I need some information about early Christianity and its uniqueness in world religion

Hello all,

I am writing a paper about early Christianity that is supposed to prove (or disprove) that Christianity is fundamentally different from every other historical belief system. I need to use several sources besides my own history texts, and I was wondering if anyone knows of any books (or preferably internet sources) where I can read about different religions that may or may not have basic similarities to Christianity, and what makes Christianity an essentially unique system of belief (knowledge of the Truth aside). For instance I know that ancient Zoroastrianism had some similarities foreshadowing Christianity. I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on further reading about this.

Thank you!

That’s a tall order. There have been thousands of historical belief systems.

But Wikipedia is probably a good place to start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_religion

EWTN’s website has hundreds of documents by the Early Church Fathers if you want primary Christian sources (always preferable in my view). Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) written about AD 180 by the Church Father Irenaeus may be a good source because he is attacking heresies within Christianity. Mainly Gnosticism, but some others as well, so this provides an authoritative firsthand source for defining and comparing early Christian beliefs (this writing is the Catholic apologist’s “go to” resource in Early Church writing, and it is probably cited here more than all other Fathers combined).

Basically, what is unique about Christianity is its founder. Jesus is a real historical person who did great miracles that no other real historical person was ever able to do such as walking on water and rising from the dead. He basically let everyone know that he was God and then proved it to them. In non-Christian religions, either the founder was a historical person but didn’t do any of the miracles that Jesus did, or the religion has amazing stories about mythical characters that everyone knows never existed as real historical persons. For example, in Hindu scriptures the human writer of the story inserts himself into the story to advise the characters how they should proceed in the epic.

Another compelling point is the Catholic Church was able to supplant the most powerful and feared empire in human history without a war or rebellion. The growth, longevity, continuity, and consistency of doctrines of the Catholic Church far surpasses any other centralized institution in human history, and even an atheist can observe this if he is willing to take a look and try to compare. The Catholic Church is still here because Jesus (God) guaranteed it. If the Catholic Church had been been a merely man-made institution it would have been destroyed long ago. But she remains essentially unchanged after 2,000 years.

An example of this is how Vyasa, the Indian sage who is traditionally credited with composing the Mahabharata, inserts himself at various points in the epic and at one point even assures the central characters that the story will end well for them. The world described in the Hindu epics doesn’t even resemble this world. It’s like the world of Oz. There are things in it such as a woman who is conceived in the womb of a fish, a mother who gives birth to a rock which is broken into a hundred little rocks which end up hatching into a hundred children, etc. The epics are based purely on the imagination of the human composer.

Buddha Contrasts w Christ

catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0505fea1sb.asp

Christ versus Buddha

 **This Rock**
Volume 16, Number 5
  **May-June 2005** 

                     
                   
    In his *Fundamentals of the Faith*, Peter Kreeft writes that "there have been only two people in history who so astonished people that they asked not ‘Who are you?’ but ‘What are you? A man or a god?’ They were Jesus and Buddha." He then contrasts the striking differences between the two: "Buddha’s clear answer to this question was: ‘I am a man, not a god’; Christ’s clear answer was: ‘I am both Son of Man and Son of God.’ Buddha said, ‘Look not to me, look to my *dharma*’; Christ said, ‘Come unto me.’ Buddha said, ‘Be ye lamps unto yourselves’; Christ said, ‘I am the light of the world.’"

Yet as we’ve seen, it is quite common to find Christ reduced to the level of “philosopher” or “great teacher,” just as Buddha sometimes is elevated to a state of divinity. Certainly, there are some laudable ethical teachings of Buddha: Resist greed and anger, be compassionate, and so forth. But there remain profound differences between the two men:

John

Contrast
**Christ
claimed to be the one and only true God who came to suffer, die, and rise again, establishing a unique and everlasting covenant with man.
**
Buddha
is believed to be one of many thatãgata (thus-come-one). The historical Buddha is just one of several thatãgata who come in various ages to teach that life is an illusion and to remove human desires and attachments.

         **Christ** 

taught that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” The way to what? “No one comes to the Father,” Jesus continues, “but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus comes to reveal the Father, the Creator of all things, so man could have fullness of life.

     **Buddha** taught how man could escape   suffering through loss of desire and personality. He held that every person   must find his own path to *nirvana*, or the extinction of self.     
         **

Christ **
preached the reality of sin, the nature of God the Father, and the need for repentance and salvation.
**
Buddha** preached the untenable nature of existence and the means to escape suffering. Buddhism denies the ultimate existence of sin and the necessity of grace.

         **Christ** 

taught that God is completely other, but he also taught that God wishes to share his divine life, given through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

     **Buddha** taught individuality must perish   and that everything is one.   
         **

Christ**
established a Church, with a structure of authority, based on his words and example. He said, “Follow me!”
**
Buddha** left a teaching in which each person must find his own path. He stated, “After my death, the dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the dharma and you will be true to me.”

         **Christ** 

rose from the dead only once and will return as the King of Kings. He revealed his own divinity, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
**
Buddha** is a “model,” regardless of whether he was a historical person or not. Buddha suggests that “there is no ‘I’; there is no ‘self.’” At his death, when he experienced pari-nirvana (“final extinction”), he stated that the question of the afterlife was “not conducive to edification.”

End

I can send more information. When is your paper due ?
John

The problem is that the source of Jesus claims to being divine is the gospel of Johh, written some 70 years after Jesus death. The Jesus that appears in John is quite different from the Jesus in the synoptics. Most biblical scholars do not take John as historical, but rather a theological portrait of who he was based on the beliefs of the christian community.

Paul never says that Jesus claimed to be God. Mark never says Jesus claimed to be God, in fact, Jesus wanted them to keep silent even about being the Messiah in Mark. Matthew never says Jesus claimed to be God. Luke never says Jesus claimed to be God.

The synoptic Jesus does not want to direct attention to himself, and says little about himself. He is concerned with the kingdom of God/heaven and the coming end of the world, which many people would live to see. He says he will not give people a sign to show who he is. In John, Jesus gives signs all the time, he even performs a big one with Lazarus so that people may believe:

*"He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” * (Mark 8:12)

“As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” (Luke 11:29)

“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11)

*"Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)
*
"So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
(John 11:41-42)

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40)

“He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him. (John 3:2)

Also, John changes the reason for why the pharisees wanted to kill Jesus. In the synoptics, it is the cleansing of the temple that got Jesus in trouble, and historians agree that this is what led to Jesus being executed by the Romans. It happens at the end of Jesus’ ministry In John, the cleansing of the temple happens at the very beginning of the gospel and the pharisees wants to kill him because he claims to be God.

So while virtually all historians believe that Jesus is a real historical person, very few (who are not devout believers) believe the historical Jesus claimed to be God. He could have, but the evidence is very weak.

Where do the Gospels say that Jesus is God?

Part 1.

**When we see the deeper meaning of what we are reading we see that Jesus is saying with His actions that He is God on just about every page of the Gospels. Every miracle is a testimony to His Divinity. Miracles by definition are beyond scientific explanation. Only God can perform miracles. Because He performs His miracles, and plethora of them, under His own power, and authority, and in His own Name He must be God.
**
Mark 6:56
“Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

**
This is unlike the Apostles who perform miracles not in their own name, but in the Name of Jesus.
**
**Acts 4:9-10
“ … if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christof Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.”
**
The miracles are too numerous to list here, but the following examples are of special interest.
The greatest miracle is the Resurrection which is recorded in each of the Gospels.
Matthew 28:9
Mark 16:9-16
Luke 24:1-34
John 20:14-29
Acts 2:23-24
Romans 6:4

**Jesus calms the storm. Even the wind and sea obey Him.
**
Mark 4:37-41
“And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”
Cf. Matthew 8:24-27, Luke 8:24-25

**Matthew, Mark and Luke knew that their telling of this miracle would bring to mind of the good Jew the following Psalm.
**
Psalm 107:24-31
“They saw the works of the LORD, the wonders of God in the deep. He spoke and roused a storm wind; it tossed the waves on high. They rose up to the heavens, sank to the depths; their hearts trembled at the danger. They reeled, staggered like drunkards; their skill was of no avail.
In their distress they cried to the LORD, who brought them out of their peril, Hushed the storm to a murmur;
the waves of the sea were stilled.
They rejoiced that the sea grew calm, that
God brought them to the harbor they longed for. Let them thank the LORD for such kindness” NAB

Can you imagine Jesus preaching on this Psalm the night before the miracle ? Maybe?! This miracle above clearly points to Jesus being divine.

How can you say that Paul doesn’t reveal the divinity of Jesus ?

Colossians 1:15-17
“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Hebrews 1:8-10 – “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’ … ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands’ ” NAS

Part 2.

Matthew 14:33 -****“And those in the boat worshiped him, (Jesus)”
Matthew 28:19 - “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
Mark 2:5-12 - “He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Luke 3:22
- “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

**Jesus Accepts Worshipped, Therefore He acknowledges His Divinity
**
**We read in Matthew and John how the Apostles worshipped Jesus. The Greek word that is used for worship is “Proskynéō.” The meaning of this word is illustrated when that same Greek word is used in Acts and Revelation. We are told that God alone is to be worshipped (Greek “Proskynéō”.)
**
**Matthew 14:28-33
“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’  He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus;  but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘O man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.   And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.’ ” **
See passages in Greek :
Matthew 14:33,

**Jesus forgives Sins **
The Pharisees are outraged when Jesus claims to forgive a man’s sins. They equate that with blasphemy because only God can forgive sins. Notice that Jesus does not dispute that only God has the power to forgive sins. Rather, He performs a miracle. This proves He is God. Therefore, He has the power to forgive sins. If He had not proved He is God, His logic would fail.

**Mark 2:5-12
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,  “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? … But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”— he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.” Cf. Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:20; 7:48.
**
**Demands of Faith **
**Mark 8:38
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” **

Demands of Absolute love

Matthew 10:37-39
**“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
**
**Luke 14:25
“Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them,  “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
**
Only God has the right to demand this type of love. See
**

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“ ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord;  and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ ” **

**Therefore, Jesus must be God We have Three Persons in One God, One Divine Nature. **
**Only God has the right to demand this type of absolute faith. Therefore, Jesus must be God. **

Part 3.

**Claims : ****Greater than Temple **

**Matthew 12:6
“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” **

Scott Hahn, Ph.D., writes that to Jesus’ contemporary Jewish audience the only thing that could be greater than the Temple would be God Himself.

**He is I AM “I Am” ** The Name for God

**He revealed His Name to Moses as “I Am.” ****
**
Exodus 3:13-14
“But,” said Moses to God, “when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”

**God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” **
**To misuse the holy Name of God, I AM, was deserving of death.
**
**Leviticus 24:16
“He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him”
**
**Jesus revealed that He too is God from all eternity, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, with the proclamation that He too is “I Am.” **

**Mark 6:50
“They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’ ” Literally the “It is I” is “I am.” In the Greek.] **

**By Reason we can see that Jesus had to be Divine to save us.


In the natural realm, it is more serious to kill the president of country than to kill a street sweeper because the first affects the whole country and it carries a stiffer penalty. In the spiritual realm, the evil of a particular sin is not only measured by the degree of the offense but also by the degree of importance or holiness of the one who has been offended. For example, if a person insults the name of his boss that would be wrong, but if he insults the Holy Name of God that would be an infinitely worse sin because the One who is offended is infinitely more holy.
**
**Because God is infinitely Good a sin against Him is infinitely bad and it requires a recompense, a redemption of infinite proportions. No mere creature could redeem the price of his sins committed against God. Even if a human, angel, or some other created being lived a perfect life without sinning and offered that up to God, that would be a finite offering. And so, that would not be capable of redeeming a single sin against an infinite God.

