December 25th, 2011
February 5th, 2016
By Kyle Larson
In the last of our non Jewish writers who mention Jesus, we will look at Lucian of Samasota. Lucian was born in 125 AD in Samosota, a region which today lies in modern day southern Turkey. As a young man, Lucian studied law and Greek literature. As an adult, he became a well know rhetorician, someone who argues cases in the Roman court system. He was also a widely known and popular satirist, speaker, and writer of his day. His most popular writings include:
- A True Story – A take off on the stories found in the Odyssey written by the Greek author Homer several centuries earlier.
- The Passing of Peregrinas – A pagan’s contact with the earliest Christians.
- The Symposium – A satirical look at one of Plato’s writings
Lucian, in his writings on the Christians, views them with disdain. There are probably a few reasons for this. First, Lucian had a habit of satire; It’s not a surprise that he approached Christianity that way. Second, Christianity was still so new that, apparently, Lucian didn’t take the time to investigate Christianity for himself. Despite this, Lucian gives one of the earliest description of Jesus and the Christians by a non Christian:
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account … You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
It is human nature that when a person does not understand something and has no further interest in checking it out, it is easier to make fun of the thing than to try and discredit it, especially if the person has little or no knowledge about it. This is what Lucian is doing here. He mocks Jesus and the early Christians. Yet for all the mocking that he does, Lucian does not deny the existence of the Christians “lawgiver”, Jesus. He also gives us evidence that early Christians worshiped Jesus as a divinity. So this is again, very early testimony that confirms the existence of Jesus by a non Christian writer
Next week, we will begin looking at Jewish authors who affirm the existence of Jesus as a historical figure.
January 25th, 2016
by Kyle Larson
Pliny the Younger was a well educated Roman lawyer who prosecuted and defended Provincial governors throughout the late first century and early second century Roman Empire. In a series of letters written to Emperor Trajan in the early second century, Pliny the Younger described how he would identify and punish those who refused to offer sacrifices to Emperor Trajan. In particular, these letters included his dealings with Christians.
Pliny the Younger born in Italy around 61 AD. To put that in perspective, Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 64 AD. Pliny’s father died when he was young, and he was raised by his step-father. His step-father was an imperial official well known for putting down a revolt against the Emperor Nero in 68 AD. Pliny the Younger was also very close to his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who was a close friend to Emperor Vespasian and notable scholar of the first century.
While still young, both Plinys were witness to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Both lived opposite the town of Pompeii when it erupted. Pliny the Younger vividly describes the horror that the people of Pompeii felt as a result. His uncle, Pliny the elder, died trying to rescue people caught in the volcanic eruption. As you can imagine, this was very difficult for Pliny the Younger to deal with.
Despite this, Pliny the Younger received an excellent Roman education which included studying rhetoric under Quintilian, the most famous Roman rhetorician of his day and a friend of the Emperor. After completing his education, Pliny entered the imperial service of the Roman Empire. In 110 AD, he became the Roman Governor of Bithynia, the area that covers modern day Turkey. As Governor, he had to deal with a small religious group known as Christians. There was no empire wide persecution, so Pliny was not sure how to deal with the Christians. He decided to write to the Emperor Trajan and share with him what his current policy was in dealing with the Christians.
Emperor Trajan stated that merely being a Christian was crime enough for judicial action. In response, Pliny explained his method of interrogation and the punishments awarded. First, he would give the accused three attempts to either confirm or deny the charge that they were Christians. If it was made clear to him that the accused were Christians, Pliny would then give them the opportunity to deny Jesus and offer burnt sacrifices to the Roman Emperor. If the Christians persistently and stubbornly refused to sacrifice to the Emperor, Pliny would pass judgement. Roman citizens would be sent to Rome for trial. Those not fortunate enough to be citizens were executed.
The Emperor Trajan responded to Pliny and said he had no problem with this procedure. Because the Christians were still a small group, the Emperor wrote that no special effort should be made to actively hunt down the Christians. No anonymous accusations should be accepted. Only accusations by officials and interrogations were sufficient. However, once a person was identified as a Christian, Pliny should then follow the procedure that he outlined in his original letter to the Emperor Trajan.
