JESUS’ EXISTENCE AND DEITY

SERIES: BARRIERS

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Journey Church

 

  • Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. – 1 Peter 3:15 (936)

 

  • History, philosophy, science, reason are NOT oppositional to our faith

 

  • Today: Christ myth (did Jesus Christ actually exist?) and Deity (Did Jesus claim to be God?)

 

  1. Christ Myth: Did Jesus Christ Actually Exist?

 

  • Biggest conspiracy theory in history = church created the idea of Jesus Christ from ancient mythologies (Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Hinduism)

 

  • Christ Conspiracies are popular: Books (The Pagan Christ, The Jesus Mysteries, The Christ Conspiracy) and documentaries (Zeitgeist, Religulous, The God Who Wasn’t There)

 

  • Their assertion: Jesus Christ is not a real historical figure

 

  • First Issue: Historical Records
    • At least 10 first-century historians OUTSIDE the Bible mention Jesus of Nazareth by name (these were Jewish, Roman, and Greek writers and most were not friends of Christianity)

 

  • Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, and Josephus

 

  • Tacitus: “Nero fastened the guilt . . . 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 the procurator Pontius Pilatus.”

 

  • Josephus: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . . condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life . . . and the tribe of Christians . . . has not disappeared.”

 

  • More recent scholars also reject this idea:

 

  • G Wells: “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that the penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

 

  • Bart Eerdman: “More evidence for the existence of Christ than the founder of any religion on the planet.”

 

  • Second Issue: The Rise of the Early Church
    • Comes out of nowhere – grows rapidly despite incredible persecution – can’t be based on a made-up Jesus

 

  • Claimed not only that Jesus existed – but that He died and rose again – and now we worship Him

 

  • Hundreds > thousands > millions / Around 200-300 AD, 50% of Roman Empire became Christians

 

  • This doesn’t happen because a bunch of people get together and come up with a good story. Nobody dies for a lie they made up.

 

Another approach is to say that Jesus was just based on ancient myths

 

  • Idea is that the church took other “Messiah” stories from ancient mythology (Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Hinduism)

 

  • The people who do this don’t deal with primary documents
    • They get facts wrong
    • They cite each other rather than primary sources

 

  • Are there parallels?
    • Horus
      • Born of a virgin (Isis/Osiris/cut into pieces/Isis hovers)
      • Born on December 25th (Christians don’t claim that Jesus was born then)
        • Historians: September-October birth most likely
        • Just before 400 AD – Pope Julian I – changed is to subvert the worship of the Roman god Saturn
      • Three kings were at his birth
        • Christians looked at Orion’s Belt (3 following 1)
        • No one started talking about Orion’s Belt until 18th/19th century
        • Christianity doesn’t teach there were 3 kings at Jesus birth (shepherds)
        • Magi (not kings, Persian magicians) at house around age 2 (word used is for young child, not infant or baby)
        • Never claimed there were three – three gifts
      • Horus was crucified and resurrected (most versions of his myth he never died – one he did he was cut up and thrown into the water – fished out by crocodiles)

 

  • Mithras
    • December 25th (not an issue)
    • Virgin birth (born fully formed out of a rock)
    • Dated 200 years AFTER the writing of the Gospels

 

  • Attis
    • Death/Resurrection (Father Agdistis caused him to die and asked Zeus to resurrect him – I will let his pink finger move eternally and his hair to grow forever)

 

  • 16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. – Colossians 2:16-17 (903)

 

 

  1. Deity: Did Jesus Claim to Be God?
    • Some people: He didn’t claim to be God – because He never said, “I am God” in those three words.

 

  • Major religions have many perspectives:
    • Buddhism: Jesus was not God, but an enlightened man, like Buddha
    • Hinduism: Jesus is an incarnation of god, like Krishna
    • Jehovah’s Witnesses: Jesus was merely the archangel Michael, a created being
    • Mormonism: Jesus was only a man who became one of many gods, and that He was a polygamist and half-brother of Lucifer
    • Scientology: Jesus was an implant forced on Thetan about a million years ago
      • None are based in history or fact. Attempts to fit Jesus into an existing belief system that rejects Him as the central character in a redemptive story but still recognizes His historical existence and impact

 

  • What did Jesus say about Himself?
    • Jesus affirms His preexistence: that He existed as God before He was born in Bethlehem and even “before Abraham Himself” (John 8:58 – 818)
      • John 17:5 (825) – bring me the glory we shared
    • Jesus repeatedly speaks of Himself coming from and originating in heaven
      • John 3:13 (811) – the Son of Man came from heaven
      • John 6:38,41 (814) – I have come from heaven, bread that came from heaven
        • 39x in Gospel of John – “sent from heaven”
          • Muhammed, Buddha, Krishna don’t make that claim
        • Jesus specifically claims to be the God of Israel
          • “I AM” in John 8:58 (818) – Moses in Exodus 3
            • One of the most sacred names in OT
            • Did the people understand what He was saying? Read verse 59 – they wanted to stone Him to death
          • John 5:17 (813) – My Father is working
            • Claimed equality with God
            • People wanted to stone Him for “making Himself equal with God!”
          • John 10:29-30 (818) – “I and the Father are one” (same in essence and nature, not identical person)
        • Jesus teaches people to pray to Him
          • John 14:13-14 (823), 15:16 (824), 16:24 (825)
        • Jesus accepts worship, something reserved for God alone – John 20:28-29 (828)
        • Jesus claims a number of titles that are reserved for God
          • Shepherd of Israel (Isaiah 40:11, John 10:14)
          • I AM (Exodus 3, John 8:58)
          • Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8, 22:13)
          • The Almighty (Revelation 1:8)
        • Claims to be God with what He says but also demonstrates it through the things He does – culminating in the resurrection.

 

  • Resurrection is central to our faith – 1 Corinthians 15

 

  • Skeptics’ explanations:
    • Jesus didn’t really die (unconscious, tossed in a grave)
      • Romans were really good at making sure (break legs, spear)
    • The body was stolen
      • John 20:1-2 (828)
      • Historians actually say the resurrection narratives are bolstered by this because: A – the disciples are portrayed unflatteringly, and B – women are primary witnesses
      • They were shocked – they didn’t steal the body
        • Why were they willing to die for a hoax?
      • They went to the wrong tomb
        • In their grief, they went to the wrong place
        • No evidence – it’s a theory based on nothing
        • Could have easily been disproved – when resurrection stories began circulating they could have gone to the tomb (known by its owner, Joseph) and a body would have ended that
      • The disciples borrowed the idea of resurrection

 

 

CONCLUSION

  • The evidence supports the existence of Jesus
  • The actions of His followers and the movement they led despite persecution gives validity to His resurrection and the claims about Himself
  • CS Lewis famously: Liar, lunatic, or Lord (in Mere Christianity)
    • “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
  • You’ve got to wrestle with that – but don’t be lazy

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