Chapter Six: Why Trust Jesus When There Is So Much Disagreement about the Identity of the “Real Jesus”?
Mentioning Jesus in conversation causes quite a stir. Everyone feels the need to address the question of who Jesus is when His name is brought up. This is a result of Jesus living, as Josh McDowell states and Sterrett quotes, “one of the greatest lives ever lived.”1 However, this mutual interest in Jesus does not create agreement about His identity. Even among the writings about the life of Jesus there is not agreement. The Gnostic gospels, discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945, paint quite a different picture of Jesus than the biblical Gospels and so Sterrett details three basic reasons that scholars place the biblical Gospels on a higher level:
1. The biblical Gospels were written by Jesus’ disciples and close associates in the first century. The Gnostic gospels were written by second and third century Gnostic teachers.
2. The biblical Gospels were widely distributed (attested to by the fact that we have over 5,000 manuscripts of the Gospels and only a few of the Gnostic gospels) and determined authentic and authoritative by the early church leaders.
3. The Gnostic gospels are wacky! For example, The Gospel of Peter states that a huge talking cross came out of the tomb at the resurrection of Christ and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas details Christ causing sickness and even killings in order to heal and resurrect.
Even with the Gnostic gospels ruled out, how can we know the real Jesus is portrayed in the biblical Gospels? Sterrett provides three sources of evidence to bolster our confidence in knowing the true identity of Jesus:
1. From non-Christian writings we are able to conclude that: Jesus was a Jewish teacher; Many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; He was rejected by the Jewish leaders; Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; Despite a shameful death, his followers, believing he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by AD 64; All kinds of people from the cities and countryside worshipped Jesus as God by the beginning of the second century.2
2. The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Additionally, the New Testament writers were either apostles who were eyewitnesses or gatherers of information from apostles who were eyewitnesses. This understanding of being eyewitnesses comes out in their writing. For example:
- Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty”3
- Luke wrote, “God raise this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”4
- Paul declared that Jesus was seen after His resurrection by His disciples and “more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”5
3. Finally, we know who Jesus is by the prophecies He fulfilled. Sterrett writes:
God wanted us to trust in Jesus, His Son, so much that in one twenty-four-hour time period, at least two dozen specific prophecies were fulfilled in Him-all spoken at least four hundred years before his birth!6
Here are a few of those prophecies fulfilled in Jesus:
- The price of His betrayal will be thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15).
- His hands and feet will be pierced (Psalm 22:16; Luke 23:33).
- His heart will rupture (Psalm 22:14; John 19:34).
- He will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).7
Stand firm in Christ,Chase
Footnotes:1. Page 105.
2. Page 109 referencing Michael Wilkins and J.P. Moreland.
3. Page 111 referencing 2 Peter 1:16.
4. ibid referencing Acts 2:32.
5. ibid referencing 1 Corinthians 15:6.
6. Page 113.
7. Pages 113 and 114.