Note: This article is loosly based on Josh McDowell’s book “More Than a Carpenter.” I highly recommend this short book if you want powerful evidence supporting what Jesus claims in the New Testament.
He claimed to be God
Did Buddha, Muhammad, or Confucius claim to be God? No.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62
When asked if Jesus ever existed, most will say yes but qualify the answer with something like, “I believe he was just a great moral teacher.” But why were the Jews (not the Romans, by-the-way) so determined to kill him? The Jews, assisted by the Romans, did eventually kill Him by crucifixion. So, why would the Jews want to kill a good moral teacher? It’s because of his claims of deity! Consider these additional verses:
“I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:30-33
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-17
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” Luke 22:70-71
Throughout the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus made such claims. So, not only was he a great teacher, he was a great teacher that claimed to be God. The Jews wanted to kill Jesus for his blasphemy (i.e. claims to be God) – not because of his teachings (other than claims of deity) or miracles.
Jesus is different because he claimed to be God. Is what he said true? Well, there are three possibilities (1) and you have to decide which one you believe.
- Jesus was lying and, therefore, Jesus was not really God
- Jesus thought he was telling the truth, but he was really a lunatic, and, therefore, Jesus was not really God
- Jesus was, and still is, God
There is a fourth possibility. Maybe Jesus never existed and everything written about him was a great hoax! Let’s see if the New Testament can stand up to some scrutiny.
Has the New Testament been accurately reproduced over time?
This may be shocking to the uninformed, but it turns out that the New Testament has more than eight times the number of “original language” manuscript copies as the second closest ancient manuscript rival, Homer, at 643 copies. Additionally, the time gap for the earliest New Testament copies is between 50 – 225 years depending on the copy. The second closest is Homer at 400 years. Click here for more detail.
Some external references to Jesus are documented in Chapter 6 of Josh McDowell’s “A Biblical Defense of His Deity”, a free publication available as a PDF.
It is clear that there are a substantial number of Greek and Latin manuscripts that can be cross checked to validate the accuracy of modern copies and translations of the New Testament. To dismiss modern copies of the New Testament as flawed and inaccurate is to also dismiss all other modern copies of ancient manuscripts.
The combination of the New Testament manuscripts and other external references to Jesus make it difficult to believe that Jesus never existed and His entire life is an elaborate fabrication. Furthermore, to state that Jesus never existed would also call into question the existence of many other ancient historical figures.
Can you believe what Jesus claimed?
That is ultimately up to you. However, it is worth examining how the apostles behaved after Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. Other than Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, all of Jesus’ disciples died defending the deity and teachings of Jesus including his physical resurrection. Most died by crucifixion, but others, by sword, arrows or spear. John was the only disciple that died a natural death. (1)
Why would 10 of the disciples suffer unnatural, horrible deaths for a lie? Haven’t many others throughout history died for a lie? Yes – but they didn’t know it was a lie – they thought they died for the truth. (1) When Jesus died on the cross, the disciples were initially discouraged and disappointed.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:9-12
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. Mark 16:14
It wasn’t until Jesus, over a period of 40 days after his resurrection, appeared to the “Eleven” numerous times, that their faith was (eventually) restored and believed everything Jesus had told them.
When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some were doubtful. Matthew 28:18
Even “Doubting” Thomas eventually believed:
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-29
Some of the disciples were initially doubtful about Jesus’ resurrection, however, with each additional encounter with Jesus over the 40 days, their doubt waned and their faith in his resurrection increased. Eventually, all eleven disciples began to boldly preach about Jesus.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33
The disciple’s behavior after Jesus’ death and resurrection, initial doubt and then bold belief after Jesus visited them numerous times then being killed defending Jesus, serve as powerful evidence that what Jesus claimed can indeed be believed.
Jesus was resurrected and is alive today
Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
His resurrection was also foretold as a prophecy of the Old Testament written 1000 years prior to the birth of Jesus.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. Psalm 16:9-10
Isaiah 53 also references several prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus related to this crucifixion and resurrection.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53: 11
The entire weight of Christianity rests on the belief that Jesus was resurrected. If this historical event did not actually happen, and was instead, a hoax, Christianity would certainly be the biggest lie ever told. However, many have unsuccessfully tried (including Josh McDowell) to prove this event didn’t happen and, again, I recommend Josh’s book “More Than a Carpenter” as a reference for more detail on this topic.
Suffice it to say that that what makes Jesus different is his resurrection from the dead and is living today at the right hand of the Mighty One.
His life fulfilled many ancient prophecies
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Jesus was indeed born of the virgin Mary.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2
Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
This is a prediction of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus fulfilled many old testament prophecies and these are carefully caltaloged by many websites. Here is one of the many:
- More Than A Carpenter, Josh McDowell, 1977