Who was Jesus Christ?

ffee2447b152494b43d9816faaea83c8_XL-150x150For almost twenty centuries the name of Jesus Christ has been in the minds of a countless number of people. Some of these have even been tortured or put to death, for their conviction and belief that Jesus Christ was a person of tremendous importance to them.
And while these people have been so confident in Jesus, there have been others who have denied that he ever existed, saying that he was merely a myth.An historical look at the person of Jesus Christ.
Real Or Myth?
Christianity is based on a man called Jesus Christ.
For almost twenty centuries the name of Jesus Christ has been in the minds of a countless number of people. Some of these have even been tortured or put to death, for their conviction and belief that Jesus Christ was a person of tremendous importance to them.

And while these people have been so confident in Jesus, there have been others who have denied that he ever existed, saying that he was merely a myth.

Actually this latter aspect is not new, for back in the times of Jesus there were very many that did not want to acknowledge that he existed. He was a man who was either loved or hated
“Away with this man… crucify him! Why, what evil has he done?” Luke 23:18,22

Two-thousand years later, the situation is found to be little different.

If Jesus was a real person, it is asked, then why was he not mentioned in contemporary literature? Why is it, if Jesus was a real person, that “there is no worthwhile contemporary evidence outside the New Testament of the Bible that Jesus ever existed?”

This question is one we’ve probably all come across, or questioned silently in our own minds. This question arises in some people’s minds because they are irked that such a person could have such a dramatic influence on so many people’s lives. Rather than find out why this person Jesus Christ has such influence, they choose to refute that he ever existed.

But why the unease? Why do they not refute the existence of a person such as Julius Caesar, or Tiberius Caesar, for whom history has just as brief testimony; and in fact considerably less testimony?

Historical Example.
The situation is not new. If we go back in history to the times of ancient Egyptian history, to the time of Thutmose III (1500-1450 BC approx) we encounter a powerful woman named Hatshepsut, half-sister and wife of Thutmose III. She took the position of Pharaoh on the death of Thutmose II, and reigned for some twenty-one years. When she died, Thutmose III, free at last to be the rightful Pharaoh, took a hammer and chisel and attempted to blot out all reference to this woman who had overshadowed him. Systematically he removed all indications of her name. But in time the masonry covering of her name on the Karnak obelisk fell away and revealed the royal name.

So it is with the name of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries people have tried to obliterate his name. But belief in his real existence has continued unabated. Today, even Christian clergy try to diminish Jesus.

Contemporary Literature.
Is it true that contemporary literature failed to mention Jesus Christ?

No, it is not. However, the amount of literature from that period surviving through to this day is extremely limited. A 300mm space between bookends would accommodate all that is available.

There are few writers of that period:
Velleius Paterculus — who left a badly written history of Rome, written about 30 AD.

Phaedrus — a Macedonian freedman who left some pleasant fables, approx 40 AD.

Seneca — a Spanish contributor, who wrote a series of philosophical treatises and letters around 63 and 64 AD.

Lucan – Seneca’s nephew, who wrote a poem about Julius Caesar.

Columella — a Spanish soldier who served in Syria during the years that saw Pilate’s recall from Judea, and wrote a book on agriculture in AD 60.

Gaius Petronius — who wrote the novel Satyricon , the only novel from that century that is known to us. [The novel Quo Vadis is based on this writer and his story.]

Persius – a few hundred lines of his verse is all that remains.

That is the complete listing of the literature contemporary with Jesus; and it is a compilation in which the mention of Jesus would not be expected.

Literature from a little later, however, is of interest. Particularly that of two Roman senators and writers, Tacitus and Pliny.

Cornelius Tacitus was born about 55 AD. In his Annales , concerning the great fire of Rome he says:

“But neither the aid of men, nor the emperor’s bounty, nor propitiatory offerings to the gods, could remove the grim suspicion that the fire had been started by Nero’s order. To put an end to this rumour, he shifted the charge on to others, and inflicted the most cruel tortures upon a group of people detested for their abominations, and popularly known as ‘Christians.’ This name came from one Christus, who was put to death in the principate of Tiberius by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. Though checked for a time, the destructive superstition broke out again, not in Judea only, where its mischief began, but even in Rome …”

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny, the Younger) was born about 61 AD, and died around 110 AD. When he was the governor of Bithynia in 111 AD, he became aware of the tension in his province and wrote concerning this to the emperor Trajan. The extract referring to the group of people called Christians and their leader, called Christ. A short extract should be sufficient to show the nature of the writing.

“In the meantime, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether in fact they were Christians; if they confessed it, I repeated the question twice, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed.”

Joseph ben Matthias was born in Jerusalem in AD 37, and died after AD 100. He is better known to us, perhaps, under his self-assumed Roman name of Flavius Josephus, or plain Josephus. His works included:

History of the Jewish War (7 volumes),
Jewish Antiquities,
an Apology of the Jews against Apion,
and an Autobiography

It is in the Jewish Antiquities that he, on two occasions, makes reference to Jesus.

“Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, {if it be lawful to call him a man}, for he was a doer of wonderful works, — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. {He was [the] Christ}; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those who loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the
third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” 18.3.3

“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned …” 20.9.1

In the first quotation from Josephus, there are two phrases (indicated in brackets) that are often disputed as being authentic. But those aside, the testimony of Josephus is otherwise authentic, and the question-able phrases (perhaps added by a Christian follower sometime prior to AD 300) are an unnecessary supplement.

The above citings of Jesus Christ in the literature in the days following Jesus were not challenged by their contemporaries, nor by writers of the century that followed; rather were they endorsed.

