How Do I Know Jesus Even Existed?

Good evening,

I was reading my Apologetics Study Bible and came across this article that I wanted to share…

Was Jesus an actual person  or just a legendary character? Philosopher Bertrand Russell spoke for radical skeptics everywhere when he said, “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed all, and if he did we do not know anything about him” (Why I Am Not a Christian). Is Russell correct? Is it doubtful that Jesus lived?

In reality we have very good proof that Jesus existed. First, we have writings from early non-Christians. Flavius Josephus, the prolific Jewish historian of the first century, reported about major historical events of the era, including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Josephus was not a follower of Christ. Nevertheless, he said the following about Jesus.

“At this time there as a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” ~ Josephus quoted by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek in  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

In an essay about evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi concludes that even if we did not have any Christian writings like those of the apostles, we would have the following facts from Roman sources such as Pliny the Younger, a philosopher, and Tacitus, a historian, as well as Jewish sources like Josephus and the Talmud:

  • Jesus as a Jewish teacher.
  • Many observers believed that He performed healings and exorcisms.
  • He was rejected by the Jewish leaders.
  • He was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.
  • His followers believed that He came back to life, and spread the news beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of Christians in Rome by A.D. 64.
  • All kinds of people (rich and poor, urban and rural) worshiped Jesus as God by the time the second century began (see “Jesus Outside the New Testament: What is the Evidence?” in Jesus Under Fire by M.J. Wilkins).

Second, we have reliable evidence about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from eyewitnesses. Some of the New Testament authors followed Jesus personally. Others, like Luke, wrote within a generation of Jesus’ life and were familiar with eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-4). These authors were well aware of popular myths and false teachings about Jesus. They wanted to set the record straight in their own writings. The apostle Paul said over 500 people saw the resurrected Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:6). The apostle Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). In conclusion, we have excellent, reliable, and abundant accounts that help us know who the real Jesus is.

Sterrett, D. (2009).  How Do I Know Jesus Even Existed?. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN.

Evidence for God: DNA

I came across this article by Frank Turek about DNA that I found to be really interesting and I’ve been dying to share it…

I once read of an atheist on the internet who was complaining that there was not enough evidence to believe in God. When a Christian asked him what kind of evidence he would need to believe, he said he would believe if he looked up right now and saw written in the sky, HEY, ROGER! THIS IS GOD. I CERTAINLY DO EXIST!

The immediacy and specificity of such a message would rule out a skywriter. Roger certainly couldn’t explain it away as a chance collection of cloud material or an unusual cloud formation, nor would he say that, given enough time, the clouds would form that way naturally due to some kind of cloud “evolution.” A message such as this would have to be the product of intelligence. Why? Because natural laws don’t create specific, complex messages. In all our experience, the only forces we see creating specific complex messages are intelligent minds. Natural forces never do it.

That’s why when you’re walking down the beach and you see John loves Mary scribbled in the sand, you know a human being had been there. You don’t assume a crab crawled out of the water and wrote that, or the lapping waves somehow produced the message. Only minds produce messages. This is why archeologists know that the inscriptions they dig up from the ground were made by ancient humans, not natural forces.

Well, it turns out that all life forms contain messages that are far more specified and complex than the message the atheist above says he’d like to see in the sky or any messages found scribbled on beaches or  ancient tablets.

How much more?

The simplest independent life we know about–the amoeba–is a miniature machine of astonishing complexity. Even the ardent Darwinist, Richard Dawkins, admits that the amount of information in this one-celled life form has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete sets of an encyclopedia–that’s 30 volumes x 1,000 in a cell that’s much smaller than a grain of salt. Now, believing that 30,000 books came into existence from non-living chemicals by natural law without any intelligent intervention is like believing  that an entire library resulted from an explosion in a printing shop! I don’t have enough faith to believe that.

This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument, which is a kind of argument that says God must be the explanation for things we don’t know or understand. We don’t simply lack a natural explanation for the complexity of DNA. Rather, evidence for the complexity of DNA is positive and empirically detectable, and it points to the work of an intelligent Creator. No natural force that can create such a message, especially one 30,000 books long. Messages only come from minds.

In summary, DNA points to a supreme intelligence. This is why Francis Collins, former head of the human genome project, calls DNA the language of God. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding” (Isaiah 40:28).

To paraphrase noted French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal: God never performed a miracle to convince an atheist, because His ordinary works provide sufficient evidence. One of those ordinary works is DNA.

Turek, F. (2009). Evidence for God: DNA. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, p. 728. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.