“I have taken it for granted that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Some writers feel a need to justify this assumption at length against people who try from time to time to deny it. It would be easier, frankly, to believe that Tiberius Caesar, Jesus’ contemporary, was a figment of the imagination than to believe that there never was such a person as Jesus.”
– N. T. Wright.
Throughout my life, I’ve questioned this a lot. Is Jesus a prophet? A religious leader? Son of God? A social movement activist? A con artist? A Jewish man? Mary Magdalene’s husband? A lie told by people to control their behaviour? A myth? The first feminist? Too many options?
Hopefully in the next two weeks, these questions will be answered for you.
Today, as a part 1 on ‘who is Jesus?’ I will be going back to the basics of who Jesus is historically. I grew up believing that Jesus is the Son of God, I was taught this at church, at home and by family. Being a child, I just presumed that this was what everyone thought, until I reached year 7. I met a girl in my class, who became my very best friend. One day we got onto talking about Jesus. I shared my beliefs and she shared hers and to my surprise, she had a very different view of who Jesus is. She did not believe that Jesus existed ever. She did not believe he even existed as a deluded man way back when, she outright thought Jesus never existed and that any religion built around the idea of Jesus existing was a nice idea but ultimately false. A fair judgement, I might add. Her beliefs got me thinking, was Jesus ever a real, physical human that walked this planet?
Her belief really caught me off guard, how had I never considered if Jesus (the man) existed, and if he did, who was he? So, I did some (copious amounts because I’m an over thinker) research. Jesus (the man) did exist, he walked this earth. According to Lawrence Mykytiuk (archaeologist) there is evidence of Jesus’ existence in Tacitus’ major work, a biography of Nero (the Roman Emperor), during the big Roman fire, that states that “Christus” (Latin for Christ) was executed during the reign of Tiberius.
Virtually all historical and theological scholars who have investigated the history of the Christian movement find that the historicity of Jesus is effectively certain. One of the investigators, Michael Grant said; “We can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.” Simply put, Michael Grant is stating that if one were to deny the existence of Jesus as a human walking on this earth, then, because of the evidence, they would need to deny that the Pagans never existed, and this is near enough impossible to do historically.
It is also true that the Mishnah (Jewish authority book) only aims to discredit Jesus’ actions, not his existence. Had Jesus been a myth who never existed, then it would be in the interest of every other religion to deny his existence, in order to support their own ideas. This is the same with Islam. The Qur’an asserts that Jesus existed as a man too.
So, I came to the conclusion that Jesus (as a man) did exist. He was born, he died and in between he did some things that people are undecided about. But that’s next weeks post.
So, what can we know for certain about Jesus’ (as a man) life?
Well, among scholars, it is fairly certain that Jesus was baptised and crucified. Both these events are found in historical documents and census’. James Dunn states that it is “almost impossible to doubt or deny” that Jesus was both baptised and crucified because of “the scale of historical facts.” John P. Meier also suggests that Jesus definitely was crucified because for Christians to make it up, makes no sense, as in the Jewish context, a Messiah dying was inherently embarrassing. But I guess the one who sums it up best would be Amy Levine, who says, “There is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus’ life in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, and over a period of one to three years, debated Jewish authorities on the subject of God, gathered followers, and was crucified by Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate who officiated 26-36 AD.”
Who is Jesus? Jesus was a man who was born in the Middle East, most likely Bethlehem. He was Jewish, he talked about and challenged Jewish religious authority and traditions, he was baptized by John the Baptist and then he was crucified by Pontius Pilate. So, simply, yes, Jesus did exist. And if you want to debate that, then you’ll have to debate if Caesar Augustus existed too, because there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is of Caesar Augustus (who most definitely existed).
So, after copious amounts of research (that I can neither fit in here or bore you with), I came to the conclusion that it’s not up for debate if the man Jesus existed, the only thing that’s up for debate is if he was the Messiah and the Son of God. Or was he just a clever con-artist? Come back next week to find out.
Any questions or thoughts, message me directly or comment below! I’d love to hear from you.