Pliny, in another place, talks about the high ethical and moral standards that the early Christians received from their teacher Jesus and which they sought to put into practice. He also mentions that Christians sang worship songs to Jesus as “a god”. Both of these confirm the traditional view of what early Christians believed.
Because of his position and connections, we can confidently say that Pliny the Younger was in a good place to give accurate information on the early Christians he encountered. We can believe his descriptions of their moral behavior and how it had been shaped by the ethical teachings of the Jewish teacher named Jesus. So Pliny the Younger offers testimony that a Jewish teacher named Jesus existed, was a great moral teacher, and was worshiped as God at the end of the first century by a group called Christians.
January 18th, 2016
by Kyle Larson
Jesus was real. He existed in a time and lived in a place. History has provided for us numerous sources for his life, his death, and the effect he had on the ancient world. This week, we are going to take a brief look at the Roman scholar and historian Suetonius. He left a short, but telling, account of a strange people causing an uproar in Rome.
Suetonius was a Roman scholar who wrote a notable history of the Roman emperors around the end of the first century AD. He was born in north Africa (modern Algeria) sometime between 67-72 AD. Raised in an upper class family, Suetonius received an excellent classical education by Roman standards, including time spent studying Greek literature and art. He also learned the political and economic aspects of the first century Roman Empire.
Like Tacitus, Suetonius studied Roman Law. He was a close friend of Pliny the Younger, the Roman Governor of what is modern day Turkey. He also had access to vast amounts of Roman historical and archival records once he was appointed to serve as the Director of the Imperial Library as well as other related posts.
His historical writings are many. He wrote on many aspects of Greco-Roman culture. This included such topics as the Greek games, physical disabilities, clothing, Roman festivals and customs. With all these credentials behind him, as we did with Tacitus, we can confidently assert that he was well connected, had access to Roman records, and thus could speak confidently on Jesus and the early Christians.
His major historical work was entitled Lives of the Twelve Caesars. In it, Suetonius chronicles the major Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. When he gets to the reign of the Emperor Claudius, he makes a brief mention of Jesus and the early Christians:
“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.”
Bart Ehrman is uncertain if “Chrestus” refers to Jesus or not. Other historians point out that the name “Chrestus” is the same Latin Spelling that Tacitus uses when referring to Jesus.
And we know, Tacitus was an accurate Roman historian. This passage explains that the Jewish population in Rome caused problems for Roman officials because of the growing number of Christians in Rome. As a result, the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Even Bart Ehrman admits that this historical incident in Suetonius is confirmed by Luke in Acts 18:2.
Both Tacitus and Suetonius confirm that the Christians in Rome followed a Jewish teacher named Jesus who lived in Judea, taught the people, and was ultimately killed under Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea while Tiberius was the Roman Emperor. It is possible that Pilate filed a formal report in Rome that both Tacitus and Suetonius may have had access to.
Now that we have looked at two of the top Gentile writers who mention Jesus, next week, we will look at what the first century Jewish historian Josephus had to say about Jesus.
January 4th, 2016
by Kyle Larson
Tacitus: The Man
Tacitus was born in Gaul, modern day France, and lived between 56 and 120 AD. At the time, Gaul was a Roman Province, having been conquered by Julius Caesar in the middle of the first century BC. Tacitus grew up in an upper class family. This afforded him an excellent education by Roman standards and enabled him to study Roman law. This, in turn, opened the doors for public administrative office. He married the daughter of Agricola, a Roman consul who later was appointed the governor of Britain. By the time he was an adult, Tacitus was well connected to the upper circles of Roman Imperial Administration
The Early Works
As stated above, Tacitus married the daughter of Agricola, who was a high ranking Roman official. Tacitus wanted to honor his father-in-Law Agricola by giving an account of his service to the Roman Empire, so he chose to chronicle Agricola’s reign as the Governor of Britain. In this work, we get a quick glimpse of what life in Britain was like under early Roman rule through the Governorship of Agricola; Britain became a Roman Province late in the first Century.
