History

The Christ-Myth Theory is a Myth

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Skeptics today have been influenced by the Christ-Myth theory. This movement began from the German scholar David Strauss in 1808. It gained strength at the University of Gottingen in the 19th century, but soon declined as these claims were more scrutinized. Today, most scholars, including non-Christians such as Bart Erhman, refute this notion that Christianity originated from the cults of Dionysus and Mithras. Below are some common objections raised and how you can defend the gospel in an age of skepticism.

Objection #1: Historians have no evidence of a historic Jesus dating from the early first century, even though many contemporary writers documented the era in great detail. 

Answer: Roman Historian Tacitus writes in A.D. 64 “Nero fastened the guilt 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 reign of Tiberius at the hands of Pontius Pilatus.” This passage is in perfect Tacitean style; it appears in all the Annals, and the anti-Christian tone is severe enough that forgery is unlikely.

Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD), a Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor writes: “they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds.” Evidence from Babylonian Talmud (70-180 AD): “On the eve of the Passover Yeshua was hanged…He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”

Other early attestations outside of Scripture include: Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist, Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher refers to Jesus as the wise king who lived on in the teachings he enacted, Suetonius (69-140) wrote in the Life of Claudius, 25:4 “The Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Christ, so Claudius expelled them from the city of Rome.”

Objection #2: Philo of Alexandria, for example, wrote in depth about early first-century Palestine, naming other self-proclaimed messiahs, yet never once mentioning a man named Jesus.

Answer: This is correct. Philo of Alexandria didn’t mention Jesus in any of his writings. The argument from silence is not sound. First, there were many so-called messiahs who arose during the first century. Philo was more focused on integrating Jewish ideology with Greek Philosophy than researching a new religious movement. Secondly, Jesus and John the Baptist were people that were often associated with the Essenees, a sect of Second Temple Judaism. In the earliest days of Christianity, the movement like the Essenes was akin to all the other cults arising from Palestine that would eventually lose its popularity, or so Philo thought. Lastly, Philo died in 50 AD, only 20 years after Jesus was crucified, which was still early in the evolution and growth in Christianity.

Objection #3: The Bible is the source of the claim that we’re trying to prove are historically reliable. You can’t prove information in the Bible is true by referencing the information in the Bible. That’s circular reasoning

Answer: It is perfectly reasonable for Scott and other Christians to quote the Bible as their source for truth. All philosophical systems start with certain axioms. The question is not whether the Bible can be used to validate it’s own claim, but whether Scripture is self-consistent and historically accurate.

The New Testament documents are better preserved and more numerous in copies than any other historical document currently known. For example, there are 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today. Homer comes in second with 643 copies, followed by Sophocles at 193, and Aristotle at 49.

More importantly, the approximate time span between the original and copy is vitally important because literature experts find a positive correlation between time span and myth development. The longer the time span, the more likely myth develops. The time span between Aristotle and the first known copy is 1400 years. Homer’s time span is 500 years. The New Testament is less than 100 years. If the Christ myth theory camp spearheaded by G.A. Wells, Tom Harpur, and Raphael Lataster is correct that Jesus never existed, was later historicized, and the gospels are allegory and fiction, than all other historical documents should be “demythologized” as well.

Objection #4: “Herod the Great died in 4 and the census of quirinius of Syria was in the year 6. If Mary was trying to escape the census before Jesus was born, there is a huge contradiction.”

Answer: The Greek word for “first” in Luke 2:2 can be translated as protos or “before.” N.T. Wright suggests that the genitive case is a grammatical feature in Greek and is used in other passages such as John 1:15; 30; and 15:18. Moreover, Luke uses the words “first census.” which occurred because of a decree by Augustus in 8 BC. History reveals that Augustus took the census in 28 BC, 8 BC and AD 14. Thus, the census Luke is discussing was not the one in AD 7 but the one Augustus commanded in 8 BC. Although Quirinius was not the governor of Syria during this time, he held power in Syria and Judea and was able to carry out the census. Furthermore, Scripture does not actually say “governor” in the Greek. It was a very general Greek verb which meant “exercising of administrative tasks.”

Objection #5: John shifted the cleansing if the temple to the beginning of the ministry instead of the end of the ministry as told in the other gospels. 

Answer: This is not a contradiction. Jesus went to the temple on two separate occasions. In John 2:13, Jesus throws the coins but there is no mention of him overturning the tables. In John, Jesus makes a whip, but in Matthew there are no details of this. Jesus uses different vocabulary when speaking to the hypocrites in the temple. He tells them to stop turning His Father’s house into merchandise in John 2:16. However, in Matthew he quotes an Old Testament verse: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” These are two separate events, not chronological contradiction.

Jesus often confronted the religious hypocrites, especially in places of worship. The temple was an important instrument for worship, and God was often zealous for obeying Him in these places of assembly. Therefore, instead of John mixing up the chronology, he is simply talking about two different accounts of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees in the temple.

As you can see, the Christ-Myth theory is itself a myth.

 

The Bible: Fact or Fiction?

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I often hear skeptics argue that the Bible is not true. It’s just a mythological book that a bunch of people made up with no historical validity. These opinions may be rampant today, but they are not grounded in truth. There is strong evidence suggesting the Bible is historically trustworthy. I will provide just a few examples from independent sources in the 1st century claiming for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about Christ in his historical documentation entitled “Annals” in AD 116, book 15, and chapter 44. He states: “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 reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition.”

Jewish historian Josephus, who would have been the most bias against Jesus because of his blasphemous claims of deity, wrote this in his historical document, “Antiquities of the Jews”, written 93-94 AD. Josephus states: “Ananus thought that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinas was still on the way.  And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, the one called Christ, whose name was James, and certain others, and accusing them of having transgressed the law…”

Mara bar Serapion, an Assyrian Stoic philosopher, wrote a letter in AD 72 after the annexation of the ancient city Samosata by the Romans. The letter refers to the unjust treatment of the execution of the “wise king” of the Jews. Based on Serapion’s writing style, it demonstrates he received sources from non-Christians because the title given, “wise king,” was not the title recorded in the gospels. Rather, Jesus was referred as King of the Jews or Son of Man.” Moreover, to prove Mara was an independent source from the gospels is his failure to understand the monotheistic teachings. For example, Serapion said that this wise man lives through his teachings in contrast to the concept that Jesus continues to live because of the resurrection.

Lastly, the gospel writers had a proven track record of historical reliability. For example, Luke writes in the first four verses to “Most excellent, Theophilius.” Scholars today recognize that the classical style of Greek Luke uses in these verses demonstrate his profound mastery of history. Luke also correctly mentioned the following people who lived during that time period, such as Sergius Paulus, Herod the Great, Annas, Felix, Caiaphas the High Priest, King Herod Agrippa I and Agrippa II, Gamaliel, etc. and his precise geographical locations were proven.

Sir William Ramsay, a renowned Archaeologist, stated: “I began with a mind unfavorable to the book of Luke and Acts; I did not then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely. But more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

These are just a couple of truths that help demonstrate the validity of the Bible. If you want to know more, I suggest watching this video by William Lane Craig as an introduction to the topic on whether or not we can trust the Bible.