How Can We Be Sure Jesus Really Existed?

Unlike most other faiths Christianity can be investigated. Though virtually no other religion does this, Christianity invites investigation. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. In other words, you can check this out. When I looked at this as a skeptic, as an atheist trained in law journalism, I thought wait a minute there are only three questions I must answer:

  1. Did Jesus Live?
  2. Was Jesus Put to Death?
  3. Was He Encountered After He Was Put to Death?

Those are historical questions. You can investigate those!

Did Jesus Live? 

What you find is that the evidence for the existence of Jesus is overwhelming. We could make a strong case, for example, about the contours of the life of Jesus merely from non-Christian sources form Ancient history. We know that Jesus lived. Very few people would dispute that. Even Bart Ehrman, the agnostic scholar, recently wrote a book about the fact that Jesus existed. As Ehrman said, the other theories just pale in comparison.

Was Jesus Put to Death? 

Interestingly, the evidence for his execution is extremely strong. Why? Because most of what we know from ancient history we know from only one or two sources. For the execution of Jesus we not only have the sources in the New Testament we also have five ancient sources outside the New Testament confirming and corroborating his execution. This is to the point where the atheist New Testament scholar, Gerd Ludemann, has said the death of Jesus by crucifixion is indisputable.

Was He Encountered After He Was Put To Death? 

We have an empty tomb, even the opponents of Jesus implicitly conceded that the tomb was empty. We also have nine ancient sources inside and outside the New Testament confirming and corroborating the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus—that is an avalanche of historical data. And, incidentally, the first report we have does not come centuries or decades later. We have a report that Jesus was put to death for our sins, that he was buried, that he rose from the dead, and then it mentions specific names of eye-witnesses and groups of eye-witnesses to whom he appeared. This report has been dated back to within months to the death of Jesus. This is historical gold. This is not some legend form centuries later, it goes right back to the scene of the event. When you think of the first two biographies of Alexander the Great by Arrian and Plutarch were written 400 years after his life and they are generally considered reliable. Here we have fresh reports that we can trust that establish that Jesus did return form the dead, and thus authenticated his claim to being the Son of God.

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