“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Surely, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth. He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth . . . by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities . . . He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:3 – 12).
Can any honest person ignore, side-step or ‘explain’ away such evidence?
To amplify this even further, the Bible contains a number of eyewitness reports, which would certainly have been rejected by the contemporaries, had they not been true. Just imagine, for example, what the Jews of Jerusalem would have done to Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, had he lied when addressing a vast crowd of them just seven weeks after the crucifixion, when stating:
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:22-24).
What would the Jews have done, had Jesus not been crucified or killed? They would have denied it strongly. But nobody ever queried this, because they all knew what had happened. While the Jews always objected that Jesus is the Messiah, they never denied His death on the cross. And they knew that it had happened, for they were present at the scene.
May just one more noteworthy piece of evidence be added in support of the trustworthiness of the crucifixion report in the Gospels. We are aware that the life of Jesus in a remote place like Judea was of no significance to the Roman historians of His time, who wrote the annals of wars and mighty conquerors. Yet Rome’s most prominent historian, Cornelius Tacitus, being an aggressive opponent of early Christianity, wrote inter alia: