We Preach Christ Crucified

Jesus is a real person documented not just by the authors of the Bible, but also by non-Christians from that time in hisotry. There is no real argument about the existence of Jesus or if he was crucified. Here are two non-Biblical sources of Jesus and His crucifixion.

Jewish historian Josephus in his book Antiquities of the Jews from around 95 AD writes about the execution of Jesus.

Roman historian and senator Tacitus in his book Annals from around 115 AD writes about the execution of Christ by Pilate.

The death of Jesus was a major event recorded by history not because a man was executed and died, but because of the reaction from His followers. Paul writes about the significance of this event to the followers of Christ in his letters.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14 ESV

The death of Christ should have been the end and it was, until Jesus changed history by appearing in bodily form alive to His followers.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29 ESV

After that Christ returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit ushering in the Church Age that we currently live in. It is an age of grace and mercy. A time to repent of rebellion and a time to build a relationship with our Creator who is Jesus. That is why we like Peter and Paul preach “Christ crucified” who loved us so much that he willingly died on our behalf.

[King David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses… Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:31-32; 36-39 ESV

Keep it in Context

Dinesh D’Souza opens his book What’s So Great About Christianity with a chapter on interpretation of scripture. In this chapter, he lays down the rules of what taking the Bible literally is and is not. He starts with this chapter because it is foundational to any argument supporting the authority of the Bible. The conclusion in this chapter is wonderfully simple advice both to the individual seeking to discredit the Bible and the Christian seeking to wield the word of truth in an accurate manner.

At this point let’s settle on a simple operating principle: whether you regard the Bible as inspired or not, read the text in context for what it is actually trying to say. (D’Souza, xii)

The point is that we can resolve most of the difficult issues surrounding the scripture by understanding the greater narrative, the type of literary device being deployed, and not being so ethno centric that we impose our ideas on top of the actual ideas communicated based on that culture and time.

On that last point, I want to provide an example where I personally have placed my own ideas into the narrative because of culture and time. In Matthew 19:23-26 Jesus tells the disciples that it would be easier for a camel to go through the “eye of a needle” than for a rich man to go to heaven. Quickly my thoughts imagine a tiny stainless steel sowing needle. However, that may not have been what the audience of that culture and time were thinking. Maybe they called the hoop of their sewing needles the eye or maybe they did not. More research is needed. Some scholars have proposed but never proven that there was a smaller gate into Jerusalem and this is what Jesus was talking about. We may never know exactly what the eye of the needle was that Jesus referred to, but the point is that we must not overlay our thoughts onto the original communication. It is also important to remember our lack of knowledge does not invalidate the point that Jesus was trying to communicate within the context of the Gospel.

The second point is the type of literary device. Some written forms like a book of History or a Book of Laws are intended to be taken literally. Exodus tells people that murder is wrong and this is intended to be taken at face value (Exodus 20:13). Other books like the songs in Psalms are imagery and worship to God. In Psalms, David writes “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalms 119:11 ESV) The intent is obviously not literal, but a way of saying that he has memorized, and meditated on the words of God until they become part of who he is and they give direction to his life. Listed here are few of the major types of writing that make up the Bible. When reading and studying these it is important to remember to the context.

1. Laws and Rules (Ten Commandments Exodus 20-1-17)
2. History (the Book of Acts)
3. Poetry (Psalm)
4. Personal Letters (Much of the New Testament like 1 Peter)
5. Apocalyptic (Part of Daniel and the book of Revelations)

Finally, the most amazing thing about the Bible is the overarching narrative of a world cursed because of man’s rebellion and the Creator’s plan to restore that world through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who is God in the flesh. Philip, one of the twelve disciples, communicates that good news after the resurrection in this historical event recorded in the book of Acts.

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. Acts 8:30-35 ESV