THE REALITY OF JESUS THE MESSIAH
Praise for Man, Myth, Messiah
"In a passionate and yet gentle and balanced way, this thoughtful book addresses many questions with which people today struggle and can help believers share their faith more effectively. It injects a healthy dose of common sense into popular debates too often dominated by intemperate rhetoric and historically irresponsible claims. This book makes the Christian faith more intelligible, offering a valuable defense for God's truth."
—Dr. Craig S. Keener
Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary;
and author, niv® blble background commentary
"Dr. Rice Broocks has written a comprehensive but highly accessible book defending the key tenets of the Christian faith. Based on cutting-edge scholarship in documentary history and New Testament studies, he marshals persuasive arguments for the reliability of the New Testament documents, for the historicity of the resurrection, and for the divinity and Messianic credentials of Jesus of Nazareth. Broocks's concern for, and long experience speaking to, college-aged students comes through on every page in this conversational but rigorous work of practical apologetics. I highly recommended it."
—Dr. Stephen C. Meyer
Author, Signature in the Cell; and presenter,
TrueU Apologetic Series
"In Man, Myth, Messiah Rice Broocks takes a massive amount of historical research on Jesus and makes it accessible, interesting, and relevant for today. This book will both strengthen the belief of Christians and challenge the unbelief of skeptics. As Broocks demonstrates, Jesus has had more influence on history than any living person. Isn't it worth wrestling with the question Jesus said matters most: "Who do you say I am?" Man, Myth, Messiah will take you on a journey to explore the historical evidence for the resurrection and the powerful implications that has for your life."
—Sean McDowell, PhD Biola University professor, internationally recognized speaker, and bestselling author, the fate of the apostles
"I highly recommend this volume to you as a way to answer tough questions, ground the proclamation of the gospel message, and be prepared to share these truths with others, all from one text. Dr. Broocks is a capable guide to bring us safely to our destination. There is no greater message in life than that the gospel proclamation is true, that it answers our deepest needs and questions, along with the incredible benefit of eternal life to all who believe."
—Gary R. Habermas, PhD
Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of
Philosophy and Theology, Liberty University
"Rice Broocks has done it again. In God's Not Dead he traced the evidence for God's existence with the heart of a pastor. In Man, Myth, Messiah Rice turns his attention to the person of Jesus as he examines the most important question of history. Few people understand the connection between evidence and evangelism as well as Rice Broocks, and this book, once again, reveals his heart as an evangelist and teacher. Man, Myth, Messiah is more than an apologetics book. It provides the evidence and challenges you to share the case with others."
—J. Warner Wallace
Cold case detective and author, God's Crime
Scene and Cold-Case Christianity
Man, Myth, Messiah
the very beginning of the initial God's Not Dead project was to help people fulfill 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared ... to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
A couple of years ago, I took my youngest son, Charlie, on a wilderness journey that was advertised as taking you beyond your comfort zone. He kept telling me, "But I like my comfort zone. Why would I want to get out of it?" There were series of daunting challenges, including a white-water rafting trip. Thankfully, we had a guide on this trip across a series of rapids. Listening to that voice of experience about when to lean left or right, when to paddle, or when to lift our oars out of the water, allowed us to miss a host of dangerous rocks that could have upended us or injured us severely. The people who have injured their faith or lost it altogether because of listening to the wrong voices are too many to count. I am grateful for the mentors I've had that have helped me navigate through the skeptical challenges to the truth of the Christian faith. My hope is to help readers avoid the things that cause a shipwrecking of their trust in God. This starts with accepting a fact that is indeed beyond dispute: Jesus really did exist.
Faith or History?
The fact of Jesus' existence brings the discussion about Him out of the realm of just religious faith into the arena of historical investigation. If someone is intellectually honest, he should at least examine the evidence for His life as he would any other person who lived, such as Socrates, Caesar Augustus, or Napoleon.
The evidence for His life shouldn't be dismissed ahead of time because of the awareness of an extraordinary conclusion, one that might be ominously waiting at the end of the search.
