Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why believe 2 James the Just

The apostle Paul wasn't the only person to convert from enemy of the faith to one of its strongest champions. Today We will look at James called the Just.

James was Jesus's little brother (I will discuss this more in a later entry). He was historically known for being a faithful Hebrew and had been given the nickname the Just or Justice because of his hardline view of the law. The main mention of his view of Jesus of Nazareth is found in John 7:1-5 (I am using the NIV translation)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus's brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here ang go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things show yourself to the world." for even his own brothers did not believe in him.

So what we see is James and Jesus's other brothers encouraging him to go into the city and preach knowing that the people will try to kill him. Imagine yourself in Jame's position. Your brother has claimed that he is the prophecied Messiah. He is the savior of your people that has been fortold for thousands of years. It would be a pretty hard sale to say the least. You would at least laugh and hopefully try to get him psychological help.

James did not go to Jesus's crucifiction, and is not mentioned again until Jesus ressurected. He appeared to him and explained why he had to die to fulfil prophecy. From there James becomes the Bishop of Jerusalem because none of the apostles wanted to take such an important position.

Here is the account of what faithfulness to the Lord earned James [Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 2:23:1-18]

"The Jews, after Paul had appealed to Caesar and had ben sent by Festus to Rome, frustrated in thier hope of entrapping him by the snares they had laid, turned themselves against James, the brother of the lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem was committed by the apostles. The following were their nefarious measures also against him:

Conducting him into a public place, they demanded that he should renounce the faith of Christ before the whole multitude and confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, our Savior and Lord. Unable to bear any longer the testimony of the man, who, on acount of his elevated virtue and piety was deemed the most just of men, they seized the opportunity of licentiousness afforded by the prevailing anarchy and slew him. As Festus died about this time in Judea, the province was without a governor and head. But, as to the manner of James's death, it has been already stated in the word of clement that he was thrown from a wing of the temple and beaten to death with a club.

Hegesippus also, who flourished nearest the days of the apostles, in the fifth book of his commentaries gave the most accurate account of him: "James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, frome the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. This apostle was consecrated from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath. He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woolen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel's, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias( of Zaddick and Ozleam) which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him. Some of the seven sects, therefore, of the people, mentioned by me above in my commentaries, asked him what was the door to Jesus? and he answered, "that he was the Savior."

"From which, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the aforesaid heresies did not believe either a resurrection, or that he was coming to give to every one according to his works; as many however, as did believe did so on account of James. As there were many therefore of the rulers that believed, there arose a tumult among the Jews, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying that there was danger, that the people would now expect Jesus as the Messiah. They came therefore together, and said to James, "We entreat thee, restrain the people, who are le astray after Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the Passover rightly concerning Jesus; for we all have fonfidence in thee. for we and all the people bear thee testimony that thou art just, and thou respectest not persons. Persuade therefore the people not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have great confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon a wing of the temple, that thou mayest be conspiuous on high, and thy word may be easily heard by all the people; for all the tribes have come together on account of the Passover, with some of the Gentiles also. The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees, therefore, placed James upon a wing of the temple, and cried out to him, "O thou just man, whome we ought all to believe, since the people are led astray after Jesus that was crucifed, declare to us what is the door to Jesus that was crusified,"

And he answered with a loud voice, "Why do ye ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven." And as many were confirmed, and gloried in this testimony of James, and said, Hosanna to the son of David, these same priests and Pharisees said to one another, "We have done badly in affording such testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they may dread to believe in him,"

And they cried out, " Oh, oh, Justus himself is deceived," and they fulfilled that which is written in Isaiah, "Let us take away the just, because he is offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of thier doings" (Isa 3:10) Going up therefore, they cast down the just man, saying to one another, " Let us stone James the Just," and they began to stone him, as he did not die immediately when cast down but turning round, he knelt down saying, "I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," Thus they were stoning him, when one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, a son of the Rechabites, spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out saying, "Cease, What are you doing? Justus is Praying for you,"

And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of Justus with the club that he used to beat out clothes. Thus he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot where his tombstone is still remaining, by the temple. He became a faithful witness, both to the Jews and the Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ."

Would anyone do this without reason to believe?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why believe 1. Saul of Tarsus

I will begin my entries on evidence for faith with witness accounts. Today I will use Saul of Tarsus as an example.
Saul was a Pharisee trained by a rabbi named Gamaliel who was a member of the Sanhedrin (like the supreme court of Judaism). He was moving up the ladder and would've likely become part of the Sanhedrin himself. Before his conversion he was famous for hunting down christians and arresting them. he would take them to the Sanhedrin and they would be tortured and executed. (needless to say he wasn't Jesus's biggest fan)
One day while he was on a road leading to Damascus with a load of warrants for various Christians he was spoken to directly by Jesus and struck blind. He was led by those traveling with him to Aninias of Damascus (who's name was more than likely on one of the warrants). Aninias healed Saul's blindness, baptized him, and took him in while he was comming to terms with what he had done.
Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion to do away with his old name while doing away with his old life. He became "an apostle out of season" and the spread of christianity throughout the known world was mostly due to his personal work.
Why is all of this important?
(I hate to Godwin my own blog, but) If Saul was a high ranking general in Nazi Germany sent by Hitler himself to arrest known Jews in a certain area, but when he got to the city where his enemy was he converted to Judaism, was circumsised, and began to live as an orthodox Jew it would be about as drastic and impacting on his life. He would have to be pretty heavily convinced.
What did he have to gain from such a conversion? Money? No, he was fairly wealthy as a Pharisee, but as a Christian he was homeless and peniless. He only owned the clothes on his back and had to keep on the move to evade arrest.
Fame? A hight position? As I mentioned earlier he was on his way to becoming a member of the Sanhedrin. He was well respected as an authority in the Jewish faith. While he did become an apostle when he became a christian if he had wanted status he could've gotten it easier if he remained in the Jewish faith. As a christian he lost his home, his friends, and any chance at an easy stable life.
Remember, at this time the Jews were not messed with by the Roman Government. Christians on the other hand were arrested and executed by the Jews and later the Roman Government as well. For his trouble Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned for most of his life, dragged to the edge of the city stoned and left for dead, and eventually beheaded.
Why would someone go through all of that unless they had a real reason to believe?

Why do I believe?

I have believed in God since I was very little, but when I reached "the age of reason" I started researching to make sure that I was going in the right direction. The more I have researched the issue, the stronger my faith has become. I hear many people say that faith means belief in something despite a lack of evidence, but the bible says that faith is evidence of something that is not seen. I have not personally seen God, but I've seen evidence of his existance. In the same way that I have never seen France, but based on photos, friends who have been, and historical documents I have read I can say with confidence that there is a country in Europe called France. I take France on faith. You may use a different definition of faith in your daily life, but when I use the word talking or writing this is what I am refering to. I, therefore, do not believe in "blind faith" or "a leap of faith" such statements make it sound like a Christian must defy evidence and keep him or herself ignorant in order to be a Christian. For the next few entries I will devote my time to providing various pieces of evidence I have that strengthen my faith.
I hope such a list will help strengthen my brothers and sisters, and provide evidence for people who are on the fence or outright skeptical about Christianity. Since I know most people do not enjoy reading as much as I do I will try to make these short examples sticking with one subject at a time, but for those who are interested I will provide links to great written works that will go more in depth on the subjects I will discuss.
further reading:
C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity
Josh and Sean McDowell's More than a Carpenter
Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (also availible in movie form)
I hope others will find this information useful.