Evidences of Faith
We have all heard the tale that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The Roman historian Tacitus, who was born ca. 56 AD and began his writing career shortly before 100 AD, tells us that Emperor Nero was a remarkably immoral man. In 64 AD, during Nero's reign, a horrible fire - the worst in its history to that point - engulfed Rome. There were many who believed that Nero had commanded the fire to be set, because he wanted to build a new city bearing his own name. And, indeed, a rumor spread that while the city burned Nero took to the stage and sang about the fall of Troy.
Of course, the emperor needed to squelch these suspicions and rumors, or risk a revolt. So, he instituted great programs and projects to appease the people by providing for their needs. He also saw to it that the new city was in many respects grander than the one that had burned. And, of course, he offered conspicuous prayers and sacrifices to a number of prominent Roman "gods".
In spite of all of these measures, the suspicion that Nero was responsible for the burning of the ancient city persisted. What did he do next? The historian tells us:
To suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats - and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital. (Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, xv.44)
Here, a secular historian confirms not only the existence of Christ, but also the fact that He was executed under Pontius Pilate, just as all four Gospel writers affirm (Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 19:1-22). Moreover, Tacitus is quite obviously a hostile witness; he expresses an abhorrence of Christians, calling them "depraved" and their religion a "deadly superstition". We cannot accuse Tacitus of having any desire to confirm the Gospel accounts.
This is quite remarkable when we consider the claims of many modern scholars. Even among those who claim to be believers in Jesus, there are some who question the accuracy of the Gospel accounts. Then there are the extreme radicals - such as those in the "Jesus Seminar" - who virtually throw out the Gospels altogether in their arrogant notion that they know how to find the truth about the "historical Jesus". Then, of course, we have the atheists and other non-believers who go so far as to say that there is no historical evidence that Jesus ever existed. And yet, in every place where secular historians happen to record an event mentioned in scripture, they agree substantially with the Bible. All of the available evidence points to the conclusion that the biblical accounts are accurate. There is no rational basis for doubting their accuracy. How can such learned men and women be so irrational?
Generally speaking, scholars are highly intelligent and well educated. However, they are also human. Therefore, if there is something that a scholar does not wish to believe, he is just as capable as any other human of finding a way to justify and rationalize his own point of view. The "community of scholars" at Yale University, for example, probably does not like to hear that fornication and drunkenness are wrong1 . The Bible says clearly that these things are sinful (e.g., Galatians 5:19-21). Therefore, if the "scholars" admit that the Bible is God's word, they will be forced to admit that they are sinning against their Creator, and incurring His wrath. Such thoughts can ruin parties. Therefore, they will grasp at any straw and use any excuse available to deny the fact that scripture is inspired of God.
This being true, anyone who believes and preaches that the Bible is God's word will seem like an enemy to them. Thus, Christians are, to them, a menace to society. This is nothing new. As noted above, the Roman historian Tacitus, in keeping with the intellectuals of his day, said that believers in Jesus were "notoriously depraved", and that they deserved "ruthless punishment" for their "anti-social tendencies." As Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
It is worth noting that there are some scholarly men who believe that the Bible is the word of God. Also, it bears emphasizing that many people who are not scholarly are just as hostile to Scripture as the members of mainstream academia are. However, the influence of a university professor should not be underestimated. As the God-hating professor intimidates his students into believing that faith in God is utterly irrational, he helps to influence people who go on to become teachers, judges, politicians, and other leaders in society. Those of his students who go on to become professors, teach the same poison to the next generation of professors. Before long, the God-hating professor's views are so widely accepted that they go utterly unquestioned in the halls of academia - the very places where beliefs should be challenged, analyzed, and tested. In this way, "truth" is established by repetition.
It is good to know that the facts are on our side, and we do not need to be intimidated by the false assertions and arrogant postulations of the academics. We can, along with our Savior, give praise to God, who hid the gospel from those who regard themselves as too "wise and prudent" to humbly accept revealed truth, but made the glorious words of salvation readily available to "babes" (Matthew 11:25). The word of God has never been well-suited to those who think that mankind can solve all of his own problems. Rather, it is for those who recognize that "it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
- Yale University requires all first-year students to live on campus. In 1997, a group of conservative Jewish freshmen requested permission to live off campus in order to avoid the debauchery and fornication that so characterized campus life. The university refused to grant the permission, stating that all students needed to learn to be part of the "community of scholars" at Yale.
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