Monthly Archives: November 2007

Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

By Spencer D Gear

One of the World’s Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, based on Scientific Evidence [1]

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Is it possible that a leading atheist, one who has opposed God in active atheism for most of his adult life, could now believe in God?That’s the provocative story that was reported in New York on December 9, 2004.I’m referring to British professor of philosopher, Antony Flew, who has “changed his mind,” after more than 50 years of atheism.Christianity Today considers that he is “Thinking Straighter.” [2]An Associated Press article stated that Flew “now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video” [3]. Flew was the son of a Methodist minister and he became an atheist at age 15.

Professor of Philosophy & Theology, Dr. Gary Habermas, has interviewed Flew about his change of mind, “Atheist Becomes Theist.”At the time of this interview, Flew was aged 81 and said that “I don’t believe in the God of any revelatory system, although I am open to that. But it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before” but he admitted that his theism was like the Deism of Mr. Jefferson who drafted the American Declaration of Independence.However, when Flew was asked by Habermas whether he was “open” to the “notion of theistic revelation,” his response was: ” I am open to it, but not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald Schroederâ’s comments on Genesis 1. [4] That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation. [5]

Flew is getting back to an intelligent first cause of the universe as explanations for the universe’s origination and the complexity of its nature.At this point, Associated Press reported that Flew’s Deistic God was “not actively involved in people’s lives” and was like that of Thomas Jefferson.He explained further in a telephone interview with Associated Press, “I’m thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins,” he said. “It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose.” [6]

During his teaching career at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading universities in the UK, Flew has claimed that there was a lack of evidence for the existence of God. Why this change?”There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife,” was how Associated Press expressed it.

Back in 1950, Flew wrote, “Theology and Falsification,” which was based on a paper he presented in 1949 to a weekly Oxford University religious forum that was led by C. S. Lewis, the Socratic Club.

Flew told James Beverley that he

detests any notion that a loving God would send any of his creatures to eternal flames. He cannot fathom how intelligent Christians can believe this doctrine. He even said in his debate with Terry Miethe that he has entertained the thought that the Creator should punish, though not endlessly, only those who defend the notion of eternal torment. On this matter, Flew is willing to entertain fresh approaches to divine justice. In fact, he had just obtained Lewis’s book The Great Divorce in order to assess Lewis’s unique interpretation on the topic of judgment [7].

A hint at Flew’s turn around was indicated in the August-September issue of the British, Philosophy Now, magazine when he stated that “it has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”In the video about which Associated Press reported, Flew pointed to the biologists’ examination of DNA, which “has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved.” The video is titled, “Has Science Discovered God?”[8].

What process was involved in causing Antony Flew to move towards a belief in a God rather than in philosophical atheism?He told Dr. Benjamin Wiker in “An Exclusive Flew Interview, that

there were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself which is far more complex than the physical Universe can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code.

What does Flew think of Richard Dawkins’ promotion of atheism?He explained to Wiker:

The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

James Beverley asked Flew about the impact of other scholars on him and particularly, “Who amazes you the most of the defenders of Christian theism?”He replied,

I would have to put Alvin Plantinga pretty high,” and he also complimented Miethe, Moreland, and Craig for their philosophical skills. He regards Richard Swinburne, the Oxford philosophy of religion professor, as the leading figure in the United Kingdom. “There is really no competition to him.” He said that Habermas has made “the most impressive case for Christian theism on the basis of New Testament writings” [9].

Some detractors

It should not be surprising that there are some opponents to Flew’s u-turn.Richard Carrier of The Secular Web accuses Flew of”willfully sloppy scholarship” [10].

The secular web stories are denying this story is true. See: In 2001, Antony Flew denied this change of mind, “Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!” In 2004, “Antony Flew Considers God…Sort Of“.


The exclusive interview between Dr. Antony Flew and Dr. Gary Habermas in 2004 should lay to rest the view that Antony Flew has not changed his mind. Read it in My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism, in which he states that “the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.”

Flew has stated his case for theism in his 2007 book, There Is a God. This is not the God of Christian revelation, but Flew states that he is “open” to such evidence. The New York Times (16 April 2010) reported, “Antony Flew, Philosopher and Ex-Atheist, Dies at 87” (died 8 April 2010, Reading, England).


1.I originally located this Associated Press story at ABC News (USA) at: [cited 22 May 2005].It is no longer available online, but I located it at MSNBC: World News, “There is a God, leading atheist concludes: Philosopher says scientific evidence changed his mind,” at: [cited 13 November 2007].

2.James A. Beverley 2007, “Thinking Straighter: Why the world’s most famous atheist now believes in God,” Christianity Today, 12th November [Online], available from: [cited 13 November 2007].

3.See Note 1.

4.Gerald L. Schroeder 1998, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, Broadway Books, New York.

5.Gary R. Habermas interviewed Antony Flew 2004, “Atheist Becomes Theist: Exclusive Interview with Former Atheist Antony Flew,” Philosophia Christia, the Journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Winter [Online], available from: (cited 13 November 2007).

6.See Note 1.

7.See Note 2.

8.See Note 1.

9.See Note 2.

10.See Note 2.

11. See Note 2.

Flew admits that “God could, in principle, puncture his bias against the supernatural” [11]

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 October 2015.


The “grotesque” God, evil & suffering

Spencer D Gear

“How can you possibly believe in the goodness of God when you consider that he allowed the slaughter of seven innocent people at Strathfield (Sydney, NSW)?” a concerned individual asked me shortly after that tragic event. I responded: There’s more than Strathfield.

What about the Sudanese refugees inEthiopia, who are moving back to theSudan, but have been bombed by aircraft? We also can’t forget about the hundreds of thousands who died in theBangladeshcyclone.” As it was put to me once, “I used to believe in God until my child was killed in an accident.”

If God did not claim to be good, the problem would be simple. But, Psalm 106:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” If he were not all-powerful, there would be no problem. If evil and suffering were an illusion, the dilemma could be escaped. But the problem is very real, especially for those in pain.

Isn’t this an irreconcilable paradox: a good, all-powerful God who permits all this suffering? The question of suffering boils down to this: How can a God of love allow so much suffering in the world? Either he doesn’t exist or he’s a vicious tyrant who enjoys seeing people in pain. This sounds like a pretty strong case against the existence of a loving God.

But is it? I do not propose any slick, easy answers to the real problem of suffering. Mine is not the last word on the subject, but I am convinced the biblical solution conforms with reality. I reject, for good reasons, atheistic philosopher,
Bertrand Russell’s conclusion that no one could sit beside a dying child and still believe in the existence of God.

The problem of evil is one of the greatest obstacles to belief in God for some people. The classic form of the argument has been vigorously debated on university campuses for hundreds of years: If God is all-good, He would destroy evil. If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. So, there is no such God.

I reject such a conclusion because it ignores some important facts. Granted, my response is based on acceptance of God’s revelation in the Bible. I make no apologies for endorsing the Bible. Its trustworthiness is more substantial than any other writing from antiquity.

One of the things that makes human beings unique is that we have real choice about what we do. God made us that way so that we could be like him and love freely (to be forced to love is not love at all).

But in making us this way, God also allowed for the possibility of evil. He gave us the ability to choose good, but that option also came with the possibility to choose evil. That was the risk God knowingly took when he made our first parents, Adam and Eve. They disobeyed and evil entered the human race.

That doesn’t make God responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom. He made evil possible; people made evil actual. Evil came through the abuse of our freedom as human beings.

However, babies are born blind and many are maimed for life through war. Earthquakes cause unprecedented destruction. Domestic violence, it seems, is responsible for incredible suffering in our city. Why doesn’t God stop all this?

There are at least three reasons. First, evil cannot be destroyed without destroying freedom. As already stated, free human beings are the cause of evil, and freedom was given so that we could love. Love is the greatest good for all people (Matthew 22:36-37), but love is impossible without freedom.

Second, to deny the existence of God, because of evil in the world, is to make some arrogant assumptions. Just because evil is not destroyed now, doesn’t mean it never will be. This view implies that if God hasn’t done what we want as of today, then it won’t ever happen. That presumes that the person making the argument has some inside information about the future.

The third reason is based on the nature of God. If I as a parent decide to discipline my son, I can change my mind and let him off. Not so with God. His nature is unchanging. When he said the results of rejecting him were suffering and death in all creation (Genesis 3), he could not change the consequences of sin because of his own attributes.

Therefore, if we take this into consideration, we can restate the argument about evil so that it turns out to support the existence of God.

We could put it this way: If God is all-good, He will defeat evil. If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil. Evil is not yet defeated. Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil. If God were to eliminate all evil today, which one of us would survive past midnight?

What is the most profound answer to the problem of suffering? The cross of Jesus Christ! We cannot accuse God of being an innocent by-stander. He took his own medicine. At the heart of the dilemma of human suffering is the cross of Christ, where evil did its worst and met its match. God himself (in Christ) went through pain, suffering and death to save humanity from eternal suffering.

