Although the 21st century has produced hundreds of skeptical theories about Jesus, there is no substantive reason to doubt the biblical account of His life, death and resurrection, according to a new book by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Timothy Paul Jones.
“When subjected to actual historical evidences, each conspiracy crumbles beneath the weight of its own overblown claims,” Jones writes.
In Conspiracies of the Cross: How to Intelligently Counter the Ten Most Popular Theories that Attack the Gospel of Jesus (Front Line publishers), Jones, professor of Christian education and leadership, argues that all of the skeptical theories about Jesus can be boiled down to a handful of ideas. He identifies 10 of the most significant theories and refutes each in a separate chapter.
Though the skeptics’ theories are not true, Christians cannot simply ignore them because of their detrimental effect on those who believe them, Jones writes.
Only 9 percent of middle-aged adults and 14 percent of adults in their early 30s identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, according to statistics Jones cites. “Yet, when it comes to the people who have grown up in the shadow of such claims about Jesus-nearly 20 percent openly refer to themselves as atheists or agnostics,” he notes.
Christians should learn how to answer the skeptics because the strongest faith knows why it believes as well as what it believes, Jones writes.
“By the time you finish this book, I hope that you’ll not only believe the New Testament’s claims about Jesus but also that you’ll know why those claims make the best sense of the historical evidence,” he writes. “I want you to be able to spot the weaknesses not only in past Christ conspiracies but also in the supposed fresh revelation about Jesus that will inevitably emerge in the future.”
Those willing to study the historical evidence will ultimately discover that the stories of Jesus from the New Testament rest on far firmer evidence than any of the supposed conspiracy theories, Jones writes.
The 10 theories countered by Jones are:
– The New Testament Gospels and the traditions of the Resurrection emerged too late to represent eyewitness testimony.
– Early church leaders supposedly eliminated many books from the New Testament; some of these “lost scriptures” were the sacred texts of the first Christians.
– Early Christian leaders selected sacred books and essential beliefs to protect the church’s power structures-not to testify to historical truth about Jesus. Other books and beliefs were violently suppressed.
– The Gospels and other New Testament writings were copied so poorly and edited so thoroughly that the meanings of entire books have changed.
– With few exceptions, the acts and sayings in the New Testament Gospels do not represent actual, historical happenings.
– Jesus never existed at all.
– The Dead Sea Scrolls and perhaps even the New Testament books include encoded secrets about Jesus.
– Jesus married Mary Magdalene and founded a physical dynasty.
– Jesus was never buried, and He never rose from the dead. Dogs and other wild animals consumed His body.
– Since miracles are always improbable, the resurrection of Jesus cannot be considered as a historical event, regardless of how much historical evidence supports it.
Those willing to study the historical evidence will ultimately discover that the stories of Jesus from the New Testament rest on far firmer evidence than any of the supposed conspiracy theories, Jones writes. (Baptist Press, 6-4-08)