To be fair, I want to say first off that I sincerely believe that most atheists who blog are far too intelligent and well read to buy into the nonsense about which I’m going to write. On the other hand, as I meander through their blogs, it seems that more and more sceptics are saying things like, “You should read this book or this blog. It proves that Jesus never even existed.” Yikes!! This isn’t entirely new of course.
First it was, They tried to prove that Jesus never died.
- Didn’t work. The history of crucifixions and the forensic evidence from the record of Jesus’ crucifixion shows beyond any doubt that He died on the cross. It wasn’t a swoon. It wasn’t a faint. Jesus was dead - period.
Then it was, They tried to prove that Jesus’ tomb was never empty
- Didn’t work. There is absolutely no chance that if the body of Jesus was in that tomb, the religious authorities wouldn’t have produced it and put an end to Christianity on the spot.
Next it was, They tried to prove that Jesus never rose from the dead
- Didn’t work. It’s obvious that Jesus’ followers had neither the ability nor the opportunity to steal the body. As well, the dramatic change in the disciples lives and character, plus the very existence of the Christian Church shows that what the disciples saw was the real deal. Of course naturalism allows no miracles so . . .
As a last resort it was, They tried to say that there is no extra Biblical reference to the life of Jesus.
- This has come close to working. For most of us, we simply don’t have the time and barely the inclination to fully study everything that we claim to believe. Actually this is true for both sides of the debate. Some people actually believe the atheist lie that there isn’t any extra Biblical reference to the life, death and resurrection. Why do they accept this as true? Because many if not most atheists have neither the time and they certainly don’t have the desire to investigate these false claims by their comrades. And, because what’s being said matches what they want to believe, they simply take what’s being said as, um Gospel truth.
Finally, having given up as futile attempts to refute the historical narrative of Jesus’ life, sceptics are attempting the biggest gambit ever. They are trying to say that Jesus never existed at all. And, incredibly, many atheists are buying it. Such is their desperate need to do away with Creator God, that many atheists seem willing to do away with nearly all reason, knowledge and critical thinking.
My O my how desperate can one get? I try you know. I really do. I try to respect those of the atheist faith. But this last surge is just sad, sad, sad. And embarrassing!!! To go against all of historical scholarship, eyewitness testimony, and extra Biblical references to the life of Jesus by both friend and foe alike, well, that is just about as desperate as any person can get.
I can understand attempts to explain away the first three historical events; His death, burial and resurrection. But this? To say that Jesus never existed? That’s just pathetic. Even the sceptics security blanket, the supposed non existence of extra Biblical witness to the life of Jesus goes against them. I mean, don’t adherents of this delusion care how stupid this makes them look?
Now, it’s clear that the most trusted documents telling us about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the Gospel accounts that are found in the Bible > Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. And I know that sceptics reject those out of hand. Doing that shows the sceptic’s profound ignorance in the fullest sense of the word. On the other hand, what else can they do? Resurrections are not allowed. But to ignore even the witness of the enemies of Christianity as they attest to the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts and to the reality of the life of Jesus, well, again, it makes the head to shake and the brow to furrow.
First of all, the trustworthiness and accuracy of the Gospels are referred to by a whole series of writers, right from those who lived at the time of Jesus and His disciples and continuing in close and steady succession on into the third and forth centuries. Whether the literature is secular or religious, you simply don’t get a higher form of historical testimony than this type of documentation. Where ever it is found in secular works, those writings are declared absolutely trustworthy based chiefly on that pattern of documentation. Documents that recorded the historical life of Jesus can be traced from the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas all the way, without break, to Eusebius in 315. There is better testimony for the authenticity of the New Testament books than for ANY classical work of antiquity. That these authors talk about a historical figure who existed in real space and real time is beyond dispute, except - EXCEPT with those whose conscience, it appears, is completely seared and completely hardened and scarred by repeated lies and falsehoods. These are the people who are now perpetrating the twisted history that does not allow for one and only one historical figure to have lived.
Theophilus, Hippolitus and Origen all cite the Gospels as authoritatively accurate. Very early on the Gospels were collected into a distinct set of documents which Ignatius first calls the Gospel of the Apostles. Quadratus wrote of the life of Jesus. Irenaeus and Melito also refer to the collection as the Gospels in their writings and affirm their historical accuracy.
Some very desperate atheists would have you believe that all these people were part of a massive conspiracy to begin a new religion.
Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian all upheld the authority and accuracy of the Gospel records as they describe the life of Jesus, as does that book written by the doctor and historian Luke ie. the book of Acts of the Apostles. Citations from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian were publically read as authoritative and reliable.
More importantly from a sceptics perspective, a new genre of literature, harmonies and commentaries of the Gospels, were compiled within a decade of Jesus’ death. The best known of these were ones written by Tatian. In fact, historical records attest to the fact that no commentary was ever written during the first three hundred years after Christ on ANY book(s) except of the New Testament. Even more important for today’s sceptic to note is that the Scriptures were accepted as trustworthy by all the heretical groups of the day. The Valentinians and the Carpocratians are just two groups who held to the historical accuracy of the Gospels. None of these people were so foolish as to try to say that Jesus of Nazareth was a figment of someone’s imagination. They couldn’t say that because witnesses, to the life of Jesus, including the enemies of Christianity were still alive when these histories were written.
