Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On The Crucifixion Of Jesus And Its Historicity (Part 3)

TWH: The historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus is hardly debatable according to even the standards of the greatest skeptics. The criteria of historical Jesus studies, applied by scholars across the spectrum, continuously supports the belief that Jesus was indeed crucified. But, as we saw in Antonio's previous post, that doesn't mean that scholars think the details of the narratives describing the events of Jesus' crucifixion are all that accurate. That, in my opinion, is the danger of historical critical studies and quests for the historical Jesus. The starting point is all wrong.

Consider the words of Wolfhart Pannenberg:
"Assertion of the historicity of an event does not mean that its facticity is so sure that there can no longer be any dispute regarding it. Many statements of historical fact are actually debatable. In principle, doubts may exist regarding all such statements. In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, all Christians must realize that the facticity of the event will be contested right up to the eschatological consummation of the world because its uniqueness transcends an understanding of reality that is oriented only to this passing world and because the new reality that has come in the resurrection of Jesus has not yet universally and definitively manifested itself" (Systematic Theology, vol. 2 [New York: T&T Clark International, 2004], 361). 
It's no question that people will continue to dispute every element of the life of Jesus. The greater the significance of an individual or an event, the greater the attention given to challenging the historicity surrounding him, her, or it. The solution to such disputes, if you ask me, does not begin where the objectors start and hoping to convince them on their own turf with their own set of criteria. I believe it is better to change the starting point and, by doing so, the criteria. Of course, the dispute to such an approach would be that someone like me is naive. But that doesn't change the validity of starting with the inspiration of the biblical texts, if, as I believe, it is inspired. As I have presented time and time again, the nature of the biblical texts, because they are inspired and have their ultimate origin in God, bear the imprint of his nature and attributes.

Historical Jesus studies have succeeded for many in deconstructing the identity of Jesus Christ, not better equipping people to understand who he really is. H. Wayne House writes the following, which I have only slightly abbreviated for the sake of brevity:
"Using the [criteria of Historical Jesus studies], the Jesus Seminar has voted that 82 percent of the content of the Gospels is not the actual words and deeds of Jesus. According to the Jesus Seminar, the only verses from the canonical Gospels that are virtually certain to have come from Jesus, and are therefore the sum total of His teaching, are the following: [I abbreviate here] paying taxes, not resisting when attacked, loving enemies, praying 'Our Father,' expecting the unexpected [and a little more] . . . . Only 18 percent of the Gospels–including the noncanonical Thomas–are even considered the possible words of Jesus, with even less of that percentage 'most likely' the words of Jesus, leaving us a disjointed sage separated from His context" (The Jesus Who Never Lived: Exposing False Christs and Finding the Real Jesus [Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2008], 175-176). 
My constant banner is the words of the Gospel are accurate accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. And as they describe the events surrounding his life and ministry, including cases like the crucifixion, they tell us what happened with absolute historical truth. When Matthew, who wrote the first of the Gospels, tells us that the dead came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection, entered Jerusalem and appeared to many people (Matt. 27:53), that actually happened.

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