How can you tell that Jesus was a historical figure?

The number of those who say that Jesus never lived is getting smaller as the years go by. We have many documents by people near Jesus’ time who have referred to him as if he were a real person.

We find several sources from secular men commenting on Christ. Cornelias Tacitus, a historian of Rome, mentioned that “Christus” was put to death by Pontus Pilate.

Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, wrote about killing Christians young and old, male and female, and that genuine Christians would not curse Christ. He mentioned that the people thought Christ to be a God.

Thallas, circa A.D. 52, wrote history, and included an account of darkness that surrounded the land during the afternoon when Jesus was crucified. The Bible says that it was dark during that time, even though it was day.

Some time after A.D. 70, a philosopher, writing to his son from prison, likened Jesus to Socrates and Protagoras.

Early Jews have also written about Jesus. These works are important because they are unfriendly toward Jesus. (You would expect his friends to speak up for him, but his enemies?) The Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, mentions the crucifixion of Jesus (“Yeshu”) on a Passover (see John 19:14). It explains away Jesus’ miracles as the work of a sorcerer rather than say they did not occur at all. The Talmud also mentions Jesus’ disciples. The Talmud, in referring to the virgin birth, claims that Mary was an adulteress.

Jewish historian Josephus also wrote of Jesus, saying that he performed wonderful works, and drew many Jews and Gentiles to himself. He mentions Pilate and Christ’s crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus.

We have many early sources from Christians as well that affirm many facets of Jesus as recorded in the gospel accounts. Much proof indeed exists for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

What Do You Think?

a. We know much about George Washington from many of his letters and speeches recorded during his lifetime. Should you accept or reject his works the same way you would the writings that refer to Jesus as a historical person?

McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville 1999.)

About Steve Husting

Steve Husting lives in Southern California with his wife and son. He enjoys encouraging others through writing, and likes reading, digital photography, the outdoors, calligraphy, and iced coffee. He has written several books and ebooks, and hundreds of Christian devotionals. Steve is also having a great time illustrating God's Word with calligraphy.
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