Are the Gospels Reliable?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Is there credible evidence that the Bible is a reliable source of divine revelation? Does the Bible speak accurately on all subject matters or is it only authoritative in regard to spiritual issues? How can you trust the Bible when it was written two thousand years ago? How do you know that the Bible is not full of myths and fabrications? Are the canonical Gospels historically reliable documents on the life of Jesus?

It seems anytime I talk to others about the Christian faith I end up hearing one of these questions. For example, I was able to speak with an airline pilot about the evidence for the Christian faith. Although he claimed to be a Christian, he was uncertain about the accuracy of events recorded in the Gospels since they were written years after they actually occurred. He felt the Gospels were probably the result of men and women bringing together different legends and myths about Jesus of Nazareth.

There are numerous reasons we can appeal to in establishing the historical trustworthiness of the canonical (sacred books officially accepted as genuine) Gospels, including:

• The canonical Gospels are grounded in eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35). The authors claim
to have had actual contact with the events themselves (Matthew and John) or they had firsthand knowledge of the events through the testimonies of those who did (Mark and Luke).

• The Gospels were written too close to actual events surrounding the life of Jesus to be legend. The fact that they were in existence during the lifetime of both hostile and non-hostile eyewitnesses would have prevented fabrications or falsifications on the part of the Gospel writers.

External evidence, such as archeology, has verified the accuracy of the New Testament Gospels in regard to what they say about historical people, places, and events.

Consider just the following two examples: First, all of
the canonical Gospels record that Jesus was put on trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Matthew
27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18-19). Since there was no mention of Pontius Pilate outside the Gospel accounts, many scholars questioned whether Pilate was a historical person. Two Italian archeologists answered this question when they unearthed an inscription in Latin at the port city of Caesarea which stated, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans.”

Second, three of the canonical Gospels mention Nazareth as the city where Jesus was raised (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:16;
John 1:45). Since the Old Testament, Josephus, and the Talmud do not list Nazareth among the villages and cities of Galilee, Nazareth was considered by many scholars to be a fictitious city. However, in an excavation at Caesarea in 1962, a Hebrew inscription was found, “which mentions it (Nazareth) as one of the places in Galilee to which members of the twenty-four priestly courses emigrated after the foundation of Aelia Capitolina in A.D. 135.”

Adding to this discovery, first-century tombs were uncovered around the vicinity of Nazareth, which has led archeologists to conclude that, “… Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period.” So archeology continues to demonstrate the canonical Gospels are consistent with what we know about first-century Israel.

A true examination of the evidence has proven that the canonical Gospels on the life of Jesus are historically reliable and allegations to the contrary are false. The canonical Gospels provide us with four different accounts on the life of Jesus. In these accounts, while the authors may stress different aspects of Jesus’ life and have different purposes for writing, they each present harmonious historical information about Jesus of Nazareth.

Q&A: Why is it important Jesus rose from the dead?

Question

Is it really that crucial to believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead?

Answer

Photo by Douglas V. Mastriano

Yes. Jesus’ resurrection is the very foundation of the Christian faith! The Apostle Paul emphasized this point to the church at Corinth where some claimed there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul asserts that without the resurrection there would be no Christian faith:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

  1. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus predicted He would die and then three days later rise from the dead (Matthew 12:38-40; Mark 9:9-10; Luke 18:31-33; John 10:17-18). If He made these assertions and they had not come to pass, He would have been a liar or a lunatic—either insane or the greatest deceiver in history.

2. All four Gospels testify to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). If He had not, the Gospel accounts would have lost credibility and been discarded as historically unreliable documents. They could not be viewed as primary records of the things that happened (Luke 1:3-4), but products of later editing and manipulation on the part of the early church.

3. The central theme and testimony of the early church was the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:37-43; 13:27-37; 17:2-3; 26:22-23). If the resurrection had not occurred, it would have been impossible for Paul and others to persist in affirming that it had, in fact, occurred—especially in the presence of hostile eyewitnesses.

4. Without the death and resurrection, all Christians would still be in sin and under the judgment of God. Paul highlights this point to the Corinthian believers:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

5. Finally, without the resurrection, no one would have the eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) hope of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority over death. Those who place their faith and trust in Him have the assurance that death has been overcome and will be ultimately conquered at His second coming. As Jesus said to Martha who was grieving the loss of her brother Lazarus:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection is the crucial point of Christianity which either validates or discredits the Christian faith. This is why the apostle Paul stressed to the Corinthian believers that their faith would be in vain if Christ had not risen from the dead.

Henry M. Morris and Henry M. Morris III summed it up well in their book Many Infallible Proofs – Evidence for the Christian Faith:

If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

The Christian faith stands firm on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection: The incredible truth that has changed the lives of millions throughout history.

Evolution is True

Bill Rudge

The human massacre in Ukraine (having also prophetic implications) makes one realize that evolution must be true — “reverse evolution” that is!

While humans definitely did not evolve from animals, it sure seems that some humans have “devolved” into animals. Putin and others will one day stand before the God they do not believe in or honor. However, there is hope even for murderers through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Messiah’s Birthplace

BJ Rudge, PhD

One of my favorite places in the Holy Land is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This place is special because it attests to the historical birth of Jesus and testifies to His true identity.

Micah 5:2 identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. The uniqueness of Micah’s prophecy is fourfold: First, the Jewish chief priests and scribes recognized this passage in Micah as prophesying the Messiah (Matthew 2:3-8). Second, this prophecy highlights the exact city where Messiah would be born (Bethlehem Ephrathah). This was important because there was another city named Bethlehem (Joshua 19:15). Third, Micah declared this prophecy more than 700 years before Jesus Christ was born. Fourth, this prophecy was just one of many Messianic prophecies fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming.

Bethlehem was more than just a place where Jesus was born; it helped to identify Him as the promised Messiah.

The following is from “Turning Point Magazine” (used with permission):

700 Years Before Christ

When Jesus was born, there were three major continents known to scholars – Europe, Asia, and Africa. Asia was chosen, but Asia has many countries. Micah selected one country, Israel, with three districts – Judea, Galilee, Samaria. Judea was chosen, but Judea had thousands of villages. Yet seven hundred years before Christ, Micah pinpointed the very town of His birth – Bethlehem.

Ben Hur

Lew Wallace (4/10/1827 – 2/15/1905) was a lawyer, governor, Union general in the American Civil War, American statesman and author. According to an article in Israel My Glory magazine:

He and his famous ungodly friend, Robert Ingersoll, once agreed to write a book that would forever destroy the “myth” of Christianity. For two years, Wallace gathered information from the leading libraries of Europe and America. He got no further than chapter two when he suddenly found himself on his knees, crying out, “My Lord, and my God.” He had found his evidence, and it overwhelmingly and conclusively supported the deity of Christ. He could no longer deny that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. So Wallace abandoned his project and became a Christian. Later he wrote one of the finest novels ever written concerning the time of Christ, Ben Hur.

Instead of disproving the deity of Christ and His resurrection – Lew Wallace ended up defending it in his famous epic Biblical novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, described as “the most influential book of the nineteenth century.”

Verification of Christ’s Resurrection

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Verification of Christ’s resurrection has been investigated more extensively than available evidence of any other event in history! It has been examined and evaluated by some of the greatest scholars, historians, legal experts, scientists and archaeologists. Anyone who honestly examines the evidence will be convinced that Jesus:

presented Himself alive [to the apostles] after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

It is extremely important that Jesus rose from the dead because the resurrection is the very foundation of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul stressed this point to the church at Corinth where many people were claiming there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul asserts that without the resurrection there would be no Christian faith:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

First, throughout the Gospels Jesus predicted He would die and three days later rise from the dead (Matthew 12:38-40; Mark 9:9-10; Luke 18:31-33; John 10:17-18). If He made these assertions and they had not come to pass, then He was either an insane individual or the greatest deceiver in history.

Second, each Gospel testifies to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). If He had not, then the Gospel accounts would have no credibility and would have been discarded as historically unreliable documents. The Gospels could not be viewed as primary sources for those things that happened (Luke 1:3-4), but rather as products of later editing and manipulation on the part of the early church.

