3 thoughts on “The heart of the matter”

  1. FASCINATING FACTS CONCERNING THE BIBLE

    William Albright (1891 – 1971). Once a director of the School of Oriental Research at Johns Hopkins University, William Albright wrote more than 800 books and articles, mostly on the validity of biblical manuscripts. He is best known for his work in confirming the authenticity of the Old Testament, and especially the authentication of the Dead Sea scrolls.

    Albright also researched and confirmed the dating of the writings of the New Testament. His conclusion was that there was “no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80.” Early in his professional life, Albright had some doubts about the validity of biblical claims about Jesus. These, however, were answered conclusively in favor of the authenticity of the Bible as he conducted his research.

    Sir William Ramsay (1852-1916). Sir William Ramsay was, arguably the greatest archaeologist of his day. He had rejected much of the written New Testament account and was determined to prove it false based on other writings of the day that contradicted the Bible. Ramsay believed that the books of Luke and Acts were actually written in about A.D. 150 and therefore did not bear the authenticity that first-century document would. His archaeological journeys took him to 32 countries, 44 cities, and 9 islands. Throughout some 15 years of intensive study, he concluded that “Luke is a historian of the first rank, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

    What Critics Thought
    • There was no Roman census (as indicated in Luke 2:1).

    What Ramsay Discovered: There was a Roman census every 14 years, beginning with Emperor Augustus.

    • Quirinius was not governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth (as indicated in Luke 2:2).
    What Ramsay Discovered: Quirinius was governor of Syria in about 7 B.C.

    • People did not have to return to their ancestral home (as indicated in Luke 2:3).
    What Ramsay Discovered: People did have to return to their home city, verified by an ancient Egyptian papyrus giving directions for conducting a census.

    • The existence of the treasurer of the city of Corinth, Erastus (Romans 16:23), was incorrect.
    What Ramsay Discovered: A city pavement in Corinth bearing the inscription “Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.”

    • Luke’s reference to Gallio as proconsul of Achaia was wrong (Acts 18:12).
    What Ramsay Discovered: The Delphi inscription that reads, “As Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and proconsul of Achaia.”

    Time and time again Ramsay’s search to find evidence that Luke’s writing was in error turned up evidence that it was, in fact, accurate. As a result, Sir William Ramsay eventually converted to Christianity proclaimed Luke as “one of the greatest historians” of all time.

    Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) Greenleaf, (former Atheist), one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, and a world-renowned expert on evidence, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. Being a man of conviction and reason, and in accordance with his conclusions, Greenleaf converted from Agnosticism to Christianity.

    Ralph Muncaster, (former atheist) in his book: Examine the Evidence, presents extensive evidence to validate the truth-claims of Christianity. He provides compelling arguments from science, biblical prophecy, history, and archaeology. This former skeptic points out that of all religions and philosophies on earth, only one, Christianity is verifiable and testable.

    1,456 hours of Sunday school and church turned Ralph Muncaster into a hard-core atheist. Then he was challenged to honestly investigate the Bible and the facts of modern science. He was stunned. Fact after fact, from biology, history, archaeology, physics, lined up with the Bible’s account!

    The Bible Itself Argues Against the Possibility of Its Corruption

    The charge that the Bible has been corrupted, contradicts what the Bible itself teaches. After all, in Isaiah 40:8 we read, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.” In the New Testament Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

    The Almighty God who had the power and sovereign control to inspire the Scriptures in the first place is surely going to continue to exercise His power and sovereign control in the preservation of Scripture.

  2. Science and the Bible: Cosmos and Creator

    By Mark Eastman, M.D.

    They have been called the two greatest questions that face mankind: Does God exist, and if He does, what is His nature? Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, the answer to these questions have been sought by examining the nature of the universe and its life forms.

    The Cosmos

    When Albert Einstein published the first of his relativity theories in 1905, he shocked the physics community with a staggering new view of space, time, matter and energy. Though he did not know it at the time, his theories provide dramatic insights into the attributes of the Creator of the cosmos.

    Among other things, what Einstein’s theories revealed was that the flow of time and the structure of space were relative to the velocity, mass and acceleration of the observers. That is, their observed values were not fixed: they were relative.

    For thousands of years, scientists and philosophers believed that time was nothing more than an abstract notion, conceived in the minds of men, and used to describe the change seen in the physical world. Time, it was believed, was not a thing, it was a mental contrivance. Einstein showed that this was wrong. Time, Einstein showed, was “plastic.” That is, it is a physical property of the universe, and that the observed rate that time flows depends on the physical conditions present at the measuring device.

    Several years after Einstein’s theories were published, astronomer Willem de Sitter found a mathematical error in Einstein’s equations. When corrected, he found a startling mathematical prediction buried within his equations: The universe was finite! Space-time, matter, and energy had a beginning.

    In his book, It’s About Time, popular author and physicist Paul Davies remarks on this incredible discovery.

    Modern scientific cosmology in the most ambitious enterprise of all to
    emerge from Einstein’s work. When scientists began to explore the
    implications of Einstein’s time for the universe as a whole, they made
    one of the most important discoveries in the history of human thought:
    that time, and hence all physical reality, must have had a definite origin
    in the past. If time is flexible and mutable, as Einstein demonstrated, then
    tt is possible for time to come into existence, and also to pass away again;
    there can be a beginning and an end of time. (Paul Davies, It’s About Time,
    Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster, 1995, pg. 17.)

    The Skeptic

    I recently had an opportunity to speak on the origin of life at a major public university in Southern California. In attendance were a number of professors who are self-described agnostics. During the question period, one of the professors admitted that the evidence is compelling that the universe was indeed finite. He said that while he could not believe in God (because he couldn’t see Him, or study Him scientifically) he said he did believe that someday scientists would discover a law that would explain the origin and order of the universe and its life forms.

    After pointing out that he had just expressed faith, the belief in things unseen, but hoped for, I asked him if he believed that the laws of physics, which work in our space-time domain, also had a beginning. He was forced to concede that they did because they would have no place to act before the space-time domain existed.

    The final blow came when I asked him if he then believed that some “law” of physics could explain the origin of the laws of physics! He saw the point: The laws of physics cannot be the cause of the laws of physics! The cause of the universe and its laws must be independent of the space-time domain, exactly as the Bible claimed 3,500 years earlier!

    Apostle Paul’s statement regarding the attributes of God being discerned by an examination of the nature of the universe is quite staggering, considering the state of scientific knowledge in the first century A.D. At that time it was commonly believed that the universe was eternal. In the face of that commonly held bias, the Bible clearly taught that the universe was finite, and the Creator is independent of time and space, exactly as 20th century cosmology suggests.

    In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Genesis 1:1
    …God, (v.9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not
    according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace
    which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
    2 Timothy 1:8-9

    …in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before
    time began. Titus 1:2

    The finiteness of space-time not only points to a Creator who is independent of the cosmos, but it also gives us insight into the minimum resume of such a Being.

    The Uncaused Cause

    In my discussion with the agnostic professors, I asked them to give me the caveat, for the sake of my next argument, that God did indeed exist. They agreed. I then asked them what would be the minimum “resume” of such a Being. Remarkably, they were quite insightful in their deductions. They quickly recognized that such a Being would not only have to be independent of space-time, but must also be incredibly powerful, incredibly intelligent and able to act unencumbered, simultaneously inside and outside the time domain. Remarkably, without recognizing it, they had described the resume of the Creator as revealed in the Biblical text!

    Among other things, the law of cause and effect asserts that a cause is always greater than its effect. Applied to the cosmos it means that the Creator must be more powerful than all the energy stored in all the stars in all the galaxies in the entire universe. Physicists believe that there are at least 1080 particles in the universe. Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2 indicates that the energy stored in the mass of the universe is equal to the mass times the speed of light squared! From this perspective, the Creator must be an all-powerful, omnipotent Being. This very attribute is credited to God throughout the Bible’s text.

    Ah Lord GOD! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy
    great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for
    thee. Jeremiah 32:17

    Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard
    for me? Jeremiah 32:27

    In my discussion with the professors even they admitted that all the chemists, molecular biologists and physicists in the world combined have been unable to create a DNA molecule from raw elements: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, etc. Moreover, molecular biologists admit that living cells are metabolic machines which are vastly more complicated than any machine made by mankind. They agreed in principle that the nature of these cellular “machines” would require a Being possessing unfathomable intelligence. Such a Being would be, from our limited perspective, an all-knowing, omniscient Creator. Throughout the Bible’s text God is described in such terms. For example, in Jeremiah 1:5, God’s omniscience is illustrated in his foreknowledge of the prophet even before he was born:

    Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I
    sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5

    The infinite knowledge of God is proclaimed in 1 John 3:20 and in Psalm 147:5:

    For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows
    all things 1 John 3:20

    Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.
    Psalm 147:5

    Finally, if our space-time domain is the direct creation of God, then once he created the cosmos, in order to organize and uphold the galaxies, solar systems and its life forms, the Creator must be able to act simultaneously, inside and outside the space time domain. This attribute we call omnipresence. This too is an attribute that is ascribed to God throughout the Bible’s text.

    Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD,”And not a God afar off? Can
    anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the
    LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:23-24

    For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in
    the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

  3. Positive Defense of the Christian Perspective

    The Trustworthiness of the New Testament

    1 The New Testament has better manuscript evidence than any other ancient book.

    a. There are over 5,000 New Testament manuscripts and portions of manuscripts. By comparison, the majority of classical works have less than 20 manuscripts.

    b. The dates of the New Testament manuscripts are close to the original writings. One Gospel fragment (Ryland’s) dates about 25 years after the Gospel of John and most of the New Testament (Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri) from 50-150 years after the originals. Most classical works date from 700 – 1400 years after the originals.

    c. None of the canonical New Testament is lost or missing. By comparison, 107 of Livy’s 142 books of history have been lost and about one half of Tacitus’ 30 books of Annals and Histories is missing.
    2. Good arguments can be given that each of the Gospels was either written by an eyewitness, or significantly influenced by firsthand testimony, as recognized by many contemporary scholars.
    3. Even without proving eyewitness authorship, the Gospels measure up well by normal historical standards used in ancient historiography.
    4. The Gospel are trustworthy sources, as explained by A.M. Hunter
    a. These Christian authors, like their Jewish counterparts, were careful to preserve traditional material.
    b. The Gospels are close to eyewitness sources.
    c. The Gospel authors were honest reporters.
    d. The picture of Jesus presented in the four Gospels is virtually the same (see Archibald M. Hunter, Bible and Gospel, pp. 32-37).
    5. The Gospels and Acts exhibit a specific interest in reporting historical facts, not mythology. This is especially the case when the life of Jesus is reported.
    6. Contemporary historians frequently opposed the application of radical criticism to New Testament studies. According to A.N. Sherwin-White and Michael Grant, such attacks fail at a number of crucial points (see A.N. Sherman-White, Roman Society, pp. 186-193; Grant, Jesus: An Historian Review, pp. 179-184, 199-201).
    a. Numerous ancient works exhibit intentions and methodologies similar to that of the New Testament authors, and yet these ancient works are well accredited as historical works.
    b. There are no ancient writings in the category that radical critics place the Gospels.
    c. New Testament books such as Acts have been largely confirmed by external test of historicity.
    7. The Gospel and Acts were recognized as inspired books almost immediately after being written (see J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers).
    a. 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7 and refers to it as “Scripture.”
    b. Clement of Rome (about AD 95) speaks of the “Gospel” and quotes portions found in all three synoptic Gospels, referring to them as the words of Jesus (Corinthians 13,46).
    c. Ignatius (Smyrnaeans 3) and Polycarp (Philippians 2, 7), both writing about AD 115, refer to verses in the synoptic Gospels as the words of Christ.
    8. Paul’s epistles were also recognized as inspired Scripture almost immediately after being written.
    a. 2 Peter 3:15-16 calls Paul’s epistles “Scripture.”
    b. Clement of Roman (Corinthians 47), Ignatius (Ephesians 10; to Polycarp 5), and Polycarp (Philippians 1,3-4, 6) all refer to Paul’s writings as inspired.

    B. The Historicity of Jesus

    1. The trustworthy Gospels (A above) exhibit much interest in the historical Jesus and give accurate accounts of his life, death, and resurrection.
    2. Numerous pre- and extra biblical sources record much ancient testimony concerning Jesus within 125 years after his death.
    a. Early Christian creeds that pre-date the New Testament, as well as the historical facts that virtually all critical scholars admit, provide an extremely strong case for the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    b. Archaeology contributes a few finds that illuminate and provide background for Jesus’ career, such as the crucifixion victims investigated by archaeologist Vasilius Tzaferis, “Jewish Tombs At and Near Giv’at ha- Mivtar,” Israel Exploration Journal 20 (1970), pp. 38-59.

    Also the Shroud of Turin (Historically proclaimed to be the actual burial garment of Jesus). See Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin (New York: Doubleday, 1978, also see John Heller, Report on the Shroud of Turin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983), especially chapters 12-14.

    d. Secular historians (e.g. Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas), government officials (e.g. Piny the Younger, Emperor Trajan), religious works (e.g. The Talmud, Toledoth Jesu, and other sources report many details about Jesus from non-Christian viewpoints.
    e. Ancient Christian sources preserve a number of historical statements about Jesus (e.g. Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr).
    4. To reject Jesus’ miracles a priori is to ignore correct inductive procedure where all the facts are investigated before a decision is made.
    5. To reject Jesus’ doctrinal teachings a priori as valid for today is to pick and choose portions of the Gospels. Further, If Jesus was raised from the dead, there is, at a minimum, some implied significance for Jesus’ teachings, as well.
    6. Without a significant historical basis in the life of Jesus, Christianity would have had no impetus for its origins.
    7. Jesus died on the cross, as indicated by several facts.
    a. The nature of crucifixion, including the discovery of Yohanan’s skeleton, reveals both the nature and assurance of death by this method.
    b. The explanation of Jesus’ heart wound indicates that it would have killed him even if he had been alive.
    c. The death of Jesus is the most recorded event in ancient, non-Christian history.
    d. The trustworthy Gospels give accurate accounts of Jesus’ death.
    8. After his death, Jesus was raised bodily and appeared to his followers.
    a. Naturalistic hypothesis that have sought to explain in normal terms the supernatural element of Jesus’ resurrection have failed to do so, chiefly because they are refuted by the known historical data. Several other reasons also indicate this failure.
    b. There are numerous positive evidences for the resurrection that indicate that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many of those who followed him.
    c. A case for the resurrection can be built by using only those minimal facts that are clearly established by the historical method. On a smaller scale, these facts can refute the alternative hypotheses and provide the best evidences for the resurrection.
    d. The Shroud of Turin may supply some additional scientific evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.
    9. Jesus’ message was not changed by Paul or by other followers.
    a. In both the synoptics, as well as in John, Jesus claimed to be deity. Often this was done by his words, such as his claims to be Son of God and Son of Man (c.f. Mark 2:10-11; 10:45; 13:32; 14:36). At other times he showed his deity by his actions, such as forgiven sin, fulfilling Old Testament messianic prophecy and by claiming authority much greater than that of the Jewish leaders (see Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 5;20-48; cf. Isaiah 9:6-7).
    b. Numerous pre-Pauline creeds such as Philippians 2:6-11, Romans 1:3-4, 1 Corinthians 11:23, and many from the book of Acts designate Jesus by the loftiest titles, thereby indicating the early teaching of his deity. These show further that this doctrine definitely did not originate with Paul.
    c. Neither Jesus nor Paul taught that Christianity was a new religion. Both held that Christianity was a fulfillment of Judaism (see Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:16-17; Romans 10:4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17).
    d. Jesus’ central teaching of the Kingdom of God and its entrance requirements of faith in his person and teachings in found in all four Gospels (c.f. Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 18:3-6; Luke 18:28-30; John 1:10-13) and in Paul’s epistles (c.f. Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
    f. Paul was known as the apostle to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:15;16; 22:21; Romans 11:13-14). Not only did Jesus command his disciples to take the gospel to the Gentiles (see Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; John 10:16; Acts 1:8), but this was actually a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, not a new doctrine (see Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 19:18-25 for two examples).
    g. Since Jesus literally rose from the dead, any verification of the truthfulness of his teachings would even extend to Paul’s message and writings, since they are in agreement with the Gospels at these points.
    10. Jesus was not an international traveler during his “silent years” or after his death.
    a. There is no viable historical evidence for such international ventures.
    b. The swoon theory fails and is rejected by critical scholars.
    c. These endeavors almost always involved a long trail of illogic and incredibly mysterious connections.

    C. Miracle-claims

    1. Although many would place miracle-claims completely in the realm of faith, such is to ignore their possibly objective theistic and historical nature.
    a. If it is taught that miraculous events have occurred in history, as in the case with New Testament miracle-claims, then at least the objective, historical side of such a claim can be investigated. In other words, if it actually happened, at least the portion of the event that touched the space-time world can potentially be examined.
    b. In the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is not only the central tenet Christianity, but it is asserted that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then faith in actually in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-20). Paul even supports his point that Jesus was raised by citing eyewitnesses, historical testimony to this fact (vv. 5-8). Under these circumstances, one could hardly claim that objective, factual interests in the resurrection are foreign to the New Testament.
    c. This objection also commits errors that are associated with the “leap of faith.” If carried to its logical conclusion, it provides no objective basis for faith, including any reasons why faith should be exercised at all. As such, it is difficult to distinguish between belief and credulity.
    2. Alternative theories that have been proposed to account for Jesus’ resurrection on naturalistic grounds have failed to account for the known historical facts.
    3. There are many strong historical reasons to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.
    a. The disciples’ experiences
    b. The transformation of the disciples into bold witnesses
    c. The empty tomb
    d. The resurrection of Jesus was the very center of the apostolic message.
    e. The Jewish leaders could not disprove their message.
    f. The very existence and growth of the church.
    g. In this resurrected physical body Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of his disciples on twelve different occasions over a forty-day period and conversed with them (see Luke 24:13-49, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Acts 1:4-8, Matthew 28:1-10, John 20:24-31).
    This was the greatest of all miracles since the creation itself, and could have been accomplished only if Jesus indeed is God, as He had claimed to be.

    D. Predictive Prophecies

    Consider the following predictions made centuries in advanced that Jesus would be:
    1. born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; cf. Galatians 4:4);
    2. born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:21);

    3. “cut off” (die) 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct the city of Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24);

    4. of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3 and 22:18; cf. Mathew 1:1);

    5. of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, cf. Luke 3:23);

    6. of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12; cf. Matthew 1:1);

    7. born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; cf. Matthew 2:1);

    8. anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; cf. Mattthew 3:16-17);

    9. that Jesus would performed miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; cf. Matthew 9:35);

    10. would cleanse the temple (Malachi 3:1; cf. Matthew 21:12);

    11. would be rejected by Jews (Psalms 118:22; cf. 1 Peter 2:7);

    12. die a humiliating death (Psalms 22; cf. Matthew 9:35);

    13. that he would rise from the dead (Psalm 2:7 and 16:10; cf. Acts 2:31)

    14. ascended into heaven (Psalm 68:8; cf. Acts 1:9);

    15. and sit at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1; cf. Hebrew 1:3).

    It is important to understand that these prophecies were written hundreds of years before Christ was born. No one could have been reading the trends of the times or just making intelligent guesses, like the “prophecies” we see in the checkout line at the supermarket.

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