Evidence Outside of the Bible

Truthfully, I would love to use this post to tell you why the bible is a reliable source. Even if you want to bypass all the religious parts, it’s still an accurate history book. I would love to share all the ways that scholars have proven the accuracy and reliability of the bible itself, but you’re stubborn, which I like, yet it makes things a little more difficult for me. I get it. The moment you see that I use the bible to prove Jesus, you dip out. It feels like circular reasoning. I get it. I would argue against but I see where you’re coming from.

Okay, my skeptical friend, let’s prove Christianity, your way. Let’s look into the history and evidence that is outside of the bible. So, I did some research for you, but with all things, I would encourage you to look into this. Do your own research.

RabulaGospelsCrucifixion
Crucifixion Artwork – Rabula Gospels

Now there’s a lot of different angles we can look at, admittedly, the “easy” way to completely shatter Christianity is by disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was by far the most miraculous thing that took place in the bible. You disprove that and you demolish Christianity. I am not going to prove that Jesus actually lived. In fact, there is not a lot of argument over that, many atheists will admit that a man named Jesus existed. I’m not talking about Jesus being God, but Jesus Christ as fully man. With that being said, no one is questioning that he died, it’s been over 2000 years since his birth. However, if that is where your doubt comes into play, with everything, I’d highly encourage you to look at the history that proves the existence of Christ. Moving forward, this brings me to two points that I will argue for:

  1. Jesus Christ was crucified
  2. Jesus Christ was resurrected 

Here’s the thing, skeptical friend, Jesus either said who he claimed to be or was a complete lunatic. Those are your two options. There is no in-between. Either he is God, all-knowing, all-loving, and perfect or he was the greatest liar in the world. If I can prove the resurrection, only one of the many miracles that Jesus performed, at the very least, reconsider who Jesus is. Let me preface this by saying that it is a lot easier to prove why the bible is a reliable source and then to use that to prove the resurrection than to prove the resurrection by finding evidence outside of the bible. Proving why you can trust the bible and why it’s an accurate history book (with a collection of some poems), despite if you don’t believe it, is significantly easier. Truly think about that. Let that sit with you. Despite what you believe, the bible is a primary source. But as I said, we’re doing this your way. Let’s dive into the secondary sources. 

This is a long post and I’d highly encourage you to read it, but if there is one thing to look at, look at this first picture provided below and look at the quotes in purple.

Kira’s Case for Christ: The Crucifixion

Image from Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith
Sources outside of the bible that point to Jesus

Everyone that believes that Jesus was an actual historical figure believes that he died. The million-dollar question is whether or not he died on the cross. Because there is no evidence of anyone surviving a crucifixion at least one that resembled the torture that Jesus experienced on the cross [1], so proving that Jesus died on the cross means that he had to have died. If you think he never died on the cross, I’d encourage you to check out this medical article. Included in this section is a collection of evidence outside of the Bible from those who did not believe in Christianity.

The Annals, written by a Roman historian and senator, Tacitus (born 56 AD), is an important source when it comes to the history of the Roman Empire and in The Annals, he talks about early Christianity:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…” [2]

The importance of this passage is the name, Pontius Pilatus who was the man that ordered the execution of Jesus Christ [3]. Although the name Jesus is not explicitly used, “Christus, from whom the name had its origin”, there’s no way it isn’t talking about Jesus. Christianity is all about Jesus, hence Christ in Christianity. This is referring to Jesus. My Christian friend, look at the language used to describe the crucifixion, “suffered the extreme penalty”, you see this reflected in the book of Luke. 

Titus Flavius Josephus was a Romano-Jewish historian. In Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews, he mentions Jesus by saying:

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” [4].

Consider this passage. Consider what Josephus, a man who wasn’t a Christian said about Jesus. Again, look at how Pilate is once again named. I know you have a problem with the whole “they reported…that he was alive” because it was the Christians that were the ones that reported this. I will address the actual resurrection later but I will say that Josephus was not able to see Jesus for himself because Josephus was born 37 AD. Again, we’re looking at secondary sources.

Let’s look at Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist, born circa 125 AD, he talked about Jesus by ridiculing him in his letter The Passing (Death) of Peregrinus:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day,–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account” [5]. 

