The earliest manuscript (written copy) of the New Testament is the John Ryland fragment, sometimes called P52. Concerning manuscripts, there are no original documents (called “autographs”) of any book of the New Testament.  In order to reproduce what was in the original you have to compare and contrast the varied manuscripts (copies).  The more manuscripts you have the better you can reproduce the original autograph. (See #2 here for more on the manuscripts of the New Testament).

The Ryland fragment dates from the early second century (somewhere between 100-150 AD). We don’t have or are not aware of any manuscript for the New Testament from the first century. Here is a short video about the John Ryland fragment:

 

But, back in 2012 Dr. Daniel Wallace dropped a bombshell of an announcement in a debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman.  In that debate Dr Wallace announced that a first century manuscript of the gospel of Mark had been discovered and it was to be published that year. (the relevant comment is at 1:12:00 through 1:15:00)  This was very exciting news and a groundbreaking discovery given that the earliest manuscript that we have in our possession is the John Ryland fragment.

So, if this manuscript that Dr. Wallace referenced is correct, then this would be an incredible development in manuscript studies.  We would have a first century manuscript when we only have a handful of second century manuscripts of the New Testament.

I even announced the discovery to my classes given the significance of such a find.

But then, all we heard was silence. I waited for the publication of the manuscript as it would take the world by storm.  And I waited.  And then I waited some more.

What was the hold up? Where was this manuscript found? What portion of Mark did it contain? Did it conform with our other manuscript readings of Mark or differ?

I didn’t hear anything for a long time.  Then Dr. Craig Evans at the Apologetics Canada Conference in 2014 discussed this “discovery.”  He provided a little more explanation of this supposed fragment.  The video below is a clip of his presentation:

 

From the video we learn that:

  • It apparently was recovered from a funeral mummy mask.
  • It was made of papier-mache.
  • It was made up of used paper.
  • This fragment was used to make a funeral mask.
  • They have to dissolve the mask in order to recover the fragment.
  • This fragment apparently dates from the 80s of the first century.
  • It was to be published later in 2014.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 8.50.53 AM.png

Here is a video of the process of dissolving a funeral mask in order to recover the fragmentary manuscripts.

Well, it is late 2017 and we have yet to see a publication of the first century fragment of Mark uncovered from a funeral mask.

Well, the issue is a bit more sticky.  There has been complaints about the dissolving or deconstructing of funeral masks to recover these ancient manuscripts.  Over at Faces and Voices Roberta Mazza, lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, complains that:

These people are not doing any good service to the public and to our cultural heritage patrimony. The audience who attend their talks are told fantasy stories on the retrieval of papyrus fragments and their date, and on the quest for Christian original texts; apologists’ speeches are not only misinformed, but can even encourage more people to buy mummy masks on the antiquities market and dissolve them in Palmolive soap – a method suggested publicly by one of them, Josh McDowell, close friend of the ex-director of the Green Collection, Scott Carroll. All this said, I must confess this pseudo-scholarship is procuring me endless, astonished entertainment…

Dr. Scott Carroll is the former director of the Green Collection which is one of the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.  The Green Collection is a collection assembled by the Green family, founders of national retail chain Hobby Lobby.  It has 40,000 to 50,000 items.  The Museum of the Bible, which opened in late 2017, displays many of these items.  Scott Carroll was responsible for the acquisition of items in the Green Collection.

Since Dr. Carroll time with the Green Collection, we have seen him team up with Josh McDowell in dissolving funeral masks to produce ancient manuscripts.

In December of 2013, Josh McDowell held an exclusive event in which two funeral masks were dissolved by Carroll called “Discover the Evidence.”  The website of the events describes that a “meeting of so many people participating in the extraction of ancient papyri had never been tried before. Everyone attending was able to see and touch ancient manuscripts few ever experience. We heard from top scholars and experts of our day on biblical manuscript discovery including the Dead Sea Scrolls. We watched as papyri were carefully extracted from ancient artifacts.”

