Who Was Jesus of Nazareth?

“Jesus of Nazareth is easily the dominant figure in history…the historian disregarding the theological significance of his life, writes the name of Jesus of Nazareth at the top of the list of the world's greatest characters.” ~ H. G. Wells

 

Few can say that they have never heard of Jesus Christ.  In a 2010 TIME Magazine article entitled, “Who’s Biggest? The 100 Most Significant Figures in History,” in which the authors attempted to rank “historical figures just as Google ranks web pages, by integrating a diverse set of measurements about their reputation into a single consensus value,” Jesus came out first1.   Loved or hated, the name of Jesus Christ is a “household name,” and has been for centuries.  Everybody’s heard of Jesus.

Read More

Jesus & the Evidence III

In this third installment, we turn to the question of the gospels’ authenticity and accuracy. Even though the texts of the gospels have come down to us in reliable form, their believability is another question altogether. Is there reason to believe that the gospel accounts were ever true to begin with? Or are they just carefully copied frauds? LOTS could be said on this, and we will have to content ourselves with only scratching the surface.

Read More

Jesus & the Evidence II

Last week, I cited multiple ancient authors who referred to Jesus in their respective works. These individuals, who lived in the same and/or following century that Jesus lived, spoke of him as a real historical figure. None of them were Christians, and at least two of them were quite hostile to Christianity, yet they spoke of Jesus as someone who had impacted their world in recent times. There is no reasonable reason to doubt their testimony on this point, and so the overwhelming majority of scholars don't. But what of those who wrote about Jesus in the first century who were Christians? What about their testimony? In other words, what about the so-called “gospels”—the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Can we trust their accounts? Is there evidence one way or the other? These are questions worth answering…for the gospel writers not only affirm that Jesus walked the earth, but that he came from heaven to save us from the consequences of our sins against God. If there’s any chance that might be true, we definitely want to give the gospels a fair hearing.

So let’s see where the evidence leads....

Read More

Jesus & the Evidence I

Some doubt that Jesus ever existed. But they’re in the minority. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary: The first century Roman historian Tacitus (born c. AD 55) mentions Jesus in his Annals (15:44). Tacitus’ Jewish contemporary, Josephus (born c. AD 37), references Jesus twice in his Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.3; 20.9.1). Pliny the Younger (born AD 61), the Roman magistrate, mentions Jesus in his letter to the Emperor Trajan (Letters, vol. 2, 10:96). And the second-century satirist, Lucian of Samosata (born AD 125), speaks of Jesus in his work The Death of Peregrine (11-13).

Read More