CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES (Part 3)
By: Cougan Collins
So far, we have examined the historical evidence of Jesus’ existence from non-believing Gentiles. Now let look at few Jewish sources:
1. The Talmud is a collection of Jewish oral traditions that were passed down from teacher to student. To the Jew, the Talmud is almost as important as the first five books of the Bible. It contains two major parts. The first part comes from the Mishna, which is a collection of the oral tradition on the Law of Moses and various other topics from 200 B.C. to A.D. 135. The second part is the called Gemara, which is a commentary on the Mishna. From these two sources, the Talmud was put together around A.D. 250 - 500. These writings contain many references to Jesus. All of these references are hostile to the cause of Christ, but they help establish the existence of Jesus. According to these writings, Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel who practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, was born out of adultery, and said He had not come to destroy the Law but to add to it, which is completely opposite of what Jesus did say (Mt. 5:17). He said He came to fulfill the Law not add to it. These are just some of things they said about Him, but they show that Jesus did exist during the first century and that He performed great signs, which they explain away as Him using magic.
2. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian writing sometime after A.D. 70. Not only did he write about Jesus, he wrote about many other people we learn about in the Word of God such as: Pilate (Mt. 27:2), Quirinius of Syria (Lk. 2:2), the Caesars (Mt. 22:17), the Herods, (Mt. 2;1) the Pharisees (Mt. 3:7), the Sadducees,(Mt. 16:1) Annas, (Lk. 3:2) Caiaphas, (Lk. 3:2) Felix (Acts 23:24), Festus (Acts 24:27), Jesus’ brother James, (Gal. 1:19), and John the Baptist (Mt. 14:10).
Notice what he says about Jesus:
And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many Greeks. This man was the Messiah. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross at the instigation of our own leaders, those who had loved him from the first did not cease. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again, as the holy prophets had predicted and said many other wonderful things about him. And even now the race of Christians, so named after him, has no yet died out. (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 1)
Some say these quotes were inserted by the Catholic Church. However, every single copy of Josephus’ writings contains these quotes, which gives strong evidence that they were not an addition. Some also argue that Josephus would not say such things about Jesus since he was an unbelieving Jew, but a good historian will set aside his personal bias and will simply record history as it happened. Therefore, there is no reason to discard the historical recording of Josephus. Besides there is another place in Josephus’ writings that no one disputes as being authentic which shows that Jesus was a real person:
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them brother of Jesus, who was called Christ…. (Antiquities, Book 20, Chapter 9, and Section 1)
Be sure to read next week’s article, as we examine more external evidence for Jesus’ existence from history. Feel free to join us for worship at the Lone Grove Church of Christ.