But of course there were other writings current, or even preceding those of Tacitus, Pliny and Josephus: for there was the New Testament portion of the Bible, though not then existing in the bound form familiar with us today. This remains our chief source of knowledge regarding Jesus Christ.

One of the earliest books of the New Testament was the Gospel according to Mark. The traditionally accepted date for this Gospel is about 64 AD, which would be a little over thirty years from the death of Jesus.

However, in 1955 some fragments of documents were found in Cave 7 at Qumran, on the western coast of the Dead Sea, that subsequently were found to be relevant, though many years were to elapse before this was to become significant. The fragments were found to be no older than 50 AD: one was from Exodus, one from the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah, and the third was unidentified. In 1972 the grouping of the Greek letters for “nnes” were noted, and the examining person
realised that they might be from the word “Gennesaret”. It was then compared to Mark 6:52-53, and found to fit exactly. It was checked and confirmed by other experts.

The significance of this find was enormous, for it showed that the Gospel of Mark was in existence within twenty years of the crucifixion, that is, while eye-witnesses were still very plentiful. The story could not have continued to exist under these circumstances unless it had been authentic and genuine
— the critical scrutiny and comment of eye-witnesses, Jews, Christians, Romans, and Greeks, who lived in the land of Jesus’ ministry, must have accepted them as being accurate.

So the inevitable conclusion can only be that Jesus Christ was a real person, who lived at the time claimed both by the New Testament writers and the sectarian writers of the day.

Relevance Today.
So if Jesus lived, and the New Testament accounts are genuine, what does that mean to us today?

A tremendous lot; for the New Testament account, and the Josephus writing, affirm that after three days in death, Jesus was found to be alive again. One of the main writers in the New Testament, the apostle Paul, wrote in his letter to the believers at Corinth:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you .. for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Cor. 15:1-6

Paul stressed that most of the people who had seen the risen Jesus were in fact still alive, and he implied that should anyone doubt his witness then they had others to check with.

But it does seem incredible — if not unbelievable — that Jesus could have been dead for three days, and then had returned to life. A minute or to of death, maybe; but three days?

It indicates that the historical, and real, man of Jesus Christ, was not simply just another person. If he had been, would he still have had the following that he has today, some 2000 years later? Would you expect Julius Caesar to have a band of faithful followers 2000 years later? Or Tiberius Caesar? Or Pontius Pilate? Or Nero? A group of followers that would suffer death, rather than to back down on their belief?

Jesus Was Unique.

What made Jesus different?

For the answer we must turn to the New Testament writings. And they inform us that Jesus was different from all those around him: to Julius Caesar, to Tiberius Caesar, to Pontius Pilate. For we read in Luke’s Gospel concerning some words
spoken to the prospective mother of Jesus:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

Jesus was to be called ‘Son of the Most High’, or as more frequently used, ‘Son of God’. He was to be truly a Son of God, since God was to father a son through Mary; Joseph was merely to be the male parent or guardian. Jesus was a Son of
God through his Father, and son of man through his mother. This explains why the New Testament describes Jesus primarily as “Son of God” and secondarily as “Son of man”. or “son of David” (David was a very distant relative of Mary).
Each title is relevant, and each, in its way correct, though not exclusively correct. For Jesus had inherited the attributes of both his parents: from his mother he inherited the weaknesses of the flesh, and from his Father the strength of his spirituality. The writer to the Hebrews said:

“For this reason (ie. to be a saviour to his followers) he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make an atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Heb.2:17,18; 3:1

Biblical Literature.

Jesus had both the characteristics of his Father, the God revealed to the Jews of antiquity as “Yahweh”, and of his mother, Mary who was a virgin yet unmarried at the time of conception. Jesus was not a god equal with God, nor was he a
simply a man equal with the basest of man. Nowhere in the Bible is he ever referred to as “God the Son”, but as the “Son of God”; and there is a world of difference between the two.

When Jesus died, it needed the action of God, Yahweh, to raise him from the dead. As Peter said to the Jews of his day:

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose
and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death…” Acts 2:22-24

Jesus was not a god, or even claimed to be a god, much less an equal with God. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that,

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” 1 Tim 2:5,6

In fact testimony of Jesus himself refuted such a claim.

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing …for the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does… By myself I can do nothing.” John 5:19,20,30

“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14:24

“Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

” ‘As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word that
I spoke will condemn him on the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what my Father
has told me to say.’ ” John 12:44-50

Who was Jesus?

He was a real, historical person as recorded in contemporary literature of his day. He was a man who had a good number of followers who were prepared to endure torture and even death as Pliny and Tacitus undisputedly recorded in their writings.
He was a man described by both himself, and his witnesses as the “Son of God”. He was a man who was arrested and put to death.

But what of Jesus today?
He is a resurrected person, alive today and prepared to intercede on our behalf before God. He is able to save us from the eternity of death in the grave, if we are prepared to accept him, and in doing this, to accept Him who was the Father of Jesus, namely, Yahweh, the Creator and sustainer of the universe.
God wrought miracles and signs through the man Jesus so that we could see in Jesus the power of Him who alone is eternal and invisible — the Mighty Sovereign Lord God, Yahweh.

What You Must Do!

Jesus said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you [God], the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” John 17:3

The message is an important one, because the Bible indicates within its pages that the Lord Jesus Christ is to return to set up God’s Kingdom on earth. Jesus invites you to be a part of that unending Kingdom by accepting him as your Master and Lord. Learn more about this aspect by emailing us for further literature on God’s Kingdom.

Who was Jesus? He was the only one able to save mankind from eternal death in his day. He remains today the only one still able to accomplish this miracle.

Will you accept the evidence before it is too late?

Provided by:http://bible.org.nz