Was Jesus Real? Is He God? Is There Proof?
The question of the historicity of Jesus, that is, whether Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure, is a topic that has been explored extensively by historians, theologians, and scholars from various disciplines.
If I may pause for a moment, so that I can be clear that I am not looking to debate atheists, or people that reject Jesus. I do, and have always respected each individuals right to make their decision, either solely based on facts, and if desired, solely based on faith. With that said, I now ask the question, was Jesus real? Is He God? And is there a proof?
The general consensus among historians is that Jesus of Nazareth did exist as a historical figure in the 1st century CE. This consensus is based on several lines of evidence:
- Biblical Sources: The New Testament, particularly the four Gospels, offers detailed narratives of Jesus’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection. While these are religious texts with theological intentions, many historians consider them valuable, though not uncritical, sources for the reconstruction of Jesus’s life and context.
- Non-Christian Sources: Several ancient writers outside the Christian tradition make reference to Jesus. Some of the most frequently cited are:
- Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE): A Jewish historian who wrote the “Antiquities of the Jews.” There are two references to Jesus in this work. One of them, called the Testimonium Flavianum, is sometimes thought to have been later interpolated or edited by Christian scribes, though the exact nature and extent of any such changes remain a matter of debate.
- Tacitus (56-120 CE): A Roman historian who, in his work “Annals,” mentions Jesus’s execution by Pontius Pilate and the existence of early Christians in Rome.
- Pliny the Younger (61-113 CE): In his letters to Emperor Trajan, he discusses the early Christian community and their worship of Christ.
- Oral Traditions: Before the New Testament texts were written, stories about Jesus were passed down orally. These oral traditions shaped the written Gospels and provide insight into the early Christian community’s beliefs about Jesus.
- Archaeological Evidence: While there’s no direct archaeological evidence for Jesus, there’s evidence that corroborates the general historical and cultural context described in the New Testament.
- Bart D. Ehrman: Ehrman is a prominent New Testament scholar and historian who has written extensively on early Christianity. While he began his academic career as a fundamentalist Christian, he later became an agnostic. In his book “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth,” Ehrman defends the position that Jesus was a real historical figure, critiquing arguments put forth by “mythicists” who claim that Jesus never existed.
- Richard Carrier: Carrier is one of the few scholars with relevant credentials who argues for the “mythicist” position, suggesting that Jesus might not have been a historical figure but rather a mythological construct. However, it’s important to note that Carrier’s views are not representative of the mainstream consensus among historians and biblical scholars.
- Gerd Lüdemann: A German New Testament scholar, Lüdemann is known for his skeptical views on the historicity of many New Testament events, including the resurrection of Jesus. However, he does accept that Jesus existed as a historical figure and that certain events, such as his crucifixion, are historically verifiable.
- Maurice Casey: An English scholar, Casey was known for his work on the Aramaic background of the Gospels. As an atheist, he defended the historicity of Jesus against mythicist claims, emphasizing Jesus’s roots in the Jewish culture of his time.
- Richard Dawkins: While Dawkins is a biologist rather than a historian, he is one of the most well-known contemporary atheists due to his book “The God Delusion.” In it, Dawkins acknowledges the historical existence of Jesus, although he obviously does not accept any supernatural claims associated with him.
- Christopher Hitchens: The late journalist and author, known for his book “God Is Not Great” and his critiques of religion, acknowledged the historical existence of Jesus. Like Dawkins, Hitchens did not delve deeply into the historical details, but he did not align himself with the mythicist camp.Well Known Atheists : Several well-known atheists or secular scholars have acknowledged the historical existence of Jesus while not adhering to religious beliefs about his divinity. Here are a few:
It’s fair to note, however, that the question of the historicity of Jesus (whether he existed) is separate from questions about the nature of Jesus (whether he was divine, performed miracles, was resurrected, etc.). The former is primarily a historical question, while the latter delves into theological and faith-based interpretations. After we acknowledge, that Jesus, indeed, was real, this would naturally lead us to the subsequent question, being “is Jesus really God”.
Is There Proof That Jesus is God?
Old Testament Prophecies Pointing to Jesus: A Look at Their Fulfillment
The Old Testament is replete with verses that prophesied the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. These prophecies, scattered throughout various books, provide details about His lineage, birth, life, death, and resurrection. This article explores some of these prophecies and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament.
- Lineage of David:
- Prophecy: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” – Genesis 49:10
- Fulfillment: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:” – Matthew 1:1
- When: The lineage was established with Jesus’ birth, as outlined in the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.
