What’s the deal with Advent? What is it? Should I Observe it?
What’s the deal with Advent? What is it? Should I Observe it?

Eric Gawura • December 08, 2021

Advent is a season in the liturgical Church calendar that starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (always falling between 27 November and 3 December) and ends at sunset on Christmas Eve. Its observance in the Church goes back to the fourth century A.D. (first mentioned in writing at the Council of Sargossa in 380 A.D.).


The word Advent is taken from the Latin word adventus (“coming”; “arrival”) which itself was the Latin translation of the New Testament Greek word parousia, which means “coming, advent, being in person.” Parousia is the word used in the original Greek in which the New Testament was written to refer to both the coming of Christ in human flesh and His Second Coming.


The season of Advent, then, is a season of preparation with a dual focus. On the one hand it focuses on our preparation to celebrate Christmas, the birthday of our Savior in the flesh. On the other hand, it focuses on our preparation for His return in glory, majesty, and power on the Last Day. So, it is much more than just a way to countdown the days ‘til Christmas. As a season with a double focus, it reminds us that we live in the time between the two comings of Jesus Christ, between His first coming to accomplish our salvation and His Second Coming when He will make all things new and perfect. As Christians we look back in human history, giving God thanks for what Jesus has accomplished for us, and we look forward to the day when the promises of God will be fulfilled – promises to destroy death forever, to renew all of creation to its original pristine state, and to raise us up in perfected bodies to live with Him for eternity.


The dual nature of Advent is seen in the liturgical lectionary (the calendar of appointed readings for each Sunday in the Church Year). The first two weeks of Advent have readings that focus on the Second Coming of Christ. They focus on His promise to return and our need to always be ready for that return. The last two weeks of the season transition to a focus on Christ’s first Coming at Christmas, with the readings focusing on God’s Old Testament promises to send a Savior and their fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.


In recent decades, many Christians have so focused on Advent as a preparation for Christmas, that the season’s equally important focus on Christ’s return has been lost. But both are important. Advent isn’t just about celebrating God’s in-breaking into human history in the past (Christmas). It is also about looking forward to that day when Christ will bring human history to its final conclusion and usher in our eternal life with Him.


There are many traditions practiced by Christians in their observance of Advent, the most well-known of which include decorating churches and homes with evergreen boughs, the use of Advent wreaths to mark the weeks of Advent, and special music (in the hymns of the Church both focuses of Advent are reflected).

Many, many Christians also privately observe the season by focusing on God’s Word. They use devotional books that contain daily Bible readings and meditations to help focus attention on the “reason for the season.”


If you’d like to observe Advent in this way ask your pastor for resources or look online (here’s a good online resource: https://www.lhm.org/advent).


Happy Advent!

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What about Christmas Day? Was Jesus really born on December 25th?
What about Christmas Day? Was Jesus really born on December 25th?

Eric Gawura • December 07, 2021

There is no way of knowing for sure exactly what day of the year Jesus was born. Heck, we don’t even know with exact precision what year he was born (it was somewhere between 7 - 4 b.c.). There is no official birth record for Jesus, and the Bible doesn’t mention December 25 or any other date. The Gospel of Luke gives us a lot of details about Jesus’ birth – that he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, that he was laid in a manger, that he was visited by nearby shepherds – but it doesn’t mention a date. That’s because the important thing about Christ’s birth wasn’t the date, but the fact that He was born, that God had taken on human flesh and nature that was important to the Bible, and to the early Church.


In the first two centuries of Christianity Christmas wasn’t even a celebration. Early writings from the first four centuries focus much more on the importance of God becoming man for the salvation of sinners. The first Church Father to mention a specific date was Irenaeus (130—202). Drawing on an established tradition, which believed that one’s date of death coincided with the date of one’s conception, Irenaeus used March 25 as the date of Jesus’s crucifixion – and thus Mary’s conception -- and then worked backwards nine months to arrive at December 25th as the date of His birth. The Church Fathers Hippolytus (ca. 170-236 a.d.), Sextus Julius Africanus (160—240 a.d.), John Chrysostom (347–407 a.d.), and Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386 a.d.) all favored December 25th as well, probably following Irenaeus’ lead.


