Archive | Easter

Was the Resurrection Story Borrowed from Ancient Myths (Alternative Theory #4)

ancient-myths

What is the Contention?

Contention: The story of Christ’s resurrection was actually borrowed from ancient mythology that predated it by many years. While these myths eventually died out, for some reason the Christ story was able to survive. Why should anyone give special pleading to Christianity? As Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy put it:

“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem?” (The Jesus Mysteries).

For me, this myth about the Resurrection of Christ is the most disturbing. My negative feelings toward it do not come from its viability, but from two things: 1) it provides an incredibly effective sound bite that can quickly bring about severe doubt in believers who have never examined the claim, even though 2) it is about the most easily dismissible fable concerning the Resurrection of Christ.

I ran into a distraught Christian the other day who told me her faith was in a tailspin due to this tale. She simply did not know how to respond, and felt like her faith was losing is grounding. Many “Internet atheists” love this argument. I don’t know whether they have ever looked into it themselves (I have to believe they have not), but it is blindly and irresponsibly replicated in blogs, videos, and atheistic evangelism (yes, there is such a thing!) slogans. Continue Reading →

Spy Wednesday

spyWednesday

Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were rival Jewish religious groups at the time of Jesus.  Think of them like two different denominations.  These two groups were always disagreeing.  The Sadducees were pretty liberal.  They didn’t believe in the resurrection, they didn’t believe in the afterlife and they didn’t believe in angels.  The Pharisees, however, believed the Old Testament clearly taught about angels and the afterlife.  The Pharisees and Sadducees never looked at a religious topic the same way.

On one issue, however, these two groups perfectly agreed.  What was it that brought together these two groups?  They both wanted to kill Jesus. They both equally hated Jesus.

They were jealous of his great following and great power.  Who else could heal at will?  Who else could feed thousands from almost nothing?  Who else could control the weather?  Who else could give sight to the blind?  Who else could make demons tremble?  Who else could raise the dead?  The religious leaders despised Jesus and they despised his message.

The leaders preached a message of salvation by religious works.  If you do enough good stuff God will pay you back with salvation.  Jesus commanded all people, including the prideful religious leaders, to repent of their messed up theology.  Salvation is not payment for religious works.  Salvation is a gracious gift from God.  The Pharisees and Sadducees hated this message.  They wanted to earn their salvation.  If you can earn your salvation then you can boast.  They enjoyed boasting.  The message of Jesus ruined their lives.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were supposed to be shepherding the people of God. They were simply to communicate the heart of God to God’s people.  Instead of sending people to God, they were trying to figure out a way to murder the One sent from God.  The leaders are too proud to follow Jesus. It is better, in their mind, to kill Jesus.

The leaders have a problem. How do you murder someone who is deeply loved by the people?  Also, how do you murder someone without a hit to your approval ratings?  They wanted to murder Jesus swiftly before most people knew what had happened.  The Pharisees knew they couldn’t try to corrupt one of the disciples.  This would be far too risky.  If they asked one of the disciples they would risk word getting out about their intentions.  They assumed all the disciples would die protecting Jesus.  How could they kill Jesus without killing their reputations?

Continue Reading →

Overturning Tables

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Matthew 21:12-13 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

This is the last week of Jesus’ life on earth.  Every moment of this week drips with meaning and passion.  Jesus will stay in the immediate area of Jerusalem for the next 5 days until, “It is finished.”

How does our Creator kick-off His last week on earth? Jesus has every right to spend this day relaxing.  He could focus on saving His energy for the cross.  Jesus, however, has something more pressing than His own comfort.  He wants to give us all a very clear message.  Jesus pays the temple a visit.

For centuries people came near to God at the temple. In order to make a sacrifice for your sins you needed to give the priest a lamb. The innocent lamb would then symbolically take your sin.  The blood of the lamb, as it is being sacrificed, would pay for your sin.  If you were too poor to afford a lamb, you could purchase a pigeon.

As Jesus walked into the temple on this day he was filled with righteous anger.  Jesus was furious with the jacked-up religious nonsense happening at the temple. People were not allowed to bring their own animals for sacrifice.  The animals had to be purchased by the people running the temple. The animals were much more expensive at the temple than in the countryside. In addition to the animal prices being super high, the temple only allowed you to buy the animals with temple money. How did you get temple money?  Well, you had to exchange your perfectly good regular money for temple money.  Converting your money to temple money, of course, came with additional transaction fees.  People had to pay extra money to then buy the extra expensive animals.  The poorest of people were being robbed as they simply desired for God to forgive their sins.  This didn’t sit well with Jesus.

The Height of Love, Jesus, spent the beginning of this week taking care of business. He entered the temple and let his actions do the talking. The One who originally designed the temple now drove the crooks away.  He flipped over their tables. He flung the temple money as far away as possible.  Even the lowest of people will have full access to God. Jesus picks a fight with anyone keeping people from God.

Jesus makes the statement, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  Jesus wants prayer.  He wants us speaking with Him.  He wants us near to Him.  He doesn’t want to take our money.  He wants our presence.  Our attention.  Our affections.

Continue Reading →

How Jesus Became God—or How God Became Jesus? A Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book and a Concurrent Response

Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God, released just yesterday, is the most recent example of a scholarly tradition of books with similar titles offering to explain how Christianity turned a simple itinerant Jewish teacher into the Second Person of the Trinity. Two of the earlier, notable such books were Richard Rubenstein’s When Jesus Became God (1999) and Larry Hurtado’s How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (2005). In what may be an unprecedented publishing event, a book by evangelical scholars critiquing Ehrman’s book was released at the same time yesterday, entitled How God Became Jesus. The concurrent publication of the rebuttal book was facilitated by the fact that its publishing house, Zondervan, is owned by HarperCollins, which published Ehrman’s book under the HarperOne imprint.

Ehrman, of course, has more name recognition in the English-speaking world than any other biblical scholar today, due especially to his de-conversion story (enthusiastically disseminated in the mainstream media) of abandoning evangelical Christian belief and becoming an agnostic. Sadly, he is probably a hundred times better known than any of the five scholars who contributed to How God Became Jesus. In particular, it is a shame that Craig A. Evans is not better known. Evans is also the author of what I consider the stand-out chapter responding to Ehrman. More on that later.

An Overview of the Two Books

Ehrman’s thesis is that Jesus was not viewed, by himself or his disciples, as in any sense divine during his lifetime, but that belief in his divinity arose almost immediately after his disciples had visions of Jesus that they interpreted as meaning that God had raised him bodily from the dead. Continue Reading →

Top 5 Resurrection Myths – #4: The Apostles Stole Christ’s Body

Seminary level course on the Resurrection taught by Gary Habermas: 13 more days to get it at a price you will never see again.  We need your help to make this course a reality.

The next resurrection myth is that the Apostles (or Jesus’ followers) stole Christ’s body. This particular hypothesis has been around longer than any other. The Book of Matthew speaks about this theory as having been created in order for the Jewish leaders to deny the resurrection. They bribed the guards to keep them quiet (which, as an aside, is good evidence that the guards were Roman and not from the temple — otherwise, why would the Jews have to bribe them?):

Mat 28:11-15
Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

It is interesting to note that by the time Matthew was written, this theory had been in circulation for nearly 30 years.

However, there are several problems with this theory:

1. The resurrection is evidenced by more than the empty tomb.

One positive about the stolen body theory is that it does well in assuming the empty tomb. This is a basic fact that most scholars, liberal and conservative, accept. Gary Habermas uses this in his “minimal facts” approach where he evidences the resurrection from a few basic facts that the majority of scholars accept.

But this theory fails today for the same reason it failed in the first century: The resurrection is evidenced by much more than the empty tomb. Of course, the empty tomb is a necessary condition for the event, but the appearances and ascension of Christ are also components that form the bedrock of the resurrection testimony. If the Apostles stole the body, how did they animate it to fool those who say they saw him alive? How did they make this body appear to ascend into heaven? How did they get this body to appear to Paul some years later? Continue Reading →

Top 5 Resurrection Myths – #5: Christ Never Really Died

This is a series on objections to the resurrection. It is to promote Gary Habermas’ course on the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus that he will be teaching here at the Credo House. We are attempting to get backing for this course right now. Please help us make this 30 session, seminary level course available to everyone. It will be available as DVD, streaming video, CD, steaming audio, and on the Credo Course App (coming after 6 Credo Courses are completed—early next year). We need your help to make this course a reality.

It is difficult to deal with alternate theories regarding the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. The difficulty lies not in that there are not many out there, but that it is hard to choose which ones pose the most legitimate challenges. One thing is certain: if a prima facie rejection of the possibility of a truly dead person coming back to life through the power of God was not present, then there would be no alternatives to the resurrection of Christ, as the evidence for any of these alternatives is not present. One has to reject the possibility of God raising a person from the dead and then begin to seek explanations that would not otherwise be evident.

The first alternative that I wish to talk about is the “Swoon Theory.” “Swoon” means to faint. This theory proposes that Christ never really died at all. Although not very popular (but, to be truthful, none really have a wide acceptance), this theory was promoted by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which is primarily known for its use by Dan Brown in his best seller The Da Vinci Code). As well, the theory has been popularized recently among Muslims, who traditionally reject Christ’s death on the cross. It was first proposed by H. E. G. Paulus in The Life of Jesus (1828).

Explanation of the Swoon Theory:

Jesus never really died on the cross. He was either thought dead and taken down, or intentionally taken down before death. He was placed in the tomb for a couple of days, then he regained his strength and presented himself alive to many people, including his Apostles. They were convinced that he had risen from the dead and spread this story, which formed the basis for the Christian message.

Why this must be rejected:

1. The nature of crucifixion.

Christ’s crucifixion was ordered by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The executioners were not a rogue group of lynchers who attempted to kill a man, but experienced soldiers who employed what was probably the most common form of capital punishment of the day. Crucified men generally died from asphyxiation due to collapsed lungs, but the executioners had a fail-safe to guarantee the death of the victim. In order to speed up the suffocation, they would break the legs of the crucified. In doing so, there was no longer any way for the dying man to use his legs to give his lungs room to breathe. Though one could live days on a cross without dying, once the legs were broken, death came very quickly. Additionally, if there was any uncertainty as to whether the man had perished, there was another way to finalize his death. They would spear the victim in the chest (which we see done to Christ). To say that Christ was still alive after all that is to say that the Roman executioners were incompetent in their job (an idea which does not have any extrabiblical historical support, as Romans were widely believed to have perfected the “art” of crucifixion) and that Mary and Josephus, along with all those involved in the burial, were mistaken in their belief that Christ was dead. This is very difficult to believe with intellectual integrity. Continue Reading →

A GPS Easter (31.77849852, 35.22985115)

Do the numbers in the title look familiar? If I had tattoos, there’s a strong chance I’d have “31.77849852, 35.22985115″ etched somewhere on my body. For six hours on Good Friday, between 9am and 3pm, Jesus hung on the cross at the GPS coordinates of: 31.77849852, 35.22985115.

In this post let’s walk through Holy Week in a fresh way. Let’s journey with Jesus through the lens of GPS coordinates. For each day I’ll give a quick overview of the day followed by significant GPS coordinates related to the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. Let’s start with Palm Sunday…

Palm Sunday

    What Happened?

  • Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem. Fully God and Fully Man. The Creator, standing in His creation, is headed for the cross. On Sunday He enters the city where He will die. He will never really leave this city. He came to earth to save you, to save me. Our sin has brought us separation from God and He is entering Jerusalem to take care of that once and for all. He is God so He can save us. He is also fully man so he can represent us.
  • How do people greet Him as He enters the city on Sunday…thankfully they give Him the honor He is due. John 12:12-15
  • Remembering Sunday

  • What is Jesus to you? Is He just a character in a Bible story? Or is He the living Savior of your life? As He stands overlooking Jerusalem on this day, where does He stand in your life?
  • GPS Coordinates of Jesus Weeping over Jerusalem: Latitude: 31.77801513 Longitude: 35.24187684 (see map below)


    View Palm Sunday in a larger map

Monday

    What Happened?

  • Matthew: 21:12-15… Jesus cleanses the temple in Jerusalem, he overturns the tables of money changers… the leaders don’t care… the Son of God steps into their world overthrowing their religiosity and then proving who He is by healing people and the religious people have lost all sensitivity to the living God. They are apathetic to a Savior seeking to change their worship.
  • Remembering Monday

  • If your life was laid out on several tables would Jesus come and overturn any of them? If so, repent. Don’t be like the indignant religious people who may have been convicted for just a second but then went on with their day no better for meeting Jesus. Be convicted of anything Jesus needs to overturn in your life and then let Him do it.
  • GPS Coordinates of Jesus Overturning the Tables: Latitude: 31.77887245 Longitude: 35.23601889 (see map below)


    View Holy Week – Monday in a larger map

Tuesday

    What Happened?

