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Whether or not you believe Jesus Christ was who he said he was, you cannot deny the fact that he was. Without going into C.S. Lewis’ “liar, lunatic, or Lord” illustration, the one thing that you cannot deny is that there is evidence that a man named Jesus lived and existed around the time that modern Christians believe he did, that he was killed by crucifixion, and had followers. While a person can claim that there isn’t evidence for the existence of something (though in the case of Jesus there is definitely evidence) you cannot claim that something did not exist with any certainty.

One of the first things you must understand when researching anything from historical documents as old as the Bible is that there are cultural and linguistic differences that may need to be accounted for. I will attempt to explain those where necessary, and provide further links to the information.

The Census

The argument I saw most recently against the existence of Jesus was “there is no record of a census being taken around Jesus’ birth!”. This article gives a detailed answer, but the short answer is: Yes, there was a census. It appears that there were likely multiple censuses (censi?) that were taken throughout the land at varying times. There are papyrus scrolls referencing a Roman census taken in Egypt also. Another part of the complaint of these “history deniers” is the existence of a particular governor, Quirinus. The objection seems to have to do with the timing of when he served as governor, but some evidence shows that the man may have served twice, allowing for him to fit into the timeline in accordance with Luke’s detailed account. Some have suggested that Luke was attempting to make a distinction between the census we know Quirinius took in AD 6 from the census that Mary and Joseph were participating in. (Read the article for more detail).

Accuracy of Names, Titles, Locations

Next, a look to the validity of the timing of the scriptures. Gallio (proconsul of Achaea, Acts 18:12-17) and Lysanias (tetrarch of Abilene, Luke 3) are both mentioned and their timing questioned, that is until inscriptions were found at Delphi and Abilene (respectively) that tie them together.

In Acts 19:22, Erastus is named as a Corinthian who becomes a coworker of Paul. When Corinth was excavated, an inscription was found near the theatre and read “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid the pavement at his own expense.” They could easily be the same man, and it would explain why a wealthy citizen who converted was mentioned. Luke also gives the correct titles for several other officials.

Confirmation by Secular Historians

The next argument presented is that there were no “contemporary sources” that confirmed the existence of Jesus, which is flat out false.

The Gospel accounts were written within 40 years of Jesus’ death by eyewitnesses and by people who knew the eyewitnesses. Paul, for example, records meeting Peter (the disciple) in the book of Galatians. He also was known as a persecutor of the Jews; why would he need to persecute people who followed someone who did not exist? More importantly, if Jesus’ resurrection was made up, why would people willingly die for something they knew to be a lie? Since the accounts of the eyewitnesses (and others) are demonstrably historically accurate, and the mention of individuals correct, we have little reason to doubt the existence of Jesus. (Look here for links and info on historians — most of whom reject the theory that Jesus was a myth.)

Tacitus was a Roman historian (AD 55-120). He made at least three references to Christ. In the first he explains how Nero blamed the Christians for the fire that burned Rome:

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 reighn of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. […] Covered with the skins of beasts, they were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illimation, when daylight had expired. (Ibid, p. 51)

Note that it mentions Christians (why would they exist if not for Christ?), references the basic points of Christ’s death, and the superstition Tacitus mentions is likely to be that Jesus had said he would rise from the dead.

Christ is also mentioned by a Roman Satirist named Lucian, the chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian who was called Suetonius, and a Jewish historian named Josephus. All of these historians present the death of Christ and the belief that he rose from the dead as a belief followed by Christians, nothing more or less. They do not attempt to refute it — after all, if a body had been found, would it not be mentioned? (They also do not state that the man did not exist or that his followers did not.) Particularly since the Christian believers were such a large number that they were mentioned by historians, satirists, and secretaries — it is likely that the refutation of the belief that had caused such difficulty for the Romans would have been proclaimed loudly.

