A Biblical Case for the Deity of Christ
By BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
A Biblical Case for the Deity of Christ
“‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:15-16)
The issue of “Who Jesus is” has been a topic of debate throughout history. During His own time, some saw Him as a great prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist (Matthew 16:14). Others, who opposed Him, saw Him as working in the power of Satan and his demons (Luke 11:15,16). Finally, others, like Peter, saw Jesus as the Son of God.
In order to obtain the answer to the question, “Who Jesus is,” one needs to examine what Scripture has to say about the person, work, and ministry of Jesus. An examination of Scripture will reveal that there are a variety of indicators that conclusively point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The following are three of these indicators, which draw a strong parallel between the depiction of Jesus found in the New Testament and the depiction of Yahweh (God) found in the Old Testament.
The first indicator is the divine titles that Jesus applies to Himself and which are applied to Jesus by the New Testament writers. What makes these titles so unique is that they were titles used in reference to Yahweh in the Old Testament. Consider the following examples: First, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18). This beloved title was used several times in the Old Testament in reference to Yahweh (Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:1-16). Second, Jesus used the title “I am” as a declaration of who He was (John 8:58). Yahweh first used the usage of “I am” in the Old Testament when He revealed who He was to Moses (Exodus 3:14).
In both these contexts, the Jews became angry and sought to kill Jesus because they knew that by using these titles Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh. Third, the apostle John calls Jesus “the First and the Last,” (Revelation 1:17; 2:8) which was a title used in Isaiah in reference to Yahweh (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6). Fourth, the apostle Paul called Jesus the Creator (Colossians 1:16). In Isaiah, Yahweh alone is referred to as “He who made all things” (44:24). Fifth, it is interesting to note that Jesus is referred to several times in the New Testament as Savior (Luke 2:11; Titus 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1). In the Old Testament, Yahweh alone is considered to be the Savior: “Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.” (Isaiah 45:21b)
In addition to the claims made by Jesus and the titles that were applied to Him, divine attributes ascribed to Jesus stand as proof for His deity. Consider the following examples. First, Jesus is said to possess the attribute of omnipresence (Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 1:23). Second, the divine attribute of omniscience is attributed to Him (John 16:30; 21:17). Third, Jesus is said to be immutable (Hebrews 1:12; 13:8). Fourth, Jesus is considered to be omnipotent (Matthew 28:18). Fifth, Jesus is said to be eternal (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5). Sixth, the divine attribute of perfect holiness is applied to Jesus, whereby in light of His humanity, He committed no sin (Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22).
All of these attributes are specifically assigned to Yahweh in the Old Testament: omnipresence—Jeremiah 23:23-24; omniscience―Psalm 139:1-4; 147:4-5; immutable—Psalm 102:27; omnipotent—Psalm 66:7; eternal—Psalm 90:2; holy—Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 99:3, 9. Only one who is truly God could be credited with such attributes as these.
A final indicator we will consider in this article is the divine actions that are accredited to Him.
First, Jesus claimed that He could forgive sins (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:47-48). By claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was accused of blasphemy, since God alone was recognized by the Jews as having the authority to forgive sins, “Why does this man (Jesus) speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). It should be noted that in Judaism, sins were to be atoned for through offerings and sacrifices made at the temple, which would in turn be forgiven by God alone. However, in the context above, no offering is given and, even though He is not a priest, Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins on the basis of His own authority. Dr. Ronald Nash notes the following in his book, Is Jesus the Only Savior?:
When Jesus forgave people, he went beyond what any mere human is able to do. Any of us can forgive people for the things they do to us. Jesus did that, of course; but he also forgave people for the sins they had committed against others! In all these cases, Jesus acted as though the sins against other humans were violations of his holy law and thus sins against him as well.
Second, Jesus received prayers from others (Acts 1:24-25; 7:59; 2 Corinthians 12:8), and prayers from the Old Testament are applied to Him (Psalms 8:1-2, Yahweh is addressed in prayer – Jesus applied this prayer to Himself in Matthew 21:16; Psalm 102:24-27, another prayer addressed to Yahweh―this prayer is applied to Jesus in Hebrews 1:10-12). It would not make any sense for one to pray to Jesus if He was merely a created being. Only an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being is worth praying to. This is exactly why in the Bible only God receives prayer.
Third, Jesus receives the divine act of worship. In Judaism, worship was only to be given to God alone. In fact, worshiping God alone was one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel to follow (Exodus 20:4-6). This theme of worshiping God alone is carried on into the New Testament. For instance, the apostle Peter tells Cornelius not to worship him for he is just a man (Acts 10:25-26). Also, upon worshiping an angel in the book of Revelation, the apostle John is told by the angel to worship God (22:8-9). In these New Testament passages we see that worship is not to be given to man, or a supernatural being such as an angel, but to God alone.
If Jesus were merely a created being, even a supernatural created being like the angel John met, we would expect that He too would rebuke people, as both Peter and the angel had done, for worshiping Him. However, Jesus never rebukes anyone for worshiping Him (Matthew 14:33; 28:9, 17; John 9:38). It is interesting to note that Jesus Himself rebuked Satan by saying that it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10) If Jesus were not God, then why would He quote this verse one moment and then violate it the next by accepting the worship of others?
“My Lord and My God”
If Jesus was not divine, why would Jewish men and women, who were thoroughly raised in accordance to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), attribute titles and names designated for Yahweh to Jesus? If Jesus were not divine, how could someone who is not divine forgive sins and receive the worship and prayers of man?
These questions can only be answered when we begin to understand that Jesus is God and as a result can forgive sins, receive worship, and possess divine attributes. A true look into the Scriptures will clearly reveal Christ’s divine nature. And when one honestly faces the truth of what the Word of God has to say about who Jesus really is, he can only come to the same conclusion and confession as Thomas, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
by T.V. Oommen, Ph. D
The Wonderful Machine
“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made …” Psalm 139:13,14
“Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
The above pronouncements were made hundreds of years ago, before medical science had revealed to us the marvels and mysteries of the human body. Modern scientific discoveries and technological advances have not diminished our sense of wonder; on the contrary, they have augmented it. The more we know of the machinery of our body, the more we are amazed at the complexity and unity of the body functions.
The Unity of the Cell Network
Our bodies are made up of a vast number of “living” cells, the basic units of life, 100 trillions (100,000,000,000,000) of them, packed into the various organs, the skeletal structure, the muscles, the blood stream, and so on. At birth a baby has one tenth of this many cells, all originating from one single fertilized egg cell by division into 2, 4, 8, etc. At an early point in the cell division the divided cells become specialized so that some become nerve cells, others become bone cells and so on. Eventually these cell groups become body organs, bones, muscles and other parts.
Each of the 100 trillion cells contain the identical genetic code, the DNA molecule which is made up of 100,000 subunits, the genes. The information carried by each DNA molecule, if written out, would fill a thousand 600-page books. Yet it takes an incredibly small space in the cell. Each cell, in spite of the identical code within, is unique because it knows its specialized function and its role in the overall well-being of the body. Without such unity our body would not function.
The Skeletal Structure
In 1867 an engineer demonstrated that the arrangement of the bone cells forms the lightest structure made of the least material to support the body’s weight. Bones possess incredible strength, matched only by steel. The hollow structure of the bone is a weight saving device, and only in modern times our architectural designs have tried to imitate them. Inside the hollow structure is the bone marrow which is an efficient red cell factory that turns out a trillion new cells per day to replace the dead cells.
The design of the bones is ingenious in each part of the skeletal system. Consider the bones of the foot, where 26 of them line up in each, the same number as in each hand. A soccer player subjects these bones to a cumulative force of 1,000 tons per foot over the course of a match, but his bones endure this stress and maintain the elasticity. We walk some 115,000 miles in a life time with our feet. Our body weight is evenly spread through architecturally perfect arches which serve as springs, and the bending of the knees and ankles absorb stress.
Our brain has ten billion cells, all of which are present at birth. They are not replaced like the cells of the rest of the body, because they are the communication network of the body and the source of intelligence, memory and recall functions. Damage to these cells by drugs and alcohol is irreversible. Each nerve cell has a potential 25,000 interconnections with other cells, making a total of 250 trillion permutations (a computer with the same capabilities may fill up a sizeable part of the earth). The brain controls all body functions, sends signals to activate muscles, triggers the release of hormones, receives sensation that is interpreted as sight, pain, softness, melody, and pleasure. Without the brain’s constant monitoring of body activity, normal life would be impossible.
This vital organ responds to stimulus from the brain by producing the rhythmic vibration of its muscles which is felt as heartbeats, and which causes blood to be circulated in the body. On a single day the heart pumps 1,250 gallons of blood through 1,000 complete circuits, equivalent to 38 million gallons of blood in a period of 70 years. To pump this much blood the heart beats 100,000 times a day, 40 million times a year, taking rest only one-sixteenth of a second between beats. Most of the malfunctions of the heart are associated with the blood supply to the heart muscles; those arteries that supply the blood to the muscles thicken by cholesterol deposits, and may be influenced by improper diet and health habits.
The respiratory process in man and mammals has many common features. Our lungs intake air from the atmosphere, and in the tiny air sacs of the lungs oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. The blood stream acts as the transportation mechanism in this exchange. All the 100 trillion cells of an adult human body receive oxygen each time we breathe.
The Sense Organs
Each sense organ is a marvelous piece of machinery. We shall consider only one sense organ here, the eye. This amazing organ is much more intricate than a television camera, in spite of several common features. The retina which registers the image contains 107 million cells of which seven million are called “cones” that give color perception and differentiation of color shades. The other 100 million cells are the “rods” which are required for low light vision. Each of these cells send a signal to the brain which interprets the image. We can sense light in the dimmest room as well as from the brightest source because the iris can adjust its opening automatically.
Perhaps the most amazing of all body functions is reproduction. There are various types of reproduction in nature, both sexual and asexual. God designed sex, and intended it to be a pleasurable activity that enriches our lives and presents us with our offspring. The design of our reproductive organs and their functions proclaims the wisdom of the Creator. All human and animal life begins with the union of a sperm and an egg, which enables the fusion of the genetic codes of the parents. The growth of the embryo into a fully developed human being in the womb and the process of birth are miracles. The mother’s body switches off the immune reaction for rejection of the fetus which is somewhat foreign to her body. The birth process involves the turning on of biological clocks and initiating special activities that culminate in the release of the baby and the restoration of normality to the mother.
Our body is especially designed by the most intelligent Designer, whom we call our Creator. We ought to acknowledge our indebtedness to Him for our existence in praises as the psalmist did. Unfortunately, many people, particularly those blinded by evolution, do not give credit to the Creator but to Nature for the wonderful way we have been designed.
The creationist acknowledges that he is designed by God, and is under His care and protection. His relationship with the Creator does not end with this life, but continues through eternity.
Excerpted from The Creation Alternative, by T.V. Oommen, Ph.D. Used by permission.
The Creation Alternative was prepared using information gathered from numerous books and magazine articles in the author’s collection (over 18,000 pages of reading material), and from the author’s research.
From Atheist to Creationist to Christian
by Spike Psarris
I was an atheist and an evolutionist well into my adult years, working as an engineer in the military space program. One day a Christian co-worker challenged me on my atheism: “You believe in the laws of physics, don’t you?”
“Yes, we use them here every day,” I replied.
“Then how do you reconcile them with the Big Bang?” He didn’t explain what he meant, but he didn’t have to—I suddenly realized that fundamental physics and the Big Bang model don’t get along very well. This was a mental version of scales falling off my eyes as I realized I believed mutually incompatible things. I was surprised, and wondered: Why couldn’t I see this problem before?
This started a long process of re-examining my belief system. I went through a large pile of secular books and textbooks on origins-related science. I was already familiar with much of this material, but this time I was looking to see how many of the claims were based on actual data, versus how many were based on assumptions, flawed reasoning, or wishful thinking. My co-worker also lent me numerous creation and apologetics materials.
I started to see that science as seen from the Christian/creation perspective made a lot more sense than it did from my evolution perspective.
Meanwhile, I was taking some graduate-level physics classes. I started to notice more and more incompatibilities between physics and my evolutionary beliefs. For example, in an astrodynamics class we modeled orbital insertions (where one object gets gravitationally captured and goes into orbit around another). This requires precise maneuvering and the shedding of a lot of energy—our spacecraft can enter orbits around other planets only because they have thrusters, and thus can steer and brake. But objects like asteroids lack this ability, so they’re extremely unlikely to be captured gravitationally into stable orbits around other objects.
Nevertheless, secular scientists invoke gravitational captures over and over again to explain away numerous solar system “anomalies”—objects that don’t match their origin models. I had known this for years and accepted it uncritically. Now that I understood the physics behind captures, I realized how contrived the secular story was. This realization occurred repeatedly as I continued to re-examine my beliefs.
My research wasn’t limited to astronomy—I also investigated other origins-related sciences, as well as history and archaeology. Of these, the things that made the largest impression were the evidence of a global flood, the historicity and reliability of the biblical text, and the overwhelming historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.
After almost a year of doing this, eventually I had to admit that the evidence (scientific, historical, etc.) did not agree with my atheism. Instead, the biblical account of history was true. I didn’t like this, though. If the Bible were true, then I was a sinner who deserved judgment. But I had to admit that this is where the evidence led.
After struggling with this for a while, I finally realized that yes, I am a sinner. And God knows my sin better than I do. But He also loves me enough to have sent His Son to pay for it in my place. I realized that, truly, the gospel is Good News. What better news could there be? At that point, I accepted the Lord and became a Christian.
There are many people who believe in creation because they are Christians. I am one for whom the opposite sequence is true—I became a creationist first, and a Christian afterward.
Excerpted from “Creation Conversion: The Turning Point” in Acts & Facts, June 2014. Mr. Psarris has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and was formerly an engineer in the United States military space program.
How Could Jesus Speak to Large Audiences?
by Bill Rudge
Scripture indicates that Jesus spoke to large audiences (thousands of people) by the Sea of Galilee. Skeptics said it would be impossible for Him to speak to thousands of people without amplification equipment.
However, I was in Israel at the site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The hill forms a natural amphitheater that slopes to the Sea of Galilee and amplifies the speaker’s voice. The air above the Sea of Galilee is very static so that sound waves travel easily. It’s possible Jesus stood at the bottom of the hill and spoke to the crowd who sat above Him.
