The Reality of Jesus

Should it change you when you realize the reality of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My debate with Ken Humphreys is complete and you can find a link to it here. I am very pleased with how the debate went. It is my continuing hope that mythicism will be soon seen as an embarrassing fad that will pass away. I do think as a Christian that the reality of atheists jumping on the mythicist bandwagon is only hurting their cause. They are missing out on far better scholarship in the NT, including from fellow atheists, and damaging their cause from an academic perspective by going with a fringe belief.

Last night I was thinking about it and how really overwhelming the evidence for Jesus is and it struck me as how incredible it is that this is a reality. Now of course the existence of Jesus does not demonstrate that He was the Son of God who did miracles and rose from the dead, and of course atheistic scholarship has their own reasons for thinking he didn’t as well as liberal scholarship that would even identify itself as Christian, but as one who has read much of this, I really consider the counter-arguments quite weak.

Which gets us to the idea that Jesus is a historical reality that everyone deals with and as has been said before, everyone seems to want Jesus on their side. Muslims have Him as a prophet and the messiah and there are many good attributes of Him given in the Koran that are not given to Muhammad. Buddhists and Hindus like him as an avatar figure. Every religion that has come after Jesus has had to say something about Jesus. Even Richard Dawkins has spoken about a movement that he would like called “Atheists for Jesus” to which he thinks Jesus in humility would prefer to say “Jesus for atheists.” In a sense, I think Jesus certainly is! Jesus is not against atheists as people after all.

But if we are Christians, we need to realize that one of the starting claims of our system is true. Jesus really did walk among us. If that’s enough to excite us, imagine how exciting it is to think about the reality that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again. As is said in 2 Peter, we are not following cleverly devised tales. We are following what Luke said is an account that he made sure of.

Christianity is a unique faith in that it deals with historical realities. It makes the claim that these events happened and they happened at a specific place and time. Studying the history and the culture can actually educate us on our faith. In fact, if we are Christians, we have to realize that study of reality period can tell us something about Christianity. Christianity has something to say about everything. There is no one area that is left uncovered.

When Jesus is seen as a historical reality, something must be done with Him, which could be why so many are trying to shortcut and just say there is no reality to Jesus period. I am convinced that it’s an enterprise doomed to failure. The question remains as it was said long ago. Who do you say the Son of Man is?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , ,

47 Responses to “The Reality of Jesus”

  1. Mark Says:

    Sooner or later, everyone, especially in the West, must ask themselves, “What do I believe about Jesus of Nazareth?” Not what do I THINK ( i.e. my opinion), but what do I really BELIEVE about this person. Myth, mystic, prophet, Son of God, no one is or can be neutral. Great post, Nick.

  2. R. G. Price (@rationalrevo) Says:

    I just finished my latest piece on the case against the existence of Jesus.

    http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/fictional_jesus.htm

    I certainly challenge you to address the case I make against the historical realities of Jesus.

  3. vinnyjh57 Says:

    If there was a historical Jesus, I cannot see any reason to think that he was anything more than an obscure itinerant preacher who went unnoticed outside a small group of illiterate peasant followers until he managed to annoy the Roman authorities sufficiently to get himself arrested and put to death. Why should I have to do anything with him or believe anything about him? Why should I devote any more effort to understanding him than I would to any other person who lived 2000 years ago?

    • apologianick Says:

      So if you accept he got crucified, what did he do that was so terrible he got crucified?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Why would it matter to me and how could I ever hope to be certain? The Romans crucified lots of people whose names are lost to history for reasons that are lost to history. Crucifixion was normally used to punish treason or sedition so my guess would be that he was believed to have challenged Roman rule in some manner.

      • apologianick Says:

        Why would it matter? Because it’s a question of history and if you want to say Christians are wrong, it’s good to have an alternative explanation. If Jesus was just a harmless little preacher, why would he even show up on anyone’s radar? Why think that a guy with just twelve followers is a threat to the Roman Empire?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        As I noted above, the Romans executed lots of people whose names and activities are lost to history. Moreover, history is rife with examples of imperial powers maintaining control over indigenous populations by directing violence towards persons who posed little or no genuine threat. So while I am certainly curious about the real story behind Jesus’ crucifixion, I don’t see it as very likely that it is possible to do more than speculate given the available sources. I don’t have to be certain about what really happened at Lourdes or Fatima in order to doubt the credibility of the stories that the nuns told me in grade school.

