...only God can make a tree


My neighbor and I have had a bit of a falling out, and I think it's really his fault.

Click on the icon to hear my side of the story.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

this is an audio post - click to play


Anonymous said...

I think I will come over to your house and cut down your imaginary tree with my chainsaw. I think your neighbor is the sane one and you should apologize for being such a stupid numbskull. Your tree is just in your imagination just like your imaginary friend jeebus. I can't believe I wasted my time listening to your drivel, count the rings for the age numbskull!

Jim Arvo said...

The author of this little story concludes with "Don't you think that's right?"

Wow. Where to begin. Fist, if I had a neighbor who insisted that I share his delusion, I'd be looking for a new house; minimally, I'd have the nearest psychiatric hospital on speed dial. The reasoning here is rife with fallacies, the most prominent being that belief is justified by the *lack* of a *disproof*. If that were the case, then we would all be obliged to believe in every supernatural entity ever imagined by man. None can be disproved. However, the so-called evidence for their existence can be examined; if doing so reveals that the evidence is really just wishful thinking, or erroneous reasoning, or based on debunked claims, then there is no reason to believe in them.

But there's another interesting fallacy that the author employs. Notice that he insists that it's his neighbor's job to prove that the tree does not exist, since *he* (the author) already "knows" that it does. This is a little bait-and-switch tactic. What is at issue is whether the *neighbor* should believe the tree exists, not whether the author can be dissuaded. On what grounds should the neighbor accept the existence of the tree? Apparently nothing more than this person's testimony, which directly contradicts the empirical evidence--i.e. no tree can be seen or felt. Are we obliged to accept everybody's testimony, especially when they contradict very reliable sources of evidence?

Notice also that the author laughs at the suggestion that there might be empiricle evidence of the tree to examine, yet he uses the language of such evidence to argue for its existence: it "feels cool" under the tree, it protects him from the rain, etc. What was the point of describing these attributes if empirical evidence is unnecessary, even laughable? In the absence of any such attributes, would this guy have any reason to believe the tree is there?

I challenge the author of this piece to disprove that I have a 50-foot (invisible) fountain in my front yard. After all, the burden is on him, right? Yeh, right.

Anonymous said...

I was laughing through this whole thing. It was pretty funny. A guy with an imaginary tree in his yard, and then demanding that his friend come sit under it. Ha Ha Ha.

But then something hit me, something so scary and impossible one would think it would never happen.

He wasn't kidding.

This guy actally belives there is a frekin tree in his backyard. I am simply...astonished...at the absolute stuipity (sp?) of this guy. I would think in a world with spaceships, lasers, microchips, and robots, we would be beyond such basic...flaws.

Is this guy really so beyond help and logic that he is serious? Does he actally truely think there is a tree in his yard? I don't understand how a guy who has a job and a home and a place in our fast paced society can survive while being such a total dumbass.

Anonymous said...

This was really funny.And prove to me god dosen't exist.

Anonymous said...

Here is some proof if that's what some of you require.

The Old Testament books were written down as the Word of God and recognized as such from the moment of their writing. Beginning with the words etched into stone by the finger of God himself, God's people recognized the Lord's writing as it came to them through their leaders and prophets. The books of Moses were recognized as scripture by Israel's earliest judges and kings, who referred to them in their writings as Scripture. From the time of Samuel, the words and writings of the prophets were kept in libraries, along with the histories. The Hebrew Bible, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament, was widely accepted and agreed upon by Jews well before Jesus' time. Thus the various councils that supposedly determined what would be Scripture actually only confirmed what was already widely accepted as the Word of God.

The Old Testament was begun by Moses circa 1446 BC and was completed by 400 BC. (About 400 years before Christ, according to other Jewish writings, the voice of God "ceased to speak to them directly" and the prophets "had fallen asleep," thus the 400 years of scriptural silence prior to the birth of the Messiah.) The Old Testament is written almost entirely in Hebrew, with small portions of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic.

The Old Testament covers the history of the nation of Israel and the nations who dealt with Israel. It begins with creation and follows the Jewish people through the flood, the Exodus, the period of the judges, the reign of the kings, and finally into exile under the Babylonian Empire. They include all the laws God's people are to observe and the nation's history, as well as prophesy.

Old Testament Documentation

Both Old and New Testament documents were copied with excruciating attention to detail. When an entire scroll had been copied by hand, one letter at a time, if one mistake was made, the scroll was destroyed. In addition, the Jewish copyists of the Hebrew Scriptures adhered to detailed requirements in copying. We looked at this list in studying New Testament documentation, but it bears a second look. (Taken from Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell):

1) Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way;

2) Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column;

3) Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink;

4) Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original, but every letter was copied singly from the original;

5) No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread;

6) Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

7) The Masoretes, who were responsible for copying Biblical text from AD 500 to 950, calculated everything that could be calculated. They numbered the verses, words, and letters of every book. They calculated the middle word and middle letter of each.

"These trivialities, as we may rightly consider them, had yet the effect of securing minute attention to the precise transmission of the text.; and they are but an excessive manifestation of a respect for the sacred Scriptures which in itself deserves nothing but praise. The Masoretes were indeed anxious that not one jot nor tittle, not one smallest letter nor one tiny part of a letter, of the Law should pass away or be lost."

Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts

"Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved ... They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word, and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity-scribes, lawyers, masoretes. Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?"

Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences

The Old Testament has been shown to be reliable in at least three major ways:

1) textual transmission (the accuracy of the copying process down through history),

2) the confirmation of the Old Testament by hard evidence uncovered through archaeology, and

3) documentary evidence also uncovered through archaeology.

Information on documentary evidence and textual transmission follow:

Masoretic Text

The earliest Old Testament manuscript before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls dated about AD 916, called the Masoretic Text, after the Masoretes, who from about AD 500 to 950 were responsible for preserving and editing Biblical text, as well as other Jewish writings. It was been the primary Hebrew text used for translations and transcriptions until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Masoretes are not the only Jewish group to have had charge of the scriptures and other Jewish writings, as the following list shows. Each represented a group of scholars whose entire lives were dedicated to preserving accurately the Hebrew Bible and sacred Jewish writings.

! Masoretes (AD 500-950)

! Talmudists (circa AD 100 to 500)

! Tannaim ("teachers" or "repeaters") (100 BC to AD 200)

! Zugoth ("pairs" of textual scholars)(first and second centuries BC)

! Sopherim (from the Hebrew for "scribes") were the Jewish scholars and custodians of the text between the fifth and third centuries BC.

The comparatively late date of the Masoretic Text and the lack of other preserved manuscripts is not startling, considering that earlier copies that were defective or damaged were destroyed after they were painstakingly copied. Also, repeated persecutions of the Jews resulted in the disappearance of many of their ancient manuscripts. Copyists were so accurate, and there were so many safeguards built into the copying process, that the newer document was considered as authentic as the one it was copied from. In fact, due to the fact that it was on new, undamaged materials, it was given the advantage, as the old manuscript might have become damaged or defaced. These were at once condemned.

"Thus, far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the most perfect and free from damage."

Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Story of the Bible

Septuagint, or LXX

The Septuagint is the earliest complete Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and was completed by a group of Jewish scholars around 250 BC. The group is said to have been made up of six elders from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, numbering 72, and is supposed to have been completed in the same number of days. (Hence the title, meaning "seventy," and its abbreviation, LXX, the Roman numeral for seventy.)

The translation was necessary as the Jews, dispersed from their homeland, adopted the languages of their new lands. The Septuagint was intended for use in public services rather than for scholarly or scribal purposes, and so, though generally loyal to the original Hebrew, was somewhat liberally translated and interpreted (something like our "Good News Bible" and "Living Bible" paraphrases of today). Still, it was translated from Hebrew texts far older than our oldest manuscripts and bears witness to the accuracy of the newer translations. Also, New Testament writers at times quoted from the Septuagint. The LXX, being very close to the Masoretic text (AD 916) we have today, helps to establish the reliability of its transmission through 1,300 years.

The Septuagint bridged the religious gap between the Hebrew- and Greek-speaking people, met the needs of the Alexandrian Jews, bridged the historical gap between the Hebrew Old Testament of the Jews and the Greek-speaking Christians who would use it with their New Testament, provided a precedent for missionaries to make translations of the Scriptures, and bridged the textual criticism gap by its substantial agreement with the Hebrew Old Testament text (Geisler, General Introduction to the Bible).

Samaritan Pentateuch

Samaritans separated from the Jews during the fifth or fourth century BC after a long, bitter religious and cultural struggle. The Samaritans took with them the Scriptures as they then existed, and their manuscript of the five books of Moses is a manuscript of the Hebrew text. The earliest copy dates to about AD 1200. Again, its primary value lies in its confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Biblical text.

Aramaic Targums

These were paraphrases of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Aramaic language, compiled around AD 500.

"The great utility of the earlier Targums consists in their vindicating the genuineness of the Hebrew text, by proving that it was the same at the period the Targums were made, as it exists among us at the present day."

J. Anderson, The Bible, the Word of God


The Mishnah, AD 200, was a digest of all the oral laws from the time of Moses. It was written in Hebrew and covered traditions as well as explanations of the oral law. Scriptural quotations witness to the reliability of the Masoretic Text.

There are other important manuscripts, but these are the most important documents relating to the historical and transcriptural accuracy of the Old Testament.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Around 1946 to 1947, a shepherd looking for a lost goat threw a stone into a cave and heard the unlikely sound of shattering pottery. Upon further investigation, he discovered what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls - some forty thousand scrolls and fragments. It was the library of the Jewish community at Qumran, and included fragments of all the Old Testament books except Esther. These copies were 1,000 years older than any yet discovered, dating at about 100 B.C. They demonstrated the amazing accuracy with which the Bible had been copied for centuries, the later copies having remarkably few changes.

From these fragments more than 500 books have been reconstructed, many of which tell us about life in the community of Qumran. Others give helpful commentaries on the Scriptures. The most important documents, however, are copies of the Old Testament text dating more than a century before the birth of Christ.

The earliest Old Testament manuscript before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were from A.D. 900 and later. How could we be sure they were accurately transmitted from before the time of Christ? The Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the accuracy of that transmission.

Among the fragments is a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of Isaiah, dating to about 125 B.C.

The Isaiah copies of the Qumran community "proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling."

Gleason Archer, Survey of the Old Testament

The Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts are highly significant because they confirm the accuracy of other manuscripts dated much later. The major conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls was that there was no significant difference between the scrolls found at Qumran and the Masoretic Hebrew text dated 1,000 years later. This confirms the reliability of our present Hebrew text.

"Critics of the Masoretic Text charged that the manuscripts were few and late. Through the Dead Sea Scrolls, early manuscript fragments provide a check on nearly the whole Old Testament. Those checks date about a thousand years before the Great Masoretic manuscripts of the tenth century. Before the discoveries of the ... Dead Sea caves, the Nash Papyrus (a fragment of the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy 6:4-9), dated between 150 and 100 BC, was the only known scrap of the Hebrew text dating from before the Christian era."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

"We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for the,. Time and again ere now the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres, rather than utter a single word against the laws and the allied documents. ... What Greek would endure as much for the same cause? Even to save the entire collection of his nation's writings from destruction he would not face the smallest personal injury. For to the Greeks they are mere stories improvised according to the fancy of their authors ..."

Flavius Josephus, First Century Jewish Historian

"After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scripture, I came to the conclusion that it is historically trustworthy. If one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then one must discard almost all literature of antiquity."

Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

posted: 7/13/2006 7:46 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Is the Bible Historically Accurate?

The question of the accuracy of the Bible breaks down into three separate questions.

1) Is the Bible historically and factually accurate in its original text?

2) Is the text we have today an accurate transcription of the original text?

3) Was the original text inspired by God?

The next few pages will provide some answers for the first question: the historical accuracy of the Bible, as it relates to the New Testament.

It is true that there is not historical and/or archaeological evidence to back up every fact stated in the Bible. However, it is also true that, despite countless attempts to prove the Bible false in every age since the beginning of recorded history, no one has ever been able to prove that there is one historical or factual mistake in the Bible. This is in itself a very powerful argument in favor of Biblical truth. If many events in the Bible can be proved to be accurately recorded, and none can be proved to be inaccurate, then does it not stand to reason that we must give credibility to those areas for which we have no proof?

In order to establish that credibility, we must show what proof we do have. All these issues can be explored in more depth, but a basic defense for the reliability of the New Testament follows, including support for the New Testament from writings other than the Bible (both Christian and non-Christian), support from archaeology, and a thorough look at how the integrity of the original Scriptures has been maintained through the centuries.

