Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what foundation
did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force! But Jesus Christ
founded His upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for
if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For there is no
difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and
richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name
of the Lord will be saved.'
decades, evangelist Billy Graham has reminded countless millions of people
of death's success rate: 100%. As sure as you were born, you will die. But
even if you do not have faith in Jesus as the risen Christ, even if you
think the Bible is something other than what it claims to be, it's likely
that you would prefer to survive death. The question is "How?" Has anyone
really done it?
the world's history of great thinkers, philosophers, scientists, and leaders,
why is Jesus the one most widely believed to have returned from death?
great escape artist Houdini vowed to escape from death if at all possible,
but has not returned yet. Some people believe they have been reincarnated
after having lived in one or more past lives. (One survey taken in the early
1990's among reincarnation believers revealed that about twenty-five percent
of them believe they had been Abraham Lincoln, and the majority of the rest
were similarly popular historical figures of fame and fortune.)
have also been people who have suffered brief periods of clinical death
in drowning accidents and hospital situations, yet have survived to tell
about it. But these persons had not passed the medical point of no return;
they were usually resuscitated in minutes (longer for freezing victims),
not in days; and usually by the quick response of modern lifesaving equipment
or techniques. Their corpse's were not left nailed to a cross for many hours,
given a spear thrust into the chest cavity for good measure, mummified,
and then entombed and abandoned for over two nights.
anyone else, Jesus made the claim before he died that he had the authority
to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17-18). Authority is
the key word. If Jesus took up his life on the third day after his death,
it is the ultimate demonstration of his authority over life and death.
combined with Jesus' fulfillments of the messianic prophecies, constitutes
the core evidence affirming the beliefs of many eyewitnesses at that time
that Jesus is indeed the Almighty Lord. If Jesus has the power and authority
to lay down and pick up his own life, then he has the power and authority
to pick up ours, as well.
conclude, let's review the evidence of the three major empirical proofs
of the argument for the deity of Jesus Christ:
1.) the chief prophecies
concerning the Messiah which were written centuries before Jesus was born;
2.) the historical
records left by non-Christian/non-biblical sources about Jesus; and
3.) the testimony
of the people who knew Jesus best.
6.2 Summary: major prophecies
Old Testament canon was closed long before Jesus' arrival on earth. It contained
everything that had been prophesied of the coming Messiah. This included
the knowledge (or belief) that the Messiah would:
- arrive in Bethlehem,
- with a very specific
- in a very narrow
window of time,
- to be announced a
- possessing kingly,
priestly and prophet-like qualities,
- yet be rejected,
mocked, and suffer for the sins of others (thereby reconciling them to
- commit no violence
- not speak up for
himself before his accusers,
- be encircled by evil
men at his end,
- have his hands and
- lots cast for his
- die with the wicked
yet be with the rich,
- once again see life,
- be assigned great
- given a portion with
the strong, and
- be revealed as Almighty
Some of those prophecies
seem to have been fulfilled so clearly and literally in Jesus' life that
non-Christians can be tempted to wonder if his life, ministry, crucifixion
and resurrection events were fabricated for just that purpose. That's answered
by the next point: listening to what other non-Christians, contemporary
to Jesus' day, had to say about him and his followers.
6.3 Summary: hostile testimony
earlier quote on this site, by a president of the American Atheists, stated
that no such person as Jesus ever existed. As an attack on Christianity,
the accusation is simplistic. It creates for itself a complex problem in
interpreting the writings of Jesus' contemporaries who did not like him.
They wrote about how they disliked Jesus, gave their own opinions of his
ministry, made various charges against him, corroborated that he was crucified,
and even corroborated the disciples' claim that Jesus had bodily risen from
at least one respect, accusations like "Jesus never lived" are similar to
claims that astronauts never went to the moon or that the Holocaust of World
War II never happened. Denials such as these should not come as a surprise.
