ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: JESUS – A HISTORIAL PICTURE
December 25, 2015
Over the years, there have been a number of articles online and in the print media otherwise concerning the historical proofs of Jesus Christ. Although not an intentional object of personal research on my part, in the course of pursuing other historical research, I have stumbled on numerous evidences that have existed and are available for anyone interested in the truth.
OK. That’s by way of introduction for this morning’s coffee break. Good Morning, Everyone! Blessings on you and your day ahead!
Today’s discussion is going to depart somewhat from my previous writing style and perhaps be a little more to the point – clinical, some might say – but this is a topic that all of us can take advantage of for the sake of those doubters and skeptics who question the authenticity or historicity of Jesus Christ.Pour your cup of coffee, and let’s get started.
A number of years ago, I stumbled onto a would-be historian and wannabe scholar by the name of Hugh Schonfield who did a book titled something like, “In Search of Historic Jesus.” It didn’t take long to realize that this man was out to prove that the divine Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t exist, and that he – Schonfield – had an anti-God, anti-Faith agenda behind his writings. He made the outrageous supposition that “the early Church fathers may have rewritten some of the New Testament books and influenced others to rewrite the story of Jesus” despite a total absence of any historical or documentary proof to support such a thesis.
Another wannabe historian, Gary R. Habermas, took it even a step farther with his claim that “the Gospels represent the teachings of the early church and not those of Jesus himself.” These kinds of spurious claims are johnny-come-lately efforts of liberals and leftists who neither know, nor have a relationship with Jesus Christ, nor have they ever even made an effort to personally put Jesus’ claims to the test.
That said, let’s examine some of the historical evidence that does exist.
Many years ago, my father made reference to a volume of historical documents he had looked at when he was studying in Bible College. He later obtained a copy and sent it to me. The book was titled, The Archko Volume, and represented the culmination of many years of effort of two eminent scholars, Drs. McIntosh and Twyman of the Antiquarian Lodge in Genoa, Italy. Published in 1887, the work provided copies of writings and works taken from the Talmud and the Sanhedrin contemporary to the time of Christ, along with a copy of “Acta Pilati,” which was a report sent by Pontius Pilate – the Roman procurator or governor of Judaea – to Caesar detailing the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Some of the other documents included Gamaliel’s interview with Joseph and Mary concerning Jesus. Gamaliel, you may remember, was the Pharisee at whose feet Paul the apostle sat while he was yet a Pharisee, being instructed in the ways of the sect.
The Archko Volume also includes some documented reports of Caiaphas, the High Priest who presided over the Jewish trial and judgment of Jesus prior to His being brought before Pilate, as well as his report to the Sanhedrin concerning the resurrection of Jesus.
According to the testimony of the two researchers and archeologists who came up with the documents, the sources of these documents were ancient libraries in Constantinople and the Senatorial Docket in Rome.
When you read these documents, it provides an interesting perspective and an otherwise not-considered view of others who either participated in or observed events and people who were involved in some way with Jesus Christ.
One of the things often overlooked by those who seek to authenticate the historical Jesus is the fact that what we now refer to as the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written as personal testimonies of men who walked and talked with Jesus. These were eyewitness accounts. What makes them all the more intriguing is the fact that they were written at different times, in different places, and in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), and yet they agree with each other. Each of the writers has a distinct personality and a perspective that differs from the others; and that personality comes through in the writing style. Nevertheless, there is synoptic agreement between Matthew, Mark and Luke.
John writes from a totally different perspective as Jesus’ best friend, and the majority of what he writes details the final week of Jesus’ life and what He taught before He was crucified.
But, let’s step away from the accepted canon for a moment and look at the works of historians who were contemporary to the time.
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Egypt was a contemporary of both Jesus and the apostle Paul. While he does not mention Jesus by name specifically in his works, he does outline some of the events and individuals – such as Pilate and Herod – who took part in the trial, judgment, and crucifixion of Jesus, and details certain events that could only have taken place with Jesus.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who doted on the history of his people. Born during the reign of Caligula in or about 37 AD, he provides convincing evidence of Jesus Christ. All the more interesting is the fact that at age 19, he joined the Pharisees, and apparently remained one for his entire life. He also became a Roman citizen, and was commissioned by Flavian to write a history of the Jews in 67 or 68 AD.
His third published work, The Antiquities of the Jews, which was issued in 93 or 94 AD was primarily an apology or defense of Judaism. What makes it of such interest to us is the fact that in the course of issuing this work, he gives credence to Jesus Christ, (see Antiquities XVIII, 3) reporting events that corroborate Scripture.
While some modern historians have suggested that Josephus’ works were tampered with by the early church fathers and altered in such a way as to give favorable treatment to Jesus Christ, there is no evidence to support that thesis. What is clear is that Josephus fell from favor with his erstwhile sect of the Pharisees because of his reports on Jesus Christ, and that Judaism today still essentially rejects his works as authentic as a result. Josephus himself notes toward the end of his writings that he was not held in favor among the Jews in the way he was 20 or 30 years prior.
