Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Review: The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas

The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas is a thorough and solid presentation of the historical evidences of the life of Jesus. Countering much of the skeptical authorship and questionable scholarship that can be seen in today’s treatment of the Jesus of history, Habermas takes a simple and straightforward approach to the subject. He presents a clear picture of Jesus and shows the reader the evidence from a wide array of historical sources.

Part One of the book addresses the challenges to the historicity of Jesus. Some make the claim that we cannot know the true Jesus of history. Others deny that he ever lived. Still others bend history to a sort of mythology that cannot be expected to be taken literally. Habermas shows that each of these claims simply do not comport with the evidence and with a reasonable reading of the historical sources.

Another key element addressed by Habermas is the presuppositions that historians and scholars are bringing to their reading of history. For example, an a priori rejection of miracles: “An a priori dismissal cannot be allowed, even if we do not like the conclusion that is indicated by the facts. One must decide on the basis of the known evidence.” The author shows that philosophies of naturalism and the rejection of miracles cause these scholars to disallow the plain meaning of the texts.

Habermas devotes a chapter to rebutting the Jesus Seminar, a group of mixed scholars that form a sort of liberal think-tank – whose conclusions are commonly regarded as on the fringe of credible scholarship. The seminar reports that eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels were not actually spoken by him. Clearly, Part One of The Historical Jesus shows the reader that the problem is not the lack of evidence, but the lack of honest interpretation of the evidence.

Part Two delves into the historical data for the life of Jesus. Habermas builds his case using the following data: creeds, archeology, non-Christian sources, and non-New Testament Christian sources. There is no shortage of evidence here to show that the New Testament itself is well supported by external historical sources.

In all, Habermas examines 45 ancient sources for the life of Jesus. From this he gathers 129 reported facts concerning the life, person, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. From these facts, all of them corroborate the claims of the New Testament, many of which affirm central teachings and doctrines found in the New Testament.

What sets this book apart for this reviewer is its straightforward approach. Habermas does not try to read between the lines, redefine, or reinterpret history. He just plainly presents evidence after evidence that all attest to the historicity of the life of Jesus. He rebuts the most notable liberal and skeptical claims using evidence and a logical plain reading of history. The plain facts make a powerful argument for the New Testament as the most reliable historical record of the life of Jesus Christ.

Book Review: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona is a simple and powerful treatment of the most powerful evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic strategy employed by the authors is what they refer to as the “minimal facts” approach. The authors understand that there are a wide variety of opinions held regarding the facts surrounding the Gospels and the resurrection. Using the minimal facts approach, the Habermas and Licona focus on fours facts that are almost universally attested to by all scholars, whether conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist. The “common ground” can then be used to show that a powerful case can be made that the best conclusion is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

The four facts that virtually all scholars and historical critics agree upon are as follows: 1) Jesus died by crucifixion; 2) the disciples believed Jesus rose from the dead; 3) the conversion of the church persecutor Paul; and, 4) the conversion of the skeptic James. They also cite one more fact in addition to the main four – the empty tomb of Jesus. Again, these facts are powerful in making a case for the resurrection because they are agreed upon by almost everyone. This allows one to focus on the subject of the resurrection, rather than peripheral discussions on topics like the accuracy of the Bible or other matters of possible disagreement.

The authors build a very strong case with the four facts (plus one), and in doing so support each one of the facts with the non-biblical historical sources that attest to the facts. This strengthens the argument, as evidence is presented that is external to the Bible, which some people may not readily assume as authoritative historically.

The authors move on to deal with the opposing theories and arguments that will normally arise from the evidence that has been presented. This section causes one to realize that there are not very many good opposing theories to the resurrection. For a theory to really hold water, it must be plausible as well as have good explanatory power and scope. Also, an opposing theory must account for all of the facts for it to be strong.

