I apologize for missing yesterday! I ended the day with a migraine and was not able to do anything … but onward!
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth…
and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
From there He judges the living and the dead.
I believe in Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen!
Now we look at the portion of the Creed that establishes Christ in history. It places Him into a real place and a real time that can be confirmed. Pilate, in the Gospels, is displayed accurately as a Roman procurator. His tentative relationship with the Jewish people, due to him being a Roman oppressor shows in his conversations with them and Christ. All in all, the way we read of him in the Synoptic and Johannine Gospels is accurate. As would be expected from a historical faith!
But, what about Pilate outside the Gospels? Can his existence be confirmed there? Yes – yes it can! Two historians from that time period speak of him in their writings. The historian Tacitus, a Roman historian and contemporary to Pilate, and the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus spoke less highly of Pilate, which is understandable considering he was the figure head of oppression of his people. You can read about Pilate from Josephus in Jewish Antiquities. Pilate would be deposed in AD36.
So, we can confidently conclude that this aspect of the Gospels are historically accurate. I believe it can be further argued from this fact that the Gospels are a historically accurate document. Had Pilate been shown in an untrue light it would not have flown with those that lived when he did. But that can be a conversation for another post!
The second part of the Apostle’s Creed I will discuss today is that Christ was truly crucified, died, and was buried. This is truly a great conversation! Many of those that deny the historicity (the historical accuracy) of the NT or Gospels specifically point to many theories about Christ’s “death.” Namely, that it didn’t happen.
This, too, can be spoken to extrabiblically. But first we have to establish a point of truth. I come from the understanding that the Bible holds truth: historical truth, spiritual truth, divine-pointing Truth. I believe that the claims made in Scripture are accurate, even if they take some contextual nuances that must be explained.
I believe that when it says that Adam’s sin pervades even today – then it does. When it says that Balaam’s donkey spoke to him- then it did! If Christ was killed, truly killed dead on a cross – then He was. Period. Now, obviously there are places in Scripture that I won’t tackle today that raise questions, all of which I can discuss – but right now I want to clear up that when the Bible, when the Creed says that Christ was crucified, that He died, and that He was buried – it happened.
For the Apostle’s Creed to include this section is to stand in stark opposition to centuries of heresies that claim the opposite. Whether heresies within, or heresies without – to say that Christ didn’t really die on the cross is to state (in my opinion) two things:
- That Christ’s birth, ministry, and supposed death are meaningless. To state that is to confirm what Paul stated that we are a people to be “most pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) Where we find power the world sees foolishness.
- That either the Romans were NOT good at their job – killing people as a profession. OR the even never happened.
Let’s tackle the first assumption: Christ is meaningless. His work was at best a sham, at worst the work of a purposefully deceitful person. And Christians have been duped for millennia by fake words.
I would argue that such a position takes a rather bad view on history, assuming that people are lying from the beginning. That, maybe not the apostles but, those that came after fabricated this Jesus character that we worship today. It is evident through extrabiblical works, and contextual clues that the Gospels and most epistles were finished before roughly AD70. If you want citations I’ll find them.
So that means that the writers, and readers would be personally familiar with Christ, and His merry men. Luke actually writes that he did tons of interviews to collect his Gospel data. All that to say two things ( I know, I like bullet points):
- The earliest followers of Christ knew Him personally, and many died for their affirmation of His life, work, and death. They had every reason to deny him at the point of death. Not one recorded instance of someone recanting exists from that period.
- Many, many people could have stepped forth and put an end to false data being sent out. The early church was flooded with Jesus’ direct followers.
Had the Gospels or Epistles been untrue, they would have been found out pretty quickly. Christ’s followers believed what they wrote – what they taught – and spread through the Middle East. These men, and women, had many reasons to wish Christ was who He said He was. Roman oppression probably wasn’t awesome. They knew a Messiah was coming – their prophets foretold it. But it was more than that. Jesus is more than that.
His disciples saw who He truly was. The Son of God. The Christ. He was the Messiah foretold. And when He was crucified, His Spirit was poured out on them after He had met with them face to face after His resurrection. They knew He was the real deal – so to say. So when faced with oppression, with arrest, with death… they knew His Truth, the spread of His Kingdom was worth it 10x over! If you’ve done any research into the deaths of the apostles and disciples they weren’t peaceful or sweet… they were deaths that demanded a recalling of any evangelism they may have done. But only if it wasn’t true… and they knew it was. It’s a pretty astonishing thing to think of dying for Truth.
On the other side is the fact that had they just been straight lying people would have called them out. Simple as that. “Christ rose from the dead!” “No he didn’t… he’s right here…” ” Christ is the true Messiah!” “Yea, I don’t think so… we have his body, your group has disbanded, and we’ve killed your leaders. This revolution is over.” But that didn’t happen. The Truth they spoke of couldn’t be refuted. It could be attacked. They could attempt to silence it, but they couldn’t disprove it. That’s powerful.
So, all of that was in response that Christ’s ministry was meaningless and the followers of Christ are the most pitiable. This second point is that the Romans weren’t efficient killers. And that just doesn’t make sense! Hah! These men were trained killers. Fighters to the nth degree. They were trained in the art of warfare. Their soldiers were told to guard prisoners with their lives. Those oppressing regions lived like kings. They knew how to suppress a rebellion. When a single middle aged Jew decides to “go up against the empire” and they are ordered to crucify him – they do that. And they do it with ease. At the event of the crucifixion we read of two others suffering the same fate. Plus the guards were gambling over the clothes of Christ. That’s how little the act of killing someone affected their mind. There is no argument from the angle that they simply “didn’t actually kill Jesus.” He was beaten, flogged, pierced. Had He somehow survived… after three days in a tomb there is no way that man would have restarted a movement…
So – was crucified, He died, and He was buried. Everyone knew the place of His burial. That was no secret. Especially guarded by Roman guard. Christ lived a historical life. With historical counterparts. His followers wrote His life down. It was true to the actual events, and Christ’s resurrection has historical ties (Nazareth Inscription is one). In the end, we recite this portion to remind ourselves that our faith is historical. It is grounded in real, traceable history. God is a God of reality, who works in the world and plans on shaping it into something new for the betterment of all!