EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS

In addition to the secular historian Josephus providing significant evidence to the life of Jesus as documented in this there were other contemporary historians who were secular non-Christian writers with no motive to fabricate events. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote the following in his Annals, c. AD 115, which refer to what the Roman Emperor Nero did after the great fire of Rome which occured c. AD 64:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Annals 15 -44
Exitiabilis is the latin word for mischievous. It means destructive, fatal, deadly. Tacitus was stating that it was “a destructive or fatal or deadly superstition”. By effectively calling Christianity evil, it is obvious that he was not a Christian. It is important to note that Tacitus is not referring to the death of Jesus as superstition either. Tacitus wrote his history of Rome covering the death of Augustus to the death of Domitian,c.14-96 AD. He used earlier works by historians cross referencing them with each other. He sought to verify his facts, something unusual in the writing of the time.
Phlegon, a Greek writer of the 2nd Century provides further evidence:
Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and no other (eclipse); it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any (similar) eclipse in previous times . . . and this is shown by the historical account of Tiberius Caesar. Origen and Philopon, De. opif. mund. II21
And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place …” Origen Against Celsus
Another Roman writer who was familiar with Christ and his followers is Suetonius (A.D. 75-160). Suetonius considered Christ (Chrestus) as a Roman insurgent who stirred up seditions under the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54): Judaeos, impulsore Chresto, assidue tumultuantes (Claudius) Roma expulit (Clau., xxv).
The Jewish Talmud, another ancient document written shortly after Christ’s life on Earth refers to Jesus having been crucified on the eve of Passover.
The gospel records: What about the gospel accounts? Importantly, they were written by eyewitnesses. Lee Strobel in his book The case for Christ rightfully states that the eyewitnesses who wrote about Jesus were preaching to people who lived at the same time and in the same area that Jesus lived. This is important, because if the disciples were exaggerating or rewriting history, their audiences would have known it and called them on it.. By the end of the nineteenth century, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of early papyri were consistent with documentation from the time of Christ to later manuscripts. In addition to the papyri discoveries, an abundance of other manuscripts came to light. Over 24,000 copies of early New Testament manuscripts are known to be in existence today. In fact, as historical records, the gospel accounts can be considered to be some of the the most reliable ever.
Such references to Christ are found for example in The Antiquities of the
Jews, a work compiled in Rome between the years 93 and 94 by the historian
Flavius Josephus, and especially in the Annals of Tacitus, written between
the years 115 and 120, where, reporting the burning of Rome in the year 64,
falsely attributed by Nero to the Christians, the historian makes an explicit
reference to Christ executed by order of the procurator Pontius Pilate
during the reign of Tiberius.  Suetonius, too, in his biography of the
emperor Claudius, written around 121, informs us that the Jews were expelled
from Rome because under the instigation of a certain Christ’s they stirred
up frequent riots.  This passage is generally interpreted as referring to
Jesus Christ, who had become a source of contention within Jewish circles in
Rome. Also of importance as proof of the rapid spread of Christianity is the
testimony of Pliny the Younger, the Governor of Bithynia, who reported to the
Emperor Trajan, between the years 111 and 113, that a large number of people were accustomed to gather on a designated day, before dawn, to sing in alternating choirs a hymn to Christ as to a God. 8 But the great event which non-Christian historians merely mention in passing takes on its full
significance in the writings of the New Testament. These writings, although
documents of faith, are no less reliable as historical testimonies, if we
consider their references as a whole. Christ, true God and true man, the lord
of the cosmos, is also the Lord of history, of which he is the Alpha and the
Omega (
Rev. 1:8; 21:6), the beginning and the end (Rev. 21:6). In him the
Father has spoken the definitive word about mankind and its history. This is
expressed in a concise and powerful way by the Letter to the Hebrews: In
many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in
these last days he has spoken to us by a Son (1:1-2).

