What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago.

How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?

The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?

The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.

What did non-Christian authors say about Jesus?

As far as we know, the first author outside the church to mention Jesus is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD93. He has two references to Jesus. One of these is controversial because it is thought to be corrupted by Christian scribes (probably turning Josephus’s negative account into a more positive one), but the other is not suspicious – a reference to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”.

About 20 years after Josephus we have the Roman politicians Pliny and Tacitus, who held some of the highest offices of state at the beginning of the second century AD. From Tacitus we learn that Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect in charge of Judaea (AD26-36) and Tiberius was emperor (AD14-37) – reports that fit with the timeframe of the gospels. Pliny contributes the information that, where he was governor in northern Turkey, Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Neither of them liked Christians – Pliny writes of their “pig-headed obstinacy” and Tacitus calls their religion a destructive superstition.

Did ancient writers discuss the existence of Jesus?

Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. In the earliest literature of the Jewish Rabbis, Jesus was denounced as the illegitimate child of Mary and a sorcerer. Among pagans, the satirist Lucian and philosopher Celsus dismissed Jesus as a scoundrel, but we know of no one in the ancient world who questioned whether Jesus lived.

How controversial is the existence of Jesus now?

In a recent book, the French philosopher Michel Onfray talks of Jesus as a mere hypothesis, his existence as an idea rather than as a historical figure. About 10 years ago, The Jesus Project was set up in the US; one of its main questions for discussion was that of whether or not Jesus existed. Some authors have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth was doubly non-existent, contending that both Jesus and Nazareth are Christian inventions. It is worth noting, though, that the two mainstream historians who have written most against these hypersceptical arguments are atheists: Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina). They have issued stinging criticisms of the “Jesus-myth” approach, branding it pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, a recent survey discovered that 40% of adults in England did not believe that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Is there any archaeological evidence for Jesus?

Part of the popular confusion around the historicity of Jesus may be caused by peculiar archaeological arguments raised in relation to him. Recently there have been claims that Jesus was a great-grandson of Cleopatra, complete with ancient coins allegedly showing Jesus wearing his crown of thorns. In some circles, there is still interest in the Shroud of Turin, supposedly Jesus’s burial shroud. Pope Benedict XVI stated that it was something that “no human artistry was capable of producing” and an “icon of Holy Saturday”.

It is hard to find historians who regard this material as serious archaeological data, however. The documents produced by Christian, Jewish and Roman writers form the most significant evidence.

These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died. The more interesting question – which goes beyond history and objective fact – is whether Jesus died and lived.

This post was adapted from The Guardian, written by Simon Gathercole – Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge.

To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.

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Israel at 70

On Wednesday, April I8th, Israel celebrated 70 years of statehood.
In 1948 the new state’s population was 872,000. Today there are over 6.6 million Jews living in Israel, just under half of world Jewry.
No other post-colonial state has remained a democracy whilst granting its people a developed world standard.
GDP per capita, Israel ($40,762) is twenty third out of 193 states-just behind France and the United Kingdom!
Israel, in 1948, was an exporter of avocados and oranges.
Today she is second only to Silicon Valley, California, in the technical sector.
Israel has the world’s highest quota of engineers.
Israel has the most powerful military capability in the Middle East.
The whole country has become a listening post, and a constant source of intelligence for Western States.
T-shirts sold in tourist shops bear the slogan ‘Don’t worry, America: Israel’s got your back’!

What has this got to do with the Bible, you may ask?

Well, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, their prosperity, their reliance on their own ability and not on God is a sign that JESUS IS COMING BACK . This nation is a wake up call for all who would serve God to prepare for this momentous event.

He is coming back to be their King.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King coming to you … he shall speak peace to the nations: and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)

At his trial Jesus told Pilate, the Roman Governor of Israel, clearly that he was born to be King of Israel. “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to him ‘Are you a king then? Jesus answered ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:36-37)

To Mary, the mother of Jesus, the angel Gabriel said: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of His father (ancestor) David; And he will reign over the house of Jacob (the Jewish nation) for ever: and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”(Luke 1: 30-33)
The Jewish nation must be in Israel in order for this to happen. Jesus is a direct descendant of King David, who reigned in Jerusalem.

The return of the Jews is a sign of the times. God is at work among the nations. When Jesus reigns over the Jews in the Kingdom of God they will accept Jesus as their King. They will be a splendid example of godliness and, with the believers of all ages, will help bring about the time when “the earth will be filled with the glory of God.”

We must all get ready now to welcome King Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

(Quotes from The New King James Version.)

To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.

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Jerusalem!

In 1995 the United States Congress passed a law concerning the removal of the U.S Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The President has control of this law. It contains a waive provision “safety valve” that allows any President to delay the removal of the Embassy every six months because of security factors.

So from 1995 every US President has exercised this waiver, and thus delaying the re-siting of the US embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. Most world powers do not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. During the seventy years of Israel’s history, the status of Jerusalem has been the central issue of contention!

