Even accepting that Jesus existed, how do we know He was God?

I was talking to a couple of non believers earlier and they asked why I thought Jesus was God, and what makes Him God? They asked if I could explain this to them objectively, without referencing the Bible. I referenced many ancient historians, but they claimed that even if Jesus existed historically, that alone does not prove anything else. They stated that even if he performed miracles, without testing them scientifically, they may not have been miracles at all. And even if they were miracles, that alone neither proves he was God.

How would you answer or explain?

I would ask them why the “without the Bible” part was necessary – or even reasonable!

After all, that would be like saying, “prove to me that Julius Caesar was emperor – but without referencing anything that was written about him!”. Completely unreasonable request, wouldn’t you say?

Well, yes and no. Their claim is that the Bible is biased, so of course it would say that Jesus is God. They wanted other references that demonstrate Him being God that were as objective as possible. And their main claim, that none of this can be proven.

That’s an odd approach. After all, any history is biased – the person writing it has already reached his/her conclusions, so we read the book with the expectation that they’re going to give us their reasoned explanation of why they believe what they believe; and then, having read it, we evaluate the reasonableness of their arguments.

However, what we don’t do is say, “this book about WWII was written by a German, so I’ll disregard it; and that book about WWII was written by a Russian, so I’ll toss it out, as well; and this other book is from the American perspective – so in the trash it goes!” No… what we do is read it and use our intellect to examine the claims it’s making. So… if we were to say, “no, I want to throw out this book a priori because it comes from a distinct perspective”… well then… we’d be throwing out all books about historical events!

They wanted other references that demonstrate Him being God that were as objective as possible.

I see. And whom, pray tell, would they suggest would be both convinced of Jesus “being God” and yet “objective”? :rolleyes: They’ve set up a contradiction in their definition; don’t fall for that trap. :wink:

And their main claim, that none of this can be proven.

OK, then… what’s their standard for ‘proof’?

Moreover, if I were willing to throw away arbitrarily the extant evidence for any given claim, then I, too, could blithely claim that no proof exists! :wink:

This is the standard trap set by atheist:

Step 1. Exclude the supernatural.
Step 2. Test for the supernatural.
Step 3. Conclude the obvious given step 1.

By definition, any kind of repeatable test (which is required by any scientific test) is fundamentally inconsistent with any kind of interaction with a being.

Ask your atheist friends some random question.
Then, ask them the same question again.
Then again.
And again…

I doubt you will get the same response each time. After the third time or so, they may ask, “What’s wrong with you? I just answered the question.”

Well, if they will not respond the same way to a “test”, why would God be required to do the same???

That is the exact same thing their “scientific test” would do to God.

Hi Thorns - The people you are talking to created a Catch-22. I expect they know all the historical evidence pointing to the fact that Jesus is a real person but they refuse to accept the fact that Jesus is the son of God and they do not lend credence to the Trinity.

If they really want to find the truth, refer them to CA and have them ask their questions to an Apologist.

I think their standard for proof is to be able to test what Jesus did and the things he affected (such as the blind man, examining him before/after to see what led to him regaining his vision, if he was even blind to begin with). Yet at the same time, they claim if this story and the people involved were even true or even existed.

Without being able to test things directly, they seem to be quite content with “We’ll never know, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that indicates what is stated is fact” and they’ll go onto the claims of any other religion or myth that makes big claims but are unable to provide evidence.

To top it off, even if they were to be able to examine what had happened and they conceded what took place was in fact a miracle, they still claim that this doesn’t prove that Jesus is God, just that he was able to perform a miracle.

I asked them if they were willing to accept that Jesus could raise someone from the dead miraculously, why they’d have such a hard time believing He was God if He told them so. Why believe one “unbelievable” instance and not another, especially when the person who is doing these extraordinary things is informing you that He is in fact so?

The argument started to become circular but I felt stumped still in some way.

I believe what they were after was something more like:

Step 1. Exclude the supernatural
Step 2. Test the supernatural with a method used to test the material world
Step 3. Conclude since there is no material evidence for the supernaturall, the supernatural doesn’t exist

It made me think of a passage from Peter Kreeft’s book Jesus Shock:

"We have seen the shattering, revolutionary effect of “Jesus-shock” . . . Now let us see its cause.
Its cause is obviously nothing less than Jesus Himself, not any technique He uses, any “charismatic” quality of personality He manifests, or the content of the words He uses; for techniques, qualities of personality, or content of words can be reduplicated by others, while no one and nothing can ever reduplicate Jesus. No one ever has and no one ever will. . .
Anyone can be a Buddha. Buddha himself repeatedly said this: “Be lamps unto yourselves.” In other words, “You are the light of the world.” But Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” For only Jesus can be Jesus.
Buddha said: “Look not to me, look to my dharma [doctrine].” Jesus said: “Come unto Me.”