When it comes to Jesus Christ, there has definitely been a higher standard, unreasonably high at times, for establishing the facts surrounding His life, works, and words. The specific criteria used by many modern scholars to verify the authenticity of Jesus have been so demanding that if they were applied to ancient history, most of what is currently accepted would dissolve into oblivion. For instance, imagine asserting, as skeptics do for the biblical records, that we could only know about ancient Rome from what we learn from non-Roman sources. In contrast, scholars who use trusted approaches fairly and consistently recognize that Christian beliefs about Jesus are solidly guarded in historical fact. As stated in Reinventing Jesus, "If you are skeptical of the Jesus of the Bible, we hope you'll discover that a step toward him doesn't require leaving your brain behind. If you embrace the biblical Christ but think faith isn't concerned with matters of the mind, we want you to see that belief in the Incarnation—God entering the time-space world as a man two millennia ago— compels you to take history seriously."8
Historians use reliable criteria to establish the probability that an event happened in the past. For instance, claims are more likely true if they are reported by multiple, independent sources. By this standard, our knowledge about Jesus is superior to that about virtually every other ancient historical figure. Scholars have discovered more literary sources for the historical Jesus within the first hundred years after His life than all of the primary literary sources for Socrates, which, incidentally, are in far less agreement with each other than the Gospels.9
When the historical process is arbitrary and inconsistent, the past becomes something that people with an agenda can manipulate like a fictional story. This type of mind-set leads to the dismissal of the miraculous accounts given by Jesus' followers in the Gospels. Those accounts are replaced with historical profiles of what someone living at the time of Jesus would have probably been like. Others go so far as claiming that the followers of Jesus merely borrowed from the mythology of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians. The reasoning? The miracles didn't happen because miracles can't happen. We're going to break this down in detail in a later chapter. Pop culture has seized on these unfounded speculations and broadcast them as fact.
Comedian and cultural commentator Bill Maher spews this palaver to the delight of his adoring audiences. Others simply repeat this again and again as if it is part of the creedal orthodoxy of a new skeptical religion. And make no mistake: atheism is a religion. It is a set of beliefs about the nature of the world and about us as humans, and those beliefs have dramatic implications for how we should live and how society should function. At the heart of this anti-theistic system is the necessity to dismiss the supernatural, especially the supernatural birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
In an earlier generation the former atheist and legendary author and philosopher C. S. Lewis posed his famous trilemma. He said based on the claims of Jesus in the Gospels about being the Son of God, that He was either a lunatic (because He thought He was God), a liar (because He knew this wasn't true), or He was indeed Lord.
This challenge by Lewis was to help people not get stuck with the position that Jesus was merely a good man and not the Messiah that He claimed and demonstrated Himself to be. Therefore, He was a liar or a lunatic and would be disqualified for being the person we should consider as the ultimate representation of the invisible God.
Bart Erhman, a former evangelical believer turned agnostic who teaches at the University of North Carolina, tells of how he added the word legend to the list of options that Lewis proposed when considering the true identity of Jesus. He asked, "What if Jesus didn't claim to be the Son of God?" That would mean that the stories about Christ's miracles and His resurrection from the dead were simply legends, constructed by His followers, long after His death. This notion is echoed by popular writers who dismiss the claim of Jesus being the Christ and relegate Him to being a Jewish zealot who died trying to lead an insurrection against the Romans. Writers, such as Reza Asian, the sociologist mentioned in the introduction, who turned from the Christian faith back to his original faith of Islam, claim Jesus was an illiterate peasant who never said most of what the Gospels say He said or did the things they say He did. Very little of what Asian says is original thought however. He simply restates the writings of skeptics before him, such as S. G. F. Brandon, John Dominic Crossan, and Marcus Borg. Asian ignores the Gospels and opts instead for writings, not about Jesus but about the type of people from His times and from those who might have lived in His town. He asserts, "For better or worse, the only access one can have to the real Jesus comes not from the stories that were told about him after his death, but rather from the smattering of facts we can gather from his life as part of a large Jewish family of woodworkers/builders struggling to survive in the small Galilean village of Nazareth."10
That's like saying we can get a better picture of Abraham Lincoln from studying what the people were like in the region of the United States that were his contemporaries rather than studying the accounts of his life from those who knew him best. It is deeply irresponsible to dismiss the testimony as biased from people who believed in Jesus and accept the perceptions of those who didn't believe in Him as more credible.
