Brakes screeching. Cars swerving. My whole life flashing before my eyes. . . . Well, it wasn’t quite that bad. But I did almost get into a wreck yesterday on I-81 after dropping off our daughter Maddy at Virginia Military Institute. The cause of this near-collision? A bear! As plain as day, a medium-sized black bear ran across the northbound lanes in front of the car ahead of mine. It was the first time I saw a bear outside a zoo. Seriously. Now, I had it on good authority that wild bears existed. Not only have I seen numerous documentaries on the critters, but my wife spotted one several years ago in California, appropriately near Big Bear. However, in my just-over-half-century life on this planet, I had never seen one in its natural habitat . . . until yesterday. That experience got me thinking about what we accept and reject as evidence.
Occasionally someone, usually a person with an axe to grind against religion, will deny that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. Discounting everything written by his followers, some unbelievers claim there is no evidence that the founder of the largest religion on earth was real. Hogwash!
An honest historian looking at the evidence would have to conclude that Jesus existed. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37-c. 100) mentions him in two passages in his Antiquities of the Jews. The Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56- c. 120) and the Roman governor Pliny the Younger (61-c. 113) both attest to Jesus’s life. So does St. Paul. So do all the Gospel writers. Extra-biblical Christian authors do to, including some who wrote at the same time as the New Testament writers. Whether or not you agree with their theological interpretations of Jesus, it is unfair to dismiss their works as evidence that Jesus was a real historical figure.
Finally, the existence of the Christian religion itself lends weight to the argument. The Church was founded by the closest followers of Jesus, the Apostles, most of whom suffered martyrdom for their belief in Jesus. Would so many “eyewitnesses” die for a lie?
It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Jesus existed. It turns out that wild bears do too.