2000 plus years ago a child was born. He was poorer than poor. He became the most well-known person in the world. The most misunderstood as well. His name was Jesus and He was not just a historical person, He is to billions of people in the world today, the Savior and Son of God.
While there are those who would still argue that Jesus was a mythical character made up at least 100 years after His supposed death and resurrection, most agree that Christ was an actual person. Highly educated scholars have proven that the earliest Biblical writings on the life of Christ date from as early as mid to late 1st century, during the lifetime of His followers. There are also plenty of non-Biblical written sources such as: Thallos, an author from antiquity who wrote about Jesus as early as approximately 55 AD; Pliny the Younger (61-112 AD), a powerful Roman lawyer, senator and intellectual; Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Roman lawyer and friend of Pliny the Younger; Tacitus who is generally accepted as the greatest Roman historian; Mara Bar Serapion a Jewish king in 1st century Jerusalem; Lucian of Samosata (115—200 AD) a Greek satirist and speaker; and Josephus (37—100 AD), a Jewish writer alive during Jesus’ lifetime.
In fact, there is more written evidence of Jesus, Biblical or otherwise, that has survived from antiquity than there is for other historical figures, figures who have never been questioned as actually having existed: Plato who wrote his works from 427-347 BC. Only two copies of any manuscripts, copies that date to 900 AD (1,200 years later), even exist today; Julius Caesar who lived from 100-44 BC but whose existence doesn’t show in any historical manuscript until 900 AD (meaning any “proof” of his existence doesn’t show up until 1,000 years after his death); and Homer, who is credited with writing the Iliad in ca 900 BC (the earliest manuscript copy of the Iliad dates to 400 BC, 500 years after his death).
Even if we accept the idea that Christ was never a real person, which I don’t, it doesn’t lessen the impact of His message on the world since the first century AD. His message established and brought down kingdoms, sent men and women to discover places that were far away and established a truth that resonates with billions of people worldwide.
This child born of poorer than dirt poor parents, who was born in a stable, fled to avoid a massacre (the slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod), and who grew up to be a carpenter and itinerant preacher in a Roman backwater, brought forth a message that has spread farther than any other. His words have been used and misused, construed and misconstrued, for purposes good and bad, twisted to make issues that were not even on the radar of a man of the 1st century. Parse it down, people and you get this truth:
His truth – God loves all people and saves us from whatever sin we commit through the voluntary death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ – is the simplest and most amazing gift ever given.
So when you hear the Scripture accounts of Christ’s birth, from the visitation of Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1: 26-38), to Joseph’s acceptance of his role in God’s plan (Matthew 1:18-24), to the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20), know that an amazing truth has been visited on our world. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Alleluia, Alleluia He is born!
Merry Christmas everyone. May the peace of Christ’s birth bring peace in our world and in our lives, today and always.
Image: Jewish Historian Josephus; Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ becomingjewishorg/4605741107/