External Evidence Test
The third and final measure of a document’s reliability is the external evidence test, which asks, “Do historical records outside the New Testament confirm its reliability?” So, what did non-Christian historians say about Jesus Christ?
“Overall, at least seventeen non-Christian writings record more than fifty details concerning the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, plus details concerning the early church.” This is astounding, considering the lack of other history we possess from this time period. Jesus is mentioned by more sources than the conquests of Caesar during this same period. It is even more astounding since these confirmations of New Testament details date from 20 to 150 years after Christ, “quite early by the standards of ancient historiography.”
The reliability of the New Testament is further substantiated by over 36,000 extrabiblical Christian documents (quotes from church leaders of the first three centuries) dating as early as ten years after the last writing of the New Testament). If all the copies of the New Testament were lost, you could reproduce it from these other letters and documents with the exception of a few verses.
Boston University professor emeritus Howard Clark Kee concludes, “The result of the examination of the sources outside the New Testament that bear … on our knowledge of Jesus is to confirm his historical existence, his unusual powers, the devotion of his followers, the continued existence of the movement after his death … and the penetration of Christianity … in Rome itself by the later first century.”
The external evidence test thus builds on the evidence provided by other tests. In spite of the conjecture of a few radical skeptics, the New Testament portrait of the real Jesus Christ is virtually smudgeproof. Although there are a few dissenters such as the Jesus Seminar, the consensus of experts, regardless of their religious beliefs, confirms that the New Testament we read today faithfully represents both the words and events of Jesus’ life.
Clark Pinnock, professor of interpretations at McMaster Divinity College, summed it up well when he said, “There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies. … An honest [person] cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational basis.”
Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?
The greatest question of our time is “Who is the real Jesus Christ?” Was he just an exceptional man, or was he God in the flesh, as Paul, John, and his other disciples believed?
The eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ actually spoke and acted like they believed he physically rose from the dead after his crucifixion. If they were wrong then Christianity has been founded upon a lie. But if they were right, such a miracle would substantiate all Jesus said about God, himself, and us.
But must we take the resurrection of Jesus Christ by faith alone, or is there solid historical evidence? Several skeptics began investigations into the historical record to prove the resurrection account false. What did they discover?
Did Jesus Say What Happens After We Die?
If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then he must know what is on the other side. What did Jesus say about the meaning of life and our future? Are there many ways to God or did Jesus claim to be the only way? Read the startling answers in “Why Jesus?”
Can Jesus Bring Meaning To Life?
“Why Jesus?” looks at the question of whether or not Jesus is relevant today. Can Jesus answer the big questions of life: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” And, “Where am I going?” Dead cathedrals and crucifixes have led some to believe that he can’t, and that Jesus has left us to cope with a world out of control. But Jesus made claims about life and our purpose here on earth that need to be examined before we write him off as uncaring or impotent. This article examines the mystery of why Jesus came to earth.
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© 2012 JesusOnline Ministries. This article is a supplement to Y-Jesus magazine by Bright Media Foundation & B&L Publications: Larry Chapman, Chief Editor.