Table of Contents
This is part 5 in the series Why Believe in Jesus? Today we will look at the eyewitness testimonies from followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
Witnesses are essential in establishing any claim to fact. When a news station wants to report a fantastic event, it interviews eyewitnesses. We accept the reports of credible witnesses, especially when there are a number of them who agree. The same principle guides our legal system. When credible witnesses testify to an event, we are morally bound to accept what they say as accurate.
The quality of a witness in court is often as important as the testimony itself. If an attorney can impugn the witness’s character, he will destroy the effectiveness of what the witness has to say. Eyewitness testimony can be compelling and convincing when:
- A witness has had ample opportunity to observe certain behaviors.
- There are no biases or ulterior motives.
- The witness is truthful and fair.
When it comes to investigating historical matters, eyewitness testimony is just as crucial, whether it’s Alexander the Great or Jesus of Nazareth’s claim to be the Unique Son of God. In this post, we will call to the witness stand the following:
- John the Baptist
- John the Apostle
- Peter the Apostle
- Paul the Apostle
- 2 angels
- Simeon and Anna
- The Creator of all
The Eyewitness Testimony of John the Baptist
Jesus Christ could not have chosen a better first witness to validate his claims of personal deity than John the Baptist. On one occasion Jesus himself said of John, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” Since all Jews revered the prophets as the most holy of men, this would make John the most impeccable eyewitness to Jesus’s identity.
The apostle John said of John “the Baptist”, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came as a witness in order to testify concerning the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not this Light but was sent in order to testify concerning the Light.” – John 1:6-8
Having established John the Baptist’s impeccable character and seeing that he was the most credible witness of his day to identify Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, let us review his testimony.
- John identified Jesus as the lamb God.
- “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29
John the Baptist was schooled in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Moreover, he knew well the requirements of the special sacrifice for sin, It must be perfect. John was saying that Jesus was sinless and therefore qualified to be the Lamb of God, the sacrifice of God for the sins of the whole world.
- John testified that Jesus is the Son of God.
- “I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.” – John 1: 34
For further testimony from John “the Baptist” concerning Jesus click here.
The Eyewitness Testimony of the Apostle John
It is generally accepted that John was the disciple closest to Jesus personally. He refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” with good reason. Apparently, he was a young man during the ministry of the Lord and he outlived all the other disciples.
As such he was the last living apostolic eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. He was a close associate of Peter in the early days of the church, usually deferring to his elder’s leadership.
John’s most distinguishing ministry came as the chief elder at the Church of Ephesus as well as through the enormous contribution he made to Christianity through the five books he wrote. All five books were accepted by the church as soon as they were completed.
John insisted that what he wrote was based on his personal contact with Jesus. There could be no better witness than one who had traveled with Jesus, lived with, eaten with Him, and even touched Him.
The purpose behind the writing of the gospel of John seems to have been to leave the church with an authoritative eyewitness depiction of Jesus’s life that not only testifies He came “in the flesh” but demonstrated through signs wonders and healing miracles that He was “the Son of God.”
For that reason, John did not intend to write another biography of Jesus’ life. Instead, we find in John among other things incredible miracles that could be accomplished only through divine power. Here are just a few:
- Turned the water in six large pots into delicious wine – John 2:1-12
- Fed 5000 men with only two loaves of bread and five fish – John 6:1-14
- Walked on water – John 6:15-21
- Raised Lazarus from the dead – John 11:1-45
Because John wrote his gospel after the other three instead of repeating their record of Jesus’ teachings his gospel is a treasure trove of teachings not found in the other three gospels. Here are just a few of the most important texts:
- Christ the Creator – John 1:1-5, 10-14
- You must be born again – John 3:3, 5, 8
- The gospel in a nutshell – John 3:14-18
- Valid proof that Jesus is the Christ – John 5
- The last teachings of Jesus – John chapters 14-17
John also dedicated two whole chapters after the crucifixion to the fact of the empty tomb and to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. He knew the resurrection to be fact and wanted to leave a record of it in ink so that all the world would know that the last living Apostolic eyewitness regarded it to be a fact.