Strong rebuttals are given each opposing theory. These would include the fraud, hallucination, visions, delusions, deceptions, apparent death, and a number of other combinations. The reader quickly finds that no other opposing theory has greater explanatory scope, explanatory power, or accounts for all the facts better than the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.

One more strong point of the book is that it deals with the topic of naturalism. Naturalism is the belief that the only thing that exists is matter – there is nothing supernatural. The authors dismantle this worldview by showing its inconsistencies and contradictions. Habermas and Licona then make a strong case for miracles and overcome some of the more common objections.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus is a solid work. Simple and effective, it is written in a way that its contents will be easily remembered and applied as a means of evangelism and the defense of the Gospel. If the reader can defend the four facts presented in this book, he can present a strong case for the resurrection.

A Case for the Lordship of Jesus Christ

by Brian Auten

Christianity makes two astounding claims. First, it claims that its central figure, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead. Second, it claims that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is false. In fact, the Apostle Paul said “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Cor. 15:17 NIV). Paul freely admitted that if the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not an actual historical event, then the Christian faith is pointless. However, if Jesus did rise from the dead, he truly is Lord. No other religion bases its entire truth upon the veracity of an actual historical event. This paper will make a concise case for the Lordship of Jesus Christ based upon the historicity of the resurrection. The thesis is this: if Jesus actually rose from the dead, then he is Lord.

The proper name of God used by the Hebrews was Jehovah (YHWH), which is rendered LORD in the Old Testament. It denotes one with absolute control. In the New Testament the Greek word for Lord is kurios: a supreme master.1 When we speak of Lordship in this paper, we refer to the Biblical understanding of Lord as being one with God and absolute master of all.

The Historical Context of the Resurrection
One could claim that an event like the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t prove anything. If removed from any sort of context, this statement is true. However, within its historical context, the resurrection proves a great deal. If Jesus were no particular person living in no particular time in history, who made no claims, taught and influenced no one, made no predictions, died uneventfully— and then rose from the dead—what could be made of it? There would be no significant context for such an event, rendering it utterly meaningless and lacking any reason to be taken as true. Without any historical context, a resurrection could be reasonably considered an anomaly of some sort—dismissed with skepticism. William Lane Craig pointed out that “a miracle apart from the religio-historical context is inherently ambiguous.”2

However, the resurrection of Jesus is by no means without context. Most people would consider Jesus to be the greatest figure in history. He was not a typical person. He has had an undeniable effect upon the world like no other person in history. By all accounts, Jesus lived a faultless life on earth. His moral teachings are unparalleled in their depth and simplicity. He worked miracles and healed the sick. In addition, he made extreme claims to be equal with God, one with God, Messiah, and Son of God. Jesus even predicted his own death—and moreover—his own resurrection after three days. This is the kind of context that makes the historical account of a resurrection considerably meaningful.

British theologian and scholar N. T. Wright points out the importance of taking all the events surrounding the resurrection into account:
Thus neither Jesus’ life, deeds and teachings on the one hand, nor his resurrection on the other, could by themselves have had the effect of making people say at once, ‘He really was and is the Messiah.’ But put them together – which is what the early Christians did . . . and the result is clear.3
Resurrection historians Gary Habermas and Michael Licona also stress the significance of the resurrection in its context:
The context of Jesus’ life and claims cannot be ignored. For if God exists, there is no reason why the Author of life could not raise the dead. And Jesus was just the sort of person we might expect God to raise.4
The Self-Identity of Jesus
It is important to recognize the fact that the identity of Jesus as Son of God and Messiah was not something attributed to him after his time on earth. During his ministry, Jesus himself made the claims of divinity. First, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God. During his trial in Matthew 26:63-66, he answered clearly:
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. (NIV)
The reason that Jesus was sent to the cross to be executed was for the charge of blasphemy—making himself out to be God. Jesus agreed to their statements knowing full well what the penalty would be for admitting to such a thing. Second, Jesus referred to himself as Son of Man. In the scripture cited above, Jesus refers to himself not only as the Son of God, but as the Son of Man. This is Jesus’ preferred way of referring to himself, and it occurs in all four Gospels. It appears thirty times in Matthew, fourteen in Mark, twenty-five in Luke, and thirteen in John.

The title “Son of Man” is significant in that it refers to a Messianic prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (emphasis added, NIV)
When Jesus used this title, it was clear both to himself and to his listeners that he was referring to himself as the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel’s vision. Third, Jesus spoke and acted as if he was God. Consider John 8:58-59: “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him…” Here Jesus uses the title that God assigned himself when He spoke to Moses. Obviously the Jews understood his meaning and tried to stone him for blasphemy. Christian philosopher Phil Fernandes elaborates:
Christ probably spoke these words in Aramaic (the common language of the Hebrews of his day). Therefore, He probably did not use the Greek words “ego eimi” for “I AM.” Rather, He would have used the Hebrew “YHWH.” This was the title for the eternal God. Out of reverence for God, the Jews never spoke this word. So here, Christ was not only speaking the unspeakable title of God (YHWH), but He was using it to refer to Himself. Properly understood, this was probably Christ’s most unambiguous claim to deity.6
Additionally, Jesus regularly called God his father (John 10:30). He declared himself the only way to God in John 14:6. He forgave sins in Luke 7:48 and Matthew 9:2. He even accepted others’ statements of his deity and also their worship (Matthew 14:33, 28:17). In a very clear way, Jesus identified himself to be God. It was clear to those who worshiped him, and clear to those who crucified him.

The Fulfillment of Prophecy
The Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus.7 In Isaiah 53 alone, there can be found twelve specific prophetic aspects fulfilled by Jesus:
1) was rejected; 2) was a man of sorrow; 3) lived a life of suffering; 4) was despised by others; 5) carried our sorrow; 6) was smitten and afflicted by God; 7) was pierced for our transgressions; 8) was wounded for our sins; 9) suffered like a lamb; 10) died with the wicked; 11) was sinless; and 12) prayed for others.8
Predictions elsewhere about Christ’s death include the piercing of his hands and feet (Ps. 22:16); the piercing of his side (Zech. 12:10); and the casting of lots for his garments (Ps. 22:18).9 The fact that these prophecies (not to mention over two hundred others) were written hundreds of years before Jesus lived, yet were fulfilled with such accuracy, suggests a divine author. The fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy also places the death and resurrection of Jesus at the heart of a very significant religio-historical context.

The Historicity of the Resurrection
The New Testament Gospels give a very straightforward account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. However, despite the New Testament’s over five thousand manuscripts, its very early authorship, its astounding accuracy, and its overall historical reliability, some scholars still doubt its report of miracles. This skepticism is due to a naturalistic bias—an underlying view of the world that rejects the supernatural.

However, it must be noted that this bias is not scientific or historical, but based upon philosophical presuppositions that the historian brings to the subject. However, a case can be made for the resurrection based on an appeal to data so strongly evidenced historically that nearly every scholar regards them as reliable facts.10

First, it is almost universally agreed upon among historians that Jesus died by the torturous death of crucifixion. Critical Jesus Seminar scholar John Dominic Crossan admits, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”11 This is attested to by multiple sources, including Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and the Jewish Talmud.12

Second, Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them. Atheistic New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann said, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”13 Because of this belief they both claimed that he rose from the dead, and they went from being fearful to being bold witnesses of their experiences everywhere they went. The lives of the disciples were, undeniably, completely transformed. This is evidenced by the Gospels themselves, ancient creeds and oral traditions, the writings of the Apostle Paul, and the writings of the church fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Polycarp, and others.14

Third, the church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. Paul (formerly Saul) was previously a skeptic who violently opposed Christianity—pursuing Christians to their death and seeking to destroy the faith (Acts 22:4, Gal. 1:13). Yet this same persecutor claims to have seen the risen Jesus. Consequently, Paul changes from a killer of believers to Christianity’s most influential proclaimer. This is supported by Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth, Origen, and Paul’s own testimony.15 Again, this is a fact that is universally agreed to by scholars.

