The Apostle John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos, by A.N. Mironov
The main historical sources we have regarding Jesus’ life and ministry are the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the Book of Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament. As we’ll cover in this and other posts, these sources
- Were written shortly after Jesus’ ministry, not hundreds of years later, as some have argued
- Are basically reliable from a historical standpoint
- Largely contain first- and second-hand accounts, and are not the products of centuries of legend, as some have argued
- Have come down to us reliably over the centuries, with their original meanings intact and without significant modification
Christ, by Heinrich Hoffman
Critics of Christianity will often assert that Jesus and his “resurrection” must not have made any significant impact during the first century. After all, they add, outside of a few gospel accounts and letters in the New Testament, nobody really mentions Jesus or Christians. He must have been rather obscure, as was his band of followers. Only after hundreds of years of legendary development did Jesus become considered as the divine Son of God. If he had been a big deal at the time, then more people would have written about him.
To an uninformed listener, that assertion sounds plausible and even reasonable. Continue reading
The Roman Empire in 117 A.D., about 84 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Note the province of Judea, on the lower right side of the map, in roughly the same location as modern-day Israel.
If you want to understand Jesus and the early days of Christianity, then it helps to know about the world Jesus called home. In particular, it’s important to understand the political backdrop and the relationship between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire. That understanding will make the Jewish people’s ultimate rejection of Jesus and the Romans’ persecution of early Christians much easier to comprehend. So, we’ll try to cram hundreds of years of history into a few short paragraphs. Continue reading
Let me state up front that I am a Christian, comfortable and secure in my beliefs. Even though I was raised as a Christian (as a member of the United Methodist Church), I haven’t always been so sure about what I was taught. Like many people, I had my doubts, first during my high school and college years, and again following the sudden and unexpected death of my father in 2001.
Fact vs. Fairy Tale
However, after 2001, I embarked on a personal quest to learn as much as I could, pro and con, about my faith. Were the things I had been taught the truth? Were those teachings well-supported by history and grounded in rational thought? Or were they basically “fairy tales” to be mined for tidbits of wisdom, but little else? Continue reading
Many people labor under the misconception that all Christians believe the universe to be a mere 6,000 years old, created by God in the span of 6 days. After all, that’s what the Bible says, right? (Not quite, but we’ll save that for another post). At any rate, those same people often perceive Christians as ignorant and irrational beings with an axe to grind against science, most likely because, in their minds, science has been systematically dismantling Christians’ belief in a “God-myth” for the last several hundred years. Continue reading