“Pagan” Roots to Christmas Traditions?

The Christmas Tree, Albert Chevalier, 1911

The Christmas Tree, Albert Chevalier, 1911, via Wikimedia Commons

In so many ways, Christmas is the best time of the year.  People seem friendlier and more generous, decorations and parties abound, delicious food is served in abundance, and most people get to enjoy a much needed vacation.  But many of the traditions associated with Christmas, including Christmas trees, gift giving, Santa Claus, and even the date of December 25th, have no direct biblical basis.  Some are even rumored to have strongly pagan roots and may be actually opposed to Christianity!  As a result, some Christians criticize these traditions while some non-Christians point out that they are just more examples of what makes Christianity fraudulent in their minds.

Well, what is the truth?  Continue reading

Did Jesus Claim Divinity?

The First Council of Nicea

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Council of Nicea (325).

A central and defining tenet of Christianity is that Jesus is more than just a good teacher or even a prophet; He is God incarnate.  This fact is traceable to claims and evidences offered directly from Jesus himself.  However, certain fringe academic circles such as the “Jesus Seminar” and popular authors like Dan Brown have popularized the idea that Jesus never claimed to be divine.  They contend that this perception of Jesus was a product of much later “mythologizing,” and would have been roundly rejected by Jesus and early Christian followers.

A review of scripture and history tells a very different story.  Continue reading

Bonus Myth: Jesus Was Married With Children!

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Ossuary from the tomb at Talpiot, near Jersualem. It allegedly contained the bones of Jesus’ son. The find has been thoroughly discredited.

Sometimes, great stuff just falls in your lap.  Currently, we are in the middle of our “10 Lies” series, in which we take on 10 anti-Christian lies that seem to get repeatedly foisted on unsuspecting people.  Recently, I was reminded of another one, thanks to a friend on Facebook.  So, our “10 Lies” series is getting better because, in the words of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, it now goes “up to 11.” Continue reading

Was Jesus an Illiterate Peasant?

Potsherd

A potsherd, or pottery shard, containing a written message in Hebrew. Potsherds with writing are also called ostracons.

Another argument, popular with anti-Christian authors, is that Jesus was very likely an illiterate peasant.  If Jesus was illiterate, they assert, then the New Testament accounts of him referring to scripture and generally stumping the Jewish Pharisees in debates are suspect, and not to be trusted.  This argument is most recently articulated by Reza Aslan in his book, Zealot:  The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Aslan argues that the vast majority of people in Jesus’ world—about 98%–were illiterate.  In his mind, so was Jesus.  When one digs below the surface, however, it becomes evident that Aslan is likely mistaken. Continue reading

Is Jesus Just a Copy of Pagan Myths?

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Roman relief of the deity, Mithras, slaying a bull. This sculpture is in the Louvre in Paris.

A popular argument used by some to discredit Christianity is that the story of Jesus is simply a compilation or retelling of earlier “god man” or “dying and rising god” myths taken from pagan religions at the time.  People making this argument typically offer a long and very compelling list of similarities that seem to make their case unassailable.  To someone who has never heard this argument, or its counters, it can sound convincing that Christianity is just a fairy tale that is copied from other fairy tales. Continue reading

About That Error-Filled New Testament…

Codex_Sinaiticus_open_full

The Codex Sinaiticus, a handwritten Greek manuscript written in the middle of the fourth century. It is the earliest existing complete copy of the New Testament.

“Don’t you know that the New Testament is full of errors?  Over the years, scribes made copy after copy, and introduced so many alterations, errors, and variations that today we can’t even be sure what the original texts said!  In fact, scholars have shown that the surviving manuscripts have around 400,000 variations.  That’s a horrible number, especially considering that the entire New Testament only has about 138,000 words!” Continue reading

The Truth About Jesus’ Burial

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One assertion made by anti-Christian authors, such as Bart Ehrman in his recent book, How Jesus Became God, is that Jesus was never buried in a tomb.  Contrary to gospel accounts, they say, the Roman authorities did not allow executed criminals to be buried.  Instead, Jesus would have been left hanging on the cross to become carrion for birds and dogs.  There was no “empty tomb” from which the resurrected Jesus could have emerged because, simply put, there was no tomb. Continue reading

Lies They’ll Tell You

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We should all be grateful for thoughtful criticism of the New Testament because it forces us to truly study the texts, think about their origins, assess their accuracy, and understand their historical backdrop.  In recent years, however, various anti-Christian professors and authors (Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, and the late Christopher Hitchens are just three examples) have written books attempting to tear down the Christian faith and cast doubt on the New Testament’s validity. Continue reading