The Real Deal

I generally like the History Channel. They have some decent programming even though it might not be traditional understanding “history.”

Take “Counting Cars.” It’s always great to see people restore historic or iconic cars, especially if it is associated with a celebrity or TV show. Or “Forged in Fire” – the final challenge is to bring a historical weapon to life using modern forging techniques. Good history.

Occasionally, there is military history. Good stuff too.

Then it gets weird: some of the programming takes the fringe view of history and try to pass it off as mainstream or ask why mainstream or academics appear to reject the fringe view when there is plausible evidence to the contrary. While my own credentials as a historian is only a Bachelor’s of Arts and can’t compete with the PhDs and MAs they trot out as experts, it doesn’t mean I can’t ask questions. It does not mean I cannot challenge the basic assumptions of both sides – the mainstream and the fringe. Think like a trial lawyer instead: put forth your best evidence, summon your experts, concede some points, but also account for opposing counsel’s points, and draw the conclusion that best fits all the evidence.

That is just a long introduction to this article. What I do not like about this time of the year during Holy Week (and also Christmas) is how History Channel and other channels seem to trot out all the so-called experts on Jesus Christ and Christianity. Worse, the liberals and fringe outnumber the conservatives. Or at least, it looks like that. Maybe there is an equal number in the real world, but the creators of such programs like to call the liberals and the fringe commentators more often. Or the liberals like to talk more.

The fringe certainly publish more in popular media. Take Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Or Michael Baignet who claims Dan Brown ripped him off. Baignet also has his own books with the same theme: Jesus had physical children and there is a holy bloodline. Meanwhile, where are the conservatives? They certainly are out there. The conservatives also have their own popular books too but no matter how they try, the fringe element seems to win.

Lee Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus does a much better job in detailing leading theories or objections to the biblical and knocking each one down.  Questions like:

  • Did the church suppress ancient non-biblical documents that paint a more accurate picture of Jesus than the four Gospels?
  • Did the church distort the truth about Jesus by tampering with early New Testament texts?
  • Do new insights and explanations finally disprove the resurrection?
  • Have fresh arguments disqualified Jesus from being the Messiah?
  • Did Christianity steal its core ideas from earlier mythology?

Remember what I said about the fringe element and the liberals coming out of the woodwork at this time? All of them argue “yes” in the affirmative. Strobel’s investigations led to experts with impeccable academic degrees AND committed Christians who answered “no” to all of them and upheld the traditional view.

Time and time again, the experts point to the same problem: all of the liberals and fringe sources are much, much later than the actual historical events! Or, the sources that have been passed off as “genuine” are actually clever hoaxes. As a trial lawyer, that’s successful impeachment. The witness is lying or her recollections are so hazy that it cannot be relied upon. What’s more, there is no corroborating evidence from without that proves those texts are indeed accurate.

If you cannot remember what you ate for dinner last Monday or what you wore on a Friday two weeks, how much more reliable is your recollection of an event 100 years ago when you were not even alive? But that’s what the Gospel of Peter or Thomas or Secret Gospel of Mark or Gospel of Mary is trying to establish and all of those sources were written much later than the events they say they recalled. All of them were Gnostics and had their own agenda to push. The internal logical inconsistencies cannot hold up any weight when challenged by serious thinkers.

Meanwhile the four canonical Gospels and parts of I Corinthians 15 have multiple witnesses alive within 5-15 years of the events recorded. In fact, the writer of the Gospel of Luke explicitly stated he did his research. Why else would Mary’s song in Luke 1 be captured so completely? If people had questions, there was someone who knew someone was there or was there himself. Some of Jesus’s miracles were very public; the resurrection of Lazarus was done in front of multiple witnesses. Jesus fed 4000 people on one occasion and another 5000 on another. All this is to state that the traditional account holds more weight than the liberal viewpoint or the fringe elements.

Because this is Holy Week, I am trying to make a conscious effort to focus more on Jesus – the Real One. Even if the other gospels were true, what then? None of them have the same power to save and transform me from the inside out. Sure, there were plenty of wise sayings, but only the “Real” Jesus came into my life, walked beside me, entered the deepest darkest parts of my heart, and healed the broken parts. Jesus tried died on the cross and rose again on the third day.

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