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Why believe in Christianity over all other religions?By Matt SlickCritics often ask why Christianity is any better than any other religion in the world. After all, of all the religions that exist, how can it be that only Christianity is true? If God exists, why can't God use different religions? Don't all paths lead to God? Skeptics ask these kinds of questions all the time; and, unfortunately, few Christians have the answers. Therefore, in an attempt to demonstrate why Christianity is true and all other religious systems are false, I've prepared the follow list of reasons for Christianity's superiority.There are such things as absolute truthsIf truth is relative, then the statement that truth is relative is an absolute truth and would be a self-defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative. But, if truth is absolute, then the statement "truth is absolute" is true and not self-defeating. It is true that truth exists. It is true that truth will not contradict itself as we have just seen. In fact, it is absolutely true that you are reading this paper.If we can see that there is such a thing as truth in the world, then we could also see that there can be spiritual truth as well. It is not absurd to believe in spiritual absolutes anymore than physical or logical absolutes. Even the statement that all religions lead to God is a statement held to be a spiritual absolute by many people. This simply demonstrates that people do believe in spiritual truth. Why? Because truth exists. However, not all that is believed to be true actually is true. Furthermore, all belief systems cannot be true since they often contradict each other in profound ways--and truth is not self-contradictory.Religions contradict each other; therefore, they cannot all be true.Mormonism teaches that there are many gods in existence and that you can become a god. Christianity teaches that there is only one God and that you cannot become a god. Islam teaches that Jesus is not God in flesh where Christianity does. Jesus cannot be both God and not God at the same time. Some religions teach that we reincarnate while others do not. Some teach there is a hell, and others do not. They cannot all be true. If they cannot all be true, it cannot be true that all religions lead to God. Furthermore, it means that some religions are, at the very least, false in their claims to reveal the true God (or gods). Remember, truth does not contradict itself. If God exists, He will not institute mutually exclusive and contradictory belief systems in an attempt to get people to believe in Him. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there can be an absolute spiritual truth and that not all systems can be true regardless of whether or not they claim to be true. There must be more than a mere claim.
Fulfilled Prophecy concerning JesusThough there are other religions that have prophecies in them, none are 100% accurate as is the Bible; and none of them point to someone like Jesus who made incredible claims and performed incredible deeds. The Old Testament was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Yet, the Old Testament prophesied many things about Jesus. This is undoubtedly evidence of divine influence upon the Bible.Please consider some of the many prophecies of Jesus in the following chart.Prophecy Old Testament Prophecy New Testament FulfillmentBorn of a virgin Isaiah 7:14Matt. 1:18, 25Born at Bethlehem Micah 5:2Matt. 2:1He would be preceded by a Messenger Isaiah 40:3Matt. 3:1-2Rejected by His own people Isaiah 53:3John 7:5; 7:48Betrayed by a close friend Isaiah 41:9John 13:26-30His side pierced Zech. 12:10John 19:34Crucifixion Psalm 22:1Psalm 22:11-18Luke 23:33;John 19:23-24Resurrection of Christ Psalm 16:10Acts 13:34-37Fulfillment of prophecy can have different explanations. Some state that the NT was written and altered to make it look like Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy (but there is no evidence of that). Others state that the prophecies are so vague that they don't count (but many of the prophecies are not vague at all). Of course, it is possible that God inspired the writers and Jesus, who is God in flesh, fulfilled these prophecies as a further demonstration of the validity of Christianity.The Claims and Deeds of ChristChristianity claims to be authored by God. Of course, merely making such a claim does not make it true. Anyone can make claims; but, backing up those claims is entirely different. Jesus used the Divine Name for Himself (John 8:58)--the same Divine Name used by God when Moses asked God what His name was in (Exodus 3:14). Jesus said that He could do whatever He saw God the Father do (John 5:19), and He claimed to be one with the God the Father (John 10:30; 10:38). Likewise, the disciples also called Him God (John 1:1, 14; John 10:27; Col. 2:9). By default, if Jesus is God in flesh, then whatever He said and did would be true. Since Jesus said that He alone was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can find God without Him (John 14:6), His words become incredibly important.
Again, making a claim is one thing. Backing it up is another. Did Jesus also back up His fantastic words with miraculous deeds? Yes, He did.• Jesus changed water into wine (John 2:6-10).• Jesus cast out demons (Matt. 8:28-32; 15:22-28).• Jesus healed lepers (Matt. 8:3; Luke 17:14).• Jesus healed diseases (Matt. 4:23, 24; Luke 6:17-19)• Jesus healed the paralytic (Mark 2:3-12).• Jesus raised the dead (Matt. 9:25; John 11:43-44).• Jesus restored sight to the blind (Matt. 9:27-30; John 9:1-7).• Jesus restored cured deafness (Mark 7:32-35).• Jesus fed the multitude (Matt. 14:15-21; Matt. 15:32-38).• Jesus walked on water (Matt. 14:25-27).• Jesus calmed a storm with a command (Matt. 8:22-27; Mark 4:39).• Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:39; John 20:27).• Jesus appeared to disciples after resurrection (John 20:19).The eyewitnesses recorded the miracles of Jesus, and the gospels have been reliably transmitted to us. Therefore, we can believe what Jesus said about Himself for two reasons: One, because what He said and did agrees with the Old Testament; and two, because Jesus performed many convincing miracles in front of people who testified and wrote about what they saw Him do.Christ's resurrectionWithin Christianity, the resurrection is vitally important. Without the resurrection our faith is useless (1 Cor. 15:14). It was Jesus' resurrection that changed the lives of the disciples. After Jesus was crucified, the disciples ran and hid. But when they saw the risen Lord, they knew that all that Jesus had said and done proved that He was indeed God in flesh, the Savior.No other religious leader has died in full view of trained executioners, had a guarded tomb, and then risen three days later to appear to many many people. This resurrection is proof of who Jesus is and that He did accomplish what He set out to do: provide the only means of redemption for mankind.Buddha did not rise from the dead. Muhammad did not rise from the dead. Confucius did not rise from the dead. Krishna did not rise from the dead, etc. Only Jesus has physically risen from the dead, walked on water, claimed to be God, and raised others from the dead. He has conquered death. Why trust anyone else? Why trust anyone who can be held by physical death when we have a Messiah who is greater than death itself?ConclusionWhy should anyone trust in Christianity over Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, or anything else? It is because there are absolute truths--because only in Christianity is there accurate fulfilled prophecies of a coming Messiah. Only in Christianity do we have the extremely accurate transmission of the eyewitness' documents (gospels), so we can trust what was originally written. Only in Christianity do we have the person of Christ who claimed to be God, performed many miracles to prove His claim of divinity, who died and rose from the dead, and who said that He alone was the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). All this adds to the legitimacy and credibility of Christianity above all other religions--all based on the person of Jesus. If follows that if it is all true about what Jesus said and did, then all other religions are false because Jesus said that He alone was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). It could not be that Jesus is the only way and truth and other religions also be the truth.Either Jesus is true and all other religions are false, or other religions are true and Jesus is false. There are no other options. I choose to follow the risen Lord Jesus.