Fourth, the skeptical half-brother of Jesus became a believer. The New Testament records that James, Jesus’ half-brother, was a skeptic during the time of Jesus’ ministry. However, something happened that changed his opinion of Jesus. He later became a believer, and is identified as a leader of the Jerusalem church. Moreover, his belief was so strong that he later died a martyr for the faith, as attested to by Christian and non-Christian sources.16

Fifth, the empty tomb of Jesus is further evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. Habermas has concluded that roughly seventy-five percent of critical scholars agree upon this point.17 The empty tomb is also confirmed by the earliest enemies of Christianity. The Jewish opposition asserted from the beginning that the disciples stole the body—a tacit admission that the tomb was empty. In addition, any talk of the resurrection of Jesus could have been quickly silenced in Jerusalem simply by producing his dead body, but no corpse was produced. Finally, the fact that women were the primary witnesses to the empty tomb strengthens the case for an authentic empty tomb. A counterfeit story of the empty tomb would almost certainly involve men as the primary witnesses, as Habermas and Licona explain:
If the account of the empty tomb had been invented, it would most likely not have listed the women as the primary witnesses, since in that day a woman’s testimony was not nearly as credible as a man’s. Thus, the empty tomb appears to be historically credible in light of the principle of embarrassment.18
Historians often use the method of abduction (inference to the best explanation) to create a historical hypothesis. A hypothesis must adequately account for all the known facts in order to be considered plausible. From these five facts, one can reasonably come to the conclusion that God raised Jesus from the dead. This historical hypothesis accounts for these five facts (not to mention the further New Testament testimony to the resurrection), and the subsequent rise of Christianity.

The Rise of Christianity
One of the most powerful testimonies to the truth of the resurrection is the rise of Christianity. Theologian H.D.A. Major said:
Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended his disciples’ experience of Him, it is hard to see how the Christian church could have come into existence. The church was founded on faith in the Messiahship of Jesus. A crucified messiah was no messiah at all.19
In fact, the disciples based their lives on the truthfulness of the resurrection. When Christ was in the grave, they ran and hid. When he rose, they were transformed. Like the former persecutor Paul and the former skeptic James, the disciples all were willing to go to their deaths defending the truth of the resurrection. They not only died for what they believed to be true (as many people have died for what they believed), they died for what they knew to be true. It has been said that liars don’t make good martyrs. This is what drove the rapid growth of the early church, as noted by Wright:
Why did early Christianity begin, and why did it take this shape? The answer is: because the early Christians believed that something had happened to Jesus after his death, something to which the stories in the four canonical gospels are as close as we are likely to get.20
While Jesus was alive, his followers believed he was the Messiah. But they had no expectation of a Messiah that would die. However, when Jesus rose from the dead, this was undeniable proof to them that Jesus was who he said he was. Indeed, this is exactly what Jesus had predicted in Matthew 20:17-19:
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
Had Jesus stayed in the grave, his followers would have no reason to call him Messiah, as Wright again concludes:
…the early Christians [speak] with one voice: we believe that Jesus was and is the Messiah because he was raised bodily from the dead. Nothing else will do. And to this the historian has to say: yes, this belief would produce that result. If the early Christians believed that Israel’s god had raised Jesus from the dead, they would believe that he had been vindicated as Messiah despite his shameful death.21
Only the actual resurrection of Jesus can account for the early church’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Only their belief that Jesus was the Messiah can explain the rise of the early church. “If Jesus was the Messiah, he was also the lord of the whole world.”22

