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Bible, it is often just personal opinion that skeptics use to justify officially disregarding the Bible as a serious historical document.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 This causes me to ask, how many accounts are enough to establish a credible historical document.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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How did Judas Die

Many skeptics point out that Matthew and the writer of Acts (most likely Luke) contradict eachother regarding how Judas died. Matthew states that he hung himself. Acts says that he fell headlong into a field and his guts spilled out. What is not said what actually killed him the hanging or the fall. This means both descriptions could have happened even though only one of these events would have actually killed him.

There is no contradiction here because the account in Acts is not pointing how Judas died, but where he ironically ended up. You see the field Judas' body fell in after he hung himself was the field the pharisees bought with the money Judas received for betraying Jesus. Peter mentioned it this way in that he was pointing out how Judas would rot in the fruit of his own sin.

Judas hung himself and at some point the branch he hung from broke allowing his body to fall. He most likely landed on some rocks or something that would have caused his guts to spill out of his body. There is a second illustration provided here by Peter for us to discover. Jesus has many nicknames and one of them is the Branch. Judas killed himself physically and spiritually by breaking the branch and falling into his own sin.

So you see this is obviously not a contradiction, but a teaching illustration meant to remind us of what Judas did to himself by betraying his savior and what will happen to all who reject Jesus. Those who claim this to be a contradicction have not really read the accounts and thought about the two perspectives. It is interesting how skeptics will scoff whether the account is identical or harmonized. Skeptics are looking for a reason to accuse, they are not seeking truth.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2nd Response to Method Skeptic

You said:
STOP. First, millions of people all over the world have given their lives for millions of causes, so someone's strength of belief or willingness to die is worth precisely zero when it comes to evaluating whether their claims are TRUE. Your statement “would not have given their lives for Christ if,” is completely false.

This point you bring up is meaningless. My point is that the disciples would have known if Jesus truley did miracles. They would have known if He died and rose from the dead. They were there. No one who knew the ressurection was a lie would give up their lives to gain nothing which is what they did.

You said;
The point about hearsay is that a certain select number of people in history supposedly got it straight from the horse's mouth. The rest of us, on the other hand, are not only expected to take their word for it, not even their firsthand word for it. All we’ve got is this crummy book, with all its glaring flaws.

Do you believe George Washington was president of the USA. Obviously you do, but you were not there. You trust that information, yet you were not there. Hmmm. Oh and what you call a crummy book has only predicted the future accurately hundreds of times throughout history even up until today. This crummy book has changed lives, and given the hopeless true hope. I'm sorry you see no value in it, but the flaws you are referring to are not found in scripture, but they are in your own heart. I can see this just in the angry tone you have taken with me in these few posts. If this book is so obviously flawed, why would you bother to waste your time to debate with an idiot like me?

You said:
I repeat: you have it utterly backwards. I started from a position of faith, of belief, and through reading and study and following the evidence came to the conclusion that the Bible is a work of historical fiction. You have the end of the road confused with the beginning

Well if you had true faith, it would have been established on God's word. Your faith was not in His word, but more likely you had an emotional experience, or you trusted in the church you were brought up in. As for you following the evidence, well lets just say I doubt that. Are you an Aramaic scholar. Have you actually studied the Bible, or did you just believe what fed you. Or maybe you took some religious classes in some liberal college. If I am wrong, I am sorry, but I have spoken to so many people who sound like you, and usually their information comes from a source that rejects the Bible not because of evidence against it, but because it is a book full of miracles like Jesus walking on water or rising from the dead. However to deny these miracles, is to deny life and the origins of our universe, because these are miracles as well.

You said:
Your personal self-loathing is irrelevant, though I hope you get some counseling. I do hope you’re not gearing up to tell me how much I must love sin, because that would be an ad hominem attack as well as an incoherent statement, and you’d never go there, right?

I did not loathe myself, I loved my life, but thanks for your sincere concern. Linking the validity of the Bible to your love of sin is not an ad hominem. It is a valid point, because the Bible is all about people rejecting God's word because of their love of sin. Now are you saying you do not love your sin?

you said:
And again, I say: if this book is the preferred vehicle for an omnipotent, omniscient being to transmit the most important information in the universe, he did a pretty asinine job of it--why should God Almighty's inspired word have any need for broader apologetics?

