In this second week of our message series CSI: Christ Scene Investigation, we are looking at credible evidence for the proof of Jesus of History and Christ of Faith. The term Jesus of history refers to the divine Son of God as He walked the earth in the person of Jesus. And the term Christ of faith refers to Jesus’s eternal identity as the Son of God, especially as that reality has been experienced by believers since his death and resurrection. The distinction between the “Christ of Faith” and the “Jesus of History” is often traced to Martin Kahler (1835-1912).
The question about the historical Jesus has always been on the lips of secular historians. They ask, did a man called Jesus walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the ‘Historical Jesus’ actually existed primarily reflects disagreements among atheists. Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed. The reconstruction of the historical Jesus are based on the Pauline epistles and on the gospels and several non-biblical sources that bear witness to the historical Jesus. Scholars agree on these two things: That Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate. Josephus, an ancient historian, wrote that Jesus was a wise man, a doer of wonderful works and a teacher who was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
During His life time, his disciples began to think of Jesus as the “Messiah,” Christ the anointed one. After his death and resurrection, his followers regularly referred to him as the Messiah (Act 2:36). At some point, his adherents also began to refer to him as the “Son of God.” Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans (6:4), shows knowledge that “The Christ” was a title and not a name. He more referred to Jesus as “Jesus Christ,” “Christ Jesus” or even just “Christ.”
In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul states that Christ Jesus preexisted creation and came to earth; He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” This sounds as if Jesus was a heavenly being who only appeared in human form. But in Romans 1:1-6, Paul writes that God declared Jesus to be “Son of God” by raising him from the dead. So, according to Saint Paul, Jesus is a man of history to have died on the cross and Christ of faith to have risen from the dead.
That is why in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, Saint Paul states that, “If Christ has not risen from the dead, our preaching is useless and so is our faith . . . .” Our case for Christ is simple. He is our Jesus of History and Christ of Faith.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson