What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looking for Links to Bloggers Writing on the Reason Rally?

For those who have been reading The Real Issue, you are finding out that there is a movement among us to do outreach at the Reason Rally which is hosting speakers like Richard Dawkins and P. Z. Meyers.  Here are some of the bloggers and their postings that are responding and resounding a rally cry among evangelicals and apologists with polemical writing.  

If you have a link or know of a link from an apologetics ministry that you would like to put on this list, please contact us and we will review and post.

Posts from friends on The Reason Rally:

Nota bene:  Yesterday, I received another comment from my Anonymous "atheist" poster.  Look for my "rejoinder" toward this vitriolic commenter.  - Rob  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Response to an "Anonymous" Commentor: An Atheist's Leaky Bucket

Wow!  I "who'd a thought" I would be getting some hate mail in my comments from posting the announcement  on the "Reason Rally.  Well here is the following comment that answers this question and to which I promised to this atheist a brief response.

It is the height of arrogance and obnoxiousness for evangelical christians to intrude on the Reason Rally. As an atheist, I need to reexamine my policy of not interrupting the church services of evangelical christians.   If you need a teddy bear, crutch, or imanginary friend to get through the day, then hug your teddy, use your crutch and talk to your imaginary friend.  BUT   Don't for an instant think that everybody else is so needy that they too must rely on your teddy bear, crutch or imaginary god.  Offering training on how to survive this "lions den" isn't humble, loving, or thoughtful, it is arrogant, obnoxious, and rudely intrusive. I can sum up the best approach in two words: STAY HOME. You will not be welcome.

I don't usually respond to those who post comments to my postings until now.   Why do that?   Because the comment by this "Anonymous" commenter is bringing in the common rhetoric that is parroted by many groupies of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.  Let me demonstrate how this comment by this "atheist" is like a leaky bucket with a lot of holes and that does not hold water.

Hole No. 1:  The accusation of arrogance and obnoxiousness.  Someone saying that "it is the height of arrogance and obnoxiousness" for an evangelical group of apologists to intrude a public event such as the "Reason Rally."  Why and how is this arrogant?  Why and how is this obnoxious?   Isn't this an obnoxious and arrogant accusation?   Think of it.  Here is a professing atheist making this statement that would give us a little indication that if any thinking Christian dares step foot near the Mall they are being arrogant.

This sounds a little insecure and conveys a faulty feeling of being intimidated, particularly with the end of the comment about training people to respond to atheism.  If atheism is true, then why should this person feel intimidated?  If atheism is true and Christianity is false then why should he/she feel that we are being obnoxious?  What is so obnoxious and arrogant about wanting to have a cordial conversation with someone holding an antithetical worldview like atheism?  What is so arrogant and obnoxious in wanting to  or train folks to respond to atheism?  Nothing, unless there is a feeling of intimidation or insecurity on the part of the atheist offended by this possibility. It seems to me that the commenter is conveying some unnecessary insecurities.  Besides if their atheism is true and Christianity is false, why would there be any need for being upset about our presence at the Mall?

Holes 2 - 4.  The commenters saying that we need things like a teddy bear, a crutch, or an imaginary friend are three holes making this poor atheistic challenge more cause for the "bucket leaking" profusely.  This comment is something that sounds a lot like rhetorical parroting coming from likely reading Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and those of their ilk.  Let me answer each of these in a short and orderly manner.

a.  The Teddy Bear remark is a poor demonstration of "porous" rhetoric.  When we think of teddy bears we might think of childhood and security.   We needed some security when we were younger and many a time, the teddy bear worked.

Let's assume that this is what this atheist is saying, that we are immature for believing in God.  How and when did we come to this belief?  The assumption seems to be that everybody comes to belief in God when we were little children?  If so has that belief left us?  Is it supposed to leave us?  Nonsense!

Let me use another illustration, to demonstrate this even further.  Since the teddy bear comment is insinuating childishness and immaturity, let's bring in some other childish dreams that many of us embraced as kids.  What about believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?  I have a question to anyone reading this blog as an adult, do you still believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?   Of course not!  Do you see how ridiculous that is?  Has anyone come to believe on the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus in their older years?  Of course not!   What about coming to faith in Christ as child?  What about in the later years of one's life?  Is that immature?  No, most certainly not!

Not everyone who comes to believe in God's existence or profess faith in Christ, does so at an early age.  In fact, many people do so in their adult years, and some come in the latter part of their life.  Is that insecurity?  No, particularly when there is an historical element to the Christian faith that this accusation overlooks.  Sure, when we come to faith in Christ, we are told that we are to do so with the faith of a little child.  But we are not to stay that way!  We are to grow in our faith, having the mind of Christ.  It is about what one says "having a child-like faith but we are to grow that faith into having an adult mind."

So with this part of the comment, we see another hole and the water continuing to leak out of the bucket.

b.  The leaking increases with his/her comment about having a crutch.   I wrote a posting on this several months ago entitled "Who Really Holds the Crutch?"  Sure I will admit that for some believers can be a spiritual crutch, but the same is true for atheists.  I will also admit that crutches can be handy and that the Christian needs a crutch, because they cannot have the hope of heaven without Jesus Christ's intervention in their lives.  What is the atheist's crutch?  It is not an intellectual decision but one of moral choices.  What kind of crutch does the atheist have?  One that is splintered and not able to hold the weight of the arguments against God.  So the crutch objection does not prove the atheist's objection against the existence of God, and this commenter's remarks are showing even more that his/her argument is not holding water.

c.  The final hole comes from this person's remark of needing an imaginary friend.  This one is one of childhood imagery as well.  The problem with this part of the comment is that because one cannot see God, God becomes an "imaginary friend" and implies immaturity on the one who believes in God.

To me atheism has a wild and very vivid imagination with things like pink unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters and an imaginary squibbon.  None of these things exist. Wow!  At the same time they are not compatible contrasts to the reasonable arguments for God's existence.

For the Christian, the Christian faith is an historical faith with an historical record of a God who responded and acted in historical time space history.  How do we know this?  We know this because we have an historical record known as the Bible which has been shown to be reliable.  More on this one at a later time.

From this atheist's comment, I have hope to have shown that the comment is not one of credibility and is a leaky bucket that does not hold any water.  It also does not give me any good reasons to stay home and not join my colleagues on the 24th of March.

So with that being said.  Thank you for your comment, but Sir or Ma'am, you are going to have to do better than that in giving reasons why I should stay home.  Right now, unless I am providentially hindered by OTHER MEANS than some atheist telling me to stay home, I am all systems go to join truereason.org on the Mall.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Thought or Two on the March 24th "Skeptic Fest"

As you know, I know that I posted www.truereason.org’s announcement, but I wanted to take a few moments to carry forward some thoughts about this rally.  Why I am excited about this rally from the side of believe is because of some of the things that I have found talking to atheists on a local board (FredTalk) and in some cordial (yes, cordial) face to face dialogue.  I was excited to see that those of us on the Christian Apologetics Alliance (CAA) have heard that there is going to be media coverage.  I don’t know if it is MSNBC, FOX, NPR or a combination of networks.  At the same time, this event is being billed by the new atheists and their "groupies" as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history.”

Thinking about this claim for moment, one might be inclined to think, why in the world would anyone want to waste a Saturday (or why would I want to waste my Saturday and take off a day of work, since I hope to join my group of fellow apologists) paying attention to all this noise?  This event has the likes of Richard Dawkins and P. Z. Meyers preaching to a choir of their groupies and dashboard doggies (blind followers).  I am wondering myself if Meyers is the newly ordained apostle of the new atheism.

We have also heard that there may be opportunities for rational and hopefully cordial discussion and discourse outside the polemics from the lineup of speakers.  This very well could be an exciting time for Christian apologists to share the truth of the Christian message.

If I can get the time off from work, I will be looking to take the trip 45 minutes up the I-95 corridor to Washington, DC.  Would you pray for those who get to go (and myself) that God will open up opportunities to share Christ person to person?  Know that we strive to take every opportunity to live out the apologetic mandate of 1 Peter 3:15-17 with every person as God grants us opportunity.

Of the handful of atheists that I speak with locally, some are hospitable but very hard, while others are pretty hostile, almost militant.  It is interesting to see their response when they find a Christian wanting to have an intelligent dialogue with them.  Some make exigent demands encased with loaded questions.  Some commit the ad hominem while others commit a genetic fallacy here or there or use some excluded middle fallacies to defend their point.

What I have also found out is that the dialogue does not last long as I hope, but with whatever opportunity, it is always important for me to try and (as Greg Koukl would say) "put a stone in their shoe", by giving them something to "chew on" that will not digest well.

