In previous blog posts, I sought to prove that Jesus Christ had a radical belief about who he was and also that He died on the cross and rose from the dead. The reason it’s important to establish these two claims as historical facts is because if these two things are true, then Christianity is true. If Jesus claimed to be God and then died and rose from the dead, then the entire Christian worldview is true and any religion, philosophy, or worldview that contradicts Christianity must be false.
The significance of establishing those two facts (1) that Jesus claimed to be God and (2) rose from the dead is this; if Jesus said that he was God but he wasn’t, then he was either a lying heretic or else he was crazy. If that were the case, there’s no way God The Father would resurrect Jesus from the dead knowing that that would vindicate his blasphemous claims and lead many people astray. God would never raise a heretic and a blasphemer. But if God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God implicitly put his stamp of approval on everything Jesus said and did. If Jesus rose from the dead, then that means God The Father agreed with Jesus’ claims for which his enemies killed him as a blasphemer. If God The Father raised Jesus from the dead then that means He agrees with Jesus’ claims to be divine.
If that’s the case, then whatever Jesus teaches carries a lot of weight. Well, what did Jesus teach? He taught (1) that the Old Testament was the divinely inspired Word of God. He believed and taught that every word in The Old Testament was true. (2) He also seemed to believe that Adam and Eve were historical individuals, that (3) the flood story in Genesis 6-9 actually happened, that (4) angels and demons do really exist, and (5) that if you place your faith in him, you will have eternal life but that if you don’t place your faith in Him, you’ll end up in Hell (John 3:16-18, John 8:24).
So if Jesus rose from the dead after allegedly blaspheming the One who raised him, we can believe all of these things as well simply because Jesus believed them.
Now, I’ve made a lot of “Ifs” in the above paragraphs. I haven’t actually proven that Jesus did have a divine self understanding or rose from the dead. Again, if you want to read about the historical evidence for these things, check out the “The Self Understanding Of Jesus”, “The MinimalFacts Case For Jesus’ Resurrection PART 1” and “The Minimal Facts Case ForJesus’ Resurrection PART 2”.
But how do we know Jesus believed the 5 things I mentioned above? We know them because of the standard principles of authenticity which historians use when examining documents.
(1) Jesus Believed That Old Testament was the divinely inspired Word of God. Jesus believed The Old Testament was true. That’s why he quoted it during his temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4:1-13). He believed that the Old Testament had power over the devils of Hell. In one of Jesus’ temptations, he quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 which says “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (see Matthew 4:4). Jesus believed that the Old Testament proceeded from the mouth of God (c.f 1 Timothy 3:16). When the Sadducees questioned him about a man who had 7 wives who all died and asked whose wife will belong to the man at the resurrection (see Matthew 22;23-28), Jesus responded “You are in error because you do not know the scriptures…” (Matthew 22:29). According to Jesus, the Sadducees were in error because they were ignorant of what The Old Testament taught concerning the afterlife.
But how do we know that this instance of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness really happened? Can we establish it through any of the standard criteria of authenticity? Yes. Jesus’ temptations in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 are most likely historical on the basis of the principle of multiple attestation. For not only do Matthew and Luke record it, but the writer of Hebrews also says that Jesus was tempted. Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” So we have 2 independent sources which attest that Jesus was tempted by Satan. We have 3 if Matthew and Luke are independent sources, but the vast majority of scholars believe Luke used Matthew as a source. But since it’s mentioned in at least 2 independent sources, it is therefore multiply attested and therefore likely to be true. It’s unlikely that both Matthew and the writer of Hebrews would both independently make up the same thing.
In Matthew 21:12-17, we read of Jesus going into the Jerusalem temple, turning over the tables and chasing people with whips. Jesus then quotes Isaiah 56:7 which says “My house shall be called a house of prayer” but then says that the people there made it “into a den of thieves”. Later in the passage, he quotes Psalm 8:2. This instance is likely to be true for two reasons. Number 1; it’s multiply attested. It’s not only recorded in the gospel of Matthew but also in the gospel of John. Matthew and John are independent sources, and therefore, it’s multiply attested. It’s unlikely both Matthew and John would make this up independent of one another. Number 2; it’s not very flattering towards Jesus because it makes him appear to have anger issues. And he’s not just angry, but he goes so far as to turn over tables, and chase after people with whips! Why would the gospel authors depict Jesus in such a bad light?
This is significant because in Matthew 21:12-17, Jesus appeals to two Old Testament documents, indicating that he believes that they have authority.
So by the historical principles of authenticity, we’ve established that Jesus believed the Old Testament was true.
(2) He also seemed to believe that Adam and Eve were historical individuals, and that (3) the flood story in Genesis 6-9 actually happened.
Jesus seemed to imply that Adam and Eve were real people when he taught about marriage and his second coming.
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ ‘Why then,” they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’” – Matthew 19:1-9
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:37-39
While its true that Jesus could use a fictional story to make his point, why would Jesus say “As it was in the days of Noah…” if the Genesis flood story were mythological or merely an allegory? What would you think if I said “As it was in the days of Santa Claus, so will it be when I get a job delivering mail”? People don’t usually preface a fictional story with “As it was in the days of…”. If the story of Noah’s Ark were an allegory (as many theistic evolutionists propose) then we would expect Jesus to say something like “As it was in the story of Noah…” or something like that. “In the days of…” seems to imply these things happened in history.
If Jesus is God, then certainly He would be in a position to know whether or not Genesis chapters 1 through 11 really happened or not.
But how do we know that the historical Jesus really said what I cited above (apart from presupposing biblical inspiration)? The passage quoted from Matthew 24 is very likely a historical saying of Jesus. This is based on the principle of dissimilarity. Jesus claimed to be the Son Of Man 88 times in the gospels, but Jesus is hardly ever called the Son Of Man outside the gospels. The Church Fathers refer to Jesus frequentlty as “God”, “Son Of God”, “Jesus”, “Christ”, and “Jesus Christ”, but never “Son Of Man”. Even in the New Testament epistles, Jesus is rarely called Son Of Man. If Jesus’ claim to be the son of man were an invention of the early church retroactively inserted into the mouth of Jesus, we’d expect the early church to refer to Jesus by that title far more often than we do. Therefore, it’s likely the self ascribed title “Son Of Man” really was used by the historical Jesus. This also means that any instance in which he uses the title is also historical (like the instance cited above).
(4) Angels and demons do really exist.
Jesus definitely believed in the existence of angels and demons. In fact, he spent a lot of time casting them out of people. When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, after having endured a few temptations, he said “Get away from me Satan…” (Matthew 4:10) He believed that he was being tempted to sin by a fallen angel, and he commanded that fallen angel to get away from Him.
Even non-Christian historians are now beginning to admit that being an exorcist was part of the historical Jesus’ ministry. And in my blog post “Was It God Who Raised Jesus From The Dead”, I show how the criteria of authenticity show that the specific instance of Jesus being accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub’s power by the pharisees really was a historical instance. So I won’t rehash that here.
(5) That if you place your faith in him, you will have eternal life but that if you don’t place your faith in Him, you’ll end up in Hell
"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 10:32-33
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Everyone who believes in him will not perish but whoever does not believe in him is condemned already because he has not believed in God’s only son.” – John 3:16-18
We know Jesus taught this because it’s multiply attested. While the specific saying of Jesus in both of these instances are not multiply attested, nevertheless two different sayings where Jesus expresses the same principle certainly is. Matthew and John are independent sources and therefore it’s multiply attested. Both of these gospels contain statements of Jesus expressing that only belief in Him will grant you eternal life and that unbelief in him will result in condemnation.
Jesus’ resurrection is very significant. If Jesus claimed to be God, and then he died and rose from the dead, then that means that He was telling the truth (i.e He really is God). God The Father would never raise a heretic and a blasphemer, knowing that by raising him he would be vindicating Jesus’ claims to be divine, and thus would lead many people astray. So if Jesus rose from the dead, then anything Jesus teaches carries a lot of weight, doesn’t it? Jesus taught that The Old Testament was the word of God, that it had authority. Jesus taught that Adam and Eve were real people, that the story of Noah’s Ark is actual history, that angels and demons do exist, and that only by believing in Him, will you go to Heaven.
We don’t have very much direct evidence for these things. There’s not a lot of evidence for the Genesis flood, or angels and demons, or of the existence of Heaven and Hell. But I believe in them anyway. Why? Because Jesus believed in them, and He rose from the dead! I feel intellectually justified in believing these things because Jesus’ ministry was vindicated by his resurrection.
But it also means that God exists. After all, if Jesus truly rose from the dead, then it had to be a miracle. It defies the laws of nature for a dead man to come back to life after being dead for 3 days.
In syllogistic form, my reasoning goes like this:
1: If Jesus rose from the dead, then a miracle has occurred.
2: If a miracle has occurred, then there must exist a miracle working God in order to perform the miracle.
3: Jesus rose from the dead.
4: Therefore, a miracle has occurred.
5: Therefore, God exist.
Put succinctly, if Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true.
Now, I haven’t actually proven (in this particular blog post) that Jesus did have a divine self understanding and rose from the dead. But if you want to read about the historical evidence for these things, check out the “The Self Understanding Of Jesus”, and “The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus’ Resurrection PART 1” and “The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus’ Resurrection PART 2”. So if you want to hear my arguments for the truth of the resurrection, go check out those posts.