The Risen LORD

Posted on April 15, 2009 by Matt

Since we recently celebrated the resurrection of Christ, it is fitting to write a few things about it.

People often ask me about the origins of Easter, why a rabbit is a symbol. Much like Christmas, Constantine in the 4th century changed the celebration days of the birth and resurrection of Christ to correspond with pagan holidays. His thinking was like, “you pagans talk about your finite gods during these times, now we will talk about my God. He lived and walked and performed miracles, he actually did what your gods claimed to do.” However, because the worship dates were changed and pagans and Christians were living close together throughout the Roman empire the celebrations became entangled. The rabbit is a pagan symbol. Pagan gods were all about fertility and obviously a rabbit is one “active” animal.  The pagan rabbit became entangled with resurrection of Christ.

Because Constantine changed these celebration days many have come to conflate effects with causes. Or that, people have recently come to think that Jesus is a fabrication of and nothing more then pagan mythology because of his connection with pagan holidays. When actuality Jesus’ correlation is due in fact because of the pagan holidays—His life is used as an apology against paganism.

There have been massive attempts to claim that Jesus was nothing more then a pagan god because of similarities between him and pagan gods. People who claim such things are not aware of historical evidence of Jesus nor how God operates. I asked Gary Habermas, a historical Jesus expert, if there were any scholars who held to this. He sort of laughed and told me “no.” This is a guy who knows his stuff too. He has read every published work on the resurrection of Jesus in French, German, and English since the late 70’s.  He was recently offered a teaching position at Oxford and has his PhD in the Historical Jesus.

Further, the entire Old Testament is nothing more then God showing himself to be superior to these false and finite pagan gods. The creation account in Genesis is a direct antithesis to several pagan gods, likewise the plagues of Egypt were all contradictory to the sustaining power of Egyptian pagan gods.  When Jesus came on the scene, he too show himself to be superior to these other pagan gods. Jesus said and did things that were written about in pagan mythology. He did this to show himself to be real. To be able to do what these pagan gods could only talk about, He was the real deal.

Remember, the resurrection of Christ is the greatest miracle that has ever occurred. It vindicated both the message and the messenger. The messenger was Jesus, the message was, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the father but through me.”

Comments

  • Moonsray on April 16th, 2009

    When Osiris is said to bring his believers eternal life in Egyptian Heaven, contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, we understand that as a myth.

    When the sacred rites of Demeter at Eleusis are described as bringing believers happiness in their eternal life, we understand that as a myth.

    In fact, when ancient writers tell us that in general ancient people believed in eternal life, with the good going to the Elysian Fields and the not so good going to Hades, we understand that as a myth.

    When Vespatian’s spittle healed a blind man, we understand that as a myth.

    When Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from death, we understand that as a myth.

    When the Pythia , the priestess at the Oracle at Delphi, in Greece, prophesied, and over and over again for a thousand years, the prophecies came true, we understand that as a myth.

    When Dionysus turned water into wine, we understand that as a myth. When Dionysus believers are filled with atay, the Spirit of God, we understand that as a myth.

    When Romulus is described as the Son of God, born of a virgin, we understand that as a myth.

    When Alexander the Great is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.

    When Augustus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal , we understand that as a myth.

    When Dionysus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.

    When Scipio Africanus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.

    So how come when Jesus is described as
    the Son of God,
    born of a mortal woman,
    according to prophecy,
    turning water into wine,
    raising girls from the dead, and
    healing blind men with his spittle,
    and setting it up so His believers got eternal life in Heaven contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, and off to Hades—er, I mean Hell—for the bad folks…

    how come that’s not a myth?

  • Matt on April 16th, 2009

    Did you read the post? The first reason it is not a myth is the historical evidence for Jesus. True some historical people were later attributed mythical abilities, but it usually takes 250 years after their death for this to occur. It takes about this much time for myths to arise. There are creeds which predate even the writing of the New Testament and Pauline epistles that mention the miracles of Jesus. These are dated in the late 30’s ad. Is this enough time for Myths to come about? If so then the myth creators were willing to die for the myth they created. Peter was crucified upside down, James the half brother of Jesus was thrown off the temple, the apostle Paul was beheaded and all because they advocated a myth they created? Do people die for what they know to be a lie?

