Much has been made of the phrase "Jesus of history." Many liberal theologians have attempted to argue the Jesus of the Bible is different from the Jesus of history. They most often do this by appealing to the Gnostic Gospels and the version of Jesus they present.
That was always struck me as strange. Why would they use documents written hundreds of years after Jesus lived and died to refute documents that were written within decades of His life, if they were truly concerned with an accurate historical presentation of Jesus?
At this point, those skeptical of the Christian claims of Jesus will point out, "I do not believe any of those descriptions of Jesus since they were written with a religious bias." What would the picture of Jesus be if we simply examined the historical, non-Christian records?
When we piece together the 10 non-Christian references to Jesus within 150 years of his life, from sources such as Josephus, Celsus, Tacitus and the Jewish Talmud, we find a very distinct portrait of Jesus. [Perhaps surprisingly, those 10 mentions are more than the non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus.]
From the sources which would be arguably biased against Christianity, we find these facts about Jesus:
1. He lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder-worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.
Which picture does this more resemble, the ideas of the Gnostics and their liberal supporters or the Jesus shown in the New Testament? What does it say that the historical documents outside of Christianity give a very similar picture of Jesus to the New Testament?