“Where is God in our world?” is the question that atheists often ask. To many, God does appear to be absent. Miracles don’t happen to the poor, to the oppressed, to those that lose children or loved ones. God does appear to be missing from the lives of those that are down and out.
But wait… haven’t you read the Bible? The Old Testament is full of stories of God interacting with people in the world. Religious opposition challenges that this is simply myth that has been preserved for thousands of years.
What about the New Testament? Didn’t God come to earth in human form? He certainly did. He came in the form of his son, Jesus. Much debate has been conducted over the actual substance of Jesus: was he God, was he man, was he a combination of the two? I’ll save that debate for another day. But for now, let’s focus on the historical record of Jesus walking among us.
The Historical Jesus provides us with a temporal link to God. This is one of many links to God. Some claim that they experience God on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I spend time with God daily, but I have no empirical evidence with which to prove it to my doubting friends. Thus… this chapter: proof of God walking among us.
The 20th and 21st Centuries have seen an unparalleled interest in the truth claims of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Numerous academics, skeptics and religious challengers have been attempting to subvert the historical validity of the New Testament. The most recent scholarship has not only further confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament texts, but it has also uncovered additional documentation to support the existence of Jesus Christ in the first century.
Mark Allen Powell, in his book “Jesus as a Figure in History“, provides a great summary of the standard criteria used in religious studies research to comment on authenticity. Powell provides six criteria. They are:
- Multiple Attestation – are the same ideas found in multiple sources?
- Dissimilarity – an idea is more likely to be authentic if it is different from the typical perspectives of the period in question. In this case, perspectives that differed from typical Judaic thought would be considered more likely to come from Jesus.
- Memorable Form – memorable phrases, stories or sayings would be more likely to be authentic. It is assumed that stories pertaining to Jesus were first transmitted in oral form, it is more likely that proverbs, beatitudes and stories in memorable forms would be more likely to be accurately remembered, shared and passed on.
- Language and Environment – Does the language and environment fit the historical period in question? If so, this supports the authenticity of the claim.
- Explanation – Does the story or quote in question further support the claims made about the person, place or thing in question.
- Coherence – Does the story under scrutiny fit with the rest of the factual information known about the topic at hand? If so, this lends additional credence to the argument in question.
There is plenty of writing out there to support all six of these categories.
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