    Do any of these pagan myths you mention have the historical reliability of the New Testament? Do you think Oxford would hire an expert in the area of historical Dionysus? They did however hire Gary Habermas, an expert on the historical Jesus. Are you then more educated then Oxford?

    Did you read the post? The entire Old Testament is an apology against the Pagan gods. If a God were going to come in the form of a man and argue (amongst pagans and jews alike) that He is the one true God, what would he say and do? Would he not say the very things they were deceived into believing by the pagans? Would he not perform the actual miracles these pagans claimed they could do? If superman were to come to the US today what would he say and do to prove that he is the true superman? Would he not say, “Ive come to fight for truth and justice and the American way?” Would he not prove himself to be faster then a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Absolutlely.

    Likewise, Jesus is not ignorant of the lies that were being spewed by these finite gods and all they claimed to say and do. Therefore, as an act of truth, to show himself to be superior to these false gods, He not only performed these miracles and said these things, but did it in an environment of multiple attestation and in a platform that provided eventual historical reliability.

    read myths and then read the New Testament. It does not read like a myth. Read about the historical reliability of myths and then read about the historical reliability of the New Testament.

  • Ed on April 16th, 2009

    Now that’s a rebuttal…There is only one true God, and He gave His only Son to save the people of the world. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is more than enough historical evidence to show that He is the savior…Why must people continually question this? Atheist’s have been trying in vein to argue against Christ, and some have even been “turned” to the Lord after researching for themselves…Thanks Matt, great job

  • Moonsray on April 16th, 2009

    > Did you read the post? The first reason it is not a myth is
    > the historical evidence for Jesus.

    Yes I did read the post. And a fine one it was too. I hope you won’t mind that to keep things from getting diffuse I’ve selected just a handful of your excellent rebuttal points to follow up on.

    I understand the theory that our Jesus stories are real because our gospel legends are historical. I was hoping for clarity to set aside the historicity theory and get your thoughts on another, further, different issue: the pagan Christian similarities. How do you explain them?

    For my own enlightenment, can I ask how you analyze two ideas shared by pagans and Christians – slavery and magic dreams?

    You know pagans had slavery. You know Paul writes about slaves. I wonder, do you believe Christianity copied the idea of slavery from paganism, or did Christianity invent slavery on it’s own?

    I think Christianity copied the idea. In fact, I’m not sure how it would be possible for the first Christians to have developed the idea on their own – since they grew up in a culture where it was generally known. You can’t independently invent something you already know about.

    You know Homer believed gods communicated to men in magic dreams. You know the Egyptians did too. And the Babylonians, and the Romans, and the Paphylgonians, etc. etc. etc. And Matthew and Luke in their birth stories.

    I wonder, do you believe Christianity copied the idea of magic god sent dreams from paganism, or did Christianity invent the idea on it’s own? Is it possible to independently invent something you already know about? – according to your theory.

    How is it possible Christianity did anything other than copy the idea of magic god sent dreams from paganism?

    True some historical people were later attributed mythical abilities, but it usually takes 250 years after their death for this to occur. It takes about this much time for myths to arise.

    I see. A fascinating theory, but not I think one that survives scrutiny. You know of course that similar stories were told about the god Glycon.

    Glycon was the son of the God Apollo, who …
    … came to Earth through a miraculous birth,
    … was the Earthly manifestation of divinity,
    … came to earth in fulfillment of divine prophecy,
    … gave his chief believer the power of prophecy,
    … gave believers the power to speak in tongues,
    … performed miracles,
    … healed the sick,
    … raised the dead.

    As Lucian, who went to Glycon’s oracle himself, records, these myths were told by Glycon’s priest Alexander of Abnoteichus – and they were all told immediately at the time Glycon was invented. Not 250 years. Not 250 DAYS. Immediately.

    So I’m afraid your 250 year claim is flatly contradicted by the evidence.

    May I ask, now that you know magic mythic legendary fairy tale stories can in fact develop immediately, how does this fact affect your reasoning on this point?

    Do any of these pagan myths you mention have the historical reliability of the New Testament? Do you think Oxford would hire an expert in the area of historical Dionysus? They did however hire Gary Habermas, an expert on the historical Jesus. Are you then more educated then Oxford?

    So, Jesus is real because Oxford however hired Gary Habermas. That’s your theory?

