You mean you actually believe in the Bible and all that Jesus stuff?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Richard Dawkins wrote, “Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.” 1

Marcus Borg posted, “The gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles belong together. For about a century, the conventional wisdom of mainline scholarship has dated Luke and Acts to the late 80s or 90s. But in the last decade, a growing number of scholars have dated them significantly later, in the first decade or two of the second century.” 2

In the New York Times best seller, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “The best argument I know for the highly questionable existence of Jesus is this. His illiterate living disciples left us no record and in any event could not have been ‘Christians,’ since they were never to read those later books in which Christians must affirm belief, and in any case had no idea that anyone would ever found a church on their master’s announcements.”3

The claims that Jesus may not have existed are nothing new. Skeptics and atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, and others, commonly allude to the poor historical record, the late dating of the New Testament books, and other short comings within scripture that should keep any sensible person from considering the New Testament as any kind of credible or accurate ancient record.

So lets back up for a moment and compare apples to apples.

In 66 AD the Jews revolted against the Romans and destroyed a Roman cohort stationed in Jerusalem. A Roman cohort usually had six centurions, who lead about 80 men each giving a cohort about 480 men total. Not surprisingly, Rome was not too happy about this, so the Roman emperor sent General Vespasian to crush the rebellion. On his way to Jerusalem they parked around a rebel town named Jotapata in the region of Galilee. On the 47th day of that siege a Jewish rebel named Flavius Josephus surrendered and was one of the few survivors of that engagement.

What is significant about Flavius Josephus is he sweet talked his way into the inner circle of the Roman empire, and eventually became a historian for the Roman emperor. That is a long step from hiding out in a cave with his Jewish buddies with a Roman centurion out side, threatening them to give up or die. He had been Jewish, and was one of the rebels that fought against Rome. He was quite familiar with the culture and surrounding area and wrote about the Jewish history, which has survived to this day.

Josephus wrote in Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3, “No there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day…” 4

Josephus also mentioned James, the brother of Jesus and how he was stoned by the Sanhedrin. Some scholars believe James may have been head of the Jerusalem church and that was enough reason for the Jewish authorities to stone him. Acts 21:17-18

There are several non-Christians sources that mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. If we include Josephus above, there is a total of 10 non-Christian. In the same 150 year period, you will find 9 non-Christian sources that mention the Roman Emperor Tiberius, at the time of Christ. Now add in the Christian sources and we find Christ is documented in 43 sources and the Roman Emperor Tiberius only 10 times. 5

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek pieced together the non-Christian sources and came up with an impressive list. Keep in mind this list is from the non-Christian sources.

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. Jesus lived a virtuous life.
3. Jesus was a wonder worker.
4. Jesus had a brother named James.
5. Jesus was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earth quake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God. 6

To even suggest, or hint, that Jesus may not have existed is silly when you consider just the sources that would be hostile to Christianity. Then, when those sources confirm the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament you have what seems to an accurate account of the life of Christ and his followers from over 2000 years ago.

When researching this post I came across another blog that pointed out, “There is a fundamental difference between the claims of history and the claims of inspiration. The claims of history are simply speaking to what actually happened; the claims of inspiration speak to the character and ultimate origin of a work (i.e., is God ultimately behind it?). We are capable of studying the historical claims without first having to prove inspiration.” 7

Dating the New Testament letters centuries after the life of Christ is another common attempt of non-believers to discredit scriptures as the author of the Huffington Post alluded to up above. What I find amusing at times is the skeptics lack of explanation to the omission of the 70 AD event throughout scripture. James Wallace put it this way, “We begin with perhaps the most significant Jewish historical event of the first century, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70. Rome dispatched an army to Jerusalem in response to the Jewish rebellion of AD 66. The Roman army (under the leadership of Titus) ultimately destroyed the temple in 70 just as Jesus predicted in the Gospels, (Matthew 24:1-3)” 8

Here we have a culture that surrounds, and worships within the city of Jerusalem. The center of the Jewish culture, its economy, its religious practices, its traditions, were all housed within the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. The temple was considered to be the worldly dwelling place of God and was of vital importance to the Jews of that day.

When the revolt started in 66 AD, four years later in 70 AD, not only was Jerusalem leveled, but the temple also. To say the Jews defended the city and temple would be an understatement. In the final day when the city walls were breached many rallied and surrounded the temple, but it caught fire. Despite the efforts of the Jews, and some Roman commanders who were ordered to keep the temple intact, it burned to the ground and was destroyed.

The fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple would have been mentioned by the New Testament authors, but not a single one mentions this monumental event in Jewish history. The omission of this historical fact is just one strong argument that all the New Testament authors penned their letters before the fall of Jerusalem.