This paper has presented a case for the Lordship of Jesus based upon his resurrection. If he rose from the dead, his claims as the Son of God have been authenticated, and therefore he is Lord. His resurrection took place not without historical context, but as the consummation of an extraordinary ministry in which he not only claimed he was God's Son, but he predicted his own death and resurrection. His life and death fulfilled numerous intersecting Messianic prophecies. The facts surrounding Jesus’ death and post-mortem appearances, coupled with the radically changed lives of hostile skeptics and unbelievers all point towards the historical veracity of an actual resurrection from the dead. Indeed, it has been shown that if the resurrection was not genuine, there is no plausible explanation for the subsequent rapid rise and growth of Christianity. All alternative theories have failed to match the explanatory power and scope of this simple hypothesis.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most substantiated events in history, and entire books have been written detailing Christ's fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The stumbling block for the unbeliever is not any lack of historical evidence. Rather, the stumbling block is this: if Jesus is Lord, he is Lord of all men.

1 Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton,
2 William Lane Craig, Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?A Debate
between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman (College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts,
March 28, 2006).
3 N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003),
p. 224.
4 Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 171.
5 Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Publishing Group, 1999), p. 708.
6 Phil Fernandes, No Other Gods (Bremerton, WA: IBD Press, 1998), p. 155.
7 Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson
Publishers, 1999), p. 168.
8 Geisler, p. 611.
9 Ibid., p. 612.
10 Habermas and Licona, p. 48.
11 Ibid., p. 49, citing John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco,
CA: Harper Collins, 1991), p. 145.
12 Ibid., p. 49.
13 Ibid., p. 60, citing Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus? A Historical Approach to the Resurrection (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995), p. 80.
14 Ibid., pp. 50-62.
15 Ibid., p. 65.
16 Ibid., p. 68.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid., p. 73.
19 McDowell, p. 255.
20 Wright, p. 614.
21 Wright, p. 563.
22 Wright, p. 563.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Antony Flew Says There is a God

World-famous atheist Anthony Flew's recent book "There is a God" has caused quite a stir in the atheist community. Hear more about his conversion to belief in God in a short MP3 by Probe Ministries. This article/MP3 is by Michael Gleghorn. Definitely worth a listen. So much for the "weakness" of the design argument...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Christopher Hitchens vs. Mark D. Roberts Debate MP3

If you haven't heard this debate, I encourage you to listen. Both sides are very cordial, but the exchange is quite lively. Christopher Hitchens is author of God is Not Great. Mark D. Roberts' most recent book is Can We Trust the Gospels? -- which, I might add, is an excellent book.

This debate took place on the Hugh Hewitt show and full transcripts are available.

The audio is compiled into one MP3 here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Christianity vs. Scientific Naturalism Debate MP3

A debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Garrett Hardin.
This was an interesting debate. Hardin's answer to the question asking for the evidence for scientific naturalism was very telling. I will leave this one open to your comments. Enjoy the MP3.

Friday, February 08, 2008

European Leadership Forum Resource Center

The European Leadership Forum is aims to bridge the needs of evangelical leaders and some of the world's best resources. This means a lot of great resources are available to you.

Check out over 750 hours of excellent teaching with outlines. (lots of mp3's) There are scores of speakers, including William Lane Craig, Dr Darrell Bock, Dr Hugh Ross, Ravi Zacharias, and many more. Topics include Apologetics training, Theology, Discipleship, and many more.

Also of interest is the European Leadership Forum Conference. This takes place in Eger, Hungary on May 24-29, 2008. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is planning to attend.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Case for Biblical Inerrancy

by Brian Auten

Christians consider the Bible to be the Word of God.1 It is revered as the final authority in life and doctrine. Yet what makes this book so special? How can it be considered the authoritative Word of God? How can it be believed to be inerrant? This paper will briefly explore the nature of the Bible, its historical reliability, and its claims of inspiration. The purpose of this paper is not to prove the inerrancy of the Bible, but to show that accepting the Bible as the inerrant and authoritative Word of God is logical and warranted based on the person of Jesus Christ.

