The First Kind of Supporting Evidence:
The Evidence That Gets It’s Facts From Historical Documents.
Question – Why learn the evidence?
Answer – So that we can Help Others To Take The Teachings Of Christ Seriously
Today,we looked at the top reasons that people say they are rejecting Christianity. What we discovered was that many people are not considering whether or not Christ really did rise from the dead.
Their focus is on other things. But the issue of the resurrection is important. Jesus called it ‘The sign’ in Matthew [12:39]-40
Matthew [12:40] ESV
 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
When considering Christianity, this is what is most important – that Jesus rose from the dead. This is what proved His authority to the world!
The top reasons that people say they reject Christianity [2:40]
I searched for this topic on the internet and after finding 27 different reasons, I combined many of them that were similar and came up with 14 reasons.
1. Intellectual doubts – having to do with science, evidence of actual miracles and the scientific possibility of miracles.
2. Why would God allow Suffering – general and personal.
3. Bad church experiences, including too many hypocrites in the church.
4. Christians are too judgmental and intolerant, they think they are superior.
5. I’m just fine without God – having too much fun living like I am
6. The Bible can’t be read objectively. You have to repent of sin first.
7. The Bible is full of contradictions. It can’t be the perfect Word of God. The Bible was written by men.
8. More people have been killed in the name of religion than any other cause.
9. Christianity is oppressive to women.
10. The Bible supports slavery.
11. What about all the people who have never heard the Gospel? Will they go to hell?
12. I can’t understand the Bible.
13. No proof that God is real.
14. And finally, there are some people that claim that other sources besides the Gospels do not mention Jesus. They claim that there are not any secular sources that mention Christ.
While I do think that each of these concerns on the list deserve a thoughtful response in a conversation (listen to my thoughts on this in Episode 1 – Sharing Our Faith, 4 Ways to Prepare ), the fact is that the most important issue is the resurrection question: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
It is most important because it proves that Jesus was Who He said He Was.
The resurrection proves His authority – it’s what tells the world that we need to take what He said seriously.
But while the resurrection is the most important topic, it didn’t even make it in the top ten list of topics that people are concerned about. People tend to think that so many other topics are more important – and they miss the one issue that matters most.
Today, we are going to begin looking at 3 kinds of evidence for the resurrection.
4 Things a compassionate person needs to understand [7:20]
Interview with Ace and Betty Draper, Missionaries with New Tribes Mission [9:10]
Go to their blog at http://www.ntm.org/ace_draper
Go to New Tribes Mission at NTM.org
The Evidence That Gets It’s Facts From Historical Documents [19:13]
There are people who don’t believe Christ ever existed, and others who believe that He existed but that He never rose from the dead. We are gong to look at supporting evidence for each.
These historical documents are not the books of the Bible.
The historical kind of evidence that I’ll be talking about is the kind of evidence that would be considered by someone who has a non-Christian worldview.
The documents come from:
2 Historians – on Roman and one Jewish
When did these people live?
The historical documents that come from the 2 historians, the governor, the philosopher and the writer were all from the 1st and 2nd century.
The archeologist published his work in the 20th century.
All of these documents support the fact that Christ was a real person and all of them also support the fact that there were people of that day who really believed that Jesus really did rise from the dead – in bodily form.
Three of these documents support the fact that he also did miracles while he was on the earth.
From this point forward, I’m going to insert my personal notes from the research I did. Much of what you will find has been pasted from other websites for my reference and your benefit. I have put quotes around those sections to indicate that it is not my original work.
You will also find links to other sites that I used during my research.
I hope these notes are helpful to you as you prepare for conversations about the resurrection.
1. A Roman Historian – who wrote about the death of Christ. [20:10]
“Tacitus (pronounced tak-ee-tus) was a 1st and 2nd century Roman Historian and a senator who lived from AD 55-117.”
“He mentions that Christ was the founder of Christianity and was put to death by Pontius Pilate. The original manuscript does not exist anymore, but a copy of the original is kept in a monastery about 80 miles southeast of Rome, Italy.”
“In AD 64, there was a fire in Rome. Tacitus wrote about Nero, who was the Roman Emperor at the time, and how he had decided to blame the Christians for starting the fire. Well, it was in this paragraph that he mentions Christ, the crucifixion and the early Christians.”
“Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate (which is also consistent with the Bible)”
Supporting evidence for:
– the fact that Christ existed.
– the fact that the Bible’s account of Pontius Pilate sentencing Him to death is true.
– the fact that there were people of the day who believed that Christ had risen (the historian records that Christ was the founder of Christianity. Christianity is based on the belief in the resurrection)
2. A Jewish Historian who lived in Rome [21:04]
Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian (A.D. 38-100),
“His 20 volume work on Jewish history was written in AD 93 – AD 94 (@60 years after Christ’s crucifixion), and references Christ 2 times – in books 18 and 20.”
“The most detailed paragraph about Christ has been debated over the years. The reason it was debated is because the paragraph sounded too Christian. The paragraph spoke of miracles, Jesus being the Messiah and the resurrection. I was speculated that years later, when copies of Josephus books were made, Christians had inserted certain phrases.”
