Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Extra-Biblical Sources

Skeptics often discredit the Bible because they claim there are no extra-Biblical sources that confirm accounts found in the Bible. One thing we have to remember is that the Bible is not just one book. It is a collection of 66 books by over 40 different authors from all walks of life. If the New Testament had never been canonized we would have several different testimonies of what actually happened in the life of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, and others all recorded their testimony of the facts. Written documents must be given the benefit of the doubt before disregarding their content. Only when the content is proven false should the content be then discarded. Yet when it comes to the Bible, it is often just personal opinion that skeptics use to justify officially disregarding the Bible as a serious historical document.

Anyway the collected accounts we find in the New Testament are not enough. Skeptics want more accounts. This causes me to ask, how many accounts are enough to establish a credible historical document. Unfortunately we will never know, because we only have the accounts of the writers of the books that have been collected to form the New Testament. Or do we?

Although there are no other known contemporary writings describing the life of Jesus, we do have extra-Biblical accounts that come only a few decades after the life of Jesus. This would be like a historian today writing about former President Ronald Reagan. There would be little doubt as to the credibility of the account unless there were obvious fabrications. Regarding Jesus and the early church movement we have these non-Biblical, and some non Christian sources:
-The Babylonian Talmud (written A.D. 70 TO 100)
Testifies that Jesus existed, was crucified on the eve of Passover, performed miracles (sorcery), led Jews away from their traditions.

-Historian Josephus and his Antiquities 94 AD
Testifies that Jesus existed, performed miracles, had loyal followers, and was crucified by Pilate.

-Tacitus Annals 115 AD
Testifies to the life and death of Jesus, his many followers, and even hints at the resurrection with his words "The pernicious superstition." Obviously, he did not believe it, but knew about it showing how this superstition had spread throughout the Roman empire so quickly.

There are others like Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Phlegon, Lucian of Samosata, Emperor Hadrian and others. All of which do not prove what we read in scripture but testify to the certainty that Jesus did some sort of supernatural acts, had many followers, and was crucified. So what? You may ask.

Well with these facts established, we need to ask, why did the Christian religion not die with Jesus. After all the whole thing falls apart if He is not really resurrected. Why would anyone continue to volunteer to be persecuted for something they knew was not true? It does not make sense that this was some sort of political rebellion, as their own doctrines and teaching promoted submission to authorities, yet did not promise loyalty to any government outside of the Kingdom of heaven. The movement was too large and happened too fast for it have been some sort of fluke created by people who had lost their sense of reality. When we look at the origins of the other major religions, we see a lot of political and social motives behind their growths respectively. Yet Christianity is void of this motive for at least the first 2 centuries. So why would thousands upon thousands leave their traditions, homes, families, and protection to live underground. Their reward was to be hunted down by Romans and or Jews, and be crucified, burned alive, fed to lions, or another horrible death.

The skeptic will say people die for many reasons even today. Yet masses of people do not voluntarily die for no reason whatsoever, which is what these people would have been doing if Jesus was not risen. The known truth that Jesus had risen from the grave is the only thing that would cause a first century Jew or Greek to make such a lifestyle change. Muslims today die for their religion, because they have been deceived by a false prophet from centuries ago. The first thousands of Christians would have witnessed Jesus themselves, and would have been able to see the lie if it was a lie.

1 comment:

  1. A historical event is not like a science experiment that can be reproduced and tested. Therefore the burden of proof must be placed upon witnesses and physical evidence pieced together to portray what most likely happened. Our courts of law operate this way. We accept all kinds of historical events that have much less documentation than the life of Jesus. We havebarcheaological evidence that support details mentioned in the Bible and we have the existance of the church and Israel.