Fixing my eyes on Jesus

A lot of things have happened recently. We are in our fifteenth week of homeschooling, and the magic has disappeared. Maybe I mentioned that already in another post. I am not as excited as I was at the beginning, and homeschooling is not as “awesome” as I thought it would be.

Let me rephrase that. My definition of “awesome” was: effortless, leisurable, and comfortable. Homeschooling has been anything but that. Yes, it has been awesome, but my perspective on what “awesome” actually is has changed.

I heard this at a conference, you know – it’s not like I was clueless. They said this was going to be hard – that I should expect it to be hard.  What was I thinking? That somehow my children somehow managed to escape the Total Depravity of man? LOL! 

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 THEIR THROAT IS AN OPNE GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

– Romans 3:9-18 NASB

The children and I spent a couple of weeks memorizing these verses as we have been studying the true condition of man’s nature after The Fall of Adam and Eve. I am a loyal ESV Bible reader, but lately I’ve been using the NASB. It capitalizes the text of the New Testament every time the Old Testament is quoted. How amazing is that?

In Romans 3:9-18, the apostle Paul is simply quoting the Hebrew Scriptures. He quotes Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Proverbs 1:16, Isaiah 59:7,8.

And it makes sense, right? That as Paul is making the case for the sinfulness of man, the Jews are affirming everything they hear. They probably are thinking those non-Jews are the worst, and then Paul goes on to say, that EVERY ONE is under sin, both Jews and Greeks [non-Jews] alike. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

During Bible time we have also talked about how the doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean you are as evil as you could be, but it does mean that the fall of Adam was so radical that the body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin. So our only hope then to overcome that condition is the mercy of God. We cannot just make some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but we need a new heart. We need to be regenerated, we need to be born again from above. And as Jesus would explain to Nicodemus, being born into the kingdom is not a matter of man’s will, since flesh gives birth to flesh. But being born of the Holy Spirit is like the wind – it goes wherever it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

So how can someone be born again?

Do you put your faith in Jesus [pray a prayer or do whatever you need to do] and as a result of that action you are born again into the kingdom of God?

OR

You are born again from above [without your input, God changes your heart without your permission] and as a result you willingly come to faith and repentance in Christ?

I am convinced from the Scriptures that the latter is the biblical explanation for why anybody is a Christian. Anyways… it’s not new (at least in my own circles) that Reformed Theology has changed the way I see everything in life, and homeschooling is no exception.

I think this is what I have been confronted over and over again these fifteen weeks. My children were very responsive and excited the first week. They listened for the most part, and were obedient. Now, however, most of our days we are angry at our neighbor who is annoying us for the 24th time in the day…

 

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Civil War Weekend 2019

 

Libby and Enzo sit together side by side, and Enzo gets on her face all the time. Change seats, right? That’s the answer!! Well, nobody wants to change seats. Most of the classes they have to take together, so it is only natural that the older will be faster at some things, like writing or taking notes. The other morning, Libby started a whole argument in the bathroom trying to control the amount of time Enzo brushed his teeth. She is prone to have cavities so the rule for her is that she has to brush her teeth for two minutes using a small sand clock that she has. Enzo had one, too, but he broke it one day when he was angry. So… Libby was brushing her teeth and Enzo did not brush his teeth for the whole two minutes since she had already started with the clock. Well, that made Libby upset and she began bossing him around. He snapped at her about how he doesn’t have to obey her, and in retribution, she stuck her tongue at him and walked away.

Pretty funny, right? Although, it is not.

He then tossed his toothbrush full of toothpaste at the mirror, and made a mess which he proceeded to clean, but was having a difficult time cleaning. Then I realized all this had happened in less than two minutes, and I was not even aware of it. I was making my coffee in the kitchen and the only reason I got involved is because Enzo asked for help  on how to clean the mirror. I just asked him what had happened, and he got all hot again, which is and has always been a struggle for him – his anger. Then he began raising his voice at me, and I was not even part of this argument, but he began disrespecting me.  It took us probably more than ten minutes to settle the whole argument, with both parties involved, and without yelling at each other.

Everybody had to be confronted about their own sin in the situation, because everybody did sin. Libby was controlling to say the least, and then she showed contempt for her brother in sticking her tongue at him. I had a hard time not laughing when he told me he was upset because of that. It is hilarious for me as an adult who sees this from the outside, and has perspective on it, but seriously, what was happening in her heart at that particular moment that made her do that? I have showed contempt for people and for God. In a way, I have stuck my tongue at God when I have disregarded His ways, and have gone my own way.

Enzo, well, he lost control. He let his emotions rule. Yes, she sinned against him, so now how is he supposed to respond? Should he offer forgiveness or should he pay back evil for evil, and made a whole mess out of nowhere? Of course he was angry, and he had a good reason to be angry. One of the things I have learned to do in marriage is to overlook minor offenses, otherwise Emerson and I would be arguing more often!

How do we learn to do that? God is giving us plenty of daily opportunities to practice forgiveness while at the same time learning to confront sinful behavior by talking instead of throwing stuff at each other! God willing, this will be very helpful for their future marriages.

So this was the start of our day… we were just getting ready to start with Bible. I think that’s basically how all our days go – on and on throughout the day. Forget Math and Grammar, what gets me tired is fighting for the spiritual state of my children.

 

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North Houston Baptist Church Camping Trip 2019

 

A while ago I shared with someone that I was gonna be homeschooling my children. They looked at me in horror, I am not kidding – HORROR – and exclaimed, “WHY?!”

LOL! I did not take offense, this was not a Christian woman, so of course we had zero agreement on what matters the most in this life. But Christian or not Christian, situations like the toothpaste are exactly why we chose to homeschool. I don’t think I have ever written it all down. I have the privilege to address my children’s hearts as only I can. I get to disciple them and spend my days teaching them what matters the most in this life.

Who is going to teach them those things if not my husband and I?

Am I really naive enough to think that their home room teacher will? Even assuming the teacher is Christian, that person has no time in the day to address my child’s heart or the other twenty children in her classroom. They do not know my children. We never intended to get the children out of the public school system to put them in a Christian bubble in order to isolate them from sin. I am stuck with these little sinners every single day, and they are stuck with me. Sin is alive and well in our household. I guess it was way easier to send them over to school where somewhere else was bothered by their misbehavior. And what would the teacher do? Have a ten minute talk about sin and how sin gets in the way of our relationships? Of course not. So basically, at the end of the day I am exhausted, but I am so thankful we are doing this.

We are studying about other cultures, and other religions, and the questions have been great so far. I was not expecting Libby to ask me how do we know that Christianity is true.

 

You tell us all the time the Bible is true, and that every other religion is false. But the Muslim mother is teaching her children that Islam is true, and that everything else -including Christianity – is false. How do we know who is right?

– Libby

I froze for about five seconds LOL!

I didn’t have to deal with that question until I was 31 years old. Nobody ever prepared me to answer those things. And it is awesome that I get to use my spiritual gifts in teaching and preaching the gospel to my children over and over again [to my children – you know, in case you are not familiar with the uproar after Go Home].

The LORD has been so good to me and He has equipped me with so much knowledge and understanding about other religions, particularly Islam after living in India. It is a great opportunity that I get to teach apologetics and theology to my children. God has wired me with a passion for this, and it is great to be used by Him in that way. It doesn’t happen often (we do not follow a curriculum), but I think it comes often enough because we are studying the Scriptures every day. And as I write this post, I realize that the things that we have talked about have happened over a period of weeks, not necessarily in one sitting.

We have talked about the nature of truth claims, and how the most zealous sincere believers can be sincerely wrong. We have talked about how all religions share some truths together, but in reality, it is also nonsense to say that all religions teach the same things, because when you really study them side by side, they contradict each other at critical points. Simply said, Islam, Christianity, Jehova Witnesses, and Mormonism all have a different Jesus. For the JW, Jesus is Michael the archangel; for the Mormon, Jesus is the actual literal son of God who had sex with one of his many wives, brother of Satan, among other things; for Muslims, Jesus is a great prophet, but ultimately a man who, by the way, did not die on the cross (despite all the historical evidence from Jewish historians); and for Christians, Jesus is the Son of God, not a physical son, but of the same nature of the Father.

It takes a lot of time to go through many of those things. And I think that’s what I LOVE about being with them all the time. If I were not with them, all these hours that I am investing in their spiritual present and future would be spent somewhere else, with someone else, and they would be learning something else. They would still be discipled, but by other people. I know the LORD saves no matter what. He saved me, and nobody ever homeschooled me. God is mighty to save, but if I can spend this time with them, why wouldn’t I?

 

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He decided to get a haircut 😦

 

Ultimately, what I am striving for is to help them see what the Bible says about the condition of fallen man and how Christ is our only hope.

I have tried to make clear to them that if at any point in their lives (including right now) there is any real desire to follow after Christ in their hearts, that desire did not originate in their sinful hearts, but that God gave them that desire. Even though I believe their confession of faith is true, ultimately only God knows whether or not their faith in Jesus is genuine. And so, if they came to Christ is because it was granted to them by God, the Father, since nobody comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. That is the plain reading of the text.

We have memorized Romans 3: 9-18.

Who seeks after God? No one. There are no true seekers apart from the Holy Spirit already working in the hearts of those people.

Who is righteous in their heart that they fear the Lord? No one. So if they really believe, it is because God changed their hearts. How or when, I do not know. But I believe what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit blowing wherever He pleases, and we only see the effects of it.

If they are Christian, it is not because they are smarter than their peers, or because they are more reasonable than the unbelievers down the street, or more humble than other children or adults who refuse to accept Jesus. No. They are Christian because God had mercy on them. They are Christian because He chose to open their eyes. They are Christian because God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and blameless before Him. Another plain reading of the text.  They are Christian because God, in love, predestined them to adoption to Himself as children through Jesus Christ, not according to their free will, or according to how amazing they are, because the text does not say that anywhere. If they are Christian, it is according to the purpose of His will, for the praise of his glorious grace. Therefore, they cannot really boast in their ability to choose for Christ, because if there is repentance and faith in their lives, even that is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.

So I guess, we pretty much are hanging on the mercy of the Lord at all times,  and that is a sobering thought. I have been very anxious about several things lately, and the original intention of my post was to talk about it, but I got sidetracked… I have been realizing that, literally, my every heart beat is a gift from God – every single time my heart beats depends on the LORD keeping it beating.

So apart from the grace of God, no matter how much evidence I could provide them so that they would believe Christianity is a factual, historical, reliable faith, they would never believe it anyway.  They cannot. That is exactly what the Bible claims. They are blind. They cannot please God on their own. Apart from Christ, they are God’s enemies. Apart from Christ, they are all alone in the world, without hope, following Satan. Apart from Christ, they are dead in their sins and trespasses, and by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, John 6, Romans 5, Romans 8, John 3).

So they do not need evidence, the evidence is there, and will always be there. What they most desperately need is a miracle. They need the Holy Spirit to illuminate their hearts. They need to be born again. While I cannot birth them spiritually, I know that my prayers and my teaching of the Word of God to them are some of the means that God might use to bring them to faith. And even if He doesn’t, I am still commanded to do it. I need to trust God will glorify Himself through our lives.

This is basically why we homeschool. If we didn’t, we couldn’t compete with the 16,000+ hours that they would have spent in school. I want that time for Christ.

Oh, yes. Other than that, we are into crocheting, and rock climbing lately. My arms were sore for three days. I am also learning to play the piano 🙂

 

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Libby climbing.

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.

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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.

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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.