1. There is no proof Jesus ever existed / No one ever believed Jesus was divine
2. Catholics added extra books to the Bible to prove their points / The Church burned books so that they could keep the “truth” away from the people.
3. Catholics believe the Pope is sinless / Catholic worship the Pope
4. Catholics are intolerant
5. The Eucharist is only a symbol of Jesus’ body & blood
1. There is no proof Jesus ever existed and no one thought he was divine.
Important to note the logical fallacy: The second half of the opposition nullifies the first half. ii. The reason why we have both arguments lumped together is because the evidence from the first argument (Jesus’ existence) lends itself to the creation of the second argument if your goal is discrediting Christianity.
1a. Did Jesus exist as an actual historical figure?
Yes. Jesus existed as an historical figure; we can know this just as well as we can know that any other historical figure existed 2000 years ago. The majority of what we know to be ancient history comes from sources who wrote much later than the earliest documents of Christianity, even centuries later than the events they describe. Accounts of Jesus by non-Christians are no different. Most historians take the New Testament and the Gospels as historical record because it can be corroborated by other documents and histories. The Gospels were traced back to 65 and 110 A.D, while Paul’s letters were traced back to 48-68 AD. The ones who normally launch the claim that there is no historical evidence the Jesus existed are not historians. They are philosophers, or in other humanities branches. There aren’t many actual-disciplinary historians who would ever claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed.
The Jewish historical sources are by far the best evidence that the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah of the Jewish tradition, existed. Jesus was a man who came and disrupted the Jewish tradition for many. It would make sense that if Jesus didn’t exist, Jewish sources would shout that fact from the rooftops! However, they did not. Rather, the Jewish sources account for Jesus in their histories and try toexplain away all of his miracles and following. This is a huge difference. Why wouldn’t they just claim Jesus as a hoax? Because they could not; because he existed. Each of the sources below (with the exception of Julius Africanus who is quoting the anti-Christian Thallus) is anti-Christian!
Jewish Sources: Flavius Josephus, who died in 98 A.D., was a Romanized Jewish historian. He wrote books on Jewish history for the Roman people. In his book, Jewish Antiquities, he made references to Jesus. In one reference he wrote: “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin.” Josephus also reported the execution of St. John the Baptist [XVIII 5.2] and St. James the Just [XX 9.1], even referring to James as ‘the brother of Jesus who was called Christ.’ . . . Another Jewish source, the Talmud, makes several historical references to Jesus. . . .“It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.’ But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a) Roman Sources Thallus, a Samaritan historian (ca 52 A.D.), wrote attempting to give a natural explanation for the darkness which occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus. Thallus’ words as recorded by another historian Julius Africanus: “A most terrible darkness fell over all the world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake, and many places both in Judaea and the rest of the world were thrown down. In the third book of his Histories Thallus dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse, unreasonably, as it seems to me. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on Luna 14, and what happened to the Saviour occurred one day before the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun takes place when the moon passes under the sun. The only time when this can happen is in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last day of the old moon, when they are in conjunction. How then could one believe an eclipse took place when the moon was almost in opposition to the sun? So be it. Let what had happened beguile the masses, and let this wonderful sign to the world be considered a solar eclipse through an optical [illusion]. Phlegon records that during the reign of Tiberius Caesar there was a complete solar eclipse at full moon from the sixth to the ninth hour; it is clear that this is the one. But what have eclipses to do with an earthquake, rocks breaking apart, resurrection of the dead, and a universal disturbance of this nature.” Tacitus, who is respected by modern scholars for historical accuracy, wrote in 115 A.D. about Christ and His Church: “The author of the denomination was Christ[us], who had been executed in Tiberius’ time by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. . . .” (Annals, XV 44)
1b. Did anyone think Jesus was divine?
Yes and no. There were many people who did not believe Jesus was divine or that he was not as divine as we believe he is, but this is not a matter of historical fact, it is a matter of belief, just like today. People take someone that they have only heard about, have never met and decide for themselves who he is. What is important is that Jesus’ followers, their disciples and the bishops of the early Church who were “discipled” by the apostles believed he was divine. Whenever you analyze the belief of people who were disciple by Jesus (or any historical figure), you can come to understand what the teacher believed. Online Sources for quick reference: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/asbook11.html http://www.textexcavation.com/thallustestimonium.html
2. Catholics added extra books to the Bible to prove their points / The Church burned books so that they could keep the “truth” away from the people?
Rather than getting involved in polemics, let’s take a look at what history provides. The leaders of the Church came together in a series of conferences which eventually produced the Canon (the official books) of the New Testament that we know today at the Synod of Hippo in 393. However, many modern objections claim that all of the ancient text written about Christianity should be given “equal worth and validity” when determining who Jesus really was. This fallacy is absurd! Just as today, many people can write many conflicting things about what they believe happened during the moon landing, however, the most probable source is not someone watching the moon landing on TV, but someone who actually experienced the moon landing or studied under someone who did. Correct? If the TV-watcher and the astronaut both wrote a book about what occurred on the moon. Although both authors may write at the same time, clearly one source is more reliable than the other. This is not “intolerant”, this is just responsible discernment of sources.