STATISTICAL PROPHECY PROOF OF JESUS COMPARED TO OTHERSMany specific prophecies about Jesus have been reviewed. We know that the Old Testament manuscripts were made before the time of Jesus. Likewise the New Testament manuscripts, widely circulated during the time of Jesus, provide evidence that the fulfillment of prophecies was accurate.So the essential question is, what does this mean? Are the prophecies statistically reliable enough to draw conclusions about Jesus and his claims? To answer these questions, let’s start with an estimate of only 30 of the prophecies about Jesus.Messianic Prophecy A “Guesstimate” of Odds1. Shem an ancestor (Genesis 9-10) 1/32. Abraham an ancestor (Genesis 22:18) 1/10003. Isaac an ancestor (Genesis 26:4) 1/10,0004. Jacob an ancestor (Genesis 28:14) 1/100,0005. Judah an ancestor (Genesis 49:10) 1/1,000,0006. Jesse an ancestor (Isaiah 11:1-5) 1/10,000,0007. King David an ancestor (2 Samuel 7:11-16) 1/100,000,0008. Bethlehem Ephrathah as birthplace (Micah 5:2) 1/100,0009. Star connected with birth (Numbers 24:17) 1/100,00010. Called “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14) 1/100,00011. Calming the sea (Psalm 107:29) 1/10,000,00012. “Special” miracles (Isaiah 35:4-6) 1/100,000,00013. Names given (Isaiah 9:6) 1/10,00014. Use of parable (Psalm 78:2) 1/1015. Ultimate king over all (Isaiah 45:23; Psalm 22) 1/1016. Sin offering and Passover Lamb (Isaiah 53) 1/10017. Will die with “wicked men” (Isaiah 53:3-9) 1/1018. Will be buried with a rich man (Isaiah 53:3-9) 1/1019. Timing of entry into Jerusalem (Daniel 9:20-27) 1/10,000,00020. Entering Jerusalem as a king on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9) 1/10021. Betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13) 1/100022. Rejection by Israel; will say nothing at his trial (Isaiah 8:10; 53) 1/10,00023. Hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22) 1/10,00024. Identifying the place of crucifixion (Genesis 22) 1/1,000,00025. Will thirst while being put to death (Psalm 69:20-22) 1/10 26. No bones broken (Psalm 22) 1/1027. Identification of words at the beginning and end of execution (Psalm 22) 1/100028. Lots cast for clothing (Psalm 22) 1/100029. Will be given gall and wine (Psalm 69:20-22) 1/1030. Will be “pierced” (Isaiah 3:5; Zechariah 12:10) 1/100The cumulative probability of all these prophecies randomly coming true in one person would be 1 chance in 10110. This would be like winning about 16 lotteries in a row. Even if a skeptic were to substantially reduce some of the above estimates, the result would still be deemed impossible. For example, let’s very conservatively assume the above estimates are off by a factor of a trillion trillion! This would still result in the “impossible odds” of all prophecies coming true in one man, Jesus, of one chance in 1086 ! How remote are these odds? They would still be like taking all of the matter in the entire universe (that is, one billionbillion stars and solar systems) and breaking it all down into subatomic particles, and randomly selecting one marked electron! Truly the prophecies made about Jesus in the Old Testament alone verify his divinity because they verify the Bible’s claims about him, and his claims about himself.
Prophecies Made by Jesus HimselfOld Testament prophecies provide powerful evidence about Jesus. However, there is also evidence that Jesus himself is a divine prophet. Although he prophesied many things, by far the most significant were his multiple prophecies that he would be betrayed, crucified, and on the third rise from the dead: Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:17-19).Jesus prophesied his death and resurrection numerous times, in all four Gospels:• Matthew 12:40;16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:61; 27:40; 27:63• Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34; 14:58; 14:58; 15:29-30• Luke 9:21-22,44-45; 18:31-34• John 2:13-22; 3:14-16; 12:32-34If there was ever an unusual and amazing prophecy, it would be one with the specific details of the prophesier’s death, and far more, that he would rise from the dead in three day! Out of all kinds of prophecy, this one is phenomenal and would be beyond any odds imaginable!So central was this prophecy to Jesus’ life that he stated it many times; it was recorded in the Gospel accounts in 18 places! It is a prediction that only an all-knowing God could make and fulfill.In addition to this, Jesus also prophesied specifically about other things as well:• One of his disciples would betray him (Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-22)• His disciples would desert him (Matthew 26:30-31; Mark 14:26-27).• Peter would disown him three times (Matthew 26:33-34; Mark 14:29-30; Luke 22:31-34).• He would meet the disciples in Galilee after he had risen (Mark 14:28).Other People Believed That Jesus Was GodAn obvious question is, with all the prophetic evidence, did the Jews of the day, who certainly would be aware of the prophecies in the Tanakh, think that Jesus was God? In fact, the Jews in Jerusalem were very rapidly accepting reported that the number who immediately believed in the resurrection (presumably the eyewitnesses) was at least 120 (Acts 1:15) before the Feast of Pentecost, which was 50 days after the resurrection. (It could have been more since this verse refers only to believers present at that setting.) When Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost, immediately 3000 men were added to the group of believers (Acts 2:41). Why was Peter’s message so compelling? Because it was based on the prophecies the Jews knew and the events they had witnessed or had heard about. The Bible further reports that the number increased daily (2:47).One of the most striking indications of the early belief that Jesus was God in the Gospel of John. John himself was an eyewitness to all the events of Jesus’ life, and his account was both written and circulated during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was withGod in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. [This is speaking of John the Bap-tist.] He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men mightbelieve. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.He was in the world, and through the world was made through him, the world did not recognizehim. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who receivedhim, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children bornnot of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of theOne and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14).John’s words clearly show that he believed that Jesus was God. And others who were close to him also believed that he was God.• Peter worshiped him (Luke 5:8). A Jew would worship no one other than God.• Likewise, Thomas worshiped him (John 20:28).• Peter, James and John witnessed and reported the “transfiguration” (Matthew 17), a visible demonstration that Jesus Possessed the same glory as God the Father.• Elizabeth, Jesus’ relative, believed that he was God (Luke 1:41-55).• Simeon, a devout Jewish prophet, believed that Jesus was God (Luke 2:25-35).• Anna, a prophetess, believed he was God (Luke 2:36-38).• Even Jesus’ half brothers James and Jude eventually believed that Jesus was God (see the books of James and Jude).• A Roman centurion and others who were at the crucifixion believed Jesus to be God: At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrec- tion they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54).The high priest and others at Jesus’ trial believed that Jesus was claiming to be God incarnate: The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God. Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy” (Matthew 26:63-65). Not only did the high priest officially declare that Jesus had blasphemed, but his tearing of clothes was a sign of mourning and revulsion over blasphemy.Other Holy Books Fail the Prophecy TestGiven that prophecy is a true test of something from God it is not surprising that very few holy books attempt any prophecy. After all, since only God can prophesy, and we would expect that most supposed “holy books” are not really from God, it would be difficult to concoct testable prophecy that would beverifiable (like the Bible).Considering other well-known religions, we find the following:Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucius, Shinto). These religions are essentially “mystical,philosophical” religions and therefore tend not to use or depend on prophecy.
Islam (and the Qur’an). Although Islam is history-based and agrees with many of the same historical figures mentioned in the Bible (Abraham, Ishmael, Jesus, Mary, and so on), it cannot prove its inspiration from God using prophecy. The Qur’an was written based on dictation by Muhammad (570-632 A.D.).Sura 9:14; Sura 28:85; Sura 48:16-21,27,28; Sura 54:44-48; and Sura 56:1-56 all deal with end time prophecy that was excluded). Sura 5:70; 15:9; 41:42; and 15:96 are not prophecies, but generalities and warnings. Sura 24:55 is a promise of blessing of land and wealth to believers is Islam. However it does not specify what land, as in the case of Israel. Sura 54:44-48 prophesies military action against enemies of the religion, but this doesn’t say much, as it is what people tend to do anyway. And Sura 110:1-2 promises help from Allah (Islam’s God) in time of war. Again, this isn’t specific, for instance, a claim to victory in a specific battle or war.Sura 30:2-4 is the only potential historical prophecy, although it has problems. It essentially says that, “The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious with a few years. With Allah is the Decision, in the past and in the Future: on that Day shall the Believers rejoice.” In history, the Persians were victorious over the Eastern Roman Empire in A.D. 615,and then the Romans returned to defeat the Persians 13 years later in 628. According to Muhammad, “a few” years in this prophecy was meant to mean 3 to 9 years, with 13 falling outside of this range. Even so,the prophecy would not be particularly surprising since there was an ongoing war in this region, and it was not uncommon for territory to be recaptured.Mormons (the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants). The Book of Mormon was actually written in the early 1800s, supposedly translated from golden plates written before the time of Jesus (unfortunately,these valuable plates have never been available for verification). Even so, giving the plates the benefit of the doubt, the Book of Mormon contains two prophecies about Jesus, both of which are false: And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yes even the Son of God (Alma 7:10, Book of Mormon).Of course Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. Some may claim that Bethlehem is a suburb ofJerusalem; however, when transportation was by foot, a town an hour and a half away would not be considered a suburb. Even the Book Mormon indicates it is a separate city (1 Nephi 1:4). Here’sanother example: But behold, thus saith the Lord God: “When the day cometh that they (the Jews) shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth unto the lands of their inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:7, Book of Mormon).Of course the Jews did return to the land in 1948 despite not yet “believing” in Jesus.The Mormon book of Doctrine and Covenants contains several prophetic errors (with none right, in fact)regarding a Temple that was to be built in western Missouri within a generation of Joseph Smith’s prediction in the early 1800s: 1) A temple was to be built at a consecrated site in Jackson County, Missouri (“Zion”), within a generation of 1832 (Doctrines and Covenants 84:5,31). 2) The city (“Zion”) was “never to be moved” out of that place (98:19; 101:17-21). Over 150 years have passed with no temple built there.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses (The Watchtower, Studies in Scripture). This non-Christian group has repeatedly failed in attempts to prophesy the end of time.• (2:101) – 1914 to be the year of the “battle” of the great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:14)• (1914 edition) – “end of the world” date changed to 1915• (7:62) – date changed to 1918• (7:542) – date changed to 1920• (Miscellaneous other publications) – date of the end of the world repeatedly changed to 1925, 1942,1975, 1980…With continuing research, one would find that there is no religion, person, or holy book that contains prophecy of any substance whatsoever, and certainly nothing close to the prophecy in the Bible. This would lead one to carefully heed the words of the Bible as truth.
FASCINATING FACTS CONCERNING THE BIBLEWilliam Albright (1891 – 1971). Once a director of the School of Oriental Research at Johns Hopkins University, William Albright wrote more than 800 books and articles, mostly on the validity of biblical manuscripts. He is best known for his work in confirming the authenticity of the Old Testament, and especially the authentication of the Dead Sea scrolls.Albright also researched and confirmed the dating of the writings of the New Testament. His conclusion was that there was “no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80.” Early in his professional life, Albright had some doubts about the validity of biblical claims about Jesus. These, however, were answered conclusively in favor of the authenticity of the Bible as he conducted his research.Sir William Ramsay (1852-1916). Sir William Ramsay was, arguably the greatest archaeologist of his day. He had rejected much of the written New Testament account and was determined to prove it false based on other writings of the day that contradicted the Bible. Ramsay believed that the books of Luke and Acts were actually written in about A.D. 150 and therefore did not bear the authenticity that first-century document would. His archaeological journeys took him to 32 countries, 44 cities, and 9 islands. Throughout some 15 years of intensive study, he concluded that “Luke is a historian of the first rank, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”What Critics Thought • There was no Roman census (as indicated in Luke 2:1). What Ramsay Discovered: There was a Roman census every 14 years, beginning with Emperor Augustus.• Quirinius was not governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth (as indicated in Luke 2:2). What Ramsay Discovered: Quirinius was governor of Syria in about 7 B.C.• People did not have to return to their ancestral home (as indicated in Luke 2:3). What Ramsay Discovered: People did have to return to their home city, verified by an ancient Egyptian papyrus giving directions for conducting a census. • The existence of the treasurer of the city of Corinth, Erastus (Romans 16:23), was incorrect. What Ramsay Discovered: A city pavement in Corinth bearing the inscription “Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.”• Luke’s reference to Gallio as proconsul of Achaia was wrong (Acts 18:12). What Ramsay Discovered: The Delphi inscription that reads, “As Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and proconsul of Achaia.”
Time and time again Ramsay’s search to find evidence that Luke’s writing was in error turned up evidence that it was, in fact, accurate. As a result, Sir William Ramsay eventually converted to Christianity proclaimed Luke as “one of the greatest historians” of all time. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) Greenleaf, (former Atheist), one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, and a world-renowned expert on evidence, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. Being a man of conviction and reason, and in accordance with his conclusions, Greenleaf converted from Agnosticism to Christianity. Ralph Muncaster, (former atheist) in his book: Examine the Evidence, presents extensive evidence to validate the truth-claims of Christianity. He provides compelling arguments from science, biblical prophecy, history, and archaeology. This former skeptic points out that of all religions and philosophies on earth, only one, Christianity is verifiable and testable.1,456 hours of Sunday school and church turned Ralph Muncaster into a hard-core atheist. Then he was challenged to honestly investigate the Bible and the facts of modern science. He was stunned. Fact after fact, from biology, history, archaeology, physics, lined up with the Bible’s account!The Bible Itself Argues Against the Possibility of Its CorruptionThe charge that the Bible has been corrupted, contradicts what the Bible itself teaches. After all, in Isaiah 40:8 we read, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.” In the New Testament Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).The Almighty God who had the power and sovereign control to inspire the Scriptures in the first place is surely going to continue to exercise His power and sovereign control in the preservation of Scripture.
