The Christ we encounter in the New Testament is so extraordinary that it’s hard to imagine the Gospel writers inventing such a person. C. S. Lewis once noted that, along with Socrates and Samuel Johnson, Christ is one of the few historical figures we would recognize instantly if he walked into the room. Yet we know Christ, as we know Socrates, through the reports of others. Neither ever wrote a single word. The Bible gives a single instance where Christ wrote with his finger on the ground, but we don’t know what he wrote. But when we hear Christ’s voice in the four Gospels, it is unmistakable.
Shakespeare is our greatest dramatist, but there is no single character in Shakespeare who can match Christ’s eloquence. “By their fruits you shall know them.” “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also:’ “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “Turn the other cheek.” “Man does not live by bread alone.” “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
While there is much about his early life that we don’t know, we do know that Christ existed. This is the second reason Christ is such a big deal. He’s a historical figure, and the great events that defined his life really happened. Historians debate whether some other figures of ancient times, like Homer, existed at all, but there is general unanimity among historians that Christ was a real person. Do you believe in the existence of Socrates? Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? If historicity is established by written records in multiple copies that date originally from near contemporaneous sources, there is far more proof for Christ’s existence than for any of theirs. The historicity of Christ is attested not only by Christian but also by Greek, Roman, and Jewish sources. Apart from the Gospels, we find references to him in Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and Josephus. Tacitus in his Annals deplores “the detestable superstition” of “Christus,” the founder of a new sect called Christianity. These sources testify not only that Christ lived but also that he had a big following, that he alienated the Jewish and Roman authorities, and that he died by crucifixion.