Q: Can We Trust Jesus through the Bible Without Being Religious?

This following answer was originally given here, in response to an unbeliever’s challenge to the historical reliability of the Bible.

A: The Nicene Creed holds no importance for me because it is a product of the post-apostolic church and therefore cannot speak with the same authority as Scripture, which comes from Israel’s prophets and apostles. As I’ve said elsewhere, church is obsolete in our day. The only one that mattered is described in the New Testament.

Neither do I cling to the idea of inerrancy. It is a flawed idea which, counterproductively, tends to focus attention on peripheral rather than central matters. Yes, I believe that the Bible is the word of God, but it was written by human hands long ago and can’t be treated as if it were an idol we should worship. It’s the ideas the Bible puts forth that should be considered as coming from God, and it is reflection upon, and practice of, those ideas that brings God’s blessing.

Treating the Bible as a set of religious documents – and therefore subject to a different set of rules – instead of as a set of historical documents is a mistake. And I see this mistake made not just by those who revere the Bible, but by those who, like you, dispute it. The Bible’s documents should be historically judged by the same standards as we judge any other ancient documents. You can’t throw out Paul’s letters, for example, because they deal with the subject of God. Those letters were written, sent, copied, distributed, and preserved in a historical context. The starting point of any study of them is their historical context and nature.

The Bible’s contents are as reliable as you can get for documents from antiquity. Their textual integrity makes reading them less an exercise of faith in copyists than reading Plato or Homer. Do we have photographic representations of the original documents? Of course not. Because of the abundance of copies and their relatively early dating, however, we can be confident that what we’re reading is, for all practical and important purposes, the same as what was originally written. Textual uncertainties are minor.

You don’t have to consider the New Testament as the word of God to come to decision about whether or not it’s reasonable to put faith in Jesus. All you have to do is acknowledge that those documents are more historically reliable than any other documents from antiquity and then draw conclusions from what you read.

There have been innumerable Bible scholars in the last 2,000 years: archaeologists, historians, theologians, linguists, and more. They have agreed on many things and they have argued about many things. Are we to throw out the New Testament because one, or even a few, archaeologists think Nazareth didn’t exist in the time of Jesus? If so, what are we to do about the archaeologists who disagree with him or them? There can be no end of controversies about the Bible, just as there can be no end of differing opinions about politics, business, and marriage. But we should quit none of these fields because of it. Rather, we should act like men, make our decisions, and live by them.

Some things are beyond controversy among scholars. For example, the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Even the famously skeptical Bart Ehrman thinks that Jesus’ Mythicists are not just wrong, but are dwelling outside the realm of scholarship.
Jesus Christ lived…and men must make their decision about what, if anything, they’re going to do in response. You are certainly free to disregard Him, for He has given you that freedom. Nor will your disregard of Him keep you out of heaven, because everyone is going there. You will, however, find that your experience in heaven carries with it the regret you’ll have for not having lived up to your moral potential down here. For once we get there, there’s nothing we can change about what we did down here. That’s why I want to spend the rest of my life down here making up for the selfishness I’ve previously practiced. When I get to heaven, in whatever place I land, I hope to hear Him say that I finished life better than I started it. If He’s been generous enough to give me the opportunity to repent, I don’t want to insult His kindness.

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24 Responses to Q: Can We Trust Jesus through the Bible Without Being Religious?

  1. Pingback: The Essential Claim of the Bible Is Historical | A Bible Reader's Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom

  2. TheAmazingAtheist says:

    Although I think you are a highly illogical person with your belief that Jesus is God who had a God at the same time, you are exceptionally better than this girl on hubpages I ran into. I am curious as to if you can talk some sense into her.
    http://judahsdaughter.hubpages.com/

  3. Arkenaten says:

    The fact that you have a viewpoint is not really an issue to me.
    What is troubling is you are unwilling to consider almost anything outside of biblical text.
    The Nazareth issue is the perfect example and the plethora of information available clearly refutes
    any claim of Nazareth existing at the time of Jesus.
    One can even completely ignore skeptics and simply read the evidence produced by the archaeologists that have excavated the area
    If one is prepared to do so with an open mind it becomes clear very quickly that there is no correlation between biblical description and the actual (supposed) site .

    The archaeologists, have been obliged for some reason to stretch the bounds of credulity to the nth degree merely to fulfill Christian ideology.
    I struggle to understand why someone as intelligent as you appear, Mike, refuse to even investigate such preposterous claims and why you would not be passionately interested in the town your god was supposed to have originated from?

    The etymology of the word does not lead back to a city/town/village hamlet.
    Even the translation of the phrase Jesus of Nazareth is incorrect.

    If i was to claim my faith in anything was ALSO based on evidence, I would want to make sure that this evidence was spot on.

  4. Mike Gantt says:

    Even skeptical scholars like Bart Ehrman consider Jesus’ Mythicism as false scholarship.

    • Arkenaten says:

      You are missing the point.
      Let me spell it out as succinctly as I can. And I am glad you mention Ehrman as well.

      That there may have been an itinerant preacher is very plausible. That he ,may have been called Yashua is also quite plausible.It was a common name and there are several Yashuas mentioned in ancient literature and there were several apocalyptic types preaching the imminent end of days scenario. This is nothing new.
      What you are not getting is this;
      The character, Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in the gospels, is a work of fiction and Ehrman agrees with this. He dismisses every claim of a divine character and scoffs at the resurrection as nonsense.

