Saturday, February 11, 2006

Judge denies atheist's claim against Jesus' existence

A judge in Italy rejected a suit brought forward by an atheist who had accused a Catholic priest of deceiving the public by saying that Jesus Christ existed. Judge Gaetano Mautone, who issued the ruling in Viterbo, also said in his decision that the plaintiff, 72-year-old Luigi Cascioli, should be investigated for possible slander. Cascioli had claimed that by teaching about Jesus’ existence, the Rev. Fr. Enrico Righi, 76, had violated Roman laws prohibiting “abuse of popular belief” and “impersonation.” Since his case has been denied in Italy, Cascioli says he plans to take his claim to the European Court of Human Rights.
Actually, there are very, very few reputable historians who deny the existence of Jesus Christ as an historical person. Even most scholarly atheists admit that He existed. In addition to the New Testament, there are possible references to Him in the writings of Jewish historian Josephus, the Jewish Talmud, and the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius. Some have argued that these references were not original to these historians, and were added later. That claim is debatable. But for most historians, the gospels themselves and the sudden development of a rapidly-growing Christian faith in the first century is evidence enough that there actually was an historical person named Jesus. The archaeological evidence for the existence of people, places and events mentioned in the gospels and manuscript evidence of the gospels is overwhelming.
Of course, this is an extremely important question, because if Jesus did exist, then He was either Lord as the gospels indicate He is, or he was a religious nutcase and liar, or else the gospels lied about Him. If one investigates the evidence for the reliability of the gospels, then one has to return to the question of whether Jesus was Lord or a liar. One cannot believe the gospels are reliable and believe that Jesus was "just a good man," because He claimed to be God (John 5:18; 14:6; 20:27-29).
So who is Jesus to you? Your eternal life depends upon your answer.

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