Saturday, October 30, 2010

Did Jesus Really Exist?

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No serious contemporary historian questions the historicity of Jesus, and that includes skeptical scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Gerd Lüdemann, and Bart Ehrman, so this may be a redundant post. But a few atheists--like Dan Barker and Christopher Hitchens--have publicly disputed His existence. So for the sake of completeness, I will briefly state some of the extra-biblical evidence for Jesus's existence.

First century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions Jesus twice in Jewish Antiquities:
At this time there was a wise man called Jesus. And his conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.
The original version had unfortunately been interpolated later to include questionable phrases like "if it would be lawful to call him a man," and "he was the Christ." However, the above translation is of the Arabic version, which was found without the interpolated parts. It has been translated by Schlomo Pines, professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The second mention of Jesus by Josephus is as follows:
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others. 
Jesus (Yeshu) also appears to be mentioned in the Jewish Talmud, in Sanhedrin 43a:
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.
This tells us several things: First, this Yeshu was accused of practicing sorcery, which sounds like a derogatory characterization of the miraculous. It is also consistent with Luke 11:15, which says that some of the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.

Second, he "enticed Israel to apostasy." This indicates that he had a strong following among the Jews and that he taught something the Jewish leaders disapproved of and labeled "apostasy."

Third, he was hanged on the eve of the Passover, just like Jesus. The word "hanged" was also used for crucifixion, in the sense that someone was hanged on a cross.

Wikipedia adds the following: "In the Florence manuscript of the Talmud (1177 CE) an addition is made to Sanhedrin 43a saying that Yeshu was hanged on the eve of the Sabbath." So this Yeshu was hanged on the eve of the Sabbath and on the eve of the Passover, just like Jesus in the Bible. It is rare for the Passover and the Sabbath to fall on the same day; for example, in the twentieth century it only happened ten times.

Fourth, the herald that went out before the hanging said that Yeshu was to be stoned, which was the penalty for blasphemy. However, he was not stoned--he was hanged.

Although the Talmud does not mention Pontius Pilate, Cornelius Tacitus, one of Rome's greatest historians, does. He wrote in his Annals about the great fire of Rome in 64 AD, which had been blamed on the emperor Nero, and explained:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a deadly superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but also in the City [Rome], where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world meet and become popular.
Some skeptics have claimed that this part of the Annals was a forgery added later by Christians. But most scholars have concluded that the passage was written by Tacitus, including the skeptical Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, who said, "Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius's reign."

Pliny the Younger described more persecution of the early Christians in his lettters to Trajan around 110 AD:
In the meantime, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For whatever the nature of their creed might be, I could at least feel no doubt that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy deserved punishment. 
Lucian, a second century Greek satirist, wrote:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day--the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.
Second century philosopher Celcus, an opponent of Christianity, wrote a book about the Christians in which he said that Jesus was a sorcerer. In other words, in his effort to discredit Christianity, he unwittingly affirmed that Jesus did perform extraordinary works, because rather than denying them, he explained them away.

These and numerous other sources indicate that Jesus really existed. There is simply no dispute about that among historians. In fact, atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann has written a book in which he explicitly tries to disprove Christianity by arguing that the resurrection never happened, but not only does he concede that Jesus existed, he also says that there is no question that Jesus actually died on the cross, and that his disciples "had experiences after Jesus's death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."

In the next post I will discuss the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. And in the following post, I will discuss the response of skeptical scholars.

13 comments:

Wolfgang said...

Anette,

I believe there was a man named Jesus on which the New Testament is based. As that is the main point of your post, I have no disagreement. But I have done very little research into the historicity of Jesus, and I cannot refute the claims of other people that call into question that Jesus ever existed.

I am pleased to find that you agree that the Testimonium Flavianum as commonly presented was not written (at least in its entirety) by Josephus. As I understand it however, Pines' use of a tenth century Arabic manuscript hasn't been widely accepted because the Arabic manuscript appears to be paraphrasing its original source.

As far as your other sources, the dates that the manuscripts were written are critical.

I wonder how difficult it would have been back then to research events that happened just a few decades earlier. Even in the 21st century, a few people deny the Holocaust ever happened. How many more people would deny the Holocaust, if we did not have video documentation? Would I? I don't know because I don't have to rely solely on the personal testimony of others.

Do you have dates as to when the references you site were written into the Talmud? Am I to understand that in one instance an addition was made in 1177? Or am I not understanding that correctly?

You said, "Second century philosopher Celcus, an opponent of Christianity, wrote a book about the Christians in which he said that Jesus was a sorcerer. In other words, in his effort to discredit Christianity, he unwittingly affirmed that Jesus did perform extraordinary works, because rather than denying them, he explained them away."