Aside from the ancient tradition used by Irenaeus, though, there is no way for us to know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. History professor, and LCMS pastor, Paul Maier, in his book The First Christmas summarizes our best guess as to when Jesus was actually born: “Adding up all the clues, hints, and shreds of evidence from every available source, many scholars set the date for the Nativity sometime in the Fall of 5 b.c.” Even that isn’t universally accepted, though.


So why did December 25th end up at the day that we celebrate the birthday of Jesus? Again, Dr. Maier explains:


    “The early Christian Church seems to have observed the birth of Christ on January 6 in the East, and on December 25 in the West, but both practices began too late – the 300s a.d.—to warrant attaching any precision to these dates.

    “Probably it was a matter of substitution. The Romans of the time not only celebrated their Saturnalia festival at the close of December, but they also thought that December 25 marked the date of the winter solstice (instead of December 21), when they observed the pagan feast of Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun, which was just in the act of turning about to aim northward once again. Christianity sought to replace these pagan festivals with a Christian celebration honoring the “sun of righteousness,” a common epithet for Jesus as Messiah….but all this should not obscure the fact that, according to the best reckoning, Jesus may indeed have been born in the fall or winter of 5 b.c.”


Does this mean that Christians are inadvertently celebrating a pagan holiday?


Not at all! One Christian bloggers explains:


“…the meaning of any word, symbol, or custom is determined by current usage, not origin. Many words and practices have departed from their origins and no longer mean anything close to what they once did. For instance, the swastika has been around for thousands of years as a symbol of good fortune. It was therefore reasonable for the Nazi party to take this as their symbol, as they emphasized that they were the party to bring good times back to Germany, which was going through hard times after World War I. However, it would be absolute foolishness for a person to decorate his home today with swastikas based on their “real meaning.” The swastika has been so thoroughly identified with the horrors of the Holocaust that, in the current culture, it is a symbol for anti-Semitism and all things evil. The original meaning of the symbol is completely irrelevant.


“Regardless of what the Christmas symbols may once have meant, their use today needs to be evaluated on the basis of what they mean today. To automatically associate candles, colored lights, or decorated trees with pagan worship is unwarranted.


If what we know as Christmas originally started out as a pagan celebration, then it has been so successfully co-opted by Christians that any self-respecting pagan would be distressed at what Christians have done to it. Christmas celebrations are so completely the opposite of paganism that any suggested link between the two can be disregarded.”


The reason that we celebrate Christmas goes back to what the early Church put the focus on – not the date, but the fact that God took on humanity and was born to be our Savior. That is the “reason for the season.”


Merry Christmas!

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What's the Deal with the Plagues on Egypt? Are They Real or Not?
What's the Deal with the Plagues on Egypt? Are They Real or Not?

Eric Gawura • November 04, 2021

What's the deal with the plagues on Egypt under Moses's leadership? If they really happened, why aren't there extra-biblical records of them?


Well, there just might be such "outside the Bible" evidence. This link offers some tantalizing evidence from an Egyptian sage living about the time of Moses of a great calamady that hit Egypt, and the description of that calamity is strikingly similar to the account of the plagues found in Exodus.


Watch the video and let us know what your thought about it are!


https://youtu.be/TDy39V3q8g0


The movie clip is from the movie Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. It's a movie that will get you thinking!


The clip is part of an interview. If you want to skip the interview and get straight to the movie clip then fastforward to timestamp 3:29. The clip runs about 6 minutes.

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What's the Deal with Infant Baptism
What's the Deal with Infant Baptism

Eric Gawura • November 02, 2021

What’s the deal with infant baptism? Why do some churches practice it and other churches don’t?


