The world has just celebrated the biggest festival in the Christian calendar, Easter, but for many, it can still be a struggle to believe that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, lived, died, and rose again from the grave. But scholars say there is historical and contextual proof that Christ lived, died, and lived again.
"The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread," Dr. Gathercole wrote.
Lived and Died
Dr. Gathercole says that Christ is mentioned by many writers and historians, whether Christian or not.
According to Gathercole, scholars agree that the first Christian writings that mentioned Jesus, the letters of the apostle Paul, were written within 25 years of Jesus' death by crucifixion. The New Testament gospels, on the other hand, were written around 40 years after Christ Jesus' death.
All of these writings surfaced within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses, he noted, and included details accurately describing or reflecting the culture and lifestyle of first-century Palestine.
Gathercole also explained that aside from Christian writings, Christ is also mentioned in historical accounts coming from different authors.
First, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in writing a history of Judaism, made two references to Jesus including one that records Him as "the so-called Christ."
Two decades later, there were references to Jesus from two Roman politicians - Tacitus, who said Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was the Prefect over Judea - and Pliny, who while ruling as governor over Turkey noted that there were Christians who worshipped Christ as a god.
In addition, Gathercole noted that unlike today, people in the ancient world never questioned Jesus' existence.
Dr. Gathercole says that with all the historical evidence available to prove to all that Jesus indeed lived, the interesting question that should be asked is not whether He really lived and died; rather, it's whether He died and lived again. For this, a writer has an answer.
Died and Lived
Daniel Payne, a senior contributor for The Federalist and the man who runs the Trial of the Century blog, says there's enough proof within the sacred text, specifically in the book of Matthew, to prove that Jesus lived again.
Payne explained in an article that according to Matthew, the chief priests in Jesus' time allegedly asked Pontius Pilate to secure the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest "lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead.'" Pilate responds by giving them a Roman guard to secure the tomb according to their commands. This can be read towards the end of Matthew 27.
Later, when Jesus resurrects as per Matthew 28, the Roman guards – Matthew 28:11 says "some of the guard" – ran to the priests to tell them what happened. The priests responded by bribing them, then instructing them to give a false report that "is commonly reported among the Jews until this day" – that Christ's disciples came and stole His body while they slept.
Payne notes that it would be ridiculous to think that "a bunch of scared, cowardly goatherds and fishermen" who are "broken and despondent" at Jesus' death could come and roll the heavy stone slab while remaining unnoticed by the guard.
According to Payne, the priests' excuse is nonsense. It's like saying highly trained and heavily armed Marines fell asleep and remained asleep while unarmed rednecks broke in, busted open a very strong padlock, and opened a steel door that kept a dead body inside a walk-in cadaver cooler.
"Ponder the absurdity," Payne wrote. "Then ponder whether it makes any less sense 2,000 years ago than it does today."