History and the New Testament

Many critics argue that the New Testament documents are unreliable since they were written by Jesus' disciples and supported by other Christians. They claim that there is no confirmation of Jesus or New Testament events in non-Christian sources. This claim is false, and the objection itself is ill-founded. We will examine eyewitness accounts and also non-Christian confirmation of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Eyewitness Accounts in the New Testament

Critics often reject the authority of the Bible because it was written by people who were close to Jesus. To reject records because they come from eyewitnesses is a false premise. Those who witness an event and know the people involved personally are considered the best sources. This applies to firsthand accounts of battles, crimes, or anything else. New Testament witnesses should not be disqualified simply because they were close to the events they related.

"Suppose there were four eyewitnesses to a murder. There was also one witness who arrived on the scene after the actual killing and saw only the victim's body. Another person heard a secondhand report of the killing. In the trial the defense attorney argues: 'Other than the four eyewitnesses, this is a weak case, and the charges should be dismissed for lack of evidence.' ... Since the New Testament witnesses were the only eyewitness and contemporary testimonies to Jesus, it is a fallacy to misdirect attention to the non-Christian secular sources."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

The New Testament authors repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses, and also reinforce that their listeners, too, have seen and heard these things.

"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."

2 Peter 1:16

"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. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 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."

1 John 1:1-3

"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, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

Luke 1:1-3

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

Acts 1:1-3

"After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

I Corinthians. 15:6-8

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

John 20:30-31

"'We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.'" (Peter speaking)

Acts 10:39-42

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed."

1 Peter 5:1

"After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."

Acts 1:9

"'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.'" (Peter speaking)

Acts 2:22

"At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. '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. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.'

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'"

Acts 26:24-28

Critics would gladly have refuted these claims and exposed these errors, but they could not. The critics, too, were witnesses to these things, as the apostles often stated.

The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of ... 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 church had to reckon with. There were others less well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful 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?

In other words, they could not have lied about these things, because they would have been caught.

The eyewitness records should be considered the authoritative voice on Jesus' life and words. However, confirming evidence for Jesus can be gleaned outside the New Testament.

Supporting evidence for New Testament history

from early Christian writers outside the Bible

(taken from Josh McDowell's New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

Eusebius - In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius preserves the writings of Papias, bishop of Heirapolis (AD 130), in which Papius records sayings of the apostle John.

Irenaeus -Irenaeus was Bishop of Lyons (AD 180) and student of Polycarp. Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna and was martyred in AD 156 at the age of 86. Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus wrote,

"So firm is the ground upon which the gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own particular doctrine."

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III

Clement of Rome - Clement of Rome (circa AD 95) used Scripture as a reliable and authentic source.

Ignatius - Ignatius (AD 70-110), bishop of Antioch, was martyred for his faith. He knew all the apostles and was a disciple of Polycarp. Ignatius based his faith on the accuracy of the Bible and had ample material and witnesses to support the Scriptures.

Tatian - Tatian (circa AD 170) organized the Scriptures in order to put them in the first "harmony of the Gospels," the Diatessaron.

Supporting evidence for New Testament history

from early non-Christian writers outside the Bible

(taken from Josh McDowell's New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

Tacitus - Tacitus was a first-century Roman, and is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world. He gives an account of the great fire of Rome, for which some blamed Emperor Nero. According to Tacitus, in response to this report, Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and tortured them. Tacitus goes on to describe the Christians:

"Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular."

Tacitus, The Annals and the Histories

The "mysterious superstition" refers to the resurrection of Jesus.

Suetonius - Suetonius was chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138). He confirms the report in Acts 18:2 that Claudius commanded all Jews (among them Priscilla and Aquila) to leave Rome in AD 49.

Josephus - Josephus (circa AD 37-100), a Pharisee of the priestly line and a Jewish historian, worked under Roman authority. He wrote an autobiography as well as two major works, Jewish Wars (AD 77-78) and Antiquities of the Jews (AD 94). He also wrote a minor work, Against Apion. He makes many statements that verify the historical nature of both the Old and New Testaments. Josephus supports the Old Testament canon without the Apocrypha. He lists the names of the books, identical with our thirty-nine. He grouped them into twenty-two books, corresponding with the Hebrew alphabet.

"For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his laws. ... The prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life."

Josephus, Against Apion

Josephus also refers to Jesus as the brother of James, who was stoned to death. His reference to Jesus confirms that Jesus was a real person in the first century, that he was identified by others as the Christ, and that he had a brother named James who died a martyr's death at the hands of the high priest Albinus and his Sanhedrin.

Josephus also confirmed the existence and martyrdom of John the Baptist.

Thallus - Thallus wrote around AD 52. Only fragments of his writings survive, preserved by other writers. Thallus recorded the darkness following the crucifixion, as well as the earthquake. Thallus explains the darkness as a solar eclipse, but also reports that the death of Jesus occurred during a full moon. A solar eclipse can not take place during a time of full moon.

Pliny the Younger - Pliny was a Roman author and administrator. In a letter to Emperor Trajan in AD 112, Pliny described the early Christian worship practices - how they would meet before light; sing hymns to Christ; take an oath not to do wicked deeds or to commit fraud, theft, or adultery and never to lie; then they would partake of food. This provides evidence that early Christians worshiped Christ as God and followed the practice of breaking bread together, as reported in Acts 2:42 and 46.

Emperor Trajan - In reply to Pliny's letter, Trajan instructed that Christians who were denounced and did not deny that they were Christians be punished. One accused could vindicate himself by adoring the Roman gods and be pardoned.

Talmud - Writings of the Sanhedrin record Jesus' crucifixion, the time (Passover), and the intent of the Jewish religious leaders to kill him.

Lucian - Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who wrote sarcastically about Christianity. He describes, however sarcastically, Christian beliefs and practices, including their belief in eternal life and in the resurrection of a man everyone knew to be crucified. His text confirms that Jesus was worshiped, that he introduced new teachings which his followers observed, that he was crucified, and that Christians denied false Gods.

Mara Bar-Serapion - Mara Bar-Serapion was a Syrian, wrote to his son sometime between the late first and early third centuries. His letter contains reference to Jesus and his execution by the Jews. He also showed that the Jews gained nothing by it, as their kingdom was abolished shortly thereafter.

Gnostic "Gospel of Truth" - There were many non-Christian (heretical) groups flourishing after the time of Christ, among them the Gnostics. "The Gospel of Truth," written circa AD 135-160, also confirms that Jesus was a historical person.

The Acts of Pontius Pilate - Though the document itself does not survive, it is referred to by Justin Martyr in about AD 150 and by Tertullian about AD 200. Both claim the Acts of Pontious Pilate mentions Jesus' hands and feet being pierced by the nails of the cross. It also mentions lots being cast over his garments. Justin Martyr also claims that the miracles of Jesus can be confirmed in this document.

Norman Geisler summarizes:

The primary sources for the life of Christ are the four Gospels. However there are considerable reports from non-Christian sources that supplement and confirm the Gospel accounts. These come largely from Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Samaritan sources of the first century. In brief they inform us that:

1) Jesus was from Nazareth;

2) he lived a wise and virtuous life;

3) he was crucified in Palestine under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, being considered the Jewish King;

4) he was believed by his disciples to have been raised from the dead three days later;

5) his enemies acknowledged that he performed unusual feats they called 'sorcery';

6) his small band of disciples multiplied rapidly, spreading even as far as Rome;

7) his disciples denied polytheism, lived moral lives, and worshiped Christ as Divine.

This picture confirms the view of Christ presented in the New Testament Gospels.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

The New Testament Canon

The first Christians gathered together for meetings and read the Old Testament, as Jesus had done. Those who knew Jesus would talk about him and share his teachings. Paul's letters were copied and circulated and read during gatherings. As the eyewitnesses began to die, Christians realized they must write down the facts about Jesus' life and work so they would not be lost or altered. The gospels were set down. By the second century, four were agreed upon as genuinely inspired.

The church did not decide what would be called Scripture, it merely recognized Scripture.

"A book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather, it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God."

Norman Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible

Five principles guided the recognition and collection of divinely inspired books:

1) Was the book written by a prophet of God?

2) Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? (Miracles, fulfilled prophesy, etc.)

3) Did the message tell the truth about God? If there was any doubt, they threw it out.

4) Did the message of the book come with the power of God/transforming power?

5) Was the book accepted by the people of God?

6) For the New Testament Canon, the primary test was apostolicity. Was it written by an apostle or was it approved by an apostle?

The rise of heretical groups and persecution combined to require Christians to establish which books were divinely inspired once and for all.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who wrote in the mid to late second century (AD 160-180) referred to the four gospels as a clearly established and accepted fact.

"For as there are four quarters of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and as the Church is dispersed over all the earth, and the gospel is the pillar and base of the Church and the breath of life, so it is natural that it should have four pillars, breathing immortality from every quarter and kindling the life of men anew. Whence it is manifest that the Word, the architect of all things, who sits upon the cherubim and holds all things together, having been manifested to men, has given us the gospel in fourfold form, but held together by one Spirit.

Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews (i.e. Jews) in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure (i.e., their death, which strong tradition places at the time of the Neronian persecution in 64), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter's preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord ..., himself produced his Gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia."

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III

The list of New Testament books we have now was agreed upon and in use long before the councils of Laodicea (AD 363) and Carthage (AD 397) formally accepted them.

The word "canon" came from word meaning "standard." Origen in the third century called the scriptures "the rule of faith, the standard by which we are to measure and evaluate." Thus the collected Scriptures came to be called the "canon."

In AD 367, Athanasius gave the earliest list of New Testament. books that is exactly what we have today. Jerome and Augustine followed suit, and the New Testament was defined. There has been no serious questioning of the New Testament since.

New Testament Documentation

The original New Testament documents were written in AD 50 -AD 90. The earliest surviving fragments date to AD 120, and there are some 50 other fragments dating within 100 years of that time.

Approximately 5,686 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament still exist.

In addition to the Greek manuscripts, more than 19,000 manuscripts exist in other languages. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. Homer's Iliad is second, with 643 manuscripts surviving.

We believe we have accurate text for Sophocles' plays, but the earliest substantial manuscript upon which that assumption is based was written more than 1,400 years after the poet's death. Though no original manuscripts written by Paul or the other apostles have survived, the earliest complete manuscripts date to 250 to 300 years after their writing. Partial manuscripts date even closer to the composition date. Though there are minor differences in many of the manuscripts, "not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading."

(David Dockery, Foundations for Biblical Interpretation)

"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 ... And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt."

F.F. Bruce

"To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity.

"[The New Testament] is the most remarkably preserved book in the ancient world. Not only do we have a great number of manuscripts but they are very close in time to the originals they represent."

Edward Glenny

Even if there were no manuscripts available, the New Testament could be reconstructed almost in its entirety from the writings of the early church fathers. They quoted from it so prolifically that nearly every verse is accounted for. This also helps establish which New Testament books were considered scripture by the earliest Christians.

(Geisler, Greenlee)

The New Testament documents, in their original text, are historically accurate. But how do we know the Bible we have today is what was written thousands of years ago? In order to prove that this is true, we must first establish the accuracy of our earliest documents, then the accuracy of translations.

Jesus himself claims that the Law will not be lost or changed:

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth shall pass away, not one jot, not one tittle, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

Matthew 5:18

(Jot (Hebrew "y" or "yodh") is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

A tittle is the tiny mark which makes the Hebrew letters "r" and "d" different.)

But how can we know that the New Testament we read is essentially the same one penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and others, and inspired by God?

For one thing, both Old and New Testament documents were copied with excruciating attention to detail. When an entire scroll had been copied by hand, one letter at a time, if one mistake was made, the scroll was destroyed. In addition, the Jewish copyists of the Hebrew Scriptures adhered to detailed requirements in copying (taken from Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler):

1) Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way;

2) Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column;

3) Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink;

4) Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original, but every letter was copied singly from the original;

5) No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread;

6) Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

"Do instructors dismiss the writings of the Greek historian Thucydides of the philosopher Aristotle or the tragedians Sophocles and Euripides as being unworthy of serious consideration because of textual problems and variant readings?

