Original Post: Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Not so Humble Origins
The majority of people today don’t know much about the beginnings of Christianity. A lot of people seem to think religions just kind of spawned out of nothing or some dude just wrote a book and started yelling at people and some people just believed, or maybe that political leaders made up a system of government that was used to manipulate people with so-called “spiritual truths”.
Though some religions probably have spawned in these ways or for these purposes, the case with Christianity is quite contrary.
Christianity arose in the midst of a Jewish and Greco-Roman context right around 0 A.D.
After the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and his death around 33 A.D., people suddenly came to worship the crucified man in droves. This is attested to not only by reliable Biblical sources (anyone who’s studied the exceptional historian Luke and his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles accounts of early Church history understands his knack for historicity) but by external sources as well (Pliny the Younger, Josephus, etc. ) This might not seem significant at first, but referring back to our historical context and the proceeding historical events surrounding the early Church we see that it is very much so.
The people who professed this Jesus as their saviour and Lord were heavily persecuted in both Jewish and Greek contexts for varying reasons. Social pressures were intense – confess and practice this faith, and you very well could die. In fact, 11 of the 12 disciples of Christ died horrible deaths; upside down crucifixion, being boiled alive and skinned alive, etc. So this raises an important question: why would people be willing to go this far for a man who had simply died?
I think the best explanation for this is simply that they had every reason to believe that he was no longer dead; that indeed, this man had been resurrected. The Bible claims that at least 500 people saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion at some point. This was actually an early claim of an apostle in a letter, written well within a generation after Jesus’ death. This is then a claim that could have been verified by talking to apparent eyewitnesses, as could be the claims about the empty tomb that were circulating at that time.
Being Totally Honest
To be honest, I can’t see thousands of people falling to their knees in worship of a man who had just been brutally murdered unless they truly believed he was who he claimed to be (that is, they believed that he was resurrected and therefore his claims were vindicated). There were many self-proclaimed messiahs and prophets before Jesus of Nazareth who also had radical claims and were eventually put to death for them – but none of those men had thousands of people worshipping them post mortem amidst persecution and even death.
This then is the miracle. Nothing natural can suitably explain the rise of the Christian Church. There is no good reason why Jesus Christ should still be worshipped as God today unless his seemingly preposterous claims were vindicated by his post mortem appearances. Only then would people face death fearlessly knowing with full assurance that their Saviour was alive.
Hopefully this has you thinking, and if it does, I’m sure there are many questions and potential rebuttals floating around in your head – all are welcome here. Don’t simply let this pass over you – if Jesus did rise from the dead, it matters, and so we should inquire honestly, and I know many have challenged these claims before (and still do today). I might like to look at these different proposals/challenges, so if you can think of any or find any, post away and we can discuss.