Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

The Bare Minimum

This article will list certain historical facts from the Bible or related to its message. Since the secular historical consensus is that these facts are true, skeptics cannot deny these facts.

What is the significance of this list?

  • While skeptics may debate Christians on some things that the Bible says, they must agree with Christians on these (or at least, provide special arguments as to why they think they are right and everyone else is wrong). Failure to agree here indicates a lack of commitment to the truth, and thus, futility of any discussion.
  • When skeptics come up with alternate scenarios (may be Jesus didn't have a virgin birth, may be he didn't rise from the dead), this list provides a minimum core that the alternative scenarios have to take into account or incorporate. Any alternative scenario that does not take into account these facts must be rejected by those who have a commitment to the truth.

Note the wording below carefully. For example, historians don't agree to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But historians agree that the gospels (Jesus' biographies) report it.

The list of "bare minimum" facts

Here then, is our list of facts.

  • All over the world, people follow a seven-day week in which at least one day is a holiday. Among the people who have an explanation for the origin of the seven-day week are the religious Jews, who believe that it commemorates God creating the universe in 6 days and resting on the seventh.
  • The Jews are an unusual ethnic group – unique in their great achievements, persecution, scattering all over the world, return to their ancient homeland after 19 centuries, adherence to ancient customs, etc. Learn more
  • There was an ancient Jewish kingdom dating from at least the 9th century BC in what is now modern Israel. One of the kings was David.
  • The Jews were conquered and exiled by the Assyrians and Babylonians, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.
  • Cyrus the Persian emperor allowed the Jews to return to Israel. In the period from 500 BC to the 1st century AD, the land of Israel was populated by Jews, and they were subject to the Persians, the Greeks and then the Romans.
  • The Jews have a scripture, also called the Old Testament, written several centuries before the Christian era and canonized before the Christian era, called the Old Testament.
  • The Jewish Talmud specifies the rules that scribes followed in copying the Old Testament. Such rigorous rules have not been used for any other well known book.
  • The Old Testament contains promises of a coming "Messiah" or "Christ", that is, anointed one.
  • There was a person called Jesus of Nazareth living in first century Israel.
  • History is divided into AD (the Year of our Lord) and BC (Before Christ) on the basis of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. This narrows down the date of his death to 26-36 AD.
  • Jesus developed a large following spread all over the Roman Empire within a generation of his death. In the first century, his followers believed he was God, and that he had risen from the dead. These people came to be known as Christians.
  • The Jewish and Roman authorities opposed the Christians but could not produce any dead body from the tomb where Jesus was laid. This proves that the tomb was empty.
  • Within a generation of Jesus' death, three biographies of his life (called gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke) were produced. Within another generation, another gospel (John) was produced. Matthew the tax official and John the fisherman claim to be eye-witnesses, Luke the physician explicitly says he was in contact with eye-witnesses, and Mark has external testimony that he was a companion of eye-witnesses.
  • The gospel narratives have the level of detail expected in eye-witness accounts.
  • Papyri discoveries in Egypt have shown that the Greek used in the gospels is indeed the koine (common) Greek spoken in the first century.
  • The earliest extant copies of the gospels date from the 2nd century.
  • The gospels state that Jesus had a virgin birth, died by crucifixion for man's sins, rose again from the dead, that Jesus was not only the Messiah promised in the OT, but God himself in human form.
  • The gospels have been found historically accurate on those points where separate information was available for cross-checking.
  • The gospels report that there were a group of people called Apostles – people who claimed to be eye-witnesses to the flawless life, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and boldly proclaimed it. 
  • The gospel writers report the conversion of at least two skeptics after Jesus died: Paul, and James, the brother of Jesus. Paul claims to have seen the risen Christ personally.
  • These gospels were considered authoritative by the early Christians. They believed that Jesus' death and resurrection was the basis for their salvation.
  • Paul writes to the Corinthians that Christ has risen and several eye-witnesses are still alive at the time of his writing.
    In the second, third and fourth centuries AD, several Christian writers such as Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Irenaeus, etc. appeared. They argued for the authenticity of the gospels and documented the martyrdom accounts of the apostles and the gospel writers – they chose to suffer cruel deaths rather than deny the resurrection, virgin birth and deity of Jesus. The image shows the Via Appia near Rome, likely site of the deaths of Paul and Peter.
  • The Roman Empire persecuted Christians. Thousands of Christians chose to die rather than deny their faith because they believed Jesus was truly alive and sovereign.
  • In addition to the Old Testament, Christians considered as authoritative the four biographies of Jesus plus certain other Apostolic writings; these came to be known as the New Testament.
  • There is more manuscript evidence of the New Testament than all the classical historians put together.
  • Eventually, the Roman Empire stopped persecuting Christians and adopted Christianity. This amalgamation of Jesus' teachings, the Roman state, and Roman paganism evolved into the Roman Catholic Church. But there have been and are Christians who follow only the scriptures, and reject any additions to it.
  • The Old and New Testaments together are known as the Bible. The Bible is the most selling, most distributed, most opposed, most studied, most downloaded book on the planet.
  • Millions of people all over the world today claim that the same Jesus Christ who lived two thousand years ago on earth has transformed them for the better. These testimonies are not enforced by threats (like the apostasy law of Islam or the gulag of atheist communism) or supported by monetary incentives.
  • There is a movement today towards a one-world government. Anti-Israel sentiment is rising. The Arab-Israel dispute has been stubbornly persistent despite massive efforts to find a solution. In commerce, there is a movement from anonymous means of payment (cash, barter) to means linked to the identity of the payer (plastic, online payments). all these themes figure in Biblical prophecy. 

The Alternative Scenario Challenge

So go ahead. Analyze the Bible, especially The Main Message of the Bible. It involves historical claims. Biblical Christianity falls or stands on the falsehood or veracity of these claims. If you insist that these historical statements are false, see if you can come up with alternative scenarios that 1) take into account all the "bare minimum" undeniable facts 2) have more evidence to back them than the evidence for God and the Bible. If you cannot, why don't you accept that the Bible is true and respond positively to its message for you?