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Don Stewart :: How Do We Know That Jesus Existed?

Don Stewart

Did a person named Jesus of Nazareth exist? What is the historical evidence? Before we can answer questions on the life and ministry of Jesus, we must first establish the fact of His existence. This is not difficult to do, for both friend and foe alike testify that the man, Jesus, did exist.

We Have Firsthand Sources-The New Testament

The only firsthand source that we have of the life and ministry of Jesus is found in the New Testament. The New Testament consists of twenty-seven separate documents which were written by people living in the first century who had personal contact with Jesus. All of these writings testify to the existence of Jesus Christ. These New Testament witnesses can be divided as follows: the Four Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Letters of Paul and the Universal Letters.

The Testimony Of The Four Gospels

The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each give an account of the life of Jesus. Matthew and John were two of Jesus' twelve disciples. They wrote with firsthand knowledge of what Jesus said and did. Mark wrote about the life of Jesus from the viewpoint of Simon Peter, also one of the twelve. Luke wrote from the perspective of Jesus' mother, Mary. He asserted that his account was based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses.

The four gospels chronicle the ministry of Jesus in a historical setting. Luke, for example, provides the names of the rulers living at the time when John the Baptist, Jesus' forerunner, appeared:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, Anna and Caiaphas being high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness (Luke 3:1,2).

Note the fact that there are seven specific historical reference points in these two verses. Among other things, Luke tells us who was the reigning Caesar, who governed Judea, as well as the names of the current High Priest's in Israel. The detailed historical nature of his account is clear. The same holds true for the other gospels.

The Gospels Are Four Independent Writings

Therefore, we have four independent writings, each of them recording specific eyewitness testimony to the fact that Jesus did exist. This puts the existence of Jesus Christ beyond all reasonable doubt.

The Testimony Of The Book Of Acts

There is more evidence. The Book of Acts, written by Luke, records the birth and rise of the New Testament church. After Jesus came back from the dead, He gave His disciples instructions on how to proclaim His message. The Book of Acts records the struggles of His disciples to do this task. Their experiences and preaching give further testimony to Jesus' existence.

The Writings Of Paul

The letters of Paul make up a large part of the New Testament. Paul, formerly named Saul, was a devout Jew who hated Christians to the point that he put them in jail and consented to their execution. Yet one day when he was on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Jesus appeared to him. This resulted in Saul's conversion. The remainder of his life was spent spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul's letters give convincing testimony to Jesus' existence.

The Writings Of Other Disciples

The remainder of the New Testament consists of letters by certain disciples of Jesus. We have two from Simon Peter (1 and 2 Peter), one from James, one from Jude, four from John (1,2,3 John and the Book of Revelation) and the anonymous letter to the Hebrews. These writings contain instruction and encouragement to the believers in Jesus. They give firsthand testimony to the fact of Jesus' life and ministry.

Summary

A man named Jesus of Nazareth existed. Both friend and foe testify to that fact. There is no real doubt to the fact that He lived. The twenty-seven different New Testament documents unanimously testify to Jesus existence. Given the fact of the numerous historical reference points as well as specific details of Jesus' ministry, the fact of His existence should not be an issue.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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