What is your tipping point towards believing in the divinity of Jesus/the resurrection?


(Cody Davies) #1

Recently after reading a lot on the subject here and elsewhere I’ve gone from thinking of a creator God as impossible to thinking of it as a reasonable/solid hypothesis.

However I’m still shaky on the question of why it’s a “good hypothesis” in that same way to have belief in not just a creator, but the particular Christian God of the Bible. When I read The Language of God by Francis Collins he talked a lot about universe creation theory, but not much about the other part of his belief - why he believes in modern Christianity and its personal God over, say, Deism or another religion.

People tend to say something like “it’s about faith” but that’s not really what I’m asking. Faith is the end part of the process, where you’ve taken in the information you know and then used it to made a judgment on what to believe. If I have faith in my friend to return money I lent, I base it on his personality and on my past experiences with money lending. It’s faith because I have no way to know what will happen, but I’m still basing that faith on information that I’m using to make the judgment call.

So my question is, what are the foundations that lead you to have that faith in a personal God who died and was resurrected 2000 years ago? Is it personal experiences, or a conclusion that it’s the explanation that makes the most sense of the information we have (in which case I’d like to see those resources if they’re available), or maybe just a feeling that you have? I’d be interested in finding out.


(Jim Lock) #2

@Cody

For me its a little bit of both. To start, Josephus records Jesus of Nazareth as a real person whose followers began to spread out of Judea. Along similar lines, I believe there are references from an early church leader referring to a letter written by Pontus Pilate to the Emperor referencing Jesus. (Not the best source, but its what historians have). The point here is that there isn’t much disagreement that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical figure. From there, the recorded actions of the disciples are fairly convincing. Jesus was crucified and they either scattered or mourned or both. The point is, SOMETHING happened to push Jesus’ contempories to choose a missionary life and kept their faith strong through torture and execution. Something like 11/12 were executed for their faith. That is a powerful testimony in and of itself.

Finally, I have had personal experiences that sound a bit crazy when I describe them out loud. Critics could argue that those experiences were merely the result of coincidence or an overly active subconscious creating an EXPECTED experience. I can’t say that they are wrong. . But here’s the thing, I can’t discount those experiences either. They were unexpected and left me feeling small and humbled. To paraphrase, I’ve rarely found God in the expected (the thunderstorm or the earthquake). However, I regularly find and experience God in the small and quiet moments when I least expect anything.

Jim


(Jay Johnson) #3

Praise God! [quote=“Cody, post:1, topic:5647”]
So my question is, what are the foundations that lead you to have that faith in a personal God who died and was resurrected 2000 years ago? Is it personal experiences, or a conclusion that it’s the explanation that makes the most sense of the information we have (in which case I’d like to see those resources if they’re available), or maybe just a feeling that you have? I’d be interested in finding out.
[/quote]

I like what G.K. Chesterton said: “If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.’ I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.”

A lot of “things” form the foundation of faith for me.

First, the Jesus I encounter in the gospels says and does things that no one else has ever approached, and that touch my heart like nothing else.

Second, the life of Jesus truly is “the greatest story ever told.” Who would have or could have invented it? Certainly not first-century Jews, who expected the Christ (Messiah) to be an earthly king who would destroy Israel’s enemies and rule the world from Jerusalem, and who expected a general resurrection at the end of the age, but had no ideas of one man raised in advance of the last day.

Third, we have not only the gospels, but also the letters of Paul that testify to the earliest Christians’ conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul’s letters are often overlooked for the evidentiary value, but they are very early (ca. 50s) and testify quite clearly about the first Christians’ belief in Christ’s deity and his resurrection.

Fourth, the evidence for the resurrection is based upon eyewitness testimony. Paul appeals to this in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. This is where faith comes into play. Do we believe God’s witnesses, those whom Jesus appointed as his “messengers” (apostles), or do we disbelieve their testimony? For my part, I find them credible.

