Jesus is No Myth

Dedicated to promoting the idea that the Biblical Jesus Christ was a historical character.

Who Am I?

“Who Do You Say I Am?”

 In the gospel of Matthew the Scripture says,  

Matthew 16:13 “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking his disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ 15 “And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; some Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ 15 “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

In The Antiquities Of The Jews, the historian Josephus wrote,

“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.” [1]

Who was this Jesus who asked his own disciples who they thought he was? Who was the Jesus that Josephus hesitated to call a mere man? Was Jesus just another prophet? Was he just another good man, a teacher, or rabbi as many are willing to call him?

Josephus was the Jewish historian who composed an exhaustive history of Israel, particularly dealing with the times of troubles that beset Israel while the Jews struggled under the domination of Rome. Josephus was not a Christian, he was a Pharisee, but he was also a historian. As a historian he could not ignore Jesus. He only devoted one paragraph not much considering the effect Jesus has had on his nation.

Jesus Christ cannot be ignored. He demands an explanation. He also demands an attitude. Every individual who hears of him develops an attitude toward him. Many of his critics assign him a place that is lower than deity; they say, “He is the Earth’s greatest man, its greatest teacher; its greatest philosopher; he has revealed God to us as no one else has.” But many will not go beyond an affirmation that he was a teacher. He is to them, like Josephus, a “good” or a “great” man, but no more.

Questions that bear on the issue:

Could clever Jewish writers have invented Jesus?

Is Jesus a work of fiction?

Reasons the answer to both questions is ‘no.’

     Evangelists                 Jesus      

narrow                         all encompassing

misunderstood               always understood      

impulsive                      deliberate     

worldly ambitious           rejected the world      

Kingdom: Israel              Kingdom: all hearts      

seats of honor               lowest position      

be served                     to serve       

fearful                          courageous       

slow of wit                    intelligent       

prejudiced                     loves all

Review - “Who do you say I AM”

1. At Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked His disciples two questions. What were the questions?

2. Does the historian Josephus refer to Jesus in his writings?

3. Were the Hebrews of Jesus’ time known for works of fiction?

4. The writers of the gospel were __________________ people, not ________________.

5. No dramatist can produce a character __________________ than __________________.

6. If Jesus never lived then the evangelists must have produced His _________________.

7. The evangelists were neither _________________ enough nor ________________ enough to invent Jesus.

Jesus: His Character

Jesus is not the ideal Jew of the time of Tiberius.

Jesus never confessed sin

He challenged his opponents to find sin in him. In the Gospel of John it is recorded that Jesus said,  

John 8:46 “...But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me?”

Jesus spoke these words in the temple to the Jews who opposed him. They said he had “...a demon” and they threw stones at him, but they did not convict him of sin. In the same chapter of John, Jesus says that “...I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” This he said while referring to  the Father, that is, God. And in this same context he says that he has unbroken communion with the Father. No man could make such a claim since Adam, and even Adam lost his close communion with God.   John 8:29

Christ’s self-conscious purity is astonishing because it is totally unlike the experience of any other believer in God. Every Christian knows that the nearer he approaches God, the more aware he becomes of his sin. However, with Christ this is not the case. Jesus lived more closely to God than anyone else and was free from all sense of sin.  

Also we are told of the temptations of Jesus (Luke 4), but never of his sins. We never hear of his confessing or asking forgiveness of his sins, although he tells his disciples to do so.

In a letter to his disciple Timothy, the Apostle Paul confessed that he was “...the chief of sinners.” ( 1 Tim. 1:15) In the Gospel of Luke, the writer quotes Peter as saying,  “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”(Luke 5:8)  The Apostle John said in his first letter that,

 1 John 1:8 “If  we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But of Jesus, John said, 5 “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” 1 John 1:8; 3:5. See also, 1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 5:8; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 3:5.   

How is this difference between Jesus and his disciples to be explained? Was his standard of right and wrong different from that of his disciples? Were his morals lower? What impression do we get of him from the record of his life?

In the first place, His standard of right and wrong was not different from his disciples. It was the same standard of morality, but his perspective upon it conflicted with the Jewish idea of right and wrong.

Matthew wrote that Jesus said,  

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”

The “Law” to which Jesus referred was the Law of Moses, the covenant which God had made with Israel through Moses when God brought them out of Egyptian bondage. That “Law” contained not only the ceremony and ritual associated with the worship and service of God, but also a code of conduct, the famous Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments have become synonymous with the Law of Moses. These commandments formed the basis of the moral code which the Israelites were expected to follow—along with the ritual and ceremony. Jesus knew this well, but He also knew that no Israelite had ever kept it, including Moses. What He intended to do was to keep it perfectly, in all its requirements, and to supply what the law lacked— “...to fulfill.”  