The dissolving of the funeral masks by Scott Carroll can be seen in this video:

 

In the video you see Josh McDowell participating.  It is a fascinating process, but not all are pleased.  Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden over at The Christian Century have written a scathing piece titled “Why did the Museum of the Bible’s Scholars Destroy Ancient Egyptian Artifacts?” They write that

The possibility of recovering ancient texts from the cartonnage of Egyptian mummy masks came to the attention of evangelical collectors and apologists like McDowell primarily through the work of Scott Carroll. Trained in ancient languages and history at the University of Miami, Carroll has made a career acting as an agent for individual collectors, most recently for the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby company, possesses one of the world’s largest collections of biblical artifacts, and is the force behind the Museum of the Bible which opened in November [2017] in Washington, D.C.

Moss and Baden complain that:

In the early 1980s, scholars developed a new method for extracting the papyrus cartonnage from its overlaid plaster, a method that avoided damaging the painted surface. Although relatively easy and inexpensive, the process is time-consuming, taking about a week from start to finish. This may not seem long, but it doesn’t allow for a one-day presentation of the sort led by McDowell and Carroll. For their purposes, a faster method was needed. They used an older method, developed in the 19th century.

Bart Ehrman, who was debating Wallace when Wallace announced the first century Mark fragment, over at his blog writes scathingly:

This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing.   It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small  fragment of a manuscript.  Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?

Mary-Ann Russon writing for the International Business Time writes that “although Evans’ discovery is not insignificant, there are many scholars in the archaeology world who disagree with dismantling ancient mummy masks to access the papyrus texts.”

Why hasn’t scholars who have announced this find given more information?  It has been since 2012 that the discovery was announced. It seems that Wallace and Evans have signed a non-disclosure agreement.  It it unethical to deconstruct the funerary mask to uncover ancient manuscripts?  These are hard questions.  It seems that if there is a process to preserve the mask while still uncovering the manuscripts then that method should be preferred.

Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden are the authors of Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby published by Princeton University Press.  One review for the book on the Princeton Press website stated that “The Greens may well be the most sincere and most-frequently misguided activists in America.”  The are disparaging about the Green Collection, the Museum of the Bible, and the Green Scholars Initiative as well as Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell. Moss and Baden in The Christian Century go on to claim that the reliability of the textual transmission in relation to the funeral masks is part of a “deep belief in the divine protection of the text of the Chris­tian scriptures and in their inerrant transmission across the millennia.”  They go on to assert that “those audiences are being misled about the meaning of the fragments and about their relevance to claims for inerrant transmission.”

Let me pause to comment briefly about Moss and Baden’s representation of these events.

I don’t know of any evangelical scholar or apologist who claims that the transmission was inerrant.  This is a mis-representation of the position. Unless you are a King James Only advocate, this is just a straw-man argument against evangelical Christian scholars.  In fact, if evangelical scholars and apologists believed the transmission was inerrant, there would be no need to recover manuscripts to determine what the originals said.  In fact, the opposite is true: evangelicals DON’T believe the transmission was errorless, thus the desire to recover early manuscripts to determine the original wording of the autographs.

That being said, recently Peter Gurry, a PhD student at Cambridge in New Testament studies, posted at Evangelical Textual Criticism that Carroll was not the individual to discover the supposed first-century fragment of Mark, but that he had seen it twice. Carroll likewise mentions that he doesn’t believe it came from a funeral mask as well, but the owner wants to remain anonymous.   Also, Gurry reports that Dr. Dirk Obbink, a papyrologist at Oxford University, appears to be the individual that dates the fragment to the first-century.

A helpful timeline of events for the supposed first-century fragment of Mark can be found here. I have provided an abbreviated timeline of this first-century fragment of Mark that we are waiting for publication:

  • Dec 1, 2011 – Dr. Carroll tweets about an earlier fragment than the John Ryland Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 11.15.12 AM.pngfragment
  • Feb 1, 2012 – Dr. Wallace announces the discovery of a first-century fragment of Mark at his debate with Dr. Ehrman
  • Feb 15, 2012 – Dr Witherington writes about the possibility of the Mark fragment
  • Sept 6, 2013 – Dr Carroll at a presentation of the University of the Nations announces the discovery of the earliest text of Mark (minute 37 and 38)
  • Mar 7-8, 2014 – Dr. Evans lectures at Apologetics Canada Conference about the first century fragment of Mark and funeral masks.
  • Oct 16-17, 2015 – Footage Carroll mentioning Dirk Obbink as the one studying the manuscript assigning a date between A. D. 70 and 120, that he has seen the manuscript twice, that the Green Collection does not own the manuscript

Well, it is 2017 and nothing has come light about this supposed fragment yet. Nevertheless, we are still waiting for any publication of this first century manuscript of Mark.  Brill announced the publication of the Green Scholars Initiative of rare unpublished papyri. Maybe that volume will contain this fragment as well as others that have been mentioned along with the first-century fragment.  But we wait…and wait we must.

Sources:

Why did the Museum of the Bible’s scholars destroy ancient Egyptian artifacts?” by Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden | The Christian Century November 29, 2017

Mark strikes back: Mummy cartonnage and Christian apologetics, again…” by Roberta Mazza | Faces and Voices Nov 25, 2014

First-century Mark: A Timeline” by James Snapp, Jr | The Text of the Gospels Jan 31, 2015

New Details Emerge about ‘First Century Mark’ from Scott Carroll” by Peter Gurry | Evangelical Textual Criticism July 14, 2017

 

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originsxmas

Here is interesting myth to consider as we enter into this Christmas season:

It is generally asserted that December 25 was designated as the birth of Christ to replace the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. Claims about the Christmas myth have been reported at christmasisalie.com and, of course, youtube such as this video at the end of the clip:

 

Well, this story might not be so clear cut as youtube tells us.  Several articles by scholars and historians are challenging this claim.

David Lattier, the VP of Intellectual Takeout who received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University, reports that the “popular idea that Christians co-opted the pagan feast originates with Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who opposed various supposed ‘paganizations’ of Christianity.”  Lattier, references the work by William J. Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College.  Tighe, wrote for Touchstone magazine stating that “it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.”  Tighe goes on to explain that:

December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

You will have to read the full article for the details, but it well worth the read as we enter into the Christmas season this year.

J. P. Holden of Tekton Apologetics has written a book about the issue titled Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths.  Amazon describe the book: “Is it evil to celebrate Christmas? Are Christmas trees forbidden by Jeremiah 10? Is Santa Claus an evil, Satanic figure? In this e-book, Christian apologist James Patrick Holding takes on anti-Christmas crusaders who declare that celebrating Christmas is a one way ticket to perdition.”

I will leave it to you to make up your own mind.  Merry Christmas and/or Happy Winter Solstice 🙂

_____________

Resources:

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas” by David Lattier | Intellectual Takeout November 24, 2017

Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind December 25” by William J. Tighe | Touchstone Dec 2003.

Is Christmas Pagan?” by Greg Koukl | Stand to Reason March 11, 2013

Christmas is Pagan and Other Mythsby J. P. Holding

 

 

Over at The Stream Dr. Sean McDowell has continued the discussion about the warfare between science and religion (which is a myth as I have discussed here).  He starts by stating, “the belief that Christianity is opposed to modern science is one of the top reasons young people cite for leaving the church.”  Tracing the myth back to Andrew Dickson White’s book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom McDowell reveals that White invented this myth by quoting sociologist Rodney Stark’s book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery:

White’s book remains influential despite the fact that modern historians of science dismiss it as nothing but a polemic — White himself admitted that he wrote the book to get even with Christian critics of his plans for Cornell. … many of White’s other accounts are as bogus as his report of the flat earth and Columbus.

Sean continues the article by revealing where the conflict really lies.  Definitely worth the read.  In Sean and Josh McDowell’s updated book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, they responds to this challenge at length.

Below is a video and links to the other myths that I have busted at this site:

 

 

________

Other Myths:

The Myth of the Dark Ages (one of my most visited blog articles)

The Myth that the Church Hindered Science

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

The Flat Earth Myth

Myth of Galileo Going to Jail

Myth and Facts: Crusades

 

 

 

Impact 360 has produced a new video titled “What Good Is Christianity?” It explores the question “Has Christianity been good for the world? Learn the truth about what the historical record really says.”  It can be viewed here:

 

It is part of the Explore Worldview online series training that Impact 360 provides which the first session is free online with a total of eight sessions.

Other free resources for going deeper include:

An video interview with Sean McDowell on tolerance: What is tolerance anyways and should Christians embrace it?

Alan Shlemon on “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God”: Determine whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God!

A podcast with John Stonestreet on “How to engage our culture with hope!”

And some book resources:How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt

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Posts from this site on the contribution of Christianity

The Triumph of Christianity

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith has produced two new animated videos along with his pervious videos on the existence of god (Cosmological, Moral, Fine-Tuning, Contingency, and Ontological).  These two videos deal with the problem of evil: both the logical version and probabilistic version. As always, great quality and solid content.  Definitely worth checking out:

 

 

 

Here are some articles and other resources dealing with the problem of evil:

The Problem of Evil” by William Lane Craig | Reasonablefaith.org

God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views ed. by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. (IVP Academic, 2017)

God, Freedom, and Evil by Alvin Plantinga (Eerdman’s 1989)

Here are some other videos on the problem of evil:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I posted earlier how archaeology has confirmed over 50 real people from the bible.  It was one of the most popular articles published by Biblical Archaeology Review by Lawrence Mykytiuk, associate professor of library science and the history librarian at Purdue University holding a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies and is the author of the book Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004).  He has followed up that article with “New Testament Political Figures Confirmed.”  Mykytiuk starts by exclaiming, “For a collection of writings usually seen as religious, the New Testament mentions a surprising number of political figures, in connection with court trials, dates of important events and even political murders.” He plans to do a follow up article on nonpolitical figures in the New Testament whose existence is confirmed outside its page.  The list of political figures include:

  • Augustus
  • Tiberius
  • Nero
  • Herod the Great
  • Herod of Antipas
  • Pontius Pilate

Seventeen other political figures are listed with the dates they ruled, mention of them in the New Testament, a sample of evidence in historical writings, and evidence in inscriptions.  He also discusses “almost real people” (that is figures that are not certain but are reasonable) and people not clearly documented outside the New Testament. Mykytiuk has also written on confirmation of Jesus outside of the New Testament. Here is a partial screen shot of the current article on political figures in the New Testament:

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 11.55.39 AM

He concludes his article in the magazine stating that “All 23 of the political figures discussed in this article are clearly identifiable in sources outside the New Testament, confirming this facet of its historical reliability.”

____________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

Possible birthplace of three of Jesus’ disciples has been discovered: Bethsaida.  The apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip are mentioned in John 1:44 with the city of Bethsaida.  Here is a quick video of the discovery:

 

The National Geographic article titled “The Real Story Behind the ‘House of Jesus’ Apostles’ Discovery” states that:

The “lost home of Jesus’ apostles” has just been found, according to a recent Israeli newspaper report. Yet while the actual discovery is not nearly as sensational as many headlines suggest, the new results are adding very interesting fuel to an ongoing debate about the location of one of the most important cities in the New Testament.

While this discovery is not definitive, it will push the discussion about the location of the the ancient city of Bethsaida.  The discovery was found on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilea as pictured below:

bethsaida

Two of Jesus miracles: 1. Healing the blind man  (Mark 8:22) and 2. Miraculously feeding of the 5,000 multitude with five loaves and two fish  (Luke 9:16).

Another video on Bethsaida.

