Shalom Dr. Oakes. I have a serious challenge for you. Can you show me any unique evidence for Christianity from anywhere in the Bible? What I mean by "unique" are beliefs, customs or any religious artifact that is unique to Christianity alone. If the same thing can be found among say the Pharisees, Nazarenes, Ebionites or Essenes, etc. it would not count – since it could be evidence for those religions. This evidence must be absolutely unique to Christianity. Thank you.
I am not sure exactly what you mean by "beliefs, customs or religious artifacts" unique to Christianity. To me Jewish evidence is Christian evidence because, as a Christian, I see the Old Testament as part of my scripture. To me, Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish/Old Testament prophecy and expectations. In that sense, everything Jesus did is prefigured or spoken of in the Old Testament. Most of the miracles of Jesus were anticipated by miracles in the Old Testament. This is exactly what we should expect. Add to this the fact that the Ebionites were a Jewish/Christian sect. Although they denied the deity of Jesus, they were, at least in principle a "Christian" group. This will make it even harder to answer your question.
Nevertheless, let me take a stab at this question. One thing unique to Christianity is the belief that God became man–that God inhabited flesh. Christians call this the "Incarnation." We find this unique claim in John Chapter One. John 1:1 says that "the Word was with God and the Word was God." Then, in John 1:14 it says that "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." In other words, God, in the form of his "only begotten Son" (John 1:18) came and lived in human form and lived with us humans for a time. When we behold Jesus we behold God, or as close a version of God as can be seen by a human. Jesus said, "Before Abraham was born, I AM." Here he is clearly claiming to be deity in a bodily form. The idea that God came here and, not only took on flesh, but even went so far as to take the punishment for the sins of others on the cross, so that those who believe in him can have everlasting life with God in heaven is unique to Christianity. I believe that this idea was found in prophetic or foreshadow form in the Old Testament, but, as far as I know, the Jews, Pharisees, Essenes and even the Ebionites never fully understood or anticipated this idea.
The idea I am expressing can be found in other New Testament Passages. I would draw your attention to Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:3-4. Here we see that in Jesus of Nazareth, "the fullness of deity dwelt in bodily form." We also see that through him, all things are reconciled to God–through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. We see that "the Son is the radiance of God’s glory," and that "he provided purification for sins."
I am not sure if this will pass your test for an idea completely unique to Christianity. I already claimed that the idea of God becoming flesh and taking on our sins was in the Old Testament. For example, I find this in Isaiah 53:1-12 and other passages. To me, Jesus is the fulfillment of all legitimate expectation for the Messiah in the Old Testament.
Let me mention a couple of other things "unique" to Christianity. There is the virgin birth of Jesus. I believe none of the groups you mention have the idea of a miraculous, virgin birth as a historical fact, although it is anticipated in Isaiah 7:14. Another thing unique to Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. Of course, there is a resurrection in the Old Testament, which is that performed by Elisha. The difference in this case with the Shunnamite woman’s son is that this boy later died a normal, physical death. The resurrection of Jesus is the first bodily resurrection which was not later followed by death and decay of the body which had been resurrected. In this sense, the resurrection of Jesus is the first fruit from the dead–a fulfillment of the Jewish feast of first fruits. Coincidentally (well, not actually coincidentally… I believe this was the divine providence of God), Jesus was resurrected on the day of the Jewish first fruits festival.
I honestly do not know if I have succeeded in answering your question as, like I said, all that Jesus did was anticipated in the Jewish scripture. I do not see Christian evidence as being in conflict with Jewish evidence. The miracles and fulfillment of OT messianic prophecy by Jesus does as much to confirm the Jewish scriptures as it confirms the New Testament. I do not see Christian theology being in obvious conflict with Jewish theology, although I will admit that there are differences in what is believed by modern Jews who have chosen not to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Please let me know if this is the kind of answer you were looking for.
John Oakes, PhD