The Church has a record of the rigors by which it tested the legitimacy of the ancient documents which is the same as what historians use today when they judge ancient sources.
i. Apostolic origin: attributed to and/or based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their closest companions)
ii. Universal acceptance: acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the Mediterranean world (by the end of the fourth century)
iii. Liturgical use: read publicly along with the OT when early Christians gathered for the Lord’s Supper (their weekly worship services)
iv. Consistent message: containing theological ideas compatible with other accepted Christian writings (incl. the divinity and humanity Jesus)
The Church – collectively – did not burn heretical texts (although some individuals may have gone off the deep end). We can know this because the “heretical” texts still exist to this day!
3. Catholics believe the Pope is sinless / Catholic worship the Pope
Most of the misconceptions of the Papacy come from incorrect deductive reasoning. People hear the term “papal infallibility” and they assume that means either that the Pope is sinless or that he is perfect. So first we will determine what “papal infallibility” is not:
i. It does not mean that the Pope is sinless or “cannot sin” once he becomes Pope (Pope John Paul II admitted that he went to confession once a week)
ii. It does not mean that everything the Pope says or does is perfect or even correct. There are many actions of previous Popes that were absolutely wrong: there were popes who had mistresses and illegitimate children, who were driven by greed and power. However, these are not actions of the Pope as leader of the Church; they are actions of the MAN who is the pope. (Read Matthew 13: 24-30: Jesus knew men within his Church would not be perfect, but he also promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it)
iii. It does not mean that the Pope cannot be held responsible for his actions. Example: St. Peter (Matthew 16: 15-25), Galatians 2: 11-13 (St. Peter – our first Pope, instituted by Christ Himself – had been previously eating with the uncircumcised Gentiles. Once a group of pro-circumcision Christians came into town [believed that in order to become Christian, non-Jewish must fulfill all the Jewish laws, like circumcision], he stopped eating with the Gentiles for fear of upsetting those pro-circumcision Christians. This action taken by St. Peter was incorrect and hypocritical and St. Paul held him accountable.)
What “Papal Infallibility” is as Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive actsome doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.” When he declares a teaching from the seat of Peter. In layman’s terms, what does this mean? It means that the Pope can only speak infallibly under four conditions:The pope must speak ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) in his official capacity. The decision must be binding on the whole Church. It must be on a matter of faith or morals. He must be intending to teach.
The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. Read the Early Church Father’s on the authority of the Pope. This papal authority promise to Peter by Jesus (Matthew 16: 18) means that the Catholic Church is not “majority rule”. It is also important to point out that when the Church puts it’s “stamp of approval” on something, it is not proclaiming that it is now, all-of-a-sudden true. It is confirming that it is true, was true and will always be true.
4. Catholics are intolerant
This means that the Catholic Church is intolerant because it believes that it is the fullness of truth and that no other religion is “as true”. The response to this is simple: EVERY religion believes that it is the MOST true doctrine. That’s why people practice it! Even religions that say that every religion is equally true, believe that statement to be the MOST TRUE form of belief! This objection is just a tricky maneuver that people use to get people illogically angry at their own religion.
The Catholic Church says that no one is saved outside of the Catholic Church, however, Catholics do not necessarily believe that people of other religions go to Hell. The Catholic Church has never stated one person who has definitively “gone to Hell”. Why? Because it cannot! God, in His infinite Mercy, can “save” whomever he wants, as far as He is concerned. But as far as WE are concerned because God came down to earth and assumed human flesh to unite us completely with His Divine Self and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life – because of God’s revelation to us, we would say that *as far as we are concerned, we cannot say that anyone is saved outside of the Catholic Church*. However, as far as GOD is concerned, He can save whomever He wishes – that is not up for us to know or decide. That is why we as Catholic Christians have a responsibility to LOVINGLY and RESPECTFULLY share that reality with others while being respectful of the paradigms they hold. It is not intolerant, it is actually the epitome of tolerantly holding a personal belief.
5. Communion is only a symbol of Jesus’ body & blood
Rather than belabor John 6: 22-71 (which all of you should read before going any further), we chose at Going Deeper to look at the historical beliefs of the Earliest Christians (for a full list of excerpts click here):
“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” –Ignatius of Antioch 80-110 AD, student of St. John the Apostle.
“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” –Justin Martyr 148-155
“So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.” –Irenaeus of Lyons 180 AD
“You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘And again:’ Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine – and thus His Body is confected.” –Athanasius 373 AD
It’s pretty explicit that the Earliest Christians believed in the substantial true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist!