Daniel Aurelius is coming to town!

The last time I wrote something was about four months ago, but for some reason it seems an eternity has passed. Of course, in the middle of it,  we have had the Rona, the BLM situations all around our country, and churches arguing over whether or not to gather on Sundays – with or without masks. Much has happened in our family even though it doesn’t feel like much since we have been in the house most of the time.

To start with, we successfully completed our first year of homeschooling. For many weeks straight I felt that Enzo would never love writing, and still he doesn’t. But it has been wonderful to see that consistency in disciplining him have been key in dealing with his rebellious heart. Last year I was so worried about curriculums, but if my first homeschooling year taught me anything, it is that the curriculum is not the most important thing to focus on. I am NOT saying it is not important. What I AM saying is that shepherding the hearts of my children should be my first priority. 

I had to constantly look  at our “Mission Statement” when I felt overwhelmed by the question, “Why are we doing this?” 

My children are very smart, I have no worries about their academic future life. I sometimes worry about Enzo and his choices in life – what he will do for a living. But it is not because he is not smart, but because he struggles with laziness. Although, he wakes up at 4 am. sometimes to go running with his dad, so he is an early riser… My point is that even if their brains would allow them to become the next Nobel Prize or whatever, that in itself is a gift from God Almighty, and I am convinced that nothing they might accomplish in  this life is worthy of praise – at least not praise from God – if they do it apart from knowing Jesus Christ savingly.

That is a hill I’m willing to die on – daily.   

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Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 

Among other happenings, we also had a fun summer despite the virus. We went to the beach when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. Oh, yes, I am pregnant. That’s a long story, so long story long, God changed Emerson’s heart regarding having more babies. So he had a VR, and after nine long months of trying, God answered our prayers, and I am pregnant with a boy. I think during this season of waiting, God taught me many things regarding His goodness. He is good no matter what. No matter how I feel, or what I think. Even if the answers to my prayers are a NO from Him, He is still good.

 

baby

IT’S A BOY!!

 

During the first nine months of not being pregnant, the anxieties in my heart were a bunch of WHAT IFs – What if I don’t get pregnant? What if the VR didn’t work? What if I’m too old, and the baby is not healthy? 

God really showed me things about my heart that were not right. Even after getting pregnant, the questions were different, but altogether the same, What if the baby dies? What if I have a miscarriage? What if I die during labor? What if Emerson dies?

Fear of death has always been a recurring sin for me. I know that for the Christian death has no victory – no sting. I know that. This is the worst fear I have: If Emerson dies, I don’t know how to handle the finances of the house – that’s it. I simply don’t know how. And that may be super silly for other women, but it paralyzes me.

The issue here is that in every fear that I’ve had, there’s always been unbelief on my part. So during this season God has shown me that I don’t take Him at His Word. Do I believe He will take care of me? Do I believe He will help me go through the death of a husband, and the raising of three children alone? Do I believe He will equip me with whatever He might deem necessary in order to administer the finances? And even if I go broke, do I truly believe in my heart that God will provide for me?

 

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South Padre Island, June 2020

 

God is so good regardless of my circumstances. DUH… yeah.  But when you are going through a season of anxiety, and fears, how do you deal with those?

When we were in the middle of the last school year, we were studying the history of Israel, and so we were pretty much reading the Bible chronologically. The lessons were kind of a helicopter view, but I wanted to study them deeper, so that I could explain it to the children better. So for the first time in my life, I read the book of Lamentations in context. I have read the Bible chronologically before, and it has been a tremendous blessing, but sometimes when you follow a Bible reading plan, you just want to finish. This time, however, I had to stay in Lamentations for a while, not only because I wanted to explain it to the children, but because it really opened my eyes to real suffering and real joy – both at the same time.

I was not pregnant yet, so I was really struggling. Why would God change Emerson’s mind regarding babies, only to NOT give us a baby? On top of that, Emerson told me he was not okay with me taking any medicine to increase my fertility as the doctor suggested. He said this was something about his obedience to the Lord, and that God would be the one to decide whether or not we were gonna have more family. And I was like, “So you spent thousand of dollars in a procedure just for the sake of obeying the Lord. That’s great. I understand that, but if I got cancer, wouldn’t you want me to have chemo? Why is this medicine different? We can have babies faster!

You don’t get it, Karla. Stop trying to control things. If God wills, we will have a baby; if He doesn’t, then we won’t. I had the VR not to give you a baby, but to obey the Lord and go back to my natural state. And if you get pregnant, He will get the glory – not a pill your doctor gave you.

Emerson

Of course, I argued back. If God was gonna get the glory anyway, then He might as well give us a baby without Emerson even getting the surgery – if it was all about not using medical procedures. Of course, I was selfish, and God was merciful to me in my irreverence. Also, Emerson ignored me LOL!

We tried super hard to get pregnant during eight months. But that last month I had been studying Lamentations for a while already. I was asking God to change my heart because the things I was reading were convicting me of my sin. Somehow I had made the desire to have another baby into an idol. I was crying every time I went for my morning walk, afraid that the answer to my prayer was going to be, “No, you’re not going to have another child.” I was doubting God’s love for me over this. I was questioning His goodness over this.

So the only day when we literally could have tried making a baby, I was so exhausted that I told Emerson maybe we could take a break and try next month. I didn’t even know if I was ovulating so there really was no rush. He refused, and then BAM – I got pregnant because of that one time LOL!

 

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Ballon Fight to start the 2020-2021 school year – I hit Enzo right on the face!

 

Of course I didn’t know that night was the night that eventually would lead me to buy a pregnancy test, but I do remember one night when I was crying – again – and I told God I was going to praise Him in the middle of my fear. I did want a child, but I refused to worship the desire of having a baby. I wanted to worship Him. I wanted Him to be my portion, like Jeremiah said in Lamentations. That I was okay if God chose not to give us more children. Of course, I was gonna be sad for a while, but I didn’t really need a baby. I wanted God to teach me how to wait for Him like Jeremiah also said.

I wanted to know whether the answer was going to be YES or NO, but I asked God to help me learn how to wait for His answer – even if the answer was delayed, and even if the answer was NO.

I dwelled on the verses below for months before getting pregnant. I was really expecting not to get pregnant, but the day after I prayed for God to help me wait, I realized my period hadn’t come. I was late. And I was late not for two weeks or four weeks. It was actually day 28, but my hormones had been so crazy, and my cycles had been so random that I never made it to day 28 – ever. So I bought a pregnancy test that day and it was positive. That was so weird. I mean, I had just prayed the night before for God to help me learn how to wait, and then He answered the next day. Then I realized I still had to wait nine more months battling the same fears and anxieties in my heart.

 

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

 

Lamentations 3:21-26

 

Why has the book of Lamentations meant so much for me before the pregnancy and during the pregnancy? Well, this might get long, but I need to write about it.

Right in the middle of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah is praising God and rejoicing. He is suffering when he sees what he sees, but he also rejoices IN God. He is not enjoying his circumstances, but Jeremiah KNOWS his God is sufficient.