 

Articles:

The Real Story Behind the ‘House of Jesus’ Apostles’ Discovery” by Kristin Romey National Geographic | August 7, 2017

The Lost City of Jesus’ Apostles Has Just Been Found, Archaeologists Say” by Noa Shpigel and Ruth Schuster Haaretz | August 8, 2017

Is this unearthed fishing village the birthplace of three of Jesus’ apostles?” by Michele Chabin Religious News Service August 7, 2017

Archaeological Discovery: Home of 3 of Jesus’ Disciples Possibly Found” by  Michael Gryboski ChristianPost | August 7, 2017

 

 

 

1. Alisa ChildersScreen Shot 2017-08-09 at 1.35.20 PM

I recently came across a podcast that was posted on an apologetics facebook group.  It was by Alisa Childers.  Some might remember her with ZOEgirl, an American Christian teen pop and pop rock band formed in 1999. The group comprised Chrissy Conway-Katina, Alisa Childers and Kristin Swinford-Schweain.  On her website she describes “a period of profound doubt about my faith in my early thirties. I felt as though I had been tossed in a stormy ocean of uncertainty with no life jacket or lifeboat in sight. I didn’t know where to find answers to my questions, or if answers existed at all. Did I have to accept it all on some kind of blind faith? This is my journey from unreasoned doubt into vibrant, intellectually informed faith.”

She posted an excellent article titled “5 Signs Your Church Might be Heading Toward Progressive Christianity.”  It is definitely worth the read.  The signs include: a low view of the bible, feelings emphasized over facts, essential Christian beliefs are re-interpreted, historic terms are redefined, and the gospel shifts from sin and redemption to social justice.  For each point she includes comments you might hear making this blog post extremely practical and useful.

Because of her post she was “invited to come on the Bad Christian Podcast to talk about my article, 5 Signs Your Church Might be Heading Toward Progressive Christianity. As progressive-leaning Christians, the guys did not agree with my article but invited me on the show to discuss my views anyway. Even though we disagree on a lot of things, they were gracious and I think we had a fruitful conversation.”  I listened to the podcast and she rocked it (get what I did there, because she is a recording artist).  You can listen to the podcast here.

2. Mama Bear Apologetics Podcast

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 1.51.43 PM

Mama Bear Apologetics, which I have blogged about before, did a podcast on why you need to understand progressive Christianity.  Hillary Ferrer, the Mama Bear, interviews Alisa Childers on this podcast.  Mama Bear Apologetics tag line is “Mess with our kids . . . and we will demolish your arguments.”

Both Alisa Childers and Mama Bear Apologetics are great resources available online.  I highly recommend them.

3. Christian Mom Thoughts

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 2.08.21 PM

Natasha Crain, who I have also blogged about before, wrote an article early this summer on progressive Christianity as well: “Progressive Christianity is as Much of a Threat to Your Kids’ Faith as Atheism.”  Natasha Crain is the author of the book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith which is for parents and helps them “empower their children to respond well to the hard questions that threaten their faith. It’s no secret that children of all ages are being exposed to negative criticism of Christianity as they spend time at school, with friends, or online.”  She has a new book coming out this fall titled Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have.

 

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous posts in the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil and the Crusades. Today’s post includes my article about the objection that religious beliefs are merely reflections of where one was raised.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides answers to many of these perplexing questions from the Crusades, religious plurality, and the problem of evil along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?”:

Are religious beliefs just a reflection of where one was raised? It’s hard not to notice that people who grow up in India almost always become Hindus and people raised in Saudi Arabia usually become Muslims. Likewise, most Christians accept Christianity because their parents were Christians. Since a person’s religious beliefs most often reflect the dominant religious beliefs of the region in which they were born, many people conclude that all religions are just cultural expressions. In this view, religious beliefs are not the result of reason, evidence, or the movement of God in a person’s life. Rather, religion is just a product of the way you were raised. There are two significant problems with this theory.

First, the origin of a belief does not determine whether or not it’s true. Each truth claim (and hence, each religion) must be weighed independently of questions about its origin. We examine how it matches up to things like history, logic, and data from science. If the belief stands up to examination, it does not matter how you came to hold it. For instance, what if a lunatic told you how to get to New York City? The man believes many wrong things about himself and the world, but if his directions succeed in getting you to the “Big Apple,” you can be sure that his belief about the route to New York was correct. It does not matter that he is certifiably crazy. Your belief originated with a crazy man, yet the crazy man knew the truth.

