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Why Christianity Is Unbelievable

Essay by   •  May 15, 2011  •  Essay  •  3,142 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,367 Views

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Why Christianity is Unbelievable: Part 1: Historical

I've been studying Christianity for over 20 years. In my youth, I jumped into it with enthusiasm and blind faith. Growing up in the buckle of the Bible belt, it seemed to be the right thing to do to seek a responsible path to adulthood.

In 1984, I received a degree in Theology and began teaching at a Bible college in St.Paul, MN. I taught there for six years, but I quit my job and changed occupations once I began to believe that Christianity was a fabrication. My discoveries are not revelations. Knowledge that Christianity has mortal problems is well documented for those willing to take the time to look.

I'm going to start a multi-part series on Why the Christian Story is Unbelievable. This part regards its lack of historical proof.

First, let's establish a timeline of events that are less controversial.

Ð'* 30 CE Ð'- If Jesus existed, he probably died around this year.

Ð'* 37 CE Ð'- The Apostle Paul is converted and believes Jesus is the Messiah. He never knew Jesus before the crucifixion.

Ð'* 37 CE Ð'- Josephus Flavius was born. He grew up in Galilee similar to Jesus. He became the most noted Jewish historian of his time.

Ð'* 39 CE Ð'- Philo (b.20 BC Ð'- d.45 CE) wrote from Palestine. He was a Hellenized Jew who was contemporary to Jesus. He recorded Jewish history and philosophy.

Ð'* c.49 CE Ð'- Paul starts writings epistles to churches. He writes the majority of the NT outside of the Gospels.

Ð'* c.62 CE Ð'- Paul is killed in Rome for charges of treason. Paul dies without ever having read the Gospels, which would not be written for another 10 to 20 years.

Ð'* 64 CE Ð'- Nero becomes emperor of Rome. The stories of his persecuting Christians may or may not be true. However, there is no proof that recanting of religious views would save anyone's life.

Ð'* 66 CE Ð'- The Jews revolt against Roman rule in Jerusalem. The revolt is crushed by Commander Vespasian.

Ð'* 69 CE Ð'- Vespasian becomes emperor of Rome.

Ð'* 70 CE Ð'- Due to continued Jewish revolt, Vespasian ordered Roman troops into Jerusalem. The city is partially razed. The Temple is completely destroyed. Thousands of Jews are killed.

Ð'* c.75 CE Ð'- Gospel of Mark was published anonymously. It probably did not look exactly like the version we have today- especially the ending. Our current version is 661 verses. Mark, who was later credited for this writing, never met Jesus.

Ð'* c.80 CE Ð'- The Gospel of Matthew is written anonymously. Matthew copies from Mark to produce a Gospel of 1068 versus. Of Mark's 661 verses, he uses 606 of them to produce Matthew.

Ð'* c. 80 CE Ð'- The Gospel of Luke is written in 1149 verses. He also uses the anonymous work of Mark, but he only uses 302 verses of Mark. Because Mathew and Luke often contradict each other (eg, date of Christ's birth), Luke did not have the Gospel of Matthew when he wrote Luke. Therefore, they were probably written about the same time. Luke never met Jesus.

Ð'* c.85 CE Ð'- Doctrines of Gnostism (specifically docetism) and adoptionism begin to divide Christianity. Christian writings of this time defend against these doctrines.

Ð'* c.90 CE Ð'- Gospel of John begins to be written. It was probably edited up until around 150 CE. John does not use any other Gospel.

Note: For reasons too lengthy for this article, I actually believe that that Gospels Matthew and Luke were written later that 80 CE. However, I'm using more traditional dates until I can explain my view more fully on this topic.

What I Think IS Believable:

I think Jesus existed, and he was a teacher and preacher in the hills of Galilee with a small following. Perhaps he even claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews. The Jews were looking for a messiah, but they were looking for someone who would deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule Ð'- not deliver them from their sins. History does reveal several other people who were killed around this time by the Romans because the person claimed to be the messiah. These types of people were killed for sedition to nip revolts in the bud.

The death of Jesus destroyed the hopes of his followers. I don't believe that all of the characters in the Gospels (written some 50 years after Christ's death) actually existed. They became part of the narrative to tell a story. It's an embellished story loosely based on some true events and some actual people.

I believe that it is probable that one of the leaders (like Peter) met with the other follows after Christ's death at their traditional meal. He said that he saw Jesus in a dream last night, and Jesus spoke to him. Soon, other followers, who wanted to identify with the holy experience, also claim to have had Jesus appear to them. This is the birth of the resurrection story that would grow and be embellished for 50 years before it was written down. I have much more proof of this that will be described later (maybe part 2 or 3).

Can the Resurrection of Jesus be Established Historically?

Historians have criteria for determining if a story is historically accurate. The following are some of the main determiners. Depending on how many of these points the event can claim will determine how historically probable it is.

1. The main actor documents the account in his or her own handwriting.

2. Reliable historians who are contemporary to the event give record of the event.

3. Contemporary witnesses who are hostile to the main actor provide a corroborating account.

4. First-hand witnesses who have no motivation to embellish the event record what happened in their own handwriting.

5. There exists physical evidence in the form of coins, inscriptions, documents, etc. that are contemporary to the main actor that corroborate the claim.

6. Was the event required in order for subsequent events in history to exist?

7. Are the claims extraordinary,

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