Matthew 4:25-5:2 gives the following account:
Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him. Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them ….
While standing on the site of the Sermon on the Mount, I was talking in my normal voice to one of the pastors in our group who was almost 100 yards away, and he could hear me plainly. Then, while standing on the shore, we became very quiet and, although several hundred yards away, we could hear two fishermen talking to each other on a small boat.
Once again the Bible is authenticated and skeptics are silenced.
Is the Bible Reliable?
The following is excerpted from an article BJ Rudge wrote while working on his doctorate. This powerful article will encourage you with the uniqueness and reliability of Scripture. BJ’s complete article on this topic along with several of his other articles on evidences for the Christian faith will eventually be compiled into a challenging new book.
Is there credible evidence to demonstrate 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? On one side of this debate are those who affirm that the Bible is full of errors, contradictions, and mythological elements, and if any reliability should be given to the Bible it should only include religious content. Another side to this debate asserts that the Bible is the very infallible Word of God, and as Paul claimed in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Bible is reliable on all subject matters.
By appealing to archaeology, history, science, and fulfilled prophecy, we will see that the Bible is a reliable source of divine revelation on all subject matters contained within it. We will present a cumulative case approach by bringing together proofs from a variety of areas. These proofs will act as pieces of a puzzle, whereby when they are all put together, the puzzle will be complete.
Unique Structure of the Bible
The first piece of the puzzle is the internal structure of the Bible. As we examine the biblical texts, we quickly realize that throughout the Bible (Genesis to Revelation), there is a unified harmonious theme. When we take into account the various authors, cultural backgrounds, and span of time, we begin to get a glimpse of the unique structure of the Bible.
First, the Bible was written over a 1,500 year span (from about 1450 B.C. to about A.D. 90). This time span consisted of diverse history with events ranging from times of conquest and war to captivity and peace. Second, more than 40 authors wrote the Bible:
Two of the writers (David and Solomon) were kings; two were priests (Jeremiah and Ezekiel); Luke was a physician; two were fishermen (Peter and John); two were shepherds (Moses and Amos); Paul was a Pharisee and theologian; Daniel was a statesman; Matthew, a tax collector; Joshua, a soldier; Ezra, a scribe; and Nehemiah, a butler. Backgrounds and occupations of the other writers are largely unknown. Some were highly educated, but most were of ordinary circumstances.1
Third, these authors wrote in different settings. For example, Paul wrote while in prison, Moses wrote in a wilderness, and John wrote the Book of Revelation while exiled on the isle of Patmos. Not only did these diverse authors write in different settings, but their writings were also written on three different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe). Fourth, the Bible was written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek).
Fifth, the authors wrote in a variety of styles. For example, there is poetry, law, prophecy, narratives, wisdom literature, gospels, acts, epistles, and revelation. Amidst this diversity, one would expect discrepancies. Certainly these various authors, from different cultural settings, are going to be in disharmony over a variety of issues.
However, when we come to the Bible, we have exactly the opposite of what we would expect. Amidst the diversity we have unity. This unity is reflected in the overall theme of the Bible. The Old Testament begins with the reality of human sin and man’s need for redemption, which, through the act of God’s love, is fulfilled in the New Testament by the coming of Jesus Christ.2 It is important to keep in mind that this unity goes beyond the main theme of the Bible to the very doctrines that it rests upon. In a pamphlet entitled, Bible Unity ― An Argument for Inspiration, Wayne Jackson emphasizes this point:
It truly is an astounding phenomenon that whereas biblical writers did not hesitate to criticize one another for personal flaws of conduct (see Galatians 2:11ff.), and while one author might concede that another writer’s production was difficult to understand (II Peter 3:16), never did the inspired writers critique, or attempt to refute, the doctrinal argumentation of their inspired companions. Contrast this with the conduct of theologians in this age ― indeed, of any age!3
Jackson then goes on in this pamphlet to cite examples of doctrinal harmony. He appeals to the fact that the Bible affirms that there is but one God manifested as three distinct persons, the universe has a beginning and was created by God, man is more than physical matter and was created in the image of God, and that blood is necessary for the atonement of sin.
The Bible stands out as being unique in that amidst the diversity there is a unified theme and purpose.
“How can you trust the Bible when it was written two thousand years ago?” “How do you know that the Bible has not been changed since it has been copied and recopied throughout history?” “How do you know that the Bible is not full of myths and fabrications when it was written many years after the actual events?” It seems that anytime I talk to others about the Christian faith I end up hearing one of these questions.
On a recent trip I was able to speak with an airline pilot about the evidence for the resurrection. Although he claimed to be a Christian, he argued that we really could not be sure of the total accuracy of the recorded events in the Gospels since they were written years after the events actually occurred. At the heart of his claim was the notion that the Bible is not a historically reliable document.
Based upon the assumptions of this pilot and others, the task before us is to decide whether or not the Bible is in fact a historically reliable document. The way that this can be done is by appealing to three tests that have been used to determine the reliability of a document. These tests, which were espoused by military historian C. Sanders, are the bibliographical, internal, and external tests.4
The bibliographical test determines whether or not the document has gotten to us successfully through years of copying and recopying, and thereby accurately represents what was first written. Since we do not possess the original manuscripts of ancient documents, the bibliographical test helps us to determine the reliability of the copies that we have by taking into account the number of manuscripts available and the time span between the writing of the original document and the copies that we possess.
Second is the internal test, which determines whether the document itself claimed to have been written by eyewitnesses or by associates of eyewitnesses. Third is the external test. This test determines whether there is data outside the document that will confirm the claims that the document makes.
Let us consider the bibliographical test. No other document of the ancient world comes even close to the reliable manuscript tradition for the New Testament. In regard to the number of manuscripts that we have of the New Testament, Josh McDowell asserts the following: “There are now more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions and we have more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence.”5
Let’s compare the number of manuscripts of the New Testament to other ancient documents. Take for instance the writings of the ancient historian Herodotus. Although his historical writings are considered to be reliable sources, we have only eight manuscript copies of his works. Homer’s Iliad, of which we possess 643 manuscript copies, ranks next to the New Testament in the number of total manuscripts.
When comparing the time frame from the original manuscript to the copies that we possess, once again the New Testament stands above all other ancient documents in regard to the reliability of its manuscript tradition. For example, historians believe that we can be confident that Caesar’s Gallic Wars were actual historical events. Historians assert this claim, even though the time frame from the original manuscripts of Caesar’s Gallic Wars (between 58 and 50 B.C.) to the copies that we possess is 900 years later than Caesar. Comparing this to the New Testament, the time frame from the original manuscripts of the Gospels (A.D. 40-100), to the copies that we possess, is less than 200 years.6 Once again Homer’s Iliad is the closest to the New Testament in that the time between the original manuscript (900 B.C), to the copies that we possess (400 B.C), is around 500 years. When one compares the manuscript tradition of the New Testament to other ancient documents, the New Testament is by far the most reliable ancient document in relation to the bibliographical evidence.
In contrast to the New Testament, the Old Testament does not possess as many manuscripts. However, when we consider the reverence and diligence that the Jews had in transcribing the Jewish Scriptures, the lack of manuscript quantity actually stands as proof for the reliability of the Old Testament. The following are some of the disciplines that Jewish scribes adhered to when transcribing the Hebrew Scriptures:
According to the Talmud, there were specifications not only for the kind of skins to be used and the size of the columns, but there was even a religious ritual necessary for the scribe to perform before writing the name of God. Rules governed the kind of ink used, dictated the spacing of the words, and prohibited writing anything from memory. The lines, and even the letters, were counted methodically. If a manuscript was found to contain even one mistake, it was discarded and destroyed. This scribal formalism was responsible, at least in part, for the extreme care exercised in copying the Scriptures. It was also the reason there were only a few manuscripts (as the rules demanded the destruction of defective copies).7
After transcribing a manuscript, the intricacy of these rules and others gave Jewish scribes the confidence to grant equal authority to the new copy with that of the older copy.
Since the Old Testament was completed around 400 B.C., a question arose as to whether or not we could be confident of trusting a manuscript that was transcribed over 1,000 years from the completion of the Old Testament. This time gap seemed to create a problem for the reliability of the Old Testament. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls brought an end to this shadow of doubt concerning the Old Testament manuscripts.
The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated the bibliographical reliability of the Old Testament in three ways. First, the Dead Sea Scrolls have greatly increased the number of Old Testament manuscripts. Thousands of fragments of both biblical and nonbiblical manuscripts have been found in the Dead Sea region. By taking into account all of the scrolls, we are able to put together almost the entire text of the Old Testament. Second, the Dead Sea Scrolls shortened the time frame dramatically between the writing of the original document and the copies that we possess. Third, it has been shown that our present Old Testament text is practically identical to the fragmentary manuscripts that were found in the Dead Sea region.
By taking into account the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish transcribers’ reverence for Scripture and accuracy on even the smallest detail, one is left with a strong case for the historical reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts.
When we subject the Bible to the internal, external, and bibliographical tests, we are left with the most reliable document in the ancient world. The manuscript tradition, eyewitness testimony, and external verification by early church fathers, sets forth a powerful case for the reliability of the biblical text.
Archaeology and the Bible
The Bible has been criticized by many as having errors and contradictions in regard to its documentation about historical people, places, and events. For example, the Old Testament records that there were a group of people known as the Hittites who lived during the time of Abraham (Genesis 23:10; 26:34). However, scholars of higher criticism argued that the Hittites never existed since the only record of them was in the Old Testament. The New Testament also came under scrutiny as critics argued that a historical person known as Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:2; Luke 3:1) never existed. These are just two examples of how the Bible has been criticized as an unreliable source.
For many years, the issues above (and many others) were left unresolved as a cloud of suspicion surrounded the biblical text. However, time and time again archaeology has shown that the Bible is accurate concerning what it says about historical people, places, and events. In our examples above, archaeology verified the Bible in each case.
Were the Hittites an actual group of people who lived during the time of Abraham? With the discovery of clay tablets found in Assyria and Egypt, we now know that the answer to this question is yes.8 What about Pontius Pilate? Was he really a historical person? Two Italian archaeologists 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.”9
The above is just a glimpse of how archaeology has verified the Bible. Of course, archaeology does not demonstrate that the Bible is the Word of God. Rather, what it does show is that the authors of the Bible accurately documented details related to history and geography. William F. Albright, considered to be one of the greatest archaeologists, makes the following comment about archeological discoveries and the veracity of the Bible:
The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.10
The reliability of the Bible is also verified by fulfilled prophecies. “Unlike any other book, the Bible offers a multitude of specific predictions ― some hundreds of years in advance ― that have been literally fulfilled or else point to a definite future time when they will come true.”11
Some of the most astonishing prophecies in the Bible are concerning the Messiah. Many of these are documented in Bill Rudge’s book, Who Is This Jesus?. There are also prophecies that reveal the succession of great empires (Daniel 2), the miraculous history and restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12), and the judgment of certain nations (Edom – Jeremiah 49:16-17; Tyre – Ezekiel 26:3-14; and Philistia – Zephaniah 2:5). For instance, the prophet Isaiah predicted that a Persian king named Cyrus would issue a decree for the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt (44:28). Around 700 B.C., 150 years before Cyrus was even born, Isaiah mentioned the very name of the king who would have Jerusalem rebuilt. Also, consider that the Temple and Jerusalem were not even destroyed during the time that Isaiah prophesied that the Temple would be rebuilt. It would not be until 586 B.C. that King Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. Added to this, Cyrus did not even become a king until shortly after Persia defeated the Babylonians around 539 B.C. This prophecy was accurately fulfilled when Cyrus (538 B.C.) issued his decree for the Israelites to return to Israel from exile and begin the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
In another example, the prophet Jeremiah predicted the eventual doom of Edom:
As for the terror of you, the arrogance of your heart has deceived you, O you who live in the clefts of the rock, who occupy the height of the hill. Though you make your nest as high as an eagle’s, I will bring you down from there, declares the Lord. Edom will become an object of horror; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss at all its wounds (49:16-17).
Since I have been to Petra (capital city of the ancient nation of Edom), I have personally witnessed the fulfillment of this prophecy. In this prophecy, Jeremiah specifically claims that Edom will be desolate. He does not say that it will be destroyed or restored as other prophecies about ancient cities. Rather, this ancient city carved out of rock would become a place of desolation. Predicting this event far in advance, the desolation of Edom was eventually fulfilled when Petra was conquered by the Muslims in 636 A.D. Now, besides the visit of tourists, Petra is a deserted city, which as I can personally attest to, arouses the astonishment of those who pass by it.
As we examine the Bible, we discover that no other book in the world contains so many specific prophecies that were foretold years in advance and that have been accurately fulfilled. The fact of fulfilled prophecy stands as another piece of our puzzle in showing the divine reliability of the Bible.
“One of the most arresting evidences of the Bible’s inspiration (reliability) is the unique scientific foreknowledge it contains. From anthropology to zoology, the Bible presents accurate scientific information, and provides rules, regulations, or prohibitions based on that information.”12 The Bible is full of numerous examples of pre-science information. “By prescience we mean the occurrence, in Scripture, of accurate statements reflecting an in-depth knowledge of scientific concepts far before mankind had laid the technological base for such things to be known.”13 Let us look at just a few examples.
As we read the Old Testament, we find a number of health practices. One had to do with touching the carcass of a dead person or animal:
The one who touches the corpse of any person shall be unclean for seven days. That one shall purify himself from uncleanness with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and then he will be clean (Numbers 19:11-12b).
It is interesting to note that during the time of Moses, the exact opposite of what was stated in Numbers was being practiced. For instance, in Egypt (the most advanced civilization of its day), where Moses grew up, the Egyptians practiced mummification. In this process the Egyptians would touch the dead corpse with their bare hands. Then the germs that killed the corpse would contaminate their hands and be transmitted to those that they came in contact with. It should be “no wonder [that] the Egyptians were a people of epidemics.”14
This practice of touching dead bodies and not washing the hands was carried on well into the 1800’s.15 However, the situation has changed as this biblical health principle is applied today in modern medicine. All medical personnel are now required to routinely wash their hands, not only when they come in contact with dead bodies, but even when examining living patients. The reason they go through daily rituals of hand washing is to kill germs and prevent the spread of infections. Modern science has attested to the reliability of the Bible in that the washing of hands is vital in preventing the spread of disease.
Another example of pre-science in the Bible was the disease control principle of sanitation. In regard to dealing with human waste, the Bible asserts the following:
You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement (Deuteronomy 23:12-13).
This simple act of dealing with human waste has proven to control disease and save lives. In the 1800’s England saw the devastating result of not having a sanitation system that properly disposed of human waste. During this time, human waste would empty into dead end streets. As a result, this lack of sanitation brought about a cholera epidemic which swept across London, killing thousands of people.
It was not until proper sanitation was established that the epidemic ceased. This sanitation system, established by Edwin Chadwick, implemented the principle found in Deuteronomy of removing human waste from where people lived. Those who listened to Chadwick and followed this principle saw death rates cut in half in their towns.
By following what was written in Deuteronomy about sanitation, many lives were saved. Even today, we see the devastating effects of poor sanitation in many countries. This method of sanitation in the Bible has proven to be an accurate way of preventing diseases. “Short of modern sewage treatment, this (procedure in Deuteronomy) may be the best method for disposing of human waste. The biblical method accomplished the most important aspect of public health ― separating human waste from human beings.”16
These (and other) pre-science health principles found in the Bible were given for the Hebrews to follow in order to avoid diseases that were rampant in other cultures at this time (Exodus 15:26). Amazingly, these health principles have been verified by modern science as being effective in helping man avoid a number of diseases.
There was a time when people believed the earth was flat. Yet, the Bible written thousands of years earlier stated that the earth was round: “It is He (God) who sits above the circle of the earth…” (Isaiah 40:22a). Also, ancient cultures could not conceive of a world suspended in space. The Greeks believed Atlas carried the earth on his shoulder. Some Indian cultures envisioned the earth on the back of three elephants which stood on a giant tortoise.
But, 2,500 years ago the Bible declared that the earth was suspended in space: “He (God) stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). Although the Bible is not a textbook on science, the evidence demonstrates that it is scientifically accurate.
Testimony of Jesus Christ
The final piece of our puzzle which we will deal with at this time is the testimony of Jesus Christ. As we read the Gospels we clearly find that Jesus had a high respect for the Old Testament as being an infallible source of authority. First, this is demonstrated during His temptation by Satan. In each temptation Jesus replied to Satan by quoting the Old Testament (Matthew 4:1-11). Second, Jesus “always treats the historical narratives as factually truthful accounts.”17 For instance, Jesus made reference to the following as being factual: Jonah (Matthew 12:40-41); Noah and the flood (Matthew 24:37-39); Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15); and Abraham (John 8:56). Jesus accepted as fact historical events and people in the Old Testament, even those recorded events which have been the target of higher critics.
Perhaps we see the clearest evidence of Jesus’ view of the Bible in His following comment, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). These words, from the One who has overwhelming evidence to verify His resurrection from the dead and proof that He is the Messiah, carry great weight.
“In the early days of the church, Celsus, Porphyry, and Lucian tried to destroy it by arguments. Later the emperors Diocletian and Julian tried to destroy it by force. At several points it was actually a capital offense to possess a copy of Holy Writ.”18
Now, in our own time, the Bible faces the challenge of higher criticism. However, despite countless attempts to destroy and undermine it, the Bible continues to persevere and change thousands of lives on a daily basis ― as it has mine. As David proclaimed in one of his psalms:
O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way (Psalm 119:97- 104).
The Bible has a unified theme amongst a diversity of authors. The Bible is superior to any other ancient document in regard to the bibliographical, internal, and external evidence. The Bible has been confirmed by archaeology as being a reliable source in its documentation of historical people, places,
1. Henry M. Morris and Henry M. Morris III, Evidences for the Christian Faith – Many Infallible Proofs (Green Forest, AR.: Master Books, 2000), 164.
2. See James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter Varity Press, 1986), 54.
3. Wayne Jackson, Bible Unity-An Argument for Inspiration (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 1998).
4. See C. Sanders, Introduction to Research in English Literary History (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1952), 143-ff.
5. Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, compiled by Bill Wilson (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 43.
6. One example of a manuscript of the New Testament that we possess is the Chester Beatty Papyri, which has been dated around 200 A.D. Although this papyrus does not contain all of the New Testament, it does contain major portions of it.
7. Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 552.
8. See Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), 96-98.
9. McDowell, 111-112.
10. William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, revised ed. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Pelican Books, 1960), 127-128.
11. Geisler, 609.
12. Bert Thompson, “Scientific Foreknowledge & Biblical Accuracy,” in Reason and Revelation. December 1996, 16: 95-96. (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
13. William J. Cairney, “Biomedical Prescience 1”, in Evidence for Faith, ed. John Warwick Montgomery (Dallas: Probe Books, 1991), 128.
14. S.I. McMillen and David E. Stern, None of These Diseases, millennium three ed. (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2000), 21.
15. See None of These Diseases, chapter 3 about the life of Dr. Semmelweis.
16. S.I. McMillen and David E. Stern, 35.
17. Clark H. Pinnock, “The Inspiration of Scripture and the Authority of Jesus Christ,” in God’s Inerrant Word, ed. John Warwick Montgomery (Newburgh, IN.: Trinity Press, 1974), 202.
18. Boice, 64.
Is the Exodus and Crossing of the Red Sea Historical?
by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
Bodies of water turning into blood, plagues of frogs, gnats, flies and locusts, a sea being parted so that millions of people can cross on dry land. To many, this may sound like science fiction, however, all of these events are recorded in the book of Exodus.
The question before us is whether these events are merely the imagination of creative Hebrew writers intended to teach lessons about the Jewish faith, or, in fact, stories accurately recording Divine intervention into human history.
As we examine the events surrounding the Jewish exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, we find minimal evidence outside the Bible for its historicity. However, this reality does not mean that we are left with a mere blind leap of faith in our belief that the Exodus account actually occurred. Rather, there are some discoveries that add credibility to this biblical story.
First, archeology has helped to shed light on the Exodus account. For instance, an ancient Egyptian text, Merneptah Stele, was discovered. In this text, Merneptah, the king of Egypt, boasts that he has destroyed his enemies in Canaan. He states, “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.”
While the details of this text are still being debated today by archeologists, it does make a connection between Israel and Egypt and coincides with biblical scholars dating of events associated with the Exodus.
Also, a recent archeological discovery has raised discussion over the parting of the Red Sea: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).
Several archeological endeavors have been carried out at a large beach in the Gulf of Aqaba. At this site, the claim has been made that at the bottom of the sea there are a vast number of chariot wheels and human bones. Thus, the assertion has been made that these artifacts are direct proof for the biblical account of the crossing of the Red Sea.
While a consensus has not been reached by archeologists over the relationship between this location and the artifacts found with the biblical Exodus story, this discovery has raised many interesting questions over one of the most miraculous stories in the Bible.
Second, God has provided His own method in attesting to the historicity of the Exodus account. This method is known as commemorative institutions.
Commemorative institutions are simply lasting monuments that are designed to keep alive the remembrance of the historical facts to which they refer. Through this method, God has left man with a lasting testimony documenting the historical facts to which the commemorative institutions are witnesses. For instance, in the Old Testament God has set aside the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) as memorial institutions that commemorate the historical facts that surround Israel’s exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Just as Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July for over 200 years as a commemoration of our independence, so too, the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles have been observed by the Jewish people for thousands of years as a remembrance of the historical facts which they represent.
While the debate may continue concerning the historicity of the Exodus account, the Christian does not need to be deterred in his confidence in the biblical account. The test of time has always, and will always, prove the accuracy and veracity of Scripture.
Even in the face of limited evidence, until all the facts are known, the believer can hold on to the words of the author of Hebrews, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (11:1).”
For further study on this topic please refer to the book, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier, and also visit Dr. TV Oommen’s web site, http://www.biblediscoveries.com/.
Is There Evidence for the Resurrection?
The following article was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, Who Is This Jesus?. It is a powerful witnessing tool for sharing Jesus Christ with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and anyone searching for truth.
The grave of Mohammed is not an empty grave. The tomb of Confucius is not an empty tomb. Parts of Buddha’s body are enshrined as relics in different places in the Orient. But there is no tomb or grave that claims Jesus Christ’s body, nor is there any shrine in the world that has even one of His bones.
The Crucifixion Ordeal
Jesus went through six trials — three Roman and three Jewish; was beaten beyond recognition by the Roman flagrum; was so weak He could not carry His own patibulum — the wooden cross bar; had spikes driven through His wrists and feet; and a spear thrust into His side.
The Roman soldiers were experts in execution by crucifixion. They knew Jesus was dead before He was taken down from the cross.
An article dealing with the medical and historical accuracy of the physical death of Jesus Christ stated:
The actual cause of Jesus’ death…may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure. However, the important feature may not be how he died but rather whether he died. Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death.
Before Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples were thrilled by His miracles and had great expectancy for His and their future. Yet, when Jesus died at Calvary all their excitement and expectancy turned into hopelessness. Shortly after the crucifixion the disciples were secluded for fear of the Jewish authorities (John 20:19).
Several days later, Jesus’ disciples were so dramatically transformed that nothing or no one could silence their testimony. What happened? They saw, touched, talked to, and ate with the resurrected Christ.
Jesus’ disciples were soon on trial in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was crucified, and stood before the very ones responsible for their leader’s death. Neither beatings, nor threats of persecution, imprisonment, or death could quiet them. They said when threatened, “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The only possible explanation for the transformation of the disciples is —
He [Jesus] presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them [the disciples] over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3).
Concerning Jesus being seen by His disciples following His resurrection, Dr. BJ Rudge states:
In the Gospels there are numerous accounts of eyewitnesses who testify that Jesus appeared to them after His death. These appearances were not limited to a few people, but to a vast number of people from different geographical locations. The apostle Paul says that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all…He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
These appearances were not of the same manner. For example, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, while on another occasion He appeared to Thomas with the other disciples behind closed doors. Jesus’ appearances brought about different responses from those who saw Him. Mary Magdalene responded in joy as she clung to Jesus, while in other appearances people responded in fright thinking they had seen a spirit. The fact that the appearances cannot be harmonized gives credence to the idea that they were not fabricated.
The lives of the disciples (and others) who witnessed these appearances of Jesus immediately changed to the extent that they were willing to give up their lives. The disciples were transformed from men of fear and doubt to men of boldness and courage who openly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ in spite of Jesus’ enemies being present.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was preached within a few minutes’ walk of His tomb. As a result of Peter’s sermon proclaiming a risen Christ, 3,000 believed (Acts 2:41). Shortly thereafter, many more believed and the total reached 5,000 (Acts 4:4). The book of Acts records —
And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…. The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 4:33; 6:7).
Wilbur M. Smith writes in Therefore Stand:
That it was faith in the Resurrection of Christ, and the preaching of this stupendous truth, that gave the early church its power to win thousands and then millions of idolatrous citizens of the great Roman Empire for Christ, though vast multitudes of them in confessing their faith knew they were dooming themselves to torture and social ostracism.
According to Biblical researcher Jim Weikal, it is amazing that by 64 A.D. Christianity had impacted Rome so extensively that the evil Roman Emperor Nero used Christians as scapegoats for his own infamous actions. Tacitus (c.A.D. 55 – c.120), a pagan historian and no friend of Christianity, writes of the intense and diabolical tortures during the reign of this madman:
Nero…inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…. Mockery of every sort was added to their [the Christians’] deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Jew — a Pharisee — who severely persecuted the early Christian church and was involved with the stoning of Stephen. However, in Acts 9 we read of a miracle that occurred in which he had an encounter with the resurrected Christ.
As a result of his dramatic conversion, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul the apostle, became one of the strongest spokesmen for the resurrection, earnestly and effectively explaining from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 28:23). He wrote much of the New Testament, testified before both Jewish and Roman authorities, endured beatings, stonings, imprisonments, suffered hardships too numerous to mention, and eventual martyrdom — all for the cause of Christ Jesus.
Two professors at Oxford, the eminent Gilbert West and Lord Lyttelton, the famous English jurist, were determined to destroy Christianity. But to do so, both of these avowed skeptics agreed that two things were necessary. They must disprove the resurrection, and they must dispose of the conversion of the apostle Paul.
They divided the task between them, West assuming responsibility for proving the fallacy of the resurrection and Lyttelton disproving Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road. They were to give themselves plenty of time — a year or more if necessary. When they met again to compare notes, they both had become strong and devoted Christians, each testifying to the remarkable change in his life through contact with the risen Christ.
Frank Morison, an English journalist, set out to prove that the story of Christ’s resurrection was a myth. However, he ended up writing a book entitled, Who Moved The Stone?, in which he sets forth the truthfulness of the resurrection.
Countless others throughout history have been transformed by an encounter with the resurrected Christ and discovered the reality of God’s promise that the Messiah would be “a light to the nations so My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
The depth and riches of God’s wisdom and love are incomparable. Jesus’ resurrection is confirming proof that He is the Messiah and Savior of the world.
The following was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, Who Is This Jesus?
When tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees who asked for a sign from heaven, Jesus said — “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2,3).
The “signs of the times” to which Jesus referred were the numerous prophecies concerning the Messiah that had been made hundreds of years before He was incarnated on earth.
Concerning the Messiah’s credentials, Fred Meldau writes in Messiah in Both Testaments — Jesus of Nazareth fulfills all the specifications as to His lineage, His birthplace, and the time of His birth. And is it not most remarkable that within a generation of Christ’s sufferings on the cross the temple was destroyed, the Jewish priesthood ceased to exist, the sacrifices were no longer offered, the Jews’ genealogical records were destroyed, their city was destroyed, and the people of Israel were driven out of their land, sold into slavery, and dispersed to the four corners of the earth! Since those dreadful national judgments fell on Israel it has been utterly impossible for a “Messiah” to come with proper “credentials,” such as the Old Testament demands, and such as Jesus of Nazareth presented.
Rachmiel Frydland was a Jewish man who suffered through the Nazi invasion of Poland and escaped to tell his story of how he came to know Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. He had an extensive knowledge of Jewish Scripture and rabbinic writings. In his book, What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah, Rachmiel Frydland writes — The study of our greatest sages brought them to the conclusion that if the dates in the Scriptures are correct, then Messiah should have come in the first century of our era, or thereabouts. … This conviction was probably based upon passages in the book of Daniel.
It was Daniel’s prophecy that challenged me many years ago to consider the Messiahship of Yeshua the Nazarene. … I learned of Yeshua the Nazarene, who was “cut off” forty years before the Second Temple was destroyed.
