Historical Jesus Revealed In Ancient Sources

There are a number of ancient sources that provide information about the life, ministry and death of Christ. Not all of these sources are of equal value but there is sufficient evidence of the historical Jesus revealed for the conclusion to be drawn that he did in fact exist, was crucified and his followers spread his teachings after his death.

Josephus was a Jew who was born four years after the death of Christ. He was a court historian and wrote about many of the people we find in the New Testament. He referred to Jesus as a virtuous and wise man, talks about his crucifixion and mentions the report by his disciples that he appeared to them after he was resurrected. There are those who feel that his exact words may have been added to by Christians.

The Roman historian Tacitus referred to Christ and the fact that Pontius Pilate ordered his execution. He talks about the existence of early Christians. It is believed by some scholars that Tacitus may have gained his information about Christ from official records, perhaps from actual reports written by Pilate. Scholars generally feel his reference is genuine and of historical value.

Pliny the Younger, who served as a governor in Asia Minor and was known for the many letters he wrote, serves as a source of the behavior of the early Christians. He was personally in charge of interrogating Christians and ordered them to be executed unless they denied their faith. He relates that they met on a certain day, sang hymns and ate food together. He mentions that they came from a cross section of society, including all ages, sexes and classes. They worshiped Christ as a deity and made oaths not to commit unrighteousness.

In the Talmud, written well before the New Testament came into being, reference was made to Christ and his disciples. It is stated that he was hanged. It mentions that forty days beforehand it was publicly announced that he would be stoned. Another reference refers to five disciples who went before judges and were to be executed.

The second century Greek satirist Lucian, though he wrote critically of Christ and the early Christians, does establish that Christ was worshiped by followers after his death. He says that the Christians were convinced of their immortality, which explained their contempt for death. He mentions that they believed they were all brothers and that they despised worldly possessions.

Gnostic sources affirm that Christ became flesh, taking on a human body. They say that he spoke of himself as the son of man and the son of God. The Gnostic sources are somewhat questionable because of their theological character and when they were written. However, both Pliny and Lucian affirmed that Christians believed in the deity of Christ.

There is enough evidence of the historical Jesus revealed in ancient extra biblical texts to convince most people of his existence. Even serious scholars believe that he lived, was crucified and taught disciples. These disciples continued to preach his message after his death and it spread far and wide.

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