Posts tagged ‘Jesus’
“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 drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst 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 foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” – Josephus, from Antiquities of the Jews
Josephus was a Jewish historian. He was a law observant Jew who lived from approximately the years 37 to 100 C.E. He watched and chronicled, among many other things, the existence of Jesus and his ministry and the birth of the fledgling church.
Why is he considered so important to Christianity? He wasn’t even a Christian. Well, he’s vitally important to Christianity because he provides us with an impartial view of the times. The writers of the Bible can be accused of bias for Christianity. The gospels, for instance, could be said to be pro-Christian propaganda.
What proof do we have in the year 2010, for instance, that Jesus even existed? Some atheists question not only Jesus’ divinity but whether or not such a historical figure even lived. Josephus puts that rumor to death.
Josephus was raised in Jerusalem to a family with priestly and royal connections. He was a soldier and a diplomat. He was a Hellenistic Jew (which meant that he believed that Judaism was not in conflict with Graeco-Roman thought) but also a Hebrew patriot. His works were written in Greek, and he is considered to be a Roman apologist. He was a Pharisee by birth but perhaps not by inclination. He served for the Jews in the first Jewish-Roman revolt, although there is some question as to his loyalty since he was the only surviving member of a suicide pact.
His most important works were The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. His works chronicle not only the early Christian church and Jesus but also the first Jewish-Roman revolt and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. Because of Josephus we have an account of Masada, the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise to power of Herod the Great. His works directly reference John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, and James the Just.
The oldest surviving manuscripts of Josephus’s works date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Justin the Martyr failed to include Josephus’ reference to Jesus in his Christian apologies, and Justin was a known admirer of Josephus’ writings. This leads some to doubt the authenticity of Josephus’ account of Jesus. They believe that the information may have been added later by someone with a pro-Christian agenda.
Many other passages, beyond the one quoted at the beginning of this article, however, corroborate New Testament characters and stories and the existence of the political climate and social mores that are present in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. These passages are unchallenged by scholars. It seems likely that there may have been some tampering with the text in calling Jesus the Christ, since Josephus was not a Christian, but there seems little doubt that he would have included information about Jesus.
This account of Josephus’ life and work is grossly oversimplified. To read more about Josephus for yourself, check out these links:
The New Testament consists of 27 books written by an assortment of different authors. There’s a lot of argument and speculation about who wrote a great many of the books, with some scholars even insisting that some of the Pauline letters were not written by Paul. There isn’t even any agreement about when the books were written.
The gospels could have been written as early as the 50s C.E. or as late as the second century. The debate for when and who wrote many books of the New Testament is important because it establishes the authenticity of the books. If the gospels were written within the Apostolic Age, then there is a good chance that they were written by eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.
If the date of authorship is later, then the gospels lose some of their clout as they are most certainly a written version of an earlier oral tradition. And we all know what happens when you play a game of Telephone.
The earliest church didn’t see a need for a New Testament. The Jewish scriptures were their scriptures. No need to reinvent the wheel. Also, early Christians were convinced that Jesus’ return was imminent. They wouldn’t have seen the importance of preserving church tradition or the stories of Jesus because they were convinced that Jesus was coming for them before they could have children to whom they might pass it on.
This might explain some of Paul’s views on celibacy and marriage, which would have been contrary to Jewish tradition. These views, in turn, undoubtedly influenced the monastic tradition.
Some extremely conservative evangelicals would argue that all four gospels were written by disciples or contemporaries of Jesus. But I would ask you to remember that these are the same people who like to say that Moses wrote the Torah, which requires him to have written of his own death. Seems unlikely to me. So, I think we have to at least be open to the possibility that the Gospels were written after the death of Jesus’ contemporaries.
Does this mean that we should automatically disregard the New Testament as nothing but propaganda for a fledgling religion, a sect of Jews who were concerned with communal living? Well, oral history isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to scripture. The myths that make up Greek and Roman mythology were originally transmitted this way. This is also probably true for much of the Old Testament as well.
One great argument for the accuracy of oral tradition is the commonality of the flood myth amongst various cultures. Given that it’s a story that circulated through numerous peoples in geographical areas that couldn’t have influenced one another, there seems to be at least one case for the relative accuracy of oral tradition.
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:6-8)
This post is about John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. John and his brother James were Galilean fishermen from a family of distinction. They were originally disciples of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Some say that John and Andrew were cousins of Jesus, through their mother, Salome.
John, like Peter, was sometimes quick to anger. He seems to have been a favorite of the Lord’s since he was present at many important events in Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus was on the cross dying he asked John to take care of his mother Mary in his absence and even told her that she had a new son in John.
John was one of the key leaders in the early church. Along with James the Just, Peter and Paul, he built the early Christian church and presided over the church in Ephesus for many years. John had disciples of his own, and some scholars believe that it is one of these disciples and not John himself who wrote the Gospel of John.
The authorship of I John, II John, and III John, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation have generally been attributed to the disciple John, but modern scholars largely dismiss this idea, believing that the letters, gospel and apocalyptic vision were written by two or three separate authors.
John was present at the Pentecost and preached with Peter in Samaria. He was thrown in jail with Peter. John preached in Judea for twelve years until persecution of Christians caused them to generally flee the area, and he ended up in Ephesus where he stayed for many years. The letters that bear his name were written there.
John was the longest living of all of Jesus’ disciples and is believed to have lived until approximately 100 C.E. Although he was eventually exiled on the island of Patmos and spent time in prison for his beliefs, he is the only one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples to escape death from violence (Judas having taken his own life and the others suffering martyrdom).
The Gospel of John is a lasting tribute to his memory. It is my personal favorite gospel, in that the language is of a superior literary quality. It’s also more concerned with theology than the other gospels. John’s gospel is less concerned with presenting factual evidence for Jesus’ divinity and establishing his claim as Messiah and more concerned with conveying the essence of Jesus’ message: love one another.
The other three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are generally grouped together and referred to as the synoptic gospels, so named because they have many incidents in common with one another. Matthew, Mark and Luke seem more preoccupied with a historical account of Jesus’ ministry than with a summary of his message.
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
If you haven’t done so already you really owe it to yourself to read his message. The first link goes right to the Bible Gateway site where you can read the entire Gospel of John online.