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History Lesson

Chaplain Bill Wolfe

Welcome to the June 2010 Edition of the Chaplain’s Corner. Like last year, I’m writing my June column just days after the conclusion of Police Week, but UNlike last year, I can talk – I have a voice! I can even YELL at wayward bull calves in bar ditches when I have to – one of the “little pleasures” of being a rural deputy. One of the other pleasures is collecting my own bluebonnet seeds. I’ve gone a little OCD with it (I only collected about six paper grocery sacks full of seed pods), but we now have plenty of seeds to cover the backyard several times.

One of the sayings I’ve heard since I was a kid in high school (more than a few weeks ago now) is that “the thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” I guess that’s really true these days when they don’t really teach history in school. It’s also apparent in the political arena where our highest level politicians seem to be bound and determined to force failed European political philosophies on this country. They haven’t worked before, but “hey, we’re smarter than they are.” Anyway, I’ll not run down that rabbit trail…

This topic of history has been a topic I’ve wanted to visit since Good Friday this year. I was listening to Michael Medved that day, and a lady called in who was completely coming unglued claiming that Jesus was not an actual historical figure – that He never lived, but is just a made-up tale. Michael, who is Jewish, believes that Jesus did live, although Michael doesn’t accept His teachings, and that’s his prerogative. The noted German evangelist Otto Betz has stated that “No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus.” I thought I’d just throw out some “food for thought” since any kind of in-depth discussion would be too lengthy for this venue, and we would miss roll-call for sure.

Most often when we talk about Jesus’ life and ministry our thoughts turn to the Bible. But there are many accounts of Jesus found outside Christian documents which date back to the first century.

Secular writers and historians that mention Jesus’ life and death include the famous Roman historians Cornelius Tacitus and Suetonius. Both men lived and wrote in the later half of the first century, and not being Christians, had nothing to gain by admitting (or fabricating) the historicity of the events surrounding Christ and His followers. Two other historians, Thalius and Plegon, writing between AD 50 and 70, both describe the darkness that came over the world when Christ died. And a Syrian named Mara Bar-Seraplon talks about Jesus and compares Him with the philosophers Socrates and Protagoras. There was no question in his mind that Jesus had actually lived.

In his book “The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” author Josh McDowell says: “Similar to the secular references, the ones found in Jewish sources are unfriendly towards Christianity’s founder, followers and beliefs. For this reason their attestation to the events surrounding Jesus’ life are valuable testimony to the historicity of these events.” He points out a passage in the Babylonian Talmud that says: “… On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu…” The famous Jewish historian Josephus, who lived through most of the first century, also wrote of Jesus.

There are other historians and writers from the first and second centuries who have written about Christ who had access to first-hand knowledge and eyewitnesses.

So what’s the bottom line? That one cannot reject Christianity on the basis of Jesus not being a historical figure. His life and death are recorded by those who were in a position to know and had no reason to aid the Christians and support the basis of their faith.

If you’re interested in looking into this further, I can recommend these books:

     The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell      The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel      To Believe or Not Believe, That Is The Question, by Thomas Gorman

Thomas Gorman is a retired Deputy Chief of the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and has an extensive career in law enforcement.

Thanks for spending some time with me again. Blessings to you and yours.

Chaplain Bill

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