    Likewise, Jesus is not ignorant of the lies that were being spewed by these finite gods and all they claimed to say and do. Therefore, as an act of truth, to show himself to be superior to these false gods, He not only performed these miracles and said these things, but did it in an environment of multiple attestation and in a platform that provided eventual historical reliability.

    So, for clarity, the pagan prophesies are real?
    The pagan god sent dreams are real?
    The pagans who raised people from the dead, that was real?
    The pagan gods living in heaven, they were real?
    The pagan idea that after death bad people go to Hades, that was real?
    The pagan idea of eternal life after death, that was real?
    The pagan idea of demons, that was real?

    read myths and then read the New Testament. It does not read like a myth.

    I have. I’ve read both. And I’ve read the ancient historians too. And to me the magic Jesus stories read lots more like the myths than the histories.

    Moonsray

  • Ed on April 21st, 2009

    Funny how Glycon doesn’t seem to play any roles in today’s society; I dont see any major publications with any mention of this in major circulation, I have seen no churches, or places of gathering for Glycon, no symbolizations, explanations, seen no one praying to Glycon for salvation, and I also see in this article the word “invented.” Was anyone recorded to have been beaten for their belief in this entity? And if so, did they keep their belief afterwards? I, personally, always enjoy the “contradiction theories” included in debate regarding Christ, and the Bible. There are numerous historic, and archealogical evidences regarding Christianity and it’s followers…one way to prove something indefinately is to look at the number of people who chose to die for their belief in Christ, faithful to the end. I don’t know a soul who is prepared to give his/her life for a lie, or myth. I would also have to interject that the longevity, and sheer numbers of sold copies of the Bible are proof in themselves. Regarding the pagan mythical gods; If something is extremely relevant, wouldn’t more people be aware of it? On a final note; the leader of the free world is sworn into power with his hand on the Bible, my friend. God bless

  • Moonsray on April 22nd, 2009

    So in summary, the 250-years-to-myth business was a fairy tale. The stories about Jesus could very easily have been invented immediately. The actual factual evidence is Jesus may very well be a fraud.

    But you think Jesus is real because Oxford hired Gary Habermas and the leader of the free world is sworn in with his hand on the Bible.

    Oh yeah, the whole Mohhamed blowing himself to bits for Allah thing, that convinces you Allah must be real too, ’cause no one ever dies for a lie. Nope, never happens.

    Good to know.

  • Ed on April 22nd, 2009

    There is a slight difference between blowing yourself up, which is suicide, and being persecuted, tortured, and then killed for your religious belief. Are you willing to be tortured and killed for a known myth, or a known lie? Christianity doesn’t promote taking lives in any fashion, but it does allow you to protect your family and yourself from those who would do you harm. Also, you really didn’t answer any of the questions that were put to you regarding the finite gods. What were called myths by you, were actually performed, with witnesses, by Christ Himself…Read Matthew, in it the sermon on the mount, and tell me that there is a better way for life than this. The book of Job would be one I would suggest also. The stories were not “invented” at all. Jesus died on the cross, for us, and was resurrected to prove He is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other…this is fun by the way, thank you

  • Matt on April 22nd, 2009

    I usually dont continue corresponding with someone who does not respond to my questions, who equivocates on my statements, and who makes comments that have nothing to do with the discussion but I wish to clear up a couple of things.

    You really should read more carefully. MY comment concerning 250 years was, it takes that much time for myths to arise from historical events. For example, no miracles are attributed to Buddha for 300 hundred years after his death and Muhammad about the same. Of course anyone at anytime can spout a lie or myth but then the question remains, not would people die for a lie (for we would all agree that happens all the time) but would people die for what they know to be a lie? If Jesus and his claims were lies and fabrications by a group of men then why would they continue to spout them while they were being murdered? The apostle Peter (according to historians) was crucified upsidedown because he didnt feel like he was worthy to die in the same manner as his LORD. Why would he feel this way about a lie he created? Why would jewish fisherman attempt to stand up against the strongest government/army in the world? If they were crazy then how were these crazy men able to produce a work in which the man they fabricated coincided with hundreds of Old Testament prophecies concerning the fabrication (are crazy people that brilliant?) What about the 16 secular historians within the era that confirm the lives of the apostles and Jesus? Were they apart of the conspiracy?