WHY INVESTIGATE EASTER?What if there is a God?What if there is a divine plan for mankind?What if a person’s soul or spirit exists for eternity?What if there is a heaven and hell?What if the biblical ultimatum of heaven and hell is true?What if committing to Jesus is the only answer for heaven?If these things are true, then understanding and accepting God’s plan is the single most important thing to discover in life. More important than the next vacation. More important than the next golf game. Even more important than the next paycheck. And our choice regarding that plan will affect us forever. It’s a choice that can bring real joy here on earth. A choice that can mean “no more pain and no more tears” forever or a choice that will lead to eternal horror.Would God expect us to accept His plan on faith? Yes and no, because history can never be “proven.” Instead, evidence is the only basis for verifying historical fact. Does evidence exist for Easter resurrection? Absolutely. There is far more evidence for the resurrection than for any other single event in the history of the world.Often people don’t embrace a relationship with God because they fail to investigate and understand their beliefs. Some people are taught wrong beliefs from birth, which they never objectively challenge. Some people are misled by individuals who cleverly tamper with facts and tell people what they want to hear. And some people just don’t care. Yet abundant evidence exists for the first Easter and the tremendous message it brings to mankind. Hence, we might reject God out of apathy … or out of pride … or for many other reasons. But we have no basis to reject God for lack of evidence if we take time to seek it. As the Bible says “Men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).Did Jesus Exist?Virtually all major religions, even those opposing Him, acknowledge the existence of Jesus. For hundreds of years, Jesus’ existence was a widely accepted as Abraham Lincoln’s existence is today. Only in relatively recent history have some people challenged it. Possibly in a few thousand years, Mr. Lincoln’s existence may be challenged as well.Christian Historical RecordsThe magnitude of the Christian record stands far above any record of anyone who has ever lived upon this planet. Existing early manuscripts exceed 24,000. The earliest were written within 25 years of His death. No work of antiquity approaches the Bible’s documentary credibility, including all works we accept as historical fact. Some examples are: Early Event Until FirstMajor Existing Manuscripts Records Existing ManuscriptJulius Caesar – Gallic Wars 10 1000 yearsPliny the Younger – History 7 750 yearsThucydides – History 8 1300 yearsHerodotus – History 8 1300 yearsHomer – Iliad 643 500 yearsThe New Testament 24,000+ 25 years
The vastness of the number of accounts of the resurrection is particularly extraordinary considering that:1. Jesus was not in a position of public importance. He was not a king, not a religious leader, nor a general. Relative to Rome, Jesus came from a small, distant town and was a lowly carpenter with a scant three-year ministry. Rome hardly knew of Him until testimony of eyewitnesses later threatened political/religious stability.2. The records survived the most intensive eradication effort of all time. Rapidly growing in number, Christian witnesses were killed, written records were burned, and anyone professing belief in Christianity was executed. In A.D. 303 an edict was issued to destroy all of the world’s Bibles. People found with Bibles were killed.3. There was no printing press, and the world population was low. The number of surviving early Manuscripts is absolutely staggering considering they were all hand copied by a far smaller pop-ulation base. Only 138 million people existed at the time, the no automatic duplication methods for he printed word. What motivated such extensive work?Was the incredible quantity and survival of the Christian record a miracle, or just senseless expansion of a myth? Why haven’t other religions with more prominent leaders, with lifelong ministries, and with less persecution produced similar evidence? Something major happened.Manuscript DocumentationThe position of Jewish scribe was one of the most demanding and esteemed jobs in biblical times. Aftertraining for years, scribes were allowed to practice the profession only after age 30. Often referred to as doctors of the Law, they joined the priests in the teaching of the Law.Scripture Copy RulesRecording of Holy Scripture was a serious responsibility. So important was exact reproduction that Old Testament scribes were forced to adhere to demanding rules anytime a manuscript was copied:1. Scrolls – special paper, ink, and surface preparation required.2. Tight specifications – specified column number, 37 letters per column.3. Master used – no duplicates of duplicates.4. Each letter visually confirmed – no writing of phrases.5. Distance between letters checked with thread.6. Alphabet – each letter counted and compared to original.7. Letters per page counted and compared to master.8. Middle letter of scroll verified to be the same as the master.9. One mistake – scroll was destroyed (i.e., master scrolls)Proof of AuthenticityNot surprisingly, critics of the Bible, especially those knowledgeable of the prophecy miracles, suggest that the Bible was changed, altered, and somehow mishandled. Commonly, people claim the Bible was in the control of the Roman Catholic Church, which supposedly had “opportunity and motive” to change Scripture to meet its purpose. Such critics miss some key facts. There are two indisputable sets of records that mankind has in its possession today that were not historically controlled by the Christian church and verify the authenticity of the message contained in the words of the Bible we read today:The SeptuagintAlmost 300 years before Christ, the world was becoming so accustomed to Greek that the language of Hebrew was becoming “lost.” It was deemed more important to translate the Bible into a common language than to try to teach everyone Hebrew. A group of 70 elite scholars was assembled to translate the Scriptures into Greek. The result was a document called the Septuagint (meaning “seventy”), compiled around 250 B.C. (Several copies were made by the techniques of the scribes above.) Today, we still have copies of the early translations. The Septuagint message is consistent with the Bible.The Dead Sea ScrollsAny doubt regarding the accurate transmission of manuscripts was erased in 1947 with the discovery of hundreds of scrolls buried in caves for nearly 2000 years. Many were written before 100 B.C. Comparison of biblical books with recent Jewish copies shows virtual no change in words or even letters.
Non-Christian EvidenceVery few written works of anything in history exist from the period of A.D. 30 to 60. All works from A.D. 50-60 are said to fit in bookends only a foot apart. Nero’s killing of Christians in A.D. 64 led to non-Christian writing about Jesus.Thallus (circa A.D. 52) – Historical work referenced by Julius Africanus. Explains the darkness at the time of Christ’s death as a solar eclipse. While an eclipse did not occur in that period (pointed out by Julius Africanus), reference to Jesus’ death was stated as a matter of fact.Josephus (circa A.D. 64-93) – This Jewish historian referenced Jesus, His miracles, His crucifixion, and His disciples. Also referenced are James, “brother of Jesus who was called the Christ,” and John the Baptist.Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 64-116) – Writing to dispel rumors that Nero caused the great fire of Rome in A.D. 64, he refers to Christians as the followers of “Christus.” Who “had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus.” The resurrection was called “the pernicious superstition.”Pliny the Younger (circa A.D. 112) – As governor of Bithynia (Asia Minor), he requested guidance from Rome regarding the proper test to give Christians before executing them. (If they renounced the faith, cursed Jesus, and worshiped the statue of Emperor Trajan, they were set free.)Phlegon (circa A.D. 140) – Referenced by Julius Africanus and Origen – referred to “eclipse,” earthquake, and Jesus’ prophecies.Did the Resurrection Occur?The crucifixion of Jesus was especially well documented and accepted as fact. The crucial question then becomes, Did Jesus rise from the dead, proving His claim to be God incarnate? Or did something else happen with His body? Or was He never dead at all?A key to this issue is the extreme local importance placed on handling this execution. Jesus’ powerful, insightful speaking and many miracles had let the populace to request that He become king. This began to threaten the local political stability of the Romans and the religious power of the Jewish leaders whom Jesus openly criticized. Both the absolute death of Jesus and the protection against a hoax were critical, since Jesus had claimed He would overcome death. Furthermore, He had already raised other people from the dead. As a result, all precautions were taken to secure His corpse (Matthew 27:62-66).The Bible implies the cause of Jesus’ death was cardiac arrest, indicated by blood and water from a spear thrust (medical experts confirm this). To secure the body, a Roman guard was placed outside the tomb. Such a guard would have consisted of 16 soldiers, with a disciplined rotation for sleeping at night (every four hours, four would switch). The guards all faced the rigid Roman penalty of crucifixion if they slept outside of the assigned shift or deserted their post. The idea that all guards were asleep, considering the death penalty, is especially unreasonable. To further ensure safekeeping, a two-ton stone [McDowell, Josh and Wilson, Bill. A Ready Defense. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1990] was rolled in front of the tomb with Pontius Pilate’s seal on it. Breaking the seal without the official Roman guard’s approval meant crucifixion upside down. The central issue, unexplainable by Jewish leaders, especially in light of the many precautions, is…
What happened to Jesus’ corpse if He did not rise from the dead as indicated in the Gospel accounts?The official explanation is that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep (with the priests protecting the guards from the governor). This story was necessary only because no one could produce a dead body of Jesus, which would have stopped the resurrection story forever. Is a theft of Jesus’ body even remotely possible given that:1. All 16 guards would have had to risk the penalty of crucifixion by sleeping while on duty of deserting. Surely at least one guard would be awake.2. The disciples were in a state of shock, fear, and disarray, having seen their Master crucified. Is it reasonable to think they quickly created a brilliant plan and flawlessly executed it on the Sabbath day of rest?3. What possible motive could the disciples have? If Jesus was not the Son of God as He claimed, stealing the body would create a lie with no apparent benefit, and death for no purpose for the disciples.Analysis of Other ExplanationsWas Jesus really dead? Crucifixion was more routine and was a longer, more visibly excruciating death than the electric chair is today. Is it likely that such professional executioners would not know death? The final spear thrust to the heart area was to ensure death. For such a political threat, they would be certain. If Jesus was not dead, what are the chances that a barely living person could move a two-ton rock from the inside of a tomb and escape a full Roman Guard unnoticed?Was the body stolen at night? Recognizing that no flashlights nor infrared sensors were available then, is it likely that a band of scared disciples carrying torches could bypass a full Roman guard, move a two-ton rock, and not be noticed? Furthermore, the Sabbath greatly limited movement. And again, for what motive?Eyewitnesses to the Truth Died to Tell the StoryMartyrdom for a belief is not unique. But what kind of person would die for a known lie? Someone insane? Would all the disciples face hardship and death for a known lie? The disciples were with Jesus constantly for three years. They would certainly know the truth of the resurrection. Lying would serve no purpose since Jesus’ ministry would then be moot. Yet historical records and reports about the disciples indicated they all died cruel deaths for their beliefs (except John). James was stoned, Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, Thaddaeus was killed with arrows, Matthew and James (Zebedee) faced sword deaths, and other believers were crucified.
Archaeological EvidenceArchaeologists have discovered substantial support about many details of Jesus’ life. Some examples include:Indirect Resurrection EvidenceEvidence that the people in Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection is found on caskets of bones (ossuaries) discovered in a sealed tomb outside Jerusalem in 1945. Coins minted in about A.D. 50 were found inside the caskets, dating the burial within about 20 years of Jesus’ crucifixion. Markings are clearly legible, including several statements reflecting knowledge of Jesus’ ability to overcome death. Example of writings (in Greek) of hope for deceased loved ones include: “Jesus, Help” and “Jesus, Let Him Arise.” The caskets also contain several crosses, clearly marked in charcoal. This is powerful evidence that early Christians believed in Jesus’ ability to triumph over death. It also ties the idea of victory over death to the cross.Jesus’ Burial Shroud?A burial shroud (Shroud of Turin) is believed by many people to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus (Matthew 27:59; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53). Items supporting its authenticity are:1. Test that confirm fiber type and small particles of limestone dust unique to the region.2. Confirmation of blood, in wounds precisely as indicated in the accounts of Jesus’ unique execution.3. Confirmation of a crucifixion as likely cause of the type of image created…matching a deceased body.4. Coins on eyes dated about the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.The Prophecies – Statistical “Proof”Although history can never be “proven,” enormous statistical probability is often viewed as proof by scientists and mathematicians. From a statistical viewpoint, God’s involvement in the life of Jesus is “certain.”As indicated earlier, the prophecies contained in the Old Testament were written long before Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls provided irrefutable evidence that these prophecies were not tampered with over the centuries. Of the 469 prophecies contained in the Old Testament that would have been fulfilled, 467 have been verified (we have no record of fulfillment of two). Perhaps the most fascinating prophecies are those about Jesus.Who Jesus’ Ancestors in Prophecy:David 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5Jesse Isaiah 11Judah Isaiah 11Jacob Genesis 35:10-12; Numbers 24:17Isaac Genesis 17:16; 21:12Abraham Genesis 12:3; 22:18Shem Genesis 9:26,27; 10WhatVirgin Birth Isaiah 7:14Birth of eternal Savior Isaiah 9:6,7Savior to Jews and Gentiles Isaiah 49:6Miracle worker Isaiah 29:18; 35:5,6Rejection by Jews Isaiah 53:1-3, Psalm 118:22 Matthew 21:42-46WhenProphecy of the Date of Palm Sunday Daniel 9:20-27 – Although complex until understood, This prophecy made about 535 B.C. predicted Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem to the day. The prophecy states
Daniel’s “Seventy Sevens” 69 periods of 7 (years) will pass from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the “Anointed One” (Messiah, in Hebrew). This dates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. After that time the Anointed One will be cut off (Hebrew: yikaret, meaning a sudden, violent end – crucifixion). And after that time the city and the temple will be destroyed.Prophecy: Daniel, a Hebrew, received the prophetic revelation in 535 B.C. Using the Hebrew definition of a year (360 days) we find:69 times 7 years = 173,880 daysThe decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given to Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 B.C. (first day of Nisan that year – Nehemiah 2:1-6).Using the actual 365-day calendar, along with adjustments for leap years and the final scientific adjustment (leap year is dropped every 128 years), we find this number of days brings us precisely to:April 6, A.D. 32History: Jesus’ ministry began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1), whose reign began in A.D. 14. A chronological analysis of Jesus’ ministry shows three years leading up to the final week, in A.D. 32. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, confirms the Sunday before Passover that year to be …April 6, A.D. 32Other prophecy elements were fulfilled as well: Jesus was crucified three and a half days later. The Romans destroyed the city and temple in A.D. 70.Precise City of Jesus’ Birth The Bible (Micah 5:2) specified that Jesus would be born Bethlehem, in Ephrathah.Other Prophecies King on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9) Suffering, rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3) Crucified, pierced (Psalm 22:16) Cast lots for clothing (Psalm 22:18) No bones broken (Psalm 22:17) Given gall and wine (Psalm 69:20-22) Pierced with a spear (Zechariah 12:10) Posterity to serve Him (Psalm 22:30) Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12)Amazing ProphecyStatistics experts estimate the probability of all these prophecies coming true in any one man is about oneChance in 1099 , less than the odds of correctly selecting one electron out of all the matter in the universe, or essentially zero without divine intervention.
Jesus’ Own PropheciesThe many prophecies made by Jesus Himself are important because:1. Perfect accuracy verifies the prophecy was “from God” (Deuteronomy 18:19-22).2. Since He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God, it verifies the claims of Jesus Christ.Prophecy from Jesus includes several immediately verified by people around Him [e.g., Jesus told aCenturion his servant would be healed, Matthew 8:5-13]. Other prophecies refer to judgment, to heaven, or the end of the world. Jesus told His disciples that His precise prophecy of His death and resurrection was so that when it happened, they would believe He was the Messiah (John 13:19). The Jews realized that only God knows the future.The Resurrection Prophecies of Jesus1. That He would be betrayed (Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21,22)2. Who would betray Him3. When He would be betrayed4. That His disciples would desert Him5. That Peter would disown Him three times (Matthew 26:33,34; Mark 14:29,30; Luke 22:31-34)6. That He would be crucified (John 3:14-16; 12:32-34)7. That He would die and then be resurrected: First prediction (Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:21-27) Second prediction (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34) Third prediction (Matthew 26:2-5; Mark 14:1-9)8. That on the third day He would rise from the dead9. That He would return from death to meet the disciples in Galilee (Matthew 26:32)Was the Resurrection Physical?Some people (and even organizations) have tried to minimize or even disclaim Christ’s physical resurrection. Why? Perhaps because it undermines Jesus’ claims to deity. A prophet had to be 100 percent accurate to be a prophet of God, and clearly Jesus indicated that He would rise again physically from the dead (John 2:19-22). Or perhaps people want to diminish the role and power of Jesus. The facts clearly state that the resurrection was both real and physical.The resurrection was a highly significant event to Jews in the area. The Sadducees and Pharisees debated fiercely over the concept of resurrection long before Jesus. After the first Easter, people argued over it, people imprisoned others for it, people even died for it. In the days immediately following the Resurrection there was no doubt that many people believed that Jesus appeared again in a physical form.The accounts recorded in the New Testament stood the test of eyewitness examination. They could have easily been challenged by contemporaries. In the earliest days, there is no record of anyone claiming Jesus was an apparition (ghost) or a mass hallucination or any other sort of “mere spirit being.” For the resurrection to have any meaningful significance, it had to be a resurrection of the body, as Christ Himself indicated. Several references support this.Eating, Drinking, TouchingCan a spirit eat? Drink? Touch? There is no historical evidence of any spirit-form taking on human functions unless it became human first (e.g., angels becoming human). Jesus, on the other hand, specifically made a point of verifying His physical existence by eating and drinking after the resurrection (Luke 24:37-43). Can a spirit or hallucination be touched or felt? Thomas, the most doubting of the disciples, certainly believed that touching was a primary criterion for “proof.” Jesus specifically appeared to Thomas (and the others), challenging him to see the nail prints in His hands and touch His side (John 20:25-28).
How Can We Ensure the Right Relationship to Go to Heaven?When Jesus said not all who use His name will enter heaven (Matthew 7:21-23), He was referring to people who think using Christ’s name along with rituals and rules is the key to heaven. A relationship with God is not based on rituals or rules. It’s based on grace, forgiveness, and the right relationship.How to Have a Personal Relationship with God1. Believe that God exists and that He came to earth in the human form of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 10:9).2. Accepts God’s free forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ephesians2:8-10; 1:7,8).3. Switch to God’s plan for life (1 Peter 1:21-23; Ephesians 2:1-5).4. Express desire for Christ to be Director of your life (Matthew 7:21-27; 1 John 4:15).Then What?People who sincerely take the preceding steps automatically become members of God’s family of believers. A new world of freedom and strength is then available through prayer and obedience to God’s will. New believers also can build their relationship with God by taking the following steps: Find a Bible-based church that you like, and attend regularly. Try to set aside some time each day to pray and read the Bible. Locate other Christians to spend time with on a regular basis.
Science and the Bible: Cosmos and CreatorBy Mark Eastman, M.D.(Former Atheist)They have been called the two greatest questions that face mankind: Does God exist, and if He does, what is His nature? Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, the answer to these questions have been sought by examining the nature of the universe and its life forms. The CosmosWhen Albert Einstein published the first of his relativity theories in 1905, he shocked the physics community with a staggering new view of space, time, matter and energy. Though he did not know it at the time, his theories provide dramatic insights into the attributes of the Creator of the cosmos.Among other things, what Einstein’s theories revealed was that the flow of time and the structure of space were relative to the velocity, mass and acceleration of the observers. That is, their observed values were not fixed: they were relative.For thousands of years, scientists and philosophers believed that time was nothing more than an abstract notion, conceived in the minds of men, and used to describe the change seen in the physical world. Time, it was believed, was not a thing, it was a mental contrivance. Einstein showed that this was wrong. Time, Einstein showed, was “plastic.” That is, it is a physical property of the universe, and that the observed rate that time flows depends on the physical conditions present at the measuring device.Several years after Einstein’s theories were published, astronomer Willem de Sitter found a mathematical error in Einstein’s equations. When corrected, he found a startling mathematical prediction buried within his equations: The universe was finite! Space-time, matter, and energy had a beginning.In his book, It’s About Time, popular author and physicist Paul Davies remarks on this incredible discovery. Modern scientific cosmology in the most ambitious enterprise of all to emerge from Einstein’s work. When scientists began to explore the implications of Einstein’s time for the universe as a whole, they made one of the most important discoveries in the history of human thought: that time, and hence all physical reality, must have had a definite origin in the past. If time is flexible and mutable, as Einstein demonstrated, then tt is possible for time to come into existence, and also to pass away again; there can be a beginning and an end of time. (Paul Davies, It’s About Time, Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster, 1995, pg. 17.)
The SkepticI recently had an opportunity to speak on the origin of life at a major public university in Southern California. In attendance were a number of professors who are self-described agnostics. During the question period, one of the professors admitted that the evidence is compelling that the universe was indeed finite. He said that while he could not believe in God (because he couldn’t see Him, or study Him scientifically) he said he did believe that someday scientists would discover a law that would explain the origin and order of the universe and its life forms.After pointing out that he had just expressed faith, the belief in things unseen, but hoped for, I asked him if he believed that the laws of physics, which work in our space-time domain, also had a beginning. He was forced to concede that they did because they would have no place to act before the space-time domain existed.The final blow came when I asked him if he then believed that some “law” of physics could explain the origin of the laws of physics! He saw the point: The laws of physics cannot be the cause of the laws of physics! The cause of the universe and its laws must be independent of the space-time domain, exactly as the Bible claimed 3,500 years earlier!Apostle Paul’s statement regarding the attributes of God being discerned by an examination of the nature of the universe is quite staggering, considering the state of scientific knowledge in the first century A.D. At that time it was commonly believed that the universe was eternal. In the face of that commonly held bias, the Bible clearly taught that the universe was finite, and the Creator is independent of time and space, exactly as 20th century cosmology suggests. In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Genesis 1:1 …God, (v.9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 …in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. Titus 1:2The finiteness of space-time not only points to a Creator who is independent of the cosmos, but it also gives us insight into the minimum resume of such a Being.
The Uncaused CauseIn my discussion with the agnostic professors, I asked them to give me the caveat, for the sake of my next argument, that God did indeed exist. They agreed. I then asked them what would be the minimum “resume” of such a Being. Remarkably, they were quite insightful in their deductions. They quickly recognized that such a Being would not only have to be independent of space-time, but must also be incredibly powerful, incredibly intelligent and able to act unencumbered, simultaneously inside and outside the time domain. Remarkably, without recognizing it, they had described the resume of the Creator as revealed in the Biblical text! Among other things, the law of cause and effect asserts that a cause is always greater than its effect. Applied to the cosmos it means that the Creator must be more powerful than all the energy stored in all the stars in all the galaxies in the entire universe. Physicists believe that there are at least 1080 particles in the universe. Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2 indicates that the energy stored in the mass of the universe is equal to the mass times the speed of light squared! From this perspective, the Creator must be an all-powerful, omnipotent Being. This very attribute is credited to God throughout the Bible’s text. Ah Lord GOD! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. Jeremiah 32:17 Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27In my discussion with the professors even they admitted that all the chemists, molecular biologists and physicists in the world combined have been unable to create a DNA molecule from raw elements: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, etc. Moreover, molecular biologists admit that living cells are metabolic machines which are vastly more complicated than any machine made by mankind. They agreed in principle that the nature of these cellular “machines” would require a Being possessing unfathomable intelligence. Such a Being would be, from our limited perspective, an all-knowing, omniscient Creator. Throughout the Bible’s text God is described in such terms. For example, in Jeremiah 1:5, God’s omniscience is illustrated in his foreknowledge of the prophet even before he was born: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5The infinite knowledge of God is proclaimed in 1 John 3:20 and in Psalm 147:5: For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things 1 John 3:20 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite. Psalm 147:5Finally, if our space-time domain is the direct creation of God, then once he created the cosmos, in order to organize and uphold the galaxies, solar systems and its life forms, the Creator must be able to act simultaneously, inside and outside the space time domain. This attribute we call omnipresence. This too is an attribute that is ascribed to God throughout the Bible’s text. Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD,”And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:23-24 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20
Positive Defense of the Christian PerspectiveThe Trustworthiness of the New Testament1 The New Testament has better manuscript evidence than any other ancient book.a. There are over 5,000 New Testament manuscripts and portions of manuscripts. By comparison, the majority of classical works have less than 20 manuscripts.b. The dates of the New Testament manuscripts are close to the original writings. One Gospel fragment (Ryland’s) dates about 25 years after the Gospel of John and most of the New Testament (Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri) from 50-150 years after the originals. Most classical works date from 700 – 1400 years after the originals.c. None of the canonical New Testament is lost or missing. By comparison, 107 of Livy’s 142 books of history have been lost and about one half of Tacitus’ 30 books of Annals and Histories is missing.2. Good arguments can be given that each of the Gospels was either written by an eyewitness, or significantly influenced by firsthand testimony, as recognized by many contemporary scholars.3. Even without proving eyewitness authorship, the Gospels measure up well by normal historical standards used in ancient historiography.4. The Gospel are trustworthy sources, as explained by A.M. Hunter a. These Christian authors, like their Jewish counterparts, were careful to preserve traditional material. b. The Gospels are close to eyewitness sources. c. The Gospel authors were honest reporters. d. The picture of Jesus presented in the four Gospels is virtually the same (see Archibald M. Hunter, Bible and Gospel, pp. 32-37).5. The Gospels and Acts exhibit a specific interest in reporting historical facts, not mythology. This is especially the case when the life of Jesus is reported.6. Contemporary historians frequently opposed the application of radical criticism to New Testament studies. According to A.N. Sherwin-White and Michael Grant, such attacks fail at a number of crucial points (see A.N. Sherman-White, Roman Society, pp. 186-193; Grant, Jesus: An Historian Review, pp. 179-184, 199-201). a. Numerous ancient works exhibit intentions and methodologies similar to that of the New Testament authors, and yet these ancient works are well accredited as historical works. b. There are no ancient writings in the category that radical critics place the Gospels. c. New Testament books such as Acts have been largely confirmed by external test of historicity.
