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“The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us…”

An Apology for the Historical Jesus

Essay set 1

 

Trenton Clark Rindoks

PHIL 240-B01

Liberty University

Professor Beau Walker

 

 

 

Abstract

Many people doubt the existences of Jesus as a natural man. Instead the either consider Christ to be a mythical figure of literature, a device constructed by The Roman Government to control the populous, or a deity that did exist but was of supernatural origin and not entirely human nut something else a spirit like being with a form and miraculous powers. Using three scenarios the historical aspects of Jesus will be examined in this paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Word became Flesh and dwelt among … (Jn 1:14 ESV 2001)

An Apology for the Historical Jesus

Essay Set 1

 

 Introduction / Scenario 1

Suppose a friend or neighbor states that he doubts that Jesus ever lived while you are sharing your testimony with him or her. How would you react?  Many people today are inclined to react in such a manner. With the popularity of movies and books that which to disprove the existence of Christ and the decline of Christianity in western society one should expect such a reaction as the world becomes more secularized. Many may even enter into a debate that science disproves the existence of God and creation itself. However, all is not lost in many developing nations Christianity is on the rise and an evangelist equipped with the proper knowledge and facts of the origin of the Bible, historical evidence of Christ, a bit of church history, knowledge of science and the skills of apologetics and deductive reasoning one can debunk many of the myths of atheism and those who wish to assault the Christian faith. However one should always remember to do so in a loving, tolerate, respectful manner and even take time to listen to alternate viewpoints without getting defensive as this will not only strengthen one’s argument but would allow one to do so in the manner of Christ and his disciples.

Evidence for the Existence of Jesus

Despite the criticism of many scholars evidence exist outside the Bible of Jesus as a historical figure. Lucian of Samosata records introduced new teaches to the world and then was crucified. Pliny the Younger, in Letters 10:96, records early church practices and the Lord’s Supper, Tacitus writes about the suffering inflicted under the reign of Pontius Pilot and states Christ by name in his writing and many of the Gnostic writings also record the deeds of Christ as well (Got Questions?.org 2014). One can also, look to the prevalence of ancient original biblical sources which have been discovered that details the deeds and life of Christ and  from which the New Testament was canonized and Composed in comparison to other ancient works as a tool of argument for the existence of Jesus. These writings known as Autographs, Papyri, Lectionaries of the church fathers and other Greek manuscripts total 5,745 and greatly outnumber the 3 existing works of Tacitus, 27 works of Livy (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006) or even the 5 works of Aristotle (Towns 2008) yet we do not question these works or the existence of the content within.

Archeological Evidence

Many places mentioned in the Bible have been excavated or still are active today. In Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity marks the cave which is considered to be the birth place of Jesus. On the Sea of Galilee fishing boats from the time of Christ have been discovered by archeologist and in Capernaum we have the remains of the synagogue where Jesus exorcised the demons from the man as recorded in The Gospel of Mark (Mk 1:21-28 ESV. 2001).  WE also have evidence of Jesus in Jerusalem such as the Mount of Olives, where one can still enjoy a leisurely stroll among these ancient trees, The Garden of Gethsemane, The Temple Mount, the Pool of Bethesda and most remarkably the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is built over the tomb of Christ and contains the remnants of the crucifix (All About Archeology 2014).

Developing the Argument

This brings us back to the question how would one respond to an individual who doubts that Jesus ever lived?  This simply can be done by using the following steps:

  1. If such a wealth of ancient writing both of a biblical and non- biblical nature exists on the deeds and life of Christ and the amount of such data outnumbers that of other historical documents than how can a rational thinker disprove the existence of Christ?
  2. With the prevalence of archeological findings to support these ancient writings as proof how can on use any other form empirical method to disprove such findings?
  3. If one believes in other elements of history by such proofs as writings and archeology than one can only certainly believe in Jesus by using such methods and the evidence at hand.

With such an argument on can avoid much controversy that may advise by merely giving a testimony of faith or preaching one’s faith or simply using the Bible as a source of proof. After historical documentation has been established and a good rapport has been established then it may be necessary to use such evangelistic tools but one should do so after practicing the tenants of friendship, giving and love. Many who doubt Christ and claim to be atheist or agnostic simply are suffering from the lack of love or discomforts of loss and depression and the like. Kindness, compassion, humility and brotherhood can go a long way in planting the seed towards Salvation.

 

Conclusion

Although many may claim to doubt that Jesus existed with the use of historical evidence, archeology, a bit of Biblical knowledge and most importantly compassion, patience, love and understanding one can proof otherwise.  There is a wealth of information dating from the 1st century and beyond that still exists to debunk any skeptic’s claim that Jesus never lived.  Also, historical sites can be used as proof to back up these writings, and the belief in history itself is a powerful tool one can use as counterpoint to proof the existence of Christ. One should only result to a Christian fundamentalist approach after a rapport is built as this will only result in a heated argument and distract from the proof.  No matter how much data one has some may remain unchanged in their vies as only the Holy Spirit can bring one to Christ all we can do as Christian’s and scholars is provide the  information to plant a seed and let God do the rest.