I am not familiar with Celcus (or Celsus?). However, he does not affirm that Jesus performed extraordinary works. How does a second century philosopher know what Jesus did other than from Christians and their critics? It seems to me he came up with (what was to him) a plausible explanation for what he had heard and read about Jesus.

Would Celcus give the same explanation for the extraordinary works of Benny Hinn?

Anette Acker said...

Wolfgang,

I believe there was a man named Jesus on which the New Testament is based. As that is the main point of your post, I have no disagreement. But I have done very little research into the historicity of Jesus, and I cannot refute the claims of other people that call into question that Jesus ever existed.

I think very few people question the historicity of Jesus, and none of them are historians. So I wasn't sure about whether it was worth it to do this post, but I decided to do it anyway.

As far as your other sources, the dates that the manuscripts were written are critical.

Well, there's another reference to Jesus by Josephus, and if we assume for the sake of argument that first reference is not original, then the second reference indicates that Jesus was well known, because Josephus simply says that James was the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ.

I wonder how difficult it would have been back then to research events that happened just a few decades earlier. Even in the 21st century, a few people deny the Holocaust ever happened. How many more people would deny the Holocaust, if we did not have video documentation? Would I? I don't know because I don't have to rely solely on the personal testimony of others.

I think that the people who deny the Holocaust tend to have a bias against Jews. There are a lot of things in history that we accept as true even though we have to take people's word for it.

In the next post I will talk more about how historians go about determining what is considered true about Jesus. Keep in mind that the Gospel accounts themselves as well as the letters of Paul, are considered historical documents.

Do you have dates as to when the references you site were written into the Talmud? Am I to understand that in one instance an addition was made in 1177? Or am I not understanding that correctly?

The passage I quoted is in the Mishnah, which is the earliest collection of writings in the Talmud. Yes, I did say that the addition was made in 1177. I realize that is very late, but Jews have traditionally denied that Yeshu is Jesus, so I thought it was interesting that they added this additional point of similarity.

I am not familiar with Celcus (or Celsus?). However, he does not affirm that Jesus performed extraordinary works. How does a second century philosopher know what Jesus did other than from Christians and their critics? It seems to me he came up with (what was to him) a plausible explanation for what he had heard and read about Jesus.

Yes, I meant Celsus. I thought there was something wrong with that spelling. Thanks. He does confirm that Jesus was known as someone who did extraordinary works. And that is what historians have also established. Of course people will explain that in different ways.

Would Celcus give the same explanation for the extraordinary works of Benny Hinn?

I don't know what Celsus (or anyone) would say about Benny Hinn. Does he do actual miracles? According to the Gospels, Jesus did miracles in the presence of his critics. I don't know if a skeptic has witnessed Benny Hinn do a miracle. But surely Celsus would say that Hinn was known as a faith healer.

Wolfgang said...

Anette said...
There are a lot of things in history that we accept as true even though we have to take people's word for it.

That is correct, but that doesn't mean everything we accept as true actually happened.

I think that the people who deny the Holocaust tend to have a bias against Jews.

This is true today because the evidence is so abundant and strong. My point is evidence wasn't as abundant 2000 years ago even for events that just happened decades prior. Correct me if I am wrong, but there would have been mainly word of mouth and a handful of scribes to record events.

[Celsus] does confirm that Jesus was known as someone who did extraordinary works.

Confirming that "Jesus was known as someone who did extraordinary works" and " unwittingly [affirming] that Jesus did perform extraordinary works" are two different things. The former, Celsus could and does do; the latter, Celsus cannot and does not do.

Celsus summarizes the arguments against Jesus and Christianity roughly 100 years after the death of Jesus. The miraculous wonders of Jesus are preserved by the Christians and that is what the critics are responding to. The critics cannot confirm anything that Jesus did; they can only attempt to explain the claims made by Christians.

In Celsus' time and until recently, sorcery was seen as fact so it seemed to be a plausible explanation for what the Christians claimed about Jesus. Please note that the same age that supposedly saw our Lord in the flesh also believed in sorcery.

Anette, do you think sorcery is real? Is magic anything more than illusions, trickery, and superstitions? For the sake of argument, miracles and the power of God are in a different category. But do you think magical powers can come from spells or the Devil or anything other than God?

Y = X said...

Anette wrote:

[i]He does confirm that Jesus was known as someone who did extraordinary works. And that is what historians have also established.[/i]

Given the propensity at the time to believe in supernatural acts I don't find this evidence to be strong. As late as the 1600s people in Western countries were being killed for witchcraft.

