WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

Historical Evidence of Jesus' Life.

Program 39

by Ernest O'Neill

Have we ever had a visitation from outer space, by some being that could tell us why the world has been created? Well, do you know of any? Have we ever had a visitor from outer space that has been able to tell us whether there is a Creator or not?

Have we ever had a human being that seemed to be able to leave the earth when he chose and return when he chose, and to assure us that, actually, there was a Supreme Being out there, and there was a reason that He had in mind for creating the world?

Well, I don't know what your answer to those questions is, but most of us , of course, connected up with space fiction would say, "Oh, forget it! There never has been such a creature, and there never will be!" But actually, there has, of course.

The only way we have of finding out what is the meaning of life, and why we are alive, is if such a being does exist, if there is such a person as an intellectual, Supreme Being, who created this world of design and order in which we find ourselves. Our only hope for finding out the reason for our own lives, and the only hope you have of finding out why you're alive, is if somehow this Supreme Being tells us. Unless He does that, we're going to go on in this life of futility and frustration, living and dying, and not knowing why we're here.

What we've been saying, of course, is that there is such a person, a remarkable Being that lived in the first century of our era. We've been so used to misusing His name, of course, in swearing, that we have tended to regard Him just as a myth or a fairy tale, but He's far from that!

In fact, the book that talks about Him, we have set it down as just a religious book of tradition. It isn't at all. It's some of the best history that we have in our possession...especially the last quarter of it, that contains the part known as the New Testament. That is some of the most reliable history that we have at our disposal.

It tells us in detail about the invasion from outer space of this remarkable being called Jesus. It talks about Him in detail, and gives us such historical evidence for His existence, that it is easier for us to challenge the existence of Julius Caesar or Homer, to challenge even the existence of Hitler, than to challenge the existence of this man.

So, reliable is the evidence that we have for His historicity. That's what we've been discussing,really. I don't know about you, but one of the things that caused me great skepticism about this book called the BIBLE was that I felt that it was a book in a vacuum. It seemed to exist on its own. I mean, you seem to have ordinary history books, and when I studied Latin and studied Greek, you seem to have Latin historians and Greek historians.

But, somehow, outside in a different realm, in a world of its own, was the BIBLE. So I came to regard the BIBLE not as a history book at all, not as something that could be corroborated or reinforced or substantiated or examined intellectually, but as a kind of religious book that you either accepted by faith or you didn't. So, of course, I didn't.

It was an amazing revelation to me when I discovered when I read some of the old Latin historians, that in fact, they did write about the same things as the BIBLE wrote about. That suddenly made me aware that what I read about in the New Testament was not just religion. It was actually history.

There is a Latin historian that is known by all of us who studied the classics called Tacitus. He really was the leading historian of Imperial Rome. Here's what he wrote in one of his history books, "The author of that name Christian was Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius suffered punishment under his procurator, Pontius Pilate."

I was astounded! Here was Tacitus, whom our Latin professor was teaching us to regard as one of the reliable historians, talking about this man Jesus of Nazareth, that I had for so long regarded just as a mythological figure that existed in the imaginary stories that were created in the BIBLE.

Suddenly I realized it wasn't so. In fact, these real, live (at one time) Latin historians were making reference to the same Jesus that people like Peter and John were talking about in the manuscripts that made up the New Testament.

In fact, it's not only Tacitus that who wrote about Him, but another man, who should have had plenty of reason for not writing about Him, wrote about Him.

There was a great Jewish historian called Josephus. Of course, being Jewish, he had no interest in believing that Jesus was the Messiah or that He was anybody important at all. Yet Josephus wrote right outside the BIBLE and apart from it altogether in his history books. He wrote this: "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 received the truth with pleasure."

"He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him, for He appeared to them alive again the third day." I couldn't believe it. But that actually occurs in a book that is known as the Antiquities, written by Josephus. He referred clearly in it to Jesus, and told of His life, and His miracles, and His resurrection, and actually called Him the Christ.

So, as you begin to look at the events in the first century, and look outside The Bible itself, you discover that many other reliable historians referred to those events, besides the reliable eye-witnesses that wrote the New Testament itself.

The public nature of the record, and the objective corroboration of the facts recorded by Paul and Peter and the others, is evidenced probably most plainly in the statement of Tertullian, the jurist consulate, who was familiar with the Roman archives. He was really in charge of the Roman history books. And He wrote this: "Tiberius, accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected this proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening death against all the accusers of the Christians."

So, it's incredible to find that a man as respected as Tertullian, who was in charge of the Roman history books, recorded how Tiberius himself examined the evidence for the divinity of Jesus, and agreed with that evidence, and actually, as a result, threatened death against anybody who accused the Christians

So, it is interesting if you're a classical scholar at all, to begin to examine the Roman history books that record the events of the first century. You'll find there that there is a great deal of corroborating evidence, that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, actually lived in the first century, and did and said the things that the eye-witness writers of the New Testament record that He said and did.

In other words, we're dealing with actual, reliable history when we talk about this amazing Being who came to earth from outer space.

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