I wanted that for my life. My fear of not having a husband to provide for me, or my fear of not getting pregnant, or even losing the pregnancy at any point are things that may happen at any point in my life. God never promised me a bed of roses. So if bad providences were to come my way, where does my hope really lie?

Does my hope lie on people, on my circumstances, or on the God who cares for me? Little by little during that time, I realized that I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to be bothered with life-pain (that affects believers and unbelievers) or with Christian persecution.

And yet, God tells me suffering for the faith is something every true disciple has to go through. These are some verses, just to name a few.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6-7

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:21-22

This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,  engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

Philippians 1:28-30

 

People suffer for a variety of circumstances. Christians suffer on top of that for the fact that they are Christians. The world hates us. So if suffering is a given, how would I deal with it when it comes? What is the framework that my mind and my heart have to be aligned with, so that I don’t fall for my feelings, my own ideas or any other false teachings?

The frame work is God’s Word. The Word is what I should believe regarding who God is, what He does, and why He does it.

I wrongly thought God was just enjoying my suffering, like He was enjoying being mean to me. And that is just so… stupid. Over and over as I read my Scriptures, it was super clear His discipline springs out of love (Hebrews 12:4-11). He wants to make me like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). And even when He does afflict – because it is also super clear in the Bible that He does afflict –  He doesn’t do it out of spite or just to get even with me. His wrath against me was put away at the cross. Any punishment was dealt with in Christ. There is no more condemnation for me from God (Romans 8:1). In His dealings with me, God deals as a Father, not as my adversary.

 

For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men.

Lamentations 3:31-33

 

Lamentations is a sad, sad book. Jerusalem is being sacked, the temple destroyed (Lamentations 1:10), and famine, pestilence and the sword are coming – just  as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had warned the people. And Jeremiah is watching all this happening. He recognizes it is the Lord inflicting all this on His people because they sinned grievously (Lamentations 1:8), and Jeremiah weeps (Lamentations 1:16). He recognizes the crown has fallen from Judah and Israel – no more Kings until Jesus is born (Lamentation 5:15-16).

But Jeremiah never makes excuses, he actually acknowledges the Lord is in the right for judging them (Lamentations 1:18), and also that the Lord warned them this would happen (Lamentations 1:21). Jeremiah’s eyes are spent with weeping, he sees babies dying, children who faint from hunger, women eating their own children (Lamentations 2:11,19, 20).

And yet all this is happening according to the plan and purpose of God (Lamentations 2:17). God spoke it and it came to pass, good and bad comes from the Most High. Why would men complain about the punishment of their sins? (Lamentations 3:37-39).

Jeremiah sees the affliction under the rod of God’s wrath. God has made him dwell in darkness, God has filled him with bitterness; Jeremiah has suffered so much that he has forgotten what happiness is. Jeremiah’s endurance has perished and so has his hope from the LORD (Lamentations 3:1-20). And then the most beautiful, contrasting verses come in the middle of all of this.

 

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26

 

I think every woman loves that Bible verse – the one about God’s mercies being new every day. I just never had read the whole book of Lamentations in context, so I could not grasp how deep Jeremiah’s suffering was. This is not a “I am terrified of not knowing how to handle the finances of my household if my husband were to die”- kind of suffering that Jeremiah is going through.

And I am not belittling my suffering or my anxieties by any means, but in perspective, I really have never experienced this much suffering. I do not know what it is to eat your own child out of hunger, or seeing the tongue of your infant sticking to the root of his mouth because of thirst. I do not know what it is to beg for food, with no one giving it to me; or seeing people looking blacker than soot, with their skin dried as wood, and shriveled on their bones due to starvation (Lamentations 4:44). I do not know any of that.

In Lamentations 3:18, Jeremiah’s endurance and hope have perished, but two verses later Jeremiah remembers something, and it fills him with hope once again.

Jeremiah calls to mind that the the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, that His mercies never come to an end, that they are new every morning, and that His faithfulness is great. All this while people are dying around him (v. 22).

Jeremiah then says that YHWH – the LORD – is his portion. It is Jeremiah’s soul confession that makes Jeremiah hope in the LORD. The fact that YHWH Himself is Jeremiah’s portion is what makes Jeremiah regain his hope in Him (v. 24).

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I’ll have great helpers 🙂

It really took me months of pondering every day, I wish I were quick in dealing with my issues. In situations like this, I stop, and I go verse by verse on rabbit trails. I ask Google,  “Google, what does it mean that the Lord is your portion?”

So I end up with answers like the one below that I then double check against my trusted preachers – which involves listening to sermons, or reading articles. It takes FOREVER, but my soul needs it, and that’s how I deal with my sin.

When a biblical writer says, “God is my portion,” he means that God is the source of his happiness and blessing. He is content with all that the Lord is and provides. He has the best inheritance imaginable and does not seek any possession or comfort outside of God. Riches, honor, friends and fame—nothing is as valuable as the promises of God. “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26, NASB). If God is our portion, we need nothing else.

GotQuestions.org

I realized God was not my portion. I could say He was all I wanted, but the fears and anxieties revealed He wasn’t. So it has taken a lot of time, praying and reading my Bible, asking God to help my soul say the same things Jeremiah’s soul said.

I’ve realized it is a command to rejoice in my suffering – not a suggestion. I am to rejoice regardless of my circumstances, knowing that the Lord is good. It is right there in the text. Jeremiah was able to do it when he took his eyes off the destruction and placed them on his portion, on his everything: the LORD. God is good to those who wait for Him, to those who wait for His salvation.

Jerusalem was not spared, and Jeremiah eventually died, but it is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Jeremiah’s consolation was that God always sits on His throne enduring all generations (Lamentations 5:19)

This takes me to other rabbit trails, but I’ll stop right there. I cannot possibly write about what has been happening in my heart since Emerson had the surgery sixteen months ago. It’s definitely been a season of God confronting me with my lack of trust, and His abounding love for me, His patience and mercy towards me.

 

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Rooting for the Patriarchy – pregnant, barefoot and cooking in the rain LOL! 

 

Of course, I’m not excited at the prospect of suffering, but my God is good. I know He loves me, and that His love for me extends far beyond my existence – it reaches back into eternity past, where my God choose to enter into a covenant with His Son in order to rescue a people – a Bride for His Son. I am part of that people that Jesus Christ died for.

Nothing makes me feel safer than that – whatever suffering life brings. To know that I have been so profoundly loved by the Creator of the world, even before I was born… even before I came to Him. To think that He had already bought me with His blood even before I was conceived. Even if the loss of a child, or the loss of my husband were to be part of His plan to make me more and more like His Son (Romans 8:28), I rest knowing that I am totally and completely loved. I heard a teaching by Steve Lawson on The Unfailing Love of God. You should check it out.

Christ is sufficient.

 

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4 weeks/ 30 weeks

 

F.A.C.T’s of the Resurrection of Jesus

This teaching on the Resurrection is great. Many good points for apologetics with Muslims 🙂

 

Did Jesus really rise from the death?

I believed in Christianity because its message appealed to me. I was raised running on an empty love-tank. I believed it. I never asked if it was true – I just wanted LOVE.

Unconditional love.

But a feeling didn’t matter when I was confronted with other faiths. So I was ready – as difficult as it was – to test my own beliefs, and follow the evidence. It was the worst year of my life, but without a doubt, it was the most enriching experience I have ever had.

I hope you enjoy this debate. David Wood is one of my personal heroes.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…

1 Corinthians 15:17

He is risen 🙂

 

Historical Jesus Studies

“An Assessment of the Present State of Historical Jesus Research” is a popular level summary in a chapter included in a book by Sean McDowell, A New Kind of Apologist (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2016), Used by Permission.

Michael Licona (original article)

A few years ago, I boarded a plane for a very long flight. I had a new book I had saved for the trip and was very much looking forward to reading it. Shortly after I took my seat, an elderly man, probably in his eighties, took his seat next to me. I smiled thinking, He’s going to fall asleep and I’m going to get in a lot of reading. 

I was mistaken. Just after I began reading, my fellow passenger leaned over and looked very deliberately at the pages of my book. I smiled and showed him the cover. It was a book on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. He chuckled and said, “Well, I guess we don’t have to think seriously about that, since it has now been proven that Jesus never even existed!” He then sat up straight, as though our conversation had ended and now it was time to find something else to do. Hit and run? Not a chance, my new friend.

“Why do you think Jesus never existed?” I asked. This led to a short conversation on Jesus’s existence. It did not take long for him to concede that Jesus had, in fact, existed. But he maintained that “resurrections are impossible. There is no evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and it certainly could never be proved.” Perhaps you have had a similar discussion with someone and wished you had known how to reply. In what follows, I am going to discuss three key areas that will both inform and equip you to engage in intelligent discussions about Jesus with others.

Current State of Historical Jesus Studies

Our first matter is to define what is meant by the “historical Jesus.” Although scholars have not agreed on a definition, most would at least be satisfied with the following definition as a means to enter a discussion: When the data has been sifted, sorted, and assessed, the historical Jesus is the Jesus historians can prove with reasonable certainty and apart from faith.

It is important to observe that the historical Jesus is not the real Jesus who walked and taught in Judea and Galilee, but is the Jesus known through the results of historical investigation. The real Jesus was much more than the historical Jesus, just as a corpse in a grave was once much more than the minimal information described on the tombstone. And then there is the Jesus in the Gospels. This third Jesus is also a partial representative of the real Jesus who had many more elements to his personality and many more things that he said and did than could ever be reported in a Gospel with a length of less than twenty-five thousand words.

It is very important to understand these distinctions and many often fail here. In theory, these three Jesuses are not necessarily in conflict. For example, if historical investigation were some day to prove that the real Jesus did not claim to be the Son of God, the real Jesus and the historical Jesus would be in conflict with the Jesus in the Gospels, since the Jesus in the Gospels claimed to be the Son of God. On the other hand, the inability of historical investigation to determine whether Jesus was born of a virgin does not place the historical Jesus in conflict with the Jesus in the Gospels or the real Jesus, since the former will always be an incomplete figure. Accordingly, if historians cannot prove Jesus performed Event X, it is a misstep to conclude on that basis that it did not occur. To do so would be quite naive, since numerous events that actually occurred in the distant past cannot be verified.

How do historians arrive at conclusions regarding Jesus?

There are several approaches and various tools used within each approach. The most common approach at present is to recognize that Jesus was a Jewish itinerant preacher who lived in first-century Palestine in a culture that was both Jewish and Greco-Roman. This provides historians with a background knowledge that helps them obtain a more accurate understanding of what Jesus taught and the impact it may have had on those who heard him. They then apply what are referred to as criteria of authenticity to the words and deeds of Jesus as preserved in the Gospels. These criteria reflect commonsense principles. If two or more sources that are independent of one another provide similar reports of the same event, we can have more confidence that the event had occurred than if only one source had reported it. This is called the criterion of multiple attestation. For example, the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letters are independent of one another. So, when both report that Jesus was buried, we have multiple attestation of the event.

If a source that is unsympathetic or even hostile toward the Christian faith provides a report that agrees with the Christian reports, we can have more confidence that the event had occurred, since the unsympathetic or hostile source would not have the bias carried by the authors of the Christian reports. This is called the criterion of unsympathetic sources. For example, Tacitus referred to Christianity as an evil and mischievous superstition (Annals 15.44). This identifies him as an unsympathetic source. So, when he reports Jesus’s execution by Pontius Pilate, a report entirely compatible with what we find in the Gospels, historians can have more confidence that the event had occurred.

If a report in the Gospels provides data that would have been embarrassing to the early Christian movement, we can have more confidence that the event had occurred, since it is unlikely that the author would have invented content likely to detract from the cause for which he wrote. This is called the criterion of embarrassment. For example, Mark reports that Peter rebuked Jesus and that Jesus in turn rebuked Peter, calling him “Satan” (Mark 8:31-33). Since Peter was a leader of the Jerusalem church, it seems unlikely that the early Christians would have invented and preserved a tradition that casts him in such an unfavorable manner.

Historians prefer to have reports that are from eyewitnesses or from a source whose report was written close to the event it purports to describe. This is called the criterion of early attestation. For example, almost all scholars agree that Paul has preserved an oral tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 that goes back to the earliest days of the Christian church and that the content of these verses, although not necessarily the creedal form in which the content appears, very probably goes back to the Jerusalem apostles.

It would be nice if historians could climb into a time machine, return to the past, and verify their conclusions. Since that is not possible, historians can establish matters with only varying degrees of certainty. And it is entirely possible that a lack of data could lead historians to arrive at a false conclusion. This is not only the state of affairs when historians investigate biblical events but also with every other purported event in antiquity. Accordingly, the fulfillment of one or more of the criteria of authenticity in relation to specific reports about Jesus may be said to establish their authenticity with “reasonable” but not “absolute” certainty.

Historians who investigate nonreligious matters have strenuously debated the nature of history for several decades. Understanding the many challenges to knowing the past faced by historians, some have claimed that the past cannot be known and that historians merely create their own narratives of the past based on their subjective interpretations of the data. These are known as postmodern historians. Although the debate concerning the nature of history continues, the majority of historians have come to reject postmodern approaches to history and embrace realism, the view that the past can be known to a degree. Of course, historical descriptions of the past will never be exhaustive, will vary in their accuracy, and can be established with only varying degrees of certainty.

Therefore, when speaking of Jesus, it is unreasonable to demand absolute certainty. This is important because many of the skeptics we encounter outside the academic world, and even some skeptics within it, have an approach that, in essence, says, “As long as there is an alternate explanation to the biblical account that cannot be absolutely disproved, the biblical account should not be taken seriously.” Such an approach suggests those holding this view have a sophomoric understanding of how the practice of history works. A competent historian embraces what he or she concludes is the most probable explanation of the available data, since there is little of the distant past that can be established with such certainty that no room remains for an extremely unlikely alternative.

