Challenge Response: There Was Nothing Unique about Jesus

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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There was nothing unique about Jesus. That's this week's challenge, and here’s how they articulate their particular challenge: “Most Christians believe that Jesus was a unique figure in his time, a one-of-kind preacher who mesmerized followers with his wisdom and magical acts. This is not true. There were many messiahs at this time including Hezekiah the bandit, Simon of Peraea, Athronges the shepherd boy, and Judas the Galilean. In addition, there were many other preachers and prophets who were gathering followers and preaching a messianic message about the coming of the Kingdom of God. Some advocated a violent overthrow of the Roman occupiers as a prelude to the coming. Others stressed a less violent approach including repentance, prayers, and beseeching of God for deliverance. Added to this list is the most popular preacher of all, John the Baptist. Jesus was possibly a follower of John until John’s arrest and execution (as exemplified by the subservient act of submitting himself for baptism), and then he may have assumed leadership of John’s movement.

Jesus was just one of many itinerant preachers of his day, and there was nothing particularly unique about him, because all were preaching the same ideas, and almost all of them ended up being crucified for the crime of sedition against the Roman Empire. It is a historical fluke that Christians pray to Jesus instead of John or Simon or Hezekiah.”

First of all, I don't think that most Christians think that Jesus was this one-of-a-kind preacher who mesmerized people with his wisdom and logic. If anything, that's perhaps what non-Christians think Christians believe. I certainly don’t know any Christians who think that Jesus simply mesmerized people with wisdom and magic. I speak to Christians both personally and professionally all over the country. I've never met anybody who thinks that particularly about Jesus. I think this is just what some non-Christians might think that Christians believe about Jesus, but it’s certainly not the mainstream belief of most Christians.

With regards to Jesus being subservient to John the Baptist, I think that somebody who makes this claim hasn't read the gospels very carefully. 

When Jesus comes to John the Baptist, John says to Jesus, “You should be baptizing me, not me baptizing you.”

But Jesus says, “I understand you're right, but just for the sake of doing what's right, go ahead and baptize me.”

So even in that case, John the Baptist listens to the commands and the insistence of Jesus and submits to Jesus's authority. There's no indication there that Jesus is being subservient to John the Baptist. I think this is just a mischaracterization of what the gospels teach.

The third thought I had about this is that yes, it's true that there were other people like Jesus in the sense that there were rabbis who took on disciples and sought to instruct them in their thinking and their ways. But to say that there is nothing unique about Jesus is a wild stretch. Jesus was unique in all sorts of ways. Here's a man who claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be God Himself. He said, “I and the Father are one” in John 10:30. People picked up stones to try to kill him because they realized he was claiming to be equal with God. Jesus himself fulfilled all sorts of prophecies, dozens of prophecies, about the upcoming Messiah. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 were all fulfilled in the unique person of Jesus.

Jesus predicted his death and predicted his resurrection, and then he actually died and rose again. So to say that Jesus was not unique apart from these other people is to completely ignore what the gospels say about him.

I think the challenge fails because it seems to ignore basic information from the Bible. I know you're probably thinking this challenger doesn't believe in the Bible. True, but if you’re going to criticize or make an argument based on the content of the Bible, you have to at least get those contents right before you present your argument. I think this is why that particular challenge fails.

Alan Shlemon

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