This morning I attended the local Anzac Day dawn service, which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have died in battle. For many Aussies, this is the most sacred day of the year. I don’t feel that way, and I don’t usually attend, and it was a time of conflicting emotions and thoughts.
Many years ago, in a mis-spent youth, I completed some formal theological study. For one subject, I studied the prophet Isaiah. Just this week I prepared and led a study on Isaiah, and renewed my awe of this amazing man.
I really think he had the deepest understanding of God of any person who lived before Jesus, and more than most people since.
If you were an aspiring christian missionary, would you take your wife and three young children deep into the jungles of West Papua to a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe who valued treachery as a virtue? Nope, I don’t think I’d have the guts either.
But Don Richardson did. And God blessed his sacrificial ministry.
None of the four gospels explicitly states who the author(s) is/are, and the names given to them reflect the understanding of the early christians. So scholars are left to determine as best they can whether the names we have were indeed the authors.
Knowing the author probably doesn’t change all that much, but I have always found it an interesting question, especially regarding John.
With the London Olympic Games about to begin, now is a good time to remember one of my ‘heroes’.
He was probably Australia’s greatest male sprint athlete, a silver medallist at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. This is the best an Australian male sprinter has ever finished, and in a time that, amazingly, is still the Australian record. He is almost forgotten in his own country, yet famous in the US for something more important than running fast.
This is the story of Peter Norman – a story that deserves to be remembered.
Just a week ago I commented on the lack of archaeological evidence for Bethlehem at the time of Jesus – it was known only from about the fourth century on. I said:
“Archaeologists have found little that could identify the town of Bethlehem in the first century, leading a few to argue that it didn’t exist at that time. …. I don’t think this question has been resolved yet”
Another common argument used against christian belief is that the New Testament is unreliable and historically inaccurate. The argument focuses on a number of apparent inconsistencies in the gospel accounts, which, it is said, make the accounts unbelievable.
Bart Ehrman, a respected New Testament scholar who is not a christian, has recently written:
“Jesus is best understood as a Jewish apocalypticist from the backwaters of a rural part of the Roman empire, a Jewish preacher who got on the wrong side of the law and was executed for crimes against the state, how is it that within sixty years of his death his followers were saying that he was a divine being? And that within 150 years they were saying that he was the second member of the Trinity?”
Another common argument used against christian belief is that the New Testament has been significantly changed since it was first written, so we cannot have any confidence in we are reading. Who knows if it is an accurate reflection of what the original authors wrote?
Eminent scholar Bart Ehrman’s 2005 book Misquoting Jesus outlines his view of “how radically the text has been altered over the years”.
Is the situation really as ‘bad’ as that? What are the facts? I have spent some time checking the matter out.
Continuing my discussion of common arguments used against christians.
This post: arguments that seek to undermine faith in Jesus by arguing that the gospels aren’t reliable as history, or that we can know little factual about Jesus, or that Jesus could not have been divine.
1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Jesus is the centre of our faith, so we need to understand, and be able to explain clearly, why we believe in him.
Jesus is no longer a sacred subject in our culture. Scholars feel free to cast doubts on almost any aspect of his life and construct counter-hypotheses to explain his life. Internet ‘instant experts’ confidently state that he didn’t exist. Some christians are deeply disturbed by these claims and doubts. And we may all find it difficult to share our faith in Jesus when our friends may doubt the gospels contain any historical truth.
This is the second in a series of posts on Jesus and history.
Not so many years ago, christians could talk about Jesus and quote the Bible as their authority, and it wasn’t much questioned. People may not have believed in Jesus or followed his teaching, but few doubted he lived and taught and died. But things have changed in a few decades.
Archaeology can tell us a lot about the world of first century Palestine, where Jesus lived, and this is a great help in understanding the New Testament. But can it tell us much about one of the most basic questions of all: are the New Testament gospels accurate accounts of Jesus’ life, based on eyewitnesses?