Third, the central theme of the early church was the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:37-43; 13:27-37; 17:2-3; 26:22-23). If the resurrection had not occurred, it would have been impossible for Paul and others to persist in affirming that it had in fact occurred – especially in the presence of hostile eyewitnesses.

Fourth, without the death and resurrection, all Christians would still be in sin and under the judgment of God. Paul highlights this point to the Corinthian believers:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

Fifth, without the resurrection no one would have the eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) hope of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority over death. Those who place their faith and trust in Him have the assurance that death has been overcome and will be ultimately conquered. As Jesus said to Martha who was grieving the loss of her brother Lazarus:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection is the crucial point of Christianity which either validates or discredits the Christian faith. Henry M. Morris and Henry M. Morris III summed it up well in their book Many Infallible Proofs – Evidence for the Christian Faith:

If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

Christianity stands firm on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. It is an incredible truth that has changed the lives of millions throughout history. I am convinced from a lifetime of research and personal experience that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did occur. Our eternal destiny is determined by whether we accept and believe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What Child is This?

by Wendy Wippel

Wendy Wippel is a molecular biologist who specializes in genetics. The following are excerpts from an article in The Lamplighter magazine. Used with permission.

Fresco in the Shepherd’s Field Church in Bethlehem.
Photo by Bill Rudge.

It’s the Christmas season, and amid the baking and the bustling and the bows, it’s easy to lose sight of what the fuss is all about — a baby. As the old carol asks, “What child is this?” There’s a lot riding on your answer. Because that baby is the central figure of human history. Human history, in fact, is divided into two eras (BC and AD) by His existence. (Your birth date? Counted from His.)

• He never traveled more than 100 miles from home, but His followers permeated every country in the world with His story.

• He never wrote a book, but more have been written about Him than anyone else in history, by far.

• The first book about Him, the Bible, has been translated into more than 500 languages, and portions of it into more than 3000 languages.

• He had only 12 disciples, but billions of people discuss His teachings every day.

• He was homeless during His public life, but most of the world’s most beautiful buildings were built in His honor (Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Hagia Sophia, Chartres, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on.)

• He died as a criminal, but today thousands of names of cities and countries memorialize His life. (San Salvador, for example, which means Holy Savior.)

• He never married, but more wedding vows have asked His blessing than any other.

• He never had kids, but there’s a really good chance you’re named after one of his family or his friends.

• Untold numbers of people throughout history have willingly gone to their deaths rather than renounce His name.

Jesus is recognized by skeptic and saint alike as the turning point of history. What child IS this? We’ve had 2000 years to speculate: A really moral man? A great philosopher? A champion of social justice? A pacifist? A mythical figure? A revolutionary? An example for all of us to follow?

Those really aren’t the right questions, though. The real question is “Who does He think He is?” And Jesus, tellingly, said none of the above. Jesus said that He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus said that He came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, He said that He came specifically for one moment in time, His crucifixion (John 12:27).

What child is this? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. And eternity rides on our answer. Why? Because God created humans to be with Him. But you probably know what happened next – Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God established, and humanity became tainted with sin. And as descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherited that condition. We’re all SIN positive.

The problem is that sin can’t survive in the presence of the holiness of God. But that same God still loves us and wants us to be with Him. So Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. We’re what was lost (John 1:12; 3:16).

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for you, but it’s just not my thing.” Or, “I have my own faith.” Or, “We all worship the same God.” Then what child is this? One that made some pretty amazing statements:

I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Matthew 28:18).

Nobody else said things like this. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Nobody. People these days say that makes Christianity exclusive. Except that Jesus also said that whosoever believes in Him can have eternal life. Whosoever.

So what child is this? You can call Him a liar. You can call Him a lunatic. Or you can call Him Lord. “Undecided” isn’t really an option. He didn’t mean for it to be.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Messiah, a Messiah described in Isaiah as “wounded for our transgressions,” whose chastisement made peace for us with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life as a ransom for many. Nobody else said that. Nobody.

That’s what sets Jesus apart. Only He laid down His life for your sins and mine. And when He died on that cross (a fact documented in Roman records) it would have certainly seemed that was the last history would hear of Him.

