Jesus And Santa (But Mostly Jesus)

Just_Jesus006When I was little, I came to the realization that Santa Claus was pretend. Seeing Santas on every street corner when we were shopping might have had something to do with it. Shortly after I figured out Santa wasn’t real, I asked the key question: if Santa is pretend, what about Jesus?

No, my mother assured me, Jesus is real.

Some people will say my mother “brainwashed” me because she answered my question truthfully. Other people will explain how their parents told them all about Jesus, but now they’ve decided for themselves not to believe in Him. The point is simple: receiving information about Jesus does not equate with belief in Jesus.

When I was little, my most reliable source for information was my parents. Though I liked to ask why a lot, I still felt their answers were more often reliable than not. But at some point, I started asking questions from other sources. For instance, I remember asking a pastor who was visiting how we could know that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were one.

There was a verse in 1 John, I think, that the King James Version had included which came right out and stated the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. This pastor, however, pointed out that the most reliable manuscripts did not include this verse and that it was probably a later addition. I was shocked! Take away that verse and where did that leave the Trinity?

He kindly pointed me to a variety of other verses, some which required a little deduction. I wasn’t altogether satisfied, but as I’ve thought back to that incident, I realize it was critical to my understanding.

The greatest lesson was probably that it’s OK to ask questions about the Bible. At the same time, I had my first experience with the reliability of the Bible—not necessarily in a neat little package as I might like, but as an authoritative revelation from God.

All that, and yet I knew Jesus was real before I’d ever asked that Trinity question. I knew because I’d met Him myself. To be honest, it was a little shocking for me to discover that some people didn’t believe He ever existed.

Sure, I got that others might reject His claims as the Son of God and Messiah, Savior, Lord. But how could they doubt He existed? It seemed ludicrous.

I did a little study to see if there was sufficient evidence to believe Jesus lived. Historical evidence, of course, is different from scientific evidence. There is no repeatable experiment during which you can gather data through observation and reach a verifiable conclusion. Rather, you piece facts together like a puzzle until a picture takes shape.

Generally the best puzzle pieces are primary sources—letters Jesus might have written, for example. Secondary sources are second best. These are written after the fact and may make commentary on a person or event or give a secondhand view.

Consequently, if I understand this correctly, letters such as those Paul wrote are primary sources, whereas the gospels and the book of Acts are secondary sources. Of course Jesus didn’t write any of these books, primary or secondary, (setting aside for the moment the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture and looking at the subject purely from a historical perspective) though He is quoted heavily and He is the subject of them all.

Add in the fact that a number of these books were written by eyewitnesses. James and Jude where Jesus’s brothers; Matthew, John, and Peter were in His group of twelve followers. Then, too, Luke who wrote the gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was a physician, researching and writing with the express purpose of putting the events surrounding Jesus and the development of the Church into a logical order for a Greek individual some believe to have been his patron.

In other words, these secondary sources are ones most historians would love to include in their bibliographies because they are contemporary, reputable, and knowledgeable.

Of course the existence of Jesus doesn’t hang solely on the Biblical record of His life. There were extra-Biblical believers who provided secondary material in support of Jesus’s life and work, men like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Quadratus of Athens, Aristides the Athenian, Justin Martyr, and Hegesippus. Each of these believers wrote of Jesus, not as a spiritual entity or an idea or a hope, but as a man who lived on earth and fulfilled the claims of the Old Testament for the Messiah of God.

For example, the latter

converted to Christianity from Judaism after extensively researching the Gospel story for
himself. Instead of accepting the Gospel story [as] the word of others, he travelled extensively throughout Rome and Corinth in an effort to collect evidence of the early Christian claims. Hegesippus provides important testimony that the stories being passed around were not watered
down, embellished, or fabricated. (“The Historicity of Jesus: Did He Really Exist?”)

in another century, church councils took place but among the topics was not a question about Jesus’s existence. Rather the doctrines these councils were hammering out had to do with Jesus’s divinity and His place in the Trinity. There was no attempt to garner evidence to prove He had lived. That was not something these church leaders doubted because they were the grandsons and great-grandsons of eye witnesses. They knew the reliability of those who came before.

Beyond the Church, there were Jewish secondary sources, most notably Flavius Josephus, but also Greek, Syrian, and Roman scholars. One such individual was Celsus,

a second century Roman author and avid opponent of Christianity. He went to great lengths to disprove the
divinity of Jesus yet never denied His actual existence. (ibid.)

Perhaps the most telling is the documentation of Jesus’s execution at the hands of Pontus Pilate, recorded by the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, a man known for separating verifiable events from hearsay and folklore.

In short, the evidence supporting the fact that Jesus lived on earth is substantial. Only someone bent on rejecting every iota of His person would ignore this body of documentation.

Santa, on the other hand . . . Let’s just say, it’s fun to pretend Santa lives at the North Pole and visits all children once a year in a single night.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 7:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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