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Jesus Christ - Fact or Fiction?
Good News Magazine
September 1974
Volume: Vol XXIII, No. 9
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Jesus Christ - Fact or Fiction?
E Michael Heiss

   JESUS CHRIST is the central figure and focal point of all Christianity. But some doubt He ever lived. They consider the New Testament prejudiced or unreliable and claim there is no other proof that Jesus actually walked this earth some 1900 years ago.
   But their skeptical opinions are unfounded. There is ample evidence — apart from the Bible itself — that Jesus lived in the land of Judaea in the early first century AD.
   For example, Justin Martyr, a leading church father in the second century AD., wrote the following: "Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registries of the taxing under Cyrenius your first procurator in Judaea" (First Apology, chapter 34).
   Justin appeals to the public records extant in his day in demonstrating that Jesus was born in Judaea.
   But some will argue that a church theologian like Justin would naturally support Jesus' authenticity as an historical person. Well, then, how about the statement of a Roman historian who despised Christians?
   Cornelius Tacitus, Roman historian, senator, consul, and governor of the province of Asia, wrote concerning Christ and Christians: "... Nero... punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. But in spite of this temporary setback, the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome" (Tacitus: The Annals of Imperial Rome, xv., 44).
   Here we have the clear statement from a Christian-hating Roman writer of the first century AD. that Jesus Christ did indeed live; that He founded Christianity; and that He was executed by Pilate in Judaea.
   We also have the witness of a Roman Emperor of the fourth century AD., Julian "the Apostate" — so called because he repudiated Christianity after having been brought up in the faith. Julian wrote a major work against Christianity. In it he said this: "Jesus, whom you celebrate, was one of Caesar's subjects. If you dispute it, I will prove it by and by; but it may be as well done now. For yourselves allow, that He was enrolled with His father and mother in the time of Cyrenius....
   "But Jesus having persuaded a few among you, and those the worse of men, has now been celebrated about three hundred years; having done nothing in his lifetime worthy of remembrance; unless anyone thinks it a mighty matter to heal lame and blind people, and exorcise demoniacs in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany." (Quoted in the polemic of Cyril of Alexandria against Julian, Cyril Contr. Julian, vi., pp. 213, 191).
   Julian had little regard for Jesus and Christianity. If there had been any way to irrefutably demonstrate that Jesus was not an authentic figure, that He was merely the figment of someone's fertile imagination, Julian would surely have seized upon it. As it was he asserted that the proof Jesus was one of Caesar's subjects was still available — apparently meaning the imperial archives still contained the census records. Though he considered Christ to have been a person of little consequence, there was no doubt in his mind Jesus had lived.
   There is historical proof collaborating the New Testament's testimony that Jesus Christ actually lived!

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Good News MagazineSeptember 1974Vol XXIII, No. 9
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