It is only because the Person Jesus, who is both God and Man, sacrificed His most precious blood that the gap between God and Man has been bridged. That is why those heresies that denied that the One Person Jesus was (and IS) both truly God and truly Man were so dangerous. They were a denial of this central mystery by which we are saved. Therefore, the declaration that Mary is Theotokos, the Mother of God, which clearly points to Jesus being both God and Man, is a decisive blow against the errors of the Anti-Christ.

The God-Man and the Anti-Christ **
Simply stated, because God is infinitely good sins against Him are infinitely bad. And only because Jesus is Divine, and therefore infinitely good, can His sacrifice redeem our sins which are infinitely bad .
Read more at my webpage here
**defendingthebride.com/je/divine.html

Thanks, I hope this helps,
john
**

Since it hardly seems fair for me to dominate this post, I only include a few, ok. several quotes from P. Kreeft below. I list the objection that he answers. Please go to the website to see his response to each of these.

Answering Common Objections to the Uniqueness of Christianity
PETER KREEFT

Ronald Knox once quipped that “the study of comparative religions is the best way to become comparatively religious.”

The reason, as G. K. Chesterton says, is that, according to most “scholars” of comparative religion, “Christianity and Buddhism are very much alike, especially Buddhism.”

But any Christian who does apologetics must think about comparative religions because the most popular of all objections against the claims of Christianity today comes from this field. The objection is not that Christianity is not true but that it is not the truth; not that it is a false religion but that it is only a religion. The world is a big place, the objector reasons; “different strokes for different folks”. How insufferably narrow-minded to claim that Christianity is the one true religion! God just has to be more open-minded than that.

This is the single most common objection to the Faith today, for “today” worships not God but equality. It fears being right where others are wrong more than it fears being wrong. It worships democracy and resents the fact that God is an absolute monarch…
Here are twelve of the commonest forms of this objection, the odium of elitism, with answers to each. At website below.

  1.     "All religions are the same, deep down." 
    

That is simply factually untrue. No one ever makes this claim unless he is (1) abysmally ignorant of what the different religions of the world actually teach or (2) intellectually irresponsible in understanding these teachings in the vaguest and woolliest way or (3) morally irresponsible in being indifferent to them. The objector’s implicit assumption is that the distinctive teachings of the world’s religions are unimportant, that the essential business of religion is not truth but something else: transformation of consciousness or sharing and caring or culture and comfort or something of that sort — not conversion but conversation. Christianity teaches many things no other religion teaches, and some of them directly contradict those others. If Christianity isn’t true, why be a Christian?

  1.     "But the essence of religion is the same at any rate: all religions agree at least in being religious." 
    
  2.     "But if you compare the Sermon on the Mount, Buddha's Dhammapada, Lao-tzu's Tao-te-ching, Confucius' Analects, the Bhagavad Gita, the Proverbs of Solomon, and the Dialogues of Plato, you willfind it:  a real, profound, and strong agreement."
    

Yes, but this is ethics, not religion. The objector is assuming that the essence of religion is ethics. It is not. Everyone has an ethic, not everyone has a religion. Tell an atheist that ethics equals religion. He will be rightly insulted, for you would be calling him either religious if he is ethical, or unethical because he is nonreligious. Ethics maybe the first step in religion but it is not the last. As C.S. Lewis says, “The road to the Promised Land runs past Mount Sinai.”

  1.     "Speaking of mountains reminds me of my favorite analogy.  Many roads lead up the single mountain of religion to God at the top.  It is provincial, narrow-minded, and blind to deny the validity of other roads than yours."
    
  2.     Christianity is not a system of man's search for God but a story of God's search for man.  True religion is not like a cloud of incense wafting up from special spirits into the nostrils of a waiting God, but like a Father's hand thrust downward to rescue the fallen.  Throughout the Bible, man-made religion fails.  There is no human way up the mountain, only a divine way down.  "No man has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." 
    
  3.     "Still, it fosters religious imperialism to insist that your way is the only way.  You're on a power trip."
    

No, we believe it not because we want to, because we are imperialistic, or because we invented it, but because Christ taught it. It isn’t our way, it’s his way, that’s the only way. We’re just being faithful to him and to what he said. The objector’s assumption is that we can make religion whatever we want it to.

  1.     "If the one-way doctrine comes from Christ, not from you, then he must have been arrogant."
    
  2.     "Do you want to revive the Inquisition?  Don't you value religious tolerance?  Do you object to giving other religions equal rights?" 
    

The Inquisition failed to distinguish the heresy from the heretic and tried to eliminate both by force or fire. The objector makes the same mistake in reverse: he refuses to condemn either. The state has no business defining and condemning heresy, of course, but the believer must do it-if not through the Church, then by himself. For to believe x is to condemn non-x as false. If you don’t believe non-x is false, then you don’t really believe x is true.

  1.     "I'm surprised at this intolerance.  I thought Christianity was the religion of love."
    

It is. It is also the religion of truth. The objector is separating two divine attributes. We are not. We are “speaking the truth in love”.

  1.   "But all God expects of us is sincerity."
    
  2.   "But isn't God unjust to judge the whole world by Christian standards?"
    

catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0489.htm

john

PS. I hope you get an A on your paper

Here are some more sources.

catholiceducation.org/directory/Core_Subjects/World_Religions/

John

Not true. There are implicit claims everywhere in all four Gospels. You have to understand the meanings of specific phrases and their connection to Old Testament references to God in order to see the claims.

JohnR77 has merely scratched the surface, but done an admirable job doing so. :thumbsup:

I agree that all the gospel authors thought Jesus was divine, and they use symbols such as Jesus calming the storm (which alludes to OT texts about YHWH controlling the sea and the wind). The issue here is if Jesus himself claims to be God in the synoptics. I think not, and most biblical scholars agree. In John’s gospel, however, he does make such explicit claims. He talks a lot about himself and how he is the way, the truth and the life. Such claims are not found in the other gospels where he talks little about himself. This is also a late gospel and the statements of Jesus in it are not attested elsewhere, which means it is weak evidence from a historians source critical point of view. And it is a fact that the majority of historians today do not think the historical record warrants the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be divine. If they are Christians, they might believe he did based on faith. But as historians, this cannot be demonstrated.

EDIT: I only now saw the earlier posts:

Jesus accepting worship: The greek word translated worship may simply mean “showed him respect/honored him”. He also refused the title “good” in the synoptics because it was only appropriate to call God good.
Baptismal formula in Matthew, singular name: Late addition to Matthew’s gospel. In Acts 15, the apostles demonstrate that they know nothing about this event.
Forgiving sins: son of MAN has authority ON EARTH to forgive sins.
Greater than the temple: “SOMETHING greater than the temple is here” (kingdom of God). Not someone.
“Don’t be afraid, it is I”. Don’t be afraid, its me, not some ghost or spirit. John 8 is an explicit reference to Exodus 3. This is not.

Also a brief comment on the other arguments.