“In 1995, new evidence was discovered that gave clarification to which parts of Josephus’ work were original, and which was embellished by later transcribers.”
(Below you can finds links for both of these views).
So, after scholars determined what is authentic and what is embellished, here is what we learn from the Jewish historian Josephus:
Supporting evidence for the facts that:
He was a wise man and performed some amazing things
He was a teacher with followers among the Jews and Greeks
He was accused by Jewish leaders
Condemned to crucifixion by Pilot
On the 3rd day, He appeared to his followers.
Good historians are typically concerned with accuracy -after all, it’s their reputation on the line. Naturally, the Jewish historian would have more detailed information on Christ than the Roman historian mentioned above, since Christ was from the Jewish culture.
Other Jewish documents – what you should know:
In case you are familiar with evidence for the existence of Christ, you might be also be thinking that the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud might be worth talking about. Well, I just wanted to mention that I did research these and discovered that there are great controversies surrounding the mention of Jesus. Many who have studied this don’t think that the Jesus mentioned is the same one we are thinking of.
After reading some of these passages of the Talmud for myself I also was not convinced that the evidence was strong enough to use this as proof for the existence of Jesus.
The Gnostic Gospels are also not considered reliable. These were distortions of Christ’s teachings.
3. A Roman Governor who wanted to crush Christianity [22:30]
– ‘Pliny the Younger’ (Pronounced Pl ee n ee)
“He wrote hundreds of letters and many still exist. The letter that mentions Christ was written around 112 AD to the emperor Trajan ( pronounced Tra Jon ). In the letter, the governor was asking the emperor how to deal with the Christians.”
“It’s unclear what their crime was, especially since they committed to avoiding certain crimes, as mentioned below. It appears that their ‘crime’ was not worshipping the Roman approved gods.”
“‘Neither Pliny nor Trajan mentions the crime that Christians had committed, except for being a Christian; and other historical sources do not provide a simple answer to this question, but a likely element may be the stubborn refusal of Christians to worship Roman gods; making them appear as objecting to Roman rule”.
“Pliny states that he gives Christians multiple chances to affirm they are innocent and if they refuse three times, they are executed. Pliny states that his investigations have revealed nothing on the Christians’ part but harmless practices and “depraved, excessive superstition”. However, Pliny seems concerned about the rapid spread of this “superstition”; and views Christian gatherings as a potential starting point for sedition. Pliny calls what the Christians do ‘superstition’ instead of religion because they are not worshiping a ‘state approved god”.
“Pliny then details the practices of Christians (sections 7-10): he says that they meet on a certain day before light where they gather and sing hymns to Christ as to a god. They all bind themselves by oath, “not to some crimes”, says Pliny, as though that is what he would have expected; rather, they pledge not to commit any crimes such as fraud, theft, or adultery, and subsequently share a meal of “ordinary and innocent food.”
The Emperor’s Response
“Trajan’s short reply to Pliny overall affirms Pliny’s procedure and details four orders: (1) Do not seek out the Christians for trial. (2) If the accused are guilty of being Christian, then they must be punished. (3) If the accused deny they are Christians and show proof that they are not by worshipping the gods, then they will be pardoned. (4) Pliny should not allow anonymous accusations.”
“Historians hold these Roman letters in high regard.”
Supporting evidence for:
– The fact that Christ Existed
– The fact that there were people of that day who believed that Christ had risen from the dead. – we know this because they were worshiping Him.
By the way, these people lived close to the time when Christ was crucified (@33 or 34 AD). This letter was written in 112 AD. That is @80 years after the crucifixion.
We are not taking about people who became Christians because of stories about the resurrection being passed down over 1000 or 2000 years.
And we aren’t talking about people who became believers because of stories being passed down over a few hundred years.
Instead, we are talking about stories of the resurrection that were being passed down within the last 80 years.
Do you know what this means?
It means that some of these stories about a risen Christ were being told by elderly men and women who may have actually seen Jesus themselves when they were kids.
It means that many of these Christians had heard about the resurrection from their parents. They heard it from their Mom and Dad who were alive when Jesus was alive.
Imagine hearing from your Mom or Dad first hand information about what Jesus was like.
You see, the fact that these historical documents are about Believers from the 1st and 2nd centuries makes this kind of evidence extremely reliable evidence.
In a court of law, eye witness testimony is very credible.
It cannot be denied that there were people convinced that the resurrection was indeed a fact. And this Roman governor new they were convinced. The fact that people believed in the resurrection is not just in the Bible.
People of this century who deny the fact of the resurrection are not considering the fact that people much closer to the actual time period said that there had been a resurrection.
4. A well known Greek Philosopher Celsus (pronounced Celsoos ?) [26:32]
Some think he may have been Roman. Lived during the second century.
“He who wrote a book called ‘The True Word’. Some call it ‘The True Discourse’ (170 – 180 AD ) . It was a book attacking Christianity. The original work is gone, and so the way historians know that the book even existed is because another man wrote a response to the book written by Celsus, about 70 years later. His book was simply titled ‘Against Celsus’. In fact, much of the book that Celsus wrote is preserved in quotations found the book called ‘Against Celsus'”.