It’s silly that they would want you to form an argument for Christ as God without any use of the Bible, though. :shrug:

Well… fair enough; but, the blind man is dead and his bones are now dust. Do we therefore conclude that the story is false? After all, Caesar, too, is dust – do we likewise conclude that what was said of him is untrue? There’s an inherent double standard at work here – what they don’t want to admit to is the fact that they don’t want to believe in the stories of Jesus, and therefore, they argue against him using approaches that would be dismissed out of hand by respectable historians! :shrug:

Without being able to test things directly, they seem to be quite content with “We’ll never know, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that indicates what is stated is fact”

And this is where it’s necessary to challenge their assertions. These approaches are completely and inherently at odds with the way that scientists (whether physicists or chemists or historians) approach their craft. It’s important to identify that what they’re attempting to do is to give the patina of reasonable scientific objectivity to their claims, while in fact what they’re actually doing is a polemic hack job… :wink:

and they’ll go onto the claims of any other religion or myth that makes big claims but are unable to provide evidence.

Again… what is their standard of evidence? Historical claims do not demand the same kind of evidence that quantifiable, repeatable, empirical experiments of physics or chemistry require. I mean, after all… if we want to ask the question “did Washington really cross the Delaware River and defeat the Hessians?”, do we require physical proof of the crossing? Do we conclude, if we can’t repeat the event, that it never happened? That’s purely absurd … and if it were demanded, we would conclude that the person demanding that standard of evidence was unreasonable…!

The argument started to become circular but I felt stumped still in some way.

I’m guessing that you felt stumped because, regardless of logical argument, they still smiled at you and replied, “nope, doesn’t work for me.” At that point, to my experience, the best response is to smile back and reply, “if logic doesn’t work for you, I can’t force you to see it. If you’d like to come back with another approach to the discussion, I’d love to talk with you about it!”

We know He was God because his miracles were done in his name or by his own power.
Others claiming to perform miracles did them by calling on someone else’s name or power and not their own.

The most powerful miracle of Jesus was to raise HIMSELF up from the dead.
Noone else has ever done this.

As far as knowing that Jesus actually did them, that is based on history of eye witnesses which is up to the individual to accept or reject. Any historical event may be rejected even one such as the Nazi concentration camps which have actual films proving they existed.

You are on fire with excellent questions! Thanks for sharing the good food for thought!

The simplest means I know Jesus is God is because He shared the means to be all-powerful.

Meaning:
If one wants to get every need and want fulfilled for the experience of unbreakable peace with unending joy, one will have to follow Jesus in embracing unjust crucifixion for God.

Less gracefully stated:
If one always wants to be patient and kind, even in the face of unjust cruelty to the point of death, for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one will be all-powerful because one will forever get what is needed and wanted.

Thanks for your time and consideration! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thorns #1
They asked if I could explain this to them objectively, without referencing the Bible.

Quadratus writes (circa 123 A.D.) that in his day there were still persons around who had been cured or raised from the dead by Jesus – prime witnesses. [Eusebius, *Church History, 4.3, 1.2; See Free From All Error, Fr W. Most, p 12]

The vast gulf between Catholicism and any other religion is that the Catholic Church has been founded by a Divine Person who lived with a human and divine nature and claimed to be God, proving that claim by His Resurrection and many recorded miracles. When God leads us through His Church, others fashion their own beliefs and morals.

For all readers, the falsehood of circularity is obliterated in the reality that:

  1. **The documents of Scripture are HISTORICAL **– it is absurd to claim that Scripture is inspired without the authority of God to know that it is inspired.
  2. However, HISTORICALLY, the documents of Scripture relate that the man Jesus claimed to be sent by God, claimed to be God, proved His claim by His miracles and His Resurrection, established His Church on St Peter to continue His teaching until the end of time.
  3. HIS CHURCH, HISTORICALLY ESTABLISHED, then teaches what writings form God’s Word and that all of those writings, and no others, are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    No one else can decide what books are inspired or has any authority to do so.

When the Twelve are sent on mission, they are told by Christ “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words…shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city.” (Mt 10: 14-15).