"Probably not. Yet many people think the Bible is a faulty document, when in fact none of those other works can approach the reliability of the New Testament text."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler,

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

Two factors are most important in determining the reliability of a historical document: the number of manuscript copies in existence, and the time between when it was first written and the oldest existing copy. Consider the New Testament in comparison with other ancient writer's works:

Author Written Earliest Copies Time Span # of Copies

Caesar (Gallic Wars) 100-44 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,000 years 10

Plato (Tetralogies) 427-347 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 7

Thucydides (History) 460-400 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 8

Sophocles 496-406 BC c. AD 1,000 c. 1,400 years 100

Catullus 54 BC c. AD 1,550 c. 1,600 years 3

Euripides 480-406 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,500 years 9

Aristotle 384-322 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,400 years 5

Homer (Iliad) 800 BC c. 400 BC c. 400 years 643

Herodotus (History) 480-425 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,350 years 8

Demosthenes 300 BC c. AD 1100 c. 1,400 years 200

Livy (History of Rome) 59 BC c. 350 (partial) c. 400 years 1 partial

to AD 17 c. 10th century c. 1,000 years 19

Pliny Secundus

(Natural History) AD 61-113 c. AD 850 c. 750 years 7

New Testament AD 40-100 AD 125 25 years 24,000+

(from Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, and Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict)

posted: 7/13/2006 7:48 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

"How can you believe a Bible that is full of contradictions? It is, after all, filled with obvious discrepancies ..."

This skeptical statement assumes that the Bible disagrees with itself, and that God could not have inspired a fallible document. If the Bible did contain demonstrable errors, it would show that at least those parts could not have come from a perfect, all-knowing God Ñ this conclusion is true. But the initial premise --that the Scriptures are full of mistakes--is not true.

Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case.

Before we address specific concerns in the scriptures, let's discuss the issue of fairness. We must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt. This is the rule in other literature, and there should not be different rules applied to examining the Bible. Unless we can prove the author wrong, we must assume he is correct.

Next, what is a contradiction? The law of non-contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be both "A" and "non-A" at the same time. In other words, it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time.

One would have to demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture in order to prove a contradiction. Two statements may be different without being contradictory.

For example, Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus at Jericho. Mark and Luke mention only one. However, neither of these statements denies the other.

Josh McDowell gives the following example:

"Suppose you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend,Jim, and you tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend, John, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police.

"When your friends compare notes, there is a seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If you had told Jim that you talked only to the mayor, you would have contradicted that statement by what you told John.

"The statements you actually made to Jim and John are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers, p. 31

Sometimes, two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties. All languages, including Greek and Hebrew, have their peculiarities that make them difficult to translate.

For example, Paul's conversion as recorded in Acts:

"The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."

Acts 9:7, KJV

"And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me."

Acts 22:9, KJV

These statements seem contradictory, but the Greek verb for "hear" is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7, the construction expresses sounds reaching the ear. It does not indicate any understanding. The construction in Acts 22:9 describes a hearing which includes mental understanding. Our English translation is simply not as expressive as the Greek, but the passage is not therefore contradictory.

Details may be left out of a biblical account. Again, this does not make the account contradictory. Something may not be explained thoroughly, but that does not make it wrong. We can speculate on the details that were omitted and offer explanations, which may or may not be accurate. However, a plausible explanation does prove that the passage is not necessarily contradictory.

"When a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error. Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.

"As historical and archaeological study proceed, new light is being shed on difficult portions of Scripture and many 'errors' have disappeared with the new understanding. We need a wait-and-see attitude on some problems."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers, p. 32-33

The following is a summary of principles for understanding apparent discrepancies in the Bible:

? 1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.

? 2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.

? 3. Understand the context of the passage.

? 4. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.

? 5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages.

? 6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.

? 7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.

? 8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact.

? 9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.

? 10. The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.

? 11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.

? 12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices.

? 13. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.

? 14. General statements don't necessarily mean universal promises.

? 15. Later revelation supercedes previous revelation.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 47

Multiple authors theories

The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) were supposedly written by Moses, yet many passages regarding Moses are written in the third person, rather than the first. Also, the Pentateuch contains the death of Moses. Critics assume such incongruities indicate that Moses did not write the Pentateuch. There are several reasons this need not be the case.

For one, an author need not inscribe with his own hand, especially in the case of a leader. Books could have been, and often were, dictated. As Josh McDowell points out in Evidence, what person would deny Hamurabi's authorship of Hamurabi's Code, simply because his hand did not chisel it into stone?

Second, Moses could have written of himself in the third person, as did Josephus (first century AD, The Wars of the Jews); Xenophon (fifth century BC, Anabasis) and Julius Caesar (first century BC, Gallic Wars).

It is true that the account of Moses' death was a later addition to Deuteronomy, traditionally attributed to Joshua.

"Chapter 34 is demonstrably post-Mosaic, since it contains a short account of Moses’ decease. But this does not endanger in the slightest the Mosaic authenticity of the other thirty-three chapters, for the closing chapter furnishes only that type of obituary which is often appended to the final work of great men of letters."

Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 224

Those who argue for multiple authorship of the Pentateuch identify differences in writing styles and divine names as reasons for dissecting books, chapters, and even sentences. A later editor, it is theorized, pulled together these varying accounts. The major "identified" sources follow:

? J source = Author used Yahweh (Jehovah) to refer to God

? E source = Author used Elohim to refer to God

? P source = Priestly tradition - author wrote about laws, ceremonies

? Other sources help fill in some of the gaps

Thus critics dissect which author wrote which portions of the Pentateuch, sometimes dividing a single verse between three authors.

It is theorized that the accounts of three different documents regarding the naming of Isaac have been included in Genesis. Genesis 17:17 (P-source) says Sarah laughed when told she would have a baby. Genesis 18:12 (attributed to J-source) says Abraham laughed with disbelief. Genesis 21:6 (E-source) says they laughed with joy at his birth. Thus the name Isaac, which means laughter. Critics say these three authors each had a different story to explain the origin of Isaac's name. Is it really too much to believe that both Abraham and Sarah laughed with disbelief when they were individually told that Isaac would be born, and that later they laughed with joy at his birth?

This story, as all others dissected into their respective "authors," is incomplete when divided into three different stories. No single source tells a complete or even comprehensible story.

William H. Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, gave an illustration of the arbitrary division of scripture. He took Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and subjected it to the same treatment to which the documentarians were subjecting some of the Pentateuch narratives. Here are his results (phrases in parenthesis Green attributes to a fictional "redactor"):

Repetition and alleged contradictions

Critics' assumption: Since no author would have reason to repeat the same story twice, the repetition of certain narratives (parallel accounts) indicates more than one author at work. Those that are contradictory are obviously the work of a redactor or editor who wove together two different accounts of the same story (interwoven accounts). Since he could not decide for himself which account was accurate, he included both so the reader could decide for himself.

However, this need not be the case. There are many other explanations for repeated accounts of the same incident. In many cases, the Hebrew style (also popular in many other writing styles) was to give a general account, then give a more detailed account. Some English writing styles also follow this pattern. Often, the biblical accounts are offered by different witnesses and are thus different, but not contradictory. In still other instances, the repetitions accounts are not repetitions at all, but true accounts of separate events that have similar details. Thus contradictions are natural, even necessary. Examples of each of these follow:

Repetitious accounts are sometimes different stories with similar details.

Example: Abraham's lie concerning his wife/sister;

The Bible records that Abraham told this lie two different times, and his son, Isaac, repeated the incident. Critics argue that the incident happened just once, but was recorded three times because the editor could not decide which one of his sources was accurate. However, this is not an editor's error, or proof of several authors recording the same story without accuracy. The event happened three times. Considering them variations of the same event assumes that men never make the same mistake twice, and that sons never make the same mistakes as their fathers. Bad assumption! Both Isaac and Abraham lied to a King Abimelech. This fact has been cited as proof that it is actually the same account, since it was the same king. However, not only were the same names often used for fathers and sons, but this was most often the rule for kings.

A general account followed by a more detailed account

Example: Genesis 1 and 2

Other times a story is retold (as the creation story) twice, once to introduce the subject and once to expand upon it or offer more details. We do this in our own language and culture.

Critics say Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other with two different and irreconcilable accounts of creation. Disagreements about the order of creation and the concept of God provide the main fodder for this argument. The first account of creation clearly gives the order. The second only indicates that the earth and animals had been created previous to the events discussed in chapter two. When God brings the animals that had been created before Adam, it is not an indication that Adam preexisted those animals.

Critics also argue that God is portrayed very differently in chapters one and two, thus demonstrating a different author for the two accounts. The argument goes something like this. The God of Genesis 1 is a transcendent God, as indicated by the actions attributed to him, God "called, saw, blessed, deliberated, worked, rested, created"

Genesis 2 reveals a more anthropomorphic God, God "fashions, breathes, plants, places, takes, sets, brings, closes up, builds, walks", he is much more "human" than the God in Genesis 1, thus the argument that Genesis 2 is written by a different author.

In reality, Genesis 1 describes the creation of the world. Genesis 2 details and further describes the specific creation of Adam and his immediate environment in the Garden of Eden. As for the argument that God is more "human" in chapter 2, man in his finite mind cannot express ideas about God in anything but anthropomorphisms. Calling, thinking, working, and resting are no less human qualities than breathing, planting, placing, and walking.

The two accounts of creation are not only compatible, but depend upon each other. The second chapter tells of "when the Lord God created the heavens and the earth," but says nothing about that creation, jumping straight to the creation of man.

"It must be emphasized that we do not have here an example of incompatible repetition. We have an example of a skeletal outline of creation as a whole, followed by a detailed focus on the final point of the outline--man."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 496

Different eyewitness accounts of the same event

Example: Four gospels

There are many examples of different accounts of the same story appearing in the Bible. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are full of such accounts in the lives and wars of the kings of Israel. The writings of the Prophets offer additional insights into these events.

Probably the most obvious instance of this occurring is in the four gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. They do so from four different perspectives, differing greatly in their accounts, and also overlapping in many areas. The accounts, though different, are not contradictory.

Rarity of words/lateness of words

This subject or rare words or words thought to be of later origin was discussed in the section on archaeology. To summarize, it is hard to prove a word is late. The fact that it is used rarely or even only once does not indicate that the word was unknown. In fact, the rule is the opposite. The fact that it is found in earlier writings indicates the word is earlier than formerly thought, not that the writing is later.

"Three thousand Old Testament words appear less than six times; fifteen hundred occur but once. Certainly a greater knowledge of Hebrew literature and conversation would establish many of these as everyday Hebrew terms. Similarly, no one would argue that words like 'invasion' (1 Samuel 30:14), 'jumping' (Nahum 3:2) and 'lance' (Jeremiah 50:42) are rare in English, yet they are found only once in the English Bible."

Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 126-127

Specific "contradictions" in Scripture

Book of Judges: Account of the death of Sisera.

Judges 5:25-27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain Sisera while he was drinking milk. Judges 4:21 says she did it while he was asleep. However, a closer reading of the former scripture reveals that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment she killed him. In fact, the Judges 5 reference occurs in a poetic song extolling Jael's deed. The poetic structure leaps quite naturally from one event to the next, including Sisera's meal and later death.

Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

Both Matthew and Luke give a genealogy for Jesus. However, the family trees are not identical. Critics say this proves the gospel narratives cannot be inspired.

This apparent contradiction is most easily explained in that Matthew showed Jesus' legal lineage, through his foster father, Joseph. Luke, who makes special reference to the fact that Joseph was only thought to be Jesus' father, but actually was not, traces Jesus' lineage through Mary.

Peter's denial of Jesus

The gospels all record Peter's denial of Christ before his crucifixion. However, Mark's gospel seems to be slightly different. The others record Jesus telling Peter the denial will occur three times before the cock crows. Mark records Jesus telling Peter he will deny him three times before the cock crows twice.

So what was it? Once or twice? According to Josh McDowell and Don Stewart in their book Answers, it is quite reasonable that Christ made both statements. Mark, however, records the story in more detail. This is natural, since Mark's gospel was written under the influence of Peter.

"A possible reconstruction would be the following: Jesus reveals to Peter that before the cock crows, Peter will deny him three times. Peter, as was his way, probably objected loudly to this idea that he would deny his Lord. Jesus then in turn repeats his earlier prediction, along with a further note that before the cock crows twice, Peter will deny him three times."

Josh McDowell, Don Stewart

Time of Christ's crucifixion

Mark records Christ was crucified in the third hour (Mark 15:25), while John records Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews in the sixth hour, then turning him over to be crucified (John 19:14).

According to Jewish reckoning, the third hour was 9 a.m. Thus the sixth hour would have been noon.

The most reasonable possibility is that John is using a different method of reckoning time than Mark. The Romans calculated the day from midnight to midnight. Thus John's sixth hour would have been 6 a.m., the time of the last trial and sentencing, giving time for the events leading up to the crucifixion, which Mark places around 9 a.m.

According to Josh McDowell, there is good evidence that John used the Roman method of computing time. In John 20:19, the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead is considered part of that same day. For the Jews, the new day would begin with sunset.

Was Jesus in the tomb three days?

According to Matthew 12:40, Jesus prophesied that, just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so he would be three days and three nights in the earth.

However, Christ was crucified and buried on Friday and resurrected on Sunday. This accounts for two partial days, one full day, and two nights.

Mark 8:31 records Jesus as saying he would be raised after three days. In Matthew 16:21, he says he will be raised on the third day. These expressions were used interchangeably.

According to Josh McDowell (Answers), Matthew 27:63 gives weight to the idiomatic usage of these interchangeable phrases. After the Pharisees tell Pilate of the prediction of Jesus, "After three days I will rise again," they ask for a guard to secure the tomb until the third day.

The expression "one day and one night" was an idiom the Jews used to indicate a day, even only part of a day. This is evident in 1 Samuel 30:12-13 and Genesis 42:17.

"The phrases 'after three days' and 'on the third day' are not contradictory, either to each other or with Matthew 12:40, but simply idiomatic, interchangeable terms, clearly a common mode of Jewish expression."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, (Answers, p. 181-182)

The death of Judas

According to Matthew, Judas hanged himself. Through Mark, Peter tells us he fell and was crushed by the impact of falling head first. But Matthew does not say that Judas did not fall; and Peter does not say that Judas did not hang himself. And Peter did not say that Judas died by falling head first. He says that his body eventually fell headlong and burst apart. This could have occurred long after he died.

Here's Josh McDowell's possible reconstruction (from Answers): Judas hanged himself on a tree on the edge of a precipice that overlooked the valley of Hinnom. After he had hung there some time, the limb snapped or the rope gave way and the body fell down the ledge. Such precipices are extremely common in the Hinnom valley.

Did Matthew know his prophets?

Matthew relates how Judas threw his thirty pieces of silver into the sanctuary before committing suicide, and how the money was used by the priests to buy a potter's field. Matthew concludes by saying that this action fulfilled what the prophet Jeremiah had said.

The prophecy appears in Zechariah 11:12-13.

Various solutions have been offered. One, that Matthew is referring to an oral prophecy that was not written down, or a written prophecy that has since been lost and was not included in the canon. Another, that a copyist made an error, and the original text read "Zechariah."

But a more probable solution is that Jeremiah was the first book in the ancient rabbinic order of prophetic books, according to the Talmud. Matthey was quoting from a collection of books, collectively referred to by the title of the first book, "Jeremiah." The same thing occurs in Luke 24:44, where Psalms is used to refer to the entire third division of the Hebrew canon.

Perhaps the best explanation is that Matthew is combining two prophecies, one from Jeremiah and one from Zechariah, and mentions the major prophet in reference. Jeremiah mentions buying the field (32:6-8). Zechariah adds the details of the thirty pieces of silver and the money thrown on the temple floor.

"There do occur in the Bible different perspectives of the same event, different emphases in retelling incidents and other apparent discrepancies. There have been difficulties in translating the original Hebrew or Greek text. There have been a host of misinterpretations of biblical passages. Nonetheless, when twentieth-century Christians open the Bible, they are reading the inspired, preserved, reliable Word of God. 'The grass withers,' said Isaiah, 'and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever' (Isaiah 40:8)."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, p. 47)

posted: 7/13/2006 7:49 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Inspiration of Scripture
"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." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Is the Bible Divinely Inspired?

Inspiration can be defined as the mysterious process by which God worked through human writers, employing their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings. (Norman Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible)

Inspiration inevitably leads to inerrancy. Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs, properly interpreted, will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether this has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. The Bible claims to be inspired by God, and is thus inerrant in its original writing

"The bottom line is that the Bible has been breathed by God. He used men to write out exactly what he wanted them to write. He kept them free from error but at the same time used their unique personalities and styles to convey exactly what he wanted."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

The Claims of Scripture

Scripture itself claims to be inspired by God. Other sacred writings also claim inspiration, but history and prophesy bear out the truth of the Bible's claim.

Many verses make this claim, including countless uses of the phrases "Thus says the Lord," "This is what the Lord says," and others. A few verses follow:

"But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.

Zechariah 7:12

(Prophets continually referred to other writings as having divine authority. This is only one example.)

"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."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Hebrews 4:12

"He (Jesus) said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'"

Luke 24:44

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws."

Psalm 119:105

"And we have the world of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:19-21

"When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do.' Moses then wrote down everything the Lord and said."

Exodus 24:3-4

Many times, as in the following verse, God commanded his prophets to write his words. (See also Jeremiah 36:28; Isaiah 8:1; Habakkuk 2:2; among others.)

"Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness."

Isaiah 30:8

In John 10:35, Jesus refers to the writers of Scripture, "to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken."

These are only a few verses that show the Scriptures themselves claim to be Scripture--inspired by God and written at his request. This holds for the original writings, not the inspiration of copyists, though we covered the amazing accuracy with which the Scriptures have been transcribed through the centuries in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament.

"Although only the autographs (original writings) are inspired, it may be said nevertheless that all good copies or translations are adequate."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence the Demands a Verdict

"The Bibles we have today are accurate transmissions of what existed two thousand years ago. We simply have a translation in our current language of the God-breathed Scriptures that were originally written in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence the Demands a Verdict

What we have is, for all practical purposes, the inspired word of God.

Other than the Bible's own claims, there are supports that it is God's word.


The unity of the Bible bears witness to its divine inspiration. Despite the fact that it was written over a period of about 1,500 years by more than 40 authors, there is one unfolding story of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It is one astoundingly continuous work.

Testimony of Early Christians

We also have the testimony of early church. We know from Scripture and from other sources that these words were considered the Word of God from the time they were first set down. In the case of the New Testament writings, we have other writings of the day referring to the letters of Paul and Peter, as well as the Gospels, as Scripture.

The Jewish People

One of the strongest arguments for the existence of God and proof of his Word is the existence of the Jewish people.

About 4,000 years ago, God promised Abram, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; so you shall be a blessing: And I will bless those that bless you and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Gen. 12: 2, 3)

"And the Lord said to Abram, Now lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever." (Gen. 12: 14, 15)

In other words, God promised to Abram:

? 1. A great nation

? 2. A great name

? 3. Being a blessing to all nations

? 4. A land which shall forever belong to his descendants

Several hundred years later, the nation numbered in the millions. They were about to enter the land of promise when God gave them some promises and warnings. He warned (Deuteronomy) against disobedience. He promised he would use other nations to remove them from that land if they were unfaithful to him. He predicted that they would be scattered across the whole earth as strangers in unfamiliar lands and that they would find no rest from their wanderings. God also promised he would bring them back into their own land.

What has been the verdict of history? The children of Israel fell into idolatry and were removed from their homeland. In 606 BC King Nebuchadnezzar took the people captive to Babylon and returned in 588-586 BC to burn the city and temple.

God allowed his people to return to their land in 537-536 BC, or after 70 years (Ezra 1). The removal from their homeland occurred a second time in AD 70 when Titus the Roman destroyed the city of Jerusalem and scattered the people.

For almost 1900 years, the Jews wandered about the earth as strangers who were persecuted from every side, until World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in concentration camps. In 1948, Israel was re-established as a nation, and Jews began returning to their homeland from all ends of the earth. Since then, they have survived the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Holy Day War.

Through all that time, the nation neither perished nor lost its national identity. History has demonstrated that any people who leave their homeland will, after about five generations, lose their national identity by being absorbed into the new culture, but the Jews remained a distinct entity. They have survived, while the nations that persecuted them (Moab, Ammon, Edon, Philistia, and many others) have either been completely destroyed or completely lost their identity.

"Have you ever heard of a Swedish Moabite? A Russian Philistine? A German Edomite? An American Ammonite? No! These people have been totally absorbed into other cultures and races. However, have you ever heard of a Swedish Jew? A Russian Jew? A German Jew? An American Jew? Yes! As prophesied, they have not lost their identity."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Prophecy Confirms Divine Inspiration

Fulfilled prophecy serves as some of the most convincing proof that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

"The purpose of prophecy is to let us know that God exists and that he has a plan for this world. But the foretelling of people, places, and events hundreds of years before their occurrence, the Bible demonstrates a knowledge of the future that is too specific to be labeled a good guess. By giving examples of fulfilled prophecy, the Scriptures give a strong testimony to their own inspiration."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.' You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them ?

"From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.' You have neither heard not understood; from of old your ear has not been open."

Isaiah 48:3, 5

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son ...'

Romans 1:1-4

Fulfilled prophecy as proof of the Bible's inspiration/accuracy

"And we have the world of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:19-21

"According to Deut. 18, a prophet was false if he made predictions that were never fulfilled. No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfilled. Hundreds of predictions, some of them given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled. The time (Dan. 9), city (Mic. 5:2) and nature (Is. 7:14) of Christ's birth were foretold in the Old Testament, as were dozens of other things about his life, death, and resurrection (see Is. 53). Numerous other prophecies have been fulfilled, including the destruction of Edom (Obadiah 1), the curse on Babylon (Isaiah 13), the destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26) and Nineveh (Nahum 1-3), and the return of Israel to the land (Isaiah 11:11). Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophesy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible."

Norman Geisler, William Nix,

A General Introduction to the Bible

Micah predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Zechariah predicted that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, that he would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver, that his hands and feet would be pierced, that his bones would not be broken. Specific details, not vague generalizations that could be interpreted to fit many situations. And they all came true with 100 percent accuracy.

"Even a casual awareness of the prophecies concerning the Messiah must convince all but the most biased reader of the truth of the Bible."

Josh McDowell, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

The chances of that happening by coincidence, according to Peter Stoner in Science Speaks, are 1 in 10 to the power of 157, or the number 10 followed by 157 zeros. You can't imagine a number that big or a probability that small.

"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:21

Prophecy -- Where prophesied Fulfillment
Jesus would be born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14 -- Matthew 1:28-25
Of the tribe of Judah Genesis 49:10 -- Luke 3:23, 33
Descended from Jesse Isaiah 11:1 -- Luke 3:32
Of the house of David Jeremiah 23:5 -- Luke 3:31
Born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 -- Matthew 2:1
Preceded by a messenger Isaiah 40:3 -- Matthew 3:1-2
Enter Jerusalem on a donkey Zechariah 9:9 -- Luke 19:35-37
Betrayed by a friend Psalm 41:9 -- Matthew 26:48-50
Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver Zechariah 11:12 -- Matthew 26:15
Silent before his accusers Isaiah 53:7 -- Matthew 27:12
Hands and feet pierced Psalm 22:16 -- Luke 23:33;John 20:25
Crucified with thieves Isaiah 53:12 -- Matthew 27:38
Interceded for his persecutors Isaiah 53:12 -- Luke 23:34
Garments parted Psalm 22:18 -- John 19:23
Lots cast for garments Psalm 22:18 -- John 19:24
Gall and vinegar offered to him Psalm 69:21 -- Matthew 27:34
His bones not broken Psalm 34:20 -- John 19:33
His side pierced Zechariah 12:10 -- John 19:34
He was buried with the rich Isaiah 53:9 -- Matthew 27:57-60
His resurrection Psalm 16:10 -- Acts 2:31

posted: 7/13/2006 7:52 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Archaeology is the study of non-perishable debris, the rubbish man has left behind him that has survived the ravages of time. The task of the archaeologist is to take what remains from a society and reconstruct what the artifacts tell us.

Early digs were driven by the hope of finding buried treasure. Today, scientific methods are used to recover and study the remains of the past in order to better understand the ancient people and their lives.

Archaeology without history gives us only a sequence of cultural development. History gives us the chronology, events, people, places. Archaeological finds of the past one hundred years have verified much of the Bible's history. So far, the findings have verified, and in no case disputed, the historical biblical record.

While archaeology can not prove the Bible is the Word of God, it can illustrate the accuracy of many biblical passages and shed light on various passages in the Bible. You are on solid ground arguing that archaeology confirms the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible, that it can illuminate formerly obscure passages. You are on shaky ground to claim it proves divine inspiration or revelation.

"One cannot stress too strongly the importance of the Bible giving an accurate historical picture. Christianity is a historical faith which claims that God has broken into history with many mighty acts. ... If the biblical writers were incorrect in their historical picture, serious doubt would then be cast upon their trustworthiness in areas which couldn't be verified. ... [But] if the authors of Scripture are accurate in their accounts of the things that transpired, it then follows that they cannot be ruled out of court because they happen to mention things out of the ordinary."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Archaeological Support for the Bible

From Genesis to Revelation, there is not a book in the Bible that can not draw support from the field of archaeology. There are libraries of books devoted to the subject, and archaeologists are constantly digging up new revelations. Some of the highlights follow. Information has been drawn from several sources, including: Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict; Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers; Bryant Wood, archaeologist, Association for Biblical Research, as read on the web at christiananswers.net; The Oxford Bible Atlas; and Roberta Harris, Exploring the World of the Bible Lands. Other sources are cited as they are listed.