Some of the things one will experience that I have recently experienced are things like the skeptic trying to change the conversation to something that they are more comfortable talking about in hopes of winning the "debate."  It is important that we keep on the initial trail and force them to wrestle with what we are trying to communicate to them.  (Once rapport is established and the challenge has been given, I like to start on the problem of evil and origin of morality).  Atheists hope to argue origins v. evolution, or authenticity of the Bible, Farrell Till-style.  The problem of evil or the origin of (or reasons for) morality bring some curious questions from those I have dialogued.

Following this posting, up until the Rally Day, I hope to have some postings that will expose atheism for what it is, a bankrupt world view full of no hope, no meaning, no purpose, and no recovery once this life is over.  As a request for prayer for Kathy's (my wife) cousin, who was just diagnosed with cancer.  We are still learning the details.  If you are serious about praying for this lady, please email me privately at rwlundbergjr@gmail.com and we can give you more details.






Monday, February 20, 2012

The Reason to Rally for Truth: Loving Our Neighbors in Washington, D.C

If we can make this event we are sure to take part.  Should we be providentially hindered from participating, we want to let you know about the following event through this announcement from http://www.truereason.org.   Here is the entire announcement with edits to make it pertinent to this blog.

DID YOU KNOW THAT. . . .

Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and other New Atheists are planning a “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. on March 24. They’re billing it as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” and they’re using it to trumpet their message that reasonable people reject belief in God.

We disagree.
Together, we represent Christians from the United States and around the world who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview. Our goal is to demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally.  We’ll be equipped there with:
  • Gifts of kindness to give away–free bottled water, for example
  • Mini-book (32-page) summarized versions of Reason Really, an exciting soon-to-be-published ebook written especially for this purpose.
  • Flyers advertising that ebook.
  • A limited number of copies of a currently published book on Christianity and atheism.
Further details on these books are available on request.

Join the groups of like-minded apologists and thinkers in Washington!

Come join us there! We invite you to unite with us in a spirit of grace and truth (John 1:14, 1:18), ready to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), with godly grace and wisdom (Col. 4:6).

This is not a counter-demonstration. We are going there to share Christ person to person as opportunity arises. We will not raise our voices. We will talk with those who want to talk with us. We will offer gifts and materials to all, but we will not press ourselves on those who do not wish to converse. Knowing that the way others may choose to gather near us is not entirely in our control, we will nevertheless attempt to avoid gathering groups larger than a handful of people.

Let us know how to contact you so we can share plans and resources.

Come fully equipped

We’ll provide you some advance training by way of Internet, so you will be prepared for interactions in this unique “Lion’s Den” environment.

The items you will have opportunity to share at the Reason Rally require some funding. We ask you to share in this by donating funds for what you will distribute there—and more than that, if possible, to help other ministries and individuals who will be there.


How Can I Help?

For now, there are three primary ways you can get involved!
First, join us in prayer. We are asking God to empower this loving, intelligent response to the Reason Rally. Our goal is to make a positive difference with each person we reach through this effort.
Second, join our contact list. This will allow us to keep you informed as plans progress for our response to the Reason Rally.
Third, consider making a donation. Even a small amount – $5, $20, or $50 – when pooled together, makes a big difference. We are seeking to raise a total of $5,000 for this outreach.

This united outreach is being led by:


Supporting Bloggers


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Intolerant Bumper Stickers

Have you ever wondered about the COEXIST bumper sticker?  I am sure many of us have seen it on the backs of cars and wondered what the person believes or what they mean by having this "intolerant" bumper sticker on their vehicle.  The other day, at work, I was in one of our service departments and there was one on the back of a van that had a "vanity tag" with a "Christian message" (I can only assume), a "Clergy" tag bracket, an ICHTHUS fish on the lift gate (it was a van), and the bumper sticker "COEXIST" (as you see diagrammed).  Confusing?  Possibly.  But what about it all by itself.

May I propose to you that these bumper stickers are simply intolerant?  They are a reflection of the religious relativism ideology that says essentially that "all religions say the same thing", and that Jesus is no different from Muhammad, Buddha or "the rest of the boys."  But is this bumper sticker really tolerant as some might try to promote?

