As a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so.
There is a fellow on the Internet who has been promoting the idea that no court of law would affirm the existence of Jesus Christ based on the available evidence. I refuse to debate him on this issue as it is such a silly claim. Would a legal court affirm the existence of Jesus? No they would not. But neither would they affirm the existence of Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus or Constantine the Great. Why? Because legal courts do not go around affirming the existence of historical figures. That is not what they do.
The question of how courts would deal with the historical evidence is completely irrelevant. The question is: what would professional historians do with the evidence. I don’t mean just conservative Christians or zealous atheist historians but historians across a wide range of religious and philosophical positions. And how would the historians respond? Professional historians, almost unanimously, accept the historicity of Jesus Christ, just as they do for Alexander, Augustus and Constantine. We need to keep this discussion focused and keep it as a historical question and not a legal question.
How Jesus Used the Bible (What Jesus Said About the Bible)
Did Jesus Have a Wife?
FAQ on Christianity for the Unbeliever
Originally posted by Frank J. Fleming:
How long have Christians been around?
While many people see Christians as a brand new and quite scary thing, records show Christians have been around since at least the 1950s, and maybe even much earlier.
What are their beliefs based on?
It’s a book called “The Bible.” It’s full of thousands-of-years-old religious writing, which Christians believe to have been written by men inspired by God. It’s very long.
I see many Bibles are labeled “Holy Bible.” What if I got a non-holy version?
Immediately return it for a refund.
The Bible is full of really old values, with lots of outdated views on things like sex. Do Christians actually follow this thing?
Indeed they try. Their view is that while society and technology change, the fundamental nature of man doesn’t, and neither do the values God gave us. Thus, the Bible is something they find relevant and expect people to read and follow many years into the future, like Harry Potter.
Don’t Christians know how weird and old-fashioned following the Bible makes them? Everyone else is fine with swearing, sex on TV, and abortion. Why do they have to be so different?
To Christians, following the ways of God is more important than fitting in with societal norms. Thus they are gladly counter-cultural.
So they’re like hipsters?
Yes, except everything they do is unironic.
There’s some really weird stuff in the Bible, like [quote of strange-sounding rule from Leviticus or Deuteronomy]. The Bible sounds stupid, and people shouldn’t listen to it.
Parts of the Bible can sound weird in isolation, but it takes lots of study to understand the Bible and how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament.
But don’t Christians just pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to follow? Like [quote rule from Leviticus or Deuteronomy that Christians are unlikely to follow].
Christians do not follow much of what is known as the “Mosaic Law.” Much of the reasoning for this is addressed in the book of Hebrews.
Okay, so if I just check that out, I’ll find the answer and… wait a second! You almost tricked me into reading more of the Bible! I only need to know enough about it to mock it!
Almost got you. When trying to trip up Christians with quotes from the Bible, just be aware you’re unlikely to find anything they aren’t already aware of, since they read that thing religiously.
And don’t Christians know we now have science, which has replaced religion, and that there is no more need for Jesus, since we have lasers and rockets and other science stuff?
Science covers physical and temporary things, while religion covers spiritual and eternal things, so Christians still feel religion is very important — even more important than science.
I’ve been reading too many books lately that aren’t titled The Holy Bible. It’s time to re-prioritize.
Biblical Masculinity and the Importance of Role Models - Trip Lee
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
Bonhoeffer on Reading Scripture
First of all I will confess quite simply — I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; there is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in our heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us along with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible… .
If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he si to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not all congenial to me. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament… . .
And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible is this way — and this has not been for so very long — it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.
— Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, p. 136-7