Sunday, May 03, 2009

[christianity] is fair discussion possible [3]

You can call this saccharine sweet but it's still an endangered species.
Part 1
Part 2
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Part 5
Part 6

Non biblical sources on the historicity of Jesus


The following is a reprinting of a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.

To Tiberius Caesar

A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews.

One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance.

What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews -- not the poor but the rich and powerful.

Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.

Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into win, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree -- truly this is the Son of God! Your most obedient servant, Pontius Pilate.

[Also in E. Raymond Capt, 'The Resurrection Tomb', available from Artisan Sales.]

Mara Bar-Serapion

This was a Syrian who wrote a letter to his son, Serapion, sometime after 73 A.D. He encourages him to emulate the wise men of history who died for what they believed in, such as Socrates, Pythagoras, and the wise King the Jews executed. The document is in the British Museum, and F.F. Bruce mentions this in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable.

Publius Lentrelus

He was a resident of Judea in the reign of Tiberius Caesar. It first appeared in the writings of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, 11th century:

There lives at this time in Judea a man of singular virtue whose name is Jesus Christ, whom the barbarians esteem as a prophet, but his followers love and adore him as the offspring of the immortal God. He calls back the dead from the graves and heals all sorts of diseases with a word or touch. He is a tall man, well-shaped, and of an amiable and reverend aspect; his hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeable crouching upon his shoulders, parted on the crown of the head, running as a stream to the front after fashion of the Nazarites.

His forehead high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; his beard, and of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; his eyes bright blue, clear and serene.

Look innocent, dignified, manly and mature. In proportion of body most perfect, and captivating; his arms and hands delectable to behold. He rebukes with majesty, councils with mildness, His whole address whether in word or deed, being eloquent and grave. No man has seen him laugh, yet his manners are exceedingly pleasant, but he has wept frequently in the presence of men. He is temperate, modest and wise. A man for his extraordinary beauty and perfection, surpassing the children of men in every sense.

[Also in E. Raymond Capt, 'The Resurrection Tomb', available from Artisan Sales.]

JH - I admit that this one's a bit iffy.


Pharisee and Jewish historian. Writing about Ananias, a high priest mentioned in the Book of Acts in the Bible, Josephus, the most significant Jewish historian of the period wrote:

"He convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned." (Josephus, The Antiquities 20.200)

Testimonium Flavianum

Most scholars who have reviewed the writings of Josephus generally conclude that he makes genuine references to Jesus albeit the Testimonium Flavianum contains elements of Christian embellishment.

It’s a pity that the lily had to be gilded in this way because the original would have been sufficient to establish historicity and it is hardly necessary to expect Josephus to lend credence to claims of divinity.

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was a doer of amazing deeds, a teacher of persons who receive truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah.

And when Pilate condemned him to the cross, the leading men among us having accused him, those who loved him from the first did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken these things and a myriad of other marvels concerning him. And to the present the tribe of Christians, named after this person, has not disappeared.

Miami University Professor of history, Edwin M. Yamauchi, lists five main reasons why scholars on Josephus believe the Testimonium Flavianum is an authentic reference to Jesus:

1. Jesus is called "a wise man." Though the phrase is complimentary, it is less than one would expect from Christians.

2. "For he was one who wrought surprising feats" ["For he was a doer of amazing deeds"]. This is not necessarily a statement that could only have come from a Christian.

3. "He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks" is simply an observation.

4. "Those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him," conforms to Josephus' characteristic style.

5. "And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." Most scholars would agree that the word phylon "tribe," is not a typically Christian expression.

It has also been noted by Yamauchi that a tenth century Melkite bishop of Hierapolis, named Agapius, inscribed an Arabic translation of Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum that seems to possess differences with the Greek version which may divulge the original passage. The Israeli scholar, S. Pines, observes approximately four of these differences:

1. Josephus expresses the mere humanity of Jesus.

2. Josephus refers only to Jesus' good conduct and virtue.

3. Josephus refers to the appearance of Jesus after three days as merely a "report."

4. Josephus has the qualifier "perhaps" immediately preceding "he was the Messiah."

The second reference of Jesus by Josephus is found in Antiquities 20.9.1 S200-201 where there is a more evanescent mentioning of Jesus:

He (Ananus) convened the council of judges and brought before it the brother of Jesus-the one called "Christ"-whose name was James, and certain others, accusing them of transgressing the law he delivered them up for stoning. But those of the city considered to be the most fair-minded and strict concerning the laws were offended at this and sent to the king secretly urging him to order Ananus to take such actions no longer.

The phrase "the one called 'Christ'" seems to imply an earlier reference.

Josephus discusses here the stoning of James which is not an element in any of the New Testament writings. In the New Testament, James is still alive at the time Acts concludes. This would imply that Josephus was not borrowing from Christian sources but, rather, secular sources independent of the New Testament.

Josephus refers to James as "the brother of Jesus" whereas Christians have generally referred to James as "the brother of the Lord."

The following did not quote Josephus but said that Josephus openly called Him the Christ:

Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History book 1 chapter 1 (440 A.D.)
Cassiodorus in the Three-Part History e Sozomeno (510 A.D.)
Chronicles of Alexandria p.514,526,527,584,586 (640 A.D.)
Johan. Malela Chronicles book 10 (c.850 A.D.)
Photius Codex book 48 I Codex 238, Codex 33 (c.860 A.D.)
Glycus Annal. P.234 (c.1120 A.D.)

New Testament scholar R.T. France says the following:

"Virtually all scholars are agreed that the received text is a Christian rewriting, but most are prepared to accept that in the original text a brief account of Jesus, perhaps in a less complimentary vein, stood at this point /2/. Josephus' passing mention of 'Jesus, the so-called Messiah' in Antiquities XX.200 is hard to explain without some previous notice of this Jesus, especially since Josephus elsewhere makes no reference to Christianity, nor even uses the term Christos of any other figure.

Pliny the Younger, or Plinius Secundus

He was the nephew of Pliny the Elder (a known encyclopedist). As Governor of Bithynia in northwestern Turkey around 112 A.D., he writes to emperor Trajan about his advisement on the treatment of Christians:

I have never been present at an examination of Christians. Consequently, I do not know the nature of the extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed . . .

I have asked them if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If they persist, I order them to be led away for execution; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished . . . They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, . . . This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from two slave-women, whom they call deaconesses. I found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths. [Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96]

If Christians assented to their Messiah "as if to a god" and honored his memorial via worship songs, then it seems that a manifested Christology about Jesus existed.


Roman historian born around 52 - 55 A.D., was the son-in-law of the former Governor of Britain, Julius Agricola. Having expressed hatred for Christians and Jews, he makes an interesting observation about Nero's persecution of the Christians. In A.D. 115, he wrote:

But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures 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 one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty: then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. [Annals 15.44]

Tacitus refers here to the ravishing fire of 64 A.D. and the Christians' blame for it. Three elements of note:

1. Christians were named after Christ ("Christus, from whom the name had its origin").

2. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius ("Christus … suffered … during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilate").

3. Christianity spread from Judea to Rome en masse ("… broke out not only in Judea … but even in Rome … an immense multitude was convicted").

Lucian of Samosata, (also called Lucian the Greek)

Second century satirist, wrote about Christ,

"…the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world….Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws." [The Passing Peregrinus -also called The Death of Peregrine 11-13, quoted from Evidence That Demands a Verdict vol. 1 p.82.]


He was a Greek writer from Caria and freed slave of the Emperor Hadrian. He wrote soon after 137 A.D. that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [33 A.D.] there was "the greatest eclipse of the sun" and that "it became night in the sixth hour of the day [12:00 noon] so that star even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicea."


Roman living from approximately 70 A.D. to 160 A.D., wrote in Vita Claudius (25.4) of the tumult in the Jewish-Roman community:

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.

Suetonius mentions the persecution of Christians in his Vita Nero (16.11-13):

Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.

Philosophers and thinkers

Kant testifies to His ideal perfection; Hegel sees in Him the union of the human and the Divine; Spinoza speaks of Him as the truest symbol of heavenly wisdom; the beauty and grandeur of His life overawe Voltaire; Napoleon I, at St. Helena, felt convinced that "Between him [Jesus] and whoever else in the world there is no possible term of comparison" (Montholon, "Récit de la Captivité de l'Empereur Napoléon").

Rousseau testifies: "If the life and death of Socrates are those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus are those of a god"; Strauss acknowledges: "He is the highest object we can possibly imagine with respect to religion, the being without whose presence in the mind perfect piety is impossible"; to Renan "The Christ of the Gospels is the most beautiful incarnation of God in the most beautiful of forms. His beauty is eternal; his reign will never end"; John Stuart Mill spoke of Jesus as "a man charged with a special, express, and unique commission from God to lead mankind to truth and virtue".

Two more snippets

Athanasius said in the Incarnation 25:3, that it is only on the cross that a man dies with his hands spread out.

Hardly conclusive but take it for what it is.

Also, Roman graffiti was found on Palatine Hill ridiculing Christians. It shows a cross with arms outstretched according to The Archaeology of the New Testament (Blaiklock) p.99.

[christianity] is fair discussion possible [4]

You can call this saccharine sweet but it's still an endangered species.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

From other faiths

Other religions have varying perspectives on Jesus. He is regarded as a prophet by Muslims, as a false Messiah by Judaism and Mandaeanism, as a manifestation of God by the Baha'i, a manifestation of Maitreya by some Buddhists, as an avatar by some Hindus, as the savior and bringer of gnosis by various Gnostic sects and as a guru by many New Ageists.

According to the Talmud, Jesus was a false Messiah, who practiced magic and deceived the people. He was called a sorcerer.

First article

Those early followers of Christ who wrote the Gospel of Q seem to have been unaware of the resurrection of Jesus. The event was not included in their writings.

Gnostics believe that prior to the crucifixion, Jesus swapped bodies with "with an innocent bystander named Simon" This is described in one of their sacred texts, "The Acts of John". It was written about 50 CE; it was widely followed by Christian groups in the early years of the Christian church and is revered by Gnostic Christians today.

The document was suppressed by the Church in the 8th century CE. In the Acts, the disciple John flees from the scene of the execution and is amazed to meet Christ on the top of a mountain overlooking the scene.

The author wrote:

"...we were like men amazed or fast asleep, and we fled this way and that. And so I saw him suffer, and did not wait by his suffering, but fled...and wept at what had come to pass. And when he was hung upon the cross...there came a darkness over the whole earth. And my Lord stood in the middle of the cave and gave light to it and said, 'John, for the people below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds and given vinegar and gall to drink. But to you I am speaking...I put into your mind to come up to this mountain so that you may hear what a disciple should learn from his teacher and a man from God."

Another Gnostic text, The Gospel of Mary described how Mary Magdelene became the first Christian pastor in history. She delivering a passionate sermon to the demoralized disciples of Jesus. The gospel describes how this raised their spirits and inspired them to evangelize the known world.

Followers of the ancient Doceitism heresy believed that Christ was not housed in a human body. He was a phantasm, specter or ghost which merely looked human. Today we might use the term hologram. Thus he was not crucified, did not die and was not resurrected.

The Jews

This is from the correspondence by Steve Schwartz, a Jew, with a rabbi, in 1980.

# According to the 70 rabbis who worked on the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "almah" (Isaiah 7:14) is translated "parthenos" meaning virgin.* Why do the rabbis today say it means "young woman"?

Are they simply trying to dispose of the argument for the virgin birth of Christ?

# I'm sure you know the meaning of the two words "yachid" and "echad" forone. Why is the word "echad" (meaning a composite oneness) used to describe God in the Shema while Moses Maimonides uses "yachid" (meaning absolute oneness) in his Thirteen Articles of Faith?

Is Maimonides trying to dispose of Old Testament evidence in support of the triunity of God?

# Why are the 52nd and 54th chapters of Isaiah read aloud every year in the synagogue, but the Isaiah 53 is never read? This chapter seems to describe the life, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. Is this why the chapter is skipped over?

Furthermore, if the suffering Servant of this chapter is "Israel" as the rabbis today claim, how can the servant die as a substitute for the sins of Isaiah's people - Israel? That would mean that Israel is dying as asubstitute for the sins of Israel...which doesn't make much sense.

# Whose death is described by David in the 22nd Psalm? Also, how could David describe death by crucifixion when that manner of capital punishment was unknown at the time? I know that Christian believe this psalm predicts the sufferings and death of Jesus.

# The Old Testament (particularly Leviticus) testifies that there is no atonement without blood, sacrificed on the altar. Where do we get the idea that our sins are forgiven by going without food or water for a 24-hour period? It seems to me that God is pretty specific...and He never lifted His requirement for the atoning blood.

It seems to me that today we have a Day of Atonement...but no atonement.

# Finally, the Old Testament says that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham through Isaac through Jacob through Judah, of the house of David, that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would be preceded by a forerunner (Malachi 3:1), and it even predicts that he would arrive before the destruction of the Temple - which occurred in the year 70 C.E. (Daniel 9:24-26).

Furthermore, the Messiah would be a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19), rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:3), betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9), sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), smitten, spat upon and mocked (Psalm 22:7-8), crucified (Psalm 22), but would be raised from the dead in three days (Psalm 16:10, Jonah 1:17).

There are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament which all find their fulfillment in one particular man...and you know which man I'm speaking about. Now, who do you say the prophets are speaking about?

# Who is Jesus of Nazareth? I know you don't think that he is God, and that's certainly what I believed; but who, then, is he? If he is not God, then he must be either a lunatic (who really believed he was the Messiah) or a liar who was despicable enough to draw people away from God.

From the staggering things he said about himself, it doesn't seem possible to dismiss him simply as a good or wise man. My final question is, Who is Jesus Christ: lunatic, liar or Lord?

Incidentally, I happen to believe-like the great Jewish philosophers and theologians-that the Old Testament is the actual Word of God, so I hope you'll use Moses and the prophets as your authority.

# You say the Hebrew word "almah" is recognized by 99% of Biblical scholars as meaning young woman. I don't know where you got your information, but I could list here scores of Jewish and Gentile scholars who believe the word "almah" is properly translated "virgin."

And you can't deny, Rabbi, that the 70 top Jewish scholars who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek all thought that "almah" means virgin, since they used the Greek word "parthenos"-virgin.

Furthermore, I find that the word "almah" is used just seven times in the Old Testament and each time it refers to what can only be a virgin. So when you say "almah" is mistranslated, you are disagreeing with traditional Jewish thought.

One more thing before leaving this area. Looking ahead to chapter 9, verse 6 of the same book, one finds a description of this special child:

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

A child will be born who will be called "Mighty God"? Jewish commentators did not dispute the Messianic nature of this prophecy until modern times. As proof, let me cite the paraphrase of this passage given in Targum Jonathan:

"And there was called His name from of old, Wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, He who lives for ever, the messiah in whose days peace shall increase." (Targum of Isaiah)

Rabbi, I agree with you that you shouldn't read something into the Biblical story that isn't there. However, I think it is just as dangerous to delete things that are there.