It all depends on how one views tolerance and the whole toleration issue.  What does the culture decry?  The "new toleration" (which is really nothing new since the first lie in the Garden) is that you and I need to affirm and accept the differences between people, even the theological ones; and that we need to make it our primary goal not to offend anyone with our beliefs.  In practical terms, this means that people who believe in absolute truth must keep quiet about their convictions, in order to avoid offending others.[1]

In the light of this bumper sticker it means embracing and affirming all peoples' beliefs as no different from yours, a Muslim's, a Hindu's, a pagan's, and on and on and on.  The problem with this whole issue is that the word and the message of the COEXIST bumper sticker is that one cannot embrace two or more beliefs which are antithetical to one another.  Using the bumper stickers letters let me explain what I mean by this.

Let's look at it by way of each of the letters.[2]

The "C" is the crescent moon and star of Islam.  Despite the culture caving in to a Muslim worldview through laws and practices in pocket of this country, Islam is one of the most intolerant religions vying for world prominence.  If you are not a Muslim then you are an infidel is essentially the attitude of this religion.  Also if you look at the meaning of the word, "Islam" it does not mean peace.  It means "submission."  Submission to what you might ask?  It means submission without mixture of anything else to the religion of  Islam, the teachings of Muhammad, the Qur'an and the Hadiths.  If you and I were not to submit, then it is the "or else". . .  Does Islam sound like it wants to coexist with all the other religious and social ideologies?  I think not.

The "O" is the peace sign refers to pacifism. . . militant pacifism.  In fact if you are not a pacifist you are something else like a "warmonger," or someone filled with hate and vengeance.  Look at the world around us though.  We are in a world where,  as it would appear to reflect a history of increasing violence.  Politics and religious ideologies, even pacifism are not very tolerant if they think that everyone needs to be a pacifist.  In fact, Jesus' statement in the second part of the Great Command, "love your neighbor as yourself"[3] is in my mind the higher ethic and a fulfillment of what I call the horizontal commandments (man toward man) of the 10 Commandments.[4]

The "E" on this bumper sticker as one of the symbols for "gay rights."  If you don't know already, that those pushing for acceptance of the gay agenda, do not want to just get "married."  They are pushing for full acceptance into mainstream society.  While they may want to have the full benefit of "coexistence", there are those who embrace the moral law found within the monotheistic religions[5].  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have laws with consequences speaking to what God calls homosexuality, "an abomination".  Coexistence is impossible here on both sides of the issue would you and I agree?

The "X" is symbolic of the Star of David of Judaism.  Have you ever wondered why there are there five different categories of Judaism?[6].  Speaking of coexistence, why in the world do people hate the Jews?  Why do militant Muslims want to push the nation of Israel out of existence.  Sounds like if anyone should be desiring "coexistence" in our world it should be those who embrace and recognize as their own, the "star of David."   This has been a problem for Israel and those of Jewish heritage ever since they left 430 years of captivity in Egypt in 1446 BC.  Oi vey!

The "I" in this bumper sticker is symbolic of paganism.  Paganism is about the worship of nature; and a rejection of worshiping the one true God and Creator "who is forever praised/blessed" (Romans 1:25).  And the symbol is trying to say that those who embrace Christianity, Judaism and Islam need to "buck up" and affirm paganism as equal ideology.  Can we coexist in a culture with those who profess to be pagan in their religion?  Yes, so long as I don't have to affirm the pagan worldview equal with my embracing of historical Christianity.  However that is not what the bumper sticker is promoting.  What is this?  Intolerant.

The "S" is Dao of Buddhism or better wise known as the "yin" and "yang".  According to the Dao, everything, all of the self, all of nature, all of the genders are in balance.  Good and evil are in balance (karma).  All of nature is in balance and on and on and on.  The problem with this is multifold which space and scope will not allow.  Can we as Christians coexist together with those who embrace Buddhism or the Dao? Of course we can.  Do I have affirm that my thoughts on the problem of sin and God's remedy as equal to Buddhism's fulfilling the 8 Fold Path and the Four Noble Truths as equal?   Absolutely not!  What is the bumper sticker telling us we should do?   Do you see something intolerant in that "thayar" bumper sticker?  I do.

