If someone was to claim that “there is no real evidence that Jesus even existed” would you:
- Cringe before the attack and hold doggedly to your “faith” regardless, or
- Smile politely, pray quietly and look forward to a great conversation where you lovingly present the evidence to someone who really has no idea.
You might feel that this claim would never be made but remember that people set against God will believe anything and this claim is being made with increasing regularity (though not by people with historical expertise).
Is there evidence for the existence of Jesus outside the Bible or other Christian literature? Our church resource shelf contains a book and DVD titled “The Christ Files” by John Dickson and it is well worth you reading it. In fact I would recommend that you owned your own copy. In this he outlines the evidence for the existence of Christ. Of course there is the biblical evidence but there is also lots of non biblical evidence. Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata and Celsus all write about the existence of Jesus. There are other writings such as the Talmud – an ancient exposition of the Jewish Law.
Often these writers are writing critically about Jesus but as they write they actually confirm what he did, who he was and the very fact he existed. From their writings we can know his name, the time and place of his public ministry, his mother’s name, the ambiguous nature of his birth, the name of one of his brothers, his fame as a teacher, his fame as a miracle worker and the fact they called his the Christ (Messiah).
We can confirm his kingly status in the eyes of some, the time and manner of his execution, the involvement of both Jewish and Roman leadership in his death, the “coincidence” of the eclipse at the time of his crucifixion, the report of his appearance to his followers after his death and the flourishing movement that worshipped Jesus after his death.
Last week I encouraged you to prepare your mind for action by reading. Here are some books you all should aim to read to help prepare your mind with information to give a reason for the hope that you have.
- ‘The Case for Christ’ and ‘The case for Faith’ by Lee Strobel
- ‘The Christ files’ by John Dickson
- ‘Naked God’ by Martin Ayers
There are also a number of websites that have loads of good information to help you prepare your mind. Here are two to start with.
Feel free to ask for more suggestions once you have read these books.