But the cross that He died on is now the world’s most common symbol, engraved on tombstones, mounted in and on churches, scattered on hillsides and hung around a whole lot of necks.

So what child is this? That’s the question. And the answer … God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to seek and save that which was lost, meaning you and me. When He died on the cross, God was saying that He loves you. He Himself came to earth to give His life as your ransom. It was the God of all the universe, whispering into your ears, “I do.” And that God, who still loves you, stands at the altar, waiting for your answer. He’ll wait. He has all eternity to do so. Do you?

Was the Crucifixion a Mistake?

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Deborah Ford on the Via Dolorosa during a Holy Land Adventure with Bill Rudge Ministries.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead and numerous other miracles Jesus performed created an intense expectation among the multitudes. The Jewish people were eager for the Messiah (Christ) to come and defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its former power and glory under King David. So at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed Him with shouts of praise as they spread palm branches, and even their own garments in His path.

During His triumphal entry, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as King (just as 1 Kings 1:32-35, 44 records that David had Solomon ride on his mule before having him anointed king). The people welcomed Him with shouts of Hosanna, and the words of Messianic Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their cloaks on the road was an act of royal homage (2 Kings 9:12, 13).

They Didn’t Understand

Less than a week after the triumphal entry, many of this multitude were shouting for Him to be crucified. Why? What happened? They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan for the Christ to die during His first coming (Romans 11:25, 26). Therefore, they rejected the Messiah and called for His death.

Numerous Old Testament Scriptures foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5-12; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 16:10). Nevertheless, the Jewish people and their leaders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, could not understand that God’s purpose was for the Christ to first die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Jesus foretold He was going to be crucified. It was for this purpose He had come (John 12:27). Jesus repeatedly told His disciples He must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again (Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33), but they were confused and did not comprehend what He meant (Luke 18:34; Mark 9:9, 10, 31, 32).

New Testament scholar, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writes:

This is also why his disciples forsook him when he was taken captive. Their minds were so completely imbued with the idea of a conquering Messiah whose role it was to subdue his enemies that when they saw him broken and bleeding under the scourging, a helpless prisoner in the hands of Pilate, and when they saw him led away, nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal, all their messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered.

Suffering Messiah

The Hebrew Scriptures mention a suffering servant, especially in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Scripture also tells about the Messiah coming as David’s heir and reigning as King. After centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, and then being under Roman oppression, the Jews of first century Israel yearned for the One who would come and rule on the throne of David forever. Consequently, the Jews of Jesus’ day only focused on the Messiah as coming King.

Peter tried to reprove Jesus for stating that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31, 32). But Jesus rebuked Peter and said—

Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Mark 8:33).

The animal sacrifices in the Tanakh [Old Testament] were a foreshadow of the death of the Messiah. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Whereas the animal sacrifices were regular occurrences, Christ’s sacrificial death was, “once…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no mistake. It had been determined before the creation of the world. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold this mystery of God which was meticulously fulfilled in Jesus Christ and majestically proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles.

God’s ultimate sacrifice is undeniable proof of His amazing and incomprehensible love for each of us.

Thoughts on the Resurrection

by Dr. BJ Rudge

Art for Bill Rudge Ministries by Louise Wieneke

If the resurrection had not occurred:
➔ The Christian faith is a lie.
➔ Jesus was just another person who claimed to be a messenger from God.
➔ There is no hope beyond the grave.
➔ We have no assurance we will see our loved ones again after death.
➔ The resurrection is a myth that has deluded millions with false hope.

If the resurrection really did happen:
➔ The Christian faith is true.
➔ Jesus is the Messiah, God incarnate and the only One who can give eternal life.
➔ Believers in Jesus Christ have a sure hope beyond the grave.
➔ We and our loved ones will rise from the dead and stand before our Creator to have our eternal destiny determined and receive our everlasting rewards.
➔ The truth of Jesus’ resurrection is the most significant event in history, inspiring millions with certain hope.

