Are New Testament References to Jewish Persecution of Jesus and the Church True?
How do we know that New Testament references to Jewish persecution of Jesus and the Apostolic Church weren’t written by later editors (redactors) who wanted to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus?
Current liberal scholarship thinks that Jesus must have been a very different kind of person than described in the Gospels. Their presuppositions require them to believe Paul and later New Testament writers “invented” Christianity and recreated Christ to fit the doctrinal/theological needs of the church.
“More recent arguments against the historicity of the controversies emanate from circles that have attempted, often for quite blatant twentieth-century motives, to deny that Jesus clashed at all with his Jewish contemporaries. Within post-holocaust theology, as we saw earlier, this has been part of the attempt to reclaim Jesus as a good first-century Jew who would be horrified at the thought of a ‘Christianity’ attempting to base itself upon him. This obviously carries with it the necessity to argue a case not just about Jesus, but about the early church: Jesus did not oppose his Jewish contemporaries, but the early church did theirs….” (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 373)
One can only “reconstruct Jesus” (i.e. radically define Him and His mission) if one starts out with the assumption that the primary sources of information about Him—the New Testament Gospels and Epistles—are “biased” and unreliable. In other words, reconstructing Jesus requires bias against the New Testament witnesses.
Timothy Luke Johnson, along with other scholars, has issued a crushing rebuttal of liberal “Jesus” scholars who, while playing to their audience of Post-modern academicians, attack the doctrinal foundation of Christianity and the authority of the New Testament documents with subjective and pseudo-scientific methodologies. (See The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospel by Luke Timothy Johnson)
N.T. Wright has shown that accurate understanding of Jesus requires pertinent historical questions:
- “What do we know about the cultural and religious context of Jesus’ world?”
- “What was Jesus’ relation to the Judaism of his day?”
- “What were His aims?”
- “Why did He die?”
- “Why did Christianity come into being and take the form it did?”
Careful examination of the evidence relating to these questions has overwhelmingly confirmed the reliability of the New Testament and the validity of beliefs the Christian church held from its apostolic beginnings. (See The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright.)
Today there is a growing assortment of books by believing scholars that demonstrate the historical accuracy of the New Testament. Two of the most concise and easily read summaries of the evidence are Is the New Testament Reliable, A Look at Historical Evidence, by Paul Barnett and The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig L Blomberg.