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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

History of Judaism Continued

Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3

(Continued from previous section.)

The final blow came in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar (II), King of Babylon, conquered the southern kingdom of Judah destroys the Temple and exiles its people and its nobles to Babylon.

"Judaism - ...the period of the Babylonian Exile and restoration of the Jews to Judah (6th-5th centuries BCE)...the first fall of Jerusalem (586 BCE)...Ezra the Scribe and his school (5th century BCE)." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - After Nebuchadrezzar's decisive defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 BCE), Jeremiah identified the scourge as Babylon. King Jehoiakim's attempt to be free of Babylonia ended with the exile of his successor, Jehoiachin, along with Judah's elite (597); yet the court of the new king, Zedekiah, persisted in plotting new revolts, relying—against all experience—on Egyptian support." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - In 587/586 BCE the doom prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel came true. Rebellious Jerusalem was reduced by Nebuchadrezzar, the Temple was burnt, and much of Judah's population dispersed or deported to Babylonia." - Britannica.com

"Diaspora - The first significant Jewish Diaspora was the result of the Babylonian Exile (q.v.) of 586 BC. After the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah, part of the Jewish population was deported into slavery." - Britannica.com

"Jerusalem - Jerusalem became the spiritual and political capital of the Hebrews. In 586 B.C. it fell to the Babylonians, and the Temple was destroyed." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

(Somewhere around or just after the Babylonian exile the minor prophet Obadiah lives and writes.)

Near the end of the 6th century B.C., after the fall of the Babylonian empire in 538 B.C., Cyrus the Great of Persia allows the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild their temple. This work continues and is completed through the leadership of Ezra the priest, the governors Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, Joshua the high priest, and the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

"Biblical Literature - In any event, it was from this community that the leadership and the cadres for the resurrection of the Judahite nation and faith were to come when Cyrus the Great (labelled "the Lord's anointed" in Deutero-Isaiah) conquered Babylon and made it possible for them to return (538). A contingent of about 50,000 persons, including about 4,000 priests and 7,000 slaves, returned under Sheshbazzar, a prince of Judah." - Britannica.com

"Biblical Literature - The first great aim was the rebuilding of the Temple as the centre of worship and thus also of national existence; this was completed in 515 under the administration of Zerubbabel and became the place of uninterrupted sacrificial worship for the next 350 years. The next task was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which was undertaken by Nehemiah, a Babylonian Jew and court butler who was appointed governor of Judah and arrived in 444." - Britannica.com

"Babylonian Captivity - also called Babylonian Captivity, the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the latter's conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 BC. The exile formally ended in 538 BC, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - After conquering Babylon, Cyrus so far justified the hopes put in him that he allowed those Jews who wished to do so to return and rebuild their Temple...The labour was resumed and completed in 516;" - Britannica.com

"Zerubbabel - flourished 6th century BC also spelled Zorobabel governor of Judaea under whom the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem took place." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - Nonetheless, intermarriage occurred and precipitated a new crisis when, in 458, the priest Ezra arrived from Babylon, intent on enforcing the regimen of the Torah." - Britannica.com

"Ezra - flourished 4th century BC, Babylon and Jerusalem Hebrew 'ezra' religious leader of the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon, reformer who reconstituted the Jewish community on the basis of the Torah (Law, or the regulations of the first five books of the Old Testament)." - Britannica.com

"Jerusalem - The city was restored to Hebrew rule later in the 6th cent. B.C. by Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. The Temple was rebuilt (538-515 B.C.; known as the Second Temple) by Zerubbabel, a governor of Jerusalem under the Persians. In the mid-5th cent. B.C., Ezra reinvigorated the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The city was the capital of the Maccabees in the 2d and 1st cent. B.C." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Ezra - It is said that Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (which Artaxerxes is not stated) of the Persian dynasty then ruling the area. Since he is introduced before Nehemiah, who was governor of the province of Judah from 445 to 433 BC and again, after an interval, for a second term of unknown length, it is sometimes supposed that this was the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 BC), though serious difficulties are attached to such a view. Many scholars now believe that the biblical account is not chronological and that Ezra arrived in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II (397 BC), after Nehemiah had passed from the scene." - Britannica.com

"Nehemiah - flourished 5th century BC also spelled Nehemias Jewish leader who supervised the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the mid-5th century BC after his release from captivity by the Persian king Artaxerxes I." - Britannica.com

"Nehemiah - Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I at a time when Judah in Palestine had been partly repopulated by Jews released from their exile in Babylonia. The Temple at Jerusalem had been rebuilt, but the Jewish community there was dispirited and defenseless against its non-Jewish neighbours." - Britannica.com

"Nehemiah - originally combined with Ezra to form a single book in the Hebrew canon. In the Septuagint, Ezra and Nehemiah are combined as Second Esdras. The book narrates the return to Jerusalem of Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of Persian King Artaxerxes I, as governor of the city-state. In the first period of Nehemiah's governorship (445-433 B.C.) as related in the book, Jerusalem's walls were rebuilt. There follows an account of the census taking during the earlier era of Zerubbabel in c.520 B.C. The work continues with the return of Ezra in 458 B.C.; the reading of the Jewish law; the national confession of sin; a return to Nehemiah's first governorship; and a brief account of his second term, which began sometime after 433 B.C." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Although the history of the nation of Israel continues, the scriptural record of Judaism describing that history pretty much ends with the events concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the second Temple in the 5th century B.C. The Jewish canon of scripture is then dated between the time of Moses during the 13th century B.C. and the time of rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem in the 5th century B.C. with Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, and the prophets Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah (roughly ending in the decades after 444 B.C.)

There is one notable scholarly challenge to this rule, the Book of Daniel the prophet, which we will cover momentarily. For now we will exclude a discussion of the Book of Daniel and deal simply with the rest of the Jewish scripture in terms of their historicity.

The figures and events pertaining to Jewish history described in the Jewish scripture occur between the mid 2nd millennium B.C. with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). But the written record doesn't begin with Moses until the 13th century B.C. continuing until the last of the prophets and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the middle to late 5th century. So, in order to determine whether or not these persons and events can be considered historic and these books attributed to the authors who are credited with them, we need only apply our requirements for historicity to the historical documentation for these works.

If the historical documentation for the Jewish scriptures meets these requirements then the figures and events described therein must be considered to have actually lived and occurred in history. Likewise, we will have to accept that the proclaimed authors of these books actually did write the works for which they are credited just as is the case for the works of Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, Sophocles, etc.

Based on our three requirements for historicity the chief questions then are how many copies of the books of the Jewish scripture do we have and when do these copies date from. Here again, for reference are the standards for establishing historicity:

1. That at least two copies of supposed original manuscripts must survive into modern times.
2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts must be written within 1400 years or so after the figures and events they describe.
3. The supposed original documents can be written by people who were first, second, or third-hand witnesses to the events, or who were more than two generations or even five hundred years removed from the actual persons or events that they are describing.

Here is the historical documentation for the books of Jewish scripture.
The first five books of the Jewish scripture (called the Pentateuch) were written by Moses. (In fact, the claim that these books were originally written by Moses and passed on to his successors comes from the books themselves - Exodus 17:14, Exodus 24:3-4, 7, Deuteronomy 17:18, Deuteronomy 28:58, 61, Deuteronomy 30:10, Deuteronomy 31:24, 26.) These books are estimated by scholars to have been originally written in the 16th to 13th century B.C.

"Torah - 1: the five books of Moses constituting the Pentateuch 2: the body of wisdom and law contained in Jewish Scripture and other sacred literature and oral tradition 3: a leather or parchment scroll of the Pentateuch used in a synagogue for liturgical purposes." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Ten Commandments - Dating the Ten Commandments involves an interpretation of their purpose. Some scholars propose a date between the 16th and 13th centuries BC because Exodus and Deuteronomy connect the Ten Commandments with Moses and the Sinai Covenant between Yahweh and Israel." - Britannica.com

The first collection of Mosaic scriptures is said to come between the 13th and 11th centuries A.D.

"Old Testament - In the 10th cent. B.C. the first of a series of editors collected materials from earlier traditional folkloric and historical records (i.e., both oral and written sources) to compose a narrative of the history of the Hebrews who now found themselves united under David and Solomon. Stemming from differing traditions originating among those living in what was later the northern kingdom of Israel and those in the southern kingdom of Judah, we can trace two dominant compilations, known as the E (preferring the epithet "Elohim" for God) and the J (preferring the epithet "Yahweh"), respectively. These were combined by a Judaean some time after the fall of the northern kingdom and are to be found inextricably associated in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings. According to scholars, this combined JE narrative is the bulk of the earlier Old Testament." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

But, as we said the essential question is when were the earliest copies of the Jewish scriptures that we have today written? The Jewish scripture is preserved in two main traditions, the Greek translation called the Septuagint, and the Hebrew translation, called the Masoretic Text.

The earliest copies of the Masoretic Text that we have today were written in the 10th century A.D., which does not meet the requirement for historicity since this would be 1400 years after the latest events described in it and perhaps 2900 years after the earliest ones.

"Old Testament - The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with a small portion in Aramaic (parts of the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Jeremiah). The text of the Hebrew Bible (called the Masoretic text, see Masora) had been standardized by the 10th cent. A.D., but the only existing Hebrew texts of biblical books before this time have been found at Qumran (see Dead Sea Scrolls). The origin of the Masoretic version is unknown." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Masoretic text - traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, meticulously assembled and codified, and supplied with diacritical marks to enable correct pronunciation. This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine, in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament." - Britannica.com

However, the Septuagint is dated to the 3rd century B.C. and it was this Greek version of the Old Testament that was used and adopted by the early Greek speaking Christian Church during the first century A.D. This means that the Jewish scriptures are well within the requirements for historicity with the gap between the events described and the written record being largely between 1000 and 200 years.

"Old Testament - The original Old Testament canon was the Septuagint, long used in the Greek-speaking church and still retained by the Orthodox churches. This Hellenistic Jewish translation originated with the translation of the Pentateuch in the mid-3d cent. B.C. Later translations were made from it or patterned after it. The canon of the Septuagint included the books of the later Hebrew canon, with the addition of several others, most of which were those now reckoned deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics and apocryphal by Protestants." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Septuagint - oldest extant Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made by Hellenistic Jews, possibly from Alexandria, c.250 B.C." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Septuagint -: a Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures redacted in the 3d and 2d centuries B.C. by Jewish scholars and adopted by Greek-speaking Christians." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Biblical Literature - The Septuagint Pentateuch, which is all that is discussed, does, however, constitute an independent corpus within the Greek Bible, and it was probably first translated as a unit by a company of scholars in Alexandria about the middle of the 3rd century BCE." - Britannica.com

"Biblical Literature - A Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint because there allegedly were 70 or 72 translators, six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and designated LXX, is a composite of the work of many translators labouring for well over 100 years...The Pentateuch of the Septuagint manifests a basic coincidence with the Masoretic text. The Qumran scrolls have now proven that the Septuagint book of Samuel-Kings goes back to an old Palestinian text tradition that must be earlier than the 4th century BCE, and from the same source comes a short Hebrew recension of Jeremiah that probably underlies the Greek." - Britannica.com

Of course the most important historical documentation for the Jewish scripture (also contained in the Christian Old Testament) comes from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

"Dead Sea Scrolls - ancient leather and papyrus scrolls first discovered in 1947 in caves on the NW shore of the Dead Sea. Most of the documents were written or copied between the 1st cent. B.C. and the first half of the 1st cent. A.D." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Dead Sea Scrolls - Three types of documents have been found in the caves near Qumran: copies of books of the Hebrew Bible, e.g., Isaiah, of which two almost complete scrolls have been found." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Dead Sea Scrolls - Other texts, not related to the Qumran scrolls, have been found in the area around the Dead Sea. At Masada other scrolls were found, including manuscripts of Sirach and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. In the caves at Wadi Murabbaat, c.11 mi (18 km) S of Qumran, many documents were found concerning Bar Kokba's army, as well as more biblical manuscripts. Other documents from the Bar Kokba era were discovered in caves S of En Gedi. These findings, written in Greek, Aramaic, and Nabataean, included biblical fragments, psalms, various legal documents, and a lost Greek translation of the minor prophets. The oldest documents, found at a site 8 mi (13 km) N of Jericho, were left by Samarians massacred by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

The series of quotes below sufficiently establishes the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls, but more importantly, the historicity of the Jewish scripture.

