There are many essentials in the Christian faith that will be detrimental to the mission of the church if they are removed. But none can be compared to Jesus Christ who is the central figure and foundation of Christianity.
As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Meaning, if you remove the foundation, who is Christ, the whole of Christianity will collapse. The founders of different religions though may be bearing their names, will continue to exist even if you remove the founders. But with Christianity it is different.
The whole message, history, all the prophecies and our hope for the future will not only be affected but will be gone to oblivion. And one of the most important aspects of Jesus Christ as the central figure in Christianity is His historicity. The question “Did Jesus Christ really live?” is the question of scientific inquiry on the origins of Christianity. If Jesus Christ did not exist in history, then the whole story of His life will be treated as myth and folklore. This is one of the main implications if He did not really live.
This implication will be a major key that will cause a domino effect which will destroy the credibility of the message of the Gospels, the influence of the church and personally speaking then our faith is in vain. We have believed a lie if Jesus did not really lived. And to borrow the statement of St. Paul, “we are the most miserable people in this world.” But regardless of how many atheists and so called secular philosophers deny the existence of Jesus Christ, many evidences prove His existence.
Of all the men who walked on the surface of the earth, no one can equal Jesus Christ when it comes to greatness and influence in the lives of men both critics and followers alike. His birth even divided our history from before and after His birth. How can an imaginary person, if Jesus is not historical, influence different aspects and fields of human endeavors? No one can invent Jesus Christ. Van Voorst quoting Voltaire, who is no friend of traditional Christianity, in his book saying, “Those who deny the existence of Jesus show themselves more ingenious and unlearned.”
To deal with the issue at hand, I propose to present evidences or statements from both the Scriptures, the writings as found in the New Testament, and secular writers who with no apparent personal benefit mentioned Christ and treated Him as a historical person. The writers of the Gospels especially Matthew and Luke mentioned the family line of Jesus as they trace back His ancestry to King David. We can read this in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. It only proves that Jesus had a human lineage which means He existed.
The Gospel writers mentioned historical figures and locations which if were not true would have been disputed by people living at the time and by other witnesses when these Gospels were written. For example Luke mentioned that Jesus was born during the time of Emperor Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2) and even mentioned the first census as if referring to an event familiar with Theophillus, the recipient of the letter. Also in Luke 3:1-2, the evangelist mentioned names which describes the political figures during the time of Christ.
These and many others are reliable information proving the historicity of Christ. According to reliable New Testament scholars, the gospels were written between AD 50 and near AD 100 which means many people were still alive who can dispute what the gospel writers have written if they are not accurate. Now the life and works of Jesus Christ can be found not only in the biblical passages as written by the disciples of the Savior but also of secular and classical writers during and after His lifetime.
The references to Jesus in the writings of these secular and classical writers give additional evidences to the historicity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. One of these secular writers was Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian, who in A.D. 112 mentioned Christ in one of his writings.
Part of his account on the persecution of Nero against Christians said, “Hence to suppress the rumor, he (Nero) falsely charged with the guilt and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”
Another Roman during the time of Emperor Trajan by the name of Plinius Secundus, also known as Pliny the Younger, in his report to the emperor said: “They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt or their error, was that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should called upon to deliver it up.”
Both of these Romans and others without any connection and apparent gain by mentioning Christ in their writings made reference to the Savior and treated Him as a historical figure.
Even a renowned Jewish historian by the name of Josephus in his work entitled “Antiquities” made mention of Christ and treated Him as a historical figure and not an imagination of His followers. Van Voorst in his book in referring to the historicity of Christ in relation to the secular writers and their works said, “If classical writers had never mentioned Jesus or especially if they had argued that he was a product of Christian myth-making, then it would be a different matter.
They did treat Jesus as a historical person, the founder of His movement and had no reason to doubt his historicity. It would have been easy (if Jesus never existed) to deliver a strong blow against Christianity by showing that it was based on a myth when it claimed to be based on history.” If there will be critics who will deny the historicity of Jesus Christ just for the purpose of marginalizing and lowering His existence to a mere myth, the evidences currently present cannot be set aside and ignored.
Even the numerous attempts to discredit the biblical accounts concerning His life and teachings with the objective of blurring our understanding of the Savior will remain an attempt. As it is said, “In spite of what some modern scholars claim, the extra biblical evidence will not sustain their eccentric pictures of Jesus that attract such widespread media attention because of their novelty. In contrast to these idiosyncratic and ephemeral revisions, the orthodox view of Jesus still stands as the most credible portrait when all the evidence is considered, including the corroboration offered by ancient sources outside the New Testament.”
As mentioned earlier, Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity and also its central figure. Failure to defend and prove His historicity from skeptics and critics alike will greatly affect how we proclaim the message of salvation and will hinder the church from fulfilling its mission and purpose. How can we proclaim Jesus as Savior if He did not exist? It will even deny and reject all the accounts of His miracles, His teachings even His death and resurrection!
As a pastor or teacher, our message will not have any authority or moral ascendancy. Can we just pretend or even accept as truth if it was a lie? I believe no one in his right mind will accept as truth if he knew something as a lie. He will either be deceived or deranged to do it.
As a pastor/teacher, I too had to consider evidences of the historicity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth before I believed and accepted Him as my Savior and Lord. And because I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again from the dead that I am now preaching the same message which I received and believed. I believed that the accounts of the scriptures on the life of Christ as written by the Disciples are reliable and accurate.
Also, considering recent studies and discoveries about the Gospels and anything related to it and being proven trustworthy my belief was even strengthened. This is the reason that with certainty and full of assurance I am able to preach and teach the message about Christ so that people will be saved through Him. Indeed as the Scriptures said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”, and that name is Jesus Christ.
-------------------------------------------- [ 2 ]. Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside of the New Testament: An introduction to the ancient evidence, (Eerdsman Publishing, 2000), p. 8. [ 3 ]. Bill Wilson, The Best of Josh McDowell: a ready defense, (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1993), p. 198. [ 4 ]. Ibid, p. 200.
[ 5 ]. Robery E. Van Voorst, Jesus outside of the New Testament: An introduction to the ancient evidence, (Eerdsman Publishing, 2000), p. 73. [ 6 ]. Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Jesus under fire: Modern scholarship reinvents the historical Jesus, (Paternoster Press: Grand Rapids, 1995), p. 222. [ 7 ]. Acts 4:12 NIV