The Gospels, Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, 1st John and 1st Peter were received as authentic and trustworthy historical documents even by those who doubted the authenticity of other books now in the canon. Early opponents of Christianity like Celsus, Porphyry and the Emperor Julian acknowledged that the Gospels contained an accurate record of Jesus’ life. While they argued against the tenets of Christianity, it never occurred to them to include in their arguments something so absurd as saying that Jesus never lived. Athanasius and Cyril compiled catalogues of authentic Scriptures which always, always, always contained the Gospels and Acts and upheld their accuracy and historical dependability. Beyond any doubt, the Gospels and Acts contain the original story that was spread abroad by the apostles, an account for which they willingly died - that Jesus died, was buried and that He rose again from the dead. People simply don’t do that type of thing for a lie that they made up.
Another reason that the New Testament can be trusted as a true and accurate historical record of Jesus is because of its use in teaching new converts. What difference does that make? Because of this use, these writings were copied over and over and over. Quotes from the New Testament counting literally into the millions are available from that time in history. In fact no other ancient writing comes anywhere close to the volume of early copies of literature that document the life of Jesus. It is absolutely impossible that so much literature, spread over such a wide geographical area, and within the reach of such varied people from paupers to princes, rulers to slaves, men and women, Jews and Gentiles could have been gathered together and corrupted with a fictional person. Neither was there time to do this. These writings were put together when witnesses to the events surrounding the life of Jesus were still alive.
Yet this is what some hard-core atheists would have you believe happened.
To throw into doubt the reliability of the Gospels would require that all and every rule of historical criticism be tossed aside. And, since the reliability of every single work of antiquity is far, far less attested to than the writings of the New Testament, the reliability of these works would also need to be denied.
Yet this is what atheists and sceptics are saying that you should do. Well, not exactly. They’re saying you can trust the works of antiquity with the least corroboration, while you should discount, distrust and throw out anything that upholds the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth even though those documents are far more trustworthy. How’s that for reason and logic? We are witnessing a situation whereby sceptics, who are completely out of excuses for not acknowledging their hostile relationship toward Jesus are forced to tell you that the writers of these works were either lied to or were themselves liars. Clearly the apostles weren’t lied to for in order for Christianity to take wings and fly, the lie had to have been their own. We also know however how impossible it is to believe that these men lived in hardship and died from torture maintained the lie to the bitter end.
The letters of Barnabas and Clement tell about the miracles of Jesus. Why would they invent a fictitious person? Polycarp writes about the supposed resurrection of Jesus. Why would he write about someone who never existed? Irenaeus writes of Jesus' miracles as though Jesus was a factual character. Why would all these people put their own reputations on the line to perpetrate a lie? Are we to believe that these men were somehow incorporated into this massive conspiracy to invent a superhuman being? In his writings, Quadratus states that people were still living who had seemingly been healed by Jesus. Why would he say that if Jesus wasn’t a factual character? How would any of these people benefit by perpetrating this falsehood? In all of history, such a conspiracy and corruption in written transmission has never before been recorded. Yet today's sceptic's attempt to state that such was the case with the New Testament, and it shows just how desperate they are to avoid the truth.
Are we therefore to believe that in the reign of Tiberius Caesar a certain number of persons went about establishing a new religion, in the propagation of which they voluntarily submitted to great dangers, suffering, and ultimately torturous deaths? Would men in such circumstances pretend to have seen what they never saw; assert facts which they had no knowledge of, go about lying to teach virtue; and, while presenting a fictitious character persist in carrying on; and so persist, as to bring upon themselves, for nothing, and with full knowledge of the consequence, enmity, hatred, danger and death? All the while, from beginning to end singing the praises of a relationship with this fictitious character. The apostles had absolutely nothing to gain in worldly terms by attempting to either teach that Jesus had risen from the dead if he hadn’t, OR even more astounding, teach that Jesus had risen from the dead when Jesus never existed in the first place. Such strange and mentally unstable behaviour seems reserved for today’s atheists.
I know that most atheists are not so brazen or foolish as to propose that Jesus was not a historical figure. But some, whose mental status can only be called questionable, would have people believe that one man got together with several other men and said, “Let’s invent a superhuman individual and start a new religion. And let’s make that religion as offensive to the communities in which we live as we possibly can. In fact let’s invent a religion that will clearly be a threat to the Roman empire. Sure we’ll probably be tortured and killed, sure we be fed to wild beast and used as human torches in the courtyards of Nero, but it’ll be a blast. Regardless of what horrors befall us, let’s all agree to maintain the lie to the bitter end.”
Amazingly, today’s atheists would have you believe the other men agreed to that idea. Therefore they set out on their plan to perpetrate this colossal lie and lo and behold, it worked. The whole of civilization was changed and transformed as never before by a simple lie; that Jesus of Nazareth, a fictitious super hero could and would transform your life. Ding dong, it worked. Or so today’s sceptics would have you believe.
The fact is, the Christian Church was born and became established on the reality of a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived, died and rose from the dead. The proclamation of these facts, in Jerusalem of all places, right in front of their enemies who were powerless to stop this movement shows that what the apostles were saying is true. Christianity bears witness to the reality of Jesus the Christ. Jesus' empty tomb, His appearances before at least 500 people over a forty day period and, His eating and drinking with them, conversing with them, teaching and encouraging them and more than anything else, the existence of the Christian Church itself prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus Christ existed in real time and real space.
I guess I need to stop. It’s just that it saddens and even scares me a little to see men and women, some of them quite intelligent people, lying to themselves and accepting virtually without question the lies of others for no other reason than to block out the reality of and historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. God help us.