The Newsletter Celebrating Christian Life in Your Community
December, 2013 Volume 2, Issue 6
How Do We Know Jesus Even Existed? Radical Skeptics Doubt Whether
CHRIST Ever Existed
“There are a number of radical skeptics today who claim that Jesus did not exist, or they seriously doubt his existence. However, there are a number of critical problems with doubting Jesus‟ existence due to the early and abundant evidence that we have of Jesus‟ life and deeds. In fact, there is almost unanimous consent among critical scholars today that Jesus existed. Historical Textual Evidence for Jesus’ Existence There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus‟ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.1 Nine (9) traditional New Testament authors A. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude. Twenty (20) early Christian writers outside the New Testament: Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum. Four (4) heretical writings: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection. Nine (9) secular sources: Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.” More Evidence That Jesus Existed “Was Jesus an actual person or just a legendary character? Philosopher Bertrand Russell spoke for radical skeptics everywhere when he said, „Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him‟ (Why I Am Not a Christian). Is Russell correct? Is it doubtful that Jesus lived? We have good evidence, like jewels of evidence, about Jesus from what early non-Christians said about Him. Flavius Josephus, the most prolific Jewish historian of the first century, worked for the Roman emperor Domition as a professional historian. Josephus recorded major historical events, including the destructions of Jerusalem in AD 70, and authored several major works, including Antiquities of the Jews, which was completed in AD 93. Josephus, who was not a Christian, wrote: „At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus.
And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning who the prophets have recounted wonders.‟ Michael Wilkins and J.P. Moreland conclude that, even if we did not have any Christian writings like those of the apostles and early church fathers, "we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that: Jesus was a Jewish teacher yet rejected by Jewish leaders Many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms He was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius Despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by AD 64 All kinds of people from the cities and countryside - men and women, rich and poor, slave and free - worshiped him as God by the beginning of the second century. Dr. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek Noted: „Including Josephus, there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life. By contrast, over the same 150 years, there are nine nonChristian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor [of the known world] at the time of Jesus. So discounting all the Christian sources, Jesus is actually mentioned by one more source than the Roman emperor. If you include the Christian sources, authors mentioning Jesus outnumbered those who mentioned Tiberius 43 to 10!‟” (p. 108109).2 Thus, through careful examination of details supplied by the prophets, gospel writers, and non- Christian historians, it is obvious Jesus existed. These sources work hand-in-hand, as important pieces of history, to provide us with overwhelming evidence about Jesus‟ life on earth. We can be sure that Jesus did indeed live. Let us then build upon this truth to see the other truths about Jesus that the Bible reveals - His deity and that He is the Savior of the world.
CHRIST Exist! HE Is Not A Myth! HE Is The Messiah! Did Jesus Ever Exist? - http://carm.org/jesus-exist#footnote1_m4hyh9y (Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004, p. 233.) 2 http://www.thinke.org/blog/2012/3/21/who-is-this-jesus.html 1
How Do We Know Jesus Was Born of a Virgin?
“The virgin birth is one of the most attacked miracles re- But this argument fails because Matthew is quoting from garding Jesus. These attacks generally fall into two catego- the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the word ries: they either attack the idea of the virgin birth or the translation of the word „virgin.‟ To many people these days, being born of a virgin sounds a little too much like the origin of a superhero. They think of it as nothing more than a legend. But the idea sounded just as bizarre to Mary. According to Luke 1:34 when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God she replied, „How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?‟ The fact that Luke calls her a virgin twice in verse 27 helps set the stage for Mary‟s skeptical reaction. And Matthew 1:18 tells us the same thing: Mary had not had the kind of relationship that would leave her pregnant. However, Gabriel‟s response to Mary is very telling: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The people who reject the virgin birth do so because they don‟t think miracles are possible. To them, Jesus was not God, He was just a good teacher. But the evidence for the resurrection and the arguments for the existence of God give us excellent reasons to think God exists and Jesus was God incarnate. And if there are excellent reasons to think God exists then miracles are possible. To reject the possibility of miracles is simply an anti-supernatural bias. The other way of attacking the virgin birth is to attack the translation of the word „virgin.‟ Matthew 1:22 claims the virgin birth took place to fulfill the prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14. And in verse 23, Matthew quotes the prophecy as saying, „…the virgin will become pregnant…‟ The question is: Did the word Isaiah used mean virgin? Hebrew has a specific word for „virgin,‟ but Isaiah didn‟t use it. Instead he used a word meaning „young woman.‟ Virginity is often a part of what this word means, but not necessarily. The argument is that Matthew is making Isaiah say something he didn‟t mean.
used there specifically means virgin. The Greek translation was made by Jewish scholars about 250 years before Jesus was born. They knew what tradition said Isaiah meant by the term and translated it „virgin.‟ Matthew‟s use of virgin is an accurate translation. Lastly, the virgin birth provides a way for us to connect some dots. If Jesus came to die for the sins of His people (Matthew 1:21), He would have to be sinless. To be a proper sacrifice He would also have to be fully human to fulfill the law perfectly. And to be able to pay for sin he would have to be fully divine. The virgin birth provides a way for a fully divine Jesus to be born fully human but without inheriting a sinful nature from Adam‟s fall.” Doug Powell, Posted on November 10, 2011 by Apologia, https:// blog.apologia.com/blog/2011/11/10/how-do-we-know-jesus-was-born-of -a-virgin/
Why Were Jesus’ Early Years Such A Mystery? The Lost Years
“Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. One day his parents searched for him, and were astonished at what they saw. „Why were you searching for me?‟ „Didn‟t you know I had to be in my FaLuke 2:47, 48a & 49 ther‟s house? ‟”
“Among history's most fascinating mysteries is the Bible's silence about Jesus Christ's early life. In the gospel of Mark, for instance, Jesus springs into the story as a thirty-year-old man being baptized and beginning His life's work of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The apostle John's account is not so abrupt, although he, too, glosses over the first three decades of Christ's life in a matter of a few dozen—albeit doctrinally rich—verses. As his book opens, the beloved disciple immediately hits the reader with the astounding fact of Jesus' identity as the Word of God, the pre-incarnate Creator God, who „became flesh and dwelt among us‟ (John 1:14). Then, like Mark, John skips to the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism.
quiring minds. Both of these gospel writers record accounts of events surrounding His birth, from the angel's announcement to Mary that she would have a Son conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38) to the family's return from Egypt after fleeing Herod's murderous anger (Matthew 2:13-21).
One scene of His early years is recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The occasion when, at twelve years old, He remained behind at the Temple in Jerusalem to listen to and question the teachers there (Luke 2:41-50). The large company of His relatives travel for a whole day before Joseph and Mary realized Jesus is not among them. They hurried back to Jerusalem, and once they found Him, scolded Him for scaring them, He asked, „Why did you seek Me?‟...„I must Matthew and Luke, however, tantalize be about My Father's business?' But they us with a scene or two of His early did not understand what He meant.” excerpts from http://www.biblicaljesus.org/index.cfm/ years, but hardly enough to satisfy enfuseaction/basics.tour/ID/6/Lost-Years.htm#ixzz2htSH9hPZ
How Were People Saved Before Christ?
Faith Alone, in Christ Alone “As Christians, we believe that we are saved by the grace of God, through faith in the Savior Jesus Christ; It‟s faith alone, in Christ alone. Salvation then, is dependent on something that God has done for us rather than something that we do for ourselves. We know that our good works simply cannot save us, and we also recognize that Jesus did everything that needs to be done for us; He died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. From the Christian worldview, God not only exists, but He has done something to save us and all He requires is that we place our faith in Jesus for our salvation. But what about all those people who lived and died before Jesus was ever born? If faith in Jesus is required, how could they be saved prior to his appearance? Well, those who lived before Jesus were saved in exactly the same way that you and I are saved; by the grace of God and through their faith in the Savior! Those who lived before Jesus understood grace and they placed their faith in a coming Redeemer… They Understood Grace These early believers loved God and wanted to live with him forever. They listened closely to the words of God as they were revealed by the prophets and the scripture. As a result, they understood the nature of grace. David, for example, wrote about God‟s forgiveness and grace:
GOD’S HEART The Life of David Psalm 32:1 32:1--5 „How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, „I will confess my transgressions to the Lord‟; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.‟ Selah. David was fully aware of the nature of God‟s free gift of salvation, and Paul makes this clear to us when he describes the knowledge that David had in this regard: Romans 4:6 4:6--8 „…just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: „Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.‟ David clearly understood that all of us are sinners who must be saved by the Grace of God (as Paul says, „apart from works‟). David wasn‟t the only ancient believer who knew that they were going to be saved by their faith, even though
the Savior had not yet arrived. The New Testament tells us that all our heroes of faith understood the role that faith played in their salvation: Hebrews 11:13 „All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.‟ These ancient believers certainly knew that their good works couldn‟t save them; like Isaiah, they knew that their „goodness‟ wasn‟t „good enough‟: Isaiah 64:6 „For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.‟ Ancient believers also knew that God‟s standard was impossibly high. They knew that when compared to God, they fell far short of the mark, and like David, they knew that even animal sacrifices weren‟t going to ultimately please a Holy God: Psalm 40:6 „Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.‟ They expected a Messiah. The ancient believers knew that their own works were repeatedly insufficient in the eyes of a Holy God. With the limited knowledge of God that was given to them at the time, they understood that God would have to do something dramatic to save them. The followers of God who lived before Jesus placed their faith in the coming Savior who was described from the earliest of times. God told Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would eventually defeat Satan… Genesis 3:15 „And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.‟ Abraham understood that God would provide a sacrifice for sin, just as he understood that God would provide the substitutionary sacrifice to replace his own son when God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac: Genesis 22:8 „And Abraham said, „God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. So the two of them walked on together.‟ Looking back, thousands of years later, Paul reminds us that Abraham‟s faith saved him. Abraham took Isaac to the point of the sacrifice, fully expecting that God, in His goodness, would provide the „lamb.‟”
excerpts taken from www.pleaseconvinceme.com/2012/how-were-people-saved-before-christ/
Was Christmas Necessary?
“Christmas was required in God‟s plan because the right- we couldn‟t, so He did. eous life He requires was not attained by Adam or any of his Were it only our sins that needed a payment, Christ could fallen descendants. God, prompted by grace, chose to fulfill have arrived on the day of His crucifixion. But our deficienthe holy human standard Himself. cies were more than our acts of transgression (Doing the The incarnate Deity chose to live the life we should have things we shouldn‟t do)— lived—the perfect childhood, the spotless teenage years „Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, and the righteous adult life. Had we been able to present to whose sins are covered.‟ Psalm 32:1 the Father the righteous life He requires so that we could „Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count perfectly enjoy His presence and His presents, God would against them.‟ Romans 4:8 not have needed to become a man and live among us. But „Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,‟ Psalm 1:1 Our problems included the „falling short of his glory‟ (Failing to do the things we should do)— „For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,‟ Romans 3:23 „Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.‟ Ecclesiastes 7:20 „If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.‟ 1 John 1:8-10
It is with gratitude that we celebrate His advent as an infant, because we know that as our sins were atoned for on the cross, so it was that all our human deficits began to be rectified by one perfectly-lived life starting that very night in Bethlehem.” excerpts taken from the “Christmas Plan” by Focal Point Ministries (used by permission).http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/christophanyand-incarnation/why-was-christmas-necessary.html
Why Is Christmas A Gift Gift-- Giving Season? “Christmas is the great season of gift-giving. A gift is seen to be all the more precious when we recognize this essential fact: it is a gift, it didn‟t have to be given at all. Moreover, the gift becomes even more cherished when we realize that other gifts might have been given in its place, especially if we see that the gift we have received is particularly suited to our needs and desires.
