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Jesus Christ: Theology Research Paper Sample
Did Jesus Exist?
The story of Jesus Christ written in the Bible is true because there is strong evidence in other historical writings. The early Christian writings about Jesus Christ are the letters of St Paul who wrote them within twenty-five years after the death of Jesus. Moreover, the detailed biography appeared in the gospels of the New Testament forty years after his death. Thus, many witnesses could have verified the credibility of the gospels. Their descriptions related to the culture and geography of Palestine in the first century. Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. Jesus was a Galilean Jew. He left his home and met John the Baptist who baptized him. Jesus began preaching and performing miracles, but he was later killed by Roman authorities. To tell the truth, it is implausible that Christian authors could write a fake story about Jesus Christ as the savior of humankind and the Jews in the Roman Empire.
The existence of Jesus Christ is corroborated with the writings of various Roman historians, including Publius Cornelius Tacitus. The historian's major work is Annals where he incorporates the biography of Nero, the last Roman emperor. Nero was implicated in a fire scandal in Rome. He shifted the blame onto the followers of Christianity. The mention of Christ (Christus in Latin) who, according to Tacitus, was crucified by Pontius Pilate gives credence to the existence of Jesus Christ who gave the name to the Christians (Craig, 2010). The references made by famous Roman historians prove the historicity of Jesus Christ and narrations in the New Testament. The Tacitus mentioning of Jesus Christ contains four pieces of accurate information about Jesus. First, the title Christus was a unique form of address to Jesus. Second, Christus is a term associated with the beginning of Christianity. Third, Tacitus confirms that Jesus was crucified by the head of Judea as narrated in the Bible. Last, Jesus died during the governorship of Pontius Pilate who controlled Judaea province during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. In fact, Tacitus was a renowned historian who never wrote anything without verification. Thus, taking into consideration that he supervised the trials of Christians, we could state that his writings are truthful.
Evidence regarding the existence of Jesus Christ emerges in Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz's book The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. This book narrates the story of Flavius Josephus, a Jewish priest, who participated in the Jewish revolt against Romans. Later, he became a prisoner. While he was living in Rome, he wrote books in Greek among them was Jewish Antiquities in which he referred to Jesus twice (Komoszewski et al, 2006). Josephus narrates the story of Ananus, a high priest, who killed Jesus' brother James and lost his position. While portraying the story of James, Josephus had to clearly identify James since there were many people with the same name. Josephus describes James as Jesus' brother, the Messiah (Christos in Greek). That reference to Jesus would not have any importance if Jesus was not a real person. This confirms that Jesus existed. His life is captured by incredible historical writings and in Biblical writings of the New Testament as well, especially in the Gospel written by Jesus disciples. Many other reputable writings reference Christians and Jesus: The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius; Letters by Pliny the Younger; the Babylonian Talmud (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
Therefore, it is evident that Jesus was a real person due to the references in the works of two great independent historians, Tacitus and Josephus, who were not Christians. Their stories confirm the narrations in the New Testament. Josephus grew up in a religious family and James, Jesus' brother, was his age. A few decades after the death of Jesus, he wrote a book about him. Josephus was willing to confirm the existence of Jesus. Furthermore, it is noted that the Messiah had a name, and his name was Jesus. That fact is corroborated in many passages of the Bible and historical writings. Josephus further reported that Jesus received more followers after his death. He mentioned that Jesus was called Christos in Greek which means the messiah or the anointed. Jesus had a family. Josephus mentions James as a brother of Jesus Christ in several writings. The author focuses on the negative attitude of the Jewish leaders towards Jesus. In fact, the decision to execute Jesus was made by Pilate who was the leader of Judea. It is an indisputable part of history that we could not contradict. According to Josephus, Jesus was crucified. All these narrations confirm the veracity of the fact that Jesus lived and died.
Was the New Testament Corrupted?
The allegation that the New Testament was changed several times so that the original message is now corrupted and has many mistakes is baseless and false. This allegation is not true since the general biblical message written by the original authors has been preserved. Moreover, the main teaching has not been distorted. The few errors that may be found are normal and may result from the translation of the Bible from Hebrew to other languages. While assessing the credibility of the New Testament, it is important to conduct the historical analysis to establish its reliability which should be deducted from the information in the New Testament, such as the authors, time and place of production, and the source of the pre-existing material from which the New Testament was written (the manuscripts). The reliability is also determined by the nature of the source and its value.
The sources, such as stories and relics, help to evaluate the reliability. However, the relics provide more evidence than the stories. The source should be original. The works that correspond to the chronology of described events are more truthful. Moreover, the testimony from eyewitnesses is more credible. The credibility boosts when different independent sources provide similar narration of the events. The motivation behind the writing should also be analyzed so that the audience can easily distinguish the biased information. The New Testament was written from several manuscripts, such as the Chester Beatty Papyri, the Bodmer Papyrus, the fragment of Mark, and Rylands Papyrus, which are dated as early as 1800 A.D. The biblical writings derived from the works of early church leaders, including The Letter of Ignatius, The Shepherd of Hermas, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, and Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians (Craig, 2010). The writings of the church fathers refer to the New Testament hence indicating that the events took place. This is also supported by the fact that during the early dates, writing was used to record information rather than to imagine the stories which did not exist.
Furthermore, the society in Palestine during the 1st century was literate. The scientists found it through the excavations. They discovered the alphabet texts that were used in the elementary schools confirming the presence of literary training during the period before Christ. However, the scholars argue that oral transmission was more reliable than written one. Moreover, the ancients had a retentive memory and could keep information for a long time (Komoszewski et al, 2006). This is evident from the writings of the disciples of Jesus Christ who wrote the Gospels without referring to any other written materials. Thus, they trusted their memories to record their personal experiences when they followed the teaching of Jesus and when they continued to spread the word of the Lord to the rest of the community. In addition, it is evident that the eyewitnesses, including Jesus' disciples, had at their disposal the tools required to capture the events on manuscripts. Undoubtedly, oral transmission was reliable because of the rules that were set during the period. Those who were involved in sharing oral traditions completed many learning sessions before being entitled to special privileges to narrate the traditions to the community. Not everyone could have been chosen to tell the oral traditions as they were regarded as a treasure. Consequently, the reciters were required to narrate them accurately and precisely. If one word had been skipped or incorrect, a reciter would have been scolded by the peers. Thus, we cannot assume that those who spread the stories orally could have corrupted the New Testament.
The New Testament was written from the manuscripts written in many languages. They dated after the 10th century and belonged to three traditions: Western, Alexandrian, and Byzantine. The New Testament was written by the scribes who transmitted information through writing as they were excellent in literacy and editing. The Gospels were written in Israel while the rest of the books were written in different parts of the world. The materials that were used include papyrus reed, parchment, and vellum. Later, the New Testament was transmitted to the books made of vellum, paper, or papyrus.
During the first century, Koine Greek was the popular local dialect, and the current Greek was derived from it. Koine Greek was easy to comprehend. Many versions of the New Testament were translated into that dialect giving the readers confidence in the readings. Despite the number of versions that were made from the original manuscript, the scribal errors, such as grammar, conflation, harmonization, and word substitutions, are negligible and do not distort the message (Habermas & Licona, 2004). These errors do not significantly affect the doctrines and integrity of the Bible. They can be easily explained by textual analysts. Therefore, the claim that the New Testament was corrupted is unreasonable. In summary, the analysis of the time, the early church writings, the textual transmission, and the reproduction of the original text confirm the reliability of the New Testament.
Why is the Historicity of Jesus Important?
The historicity of Jesus is important because Jesus is the core of Christianity. Christians must understand the history of Jesus because it makes their faith complete. Moreover, people should know how the story of their Messiah has been transmitted in the writings throughout history. This understanding of the story of Jesus ensures that Christians can test the reliability of the primary sources and make objective judgments. While examining the historicity of Jesus, one can decipher the changes in the society and test the veracity of the historical events by making reference to the context of the authors and their motivations for writing the story of Jesus in the manuscripts which were transmitted into the Bible.
Christianity begins and ends with Jesus Christ. The Gospels focus on the life of Jesus Christ making him a key figure in the Christian faith. The practice and worship acts of Christianity are directly related to Jesus. It is unimaginable how the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith would exist without the story of Jesus Christ. If he had not been a real person, Christianity would have lacked the foundation which inspired people to become Christians. Even though the center of Christian faith is God, Jesus Christ is an essential symbol of faith because he was the one who God had sent as a human being to live with people and to preach the gospels (Craig, 2010). The evidence that Jesus really existed reassures people that God is not a philosophical or theological concept. Moreover, Christianity does not comprise of random teachings, it is a religion grounded in history which consists of unique actions full of revelations about God, mankind, and especially the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The historicity of Jesus represented in the forms of the gospel is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. It is through the teachings of the gospels the early Christian community emerged. The early Christians were not overly concerned about the reality of the life and death of Jesus. They believed in the story narrated by the disciples. It happened because Jesus was an integral part of a story that they believed to be true. Their belief extended to other faiths, such as Islam and Judaism which referred to Jesus in their teachings (Komoszewski et al, 2006). The importance of studying the historicity of Jesus Christ relates to a strong testimony to the existence of the Founder of the Christian faith. Undoubtedly, it is not possible that a non-existent figure could have created such a strong religion (Habermas & Licona, 2004). The historicity of Jesus makes it easy to explain how the faith was started since the first followers knew and understood the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Due to the strong historical basis, Christianity is a key indicator of the presence of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, the historicity of Jesus is important because it boosts human belief in the credibility of their faith. We could not believe if we do not know the facts that support our faith. Christianity depends on the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who lived in the 1st century. However, because the concept of the historicity of Jesus may be an intellectual discourse for the Christians in the modern world, the historicity is not necessarily the reason why Christians have a genuine belief in Jesus Christ. The historicity is important as it makes Christians understand the concepts such as incarnation and resurrection which are not factual historical facts but theological explanations. Therefore, in essence, historicity is important because it ensures that Christians understand better the faith and hence become stronger Christians.