This is Pastor Tim’s newspaper article published on Monday, Oct 19, 2020.
About a week ago, a parishioner at Wayne Street UMC gave me a copy of National Geographic from December 2017. The main article in this issue was an archaeological quest to find the historical Jesus. I was in Israel in 1997 and because of that, I really enjoyed the article. There was a section where they wrote about a fishing boat from the time of Jesus that was found at the bottom of a body of water. I saw that fishing boat when I was there, so it was a nice trip down memory lane for me.
In my old age, I must be getting a little cynical. I fully expected this article to be propaganda that Jesus never existed. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was. This article literally had no bias. It was just a report of information, not taking either side on the “existence of Jesus” debate, which was incredibly refreshing. I didn’t know that actual journalism even existed anymore; this article was an absolute joy to read.
As National Geographic always does, they had wonderful pictures throughout the article. I can remember being at many of the sites photographed. As usual, they did a beautiful job taking the pictures. I loved how they presented the information about Jesus in such a way that I could make up my own mind – meaning a scholarly atheist or a true believer would be able to read this article and enjoy it.
The first thing they talked about was Jesus’ time in Bethlehem. There was no archaeological evidence of Jesus ever being in Bethlehem, which is not surprising. According to the Gospels, He was not there very long. Most of the sites that commemorate his birth were not established until the fourth century. That means there is no actual archaeological evidence of His being born in that exact location, but as they indicated in the article, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. I like how they didn’t automatically assume He wasn’t there because they couldn’t find evidence.
A map was included with the article. This is where the Gospel stories and historical evidence were brought together and revealed that there is actually a lot of relation between the two. Scholars may dispute some of the more supernatural elements of Jesus’ story, but they do not dispute whether or not there actually was a historical Jesus. I thought this was a great asset to the article.
The reason that so much of Jesus’ life is hard to find archaeological evidence for is because in the year 312, emperor Constantine ruled Rome and made it legal to be a Christian. When that happened, Crusaders went to the Holy Land and commemorated everything they could find. That’s why there’s a lot of confusion as to what happened and where it happened as many of the historical sites we have today weren’t established until 300 years after Jesus’ life. Again, the scholars working on this article did not take that as lack of evidence, they simply stated that’s why it’s so hard to find.
This article restored a little bit of my faith in journalism. This is some of the first evidence of actual journalism I’ve read for quite a while. It was well written, well researched, and presented completely without bias. It was hard to agree or disagree with the article because it was simply information. It wasn’t commentary nor was it interpretation of anything. It simply was a presentation of the study of Jesus.
If you would like to read this article, all you have to do is find the December 2017 issue of National Geographic. It is definitely worth the read. I’m sorry it took me 3 years to find it.
To the parishioner at Wayne Street who gave me this magazine, I’m not going to say your name, but I want you to know I appreciate you sharing it. If any of you have articles or other things that you’d like for me to write about in this column, I’d be happy to do that – all you have to do is send them my way.