Other people talking about Jesus' miracles is only strong evidence if this is (fairly) unique attribution.

You've got people from antiquity who believed in Jesus' ability to perform miracles. Did they believe thusly of other people? Livy mentions Romulus and Remus. But people don't really think they existed.

Anette Acker said...

Wolfgang,

This is true today because the evidence is so abundant and strong. My point is evidence wasn't as abundant 2000 years ago even for events that just happened decades prior. Correct me if I am wrong, but there would have been mainly word of mouth and a handful of scribes to record events.

Well, Luke starts out his Gospel by saying that many had undertaken to record the events. So I think there were a lot of writings floating around.

But I prefer to leave all this for when I go into the historical evidence for the resurrection in the next post. That is where the timing and context of the various writings really matter. (Since we agree that Jesus was a historical figure.)

Celsus summarizes the arguments against Jesus and Christianity roughly 100 years after the death of Jesus. The miraculous wonders of Jesus are preserved by the Christians and that is what the critics are responding to. The critics cannot confirm anything that Jesus did; they can only attempt to explain the claims made by Christians.

I think it's interesting that Luke 11:15 says that the critics of Jesus accused Him of sorcery, when that is exactly what a critic (Celsus) actually said.

Also, most sources that mention Jesus talk about His miracles. The Qu'ran says about Jesus: "Then will Allah say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favor to you and to your mother. Behold! I strengthened you with the holy spirit, so that you spoke to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel. And behold! You made out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My leave, and you healed those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! You brought forth the dead by My leave" (Quran 5:110). Likewise the Apocryphal books and the various non-canonical Gospels also talk about His miracles.

I think it's pretty well-established that He did do extraordinary works. Mohammed, for example, did not do miracles, according to the Qu'ran. "The unbelievers say, 'Why has a sign (ayatun) not been sent down upon him from his Lord?' Thou art ONLY a warner, and a guide to every people" (S. 13:7). So it sounds like Mohammed had to defend himself to unbelievers who asked why he didn't do miracles. But the miracles of Jesus are never denied--they are only explained away.

In Celsus' time and until recently, sorcery was seen as fact so it seemed to be a plausible explanation for what the Christians claimed about Jesus. Please note that the same age that supposedly saw our Lord in the flesh also believed in sorcery.

They also referred to the resurrection as "a deadly superstition," and the book of Acts indicates that Festus thought Paul had gone insane when he talked about the resurrection.

Anette, do you think sorcery is real? Is magic anything more than illusions, trickery, and superstitions? For the sake of argument, miracles and the power of God are in a different category. But do you think magical powers can come from spells or the Devil or anything other than God?

I think it's possible, but it's interesting how Jesus replied to those who accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. "If Satan casts out Satan, he's divided against himself" (Matthew 12:26). So He implies that sorcerers do not do healing miracles, and that His accusers were illogical to say that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub.

Wolfgang said...

Anette,

I wonder if I misunderstood your comment about Celsus affirming that Jesus performed extraordinary works.

Jesus is and was known as someone that did extraordinary works. On that we agree. I will go as far as to say Jesus performed feats that others construed as miraculous wonders or acts of sorcery.

My only point is that it cannot be established by Celsus or the Qur'an or any of your cited sources that Jesus actually did anything that you would call supernatural in the truest sense of the word. And it cannot be established what acts attributed to him are just exaggerations or myths.

Though Mohammed did not perform miracles, cultures throughout time and place have had shamans and charlatans that have been known to perform extraordinary works. It is understood today that stage magicians use illusions and trickery to entertain us. Throughout history, the same acts were viewed as something much more. Even today, people are deceived by frauds.

Perhaps I have a presupposition against the extraordinary works of Jesus. My biggest problem with the idea of Jesus performing miraculous wonders is that his followers today cannot do anything as miraculous. Am I just to accept that God and Jesus did wonders in the past, but no one does wonders today?

It seems to me the Bible says Christians can also do extraordinary works; all one needs is faith. But I have no doubt you have explanations as to why Christians cannot perform signs and wonders. Maybe you will say that Jesus was only talking to the apostles in each instance he said such things, but what is your explanation for the following passage?

"These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." [Mark 16:17-18]

BTW, I don't think magic or sorcery is real. If it were, the world we experience would be much different. If spells worked, they would be as commonly used as our use of technology. Militaries would exploit magic. Magic wouldn't remain a secret.

Anette Acker said...

Y=X,

Given the propensity at the time to believe in supernatural acts I don't find this evidence to be strong. As late as the 1600s people in Western countries were being killed for witchcraft.

The witch trials were based on fear and superstition. People have always been superstitious, but that doesn't mean they believe in true miracles.