Christ’s death and resurrection are the means by which believers may
cling to hope in spite of the trials and tragedies of life. May you be strengthened by the love of Jesus. Never give up. Always have HOPE:

H old on to the promises of God (Revelation 21:3-4)
O pt to trust in God through the challenges you face (Isaiah 40:31)
P lace all your cares and concerns upon Him (Psalm 46:1-3)
E nter into the loving hands of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35)

Jesus Proved It

by Jim Weikal

Jesus told Martha at the funeral of her brother Lazarus that her brother would “rise again.” Martha, a devout Jew who understood the sacred scriptures, replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:23-24). She didn’t completely understand Jesus’ point so He became more specific:

I am the resurrection and the life and everyone who believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25, 26).

Jesus then follows His amazing declaration with a question, “Do you believe this?” Martha did. How about you? In case you may have some doubt about Jesus’ claim to being the resurrection, He proves it by resurrecting a dead body that is already in a state of physical decay (John 11:39). Standing near the tomb and over the noise of the crowd, Jesus cries out “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). Many of the Jewish friends of Mary who witnessed this amazing resurrection of Lazarus believed in Jesus (John 11:45).

So Jesus proved He could do it, didn’t He? If you believe this, tell someone about it. You may be the only voice to proclaim this truth to a lost soul in need of His resurrection power.

Two Men – Two Destinies

by Bill Rudge

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist – but the intricate prophecies in Scripture and the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ far surpass any human knowledge or ability. The psalmist stated, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The human conscience and the Creation point with definitive clarity to a magnificent Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me” (Isaiah 43:10). Moses wrote, “There is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life and there is no one who can deliver from My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

If Stephen Hawking was right about God, then he and Billy Graham lost nothing. However, if Billy was right, then he won everything and Stephen lost everything. In other words, Stephen Hawking had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Billy Graham had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that when we stand before God we will have no defense for rejecting Him.  He states in Romans 1:20, “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 that they are without excuse.”

Jeremiah the prophet precisely stated, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God will move heaven and earth to make known His way of salvation to anyone who seeks Him with a sincere and humble heart. Each of us has both the freedom and opportunity in this life to determine our eternal destiny.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11, 12).

Instead of discounting a creator and replacing Him with a faulty system of evolution that ultimately leads to a dead end, you can come to know the Creator in a real and personal way. Once you do, your endless hours of studying theories that continually change and dissipate can end and you can look at this amazing Creator’s creation through eyes of gratitude, hope and assurance.

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

The Unknown Book

By Dr. William Blythe Robinson

If someone were to ask you what you thought was the most unknown book in the world, what would be your answer? What if someone told you that the most unknown book in the world was publicly recognized by one of the world’s greatest literary scholars (Mortimer J. Adler) as one of the greatest books in all of human history and is still the number one best seller in the world? It’s possible that people may know its name but have no actual first-hand knowledge of its contents. That book is the Bible, yet few know that it is God’s Divine Library of 66 books: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

Here are some facts: the Bible is miraculous in its origin from divine inspiration; it is the voice of God Incarnate. Its harmonious parts were written over a period of 1600 years, with about 40 different authors from different parts of the world with different languages. Yet, the Bible remains one book: one history, one story – His story. Its durability transcends the centuries of attacks upon it. Its transforming power for good over the lives of all who accept it, continues. Few realize that it is the most expensive book in the world. It has cost the lives of untold thousands who gave their lives through the ages to preserve it and pass it on unchanged to you.

I had never read the Bible when I was in school. That changed, however, when I was drawn to a very attractive Catholic girl. I thought I knew enough about the Bible to start a conversation with her because I had attended a few Bible-believing churches. However, I soon found myself disagreeing with her when she said that her church was the “only true church.” With great confidence I set out to prove that the Bible said, “Go to the church of your choice.”

I started reading Matthew and completed the New Testament never finding the verse I had so confidently proclaimed to be true. This was a life altering experience for me.

First, I made the profound discovery that all the issues that I had been arguing about and that seemed so important did not even exist in the pages of the New Testament.

The second unbelievable discovery was that New Testament Christianity was so totally different from today’s organized religion. Out of my experience came one unshaken conviction: the best-known book in the world was in reality an unknown book. This was a fact that I had never even considered until I had read it for myself. An attractive girl had attracted me to this unknown book. Now I love both the book and its author. Since then I have continued to learn its transforming story.

The third thing that I learned was that you can prove most anything by the Bible if you don’t truly know its contents for yourself.

The fourth thing I learned was that the Bible is all around us, often hidden away and unused, such as the Gideon Bibles that are tucked away, out of sight, in motel rooms. Today, the Bible is unknown in our society at large and in our schools and some of our churches in particular. Hosea 4:6 warns, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

The fifth thing that I learned was that the contents of those 66 books will judge all mankind someday as it says in Revelation 20:12: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened…and the dead were judged out of…the books according to their works.” Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The standard of judgment is found in John 12:48: “He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that will judge him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Revelation 20:15 is simply horrifying.

Today the Bible’s voice is but a faint echo in the halls of America’s history. Having been labeled “politically incorrect,” its message and prayers are banned in public schools. Yet our Presidents are sworn in on it in public in His name. In connection with this, it’s rarely known that in 1892 the Supreme Court declared America to be a “Christian nation” and this has never been rescinded. Why is the Bible, today, treated like an enemy that we must defy? What harm can its loving message inflict upon our children? What damage has it done to generations who were, in generations past, raised upon its teachings, both in our homes and in our schools, on television and in the older movies? What manner of life or course of conduct does it inspire that would not be desirable? Why have we turned our backs upon this book and left it alone to die? What qualities does it have to make it deserve ignoring? Why have churches turned from the Bible to creeds and theology? Why do so few carry it to church? Why have the ones who say it is God’s book denied its basic truth by their lives? Why are there so many ministers preaching sermons that leave us empty in our heads and hearts regarding the greatest book in the world? Regardless of how we got to where we are today, the Bible in America remains an unknown book to the multitudes.

About a week before his death, Sir Walter Scott said to his son-in-law, Lockhart, “Read to me from the Book.” And when Lockhart asked him from what book, Scott said, “Need you ask? There is but one.”

Long before his death Scott acknowledged the following:

  1. The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, doom of sinners, and happiness of believers.
  2. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
  3. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.
  4. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter.
  5. It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you.
  6. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disposed.
  7. Christ is its Grand Subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.
  8. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.
  9. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully.
  10. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure.
  11. It is given you in life, will be opened in Judgment and be remembered forever.
  12. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents.

Without Excuse

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

I have met many atheists, such as my former college professor who vehemently denied the existence of anything outside the natural world. He spent the whole semester trying to demonstrate the foolishness of believing in God and the Bible. From his perspective, faith in God was devoid of sound reasoning and mere wishful thinking. Although I earned his respect and we had some profitable discussions, he died several years later as a lonely alcoholic.

Many atheists, agnostics and freethinkers claim they have come to their conclusion through rational thinking and by thoroughly examining all the evidence. Despite not having the ability to know everything and be everywhere at the same time, they are certain God does not exist. They often portray themselves as being enlightened and intellectually superior, while those who believe in the existence of God are, in their estimation, delusional and in need of a spiritual crutch.

Atheism leads to self-centered worship,

where man, not God, becomes

the center of the universe.

However, Scripture indicates they are the real fools (Psalm 14:1) and are “without excuse” for denying God’s reality. Consider the insightful words of the apostle Paul:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 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 that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20).

As Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, not only has God instilled within each individual a conscience that bears witness to His existence, He has revealed His reality through His creation. On the Day of Judgment people will be “without excuse,” or anapologetous in the Greek (“without a defense”) for rejecting God because of a supposed lack of evidence. There is more than sufficient proof that He exists.

The Real Reason

While I have heard many arguments against the existence of God, most admitted their initial reasons for rejecting God were of a personal nature such as unanswered prayer, suffering and pain or unwillingness to change immoral behavior. For instance, while at a soccer clinic I met a man named John. Every time someone would bring up the subject of God, John would get very agitated and start yelling that God did not exist and all religions were false.

After a few days of his ranting, I had a chance to talk with John alone. During our conversation, I discovered why he was so hostile: He had family members who were survivors of the Holocaust, and he could not understand why God allowed this atrocious event to happen. Thus, behind all of his arguments and hostile feelings, John was denying God’s existence because of the pain and suffering his family endured.

