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An honest Appraisal...

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges & Seminaries' started by Havensdad, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Havensdad

    Havensdad New Member

    Jun 14, 2007
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    At some point in ones scholastic life, he or she becomes curious regarding their own reading and writing ability. I have reached that point, and I was curious whether any of you academic types would like to take a look at one of my latest assignments (which has already been graded, and passed), and give me an honest evaluation of my writing ability. This is only a portion, and I did not include my Bibiliography/references cited (space limitations).

    2. Outcome 3: Article “The Historical Jesus was Divine”

    2.1 Introduction
    In regards to the story told by the Holy Bible, there arises a question of such profound importance, that every other reality that we know and speak of hinges upon the answer. That question simply stated is this, “Is Jesus God?”
    The answers to all other questions that we could ask, concerning our reality here on Earth, is dramatically affected by this first and most important question. For instance, if I ask the question “What is our purpose here”, the answer to that question is on the opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum, depending on the answer to the first question, “Is Jesus God”. If Jesus is truly divine, then the answer must be that our ultimate purpose is to serve and glorify Him. If Jesus was not divine, then our purpose here has nothing to do with Him at all, or going even further, perhaps we have no purpose at all, and we are just a cosmological accident.
    What then would we tell our children? If Jesus is truly God, we can point to His words in scripture when our child mistreats another child, and tell them that they should “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19). We can tell them that they are special and valuable (Luke 12:7), and there life has a purpose (Ephesians 1:11). Christianity becomes not just a vessel containing truths, but truth itself, by which all other aspects of reality; our actions, morals, etc. must be judged by, and brought into subjection to (Schaeffer 1981: 19-20).
    If however Jesus was just a man, then none of these scriptures are authoritative. There is no reason to accept them as truth, over the thousands of other so called wise men throughout history. In fact, why not take your lead from such men as Adolf Hitler, or Jeffrey Dahmer? Without there being some reason to listen to and obey the words of Jesus, there really are no objective criteria to live by: morality, right, wrong, good, and evil, these ideas become subjective, totally dependent upon the whims of the individual.
    So it is that we must examine the historical person of Jesus with utmost care. Before we do that, though, we must establish that He was, in actuality, an historical person.

    2.2 Was Jesus a Real Person?
    Some go even further than to question the divinity of Jesus. Many people have made the claim that Jesus never even really existed, claiming that He was an assimilation of other myths, completely fabricated by individuals desiring to control the populace, to gain monetary reward, or some other nefarious purpose. So before we begin to investigate the deity of Christ, we must first establish that He was a real, historical individual. To do this, we will examine two bodies of evidence: secular historical documentation, and the Gospel accounts themselves.

    2.2.1 Historical documentation
    Some of the most ardent detractors of the Christian faith have upheld a theory known in some circles as the “Legendary Hypothesis”. This is the assumption that Jesus Himself was not even a real person, but was instead a concoction of legends, dreamed up for any number of reasons; an amalgam possibly of other legends, such as Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Greek mythology, etc. This idea has no basis in fact, though, and can easily be shown to be false, which is why most historians have abandoned it (Kennedy 1999:104).
    Speaking on this very subject, historian J. Gilchrist Lawson states emphatically:
    “The legendary or mythical theory of Christ’s existence is not held by anyone worthy of the name ‘scholar’. The historical evidences of Christ’s existence is so much greater than those in support of any other event in ancient history; no candid scholar could reject them without also renouncing his belief in every event recorded in ancient history” (Kennedy 1999:105).
    The reason for this is patently obvious; Jesus’ existence is not just recorded in the Bible, but in many ancient texts. Secular historians starting from the first centuries B.C.E., such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Aristides, Galenus, Lampridius, DioCassius, Hinnerius, Libanius, Ammianus, Marcellinus and Eunepius, have all written of Christ as if He were an actual historical figure. Such historical attestation is overwhelming, and is of such a magnitude as to be unmatched by any other historical figure or event (Kennedy, et al).

    2.2.2 The Gospels
    Although some might try to discount the Gospels narratives themselves, it must be noted that they do provide proof of Jesus’ existence. To overlook this would be a disservice to the pursuit of historical truth. Noting this, there are two ways in which the Gospels show themselves to be trustworthy historical accounts.
    The first is in there content; the gospels are not written in a fanciful way, such as one would expect from typical mythology. It is true that there are miraculous accounts in scripture, but they are told in a very down to earth, unembellished way. All one must do is compare the Christian writings in the gospels to other, legendary sources, to see a marked difference between the two. One is history, and one is fantasy (Criswell 1969:109).
    The other way the gospels show themselves to be accurate, is in their accurate portrayal of other historical events at the time. For instance, the tetrarch of Abilene, Lysanias, mentioned in chapter 3 of the Gospel of Luke, was once thought to be in error; yet later discoveries showed that not only did this tetrarch exist, but the timing matched biblical records exactly! Such historical details are not unique; they are all throughout the gospels, and to date all have been shown to be accurate (Little 1980:86-87).
    The gospels, then, are an important proof of the person of Christ in and of themselves. Christ was without a doubt an historical figure. But was Jesus divine?
    2.3 Jesus: Divine, Liar or Crazy?
    Because some people deny that Jesus claimed deity for Himself, we must first look at the actual statements of Jesus regarding His own person. Such absurd statements (that is, that Jesus never claimed divinity) can easily be put to rest, and we can then move on to more evidentiary pursuits.
    2.3.1 What Jesus Claimed
    It has been often and well stated that the only three options we have regarding who Christ actually was, is lunatic, liar, or God. Christ certainly leaves no possibility for wiggle room in what He actually said. He is therefore God, He was crazy and thought that He was God, or He was a lying con man. The ideas put forth by some, that He was just a “good moral example”, or a “teacher of wisdom” cannot be true, for He made many claims to deity. Let us look at just a few of those.
    First and foremost, we see Jesus clearly claiming deity in the Gospel of John, in part of a well known and well read story. In verses 8:56-58, we see Jesus make an astounding statement of divinity to the Jews: that Abraham knew of Him (Jesus) and was waiting for His coming. Considering the fact that Abraham had lived centuries before, this was a truly fantastic assertion!
    When the leaders of the mob pointed out the unbelievable outrageousness of such a claim, Jesus further asserted His deity, by stating His freedom from constraints of time, and alluding to God’s name in Exodus 3:14, by stating “"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (ESV). Although some would like to discount this clear statement of godhood by Christ, any such argument is truly indefensible. Certainly the Jews understood Him to be claiming godhood: they attempted to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:59)!
    In addition to this clear statement by Christ, we also see Him continue to identify Himself with God the Father. One such case occurs in John chapter 14. When Phillip asks to see the father, Jesus responds in this way:
    "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?” (Verse 9, ESV)
    What Jesus claimed is really undeniable; He claimed to be Christ, God in the flesh. Yet is their proof?
  2. Havensdad

