Christians find Jesus compellingly sincere and beyond the invention of humanity’s imagination. Because of that sincerity, most Christians believe. The Gospel of John records that the Jesus declared, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority,” (John 7:17). The Scriptures record of sincere men and woman who witnessed Jesus. These witnesses admitted initial doubt, skepticism, and unbelief in whom they thought Jesus was a mere man, but they came to believe that He was God in the flesh who bodily rose from the dead. Historians cannot overlook primary sources of extraordinary phenomenon.
Summary of Historical Sources
Ancient references to Jesus include early Christian writers, who were witnesses, friends, and disciples of the apostles of Christ. Such men include Clement of Rome, Mathetes, Polycarp, and Ignatius who wrote in the middle to the late first century and early second century. As strata in history, these Christian writers are witnesses of the original witnesses who wrote the New Testament Scriptures. Upon these witnesses, there were also the associates of the first generation of Christians who followed the apostles. These Christians include Justin, Melito, Hippolytus, and Irenaeus who wrote in the middle to late second century. In the third century, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian wrote. There is a strata of primary witnesses of the preceding generations affirming the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and the first communities of the Christian faith. By God’s providence in history, layer upon layer of Christian witnesses are laid upon the apostolic testimony confirming the historical testimonies of Jesus (Eph 2:20–22; 3:3–5).
Layers of Sources
Even the early opponents of Christianity recognized the reality of Jesus’s life while although questioning some of the claims of the apostolic writers. This is history when the opponents are known by name including Celsus, Trypho, Lucian of Samosata, Porphyry of Tyre, Hierocles of the Bithynian Proconsul, Julian the Apostate, and Peregrinus Proteus.
These witnesses are all real people. There is no scheme that can invent so many layers of early writers of Christianity. No contemporary of Jesus’s time doubted that Jesus lived and died. The New Testament Scriptures are left for a sincere cross-examination and testing of the apparent motives of the apostolic writers. Those, who seek purpose in their life, the Source of moral virtue, and the Creator of all of nature’s beauty and order, do not have to look far for the most compelling Teacher to have walked the earth. Christians find the eyewitnesses of Jesus to be true in character and honest in integrity. Christians believe Jesus is the Christ of whom they follow.
Faith and Sources
The Christian faith is a phenomenon that started with Jesus and early converts. The earliest converts were hostile, unbelievers, and doubters who experienced the extraordinary of appearances of Jesus resurrected from the dead. These experiences changed the first converts to spread the Christian faith throughout the world and that faith changed others.
The New Testament Scriptures are a collection of those sources — the earliest and first layer. Today, followers of Jesus are astounded by the life, love, and miraculous works of Jesus, and Christians believe in Christ by the ancient witnesses of Jesus’s first followers — His apostles. By the definition of apostle meaning “sent out,” Jesus’s apostles took His message to the world giving their honest accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From then unto today, Jesus’s followers believe in the apostles and prophets, and therefore, they conclude that Jesus is infallible upon their testimonies. These are also the faithful who oversaw the collection of Christian Scriptures in the middle to late first century (1 John 1:1–4; 2 Pet 1:16–21; 3:15–16).