A (Not So) Brief Defense of Christianity
Everybody has faith. From the
meticulous scientist to the most irrational religious fanatic,
everyone believes in something, and everyone acts on that belief
somehow. The question is not whether we WILL have faith; it is
whether or not the things we believe are true.
Unfortunately, many people never
evaluate the basis for their beliefs. They go with the flow of
society, which today is dominated by the idea of religious
pluralism. Religious pluralism means that we look at one
another's beliefs and in effect say, "I'm OK and you're OK." A
remark often heard, especially on campus is, "I don't think it
really makes much difference what you believe as long as you're
Many of us are hesitant or feel it's
wrong to make distinctions between people or their ideas. This is
because we feel it is arrogant, exclusionary, undemocratic, or
socially inappropriate. We want people to like us, so we try not to
be disagreeable. Ironically, this very pluralistic environment
creates a hesitancy to express personal convictions for fear of
offending another. In reality, this creates an atmosphere where all
views held are of equal value and are therefore "true." It also may
explain why so many people today regard themselves as atheists or
agnostics. Viewing so many "religious" options which profess to be
THE truth, they become agnostics or atheists, disclaiming the
religious idea of "faith" altogether.
Some militant atheists propose philosophical and scientific "proofs"
to explain away the existence
of God, hoping to convince others logically. Other atheists and
agnostics have not come to their beliefs logically, but rather
believe what they do simply because they prefer or are more
comfortable with it.
- The Need for Apologetics
A committed, thinking Christianís desire
must be to challenge that complacency. If there is such a thing as
truth, and if different world views do contradict one another, then
we need to make sure that the one we choose is the right one and
that we have good reasons for believing it to be so. Further, 1
Peter 3:15 tells us that we are to be ready always to give a
"defense" (apologia), to give answers, reasons for why we
believe as we do.
This particular outline is designed to
provide some of those answers: thus, the title, "A Brief Defense of
Christianity." There are three primary reasons why such
apologetical information is important:
- The religious pluralism rampant in
our culture demands it. Many today are spiritually hungry and
looking for truth in a culture of "isms" very similar to what we
find in the Graeco-Roman world of the New Testament. It was in this
kind of cultural environment that Christianity came, flourished,
and ultimately dominated Western Civilization for 15 centuries.
It has been said that Christianity
prevailed because the first Christians "out-thought" and "out-loved"
the ancient world. Many contemporary Christians are so
enamored of having a personal "experience" with God in the safety
of their various religious enclaves they have little time left to
defend the faith and convert the pagans. Mind Games is
designed to help us better connect with the wider world through
solid thinking and loving care.
- In the light of Peter's admonition
above, Christians are to prepare themselves to share their faith
with others and help remove the obstacles to faith which hinder
some non-Christians from giving serious consideration to Christ and
His claims upon their lives. Apologetics can help remove these
obstacles and demonstrate the "reasonableness" of Christianity.
- Apologetics can also serve to
strengthen the faith of young Christians as well as provide them
with the discernment necessary to identify and counter non-Christian
thinking and world views. This enhances personal
spiritual growth and better equips the Christian for more effective
Finally, we noted above that
EVERYONE has faith--atheist, agnostic, and Christian. The real
issue is not to have faith, but rather to have a worthy OBJECT for
our faith. As you walk out on a frozen pond, which would you
prefer, a LITTLE faith in a sheet of ice two-feet thick, or a LOT
of faith in 1/4 inch of ice? Faith is important, but the object of
our faith is all-important.
The material in this outline is
designed to help assure you that to stand upon Christ and the world
view which He taught is to rest upon an object most worthy of your
faith. To demonstrate this, we are going to ask and then answer
some basic questions concerning the truthfulness of the Christian
SECTION I: THEISM
I. What is the most reasonable world view?
- Metaphysical options
We have stated that the most basic
philosophical question is not that NOTHING is here, but rather
SOMETHING IS HERE, and it demands explanation. I am a part of some
kind of reality. I have consciousness. Something is happening and
I am part of it. Where did it come from? Did everything come from
nothing? Or has the material universe always been here and things
just accidentally got started? Or is there something or someone
that transcends the material universe and is responsible for
bringing it into being, and us with it?
All of these questions relate to the
philosophical concept of metaphysics. Webster defines it
thusly: "That division of philosophy which includes ontology, or
the science of being, and cosmology, or the science of the
fundamental causes and processes in things."
When we seek to answer these basic
questions, then, we are thinking "metaphysically," thinking about
the origin and causes of the present reality. And we really have
few options, or possible answers to consider:
- The idea that "something came from
nothing." (Most reject this view, since the very idea defies
- The idea that matter is eternal
and capable of producing the present reality through blind chance.
This second view has spawned two basic world views:
Materialism, or Naturalism, and Pantheism.
Both hold to the idea that nothing exists beyond matter.
Materialism is therefore atheistic by definition. Pantheism is
similar with the exception that since God does not exist, nature
becomes "God" in all its parts.
- The idea that Someone both
transcends and did create the material universe of which we are a
part (Theism). THERE ARE NO OTHER LOGICAL EXPLANATIONS.
Christians of course, would embrace this third view, theism, as the
most reasonable explanation for what we believe AND for what we
find to be true in ourselves and in reality at large. These ideas
will be developed more fully in the section on the arguments for
the existence of God.
In order to argue for the truth of
Christianity, therefore, we must begin with the existence of
God. Christianity is a theistic religion. That is, we believe
that there is one God who created all things. This is not simply a
statement of blind faith. There are sound and rational reasons for
preferring this view above the others. We will begin to explore
those, but first, let's briefly evaluate atheism and agnosticism.
- Atheism and Agnosticism
Ever since the "Enlightenment" in
the eighteenth century, philosophers have argued that ALL of
reality is to be observed only in space and time. Any notion of a
God who is transcendent, eternal, and not bound by natural laws has
been largely rejected as "unscientific" or "unproveable." Since we
cannot "prove" the existence or the non-existence of God, they
reason, there is no real benefit or practical value in considering
theism as a metaphysical option.
An atheist is a person who makes the
bold assertion, "There is no God." It is bold because it claims in
an absolute manner what we have just said was not possible: i.e.,
the existence or non-existence of God cannot be proven. It is also
bold because in order to make such an assertion, the atheist would
have to be God himself. He would need to possess the qualities and
capabilities to travel the entire universe and examine every nook
and cranny of the material world before he would even begin to be
qualified to come to such a dogmatic conclusion.
