At the end of the 19th century, a school of liberal theologians arose in Germany. They were called the higher critics. Their proclaimed goal was to isolate the “historical Jesus” from the “God-man” who has been worshipped and adored by the Church for two millennia.
The divinity of Jesus Christ was presumed to be a myth. His many miraculous works were deemed to be legend. The circumstances of His life, His teachings and works were brought into doubt. The effect of these apostates has grown to the current day as they have stripped layer upon layer from the Jesus of the Bible, until they now have a common man.
The claims of the higher critics are nothing new. In the first and second centuries, early Christians had to deal with ridicule and abuse from Jewish rabbis and intellectual skepticism from Greek scholars and philosophers.
Throughout the early centuries, bold apologists for the Christian faith, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian and Justin Martyr, wrote volumes of practical wisdom defending the Gospel from the attacks of pagan critics. Succeeding centuries gave the Church many other brilliant experts in apologetics. But once Christianity had taken hold of the western world, a new breed of skeptics arose out of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
“Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1778, said that in one hundred years from his time, Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history, while the circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it goes” -(Sidney Collett, All About the Bible).
“Only 50 years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles” (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible) — a great irony of history!
The early American patriot, Thomas Paine, published Age of Reason, a popular book ridiculing Christianity. Although Paine was a Deist and not an atheist, he popularized the theory that the books of the Bible, especially the Gospels, were full of contradictions. This view continues to be popular among scholars even to this day.
In the 1800s, rationalists such as Hermann Samuel Reimarus and David Strauss published sensational works denying the supernatural miracles of the Bible. The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who coined the phrase, “God is dead,” is said to have lost his faith around the time he was reading Strauss’s Life of Jesus Critically Examined.
Most recently there was the Jesus Seminar, a council of liberal theologians who meet twice a year in an attempt to debunk the accuracy of the Gospels. Many of their “discoveries” are simply repeats of what the liberal theologians of the 19th century said. Strangely, these opinions are rigidly held even though 20th century archaeology and textual criticism has refuted many of their claims.
The Jesus Seminar’s attempt to debunk the Gospels as invented history is not based on a thorough examination of the Bible’s manuscripts. Unbiased examinations reveal ample evidence that the Gospel accounts are, in fact, historically accurate. But these “experts” are undaunted by facts. Even today, the skeptics continue to spread the error of a “historical Jesus.”