Brian G. Chilton: 7 Historical Aspects of Jesus’ Life That We Can Know Are Certain

When I had struggled with my faith, it was not in the area of science. I believed that science and faith can coexist, and I still do. The God who gave the special revelation of the Bible is also the same God who created the heavens and the earth from no materially existent thing.

My struggles were in the area of history. In 1997, I came across a book by a group called the Jesus Seminar (composed of individuals such as John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, and Marcus Borg) which claimed that the majority of the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels could not be historically verified. I later came to find that the Jesus Seminar had no evidence to support their claims, just their own presuppositions.

However, as I began studying the areas of history, philosophy, and theology, I came to realize that the core details of Jesus of Nazareth’s life can be known with great certainty. One of my professors at Liberty, Gary Habermas, developed what he calls the minimal facts approach. This approach lists out six areas of Jesus’ life that are universally accepted by all historians. He also adds a seventh which holds strong support, albeit less than the other six. So, what are these seven historical aspects of Jesus’ life that can be held with great certainty? They are as follows.

  1. Jesus died on a Roman cross. It is universally accepted that Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion. Even agnostic leaning atheist New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman states that “The crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans is one of the most secure facts we have about his life.” The Romans were efficient killers. They would ensure that the individuals whom they were instructed to kill died. Otherwise, their lives would have been taken in the victim’s place.
  2. The disciples had experiences that led them to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. It may surprise you to discover that nearly all historians accept that the disciples had experiences that led them to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Nearly all scholars agree that something happened on the first Easter Sunday. But what happened is where they differ.
  3. The disciples were transformed by their experiences to the point that they were willing to die for what they knew to be true. People die for what is false all the time. Many individuals have fallen in war for nations that did not have noble causes. However, it is far different when the person dies for something they know to be true or false. The early disciples were willing to lay their lives on the line, and the lives of those they loved, for what they knew to be true or false. They literally believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brian G. Chilton