Historical documents about Christ’s ministry

Q: Why are there not more historical documents about Christ’s ministry on earth to prove that His life, crucifixion, and resurrection are historical?

A: There is a vast abundance of historical evidence that exists to validate every aspect of Christ’s life. The extant manuscript evidence for just the New Testament is enormous! New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger counts 99 papyri, 2,856 minuscules (lowercase Greek), and 2,403 lectionary manuscripts. This totals 5,358.  In addition to these are 8,000-10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts plus a total of 8,000 Ethiopic, Slavic and Armenian manuscripts. No other book from antiquity possesses anything like this abundance of manuscripts. No other ancient texts compare inaccuracy, number of early copies, or dating. To my point: there are thousands of manuscripts outlining the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, many independently copied and preserved with a high degree of accuracy and devotion by myriads of believing Christians and Jews who considered these records sacrosanct. This is strong historical evidence indeed.

The reliability of the New Testament writers is unimpugnable–people don’t die for what they don’t believe in, and their eye-witness testimony passes all the tests of credibility.

The archaeological evidence in support of the Bible in general and in the New Testament specifically is overwhelming! The geography of the Bible lands and visible remains of antiquity were gradually recorded until today more than 25,000 sites within this region and dating to Old Testament times, in the broadest sense, have been located. Besides the thousands of archaeological confirmations of the Bible, it is worth noting that no archaeological find has ever been made that contradicts the history of the Bible.

Secular history also confirms the reliability of the New Testament in general and the facts of Jesus Christ’s life specifically.  The works of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, abounds with references to figures known in Jesus’ day and references Christ the Messiah specifically, as well as His brother James. He speaks of Pilate condemning Christ and of His disciples reporting that Christ appeared to them three days after His crucifixion.

Roman Historian Tacitus writes of Nero’s attempt to relieve himself of guilt by burning Rome. Tacitus speaks of Christians being hated for their namesake and of Pilate condemning Jesus to death.

Greek Satirist Lucian alludes to Christ in his writing.

Pliny the Younger, when bragging to the emperor of his achievements, wrote of his killing of mulitudes of Christians, and of how he attempted to make them curse Christ, “which the genuine Christian cannot be induced to do,” he said.

Samaritan-born Historian Thallus, according to Julius Africanus, explains away the darkness (at the time of the crucifixion) as an eclipse of the sun. We know today that this was unreasonable because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the time of the paschal full moon when Christ died.

A letter of Mara Bar-Serapion speaks of the Jews executing Christ, their wise king. He speaks of this “wise king” “living on in the teaching which he had given.”

The poisonous Jewish Talmud speaks of Our Lord on several occasions and confirms that:
1) Jesus was crucified under Pilate at Passover time
2) was believed by His disciples to have risen from the dead after three days 3) that Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery  and believed He was born of adultery
4) that Christianity spread to Rome
5) that Nero and other Roman rulers persecuted Christianity
6) that early Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings, and worshipped Christ.

Dr. Edwin M. Yamuchi, Ph.D., one of the country’s leading experts in ancient history, when asked if we should expect to find more about Jesus in ancient writings outside of the Bible, said:

“When people begin religious movements, it’s often not until many generations later that people record things about them. THE FACT IS THAT WE HAVE BETTER HISTORICAL DOCUMENTATION OF JESUS THAN FOR THE FOUNDER OF ANY OTHER ANCIENT RELIGION.” (emphasis mine).

“Jesus’ situation is very unique. Let’s pretend we didn’t have any other of the New Testament or other Christian writings. EVEN WITHOUT THEM, WE WOULD BE ABLE TO CONCLUDE THE FOLLOWING ABOUT JESUS FROM ANCIENT NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES, SUCH AS JOSEPHUS, THE TALMUD, TACITUS, PLINY THE YOUNGER, AND OTHERS:

WE WOULD STILL HAVE AN OUTLINE FOR JESUS’ LIFE. WE WOULD KNOW THAT FIRST, JESUS WAS A JEWISH TEACHER  SECOND, MANY PEOPLE BELIEVED THAT HE PERFORMED HEALINGS AND EXORCISMS  THIRD, MANY BELIEVED THAT HE WAS THE MESSIAH  FOURTH, HE WAS REJECTED BY THE JEWISH LEADERS  FIFTH, HE WAS CRUCIFIED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE  SIXTH, DESPITE THIS SHAMEFUL DEATH (crucifixions were considered shameful and reserved for the worst kind of criminals) HIS FOLLOWERS, WHO BELIEVED HE WAS STILL ALIVE, SPREAD BEYOND PALESTINE SO THAT THERE WERE MULTITUDES OF THEM IN ROME BY A.D. 64  AND SEVENTH, ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE FROM THE CITIES AND COUNTRYSIDE–MEN, WOMEN, SLAVE AND FREE–WORSHIPPED HIM AS GOD!

No other religious founder in ancient history has such an overwhelming amount of independent corroboration!!! Why aren’t more Christians aware of this fact?” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ)

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