Answering Attacks On Jesus
W. Terry Varner
No person's identity and character have been attacked more than Jesus our Lord's. No one can ignore the historical Christ. All must answer Jesus' question, “Whom do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:18). Critics are determined to destroy the historicity of Jesus.
The biblical worldview demands Christians to “always be ready to give a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Modern-day attacks on Jesus are not new. Our article centers in attacks on Jesus in the New Testament.
Attacks in His earliest years. The first attack was by Herod in his attempt to destroy the Christ-child once he found Him (Matthew 2:1-23). Angry that the wise-men had failed to report where Jesus was living, Herod the Great, ordered the “slaughter of the innocents” in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:8-18). Archelaus, Herod's son, had a similar reputation to his father's and God directed Joseph from Egypt to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:22-23). All of this occurred before Jesus began His ministry! Herod tried to murder the physical, historical Christ; whereas, modern-day critics attack His historicity and His person!
Attacks in His ministry. While not everyone in His ministry gladly heard Him, the Bible states: “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Various segments of the Jewish society attacked and opposed Jesus.
The Pharisees and Scribes. Because Jesus was unschooled in rabbinical tradition (John 7:35) and taught with authority, rather than as the scribes (Matthew 7:29), the Pharisees and scribes attacked, opposed, and challenged Jesus. Consequently, He was under their surveillance continuously, not to learn, but to criticize and attack. His influence among the common people was gaffing to them to say the least. Their bitter opposition came because of Jesus' claim of a unique relationship to God: i.e. “made Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The Sanhedrin pledged to kill Him (John 5:15-16; Matt. 12:14) two years before He raised Lazarus (John 11:35).
The Sadducees. An analysis of the Gospels lists the Sadducees in the role of protagonists and opponents of Christ in Matthew 16:1, 6, 12; 22:23; Mark 12:18; and Luke 20:27. The Sadducees were the religious skeptics or “party of protest.” Stalker describes them as being “sceptical, cold-hearted, worldly men ... [T]hey wished to live a life of comfort and self-indulgence” (32). Their lifestyle was completely opposite of the godly living set forth by Jesus. This resulted in their opposition and attacks on Christ.
The Herodians. Opposition to Jesus was not only religious, but it was political in nature, coming from the Jewish sect of the Herodians. They joined with both the Pharisees and Sadducees in attacking Christ. “[T]he Herodians were politically affiliated with the Herodian house, but they were religiously and economically affiliated with the Sadducees” (Hoehner 325). They joined with the Pharisees to see “how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). What strange bedfellows.
The 21st century, as in the first century, continues its fruitless attacks on Jesus and His
identity, character, and person. However, Jesus is true! He lived and He lives! He is God's
Son! He is our Savior!
Hoehner, H. N. “Herodian Dynasty.” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Eds. Green, McKnight, and Marshall. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992.
Stalker, James. The Life of Christ. 1879. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1954.
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