Struggling With the Historical Accuracy of the New Testament

Hello,
So recently I’ve been doubting the faith that I was raised in like a lot of people on this forum. I’ve read the case for christ, William Lane Craig a few years ago, and recently Tim Keller’s the Reason for God. I really felt confident in the arguments about the accuracy of the new testament for a while until I started for fun getting into a podcast about supernatural stories (Lore, it’s very popular) and I started feeling uncomfortable with some of the seeming similarities between monster/alien sightings I heard and the New Testament accounts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize alien abduction stories and stories about the Jersey Devil did not inspire a religion that lasted 2,000 years. However, a couple of these stories have logged in my brain as being quite similar. Take for instance, one of the first ever alien abduction stories, I don’t remember the couple’s name but they both had a very clear story about what happened and stuck to that story for the rest of their lives. They truly seemed to believe their story and never wavered in it which made me think about how the apostles truly believed they’d seen the risen christ the rest of their lives and never wavered from their stories about it. Obviously, the apostles died for this belief and this couple did not get tortured for believing in aliens, but it sill kinda bothers me. The other example is that of the times the Jersey Devil was spotted by multiple people, at least three or four, in one town including policemen and such in a single day. This bothers me even more because there are multiple eyewitnesses in a single day like with the accounts of seeing Jesus again. Sometimes I think the people of this town must have just seen a strange animal they thought was the Jersey Devil, the fact that there are multiple witnesses makes it seem strangely credible. I think I’m just bothered by the fact that there is this huge phenomena of people truly truly believing that they’ve seen things that don’t exist for their entire lives and then wondering if that’s what happened to the apostles and Jesus’ other followers. What are your thoughts on this? Any thoughts on mass hallucination type psychological phenomena? What’s so different about the biblical accounts to these stories?

Thanks for your time.

Welcome to the forum. You are certainly not alone in wondering how accurate historical events depicted in the Bible are. I think examining how scripture came about is helpful, as well as looking at its purpose, which I see ultimately not history.

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Welcome to the forum. I am italian and I also heard strange theories that connect aliens and the Bible. Mauro Biglino, an italian Bible student has promoted this theory studying the passages.
I don’t know what to say, when we speak about supernatural almost everything is possible.
I can only state that I think that even if we cannot say anything definite about God’s plan, we should say something about the hypothetic “aliens plan”, why should they let people worship them ? Why should they have fun in mocking some less civilized people ? It is not a symptom of an advanced civilization.
So, between strange theories and what has always been proposed by christianity, I choose the latter.
Welcome again and have a good time here !

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It’s one thing to “stick to your guns” with regard to something incredible that you are nonetheless convinced of. As you’ve noted, it is yet another to be willing to die for that. And I will go on to suggest that it is even another order yet to be willing to live for it. It is already a hard sell to think somebody will die for something they know to be a fraud, but how much harder yet that their lives get turned upside down - and transformed? And this not just in one or two of the time, but in countless ones along with them and since. Yet this still isn’t proof of truth - faith is still needed as always. There are other religions too through the millennia that can also boast life-long followers. And just like the organized religion of christianity - those too will not necessarily be Truthful in everything they have come to assert. We raise our children in the best way we know how, but no parent is going to get absolutely everything right. There is one Spirit - the Spirit of Truth that alone will be perfect. We all follow it falteringly as we can - when we aren’t busy in rebellion working against it. A life of faith is messy and complicated stuff, and yet paradoxically, the faith driving it might actually be quite simple - requiring no advanced degrees or religious study. It’s a faith that takes more delight in a simple act of mercy shown to a needy outsider than in an argument won on the internet. It’s a faith that pursues more a life obediently lived than a mind studiously correct.

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Basically the same as what was already mentioned.

The early apostles who claimed to have seen Christ stuck to the story despite one of the most violent persecutions Christians have dealt with. They faced the persecution of the Roman Empire. We can read everything the martyrs faced in the first century who claimed to have seen the apostles preform these miracles and lay hands on others. There are even horror accounts of christian kids and Jewish kids sewed up in pig corpses and had lions released on them and so on.

Believing still requires faith though. We can see that’s thousands of people believed in a Jesus because they claimed to have witnessed what he or they apostles did and they were willing to die for it. That’s some evidence in itself but like I said it still requires faith because we also have pagans that believed in their gods and would willingly sacrifice themselves for it and faced off with the Catholic Church facing similar persecutions.

Appreciate the honest thoughts… a few observations:

You are correct in noting that none of these people who claimed to witness these other extraordinary events had to pay or suffer anything significant for their beliefs. In fact, largely the opposite. Though they may have had to endure the odd looks and suspicion of some, they also gained some form of notoriety, or that sense of feeling special from being one of the few witnesses to something extraordinary.

Secondly, I would observe that everything we know about the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection tells us they were not gullible people, quick to embrace fanciful wish-fulfillment tales. The continual skepticism and disbelief among the disciples in the face of multiple eyewitness accounts and even their own senses is recorded in all four gospels:

  • When the women first gave their report to the disciples, “ these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

  • Later, two other disciples also came and reported their encounter with Jesus. Same reaction. “And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.”