Dismissing the Bible viable historical evidence, questioning if Jesus actually lived, and claims of the New Testament written centuries after Christ can all be dismissed after some careful research on the part of any Christian apologist who wants to defend their faith. 1 Peter 3:15

 

Sources:

1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. Print.
2. Borg, Marcus. “A Chronological New Testament” Huffington Post. Huffingtonpost.com, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
3. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007. Print.
4. Josephus,Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
5. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
6. Ibid.
7. Moyer, Doy, “On Using the Bible to Prove the Bible” La Vista Church of Christ. Church of Christ, 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2015
8. Wallace, James J. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013. Print.

 

 

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You mean you actually believe in the Bible and all that Jesus stuff? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Two and Out

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Two and Out. That is a wrestling term I have learned since my son Jed started wrestling in High School. It is referring to wrestling tournaments in which a wrestler who has two losses is out of the tournament. The past couple days were both a two and out for he and I. We both went to Sacramento for wrestling, but I also went to visit some Hindu temples in Sacramento to chat with the Pandit, (priest), and inquire about their religion, beliefs, practices, and how it compares to Christianity.

We were up about 4 AM and I drove him early to school. The team left before 6 AM, but I left a few hours later, after a relaxing morning with some coffee and some time spent Googling the location of a couple Hindu temples. The first one was the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple on Elder Creek Rd in South Sacramento off of Highway 99. Laxmi Narayan Temple

When I arrived, the parking lot was about empty, and it looked like there was some construction work going on in the back of the temple. I walked up to a side entrance where a door was slightly ajar. I also noticed quite a few pairs of shoes and sandals outside the door. I quietly opened the door and peered in to a very large carpeted room. Toward the front of the room was a large gold statue, (Vishnu, one of their main gods), very ornate and decorated. Several people were near the front in some kind of ceremony, so I quietly shut the door and retreated.

I walked around the building in the hopes of finding an office or someone I could ask about talking to their head Pandit, but no luck. After walking around, the only activity was in the large room that I first peeked into. So I returned, took off my shoes, and walked in.

What had been going on seemed to be over and I only saw two gentlemen in Hindu garments sitting across the room on a raised platform. I walked across the room smiling and asked if there was someone here I could ask some questions of about their religion. One of the men got up and walked toward me with a rather guarded expression on his face. I stuck out my hand, smiled, and introduced myself. He walked up to me, facing me squarely, and said, “Yes?” while crossing his arms, letting me know he had no intention of shaking my hand. His expression? Probably the same you would give a stranger who just walked up to your child and offered them some candy and ride in their car: angry distrust. My hand was left hanging for a moment and I dropped it. My expression must have changed as we were looking at each other for a long moment, when suddenly he folded his hands together as if in prayer and gave a couple quick, short bows. “Yees, yees” he said. “Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you.” In a very heavy Hindu accent.

I thought I might as well just spell it out so as not to waste any time. I replied, “I am a Christian and I would like to talk to someone here about this temple and the Hindu religion.” He explained in a very heavy Hindu accent that if I came back Sunday, I could talk to someone who spoke better English. I explained that I lived a couple hours away and would not be back any time soon. He replied that he could answer my questions and just stood there looking at me, arms folded across his chest again. Since I was not planning on a short interview, I asked him if we could sit down and I motioned to some chairs along a wall. I was trying to look as non-threating as possible, since he had left my handshake hanging in midair. I am sure my expression was not one of loving kindness, and I had some ground to make up. He agreed and we sat down, his arms still folded across his chest.

I asked him some personal questions first. Things like:
-Have you been a Hindu all your life?
-Is everyone in your family a Hindu?
-Were you born and raised in India?
After just a few questions like that, he visibly relaxed. I was genuinely interested and did not have to feign a curiosity for him and his life. I am sure he sensed that and was quite willing to share with me, but I had a very difficult time understanding most of his replies. He was born in India and had been raised in a Hindu family. He had been a Hindu all of his life and so was everyone in his family. There was more, but I could not understand him.

I motioned to the statue in the front of the room, and asked if that was one of their gods. He said it was Vishnu and explained to me that they had one god, (this surprised me), but gave an analogy to explain what he meant. He said that some people wear gold earrings, some people wear gold bracelets, some wear gold necklaces. They are all made of gold, but all are different items. This, he said, was the relationship of Vishnu and the other gods. He also explained that they come several days a week to pray to Vishnu and to other gods and that is what they had been doing. He spoke on this for two or three minutes, but unfortunately, I could not understand most of what he said. I can’t complain since his English was a whole lot better than my Hindi.

When he was done, he got up and I thought he was probably more comfortable standing, but I had been concentrating so hard on what he was saying, I had not seen several people come back into the room, preparing for more prayers. It was time for me to go. I thanked him for his time and left with the stares of several people following me out.

