If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#14) He Must Have Existed

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If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#14) He Must Have Existed

A recent survey in Britain showed that 22% of Brits don’t believe that there ever was a real Jesus… that it is all fake, some kind of a myth or made-up deception.

This is fascinating, for the vast majority of historians find the evidence compelling that there really was a Jesus of Nazareth. What is going on here? It is increasingly possible that you will find one of your neighbors taking the position that Jesus never even existed. This conveniently makes any discussion of the resurrection, for them, a moot point. How do we respond to them?

Let’s look at the significant secular historical references to Jesus:

  • Tacitus writes that Jesus “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberias” and at the “hands of… Pontius Pilate”. Annals 15:44
  • Josephus writes about James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” Antiquities 20:9
  • Other historical references to Jesus come from Suetonius, Thallus (via Julius Africanus) and Pliny the Younger.
  • Celsus thought Jesus a villain, but he didn’t question whether or not He lived.
  • Even the Jewish Talmud speaks of Jesus being “hanged (on a tree) on the eve of the Passover” Sanhedrin 43a.
  • Lucian writes of Christians worshipping their “crucified sage”, and Mara Bar-Serapion, maybe as early as late first century, writes this in a letter to his son:

“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished… Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”

  • Justin Martyr in mid-second century calls his readers to review The Acts of Pontius Pilate in which the miraculous acts of Jesus and His resurrection are attested.
  • Phlegon (via Origen and Julius Africanus) wrote of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the earthquake and darkness at the crucifixion.

Nothing, however, is quite as compelling as the documents which chronicle the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the writings of Paul, James, Jude and Peter. Some would try to discount the Gospels because they were written by followers of Jesus, but this is a very weak charge. If we were to toss all histories because the writer was not perfectly neutral toward his subject, we would be left with virtually no history. Paul was initially hostile toward those who were following a man named Jesus. He became a believer and then spent time with eyewitnesses like Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. His writings are filled with testimony regarding the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His death and resurrection.

The key point is that there is more than sufficient evidence to support the existence of Jesus.

So why the push-back?

It might be of value to ask the question, why do people spend time trying to prove Him non-existent? There are societies of “mythicists” whose sole purpose is to prove Jesus is merely a myth and legend. The Jesus Project was founded not long ago for the purpose of debunking the historical Jesus. There have been numerous books written whose object is to deny the historicity of Jesus. For years, it seemed that every Easter, Time and Newsweek were obsessed with debunking Him. This should be eye opening. Why dedicate so much press to this? Why build a campus club for this purpose? Why are there not societies formed to debunk the existence of Plato or Aristotle or King Arthur (whose existence is certainly questionable)?

There are some today who deny the historicity of the Holocaust. They do not deny it because the evidence points them to that conclusion. They deny it because they have an a priori desire, a motive, to do so.

Much the same can be said for those who “need” to deny the existence of Jesus. It is not driven so much by fact as it is driven by desire. I have watched the debates. The rebuttal to the evidence is extremely weak and contrived. In reality, the vast majority of honest historians, whether or not they believe the claims of Jesus, are convinced the evidence of His existence is overwhelming.

Lawrence Mykytiuk, associate professor of library science, Purdue University, writes:

“Jewish rabbis who did not like Jesus or his followers accused him of being a magician and leading people astray,” he says, “but they never said he didn’t exist.”

When you begin to build a deep relationship with your neighbor and they happen to be a historical denier of Jesus, keep in mind that it isn’t so much an intellectual issue as it is a heart issue.

This should simply provoke us to deeper and deeper prayer and intercession for them.

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If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then (#1) the Seal Was Broken
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In the book of Esther, when King Ahasuerus issued the order to save the Jews, he commanded them to “seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.” (Esther 8:8) When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, “… a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel." (Daniel 6:17) In the vision concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the Scripture says this: And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Isaiah 29:11 The permanence of a seal against all who were unauthorized to break it was an inviolable part of their world.  It becomes even more apparent when John is caught up to heaven and there beholds the scroll with seven seals. 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I can imagine that when the earth began to shake and the stone was rolled aside, that those clay seals with the authority of man impressed upon them broke into a thousand pieces and lay as trash littering the ground. If Jesus rose from the dead, then the seal of man, meant to keep Him in the grave, had been utterly and completely destroyed. But there is one more thing that must be mentioned regarding “seals”. It is important to note that God has given us this detail in the record to help substantiate the reality of the accounts of the empty tomb and the risen Lord Jesus. But it also brings our minds to something quite wonderful. In John 6:27, Jesus said this: Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” If God seals something, it is sealed! 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If Jesus Rose from the Dead, then... (#0)
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