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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, October 12 2023

Jesus Christ: do we have the real story?

The four Gospels testify, with convincing evidence, that Christ rose from the dead and that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, promised by the biblical prophets. However, over the centuries, this central fact has been attacked as false even though the Church gathered eyewitness accounts, and the Apostles wrote of what they had witnessed.

Reg Wright

Some believe Christ was just a good moral teacher, and His frustrated followers fabricated the tale of an empty tomb. The 1967 book The Passover Plot offered purported "rational" and "logical" alternative explanations to the biblical account, presenting a view many still hold, that the New Testament is at best incomplete and at worst a complete fraud.

More recently The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, a work of fiction, uses actual biblical events, characters and places to draw readers into offbeat speculations about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It spins fact and fiction together in such a way that it distorts the truth of the Gospel accounts.

The Da Vinci Code puts forth the idea Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, who was pregnant with His child when He died. The mother and child then were secretly transported to southern France where the lineage of that union still exists. Following are two excerpts from the book: "Behold, the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but also He was a father ... Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth" (p. 249).

"Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion ... With the help of Jesus' trusted uncle, Joseph of Arimathea [she] secretly traveled to France , then known as Gaul. There she found safe refuge in the Jewish community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter ..." (p. 255).

What is most troubling about this book, and the movie to come from it, is that anyone reading it or watching the movie without an adequate background in the basics of the Bible, much less history, could come away with a lot of doubt and many questions.

Mr. Brown's imaginative rewrite of history conflicts with the Bible in many points. First of all, Jesus was not married. No reference in the Bible suggests that possibility. There have been past attempts by scholars suggesting the scene in John 2 of a wedding in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine was actually His own wedding, but the Bible indicates nothing of the sort. There isn't any biblical evidence Christ was married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else. Neither is there anything in the Bible to support the deprecating and oft-floated idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who followed Christ and His disciples around.

Another part of the misconception about Christ is the idea that 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. It is true that other letters and accounts circulated during and after the first century, claiming to be authentic accounts of Christ's life. Spurious letters purported to be from Paul also circulated (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

The story of how the books of the New Testament were put together in a form that people could accept as authentic is too long to be told in this article. However, scriptural evidence points to Peter and Paul's personal involvement in preserving selected works and letters that bore the true record of the events of Christ's life. The Apostle Paul powerfully asserted, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16 ).

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

Dr. 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, next to what we have long known from tradition, we find that these remarkable texts, only now becoming widely known, are transforming what we know as Christianity" (Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, 2003, p. 29).

In a comment for his own time and as a prophecy for today, Paul said to his fellow minister Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, 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).

What we are seeing in these recent stories is the same distortions of the person of Christ and the message He brought that have been around for centuries, only taken to greater extremes. When some were denying Christ's resurrection and His divinity in Corinth, Paul rebutted this heretical idea, leaving us with one of the most powerful chapters of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15.

Jesus Christ’s life and death were a fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. The Apostle Peter was an eyewitness of Christ's glory and resurrection. Years afterward, Peter wrote that he and his fellow Apostles knew with certainty that Christ was the Son of God. Responding to the same charges that 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).