“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life … that which we have seen and heard we declare to you …”
— 1 John 1:1, 3
Do you know how much proof we have that Jesus really lived? If you put together both Biblical and secular sources, we have an enormous amount of information about Christ’s life. While today we have only one or two copies of ancient secular manuscripts, fifteen thousand Biblical manuscripts have survived. And down the years, Bible translators haven’t just copied the Bible from one modern language to another. Instead, they’ve consulted the original Greek and Hebrew sources. Because the stories of Christ’s life have been communicated in this way, we can trust their accuracy. Unlike the stories of mythical heroes, which grow more exaggerated with time, the number of miracles Jesus performed, as reported in the Gospels, diminished over time. The book of Mark, written first, describes twenty, and the books of Matthew and Luke, written later, describe twenty-two and twenty-one, respectively. But the book of John, written much later, describes only eight.
The two most important historians of the first century—the Jewish historian Josephus, and the Roman historian Tacitus—also confirm every basic fact of the Gospel narratives. As well, about twenty other early secular historians speak factually of Jesus. Some even wrote whole works against Him. The Jews wrote of Him in the second part of the Jewish Talmud, called the Gemara. Though they wrote this work to discredit Jesus, the Gemara gives an ancient confirmation of the basic facts of Christ’s life: His unusual birth to Mary, His ministry in Palestine, His miracles, the divisions He caused among the Israelites, His crucifixion on the day before Passover.
Modern skeptics, who have sought to prove Christ was just a myth, have been convinced by their own research that He not only lived but was the most extraordinary person who ever inhabited the earth. Jesus is the greatest fact of history. Today, thank God that we do not follow “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16); rather, we follow the Word made flesh so that we might have abundant life.