Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part IV: The External Evidence
by PastorErick | 10/17/17, 9:47 AM
Continuing on in our series exploring reasons for faith in Jesus’ resurrection, today we’ll look at some extra-biblical pieces of corroborating evidence (that is, writings, physical discoveries, etc. that line up with the Bible’s accounts) that point to the reality of who Jesus is.
The first piece of extra-biblical evidence worth pointing to is the testimony from other historians/writers of antiquity about Jesus.
From the Roman historian Tacitus (from Annals 15.44) we learn:
There was a man given the title “Christ”
This man had many followers beginning in Judea and spreading to Rome
Pilate had “Christ” put to death
“Christ” died by crucifixion
Early Christians were persecuted
Josephus, a Jewish-Roman historian writing in the year 93 ad, writes this about Jesus:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the 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 after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.
(It’s important to note that there are some who deny this account was originally written by Josephus. If you’re interested in learning a little more about that debate, go to the above link).
In the Babylonian Talmud (a collection of Jewish writings seeking to relay the traditions and history of the Jews), Jesus is described as “a sorcerer” and an "idolater". He is accused of blasphemy and leading Israel astray. We are then told that he was “hanged on Passover Eve”, (hanged is another way of saying “crucified”) which is in complete agreement with the Biblical account.
We could quote from numerous others in antiquity that write about Jesus, but the three listed above should suffice. Why are these writings significant? For a few reasons:
These historians have no vested interest in promoting Jesus (indeed many of these writings speak about Him in a negative light).
Perhaps unwittingly, the facts they present line up quite well with the Biblical data.
In these extra biblical sources, we see early acknowledgment that Jesus’ followers claimed from the beginning He was risen.
In none of these writings is a body ever claimed to have been produced to refute the disciples claims
On top of this extra-biblical historical testimony, one could point to the many archaeological discoveries which have ended up confirming the Biblical data rather than contradicting it. For example, skeptical scholars for many years doubted the existence of Pontius Pilate. They said this was clearly an instance in which the Biblical writers added incorrect detail to the story since they could see little to no evidence of him mentioned in any other writings.
No one says this anymore. Why? Because in 1961 archaeologists found a piece of an old ruined temple in Caesarea that read, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” There are many more evidences of archaeology confirming the Bible here if you’re interested in knowing more.
Now it should be said that none of the resources mentioned today independently would necessarily lead someone to believe in Jesus as Lord or even that He rose from the dead. But when these pieces of evidence are connected to the Biblical narrative and the other pieces of evidence that have been shared over the weeks, they can be helpful in strengthening our reasons for faith.
- 31 - Reasons for Faith in the Bible Part I: Jesus Said So
- 24 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part V: The Uniqueness of the Resurrection
- 17 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part IV: The External Evidence
- 03 - Reasons for (Christian) Faith Part II: The Counterproductive Gospel