You Asked for It: Scandal in the Bible
July 20, 2018
By Rev. Joshua Toepper, Director of Adult Discipleship
“How do we know that the events in the Bible are true?”
The Bible is a scandalous book. Far too often we try to sanitize the scriptures to the point that we can lose its biting edge. We try to domesticate a story that was meant to offend, confront, and challenge us out of our assumptions, behaviors, and ruts of life. Yet, the fact remains that the Bible is scandalous. From a 13-year-old girl claiming to be supernaturally impregnated and carrying the very Son of God, to a man rising from the dead who had been publicly executed just three days prior, the scriptures are scandalous and require a bit of a leap of faith from the believer. But is that all it is? A leap of faith? Yes and no.
In particular, the scandal of the Christian faith resting its entire foundation on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is more than a fool’s hope. One must look at the Gospel accounts, the lives of those who claimed Jesus rose from the dead, and the subsequent movement that followed. The first important thing to note regarding the accounts of Christ’s physical resurrection is that just like today, people didn’t rise from the dead 2,000 years ago. Some people make the claim that the belief system of the New Testament was such that a story like this could be made up and believed by a vast number of people. This is simply not true. Just like today, when someone died 2,000 years ago, they stayed dead. Thus, the criteria for believing an event transpired was the same as it is today: the reliability and numerical strength of those testifying of the event.
The apostles and early believers relied heavily on first-hand accounts of Christ alive and the fact that most testifying were willing to die for that belief. The early Christians preached the resurrection of Christ, even if meant their own death. Would they have died for a fabricated story? Not likely. Then, from the basis that the majority of the believers in the first century believed Jesus rose from the dead and were willing to die for that belief, one can faithfully say that it’s not wholly ridiculous to believe that and then choose to believe that He in fact did. Logic and deductive thinking take you a good distance in believing some of the more scandalous stories of the Bible, but they simply cannot take us the whole way. We cannot take faith out of the equation.
You see, though it is not crazy or logically untenable to entertain the idea of Christ’s resurrection, it cannot be reduced to pure logic or the scientific method of observation. We adhere to the Christian FAITH and faith is always jumping from only as far as logic can take us. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Was Mary a virgin when she birthed Jesus? We simply cannot verifiably prove these facts, but we have a solid basis for our belief and we choose to believe they are true. And when we choose to believe, We can prove through our lives that Jesus is real and the scriptures are true because they are operating in our lives and in our world.
This is why the scriptures are scandalous–our logical brain only takes us so far and then we must take the leap of faith. This is why St. Paul said that the life and ministry of Jesus is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews; because it requires moving past our cognitive faculties and trusting that God is true and everyone else a liar. And when you do, I am confident God will meet you in that faithful step. History, logic, and the scientific method help us shorten the leap of faith regarding things like the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus, but they cannot remove it entirely. The Bible is a little scandalous and I think we would be remiss to remove that.