Jesus - Legend or History?|
Q. I noticed the gospel accounts of the resurrection and some other events are slightly different. So how do we know that Jesus was a real person? (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
Thank you for your well thought-out question. We need to remember that hundreds of top-notch lawyers, historians, archaeologists, and scholars have studied the gospel accounts over a period of 2000 years and came to the conclusion that they are accurate. In over two thousand years no one has disproved the gospel accounts yet. Many have tried, but when they carefully study the historical and archaeological evidences most of them became ardent believers. The evidence is that compelling!
Evidence of Collusion?
Had the four gospel accounts agreed in every detail the writers would have been suspected of "collusion." By recounting the stories in slightly different ways and from particular viewpoints they present more credible facts. Close examination reveals that the accounts are complementary to one another. They do not contradict each other. Josh McDowell's and Ralph Muncaster's books are excellent on this subject, and Lee Strobel's book, The Case For Christ, is highly regarded. See our recommended resources at the end.
39 References to Jesus Outside Bible
There is more evidence for the existence of Jesus than for any other person in ancient history. Outside of the bible we have the writings of the historian Josephus. There is a reference to Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud. There are references by Tacitus, Suetonius, Herodotus, Phlegon, and Pliny the Younger among others. Even the emperor Hadrian mentions Jesus. I recommend Josh McDowell's book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, for further information. All in all there are more than 39 references to Jesus outside of the Bible.
There are many ancient gravesites and artifacts which lend substance to the fact of Jesus' existence and resurrection - including coins which commemorate Christ's mastery over death. Other gravesite markings state, "Jesus, Help" or "Jesus, Let Him Arise." The sign of the "fish" is also found in many places.
One of the most exciting artifacts is the Shroud of Turin. Many think it may be the real burial shroud of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 27:59, Mark 15:46, and Luke 23:53. Scientific tests have determined the fiber and limestone dust to be authentic. Evidence of the location of blood wounds appear to be accurate. The blood stains seem to verify crucifixion. Coins on the eyes are dated to the time of the crucifixion.
DNA samples seem to authenticate an XX male (lending substance to a virgin birth). And the image made on the cloth appears to substantiate an extremely powerful burst of energy similar to a nuclear-type event. (See physicist and cosmologist Frank Tipler's new book called, The Physics of Christianity, for more information).
Points to remember:
Minor differences in gospel accounts help to prove authenticity and lack of "collusion."
There is more evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ than for any other person in ancient history.
There are more than 39 extra biblical references to Jesus.
Historical remarks, gravesites markings, coins, and the burial shroud help to authenticate the existence of Jesus and resurrection accounts.
McDowell, Josh. 1999. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Muncaster, Ralph. 2004. Evidence for Jesus. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Strobel, Lee. 1998. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Tipler, Frank. 2007. The Physics of Christianity. N.Y.: Doubleday.