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Jesus of Nazareth
I found this on the Amorality of Atheism Facebook website page. I don’t endorse the idea that all atheists are amoral though.
Read an article in the Belfast Telegraph recently which said that “Today religion remains a popular historical hobby but not, thankfully, something we take seriously any more”. But whilst the narrow circle of people the author knows might not take religion seriously, there is one person they cannot afford not to take seriously.
He lived millennia ago, travelling by foot, with no car or horse, never leaving a rural area only slightly larger than Northern Ireland. He was a tradesman most of his life, and taught for only three years, spending most of his time with small crowds, and dying in his early thirties. He left behind no children, no army, or political lobby group, to trumpet his cause.
Yet today He is the central figure of the world’s best-selling book, and the subject of millions more. His name is known all over the globe, and spoken in hundreds of different languages. His followers are the most persecuted people on Earth, yet increase by 25 million every year, and his message has outlasted kingdoms, empires, dictators, revolutions, ideologies and religions.
He is arguably the most influential, lauded, loathed, misunderstood, controversial and quoted man to ever walk the face of the Earth. You can write him off as a liar, cast him aside as a lunatic, or look on Him as Lord, but one thing you cannot do is ignore Him. — Andrew Kirke
I’d also add that contrary to what some rags or magazines or online sites put out today of all days, or in prior Easters (Raw Story, CNN, Huffington Post) that no serious historian has ever seriously believed that Jesus did not exist. Only historical illiterates do. Christ was mentioned in Jewish, Greek, and Roman writings. For historians of the 1st century that is more than enough to prove he lived. Keep in mind that what we know of Alexander the Great or Aristotle depends on one source or sources written hundreds of years after their life as in the case of the former.
My faith in Jesus often wavers. I have a doubters’ mind. Nevertheless when I see atheists or non believers rubbish the man’s existence it is as if my faith is renewed again. For in doing so I am confronted not with reasoned belief but blind ignorance. An ignorance at its heart rooted in the desire of the accusers a wish for him not to exist. After all if Christ did exist the onus becomes on the modern unbeliever to take more seriously his words. This can be problem for them, indeed for any soul.
But their refusal also forces me to re-look the evidence for Christ. It also causes me to learn more things about the man. In a weird way it strengthens my faith. Christianity is after all a faith which is soaked in contradictions. It’s also one grounded in the search for Truth. Ecce homo — Behold the man. A man whose life changed humanity.Published in History, Religion & Philosophy
@PaddyS: I believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant event in human history.
What’s really interesting, Paddy, is that when we do take something seriously, we talk about it in religious language. I was just having a conversation with a “post-Christian” atheist friend about racism. “Is racism a sin?” I asked. Absolutely! He said.
What language do we have, other than this, to talk about what matters?
Western Atheist morals are all based on a Judeo-Christian morality. Period.
A blessed Easter, Paddy!
What is sin ?
While this is certainly far more true than I think most people realize — me included, until rather recently — I think you’re overstating it. There are no surviving, contemporary, narrative accounts of Alexander’s campaigns, but we know of at least three that existed and the documentary sources we have rely directly on them. This is independent of the archaeological evidence, which is (for obvious reasons) massive.
To be clear, I think the documentary and archaeological evidence for Christ is pretty solid.
Are Christian morals ex-nihilo?
I think that we need to separate the fact that Jesus of Nazareth existed and the idea that he is the son of God. There is overwhelming evidence for the existence of the historical rabbi Jesus of Nazareth – this has little bearing on the man’s divinity which is a matter of faith.
After all there is overwhelming historical evidence for the existence of Gaius Julius Ceaser and yet that has no bearing on whether he is a descendant of Venus.
That’s all true, but one has to start with the existence of the mortal man before one can begin the journey to divinity.
I think you elide a number of questions:
1) Did Jesus exist at all?
2) Was Jesus the son of god/redeemer/saviour?
3) Was “his message,” or this or that element of it, his? Or ascribed to him by later writers?
4) Was his message, or this or that element of it, true?
5) Is his message, or this or that element of it, moral or virtuous?
One might acknowledge the reasonably good historical evidence of his existence without necessarily answering “yes” down the line to the rest of those questions.
Happy Easter anyway.
One thing’s for sure, the doubts of Christ through the centuries have come and gone to no avail. All believers were at one time nonbelievers, so we/they all have become comfortable with the argument “either Christ was the Son of God, or a lying lunatic” one or the other. Also interesting is that the Bible, which had at least 44 prophecies of Christ, has yet, to my knowledge, been refuted on anything stated between it’s covers let alone the messianic prophesies. If anything could be refuted nonbelievers would be shouting it from the rooftops.