The presence of evil even has some good purposes, as C.S. Lewis points out, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” [2] I have been there personally, through open-heart surgery three times (mitral valve replacement). Honestly, I can say personally, “I bless you pain for being in my life.”

I have only set the window of answers slightly ajar in providing an answer for the problem of pain and suffering. In God’s gift of human freedom I can see a light in the darkness of human misery.

Green-GlassGod created the fact of freedom,

Green-Glass We perform the acts of freedom.

Green-Glass God made evil possible.

Green-Glass Human beings made evil actual.

Green-Glass Evil and suffering came through the abuse of our moral perfection as free human beings.



2.C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1962, p. 93, in Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask.Wheaton,Illinois: Victor Books, 1990, p. 68.

3.Based on Geisler & Brooks, p. 63.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.


Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2013.

Whytehouse designs

Can You Trust Your Bible? Part 3


Spencer D Gear

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) states: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

I was reminded of the truth of this text when I read of

A short-term missionary [who] gave a report on her experience overseas. She and several others were entering a communist country. At the border the guards asked them, ‘Do you have any guns, drugs, or Bibles?’
What an interesting combination! Guns are weapons of destruction that kill the body. Drugs can alter and distort the mind. The Bible can expose and destroy all that is false. But it is much more than a threat to atheism. It can enrich life, instill hope, and free the human spirit even when a person is confined [in a prison camp for spreading the Gospel]. No wonder an atheistic government would fear its power and put it in a class with guns and drugs. [1a]

The story is told of

A young boy who was in the habit of going to church. [But he] was unable to attend one Sunday because he was ill. So he went upstairs to his bedroom and read his Bible. He was unusually quiet, and his mother began wondering if he was up to some mischief.
Finally she called out, ‘What are you doing, Andy?’ He replied, ‘I’m watching Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead!’
What a beautiful answer! He was reading John 11, and his childlike faith made the scene come alive. [2]

Someone has said that there are three stages of Bible study:

  • First, the “cod-liver oil” stage, where you take it like medicine because it’s good for you.
  • The second is the “shredded-wheat biscuit” stage — dry but nourishing;
  • Third, is the “mango and ice-cream” stage — really enjoyable.

Which stage have you reached? [3]

In spite of the fact that it is a very old book, the Bible is still “the most popular and widely read book in the world with more than one hundred million new copies, in whole or in part, produced every year.” [4]

But at what a price?

On October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was burned at the stake because he dared to translate the Bible into English so that the common person could read it. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs it records:

At last after much reasoning, when no reason would serve, although he deserved no death, he was condemned by virtue of the emperor’s decree, made in the Assembly at Augsburg. Brought forth to the place of execution, he was tied to the stake, strangled by the hangman, and afterwards consumed with fire, at the town of Filford, A.D. 1536; crying at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” [5]

Why would people like Tyndale and others risk their lives to translate the Scriptures into the native language of people? We have the Bible in English today, thanks to the work of one who became a Christian martyr, William Tyndale, and earlier work by John Wycliffe who made his “first version of the New Testament in Middle English” in 1380, “and a second edition appeared in 1388 after his death. . . The first edition was a word-for-word translation of the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate, in places following the Latin so closely that the meaning was obscure.” [6] Wycliffe lived from about 1329-1384. [7]

“There are several major differences between Wycliffe’s translation and Tyndale’s:

1. Wycliffe’s Bible was a translation of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate [Jerome lived ca. 340-420], but Tyndale’s went back to the original Greek and Hebrew.

2. Wycliffe’s Bible was a hand-copied manuscript, whereas Tyndale’s Bible was printed.

3. Wycliffe translated into Middle English, but Tyndale’s version belongs to the Modern English period.” [8]

“Why would generations of Hebrew scribes meticulously copy the Old Testament Scriptures, repeatedly checking their work letter by letter, even counting the letters to ensure their accuracy? The answer lies in the belief that the Bible is the very Word of God, thus necessitating its accurate transmission and its availability to people of any language.”[9]

Why is the Bible considered to be the Word of God and how can we know its accuracy and trustworthiness? We’re travelling on a journey of attempting to validate the Bible. Can you trust your Bible? Today this is such a critical issue because of the anti-God, anti-Bible culture here in Australia.


It is especially important that we validate the reasons for the Bible being the trustworthy Word of God since there are challenges from other religions.

Second Timothy 3:16 in the Bible (ESV) reads:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for for teaching, for reproof,

for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Jesus said: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” John 17:17 (ESV)

The New Testament of the Bible says that all of the Bible is “breathed out by God” (inspired by God). Jesus said, “Your word is truth?”

So far, I have suggested two historical tests that historians use for any historical document, including the documents of other world religions, the Bible, Captain Cook’s writings or the works of Shakespeare.

If we want to test the trustworthiness of any historical document, historians put it through 3 tests (plus something that TIES them together) suggested by the acronym: T.I.E.

T.The Transmission Test

  • The number of MSS; (5,366 Gk MSS; 24,000+ with other languages). Only one that comes close is Homer’s Iliad, for which there are 643 MSS, the earliest copy being 500 years after the original writing;
  • The time interval between the writing of MSS and the earliest copy. The earlies copy dates back to about. A.D. 114 (a fragment of John 18:31-33, 37-38, written on both sides) that is located in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, England;
  • ca. A.D. 200 (books);
  • ca. A.D. 250 (most of the NT);
  • ca. A.D. 325 (whole NT);
  • The NT books were written between A.D. 50-100.

I.The Internal Evidence Test

  • Listen to the claims made in the document. Do not assume error;
  • Those who wrote the NT were eyewitnesses who saw and heard or they received their information from eyewitnesses;
  • There were hostile people around at the time who would refute the information if it were false.

The third test for historical authenticity is:

C.The External Evidence Test

In this Test, we look for evidence outside of the Bible that confirms people, places and events in the Bible.

1.Secular Evidence for Jesus

a. Jewish Historian, Josephus, (A.D. 37-100)

Eminent New Testament scholar, the late F.F. Bruce wrote:

“Here in the pages of Josephus, we meet many figures who are well-known to us from the New Testament: the colourful family of the Herods; the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and the procurators of Judea; the high priestly families–Annas, Caiaphas, Ananias, and the rest; the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and so on” [10]

Josephus wrote of “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James . . .”[11]

There is also a disputed passage (that I do not recommend that you use) in Antiquities of the Jews that states:

“Now there was about this time [he means Pilate’s time, AD 26-36] Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works — a teacher of such men who receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men against us, had condemned him to the cross, [12]

those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day,[13] as the divine prophets had foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”[14] Michael Green says “no attempts to impugn its authenticity can be said to have succeeded. It has as good attestation as anything in Josephus, it is included in all the manuscripts. We know that the fourth century Christian historian Eusebius had this quote in his copy of Josephus. He quoted it twice.” [15]

  • There’s sarcasm here by Josephus when he writes: “if it be lawful to call him a man.” This might be a back-handed hint at Jesus’ claims to be God;
  • It may have been a Christian insertion by a copyist when he wrote, ” He was [the] Christ,” but it could just as easily refer to the sign that was on the cross when Jesus died, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” or “the King of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38 NIV).
  • Even if the statement about Christ’s resurrection reflects a Christian insertion (and there is no evidence that it has been fiddled with, based on manuscript evidence), here we have a passage in a leading Jewish historian at the time of Christ who gives “powerful, independent testimony to the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth.”[16]
  • It does seem too extensive and specific to have come from a Jew who was not a follower of Christ, but the manuscript evidence does not support such a negative assessment.[17]

What can we conclude from Josephus?

  • The stories about Jesus were not myth.
  • There was so much circumstantial evidence that they even found their way into the apologetic work of the Jewish historian, Josephus, who was by no means a Christian in personal commitment..
  • If there was anybody who should have kept his lips shut and his ink pen dry about the person of Jesus, it would have had to be Josephus. But that was not the case.

b. Roman Historian, Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55?–after 117)

A contemporary of Pliny (whom we will meet soon), Cornelius Tacitus is considered the greatest historian of Imperial Rome. Michael Green explains:

“He tells us how the Christians, hated by the populace for their `crimes’ (alluding no doubt to the Christian emphasis on `love’ which was given a sinister twist by the pagans and construed as incest) were made scapegoats for the Great Fire of AD 64 by the Emperor Nero. `The name Christian,’ he writes, `comes to them from Christ, who was executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate; and the pernicious cult, suppressed for a while, broke out afresh and spread not only through Judea, the source of the disease, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home.'”[18]

He wrote of Nero’s attempt to relieve himself of the guilt of burning Rome:

“Hence to suppress the rumor [ie. that Nero had set fire to the city of Rome], he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”[19]

c. Greek satirist, Lucian (second century)

Lucian alludes to Christ:

“. . . a man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. . . Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.” [20]

d. Roman historian, Suetonius (about AD 120)

He was a court official under Emperor Hadrian. He made two specific references to Jesus. He wrote: “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chestus [another spelling of Christus or Christ], he expelled them from Rome.” [21]

In the Lives of the Caesars,[22] Suetonius wrote: “Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.”[23]

e. Pliny the Younger (about AD 112)

