My friend is a believer in a Creator and that is as far as his faith goes. He is highly logical and I believe starting with history will help bring him to the Catholic faith. Specifically, I am looking for history supporting the existence of the ancient Jews and historical reasons to believe that their faith was from God and true. I am further looking for historical evidence to believe in the early christian church and again evidence that the early christian church and what they teach is the fulfillment of the faith started with the Jews worthy of being considered true. Can anyone suggest to me the best books on this so I can read them and then pass them on to my friend?
The Old Testament of the Bible contains in writing the ancient Israelites own history and God’s revelation to them.
If he believes in a creator, but not necessarily that religion is necessary, I think going to history first could be skipping a step. Or not. But I have my doubts that he would understand the polemics of religion in history without first appreciating the whole necessity of it
There is a saying, “First you read Lewis, then you read Chesterton, then you become Catholic.” But that may be also from a predicate that you are Christian to begin with…
The books that I would most recommend are “The Case for Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, and “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton, and although they are not history books exactly, they are more historical than most that are.
I do not know of any books that set out to prove the historical existence of the ancient Jews, but I’m pretty sure that there is no agnostic or atheist or any other prominent sect that disputes it. They have sometimes tried to dispute the existence of Jesus the Jew, but I do not think any one of them with intelligence has yet tried to dispute the existence of all Jews, let alone the cornerstone society that constituted all western culture that we have today.
That’s pretty easy. Just look up the history of the ancient Semites, and the Hebrews are among those groups.
What types of things would he accept as ‘evidence’? Would it be reasonable or unreasonable to expect that such evidence would even exist or be available to be found? (After all, I could say “I’ll accept that Philip the Great’s mother-in-law is a real historical person, but only if I can see her autobiography”… but that would neither be reasonable nor a request in good faith.)
The existence of the early Christian Church? That’s easy – Josephus references the existence of followers of Christ, and Rome documented them as well.
Again, what would count as ‘evidence’, in his mind?
Please take a look at this one and see whether you think it might be useful.
THE SHROUD OF CHRIST, Vignon, 1902
REPORT ON THE SHROUD OF TURIN, Heller, 1983
THE SHROUD, Wilson, 2010
TEST THE SHROUD, Antonacci, 2015
THE SHROUD OF TURIN-FIRST CENTURY AFTER CHRIST!, Fanti, 2015
These are what I would consider to be the major works on the Shroud, although there are many others. If you want proof that Jesus not only existed, but also worked miracles, this is it.
The miraculous image on the Shroud is the Seal of the Gospels and is the fulfillment of the Sign of Jonah.
I believe he would accept evidence if it demonstrated consistency and not just the use of the bible as the only historical account. So for instants, any documentation from Rome about the Christians, i think he would recognize as substantiating the existence of the early Christians. If the Romans had documentation of Jesus or any of the disciples, again, I think he would take and accept that. The issue would be, how do I use other resources, not just the bible, to help illustrate to him Christianity (Catholicism) is the true religion of the Creator. How do I discredit Islam, Buddhism, and other world religions that also claim Creator(s)? I am sure he believes a single Creator, though. I figured history would help given the early church relied heavily on eye witness accounts, and say, Islam has no witnesses to verify Muhammad received a revelation from Gabriel; other than Muhammad saying so. How do I demonstrate the reliability of the Christian accounts over others? Maybe I am the one looking to the wrong place to start. I just know he believes in a God, he attends a Baptist Church when he can but doesn’t necessarily believe in Christianity, he sees value in what the bible has to teach, but he admits he doesn’t know where to start given all the different religions of the world. Also, I suspect he has a hint of the bible being similar to stories like Hercules, having a fairy-tale-ish, but meaningful vibe to it. I figured rooting the bible stories in their historical contents could bring it out as more than just stories with good messages, and show that there is more to it than that. Any suggestions?
By ‘consistency’, do you mean ‘impartiality’?
Does he say that the Bible isn’t a historical account? (Sure, it’s an account from within the Church, but when we look at the New Testament, is he really going to claim that it isn’t telling the truth about the existence of Christ, the existence of the Church, and the content of Christ’s teachings?)
So, you’ve got a very new religion – in fact, one that was illegal because only ‘established’ religions were considered legal in the Roman Empire – and a relatively small movement which was centered in a backwater corner of the empire. What, exactly, does he think that Rome would document about Christians?
In any case, we see Justin Martyr writing in around 155 A.D. to the Roman emperor, in response to the claims being made about Christians in public discourse. Does that not prove the existence of the early Church?
Again, how reasonable is that request? The Roman Empire in the first century A.D. was a very different time and place than the West in the 21st century. No widespread literacy. No documentation of individual citizens in central repositories. No popular media in the way we think about it today, and certainly no national media.
So, I think it would be incumbent on your friend to explain why he thinks that the things he’s asking for are, in fact, reasonable to expect to find. And then, when he realizes that they’re not reasonable expectations, perhaps he’ll revisit the conclusions he’s drawn from their lack of existence.
This is more a philosophical question than a scientific one. It relies on the strength of argument and not on a preponderance of evidence. As a Christian, I believe that the case for Christianity stands not only upon external ‘evidence’ of eyewitnesses (which, in fact, it does possess), but also upon the internal consistency of the assertions it makes.
Well, Buddhism doesn’t claim a creator, does it?
And Islam makes the same claims about the creation as does Judaism and Christianity (although it describes the Creator himself in a very different manner).
So… what do you need to disprove?
That’s a good place to start. A solid Catholic Bible study (for instance, the Bible Timeline by Ascension Press) would help you to begin to understand that historical underpinning that the Bible stands upon. Then, perhaps, you could begin talking to him about what we, as Catholics, understand that the Bible is telling us.
Stanz, it may interest you to know that the Bible and the Jews who wrote it are Asiatic; Orientals.
Locate Turkey on a map and look at the strait in the middle. This is the Bosporus, the traditional border of Europe and Asia.
Britannica says, “Bosporus, also spelled Bosphorus, Turkish İstanbul Boğazı or Karadenız Boğazı, strait (boğaz, “throat”) uniting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and separating parts of Asian Turkey (Anatolia) from European Turkey.”
Notice that Palestine is on the Asian side. As is the Fertile Crescent and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the original home of Abraham.
That said, maybe the best place to learn about God is the book he had written for just that purpose - the Bible. What do you think?
The Shroud is NOT EVIDENCE of anything. Please do not derail the thread by turning it into another Shroud debate.
Well, I wouldn’t disagree that it’s the best book in the world to learn about the true faith, but there is a difficulty in using it as evidence of it’s own validity… Most people my age are preconditioned to not only think that the Bible is fiction, but that books written before their own birth are “unenlightened” and boring.
I think the Bible is certainly necessary. But so is patience…
That aside, no, I had never considered that the the Jews who wrote the parts of the bible I think you are referring to were Oriental or otherwise. I had thought that the Mesopotamia, was the source of all peoples and civilization, so I suppose in that sense, we are all Oriental? If not, perhaps my Hungarian ancestors are more Oriental than than the Jews, seeing as the Magyars traveled from Mongolia. But are Caucasian for the most part. And yet Hungarians and Jews are quite Occidental culturally.
I don’t think I get what you’re getting.
Have you ever looked up the Japanese Ainu?
How strange our suppositions are.
Historical evidence is not the issue.
Read the Psalms. Learn the authenticity of the faith, the joy and fears. Then you can add on the history, or learn it there, in the psalms.
By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept while we remembered Zion…
How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?
I’m familiar with the Ainu. Non-Japanese, indigenous people of the islands. All but gone, as is the case with most such.
My bit on the Jews as Asians had to do mostly with their geographic origin. That is not always connected with a person’s DNA. The book is written for all people, as it claims to be a record of humans descended from one couple. Calling it a ‘western book’ or connecting it with ‘western culture’ does it a disservice and prevents some from looking into it. See also Peter’s revelation at Acts 10:34,35.
Most scholars put the location of Eden near Lake Van, in present-day Armenia. But, it’s true that Mesopotamia was where much of the action was. Christians of course would focus also on Palestine.
Many people of many ages are convinced the Bible is useless or too hard to understand or scary or … I’ve found it to be none of the above.
As to “evidence” of its authenticity, the OP after all, we can start with internal evidence. IMO that’s the best kind.
Isa 40:22 speaks of “the circle [or, sphere] of the earth”, an idea known to very few at that time. And the Greek geometers who did know still worshiped useless gods. And, the last part of the verse gives a thumbnail description of the stars in the cosmos which is very much like what science’s Hubbell has found. All this from side comments in a passage by a man whose day job was priest of the Most High God - who, he said, fed him his lines.
An agriculturist much earlier said, “[Yahweh] poised the earth on nothingness.” Job 25:7, NJB, whose editors acknowledge this is a Newtonian description. This was written sometime before Moses’ day, when NO ONE knew the science.
There’s much more, but that’s a start.
I had a friend from Hungary, Czito Ferenc, who said there was a cheap car in the Soviet days with bodywork of lacquered cardboard. ‘A good car, but if you have accident - Oh, boy!’
How about how the Catholic Church built Western Civilization? How the Catholic Church’s choice of books in the Bible fostered the birth of modern science and if the Protestants had their way we it wouldn’t have happened? How Jesuits dominated the scientific study on earthquakes to the point that the most prestigious award for observational seismology in North America is named in honor of the religious order? How human rights and economics developed from the studies of Catholic institutions? And much more.
I have a word for you.
It obviously is for him.
He is not looking for evidence of the Catholic Church role in building civilization or science.
As in, “the guy who couldn’t prove his assertions, but demanded that the Church accept them, and insulted his patron the pope for not bowing down to his unproven claims?” That guy?