Biblical scholars once believed Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because it had been proven that writing was not in existence at the time of Moses. Therefore, it had to be of later authorship. Then, the "black stele" was discovered, containing the detailed laws of Hammurabi. It preceded Moses' writings by at least three centuries.

The Ebla Archives

One of the greatest archaeological finds in this century, Ebla was discovered in northern Syria in the 1970s. Excavations at Tell Mardikh, now known to be the site of Ebla, uncovered a palace which yielded some 15,000 clay tablets dating circa 2300 BC. Though most have not yet been translated, those that have demonstrate that the ancient site was once the prestigious city of Ebla, which ruled the Near East as the seat of a great empire. It is located in the modern-day city of Aleppo in North Syria. Its existence coincides with the time of the biblical patriarchs. The tablets provide an abundance of background material and biblical place names.

Among other things, the tablets mention Sodom and Gomorrah, previously thought by some to be mythical cities. The Ebla archives also preserve place names such as Hazor, Megiddo, Jerusalem, Lachish, Dor, Gaza, Ashtarot, and others. Personal names and common names of the time are also recorded, and correspond with the names we read from that time in biblical history.

Many words deemed "late words (600 BC) or Aramaisms (words influenced by Aramaic) can now be determined to be ancient. If they were used in Ebla in 2300, then they can hardly be lately developed.

Critics have long said Canaan was a word not used at the time of Moses and was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. Another word, "tehom" ("the deep") was said to be a late word (around 600 BC) and to prove a late writing of the creation account. Both the land of Canaan and the word "tehom" were found on the Ebla tablets, which predated Moses by some 800 years. Kitchen wrote of the Ebla archives:

"The lessons here are - or should be - clear. Set against two thousand years of history and development of the West Semitic dialects, the whole position of the dating of the vocabulary and usages in biblical hebrew will need to be completely re-examined."

K.A. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World

The Ebla archives also verify pagan religious practices of the time, also recorded in the Bible: the existence of temples, belief in certain gods, offerings, etc.

Old Testament Rulers and Empires

Many scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham because there were no records of them outside the Old Testament. The Hittites were thought to be biblical legend. Wrong again. Archaeological research has since uncovered evidence revealing more than 1,200 years of Hittite civilization. The capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey in 1906.

The Sumerian King List is an ancient tablet listing kings who reigned for long periods of time. The tablet records a great flood, after which there was a break in which no kings reigned, and when they were reinstated their reigns were much shorter. This corresponds with the Bible's record that the human life span was shortened following the flood.

Scholars once claimed that no Assyrian King Sargon ever lived, because the Bible was the only record of such a person (Isaiah 20:1). Then his palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event recorded in Isaiah 20-his capture of Ashdod-was recorded on the palace walls.

According to recorded history, the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus. The Bible, however, records a King Belshazzar, who reigned during the time of the prophet Daniel. Critics thought this was a biblical error, until tablets were found showing Belshazzar as Nabonidus' son, who served as co-regent with his father. Thus Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel "third highest ruler in the kingdom" (Daniel 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall-the highest available position. (Bryant Wood, archaeologist, Association for Biblical Research; christiananswers.net)

Sodom and Gomorrah

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was thought to be mythical until evidence revealed the existence of these cities as centers of commerce in the area where the Scriptures describe them. The biblical description of their demise seems to be no less accurate. Evidence points to earthquake activity, and bituminous pitch, which would be explained by the brimstone hurled down on those cities that had rejected God. There is even evidence that the layers of sedimentary rock were molded together by intense heat, and evidence of burning has been found on Mount Sodom. Secular archaeologists have suggested that an oil basin beneath the Dead Sea ignited and erupted. Whether or not this is true, "Such an explanation in no way subtracts from the miraculous quality of the event, for God controls natural forces. The timing of the event, in the context of warnings and visitation by angels, reveals its overall miraculous nature." (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)


Excavations of Jericho between 1930 and 1936 revealed something so startling that John Garstang and two other members of the archaeological team prepared and signed a statement describing what was found. In reference to these findings, Garstang says:

"As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city. Why so unusual? Because the walls of cities do not fall outwards, they fall inwards. And yet in Joshua 6:20 we read, 'The wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.' The walls were made to fall outward."

John Gartsang, The Foundation of Bible History, Joshua, Judges

Bryant Wood, writing for Biblical Archaeology Review, includes a list of collaboration between archaeological evidence and biblical narrative as follows:

1. The city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5, 7, 15; 6:5, 20).

2. The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:1; 3:15; 5:16).

3. The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodsheds (Joshua 6:1).

4. The siege was short (Joshua 6:15).

5. The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20).

6. The city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17, 18).

7. The city was burned (Joshua 6:24).

Saul, David, and Samuel

Saul's fortress at Gibeah has been excavated. One noteworthy find was that slingshots were one of the primary weapons of the day. This relates not only to David's victory over Goliath, but to the reference of Judges 20:16 that there were 700 expert slingers who "could sling a stone at a hair and not miss."

Upon Saul's death, Samuel tells us that his armor was put in the temple of Ashtaroth (a Canaanite fertility goddess) at Bet She'an, while Chronicles records that his head was put in the temple of Dagon, the Philistine corn god. This was thought to be an error because it seemed unlikely that enemy peoples would have temples in the same place at the same time. However, excavations have revealed that there are two temples at this site that are separated by a hallway: one for Dagon and the other for Ashtaroth.

One of the key accomplishments of David's reign was the capture of Jerusalem. Problematic in Scripture was that the Israelites entered the city by way of a tunnel that led to the Pool of Siloam. However, that pool was thought to be outside the city walls. Excavations in the 1960s revealed that the wall did indeed extend well past the pool.

The site of Solomon's temple can not be excavated due to its nearness to the Muslim holy site The Dome of the Rock. However, Philistine temples built in Solomon's time fit the design, decoration, and materials described in the Bible. One ornament with the inscription "belonging to the Temple of Yahweh" has been recovered and is in the Israel Museum.

The excavation of Gezer in 1969 ran across a massive layer of ash that covered most of the mound. Sifting through the ash yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts. Apparently, all three cultures had been there at the same time. This puzzled researchers greatly until they realized that the Bible confirms exactly what they found. "Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife." (1 Kings 9:16)

A remarkable inscription from the ninth century BC that refers to both the House of David and to the King of Israel was discovered in 1994. This was the first time the name of David had been found in any ancient inscription outside the Bible. The inscription refers not simply to a David, but to the House of David, the dynasty of the great Israelite king. It is possibly the oldest extra-biblical reference to Israel in Semitic script. It proves that both Israel and Judah were important kingdoms at this time.

Other Examples of Extra-biblical Confirmation of Biblical Events

(from Bryant Wood)

¥ Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.

¥ Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) to Sargon II, king of Syria, as recorded on his palace walls.

¥ Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.

¥ Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.

¥ Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.

¥ Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37) as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.

¥ Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24: 10-14) as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.

¥ Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16) as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

¥ Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

¥ The existence of Jesus as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.

¥ Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.

Tombs and Burial Sites

Burial sites of many people from the Bible have been found. Just as a tombstone today is used as "concrete" evidence of a person's life and death, so the tombs and sepulchers of the past can be used to determine the life and significance of those they contain.

The tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem has been identified since the first century as that which is now beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the 1800s, the Garden Tomb was identified as the temporary resting place for the body of Christ. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is generally accepted as the correct location.

Caiaphas was high priest from AD 18-36. He was the leader of the conspiracy to crucify Jesus. After his arrest, Jesus was detained at Caiaphas' house overnight. Caiaphas interrogated Jesus and handed him over to Pilate to be tried. Caiaphas continued to persecute the early church and the disciples (Acts 5:28-29). The Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a part just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeologists examined the tomb and found twelve ossuaries (receptacles for bones) containing the remains of 63 individuals, including those of Caiaphas. This remarkable discovery was the first to provide the physical remains of an individual named in the Bible.

Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman empire from 27 BC to AD 14. He issued the census decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The remains of Augustus' tomb exist today in the middle of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.

The Bible says that Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were buried in Hebron, in a cave called the Cave of Machpelah, purchased by Abraham (Genesis 23). Traditionally, this cave has been located below the Haram el-Khalil ("sacred precinct of the friend of the merciful one, God") in Hebron, today a Muslim mosque. References as early as the second century BC testify that this is the authentic location of the burial place of the patriarchs. The cave was explored by the Augustine Canons in 1119, at which time they claim to have found the bones of the patriarchs.

Kings of Judah were buried within the city of David. At the southern end of the city, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, there are two monumental tunnel tombs which many scholars believe are the tombs of David and Solomon. They have been damaged by quarrying, so no identifying inscriptions have survived. One king of Judah, Uzziah, was an exception to the burial custom. As a leper, he was not buried near the other kings, but "near them in a field" (2 Chronicles 26:23). In 1931, an inscription was found on the Mount of Olives dating to the first century AD: "Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah - do not open." His bones had apparently been moved from the field and transferred to a yet more remote location.

Cyrus the Great ruled the Persian empire from 559 to 530 BC and is best know for his capture of Babylon in 539 BC, predicted by Isaiah some 160 years earlier. Cyrus was buried in a simple gabled stone tomb outside his capital of Pasargadae in modern Iran. According to the historian Strabo, this inscription once graced the structure, "Oh man, I am Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, who founded the empire of Persia, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument."

Darius I the Great was king of the Persian empire from 522 to 486 BC. He gave permission to renew the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 6:1-12). His monumental tomb is cut into a cliff near the Persian capital of Persepolis, Iran. There are three other tombs there, thought to be those of the Persian king Xerxes (485-465 BC; married to Esther); Artaxerxes (465-424 BC; king while Ezra was a scribe and Nehemiah was a cupbearer; authorized Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls); and Darius II (423 to 405 BC; perhaps the Darius mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22?). However, aside from the tomb of Darius I, there are no accompanying inscriptions, so these identifications are uncertain.

Statues and Other Likenesses

Carvings and statues provide further evidence of the existence of biblical characters. Such likeness have been discovered for twelve Old Testament figures and six from the New Testament. These include (also taken from Bryant Wood):

¥ Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, 1504-1450 BC (Pharaoh of Egypt, possibly during the Exodus)

¥ Shishak, the Egyptian king who plundered the Temple during the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25-26)

¥ Jehu, king of Israel, who took power in a bloody coup; the only surviving likeness of a king of Israel or Judah (2 Kings 9:1-10, 36)

¥ Hazael, king of Aram, enemy of Israel (1Kings 19:15, 17; 2 Kings 8:7-15, 28-29; 9:14-15; 10:32-33; 12:17-18; 13:3, 22, 24, 25; Amos 1:4)

¥ Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, who invaded Israel (2 Kings 18:19, 29; 16:7, 10; 1 Chronicles 5"6, 26; 2 Chronicles 28: 20)

¥ Sargon II, king of Assyria, who defeated Ashdod and completed the siege of Amaria and took Israelites into captivity (Isaiah 20:1)

¥ Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who attacked Judah but was unable to capture Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13 - 19:37)

¥ Tirhakah, king of Egypt, who opposed Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:9)

¥ Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who succeeded his father Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37)

¥ Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon, whose messengers Hezekiah showed the royal treasury, much to the indignation of Isaiah (2 Kings 20:12-19)

¥ Xerxes I, king of Persia, who made Esther his queen (Esther; Ezra 4:6)

¥ Darius I, king of Persia, who allowed the returning exiles to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 4:24 - 6:15; Haggai 1:1, 15)

¥ Augustus, Roman emperor, 27 BC to AD 14, when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1)

¥ Tiberius, Roman emperor, AD 14 to 37, during Jesus' adulthood and crucifixion (Matthew 22:17

¥ Claudius, Roman emperor, AD 41 to 54, who ordered the Jews to leave Rome (Acts 11:28; 17:7; 18:2)

¥ Herod Agrippa I, ruler of Judea AD 37 to 44, who persecuted the early church (Acts 12:1-23; 23:35)

¥ Aretas IV, king of the Nabateans, 9 BC to AD 40, whose governor in Damascus attempted to arrest Paul (2 Corinthians 11:32)

¥ Nero (referred to as Caesar in the New Testament), Roman emperor, AD 54 to 68, whom Paul appealed to (Acts 25:11, 12, 21; 26:32; 28:19; Philippians 4:22)

Many man-made structures also have been excavated, some of which follow (courtesy Bryant Wood; also Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

¥ The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30)

¥ The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38)

¥ The temple of Baal/El-Berith in Schechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech's kingship and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49)

¥ The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4)

¥ The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1, 2; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25)

¥ The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab's chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38)

¥ The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30)

¥ The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5)

¥ The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16)

¥ The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes' eunuch (Esther 4:6)

¥ The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59)

¥ The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16)

¥ Jacob's well, where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4)

¥ The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14). This site was recorded nowhere except in the New Testament, but can now be identified in the northeast quarter of the old city. Traces of it were discovered in the course of excavations near the Church of St. Anne in 1888.