The Real Jesus Christ

In the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother tetrarch of the region Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene…
Luke 3:1

Some people claim that Jesus Christ never existed. Allegedly the life of Jesus and the Gospel are merely myths fabricated by the Church. This claim rests mainly upon their belief that there is no historical record of Jesus.
This lack of secular reports should not be too surprising for modern Christians. First, only a small fraction of the written records survived those twenty centuries. Secondly, there were few, if any, journalists in Palestine during the time of Jesus. Thirdly, the Romans saw the Jewish people as merely one of many ethnic groups that needed to be tolerated. The Romans held the Jewish people in low regard. Finally the Jewish leaders were also eager to forget about Jesus. Secular writers only took notice after Christianity became popular and began to disturb their lifestyle.
Even though early secular reports on Jesus may have been rare, there are still a few surviving references to Him. Not too surprisingly, the earliest non-Christian reports were made by the Jews. Flavius Josephus, who lived until 98 A.D., was a romanized Jewish historian. He wrote books on Jewish history for the Roman people. In his book, Jewish Antiquities, he made references to Jesus. In one reference he wrote:About this time arose Jesus, a wise man, who did good deeds and whose virtues were recognized. And many Jews and people of other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. However, those who became his disciples preached his doctrine. They related that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Perhaps he was the Messiah in connection with whom the prophets foretold wonders. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XVIII 3.2]

Even though several different forms of this particular text have survived through the twenty centuries, they all agree with the above cited version. This version is considered to be the closest to the original – the least suspected of Christian text-tampering. Elsewhere in this book, Josephus also reported the execution of St. John the Baptist [XVIII 5.2] and St. James the Just [XX 9.1], even referring to James as the brother of Jesus who was called Christ. It should be noted that the past tense in the clause, Jesus who was called Christ, argues against Christian text-tampering since a Christian would prefer to write instead, Jesus who is called Christ.
Another Jewish source, the Talmud, makes several historical references to Jesus. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the Talmud is the collection of ancient Rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara, constituting the basis of religious authority for traditional Judaism. Although not explicitly referred to by name, later rabbis identify the person as Jesus. These references to Jesus are neither sympathetic to Him or His Church. Also these writings were preserved through the centuries by Jews, so Christians cannot be accused of tampering with the text.
The Talmud makes note of Jesus’ miracles. No attempt is made to deny them, but it ascribes them to magical arts from Egypt. Also His crucifixion is dated as on the eve of the Feast of the Passover in agreement with the Gospel (Luke 22:1ff; John 19:31ff). Similar again to the Gospel (Matt. 27:51), the Talmud records the earthquake and the tearing in two of the Temple curtain during the time of Jesus’ death. Josephus in his book, The Jewish War, also confirmed these events.
By the beginning of the 2nd century, Romans were writing about Christians and Jesus. Pliny the Younger, proconsul in Asia Minor, in 111 A.D. wrote to Emperor Trajan in a letter:
…it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery, or adultery, not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and meet again to take food… [Pliny, Epistle 97]

Special attention should be made to the phrase, to Christ as a god, an early secular witness to the belief in Christ’s divinity (John 20:28; Phil. 2:6). Also it is interesting to compare this passage with Acts 20:7-11, a biblical account of an early Christian Sunday celebration.
Next the Roman historian, Tacitus, who is respected by modern scholars for historical accuracy, wrote in 115 A.D. about Christ and His Church:

The author of the denomination was Christ[us] who had been executed in Tiberius time by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. The pestilent superstition, checked for a while, burst out again, not only throughout Judea…but throughout the city of Rome also… [Tacitus, Annals, XV 44]

Even with disdain for the Christian faith, Tacitus still treated the execution of Christ as historical fact, drawing connections to Roman events and leaders. (cf. Luke 3:1ff)
Other secular witnesses to the historical Jesus include Suetonius in his biography of Claudius, Phlegan recording the eclipse of the sun during Jesus’ death and even Celsus, a pagan philosopher. It must be kept in mind that most of these sources were not only secular but anti-Christian. These secular authors, including the Jewish writers, had no desire or intention to promote Christianity. They had no motivation to distort their reports in favor of Christianity. Pliny actually punished Christians for their faith. If Jesus were a myth or His execution a hoax, Tacitus would have reported it as such. He certainly would not have connected Jesus’ execution to Roman leaders. These writers presented Jesus as a real historical person. Denying the reliability of these sources in connection to Jesus would cast serious suspicion on the rest of ancient history.
Now these ancient secular writings do not prove that Jesus is the Son of God or even the Christ, but that is not the goal of this tract. These reports show that a virtuous person named Jesus did live in the early first century A.D. and authored a religious movement (which still exists today). This Person was at least called Christ – the Messiah. Christians in the first century also appeared to consider Him God. Finally these writings support other facts found in the Bible surrounding His life. The claim that Jesus never existed and His life is a myth compromises the reliability of ancient history.

What collateral proof is there in existence of the historical fact of the life of Jesus Christ?
Should we in fact expect the secular history records of Jesus’ day to have preserved any mention of the life of Jesus, and if so, what kind of references should we expect?
What About Reports from Pilate?
If the Bible accurately portrays the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, wouldn’t Pontius Pilate, of all people, have made some reports about it? Bruce answers:
People frequently ask if any record has been preserved of the report which, it is presumed, Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, sent to Rome concerning the trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. The answer is none. But let it be added at once that no official record has been preserved of any report which Pontius Pilate, or any other Roman governor of Judea, sent to Rome about anything. And only rarely has an official report from any governor of any Roman province survived. They may have sent in their reports regularly, but for the most part these reports were ephemeral documents, and in due course they disappeared.
It is interesting that even though today we have no reports about anything from Pilate or any other Roman governor of Judea, the early Christians apparently knew about Pilate’s records concerning Jesus. Justin Martyr, writing in approximately A.D. 150, informs emperor Antoninus Pius of the fulfillment of Psalm 22:16:
But the words, They pierced my hands and feet, refer to the nails which were fixed in Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, His executioners cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves. That these things happened you may learn from the Acts which were recorded under Pontius Pilate.
Justin also says:
That He performed these miracles you may easily satisfy yourself from the Acts of Pontius Pilate..
Bruce continues:
Similarly both Justin and Tertullian, another Christian apologist of a generation or two later, were sure that the census which was held about the time of our Lord’s birth was recorded in the official archives of the reign of Augustus, and that anyone who took the trouble to look these archives up would find the registration of Joseph and Mary there.
Justin’s statement is a bold one if in fact no record existed. Can you imagine a respected scholar writing the President of the United States a letter, which he knows will be carefully scrutinized, and building his case on official federal documents which do not exist?
From the point of view of Roman history of the first century, Jesus was a nobody. A man of no social standing, who achieved brief local notice in a remote and little-loved province as a preacher and miracle-worker, and who was duly executed by order of a minor provincial governor, could hardly be expected to achieve mention in the Roman headlines.
The journalists of the first century, at least those whose works have been preserved to the present day, indicated they were concerned about such things as the major political events of the day. Read through portions of the works of Tacitus, Suetonius, even Josephus and others of that time period, and you will notice very quickly that they concerned themselves almost completely with the major political and international events of the day. When it came to religious events, only those which had bearing on the 46 more important national and international affairs were mentioned.
A perfect example is Acts 25:19 where Festus, one of the closest political figures to the events of first-century Christianity, says, in speaking of the Jews and Paul, They simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. What Luke preserves here is the relatively small degree of importance which ruling officials attached to the religious events in first-century Palestine, at least those which seemed to have no political consequences. As a result, we ought to expect that the secular press of the day in Rome concerned itself more with the Roman attempts to protect its borders than with what was considered to be minor disagreements about religion. As France puts it:
Galilee and Judaea were at the time two minor administrative areas under the large Roman province of Syria, itself on the far eastern frontier of the empire. The Jews, among whom Jesus lived and died, were a strange, remote people, little understood and little liked by most Europeans of the time, more often the butt of Roman humor than of serious interest. Major events of Jewish history find their echo in the histories of the period, but was the life of Jesus, from the Roman point of view, a major event? The death of a failed Jewish insurrectionary leader was a common enough occurrence, and religious preachers were two a penny in that part of the empire, a matter of curiosity, but hardly of real interest, to civilized Romans. 29/20
There is another factor which pushes Christianity even further down the list of priorities in terms of hot news items. More conflicts are recorded in the Gospels between Jesus and the Pharisees than between Jesus and any other group of people, yet increasing discoveries reveal that Jesus’ teaching was closer in content to at least one of the schools of the Pharisees than to any other group in Israel at that time. We may therefore reasonably conclude that even a major confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees probably was only a meaningless religious squabble to any first-century historian -including Josephus.
Was Christianity a hot news item in the first century? For Christians it was -but for those in government and for the press, not really.
We can perceive all the more how groundless the speculations are which deny His existence or which postulate only a minimal amount of facts concerning Him. Much of ancient history is based on many fewer sources which are much later than the events which they record…. While some believe that we know almost nothing about Jesus from ancient, non-New Testament sources, this plainly is not the case. Not only are there many such sources, but Jesus is one of the persons of ancient history concerning whom we have a significant amount of quality data. His is one of the most-mentioned and most-substantiated lives in ancient times.

