Who is Jesus? God or Fraud?
Who is Jesus? What happened in the first century? These are the questions we must answer. We must look at the available data and the explanations that are provided to explain the data. What are the facts of history? These are the facts that we must work with these are accepted by most liberal scholars and all conservative ones. The documents recording these facts have proven very reliable.
- A good, wise man walked on this earth 2000 years ago and claimed to be God.
- This man was crucified and laid in a tomb.
- Shortly after the tomb was reported to be empty.
- Reports that the resurrected Christ had appeared to over 500 people began to circulate.
- Jesus followers were radically transformed from dim-witted cowards in to courageous revolutionaries who turned the world upside down, and to a man were willing to die for their convictions.
- Within a few years of Jesus death, in the very area where Jesus lived and died, thousands of Jews have abandoned long held traditions and were worshiping the man that they saw crucified as the resurrected Christ and God in the flesh.
This is the data that we have to explain. It does not take a belief in the supernatural to accept these facts. You don’t have to believe in the divine, infallible inspiration of the gospels to believe these facts. All you need is to take an honest look at the historical evidence and the historical documents that report these facts, and subject them to the same criteria you would subject and other historical evidence.
Who is Jesus?
Because He claimed to be God, He removed himself the category of normal human and simply a great moral teacher. This claim leaves us with only four options.
1. He knew this claim was false, thus making him a liar and a devil.
2. He didn’t know this claim was false making him a crazed lunatic with a severe case of divinity complex.
3. He never claimed to be God, this was simply inserted into the text.
4. He was who He said He was, God in the flesh.
Is Jesus Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord, these are our only options.
- Wrong psychological profile. He was passionate about truth, selfless and compassionate.
- He had no motive. Liars lie for selfish gain like wealth, pleasure, or power, Jesus gave up all of these things. Jesus died for this claim.
- He had no hope of convincing the Jews that this lie was true, Jews were strict monotheists. Wrong place to try and pull this off!
- Wrong Profile. People who have a divinity complex are egotistical, narcissists, boring and predictable. Jesus was none of these things!
- We feel superior to lunatics. People only felt three things towards Jesus, Hatred, Terror, or Adoration.
- There is no way a lunatic could have had such a powerful effect on the world!
- Jesus followers were very careful to distinguish Christ’s words from their own. The early church faced several controversial issues such as speaking in tongues, woman teaching in the church, and circumcision. These issues are no where addressed by Jesus. If the early church had been willing to tamper with the words of Jesus this would have been the prime opportunity.
- The gospels were written to close to the time that Jesus lived. If would have been nearly impossible to get away with false claims about Christ because there would have been to many eye witnesses to refute the false claims.
- Jesus actions show that he viewed himself as divine. The forgiving of all sins, the acceptance of worship, assuming the divine prerogative of giving a new command. He saw himself as the Jewish God. He said I and the Father are one. He called himself “I AM”.’
- That Jesus claimed to be God is the only valid explanation for why he was killed.
He was not crucified for being a good teacher.
5. There was wide spread belief that Jesus was God in just a few years after He died.
- Jesus backed up his claim by fulfilling OT prophesies. Esp. Is 53 which we have conclusive proof was written before Christ was born.
- He lived a sinless life, even challenging people to convict him of sin. No other prophet can legitimately make this claim.
- Jesus offered the proof of the resurrection. He predicted it and backed it up.
- Look at the impact he made.. One solitary life.
If you deny the deity of Christ, you have to provide a more reasonable explanation of the fact that a good and wise man claimed to be God. This has only happed once in recorded history. God becoming man is possible. If it happened, what would you expect to find, and has anything like that happened?
What happened in the first century?
The available and agreed upon facts of history are as follows: the tomb was empty, there are recorded appearances, and the disciples were transformed and in turn founded the church in an extremely hostile environment. This data presents us with three basic options.
– One, the Resurrection story is false and Jesus disciples were deceived
– Two the resurrection story is false and the disciples were the deceivers.
– Three Jesus actually rose from the dead and Christianity is true.
Which option is the most reasonable to believe?
Were Jesus disciples deceived?
1 The Romans knew how to kill a person and how to make sure their victim was dead. Bungling an execution could cost you your life.
2. Jesus had a spear thrust through his heart. This would have killed him.
3. He was embalmed by friends. If there was any spark of life his friends would have noticed.
4. A barely alive mangled corpse that somehow survived the time in the tomb, escaped the guards, and appeared to his disciples who where in hiding, this pathetic survivor would not have inspired his disciples to hail him as the conqueror of life and death.
The fact that Jesus died is one of the most well attested facts of history!
1. Hallucinations only manifest what you already know. They come from inside you. Jesus disciples were not expecting it, it doesn’t explain the appearances to James, His brother who was a skeptic, or Paul who was try to squash the myth of Christ’s resurrection. Or Thomas, who doubted. Hallucinations do not change your mind, they only confirm what you already want. Plus, in three of the appearances Jesus was not immediately recognized.
2. Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once, a hallucination on this scale would be unprecedented, a real miracle.
3. If the appearances were mere visions, those who wanted to squach this budding religion would have simply gone to the tomb and produced the body of Jesus.
4. Jesus manifested a corporeal body that could eat and be touched.
1. The Jews and Romans would have found the right tomb and produced the body.
2. It was the appearances, not merely an empty tomb that transformed the disciples.
3. An empty tomb would not have persuaded Thomas, James, or Paul.
1. Jesus body exhibited supernatural qualities, an ability to go through walls and asend into heaven.
2. If the appearances were simply a human imposter, Paul would have killed him rather then devote the rest of his life to him.
3. James would have known the difference!
Were the Disciples the Deceivers?
Did the disciples steal the body and fabricate a resurrection story?
- The disciples had no motive to concoct such a lie. Conspiracies are done for the purpose of earthly gain. All the disciples gained was torture, persecution, boiling in hot oil, scourging, and finally martyrdom, hardly perks! People will die for a lie, but not for what they know to be a lie, especially if telling the truth will save their life.
- None of the 11 disciples cracked and admitted fraud. As Pascal pointed out the human heart is fickle, but especially the heart of a liar.
- This theory doesn’t account for the radical transformation the disciples.
- It doesn’t account for the transformation of James and Paul.
- Millions of people have been transformed for the better, becoming selfless and more virtuous, it is ridiculous to think that this transformation happened because of a dubious deception.
Jesus rose from the dead!
- Jesus can be experienced to day, and millions testify of his transforming power. This alone does not prove that he rose as this transforming power could be explained other ways. But if Jesus did really rise from the dead, this is what you would expect to find, and it is exactly what you find!
- The evidence has convinced skeptic after skeptic. Several have undertaken to prove it wrong, but the more they uncovered, the more compelling the evidence became.
- Jesus transformed five social institutions.
- Animal Sacrifice.
- Keeping the ceremonial law.
- Keeping the Sabbath.
- Strict monotheism.
- Belief in a conquering Messiah.
These were the beliefs that the Jews were willing to die for, the pagans couldn’t beat these ideas out of them, yet suddenly within a few years of the resurrection, thousands of Jews have abandoned these beliefs and were following Jesus.
- James died for the belief that his brother was God.
- Jesus’ followers began celebrating his death!
Look at the first century, we have a small group of disheartened, grieving, uneducated men; from this rag tag group of men came the Church. The church grew like wild fire, it toppled the Roman Empire. Today, one-third of the world’s population claims to follow Christ. What caused this? What can account for such mysteries? I would like to suggest that only the physical, historical resurrection of Christ can adequately explain these phenomenons. Any other theory takes too much blind faith to accept. Many skeptics have postulated many other hypothesis but they all break down do to lack of evidence or an inability to explain the evidence. You can suggest anything you want, but an honest historian will always demand evidence.
What would you expect to see if God became a man?
– The God-man would be sinless, since sin is violating God’s moral standard.
-He would have power over the forces of nature.
-He would have the ability to perform miracles
-He would have profound insight into life.
-He would have a life-changing effect on people.
-He would have power over death.
-He would have a lasting impact on history.
Jesus fulfilled every one of those things. Jesus, a simple peasant, who never wrote a book, never traveled 200 miles from home, never amassed an army, never held a political position, and died owning only the cloak on his back. Yet this man has had more influence on the world than any King, writer, or invention. What can account for this if the resurrection did not happen? What can account for this unless Jesus is the God of this universe?