“Jesus is a myth.” Some atheists have made this claim of “mythicism” on the internet. No historian or scholar holds the view that Jesus was a myth. However, many atheistic scholars are skeptical and see Jesus as a legendary figure meaning that Jesus was a real person but His followers exaggerated His life. Such academics seek to apply the critical-historical method to uncover the historical Jesus.
Christians can have full confidence in the historicity of Jesus’s life. By character judgment, many believe the Bible today because they find Jesus and His apostles as honest, genuine, and compelling teachers of God’s purpose for humankind (John 7:17). Furthermore, the proofs of the Christian faith stand strong on every front especially the historical evidence for Jesus’s resurrection.
The Christian stands and is saved by the gospel of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor 15:1–2). Historians affirm that the gospel of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 is the most ancient creed of the Christian faith. Paul received the gospel a few years after Jesus’s death, and he confirmed the gospel by Jesus’s apostle Peter, Jesus’s brother James, and eventually among all the apostles (Gal 1:11–2:10).
The legal-historical method of attesting to factual events by two or more witnesses affirms that various people experienced Jesus resurrected from the dead. The Gospels exist as eyewitness testimonies that confirm the predictions of ancient scripture describing the Messiah and His resurrection (Ps 16:10; 22; Isa 53:8–10). After Jesus ascended, Peter and later Paul preached these scriptures among the many proofs of Jesus’s resurrection for Jews and proselytes to believe (Acts 2:14–26; 13:26–41; cf. 1:3).
Critical scholars recognize the historicity of Paul and Jesus’s brothers including James as hostile converts to the Christian faith by experiencing appearances of Jesus having resurrected bodily. These hostile witnesses all became proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection (1 Cor 9:5; 15:5–11). Furthermore, hostile source material is embedded in the Bible that attests to Jesus predicting His resurrection on the third day and that guards sealed and protected the tomb that they found empty (Matt 28:11–15; cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31). Critical scholars see these accounts as mere experiences and revert to agnosticism in the face of these facts. Eerdmans Dictionary of Bible is a critical-historical source that records the skeptical perspective.
Jesus’s resurrection is the cornerstone and capstone of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul taught, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14 ESV). Jesus’s victory over death was by bodily resurrecting providing a way for His followers to resurrect bodily on the last day (John 6:40; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14). Jesus became the first fruits of the resurrection to come for the faithful (1 Cor 15:20–23). The application of Jesus’s resurrection makes the gospel even more compelling as Christians look forward to resurrecting in the flesh like Christ and putting on the immortal nature to enter the eternal kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50–53; 2 Cor 5:4; cf. Luke 24:39).
The church exists and began in the first century because various people experienced appearances of Jesus risen from the dead and they told the world. Now, Christ has passed that gospel through the apostles and generations of Christians to us. What will we do with it? Thank God that we stand and will live eternally by the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection.
[Originally posted at ThomasvillechurchofChrist.org/articles]