Considered a Roman writer http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Word
and a Greek Philosopher http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsus
“Celsus was an opponent of Christianity and went to great lengths to discredit Christ and the miracles of Christ. But one thing he never did was deny the existence of Christ. In his writings, he did not act as though Jesus was a myth, but rather he tried to explain why Christ could not be divine. He never denied the miracles of Jesus, but instead tried to explain them away as some sort of magic.”
This page gives very detailed information about the book written by Celsus, and also holds the view that Celsus was a Roman author. You will need to scroll down after going to the following link: http://thedevineevidence.com/jesus_history.html
This page gives excerpts of the book and also considers him to be a Greek philosopher.
Supporting evidence for:
The fact that Christ existed.
The fact that Christ did amazing things.
The fact that there were people who believed in a resurrected Christ.
5. A popular Greek play-write of the 2nd century who made fun of Christians. [27:55]
– Lucian of Samosata. ( pronounced loochan of soomasita )
Pronunciations : http://www.pronouncenames.com/
“Born in Turkey, he traveled around doing public speaking events and later settled down in Athens, Greece and became a popular play write of satire.”
In case you aren’t familiar with the term – satire just means to use humor or exaggeration to criticize people. Well, Lucian made a career out of this.
“In one of his writings, he makes fun of Christians because they worship a man who was crucified and that they believe that they all become brothers immediately upon conversion.”
“Jesus is the only one this could be referring to since He was the only one that Christians worshiped.”
Supporting evidence for:
– The fact that Jesus existed
– The fact that Jesus was crucified
– The fact that people believed He was alive. Lucian says that they worshiped a man who was crucified. This confirms that these people believed that He was alive.
6. One of the greatest archeologists who ever lived. [29:38]
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay lived from 1851 to 1939. Now if you look up information about him, it’s important to remember his middle name of ‘Mitchell’, because there was more than one Sir William Ramsay and they both lived about the same time. One was a chemist. But the one I am referring to was a Scottish Archeologist.
In fact, Sir William Mitchell Ramsay was not just any archeologist. He was regarded as one of the greatest who ever lived! You can read about his education in Wikipedia, through one of the links below. He was a very smart man!
Some of his education was in a liberal university located in Germany and from that experience he began to doubt the reliability of the New Testament. But things begin to change as he did some traveling in the very areas where early church history took place.
He investigated the geographical and cultural details of the book of Acts by actually going to the places that Acts mentions. And as he checked the details of the book, he began to have a greater respect for the author of the book, who’s name was Luke.
Luke, of course, wrote one of the Gospels which told about the resurrection. Luke was also a companion of the Apostle Paul in his travels.
So what did the great archeologist conclude? Well, in 1914 he wrote a 400 plus page book called
‘The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament’,
On page 89, regarding Luke’s accuracy, he says …
“You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment…”
And on page 222 he said that …
“Luke is a historian of the first rank’ Sir William goes on to tells us that Luke’s statements of fact are trustworthy. And then he says that Luke “…should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
What you and I need to understand is this: this very respected Scottish Archeologist has told us something important about the same man who also wrote about the resurrection.
What we know is that. . .
Luke had a tremendous commitment to accuracy – a commitment to truth!
We can trust Luke!
In fact, the famous archeologist actually writes specifically about trusting Luke on page 81 of his book:
He says that Luke’s history is ‘unsurpassed in respect of it’s trustworthiness’
The bearing of recent discovery on the trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915)
Supporting evidence for:
– the fact that very detailed information about the resurrection event was recorded by an excellent historian – Luke was an historian.
– the fact that this historian has been checked out and found to be committed to accuracy and is considered trustworthy
So, you have a world renown archeologist of his day staking his reputation on his assessment of Luke’s work and Luke’s character.
And it is this historian, named Luke, who writes about a very real resurrection. Not a figurative resurrection, but a literal resurrection.
In Acts chapter 1, he talks about it some more – giving a short review of what happened and then talks about how Jesus appeared to many different people over the course of 40 days before going up to heaven.
When you and I talk with someone about the Gospel, It is important to help them understand that there is strong evidence that the resurrection was a reality. People around us are deceived into thinking that it was just a myth.
But if you and I can talk about the evidence that get’s it’s facts from historical documents then we can help people to begin thinking seriously about Christ.
Sure, some people will still reject Him – you can count on it. But some will get saved. People all over the world come to Christ when they realize that He truly was the Son of God.
Review this evidence so that you can talk about it with the people who just don’t know.
The Roman and Jewish historians from the 1st and 2nd century.
The Roman Governor of the 2nd century.
The Greek and Roman philosopher of the 2nd century .
The popular Greek play-write of the 2nd century.
And the highly respected Scottish archeologist who published his work in the 20th century.
These are the facts.
With humility and with gentleness share the Evidence That Gets It’s Facts From Historical Documents.