Agnostics allow Jesus to be, at most, a human philosopher. Atheists insist He never lived! Modernist theologians are still searching for "the historical Jesus"! Can it be proved that Jesus Christ lived?
MOST people take the existence of Jesus of Nazareth for granted. They have never stopped to prove whether the New Testament gospel records of Jesus are really true! Recently I received a vehement letter from a presumed skeptic. He did not like what I wrote about Jesus and' the twelve apostles in the May PLAIN TRUTH. His challenge deserves a public answer. Here is his letter. "After reading your effusion 'Where Did The Twelve Apostles Go?' I feel it would be wrong to let it pass unchallenged even though this letter will be like a cry at the North Pole. But at least you will know not all your readers are illiterates who swallow the mystical nonsense that clutters the pages of The PLAIN TRUTH. "The answer is the Twelve Apostles did not go anywhere because they, like Jesus, are fictional characters like Hamlet and Don Quixote. And to wipe out that sneer I see distorting your face, here is an offer and a challenge I have presented to the most eminent theologians and historians without results. If you produce genuine historical evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ I will forfeit all my savings, some $3,000, to your magazine and eat this letter... "Anyone who had read the Gospels with an analytical mind knows they are brimful of lies, contradictions, errors and events that could not have happened in Galilee under Roman and Jewish laws and customs in force when Jesus is alleged to have walked the streets of Jerusalem and have performed his miracles. Nor would contemporary historians, both Roman and Jewish, have ignored him completely as they did. And neither could Christianity have been such a colossal and tragic failure if it had been founded by God..." M.N., Miami, Florida. I am answering this challenge, not because I think this would-be skeptic will open his mind to truth, but because our readers ought to understand the clever arguments of atheists and doubters.
The Atheists' Argument
I have had for some time in my library a daring book entitled Jesus God, Man or Myth? It is by a professed atheist, Herbert Cutner. It presents all the common arguments for atheism. According to its publisher, this book by Cutner is "the result of extensive research [and] proves that Jesus never lived. The non-historical character of the Bible Jesus is established," claims the publisher, "by carefully-sifted data that will surprise those who have given little thought to the subject. "The cumulative evidence that Jesus is an invented character," concludes the write-up, "is presented with telling force and the book shows also that the Jesus, the man who went around 'doing good,' was no... flesh-and-blood man..." Bold statements, these! But what of the proof? How honest have atheists and critics been with the facts of history? How analytical is our would-be skeptic from Miami, Florida? It is time we examined the evidence. If, as atheists claim, it can be demonstrated that Jesus never lived, then the Bible is indeed a fraud and the gospel of the Kingdom of God a hoax. But, if the facts of history prove Jesus did live if His contemporaries and enemies give evidence of His Message and of His miracles then no atheist, no agnostic, no modernist doubter has any excuse! What proof is there, outside the Bible, that Jesus lived? That He performed miracles? That He brought Good News the Gospel to the world? That He was condemned to death under Roman governor Pilate? And what proof is there that He was born of a young virgin? The Bible, of course, states these as facts. But the atheist and agnostic and most modern theologians do not believe the Bible. So, instead, let's examine the secular pagan Roman records. Let's look into the Jewish Talmud to see what the Rabbis admitted about Jesus who is called the Christ.
Did the Romans Know of Jesus?
