The Historical JesusBy Noel Chartier
There is an account in The Gospel of John concerning the disciple named Thomas. Other disciples had seen the risen Lord, but Thomas said, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (John 20:25). It was eight days later when Jesus approached Thomas. Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing (v. 27). Thomas then fell to his knees exclaiming, My Lord and my God . Jesus said to Thomas and the disciples because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
How like Thomas, many people are; unwilling to put their trust in God without a specific sign from God that He is real and trustworthy and able and willing and loving enough to care for, provide for and protect each one of us.
Thomas however was an honest skeptic for whom seeing was believing, willing to be convinced by sound evidence. And he, comprehending the full significance of the evidence believed on Jesus as the God of Creation, His redeemer and Lord of His life.
Nevertheless, Thomas should have been willing to believe (as we should) on the basis of the eyewitness accounts of those careful observers who have recorded the evidence for us, such as John and the other apostles. Luke said that Jesus shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). After Christ rose from the dead he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people (Acts 13:31).
But Peter would commend those who would later trust Christ by faith alone, whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1Peter 1:8-9).
Most people are willing to accept that there is a God, but who God is, they do not know. Mainly because they haven't sought God or they have been looking in all the wrong places or desire a god of his or her own making. The apostle Paul said to the people of Athens who believed in many gods that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:27-28).
Jesus would testify to those whom were seeking and following after Him, I and my Father are one he that hath seen me hath seen the Father I am in the Father, and the Father in me (John 10:30, 14:9-10).
There is no disputing that Jesus of Nazareth was a factual person, who for three years at the age of 30 or so, traveled around Israel with a group of followers. There are more accounts of this person handed down than of Julius Caesar, of Archimedes, or of most of the famous people of the ages prior to 300 AD. Therefore, if one would want to disregard the person of Jesus Christ, one would have to discount all history regarding persons who lived in the past. Apart from the New Testament accounts of Jesus, there are several other accounts with references to Jesus, whom historians explain was a Jewish man who ran afoul of the authorities and was condemned to death for blasphemy.
So who was this Jesus of Nazareth? Some believe that He was just a martyr or a religious leader. Some say a prophet. However, the Old Testament contains many prophecies describing events in the life of the promised Messiah. The life of Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these prophecies exactly. For one to fake all or even most of these prophecies is impossible. He would have to be born in Bethlehem, a small town (Micah 5:2), into the right family (Genesis 49:10, 2Samuel 7:11-17), the eldest child, have a cousin who would prepare the way before Him (Malachi 3:1), live in Nazareth (Isaiah 11:1, Matthew 2:23), be accused of blasphemy, have himself arrested on the eve of the Passover and crucified that day that He might become our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), have himself delivered to the Roman authorities for sentencing, have His garment gambled for (John 19:23-24, Psalm 22:18), be hung next to a thief (Isaiah 53:12, Mark 15:27-28), die quickly enough so as to not have his legs broken (Psalms 34:20), have a rich man take sympathy on him and have him buried in his tomb (Isaiah 53:9), and ultimately rise from the dead (Psalm 16:8-10) conquering sin and death.
All these prophecies, no man could have arranged the fulfillment of, yet Jesus fulfilled these and many others (over 300), exactly as spoken by the prophets. Jesus as well foretold many things before they came to pass saying, Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he (John 13:19). Many of these things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him (John 12:16).
With all the evidence from the Old Testament in the form of prophesy which has come to pass with a 100% accuracy, not only in the revealing of the Messiah, but regarding nations, cities, rulers, and events; one cannot conclude other than divine intervention in the foretelling of the history of Israel and the Jewish people and the revealing of our hope, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done , saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it (Isaiah 46:9-11). This is the infallible proof that the Bible is God's Word and that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.
The Bible accounts have proven to be so accurate that many historians and archeologists have come to depend on the Bible in much of their work. But apart from the Bible, let us now consider the writings of several secular historians.
I. Testimony of a Traitor: Josephus
Josephus was a first century historian. In his autobiography, he defended his behavior in the Jewish-Roman War. He surrendered to the Roman general Vespasian during the siege of Jopatata, even though most of his colleagues committed suicide rather than give up.
He decided to join and defend the Romans. He is most known for his ambitious work, The Antiquities, which was a history of the Jewish people up to his time. The Romans employed Josephus to record their history. His works are very easy to find and are well documented.
Josephus was hated by his fellow Jews for his collaboration with the Romans. His work mentions several references to Festus, a Roman governor who also is mentioned in the New Testament.
Josephus' words about Jesus appear in The Antiquities 18.63-64:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.While some scholars argue over the content of Josephus' words above, virtually none dismiss it as a clear reference to a historical Jesus that was a martyred leader of the church in Jerusalem and that he established a wide following despite the fact that he was executed under Pilate at the investigation of some of the Jewish leaders.
Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?) mentions James, the brother of Jesus (Antiquities, Book 20, ch. 19).
"Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done."Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?, a Jewish historian) mentions John the Baptist and Herod (Antiquities, Book 18, ch. 5, par. 2)
"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness."II. Testimony of a Roman Historian: Tacitus
Tacitus recorded what is probably the most important reference to Jesus outside the New Testament in his Annals:
Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace Christus, from whom the name ["Christians"] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty: then upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.In A.D. 115 he explicitly states that Nero persecuted the Christians as scapegoats to divert suspicion away from himself for the great fire that devastated Rome in AD 64.This is an important testimony by an unsympathetic witness to the success and spread of Christianity, based on a historical figure -- Jesus -- who was executed under Pontius Pilate. It is also significant that Tacitus reported that an "immense multitude" held so strongly to their beliefs that they were willing to die rather than recant their beliefs.
III. Testimony of an Historian: Thallus
Thallus wrote a history of the eastern Mediterranean world, from the Trojan War to his own time in AD 52. He writes of an eclipse that mirrors the Biblical account of the darkness surrounding the Crucifixion. While his writings in no way prove the Divinity of Jesus Christ, this reference does provide an independent corroboration of the Biblical claim. His writings are only found as citations by others. Julius Africanus who wrote about AD 221 mentioned Thallus' account of an eclipse of the sun.
On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth--manifestly that one of which we speak.Thallus notes there was darkness at the time of the crucifixion, and attributes it to an eclipse. The peculiarity is that Jesus' crucifixion occurred at the Passover, which was a full moon. It is not possible for a solar eclipse to occur at a full moon, for at a full moon, the earth is between the sun and the moon, while an eclipse takes place when the moon is in between the sun and the earth. Note that Julius Africanus draws the conclusion that Thallus' mentioning of the eclipse was describing the one at Jesus' crucifixion, and that an eclipse was an impossible conclusion. The focus here is not on the crucifixion, but is another source that validates the actual, physical, historical person of Jesus Christ.
(Julius Africanus, Extant Writings, XVIII in the AnteNicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), vol. VI, p. 130. as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.)
IV. Testimony of a Roman Governor: Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger became the governor of Bithynia in Northwest Turkey. Much of his correspondence with his friend, Emperor Trajan, has been preserved. In book ten of his letters, he specifically refers to Christians he has arrested:
Pliny to the Emperor Trajan:
It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.Why is this letter important? It attests to the rapid growth of Christianity among every tongue and class of people, free and slave, including Roman citizens. It also shows the Christians had high moral standards and were not easily swayed from their beliefs.
Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.
Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informed declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.
I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.
"On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13).
(This quotation was taken from the reading in The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I. Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, p. 281 as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.)
Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the
Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him;
for they feared the people.
Lucian (circa 120-after 180). Greek writer and rhetorician mentions Jesus.
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this daythe 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 on 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. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.Though Lucian opposed Christianity, he acknowledges Jesus, that He was crucified, that Christians worship him, and that this was done by faith.
(Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 1113, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. By H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4, as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996)
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas , chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD):
Because the Jews of Rome caused continous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from the city.Mara Bar-Serapion , of Syria, writing between 70 and 200 AD from prison to motivate his son to emulate wise teachers of the past:
After the great fire at Rome [during Nero's reign] . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.
"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."Acts of Pontius Pilate , reports sent from Pilate to Tiberius, referred to by Justin Martyr (150 AD):
And the expression, `They pierced my hands and my feet,' was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain the `Acts' of Pontius Pilate.Later Justin lists several healing miracles and asserts,
And that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.Clement, elder of Rome, letter to the Corinthian church (95 AD):
The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe."Ignatius , bishop of Antioch, letter to the Trallians (110-115 AD):
Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe on Him.This is the testimony of some of those who from that early age, whether believer or pagan, whether justified or yet in unbelief, bore witness to the fact that Jesus Christ was, or at least claimed that He was the Son of God. The fact of Christianity and that Jesus Christ was whom He said He was lay in the fact of the resurrection. No man has yet conquered the grave, yet Jesus Christ did proving His person.
Peter said For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2Peter 1:16).
The apostle Paul would write to the Romans saying Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:1-4).
Paul would tell the Corinthian church, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve : After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once ; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles . And last of all he was seen of me also , as of one born out of due time (1Corinthians 15:1-8).
If the resurrection did not take place then Christianity is a false religion, but if it did take place then Christianity is true and Jesus Christ is God. No man has conquered the grave. Buddha is dead, Mohamed is dead, Zoroaster, Confucius, Joseph Smith (of the Mormons), Charles Taez Russel (of the Jehovah Witnesses) are all dead and in the grave. Their tombs are monuments to their being, but the empty tomb of Christ is the evidence of His resurrection from the dead and the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (Titus 1:2).
While it is true that Jesus died and descended down to Hades, He alone of all men have risen from the dead and is now alive forevermore. Many witnesses have testified to this fact and have gone to the ends of the earth proclaiming the gospel, the good news, this message of Hope.
Peter began his epistle by saying Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (1Peter 1:3-4). We have a living hope and His name is Jesus Christ . Now is Christ risen from the dead even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1Corinthians 15:20, 22).
If there was no resurrection, certainly there would be no Christianity. Paul would have gone back to the religion of Judaism; Matthew would have gone back to the prosperous business of tax collecting for he was a publican. Luke no doubt would have returned to his practice of a physician, and Peter and Andrew would have went back to their nets for they were fishermen. James and John would likewise have gone back to mending their father's nets that they abruptly dropped when Jesus called them.
Jesus told the apostles beforehand that He must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:22). If this was not true, Jesus would have been found a liar, the apostles would have realized they had been duped by this religious charlatan and would have sunk back into life trying to hide the shame of their stupidity. But this is not the case. And this was their testimony:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead . And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:38-43).
These men since that time had a moral witness about them as well in the form of changed lives, and they encouraged others walk in the same manner. If they bore false witness, in that they lied about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, they would have become hypocrites and that thing which God hates. A false witness that speaketh lies are an abomination unto him (Proverbs 6:19, 16).
They would go to extra lengths to plead their cause, and for what reward? Cruel beatings, stonings, imprisonments, starvations, rejections by family and kinsmen, hated by the world, and sometimes killed. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:35-38).
They would reason with those whom were unbelieving. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ : whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins . Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1Corinthians 15:12-19).
When Paul went to Thessalonica he reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ (Acts 17:2-3).
While we may not have been eyewitnesses of the risen Saviour remember this blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29). While we walk by faith, not by sight (2Corinthians 5:7), our faith is not based on fables, or ancient myths, or superstitions and empty promises but on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Not only is this the testimony of God in His Word, who cannot lie, but is also testified to by the historical declaration of believers and unbelievers alike.
In view of the empty tomb, numerous appearances of Jesus after the resurrection, the testimony of those eyewitnesses, and the changed lives of those of the apostles and millions thereafter, it is no wonder that such a man as Thomas Arnold, formerly Professor of History at Rugby and Oxford, one of the worlds great historians could say:
I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better, fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died, and rose again from the dead.
Likewise, Simon Greenleaf, one of the most skilled legal minds produced in North America, the greatest authority on evidence, and developer of the Harvard Law School, after a thorough evaluation of the four Gospel accounts as an unbeliever, from the point of view of their validity as objective testimonial evidence concluded:
It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainty as they knew any other fact.
After Mr. Greenleaf weighed the evidence, he could not ignore the conclusion and received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. When there is a particular trial or court case concerning any certain matter, lets say a murder case, while the jurors were not eyewitnesses to the murder, they must carefully listen to eyewitness testimony and examine the circumstantial evidence and from this they must come forth with their verdict. How many there are who likewise have put all the Christian evidences upon the stand and closely examining them and have found that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen from the dead; and that this Jesus is Christ .
The ultimate conclusion to the matter is this, if Christ is not raised from the dead we are yet in our sins, but now is Christ risen from the dead and through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. God's forgiveness of sins and gift of eternal life is made possible by His grace through faith in the person and work Jesus Christ on behalf of the believer. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:8-9). For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them (Romans 1:18-19).
Turn from your sins today and trust Christ alone for the salvation of your soul. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18). Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:10-11).