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Most Attested Fact in History
"The resurrection is the most attested to fact in History," Jim Borror, Th.D., boldly asserted at his Easter service in 1974. I sat there stunned. What conceit! The audacity of such a claim! Who would dare to make it? Surely he couldn't back it up…
But, after reading the books he recommended to me, one year later I fell on my knees to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. What proved it to me? How did I and millions of other believers throughout history come to have a saving knowledge of the Messiah in a world riddled with skepticism and hostility?
Acquiring Faith Easier Today
It was hard then. But, oddly, it isn't quite as difficult in these days of the early 21st. century.
The "virgin" birth? No problem. We artificially inseminate infertile women every day. If we can do this, then God can certainly create his own DNA in the womb of a virgin mother if he wants to.
The resurrection? Not a big deal in a world where cloning has become a reality. While cloning isn't a true resurrection, it nevertheless shows that DNA can be used to recreate a living organism - a blueprint for resurrection in a sense. Could this be a "blueprint," by the way, that might be recorded in the Book of Life mentioned in Revelation, Isaiah, and other places? After all, the only thing that God needs in order to resurrect us is "information." Is it possible that God keeps our DNA information in His Book of Life? Stunning thought…
A conflict between science and the Bible? No problem anymore. That our earth is a sphere, that our sun makes a circuit through the galaxy, that space is "stretched" out, that there are paths (currents) in the sea, and so forth, are readily known to be in the bible and are available for research to interested readers. Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Henry Morris are excellent authors who have written about these subjects.
Church Fathers&Ancient Writers
For those of you willing to read, there are lots of historical evidences and primary source materials, too. C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is one. Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict is another. Lee Strobel's books, The Case for Christ or The Case for Faith are other examples. There are writings by the Church Fathers to peruse in any of our libraries. Ancient historians' writings such as Josephus or Tacitus or Suetonius are readily available to anyone.
Prophecy Proof&the Messiah
In fact, the existence of Jesus is one of the best established facts in history. There are literally thousands of early writings that survived many attempts to destroy them. Furthermore, there are hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus written 250-700 years before Jesus was born. We can "prove" it, too.
Septuagint&Dead Sea Scrolls
For one thing, about 270 years before Christ was born the Jews translated their Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek because few people spoke Hebrew anymore. We have lots of copies of this Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Bible. Then, in 1947 we found the Dead Sea Scrolls. What a treasure! Most of these were written before 100 B.C. Others survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. A few were possibly fragments of New Testament writings from several books. At any rate, we know that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (such as Isaiah 53) were written long before his birth.
The number of manuscripts attesting to Christianity is far above those supporting other writings, too. There are only ten manuscripts supporting Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, for example. There are 643 manuscripts for Homer's Iliad. But, did you know that there are over 24,000 manuscripts attesting to the New Testament? Incredible! And the earliest were written within 25 years of Christ's death! Newer dating methods even demonstrate that one fragment was written within 10-13 years of His death! Awesome…
Scribes' Copy Standards
Sometimes we are a little ignorant of the powerful methods Jewish scribes used to copy their manuscripts correctly. So we assume that there were copy errors and big changes over the years within the Old and New Testaments. Big mistake…
The scribes had failsafe methods and systems for finding mistakes or copying errors in their sacred writings.
For instance, scribes wrote 37 letters per column.
They always used a Master copy.
They checked the distance between letters with a thread.
They counted letters per page and compared it to the Master copy.
The middle letter of a scroll was verified as same as Master copy.
They counted letters per book and compared it to the original copy.
If there was just one mistake the scroll was destroyed.
(Muncaster 2000, 23)
Sometimes we make fun of the New Testament because we know Matthew or Mark or John didn't have tapes or records of Jesus. So how did they state accurately what Jesus said?
The scribes and writers knew their own form of "shorthand." These secretaries were called an "Amanuensis" in the New Testament, or "ready writers" in the Old Testament. See Psalm 45:1 for a reference to the "skillful writer" or "ready writer." This is a synonym for "tachygraphos" or "shorthand writer." In fact, we get our word "manuscript" from a root of this word.
In other words, Matthew, a customs and tax official, had to know shorthand to do his job! He was able to take down the Sermon on the Mount word-for-word! Silvanus worked as a secretary for the written word as noted in 1 Peter 5:12. Tertius worked on the book of Romans as seen in Romans 16:22. John Mark worked as a skillful writer noted in Acts 13:5. (Missler 2000)
Outside Historical References?
At other times we poke fun at the New Testament because Christians use it to prove it - a form of circular reasoning. Are there other references to Christ outside of the New Testament writings?
- Thallus, who lived around 52 A.D., guessed that the darkness which came over the land at the time of Jesus' death must have been a solar eclipse. Don't miss the fact that he referenced the darkness! And don't miss the fact that he referenced Christ's death.
- Josephus, a Jewish historian (64-93 A.D.), referred to Jesus and his miracles, crucifixion, and to his disciples. He also noted James as the brother of Jesus, John the Baptist, and other relevant persons and items.
- Pliny the Younger (112 A.D.) asked Rome for guidance on what tests to give Christians before executing them.
- Hadrian (117-138) noted that Christians ruined the sale of idols and drew people away from gods.
- Suetonius (120 A.D.) complained about the "mischievous and novel superstition" concerning the resurrection.
And so on and so forth…You get the picture (McDowell 1993, chapter 7).
Knowingly Die for a Lie?
Have you ever considered what it would take to die for a lie? Imagine hostages today taken captive by Moslem terrorists. Do they willingly convert to Islam to avoid beheadings? You bet! Some do. Just look at the FOX News journalists who bowed to Allah recently. They aren't going to die for something they don't believe.
Would you willingly die for Christ if you thought Christianity was a false religion to begin with? I don't think so.
Yet, history reports that all of the disciples (except John) were executed in extremely cruel and painful ways because they were believers. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. Thaddaeus was killed with arrows. Matthew and James faced sword killings. James was stoned. Oh, and John mentioned above? He was just dipped in boiling oil - but survived. All of them died because of their conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord and rose from the dead. They knew that they knew that they knew…that this is the truth.
I haven't even touched the many prophecies (over 300) referring to Jesus' birth, life, and death - all proved to have been written centuries before his life. Read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 for yourself, for example.
…"they have pierced my hands and feet (written hundreds of years prior to crucifixion as punishment)…"they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…" (Psalm 22:16-18).
Zechariah notes that "they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver" (remember Judas?)… (Zech. 11:12-13).
Statisticians estimate that the probability of all these prophecies (around 300 of them) coming true is about one chance in 10 to the 99th power. Impossible!
Wait until you learn about Daniel's incredible prophecy made in 535 B.C. which foretold Jesus' date - I said DATE - of entry into Jerusalem! April 6, A.D. 32 (See our suggested resources at the end).
I haven't even suggested yet looking into some of the more fun and controversial evidences such as the Shroud of Turin. Nor have I even begun to touch the evidences for the historicity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. I suggest you do your own homework.
Who is going to remember YOU after you die? Oh…maybe your children for awhile…then maybe your grandkids. But, that's it. That's all, folks. After that you are a nobody! NOBODY!!
However, if you become a believer in Jesus as Lord who died for your sins and rose from the dead, then everything you do from this point on counts forever. God never forgets you. In fact, He takes care to write your very name in His Book of Life. (Your "name" might be your personal DNA records, by the way).
So please don't waste your time in a fruitless life spent in worthless pursuits and pipedreams. Make your life count! You will live again!
This is why the apostle Paul can confidently tells us: "Rejoice in the Lord always - again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Ankerberg, John. Ankerberg Theological Research Inst. ankerberg.org
Campbell, Charlie. Always Be Ready. alwaysbeready.com
Christian Apologetics and Research (CARM). carm.org
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Simon&Schuster
McDowell, Josh. 1993. The Best of Josh McDowell. Edited by Bill Wilson. Nashville, TN: Nelson.
Missler, Chuck. 2005. Tape cassettes. Daniel's 70 Weeks. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
…2004. Tape cassettes. How We Got Our Bible. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
Muncaster, Ralph. 2000. Is the Bible Really a Message from God? Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Ross, Hugh. 1999. Beyond the Cosmos. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
Strobel, Lee. 1998. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
"I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history…"
E.M. Blaiklock - Professor of Classics, Auckland University
"Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historical incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection."
B.F. Westcott, New Testament textual scholar
"As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling…The Gospel evidence for the resurrection…I accept unreservedly as the testimony of truthful people to facts they were able to substantiate."
Sir Edward Clarke KC from a letter to Rev. E.L. Macassey
"I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead."
Thomas Arnold, History of Rome
"If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy or archaeology that would disprove this statement."
Dr. Paul L. Maier, Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University.
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