Second, the skeptical view described above says your surroundings determine your beliefs, and yet this theory cannot explain religious conversions in which a person chooses against their upbringing. Every day all across the world, many thousands of people convert from one religious belief to another. If religious beliefs merely reflect where one was raised, this would not happen. The reality of religious conversion shows that religious beliefs are more than the result of upbringing. People change their religion because they come to question their inherited religious beliefs, examine the beliefs of other religions, and thus choose to reject their cultural influences and upbringing and the beliefs that come with them. The most impressive historical example of this is the spread of Christianity. The Christian faith began as a tiny group of Jews huddled in Jerusalem, but then spread all across the world, traversing many cultures and languages, as people examined the case for Christianity and came to believe it was true.

In conclusion, where you were raised does have an obvious impact on your religious beliefs, but evidence proves that this can be overcome when people reconsider their beliefs in light of evidence and argumentation. While most people’s religious beliefs reflect where they were raised, they still have the freedom and responsibility to consider the evidence and claims of their religion. Christianity excels when people take the time to seriously explore

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous post about the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil. The article was published in the study bible which comes out July 1. Today’s post includes my article about the Crusades.  One of my most visited posts on this blog is “What About the Crusades? Myths and Facts” which includes a nice infographic, video, quotes from experts, and resources for further study about the Crusades.

Presidents to pundits have referenced the crusades as comparable to radical Islamic terrorism, that the crusades were unprovoked Christian attacks on Islamic territories for land and loot.  This is an extreme oversimplification at best and at worst gross negligence of the facts.  The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides an answer to this perplexing question about the Crusades and the truth of Christianity along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“What About the Crusades?”:

“In a speech at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton claimed that the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, is a consequence of the Christian Crusades which occurred almost a thousand years ago. Ask about the Crusades and you will probably be told something like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christian nations against a peaceful Muslim world. The Christians were interested in gaining riches and land.’ In worst-case scenarios, people reject Christianity because they’ve been told that Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims for profit and gain. They conclude that Christianity is a violent religion.

First, and foremost, it must be remembered that Christianity did not originate in the Crusades; it began on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if the Crusaders performed horrific acts of violence and murder, these acts do not undercut the truth of Christianity nor change its essence. At most the Crusades illustrate that sinful and fallen people are ca- pable of wrongfully using the name of Christ for personal gain.

But the Crusades were not just about gaining wealth and land. One must consider the historical context to more fully understanding the motivations of the Crusaders. The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Christians against the Islamic world, but were a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression. From the very beginning of the Islamic religion Muslims sought to conquer the Christian world. In fact, the first three hundred years of Islam can be described as a period of military conquest. Muslim armies conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. Christian Europe had to defend itself or else be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in AD 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Con- stantinople (now called Istanbul).

In other words, the Crusades were a defensive war, not an aggressive grab for land and loot. In fact, crusading was an expensive and costly endeavor. After the success of the First Crusade nearly all the Crusaders went home. Virtually none of them recovered the cost of crusading. If one wanted to get rich, crusading was definitely not the best route to make it happen.

Many atrocities occurred in the Crusades. Understandably, war can bring out the worst in people. Even during World War II some American soldiers committed atrocities, but this does not mean the war was conducted so soldiers could commit crimes. As for the Crusades, Christians have rightly condemned the wrongs that many of the Crusaders committed.

In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful Muslim world, neither were they motivated by a quest for riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars that aimed to stop Muslim military advance- ment. The West today enjoys religious freedom and democracy because the Christian nations prevailed.

God wants his people to care about justice. As the Prophet Micah reminds us, “Man- kind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mc 6:8).”

Resources (abbreviated):

Articles on the Crusades:

Books on the Crusades: