By Jack Kinsella
Of all the various religious belief systems embraced around the world, Christianity stands apart because Christianity cannot be mythologized. Everything about Christianity is grounded in solid history.
For example, Christianity could not exist apart from the Roman occupation of Judea. Without Jewish rejection of the Messiah, Christianity would have become a Jewish religion.
Without the Roman occupation, there could be no Pontius Pilate. Without Pilate to wash his hands of responsibility for the Crucifixion, Jesus could not have been put to death ‘for the sins of His people’, as required by Messianic prophecy.
And of course, without the public Crucifixion, there could not have been a Resurrection and the core beliefs of Christianity could not exist. Christianity’s core beliefs rely 100% on the accuracy of the historical context in which it was introduced to the world.
One gets a sense of the importance of historical context when one compares other major world religions to Christianity. Islam, for example, exists independent of historical truth.
Historically, Allah was a pagan god — one of about 360 gods worshipped by the pre-Islamic Arab world. Mohammed’s biographers simply promoted a pagan god to preeminence by declaring Allah to be the one true god.
Allah’s pre-Islamic historical existence puts Islam out of historical context, since Islam claims Allah created the world and is the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews.
Historically, if Allah was one of 360 pagan gods worshipped by pre-Islamic Arabia, then he could not also be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Allah’s history is at odds with world history. If one is true, the other cannot be.
Buddha allegedly sat down under a Bodhi tree and meditated until he found enlightenment and produced the Four Noble Truths. But the principle focus of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths.
The details of Buddha’s life are part myth, part history.Whether or not Buddha produced the Four Noble Truths under a Bodhi tree or an oak tree is irrelevant. But that doesn’t bother Buddhists.
There are no schools of thought specifically dedicated to disproving the details of Buddha’s life for the purpose of discrediting his historicity. The Four Noble Truths can exist independently of a literal Buddha.
Christianity has no such historical problems. Jesus was of the Line of David. He was raised a Jew, taught in synagogues and in the Jewish Temple, and the religion He founded was historically rooted in the Jewish Scriptures. And Christianity could not exist independently of an historically accurate Jesus.
One could not accept the tenets of Christianity if they were removed from the historical context in which they were given. The places where Jesus taught can be visited today. Genuine, legitimate historical records, both Christian and non-Christian, attest to the historical accuracy of the events recorded by the Gospels.
The Koran may or may not be the exact literal words of Allah. The Koran was produced after his death by scribes who wrote down what Mohammed taught. Dates, times and places are impossible to verify historically. Did Mohammed ascend to heaven on a winged horse from the ‘furthest mosque’ in Jerusalem?
The Koran provides no historical context, no eyewitness testimony, no concurrent historical theme in which it makes sense, but whether or not Mohammed actually rode Buraq up to heaven is irrelevant to the core tenets of Islam.
The life, death, crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus were all very public events. The historical political climate of the time was hostile to the claims of Christianity, but the eyewitness testimony was accepted as fact because there were too many living witnesses to the events described for it to be a hoax.
All the New Testament documents were written within one generation of the events they portray. Dr. Norman Geisler and Willaim Nix write “In brief, all twenty seven books [of the New Testament] were written, copied, and began to be disseminated among the churches before the end of the first century.”
No other religious belief structure in the history of the world has been as carefully documented as that of Christianity, and no other belief structure in the history of the world has been more closely scrutinized for historical inaccuracy.
If Mohammed didn’t ride Buraq to heaven, Islam could still exist as a viable religious system. If Buddha didn’t develop the Four Noble Truths under a bohdi tree, it would not have any real bearing on the validity of Buddhism to its adherents.
Unlike the other great religions of the world, Christianity MUST be historically accurate down to the tiniest detail in order to remain viable.
No other world religion has been as closely scrutinized down through the ages as Christianity. If it could be proved that Jesus did not come from Nazareth, had never been to Egypt, or was not born in Bethlehem, Christianity would immediately collapse.
The enemies of Christianity have tried for two thousand years to find evidence that conclusively disproves a single claim regarding the life and times of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Nobody saw Mohammed ride Buraq to heaven. But it is irrelevant to Islam’s viability.
Jesus ascended to heaven in full view of the Apostles, no one of whom ever recanted their testimony, even at the cost of their own lives.
Nobody knows whether or not Buddha attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree. Buddhists can pursue the Four Noble Truths regardless of how they came to be.
But if Jesus didn’t really curse the fig tree as recorded in Mark 11:21, then the Bible can’t be trusted and Christianity would collapse.
Mohammed can contradict himself throughout the Koran without presenting any significant challenge to the core tenets of Islam. The Koran identifies Christians and Jews as ‘People of the Book’ in one place, and later, commands followers of Islam to kill Christians and Jews someplace else.
If Jesus contradicted Himself even once, Christianity would fail. Yet Christianity has withstood two thousand years of skeptical scrutiny without a single, provable historical inaccuracy.
Mohammed was illiterate, as was most of the 6th century Arab world. The same can be said for Indian society 2550 years ago when Buddha achieved enlightenment.
But Jesus Christ lived, died and was resurrected in the midst of one of the most literate and carefully documented societies in the history of the ancient world. Even the Jewish leaders who ordered His death were unable to dispute the Gospel accounts of His life, although it was certainly in their interests to do so.
Why is it that Christianity MUST be true? As the Apostle Peter specifically noted;
“We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were EYEWITNESSES of His Majesty.” (2nd Peter 1:16)
For that reason, Peter notes,
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (2nd Peter 1:19)
Christianity has withstood all assaults down through the ages because it IS true. Every single word of it.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on January 11, 2007