- Born of a Virgin:
- Prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
- Fulfillment: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” – Matthew 1:23
- When: Jesus’s birth, approximately 4-6 BCE.
- Birthplace in Bethlehem:
- Prophecy: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2
- Fulfillment: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod…” – Matthew 2:1
- When: Jesus’s birth, approximately 4-6 BCE.
- Betrayed for Thirty Pieces of Silver:
- Prophecy: “And I said to them, ‘If you are good with it, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.” – Zechariah 11:12
- Fulfillment: “Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.” – Matthew 26:14-15
- When: Shortly before Jesus’s crucifixion, around 30-33 CE.
- Death by Crucifixion:
- Prophecy: “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.” – Psalm 22:16
- Fulfillment: “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” – Matthew 27:35
- When: Jesus’s crucifixion, around 30-33 CE.
- Prophecy: “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.” – Psalm 16:10
- Fulfillment: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:6
- When: Three days after Jesus’s crucifixion, around 30-33 CE.
These are just a few of the many prophecies that foreshadowed the coming and deeds of Jesus Christ. Each one strengthens the faith of believers and underscores the interconnectedness of the Old and New Testaments in Christian theology.
Do You Believe? If Yes, What Next?
NOTE: I want to emphasize that I hold no judgment towards those who may not share this belief in Jesus’s identity. It’s not my intent to impose my views on anyone. Christianity is a deeply personal choice that each person must navigate for themselves. If you choose not to embrace the full identity of Christ that Christians do, please understand that the subsequent information may is not directed to you…
If you are persuaded that Jesus existed historically and feel that the prophecies validate His divinity, you may be curious about what you need to do next. Christians uphold the belief that Jesus, born of a virgin, identified as the Messiah during His time on Earth, performed numerous miracles, and ultimately faced crucifixion, only to rise from the dead three days later. The resurrection is central to our faith. Without it, our beliefs would lack foundation. It’s through this resurrection that Jesus demonstrated His ability to conquer death, assuring us that He has the power to grant us eternal life. Without the promise of our own resurrection, the hope for eternal salvation would cease to exists.
Returning to our initial question: if you’ve come to believe in the identity of Jesus, what’s the next thing you need to do? What actions should you undertake? My response may differ from many religious authorities. Some might suggest a myriad of tasks you must undertake. Some might emphasize the importance of water baptism, while others might stress parting with 10% of your income, and yet others may insist that you need to say a certain prayer or walk down an aisle. However, I firmly believe that these teachings lack a strong biblical foundation. So, my perspective might catch some off guard. In essence, if you’ve accepted what I’ve shared, there are no further steps necessary. Everything required for your sins to be forgiven — both past and future — has already been achieved. Rest assured, you are eternally secured by Him, promised eternal salvation, and destined to inherit the kingdom. Like Jesus, even in death, you shall live.
All Sins Forgiven? We Don’t Have to Do Anything? Could That Be True?
Numerous individuals fear that an abundance of grace might be too much for Christians to bear. They assume it would only encourage further transgressions and greatly diminish good deeds. It’s like they’re literally blaming the grace of God on poor human behavior. However, if we trust the scriptures, this belief is unfounded. Indeed, it is through Grace that we are guided to repentance.
The Scriptures offer profound insights about the transformation that occurs within us once we accept Jesus. We’re assured that our former, hardened heart will be replaced with a new one. This transformation pertains to our spiritual heart, not the physical organ. Moreover, we’re informed that new desires will be instilled in us, and that God’s Spirit will dwell within. Given these changes – a renewed heart, new desires, and God’s spirit within – why then do some have strong apprehensions about embracing this newfound liberty and absolute forgiveness? Understand this: if you’ve agreed with the teachings we’ve discussed today, 2 Peter 1:3 states that “you have everything for life and godliness”. You don’t need to go find more of it. 1 Corinthians 1:7 assures us “we lack no spiritual gifts”. You don’t need to run around trying to figure out how to get more. Does this imply Christians are immune to bad choices/sin? Certainly not. We all sin, some more frequently than others. But for those who’ve found a home in Christ’s family, there’s a vital truth I wish for all to grasp and hold onto: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate payment for our sins. There’s no supplementary punishment from God being doled out. Jesus is the anchor of your salvation, and all you require is already within you. And, dare I say it, even if you make some really poor decisions, God will never leave you, and he will never forsake you. That said, I encourage you to always remember this particular verse, to ensure you never question the boundless love and complete forgiveness given to you by our Heavenly Father.
1 Corinthians 6:8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.