The "T" is the cross of Christianity.  But the question is whose interpretation of Christianity?  Is it a liberal softened down, watered down version that says "God is love" and that we need to "love" everybody.[7]  Of is this the Christianity that say that the one who is love Incarnate has commanded us to "love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind. . .and to love our neighbor as ourself"?[8]

What I do find interesting about the bumper sticker is that it is decrying the desire for everyone to get along and live in harmony.  That is a good thing.  The problem is that every one who embraces the ideologies symbolized on the sticker, embraces those ideologies or religions with the thinking that they are believing in the only right religion or view.  The bumper sticker is not only expressing an intolerance, but also a hypocrisy that is quite characteristic of cultural relativism and religious relativism.

A final thing I find interesting from all these "intolerant" symbols in the COEXIST sticker is that all these ideologies represented in their contexts are ultimately reactions against the cross of Christ, except possibly the cross for Christianity.  That depends on the individual's understanding of the sticker's symbol.  Nevertheless, it was at the cross where Jesus Christ was sacrificed, as a demonstration of real love, as an act of forgiveness for a sinner's salvation and justification before a holy, loving and righteously just God.   But Jesus' crucifixion was carried out by those who could not "coexist" with love incarnate; who could not coexist with one who said truthfully that He was the only "way and the truth and the life."; and that "no one comes to the Father but through Me (Jesus)." (John 14:6)

What is more tolerant?  That depend on what you and I mean by tolerant.  If you would like to read what this buzzword is all about please see my posting on Responding to Cultural Buzzwords.  This will help you see more what the problems are with the misunderstanding of tolerance, relativism, and multiculturalism.  They are all a ruse that won't work since they are all contradictions in terms and violating cardinal laws of critical thinking.  This is something our culture has definitely lost.

Instead we post stickers on the back of our vehicles, thinking that we are tolerant, but we are most intolerant if you violate my thinking with a view that I have to engage.   In the words of Professor Kirke, in C. S. Lewis', "The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe",

"Odd things they say, even their looks will let the secret out.  Keep your eyes open. Bless me what do they teach them at these schools?"


Notes

[1] As Christians, there is a certain degree of tolerance we must have, but we must remember that it is not the primary quality we're to build in our lives.  We are to be committed to a number of things, including the truth which is the Word of God, and the things which are taught by that truth, such as justice, because we worship a God who is just and righteous.  But there are times we ought to be tolerant in order to pursue justice and times when we should not.  Turning the other cheek is a good example.

[2]  There are other looks to the bumper sticker that are incorporating strictly religious ideologies.  The one for this posting seems to be the most popular of the ones that I have seen.  It is more toward an ideological bent than a strictly spiritual one.

[3] Matthew 22:39

[4]  That is the last 6 of the 10 Commandments and the giving of those laws by God to Moses found in the Pentatuch.

[5] By monotheistic religions, I am referring to the belief in one God who is "personal", transcendent, absolute in power, knowledge and presence and holiness.  The three that profess the belief in a God like this are Judaism, Christianity and Islam (though Islam unlike the other two would say that God has not  and does not intervene).

[6] Orthodox (these are the true "by the Book" conservatives), Conservative (are not so conservative), Reform (are reforming Judaism to a more tolerant liberal understanding of the Torah and the Mitzvot), Liberal and "Jew-boos" (those who embrace and mix Judaism with Buddhism).

[7] By "love" I am talking here about a love that is devoid of holiness, justice, forgiveness, and those things that truly reflect the nature of the God of the Bible.

[8] Please see the context of Matthew 22:34-40.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Response to the Village Atheists’ Claim that Jesus Never Existed

Over the last few weeks I have been "back and forthing" with some of the "village atheists on FredTalk.  One of the threads have been on the origin of morality and a moral law and some how a posting on a particular thread lead to a challenge to me about whether or not Jesus actually existed.  I worked on this response today and this is the text.   Before moving forward, I am grateful to some of the sources I had to read while undertaking the Certified Apologetics Instructor program with the North American Mission Board.  One of those sources is Paul Maier's essay on "Did Jesus Really Exist?"*  Much of this essay is from the content along with some of my own personal study on this very subject as well.

