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Jesus on a background of archeological and history finds

Beyond Biblical Accounts: The Compelling Evidence for Jesus

In this article we will look for compelling evidence for Jesus beyond the Biblical accounts.

Because, how can you reject Jesus Christ if you are not even convinced He exists?

Many non-Christians say they are not turning their back on the Jesus they know but rather on the Jesus that they are convinced never existed.

What if I told you that within Christianity, there is a crowd that ranges from those who readily believe to those who question everything, like me?

I want to show you some of the credible evidence I found in my search for evidence of Jesus Christ outside the Bible:

  • A box of bones and a slab of rock
  • Two serious historians and
  • Jesus’ sibling, James
  • A legal journalist’s diggings for manuscripts
  • A cold-case homicide detective’s analysis

 

ARCHAEOLOGY

Many archaeological finds have been made in the last sixty years, but I have chosen two for this article.

THE ARCHEOLOGIST AND THE BOX OF BONES

In December 1990, a first-century Ossuary, or ‘bone box,’ was meticulously unearthed in Jerusalem. Inside were the bones of someone.

The words ‘Caiaphas’ and ‘Caiaphas Ben-Joseph,’ which were engraved on two sides, provide a tangible link to the historical figure of Caiaphas. He was the Jewish high priest at the time and a key figure in Jesus’ trial.

The practice, known as secondary burial, involved temporarily burying the deceased until the flesh had decomposed, after which the bones were collected and placed in an ossuary, or ‘bone box.’ The Jews undertook the unique practice of reburying from about 20 BC to 70 AD.

This corroborates and lends substantial credibility to Jesus’ historical existence.

Matthew 7:3–4: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.”

Caiaphas Ossuary
Caiaphas Ossuary at worldhistory.com

 

THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS AND THE SLAB OF STONE

Construction workers in Cesaria Maritima, in Israel, were working away in 1961 when they turned over a big slab of rock and made the discovery of a lifetime.

On the back of this rock was an inscription from Pontius Pilate, listing himself as the governor of Judea, with a tribute to Tiberius Caesar.

This discovery provides concrete evidence for Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27 to 36/37 AD.

The historical context in which Jesus lived was confirmed and written in stone. According to the Bible, Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judaea during Jesus’ time.

One of the Bible’s references to Pilate reads:

Luke 23:20–21: “Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Caesarea Maritima Pilate stone
Caesarea Maritima Pilate stone at wikimedia.org

HISTORIANS

 

JOSEPHUS: HISTORIAN EXTRAORDINAIRE

Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived in the 1st century CE and wrote extensively about the history of the Jewish people and the events of the Roman Empire.

Josephus, known for his detailed historical accounts, was captured by the Romans during the Jewish-Roman War. To avoid execution, he became a Roman citizen and worked as an advisor to Emperor Vespasian.

His works, based on contemporary accounts and inscriptions, give valuable insights. Backed up by archaeological evidence and artifacts, they allow us to learn about the Roman leaders.

What did he write about the period of Jesus? And did he write anything about Jesus himself?

 

The Josephus’ Passages About Jesus

Book 18, Chapter 3 of Antiquities of the Jews, is heavily debated among scholars due to suspicions of later alterations, primarily because its direct reference to Jesus is too strong a confirmation in favor of evidence for Jesus.

This debate underscores scholars’ rigorous and critical approach to examining historical texts. It ensures that all claims are based on reliable evidence and logical reasoning, further strengthening the credibility of the historical accounts.

Scholars accept Book 20, Chapter 9 of Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus mentions the execution of Jesus’ half-brother James by the high priest Ananus. This account reveals a compelling aspect of the historical narrative.

“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”

Tuck this about James in your upper pocket; more about him in a moment.

 

Josephus on John the Baptist

Josephus mentioned John the Baptist in his work Antiquities of the Jews. He wrote extensively about him in Book 18, Chapter 5.

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.”

In the Bible, in one of the passages about John the Baptist, we read as follows:

Matthew 3:11:” I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

 

Josephus on Pontius Pilate, The Governor of Judea

In Josephus’s “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 1, regarding Pontius Pilate, he wrote:

“Now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws.”

One of the Bible’s references to Pontius Pilate reads:

John 19:9–10:” ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

 

Josephus on Caiaphas, The Jewish High Priest

In Josephus’s “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book 18, Chapter 4, Section 3, regarding Caiaphas, we read:

“But the high priest Ananus, and Caiaphas, and Jonathan, who was the most courageous of them all, and the most accurate in judgment, and the most celebrated for the grandeur of his family, kept the sacred money in trust, and were esteemed highly by the entire nation, because of their justice, and their fidelity in the discharge of their functions.”

