Ok, we have started a new religion with our leader crucified (the most vile form of death at that time), who came from the wrong side of the tracks, and who was resurrected three days after he died. And it is a new religion in a time and place where the ‘old ways’ were celebrated, and we are simply demanding everybody behave differently than they have before, and we expect you to tolerate every ones difference in a time where tolerance was not tolerated. What is so hard to understand about that?
Factor #7 — Stepping Into History
Well let’s start with a bit of history.
Acts 26:26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
(And yes, Acts from the New Testament is a verifiable historical document cross referenced with many other bible passages references and other works written at the time). https://iamnotanatheist.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/nt-to-ot-references/
This factor is a large one, multifaceted and complex and with varying levels of strength. Let’s put it this way: If you wanted to start a new religion with new and wild claims involved, would you claim, at any point, to have connections you don’t have, to know persons that you don’t know, to personally be aware of events that hundreds of thousands of other witnessed if they didn’t? If I claimed tomorrow or even 40 years from now that my Aunt Ellie was resurrected, do I dare say that she was put on trial before Clarence Thomas, was wanted by my state governor for questioning, and had been buried in the intended tomb of Tom Cruise? (only if I had the lapdog media inmy back pocket – sorry a political jab there, probably not warranted, but I’m not going to remove it).
We have often individually considered the various claims of Christianity and I will be dealing with many of them in future postings, but let us now consider collectively what we’re dealing with. The NT is filled with claims of connections to and reports of incidents involving “famous people” of that time, the equivalent of royalty, movie idols, and high powered businessmen and politicians (the counterpart of today’s Donald Trump or Eric Holder).
Herod Agrippa — this man was a client king for the Romans over the area surrounding Jerusalem — “was eaten of worms” as Luke reported in Acts 12:20-23. Copies of Acts circulated in the area and were accessible to the public and officials. Had Luke reported falsely, Christianity would have been dismissed as a fraud and would not have “caught on” as a religion. If Luke lied in his reports, Luke probably would have been jailed and/or executed by Agrippa’s son, Herod Agrippa II (who held the same position), because that was the fellow Paul testified to in Acts 25-26 (as reported by Luke).
And Agrippa II was alive and in power after Luke wrote and circulated Acts; indeed he had access to all the needed information and claims (“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” [Acts 26:26-27] Did Agrippa execute Paul for these statements? No, and he could not have if it was not true. Rather Agrippa told Governor Festus, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” [Acts 26:32])
Now consider the domino effect of making such claims. If claim #1 is proven false, that opens the way to doubt all other statements being made by the converts to the new religion — all the way up the line to the resurrection. In addition, it need not even be of Herod becoming worm burgers in particular.
It can be of any one of the places where the early Christians and the NT made bold claim to some influence or event in any one of many cities. People outside the area of Lystra may not have known enough about what happened in Lystra, or wanted to check it, but Christianity was making claims at varied points across the Empire, and there were also built in “fact checkers” stationed around the Empire who could say something about all the claims central to Jerusalem and Judaea — the Diaspora Jews. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/diaspora.html (And it gets worse; see below.)
The NT claims innumerable touch-points that could go under this list. An earthquake, a darkness at midday, the temple curtain torn in two, an execution, all at Passover (with the attendant crowds numbering in the millions), people falling out of a house speaking in tongues at Pentecost (another “millions attend” event) — all in a small city and culture where word would spread fast (see below). Healings of illnesses and dysfunctions, even reversals of death, in highly public places. A triumphal entry into Jerusalem in blatant fulfillment of Messianic prophecy written thousands of years early, if that had not happened who could believe he was God in the flesh, sent to save sinners from their sins.
In short, Christianity was highly vulnerable to inspection and disproof on innumerable points — any one of which, had it failed to prove out, would have snowballed into further doubt, especially given the previous factors above which would have been motive enough for any Jew or Gentile to say or do something. This is not the way to start a religion. You start a religion by linking to obscure and nameless people.
You don’t talk of a synagogue ruler or a Sanhedrin member, or even a centurion being in your history (even if you don’t name them; there were few enough of each of these that it would not be hard to make a check). You stick with no-names like the woman at the well. Such persons of course would have had to be interacted with anyway, but the point is not their presence, but the presence of those of greater social standing and notice, and the claims attached to them.
It is impossible that Christianity would thrived and survived without having its facts straight and verifiable. Kind of like having your ducks in a row.
Next Martyrs, Divinity and a Classless society