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In a debate about the historicity of Jesus, what/whom can I reference to show that Jesus was an historical figure? It seems the “Jesus as a Myth” crowd is still with us.

Note: (1) I already am familiar with Josephus, Pliny and Tacitus so I am hoping for more sources that support the historical Jesus. (2) I am a believer but I want to be able to defend my faith more vigorously.

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I think the wikipedia article Sources for the historicity of Jesus is an excellent starting point to show that Jesus did exist.

Secondly, Christian apologists need to show the historicity of the crucifixion itself which although less assured is historically very plausible.

Thirdly, the historicity of the resurrection needs to be demonstrated. Again, the offered Christian evidence is historically very plausible, although less assured than the crucifixion. Numerous apologetic books have continually being written to address the latest objections, the most recent scholarly samples can be found here.

Fourthly, the Christian needs to demonstrate how one's theory of atonement and the nature of Jesus as the second person of the Trinity possessing 2 natures (100% God and 100% Man since birth) are supported by:

  • the early church
  • sources of doctrines: sola scriptura, scripture + tradition, etc.
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    Very good input … thank you.
    – tale852150
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 20:23
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In answer to your questions, it is not so much getting extra quotes from secular writers in the first century who mention Jesus. Rather, the focus should be on the New Testament's reliability as historical documents written by eyewitnesses or close eyewitnesses of Jesus.

One idea I have is to take skeptical arguments one by one and post them as questions here. You can then use this site as a reference for providing a fair platform for reading about and analyzing objections to the Christian faith.

The risk is that some here will tend to vote your skeptical questions down because they don’t like anything posted that challenges their faith. But that goes with the territory.

Also, read up on evidential apologetics by the likes of C.S. Lewis, John W. Montgomery and websites like the Christian Think Tank.

The first order question is whether the New Testament Gospel documents were composed by eyewitnesses or close associates of the eyewitnesses of Jesus. That is a question that relies upon internal and external evidence.

The genre question of whether the Gospel writers wrote fictional accounts is a secondary question. It is also based upon internal and external evidence of the N.T. documents and how they were received as historical genre in the early church. The reading of secular authors, like Lucian & Thucydides on the writing of history can be helpful. For example, Thucydides writes about his method of composing history pretty much like what Luke does with Acts:

Either I was present myself at the events which I described or else I heard of them from eyewitnesses whose reports I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible. Not that even so the truth was easy to discover: different eyewitnesses give different accounts of the same events, speaking out of partiality for one side or the other or else from imperfect memories. (History of the Peloponnesian War 1.1).

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What Supports the Historicity of Jesus? There are several approaches to verifying the historicity of Jesus. Notice:

1. Historians There is, first of all, the Jewish General Flavius Josephus, who wrote several histories of the Jews. Some of his paragraphs are controversial, but some are definitely related to the history of events related to John the Baptist, who introduced Jesus to humanity.

Besides the renown Jewish historian, there are the secular historians which you mentioned, Pliny the Younger (correspondence with Trajan), and Tacitus (Annals, 15:44).

Suetonius, Lives of the 12 Caesars, cannot be dismissed (Claudius, cf. Acts 18:2; Nero). Without the existence of Jesus, these historical references would not make sense.

2. Other ancient References There is the writings of the Stoic philosopher, Mara Bar Sarapion. And there is the reference in the Jewish Talmud which would be meaningless without the existence of Jesus (Sanhedrin, 43a). There is also the correspondence of Abgar of Parthia and Tiberius the Emperor. Add to these the reference of Phlegon of Tralles in his histories, Africanus Chronography, 18:1.

3. Critics Indirect references are given by the early Christian Apologist to the writings of Celsus, a critic of Christianity. If there were no historical Christ, Celsus would not have endeavored to attack Christianity.

Note that we also have the speeches of the Christian apologists who had to defend their Faith in front of the Emperors, such as Justin Martyr. Their faith was in a real Resurrected Person for whom they were willing to die!

4. The Church Noteworthy in proving the historicity of Jesus is the existence of the Churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire in the first century. A Church institution without a "Founder" is most unlikely...most unreasonable...to any thoughtful researcher! Buddhism without Buddha? Islam without Mohammed? Christianity without Christ? Hardly!

Bascilicas dot the ancient Mediterranean landscape as evidence of a movement founded on the existence of a Risen Savior named Jesus. Even the underground carved out churches surrounded by the disciples's homes in Cappadocia are evidence of the movement started by One, Jesus of Nazareth.

And the enduring, persecuted Church worldwide throughout the centuries screams out, "Jesus Lived" and still lives. This is reinforced by their Testimonies of interaction with Christ in their lives! Supernatural deeds and events happening in His Name! Testimonies that cannot be explained by natural law, nor by coincidence, nor by psycho-sematic causes. No logical reasoning would attribute the Church's existence (Christianity) to a non-person.

5. Archaeology The Gospel accounts of Jesus are verified by the discoveries of the science of Archaeology. Named villages, customs, the Temple, the feasts, coins, pools, roads, coffin of the high priest, synagogues, rulers, Roman paraphernalia, laws, Jewish ritual...all the things that surrounded the life and times of Jesus are in evidence...which we would expect if a historical Jesus revealed in the Gospels really existed!

The Historicity of Jesus is not doubted by honest intellectuals and credentialed historians (who write volumes, such as H.G. Wells, Neander, Mortimer Adler, Edersheim, et al.). They all consider the evidence to be overwhelmingly in favor of the existence of a Person who has affected the life of planet Earth in a magnificent, enduring way.

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