He was governor of the province of Bithynia (now in northern Turkey) and was writing to the emperor, Trajan, about his achievements. He gave information on how he had killed multitudes of Christians–men, women and children. He said that he had attempted to “make them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do.” In the same letter[24] he wrote of Christians:

“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, and never to deny a truth when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”[25]

f. Samaritan-born historian, Thallus (about AD 52)

His work is lost, but a fragment of it is preserved in the second-century writer, Julius Africanus (ca. A.D. 221), who tells us:”Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun–unreasonably, as it seems to me.”[26]

It is “unreasonable” because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, which was the phase of the moon at the time of the Passover (paschal) when Christ died.

g.Mara Bar-Serapion (after AD 73)

In a Syriac manuscript in the British Museum, there is a remarkable letter which this man wrote to his son in prison (although some say it was Mara who was in prison). He compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and Jesus:

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and the plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. . . But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”[27]

h. The Jewish Talmud (completed by AD 500)

The Talmud consists of “two books known as the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. . . They contain the oral teaching of earlier rabbis (Mishnah), which was an explanation of the law of Moses together with discussions of this teaching (Gemara). Christian scholars find these helpful for knowledge of Jewish interpretations of the Hebrew Bible.”[28]

The Babylonian Talmud[29] contains this explicit reference to Jesus:

“On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.”[30]

In another Talmud section, it was written concerning Jesus: “I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress.” [31] Jewish belief was that Jesus was an illegitimate son and demon-possessed, similar to accusations against him in the NT. [32]

If we combine this secular testimony to Christ, what picture do we get?

(1) Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate at Passover time.
(2) He was believed by his disciples to have risen from the dead three days later.
(3) Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery and believed he was born of adultery.
(4) The Judean sect of Christianity could not be contained but spread even to Rome.
(5) Nero and other Roman rulers bitterly persecuted and martyred early Christians.
(6) These early Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings, and worshiped Christ. This picture is perfectly congruent with that of the New Testament. [33]

2.Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament

While there has been confirmation of the general outline of New Testament history, here the focus will be on Luke’s writings. There are hundreds of archaeological finds that support specific persons, events and facts presented in Luke-Acts, including some that were once thought to be incorrect.

a. Official titles

We need to especially note Luke’s correct usage of official titles. He calls the rulers of Thessalonica “politarchs” in Acts 17:6, 8. [34] In the NIV it is translated as “city officials.” It means “magistrates” and

“Was once dismissed as a mistake of the writer of Acts. . . because the term did not appear in any other context. Seventeen examples from [inscriptions] now are listed. . .

[35] The examples cover a century and a half from the beginning of the first century to the middle of the second. One is housed in the British Museum and came from an archway in Salonika. The same inscription, curiously enough, contains names that occur among those listed as members of the Thessalonian church. It is obviously a Macedonian term, and its use conforms to Luke’s consistent practice of employing the correct official terminology commonly accepted. In similar fashion he called the petty officials of the Roman colony of Philippi ‘praetors.'”[36] Other titles of note from archaeology include:

    • Gallio was the “Proconsul of Achaia.”[37]
    • The grammateus[38] was in Ephesus (Acts 19:35). He was the “city clerk” (NIV) or “recorder.”[39]
    • The governor of Cyprus was a “proconsul.”
    • The leading person in Malta was called “the chief official of the island”[40] or “leading man of the island”[41] (a title confirmed in Greek and Latin inscriptions).
    • In Philippi (Acts 16:30) the “magistrates” (NIV) were known as strategoi (in the Greek.). “All of these have been confirmed by inscriptions [outside of the Bible]. The scenes [Luke] paints of Athens, Corinth, Ephesus and the journey to Rome ring absolutely true in the ears of those best able to judge.”[42]

These descriptions were once thought to be part of the fertile imagination of Luke the fantasiser. Now, they have solid historical backing, thanks to the meticulous work of archaeologists.

b. Chronological references

Luke is known to be correct in these references. He refers to “Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene” at the time John the Baptist began his ministry (AD 27), once thought to be incorrect, but now confirmed to be correct by Greek inscriptions. Lysanias was tetrarch between AD 14 and 29. Other chronological references are known to be correct, including those referring to Caesar, Herod, and even Gallio (Acts 18:12-17).

Numerous places in the Gospels, including the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7-11) and the “judgment seat” near Corinth (2 Cor. 5:10) have been verified by archaeology.

Other names of persons mentioned in the NT that were thought to be false, have been confirmed through archaeology. Another example is a first-century marble slab that was found at Corinth in 1929 with this inscription, “Erastus, in consideration of his appointment as curator of buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.” [43] It is possible that this person is Erastus, one of Paul’s co-workers from whom Paul sent greetings according to Rom. 16:23. He was the city treasurer in Corinth. [44]

[For further examples, see Michael Green, World on the Run, pp. 40-42]

c. Stunning new evidence for Jesus

Christianity Today (CT) magazine reported on “an archaeological landmark” from the Biblical Archaeological Review (BAR), reported in its November-December 2002 issue: “Scholars have recently examined a box carved out of soft limestone, made to hold the bones of a first-century Jew. On its side is carved an Aramaic inscription, ˜James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

In a news conference called by the Biblical Archaeological Review, it was stated that the ossuary (bone box) was not discovered in an archaeological excavation. Instead, it surfaced on the antiquities market, thus eliminating potentially important evidence that might have been available if archaeologists had discovered it in an excavation site.

However, experts consulted by BAR and CT seem to be satisfied that it really is a 2,000-year old artifact. Retired Wheaton College professor John McRay, author of Archaelogy and the New Testament, says that the lab report was convincing. “Six different pieces of the patina of the stone were looked at through that laboratory,” he said. “It was verified, by people who are not Christians, that the date on this is first century and there is no evidence of recent disturbances of the box.”

“I have no question it is an ancient artifact from the first century,” said Eric Meyers, the Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies and Director of the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke University. “It appears to be the oldest extra-biblical, non-literary mention of Jesus in the context of the nascent Christian church, and that’s pretty significant. . . They’re everyday sort of names in the first century. What is most compelling to me is the use of ‘brother of.’ We don’t have the designation of siblings common in the epigraphy of the Second Temple or early Roman period. That’s kind of a clincher for me.'”

BAR editor, Hershel Shanks, told CT that the ossuary had been in the private collection of an Israeli citizen for about 15 years. “I asked the owner why he didn’t recognize it. He said, ‘I never thought that the Son of God could have a brother.'”

McRay said he had anticipated a discovery like this when he wrote his book a few years ago. “Two thousand years have passed and you would expect something like this to be there. It could be, probably, the most significant archaeological discovery of this generation.” Shanks calls it “the most important find in the history of New Testament archaeology.” [44a]

d. Conclusions

These kinds of archaeological finds cause eminent people to reach some startling conclusions.

A.N. Sherwin-White, distinguished Roman historian, says this about Luke’s writings: “For [the Book of] Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. . . Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”[45]

Luke is commended by classical historian, G.A. Williamson, for demonstrating “complete familiarity with the thought, expression, and habitual terminology of the speakers, and . . . what memories the people of that time possessed!–if not on written notes, which we have reason to believe were commonly made.”[46]

Thanks to the archaeological efforts of the late Sir William Ramsay, many of the critical views of the NT have been overthrown. Ramsay himself was converted from the critical view of liberal theology. He wrote:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it [the Book of Acts], for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.” [47]

Renowned archaeologist and paleographer[48], William F. Albright, notes: “All radical schools in New Testament criticism which have existed in the past or which exist today are pre-archaeological, and are, therefore, since they were built in der Luft [in the air], quite antiquated today.”[49]

Let’s recap. If we want to test the trustworthiness of any historical documents, historians put them through three tests:

T: The Transmission Test,

    • The number of MSS;
    • Time interval between the writing of MSS and the earliest copy.

I: the Internal evidence test,

    • Listen to the claims made in the document. Do not assume error;
    • Those who wrote the NT were eyewitnesses who saw and heard or they got their information from eyewitnesses;
    • There were hostile people around at the time who would refute the information if it were false.

E: the External evidence test.[50]

We heard from historians of the NT period and after the NT times:

    • Josephus;
    • Tacitus;
    • Lucian;
    • Suetonius;
    • Pliny the Younger;
    • Thallus;
    • Mara Bar-Serapion;
    • Jewish Talmud.
    • An ossuary box with the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

The NT documents can be relied upon to give an accurate picture of Jesus Christ. Let’s go to those documents and investigate who Jesus Christ is and why He died on the cross. There’s an “S” that T.I.E.S. them all together.