Though the Gnostic gospels are not books that should be relied upon as accurate sources of information about Jesus’, his life, or his theology, they do help us to understand history in light of the Gospels. These Gnostic gospels were written primarily by men who pretended to be biblical apostles, and they agree that Jesus existed, though they felt the need to build and modify the story to suit their needs (indicating that He wasn’t simply a myth they could ignore).

In addition to the written evidence, there are inscriptions after the time of Jesus resurrection declaring unusually harsh punishments for disturbing graves. It is suggested that this may have been in response to the claim of Jesus’ resurrection. The method of Christ’s death is also verified by ancient burial sites in Jerusalem where the bodies of crucified men were found and the injuries consistent with the description found in the Gospels.

Massacre of the Innocents

It seems that this is one event that there is limited evidence for (though that, in itself, does not prove the non-existence of Jesus or that the Gospels were faked). Josephus mentions other atrocities of Herod, particularly his violent ones, but not this one. Some have argued that the murder of his two sons may have set such fear in the people that they believed he would kill their children as well. Others believe that a decree was issued, but then retracted and never carried out. Historian Raymond Brown (and others) argue that, based on Bethlehem’s estimated population of 1,000 at the time, the largest number of infants that could have been killed would have been about twenty,[15][16] and R. T. France, addressing the story’s absence in Antiquities of the Jews, argues that “the murder of a few infants in a small village [is] not on a scale to match the more spectacular assassinations recorded by Josephus”.[17] Here is another article referencing the possibility of this event. Let it be known that the absence of one (potentially small, comparatively) event, does not disprove the entirety of Christ’s existence.

Note: Much of the information used here was taken from Norman Geisler’s book When Skeptics Ask. It is an excellent source of answers to questions that people often have, and provides many footnotes and references to support the answers given. (Chapter 9 alone has 22 footnotes!) Please check this book out from your library or order on Amazon.

 

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Recently someone posted an image on Facebook that was entirely inaccurate, in more than one way. The image claimed firstly that the Old Testament of the Bible is in Greek originally (it is not, it is in Hebrew!) and secondly claimed that the verse in Leviticus where it says “man shall not lie with man as he does with woman” uses the word for “little boy” as the second instance of man. The two words are different words in Hebrew, but the second word is used to mean male. That means any male. The poster was trying to argue that homosexuality was acceptable in the Bible and that there was nothing against it. What our conversation finally came down to was the fact that this person did not like that someone thought their actions (and the actions of those they loved) were sinful and worthy of punishment. Let me state here that all sin separates us from God, in His eyes there is no sin that causes more or less separation from Him than another; however, there are some sins which God will punish more harshly than another. Only He knows what will happen on the day when we die and go to meet Him.

 

During the course of our conversation, this article was shared. It was appalling and inaccurate, so I determined to set the record straight. I spent more than an hour researching and trying to do justice to the questions the woman had posed. I did not thoroughly read the article (mostly because it started with insults and lacked journalistic integrity), but I skipped to the verses they took issue with and found the answers o the questions they had. Below is my response. I did not quite every passage or give the reference, you will have to see the articles to find the references specifically.

 

http://www.pensitoreview.com/2007/02/07/abominations-you-could-be-committing-one-now/comment-page-2/#comment-1263465

 

This article is incorrect. The things that are listed as an abomination are things like rape, adultery, homosexuality, the creation of idols, dishonest business practices, cross dressing, divination, etc. (Most of those should at least make sense…) The verse in Deuteronomy 14 about what animals you should eat does not say that the pig is an abomination, it says it is unclean, which is an entirely different Hebrew word than the one translated as abomination.
The verse about not eating shellfish is again a separate word from “abomination”, This word is only used in relation to foods that they were not to eat. It is also translated as “detestable” or “unclean.”

 

Please realize that there are particular portions of instruction that were meant for the time of the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings and not later. Even after Jesus’ arrival and the declaration that the old law (and much of the food laws) had been done away with, many Jews still chose to practice the traditions. They also tried to force the Gentile believers to follow these laws, even though Gentiles were not required to follow them (according to the New Testament).

 

The Exodus verse about being put to death for working on the Sabbath has nothing to do with “abominations”. In this case, God had granted the people a day to rest and this day was to be holy and consecrated to the Lord (as holy as any other thing that was devoted to the Lord). Violating that holiness was essentially like spitting in God’s face. The reason why we stopped putting sabbathbreakers to death I can’t tell you, but it seems to be generally agreed upon that people who break the Sabbath by working on it will be judged in the next life. Not all consequences or punishment are immediate. Another general principle people seem to disregard is the intent of the command and the intent of the law. The Sabbath was made for man, as a day of rest; man was not made for the Sabbath. It was the Pharisees and religious leaders who added all of the extra “rules” about the Sabbath, which Jesus broke (to an extent). He told a man to pick up his mat (something the Jews considered work) and at another time his disciples picked individual grains to eat. The command for rest on the sabbath does not mean that we cannot do anything, but that we should not be laboring on the Sabbath. This is why picking up your food or serving a meal on the sabbath would have been acceptable, but gathering the wheat and threshing it etc. would not have been.

 

The Isaiah verse is out of context, it is not the incense itself that is abominable, it is the double standard of those who practice wickedness yet come to offer God incense as a ritual, with hearts that are far from him. When we read to understand something we must also read to understand the culture, the linguistic connotations, and the context of the passage.

 

Finally, the Revelation verse. The Greek word that is here translated as “abomination” is only used 6 times in the New Testament (as compared to the 120+ times the OT word was used). The outline of BIblical usage seems to refer mainly to idolatry. Two verses refer to “the abomination of desolation” (thought to refer to a person or force that would destroy Jerusalem). In Luke it states that “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” Revelation talks of a “cup full of abominations” and a woman who is the “mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” What exactly these last two mean is uncertain to me, perhaps it is a metaphor for being filled with detestable things that you propagate.  The final verse of Revelation, 21:27, is often not quoted to the end: “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Nobody who has committed abominable acts will enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless the blood of Christ has been applied to cover the debt for their sin. That means that anyone who has accepted Christ’s gift of salvation is clean. If the worst person in the world were to ask Jesus for forgiveness on their deathbed He would be forgiven and enter Heaven right alongside the sweetest saints.

 

My initial concern was with the inaccuracy of the image, but it seems that your main argument is either personal, trying to justify the actions of others that the Bible considers wrong, or mislead, thinking that Christians don’t know that they have sinned. We all do bad stuff, I am just as guilty of sin as anybody else, from Hitler to Mother Theresa. Jesus died for that sin; yours, mine, and everyone’s, because any sin at all would keep us from His presence and from enjoying heaven.

 

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Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” -Galations 6:7

My soul is so tired and weary of dealing with the God-mockers and the lukewarm. Those who claim the name of Christ yet act in as many ways unlike Christ as they possibly can. The people who aren’t simply making an human error, but are perpetuating a lifestyle of sin and essentially spitting on the throne of grace. People who claim Jesus as “ok with it”, but forget that he told the adulteress to “go and sin no more”. Those who talk about Christ’s forgiveness, but forget that he turned the tables on the merchants in the temple. People who say “don’t judge, or you will be judged” but forget that Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

The same Jesus who said “love your neighbor as yourself” is also the one who said “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Referring to teachers who led children astray.)

The same Jesus who forgave the prostitute, healed the lame, and said that we were to forgive repentant brothers seventy times seven times also said “be holy, as I am holy.”

Jesus never excused sin, never allowed for sin, or encouraged it. He forgave the sins of the repentant and gave them a way out! Of course, that is not enough for those who want to live sinfully without the fear of guilt or judgment. Someone once said that if an act (a sin) was excusable, then it didn’t need forgiveness! A sinful behavior might be explainable, understandable, or even anticipated, but it is unacceptable: sin is sin, and we must strive for perfection through the help of the Holy Spirit. What we’re saying when we intentionally sin and sin habitually is that God’s grace and mercy are worthless and that He is unworthy of our praise and respect. If you claim to follow the God of the universe, do not be surprised when something is expected of you, or when your sins are revealed. My God will not be mocked.

