- Thursday, December 21, 2023

No matter where you go, you will encounter someone of a different language, belief, and culture who will have something to say about Jesus.

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Why is that? How is it that Jesus, a Jewish rabbi who lived over 2,000 years ago, continues to captivate people worldwide and is still the most fascinating figure of all time?

Recently, I caught up with Jim Warner Wallace, a former cold-case detective and renowned Christian case-maker, to gain insight into the enduring appeal of Jesus by utilizing some of his investigative skills to explore the historical and scientific evidence for the existence and divinity of Jesus.

1. The Credibility of the Canonical Gospels

The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide primary sources for understanding Jesus’ life and teachings. The texts were written by eyewitnesses or people who had access to eyewitness accounts, offering detailed depictions of Jesus’ life, including His crucifixion and resurrection. Centuries of scrutiny by scholars support the historical accuracy of the gospels, making them a valuable historical foundation for the Christian faith and providing compelling evidence of Jesus’ existence.

By the fourth century, the bishop of Caesarea and great church historian Eusebius (A.D. 270-340) articulated the canon of most of the 27 books in his “Church History.” However, it was Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria) who wrote in “Festal Letter” (A.D. 367), the 27 canonical books that make up the New Testament today. By the time of the Synod of Hippo (A.D. 393) Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), the council decreed the 27 books as Divine Scripture that encapsulates the pure image and teachings of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

2. Extra-Biblical Sources

Beyond the canonical gospels, numerous extra-biblical sources from various ancient historians provide additional validation for Jesus’ existence. Tacitus, a Roman historian writing in the early part of the second century A.D., mentions Christ in his work “Annals,” affirming his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. Furthermore, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus refers to Jesus in his writings “Antiquities” and “The Jewish War,” confirming His impact on society and the rise of Christianity.

3. Non-Judeo-Christian Sources

Even non-Judeo-Christian sources acknowledge Jesus’ influence and role in history. The Roman historian Suetonius mentions disturbances within Rome due to Chrestus (Christ), highlighting early Christian presence during Emperor Claudius’s reign. In his exceptional book, “Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World that Rejects the Bible,” Mr. Wallace provides an in-depth analysis of several non-Christian sources that reference various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry in Nazareth.

4. Archaeological Discoveries

Archaeologists have discovered artifacts corresponding to events described in the gospels, lending credibility to their historical accuracy. Notable findings, such as the Pontius Pilate inscription at Caesarea Maritima and the Caiaphas Ossuary, offer physical evidence of significant figures present during Jesus’ crucifixion.

5. Christianity as a Copycat Religion

The belief that Christianity copied stories from pagan religions, also known as the “Copycat Christianity” or “mythicist” position, has been widely discredited since the mid-20th century. The academic community has largely rejected this idea since there is a lack of substantial evidence to support it. The similarities found between different religious traditions are often due to shared human experiences and universal themes, rather than a direct correlation between Christianity and other mythological stories.

For instance, some skeptics argue that the story of Jesus was borrowed from earlier mythological figures, such as Horus or Mithras. However, the idea of a unified religion is misinformed and misrepresents the Gospel records. The early Christian writers did not have access to any pre-Christian doctrine of rebirth to borrow from. Jewish Christians would not have compromised their beliefs by blending them with other syncretic religions. Unlike other Gentile religions, Judaism was not inclusive. It is crucial to examine the evidence from both the canonical gospels and extra-biblical sources to understand the credibility of Jesus Christ’s life.

Furthermore, Mr. Wallace and I discussed how the timing of the canonical gospels and the accounts of Jesus’ life predate other supposed parallels. The gospels were written within decades of Jesus’ life, while the supposed parallels from other religions emerged much later. Mr. Wallace further pointed out that the parallels between Jesus and these mythological figures are often exaggerated or outright fabricated.

The bottom line is the historical evidence firmly establishes that Jesus’ life and teachings were unique and distinct from any other religious figure.

If someone challenges the credibility of Jesus and the Christian faith, take a firm stance and provide them with evidence of the historical existence of Jesus Christ. It’s equally important to emphasize the profound significance of His death, burial, and resurrection, which offers us a new life in Him. Communicating this message can help others understand the truth about Jesus and His lasting impact on the world.

Jason Jimenez is the founder and president of Stand Strong Ministries and is a respected Christian-worldview speaker, and faculty member at Summit Ministries. He is the best-selling author of “Hijacking Jesus: How Progressive Christians Are Remaking Him and Taking Over the Church,” “Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church,” and “Parenting Gen Z: Guiding Your Child through a Hostile Culture.

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