The Psalmist loved the Word of God. Listen to some of his words about the Word in Psalm 119:

Psalm 119:11 (ESV) I have stored up [OR, hid] your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:16 (ESV) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119:97 (ESV) Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:103 (ESV) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:105 (ESV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

“One measure of your love for God is your love for God’s Word”[51]


1a. Our Daily Bread: For Personal and Family Devotions. Grand Rapids: Michigan: Radio Bible Class, April 1, 1987, “Guns, Drugs, and the Bible.”
2. Our Daily Bread, August 5, 1987, “When the Bible comes alive.”
3. Based on ibid.
4. Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999, p. 19.
5. W. Grinton Berry (prepared by), Foxe’s Book of Martyrs,. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, reprint 1978, pp. 151-152. Suggested by Wegner, ibid., p. 19,
6. Wegner, p. 280.
7. Ibid., p. 279.
8. Ibid., p. 287.
9. Ibid., p. 19.
10. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1943/1960 (Rev.), p. 104.
11. William Whiston, (transl.), Josephus: Complete Works: Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications1867, 1963, (Antiquities of the Jews.XX, IX:1) p. 423.
12. A footnote is “A.D. 33, April 3.”
13. A footnote, “April 5.”
14. William Whiston (Transl.), Josephus: Complete Works. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960, XVIII, III. 3, p. 379. I was alerted to this quote by Michael Green, World on the Run Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983, p. 34.
15. Michael Green, ibid. p. 34.
16. Ibid.
17. These points about Josephus are gleaned from ibid.
18. Ibid., p. 29, from Tacitus’ Annals, 15.44.
19. Tacitus Annals, XV, 44; in Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p. 323. In Whiston, Josephus, the quote is:

“Nero, in order to stifle the rumour [that he himself had set Rome on fire] ascribed it to those people who were hated for their wicked practices, and called by the vulgar, Christians: these he punished exquisitely. The author of this name was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was brought to punishment by Pontius Pilate the procurator” (Appendix, Dissertation I, p. 639, emphasis in original).

20. On the Death of Peregrine, quoted in Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p. 323.
21. Life of Claudius, 25.4, in Geisler, ibid., p. 324.
22. 26.2, in, ibid.
23. In, ibid.
24. Epistles X. 96, in ibid.
25.In ibid.
26. In ibid., p. 324.
27. In F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, p. 114. Geisler suggested this, ibid.
28. J. D. Douglas, Walter A. Elwell and Peter Toon, The Concise Dictionary of the Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House, 1989, p. 370.
29. Sanhedrin 43a, “Ever of Passover,” according to Geisler, ibid.
30. In Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p. 324
31. Yeb. IV 3; 49a, in Geisler, ibid., p. 325.
32. In Geisler, ibid, pp. 324-325.
33. Ibid., p. 325.
34. Greek politarchos, Acts 17:6, 8.
35. See the American Journal of Theology, July 1898, pp 598-632.
36. E. M. Blaiklock, “Politarch,” in Merrill C. Tenney (gen. ed.), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (vol. 4). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, p. 815.
37. Acts 18:12 NIV.
38. Acts 19:35
39. Michael Green, World on the Run, p. 41.
40. Acts 28:7 NIV.
41. Acts 28:7 NASB.
42. Green, World on the Run, p. 41.
43. Ibid.
44. From ibid., p. 42.
44a. The above details are from the article, “Stunning New Evidence that Jesus Lived: Scholars link first -century bone box to James, brother of Jesus,” by Gordon Govier in Christianity Today magazine, and was located at:, posted 21st October 2002 (retrieved 30th October 2002).
45. A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963, p. 189, in Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1979, p. 55.
46. G. A. Williamson, The World of Josephus. London: Secker & Warburg, 1964, p. 290, in Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p. 326.
47. William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896, p. 8, in Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p. 326.
48. A paleographer is one who studies and gives scholarly interpretation to ancient written documents [based on the definition of “paleography” in William Morris (ed.), The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. and Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975, p. 944.]
49. William F. Albright, “Retrospect and Prospect in New Testament Archaeology,” in The Teacher’s Yoke, ed. F. Jerry Vardaman, p. 29, in Geisler, Christian Apologetics, pp. 326-327.
50. C. Sanders, Introduction to Research in English Literary History. New York: MacMillan Company, 1952, pp. 143 ff.
51. Our Daily Bread, March 11, 1987, “A Book to Be Loved.”

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2013.

Whytehouse designs

Can You Trust Your Bible? Part 2

A.Why do we need to defend the Bible today?

Spencer D Gear

1. When you tune into the mass media today (TV, radio, newspaper) what do you see and read about the Bible and Christ?

2. This mass media message is impacting on regular people in the church and we must provide answers.

3. The Bible requires that we provide a defence of the faith in every age of history. We urgently need it today, but we evangelicals have become lazy. Apologetics is not a prominent theological discipline in most of our Bible training colleges. 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) states: “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Christian parents sometimes urge their teenagers concerning the Bible: “Accept it by faith. God requires you just to believe it.” However, the Quran says it is “infallible” and the Bible says it is “God-breathed/inspired.” Which one do you believe? We must provide evidence, just as Jesus did to doubting Thomas. Jesus did not say, “Just believe that I am the crucified and resurrected one.” Jesus showed him the nail prints in his hands. We must provide all people, especially the young, with evidence for the Christian faith — including evidence for the trustworthiness of the Bible.

B.The focus of this 3-part series on the trustworthy Bible

Instead of assuming the Bible is the Word of God, we can begin by:

1. Demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable historical documents.

2. In these documents, Jesus claims to be God in human flesh, and he bases His claim on His forthcoming resurrection.

3. We examine the evidence for the resurrection in this historic document and find that the arguments overwhelmingly support the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead. This demonstrates that He is the unique Son of God that He claimed to be. If He is God, then He speaks with authority on all matters.

4. Since Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-18; 15:1-3) and the soon-to-be written New Testament. [1a]

C.Begin with the existence of God

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) reads: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

What evidence would you give for the existence of God?

I suggest an examination of passages of Scripture that give us a direction in which to go:

  • Psalm 19:1-3 (ESV):

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.

  • Romans 1: 18-20 (ESV):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

What tests do historians apply to any piece of literature of history to determine if it is accurate or reliable?

Military historian, C. Sanders, states that there are three basic principles for checking the authenticity of historical writings (historiography). I’ll use the acronym, T.I.E.S., to help us remember them:

1. The Transmission test (sometimes called, the bibliographical test) — NOT biographical, but biblio = books; graphical = writing.
2. The Internal evidence test
3. The External evidence test. [1b]

We’ll get to the “S” later. What it might be that T.I.E.S. this all together?

Let’s subject the New Testament to the

D.The Transmission Test

The transmission test is an examination of how the documents reached us from when they were written. Since we don’t have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in:

    • number of manuscripts (MSS)?
    • time interval between the original and the earliest copy?

1.New Testament

Transmission Test for Historical Documents (incl. New Testament)



Earliest Copies

Time Gap

No. of Copies


Hindu Mahabharata

13th century B.C.



c. 400 B.C.

A.D. c. 900

1300 yrs




900 B.C.
(900-700 B.C.?)

400 B.C. ?

500 yrs ?




300 B.C.

A. D. c. 1100

1,400 yrs



Gallic Wars

100-44 B.C.

A.D. 900

1,000 yrs



Tacitus, Annals

A.D. 100

1100 A.D.

1,000 yrs



Pliny Secundus,
Natural History

A.D. 61-113

c. A.D. 850

750 yrs



The chart above is a comparison of ancient manuscript totals (Josh McDowell, Christianity: Hoax or History? Tyndale House Publishers, 1989, pp. 50-51; Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press, 1986, p. 408)

2.An Assessment

I am in agreement with the late Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, formerly director and principal librarian of the British Museum, who wrote just before his death:

“The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”[2]

  • These people who were used by the Lord to write the New Testament, were living in a hostile culture. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies. They would dare not manipulate the facts because they would be challenged by those who wanted to discredit them.
  • A witness must testify of his/her own knowledge. When we apply this to the NT, we see clearly that we have primary evidence from eyewitnesses. I John 1:1 states, ” That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (NIV).” [3]

In determining if the NT is a trustworthy and accurate document, historians use three tests. I am suggesting these 3, plus one more, that are summarised in the acronym: T.I.E.S.

We’ve look at the “T,” the transmission of the text, now to the “I”.

E.Internal Evidence Test

So far, we’ve determined, beyond reasonable doubt, that the text we have is what was originally recorded. But we still have to determine that the documents are credible, and to what extent. This is the second test of historicity given by Sanders. Historical and literary scholarship follows Aristotle’s dictum, “The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself.”

In the words of leading lawyer, apologist and theologian, John Warwick Montgomery, “This means that one must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies.” [4]

The historian must examine the ability of the writer or witness to tell the truth. In addition to the integrity of the witness, the ability to tell the truth is closely related to how close the witness was to the event geographically and how close in time the witness was to the events recorded.

The NT accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus were recorded by people who had been either eyewitnesses or who related the accounts of eyewitnesses.

Let’s examine the evidence:

A.Biblical Evidence

Luke 1:1-3 (NIV): Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

Luke 3:1: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–

John 19:35: The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

1 John 1:3: We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:16: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The internal evidence test for the Gospels and some epistles reveals that we are dealing with eyewitnesses, those who saw and heard.  More than that:

  • Acts 2:22: demonstrated how they appealed to the people who heard their message. “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Note the emphasis: “God did among you through him.” In other words, you were there; you were eyewitnesses of these things;

  • Also, “as you yourselves know.” You know what we are saying is true.
  • ·They could not depart from the truth. There were hostile witnesses there to refute them. [5]

Acts 26:24-26: At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.”

