Recently, I entered into a squabble with an atheist on The Forerunner discussion board on the topic of whether Jesus ever existed.
This atheist insists that the early Christians were actually Gnostics who took some ancient pagan myths and invented a god-man hero by the name of Jesus. He also insists that there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus of Nazareth was a true historical person. This idea is popularly known as the “Jesus myth.” When I asked who among academic scholars actually accepts the Jesus myth conspiracy theory, I was pointed to the writing of Earl Doherty and Timothy Freke.
The problem with writers such as Freke and Doherty is that they are authors who read some books written in the late 19th and early 20th century heyday of higher criticism. They are basically regurgitating the modernism of 100 years ago.
J.P. Holding comments:
Does the “Jesus-myth” have any scholarly support? In this case, to simply say “no” would be an exaggeration! Support for the “Jesus-myth” comes not from historians, but usually from writers operating far out of their field. G. A. Wells, for example, is a professor of German; Drews was a professor of mathematics; Acharya only has a lower degree in classics; Doherty has some qualifications, but clearly lacks the discipline of a true scholar. The greatest support for the “Jesus-myth” comes not from people who know the subject, but from popularizers and those who accept their work uncritically. It is this latter group that we are most likely to encounter – and sadly, arguments and evidence seldom faze them. In spite of the fact that relevant scholarly consenus is unanimous that the “Jesus-myth” is incorrect, it continues to be promulgated on a popular level as though it were absolutely proven.
A quick read proves these are not accomplished scholars. They are self-proclaimed “experts” who present a one-sided view. The basic tactic of Earl Doherty is to deny everything. There are evidences for the existence of Jesus that are accepted by most modern scholars, but Freke and Doherty simply deny the facts.
In “The Jesus Puzzle,” Doherty makes some amazing denials, such as:
In the first half century of Christian correspondence, including letters attributed to Paul and other epistles under names like Peter, James and John, the Gospel story cannot be found.
Here Doherty makes a huge assumption popular among the 19th century critics that the Gospels were not written in the first century. Most scholars now admit that they were.
He then goes on to state that none of the Gospel story appears in the Epistles.
Here is just a brief summary of the “non-narrative” evidence from the Epistles that also appear the Gospel stories. Those points also attested to by non-Christian writers are marked with an asterisk.
1. Jesus was a human person (Paul, Hebrews)*
2. Jesus was a Jew (Paul, Hebrews)*
3. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews)
4. Jesus was a descendant of David (Paul)
5. Jesus mission’ was to the Jews (Paul)*
6. Jesus was a teacher (Paul, James)*
7. Jesus was tested (Hebrews)
8. Jesus prayed using the word ABBA (Paul)
9. Jesus prayed for deliverance from death (Hebrews)
10. Jesus Suffered (Paul, Hebrews, Peter)
11. Jesus interpreted his last meal with reference to his death (Paul — mentioned also in the writings of Tacitus and Josephus)*
12. Jesus underwent a trial (Paul)*
13. Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate (Paul)*
14. Jesus death involved the Jews (Paul)*
15. Jesus was crucified (Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter)*
16. Jesus was buried (Paul)
17. Jesus appeared to witesses after death (Paul)
So it is clear to see that the most vital elements of the Gospel story appear in the Epistles.
In “The Jesus Puzzle,” Doherty then goes on to write that:
The Gospel Jesus and his story is equally missing from the non-Christian record of the time.
Ironically, what follows is the list of pagan historians who do mention Jesus. Doherty counters this by denying the fact that they all mention Jesus. Then in the same paragraph he admits that the these writings do mention Jesus. He brushes this off by claiming that they must be forgeries — even those that are not doubted by scholars. It’s a classic example of the “begging the question” fallacy.
The problem is that historians do not universally consider these passages to be forgeries. In addition, Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, Lucian and Celsus refer to Christ and Christians sometimes in negative terms. This is hardly the strategy for a Christian forger who is trying to gain credibility for his movement.
When we look at Freke (great name!) we see much of the same posturing by a man holding a B.A. who professes to be a modern day Gnostic. The agenda here is not scholarship, it is to promote Neo-Gnosticism.
To say that Paul was a Gnostic is to deny many the points made by Paul (in the above list) that are incompatible with the religion of Gnosticism. Since the Gnostics believed that all matter is evil, they taught that Christ was a spirit being and had only an illusive body. The Gnostics taught that Christ was a spirit temporarily inhabiting the body of the man Jesus who died.
Freke describes his beliefs on his website as – “the timeless wisdom of awakening” – and this gem: “that the Earth could be conceived as a Global Brain which was in the process of awakening to itself, with the explosion of connections being made across it right now comparable to neural networks.”
Yes, I am supposed to take seriously the rantings of a man who claims that the earth is a giant brain and yet there is no evidence that the historical Jesus existed. Am I supposed to take this seriously? In fact, it strengthens my faith as a Christian to see that the alternative is so, well, “Freke-ish.”
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High Quality Paperback — 219 pages
Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy
Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.
Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.
Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
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A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
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