As I said to Wolfgang, the miracles of Jesus and the claim of the resurrection from the dead was a radical idea to everybody at the time. Apparently there were a couple of Jewish "holy men" around 1 BC, like Honi the Circledrawer, who drew a circle and stood in it, saying it wouldn't budge until it rained. When it started pouring, he said to God that it was too much--he wanted a calm rain. And the rain calmed down.

Assuming that this is true, and God did really respond to his demands, this is a far cry from the miracles of Jesus. The healing miracles of Jesus were consist with the message: "The kingdom of God is at hand." He was restoring nature and defeating evil.

You've got people from antiquity who believed in Jesus' ability to perform miracles. Did they believe thusly of other people? Livy mentions Romulus and Remus. But people don't really think they existed.

Well, that's the thing--Romulus and Remus did not really exist and the story reads very much like a myth. The Gospels, on other hand, pertain to an historical person who interacted with other historical people, and they read more like Greco-Roman biographies than like myths.

Wolfgang said...

Anette said...
As I said to Wolfgang, the miracles of Jesus and the claim of the resurrection from the dead was a radical idea to everybody at the time.

I question how radical the idea of Jesus' miracles and the resurrection were. People believed in all sorts of gods and magic. Neurological disorders would have been a radical idea, but demons and exorcisms were not.

I am aware that Christians point out how the resurrection of Jesus was unique to comparative myths. But the idea of Life-Death-Rebirth was not a foreign concept.

Y = X said...

Anette,

I was just using the witch trials as evidence that people are willing to believe the absurd. People are also willing to say that there is something supernatural to many things. This was especially so 2 thousand years ago. Belief in the supernatural was much more prevalent.

Well, that's the thing--Romulus and Remus did not really exist and the story reads very much like a myth.

I would say that this is the thing. What reads as a myth to you may not read as a myth to others. Since I don't believe that god exists then I think pretty much all stories involving supernatural acts to read like myths.

Jim Jones got a bunch of people to move to Guyana and kill themselves. People will do stupid things and believe incredible things in order to justify their beliefs. That followers of Christ may or may not have said that he rose from the dead is not relevant in my opinion. Their testimony is heavily biased.

I'll wait for your post on the resurrection before saying more. There's no need to respond to this message. I don't want to waste your time. It's better to wait until your next post.

Anette Acker said...

Wolfgang,

My only point is that it cannot be established by Celsus or the Qur'an or any of your cited sources that Jesus actually did anything that you would call supernatural in the truest sense of the word.

You're certainly right that Celsus, the Qur'an, or any historian cannot establish that Jesus actually did miracles. He was known as a wonder worker, but people would interpret that according to their worldview.

NT scholar Luke Johnson said: "Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death."

And it cannot be established what acts attributed to him are just exaggerations or myths.

Critical scholars have ways that they determine which parts of the Gospels are likely true. That doesn't mean that the other parts are not true--it just means that critical scholars do not regard them as such. (I and other Christians accept them as true by faith.)

So the historical evidence I will discuss in the next post is accepted by most scholars--even the most skeptical ones.

It seems to me the Bible says Christians can also do extraordinary works; all one needs is faith. But I have no doubt you have explanations as to why Christians cannot perform signs and wonders. Maybe you will say that Jesus was only talking to the apostles in each instance he said such things, but what is your explanation for the following passage? [Mark 16:15-18]

God's will for us is that we abide in Christ like a branch on a vine. In the same way that the branch only has to stay connected to the vine, a Christian just has to stay connected to Christ. And like sap flows through to the branch so that it bears fruit, the Holy Spirit flows through us so that we bear good fruit. John 15:7 goes so far as to say: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you."

That is a very extreme promise, and most of us would have to admit that our prayers are not always answered. Does that mean that the promise has failed? No, because the promise has a condition. If we abide in Him.

John 15 is a great illustration of what faith is and why it is so powerful. Faith is the Holy Spirit in us. And when Christians fast and pray and practice any of the spiritual disciplines, it is to grow closer to God and experience His power in a particular situation. Jesus Himself spent forty days fasting and He regularly woke up early to pray.

The problem is that most of us do not abide in Christ like we should, so we don't have the faith of Paul, Peter, and Stephen, and we can't do miracles. Does that mean that we are not saved? No, if we are born of the Spirit and growing spiritually, we are saved. This means that God works through us, even though it's not in dramatic ways. And I have definitely experienced God's power in my life, as have most Christians I know.

But experiencing God's power in small ways is not condemned in the Bible. Jesus says to the church of Philadelphia, one of the two that He praises unconditionally: "Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8). They did not have great power, but they were faithful to Christ, and He gave them high praise for that.