Fifth, I find their testimony credible because the alternatives are more incredible: that they invented the story, or hallucinated Jesus’ appearances. The idea that they invented the story makes no sense to me because they had no real incentives (money, power, sex/multiple wives) to lie, and their writings in the rest of the NT do not strike me as coming from men involved in a giant conspiracy of lies. Again, what was there to gain? The founders of other religions (Mohammed, Joseph Smith, et al.) can factually be shown to have pursued money, power, multiple wives. Jesus? Nope. Peter, James, John, Paul? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. I cannot believe that they conspired to lie about Jesus’ resurrection, and group hallucinations are even more unbelievable. So, I reach the obvious conclusion.

Sixth, I find that the story of Jesus matches up perfectly with the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). I am not talking about specific prophetic fulfillments here, but how often the story of Jesus echoes in the OT in unexpected ways that could not have been invented. For instance, the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis. The promise of an heir, through whom the entire world would be blessed. The entire sacrificial system. Etc. Allusions to the “Christ-event” abound, and the fact that they crop up throughout the Hebrew corpus is remarkable and testifies to its divine origin.

Seventh, I find the specific prophecies concerning Jesus Christ also quite compelling. The “Servant Songs” of Isaiah (42:1-9, 49:1-7, 50:4-7, 52:13-53:12), the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah, the “New Heart” of Ezekiel, Psalm 22 … I could go on, but the prophetic witness to Christ testifies both to his credentials and to the divine origin of Scripture, for who can accurately predict the future except God alone?

I will stop here, but suffice it to say that faith can be a reasonable choice. Faith exceeds reason; it does not violate it.

Blessings and continued growth to you!


#4

Excellent post by @Jay313, thank you for the encouragement.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread, so talking about these things can be encouraging. @Cody, as far as something else that has helped me personally, lately I’ve been interested in some of the intangibles and different ways of knowing. I mentioned this in another thread, but I like to think of the quote by C.S. Lewis about just the pure explanatory power of the Christian faith: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” What are we to do with this explanatory power of the state of humanity and the relationship to the Creator, with our sense of longing (C.S. Lewis again), with our inbuilt moral law (C.S. Lewis again) that we intuit comes from somewhere deep and beyond ourselves, and with something that made a huge dent in history 2,000 years ago?

Also, to steal from Alister McGrath’s bio of C.S. Lewis:

Christianity, rather than being one myth alongside many others, is thus the fulfillment of all previous mythological religions. Christianity tells a story about humanity, which makes sense of all the stories that humanity tells about itself…Tolkein’s way of thinking clearly spoke deeply to Lewis. It answered a question that troubled Lewis since his teenage years: how could Christianity alone be true, and everything else be false? Lewis now realised that he did not have to declare that the great myths of the pagan age were totally false; they were echoes or anticipations of the full truth, which was made known only in and through the Christian faith. Christianity brings to fulfillment and completion imperfect and partial insights about reality, scattered abroad in human culture."

And:

Reason and imagination alike were thus affirmed by the Christian vision of reality.

To sum up, this time a quote I heard second-hand, one might argue that Christianity “tells the best d**n story”.


(Brad Kramer) #5

Paging @Swamidass, who always has good thoughts on this topic.


(Peaceful Science) #6

@Cody thanks for posting your thoughts here. Especially if that is your real name, this is really bold.

I think you are asking good questions. Even if we are comfortable with the notion that there could be a God, or that He does exist, how do we make sense of the particular faith of Christianity? How do we know this faith is true, or maybe even false.

God makes Himself known to the whole world by raising Jesus from the dead, and then preserving public evidence of this event that persists to this day, and only grows as our understanding of the ancient world has increased. It is through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that we confidently know that God exists, is good, and wants to be known.

I want to start by saying that the entire Christian faith rests on the bodily ressurection of Jesus. This is the hinge point. If Jesus rose from the dead, nothing else matters. He is God’s messenger to us, and our way of knowing Him rightly, even if specific churches or Christians interpret Hiim wrongly. If, on the other hand, Jesus did not rise from the dead, nothing in our faith hangs together. Paul (the author of some books in the Bible) would even call our whole faith “rubbish” if Jesus were not to have risen from the dead. In a moment, i’ll explain more, but even as we reason towards belief in the Resurrection, this is such a world altering revelation that as we draw near to it, it start to reason from it. In the end, the best of Christian thought and life starts from Jesus to understand the world. He is our cornerstone.