The apostle Paul goes on to talk about the second step people take after rejecting God: substituting the worship of the true God to worship something within creation:

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:25).

When someone refuses to acknowledge the true God, he sets himself up as God. In essence, atheism leads to self-centered worship, where man, not God, becomes the center of the universe. This is the way John lived his life: He became accountable only to himself. He lived a life of self-indulgence as he pursued all forms of temporal pleasures seeking to find lasting fulfillment. Despite all of his attempts, he admitted he still felt a void in his life and a yearning to find purpose and meaning to his existence.

As John and I continued our conversation, I was able to share with him why I believed in Jesus Christ. I explained how my faith was not a blind leap in the dark but was supported by evidence. I specifically detailed the various Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus as well as the historical evidence that surrounded His resurrection. When we were done with our conversation, this man who had been so hostile toward God and Christianity looked at me and said, “I never knew there was evidence to verify the Christian faith. In all my dealing with Christians, they never once took the time to share this information with me.”

As the week of the clinic moved on, I continued to build a relationship with John. A few weeks later I received an e-mail: John shared how much our conversation touched his life and that he was now open to further investigation. He closed by stating that just as in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey had impacted the lives of others; so too I had been a George Bailey in his life.

The following are three important principles I use when dealing with self-professing atheists such as John: First, be ready to give a reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). You never know when a John will come across your path. Second, speak the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Your motivation should be to represent Christ, not trying to win an argument. Third, get beyond what is being said to understand why it is being said. Remember, behind every argument and hostile feeling is a person like John, who is hurting and in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 17).

The Spread of Evil

by Bill Rudge

The senseless violence and unrestrained wickedness in our society reflects the glaring truth that evil exists. Satan, the powerful being described in the Bible, reveals himself as seeking to destroy God’s highest creation – human beings. He is the motivating influence for many of the atrocities humans commit against each other and for self-destructive behavior.

Chaos, confusion, decadence, depravity reveal that something is definitely wrong with our human experience. The Bible attributes this to the Fall (Genesis 3) – initiated by the rebellion and deception of Satan.

In his strategy to annihilate humanity’s allegiance to its Creator, Satan inspires both false religions and the delusion there is no Creator.

How better to explain the uninhibited immorality, unabashed greed and horrific violence than the malicious being in Scripture referred to as Satan (adversary), aka the devil (slanderer). He is the evil one, the murderer and father of lies – wreaking havoc on this planet.

Since Satan exists it is reasonable to conclude that the Creator-God, who threw him out of heaven, also exists. This Creator-God is seeking in every way possible to draw His creation into a restored relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

The days prior to Jesus second coming are treacherous because of demonic deception and proliferation of evil. Scripture indicates we will see uninhibited, unrestrained and unrepentant immorality, sorcery and violence as we draw closer to Christ’s return. Wickedness will reach its crescendo right before Jesus Christ returns to subdue those who would destroy and pervert His creation. But evil and death will give way to everlasting peace and joy as all of creation is restored to Paradise when Jesus ushers in His Eternal Kingdom. Be certain you are a part of it!

Resume of Jesus Christ

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

I was witnessing to a man devoted to a religion that claimed all paths lead to God. He believed the founder of his religion was the true manifestation of God. So I asked what credentials the founder of his religion had to persuade me to become a follower. He said that if I read his writings I would get a feeling in my heart that he was truly a messenger from God.

While I can appreciate the importance of an emotional response to one’s faith, feelings change like the wind and the weather. I explained to him that I was not willing to invest my life and trust my eternal destiny on a mere feeling.

Devoid of any further reasons to persuade me to accept his belief system, I began to share with him the credentials of the One and True manifestation of God. I shared with him that Jesus Christ fulfilled Messianic prophecy, lived a sinless life, performed miracles, provided the remedy for man’s condition (sin), and demonstrated His authority over death by rising from the dead. After setting forth these reasons, this man sat in utter silence. The founder of his religion had no such evidence.

When you compare Jesus’ resume to any other religious figure, you quickly discover that He alone is worthy of placing our lives and eternal destiny in His hands. As the apostle Peter stated, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).