¥ The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4)

¥ The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17)

¥ The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29)

¥ Herod's palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35)

¥ The pavement. For centuries there has been no record of the court where Jesus was tried by Pilate (named Gabbatha, or the Pavement, John 19:13). William F. Albright, in The Archaeology of Palestine, shows that this court was the court of the Tower of Antonia, the Roman military headquarters in Jerusalem. It was left buried when the city was rebuilt in the time of Hadrian, and was not discovered until recently.

¥ The Pilate Inscription. A Latin inscription discovered in 1961 contained four lines, three of which were readable: "Tiberium, Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea." This inscription clarifies the title of Pontius Pilate as "prefect" at least during a time in his rulership. Tacitus and Josephus later referred to him as "procurator." The New Testament calls him "governor" (Matthew 27:2), a term which incorporates both titles. This inscription is the only archaeological evidence of both Pilate's name and this title.

¥ Three coins mentioned in the New Testament have been identified: the "tribute penny" or "denarius," equivalent to a day's wages; the 2/5 ounce silver coin that developed from the shekel (used in Judas' thirty pieces of silver, Matthew 26:14-15); and the "widow's mite" (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny.

Luke as a Historian

Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, has been attacked by scholars as an inaccurate historian. However, discoveries over the last century have vindicated Luke, proving him right to the smallest detail. Many of the fallacies formerly believed of Luke's writings follow:

At one time, it was conceded as fact that Luke was entirely wrong about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Critics argued that there was no census, and that everyone did not have to return to his ancestral home. They also argued that Quirinius was not governor of Syria at that time, but became governor around AD 6.

Archaeological discoveries show that the Romans did have a regular enrollment of taxpayers and held censuses every fourteen years, a procedure begun during the reign of Augustus.

Archaeologists also discovered an inscription fount in Antioch ascribing to Quirinius the governorship of Syria around 7 BC. Thus he was governor twice, in AD 6, as recorded by Josephus, and during the time of the early Roman census during which Christ was born. Luke does not ignore the later census conducted by Quirinius, but mentions it is Acts 5:37

An Egyptian papyrus was also discovered which gives directions for the conduct of a census. It reads: "Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them."

Archaeologists at first believed Luke's implication wrong that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia, and that Iconium was not (Acts 14:6). They based their belief on the writings of Romans such as Cicero, who indicated that Iconium was in Lycaonia. However, in 1910 Sir William Ramsay found a monument that showed that Iconium was a Phrygian city. Later discoveries have confirmed this.

Archaeological finds have identified most of the cities mentioned in the Book of Acts. The journeys of Paul can thus be accurately traced.

"In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without an error."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

Luke also references Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene, who ruled in Syria and Palestine (Luke 3:1) at the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry in AD 27. The only Lysanias known to ancient historians was killed in 36 BC, thus it was assumed that Luke was in error. However, an inscription found at Abila near Damascus confirms the existence of "Lysanias the Tetrarch" and is dated between AD 14 and 29, perfectly supporting Luke's record.

Excavations revealed the theater at Ephesus at which Luke records a riot (Acts 19:23-29). Luke also records a riot in Jerusalem because Paul took a Gentile into the temple (Acts 21:28). Greek and Latin inscriptions have been found that read: "No foreigner may enter within the barrier which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will be personally responsible for his ensuing death."

Luke's word choice was often called into question, too. His reference to Phillippi as a district of Macedonia was considered an error, as were his references to Philippian rulers as praetors, civil authorities of Thessalonica as politarchs, and use of the title proconsul for Gallio. All of these "errors" of Luke have since been verified by inscriptions or other archaeological finds. His use of the term "politarch," once considered conclusive evidence of Luke's unreliability, has since been vindicated. More than a dozen inscriptions have been unearthed in recent years which make use of that ancient Greek title.

"The Acts of the Apostles is now generally agreed in scholarly circles to be the work of Luke, to belong to the first century, and to involve the labors of a careful historian who was substantially accurate in his use of sources."

Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament

"For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. ... Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted."

A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Historian

Dead Sea Scrolls

The most famous biblical archaeological discovery of the past century, the Dead Sea Scrolls, did much to confirm the accuracy of transcription of the Bible since its original writings. The scrolls merit mention as an archaeological find. The following pages, written by Dr. Will Varner and taken from christiananswers.net.

"Problems still exist, of course, in the complete harmonization of archaeological material with the Bible, but none so serious as not to bear real promise of imminent solution through further investigation. It must be extremely significant that, in view of the great mass of corroborative evidence regarding the biblical history of these periods, there exists today not one unquestionable find of archaeology that proves the Bible to be in error at any point."

Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, 95

"In every period of Old Testament history, we find that there is good evidence from archaeology that the Scriptures speak the truth. In many instances, the Scriptures even reflect firsthand knowledge of the times and customs it describes. While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.

"In fact, while thousands of finds from the ancient world support in broad outline and often in detail the biblical picture, not one incontrovertible find has ever contradicted the Bible."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclepedia of Christian Apologetics, 52

"This great antiquity of the Bible histories in comparison with those of other writings, combined with the evolutionary preconceptions of the 19th century, led many scholars to insist that the Bible histories also were in large part merely legendary. As long as nothing was available, except copies of ancient manuscripts, for the evaluation of ancient histories, such teachings may have been persuasive. Now, however, it is no longer possible to reject the substantial historicity of the Bible, at least as far back as the time of Abraham, because of the remarkable discoveries of archaeology."

Henry M. Morris, Many Infallible Proofs, 300

"Archaeology has not yet said its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge."

Frederic G. Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology, 279

posted: 7/13/2006 7:53 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

The Christian faith centers on the figure of Jesus Christ. Belief in Jesus, his deity, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection are essential to salvation.

It follows that Jesus would be the focal point for attack from Christianity's critics. Attacks come from a variety of angles and involve several myths concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus was fully human. He was born to a Jewish family and lived his life in the lands surrounding Jerusalem. He cried, slept, worked, and was hungry. He knew anger, sadness, and was even near despair on the night before his death. He was also fully divine, equal with the Father, and given all authority in heaven and on earth.

This section will focus on refuting the most common attacks against the figure, character, deity, and resurrection of Jesus by answering the following myths:

Myth #1: Jesus never existed.

Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

Myth #4: Jesus never claimed to be God.

Myth #5: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

"This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without sciences and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times."

Philip Schaff, historian, Exposing the Myths about Jesus

Myth # 1: Jesus never existed.

There is no scholarly ground to stand on when it comes to a claim that, historically, Jesus never lived. Many Christian and non-Christian sources reference Jesus, demonstrating that he lived, performed miracles, gathered a following, angered the Jews by claiming to be the Messiah, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate about AD 30. Even non-Christian histories report his supposed resurrection and the growth of the Christian sect that followed. They also purport that Jesus was worshiped as God by the early church.

The New Testament contains twenty-seven separate documents which were written in the first century AD and contain the story of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of th Christian church. These facts were recorded by eyewitnesses. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, born AD 37, also records the existence of Jesus. Cornelius Tacitus (AD 112), a Roman historian, wrote about Jesus Christ while writing about the reign of Emperor Nero. He wrote of the existence of Christians in Rome and referred to Christianity when alluding to the burning of the temple of Jerusalem in AD 70. This history has been preserved by Sulpicius Severus. Other references to Jesus and his followers occur in the writings of the Roman historian Seutonius (AD 120).

"The testimony, both Christian and non-Christian, is more than sufficient to lay to rest any idea that Jesus, in fact, never existed. In light of the evidence, it is absurd to hold such a view."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

Refer to sections in this book on documentary support for the New Testament and historical reliability of the New Testament.

In short, between biblical and other historical accounts, we have as much or more information about Jesus than about most other historical figures. These accounts come from eyewitnesses and were written and circulated when Jesus' followers and critics were still alive to refute any errors. The extant manuscript copies are far closer to the original writings than any other document of antiquity, so there is no reason to doubt their authenticity.

"We know more about the life of Jesus than just about any other figure in the ancient world. His birth, life and death are revealed in much more detail than most ancient figures whose existence is taken for granted by historians."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

One argument against the virgin birth is that the Hebrew word in Isaiah's prophesy, "almah," can mean "young woman" as well as "virgin' (Isaiah 7:14). But the Greek "parthenos" used by Matthew and Luke must mean "virgin."

The virgin birth is set down in the Bible as historical fact. (See Luke 1:26-37; Matthew 1:18-24)

There are several reasons why the virgin birth was a necessity. The Bible teaches that the Word who became flesh was with God from the very beginning (John 1:1). The pre-existence of Christ is testified many times in the New Testament (John 8:58; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-16). When Jesus came into the world, he was not a newly created individual such as we are, but the eternal Son of God. To be born required divine intervention (McDowell, Answers).

Another reason was because of his sinless nature. To be a perfect sacrifice, he must himself be perfect and without sin. The New Testament teaches that from the day he was born until the day he died, Jesus was without sin. Had he be born of a human father, he would have inherited the sin nature that contaminates our race. A miraculous birth was thus necessary (McDowell, Answers).

"Moreover, if Jesus had been sired by Joseph, he would not have been able to claim the legal rights to the throne of David. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a descendant of King Jeconiah, and Matthew 1:12 relates that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, he could not rightly inherit the throne of David, since he was a relative of the cursed line."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

The Bible records that Joseph had no sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus' birth, and records that he was known not to have fathered Jesus and that people assumed Mary had an illicit relationship. Even Joseph assumed this, and reasonably decided to break off their betrothal. He knew, as well as we do today, that a virgin conceiving a baby was a biological impossibility. And yet Joseph changed his resolve when an angel visited and told him of the miraculous nature of the conception.

"Some have attempted to account for the virgin birth by tracing it to Greek or Babylonian mythology. They argue that the Gospel writers borrowed this story from the mythology of their day. This view does not fit the facts, for there is not any hero in pagan mythology for which a virgin birth is claimed, and moreover it would be unthinkable to the Jewish mind to construct such a story from mythology.

"Many deities among the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians were reported born in an unusual manner, but for the most part these beings never actually existed. The accounts are filled with obvious mythological elements which are totally absent from the Gospel narratives. They are reports of a god or goddess being born into the world by sexual relations between some heavenly being and an earthly woman, or by some adulterous affair among the gods and goddesses."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"All these various stories of supernatural conceptions and births, which we meet within folklore and the history of mythology, have this one point in common--they serve to point not so much to the similarity as to the complete contrast and dissimilarity which exist between the Christian birth-story and the tales which are current in various pagan circles."

Dr. Thomas Thorburn, A Critical Examination

Myth #4: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

The good teacher myth takes many forms. Jesus was a good teacher, a prophet, a good man who was misunderstood. These forms all share one major aspect--they deny Christ's deity. If Jesus can be labeled as a "good teacher," that classes him with Moses, Zoroaster, and Mohammed and dismisses his Lordship and divinity.

But Jesus himself said "Before Abraham was, I AM." He shared glory with the Father before the world began. He claimed the power to read men's minds and hearts and to forgive sins. He claimed to have come down from heaven. He claimed the power to raise himself from the dead, and witnesses confirmed his resurrection.

If he claimed all those things and they were not true, he was not a good teacher at all, but a liar or a lunatic. Either that, or his disciples made up the whole rap and put words in his mouth, making them liars or lunatics.

"Logically, if Jesus was not divine, as the records unequivocally claim he was, we are reduced to three, and only three, interpretations of the New Testament data:

1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God but knew he was not. He was a charlatan.

2. Jesus thought he was the Son of God, but actually was not. He was a lunatic.

3. Jesus never actually claimed to be the Son of God, though his disciples put this claim in his mouth. So the disciples were charlatans, lunatics, or naive exaggerators."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

Was Jesus a liar or charlatan?

Jesus took pains to warn against lying, and said that those who lie are the devil's children (John 8:44). Would he then have lied concerning his own character and purpose?

"The idea of Jesus as a charlatan--as an intentional deceiver who claimed to be something he knew he was not--has never had much appeal, even among fanatical anti-religionists. Jesus' high ethical teachings and noble personal character have made such an interpretation extremely improbable."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

William Lecky, the great nineteenth-century historian and a non-believer, wrote of Jesus:

"[The character of Jesus] has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists."

W.E.H. Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne

Was Jesus a lunatic?

Did Jesus honestly misunderstand his nature and believe himself to be something he was not? Could a human be sane and think of himself as the eschatological Son of Man who would come again at the end of the age, with the heavenly host, to judge the world?