Interwoven Throughout Scripture
The messianic prophecies are interwoven throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. A partial list follows which was excerpted from Israel My Glory, a messianic magazine — He was to be of the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4), of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16), of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14), and then of David (2 Samuel 7:12,13; Jeremiah 23:5; Acts 13:23). The Deliverer was to be born at a certain time (Daniel 9:24-27) in a designated city (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-7); and His birth was to be preceded by the ministry of a forerunner (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1-3).
His ministry was to commence in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1,2; Matthew 4:12-17,23), but He was also to enter Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-5) where He would possess the Temple (Malachi 3:1; Mark 11:15-18). The Messiah’s ministry was to be punctuated with miracles (Isaiah 35:5,6; Luke 7:21,22); yet He would be despised (Isaiah 49:7; John 7:48; 15:25), rejected by the nation’s rulers (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42), betrayed by someone close to Him (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18-22), and abandoned for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 26:15).
He would be smitten on the cheek (Micah 5:1; Matthew 27:30), spat on (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:30), mocked (Psalm 22:7,8; Matthew 27:31, 39-44), and scourged (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:26-30), yet none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36). His body was to be buried with the wealthy (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60) but was to remain uncorrupted (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31) because, shortly after dying, He would rise miraculously from the grave (Psalm 2:7; 16:10; Acts 13:33).
Prophecies in Psalm 22
Psalm 22 is inseparably associated with the crucifixion, not only because the opening words were quoted by Jesus, but because much of the Psalm accurately describes His body condition and emotional experience. Concerning Psalm 22, The Eerdmans Bible Commentary states — The details of Calvary are all so clearly here; mockery (v.8), shame (vv. 13,17), the pain of crucifixion (vv. 14-16) … and the parting of garments (v. 18). All this took place by the agency of those [Romans] who neither knew the Scriptures nor had any interest in fulfilling them, and provides dramatic and unanswerable evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible and of the faithfulness of God to His Word.
David, who had never seen or heard of such a method of execution, gave a graphic portrayal of death by crucifixion in Psalm 22. Even more interesting is the fact that this was recorded one thousand years before the time of Christ, and hundreds of years before crucifixion ever existed as a form of capital punishment.
The usual Jewish method of execution was stoning, but God in His unique way arranged it so that Rome would be in control to fulfill David’s prophecy concerning the crucifixion. If the Jewish leaders would have had their way, they would have stoned Jesus, but in fulfillment of Scripture, He was crucified.
From Servant to King
Although written 700 years before the time of Jesus, Isaiah 53 is a vivid description of the Messiah’s death as a substitutionary sacrifice. Concerning Isaiah 53, scholar and commentator Adam Clarke states: That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of His sufferings and death.
Numerous ancient Jewish sources and rabbis were quoted in a book by Mark Eastman and Chuck Smith entitled The Search for Messiah. Excerpts follow — The evidence speaks for itself. Throughout most of the history of Jewish scholarship many of the highly respected writers of the Talmud and the Midrash (most of whom were leaders of rabbinical academies) shared a common belief. The Messiah would be despised, rejected, suffer by being pierced and ultimately die for the sins of the people.
During our examination of messianic prophecy we found that there were “two veins” of prophecy recognized by the ancient rabbis regarding the life, ministry and destiny of the Messiah. Several prophecies predicted a suffering servant who would die for the sins of the people while others predicted a ruling and reigning Messiah.
Jewish scholars of ancient and modern times have had great difficulty in uniting these two “veins” of prophecy in the life of a single individual. Therefore, early in rabbinical Judaism, we saw that the Messiah was split into two distinct personalities: Messiah Ben Joseph, the suffering servant, and Messiah Ben David, the ruling and reigning Messiah.
Truly, Jesus’ qualifications for the title Messiah are compatible with ancient rabbinical beliefs as well as the scriptures we have examined. The problem of the two “veins” of prophecy are solved when we realize that both missions are achievable by two appearances of one individual. His first appearance would be characterized by humility and suffering, His second appearance in glory and majesty.
Jesus of Nazareth is the only person in history who can bridge this gap and solve this puzzle. The Messiah will come TWICE!
Jesus Fulfilled Messianic Prophecy
The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon, a devout Jew, that he would not die before he would see the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:25,26). Upon seeing the child Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, Simeon took Him in his arms and blessed God saying — Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples (Luke 2:29-31).
While walking to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, two disciples were discussing the events which had recently taken place in Jerusalem. As they talked, Jesus approached and walked with them. The resurrected Christ said to them — “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).
In Luke 24:44-48, we read of another appearance of the resurrected Christ to several disciples in Jerusalem who were initially frightened, but then were amazed and overjoyed— Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus, it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Both Peter and Paul repeatedly explained to their Jewish brethren that Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecy. In Acts 3:17-24, Peter tells the Jews— And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time….And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.
Acts 17:2,3 states — And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
The apostle Paul stood in the audience chamber of Herod the Great’s Caesarean palace before Governor Festus, King Agrippa (considered an authority on the Jewish religion), and prominent men of the city. He boldly declared that the Jewish hope and the Christian message are inseparably related — So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22,23).
Let us conclude this article with another quote from The Search for Messiah — We have found a number of very specific requirements that any Messianic candidate must fulfill in order to be taken seriously. And we have been able to support this portrait with the writings of ancient rabbis, men who were among the most respected teachers of their time.
We have seen that various rabbis of the last 2,300 years believed the Messiah was an eternal being who would be the Son of God, born of a virgin, a miracle worker of the line of David, in the city of Bethlehem. Yet he would be mocked, despised and rejected. He would have his hands and feet pierced and die for the sins of the people. And we have found evidence from the Bible that the Messiah would be a physical manifestation of God.
Is our biblical portrait of Messiah fulfilled in Jesus? The answer, according to the people who were eyewitnesses to his life, the people who were willing to suffer horribly for their faith, is an unequivocal yes! Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the biblical view of the Messiah!
by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
It seems a wonder that toucans don’t fall on their faces, so enormous are the beaks of these South American birds. One large species, the toco toucan, has an orange-yellow bill six to nine inches long, about a third of the bird’s length.
But the toucan’s beak is ingeniously designed to be both strong and light. Marc André Meyers, a materials scientist at the University of California, San Diego, thinks its two-part construction could be adapted for use in the automotive and aviation industries to offer protection from crashes.
“Toucan beaks are beautiful structures,” he says. “The surface is made of keratin, the same material in fingernails and hair. But the outer layer isn’t a solid structure. It’s actually many layers of tiny hexagonal plates, overlapping like shingles on a roof. The interior is different from the shell, made of bone. It consists of a light yet ridged foam made of little beams and membranes. And some areas of the beak are hollow.” National Geographic (12/ 06)
Bill Foore, a high school biology and science teacher makes the following insightful comments concerning the preceding article: As a high school science teacher I am always reading articles like the one above, and it is always shocking to me how our society can be amazed by the “ingeniously designed” beak of the toucan and yet give credit to blind random chance for creating it. These are very intelligent scientists who look at the incredible complexity of the toucans beak and they are genuinely impressed, but they cannot give God the accolade He deserves because religion and science don’t mix. So, they give no one credit by saying, “Isn’t it amazing how evolution designed this?”
Can’t they see that design needs a designer? The random chance of mutations cannot design anything. Second Peter 3:5 says that in the last times men will become “willingly ignorant” which means “stupid on purpose.” So when you look at something from nature that is truly amazing, remember to give the Designer the credit.
Questions for an Atheist
by Bill Rudge
I received a scathing e-mail from an atheist. After responding to every one of his questions, I asked him some of the following questions. But I have yet to receive an answer. Years later another self-avowed atheist attempted to answer each of the following questions. His oftentimes out-of-context and inaccurate comments only revealed his bias and how shallow atheism really is in answering the questions of life and eternity.
1) Why should I put my trust in you and your philosophy for my future and eternal destiny? Jesus Christ has far more credibility than anyone else. His words have greater wisdom and hope than any other philosophy and what it ultimately offers.
2) When I am dying, what hope will you offer me?
3) What great accomplishment(s) do you claim to have done (fulfilled prophecy, miracles, resurrection, other feats and accomplishments) so I can examine the evidence to see if your belief system has merit?
4) Why is it so important to you that I (and others) do not believe in Jesus Christ?
5) What positive effects will atheism have on my life and eternity?
6) Why do the fossil records reveal fully-formed creatures, but no transitional forms? Where is the so-called “missing link”?
7) How can you reasonably explain the awesome complexity of the universe and our DNA without a Creator? And how can life originate from non-life? Everywhere you look, if you just open your eyes, the marvels of creation proclaim an Intelligent Designer.
8) How could this planet be so ideally suited to support life (correct distance from the sun, right mixture of nitrogen and oxygen in its atmosphere, proper temperature, tilt of the earth, rotation speed, and so on) by mere accident or chance? An Intelligent Designer is a more plausible explanation.
9) You were quick to point out the evil done in Jesus’ name by wicked people (those who obviously ignored or distorted His teaching and example)? Jesus warned about those who would use His name and pervert the truth (e.g. Matthew 7:22, 23; 24:5). So why should I reject Christianity when your comments confirm its accuracy? Besides, what about the tremendous good that has been and is being done in His name by His true followers?
10) What about the atrocities perpetrated on humanity in the name of atheistic worldviews such as Communism?
11) Most people who renounce their faith in Jesus Christ (as you profess to have done) do so because they are angry at God about something, disappointed a prayer was not answered and God did not give them what they requested, or they want to live a lifestyle contrary to His Word. Which of these are true in your case? If you ever really knew Him, I doubt you would ever reject Him.
12) What is the purpose of life if there is no Creator? Life without God is virtually meaningless and hopeless. The words of your letter clearly convey that emptiness.
13) You want “skin on bones” proof for miracles. How about Israel? What nation or people have ever been removed from their country and lost their national identity and then returned as a nation?
14) What about the incredible accuracy of Bible prophecy? Have you considered the amazing fulfillment of messianic prophecies? How about end time prophecies (recorded 2,000 years ago) that seem as though they were taken from the headlines of today’s newspapers?
15) What about the Bible’s amazing historical, scientific, and health insights? The Bible mentions historically verifiable facts, supported by thousands of archaeological discoveries. It also provides scientific data that has inspired countless scientists to make amazing discoveries, and its health and dietary information are endorsed by nutritionists and health practitioners worldwide. How could such an ancient document contain such accurate and amazing information?
16) Many miraculous occurrences have happened in my life that defy any reasonable explanation except that of supernatural intervention. They are recorded in my Impossible records and documented by many eyewitnesses. How many do you want me to share before you admit they cannot be refuted as mere coincidence?
17) Have you read any books by former skeptics and atheists who initially set out to refute Christianity but the undeniable evidence they uncovered brought them to faith in Jesus? Volumes have been written to share the overwhelming evidence to support the biblical claims of Jesus Christ. Countless books (many by former skeptics) throughout history attest to the changed lives of those who came to know Jesus Christ in a personal and real way.
18) I have met some of the most amazing scientists in the world today. Many of them are convinced of the credibility of the Genesis account of creation. They have told me it is bias, not facts, that prevent many evolutionary scientists from believing (or acknowledging their belief) in Intelligent Design. Do you deny the Genesis account because of evidence or bias? Be honest with yourself and do a fair and unbiased investigation. Maybe God seems to hide and conceal Himself from His creation so that those who really want to know Him must search for Him with all their hearts.
19) Our world is filled with tragedy, injustice, pain, and suffering. And at times we wonder, “How could a loving God allow this?” It is true my little brother’s body was broken, bruised, and battered by a speeding car. But God turned that tragedy into a tremendous triumph as He used it to bring myself and all of my family to salvation and make me into the man of God I am today. After almost 40 years of serving Him, I can assure you that He is a faithful, loving, and merciful God who will one day restore this earth to a paradise, and wipe away all tears, pains, suffering, and death from those who believe in Him. What is the end result of injustice, pain, suffering, and death from your evolutionary perspective?
20) I only have to have one genuine encounter with God to validate His existence. You have to cover the entire universe, not only in the physical dimension, but also the spiritual (since God is spirit) before you can honestly claim to prove His nonexistence. When did you accomplish this feat?
21) What if you are right and I am wrong? I lose nothing and you gain virtually nothing. But what If I am right and you are wrong? I gain everything and you lose everything. What we see in His magnificent creation, although marred by the Fall, is not all we will get. He promised to restore this planet and universe to a “Garden of Eden” for which we have an eternity to enjoy.
22) If the biblical accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are true, and you have rejected such a great salvation, what option does God have for you?
23) I stake my eternal destiny on only One. Before Him and Him alone do I willingly bow my knee and surrender my life. What or who is god in your life? On what do you stake your life and eternal destiny?
24) When I compare what you and your philosophy have to offer, with the depth and riches of what Jesus Christ and His Word offer, there is no comparison. I choose Jesus.
There is so much more to share about the truth and reality of Jesus Christ and Scripture. But hopefully this is adequate to reveal my faith is not based upon fairy tales and mere speculation, but evidence I cannot deny. My faith may go beyond reason (because our Creator is unfathomable) but never against it.
I hope you will truly ponder these questions and one day come to know the One who created you. Once you come to know Jesus Christ, you will never deny Him.
I will close with the words of the apostle John who was one of Jesus’ disciples. The testimony of John’s life into old age, and his death, validated his claim that he truly was an eyewitness of the resurrection –
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11).
The Destruction of Tyre
by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
The book of Ezekiel gives an amazing prophecy about the total destruction of the Phoenician city of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:3-14). Following are a few specific details in this prophecy:
1. Nebuchadnezzar will destroy the mainland city of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:8).
2. She will be made a bare rock; flat like the top of a rock (Ezekiel 26:4).
3. The debris will be thrown into the water (Ezekiel 26:12).
4. Many nations will come against Tyre (Ezekiel 26:3).
5. Fishermen will spread nets over the site (Ezekiel 26:5).
6. She will never be rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:14).
It is interesting to note that at the time of Ezekiel, “Tyre was the greatest maritime city on the Mediterranean. It was situated on the coast, with an excellent natural harbor protected by an island about a half-mile offshore.”2 However, just a few years following Ezekiel’s prediction, Nebuchadnezzar began his siege on this great coastal city. Although the initial fulfillment of this prophecy began shortly after it was predicted, its complete fulfillment did not occur until hundreds of years after it was foretold. Considering this fact, and the specific details surrounding this prophecy, it is highly unlikely that Ezekiel was making a well-educated guess. This assertion is further supported when we consider how the details of this prediction were fulfilled. First, Nebuchadnezzar began a thirteen-year siege (585-573 B.C) of Tyre. Eventually, in 573 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar conquered and destroyed the mainland city of Tyre. As his troops moved into the city, they found that the majority of the people had fled to a fortified island a half-mile off the coast. Since Nebuchadnezzar did not have a navy, the assault on Tyre ceased and the city remained on the island for several hundred years. Eventually, our second and third details of the prophecy were fulfilled when in 322 B.C. Alexander the Great attacked Tyre. Being without a navy, Alexander used the walls and buildings of the mainland city to build a land bridge to the island. As predicted, this act by Alexander of throwing debris into the water left the old site of Tyre a “bare rock.” Fourth, as history has shown, Tyre has been the object of assault by many nations. Beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, then Alexander (who mustered together various nations in his assault on Tyre), on into the Crusades, many nations have attacked Tyre. Fifth, in regard to the spreading of nets, the present site of the ancient city of Tyre has become a shoreline for the spreading of fishing nets. Finally, after its devastation in 1291, Tyre has never been rebuilt.
1. Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, compiled by Bill Wilson (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 60.
2. John A. Bloom, “Truth Via Prophecy,” in Evidence for Faith, ed. John Warwick Montgomery (Dallas: Probe Books, 1991), 182.
The Psychological Uniqueness of Man: A Rebuttal to Darwinism
by W. Blythe Robinson, Ph. D., Psy. D.
Dr. Robinson was a good friend of Bill’s for many years. Dr. Robinson founded and directed a nationally accredited outpatient mental health clinic in two states based on Christian concepts. He served as a missionary traveling to many dangerous foreign lands to share the Gospel. The following are excerpts from a “Paper” presented at the “International Conference on Darwinsim” in Ukraine.
Charles Darwin’s 1859 “Origin of the Species” is based on four major philosophical presuppositions. The first is that materialism is the rock on which Evolution is founded. The second is that matter alone has the inherent ability to produce life. The third is the theory of random probability in which matter, plus time, equals biological evolution. The fourth is that Empiricism, or knowledge through the five senses alone, is the only scientific source of information. These presuppositions may also be viewed as Darwin’s “faith statements.”
Darwin’s theory of macro-Evolution proposed to prove the following: 1. Matter at some point became living matter. 2. Biological evolution differentiated and by transmutation evolved into different species. 3. This evolutionary process was both successive and progressive. 4. Animals are the highest life form and man is the highest form of animal life. In simplest terms Darwinism is essentially a theory of physical existence.
In 1871, 12 years later, Darwin published the “Descent of Man.” By this time he realized that his biological theory was in trouble. Because he clung tenaciously to materialism, he had to devise an explanation for the non-materialistic aspects of man. This missing link required him to devise psychological theories to bridge the gap. Consistency forced him to theorize that psychological functions are only manifest qualities of brain matter. His presupposition of Empiricism would not allow him to acknowledge the existence of an intangible “mind” or “self,” especially a “soul” that had a distinct or eternal existence. Darwin rejected these entities as unscientific, philosophical, or religious. Consequently he denied the duality of man.
To counter Darwinism, a thesis will only be introduced but not completed because of space restrictions. The thesis is that “the psychological uniqueness of man constitutes a major rebuttal to Darwinism.” The full force of the completed argument would be seen in the variety, quantity and quality of man’s psychological distinctiveness. This uniqueness constitutes a “radical disconnect” and undermines Darwin’s critical theory that man is only an advanced animal, part of a continuous, unbroken chain of evolution. Only a few brief issues can be presented here. Hopefully this will motivate the reader to explore this argument further by consulting others such as Lee Stroble1, who provides excellent material for serious consideration in a popular format as well as additional research sources.
When this proposition is sustained, then its implications become decisive. Logic would argue that if Darwin’s conclusions about man can be disproven, then it becomes unnecessary to disprove all of the arguments behind those conclusions. This of course presupposes that logic, which is immaterial, would be acceptable to the reader. Stroble reports that “In Darwin’s notebooks he said if there was anything his theory can’t explain, then there would have to be another explanation ― a creationist explanation”2.
Instincts and Natural Selection
In his theory of instincts Darwin argues that “natural selection” must be the major component of the progression of life forms because it preserves the incremental variations of value. This is a necessary link in the chain of evolution. It laid the foundation for arguing that Instincts lead to Intelligence. However, even Evolutionist James Angell of the University of Chicago scoffed at this argument saying “that in not a few instincts this is an impossible assumption”3 [emphasis mine]. He called attention to the implausibility of the underlying assumption by pointing out that the whole value of the instinct depended on the appropriate execution of each step in a long series of acts, each one of which alone, and any group of which apart from the others, is useless. Natural selection could only furnish an adequate explanation provided the whole series of complex acts sprang into existence simultaneously. To suppose that this occurs is to assume the miraculous.4 [emphasis mine]
This comment could be applied to many of Darwin’s psychological assumptions and theories.
The Brain and Sensation
Man’s Brain has a Mind or “Self.” It has a conscious, continuous identity and function that distinguish it from the Brain. Darwin argues that the mind is merely the awareness of brain impulses or sensations arriving through the five senses. It is a biological machine governed by pre-existing laws. Thus the idea of a “mind” or independent “self” is considered an illusion, a metaphor, or a religious myth.
Human reason and experience overthrow this argument. If Darwin’s theory were true, man would be a helpless victim of competing sensations. Instead there is a “self,” an intangible person who is present and active. As “persons” we decide which of the competing impulses to ignore. We separate them into highly cognitive categories such as space, time, and priority. We divide them between those which require thought and/or those which require action. Sensations do not operate as individual, separate, sequential messages, but can flood the mind collectively and simultaneously. The “Self” is a decider. It can stop a train of thought and initiate a new thought unrelated to any previous impulse. The Brain has a “Person” in charge.
Man and Animals
Darwin tried desperately to keep linked the mind of animals and man. He was threatened by any radical distinction between the two. This effort drove him to extreme positions. Here is just one example. He argued that animals, like man, made tools and cited chimpanzees’ use of stones to open nuts and elephants’ use of branches to swat flies as examples. A simple rebuttal is that only man’s mind can fashion utensils, create machine, form concepts, demonstrate abstract reasoning and build fires, etc. Animals fear fire in a manner that man does not. It is man’s tool of service.
Darwin’s attempt at sophistry collapses under the weight of the massive elephant’s Brain in two respects. First, since Brain mass is the basis of Intelligence, then the elephant should be vastly superior to man intellectually. Comparatively, elephants should have gotten to the moon ahead of us. Second, evolution’s creation of the elephant is a frustrated mistake because the elephant wasn’t “created” with the dexterity to fully utilize its massive brain size.
Consider man’s memory ability compared to animals. We can’t conceive of Chimpanzees performing on stage the memory feats of man as in “The Merchant of Venice”, “Romeo and Juliet,” or “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” No animal can act as prompter to the actors of a grand opera. The memory feats of man mark him as far above animals as the moon is above the earth. The man who cannot sing may be able to write an entire philharmonic concert. Man not animals, have the power to render musical expression by some instrument of mechanical construction. These things demonstrate that the creative genius of man disconnects him from animals.
The Language Issue
Language demonstrates Intelligence. Because about 98% of human and chimpanzees DNA are reportedly identical, they are considered the closest animal to man. However Man’s use of language is a major argument for the radical disconnect between them. Evolutionists argue that chimpanzees can use language just as man does by training them to use “sign language.” From this evolutionists conclude that animals attach meaning to symbols and can string them together in meaningful patterns just as man does. Consider issues that are ignored regarding these studies, which support the radical disconnect. 1. It is unnatural. No explorer ever encountered undiscovered chimpanzees communicating with sign language. 2. It requires human intelligence. Training is often done with chimpanzees raised by humans in a human environment. Sign language originated in the mind of man, not animals. Only man could conceive the symbols and attach the meanings to them. 3. It is restricted to instinctual needs and rewards focus on biological issues such as food, not abstract thought. 4. It is based on imitation, not initiation. Chimpanzees must first watch humans sign and then attempt to imitate it. 5. It is difficult to learn. Pavlov’s techniques require hundreds of trials of repeated conditioning and shaping of behavior. 6. It is non-transferable. A trained chimpanzee cannot be taken to a zoo and conduct sign language classes for other chimpanzees, who pass it on to others. 7. It is temporary because it extinguishes easily. Chimpanzees require repeated rewards of various kinds. Sign language ceases with separation from humans or restriction to other chimpanzees. 8. It has limited use. Chimpanzees’ memory capacity for symbols is seriously limited. Also, if they sign to an untrained chimpanzee or other animals, their signs are meaningless. 9. It is a restricted language. Their concepts of sign language are shallow, simple, concrete, specific and tied to specific word order. Chimpanzees cannot conceive of grammar nor generate alternative ways of signing the same sentence. Columbia University Psychologist, Dr. Herbert S. Terrace5 has demonstrated these and other significant “radical disconnects” between animal and human minds. Researcher Eric Lenneberg6 has demonstrated that there are certain unique universal aspects of human language alone, such as transformational grammar, and that all human cultures use language structures that function as nouns and verbs. 10. Humans, not animals, are the only known beings in the universe to possess and rely upon written language. Collectively these facts constitute a radical disconnect between the mind of man and his alleged relative.
The Soul of Man
In general, Dualism argues that there is a real person (soul) in the human body. This non-materialistic being has many various terms. The author, a former Psychologist, prefers the term “soul” because the word “psychology” means “the study of the soul.” There are evidences for the existence of a “soul” that should be considered; however only a few can be presented here.
Dr. Wilder Penfield7, a neurosurgeon from McGill University in Montreal, amazed the world in 1951. He had examined the brains of thousands of epileptic patients. Using an electric probe he stimulated different parts of the human brain to determine which parts of the brain controlled specific human functions. He stimulated the precise part of the brain that controls hand movement. The arm moved. The patient replied, “I didn’t do that.” He then instructed the patient to stop the stimulated arm with the other arm. The patient did. He thus demonstrated that there was an independent “self” or person inside the mind that could choose to oppose the directions of the human brain. Penfield came “to believe, that the consciousness of man, the mind, is something not to be reduced to brain mechanisms”8.
This “soul,” or self, can alter brain chemistry through thoughts. If we choose to think scary thoughts, the brain’s neurotransmitters respond by sending a chemical message to the adrenal glands for flight or fight responses. University of Pittsburgh researchers used this ability of the “soul” to develop “Cognitive Therapy.” They tested the biological versus psychological treatment of depression. They randomly selected patients to be put into two different groups. One group was taught how to change their thoughts. The other group was only given an antidepressant. In the psychological group 15 out of 19 recovered completely. In the medical group only 5 out of 25 recovered completely.9 Medical researcher Sam Parnia, M.D., Ph.D., from Southhampton, England, wrote an article entitled, “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness.” After extensive research he wrote, “The occurrence of NDE and out of body experiences in cardiac arrest would support the view that mind, ‘consciousness’ or the ‘soul’ is a separate entity from the brain”.10 He noted that about 10% of NDE patients “included an ability to ‘see’ and recall specific detailed descriptions of the resuscitation as verified by resuscitation staff.” They presented “lucid, well-structured thought processes with reasoning and memory formation”.11 This supports the soul’s surviving death.
Evolution is rich in promise, bankrupt in accomplishments. It begins with a perhaps, proceeds with a maybe, and ends with a theory. It confuses assertion with proof, similarity with identity, description with explanation, sometimes with always, possibility with probability, something from nothing and life from non-life. It substitutes the desire for eternal life with eternal death. Its psychological gift to Humanity is depressive Nihilism resulting from loss of meaning. Only Man conceives of God and seeks to worship Him. Freud12 applied Evolution to the concept of God based on a study of pagan religions founded on the vain speculations of men. He never considered the historical and empirical evidences of Christianity as a “revealed religion” in which God came to man in human form giving the world such overwhelming empirical evidence of Himself that the world could ask for no more. He alone will determine the soul’s eternal fate.
1. Stroble, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.
2. Ibid, p.269.
3. Angell, James Rowland. “The Influence of Darwin on Psychology.” Psychological Review 16 (1909): 155. <http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Angell/Angell/ 1909.html>
4. Ibid, p. 155.
5. Terrace, Herbert S. “How Nim Chimpski Changed My Mind.” Psychology Today 13 (1979): 65-76.
Terrace, H.S. Nim. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.
6. Lenneberg, E.H. Biological Foundations of Language. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1967.
7. Penfield, Wilder. The Mystery of the Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
8. Restak, Richard M., MD. The Brain. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1984, p.349.
9. Burns, David, MD. Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p.14.
10. Parnia, Sam. “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness.” <http://www.scimednet.org/library/articlesN75+/N76Parnia_nde. htm> (accessed June 29, 2009).
11. Parnia, Sam. “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest: Visions of a Dying Brain or Visions of a New Science of Consciousness.” Resuscitation 52:1, January 2002, p.10. <http://horizonresearch.org/resusrv.pdf> (accessed July 11, 2009).
12. Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. London: Hogarth Press, 1964 (1939).
—. Totem and Taboo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950 (1913).
—. The Future of an Illusion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1927.
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 1 – Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?
The following article by BJ Rudge, Ph.D. is part one of an article that was published in the Journal of Biblical Apologetics.
The issue of “who Jesus is” has been a topic of debate throughout history. During His own time, some saw Jesus as a great prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist. Those who opposed Jesus saw Him as working in the power of Satan. Others, like Peter, saw Jesus as the Son of God. In recent times, there has been a growing interest in the study of the historical Jesus. Our culture has been inundated with a plethora of attempts to answer the question: “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?”
This resurgence has resulted in numerous published books, documentaries, and even movies. Within these sources one can find a variety of opinions on the historical Jesus. Consider some of the following theories: a political revolutionary, a Jewish prophet, a magician, founder of a royal dynasty, and an international traveler.
While there is a divergence of opinion on the “true” identity of Jesus of Nazareth, there appears to be a common underlying belief that runs throughout many of these modern historical theories.