One of the more ludicrous claims made by those embracing the “new atheism” and militant atheism is that Jesus never existed in human history.  Some are willing to claim that the man Jesus did exist, but He was not the unique Son of God that Christians claim.[1]

Those who vehemently say, “No, he didn’t exist!” think that this is a powerful level by which to pry people away from “the fable of Christianity.”[2]  But this a weak lever at its very first usage.  The reason it is weak is due to there being more historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth certainly lived than for most famous figures of the ancient past.  The evidence that I will present here will be two kinds:  (1) internal (sacred) and (2) external (secular).  The external evidence will have three branches to it ranging from Christian Church Fathers, Jewish sources and  lastly, external sources coming from the Roman historians.  In both of these cases, the total evidence is overpowering, and so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence.  And yet, this pathetic denial is still parroted by the “village atheist”, bloggers on the internet, or such organizations as the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

A Look at the Internal Evidence

Aside from the many Messianic predictions found in the Old Testament, not one of the four gospels or the 23 remaining documents in the New Testament would make an ounce of sense if Jesus had never lived. Did the whole cavalcade of well-known historical personalities in the first century AD, who interacted with Jesus deal with a vacuum?  Did Herod the Great try to terminate a ghost or a phantom?  Did the Jewish high priests Annas or Caiaphas interview a spook?  What about Pointius Pilate?  Did this Roman governor/procurator judge a ghost on the day he wrote the order to have Jesus crucified?  What about the apostle Paul and so many of the early disciples who encountered Jesus after his resurrection as well as during his earthly ministry?  Did they give their lives for a myth?

No one doubts that the above names are well known from both sacred and secular sources, as well as  archaeological evidence, and are therefore historical.  The same holds true of Jesus of Nazareth.  So why then is Jesus not permitted the “luxury” of actually having lived as did the rest of these historical people?  Why is there a hypocritical standard here?

From the internal, biblical evidence alone, therefore Jesus’ existence is simply categorical.  There is also an abundance of additional extra-biblical (external/secular) information on this question.  Let's move to the external evidences now.

The External Evidence:  Christian 

I could give additional attention to writings of the early Church Fathers, some of whom had close contact with New Testament personalities.  One of Jesus’ disciples, John later became the bishop of the church at Ephesus.  One of John's students was Polycarp, who was the bishop of Smyrna and student of his was Irenaeus of Lyon.  The central focus of all their writings was Jesus the Christ (“Messiah”).

Apart from such living personal links to Jesus, both geographical and temporal tangencies appear in the writings of Justin Martyr.  Justin was born of pagan parents around AD 100 in Nablus (between Judea and Galilee).  Justin tried and abandoned various philosophical schools of thought until he found Christianity the one true teaching.  As a native of the Holy Land, Martyr mentions sites that are associated with Jesus of Nazareth, such as the Bethlehem grotto in which he was born.  He also mentions details such as Jesus working as an apprentice carpenter in the shop of his foster father Joseph, where they specialized in producing agricultural implements like yokes for oxen and plows.

External Evidence:  Jewish

As far as any Jewish evidence for Jesus having historically existing, there is plenty coming from the rabbinical tradition.  Within this tradition there is plenty of Jewish rabbinical writings that mention Jesus.  There are sources that spell his name accurately in Aramaic, his native tongue:  Yeshua Hannotzri -- Joshua (Jesus) of Nazareth.  Some of the references to Jesus in the Talmud are garbled -- this is probably due to the vagaries of oral tradition -- but one is especially accurate, since it seems to be based upon written sources from the Mishna -- the earliest collection of writings in the Talmud.  This is no less than the arrest notice for Jesus, which runs as follows:

"He shall be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and lured Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf. Anyone who knows where he is, let him declare it to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

In this statement there are four items which support its authenticity as a notice that was composed specifically before Jesus’ arrest:

  1. The future tense is used;
  2. Stoning was the regular punishment for blasphemy among the Jews whenever the Roman government was not involved.
  3. There is no reference whatsoever to crucifixion, and
  4. That Jesus was performing “sorcery” -- the extraordinary or miraculous with a negative spin.

These facts, as remarkable as they are, not only invoke what historians call the “criterion of embarrassment”, which proves what is conceded, but accords perfectly with how Jesus’ opponents explained away his miraculous healings: "performing them with the help of Beelzebub" (Luke 11:18).

Whether or not, the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus mentions “Jesus who is called the Christ” in his Jewish Antiquities is really not as important to this presentation here as another quote where he mentions the death of Jesus’ half-brother James the Just of Jerusalem (20:200).  And in two books earlier, the longest and most discussed non-biblical reference to Christ, he tells of Jesus midway through his discussion of the events in Pontius Pilate’s administration:

"At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day." (Jewish Antiquities, 18:63: Arabic Version)[3]

This is the recent, uninterpolated text that replaces the traditional version taken from a Greek version, which, unfortunately, has suffered early interpolation.

