Category Archives: Christianity

Is it likely that Jesus’ body was not buried?

In recent years, a few New Testament scholars[1] have suggested that after Jesus was crucified his body may not have been buried as described in the Gospels. They conjecture that his body was likely buried in an unmarked grave or simply thrown on the ground to be devoured by scavengers. While it is true that the bodies of some crucified people were thrown into mass graves, the evidence surrounding Jesus’ death does not support the speculation that his body would have been discarded in this manner. Along with the testimony of first-hand witnesses preserved in the Gospel accounts, there are many other significant reasons to assume Jesus’ body would have been buried.

After Jesus was crucified, Jewish leaders were bound by their own customs and religious law to provide a proper burial for him. Regardless of their personal hostility towards Jesus, they couldn’t ignore issues of ritual purity without damaging their own credibility and authority as guardians and defenders of Jewish tradition. Josephus, the most important Jewish historian of the period, wrote: “The Jews are so careful about funeral rites that even malefactors (criminals) who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset.”[2] The Temple Scroll from that time period discovered at Qumran[3] specifically calls for the burial of crucified Jews.

John 19:31-34 confirms these ritual purity concerns by noting that the Jews asked the Romans to facilitate the deaths of the crucified so that they wouldn’t be hanging on the cross on the Sabbath.[4]All four Gospels confirm that Joseph of Arimathea took custody of Jesus’ body and provided an honorable burial.[5]

Pilate had already experienced sufficient conflict with the Jews and would have been hesitant to unnecessarily offend them. The heightened nationalism and explosive political climate of early first century Palestine would have made it extremely unlikely that any Roman governor would violate Jewish sensitivities by leaving the body of a crucified Jew on a cross on the eve of the Passover. The same concern with Jewish opinion that made Pilate willing to execute Jesus in spite of personal reservations,[6] would have made him unlikely to leave Jesus’ body on the cross on a holy day at the symbolic center of Jewish society.

[1] Two well-known scholars are Jesus Seminar member and former Catholic priest John Dominic Crossan and University of North Carolina professor and author Dr. Bart Ehrman.

[2] Also see Against Apion 2.211

[3] The region in southern Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

[4] Archaeological evidence confirms the precedent of crucified Jews receiving proper burial: “We actually possess archaeological evidence from the time of Jesus that confirms the claims we find in Phil, Josephus, the New Testament, and early rabbinic literature, to the effect that executed persons, including victims of crucifixion, were probably buried.

“The discovery in 1968 of an ossuary (ossuary no. 4 in Tomb1, at Giv’at ha-mMivtar) of a Jewish man named Yehohanan, who had obviously been crucified, provides archeological evidence and insight into how Jesus himself may have been crucified. The ossuary and its contents date to the late 20s CE, that is during the administration of Pilate, the very Roman governor who condemned Jesus to the cross. The remains of an iron spike (11.5 cm in length) are plainly seen still encrusted in the right heel bone. Those who took down the body of Yehohanan apparently were unable to remove the spike, with the result that a piece of wood (from an oak tree) remained affixed to the spike. Later, the skeletal remains of the body—spike, fragment of wood, and all—were placed in the ossuary.” (p. 54, How God Became Jesus)

[5] Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51; John 19:38

[6] Matthew 27:11-26

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

How Powerful is the Devil?

Even though the Scriptures tell us little about Satan’s origin, they do inform us that he is a fallen angel of considerable power. The New Testament describes him as a “great enemy” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”[1] Jesus Himself said that Satan is such a force to be reckoned with that He is the only one strong enough to conquer him.[2]

Jesus would go on to refer to Satan as the “ruler of this world.”[3] Paul called him the “god of this age.”[4] He also portrayed him as the head of a great, highly organized “army” of evil spirit beings.[5] He is a cunning liar, capable of seducing Adam and Eve by disguising himself as an “angel of light.”[6] The book of Revelation says that his powers of deception are so potent that he is able to lead the whole world astray.[7]

While Satan is portrayed in the Bible as powerful, dangerous, and an adversary to be taken seriously, he shouldn’t be considered in any way equal to God. He is a creature with creaturely limitations. His power is nothing in comparison with that of the Creator of heaven and earth. And according to James 4:7, because of the power God gives to His children, if we submit to Him and resist the devil, Satan will flee from us. Although subtle and cunning, the devil is an already defeated foe who will continue to resist God furiously until the time that he will be sealed in hell forever.