The Bible refers to the Jewish high priest Caiaphas here:

John 18:28: “Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor.”

 

TACITUS, THE PRECISE AND CONCISE HISTORIAN

Tacitus was a Roman historian and senator who lived during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. He was born into a senatorial family in Rome and pursued a career in politics and writing.

Tacitus is known for his sober historical accounts. He had a pshaw for overly ornate writing styles and once remarked, “Many authors have been driven to drink by thinking about writing, and many have stopped writing altogether after taking to drink.”

But I digress.

Tacitus, in Book 15, Chapter 44, wrote this:

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he 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: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”

 

FROM UNBELIEVER TO MARTYR: THE SURPRISING JOURNEY OF JESUS’ SIBLING

 

Back to James, Jesus’ half-brother. Imagine what it must have been like growing up hearing your parents tell you, “Why can’t you be like your brother Jesus?”

James was that sibling, but he was not convinced at all that he happened to be the little brother of the Messiah and made no secret of it.

Mark 3:21: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

John 7:5: “For even his own brothers did not believe in Him.”

But something happened! After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we find him praying continually with Jesus’ disciples. (See Acts 1:14) He even faced death for his convictions.

According to the historian Josephus, James was stoned.

People lie to get out of trouble, but they don’t lie to get into trouble.

 

THE LEGAL JOURNALIST WHO MAKES A CASE FOR CHRIST

 

A former atheist and legal journalist, Lee Strobel, set out to disprove Christianity’s claims. Instead, he found the evidence for Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the reliability of the Bible compelling.

His findings can be found in his book: “A Case For Christ.”

 

MORE MANUSCRIPTS THAN ANY OTHER

Unlike many ancient texts, which may have only a handful of surviving copies, the Bible has thousands of manuscripts dating back centuries. These manuscripts include fragments, scrolls, and codices (early bound books) in various languages such as Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

The abundance of manuscripts allows scholars to compare different versions of biblical texts and trace the history of their transmission over time.

Despite minor variations between manuscripts, the overall consistency of the biblical text is remarkable, providing confidence in its reliability.

 

THE FAMOUS CHINESE WHISPERS

Lee Strobel refers to the “telephone game” analogy, which is similar to the “Chinese whispers” or “Chinese telegram” concept.

The idea is that just like a message can get distorted as it passes from person to person in a game of telephone, skeptics argue that the stories about Jesus in the Bible may have become exaggerated or changed over time as they were passed down orally before being written down.

However, Strobel counters this argument by highlighting the meticulous preservation and transmission methods used by early Christian communities for the New Testament documents.

Strobel argues that this careful transmission process minimizes the likelihood of significant distortion or corruption of the original message, making the Gospels reliable sources for understanding Jesus’s life and teachings.

 

THE DETECTIVE WHO CRACKED THE CASE OF JESUS

 

J. Warner Wallace, a former cold-case homicide detective, applied his modern-day investigative skills to scrutinize the Gospel accounts for witness accounts of Jesus’ life and resurrection.

His verdict brought him from being a staunch atheist to becoming a Christian apologist on a mission.

DIFFERENT DETAILS MAKE FOR A SOLID CASE

Wallace highlights that variations in eyewitness testimonies do not necessarily discredit the overall truth of a case.

Instead, the differences suggest independent eyewitnesses observing the same event from different perspectives and recalling other details, bolstering the credibility of a case.

When individuals collude to fabricate false narratives about an event that never occurred or deviate from the truth, the accounts often share unsettling resemblances.

He found the variations in the Gospel accounts’ testimonies suggest independent eyewitness testimony, which aligns with the principles of reliable eyewitness evidence in criminal investigations.

The Gospel accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — present a coherent and reliable picture of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. In his book “Cold-Case Christianity”, he wrote:

“What about cases without direct evidence connecting the suspect to the crime scene? Can the truth be proved beyond a reasonable doubt when all our evidence is circumstantial? Absolutely.”

 

CONCLUSION: EVIDENCE OR EXTRAORDINARY PROOF

 

Apologist Cliff Knechtle emphasizes that skeptics often don’t want mere evidence of Jesus Christ’s existence; they demand extraordinary proof.

THE END

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