Next, it is important to recognize that people believe in Jesus for all sorts of reasons. Some of them are good reasons. Others are bad. In the end, it is the person in whom we put our trust the determines the true value of it. The reason we turn to Him is of less consequence.

Nonetheless, Resurrection is the only real starting point if we seek confident faith. While we might follow Jesus for all sorts of reasons, this is the reason that God gives us to follow Him. This is His effort to make clear in history that Jesus is His messenger.

Of course there is evidence for God’s existence in nature (as you have seen), but without Jesus it is hard to fully understand that God is also good and wants to be known. As good as the evidence in nature is for God, compared to Jesus, it is weak.

Remember, the Resurrection is a “sign” (Matthew 12:35-41).

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”

39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [this is a ref to the Resurrection].

41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

A “Sign” is a miracle with public evidence to which we can point (both inside and outside the Bible) when we ask “why” we know our faith is true. There are over 100,000 relevant texts. There is a whole academic field devoted to studying 1st Century Palestine. There are a few holdouts, but even those that reject the Resurrection agree that there is compelling evidence for it. It is without doubt the most substantiated ancient miracle. For example, look at this remarkable dialogue between NT Wright and Sean Kelly (chair of philosophy at harvard) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsKv9uX8rwE1. I really reccomend NT Wright’s masterpiece “the Resurrection of the Son of God”. And for those with short attention spans, this article: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Historical_Problem.htm4.

A more simple book on the topic is More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (though NT Wright is much better). Of course, you could just dive in and start reading the Gospels (I’d start maybe with Luke?).

. We have to consider this, and make our leap for or against it, before we worry about other questions, including the divinity of Jesus. Ultimately, this brings us to the most important question of all, that we believe Jesus asks fo us, “Who do you way that I am?”

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite scientists, Blaise Pascal,

We know God only by Jesus Christ. Without this mediator, all communion with God is taken away; through Jesus Christ we know God. All those who have claimed to know God, and to prove Him without Jesus Christ, have had only weak proofs. But in proof of Jesus Christ we have the prophecies, which are solid and palpable proofs. And these prophecies, being accomplished and proved true by the event, mark the certainty of these truths and, therefore, the divinity of Christ. In Him, then, and through Him, we know God. Apart from Him, and without the Scripture, without original sin, without a necessary mediator promised and come, we cannot absolutely prove God, nor teach right doctrine and right morality. But through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ, we prove God, and teach morality and doctrine. Jesus Christ is, then, the true God of men.

I wish you blessings on your journey. Thank you for sharing it with us. If you get a chance, I’d love to hear more about how you are thinking of Jesus.


(Albert Leo) #7

What struck me most in Collins book, Language of God, is the fact that, as a geneticist, he found atheism intellectually satisfying. However, he was also a practicing physician, and in that role he often was confronted with the reality of true selflessness, of true compassion that should NOT have come from the way genetics acts in guiding evolution. He then looked into the history of the early Christian church and the more modern view of authors like C. S. Lewis, which led him to become a born again Christian.

I relate to the way Collins was drawn to the Christian Faith, because I, too, found personal experience stronger motivation than reading Scripture or the Lives of the Saints. I have also experienced God acting in my life in ways that I cannot put adequately into words. But I accept their “Truth” as more solid than, as a chemist, I accept the chemical structure of benzene as six -CH- groups connected into a ring formed by pi-bonds. And I have had the immense good fortune of spending the last 71 years of my life with a woman who, even at age 15, expressed the love and compassion that was an innate part of her and which cannot be ascribed to some evolutionary survival mechanism. So what inspires Doctors Without Borders to accept danger and discomfort to help alleviate human suffering? A loving God, is the most reasonable answer–not acting solely under Christian auspices, perhaps, but a loving Creator for sure.

