Since the movie “God’s Not Dead 2”, I have been asked numerous questions about some of the themes and discussions in the movie. Questions such as: was that just movie jargon about other sources, what other writings and what is the historical Jesus? The interest has been so exciting and I will try to answer those questions.
First of all, yes, Jesus really existed. This is often referred to as the historical Jesus or Jesus as a man who walked this earth. Many do not know that there is historical evidence for the life of Jesus outside the Bible. Michael Gleghorn (Bible.org) writes: “although there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document, many people are still reluctant to believe what it says unless there is also some independent, non-biblical testimony that corroborates its statements.” Fortunately, there is such evidence.
Last month I mentioned Tacitus, a senator and historian of the Roman Empire, and Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. There are others, such as Lucian of Samosta, a second century Greek satirist. In one of his works, he wrote of the early Christians as follows: “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed upon them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.” (Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13)
Gleghorn writes: Although Lucian does not mention his name, he is clearly referring to Jesus. But what did Jesus teach to arouse such wrath? According to Lucian, he taught that all men are brothers from the moment of their conversion. That’s harmless enough. But what did this conversion involve? It involved denying the Greek gods, worshipping Jesus, and living according to His teachings. It’s not too difficult to imagine someone being killed for teaching that. Though Lucian doesn’t say so explicitly, the Christian denial of other gods combined with their worship of Jesus implies the belief that Jesus was more than human. Since they denied other gods in order to worship Him, they apparently thought Jesus a greater God than any that Greece had to offer!
Another source is Flavius Josephus who was a Jewish historian born around 38 AD. He served under Roman commander Vespasian in Jerusalem and later when Vespasian became emperor of Rome, Josephus served under him as court historian. In 93 AD Josephus finished his work Antiquities of the Jews in which at least three passages specifically confirm portions of Scripture:
(1) But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod’s army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance, for his treatment of John, surnamed the Baptist. For Herod had put him to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism.
(2) …convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.
(3) At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive;…
It is important to note that these are all hostile sources. Hostile sources are considered to be those who were not definitely followers of Christ; that is, people who clearly were not out to promote favorable belief in him. In the case for Jesus, the value of evidence from hostile sources is tremendous. The important point of hearing the corroborating testimony by non-Christians writing in Christ’s own era, and shortly thereafter, is simply the acknowledgment of Christ’s existence The fact that hostile sources cite Christ, as well as cite other New Testament personages and events, is evidence for both the existence of Christ and the general truth and accuracy of the Bible.
(to be continued) NEXT: How martyrs support Christ’s deity!
With Love and Serving with the Spirit of Christ,