Who is Jesus Christ? Did He truly exist 2000 years ago, get crucified, and raise from the dead? Or are these stories simply mythology? If Jesus did exist, was He really who He claimed to be? These are some of the most important questions a person can ask. It's the bedrock of our faith and ultimately validates Christianity. Without knowing the answers to these questions, you will have a hard time ever being a serious Christian, or a Christian at all in my opinion. So then, let's dive in!
All historians agree that there was, for sure, a man named Jesus and He was, for sure, crucified by a Roman leader named Pontius Pilate. A Jewish historian and Roman citizen named Titus Flavius Josephus (37 AD – 100 AD) recorded this in his writings;
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship...”
- Flavius Josephus, translated from the 10th Century Arabic Text by historian Schlomo Pines in 1972.
Although there may be some slight controversy on the translation of this statement from its original written language, the main context of this historical event is translated well enough to make the main point very clear. There was a real man named Jesus, and He was most definitely crucified by Pontius Pilate. Josephus was not the only historian of the time to record events of Jesus, two other well-known historians named Tacitus and Pliny the Younger also wrote of Him.
“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, [Christ] from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome… Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty: then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
- Tacitus, Annals 15.44, cited in “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, p. 88
“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
- Pliny the Younger, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson
There are many external evidences outside the Bible to validate Jesus Christ's existence and death. Even evidence that proves Jesus started Christianity. So then, what does the actual Bible say? The Bible says in John;
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
- John 1:1 KJV
When someone reads this for the first time they may naturally think of “the Word” as being the Bible. And, of course, it is. However, that is not what this verse is referring to. We recognize this by reading further down to verse 14;
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,...”
- John 1:14 KJV
I want you to notice the word “made” in that last verse. The original Greek word used in this passage for the word “made” is “ginomai”. This word is used 31 times in the texts where the English word “become” or “becometh” is written. Insinuating that “the Word” was never created, but rather God “became” flesh. That fits the idea of John 1:1 perfectly since “the Word” is God Himself. If we wanted to summarize these last two verses together we might say; In the beginning was God and the Word, the Word was also God, the Word (God) then became flesh (a man) and dwelt among us. Got your attention yet? If you also skip to 1 John 5:7-8, that also supports “the Word” having divinity.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
- 1 John 5:7-8 KJV
This verse, combined with John 1:1 and 1:14, is actually telling us that Jesus Christ is God Himself inside a human body of flesh. Interestingly enough, it also supports the doctrine of the trinity in a monotheistic sense. However, it's worth noting that most modern Bible versions do not say this at all. All modern Bible versions actually omit part of verse 7 and then splits verse 8 to make up for it. No longer do we have the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost that “bear record in heaven”, but instead we now read,
“7. For there are three witness bearers: 8. The spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
- 1 John 5:7-8 NIV, NLT, ESV, CSB, NWT, NASB, NET
Another example of this is in Acts 20:28 where it’s written,
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he [God] hath purchased with his [God's] own blood.”
- Acts 20:28 KJV
Did you catch that? God purchased HIS church with HIS OWN blood! Who shed their blood to pay our debt and buy us back to Himself? If we are reading this correctly, it's saying that Jesus Christ is God and He died to purchase His own church. Be aware, the newer Bible versions again do another clever subtle word change to take any divinity away from Jesus Christ. (I will write a later article discussing translations. For now, I will say the KJV is best)
Jesus Christ also, indirectly yet very bluntly, claimed to be God in many passages of the Gospels. I believe there is a very good reason why He didn't just come out and say this directly. But, you have to consider the culture and the time period. The people listening would have understood Jesus’s statements different that we directly read them on the surface today. For instance, we read Jesus saying,
“I and my Father are one.”
- John 10:30 KJV
The High Priests to whom He was speaking with understood very well what Jesus meant here. They understood so well, they immediately picked up stones to KILL HIM. Many secular religions, like the Jehovah's Witnesses for instance, explain this statement by claiming the word “one” in the previous verse as meaning;
“Or ‘at unity’… The Greek word here rendered ‘one’ is, not in the masculine gender (denoting ‘one person’), but in the neuter gender (denoting ‘one thing’), supporting the thought that Jesus and his Father are ‘one’ in action and cooperation, not in person.”
- www.jw.org, Online NWT Bible notes
On the contrary, well respected Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament words says quite the opposite of this definition of the Greek word Heis (or "one" in English). Vine's states that;
“Heis – ('one' in English): the first cardinal numeral, masculine (feminine and neuter nominative forms are ‘mia’ and ‘hen’, respectively), is used to signify… ‘one’ in contrast to many, e.g., Romans 5:18”
- Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Vine's Dictionary is saying that the word "one", used in John 10:30, is not implying "unity" at all, but instead a number "in contrast to many". So Jesus Christ was saying that Himself and God were the SAME PERSON. Here is a look at Romans 5:18, referenced by the Vine’s Dictionary entry above.
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
- Romans 5:18 KJV
Just a few verses previous from Romans 5:18 we read a verse similar that uses the same Greek word “heis”.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
- Romans 5:12 KJV
When Paul was writing the book of Romans, he wrote the word “Heis” in these last passages and was not insinuating two people being in agreement with each other. Paul was writing specifically about Adam as a single person. This word “one” (heis) is used 272 times in 235 verses throughout the New Testament, all used in the same context. You do the math.
There is a very important question you should be asking yourself if you are still unsure. And that is, why would the High Priests pick up stones to kill Jesus if He only said He agrees with God in the verse John 10:30? Did not the High Priests also do their best to be in agreement with God as well? Was that not the whole point of the Jew’s faith, and specifically the positions of the "High Priests"? If Jesus Christ was only stating He was "in agreement with the Father", then this would have made Jesus and the High Priests pals. But, of course, it definitely did not!
When making a case for the identity of Jesus Christ, it is very good to know your Old Testament scriptures. If you do, you will easily catch how obvious Jesus says He Himself is God. If you are unfamiliar with the Old Testament, you may have a harder time catching it. Here are a few examples.
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
- John 8:58 KJV
When Jesus Christ said “I AM” to the High Priests, that would have been another extremely direct way of telling them He is God. The Jews had been living by the Old Testament laws of Moses for over 2400 years. They would have had the book of Exodus memorized word for word, especially where in chapter 3 verse 13 and 14 where it says,
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his [God's] name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he [God] said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
- Exodus 3:13-14 KJV
So the High Priests again knew EXACTLY what Jesus was implying; that He was God. And again picked up stones to kill Him. To the Jews this was blasphemy and punishable by death! Jesus Christ’s claims to be God was the main reason why the High Priest hated Him and crucified Him. If you don’t know what blasphemy is, it’s not just taking the Lord's name in vain or using it as a cuss word. I'm not so sure that was a problem in the time Jesus was still alive, that doesn't make sense to me. But there actually are different forms of blasphemy. I would think claiming to be God when you are not was probably the worst form of blasphemy. And if you look up the definition of blasphemy, it is indeed also defined as,
An interesting side story to note here... in the Gospel of John when Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by a band of men.
“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they [the band of men] went backward, and fell to the ground.”
- John 18:3-6 KJV
Notice the display of power! As soon as Jesus answered, saying His name “I AM he”, to the “band of men and officers” (which is guessed to be up to 1000 men!) all the men and officers were flung backward to the ground! Wow! This gives us new meaning to the words, "There is power in the name of our Lord!"
So let's reflect on a few things here and bring this in for a landing. If Jesus Christ had not claimed to be God, would He have been killed? Honestly, what was the reason for Jesus Christ’s death if He was not claiming deity? Do you think the High Priests misunderstood Jesus? Was Jesus Christ a liar? Either way, the religious leaders plotted together, arrested Jesus in the middle of the night, charged Him with blasphemy (claiming deity), and crucified Him for it. It seems to me the religious leaders viewed His blasphemy as pretty severe to warrant such a horrific punishment.
“Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.”
- Mark 14:63-64 KJV
It’s recorded in scripture that even Thomas, being a doubter, called Jesus Christ “My Lord and my God” after seeing the resurrected Jesus.
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God."
- John 20:28 KJV
God the Father is also found calling Jesus Christ “O, God” in Hebrews 1:8 as a direct connotation to Jesus’s divinity and His eternal reign in Heaven.
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”
- Hebrews 1:8 KJV
In Matthew we read,
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
- Matthew 1:23 KJV.
This last example is from the book of John.
“Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
- John 14:8-9 KJV.
Written by: Joshua Berry
Video: The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ikxb09pyZwM&list=WL&index=22
Book: The Case For Christ (Updated Movie Edition), by Lee Strobel
eBook: Lighting A Lamp For The Jehovah's Witnesses, by Joshua Berry - https://shop.drdino.com/collections/ebooks/products/lighting-a-path-for-the-jehovah-s-witness-by-josh-berry