So be open to His action in your own life, Cody. It’s likely to be in subtle ways, so don’t expect miracles. On the other hand, don’t believe ‘the age of miracles’ has long past. God is still in charge, and He may surprise you. He surprised me.
Al Leo


#8

There have been great times of doubting the scriptures but what has often come back to me is the very reasonablens of Jesus radical words about who we are hand how we behave. His pointing to a differnt sort of society and one that we need. Simially the scathing criticisms of their societies that are so true to human nature that still ring true today in our own communities. The very pointigt to our individual and collective failures to be what we ought to be and could be but fail to be. This speaks to me the most and I think I have taken much else on trust because of it.
Also the very concept of God as Infinte and our Origin and point of return. I find this divinity and divine way the most profound establlishment of my goals in life.


(Don Huebner) #9

Addressing the question of the topic title, the concept of ‘belief’ is not one that has a tipping point where one suddenly changes from total unbelief to total belief. Instead, belief is defined by one’s perception of the probability of a concept/claim/idea being true or factual. As such, one’s belief level can be represented by a number between 0 and 1 indicating how confident the individual is that the resurrection or divinity of Jesus (two different questions, actually) is true. A value of 0 indicates a falsehood, 1.0 would be absolutely true, and 0.5 would be equal likelihood of being either true or false. For instance, my personal belief level regarding the existence of God is about 0.95 (meaning that I take the probability of God’s existence to be 95%), the truth of the resurrection at about 0.8, the divinity of Jesus at 0.7, and the actuality of the Trinity at around 0.5.

The reason this is important is that two different people who both say they ‘believe’, for instance, in the divinity of Jesus may in fact have two quite different levels of confidence in the truth of this idea/claim. Furthermore, it shows that there is no point where one must make a discrete jump between belief and disbelief regarding religious concepts since the transition may be gradual (for example, between 0.49 and 0.51).

Finally, this view of belief is potentially critical when one is asked to make a statement of faith when becoming a Christian. Part of the statement invariably involves affirmation of a belief in the substitutionary atonement for one’s sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, just what level of belief is required to honestly make this statement? I would argue a goodly number of both new or old Christians would be unable to say they have total, unwavering confidence (and absolutely no doubts) in their Christian beliefs. And if this belief indeed determines whether one goes to Heaven or Hell, what level of personal confidence in its truth does God require? Does any confidence number between 0.51 and 1.0 work? In essence, it appears that one has an analog earthly concept (belief) determining a binary (Heaven or Hell) eternal existence. Just how does that work? Cheers.


#10

I think turning to Christ is not really about psychological certainty. Saving faith does not simply involve intellectually assenting to facts. You are not saved by being X percent confident of something. Even the demons believe, and they shudder. It’s about trusting and turning to Christ. (Yes, there are physical truths behind this, but assenting to them is not the same as trusting and turning to Christ.)

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy:

There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not. If I were to accept, I might and probably would face the thought through the years: ‘Perhaps, after all, it’s a lie; I’ ve been had!’ But if I were to reject, I would certainly face the haunting, terrible thought: ‘Perhaps it’s true—and I have rejected my God!’

This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do, once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it and flung myself over the gap towards Jesus.

Only God knows, but perhaps people can fling themselves over the gap with 0.4 confidence. Once you’ve flung yourself over the gap, I don’t think Christ greets you on the other side with a psychological confidence scale.


(Don Huebner) #11

Josh, you bring up some good points. Allow me to further expound on the concept of belief. Your amount of belief in anything, especially religious claims, actually consists of a number of components: hard facts, intellectual reasoning, personal experience - and faith. The sum of these determine where you are in the confidence of the truthfulness of your beliefs. Faith is the wild card - it is the gut feeling, the tug of your heart that pulls you into a deeper belief than justified by facts/experience/mind alone. Clearly, God loves faith - but He has also made us and the universe so the other belief components are significant factors in establishing and enhancing our belief. You mention the importance of trusting and turning to Christ. I agree - but those too are concepts which are not black and white, but exhibit shades of grey. Are we accordingly rewarded if they are greater, or punished if they are less?

I guess my main point is that evangelicals like to think of belief as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ proposition which leads to Heaven or Hell. I would argue things are not so simple. Recall that the ancient creeds begin with ‘I believe’. The question to me is how strong does your belief have to be to honestly repeat them. Cheers.


