Human Rights & Christianity: How a Biblical View of Man Resolves the Question of Human Rights

Today most people would agree that Human Rights is a hot global topic and a problem prevalent in the world. However, without knowing why Human Rights are important, it is almost impossible to find a solution to the problem. A biblical worldview of man and the Gospel message are the best approach to the Human Rights issue and a solution to the problem.

Miracles: Should Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?


            Much has been written on the subject of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Some people find sufficient evidence for the resurrection, others have doubts, and still others dismiss the evidence as entirely inadequate. What type of evidence should be required for historical claims involving miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus? Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, as the late astronomer and skeptic Carl Sagan was fond of saying?[i] This paper will examine the catchphrase “extraordinary evidence is required for extraordinary claims,” what it means, and whether it can and should be applied to weigh historical evidence for miracles. I will conclude that this statement can be a reasonable one if properly defined, and can even be used successfully to demonstrate the probability of the extraordinary event of the resurrection of Jesus.

Extraordinary Claims

            Before examining the argument that extraordinary evidence is required for extraordinary claims, we need to know what is an “extraordinary claim.” Intuitively we know something is extraordinary when it is beyond what is common, ordinary, or usual. In his writing “On Miracles,” Philosopher David Hume discusses “extraordinary” and “marvelous” facts in conjunction with “miraculous” facts.[ii] He states, “All men must die…But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life.”[iii] Hume concludes, “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.”[iv] By his definition, a miracle claim would be an extraordinary claim.
            In his book The Resurrection of Jesus, Christian historian Michael Licona suggests a broader definition of extraordinary claims by giving several examples of varying degrees. First he describes the well-known 1969 landing on the moon as “an extraordinary event” at the time, explaining that it was “extremely difficult and had never occurred previously.”[v] Next he paints a hypothetical scenario where his wife returns from the grocery store and reports that she spoke with the president of the United States. Licona labels this “extraordinary in a sense,” because this would be “far out of the ordinary.”[vi] Finally Licona offers another illustration where he slightly modifies the grocery store story, replacing the president of the United States with an alien with whom his wife has the hypothetical conversation.[vii] The actual point Licona makes with these examples is to explain how to weigh the evidence for each claim. We will discuss that aspect later in this paper. However, we find his various scenarios useful as examples in trying to understand what may be considered an extraordinary claim.
            Others, such as budding philosopher James Gray, define extraordinary claims as anything that is “extreme.”[viii] “Extreme claims are those that we should find to be unlikely given our understanding of the world.”[ix] Gray finds miracles are extraordinary claims because they are physically impossible.[x] However, he admits they may be metaphysically possible.[xi]
As we see, deciding whether an event is extraordinary can be matter of subjective opinion. Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa said it well when he controversially declared, “While it is a nice dictum in principle [extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence], it does not work in practice.”[xii] Kanazawa explains: “The problem with the dictum is there is no absolute criteria for what counts as ‘extraordinary claims.’ In particular, what counts as extraordinary depends entirely on what you know and believe. In the extreme case, if you know nothing, then everything is an extraordinary claim.”[xiii]
If an extraordinary claim is merely a subjective matter of opinion, it is obvious that defining the term is problematic. Licona’s examples demonstrate there are varying degrees of what may considered an extraordinary claim. Materialist atheists reject the existence of God and anything supernatural. Christians accept the existence of God and the supernatural. Therefore, it stands to reason that an atheist may find an extraordinary claim so extraordinary (i.e. a miracle) as to make it an impossible claim, where the Christian may not. When it comes to miracles, Christians would likely agree that miracles are extraordinary events, but not impossible events. That is, after all, what makes a miracle a miracle.

Extraordinary Evidence

After attempting to define “extraordinary claim,” we need to try to understand what is meant by “extraordinary evidence.”  Does extraordinary evidence mean additional evidence or better evidence, or both? In other words, is extraordinary evidence a quality or quantity issue?
Hume seems to suggest that extraordinary evidence is a quality issue.  Emphatically he asserts, “A wise man…proportions his belief to the evidence,”[xiv] and “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”[xv] In other words, Hume demands better evidence than mere testimony for an extraordinary claim such as a miracle. Ironically, he purports to allow testimony for a miracle if its falsehood would be more miraculous.
In his book, Reasonable Faith, Christian historian and apologist William Lane Craig offers a brilliant rebuttal to Hume’s theory. However, he seems to opt for a quantity definition for extraordinary evidence:

What we now see is that this seemingly commonsensical slogan [extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence] is, in fact, false as usually understood. In order to establish the occurrence of a highly improbable event, one need not have lots of evidence…What the skeptic seems to be saying by his slogan is that in order to believe rationally in a miraculous event, you must have an enormous amount of evidence. But why think that is the case? ‘Because a miracle is so improbable,’ the skeptic will say. But Bayes’ Theorem shows that rationally believing in a highly improbable event doesn’t require an enormous amount of evidence. What is crucial is that the evidence be far more probable given that the event did occur than given that is did not. The bottom line is that it doesn’t always take a huge amount of evidence to establish a miracle.[xvi]

Using words like “lots of evidence,” and “enormous amount of evidence,” and “huge amount of evidence,” clearly demonstrates that Craig views extraordinary evidence as a quantity issue.
Interestingly, Licona seems to side with Hume in defining extraordinary evidence as a quality issue. Referring back to Licona’s hypothetical situation where his wife reported speaking to an alien at the grocery store, in order to determine the credibility of the testimony and to overcome his doubt that aliens exist, he says, “I should not require extraordinary evidence but additional evidence that addresses my present understanding of reality or my horizon, which may be handicapped and in need of revision.”[xvii] Here, Licona distinguishes between extraordinary evidence and additional evidence as if they were separate and distinct.
Licona offers another example of how additional evidence is not the same as extraordinary evidence. Muslims reject the resurrection of Jesus and even his crucifixion because the Qur’an says Jesus was not killed in the first century.[xviii] Even though the evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection may be strong, it might not be strong enough to convince a Muslim. Licona argues, “This would not mean that extraordinary evidence is required before historians are warranted in concluding that Jesus died by crucifixion in the first century.  It only means that a Muslim may require additional evidence before believing, since there is a conflict with the Muslim’s horizon.”[xix] This makes Licona’s definition of extraordinary evidence clearly a quality, not a quantity, issue. Unfortunately, despite distinguishing extraordinary evidence from additional evidence, Licona does not offer any helpful examples of what he considers to be extraordinary evidence.
            Matt Slick, President of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, does offer an example of what could be considered extraordinary evidence from a quality viewpoint, i.e. better evidence. He asserts that ordinary evidence would be written accounts, whereas extraordinary evidence would be film.[xx] Therefore, film would be better quality of evidence than mere testimony. Slick concludes, “[B]ut we know that this extraordinary evidence is not reasonable since there was no film in Jesus’ time. Therefore, can the requirement that extraordinary evidence claims (Christ’s resurrection) require extraordinary evidence apply to Jesus’ resurrection? It would seem not.”[xxi]
Hard pressed to find one consistent definition, Gray embraces both a quality and quantity definition for extraordinary evidence. He states, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence in the sense that they require more evidence than usual before they are properly proven to be true;”[xxii] and “Before we decide that ghosts exist, we should require better evidence that ghosts exist than the evidence we have that minds require bodies.”[xxiii] However, to make the matter more confusing, Gray also states, “Extraordinary claims don’t require some strange type of evidence that is so different from an ordinary type of evidence. Extraordinary claims can be proven to be true in much the same way as any other type of claim.” Gray cannot seem to make up his mind how to define extraordinary evidence, let alone whether extraordinary evidence is needed for extraordinary claims.
This lack of consensus regarding definitions for “extraordinary claims” and “extraordinary evidence” proves to be a stumbling block for those insisting that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. One cannot require a method for weighing historical evidence of miracle claims without clearly defining the method to be used.

