Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Proving that Jesus is the Christ

Jesus posed the question: who do you say I am? It's the key question. And in the setting of the Jewish Bible and the New Testament Documents that challenge is specifically centred upon the question: is Jesus the Christ. Christ is presumed to be Jesus' surname but actually it's a title. And it's The title. It's a title centred upon, though not limited to, asking who is 'great David's greater son' - promised in 2 Samuel 7:14.
"When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever."
This is the first of many posts I want to write on this. It's not an abstract question but a genuine question from a friend of mine who isn't a Christian because he concludes that Jesus is not the Christ. Firstly, we should ask, do the New Testament writers think that Jesus is the Christ? The answer to this is an emphatic yes. We're presented with the Apostles preaching their message, frequently framed as 'proving Jesus is the Christ' in the book of Acts. Similarly we see the gospel writers arguing the case in some substantial detail. They don't always present it this way - to audiences (like most in the 21st Century) the Old Testament isn't always used explicitly. That said, it's story is broadly argued and presented. I find Don Carson's apologetic approach of telling the full Bible story to be a compelling approach. Where categories for the gospel don't exist - let us teach them!

To the issue at hand. Given the promises of the Jewish Bible, were the New Testament writers correct to conclude that Jesus is the Christ? Well, either Jesus is the Christ or he isn't. To answer the question about Jesus requires us to at least suggest the reliability of the New Testament Documents. If we're to see whether Jesus is the Christ we need to consider what evidence we have about him. If we take them as reliable then we have to ask: Are they deliberately misleading us? Are they willfully writing fiction? Are they unwittingly misled? The best approach seems to be to study their writing in detail and examine their arguments. On what bases do they make their claims? How do they show us that the promises of the Jewish Bible are fulfilled in Jesus?

Here's the plan. Future blogposts on Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts, to consider the case these books make for Jesus being the Christ. Right in the middle of the table are questions about Jesus' genealogy - is he David's Son? And what is the shape of his rule compared to the political rule of King David? This isn't the only theme the New Testament is concerned with, they see Jesus as the fulfillment of every promise God makes in the Jewish Bible, and indeed the fulfillment of the whole story. Detail to follow...

4 comments:

  1. Interesting questions! I am looking forward to your next posts!

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  2. Me too!

    Watch out for the false dilemma mistake in Christian apologetics.

    Two examples.

    1. Lord, Liar, Lunatic (Omits Legend)

    2. If the documents were preserved well, then they are accurate. (Omits a discussion or enquiry into the accuracy of the first writings)

    Great book on this = Reasons For Belief by Ken Samples

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  3. Never was much of a fan of trilemma.

    Agreed - well preserved is accurate - but that doesn't make them true explanations. They could be genuine work from the 1st Century without Jesus being the Christ - granted that would require someone to say that some of the events and much of their explanation was fictious at best.

    My friend accepts that the documents could be accurate, but says that the writers & Jesus were misled because Jesus simply doesn't fit the requirements God places upon his Messiah in the Jewish Bible.

    I'll look up the book.

    Thanks.

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  4. I'm nearly through reading 'Who Moved the Stone?' by Frank Morison, which I think addresses some of the questions posed here. Well worth a read. :o)

    Written by a man who set out to disprove the resurrection... and couldn't do it. The book is the result of his findings/conclusions.

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