(Original post by Christianlady)
The following documents and groups of people are what I personally take as evidence to the proof of the existence of Jesus who claimed to be the Christ (Messiah):
1. The apostles and disciples of Jesus:
Real life leaders have followers, such as Buddha (who was born before Jesus' time) and Muhammad (after Jesus). The followers (or disciples) who walked and talked with the leader do prove the existence of that leader.
Followers tend to tell other people what their leader said and did. Some do this by word of mouth; others by the written word. Much of what was said about what the leader said and did is often written down.
So, the apostles and disciples of Jesus are evidence of the existence of Jesus, because they talked about him to their friends, families, and even complete strangers. Their spreading the message is what brought "Christianity" into existence. Before the apostles/disciples of Jesus told others about him, some of the Jewish people just thought of Jesus as a prophet. Others thought he was crazy or a false Messiah (or both). However, many Jewish people did start following him, and later on, many Gentiles became followers of Jesus (Christians) as well. Many of the writings of the followers of Jesus constitute the New Testament of the Bible.
2. Josephus' historic account
Josephus ben Matthias, a remarkable Jewish historian born after Jesus, did write about him. Although some scholars say it is possible his writing was tampered with, most do agree however that he did write of this Jesus who the Christians follow.
Please see http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm#what
The following is a thought-provoking excerpt from the above link: (I boldened the possible text that partial authenticity scholars consider to have been originally written by Josephus)
"Notably, the consensus for partial authenticity is held by scholars from diverse perspectives. Liberal commentators such as Robert Funk, J. Dominic Crossan, and A.N. Wilson, accept a substantial part of the TF as originally Josephan. So do Jewish scholars, such as Geza Vermes, Louis H. Feldman, and Paul Winter and secular scholars such as E.P. Sanders and Paula Fredrikson. Even Jeff Lowder, co-founder of the Secular Web, recognizes the merits of the partial authenticity theory. (Lowder, Josh McDowell's Evidence for Jesus: Is it Reliable? 2000). Paula Fredrikson sums up the state of the question among scholars: "Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by Christian scribes." (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, page 249).
Those scholars who accept the "partial authenticity" theory conclude that - at a minimum - something similar to the following reconstruction of the TF was likely original to Book 18:
At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) had not died out.
(per Meier, op. cit., page 61)."
3 Tacitus' writings
"The most famous passage in which Tacitus mentions Christianity is as follows (Annals 15.44):
Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.
Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed."
Now, this is indeed not a personal testimony, but it is obvious that there must be a reason for a group of people identified as "Christians". Christians are followers of Christ. Christ = Messiah. It is obvious that Tacitus does not know very much about Jesus, but the historic records do show that Christians were among the people being tortured and killed by the Roman empire.
4. The Christian martyrs
People rarely die for a cute or not so cute make believe story. However, there were people who knew Jesus and knew people who know Jesus, and knew people who knew people who knew Jesus, through the generations, who die because they refuse to recant their belief in Jesus.
If one studies the history of Christianity, one can see that the persecution against Christians did not wipe them out, but ironically made the belief stronger.
History shows that Jesus did in fact exist, and his followers are proof of this, same as history shows that Moses did in fact exist, and those who believed/believe the Torah are proof of this, and Buddha did in fact exist, and his followers are proof of this, and Muhammad did in fact exist, and his followers are proof of this.
Now, if you wish to compare Muhammad or Jesus or Buddha or Moses to Santa Claus and the easter bunny, that is fine, but please note that real life leaders in history had real followers, and still do today. That does not make them into Santa Claus and the easter bunny, but rather shows they are human leaders who people trust and follow. If you think many of the stories about them are false, that is possible... I personally believe some stories about Jesus are false, such as the Gospel of Barnabas, because this manuscript did not appear until after Muhammad. There are some stories about Buddha that many highly doubt. There are stores about Muhammad that many doubt. However, just because there are stories that many people doubt as to their veracity, that does not mean that these people did not exist.
Peace and God bless you