Tacitus’ second early historical work had to do with life among the Germanic tribes. Tacitus wanted to chronicle how Greco-Roman Culture was superior to Germanic culture. This book gives us a personal, if biased, glimpse into late first century life in the far north of the Roman empire.
The Histories and The Annals
This two most important substantial works of Tacitus are the Histories and the Annals.
1. The Histories (69 AD – 96 AD)
This book covers a period ranging from the time of Emperor Galba to the Emperor Domitian. This historical work takes up 5 books. The first four books as well as part of the fifth book still exists.
2. The Annals (14 AD – 68 AD)
Tacitus, after finishing The Histories, decided to take a further step backwards and wrote on the Imperial reigns from Augustus Caesar to Nero. One thing that seems obvious as one reads Tacitus is that because of his position in the Roman Imperial administration, he had access to earlier sources. He made good use of them.
Tacitus on Christians and Jesus
From his writings, we can gain insight into what Tacitus wrote concerning Jesus and his earliest followers in Rome.
Tacitus wrote in The Annals:
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”
Tacitus, based on earlier Roman governmental documentation, gives us specific glimpses into the early church. He confirms that Jesus was crucified while Tiberius was Emperor of Rome and Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea. This places the crucifixion between 26 and 36 AD. Tacitus also writes that at some point after the death of Jesus, something happened that caused the Christians to re-surface in Judea, and later, into Rome itself.
At one point, Nero had it in mind to remake Rome into a beautiful, art filled Roman utopia. Soon after, old Rome went up in flames. Many to this day suspect Nero was behind it. To quell such rumors at the time, Nero decided to blame the early Christians for the fire. Thus began the first major persecution of the church. Tacitus records this in his Annals. Fortunately, this was not an empire wide persecution, but mainly localized in Rome.
So here we have genuine historical testimony from a Roman historian. According to Roman records of the day as accessed by Tacitus, Jesus was a real person. He actually lived and died a horrible death. He had numerous followers, even in Rome, and they continued to spread his message.
Next week, we will look into the background on Suetonius and on what he wrote on Jesus and the early Christians.
November 19th, 2015
Chapter 7 of Contend Earnestly For The Faith
Many defenders of the faith fail to see apologetics in its wider scope. They often focus only on one apologetic methodology, neglecting the other methodologies. Though choosing to specialize in only one type of apologetics is often admirable, ignorance of the contributions of the other methodologies is unfortunate.
In this chapter, an attempt will be made to examine the entire spectrum of the apologetic discipline. There are basically eight distinct apologetic methodologies. They are:
- Testimonial apologetics,
- Presuppositional apologetics,
- Psychological apologetics,
- Philosophical apologetics,
- Historical apologetics,
- Scientific apologetics,
- Comparative religious apologetics, and
- Cultural apologetics.
Testimonial apologetics is used when a person defends the faith by appealing to evidence from either his own testimony or that of another person. Testimonial apologetics contends for the truth of Christianity by employing evidences from transformed lives and/or divine intervention in one’s life. Evidence from transformed lives deals with providing to others the information about how Jesus has changed the lives of those who have trusted in Him for salvation.
Divine intervention pertains to documenting how God has intervened in the lives of people. Examples of divine intervention would include answers to prayer and genuine episodes of miraculous healing. Regardless of what position a person takes in reference to the continuance or cessation of the spiritual gifts of healings, most Christians would agree that God does at times still heal in answer to prayer.
Many people who consider themselves opposed to the practice of apologetics unknowingly use testimonial apologetics. When they evangelize others, resistance to the gospel is often countered by utilizing testimonial apologetics. The use of testimonial evidences is as much a part of apologetics as any other evidences.
Presuppositional apologetics denies the validity of all other apologetic approaches. This technique for defending the faith teaches that a believer must assume or presuppose the truth claims of Christianity rather than argue for them. On this point presuppositional apologetics is in agreement with fideism. However, presuppositionalists specialize in tearing down anti-Christian belief systems, something true fideists do not do.
The presuppositional methodology is vital to the apologetic task. Still, presuppositionalists need to appreciate the other forms of apologetic argumentation. Presuppositional apologetics is an effective way to defend the faith, but it is not the only way.
Psychological apologetics focuses on man’s psychological need for the God of the Bible. This approach appeals more to the will and the emotions of the person than to his or her intellect. This methodology deals with issues such as the meaningless of life without God. It attempts to explain the dilemma of man (man is both great and cruel).
Psychological apologetics targets the thirst within man to transcend his present earthly experience. This seldom-used approach can be very effective when dealing with modern man. Today’s secular thinkers have generally lost confidence in the power of human reason to find ultimate truth. Yet, modern man has not been able to quench his thirst for meaning.
It is here that Christianity has much to offer. For, the gospel makes sense of life and gives meaning to human existence. Without the God of the Bible, mankind is without any real purpose. However, if one assumes the existence of the God of the Bible, then man has eternal significance. What one does or does not do in this life really does matter. Only Christianity can quench modern man’s thirst for transcendence.
Philosophical apologetics provides rational argumentation for the truth of Christianity. This methodology has been extremely effective in the past. It can also be very successful today among those who have not lost faith in man’s reasoning ability to find answers of ultimate importance.
Philosophical apologetics serves several purposes. It can be utilized in refuting atheism and other anti-Christian world views, providing evidence for God’s existence, proposing solutions to the problem of evil, and establishing the possibility of miracles. Philosophical apologists also argue for the existence of universal moral laws.
Those defenders of the faith who use this apologetic methodology often use both the reasoning processes of the mind and the facts of experience to prove the case for Christianity. Philosophical apologists, when they have completed their task, often move on to historical apologetics.
Historical apologetics provides evidence for the historical claims of the Christian Faith. Evidence is provided for the historical reliability and authenticity of the New Testament manuscripts, Christ’s resurrection and deity, and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Christianity is a religion that makes historical truth claims. The truth of Christianity depends on the reality of these assertions. Therefore, it is essential that evidences from history be used to establish the veracity of these claims.
Scientific apologetics provides modern scientific evidence that confirms certain truths of Christianity. This method of defending the faith also exposes the weaknesses of the evolutionary model. The Big Bang model, the expansion of the universe, and the second law of
thermodynamics (energy deterioration) are often employed to establish the case for the beginning of the universe and its need for a
supernatural Cause. The highly complex information found in even the most simple life forms is used to prove that the supernatural Cause of the universe must possess intelligence.
COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS APOLOGETICS
Comparative religious apologetics specializes in the investigation of opposing religions and cults. Evidence is provided to demonstrate that these other belief systems contradict Christianity on essential issues. The comparative religious apologist will attempt to establish both the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of any non-Christian faiths. Often, the refutation will be based upon an appeal to biblical data. Still, philosophical, historical, or scientific evidences are at times called upon to disprove these false belief systems.
Finally, cultural apologetics attempts to prove the superiority of the Christian world view by pointing out the positive consequences of applying Christian principles to a society, as well as the negative consequences of either rejecting the Christian world view or accepting other belief systems. The impact of different religions (including Christianity) on governments and societies will be examined. I will also argue that the rejection of God by Western Civilization will lead to devastating consequences for the West, and that, apart from repentance, Western Civilization will crumble. The cultural apologetics of Christian thinkers C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer will be discussed.
Defenders of the faith often suffer from one of two common misconceptions. First, many Christians verbally oppose the entire field of apologetics. However, unknown to themselves, they often do this while making use of one of the lesser known apologetic approaches (usually testimonial, presuppositional, or psychological). Second, many apologists refuse to acknowledge a methodology other than the one they choose to employ. It has rightfully been said that “all truth is God’s truth.” Therefore, evidences for the Christian faith should not be limited to one area of knowledge. Apologetics can draw from the wealth of information in many different fields (philosophy, history, science, psychology, etc.). Apologists from each methodology should respect the efforts of other defenders using different approaches. Christians can never succeed in the apologetic task by arguing among themselves. Many philosophical apologists (i.e., Geisler, Moreland, Craig, etc.) also utilize historical and scientific evidences. This combinational methodology is a healthy approach for the apologist to take.
August 26th, 2015
In the 1970’s, leading evangelical thinkers fought the first “battle for the Bible” in modern times. They argued against the idea that the Bible contains historical and scientific errors, and it only speaks truth in spiritual or moral issues. This led to the 1978 International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which produced the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”
The Evangelical Theological Society embraced the Chicago Statement & removed from their ranks any scholars who denied inerrancy. However, in recent years, some leading evangelical thinkers have invented new approaches to interpreting the Bible which allows these scholars to claim to hold to inerrancy (i.e., the Bible is totally without error in all that it teaches), yet deny several Gospel miracles by claiming they are just figurative speech or poetic devices and not genuine historical miracles.
In this lecture, Dr. Fernandes shows that this hermeneutical approach destroys the doctrine of inerrancy.
June 10th, 2015
Dr. Phil Fernandes refutes the modern rehashing of the claim that Jesus didn’t exist.It is a ridiculous claim refuted more than a hundred years ago, yet it still floats around in popular culture… So Dr. Fernandes prepares us for this by looking at its proponents in popular culture and how modern scholarship has reacted.
May 28th, 2015
What evidence is there that a god exists? If a god doesn’t exist, certainly the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. And if the God of the Bible doesn’t exist, why should we behave like he does?
In this video, Dr. Fernandes presents a number of philosophical and scientific reasons that a god must exist. The evidence spans from the thoughts of ancient Greek philosophers to modern scientific discoveries. If you would like a great overview of the modern evidence, this video is a great place to start.
May 5th, 2015
In his “Did Jesus Really Exist” presentation at the Worldview Apologetics Conference 2015, Dr. Fernandes mentioned this debate as a great example of how the Jesus Myth theory collapses before even basic scholarship. Here is the Summary:
“Institute of Biblical Defense (2014) – Christian philosopher Phil Fernandes and atheist Mark Fulton debate the resurrection of Jesus. Fernandes shows how incredibly radical Fulton’s views are and how out of touch they are with historical reality on Jesus of Nazareth. Fulton represents so many young gullible atheists who would believe anything about Jesus – but no serious scholar or historian would.”
May 5th, 2015
Dr. Fernandes was recently invited to speak at the Worldview Apologetics Conference. THis year, it was held at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington. Speakers at this prestigious event included (from the website):
” … Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Leader of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Dr. Doug Geivett, a professor at Talbot School of Theology, BIOLA University, Dr. Norman Geisler, Ph.D, prolific author, veteran professor, apologist, evangelist and theologian and Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., founder and national Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.”
The event covered a number of popular level apologetics topics. These included (once again from the website):
“They will cover a myriad of topics that concern each of us in light of today’s worldviews from a biblical point of view. Some of the topics will address Apologetics for the 21st Century, Can Atheists Live by Bread Alone?, What is a Wise Christian Understanding of and Response to Climatic Change?, Is the Bible Without Error?, An Ancient Message for Post Modern Times Through Modern Means and more.”
Being part of this event, Dr. Fernandes had had the honor of sharing the stage with apologetics giants like Dr. Ravi Zacharias and Professor Normal Geisler.
While at this conference, Dr. Fernandes delivered three powerful presentations.
The first was titled Redating the Gospels. During his short presentation, Dr. Fernandes looks at the evidence for the traditional dating of the gospels. What evidence is there?
The second was titled Depraved New World. In it, Dr. Fernandes looks at how our new enlightened, secular culture is becoming one based on power rather than based on good and pure moral standards as we read in the Bible.
The third was titled Did Jesus Really Exist. Dr. Fernandes delivers an emotional response to the wacky “Jesus Myth” theory that so many youth believe.