[1] 1 Peter 5:8

[2] Mark 3:27

[3] John 12:31

[4] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[5] Ephesians 6:12

[6] 2 Corinthians 11:14

[7] Revelation 12:9

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Did Jesus Claim He was God?

Perhaps at first glance, a modern person wouldn’t think that Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus didn’t use later, more familiar, Christian terminology. He didn’t refer to Himself as the “Second Person of the Trinity,” but He did identify Himself with God in a thoroughly Jewish way, in accordance with the language and expectations of His contemporaries.[1]

When He declared, “I have come,” He indicated that He had a supernatural origin.[2] When He forgave sins, He claimed divine authority.[3] His enemies recognized the implications of such a claim.[4]

Jesus applied the title “Son of Man” to Himself in a unique way that clearly implied to contemporaries He was claiming equality with God. He consciously acted in ways that corresponded to God’s actions in the Old Testament [5] and claimed (divine) power to choose people to carry out his purposes.[6]

Jesus’ miracles also confirmed that God was personally and supernaturally acting through Him in history. In the Gospels Jesus demonstrated divine power by calming the stormy seas, healing sickness, restoring deformed body parts, and raising the dead to life.[7]

Jesus accepted reverence and worship that Paul, as a mere man, rightfully rejected, and Jesus even claimed authority over the angels of heaven.[8]

His enemies may not have been aware of all of these things and their implications, but they were certainly aware of enough of them to realize Jesus identified Himself with God. In fact, it was a key part of the case they made for His judgment and execution.[9]

[1] “To get a genuinely biblical ‘high Christology’—a strong identification between Jesus himself and the God of Israel—you don’t need the kind of explicit statements you find in John (“I and the father are one,” 10:30). What you need is, for instance, what Mark gives you in his opening chapter, where prophecies about the coming of God are applied directly to the coming of Jesus.” Wright, How God Became King, p. 90 and following

[2] “When one examines these sayings of Jesus, the closest matches with them in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition are statements that angels make about their earthly missions (within the Old Testament, see, e.g., Dan 9:22–23; 10:14;11:2). I found twenty-four examples in the Old Testament and Jewish traditions of angels saying, “I have come in order to…” as a way of summing up their earthly missions. A prophet or a messiah in the Old Testament or Jewish tradition never sums up his life’s work this way.” How God Became Jesus p. 97

[3] Matthew 5:17; Mark 10:45; Luke 12:49; 19:10; Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5-11; Luke 5:20; 7:47-50

[4]Mark 2:7; see also “When one examines these sayings of Jesus, the closest matches with them in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition are statements that angels make about their earthly missions (within the Old Testament, see, e.g., Dan 9:22–23; 10:14;11:2). I found twenty-four examples in the Old Testament and Jewish traditions of angels saying, “I have come in order to…” as a way of summing up their earthly missions. A prophet or a messiah in the Old Testament or Jewish tradition never sums up his life’s work this way.” How God Became Jesus p. 97

[5] For example, he chose 12 disciples as the foundation of a new Israel that would carry out God’s plans in the world.

[6] Matthew 11:27

[7] Mark 4:39; 5:21-24; 6:30-44; 45-52; 9:25; Luke 4:39; 5:1-11; Matthew 12:9-14; 17:24-27

[8] Luke 24:52, Acts 10:25-26, Matthew 13:41; 25:31

[9] Mark 2:7; Mark 14:63-64

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

Were the early Christians capable of producing the Gospels?

