The Historical Record Of Jesus Is The Largest In All Of Antiquity

George Orwell said: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

There is an insidious effort amongst atheists to rewrite the historical record of Jesus in the New Testament, and claim it never happened. The New Testament presents us with the largest body of surviving manuscript evidence, written closer to the time of the events, than any other event of antiquity. Even more; the Old Testament predicted the 400 prophecies Jesus fulfilled, and the New Testament writers document that He fulfilled all these Messianic Prophecies with extreme precision.

All that Jesus said and did, is all that the Old Testament prophets predicted Messiah would say and do. We know that Jesus is God and Messiah because of the testimony of men who saw and heard Him. They write that they did not realize who Jesus was at first, or that He was fulfilling the Messianic Prophecies, until after He rose from the dead.

These are matters of historical fact that are recorded for us in the New Testament and have survived two-thousand years in the form of 24,593 manuscripts copies. There is no other record of antiquity that presents us with greater manuscript evidence, or was written closer to the time these events took place, than the New Testament.

We can trust the New Testament because it is supported by tremendous physical evidence. The writers clearly state that they wrote their words for the purpose of preserving a historical record, that they saw and heard what they wrote, and they swear they are telling the truth.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you. ~1 John 1:1-3

The Witness Of Consistent Accounts

When we compare all of the copies of these surviving manuscripts with each other, we find the same consistent narrative within the same primary events:

  • The claims of Jesus to be God and Messiah.
  • The fulfillment of over 400 prophecies from the Hebrew prophets which predicted a Messiah exactly like Jesus.
  • The validation that Jesus performed works that would only be possible if He was God.
  • Jesus healed every person that came to Him. He opened the eyes of the blind, caused the lame to walk, opened the ears of the deaf, and even raised a man who had been dead four days.
  • These specific events of healing are exactly what Isaiah 35 predicted for the Messiah.
  • Jesus claimed to forgive sins, a right that only God has.
  • All 12 of the Apostles saw Jesus crucified, dead, and risen three days later.
  • Over 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive at one time, after He was crucified.
  • These fundamental truths about Jesus are found in all of the surviving manuscript copies we have for the New Testament.

Paul

Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? ~1 Corinthians 9:1

There are eight places in the New Testament where Paul states that he saw Jesus; two additional places where Ananias and Barnabas state that Jesus appeared to Paul:

  1. Paul’s statement above: 1 Corinthians 9:1.
  2. On the road to Damascus: Acts 9:3-6.
  3. Ananias said Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:17.
  4. Barnabas said that Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:27.
  5. At Corinth: 1 Corinthians 15:8.
  6. At Corinth: Acts 18:9-10.
  7. At Jerusalem: Acts 22:6-10.
  8. While praying at the Temple: Acts 22:12-21.
  9. At the Roman barracks: Acts 23:11.
  10. Before king Agrippa: Acts 26:12-18

The last meeting Paul had with Jesus in Acts 26:12-18 above, Jesus said the following to Paul:

But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. ~Acts 26:16

Jesus called Paul for the express purpose of being a witness who saw the risen Jesus with his eyes and a minister to tell people about Jesus. Jesus also told Paul that He would give him more knowledge in the future, a continuing revelation. Paul knew more about Jesus than any of the other Apostles. There are 18 mysteries that Jesus gave to Paul which are described as previously hidden from the foundation of the world.

Paul later wrote that these revelations of God that were not known before Jesus arrived, came at a great cost to Paul. Along with this tremendous reservoir of knowledge about Jesus and events of the future, Paul was also given an infirmity in his body to keep him humble.

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord…That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it…even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, to keep me from becoming proud. ~2 Corinthians 12:1-7

Paul was one of the leading Pharisees in Israel during this period, second only to Gamaliel. At the time that Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he was carrying letters given to him by the leaders of Israel, granting him authority to arrest Christians who declared that Jesus is the risen Messiah. Prior to this moment, Paul didn’t believe Jesus had risen, or that He was the Messiah.

After Jesus appeared to Paul, everything changed. There was no hesitation by Paul. He immediately began telling people that he had seen Jesus and he believed Him to be the risen Messiah: Immediately Paul preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. ~Acts 9:20

If this meeting with Jesus was nothing more than a hallucination, how is it that right after this happened, Paul began to declare that Jesus was alive and He is the true Messiah? This story makes no sense unless Paul had actually seen Jesus with his own eyes.

Would Paul have gone from staunch persecutor of Christians, to chief architect of the New Testament—declaring the risen Jesus by writing 13 books—if he really didn’t see Jesus alive on the road to Damascus?

From that day forward, Paul became a hated Christian and lost everything that he had formerly held as valuable. Paul was no longer a respected Pharisee. He lost his wealth, home, and was marked for death by his former colleagues. Paul was beheaded in 68 A.D., and maintained that he had seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes, right up until his final breath.

Peter

Peter also wrote that he had seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes.

For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes. ~2 Peter 1:16

This is a reference by Peter to the Transfiguration of Jesus that Peter, James, and John also saw, as recorded in Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 13:26, and Luke 9:28-32.

On that day, Jesus showed these three men what He will look like when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth. Moses and Elijah were also with Jesus during this transfiguration.

Peter later wrote that this experience of seeing Jesus as He appears after His resurrection, forever convinced him that all the prophets had written about the Messiah, was penned only for Jesus.

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place. ~1 Peter 1:19

James

Paul said that James also saw Jesus with his eyes after His crucifixion, and finally all 12 of the Apostles saw Jesus alive as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures had said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures had said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. ~1 Corinthians 15:3-7

John

The Apostle John stated emphatically that he saw Jesus with His own eyes:

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. ~1 John 1:1

John was the only Apostle who faithfully remained with Jesus at the foot of His cross while He was being crucified. For his faithfulness, Jesus gave John a privileged view of Him that no other Apostle received.