(Amy Chai) #12

Cody that is a great question.
For me the answer has two parts. First, the prophetic nature of scripture is a strong argument for its credibility. Second, I am not going to discount the fact that I have personally experienced supernatural events. Neither of these things are comfortable to talk about because they are admittedly, “weird.” But we are carbon based life forms who are only capable of interacting with three dimensions. We experience time linearly. We have only five senses. Admittedly, it is difficult for us to understand anything beyond the natural world in much the same way that it must be difficult for a dog to understand color.

In any case, it is reasonable and good to examine these questions. I suppose some people were raised in a faith tradition and never gave it much thought. But many of us have thought a lot about it and have examined other religions and done the work. I have to say, though, that the intellectual belief of plausible facts is only one facet of belief. Personal experience is a very strong reason for many. Read some texts of apologetics, such as Reason to Believe by Josh McDowell. There may be newer books out there now. Also, Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason for God” is an excellent resource for the modern thinker. CS Lewis and “Mere Christianity” is also very helpful.

I can’t say that you will personally experience the miraculous like I have. (Example, being awakened from sleep with absolute knowledge of something about to happen on the other side of the globe) But be open to the idea. You might be surprised.


(Jay Johnson) #13

Yes, I agree. The final judgment does not come down to a “brain scan” to determine whether you held the correct beliefs with the proper amount of conviction. Many evangelicals think this way, but not all. In my opinion, Jesus says we will be judged by our words (Matt. 12:37) and actions (Matt. 7:27). How does this relate to faith? Exactly as James described it: our actions reveal what we truly believe.


(Cody Davies) #14

Thanks for all the responses so far. I guess my worry is that I won’t ever experience one of these “moments” or “experiences” that some people say they have. I’ve never really had any sort of transcendental experience. That seems to be what tips so many people towards belief. At the moment what I have isn’t so much belief as intellectual appreciation.


(Cody Davies) #15

Thanks also for the apologetics suggestions. I was familiar with some like Josh McDowell and his “evidence that demands a verdict” book, but was under the impression that as a YEC-type who seems to decide his beliefs first then build his supporting evidence around it, his “scientific/historical explanations” about biblical times may not be reliable. Coming back to it all now, I’m not really sure which of the figures from my teenage evangelical days I can still trust to be reliable.


(Jay Johnson) #16

Yes, I was a McDowell fan when I was Cody’s age, many moons ago. Not so much now. But, not all evangelical theologians are of the literalist/YEC type. If you are interested in apologetics, two books that I would recommend are Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig and Apologetics: A Justification for Christian Belief by John Frame. Two very different approaches, but both worthwhile.

Actually, I would suggest a different direction. Rather than “more of the same,” I think that you would be more helped by a good systematic theology, so that you can see how everything fits together instead of approaching it piecemeal. I like Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief, again by Frame, but there are many good ones that others here might suggest.

Hang in there.


(Christy Hemphill) #17

@Cody

I thought of you when I saw this new post. Maybe you would resonate with this author’s experience and wrestling with science and the supernatural. http://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/losing-and-finding-god-through-science-an-interview-with-science-mike


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #18

This is a really good question. I’m an ex Christian myself and if I can be convinced that Jesus is real and that he is a good God, then I would gladly return to the fold. Unfortunately, the evidence for Jesus is not convincing to me. I’ve recently experienced a few crisis situations in my life and wished that I could turn to God for help, but found that my efforts were like trying to be convinced of Santa’s existence.


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #19

As a skeptic myself, I admit there are things about Jesus that are attractive. For instance, he forgives the woman caught in adultery, he approaches Samaritans, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, etc… A nice fellow. The flip side, however, is that IF he was God Yahweh or his son, then he is the one who set the Jews up for stoning to death for adultery. And his kindness is basically ignoring his own rules. But why did he give these rules to begin with? And how many women were not forgiven because Jesus or his father made such a rule to begin with?

