Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, stirred up a hornet’s nest when he recently claimed that “there is no mention of Jesus Christ in any books of history.” Could this be his political response to the court verdict on infamous Asia Bibi’s case? Social media was quick to label his childish chatter as ignorance. Could this be as serious an ‘ignorance’ as French philosopher Michel Onfray’s who in his book Decadance (2017) talks of Jesus as a “mere hypothesis” — a Just So Story?
Rudyard Kipling in his book Just So Stories (1902) asked some interesting questions. Imagining “How the Leopard Got His Spots?” Kipling recounts that the leopard got its spots after an Ethiopian hunter smudged the “blackish-brownish colour” off his fingertips onto the leopard’s coat to provide a disguise for hunting in the forest. Today the term Just So Story is a pejorative label often used by scientists when critiquing a scientific hypothesis as lacking concrete, testable, evidential basis. Khan, Onfray and other sceptics seem to be creating Just So Stories so that they can answer some difficult questions: How come Christians ended up honouring cross? How the Nativity had to be there behind every Christmas? The Just So Story is to make us feel that Jesus is a creative imagination of the early church! But is that so?
Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, Jesus is mentioned by Jewish (Flavius Josephus, who wrote a history of Judaism around AD 93) and Roman historians, (Pliny and Tacitus writing about 20 years after Josephus) as well as by dozens of Christian writings (earliest being 25 years after his death), including the earliest manuscripts that start appearing within decades of the writing. Interestingly, in the ancient world there was no debate about the existence of Jesus, instead the questions were about the authenticity of His claims. How can we ignore the fact that all these writings appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses and match with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine? It will be crazy to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place, particularly under the watchful eyes of the Roman Empire —where there was a strong suspicion of Judaism. Surely, not Just So Stories!
We may not understand this mysterious process how God became human in the womb of Mary, rather the intriguing question is why God’s entry into human life is such good news? Well, for one thing, it means that the God of the Universe understands what it’s like to be human, to be like you and I.
The truth is God has entered human life in the baby Jesus. We may not understand this mysterious process how God became human in the womb of Mary, rather the intriguing question is why God’s entry into human life is such good news? Well, for one thing, it means that the God of the Universe understands what it’s like to be human, to be like you and I. In our trials, we can be assured that God understands it “from the inside.” For another thing, and more importantly, incarnation means that, in the end, God dealt with our fundamental human problem: sin. Being fully God and fully human, his death on the cross truly affected our salvation. The coming of Jesus made possible the saving power of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Because of Christmas, there will be Good Friday. And because of Good Friday, there will be Easter. This isn’t just a nice story made up by some creative early Christians, a Just So Story. It’s the true story of what God has done “for us and our salvation.”
If it is another Just So Story, why would 26-year old John Allen Chau, an Oral Robert University graduate, would attempt to reach out to the world’s oldest tribe, the Sentinelese, with the Word of God? Chau, wrote about his journey, “this is not a pointless thing – the eternal lives of this tribe are at hand, and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language…”
The Story that has transformed individuals, communities and nations stands equally true on the litmus test of historicity. Christmas is a season to celebrate and stand in wonder of this Story’s truthfulness. Merry Christmas to you all!