External Evidence: Secular

Some of the most reliable pieces of evidence come from the side of what is called “enemy attestation.”  These attestations come from the pens of the Roman historians:  Cornelius Tacitus (a.k.a. “Tacitus”), Gaius Seutonius (a.k.a. “Seutonius”) and Pliny the Younger.  Of these three sources Tacitus is one of the most reliable source historians of first century Rome.

In his Annals he wrote a year by year account of the events in the Roman Empire under the early reigns of the Caesars.  Among the highlights that he reported in AD 64 was the great fire of Rome.  The people blamed the emperor Nero for this inferno, since it happened under his watch, but in order to save himself, Nero passed the blame to “the Christians,” which is the first time they appear in secular history.  Tacitus, being the careful historian that was, he explains who “the Christians” were:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. (Annals, 15:44).

Notice Tacitus’ words, reporting the hatred toward Christians and the horrors that were inflicted on the them in what became the first Roman persecution. With his words in his Annals, let it be noted that Tacitus was not some Christian historian who was trying to prove that Jesus Christ really lived. He was a pagan who despised Christians describing them as a "disease," a term he uses later in the passage. If Jesus had never existed, Tacitus would have been the first to expose that pathetic phantom on whom such cultists placed their trust. And even if no other references to Jesus available, this passage alone would have been sufficient to establish his historicity.

Educated skeptics realize this, and so have tried every imaginable means to discredit this passage—but to no avail. Those who are participating in more in depth manuscript analysis and computer studies, from both sides of the debate, have never found any reason to call this sentence into question, nor its context.

A second source of enemy attestation is from Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (Seutonius), who recorded events of the first century in his famous Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Seutonius also regarded Christians as a sect “professing a new and mischievous religious belief” (Nero, 16) and cited “Christus” as well, as spelling his name “Chrestus” (Claudius, 25). Some might think that this is an inconsistency in the spelling “Christ” for ancient times, despite the fact the vowels “e” and “i” were often interchangeable is demonstrated by the French term for “Christian” to this day:  “chretien.”[4]

Finally, there is Pliny the Younger (Pliny). Pliney was the Roman governor of Bithynia—today, located in what is known as the northwestern corner of Turkey—and about the year AD 110 he wrote the Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.), asking what to do about the Christians, a "wretched cult" whom he mentions eight times in his letter. In this letter, Christ himself is cited three times, the most famous instance referring to Christians ". . . who met on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honor of Christ, as if to a god..." (Letter No. 96). Trajan's response, interestingly enough, suggests that Christians not be hunted out. (Ibid., No. 97). But again, if Christ were only a mythical character, these hostile sources would have been the first to emblazon that fact in derision.

There are other sources that can be mentioned to settle this matter of whether or not Jesus Christ actually existed in time space history.  Some of the other ancient secular sources like Theudas and Mara bar Serapion also bear witness to the historicity of Jesus. But any further evidence clearly comes under the category of "beating a dead horse" as far as this response is concerned.  Nothing more is necessary in view of the overpowering evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was certainly no myth, but a totally historical figure who truly lived.

My thoughts about skeptics wanting to challenge Jesus’ existence should not be toward whether or not he actually existed.  The problem that skeptics should focus on instead is whether or not Jesus was more than a man. That, at least, could invite a reasonable debate among reasonable inquirers, rather than a pointless discussion with sensationalists who struggle to reject the obvious.

Source: *Paul L. Maier, Did Jesus Really Exist?

Notes:

[1] I spoke with one of my neighbors, a teen ager and asked him if he thought Jesus existed.  He said he believed that there is all kinds of evidence.  Then I shared with him this essay.

[2] I find it fascinating that many Christians who have not considered this question hearing this charge coming from the new atheism are so susceptible to believing it.  Why is this?

[3] The most popular quote comes out of a Greek translation and is quoted in William Whiston's (1667-1752) compilation of the Works of Josephus, containing the "Testimonium Flavianum" which states the following:  "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." (Whiston, 379)

[4] Je parle fran├žais un petit peu.  (I speak French a little bit) having forgotten a lot of my vocabulary and grammar.  However I did give my testimony in French at Oklahoma Baptist University and the word "chretien" is the the word "Christian" en fran├žais