My 2nd attempt at locating a Hindu temple the next day took me away from the wrestling tournament. After driving around for well over an hour, I located the Vrindavan Dhaam, but it was not a temple. It was a residence. Unfortunately, the parking was non-existent and I had already missed several matches and was pressed for time to get back. I drove around looking for a place to park, but each cookie cutter house had only one spot in front for a parked car and they were all taken. I was done. Two and out. I am planning on returning for another go, but this time I will call ahead and try to chat with someone ahead of time and set up an appointment.

My son Jed won his first two matches, but then lost the next two, so he was out. I returned and pick him up and we headed home.

Why am I visiting some Hindu temples? With all I have been reading about my Christian faith and the evidence for it, I want to talk to others about their religions and see what evidence they have, what beliefs they hold, what answers they have for some of the tough questions religions have to answer and share it here.

Telling the Truth

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Some non-believers might say we don’t know if the New Testament writers were telling the truth. People claim all the time to have seen Elvis and we know it is false. Seeing Elvis became a sort of pop culture joke, but some seemed to seriously believe it to be true. The infatuation some feel for Hollywood stars is prevalent in our culture. Some people become obsessed with a particular movie star, writing them letters, e-mails, texting them, reading their Facebook or Twitter accounts several times a day, all the while their commitments to school, work, family, or friends suffer. I think most of you have had a crush at one time or another on someone. You thought of that person all day and would fall asleep thinking of that person, dream of that person, wake in the morning to thoughts of that person. If you thought you saw them across the street, or in a store your heart would leap in your chest and start beating against your chest. Well imagine those feelings times ten, and you might have a clue into those who are obsessed with a movie star, feel. Granted, the crushes we feel for someone are often short lived and normal, but obsession is not normal or healthy.
Throughout history, we have had leaders that can draw people into them, to the point people give up all else just to be with them. In 1978, Jim Jones convinced nearly a thousand of his followers to commit suicide by drinking poisoned punch in what has become known as the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana. This is also the only time a U.S. Congressman, (Leo Ryan), was killed in the line of duty. I can’t help but wonder how many of our Congressmen and Senators today would be willing to step into harm’s way to protect the people of our country. Congressman Ryan, with an NBC film crew, traveled to Guyana and the Peoples’ Temple, which is what Jones called his compound, to check on reports that some U.S. Citizens were being held against their will. Ryan and his crew attempted to escape with some members of the Peoples’ Temple, and were shot at the dirt airstrip field a few miles away. Within a few hours after that incident, Jones coerced almost all his followers to drink poisoned Kool-aid. Nearly 300 were children poisoned by their own parents.

Were the apostles obsessed with Jesus? Were they unable to accept his death, his human side? Did they somehow fake his resurrection to keep the followers they had for reasons of power, money, influence?

You can consider several pieces of evidence that point to the fact that the New Testament writers were telling the truth.

First, the New Testament writers included embarrassing details about themselves and Jesus. If anyone is writing an account to make themselves look brave, intelligent, wise, or powerful, you would not include embarrassing details in your account. In fact you would do just the opposite.

Mark 9:32 They don’t understand Jesus.
Mark 14:32-42 They fell asleep.
Mark 3:20-21 His own family said he was out of his mind.
John 7:5 His own brothers did not believe him.

Second, the New Testament writers included more than 30 historically confirmed people in their accounts. People that were around and could be interviewed to confirm or deny the accuracy of their accounts. People such as Pilate, Caiaphas, Festus, Felix, and others.

Third, the New Testament writers included divergent details about the story and resurrection of Jesus. For example, Matthew said there was one angel at the tomb while John says there were two. Some might ask how this could possible strengthen an account, but it is obvious the New Testament writers were not collaborating their story, which is exactly what they would do if they wanted to be credible to the followers they had, and the ones they wanted to acquire.

Fourth, the New Testament writers included women in the eyewitness accounts. This is especially troublesome considering the culture at that time. The word of a woman was not even admissible in a court of law. If you wanted any eyewitness to an event, and expected people to believe you, you better have something better than a couple women.

Finally, the New Testament writers had life long beliefs that they gave up. Suddenly, these men who abandoned Jesus after his arrest and crucifixion and scattered to the four winds, abruptly became ardent believers who did not deny Christ even under the threat of death. What is most significant about this particular piece of evidence is not that the apostles gave their life preaching the resurrection of Christ, because they believed it to be true, but they gave their lives because they knew it to be true. Many of us today would give our lives for our faith. Just consider what took place on 9/11. Those terrorists extinguished their lives for what they thought was true. The apostles gave their lives for what they knew to be true, as they were the eye witnesses to his life, death, and resurrection.

Resources:
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek
On Guard by William Lane Craig
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

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