  • When Jesus actually met the disciples, they at first did not even believe their own eyes. “they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.“. They didn’t believe their own eyes, they thought at most they were seeing a ghost.

  • So to convince them they’re not just seeing things, Jesus invites them to touch his hands and feet, and feel real flesh and bone… And “they still disbelieved.

Didn’t believe the women, didn’t believe the empty tomb, didn’t believe the other disciples, didn’t believe their own eyes, and now didn’t believe their very hands as they touched flesh and blood. We’re not talking particularly “credulous”’people here.

  • And it must not be forgotten that after Jesus had met the other disciples, all 10 of them reported this testimony to the 11th… who famously said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” Not exactly a most credulous character.

These are not exactly the actions of folk who are quick to believe extraordinary things. They have nothing to gain and practically everything to lose by their belief in such. They doubted the story entirely at first, as any good skeptic would. Then they wouldn’t even believe their own eyes and other senses when he was right in front of them. They themselves probably thought they were hallucinating at first.

To me, this is so far removed from other stories of people experiencing something which gives them a certain notoriety, or which could be explained by seeing something and letting local Folklore or gossip taint your impression of what you saw. (How many people may well have seen something in the woods and then believed it was Bigfoot due to the surrounding lore?)

In contrast, these disciples were almost literally dragged kicking and screaming into their belief. They did at first think they were hallucinating or seeing a ghost… they themselves were preferring to believe any alternate explanation… and they had to have it proven otherwise to them. They embraced Jesus’ resurrection because they simply could no longer doubt the continued and repeated evidence of own senses, as much as they were initially quite firmly and instinctively inclined to doubt such.

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Why do you want to know if Jesus really rose from the dead? Of what practical value would it be to you?
Is this a life or death matter for you? And what would happen to you if He really didn’t?

C S Lewis said it well…

Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal ‘sell’ on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug?

If Jesus rose from the dead, there are enormous consequences… we have to take seriously all else he did and taught… and commanded, and as such we owe him our entire obedience as our king. If he didn’t, the the entire Christian faith is a fraud and we need to reject it and not look back.

It is a matter of eternal life and death to everyone, if Jesus did indeed rise and thus confirmed all else that he told about life and death, both now and eternally, then we need to take seriously what Jesus said about life and death, no?

I recently watched an Unsolved Mysteries episode about alleged alien abductions, and did some reading up about it afterwards because it was very interesting even though I’m not sure I buy it. One author studying the phenomenon has made the claim that it wasn’t until the idea of aliens (little green men from Mars, etc.) gained a place in popular culture that you start to see documented tales of “alien abduction” from people. It may still be true that something happened to them, and maybe whatever it is has happened to people before, but the idea of “aliens” gave them a label for their experiences.

Anyway, I appreciate your observations – unlike with “alien abductions,” the disciples knew Jesus. They would not have been convinced if it wasn’t him.

Doesn’t it seem that there are fewer reports of UFOs and such now that everyone has a good camera in their pocket?
Your comments reminded me of the movie “Cowboys and Aliens” which as I recall was a little disappointing but still was an interesting idea of having an alien invasion in a different time setting.

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Hi Daniel, my questions were directed to the original post to understand where he is coming from. Though your statements were very true.
But why should there even be an expectation that a man called Jesus would even rise from the dead?

I don’t understand what you’re asking, but I agree with Daniel. Also, btw, I’m a she not a he.

Sorry about that dear sister.

The reason I asked those questions is to find out how hungry you are to know the Father and the Son.

Matt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Luke 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

These are promises that Jesus gave us. The stronger our hunger is the more we will be filled. If our asking, seeking and knocking is done with an attitude of, “I must know you Father or I will parish”, then our Father will hear us and will reveal Himself to us.

I asked Daniel this question so I’ll ask you too.

“But why should there even be an expectation that a man called Jesus would even rise from the dead?”

This is essential for you to understand your reasoning behind the answer to this question. Your understanding will help resolve your faith issue.

Since there has not been a response to the above question let me clarify why I asked it. Some people say they are losing their faith or trust in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. They wonder if they just believe a delusion, lie or a story.

What is our basis for expecting or trusting that Jesus would rise from the dead? It is our Father in Heaven; He is the one who foretold the coming of Jesus. When you doubt, go back to the scriptures and read the prophecies of the coming of Jesus. No false god can foretell the future. One of the reasons He did this was so that when the Savior came we would know what to look for so we would be able to tell who He was. Our trust (faith) has a sure foundation, the very Word of God. Never let anyone, any thought or the Devil, take the Word of God from you.

Isa 53 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

God will keep those safe that put all their trust in Him and His Son.

@k_g

It just doesn’t matter that there are ever more refined, plausible, natural explanations - that will get better and better - for the earliest claims of Christianity.

THE claim is still there. God walked with us as one of us. I want that to be true, don’t you? As there is no warrant for God and eternal life at all without it. I can’t see how the claim can be bettered. Apart from happening now. If the Parousia is yet literal then that would do it. Until then, do you want it to be true?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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