"Biblical Literature - Until the discovery of the Judaean Desert scrolls, the only pre-medieval fragment of the Hebrew Bible known to scholars was the Nash Papyrus (c. 150 BCE) from Egypt containing the Decalogue and Deuteronomy. Now, however, fragments of about 180 different manuscripts of biblical books are available. Their dates vary between the 3rd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, and all but 10 stem from the caves of Qumran. All are written on either leather or papyrus in columns and on one side only." - Britannica.com

"Biblical Literature - The most important manuscripts from what is now identified as Cave 1 of Qumran are a practically complete Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa), dated c. 100-75 BCE, and another very fragmentary manuscript (1QIsab) of the same book. The first contains many variants from the Masoretic text in both orthography and text; the second is very close to the Masoretic type and contains few genuine variants. The richest hoard comes from Cave 4 and includes fragments of five copies of Genesis, eight of Exodus, one of Leviticus, 14 of Deuteronomy, two of Joshua, three of Samuel, 12 of Isaiah, four of Jeremiah, eight of the Minor Prophets, one of Proverbs, and three of Daniel. Cave 11 yielded a Psalter containing the last third of the book in a form different from that of the Masoretic text, as well as a manuscript of Leviticus." - Britannica.com

"Biblical Literature - The importance of the Qumran scrolls cannot be exaggerated. Their great antiquity brings them close to the Old Testament period itself—from as early as 250-200 BCE. For the first time, Hebrew variant texts are extant and all known major text types are present. Some are close to the Septuagint, others to the Samaritan. On the other hand, many of the scrolls are practically identical with the Masoretic text, which thus takes this recension back in history to pre-Christian times. Several texts in the paleo-Hebrew script show that this script continued to be used side by side with the Aramaic script for a long time." - Britannica.com

With the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls we now have copies of the Hebrew scriptures that come from the 3rd century B.C. dating them between 200-1000 years after the people and events they describe. This well within our time requirements for historicity.

So, unless we want to discard that Plato wrote Republic or Alexander the Great ever lived along with a great deal of other historical information on ancient persons and events we must accept the historicity of the Jewish scriptures. This means that the figures described in the books of the Jewish Bible lived when they are said to have lived, did what they are said to have done, taught what they are said to have taught, and wrote what they are said to have wrote.

This last conclusion is very important. Unless we want to forfeit the idea the Plato wrote Republic and that the ideas contained therein originated with him we must accept that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Unless we want to throw out Homer's Illiad or Aristotle's Peotics as works from these authors we have to accept that Isaiah wrote the Book of Isaiah and that Ezekiel wrote the book attributed to him. Unless we want to throw into question Xenophon's Anabasis, Herodotus' History, Thucydides' History, Lucretius' On the Nature of the Universe, Polybius' History, Tacitus' History (or Annals), Seutonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Pliny the Elder's Letters, Plutarch's Parallel Lives of the Famous Greeks and Romans, Flavius Josephus' Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities, and Sophocles' or Euripedes'various plays, all of which contain valuable historical information, we must also accept that the writers of the books of the Jewish Bible did, in fact, write the books that are attributed to them. Anything else would be a glaring contradiction and an unjustified double standard.

So, we must conclude that the Jewish scriptures and the figures and events that they describe are historical. But what about the Christian scriptures and the figures and events they describe? Can or should they be considered historical?

New Testament Historicity

In order to determine whether or not the figures and events described in the New Testament are historical we can simply compare the standards for historicity that are employed to determine the historicity of other ancient figures and events. We can use the standards for historicity that we compiled from the list of non-controversial figures and events that we looked at earlier in the same way that we have previously done with Judaism.