The Jesus Mythers

During the past twenty years or so, a number of books and articles have appeared on the Internet arguing that Jesus is a myth who never existed. Viewing the biographical information of their authors reveals that only a handful have any academic credentials. Unfortunately, most people reading the literature written by “mythers” (as they are commonly referred to) are not accustomed to critical thinking by comparing sources. For them, Earl Doherty and Dee Murdock (aka Acharya S) are as credible as John Meier and N.T. Wright. Yet they are unaware that neither Doherty nor Murdock ever went beyond earning a bachelor’s degree while Meier and Wright earned doctorates in relevant fields and teach New Testament studies at prestigious universities.

I am not claiming the lack of academic credentials on the part of Doherty and Murdock prohibits them from having good arguments and, therefore, they should be ignored. However, it is true that they do not have the training and experience in the proper fields. As a result, they often make egregious errors and silly proposals that sound credible only to the naive.??1 Mythers are often guilty of twisting data, providing false claims, appealing to other sources who are also not scholars, requiring an unreasonable burden of proof before acknowledging the existence of Jesus while being unaware that the scenarios they have proposed in order to address the data border on unbridled fantasy. Readers should understand that publishing on the World Wide Web does not make one a world-class scholar, since the only credential one must have to publish on the Internet is to breathe.

It is noteworthy that one could count on one hand all the scholars in the fields of history and biblical studies who have been persuaded by the arguments of mythers. This is not because the majority of historians and biblical scholars are Christians (I seriously doubt that is the case). It is also noteworthy that even some atheist and agnostic scholars have blasted mythers for their poor arguments and treatment of the data.??2 Scholars simply refuse to give them much attention and regard them to be as absurd as holocaust deniers.

Discussing the Historical Jesus with Others

With the advent of the Internet in the nineties, an explosion of information became available to the public. Christians are far more likely to hear arguments from their skeptical family members, colleagues at work, and neighbors that are more sophisticated than what they may have heard before the Internet. Moreover, our culture has changed. People are easily offended and many regard truth as relative. Everyone has their own truth and thinks it is morally wrong to offend others by telling them you think they are mistaken.

The apostle Paul adjusted his approach to relate better to his particular audience.??3 We should do no less. We must be more careful than ever to be winsome in our interactions with nonbelievers. We can be respectful of those we disagree with and make an effort to listen to them while they present their views in the same manner we would like for them to listen to us while we present ours. We should not overstate our case but temper it. Instead of saying “The historical evidence proves that Jesus rose from the dead,” say “The historical evidence strongly suggests Jesus rose from the dead.” Instead of saying, “I know that I know Christianity is true,” say “In view of the evidence I’ve examined as well as the answers to prayer I have personally witnessed, I’m convinced Christianity is true.”

Remember the words of the apostles Peter and Paul. Peter wrote, “But set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts, always prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account concerning the hope in you” (1 Peter 3:15, author’s translation). Paul similarly wrote, “Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, author’s translation).

It is important to recognize that presenting good arguments to a skeptic will not ensure he or she will be convinced by them. Their objections to following Christ may be intellectual (e.g., they are not persuaded by the evidence), emotional (e.g., their Muslim or Jewish family would disown them or they had a poor experience with one or more Christians or their father), or volitional (e.g., they do not want to believe because of pride or it may require them to alter their behavior).

It is their responsibility to make a proper decision. It is our responsibility to share the message of hope through Christ “with gentleness and respect” and “with grace,” as Peter and Paul taught. The gospel message is already offensive to some. We need not make it more offensive by presenting it in a manner that lacks gentleness, respect, and grace. When we combine more knowledge with a heart that deeply cares for our nonbelieving friends, we will be pleasantly surprised to find ourselves engaged in dialogues that are far more enjoyable and effective than we may ever have imagined.

Erhman speaks against the Quran

Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 8

For the past several weeks, we have been investigating how the historical Jesus of Nazareth fares by being tested by the traditional historical method. Before wrapping up our investigation, NT scholar Michael Licona provides two additional tests that need to be considered. This article will investigate those two additional tests or methods and will offer some concluding thoughts on our quest.

1. Arguments to the Best Explanation.

Licona notes that the Arguments-to-the-Best-Explanation method “makes inferences and weighs hypotheses according to specific criteria.”[1] In other words, the data is compiled and examined according to a particular hypothesis made by the historian. The criteria include:

Explanatory scope: Examining the most relevant data according to the hypothesis.

Explanatory power: Looking at the “quality of the explanation of the facts.”[2]

Plausibility: How much confidence can the historian possess that a certain event took place? For the skeptic, if they are to be honest historically, they must suspend their skepticism, and allow for the possibility of the miraculous if they are to become unbiased.

Less ad hoc: Covering only what the data suggests without going “beyond what is already known.”[3]

Illumination: Where one piece of data strengthens other areas of inquiry.

Speaking of this method, Licona goes on to say that “Arguments to the best explanation are guided by inference and can sometimes be superior to an eyewitness to an event. Testimony to the court does not provide truth but data.”[4]

Examining the data that we have presented already when using this method demonstrates that the best historical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth existed and walked out of the grave the first Easter Sunday. Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach , comes to the following conclusion in his over 600 page work:

“I am contending that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical bedrock. Since it fulfills all five of the criteria for the best explanation and outdistances competing hypotheses by a significant margin in their ability to fulfill the same criteria, the historian is warranted in regarding Jesus’ resurrection as an event that occurred in the past.”[5]

Thus, from using this method, Jesus’ historicity as well as Jesus’ resurrection are confirmed.

2. Arguments from Statistical Inference.

The Arguments from Statistical Inference method evaluates all data in question and evaluates the probability that an event could have happened. If one eliminates the possibility of God’s existence and God’s involvement in an event, then the odds that a “miraculous” event occurred goes down dramatically. However, if one holds that a greater power was involved, the odds go up drastically. Licona gives the illustration of one evaluating whether his son could lift 200 lbs. over his head. While such may be improbable, if one is willing to add that a bodybuilder assisted him, the added datum allows for such an event to become much more probable.[6] If the historian is going to be unbiased, then one must allow for the possibility of God’s existence, and the possibility that God may have an invested interest for raising Jesus from the dead.

While this method will always be somewhat subjective, the historian can make an educated synopsis of how historically certain an event is. McCullagh uses the following grades:

“Extremely probable: in 100-95% of cases

Very probable: in 95-80% of cases

Quite or fairly probable: in 80-65% of cases

More probable than not: in 65-50% of cases

Hardly or scarely probable: in 50-35% of cases

Fairly improbable: in 35-20% of cases

Very improbable: in 20-5% of cases

Extremely improbable: in 5-0% of cases.”[7]

 

While it must be admitted that in history one cannot hold 100% certainty that any event took place one could argue that one cannot be 100% certain of what a person had for breakfast. However, one could say that it was extremely probable that a person had Cheerios® for breakfast if one sees a used bowl and spoon with bits of Cheerios® cereal, accompanied by used milk at the bottom of the bowl, with an empty Cheerios® box sitting beside the bowl.

So, what can we draw from our investigation?

Concluding Thoughts

So, does Jesus pass the historical method? I would say so. In fact, so much so that I think one can logically hold the following premises.

It is extremely probable that Jesus existed. One can say with over 95% certainty that Jesus existed. To claim otherwise is to hold a level of skepticism that will disallow one to know about anyone or anything in history.

It is extremely probable that Jesus rose from the dead. The strength of Jesus’ existence is coupled with the strength of his resurrection. In my estimation, I would say that one holds a very strong case for the resurrection of Christ being an actual event of history.

It is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples saw him risen from the dead. Some may argue that this point deserves to hold the level “very probable.” However, I feel that given other data to consider that it is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples encountered the risen Jesus.

It is very probable that we have good eyewitness testimony telling us about the life of Jesus. While we have fantastic eyewitness testimony for the life of Jesus, particular debates surrounding the Evangelists’ identity and the like take down the probability a notch. In my estimation the eyewitness testimony deserves to have the highest ranking, but to be fair to all the data involved, I give it a very probable ranking (95-80% certainty).

It is extremely improbable that the Jesus Mythicist campaign has any leg on which to stand. Even agnostic Bart Ehrman has confessed that the Jesus Mythicist campaign is erroneous. While the historical data does not prove Jesus to be the Messiah (that comes by faith), the data provides solid grounding for accepting such a belief. In stark contrast, one can claim that the idea that Jesus was a myth is extremely improbable (0-5%).

Therefore, one may deny Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, one may reject his claims as divine, and one may pass off his miracles as the work of a magician, however one cannot deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed and one will be hard-pressed to deny that this same Jesus walked out of the tomb the first Easter Sunday.

Jesus of Nazareth passes the historical test with a solid A+. 

© February 15, 2016. Brian Chilton.



Note to self and others struggling with faith: In my darkest moments, I held for dear life to the fact that the most certain thing about Jesus historically is that He died by crucifixion. And if He died on that cross, then Islam was false. I still had to deal with the fact of Jesus being divine or Jesus resurrecting… But if He died then Islam was false. That did not make Christianity true but Islam was false. I felt joy. And the best argument that Islam gave me about the cross was that God wanted to test people. Allah went all the way deceiving everybody to think that Jesus had died, but it wasn’t really so. Of course, Islam said Allah loved Jesus PBUH so much that He had to rescue Him from the shame of the cross and whatever, that’s why He had to raise Jesus to Himself. 

Okay, fine. But why? Why would Allah make other guy loo like Jesus? Why the secrecy? Why the lying? Why not be open about it and say, “Look, this is Jesus, I’m taking Him up to me”. No. Allah made other look like Jesus. That was deception in my eyes.

If that was God I would rather go to hell than to follow Him. Didn’t Allah know that by making other person look like Jesus many people would start a movement called The Way? Didn’t Allah know these people would follow Jesus as Lord and Savior? Didn’t He know I would be deceived as well in to worshipping this Jesus? And He still did it – just to test me? Why would Allah put so many obstacles between Him and me? I decided I would rather follow the Biblical Jesus and go to hell – even if that Jesus was a product of my own imagination – than to embrace the Islamic understanding of Allah and the non-historical life of  Jesus in the Quran.

As it turns out, Jesus did die for my sins and did rise from the dead. My head went ahead my heart, and the Holy Spirit kicked in later as I came back from India. I am now on fire for my Lord Jesus and I will forever proclaim Him as my Savior 🙂



Bibliography

Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.

McGullagh, C. B. Justifying Historical Descriptions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

[1] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 108.

[2] Ibid., 109.

[3] Ibid., 110.

[4] Ibid., 114.

[5] Ibid., 610.

[6] See Licona, 114.

[7] C. B. McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 52.

Jesus and the HIstorical Method – PArt 2

In his last installment of “Examining Jesus by the Historical Method,” Pastor Brian discussed the first aspect of the historical method. He examined how Jesus of Nazareth enjoys documentation by a variety of independent sources, something that is important for both the historian and the detective.

This article will discuss the second method by which a person and/or event of history is scrutinized—enemy attestation.

Gary Habermas and Michael Licona note that “If testimony affirming an event or saying is given by a source who does not sympathize with the person, message, or cause that profits from the account, we have an indication of authenticity.[1]

Here’s why this is so important: if a person’s mother said that her child had integrity, one could claim the mother spoke out of bias for her child. But what if the person’s enemy said that the person had integrity? The claim of integrity would hold greater weight.

The same is true of historical enemy attestation. The following are examples of enemy attestation as it pertains to Jesus of Nazareth. The writers of the texts you are going to read are not Christians and have no allegiance to the Christian church.

cornelius tacitus

  1. Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 15.44), c. 100AD.

In the late first-century, Roman historian Tacitus set out to write an account of the histories of Rome. When discussing the twisted emperor Nero, Tacitus briefly mentions Jesus and the band of followers known as the Christians. Tacitus’ comments are associated with Nero’s burning of Rome.

Tacitus writes,

Consequently, to get rid of the report, 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, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.[2]

From Tacitus, we can acquire that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died during the reign of Tiberius by the hands of Pontius Pilate, and was believed to have been resurrected (from Tacitus’ claim of one “mischievous superstition”). One also can acquire the great devotion of the early Christians from Tacitus’ text.

josephus

2. Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 18.3), c. 90AD.

Josephus was not a Christian, but was a Jewish historian. Josephus was also a Roman sympathizer. Since Josephus was not a believer, this has led some to dismiss Josephus’ reference to Jesus. However, Josephus mentions Jesus and Jesus’ brother – James – in other places of his work.

Many have noted that the reference is legitimate, but may have originally left out the part where the historian refers to Jesus as “the Christ.” While the exact wording is debated, the reference is authentic.

Josephus writes,

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 amongst 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 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.[3]

From Josephus, we can know that Jesus lived, was considered to be wise, was condemned by Pontius Pilate, was crucified on a cross, died, and that his disciples believed him to have been raised from death.

Talmud1.jpg

3. Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a), c. 220AD but reports an earlier tradition.

The Babylonian Talmud contains a tradition that was handed down from a previous source. While there are some differences in this account than the Gospel record (for instance, the Talmud only records 5 disciples), the general facts about Jesus (or Yeshu) are the same.

Sanhedrin 43a reads,

There is a tradition (in a Barraitha): They hanged Yeshu on the Sabbath of the Passover. But for forty days before that a herald went in front of him (crying), “Yeshu is to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and seduced Israel and lead them away from God. Anyone who can provide evidence on his behalf should come forward to defend him.” When, however, nothing favorable about him was found, he was hanged on the Sabbath of the Passover.[4]

Notice that this is not a source friendly to Jesus. Even still, one can demonstrate the hostility to Jesus from the religious authorities, the crucifixion of Jesus, and even the working of miracles (attributed as sorcery in this reference). Also, one notes that Jesus, in accordance with the Gospel record, was hung on the cross near the time of Passover.

mara bar serapion.jpg

4. Mara Bar-Serapion, c. 73-100AD.

At some point after 70AD, Syrian and Stoic philosopher Mara Bar-Serapion wrote of the importance of a person’s pursuit of wisdom. In doing so, Serapion compares Jesus (ie. The “wise king” to Socrates and Pythagoras.

Serapion writes,

What are we to say when the wise are forcibly dragged by the hands of tyrants and their wisdom is deprived of its freedom by slander, and they are plundered for their superior intelligence without the opportunity of making a defence? They are not wholly to be pitied.

         What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished.

          God justly avenged these three wise men. The Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.[5]

Thus, one can identify the wisdom that even Jesus’ adversaries found in the Nazarene. In addition, one can find that Jesus’ teachings were passed down by the early church.

5. Thallus (from Julius Africanus fragment), c. 52AD.

Julius Africanus quotes a now extant (meaning that it is lost) writing from a historian named Thallus. Africanus states that Thallus “wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time…Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).”[6]

Thus, from Thallus one can note the darkness that surrounded Christ’s death.

6. Acts of Pilate (from Justin Martyr, First Apology 35), Justin wrote in the mid 2nd century but records a text from the first-century AD.

In his book the First Apology, Justin Martyr refers to a commonly known document known as the Acts of Pontius Pilate. Unfortunately, the document is now extant.

Nevertheless, Martyr writes,

And the expression, ‘They pierced my hands and my feet,’ was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.[7]

The translators of the text add the following note, “These Acts of Pontius Pilate, or regular accounts of his procedure sent by Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius, are supposed to have been destroyed at an early period, possibly in consequence of the unanswerable appeals which the Christians constantly made to them.”[8]

Some may see this as a forgery. However, it is difficult to think so. Such ancient records could have been confirmed and/or denied. The fact that early Christians tended to appeal to this document would tend to verify its authenticity to some degree. This causes us to think that there may be more ancient resources available yet to be discovered that would further confirm the historical veracity of Jesus of Nazareth.

Conclusion

From the enemy attestation presented, the historian can know the following:

1) Jesus existed;

2) Jesus was a teacher from Judea;

3) Jesus was thought to have been wise;

4) Jesus performed miracles, although attributed to sorcery by his adversaries;

5) Jesus was crucified at the command of Pontius Pilate;

6) Darkness surrounded the area at Jesus’ crucifixion;

7) Jesus was crucified around the time of the Passover;

8) One can assume from the information given that Jesus was buried;

9) Jesus was believed to have been resurrected;

10) and Jesus’ followers accepted suffering and death while still holding on to the belief of Jesus’ resurrection.

From enemy attestation, one can know a great deal about the fundamentals of Jesus’ life.

Does Jesus pass the test of enemy attestation? YES!!!

The third test considers embarrassing admonitions. Will Jesus pass the third test?

 

Bibliography

Africanus, Julius. Chronography 18.1. In Josh McDowell. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Bar-Serapion, Mara. TextExcavation.com. Accessed January 4, 2016.http://www.textexcavation.com/marabarserapiontestimonium.html.

Habermas, Gary R., and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004.

Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged.Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987.

Martyr, Justin. “The First Apology of Justin.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Tacitus, Cornelius. Annals XV.44. The Internet Classics Archive. Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb. Accessed January 4, 2016.http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html.

Talmud. Sanhedrin 43a. JewishChristianLit.com. Accessed January 4, 2016.http://jewishchristianlit.com//Topics/JewishJesus/b_san43a.html#DIS.

 Endnotes

[1] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 37-38.

[2] Tacitus, Annals XV.44, from The Internet Classics Archive, Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, trans, retrieved January 4, 2016,http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html.

[3] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged(Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), Logos Bible Software.

[4] Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, JewishChristianLit.com, retrieved January 4, 2016.http://jewishchristianlit.com//Topics/JewishJesus/b_san43a.html#DIS.

[5] Mara Bar-Serapion, TextExcavation.com, retrieved January 4, 2016.http://www.textexcavation.com/marabarserapiontestimonium.html.

[6] Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1, in Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 122.

[7] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 174–175.

[8] Ibid., 175, 1n.

Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 1

In this eight-part series, Pastor Brian Chilton will investigate how Jesus stands up to the historical scrutiny afforded to any person of antiquity.

This week, he will examine the issue of area of multiple, independent sources. You can see the original article here.

FYI, Muslims might grant many of the things he discusses in this article. When it comes to the historical crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, though, they will reject that. They might even grant you the historical records are accurate, but that’s because SOMEBODY ELSE DIED in Jesus’ place.

The Quran “assures” Muslims in Surah 4:157 that nobody killed Jesus nor they crucified Him, but that another was made to resemble Jesus. Who did this? Allah did. They will say it was because Allah loved Jesus and did not want Jesus to suffer or whatever… but Muslims are convinced Jesus did not die on the cross.

I have even heard Muslim apologist Shabir Ally on a debate go as far as grant the fact that Jesus might have been crucified, but he did not die on the cross. He either survived the crucifixion OR Allah raised Jesus to Himself putting somebody else in Jesus’ place.

It’s really interesting how my friends used to tell me I believe blindly in Christianity. That I was silly to accept things just by faith alone with no evidence (of course, Islam had tons of evidence according to them).

Well… the more I think about it, there is no real evidence for Jesus NOT dying by crucifixion, other than a book written six hundred years after Jesus died.

This is a slap on the face of any serious historian. Historians do not accept a historical testimony at face value. A Historian will not accept what the Quran says just because the Quran says it. It is cute to believe it if you’re Muslim, but if you are not – if you are objective – you will have to go to where the evidence points you. 

The historian’s job is much like that of a detective. A detective assesses a crime scene. In doing so, the detective looks for eyewitnesses. One person may have seen the crime from one area. Another may have seen the crime from another angle. The more eyewitnesses, the more certain the detective can be that the event took place in a particular fashion. The same is true for the historian.

As it relates to Jesus, one must ask whether there are multiple independent testimonies relating Jesus. The answer is… YES!!


Gary Habermas’ 12 Minimal Facts Approach will helps us validate key events of the life of Jesus. Those facts are:

  1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
  2. He was buried, most likely in a private tomb.
  3. Soon afterward, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent, having lost hope.
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his interment.
  5. The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
  6. Due to these experiences, the disciples’ lives were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief.
  7. The proclamation of the resurrection took place very early, at the beginning of church history.
  8. The disciples’ public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before.
  9. The Gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  10. Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping.
  11. James, the brother of Jesus and former skeptic, was converted when, he believed, he saw the risen Jesus.
  12. Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.”[1]

The Sources

  1. Information independent in Matthew’s Gospel (c. A.D. 55-60).

While there is information shared between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Matthew provides information only found in his gospel pertaining to the life of Jesus. From external and internal evidence, Brian believes the Apostle Matthew recorded the information in the Gospel that bears his name.[2]

The following is found exclusively in Matthew: angel appears to Joseph (Matt. 1:18-25); visitation of the Wise Men (2:1-12); escape to Egypt (2:13-18); return to Nazareth (2:19-23); much of the Beatitudes (3:1-5:42; 6:1-34; 7:7-14); Jesus’ promise for rest for the soul (11:20-30); leaders ask for a miracle (12:38-45); the Parable of the Weeds (13:24-30); various parables (13:33-52); Jesus heals the blind and mute (9:27-34); Jesus urges to pray for workers (9:35-38); preparation for persecution (10:16-42); Peter finds coin in fish’s mouth (17:24-27); further teachings of Jesus (18:10-35); Parables of the Workers (20:1-16); Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-32); Parable of the Wedding Feast (22:1-14); condemnation of religious leaders and grievance over Jerusalem (23:13-39); further parables of Jesus (25:1-46); Judas kills himself (27:3-10); guards posted at Jesus’ tomb (27:62-66); Jesus appears to the women (28:8-10); and the leaders bribe guards (28:11-15).

The preceding information is found only in Matthew. Thus, Matthew serves as an independent source.

  1. The Gospel of Mark (c. A.D. 50-55).

Scholars generally agree that Mark was most likely completed first. This does not hold universal agreement as others hold that Matthew was completed first. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that Mark reports information that he received from Simon Peter. Thus, Mark provides the information of an eyewitness—that of Simon Peter.

  1. Information independent to Luke’s Gospel (c. A.D. 60).

Luke serves as a historian recording information found in a variety of sources. Since it is impossible to know all the sources that Luke used, historians generally lump together the information found only in Luke’s Gospel. In fact, Luke contains a vast amount of information found only in his Gospel including: 1:5-80; 2:1-40; 2:41-52; 3:19-20; 4:16-30; 5:1-11; 7:11-17; 7:36-8:3; 10:1-18:14; 19:1-27; 23:6-12; and 24:44-49.

The preceding information is found only in Luke. Thus, Luke serves as an independent source.

  1. Shared information used by Matthew and Luke, popularly called “Q” (c. 30-50).

Matthew and Luke share information that is exclusive to them. Scholars have called this information “Q” from the German word quelle which means source. The shared information from the Beatitudes serves as an example of Q. Not every scholar concedes that Q is a source. If Luke merely borrowed from Matthew, then this common source would be invalidated. However, as it stands now, Q could be another independent source for the life of Jesus.

  1. The Gospel of John (c. A.D. 85-90).

Internally and externally it appears that the Apostle John wrote or dictated the information found in the Gospel attributed to him. If so, John provides independent information relating to the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth. John, writing in a different style than the other Gospels, writes in a theological fashion. But John’s theological language should not hide the historical information that is provided.

John provides independent, eyewitness testimony that is extremely valuable.

Of course, Muslims will say that John has made Jesus into a God, and since it is the last Gospel that was written, you can see an evolution from Mark to Matthew and Luke, and finally John.

It is very interesting though, that Muslims will use the Gospel of John to point a supposed prophecy of Muhammad in it. When Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us – a messenger – that is supposed to be Muhammad.

So what is it then? Is John reliable or not? If Muslims do not trust the information given by John, how can they claim Muhammad is in there? Double standards, that’s all.

  1. Pre-Pauline material (creeds, hymns, formulations) (c. A.D. 30-35).

Scholars, nearly universally, agree that Paul records and reports ancient creeds (statements of faith), hymns, and formulations (oral traditions reporting events). These oral traditions “played a large role in the Greco-Roman world, since only a small minority, perhaps less than 10 percent could read and write.”[3]

One of the most important of these formulations includes 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Others include 1 Corinthians 11:26; Acts 2:22-36; Romans 4:25; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:6; and (while not written by Paul) 1 Peter 3:18.[4] One could argue that each of these formulations serve as independent sources.

  1. Non-Christian Sources.

Various non-Christians noted certain attributes pertaining to the life of Jesus. The following ten sources serve, in varying degrees, as sources relating to the life of Jesus.

  • Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 15:44)
  • Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 18:3)
  • The Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a)
  • Roman satirist Lucian of Samosata (The Death of Peregrine 11-13)
  • Mara Bar-Serapion
  • Thallus (from a Julius Africanus fragment) trying to understand what caused the darkness when Jesus died.
  • Acts of Pilate (from Justin Martyr, First Apology 35)
  • Gnostic works such as Gospel of Truth (20:11-14, 25-29)
  • The Gospel of Thomas (45:1-16)
  • The Treatise on Resurrection (46:14-21).[5]

While these sources do not hold the historical veracity as do the canonical Gospels, they do serve as independent sources for Jesus. Some of these sources are even hostile towards Jesus.

Pastor Brian will evaluate some of these sources in a future article.

  1. Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 90-95).

Clement of Rome wrote towards the end of the first century. While he records later than most on this list, he provides information as an independent source, relating material which is not quoted from the New Testament. Examples of Clement of Rome’s statements pertaining to the death of Jesus include:

Let us look steadfastly [sic] to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world” (Clement of Rome, Corinthians 7).[6]

Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us; let us esteem those who have the rule over us; let us honor [sic] the aged among us; let us train up the young men in the fear of God; let us direct our wives to that which is good” (Clement of Rome, Corinthians 21).[7]

Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls”(Clement of Rome, Corinthians 49).[8]

Conclusion

What does the preceding tell us? It should tell us that great independent information exists for the historical Jesus. While some of the sources listed do not hold the weight that others do, that is beside the point. We are looking for various sources that tell us about the life of Jesus.

Jesus passes the first historical test. But what about the test of enemy attestation?

Pastor Brian will examine this issue in his next Apologetics post.


 

Bibliography

 Clement of Rome. “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Volume 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Habermas, Gary R. The Risen Jesus & Future Hope. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.

[1] Gary R. Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 9-10.

[2] Space will not allow me to provide the reasons in this article.

[3] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 220.

[4] Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope, 39, 65n.

[5] Taken from Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope, 39, 67n.

[6] Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 7.

[7] Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 11.

[8] Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 18.

Allah or YHWH

I will always remember that it was a friendship what got me so interested in Islam.

I am still interested – more than before – but not for the same reasons I was at the beginning. In plain English, I am not converting to Islam. But as I mentioned before, you would benefit greatly from reading the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran. It would help you to grasp much better issues that will arise when having random conversations with your Muslim friends.


YHWH or ALLAH


Issues like WHO you pray to will arise, and you need to avoid confusion. My Muslimah asked me for God’s personal name the other day. She said “God” is just a general term, and that ALLAH is His personal name. As you can already imagine, the personal name of God is surrounded by plenty of controversies. I will try to explain this issue as much as I understand. This post is not exhaustive, but I hope to share some light into this subject.

The proper name of God in the Hebrew Bible is YHWH. Even Merriam-Webster defines the tetragrammaton YHWH as the biblical proper name of God. That proper name of God is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible an astounding number of  6,220 times. Actually, if you own a Bible, wherever you see the word LORD – all uppercases – that means YHWH. Unfortunately, we do not know how to pronounce it as the name was never spoken audibly. That name was regarded by the Jews as too sacred a name to be uttered out loud.

Now, concerning ALLAH, some Christian apologists say it is only the general word for God in Arabic, but not God’s proper name. Allah is in Arabic what Elohim would be in Hebrew – God in general. Elohim appears 2, 598 times in the Bible. The same goes for the Hebrew word Adonai – a master or Lord- which in Arabic would be Rabb.  Adonai appears 448 times in the Bible. I guess all this names are nice, but when it comes to PROPHECY, all the Prophets of God for Israel used the name YHWH. And the name YHWH is nowhere to be found in Quran.

This is actually one of the reasons why the Jews do not recognize Mohammad as a prophet for Israel. He might have been a prophet for his own people – the Arabs – but not a prophet for the Jews. The most important agreement was that Abraham was the father of both the Jews (through his son Isaac) and the Arabs (through his son Ishmael). But the chief disagreement came on the issue whether Mohammed was indeed the last of the prophets to be sent by God and that his word was the final revelation. The Jews found the idea unthinkable since prophecy had end long before, and the words of the Torah could never be superseded.

Further, Mohammad maintained that the Jews had distorted their own Bible: Abraham did not attempt to sacrifice Isaac to God at Mount Moriah, one of the hills of Jerusalem; rather, Abraham took Ishmael to Mecca, where he offered to sacrifice him to Allah on the Black Stone of Kaaba. So yeah, the Jews are also upset that Muslims claim their Hebrew Bible is corrupted.


WHERE TO BEGIN?


I think all this argument starts in Exodus 3:13-15, where God talks to Moses at the burning bush. In this chapter, we find God referring to Himself as I AM. It has been long supposed that the name YHWH was derived from the verb that is used to make I AM, namely היה (haya), meaning to be or to become, or rather from an older form and rare synonym of haya, namely הוה, hawa. Hence, y-hawa or Yahweh, the proper imperfect of the verb, rendered the name HE IS. 

When God tells Moses I AM, God is saying that He has no dependence upon any other. He was, He is and He will always be. God is self-existent and He is self-sufficient, therefore NOBODY can claim this name for Himself, but Himself. THIS IS HIS NAME and ONLY HIS NAME forever.

Do not get me wrong, but I know the God that I worship. I don’t care much for His proper name. I know God’s goodness in my life. I have seen His miracles worked out for my own good and the good of others. He has blessed me greatly. So for all I know, I can call Him by the name of Thomas, and He will answer me. I am not trying to be disrespectful to my Maker. But when I pray, He knows I am praying to Him. And ONLY Him. So I personally think it is a matter of conscience.

For a Muslim, it might be difficult to call God by the name of YHWH because from birth he has always heard God’s proper name is Allah. For an uninformed Christian living in the West, Allah might sound like the God of ISIS, so he would never dare pray to Allah. But Arab Christians say Allah is God. These Arab Christians sing to Allah, and worship Allah with full understanding that Allah is the Godhead of the Trinity, and Yasūʿ al-Masih [Jesus] as their Savior.


JESUS NEVER SAID, “I AM GOD, WORSHIP ME”


You got me right there. Jesus never said that literally, but His actions spoke more than His words.

  • God is the First and the Last. Quran 57:3 and Isaiah 44:6 agree with this statement. Then you see Jesus in the Book of Revelation 1:17-18 saying, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last”. 
  • Only God can forgive sins.  Jesus boldly forgave sins in Mark 2:5-7. What do you do with Jesus authority in light of  Quran 3:135 if only Allah can forgive sins?
  • Allah will resurrect those who are in their graves according to Quran 22:7.  Then you have Jesus saying He is the resurrection in John 11:25.
  • Allah is the Final Judge according to Quran 22:56-57. But Jesus also claimed to be the Final Judge in Matthew 25:31-32 as the Son of Man. This is the same Son of Man who will come with the clouds of heaven to judge the world according to the Prophet Daniel’s prophecy about Messiah.
  • In John 20:28, doubting Thomas says, “My Lord and My God” while referring to Jesus.
  • In Matthew 28:16-17, the eleven disciples worshipped (προσκυνέω) Jesus. They literally prostrated themselves in front of Jesus to kiss His Deity. The disciples bowed down to Jesus as Muslims bow down while doing rakaʿāt.

I AM – A BIG DEAL UNDER MOSAIC LAW


In John 8:48-58, the Jewish religious leaders are accusing Jesus of being possessed by a demon. Jesus replied that Abraham rejoiced at the fact of one day seeing Jesus’ day. The leaders then mocked Jesus saying He was not even fifty years old, and here He was claiming to have seen Abraham.


‘Very truly I tell you’, Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I AM!’  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

John 8:58


Why were the Jewish religious leaders so upset about what Jesus said? They wanted to stone Him… Was it just because they did not personally like Him? Of course not! It was because of what Jesus was claiming to be. The I AM that Jesus mentioned here goes back directly to God’s own name that God can only claim for Himself. That name YHWH that God gave Moses in Exodus 3:14.

This was a blatant blasphemy for any Jew in Jesus’ time. Jesus was claiming to be YHWH. Such a statement was punishable by death under Mosaic Law. That is why they grabbed the stones. They literally wanted to kill Him. From a legal standpoint, though, the Jews could not execute a person by stoning anymore, for the Romans had taken from them the option of implementing capital punishment directly (John 18:31). The Jews were required to go through the Roman judicial system for executions, and for a non-Roman, that meant crucifixion.

This sheds a lot of light in my research of non-Christian sources to provide evidence that Jesus actually died on the cross. There are plenty. I will write about each one individually because this is one of my main interests lately.


Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve. Forty days previously the herald had cried, “He is being led out for stoning, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray and enticed them into apostasy. Whosoever has anything to say in his defense, let him come and declare it.” As nothing was brought forward in his defense, he was hanged on Passover Eve.

Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin (43a)


What apostasy was Jesus leading Israel into? Obviously His claims to be God. He claimed to be YHWH. Even the commentary of the Quran that I am reading (by Abdullah Yusuf Ali) acknowledges the fact that the Jews charged Jesus with blasphemy as claiming to be God (note 395). And the sorcery? Well, the Jewish leaders were ascribing Jesus’ miracles to the power of demons.

But as I see it, Jesus talked like He was God. Jesus acted like He was God. And Jesus gave evidence for claiming this authority rightfully. Although Jesus never uttered the words I AM GOD, I believe His real identity is established by the proof that He gave. After all the evidence, why would Jesus have to give anybody a statement? If people are open for the truth, they will recognize this evidence. Those who ignore this evidence won’t even be convinced if Jesus were to add the statement they demand from Him.

When in doubt ask YHWH. ALLAH promises to be found when you seek Him with all your heart 🙂

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