Ancient Secular Writers
CORNELIUS TACITUS (born A.D. 52-54)
A Roman historian, in A.D. 112, Governor of Asia, son-in-law of Julius Agricola, who was Governor of Britain A.D. 80-84. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome:
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also (Annals, XV. 44).
Tacitus has a further reference to Christianity in a fragment of his Histories, dealing with the burning of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70, preserved by Sulpicius Severus (Chron. ii. 30. 6).
LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA
A satirist of the second century, who spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christians. He connected them with the synagogues of Palestine and alluded to Christ as the man who was crucified in Palestine because He introduced this new cult into the world…. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist Himself and living under His laws (The Passing Peregrinus).
Lucian also mentions the Christians several times in his Alexander the False Prophet, sections 25 and 29.
FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (born A.D. 37)
A Jewish historian, became a Pharisee at age 19; in A.D. 66 he was the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee. After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says in a hotly contested quotation:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again in the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him are not extinct at this day (Antiquities, xviii. 33. [early second century]).
The Arabic text of this passage is as follows:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And His conduct was good, and [He] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became His disciples. Pilate condemned Him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become His disciples did not abandon His discipleship. They reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.
The above passage is found in the Arabic manuscript entitled: Kitab Al-Unwan Al-Mukallal Bi-Fadail Al-Hikma Al-Mutawwaj Bi-Anwa Al-Falsafa Al-Manduh Bi-Haqaq Al-Marifa. The approximate translation would be: Book of History Guided by All the Virtues of Wisdom. Crowned with Various Philosophies and Blessed by the Truth of Knowledge.
The above manuscript composed by Bishop Agapius in the tenth century has a section commencing with: We have found in many books of the philosophers that they refer to the day of the crucifixion of Christ. Then he gives a list and quotes portions of the ancient works. Some of the works are familiar to modern scholars and others are not.
We also find from Josephus a reference to James the brother of Jesus. In Antiquities XX 9:1 he describes the actions of the high priest Ananus:
But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.
SUETONIUS (A.D.120)
Another Roman historian, a court official under Hadrian, annalist of the Imperial House, Suetonius says: As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [another spelling of Christus], he expelled them from Rome (Life of Claudius, 25.4).
He also writes: Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition (Lives of the Caesars, 26. 2)
PLINIUS SECUNDUS, PLINY THE YOUNGER
Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 112), Pliny was writing the emperor Trajan seeking counsel as to how to treat the Christians.
He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was discovered to be a Christian, or if he should kill only certain ones. He explained that he had made the Christians bow down to the statues of Trajan. He goes on to say that he also made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do. In the same letter he says of the people who were being tried:
They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up (Epistles, X. 96).
THALLUS, the Samaritan-born historian
One of the first Gentile writers who mentions Christ is Thallus, who wrote in A.D. 52. However, his writings have disappeared and we only know of them from fragments cited by other writers. One such writer is Julius Africanus, a Christian writer about A.D. 221. One very interesting passage relates to a comment from Thallus. Julius Africanus writes:
Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun -unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).
Thus, from this reference we see that the Gospel account of the darkness which fell upon the land during Christ’s crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from those non-believers who witnessed it. 10/113
PHLEGON, a first-century historian
His Chronicles have been lost, but a small fragment of that work, which confirms the darkness upon the earth at the crucifixion, is also mentioned by Julius Africanus. After his (Africanus’) remarks about Thallus’ unreasonable opinion of the darkness, he quotes Phlegon that during the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon. 60/n.p.
Phlegon is also mentioned by Origen in Contra Celsum, Book 2, sections 14, 33, 59.
Philopon [De. opif mund. 11 211 says: And about this darkness … Phlegon recalls it in the Olyinpiads [the title of his history]. He says that Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, and no other [eclipse], it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any [similar] eclipse in previous times … and this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar.
LETTER OF MARA BAR-SERAPION F. F. Bruce records that there is in the British Museum an interesting manuscript preserving the text of a letter written some time later than A.D. 73, but how much later we cannot be sure. This letter was sent by a Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion to his son Serapion. Mara Bar-Serapion was in prison at the time, but he wrote to encourage his son in the pursuit of wisdom, and pointed out that those who persecuted wise men were overtaken by misfortune. He instances the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras and Christ.
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. PythagDras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.      Would you die for a lie?

