I’m on a three part quest to answer the following questions.
- Was the individual we refer to as Jesus Christ a real person?
- And did He perform acts we, today, would agree are miracles?
- Was He human-but-not-human? By that I mean was he born of a virgin birth (conceived by the Holy Ghost), did He “ascend” after His death leaving behind no Earthly body, and does He now sit (figuratively) in Heaven with a special role?
These are, it seems to me, the core-essential questions to be answered by anyone seeking a reasoned rather than a purely emotional acceptance of the Christian faith.
And while it is true that the New Testament gives an affirmative answer to all three, I don’t trust that source because of the unprovable claims that it is, depending on who is speaking, either the Word of God, or was inspired by God. In any event, the history of the selection of the books of the New Testament, the never-ending discussions of what this or that actually means, and the fact that those books were a) written for cultures with very different values which may not fully relate to our values today, and b) have been translated and re-translated into similar but still different versions (King James, New King James, Standard Edition, Revised Standard Edition, New International Version and so forth), all of this leaves me distrusting of the New Testament as my sole source.
So, I’m on a quest to answer these three fundamental questions through sources outside of the Bible, or to find external sources that confirm enough of the Biblical account that raise my trust of the New Testament sufficient to use it as a basis for my beliefs.
My bookshelf contains several reference works on the Bible but for these purposes, they are all useless. I need “other” references, historical references that are not based on the Bible. Although I am interested in events that are claimed to have taken place about two millenia ago and it is certainly fair to ask if any such sources exist, it turns out there are a few. Not many but, “a few.”
But my scholarship as well as my resources are very limited. I will have to rely on others who have studied these extra-Biblical sources.
To begin, I’m starting with “Jesus Outside the New Testament” by Robert E. Van Voorst. For my purposes, it seems like a good selection. It is readable, well annotated, and strives for as much accuracy in assigning dates as seems possible.
Although I have quite a bit of reading, study and contemplation ahead of me with this one book, I can say that I am pretty much convinced that the answer to my first question is “Yes, the person we refer to as Jesus Christ was a real person.” There seem to be a great many references to Him in non-Biblical records to consider Him not a fabrication of the early church, and not a conglommeration of several individuals living at about the same time.
Instead, and so far in my reading of this first book, I am leaning toward a “Yes” answer for the first question, did He exist.
Looking back at questions two and three, however, I now see they may be substantially more difficult to answer through reason and from historical records. Indeed, although the question of whether or not He performed miracles is going to be difficult to prove outside of the Bible, the answer to the third question, is He for lack of a better term, extra-human, is going to be purely one of faith.
But answering the first question is a necessary prerequisite to answering the second. And, in time, maybe that answer will lead to the faith required to accept an affirmative answer to the third.
But lest you think I’ve lost my faith, let me quickly add that something, I’ll call it “The Lord”, acts in my life every day. I see it daily.
He is with me.
Thank you, Lord, for your incredible patience as I use the reasoning mind you gave me to answer these questions of faith.