5-Part Series on Why One Must Be Catholic (Part 2b: Jesus Christ Walked the Earth and Is the Eternal Son of God)

In this second half of Article 2, we will look at a few Bible verses that unambiguously declare Jesus is God the Son.  We will also look at extrabiblical history to show that Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago.  At the end of the article, I will provide books and other resources for additional reading.

The Bible provides multiple passages that reveal Christ’s divinity, but this article will focus on only a few.  When Jesus was a baby, magi traveled to Bethlehem from the East and upon arriving at the holy family’s dwelling, the magi “fell down and worshipped [Jesus]” (Mt 2:11).  When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, Satan mocked and tempted Jesus with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” (Mt 4:3&6).  This would be like someone saying to Michael Jordan, “If you are the greatest basketball player, play with one hand tied behind your back.”  A person would use this kind of language only if they knew the statement were true.  In this case, Satan knew Jesus was/is the Son of God and used Jesus’ identity as a way to tempt him.  Jesus, in Mt 4:7 responded, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”  Therefore, Satan tried to tempt the Lord his God, Jesus.  In Mt 14:33, after Jesus walked on water and climbed into the Apostles’ boat, “… those in the boat worshipped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  After the Resurrection, the women who were at Jesus’ tomb “took hold of his feed and worshipped him” (Mt 28:14), and later, eleven of his Apostles “worshipped him” (Mt 28:17).  Out of all the times Scripture records Jesus being worshipped, he never stopped anyone from doing so. St. John records these famous lines, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).”  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (Jn 1:14).  Finally, in John 8:58, Jesus invokes the divine name, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (cf. Ex 3:14).  There are at least 40 more New Testament verses that explicitly or implicitly refer to Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God.  Now, let us look at some extra-biblical history from the first and second centuries, which records Jesus as a historical person. 

A Roman senator and historian, Publius Tacitus, wrote The Annals in A.D. 109 and The Histories sometime between A.D. 100 and A.D. 110.  Tacitus wrote, “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”  A few things should be noted here.  First, Tacitus takes for granted the fact that Jesus was a real person.  Second, he adds detail about “Christus” that confirms he is talking about Jesus the Christ: Christians were named after him, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, and the superstition broke out in Judea.  Third, Rome made the “superstition” popular.  This third point does not so much point to Jesus’ historicity as it does to the Roman Church’s rapid rise as the epicenter of Christianity during the first century.  Essentially, what began in Judea, speedily went to Rome, and from there was spread to the rest of the world.  The next article will discuss why the Catholic Church is the only bride of Christ.

Next, Titus Josephus, a Jewish soldier and historian, wrote the Antiquities of the Jews (ca. A.D. 94), in which he wrote, “About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly.  He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks.  He was the Christ.  When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”  Many historians believe this account contains too many Christian interpolations to be called fully authentic.  However, this is not to say the excerpt is not historical.  A tenth century rendering of this passage reads, “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous.  Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples.  Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.  But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.  They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.  Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders.  And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”  Regardless of which version is most accurate, Josephus affirms Jesus was a real person, was virtuous, had disciples, was crucified, died and some Jews reported that he appeared three days after his crucifixion.

Finally, the Babylonian Talmud, a combination of Jewish oral tradition written with commentaries, states, “On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged.  For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.  Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’  But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of the Passover” (A.D 70-200).  This passage attests to Jesus’ existence and crucifixion on the eve of the Passover.  It also identifies him as one who “practiced sorcery.”  To the unbelievers, Jesus’ miracles were considered sorcery.

There is much more that could be and has been said about Jesus’ existence.  For more on how hostile witnesses prove Jesus’ existence and Christian teachings, read Gary Michuta’s Hostile Witnesses: How the Historic Enemies of the Church Prove Christianity.  Additionally, an excellent logical argument for Jesus’ existence is “Lord, liar, lunatic, guru, myth?”  This argument can be found in part and in whole online, but it can also be found in the must read book by Dr. Peter Kreeft and Father Ronald Tacelli titled The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith.

Also, do not be fooled by those who dismiss the Bible as ahistorical.  The Bible is a historical book that contains historical accounts of things that actually happened.  If one dismisses the Bible, one should be consistent and dismiss all history before the invention of video recording devices.  Arguments for the Bible’s historicity are plentiful and can also be found online and in the aforementioned Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

The next article will prove Jesus founded the Catholic Church and gave it his authority and perpetuity.