Multiple Sources, Martyrdoms, and Early Religious Persecution Distinguish Christianity

 

The following blog offers several reasons in support of Christianity based on the sources of the Bible, the martyrdoms of many of those sources, and the power of Christianity to thrive despite its humble roots and early religious persecution.

Multiple Sources

Of the major religions in the world, only one is based on a collection of books penned by multiple (at least thirty-three) authors: the Christian Bible. Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita is attributed to the Sage Vyasa, who said its message came from the Supreme Being, Sri Krsna, or Lord Krishna. Legends indicate that Vyasa was the son of the ascetic Parashara and an aboriginal princess named Satyavati. Islam’s Quran was inspired by Muhammed, who stated that the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Muhammed was a caravan merchant of the powerful Hashemite clan of the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh tribe controlled Mecca, but Muhammed was unable to convince people in Mecca on the authenticity of Islam, so he moved to Medina where he wielded considerable political, legal, and religious power and authority (Wawro, 2008). See William Lane Craig’s detailed article on Muhammed and early Muslims here:  http://www.reasonablefaith.org/concept-of-god-in-islam-and-christianity. Confucianism is a set of beliefs developed by a wise man called Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. Another Chinese philosopher named Lao-tzu inspired Taoism. Finally, Gautama Siddhartha, who was trained as a prince, inspired Buddhism.

Martyrdoms

Furthermore, the Bible differs from other religious texts due to the martyrdoms of many of its authors. These include prophets in the Old Testament such as Zechariah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah, who were killed by stoning (e.g., 2 Chronicles 24), Amos, who was tortured and murdered by the priest of Bethel and Isaiah who was sawn in half under the orders of Manasseh (Epiphanius; 2 Kings 21; Hebrews 11:37; Babylonian Talmud; Jewish Talmud; Williams, 1995). Zechariah, the son of Berachiah, was murdered by Joash the king and his blood was sprinkled between the steps and horns of an altar (Bar Bahlul).

The authors of many of the books in the New Testament also met gory fates. Peter was crucified upside down, James was killed by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12: 1-2), and Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome. These were confirmed by the Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History.” The martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were also documented by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertillian and Origen. The martyrdom of James was also documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004).

Religious Persecution

Skeptics are likely to suggest that multiple sources and martyrdoms do not prove Christianity to be true, and they’re correct. So I offer more reasons.

When one considers the way Bible authors were willing to die for what they believed, we should consider what they believed. In the case of the New Testament authors, they believed they saw the risen Christ. Hence, they saw the risen Christ. Couple this with the fact that Christianity is the only major world religion that makes the assertion that God is love and He wants a personal relationship with His people. He is not aloof and impersonal nor a passive part of nature. Christianity is also the only world religion in which its messenger, Jesus, and His disciples performed miracles.

Jesus’ disciples attested to His miracles and His resurrection, which is why they were inspired to risk their lives preaching illegally in His name for decades. And we have extra-biblical support for their claims. The Talmud states: “It was taught: On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus. A herald went before him for forty days (proclaiming) ‘He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray. Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him.’ But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover.” (b. Sanhedrin 43a; Wallace, 2013).

As noted by Wallace (2013), Josephus, Tacitus, Phlegon, Thallus, and Mara Bar-Serapion offer more extra-biblical support for Jesus:

  • He lived in Judea and was a virtuous man who had wondrous power.
  • He could predict the future and was a “Wise King” of the Jews.
  • He was accused by Jewish leaders and was crucified by Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.
  • Darkness and an earthquake reportedly rose after His death.
  • His followers believed He was the Messiah and they called Him the Christ.
  • His followers were called Christians.

Furthermore, consider that of all of the world’s religions, only Christianity’s roots sprouted in the midst of persecution. I’ve paraphrased a story about Jesus by James Allan Francis (Turek, 2015) to demonstrate just how extraordinary the transformation of Christianity is.

He grew up in a village, the child of a peasant, and worked as a carpenter. He never had a family, owned a home, or went to college. He was only in His thirties when the tide of public opinion rode against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

“Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the enemies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned – put together – have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.”

Jesus is Lord.

Thank you for your time.

References:

Bar Bahlûl (Brit. Mus. Or. 2441, fol. 343 b, col. 1) explains this word thus: ‘according to Bar Sarôshwai they were two balustrades (or banisters), between which the steps were built.’ Another lexicon, Brit. Mus. Add. 7203, fol. 159 a, col. 2, says: ‘the raised platform (or dais) which is before the door of the altar.’

Epiphanius, De Prophetarum Vitis, in Migne, Patrologiae Cursus, Ser. Gr., t. 43, cols. 415-427. Accessed http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/bb/bb32.htm#page_69_note_5

Habermas, G.R. & Licona, M.R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Turek, F. (2015). Stealing from God. USA: Navpress, p. 220.

Wallace, J. W. (2013). Cold Case Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO. David C. Cook.

Wawro, G. (2008). Historical Atlas: A Comprehensive History of the World. Elanora Heights, Australia: Millennium House.

Williams, J. (1995). From-The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament R.H. Charles Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913. The Martyrdom of Isaiah. Accessed at http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/the-martyrdom-of-isaiah/

 

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