Jesus said in the same paragraph quoted above,  

Matthew 5:19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is instructive as to the respect with which Jesus regarded the Law of Moses. He emphasized the spirit of the law behind the commandments, and the effect upon the one who violates one of the commandments.  

Therefore, the standard of right and wrong that Jesus presented was not different from that of his disciples, it was the same law, but his perspective on it was vastly different.  

Was his standard of morality lower? Hardly. The moral character of Jesus as presented in the gospels is one that transcends that of his contemporaries both in extent and quality, while at the same time resting upon the same foundation of law.  

The tasks He set for Himself,

Review

1. Jesus was not _____________ other men of His _____________.

2. Jesus never _________________, He knows.

3. Jesus speaks _____________, not suggestion.

4. Pilate said, “I find no _______________ in Him.”

5. Jesus never confessed _____________.

6. Jesus’ standard of right and wrong was the ____________ as His disciples.

7. Among the tasks Jesus set for Himself was _________________ for the human race.

The Things Jesus Claimed

Jesus Claimed To Be A King

On the day the authorities in Jerusalem brought Jesus to trial before Pontius Pilate, the charge that the Jews pressed said that Jesus had declared himself to be a king. Their wish was that these charges would arouse the Romans to execute him, and so accomplish for them what they wanted done because of his threat to their “place” and their “nation.” John 11:48.   

Pilate asked Jesus,

Luke 23:1-3 “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus told Pilate,

John 18:37 “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

Yet, he would not compete with Caesar for the power that is in the world’s political system.

He said,  

Matthew 22:21 “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”   

Jesus believed that he was a king. Yet He would not compete with Caesar. Was He subordinate to Caesar, as was Herod? He also said to Pilate,  

John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews, but as it is My kingdom is not of this realm.”

It is clear from his conversation with Pilate on the day Jesus was brought before the Roman Governor for trial, that Jesus claimed to be king, and that Pilate understood that this was his claim. This is clearly seen in the inscription which Pilate commanded them to put on his cross. The inscription read in three languages: “The King of The Jews.”  

But what does it mean for a person to call himself the “King of the Jews” in the way Jesus meant it? The title has special meaning. The King of the Jews is the Anointed One, The Christ, the one known to the Jews of that time as the Messiah. Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, and many of his contemporaries found it difficult to believe.

He Claimed To Be The Son of God

Before he was brought to Pilate for condemnation under Roman Law, Jesus had already been tried by the Jewish Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme ruling council of Jewish elders, scribes and those learned in the Jewish law.  This Council presided over the Jewish people in the time of Jesus and earlier.

When he was on trial before the Great Sanhedrin, after the last witness against him had been found inconsistent according to their law, the High Priest, whose name was Caiaphas, pressed Jesus with an oath, and not a simple oath. Caiaphas applied to Jesus the most solemn form of oath that is known to the Hebrew constitution, the famous “Oath of the Testimony.”

Caiaphas said,

Matthew 26:63 “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  

Any Israelite to whom the oath is applied is bound to answer. Jesus could not under Jewish Law refuse. So he said,  

Luke 22:70 “Yes. I am.”   

Matthew 26:65  Caiaphas tore his robes, and said to the assembly, “He has blasphemed!”

For this claim, and the threat his coming represented to their “place and their nation,” the Jewish authorities decided to have Jesus put to death. This they could not do themselves because in the Roman provinces the power of life and death, the jus gladii, was reserved to the governor. [2]

Ask yourself this: would a mere man, an ordinary man, have made such a claim?

Jesus saw Himself as the Lamb—the sacrificial lamb

On one occasion the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons. She bowed down and made a request of Him.  

Matthew 20:21 “And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.’ 22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” 24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 “It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28.  

What did he mean that He would become a “ransom” for many? A ransom is something paid in order to release something from captivity. A ransom is the price paid an enemy for someone’s freedom. Did Jesus see other people as slaves? If He did then He also saw Himself as the one who would free them by giving his own life for theirs.  

Was this not a unique philosophy? What other leader has proposed to establish greatness by becoming a servant? What other leader has proposed to provide his greatest service by giving “His life a ransom for many?” If there have been others, they are certainly in the minority.

Matthew’s record shows that Jesus said another remarkable thing. It happened while Jesus and the disciples were eating the commemorative supper which they called the Passover Meal. Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He gave some of it to his disciples. Then He took a cup and gave thanks, and also gave it to His disciples, then He said,    

Matthew 26:27  “... Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus clearly believed that the offering of His life had special significance for man, and He interpreted events in His life as leading to His death.

He Claimed to Be Deity

On the first day of the week following his crucifixion and burial, many of Jesus’ disciples reported that they had seen him alive. The Scripture says that...  

