Anonymous asked a question:
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Apollonius of Tyana but there are some people arguing that he also had followers, performed miracles and rose from the dead. That’s why they kept saying he’s the ~real~ Jesus. Thoughts?
Hey dear friend, here’s a cool fact:
A ton of people in the first century claimed they were the Messiah. Only one is really remembered today, and that’s a strange historical truth that must be taken seriously for both Christians and those exploring faith.
Here’s the context. The Jewish Israelites in the first century hadn’t heard from God or any of His prophets for about four-hundred years, since the prophet Malachi, who also wrote the last book of the Old Testament. They were waiting on either 1) another prophet, or 2) the prophesied Messiah, the “Suffering Servant,” who would apparently liberate them from the oppression of the Roman Empire.
The Jewish Israelites believed that God hadn’t spoken for centuries because of continuous idolatry and rebellion against God. This mindset incidentally formed a group called the Pharisees, who devised over 600 laws to follow, so that such perfection would honor God and possibly hasten the Messiah’s appearance. The Pharisees were so strict that any person who claimed to be the Messiah was almost immediately shut down, because worshiping any god outside the true God was only more idolatry, which had put them in this position of God-silence in the first place. So even though we dismiss the Pharisees today, I can definitely understand their mentality back then and how fast they were to condemn Jesus.
Many new Messiahs did appear. Two of them are mentioned in Acts 5 by a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who mentions Theudas and Judas the Galilean. History books also talk about Judah the Hammer, who enacted a siege against the Roman Empire but was just as quickly crushed. All of these “Messiahs” acted as warrior-presidents that used military force to throw a coup, like a militia attempting to oust the government. Nothing came of them. And the Pharisees were pretty happy about this, because in their mind, such false Messiahs only kept God at bay.
When Jesus came around, he was different than every other Messiah. Here are at least ten reasons why Jesus was unique compared to the religious leaders of his day, and perhaps among every other religious leader.
1) He called himself God, which was certainly crazy and even appalling to first century Israelites.
2) He never picked up a sword or lifted a finger against Romans oppressors. “You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
3) Jesus, in fact, was for the Romans, and also for people who were considered “cursed” by God, including the poor, lepers, the disabled, the blind, adulterous women, and the mentally ill. So you have a man who calls himself God, which should create an arrogant egomaniac on the level of Hitler, but you have a godly man who serves people with such humility and compassion, which puts him on the level of Mother Teresa. Never before in history have both claims been true in one person: that someone is both self-proclaimed God and an active servant for people.
4) Jesus was an oddball prophet, in that he ultimately didn’t point to his body of doctrine to “carry on my life’s work,” but pointed to his own body as both Savior and Sacrifice.
5) When other “Messiahs” died, their teachings were considered sacred by their followers and they tried to “keep the dream alive” through those teachings. When Jesus died, his followers dispersed, and so much of Jesus’s teaching was about himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” that his teachings were incomprehensible after he died.
6) In a time when the graves of supposed saints and messiahs were consecrated and worshiped, Jesus’s gravesite was never located, which could only be explained by a very narrow window of explanations. I’m jumping ahead, but that’s something to consider.
7) So something happened with Jesus that was different than every other false messiah. Something crazy had to have happened that made the first century Jews just go nuts. Suddenly, eyewitnesses were saying Jesus was alive, after they saw him die. Under the threat of the same crucifixion, both disciples and non-believers were reporting that Jesus was walking, talking, eating, and hanging out with them. No one was primarily talking about his “teachings,” but talking about his resurrection. This then validated what Jesus taught to his disciples. The entire history of Jesus as Messiah was backwards compared to the other cycle of messiahs. I believe the difference here is that Jesus was bodily resurrected, just as he said he would.
8) The majority of Jewish Israelites, who were so against idolatry because of four-hundreds years of silence from God, were worshiping Jesus as God. They changed their worship day from Saturday to Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. When the Romans demanded that the first Christians add a statue of Jesus to the pantheon, along with all the other gods, the Christians refused to register, despite the fact that this would’ve made Christianity a legal religion under the Empire. Christians were called “atheists” back then because their God was not registered, and they were also labeled as “cannibals” because they broke bread and wine that represented the broken incarnation of God. First century Christians were tortured, crucified, burned at the stake, and head molten lead poured into their heads, all to forsake Christ, but the Christians had seen Jesus, and you can’t recant what you’ve actually seen.
9) They very fact that there were so many “Messiahs” in the first century actually makes a stronger case that Jesus is who he said he was, because he was so distinctly different than all who came before and after.
10) Here’s one of the reasons why I believe in Jesus. If we dismiss the Resurrection, then you and I would have to reasonably accommodate for this entire series of events by a bunch of strung-up coincidences that created this huge explosion of Christianity in the first century that made the Jews go crazy. I’ve read many of these theories that explain it away. They’re not bad. But if we’re going with Occam’s razor, then I’m going with Jesus being the Real Messiah. It’s certainly still hard to believe, but it begins to put all these pieces together and why the story of Jesus has endured.