This shared belief is that the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are inaccurate and religiously biased accounts of the historical Jesus.
Thus, many of the modern quests for the historical Jesus are not merely trying to critique the traditional view of Jesus of Nazareth, but they are in fact promoting an entirely “new” Jesus.
Are the canonical Gospels historically reliable documents on the life of Jesus?
“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 when it was written many years after the actual events?” It seems anytime I talk to others about the Christian faith I end up hearing one of these questions. On a recent trip I was able to speak with an airline pilot about the evidence for the Christian faith. Although he claimed to be a Christian, he argued we really could not be sure of the total accuracy of the recorded events in the Gospels since they were written years after the events actually occurred. Instead, he felt that 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 could appeal to in establishing the historical trustworthiness of the canonical Gospels. The following are just four of these reasons:
1. Multiple Attestation
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. The following are just a few examples from the Gospels where we have multiple reports on events in the life of Jesus: Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13- 17; Mark 1:9-11;Luke 3:21-23a); Jesus’ teaching on the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3b-23; Mark 4:3- 25: Luke 8:5-18); Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32- 44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14); Jesus’ tomb found empty (Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-10). Thus, as New Testament scholar Craig Evans notes, “… when two or three of the Gospels are saying the same thing, independently – as they often do – then this significantly shifts the burden of proof onto somebody who says they’re just making it up.”
2. Primary Sources
The canonical Gospels are primary sources on the life of Jesus of Nazareth because they are grounded in eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35). In other words, the authors of the canonical Gospels either claim to have had actual contact with the events themselves, or at least knew people who did and then checked it out. This eyewitness testimony in the canonical Gospel accounts supports their reliability and authority as sources in regard to the events they describe. This is the case because they were not written by men who were disassociated from the events themselves. Rather, the authors of the Gospels either personally participated in them (Matthew and John), or they had firsthand knowledge of the events through the testimonies of those who did (Mark and Luke).
3. Early Date
The standard dating for the canonical Gospels, even among liberal scholars, ranges from A.D. 50 to 100. The uniqueness of this dating, considering the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry is dated between A.D. 30-33, is the fact the canonical Gospels were in existence during the lifetime of both hostile and non-hostile eyewitnesses. Thus, the presence of these eyewitnesses would help ensure there were not any fabrications or falsifications on the part of the Gospel writers. For instance, the hostile witnesses (such as the Pharisees and Sadducees) could have easily contradicted what was documented in the canonical Gospels. When a Gospel writer said Jesus did or said “x,” the hostile witnesses were in the position to say Jesus did not do or say “x”because they were present during the events that the Gospels recorded. However, they remained silent, and their silence merely supports the fact that what is recorded in the canonical Gospels are trustworthy accounts of the person and life of Jesus Christ.
The canonical Gospels provide us with information that is consistent with what we know about the history and culture of Israel during the life of Jesus. We know this is the case because archeology has repeatedly confirmed the canonical Gospels are accurate sources 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 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 canonical 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, two of the canonical Gospels mention Nazareth as the city where Jesus was raised (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:16). Since the Old Testament, Josephus and the Talmud never list Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:16; John 1:45) 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.”
Added 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.”
Thus, as these two examples have shown, archeology continues to demonstrate the canonical Gospels are coherent with what we know about first century Israel.
A true examination of the evidence has shown the allegation the canonical Gospels are not historically reliable documents on the life of Jesus, is historical fiction and not historical fact.
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 2 – Was Jesus Married?
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
The Bible and the Christian faith are under extreme attack. The following, excerpted from an article by BJ published in the Journal of Biblical Apologetics, deals with yet another attempt to undermine historical Christianity.
A contemporary allegation that has been circulating is the notion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that she became pregnant with His child.
The Jesus bloodline theory is rooted in historical fiction. There is absolutely no historical evidence (biblical or extrabiblical) that supports the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
The only sources that people who hold to this theory can appeal to are the Gnostic gospels. However, beyond the fact that the Gnostic gospels are not trustworthy documents on the life of Jesus, they nowhere claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
The following are two historical reasons which clearly point to the conclusion that Jesus was not married:
1) Celibacy was not forbidden in Jewish culture.
It is asserted by proponents of the Jesus blood line theory that Jesus was married because celibacy was forbidden in the Jewish culture. However, while it is the case that marriage was the norm, it is not the case that celibacy was forbidden.
For example, there are Jeremiah and Elijah in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist, and perhaps Paul (1 Corinthians 7:8), in the New Testament, who lived celibate lives. In addition, the Jewish historian Josephus records in his writings that celibacy was practiced by the Essenes of the Dead Sea community at Qumran. Josephus mentions that one of the distinguishing marks of the Essenes was that they “neglected wedlock” in their attempt to conquer their passions.
2) The Bible nowhere indicates that Jesus was married.
The earliest documents that we have on the life of Jesus (canonical Gospels), and some of the earliest documents on early Christianity (Pauline epistles), make no mention that Jesus was married. This is important to keep in mind because there are several places in the Bible that, if Jesus were married, one would expect the authors to make reference to this marriage.
Consider the following two examples: First, in John chapter 19, while Jesus is on the cross, He asks His disciple John to take care of His mother:
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27).
If Jesus was married, then this passage raises some perplexing questions. Why did the author, John, not identify Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife when he identifies the relationship between Jesus and the other two women in the passage?
If Mary Magdalene was His wife, then following His crucifixion, why did Jesus not make arrangements for her when He made arrangements for His mother?
There is no reasonable answer to these questions other than to accept the fact that Jesus was not married.
Second, in 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul defends his right to have a wife (which it appears that he never acted upon):
Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
Now if Jesus were married, then certainly Paul would have cited Jesus as his example rather than the apostles.
What greater appeal could Paul have made to validate his right to marry then the fact that Jesus was married. However, Paul makes no mention of Jesus being married, and as historian Paul Maier notes, “First Corinthians 9:5 is the graveyard of the married-Jesus fiction.”
Once again we have found another contemporary allegation that is rooted in pseudohistorical fiction.
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 3 – Was Jesus Considered to Be Divine?
This is part three in a crucial series of articles on “The Quest for The Historical Jesus.” It is a condensed version of an article by BJ published in the Journal of Biblical Apologetics.
Is it true that no one claimed Jesus was divine until the Council of Nicea in the fourth century? Another allegation made is the idea Jesus was never recognized by his followers as divine until the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Liberal scholars claim the concept of Jesus’ divinity developed over time and was not the official teaching of Jesus and His followers. In light of this allegation, the main question before us then is did Jesus and His followers affirm His deity prior to the Council of Nicea? If there is evidence that confirms Jesus was recognized as divine prior to the Council of Nicea, then this will deal a decisive blow to this allegation. As we examine the evidence, we do find sources that affirm Jesus’ deity prior to the Council of Nicea. Consider the following four examples:
1. The Canonical Gospels (A.D. 50-100):
In the canonical Gospels, we find a vast amount of material that portrays Jesus as being a divine figure. For instance, the Gospels record Jesus as acknowledging His own deity. One way Jesus does this is by applying titles to Himself that were titles used in reference to Yahweh in the Old Testament. For instance, Jesus used the title “I AM” as declaration of who He was.
As Dr. Robert Morey notes, “If all Jesus wanted to say was that He existed before Abraham, all He had to do was to use the imperfect tense “I was.” But this would not have caused a riot and an assassination attempt. It is His use of the present tense and the way He said it that made them riot.”
2. Pauline Epistles (A.D. 50- 70): Another pre-Nicene source that confirms the deity of Jesus is the Pauline epistles. One clear example is from Paul’s epistle to the church at Colosse. One of the main reasons why Paul writes this letter was to respond to a heresy known as Gnosticism which was infiltrating the church.
Gnosticism taught that the physical body was evil, and therefore, God could not be incarnate in a human body. In response, Paul acknowledges the fullness of God does dwell in Jesus (Colossians 2:9).
3. Early Church Fathers: A third pre-Nicene source that affirms Jesus was viewed as divine is the writings of the early church fathers. Consider the following three examples:
a. Ignatius (A.D. 30-107): “We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began…”
b. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100- 165): “… who [Jesus] also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.”
c. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202): “Proofs from the apostolic writings, that Jesus Christ was one and the same, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man.”
4. Non-Christian source: We also have an example of a non-Christian source that confirms that Jesus was perceived as divine by His followers prior to the Council of Nicea. The source is a letter that Pliny the Younger, who served as governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote to Emperor Trajan about how to deal with Christians who were in his realm of jurisdiction.
In this letter, which has been dated by scholars to be written around A.D. 112, Pliny makes the following comment about the early Christian worship of Christ: “They [the Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god….”
The next article by BJ in this series on “The Quest for The Historical Jesus” will be a challenge to the Church to equip believers to defend the faith.
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 4 – A Wake Up Call to the Church
The following is a condensed version of an article by BJ published in the Journal of Biblical Apologetics.
In a time when objectivity is denied and “truth” is nothing more than a person’s preference for a particular flavor of ice cream, the church needs to be more aggressive in its task of apologetics. In fact, with the saturation of postmodernism into every facet of society, the church must stand up and share the authoritative and absolute truth of the Gospel message.
Unfortunately, with the motivation of wanting to be “relevant,” many in the church have embraced the tenets of postmodernism, and instead of reforming the culture through the Gospel message, they have allowed culture to reform the Gospel message. Thus, the Gospel no longer possesses the exclusive message of salvation; instead, it is merely one narrative (worldview) among many other equally authentic narratives (worldviews).
Since this is the case, many Christians have begun to assimilate other belief systems into their Christian faith. As a result, Christianity has become a smorgasbord of opinions and beliefs, with no clearly defining parameters on what constitutes the true message of Jesus Christ.
Then we wonder why the majority of Christians are not only inept in being able to articulate a response to attacks against the Christian faith, but also why so many Christians begin to question and doubt their faith.
Not only is the average believer unprepared to give a reason for the hope that he has, but he does not even know the reason for the hope that he has.
This should be a wake up call to the church to accept this great challenge and equip believers to contend for the faith.
First, pastors need to get back to sound biblical preaching. God’s word is essential for a believer’s life. However, many messages from the pulpit today make little to no reference to the Bible. Instead of the Bible being the main source of instruction for the body of Christ, many rely solely upon personal stories, jokes, and skits.
While these are not necessarily unbiblical methods of communication, they certainly should not be the main source(s) of instruction ― God’s Word should be!
The Bible provides God’s people with proper direction (it tells us why we are here and where we are going), proper doctrine (it tells us what we need to know), proper discernment (it tells us how we can know right from wrong), and proper discipline (it tells us how we are to live).
Second, Christians need to saturate their lives in prayer. We are in an intense spiritual battle as the enemy earnestly desires to enslave the heart and the mind of every individual. Perhaps this battle is most intense on high school and college campuses. Many of these institutions have become a feeding ground for vicious assaults on the Christian faith.
The result of this attack through our education system has been tragic as countless young adults from Christian homes end up denying belief in Christ before they graduate from college. In order for us to be effective in this battle, we must be persistent in prayer (Colossians 4:2), and daily ask God to open the hearts and minds of our loved ones to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
As one of my mentors said, “The prayerless Christian is the powerless apologist.” All of us who follow Jesus Christ face the timeless challenge of giving a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. May we never grow weary in this task!
The Resurrection: Myth or Fact?
While working on his doctorate degree, BJ wrote an excellent article on the resurrection. Excerpts follow.
The reality of the resurrection can either validate or discredit Christianity. The apostle Paul understood the utter importance of the resurrection to a believer’s faith and wrote the following to the church at Corinth,
“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 is also in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:13,14).
The resurrection is part of the foundation of Christianity; without it the Christian faith will topple.
The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is not merely given on the assumption of faith, but on the grounds of historical objective testimony and evidence. As a result one must approach the resurrection on the same grounds that he would any other historical claim. He must allow the empirical evidence to determine the outcome and not his preconceived beliefs. He must be like a juror and listen to the evidence and opposing opinions then make an honest inference to the best explanation. The final decision that one makes should be based, not upon philosophical speculation, but upon one’s own historical investigation of the facts.
It is a difficult task sometimes to find sufficient information about people who lived before or during the time of Jesus. For instance, all that one knows about the great philosopher Socrates is what his famous student Plato wrote about him. Of course, this should not be a great shock to anyone considering that writing was not very common at or before the time of Jesus. In fact, the Jews at the time of Jesus relied more upon oral tradition than written tradition. However, in spite of living in an oral culture, there is a good amount of historical information about Jesus Christ. Not only does the New Testament document the life of Jesus, but He is also alluded to by many other notable historians of His time (Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius).
Most of the historical knowledge about Jesus deals with His last week here on earth. It was during this week that the four Gospels give a detailed account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. These Gospel accounts are so specific that one has before him conclusive documentation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Let it simply be said that we know more about the details of the hours immediately before and the actual death of Jesus, in and near Jerusalem, than we know about the death of any other one man in all the ancient world.”
A Prophecy Fulfilled
In Luke 18:31-33 there are five specific details Jesus predicts in regards to His resurrection. The first is that He would be handed over to the Gentiles. This was fulfilled when the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate. The second detail that Jesus mentions is that He would be mocked, mistreated, and spat upon. This was fulfilled when the Roman soldiers twisted a crown of thorns upon the head of Jesus and placed a purple robe on His back. In addition to being mocked and beaten, the third detail is that He would be scourged. This also was fulfilled when Pilate had Jesus scourged before He was crucified. The next detail that Jesus predicts is that they (Gentiles) would kill Him. Once again, this too was fulfilled when Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified. The final detail that Jesus predicts is not merely that He would resurrect, but the very day on which it would occur – the third day.
Was Jesus Dead?
Many have tried to prove that Jesus did not actually die. This particular view has become known as the swoon theory and was first formulated in the nineteenth century by a German rationalist named Venturini. “Venturini proposed that Jesus simply fainted, or swooned, and was taken down from the cross alive, only to revive in the cold dark tomb. After awakening he unwrapped himself, moved a one to two ton stone, slipped by the Roman soldiers, returned to his disciples and convinced them that he had been resurrected.” However, one can be assured that the account in the Gospels that Jesus was indeed dead is far more logical and a superior explanation than the swoon theory. This will be supported from both a historical and medical standpoint.
