The Real Jesus Lesson 1: Historical Background

The first lesson from the Bible Study "The Real Jesus" is in the books.  We studied last night some historical background of Jesus in order to put the rest of the studies in context.  In case you missed it, the summary is here:

1. The real Jesus was born according to prophecy (Luke 1:30-38; Isaiah 9)

There are multiple prophecies that point to Christ’s birth.  Why is this important?  Because the prophecies also point to His divinity!  When the angel is prophesying to Mary in Luke 1:30-38, he is not talking about a mere baby but the Son of God coming into the world.  Isaiah 9 also speaks of the divinity.  Mere men don’t live forever as the prophecy states the Son of David would.  It points to the God-Man union that existed in Jesus.  He was 100% God and 100% man at the same time.  Read Philippians 2:1-10 for more on this.

 2. The real Jesus is NOT white nor black but Jewish (Luke 2:1-7)

Jesus was born in BETHLEHEM.  Not Africa and not Europe.  Luke’s gospel has been verified as a historical, eye-witness account and therefore can be trusted.  Luke writes with great detail for a reason.  Just as a history book contains details, Luke included details such that his words could be verified by anyone who read them.  Jesus was Jewish.  The prophecies were written about Him in the Jewish Old Testament and the concept of the coming Messiah was a Jewish concept.

3. The real Jesus is NOT accurately depicted in the imagery used by the church (Matthew 2:13-15; Revelation 1:15; Daniel 10:6)

                 Cesare Borgia                                        Forensically Reconstructed Jesus

                 Cesare Borgia                                        Forensically Reconstructed Jesus

The image on the left is Michelangelo’s depiction of Jesus.  It is stylized after his Pope Alexander VI's son, Cesare Borgia who is pictured to the far left wearing the hat.  This is not what Jesus looked like. He was not beautiful, nor was He white.  Isaiah 53 states specifically that he was not stately and was not one to be looked upon.  Reading Matthew 2:13-15 we realize something startling.  If Jesus looked like the picture on the left, how in the world could he have hidden in Egypt which is an African country?  He would have been found immediately!  A study was undertaken to determine what Jesus actually looked like.  Forensic archeologists reconstructed a model of Jesus by using a skull from the region that Jesus lived in (Judea, Galilee, Jerusalem) (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35120965).  The results were astonishing!  The image on the right is far more accurate but because it does not promote an agenda, it is not very often discussed.  He looks like a Jew from the Middle East and not a white man from Europe.  Other biblical accounts discuss his skin tone etc.  See scriptures above.  We should note here that the image on the left has been quite divisive and many African-Americans are turned off by it, believing it to be a tool of white supremacy.

4. Jesus did not spout from an Egyptian myth (see Yamamuchi, Edwin; Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History, Christianity Today, March 15th 1974; March 29th 1974)

Many documentaries have sought to discredit Christianity by saying that the resurrection of Jesus is simply a borrowed concept from Egypttian mythology.  This has been roundly debunked.  The closest parallels to a “god” rising from the dead are as follows:

a) In 150 A.D., a theory began floating around insinuating that Christianity borrowed from Egypt.  This theory surfaced 117 years after the origin of Christianity!  How could Christianity have borrowed if the Egypt theory came after Christianity?

b) The legend of Osiris, who was cut into 14 pieces, scattered around Egypt, reassembled and brought back to life by Isis is also compared to the resurrection.  There is a huge difference.  Osiris does not come to earth but wanders in the underworld (Giesler, N., “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”, pp. 312) whereas Jesus showed Himself to many after His resurrection (See 1 Cor 15, Acts 1, John 20-21, Luke 24).  Jesus came back to earth, not the underworld and there were eyewitnesses to His resurrection.

5. Jesus is a real, historical figure who is attested to from multiple biblical and extra-biblical sources.  See the following sources for verification.

Historian Colin Hamer gives 84 examples of the historicity of Luke (locations, dates, people, details) all archaeologically confirmed.  See Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990.  Non-Christian historian Josephus attests to the historicity of Jesus (Flavius Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63) and even stated that his movement did not die out long after he was crucified and ascended.  It should be noted that 3 of the 4 gospels are eyewitness accounts and pass muster when scrutinized as historical documents: John Mark was Peter’s scribe, Matthew was a disciple and eyewitness, John, the beloved disciple, was also an eyewitness with a particular agenda of salvation (see John 20:31)

 For more extrabiblical evidence, see:

vThe Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

vEvidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

vIs the New Testament Reliable? by Craig Blomberg

See you next week!!