Is Jesus God appearing in flesh?

Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. He has been the subject of many historical studies. It is sufficient to say that all critical New Testament scholars accept the following three historical facts through their studies:
  1. Jesus is a historical figure.
  2. Jesus performed miracles.
  3. Jesus' disciples believed they have seen the resurrected Jesus.

Where do we start in trying to understand the divine identity of Jesus?  Why should we believe He is more than just a mere man in the history? Two aspects of His life demonstrate His divinity:

Fulfillment of prophecy:  the Bible has long predicted a Messiah who would come to earth. All Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. The miraculous fulfillment of Messianic prophecies in the life of Jesus is the  realization of God's plan and a proof of His divinity.

His resurrection: Jesus died on the cross but was resurrected from the dead and then appeared to his disciples. His resurrection is God's authentication of His divine identity.@

The Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is the epic center of the whole Christian faith. It was not because of His good or radical teachings, nor was it His sacrificial death on the cross that prompted the disciples to preach about Him. It was His Resurrection, His being physically raised from the dead, which proves his divinity. After the Resurrection and His appearance to the disciples, the disciples were convinced that God's plan for redemption had been realized in Jesus. Jesus, was and is the Good News being  preached to the world. His disciples took the fact of His resurrection very seriously:

2This Good News was promised long ago by God through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3It is the Good News about his Son, Jesus, who came as a man, born into King David's royal family line. 4And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 1:2 NLT)

17And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. 18In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! 19And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.  (I Corinthians 15:17-19 NLT)

30And why should we ourselves be continually risking our lives, facing death hour by hour? 31For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in you. 32And what value was there in fighting wild beasts--those men of Ephesus--if there will be no resurrection from the dead? If there is no resurrection, let's feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!   (I Corinthians 15:30-32 NLT)


The Investigation

How do we know that Jesus did resurrect from the dead and appeared to His followers?

The first step of the investigation is the document which records the resurrection: the New Testament of the Bible. The aim is to investigate whether the New Testament record is historically reliable. If not, Jesus' resurrection may well be a legend.

 The result is overwhelming affirmative: New Testament is by far the most reliable of ancient documents.

The legend test shows that the New Testament is historically reliable and was not altered during the past 19 centuries of transmission. The resurrection was not a legend developed during the transmission period of the Bible.

The fiction test shows that New Testament record collaborates with historical data from more than 14 ancient extra-biblical documents and the records about Jesus is not fictional.

The first step in investigating documentary evidence brings us as close as the oldest and most ancient New Testament manuscript can bring us: around 125 A.D.  But can the resurrection of Jesus still be a legend developed in the roughly 90 years between his death and the first writing of the Gospels?

The answer comes from one particular kind of literary form in the New Testament which is older than the New Testament itself: the Christological creeds.


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