Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Passion of the Christ, 3:
Gospel Truth?
GEM 04:10:23

AS we continue to look at The Passion of the Christ, it is clear that we must address several burning questions, first of all: is Jesus just a fairy tale? For instance, a 1998 survey, of Britons of ages 18 to 24 years, revealed an astonishing gap in what many of us think we know about Christ: for, half of the people surveyed have been led to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was not a real historical person!

But, in fact, this sad statistic simply reveals the impact of persistent attempts by many opinion leaders, media houses and educators to reduce our Lord to little more than a Santa Claus figure. Worse, the statistic also reflect badly on the competence of those who lead and staff these key social institutions. For, if those who have just completed sixth form, or even a first degree in today’s TV-saturated, Internet-age UK have been largely deceived about the following easily established historical facts about Jesus, just what else is being twisted, manipulated, suppressed or even censored?

“Easily established historical facts . . . ?” Indeed:

? First and foremost, Jesus is the subject of no less than four biographies written by his contemporaries well within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses: the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. By 95 – 110 AD, these biographies were being cited by knowledgeable people, such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius. And, while these biographies, strictly speaking, are anonymous, it is equally clear that there is a 100% consensus of the early church’s leaders that they were in fact written by: Matthew, Mark (summarizing Peter’s testimony), Luke (long since shown to be a habitually accurate historian), and John – who was known by Polycarp and Ignatius.
? Second, the greatest Roman historian of the era, Cornelius Tacitus, in his Annals, sums up how the infamous Nero tried to divert suspicion that he had set the AD 64 fire in Rome: “he . . . inflicted the most cruel tortures upon a group of people detested for their abominations, and popularly known as ‘Christians.’ Their name came from one Christus, who was put to death in the principate of Tiberius by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. Though checked for a time, the destructive superstition broke out again, not in Judaea only . . . but even in Rome.” Gaius Suetonius, in remarking on Nero, affirms that “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a body of people addicted to a novel and mischievous superstition.”
? And, just what was the nature of such ‘mischievous’ ‘abominations’? Pliny, Governor of Bithynia, wrote to the Emperor Trajan in 110 AD, concerning his trials and tortures to extract confessions from Christians: “. . . they all declared that the sum of their guilt or error amounted only to this, that on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn . . . to Christ, as to a god, and to bind themselves by an oath, not for the commission of any crime but to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery and breach of faith and not to deny a deposit when it was claimed. After the conclusion of this ceremony it was their custom to depart and meet again to take food; but it was ordinary and harmless food [i.e. the Eucharist of bread and wine, not cannibalism! And certainly not to indulge in incestuous orgies -- an equally vicious and just as widely believed rumour. (Thousands of Christians died unjustly because of these vicious, widely believed lies.)] . . .”
? Similarly, Josephus, the C1 Jewish historian, also refers to Jesus in two passages, the shorter indicating that “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ – James by name [i.e. leader of the Jerusalem church in 62 AD] – and some others” were put to death by the Sanhedrin in the gap between Festus’ Governorship and that of his successor. The longer but somewhat disputed passage at minimum affirms that Jesus was reputed to be a wonder-worker and was crucified under Pilate.

For any other figure, that would be more than enough to secure his place as a real person in history. But, Jesus’ life story cuts across the dominant anti-God superstitions of our age: for as Peter said in Acts 10, he was a miracle-working Messiah anointed by God to destroy the works of the Devil. Worse, the official (and, sadly, martyr’s blood-sealed) testimony of the church – traceable to ~ 35 AD – is: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” [1 Cor 15:3 – 6.] And, for 2,000 years now, that testimony has been backed up by the continued life-transforming, miracle-working power of the gospel in millions of lives, including the members of this panel. So, sadly, the truth is being trimmed – that is, censored -- to fit what many in our age want to believe.

But, that is not all that we should consider. For, if the educational and media leaders of our own age are so frightened of or hostile to the above cited records and testimony that they have suppressed the facts and have then boldly lied or subtly implied that Jesus was simply a legendary figure, is that not a stunning indictment? Moreover, if this has demonstrably happened on an issue so supremely and eternally important, about what else are the educational authorities and media elites distorting the truth? Clearly, these are troubling issues that we should soberly discuss. So now, let’s talk . . . AMEN

No comments: