FAQS

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Aren't you just appealing to an authority? 

Answer:  An appeal to an authority is a logical fallacy that goes something like this.  A is an authority on a particular topic. A says something about that topic. A is probably correct.  So, no.. accepting what the body of knowledge says about a subject is not an appeal to authority. 

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Question:  Is history a science?  Can we be sure about what historians are telling us? 

Answer:  While history is not technically a science (we cannot conduct repeatable experiments, for one thing) it is a legitimate field of study.   Historians use a methodical approach called the Historical Method to determine what in history we can regard as reliable.

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Question:  Why do historians accept that John the Baptist is a historical figure?

Answer:  Because there are numerous historical documents that mention him.  He is mentioned in Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.  He is also mentioned in the non-canonical gospel of the Nazarene.  Josephus also mentions John the Baptist.

Antipas had married the daughter of Aretas, the King of Petra. On a journey to Rome Antipas had stayed with a half-brother ĎHerodí, the son of King Herod and his wife, the daughter of Simon the high priest. While there, Antipas had fallen in love with his half-brotherís wife, Herodias.  Herodias agreed to marry Antipas after his return from Rome on condition he divorced the daughter of Aretas. Before Antipasí return from Rome, the daughter of Aretas realized what was happening and fled back to her father. As a result Aretas invaded Antipasí territory. Antipasí army was defeated which some Jews saw as divine vengeance for Antipasí execution of John the Baptist. Antipas is stated to have executed John because he feared Johnís teachings could lead to unrest. (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.2-9)

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Question: Why is it accepted that John the Baptist baptized Jesus?

Answer:  Using the a critical analysis of historical accounts called the criterion of embarrassment, it has been determined that Jesus was in fact baptized by John the Baptist.  The New Testament also provides evidence that several of Jesus' disciples were former followers of John the Bapist. 

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Question: Why is it accepted that Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate?

Answer: Again, this is determined by using the criterion of embarrasement.

The essence of the criterion of embarrassment is that the early church would hardly have gone out of its way to "create" or "falsify" historical material that only embarrassed its author or weakened its position in arguments with opponents. Rather, embarrassing material coming from Jesus would naturally be either suppressed or softened in later stages of the Gospel tradition. This criterion is rarely used by itself, and is typically one of a number of criteria, such as the criterion of discontinuity and the criterion of multiple attestation, along with the historical method.

The crucifixion of Jesus is an example of an event that meets the criterion of embarrassment. This method of execution was considered the most shameful and degrading in the Roman world, and advocates of the criterion claim this method of execution is therefore the least likely to have been invented by the followers of Jesus.[3][4][5][6][7]

3. Guy Davenport and Benjamin Urrutia, The Logia of Yeshua, Washington, DC 1996.

4.Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies, For Dummies Pub., 2007. p 14

5. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, Yale University Press, 2009

6. N.S.Gill, Discussion of the Historical Jesus

7. Blue Butler Education, Historical Study of Jesus of Nazareth - An Introduction

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