How do we know that Jesus Christ really existed?

February 1, 2019

Have you ever wondered if Jesus really existed as a person within history? Do you have any evidence?  Is there anything outside the bible that proves he ever existed? Let’s take a look at what history has to say about the existence of the historical Jesus.   

 In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.  

Today my beloved we ask a question that has been posed by many who challenge the Christian faith. We ask the question ‘how do we know that Jesus Christ really existed’? Now for some, this may seem like a silly question, but in fact it is not. You see, for those who reject the Christian Faith, they also reject Christian Scripture and it’s claim to authenticity. And so, to try and prove the historical existence of Jesus Christ as Messiah through biblical reference is useless, because those who make the claim that Jesus Christ never existed in history also make the claim the Gospels and New Testament scriptures are fabricated. And so today, we will investigate the evidence for the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth that can be found outside of the bible.  

 Let’s begin by first making an important statement: if anyone were to make the claim that the only documentation we have on the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth is biblical – then they are greatly mistaken. As a matter of fact, when we examine the historical evidence for the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we realize that there is a large number of trustworthy sources who all confirm that the Jesus of Nazareth that is depicted in the Gospels really did exist in history.  

Now some may argue that surely those sources that I am referring to had some sort of affiliation in support to the Christian faith.  However, again, those who would make this claim are incorrect. Many of the sources we will discuss today are either neutral or even in opposition to the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  

For instance, in the second half of the 1st century, we have Tacitus Cornelius who was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. In his writings he studied the reigns of the emperors such as Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. Although he himself was in opposition to the Christian claim, he confirms in his writings that Jesus of Nazareth truly did exist, that He was called the Christ, and that He was indeed crucified under Pontius Pilate.  

A little later on, in the second century, we have a well documented opponent of Christianity called Celsus who wrote a treatise against the Christian faith called “On the true Doctrine”. Celsus was a Greek philosopher and author who in his writings never denied the existence of the historical person of Christ, but on the contrary professes that he indeed lived in the time and place that Christians say He did, and he even explains that Jesus was indeed known for performing supernatural wonders – but Celsus claimed that Jesus did these through sorcery and evil.  

Among the most popular of historical authors that wrote about Jesus is the first century scholar Titus Flavius Josephus.  Josephus lived at the same time as Jesus. He was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem. He wrote a 20-volume historiographical work, written in Greek called the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ – it contains an account of history of the Jewish people. Now in this account, Josephus writes as a neutral author who neither sides with or against Jesus, but rather gives an accurate historical account of major events affecting the Jewish nation. Josephus says the following:  

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had  first come to love him did not cease.  He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him.  And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.  

[JosephusJewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63 

Based on the translation of Louis H. Feldman, The Loeb Classical Library.]  

As we can clearly see, Josephus who is himself not a follower of Christ, accurately records that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed exist, was known as “the Christ/Messiah”, was a great teacher, and was ultimately crucified. All of these writers point to the existence of the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth!  

 Now although we mentioned three historical accounts of Jesus: those of Tacitus, Celcus, and Josephus, these my beloved are only three of the many historical and widely accepted claims on the existence of the historical Jesus. There are many more such as Mara bar ‘Serapion from the 1st century AD who was a Syriac Stoic philosopher who wrote about this Jesus who was called a king and unjustly executed. There is Suetonius Tranquillus a Roman historian from the early one-hundred’s who confirmed that Jesus Christ had many followers in Rome. Claudius Galenus also from the 2nd Century who confirms that Jesus taught the people using parables. And also Phlegon of Tralles who was a Greek writer of the 2nd Century who wrote about how this Jesus of Nazareth could predict the future.  

And these are only a sample of the studied accounts that are found outside of the Holy Bible. And so because of these extra-bibllical sources, we now have reason to seriously consider the gospel accounts as in-and-of-themselves historically accurate.  

It is for these reasons that the Church takes very seriously the writings of the New Testament and more specifically the accounts of the four gospels that were all written and circulated before the end of the 1st century AD.   

Now, although we have seen considerable evidence for the historical Jesus, as Christians, we do not end at the statement that Jesus of Nazareth existed – but rather we join ourselves to all those who came before us who call Him ‘Lord and Saviour’.  

Now the gospel itself gives us an indication of how people questioned even at the time of Christ who He is. For although they saw him as an influential man living among them, they could not make sense of who He was as the Son of God. In the Gospel of Mathew, chapter 16 we read the following:   

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  [Matthew 16:13-17]  

So if we are to answer the original question we set our to investigate in the beginning of this video, then yes indeed we have shown that there is significant amounts of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus. But all this means nothing, unless we also join our voices to that of St. Peter’s and declare that indeed He exists, and that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!  

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