Tidal Waves of Information

A Satellite’s Eye View of the World Jesus Came to Save

An estimated 200 million people lived on the earth at the time when Jesus was born. Of those, only a few took any notice when a little boy was born to two otherwise unremarkable peasants in an otherwise unremarkable Judean hamlet.

I sometimes wonder what hardened atheists and other decided unbelievers think around this time of year. Is it annoying that Christmas keeps coming around, year after year? What if they could somehow manage to do away with all the Bibles in the world? Would Jesus of Nazareth be forgotten like most of the rest of the 200 million people of his day? Cold case detective J. Warner Wallace says no. Not by a longshot.

In his book, Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World that Rejects the Bible, he makes the case that even if every single copy of the New Testament were destroyed, we could still reconstruct every major detail about Jesus’s life from what other people, apart from the biblical writers, recorded or said about him. Lots of people wrote about Jesus, apart from the New Testament authors. Wallace loosely divides them into three categories.

Christians who liked Jesus. For nearly two hundred years, well before Christianity became an approved state religion, Christian leaders recounted the events of Jesus’s life and the tenets of Christianity in letters and manuscripts written to each other and to local congregations. The apostles taught students who wrote and taught after them, and they were followed by their students after them – all even though some could have faced intense persecution for doing so.

Non-Christians who liked Jesus, or rather who liked Jesus’s influence and who wanted to coopt His authority for their own purposes. After the completion of the four gospels, several additional accounts of Jesus’s life emerged. Some contained heretical teachings, but like any distortion, they also contained a good bit of truth. The “Gospel of Peter,” for example, accurately affirms many details of the week leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion.

Non-Christians who disliked Jesus. According to Wallace, the words of more than fifty enemies of the faith are also documented in ancient manuscripts. Some were Roman. Some were Jewish. Some were religious, some not. But even from the writings of his enemies, Wallace says, a robust profile of Jesus can still be reconstructed:

An incredibly detailed summary of Jesus’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection (along with details related to his followers) came from people who denied his power and opposed the men and women who followed him.

I find this weirdly encouraging. God causes even those who oppose him to serve his purposes. One of the most remarkable things about Jesus is that, even though He possessed power and authority, He never used His power or authority for selfish ends. He only ever used them for the benefit of others, and in many instances, He deflected attention away from Himself. Yet, His name is recognized today across the globe. Wallace summarizes:

The statements of those who followed Jesus, those who later co-opted his name for their own purposes, and those who rejected him provide a tidal wave of information. … we can reconstruct every major claim of the New Testament without reading a single gospel or letter or Scripture.

And it’s not just in ancient writings, but through the arts and architecture, through science, history, and education, Jesus’s name and renown now span the globe. Wallace quotes Dallas Willard:

Today, from countless paintings, statutes, and buildings, from literature and history, from personality and institution, from profanity, popular song, and entertainment media, from confession and controversy, from legend and ritual – Jesus stands quietly at the center of the contemporary world, as he himself predicted.

Today, global population exceeds seven billion, and most of them recognize his name. Nearly two hundred sovereign nations on the world stage now celebrate his birth. Sometime between now and Christmas, find 4 ½ minutes to enjoy this satellite’s eye view:

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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