No. A person who believed that of themselves would either have to be correct or insane. And so, some might argue, Jesus was a lunatic.

"Some paranoids manifest ideas of grandeur almost entirely, and we find patients whose grandeur is very largely of a religious nature, such as their belief that they are directly instructed by God to convert the world or perform miracles."

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus

"We cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus was deranged if he thought of himself as God incarnate and yet was not."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

"Yet, in view of the eminent soundness of Jesus’ teachings, few have been able to give credence to the idea of mental aberration."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

As psychiatrist J.T. Fisher asserted in 1951:

"If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene--if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage--if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here ... rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimum mental health and contentment."

J.T. Fisher and L.S. Hawley, A Few Buttons Missing

One can't have it both ways. Jesus' teachings can't exhibit optimum soundness while the teacher is a lunatic who does not understand his own nature.

Did Jesus' disciples paint a false portrait?

Could not Jesus' followers, in either an intentional or unintentional attempt to put him in the best possible light, have painted a false portrait of him? Jews had been waiting for a Messiah. Is it not possible that this desire for a Messiah led to the deification of Jesus?

These theories quickly fall apart upon closer examination.

"First, all types of Jewish messianic speculation at the time were at variance with the messianic picture Jesus painted of himself , so he was a singularly poor candidate for deification. Second, the apostles and evangelists were psychologically, ethically and religiously incapable of performing such a deification. Third, the historical evidence for Christ's resurrection, the great attesting event for his claims to deity, could not have been manufactured."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

Jesus' attitudes toward the Gentiles, toward freedom from the yoke of the law, were not at all what was expected of the Messiah.

"Zealot activists expected the redeemer to appear sword in hand and to lead the people against Rome's military power. ... Most apocalyptic visionaries, on the other hand, expected redemption in the shape of a cosmic cataclysm, out of which would emerge a new world with the chosen people marching toward final salvation at the head of a transformed mankind."

Jewish scholar S.W. Baron,

Social and Religious History of the Jews

Jesus hardly fulfilled the messianic expectations of his day. Freedom from Rome. Reuniting of the Jewish people. A Jewish king returned to the throne. In fact, the Pharisees were his chief opponents, for he continually set himself above the law and refused to be bound by legalistic tradition. He disagreed with the Sadducees, who did not believe in angels or in the resurrection of the body.

So if anyone deified Jesus, it must have been his own disciples. They, too, were Jews. It took them a long time to believe that this Jesus, so different from what was expected, was the Messiah. When he was crucified, they doubted it anew. They were down-to-earth people--fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. To purport such a fantastic lie, they would themselves have had to be liars or psychotics.

Instead, we see a group of men gathered in a locked room following the crucifixion, all scared lest they, too, be arrested. They were scattered the night of the arrest, scared for their lives. Then something happened, and suddenly these frightened disciples of a crucified teacher went forth boldly and preached the gospel despite constant threats to their freedom and lives. All but one died for their faith in Jesus, and the one who was not martyred died in exile. These few disciples brought Christianity to the world. Could they have done so knowing it was a lie? There are those who would die for a cause. And doubtless many have died for a lie. But would a man deliberately give his life, knowing it was for a lie?

This change in the disciples and their subsequent relentless spreading of the message is one of the strongest arguments for the truth of the resurrection.

Myth #5 Jesus never claimed to be God.

This is a common argument, despite heavy evidence to the contrary. Even a cursory glance at the gospels reveals that just the opposite is true: Jesus made many claims that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, equal to the Father. His disciples clearly regarded him as the Christ, and all the New Testament books refer to this claim as fact and even offer prayers to God the Father and Jesus the Son without discriminating between the two. Even Jesus' enemies were well aware of his claim to be God, and it was for this "blasphemy" that he was ultimately put to death. Indeed, had it not been true, it would have been blasphemy of the highest degree.

Jesus forgave sins (example, Mark 2), again blasphemy for anyone but God. He used the term "Son of Man" in reference to himself, one of the Old Testament's most lofty ascriptions to God's Messiah.

Among the religious leaders throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in claiming to be God in human flesh. It is a misconception that other religious leaders made similar claims. Buddha did not claim to be God, nor did Moses. Muhammad did not identify himself as Allah, and Zoroaster did not claim to be Ahura Mazda.

But Christ claimed that he existed before Abraham (John 8:58), that he was equal with the Father (John 5:17-18), that he had the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7) (something the Bible teaches only God can do, Isaiah 43:25). The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3) and the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus' enemies wanted to stone him for blasphemy, "because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God" (John 10:33).

The following scriptures are just a sample of several in which Christ's deity is claimed and affirmed.

John 20:28 records Thomas' confession upon seeing Jesus' hands, feet, and side, "My Lord and my God!"

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

Paul, Philemon 2:10-11

"Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'

'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'

The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?'"

Mark 14:61-64

"Therefore go an make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Jesus, Matthew 28:19-20

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his word. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

Jesus, John 14:9-11

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Jesus, John 14:6

Clearly, Jesus did claim to be divine, and his disciples came to believe as well. History shows that the earliest Christians, too, prayed to Jesus as to the Father, sang songs of worship to him, and regarded him as one with God.

"Other teachers adhered to a set of teachings and principles. Jesus did not just claim to be teaching mankind the truth; he claimed that he was the truth (John 14:6)."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"Anybody who would dare to make such claims would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was God. Jesus clearly claimed all these things and more. If he is God, as he claimed, we must believe in him, and if he is not, then we should have nothing to do with him."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

All right, so Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe such a claim?

The Bible gives miracles and fulfilled prophecy as convincing proof that Jesus was who he said he was. But the primary sign was the resurrection. When the religious leaders asked for a sign, Jesus said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). In John 2:19, Jesus was again asked for a sign. He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up ... but he spoke of the temple of his body."

Jesus' ability to raise himself from the dead separates him from everyone else in history. Thus anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away the resurrection.

Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Christ's resurrection from the dead is an essential element to the Gospel message. Without it, the rest is meaningless. Jesus himself recognized that it would serve as proof of his deity:

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Matthew 12:38-40

The resurrection set Jesus apart from everyone who ever lived and confirmed that he was the Son of God.

... who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul, Romans 1:4

And the apostles recognized the importance of the resurrection as central to the faith.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the de4ad are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:12-191

More recently, Michael Green said it like this:

"Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenants of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun; the Jesus movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with his execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once you disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity."

Michael Green, Man Alive

Those who have set out to discredit the resurrection use different theories to try to explain it away. Those theories follow.

The "swoon theory"--Jesus wasn't really dead

The swoon theory supposes that Jesus didn't really die. He merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought him dead, but he later recovered and the disciples thought he rose from the dead. Some have even suggested Jesus arranged to be drugged on the cross so that he could feign death and recover from the beatings, exposure, trauma, and loss of blood.

This makes no sense. Prisoners occasionally died from the beating preceding crucifixion. Jesus went through such a scourging. If it was a plot, it was an extremely foolish one, for he could not have expected to survive the beating and crucifixion. After the beating, he was so weakened he could not carry the cross to Golgotha. In fact, the Bible records that he collapsed. Death by crucifixion followed, and Frederick Farrar attempts to describe what such a death was like:

"Death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly--dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds--all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness.

"The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries--especially at the head and stomach--became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself--of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most--bear the aspect of delicious and exquisite release."

Frederick Farrar

During this torment, Jesus was pierced in the side with a spear. Following hours of this sort of treatment, Jesus was removed from the cross after a Roman centurion certified he was dead. There was some surprise that he died so quickly, and as a result his legs were not broken, as was the custom to hasten death.

"The disciples of Jesus may not have been as sophisticated as twentieth century man in the realm of scientific knowledge, but they surely knew the difference between someone who was dead and someone who wasn't."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

To suppose that Jesus not only survived that experience, but then walked whole and unharmed out of the sealed tomb to proclaim that death was conquered, is beyond ludicrous. It must also be considered that, where other criminals might hope to escape closer inspection (though they could not hope to escape death), this man, whose claims that he would rise again were widely known, would have had to have been most certainly dead before the Romans would have handed over his body.

The bodysnatchers theory -- Someone stole the body

The Bible itself mentions this myth. After the resurrection, some of the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went to the chief priests and reported what had happened. Matthew reports:

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "you are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Matthew 28:12-15

Many factors make this story impossible to believe. The stone, for example, most likely weighed a couple of tons. The women, on their way to the tomb Sunday morning, wondered aloud who would roll the stone away for them (Mark 16:3). It would have required several men and a great deal of noise to remove the stone.

The chief priests had requested a detachment of soldiers from Pilate (from four to sixteen men) to guard the tomb. These would have been trained fighting men, under Roman law penalized by death for failing their mission or falling asleep at their post.

Christ was publically put in the tomb on Friday. On Sunday morning, the body was missing. If he did not rise from the dead, then someone took the body. There are three groups that could have taken the body: the Romans, the Jews, or the disciples.

The Romans would have had no reason to steal the body, since they wanted to keep the peace in Palestine.

The Jews would not have taken the body, because the last thing they wanted was a proclamation of the resurrection. In fact, they asked for the Roman guard (Matthew 27) to make sure no one stole the body.

The disciples of Jesus had no reason to steal the body, and if they did, they later died for something they knew to be untrue.

"Those who entertain the stolen body myth suppose that a group of disciples, who days before had run like scared bunny rabbits, confronted a guard of heavily armed, battle-trained Roman soldiers. They either overpowered them or snuck past them in their sleep to move a two-ton stone up an incline without waking a single man. Then, so the thinking goes, the disciples carted off Jesus' body, hid it somewhere and, over the course of the next several decades, endured ridicule, torture, and martyrdom to spread a lie--what they knew to be a lie--throughout the known world.

"On the contrary, however, that is too much to believe."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

The wrong tomb theory -- The tomb was empty because it was not the right tomb

There are actually a few who cling to the theory that the women went to the wrong tomb, and that's why Jesus' body was not there.

This point hardly deserves an answer. However, some of the more obvious flaws in this theory follow.

First, the women went together, and the two Marys had been there already.

Second, there were angels awaiting them, with a message: "Jesus is not here, he is risen." Did the angels, too, visit the wrong tomb?

Third, Peter and John, not believing the women's testimony, ran to the tomb themselves, and they, too, found it empty. Did they, also, run to the same wrong empty tomb? It's starting to seem coincidental that all these witnesses happened upon the same "wrong tomb" ...

Fourth, the stone and Roman seal marked Jesus' tomb and would not have been present at the wrong one.

Fifth, the chief priests and Romans would have been all too happy to point out the mistake and locate the right tomb, and the body.

The fact of the matter is ...

The facts just don't support any other theory than the truth--Jesus did rise from the dead and appear to his disciples.

The accounts of his appearances are recorded for us by eyewitnesses to whom Jesus appeared alive over a forty-day period after his public crucifixion. (Acts 1:3)

Writing about AD 56, the Apostle Paul mentions that more than 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Christ at one time and most of them were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6). This is a challenge to those who might not have believed, since Paul is saying that there are many people yet living who could be interviewed to find out if Christ had indeed risen.

Not only is there evidence to support the resurrection, but there is also a severe lack of evidence to support any alternative explanation. So many people in Jesus' day opposed him and wanted to destroy his following. All they would have had to do was produce a body. They could not. By far the most logical explanation is the one the Bible presents: They could not disprove the resurrection because it actually happened. They could not produce a dead body because there was not one--Jesus rose from the dead, and that fact is attested by historical evidence and eyewitness accounts.

"The theories attempting to give an alternative explanation to the resurrection take more faith to believe than the resurrection itself."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #7: There are contradictions in the four resurrection accounts.

If the Gospels were placed in four parallel columns, a number of apparent differences would be highlighted. However, these ultimately help confirm the truthfulness of the accounts, rather than refute them. None of the four gospels give all the details. There would be no need for four gospels if they did. And it would appear contrived and suspicious.

Only Matthew records the first appearance to the women. Only Luke records the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mark and John record the appearance of Mary Magdalene. Only John records the appearance of the Lord in the upper room when Thomas was absent, and the appearance on the Sea of Galilee.

This is to be expected. No four witnesses would write up the same description of the same event, detail for detail. If they did, there would be obvious collusion.

The main points are agreed upon by every witness. Additional details do not discredit the account, but increase its credibility. The details do not contradict each other, but work together to create a bigger picture.

One apparent contradiction concerns the time the women came to the tomb. Mark's account has the women coming to the tomb at the rising of the sun. John states that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb when it was dark. However, there would have been a walk of quite some distance from Jerusalem or Bethany, and in order to reach the tomb at sunrise, the women would have had to leave while it was still dark.