    Again you should read more carefully, do you think I am claiming that because Habermas was offered a teaching position at Oxford this is all the evidence I have? Do you think that is my point? If you do, you are intellectually irresponsible. My point was, you never see any Higher learning institution offer teaching degrees concerning historical evidence for people who are commonly thought of as myths. What about Glycon? How many historical evidence PhD’s do you know of?

    Another pressing question is, when does the myths end and history begin in your view? Coins have been found of pontious pilate. If there was a ruckous going on around palestine where these Jews are claiming that their lord was sentenced under Pilate. to end this whole fiasco wouldnt Pilate merely have to claim, “I never knew of such a man.” Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joeseph of arimenthia who was on the senhendrin. There were only 70 members on the Senhedrin, if the apostles claimed that there was an empty tomb 3 days after burying their LORD in the tomb of Joeseph, couldnt everything been settled easily by the Romans saying, “there is no Joeseph on the sengedrin, he never existed?”

    The internal evidence is undeniable.

    The historical reliability of the New Testament is more sound then that of Homer, Alexander the great, and Tiberius. Educate yourself. If you wish to continue this correspondence, avoid the ad hominem attacks, respond to my questions, and answer with intellectual responsibility. feel free to email me, matt@mjcoombe.com

  • moonsray on April 23rd, 2009

    I usually dont continue corresponding with someone who does not respond to my questions, who equivocates on my statements, and who makes comments that have nothing to do with the discussion but I wish to clear up a couple of things.

    May I politely suggest you get experience engaging new ideas. For one thing it may help you develop some emotional maturity; not everyone who disagrees with you is malicious and stupid. For another, it may teach you to think more precisely. As things stand, you are embarrassingly undisciplined.

    You really should read more carefully.

    As you gain emotional maturity, you’ll see that snotty works when you’re right. When you lack the sophistication to understand the point made, snotty is….well, it’s just pathetic.

    MY comment concerning 250 years was, it takes that much time for myths to arise from historical events. For example, no miracles are attributed to Buddha for 300 hundred years after his death and Muhammad about the same. Of course anyone at anytime can spout a lie or myth

    Excellent. We agree. The story that Glycon was the son of god come to earth may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.
    And the story that Jesus was the son of god come to earth may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.

    The story that Glycon came in fulfillment of prophesy and healed the sick may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.
    And the story that Jesus came in fulfillment of prophesy and healed the sick may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.

    The story that Glycon raised the dead may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.
    And the story that Jesus raised the dead may be a myth that developed immediately at the time.

    We agree. As far as the timing of the stories go, it is entirely and completely possible all our Jesus stories are lies and myths. Excellent. Thank you for admitting this.

    but then the question remains, not would people die for a lie (for we would all agree that happens all the time) but would people die for what they know to be a lie?

    Good. You’ve abandoned the myth timing argument altogether. We agree it fails.

    Rumplestiltskin is a fairy tale. And so is the miller’s daughter, and the straw Rs spun into gold. The king is also part of the fairy tale, and so it the miller’s daughter’s first born child. It’s all a fairy tale.

    Jesus is a myth. Peter is a myth. Mt., Mk., Lk, Jn are myths. It’s all one big fairy tale.

    Specifically, the evidence that anyone who knew Jesus actually died in any particular circumstance, let alone one in which a recantation would have saved them, is entirely legendary.

    you never see any Higher learning institution offer teaching degrees concerning historical evidence for people who are commonly thought of as myths.

    I’m not sure what you imagine a “teaching degree” is, but to the extent your claim here is coherent, can you please point me to the survey you rely on to tell you what “teaching degrees” Higher learning institutions offer?

    Or are you just making this “fact” up?

    Another pressing question is, when does the myths end and history begin in your view?

    I’d like to answer your question, but it is incoherent.

    Coins have been found of pontious pilate. If there was a ruckous going on around palestine where these Jews are claiming that their lord was sentenced under Pilate. to end this whole fiasco wouldnt Pilate merely have to claim, “I never knew of such a man.”

    I very much doubt there was much “ruckous” going around Palestine; Josephus, who was there, doesn’t mention any. And if there were I doubt a fellow in Pilate’s office would issue a statement. I think he’d do what Joesphus describes other prefects doing. He’d have his cavalry ride over and slaughter the trouble makers.

    Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joeseph of arimenthia who was on the senhendrin. There were only 70 members on the Senhedrin, if the apostles claimed that there was an empty tomb 3 days after burying their LORD in the tomb of Joeseph, couldnt everything been settled easily by the Romans saying, “there is no Joeseph on the sengedrin, he never existed?”

    The internal evidence is undeniable.

    Rumplestiltskin must have been able to turn straw into gold, otherwise the king never would have married the miller’s daughter. The internal evidence is undeniable.

    The “internal evidence” isn’t evidence at all, it is legend.

  • Matt on April 23rd, 2009

    Friend, (my girlfriend said I was too harsh in my previous post, though I wasnt intending to be, please forgive me.) You still have not answered my questions. And are still partaking in the Ad Hominem attack. You did make a good point though as I was not very clear what I meant by “teaching degree” though in all honesty those in academia would have known what I meant. By “teaching degree” I mean a reputable degree from a reputable school that would provide a venue for a teaching position at reputable university. you are not welcome to comment on this forum unless you make the changes i suggested.

    So you take Joesephus as a credible source? I own the complete works of Joesephus, page 639 in my version there is a section concerning ancient citations of the testimonies of Josephus.

    110 AD Tacitus. “Nero, in order to stifle the rumor (as if he himself had set Rome on fire,) ascribed it to those people who were hated for their wicked practices, and called by the vulgar ‘Christians’ these he punished exquisitely. The author of this name was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was brought to punishment by Pontius Pilate the procurator.”

    Justin martyr 147 You (jews) knew that Jesus was risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, as the prophecies did foretell was to happen”

    Origen 230 …”that Flavius Josephus , when, in his 20th book of the Jewish antiquities, he had in mind to set down what was the cause why the people suffered such miseries, till the very holy house was domolished (the destruction of the temple in 70ad) he said, that these things befell them by the anger of God, on account of what they had dared to do to James, the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ; ”

    There was a span of about 100 years between Origen and Josephus, not enough time for myth to arise. further this is only a few sources, there are many more.

    So peter was a myth. what about the Apostolic fathers? They wrote from the turn of the first century on, one of them was Ignatious of Antioch (50-110ad) and was a student of Peter, did he not exist with Peter?

    What about Polycarp? He was born around 70 ad and was the student of John. Did he not exist with John?

    What about the writings of these men? Did they not exist either?

    Clement of Rome was likewise an apostolic Father, what is the status of his existence.

    So, where does myth end and history begin? If everything is Myth what about the accounts of the apostolic fathers, josephus, origen, Tacitus? Are they fake too?
    please explain!

    you seem to think that merely because Scripture tells of miraculous events this entails that they are myth in nature. Am I correct in thinking this?

    The Socratic method of manuscript interpretation places strong emphasis on internal evidence. But internal evidence is only one factor of importance. There is also a couple of more areas, external evidence and the biographical test. External evidence is what i already presented with the apostolic fathers and so on, The biographical test as explained by Josh McDowell:

    The biographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and the extant copy.

    So then to discern how the New Testament fares with the biographical test we must evaluate it concerning the three areas presented by Josh McDowell, 1) The number of manuscripts copies and their date of transcription. 2) The date of the original writing (such as when Paul wrote Romans.) 3) And the time gap between the original writing and the first known copy.
    For example, concerning ancient documents an author who is considered highly valid by these means is Aristotle. He wrote from 384-322 BC; and there exist an impressive 50 copies of his works. The earliest copy of Aristotle’s works date to around 1100 A.D, resulting in a span of 1,400 years. Concerning ancient documents this would be considered a solid source.
    Of all the ancient documents the writings of Homer are considered the most reliable. He wrote the Iliad around 900 B.C., the earliest copy is from about 400 B.C (500 year time gap) and there exist a whopping 643 copies of his writings. Because of these factors the authorship of the Iliad is never in dispute.
    Oops, I nearly forgot to mention, Homer is only the most reliable of the ancient documents if one omits the New Testament from the list. The New Testament was written between 48-110 A.D. and the earliest copies were found around 125 A.D (gap of 15-90 years.) Further, there exit over 20,000 copies! Therefore, when just considering copies (excluding the time gap) as sure one is that Homer wrote the Iliad one should be roughly 31 times more justified in believing the New Testament was written by Paul, Peter, John, and so on.

    How does Rumpelstiltskin fare on the combined scrutiny of the internal evidence, the external evidence, and the biographical test?

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