Let’s take our historical review the next step. Near the end of the first century, and throughout the second and third centuries, we find the works of Clement of Alexandria, Ignatius, and Polycarp (who was a disciple of John). Each of them share their individual testimonies and experiences. Not intending to be historians, but teachers and apologists for Jesus Christ, they nevertheless give us an insight into the developments of Christianity and how it impacted the world of their day. Though none of them were personal witnesses to the life of Christ, they were the product of those who had walked and talked with Jesus Christ. Each of them died because of their witness and testimony.
There is another historical evidence of Jesus Christ that most intending historians seem to miss completely: the evidence contained in what Jesus is reported to have said.
Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that what is reported in the four Gospels is incorporated into the New Testament, and consider the statements on their own merit.
If indeed Jesus was a historical individual, and the statements attributed to Him are true and factual, they can be put to the test.
Jesus made some statements and some phenomenal promises that no one else in history has ever made.
“I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” Is that actually true? How about this one? “I am the Door. By me if any man enter in he shall be saved.”
Whoaa! Buddha never said anything like that. Mohammed never said anything like that. Confucius never made any such claim. So, if Jesus was the only one to make such claims, then everything else He said stands or falls on those statements.
How, then, do you put those statements to the test?
Well, let’s begin with promises He made to “them that believe.” If those promises can be proven to work, we have a basis for believing the rest of what He says.Take a look at Mark 16:17, 18, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Then there was His instruction to his Disciples, (Matthew 10:8) “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
Or, how about, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”(John 14:12-14)
Those kinds of promises were made to those who came into fellowship, commitment, and union with Him. Were they true? Could they be put to the test?I don’t have space to tell you in a journal like this of all the hundreds and perhaps thousands of times I have seen every one of these miracles.
Casting out demons? More times than I can possible count, with visible displays that would curl your hair.Speaking with new tongues? Let’s don’t go there. It is impossible to recount the tens of thousands of personal experiences and the folks I have seen, known, laid hands on, etc., who have received this experience.
Take up serpents? Here is one of those Hebrew metaphors couched in the Greek text of the New Testament that some folks have misapplied with some deadly results. “They shall take up serpents” is a Hebrew metaphor that is used on several occasions throughout both Old and New Testaments; and it means “to take on wily, deceitful men who seek to gain the advantage over you in arguments.” Once again, it is impossible to recount the number of times I have seen this promise fulfilled.
How about, “If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them..”? This has both literal and metaphorical applications, and it speaks of the protection provided by the Lord when someone seeks to kill you, or you ingest something poisonous without your knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times I had to apply this promise in a very literal sense living in the arctic. The only water we had was contaminated. There were viruses visible to the naked eye, and we simply didn’t have the filtration equipment to cleanse the water. We knew we were there at the instruction of the Lord, and that we could claim that promise. As far as I know, we never got sick or contracted some disease as a result of drinking otherwise deadly water. It was a daily sign that followed our existence for so long as it was needed.
Then of course, there is the most common evidence of all: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Maybe there are diseases that I haven’t prayed for at some time in the past that folks have contracted, but I assure you that they are few and far between. Apart from the fact that I have personally experienced instantaneous healings for my own body, it would be impossible to recount the number of people I have laid hands on or prayed for who have been healed.
These promises are to “them that believe.” These are not religious promises. These promises are not evidenced in other religions. These are the here and now, everyday proofs available to anyone who accepts Jesus Christ, believes on Him, repents from their past and walks with Him on a daily basis.
They provide the greatest proof of the historical Jesus one can ever consider. They aren’t historical – at least from the standpoint of something that happened once a couple of thousand years ago. They are available in the past, the present and the future as evidence of a living Jesus Christ who indeed rose from the dead as He said He would, and as we have eyewitness accounts for.
They are the kinds of evidence that would stand up in any court of law as irrefutable proofs that Jesus was a historical person, that He did live and die, and that He rose again as the Son of God, providing us with ongoing proofs that He is alive now and forever!
If you need personal proof of the historical Jesus, it is available to you in overwhelming quantities.
Finish your coffee. Meditate on these things. When you’re done, don’t just think, “Oh, well, that was interesting,” and go on down the road without making a personal decision concerning Jesus Christ. Make that decision, now! And get ready for a lifetime of adventures that will fill more books than you can write.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call takes place on Mondays at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Our call-in number has changed to (712) 775-7035. The new Access Code is: 323859#.For Canadians who have difficulty getting in to this number, you can call (559) 546-1400.If someone answers and asks what your original call-in number was, you can give them the 712 number and access code.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (605) 562-3140, and the access code is 308640#. We hope to make these gatherings available by Skype or Talk Fusion before long. If you miss the live call, you can dial (605) 562-3149, enter the same access code and listen in later.
Blessings on you! Have a Spectacular Day!
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