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How Many Languages Did Jesus Speak?

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  Introduction It is no secret that many, if not most, people in the first century were at least functionally illiterate. While the literacy rates may have varied based on a person's social class or location in the known world, the fact remains that there was a large population that was functionally illiterate. For this reason, some have claimed that Jesus MUST have been illiterate, since the population as a whole was largely illiterate. This is the argument used by individuals like Reza Aslan  to support their reconstruction of the life of Jesus. However, there is a problem with this. The issue is that a general statement about people at large cannot be used to describe an individual. It is logically fallacious to claim otherwise. For example, I cannot claim that, since most pastors in Texas make approximately $40,000 per year, that therefore Joel Osteen must make approximately $40,000. This is false. Another example would be that, since most books that are written are not New Yo

Who Were The Pharisees?

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 So far in this series, we have discussed three major groups of Jews that were around in the first century. We have discussed the Essenes , who were a separatist group that placed a heavy emphasis on ceremonial cleanliness and lived in Qumran. We have also discussed the Zealots , which was a group of Jewish revolutionaries noted for their zeal for the Jewish way of life, although they were probably not formally recognized as a party until the Jewish Revolt. These two groups are similar in the fact that most of the information we have about them comes from outside of the New Testament. In the last post, we talked about the Sadducees . This was the group which held power in the Jewish Temple, accepted only the Torah as an authority, and denied the resurrection. It is an interesting fact that, while Jesus spent most of his time sparring with the Pharisees, it was the Sadducees that primarily opposed the early Church. The final group that we will be discussing is the party known as the Pha

Who Were The Sadducees?

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So far in this series, we have discussed the Essenes and the Zealots . The Essenes were a group of separatists who, for the most part, lived away from other groups and had a zeal for ritual purity and cleanliness. The Zealots, on the other hand wanted independence from Rome and were willing to use violence and guerilla warfare to get their way. The one thing that both the Essenes and the Zealots have in common is that the New Testament doesn't really give us much information about either group. For this, we need to sources other than the New Testament. Today, we will look at the Sadducees. Unlike the Essenes and Zealots, the Sadducees are mentioned in the New Testament, and we can gain a decent amount of insight from the writings of the New Testament about them. Of course, a fuller picture is gained when looking at a wide variety of historical sources, but it is sufficient to note that, unlike the Zealots and the Essenes, the Sadducees were not largely insignificant to the point th

Who Were The Zealots?

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  In my last post , I mentioned several facts about the Essenes . In this post, I want to examine some things about the group that is often called the "Zealots" from the first century. As with the Essenes, the Bible says very little about this group of people. Despite this, understanding this group can help us understand the climate of the first century in this part of the world, and thus improve our understanding of the Gospels as a whole. Here are five things we should know about the group of people who are often called "Zealots." First, we should understand that there probably wasn't a particular party known as the "Zealots" in the days of Jesus, unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, which were recognizable. There were, to be sure, loose movements of people who opposed Rome's rule, but the name "Zealot" likely didn't come to refer to a specific group of people until the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD. Although the title wasn't there,

Who Were The Essenes?

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  Of the Jewish religious parties that were around in the first century, there is one fairly important party that is not mentioned in the New Testament. This group may not be mentioned because they separated themselves from everyone else, or because they were simply not significant to the authors of the Gospels. Whatever the reason, the Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament. We do know about them from historical sources and archaeological findings, however. So what are we to make of this group of first-century Jews? There are a few things that we need to know about this group. First, we need to understand that the Essenes were a group of Jewish separatists who believed that the Temple and its priesthood had been corrupted. That is, the Essenes did not believe in the legitimacy of the Temple program, which was run predominantly by the Sadducees. The Essenes did not believe that the contemporary priestly class had a right to handle the priestly affairs of the Temple. There are s

Why The Apocryphal Gospels Are Unreliable

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  Introduction There is a tendency among some scholars to ascribe the canonical Gospels to the realm of myth while finding in the apocryphal gospels a thread of truth this is more reliable than what is found in the canonical Gospels. This is especially prominent among the members of the so-called "Jesus Seminar." Adopting later, less reliable sources over earlier, more reliable sources is not a way to do scholarship. Fortunately, it does not seem that the majority of scholars believe that the later apocryphal gospels are reliable. Here are four reasons why we should not accept the apocryphal gospels as reliable 1. The Apocryphal Gospels Were Written Extremely Late The fact of the matter is that the apocryphal gospels were written incredibly late in comparison to the canonical Gospels . The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were likely written between 30-45 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. The Gospel of John was likely placed in its final form in the 90s AD, mak

Why Should We Trust The Gospels?

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I have sometimes heard individuals claim that the New Testament Gospels are not reliable sources for the life of Jesus. Ironically, some of these same individuals will claim that the 2nd or 3rd Century gospels somehow contain accurate Jesus traditions. The issue here is that the evidence shows just the opposite. The fact of the matter is that we have good reason to trust the canonical Gospels on the historical Jesus. As scholar F.F. Bruce nicely summarizes, "The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt." [1]  This is true of the Gospels especially. So what are some of the reasons we have to accept the Gospels as reliable sources for the life of Jesus? Here are a few of these reasons: 1. The Canonical Gospels Were