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by James Bishop
If someone existed in antiquity and if that person were to leave a mark, we should expect it to be in the historical record. From Caesar, to Plato, to Herodotus, to Josephus, and to Jesus we see this. In fact, we can know a good few things about the Jesus of history that people so love, or so love to hate. Either way, love him or hate him, we are able to know quite a bit about him, as we will see in this article.
1. That Jesus is a very well attested figure, especially for the 1st Century.
No scholar in the fields of relevant expertise doubts Jesus’ existence. Based on my research I don’t either. In fact Jesus is, for a 1st century figure, very well attested in an abundance of independent source that go back to the earliest Christian Palestinian communities. So what is some of this evidence that makes Jesus such a very well attested figure?
Firstly, Jesus was crucified by 30 AD, and by the end of the 1st century we have four full independent accounts (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) on Jesus based on early traditions that were circulating in different very early Palestinian Christian communities. Sources that date 40 – 60 years after the described events are very early by historical comparison (please see my other short article on this point), on this theme Mike Licona, a prominent New Testament historian, comments:
“A gap of sixty to seventy years between the writing and the events they purport to describe is quite early compared to what historians work with when it comes to other ancient biographies.”
In a similar spirit Mike Bird, who is on the editorial board for the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, notes:
“Paul’s letters are written about 20-30 years after Jesus’ death, and the Gospels about 50-70 years after his death. Our oldest piece of papyrus with a fragment of John 18 is P25 and is dated to about 125-150 CE. Authors like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Tacitus from the late first and early second century wrote about Jesus too. That sounds pretty early to me, at least in comparison to other historical figures.”
Gary Habermas, perhaps one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 21st century writes…
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