“Faith that gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see. It is for faith that men of old stand on record.”
Lines taken from Anglo-Saxon Poetry translated by S.A.J. Bradley, Chapter: ‘Exodus’.
There are various ways of verifying the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
First and foremost is the way of faith. Biblical accounts are a window into this world of faith and history. After some research into this subject I found that there is almost a universal scholarly consensus that the New Testament Gospels are historically accurate.
Alternative historical accounts notably by Tacitus, The Roman Jewish historian, Josephus, and Pliny are contested by some scholars who say, for example, the account of Jesus in The Antiquities of the Jews written by Josephus was added later by Christians. This is their claim.
Yet on closer examination we find that the essence of what is written is verified as authentic by experts in the field such as Geza Vermes who, as far as I am aware, spent years inspecting biblical texts and did not show any particular faith bias towards Christianity.
It is evident from these historical accounts that Josephus is more or less in agreement with what is written in the Gospel of Saint Matthew.
Jesus Christ was the Word made flesh and came to save souls from eternal damnation. In order to further this The Apostle Saint Peter (32 – 62 AD) was ordained by Jesus to establish His church as is made known in The Gospel of Matthew:
“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
After his martyrdom in Rome in 62 AD, Peter was followed by Pope Linus (67 -76 AD), Pope Clement 1 (88 -97 AD), and so on until the latest papal successors Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. In almost two thousand years there have been 266 popes and their lives have shaped the history of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is worth noting that like Saint Peter nearly all the popes of the early church were martyred for their faith.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred at the Colosseum in Rome in 108 AD, wrote epistles (letters) about his Christian faith – see book cover pictured above on Early Christian Writings – which was based on the experiences of Ignatius who knew Saint John the Apostle who, in turn, knew Jesus Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch provides, through his letters, a finely written and compelling witness of an early Christian faith.
Saint Luke is said to have been born at about the time of the crucifixion in 33 AD. Luke accompanied Saint Paul on many of his travels to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Saint Paul, a Jew previously known as Saul, persecuted Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It is likely that Saul had seen Jesus or knew Jews who had met Him. In any case, Saul’s Road to Damascus conversion needs no explanation for everyone knows that this experience of encountering The Risen Christ led to Saul becoming Saint Paul and his writing the most famous letters in history.
Historical evidence is established through scholarly examination of The New Testament. We know about an Apostolic papal succession from Saint Peter to the present day. We know that the early Church Fathers wrote about their faith and had contact with those who knew Jesus Christ. We also know that Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul who was especially convinced that Jesus Christ not only lived, but was crucified and rose again. In holy scripture Saint Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: And that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven. Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me. For whether I, or they, so we preach, and so you have believed.”
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