Sunday, March 25, 2018

Doubts You Don't Have to Have

For most of 30 years I only went to church at Christmas & Easter...when forced to by family. I wasn’t sure how to describe my faith, but believer is not the word I would have used. Now I think calling people atheists & christian or believer & unbeliever is too black & white. I think most of us live in the gray, messy middle between 100% belief & 100% doubt. Now I define faith as belief in spite of doubt rather than the absence of doubt. What changed it all for me was reading a book1 that addressed a lot of my doubts. Now I know some doubts are just due to not having enough information. Click the doubt, if you want a more detailed discussion.

Doubt
Truth
Non-christian historians Josephus & Tacitus writing in the 1st century verify Jesus executed by crucifixion on the order of Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Many other historical references too, so that Jesus lived & died is not in doubt.
In older myths no god dies for mankind’s sins & rises on the 3rd day as proof of divinity. Christianity couldn’t borrow from later myths.
Crucifixion occurs ~30-33 AD.  April 5, 30 or April 1, 33 AD from lunar cycles & dates Pontius Pilate in power.2
1 Cor. 15:3-7 contains early oral creed listing appearances.
Circulates around 35-39 AD when Paul meets Peter & James Brother of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Jesus was just a good rabbi.
In the Gospels Jesus often called himself the Son of Man.
Dn 7:13 refers to the Messiah as the Son of Man.
No one else refers to Jesus this way anywhere else in the New Testament.
In Mk 14:61-64, Jesus uses Son of Man coming on the clouds & sitting with God. The high priest tears his clothes & calls it blasphemy.
Showing a body would have stopped resurrection claim cold.
Instead Jewish leaders said body was stolen as reported in
Mt 28:11-15 and by Justin Martyr & Tertullian.
Liars make poor martyrs.
Deaths show they weren’t lying:
  • Stephen stoned in Acts 7 shows danger early on before Saul’s conversion to Paul & Christianity.
  • James Brother of John beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa in Acts 12. No later than 44 AD when Herod Agrippa dies.
  • Tacitus reports Nero’s persecution of christians after Rome burns in early 60’s AD.
  • Paul beheaded in Nero’s persecutions according to Eusebius around mid-60’s.
  • Peter also executed in Nero’s persecutions according to Clement of Rome, Tertullian & Origen.
  • James Brother of Jesus stoned in Jerusalem by order of Sanhedrin council according to Josephus around 62 AD.
Why would skeptics like Paul & James Brother of Jesus lie just to die? Most of us would lie to avoid dying!
Explanations don’t work for the large group appearances.
Only some are susceptible to hypnosis in a large group.
Like dreams, people don’t share hallucinations. Each sees something different.
Crucifixion is slow death by asphyxia.3
Passing out on the cross is like passing out underwater.
Death occurs within minutes.
Jesus 'passes out' first.
Guards break the legs of the other 2 later to speed up suffocation, so bodies can be buried before sundown to avoid work on the sabbath.

Guards died by crucifixion if victim survived.

  1. Strobel, Lee, "The Case For Christ", Zondervan, 1998.
  2. Colin J. Humphreys & W. G. Waddington, “Dating the Crucifixion”, Nature 306, 743-746, 1983. Note dates of 4/7/30 and 4/3/33 in the paper are Julian calendar dates rather than the modern Gregorian dates listed here.
  3. William D. Edwards; Wesley J. Gabel; Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”, JAMA, 255, 1455-1463, 1986.

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