This article is in response to a post by Shawn the Humanist called Jesus is a Legend.
Shawn wrote this article, I think, to discredit the four Gospels that we find in the Bible. I believe, however, that he has done just the opposite. Now let me be clear. I think that his article is very well thought out and he did his best to give an objective opinion on the matter. However, I’m afraid some of his facts aren’t lined up with current historical data.
First of all let me say that when discussing the Scriptures, I do not intend to treat the text as God inspired or inerrant. But instead I will approach the Biblical text as historical and literary documents and will expect the same scrutiny and the same standard as historians approach all other historical texts. An accommodation that most atheists don’t want to give to the Bible.
Shawn claims that the Gospels were written anonymously and that we don’t know who really wrote them. I might agree with the first claim. They may have been originally written anonymously but we do have sources that confirm the traditional authorship of these texts.
- Shawn cites Patheos.com as a source that explains that “the gospels were written anonymously by people unknown to us now.” If you read the article, I’m sure that you will see that it says just the opposite.
- Papias, a historian and biographer who wrote during the turn of the second century, confirms the authorship of Mathew, Mark, and John no later than 110 A.D.. Papias got his information from John the Elder who was a disciple of the one or more of the original Apostles.
- Justyn Martyr confirms the authorship of Luke no later than 150 A.D..
The first bullet point refutes itself and the other two actually are agreed on by most New Testament scholars. So to say that “most scholars” say that we don’t know who wrote the Gospels is just factually false.
Shawn claims that a “fake census” was made up in order that Jesus’ birth could be placed in Bethlehem to line up with prophecy. The fact of the matter is that censuses were common under Caesar Augustus. He decreed many of them in order to keep up with the population for tax purposes. It is argued by some that the census that took place under Herod was a Jewish style census that would not require participants to return to their hometown. However, it is widely accepted that ten years later a Roman style census was conducted under Qurinius’s governorship. This census would require every man to return to his hometown. So there may be some questions that require verification but to say that “the fact is there was no such census” is simply an irresponsible assertion.
Internet Sources (More reliable sources available)
To claim such uncomfortable facts, such as the baptism of Jesus, would not have been conventional for that time if the early Church were trying to build a false legend. The fact that they report on these issues actually shows their dedication to the accuracy. It’s like reporting on the empty tomb being discovered by women. This would have been the first thing to be changed if the writers of the Gospels were trying to create a false religion based on legend. What’s more, at the very embarrassing crucifixion of Jesus, the dedication of the Disciples would have been immediately squashed and they would have gone back to their lives if they did not expect their Messiah to die… wait, that’s exactly what they did according to the Gospels. In fact there is no good reason for the re-invigoration of their faith and their willingness to die for a dead Messiah other than witnessing the bodily resurrection of the living Christ.
So as we see, some of Shawn’s facts are not facts at all nor the opinions of contemporary scholarship. Even though a well written article, I would certainly recommend reading the Gospels themselves and fact checking his sources before making assertions of “fact” in regards of any subject, much less documents that have been as scrutinized and studied as the Gospels.