Christianity And History

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It is written:

1 Corinthians 15:12-20-Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17  And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20  But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Over the years, I have worked with friends who want to accept the philosophical teachings of Christianity without the historical teachings of the Bible. At a Bible study one night, one young man told me:

“Mark, I just don’t believe that the Resurrection of Christ as a historical reality is that important. We just need to embrace the teachings of Jesus and leave out the miracles.”

My friend was making the same mistake that the Apostle Paul addressed when he wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians. After laying down the historical proof that Jesus Christ did indeed arise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), Paul points out that any attempt to separate the historical elements from Christianity will result in Christianity absolutely collapsing.

Two apologists note:

“Of all the religions and faiths in the world, the Christian faith is different and unique in its historical component. While all the other religions and faiths “contain” histories, the Christian faith is “based” upon history. Even if the historical content of all other faiths is removed, their basic philosophy or substance is not affected. But this cannot be done with the Bible. Remove the historical content, and the Christian faith [and the Jewish faith] comes to a naught. All Eastern religions are based in philosophy, and whatever history they contain [real or mythological] is only an irrelevant adjunct to the narration, or an aid to understanding the underlying philosophy. Remove the seeming historical content, and the philosophy is still there, totally independent of history. Western religions also fall into the same pattern, with the Bible-based faith being the only exception. And here lies the importance of Biblical Archeology.” (Dr. Johnson C. Philip & Dr. Saneesh Cherian, Biblical Archeology And Apologetics, 122-129 (Kindle Edition): Philip Communications))

Thankfully, the historical accuracy of the Bible is conformed more and more each day. As Bible archaeologist Titus Kennedy notes:

“The discoveries of archaeology and the preserved ancient writings, thoroughly researched and analyzed, have given an exceptionally clear window into the world and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the root of this unprecedented Christian movement. Although the Gospel accounts about Jesus are frequently referred to by skeptics and critics as mythical, embellished, historically unreliable theological writings, or even propaganda in the form of a biography, archaeology, and ancient texts of the Roman period have demonstrated the accuracy and historical reliability of the Gospels. Myth, which comes from the Greek word muthos meaning “story,” had a wide range of meaning and no specific implication about historical truth in ancient times. However, in modern usage a myth refers to a legendary story that usually contains deities and has fictitious elements. Therefore, to refer to the Gospels as mythical suggests that they are severely limited in their historical accuracy and value. Yet, the Gospels record events that took place in real locations with real historical figures, not in mythical lands with characters unknown from any historical records or physical evidence. Prior to the development of archaeology and the widespread integration of archaeological discoveries and ancient manuscripts in evaluating the New Testament, many critical scholars and writers promoted a view of the Gospels as virtually devoid of history, with the most radical even denying the existence of an historical Jesus. Yet, due to archaeological and manuscript discoveries over the last century, there has been reevaluation and adjustment of many scholarly perspectives on Jesus and the Gospels. An examination of people and places in the Gospels demonstrates that the narratives record events set in known locations, with historical people, and in a particular time. At least 16 people mentioned in the Gospels have been confirmed as historical figures through ancient artifacts and manuscript sources unassociated with Christianity in the approximately four-decade time window of the Gospels, including every major political and religious figure mentioned. Additionally, groups of people such as the disciples of Jesus, Herodians, Judeans, Pharisees, Romans, Sadducees, Samaritans, Sanhedrin, and Zealots are all known from external historical sources. If ancient Christian sources were counted, and if tentative identifications were included, the number of historical figures attested would increase significantly. Nearly every city, town, village, and region, and even many structures mentioned in the Gospels have been confirmed as historical locations in existence during this time by archaeological and ancient historical sources of the Roman period. These places include major cities such as Jerusalem and Caesarea Philippi, towns such as Bethlehem, Capernaum, and Nazareth, structures such as Jacob’s Well, the Pool of Siloam, and the Temple Complex, and geographical features such as the Mount of Olives, the Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee. The writers of the Gospels, although focused on only one person from the fringe of the Empire who was not a political, military, or religious leader, and primarily only a select few years of his life, purposely included specific names and positions of people and names and descriptions of locations to demonstrate the historical nature of the writings, which allows historical analysis to confirm the precision and accuracy of the story. The result of the demonstrated accuracy of locations, people, and general historical setting strongly suggests not only the intentions of the authors to record history, but the reliability of those accounts.” (Titus M. Kennedy, Excavating the Evidence for Jesus: The Archaeology and History of Christ and the Gospels, 285-286 (Kindle Edition): Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers)

As has often been said, “history” is actually “His Story!”

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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