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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Part 2: A Clear Look at History Cracks the “Josephus Mirror Code”


This posting first appears at the blog for the Christian Apologetics Alliance

Earlier this month, I started a series of responses to another blog author posting a note on our Ratio Christi at Germanna Community college Facebook page. The comment was a promo for his book entitled, The Josephus Mirror Code and the author is Paul Amatucci.[1] His note was a multi leveled attack on the authenticity and the historicity of the life of Jesus and the gospel records.

It is one of the premises from his comment on our wall that I will be addressing in this post. The premise is that "the New Testament documents do not have any contemporary historical evidence written by anyone outside of those documents to prove that Jesus Christ and his followers ever lived" and "there was a 61 year gap between the events of the New Testament and Josephus' writings."

This creates just one piece of the puzzle in his book. My purpose for this post is to not some much toward the demand for contemporary documents as much as it is to show the problem with his statement. If there is any relevancy toward a demand for contemporary sources, that will be paled in light of the other problems with his premise.  Let's first look at the what Mr. Amatucci might be implying as contemporary.

What is Meant by Contemporary?

When the writer of the "Mirror Code" (hereafter) states, there is “no contemporary evidence written by anyone (outside those documents) to prove that Jesus and His followers ever lived,”

 a couple of things I would like to address here. The first is the writer’s understanding of Jesus’ existence in human history. In my first response, I discuss the numerous sources, both external and internal sources to show that his claim has no merit.

But what does the word "contemporary" mean? A basic definition of the word contemporary can refer to something existing, occurring, or living at the same time or belonging to the same time in history or something about the same age or date, or lastly “of the present time or modern.”[2]

Honestly Mr. Amatucci could be making an unreasonable demand within the scope of his lack of understanding of “contemporary" First Century history. I think a legitimate question could be, what he would find as a satisfactory understanding for the usage of “contemporary.” As I mentioned earlier, the issue is not going to be focused on the issue of what is contemporary as much as it will be his scholarship toward the history of Josephus' writing with reference to the historicity of the gospel records.

Let's look at the time when Josephus wrote his most popular works referring to Jesus Christ.

When Did Josephus Write His Antiquities of the Jews?

Josephus is known for his major works, Antiquities of the Jews (AD 93/94), War on the Jews (AD 75) and Against Apion (circa. AD 94).  Since Mr. Amatucci is using the writings of Josephus as a standard, it is important to know when Flavius Josephus write his famous works mentioning Jesus? The most famous of his works, which have the most mentions of Jesus is in his work, Antiquities of the Jews. This work was written around AD 93-94.

In that work, Josephus mentions Jesus in what is known as the famous Testimonium Flavianum, in 18.3.3. This posting is not going to deal with the authenticity problems of Amatucci's source. I will leave that for a later posting in this series. But why is this statement, as a whole, important to mention in this section?

The answer is a matter of dates in history. If Josephus' works have a gap of 61 years from the time of the completion of the gospels, it would put the penning of the gospels as early AD 31/32. If an honest study of history were engaged, on the part of the author of the "Mirror Code," Mr. Amatucci would see that this could not be a good premise, as Jesus would be wrapping up his earthly ministry and headed to the cross.  It looks like the Josephus Mirror is developing another "crack."

So when were the gospels written and will the crack become larger? Let's see.

When Were the Gospel Writers Done Writing their Good News? 

Since the Mirror Code was written based upon the assumption of a 61 year gap between the completion of the New Testament[3] and Josephus’ writing of  Antiquities, it is apparently clear that Mr. Amatucci has bought the Zeitgeist notion or he does not understand or care about transmission of the text of the gospel record.

I think there is a consensus among evangelical scholarship that the gospel records were completed before the end of the First century.  F. F. Bruce, in this famous work, The New Testament Documents put the completion of the corpus of the entire New Testament before AD 100.[4]  What does this do with Mr. Amatucci's theory for this book?

Let's use John's gospel, since Josephus' Antiquities (AD 93). Whether John wrote in the in the late AD 80’s/early 90’s or completed his gospel before the Roman General Titus's invasion of Jerusalem in AD 70, the author’s statement of a 61 year gap between the gospels and Josephus has many "cracks", and therefore demonstrates a lack of or blatant disregard for historical scholar toward textual transmission.

Conclusion.

Whenever someone with a shallow faith sees a work like "The Josephus Mirror Code," or even the Zeitgeist movies, there are bound to be some questions, which could create seeds of doubt to one's faith. This posting has been one of a few responses to Mr. Amatucci's theory that is targeted to those with weak faith in the authenticity of the Bible and the historicity of the Christian faith as a whole.

All one has to do is a little bit of research to see that the theory that Mr. Amatucci is trying to push forth is full of holes. No one likes a cracked mirror, but looking into the Josephus Mirror, I now notice that it has another crack in it. As I look into this further, I am quite sure the mirror is not going to be pretty.

If you would like to check out the first response, you may check it out at "The Josephus Mirror Code is CRACKED"

Notes

[1] Looking at some of Mr. Amatucci's profile and likes on his Google+ page, he is a fan of the Zeitgeist conspiracy theory movies, and hence his book would appeal to those who are in that camp.

[2] See the dictionary.com link for "contemporary" found at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/contemporary?s=t

[3] This is not the only assumption, but one of many. If we look at the blog site, we would see that the author has a clearer starting premise which "is to set the record straight and show how and why the Romans invented the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Testament documents, which were specifically used by the Romans as a "literary weapon" to neutralize militant Maccabean Judaism and offer a 5th column replacement - (Christianity)."  http://thejosephusmirrorcode.blogspot.com.

[4] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 5th ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 14.

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