Weighing the Evidence for a Miracle Claim

Just as there is no consensus for defining “extraordinary claims” and “extraordinary evidence,” likewise there is no consensus regarding how to weigh historical evidence for miracle claims. Hume was instrumental in helping to create the theory that extraordinary evidence is required for extraordinary claims. His approach to weighing the evidence of miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus, is to weigh the testimony of men, eyewitnesses and spectators (not always reliable),[xxiv] against the laws of nature (always reliable).[xxv] He concludes that mere testimony is not adequate to establish a miracle.[xxvi] In other words, the natural must always outweigh the supernatural.
Craig rebukes Hume’s position that more than testimony is required for a miracle claim, stating, “Hume’s argument actually falls into two more or less independent claims. On the one hand there is his claim that miracles are by definition utterly improbable; on the other hand there is his claim that no evidence for a purported miracle can serve to overcome its intrinsic improbability. As it turns out, both of these claims are mistaken.”[xxvii]
In response to Hume’s rather ridiculous claim that if the falsehood of a testimony would be more miraculous than the miracle itself, then it might be sufficient evidence to support a miracle claim, Craig summarizes the dilemma Hume presents: “Thus, with regard to the resurrection, Hume asks, which would be the greater miracle: that a man should rise from the dead or that the witnesses should either be deceived or try to deceive?”[xxviii] Craig exposes Hume’s hopeless bias and presupposition against miracles: “But in fact, says Hume, the evidence for miracles does not amount to full proof. Indeed, the evidence is so poor, it does not even amount to probability. Therefore, the decisive weight falls on the side of the scale containing full proof for the regularity of nature, a weight so heavy, that no evidence for a miracle could ever hope to counter-balance it.”[xxix] Craig concludes that Hume would rather accept an extraordinary [naturalistic] explanation rather than admit “such a striking violation of the laws of nature. Thus, even if the evidence for a miracle constituted a full proof, the wise man would not believe in miracles.”[xxx] Hume fails to adequately discuss the real issue of the probability of miracles and endeavors instead to demonstrate their improbability.[xxxi]
Licona takes a slightly different approach to weighing the evidence for a miracle claim. He argues:

If the evidence for the occurrence of a particular miracle is strong—that is, the historian can establish that the authorial intent of the sources is to report what was perceived as a miracle, the event occurred in a context that was charged with religious significance, the report possess traits that favor the historicity of the event and no plausible naturalist theories exist—then a requirement for extraordinary evidence is unwarranted. Some historians may require additional evidence supporting supernaturalism before believing since the event is foreign to their present horizon, but no greater burden of proof is required for a miracle-claim.[xxxii]

In other words, this paradigm “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” or “Sagan’s Saw,” as he calls it,[xxxiii] is an inappropriate standard of proof in weighing historical evidence for miracle claims, especially the resurrection of Jesus.
            Skeptical New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman admits he does not accept Hume’s argument that miracles cannot happen. However, he argues that even if miracles do happen, history cannot establish it.[xxxiv] 

I’m just going to say that miracles are so highly improbable that they’re the least possible occurrence in any given instance. They violate the way nature naturally works. They are so highly improbable, their probability is infinitesimally remote, that we call them miracles…Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and by definition a miracle is the least probable occurrence. And so, by the very nature of the canons of historical research, we can’t claim historically that a miracle probably happened. By definition, it probably didn’t. And history can only establish what probably did. I wish we could establish miracles, but we can’t. It’s no one’s fault. It’s simply that the canons of historical research do not allow for the possibility of establishing as probable the least probable of all occurrences.[xxxv]

Craig responds to Ehrman first with mathematical equations demonstrating probability of the resurrection and then summarizes:

In order to show that that hypothesis is improbable, you’d have to show that God’s existence is improbable. But Dr. Ehrman says that the historian cannot say anything about God. Therefore, he cannot say that God’s existence is improbable. But if he can’t say that, neither can he say that the resurrection of Jesus is improbable. So Dr. Ehrman’s position is literally self-refuting.[xxxvi]

Craig exposes the bias and faulty reasoning in Ehrman’s approach to rejecting the historical evidence for miracles.
            In considering evidence for miracles, the problem with skeptics is their presuppositions. They commence their investigation with the a priori assumption that there is no God and no supernatural. Therefore they reject the resurrection by default because anything that requires God or the supernatural cannot occur. For atheists to overcome their presuppositions, the extraordinary evidence presented would need to be irrefutable. In other words, they seek solid proof, often via scientific evidence.[xxxvii] 
            However, history is not science; and historical methods are not the same as scientific methods. Licona reminds us that historians speak of the “probable truth of a theory rather than absolute certainty.”[xxxviii]  “Historians cannot obtain absolute certainty for many of the same reasons that absolute certainty always eludes us in most areas.”[xxxix]
Christian apologist C.S. Lewis may help put this discussion into proper perspective. He confesses that history can neither prove nor disprove the miraculous according to ordinary rules of historical inquiry. He contends the ordinary rules of inquiry cannot be established until we first resolve whether miracles are possible and how probable they are:


If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. Many
people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence ‘according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry’. But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred. If, on the other hand, miracles are not intrinsically improbable, then the existing evidence will be sufficient to convince us that quite a number of miracles have occurred. The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. This philosophical question must therefore come first.[xl]


As Lewis succinctly articulates, the philosophical question of miracles must be dealt with first before discussing how to weigh the historical evidence for miracles.
            So-called skeptics who reject God and the supernatural should not pretend to weigh the historical evidence for miracles. The argument that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is often a sham cover for rejecting “impossible” claims (i.e. miracle claims) in the absence of absolute proof. Of course absolute proof is unattainable for the historian and the skeptics know it. If skeptics honestly want to require extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims, they have the burden of finding a consensus for defining the terms and how to objectively weigh historical evidence for miracles. Moreover, if they succeed in this endeavor, this same method should then be used to weigh the skeptics’ extraordinary claims, such as the Hallucination theory for the resurrection of Jesus.

