Historical Causation and the Birth of the Jesus Movement

History has a variety of definitions. The word “history” (derived from the Greek historia, historeō) originally referred to “learned” or “skilled” inquiry or visitation with the purpose of coming to know someone. In many cases “history” is used to distinguish reality from myth or legend, that is, whether something really happened.  History is seen as the study of the past. Historians are not primarily interested in “what happens” or in establishing rules that govern the present and the future One thing for sure: historians are concerned with causality—the examination of cause and effect. Thus they ask cause and effect questions. Let’s expand on this issue and look at cause and effect questions that relate to the how the first century Jesus movement started and expanded from a Jewish sect to a large Gentile based religious movement.

1. Effect #1: A new Jewish sect starts in first century Jerusalem that proclaims that their leader, Jesus who had been crucified had now risen from the dead.

2. Effect #2: Paul, once an active persecutor, comes to faith in Jesus. He says Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9).

3. Effect #3: A group of Jews, who are staunch monotheists begin to worship and call a man “Lord.” The only person they had been allowed to pray to and worship is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

4. Effect #4: The early followers of Jesus are seen actively preaching Jesus as Lord in the public square.

As we talk about in our presentation here called “Tweaking the Minimal Facts Argument”, and “What did Paul See?”, there are naturalistic possibilities that are given to explain the effects historians see in history. But we argue that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for these  effects we see in history.