Thursday, February 18, 2016

Historicity of Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection: The Evidence

Evidence for the Historicity of Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection

 by Mike Robinson

bible evidence for Jesus Christ
There is compelling evidence for Jesus Christ

Christ’s Crucifixion: Rabbinic Sources

On the eve of Passover they hung Jeshu [the Nazarene]. And the crier went forth before him forty days [declaring], [Jeshu the Nazarene] goes forth to be stoned, because he has practiced magic and deceived and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows aught in his favor, let him come and declare concerning him. And they found naught in his favor. And they hung him on the eve of the Passover. Ulla said, “Would it be supposed that [Jeshu the Nazarene] a revolutionary, had aught in his favor? He was a deceiver and the Merciful has said (Deuteronomy 13:8), ‘You shall not spare, neither shall you conceal him.’” But it was different with [Jeshu the Nazarene] for he was near the kingdom (Sanhedrin 43).

                                                                                  Jesus claimed to be God                

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven… Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 3:13 & 8:58).

Rabbi Abahu said, “If a man says ‘I am God,’ he lies; if he says, ‘I am the Son of man’ he shall rue it; ‘I will go up to heaven,’ (to this applies Numbers  23:19) he says, but shall not perform it" (*Jerusalem Talmud: Taanith 65b).

* The Talmud is a huge collection of Jewish commentary, laws, and narratives. It is made up of the Mishnah (220 AD) and the Gemara. The Mishnah provides exposition regarding legal matters. The Talmud covers matters concerning such things as law and legal applications (Halakah). It contains a plethora of stories, proverbs, traditions, and wise sayings used to illustrate the Jewish way of life (Haggadah).

Jesus Name and Healing

It happened with Rabbi Elazar ben Damah, whom a snake bit, that Jacob, a man of Kefar Soma, came to heal him in the name of Yeshua ben Pantera,* but Rabbi Ishmael did not let him. He said, "You are not permitted, ben Damah." He answered, "I will bring you proof that he may heal me." But he had no opportunity to bring proof, for he died. Rabbi Ishmael said, "Happy are You, ben Damah, for you have gone in peace and you have not broken down the fence of the sages; since everyone who breaks down the fence of the sages, to him punishment will ultimately come, as it is in scripture: 'Whosoever breaks through a fence, a serpent shall bite him'" (Tosefta Hullin 2:22; Babylonian Talmud: Abodah Zarah 27).

When Rabbi Joshua ben Levi’s grandson had an obstruction in his throat, a certain man came and whispered into his ear a spell in the name of [Jesus], the well-known heretic, and he began to breathe again. As the man was leaving, Rabbi Joshua asked him, “What did you whisper in his ear?” The man: “Such-and-such a spell.” Rabbi Joshua: “It would have been better if my grandson died rather than recover by such means.” And, “like an error which proceeds from the mouth of a ruler” (Ecclesiastes 10:5), his thoughtless imprecation caused the death of his grandson (Avodah Zeira 27b).

This is an extra-biblical witness that the name of Jesus was used to heal people in Israel.

A Synopsis of the Rabbinic (Talmud, Mishnah, etc.) Witness to Christ
jesus christ evidence
Jesus: the evidence is overwhelming and the proof is certain
  1. Jesus was born under unusual circumstances, leading some rabbis to address him as ben Pantera.
  2. Jesus was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
  3. Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover.
  4. Jesus made himself alive by the name of God.
  5. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and God.
  6. Jesus would return again.
  7. Jesus claimed a kingdom.
  8. Jesus had disciples.
  9. Jesus performed miracles.
  10. Jesus' name healed people.
*Some scholars see an allusion to the virgin birth of Christ in the term, "ben Pantera." This is due to the fact that "Pantera" seems to be a play on the Greek word for virgin, parthenos, the word used in the Gospels when recording the virgin birth of Christ.

The Talmud in many ways supports the New Testament teaching on the topic of the life of Jesus Christ.

Extra-biblical Sources for the Historicity of Jesus Christ

van til evidence

Tacitus (55 -117 A.D. Annals, book XV)

Consequently, to get rid of the report, 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 had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, 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.

Suetonius (69-140 A.D. Lives of the Caesars; Claudius, sec. 25/ Nero, sec. 16.)

He banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus. … Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.

Julius Africanus (160 -240 A.D. Chronography, XVIII)

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 … an eclipse of the sun... 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.

These early historians confirm the facts of the New Testament accounts including:

  1. Jesus Christ is a real historical person.
  2. Christ was the originator of Christianity.
  3. Christ was crucified under Pilate amidst signs in the earth and sky.
  4. Christianity originated in Israel.
  5. Christianity later spread around the world including Rome.

