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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Existence of Jesus Christ

Don Stewart :: What Do the Combined Ancient Sources Say about Jesus?

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What Do the Combined Ancient Sources (Jewish, Non-Jewish, and Christian) Say about Jesus? (Biblical and Extra-Biblical Evidence)

The Existence of Jesus Christ – Question 6

There is ancient testimony about Jesus Christ from a number of sources. The only firsthand evidence which we have comes from the New Testament. Its portrayal of Jesus is clear.

Jesus, the man from Nazareth, is actually God the Son, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who became a human being at a certain point in history. He was born a Jew. He performed certain miraculous deeds, including healings and exorcism of demons, as He preached the arrival of God’s kingdom. He was rejected by the Jewish leadership and died the shameful death of crucifixion under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Jesus was then buried.

However, this was not the end. Indeed, Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth rose from the dead three days after His death. He appeared numerous times to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. Soon thereafter, He ascended into heaven.

Then His followers began to spread His message. They started in Jerusalem and continued throughout the Roman Empire. The belief in Jesus spread rapidly. About thirty years after the death of Jesus, a large number of Christians were in Rome. These first believers worshipped Jesus as the one true God who had become human. These are some of the core truths of the New Testament.

What is important to realize is that all of these essential truths are confirmed by early sources outside of the New Testament. We can make the following observations.

1. All Early Sources Confirm the Essentials of the New Testament

Apart from the New Testament, we have other ancient sources that mention Jesus and His ministry. They include Jewish writings, non-Jewish writings, and the writings of the early Christians. If we combine the testimony of these various early sources we find a portrait of Jesus that is consistent with what is revealed in the New Testament. This is of extreme importance. It tells us that every ancient source agreed on a number of things about Jesus, His ministry, the experience of the early Christians, and the spread of Christianity.

2. The Sources Never Deny Jesus’ Existence or His Miracles

In addition, it is also important to note what these writings do not say. Every source admits that Jesus existed and every source that spoke of His ministry testified to some sort of mighty deeds. Consequently, we have no denial of His existence neither do we have any denials that He performed spectacular works. Thus the enemies of the faith never denied Jesus’ existence of His miracles.

3. There Is No Basis to Believe the Story Had Been Changed

Because of the consistent testimony from all sources, both friendly and unfriendly, there is no historical basis to argue that the real story of Jesus was somehow suppressed or changed. It is often alleged that the later Christians rewrote the story of Jesus and made Him into something that He never was. However, since all the ancient sources corroborate the New Testament’s version of Jesus claims, this argument cannot be sustained.

4. The New Testament Account of Jesus Must Be Taken Seriously

Therefore, from the evidence we possess, we have every reason to accept the story of Jesus, as it has been revealed in the New Testament, as representing what actually occurred. Jesus was an historical figure who existed and did certain things. All sources agree on this fact. They all agree that Christians believed Jesus to be a miracle worker, the promised Messiah, and One who rose from the dead. Obviously there has to be some basis as to why they held this belief. This is the issue that must be faced. Whether of not one believes in Jesus as God the Son, we know that the early Christians believed it.

The question then arises, “Why did they believe this?” What caused them to hold onto these beliefs, to evangelize the entire Roman Empire with the message of the risen Jesus, and, in so many cases, to die a horrible death because of their belief? Something obviously caused them to do all of this. What was it?

5. Some Explanation Must Be Given for the Rapid Spread of Christianity

If the New Testament explanation is not the true one, then some type of explanation must be given to explain why Christianity spread so rapidly in the ancient world. Its immediate spread to all parts of the Roman Empire is a fact of history that all agree upon. People from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, intellectuals and non-intellectuals, embraced the message of Jesus. They gave up everything to follow Him.

The question that has to be answered is, “Why?” What made it spread like it did? Why did so many Jewish people immediately embrace a leader who was brutally executed by Rome? Something monumental caused this to occur. The New Testament is clear about the risen why; the crucified Messiah rose from the dead!

Summary – Question 6
What Do The Combined Ancient Sources, Jewish, Non-Jewish, And Christian, Say About Jesus? (Biblical And Extra-Biblical Evidence)

It is important to realize that every ancient source which touches upon the life and ministry of Jesus corroborates the New Testament account of Him, His ministry, and the experiences of the early Christians.

In fact, not only do these sources verify the essentials of the New Testament, none of them deny Jesus’ existence or His miraculous deeds.

Furthermore, there is no basis whatsoever, of assuming that the real story of Jesus was somehow hidden or suppressed. While many people would like to believe that we do not have to face the New Testament claims about Jesus, the facts say otherwise.

Finally, some explanation needs to be given to explain why the belief in Jesus spread so rapidly. The secular world cannot give us that explanation but the Scripture certainly can! The message of Jesus was, and is, the message of the living God.

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