Posted tagged ‘historical Jesus’

Questions of Greatness and Goodness

December 7, 2018


“The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is ‘What did he leave to grow? Did he help men think about new ideas with a vigor that persisted after he was gone?’” H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells, the great English writer considered “the father of science fiction”, was a forward thinker, believing in the progression of man in the vein of the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. He was no friend of orthodox Christianity, nor of any religion. (See Wikipedia) “None of his contemporaries did more to encourage revolt against Christian tenets and accepted codes of behaviour, especially as regards sex….” (See Britannica).

It’s ironic I suppose, then, that I am thinking about Jesus as I read his words.

Wells expressed a hope in his writing “that human society would evolve into higher forms”. He believed from early on in the “doctrine of social progress”. (See Britannica) World War I impacted the idealistic hopes of youth, but Wells continued to believe that humankind could progress through knowledge and education.

I wonder what Wells would say today? How much have we progressed? Would his waning optimism have shriveled altogether if he had lived long enough? His last written work, Mind at the End of its Tether, written at the outbreak of World War II, suggests some further erosion in the hope of his youth, painting a very bleak picture of the future of mankind in which nature itself rebels against the evils of men.

Though H.G. Wells visited with both Lenin and Stalin, he probably didn’t know all the details of the atrocities that Stalin (particularly ) committed. A grim estimate of people killed at Stalin’s direction is 40 million! (See ibtimes) What would Wells have thought about the progression of mankind if he knew the truth? What if he knew of all the genocides that occurred and would occur in the 20th and 21st centuries alone? (See The worst genocides of the 20th and 21st Centuries)

Should H.G. Wells’ test of greatness by changed to include goodness?

An atheist friend of mine challenged me to prove to him that the world is a better place with religion (and Christianity in particular). I don’t recall exactly how I responded to him, but I have thought about his challenge since then.

We can’t deny that bad things have been done by people in the name of religion, including Christianity. I would not deny it. But what of the good?

H.G. Wells poses a question about greatness. My friend poses a question about goodness.

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Archaeology that Supports the New Testament Record

April 8, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 139260410 Copyright: vblinov
Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives

This is the second in a two-part blog series inspired by an interview with archaeologist, Dr. Craig Evans. The first article was general in nature, focusing on people in the biblical record who are confirmed by archaeological finds, and noting that modern archaeology continues to affirm the historical reliability of the Bible. In this piece, we focus on the New Testament, which is Dr. Evans’s specialty.

Significantly, when asked whether he is aware of any archaeological finds that contradict the Gospels, Dr. Evans responded, “Where it relates to the Gospels – the Gospels talk certain people, certain places and certain events – and everywhere archaeology has any relevance that touches on it in any way, the archaeology supports what the Gospels say.” Thus, the theme continues: that modern archaeology, far from casting a shadow of doubt on the bible, shines light on it, illuminating the biblical accounts with archaeological discoveries.

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Christmas Thoughts: What Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Have to Do With Christmas?

December 1, 2016

In the first installment of Christmas Thoughts, I left us hanging with a long passage from the Bible. I didn’t give the reference. I wanted the reader to think about it.

If it isn’t familiar to the reader, I wanted the reader to wonder where it might be found.

I have to admit that my inspiration came from a true story. A young Jewish man was presented the same passage and asked to identify where it was found in the Scripture. Like many of us, myself included as a young man, he wasn’t overly familiar with the Scriptures. His knee jerk reaction was that it is from the New Testament somewhere (which he hadn’t read either … but he was Jewish after all).

When he was told where the passage is located in the Bible, he was skeptical – Isaiah 53 … in the Old Testament. His next thought was, “That’s your Bible! I bet it’s not in the Tanuhk!” (more…)

Christmas thoughts: Humble Beginnings, Worldwide Ends

November 30, 2016

Christmastime is a time to consider the birth of Christ. That is “the reason for the season” as the saying goes. Even with the layering of a celebration of the birth of Christ over a Roman holiday celebrating a pagan mystery religion, and even in the busyness of all the commercialism and shopping frenzy, and in spite of the looming red eclipse of Santa, we usually pause to connect the dots to the birth of Jesus.

Whether you wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, Christmas involves some acknowledgment of the birth of a man who was called Jesus who lived and died in the 1st Century in the region of Palestine and modern Israel today. Here, in the confluence of Roman, Greek, Jewish and pagan influences, an obscure carpenter who lived maybe 33 years began a movement in human history that has spanned the globe and, even today, remains a predominant influence.

This movement created perhaps the freest and greatest democracy in human history. It flourishes even in the cold, communist climate of China and in the hotly hostile religious climate of Iran. It has made its way into the far reaches of the earth, down remote jungle streams and over barren desert sands to touch nearly all people groups of the earth.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of this influential, but humble, man are shrouded in mystery and quiet awe, if the circumstances are to be believed. (more…)

Ramblings on Faith and Unbelief

August 28, 2016

Bart Eherman Quotation


I became a believer, and then a follower, of Jesus Christ in college. It wasn’t just academic for me, though the beginning of my life as a believer and follower of Jesus began in an academic environment and was shaped and influenced by academics. I think that’s why I like the academic pursuit of faith even now, over 30 years later.

It’s important for me to be mindful that faith is not purely an intellectual affair. I think I may differ from many people in that respect, but I need to constantly be reminded of it. Faith is a relationship with the Living God; faith is a life and heart commitment; faith triggers action and change or it isn’t real faith.

I know that the words intellectual and faith probably don’t fit together in the minds of some people. Some people see those terms as opposites. They aren’t, but they can chaff with each other at times. Intellectualism, for instance, really does get in the way of faith (more so in fact than the other way around). Faith and intellectual pursuit can be perfectly compatible unless we compartmentalize them and pit them against each other.

Faith, or the lack thereof, depends on something other than intellectual coinage.  (more…)

The Historical Christ

April 4, 2015

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Once a year people remember the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Few historical facts are as well-documented as the death of a man referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) around 33 A.D. The claim that he was resurrected from the dead is a different matter. The modern mind, influenced by many centuries of science and discovery and the relatively recent (200 hundred years) of ascension of materialist thought, is highly skeptical.

Looking back at the Gospel accounts with a modern, skeptical filter, the implausibility of the story colors our view. Some modern thinkers conclude that the story was manufactured by the followers of Jesus.

For what end, one might ask. What did it gain those early followers? If they knew it was a lie, why would they die for that lie?  (more…)

The Thoughts of Many Hearts Revealed

December 20, 2014
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Young Jesus presented to Simeon at the Temple

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“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.'” (Luke 2:34-35)

People tend to focus on the “Christmas story”, but this verse that follows the account of the birth of Jesus is significant, if not subtle, in its ramifications.

Simeon was a temple priest who entertained the rituals performed by Mary after Jesus was born. Luke says that it was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that Simeon would not die before he had seen the Messiah.

Devout Jews of the time were expecting a Messiah (“Christ” in Greek). Keep in mind that over 300 years had passed since the last of the Old Testament prophets who foretold the Messiah. Simeon knew this baby was the One because the Holy Spirit had spoken to him!

Following an article I read recently, the author had a back and forth discussion with a reader about whether Jesus actually existed. The skeptic questioned the reliability of the Bible and did not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical figure. Among other things, he questioned the lack of reference in First Century historical accounts of Jesus and the miracles that the Bible describes. The reader argued: if so many miraculous things really happened, wouldn’t everyone have heard about them and made mention of them in historical accounts?

Never mind that social media was late to arrive in First Century Galilee and CNN had not yet been picked up in Jerusalem at that time. I wonder: would you believe accounts of miracles if they were reported in India? Mexico? Montana? Would you have even give it a second thought if some fishermen, homeless persons or prostitutes claimed to be healed?

Of course, this question begs another question: Isn’t the Bible a historical account? The “books” of the New Testament are written like historical accounts, especially the Gospels and the Book of Acts, but what about the letters?

The Christ child, Simeon is recorded as saying to Mary, was “destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel”, and that certainly is what happened. Jesus, who only lived a short 30 some years, caused quite a stir, and the stir even continues today, almost two millennia later.

Many continue to speak against Jesus today, just as Simeon said they would, which is an odd thing if Jesus was never an historical figure. The thoughts of many hearts are revealed if this Jesus really was God who came in the flesh to walk among us. He is the continental divide between those who are open to God and those who deny him.

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