“But Kira, how do we know that the man that is referred to is Jesus?” Friend, who else would the Christians worship? We don’t worship the disciples. We don’t worship anyone else in the bible besides Christ and Christ alone. Jesus was crucified. Before we continue onto the resurrection, may I just point out that everything that was talked about lines up exactly with what the bible says about Jesus. Keep that in mind, my skeptical friend. I encourage you to dive into all those secondary sources from the picture I provided, especially the ones I chose not to talk about today.

Fresco by Andrea da Firenze (1366)
Fresco by Andrea da Firenze (1366)

Kira’s Case for Christ: The Resurrection

Now, let’s look at the resurrection and prove that Jesus Christ appeared after his death. Don’t overlook the significance that Christ’s body has not been found. That is the biggest piece of historical evidence there is: an empty tomb. Could it possibly be because of the resurrection? Because even if, even if you don’t believe he was put in the tomb, still his body was not and has not been found. Let this sit with you. Let that bother you, skeptical friend.

I see the flaw in this argument. I know. Just because you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it therefore exists. However, do consider the fact that Jesus’s body has not been found. Some of the explanations for the missing body are Jesus was not crucified, did not ever die (swoon theory), the body was stolen by the Roman guards, the body was stolen by his disciples, people thought they saw Jesus, etc. or Jesus resurrected.

Before I continue, let me be frank with you, because this is not about using the eye-witness testimonies from the Bible, the only way to prove the resurrection is by disproving every other theory. I’m not a fan of this method either but stay with me.

As I said, it is much easier to prove why we can trust the bible as history and find the evidence that says he was resurrected than to do it the hard way, yet I know what happens the moment I try to quote the scripture. So, we’re doing this the hard way. The good news is there is significant evidence that disregards every single possibility except the fact that he resurrected. I’m here to guide your research, not prove it all for you. Look into this. Yet, I will tackle a couple of these arguments.

The_miracle_of_the_Catch_of_153_fish
Jesus (left) appears after the resurrection, art by Duccio (14th century)

Jesus, again and again, talks about how he is going to die and resurrect. He made sure his followers knew that and he especially made sure unbelievers knew this too. Realistically and logically, it doesn’t make sense that the Roman guards (who were unbelievers) would steal his body. If they wanted to disprove Christianity, why wouldn’t they just leave his body in the tomb for people to see? Why would they let people see the body of Jesus and then take it away? If these believers saw that Jesus died and did not come back to life as he claimed he would, that would easily disprove Christianity. It doesn’t make sense why they would steal the body.

I’ve seen the argument that these disciples stole the body. They stole and hid the body so that they could fulfill the prophecy of Jesus. Now, can you possibly die for something you don’t believe in? This is another philosophical argument but bear with me. People die for their religion all the time. Can you die for something you don’t truly believe in? Most of these disciples died for their faith in Jesus. If this was all a scheme, how could not just one but several of them die in the name of Christ? They truly believed. Their lives completely changed after the resurrection. A disciple who denied Jesus three times to avoid punishment ended up dying for Jesus after the resurrection. I’m not saying that this proves Christianity because we believe a lot of things and find out later that it was false. But what I’m getting at is these disciples died believing that Jesus was God. If they stole the body, they would be dying for a lie. That doesn’t happen. Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and Catholic theologian said this:

“While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. Follow that out.” [6]

None of these disciples confessed that this was a scheme and many of them died for their faith. Understand how impressive that would be if they stole the body. I’ll let you tackle the argument over why a random stranger(s) could not have stolen it. So this leads nicely into the whole “maybe they thought they saw Jesus” argument.

