Establishing Areas of Agreement
The first step in talking to someone with a different opinion, religious or otherwise, is to find a place where you can both agree. For some it can be a simple as the Bible is a really old book written a long time ago (if they can’t agree on that, nod and smile then walk away, there is no hope for this conversation).
(If you are wondering why I would pick a comic strip that implies the Bible has errors in it, stay tuned, more to come on that, but is off topic for today)
When talking to the man from the Experience Project, I used the same strategy in establishing things we agreed on. Considering he claimed to have proof Jesus did not rise from the dead, I was surprised to find there were several areas where we both said are true. It included:
- Jesus was an actual historical person.
- Jesus had a public ministry or was teacher in the first century.
- Jesus was killed by crucifixion in Jerusalem.
- Mark was the first Gospel written in 50-70AD.
- Christianity spread (he said it was a small amount of conversions not the 1000s suggested in Acts).
- The Pauline scriptures (which are 13 books of the Bible where Paul claims to be the writer) were in fact written by Paul to believers in the area (example: Romans written to Christians in Rome).
Areas where we did NOT agree:
- Miracles. He did not believe Jesus did any miracles, but those were later added by “the church”.
- The spread of Christianity, he claimed it was a very small number.
- He did not believe the Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were written by apostles of Jesus.
The life of Jesus
Let’s take a look of each of the areas where we could agree and address why they are accepted by most historians. To most credible historians Jesus can be verified as an actual person who lived in the first century. Historians use specific criteria including, Criterion of Independent Attestation, Criterion of Coherence, and the Criterion of Discontinuity (I looked them up they are fairly interesting) to determine the historicity of events.
Unfortunately, majority of the information on Jesus is found in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). I say, unfortunately, because I wish there were more sources to confirm Jesus’ existence outside of the Bible. For historians, the gospels are considered compromised sources due to the writer’s purpose being to glorify Jesus. While the specifics of Jesus’ life described in the Gospels can be debated, the fact he lived is easily established.
Sources outside of the Bible include, the gospels of Thomas, Peter, and Judas. These documents are believed to be written much later which question the authenticity of the source material, but still contribute to establishing the personhood of Jesus. There is also the Apocryphon of James and other apocryphal writing with unknown origins.
Including non-Christian sources authenticates the historical existence of Jesus. The most well known sources are Josephus who references Jesus in book 20 of Antiquities of the Jews and Tactus who references Jesus’ execution by Pilate in book 15 of Annals. Both are early historians and considered authentic by most scholars today.
These outside sources are extremely valuable, but present another question. If Jesus was as amazing as the Gospels claim, why was so little written about him from non-religious sources? Very good question, which can be answered logically, so stay tuned!
The multiple sources for Jesus’ life is greater than Alexander the Great, and many others who we do not question their historical existence. Of course, there are some historians who claim that Jesus is entirely a myth, but also acknowledge that they are an exception to the norm within the established historical community.
Concise summary of why historians agree Jesus existed!
While reading a plethora of articles on the subject, I came to the conclusion they believe it comes down to being simply a statistically low possibility of Jesus being fabricated based on several things.
- The long lasting impact of his existence. Faith in Jesus dramatically changed the small region and then grew to its surrounding area.
- This change happened very soon after his death (approximately 30 AD), which decreases the odds of exaggerations being accepted as truth. When someone starts claiming Jesus did miraculous things within the time of living people who can verify or nullify the claims accuracy is extremely important. Mark is believed to be written AD 50-75, Matthew AD 65-85, Luke AD 65-95, and John AD 75-100. (I will go further in the Gospels later, but just remember all of these are historical documents that were believed to be true or the letters wouldn’t have been kept and distributed to others)
- The persecution of Jesus’ followers. Starting from the original 11 Disciples (not 12 because Judas killed himself) it was not an easy life for them. According to church tradition, all but two were murdered for their faith. Other famous apostles such as Paul of Tarsus, James brother of Jesus, and hundred of others by Emperor Nero were murdered for their faith. It was not easy for early Christians and yet there are no documented cases of them recanting their statements.
- Jesus is also mentioned outside the Canon of Scriptures (The Bible) from Gospels of Thomas, Peter and Judas, Apocryphon of James, and two early historians Josephus and Tacitus.
- (If you are really interested more detail then look up the criteria listed above: Criterion of Independent Attestation, Criterion of Coherence, and the Criterion of Discontinuity)
As always, with love
For the other Parts:
ONE – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-1/
TWO – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-2-establish-areas-of-agreement/
THREE – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-3-establish-the-bible-as-a-credible-source/
FOUR – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-4-establish-the-timeline-for-christianity/
FIVE – https://journeywithjewels.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/christian-faith-a-logical-point-of-view-part-5-facing-rebuttals/