Christian Apologetics Study

MESSIAH YESHUA’S EXISTENCE IN HISTORY

Mar
27

A few non-Christians argue that there are no historical evidence proving that Yeshua (Jesus) really lived almost 2000 years ago. This narrative offers evidence for the Yeshua of History.

Within the past few years, non-Christian critics have been arguing that there are no historical evidence proving that Yeshua (Jesus) really lived almost 2000 years ago. However, this belief is based upon their strong intellectual bias against Christianity rather than real evidence because there has always been a mountain of data demonstrating that Yeshua really lived.

Analysis of first and second century sources verify that Yesua was an actual man of history and not a compilation of pagan myths as some critics allege. Although Christian sources are significant in proving Yeshua’s historicity, many non-Christian sources are significant because they had nothing to gain by their admissions. On the other hand, the Christian witness had everything to lose-many paying for their testimony with their lives.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MESSIAH YESHUA

According to orthodox Christian theology, Yeshua is the son of God and the second person of the Holy Trinity; his crucifixion and resurrection paid for all humanity’s sins. His life and ministry are revealed in the four Gospels of the New Testament Christian Scriptures. He was born Jewish in Bethlehem before King Herod the Great’s death around 4 BC, and he died around 30 AD, during the reign of Judea’s Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. His mother, Mary, was married to Joseph, a Nazarean carpenter. During his childhood, we read about one visit to Jerusalem with his parents.

He began his ministry when he was about age 30 where he healed the sick, taught the ignorant, and preached the Kingdom’s Gospel to many. He gathered his disciples in the region of Galilee, and preached the imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom on Earth. His moral teachings are revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s writings, where they wrote that his miracles won him a growing number of followers, who believed that he was the promised Messiah. During Passover, he entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, where he shared the Last Supper with his disciples before Judas Iscariot betrayed him by identifying him with the kiss of death to the Roman authorities. After his apprehension and trial, he was condemned to death on charges of blasphemy and political agitation and was crucified, killed, and buried. Three days later his followers found his tomb empty. According to the Gospels, he appeared and spoke several times with his disciples before ascending into heaven.

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR YESHUA’S EXISTENCE

Evidence for Yeshua’s existence begins with the New Testament Christian Scriptures because the first century narratives contain hundreds of references to Yeshua. Although there are scholars who date the writing of the Gospels to the second century AD, the weight of biblical evidence indicates that Matthew, Mark Luke and John were written before 70 AD because these Jewish writers make no reference to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during 70 AD and the siege of Masada during 72 AD.

Even if the Gospels were written during the early second century AD, writings less than 200 years after events occurred are considered very reliable evidences, according to many biblical and secular historians. Furthermore, the majority of biblical and historical scholars argue that Saint Paul’s Epistles were in fact written by Paul in between 50 and 60 AD, less than 40 years after Yeshua’s time on Earth. For many liberal and conservative scholars, this is extraordinarily strong proof of the existence of a young man named Yeshua living in Israel during the early first century AD.

NON-BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR YESHUA’S EXISTENCE

Some of the best non-biblical evidences for Yeshua’s existence were derived from first and second century non-Christian sources. These non-Christian sources are significant confirmations about Yeshua existence because the Greek and Roman authors had nothing to gain by their admissions that Yeshua really lived. Some of these sources were Flavius Josephus, Carnelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, Thallus, and Celsus.

FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS

Flavius Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian who provided significant insight into first-century Judaism to the Romans. Josephus is one of the most quoted historians of antiquity by biblical and secular scholars, making him a credible source to the historicity of Yeshua. He wrote about Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection. He described Yeshua as miracle worker and healer of the sick. His writing in histories of the Jews says: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

Furthermore, the Arabic translation of the same passage reads: “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; accordingly, He was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” Since the Arabic translations of Josephus’ literary sketch of Yeshua are similar to Josephus’ Latin and Greek portrait of Yeshua, this fact indicates that no forgery was ever committed by an unknown pious Christian writer or editor.

CORNELIUS TACITUS

Cornelius Tacitus was a first-century Roman historian who lived through the reigns of six or more Roman emperors. Secular and biblical historians considered him one of the most celebrated historians of ancient Rome. Tacitus confirms the biblical narrative about Yeshua’s execution by Pontius Pilate who governed Judea during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Tacitus writings confirm the biblical narrative about Yeshua. Tacitus also verifies that Yeshua began the Christian faith, Yeshua was put to death by Pilate, Christianity originated in Judea, and Christianity later spread to Rome through the Yeshua’s apostles and evangelists.

GAIUS SUETONIUS TRANQUILLUS

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was a first-century Roman historian who wrote about the lives of the Roman Caesars along with the historical events surrounding their reigns. He served as a court official under Hadrian and as a historian for the Roman Imperial House. Suetonius records the expulsion of the Christian Jews from Rome, which is mentioned in Acts 18:2 and confirms the Christian faith began with Yeshua.

PLINY THE YOUNGER

Pliny the Younger was a first-century layer and writer who admits to torturing and executing Christians who refused to deny Yeshua. Those who denied the charges were spared from death and commanded to worship the Roman gods and curse the name of their Messiah. Pliny addresses his concerns to Roman Emperor Trajan when too many Christian citizens were being put to death because of their refusal to deny their faith.

LUCIAN

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who admits that Jesus was worshiped by Christians, introduced new teachings, and was crucified for them. He said that Jesus’ teachings included the brotherhood of believers, the importance of conversion, and the importance of denying other gods. Christians lived according to Jesus’ laws, believed themselves to be immortal, and were characterized by contempt for death, voluntary self-devotion, and renunciation of material goods.

THALLUS

Thallus was a first century writer who mentions the strange darkness over the Middle East during the Passover Feast when Yeshua was crucified. Thallus tries to dismiss the darkness as a natural solar eclipse, but Julious Africanus argues a solar eclipse cannot physically occur during a full moon due to the alignment of the planets, which has been confirmed by modern astronomers. Furthermore, Phlegon of Tralles, a second century historian, mentions the darkness and attempts to dismiss it as a solar eclipse. He says the event occurred during the time of Tiberius Caesar.

CELSUS

Celsus was a second century Roman writer and devoted enemy of Christianity. He took enormous measures to refute Yeshua’s Divinity, but he never denied Yeshua’s actual existence. Celsus sets himself up for criticism because he imitated the accusations brought against Yeshua by the Jewish religious leaders, which were addressed and refuted in the New Testament Christian Scriptures. Two very significant facts regarding Celsus make him one of the most important witnesses to Yeshua’s existence.

First, although a few secular critics argue that passages about Yeshua were derived from sources decorated with Christian influence, we can accept with absolute confidence this is not the case here with Celsus because of the deep volume of his writings, which were particularly designed to discredit Christianity, along with the argumentative allegations decorating his narrative dismisses this theory completely. Second, the theory that Celsus acquired his information about Yeshua only from Christian sources is completely ridiculous because while he was clearly aware of many Christian sources, Celsus wrote his narrative form a dialogue perspective between a “Jewish Critic” and himself. This fact confirms that he used non-Christian sources.

Finally, the supreme evidence proving that Yeshua did exist is the fact that many thousands of Christians in the first century AD, including the 12 apostles, were willing to experience martyrdom for Yeshua. Many first-century Christians

died under the brutality of Roman persecution because they witnessed the crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Yeshua. Therefore, the rapid growth of early Christianity offers confirmation to critics that Yeshua lived, died, and rose from the dead almost 2000 years ago. If Yeshua never existed, historians would have no rational explanation for the origins of Christianity because almost all great religions began with a single charismatic personality.

RELATED SOURCES 

Bell, Jim, and others; The Bible; Alpha Books, 1999. Butler,PH.D.;Trent C.; Holman Bible Dictionary; Holman Bible Publishers,1991. Geoghegan, PhD, Jeffrey; The Bible; Wiley Publication, 2003. Grimbol, Pastor William R.; The Life of Christ; Alpha Books, 2001. Halley, Henry H.; Halley’s Bible Handbook; Zondervan Publishing House,1965. Jeffrey, PhD, Grant; The Signature of God: Revised Edition; Water Brook Publication, 2010. Miller, Stephen M.; The Complete GUIDE to the BIBLE; Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, 2007. The Devine Evidence (Jesus).

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