Bibliography

All About Archeology. 2014. http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/evidence-for-jesus.

ESV. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2001.

Got Questions?.org. Got Quetions Ministries. 2014. http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html.

Komoszewski, J. Ed, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason: Cengage, 2008.

 

 

“All Scripture is God-breathed … (2 Tim 3:16 NIV 1984)

Introduction/Scenario 2

Suppose while on vacation you are engaged in a conversation and when it is discovered that you are a student of Religion a question arises regarding the corruption of the Bible by transmission in regards to the New Testament how would you respond? Many myths concerning transmission, canonization and which version of the Bible are authoritative are a common topic of debate today not only among non-believers but among believers today. We will exam how to address such an issue in the following essay.

The Method of Oral Transmission

Many claim since the origins of the Gospels was of an oral variety the messages, his deeds and details of his life may have been corrupted when written in the Bible by the Disciples. However this is far from the truth. With the vast number of eyewitnesses and the practices of memorization in Judaic society a sense of quality control accuracy existed in this culture. The Source Q or the material that relates to Matthew and Luke may have originated from these accounts. According to John Dominic Crossan, “Repetition would create a collective memory of such accounts. A faulty memory by an individual could hardly forget a miracle in as much as someone would not forget the Challenger explosion in 1986 if present during the time or the bombing of the World trade center (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006).” Also as mentioned earlier oral tradition was part of Jewish learning and much of the Jesus teachings are in poetic form using alliteration, puns, play on words, assonance, and rhyme to ease in memorization. A final point to consider is many disciples may have taken notes as many similarities can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other writings to suggest such practice may have existed (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006). With the above list of evidence it is hard to say the oral tradition corrupted the writings of the Bible.

The Written Gospels and Authenticity

The most common point brought forth by skeptics on the corruption within the Bible is the delay in the writing of the Gospels. The reason the disciples chose to delay writing the Gospels is simple after Pentecost they were on a mission of evangelizing, teaching and building churches throughout the world. As the churches grew and the disciples aged it became necessary for a written account of the life and deeds of Jesus to be recorded but how was such a task accomplished? As noted above Source Q was used by Matthew and Luke in some place and originated from the oral tradition but may have been recorded at some point prior to writing the Gospel. Source M refers to content unique to Matthew and L to Luke and Mark also had his own Sources. The Synoptic Gospels refer to the first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as each tells a similar account of Jesus life, Where the Gospel of John tells of Jesus in a unique manner. Mark is considered the oldest by most biblical historians and it should also be noted that all the Gospels were each at first anonymous works and only later did the church and church fathers attribute the works to certain disciples. Since, multiple sources record the same event it lends validity to the life and events of Jesus. Since the events in the Bibles paint at times an embarrassing account of the disciples why would they fabricate such writings? It would be logical for a leader of a cult or religion to cast a favorable light on one’s self to establish credibility and establish and maintain power and order. However the opposite is often present. This criterion of embarrassment lends authenticity to the Bible and establishes the fact that Jesus existed (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006).

The Apocrypha and Canonization

The Apocrypha or hidden books of the Bible are often used by critics as an argument for the corruption within the Bible.  So what are these books and why were they excluded from the New Testament. The Apocrypha deals with a series of writing that originate after the crucifixion and mostly detail Alternate accounts of Christ’s life deeds and actions. Such details as his childhood, views towards women and that Christ was not born human but as a spiritual entity are detailed within these controversial writings. Most writings elevated

Christ to a supernatural entity before the crucifixion thus denying his tie to humanity or are of Gnostic or served as a means of fictitious entertainment for the populous when written. None can be traced back to disciple authorship and most were not circulated within the early church.  The means for which a book is to be included in the bible is called canonization and three rules are applied to create an authoritative compilation of these works.  These rules are as such: Is the work of disciple authorship, was it widely circulated by the early church and consistent with the teachings of Christian faith (Towns and Gutiierrez, The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey 2012). As these works do not meet one or more of the standards they were not included in the Bible not because the content would revolutionize mankind, limited church power or any other silly notion offered by skeptics or poplar fiction. A final point one may here on canonization is that the process was not officially closed by any church creed, or conference, thus books may be added or subtracted from the Bible. Although, true and this has been challenged throughout history the criterion of canonization would still apply to any new discovery. In recent times Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was being considered to be added to the Bible by some theologians. Protestant Reformist debated over the relevance of certain books in the Bible. Martin Luther debate the authoritative nature of James and The Catholic Church has debated the issue of canonization as well. Many Churches also adamantly adhere to only certain translation claiming the other version as being corrupt.

