Scholarly Evidence For Jesus Authenticity as the Messiah


POM CoverMany critics of the Bible today, discount the reliability of the New Testament as an accurate account of Jesus death and resurrection. Defined as a “fabrication”, and “myths” of ancient history, the accounts of those who penned the narrative of the New Testament are claimed by some–as nothing more than fiction.

When we examine the facts of history and the internal evidence of these documents, experts arrive at a convincingly different conclusion. Using reliable methods of Hermeneutics, as well as a scholarly examination of these documents, we find that the New Testament is the most fully vindicated historical document in the history of the world–regarding the accurate portrayal of the events it describes.

In Psalm 16:9-11, the Messiah is promised resurrection after death, without  any decay of His body. The designation: “Holy One,” makes the identity of the Messiah a certainty.

Psalms 16:10b “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Paul confirms that Psalm 16:9-11 was written for Jesus as the Messiah by using the same language that David used (Holy One)–as he confirms that Jesus resurrection was a fulfillment of this Old Testament prediction.

Acts 13:33-35 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

According to the second Midrashic exegetical rule, called the “Middot,” originated by Rabbi Hillel: “where the same words appear in two separate scriptures, we are to give the same consideration in applying both scriptures to the same subject.”

Since the term: You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption, is present in Psalm 16:10b and Acts 13:33, both are describing the same subject: The Messiah. This is in keeping with the Pesher form of interpretation used by Peter in Acts chapter 2 and other notable places in the New Testament.[1]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of all that Christians believe. Without the resurrection, there would be no basis to conclude that Jesus is the Messiah and the only way to heaven. Jesus made many bold and amazing assertions about Himself; none of these claims would have any merit whatsoever, except that He rose from the dead just as He said that He would.

Mark 8:31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 10:34 (Jesus speaking) and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.

Luke 18:33 (Jesus speaking) They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.

Luke 24:7 (Jesus) saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

The centerpiece of Paul’s preaching is: Jesus rose from the dead “according to the scriptures.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…

According to what scriptures?

The Old Testament predicts eleven times—the Messiah will be raised from the dead.

Prophecy 64 Psalm 2:7-8
Prophecy 69 Psalm 16:9-11
Prophecy 85 Psalm 22:22
Prophecy 91 Psalm 30:3
Prophecy 100 Psalm 40:2-5
Prophecy 109 Psalm 49:15
Prophecy 147 Psalm 117:17-18
Prophecy 190 Isaiah 26:17-20
Prophecy 260 Isaiah 53:10
Prophecy 272 Isaiah 53:3
Prophecy 293 Jeremiah 30:9

This is an important juncture in the study of Old Testament prophecy. The resurrection of the Messiah was predicted eleven times in the Old Testament, as illustrated above. The fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Messiah are the basis for everything else in the Bible; including the manner in which a human being may be reconciled to God and inherit eternal life.

Let us examine some of the opposition to the account of the resurrection of Jesus:

There are many arguments against the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Modern Agnostic scholars such as Dr. Bart Ehrman state that the historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus are unreliable because they were written by second hand knowledge, not by eyewitness accounts. He states that these accounts “were written 35 to 65 years after Jesus’ death—35 or 65 years after his death, not by people who were eyewitnesses, but by people living later.”[2]

If we used Dr. Ehrman’s argument, that any document is unreliable which was written from 35 to 65 years after the events took place, then all ancient historical accounts would also be unreliable. Nearly every ancient document, which today is held in high regard, were written at far greater distances to their original occurrence, than any of the New Testament documents.

For example, in Josh McDowell’s book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” he details the extensive research of noted Scholar, FF. Bruce, in regards to the “gap” of time which frequently occurs between the writing of ancient documents and their original occurrence. Notice in the following examples how other secular ancient documents compare to the New Testament.

“…Caesar’s Gallic Wars (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.) there are several extant MSS, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day.[3]

Of the 142 books of the Roman history of Livy (59 B.C.-A.D. 17), only 35 survive; these are known to us from not more than 20 MSS of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books III-VI, is as old as the fourth century (350 years).[4]

Of the 14 books of the Histories of Tacitus (ca A.D. 100) only four and a half survive; of the 16 books of his Annals, 10 survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of his two great historical works depends entirely on two MSS, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh (800 years).[5] The extant MSS of his minor works (Dialogus de Oratoribus, Agricola, Germania) all descend from a codex of the tenth century. The History of Thucydides (ca 460-400 B.C.) is known to us from eight MSS, the earliest belonging to ca A.D. 900, and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era.” *[6]

Reliability NT Chart[7]

Josephus as a Credible Witness
Tacitus as a Credible Witness

The accounts of almost all ancient historical events were very often recorded much later than they occurred.