Expression Trivia 1
The expression “Don‟t look a gift-horse in the mouth originated in England around 1546. The meaning is ‟Don't be ungrateful when you receive a gift. This is one of many proverbs that are 'short and expressive sayings, in common use, which are recognized as conveying some accepted truth or useful advice'. This example, also often expressed as 'never look a Christmas is not only a time of giving and receiving gifts, it „given‟ horse in the mouth', is as pertinent today as it ever was. is the time in which we recall the greatest Gift which God has given us—His Son. While it is true that “one ought never to look a gift-horse in the mouth,1” it is also true that we Christians are called to meditate upon the Incarnation and the Birth of Christ—we are not doubting or critiquing, we are meditating and wondering at the grace of God. The Gift of Christmas is all the more precious when we recognize that it need not have been given at all—absolutely, it was not necessary that God should redeem us, nor less that he should redeem us through the particular means of the Incarnation. Even given that He chose to save us through the Incarnation, the whole mystery could have been accomplished in any number of ways. And yet, from among all these possibilities, from among all these possible gifts, God has chosen to give us this particular Gift—the Gift of His Son, the Gift of a Child; and, through this Messiah, the Almighty has given us salvation.” http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/12/was-christmas-necessary.html
As horses develop they grow more teeth and their existing teeth begin to change shape and project further forward. Determining a horse's age and assessing the horse‟s value from examining its teeth is a specialist task, but it can be done. This incidentally is also the source of another teeth/age related phrase—‟Long in the tooth.‟ The advice given in the 'Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth' proverb is: when receiving a gift, be grateful for what it is; don't imply you wished for more by assessing its value. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/don't-look-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth.html
So What Do You Want From God?
What Does The Bible Say About Wearing Hats? for church was one of the few opportunities they had to remove domestic aprons and house dresses. These drab garments were replaced by bright colors, fancy shoes and elab“For many African-American women, looking your best orate hats that would stand out in a crowd. Style and sophistifrom head to toe is important when going to church, and the cation would rule the day. hat is one of the most crucial features. The act of covering your head during worship has its roots in scripture. Since, it has become a tradition for many women who want to show respect to God while adding some pizzazz to their presence. History of Black Women Wearing Hats at Church by Winona Rasheed
The Eight Commandments of Hat Wearing Dressed in Sunday's Best I. Thou shalt not wear a hat wider than the shoulders. II. Thou shalt not wear a hat a shade darker than the shoes. III. Thou shalt only wear hats with the colors of white, cream and pastels for Easter. And dark colors for Christmas. IV. Thou shalt not wear a hat with crumpled, wrinkled or droopy feathers or flowers. (That would just be plain tacky.) V. Thou shall look tasteful and tidy when wearing "the hat." VI. Thou shall remember thy bone structure. If a hat doesn't fit the face, don't buy it. VII. Thou shalt not allow a hat to compete with accessories and jewelry. VIII. Thou shall let the hat be the focal point of the outfit.
Mrs. Erma Sims, Hays Tabernacle CME Church, Los Angeles, CA
Dressing for Church Service It is imperative for many African-American women to look From Slavery to the 21st Century their grandest when going before God. Today, it is most of- The hat tradition began with the writings of the Apostle ten the older women who dress the grandest on Sunday Paul, who said women must cover their heads when they mornings. come to worship (1 Corinthians 11:1-16). During the time of For many of these women and their ancestors, dressing up slavery, black women dressed for church rather simply, sprucing up their worn hats for Sunday service.
Who Shall Praise The Lord?
“Let Every Thing That Has bless and praise his name for what he has bestowed upon Breath Praise The Lord.” Psalm 150:6 them, and has in reserve for them; and for which they should praise him as long as they have breath;” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
“Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord,.... Even the brute creatures, as in a preceding; but more especially man, in whom God has breathed the breath of life, and is become not only a living but a rational soul; and more especially spiritual men, converted persons, whether Jews or Gentiles; on whom the Spirit of the Lord has breathed, and whom he has quickened; and who breathe in prayer after divine things; and who also have abundant reason to
"And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever;" Revelation 5:13
Now that African-American women have come so far through years of struggles, pain and suffering, part of the hat tradition celebrates their confidence and independence. As black women began earning good livings, they treated themselves to new hats, gloves and purses to match. The hat became a status symbol, showing triumph over the hardships. Not Just Any Hat Hat shopping is serious business. Just any old hat won't do. Women will scour boutiques for one that's special and unique. It will be big, elaborate, chic and a bit on the flashy side. The church ladies strive for a stunning appearance, with colors and fabric that match from top to bottom, including accessories. The hat will tie the entire outfit together and give it the "wow" factor their looking for. Regardless of how they appear during the weekdays, on Sundays AfricanAmerican women want to look like a queen. Hats and the Elder Women With today's hairstyles such as braids, twists and dreads, the big elaborate hats are taking a back seat -- especially with the younger generations of black women. The new hairstyles are too big and bulky to accommodate the hat. The culture and tradition remains, however, for elder black females. Many of them wouldn't be caught at any special occasion without their fabulous hat. Going without would be like walking around naked, and that would be just unacceptable.” http://www.ehow.com/print/about_5374431_history-women-wearinghats-church.html
On The Edge
Our Human Condition On “Celebrating Beginnings ”
The Newsletter Celebrating Christian Life in Your Community
Farmers’ Table California Christmas Dish Fruit Salad Ingredients: 3 c Seedless grapes, half cuts 3 Tangerines, peeled and sectioned, and half cuts 1 Cantaloupe melon, balled 20 Raspberries Juice of 2 lemons A hefty Tbs. of honey 1/2 c of fresh mint, chopped
“Often we tire of hoping for a time when there will be peace because there is also justice, when the good is not threatened by evil, and when joy has dispelled anxiety. Yet we keep hoping because we must, for without hope we would be powerless. The festal joy at Christmas can continue after the decorations are packed up. Without celebration and gratitude the disciple‟s life easily becomes a grim and joyless determination to get on with life. It need not be that way. Above all, give God thanks for the whole event of Jesus, not just for His birth.” - from Jesus In The Gospels, Disciple 2nd Generation Studies
Thank You Lord for Your Word
Directions: Mix grapes, tangerines, and melon in a large bowl. Whisk together lemon and honey. Mix in mint. Pour liquid mixture over fruit. Sprinkle raspberries over top. Garnish with a few mint leaves.
Christian Humor A woman takes her 16year-old daughter to the doctor. The doctor says, "Okay, Mrs. Jones, what's the problem?" The mother says, "It's my daughter Darla. She keeps getting these cravings, she's putting on weight, and is sick most mornings." The doctor gives Darla a good examination, then turns to the mother and says, "Well, I don't know how to tell you this, but your Darla is pregnant-about 4 months, would be my guess." The mother says, "Pregnant?! She can't be, she has never ever been left alone with a man! Have you, Darla?" Darla says, "No mother! I've never even kissed a man!" The doctor walked over to the window and just stares out of it. About five minutes pass and finally the mother says, "Is there something wrong out there doctor?" The doctor replies, "No, not really, it's just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the east and three wise men came over the hill. I'll be darned if I'm going to miss it this time!"
Two men strike up a conversation at the Pearly Gates. "How'd you die?" the first man asks the second. "I froze to death," says the second. "That's awful," says the first man. "It's very uncomfortable at first," says the second man. "You get the shakes, pains in all your fingers and toes, but eventually, it's a very calm way to go. You got numb and you drift off, as if you're sleeping. How about you, how did you die?" "I had a heart attack today." says the first man. "You see, I knew my wife was cheating on me, so I showed up at home today unexpectedly. I ran upstairs into the bedroom, and found her alone, knitting. I rushed downstairs to the basement, but no one was hiding there. I ran up to the second floor, but found no one there either. I went as fast as I could to the attic, and just as I got there, I had a massive heart attack and died." The second man shakes his head. "That's so ironic," he says. "What do you mean?" asks the first man. "Wow, if you had only stopped to look in the freezer, we'd both be still alive."
“Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and all that move in them,.” Psalm 69:34 “Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” Isaiah 49:13 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
A Very Special Reminder for Christmas