At Christmas 1960, Radio Moscow broadcast the following boast of the Soviet Union’s scientific advances:
“Our rocket has by-passed the moon. It is nearing the sun, and we have not discovered God. We have turned lights out in heaven that no man will be able to put on again. We are breaking the yoke of the Gospel, the opium of the masses. Let us go forth, and Christ shall be relegated to mythology.” (Reader’s Digest, January 1962, Page 13)
Contrary to the desires of many throughout the ages, Jesus Christ has not been “relegated to mythology.”
Besides the accounts of His earthly life in the New Testament, there is historical evidence of His life and work that makes it impossible to write Him off as a figment of the imagination or a cunningly devised fable. A short review of the non-biblical record of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection and influence is in order:
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who witnessed the Roman army’s destruction of Judea and Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He was not a disciple of Jesus, but he accepted His reality and left an objective summary of His life:
“At that time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he may be called a man; for he performed many wonderful works. … And when Pilate, at the instigation of the chief man among us, had condemned him to the cross, they who before had conceived an affection for him did not cease to adhere to him. For on the third day he appeared to them alive again, the divine prophets having foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the sect of the Christians, so called from him, subsists at this time.” (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, Sect. 1)
Carius Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman historian of the first century A.D. and no friend of the Christian faith. Tacitus nevertheless accepted the historic reality of “Christus, who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator [governor] Pontius Pilate.”
Justin Martyr, a post-apostolic writer, referred to Jesus’ birth as a matter of public record:
“Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registries of the taxing under Cyrenius your first procurator in Judaea.”
The civil records of Jesus were probably still extant in the fourth century, when Emperor Julian the Apostate reportedly referred to Him as “one of Caesar’s subjects,” and one known for “mighty power to heal lame and blind people, and exorcise demoniacs.”
“For yourselves allow, that he was enrolled with his father and mother in the time of Cyrenius,” Julian wrote.
These are but a few of the historical references to Jesus.
The burden upon each of us is to determine if He is Who He said He is: the Son of God.
Since the broadcast cited above, there are still those who want to “turn lights out in heaven” and usher in a new dark age. No surprise — men love darkness, because their deeds are evil.
A longer version of this column appeared in the Dec. 20-26, 2004, edition of