God wants us to be confident in His promises. Examine your life and trust in what His word says!
Author: John Morris
Among the Old Covenant ceremonies that foreshadow the Christian’s covenant with Christ is the water of purification. Consider how this ritual pre-figures Christian baptism.
I was on your official website today, and read the following:
…the Bible teaches that Jesus was created by God.
Jesus’ early followers did not view him as being equal to Almighty God.
Admittedly, I knew you believed this before I visited your site. In fact, previous research had revealed to me that you believe Jesus to actually be one and the same as Michael the archangel.
I can’t agree with this.
“Jesus of Nazareth is easily the dominant figure in history…the historian disregarding the theological significance of his life, writes the name of Jesus of Nazareth at the top of the list of the world’s greatest characters.” ~ H. G. Wells
Few can say that they have never heard of Jesus Christ. In a 2010 TIME Magazine article entitled, “Who’s Biggest? The 100 Most Significant Figures in History,” in which the authors attempted to rank “historical figures just as Google ranks web pages, by integrating a diverse set of measurements about their reputation into a single consensus value,” Jesus came out first1. Loved or hated, the name of Jesus Christ is a “household name,” and has been for centuries. Everybody’s heard of Jesus.
In this third installment, we turn to the question of the gospels’ authenticity and accuracy. Even though the texts of the gospels have come down to us in reliable form, their believability is another question altogether. Is there reason to believe that the gospel accounts were ever true to begin with? Or are they just carefully copied frauds? LOTS could be said on this, and we will have to content ourselves with only scratching the surface.
Last week, I cited multiple ancient authors who referred to Jesus in their respective works. These individuals, who lived in the same and/or following century that Jesus lived, spoke of him as a real historical figure. None of them were Christians, and at least two of them were quite hostile to Christianity, yet they spoke of Jesus as someone who had impacted their world in recent times. There is no reasonable reason to doubt their testimony on this point, and so the overwhelming majority of scholars don’t. But what of those who wrote about Jesus in the first century who were Christians? What about their testimony? In other words, what about the so-called “gospels”—the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Can we trust their accounts? Is there evidence one way or the other? These are questions worth answering…for the gospel writers not only affirm that Jesus walked the earth, but that he came from heaven to save us from the consequences of our sins against God. If there’s any chance that might be true, we definitely want to give the gospels a fair hearing.
So let’s see where the evidence leads….
Some doubt that Jesus ever existed. But they’re in the minority. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary: The first century Roman historian Tacitus (born c. AD 55) mentions Jesus in his Annals (15:44). Tacitus’ Jewish contemporary, Josephus (born c. AD 37), references Jesus twice in his Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.3; 20.9.1). Pliny the Younger (born AD 61), the Roman magistrate, mentions Jesus in his letter to the Emperor Trajan (Letters, vol. 2, 10:96). And the second-century satirist, Lucian of Samosata (born AD 125), speaks of Jesus in his work The Death of Peregrine (11-13).
I’m not a mathematician. In fact, I generally have an aversion to numbers. They’re restrictive, require systematic, step-by-step (*cough* laborious *cough*) methods to manipulate, are terribly predictable, and generally unresponsive to creativity—at least, the right-brained sort (my sort) of creativity. That said, though, numbers can still grab my attention sometimes, particularly when they have an application in the field of apologetics (in this case, the defense of God’s existence).
Jeffrey Dahmer drugged and killed 17 men and boys. Before his imprisonment, he came to a point where he was murdering once a week. Driven by a desire to control individuals for his own gratification, Dahmer committed horrifying crimes. Their details need not be related here, as Paul’s words may have bearing on such a discussion: “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:14). But what helped drive Dahmer’s desires bears retelling. When asked what motivated him to commit such heinous acts, Dahmer confessed to the FBI in 1992 that (among other things: “heavy drinking,” etc.) pornography had played a part.
A few brief thoughts… When I was in college in the mid-nineties, I recall individuals from a local denomination walking the campus in the evening, initiating conversations with students about their salvation. Their approach was direct, and memorable. When afforded the opportunity, they inquired of a prospective convert, “Are you saved?” It was a good question, and not a bad conversation starter. I’ve since borrowed it myself. Of course, if the student they asked responded with a “no,” they would then attempt to share the plan of salvation with him/her as they understood it. And they understood it differently than I do. For if memory (and youthful perception) serves me correctly, I recall walking by one of them one evening as he was bowing in prayer with another. I can’t be certain what they were praying about, but based on what I know of this denomination, it’s quite possible they were praying what is often referred to as “the sinner’s prayer.”