One skeptic who thought Jesus was a myth was British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge. But on a television assignment to Israel, Muggeridge was faced with evidence about Jesus Christ that he didn’t know existed. As he checked out historical places—Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem, the town of Nazareth, the crucifixion site, and the empty tomb—a sense of Jesus’ reality began to emerge.
Later he stated
“It was while I was in the Holy Land for the purpose of making three B.B.C. television programmes on the New Testament that a … certainty seized me about Jesus’ birth, ministry and Crucifixion. … I became aware that there really had been a man, Jesus, who was also God.”14
Some German higher-critical scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries had questioned Jesus’ existence, pointing out that such key figures as Pontius Pilate and the chief priest Joseph Caiaphas in the Gospel accounts had never been confirmed as real. No rebuttal was possible until the mid-20th century.
Archaeologists in 1962 confirmed Pilate’s existence when they discovered his name included in an inscription on an excavated stone. Likewise, the existence of Caiaphas was uncertain until 1990, when an ossuary (bone box) was discovered bearing his inscription. Archaeologists have also discovered what they believe to be Simon Peter’s house and a cave where John the Baptist did his baptizing.
Finally, perhaps the most convincing historical evidence that Jesus existed was the rapid rise of Christianity. How can it be explained without Christ? How could this group of fishermen and other workingmen invent Jesus in a scant few years? Durant answered his own introductory question—did Christ exist?—with the following conclusion:
That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels. After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of the life, character, and teaching of Christ, remain reasonably clear, and constitute the most fascinating feature in the history of Western man.