To be honest, God's word does not need apologetics. God can reach people in many ways and does. He so chooses to use things like apologetics because of our lack of faith. If you actually studied and understood His word, you would marvel at its beauty, power, design, and brilliance. If you study it to prove your own agenda, you will never see these things.

You said:
By the way, your skills at picking things out of context and reading your own preconceived notions into things are as sharp as they ever were--I've read your posts on biblical "prophecy," and that's a perfect description of your work. Much of Christian commentary on most any subject, actually. Disgust over the rampant intellectual dishonesty among prominent Christian "thinkers" did much to push me away from the faith.

Ok, tell me where I misquoted or misrepresented what scripture says.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Response to Method Skeptic Comments

Thank you for your comments.
You said: Revelation is necessarily a first-person experience, for anyone else, it is hearsay...

Let me begin by saying I agree with you. Paul, Peter, Thomas, and all the rest would not have given their lives for Christ if they did not have a 1st hand revelation given by God. Now you may say Muslims today are dying for their god today, does that testify to the idea that muslims have also had a personal revelation given by God? Well, Jesus said you will know them by their fruit. Muslims dying for their faith are doing so because they are trusting only what they have been told. They are not questioning their religion. They are doing these things not for others but for themselves, because they believe their death will assure sex with virgins and mansions in heaven. Jesus and His 1st disciples were put to death for spreading the message they had received. God has chosen to use both the testimony of others and personal experience to draw us to faith. That is good, because if my faith was based only on my own experience, then I could question myself as being crazy. However, when I hear the testimony of millions of others who have had the same type of experience, it encourages and strengthens my faith.

When I came to faith in God, it was originally based on a personal revelation God gave me. My motive here is not to intellectually save people. My motive here is to break down walls people like my self built up. The walls I built in my own mind blinded me from even considering the possibility that the Bible could be true. I like you had hundreds of reasons to believe the Bible was flawed or just totally false. However, these reasons I had for rejecting the God of the Bible were based on my own collection of misinformation that I had been fed. It was also based on my own selfish love of sin. I did not have an understanding of scripture in context. I would pick things out of context, and read into things. In doing this I missed what the original point of the scripture was. It was only when I let go of my pride and pre-conceived notions of God that He responded to me, when I asked Him to reveal Himself. Ever since then I have been studying the Bible and searching out the answers to all those doubts and questions I had about His word.

Let me also point out that salavtion is not dependent upon how much you know about scripture. Salvation is dependent upon faith in God. God has given us natural knowledge, it is called our conscience. We all know naturally that we have sinned. The reality is that I am no more righteous in and of myself than a mass murderer. If it was not for the grace of God, we all would have the capacity to do such evil. We do not commit such evil because we have been brought up in a positive environment with a chemical balance in our brain that makes it less likely that we would do such a thing. But God is responsible for my environment and my chemical balance. THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT GOD CREATED MASS MURDERERS. Man created sin, not God. Through God's influence in the world He has kept mankind from destroying himself which is in our sin nature. So the fact that you and I are not mass murderers is a reason for us to give thanks to God for His influence on our hearts. However, Jesus said if w so much as hate someone, we are in danger of the same judgement as a murderer. Hate for someone in God's economy is the same as murder. We look at these things different, but the only difference between someone who hates and a murderer is God's influence in that person's heart preventing him from acting upon that hate.

The only way we can be healed of this disease we have inherited called SIN, is through faith. Faith causes us to deny our natural selfish tendencies, and reach out to our creator. When we do that, God responds to us by revealing Himself to us in an intimate and personal way.

As for your question. You are making a few assertions based on speculation. For example you assert the disciples did not speak Greek. I'm not sure how you could possibly know that. They lived in the Roman empire where Greek was the primary language. But aside from that. Even if they did not speak Greek, it does not matter, because in context of the entire account, it is obvious what Jesus is saying here. Jesus goes on to define what He meant in verses 5 and 6, where He points out that we must not only be born in the flesh, but we must be born of Spirit of God in order to get into heaven.