The growing body of literature making these types of claims, and the rise of Internet skeptics that proclaim this type of writing as "scholarly" and "authoritative," have evoked a renewed effort to set the record straight. That's why the title of this work, Man, Myth, Messiah, offers a different trilemma for a different generation.
The Quest for the Historical Jesus
The roots of this culture of skepticism can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This period, commonly referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, could better be described as the age of skepticism. The mind-set of this era is summed up by an earlier French mathematician and philosopher named Rene Descartes. He started with doubt in order to come to a place of confidence about what he could know for sure. "In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life, to doubt, as far as possible, of all things."11
This perspective left him with the foundation of reality being his own thoughts (albeit doubts) about the fact of his own existence. The seeds that Descartes planted grew over the next century into the Enlightenment era, which heralded that "reason replaced revelation" in terms of the source of the culture's epistemology— that is, how we know what we know.
This philosophical trend blossomed in the nineteenth century with the release of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. The theory of evolution by means of natural selection that he described replaced in the minds of skeptics the belief that life needed a designer to account for the "appearance of design in nature." This alternative story radically altered how people would view our origins and by extension our destiny, value, and understanding of ultimate reality. For if there were no need for a supernatural Creator to explain life, then why not dismiss Him altogether?
It should be no surprise that skepticism about the historical Jesus would rise in the same period. If you don't believe in God, or dismiss Him as an impersonal Deity who isn't concerned with the affairs of humans, then you wouldn't believe that He had a Son who was sent to pay for the sins of the world. These doubts about the wonder-working Jesus of Nazareth would be given full expression with liberal theologian David Strauss. His writings cemented a vision of Jesus that would strip away all of the supposed miracles and thus any claim to being the Son of God who died and rose again.
Jesus' identity was further downgraded in 1906 by the book The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer. He argued that Jesus was not even the great moral instructor envisioned by liberal scholars but simply a well-meaning teacher who was mistaken about the imminent end of the world. Schweitzer also denied most of the New Testament's significant claims about Jesus' life, teachings, and miracles.
The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration never existed. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in a historical garb. This image has not been destroyed from outside; it has fallen to pieces.12
The influence of such scholars is still being felt today. In the twentieth century skeptical theologians and historians continued to build on previous revisions of Jesus and remake Him into everything from an illiterate peasant leading a revolt against Rome to a New Age guru promoting esoteric Eastern mysticism. In the 1980s and '90s, the Jesus Seminar was formed by "a self-selected group of like-minded scholars" as a modern-day tribunal to vote on which words from Scripture they thought Jesus said and which ones were fabricated by later Christians.13 As you might guess, little remained after their sweeping edits of the Gospels outside some of Jesus' ethical teachings. This effort was reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson, who literally cut out the passages from the Gospels that contained anything supernatural and left only the ethical teachings of Jesus in his own version of the Bible. In the end, most New Testament scholars recognized that the seminar by no means represented the majority of experts in the field but solely the opinion of an extreme faction, many of whom were driven by the desire to discredit historical Christianity……
Historical evidence can greatly assist people on their journey toward God, but it alone cannot bring a person fully to God. For historians cannot make claims about the ancient past with absolute certainty, only with various levels of confidence. In other words, historians rarely speak in terms of what definitely happened but with what probably happened, as seen by the following quotation: "No historians really believe in the absolute truth of what they are writing, simply in its probable truth. Notwithstanding, the inability to obtain absolute certainty does not prohibit historians from having adequate certainty."19
Said slightly differently, absolute certainty is only possible in such realms as mathematics, but mathematics cannot directly speak to historical events by itself. However, some events are supported by so much evidence that their occurrence is of such high probability that we can, for all practice purposes, say with certainty that they actually occurred. "Mathematical calculations cannot demonstrate the existence and career of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. But converging historical evidence would make it absurd to deny that he lived and changed the political and cultural face of the Middle East,"20 comments author and historian Gerald O'Collins.