The Nature of the Bible
The world’s best-selling book is also the most translated, most published, most quoted, and most influential book in history.2 The word Bible simply means “book.” It is a collection of sixty-six books, written by about forty authors over the course of approximately 1,500 years. Composed of two sections, the Old and New Testaments, it contains a variety of literary genres: law, history, poetry, prophecy, biography, letters, and apocalyptic writings. Despite the diversity of its writings, the overarching theme of the Bible is one central figure in history: Jesus Christ.

It must be understood that the Bible is wholly unique among texts that are considered sacred. The Bible displays a unity and harmony throughout that is distinct. It contains hundreds of specific prophecies that have been fulfilled with complete accuracy—something no other religious book can boast. It is historically verified and supported by archeology. No scientific inaccuracy has ever been found. From a literary perspective, the Bible’s richness, depth, and beauty are unequaled.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
Before the claims of the New Testament are examined, an important question must be asked: Can the New Testament be trusted as history? When you question a document’s historicity, you question the document’s authenticity, and ultimately, its authority.

There is much more evidence for the New Testament than for any other ancient writings of comparable date.3 There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, all of which bear earlier dates than any other ancient works. F. F. Bruce, considered to be one of the greatest of New Testament scholars, said: “The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.”4

According to New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, “…97-99% of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and no Christian doctrine is founded solely or even primarily on textually disputed passages.”5 There are no variant readings among textual critics that affect issues of doctrine or historical fact. For all intents and purposes, the NT as we have it today is the same message and content as the original manuscripts. The highly respected scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon sums it up:
"The interval then between the dates of the 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."6

Before even evaluating the spiritual claims of the New Testament, one can confidently view it as authentic, reliable, and historically accurate. This is supported by abundant manuscripts, archaeological evidence, and external historical sources. One need not believe in the inspiration or inerrancy of the scriptures to trust the New Testament as a reliable historical record.

The Life of Jesus Christ
From the New Testament documents, one is introduced to the person of Jesus Christ. His authoritative teaching and radical claims of divinity culminated in his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection from the dead. Christ’s closest followers were eyewitnesses to the events, and their lives were transformed. Many who were unbelievers and skeptics were converted. James, the unbelieving brother of Jesus, was converted and died for his belief in the resurrection. In the same way, Saul, the persecutor of early Christians, was radically converted because he believed in the resurrected Jesus.7 The rise of the early Church in Jerusalem was considerable, as those nearest to these events believed and gave their lives by the thousands.

It is through the New Testament account of Jesus Christ, and the reality of his resurrection, that one comes to faith in the Son of God for salvation. This faith in Christ transforms the life of the believer, and enables him to receive the Bible itself as the Word of God. The point to be made here is that faith in Christ is the prerequisite for the acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God. This belief is not unwarranted or baseless.

Rather, it is warranted by one’s acceptance of Jesus Christ and based in the authority of Jesus’ teaching. The New Testament simply provides a fully trustworthy historical account for one to be introduced to Jesus Christ. Then, through Jesus Christ, the Christian can know8 that the Bible is God’s Word, as the Holy Spirit enables him.

This argument may not seem valid for the skeptic. The skeptic may balk at the idea of any “leap of faith,” or “suspension of reason.” However, it has been demonstrated that this in not an irrational jump of logic. The early Church was composed of those who had legitimate reasons to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is who he claimed to be. The same reasons they had, we have today through the historical account of the New Testament. Once one sees that Jesus truly is the Son of God, everything changes.