# Now to your statement that the words "yachid" and "echad" mean the same thing. I have studied this intensively, and I have found that they definitely do not mean the same thing. "Yachid" is used in the Bible when an absolute, indivisible one is intended; this is the word Moses Maimonides used to describe God in his second Principle of Faith. On the other hand, "echad" is used in the Bible for a compound, divisible unity, as, for example, when God says in Genesis 2:24, "And they (husband and wife) shall be one (echad) flesh."

In your letter, you say that "yachid" was simply the Medieval Hebrew meaning the same thing as the Biblical Hebrew word "echad." This doesn't hold true, however, because Moses used both words in the Torah, so we see they were used concurrently. The only conclusion I can reach is that Maimonides was trying to cover up important Biblical evidence for the tri-unity of God by calling Him an absolute one (yachid).

The Biblical use of the word "echad," however, is by no means the only evidence that establishes the fact of the tri-unity of God. Beginning in Genesis, we find that a common name given to God is Elohim, a plural word. Why didn't Moses use the singular form, El? Also, many times we come across the use of plural pronouns for God as in Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'LetUs make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...'"

Even the sacred Jewish book, the Zohar, testifies to the truth of the trinity in its comment on the Shema: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one, " (Deuteronomy 6:4).

"Why is there need of mentioning the name of God three times in this verse? The first Jehovah is the Father above. The second is the stem of Jesse, the Messiah Who is to come from the family of Jesse through David. And the third one is the way which is below (meaning the Holy Spirit who shows us the way) and these three are one."

# I'm afraid my research doesn't bear out your answer that the "Suffering Servant" section is read in the synagogue.

According to the Jewish calendar of Haftorah readings, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is not read. In point of fact, the Haftorah reading for Shofetim includes chapters 51 and 52 while the Haftorah reading for Noah, Sephardi ritual and Ki Tetze begins at the 54th chapter. Isaiah 53 is blatantly skipped over.

I think it is important to note that Rashi (11th century) was the first one to suggest that the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 represents Israel. Until then, the Suffering Servant was almost universally understood by the Jews as referring to the Messiah. By no means does Rashi's interpretation represent the traditional Jewish interpretation.

Here are a few references to back me up:

Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century) states that those who for controversial reasons apply the prophecy of the Suffering Servant to Israel find it impossible to understand the true meaning of this prophecy, "having forsaken the knowledge of our teachers, and inclined after the stubbornness of their own opinions."

Their misinterpretation, he declares, "distorts the passage from its natural meaning," for "it was given of God as a description of the Messiah, whereby, when any should claim to be the Messiah, to judge by the resemblance or nonresemblance to it whether he were the Messiah or no."

He also said, "I'm pleased to interpret the passage in accordance with the teaching of our rabbis, of the King Messiah...and adhere to the literal sense. Thus, I shall be free from forced and far-fetched interpretations of which others are guilty."

Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (16th century) said: "Since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer for them himself."

Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh, chief Rabbi of Safed, stated: "Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view."

Isaac Abrabanel, a bitter opponent of Christianity, made the following statement about Isaiah 53: "Jonathan ben Uzziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim."

The original Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 survives to this day. It is preserved in Jewish liturgy for the Day of Atonement in the Musaf prayer:

"We are shrunk up in our misery even until now! Our rock hath not come to us; Messiah, our righteousness, hath turned from us; we are in terror, and there is none to justify us! Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions he will bear, for he was wounded for our transgressions; he will carry our sins upon his shoulder that we may find forgiveness for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed. O eternal One, the time is come to make a new creation, from the vault of heaven bring him up..."

Thus, it is obvious from the above prayer that the Jews of that era (8th century) believed that the Messiah had already come and were praying that He may come a second time.

Rabbi, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the Talmud, the Zohar, the Midrashim, and the Jewish Prayer Book all support the view that Isaiah 53 refers to the Messiah, not the people of Israel.

The modern Jewish answer can't be taken seriously by either the scholar or the casual reader. According to the Scripture passage in question, the Servant is described as "righteous," as "sinless," as a willing sufferer, and actually dying.

Not one of these statements can be applied to the Jewish people, as any unbiased person would be willing to admit.

# Moving right along, we come to Psalm 22. You say the psalm doesn't mention crucifixion. Of course it doesn't! How could David use the word "crucifixion" when this manner of capital punishment was unknown to the Jews of his time?

But the psalm does say, "They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psalm 22:16). Sure sounds like crucifixion to me. In fact, the Midrashim (called the Pesiqta Rabbati) applies this psalm to the sufferings of the Messiah, so once again we find that traditional Jewish thought and modernistic Jewish thought are at odds with one another.

You're quite right in saying that David wasn't crucified; it was David's descendant, the Messiah, who was crucified-David predicts the manner of the Messiah's death in this psalm. Jesus even quoted the first verse of this psalm from the cross.

# Now we move into the heart of our discussion-the need for a blood sacrifice to atone for our sins. You agree with me when you say, "The Bible does say that sacrifices are necessary." But then you say that the Talmud replaces sacrifices with prayer, good deeds and charity. While there are many fine and beautiful statements in the Talmud, I have to call a halt when the Talmud (a commentary written by men) starts contradicting the Bible. The Bible says:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for our souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Leviticus 17:11).

Who gives anyone the authority to say, "You don't have to obey that rule anymore. You can simply fast and do good deeds." Wherever you look in the Old Testament, you find His people offering blood sacrifices to become acceptable in God's sight.

The Hebrews had to apply the blood of a slain lamb to the doorposts of their homes if they wanted their firstborn to survive. As God put it, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12:13).

Much of the Torah-almost the entire book of Leviticus-is devoted to the subject of blood sacrifices.

Let's turn to the article on atonement given in The Jewish Encyclopedia:

"...the blood, which to the ancients was the life-power of the soul, forms the essential part of the sacrificial Atonement. This is the interpretation given by all Jewish commentators, ancient and modern, on the passage... The life of the victim was offered... as a typical ransom of 'life by life'; the blood sprinkled by the priest upon the altar serving as the means of a renewal of man's covenant of life with God... The cessation of sacrifice, in consequence of the destruction of the Temple, came, therefore, as a shock to the people... It was then that Johanan b. Zakkai. declared works of benevolence to have atoning powers as great as those of sacrifice. This view, however, did not solve satisfactorily for all the problem of sin... Hence, a large number of Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood shed for many for the remission of sins.'" (Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler)

The "Christian faith" mentioned above is actually the faith to which I adhere. May I suggest you read a book called Christianity Is Jewish by Edith Schaeffer (Tyndale House) for additional light on the subject. Hebrew Christians base their atonement with God on the Biblical basis of "blood atonement sacrificially provided." Modern Jewish thought bases atonement on the Talmud, the word of man.

# You say that Jesus did not do what the Messiah was supposed to do and for this reason the Jews do not accept Him as the Messiah. I disagree. The Bible says the Messiah would come first as a Suffering Servant, that He would die for the sins of His people, that He would be raised from the dead on the third day, and that He would return as a conquering King who would rule forever.

Multitudes of first-century Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah; some estimates say that millions of Jews accepted Him. Others, however, desired and expected the Messiah to immediately set up His eternal Kingdom, directly in conflict with Scriptures that said the Messiah must first die.

Jesus did exactly what the Old Testament Scriptures predicted. What more could be asked of Him? Isaiah (chapter 53) and Daniel (chapter 9) both predict the death of Messiah and His resurrection. And Zechariah tells us something very interesting about the Messiah's return:

"And I (God) will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

In other words, someday the Jewish people will be confronted by the Messiah "whom they have pierced" and will suddenly realize how wrong they have been to reject Him. This is the true Day of Atonement, when all of Israel will repent and turn to the Messiah.