  • One of the quotes mentions taking up the cross and following Jesus. This is unlikely to be a historical statement, since it would make absolutely no sense to the listeners. Jesus had not yet been crucified. It makes a lot of sense if it is an utterance made after Jesus sacrifice on the cross, perhaps through a charismatic prophetic gift. Many sayings of Jesus are simply contextualized in the gospel narratives, after having circulated orally.
  • “This is unlike the Apostles who perform miracles not in their own name, but in the Name of Jesus” The text quoted does not specify what Jesus said or did when he performed the act. It simply does not report what prayer, if any, he used. Mark also reports an event where Jesus was unable to perform many miracles due to a lack of faith among the people in his home town. Jesus also prepares himself by retreating into the wilderness before performing miraculous acts.
  • Unconditional faith and devotion: This does not prove that he claimed to be God, only that he believed himself to be sent by God. By rejecting the messenger, one rejected the one that represented God. “If they reject you, they reject me”, Luke attributes to Jesus, and he explains that the punishment for doing so is grave. Does this mean that the disciples were deities? Of course not!
  • One further comment on the calming of the storm. It seems to me that the gospel writers applied this psalm to Jesus precisely because they thought he was divine. The issue is not what the gospel writers believed, but what the historical Jesus actually claimed. A historian who looks at the account will see that the wording is extremely similar to Psalm 107, suggesting a dependency. In other words, it is theological imagery, not an historical event.

The issue isn’t so much whether Jesus made claims to divinity that WOULD be taken as such by modern redactors, interpreters or scholars, but rather: Were Jesus’ words and actions intended to be taken as claims concerning his divinity by the people who witnessed them? Clearly, they were, regardless of what modern critics believe or choose to ignore.

The majority of historians today also doubt that Jesus resurrected from the dead, even though, as Gary Habermas demonstrates quite cogently, there is no other plausible explanation for the well-attested and accepted historical “facts” such as the empty tomb, the post resurrection appearance claims and the behaviour of the disciples. These historians are loathe to draw the most reasonable conclusion, the one that best explains these otherwise inexplicable facts, facts which they do accept as historically well-attested.

The reason, most historians deny that Jesus’ divinity claims were implicit in his words and actions is, at ground, because they do not want to be saddled with trying to reconcile the existence of the historical Jesus (which is not disputed) - a Jesus who was otherwise superbly brilliant, incomparably righteous and the most extraordinary human who ever lived - with the fact that Jesus believed himself to be God (an utterly nutty claim.) For these historians it is far easier and safer to deny that Jesus made any such claims than to try to explain why he ever would even hint at them, without, of course, launching their own scholarly work into fruitcake territory. Recall that we (especially modern historians) live in an age where materialistic atheism is the soup du jour.

If you are going to make a claim in secular society about Christianity being unique, because Jesus made unique claims to divinity, it will do you little good to disregard what professional historians say. I cannot write an entire book here, but every statement attributed to Jesus in the gospels is weighed by historians. Is there multiple attestation? Does it make sense in the culture in which it was spoken? Is it original to Jesus etc… etc… Historians do not treat the gospels in a way that is different from other historical sources.

The historian’s task is to ascertain what most probably happened. A miraculous resurrection from the dead is the least probable event by the definition of the word “miracle”: And so any non-miraculous explanation, no matter how far fetched, is going to be more probable than a miraculous event where the laws of nature are suspended. No historian has access to the supernatural. This does not mean that the historian privately cannot be convinced that a resurrection happened. But it cannot be shown to be anything but the least probable event. Also, what you state are historical facts are not facts. There is no fact of an empty tomb. There is the fact that the gospels claim an empty tomb. The same is true for the post resurrection appearance claims and the behavior of the disciples. The fact is that the texts claim this happened. That the events transpired the ways the texts say is not a brute fact.

This is sectarian thinking. If people do not think the way the cultist thinks, then they are bad people with hidden motives. It does not occur to the cultist that the historian might have lots and lots of knowledge that the cultist does not have. Many historians are personally believers, but do not think they can prove their faith AS HISTORIANS. I can only conclude that you haven’t read historical critical studies of the NT. You are in for a cold shower if you do.

Do you suppose the Jews were utterly unfamiliar with watching their countrymen dragging crosses around Judea? Do you think Jesus was the first to drag the cross? They knew alright the significance of his words and it made them shudder more than we understand, the political implications on their own would have been scandalous.

“Unable” reads much into why Jesus didn’t perform the miracles and retreating into the wilderness was not specifically portrayed as a preparation (powering up exercise) for the performance of miracles, but as a preparation for his ministry.

