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Author Topic: Historical Evidence of Jesus  (Read 9915 times)
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« Reply #30 on: April 17, 2006, 05:00:02 PM »

Jewish Tradition

Of all the ancient sources for Jesus, the least favorably biased seem to be rabbinic in origin. There are actually a significant number of references to Jesus in the Jewish tradition, but many of them use names like "that man" when they refer to Jesus Christ. Therefore, some of the references are now considered unreliable.

Regardless, in the Babylonian Talmud, the formal commentary on the Jewish Laws compiled between 200-500 AD, there's a powerful reference to Jesus:

      It has been taught: On the Eve of the Passover, they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out in front of him, for forty days saying: 'he is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray.' Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the Eve of the Passover.1

This is considered to be a very credible reference to Jesus ("Yeshu") from the Jewish tradition. Here, the rabbinical writers verify that Jesus was an historic figure, that he was crucified on the eve of the Passover and that he did miracles, referred to as "sorcery." The events surrounding the life of Jesus were not denied, but definitely verified in the Jewish tradition.

Well, I was looking for unbiased sources, outside the Bible, that speak to the person of Jesus, his death by capital punishment, and the rise of a religion in his name. Remarkably, that's exactly what I got!

The non-Christian historical accounts of Cornelius Tacitus, Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Mara Bar-Serapion, Lucan of Samosata, and even the writings of the extremely biased Jewish Sanhedrin all vindicate the Biblical accounts of the life and death of Jesus Christ in the first century AD.

In addition to the nine New Testament authors who wrote about Jesus in separate accounts, I found at least twenty additional early Christian authors, four heretical writings, and seven non-Christian sources that make explicit mention of Jesus in their writings within 150 years of his life. This amounts to a minimum of 40 authors, all of whom explicitly mention Jesus and the expansion of a spiritual movement in his name. More authors mention Jesus Christ within 150 years of his life than mention the Roman Emperor who reigned during His lifetime. Scholars are only aware of ten sources that mention Emperor Tiberius within 150 years of his life, including Luke, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Paterculus. Thus, within this short time frame, the number of ancient writers who mention Jesus outnumber those who mention the leader of the entire Roman Empire (effectively, the ancient world of the time) by a ratio of 4:1! 2

Alright, that's fantastic evidence for the historical life and death of a religious leader named "Jesus Christ", but what about the rest?

What about the alleged miracles...?

What about the greatest miracle -- his resurrection from the dead...?

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #31 on: April 17, 2006, 05:01:54 PM »

Messianic Prophecies

Messianic prophecies comprise the collection of over 300 predictions in the Jewish Scriptures about the future Messiah (Savior) of the Jewish people and the world. These predictions were written by multiple authors, in numerous books, over approximately 1,000 years.

Although I was now viewing the Bible as a credible source, and I was stunned by some of the historical prophecies I examined in the Old Testament, I just couldn't get over the gap dividing the Old Testament predictions from the New Testament Jesus. It was just too convenient... Or maybe it was just too perfect... I had to check them out and test them for myself...

I started reading and collecting the actual scriptures. I laid out the Old Testament passages and searched for the corresponding New Testament texts. As my little notebook took shape, it was really powerful! The Messiah had to fulfill all of these -- not just some of them... The statistical odds started revealing themselves to me... I must say, I was totally baffled...

      Jesus said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."1

Here's a brief snapshot of a few Messianic prophecies I looked at during my notebook exercise...

    * He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:26-35)
    * He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 / Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)
    * He would be heralded by a messenger of the Lord (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1 / Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 7:27)
    * He would perform miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35, and throughout the gospels)
    * He would preach good news (Isaiah 61:1-2 / Luke 4:14-21)
    * He would first present himself as king 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
    * He would enter Jerusalem as king riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
    * He would die a humiliating and painful death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53 / Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
    * His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; / Crucifixion accounts of Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
    * His executioners would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24)
    * None of his bones would be broken in his execution (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36)
    * His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34-37)
    * He would die with the wicked and be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60)

Although some of the other predictions I looked at could be called "generalized," taken as a whole, these "Messianic prophecies were remarkable to me! I couldn't get over the odds of just one man fulfilling each and every one of these predictions! Even when I tossed out a few of the more "basic" ones, I was still absolutely stunned by the statistical impossibility.

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #32 on: April 17, 2006, 05:02:25 PM »

Prophecy About Jesus

So, were these predictions really "prophecy about Jesus"? Was the Jesus of the New Testament really the promised Messiah of the Old Testament? For me, I started to see the mathematical impossibility of just one man -- Jesus -- accidentally fulfilling or purposefully manipulating over 300 predictions written hundreds of years before his birth.

Professor Peter Stoner (1888-1980) discovered the same thing. Stoner was Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953, and Chairman of the Science Division of Westmont College from 1953 to 1957. Stoner calculated the probability of one man fulfilling only a handful of the over 300 Messianic prophecies. In 1944, he published his research results in Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible. Stoner concluded that the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the specific prophecies was one chance in 1017 (one followed by 17 zeros). How about one person fulfilling just 48 of the over 300 prophecies? Stoner calculated these odds at one chance in 10157 -- way beyond statistical impossibility! 1

OK, this can't be considered true statistical science... Can it?

Actually, the American Scientific Affiliation gave Stoner's work their stamp of approval:

      The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way. 2

I was blown away! I had never really looked at this stuff. I had never really thought it all through...

I mean, this prophecy about Jesus wasn't generalized stuff!