Before you tell me I'm reading something into this passage that isn't there -that it isn't speaking of the Messiah-let me just quote from two respected and authoritative Jewish sources.

Commenting on this passage first is Rabbi Abraham ben Ezra (12th century):

"All the heathen shall look to me to see what I shall do to those who pierced Messiah, the son of Joseph." Next is a rather lengthy quote from Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh, chief rabbi of Safed:

"I will do yet a third thing, and that is, that 'they shall look unto me,' for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see Him whom they pierced, that is Messiah, the Son of Joseph; for our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said that He will take upon Himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make an atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced Him, for on account of their sin He has died; and, therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One, saying, that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of Him who died for their sin: this is the meaning of 'They shall look upon me.'"

You tell me "it would be easy for me to pull verses from any book after I have a belief in a certain man as Messiah." I'd like to challenge you to do just that. A Mr. Fred J. Meldau has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who can "produce any Christ, living or dead (other than Jesus of Nazareth) who can fulfill even half of the predictions concerning Messiah."

Looking at the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, we find that hundreds of prophecies were all fulfilled in the life of one individual- Jesus of Nazareth. Speaking of eight key prophecies, Peter Stoner, a mathematician, points out, "We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled eight of the prophecies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000" (Science Speaks, Moody Press). And the probability of any one man fulfilling all of these hundreds of prophecies is a number too large to write down.

To conclude this section, let me just add one more thing. You say that Jesus "came and died." But you make no mention of His resurrection. You may deny it really happened, but the resurrection is the best-attested event in history. Many books have been written on the subject, and it's much too deep to go into at this time. But let me quote former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brewer:

"The existing evidence of Christ's resurrection is satisfactory to me. I have not examined it from the legal standpoint, but Greenleaf has done so, and he is the highest authority on evidence cited in our courts."

I am enclosing a copy of Simon Greenleaf's evidence for your edification(available free-of-charge from Book Fellowship International, P.O. Box 164, No. Syracuse, NY 13212). May I also suggest you read Who Moved the Stone? (Zondervan Press) by Frank Morrison. It's particularly interesting, because it was written by a man who started to write a book disproving the reality of the resurrection. By the time he was finished, he was a believer!

# You seem to be unwilling to take a stand on whether Jesus was Lord, liar or lunatic, preferring to describe him as a "wonderful man." Does such a description fit a person who claimed to be equal with God, who forgave sins but said he had no sins of his own, who predicted his own death and resurrection?

No, I still maintain that your "wonderful man" option is implausible.

You tell me that "the four gospel writers had never met" Jesus and that "they all came much later." This is not true. Listen to the testimony of William F. Albright, who is considered to be the world's foremost Biblical archaeologist:

"We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130-150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today. In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D."

Since the New Testament was completed so soon after the events it describes, the one element necessary to the creation of myths-time-was not available.

In effect, what you're saying is that the Gospel writers "made up" the Gospel accounts and that they bear little resemblance to what really happened and what Jesus really said. Considering the fact that most of the apostles and early Christians laid down their lives rather than their faith, your contention lacks credibility.

Could you imagine Mark Twain and all of his associates submitting to torture and death to prove that Huckleberry Finn really existed? Some of the top psychologists and experts in legal evidence have said that this just couldn't happen, and they have become believers on this very basis.

People might lay down their lives for a lie in which they sincerely believe, but they don't for a lie of their own invention.

You suggested that I read a couple of books by Samuel Sandmel. I have already read his We Jews and Jesus and believe he is quite honest when he admits, "I must be straightforward in saying that my approach is partisan; it is Jewish and not neutral."

All in all, I would say that Sandmel presents a very unbiblical account of which I disapprove. Please keep in mind that when I started investigating the claims of Hebrew-Christianity, I, too, was very biased on the Jewish side. I read Hugh Schonfield's book, The Passover Plot, and a number of other books by Jewish authors. After studying both sides, I cam to the inescapable conclusion that the modernistic Jewish approach to the Scriptures is dishonest.

While I didn't want to believe the Christian side, the Old Testament evidence was all in their favor.

Now may I suggest you read a few books that will explain the Hebrew-Christian position better than I can. In addition to the books previously mentioned, read:

* Judaism and Christianity, Are They the Same? by David Bronstein (O'Neil, Oliver, MacKenzie, Inc.)
* Jesus, the Jew's Jew by Zola Levitt (Creation House).
* Jesus Was a Jew by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Broadman Press).
* The Bible, the Supernatural and the Jews by McCandlish Phillips (Bethany Fellowship).
* Hebrew Christianity: Its Theology, History and Philosophy by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Baker Books).
* The Messianic Hope by Arthur W. Kac, M.D. (Baker Books).
* The Chosen People Question Box II by Dr. Henry Heydt (American Board of Missions to the Jews).
* The Prophet Isaiah by Victor Buksbazen (Spearhead Press).
* Where in the World Are the Jews Today? by James and Marti Hefley (Victor Books).
* A Hebrew Christian Looks at Isaiah 53 by Sanford Mills (American Board of Missions to the Jews).

I consider myself a better Jew than before, because now I am a Jew in the Biblical sense of the word. As you know, Abraham became "righteous in God's sight" when he believed God. He wasn't circumcised until later, and the Mosaic law came much later still, so neither of these things made him righteous. Now that I too believe God, I know that I am "righteous in God's sight" and that I am a complete Jew.

My final question to you is, do you believe Moses?

From Deuteronomy 18:18-19:

"I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you (Moses), and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him."

The following chart reveals the way this "Suffering Servant" passage - from Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:12 - is omitted.

So we see that the Haftorah readings heard in the synagogue conclude at the very verse which begins the controversial "Suffering Servant" passage. and the readings pick up just after the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.

While some Jewish authorities state that the omission was not purposeful, others see a good deal of significance in the omission. For example, Herbert Loewe - a Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University and co-author with Claude Montefiore of A Rabbinic Anthology - had this to say on the subject:

"Quotations from the famous 53rd chapter of Isaiah are rare in the Rabbinic literature. Because of the christological interpretation given to the chapter by Christians, it is omitted from the series of prophetical lessons (HAFTAROT) for the Deuteronomy Sabbaths. The omission is deliberate and striking." (op. Cit. P. 544)

If you'd like to see for yourself if the "Suffering Servant" passage is skipped, you can find the schedule of synagogue readings listed in many Jewish calendars and in Jewish Bibles.


There are hundreds of Jewish and Gentile Bible scholars who believe that the prophet Isaiah was predicting the virgin birth of the Messiah. A list of the Jewish scholars alone would include such names as Dr. Sanford C. Mills, Milton Lindberg, Dr. Arthur W. Kac, Dr. Henry J. Heydt, Dr. Leopold Cohn, Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus and Dr. David L. Cooper. All of these eminent Jewish theologians believe that the Hebrew word "almah" is best translated by the word "virgin."


The second Principle of Jewish Faith by Moses Maimonides: "I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is an absolute one (yachid) and there there is no oneness in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our God, who was, is and will be." Compare this with the words of the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4 from the Jewish Scriptures: Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one ("echad" - unity consisting of more than one part).

# Talmudic anomalies

In the centuries following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE), the Jewish people began writing two versions of Jewish thought, religious history and commentary. One was written in Palestine and became known as the Jerusalem Talmud. The other was written in Babylon and was known as the Babylonian Talmud.

We read in the Jerusalem Talmud:

"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open" (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). [the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE]

A similar passage in the Babylonian Talmud states:

"Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves" (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).

What are these passages talking about? Since both Talmuds recount the same information, this indicates the knowledge of these events was accepted by the widespread Jewish community.

The Miracle of the "Lot"

The first of these miracles concerns a random choosing of the "lot" which was cast on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The lot chosen determined which of two goats would be "for the Lord" and which goat would be the "Azazel" or "scapegoat."

During the two hundred years before 30 CE, when the High Priest picked one of two stones, again this selection was governed by chance, and each year the priest would select a black stone as often as a white stone.

But for forty years in a row, beginning in 30 CE, the High Priest always picked the black stone! The odds against this happening are astronomical (2 to the 40th power). In other words, the chances of this occurring are 1 in approximately 5,479,548,800 or about 5.5 billion to one! By comparison, your chances of winning your local state or municipal-run cash Lottery would be much more favorable!

The lot for Azazel, the black stone, contrary to all the laws of chance, came up 40 times in a row from 30 to 70 AD! This was considered a dire event and signified something had fundamentally changed in this Yom Kippur ritual. This casting of lots is also accompanied by yet another miracle which is described next.

The Miracle of the Red Strip

The second miracle concerns the crimson strip or cloth tied to the Azazel goat. A portion of this red cloth was also removed from the goat and tied to the Temple door. Each year the red cloth on the Temple door turned white as if to signify the atonement of another Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Lord. This annual event happened until 30 CE when the cloth then remained crimson each year to the time of the Temple's destruction. This undoubtedly caused much stir and consternation among the Jews. This traditional practice is linked to Israel confessing its sins and ceremonially placing this nation's sin upon the Azazel goat. The sin was then removed by this goat's death. Sin was represented by the red color of the cloth (the color of blood). But the cloth remained crimson that is, Israel's sins were not being pardoned and "made white."

As God told Israel through Isaiah the prophet:

''Come, let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet [crimson], they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as [white] wool'' (Isaiah 1:18).

The clear indication is that the whole community had lost the Lord's attention in relation to something that occurred in 30 CE. The yearly atonement achieved through the typical Yom Kippur observance was not being realized as expected. Atonement apparently was to be gained in some other way. Who or what would provide the atonement for another year?

Concerning the crimson strip though not mentioned in the Scriptures and long before 30 C.E. during the 40 years Simon the Righteous was High Priest, a crimson thread which was associated with his person always turned white when he entered the Temple's innermost Holy of Holies. The people noticed this.

Also, they noted that "the lot of the LORD" (the white lot) came up for 40 straight years during Simon's priesthood. They noticed that the "lot" picked by the priests after Simon would sometimes be black, and sometimes white, and that the crimson thread would sometimes turn white, and sometimes not.

The Jews came to believe that if the crimson thread turned white, that God approved of the Day of Atonement rituals and that Israel could be assured that God forgave their sins. But after 30 CE, the crimson thread never turned white again for 40 years, till the destruction of the Temple and the cessation of all Temple rituals!

What did the Jewish nation do in 30 CE to merit such a change at Yom Kippur? By some accounts, on April 5, 30 CE (i.e., on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice) the Messiah, Yeshua, was cut off from Israel, himself put to death as a sacrifice for sin. To this event there is a transference of the atonement now no longer achieved through the two goats as offered at Yom Kippur. Like an innocent Passover lamb, the Messiah was put to death though no fault was found in Him!

But unlike Temple sacrifices or the Yom Kippur events (as detailed above) where sin is only covered over for a time, the Messianic sacrifice comes with the promise of forgiveness of sins through grace given by God to those who accept a personal relationship with Messiah. This is essentially a one time event for each person's lifetime and not a continual series of annual observances and animal sacrifices. The mechanism providing forgiveness of sin changed in 30 CE.

The Miracle of the Temple Doors

The next miracle, which the Jewish authorities acknowledged, was that the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord. This too occurred for forty years, beginning in 30 CE The leading Jewish authority of that time, Yohanan ben Zakkai, declared that this was a sign of impending doom, that the Temple itself would be destroyed.

The Jerusalem Talmud states:

"Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, 'O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, 'Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars' " (Zechariah 11:1)' (Sota 6:3).

Yohanan Ben Zakkai was the leader of the Jewish community during the time following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, when the Jewish government was transferred to Jamnia, some thirty miles west of Jerusalem.

Might the doors have opened to also signify that all may now enter the Temple, even to its innermost holy sections. The evidence supported by the miracles described above suggests the Lord's presence had departed from the Temple. This was no longer just a place for High Priests alone, but the doors swung open for all to enter the Lord's house of worship.

The Miracle of the Temple Menorah

The fourth miracle was that the most important lamp of the seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out, and would not shine. Every night for 40 years (over 12,500 nights in a row) the main lamp of the Temple lampstand (menorah) went out of its own accord no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against this event!

Earnest Martin states:

"In fact, we are told in the Talmud that at dusk the lamps that were unlit in the daytime (the middle four lamps remained unlit, while the two eastern lamps normally stayed lit during the day) were to be re-lit from the flames of the western lamp (which was a lamp that was supposed to stay lit all the time it was like the 'eternal' flame that we see today in some national monuments)...

"This 'western lamp' was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the 'western lamp' (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed?

Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!" (The Significance of the Year CE 30, Ernest Martin, Research Update, April 1994, p.4).

Again, the odds against the lamp continually going out are astronomical. Something out of the ordinary was going on. The "light" of the Menorah representing contact with God, His Spirit, and His Presence was now removed. This special demonstration occurred starting with the crucifixion of the Messiah!

It should be clear to any reasonable mind that there is no natural way to explain all these four signs connected with the year 30 CE. The only possible explanation has to be supernatural.

After 30 CE, and the death of the Messiah, great trouble and awesome trials began to come upon the Jewish nation. Yeshua Himself foretold it. As He was led away to be crucified, Yeshua warned the women of Jerusalem:

But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin `to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!" ' "For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:28-31).

When we take an objective look at the events of 30 CE, who can doubt that it was indeed the true year of the crucifixion and resurrection of the true Messiah God sent to Israel? Who can deny that He is the one and only true Messiah? Who else has fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament — including the amazing prophecy of Daniel 9 and the ''70 weeks,'' coming at the very year predicted for the Messiah to appear?

# All of these passages were recognized by the early rabbis as referring to the Messiah:

* Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:1
* Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10
* Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9
* Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22
* Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel 9:24-27
* Messiah's life would match a particular description, including suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man's tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

In the first place, he claimed to be the Messiah.

It must have been quite a hallucination to be seen by vastly different kinds of people at different times of day in many different places. You might be able to fool one person, but can you fool five hundred who saw him at one time? And unlike the pattern of hallucinations, these appearances of the resurrected Jesus stopped as suddenly as they started, forty days after the resurrection took place.

Jewish Talmuds refer to Jesus in a number of places. See Evidence That Demands a Verdict volume 1 p.85-87 for quotes from the Babylonian Talmud, Tol'doth Yeshu, Barailu, The Amoa 'Ulla', Yeb. IV 3, and Baraita. See also Tractate Sanhedrin.

Jewish problems with the Messiah

This applies of course to the classic Christian exegesis, which defined Jesus chiefly, in contradiction to a Strack-Billerbek Judaism, as Torah-critical innovator, with a strong eschatological expectation and much self-confidence, that presented itself as exclusive relationship to the God he called Abba. Against this the Jewish partners in dialogue have emphasized the commitment to Judaism of a Jesus who was faithful to Torah, and they did not hesitate to assign him to Jewish groups (Pharisees12, Zealots13). Newer approaches strive for more flexibility, but the really large conceptions of an inclusive Jesus image are scarce despite an immense literature.

[christianity] is fair discussion possible [5]

You can call this saccharine sweet but it's still an endangered species.
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The assertion of divinity the resurrection and the development of Christology

* J. P. Holding, in The Assertion of Godhood, writes:

Craig [Craig.ApIn, 160] reports:

Studies by New Testament scholars such as Martin Hengel of Tubingen University, C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge, and others have proved that within twenty years of the crucifixion a full-blown Christology proclaiming Jesus as God incarnate existed.

How does one explain this worship by monotheistic Jews of one of their countrymen as God incarnate, apart from the claims of Jesus himself?

The oldest liturgical prayer recorded, in 1 Corinthians 16:22, is dated at around 55 A.D. It refers to Jesus as Lord. So does the earliest sermon and the earliest account of martyrdom. The authors of the NT epistles, including and especially Paul, even in his undisputed letters, use the language of divine Wisdom with reference to Jesus.

The earliest pagan report of the church's activities indicates that Jesus was worshipped as Lord. Paul's letters, written between 49 and 65 A.D., exhibit the same fully-evolved Christology; logically, he must have gotten it from sometime earlier than 49 A.D.

Paul cites creeds, hymns and sayings of Jesus that must have come from earlier (Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 11:23; Col. 1:15-16; Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:8); these items translate easily into Aramaic and show features of Hebrew poetry and thought-forms, which allows us to trace their origins to Jesus' first followers in Judea, between 33 and 48 A.D. [More.ScCy, 161-5]

[T]he concept of Jesus as divine quite definitely existed within, at the very least, a decade of the crucifixion, and therefore, was likely to have been asserted before His death by Jesus Himself, as is recorded in the Gospels. Similarly, O'Collins observes [OColl.Ch, 24-5]:

The oldest Christian document shows us Paul repeatedly calling Jesus 'Christ' in a way that suggests that, within twenty years of Jesus' death and resurrection, this comprehensive title for Jesus' identity and powers was simply taken for granted by Paul and his readers, had practically lost its original significance, and was almost his second (personal) name (1 Thess. 1:1, 3; 5:23, 28).

In a notable pre-Pauline formulation, which also goes back to the earliest years of Christianity, 'Christ' seems already to have lost much of its titular significance (or messianic expectations) and to be functioning largely as an alternative name for Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3). In his letters Paul uses 'Christ' 270 times but never considers it necessary to argue explicitly that Jesus is 'the Christ' whom Israel expected.

Moreover, as Charlesworth notes, if the church had invented Jesus' claims to divinity, they certainly "would have been more explicit" than they are in their present form. [Wilk.JUF, 26]

Such a reaction begs a historical explanation, and thus we have every reason to believe that Jesus did claim something very unique about Himself and His relationship to God, to the point of identifying Himself with divinity ...

A parallel movement, that acclaimed Jesus as merely a good teacher, would have emerged alongside Christianity. To be sure, there are those such as Burton L. Mack, author of The Lost Gospel, who would have us believe that a such a movement did exist; but conveniently enough, he tells us, it came and went too quickly to leave behind any concrete physical evidence for us to know what happened to them!

As it is, there are no extant texts from the first century, or even from the century thereafter, that represent Jesus as claiming to be only human or only a prophet--He is always portrayed as making exalted claims to a super-human status.

Later heresies of the church, such as Gnosticism, involved paganistic and/or mystical additions upon what Jesus meant in the Gospels when He claimed to be God; they never denied that He made any special claims about Himself

The earliest known pagan critic of Christianity to address the issue, Celsus, argued that Jesus did apply the title "Son of God" to Himself, but wrongly [Wilk.ChrRom, 109]; only much later did those critics deny that Jesus made such claims.


Brow.JesGM Brown, Raymond E. Jesus: God and Man. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Bruc.JLS Bruce, F. F. Jesus, Lord and Savior. Downers Grove: IVP, 1986.
Case.SOM Casey, Maurice. Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7. London: SPCK, 1979.
Chars.DSS Charlesworth, James H. Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Chars.JesJud Charlesworth, James H. Jesus Within Judaism. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Chars.JDSS Charlesworth, James H. John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Crossroad, 1991.
Crai.ApIn Craig, William Lane. Apologetics: An Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.
Cross.MedP Crossan, John D. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
Cross.RevB Crossan, John D. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: Harper, 1994.
Cull.CNT Cullmann, Oscar. The Christology of the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959.
deJ.CC de Jonge, Marinus. Christology in Context. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988.
Dunn.CM Dunn, James G. D. Christology in the Making. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.
Fluss.JS Flusser, David. Jewish Sources in Early Christianity. New York: Adama, 1987.
Fred.GI Fredriksen, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of New Testament Images of Jesus. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1988.
Full.FNC Fuller, Reginald. The Foundations of New Testament Christology. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1965.
Hare.SOM Hare, Douglas R. A. The Son of Man Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990.
Harr.3Cruc Harris, Murray. 3 Crucial Questions About Jesus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
Hick.MyG Hick, John, ed. The Myth of God Incarnate. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977.
Jerem.NTT Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1971.
Kasp.JC Kaspar, Walter. Jesus the Christ. New York: Paulist Press, 1976.
Lind.SOM Lindars, Barnabas. Jesus Son of Man. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983.
Mack.Q Mack, Burton L. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q. San Francisco: Harper, 1993.
JPM.ScCy Moreland, J. P. Scaling the Secular City. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.
Moul.OC Moule, C.F.D. The Origins of Christology. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1977.
OColl.Ch O'Collins, Gerald. Christology. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1995.
Oni.WhoD O'Neill, J. C. Who Did Jesus Think He Was? London: E. J. Brill, 1995.
Sand.HistF Sanders, E.P. The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York: Penguin Press, 1993.
San.JesJud Sanders, E.P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.
Schnack.BC Schnackenburg, Rudolf. Jesus in the Gospels: A Biblical Christology. Louisville: Westminster, 1995.
Schoe.PP Schonfield, Hugh. The Passover Plot. Shaftesbury: Element, 1965.
Todt.SOM Todt, H. E. The Son of Man in the Synoptic Tradition. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965.
Verm.JJ Vermes, Geza. Jesus the Jew. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973.
Rom Wilken, Robert. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1984.
Wilk.JUF Wilkins, Michael and J. P. Moreland, eds. Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
With.JQ Witherington, Ben. The Jesus Quest. Downers Grove: IVP, 1995.
Youn.JesJT Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Peabody, MA; Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

Early Christians asserting divinity

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, in The Divinity of Christ, lists assertions of claims for the divinity of Christ by ante-Nicene figures:

Ignatius of Antioch, (ca. 115 AD), on the Divinity of Christ, calls Jesus God 16x in 7 letters (ca. 110 [AD1]. “Jesus Christ our God” Eph inscr, Eph 15:3, Eph 18:2, Tral 7, Ro inscr 2x, Ro 3:3, Smyr 10:1.

1. He speaks of Christ’s blood as “God's blood” Eph 1:1
2. He calls Jesus “God incarnate” Eph7:2
3. In Jesus “God was revealing himself as a man” Eph 19:3

He exhorts the Christians at Magnesia to stand firm "in faith and love, in Son, Father, and Spirit." (Mag 13)

Note: Ignatius was a disciple of John the Apostle. He wrote letters to many churches, and died either 107 or 116 A.D. under Emperor Trajan.

Epistle to Diognetus (ca. 125 AD), speaking of God the Father, he says:

1. Diognetus 7:2 "he sent the Designer and Maker of the universe himself, by whom he created the heavens and confined the sea within its own bounds" (ca. 125 AD)
2. Diognetus 7:4 “He sent him as God; he sent him as man to men."

Melito of Sardis on Christ's Divinity (d. ca. 190), On the Pasch (Peri Pascha).

1. Translation in Lucien Deiss, ed., Springtime of the Liturgy College-Peri Pascha was only discovered in 1940 and published in 1960.

He says Christ "rises from the dead as God, being by nature both God and man" (p. 100 in Deiss, physei Theos n kai anthropos). He also has an anti-Gnostic insistence on Christ's true humanity.

Justin Martyr on the Divinity of Christ (c. 155 AD)

1. says that Christians adore and worship the Son as well as the Father. 1st Apology 6.
2. says Christ, the Word incarnate, is divine 1 Apol 10 & 63

Note: Justin Martyr was a Greek philosopher who was born either 110 or 114 A.D. He converted between around 138 to 150 A.D.. He wrote a defense of Christianity and a Dialogue with Trypho the Jew where he talks of Jesus being God. The Chronicon Paschale tells us he was martyred for his faith in 165 A.D.

Polycarp was a Christian martyr and disciple of Ignatius who spoke of Christ. He died c.163 A.D.

Theophilus, bishop of Antioch was the first writer we know of to use the term "Trinity". He wrote between 168 and 181/188 A.D.

Irenaeus on Christ's Divinity (ca. 185) in his work Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies)

1. Of Jesus he says "He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men; --all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him." AH III.19.2 (Ante Nicene Fathers 1: 449).
2. "He, therefore who was known, was not a different being from Him who declared, 'No man knoweth the Father,'but one and the same, the Father making all things subject to Him; while He received testimony from all that He was very [true] man, and that He was very [true] God, from the Father, from the Spirit, from angels, from the creation itself, from men, from apostate spirits and demons, from the enemy, and last of all, from death itself." AH, IV, 6,7 (ANF, 469).

Note: Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon (in France), was a disciple of Polycarp, and a martyr who lived from 120/140-202 A.D. He wrote a long work against heresies of this time. The Didache (or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles) was an anonymous church manual, written about 150 A.D., though it could be as early as 120 A.D.

Tertullian on the Divinity of Christ (ca. 200)

1. The first use of the Latin word trinitas with reference to God is in Adversus Praxean and De pudicitia. The first to use the term persona in a Trinitarian & christological context asserting in Adv. Praxean 12 that the Logos is distinct from the Father as person and that the HS is the "third person" in the Trinity."
2. Adv. Praxean 27 states that there are two natures, one human and one divine, which are joined in the one person Jesus Christ.
3. In his Apology 21, speaking of the Word, he says, “we have been taught that he proceeds forth from God, and in that procession He is generated; so that He is the Son of God, and is called God from unity of substance with God. . . . Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled. . . . That which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is make a second in manner of existence--in position, not in nature. . . .in His birth God and man united.”
4. In On the Flesh of Christ 5, he asks, “Was not God really crucified?”

Clement of Alexandria on Christ's Divinity (ca. 210 AD)

1. Exhortation to the Heathen, 1: “This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) ad of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man--that Author of all blessings to us. . . . This is the New Song, the manifestation of the Word that was in the beginning, and before the beginning.”

Didache (ca. 125 AD)

"then baptize in running water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Early Christian Fathers, p. 7)

Pope Dionysius to Dionysius of Alexandria, [262 AD]

He uses the term Trinity and describes the unity of the three persons to prove that they are not three gods. Neunier-Dupuis, The Christian Faith, #301-303.

Origen (ca 230 AD), On First Principles 1.6.2

“For in the Trinity alone, which is the author of all things, does goodness exist in virtue of essential being; while others possess it as an accidental and perishable quality, and only then enjoy blessedness, when they participate in holiness and wisdom, and in divinity itself.”

The siblings of Jesus [just for interest’s sake]

"Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?" [Matthew 13:55]

"Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children." [Matthew 27:56]

"Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, the Brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him." [Mark 6:3]

"There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;" [Mark 15:40]

"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him." [Mark 16:1]

"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

And knew her not Until she had brought forth her firstborn Son: and he called His name, Jesus!" [Matthew 1:24-25]

The brothers names were, James, Joses, Simon and Judas, and one of the sister's names was Salome. We are unaware of the name of the other.

Arguments about the death and Resurrection

Details of the death and resurrection of Jesus are described in the following Gospel passages, presented here, not as evidence but as a navigation tool for quick reference:

Mark 15:33 to 16:8 (Verses 16:9 to 16:20 are possibly a later forgery inserted by an unknown author long after the original book was written)
Matthew 27:52 to 28:20
Luke 23:44 to 24:12
John 19:29 to 20:18

The metaphysical

1. This is the cornerstone of Christianity and the only sure affirmation of the correctness of faith in the second and third persons of the trinity.

In this article, the analogy is used that you cannot see the proof until you ‘first buy the ticket’. The analogy can be extended to include a carnival sideshow – you’re not going to see the half man/half woman until you ‘pays yer money’ and go inside.

The vast majority reading this have either not bought the ticket or have paid only lip service and are therefore not on the inside. I am on the inside by virtue of my commitment. The whole of this series of articles is therefore rendered pointless, if we are not arguing from the same set of premises ... as indeed most of us are not.

Many will strongly dislike such a smug, elitist, patronizing attitude but it is largely irrelevant, in the context of this issue, what either you or I like or dislike. It doesn’t provide proof one way or the other.

There are similarities in arguing whether Macintoshes are good computers or not. Mac users say one thing, PC users say another. Mac users were probably PC users before but few PC devotees were Mac users before. PC users are arguing from their intuition, talking of flexibility and add-ons while the Mac user speaks of elegance and the sheer joy of the operating system.

In short, as before, there is no viable argument – they are at cross-purposes.

If you demand that I show ‘proof’ that the resurrection was true, I can do just that for you, no problems – buy the ticket, be fully committed, nothing lacking and the proof shall be given. There are any number of sites around which will show you how to make that purchase.

Not wishing to do this, the naturalist rationalist refuses to accept these terms and yet again demands ‘scientific proof’.

The Christian turns round and asks for the rationalist to explain the human spirit, in scientific terms.

The rationalsit responds with talk of synapses and so on but confuses the route with the substance and flatly refuses to concede that the metaphysical can be a proof, which brings us right back to Hume et al.

The Christian then turns round and asks the naturalist rationalist to disprove the resurrection, according to his ‘scientific methodology’. If the NR is educated, he calls on the gnostics, the Kabbalah or whatever and begs the question or else he tries to turn it back on the Christian again with demand for scientific proof.

The Christian answers that he can give the proof – here ‘tis. Just buy the ticket and voila.

And so on and so on.

Left in this impasse, the naturalist rationalist has no choice but to resort to the historical record, which I’ve presented in this series of articles, already knowing it provides evidence, lots of it but not final proof per se. However, added to the confirmation after buying the ticket, it passes the most stringent of tests.

It’s far more cogent than the agnostic ‘well, I just don’t believe it until you prove it’. This is the same argument as the Scottish anti-gun blogger who recently decided to ignore the available evidence and go with his intuition instead.

The Christian, either from intuition, from the historical record or both, finds faith, this faith leads to his commitment and the commitment automatically provides the confirmation he seeks. Any committed Christian knows this and the longer he goes on, the more daily occurrences which take place, until eventually, the sheer weight of occurrences defies remaining scepticism.

By the way, beware of anyone who writes, in the comment section, ‘I’m a Christian but …’ If he has not received the confirmation, then he’s not a Christian, he hasn’t yet bought the ticket, with its stringent requirements for entry.

Having said all that, N2 below here gives a different take on this theme and then some of the common arguments are presented below that.

2. "The Resurrection of our Saviour is not properly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order neither proved nor provable, which Christian consciousness has little by little inferred from other facts."

This statement agrees with, and is further explained by the words of Loisy ("Autour d'un petit livre", p. viii, 120-121, 169; "L'Evangile et l'Eglise", pp. 74-78; 120-121; 171).

According to Loisy, firstly, the entrance into life immortal of one risen from the dead is not subject to observation; it is a supernatural, hyper-historical fact, not capable of historical proof. The proofs alleged for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ are inadequate; the empty sepulchre is only an indirect argument, while the apparitions of the risen Christ are open to suspicion on a priori grounds, being sensible impressions of a supernatural reality; and they are doubtful evidence from a critical point of view, on account of the discrepancies in the various Scriptural narratives and the mixed character of the detail connected with the apparitions.

Secondly, if one prescinds from the faith of the Apostles, the testimony of the New Testament does not furnish a certain argument for the fact of the Resurrection.

This faith of the Apostles is concerned not so much with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as with His immortal life; being based on the apparitions, which are unsatisfactory evidence from an historical point of view, its force is appreciated only by faith itself; being a development of the idea of an immortal Messias, it is an evolution of Christian consciousness, though it is at the same time a corrective of the scandal of the Cross.

The burial argument

Dr. William Lane Craig, the Alexander von Humboldt researcher on the Resurrection, summarizes recognized observations about Mark's account of the burial of Jesus when he states:

It is generally acknowledged that the burial account is part of Mark's source material for the story of Jesus' passion. This gives good reason to accept the burial as historical, on [these] grounds:

1. insufficient time for a legendary burial of Jesus to arise;
2. the presence of eyewitnesses who could affirm the story;
3. Paul's probable knowledge of at least the pre-Markan Passion story.

There is an absence of a competing burial account. It seems that no Jewish polemic or critic of the Resurrection in the first century has ever contested the burial account. Theologian Wolfgang Trilling observes that "It appears unfounded to doubt the fact of Jesus' honorable burial - even historically considered."

German New Testament critic and nineteenth century liberal scholar Rudolf Bultmann agrees that the pre-Markan account of the burial by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb wrapped in linen is not significantly embellished but, rather, a seemingly straightforward account of the burial of Jesus.

A comparison with any of the apocryphal gospels would show that such legendary development had not been incorporated into the earlier Gospels. These later fabrications speak of events that are theologically pregnant with garnished sayings that clearly mark the account with legendary fiction.

By contrast, the pre-Markan passion narrative does not contain any legendary material which bespeaks a simple account of the discovery of the empty tomb.

The Jewish authorities would have gladly exhumed the body and paraded it through the streets of Jerusalem for all to see. This would have capped the empty tomb myth forever.

Belief and fervour

The disciples of Jesus believed that he had risen from the dead. The impact that the death of Jesus had on the disciples was tremendous since in the minds of the disciples it demonstrated that Jesus was really not the Messiah but a man cursed under the law of God (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23).

Because of Jesus' death there was utter despair in the community of the disciples who followed their beloved teacher and master. But when the women's report about Jesus' Resurrection surfaced and the disciples themselves verified it, their despair turned into victory.

Pre-existent awareness of resurrection as a phenomenon

There were accounts of bodily resurrections of individuals by ancient Jewish prophets (cf. 1 Kings 17:20-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37; 13:21) as well as by Jesus himself (cf. Mark 5:41-43; John 11:41-45). So a resurrection from the dead in a Jewish context would be of no surprise.

The impossibility of surviving the crucifixion

Journalist Lee Strobel interviewed physician Alexander Metherell on the extent and impact of the crucifixion on Jesus. Although no reputable scholar is willing to sacrifice his integrity and suppose that Jesus may have survived the crucifixion, this naturalistic alternative has been entertained in contemporary popular literature on the subject.

It is gratifying to see that virtually no known scholar supports the apparent death theory. The extent of the damage to Jesus' body brought on by the crucifixion and previous flogging make it almost impossible to think that Jesus could have eventually survived his asphyxiation or piercing of the pericardium of the heart by a Roman lance.

See this article for a more extensive analysis of the crucifixion from a medical perspective.

The argument for ‘best explanation’

JH: I feel this argument, often put by apologists, is flawed but I offer it in the spirit of a more complete analysis:

Premise 1: The Resurrection hypothesis has a non-negligible prior probability.
Premise 2: If the Resurrection hypothesis is true, then the historical facts are true.
Premise 3: The historical facts are true. Therefore, any observed facts about the events following Jesus' public execution are best explained by the Resurrection hypothesis.

As I say, I’m not arguing this at all but include it for the hell of it.

Mathematical probability

This is included only for a bit of fun.

An article in The New York Times of May 11, 2002, written by Emily Eakin, reviewed a conference on ethics and belief at Yale University in April, 2002.

Eakin said Richard Swinburne, a Greek Orthodox professor of philosophy from Oxford University, used a probability formula known as Bayes's theorem to assign values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus' behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after his death.

In plain English, Professor Swinburne's calculations allegedly show that the probability that the Resurrection really happened is a staggeringly high 97 per cent.

Objections to the resurrection

The disciples, it is said, stole the body of Jesus from the grave, and then proclaimed to men that their Lord had risen.

This theory was anticipated by the Jews who "gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, saying: Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep" (Matt., xxviii, 12 sq.).

The same was urged by Celsus (Orig., "Contra Cels.", II, 56) with some difference of detail.

But to assume that the Apostles, with a burden of this kind upon their consciences could have preached a kingdom of truth and righteousness as the one great effort of their lives, and that for the sake of that kingdom they could have suffered even unto death, is to assume one of those moral impossibilities which may pass for a moment in the heat of controversy, but must be dismissed without delay in the hour of good reflection.

1. Had the body been stolen by his followers, all that would be needed to disprove the disciples' claim would be to produce the body. No body has ever been produced.

2. There were Roman guards at the site of the tomb. How, then could any of Jesus' followers have stolen his body? But there is One who, if you accept His claims, could have disappeared quite easily.

3. There was a giant stone covering the tomb, which would have taken several people to move. The guards could not have overlooked such an operation, unless the One who moved it dot dot dot

4. Historically, we know that the early followers of Y'shua were persecuted for their belief. They were offered two options: renounce their belief in the resurrection or die, it seems unlikely that, were the disciples to have stolen the body, they would have all been ready to die rather than confess their deeds.
It is true that people die everyday for beliefs which are not true but these are fabrications which they fully believe to be true. How often do people die for what they patently know to be a fabrication? For what purpose?

5. Whatever else can be said about the original followers of Y'shua, they themselves certainly believed that Y'shua rose from the dead.

The 'Swoon Theory' and 'One of Many Resurrections' theory have been largely abandoned by historians but are still maintained by skeptic sites around the web. They need no further treatment here.

Textual contradictions

[A] detractor of the Resurrection [who] posits contradictions in the story of Judas Iscariot's suicide to the conclusion that the gospels are not trustworthy seems to be assuming that textual conflict implies the invalidation of the manuscript containing it.

This is a leap of logic and an improper view of historical inquiry. This would mean that any document of antiquity, if it contained any internal errors whatsoever, would have to be ruled out completely.

[D]ocuments may contain errors of specific instances but can still be useful in the panoply of information that is provided as well as the core information that can be properly extracted. Instead, any discrepancies present would simply be confirmation that plagiarism was not a factor.

Pilate’s removal of the body

Some of this literature includes Hugh Schonfield, The Passover Plot (New York: Bantam, 1965) and Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail (New York: Delacorte, 1982).

This latter work envisages a premature removal of Jesus' body from the cross prior to death. The authors suggest that Pontius Pilate may have been bribed to do so.

The glaring problem here is that this account fails to embrace the narrative in its entirety and lacks any important follow-ups that would have surely resulted.

For example, if Pilate was bribed to remove Jesus from the cross then any Christian movement occurring in Jerusalem would have been silenced by the procurator's confession. Any Christian proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead would have been countered with confessions of Pilate's grace for the dying Jesus.