In this post I am going to focus on the real motivation for these attacks. I believe it's really not so much an attempt to search out truth as it is to continue rejecting the Gospel message and cast doubt in the hearts of those who do believe. I'll take a few minutes to show you that at least from a historical and textual point of view, Jesus appears to have existed, and the message of the New Testament appears to have been accurately transmitted over the years. In the next article in the series we'll cover specific attacks on the book itself.
The real motivation
To avoid any potential of my misrepresenting the claims, I'll include some of the tweets used to refute. The idea, as I understand it, is that a mythical figure was written to match the descriptions of him in the book of Daniel.
Nonexistence of Daniel is especially problematic for Christians because without Daniel, the prophecy in the Book of Daniel is forgery. The schedule for the death of Jesus is written to match that prophecy. How can a real person have traits that match forged prophecy?— Tim Freeman (@ovjocm) June 30, 2019
I think the assumption is if you can disprove the prophetic nature of Daniel, the stories around Jesus in the New Testament become less feasible. One problem with this is that it seems to be rooted in the presupposition that Jesus was not a real person or not accurately portrayed in the Gospel message. This presupposition creates a logical fallacy though because the reason Daniel is being challenged is because of a suspicion that Jesus is fallacious, which is then used as proof to support the claim that Daniel is a forgery. I think the reasoning here is a bit circular, but for the sake of the argument, I'll take a few minutes and speak to the historicity of Jesus. 20th and 21st century archaeological discoveries have done a lot to improve our confidence in the message we receive in the Gospel and Paul's epistles.
This post is in no way intended to be a full presentation of the evidences for Jesus Christ, but I am going to try and point out some rather significant reasons to believe the story has been accurately preserved in the New Testament. Some other time, I'd love to focus on whether or not the story can be trusted as true, but here I am mainly just demonstrating that the story was believed in it's own time, and it was transmitted accurately across several regions fairly quickly. There are now somewhere around 5,300 manuscript fragments from within a few hundred years of Jesus walking the earth. There are very few variations in the text across time and over multiple copies of similar fragments. This tells us that the message was likely retained consistently throughout history. There are also have extra-biblical accounts that corroborate parts of the story of Jesus that date even closer to the period in question.
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given – Mar Bar Serapion 73 AD
This text isn't incredibly useful in proving the life of Jesus, but it demonstrates that the word carried fast as this text is dated to just around 3 years after the destruction of the temple. It's possible he received this information from Christian sources, but that means they were preaching the Gospel very early on. Most other historical figures that many consider to be factual are verified through manuscript copies that are 500 years or more removed from the events in question. Homer is often presumed to be a real person (although recent work may be deconstructing that notion), but any work we have attributed to him is found on manuscript copies that are at least 800 years after their suspected autograph. Even Socrates and Pythagoras were more or less myth in comparison to the amount of evidence we have to suggest Jesus lived.
We also have writings from Tacitus, an ancient Roman historian which include references to Christianity. Tacitus was born in the middle of the first century, and died in the earlier part of the second.
Therefore, to stop the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished in the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. – Tacitus 2nd Century AD
In this quote you can see, Tacitus was no fan of the Christian movement. The "pernicious superstition" he's referring to is often considered to be the idea of bodily resurrection which was detested in the day. The point I am making is that there is evidence that Jesus walked the earth and was crucified by the Romans. The Gospel message seems to have been transmitted accurately, so we have a story of a man who performed miracles and rose from the dead which appears to have been formed rather quickly and spread just as fast across the known world because we see it referenced by non-christian scholars early in the history of the church. There is no reason to believe the entire life of Jesus was a fabrication based on this evidence, and we have good reason to believe it is a more or less factual account of his life since it wasn't shown to be false early on while people who lived and witnessed His work could have provided arguments discrediting the claims being made. With that said, Daniel has been challenged so we should take an honest look at the evidence. In the next post, we'll take a look at the claim that the author of Daniel was a false prophet, and evaluate whether or not he would qualify under biblical definitions.