Title: The Credibility of Christ
Focus: Even though there is evidence for the existence of Christ, we still have to accept him as the son of God on faith.
Function: To motivate the hearers grow in their faith in Jesus
Text: 2 Corinthians 2:14 - 3:18
Intro: 1. That the Bible was the word of God and authoritative used to be an axiom 2. Since the emergence of 19th century higher criticism, people began to doubt 3. Some claim that the Jesus of the Gospels never existed a. Some claim he is a fabrication of the disciples b. Some believe him to be a Pauline fabrication 4. This skepticism has led to the “quest for the historical Jesus” a. The Jesus seminar (used 4 gospels and Gospel of Thomas) b. Come out with a red letter edition of the Bible c. Nearly all of what is in the canonical Gospels a fabrication 5. Ancient writings contain all kinds of fairy tales and legends and truths a. There are those that are a complete fabrication - Cinderella b. There are those that contain a kernel of truth - King Arthur c. There are those that are more factual - Julius Ceasar killed by Brutus 6. “Did Jesus really exist?” I. All ancient sources agree that he at least existed A. He is mentioned in Josephus’s Antiquities Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He grew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. We was the Christ, and when Pilate at the suggestion of the principal men among us had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had forwtold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day. B. He is mentioned in rabbinic writings 1. Called him an illegitimate son of a Roman soldier 2. Mother’s name was Mary, a dresser of women’s hair 3. He was a revolutionary & scoffed at the words of the wise 4. Worked miracles by means of magic from Egypt 5. A heretic who sinned and cause the multitude to sin 6. Led Israel astray and deceived Israel 7. About 33 yrs old when he was put to death C. He is mentioned in Roman sources 1. Tacitus (115 AD) - Christ was executed in Judea under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius 2. Thallus (52 AD) - Explains the darkness of the crucifixion as an eclipse 3. Several others (Suetonious, Pliny, Lucian) mention Jesus as the founder of the Christians D. None of his enemies ever claimed he did not exist 1. They took for granted his life and death 2. They considered him blasphemer, troublemaker, but not a myth 3. If Jesus was a myth, it would have been easy to claim so II. Was Jesus a legend? A. This is the position of many modern scholars 1. Use both historical and source criticism 2. Goal is to reconstruct what “really” happened 3. Unstated presupposition - Gospel accounts are fabrications with a kernel of truth B. But isn’t it natural to think that a person like Jesus would have legendary status and folklore surrounding him? 1. Even someone as recent as Daniel Boone has folklore 2. Like any other famour character, Jesus legends did crop up, and some are preserved in N.T. apocrypha (2-3 century) a. Infancy narratives arose about Jesus and Mary both b. As a child, Jesus recurrects dried fish, molds clay sparrows and brings them to life c. A boy accidentally bumps him, he strikes him dead 3. Other “Gospels”. eg: Gospel of Thomas (5th century AD): “Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life. Jesus said: Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she doo may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” 4. These “legends” originated at a time much later than Gospels 5. Church leaders recognized the existence of these fals Gospels and therefore came up with a “canonical list” C. One of the things a historian does is to separate fact from fiction 1. Lukes writing resembles the genre of ancient history a. Lk 3:1 - Roman histories do time in this way b. Luke 1:1-4 - Notice his goal is that of a historian 2. Even though Luke not an eyewitness account, it trustworthy D. We do not have one, but four Gospel accounts 1. Luke a companion of Paul and highly educated 2. Mark, according to Papias wrote down reminisces of Peter 3. Matthew, a tax collector and apostle 4. John, Jesus’ closest friend III. If Gospels are historical, why so many difficulties in comparing them? A. Skeptics claim Gospels are fabrications because they are not alike. B. The nature and purpose of the teaching concerning Jesus 1. Earliest recorded preaching of Jesus in the epistles of Paul a. Purpose - Not to teach all there is to know about Jesus b. Paul centered on the crucifixion and resurrection 2. In the later half of 1st century, our Gospels were written which expanded the preaching of the early evangelists 3. Was their goal to give a “history” of Jesus? a. Consider that we called writers “evangelists” b. John 20:30-31 - So that you may believe C. Are sermons and class material necessarily chronological? 1. The Gospel writers were preachers, not historians 2. That is why the Gospels are not chronological a. They are ordered for purpose b. Eg. Matthew arranges many teachings by topic rather than by chronological order D. So next time someone claims they are inaccurate, remember this IV. One thing lesson does not emphasize in all of this - Faith A. Bottom line is not whether we can “prove” Jesus, but whether we are going to choose to believe in him B. Gospel of John emphasizes belief - Some did, some didn’t 1. 5:31-39 - “Testimony” of John, works, God, and the scriptures 2. Some refused to believe a. 4:48 - Some needed to see signs to believe b. 6:26-30 - Still wanted a sign!!! (6:66) c. 11:46-48, 53; 12:10-11 - Raising of Lazarus d. Mk 3:22-29 - Cast out demonds by power of demons 3. Those who wanted to believe but struggled with it a. Jn 11:20-27, 39-45 - Martha b. Jn 14 - Let nor your hearts be troubled, belive in God and 4. Inclusio (bookends) to the Gospel? a. 1:12 - Those who “believe” became children of God b. 1:45-50 - Nathaniel doubted but “believed” c. Jn 20:24-29 - Thomas doubted and believed 5. We are blessed because we have not seen and believe C. Someone once said that people “choose” to believe what they want 1. Studied with a guy who purposefully doubted everything 2. As we saw in John, no amount of “proof” will convert a skeptic D. This is why the Bible emphasizes faith so much 1. 2 Cor 5:7 - We walk by faith not by sight 2. Heb 11:6 - Without faith it is impossible to please him Concl: 1. Only looked at “evidence” to strengthen your faith 2. Cannot “prove” Jesus of the Gospels - Implies there is something more authoritative and trustworthy than the word of God 3. In all the effort to “prove”, be careful not to downplay faith 4. Purpose of this is to strengthen our faith, not convert unbelievers 5. Strongest defense for the Christian faith is Love (Jn 13:34-35)