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UCG IA Bible Insights Thursday, July 07 2022

The rest of the story

There is no more central tenet of faith than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Gospels testify, with convincing evidence, He rose from the dead and was the Messiah promised by the prophets. But almost from the beginning of the Church some attacked these facts as false.

The rest of the story
Example of a stone door rolled away from a tomb opening. © Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org
by Darris McNeely

Although the Church gathered eyewitness accounts, and the Apostles wrote of what they saw, the idea persisted that Christ was no more than a good moral teacher, and that His followers had fabricated the fantastic tale of an empty tomb, giving rise to a new faith.

The attempt to deny Christ's resurrection continues into modern times. The 1967 book The Passover Plot offered purported "rational" and "logical" alternative explanations to the biblical account. The book's title sums up a view that many still hold—that the story told in the New Testament is at best incomplete and at worst a complete fraud.

More recently, the popular novel The DaVinci Code, although a work of fiction, uses actual events, characters and places to draw readers into off-beat speculations about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The novel puts forth the idea that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, leaving her pregnant with His child when He died. The Church supposedly suppressed this "knowledge" and purged any writing containing this information from the official record.

What is most troubling about this book, and the subsequent movie, is that so much fiction and misinformation is passed off as truth. Anyone reading it without an adequate background in the basics of the Bible and history could end up with a lot of doubt and questions. Many of the concepts in the novel and movie can be found in ancient ideas that predate Christianity and later found expression in gnostic thought.

The Bible is clear Jesus was not married. There have been attempts by scholars to suggest the Cana wedding described in John 2, when Christ turned the water into wine, was actually His own wedding. But the Bible says nothing of the sort. There is no biblical evidence Christ was married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else.

Another part of the misconception about Christ is the idea there were other legitimate gospel accounts, which were either lost or purged from the accepted record and labeled as heretical. This raises doubts as to whether we have the whole story about Christ and the early Church.

Even today's theological intelligentsia give credence to alternative gospel accounts of the early Church. Princeton theologian Elaine Pagels has written of her acceptance of the Gospel of Thomas, one of the many ancient texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945.

Pagels' study of the Nag Hammadi texts has shaped her view that the biblical texts don't tell the full story. She cannot accept "Christianity with a single, authorized set of beliefs..." To her and other scholars, the Nag Hammadi texts are "like newly discovered pieces of a complex puzzle, … we find that these remarkable texts, only now becoming widely known, are transforming what we know as Christianity" (Beyond Belief, 2003, p. 29).

Other letters and accounts were circulated during and after the first century, claiming to be authentic accounts of Christ's life. Spurious letters pretending to be from Paul also circulated (2 Thessalonians 2:2). In a comment on his own time and a prophecy for the ages to come, the Apostle Paul told Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires...they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The story of how the books of the New Testament came together in an authorized, reliable form is longer than can be described here, but scriptural evidence points to the fact that Peter and Paul were involved in preserving texts and letters containing the true record of Christ's life and the gospel message, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). The life of Jesus Christ—the Son of God—was a fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies.

The Apostle Peter was an eyewitness of Christ's glory and resurrection and proclaimed that he and his fellow apostles knew with certainty that Christ was the Son of God. Responding to the same doubts we see today, Peter wrote, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). When some, during the time of the Apostle Paul’s ministry were denying Christ’s resurrection and His divinity, finding it hard to believe such an event could happen; he set them straight, leaving us with one of the most powerful chapters of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15.

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