Wednesday, 13th June 2012
Biblical perspectives for living
ONCE FOR ALL
In the early 20th century some scholars argued that the Christian religion had borrowed some of its beliefs from various Greco-Roman mystery religions which had myths of dying and rising gods. Biblical scholar Ronald Nash has said that followers of these religions "found deep symbolic significance in the natural processes of growth, death, decay, and rebirth”.
A superficial examination may suggest the plausibility of such comparisons but more in-depth studies, including those of scholar Gunter Wagner, have shown that they are unjustified. Firstly, gods such as Osiris and Isis were purely mythological figures, an obvious fact noted by the writer Plutarch (46-120A.D.). By contrast the gospel accounts are rooted in history and repeatedly refer to real people and real places. There is absolutely no doubt about the existence of Jesus, who is referred to by various secular historians such as Josephus and Tacitus. Also, many of the Greco-Roman myths which are said to contain echoes of Christianity actually post–date the era in which the New Testament scriptures were written.
At a popular level however the resurrection is often presented in a manner which seems little different to the natural cyclical processes of death and rebirth present in nature and expressed in the ancient pagan religions: it is little more than a vague message of hope, such as the arrival of spring with its new life after the winter.
It is clear in scripture however that the founding events of the Christian faith are one off, unrepeatable events: "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:9). Christ's death must be understood with reference to the biblical understanding of death as God's judgement against sin. His resurrection represents his conquest of the twin powers of sin and death. He has atoned for sin, once and for all time (Hebrews 10: 11-14), and his resurrection demonstrates that wonderful fact. It is in trusting this Christ, crucified once for all time and risen, never to die again, that we gain eternal life.
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