There are probably various reasons for Jesus’ story to be invented. First, Jews of the 1st Century were under the attack by heathens Romans. So, they had a crisis of faith, so to speak. On the one hand, they were following the Law as they understood it, and yet, they were killed and imprisoned by Romans who did not follow Yahweh. Also, there were many types of religious Jews in the 1st Century. There was Philo of Alexandria, the Jew who interpreted the Bible as being allegorical (similar to Pilgrim’s Progress for Christians today). There were Essenes who were similar to John the Baptist, emphasizing purity, including virginity and abstaining from pleasure. There was the Qumran community and Gnostics that pre-dated Christianity. Christian book of Hebrews has Jesus (the Son) talking exclusively with phrases out of the Old Testament. Other Christians have noted that the Gospels seem to be a Midrash, or re-telling of the Old Testament stories.

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm

Ah… but the issue is that we can’t be sure what Resurrection is in view here. Was this resurrection in the heavenly realms? There is a debate on this.

1 Cor 15:42 It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

And, we find in the John’s Epistles that there were people denying Jesus was in the flesh. Of course, they are called heretics by Christians, but how do we know the heretics were not right?

Ah… but Paul shows no knowledge of Jesus on earth and all of his information, as Paul says, comes from visions and appearances of Jesus.

It’s hard to say on what the original Christian would look like. And we don’t know what power the Christians enjoyed. Per the book of Acts 5, the Christians sold their possessions and brought them to the Apostles. Historically, Christian Churches were like castles compared to the poor houses of the parishioners. So, money cannot be ruled out. But, there is also power. Modern Cult leaders enjoy the power they would not have otherwise. Also, a strong argument can be made that Christianity as we know it was started by Paul, who admits to having a visionary experience. Many Christians today don’t listen to Jesus, but listen to Paul instead. For example, Jesus told people to give to everyone who asks of them, where as Paul says that if you don’t work, you should not eat, allowing for discretion. Jesus said that his followers should give up all their possessions (Luke 12:33, Luke 14:33), Paul makes no such demands.

But the fairness of the system can be argued against. And God asking Abraham to kill his son? That’s not a good request. We force treatment today for people who hear God telling them to kill their children. And Roman and Greek Gods had plenty of human sacrifices conducted on their behalf.

But could those be just an example of a Midrash? Old Testament book of Joel speaks about my Son being delivered out of Egypt, talking about nation of Israel. Matthew’s Gospel author sees this, and attributes this as a ‘prophesy’ about Jesus.


(Jay Johnson) #20

Actually, scholars are pretty much in agreement that the story of the woman caught in adultery was a late addition to John’s Gospel. But that’s neither here nor there… Welcome back, SuperBigV.

Well … not quite. From the time of the Exile until the Hasmonean Dynasty, the Jews were ruled by “heathen” powers. For many years leading up to the crisis with Antiochus Epiphanes, the Hasidim (likely forerunners of the Pharisees) were protesting against the increasing Hellenization of Israel under the Seleucids. Just before the Maccabbean revolt, one high priest even went so far as to build a Grecian-styled gymnasium in Jerusalem. The Jews lived for many centuries under heathen rulers before Rome.

The Essenes were the sect living at Qumran. Gnosticism, per se, was definitely post-Christ.

I’ll skip replying to the third and fourth points. Personally, I think they’re pretty weak, and I suspect you would agree. :wink:

Umm, historically, they first met in the poor houses of the parishioners. I’ll skip the rest of this, too. Sorry. I don’t think they’re very strong arguments, either. The one about Paul starting Christianity is fanciful, though. I just don’t have the time or energy to debate it.

True. You do a pretty good job of it sometimes! Haha.

Yes, the way that the NT authors use the OT is quite fluid and not nearly so literal as many biblical literalists would think. I would regard Matthew’s use of “my Son called out of Egypt” as fitting my “Sixth” category (allusions, echoes) than the “Seventh” of specific prophecies. As Pascal pointed out, the prophecies are of such a nature that they can be disbelieved, but it is not unreasonable to believe them.

That’s probably about as far as I want to get into this debate. The OP was asking about reasons that people believe, not reasons they disbelieve. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. Just not looking to get into an endless debate.