      • apologianick Says:

        I think Mark’s answer works fine here even though it wasn’t directed to this question particularly. Also, I’d add in that it looks like you’re automatically avoiding any external causation, such as dispensing with Lourdes and Fatima. I know Keener has documented some very interesting happenings at Fatima.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I think there are quite a few problems with Mark’s answer: (1) early Jewish followers of Jesus didn’t think they were leaving Judaism: (2) they thought they were following the anointed one exalted by God: (3) they did not have the concept of hell that Mark’s answer implies.

      • apologianick Says:

        I can agree with 1.

        With 2, why would they think a crucified man was that person?

        For 3, I don’t see him saying anything about the nature of Hell.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Mark suggests that they knowingly risked their eternal souls which implies a scheme of rewards and punishments consistent with later Christian concepts.

      • apologianick Says:

        No. It could just as well mean being cut off from the favor of YHWH. That would work even with annihilation.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Perhaps Mark could clarify what he meant.

  4. Mark Says:

    The historical facts are these: 2000 years ago, thousands and thousands of orthodox Jews left Judaism to follow some crucified carpenter, rejected by the authorities, abandoned by his followers, and supposedly cursed by God Himself. They were risking their eternal souls in doing so. Why? These facts cry out for an explanation. And not only Jews, but Gentiles as well. Pagan Gentiles worshipping some itinerant Jewish rabbi from a little jerkwater colony like Israel? Why? And not only worshipping him, but dying for him as well? Christians claim to have the answer: He is risen, He is risen indeed.

  5. Mark Says:

    With regard to 1. above, there was a reason why 1st century Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah were called members of the cult of the Nazarene: they were considered to be heretics. True, THEY believed they were right, but the authorities did not, and viewed their devotion to him to be a direct challenge to their authority. Thus the believers were ruthlessly persecuted, excommunicated, driven from place to place, beaten, and for what? What did they and thousands like them stand to gain by following this crucified loser? Money? Power? Influence? Or was it because they really, truly believed that “God hath raised him from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.”

    • vinnyjh57 Says:

      Joseph Smith’s followers were driven from Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to Utah. They were ostracized, denounced as heretics, persecuted, and occasionally killed. Does that makes Smith’s tales of the Angel Moroni and the Golden Plates any more true?

      The minimal facts necessary to explain the fourteen million Mormons in the world today are (1) people are afraid of death and (2) people want their lives to have meaning. I don’t see why anything else is necessary to explain the growth of Christianity.

      • apologianick Says:

        Mormonism did not rise up in an honor/shame society. Instead it rose up in an individualistic society which totally changes the game. The sudden change in some Jewish beliefs as well as the shamefulness of Christianity need to be explained. Jews already thought their lives had meaning and had hope in death. Why go with a crucified Messiah. Gentiles could go with one of several mystery religions. Why go with a shameful one that would mark them out as deviants?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I don’t see any evidence in the early Christian writings that they saw themselves as deviants. Obviously they found the idea of a vindicated and exalted Messiah sufficiently attractive to overcome whatever shame attached to his death by crucifixion.

      • apologianick Says:

        There is some in the writings. 1 Cor. 1 springs to mind. Christ crucified is a stumbling block. We also know that the church was at various times persecuted, but what for? They were seen as deviants. The main way we see this is the various defenses the church fathers wrote and in the fact that Christians were in an honor-shame culture and held beliefs deemed very shameful.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        They were persecuted because they failed to make the sacrifices that were thought necessary to keep the Roman gods happy. That made them convenient scapegoats when things went wrong as when Nero blamed them for the fire that he started. They were accused of incest and cannibalism, but those accusations were false.

      • apologianick Says:

        That’s part of the problem. Because they refused to sacrifice, they were seen as deviant putting them out of step with the group. Also, their belief was new and had a crucified Messiah, which would have been shameful. A good read on this would be Wilkins’s “The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.”

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Obviously people liked the rest of the message enough to offset whatever shame there was in the crucifixion.

      • apologianick Says:

        Then why couldn’t they say “That’s a nice story, but I’m not ready to treat it as a historical fact”?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I’m not sure that I understand the question.

      • apologianick Says:

        You said they liked the message. Why couldn’t they just do that? Like the message without buying into the whole system?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I would guess because the thing was sold as a package. People who claimed to be getting revelations directly from God told them that they needed to believe the whole message in order to derive the benefits.

        The real stumbling block was circumcision, but Paul was smart enough to delete that requirement. Had Christianity grown the way it did while requiring all new converts to be snipped, I think your case would be stronger.

      • apologianick Says:

        Circumcision wasn’t the major stumbling block. Crucifixion was.

        Your claim however relies on people claiming to get revelations from God. Where do you see this?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Galatians 1:12.

      • apologianick Says:

        Revelations is plural. This is a one-time deal and we know what it was. It was the Damascus Road experience. I often hear the case that Paul relied on revelations, but I find it extremely shaky. I have no reason to think he got the content of his message from a revelation.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Don’t be absurd. We know nothing of the kind. Paul never says anything in his letters about a Damascus Road Experience.

      • apologianick Says:

        If you don’t want to think that, fine. Just feel free to make a case. I’ll be glad to make one for since I find no reason to be hyper-skeptical of Acts which is in many numerous ways a book that pays much attention to getting factual information right.

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I’m sorry,but “I have no reason to be hyper-skeptical” doesn’t constitute “making a case” for anyone besides a conservative Christian apologist. Moreover, I cannot imagine why anyone would need to make a case for thinking that Paul doesn’t say anything about a Damascus Road Experience when in fact he doesn’t say anything about a Damascus Road Experience.

      • apologianick Says:

        Why should he need to?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I never said he did.

      • apologianick Says:

        Then what difference does it make that he never specifically referred to his Damascus Road experience?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        It would only make a difference if I claimed to know that he had referred to it. In that case, my claim would be undermined by the fact that he never had.

      • apologianick Says:

        Okay. I take it that this is the event he was referring to. What is your reason for being skeptical of the claim?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        I am skeptical of your claim to know what Paul is referring to in Galatians 1 because I have not seen any justification for it.

      • apologianick Says:

        Do you think Acts is an unreliable account?

      • vinnyjh57 Says:

        Feel free to make a case for the reliability of the Damascus Road accounts.

      • apologianick Says:

        Actually, I’d make one for Acts. I’d point out the numerous features it gets right such as the ones Colin Hemer points out, that it is written close to the time of the events since Paul’s death and the death of James and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are not mentioned, and that archaeology has repeatedly been a friend to Acts.

  6. Mark Says:

    P.S. With regard to 2. above: “They thought they were following the anointed one exalted by God.” Exactly! And the resurrection was what convinced them of this.

  7. Mark Says:

    Joseph Smith never claimed to be God, never predicted his own death and resurrection, and when he died, none of his followers claimed to have seen him alive from the grave. The message of the New Testament church was not “Follow this Teacher and do your best”, (e.g. Mormonism’s 4000+ rules) but “Jesus and the resurrection.” (Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved).😀

    • vinnyjh57 Says:

      I’m not sure how that is relevant to the point I was making, which is that willingness to endure hardships for one’s beliefs is not evidence that those beliefs are true.

  8. Mark Says:

    That is certainly true, but you still haven’t addressed my main point: WHY did the early Christians (who were all orthodox Jews) endure such hardships? Yes, they thought they were right, but RIGHT ABOUT WHAT? Why follow some crucified, shamed, cursed loser who was rejected and condemned by BOTH the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities, when it could only bring them trouble, which it certainly did. What turned the disciples (virtually overnight) from gutless cowards afraid of their own shadows, into fearless lions whom no opposition could muzzle? These are facts of history. And I maintain that the Resurrection is the one explanation that best fits all of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: