Description: Biblical testimony to Jesus' life and manuscript evidences
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Bible Evidence for Jesus’ Life and Divinity
by Ernest O’Neill
Have we ever had a visitation from outer space, by some being that could tell us why the world has been
created? Well, do you know of any? Have we ever had a visitor from outer space that has been able to tell us
whether there is a Creator or not?
Have we ever had a human being that seemed to be able to leave the earth when he chose and return when he
chose, and to assure us that, actually, there was a Supreme Being out there, and there was a reason that He
had in mind for creating the world?
Well, I don’t know what your answer to those questions is, but most of us, of course, connected up with space
fiction would say, “Oh, forget it! There never has been such a creature, and there never will be!” But
actually, there has, of course.
The only way we have of finding out what is the meaning of life, and why we are alive, is if such a being does
exist, if there is such a person as an intellectual, Supreme Being who created this world of design and order
in which we find ourselves.
Our only hope for finding out the reason for our own lives, and the only hope you have of finding out why
you’re alive, is if somehow this Supreme Being tells us. Unless He does that, we’re going to go on in this
life of futility and frustration, living and dying, and not knowing why we’re here.
What we’ve been saying, of course, is that there is such a person, a remarkable Being that lived in the first
century of our era. We’ve been so used to misusing his name, of course, in swearing, that we have tended to
regard him just as a myth or a fairy tale, but he’s far from that! In fact, the book that talks about him, we
have set it down as just a religious book of tradition. It isn’t at all. It’s some of the best history that we
have in our possession — especially the last quarter of it, that contains the part known as the New
Testament. That is some of the most reliable history that we have at our disposal.
It tells us in detail about the invasion from outer space of this remarkable being called Jesus. It talks
about him in detail, and gives us such historical evidence for his existence, that it is easier for us to
challenge the existence of Julius Caesar or Homer, to challenge even the existence of Hitler, than to
challenge the existence of this man — so reliable is the evidence that we have for Hhis historicity.
That’s what we’ve been discussing, really. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that caused me great
skepticism about this book called the Bible was that I felt that it was a book in a vacuum. It seemed to exist
on its own. I mean, you seem to have ordinary history books, and when I studied Latin and studied Greek, you
seem to have Latin historians and Greek historians.
But, somehow, outside in a different realm, in a world of its own, was the Bible. So I came to regard the
Bible not as a history book at all, not as something that could be corroborated or reinforced or
substantiated or examined intellectually, but as a kind of religious book that you either accepted by faith
or you didn’t. So, of course, I didn’t.
It was an amazing revelation to me when I discovered from
reading some of the old Latin historians, that in fact, they did write about the same things as the Bible
wrote about. That suddenly made me aware that what I read about in the New Testament was not just religion. It
was actually history.
There is a Latin historian that is known by all of us who studied the classics, called Tacitus. He really was
the leading historian of Imperial Rome. Here’s what he wrote in one of his history books, “The author of that
name Christian was Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius suffered punishment under his procurator, Pontius
I was astounded! Here was Tacitus, whom our Latin professor was teaching us to regard as one of the reliable
historians, talking about this man Jesus of Nazareth, that I had for so long regarded just as a mythological
figure that existed in the imaginary stories that were created in the Bible.
Suddenly I realized it wasn’t so. In fact, these real, live (at one time) Latin historians were making
reference to the same Jesus that people like Peter and John were talking about in the manuscripts that made up
the New Testament. In fact, it’s not only Tacitus who wrote about him, but another man, who should have had
plenty of reason for not writing about him, wrote about him.
There was a great Jewish historian called Josephus. Of course, being Jewish, he had no interest in believing
that Jesus was the Messiah or that he was anybody important at all. Yet Josephus wrote right outside the Bible
and apart from it altogether in his history books. He wrote this: “There was about this time Jesus, a wise
man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as
received the truth with pleasure.”
“He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the
suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved him at the first
did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day.”
I couldn’t believe it. But that actually occurs in a book that is known as “The Antiquities”, written by
Josephus. He referred clearly in it to Jesus, and told of his life, and his miracles, and his resurrection,
and actually called him the Christ.
So, as you begin to look at the events in the first century, and look outside the Bible itself, you discover
that many other reliable historians referred to those events, besides the reliable eye-witnesses that wrote
the New Testament itself.
The public nature of the record, and the objective corroboration of the facts recorded by Paul and Peter and
the others, is evidenced probably most plainly in the statement of Tertullian, the jurist consulate, who was
familiar with the Roman archives. He was really in charge of the Roman history books.
And he wrote this: “Tiberius, accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world,
having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s
divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The Senate, because
it had not given the approval itself, rejected this proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening death
against all the accusers of the Christians.”
So, it’s incredible to find that a man as respected as Tertullian, who was in charge of the Roman history
books, recorded how Tiberius himself examined the evidence for the divinity of Jesus, and agreed with that
evidence, and actually, as a result, threatened death against anybody who accused the Christians.
So, it is interesting if you’re a classical scholar at all, to begin to examine the Roman history books that
record the events of the first century. You’ll find there that there is a great deal of corroborating
evidence that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, actually lived in the first century, and did and said the things
that the eye-witness writers of the New Testament record that he said and did.
In other words, we’re dealing with actual, reliable history when we talk about this amazing Being who came to
earth from outer space.