Part Three: The Lord and the Myths
There are important questions to ask when considering the world’s religions. You may ask yourself “Why should I follow Jesus?”, “what about all the other religions in the world?” or “is there more than one way to God”? The bible has answers to all these important questions in the person of Christ. As always, I intend on expounding on that by pointing you to scripture concerning this. While it may be in the interest of some to que up other religions and debunk them one by one, this format isn’t really suited for that (nor am I remotely knowledgeable enough to talk about all of them extensively). In that space, I will just point you to those that have already invested their time in that challenge.
World Religion Study
Jesus Among Other Gods (video or book) by Ravi Zacharias
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (video or book) by Nabeel Qureshi
The Street Apologist – Mormonism (video) by Jeff Durbin
Understanding the Cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses (video) by James White
Defend the Faith Against Works Righteous Cults (video) by James White
Christianity vs. Other Religions (video) by John Lennox
Kingdom of the Cults (book) by Walter Martin
Christ Stands Alone
Have you ever wondered what sets Christ apart from other world religions? They all have their central figures that tell us where we come from, where we are now, and what’s to come after this life. They all claim to know what pleases and displeases God. They all declare they know the road to heaven, nirvana, or the equivalent of thereof. On the surface level, most religions are pretty similar. However, every aspect of even the coming of Christ is all together different than what’s presented by other religious figures.
Over a span of roughly 1,500 years, texts pointing to Jesus were being written. These texts consist of poems, letters, songs, documentations, consensuses, prophecies, and other literary styles. The authors of these texts are separated by time, geography, social status, and language. There were a multitude of hands involved from prophets, to priests, to kings separated by all these boundaries and still pointing to the same messiah.
The integrity and preservation of this collection of books is like nothing else in antiquity, Christ Himself says His word is (see Mark 13:31). There are no books of the age that have as many different cross reference sources as the bible. There have been multiple attempts to destroy the bible and have Christ’s ambassadors slain, yet the word is still there and being continually translated into other languages. Some of the sources we have as of this writing date within 100 years of their original manuscripts.
By comparison, Homer is 500 years removed from the original and there are 643 copies. Caesar is 1000 years removed, and there are only 10 copies. Pliny is 750 years removed and there are only 7 copies. Plato is 1,200 years removed and there are only 7 copies. It goes on and on. The reliability of scripture in comparison to other ancient documents is simply unheard of. It has 5,600 sources to scrutinize! The people that were alive when the events took place were there to scrutinize the text. Nothing else comes remotely close it! What’s in these texts about the arrival of the messiah is even more astounding.
The prophet Isaiah lived 800 years before Christ. And yet, it was he that recorded that the coming Christ would be born of a virgin. As extraordinary as this entrance was in and of itself, it’s something that’s unique to Christianity. Not only was it recorded centuries before how Jesus would enter into human history, but when too! The prophet Daniel, who lived 500 years before Christ tells us this. He predicted the rise of four great empires before the coming of the Messiah. We know those empires as the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and finally the Roman empire that occupied the Jews in the days of Christ. We have both an unusual method and a time for the coming of Christ. This is not something other religious figures have. This is unique to Christianity.
We’ve established a particular entrance and a time sensitive window for the Christ, but there is much more. The life of Christ is all together different from the presentations of other gods. Throughout His life, Christ performed very public and very spectacular miracles. Thousands upon thousands came to see this Jesus heal the sick, care for the poor, and give to the needy. There were thousands of eye witnesses to the works of Jesus, something also unique to Christianity.
For a few examples from other religions, Joseph Smith was given a golden tablet (that has never been found) by an angel in private. Muhammed never performed miracles. There are others that never made claims to have access to divine powers or to the source of a divine powers. They only claimed to be mere men, and nothing more. With Christ, this is not so! Christ doesn’t proclaim Himself a mere man. Christ claimed to be God incarnate, something that the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would be (see Isaiah 9:6).
This is what Jesus meant when He declared Himself “one with the Father” (see John 10:30). This is what the opening words of John mean (see John 1:1-2). This is what He meant when He said “before Abraham was, I AM” (see John 8:58 / Exodus 3:14). This is what He meant when He said He was the first and the last (see Revelation 1:17-18). This is what Thomas really saw for the first time when He touched Jesus’ post resurrection wounds and cried out “My Lord and My God!” (see John 20:28).
In the life of Christ, He spoke on His own authority, something not heard of in His day. Prophets would speak by appealing to the authority of God. Teachers of the day appealed to the influence of their teachers. But Jesus did not do this. Jesus spoke on His own authority. He would say things like “You have heard it said, but I say..” in appeal to His own name. With all these things and so much more pointing to the divinity of Christ, there are those that say Jesus never claimed to be God. Those people may not get what Jesus was saying and doing, but the Jews did. They tried to kill Him for blasphemy when He claimed to be one with God (see John 8:59).
After living a spectacular life of healing, teaching, admonishing, and serving, Christ died an unusual death. Not only is the graphic nature of how He departed unusual, but the documentation of how it would happen before it happened is something to marvel at. There are Psalms written 1,000 years before the incarnation of Christ that tell us how He was to die (see Psalm 22:16), how the people around him would react to it (see Psalm 22:18), the condition of His body (see Psalm 34:20) and where he would be lain (see Isaiah 53:9)! That last one isn’t a psalm, but you get the picture here. Christ died an unusual death that was predicted hundreds of years, even a century before in some predictions, before He walked this earth.
Get this: we know where Gandhi’s tomb is. We know where Joseph Smith was buried. We also know where Muhammad’s shrine is. We know where Confucius was laid to rest along with a host of other religious figures. Here’s the major reason you can trust Christ: we have no idea which tomb was His. If you’re wondering why that’s relevant, there are some pretty startling inclinations about His claims considering this.
Prophets, sages, and workers of divination had their burial sites decorated and adorned in days gone by. Every year, people would go on pilgrimages to see these places and leave gifts. This practice still goes on to this day, but no one is going to Jesus’ tomb. Jesus wasn’t there long enough for gifts to be brought to His burial site. There was no point in initiating that sort of tradition for Jesus, because He appeared to His followers after He was buried — they knew He was not there because they saw Him with their own eyes. The place was eventually forgotten. To this very day, we do not know exactly which tomb Jesus was laid to rest in.
For the single most influential man to ever walk the face of the earth to just vanish without a trace is perplexing. Why would a people so concerned with documenting their history just omit from their writings something so vitally important? The events following the death of Christ create a compelling argument for what sets Him apart.
There are some people that might look at all this and cross their arms. Despite all of this evidence (and this is just a snapshot!), they’re guarded. Alright, let’s look at the events following the death of Christ. This is where things get even more unusual!
Peter, a man who cowered before a little girl when asked about his affiliation with Christ (see Luke 22:54-62) somehow managed to muster up enough courage to be crucified upside down AFTER the crucifixion. Jesus closest friends scattered and hid when the Romans seized Him, and all of them, sans John, died a martyr’s death. What would make those men turn from frightened for their lives to being willing to preach Christ to the very men they fled from? Without the presence of Christ, what was there to give them the assurance that death would be gain for them?
Saul, a man of power and influence, hated Christians. He sanctioned the death of the first recorded Christian martyr. He represented the face of everything Christians had to fear in that age and he gave it all up to follow Christ. No more being high esteemed by the people. No more power. No more riches. No more influence. Christ appeared to him, gave him a new name, and this once Christian killer went on to write the majority of the New Testament before he himself was killed for his faith. If He didn’t witness the risen Christ with his own eyes as he said, why did he give up the life he had?
Furthermore, the early Christians had hell on earth to deal with. The Romans were throwing them in lions dens, crucifying them, lighting them up like tiki torches for their version of a festive bonfire, stoning them, and inventing ways to torture and kill. Yet, these brave men and women went to those pits and were hung on those stakes. They refused to deny Christ. What would possess a people to have such unshakeable faith in the face of all this? They had everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain, yet they placed their faith in Jesus. What does that mean to you?
I’m gonna lay it out for you. Every religion has some story about origin, the meaning (or lackthereof) to life, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. While a path to paradise is laid out for you in these other religions, Jesus turns this issue on it’s head too. Jesus claimed to be the way to heaven (see John 14:6). Jesus claims that He is the living God and He has to come to us. That’s fundamentally different from any other religion!
You can’t build up good karma to get to heaven. All roads don’t lead to the same destination. There is nothing you can do to make yourself righteous. Instead, God came down to us, a people that did (and still don’t all over the world) want Him, to save us and usher us into the kingdom of heaven. No other religious figure in history speaks this way. And yet, there is still much more that separates Him from the pack.
I’ve said before that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. To know why you should follow Jesus, you need to know who Jesus is. Some might say Jesus was a wise teacher. Some might say He was a prophet or miracle worker. There are some that think He was a revolutionary of His day, speaking love into a culture that was being domineered by professional executioners. Even still, some of His contemporaries feared Him and thought Him possessed by a demon (see John 8:48). Who do you say that He is? How you answer this question is important to Him (see Matthew 16:15).
Yes, Jesus was all of those things. He was a wonderful counselor that taught the ignorant. He was a great physician that healed the sick. He was the Prince of Peace that taught love like no one before and no one since. But He was also Mighty God who all things exist by and are sustained through and the Everlasting Father with the power to forgive sins. Who do you say Jesus is? How you answer this question means everything.
The Case For Christ (book / video / movie) by Lee Strobel
Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection? (debate) William Lane Craig vs Bart Erhman
Why Should I Believe the Bible? (book) by Ed Strauss
More Than a Carpenter (book) by Josh McDowell
Historical Reliability of the New Testament (book / video) by Craig Blomberg
The Reliability of the Old Testament (video) by Josh McDowell
Prophecies in the Psalms (webpage) Got Questions?