According to the Gospels, there are several things that prove conclusively that Jesus was in fact dead. First, Jesus went through an extensive trial where he was beaten, scourged, and had a crown of thorns placed upon His head. The scourging in itself would have been enough to kill Jesus. Dr. Alexander Metherell describes this brutal punishment and the effects that scourging/flogging can have upon a person:
“Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows. The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.”
In addition to the scourging, Jesus also endured other forms of brutal treatment by the Roman soldiers. The Gospel of John records the following,
“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give Him slaps in the face.” (19:2-3).
All of this occurred after Jesus was already in a weakened state from being scourged. The crown of thorns that was placed upon His head would have been extremely painful, causing blood to run down His head and into His eyes. The exact type of thorns is unknown, but the following is a brief description of two possible options.
Which thorn or type of thorn was used is uncertain. One comes from a plant called the Syrian Christ thorn, a shrub about 12 inches high with two large, sharp, recurved thorns at the bottom of each leaf. This plant is common in Palestine, especially around the site of Golgotha where Christ was crucified. Another plant, simply called the Christ Thorn, is a dwarf-sized shrub. Its thorns are easy to pick. The branches also can be bent easily to form a crown, and the thorns, in pairs of different lengths, are stiff – like nails or spikes.
After being beaten by the Roman soldiers, Jesus was forced to carry His own crossbar to the place where He would be crucified. The carrying of the crossbar was a common procedure for criminals. It weighed about 100 pounds and was placed upon the individual’s shoulders. Jesus was so weakened by the previous abuse that He was unable to carry His own crossbar. Dr. Metherell makes the following observation about the medical condition of Jesus at this point: “Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for him. Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”
Jesus endured one of the worst and most barbaric forms of execution. In fact, crucifixion was so cruel that the Romans would usually exclude Roman citizens from it and reserve this form of execution only for slaves. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus witnessed firsthand the cruelty of crucifixion and described it as a miserable procedure and an act of cruel treatment. After the victim carried his crossbeam to the place of execution, the following is an account of what happened next:
“Then on the ground he was fastened to the beam with arms outspread, usually by ropes, less commonly by nails. The beam and body were then lifted into place on the upright. A small wooden block (sedicula) or a wooden peg positioned midway on the upright supported the body weight as the buttocks rested on it. This feature was extremely important in cases of nailing since it prevented the weight from tearing open the wounds. Once the condemned was thus immobilized he was left alone, unable to attend to bodily functions, unprotected from inclement weather or flies, and, because the place of execution was usually some public street or prominent place, subjected to abusive words and mockery from passersby.”
According to the Gospel accounts the Romans used nails in the crucifixion of Jesus. Many have questioned the historical accuracy of a person being nailed to the cross. This challenge to the accuracy of the Gospel accounts was quickly disproved by archeological evidence. “Ossuary remains from a first-century A.D. tomb unearthed at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in Jerusalem surprisingly included the two heel bones of a crucifixion victim still fastened together by a single iron nail.” This evidence sheds a great deal of light upon the probability that Jesus had nails about 5-7inches in length driven into His hands and feet.
After being nailed to the cross the victim’s body would then be raised in the air. As he hung on the cross he would be in extreme agony and pain. Every movement of his muscles would bring him closer to death. Most of these victims would die from suffocation that was brought about by fatigue. Dr. Metherell gives a description of this agonizing death:
“Once a person is hanging in the vertical position… crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push and breathe anymore. As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis — the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”
To speed this process up, it was customary for the Roman executioners to break the legs of the victim. However, in the case of Jesus this was not done. The reason this was not done was because the executioners observed that Jesus had already died. Instead, seeing that Jesus was in fact dead,
“… one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34).
The sight of blood and water gives good medical evidence that the thrust of the spear pierced both the lung and heart of Jesus, bringing about pericardial effusion from His body. The above trauma that the body of Jesus had to endure gives conclusive evidence, for authority figures like Dr. Metherell, to come to the following conclusion, “There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.”
Not only is there medical evidence to support the death of Jesus, but there is also historical evidence. First, the efficiency of crucifixion by the Romans was very well known at the time of Jesus. The entire trauma that a person had to endure from the scourging, to the carrying of the crossbeam, to the crucifixion with nails, demonstrates that the Roman soldiers had an effective way of executing people. Dr. Paul Maier asserts the following about Roman crucifixions, “Romans were grimly efficient about crucifixions: Victims did not escape with their lives.” Secondly, Pilate wanted certification from the Roman executioners that Christ was indeed dead before he would allow His body to be handed over for burial. It was not until he received this notice that he allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross. The historical and medical evidence points to the fact that Jesus was indeed dead. The idea that He somehow resuscitated in the tomb ignores a significant amount of evidence.
The third evidential proof for the reality of the resurrection is the empty tomb.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:1-3).
Many various theories have been proposed to explain why the tomb was empty. The Pharisees began to spread the idea that the disciples came and stole the body. Others have argued that the women simply went to the wrong tomb and then claimed that Jesus had risen. The following historical evidence shows that among all the explanations the resurrection is the best one that answers the question why the tomb was empty. It is important to keep in mind that the evidence below must be looked at as pieces in a puzzle. Each piece of evidence supports the other pieces and they all testify as a whole to the fact that Jesus did rise from the dead.
The first piece of evidence that needs to be considered is the manner in which Jesus was buried. According to the Gospels, once the Roman centurion had confirmed Jesus’ death, Pilate granted permission to Joseph of Arimathea to take the body of Jesus and bury Him. Joseph along with Nicodemus buried Jesus according to the burial customs of the Jews. (Joseph and Nicodemus are important characters to the Gospel accounts because both were members of the Jewish council which initiated the execution of Jesus. If there was any fabrication in the Gospel accounts about these men it would have been easy for the enemies of Jesus to show the inaccuracy of those who were testifying of Christ’s resurrection.) The fact that Jesus was buried in this manner is significant because it would have made it virtually impossible for someone to steal the body. The body of Jesus would have been wrapped in linen and prepared with a variety of spices equaling the weight of almost 100 pounds. Being buried in this manner creates problems for theories, such as the swoon theory and the theory that Jesus’ body was stolen. Although this alone does not prove the resurrection, the burial procedure allows it to be a logical explanation.
The second piece of evidence is the great stone that was in front of the entrance of the tomb. The Gospels record that after being prepared for burial the body of Jesus was placed inside a tomb with a massive stone covering the entrance. The size of this stone is described in the Gospel of Mark, “Very early on the first day of the week, they (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.” (16:2-4). The size of this stone, preventing three women from being able to move it, is not unbelievable. In fact, tombstones at this time needed several strong men to roll them back. Recognizing the fact that the stone was moved before the women arrived leaves only three options: the disciples stole the body, the chief priests hid the body, or Jesus resurrected. The following will clearly show that the third option best fits all of the historical evidence.
The third piece to the puzzle is the fact that the tomb site was not difficult to find. Many critics have argued that the women simply went to the wrong tomb. However, there are at least three reasons why this theory is historically and logically inaccurate. First, the women followed Joseph to the tomb so that they would know exactly where it was when they came the next day to anoint the body. “Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.” (Luke 23:55). Secondly, several features uniquely marked the tomb. The location of the tomb is described in John 19:41, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” Not only was this tomb located in a garden, but it was also marked by a Roman seal and had guards posted at it. With all of these features it seems highly improbable that the women went to the wrong tomb. Finally, the enemies of Jesus could have easily ended any talk about Him resurrecting. All they had to do was to go to the correct tomb and show the body, thereby terminating all claims of the resurrection.
The behavior of the disciples is the fourth piece of evidence. According to the Gospels, the disciples left Jesus and fled when the authorities came for Him at the Garden of Gethsemane. During the trial of Christ, Peter is recorded as denying Him three times. Also, after the crucifixion the disciples were hiding in a room in fear with the doors locked. This type of behavior does not indicate a group of people who would have tried to steal the body of Jesus. They were concerned for their own lives. Even after the women had told them that Jesus had risen they still doubted. The disciples were in no position to steal the body of Christ or fabricate a story that He had resurrected. These men were devastated when Jesus was crucified and it took the actual appearance of Him to convince them that He had actually overcome death. Another piece of information is important here. It was common at this time for disciples to venerate the tomb of a holy man or great prophet. However, there is no indication that there was any veneration at the tomb of Jesus.
The fifth piece of evidence is the security precautions taken to ensure that Jesus’ body was not stolen.
“Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.’ And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone (Matthew 27:62-66).”
In this passage there are two key security precautions that were taken. The first was the stationing of guards at the tomb. Many argue that only a Temple guard was placed. If this is the case it does not downplay the tight security for “… the military discipline of the Temple guard was quite good. In fact, at night, if the captain approached a guard member who was asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. A member of the guard also was forbidden to sit down or lean against something when he was on duty.” However, the text seems to point more to the fact that it was the Roman guard who was placed at the burial site. Who exactly was the Roman guard?
“A Roman guard unit was a 4 to 16 man security force. Each man was trained to protect six feet of ground. The 16 men in a square of 4 on each side were supposed to be able to protect 36 yards against an entire battalion and hold it. Normally what they did was this: 4 men were placed immediately in front of what they were to protect. The other 12 were asleep in a semi-circle in front of them with their heads pointing in. To steal what these guards were protecting, thieves would first have to walk over those who were asleep. Every four hours, another unit of four was awakened, and those who had been awake went to sleep. They would rotate this way around the clock.”
The above gives good reason as to why the Roman unit was considered “one of the greatest offensive and defensive fighting machines ever conceived.” Whether it was the Temple guards or Roman guards protecting the tomb, both were highly trained and effective in what they did. In addition, both parties knew that their lives were at stake if they did not carry out their posts in an appropriate manner.
The Roman seal was the second security precaution that was taken. The existence of this seal is another indicator that the Roman guard was there because it was only in their presence that the seal could be placed on the stone. There are three purposes for the seal. First, the seal would prevent people from trying to vandalize the tomb. Secondly, the seal would show that Roman authority was protecting the body of Jesus. Finally, the seal would stand as a warning that Roman law would punish anyone who broke it. The presence of the guards and the seal would have discouraged anyone from trying to steal the body of Jesus. Certainly the disciples, hiding behind locked doors, were in no state of mind to challenge an elite Roman or Temple guard unit.
The final piece of the puzzle is the recognition of the chief priests that the tomb was indeed empty. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the guards went to the chief priests and told them all that had happened. The response by the chief priests was to bribe the soldiers with money and to have them say that the disciples came and stole the body (28:11-15). The fact present is that the chief priests acknowledged that the tomb was empty and had to therefore find some type of explanation as to what happened. However, as the above pieces of evidence have shown, the disciples were not in any position to steal the body. The very fact that they were proclaiming the resurrection weeks later, in front of the enemies of Jesus, adds more weight to the fact that they indeed witnessed the resurrected Jesus. All the pieces are together, and the question of why the tomb was empty can only be answered by the resurrection. “The empty tomb is that silent testimony to the resurrection of Christ which has never been refuted. The Romans and Jews could not produce Christ’s body or explain where it went, but nonetheless, they refused to believe. Not because of the insufficiency of evidence but in spite of its sufficiency do men still reject the resurrection.”
The final evidential proof to be looked at is the postmortem appearances. In the Gospels there are numerous accounts of eyewitnesses who testify that Jesus appeared to them after His death. Many theories have been proposed to explain these appearances. Before looking at them there are a few key points that need to be made about these appearances. First, these appearances were not secluded to a few people, but to a vast number of people from different geographical locations. The apostle Paul says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people, “… and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time… then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all,… He appeared to me also.” (I Corinthians 15:4-8). Secondly, these appearances were not of the same manner. For example, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, while on another occasion He appeared to Thomas with the other disciples behind closed doors. Third, these appearances brought about different responses from those who saw Jesus. Mary Magdalene responded in joy as she clung to Jesus, while in other appearances people responded in fright thinking they had seen a spirit. The fact that the appearances cannot be harmonized gives credence to the idea that they were not fabricated. Fourth, the resurrection appearances are reported without mystical and fanciful descriptions. Fifth, the witnesses testified to these appearances in spite of Jesus’ enemies being present. Finally, these appearances immediately changed the lives of the disciples (and others) to the extent that they were willing to give up their lives. The disciples extraordinarily changed from men of fear and doubt to men of boldness and courage as they openly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “The only thing that can account for this immediate and miraculous change is that they were absolutely convinced they had encountered the bodily resurrected Christ.”
The numerous eyewitness accounts stand as compelling evidence that Jesus did in fact resurrect. As a result theories have been proposed to try and interpret these appearances in a way that discredits the resurrection. The following are three different alternatives given to explain why these appearances were not of the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.
The first alternative argues that the appearances were merely hallucinations. However, this theory does not line up with the idea as to what the disciples would have believed in regards to the resurrection. According to Jewish sources two fundamental beliefs were held in regard to the resurrection. Jewish belief recognized a resurrection at the end of the world, not in the middle of history. Also, the Jews recognized a general resurrection of people and not an isolated resurrection of an individual person. These background beliefs that the disciples held are opposed to the idea of the resurrection of Jesus.
The notion that Jesus resurrected prior to God bringing about the end of the world would have been foreign to them. The disciples were in no way expecting Jesus to resurrect for it was foreign to their belief system. Taking this into account it is easier to understand why the disciples were confused when Jesus predicted His own resurrection (Luke 18:34, Mark 9:9,10). If the disciples had any hallucinations they surely would not have been of Jesus resurrecting. Rather, the disciples would have pictured Jesus translating (direct transporting to heaven) which would have been in line with their Jewish understanding.
The idea that the disciples merely saw a ghost is the second alternative theory that challenges the postmortem appearances. According to this theory, Jesus did not physically rise from the dead. Instead, the disciples merely had a vision or saw an aberration. However, this theory ignores a significant amount of historical evidence. First, the Gospels record every resurrection appearance of Jesus as being physical. “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). The Gospels also record Jesus eating physical food, and being able to be touched, seen, and heard. Secondly, the New Testament makes a distinction between an appearance and a vision of Jesus. “The postresurrection encounters with Christ are usually described as literal ‘appearances’ (I Cor. 15:5-8), and never as visions. The difference between a mere vision and a physical appearance is significant. Visions are of invisible, spiritual realities, such as God and angels. Appearances are of physical objects that can be seen with the naked eye. Visions have no physical manifestations associated with them; appearances do.”