John 20:25 “...the disciples were saying to Thomas, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ ”But Thomas said to them, ‘Unless I shall see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’”

Thomas would not allow his hopes to be dashed away again, he would have an infallible demonstration of proof or he would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. It was eight days later that the disciples has shut themselves inside their room again. In much the same way, Thomas had shut himself inside his own room of unbelief, and of doubt. But this time, when Jesus came to the disciples, Thomas was present.

The written record says that,  

John 20:27 “Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas. ‘Reach here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” 

 The effect on Thomas was immediate, and when he answered it was no longer Thomas the doubter who spoke, but Thomas the believer. This Apostle answered with a conviction deeper and stronger than any of the other Apostles; no higher assertion of the Divine nature has fallen from human lips. He said, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas saw clearly the deity of Jesus. Jesus did not deny the title.  

The Jewish authorities were under no delusion about the claims Jesus was making about himself. The Gospel of John records the following,  

John 5:17 “But He answered then, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ ”For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was calling God His own father, making Himself equal with God.”

Not only did Jesus make the claim that he was equal with God, but he went on to claim that he would exercise power greater than God had ever before exercised.   He said,

John 5:20 “...and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”  

One might easily understand why the unbelieving Jews sought to stone Jesus. He claimed equality with God. He also declared that to see him is to see the Father (See John 14:7-10).  

He claimed to be the Son of God (See Luke 22:70)

In the light of these claims, one must conclude that Jesus can only be one of two things: he is either a pretender, or he is what he claimed to be. There is no middle ground where he might still be called a “good man,” or just “another prophet.”

Julius Caesar became master of the Roman world in 46 BC. A year later he was made emperor for life. He adopted the ivory scepter and the throne, which were the traditional insignia of the ancient kings of Rome. Caesar went on to indulge his vanity in the corrupting influence of an emperor’s power. He took for himself the title of a god. Priests were appointed for his godhood. He had them carry his image in the midst of the other idols that marched in the idol-procession into the arena. The Romans also set up his statue in a temple, and on the image they carved this inscription: “To the unconquerable god!”

Our opinion of Julius Caesar, no matter how great, must be diminished some by his arrogance. He was not a god.  

Jesus Christ taught that only God should be worshiped. Jesus told Satan when Satan tempted him,  

Matthew 4:10 “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”

 Yet, on another occasion, when Jesus had healed a blind man—who had been blind from birth—Jesus asked him,  

John 9:35 “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

In another place, when Jesus met with his disciples after the resurrection, the disciples  

Matthew 28:9  “...came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped Him.”

When, finally, Thomas had his doubts swept away by the evidence of wounded flesh in his hand, he uttered the most profound confession any man can ever say. He said, “My Lord, and my God.” With that confession he drew an indelible line across the Gospel pages. The identity of Jesus in the mind of Thomas is no longer doubtful. Once the realization broke upon him, Thomas was a humbled man. Thomas saw the Jesus who had been crucified only a few days before—the wounds were there to prove that this person was that Jesus—and realized that this same Jesus had overcome death itself. Only God can overcome death.  

In the Gospel of Matthew the Scripture says,  

Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.

Peter declared the identity of Jesus. The Apostle said that this Jesus was none other than the Messiah who had been promised by God through the prophets, and whose coming had been remembered in the Scriptures. But Peter went further. He said that Jesus was more than a “mere man.” Jesus was God’s Son.

The Apostle John, in his Gospel and in his letters, says unequivocally that Jesus is the Logos who was existing with God when the world was created. He is the Logos who became flesh and dwelt among men. And the Apostles beheld his glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father. As the Apostle Paul wrote,  

Colossians 2:9 “...in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

Jesus, speaking to Peter after the Apostle’s confession, declares Peter’s identity. Then Jesus says that upon this foundation, that is to say, because it is true that he is Jesus Christ, The Son, none other than God come in the flesh, he will build his church he would assemble unto himself all the chosen from among the Jews and Gentiles, cleanse them of their sins and bring them to glory.

Review

1. Jesus claimed to be the ____________ of the _____________.

2. The Christ is the same as the _________________.

3. Jesus confessed to the Great Sanhedrin that He was the ____________ of __________.

4. Jesus claimed to be _______________.

Conclusion

The Scriptures portray Jesus as a man, but more than mere man. He is shown to be a special person. His coming is a special event. He is described as no less than Emanuel, God with us.  

Final Review Questions

1. What is the name of a secular historian who mentions Jesus?

2. Did Jesus consider himself to be a sinner?

3. Did Jesus observe the moral law? The Law of Moses?

4. Of what people did Jesus claim to be the king?

5. Did Jesus tell the Jewish authorities that he was the Son of God? If so, when?

6. Who did Peter say Jesus was?

7. What did Paul say dwelt in Jesus?

____________________________________________

[1] William Whiston, Josephus, Complete Works, p. 379. 

[2] W. R. Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 851.