All are cases where the passing of time is used by certain parties, for
different reasons, to play upon the doubts of those who are ignorant of
history. As the
years go by, eyewitnesses die off and details become forgotten. Finally,
once the past is relegated to writings and various secondhand evidences,
just about any denial of the past can be put forward as the truth du
jour and capture a given amount of followers.
recalling history in order to distinguish the truth from lies, here is what
we learn of Jesus solely by listening to ancient nonbelievers and those
who actively opposed Jesus:
- Julian the Apostate:
Jesus healed blind and lame people in Bethsaida and Bethany.
- The Talmud:
Jesus was accused of practicing sorcery and leading Israel astray, he
was crucified on the eve of Passover.
- Thallus: Jesus'
crucifixion was accompanied by three hours of unexplained darkness.
- Flavius Josephus:
Jesus was a wise man and was called the Christ, he gained many disciples
from many nations, and his disciples "reported that he had appeared to
them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive;".
- Cornelius Tacitus:
Under Herod, and during the reign of Tiberius, Pontius Pilate condemned
Christ to die. Followers of Christ were willingly tortured and even executed
for their refusal to deny their belief in his resurrection and deity.
- Plinius Secundus
(Pliny the Younger): Jesus' disciples took to the habit of meeting
on a fixed day of the week, took their name Christians from him, gave
worship to him "as to a god", and bound themselves over to abstaining
from wicked deeds, fraud, theft, adultery and lying.
- Lucian: Jesus'
followers held a contempt for death and were known for a voluntary self-devotion.
They believed themselves all brothers from the moment of their conversion,
and lived after Christ's laws.
ancient world not only recognized the one called Jesus, it also recognized
his followers and their practices. The changes in life those practices established
were major and sudden. The day of Jewish worship, though established for
thousands of years as Saturday, suddenly switched to Sunday for all who
believed the resurrection had taken place.
the worship of Jesus spread outward to surrounding nations from the very
place in which the resurrection account took place - Jerusalem. This is
significant because if the resurrection were a hoax, Jerusalem is the last
place it could have been passed off; the first place the lie would have
been discovered. But belief in the resurrection persisted, and persisted
Summary: friendly testimony
thoughts of those who had contact with Jesus before and after his resurrection
are best captured within the whole of the New Testament itself. However,
the apostles' individual commitments to suffer and die for their belief
in the resurrection are the concluding exclamation marks to their lives
and to the integrity of their writings:
- Matthew - killed
by stabbing as ordered by King Hircanus
- James, son of Alphaeous
- James, brother of
Jesus - thrown down from a height, stoned, and then beaten to death at
the hands of Ananias (circa AD 66)
- John - disfigured
by being boiled in oil, exiled to Patmos in AD 95
- Mark - burned during
Roman emperor Trajan's reign
- Peter - crucified
upside-down by the gardens of Nero on the Vatican hill circa AD 64
- Andrew - crucified
on an "X" shaped cross by Aegeas, governor of the Edessenes, around AD
- Philip - stoned and
crucified in Hierapolis, Phrygia
- Simon - crucified
in Egypt under Trajan's reign
- Thomas - death by
spear thrust in Calamina, India
- Thaddaeous - killed
- James, son of Zebedee
- killed by sword in AD 44 by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea
- Bartholomew - beaten,
flayed alive, crucified upside down, then beheaded
- Paul - beheaded in
were some of their words? It is impossible to isolate any
particular passage of the New Testament as being the best of the lot, or
the most outstanding in any certain aspect. Therefore, here is a sample
of the New Testament's flavor chosen practically at random. This passage
is both a reminder of what Christ did as well as an exhortation to be like-minded
with him in the areas of love and obedience:
Do nothing out
of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better
than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking
the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being
found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to
death - even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted
him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus fulfilled the
messianic prophecies that preceded him by centuries, he existed even to
the certainty of his enemies, and his friends and followers lived and died
fully convinced of his resurrection from the grave. History cannot speak
with any greater clarity: Jesus Christ is Lord.
NEXT: Introduction to Authority
What are the
fundamental beliefs of Christianity?
Explain more about salvation and the purpose of the Bible
more about God and his authority