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Monday, November 27, 2006

Hit or Myth scholarship

The holidays are over and some commenters have speculated that Christianity is simply mythology. For some of them, such speculation is perhaps of some comfort. Yes, crack open a cold one and long for the days when Christianity is forgotten. Fat chance!

After the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the primary persecutors of Christians were the Jews, who sought to imprison and even kill Christians as "heretics." Wikipedia notes that later the emperor Nero decided to make Christians scapegoats:

"The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37-68). In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome which destroyed vast portions of the city and economically devastated the Roman population. Nero, whose sanity had long been in question, was widely suspected of having intentionally set the fire himself. In his Annals, Tacitus, states that "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" (Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus). By implicating the Christians for this massive act of arson, Nero successfully capitalized on the already-existing public suspicion of this religious sect and, it could be argued, exacerbated the hostilities held toward them throughout the Roman Empire. Forms of execution used by the Romans included systematic murder, crucifixion, and the feeding of Christians to lions and other wild beasts. Tacitus' Annals XV.44 record: "...a vast multitude, were convicted, not so much of the crime of incendiarism as of hatred of the human race. And in their deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights."

Nero was an equal-opportunity hater, and his enmity towards the Jews led to the eventual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the mass slaying of perhaps a million Jews. This destruction was predicted by Jesus as recorded in the book of Matthew and also in the Revelation of John.

"The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God." (C.H. Spurgeon, Commentary on Matthew, p. 412)

After that event, the Jews ceased to be effective persecutors of Christians, but Romans took over that job. Some Roman emperors largely ignored Christians, but others made it their mission to wipe Christianity from the face of the globe.

The first documentable Empire-wide persecution took place under Maximin, though only the clergy were sought out. It was not until Decius during the mid-century that a persecution of Christian laity across the Empire took place. Gregory of Tours glosses the persecutions in his "History of the Franks" written in the decade before 594:

"Under the emperor Decius many persecutions arose against the name of Christ, and there was such a slaughter of believers that they could not be numbered"...

...The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century. Their persecution, considered the largest, was to be the last, as Constantine I soon came into power and in 313 legalized Christianity.

Diocletian erected a monument to the end of Christianity. Constantine later converted that monument to a Christian memorial.

Once people tried to kill off Christians, and they failed. Now there are those who make the lame attempt to defeat Christianity by the multitude of their words and a pathetic attempt at scholarship called "Textural Criticism."

Now that we are nearly 2,000 years beyond the writing of the first scriptures, so-called scholars arise to try to cast doubt on the Bible and the events described therein. Actually, this attempt began shortly after Darwinism became popular. I see it as a pathetic attempt to try to justify belief in no God. How can these so-called scholars make a study of original documents when such documents are now long gone and all we have left are copies several generations away from the first books? Only a strong desire to try to disprove God as God explains such efforts, since the New Testament books were established as reliable early in the second century and treated as such thereafter. There is no doubt that the miracles of Christ are headliners of all four Gospels and receive occasional mention in other accepted Bible texts as well.

I addressed this subject here, and here, among other posts on the subject.

Not only did Josephus confirm that Christ existed and that the miracles were reported by witnesses at the time of Josephus, Jewish writings confirm much of this as well, despite the obvious disadvantage to the non-Christian Jews inherent in confirming even the existence of Christ. There is even a mention in Roman writings that survive, oddly enough. Odd since at the time of Christ Judea was considered an unimportant backwater province.

Choose one!

A) The story of Christ and Christianity is a compelling one. His disciples witnessed His miracles and resurrection and spread the word around the area. They were quite willing to both live and die for this cause. While they were killed in droves, their claims were never refuted and in fact the verity of their witness was instrumental in the rapid spread of Christianity.

B) The story of Christ and Christianity requires an acceptance of supernatural occurrences and no matter what evidence now remains, anything not naturalistic is totally unacceptable/unbelievable.

From this great historical distance from the time of Christ, one cannot either prove or disprove the life and miracles of Christ. One either accepts the witness of the times, which is conclusively in favor of both. Or, you can ignore all scholarship that occurred within a reasonable time span and try to disprove both Christ and His miracles from a great distance and with no evidence in hand. One simply needs to suspend logic and voila, Christ is made to disappear!

There were many prophecies made in the Bible and all that could have been fulfilled have been fulfilled. Only a few remain. None have ever failed. The Bible has proven to be an archaelogical handbook for excavating in the region of the Bible lands. The genealogies of the Old Testament have been revealed to have been evidenced in the writings of peoples around the globe, including peoples who had no knowledge of the Bible itself. I stand confident in the Bible as a reliable historical and spiritual document and I believe that Christianity will be alive and well long after Darwinism has gone the way of spontaneous generation, the philosopher's stone and the concept of a flat earth.


highboy said...

You pretty much said it all, so basically my comment is "what he said".

Middle_America said...

Excellent post. I am reminded of First Peter 3:15.

"but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; "

You nailed it with this entry.

cranky old fart said...

"There were many prophecies made in the Bible and all that could have been fulfilled have been fulfilled. Only a few remain. None have ever failed"

Do tell. I must have missed that.

With the great opportunity for God to make specific statements about verifiable future events in "his" book, you would think he could come up with at least one.