The Nature of Translation or Versions of the Bible

Many claim that the King James Bible is the most authoritative account of God’s Word as it uses the earliest sources. This in actuality is false.  AS the (KJV) was written in 1611 the source used date from that time period. Recent discoveries have uncovered sources dating back earlier than that used by the (KJV) and from these sources many of the modern translations are derived (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006). Another point to consider when choosing a Bible is to match one to one’s level of cognition and personal preference and not necessary what is determined by one’s denomination. The main point in reading the Bible is to grasp and apply God’s word and apply it to one’s life. Thus, in this respect one may wish to deviate from church what the pastor recommends and read a Bible that easier to comprehend. The main point of God’s Word is enlightenment, instruction, wisdom, and ultimately salvation and one should remember although Christianity is partially a community based experience Christ is based on a personal relationship. Thus, it is imperative one understands what one reads in the Bible. Misinterpretation of The Word is one of the primary factors for corruption of theological and biblical view-points in society today.

Conclusion

Despite the many movies and books circulating today there is not any corruption contained within the Bible. In actuality the Bible proves the existence of Jesus and the Books contained in the New Testament were carefully scrutinized by canonization to insure accuracy and truth of God’s Word. One should be carefully in choosing a Bible that meets one’s educational and comprehension style and not fall into the trap of allowing doctrine dictate which version is authoritative. The main purpose of reading the Word is to build a rapport with Christ, to teach and become teachable and to carry the message to others as well as to receive instruction and wisdom in our daily lives. Although the canonization of the Bible remains open no changes have been made to alter the word in the sense of content and any discrepancies found between translations are usually just a matter of syntax or grammar from the source used and do not affect the general meaning. Thus, despite what some may claim no conspiracy or corruption exists or has ever existed with in the initial writing of the Bible or current translation. As exciting as the New Testament Apocrypha may be to read most biblical historians consider most to be works of fiction.

Bibliography

Komoszewski, J. Ed, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.

NIV. Swindoll, Charles R. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publish House, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L, and Ben Gutiierrez. The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relevance of Believe in the Historical Jesus

Introduction

Why is it important to one’s faith that the historical or human nature of Jesus be emphasized and studied and not merely the divine nature Christ? Although many may claim the two are an identical attribute of one being while other may argue the aspects converged at the time of Ascension, the importance of studying the relationship of Christ as a man is to prove that indeed Jesus existed and die for the sins of all mankind.  Three motivations to one’s faith will arise as a result from such a study. The factors are a strengthening of one’s faith, a greater feeling towards the suffering of others and an overall losing of self which will make one a more interesting and enlightened individual.

The Strengthening of Faith

How does the study and believe in historical facts about Jesus strengthen one’s faith? By obtaining such information one can draw a relationship with the biblical world and the world today and thus apply such knowledge to one’s own situations, culture, and society in general thus having greater wisdom and being better equipped to face the challenges of everyday life. This in turn will gain a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus and morality and will also aid in being able to differentiate the truth from fiction thus enabling the believer to defend Christianity from attacks by non-believers (Craig 2010).

A Sense of Empathy/Awareness

By proving the existence of Jesus and studying the evidence surrounding the text one will gain strength in times of difficulty and a sense of empathy. By thus being able to prove Jesus in fact existed one can reach out to those who are hurting and guarantee that there is one who offers relieve from the burdens of the world and salvation for the sins that cause such afflictions. Also, such a believe enables one who is facing such obstacles in one’s own life to know there is relief from the pains of the world and that are time here is only temporary that this world is not our true home but a temporary resting place our ultimate destination is to serve and dwell in Heaven we are aliens on this planet.

From the Loss of Self to Greater Good

A final motivation to one’s faith is the loss of self and the development to serve the greater good of humankind. The result of such a change is that mundane motivations such as greed, envy, anger, jealousy, low self-esteem and the like will lose their significance. Also, as one loses these traits one will become a more actualized individual and have more depth to one’s life. This will enable a deeper understanding of love, a better understanding of the world in which we live in, an awakening of the sense and allow one to become a more efficient communicator and overall more intellectual and not as shallow of a person. The ways of the world that motivate many will become trivial and one’s ability to cope and be an overall better human being will increase. One will become less interested in gossip and more interested in serving others. One thus will become consider a more interesting and evolved member of society by many (Craig 2010).

Conclusion

 One gains strength of faith, empathy and self-actualization partially by understanding who Jesus was as a man and then furthers this understanding by studying and applying the Word of God to this base to build spiritual wisdom. Although the two work as a part of a whole, Jesus Christ is both human and divine and part of the homoousios[1] state of God and the Trinity. The historical aspect is useful in clarifying the origin of the Bible, the existence of Christ himself and aides the believer in defending Christianity and bringing non-believers to Christ It also serves as ministry tool in helping those in need by helping establish a relationship with the individual and the world today.

Word Count # 3,374

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

All About Archeology. 2014. http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/evidence-for-jesus.

Craig, William Lane. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010.

ESV. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2001.

Got Questions?.org. Got Quetions Ministries. 2014. http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html.

Komoszewski, J. Ed, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.

NIV. Swindoll, Charles R. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publish House, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason: Cengage, 2008.

Towns, Elmer L, and Ben Gutiierrez. The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Homoousios:  of the same substance

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