Skeptics of the historical accuracy of the New Testament often think that first-century Jews living in the Roman Empire were overwhelmingly illiterate and hence incapable of producing an accurate written record of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Some of the reasons given for the low literacy rates within the Roman empire are 1) there was no need for writing among the lower classes, 2) the lack of public education inhibited literacy, and 3) the prohibitive cost of writing materials made it difficult for people to afford to learn the skill.[1]

We now know that literacy within the first-century Palestinian and Roman cultures was much more widespread than these skeptics assume. Literacy was actually highly prized in the first-century Roman Empire. It allowed people to read publicly posted documents, deal with legal matters, and operate businesses.

Many surviving examples suggest literacy levels were relatively high and widespread. These examples include personal letters, legal deeds, divorce certificates, writing on coins, and household inscriptions that were clearly not written by scribes. [2]

But the primary reason to believe that Jesus’ first followers were capable of producing the documents that would later become the Gospels is that the witnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry were not just run-of-the-mill inhabitants of the Roman Empire; they were Palestinian Jews.[3]

Jewish culture, more any other ancient culture, was founded on familiarity with a written document—the Mosaic Law.[4] Every synagogue in every small community, no matter how rudimentary and humble, was a center for religious teaching that included passing on the ability to read and discuss the Scriptures.

Internal evidence within the New Testament reinforces the view that written records were made of Jesus’ teaching long before the Gospels were written. We have good reason to believe that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry were supported by written as well as oral sources from the very beginning.[5] The early followers of Jesus were more than capable of faithfully chronicling His message for future generations to read.

[1] Where literacy exists, people have always been highly motivated to learn to read and write. Just as parents would pass along other skills to children, they pass along any literacy they had gained. Even rudimentary skills in reading and writing are useful, and anyone who wants to learn how to read could certainly find ways of doing so. Within the Roman Empire, even the lower classes were highly motivated to attain a degree of literacy and adept at improvising less expensive writing materials than papyrus and parchment.

[2] (The Jesus Legend, p. 244).

[3] The great volume of writings found at Qumran testifies to a high degree of Jewish literacy. Jesus’ followers “were not all illiterate peasant laborers and craftsmen, as the form critics supposed, but evidently included people who studied the Scriptures with current exegetical skills and could write works with the literary quality of the letter of James. Leaders who were not themselves literate could employ the services of other believers who were” (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, p. 287).

[4] “These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.* And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NLT)

[5] Luke notes, quite incidentally, that “many” before him had attempted to write accounts of what went on among the early Christians (Luke 1:1). In addition, some of Paul’s sayings in his letters parallel sayings in the Gospel traditions. This may suggest that sayings were written down and circulated well before the Gospels were written. Even more forceful, however, are the strong verbal similarities between Mathew and Luke when recording material not found in Mark. These similarities can be accounted for most easily by supposing that Matthew and Luke shared a common written source (Q). And, as a number of scholars have noted, there is ample evidence of early collections of Old Testament proof-texts (testimonia) in written form that were apparently used in preaching and in apologetic settings in the early church (The Jesus Legend, p. 250).

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 2.33 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Should Christians be tolerant?

Let’s be honest about the emotional reaction some of us have towards the concept of tolerance as a principle. If there were ever a buzzword for our culture, tolerance is it, and many of those who uphold this principle are often doing so in ways that are synonymous with an anything-goes belief system. And if compromise and a wishy-washy belief system is what we mean by tolerance, then we can certainly understand why a Christian would not want to be labeled as tolerant. But in a strict sense, tolerance has nothing to do with compromise. It is simply the ability to allow for views different than our own.

So, should Christians be tolerant? Well, that depends. If tolerance means compromising our belief in the message of Jesus Christ, the story of the Bible, or historic Christianity to avoid conflict with others, then no. But if tolerance means that we strive to live unwavering in our convictions and at the same time love others unconditionally, then yes. In this sense tolerance would look a lot like embracing prostitutes, tax collectors, drunks, and other sinners like ourselves. It would look a lot like emptying ourselves of our spiritual pride, looking beyond people’s actions, and seeing them as people who matter to God. It would look a lot like submitting ourselves to the will of God and laying down our lives for those who desperately need His mercy and forgiveness.

In other words, it would look a lot like Jesus.

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 3.63 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...