The “What’s the deal with” blog series is meant to be a quick look and summary of a wide variety of questions that people may have about the Christian faith. It is not meant to provide long, in-depth explanations of those questions. With that in mind, the question of whether or not to baptize infants can be summarized in the following points:


Throughout most of Christian history the church has baptized infants because it has recognized the need for them to receive Baptism, and because the Bible commands that they be Baptized.


Let’s look at their need:


  1.  All people born into this world are conceived and born in sin. This is what the Bible calls “original sin.” Adam and Eve were created in the image of God – perfect in truth, holiness, and righteousness. But when they used their free will to disobey God those gifts were lost. The children that they produced also lacked those gifts. See these verses:


  • Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NIV84)
  • For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5, NLT)
  • When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3, NIV84)
  • The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5, NIV84)
  • As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10, NIV84)


This is not an exhaustive list, but it shows that everyone is born into this world as a sinner and therefore in need of a savior, infants included.


Being sinners, we lack the ability to change ourselves into righteous people. We cannot get back the lost gifts of perfect truth, holiness, and righteousness (the Image of God) on our own.


God, in His mercy, decided to save us from the eternal punishment that is due to all sinners. He sent His only-begotten Son to become a human being to save us. He saved us by living a perfect life for us and then dying to sin in our place. Having suffered the punishment for our sin as our substitute through death, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus of Nazareth is our Savior from sin. As the Bible says, ““Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, NIV84)


We receive the forgiveness of our sins, and therefore salvation and eternal Life, through faith in Jesus. Faith is a gift from God, not something that we produce ourselves, and is given to us through the Gospel.


  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
  • Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NIV84)
  • I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16–17, NIV84)


Because God knows that our sin-weakened mind and heart have trouble trusting the bare word of the Gospel, He tied the gospel promises of forgiveness and salvation to two certain rites. Put another way: when we hear the general promises of the Gospel we have no trouble believing them. But when our conscience is disturbed and becomes troubled, we have trouble believing that the general promises of the Gospel apply to us individually and specifically.


So, in order to give us certainty that He has dealt with us individually – not as a member of a mass of humanity, but as an individual person – He gives us Baptism (and the Lord’s Supper, a matter for another future post) so that we can know that He has forgiven us and saved us.


Because the water of Baptism goes on my head then I know that the Gospel has been applied to me and that I have been given the gift of faith and thus salvation.

So, Baptism is a means by which God extends His grace to an individual and saves them. So, the Bible says of Baptism:


  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38, NIV84)
  • And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:16, NIV84)
  • … baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21, NIV84)
  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV84)


2.   Let’s look at the command to Baptize:

  • Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, NIV84)
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38, NIV84)


And regarding infants, Jesus says that this: “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:14, NIV84)


So, for all of these reasons we baptize infants.


There are Christian denominations who do not baptize infants. Their reasoning has to do with a complete, or partial, rejection of the Bible's teaching on sin (original sin in particular) and an understanding of the nature of faith that differs from what the Bible teaches. Lacking an understanding of the need and a conception of faith that makes it a good work, these denominations do not baptize infants. Baptists, Menonites, Amish, Pentecostal, and many non-denominational churches fall into the category that deny infant Baptism.



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What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?
What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?

Eric Gawura • October 27, 2021

What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?


The short answer to this question is “yes…..and no.” Yes, it is absolutely necessary to be a member of the Church to be saved. But “No”, you don’t need to hold membership in a church to be saved.


Confused? Well, let’s sort this out.


To answer this question a clarification needs to be made about what the word “church” means. In English church can mean one of three things: 1. An individual congregation, like Our Redeemer; 2. A Christian denomination (e.g., Lutheran, Baptist, Roman Catholic, etc.); or 3. The whole body of Christian believers. The first two meanings refer to institutions, the third meaning refers to the nature of the Church. In parlance we use a small “c” to refer to the institution (i.e., “church”) and a capital “C” to refer to the nature of the thing (i.e., “Church”).