Notice, by saying, “If they reject you, they reject me” he equates rejection of himself to rejection of “the One who sent Me” so even the rejection of the disciples would have been a rejection not simply of their message, as you claim, but of the very person of the one who sent them, God. It wasn’t the message at issue, it was the “sender” being rejected. He didn’t say, “If they reject your message, then they reject my message.”

Here, you are reading into the account your view that it was ONLY imagery when it could have been both imagery and actuality, it is only your perspective that discounts it as a factual depiction in order to make your point. It is also imagery of the Spirit of God hovering over the watery void in Genesis to bring order out of the chaotic abyss, so it could be an implicit but direct display by Jesus that he is the God who controls and tames chaotic watery abysses. It is also a reference to Noah and God saving the Ark (boat) from the flooding waters or even parting the Red Sea, all of which were the direct manipulation (control) by God of water. Again, Jesus making a claim about his divinity.

To be consistent, you would have to show that none of these events actually happened, but were all mere “theological imagery” to represent God’s power, but which didn’t directly or actually involve God, implying either that God doesn’t really exist, wouldn’t do such things or really doesn’t have the power to do so. All of which would be “theological” claims of another kind, i.e. of the impotence or, at least, the superfluous role of God in the entire Biblical narrative. What other reason could there be to relegate any of these claims to “imagery” status?

First point, Gary Habermas did an intensive methodological survey of New Testament scholars and found that 75% of them accept that the empty tomb has sufficient historical attestation to render it, for them, to be an undisputed fact.

garyhabermas.com/articles/dialog_rexperience/dialog_rexperiences.htm

Second point, never said they were “bad” people, nor even that their motives were “hidden” merely that your entire point about the improbability of miracles depends upon a view that essentially discounts the existence of God. Miracles can only be “improbable” to the extent of verging on the impossible if the non-existence of God is presumed in the calculation. If the existence of God (omnipotent Creator of the universe) is allowed as a possibility, then the likelihood of miracles becomes unproblematic and the likelihood of alternative far fetched scenarios take on a distinct aroma of “contrived” to avert a necessary recourse to God as explanation.

I’ve read lots of New Testament scholars and historians and most simply presume the non-existence of God in order to plot a thesis that ignores him.

Take up their cross and **follow me **i.e. in carrying the cross. This makes perfect sense if it is uttered after the resurrection, for instance by someone speaking on behalf of Jesus through the gift of prophesy. It makes little sense if it was said to people who knew nothing of Jesus carrying a cross. The same statement is used in different contexts in the synoptics, suggesting that was passed on orally and contextualized into the narratives.

Mark 6:5 “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them”.*

Rejecting the disciples is rejecting Jesus, because he sent them. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting the Father, because he sent Jesus. By your logic, the disciples would have to be God because of the grave consequences of rejecting them.

No evidence is no evidence. Sure, it is possible that some sort of event happened in actual history that gave rise to this story, but where is the evidence for this? What you have is an account that is almost word for word lifted out of a Psalm 107. By far the simplest explanation is that it is Psalm 107 applied to Jesus in order to identify him with YHWH. Remove the psalm and there is nothing left of the account.

This is not unique to this event. The gospel writers do this all the time. The account of Mary (Miriam) seeing the angel in Matthew’s gospel is very, very similar to an account of Miriam, sister of Moses in the fictional work called “The book of remembrances”, which predates Matthew’s gospel. Moses father is about to divorce his mother because they do not want to risk getting pregnant and have their child killed by Pharaoh. But an angel appears to Miriam, saying that she must tell her father not to divorce her mother, because they will give birth to a savior who will rescue the people of Israel from slavery…

No, I do not need to show that these events did not happen. The burden of proof is on the one who claims that these had to be historical events. Nor do I need to interpret all biblical narratives as if it was a modern secular history in order to believe that God exists. Modern secular historical works did not exist in the first century. Authors who wrote biographies took great liberties in order to convey their message. The Church allows for considering genres when reading the biblical texts.

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