<< Previous | Index | Next >>
                         "CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS"

                          The Historical Jesus

INTRODUCTION

1. In the previous lesson, we laid the foundation for a study in
   Christian apologetics:  That the Christian faith is...
   a. AN OBJECTIVE FAITH
      1) With Jesus of Nazareth as the object of that faith
      2) That He is the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose from
         the dead
   b. A HISTORICAL FAITH
      1) Based upon real people, places, and events
      2) That actually took place in history
   c. AN INTELLIGENT, RATIONAL FAITH
      1) Which invites people to use their minds
      2) To examine the historical evidence which logically supports
         placing one's faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God

2. With these things in mind, we begin by considering the evidence...
   a. Which establishes Jesus of Nazareth as a HISTORICAL FIGURE
   b. One who actually lived in Palestine during the First Century A.D.

[Some might wonder...]

I. WAS THERE EVER ANY QUESTION?

   A. THERE HAVE BEEN SKEPTICS WHO BELIEVED JESUS WAS JUST A "MYTH"...
      1. This concept was popular with some scholars of the 1800s'
      2. It is rarely found today, except among those...
         a. Who are ignorant of the facts
         b. Who purposely suppress the evidence (e.g., as was done in
            formerly communist-dominated countries)

   B. TODAY, NO SERIOUS HISTORIAN (EVEN THOSE WHO ARE ATHEISTS) DISPUTES
      THE FACT THAT JESUS EXISTED...
      1. H. G. WELLS
         a. An atheist, he spoke of Jesus in his book, Outline Of
            History
         b. "...one is obliged to say, 'Here was a man.  This part of
            the tale could not have been invented.'"
      2. WILL DURANT
         a. Ex-professor of Philisophy of History at Columbia University
         b. He spent two chapters in The Story Of Our Civilization
            depicting Jesus as a historical figure right along with the
            Caesars
      3. ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA
         a. Used over 20,000 words to describe Jesus
         b. More than Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar,
            Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, or Napoleon

[So there appears to be sufficient evidence to have convinced these and 
others like them that Jesus actually lived.

What is this evidence...?]

II. THE EVIDENCE FOR A HISTORICAL JESUS

   A. AMONG "PAGAN" SOURCES...
      1. THALLUS (a Samaritan historian, ca. 52 A.D.)
         a. Wrote attempting to give a natural explanation for the
            darkness which occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus
         b. Note carefully:
            1) He did not deny the existence of Jesus
            2) But only tried to explain away the strange circumstances
               surrounding His death
      2. LETTER OF MARA-SERAPION (written to his son, ca. 73 A.D.)
         a. He tells of the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and of Jesus
         b. "What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise
            king?...Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in
            the teaching which he had given."
      3. CORNELIUS TACITUS (Roman historian, ca. 112 A.D.)
         a. Writes of Jesus in his ANNALS
         b. "Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by
            Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of
            Tiberias."
      4. PLINY THE YOUNGER
         a. Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, ca. 112 A.D.
         b. Wrote to the emperor Trajan about Christians and their
            devotion to Christ
      5. SEUTONIUS (Court official and annalist under Hadrian, 120 A.D.)
         a. "As the Jews were making constant disturbance at the
            instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
         b. Luke makes reference to this same expulsion in Ac 18:1-2

   B. AMONG "JEWISH" SOURCES...
      1. THE TALMUD
         a. Consists of two separate books dealing with Jewish law,
            written during the period from 100 A.D. to 500 A.D.
         b. Speaks frequently of Jesus of Nazareth...
            1) In unfriendly terms, of course
            2) But never disputing his status as a historical figure
      2. FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS
         a. A Jewish general turned Roman historian, born 37 A.D.
         b. Makes several references to Jesus in his History Of The Jews
         c. E.g., "...and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the
            so-called Christ, whose name was James."

[Such is the evidence which must be taken into account by any
intelligent and rational person.

But what are the implications of such evidence?]

III. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS EVIDENCE

   A. WHAT IT "DOES" DO...
      1. It provides a solid basis upon which one can intelligently
         believe in Jesus as a person who actually existed in history
      2. It exposes the shallow thinking of any who would try to mark
         off Jesus as a myth
      3. It requires everyone to give some sort of answer to the
         question posed by Jesus Himself:  "But who do you say that I
         am?" - Mt 16:15

   B. WHAT IT "DOES NOT" DO...
      1. The evidence we have seen thus far DOES NOT prove Jesus to be
         the Son of God
      2. In fact, it does not tell us anything about Jesus except:
         a. That He lived and died during the First Century A.D.
         b. That He must have done something significant to gain some
            notoriety by the historians

   C. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS, WE MUST LOOK ELSEWHERE...
      1. There have been many fanciful stories written about Jesus
      2. But the Christian considers the twenty-seven books known as the
         New Testament to be the only reliable source of information
         about Jesus
      3. But are they?
         a. Is the New Testament reliable as a historical document?
         b. Can we even be sure that what we have is actually what was
            penned by the original authors of the New Testament?

CONCLUSION

1. The next study shall begin an attempt to answer these questions

2. For now, we have simply laid one block as we build a foundation upon
   which we can rest our faith...
   a. We have seen that it is more logical to believe that Jesus did in
      fact exist
   b. To assert that He is a myth is groundless

3. And since He actually existed, that requires our giving some answer
   to the question Jesus asked:  "WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"

4. Will our answer be "LORD!", or "A CAREFULLY CONTRIVED LIE!"
   a. As we shall see, these are the only two choices we have
   b. The evidence we shall continue to examine should help give us the
      right answer!
<< Previous | Index | Next >>

The "Executable Outlines" Series, Copyright Mark A. Copeland, 1999. You may freely use, copy, or distribute this material, provided it is done at no cost to others. "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

Home