Conclusion

While many skeptics may be fond of insisting that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, they cannot define the terms or explain a method of weighing the evidence with any degree of consensus, which is problematic. Their use of this catchphrase to reject what they consider impossible claims for miracles reveals their a priori assumptions against the existence of God and the supernatural when considering historical evidence for  claims such as the resurrection. As established above, there is much variation and subjectivity involved in determining what is an extraordinary claim and what is extraordinary evidence. However, a consensus for definition may be possible. I propose that historians agree that extraordinary claims are simply any event out of the ordinary, including beyond the laws of nature. And I propose that historians agree to define extraordinary evidence primarily as additional evidence, a quantity issue. Therefore, it would be reasonable for the historian to insist that the more extraordinary the claim, the more additional evidence may be required to weigh the evidence and judge the claim.
When we apply this to criteria to the miracle of the resurrection, since this is arguably the most extraordinary of extraordinary claims, it would require an enormous amount of evidence, which would not be unreasonable. The good news is that there is an enormous amount of solid evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. In conclusion, if we apply the criteria to the resurrection of Jesus, we find an extraordinary amount of trustworthy evidence exists for this most extraordinary claim, which demonstrates the probability that Jesus Christ was resurrected. 



[i] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 194.
[ii] David Hume, “On Miracles,” Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (London: A. Millar, 1777), 10.8 & 10.11, accessed May 7, 2016, http://www.davidhume.org/texts/ehu.html.
[iii] Ibid., 10.12.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 194.
[vi] Ibid., 194-195.
[vii] Ibid., 195.
[viii] James Gray, “Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?” Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith (April 15, 2015), accessed May 7, 2016, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/notesfromanapostate/2015/04/do-extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence/.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Satoshi Kanazawa, “Do Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Evidence?,” Psychology Today (March 20, 2011), accessed May 10, 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201103/do-extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence.
[xiii] Ibid.; emphasis original.
[xiv] Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 10.4.
[xv] Ibid., 10.13.
[xvi] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Illinois: Crossway, 2008), 273.
[xvii] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus,195; emphasis original.
[xviii] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus,195.
[xix] Ibid., 195-196; emphasis added.
[xx] Matt Slick, “Extraordinary Claim Require Extraordinary Evidence,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, accessed May 10, 2016, https://carm.org/extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence.
[xxi] Ibid.
[xxii] Gray, “Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?”; emphasis added.
[xxiii] Ibid.; emphasis original.
[xxiv] Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 10.5
[xxv] Ibid., 10.12
[xxvi] Ibid., 10.13
[xxvii] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 270.
[xxviii] Ibid., 250-251.
[xxix] Ibid., 251.
[xxx] Ibid.
[xxxi] Ibid., 272.
[xxxii] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 196; emphasis added.
[xxxiii] Ibid., 197.
[xxxiv] Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman, “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?” March 2006, at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Transcript of debate accessed May 11, 2016, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman.
[xxxv] Ibid.
[xxxvi] Ibid.
[xxxvii] Slick, “Extraordinary Claim Require Extraordinary Evidence.”
[xxxviii] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 105.
[xxxix] Ibid., 128.
[xl] C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (HarperCollins, 2009), 68-75, Kindle.

Jesus is the Only Way to God

Letter to the Editor


Dear Editors,
            Recently I read an opinion article in your newspaper wherein the writer referred to Christians as “narrow minded” because they claim Jesus is the only way to God. My concern is that this type of rhetoric left unchecked tends to marginalize and even demonize Christians. “Narrow minded” is rarely used to describe people of other faiths. I will attempt to provide a more constructive context for which Christians claim Jesus is the only way to God.
Americans live in a pluralistic society with many religions and different competing faith claims. All religions deem their way to be the true way. Muslims are candid in expressing their belief that there is no god but Allah. Their holy book teaches that non-Muslims have only three options: convert, be enslaved, or die. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses frequently go door to door sharing their faith with the goal of converting others. Catholics believe the only way to be saved is to be baptized in the Catholic Church. Radical Hindus in other countries have violently persecuted Christians. Even atheists condemn non-atheists. For example, atheist Richard Dawkins claims it is child abuse for religious families to teach children about their faith.
            It is obvious that Christianity’s exclusive claim, that there is only one way to God, is not unique. However, what makes Christianity unique is that this faith claim is not based on a philosophy, or religion per se, but on a person—the person of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who made the exclusive claim about salvation when he said, “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6 [NIV])
            A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Now, there are many non-Christians who enjoy some of the teachings of Jesus without calling themselves a Christian. However Christianity was never meant to be a buffet where one picks and chooses what they like about Jesus and avoids what appears undesirable. The key issue in Christianity is not the teaching of Jesus—although his teaching was wise and true—it was his identity. He claimed to be the Christ and the only way to God.
            This is a bold statement. So the logical question is: Was Jesus right about his claim? He was either right or wrong. If he was wrong, he either knew it or didn’t know it. If he knew he was wrong, he was a liar.  If he didn’t know he was wrong, but thought he was the only way to God, he was a lunatic. But if he was right, he is Lord, and the only way to God.
Some people argue that all religions are essentially the same, that is, “all roads lead to heaven.” However, different religions have different views of God, different views of salvation, and different views about what happens after we die. If they contradict each other, they cannot all be true.
Therefore, if all religions (including the “religion” of atheism) make exclusive claims and they can’t all be true, then it follows that anyone who expresses their religious/atheist exclusive belief must be “narrow minded.” 
The problem is the accusation against Christians being “narrow minded” is more frequently being used at a weapon to attack them. Christians who repeat Jesus’ exclusive claims are accused of hate speech. They are either dismissed or vilified. Ironically, the phrase is rarely used to describe people of other religious beliefs or atheists, even though their exclusive claims make them just as “narrow minded.”

In a pluralistic society, we should accept that competing faith claims each assert their way is the true way. And yet we should allow the free exchange of ideas and arguments to allow the best argument to prevail. We should take great care to restore civility in our religious discussions and disagreement with each other. We would do well to avoid ad hominem attacks meant to intimidate, silence and denigrate. Let’s choose civility.

JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD


Inquiring minds should want to know. Recently one of my fellow attorney co-workers mentioned how she had grown up Catholic and later walked away from faith when she got older. She did not believe in miracles or the resurrection of Jesus. If given the opportunity to answer the question, “How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?” I would initially concentrate on just one of several historical facts, the empty tomb.[i] The truth of Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith is futile.[ii]
One of the most important pieces of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is his empty tomb. Historian and New Testament scholar Gary Habermas claims that approximately “75% of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historic fact.”[iii] The discovery of the empty tomb has multiple attestations from “very early independent sources,” such as the four Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians.[iv] According to Christian apologist William Lane Craig, “Historians think they have hit historical paydirt when they have two independent accounts of the same event. But in the case of the empty tomb we have a surfeit of independent sources, no less than six, some of which are among the earliest materials to be found in the New Testament.”[v]
One of the numerous reasons the biblical account of the empty tomb is considered credible, is because it reports that women were the ones who first found Jesus tomb empty. This was actually an embarrassing fact since women were not seen as credible witnesses in Jewish society, because they were “second-class citizens.”[vi] If the empty tomb story was fabricated, the story would have had been more believable to say men arrived first on the scene to discover the empty tomb. To state an embarrassing truth makes it more credible.
            Although most scholars agree on the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty, a variety of explanations for the reason the tomb was empty have been offered. The Bible’s explanation for the empty tomb is that God raised Jesus from the dead.[vii] However, scholars rejecting the supernatural Resurrection Theory have posited various natural explanations for the empty tomb, such as: the Conspiracy Theory, Apparent Death Theory, Wrong Tomb Theory, and Displaced Body Theory.[viii] Due to limited time, I will briefly discuss each of these theories in order to show which one is the best or most probable explanation of the empty tomb.
            The Conspiracy Theory explanation for the empty tomb goes like this: “the disciples stole the body of Jesus and lied about his postmortem appearances, thus faking his resurrection.”[ix]
There are many problems with this theory but we will just mention three: there is no evidence for this theory; it would be bizarre to make up that women arrived at the empty tomb first (as explained earlier); it fails to explain the conviction that the disciples believed in the resurrection and they staked their very lives on it.[x] Although this theory was popular by Deists in the eighteenth century, today it has been “completely given up by modern scholarship.”[xi]
            The Apparent Death Theory was promulgated by Heinrich Paulus and Friedrich Schleirmacher around the beginning of the nineteenth century. This view held that Jesus wasn’t dead when he was taken off the cross; he “revived in the tomb and escaped to convince his disciples he had risen from the dead.”[xii] The problems with this theory are similar to the problems with the Conspiracy Theory, but additionally: Jesus’ torture and execution was probably impossible to physically endure; this theory fails to explain how the executioner made sure Jesus was dead by thrusting the spear in his side before he was removed from the cross.[xiii] Fortunately this theory has “been almost completely given up” by scholars.[xiv]
            The Wrong Tomb Theory, suggested by Kirsopp Lake in 1907, held that the tomb was empty because the women went to the wrong tomb.[xv] There are significant issues with this theory, but just to name two: the location of the tomb was known to Jews and Christians in Jerusalem; this theory does nothing to explain why the disciples believed they saw the resurrected Jesus.[xvi] “Unlike the previous two theories considered, [this theory] generated virtually no following but was dead almost upon arrival.”[xvii]
            The Displaced Body Theory, offered by Joseph Klausner in 1922, states that Joseph of Arimathea moved Jesus’ dead body from the tomb to a criminal graveyard, and the disciples mistakenly believed Jesus was resurrected. This theory has similar problems as the Wrong Tomb Theory. Additionally, there is no evidence that the location of Jesus’ grave or body was ever an issue.[xviii] No scholars defend this theory today.[xix]
In conclusion, the resurrection is a real event that can be historically investigated. A key piece of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is his empty tomb. Most scholars accept that the empty tomb is a historic fact. When we considered various competing theories for the reason for the empty tomb in order to determine the best explanation for it, it should be clear that the evidence shows the Resurrection Theory is more plausible than the other competing naturalist explanations. Therefore, the best explanation for the empty tomb, and the one that I believe, is that God raised Jesus from the dead.




[i] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Trust and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 360-361.
[ii] 1 Cor. 15:17 NIV.
[iii] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004), 70.
[iv] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 364-366.
[v] Ibid., 366.
[vi] Ibid., 367.
[vii] 1 Cor. 15:15 NIV.
[viii] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 371-377.
[ix] Ibid., 371.
[x] Ibid., 371-372
[xi] Ibid., 371.
[xii] Ibid., 373.
[xiii] Ibid., 374.
[xiv] Ibid., 373.
[xv] Ibid., 374.
[xvi] Ibid., 374-375.
[xvii] Ibid., 374.
[xviii] Ibid., 376.
[xix] Ibid., 376.

The Mosaic Law: Application for the Christian


Christians hold the belief that their Holy Scriptures are able to make them wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.[i] Furthermore, the Bible says, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”[ii] Many Christians would like to improve their knowledge of the entire Bible (“all scripture”) to be better “equipped for every good work,” but are lost when it comes to understanding the Old Testament.[iii] Specifically they wonder if the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament should relate to their lives, and if so, how.
Unfortunately there is no simple and straightforward answer to this question because Christians disagree about the role of the Mosaic Law in the life of the believer today.[iv] The New Testament itself contains statements that appear to be contradictory on the matter.[v] Scholars reach fundamentally different conclusions in their interpretations of the various biblical texts based on their numerous theological and hermeneutical approaches to interpreting the texts.[vi] Nevertheless, the aim of this paper is to help Christians gain a better understanding of how they are to relate to the Mosaic Law, especially the Sabbath Day commandment.

The Purpose of the Mosaic Law


The Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, often referred to as the “Mosaic Covenant,” was divinely given to Moses at Sinai after God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.[vii] After God promised He would make Israel His nation, the Israelites entered into a covenant with Him and the Law became their constitution and national legislation.[viii] Clearly the Mosaic Law was given to the Israelites and for the Israelites.
Old Testament scholar Albert H. Baylis explains the Mosaic Law as three “ever-widening circles:” (1) Decalogue, (2) Book of the Covenant, (3) and Tabernacle and Worship.[ix] To better conceptualize this, imagine the Decalogue circle as the smallest circle inside the medium-sized circle of the Book of the Covenant. Then those two circles are situated inside the largest circle of the Tabernacle and Worship. The Decalogue (better known as the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20:3-17) is often understood as the moral law.[x] The Book of the Covenant encompasses the criminal and civil laws as found in Exodus 20:22-23:19.[xi] And the rest of Exodus and the book of Leviticus give direction for where to worship (Tabernacle) and how to worship.[xii]
Bible scholars suggest different purposes for the Mosaic Law. However, just two purposes will be discussed here—reveal God’s character to Israel and make Israel distinct by requiring the people to obey the Mosaic Law.
Bible scholar Douglas J. Moo summarizes how the various aspects of the Mosaic Law reveal the character of God:
…the law points to the character of God in different ways. Some laws rather directly relate human behavior to the character of God: for example, we are not to murder because God reverences and sanctifies human life. Others do so in an indirect way: the Israelites are not to eat certain kinds of food because God is holy and the people must be taught that there are “unholy” things from which they must separate themselves. The sacrificial laws teach still another truth about God, that he cannot tolerate sin without some kind of shedding of blood to compensate for that sin.[xiii]

Through the Mosaic Law God revealed Himself and demanded His people become like His character.[xiv] For example, God declares, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.”[xv] Additionally, God promised Israel, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”[xvi] By obeying the Law, Israel would demonstrate her distinctiveness and be set apart from other nations.[xvii] This gift of the Mosaic Law, the choosing of Israel to be a blessing to many, was not because Israel deserved it, but simply because of God’s grace.[xviii]
In summary, the Law was meant to reveal the nature of God, and to keep Israel safe and force a distinctiveness on the people so they could be “set apart” for God’s purpose until Christ should come.[xix] Next, we will discuss how Mosaic Law should apply to the Christian today.

Mosaic Law & Christ’s Law


The Mosaic Law prepared people for the coming of Jesus.[xx] Jesus referred back to the Law when He disclosed, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”[xxi]
As stated earlier, Christians disagree about the role of the Mosaic Law in the life of the believer today.[xxii] Biblical texts “appear to support opposite conclusions.”[xxiii] Several verses suggest the continuity of the Mosaic Law after Christ’s death and resurrection,[xxiv] while other verses suggest the discontinuity.[xxv] Three of the five contributors to Five Views on Law & Gospel, Willem A. VanGemeren (Reformed view), Greg L. Bahnsen (Theonomical Reformed view), and Walter C. Kaiser (Evangelical view) argue the Mosaic Law, or at least part of the Mosaic Law, continues to be directly binding on the Christian.[xxvi] They divide the Mosaic Law into three divisions: moral (i.e. the Decalogue), civil, and ceremonial laws.[xxvii] VanGermeren and Kaiser contend that only the moral law continues to directly bind the Christian.[xxviii] Bahnsen adds the civil law to the moral law as binding.[xxix]
            The other two contributors to Five Views on Law & Gospel, Douglas J. Moo (Modified Lutheran view) and Wayne G. Strickland (Dispensational view), take the opposite view—the Mosaic Law is no longer directly binding on the Christian today.[xxx] Moo opines that the “Mosaic Law as a whole was given to Israel for a limited time and purpose and is no longer immediately authoritative for the Christian.”[xxxi] Interestingly, Moo admits that the “bottom lines” of his view and VanGemeren’s view are similar.[xxxii] He does agree that part of the moral law as stated in the Mosaic Law continues for the Christian, not because the Christian is bound directly to any aspect of the Mosaic Law, but because Christians now live under “Christ’s Law,” which does include God’s moral law, some of which is found in the Mosaic Law and is reaffirmed by Jesus.[xxxiii] Moo disagrees with Bahnsen’s view that the civil law continues to be binding on the Christian, arguing that application is based on subjectivism, which suggests an arbitrariness making it difficult to justify the law as continuing.[xxxiv] Bahnsen admits many Old Testament laws cannot be applied today in the same manner that they were carried out in the Old Testament.[xxxv]
After pondering five different views on how the Mosaic Law relates to the Christian, the most compelling argument lies with Moo. There are many reasons for this conviction but just four are explained below.
First, Jesus fulfilled the Law. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”[xxxvi] Moo asserts, “Jesus’ insistence that he had come not to ‘abolish’ (kataluo) but to ‘fulfill’ (pleroo) the law and prophets…deserves to be ranked among the most important New Testament pronouncements on the significance of the Law of Moses for the new Christian era.”[xxxvii] He explains that the word “fulfill” does not mean the exact opposite of “abolish.”[xxxviii] Instead, when Matthew uses the word “fulfill” elsewhere, it usually refers to Jesus accomplishing what was predicted and also reenacting Old Testament historical events.[xxxix] Therefore, Jesus was saying that He did not come to destroy the Mosaic Law, but that it is no longer needed because He satisfies the Mosaic Law.
Second, Jesus established the “Law of Christ.” Moo argues persuasively, “The entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that this law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people. Christian behavior, rather, is now guided directly by ‘the law of Christ.’”[xl] This idea of the Law of Christ is found succinctly in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he says, “…To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.”[xli] Moo provides this insightful explanation of the Law of Christ: “This ‘law’ is not a set of rules, but a set of principles drawn from the life and teachings of Jesus, with love for others as its heart and the indwelling Spirit as its directive force.”[xlii] Moo concludes that the Law of Christ incorporates within its teachings some of the Mosaic Law.[xliii]
Third, Jesus had authority to speak about the law. Although Jesus sometimes based His teaching on the Mosaic Law and observed the details of the Mosaic Law, He demonstrated that He neither just repeated nor expanded the law,[xliv] but rather, taught “as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law,”[xlv] One example of this is found in Matthew where Jesus is teaching a crowd and repeatedly says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago…but I tell you…”[xlvi] Moo concludes that this formula “suggests that Jesus is comparing His teaching with the teaching that His Jewish listeners have heard in the synagogue.”[xlvii] This implies that Jesus’ authority is superior to other teachers. Moreover, Jesus refers to Himself as “Lord even of the Sabbath.”[xlviii] Lastly, Jesus confesses His divine authority, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”[xlix]
Fourth, Jesus makes love essential to the law.[l] When Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, He replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”[li] Jesus demonstrated He has divine authority when He summarized all the Law and Prophets into two new simplified and yet all encompassing commandments.
To summarize, Moo’s view says that the Mosaic Law has been abrogated in Christ.[lii] As such the Mosaic Law is longer directly binding for Christians.[liii] Only that which is clearly repeated within New Testament teaching is binding.[liv] As for the Ten Commandments, Moo states that all of them except for one remain in the Law of Christ.[lv] “The exception is the Sabbath commandment, one that Heb. 3-4 suggest is fulfilled in the new age as a whole.”[lvi] 

The Christian and the Sabbath


If the Sabbath Day has been fulfilled, how is the Christian to relate to the Sabbath today? The Sabbath was created for Israel and was part of the Mosaic Law to be honored and obeyed. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.[lvii]

The Sabbath Day, a seventh day of rest, was given to Israel as a sign of the Mosaic covenant[lviii] and continued until its fulfillment.[lix] The Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ because Jesus fulfilled the Law.
How did Jesus respond to the Sabbath? Moo says that although Jesus “scrupulously observed all the details of the Mosaic Law…His personal obedience of the law and his teaching of such obedience to others cannot, then, be automatically viewed as expressing his belief about what should be the case after his death and resurrection had brought the new era of salvation into existence.”[lx] Despite His obedience to the Law, Scriptures reveal that Jesus healed and carried out His ministry on the Sabbath, much to the chagrin of the Pharisees.[lxi] In the face of controversy over the Sabbath He declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”[lxii] British New Testament scholar Andrew T. Lincoln explains that Jesus “determines what is appropriate to the Sabbath…Jesus puts Himself in place of the law. As Lord of the Sabbath He is the law’s true interpreter in terms of mercy rather than legalism.”[lxiii] Therefore, the Sabbath is an example of how Christ’s Law supersedes the Mosaic Law.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul confirms this priority of Christ’s Law over the Sabbath: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”[lxiv] At the very least, Paul preaches that there is no longer a binding command to keep the Sabbath.
In the early Church, Christians celebrated the “Lord’s Day” on Sunday, the first day of the week.[lxv] Lincoln suggests they chose Sunday to remember the Resurrection of Jesus, which took place on the first day of the week.[lxvi] This may have helped to distinguish the Lord’s Day from the seventh day Sabbath because “[t]he majority of Jewish Christians in Palestine and many in the diaspora may well have kept the Sabbath and also met with their fellow believers in Christ for worship at some time on the following day.”[lxvii] Lincoln states there is no evidence in the early church that they substituted the seventh day Sabbath for the first day Lord’s day.[lxviii] In fact, the Lord’s Day was not observed as literal day of rest until Sunday became a day off from work during Constantine’s rule.[lxix] The Lord’s Day was for worshipping Christ as Lord and remembering His resurrection.[lxx]
In Christian communities today, many hold out Sunday as their Sabbath day of rest, promulgated in earlier years by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.[lxxi] This “Sabbath-transference theology” still exists among Christians,[lxxii] especially Seventh Day Adventists.[lxxiii] However, as previously stated, the Mosaic Law is no longer directly binding on the Christian. Although nine of the Ten Commandments were reaffirmed by Jesus, the Sabbath is the only one that was not. Christians may choose Sunday or any other day as a day of rest as a practical consideration, but not as a divine Sabbath commandment.[lxxiv]

Conclusion

            Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled and is no longer directly binding on Christians. The Mosaic Law was replaced with Christ’s Law, which includes God’s moral law, and is based on love and grace. This view of the Mosaic Law in the New Testament era aligns itself better to the Scriptures than other views. Additionally this view is more profitable in Christian apologetics in answering questions about thorny commands in the Old Testament, such as harsh civil laws, complicated ceremonial laws, and commands regarding slavery, divorce and warfare practices. The study of the Mosaic Law and the entire Old Testament is useful for teaching Christians,[lxxv] especially about God and how He chose to relate to Israel, i.e. promises, blessings, and judgment. Christians are not obligated to keep the Sabbath, but are free to choose any day or days to rest, and free to choose to worship every day. Understanding that Christians are no longer under the Mosaic Law is both logical and liberating. Christ came to set us free—we should be free indeed.


[i] 2 Tim. 3:15. All scripture quotations from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] 2 Tim. 3:16.
[iii] Albert H, Baylis, From Creation to the Cross: Understanding the First Half of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 11.
[iv] Greg L. Bahnsen, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Douglas J. Moo, Wayne G. Strickland, Willem A. VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, ed. Stanley N. Gundry, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 319. 
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid., 320.
[vii] Baylis, From Creation to the Cross, 121. Moses is credited with writing the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy), also known as the Torah, “instruction in knowing God.” Ibid., 25, 154.
[viii] Ibid., 122; Exod. 24:3-4, 7.
[ix] Baylis, From Creation to the Cross, 126.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid., 127.
[xii] Ibid. 
[xiii] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views on Law and Gospel, 336.
[xiv] Ibid., 335.
[xv] Lev. 11:45.
[xvi] Exod. 19:5.
[xvii] Baylis, From Creation to the Cross, 134.
[xviii] Ibid., 121-122.
[xix] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views on Law and Gospel, 338.
[xx] Ibid., 27.
[xxi] John 5:46.
[xxii] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views on Law and Gospel, 319. 
[xxiii] Ibid.
[xxiv] Ibid. Moo gives the following examples of the law’s continuing validity: “We uphold the law” (Rom. 3:31); “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12); “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Ibid.
[xxv] Ibid. Moo gives the following examples of the law’s complete cessation for the believer: “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4a); “you are not under law” (Rom. 6:14; cf. v. 15); “when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change in the law” (Heb. 7:12). Ibid.
[xxvi] Ibid., 57-58, 141-143, 198.
[xxvii] Ibid., 29-32, 53, 189-190.
[xxviii] Ibid., 58, 198.
[xxix] Ibid., 141-143.
[xxx] Ibid.,  278-279, 375-376.
[xxxi] Ibid., 376.
[xxxii] Ibid., 89.
[xxxiii] Ibid.,  87-88, 376. “Christ’s Law” is discussed later in this paper.
[xxxiv] Ibid., 165-166.
[xxxv] Ibid., 166.
[xxxvi] Matt. 5:17; emphasis added.
[xxxvii] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, 350.
[xxxviii] Ibid., 351.
[xxxix] Ibid.
[xl] Ibid., 343; emphasis original.
[xli] 1 Cor. 9:20-21.
[xlii] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, 357.
[xliii] Ibid., 370.
[xliv] Ibid., 356.
[xlv] Matt.7:29.
[xlvi] Ibid., 347. Moo gives the following examples of Jesus using this formula: Matt. 5:21-22, 33-34; vv. 27-28, vv. 31-32, vv. 38-39 and vv. 43-44 abbreviate the same formula. Ibid.
[xlvii] Ibid.
[xlviii] Mark 2:27.
[xlix] Matt. 28:18.
[l] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, 353.
[li] Matt. 22:36-40.
[lii] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, 375.
[liii] Ibid.
[liv] Ibid., 376.
[lv] Ibid.
[lvi] Ibid.
[lvii] Exod. 20:8.
[lviii] D.A. Carson, ed. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (1982; repr., Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1999), 352.
[lix] Ibid., 353.
[lx] Bahnsen, Kaiser, Moo, Strickland, and VanGemeren, Five Views On Law and Gospel, 356.
[lxi] Matt. 12:1-14.
[lxii] Mark 2:27.
[lxiii] Carson, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 364.
[lxiv] Col. 2:16-17.
[lxv] Carson, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 382-384.
[lxvi] Ibid., 384.
[lxvii] Ibid.
[lxviii] Ibid., 385-386.
[lxix] Ibid., 386.
[lxx] Ibid., 385.
[lxxi] Ibid., 390.
[lxxii] Ibid.
[lxxiii] Ibid., 355.
[lxxiv] Ibid., 404.
[lxxv] See Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim 3:16-17.

The Jesus Myth: Don't Believe Everything You Read

            Was Jesus of Nazareth a real person or just a myth? Most experts agree that Jesus existed as a real person.[i] However, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting a historical Jesus, the Jesus Myth theory—which claims Jesus never existed, or if he did, he didn’t have anything to do with Christianity[ii]—has a growing number of followers due to widespread advancement of these ideas through the Internet.[iii] I first encountered the Jesus Myth theory as a university student in 1984 in a history of Western Civilization textbook; it shook my faith and caused me to walk away from the church for a number of years. We shouldn’t necessarily believe everything we read, but instead should test dubious notions like this one.
To test the notion that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t a real person, one can examine a wealth of ancient, non-Christian documents regarding Jesus and Christianity. Historian Gary Habermas investigated seventeen such sources regarding the Jesus of history.[iv] Although some evidence is more reliable than others, “this early evidence is still very impressive. Few ancient historical figures can boast the same amount of material.”[v] In order to prepare young Christians to respond to the Jesus Myth arguments, this paper will present convincing evidence that Jesus was a real person, using two reliable ancient non-Christian sources: Tacitus and Josephus.

