THE HISTORICAL REALITY OF JESUS CHRIST PART 1
The main purpose of this article is to provide historical and verifiable evidence that Jesus Christ existed; walked among men in a definite period of history and did what he did according to Biblical accounts. It is not intended to argue or proselytize. Sources mentioned are accessible and conclusions can be drawn.
If I cite Biblical or Christian evidence to justify the existence of Jesus Christ as a historical personality many people such as atheists and agnostics will conclude it is the case of a mother proving her son’s brilliance. So let us look at non-Biblical, non-Christian sources that indicate the following:
A There was really a person like Jesus Christ as indicated in the Bible.
B The claims about Jesus, as made by him and his followers, are valid and verifiable.
C Biblical accounts correspond with history.
TACITUS: He is one of the greatest of ancient Roman historians. He lived from 56-120 A.D. In his book ‘Annals’ which deals with the reign of Roman emperors between 14 A.D to 68 A.D. Tacitus wrote that Emperor Nero was considered responsible for the fire which devastated Rome in 64 A.D. To deflect blame, Nero accused Christians. To give background to whom these Christians were He wrote: ‘Christus, the founder of the name Christian, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate.’ (See Annals XV, 44).
Jesus Christ died in circa (Latin for approximately) 33 A.D. when Tiberius was Emperor of Rome (reigned from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D). Pilate was the governor or procurator of Judaea from 26 to 36 A.D. (see Gospel of Luke chapter 3 verses 1-2).
PLINY THE YOUNGER: This Roman administrator in Bithynia (in modern day Turkey) wrote his famous letter to Emperor Trajan about how he dealt with Christians in his jurisdiction. Those who recanted were spared; those who refused were executed. His exact words: ‘Those who …repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered adoration…to your image…who finally cursed Christ… I thought it proper to discharge.’ EMPEROR Trajan’s reply approved of his actions. Source: PLINY-LETTERS, BOOK X, XCVI
This source highlights this: Jesus Christ was known to the non- Christian, persecuting Roman leaders as the Lord and Principal Factor of the Christians. Why should the cursing of Christ be so important in getting Christians to give up their faith? The Roman emperors had ample reasons for seeking to stamp out Christianity as it undermined their religion and the cult of the Emperor, a vital pillar of the Empire. They knew what modern-day skeptics about Christ’s existence seek to deny: Jesus Christ is a real personality whose powerful teachings made people willing and ready to sacrifice their lives.
FLAVIUS JOSEPH: This Jewish historian is well known to many scholars of Christianity. He lived from circa 37 to 100 A.D. He wrote about Christ being a wise teacher executed by Pilate. One only has to consult his work ‘Jewish Antiquities’. There, he confirmed that ‘James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ’ was tried by the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court).
This confirms Biblical passages about the brothers of Jesus Christ and one of them is called James (not to be confused with James, the apostle and brother of Apostle John). Read Matthew chapter 13 verse 55 and Acts chapter 12 verse 17. So there was a historical Jesus Christ with brothers and other family members, and non-Christians recorded the facts.
Jewish rabbinic writings (the Talmud) cited the existence of Jesus Christ. One passage stated that on ‘Passover Yeshu (Jesus) the Nazarene was hanged.’ Another passage records: ‘May we produce no son or pupil who disgraces himself in public like the Nazarene.’ Jesus was often called the Nazarene in the Bible. His parents migrated to the town of Nazareth after they returned from Egypt following Herod’s death. (See Matthew chapter 2 verses 19 to 23). These accounts from sources openly hostile to Jesus prove that he was not unknown in history; that his acts were real among a specific people and significant enough to attract opposition, even hate.
TO BE CONTINUED
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema is a Lagos-based historian and writer. Email: [email protected]