Da Vinci Code Truth Home Is the Bible true? Arguments from Silence

Arguments from Silence


by Lenny Esposito , Apologist and President of Come Reason Ministries

Christianity is a fascinating belief system. It is really unlike every other religion I have studied. For one thing, it is historically grounded – what I mean by that is that Christianity depends on real people in real world events to work. One cannot have Christianity without the Roman occupation of Palestine, for example. If Rome didn’t really rule Palestine, then there would be no Pontius Pilate to sentence Jesus to death and wash his hands of the whole matter. Of course, if Jesus doesn’t die, then the core belief of Christianity – that Jesus rose from the dead which proves His claim as the Messiah would be false. The whole thing folds like a house of cards.
 
I find this interesting because it really puts a higher burden of proof on Christian claims than other faiths. In many other instances, there may be events which are told as happening within history, but they rarely ever depend on the historical context for the formation of their core tenets. Let’s look at Buddhism as a counter example. All the various forms of Buddhism look to its founding by Siddhārtha Gautama. According to most accounts, Gautama was a son of a ruling family who felt disillusioned with the life that nobility afforded him. He began to seek how to overcome suffering and sought to find the meaning of life. Ultimately, sitting under the Bodhi tree, he finally found enlightenment and produced the Four Noble Truths. 
 
Now, the story of Gautama is an interesting one and if true it sheds some additional understanding of   the motivation and development of Buddhist beliefs and principles. However, there is no need for the specifics of this account to be accurate in order to establish the religion. Indeed, Buddhist professor Peter Harvey comments:
 
“In the earliest Buddhist texts there is no continuous life of the Buddha, as these concentrated on his teachings. Only later, between 200 BC and 200 AD, did a growing interest in Buddha’s person lead to various schools producing continuous ‘biographies’ ... While [the biographic accounts] must clearly be based around historical facts, they also contain legendary and mythological embellishments , and it is often not possible to sort out one from the other.[1]
 
While the teachings of Buddhism may have derived from certain incidents in the life of Gautama, they are in no way dependent on the account to be true at all. Gautama may have achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree or under a Banyan tree or under no tree at all. As Harvey says, we can’t tell which portions of the story are mythological and no one’s worried because it doesn’t affect the claims that Gautama made about how you should go about seeking enlightenment.
 
Christianity, though, just can’t do that. You cannot take the claims of Jesus of Nazareth and separate them from the historical context in which they were given. So when we examine the claims of Christianity, we must look at the historical support for those claims. Luckily, we have a great abundance of evidence that supports the historical nature of the New Testament documents. All the New Testament documents were written within one generation of the events they portray. Dr. Norman Geisler and Willaim Nix write “In brief, all twenty seven books [of the New Testament] were written, copied, and began to be disseminated among the churches before the end of the first century.”[2] Many recent archaeological discoveries, such as the Pool of Bethesda mentioned in John or the ossuary of Caiaphas confirm the historical nature of the New Testament.
 
I point all this out to show the marked difference between the evidence we have for the Newt Testament accounts as they are traditionally understood and alternate or conspiracy accounts, such as those presented in The Da Vinci Code. If you take an alternate claim about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, such as he was married to Mary Magdalene, you will notice that ther are no documents whatsoever that state Jesus was married to anyone – let alone Mary Magdalene. None. They simply don’t exists.
 
Recently, I received a letter from a skeptic who wrote “Sir, your explanation to most of the allegations made by Dan Brown seem to be ‘it is not mentioned in the New Testament’. That is precisely what he is saying, that it is rigged.” The letter writer seems to feel that because Dan Brown claimed that the New Testament was tampered with, it proves his point of a conspiracy. This just doesn’t make sense. First, we must realize that it is not only the New Testament that is silent on Jesus being married, but as I said above, there are no scraps of evidence of any kind to support such an assertion. If Dan Brown or my skeptic friend wish to make such an assertion, please provide me with something that I can call evidence for your position.
 
You see, it is not the New Testament that is on shaky ground here. There is plenty of historical data to corroborate its reality as a historical record. However, the conspiracy theorists only offer an argument from silence. They think that by the fact of making an assertion, that claim should share equal weight with the claims made in the New Testament. The fact is they shouldn’t because they offer no evidence to support their position. It is the same thing as claiming that Jesus of Nazareth became a Roman Centurion and lived out his life under service to Caesar.
 
One of the strengths of Christianity is that it rests within a historical context. The places mentioned in the New Testament can be visited today. There are real historical records, both Christian and non-Christian that supports the historical record as captured in the bible. To that another claim has equal merit with all the evidence stacked to one side is silly and a bit self-serving. Look at the evidence we have and determine for yourself which makes better sense.


[1] Harvey, Peter An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, history and practices
© 1990 Cambridge University Press, Canbridge, MA p.15
[2] Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix A General Introduction to the Bible
©1986 Eerdnmans Pub. Grand Rapids MI p.420


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