They not only said, “Look, we saw this . . . We heard that.” But the tables were turned in the full view of hostile witnesses, adverse critics. “You also know about these things, you saw them, they weren’t done in a secret corner.” [6]

B.Fulfilled Prophecy

Old Testament Prophecies of Christ & New Testament Fulfillment

The following are a few key Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ and their New Testament fulfillment. (All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version, ESV.) This summary is based on James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion program. [7]

Old Testament Prophecy New Testament Fulfillment
Genesis 3:15 – 4004 B.C.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Galatians 4:4 – 5 B.C. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.
1 John 3:8 – A.D. 90. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Genesis 22:18 – 1872 B.C.
And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

John 11:51-52 – A.D. 33. He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Psalm 22:7-8: All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Matthew 27:39-43 – A.D. 33. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads. . . So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, . . “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.”
Psalm 69:21: They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Matthew 27:34 – A.D. 33. They offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
Psalm 22:14-15: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

Luke 22:42, 44 – A.D. 33. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” . . . And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Isaiah 53:7 — 710 B.C. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Matthew 26:63 — A.D. 30 But Jesus remained silent. . .
Matthew 27:12, 14 — A.D. 30 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. . . But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Psalm 22:18. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Matthew 27:35 — A.D. 30. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
Isaiah 53:12 –712 B.C. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Mark 15:27-28 — A.D. 30. And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. [28] And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” [Note: only some manuscripts insert v. 28.]
Isaiah 53:12 –712 B.C. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Luke 23:34 –A.D. 30. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
Isaiah 53:12 –712 B.C. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Matthew 27:50 — A.D. 30. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Exodus 12:46 — 1491 B.C. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.
Psalm 34:20. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

John 19:33, 36 — A.D. 30. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. . . For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Zech. 12:10 — 487 B.C. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
John 19:34, 37 –A.D. 30. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. . . And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Isaiah 53:9 — 712 B.C. And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Matthew 27:57-60 — A.D. 30. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.
Psalm 16:10. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Luke 24:6, 31, 33-34 — A.D. 30. He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee . . . And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. . . And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
Psalm 68:18. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Luke 24:51 — A.D. 30. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
Psalm 110:1. The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Hebrews 1:3b — A.D. 30. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Isaiah 11:10 — 713 B.C. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isaiah 42:1 –712 B.C. Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Acts 10:45 –A.D. 34. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
Isaiah 53:4-6, 12 — 712 B.C. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . .
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Matthew 20:28 — A.D. 33. Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Malachi 3:1a –397 B.C. Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me.
Luke 1:17 –7 B.C. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Isaiah 9:1-2 –740 B.C. But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Matthew 4:12, 16, 23 –A.D. 27.
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. . . The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” . . . And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Zech. 9:9 –487 B.C. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Matthew 21:5 — A.D. 33. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ “
Isaiah 35:5-6 –713 B.C. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
Matthew 11:4-6 — A.D. 31. And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Psalm 69:8. I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
Isaiah 63:3 — 698 B.C. “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.
John 1:11 — A.D. 30. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
John 7:3, 5 –A.D. 32. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. . . For not even his brothers believed in him.
Psalm 2:1-2. Why do the nations rageand the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
Acts 4:27 — A.D. 33. For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
Psalm 41:9. Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
John 13:18-21 –A.D. 33. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Zechariah 11:12 — 487 B.C. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:15 — A.D. 33. “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
Zechariah 11:13 — 487 B.C. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”— the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
Matthew 27:3, 7 — A.D. 33.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. . . So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers.
Isaiah 50:6 — 712 B.C. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
Mark 14:65 — A.D. 33. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
Psalm 22:16. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.
John 19:18 — A.D. 33. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
John 20:25 — A.D. 33.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

C.Literal Interpretation

Those who accept the Bible as the Word of God are often accused of taking the Bible literally. The question ‘Do you believe the Bible literally?’ is like the question, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ Either a Yes or a No convicts the one who responds. Whenever the question is asked, the term ‘literally‘ must be carefully defined. Taking a literal view of the Bible does not mean that we can’t recognize that figures of speech are used in the Scripture. When Isaiah spoke of “trees clapping their hands” (Isaiah 55:12) and the psalmist of “mountains skipping like rams” (Psalms 114:4, 6), it is not to be thought that one takes the Bible literally views such statements as literal. No, there is poetry as well as prose and other literary forms in the Bible. We believe that the Bible is to be interpreted in the sense in which the authors intended it to be received by readers. This is the same principle one employs when reading the newspaper, [William Shakespeare or William Wordsworth]. And it is remarkably easy to distinguish between figures of speech and those statements a writer intends his readers to take literally.” [8]

T: Transmission Test

I: Internal Evidence Test

E: External Evidence Test

And there’s an “S” that TIES them all together!

“What Scripture says, God says. . . When we say what God says we have his authority”[9]


1a. Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. San Bernardino, California: Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, pp. 147-148.

Note: The four points in McDowell & Stewart seem to be an abbreviated version, taken from John W. Montgomery’s points for the “crux validation” of the New Testament:

1. On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be trustworthy historical documents — primary source evidence for the life of Christ,
2. In these records, Jesus exercises divine prerogatives and claims to be God in human flesh; and He rests His claims on His forthcoming resurrection.
3. In all four Gospels, Christ’s bodily resurrection is described in minute detail; Christ’s resurrection evidences His deity.
4. The fact of the resurrection cannot be discounted on a priori, philosophical grounds; miracles are impossible only if one so defines them — but such definition rules out proper historical investigation.
5. If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament and of the soon-to-be-written New Testament. [John Warwick Montgomery, The Suicide of Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1970, n. 58, p. 306. Montgomery states that this summary is based on his book, Shape of the Past, n. 26, pp. 138-39.]

1b. C. Sanders, Introduction to Research in English Literary History. New York: MacMillan Company,
1952, pp. 143 ff.

2. Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology. New York: Harper and Row, 1940, pp. 288f, in Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Revised and Expanded). Chicago: Moody Press, 1968, 1986, p. 405; also in Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter. Eastbourne, Sussex, England: Kingsway Publications, 1977, p. 48.

3. Suggested by John Warwick Montgomery, The Law Above the Law. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975, p. 88.

4. John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, p. 29.

5. Suggested by F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1960, p. 46.
6. Concerning the primary-source value of the NT records, the late F.F. Bruce, former Professor [Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis] in the University of Manchester, wrote:

“The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of the first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again. ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ was their constant and confident assertion. And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened. . .

“And it was not only friendly eyewitnesses that the early preachers had to reckon with; there were others less well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of wilful manipulation of the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so. On the contrary, one of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers; they not only said, ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ but also, ‘As you yourselves also know’ (Acts 2:22). Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective” [F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1960, pp. 45-46.]

7. From D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion, third edition, 1983, pp. 86-88 (Evangelism Explosion Ministries Australia, PO Box 1686, Wollongong, 2500).

8. Paul Little, Know Why You Believe (rev. ed.). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1967, 1980, 1987, pp. 54-55, emphasis added.

9. Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1994, pp. 23, 88.


Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2013.

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Can You Trust Your Bible? Part 1

Word Fire


By Spencer D Gear

Why is it necessary for us in the 21st century to have to address a topic such as, “Can You Trust Your Bible?” We’ve had the New Testament (NT) for close to 2,000 years and the first books of the Old Testament [OT] (Pentateuch, i.e. Genesis -Deuteronomy & Job) for about 3,500 years. [2] Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Malachi, 1 & 2 Chronicles concluded the OT canon in approx. 400-500BC]. We’ll consider some reasons soon.This is a 3-part series that will not deal with:

  • Which English translation is the best? That would be an interesting topic. We’ll be considering the trustworthiness of the OT and NT in the original manuscripts.
  • A discussion, except in passing, on how the books came to be selected for the OT and the NT. That’s the subject of the canonicity of the Bible and it will not be our focus.

A. What are some reasons why we need to defend the Bible today?

For me, these are prominent reasons, but they are not in order of priority:

1. There’s a prominent Western cultural reason. When you turn on the TV or radio, or read the newspaper at Easter and Christmas times particularly (but it could happen at other times), you will be fed loads of doubt about the Bible and its truthfulness. In fact, much of this doubt is being driven by some from within the church who do not believe what the Bible says. It’s the agenda of some liberal church men and women. We’ll look at examples as we go along.

2. This mass media message is impacting on regular people in the church and we must provide answers for all, but especially for young Christians. Shortly, I’ll raise an example of a person who came to me very distraught after one of those TV programs. We live in a mass media culture — and that includes the worldwide web.

Other worldviews can drown us and we need to provide reasons for the Christian faith, especially for our young people.