Jesus bestowed upon John the incredible eyewitness testimony found in the book of Revelation. John said that he had seen, witnessed, and testified, that Jesus was crucified and risen, 49 times in his narratives.

There are 101 citations in John’s Gospel where he describes Jesus as crucified or resurrected. John had no doubts that Jesus was dead on the cross, and came back to life three days later when He walked the earth for 40 days before He returned to heaven.

Luke

Luke described his acquisition of the true facts concerning Jesus by interviewing the eyewitnesses who had been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you. ~Luke 1:1-3

Luke tells us that he researched the eyewitness reports that had been known at that time from the early disciples. He carefully investigated everything these reports contained which described Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that had existed from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. You will discover in this book that it was by Luke’s testimony that we can accurately validate the very early writing of the New Testament Gospels.

Thomas

Thomas is unique amongst the other Apostles in that he was an extremely dubious follower of Jesus. Thomas wanted to be sure that Jesus really was God before he invested his reputation and life into making Him known.
One of the twelve Apostles, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus appeared after His resurrection. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” ~John 20:25-29

Thomas was, perhaps, the most skeptical of all Jesus’ Apostles. He refused to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead until he had actually touched Jesus’ risen body and felt the places where the nails had been driven into His flesh. Jesus appeared to Thomas so that all of his doubts could be dispelled. When Thomas saw the risen Jesus he does not call Him Rabbi any longer, he calls Him my Lord and my God.

Matthew

In his own words, Matthew tells us that he saw Jesus and that Jesus chose him to be His disciple. As with all the Apostles Jesus chose, each man had to see Him resurrected from the dead so that he could accurately testify about this in his narrative.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests. ~Matthew 9:9-10

Matthew records that Jesus predicted His own crucifixion and resurrection:

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again. ~Matthew 20:18-19

Matthew also records Jesus’ crucifixion in chapter 27:45-50. Matthew records that Jesus was buried in chapter 27:57-61. Matthew records Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, chapter 28:1-10. His Gospel is an eyewitness account.

Matthew informs the reader that Jesus chose Him to be His Apostle, so that he would see and hear all that Jesus accomplished while on earth. In chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew lists his name as one of the 12 Apostles who saw Jesus crucified and risen from the dead.

In Matthew 9:9-10, Matthew wrote that when Jesus had risen from the dead, eleven of the disciples saw Him alive. Judas Iscariot was dead by this time.

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him. ~Matthew 28:16-17

This appearance of Jesus that Matthew speaks of is the event Paul described in 1 Corinthians 15:6, where over 500 people saw Jesus alive at one time.

After that, Jesus was seen alive…Then he was seen …by all the apostles. ~1 Corinthians 15:6-7

Clearly, Matthew was an eyewitness of Jesus.

The Record Of Jesus In Secular, Non-Biblical History

For many years, a great number of people have maintained that there is no record of Jesus, outside of the Bible. For this reason, some have concluded that He is merely a myth or legend.

From the non biblical record of history, we can reconstruct the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The majority of these texts speak of Jesus in derogatory or non-complementary terms. None of these texts are seeking to prove the existence of Jesus nor validate Him as a genuine person of history. In fact, by their non complementary, and often scathing remarks, these writers of antiquity have preserved for us a substantial and conclusive chronicle of the same events that are a part of the New Testament narrative.

Additional Resources Which Prove The Reliability Of The New Testament

The question of whether Jesus actually existed, is perhaps, the most important subject of all time. If Jesus healed the sick, walked on water, was crucified and rose from the dead, knowing whether these things are true is essential to proving His claim to be God and Messiah. Critics say that the men who wrote the Gospels about Jesus made up the whole story. The text of the New Testament states that men saw and heard the things they are writing and they are certain these things are true.

This book is a serious inquiry into the facts that can be known regarding Jesus. Today we have 24,593 surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament. The earliest nearly complete copies are dated from 175-225 A.D. If we have manuscript copes from 175 A.D., it is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century. Critics say no, they were written late in the first century by non-eyewitnesses. When we examine the words of Jesus, it is clear that He commanded 12 men to write a record of all they had seen and heard, and immediately send this testimony out to the whole world.

These men had seen the most extraordinary events in the history of the world, is it possible that after they saw Jesus alive and He ascended back to heaven with the command, “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere–in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” that they did nothing for 30 or 40 years? There is evidence in the New Testament that the Gospels were already written just a few years after Jesus rose from the dead, and these Gospels were being taught in churches all over Asia Minor.

There are 134 citations in the New Testament where the writers state that they saw Jesus and witnessed His miracles, death and resurrection. In the 27 books of the New Testament, there are 396 places where Jesus’ death and resurrection are described. Did these men really see and hear these things or is it all just a fraud? In the secular historical record there are 121 citations where Jesus and His followers are mentioned by non-biblical sources, recorded since the first century.

This book is written to provide evidence to support the fact that everything written about Jesus in the New Testament is true and can be relied upon. This book contains evidence of an early writing of the Gospels by eyewitnesses, and proof that Jesus was known to the secular world because they wrote about Him in their preserved records.

See: “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus



Categories: Anonymity of the Four Gospels, Contradictions in the Bible, How The NT Writers Remembered, Messianic Prophecies, Messianic Prophecy Bible, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the four Gospels, Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus, Robert Clifton Robinson, Secular sources for Jesus

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