Christianity and Historicity of Christ

QUESTION: Christianity and History – Historicity of Christ


If the Bible is a reliable historical document, then we cannot intellectually deny that a man named Jesus actually lived and taught at that point in history. Indeed, Christ is treated as a historical figure by early secular historians as well. Around A.D. 93, the Jewish historian Josephus refers to Jesus at least twice in his Antiquities of the Jews. In one instance, he recorded that the high priest Annas “assembled the Sanhedrim of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James...”1

Another early historian, Cornelius Tacitus, writes circa A.D. 112 about “the persons commonly called Christians,” and also states, “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”2

Christianity and History – Solid Evidence for Jesus
These references and others provide sufficient evidence for the historicity of Christ, even if we ignore the New Testament. Bruce Metzger writes that “the early non-Christian testimonies concerning Jesus, though scanty, are sufficient to prove (even without taking into account the evidence contained in the New Testament) that he was a historical figure who lived in Palestine in the early years of the first century, that he gathered a group of followers about himself, and that he was condemned to death under Pontius Pilate. Today no competent scholar denies the historicity of Jesus.”3

Even Secular Humanist historian Will Durant accepts the historicity of Jesus. He asks, “What evidence is there for Christ’s existence? The earliest non-Christian reference occurs in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (A.D. 93): ‘At that time lived Jesus, a holy man, if man he may be called, for he performed wonderful works, and taught men, and joyfully received the truth. And he was followed by many Jews and many Greeks. He was the Messiah.’”4 Durant’s chapter about Jesus speaks more highly of Him than all liberal Protestant writings combined! He admits that “Christ was in this spiritual sense the greatest revolutionist in history.”5 Nor does he deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ.6 He treats the Gospel records as historical and allows them to tell what happened.


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XX.ix.1.
2 Cornelius Tacitus, Annals XV. 44. Cited in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1972), 84.
3 Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1965), 78.
4 Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 554.
5 Ibid., 566.
6 Ibid., 573.

Christianity and History - Learn More!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? - We have all sinned and deserve God's judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus

Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus

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