It was 500 years ago that the leader of the Protestant reformation, MARTIN LUTHER, said this:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every point of the Truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that point attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested. To be steady in all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if the soldier flinches at that point.” [3]

That observation is as relevant as if Luther preached it today. I’d rather be expounding the Scriptures for the people of God, but the Bible is under attack and we must provide answers for the people of God. It would be a disgrace if I flinched at this point.

3. There’s another very important reason why we must address a subject such as, “Can You Trust Your Bible?” The Bible requires that we provide a defence of the faith in every age of history. We desperately need it today, but we evangelicals (my commitment) have become lazy. Apologetics is not a prominent theological discipline in most of our Bible training colleges.

I Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV).

That phrase in the NIV, “give an answer” is too weak. It is better translated as in the ESV, “make a defense.” Make an “apologia” for the Christian faith. It’s too bad that our English word “apology,” derived from this word, gives the wrong idea for what this wonderful Greek word means for all believers. “Give an answer”, means “give a defense” of the Christian faith — all of us need to be prepared to do that.

We need to follow Paul, the apostle’s, example on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Athens, that is recorded in Acts 17:22ff. It was there that he used the Greek’s “unknown god” as a common ground (an identified starting point) for defending the faith (v. 23).

According to Acts 17:17, before Paul got to the Areopagus, he “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” How we need Christians to be equipped for that today.

“Thou shalt not think,” is not one of the 10 commandments. I hear Christian parents saying to their teenagers about the Bible: “Accept it by faith. God requires you to just believe it. Faith is the answer to your doubt. Quit asking questions about the Bible. Just accept it.”

It is my prayer that after this 4-part series, you will never say that again. Here’s why:

a. You are probably familiar with what the Bible says about its own inspiration, but let’s look at these verses again:

2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)

Psalm 119:142, 151
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
But you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true. (ESV)

Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. (NASB)

It will not do to say, “Accept the Bible by faith.” We need some verification to prove that the Bible is the trustworthy word from the Lord almighty.

Here is a student’s posting on a Christian seminary’s cyber bulletin board:

Dear Tom, [4]

I agree that they were fallible humans, but can an infallible God speak to us, give us a message to give to others, and still keep that message infallible. The whole question of infallibility of scripture is one of faith.

I won’t speak for anyone but me. If the outcome of eternity is based on the relationship I have with God, [it] requires that God give me the message in a way I can understand, and trust. If you look at other historical writings, and how the OT and NT were written over thousands of years, by so many different writers, God’s hand must have been on it. Greater minds than mine have argued this question, and I have to stand with those who hold to infallibility.

For me, when the church Canonized the scripture, it wasn’t so we would worship, but so would have a final authority. Something that we could all agree on. As I look on every church body that has pulled away for scripture as final authority, they have fallen away from belief, till the point that some do not believe in God at all (Bishop Pike). The struggle to canonize scripture, was long and hard, yes man did it but I believe God’s hand [was] there helping. Now can I prove anything I just said? No! But that’s the wonderful thing about faith, I don’t have to. If you don’t hold to scripture as the final authority, than you have to look to the mind, a logic. Logic will lead you to humanism or to a God who wants to speak to us. Francis A. Schaeffer’s book, He is there and He is not silent, is a very good book explaining this process.

God Bless

“The whole question of infallibility of scripture is one of faith,” says this seminary student. He even believes that by accepting the Bible as infallible by faith, one does not need to “prove anything.” Really? What is this student up to? Is this leap of faith what God requires of any Christian believer to believe the authoritative Bible? Surely not!

B.The focus of this 3-part series

I’m grateful for the short period of time I studied under one of the world’s leading Christian apologists, Dr John Warwick Montgomery. I am deeply indebted to his approach to defending the faith and establishing the trustworthiness of the Bible, especially the Gospel records. He taught me this outline (with some changes) and this is where we are going in this series.

A criticism that is often made against the Bible is that Christians argue in circles. The charge goes like this: Christians claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and to prove it, they quote a passage from the Bible that says so. This kind of argumentation is known as begging the question or circular reasoning. Nothing is proved by it. It is based on assuming something is true, but using that assumption as fact to prove another assumption.

But there is no need to do this. Instead of assuming the Bible to be the Word of God, we can begin by:

1. Demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable historical documents.

2. In these documents, Jesus claims to be God in human flesh, and he bases His claim on His forthcoming resurrection.

3. We examine the evidence for the resurrection in this historic document and find that the arguments overwhelmingly support the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead. This demonstrates that He is the unique Son of God that He claimed to be. If He is God, then He speaks with authority on all matters.

4. Since Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-18; 15:1-3) and the soon-to-be written New Testament.

[Jesus “promised His disciples, who either wrote or had control over the writing of the New Testament books, that the Holy Spirit would bring all things back to their remembrance (John 14:26).” So, “we can insist, with sound and accurate logic, that the Bible is God’s word. This is not circular reasoning. It is establishing certain facts and basing conclusions on the sound logical outcome of these facts. The case for Christianity can be established by ordinary means of historical investigation.” [5]

Let’s follow this method.

C.By way of explanation, I need to say that I will be using tests to establish the trustworthiness of Scripture from within the Bible and from outside the Bible.

Don’t be alarmed by this suggestion. I have not sold out to theological liberalism in my view of the authority of Scripture. I have known Christians to get quite upset with me when I say that I will be using tests from outside of the Bible to prove the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible. It’s necessary to do it this way.

Consider this: Those who study the original languages of the Bible (Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew) have to do this all the time. Nowhere in the Bible do you find the rules of grammar and syntax for understanding Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek — the original languages of the Bible. I had to learn my Greek grammar to interpret the Bible from outside of the Bible.

For example, we know that the Bible says, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and not “the world so loved God” because of the Greek grammar that dictates this translation into English. The Bible in the original language has to be interpreted by learning Greek grammar and syntax from outside the Bible.

We have to do the same kind of thing when we set out to prove the trustworthiness of any historical document, including the Bible.

D.An examination of some writings from history

Take the biography of John Macarthur (John Macarthur , M. H. Ellis)[6], not the American preacher, but a famous Australian (1767-1834). MacArthur was the “squire” responsible for bringing “to Australia the first authenticated pure merinos [sheep] and persuaded the British Privy Council that wool would be the basis of future greatness of the colony of New South Wales,” that became Australia. [7] The author of the biography says, “Though the author has worked as far as possible from original documents, he has applied his reference notes wherever it has been feasible to a source more accessible to the ordinary student.”[8] How do I know these original documents by John MacArthur are reliable and trustworthy?

In the book, The Five Gospels, we read:

“Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you . . . Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him.” How do we decide if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are 82% wrong with the words of Jesus OR the 4 Gospels provide an accurate picture of the life and death of Jesus Christ? [9]

In The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus [10], we read that Josephus was a wealthy Jew who wrote this history in which he “tried to justify Judaism to the cultured Romans by his writings.[11] He also mentioned James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ. . .” [12] Is Josephus writing reliable history? If so, how do we know?

Then I pick up my Bible and read, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Also, “All Scripture is God-breathed . . .” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Is God’s Word truth and reliable OR are we dealing with mythmaking where 82% of what Jesus said is WRONG, as the Jesus Seminar claims? How can be test these documents to see if they are trustworthy?

Most of you will never read these books by the Fellows of the Jesus Seminary, but the content of them is driving what you are hearing on the mass media today about Jesus.

If I say that I believe the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God, and without error in all that it affirms, no news reporter will show up to interview me. But the response is totally different if a group of high profile theologians rolls the coloured beads to decide which of the words of Jesus are true. They come up with only 18% of his words in the Gospels are what he said and the rest are inventions by the early church. You guessed it — the mass media people are there in droves. And that’s exactly what is happening. You watch what happens around Easter and Christmas!

We must have answers. Our young people must not be allowed to drown in this sea of attack on the word of God at school and university. We have good answers and we must provide them.

E.Let’s Vote on Jesus

Starting in 1985, a group of Bible scholars got together to decide if the words of Jesus in the Gospels were authentic. “At the close of debate on each agenda item, Fellows of the Seminar [that’s what they were called themselves –Fellows, male & female] voted, using colored beads to indicate the degree of authenticity of Jesus’ words. Dropping colored beads into a box became the trademark of the [Jesus] Seminar . . .”[13]

This is what they found:

The Jesus Seminar colour code roughly translates to:

Red bead: That’s Jesus!

Pink bead: Sure sounds like Jesus.

Grey bead: Well, maybe.

Black bead: There’s been some mistake.

[Funk and Hoover, The Five Gospels (Macmillan, 1993, p. 37)]

  • A Red slip meant that “Jesus undoubtedly said this or something like it.” In brief: “That’s Jesus.”
  • A Pink slip indicated that “Jesus probably said something like this.” In brief: “Sure sounds like Jesus.”
  • Grey: “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own.” In brief: “Well, maybe.”
  • A Black slip meant “Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition.” In brief: “There’s been some mistake.”[14]

After tabulating the results of their voting, the Jesus Seminar asserts, “Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him.”[15]

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew chs. 5-7] took a hiding in the balloting.

  • “Blessed are the peacemakers” was given a miss.
  • “Blessed are the meek” received “six timid red and pink votes out of 30 cast.”
  • Overall, only three out of twelve of the blessings and woes of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel were accepted as authentic.

We could ignore this as a party game by liberal scholars, but it is an attitude that is often found in evangelical churches and assemblies. We have to battle a tendency to accept the Scriptures on our terms and not on God’s.

If we are to be Christians of substance, I am convinced that we need to accept the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God. How can we do that? Listen to some thinking from those associated with the church.

F.What some theologians are saying

Some theologians are leading the push to make Jesus fit into the trendy modern mold of what our secular, postmodern culture wants.

1.Former Episcopalian (Anglican) Bishop John Shelby Spong (USA)

In his book, Born of a Woman [please note, the book is not titled, Born of a Virgin, and that is deliberate], Spong makes the outlandish suggestion that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived Jesus illegitimately. The early church as a cover-up invented the virgin birth.]

In talking about the birth story of Jesus in Luke 2, Spong asks: “Is it true? . . The answer is, of course, no! . . There was no biologically literal virgin birth. . . In all probability Jesus was born in Nazareth in a very normal way either as the child of Mary and Joseph, or else he was an illegitimate child that Joseph validated by acknowledging him as Joseph’s son. All that can be stated definitely is that the echoes of the status of illegitimacy appear to be far stronger in the text then the suggestion that Jesus was Mary’s child by Joseph.”[16]

2.Barbara Thiering

a Barbara Thiering, lecturer emeritus, Sydney University School of Divinity, Sydney, Australia, in her book, Jesus: The Man [16a], claims that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. He was poisoned and then revived. He married and raised three children.
A website supporting Dr. Thiering’s writings, states that she “has interpreted the New Testament using her expertise derived from the Dead Sea Scrolls to prove that Jesus

  • lived to around 76 (last reference to him was in Ephesus, AD 70)”;
  • “had three children: Tamar (a girl), Jesus (Justus) (his heir), and a second son”;
  • “was married to Mary Magdalene and, after a divorce, later to Lydia”;
  • “with Lydia, he had a second daughter.”

“Joseph, the king of the Jewish David line, and Mary conceived their son Joshua (Jesus) before their first wedding. This was outside the strict rules of the Qumran group at that time and, as such, Jesus would be regarded as an illegitimate child to be brought up as an orphan. He wasn’t” [16b].

3. Former Roman Catholic professor, John Dominic Crossan

File:11 08 6972 John Dominic Crossan.jpg

John Dominic Crossan (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Crossan (pictured) states that Jesus’ “body [was] left on the cross or in a shallow grave, barely covered with dirt and stones, the dogs were waiting” [17] So, Jesus’ body was buried in a shallow grave and the body was dug up and eaten by dogs. Please understand that when these liberal theologians like Crossan speak of “the historical Jesus,” they are:

  • Not speaking about Jesus as he lived in history;
  • They are using a technical term, a reconstruction of Jesus;
  • The “historical Jesus” is the one who can be explained in scientific, historical, purely human categories;
  • Anything miraculous is myth because supernatural events defy history and cannot be called history. They are mythological.So, in reality, their so-called historical Jesus is the unhistorical invention of these critics. They are creating Jesus in their own image and calling him “the historical Jesus.”

I am convinced that Charles Colson is correct when he states that:

“Taken together, books like these can create a widespread climate of opinion that the Bible is simply a collection of myths and errors. Even evangelical Christians may gradually accept the same principle and begin to separate faith from facts. The Bible is true in its spiritual message, they say, but full of errors in its history.” [18]

There was an SBS television series here in Australia in 1999. It was called, “From Jesus to Christ,” and presented the views of people like those from the Jesus Seminar. After watching one episode of that program, a Christian came to me, utterly devastated. She said something like:

  • “Have I been deceived?
  • Have I believed a lie all this time?
  • The biblical scholars on that program said that the words of Jesus couldn’t be trusted as accurate or truthful.
  • In fact, they are saying that about 80% of the words that the NT puts in Jesus’ mouth did not come from him at all. The early church inserted them in the Bible because the church wanted us to believe that.
  • I need some answers. Is this true that the early church put words in Jesus’ mouth? These scholars say it is.”

In the Bible, faith can never be separated from historical facts. To talk about the “Jesus of faith” vs. “the Jesus of history” is nonsensical. Remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 15? “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so it your faith . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (vv. 14, 17). If Jesus was not raised from the dead–historical fact–your faith is worthless.

Besides, if we accept the premise that the Bible is wrong, we become butchers. We start the chopping job. How are we going to decide what is believable and what is to be chucked out? If we start tampering with the Bible, we will be trying to make Jesus to fit what we want. Our prejudices will make Jesus into the image we want him to be.[19]

I’d like to introduce you to a rather different approach to judo.

G.The Judo Technique

I learned this when I was studying James Kennedy’s gospel presentation in Evangelism Explosion. [20]

Often as you begin presenting the gospel, the person will say something like, “I don’t believe the Bible. You’ll have to convince me some other way than referring to the Scriptures.” Many people are devastated by this objection. Their attempt to share Christ fizzles.

This need not be the case. I want to encourage you to use this objection as a springboard into the gospel itself. The Apostle Paul, when he preached in Greek cities that had no background in the Bible, appealed to the Scriptures even though the people who listened to him did not believe the Bible.

He proclaimed to them and the Holy Spirit used the proclamation to save some who then came to believe the Bible to be true. When we witness, our primary function is to proclaim the gospel; it is not a defense of the Bible. But when people object to the Bible, we do need good answers to respond to them. And there are excellent answers.

The judo technique works like this. The objection, “I don’t believe the Bible,” is quite an easy one to deal with. Don’t use the approach of a boxer who meets the blow head on and tries to overwhelm the opponent with counter punches. Instead, use the technique of the judo expert . The force of the opponent’s blow is used to throw the opponent.

Here’s how it works in presenting the gospel. The person who objects, “I don’t believe the Bible,” usually has some university education, or has been exposed to some course in the Bible, or biblical criticism or something similar.

There is often some intellectual pride that says or infers something like this: “I used to believe those fairy tales when I was in kindy, but now I am an educated person and am far above believing those things.” It is this intellectual pride that can be used to turn this objection into an opportunity for presenting the gospel. I suggest this kind of dialogue with the person who objects.

“You don’t believe the Bible, John? That’s very interesting and it certainly is your privilege not to believe it, and I would fight for that right on your part in this free country of Australia. However, if the Bible is true then obviously you must accept the consequences.

“But I would like to ask you a question. The main message of the Bible, which has been unquestionably the most important literary work in human history, is how a person may have eternal life. So what I would like to know is: What do you understand that the Bible teaches about how a person may have eternal life and go to heaven?”

He may say that he does not believe in eternal life. To this you might say, “I’m not asking you what you believe, but I am asking you what you understand. It would be a rather unintellectual approach to reject the world’s most important book without understanding even its main message, would it not? What do you understand that the Bible teaches as to how a person may have eternal life? What is your understanding about what the Bible teaches on this subject?”

My experience is that a high percentage will respond by saying that it is by keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule or imitating the example of Christ, doing good, or something like that.

You might respond something like this: “That is just what I was afraid of, John. You have rejected the Bible without even understanding its main message, for your answer is not only incorrect, but it is diametrically opposite to what the Bible teaches. Now, don’t you think that the more intellectual approach would be to let me share with you what the Scriptures teach on this subject and then you can make an intelligent decision whether to reject or accept it?”

Now the tables have been completely turned. Instead of being superior to the Scripture and even above listening to it, he now finds himself ignorant of even its basic message. Now he must decide whether to listen to the message of the Scriptures or be found to be not only ignorant but also some obscure person who opposes intellectual advancement — and wants to remain in his ignorance.

This is the last thing in the world that his intellectual pride will allow him to be. So, very often he will give you permission to tell him the gospel. It is at this point that you pray with vigour that the Holy Spirit will take the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, and use it to awaken him from his deadness because of sin.

If he persists that he will not discuss anything further with you until you deal with his objection I suggest the following pre-evangelism approach (apologetics):

H.You need to begin with the existence of God

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV): And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Please think through how you could present a case for the existence of the Almighty God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ — to somebody who doesn’t know the Lord?

A suitable hymn to go with this message could be:

The Bible Stands

Verse 1
The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
‘Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.

The Bible stands tho the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.

Verse 2
The Bible stands like a mountain tow’ring
Far above the works of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can.
The Bible Stands (continued)

Verse 3
The Bible stands, and it will forever
When the world has passed away;
By inspiration it has been given
All its precepts I will obey.

Verse 4
The Bible stands ev’ry test we give it
For its Author is divine;
By grace alone I expect to live it
And to prove it and make it mine.

Words & music: Haldor Lillenas, ? 1917, Renewal 1945 by H. Lillenas. Assigned to Hope Publishing Co.


2. See “History of the Old Testament Canon,” in Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (rev. & expanded). Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, pp. 238-239.

