ANSWERING JESUS’ SKEPTICS — PART 1

bibleOnce I was a Jesus skeptic.  Once I imitated the Apostle Thomas. Before I would even read the Bible, I demanded irrefutable proof that Jesus was the Son of God. Now, because I have read the Bible, I am convinced Jesus is only way that leads to salvation.

When I consider the intellectual honesty and capacity of Jesus’ skeptics, I find myself disappointed. Even when I was a member of their ranks (      😉       ), too few were deep thinkers, particularly about the subject of religion (I gave it almost no thought.). Since I have from time-to-time taken up the taken up the task of investigating the claims of Jesus’ skeptics, I have been most greatly disappointed by the academics. Even when they claim to be Christians, the work of academics can be inexcusably shoddy. When I wrote the series that starts here => WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ABORTION? — PART 1, I found it difficult to believe abortion advocates actually read the Bible.

Are Jesus’ skeptics stupid? No. I don’t think so. We just blind ourselves to the facts we do not want to know. Think of it this way. Would you like to be The King? It is good to be The King, right? Well, if it is good to be The King, it must be even better to be God. Yet if the Holy Trinity is God — if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the One True God — then we can neither be God nor can we tell God what to do. We can only be His children. We can love God, but it is difficult to be a child.

Did you enjoy being the child of your parents? From time-to-time, when we are struggling, we long to give our problems over to someone else. Then we would love to give our troubles to Mommy and Daddy, but usually we find it more fun to be in charge of our lives. We want to make our own choices. Yet if we are God’s children, we may never grow up. And because we are still children — His children — He must guide us. So what’s the compensation? Because God is love, we could not have a better Father.

So what is this post about? Here is the first in a meandering series of posts. Here we will consider what skeptics think of the Bible. What questions do they pose? How well do they answer those questions?

Here is the first question.

DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?

I recently finish reading God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question by Bart D. Ehrman. In his book Ehrman says the Bible fails to explain why we suffer. Actually, what the Bible fails to do is give a simple answer. The Bible “fails” to give us the power to judge each other. I cannot read the Bible and say why you suffer, and you cannot read the Bible and say why I suffer. We can only read the Bible and come away knowing that our suffering is part of God’s plan.

Because we are needy and full of questions, we cannot help going to the Bible and insisting that it answer our questions. Yet the Bible is what God wants it to be, and God did not create The Bible to answer all our questions. Therefore, we must accept the Bible for what it is, the book that tells us about Christ Jesus and how He redeemed us.

What would Ehrman consider a satisfactory answer for his question: Why do we suffer? I do not know. I just know that God is God, and I am not. If I believe what the Bible says, then I must believe in God’s purpose, that He allows us to suffer for our own good.

Supposedly, Ehrman has studied the Bible carefully. Why doesn’t Erhman believe that when God allows us to suffer He has a justifiable purpose? After reading his book, I still do not know. I just know that Erhman says things about the Bible I know are not true.

Did Jesus claim to be God? On page 273, in chapter 9 of God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question, Ehrman states the following:

But the view that Jesus was himself God is not a view shared by most of the writers of the New Testament. It is, in fact, a theological view that developed rather late in the early Christian movement: it is not to be found, for example, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark , or Luke–let alone in the teachings of the historical man Jesus.

Some time back I wrote DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?. Someone I know well, a brother, said Jesus never claimed to be God. Since I had at that point finally started studying the Bible, I knew better. So I wrote a post showing that Jesus did claim to be God. What bothered me afterwards was mine and my brother’s ignorance. Neither of us are geniuses, but both of us are supposedly well-educated. Both of us were supposedly raised as Christians. Yet no one made either of us read the Bible and study what it taught. Instead, (like so many other Christian parents) our parents allowed others to tell us what the Bible says. Too often, what those others offer contains too many lies and errors.

When I wrote DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?, I included passages from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark , or Luke. Since Erhman is a Bible scholar, I wondered what possessed him to say such an absurd thing about the Gospels of Matthew, Mark , or Luke. Then I remember myself as I was (and still too much as I am). Logic has nothing to do with such an assertion. Lies begin in the human heart (Matthew 12:34-35), and some of those we think wise publish the most dumbfounding nonsense.

If early Christians believed Jesus’ teachings, they had to believe Jesus is God. Who but God would have been a suitable sacrifice for our sins? What mere man could live a perfect life and allow himself to be the perfect sacrifice once and for all eternity? And Erhman does not know that? Deep in his heart, how can he not?

A Few Additional Citations

From Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38, we know of Jesus’ virgin birth. If Jesus was only a man, then why a virgin birth?

Satan himself attempted to tempt Jesus, and Satan referred to Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 4:6 and Luke 4:3,9).

God called Jesus His Son after John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13, Mark 1:9-11, and Luke 3:21-22).

The experts in such matters say the Book of Mark is the oldest of the Gospels. It begins thus:

Mark 1:1 New King James Version (NKJV)

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Son Of God

In the New King James Version (NKJV), the phrase “Son of God” occurs 27 times in the Gospels. That includes 18 times in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Some would like us to believe that when Gospels of Matthew, Mark , or Luke refer to the Son of God, that reference is honorific or that Jesus did not accept the title, that it does not mean Jesus is God. Yet even Satan and his demons, not the sort to use honorifics, referred to Jesus as the Son of God.

When Jesus gave us the Great Commission, consider what He said.

Matthew 28:19 New King James Version (NKJV)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Jesus, not one of his followers, told us about the Holy Trinity. If not Himself, what Son was Jesus talking about?

A Final Observation

The Four Gospels tell the same story, but they tell this story from four different perspectives. From these gospels we know the story of Jesus’ First Coming; we also know what different people thought important.

  • Matthew tells the story from the perspective of a Jew and highlights Jesus’ Jewish origin. This Gospel tells the story of the Messiah, the long-awaited King!
  • Mark presents Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for a Roman audience. Mark presents Jesus as the decisive man of action.
  • Luke tells the story from the perspective of a Greek. This is the beautifully told story of the savior of humanity.
  • John tells the story from the perspective of the disciple whom Jesus loved. With uncomplicated elegance, John tells us how much Jesus — God — loves us.

All four Gospels tell of the time God became a man. They tell of a man who lived a sinless life, died upon a cross for our sins, and conquered death by rising from the dead.

To Be Continued

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Dr. Luis C. Almeida

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