You’re probably aware that the person making a claim has the burden of proof. In the courtroom, for example, the prosecution has the burden of proof. There are no ties—when neither side makes a convincing case, the side that failed to carry its burden of proof loses.
The same is true for people who claim “God exists”—they have the burden of proof. That makes it easier for atheists. But now I want to make a positive claim: that atheism explains reality better than Christianity.
I plan a series of posts making arguments in support of the claim “God doesn’t exist.” Here’s the first argument: historians reject the Bible story.
You never find the details of the Jesus story in a history book, like you would for Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great. Why is that? Why is the Bible not cataloged in the library in the History section?
Christians correctly point out that the historical grounding for the Jesus story has some compelling points. For example, there are not one but four gospel accounts. The time gap from original manuscripts to our oldest complete copies is relatively small. And the number of Bible manuscripts is far greater than those referring to anyone else of that time.
The enormous difficulty, however, is that historians reject miracles—not just in the Bible but consistently in any book that claims to be history.
Remember the story of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon? The historian Suetonius reported that Julius saw a divine messenger who urged him to cross. This is the same Suetonius that Christians often point to when citing extra-biblical evidence for the historicity of the Jesus story.
Remember Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who reportedly ordered the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? He was himself divinely conceived, and he ascended into heaven when he died1—or so the stories went.
Everyone knows about Alexander the Great, but legends about his life grew up in his own time. Did you hear the one about how the sea bowed in submission during his conquest of the Persian Empire?
Strip away the miracle claims from Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus or Alexander the Great and you’re left with precisely the story of those leaders that we have in history. But strip away the miracle claims from the Jesus story, and you have just the story of an ordinary man—a charismatic rabbi, perhaps, but hardly divine.
Christians argue that we should treat the Gospel story like any other biography of the time, and I agree—but I doubt they will like where that takes them.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
1Charles H. Talbert, What is a Gospel? (Mercer University Press, 1985), p. 32.
Other posts in the God Doesn’t Exist series: