How doe we know about Jesus?
There are various ways for us to gain information about Jesus. The primary source of information comes from the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that are contained within the new Testament. There are also other historical sources including other Christian writings and writings from non-Christians. The last source of information is archealogy.
The gospels are often viewed as a bad source of information because they are written by people who were sympathetic to the Christian message, it is claimed that this makes them too biased to be used objectively. However, as historical documents the gospels have proved to be very reliable. For instance, many archeological finds have confirmed details contained within the gospels. It is felt that if they are accurate in the small detail then they are probably reliable in the bigger details.
To say that they cannot be used because they are biased is also misguided. Nearly all information that we have about history is biased in some way, the idea that history is ever recorded in a neutral way is simply ignorant of historical sources. It is also false to claim that because someone is biased they cannot be relied upon for accuracy. If I support a team and happen to report that my team beat the opposition on Saturday 2-0 my bias does not somehow make my report invalid. It is perfectly possible to be biased and yet report accurate information. The gospels have shown themselves to be remarkably accurate even on things that are embarassing or confusing. The embarassment test is important because if someone is trying to write an accurate history of something then they will include all details even if they are embarassing or confusing. The gospels are full of embarassing and confusing stories and so stand up to the test of accuracy.
The gospels were not written duing Jesus' lifetime although they are written within the living memory of those who witnessed the events. It is unusual for ancient history to have such sources and makes the gospels more trustworthy than most other ancient history sources.
Josephus was a Jew who wrote a history of the Jewish people in the later part of the first century. Although not a Christian he makes clear references to Jesus and that people saw him as a great teacher and miracle worker, he also mentions Jesus' death and that his followers claim he rose again from the dead.
Pliny the younger
Writes about Christians in beginning of the second century.
Writes in a similar period to Pliny about Jesus who was crucified under Pontious Pilate.
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