A Fictional Messiah?
The BreakPoint article rests on this assertion: We know that Jesus lived because we have historical accounts that were recorded a mere twenty to forty years after His crucifixion. That’s within a single generation - less than the time separating us from the end of World War II - and far too brief a span for myths and legends to take hold.
There are two points to be made here. First, there are no historical documents outside of the Biblical artifacts regarding Jesus. James the Just, who was involved in the Jewish revolt in the middle of the 1st century, is mentioned in Roman historical documents, which is not surprising since the Romans sent several legions to Palestine to put down the revolt at that time, including the siege of Masada. There is circumstantial evidence that this James might have been the brother of Jesus, who then would have preceded him as the leader of the Jews, which is not so surprising given that the Biblical story of the Crucifixion identifies Jesus as the King of the Jews. The lack of historical documents mentioning Jesus is why the span of time until the Biblical accounts arose is significant.
The second point to be made here is that there is a common denial by Christians of the Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. According to the Bible, Jesus was the religious leader of the Jew; he was the King of the Jews. The presumption that his followers considered him God or their ‘Lord’ rather than their King cannot be justified based on the Biblical accounts.
Chuck Colson assumes that 20 years is not sufficient for myths to take hold. The problem with that assumption is there were no objective ‘reporters’ at the time. All the Biblical accounts that were recorded several decades later are then based on recollections or, much more likely, retellings. For example, Paul the apostle never met Jesus and his writings had the biggest influence on the initial transition of the early Church for its constituency from Jews to Gentiles. As has been noted by many authors (see an article by Alan Watts), a religious leader is often imbued with God-like powers like miraculous healings and such. Even one of the Roman emperors of the time supposedly had a virgin birth, just like Jesus. That assumption about no mythical content is not valid.
The BreakPoint article includes this observation: Christians shouldn’t be surprised when historical documents authenticate biblical truth. As historian Paul Johnson writes, “In the long term, Christian truth and historical truth must coincide.”
The unanswered question for Chuck Colson and BreakPoint: What are Christians to do when the historical truth does not coincide with the Christian teaching or myth - that had been considered the truth?
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created - Mar 2005
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