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” – Hebrews 10:28-30

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” -2 Peter 2

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In many conversations and religious discussions I have heard people condemn Christianity and Christians because some passages in the Bible make it appear that rape is acceptable. The proof scripture that is used most frequently is found in Deuteronomy 22:22-28. Here I will share the scripture and give my rebuttal.

“22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. 23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. 25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her. 28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[b] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”
The word shakab that is translated “rape” in the Deuteronomy 22:28 means “to have sexual relations with”, “lie with” etc., and does not indicate forced intercourse. The verse gives the idea that they slept together consensually and were being secretive and then they were discovered. The word translated “rape” in Deuteronomy 28:30 (“You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her.”) is what we would actually define as rape, or being violated. That word is shagal The woman in verse 28 was to be married to the man who slept with her because she had been humiliated, she was not betrothed to a man, and would never be allowed to marry or have a “normal” life otherwise. The man is punished in a way as well because he cannot divorce her, nor can he marry another woman.

Don’t forget verses 25-26 “But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die.Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death.” This instance uses shakab “to lie with” but says previously that she was “forced” or “prevailed upon” (depending upon the translation) to sleep with him, so it indicates that she was probably unwilling but it is not clearly stated (he could have convinced her to do it willingly). The man is stoned because he slept with a woman who was not his betrothed; though she might possibly have been willing there is no way to tell when they were alone in the countryside, and even if she had screamed no one would hear to come help her. If, however, he sleeps with a betrothed woman in the city and she does not scream, both are to be put to death for committing adultery.

Another verse referenced is 2 Samuel 2:11-12: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

David’s punishment is essentially that the same thing that he did to Uriah will be done to him. Because David had Uriah killed and secretly slept with his wife, David was going to have the same thing done to him, except in public knowledge; he will see and know that his women are being loved (shakab) by other men. It says nothing about rape (shagal). Some have noted that God has caused the women to commit adultery. I would argue that he did not cause it, but simply allowed it. But that is another story.

 

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Imagine if there is a God, when we act as though there’s not.
Imagine if there is a hell; it’s so very hot!
Imagine if we die and find out that it’s true?
Imagine if there is a God who loves us, me and you?
Imagine, it’s not hard if you’ll just try.
Imagine what might really happen, when it’s time to die.

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So many problems could be avoided in life if we would simply tell the person that we’re upset with that there is something wrong. Most of the time in life it seems that someone is angry about something for months and the person they’re upset with doesn’t know until the thing explodes. Life could be even more simple if people would just forgive others in the first place. Unforgiveness and grudge holding is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Furthermore, if the person we’re upset with doesn’t know that they have hurt you, how can they fix it? There are some people in my life, who are adults, who refuse to talk to me when something upsets them. It’s as if they expect me to read their minds! Don’t do this to your friends, family, children or your spouse. It’s childish behavior and it does not lead to reconciliation. Go to the person who has offended you, tell them why you are offended, and then choose to forgive them. It’s simple, it’s right, and it will bring you peace.

I leave you with a few verses on forgiveness:

The Bible tells us to forgive others. Not when we “feel” like it, not because we want to, but because He has forgiven us and He has commanded it. Jesus tells us that we should forgive an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18). We are told to “put up” with one another: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

We are told to forgive because we have been forgiven. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And in Mark 11:24-25 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Luke 6:37 tells us “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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In the last part of “Cause and Effect”, we looked at a dramatic example of the consequences of a few poor “personal” choices on the part of a college-aged guy. Here I will give some examples of how to make better choices and why. This is a work in progress and will hopefully be completed within the day.

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