Did Jesus Christ really exist?
Evidence: Jesus really lived
Security in Faith: We know more about Jesus than we do from the Gospels
The story, yes the message, of Jesus Christ sounds incredible at times. To be too good to be true. But historical texts show: Jesus really lived.
First of all: in this article we have to distinguish between the names Jesus Christ and Jesus of Nazareth. “Christ” means “anointed one” or “Messiah” and thus already contains a theological and spiritual interpretation. Whoever speaks of "Jesus Christ" professes the Son of God.
However, when we speak of "Jesus of Nazareth" we mean the historical person. This Jesus is said to have lived in the period from approx. 0-33 AD in the area of today's Israel. But how do we actually know that Jesus of Nazareth lived? Or is the existence of Jesus ultimately a question of faith after all?
Only non-Christian sources give historical insight
We are very familiar with some sources. The gospels and the letters of the New Testament belong to the "Christian sources". A few decades after Jesus' death, they report on his existence and work. Since the historical person is spoken of in the first Christian texts about 20 years after Jesus' life, one could say that these sources are sufficient.
However, the "problem" with the Christian sources from the New Testament (and the Apocrypha) is that they are theological texts. They come from believing people and have a “preaching character”. These scriptures already contain theological statements and interpret Jesus as the one "Christ". The primary aim of the texts is not to portray the historical Jesus. You want to tell people about your faith and message. You are trying to relate your theology to the figure of Jesus.
Christian sources combine “assessment” and “report”. It is therefore all the more exciting to see whether there are also non-Christian texts. Objective sources that present historical facts from a different perspective. By comparison, if you read only British sources about the American Revolutionary War, you would get a very one-sided picture. You only get a more detailed view if you read different perspectives and thus different sources.
"Jesus, a man full of wisdom"
In fact, there are several extra-Christian sources. Above all, Jewish and Roman writings from the first two centuries report on the historical Jesus. Probably the best known source is that of the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. Initially, Flavius was a Jewish soldier who was captured in a battle against the Romans around AD 70. Later he was given the task by the emperor to write down the history of the Jewish people, which is known today as "Antiquitates". Here Flavius writes around AD 93:
“At this time Jesus lived, a man full of wisdom (if one can call him a person at all). For he did incredible things and was the teacher of those people who gladly received the truth, so he attracted many Jews (and many from paganism) to himself. [...] Up to now the people of Christians, who call themselves after him, have not stopped. "
Other important non-Christian sources are:
- The Syrian stoic philosopher Mara Bar Sarpion
- The "official" Roman historians Pliny the Younger, Tacitus and Suetonius
- The Samaritan historian Thallus
All of these independent authors assume the historicity of Jesus and report "facts" that the Christian texts already told us:
- He has gathered disciples around him.
- He was an intelligent man who could reach and convince people through his sermons.
- He had a "brother" named James.
- He performed miracles and interpreted the law of the Jews differently.
- He worked within the framework of the Jewish religion and soon beyond.
- He died a violent death under conviction by the authorities.
- He was dubbed King and Messiah.
There is therefore a broad consensus among historians that Jesus actually lived and is not a mystical figure. This knowledge can give us Christians support in our faith. Security when questions and doubts arise.
So Jesus lived. Really. And now? Now everyone is faced with the question: Who is Jesus for me? Since his person is interpreted differently in Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Co., everyone is faced with a religious decision. It gives me the strength to know that Jesus reached many people. That he impressed people who were then convinced that he must be the Messiah. And just as the followers trusted Jesus, I trust the first followers of Jesus that this historical man is the Christ. The son of god. The savior of the world. Madness!
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