Garbage... A Response to National Geographic
I am a reader. I take in as much information as I can in the course of a day. I have refined my reading over the last number of years to sharpen my interest in Biblical studies, history and criticism of the text. Whenever I see something that is at a stand in a store that references Jesus, Christianity or a holiday associated with either, my interest does not allow me to walk by without spending the ridiculous amount of money that is tendered for a magazine these days.
Yesterday my interest was piqued by National Geographic. I haven’t really looked at these since I was a kid. My grandfather used to get the magazine years ago and it had pictures from around the world, but the articles never interested me. Later, in my 20’s, a professor that I used to follow referred to the rag as, “National Pornographic.” He did so as an act of disgust over their disregard for Biblical thought on the creation story, the flood and other things that Christianity holds true. National Geographic has long supported evolutionary and big bang theories as science while dismissing the actual creation account written in Genesis. For that reason, I am mostly not interested. But, not yesterday.
Jesus and the Apostles: Christianity’s Early Rise, is the cover headline. With the Mosaic of Jesus on the cover, adorned by a halo, it was hard for me to miss. I did not realize it was a reissue until I got home to read it, but there I was tearing it from the bag with excitement as I was ready to devour all of the information that National Geographic had newly discovered about the most important figure to ever exist in history. Then, I started to read....
I could write an entire book refuting the poor literary and historical criticism that went into this piece of work/garbage. But I will stick to a few points. If you are anything like me. When someone is trying to make a point, somewhere in the conversation, if the mistakes are many, you realize that you are being duped or lied to or both and move on. Well, here is my response to a few of the points in the rag, so you can move on without spending $14.99 of your hard-earned dough.
1. The author, I don’t care what their name is, asks this question, “What hard evidence do we have of this man? Sadly, almost nothing.”
Well, there is your first mistake. We will talk about eyewitnesses a little later. But the foundation is pretty basic. 5 of the New Testament writers knew him very well. Lived, walked, ate and did ministry with him. Witnesses of his existence and death are in the thousands. Witnesses to his resurrection are over 500. At least 4 extrabiblical writers confirm his life and existence in that period, with his following and his crucifixion. Deniability is an important word when an argument like this is made. The opportunity for Romans or Jews in the first century to squash this movement with conflicting evidence would have been easy. Instead, his life, ministry, miracles and resurrection caused a worldwide fire that changed everything in history.
We know what bloodline he was born to, his parents, where they are from, where he was born, where he did ministry, his family and friends, his miracles, his death, burial and resurrection. A millennium of prophecy existed before him and the first century writings confirm it all. I guess that is what the author would consider, “Almost nothing.”
2. The article says that accounts were passed down over the decades until they got to people who could read and write in order to record the Gospels.
Interesting statement, kind of true. Decades makes it sound so long.
James, Galatians, Mark, Matthew, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written within 2 decades of Jesus ascension.
1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Luke, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Acts, 1 Timothy, and Titus within 3 decades.
1 and 2 Peter, 2 Timothy, Hebrews and Jude within 3 ½ decades
John, 1, 2 and 3 John and Revelation (by John) all written 80-96 A.D. or 40-50 decades
I am not sure what this means. Decades. They were out doing ministry and writing and their books were published in their lifetime as eyewitnesses. Paul wrote letters addressing specific churches when the need arose. The claim in insignificant.
Oh, and passing it to people who could read and write? Well, scribes are the answer for some of this. Scribes were pretty commonplace for the time. But Matthew was a tax collector and would have been literate, Mark was an evangelist and was probably bilingual and literate, Paul was an educated Jew and Roman and was most definitely literate, Luke was a physician and was literate. John, James and Jude we are not completely sure of. But James and Jude were Jesus’s brothers and Jesus could read from the scroll as a 12-year-old. Perhaps good, practicing Jews were not as illiterate as we might think?
3. Men like Jesus were not uncommon...
Well, we do have Biblical evidence that other men had risen to try to act as prophets or the false Messiah’s. The Book of Acts in the 5th Chapter records: “But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful as to what you are about to do with these men. For, some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee appeared in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he also perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.” (Acts 5: 34-37, NASB)
You know what made Jesus uncommon compared to these other men? He rose from the dead. And, there were witnesses. And, his disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit, created the biggest religious movement in history. No other story even relates closely. So, wrong again.
4. This one is pretty interesting. The author saying that everything written, including the New Testament, was written by people who never met him.
So, the New Testament authors are: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude, Paul.
Of these man, Matthew, Mark, John, James and Jude were disciples. John, James and Jude were brothers of Jesus and would have known him his entire life. Paul was ministered to Jesus after his resurrection for 3 years. Luke would not have met Jesus. So, of the 7, 5 knew him very well, 1 was through diving revelation and 1 did not.
In this same question, the subject of “Q” as a common document is referenced. Q comes from the German word, “quell,” which means source. It is a theory. It has never been proven. And, there is actually no evidence of a common source. Just a common story, with common characters at a common time with common events. Make sense?
5. Reza Aslan as a source.
I won’t comment much on this. He wrote the book Zealot, about Jesus. It is a historical and literary nightmare. Here a Muslim who hates Christianity writes a book trying to disprove the entire system of religion and person of Jesus Christ based on his academic prowess. Well, listen here stud, you are a sociology major, not a theologian or a Biblical scholar. If you want to disprove something, turn back to the Quran, the most insignificant of books ever penned. A religion stolen from polytheists and Jews as an attempt to conquer the world. As soon as I say his name, the lightbulb came on for me as to how much work they put in to scholarship.
6. They state that most historians reject the virgin birth of Jesus.
Um... which historians? Are they the same 99% that believe in global warming? Is Al Gore one of them? Never mind. Isaiah prophesied about it, Matthew and Luke, both record it. It would have been common knowledge for the Apostles and disciples with no refutation at all.
7. We do not know who wrote the Gospels and they were not settled as the 4 until Irenaeus in 180 A.D.
I’ll make this easy, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. With over 23,000 manuscripts available to criticize the entire New Testament, the Gospel authors are not in question at all. Compared to other books of antiquity, it is the most reliable text in the history of the world. And, it keeps getting better....
Irenaeus did agree on the 4 in 180 A.D. But he just agreed. They had been used since the end of the first century and were well circulated well into the second century as the 4. There is no evidence of others or mention of other writers by any of the writers.
8. Thomas and Judas Gospels
The article seems to paint these as dismissed Gospels that share another story. Well, yeah, they are and they do. But there is a good reason. There were a lot of forgeries that were found over the years. Judas’s was hidden for 1700 years and what was found was not written until probably the 5th century and is very inconsistent with the other accounts of Judas and the betrayal of Jesus. Others exist as well to include: Gospels of Peter and Mary Magdalene and Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Apocalypse of Peter. Biblical critics have taken all of these into account over the centuries. They are not written within the lifetime of the supposed authors namesake, are not mentioned in any other texts and are inconsistent with the canon.
“Since you have purified your souls in obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brothers and sisters, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1: 22-23)
Satan will do his very best to discredit Jesus. He fails every time. He can use the media, magazines, liars, heretics, etc.... He fails. The important take away from this short response is this: be firm in the faith. We rely on the truth. If you are not a believer, take a look at the lies and maybe you will realize that you are being deceived and now is a good time for repentance and faith in Jesus that will lead to everlasting life.
Stay on the grind....