The most likely scenario which occurs when a significant event takes place is that first, someone writes about the event. This writing is then copied and distributed to others, and the process is repeated many times. Eventually, over the course of several hundreds of years, the original writings are lost by time and decay. What remains are later writings which have survived and are recopied over and over. This is the case regarding the New Testament documents that we have in our possession today. We know for certain that the records of the New Testament which were written by Paul and the other disciples, were distributed to the local churches by a circular postal route in the region of Asia. Often the letter would have the name of the church on the top of the document which is evidenced by the titles given to many of the New Testament letters. “Ephesians,” written to the church at Ephesus; “Corinthians,” written to the church at Corinth, and so on.

The fact that so many copies of the original documents exist today, confirms these were extremely important events that took place regarding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. From the beginning of Jesus church, these documents were recopied and distributed to Christians all over the known world. According to the rules for validating documents for their authenticity; when a record of antiquity is found in the custody of the institution which has maintained and protected these documents for hundreds or thousands of years, these documents must be accepted as authentic and reliable records of the events they record.[8]

The vast number of copies which were made of the four gospels are great evidence of their historical reliability–describing the original events.

Just because the later copies were written by persons other than the original eyewitnesses, does not discount their reliability; in fact, it confirms it. The events must have taken place, for there to be so many copies of the document to be in existence. This is especially true when there are such a vast number of very early copies of the original writings. The New Testament contains somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty four thousand of such copies.[9] When these copies are compared with each other, they are virtually identical in their basic content.

Dr. Ehrman continues:

“The Gospels were written by highly literate, trained, Greek-speaking Christians of the second and third generation. They’re not written by Jesus’ Aramaic-speaking followers. They’re written by people living 30, 40, 50, 60 years later. Where did these people get their information from?”[10]

“Where did they get their information from?” This is preciesly my point. Notice that Dr. Ehrman admits that these later copies of the Gospels were written by “highly literate, trained, Greek-speaking Christians.” In other words, these copies have, as their origin, the words of very intelligent believers who wanted to make sure that the original record of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were preserved for all churches, all believers, for all time.

The copies of the New Testament Manuscripts that we have in our possession today are reliable copies of earlier written documents. Although we may not know the names or identities of those who recorded these copies, we know that the originals manuscripts must have come from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as these names were attached to the later copies of these documents.

Dr. Simon Greenleaf is considered one of the world’s great legal minds concerning evidence. His Treatise regarding the Rules for Evidence which are admissible in our courts of Law, is still in use today. In regards to Dr. Greenleaf’s examination of the copies of the New Testament that we have in our possession, He said this:

“If it be objected that the originals are lost, and that copies alone are now produced, the principles of the municipal law here also afford a satisfactory answer. For the multiplication of copies was a public fact, in the faithfulness of which all the Christian community had an interest; and it is a rule of law, that: In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs.”[11]

In other words, the copying of ancient documents is a well-known practice known by  the courts of justice in the United States today. It is also well established that these documents which were copied by the early Christian church have been proven to be of substantial value and immense importance. Their great relevance is evidenced by the massive number of copies of these documents which were produced from the originals. According to Dr. Greenleaf, this vast number of copies which are in existence, defines their value and credibility, as they have continued to be used by the Christian church, for over 2,000 years. Had any of the events described in the earlier copies ever been proven false, they would have been removed from the original documents and all subsequent copies. By their sheer numbers and a 2,000 year long acceptance of them by the Christian church, these documents are considered today as valid and credible accounts of the actual events they portray. According to Dr. Greenleaf, who is an expert in this field, if any of the New Testament documents were introduced into a court of law today as evidence for the accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, they would be accepted as valid and reliable evidence, without hesitation.

Dr. Greenleaf states that the New Testament documents are “entitled to an extraordinary degree of confidence.”

“The persons, moreover, who multiplied these copies, may be regarded, in some manner, as the agents of the Christian public, for whose use and benefit the copies were made; and on the ground of the credit due to such agents, and of the public nature of the facts themselves, the copies thus made are entitled to an extraordinary degree of confidence….”[12]

The courts of the United States have frequently had to deal with documents which are copies of earlier records that have been lost or destroyed. Allow me to restate Dr. Greenleaf’s expert opinion once again: In the case of the four gospels of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, they would all be received in any court of law as valid and accurate, “without the slightest hesitation.”

