   Incredibly, He comes back to life and is exalted above all rulers (53:11-12; 52:15)


Supplement to Q.38: Christ’s claim to divinity (Kreeft & Torcelli)

        early creedal formula “ Jesus is Lord” (1Co 12:3, Php 2:11)

        title “Son of God” (Mt 11:27, Mk 12:6, 13:32, 14:61-62, Lk 10:22, 22:70, Jn 10:30, 14:9)

        called “God” (Tit 2:13, 1Jn 5:20, Ro 9:5, Jn 1:1)

        absolutely, universally supreme (Col 1:15-20)

        eternally preexistent (Jn 1:1, Php 2:6, Heb 13:8, Rev 22:13)

        omnipresent (Mt 18:20, 28:20)

        omnipotent (Mt 28:18, Heb 1:3, Rev 1:8)

        immutable (Heb 1:11-12, 13:8)

        creates (Col 1:16-17, Jn 1:3, 1Co 8:6, Heb 1:10)

        sinless, perfect (Heb 7:26, Jn 8:46, 2Co 5:21)

        has authority to forgive sins (Mk 2:5-12, Lk 24:45-47, Ac 10:43, 1Jn 1:5-9)

        rightly worshipped (Mt 2:11, 14:33, 28:9, Jn 20:28, Heb 1:5-9)

        speaks the unique, forbidden divine name: Jn 8:58

        called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1Ti 6:15, Rev 17:14)

        one with the Father (Jn 10:30, 12:45, 14:8-10)

        performs miracles (Jn 10:37-38, and many instances in the Gospels)

        sends the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:25-26, 16:7-15)

        the Father testifies to Him (Mt 3:17, 17:5, Jn 8:18, 1Jn 5:9)

        gives eternal life (Jn 3:16, 5:39-40, 20:30-31)

        foreknows the future (Mk 8:31, Lk 9:21-22, 12:49-53, 22:35-37, 24:1-7, Jn 3:11-14, 6:63-64, 13:1-11, 14:27-29, 18:1-4, 19:26-30)

        is Lord over the Law (Lk 6:1-5)