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Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Did Jesus Exist?

Did Jesus Exist?**

**Book Review**

Regardless of your stance on God or Christianity, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the facts about the historical evidence surrounding, “the man,” Jesus Christ. Bart Ehrman spends the first half of the book breaking down many of the misconceptions promoted by the “mythicists” camp, and then proceeds to build a solid foundation why historical sources (both biblical and secular) indicate a strong case for the existence of a literal Jewish man named Jesus, circa AD 30.

He carefully lays out the method scholars use to determine the validity of historical documents, and then explains why some can be trusted more than others. One of the things I like about Ehrman’s approach, is that he is an equal opportunity offender, and does not feel threatened by validating a biblical or Jewish position (much to the chagrin of atheist’s and agnostics) if he believes it to be true, but this two-edged sword is similarly painful for many Christians, because he brings up difficult questions about apparent inconsistencies in the Bible. The basic premise Ehrman closes the book with, is, yes, Jesus did exist, but no, he was not God.

I am sure he is aware of the vast hermeneutical differences amongst Judeo/Christian scholars, but he did not offer any indication of this disparity in his personal version of orthodox arguments and apologetics. This arrogant tone is not unusual for an Ehrman book, but if he had acknowledged multiple vantage points within the religious community, I would have given this book a five star review instead of a four since it is well written and backed up with facts addressing both the pro and con viewpoints.

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The Importance of Doubting God

Doubt EditedIt is important to be skeptical of religion. For this reason, some of my fundamentalist friends are convinced I am going to hell because sometimes I identify with my atheist and agnostic friends more than my believer friends. I may be going there, but I’m skeptical. I always thought it was stupid for two boxers to pray before a match… as if God would help one of them beat the crap out of the other one. Don’t get me wrong, I think prayer is important, but some people pray to God as if he is a supernatural Sugar daddy waiting to give them a little sumpn’ sumpn’ for the trouble. It don’t work that way.

Let me share a few stories about doubt from the Bible to explain why I think it is healthy to question everything.

According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born prior to the kingdom of heaven. That means greater than Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel just to name a few. Yet not long after John baptized Jesus and professed him to be the Messiah, he was locked in prison and began to doubt. He even sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if another would come after him.

Another time the father of a sick child requested Jesus to heal his son. Jesus asked him, if he could believe, and the fathers’ response still resonates with me 2000 years later, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!” Essentially, he is saying I want to believe, but it just doesn’t seem logical, so I’m doubtful.

Lastly, you have Jesus dying on the cross and he shouts, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” You can spin that anyway you want, but it sounds to me like in his last moments even Jesus doubted his father, God.

These stories and others, lead me to believe, God does not reject unbelief, but welcomes it. It allows him to work in that space between, what I know and what I don’t know. I tend to lean toward the philosophies presented by Søren Kierkegaard. One of his students summed up his belief system, “the truth is that science and spirituality, rather than addressing similar ground, speak to very different realms of human experience and, at least in theory, have the potential to coexist in peace, complementing rather than constantly battling each other.”

My brain cannot deny factual evidence that contradicts the common understanding of the Bible. Therefore, doubting seems to be an important factor for humans, in light of modern sciences’ inability to explain love and other spiritual concepts. So just like the father in Mark 9:24 I say, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!”