6 Quotes From “The Dawn Of Christianity”

Robert J. Hutchinson makes the history around the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the history of Christ’s followers after His resurrection, come to life in The Dawn Of Christianity. Check out my full review by clicking here.

“Skeptics make much of the fact that historians have no independent corroboration from outside sources of most of the events described in the Gospels, but this is common with ancient history and hardly unique to Christianity. For example, virtually everything historians know about the Three Hundred, the Spartan warriors who held off a Persian invasion at the mountain pass of Thermopylae in 480 BC, comes from the writings of a single Greek author, Herodotus. What’s more, the earliest copy historians have of Herodotus’s chronicle of this event, The Histories, dates to the tenth century AD—or more than 1,350 years after it was written! In comparison, historians have a cornucopia of historical sources and archaeological evidence about Jesus of Nazareth and the early Christian community. For example, more than fifty papyrus manuscripts of New Testament texts exist that date before AD 300. The earliest of these manuscripts, a papyrus fragment from the Gospel of John known as P52, dates to around AD 125 or just thirty years after the original was likely written.”

“Around 20 BC, the half-Jewish King Herod the Great set himself the task of renovating and expanding the temple and surrounding area. There had been a small natural plateau there before, fixed atop the ridge in the northeastern corner of Jerusalem; but Herod wanted something far more spectacular. He therefore enclosed this natural plateau on all sides with four immense retaining walls, some more than one hundred feet high, made up of massive rectangular ashlars, or cut stones, that weighed as much as 415 tons each. These stones are so large that even modern cranes and bulldozers would have some difficulty moving them. Herod then filled in this entire quadrangle with stones and dirt, creating an artificial hilltop plaza—roughly 1,500 feet long by 1,000 feet wide—of more than thirty-five acres. In modern terms, Herod’s Temple Mount is so large that about twenty-six American football fields could fit in the space available. This massive engineering marvel has endured for two thousand years and still stands today, almost wholly intact.”

“Simon the Rock continued to loudly protest that he was willing to die, if need be, but would never deny Jesus. The other disciples said the same. This is one of those incidents that even many skeptics believe must be historical under the ‘criterion of embarrassment,’ which means that the Christian community was unlikely to invent a story that cast such a bad light on its leaders; therefore, it must have actually happened.” 

“Recent archaeological discoveries are showing that the New Testament in general, and the Gospels in particular, are far more reliable historical sources than previous generations of New Testament experts realized.”

“All four Gospels report that this board, what the Romans called the titulus, held the inscription ‘The King of the Jews.’ John’s Gospel alone reports that Jesus’ name was also on the titulus, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,’ and that it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (19:19-20). In Latin the charge read Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which is why, to this day, the letters INRI appear at the top of crucifixes.”

“In 1968, archaeologists uncovered a first-century tomb at Giv’at ha-Mivtar, northeast of Jerusalem. Inside the tomb they found in ossuary containing the skeleton of a crucified man—the first and only relic of a crucified man found in Israel. Inscribed on the ossuary was his name in Hebrew: Yehochanan. On top of the bone of his right heel was a wooden board, and through the board, and his heel, was a 4.5-inch iron nail.”

Good Friday—It Is Finished

Your Sorrow Will Turn To JoyThis is from a chapter in Your Sorrow Will Turn To Joy, and is probably one of the best depictions of Good Friday I have read. Jon Bloom writes—

It is Friday, April 3, A.D. 33. It is the darkest day in human history, though most humans have no clue of this. In Rome, Tiberius attends to the demanding business of the empire. Throughout the inhabited world, babies are born, people eat and drink, marry and are given in marriage, barter in marketplaces, sail merchant ships, and fight battles. Children play, old women gossip, young men lust, and people die. 

But today, one death, one brutal, gruesome death, the worst and best of all human deaths, will leave upon the canvas of human history the darkest brushstroke. In Jerusalem, God the Son, the Creator of all that is (John 1:3), will be executed. 

The Garden 

The Jewish day dawns with night, and never has it been more fitting, since today the hour has come and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). Jesus is in Gethsemane, where He has prayed with loud cries and tears, being heard by His Father (Heb. 5:7) whose will will be done. Jesus hears noises and looks up. Torches and hushed voices signal the arrest party’s arrival. 

Jesus wakes His sleepy friends who are jarred alert at the sight of their brother, Judas, betraying his Rabbi with a kiss. Soldiers and servants encircle Jesus. Peter, flushed with anger, pulls out his sword and lunges at those nearest Jesus. Malchus flinches, but not enough. Blinding pain and blood surge where his ear had been. Voices speak, but Malchus only hears the screaming wound, which he’s grabbed with both hands. He feels a hand touch his hands and the pain vanishes. Under his hands is an ear. Stunned, he looks at Jesus, already being led away. Disciples are scattering. Malchus looks down at his bloody hands. 

The Sanhedrin 

Jesus is led brusquely into the house of Annas, a former High Priest, who questions Him about His teaching. Jesus knows this informal interrogation is meant to catch Him disoriented and unguarded. He is neither, and gives this manipulative leader nothing. Rather, He refers Annas to his hearers and is struck with irony by a Jewish officer for showing disrespect. Frustrated, Annas sends Jesus on to his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current High Priest. 

At Caiaphas’s house the trial gets underway quickly. Morning will come fast. The Council needs a damning verdict by daybreak. The examination proceeds as bleary-eyed Sanhedrin members continue to file in. 

The trial has been assembled hastily and witnesses haven’t been screened well. Testimonies don’t line up. Council members look disconcerted. Jesus is silent as a lamb. Irritated and impatient, Caiaphas cuts to the quick: “I adjure You by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63). The hour has come. Charged in the name of His Father to answer, Jesus speaks the words that seal the doom for which He had come to endure (John 12:27): “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). 

In a moment of law-breaking (Lev. 21:10) politically religious theater, Caiaphas tears his robes in feigned outrage and thinly concealed relief over Jesus’s blasphemy. He declares the trial’s end with, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from His own lips” (Luke 22:71). 

As the sun breaks over Jerusalem’s eastern ridge, Judas swings from his own belt, Peter writhes in the grief of his failure, and Jesus’s face is streaked with dried blood and saliva from the pre-dawn sport of the temple police. The Council’s verdict: guilty of blasphemy. Their sentence: death. But it’s a sentence they cannot carry out. Rome refuses to delegate capital punishment. 

The Governor 

Pilate’s mood, already sour over the Sanhedrin’s sudden insistent intrusion so early in the morning, worsens as he grasps the situation. They want him to execute a Galilean “prophet.” His seasoned instincts tell him something isn’t right. He questions Jesus and then tells the Council, “I find no guilt in this Man” (Luke 23:4). 

A game of political chess ensues between Pilate and the Sanhedrin, neither realizing that they are pawns, not kings. Pilate makes a move. As a Galilean, Jesus falls under Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction. Let Herod judge. Herod initially receives Jesus happily, hoping to see a miracle. But Jesus refuses to entertain or even respond. Antipas, disappointed, blocks the move by returning Jesus to Pilate. 

Pilate makes another move. He offers to release Jesus as this year’s annual Passover pardoned prisoner. The Council blocks the move. “Not this man, but Barabbas!” they cry (John 18:40). Pilate is astounded. The Sanhedrin prefers a thief and murderer to this peasant prophet? 

Pilate tries another move. He has Jesus severely flogged and humiliated, hoping to curb the Council’s blood thirst. Again the move is blocked when the Council insists that Jesus must be crucified because “He has made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Check. Pilate’s fear grows. Jesus’s divine claim could threaten Rome. Worse, it could be true. Roman deities supposedly could take on human form. His further questioning of Jesus unnerves him. 

One last move. Pilate tries to persuade the Sanhedrin to release Jesus. One last block and trap. “If you release this Man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12). The Council has Pilate where they want him: cornered. Checkmate. 

And the triune God has the Council, Pilate, and satan where He wants them. They would have no authority over the Son at all unless it had been given them from above (John 19:11). Fallen Jews, Gentiles, and spiritual powers unwittingly collaborate in executing the only innocent death that could possibly grant the guilty life. Checkmate. 

The Cross 

Morning wanes as Jesus stumbles out of the Praetorium, horribly beaten and bleeding profusely. The Roman soldiers had been brutal in their creative cruelty. Thorns have ripped Jesus’s scalp and His back is one grotesque, oozing wound. Golgotha is barely a third of a mile through the Garden Gate, but Jesus has no strength to manage the forty-pound crossbar. Simon of Cyrene is drafted from the crowd. 

Twenty-five minutes later, Jesus is hanging in sheer agony on one of the cruelest instruments of torture ever devised. Nails have been driven through His wrists (which we only know about because of the doubt Thomas will express in a couple days—see John 20:25). A sign above Jesus declares in Greek, Latin, and Aramaic who He is: the King of the Jews. 

The King is flanked on either side by thieves and around Him are gawkers and mockers. “Let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” some yell (Luke 23:35). One dying thief even joins in the derision. They do not understand that if the King saves Himself, their only hope for salvation is lost. Jesus asks His Father to forgive them. The other crucified thief sees a Messiah in the mutilated man beside him, and he asks the Messiah to remember him. Jesus’s prayer is beginning to be answered. Hundreds of millions will follow. 

It is mid-afternoon now and the eerie darkness that has fallen has everyone on edge. But for Jesus, the darkness is a horror He has never known. This, more than the nails and thorns and lashings, is what made Him sweat blood in the garden. The Father’s wrath is hitting Him in full force. He is in that moment no longer the Blessed, but the Cursed (Gal. 3:13). He has become sin (2 Cor. 5:21). In terrifying isolation, cut off from His Father and all humans, He screams, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” Aramaic for “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). No greater love (John 15:13), humility (Phil. 2:8), or obedience (Heb. 5:8) has ever or will ever be displayed. 

Shortly after 3:00 P.M., Jesus whispers hoarsely for a drink. In love, He has drained the cup of His Father’s wrath to the dregs. He has born our full curse. There is no debt left to pay and He has nothing left to give. The wine moistens His mouth just enough to say one final word: “It is finished” (John 19:30). And God the Son dies. 

It is the worst and best of all human deaths. For on this tree He bears our sins in His body (1 Pet. 2:24), “the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). And now it is finished.

Keep It Closed!

Keep it closedJesus told us that the Holy Spirit would help us reply the right way when someone questioned us about our faith in God. But Jesus showed us, that sometimes no reply is the best reply.

After Jesus was arrested, He was first sent to Pilate:

So again Pilate asked Jesus, “Aren’t You going to answer? See how many things they are accusing You of.” But Jesus still made no reply (Mark 15:4-5).

Then Pilate sent Jesus to King Herod:

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform a sign of some sort. He plied Him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer (Luke 23:8-9).

So Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. And what was the bottom line? Mark 15:5 adds this important phrase about the Roman governor: “…and Pilate was amazed.”

Our ability to remain silent when the Holy Spirit bids us to be silent speaks volumes to those who witness our silence. Be careful. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes keeping your mouth closed may be the best testimony for God that you can give.

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