Justin Barnett: Is Jesus simply a myth?
Have you ever heard someone say something like “Jesus is a myth?” I had someone ask me about this recently. It's a popular view amongst those that claim to be atheists or agnostics. However, it's an uneducated view that is absolutely false.
Allow me to explain with a very brief history lesson.
In A.D. 66, the Jews in Palestine revolted against Roman rule. The Roman emperor sent troops led by Gen. Vespasian to crush the rebellion and regain control. Soon after, Vespasian laid siege to Galilee. Most of the Jewish rebels chose to take their own lives rather than surrender, but one young Jewish revolutionary chose to surrender so that he could write about what had happened.
That young man won favor with Vespasian and was later taken to Rome by Gen. Titus; Titus was Vespasian’s son, and Titus had just thoroughly destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. The remains of the temple are where Jews still go to pray today. Part of the remains are known as the Western Wall or the “Wailing Wall.”
That young Jewish man who was taken to Rome was named Flavius Josephus, who became a great historian. Josephus began his most well known writings in Rome while serving as a historian for the Roman emperor Domitian. His most famous work is titled “Antiquities of the Jews,” which he finished in about A.D. 93. This was around the time the Book of Revelation was written.
Josephus, who was not a Christian, wrote these words:
“At this time [the time of Pilate] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from 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 recounted wonders.”
That wasn’t Josephus’s only mention of Jesus. In another passage from Antiquities, Josephus revealed how the new high priest of the Jews took advantage of a brief absence of Roman rule to kill James, the brother of Jesus. It was A.D. 62, and the Roman governor Festus died suddenly in office.
Three months elapsed before his successor, Albinus, could get to Judea, allowing ample time for Ananus to execute James and other Christians.
Josephus described the incident this way: “.... Ananus the high priest assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James and some of his companions, and when he had formed an accusation against them … he delivered them to be stoned.”
Here we not only have first-century non-Christian references to Jesus, but confirmation he had a brother named James who, obviously, was not well-liked by the Jewish authorities. Could it be James was martyred because he was the leader, the head pastor of the Jerusalem church, just as the New Testament proclaims?
Including Josephus, there are 10 known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within less than 150 years of His life. Over the same 150 years, there are only 9 non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor during Jesus' life and at the time of His death.
Jesus is mentioned by more sources than the Roman emperor of His day. If you include the Christian sources, historical authors mentioning Jesus outnumber those mentioning Tiberius Caesar 43-10.
Some of these non-Christian sources are not just non-Christian, but hardcore anti-Christian sources. They are works written by writers whose tone is decidedly anti-Christian. If Jesus didn't exist, then why did all these historians write about Him? These non-Christian historians that wrote about Jesus verify many facts about early Christianity, and they show us a storyline that goes right along with the New Testament.
Prominent ancient Roman and Jewish historians wrote about a real live Jesus that walked the earth around 2,000 years ago. Christian writers recorded the life of Jesus in great detail. It's historical fact that Jesus not only existed, but was crucified under Pilate. Historians today are as sure that Jesus existed as they are of Julius Caesar or any other prominent ancient figure.
In fact, there is much more historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar.
This means that the next time you hear or read that Jesus is just a myth, you can know that someone is either being deceitful or they are just ignorant of the facts. Most likely, it's merely what they wish to believe in order to write off Christianity.
However, Jesus cannot simply be written off. He's much more than a myth!