However, I do know Christians who have experienced miraculous healing after much prayer, so I do not agree that miracles have ceased. And John 15 is very encouraging to me because it means that God is always willing to bless--we just have to let go of the things that distract us and spend more time with Him.

Wolfgang said...

Anette said...
The problem is that most of us do not abide in Christ like we should, so we don't have the faith of Paul, Peter, and Stephen, and we can't do miracles.

You say that "most of us do not abide in Christ like we should..." Please bring to my attention the few that can do miracles.

Your knowledge of the Bible far surpasses mine, but I am puzzled as to why you brought up John 15:7. You act as though it has a condition that is difficult for most Christians to meet. But John 15:6 says, "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So abiding in Christ is nothing more than being a true Christian. Similar points are made regarding abiding in Christ in 1 John 3:22-24.

I am also puzzled as to why you brought up John 15:7 because it really doesn't pertain to Mark 16:15-18. Mark 16:17-18 talks about the signs that will accompany those that believe. It has nothing to do with God answering prayer.

Is it true that you will not be hurt by drinking any deadly poison? Can you lay your hands on the sick, and they will recover? What is your explanation as to why not?

However, I do know Christians who have experienced miraculous healing after much prayer, so I do not agree that miracles have ceased.

And I know someone that did not abide in Christ and experienced what could be called a "miraculous" healing involving doctors and modern medicine. She has beaten overwhelming odds to still be alive today, and she is one of the most active and involved people I know. She is a true inspiration.

So I wonder if the Christians you know also used modern medicine in addition to much prayer.

What is the reason a higher percentage of people survive cancer today than in the past? Is it because our medical knowledge and treatment is better, or is it because more people abide in Christ? Which makes more sense to you?

Anette Acker said...

Wolfgang,

You say that "most of us do not abide in Christ like we should..." Please bring to my attention the few that can do miracles.

I know one woman who prays for people throughout the day, so she does "abide in Christ" like John 15 says. She had seizures that did not respond to any kind of treatment and she was completely healed after going to a church retreat. The seizures have never come back.

Your knowledge of the Bible far surpasses mine, but I am puzzled as to why you brought up John 15:7. You act as though it has a condition that is difficult for most Christians to meet. But John 15:6 says, "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Abiding in Christ, like faith, is a matter of degree. If one has a lot of faith, like Peter and the apostles, then one would be able to do the miracles of Jesus. However, someone who has no faith is not a Christian. Faith is not an either/or proposition. But Jesus does imply that when He comes again, there will be little faith in the earth (Luke 18:8), and that most people will not pray without ceasing.

I am also puzzled as to why you brought up John 15:7 because it really doesn't pertain to Mark 16:15-18. Mark 16:17-18 talks about the signs that will accompany those that believe. It has nothing to do with God answering prayer.

It is related because faith is simply the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, so someone who has great faith (like Paul) would not be harmed by evil. (He was bitten by a poisonous snake and just shook it off.) Psalm 91 describes the protection of someone who abides in "the shadow of the Almighty." It describes someone who is very close to God and is therefore protected by His Spirit.

And I know someone that did not abide in Christ and experienced what could be called a "miraculous" healing involving doctors and modern medicine. She has beaten overwhelming odds to still be alive today, and she is one of the most active and involved people I know. She is a true inspiration.

That's great!

So I wonder if the Christians you know also used modern medicine in addition to much prayer.

They would have if it had been available, but a lot of people suffer with terrible medical conditions that have no treatments. So, no, modern medicine did not heal them.

What is the reason a higher percentage of people survive cancer today than in the past? Is it because our medical knowledge and treatment is better, or is it because more people abide in Christ? Which makes more sense to you?

That's an easy question: modern medicine. I don't know if you saw my discussion in the previous thread about what a miracle it is that we live in a universe that is comprehensible to the human mind. The fact that it is predictable and comprehensible means that science and medicine is possible, so that is a gift from God. It is called "common grace" because it pertains to blessings available to anyone--whether or not they believe.

Anette Acker said...

Wolfgang,

BTW, I don't think magic or sorcery is real. If it were, the world we experience would be much different. If spells worked, they would be as commonly used as our use of technology. Militaries would exploit magic. Magic wouldn't remain a secret.

By sorcery, do you mean Harry Potter-type sorcery, where wholesome kids can do magic to defeat evil?If so, of course I agree with you that it is not real.

But I do think that the occult is real. Are you familiar with Aleister Crowley, the most famous occultist that ever lived? He had the dubious honor of being called "the wickedest man in the world" by the popular media of his time. And I do think he opened himself up to dark forces and wasn't just crazy.