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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One of the first things you must understand when researching anything from historical documents as old as the Bible is that there are cultural and linguistic differences that may need to be accounted for.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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While I may not necessarily agree with everything any political candidate believes, I think we can all agree that Donald Trump crosses the line when he makes up nicknames for opponents that are not true (and Trump is not entirely honest himself). I agree with this image in that I think that Ted Cruz has defended his beliefs and stood up for his convictions with tenacity, and that is something that is laudable. When he says he wants to do something, it’s not just “an opening bid” or up for negotiation with the highest bidder, he truly believes what he stands for. I have not yet decided who I will cast my vote for in the upcoming election, but a man who is honest and defends what he believes in (despite the opposition) gets far more points in my mind than someone who defends their beliefs by tearing their opponents down.

 

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So true!

Tales from the Mommy Trenches

It happened again today. I was reading something on the internet with a glaring grammar mistake. I cringed and fought the urge to email the site administrator to inform him or her of the error.

Hello, my name is Sylvia and I am a compulsive English language corrector. I can’t help it. I read someone’s blog post that I find intriguing and I will stop reading immediately if I see that he or she does not understand the definition of a certain word. I understand that this is rigid and unforgiving of me in the extreme. Sometimes I feel like I might explode, so I am using this blog post as a therapeutic space. Maybe I will even get to the point where I can blithely read things without paying any heed to the mistakes I might read. Or at least stop blurting out corrections. Bear with me.

1) Firstly…

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Protected: Stuff for Megan

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Etsy Page: Ethyrian Elegance

Check it out!

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Peanut Butter Cups!

Just wanted to share this delicious recipe for peanut butter cups! I am going to make some for a costume party this week. They will be cute. I’ll try to add pictures to this post later.

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