The presence or absence of that capital “C” makes all the difference in how you answer the above question:


  • Do you have to be a member of a/the church to be saved? NO! Membership in any institution, whether it be a local congregation or an international denomination, is not a requirement to enter heaven (i.e., salvation).


  • Do you have to be a member of the Church to be saved? YES! Why? Again, let’s sort this out.


What is The Church? In the most fundamental sense, the Church is the total number of individuals who have heard the Gospel and believed it, who have faith in Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. Because faith is a matter of the heart then the Church cannot simply be equated with any institution. People join churches for a whole multitude of reasons, and so it will always be true that congregations and denominations will have official members who have joined that institution for various reasons but who do not have faith. Obviously, people who do not have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior will not be saved. This is why membership in an institution (“church” with small “c”) will not save anyone.


So, the Church (capital “C”) is made up of all of those who do have faith, all of those who are receiving the salvation that God offers humanity in Jesus Christ. Faith is the only thing needed for salvation, and faith automatically make a person a member of the Church, the community of those who believe in Jesus. So, since faith is necessary for salvation, and since faith make you a member of the Church, then being a member of the Church – the “communion of saints” in the words of the Creed – is necessary for salvation. So, you don’t need to be a Roman Catholic or a Lutheran or a Baptist to be saved, but you do need to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you do, then you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, even if you’re Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Baptist.

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What's the Deal with the Number of Books in the Bible?
What's the Deal with the Number of Books in the Bible?

Eric Gawura • October 14, 2021

What’s the deal with the New Testament? I’ve heard that there should be a lot more books included in the Bible. Is that true?


Despite popular claims that you might see in certain TV programs, documentaries, or in print, the list of the Books in the Bible was not decided by the decision of a church council or a church leader. Lists of Biblical books were made by church councils, but more in the way of giving recognition to the fact that all churches recognized certain books to be God’s inspired Word.


In Christian circles the list of books that are included in the Old and New Testaments is called the canon (canon meaning “that against which all things must be measured or judged”). Secular scholars talk about the canon of the New Testament as being created by the Church. That is, some church council voted on which books should be in the New Testament and which shouldn’t. In other words, the New Testament books were decided by committee.


The Church itself has a different understanding of how the canon was created. It’s based on some assumptions. First, the church believes that God revealed himself in certain writings. Second, the church believes that those writings are inspired – that is, the have human writers but only on author – the Holy Spirit. Third, the Church believes that these books/writings are authoritative for the Church; no teaching and not practice should be in disagreement with those sacred writings.

So the Church says that it did not create the canon (list of accepted books), but that it recognized the canon. It decerned that books that were sacred through the following method:


1.   It was written by an Apostle (e.g. Matthew, John, the letters of Paul and Peter), or those in very close association with an Apostle (e.g. Mark and Luke). This was and remains the most important criteria to be met.


2.   It was catholic, that is, it was used and accepted by all Christians Churches; mere regional use and acceptance was insufficient).


3.   It was orthodox, conforming completely with the apostolic faith.


4.   And it was ancient, having been written in the first century.


From the Church’s perspective it can therefore be said that there are 66 books in the Bible because God inspired only that many and the Church hears the authoritative voice of God only in these books.


There were, of course, other books floating around the Roman Empire in the first few centuries of Christian history that claimed, in some sense, to be “Christian.” These are the usual writings that some scholars will point to with the claim, “these were excluded by the Church.”


