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Question

Jesus has left a mark on history, but did he even exist? Can you prove it without using religious books? Aren't there many tombs of Jesus?

Answer

Thank you for this important question. I am glad to tell you that the existence of Jesus is established from numerous non-Christian sources, although there are too many to put into this answer, we will look at two for the purpose of this answer.

The first we shall look at is the Jewish writer Josephus, in a work entitled 'Antiquities of the Jews', written around 93–94 AD. Josephus was a Jewish general who was among the leaders of opposition to Roman rule who, after being defeated in a Jewish rebellion, went on to become a friend of the Roman emperors and wrote this work to explain to them the nature and history of Judaism. He was not a Christian yet he included two references to Jesus Christ which say that he lived, claimed to be the Messiah, and was crucified as the Christian writings state. One of the passages contains more detailed information and appears to support Jesus' claims.

For this reason many scholars think that, at some later point, something was added to the passage by a Christian copyist or by Christian authority and that this version survived while earlier versions were lost or destroyed. However, scholars of Josephus (including those who are not Christian believers) agree that the two references to Jesus are original. They confirm no more than his existence, his claim to be the Messiah, and his death on the cross. They do not refer to specific teachings of Jesus.

A second historical reference is from a Roman historian named Tacitus, who wrote around 116AD a work now usually called 'The Annals', in which he records the execution of 'Christus' by Pontius Pilate (Bk.15: Ch.44). As it criticises Christianity it is evidently not a Christian addition or forgery. Once again, this reference confirms nothing more than the historical reality of Jesus.

However, it is important to take notice of the historical reliability of the gospels themselves. Three of them share very similar content in terms of recording incidents in Jesus' life and teaching, yet they are written in different styles which reflect the particular interests of their authors. The slight variations tend to confirm to historians that they were not forgeries or plagiarises or each other but rather genuine recollections.

Further, they were written within a generation of Jesus' death. John, author of the fourth gospel, was an eyewitness who lived into old age and wrote his gospel to provide an account of episodes not recounted by the other gospels and to provide a deeply thoughtful reflection on the meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

This means that the gospels pass several tests applied by historians to an ancient biography - eyewitness accounts, written soon after an event occurred, and with slight variations that demonstrate they did not merely forge the story by repeating each other woodenly.

Add to this that it is known that almost all the apostles were executed for insisting, against Roman beliefs, that Jesus was the true 'Lord' who rose from death, rather than the emperor. If they forged or invented the story of Jesus, or exaggerated his powers, they preferred to die than to escape death by confessing and renouncing their inventions. They made no money from their writings and had no great status from a Christian movement that was small and weak when they were executed.

I was an atheist and cynic about Christianity when I first read the Bible and I was not easily persuaded myself until I looked at these matters seriously!

With regard to the tomb of Jesus there is no certain proof that it is known, but one must consider that a resurrected Jesus would have made the tomb an irrelevance, unlike any shrine containing his body. The most likely candidate remains the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem because the site was already venerated as such before the Emperor Constantine erected a church over it. Maintaining an accurate oral tradition was, and is, extremely important in Middle Eastern culture because of its style of learning and the importance of its different communities retaining their various historical distinctions. However, tradition is not proof so as to avoid being dogmatic.

Rather than just thinking about the existence of Jesus being in the past, as Christians we believe that Jesus is alive forevermore! He can be known personally through a relationship. While he was on earth, Jesus lived a perfect life to show us how to live. He died on the cross for the punishment of our sins and then he rose from the dead to show his power of death. I encourage you to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, asking him for the forgiveness of your sins and to know that h is with you always, just as he has been with every Christian.

In summary, there is solid historical evidence for the existence of Jesus and the idea that his followers are undependable witnesses is far weaker than it might seem when you investigate the matter. I encourage you to seek Christ as your Lord and Saviour, knowing that he is real and can be known.

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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