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus chose twelve disciples, who later served as His apostles. As history and tradition teaches us, likely all but one, John, died a violent death as a martyr for their faith. Theirs is the ultimate testimony. That is actually the origin of our word martyr; the Greek verb : aD?JtL?D?X?T? (“martureo”) means “to be a witness,” “to testify.”
Skeptics, however, will claim that people die daily for what they believe, either as innocent victims, as a result of persecutions or deliberately, like a fanatic Muslim homicide bomber. So dying for one’s faith does not prove anything about the truth of the resurrection.
Wait. Is that correct? What is the difference between an apostle of Christ who was martyred and a fanatic Muslim bomber of today? Yes, both died for their faith. One obvious difference is that Jesus’ apostle was killed by others whereas the suicide bomber took his own life. Also, the apostle acted out of love, while the suicide bomber was motivated by hate. There is one other difference, and this is of huge importance. Both died for what they believed, however, the suicide bomber based his convictions on what others told him to be true, but the apostle based his faith on what he himself had experienced, the resurrection of Jesus He did not only believe the resurrection was true, he knew it was true.
Remember what happened when Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane ? “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:54). They were overcome by fear and afraid they would be captured next. Likely, all ran the other way, racing out of Jerusalem in the direction of Bethany . After this initial cowardly reaction, apparently only Peter and John could muster enough courage to go back to Jerusalem to find out what was happening. When confronted, three times Peter denied any knowledge of Jesus (as foretold by Jesus and recorded in all four gospels). Only John was present at the site of the crucifixion (John 19:25-27).
When Jesus was captured, tried, and crucified, his followers were discouraged and depressed. They no longer were confident that Jesus had been sent by God (how could God allow his Son to be crucified?). They certainly did not anticipate a resurrection. So they hid and dispersed. Just as the Jews had planned, the original Jesus movement had died on the cross.
 After only a short time a complete reversal of attitude occurred. Something remarkable transformed these cowards into bold and brave men. We see them abandoning their professions, and re-grouping to commit themselves to spread a very specific message: Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of God, who died on the cross, returned to life and was seen by them. They invested the remainder of their lives proclaiming this, with no payoff from a human point of view. They faced a life of hardship; often being without food, they slept exposed to the elements, were ridiculed and faced the constant threat of beatings and imprisonments. Finally, most of them died a hideous death as martyrs.
This change of behavior can only be explained by the fact that they were convinced – beyond any doubt –they had seen Jesus alive from the dead. There is no other adequate explanation
They were the ones who met the living Jesus in person. They were unique. These men knew the resurrection as fact – and not merely believed it by faith. They were not convinced by someone’s testimony, but they had shared time with the resurrected Jesus. Knowing the truth, they were willing to die for it. If they knew it was not true, it is extremely unlikely that all would stick to this deception and would be willing to die for a lie. Would you die for a lie?
 The evidence from the changed lives of the apostles after they claimed to have met the resurrected Jesus is a solid historical fact. Their testimony is so sound and convincing, that even critical and non-believing scholars accept it:

 The Conversion of Saul to Paul

Paul, the great apostle who founded churches throughout Asia and Europe, whose missionary spirit fills the book of Acts, and who wrote much of the New Testament was initially a fanatic Christian killer.
Known originally as Saul of Tarsus, Paul is introduced in the New Testament at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1), one of seven Hellenistic deacons, around 34 AD, only about twelve months after the resurrection.
Next, “Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3). Extending the vigorous Jewish persecution of the young Christian movement, Saul traveled to Damascus with letters from the high priest to imprison more Christians. However, on the road to the city he encountered the resurrected Jesus. A few days later he was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9). Paul, in his own words described his dramatic conversion in letters to churches in Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:9-10), Galatia (Galatians 1:12-23), and Philippi (Philippians 3:6-7).
Initially, Paul’s conversion was met with suspicion; even the apostles were reluctant to meet with him when he returned to Jerusalem the first time after his conversion: “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19, emphasis added). In these days, so soon after the resurrection, the apostles remained in the Jerusalem area, apparently they were still not convinced that Paul’s conversion was genuine. Only years later, all apostles felt comfortable with Paul as a fellow Christian and apostle. This might also be one of the main reasons that Paul’s ministry was mostly in Gentile territory as far away as possible from his initial anti-Christian, Pharisaic roots.
As we have discussed earlier, Saul/Paul spent the remainder of his life in ministry and church planting until his death as a martyr in Rome around 66/67 AD.
A dramatic conversion as what happened to Paul is not necessarily unique. Critics and skeptics will assert that history shows numerous examples of people that convert from one set of beliefs to another. What makes Paul’s conversion such strong evidence is its cause. People usually convert to a particular religion because they have heard the message of that religion from a secondary source and have believed it. Quite similar is how Christians today reach out to non-Christians and share the gospel of Christ. Very contrary to this, Paul’s conversion to Christianity did not include any sharing by any Christian. It was based completely on his personal encounter with Jesus. Today, we might believe that Jesus rose from the dead based on secondary evidence, trusting the testimony of the disciples and Paul who saw the risen Christ, but for Paul, his experience came from an unexpected primary source: Jesus appeared to him personally. His conversion was not based on the testimony of someone else.
1 Corinthians 15:13-22,“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Respected Christian scholar William Lane Craig writes:
“Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have forever silenced any hopes of His being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of His career. The origin of Christianity therefore hinges on the belief of the early disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead.”
The case for the empty tomb and Jesus’ missing body is strongly supported by the evidences
The discovery of the empty tomb was made by women. In the first century women were not considered reliable witnesses. So the fact that women are in all gospels named as the first witnesses to the empty tomb is very significant, since their word would have been widely rejected. If the account would have been invented, surely a man (why not Joseph of Arimathea himself?) would have been chosen to make that discovery.
Paul confirms the empty tomb. Paul testifies in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul does not explicitly mention an empty tomb but implies that after burial Jesus rose, hence His body must have been gone.
The Jerusalem factor. Jesus was publicly executed in Jerusalem and it was here the apostles at Pentecost, only 50 days later, began to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. It would, for obvious reasons, have been completely impossible for the new faith to get off the ground in Jerusalem if the body had still been in the tomb.
The Jews never denied the empty tomb. There are no recorded accounts of the Jews denying that the tomb was empty. In fact the opposite is true. They confirm the tomb was empty, and in order to explain it, they claim that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. Matthew 28:12-13: “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”’”
 The Conversion of James, the Brother of Jesus

After the miraculous conception of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had other children as well. The gospels report that Jesus had at least four brothers and some sisters: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55, also Mark 6:3). And the gospels also record, that while Jesus was alive, his brothers did not believe in Him: “For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). The Scriptures do not sugarcoat this. The lack of belief by James and the other brothers is corroborated by the absolute silence about them in the gospels. None of the accounts of Jesus’ ministry mentions them in any role.
However, after the resurrection, in the earliest years of Christianity, James, the brother of Jesus, became a significant player in the movement. In Galatians 1:19, Paul explicitly identified him as one of the only two individuals he met with during his 37 AD trip to Jerusalem : “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.” So, there cannot be any doubt that James, Jesus’ brother, had within four years of the resurrection not only converted to Christianity; he had become a recognized leader in the early church.
Later on Paul also gives an important clue as to why James became a Christian, in the early resurrection creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul writes that Jesus also appeared to James: “Then he appeared to James”(1 Corinthians 15:7). One can argue which James this is (lack of surnames in Bible times can occasionally be quite confusing). However, the context makes it clear, that this is not James the son of Zebedee (the brother of John) or the other apostle James: James the son of Alphaeus. (as they are mentioned as part of the apostle group before). Therefore this must be James, the Lord’s brother.
Subsequently, in Acts 12:17 and 15:13 this same James is recognized after the resurrection as a leader of the church in Jerusalem . And he also wrote the New Testament book by that name.
An important, non-Biblical confirmation comes to us from Josephus: “Ananus…assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, …, he delivered them to be stoned.” This passage does not only confirm that James was the brother of Jesus, it also mentions that he was martyred for his faith by stoning (around 57 AD).
All in all, it is a well founded conclusion that James, the brother of Jesus – like Paul – made a remarkable conversion from a non-believer during the lifetime of Jesus to a leader in the earliest years of the Christian movement and was ultimately stoned for his faith. Although the personal appearance of the risen Jesus to His brother James is reported only once in the New Testament, this reported encounter is part of the powerful early resurrection creed dated back to only a few years after the resurrection. And one can wonder: What could have ever happened to James that could have converted him to a believer apart from the appearance of the resurrected Christ? James knew Jesus while He was alive and certainly knew about His teachings and even Jesus’ miracles. None of this, however, convinced him, so what could the apostles have said to convince this man? Logically, only a personal encounter with Jesus, as mentioned by Paul, would explain his 180 degree change in beliefs and actions.
The resurrection claims can be traced back to the original eyewitnesses: the apostles, Paul and James, the brother of Jesus. They were not told about a resurrection that happened years earlier, no, they were the witnesses to this event. They proclaimed it and they gave their lives for it.

Archaeology- Paul L. Maier

A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of hard evidence from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.

The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics—until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae ( Things Accomplished ), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.
That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).
Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive. An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.

That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.

In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.

The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.

As hard evidence from the past, the very stones cry out the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.

At the 2, 000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.

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