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To the editor:
I am writing in response to Jerry Milburn’s guest column last week regarding faith columnist Jess Thompson’s piece titled “Facts non-believers don’t want to read.”
Mr. Milburn said that Jesus is not a historical person because he is only found in the Bible, which Mr. Milburn considers unreliable.
Historians test the reliability of a historical document by comparing it with other documents of the time period. Josh McDowell, in his book “The New Evidence,” says many historical writers of the first and second centuries, both Christian and secular, record events of Jesus’ life. He lists in his book seven secular writers that mention Jesus in their writings. He also identifies Jewish references to Jesus.
Many of these writers were hostile to Jesus and Christianity, yet recorded events of his life. There are other non-Biblical Christian writers of the time that mentioned Jesus. By all standards used by modern historians, Jesus is a historical person.
Mr. Milburn wrote: “We have already determined that the Bible is full of errors and has been rewritten and misinterpreted hundreds of times (if not thousands) throughout history.” He states that the story of Jesus was created and then passed down from generation to generation, with each generation changing the story to suit them.
According to writer Josh McDowell, in his book “A Ready Defense,” the reliability of the transmission of the New Testament from generation to generation can be demonstrated by the manuscript evidence. The books of the New Testament were written in the latter half of the first century. Copies of copies of copies were made by hand over the centuries. Over 24,000 ancient manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament have been found. There are minor variations between some of the New Testament manuscripts. However, only 40 lines of the New Testament are in doubt and none of them affects a key doctrine of the Christian faith. No other document of antiquity has so many ancient manuscripts.
The closest one is Homer’s Iliad, written in 900 B.C., for which there are 643 manuscripts. There are less than 50 partial or complete copies of most other ancient writings such as Plato and Aristotle. Based on the type of evidence used to validate other books of antiquity, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that the Bible has been reliably transmitted from generation to generation.
Mr. Milburn said there is a contradiction between Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:33 regarding the name of the father of Joseph. The Bible says Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father (not his biological father), but God was his true father. The genealogy in Matthew says Joseph’s father is Heli and the genealogy in Luke says Joseph’s father is Jacob. But the apparent contradiction is greater than just the two names of the father of Joseph. The two genealogies, at least back to Kind David, are entirely different. Also, Joseph and Mary are mentioned in the Luke genealogy; only Joseph is mentioned in the Matthew genealogy.
Many believe the Luke genealogy is for the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father) and the Matthew genealogy is for the line of Mary (Jesus’ biological line). There are other plausible explanations as well.
Many apparent contradictions in the Bible are simply the different perspectives of two persons or witnesses. For instance, one witness may say I went through Frankfort to get to Lexington. Another witness may say I went through Versailles to get to Lexington. There is an apparent contradiction. However, if I had gone through both Frankfort and Versailles to get to Lexington then there is no real contradiction.
Mr. Milburn claimed there are over 1,000 contradictions in the Bible and referred to a website to back up that claim. I went to the website and took a quick look at a few of those contradictions. I am no Bible scholar, but it was obvious to me the creator of that website has very little understanding of the Bible, does not consider the context of individual sentences from the Bible when quoting them, chooses translations that give the greatest appearance of a contradiction for specific verses, and reads things into the text that were not intended by the author.
Mr. Milburn wrote that the entire story of Jesus may have been stolen from a pagan god named Mithra. I researched Mithra in several Wikipedia articles and I found very few similarities between this cult and Christianity.
There is no basis whatsoever for a statement that “the entire story of Jesus” may have been stolen from an earlier pagan religion.
Yes, the Bible is a reliable account of God’s work in the world and the life of Jesus.
When I began to investigate Christianity during my early 30s I did so because, even though I was living a very blessed life in terms of family and things, I had begun to realize that in the bigger picture life was pretty meaningless.
I wondered if there might be some meaning in Christianity so I investigated. What I found out was that God is real, he is holy and righteous, I am sinful, and my sin separated me from God – in this life and in eternity. I needed a solution for my problem. God provided that solution by allowing his own son, Jesus, to be punished for my sin.
He only required that I turn away from my sin and trust Jesus as my Savior and Lord. After nearly a year of investigation and study I came to believe Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be and I trusted him as Savior and Lord.
As a result I no longer fear death, I have peace of mind, and I have hope for the future even when life is difficult. As a bonus, life now has deep meaning for me. If you want a quick idea of who Jesus is, simply read the book of John. It should only take about three hours and it might change your life.