    Havensdad New Member

    Jun 14, 2007
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    2.3.2 Proving His Deity from Scripture
    Now that we have shown Jesus clearly believed himself to be God, we must ask ourselves, what proof is there in scripture to support this? Did Jesus decisively validate His claim? We will look at three points: miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and the testimony of His followers. Miracles
    More than anything else, perhaps, Jesus is remembered for the many great miracles that He performed in the Holy Scriptures. If the Bible is to believed, and there is no real reason not to trust it’s proven historical accuracy, Jesus had a command of the natural world which was supernatural, to say the least. Amazing healings, casting out of demons, and walking on water were just a few of his spectacular feats (Matthew 8:16, 32, 14:25). Jesus had an unbelievable knowledge of scriptures at a very young age. He knew things in what we might call today an almost “psychic” sense (Matthew 9:4). In one instance, He even laid control upon a storm by His spoken word:
    And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39 ESV).
    There is little doubt left to His claim to deity, if one takes the Bible at it’s word. Yet such things are called “myth” to the skeptic. Turning from the miracles of Christ, then, let us set our attention upon the fulfilled prophecies of Christ, something far more difficult to engineer. Fulfilled Prophecy
    Anyone who has studied the old testament of the Bible at length, has undoubtedly come to be amazed at the vast and far reaching prophecies contained in it’s pages, particularly concerning the promised messiah. There are 333 texts, containing 456 specific details, describing exactly the requirements, life, death and resurrection of the coming Christ. This carpenter born in a stable of Bethlehem fulfilled them all (Kennedy 1999: 109).
    Just a quick look at some of these very specific predictions, demonstrates an abundance of evidence in Jesus’ favor, not easily refuted. Specifically, the promised messiah was to be born of a virgin, from the house of David, in the town of Bethlehem. He would be preceded by a “forerunner”, worshipped by wise men bearing gifts, and would be called a Nazarene (Kennedy 1999: 109-110).
    Moreover, He would be rejected by His own people(Isaiah 53; Psalm 69:8; John 1:11). He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Psalms 41:9;55:12-14;Matthew 26;14-16;21-25) and crucified among law breakers (Isaiah 53:12;Matthew 27:38). Perhaps most significant of all, His resurrection was foretold as well (Psalm 16:10;Matthew 28:2-8). Each of these alone is excellent proof; together they become an overwhelming mountain of events far beyond the control of any ordinary human being (McDowell 1997: chapter 1).
    This of course is just a very small sampling of the prophetic evidence supporting of Jesus’ claim to deity. It would take a large book (and indeed, many have been written), to expound upon them properly, but sufficed it to say they are overwhelming, to say the least. Now, shifting gears, let us examine the testimony of those who new Him best; His followers. Testimony of His followers
    There is little doubt that Jesus’ followers, as recorded in scripture, believed that they walked alongside God himself. The idea of His divinity is found all throughout the New Testament, which was written by the very hands of his disciples. Take for instance the following, from the book of Colossians, written by the apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus:
    “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (1:19 ESV).
    Equally important is the testimony of Peter, for some would claim some kind of division regarding the deity of Christ, between Paul and Peter; no such division is found in scripture:
    “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1 ESV).
    Peter and Paul, arguably the two most prominent of Christ’s followers, clearly expressed His deity. This same sentiment may be found in every book of the New Testament, among Jesus’ other followers.

