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After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:3

The earliest Christian writers after the time of Christ affirmed His death on the cross by crucifixion. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, spoke of “our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death.” Justin Martyr noted in his Dialogue With Trypho the Jew that Jews of his day claimed that “Jesus [was] a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified.”

Josephus, the Jewish historian of the time of Christ, confirmed His death. He wrote: “Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.” The Jewish Talmud says, “On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth). They found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.” Likewise, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus confirmed it: “A wise man who was called Jesus … Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die.” And the Roman writer Phlegon speaks of Jesus having been crucified but then “he rose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment.”

But can we trust the records that bring us these facts? The answer is a powerful yes—for many reasons. First, the records are both biblical and non-biblical, written by believers and unbelievers. As for the biblical records, we have some 5,700 manuscripts of the New Testament beginning with a gap of only one generation from the original text. Most books from the ancient world survive on only 10 to 20 manuscripts that are separated from the original on average by nearly 1,000 years.

In addition, there were at least eight writers of the 27 books of the New Testament. Most other events from the ancient world had only one or two writers. Even critics admit that these New Testament writers were eyewitnesses or contemporaries of the events. Further, the noted British manuscript authority Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed, “The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established”.

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