“If any ancient document concerning our public rights were lost, copies which had been as universally received and acted upon as the Four Gospels have been, would have been received in evidence in any of our courts of justice, without the slightest hesitation.”[13]

This is exactly what we find when we investigate the writings of the New Testament. They have been used consistently by the Christian Church for nearly two centuries. During this extensive period of time, they have never been successfully impeached or considered invalid records of the original events they describe.

The authenticity of these events are certified by the writers of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

Paul makes sure that we understand there were five hundred people who saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion. These individuals were still alive at the time he wrote his testimony, in the New Testament. If anyone from this group of five hundred wanted to dispute the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, they could have written a rebuttal and made it a matter for the history books. The records of antiquity do not contain a single incidence where anyone wrote that Jesus had not risen from the dead. In fact, the opposite is true. All the records for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection confirm that He lived, died by crucifixion, and rose from the dead three days later. Further, no one has ever produced a body that was said to belong to Jesus Christ.

The facts of the resurrection:

• Three days after He was crucified, there was no body in the tomb where they had placed Jesus.
• A Roman guard was ordered at the entrance where Jesus’ body was located in the tomb. The penalty for falling asleep at the post of a condemned criminal was the same penalty as that of the condemned, in this case—crucifixion.
• There was an adequate number of guards at the tomb to allow shifts of soldiers to sleep, while others maintained vigilant guard over the tomb. No one could have possibly snuck past this fierce Roman guard to steal Jesus’ body.
• No single person was strong enough to move the 2,000 pound stone that sealed the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. If a number of people necessary to remove such a stone, came to Jesus tomb,  they would have been heard and seen by the Roman guard.
• When the burial clothes of Jesus were examined inside the tomb where He had been placed, the shape of the body was still visible in the cloth His body had been wrapped in. Peter stood in the tomb stunned that its shape indicated that Jesus body had burst forth from inside the burial clothes, without disturbing them.
• Jesus was beaten 39 times by the scourge, which in most cases, would kill a man before he ever made it to the cross to be crucified. Jesus’ side was pierced by a Roman soldier’s spear. His hands and feet were nailed to the wood on His cross.
• When the Roman soldiers came to break the legs of Jesus to hasten His death for the approaching Sabbath, they found that He was already dead.
• The disciples were distraught and broken-hearted, hiding out in fear and shame, believing that Jesus was dead.
• Everyone who observed the torture and crucifixion of Jesus understood that He had died.
• On the morning of the third day, two woman called “Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away, and His body was no longer there.
• Jesus appeared to all of the disciples, alive. He ate with them, spoke to them, told them to touch Him, and see that He was not a ghost but that He was alive as a physical being.
• Jesus remained on the earth for forty days and was seen alive by five hundred eyewitnesses, all at the same time.

The most stunning evidence for who Jesus is and why He came to earth, is the subject of over 400 Old Testament Prophecies. All of these predictions were written hundreds of years before they were fulfilled. All of these predictions were perfectly fulfilled by Jesus Christ and no other.

The Atheists Impossible Argument: “The Bible is a Fabrication”
The Errors of Atheists, Regarding the Correct Meaning of Hebrew Prophecies
365 Messianic Prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ
How Messianic Prophecy is Determined
The Prophecies of the Messiah, a 3,000 page treatise
Josephus as a Credible Witness
Tacitus as a Credible Witness

[1] As described by the Expositional Bible Commentary on Acts 2:25. Both quotations have “at my right hand” and thus are deliberately treated together (cf. v. 33). In addition, both quotations are used in pesher fashion (cf. comments on v. 16), for it is a pesher understanding that evokes the introductory statement “David said about him” and that applies the quotations wholly to Jesus.
[2] A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts March 28, 2006
[3] McDowell, Josh (1999-03-02). Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 1 (Kindle Locations 1239-1247). Thomas Nelson.
[4] Ibid, Mcdowell
[5] Ibid, McDowell
[6] Ibid, McDowell
[7] (63 A.D.) 1. Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, the director of the Institute of Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany
2. Thiede, Carsten Peter & D’Ancona, Matthew, The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996.
(24,000) 1. F.F. Bruce; “The New Testament Documents, are they Reliable?” Publisher: Wilder Publications (September 8, 2009) ISBN-10: 1604598662 SBN-13: 978-1604598667
2. Ibid, Data for this chart from Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
[8] Simon Greenleaf. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Kindle Locations 125-133). Kindle Edition, Location 107 of the Kindle version.
[9] Ibid, F.F. Bruce.
[10] A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts March 28, 2006
[11] Simon Greenleaf. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Kindle Locations 125-133). Kindle Edition.
[12] Ibid, Simon Greeleaf.
[13] Ibid, Simon Greenleaf.

Categories: Jesus is the Messiah, Reliability of the Bible

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