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  • The Historical Jesus

    ARTICLE INDEX     




                             "CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS"
    
                              The Historical Jesus
    
    INTRODUCTION
    
    1. In the previous lesson, we laid the foundation for a study in
       Christian apologetics:  That the Christian faith is...
       a. AN OBJECTIVE FAITH
          1) With Jesus of Nazareth as the object of that faith
          2) That He is the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose from
             the dead
       b. A HISTORICAL FAITH
          1) Based upon real people, places, and events
          2) That actually took place in history
       c. AN INTELLIGENT, RATIONAL FAITH
          1) Which invites people to use their minds
          2) To examine the historical evidence which logically supports
             placing one's faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God
    
    2. With these things in mind, we begin by considering the evidence...
       a. Which establishes Jesus of Nazareth as a HISTORICAL FIGURE
       b. One who actually lived in Palestine during the First Century A.D.
    
    [Some might wonder...]
    
    I. WAS THERE EVER ANY QUESTION?
    
       A. THERE HAVE BEEN SKEPTICS WHO BELIEVED JESUS WAS JUST A "MYTH"...
          1. This concept was popular with some scholars of the 1800s'
          2. It is rarely found today, except among those...
             a. Who are ignorant of the facts
             b. Who purposely suppress the evidence (e.g., as was done in
                formerly communist-dominated countries)
    
       B. TODAY, NO SERIOUS HISTORIAN (EVEN THOSE WHO ARE ATHEISTS) DISPUTES
          THE FACT THAT JESUS EXISTED...
          1. H. G. WELLS
             a. An atheist, he spoke of Jesus in his book, Outline Of
                History
             b. "...one is obliged to say, 'Here was a man.  This part of
                the tale could not have been invented.'"
          2. WILL DURANT
             a. Ex-professor of Philisophy of History at Columbia University
             b. He spent two chapters in The Story Of Our Civilization
                depicting Jesus as a historical figure right along with the
                Caesars
          3. ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA
             a. Used over 20,000 words to describe Jesus
             b. More than Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar,
                Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, or Napoleon
    
    [So there appears to be sufficient evidence to have convinced these and 
    others like them that Jesus actually lived.
    
    What is this evidence...?]
    
    II. THE EVIDENCE FOR A HISTORICAL JESUS
    
       A. AMONG "PAGAN" SOURCES...
          1. THALLUS (a Samaritan historian, ca. 52 A.D.)
             a. Wrote attempting to give a natural explanation for the
                darkness which occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus
             b. Note carefully:
                1) He did not deny the existence of Jesus
                2) But only tried to explain away the strange circumstances
                   surrounding His death
          2. LETTER OF MARA-SERAPION (written to his son, ca. 73 A.D.)
             a. He tells of the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and of Jesus
             b. "What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise
                king?...Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in
                the teaching which he had given."
          3. CORNELIUS TACITUS (Roman historian, ca. 112 A.D.)
             a. Writes of Jesus in his ANNALS
             b. "Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by
                Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of
                Tiberias."
          4. PLINY THE YOUNGER
             a. Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, ca. 112 A.D.
             b. Wrote to the emperor Trajan about Christians and their
                devotion to Christ
          5. SEUTONIUS (Court official and annalist under Hadrian, 120 A.D.)
             a. "As the Jews were making constant disturbance at the
                instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
             b. Luke makes reference to this same expulsion in Ac 18:1-2
    
       B. AMONG "JEWISH" SOURCES...
          1. THE TALMUD
             a. Consists of two separate books dealing with Jewish law,
                written during the period from 100 A.D. to 500 A.D.
             b. Speaks frequently of Jesus of Nazareth...
                1) In unfriendly terms, of course
                2) But never disputing his status as a historical figure
          2. FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS
             a. A Jewish general turned Roman historian, born 37 A.D.
             b. Makes several references to Jesus in his History Of The Jews
             c. E.g., "...and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the
                so-called Christ, whose name was James."
    
    [Such is the evidence which must be taken into account by any
    intelligent and rational person.
    
    But what are the implications of such evidence?]
    
    III. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS EVIDENCE
    
       A. WHAT IT "DOES" DO...
          1. It provides a solid basis upon which one can intelligently
             believe in Jesus as a person who actually existed in history
          2. It exposes the shallow thinking of any who would try to mark
             off Jesus as a myth
          3. It requires everyone to give some sort of answer to the
             question posed by Jesus Himself:  "But who do you say that I
             am?" - Mt 16:15
    
       B. WHAT IT "DOES NOT" DO...
          1. The evidence we have seen thus far DOES NOT prove Jesus to be
             the Son of God
          2. In fact, it does not tell us anything about Jesus except:
             a. That He lived and died during the First Century A.D.
             b. That He must have done something significant to gain some
                notoriety by the historians
    
       C. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS, WE MUST LOOK ELSEWHERE...
          1. There have been many fanciful stories written about Jesus
          2. But the Christian considers the twenty-seven books known as the
             New Testament to be the only reliable source of information
             about Jesus
          3. But are they?
             a. Is the New Testament reliable as a historical document?
             b. Can we even be sure that what we have is actually what was
                penned by the original authors of the New Testament?
    
    CONCLUSION
    
    1. The next study shall begin an attempt to answer these questions
    
    2. For now, we have simply laid one block as we build a foundation upon
       which we can rest our faith...
       a. We have seen that it is more logical to believe that Jesus did in
          fact exist
       b. To assert that He is a myth is groundless
    
    3. And since He actually existed, that requires our giving some answer
       to the question Jesus asked:  "WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"
    
    4. Will our answer be "LORD!", or "A CAREFULLY CONTRIVED LIE!"
       a. As we shall see, these are the only two choices we have
       b. The evidence we shall continue to examine should help give us the
          right answer!
    
    The "Executable Outlines" Series, Copyright Mark A. Copeland, 1997


    This document (last modified September 08, 1997) from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library server, at Wheaton College



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