The Historical Jesus

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Jesus evidence

The Case for Christ

Lee Strobel wrote the book The Case for Christ. He was an award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Lee was an incorrigible atheist. He used his journalistic expertise to prove Jesus did not resurrect.

Trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus was fake

Lee wanted to “save” his wife from what he thought was a “Christian cult.” If he can prove that the resurrection was faked, Christianity will have no bearing. However, the overwhelming historical and medical evidence Strobel faced turned an “atheist intellect” to a humble servant of God.

Lee Strobel’s strained relationship with his dad

His strained relationship with his dad bruised his idea of a loving (heavenly) father. Hence, God can never be real. When his wife became a believer and follower in Christ, it nearly destroyed their marriage.

Four proofs of the Resurrection of Jesus

1. Jesus died on the cross

  • We have no record of anyone, anywhere, ever surviving a full Roman crucifixion.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association published a peer-reviewed reviewed scientific medical study of the evidence for the death of Jesus and said, “Clearly, the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus was dead even before the wound was inflicted.”
  • Atheist Gerd Lüdeman said, “Historically, it’s indisputable that Jesus was dead.”

2. Early accounts of the resurrection

  • Lee Strobel, as an atheist, thought the resurrection was a legend. One of the facts that changed his view was when he learned that the Apostle’s creed was an eyewitness-based report of the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The creed is dated back within months of Jesus’ death.

3. The tomb was empty

  • When the disciples began proclaiming Jesus rose, his opponents said, “The disciples stole the body” (Matthew 28:13). They’re conceding that the tomb was empty and trying to explain how it got empty.
  • Everybody concedes the tomb was empty. Therefore the issue is how it got empty.

4. Presence of eye witnesses

  • The conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus was either truth or lie. People don’t die, painfully at that, to propagate a lie. Most of the Apostles, as well as other Christians, died horribly because they wouldn’t give up their faith.
  • There are nine ancient sources inside and outside the New Testament, confirming and corroborating the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the risen Christ.

Non-Biblical historical evidence of Jesus

Records about Jesus, as well as early Christians, were destroyed in A.D. 70. Romans invaded and sacked Jerusalem as well as most of Israel. Entire cities burned to the ground. Records of witnesses for the historical Jesus that survived:

The first-century Roman Tacitus

One of the more accurate historians of the ancient world mentioned superstitious “Christians,” who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, wrote that there was a man named Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century. (Annals 15.44)

Flavius Josephus

Josephus was the most famous Jewish historian. In the Antiquities, he refers to James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” There is a controversial verse (18:3) that said:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats….He was [the] Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.

Julius Africanus

Julius quoted the historian Thallus in a discussion of the darkness that followed the crucifixion of Christ. (Extant Writings, 18)

Pliny the Younger

“Pliny the Younger,” was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. In his Letters 10:96, he wrote early Christian worship and practices.

He also wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around AD 112 about persecuting Christians who worshiped Jesus as God. He also includes a reference to the love feast and Lord’s Supper.

The Babylonian Talmud

The Sanhedrin 43a confirms Jesus’ crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

Lucian of Samosata

Lucian was a second-century Greek writer who admits that Christians worshiped Jesus. He said Jesus introduced new teachings and was crucified for them.

He said that Jesus’ teachings included the brotherhood of believers, the importance of conversion, and the importance of denying other gods.

Interestingly. Lucian of Samosata was a satirist best known for his tongue-in-cheek style. He frequently ridiculed superstition, religious practices, and belief in the paranormal.

Mara Bar-Serapion

Mara bar Serapion was a Syriac Stoic philosopher in the Roman province of Syria. In the second or fourth century, he wrote a letter to his son, which refers to Jesus of Nazareth.

He said that Jesus was considered a wise and virtuous man. He is regarded by many as the King of Israel. However, he was put to death by the Jews who did not believe in Him. His followers lived on and preached His teachings.

People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

Other historical evidences

Thousands of Christians in the first century AD, including the twelve apostles, were willing to die, even painfully, as martyrs for Jesus. This attitude proves Jesus’ existence both in secular and biblical history because people die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

→ What you need to know when sharing the Gospel.

WATCH VIDEO: Author and former Atheist Lee Strobels shares medical facts that prove Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection

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