7 Unbiased Facts about Jesus’ Death

Today, even liberal scholars agree about some very basic data

“According to multiple sources, Jesus was condemned to die for specific reasons. He attempted to lead Israel away from God through miraculous deeds. His enemies attributed his works to the devil as acts of sorcery. He was then condemned to die for blasphemy for claiming to be God. Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate by the Jewish religious leaders in Palestine.”

 

Before asking whether Christianity is true, whether the resurrection happened or even could it is helpful to clear away the hype and rhetoric and look at the unbiased facts concerning the death of Jesus. Today, even liberal scholars agree about some very basic data. Moving on in the debate requires coming to an agreement concerning these seven things:

1. Jesus was a real person.

Before discussing the death of Jesus, we should recognize that most scholars agree Jesus was a real person who lived and died in first century Palestine. This fact is even held by hostile sources outside the Christian sources.

(Cf. Tacitus, Annals 15.44; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.9; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin Tractate, 43a; Toledot Yeshu).

2. Jesus was condemned to die by the Romans.

According to multiple sources, Jesus was condemned to die for specific reasons. He attempted to lead Israel away from God through miraculous deeds. His enemies attributed his works to the devil as acts of sorcery. He was then condemned to die for blasphemy for claiming to be God. Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate by the Jewish religious leaders in Palestine. (Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth [New York: Bloch, 1989], 18-46; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin Tractate, 43a; Shabbat 11.15; b. Shabbat 104b; Toledot Yeshu).

(Cf. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus [San Francisco: Harper, 1996], 123-25).

3. Jesus was executed by crucifixion.

Jesus death was a well-known fact throughout the ancient world. Historians and politicians of the century spoke of the events that happened in Jerusalem. As the liberal Jewish Rabbi Samuel Sandmel observes,

Certain bare facts are historically not to be doubted. Jesus, who emerged into public notice in Galilee when Herod Antipas was its Tetrarch, was a real person, the leader of a movement. He had followers, called disciples. The claim was made, either by him or for him, that he was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. He journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, possibly in 29 or 30, and there he was executed, crucified by the Romans as a political rebel. After his death, his disciples believed that he was resurrected, and had gone to heaven, but would return to earth at the appointed time for the final divine judgment of mankind (Rabbi Samuel Sandmel, A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010], 33).

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