Belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection were historical facts, necessary for our new life
The 20th Century has seen an unparalleled interest in the truth claims of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Numerous academics, skeptics and religious challengers have been attempting to subvert the historical validity of the New Testament. The most recent scholarship has not only further confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament texts, but it has also uncovered additional documentation to support the existence of Jesus Christ in the first century.
Mark Allen Powell, in his book “Jesus as a Figure in History“, provides a great summary of the standard criteria used in religious studies research to comment on authenticity. Powell provides six criteria. They are:
- Multiple Attestation – are the same ideas found in multiple sources?
- Dissimilarity – an idea is more likely to be authentic if it is different from the typical perspectives of the period in question. In this case, perspectives that differed from typical Judaic thought would be considered more likely to come from Jesus.
- Memorable Form – memorable phrases, stories or sayings would be more likely to be authentic. It is assumed that stories pertaining to Jesus were first transmitted in oral form, it is more likely that proverbs, beatitudes and stories in memorable forms would be more likely to be accurately remembered, shared and passed on.
- Language and Environment – Does the language and environment fit the historical period in question? If so, this supports the authenticity of the claim.
- Explanation – Does the story or quote in question further support the claims made about the person, place or thing in question.
- Coherence – Does the story under scrutiny fit with the rest of the factual information known about the topic at hand? If so, this lends additional credence to the argument in question.
There is plenty of writing out there to support all six of these categories. There are multiple sources that point to the validity of the Jesus of history, both before and after his resurrection. There are numerous sources that date back to the same century as Christ’s life. And, these sources come from numerous different perspectives. This multiple attestation shows the abundance of early documentation in support of the claim that Jesus is the Messiah. The criteria of dissimilarity fits, as Jesus’ message definitely went against the grain of the Jewish leaders of the day. We need look no further than the Sermon on the Mount to see the criteria of memorable form at play. The language, environment and explanations for the stories of Jesus all seem to fit together quite well. And, there is a coherence to the stories of Jesus that suggests a valid historical foundation as well.
Obviously, one cannot be absolutely certain of anything, regardless of the proof provided. In today’s day and age with all of the technical wizardry available, we cannot even be certain that what we see in the news is even true. But, based on the documentation available and the adherence to the six criteria listed above, we have a very strong upon which to lay our belief in the historical facts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Next, we’ll tackle the concept of “commitment to prayer, discipleship, and faithful service to wider humanity“.
Until then, I urge you to read further on this interesting topic. There is a great deal of research pertaining to the historical Jesus.