“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
1) Myth or History? (Part 2 of 3) (Forrest D. Moyer)
Myth or History?
(Part 2 of 3)
Forest D. Moyer
There are many effective ways to respond to the claims that the Bible either contains or is made up of myths. For example, we can show that the Scriptures have the mark of inspiration totally (plenary inspiration). We can show that prophecy helps to prove the authenticity of the Scriptures. However, the approach that I want to use has to do with the person of Jesus Christ. If we can show that Jesus was a historical person, we will have proven that He was not a myth. If we can show that the claims that He made for Himself are valid, we will have shown that His disciples did not, after His leaving this earth, manufacture the claims of His Deity. If we can show that Jesus is from God, then we will have also shown that Genesis is an inspired account because Jesus looked upon Genesis as actual history. We might state our approach in this manner:
1. Was Jesus a historical person or was He a myth?
2. If Jesus was a historical person, was He who He claimed to be — Deity?
3. If Jesus is Deity, then Genesis is not a myth.
Was Jesus A Historical Person?
“Comparatively few recent scholars postulate that Jesus never lived. Such positions are usually viewed as blatant misuses of the available historical data.”9
It is not within the scope of this paper to elaborate upon the historical trustworthiness of the four gospels. However, they will bear the scrutiny of the severest historical critic. They give testimony to the fact that Jesus was a historical person.
All of the New Testament narratives were completed within sixty years or so of the Lord’s death, and of the twenty-seven New Testament books, no less than ten were penned by personal companions of Jesus. Paul, an eye-witness of Christ, wrote at least thirteen of the remainder. It used to be fashionable in liberal circles to ascribe most New Testament books to the second century A. D., but interestingly, even liberal critics are now admitting that the New Testament documents are first-century sources of information. For example, modernistic theologian John A. T. Robinson of England, in his book, Redating the New Testament (1977), conceded that all of the New Testament books were written within seventy years of the death of Christ, and by men whose names they bear!10
Most skeptics claim that they want non-biblical proof of the existence of Jesus. This, too, can be given.
While some believe that we know almost nothing about Jesus from ancient, non-New Testament sources, this plainly is not the case. Not only are there many such sources, but Jesus is one of the persons of ancient history concerning whom we have a significant amount of quality data. His is one of the most-mentioned and most-substantiated lives in ancient times.11
(One book that contains much information about the historical Jesus is He Walked Among Us by Josh McDowell, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California. See pages 35-70 for information on historical sources dealing with Jesus.)
The following information is from A Ready Defense (Josh McDowell, Here’s To Life Publishers, San Bernardino, Ca., pp 198-208):
Ancient Secular Writers
Cornelius Tacitus was born circa A.D. 52-54 and was a Roman historian. He alluded to the death of Jesus and to Christians in Rome when he wrote:
“Hence to suppress the rumor, he (Nero) falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius; but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also” (Annals, XV. 44).
Lucian of Samosata was a satirist of the second century. He spoke of Christ as:
“the man who was crucified in Palestine because He introduced this new cult into the world… Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist Himself and living under His laws” (The Passing Peregrinus).
Flavius Josephus was born A.D. 37 and was a noted Jewish historian. He is quoted as saying:
“Now 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 among 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 in the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him are not extinct at this day” (Antiquities, xviii. 33).
In another place he refers to Jesus when he speaks of James “the brother of the so-called Christ” (Antiquities XX 9:1).
Seutonius was another Roman historian and a court official under Hadrian. He said, “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [another spelling of Christus], he expelled them from Rome” (Life of Claudius, 25. 4).
McDowell quotes from Pliny the Younger, Tertullian, Thallus, Phlegon and from a letter by Mara Bar-Serapion all showing the historical evidence that Jesus was a historical person.
Jesus was not a myth. He was a historical person who lived during the first century. “Very few scholars hold the view that Jesus never lived. Even Rudolf Bultmann, one of the most influential critical theologians of the twentieth century and exponent of demythologizing the Scripture, said, ‘By no means are we at the mercy of those who doubt or deny that Jesus ever lived.’”12
Virtually no writers have asserted that Jesus did not exist or have attempted to cast virtually total doubts and obscurity on his life and ministry. But, such efforts are refuted by the early and eyewitness testimony presented by Paul and others, by the early date of the Gospels, by the corresponding historicity and trustworthiness of the Gospels, and by the failure of the mystery religions to explain the Christian faith.13
9. Gary R. Habermas, The Verdict of History, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, p. 31.
10. Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson, A Study Course in Christian Evidences. Apologetics Press, Inc. Montgomery, AL. 1991, p. 140.
11. Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense. Here’s Life Publishers. San Bernardino, CA., p. 197.
12. Gary R. Habermas, op. cit., 36.
13. Ibid., p. 36.
— Via the bulletin of the La Vista church of Christ
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NASB).
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
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