Here’s a good summation of why these books were not ever recognized as being part of the Biblical canon:


“Books that were later deemed heretical were never widely authoritative, and thus were never part of any early Bible or the canonization process (outside of being directly noted as unaccepted). There was no conspiracy against these noncanonical and heretical works, but rather an acknowledgement of their factual inaccuracy and their teachings, which clearly disagree with historical Christianity as taught by Jesus and the apostles. Instead, the books under discussion and debate during the canonicity process were those that agreed with the tradition of the early church and of the apostles but were doubtful as to their relevance for wider church usage (mainly in worship settings) or their being from the era of the apostles and reflective of their thoughts.” -- Barry, J. D. – Klippenstein, R. – Wolcott, C. S., “Canon, Overview of the”, The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

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What's the Deal with Jesus and Mary Magdalene?
What's the Deal with Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

Eric Gawura • October 13, 2021

What’s the deal with Jesus? Why are there so many rumors about Jesus and Mary Magdalene?


You might remember the publication of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and the movie of the same name that came out in 2006. They hype surrounding each was immense. Perhaps you read the book and/or saw the movie yourself.


The plot of the novel and movie revolves around the Holy Grail. By the end of the novel and movie it is revealed that the Holy Grail is not a thing, but rather a blood line, namely that of the descendants of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene.


Dan Brown, the author of the novel, based his unique understanding of the Holy Grail on a couple of books published in the late 1990s and early 2000s that claimed that Jesus, far from the orthodox teaching of the Church, had married Mary Magdalene and had children with her. These books claimed that the Church had suppressed the truth about Jesus and Mary so that the priestly hierarch of the Church could maintain its power and riches. Evidence of such suppression is provided by pointing to the gnostic Gospels, books that were in existence in the early centuries of Christianity that purported to give the history of Jesus’ life like the Gospels do. These books did not find their way into the New Testament, were suppressed, and labeled as heretical. A couple of them elude to what might be taken as a love, even marital, relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.


For example, The Gospel of Philip referred to Mary as the “companion” of Jesus, which some have taken to mean “spouse” and that Jesus loved her more than his Apostles. And in that same document also it is also said that Jesus used to kiss Mary “often on her ____.” Damage to the document destroyed the last word in that sentence, and some have filled in the missing word with “mouth.”


This was the sort of “research” that lay behind the claim that Jesus had married Mary. First, the Gospel of Philip, like many other purported “gospels” from the early centuries of Christianity, were written by and for groups that were on the very fringes of Christianity. These “gospels” aren’t meant to pass on historical information about Jesus (as are the Gospels in the New Testament). Rather, these so-called “gospels” were meant to pass on hidden teachings of Jesus that were purported to unlock spiritual portals that led to spiritual purity and power, which was the main concern of these Gnostic groups.


Documents like The Gospel of Philip were not suppressed from Christianity. That is, they were never accepted as true Gospels by a large number of Christians, and then suppressed by Church authorities in order to preserve power. These documents were never accepted as legitimate Gospels by Christians anywhere. They were only accepted by groups that were never really Christian to begin with.

Furthermore, kissing on the mouth was an accepted form of greeting, even between men, in the ancient world. And there is no compelling reason why “Companion” should be understood to mean “spouse.”


The New Testament presents Mary as someone who had received an exorcism from Jesus and who became one of his early followers. She was one of a group of women, a part of a much larger group of disciples, who followed Jesus in his earthly ministry. She was one of the women who went to Jesus’s tomb early on the first Easter Sunday. The Gospel of John tells us that she was the first of Jesus’s disciples to see the risen Lord on Easter.


As women had virtually no social status in the ancient world apart from the men in their lives, the fact that Mary Magdalene was chosen to be the first witness of the resurrection, and to receive the command from the risen Jesus to go and tell his male apostles about his resurrection, well….that’s a big deal. Jesus, and the early Church, did elevate women high above the usual roles that ancient culture limited them too.


So Jesus and Mary were never married, but Mary was an important member of Jesus’s group of followers.

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What's the Deal with...sin
What's the Deal with...sin

Eric Gawura • October 07, 2021

What’s the deal with Sin? Are some sins worse than others?


You may have been taught as a youngster that all sins are equal in God’s eye and that no sin is worse than any other sin. Let’s investigate that claim.