3. In Michael P. Green (Ed.), Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (#1065). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1982, p. 285.

4. The names of the people have been changed.

5. Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. San Bernardino, California: Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, pp. 147-148.

Note: The four points in McDowell & Stewart seem to be an abbreviated version, taken from John W. Montgomery’s points for the “crux validation” of the New Testament:

1. On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be trustworthy historical documents — primary source evidence for the life of Christ,
2. In these records, Jesus exercises divine prerogatives and claims to be God in human flesh; and He rests His claims on His forthcoming resurrection.
3. In all four Gospels, Christ’s bodily resurrection is described in minute detail; Christ’s resurrection evidences His deity.
4. The fact of the resurrection cannot be discounted on a priori, philosophical grounds; miracles are impossible only if one so defines them — but such definition rules out proper historical investigation.
5. If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament and of the soon-to-be-written New Testament. [John Warwick Montgomery, The Suicide of Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1970, n. 58, p. 306. Montgomery writes that this summary is based on his book, Shape of the Past, n. 26, pp. 138-39.]

6. London: Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1973 (3rd Ed.).

7. Ibid., back cover.

8. Ibid., p. vii.

9. Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company (A Polebridge Press Book), 1993, p. 5.

10. Josephus: Complete Works (William Whiston, trans.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960.

11. Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 46.

12. Josephus, 20.9.1, p. 423.

13. R. W. Funk, R. W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company (A Polebridge Press Book), 1993, p. 34.

14. Ibid., pp. 36-37.

15. Ibid., p. 5.

16. John Shelby Spong, Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, pp. 157-158.

16a. Barbara E. Thiering 1992, Jesus the Man, Doubleday, New York (1993, Bantam, New York).

16b. Moral Right 2003, a Barbara Thiering support website, available from:

17. John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, 1994, p. 154.

18. Charles Colson with Nancy R. Pearcey, A Dangerous Grace: Daily Readings. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994, p. 15.

19. Based on ibid., pp. 15-16.

20. An Australian Edition published by Evangelism Explosion Ministries Australia, PO Box 1686, Wollongong 2500, 1983, pp. 84-85.

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2013.

Whytehouse designs

Anglicans Reject Christmas Story

Anglican Communion

Canterbury Cathedral - Portal Nave Cross-spire.jpeg

Canterbury Cathedral

Courtesy Wikipedia

Some Anglican clergy in Australia no longer accept the Christian story. Instead, they regard it as mythical (Cotes, 1997, p. 25). The following are examples of this lack of faith from Cotes’ article.

“True myths” is how she describes the view. What next?

Yet, within the Anglican church in Australia (Sydney diocese) there are committed evangelical scholars who support the authenticity of the biblical revelation (see Barnett 1997, 1999). Barnett (1999) demonstrates “that Jesus of Nazareth, the historical Jesus, became through death, bodily resurrection and ascension the Christ of faith. In our view the Gospels faithfully portray Jesus as the Christ in his historic ministry” (p. 418).

However, according to Cotes, this is what the Anglican clergy believe who contend for the “true myths” of the Bible.

“At least 70 serving priests of the Church of England no longer are willing to pretend that they believe it [the Christmas story in the Gospels] to be true and they have supporters among Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy.”

“They have joined Sea of Faith, an organisation which rejects belief in the traditional Christian story as told in the gospels.”

“Members of Sea of Faith believe instead that `God’ is not a supernatural creator, but a mystical personal experience, a symbol of the highest ideals and aspirations of human beings.”

“The consensus of opinion among most reputable biblical scholars is that the gospel accounts of the Nativity cannot be accepted as historically accurate, and that other explanations can be found for most of the details.”

“The Star of Bethlehem was not in any sense a miracle but a regular astronomical occurrence on which scientifically ignorant people put their own magical interpretation.”

“Yet it’s such a beautifully simple story — surely it must be true?”

“The authors of Mark (the earliest gospel) and John (written at least 100 years after the event)… had no time for sentimentality — or for biography. They were writing theology.”

“Modern scholarship has shown that all the details of the Nativity story can be shown to be the result of theological necessity rather than historical truth. . .”

“Jesus almost certainly was born in Nazareth. . .”

“But even if all the pretty stories people love about Christmas are not true, they don’t necessarily have to be discarded.”

“Myths are very important and the myths surrounding the Christmas story are not just the icing on the cake of the Nativity, nor just as an excuse to indulge sentimental fantasies.”

“They are more than pious fiction, filling the tantalising blanks of a story about which there is no real information.”

“Myths are important because the best of them can be a way of going behind the few facts we have, to suggest ways of seeing than (sic) are different from our modern, purely scientific and biographical approach.”

“The Christmas story is full of images and symbols, rather than verifiable facts, but it’s not necessary for rational Christians to discard them.”

“We can still sing the hymns and worship the Christ Child and tell the stories to our children with a clear conscience, for the stories have their own special kind of truth.”

“The question that Christmas raises is not, `Are the stories true?’ But rather `What do these stories say about God and the link between the physical and the spiritual?'”

“It is not `Who were the Magi and the shepherds?’ but `What do they mean?”

“These are the questions that serious preachers will be examining this Christmas… unhistorical wise men and their improbable ox and ass.”

“The figures at the crib scene are all part of the great imaginative picture of Christmas and behind this structure of imagery is the belief that this unrecorded lowly birth of a child to an obscure carpenter’s wife was, when you consider what developed from it, a decisive moment in history, when something genuinely new began.”

Why don’t they leave the church?

The Anglican creedal statements in the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571, The Church of England, state:

  • Concerning the God, the Holy Trinity: “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Article I)
  • The Word or Son of God: “The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man. . .” (Article II)

Since the creed of the Anglican Church is contrary to the belief of these 70 priests who deny the content the Christmas story, why don’t they leave the church? Surely when one’s beliefs are counter to the church’s fundamental beliefs, it requires integrity to leave the organisation. What other entity in the world would allow its employees to “sell” another product and yet remain within the organisation?

The New Testament is steeped in authentic history

While these theologically liberal Anglican clergy deny the historical validity of the Christmas event, another Anglican — a historian, exegete, and evangelical theologian, and now Bishop of North Sydney, Dr. Paul Barnett — provides a counter argument:

“The best context in which to locate Jesus is discovered by text-based historical enquiry; sociological analysis, though useful, has significant limitations at this distance. The ‘markers’ of Luke 3:1-2 — John the baptizer, Herod the tetrarch, Annas and Caiaphas the high priests and Pontius Pilate the prefect — form an encircling context for Jesus. Yet Jesus is connected with each of these; they are not merely part of the landscape background. The Jesus of the gospels is tied into his various contexts, whether Galilean or Judean.
“Because the gospels are self-consciously historical, a better way to begin to investigate Jesus is with the gratuitous information found in the letters. From these a rough grid may be established by which to validate or otherwise the gospels’ accounts. The Jesus of the letters, who dies for sins, who is conscious that he is ‘son’ or abba, who prays and who seeks in Scripture the prophecies which he is fulfilling, gives strong affirmation of the integrity of the gospels” (Barnett, 1997, p. 164)

What is happening? “The image of Jesus is being refracted through the spirit of these gentlemen” (M. Kahler in Barnett, 1997, p. 17).

Dr. Paul Barnett, is compelled by the early evidence of Christianity, not as “true myths” (what an oxymoron!), but as genuine history: “I find this logic compelling. The phenomenon of the coming into existence of early Christianity is well attested. Its sudden emergence is as historically secure as any event in Palestine in that century” (Barnett, 1997, p. 19).

Barnett (1999) proceeds to document the “historical secure” event of Christ and Christianity in his 448 pages of documentation and explanation: Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity. He concludes:

“The New Testament writers are not preoccupied with the political and social circumstances of those times; that is a modern concern. Rather, Jesus as the Christ fills the horizons of these writers. Yet their references to the historical circumstances are important, not so much to give a key to unlock a door of understanding that is otherwise closed but to remind us that Jesus was a real person and that his resurrection was historical because it was a bodily resurrection. A Jesus who is disconnected from his times easily becomes a mythical figure, whose incarnation, atonement and resurrection are seen as poetic metaphors.
“Such Gnostic views of Jesus became common a few decades after the New Testament era and for more than a century almost swamped post-apostolic Christianity. In recent times such views have returned with the rise of postmodernism and New Age thinking” (p. 415).

Welcome to Gnostic, postmodern, New Age thinking in modern garb — in the Australian Anglican church! This is the rot that undermined the early church for a century or so after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. I expect that it will do the same to Australia’s Anglican church.

The intrinsic historical nature of Jesus and early Christianity excludes the mythical Jesus of contemporary Anglicanism in Australia (and elsewhere).


Barnett, Paul W. (1997). Jesus and the Logic of History. Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-VarsityPress).
Barnett, Paul (1999). Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
Cotes, Alison (1997). “True Myths?” — a full-page article in the “Monitor” section of the Brisbane (Australia) Courier-Mail, Saturday, December 20, 1997.

Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 5 September 2013.

Titus 1:9 (ESV) He (the elder/bishop) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.