IN the examination of truth, Ravi Zacharias says that the veracity of truth depends on three unavoidable principles: “logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential relevance”.
In our last message we addressed logical consistency. Our conclusion for logical consistency determined that If we believe in love and hope, then the notion of Jesus’ sacrifice for the salvation of humanity becomes plausible or even logical.
Today, we analyze ‘empirical adequacy’ and ‘experiential relevance’. Empirical adequacy means that a claim must have observable and evidential support. Experiential relevance means that people have engaged with it and have consistently testified of its existence. In the case of Jesus’ life, there were primary source witnesses who left behind the record of his time on earth. Therefore, the testimony of his disciples, the authentication by academics and religious text and scholars that followed, provide that empirical evidence and verified testimony of Christ’s life and that of his disciples.
Primary source: Jesus’ Disciples and friends
As in the two examples that follow, multiple people within Jesus’ close network related their experiences with him:
John – now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to [investigate] the tomb and saw two angels …They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” They have taken my Lord …she turned around and saw Jesus standing there … She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) (John 20: 11-14) – confirming Jesus death and resurrection.
Peter – for we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Pet. 1: 16). These were people in his inner circle.
Secondary source: Validating testimonies of Jesus’ contemporaries
Sometimes, authentication by a secondary source may be necessary; hence the relevance of accounts such as that of Luke or Paul. Remember, neither Luke nor Paul was an initial disciple of Jesus. And Paul, a character who persecuted the followers of Jesus had everything to gain by rejecting the story of Jesus. However, they both endorsed the life and ministry of Jesus (Mary Fairchild). Luke, a doctor and historian, is careful to document eyewitness accounts of Christ’s life and that of his followers. He establishes the beginning of Jesus’ story and dates it with the rule of Herod the Great who reigned in Judea when Jesus was born. He then chronicles the full life of Jesus and references it with major events of the era – the fall of the Jerusalem Temple (Luke 1: 4-25).
Luke also goes on to transcribe the biography of much of Paul’s life as a Christian. He is also careful to date Paul’s experience with critical junctures in history – the rising of Theudas and Judas the Gallian in the days of the census (Acts 5). He uses those events to preface the recording of Paul’s supernatural encounter with Jesus which affirmed Jesus’ resurrection from death and his divinity (Acts 9&22). Those were two men who initially had no prior attachment to Jesus. What is more interesting is that secular scholars throughout history have also confirmed those accounts (Stewart H. Perowne).
Other religions have also chronicled and validated Jesus:
The Islamic Koran: “Behold! the angels said, Oh Mary! God gives you glad tidings (a son) of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus, …And God will teach him …the Law and the Gospel” (Koran 3:45-48). “Therefore, fear God and obey me (Jesus)” (Koran 43:63-65). While Islam disputes the death of Jesus, they confirm his existence and the account of the New Testament – being born miraculously of Mary.
The Jewish account: Even though the Jews did not Believe that Jesus was Messiah, they confirmed his existence and recorded his proclamation of being Messiah:
Yeshu (Jesus) proclaimed, “I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel …David my ancestor prophesied concerning me.”
He (Jesus) started out toward Jerusalem … acquired an ass on which he rode into Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah… On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu (Jesus), … came to Jerusalem riding upon an ass. Many bowed down before him (Talmud).
The academic community: many theological and historical scholars agree that Jesus did exist and that he was born sometime in the decade before the Common Era and crucified sometime between 26-36 CE (the years of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate in Judea)(Myjewishlearning.com).
Historians, Jewish scholars, and others confirm his social justice work and his death as a result. In essence, they vouch for his Character as a person. It stands to reason therefore that if credible people or sources validated his character and existence, we ought to value his words as well.
Here are some of the statements he made:
• I come that you may have life more abundantly (John 10:10)
• I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the father but by me (John 14:6).
• God gave his only son that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life (John 3:16)
• God sent his son into the world to save it (John 3:17).
• I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again to take you with me (John 14:3)
The most valuable statement to the existence and ministry of Jesus is the testimony told by today’s Christians. All truly converted Christians have a story to tell about the miraculous saving grace of Christ. Just ask them.