7. The Gospel and Acts were recognized as inspired books almost immediately after being written (see J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers). a. 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7 and refers to it as “Scripture.” b. Clement of Rome (about AD 95) speaks of the “Gospel” and quotes portions found in all three synoptic Gospels, referring to them as the words of Jesus (Corinthians 13,46). c. Ignatius (Smyrnaeans 3) and Polycarp (Philippians 2, 7), both writing about AD 115, refer to verses in the synoptic Gospels as the words of Christ. 8. Paul’s epistles were also recognized as inspired Scripture almost immediately after being written. a. 2 Peter 3:15-16 calls Paul’s epistles “Scripture.” b. Clement of Roman (Corinthians 47), Ignatius (Ephesians 10; to Polycarp 5), and Polycarp (Philippians 1,3-4, 6) all refer to Paul’s writings as inspired.B. The Historicity of Jesus1. The trustworthy Gospels (A above) exhibit much interest in the historical Jesus and give accurate accounts of his life, death, and resurrection.2. Numerous pre- and extra biblical sources record much ancient testimony concerning Jesus within 125 years after his death. a. Early Christian creeds that pre-date the New Testament, as well as the historical facts that virtually all critical scholars admit, provide an extremely strong case for the death and resurrection of Jesus. b. Archaeology contributes a few finds that illuminate and provide background for Jesus’ career, such as the crucifixion victims investigated by archaeologist Vasilius Tzaferis, “Jewish Tombs At and Near Giv’at ha- Mivtar,” Israel Exploration Journal 20 (1970), pp. 38-59. Also the Shroud of Turin (Historically proclaimed to be the actual burial garment of Jesus). See Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin (New York: Doubleday, 1978, also see John Heller, Report on the Shroud of Turin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983), especially chapters 12-14.d. Secular historians (e.g. Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas), government officials (e.g. Piny the Younger, Emperor Trajan), religious works (e.g. The Talmud, Toledoth Jesu, and other sources report many details about Jesus from non-Christian viewpoints.e. Ancient Christian sources preserve a number of historical statements about Jesus (e.g. Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr).4. To reject Jesus’ miracles a priori is to ignore correct inductive procedure where all the facts are investigated before a decision is made.5. To reject Jesus’ doctrinal teachings a priori as valid for today is to pick and choose portions of the Gospels. Further, If Jesus was raised from the dead, there is, at a minimum, some implied significance for Jesus’ teachings, as well.6. Without a significant historical basis in the life of Jesus, Christianity would have had no impetus for its origins.
7. Jesus died on the cross, as indicated by several facts. a. The nature of crucifixion, including the discovery of Yohanan’s skeleton, reveals both the nature and assurance of death by this method. b. The explanation of Jesus’ heart wound indicates that it would have killed him even if he had been alive. c. The death of Jesus is the most recorded event in ancient, non-Christian history. d. The trustworthy Gospels give accurate accounts of Jesus’ death.8. After his death, Jesus was raised bodily and appeared to his followers. a. Naturalistic hypothesis that have sought to explain in normal terms the supernatural element of Jesus’ resurrection have failed to do so, chiefly because they are refuted by the known historical data. Several other reasons also indicate this failure. b. There are numerous positive evidences for the resurrection that indicate that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many of those who followed him. c. A case for the resurrection can be built by using only those minimal facts that are clearly established by the historical method. On a smaller scale, these facts can refute the alternative hypotheses and provide the best evidences for the resurrection. d. The Shroud of Turin may supply some additional scientific evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.9. Jesus’ message was not changed by Paul or by other followers. a. In both the synoptics, as well as in John, Jesus claimed to be deity. Often this was done by his words, such as his claims to be Son of God and Son of Man (c.f. Mark 2:10-11; 10:45; 13:32; 14:36). At other times he showed his deity by his actions, such as forgiven sin, fulfilling Old Testament messianic prophecy and by claiming authority much greater than that of the Jewish leaders (see Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 5;20-48; cf. Isaiah 9:6-7). b. Numerous pre-Pauline creeds such as Philippians 2:6-11, Romans 1:3-4, 1 Corinthians 11:23, and many from the book of Acts designate Jesus by the loftiest titles, thereby indicating the early teaching of his deity. These show further that this doctrine definitely did not originate with Paul. c. Neither Jesus nor Paul taught that Christianity was a new religion. Both held that Christianity was a fulfillment of Judaism (see Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:16-17; Romans 10:4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17). d. Jesus’ central teaching of the Kingdom of God and its entrance requirements of faith in his person and teachings in found in all four Gospels (c.f. Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 18:3-6; Luke 18:28-30; John 1:10-13) and in Paul’s epistles (c.f. Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). f. Paul was known as the apostle to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:15;16; 22:21; Romans 11:13-14). Not only did Jesus command his disciples to take the gospel to the Gentiles (see Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; John 10:16; Acts 1:8), but this was actually a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, not a new doctrine (see Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 19:18-25 for two examples).
g. Since Jesus literally rose from the dead, any verification of the truthfulness of his teachings would even extend to Paul’s message and writings, since they are in agreement with the Gospels at these points.10. Jesus was not an international traveler during his “silent years” or after his death. a. There is no viable historical evidence for such international ventures. b. The swoon theory fails and is rejected by critical scholars. c. These endeavors almost always involved a long trail of illogic and incredibly mysterious connections.C. Miracle-claims1. Although many would place miracle-claims completely in the realm of faith, such is to ignore their possibly objective theistic and historical nature. a. If it is taught that miraculous events have occurred in history, as in the case with New Testament miracle-claims, then at least the objective, historical side of such a claim can be investigated. In other words, if it actually happened, at least the portion of the event that touched the space-time world can potentially be examined. b. In the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is not only the central tenet Christianity, but it is asserted that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then faith in actually in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-20). Paul even supports his point that Jesus was raised by citing eyewitnesses, historical testimony to this fact (vv. 5-8). Under these circumstances, one could hardly claim that objective, factual interests in the resurrection are foreign to the New Testament. c. This objection also commits errors that are associated with the “leap of faith.” If carried to its logical conclusion, it provides no objective basis for faith, including any reasons why faith should be exercised at all. As such, it is difficult to distinguish between belief and credulity.2. Alternative theories that have been proposed to account for Jesus’ resurrection on naturalistic grounds have failed to account for the known historical facts.3. There are many strong historical reasons to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. a. The disciples’ experiences b. The transformation of the disciples into bold witnesses c. The empty tomb d. The resurrection of Jesus was the very center of the apostolic message. e. The Jewish leaders could not disprove their message. f. The very existence and growth of the church. g. In this resurrected physical body Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of his disciples on twelve different occasions over a forty-day period and conversed with them (see Luke 24:13-49, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Acts 1:4-8, Matthew 28:1-10, John 20:24-31).This was the greatest of all miracles since the creation itself, and could have been accomplished only if Jesus indeed is God, as He had claimed to be.
D. Predictive PropheciesConsider the following predictions made centuries in advanced that Jesus would be:1. born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; cf. Galatians 4:4);2. born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:21);3. “cut off” (die) 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct the city of Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24);4. of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3 and 22:18; cf. Mathew 1:1);5. of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, cf. Luke 3:23);6. of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12; cf. Matthew 1:1);7. born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; cf. Matthew 2:1);8. anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; cf. Mattthew 3:16-17);9. that Jesus would performed miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; cf. Matthew 9:35);10. would cleanse the temple (Malachi 3:1; cf. Matthew 21:12);11. would be rejected by Jews (Psalms 118:22; cf. 1 Peter 2:7);12. die a humiliating death (Psalms 22; cf. Matthew 9:35);13. that he would rise from the dead (Psalm 2:7 and 16:10; cf. Acts 2:31)14. ascended into heaven (Psalm 68:8; cf. Acts 1:9);15. and sit at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1; cf. Hebrew 1:3).It is important to understand that these prophecies were written hundreds of years before Christ was born. No one could have been reading the trends of the times or just making intelligent guesses, like the “prophecies” we see in the checkout line at the supermarket.