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February 15: Presuppositions Guide You

Presuppositions: Vision Viewpoint Reformation Hope Church Hartford WiWhen faced with the inability to deny the life of Christ on earth – especially when turning to secular sources outside the Bible – historians are faced with what to make of Christ and His ministry. (Christian radio program Vision Viewpoint ): Here we demonstrate that, even with clear references outside Scripture, some historians still show their bias.

It can be said without question that historians have their presuppositions (guiding assumptions) too. What is a presupposition? If you were to sit in a logic class, you would hear a presupposition defined as something that one brings into an argument – something already assumed to be true or false before establishing an argument on the foundation of that initial assumption.

For example, perhaps you are sitting down right now as you are reading this sentence. It’s unlikely that when you sat down you examined the seat to see if it would hold you. The presupposition in this scenario was that you didn’t think about the chair’s capacity to hold you– you just sat down. The presupposition guided you. Now had the chair in which you are sitting collapsed, your presupposition would have been shown to be wrong. But note the fact that you acted on the basis of something you weren’t consciously thinking about. You simply sat down.

Historians, as we mentioned, have their presuppositions, too. Often they will make assertions and pose questions that have already predetermined certain options which are not viable as answers. We see one such historian demonstrate his presuppositions in questioning the historicity of Christ here below.

Going back into the first century A.D. we find a historian by the name of Thallus. Thallus was a Samaritan, born about the year 52 A.D. – less than two decades after Christ, and he wrote in that first century of matters, as it relates to Christ. Thallus, a Gentile writer, refers to Christ and the unusual darkness surrounding the event of Christ’s death. This darkness apparently bothered Thallus a great deal. We know from the Gospels that when Christ died on the cross, there was an unusual darkness that descended upon the world. That darkness is referred to by a number of writers, incidentally – not just the writers of the New Testament. Thallus was one of them.

But historians, whether today or the first century, have their presuppositions. For Thallus, it couldn’t possibly be the case that the darkness could have been reflecting the supernatural testimony concerning Christ’s death. We don’t have Thallus’s own writings, but like many ancient authors (and like many authors not so ancient), other historians verify the accounts of those whose own works are not recoverable or extant. One of these references to Thallus comes from a writer named Julius Africanus, who wrote at about 221 A.D.

Note what Julius Africanus says in reference to the writings of Thallus: “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains this darkness as an eclipse of the sun, unreasonably, as it seems to me.”

The reason Julius Africanus thought this would be unreasonable was because Thallus described the unusual darkness as being due to an unusual, unanticipated eclipse of the sun. But first, as Julius Africanus noted, it’s impossible to have a solar eclipse at the time of the full moon, and it was the season of the Paschal Moon at which Christ died. This we know from writers inside and outside the New Testament. Thus, a solar eclipse could not have occurred at this time. It simply could not be. ( Therefore the darkness was unexplainable by astronomical standards)

Secondly, the eclipse was unanticipated because, frankly – there wasn’t one. Ancient writers were very often masters of astronomy, who studied celestial events such as eclipses, and Julius Africanus simply dismisses this "lack" of a verifiable natural explanation for the supernatural it really was.

Thallus was wrong, but the fact of the matter is, the unusual, unanticipated darkness did occur. Given the fact that Thallus knew the facts, it wasn’t a question of whether the authenticity or the historicity of Christ and the facts surrounding Him could be trusted – it was a matter of the will, and the presuppositions of Thallus. He went into the data presupposing that the data could not have been a witness concerning Christ, and with that presupposition, he then decided to interpret the facts. The heart of the matter is that historians have their presuppositions, too. Despite their claims to factual information, like anyone else, they bring their assumptions – their worldviews – into their interpretations, just as Thallus did almost 2,000 years ago.

Vision Viewpoint Christian radio program will continue to seek to shed light on how historical narratives discredit the modern attacks on Christianity – which really aren’t so modern – as the actual narratives lend themselves as evidence pointing towards the truths of Christ, and of His ministry described in Scripture. Vision Viewpoint is a Christian radio program based in the Hartford, WI area.

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