Here again, for reference, are those requirements for considering a person or event to be historical:

1. At least two copies of supposed original manuscripts describing that person or event must survive into modern times.
2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts must be written within 1400 years or so after the figures and events they describe.
3. The supposed original documents can be written by people who were first, second, or third-hand witnesses to the events, or who were more than two generations or even five hundred years removed from the actual persons or events that they are describing.

When we compare these standards to the available historical documentation for the New Testament we can see that there is more than enough evidence for us to conclude the figures and events that it describes actually did live as well as teach the things that are attributed to them. Below are some quotations from common reference books, which establish the historical documentation and dating of the Christian scriptures. Afterwards, more specific information is provided in order to give more supportive detail than is offered in the brief quotations from the online resources.

"New Testament - the distinctively Christian portion of the Bible, consisting of 27 books of varying lengths dating from the earliest Christian period. The seven epistles whose authorship by St. Paul is undisputed were written c.A.D. 50-A.D. 60; most of the remaining books were written in the era A.D. 70-100, often incorporating earlier traditions. All were written in the koin idiom of the Greek language." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Biblical source - The main sources of evidence are: manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek dating from the 2nd to the 15th century AD (some 5,000 are known); early versions in other languages, such as Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Armenian, and Georgian; and quotations from the New Testament by early Christian writers." - Britannica.com

"Biblical literature - The New Testament consists of 27 books, which are the residue, or precipitate, out of many 1st-2nd-century-AD writings that Christian groups considered sacred." - Britannica.com

The New Testament begins with four Gospels, which record Jesus' life, teachings, death, and resurrection, we have two first-hand witnesses (Matthew and John) and two second-hand witnesses (Mark and Luke) all of which were written within 50-70 years after Jesus' death in approximately 30-33 A.D. (Mark 50-70 A.D, Matthew and Luke 60-80 A.D., and John 90-100 A.D).

The earliest manuscript copies of these works is of John's Gospel in 130 A.D. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have copies from around 200 A.D., less than 150 years after the original was penned. Paul's letters, written in 50-65 A.D. also have copies from 200 A.D.

But besides the Gospels we must cover the existing manuscript evidence for the New Testament. The Christian New Testament is based upon over 5,000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts, which we still have today and which contain all or portions of the New Testament. As we said earlier the oldest of these manuscripts (a fragment of John's Gospel) dates from 130 A.D., just 25-35 years after John originally wrote his Gospel account and the Book of Revelation.

There are two parchment copies of the entire New Testament (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus) that date from 325-450 A.D., just 300 years after Jesus lived. We have papyrus copies of portions of the New Testament that date from 180-225 A.D., just 150 years after Jesus lived. From these papyrus documents we can construct all of Luke, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, portions of Matthew, Mark, Acts, and Revelation (leaving out only James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John and Philemon.) There is a fragment of papyrus containing John 18:31-33 and 37, which dates from 130 A.D.

In addition to the Greek manuscripts, there are more than 1,000 copies and fragments of the New Testament in Syrian, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic. And there are 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, which date back to 384-400 A.D., just 350 years after Jesus lived.

Last, but not least, we have thousands of quotations from the early Church writers, who lived and wrote during the first, second, and third centuries, from which it is possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament with the exception of fifteen to twenty verses or so.

Here are the New Testament qualifications for historicity compared to the list of requirements for historicity that we established earlier:

1. At least two copies of supposed original manuscripts describing that person or event must survive into modern times. Over 5,000 copies of original manuscripts describing Jesus, his words and deeds, and those of his early followers survive into modern times.

2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts must be written within 1400 years or so after the figures and events they describe. The various copies of original New Testament manuscripts were written between 100 and 170 years after the persons and events they describe. The original documents upon which these copies are based were written between 50-100 A.D., only 20-70 years after the persons and events that they describe.

3. The supposed original documents can be written by people who were first, second, or third-hand witnesses to the events, or who were more than two generations or even five hundred years removed from the actual persons or events that they are describing. The New Testament documentation includes original writings by eye witnesses who had first-hand accounts as well as second hand witnesses who originally penned these works during, just after, or within a generation or two (70 years) at the most of the persons and events that they describe. Additionally, there are many first and second century documents from second hand witnesses, which contain portions of the New Testament from which it is possible to construct almost the entire New Testament. These were written within 30-250 years of the persons and events that they describe. The copies that we have of these original works were made by third or fourth generation persons who wrote within 100 to 200 years of the persons and events described.