John’s heartbeat was that others would come to believe as he did. That’s why he openly revealed his purpose in writing the gospel of John.
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31
Read more of John’s testimony here.
Eyewitness Testimony of the Apostle Peter
As far as the records are concerned, the apostle Peter spoke more than all the other 11 disciples put together. He was part of the inner circle along with James and John and was with Jesus at all the major events of His life including His death and post-resurrection appearances.
Peter’s testimony would stand up in any court of our day. He was a man of integrity. Moreover, he was the leader and spokesman of the early church and one of the most influential of all the disciples.
The influence of the apostle Paul was yet all but not existent in those early years. it was left to Peter to be the leader and the human driving force for the primitive church. Consequently, his testimony about Jesus of Nazareth is of paramount importance. We will begin by looking at a few of his statements recorded in the book of Mark.
A Few of Peters’ Eyewitness Testimony in the Book of Mark
- Identity – Mark 8:29
- He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.”
- Death and resurrection – Mark 8:31-33
- He [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things… and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said this openly. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
- Ability to predict personal behavior – Mark 14:29-31, Mark 14:72
- “Peter said to Him, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you that this day, during the night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But he [Peter] said more vehemently, “If I must die with You, I will not deny You.” They all said the same thing… “And the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought on this, he wept.
This is an interesting testimony of Peter because it highlights the Lord’s supernatural abilities at the expense of Peter’s personal record.
Peters’ Eyewitness Testimony in the Book of Acts
In the first sermon preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost note the references to the following events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Keep in mind that all the references to Jesus came from Peter spontaneously. Peter did not plan out ahead of time what he was going to say. You can read his first sermon in Acts 2:14-40.
Throughout the book of Acts, Peter gives strong testimony to the identity, mission, and actions of Jesus Christ. In the following texts, Peter makes it clear his convictions about who Jesus was.
- Acts 3:13– “The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Son Jesus.”
- Acts 3:26 – God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities.”
- Acts 4:33 – “With great power, the apostles testified to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all.”
Read the testimony of Peter to Cornelius found in Acts chapter 10.
Peters’ Eyewitness Testimony in His Epistles
A man’s writings are usually an even more deliberate reflection of what he believes than any of his spontaneously delivered public speeches. Therefore, with that in mind let’s review statements from the two books that bear Peter’s name to see what he believed about Jesus, 30 or more years after the resurrection.
Peter’s Testimony of Jesus in 1 Peter
Here are just a few statements of Peter concerning Jesus.
- “Followers of Jesus have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” – 1 Peter 1:3
- “Jesus Christ will return to earth.” – 1 Peter 1:7
- “Jesus was foreordained before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for you.” – 1 Peter 1:20
- “Christ suffered for us.” – 1 Peter 2:21
- “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” – 1 Peter 2:22
- “Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18
- “Christ has suffered for us in the flesh.” – 1 Peter 4:1
- “God of all grace, has called us to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus.” – 1 Peter 5:10
Peter’s Testimony in 2 Peter
Peter wrote 2 Peter near the end of his life. He knew his time on earth was growing short. (2 Peter 1:14) If ever there was an opportunity to recant his beliefs and save his life, it was now. However, we see in the following his convictions remained as firm as ever about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.
- “Make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly provided for you.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11
- “We have not followed cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” – 2 Peter 1:16
- “Jesus’ divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.” – 2 Peter 1:3
- “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
There is no hint of waffling in Peter’s testimony even though he confesses that he knew his death as a martyr was imminent. From Pentecost on, Peter never wavered in his convictions.
Read more of Peter’s testimonial statements here.
The Eyewitness Testimony of Paul
The book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times. The apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24–27).
The testimony of the Apostle Paul adds further evidence to the trustworthiness of the gospel’s picture of Jesus. Paul confirmed the gospel’s testimony of Jesus creating the universe and His total obedience to the Jewish law without ever committing a sin. Paul also confirmed Jesus was betrayed, crucified, and had risen from the dead on the third day.
Although he was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ, his testimony is important because he was a contemporary of Jesus. Paul wrote within thirty years of the events recorded in the New Testament. He also challenged his readers to investigate the truth for themselves. Therefore, he is a helpful witness in confirming the reliability of the account of Jesus as found in the gospels.
An Impossible Problem for the Skeptic
The dramatic conversion of the apostle Paul offers an impossible problem for the skeptic determined to destroy Christianity. How can the transformation of this brilliant scholar, a member of the Sanhedrin, a pharisee of the Pharisees be explained away? Moreover, Paul was the man who persecuted the early church and who wholeheartedly consented to the death of Steven the first martyr.
However, Paul himself became converted in a miraculous way, resulting in a complete change of lifestyle and message. Moreover, Paul becomes an outstanding spokesman for the Church that he once persecuted.
No credible scholar, including most critics, denies the life and astonishing turnaround of this apostle. Without a supernatural, resurrected Jesus, there is no adequate explanation for Paul’s radically reoriented life.
Who Was Paul (Saul)?
- Saul, “who is also called Paul” (Acts 13:9), was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. – Philippians 3:5–6
- He was born in Tarsus in the region of Cilicia around AD 1–5 in a province in the southeastern corner of modern-day Tersous, Turkey. (Acts 22:3).
- His parents were Pharisees, fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses
- Saul’s family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city – Acts 22:22-29
Jewish law prescribed that a boy begins the study of the Scriptures at five years of age and the study of the legal traditions at ten. At thirteen a Jewish boy became a bar mitzvah (“son of the commandment”) at which time he took upon himself the full obligation of the law and the more promising lads were directed into rabbinic schools under abler teachers.
For further rabbinic study, Paul came to Jerusalem to study at the feet of Gamaliel one of the greatest rabbis of the first century (Acts 22:3).
Paul explicitly claims to be a Hebraic Jew trained in the most worthy traditions of his fathers, whose Pharisaic qualifications could hardly be surpassed.
“I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.” – Acts 22:3
“Circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;” – Phil 3:5
Zealous for the Law
Paul (Saul) first appears in the book of Acts at the martyrdom of Stephen. You can read Stephen’s testimony in Acts chapters 6 and 7.
- The Arrest of Stephen – Acts 6:8-15
- Stephen’s testimony – Acts 7:1-53
- The Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7:54-60
Saul who loved God and was Zealous for the law thought that these Jewish believers in Jesus of Nazareth were a cult. Therefore, Saul became determined to eradicate Christians, ruthless in his pursuit he took it upon himself to stamp out these blasphemous followers.
“At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”
– Acts 8:1-3
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” – Acts 9:1-2
After receiving those letters, He was on his way to Damascus when Saul was confronted by the risen and glorified Christ.
Saul was caught in a bright light from heaven that caused him to fall face down on the ground. He heard the words, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He replied, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus answered directly and clearly, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (verses 4–5).
As an aside, this might not have been Saul’s first encounter with Jesus. Some scholars suggest that young Saul might have known of Jesus and that he may have actually witnessed His death.
However, many followers of Jesus were suspicious and thought Paul’s conversion was a trap. You can read the full account here.
It is assumed that Paul died a martyr’s death in the mid-to-late AD 60s in Rome. Paul’s conversion stands as one of the greatest witnesses to the deity of Christ and the truth of Christianity.
The Apostle Paul’s Ministry
- Paul’s involvement in the Christian movement spanned approximately thirty years.
- He traveled extensively throughout Asia Minor and into Europe, establishing congregations that he left in the hands of trusted associates.
- Paul wrote thirteen letters that eventually became part of the New Testament. Some of the letters of the Apostle Paul may actually have been written earlier than the gospels. For example, First Thessalonians was written approximately A.D. 51, while the first letter to the Corinthians was penned about A.D. 56.
Paul Confirmed Some of the Events Recorded in the Gospels
The testimony of the Apostle Paul confirms the evidence presented in the gospel accounts concerning Jesus Christ.
- Paul testified that Jesus was the Creator of the universe. – Colossians 1:15-16
- The sinlessness of Jesus was accepted as a fact by the Apostle Paul – 2 Corinthians 5:21
- Paul mentions Jesus’ death by crucifixion as the cornerstone of his message. – 1 Corinthians 1:21-23
- Paul also confirmed that Christ rose from the dead. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
There Are a Few Important Points to Remember
1. Paul Was a Contemporary of the Disciples – The Apostle Paul, though not an eyewitness to the events of the life of Christ, was living at the same time as the disciples who were eyewitnesses. Therefore, he was their contemporary.
2. He Wrote Within Thirty Years of the Events – Paul’s letters were composed within thirty years of the events of the life and ministry of Jesus. This is far too short a time for him to have radically changed the message of Jesus without receiving criticism from both believing and non-believing eyewitnesses of the events.
3. Paul Challenged His Readers to Investigate the Evidence – Paul challenged his readers to investigate for themselves the evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
The Apostle Paul is one of the great witnesses of Christ. Therefore, we find that when all the evidence is in, the Apostle Paul gives further testimony to the truths about Jesus as written in the four gospels.
Eyewitness Testimony of Simeon and Anna
When the days of Mary’s purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Led by the Spirit, he came into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he received Him in his arms and blessed God and said:
“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
And there was Anna a prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow of about eighty-four years of age who did not depart from the temple but served God with fasting and prayer night and day. Coming at that moment she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Read their testimony in Luke 2:21-39
The Eyewitness Testimony of Angels
We must not forget the Angel’s Eyewitness Testimony of the birth of Jesus.
“And in the same area, there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid. But the angel said to them, “Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:8-11
Saving the best for last we must call our final eyewitness to the stand…
The Eyewitness Testimony of The Creator of all there WAS/IS/AND SHALL BE!
God the Father our Creator adds His own audible testimonies to the accumulated evidence that we have already looked at. We see three in the New Testament during the life of Jesus where God Himself spoke from heaven to verify the identity of His Son.
God audibly spoke at the baptism of Jesus and said: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 (see also Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22).
God audibly spoke at the transfiguration of Jesus and again said: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” – Matthew 17:1-9
Read the full encounter here.
God audibly spoke four days before the crucifixion:
Jesus said “Now My soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? Instead, for this reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”The crowd that stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered, “This voice came not for My sake, but for your sakes. – John 12:28-33
Not only did God three times audibly identify and validate Jesus as His Son, but later He lifted His teachings into a category all by themselves. The author of Hebrews wrote:
“God, who at various times and in diverse ways spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the world. He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Hebrews 1:1-3
The Bible considers it praiseworthy to have a faith that does not require evidence. Jesus replied to Thomas you believe because you see blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
There are plenty of stories of scholars in the New Testament field who have not been Christians, yet through their study of these very issues have come to faith in Christ. Likewise, there have been countless more scholars, already believers, whose faith has been made stronger, more solid, more grounded, because of the evidence. The same applies to skeptics.
Maybe you have been basing your spiritual outlook on the evidence you’ve observed around you or gleaned long ago from books college professors, family members, or friends. But is your conclusion really the best possible explanation for why you do not believe in Jesus?
This current age is drawing to a close. However, before it does there will be seven years where the wrath of God is poured out on those who have rejected Jesus Christ.
Followers of Christ do not go through the final seven years of God’s wrath. They will be caught up beforehand in what is called the Rapture.
At the end of the seven years, God will judge everyone at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Jesus of Nazareth paid for our sins on the cross, rose from the grave, and is seated at the right hand of the Father until it is time for Him to return and set up His kingdom to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords for a thousand years.
There is no excuse other than outright rebellion for anyone to spend eternity in the company of Satan and his demonic angels in a place the Bible calls the lake of fire.
So once again I must ask you Do you have a relationship with the King of kings, Jesus Christ? He is our only hope of eternal life.
Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.
– A. W. Tozer
Maranatha! Until next time, I am Passionately Loving Jesus, the Anchor of my Soul.
Read the complete series here.
- Why Believe in Jesus? – Tim LaHaye
- Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical … – Josh McDowell
- Resources, Apologetics, and Answering Skeptics – Josh McDowell
- The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of Jesus – Lee Strobel
- Video: The Case for Christ explained in 16 minutes. – Lee Strobel
- Blue Letter Bible