Discovering for the Truth about Jesus

Who Is Jesus?

Jesus was born into a Jewish family 2,000 years ago. He grew up in the small town of Nazareth in Israel. When He was about thirty, and for three years, He began speaking a unique message and performing unusual deeds throughout the region. Today, the followers of Jesus represent the largest religion in the world.

Over the years, people have regarded Him as a Palestinian peasant, prophet, enlightened avatar, Son of God, swear word, object of worship, superstar, demon, guru, wonderful man! From these diverse perspectives, Jesus has been loved and hated, deified and demonized, worshipped and spat upon.

Who's right? What are the facts? Whatever your perspective, at least one thing is certain: Jesus has endured. In the words of Dr. James Allan Francis:

"Twenty wide centuries have come and gone, and today he's the centerpiece of the human race-the leader of the column of progress.... All the armies that have ever marched, ... all the kings that have ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has that one solitary life."

There is no difficulty recognizing the historical reality of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Research scholar Dr. Edwin Yamauchi sets the record straight on this: "From time to time some people have tried to deny the existence of Jesus, but this is really a lost cause… There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus did exist…"

The difficulty for some, though, is that the only detailed biographies of Jesus are the biblical Gospels of the New Testament from nearly 2,000 years ago. Are these documents an authentic and historically reliable record of the words and deeds of Jesus? Did Jesus claim to be God? If so, why should we believe Him? And if the facts should reveal His claim is true, then what?

In the following pages, we will seek to discover the truth about Jesus-and His significance for each of us-by looking into:

The Historical Records

No original for any ancient writing has been found. Hand-written copies made in the centuries prior to the printing press are our only source of written knowledge about ancient people, places and events. How can we know that these copies have integrity?

1. NUMEROUS COPIES assure greater integrity
The number of hand-copied manuscripts of other ancient literature ranges from 1 to 643. Archaeologists have found over 24,600 New Testament manuscripts!

2. EARLY COPIES assure greater integrity
Among ancient literature, only the Gospels have manuscript copies from the author's generation. The John Rylands fragment of the Gospel of John (A.D. 120) and quotes of all four Gospels in late first-century literature prove they were written before A.D. 95. Fragments of Matthew, Mark and Luke are dated before A.D. 70, proving they were authored within years of Jesus Himself (crucified about A.D. 30).

3. ACCURATE COPIES assure greater integrity
Distortion rates due to copying errors are 5%, 10% and more in other ancient literature. The New Testament has only 1/5 of 1% (0.2%) distortion.

But did the Gospel authors record the facts-are they historically reliable?

1. EVIDENCE of ARCHAEOLOGY assures historical reliability
People: Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, and Tiberius Caesar
"Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas…" (Matthew 26:57) "Pilate then took Jesus…" (John 19:1).
In 1990, a sculptured, first century bone box was discovered, with "Joseph Caiaphas" inscribed on the side.
A cornerstone was uncovered in ancient Caesarea Maritima, inscribed: "Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius."

Roman Crucifixion of Jesus:
"And they crucified Him…" (Mark 15:24).
A crucifixion victim was discovered in 1968, near Jerusalem, with a nail through his feet. His crucifixion was dated to A.D. 42. This confirms the Gospels: There were nails used for crucifixion at the time of Jesus!

2. EYEWITNESS AUTHORS assure historical reliability
The facts about Jesus were proclaimed within days after his death and were accepted in Jerusalem, where people were in the best position to know whether or not they were true, and where accepting them would cost them dearly.

Conclusion: The biblical Gospels have the greatest integrity and are the most historically reliable writings of antiquity!

The Eyewitness Evidence

With the Gospel accounts as reliable sources of history, we can step into the eyewitnesses' shoes via their accounts. With their ears we can hear what Jesus claimed and with their eyes see what He did.

Evidence of Jesus' Claims
"What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?" (Matthew 22:42)
King David referred to his descendent, the Messiah, by the name of God (Hebrew = Adonai). Jesus used this to point out that as Messiah, He is both man and God.

"I and the Father are One." (John 10:30, NIV)
"One" here means "essence": Jesus and God the Father are equals and share all the divine attributes. This fits the grammar and the context perfectly, and explains the Pharisees' attempt to stone Him for blasphemy, because He claimed to be God.

Evidence of Jesus' Actions
He "rebuked the wind and the surging waves… and it became calm." (Luke 8:24-25)
Jesus' mastery over nature was so instant and decisive that those with Him appropriately asked, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?"

"Young man, I say to you, arise!" (Luke 7:14)
Meeting a funeral procession carrying a widow's son for burial, Jesus raised her son from the dead. Seeing Jesus' power over death, the people exclaimed, "God has visited His people!"

Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection
There is no greater credential to authenticate Jesus' claim to be God than His resurrection.

The Empty Tomb Affirms its Truth–The tomb, which was covered with a sealed, one-and-a-half ton stone, was guarded by Roman soldiers. There was no defensible explanation for the missing Jesus except His resurrection.

His Post-resurrection Appearances Affirm its Truth–The Gospels record ten distinct post-resurrection physical appearances of Jesus-to both believers and unbelievers.

Transformed Lives Affirm its Truth–After seeing Him alive again, Jesus' disciples were transformed from scared, hiding men into bold proclaimers of His resurrection, willing to die for their conviction.

Conclusion: The eyewitness evidence clearly validates Jesus' claim to be the incarnation of the infinite and personal God.
We are each faced with Jesus' timeless question: "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" (Luke 9:20, NIV)

The Value of Discovery

The historical records and the eyewitness evidence helped us to discover the truth that Jesus is God. But so what?

Compare being faced with two problems: a terminal illness and a math equation. Discovering the truth about Jesus is like finding the cure for the terminal illness. Unlike the math answer, we would never be content merely to discover the cure. We would make it our highest priority to apply the cure to our illness. The value of discovering the truth about Jesus is in applying it to our life situation.

The Bible says that "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) and further that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). We all have a terminal spiritual illness within us that will-sooner or later-take our life. But Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…" (John 11:25). Discovering the truth about Jesus is realizing that a loving God has provided the cure that replaces despair with hope. The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NIV).

Remember, though, that the value of the discovery is in applying it. To be healed from a terminal physical illness, we must trust ourselves to the doctor who administers the cure. Likewise, we submit ourselves to God, the Great Physician, as described in the Bible:

"...if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Unlike costly medicine, the cure God offers us is absolutely free. The Bible says, "...the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23b). That's the truth about Jesus!

We invite you to experience the power of resurrection life that Jesus promised. The Bible says that "as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Let the truth about Jesus give you a future and a hope. Talk to God right now with a simple prayer like this one:

Dear God,
Having discovered the truth about Jesus, I want to experience the miracle of new life that He came to give. I believe that Jesus is Lord, and that You raised Him from the dead. I confess my sin that has separated me from You and turn from it. Thank You for forgiving me, and for Your promise of eternal life in heaven with You when I die. I want to follow You in obedience through the guidance of Your Word.
Amen.

Taking the Next Step

We hope you enjoyed this FaithSearch Pocket Guide, and that it helped you to discover the truth about Jesus. We would love to hear from you if this material was helpful, or if you have any further questions. Don't hesitate to contact us at the address on the back.

If you have made a faith commitment to Jesus for the first time in your life, or if this booklet has helped you to renew your faith in Jesus, the Christ, then congratulations! We want to highlight two matters of great importance to your future spiritual confidence and fulfillment in life.

First, the Bible says very clearly, "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11,12, NIV). You have God's promise that your eternal life began the very instant you received His free gift by placing your faith and trust in Jesus. Turn to this promise often for assurance.

Second, Jesus also promised his followers abundant life here and now. Once again, you get that kind of life by application. The difference between a "so-so" existence and the abundant life Jesus promised is found in building your relationship with God through the study of His Word, the Bible.

"And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust Him, too, for each day's problems... See that you go on growing in the Lord, and becoming strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught" (Colossians 2:6,7, TLB).

FaithSearch has prepared a book called Growing Faith that will help you to understand the Bible and stimulate your spiritual growth. It is available from our office, and we are offering this valuable resource FREE OF CHARGE to anyone who calls or writes our office and has made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ for the first time as a result of this Pocket Guide. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you would like further information, we encourage you to contact us as well. We offer a number of publications and events that may help you find answers to life's most important questions.

For example, the book Surprised by Faith, by former skeptic and Ph.D. biologist Dr. Don Bierle, tells the story of his personal, life-changing discoveries about God, the Bible and personal fulfillment. The information in the book is also offered as FaithSearch, a live event and video or audio tape series.

See our Web site (www.faithsearch.org) for details, including a full description and schedule of events taking place near you.

We look forward to hearing from you, especially if we can be of any assistance in helping you further discover the truth about Jesus. We encourage you to freely acknowledge now what the Bible promises everyone will face at the end of time:

"…that at the name
of Jesus every
knee should bow…
and every tongue confess
that
Jesus [the] Christ
is Lord…"

—Philippians 2:10-11,

Reference materials used in this presentation:

Dr. Don Bierle, Surprised by Faith, (Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services), 2003;
Dr. James Allan Francis, The Real Jesus and Other Sermons, (Philadelphia: The Judson Press), 1926;
Gary R. Habermas, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson), 1984.

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