Sunday, February 7, 2016

HOW JESUS IS UNIQUE FROM ALL OTHER RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN HISTORY

Someone in one of the groups I am a part of asked: "Why are you a Christian (i.e., why do you believe that Christianity is true when compared to all other religious truth claims)?"

There were a lot of solid answers to that question. Here is my answer:

"So many reasons.....and many of them have been said well already. But the thing that I keep coming back to again and again lately is how unique Jesus is from all the other religious leaders/founders in history. And he is unique in ways that confirm that he is from God and that he is God. Only Jesus fulfills dozens of ancient prophecies that pinpoint him as the promised Messiah. Only Jesus claimed to be the one and only true God. No one ever taught like Jesus and no one's teaching has ever impacted the world like Jesus has. No one ever performed the range of miracles that Jesus did revealing his sovereignty over everything. No one else ever lived a sinless life and then took our sin, dying as an atoning sacrifice. And what seals the deal on all of these is that no one else ever rose again from the dead never to die again--and did so with so many witnesses willing to suffer and even die for their testimony that he did."

I invite you to ponder the greatness of Jesus Christ. He alone has given reason to follow him and trust him and serve him. That is why I have dedicated my life to following him and I hope you will, too.

Let's look at some of these ways in which Jesus is like no one else in history:

1. Jesus claimed to be the only true God of Israel and thus Creator of everything.
And this claim was verified by all of the things in this list--but especially the way in which he fulfilled the ancient prophecies of the Old Testament, his miracles, and his resurrection from the dead. See my blog article titled "The Deity of Jesus: An Article & Resources."

*How can we verify this?: This is verified by many of the other things on this list--especially #2, 7 & 9.

2. Jesus fulfills dozens of specific ancient prophecies. 

*How can we verify this?: This is verified first by establishing the eyewitness nature of the Gospels and their reliability. See my blog article titled "Jesus' Historicity: Resources for Study." (And for the past 11 months, I have been working on a much more in depth analysis of the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels which I hope to publish some time this winter.) Then by comparing the Old Testament prophecies with the many ways in which Jesus fulfilled them. See my blog article titled "Messianic Prophecy: Resoures for Study"

3. Jesus was born of a virgin. 
All the parallels proposed by skeptics are either completely false (no substance at all) or just not parallel (maybe unusual births but not of a virgin). See my blog article titled "Pagan Parallels to Jesus?: Resources for Study."

*How can we verify this?: I cannot imagine any way that this can be verified historically. But it is verified by the verifying of all the other things on this list.

4. Jesus taught like no one else.
It can be argued that Jesus taught with a unique authority, with a moral sense that rose above all those who came before him, and a penetrating wisdom that transcends the ages. The impact of Jesus' teaching on history has already been noted above as part of his legacy.

World religions expert Stephen Neill writes:

"For, if we take the Gospels seriously (and at the same time as critically as you will), Jesus is not the least like anyone else who has ever lived. The things that he says about God are not the same as the sayings of any other religious teacher. The claims that he makes for himself are not the same as those that have been made by any other religious teacher. . . . The demands he makes on men are more searching than those put forward by any other religious teacher." (p.233, Christian Faith and Other Faiths by Stephen Neill; as cited on p.49 of The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Among the Major World Religions by Gary Habermas)
Indeed some of those who first heard him had this reaction:
  • John 7:46: “'No one ever spoke the way this man does,' the guards replied."
  • Matthew 7:28-29: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."
*How can we verify this?: This point is more subjective than the others but my experience has been that the more that I read both ancient and modern works of literature, I realize that it is true. And so have many with much more experience than myself.

5. Jesus lived a sinless life like no one else.
His sinlessness was reported by people who had lived with him for 3 years (John and Peter, two of his inner circle of 3: 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; also see 1 Corinthians 5:21). 

See The Person of Christ by Philip Schaff (1819-1893). Available for FREE in ebook or audiobookThe full title is The Person of Christ: The Miracle of History. With a Reply to Strauss and Renan, and a Collection of Testimonies of Unbelievers. In my opinion, this great little book has received far too little attention. Schaff is one of the great scholars of the 19th Century. You can find his biography here. 

Also, see "The Moral Glory of Jesus Christ a Proof of Inspiration" by William G. Moorehead. (This is an essay from the classic volumes known as the Fundamentals: Volume II, Chapter III, p.61-79 in the 1917 edition, that I have on my shelves).

*How can we verify this?: This is much harder to verify, but the fact that Peter and John and others concluded this after knowing him well is convincing to me. They spent years with him. Spend a couple of weeks with me (or anyone else) and you will quickly realize we are all far from sinless. Rather as Romans 3:23 delcares: We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

6. Jesus has left a legacy unlike anyone else in history. 
His teaching, his Gospel and his Church have transformed the world for the better in a way completely unmatched by any other religious figure. 

*How can we verify this?: David Marshall has researched and written on this extensively. One of his blog articles catalogs 124 books that document this. You will find a link to that and a lot more at my blog article titled "Christianity and the Ending of the Roman Games: An Article with Resources."

7. Jesus performed an array of miracles unlike anyone else.
Moses and Elijah came close but fell short. His miracles were of a more profound nature than those claimed for others. And his miracles are verifiable by historical records in a way unmatched by those claimed for other figures of history. Furthermore, they continued to be done in his name by his immediate disciples and the Church through the ages. 

Here are some responses to Jesus' miracles as recorded in the Gospels:

  • John 9:32: "Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind."
  • Matthew 8:27: "The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'”
  • Mark 1:27: "The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.'”
*How can we verify this?: See my blog article titled "Miracles: Resources for Study." Also see David Marshall's Jesus Is No Myth! and The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Among the Major World Religions by Gary Habermas (a FREE! 50-page ebook). And I hope to publish more on this in the coming months.

8. Jesus claimed that he would die as an atoning sacrifice for sins.
*See Mark 10:26-27; 10:45; 14:22-25; 

*How can we verify this?: See The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Among the Major World Religions by Gary Habermas.

9. Finally, and most emphatically, Jesus rose again from the dead never to die again. 

*How can we verify this?: See my blog article titled "Jesus' Resurrection: Resources for Study."



HOW DO I KNOW THERE IS NO ONE ELSE LIKE JESUS?
How do I know that Jesus is unique in all of these ways? Because angry and passionate atheists have scoured the records of history seeking to find parallels; and when their best attempts are examined, they are laughable. David Marshall has done a great job of showing this in his book Jesus Is No Myth!--where he says: "If after ransacking your house for weapons, you challenge a thief with a butter knife, that probably means no more potent hardware lies hidden in your closet.” (p.204)

CONCLUSION
The uniqueness of Jesus should not simply make you sit up and take notice....though it should certainly do that! Each one of these unique qualities should cause you to recognize that Jesus is no ordinary person. They are given by God as signs of his approval of Jesus, that God was working through him and more than that: in him, God had come in the flesh.



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING....
*The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ Among the Major World Religions by Gary Habermas. FREE 50-page ebook.
*Jesus Is No Myth by David Marshall. David carefully examines the many alleged historical parallels to Jesus suggested by popular skeptics like Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, etc. who have scoured ancient literature to try and show that Jesus is not unique. The skeptics' vain attempts only serve to reassure us that Jesus is indeed unique. See my review of his book at Amazon or on my blog.



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