To really understand Christ, one must understand Him spiritually with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christ said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, especially who He is! (A) When secular skeptics come up with their opinions of who Christ is, it is easy to see they don’t know Him spiritually. This post is written specifically to brothers & sisters in Christ who have had Christ’s identity revealed to them by the Spirit of God. This post is written lest the enemy come in & deceitfully steal what you have in Christ. He will try to deceive even the Elect.(B)
LIMITATIONS OF THIS POST.
These few words cannot begin to defend all the possible attacks against Christ & His church. The one on the offensive has the initiative, and to defend at all points often means to fail to have a solid defense at any point. That is a basic principle in competition. It is why the German General Staff in their deep study of the art of war concluded that to win one must be offensive, and even a defense should be offensively carried out. This post is meant for a limited audience with a limited goal; which is, to reaffirm their faith that Christ was not an invention of the Romans. Sometimes we know something in our heart, in our spirit, but we have not had the chance to see the facts which confirm it. The Word of God has been attacked furiously more than any other writing. It has been scrutinized to the nth degree in a search for errors. It has withstood these attacks, and most anti-Bible attacks have had good rebuttals written. Unfortunately, many of these good defenses of the Bible are rare & out of print. But believe this—most every attack that has been around for a while has been successfully answered.
Tom Harpen, author of The Pagan Christ, claims Christ & Christianity came from Egyptian paganism. (Like I say, these people don’t have a clue about what Christ means spiritually. For instance, try “Love your enemy…Do good to those who despitefully use you.” From Egyptian paganism? Ha!!) “DaVinci Code” author Dan Brown claims the Roman Emperor Constantine invented Christ & Christianity. Joseph Atwill claims that Roman Emperor Titus fabricated Christ & Christianity in order to pacify their subjects. He claims Titus hired historian Josephus to write the NT & that the story of Jesus is built upon the biography of a Roman Caesar. (Many of Atwill’s proof’s are simply wild imaginations that prove nothing, and often show he doesn’t know what he is writing about.) Atwill claims that the NT was written between 66-73 A.D. after the Jews had revolted. Let’s look at what is called collateral evidence of Christ & the Christians, BEFORE they supposedly had been created by the Roman Emperor, and his leaders to supposedly pacify the Roman Empire.
OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS, ETC.
Early Christian writings refer skeptics of their age to the Official Report made by Procurator (Governor) Pilate of his crucifixion of Christ.(C) Apparently there was reason to believe the report was in the Imperial Archives. However, none of the reports made by Rome’s governors of Judea have survived. In fact, very few writings of that era have survived. If we look at what Roman historians wrote before Rome supposedly created Christianity, we see they write about Christ & the Christians already. (Now how is that?—when supposedly they hadn’t been invented!) Suetonius, a Roman historian, describes Claudius expelling Jews from what became Italy in 49 A.D.(D) Just after this expulsion, Paul meets Aquila & Pricilla who the Bible say had been expelled.(E)
A papyrus copy made back then from an original letter of Emperor Claudius describes his concern about the spread of Christianity, which was viewed as a Jewish sect.(F) Another book by Suetonius, titled Life of Nero, says, “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a body of people addicted to a novel and mischievous superstition.”(G) All this was happening before they supposedly were invented by the Romans! And some of these punishments of Christians are recorded. But even more definitive is Roman historian Tacitus, a man who despised Christians, in his history book Roman Annals, “They got their name from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius…”(H) (By the way, archeology has confirmed Pontius Pilate as the procurator (governor) of Judea.) Tacitus is recording Nero blaming the Christians 3 yrs. before the Jewish revolt(I), which is what Atwill says forced the Romans to invent Christianity. The Imperial legate for the Roman province of Bithynia, named Gaius Plinius Secundus or “Pliny the Younger” for short, during the apostolic church period wrote the Roman Emperor a letter asking what to do about the Christians.(J) His letters still exist. (By the way, Pliny, a good bureaucrat, was always asking the Emperor for instructions.) Christians in his province are described in ACTS 19:24-27. In what is believed to be a book written in 52 A.D., Thallis, a Roman writer describes briefly Christ’s crucifixion. His book has been lost, but a quote from it by Julius Africanis still exists.
A letter written in Syraic in c.74 A.D. by Marabar Serapion to his son gives advice on the different ways one can search for wisdom. While he is not advocating his son follow Christ, he mentions Christ in his letter as an option for wisdom. The orig. manuscript is in the British museum.
The beginning church was very charismatic & led by the Holy Spirit. Missionaries like Paul and other apostles spread Christianity to Africa, India, China and even into Rome, the large capital of the empire. New converts with different cultures with vastly different ways. The new communities were isolated, and even though they did have a few Torah scrolls and a few copies of apostolic letters, they were basically on their own without any written controls. They had heard the stories of Christ, but they needed direction in how to establish functioning churches. The writings of Paul focus on the issues the early churches faced, and Paul emphasizes the risen Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because modern day skeptics don’t see Paul rehashing the Bible stories of Jesus, they claim he was perverting the true message of Yahshua. Hardly, despite the differences in purpose between the synoptic gospels and Paul’s writings, and the surface differences in ideas, the heart of the messages are the same. (Again one has to spiritually discern what Christ was all about.) There are modern day Bible students who started by hating Paul, supposedly he perverted what Christ initiated, and over the years these haters began to spiritually see that of any of the apostles, Paul understood the message of Christ best. Christ wanted his gospel to go to the ends of the earth; Paul understood this better than the other leaders.
DIFFERENCES BUT ONE FELLOWSHIP.
The early church was a single fellowship—it was not divided between Paul’s followers and the “real Christians”. Because isolated groups were trying to figure out how to proceed, there were differences—but they were one fellowship. Barnabas was both a loyal companion of Paul (K) & an ambassador/emissary for the Jerusalem Church (L). Mark & Silvanus were good brothers-in-Christ & companions of Paul (M) as well as Peter (N) The pt. is that Paul did not pervert the church of Christ, but rather established it. Again Paul is attacked, for the same reason that these people say the Romans started Christianity.(O) The reason is people hate Christ’s message. And if we circle back to Atwill (the one who claims Titus invented Christ as a form of propaganda to pacify the empire) and we quote Atwill describing his view of Christianity: “Christianity came to be…an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.” His theory that the NT was written by Josephus shows Atwill’s good imagination. There are computer programs that analyze diverse writing styles. It is obvious to even the casual observer—even before computer analysis—that the various NT books have different authors.
The good Lord told us the way would always be narrow and few would find it. He also promised us that He would preserve a powerful remnant. With these spiritual truths in mind, we can toss aside many of the goofy ideas that have been tossed around. We know the beauty of Christ—he was not some pagan Roman invention. Can something so sweet as Christ’s teachings come out of some totally reprobate Roman? The Word says, “NO”.(P) Why would the Romans invent a sect of Jews that the Jews would reject?!? …and the Romans would spend many difficult years on expensive campaigns to eradicate??!? Christ & Christianity are a “stumbling block for Jews” according to the Bible as well as irritate the Worldly as foolish superstition. Because the Jewish religious leaders rejected Christ, it legitimized God spiritually focusing on the gentiles. If the Romans hired Josephus to write the New Testament to pacify the Jews, he did a lousy job for them! Quite frankly the entire theory is simply someone’s uninformed imagination.
Dear brothers & sisters…God has preserved the truth…and it can be spiritually ascertained. Wild negative theories will continue to claim all kinds of imaginary “proof” that Christ & Christianity are merely fakes. We have been spiritually shown the beauty of Christ and we do not need to surrender this. Hopefully, this post will encourage you to hold on to what was delivered to the saints by the Spirit for the past 2,000 yrs.
(A) JN 16:7, 13 cf. 1 JN 2:27, 1 COR 2:13, LK 12:12, NEH 9:20
(B) MT 24:24
(C) Justin Martyr. First Apology 35:7-9 & 48:2.
(D) Suetonius. Life of Claudius, 25.4
(E) ACTS 18:2, cf. Acts 17:6 & 24:5
(F) CPI ii:153
(G) Suetonius. Life of Nero, 16.2
(H) Tacitus. Roman Annals, xv.44. Tacitus had access to official records.
(J) Pliny. Epistles, x.96
(K) ACTS 13, 1 COR 9:6
(L) ACTS 11:22
(M) ACTS 15:39-40
(N) 1 PTR 5:12-13
(O) 1 COR 1:23 (P) JAS 3:11-12