When it comes to the central issues of the Christian faith, the biggest dispute is usually not with the facts of history but with the presuppositions and worldviews of those who interpret those facts. As you hear and weigh the evidence about Jesus, you will be able to know with confidence that He is the Son of God. Chapters 2 through 5 will demonstrate that overwhelming evidence validates that Jesus was truly a man of history, who was crucified, dead, buried, and then rose from the dead. In addition, these chapters defend that the Gospels are reliable accounts of Jesus' life, ministry, and teaching. Chapter 6 will dismiss the absurd notion that Jesus' life was rooted in pagan mythology. Chapter 7 will then demonstrate that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who is the Savior of the world. Chapter 8 will continue this theme by defending the reality of Jesus' miracles, and it will demonstrate that His followers continued to perform miracles in His name after His resurrection until this very day. Finally, chapters 9 and 10 will explain how you can come to know Jesus personally and then step into His purposes for your life.
Breaking News: Jesus Lived!
Up until the last few years, the verdict of historians has been virtually unanimous that Jesus was a person of history. The rise of atheism in the last decade has seen the rise of prominent skeptics who simply assert their "doubts" that Jesus really existed without providing any credible evidence. I've heard prominent atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and others, say things like, "Jesus, if He even existed, . . ." Its important to note that these men are not historians and simply assert this contention in apparent hopes that no one will challenge them because they are scientists. Dawkins has since recanted and admits Jesus existed.6
This dismissive attitude, however, has seeped into the bloodstream of pop culture as well and thrives in the blogosphere and on atheist websites. It is the equivalent of getting your news from a tabloid at the grocery store—the kind with a headline like "I Was Abducted by Aliens." One of the leading skeptical voices, Bart Erhman, noted, "Jesus existed, and those vocal persons who deny it do so not because they have considered the evidence with the dispassionate eye of the historian, but because they have some other agenda that this denial serves."7…….
On the surface, the motivation of such blind doubt is obvious. If Jesus never existed, then you don't have to bother with all the hard work of looking at the evidence of His words or His works or all the other historical facts that demand a fair hearing.
Just like the debate surrounding the existence of God, the skeptics think that by repeating the magic phrase over and over, "there is no evidence for God . . . there is no evidence for God," all of it will simply disappear. They seem to be trying the same trick when it comes to the existence of Jesus Christ.
In the movie God's Not Dead 2, the debate rages over whether a teacher can even mention the name of Jesus in a classroom. If Jesus lived, why shouldn't He be referenced, especially in view of the fact that the impact of His life is still being felt today? Even His critics concede that His words changed the world and gave us an ethical standard unmatched in history. William Lecky was not a friend of Christians; he was an opponent who wrote,
Christianity following its leader has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions, has been not only the highest pattern of virtue, but also the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortation of moralists.8
The real motivation for skeptics to deny that Jesus really lived is not a lack of evidence. They often desire to attack Christianity in any way possible because of the evil perpetrated by self-proclaimed Christians. Sadly, this perspective represents a tragic misunderstanding of history and Scripture. The dark actions done in Jesus' name, atrocities during the Crusades, the Inquisition, attacks against the Jewish people, have all come in direct opposition to His words. He even predicted that many would call Him "Lord, Lord," but they would not do what He said (Luke 6:46).
Furthermore, many of the followers of Jesus would eventually be put to death rather than deny that He lived, died, and rose again. What could people possibly have gained from fabricating a teaching that included "loving your enemies" and "the greatest among you will be your servant"?
The religious leaders certainly would not have fabricated a character that called them out for their hypocrisy. The Roman rulers couldn't have been the source of this story either—they wanted no challenges to their authority. No, the evidence is abundantly clear. The Jesus of history is indeed the Christ of faith recorded in Scripture. The vital first step is to know what that historical evidence is. In doing so, you will be prepared to handle the baseless assertions that circulate in our culture with the intent to undermine faith in the credibility of the Christian story.
Remember, we are looking for the evidence of history accepted even by those who do not trust the overall reliability of the Gospels. As we will see clearly in chapter 3, the Gospels are reliable and are excellent sources for establishing what happened historically in terms of the life of Jesus. However, to meet the skeptics on their terms and look at evidence accepted by most historians, we can still establish the following events and claims as true…….
THE BOOK: MAN - MYTH - MESSIAH by Rice Brooks IS WELL WORTH READING - FOR THE TRUTH JESUS DID EXIST AND THE WORK DONE BY HIS APOSTLES - Keith Hunt