Jesus’ View of Scripture
Jesus’ view of scripture is central to the Christian view of the Bible. His resurrection confirms His claim as the Son of God, and thus His ultimate authority is established. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

First, Jesus considered the scriptures (what we refer to now as the Old Testament) to be historical fact. Throughout the Gospels His view does not change. Jesus refers to Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Isaac and Jacob, manna, the snake in the desert, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Zechariah, and Moses.9 In each of these accounts, Jesus takes the scripture as literal historical fact. Christ also affirms the account of creation in Genesis chapters one and two. Regarding the historical references of Jesus, John W. Wenham said, “the narratives that are least acceptable to the ‘modern mind’ are the very ones that He seemed most fond of choosing for illustrations.”10

Second, Jesus considered every word of scripture to be divine. Contrary to the liberal view of many scholars today, Jesus’ opinion of the scriptures was that they were fully inspired by God—even to the smallest letter: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). Indeed, Christ considered the scriptures fully inspired even in the smallest details.

Third, Jesus considered the scripture authoritative. In John 10:35, Jesus said, “…the scripture cannot be broken…” When tempted by the devil, Jesus appealed to the authority of scripture three times (Matthew 4:4). Also, Jesus lived in full expectation that the prophecies made about him in the Old Testament would be fulfilled. John W. Wenham lists over twenty times that Jesus refers to himself as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.11

In one particularly notable passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his own fulfillment of prophecy: He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27). If Jesus considered the scriptures to be the Word of God, should Christians consider them to be anything less?

The Apostles’ View of Scripture
As Christ’s contemporaries and authoritative heralds of His Gospel, the apostles’ view is important to the study. Like Jesus, they considered the scripture to be the very word of God. Among the New Testament writings, at least ten percent is Old Testament material, composed of some 295 quotations, 1600 citations, and numerous allusions.12

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who would lead and guide the apostles into all truth (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13-15). Therefore, they wrote with the understanding that they had a commission from Christ to fulfill. As professor of theology Edwin A. Blum put it, “As the apostles were commissioned to preach the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they were also instructed and enabled by the Holy Spirit to teach these truths to the church.”13

Accordingly, the apostles saw their own writings as inspired scripture. For instance, Peter referred to Paul’s writing as scripture: “. . . His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). We have the inspired writings of the apostles today in the letters of the New Testament.

The Biblical Teaching of Inspiration
The Bible itself makes the claim to be the inspired Word of God. When looking at the concept of inspiration, we must define it in the terms the Bible gives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “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)” Other translations of 2 Timothy 3:16, such as the New American Standard Bible, may read, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (emphasis added).

The meaning of the word inspired is literally “God-breathed.” As Bible teacher John MacArthur put it, the word inspired could be more accurately called “expired,” because the scriptures were breathed out by God. The Bible claims to be a divinely authoritative book resulting from a process whereby Spirit-moved men wrote God-breathed words.14

While inspiration is defined as “God-breathed,” it can be described as both verbal and plenary. Verbal means that the words of scripture themselves are inspired, not the writers. Plenary means complete in all respects; the entirety of scripture. So our definition of scripture is that every word of the Bible is God-breathed.

Inspiration does not imply a word-for-word dictation from God. Throughout the scripture, one will find a diversity of authors and their particular writing styles. One will also find figures of speech, various levels of grammar, references to non-biblical documents, and many different literary genres. This does not call into question the inspiration of the Bible. The teaching of inspiration simply states that God spoke His words using human authors and human language.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy
Inerrancy has to do with truth. It means the Bible is truthful and does not err. Theologian Paul D. Feinberg proposes the following definition of inerrancy:
Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.15

This definition helps to clarify what is and is not implied in the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy applies to the original writings (autographs), not the copies. The Bible teaches that the scriptures were inspired, not the scribes or copyists. Thus, inasmuch as the copies reflect the originals, they are considered inerrant. Any errors in copying, transmission, or preservation do not negate original inerrancy. No human interpretation is infallible, so proper hermeneutics is necessary.

Inerrancy denotes that the Bible is true in all it affirms. For instance, the Bible contains historical record of many evil acts, but it does not condone or teach those evil acts. Finally, inerrancy is not a denial that difficult passages exist within the Bible. But these difficult passages should not be assumed to be errors, contradictions, or discrepancies simply because they have not yet been understood or harmonized. One should be encouraged by the fact that for over 2000 years the Bible has stood the test of time.