The final alternative theory not only challenges the resurrection appearances but the entire resurrection accounts. According to some, such as Rabbi Tovia Singer, the resurrection narratives in the Gospels are unreliable. As a result, it is more likely that the resurrection narratives are fabricated stories or myths. This view of the resurrection narratives fails on three grounds. First, there is an insufficient time frame in which a legend or myth could develop. Normally, it would take about two generations for a myth or legend to develop. However, the actual time of the events to the written accounts does not encompass this time frame. Thus, “… the unanswered difficulty for this viewpoint has been that the temporal and geographical distance between the events and the accounts is insufficient to allow for such extensive development.”
Secondly, the presence of an eyewitness would have thwarted any effort by someone who was trying to formulate a false report about the resurrection. The apostles were present to prevent anyone from trying to add any fictitious features in the resurrection narratives. Also, the enemies of Jesus were present and they would have completely stopped the spread of the resurrection story if even the smallest detail was made up.
Lastly, the narratives themselves contain no legendary material but have a high degree of being historically accurate. For instance, the fact that the women were the ones who found the empty tomb is quite significant, especially since they did not qualify as legal witnesses in Jewish society. The fact that their presence is documented shows that the Gospel writers were simply attempting to describe exactly what happened. In addition, the resurrection appearances themselves are not described in mystical terms. Instead, they are documented with people who respond cautiously and with reserve (Matthew 28:17). The above points show that the resurrection narratives are not legendary, but were trustworthy accounts written to accurately display what took place.
James thought His (half) brother Jesus was crazy. Why did he eventually give his life for Him? Paul was a successful Jewish leader who headed up the persecution of the early Church. Why did he endure beatings, being stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned for the very name that he sought to destroy? Dr. Frank Morrison sought to disprove the resurrection as a fairy tale. Why did he eventually write one of the most powerful books that bears witness to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? The only thing that can attest to the remarkable change in their lives is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. The evidence is compelling.
Knowing that the core of my faith is based upon reliable evidence motivates me to grow stronger in my faith. The resurrection gives me zeal and confidence to share the Gospel message with others. It gives me stability to stand strong in a world of pluralistic ideas. I do not have to fear that my faith cannot stand up to philosophical challenges. It challenges me to seek to know God in a more intimate way. It also gives me hope of the Lord’s Second Coming and the eventual resurrection of all believers. As a result, I strive to live a life that glorifies my Lord and share with all people the confident hope I have of a future resurrection and eternal life with Jesus Christ.
The Uniqueness of Christianity
The following is excerpted from a paper BJ wrote while working on his Doctorate.
A prominent leader in the Christian community made the following comment:
I have learned of the common ground shared by true Christians and Muslims in the practice of their faith. I learned that we believe in and are submitted and committed to the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael! The God who created us and the world we live in… True believers in God must learn to come together as partners in peace; we must move our society and our world from combatibility to compatibility; from intolerance to tolerance, seeking justice, mercy and compassion for all. For the sake of all the unborn generations to come, we here and now, must begin the task of working together as partners of peace.
This attitude is what is facing the church today: “professing” Christians claiming that Christianity is no different than religions such as Islam. The challenge facing the body of Christ is that we must contend for the faith (Jude 3) and show others that Jesus Christ alone is the promised Messiah and the only way of salvation. We must confidently proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a unique and superior revelation.
The culture in which we live has two prominent characteristics. The first characteristic is that of pluralism. We live in a time when people are saying that all religions lead to the same end. They claim that differences in religions are merely the result of cultures interpreting the same truth in various ways. The second prominent characteristic of our culture is a spiritual awakening among people. People in our generation are looking for answers to the questions of life. In the midst of a pluralistic society, people are desperately searching for answers and meaning in their life. This is the cultural setting in which we, as Christians, find ourselves.
How does the Christian respond to the spiritual hunger of man within a world of pluralism? In 1 Peter 3:15, we are given an explicit command as to how Christians should respond:
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
There are two key issues to consider from this passage. First, we are called to give a defense for our faith. The word apologia is the Greek word for defense. We as Christians are called to give an apologetic, or defense, of the faith. Second, we are to give our defense of the faith with an attitude of gentleness and reverence. A clear example of one giving a defense for the faith is when the Apostle Paul spoke before King Agrippa (Acts 26). In a gentle and reverent manner, Paul gave King Agrippa a reason for the hope that he had.
The main focus of this article is to give a defense of the Christian faith by showing how Christianity is unique and is able to answer the questions of man today.
Truth Is Not Relative
Before looking at the uniqueness of the Christian faith, a few primary issues need to be dealt with. These issues are misconceptions that people hold to within our culture. First, we need to understand that truth is not relative. Truth is not a matter of personal belief. Instead, truth is what corresponds to reality. Truth is outside of us, not inside of us.
Second, the Christian faith is not merely a blind leap into the dark. Many people feel that religion is a matter of a person’s faith. For instance, I had a chance to talk to a woman who was into the New Age. She made the assertion that the truth of a religion is simply a matter of spirituality and faith. I responded by explaining to her that Christianity is unique among the other religions in that it is established upon historical grounds and the truth of it is open to evaluation. I supported this assertion by going to Paul’s defense before King Agrippa. In his defense, Paul does not merely say that his faith is a blind existential leap into the dark. Instead, he says that his faith is established upon the historical event of the resurrection, which is not a matter of mere faith but is grounded upon evidence which is open to evaluation.
For the king knows about these matters (resurrection), and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)
A final issue that needs to be dealt with is that Christianity is exclusive. Christianity is not just one religion among many that leads a person to God. Instead, it is very clear in the Bible that it is only by placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ that one can be saved. Christianity stands apart from all other religions in asserting that salvation only comes through the person of Jesus Christ.
There are a variety of foundations on which Christianity can be established. The following are four examples. First, Christianity is unique in that it has a superior revelation.
On my way to referee a playoff soccer game, I was able to have a conversation with my friend who was born in Morocco and was raised in accordance with the Islamic faith. He asked me what makes the Bible different or superior to the Qur’an. He saw both as being the product of their culture and he had a hard time seeing the Bible as being any more authoritative than the Qur’an.
There are numerous grounds by which one could show the superiority of the Bible over other sacred writings. For instance, one of the superior elements of the Bible is that it contains within it fulfilled prophecy.
There are numerous prophecies made about future events in the Bible that have been fulfilled. There are prophecies that reveal the succession of great empires (Daniel 2), the miraculous history and restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12), and the judgment of certain nations (Tyre-Ezekiel 26:3-14; Edom-Jeremiah 49:16-17; and Philistia-Zephaniah 2:5). Perhaps some of the most astonishing fulfilled prophecies in the Bible are concerning the Messiah, where over 300 Messianic prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ during His first coming.
What these fulfilled prophecies point to is the fact that the Bible is inspired by God and is unique in regard to the sacred writings of other religious traditions.
Superior Plan of Salvation
The second foundation used to establish the uniqueness of Christianity is that it has a superior plan of salvation. Through faith in Christ one can have the assurance of his ultimate destiny. Many people attempt to attain salvation through works. They try on their own effort to work their way to God. When one tries to achieve salvation by works, he is always left with two questions. The first question is the quantity question: How do I know if what I did is enough to save me? We may stand before God and find out that we were just one work short of entering into heaven. The second question is the quality question: How do I know if what I did is good enough to save me? We may stand before God and find out that we did not have a proper attitude in the works that we did and therefore fall short.
When one’s salvation is dependent upon his own merit, he is left with these two questions and no assurance as to his eternal state. As a result, many people go to extreme measures in trying to obtain assurance for their eternal destiny. For example, in Islam one does not have the assurance of his eternal destiny until he dies. A Muslim can only hope that Allah will accept the good deeds he did while living and allow him into paradise. Since there is no assurance, many devout Muslims commit suicide as “martyrs” (die for a holy cause) and kill others to be assured that Allah will accept them into heaven.
Fortunately, a Christian does not have to go to extreme measures (even though some do) to have the assurance that they are truly saved. Instead, there is assurance in the Christian plan of salvation. The emphasis in this plan is not on what I can do but on what God has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul is a good example of the assurance that a believer in Jesus Christ has in eternal life. As he sat in a Roman prison facing death, Paul confidently knew what awaited him.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:7-8)
The Christian plan of salvation not only gives one assurance of his ultimate destiny but it is also a simple plan that deals with the heart of the problem. Because of his sinful nature, man has been separated from a holy and perfect God. However, God sent His only Son to atone for the sins of man (John 3:16). Now, sinful man has access to a holy God through the perfect mediator, Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5). The emphasis is not on what I can do, but on what God has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ.
In Hinduism, one has to go through multiple reincarnations to gain salvation/liberation. In Islam, one has to follow the five pillars of Islam and do other good deeds in order to gain the acceptance of Allah. In Christianity, all one has to do is recognize the problem (that I am a sinner) and accept in faith the solution (Jesus is the only way for salvation). True faith in Jesus will then motivate the believer to live a holy life before God, empowered by His Spirit. Christianity has a superior plan of salvation. It supplies man with a plan that recognizes the heart of the problem, and provides a solution through which man can obtain the assurance of his eternal destiny.
A third reason why Christianity is unique is that it has a superior Savior. Many people think of Jesus Christ as merely one of the great teachers in history. They place Him on the same level as Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius, and others. However, is Jesus just one among the many religious and moral teachers of history? It is my contention that Jesus stands unique and superior to all other religious leaders, prophets and so called ‘messiahs’ of history.
There are numerous reasons we could give to support this claim, but for our purposes here, we are going to show the superiority of Jesus on the grounds that He fulfilled His plan while He was here on earth.
What was Jesus’ main purpose for coming? According to the Bible, His main purpose was to die for the sins of mankind and be resurrected three days later (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31, 10:32-34; John 12:27-33). There is overwhelming evidence to show that Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead.
The following is a brief look at three pieces of evidence. The first piece of evidence is the fact that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:1-3). Various theories have been proposed to explain why the tomb was empty, but the resurrection stands as the best explanation. First, security precautions were taken to ensure that Jesus’ body was not stolen (Matthew 27:62-66). These precautions consisted of a large stone in front of the entrance of the tomb (Mark 16:2-4), the stationing of guards who were highly trained and effective in securing their posts, and the placement of a Roman seal. The fact that the tomb was empty and that detailed security measures were taken supports the fact that the resurrection occurred.
A second piece of evidence is the postmortem appearances. Throughout the Gospels there are numerous eyewitnesses who testified that Jesus appeared to them after His death (Luke 24:36-37; John 20:11-18, 20:26-29). Many have postulated that these accounts were merely hallucinations, or that the people saw a vision or an aberration. However, after careful consideration the evidence overwhelmingly supports the fact that they did see the resurrected Jesus.
These eyewitness accounts are reported without mystical or fanciful descriptions. They clearly describe Jesus as being physically resurrected (Luke 24:39). The credibility of these eyewitnesses is increased because they testified to these appearances in spite of Jesus’ enemies being present. Any fabrication of their accounts would have enabled the enemies of Jesus to cut off the spread of the resurrection story.
Finally, consider the extraordinary change within the disciples. After the crucifixion they were hiding in a room with the doors locked (John 20:19). They were fearful for their own lives. Even after the women had told them that Jesus had risen they still doubted. The disciples were in no position to steal the body of Christ or fabricate a story that He was resurrected. These men were devastated when Jesus was crucified and it took His actual appearance to convince them that He had indeed overcome death. Jesus’ appearance extraordinarily changed the disciples from men of fear and doubt to men of boldness and courage, willing to give their lives as they openly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The evidence is overwhelming in showing that Jesus Christ was in fact raised from the dead.
The power of the evidential proof for the resurrection is overwhelming. This proved to be true as I spoke with Gene while at a coaching clinic two years ago. In our two-hour discussion, Gene told me that he did not believe that God existed. He had relatives who had survived the Holocaust and he could not conceive of a God who would allow that atrocity to happen. As we spoke, we talked about morals, God’s existence and creation versus evolution. Throughout this conversation both of us stood strong to our convictions. It was not until I began to share with Gene the evidence for the resurrection that I saw a change within his disposition. After sharing for several minutes some of the amazing evidence, Gene had no response. All he said to me was that he had never met a Christian who was able to give such evidence for his faith. A few months after our discussion I received an e-mail from Gene. In this e-mail, Gene told me that the conversation we had greatly impacted his life. He could not deny the overwhelming evidence that pointed to the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
A final basis in showing the uniqueness of Christianity is that it has a superior eschatological hope. One of the greatest impressions that I gained from my mission trip to India with my father was of the people known as the “Untouchables.” In Hindu society, these people are considered to be the lowest in human existence and should not even be touched. My heart broke for these people who have been robbed of all hope and joy. The impact that Christian missionaries have had upon the “Untouchables” is truly amazing. Despite their lowly existence here on earth, they are coming to realize that they have value through Jesus Christ and hope of a blessed eternity.
This hope in Jesus Christ is also demonstrated in the lives of those who have been martyred for the name of Jesus. In fact, during the past century alone, more Christians have been killed for their faith than in all the previous centuries combined. Romans 8:18 is a good verse in showing the hope that one has as he faces persecution, torture, and even death for the name of Jesus Christ:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
It is the eschatological hope of all believers to one day spend eternity with God. Revelation 21:3 promises:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.’
The eschatological hope of Christianity transforms lives, brings comfort and gives hope to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The challenge facing the body of Christ today is that we must contend for the faith (Jude 1:3) and effectively communicate that Jesus Christ alone is the promised Messiah and the only way of salvation. Since we know that Christianity is unique and superior, we do not have to cower in fear but can confidently proclaim, as the apostles did, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Space will not permit me to share all the evidence for the Christian faith, but enough has been revealed in the Scriptures to convince the strongest skeptic, if only he is unbiased.
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.
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).
A Biblical Case for the Deity of Christ
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
From Atheist to Creationist to Christian
How Could Jesus Speak to Large Audiences?
Is the Bible Reliable?
Is the Exodus and Crossing of the Red Sea Historical?
Is There Evidence for the Resurrection?
Questions for an Atheist
The Destruction of Tyre
The Psychological Uniqueness of Man: A Rebuttal to Darwinism
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 1 – Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 2 – Was Jesus Married?
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 3 – Was Jesus Considered to Be Divine?
The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 4 – A Wake Up Call to the Church
The Resurrection: Myth or Fact?
The Uniqueness of Christianity