Justin Martyr (100 - 165 A.D. First Apology)

There is a village in Judea, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was born, as you can see from the tax registers under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea... He was born of a virgin as a man, and was named Jesus, and was crucified, and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven... After He was crucified, all His acquaintances denied Him. But once He had risen from the dead and appeared to them and explained the prophecies which foretold all these things and ascended into heaven, the apostles believed. They received the power given to them by Jesus and went into the world preaching the gospel.

At the time of His birth, Magi from Arabia came and worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who was then sovereign in your land... When they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands and feet. Those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots... But you did not repent after you learned that He rose from the dead (Dialogue with Trypho).

Hegesippus (110 A.D. - 180 A.D. The History of the Church)

This man [James] was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ... The Corinthian church continued in the true doctrine until Primus became bishop. I mixed with them on my voyage to Rome and spent several days with the Corinthians, during which we were refreshed with the true doctrine.

There is a strong case to be made for the historicity of Jesus Christ—His death, burial, and resurrection. Additionally, not one ancient historical source denies that Christ’s tomb was empty. Nonetheless, the tools (universal operational features of reason and analysis) one must utilize to access historical claims come from the Christian worldview. Skepticism lacks the ontology to account for such necessary rational tools.
The claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground (critical scholar Bart Ehrman).

Flavius Josephus (37-100 A.D. Antiquities XVIII, 3:2)
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 tribes of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.

Josh McDowell comments on selected features that support this passage’s reliability: As classical literature goes, the manuscript evidence that this passage is genuinely from Josephus is strong. It exists in all of the extant (still in existence) manuscripts of Josephus, and Eusebius, known as the "Father of Church History,” quotes it in his History of the Church, written circa A.D. 325, and again in his Demonstration of the Gospel, written somewhat earlier. The vocabulary and style, according to Loeb translator Louis Feldman, are, with some exceptions, basically consistent with other parts of Josephus. … Thus the description of Jesus as ‘a wise man’ is not typically Christian, but is used by Josephus of e.g. Solomon and Daniel. Similarly, Christians did not refer to Jesus' miracles as ‘astonishing deeds’ (paradoxa erga), but exactly the same expression is used by Josephus of the miracles of Elisha. And the description of Christians as a ‘tribe’ (phylon) occurs nowhere in early Christian literature, which Josephus uses the word both for the Jewish "race" and for other national or communal groups.”1

Clement of Rome (98 A.D. Corinthians)
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 being fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God will 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 first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.

Ignatius of Antioch (107-116 A.D. Smyrneans)
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 in Him…. He is truly of the race of David according to the flesh but Son of God by the Divine will and powered, truly born of a virgin and baptized by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him, truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch...  That He might set up an ensign unto all ages through His resurrection.

What these passages reveal confirms [2] the biblical accounts including:

  1. Jesus Christ lived as a historical person.
  2. Jesus was a son of a woman (also see Galatians 4:4).
  3. Jesus' mother was Mary.
  4. Christ was the originator of Christianity.
  5. Christ was worshiped by the church.
  6. Jesus died by crucifixion.
  7. Christ rose from the dead.

Lucian of Samosata (120 -180 A.D. Peregrinus)

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account... It was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers from the moment they are converted and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

Mara Bar-Serapion of Syria (Post 70 A.D)

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 burning 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 their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men.

 To see all the compelling evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus see my new book Risen HERE



1.        McDowell, Josh. He Walked Among Us.  
2. One cannot have the analysis of evidence without God. The God of the Bible is the precondition for the examination of evidence. Analysis uses induction, empirical testing, the laws of logic, and morality. One cannot account for any of those dynamics without God and His revelation. In a moment of honesty, renowned philosopher W.V. Quine, granted: “The collapse of empiricism (truth is found through man’s senses) would admit extra input ... by revelation.” Considering that empiricism is self-refuting (one cannot measure by seeing or hearing the definition of empiricism, so it collapses under its own load) it must concede truth claims to revelation by God and the general application of its precepts. Frame notes, “It is the responsibility of the Christian to regard God’s word as absolutely certain, and to make that word the criterion of all other sources of knowledge. Our certainty of the truth of God comes ultimately, not through rational demonstration or empirical verification, useful as these may often be, but from the authority of God’s own word. God’s word does testify to itself, often, by means of human testimony and historical evidence: the ‘proofs’ of Acts 1:3, the centurion’s witness in Luke 23:47, the many witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Cor. 15:1-11. But we should never forget that these evidences come to us with God’s own authority. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul asks the church to believe the evidence because it is part of the authoritative apostolic preaching.”

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