Those who don’t know their history need to. The documents of Scripture are historical – the authorisation, coming from Christ’s Vicar and His Church, didn’t fall out of thin air, but from Christ’s mandate to teach all that He had commanded.

I do agree that the Bible is historical, but many claim that the Bible was written hundreds of years after Jesus’ death and therefore the books were not written by eyewitnesses and thus not reliable.

How does one respond to this?

Most of the New Testament was written around 60-120 CE.

Thorns #14
I do agree that the Bible is historical, but many claim that the Bible was written hundreds of years after Jesus’ death and therefore the books were not written by eyewitnesses and thus not reliable.

How does one respond to this?

Even Adolf von Harnack, a rationalist historian of high repute among Rationalists and Protestants, wrote that the Synoptic Gospels were written before 70 A.D. – before the fall of Jerusalem, and accepted the tradition that St Luke derived his information on the infancy of Jesus from Mary His Mother. Theologische Quartalsch, Tubingen 1929, IV, p 443-4].
[See *Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, Sheehan/Joseph, St Austin Press, 2001, p 89, 93]

Very revealing is The Hebrew Christ, Claude Tresmontant, Franciscan Herald Press, 1989, on the origins and dating of the Gospels. As Bishop John Charles Thomas writes in the foreword: “There is nothing in the least unscientific in postulating that there was only a brief period of oral transmission before some of the Gospel materials began to be set down.”

See the works of Jean Carmignac, John A. T. Robinson, and Claude Tresmontant, who mainly date the NT books prior to A.D. 70, with some of them written in the 30s.

When they ask you to not reference the bible…I think what they are asking you is…if Jesus did all the miracles he is said to have done in front of so many people and if he was the only person to have risen from the dead and walk around in his body and eat and talk to hundreds of people after they’d just seen him crucified…it seems odd that he is not mentioned by any historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet in any non-Christian text in the entire first century.
Around 80 years after he died, he is mentioned by 2 or 3 Roman sources…and referred to twice by Jewish historian Josephus (though the longest mention, a paragraph, is thought to have been tampered with)…but this is why they specifically ask you not to use the bible, i think–they are asking for corroborating sources, which they think should indeed exist, given the impact he was supposed to have made at the time.

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Man needs to know how truly lost he is, how awful-and unnecessary-is the sin and darkness that we experience in this world everyday-how futile and ultimately meaningless are our lives without clear knowledge of a much better way, and a way that continues on after death. Jesus told us that * apart from Him we can do nothing*. Man cannot save himself; God, alone, can find and save man.

I’ve heard this approach many times, but it still baffles me. Jesus was executed, having been charged with blasphemy (by the Jews) and sedition (by the Romans). Do we really expect a Jewish or Roman source to stand up against their authorities and say, “wow! this was a really great guy! you were wrong, Caesar, to have him executed! you committed deicide, Pharisees and Sadducees!” C’mon now… that’s hardly a reasonable expectation of the kind of thing that an ‘objective’ source might do in that context!

Around 80 years after he died, he … referred to twice by Jewish historian Josephus (though the longest mention, a paragraph, is thought to have been tampered with)

Agreed, but scholars generally agree about what the ‘untampered’ part is, and what it’s asserting. They do not throw out the whole reference, but rather, interpret it carefully. :wink:

…but this is why they specifically ask you not to use the bible, i think–they are asking for corroborating sources, which they think should indeed exist, given the impact he was supposed to have made at the time.

But, the Bible is the corroborating source for the Christian movement…! :wink:

If the bible is biased then the apostles and writers sure did a lousy job of appearing that way and ill explain why.

If the apostles wanted to deceive us with their claims that Jesus was resurrected why on earth would they state that the tomb was found empty by women and the resurrected Christ was seen first by women. This flies in the face of anyone wanting to decieve others.
In first century jerusalem the testimony of a woman was consider to be less reliable then dirt.
This speaks volumes to the fact that the apostles were being geniunly honest about the empty tomb of Christ and seeing the resurrected Christ. This is what historical scholars call the historical criterion of embarressment and it speaks volumes of the honesty and genuiness of the apostles testimony.

This alone is a huge mark that tells us the apostles were speaking the truth.

What these atheist opponents of yours believe in is called scientism which means that truth can only be known through science, which is an unscientific statement in and of itself. they have a narrow worldview which they setup on purpose not because they are interested in seeking God but because they deliberatly dont want to find God.

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