      Maybe the biblical character was based on an actual preacher of his time, accosted by disenchanted Jews and embellished for theological reasons. Maybe

      All I am saying is that if you disagree with this assertion then why are you adamantly not prepared to examine the evidence that is out there?

      Start with the description of Nazareth in the bible.
      Then merely look in an atlas at the geography. Or Google earth.
      See if you can find this cliff?
      Then look at ALL the archaeological evidence so far.
      Read Bagatti’s report, read the report from those who worked on it during the late 90’s.

      And each time, cross check their findings with the Biblical description of the City/town/village/hamlet or whatever you think it was.
      Then consider just these points;
      Nazareth is not mentioned in any form in the Old Testament.
      Josephus never mentioned Nazareth, yet mentioned many, many other towns and villages, including Sephoris which is less than three miles up the road, which, incidentally is not mentioned in the New Testament. Titus and his Tenth Legion passed through this region on their way to Jerusalem. If they sacked Sephoris why leave Nazareth?
      Eusebius was Bishop of Caeseria and although he makes mention of it never visited the birthplace of his god. which was less than fifty(50) miles away.

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    I’m supposed to chuck the New Testament because you’ve found an archaeologist who thinks he can prove that Nazareth did not exist at the time which the New Testament says it did?

    • Arkenaten says:

      No. I am saying don’t believe me, go and check for yourself.
      If you choose not to, this is okay, really it is. Just please,please, let others come to their own understanding without promoting your belief as the only absolute truth, which it patently isn’t.
      I have researched both sides and continue to do so. Let others, especially children have this opportunity as well.
      This is only fair and honest, wouldn’t you say?

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    The quickest way to get on CNN is to say you found something historical or archaeological that refutes the Bible.

    I would never teach my children to chase naysayers. I taught them to seek truth.

    • Arkenaten says:

      I agree, like the spurious bone boxes, etc. All crap.
      No doubt Constantine’s mum really did have a piece of the “‘Actual cross”.

      But I could care less about CNN.
      Besides, liars for the bible get on the telly all the time – they even have their own telly stations. They are called Evangelists. You must have seen them surely?
      “Send a dollar to this address and we’ll send a prayer to Jeezus just for you, y’all”.Praise the Lawd. ”

      And off we go on a tangent once more.

      “”I would never teach my children to chase naysayers. I taught them to seek truth.

      Good. Then I sincerely hope you have NOT preached that what you believe is the truth and let them find out for themselves?

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    Any parent who does not teach his children what he believes to be the truth cannot be said to love them. You might as well let your children discover on their own the truth about touching hot stoves or playing in traffic.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Ah..so you DO tell your kids that this pernicious superstition is truth.(Nod to Tacitus) .Shame on you…
      Funny, I never did. But I DID answer questions truthfully. There is a big difference and a loving parent knows the difference.

  8. Mike Gantt says:

    One man’s superstition is another man’s truth. That is, atheism is a superstition I would never foist on an enemy, much less my children.

    • Arkenaten says:

      ”atheism is a superstition”
      Oh, Mike you are so funny.
      Ah, yes, we are a suspicious lot, us atheists, and you better watch out ‘cos one day we are going to start out own Inquisition where we tie you to a stake and tickle you all until you confess that everything you believe is all nonsense.
      And we will have scribes to take your confession.
      And then we will recommend you all go to school and study proper history.
      And maybe William Lane Craig will be the next Pope?

      Smile..I am sure your kids will make their way in the real world and discover their daddy inadvertently told them porkie-pies. But as atheists are more understanding, I’m sure they will forgive you too.

  9. Mike Gantt says:

    An atheist believes that “with evolution, all things are possible.”

    • Arkenaten says:

      Going off track a bit here aren’t we MIke?
      I hope you are not going to start espousing Creationist nonsense too?”

      I really have no inclination to discuss that crap with you at all.
      Oh, and can you speculate how Tacitus knew about Christians?
      More pertinently, how did Nero know about Christians in AD 64?

  10. Mike Gantt says:

    Read Paul’s letter to the Roman, especially chapter 16.

  11. Mike Gantt says:

    That’s a considerable number of believers in Rome. Moreover, practically all of the names mentioned are leaders. Thus there would have been many more followers besides those named. It would be no surprise if they had come to the attention of Romans by the mid-60’s.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Ah…and can you indicate where Paul uses the term Christian in any of his writings? Now, baring this in mind, just how would Nero recognize a sub-sect of Judaism as being different and know that they were called Christians. Remember…before you ‘fire off an answer, the fire was in 64.’ And also try to recall when the first gospel was composed.

  12. Mike Gantt says:

    Ah…and can you indicate where Paul uses the term Christian in any of his writings?

    He doesn’t.  So what?

    Now, baring this in mind, just how would Nero recognize a sub-sect of Judaism as being different and know that they were called Christians.

    The Romans had problems with the Jews as well, Claudius having expelled them from Rome in 49 AD and Nero having let them back in 54 AD when he took office.  Jews therefore were on the radar screen of Roman authorities and the ones who invoked “Christ” (in any of its semantic forms) would have been detectable, as mentioned subsequently by the Roman historian Suetonius.

    Remember…before you ‘fire off an answer, the fire was in 64.’

    Too late.  As you can see, the Christian movement would only have grown between 54 and 64.

    And also try to recall when the first gospel was composed.

    There’s no certainty about that, though obviously all four were written during the first century.

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