Is Jesus a true historical figure?
To verify the claim that Jesus actually existed we have to take a look at the evidence that is available, and despite the fact that Jesus lived in a very small area, and was only a public figure for about 3 years out of His life, we have a suprising amount of information and evidence for His life. We can gather information from sources in the Bible that were compiled by the early church. There is also evidence found of His life found in extra-biblical accounts that we have discovered. Last but not least we can see evidence of His life in the followers and believers that have been charged with carrying out His ministry until His return. Most people will argue that you cannot use the New Testament to verify the New Testament, meaning we can’t use the gospels to prove Jesus existence because that would somehow be biased investigating, but that is not correct. If we strictly look at the gospels as part of the Bible, which is the foundational document of the Christian religion, which is made up of followers of Christ, then it is easy to see why people would want to discredit the bible and all the writings included in it as reliable ecvidence for Jesus life. However if you take the gospels for what they are, a collection of records of peoples experiences with Jesus and His life and deeds, then we can remove the stigma of bias and look at these records as historical documents that are no less trustworthy that any other record of historical figures. As stated by Craig (2015), “The writings contained in the New Testament can be scrutinized using the same historical criteria that we use in investigating other sources of ancient history like Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War or the Annals of Tacitus”. With this being the case, we can look at the hundreds of details from Jesus life that are contained in each of the gospels, we can compare them to each other and the overall picture of Jesus that is claimed and reported by His followers and we can come to the reasonable conclusion that Jesus did acutally live and walk the earth. However while the gospels are by far the best evidence for Jesus existence that there is, we do not have to rely solely on them as evidence, we can also look at the extra-biblical evidence and soures. While Jesus had a short public life in a small area of the roman empire Craig (2015) points out “we have far more information about Jesus than we do for most major figures of antiquity”. Jesus of Nazareth is recorded in writings by Christians, Romans, and Jews. In research from GotQuestions.org (2021) many extra-biblical recordings of Jesus can be found includint the following: Tacitus in thr first century, who is concidered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentions Christians and uses the word Christus which is Latin for Christ. “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)”. There is also work from Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, Pliney the Younger, the Babylonian Talmud, Julius Africanus, and Lucian of Samosata, a 2nd century Greek writer. In fact, according to GotQuestions.org (2021), “we can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources: Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus), did “magic,” led Israel into new teachings, and was hanged on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus), but claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed, worshiping Him as God (Pliny the Younger)”. Along with these we also have all the Gnostic records that mention Jesus. With all the written records available it is pretty obvious that there is ample evidence for Jesus existence, but we cannot overlook one other crucial piece of evidence, His followers. Over the years, thousands upon thousands of people have given their lives as martyrs for Jesus, including those who were closest to Him, His disciples. The idea of present day Chirstians giving their lives for their beliefs is one thing, that can be seen in othe religions as well, but the disciples who were closest to Him also gave their lives along with numerous others who were alive when He walked the earth. It is not uncommon for people to die for what they know is true, but to die for something they know is a lie is unheard of, so if Jesus never lived then His disciples giving their lives for Him would be unlikely. Overall, with all the evidence, whether it be Biblical, extra-biblical, or the lives and deaths of His followers, that is available to us we can quite easliy form a strong case for life of Jesus here on earth as it is recorded in the Bible.
Craig, W. L. (2015). On Guard for Students: A Thinker’s Guide to the Christian Faith. David C Cook.
GotQuestions.org. (2021, April 26). Did Jesus really exist? https://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html