    2.3.3 Extra Biblical Proof of Deity
    Finally, we have established beyond any reasonable doubt the testimony of Scripture. The divinity of Christ is virtually shouted from every page. We can now move on to other proofs; namely logical and historical evidence. The Resurrection: Logical witness to His deity
    One of the greatest proofs of the deity of Jesus is the tremendous change that He brought about in the lives of those claiming to be Christian, both in antiquity, as well as in the here and now. The disciples for example, who were once timid and scared, deserting Jesus at His arrest, became bold and courageous after His resurrection. Millions of martyrs throughout the last two millennia, also, give witness to the authenticity of the Christian faith.
    Think for a moment, for instance, about the apostles themselves. Had the resurrection itself been a concoction by Jesus’ inner circle, as some claim, they would certainly have recanted when faced with torture and death, for they surely would have known their claims to be forged. Yet although most of His immediate followers were martyred, none of them rejected or denied their faith. Such valiant acts would be unthinkable had the apostles known that they had fabricated the story of His resurrection (Zacharias 2000:60).
    Furthermore, consider the temple leaders themselves. Had Jesus not actually been who He said He was, all that these Jewish leaders would have had to do to squash any Christian movement is to produce the body of Christ. One parade through the towns in and around the Sea of Galilee with the dead corpse of Jesus, and people would have departed the faith in droves. Yet the Jews never attempted this: we must conclude this is because there was no body to show.
    But some might try to say that Jesus’ disciples stole the body. Such a fanciful story would be truly unheard of. The motley crew of dispersed disciples, would have had to gather together, overpower the Roman guard which had been placed on the tomb, roll away the heavy stone sealing it, and steal the body, all so that they could fake His resurrection, and give their lives to preaching a known lie. This is much more unbelievable than the resurrection itself (Zacharias 2000: 59)!
    Another corroborating piece of evidence lies in the townspeople who had heard, spoken to, and witnessed Jesus. Imagine for a moment someone today traveling around the United States, claiming that John F. Kennedy had raised the dead, healed the sick, and been resurrected. Such farcical tall tales would not be well received; there would most certainly be people everywhere denouncing such twaddle as historically inaccurate. Why? Because they were there; they saw President Kennedy when he visited this place, or that place, and they know that no such thing occurred.
    This same principle applies to Jesus. Although the disciples traveled all over the known world, just a few short years after Jesus’ death, we never hear, either in the Bible, nor in historical accounts, of their being any opposition to the truth of the apostles accounts, though their was certainly strong opposition to the movement itself (Acts 7:57-58, 13:8) . Logic, then, though claimed by Christianity’s detractors, is firmly on the side of the believer. Historical witness to His deity
    There are two forms of documentation which we shall examine, to further solidify the truth of Christ’s godhood; Secular historical accounts, and Jewish sources. Secular Sources
    We will now turn back to the secular historical sources for a moment, in light of the claim of Christ’s deity. Surely if Jesus was in fact God, there should be some historical documentation from non religious sources, pertaining to some of the miraculous accounts of the Bible. In fact, we find there is much evidence to be found.
    The best attestation found in antiquity, and the one which is truly undeniable, is the multiple historical sources documenting the three hours of complete darkness during the time when Jesus hung on the cross, recorded in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44. The secular writer Thallus, for instance, in 52 C.E., writes about the failure of the sun to give light during these three hours, blaming the occurrence upon an eclipse. This cannot be the case, however, for Christ was crucified during the Passover, which was during a full moon; it is scientifically impossible for an eclipse to occur at the time of the full moon (Kennedy 1999: 106).
    The Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, also wrote of this same event to Tiberius Caesar himself, saying that at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, there was “darkness all over the world”, further attesting to the accuracy of the biblical account. Although this is questioned by some secular historians, there is ample early documentation to attest to it’s legitimacy (Kennedy 1999: 106).
    We must say that a person would be foolish to discount out of hand such blatant support for the historicity of Christ’s deity. Yet some still may not be convinced. We shall look at one more source of documentation.
  3. Havensdad

    Havensdad New Member

    Jun 14, 2007
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    continued... Jewish Sources
    One of the most astounding pieces of evidence is that which is spoken of by the contemporary enemies of Jesus and His followers, i.e. the non-Christian Jews. Contained within the Talmud, an ancient record of rabbinic discussions, is an allusion to the supernatural acts/qualities of Jesus. In a section of writings commonly classified as the Tannaitic Period in Sanhedrin 43a, is found this statement
    “On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf” (McDowell 1999:58).
    When we then compare such accounts to the Biblical records, in regards to both the timing and accusations, we find them to mesh perfectly. Note this similar response by the Pharisees recorded in Matthew 12:24, to Jesus’ performance of miracles
    But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons” (ESV).
    When we examine this closely, we see that not even Jesus’ enemies could deny the power of the miracles He performed. All that they could do, is question it’s source, accusing Him of sorcery and allegiance with demons.
    2.4 Conclusion
    On the whole, we must state categorically that there is little real reason to doubt the authenticity of the Christian belief. History, fulfilled prophecy, and the attestation of the Holy Bible itself, leave little doubt for one who is willing to examine these ideas for themselves, that Christ is who He claimed to be; God in the flesh.