Despite evidence to the contrary, there are people who still insist that Jesus is a myth. But myths have little, if any, impact on history. The historian Thomas Carlyle said, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”
There is no nation or regime which owes its foundation or heritage to a mythological person or god.
But what has been the impact of Jesus Christ?
The average Roman citizen didn’t feel his impact until many years after his death. Jesus marshalled no army. He wrote no books and changed no laws. The Jewish leaders and Roman Caesars had hoped to wipe out his memory, and it appeared they would succeed.
Today, all we see of ancient Rome is ruins. Caesar’s mighty legions and the pomp of Roman imperial power have faded into oblivion. Yet how is Jesus remembered today? What is his enduring influence?
- More books have been written about Jesus than about any other person in history.
- Nations have used his words as the bedrock of their governments. According to Durant, “The triumph of Christ was the beginning of democracy.”
- His Sermon on the Mount established a new paradigm in ethics and morals.
- Schools, hospitals, and humanitarian works have been founded in his name. Over 100 great universities — including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Oxford – were begun by his followers.
- The elevated role of women in Western culture traces its roots back to Jesus. (Women in Jesus’ day were considered inferior and virtual nonpersons until his teaching was followed.)
- Slavery was abolished in Britain and America due to Jesus’ teaching that each human life is valuable.
Amazingly, Jesus made all of this impact as a result of just a three-year period of public ministry. When noted author and world historian H. G. Wells was asked who has left the greatest legacy on history, he replied, “By this test Jesus stands first.”4
Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan writes of him, “Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries… It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.”5
If Jesus didn’t exist, one must wonder how a myth could so alter history.