There were no newspapers in ancient Rome. Even if there had been the pagan Romans would have taken no note of the teachings of Jesus. They weren't interested in anything "Jewish." What did the Kingdom of God mean to them? The world was theirs already or so they thought! Then, unexpectedly, an event occurred in Judaea which did make news. The Roman government was involved. So was Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator for Palestine. Jewish leaders, early one spring morning on April 25, A.D. 31 brought before Pilate a Jewish teacher whom they wanted the Romans to crucify. His name was Jesus. "He has tried to make himself a king," cried the Jews. Pilate was concerned. He examined the man Jesus and found the Jews' accusations groundless. Before we turn to Roman historians to discover what happened, first notice the claims of the Bible: "I, having examined him before you" Luke is quoting Pilate's speech to the Jewish leaders "have found no fault in this man [Jesus] touching those things whereof ye accuse him... I will therefore chastise him, and release him." The mob that had gathered was angry. "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required" (Luke 23:14-24). Now the skeptic will say: "But all this is from the Bible. How do we know that the entire story hasn't been fabricated? You haven't quoted one bit of evidence from Roman history that Jesus ever lived or was crucified under the governorship of Pilate." Of course I haven't yet! What we have examined are the claims of the Bible. What we are about to prove is whether those claims are true! Pilate had to make out a report of such events as a crucifixion to Roman officials. The records were kept in the imperial archives in Rome. Historians had access to these archives when compiling their annals. One of Rome's most famous historians was Tacitus. When writing the life of Emperor Nero, Tacitus came to the account of the burning of Rome in A.D. 64. The belief rapidly circulated that Nero had ordered the city burned. To draw away attention from himself Nero sought out scapegoats. Who were these scapegoats? Open your eyes and read the record of Tacitus. Here is the proof that Jesus Christ is no myth! "But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [the Latin spelling of "Christ"], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty [crucifixion] during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular..." (Annals, xv, 44) There is the proof Jesus lived! This was not a Christian writing, but a pagan Roman historian who hated everything Christian! Tacitus had access to the government records. He had the PROOF Christ was crucified! Tacitus' evidence would stand in any court of law! Only a fool would reject it! Jesus is no myth! The claim of atheists that Jesus Christ is an invention a fictitious character is absurd!
The Jews' Testimony
Josephus, the non-Christian Jewish historian of the first century, also admits the historicity of Jesus and His disciples, as he does also of John the Baptist. He calls John the Baptist "the good man" (Antiquities of the Jews, xviii: 5, 2). Scholars recognize the genuineness of Josephus' account about the death of James, "the brother of Jesus who was called Christ" (Ant., xx: 9, I). If Jesus did not exist, the Jews would have had no reason to reject Him! Although the Jews disliked Christ, they were forced by the very circumstance of His power, to take recognition of Him in their record). What do the Jewish records admit? What do atheists purposely overlook when they pretend to deny the reality of Jesus the Christ? JESUS is OFTEN MENTIONED IN the JEWISH TALMUD! The Talmud is a record of Jewish debates, doctrines, stories and traditions covering a period from before the birth of Christ to the centuries immediately following. These references have been known in detail by many scholars. Jesus Christ is never mentioned by name, excepting perhaps once or twice, where He is said to have been an idolator who worshipped a brickbat (Sanh., 107B). He is called "THAT MAN" or "Son of Pandera," or "dead dog," and "the hanged one," "the sorcerer," "Balaam," and "Seducer." ' The JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA tabulates the places where Jesus is mentioned in the Talmud. This Encyclopedia terms as a mere "subterfuge" the attempt of atheists to run from these references which apply to Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is called, in the Talmud, "Son of Pandera" to hide the fact that He was born of a young virgin! "Pandera" a word meaning panther or leopard is an anagram (a word made by transposing letters) for the Greek word parthenos meaning "virgin"! The Jews twisted Jesus' virgin birth to make it appear that He was figuratively the son of a panther or leopard! for the Greek for "panther" is panther which the Jews corrupted by Jewish idiom into pandera. Here is proof of Jesus' virgin birth! But modern theologians, like agnostics and atheists, persist in rejecting it! The miracles of Jesus were not denied by the Jews. Instead the Jews who saw Jesus perform those miracles said He learned sorcery in Egypt which is merely another way of stating what we read in Matthew 12:24: "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This man doth not cast out demons but by Beelzebub, prince of the demons." The Talmud records Jesus' healing of the blind, the halt and the leprous. It also mentions His walking on the sea! There is also a full list of references to Jesus' mother, the Virgin Mary. These events are therefore proved to be historical fact they are recorded by Jesus' own enemies! Jesus not only lived, but the Jews, in the Talmud, are witness to His miracles! Let the ignorant atheist deny that! The Talmud subtly calls the gospel which Jesus preached an avengil, meaning a "blank paper." They did not want to use the original word evangel, meaning good news. They did not like the good news of the Kingdom which Jesus brought. They did not want the Kingdom of God to rule over them to tell them what to do. And shocking though it may sound most professing Christians today do not want the Kingdom of God to rule over them! They don't want God telling them what to do. Theirs is a gospel of permissiveness! Here is the proof OUTSIDE of the Bible proof that Jesus was born of a virgin that His miracles did happen that He preached the gospel of the Kingdom that He did call disciples that He did have brothers! These are actual facts outside the Bible proving the existence of Christ, Mary Christ's mother, Christ's brothers, and John the Baptist. They have been recorded by contemporary non-Christian historians. It stands irrefutable that the person Jesus Christ is NOT a myth and that the New Testament record is TRUE! No wonder Nicodemus privately confessed: "Rabbi, we know that thou [Jesus] art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). And why not write for the surprising facts behind Jesus' trial. Its in a free article: "Twelve Reasons Why Jesus' Trial Was Illegal."
Christianity a Failure?
Our skeptic from Florida presented one more challenge: "And neither could Christianity" I am quoting from his letter "have been such a colossal and tragic failure if it had been founded by God... This fellow probably assumes as do most of you! that Jesus founded today's organized Christianity with its Babylon of sects and denominations! Jesus Christ did not found many denominations! Christ said, "I will build my Church." He did build it! ONE Church, commissioned to preach and to publish His Gospel the very Message He brought from God to all the world! But what do we find today? Hundreds of different and disagreeing sects, all founded by MEN, each professing to teach the truth, yet contradicting and disagreeing with all the others a modern religious Babylon! What is a "sect"? According to Webster, it is "a group that has broken away from the established Church." Who established the Church? Christ! Today's host of sects or denominations have BROKEN AWAY from that established parent Church they teach different doctrines and observe different practices! The religious sects of Jesus' day were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Samaritans." They had broken away from the true parent Old Testament Church established by God through Moses. Jesus joined none of them. On the contrary, He called His disciples out of them! The Greek word "ecclesia," translated "church" in English, has the meaning of "called-out ones."
The Church in History
Surprise number one, for our skeptic and for most people today, is this: While most people today suppose that the true CHURCH was rapidly to grow BIG, to become a powerful organization, exerting powerful influence on the world, making this a better world, becoming the stabilizing influence of the world's civilization, actually Christ founded His Church for no such purpose! Christ's instruction to His Church through the New Testament, was NOT to participate in this world's politics and affairs in an effort to make this world a better world. Instead, His command to His Church is, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (II Corinthians 6:17). In His final prayer for His ONE Church, Jesus prayed: "I pray for them: I pray not for the world... Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be ONE, as we are. I have given them thy word, and the world hateth them, because they are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not OF the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:9-16). Jesus did command His BODY the collective Body through which the Spirit of God does the WORK of God to go into all the world and preach and publish His Gospel. But those of His Church are described as being strangers and foreigners in this world as AMBASSADORS for Christ representing His Kingdom which is foreign to the world yet never being OF the world!
To Be Scattered
Now let's notice what was prophesied to happen to the Church. This true Church of God was to be PERSECUTED SCATTERED! "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," said Jesus to His disciples (John 15:20). "ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12). On the night Jesus was seized to be crucified, He said: "It is written, 'I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered' " (Mark 14:27). After HE, the Shepherd, was crucified, the "sheep" HIS CHURCH were to become scattered! Previously, that same evening, Jesus had said to His disciples: "Ye shall be scattered" (John 16:32). This persecution and scattering began early. Notice Acts 8:1: "And at that time there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles." Read what Daniel says about the true Church: "And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge them, and to make them white, even to the time of the end" (Dan. 11:33-35). The prophet Ezekiel foretold this scattering chapter 34. Daniel again foretold it: "When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people (Church), all these things shall be finished." That is, the end of the age! (Dan. 12:7). Nowhere is there any prophecy that the one true Church should become great and powerful, exerting influence in this world. Rather, Jesus called it the "Little Flock" (Luke 12:32), despised, persecuted, scattered BY the world separate FROM the world! Scattered, but NEVER DIVIDED! Always ONE Church, speaking the SAME thing never many differing sects! You have not read much of the history of THAT Church! Even the historians never knew where to look for the TRUE Church for they did not even know WHAT the true Church is!
WORLD'S Churches Deceived
On the other hand, all the prophecies foretold that in the WORLD apostasy, deception, counterfeit "Christianity," and division would occur. Jesus foretold the very first event to come on the world GREAT DECEPTION climaxing, in our day now just ahead, in GREAT TRIBULATION! "Take heed," He said, "that no man deceive you. For MANY shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and shall deceive MANY!" (Mat. 24:4, 5) Notice carefully! It was not the few who were to be DECEIVED but the MANY. It was the FEW who were to become true Christians! Yes, the MANY would come in Jesus' name, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ yes, preaching Christ to the world and yet DECEIVING the world. Jesus had pictured this same condition, when He said: "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto LIFE, and FEW there be that find it" (Mat. 7:13-14). That is not what the world believes, is it? Probably that is not what you have always heard, and come to assume. But it is what CHRIST SAID! How deceived this world has become! And no wonder! For Satan himself is pictured in the Bible as the "god of this world" (II Corinthians 4:4). He appears not as a devil, but as a GOD as an angel of LIGHT. And in Rev. 12:9, you read of "Satan, which deceiveth the WHOLE WORLD."
ASTOUNDING? Of course it is! Hard to believe? Yes, but it's TRUE! How have the MANY been deceived? Simply by a preaching about the PERSON of Christ extolling His virtues, worshipping Him, yet denying His MESSAGE His GOSPEL by substituting pagan beliefs while preaching ABOUT Christ! What a clever counterfeit! And many perhaps mostof those so preaching in Christ's name are sincere themselves deceived! It is SATAN who has deceived even them! It is SATAN who has made himself the "GOD OF THIS WORLD" and thus is worshipped AS God. This world doesn't know the true God, strange as that may seem! This world believes that if one "accepts Christ" "makes his decision for Christ" "WORSHIPS Christ" he is saved! That is what many preach today! But what did JESUS preach? Did He say it was possible to WORSHIP Him, and still be unsaved? Listen! "In VAIN do they worship ME," said Christ. "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men... making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:7, 13). That is difficult to believe, isn't it? You have been so drugged, so poisoned, so deceived by this world's deceptions Satan's COUNTERFEITS that even the words of Jesus are difficult to believe! May GOD HELP YOU TO BELIEVE CHRIST! It is one thing to believe ON Christ that is, in His Person and something altogether different to BELIEVE CHRIST to believe what He SAYS. Shocking though it is, the overwhelming majority have been deceived by ministers who come in the name of Jesus Christ, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, but who teach a different Gospel and a different faith! They are those who, themselves being deceived from childhood, brought up in these deceptive beliefs, enter the ministry to earn a living, who choose it as their vocation or job, who decide to appoint themselves as Christ's representatives, yet who were not called by Christ to be His ministers! They have hired themselves out to the people, and therefore must preach what the PEOPLE want to hear! They do not correct or reprove their congregations for rejecting the doctrines JESUS taught and for transgressing God's law, which the Bible defines as SIN! Very few really know what the true Church is. You will find the answer in our free booklet "A TRUE History of the TRUE CHURCH." And to make it doubly plain, you should read a companion article: "Is this the Only Day of Salvation?" They will make the truth plain, understandable. Our skeptic from Florida will find in them the surprise of his life!