If Christianity is not historically true, it’s not true. That’s because the central message of the Christian faith is inseparably tied to the historical reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
The message Christianity proclaims to all people is not a spiritual philosophy or even a system of ethics. The good news of the gospel is that God has dramatically intervened in human history by sending His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour.
That’s why Christians affirm the historical reality of Jesus’ birth. We marvel that God’s Son would enter our world as a baby, born to a Jewish woman in the tiny village of Bethlehem.
We affirm the historical crucifixion of Jesus. Having been condemned by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus was nailed to a cross outside Jerusalem. The historical veracity of Christ’s crucifixion is confirmed by the New Testament documents and by Roman and Jewish historians (such as Tacitus and Josephus).
We affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus as historical fact. On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ tomb was empty because He had risen from the dead as promised (Matthew 17:22-23). After his resurrection, Jesus was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
I realize some are skeptical about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. They side with the religious officials who claimed Jesus’ disciples stole his body and fabricated the story of his resurrection (Matthew 28:13). The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t wash with what we know of human nature. Many of the first witnesses to the resurrection were willing to die for their testimony. People simply aren’t willing to die for what they know to be a lie.
Some maintain Christianity would be equally valuable if the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection were not historically true. The apostle Paul disagreed. In 1 Corinthians 15:17 he wrote, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
While the Christian faith is not less than historical, it is more than mere history. The events of Jesus’ life become life changing for us when we understand and believe that He died and rose again to bring us back to God (1 Peter 3:18). While the message of Jesus is historical; faith in Jesus makes it personal.