Is it really true that all sins are in some sense the same in the eyes of God? This is true when looking at the nature of sin. Sin is nonconformity to God’s Law. The Law of God tells us what we are to do and what we are not to do in order to be righteous, or completely good. When Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). That’s 27/7/365!


Integral to loving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength is to do the things that God wants and to love the things that God loves. When Jesus stated what the greatest commandment was He added this, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Any violation of this commandment involves us in a violation of the greatest commandment. We can’t claim to love God completely if we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle James reminds us that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).


And so even the tiniest violation of the Law makes us guilty of sinning. Since even the smallest sin makes us less than perfect, less than perfectly holy, any sin brings eternal separation from God and eternal punishment. So in that regard all sins are equal, in that any sin places us outside of God’s demands for total perfection. All sin and any sin brings punishment.


But does that mean that God considers white lies to be equally serious as violent and vicious murder? No! White lies don’t deprive someone of life. Murder bring harm and grievance to a wide circle of people, white lies do not. So in terms of the impact that sins have on others there are obvious some sins that are worse than others. And the effect of certain sins on the perpetrator is greater with some sins that with others. The corrosive effect of murdering someone on our conscience and soul is greater than engaging in a white lie.


So are all sins that same? Yes. Are some sins worse than others? Yeah, that’s true too.

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What's the deal with Jesus? Did he really exist?
What's the deal with Jesus? Did he really exist?

Eric Gawura • October 04, 2021

Did Jesus really exist? Is there any historical evidence of Jesus Christ?


A 2015 survey conducted by the Church of England found that 22% of respondents did not believe that Jesus was a real, historical figure. That’s 1/5th of adults in England. What do you think? Was Jesus a real man who walked this earth?


There is no actual archeological evidence that Jesus existed. That is, there is no physical evidence that can be tied directly to Jesus; no clothing, no writings by his hand, none of his personal possessions. And despite the many claims of “fragment(s) of the true cross” none can be physically tied to Jesus, if such claims are accepted as true.


But then again, 99.9% of people living at the time of Jesus didn’t leave any physical, archeological evidence of their existence either. So if we don’t have physical evidence of Jesus then how can we know that He existed, that he isn’t some fictional character invented by the writers of the New Testament?


Despite the lack of archeological evidence, most historians of the ancient world do believe that Jesus was a real person. Like Jesus, Socrates and Plato – famous Greek philosophers – didn’t leave any direct physical evidence of their existence in the archeological record either. Yet few people question whether they lived or not. The evidence that they did live is the same sort of evidence that we have for Jesus’s existence. It’s documentary evidence. That is, people who knew these men mentioned them in writings.


So Jesus is extensively referred to in the Gospels by those who were eyewitnesses to his live and who learned from His teaching. And outside of the New Testament Jesus is mentioned in the writings of several Roman authors.


For example, Tacitus, a Roman historian, verifies the execution of Jesus by the authority of Pontius Pilate. He writes, “"Christus, the founder of the [Christian] name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, by through the city of Rome also." Annals XV, 44


Suetonius, another Roman historian, recorded the expulsion of Christian Jews from the city of Rome under the Emperor Claudius: “"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." Life of Claudius 25.4


Pliny the Younger wrote to the Emperor Trajan describing how he interrogated Christians who refused to offer sacrifices to the Emperor (Emperors were, by this time in Roman history, worshiped as gods): "I asked them directly if they were Christians...those who persisted, I ordered away... Those who denied they were or ever had been Christians...worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ. They used to gather on a stated day before dawn and sing to Christ as if he were a god... All the more I believed it necessary to find out what was the truth from two servant maids, which were called deaconesses, by means of torture. Nothing more did I find than a disgusting, fanatical superstition. Therefore I stopped the examination, and hastened to consult you...on account of the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger..." Pliny's letter to Emperor Trajan


And perhaps most famously, the historian Josephus wrote in his book, The Jewish Antiquities about Jesus: At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.