However, very recently, President Trump did not sign the waver provision. The U.S. now regards Jerusalem as the legitimate Capital of Israel. Why is this important to those who trust God’s Word, the Bible?

Jerusalem is to be the Capital of the nation of Israel, an Israel that acknowledges the Lord Jesus Christ as their King Messiah and King of the World when He returns.

Jesus said that Jerusalem is “… The city of the great King.” (Matt 5:35)

Peace and harmony amongst the nations will be experienced when Jesus reigns from that city. (Isaiah 2:1 to 5) Verse 3 “… For out of Zion shall go the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem 4.He shall judge between the nations … and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Godly worship, joy and a strong desire to serve God will be revealed in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 8)

Israel will be the joy of all nations! (Isaiah 60 – please read the whole chapter.)

However, before this wonderful time comes the Bible prophesies that Jerusalem would be a great source of trouble to the nations. The prophet Zechariah wrote: “Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burden-some stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zechariah 12: 2-3, see also Joel 3.)

We are seeing today the anger expressed by many nations about Israel and Jerusalem. The invasion of Israel by many nations is clearly prophesied in the Bible. (See Ezekiel 38.)

However, Jesus will return in power to remove this invading force, and establish a glorious time of harmony and peace on this planet. We must watch events unfolding in Jerusalem and pray for the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

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Faith

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even because of the lack of evidence. Faith is not allowed to justify by argument.”

Excerpt taken from a speech by Prof Dawkins (1992), entitled Lions 10, Christians nil

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Faith in God is derived by reading, understanding and believing the Bible’s message. The apostle Paul wrote: “So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of God”. (Romans 10:17)

Let us put this Biblical faith to the test, particularly the Old Testament. God has a purpose with the Jewish people. They have been dispersed throughout the world, as the Bible says (Deuteronomy 28:64-68) because of their waywardness. However, God promised and we are witnesses to the fact that they have returned to Israel, in fulfilment of Bible Prophecy. The prophet Ezekiel writes: “Thus says the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the people from the nations among which they have gone and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all …” (Ezekiel 37:21,22)

Since 1948 the Jews have returned to their land and are now a prominent nation in the earth. We are seeing part of the above prophecy being fulfilled. Other prophecies indicated the following events happening just before the return of Jesus to the earth. For example:

  •  Jews in control of Jerusalem (Joel 3:1)
  • Jerusalem -source of international trouble (Zechariah  12:1 , 2)
  • Jewish nation prosperous (Ezekiel 38:12 ,13)
  • Arab nations and others trying to destroy Israel( Ezekiel 38:1, -12).

Remember, the Old Testament was written before Jesus was born!

I can get on a plane to Israel, journey to Jerusalem and note the hatred towards the Jews by some Arabs and see the prosperity of Israel. All these events prerecorded in a book which was written before the birth of Jesus!

These details are just a few of many that could be presented.

Shortly Jesus will be back to establish the Kingdom of God. What a shock for Dr Dawkins!

Will it be a shock for you? We all need to be getting ready for this world shattering event!

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*Quotes from the ESV

To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website:www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk. Our next public meeting will be held at 2.30pm on Sunday, in our hall, Foundry Road, Ammanford. All are welcome to attend!

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Happy Hanukkah! But wait, what is ‘Hanukkah’?

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Hanukkah, also called the ‘Feast of Dedication’ or ‘Festival of Lights’ will be celebrated by Jews from the 6th to the 14th of December 2015 (25th of Kislev). But what is it, and why is it important to us today?

HANUKKAH, the only Jewish festival not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, is an eight-day festival that commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the temple following the victories of Judas Maccabeus in 167/165 B.C. over the atrocities committed to the Jewish temple and priesthood by ‘vile’ Syrian king Antiochus IV.

Daniel writes accurately (Dan 11:29-30) about Antiochus’ defeat in Egypt – “he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation”, and about the way Antiochus vented upon Judah because of his loss “they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice”, of which the book of Maccabees records that an altar was set up to Olympian Zeus (Jupiter), upon which pigs (unclean by the Jewish law) were sacrificed. This abomination, was only turned around by the hand of God’s plan for the nation through Judas Maccabeus.

While the Jewish book of Maccabees describe the events in Daniel from this period, we do not have to rely only on one historical source of information of the events prophesied by Daniel. Polybius – a historian – is another who describes Antiochus’ actions (31.9).

Judas Maccabeus is said to have ended up cleansing and restoring the temple, after the revolt against Antiochus had ended, he dedicated the new altar with sacrifices, song, and joyous worship for eight days.

The obvious lesson from the tradition is that it follows in a long line of Jewish oppression. Time and time again, a nation will have power over them. The Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Medes/Persians, Greeks, Romans. Yet where are these great superpowers, along with Antiochus and his vile crimes? God says about Israel that “You are My witnesses” (Isaiah 53:10), and that “…he that touches you touches the pupil of His eye” (Zech 2:8). Such promises were made first to Abraham and his seed, that “..I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee..” (Gen 12:3).

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