  • Jesus will spend these two days teaching people in Jerusalem. Matthew 21, 22, 23 will be rich reading during these two days. As you’re driving around town, periodically think to yourself…I wonder what Jesus is teaching people right now?
  • Remembering Tuesday

  • If you knew you only had 4 days left to live what would you spend your time doing? Jesus spent two days teaching. He places a huge value on our understanding of Him. Are you sitting at the feet of your Savior? Are you seeking to continually learn from Him?
  • GPS Coordinates of Solomon’s Portico where Jesus certainly did some teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday: Latitude: 31.77763207 Longitude: 35.23479580 (see map below)


    View Holy Week – Tuesday in a larger map

Wednesday

    What Happened?

  • The tempo of the Holy Week increases. This day is known historically as “Spy Wednesday”. For it is the day when Judas turns betrayer agreeing to show the chief priests where they could easily capture Jesus.
  • Remembering Wednesday

  • We can betray Jesus. We can make it all about us instead of about Him. Why did Judas betray Jesus? There could be many reasons. At the root of it He was selfish. He chose money over Jesus. He was in it for himself, not in it for Jesus. Are we “all in” in our relationship with Him?
  • GPS Coordinates for the Sanhedrin where Judas sells out Jesus: Latitude: 31.77524245 Longitude: 35.23138403 (see map below)


    View Holy Week – Wednesday in a larger map

Continue Reading →

My Hope for the Resurrection

(Lisa Robinson)

In a nutshell, my hope for the resurrection is that it be prioritized, remembered, embraced and identified for what it truly is – our Christian hope.

I hope it is prioritized…

In a week, that the Supreme Court examines DOMA and the gay marriage agenda is at the forefront, I fear that holy week has taken a back seat. Whatever challenges this hot-button topic brings to bear on the church it pales in comparison to remembrance of the signifying event in Christianity.

And it is our priority because the resurrection shows that God is sovereign over the events of this life.

I hope it  is remembered…

The resurrection gets so much attention at Easter time. But afterwards we go back to the cross. We embrace the cross, look to the cross, cling to the cross. Christ paid a tremendous sacrifice on the cross, serving as the subtitutionary sacrifice for our sins. It is there that the penalty of sin was paid. But our hope is in the resurrection because that is where our forgiven sins is truly expunged and new life experienced. As Paul reminds us,

Therefore, we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection. (Romans 6:4-5)

I suspect that the resurrection gets buried in the shadow of the cross because of what Tim Challies writes here, that we become more focused on putting off our sin than putting on the new man. But that is where are hope for Christ-likeness resides – in the new man, which comes by way of life in Christ because he is risen and sits at the Father’s right hand. That is resurrection!

This Christian life is one of continually putting off the old man with all its traits and putting on the new man. But our ultimate desire is not to be not-sinful but to be truly godly. We are not to aim at being not-sinful but to aim at being marked by Christian character. We experience the greatest success in battling sin when our desire is not only to stop sinning but to have our lives marked by the opposite character trait. The thief needs to do more than stop stealing; he needs to learn to be generous. The porn-addicted young man needs to do more than stop looking at pornography; he needs to learn to love and honor younger women as sisters. The angry mom needs to do more than stop lashing out at her children; she needs to learn to display patience and kindness. In each case the aim is not to stop sinning, but to be a display of Christ-like character.

Let’s keep the resurrection at the forefront after Sunday to put on Christ.

I hope it is embraced…

The resurrection of Christ points ahead to our bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-49) and acknowledgment that what is experienced in the present is not all there is. If there’s anything that the pains of contemporary society should reveal is that creation is groaning and longing for new life (Romans 8:19-22). And so we groan, in the already-but-not yet, “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23-24). So we embrace the resurrection looking forward to the day when groaning, pain, death, dying, disease, evil, discouragement, tragedy and every form of godless evil ceases (Revelation 21:1-4)

Because it matters so much…

Even at a time when at a time when we should be most hopeful, we can be endlessly distracted, discouraged or fearful. But my hope is that we look to the resurrection of Christ…because it is our hope.

Check out my blog at http://theothoughts.com/