The most brilliant, highly-educated,
widely-traveled human on earth today, having maximized his/her
brain cells at optimum learning levels for a lifetime could not
possibly "know" 1/1000th of all that could be known; and
knowledge is now doubling by the years rather than by
decades or centuries! Is it possible that God could still exist
outside this very limited, personal/knowledge experience of one
highly intelligent human being? By faith, the atheist says,
Another curious thing about the
atheist is that before he can identify himself as one, he must
first acknowledge the very idea, or concept, or possibility
of God so he can then deny His existence!
David saw the fallacy of this long
ago when he said, "Only the fool has said in his heart, 'there is
no God.'" (Psalm 14:1).
(Note: For those who desire
additional, more formal material on the existence of God, see the
Appendix at the end of this outline, where this subject is
addressed in greater detail by such philosophers as Anthony Flew,
Ludwig Feuerbach, and David Hume).
By definition, agnosticism takes the
position that "neither the existence nor the nature of God, nor the
ultimate origin of the universe is known or knowable" (Webster).
Here again are some bold statements. The agnostic says, "You can't
know." What he really means is, "I can't know, you can't know, and
nobody can know." Leith Samuel in his little book, Impossibility
of Agnosticism, mentions three kinds of agnostics:
- Dogmatic. "I don't know, you
don't know, and no one can know."
Here is a person who already has
his mind made up. He has the same problem as the atheist above--he
must know everything in order to say it dogmatically.
- Indifferent. "I don't know,
and I don't care." God will never reveal Himself to someone who
does not care to know.
- Dissatisfied. "I don't know,
but I'd like to know." Here is a person who demonstrates an
openness to truth and is willing to change his position if he has
sufficient reason to do so. He is also demonstrating what should be
true about agnosticism, that is, for one who is searching for
truth, agnosticism should be temporary, a path on the way to a less
skeptical view of life.
Those who have not found atheism and
agnosticism philosophically, scientifically, or personally
satisfying may, at some time in their lives consider the third
alternative, that of theism. They may come to ask our next
II. "Is it reasonable to believe that God exists?"
Theism is a reasonable idea. Theologians
have traditionally used several philosophical proofs in arguing for
the existence of God. These arguments are not always persuasive,
but that probably says as much about us as it does about the
arguments. People most often reject God for reasons other than
logic. These arguments, however, do provide insights that, while
not PROVING the existence of God, do provide insights that may be
used to show EVIDENCE of His existence.
- The Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument is
quite similar to one that the Bible uses in Psalm 19, Psalm 8, and
Romans 1. The existence of the "cosmos," the creation, strongly
suggests the existence of a Creator. Central to this argument is
the following proposition: If anything now exists, something must
be eternal. Otherwise, something not eternal must have emerged from
If something exists right now, it must
have come from something else, come from nothing, or always
existed. If it came from something else, then that something else
must have come from nothing, always existed, or come from something
else itself. Ultimately, either something has always existed, or at
some point something came into being from nothing.
Someone may argue that it is possible
that nothing now exists. That is both absurd and self-defeating,
because someone must personally exist in order to make the
statement that nothing exists. Therefore it is undeniable that we
ourselves exist. Therefore, if I exist, then something must be
If something is eternal, it is then
either an eternal being or an eternal universe. Scientific evidence
strongly suggests that the universe is not eternal, but that it had
a beginning. In addition, if the non-personal universe is that
which is eternal, one must explain the presence of personal
creatures within that universe. How does personal come from non-personal?
If something is eternal and personal while the universe
is finite and non-personal, then there must be an eternal
If there is an eternal being, that being
must by definition have certain characteristics. He must have
always existed, and he must be the ultimate cause of all that we
can see. He must possess infinite knowledge, or else he himself
would be limited, not eternal. Similarly, he must possess infinite
power and an unchanging nature. We do not have to go very far with
these arguments to realize that we are describing the God of the
One of the questions asked most
frequently concerning this cosmological argument is, "Where did God
come from?" While it is reasonable to ask this question about the
universe, since as stated above, the strongest evidence argues for
a universe which had a beginning. Asking that same question of God
is irrational, since it implies of Him something found only in the
finite universe: time. By definition, something eternal must
exist outside both time and space. God has no beginning; He
IS (Exod. 3:14).
- The Teleological Argument
Another philosophical argument for the
existence of God is the teleological argument. This comes
from the Greek word telos, meaning "end" or "goal." The idea
behind this argument is that the observable order in the universe
demonstrates that it functions according to an intelligent design.
The classic expression of this argument is William Paley's analogy
of the watchmaker in his book, Evidences. If we were walking
on a beach and found a watch in the sand, we would not assume that
it washed up on the shore having been formed through the natural
processes of the sea. We would assume that it had been lost by its
owner and that somewhere there was a watchmaker who had designed it
and built it with a specific purpose.
Some evolutionists maintain that the
argument from design has been invalidated by the theory of natural
selection. Richard Dawkins, a scientist at Oxford, even speaks of
evolution as "The Blind Watchmaker," saying that it brings order
without purpose. However, the theory of evolution faces major
obstacles in scientific circles to this day, and it is grossly
inadequate in its explanation of the ordered species of animals in
this world. The best explanation for the order and complexity that
we see in nature is that the divine Designer created it with a
purpose and maintains all things by the word of His power (Heb.
1:3; Col. 1:17).
- The Moral Argument
The moral argument recognizes
humankind's universal and inherent sense of right and wrong (cf.
Rom. 2:14,15) and says this comes from more than societal
standards. All cultures recognize honesty as a virtue along with
wisdom, courage, and justice. These are thought of as absolutes,
but they cannot be absolute standards apart from an absolute
authority! The changeless character of God is the only true source
of universal moral principles; otherwise all morality would be
relative to culture preferences (See "Right and Wrong"
Each of these arguments follows the same
basic pattern. What we see in the creation must have come from a
sufficient cause. This is the argument of Romans 1, and it is the
argument used by Paul in Acts 14 and 17. God has provided us with
a witness to Himself in the creation, and we are called upon to
believe in Him on the basis of what we have seen Him do: "For since
the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood
through what has been made, so they are without excuse" (Rom.
- Pantheism offers a self-defeating
Pantheism is the belief that all
is god. Pantheists maintain that there are no real distinctions
between persons, creatures, or objects; that all is divine. For
many years, the only pantheists most of us would have been exposed
to were Buddhists. However, with the rise of the New Age movement,
which is extremely pantheistic, pantheism has become a very popular
world view in North America.
The hope of pantheism is an irrational
one. Evil is regarded as an illusion, however real it may seem, and
the cruel actions of others are attributed to their
misunderstanding, or non-enlightenment. Shirley MacLaine, an
actress who has been one of the most popular spokespersons for the
New Age movement, writes, "There is no such thing as evil or good.
There is only enlightened awareness or ignorance." Since all is one
and all is divine, there are no real contradictions. There are no
black-and-white distinctions between truth and falsity. Instead,
reality consists of that which seems contradictory, but really is
not. Buddhists are sometimes encouraged to meditate on "the sound
of one hand clapping." There can be no sound with just one hand,
and that's the point. For the pantheist, reality is irrational.
Since there are not distinctions and all
is divine according to pantheists, Shirley MacLaine and others
believe themselves to be perfectly justified in declaring, "I am
God." This "realization" is thought to be the key to unlocking
one's true potential, for to realize you are God is to realize that
you have no finite limitations.
But that is the precise problem with the
claim. If God does not have limited knowledge and abilities, why
would we have to grow in knowledge if we are God? Why would we even
have to come to the conclusion that we are divine? If we are
unlimited, why are we so limited that we do not always realize we
If New Age pantheism violates reason, as
it obviously and admittedly does, then how can it be defended? We
are told that the concepts cannot be adequate comprehended apart
from one's personal experience of them, but the fact is that
reality is logical. To argue that logic does not apply to
reality would be self-defeating, because one cannot make the claim
without using logic. Reality IS logical, and there are distinctions
in our world. I am not you, and you are not me. Common sense tells
us that as we converse.
The pantheistic option, then, is both
illogical and self-defeating. It is tragic that it has become such
a popular viewpoint in our day.
- The Possibility of God
Some five hundred years ago the rise of
modern science initiated a process we could call the
"demythologizing of nature", the material world.
Superstition and ignorance had ascribed spirit life to forest,
brook, and mountain. Things that were not understood scientifically
were routinely designated as the hand of supernatural forces at
- Theistic Skepticism
Slowly, the mysterious, the
spiritual dimension was drained away as scholars and scientists
provided natural explanations and theories for how and why things
worked quite apart from supernatural forces. Man and earth were now
no longer at the center of the universe with the sun, the planets,
and the stars revolving around this uniquely important globe. Human
significance diminished in the vastness of the cosmos, and only
time, not God, was needed to explain the totality of the natural
- Re-emergence of the Spiritual
Ironically, the same science which
took God away then, is bringing the possibility of His existence
back today. Physics and quantum mechanics have now brought us to
the edge of physicality, to the extent that the sub-atomic particle
structure is described by some as characterized more as spirit,
ghost-like in quality. Neurophysiologists grapple with enigmatic
observations which suggest that the mind transcends the brain.
Psychology has developed an entirely new branch of study
(parapsychology) which postulates that psycho-spiritual forces
(ESP, Biofeedback, etc.) beyond the physical realm actually
function. Molecular biologists and geneticists, faced with the
highly-ordered and complex structures of DNA, ascribed a word
implying "intelligence" to the chaining sequences: "the genetic
CODE." Astrophysics has settled on the "Big Bang theory," one which
seems to contradict the idea that matter is eternal, but rather
that the universe had a definite beginning. Huge as it is, the
universe appears to be finite.
- The Reasonability of Theism
It certainly seems more reasonable
to believe that God exists than to suggest the alternatives
explored above. And this brings us to the next important
III. If God does exist, how could we know He is there?
Herbert Spencer, an agnostic, once
pointed out that no bird ever flew out of the heavens and therefore
concluded that man cannot know God." What Spencer is saying is that
man in his finiteness, like the bird, can only go so far and no
farther. There is a ceiling, a veil which separates us from God,
and we are helpless to penetrate it from our side and find Him.
Tennessee Williams, in his drama, "Sweet
Bird of Youth," was making the same point when his character, the
"Heckler," comes on stage and says, "I believe that the long
silence of God, the absolute speechlessness of Him is a long, long
and awful thing that the world is lost because of, and I think that
it is yet to be broken to any man."
These statements hit on a crucial point
of epistemology (how we know). If God does not exist, then
knowing can come to us only through one of two avenues: experience
(empiricism) or reason (rationalism).
- The Possibility of Revelation
What both of these men are saying is
simply that if God does exist, man cannot make contact with Him
through any effort of his own. But both have forgotten one other
very important possibility. If God exists and so desires, would He
be able to penetrate the veil from HIS side and make His presence
known? Of course He could. The next question would logically be,
"Has He ever done so?" Christians would answer a resounding, "Yes!"
God did so in the Person of Jesus Christ. "The Word Who was with
God and was God became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His
glory" (John 1:1,14). Theologically, this event is called the
Incarnation. If true, humans have an additional source of
- Who Was Jesus?
There have been many great and
outstanding men and women of history. But Christian and non-
Christian alike would have to agree that Jesus of Nazareth has had
the greatest and most far-reaching impact on earth than any person
who ever walked the planet. One anonymous writer said, "All the
armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the
parliaments that have ever sat, put together, have not affected
life on this planet as much as has that One Solitary
What do we really know about this Jesus?
Some think Him merely a man, the founder of a religion, like
Muhammad or Zoroaster. Others believe He lived, but His followers
embellished the story and made a god out of him. Or they postulate
that He was either a clever "con man" who purposefully engineered
His personal circumstances toward Messianic ends, or a paranoid
schizophrenic with "delusions of grandeur." Still others don't even
believe He was ever an historical person. For them Jesus is a
Before we can examine His Person, His
Work, and His extraordinary claim to be the Son of God in human
flesh, we must first determine if He every actually lived, and if
so, what can the source materials tell us about the kind of man He
was and about the things He did or said.
IV. Was Jesus a Historical Person?
Let us begin by saying that Christianity
is rooted in history. Christ's birth was counted in a Roman census,
and his death was no doubt recorded in the Roman Archives. What do
we know about Him? We are solely dependent upon the accuracy and
the validity of the sources handed down to us.
But what do we know about Julius Caesar?
Charlemagne? George Washington, or any other person of history? We
must rely on those sources which have survived and give information
concerning their lives.
- Extra-Biblical Sources
Ignoring for the moment the reliability
of the biblical documents concerning Jesus, we will examine other
sources from antiquity which verify that Jesus actually lived in
the first century.
- Jewish Sources
- Josephus (37-95 A.D.). "And
there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man . . . for he was a
doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth
with pleasure. He led away many Jews, and also many of the Greeks.
. . . And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his
impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at
first did not cease . . . and even now the tribe of Christians, so
named after him, has not yet died out."
- Rabbinical Writings. After the
fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jewish religious scholars began to
codify the legal and theological traditions of Jewry based on the
Old Testament. The Mishnah (legal code) and the Gemera
(commentaries on the Mishnah) developed in the early A.D. centuries
to form The Talmud which was reduced from an oral tradition to
writing about 500 A.D. There are a number of statements or
allusions to Jesus and Christianity contained within. F. F. Bruce
points out that while most of these references were hostile, they
all refer without question to Jesus as a historical person. He
says, "According to the earlier Rabbis whose opinions are recorded
in these writings, Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel,
who practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people
astray, and said he had not come to destroy the law but to add to
it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the
people. His disciples, of whom five are named, healed the sick in
- Roman Sources
- Cornelius Tacitus (55-117
A.D.). (Regarding Nero and the burning of Rome in 64 A.D.): "Hence
to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt and
punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly
called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus,
the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate,
procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. . ." (Annals,
- Seutonius ( ). In his work,
Life of Nero, Seutonius also mentions the Christians in
conjunction with the Great Fire of Rome: "Punishment was inflicted
on the Christians, a class of men addicted to a novel and
Another possible reference to
Christians may be found in his Life of Claudius: "As the
Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of
Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
- Pliny the Younger ( ). In
112 A.D. Pliny Secundus, governor of Bithynia in Asia, wrote to
Emperor Trajan requesting advice about how to deal with the
"Christian" problem: "they were in the habit of meeting on a
certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an anthem to
Christ as God, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to commit
any wicked deed, but to abstain from all fraud, theft and adultery,
never to break their word, or deny a trust when called upon to
honor it; after which it was their custom to separate, and then
meet again to partake of food, but food of an ordinary and innocent
- Ossuaries. Hebrew University
professor E. L. Sukenik found in 1945 what he believed to be the
earliest record of Christianity: two inscriptions scratched on two
ossuaries (containers for human bones) found near Jerusalem. One
was a prayer to Jesus for help; the other prayed Jesus would raise
from the dead the person whose bones were contained therein.
- Name of Pontius Pilate. While
Josephus and Tacitus both name Pontius Pilate in their writings,
artifacts are stronger evidence. In 1971, Pilate's actual name was
found in Caesarea Maritima by archeologists. "Found in a step of
the theater, it was originally part of a nearby temple. The Latin
reads, 'Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the
people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius.'
- The Cross. For Paul and the
other New Testament writers to speak of the cross as a symbol of
faith, would be the equivalent of our doing the same thing today
with the electric chair. Yet Tertullian (145-220 A.D.) speaks of
its early prominence in the Christian community: "In all travels
and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on
our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in
lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we
mark our forehead with the sign of the cross."
Without the aid of the biblical documents, we
here find a Christianity and a Jesus with which we are familiar, a
perspective that moves from "a good and wise man, a doer of
wonderful works" to one who "practiced sorcery and beguiled
and led astray Israel." From the annals of history, we know that
this man, Yeshua, underwent trial and persecution by the reigning
religious and Roman authorities (including the name of the
Procurator (Pilate) who pronounced sentence upon him), was executed
by crucifixion, and that his teachings became the foundation for a
"cult" of religious worshippers called Christians.
These sources corroborate, rather than
contradict, the Jesus portrayed in the biblical documents. We now
turn to the crucial question of how reliable these documents
SECTION II: ARE THE BIBLICAL DOCUMENTS RELIABLE?
How do we know that the Bible we have today
is even close to the original? Haven't copiers down through the
centuries inserted and deleted and embellished the documents so
that the original message of the Bible has been obscured? These
questions are frequently asked to discredit the sources of
information from which the Christian faith has come to us.
- Three Errors To Avoid
- Do not assume inspiration or
infallibility of the documents, with the intent of attempting to
prove the inspiration or infallibility of the documents. Do not say
the bible is inspired or infallible simply because its claims to
be. This is circular reasoning.
- When considering the original
documents, forget about the present form of your Bible and regard
them as the collection of ancient source documents that they
- Do not start with modern
"authorities" and then move to the documents to see if the
authorities were right. Begin with the documents themselves.
- Procedure for Testing a Document's Validity.
In his book, Introduction in Research
in English Literary History, C. Sanders sets forth three tests
of reliability employed in general historiography and literary
criticism. These tests are:
It might be noteworthy to mention
that Sanders is a professor of military history, not a theologian.
He uses these three tests of reliability in his own study of
historical military events.
We will look now at the
bibliographical, or textual evidence for the Bible's
- Bibliographical (i.e., the
textual tradition--from the original document to the copies
and manuscripts of that document we possess today
- Internal evidence (what the
document claims for itself)
- External evidence (how the
document squares or aligns itself with facts, dates, persons from
its own contemporary world).
VI. The Old Testament
For both Old and New Testaments, the crucial
question is: "Not having any original copies or scraps of the
Bible, can we reconstruct them well enough from the oldest
manuscript evidence we DO have so they give us a true, undistorted
view of actual people, places and events?"
- The Scribe
The scribe was considered a professional
person in antiquity. No printing presses existed, so people were
trained to copy documents. The task was usually undertaken by a
devout Jew. The Scribes believed they were dealing with the very
Word of God and were therefore extremely careful in copying. They
did not just hastily write things down. The earliest complete copy
of the Hebrew Old Testament dates from ca. 900 A.D.
- The Masoretic Text
During the early part of the tenth
century (916 A.D.), there was a group of Jews called the Masoretes.
These Jews were meticulous in their copying. The texts they had
were all in capital letters, and there was no punctuation or
paragraphs. The Masoretes would copy Isaiah, for example, and when
they were through, they would total up the number of letters. Then
they would find the middle letter of the book. If it was not the
same, they made a new copy. All of the present copies of the Hebrew
text which come from this period are in remarkable agreement.
Comparisons of the Masoretic text with earlier Latin and Greek
versions have also revealed careful copying and little deviation
during the thousand years from 100 B.C. to 900 A.D. But until this
century, there was scant material written in Hebrew from antiquity
which could be compared to the Masoretic texts of the tenth century
- The Dead Sea Scrolls
In 1947, a young Bedouin goat herdsman
found some strange clay jars in caves near the valley of the Dead
Sea. Inside the jars were some leather scrolls. The discovery of
these "Dead Sea Scrolls" at Qumran has been hailed as the
outstanding archeological discovery of the twentieth century. The
scrolls have revealed that a commune of monastic farmers flourished
in the valley from 150 B.C. to 70 A.D. It is believed that when
they saw the Romans invade the land they put their cherished
leather scrolls in the jars and hid them in the caves on the cliffs
northwest of the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include a complete
copy of the Book of Isaiah, a fragmented copy of Isaiah, containing
much of Isaiah 38-66, and fragments of almost every book in the Old
Testament. The majority of the fragments are from Isaiah and the
Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
The books of Samuel, in a tattered copy, were also found and also
two complete chapters of the book of Habakkuk. In addition, there
were a number of non-biblical scrolls related to the commune
These materials are dated around 100
B.C. The significance of the find, and particularly the copy of
Isaiah, was recognized by Merrill F. Unger when he said, "This
complete document of Isaiah quite understandably created a
sensation since it was the first major Biblical manuscript of great
antiquity ever to be recovered. Interest in it was especially keen
since it antedates by more than a thousand years the oldest
Hebrew texts preserved in the Masoretic tradition."
The supreme value of these Qumran
documents lies in the ability of biblical scholars to compare them
with the Masoretic Hebrew texts of the tenth century A.D. If, upon
examination, there were little or no textual changes in those
Masoretic texts where comparisons were possible, an assumption
could then be made that the Masoretic Scribes had probably been
just as faithful in their copying of the other biblical texts which
could not be compared with the Qumran material.
What was learned? A comparison of the
Qumran manuscript of Isaiah with the Masoretic text revealed them
to be extremely close in accuracy to each other: "A comparison of
Isaiah 53 shows that only 17 letters differ from the Masoretic
text. Ten of these are mere differences in spelling (like our
"honor and the English "honour") and produce no change in the
meaning at all. Four more are very minor differences, such as the
presence of a conjunction (and) which are stylistic rather than
substantive. The other three letters are the Hebrew word for
"light". This word was added to the text by someone after "they
shall see" in verse 11. Out of 166 words in this chapter, only this
one word is really in question, and it does not at all change the
meaning of the passage. We are told by biblical scholars that this
is typical of the whole manuscript of Isaiah.
- The Septuagint.
The Greek translation of the Old
Testament, called the Septuagint, also confirms the accuracy
of the copyists who ultimately gave us the Masoretic text. The
Septuagint is often referred to as the "LXX" because it was reputedly
done by seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria around 200 B.C. The
LXX appears to be a rather literal translation from the Hebrew, and
the manuscripts we have are pretty good copies of the original
In his book, Can I Trust My
Bible?, R. Laird Harris concluded, "We can now be sure that
copyists worked with great care and accuracy on the Old Testament,
even back to 225 B.C. . . . Indeed, it would be rash skepticism
that would now deny that we have our Old Testament in a form very
close to that used by Ezra when he taught the world of the Lord to
those who had returned from the Babylonian captivity."
VII. The New Testament
- The Greek Manuscript Evidence
There are more than 4,000 different
ancient Greek manuscripts containing all or portions of the New
Testament that have survived to our time. These are written on
- Papyrus and Parchment.
During the early Christian era, the
writing material most commonly used was papyrus. This highly
durable reed from the Nile Valley was glued together much like
plywood and then allowed to dry in the sun. In the twentieth
century many remains of documents (both biblical and non-biblical)
on papyrus have been discovered, especially in the dry, arid lands
of North Africa and the Middle East.
Another material used was
parchment. This was made from the skin of sheep or goats,
and was in wide use until the late Middle Ages when paper began to
replace it. It was scarce and more expensive; hence, it was used
almost exclusively for important documents.
- Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus
These are two excellent
parchment copies of the entire New Testament which date from the
4th century (325-450 A.D.).
- Older Papyrii
Earlier still, fragments and
papyrus copies of portions of the New Testament date from 100 to
200 years (180-225 A.D.) before Vaticanus and Siniaticus. The
outstanding ones are the Chester Beatty Papyrus (P45, P46,
P47) and the Bodmer Papyrus II, XIV, XV (P46,
From these five manuscripts
alone, we can construct all of Luke, John, Romans, 1 and 2
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and
2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and portions of Matthew, Mark, Acts, and
Revelation. Only the Pastoral Epistles Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy) and
the General Epistles (James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2, and 3 John)
and Philemon are excluded.
- Oldest Fragment.
Perhaps the earliest piece of
Scripture surviving is a fragment of a papyrus codex containing
John 18:31-33, and 37. It is called the Rylands Papyrus
(P52) and dates from 130 A.D., having been found in Egypt. The
Rylands Papyrus has forced the critics to place the fourth gospel
back into the first century, abandoning their earlier assertion
that it could not have been written then by the Apostle John.
- This manuscript evidence
creates a bridge of extant papyrus and parchment fragments and
copies of the New Testament stretching back to almost the end of
the first century.
- Versions (Translations)
In addition to the actual Greek
manuscripts, there are more than 1,000 copies and fragments of the
New Testament in Syria, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic, as
well as 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, some of which date back
almost to Jerome's original translation in 384-400 A.D.
- Church Fathers
A further witness to the New Testament
text is sourced in the thousands of quotations found throughout the
writings of the Church Fathers (the early Christian clergy (100-450
A.D) who followed the Apostles and gave leadership to the fledgling
church, beginning with Clement of Rome (96 A.D.).
It has been observed that if all of the
New Testament manuscripts and Versions mentioned above were to
disappear overnight, it would still be possible to reconstruct the
entire New Testament with quotes from the Church Fathers, with the
exception of fifteen to twenty verses!
- A Comparison
The evidence for the early existence of
the New Testament writings is clear. The wealth of materials for
the New Testament becomes even more significant when we compare it
with other ancient documents which have been accepted without
question. Consider the following chart:
|Author and Work
||Date of Events
||Date of Writing*
||Earliest Extant MS**
||Lapse: Event to Writing
||Lapse: Event to MS
||4 BC - AD 30
||50 - 65/75
||27 - 30
||5 BC - AD 30
||200 BC - AD 70
||200 BC - AD 65
||50 BC - AD 95
||500 BC - AD 70
|ca. 485-425 BC
|ca. 460-400 BC
|ca. 430-355 BC
|ca. 200-120 BC
||ca. 150 BC
*Where a slash occurs, the first date is conservative, and the second
**New Testament manuscripts are fragmentary. Earliest complete manuscript
is from ca. 350; lapse of event to complete manuscript is about 325 years.
In his book, The Bible and
Archeology, Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and
principal librarian of the British Museum, stated about the New
Testament, "The interval, then, between the dates of original
composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to
be in fact, negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that
the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were
written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general
integrity of the books of the New testament may be regarded as
To be skeptical of the 27 documents in
the New Testament, and to say they are unreliable is to allow all
of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of
the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as these
in the New Testament.
B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, the
creators of The New Testament in Original Greek, also
commented: "If comparative trivialities such as changes of order,
the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the
like are set aside, the works in our opinion still subject to doubt
can hardly mount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New
Testament." In other words, the small changes and variations in
manuscripts change no major doctrine: they do not affect
Christianity in the least. The message is the same with or without
We have the Word of God.
The Anvil--God's Word.
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime:
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, and then, with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."
And so, thought I, the anvil of God's word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed . . . the hammer's gone.
SECTION III: WHO WAS JESUS?
VIII. Jesus Was a Man of History
Having established above the overwhelming
historical reliability of the extra-biblical and biblical source
documents concerning His life, only dishonest scholarship would
lead one to the conclusion that Jesus never lived. From the
evidence, there is a high probability that He did, and we can
therefore discard the notion that He is only a mythological figure,
like Zeus or Santa Claus.
IX. Jesus Is the Unique Man of History.
But there seems to be a problem for many
with the portrayal of Jesus in the source documents. He does things
which defy our rationality. He is born of a virgin. He makes
strange statements about Himself and His mission. After years of
obscurity, He appears for a brief time in a flurry of public
ministry in a small and insignificant province of the Roman Empire.
He loves and heals and serves. He is a master teacher, but all of
His teaching points to Himself, to His identity. The following
claims which He makes concerning Himself are extraordinary.
- The Claims of Christ
- Able to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-10).
- A Healer of disease (Mark 5:21).
- Allows others to worship Him
(Matt. 14:33, 28:9; cf. also Acts 10:25,26;14:12-15).
- Claims to be "other worldly" in
origin and destiny (John 6:38).
- Performs miracles over nature
- Claims He has absolute, moral
purity (John 8:46, 2 Cor. 5:21).
- Claimed to be God, Messiah, and
the way to God (Mark 14:61,62; John 10:30; 14:6-9).
- Claimed to be the fulfillment of
all Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament (John 5:46-7; Luke
- Allowed others to call Him God and
Messiah (John 20:29; Matt. 16:15-17).
- Responding to the Claims
The wide divergence of opinion about who
Jesus really was is not based, as we have seen, on a lack of good
and adequate historical evidence; it rather comes from grappling
with His unique and audacious claims listed above.
There is no intellectually honest way to
carve up the documents according to our own liking and
philosophical preferences. Many have done this, including a great
American patriot and president, Thomas Jefferson. He admired Jesus
as a moral man, but would have nothing to do with the supernatural
elements found in the documents. Using scissors and paste, the Sage
of Monticello left on the cutting floor anything, he felt, which
contravened the laws of nature. Jefferson entitled his creation,
The Life and Morals of Jesus. Only 82 columns, or little
more than one tenth of the 700 columns in the King James Bible
remained. The other nine tenths of the gospel record were
discarded. His book ended with the words, "There laid they Jesus
(John 19:42) . . . and rolled a great stone to the door of the
sepulchre and departed (Matt. 28:60)."
One way to deal with the claims is to
remove the historical material which is offensive to us, such as
Jefferson did. The other option is to honestly accept the
historical accuracy of the documents and come up with a plausible
explanation. Our choices are reduced to one of four: He was either
a Liar, a Lunatic, a Legend, or our
- Considering the Options.
- Liar. Everything that we know
about Jesus discourages us from selecting this option. It is
incomprehensible that the One who spoke of truth and righteousness
was the greatest deceiver of history. He cannot be a great moral
teacher and a liar at the same time.
- Lunatic. Paranoid schizophrenics
do not behave as Jesus did. Their behavior is often bizarre, out of
control. They generally do not like other people and are mostly
self-absorbed. Nor do they handle pressure well. Jesus exhibits
none of these characteristics. He is kind and others-centered, and
He faces pressure situations, including the events leading to and
including His death, with composure and control.
- Legend. The greatest difficulty
with this option is the issue of time. Legends take time to
develop. Yet most of the New Testament, including Matthew, Mark,
Luke, Acts, and all of Paul's Epistles were written by 68 A.D. An
equivalent amount of time today would be the interval between
President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 to the present. For
people to start saying Kennedy claimed to be God, forgave people's
sins, and was raised from the dead would be a difficult task to
make credible. There are still too many people around who knew Jack
Kennedy . . . and know better.
In his book, Mere
Christianity, C. S. Lewis said, "A man who was merely a man and
said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral
teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who
says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of
God, or else a madman or something worse."
Other than the fact that the Liar,
Lunatic, and Legend choices are not persuasive as explanations for
who Jesus was, we are still faced with the question of why we
should accept Him as Lord.
During the latter days of His
ministry, Jesus was confronted by a hostile crowd which posed this
question to Him: "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." Jesus
answered, "An adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no
sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for
just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the
great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:38-40).
Here we are led to understand that
Jesus pointed to His bodily resurrection as THE authenticating sign
by which He would confirm His own unique claims. Later on, the
Apostle Paul, in speaking of the importance of this event to the
faith of a Christian would say, "If there is no resurrection of the
dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not
been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain.
. . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you
are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:13-17)." We now turn to explore
the possibility of such an event occurring.
X. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a Historical Fact
There are really two points that we must
prove in order to demonstrate the truth of the resurrection of
Jesus Christ. First, the tomb of Jesus Christ was found empty on
the third day after His death. Second, the tomb was empty because
Jesus was alive.
- The tomb of Jesus Christ was found
empty on the third day.
Many people have denied that Jesus' tomb
was found empty on the third day after His death, but their reasons
have generally been theological or philosophical. It's extremely
difficult to argue against the empty tomb on the basis of
historical evidence. Here are some historical facts that support
the idea that Jesus' body was no longer in the grave.
- Christians have argued that the
tomb was empty on the third day since the beginning.
It usually takes at least two
generations for false legends to develop, for the simple reason
that it takes about that long for those witnesses who might
contradict the tale to die off. By all accounts, however, the
followers of Jesus began proclaiming right away that he had
been raised from the dead.
The books of the New Testament were
written early enough that eyewitnesses could have still
contradicted them, and those books at times reveal oral traditions
(in the form of early creeds, songs, or sayings) that show the
church's belief in the resurrection to be even older. There does
not appear to have been sufficient time for a legendary account to
have developed the resurrection was talked about immediately after
the death of Christ.
- Even the opponents of Christianity
believed that the tomb was empty.
If Jesus' body had still been in the
tomb, it would have been pretty easy for the opponents of
Christianity to discredit the resurrection. They could have simply
produced the corpse, paraded it around town, and put an end to any
further speculation. Why didn't they do it? Because the body wasn't
The Gospel of Matthew records one of
the arguments that the religious leaders of the day used to explain
the fact of the empty tomb. Apparently the story was widely spread
among the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body from the tomb
while the guards were sleeping (Matt, 28:13 15). They did not deny
that the tomb was empty. They simply offered another explanation
for the disappearance of the body!
Some may suggest that the body of
Jesus was never buried in a recognizable tomb, and that the
opponents of Christianity simply were unable to locate the corpse
when Jesus' disciples began talking about the resurrection.
However, the earliest historical accounts maintain that He was
placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the
Sanhedrin. There is no reason to question the credibility of this
testimony, which is very ancient and contains a number of specific
details. As Craig writes,
"Even the most skeptical
scholars acknowledge that Joseph was probably the genuine,
historical individual who buried Jesus, since it is unlikely that
early Christian believers would invent an individual, give him a
name and nearby town of origin, and place that fictional character
on the historical council of the Sanhedrin, whose members were well
Jesus was buried in a known
tomb, but the tomb was empty the third day. This is a fact that
even the opponents of Christianity recognized, and it's one that
Christians can appeal to in their arguments for the gospel (Acts
- If the tomb had not been empty, it
probably would have been treated as a shrine.
It was common in first-century
Judaism to regard the graves of holy men as shrines, but there is
absolutely no suggestion that the grave of Jesus was ever treated
in that way. His followers did not come back again and again to the
place to worship, nor did they treat it with any special esteem.
There was no reason to, because there was nothing inside.
- If the tomb was occupied, what
would make the disciples of Jesus risk their lives by saying that
it was empty?
Jesus' followers clearly believed
His tomb was empty, for they were persecuted from the very
beginning for their testimony to that effect. That doesn't prove
that what they said was true, but it does strongly suggest that
they believed what they said. People have died for lies, but only
because they believed them.
What would make the followers of
Jesus believe that His tomb was empty? Their own writings state
that they believed it because they went to see the tomb and found
that His body was no longer there. They did what you and I would
do. They checked it out, and it was empty.
- The tomb of Jesus was empty because He
had been resurrected from the dead.
There is very little question that the
tomb of Jesus was found empty on the third day after His death.
This is a fact that was widely proclaimed at a time when it would
have been easily discredited had it not been true. Even the
opponents of Christianity agreed that the tomb was empty, and
therein lies the crux of our next problem.
Given that the tomb was empty, what
happened to the body of Jesus? There have been several suggestions,
only one of which can be true.
- Did the disciples steal the
As noted above, this was one of the
earliest skeptical explanations for the empty tomb. It may be
early, but it isn't very credible.
For the disciples to steal the body,
they would have had to overcome guards who were stationed there
specifically to prevent its theft. At the same time, they would
have had to manifest a tremendous amount of courage, which is some
thing they apparently did not have when they fled the night Jesus
If the disciples had stolen the
body, they obviously would have known that the resurrection had not
really taken place. The fact that these men suffered in life and
were then killed for their faith in the resurrection strongly
suggests that they believed it really happened. They did not give
their lives for what they knew was a lie. The disciples did not
steal the body of Jesus.
- Were the disciples deceived?
Some have suggested that the
disciples really did believe in the resurrection, but that they
were deceived by hallucinations or religious hysteria. This would
be possible if only one or two persons were involved, but He was
seen alive after His death by groups of people who touched Him, ate
with Him, and conversed with Him. Even more to the point, the tomb
really was empty! If the disciples didn't steal it, even if they
did only imagine that they had seen it, what happened to the body
- Did the Jewish leaders take
If the Jewish leaders had taken the
body of Jesus, they would have certainly produced it in order to
refute the idea that He had been raised from the dead. They never
did that, because they didn't have the body.
- Did Jesus really die?
When left with no other credible
option, some have suggested that Jesus did not really die, that He
only appeared to be dead, was revived, and then appeared to the
disciples. This makes a mockery out of the sufferings of the cross,
suggesting that a beaten and crucified man could force his way out
of a guarded tomb. At the same time, it portrays Jesus as the sort
of person who would willingly deceive his disciples, carrying off
the greatest hoax of all time. That the disciples would believe Him
to be resurrected in triumph over death would be even more
surprising if He was in fact on the edge of death after a severe
Jesus was truly killed, He was
actually buried, and yet His grave was empty. Why? It is extremely
unlikely that anybody took the body, but Jesus' disciples offered
- Jesus was raised from the
Since the other explanations do not
adequately explain the fact of the empty tomb, we have reason to
consider more seriously the testimony of those who claimed to be
The followers of Jesus said that the
tomb was empty because Jesus had been raised from the dead, and
many people claimed to have seen Him after the resurrection. In 1
Corinthians 15, Paul identifies a number of individuals who
witnessed the resurrected Christ, noting also that Christ had
appeared to over five hundred persons at one time (v. 6). He tells
his readers that most of those people were still alive, essentially
challenging them to check out the story with those who claimed to
be eyewitnesses. The presence of such eyewitnesses prevented Paul
and others from turning history into legend.
Alternative explanations are
inadequate, and eyewitnesses were put to death because they
continued to maintain that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
Christianity exists because these people truly believed in the
resurrection, and their testimony continues to be the most
reasonable explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
XI. The resurrection demonstrates the truth of Christianity
It is no exaggeration to say that the
Christian faith rests on the fact of Jesus' resurrection. Paul, who
wrote much of the New Testament, said that his entire ministry
would be worthless if the resurrection had not taken place.
"If Christ has not been raised," he wrote, "then our
preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. . . . If Christ has not
been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your
sins" (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). On the other hand, if Jesus Christ
has been raised from the dead, then Paul's message is true, faith
has meaning, and we can be freed from our sins.
That's essentially what we have been
arguing. It makes good sense to believe in the teachings of
Christianity, because those teachings are based on a simple
historical fact the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
If Jesus was raised from the dead, then what
He said about himself must have been true. When the religious
leaders of His day asked for some proof of His authority, Jesus
told them that the only proof they would be given would be His
resurrection from the dead (John 2:18 19; Matt. 12:38 40). When He
was raised from the dead, that proof was provided.
What was proven through Jesus' resurrection?
Here are some of the things that Jesus said about Himself, all of
which were affirmed by His resurrection from the dead:
"I am the bread of life; he who comes
to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never
thirst" (John 6:35).
"I am the light of the world; he who
follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light
of life" (John 8:12).
"Truly, truly, I say to you, before
Abraham was born, I AM" [a claim to be God himself] (John
"I am the door; if anyone enters
through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find
pasture" (John 10:9).
"I am the good shepherd; the good
shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
"I am the resurrection and the life; he
who believes in me shall live even if he dies" (John
"I am the way, and the truth, and the
life; no one comes to the Father, but through me" (John
If these statements are true, then anything
that contradicts them cannot also be true. In other words, if it is
true that Jesus is God, then anyone who says Jesus is not
God must be wrong. If it is true that Jesus gives eternal life
to those who believe in Him and that He is the only way to the
Father, then anyone who says that there are other ways to salvation
must be wrong.
How do we know that what Jesus said about
Himself is true? We know by His resurrection, which He offered as
definitive proof for all that He did and said.
What this means is that the statements
quoted above demonstrate the uniqueness of Jesus, but they also
demonstrate the uniqueness of Christianity. If what Jesus said
about Himself is true, then Christianity is true, and any
contradictory religious belief must be false.
That's not a very popular message in today's
pluralistic culture, but the fact is that there are genuine
differences between world views. Only one can really be correct. If
Jesus Christ was actually raised from the dead, there's little need
for further debate. He alone is the way, the truth, and the
XII. Jesus is the Lord of History
The material in this outline forms the
foundation for a Christian world view. It is on these critical
truths Christians have stood over the centuries. When someone asks
us the REASONS for the hope that is within us--that is, why we hold
to the Christian faith, these are the reasons. We prefer to believe
that the universe and man were created, rather than being the
products of blind chance in a closed, material world.
We believe that God not only created, but that
He communicated, revealed Himself to humankind, through His
prophets, apostles, and finally through His Son (Heb. 1:1). We
believe that Jesus lived, and that His life and mission, outlined
most extensively in the biblical documents but corroborated by
extra-biblical documents, are what they have purported to be over
the millennia: the seeking and saving of the lost through His
sacrificial death. We believe that Christianity cannot be
acceptably explained, historically, by leaving a dead Jew hanging
on a cross. Only His resurrection from the dead adequately explains
the boldness and commitment unto death of His disciples, the
forsaking of worship on the Sabbath in preference to Sunday, and
the exponential growth of the church which began immediately, and
has continued to this day.
Every mighty river on this planet--the
Mississippi, the Nile, the Volga, has its source. Each one begins
somewhere. Every Christian church or community in the world also
has an historical source. It flows from Palestine, from Jerusalem,
from a hill called Golgotha . . . and a nearby empty tomb.
We said in the beginning that everyone has
faith, but also pointed out that faith must have an object.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the most worthy of all
objects to which we could entrust our lives, our purpose, and our
For Further Reading
The Resurrection of Jesus
- Boa, Kenneth and Larry Moody. I'm Glad You
Asked: In-depth Answers to Difficult Questions about Christianity.
Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1982.
- This is a
small book, but it is surprisingly thorough. It is exceptionally
clear, accurate, and very helpful. A leader's guide is available
for those who want to use this book in small group study. Highly
- Brooks, Ron and Norman L. Geisler. When
Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. Wheaton, IL:
- This book addresses a variety
of issues in Christian apologetics, from the existence of God to
the authority of the Bible and the nature of humanity. It is very
readable, and its handbook format makes it easy for the reader to
find answers to specific questions without searching through the
- Geisler, Norman L. Christian Apologetics.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976.
- This is a
textbook for courses in Christian apologetics, so it is very
detailed and at times rather tedious reading. It presents a
complete defense of Christianity from a philosophical viewpoint and
can be very helpful.
- McGrath, Alister E. The Sunnier Side of
Doubt. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.
- It may seem odd to include a book on doubt here,
but it really is appropriate. Like the Yancey book noted below,
this is written to believers who are having doubts about their
faith. It is very readable and very encouraging. Highly
- Montgomery, John W., ed. Evidence for Faith:
Deciding the God Question. Richardson, TX: Probe, 1991.
- This is a collection of essays by scientists who
argue that their various disciplines actually provide more evidence
for Christianity. As with any multi-author work, some chapters are
better than others, but it is extremely thought-provoking and
should be very helpful in a college environment.
- Moreland, J. P. and Kai Nielson. Does God
Exist? The Great Debate. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson,
- This book consists of an actual debate
between a theist (J. P. Moreland) and an atheist (Kai Nielson). It
includes responses from two other theists (William Lane Craig and
Dallas Willard) and two other atheists (Antony Flew and Keith
Parsons). All of these men are philosophers, so the debate can be
rather challenging at times, but it is a very helpful work for
those who want to explore these issues in some depth.
- Watkins, William and Norman L. Geisler.
Perspectives: Understanding and Evaluating Today's World Views.
San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life, 1984.
- This book examines seven different world views and
argues for the truth of Christianity. It is very readable and very
- Yancey, Philip. Disappointment With God:
Three Questions No One Asks Aloud. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,
- This is a wonderful book that asks
some of the hard questions of life. Is God unfair? Is God silent?
Is God hidden? For those whose faith in God is being stretched by
doubts or trials, this book should be required reading. It is
sensitive, biblical, and extremely insightful. Read it!!
The Authority of the Bible
- Craig, William Lane. The Son Rises: The
Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Chicago:
- This is an excellent book that
thoroughly defends the resurrection of Jesus from a historical
perspective. It is well-reasoned and very readable. Highly
- Morison, Frank. Who Moved the Stone?
London: Faber & Faber, 1930. Reprint. Grand Rapids, MI:
- This book was written by a
man who intended to disprove the resurrection. In his studies he
became convinced that it had actually occurred, and this book
presents the evidence that changed his mind.
- Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are
They Reliable? Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1960.
is a helpful book by a highly respected New
Testament scholar. He argues for the historical authenticity and
reliability of the New Testament.
- Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A
General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1968.
book is titled appropriately, for it provides
a general overview of the nature of the Bible, the meaning of
inspiration, and the reliability of the biblical manuscripts. It is
very helpful and very readable.
- Goodrick, Edward W. Is My Bible the Inspired
Word of God? Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988.
- This book describes the difference between the
original autographs of Scripture, currently available manuscripts,
and modern translations. It is very clear and encourages the reader
to have confidence in the Scriptures.
- McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a
Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith. San
Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972.
- One of the most helpful apologetics books
available, this work discusses the uniqueness of the Bible,
demonstrates the strength of its manuscript support, and also
examines the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- ________. More Evidence that Demands a
Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith. San
Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975.
- This sequel to McDowell's first book focuses on
higher criticism and scholarly attempts to undermine the
authenticity of the biblical text. Very thorough and very
- Yamauchi, Edwin. The Stones and the
Scriptures: An Introduction to Biblical Archaeology. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker, 1972.
- Quite thorough for
an introduction, this book argues that archaeological discoveries
continue to support the truth of the biblical text.
© 2000 Probe Ministries International