This is Holy Week for Christians across the globe – a time to focus on the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Much of the world takes time to honor the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, Christ's death on the cross on Good Friday, and His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. But others wonder if the Messiah is real and the Bible true. Well, do you doubt Julius Caesar existed? Or all the ancient philosophers of Greece? The truth is that there is much more proof Jesus Christ existed and that the New Testament account of His miraculous story from incarnation to resurrection is trustworthy.
Alex McFarland is a leading Christian apologist. If you're wondering, that doesn't mean he apologizes for the faith. It means he defends Christ's history and shows why you can trust it. To get there, he first explains the four kinds of testimony historians desire:
"They want eyewitness testimony. They want multiple testimon[ies]. They want early testimony. And the fourth is hostile testimony," McFarland told CBN News.
The Gospels: both Early & Eyewitness Testimony From Multiple Sources
As for eyewitness and early, the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are by men who either knew Jesus in the flesh or got their facts from eyewitnesses like Mary, the mother of Jesus, and others. Saint Paul's epistles are written by a man who encountered the resurrected Christ.
"We have got the Gospels coming to us less than 10 years after the cross," this leader of Truth for a New Generation pointed out.
Compare that to the 643 ancient copies of Homer's Iliad, whose authenticity scholars don't question.
"But from the time of the writing to the copies we have: it was more than 500 years. In fact, around 900 years," McFarland stated.
First Copies of Caesars' Annals are Almost 1,000 Years Later
He added, "We've got the annals of Caesar, which comes to us in several dozen copies. But, again, the earliest copies we have from the time of writing: nearly a millennia. A thousand years."
Compare that to the main facts about Christ: "The core of Jesus' identity, message, credentials was in circulation regularly within eight weeks after the cross," the apologist commented.
Talk of Christ from Ancient Non-Christians is Plentiful
As for hostile testimony – or at least not pro-Christian – many outside sources wrote of this Jesus.
McFarland said these sources wrote of, "'A worker of wonders,' did miracles, claimed to be God, crucified at Passover: the core facts of the Gospel – death, deity, and resurrection – just based on ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman sources that certainly were no friend to the burgeoning Church."
McFarland explained, "That's very compelling to historians because it represents objectivity, that those sources – no friend of the movement – also corroborate the core facts of what we know about Jesus."
Also, the apologist pointed out, Will Durant, an atheist most of his life, but possibly the world's most trusted historian, testified that "The four Gospels are absolutely trustworthy from a historical standpoint."
You Don't Doubt Aristotle or Caesar Really Lived
McFarland suggested Durant would say if we reject those Gospels, "We would also have to reject a hundred other ancient names, the authenticity of which no historian would dream of questioning – Aristotle, Julius Caesar – people we don't have as much evidence for as we do for Jesus."
Filmmaker Rick Larson finds proof of Christ and the miraculous world around him in a whole different sphere: scientific evidence.
Hard Evidence for Physical Events at Christ's Birth & Death
This creator of the documentaries The Star of Bethlehem and The Christ Quake, said, "There are two great events in Christianity: there's the incarnation, and there are the execution and resurrection. Those are the two great events. And those two things, God chose to leave hard evidence that we can find today and show that they occurred."
In The Star of Bethlehem documentary, Larson found there really was a light in the heavens that guided the Wise Men to baby Jesus. It was even shown on coins made at the time.
The Lord of Heaven & Earth
The Christ Quake shows Larson's crew finding in ground once covered by the Dead Sea the geologic ripples of the gigantic earthquake that split rocks at the very hour of Jesus's death.
It all proves to Larson who God is: Lord of heaven and earth.
"The two documentaries show that the star of Bethlehem was real – that's the heavens. And the quake at the cross was real. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. And He chose to leave enough evidence for us to see those things are true," Larson contended.
Science that Backs Up What Matthew Described
The Gospel of Matthew discussed both the star and quake.
Larson asserted, "And for both star of Bethlehem and for the quake at the cross, the facts we find – hard, scientific facts we find – are consistent with the record in Matthew."
Both Larson's documentaries are now available in a box set.
As for the written record, remember the hundreds of ancient copies of Homer's 'Iliad' and the dozens of Caesars' biographies? Many more manuscripts of the New Testament exist.
McFarland said of them, "Fragments, portions, complete New Testaments: roughly 30,000 copies."
And even if we didn't have those, the apologist explained, "We could reconstruct verbatim the entire New Testament – Matthew through Revelation – just based on more than a half-million verse citations by early church leaders that've been discovered."
The trustworthy history in the New Testament finally brought the atheist master historian Durant around.
The Historicity of Jesus: He Is Real
McFarland shared, "It is said that Durant became a Christian before he died because he was compelled by the historicity of Jesus."
The biblical apologist's conclusion: a believer does need faith in Christ, "But it's a faith validated and worthy of our trust, our following, and our obedience. Jesus is real."
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Who is Jesus? Is he really God’s Son? And what does Jesus have to do with Heaven? Your questions are answered here.