This is not an exhaustive list of extra-biblical references to Jesus in ancient manuscripts, and while much could be said about each of the above citations, they all have at least this in common – none of them questions the factual existence of Jesus. They all accept as given that Jesus had been a real person that lived in the area of Judea during the governorship of Pontius Pilate.


In fact, in the ancient world the existence of Jesus as a real man was never questioned. His claim to be God was questioned, but never his existence. Questioning his existence is a rather modern and recent phenomenon.


We can rest assured, though, that Jesus was a real man, not a made-up, fictional character.

After all, Christianity is a religion based on real human history.

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What's the Deal with the Bible? How Do We Know We Can Trust It?
What's the Deal with the Bible? How Do We Know We Can Trust It?

Eric Gawura • September 29, 2021

Quick Summary:


  • The Bible isn’t one book, it is an anthology of 66 different books written by 40 different authors over a 1,500 year time-span.
  • While the Bible was written by human beings, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit as to what to write, and how to write.
  • So the Bible is God’s Word and is completely trustworthy. In the Church it is the sole source and norm of all teaching and practice.


In Fuller Detail:


I’ve had people ask me what’s so special about the Bible. It’s just a book written by men.


My response is always, “Well, yes…but more.” Certainly the Bible was written by men. Notice the plural. Not man, but men. That gives us our first glimpse into what the Bible is.


The book that we call The Bible isn’t really one book. It’s an anthology, a collection of books under one cover. This anthology contains 66 books total, with a wide variety of literature types (narrative, history, poetry, wisdom-sayings, proverbs, letters). The books cover a span of over 1,500 years. The 66 books were written by 40 different people (some wrote more than one book), including kings, poets, shepherds, a tax collector, a physician, a tent-maker, and a couple of professional fishermen. So certainly the Bible is an anthology of books written by men.


Like all authors, these 40 people wrote because something inspired them to take up pen and paper and write. Poets talk about their muse, their inspiration for their poetry, whether it be love, beauty, justice, or something else. The Biblical authors had their inspiration, too, but it wasn’t a thing, it was a person, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved certain people, and provided them with the words to write. Paul, an author of several New Testament books, summarized it this way: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95)


So, while each book in the Bible was written by a human being, each was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity (God). Each book conveys the vocabulary and writing style of its human author, but the content – and even the choice of words used – was inspired by the Holy Spirit working through that author. So we can truthfully say that the books of the Bible were written by God through His chosen human authors. In other words, the Bible isn’t just man’s word, it is God’s Word.


Because God is the ultimate author, and He cannot lie, then we can trust it absolutely. So, the Church has always understood the Bible to be the ultimate source of teaching in the Church, and the thing that all teaching and instruction must agree with in the Church.


The question about how we got our Bible, and why some books were accepted and some not others, is a whole other issue. You can find good information about it here:


https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-do-we-know-the-right-books-made-it-into-the-new-testament.html


Some interesting facts about the Bible:


  1. The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
  2. Over 100 million copies of the Bible are sold each year.
  3. More than 168,000 Bibles are either sold or given away per day in the USA.
  4. The Holy Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations, and audio translations (for unwritten languages). This is an enormous amount of translations. In comparison, Shakespeare, considered by many to be the master writer of the English language, has only been translated into 50 languages.
  5. In 1631, a publishing company published a Bible with the typo “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Only 9 of these Bibles, known as the “Sinners’ Bible” exist today.
  6. The Bible has inspired more song lyrics than any other book, including “40” (U2), “Adam Raised a Cain,” (Bruce Springsteen), “Adam’s Apple” (Aerosmith), “All you Zombies” (The Hooters), “Be Still” (Kelly Clarkson), “Blackened” (Metallica), “Cinnamon Girl” (Prince), “Come Sail Away (Styx), “Every Grain of Sand” (Bob Dylan), “I am God” (Kanye West) and many more.
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