Biblical inspiration implies inerrancy because of the nature of who God is. Bible teacher R. W. Glenn presents the following syllogism to describe the derivative nature of inerrancy: 1) God is always truthful in all that He does; 2) God is the author and source of scripture; 3) Therefore, scripture is always truthful.16 It follows logically that if the scripture is inspired by God in all its parts, it is inerrant and therefore authoritative.

Inerrancy, therefore, is not derived from an observation or a survey of the text itself. Inerrancy is not a proven fact; nor can it be proven. Inerrancy is a doctrine derived from the teaching of inspiration, grounded in the person and authority of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians believe and accept the Bible to be inerrant ultimately based upon Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, we see that the Christian has good reason to believe the Bible to be the inerrant and authoritative Word of God in all matters. The historically reliable account of Christ’s resurrection testifies to his divine identity; Jesus’ authority as the Son of God authenticates the scripture’s claims; and the inspiration of the Bible establishes its inerrancy and ultimate authority for the believer.

1 The words Bible, scripture, and Word of God will be used synonymously throughout this paper.
2 Norman Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1974), p. 7. 1
3 F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1981), p. 10.
4 Ibid.
5 Craig Blomberg and William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 194.
6 Bruce, p. 15.
7 The conversions of James and Paul are accepted as undisputed historical fact by virtually all scholars due to the substantial historical evidence. See Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), pp. 64-69.
8 Knowledge can be defined as, “True belief that is warranted or justified.” See C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press), p. 66.
9 John W. Wenham, Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p. 6.
10 Ibid., p. 7.
11 Ibid., pp. 19-29.
12 Edwin A. Blum, Inerrancy, p. 41.
13 Ibid., p. 40.
14 Geisler and Nix, p. 21.
15 Paul D. Feinberg, Inerrancy, p. 294.
16 R. W. Glenn, “Bibliology, Part 4: Inerrancy” (Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Book Review: From God to Us by Geisler & Nix

From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William E. Nix is an excellent overview of the Bible, providing a detailed explanation of its history, character, and authority. The book presents twenty chapters that paint a complete picture of the Bible. This includes the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, the explanation of the Canon, the development and preservation of the Biblical texts, the doctrine of inerrancy, a history of textual criticism, and details on translation.

The reader will find this book helpful, as it states the case for the scriptures plainly and systematically. From God to Us emphasizes the inspiration (and therefore the inerrancy) of the Bible as the core lens through which the scriptures are to be viewed. Because the Bible is inspired of God, its inerrancy logically and necessarily follows. Thus, the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative in all matters.

Building on Biblical inerrancy, the authors give evidence for its inspiration. This evidence includes the unity of the scripture, the accuracy of the manuscripts, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the transforming ability of the Bible, the historicity of the Bible, and numerous other examples. Internal and external evidences abound that demonstrate that the Bible is what it claims to be: the inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

Many people wonder how the Bible actually came to be. From God to Us clearly expounds the history of the Canon of scripture. The authors explain that the Canon (the books that are viewed as the authoritative rule) was not “decided” upon by men, but recognized by men. Because the writings were inspired by God, men were able to recognize their authority and affirm that they were the true canon of scripture. This allowed a full collection of the written Word of God to be recognized and taught to Christians for generations to come.

As the book progresses, it can become tedious for the reader. Geisler and Nix begin to explain the elements of textual criticism, the languages of the Bible, and deeper historical elements that may be hard for the layperson to follow. Although these remaining chapters tend towards a more scholarly tone, they still show the depth and scope of the Bible’s reliability and rich legacy.

From God to Us can be recommended as an excellent and thorough overview for the Christian on the character and trustworthiness of the Bible. It will no doubt bring understanding about God’s Word and strengthen the faith of the believer.

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