Did Jesus exist, and if so, who was he? From “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

The most debated person in all of history is Jesus of Nazareth. Skeptics claim many things about Jesus—from whether or not he actually lived to if he did, then who was he? Josh McDowell explains how we as Christians can defend our belief that He is the Christ.

First, McDowell examines whether Jesus actually lived. He brings together numerous ancient resources—Christian and otherwise—that confirm the authenticity of Jesus in an historical sense, all of which do not contradict (but sometimes are antagonistic towards) the Biblical accounts. McDowell states regarding the secular (pagan) historical writings, “The fact that they are usually antagonistic to Christianity makes them especially good witnesses, since they have nothing to gain by admitting the historicity of the events surrounding a religious leader and His following, which they disdain.” [1]

Jewish historians were also hostile in their writings about Jesus, as well as to his mother, Mary. Of Mary, Jewish historians have said she, “strayed from her husband,” and “played the harlot with carpenters.”[2] While disrespectful, these writings do not deny that Jesus lived and was born of Mary and a carpenter (Joseph) and that there was apparently a need to explain away claims of his virgin birth.

Including and aside from what is in the Bible, writings from apostles and early post-apostolic disciples speak plainly of Jesus. These claims are quite essential because as McDowell points out, “These early Christians had nothing to gain and everything to lose for their testimony that these things had actually happened.”[3]

Although historical documentation shows sufficient evidence for Jesus having lived, it is not enough. The question still remains, who was he? For starters, we can look at who Jesus said he was.

To paraphrase William Robinson, it cannot be denied that historians have documented that Jesus continually referred to himself as God.[4] McDowell points out that this claim is unique to other prominent figures of religious history—Christian or otherwise.

It is this claim, a claim of blasphemy, which Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin. Having studied the Law, Jesus would have known this claim was punishable by death. Jesus’ claims made himself equal to God the Father, not in person, but in essence. Specifically, he referred to himself as Jehovah (YHWH or ‘I AM’) and as the Son of God. He also accepted worship from others, forgave sins, claimed to be ‘life’, and claimed authority to judge over all the earth—all aspects reserved for God alone. Jesus also referred to himself as the Son of Man, a claim reserved for the Messiah.

So Jesus was put to death for blasphemy. But what does this prove? Was Jesus a liar, a lunatic or Lord? Since Jesus would have known he had nothing to gain by being a liar, a skeptic (convinced that Jesus had lived) could argue that Jesus was therefore a lunatic. But is there historical evidence to prove he was the Messiah? Is there evidence for his resurrection (without the resurrection, there is no Christianity)?

To be continued in a following post.

[1] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 120.

[2] Ibid, 121.

[3] Ibid, 126.

[4] Ibid, 138.

8 thoughts on “Did Jesus exist, and if so, who was he? From “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

  1. “But what does this prove? Was Jesus a liar, a lunatic or Lord?”

    Or a legend?

    Jesus may existed. But that doesn’t make what the Bible says about him any more true than what “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” says about the president.


    1. jmdansville

      When dealing with the question, “Who is Jesus?” many skeptics often admit that he lived, died on a cross and was a good teacher; but they say his true identity has been muddled into legend over time. This claim itself is muddled because it cannot be accurately defended.
      William Craig, in his book, “On Guard,” points out that what was written about Jesus in the gospels were written within one generation after his life—while eyewitnesses were still alive to correct any error. In addition, the writers of the New Testament gospels used sources that date even closer to Jesus’ life, possibly seven years after his resurrection. Paul the apostle wrote to the Corinthian church (Book of Corinthians) about the resurrection roughly five years after its occurrence, which is way too soon to have been a “mythologized” version (on Guard, 191).
      According to professional Greco-Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White, “the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts” (On Guard, 190).
      Furthermore, I would like to echo what other apologetic authors have written about the supposed legend hypothesis. Those who have been eyewitnesses—John the Baptist and Jesus’ direct disciples, for example, have been executed for the sake of the gospel. Why then, would they stand to endure such brutality, forsaking everything for a lie? They must have known without a doubt that Jesus is who the New Testament persistently claims him to be.


  2. Olivia Stocum

    I hear new theories about Jesus all the time. Recently, I read an article stating that Jesus lived in India for 12 years, where he was trained in the art of Indian meditation… Hmmm….


      1. Olivia Stocum

        I know! If you consider how short Jesus’s life really was, how in the world would he have had time for all this world traveling in the first place?


  3. Pingback: Who was Jesus part 2: a look at the Resurrection from “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict” | A Closer Look

  4. Pingback: Jesus Christ: Proof of His Existence | Jack T. Scully

  5. Pingback: Jesus Christ: Proof of His ExistenceJack T Scully | Jack T Scully

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