One of the serious misrepresentations about Christianity is to present it as a form of “human escapism.” That is to view it as a religious and psychological expression of man’s attempt to escape from the reality of the “here” and “now”. The assumptions of this misrepresentation are fed by the idea that Christianity is a religion that has emerged from human psychology to create beliefs that are neither historically or scientifically valid or practical. The spiritual and supernatural claims of Christianity, or any other religion, are viewed as fairy stories that don’t belong in the real world, and are, therefore, considered to be just a figment of man’s imagination. The idea is that, man created religion as a form of protection from disappointing experiences in life. In other words, from this perspective, it’s considered a psychological way of easing pain and disappointment, which man does by mentally creating a god in an illusionary or delusional way to become the source of his comfort and hope.
In a general sense, this criticism about religion has a degree of validity because there are many religions in the world that have actually been created by human imagination and ideologies expressed through their mythologies, superstitions, and rituals. However, concerning “Christianity”, this criticism is a grave and foolish misrepresentation, for Christianity is not an escape from reality, but an expression of and an engagement with the “here” and “now” reality – even a prediction of future reality. It is not an illusion or figment of the imagination, but a historical and experiential reality that helps mankind to live and understand the “here” and “now.” It explains “yesterday” with a high regard for the existence of the one true God. It trusts in the divine provision of redemption, and it upholds “tomorrow” with hope and glory because of the coming Anointed One. It is not an enemy of science, for it declares that the God of Scripture is also the God of Nature; in fact, is its Creator and Preserver.
History is also crucial for Christianity, for unlike other religions such as Confucianism or Hinduism which can easily survive without reference to historical evidence, Christianity cannot stand or survive without its history. The very foundation of Christian truth is not only theological and spiritual, but historical, too. Unlike many other religions, Christianity is not simply an “ethical system”; as the Apostle Peter states in Matthew 16, Christianity is worshipful and confessional about the Jesus of the New Testament. It is dogmatically founded upon the historical Jesus, who really lived on planet earth in the land of Israel; who died on the cross under the sentence of Governor Pontius Pilate; rose again from the grave on the 3rd day, and in His resurrected body was witnessed and verified personally by more than 500 Christians as stated by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4-8. That’s the basic internal testimony of the Bible about the historical Jesus.
It’s interesting to note that even enemies testify to the existence of Christianity’s founder – Jesus of Nazareth and the growing faith. Not surprisingly, most of their statements about Jesus were sarcastic and antagonistic, nonetheless, their criticisms still served to prove the reality of the existence of Jesus. For example:
The governor of Bithynian in Northern Turkey, Pliny the Younger (A.D 112) testified to the fast growth of Christianity during his time. Cornelius Tacitus, who was known as the greatest historian of Imperial Rome, tells us in his writings, how the Christians were hated by the populace and made scapegoats for the Great Fire of A.D 64 which was actually caused by Emperor Nero.
In A.D. 52, we have a testimony from a Samaritan historian by the name Thallus. In his writings he spoke of the historicity of Jesus’ death on the cross and he even tried to explain the darkness or the eclipse that covered the land on the hour of Jesus’ death. Even Claudius Caesar, who was Emperor from A.D 41-51, made a statement that verifies the historical veracity of Jesus’ death and the news of His resurrection as proclaimed by the Christians of his day.
The Jewish historian Josephus is probably the most important non-Christian witness who stills the critics. He was one of the Jewish commanders who led the Jews in their war against Rome. He wrote important historical documents entitled The Antiquities of the Jews (AD 93) and The Jewish War (AD 75-79). These documents are now accessible online and downloadable. In these writings, familiar figures in the New Testament are featured, such as Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Quirinius, Felix, Festus, the preaching of John the Baptist, and many others. However, the most significant statement in his records is his extended reference to Jesus. He wrote,
“And there arose about this time (i.e. Pilate’s time, AD 26-36), Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvellous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and also many Greeks. This man was the Messiah. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross at the instigation of our own leaders, those who had loved him from the first did not cease. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again, as the holy prophets had predicted and said many other wonderful things about him. And even now the race of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out.” (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, paragraph 3).
The book of Mishnah or the “Jewish Law Code” and the Talmud – the commentaries to these Laws – also testify about the historicity of Jesus. Jesus is called in this book as “Jeshua Ben Pantera.” It’s a defamation that says Jesus was a product of an illegitimate union between Mary and a Roman soldier, Pantera. Of course, this record is not true in light of biblical Gospel accounts. It’s a form of rabbinic opposition to Jesus out of hatred for Him. Yet, even this lie, testifies to the fact that Jesus was a historical person who lived in Israel; was seen, conversed with, and condemned to death by the Jewish people and Roman leaders of that day.
Archaeological evidence also solidly serves to prove the existence of the historical Jesus. There are many, but let me introduce two popular archaeological finds: First, the Acrostic “ROTAS OPERA TENET AREPO SATOR” (AD 79). It was found in the ruins of Pompeii. It contains a hidden Christian confession about the caring hand of God and the eternal hope given by the Cross of Christ to the persecuted Christians. More information about this can be researched online. Secondly, we also have the testimony of the fish symbol. In the Greek, the word “fish” is “Ichthus.” Interestingly, the Christians made a confession from the letters of this word. Notice the capital letters:
“Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter.” which means “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.”
This is just a sample of the historical evidence that confirms Jesus to have existed as a real historical person. These pieces of evidence have already been verified such that no honest man could deny their validity. All in all, Christianity is not a run away from reality figment of man’s imagination, rather it embraces reality. It is a history-making religion. It’s the redemptive story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
© Francis Fabregas, 2108
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