The problem with atheism is the same as the problem with theism. When an atheist says for example, “No I don’t believe Jesus is the incarnation of God” while a Christian says ” I believe he is, ” they seem to both be assuming that they know what it means for someone to be the incarnation of God. They just disagree on whether Jesus meets that criterion. The problem is that no one knows what that criterion even means. Even if you had proof of his miracles and resurrection, what does it mean for someone to be the incarnation of God? So to some extent the atheist is doing the same thing as the Christian, namely, positing that being the incarnation of God is something that has a clear meaning, or a meaning at all.
BTW, I should also have wished everyone a Good Friday and a Happy Easter.
The case for the divinity of Jesus is directly tied to the resurrection. The case for the resurrection is made by the attitude of His disciples after his crucifixion. They were in hiding figuring they were next. Once they had seen the evidence with their own eyes they went out and told the world – knowing the price they would (and did) pay.
People won’t die for a lie if they know it’s a lie. Those who had seen the evidence firsthand were no longer afraid.
You forgot a few, Cato!
6.) was his message true because he said it, or did he say it because it was true?
also, as Bob points out
7.) what does it actually mean to be the Son of God, Messiah, Redeemer, Christos, etc.?
8.) Does the meaning change over time? If it means something different now than it did in 70 CE, were they less sophisticated then, or are we just clueless now? And who do we mean by “we” anyway?
Some of us have a lot of fun thinking about and arguing about, these things. There’s a very interesting Great Courses course you can get from Audible (for one credit!) on “How Jesus Became God” that explores this in ways that just amplify the complexity, though in a way that is intellectually stimulating, naturally!
“Happy” Good Friday…?!
The meaning did not change. This is a slander against Jesus and all Christians that is perpetuated by that “How Jesus Became God” course by famous anti-Christian Bart Ehrman.
The Gospel that was preached by the eyewitnesses has been faithfully handed down to us. The idea that orthodox Christianity developed over decades or generations is a popular fiction that keeps going around due to anti-Christian activists.
Chaplain Kate’s point #8 is similar to Cato R.’s point #3. They are both false.
Even the Jesus Seminar anti-Christians accepted 1 Thessalonians as undisputed and genuine. Consider this, from the first chapter:
We have a robust, fully Trinitarian opening to this letter from 52 AD, which gives evidence that by the year 50, less than 20 years removed from the Resurrection, Christian orthodoxy was stable and fixed in its current form.
For a very detailed, academically-footnoted history that rips Ehrman’s tall tales apart, see How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? by Larry Hurtado:
You know this because you were there?
Any lack of conformity to, or transgression of God’s law.
Not really. “Ex-nihilo” is usually used to describe God’s work of creation, something from nothing. Morality is a reflection of God’s character. It is revealed rather than created.
Well, now. We weren’t there for a lot of events that no one disputes. While we should always test and question every story–I believe–it is okay to come to a point in which we decide a story is true.
I know because I have studied the history of the transmission of the accounts by the witnesses.
Christian morals are derived from the Law of Moses, as commented on by the Jewish Prophets, and as commented on by Jesus, as amended by His work, and as interpreted for us by St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John and St. James.
I chuckle when people accept the witness of individuals 1000 years deceased and yet question the veracity of those still living.
And I chuckle when people say things indicating they believe that those living 2,000 years ago were not aware of the general tendency of dead people to stay dead. True, Jesus had raised the dead in their presence (Jairus’ daughter, the unidentified boy in Nain, and most famously Lazarus), and he had told the disciples – the 12 in the inner circle, at least- to expect the Resurrection and still they did not, by their own admission. With the New Testament documents and other early Christian documents such as the Didache, we are dealing with texts that were written down within the lifetimes of the people who eyewitnesses to the events described and in some cases (1 Corinthians) within five to seven years. With the Gospels the time gap between the events and the written records is at most 3o years (c.f. Beatty Papyri, Rylands MS, Matthew Fragments, et alia). That alone makes them more worthy of belief than absolutely anything we have about any other founder of a world religion, including Mohammed. If one wants to make chronological proximity to the events the deciding criterion for their veracity, the New Testament is orders or magnitude ahead of any other ancient source.
So, no the whole thesis of “Jesus was made into God later” does not fit the evidence. It’s not even close. The divinity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity, is present in the very earliest 1st-century, 1st generation Christian documents. It was not developed later.
You’ve seen the “Anti-Lincolnism” site, right?
No, but I’ve since learned my dog is probably an aLincolnist.
I know, but that’s not what I was getting at.
My point is that Western morals and philosophy are as Greco-Roman as they are Judeo-Christian (and they are both). Moses, Jesus, and Paul are essential to our civilization, but so are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.