Maybe, just maybe they saw or hallucinated and they thought that Jesus Christ came back to earth. Gerd Ludemann was huge on the hallucination hypothesis and the resurrection of Christ only being some sort of hallucination, but there are many flaws in his argument. J.P. Moreland, a philosopher and theologian said this:

“First, hallucinations happen to persons who are high-strung, highly imaginative, and nervous. Second, they are linked in an individual’s subconscious to his past beliefs and experiences. Third, it is extremely unlikely that two or more people would have the same hallucination at the same time. Fourth, they usually occur at particular places (places of nostalgia which create a reminiscing mood) and they recur over a long period of time.” [7]

Now friend, consider the claims of the resurrection. Jesus appeared to several people, Josephus recorded this too. A man whom Jesus visited, named Paul, went from persecuting Christians to becoming a believer and apostle of Christ…he went from being a murderer to a missionary. Jesus appeared to 500 people at the same place and same time. There are several things that hallucinations do or don’t do that Jesus did the opposite of.  This is what Dr. Gary R. Habermas says about the hallucination theory and why it is not possible.

Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and agnostic even admits:

“What is certain is that the earliest followers of Jesus believed that Jesus had come back to life, in the body, and that this was a body that had real bodily characteristics: It could be seen and touched, and it had a voice that could be heard” [8].

Let that sit with you.

“But Kira, what if he was buried? What if his body was left on the cross or fed to wild animals?” Even if you don’t want to consider that he was in the tomb that the Bible specifies, again that doesn’t change the fact that he was seen after he had died. However I would encourage you to look into this article if you’re not convinced that Jesus was not left on the cross. “But Kira, what if it was like a real person who appeared who pretended to be Jesus?” I’ll let you tackle that argument. Look into this.

My friend, Jesus resurrected. I could sit here and name all the other theories and why it’s not true. I can sit here and prove why you can trust the bible as an accurate history resource regardless if you don’t want to accept that Jesus is God. We looked at one angle, the resurrection, I could sit here and find the evidence not only for the resurrection but evidence to prove why Jesus is God. Take a look at the secondary sources I talked about – even they claimed that Jesus was the Messiah.

This is not about shoving Christianity down your throat (believe it or not), but about encouraging you to truly and fairly explore your faith. Do your own research and at least re-consider who you think this Jesus guy is. I presented evidence. I presented a lot of evidence, my stubborn friend, at what point is it enough for you to consider, at least consider that Jesus could be the way, the truth, and the life as he claimed to be?

13936886-resurrection-of-christ-tapestry-in-vatican-museum
The resurrection of Christ, tapestry in Vatican Museum

“What about archaeology? What does archaeology say about this Jesus guy and the Christian faith?” A respected Jewish archaeologist, someone that doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ has claimed:

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” [9].

This was said by someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus resurrected nor that Jesus is God and was willing to admit that archaeology has never contradicted something that was said in the bible. Another quote in regards to archaeology states:

“Many of the ancient locations mentioned by Luke, in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, have been identified through archaeology. ‘In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without an error'” [10].

So I ask one last time, at what point have I provided enough evidence for your stubbornness? Did you know that even the Pharisees saw the signs, wonders, and miracles of Jesus yet they still chose not to believe? Don’t tell me you need some sort of miracle. Are you truly willing to at least re-consider, or have you already made up your mind?

“But even if I believe the resurrection, you can’t use that argument to prove the entire bible?” Yeah, you’re right, but if you can at least accept the resurrection, that’s one step closer to accepting the whole bible. I’m not here to prove the bible for you, I’m here to help get you started (Can We Trust the Bible?). That’s on you to further investigate. The reason I’d so adamant about this can be summed up with this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important”

Kira’s Case for Christ: In Conclusion

Everything I mentioned, is consistent with the bible. Are you aware of the errors and inconsistencies with every other religion? I’d again challenge you to understand that the bible is accurate and reliable, even if you’re still skeptical of this Jesus guy. Disproving every other theory is a bad way to come to a conclusion, I agree. I would encourage you to instead of finding the evidence outside of the bible, look into the bible and research why you can trust it. Don’t tell me that it’s circular reasoning because the bible is made up of 66 different books, did you know that? The bible has 30 different authors. Think of it more like a library rather than one book. When you see you can trust it, you will find so many clear answers as to this Jesus guy. He’s not a lunatic. He’s not a liar. He’s God. Consider it so.

1 Corinthians 15 speaks on the resurrection in a beautiful and truth-filled way. Thank you for taking the time to read this especially my skeptical friends. I’ve come this far without quoting from scripture, can I please just give you one thing from the bible to think about?

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

 

References:

9 thoughts on “Evidence Outside of the Bible

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