Have you ever wondered if Jesus Christ was a real human being? I have! Our Christian faith rests on the gospel, which depends on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ being real events in history. That means that if they did not happen, we would be chasing an empty, self-deceiving religion. However, if Jesus really did live, die, and resurrect, the Christian perspective of what our lives mean is dramatically hopeful and life-changing.
How do we commonly measure our years? We measure them by the AD and BC system. AD (Anno Domini) means “in the year of the Lord”, while BC stands for “Before Christ”. A monk named Dionysius Exiguus introduced the AD time system at around AD 525. While it is widely recognised that the actual date he references as when Jesus was born is likely to be inaccurate, it reflects the significance of the person of Christ. So, the way that we refer to history is based on Him! Jesus was a defining figure in history that changed the course of humankind. How cool is it that even our time system reflects the life of Jesus?
Let’s start with the New Testament accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Remember that these are historical documents which focuses on the person of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t one person who wrote all four Gospel books, but four individual men who saw Jesus in the flesh (Matthew and John) or were close to those who did (Mark and Luke). The Gospels complement each other, telling the same events from different perspectives.
Furthermore, non-biblical historical documents confirm the testimonies of these writings. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, who lived in the first century, records the spoken words of “the Elder”, who is the apostle John. Irenaeus, a Bishop from the second century, referred to and directly talked about the Gospel records in his writings. The Gospels revolve around narratives of Jesus. Thus, these other-biblical records of the Gospel writings show that they did exist.
Publius Cornelius Tacitus, an ancient historian whose writings are widely accepted as reliable, also confirms the life and death of Jesus in his writings. Another historian Josephus, a Jewish historian in first-century Rome who is recognised as an authoritative voice for the accuracy of his writings, makes two references to Jesus (Christ) in Antiquities of the Jews. He writes about “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James”. Scholars largely agree that this piece of writing is authentic, and hence it is a piece of evidence for the historical existence of Jesus.
Writing this brought to mind a quote by C.S. Lewis: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” Our prayer is that in asking these questions, you will not just be equipped to defend your faith, but will gain a deeper conviction about the gospel, and be confident that the ground on which your faith rests is truly unshakeable. In the next issue, we dig deeper into the life of Jesus: Did Jesus Really Die and Resurrect?