2Think of a relative or friend that has recently died. How would you show someone who didn’t know them that they were a real person who actually lived?
We might pull out their birth certificate, point to things they owned, show things they made or maybe even take someone to where they lived. And of course we’d start by saying that we knew them personally, and so did many others.
Maybe you could also point to newspaper reports of (hopefully good) things that they’d done during their lives. These are good proof because they would be written by people who didn’t have anything to gain by reporting on the person’s life.
But what about people from history. How do you go about proving that the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, Napoleon or Alexander the Great ever lived. Nobody would be alive today that actually knew these people personally. You’d have to look at what was written about these historical figures, both by people that knew them at the time, and by reliable historians.
I guess you could always point to letters that the Duke left behind, Nelson’s HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Napoleon’s tomb in Paris or the twenty cities that were named after Alexander. Things that they left behind that are proof of their existence and their achievements.
And we can do the same thing with Jesus. No one is still alive who met Jesus while He lived 2,000 years ago. But in the same way as with other historical figures, we can look at the writings of those who personally knew Him, historians that we can trust and what He left behind.
We read in the Bible that Jesus had twelve very close friends who lived with him 24/7, and travelled around Israel seeing first-hand all the things that He said and did. What they saw and heard were written down by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to create the four Gospel accounts in the Bible (Gospel means “Good News”). So we have these accounts written by close friends to rely on. But that’s not all.
We also have historians (like Flavius Josephus and Tacitus) who wrote about Jesus during a time when many people who had actually met and known Jesus were still alive (and would have been able to challenge the reports if they were wrong).
That convinces me that Jesus was a real person, in the same way I am convinced by other historians that Wellington, Nelson, Napoleon and Alexander the Great actually lived.
But there’s more convincing evidence. The early church!
If Jesus never lived, then why on earth would His closest friends give up their lives (often in horrible ways) to tell the world all about Him? Think about it: would you risk your life for someone who had never existed? I wouldn’t! It would have been easier for them to have kept their heads down and just got on with life. But instead they went to dangerous places and put themselves in life-threatening situations to tell people all about who Jesus was and what He had done.
Historians tell us that most of Jesus’ original twelve followers (and many others who knew Him) were killed for being Christians. Yet there is no record of a single one of them saying that either Jesus wasn’t a real person, or that He wasn’t who He claimed to be. Quite the opposite. They stuck with the same message, even though it cost them.
World historian Will Durant notes that no one from the first-century (so the years directly after Jesus) ever seemed to deny His existence . . . so why should we doubt it now when all the evidence is there?
— Kevin, an Our Daily Bread reader