Who was Jesus? Was He an Historical Person?
Was Jesus just a great man, an amazing teacher, and a great prophet? Can He be found outside of biblical literature and confirmed in books of history? There is no legitimate scholar who denies that Jesus existed. An amazing amount of historical sources speak of this man named Jesus. It is amazing considering Jesus’ ministry took place in a small corner of the Roman Empire and much of Israel was destroyed in AD 70. Entire cities were burned to the ground, taking evidence and eyewitnesses with them.
Let’s look at some secular historical sources that answer the question "Who was Jesus really."
Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55 - 120 AD) was a senator and historian in the first-century Roman Empire. He mentions the "Christians" ("followers of Christ") who suffered under Pontius Pilate.
Suetonius, was a secretary and historian to Hadrian, Emperor of Rome from 117 AD to 138 AD. He is credited with another important piece of evidence in the discussions of the historical Jesus. In his works, he speaks of Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century.
The most famous Jewish historian is Flavius Josephus (37 AD – 100 AD). In his works, he refers to James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.”
Pliny the Younger (c. 62 - c.113 AD) was the Roman Governor of Bithynia (present-day northwestern Turkey). Around 111 or 112 AD, he wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan of Rome asking for advice on how to deal with Christians. He speaks of how they worshiped Jesus as God.
Other historical sources also mention Jesus—Julius Africanus, The Babylonian Talmud, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and various Gnostic writings.
There is tremendous evidence for Jesus Christ in secular historical sources. We can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources: Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus), did magic, led Israel into new teachings, and was hanged on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus), but claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed, worshipping Him as God (Pliny the Younger).
Who was Jesus – His Life
The Bible clearly answers the question, "Who was Jesus" as it records His life and ministry. The Bible describes Jesus having humble beginnings, being born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago (Luke 2). The events of Jesus’ birth fulfilled many prophecies of the coming Jewish Messiah. Isaiah foretold of a young woman, a virgin, who would conceive and give birth to a baby and name him Emmanuel, which means "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14). As a boy, Jesus stunned the theologians at the temple. He had great knowledge and wisdom from God (Luke 2:41-52).
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and began His public ministry. He performed many miracles—healing the sick, casting out demons, ruling the weather, feeding thousands from a little boy’s lunch, and many more miraculous works over His 3-year ministry.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the culmination of His earthly ministry (Mark 15:21-41). It is the purpose of His life and the reason He was born. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid in a borrowed tomb, and left until after the Sabbath. When women came to prepare the body for burial, they found the tomb empty. Jesus had risen from the dead in His glorified state and would appear to many to prove that death had no hold over Him (Mark 16). He then ascended into heaven (Luke 24:50).
Who was Jesus and what were His claims?
In answering the question, it is essential to study who Jesus claimed to be. Here is His answer, in His words:
Who do you say Jesus is?
Is He simply a good teacher, a religious man of history? Or do you think He is more than that? Do you know Him personally? Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with you, for you to accept His gift of eternal life, for you to accept His sacrifice for your sins. Jesus wants to be your Savior and Lord.