By comparing the available historical documentation for the New Testament with our qualifications for historicity of other ancient figures, events, and writings, we can clearly see that the historical documentation of the life, teaching, and works of Jesus far exceeds that of any other ancient figure. So much so that to deny the historicity of Jesus' life and teachings or the authorship of his biographies by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or the authorship of the rest of the New Testament books, would force us to abandon all of the ancient historical record to complete obscurity.

In other words, if the historical documentation for the New Testament is not enough to establish that Jesus did exist, teach, and do what is attributed to him and that the Gospels were written by their namesakes, then how can we conclude than any of ancient history actually occurred? To dispute that Jesus lived is to dispute the existence of Alexander the Great or Socrates or Plato. To doubt that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John or the Book or Revelation is to doubt that Julius Caesar wrote Gallic Wars, or that Plato wrote Republic, or Aristotle, Poetics, etc. If the historical documentation for these persons and events is sufficient to establish their historicity then we must also accept that Jesus was an actual man who lived, taught, and did what is recorded about him in the New Testament.

But it must also be noted that the level of historical documentation so far exceeds the standards that are employed for determining the historicity of ancient figures and events that it really sets the standard. Consider the superiority of the standard for historicity that can be set based upon the historical documentation for New Testament persons and events as compared to that of other historical figures.

The standard requirements for historicity are:

1. That at least two copies of supposed original manuscripts must survive into modern times.
2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts must be written within 1400 years or so after the figures and events they describe.
3. The supposed original documents can be written by people who were first, second, or third-hand witnesses to the events, or who were more than two generations or even five hundred years removed from the actual persons or events that they are describing.

The Christian qualifications for historicity are:
1. Over 5,000 copies of original manuscripts survive into modern times.
2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts are written within 50-170 years or so after the figures and events they describe.
3. The supposed original documents are written solely by persons with first or second-hand knowledge of persons and events they describe and who all lived within a single generation of those persons or events.

The difference in these two standards of historical documentation is staggering. As opposed to the measly 2 copies, the New Testament has over 5,000 copies. The closest historical document to the New Testament is Homer's Illiad with 643 copies. But in terms of the dates for these copies the New Testament copies were all written within 50-170 years of the persons and events they describe as opposed to the astounding 1400 years allowed by modern scholars. Additionally, the New Testament is entirely composed of first and second hand accounts, while other historical documents are accepted when the author has absolutely no connection to the subject and may be separated by 500 years or more from the figures and events they describe.

Indeed, while we cannot reject the historicity of New Testament figures and events without also discarding all of ancient history, if we were to develop requirements for historicity based upon the New Testament documentation we could dismiss basically any ancient person or event that is not described in the Bible.

Obviously, there is no need to do this. We are just making a point. If a reasonable standard is fairly applied we must accept the historicity of New Testament figures and events and we must accept that the authors of the New Testament did actually write the texts that are attributed to them.

Additionally, we should also point out that no alternative record of Jesus' life is available. Though several Gnostic gospels profess an alternate understanding of Jesus' teaching than that recorded in the New Testament several significant differences must be acknowledged.

First, the New Testament, especially the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) contain a large amount of narration regarding the events of Jesus' life. Gnostic documents are devoid of such historical information and instead only provide Gnostic teaching. This being the case, the historical Jesus cannot be found in the Gnostic writings, but can only be found in the Christian New Testament.

One of the chief Gnostic works, the Gospel of Thomas, exemplifies this point.

"Thomas, Gospel of - a collection of sayings, composed originally in Greek, attributed to the "living" (i.e., resurrected) Jesus. Some of the sayings were previously known from papyri discovered at Oxyrhynchus and published in the late 19th cent. The sayings are similar to those of Jesus in the canonical Gospels. It is possible that the Gospel of Thomas is as early as the New Testament Gospels; more likely, the work is based on the sayings of Jesus preserved in the Gospels and edited from a gnostic point of view. The Gospel of Thomas is more encratite (antimarriage) and ascetic in tone than most gnostic works. See also Nag Hammadi" - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

The quotes below demonstrate two facts. First, as we have said, the Gnostic texts were not concerned with and do not present historical details of Jesus life. Second, the Gnostic texts date to a period AFTER the writing of the New Testament.

"Nag Hammadi - a town in Egypt near the ancient town of Chenoboskion, where, in 1945, a large cache of gnostic texts in the Coptic language was discovered. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts, dating from the 4th cent. A.D., include 12 codices of tractates, one loose tractate, and a copy of Plato's Republic—making 53 works in all. Originally composed in Greek, they were translated (2d-3d cent. A.D.) into Coptic. Most of the texts have a strong Christian element. The presence of non-Christian elements, however, gave rise to the speculation that gnosticism, which taught salvation by knowledge, was not originally a Christian movement. Until the texts' discovery, knowledge of Christian gnosticism was confined to reports and quotations of their orthodox opponents, such as Irenaeus and Tertullian. Among the codices are apocalypses, gospels, a collection of sayings of the resurrected Jesus to his disciples, homilies, prayers, and theological treatises." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Patristic Literarture - Almost the entire vast literature of Gnosticism has perished, and until recently the only original documents available to scholars (apart from extracts such as those already mentioned, which were preserved by orthodox critics) were a handful of treatises in Coptic contained in three codices (manuscript books) that were discovered in the 18th and late 19th centuries. The most interesting of these are Pistis Sophia and the Apocryphon of John, the former consisting of conversations of the risen Jesus with his disciples about the fall and redemption of the aeon (emanation from the Godhead) called Pistis Sophia, the latter of revelations made by Jesus to St. John explaining the presence of evil in the cosmos and showing how mankind can be rescued from it." - Britannica.com

So, we can see that the search for the historic person of Jesus starts and stops with the New Testament since they pre-date all other literature about him and since competing writings about Jesus do not present an alternative version of Jesus' life.

The Historical Jesus

Having shown that we must accept the accounts of the New Testament as the historical record of Jesus' life we can now use those accounts in order to provide a concise presentation of some essential historical details about Jesus, his disciples, and the spread of early Christianity.

According to the Luke's Gospel, Jesus began his ministry at about 30 years old, during the 14th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins...21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

"Tiberius Caesar - 42 B.C.-A.D. 37, second Roman emperor (A.D. 14-A.D. 37)...Tiberius succeeded without difficulty on the death of Augustus in A.D. 14." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

Since Tiberius became the emperor of Rome in the year 14 A.D. this would mean that Jesus was around 30 years old at about the year 28 or 29 A.D. Of course this is no great surprise.

Jesus' ministry lasted three years during, which he taught his disciples and proclaimed his message throughout Judea. At the end of those three years he was tried and crucified. The New Testament claims that he rose again on the third day afterwards. After that his disciples continued his ministry and proclaimed him to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Both Jews and Gentiles became followers of Jesus' teachings and spread the gospel throughout the known world under persecution from both the culture around them as well as the Roman empire. The record of these events is preserved for us in the New Testament through the four gospels, the Book of Acts, and the epistles to the first century churches. (For a more detailed account of these developments we recommend reading the New Testament beginning with the Gospels and the Book of Acts.)

Having thoroughly established the historicity of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, their authorship, and the figures and events that they contain we will now continue forward and begin our examination of the claims made by Judaism and Christianity. This examination will proceed in several steps.

First, we will examine a common, scholarly objection that is offered against the historicity and reliability of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Second, once we reject this objection, we will take a more in depth look at the historicity and reliability of the Book of Daniel, an important prophetic, historical, and messianic Jewish work. Third, we will investigate whether or not Judeo-Christian theology was influenced by other religious views as is sometimes suggested. Fourth, we will establish that Christianity is legitimately derived from Judaism. And fifth, we will demonstrate that the evidence offered by Judeo-Christianity does, in fact, provide reasonable substantiation for its claims.

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