Tacitus – Greatest Ancient Roman Historian

            Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 55-120) is heralded as “the greatest historian” of ancient Rome.[vi] In his well-known historical work, The Annals, he references Christ in the following passage:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.[vii]

Here, an esteemed Roman historian, writing less than one hundred years after Jesus died, references Christus as a real person. Although Tacitus does not mention the name Jesus in this passage, many skeptics like Bart Ehrman agree, “it is obvious in this instance that he [Jesus of Nazareth] is the one being referred to and that Tacitus knows some very basic information about him.”[viii]
 Mythicists insist that Tacitus probably did not write this passage about Jesus, but that it was later added by Christians (“interpolation”).[ix] For example, atheist historian Richard Carrier argues that the passage is “probably an interpolation,”[x] and “we cannot verify that the information in Tacitus comes from any source independent of the Gospels.”[xi] In response, Ehrman states, “I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who think this [that Tacitus did not write this passage], and it seems highly unlikely.”[xii] Therefore, Carrier’s theory should be dismissed as a fringe, albeit growing, viewpoint.
Even though some skeptics agree Tacitus wrote this passage, they doubt some of the information in it is reliable because of alleged mistakes made in this quote.[xiii] For example, Ehrman points out that Tacitus refers to Pilate as a “procurator” instead of a “prefect,” as evidence that Tacitus did not research information he received before he recorded it.[xiv] Ehrman maintains, “Pilate had the title and rank, not of procurator (one who dealt principally with revenue collection), but of prefect (one who also had military forces at his command).”[xv] However, former atheist James D. Agresti retorts that historical research reveals that Pilate could have been both a procurator and a prefect.[xvi]
Classical historian Michael Grant also doubts Tacitus’ reliability as a historian, claiming he was theatrical as a poet and a playwright,[xvii] and “…told some remarkable and not entirely truthful stories himself, notably, in the Annals [sic]…”[xviii] He goes further, declaring Tacitus’  “…psychology fell into rhetorical stereotypes; they made him an enforced, perhaps involuntary, liar.”[xix] In response, Agresti examined several scholarly works on Tacitus’ record for reliability. While he concurs that there are a small number of minor mistakes in Tacitus’ writing,[xx] he ultimately concludes most expert scholars on the subject “articulated exceptionally high opinions of Tacitus’ factual accuracy.”[xxi] Therefore, a small number of minor mistakes do nothing to destroy Tacitus’ impeccable reputation as an accurate historian.
Another reason skeptics have difficulty accepting some information in the Tacitus passage is because they claim it contains hearsay, perhaps from Christians.[xxii] Ehrman claims, “It should be clear in any event that Tacitus is basing his comment about Jesus on hearsay rather than, say, detailed historical research”[xxiii]—“Whether he heard it from Christians or someone else is anyone’s guess.”[xxiv] If this was true, we have to ask why Tacitus would trust Christians enough to repeat their unverified claims. Tacitus was far from cozy with Christians. He refers to them and Christianity as “a class hated for their abominations,” a “most mischievous superstition,” and even “evil.”[xxv] It strains credulity to believe Tacitus would repeat false reports from a group of people he describes with such contempt. However, instead of leaving us guessing, Tacitus actually identifies some of his sources, and Agresti assures us that it turns out they are very reliable.[xxvi]
As a final point, it is specious to suggest, as Ehrman does, that Tacitus repeated hearsay from “someone else” about Jesus,[xxvii] because Tacitus specifically warned people not to accept hearsay. He wrote, “My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request all into whose hands my work shall come, not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumors in preference to genuine history which has not been perverted into romance.”[xxviii] Moreover, when Tacitus wasn’t absolutely certain of something, he let his readers know with the use of qualifiers, e.g. “some thought,” “the common account is,” “according to some,” and “it was said.”[xxix] But, Tacitus did not use qualifiers when he explained the roots of Christianity.[xxx] Therefore, we can conclude he wasn’t repeating mere rumors in this passage.  
            To summarize, Tacitus was objective, accurate, and reliable in writing this passage about Jesus. Despite Ehrman’s concerns about hearsay and accuracy, he proclaims, “Tacitus is most useful of all [historians in the first 100 years after Jesus’ death], for his reference shows that high-ranking Roman officials of the early second century knew that Jesus had lived and had been executed by the governor of Judea.”[xxxi] Therefore, Tacitus is convincing evidence that Jesus existed. 

Josephus—Greatest Ancient Jewish Historian

Another eminent non-Christian historian is Flavius Josephus. Scholars describe Josephus (born AD 37) as “the greatest Jewish historian of antiquity.”[xxxii] Skeptic James D. Tabor raves about Josephus, calling him, “…unquestionably our most valuable historical source for students of ancient Judaism and emerging Christianity for the period,”[xxxiii] and enthusiastically encourages students interested in Christian origins to “first and foremost—read Josephus!”[xxxiv]
Why is Josephus readily accepted by skeptics? In addition to being highly regarded as a top notch Jewish historian, he is considered to be utterly Jewish and never a follower of Jesus.[xxxv] Due to his stellar reputation as a non-Christian historian, we will examine two passages where Josephus mentions Jesus in his writings.
In one short passage, Josephus writes about Jesus and his brother James in Josephus’ famous work, Antiquities of the Jews (written about AD 93).[xxxvi] Josephus lived in Jerusalem and was about 25 years old when James was executed—he even knew the people who executed him.[xxxvii] Josephus had this to say about Jesus and James: “…so he assembled the sanhedrim [sic] of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned…”[xxxviii] Here, Josephus calls Jesus by name, instead of just by the title of Christus as Tacitus did. And he identifies Jesus as the brother of James. Since he knew the people who killed Jesus’ brother, this passage is compelling evidence that Josephus wrote about Jesus as a historical person.
Despite this persuasive evidence, some skeptics still reject it, arguing the passage was not written by Josephus, but was later added by Christian scribes.[xxxix] Ehrman reports that mythicists conclude that since another Jesus passage in Antiquities was likely interpolated, this passage must have been invented “to reinforce the point of the earlier insertion.”[xl] This argument is an attempt to use a variation of the legal maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (false in one, false in everything),[xli] i.e. if one passage was interpolated, making it unreliable, the other passage must have been interpolated, too, thus making it also unreliable. Using the legal maxim here is a presumptive fallacy so this argument must fail.
The other longer Jesus passage from Antiquities referenced above is commonly known as Testimonium Flavianum, which means “the testimony given by Flavius Josephus to the life of Jesus.”[xlii] It is a more controversial passage, which states:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.[xliii]

What makes this passage so controversial is that some of the words do appear to have been interpolated by Christians.[xliv] Ehrman reports that skeptic Earl Doherty contends that Josephus didn’t write any of this passage and that it was entirely interpolated.[xlv] But most scholars, and even skeptics like Ehrman, believe Josephus did write some of the text and did write about Jesus.[xlvi] Ehrman acknowledges, “a good deal of the passage does indeed read like it was written by Josephus. It is far more likely that the core of the passage actually does go back to Josephus himself.”[xlvii]
So the questions are: What are the original words of Josephus? And what did he say about Jesus? Tabor decrees that after removing all the alleged Christian interpolations, we are left with this “bare and minimal account” by Josephus:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonders. He drew many after him. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day (Antiquities 18:63-64).[xlviii]

In support of Tabor’s minimal account version, he compares an Arabic version of the Testimoniun Flavianum from the 10th century, which has similar words.[xlix] Tabor argues, “It has obviously not been interpolated in the same way as the Christian version circulating in the West and it reads remarkably close to our ‘non-interpolated’ version above.”[l] The Arabic version uncovered these words:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders.[li]

Habermas agrees that there are “good reasons why the Arabic version may indeed be the original words of Josephus before any Christian interpolations.”[lii] He cites two scholars at the Hebrew University, Schlomo Pines and David Flusser as his source when he states, “It is quite plausible that none of the arguments against Josephus writing the original words even applies to the Arabic text, especially since the latter would have had less chance of being censored by the church.”[liii] In spite of not knowing the exact original words, we can be reasonably sure that Josephus did write some of this passage, and definitely wrote about Jesus.
Therefore, regardless of interpolations, we conclude that Josephus did write about Jesus in the James passage and in the Testimonium Flavianum passage.[liv] Josephus is one of the most reliable ancient historians who wrote about Jesus, providing excellent proof that Jesus was a real person.

Conclusion

Children love fairytales and myths. So when we grow up, how can we know Jesus was a real person and not just a myth? Naive college students may believe misinformation they read in a textbook—Jesus is merely a myth based on ancient pagan religions. However, young Christians can rely on two of the world’s greatest ancient historians, Tacitus and Josephus, to provide credible historical evidence for the truth about Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth was a real person—the Jesus Myth theory fails.





[i] Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Harper Collins, 2012), 4, Kindle.
[ii] “Christ Myth Theory,” OMICS International, accessed October, 3, 2015, http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/Christ_myth_theory. “The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism or simply mythicism)…” Those who hold to the Jesus myth theory are often referred to as “mythicists.”
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (1996; repr., Joplin, MO: College Press, 2011), 219. His seventeen sources are: Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, The Talmud, Toledoth Jesu, Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion, The Gospel of Truth, The Apocryphon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, The Treatise On Resurrection, Acts of Pontius Pilate, and Phlegon. Ibid., 187-218.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 187.
[vii] Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals, Book 15, trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, The Internet Classic Archive, accessed September 12, 2015, http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html. 
[viii] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 55.
[ix] Richard Carrier, “Ehrman on Historicity Recap,” Freethought Blogs, accessed October 3, 2015, http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1794.
[x] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014), Kindle Locations 17465-17466, Kindle.
[xi] Ibid., 17491-17492.
[xii] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 55.
[xiii] Ibid., 56.
[xiv] Ibid.  
[xv] Ibid.
[xvi] James D. Agresti, Rational Conclusions (Documentary Press, 2009), 6; emphasis added.
[xvii] Michael Grant, Greek and Roman Historians: Information and Misinformation (1995; Taylor and Francis, 2005), Kindle Locations 517-521, Kindle.
[xviii] Ibid., 1077-1078.  
[xix] Ibid., 564-565.
[xx] Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 11—“What I found was a small number of mistakes along the lines of claiming that the earth is flat and stating that a particular woman was the wife of the emperor Nero’s grandfather when in fact it actually was the woman’s older sister,” and some of the alleged errors “are clearly unwarranted.”  
[xxi] Ibid., 10.
[xxii] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 56.
[xxiii] Ibid.
[xxiv] Ibid.
[xxv] Tacitus, The Annals, Book 15.
[xxvi] Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 8, n. 59—i.e. Caius Plinius; Tiberius; writers and senators of the period; Greek historians; memoirs of the younger Agrippina, mother of the emperor Nero; historians of the time; and notes of proceedings given to the Senate.
[xxvii] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 56.
[xxviii] Tacitus, The Annals, 4.11, quoted in Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 9.
[xxix] Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 9.
[xxx] Ibid.
[xxxi] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 56; emphasis added.
[xxxii] Raphael Patai, The Jewish Mind (1977; repr., Wayne State University Press, 1996), 85, quoted in Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 12—“The works of Josephus as historical sources are invaluable. But beyond their purely documentary value, they are great historiography, written with a dramatic force, an artist's eye for detail, an unsparing precision, and a consistency of organization which equal the best of Greek historical writing.”
[xxxiii] James D. Tabor, “Josephus on John the Baptizer, Jesus, and James;” emphasis original, TaborBlog, posted August 12, 2012, accessed September 13, 2015, http://jamestabor.com/2012/08/12/josephus-on-john-the-baptizer-jesus-and-james/.
[xxxiv] Ibid.
[xxxv] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 60.
[xxxvi] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20:9:1, trans. by William Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus, accessed September 19, 2015, http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM.
[xxxvii] Flavius Josephus, Life of Flavius Josephus, trans. by H. St. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library, Josephus, Volume 1 (AD 100 repr., Heinemann, 1926), quoted in Agresti, Rational Conclusions, 13.
[xxxviii] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20:9:1.
[xxxix] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 59.
[xl] Ibid., 61.
[xli] U.S. Legal Definitions, s.v. “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus law & legal,” accessed September 19, 2015, http://definitions.uslegal.com/f/falsus-in-uno-falsus-in-omnibus.
[xlii] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Reconsidering the Historical Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 59– 69, quoted in Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 59, n. 14.
[xliii] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:3:3.
[xliv] Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 192.
[xlv] Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, 61—“One of the fullest arguments for this position is offered by Earl Doherty, both in his original work, The Jesus Puzzle, and in an amplified form in his more recent Jesus: Neither God nor Man.”
[xlvi] Ibid., 65.
[xlvii] Ibid., 64.
[xlviii] Tabor, “Josephus on John the Baptizer, Jesus, and James.”
[xlix] Ibid.
[l] Ibid.
[li] Ibid.
[lii] Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 194.
[liii] David Flusser, “New Evidence on Jesus’ Life Reported,” The New York Times, February 12, 1972, 1, 24, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 194.
[liv] Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 195.