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Thoughts on the Bones of Jesus, Atheism and the Historical Record, 2
MONDAY, MARCH 05, 2007
Posted by: Grace Presbyterian Church | more..
21,900+ views | 150+ clicks
BLOG ON: NEWS Jesus: Tales from the Crypt
2/25/2007
Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's...

Continued from Part 1

The Extant, Objective Historical Record:

We often look at historical events through lens formed in the twentieth century, as if radio, films and television have always been around. But we didn't even have the printing press until the fifteenth century, much less anything like a critically reviewed, extensive record of events. Even with that going on today, where is "objective" truth? It surely isn't found on Fox News or CNN. If you want "balanced" reporting, follow both of them, along with several foreign news services, including Aljazeera. But at least we in the twenty-first century West have that option, something unheard of in the past when people were pretty much confined to their own nationalistic propaganda outlets.

When it comes to the extant, pre-Gutenberg historical record, what you've got is pretty spotty and somewhat splotched. That's especially true of the first several centuries of the Christian era. Christianity was an outlaw religion until the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, and we simply do not have an unbroken historical record taking us back to the time of the New Testament, so when apologists for the Papacy set forth an unbroken line of bishops of Rome going back to Peter, they are making a leap of faith here and there. Furthermore, the winners not only write history, throughout most of it, they freely and forcefully corrected rival versions, going so far as not only burning manuscripts, but effacing inscriptions and destroying monuments that didn't support their versions of the facts.

Simply confining ourselves to what we can infer from the New Testament itself, such a figure as Jesus of Nazareth would not have been a particularly prominent figure to the Romans during his life-time, not even during the three and a half years of his ministry, A.D. 26-30. The Romans were very superstitious, and their empire was filled with miracle workers. We, on the other hand, look at miracles through the big lens of a Post-Kantian view of phenomena: we see real miracles as really incredible. Our Pre-Enlightenment forebears weren't so surprised by such extraordinary things, much less were the ancient Hebrews, Christians, Greeks and Romans. A Jewish peasant who healed sick people wasn't that big a deal to a local Roman official, much less to people in far off Rome, even if some of his followers claimed he rose from the dead. Insurrection, not resurrection was the really important thing: claims to resurrection wouldn't have stirred up a government investigation; rumors of somebody stoking the flames of insurrection would.

While there is no historical account of Jesus actually written during his narrow span of life on earth, which ended in the spring of A.D. 30, what happened in the ensuing decades absolutely verifies not only that Jesus lived, but demonstrates his ability radically to change people. And that historical record is there, even though it is spotty and at times prejudiced -- but, of course, isn't all history, especially the further back we go? For example, Flavius Josephus is the best contemporary source for what happened to the Jews in the last part of the first century. But Josephus was hardly an objective reporter. He was a turn-coat Jewish general, a Benedict Arnold who not only worked for the Romans to help them defeat his fellow Jews in the A.D. 66-70 revolt, Josephus wrote his obsequious account to promote the new Roman emperor, Vespasian, and his son, Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem. Josephus even took Vespasian's family name, Flavius.

I am not shaken by a Hollywood film promoter hyping his upcoming "documentary," nor am I compelled to examine my faith because of the latest wave of angry atheists' books and articles. Having come to know the Lord Jesus Christ over forty years ago, I look at life through profoundly biased eyes -- everybody does -- but I recognize my bias, and most people don't. Obviously the producer of "The Titanic" doesn't. Over forty years ago, I came to know and love Jesus Christ, and he became the greatest reality in my life. Everything else fits into this, and nothing is outside of it -- not my loyalty to my country, nor my wife or my children, my health or my possessions, no "fact" of politics, science or history, much less whether or not people think I'm a fool or snicker behind my back.

Bob Vincent

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