The Book of Daniel was written 500 years before the birth of Jesus. In Chapter 9, Daniel predicts the very day that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem and present himself as king for the first time. The prophecy states that 69 weeks of years (69 x 7 = 483 years) would pass from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah. 3 Since Daniel was written in Babylon during the Jewish captivity after the fall of Jerusalem, this prophecy was based on the Babylonian 360-day calendar. Thus, 483 years x 360 days = 173,880 days.

According to records found in the Shushan (Susa) Palace, and confirmed in Nehemiah 2:1, the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued by the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, on March 5, 444 BC. Remarkably, 173,880 days later (adjusting for leap years), on March 30, 33 AD, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9).4 Five days later, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross just outside Jerusalem. (Actually, the form of his execution and even his last words were foretold hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22.) Three days later, the New Testament accounts declare that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, fulfilling numerous other prophecies of the long-awaited Messiah.

I stopped myself...

OK, that's all terrific stuff, but something was holding me back... I needed more... I needed something to squash my nagging doubt... Where's the evidence that this prophecy about Jesus wasn't written after the death of Jesus by a group of zealots that wanted to deify their departed religious leader...? I needed something else -- I needed one more piece of evidence showing that the prophecy about Jesus was in black and white prior to the time of Jesus... And there it was...

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #33 on: April 17, 2006, 05:03:21 PM »

Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 AD), a Jewish general and member of the priestly aristocracy of the Jews, turned to the side of the Roman Empire in the great Jewish revolt of 66-70 AD. Josephus spent the rest of his life in or around Rome as an advisor and historian to three emperors, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. For centuries, the works of Josephus were more widely read in Europe than any book other than the Bible. They are invaluable sources of eyewitness testimony to the development of Western civilization, including the foundation and growth of Christianity in the 1st Century.

Remarkably, Flavius Josephus mentions New Testament events and people in some of his works. For me, this was some of the most significant evidence against the legend theories that plagued my view of early Christianity. Here are some excerpts I found fascinating:

      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 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; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders. 1


      After the death of the procurator Festus, when Albinus was about to succeed him, the high-priest Ananius considered it a favorable opportunity to assemble the Sanhedrin. He therefore caused James the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, and several others, to appear before this hastily assembled council, and pronounced upon them the sentence of death by stoning. All the wise men and strict observers of the law who were at Jerusalem expressed their disapprobation of this act...Some even went to Albinus himself, who had departed to Alexandria, to bring this breach of the law under his observation, and to inform him that Ananius had acted illegally in assembling the Sanhedrin without the Roman authority. 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. 3

These three quotes from "Josephus" really speak for themselves! Professor Shlomo Pines, a well known Israeli scholar, discusses the fact of Jesus' historicity and the references to Jesus by Flavius Josephus:

      In fact, as far as probabilities go, no believing Christian could have produced such a neutral text: for him the only significant point about it could have been its attesting the historical evidence of Jesus. But the fact is that until modern times this particular hare (i.e. claiming Jesus is a hoax) was never started. Even the most bitter opponents of Christianity never expressed any doubt as to Jesus having really lived. 4


Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2006, 05:06:48 PM »

Pliny the Younger (c. 62 - c.113 AD) was the Roman Governor of Bithynia (present-day northwestern Turkey). Around 111 or 112 AD, he wrote the following letter to Emperor Trajan of Rome asking for advice on how to deal with Christians.

      It is a rule, Sir, which I inviolably observe, to refer myself to you in all my doubts; for who is more capable of guiding my uncertainty or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials of the Christians, I am unacquainted with the method and limits to be observed either in examining or punishing them. Whether any difference is to be allowed between the youngest and the adult; whether repentance admits to a pardon, or if a man has been once a Christian it avails him nothing to recant; whether the mere profession of Christianity, albeit without crimes, or only the crimes associated therewith are punishable -- in all these points I am greatly doubtful.

      In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature of their creed might be, I could at least feel not doubt that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy deserved chastisement. There were others also possessed with the same infatuation, but being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried thither.

      These accusations spread (as is usually the case) from the mere fact of the matter being investigated and several forms of the mischief came to light. A placard was put up, without any signature, accusing a large number of persons by name. Those who denied they were, or had ever been, Christians, who repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered adoration, with wine and frankincense, to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for that purpose, together with those of the gods, and who finally cursed Christ -- none of which acts, it is into performing -- these I thought it proper to discharge. Others who were named by that informer at first confessed themselves Christians, and then denied it; true, they had been of that persuasion but they had quitted it, some three years, others many years, and a few as much as twenty-five years ago. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, and cursed Christ.

      They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food -- but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.

      I therefore adjourned the proceedings, and betook myself at once to your counsel. For the matter seemed to me well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. Persons of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes are, and will be, involved in the prosecution. For this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts; it seems possible, however, to check and cure it. 1

This is quite a letter preserved from antiquity. I reproduced a great deal of it here, because it was so powerful for me in its entirety. "Pliny the Younger" speaks of Christianity spreading throughout the Roman Empire and he addresses the procedure for persecuting followers out of this "superstition." Pliny also mentions Christ by name three times as the center of Christianity and describes Christian practices, including the worship of Christ "as to a god."

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #35 on: April 19, 2006, 12:00:39 AM »

Amen Pastor Roger!

I really enjoyed this series of posts. They are fascinating, and they should help many literally see the LIGHT and seek JESUS. I think they are also great for strengthening the faith of many babes in Christ who might still have some questions and doubts. Regardless, they represent a series of facts that are impossible to ignore, and I thank you for sharing them with everyone.

Love In Christ,

Psalms 31:19 NASB  How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men!

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