Sunday, January 01, 2006

Letter in the January 1, 2006 Denver Post

Facts about Jesus Christ

Re: The birth of a 'mad sect,"' Dec. 25 John Aloysius Farrell column.

John Aloysius Farrell discredited Christianity as historically uncertain. This is incorrect. Farrell dismisses Pliny's and Josephus' references to Christ; yet they in fact corroborate the existence of Christ and certain significant facts about him. Other ancient historians, such as Thallus, Tacititus and Suetonius, mention Christ and his followers as well. These references alone put the lie to Farrell's claim that there is little proof of Jesus' existence. Farrell demeans the Apostle Paul's letters by saying that he "paints no portrait of Christ, the man from Nazareth." But Paul had no need to repeat facts about the earthly life of Christ, since these were already known to his readers. However, Paul does refer to several facts about Jesus' life and teaching, particularly his Jewish ancestry, crucifixion and resurrection. Although Farrell downplays the Gospels, they were written only a few decades after the events they describe by eyewitnesses or those
who consulted eyewitness - impressive credentials for ancient literature. "The Da Vinci Code" to the contrary, the four Gospels were not selected for merely political reasons, but because of their connection to reliable witnesses, the agreement of their teachings, and their early use in the church.
  • Douglas Groothuis, Littleton The writer is a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.


Mike Musselman said...

I dunno, Doug. I think ole John Aloysius was actually trying to give the old Jesus thing a backhanded compliment. I took it as goo d use of the rhetorical device of irony. I think he's making the case that the "mad sect" may not be so mad after all.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


I doubt it, given all the critical comments he makes, none of which have any substance. They guy refers to The Da Vinci Code as a authority, for heaven's sake! I didn't have room to call him on that one.

Bill said...


Are you kidding about Josephus? To say his writings simply collaborate the Gospel accounts of Jesus' being the Christ is a serious stretch. There is a lot of historical evidence against the authenticity of Josephus' writing in regards to Jesus. Through your own research you may come to your own conclusions, but to ignore the legitimacy of the counter-evidence seems deceiving.

Also, many people who are skeptical of the Bible agree that Jesus' lived, they just doubt the accuracy of the Biblical accounts. Heck, we messed-up historical accounts of recent events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (and that is with all of the technology and education we have nowadays), I can only imagine what happened to the historical accounts of the Biblical stories over the course of decades. Again, I think it's misleading to ignore the legitimacy of the other side of the argument - even if you disagree.

Just so I don’t sound hypocritical, it would be just as wrong for me dismiss the evidence that supports the Gospels, or other aspects of the Bible. I may acknowledge and even agree with some the problems archeology and historians present in regards to the Bible, and still conclude that Jesus is Christ

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


One can only say so much in 150. I have developed the case for the reliability in more detail in chapter two of my book, "On Jesus" (Wadsworth, 2002). See also chapter two of "Jesus in an Age of Controversy." For a more scholarly account, see Craig Blomberg, "The Historical Reliability of the Gospels" and "The Historical Reliability of John." If you'd like I can send you the electronic version of my chapter from "On Jesus."

Bill said...

I know there is a good amount of literature supporting the reliability of the Gospels. But for every publication you listed, I can list the same with just as much scholarly creditability against the Gospels.

My point is that neither side is as right as they claim. If the Bible was as accurate as Christians claim, then Christianity wouldn't be considered a religion, it'd be considered a fact. Which scientifically, historically and even to an extent, spiritually, it isn't (yet). On the other hand, non-Christians regularly fail to give the evidence supporting the Bible its proper credit and due.

I just think it's dangerous for both sides of the debate to ignore the evidence supporting the opposing side. Unfortunately, Christians and non-Christians do it too often. And when I read your comments Doug, especially the ones on Josephus, I got the impression that is what you were doing.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

To Bill:

Counting the number of books on both sides of issues is pointless when the issue is controversial. One must look at the arguments, not the number of publications.

The Christian message is either factual or it isn't. Determining that means looking at the evidence. My books on the topic do address both sides, but I come out--because of the arguments, not blind faith--on the side of Chrisianity as factual and logical. I simply cannot give all those argument here. Nothing in my original letter was slanted or one-sided.