The undeniable story of Jesus
Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 25, 2014
On this Christmas morning, I can’t help but think about how too many people my age and younger don’t believe in Jesus.
They not only deny his divinity but doubt the existence of the man who we today call Jesus. This is one of the negative results of growing up in a culture where science has replaced God for so many young people.
The vast majority of reputable historians of religion — scholars who adhere to every faith imaginable and even atheists —believe Jesus was a real man who lived in the first century in what is now Israel.
So what do historians know with certainty about Jesus? They agree that it’s not a whole lot, but it’s more than is known for certain about anyone else living in the first century in the Roman controlled Middle East.
Because of the limited number of undeniable facts, many nonbelievers use debate over the historical Jesus as fodder for their own campaigns to say the Bible is inaccurate.
To me, it’s a leap in the wrong direction.
What these nonbelievers forget is that all forms of Christianity — from long forgotten forms of worship in the first century to the messages at the biggest modern mega churches — are central to a single question.
Do you believe that Jesus was divine or as the Apostle Paul said, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself?”
That’s a question that science and history ultimately cannot answer.
There’s a big difference to me between nonbelievers saying that we hardly know anything about Jesus and scholars saying they are certain Jesus existed and there are things that undeniably can be said about him.
Entire classes have been taught on the history of Jesus, and volume after volume has been written. Here’s just a little of what is utterly undeniable about Jesus, even for nonbelievers, and a little of the debate.
Most scholars believe Jesus was born sometime between the years 6 BC and 4 BC during the reign of Herod the Great. Some put his birth as late as 4 AD during the worldwide census called for by Caesar Augustus.
Jesus preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God, taught a message against divorce and showed great concern for the poor, the sick and the weak.
On the final Passover of his life, Jesus was arrested, and during his arrest, at least one of his disciples was armed with a sword.
When he was between the ages of 33 to 35, Jesus was crucified with a sign above his head reading “The King of the Jews.”
The Romans viewed Jesus’s message as treason. They believed Jesus and his disciples were preaching that he was the Son of God, and to the Roman regime, their emperor, Caesar, was the only son of a god.
Exactly where Jesus was born is up for debate in scholarly circles. Christian tradition says he was born in Bethlehem but the exact date was never recorded. For a number of reasons, Christians chose Dec. 25 as the celebration of his birth.
Most Christians today follow Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth, saying Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger; however, many early Christians believed Jesus was born in a cave. The cave tradition is still the official position of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Scholars — even most Christian historians — say neither story rises to the level of absolute history because there just aren’t enough written documents detailing Jesus’ birth. The criteria for absolute history are difficult to achieve, and these are details that we must simply take on faith, historians have said.
Scholars also debate Jesus’ given name, since Hebrew and Aramaic have no J sound. The oldest New Testament documents that survive today were written in an ancient form of Greek — the native language of Paul and many early members of the church.
Greek doesn’t exactly have a J sound either, and Jesus is pronounced “eeaysoos” in ancient Greek. A lot of scholars believe his given name was most likely Yeshua, which in Jesus’ native language has essentially the same meaning as the name we call him today.
Either way, I think Jesus knows what we’re talking about.
Josh Edwards is a reporter and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 601-636-4545.