A HISTORICAL QUESTION
ANY question relating to Jesus of Nazareth is a historical subject and must be studied according to the canons of historical criticism and the laws of evidence. Just as microbes and germs are studied through the microscope and the heavens are explored by the spectroscope and telescope, all questions concerning Jesus of Nazareth must fundamentally be studied from the standpoint of genuine evidence and by historical methods. But recently an outstanding theologian of international reputation denied this plainly evident truth in a panel discussion of Biblical questions on a national radio hook-up. When one of the speakers mentioned the deity of Jesus Christ, this theologian immediately said that the deity of Jesus Christ was not a historical question and that it must, therefore, be examined in some other way. This distinguished scholar was absolutely wrong in his assertion. Every question relating to Jesus of Nazareth, of whom one reads in the Scriptures, harks back to Him as He was when He was here nineteen hundred years ago and must be studied in the light of all Scripturethe Old Testament which foretells His Advent, the New Testament which records His life and laborsand also in the light of all extra-Biblical evidence available.
Jesus of Nazareth, not only lived some nineteen hundred years ago, but also, after His death, arose from the grave and is living today. As we shall see, He is the living Christ, who from His position of glory and power is overruling all things and is directing the course of human history toward a definite goal. Just as the skipper guides his ship toward the port for which he is sailing, Jesus of Nazareth is directing the course of human history toward that dispensation of the fulness of the times when God will head up all things in Him (Eph. 1:10,11).
After studying the prophecies regarding the earthly career of Messiah, we shall examine the historical facts regarding His entrance into the world and His life and labors during the short span of His earthly sojourn. These facts can be learned only by the method of historical investigation and the laws of evidence.
The deity of Jesus Christ is a historical question, notwithstanding the unsupported assertion of this noted theologian, to whom I have just referred, because what is known of Him historically is based upon reliable evidencethe testimony of competent, credible witnesses. Why are millions of people convinced that He was God in human formthe God-man? They are convinced that He was deity because the Prophet Isaiah in the latter half of the eighth century B.C.E. spoke of the miraculous conception and the virgin birth of a child who would be recognized as Immanuel, which means God with us (Isa. 7:14); because Matthew and Luke, credible and competent witnesses, testified that Jesus was miraculously conceived and virgin-born (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke, chapters 1 and 2); because He performed many supernatural signs and wonders, recorded of Him in the New Testament; because He spoke as never man spoke (John 7:46); because He arose from the dead and thereby proved Himself to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:1-7); and because He ascended after His Resurrection, as the Psalmist had foretold (Ps. 16:8-11 and Ps. 110:1-3).
That the deity of Jesus is a historical question to be established by credible testimony was recognized by Luke, who has proved to be a historian of the first magnitude and worthy of all acceptance. Before writing an account of the life and labors of Jesus, he did thorough scientific research, as he states in the prologue to his Gospel.
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, 2 even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed (Luke 1:1-4).
Having learned the facts of the life of Jesus and of the early church, this scientific historian, Luke, synchronized Biblical events with Roman history.
At different times rationalistically minded scholars have denied the accuracy of Luke's writings. Their voices, however, have been forever silenced by the faithful labors of Sir William Ramsay and others, who have brought to light archaeological evidence and facts which prove that Luke was right, and his assailants, wrong.
In studying Jesus of Nazareth from the historical point of view, one must also view Him from the standpoint of the transforming and dynamic power which has emanated from Him and has flowed out to the world through the centuries. The correctness of these facts will become increasingly important as we continue our investigation.