Another area which appears contradictory concerns the angels at the tomb. Matthew and Mark relate that one angel addressed the women. Luke and John report two angels at the tomb. However, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one angel at the tomb, but that one angel spoke to the women.

"Though they report some of the details differently, the Gospels agree in all important points. The accounts are in harmony on the fact that Jesus was dead and buried; that the disciples were not prepared for his death, but were totally confused; that the tomb was empty on Easter morning; that the empty tomb did not convince them that Jesus had risen; that Mary thought the body had been stolen.

"The gospel writers also concur that the disciples had certain experiences which they believed to be appearances of the resurrected Christ. That normative first century Judaism had no concept of a dying and rising Messiah is a historical fact.

"The disciples proclaimed the resurrection story in Jerusalem, in the place where Jesus had been killed and buried. All these facts considered together constitute a powerful argument for the validity of the resurrection story."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were most vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord's resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels.

"The closest, most critical examination of these narratives throughout the ages never has destroyed and can never destroy their powerful testimony to the truth that Christ did rise from the dead on the third day, and was seen of many.'

Wilbur Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ

posted: 7/13/2006 7:54 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

The aforementioned articles of proof can be found at defendingyourfaith.org. This proof is meant to provide you with information that can serve as grounds for why faith is very reasonable for the believer who chooses to follow Christ. Contrary to what many of you may think, these writings are posted not to win a "moral battle", but to win brothers and sisters in Jesus. Of course there is no physical proof of the soul nor the spiritual realm that God exists in. However, if there was, would there be anything called faith? Your works will not please God, but faith will because faith comes to those who seek Him, and if you "seek you shall find." In the end, it is everyone's ow choice to believe and some people will never believe no matter how much proof there is to support our loving Creator and Saviour. All that can be done is the presentation of evidence. God is the one who tugs at your soul although many of you believe this doesnot exist. Many of you may feel that Christianity interrupts your style of living or many of you may have left the faith because you felt God let you down. God always promises to be there for those who believe in Him and try earnestly to live the way Jesus did. He promises to walk with you through hard times, not eliminate them. How then would a person mature? Please take my comments with peace in mind. I'm not trying to start fights, but rather to do my job as a Christian by trying to help the non-believer believe.

Anonymous said...

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up

By John Rennie

When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued

over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology,

genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution's truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that

battle has been won everywhere--except in the public imagination.

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still

persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas

such as "intelligent design" to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press,

the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson

a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design

theory to serve as a "wedge" for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism.

The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution,

but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage.

To help with answering them, the following list rebuts some of the most common "scientific" arguments raised against evolution.

It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom.

1. Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.

Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty--above a mere hypothesis but below a law.

Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is "a well-substantiated

explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." No amount of validation changes

a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution--or the atomic theory or the

theory of relativity, for that matter--they are not expressing reservations about its truth.

In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a

fact as "an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true.'" The fossil record and abundant other

evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.

All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by

watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists' conclusions less certain.

2. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.

"Survival of the fittest" is a conversational way to describe natural selection, but a more technical description speaks of differential rates of survival and reproduction.

That is, rather than labeling species as more or less fit, one can describe how many offspring they are likely to leave under given circumstances.

Drop a fast-breeding pair of small-beaked finches and a slower-breeding pair of large-beaked finches onto an island full of food seeds. Within a few generations

the fast breeders may control more of the food resources. Yet if large beaks more easily crush seeds, the advantage may tip to the slow breeders.

In a pioneering study of finches on the Galápagos Islands, Peter R. Grant of Princeton University observed these kinds of population shifts in the wild

[see his article "Natural Selection and Darwin's Finches"; Scientific American, October 1991].

The key is that adaptive fitness can be defined without reference to survival: large beaks are better adapted for crushing seeds, irrespective of whether

that trait has survival value under the circumstances.

The key is that adaptive fitness can be defined without reference to survival: large beaks are better adapted for crushing seeds, irrespective of whether that trait has survival value under the circumstances.

3. Evolution is unscientific, because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.

This blanket dismissal of evolution ignores important distinctions that divide the field into at least two broad areas: microevolution and macroevolution.

Microevolution looks at changes within species over time--changes that may be preludes to speciation, the origin of new species. Macroevolution studies

how taxonomic groups above the level of species change. Its evidence draws frequently from the fossil record and DNA comparisons to reconstruct how various

organisms may be related.

These days even most creationists acknowledge that microevolution has been upheld by tests in the laboratory (as in studies of cells, plants and fruit flies)

and in the field (as in Grant's studies of evolving beak shapes among Galápagos finches). Natural selection and other mechanisms--such as chromosomal changes,

symbiosis and hybridization--can drive profound changes in populations over time.

The historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation. Yet in the historical sciences

(which include astronomy, geology and archaeology, as well as evolutionary biology), hypotheses can still be tested by checking whether they accord

with physical evidence and whether they lead to verifiable predictions about future discoveries. For instance, evolution implies that between the earliest-known

ancestors of humans (roughly five million years old) and the appearance of anatomically modern humans (about 100,000 years ago), one should find a succession

of hominid creatures with features progressively less apelike and more modern, which is indeed what the fossil record shows. But one should not--and does not—find

modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic period (144 million years ago). Evolutionary biology routinely makes predictions far more refined and precise

than this, and researchers test them constantly.

Evolution could be disproved in other ways, too. If we could document the spontaneous generation of just one complex life-form from inanimate matter, then at least a

few creatures seen in the fossil record might have originated this way. If superintelligent aliens appeared and claimed credit for creating life on earth (or even particular species),

the purely evolutionary explanation would be cast in doubt. But no one has yet produced such evidence.

It should be noted that the idea of falsifiability as the defining characteristic of science originated with philosopher Karl Popper in the 1930s. More recent elaborations on his

thinking have expanded the narrowest interpretation of his principle precisely because it would eliminate too many branches of clearly scientific endeavor.

4. Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.

No evidence suggests that evolution is losing adherents. Pick up any issue of a peer-reviewed biological journal, and you will find articles that support and extend evolutionary

studies or that embrace evolution as a fundamental concept.

Conversely, serious scientific publications disputing evolution are all but nonexistent. In the mid-1990s George W. Gilchrist of the University of Washington surveyed thousands

of journals in the primary literature, seeking articles on intelligent design or creation science. Among those hundreds of thousands of scientific reports, he found none.

In the past two years, surveys done independently by Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University and Lawrence M. Krauss of Case Western Reserve University have been similarly fruitless.

Creationists retort that a closed-minded scientific community rejects their evidence. Yet according to the editors of Nature, Science and other leading journals,

few antievolution manuscripts are even submitted. Some antievolution authors have published papers in serious journals. Those papers, however, rarely attack evolution directly

or advance creationist arguments; at best, they identify certain evolutionary problems as unsolved and difficult (which no one disputes). In short, creationists are not giving the

scientific world good reason to take them seriously.

5. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.

Evolutionary biologists passionately debate diverse topics: how speciation happens, the rates of evolutionary change, the ancestral relationships of birds and dinosaurs, whether Neandertals were a species apart from modern humans, and much more. These disputes are like those found in all other branches of science. Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and a guiding principle is nonetheless universal in biology.

Unfortunately, dishonest creationists have shown a willingness to take scientists' comments out of context to exaggerate and distort the disagreements.

Anyone acquainted with the works of paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University knows that in addition to co-authoring the punctuated-equilibrium model,

Gould was one of the most eloquent defenders and articulators of evolution. (Punctuated equilibrium explains patterns in the fossil record by suggesting that most evolutionary

changes occur within geologically brief intervals--which may nonetheless amount to hundreds of generations.) Yet creationists delight in dissecting out phrases from Gould's

voluminous prose to make him sound as though he had doubted evolution, and they present punctuated equilibrium as though it allows new species to materialize overnight or birds to be born from reptile eggs.

When confronted with a quotation from a scientific authority that seems to question evolution, insist on seeing the statement in context. Almost invariably, the attack on evolution will prove illusory.

6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

This surprisingly common argument reflects several levels of ignorance about evolution. The first mistake is that evolution does not teach that humans descended from monkeys; it states that both have a

common ancestor.

The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, "If children descended from adults, why are there still adults?" New species evolve by splintering off from established ones,

when populations of organisms become isolated from the main branch of their family and acquire sufficient differences to remain forever distinct. The parent species may survive indefinitely

thereafter, or it may become extinct.

7. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.

The origin of life remains very much a mystery, but biochemists have learned about how primitive nucleic acids, amino acids and other building blocks of life could have formed and organized themselves

into self-replicating, self-sustaining units, laying the foundation for cellular biochemistry. Astrochemical analyses hint that quantities of these compounds might have originated in space and fallen to earth

in comets, a scenario that may solve the problem of how those constituents arose under the conditions that prevailed when our planet was young.

Creationists sometimes try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science's current inability to explain the origin of life. But even if life on earth turned out to have a nonevolutionary origin

(for instance, if aliens introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless microevolutionary and macroevolutionary studies.

8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.

Chance plays a part in evolution (for example, in the random mutations that can give rise to new traits), but evolution does not depend on chance to create organisms, proteins or other entities.

Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving "desirable" (adaptive) features and eliminating "undesirable" (nonadaptive) ones.\

A long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times.

As an analogy, consider the 13-letter sequence "TOBEORNOTTOBE." Those hypothetical million monkeys, each pecking out one phrase a second, could take as long as 78,800 years to find it

among the 2613 sequences of that length. But in the 1980s Richard Hardison of Glendale College wrote a computer program that generated phrases randomly while preserving the positions of individual

letters that happened to be correctly placed (in effect, selecting for phrases more like Hamlet's). On average, the program re-created the phrase in just 336 iterations, less than 90 seconds.

Even more amazing, it could reconstruct Shakespeare's entire play in just four and a half days.

9. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

This argument derives from a misunderstanding of the Second Law. If it were valid, mineral crystals and snowflakes would also be impossible, because they, too, are complex structures that form spontaneously from disordered parts.

The Second Law actually states that the total entropy of a closed system (one that no energy or matter leaves or enters) cannot decrease. Entropy is a physical concept often casually described as disorder,

but it differs significantly from the conversational use of the word.

More important, however, the Second Law permits parts of a system to decrease in entropy as long as other parts experience an offsetting increase.

Thus, our planet as a whole can grow more complex because the sun pours heat and light onto it, and the greater entropy associated with the sun's nuclear fusion more than rebalances the scales.

Simple organisms can fuel their rise toward complexity by consuming other forms of life and nonliving materials.

10. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.

On the contrary, biology has catalogued many traits produced by point mutations (changes at precise positions in an organism's DNA)--bacterial resistance to antibiotics, for example.

Mutations that arise in the homeobox (Hox) family of development-regulating genes in animals can also have complex effects. Hox genes direct where legs, wings, antennae and body

segments should grow. In fruit flies, for instance, the mutation called Antennapedia causes legs to sprout where antennae should grow. These abnormal limbs are not functional,

but their existence demonstrates that genetic mistakes can produce complex structures, which natural selection can then test for possible uses.

Moreover, molecular biology has discovered mechanisms for genetic change that go beyond point mutations, and these expand the ways in which new traits can appear.

Functional modules within genes can be spliced together in novel ways. Whole genes can be accidentally duplicated in an organism's DNA, and the duplicates are free to mutate into genes for new,

complex features. Comparisons of the DNA from a wide variety of organisms indicate that this is how the globin family of blood proteins evolved over millions of years.

11. Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.

Evolutionary biologists have written extensively about how natural selection could produce new species. For instance, in the model called allopatry, developed by Ernst Mayr of Harvard University,

if a population of organisms were isolated from the rest of its species by geographical boundaries, it might be subjected to different selective pressures. Changes would accumulate in the isolated population.

If those changes became so significant that the splinter group could not or routinely would not breed with the original stock, then the splinter group would be reproductively isolated and on its way

toward becoming a new species.

Natural selection is the best studied of the evolutionary mechanisms, but biologists are open to other possibilities as well. Biologists are constantly assessing the potential of unusual genetic mechanisms

for causing speciation or for producing complex features in organisms. Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and others have persuasively argued that some cellular organelles,

such as the energy-generating mitochondria, evolved through the symbiotic merger of ancient organisms. Thus, science welcomes the possibility of evolution resulting from forces beyond natural selection.

Yet those forces must be natural; they cannot be attributed to the actions of mysterious creative intelligences whose existence, in scientific terms, is unproved.

12. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.

Speciation is probably fairly rare and in many cases might take centuries. Furthermore, recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult, because biologists sometimes

disagree about how best to define a species. The most widely used definition, Mayr's Biological Species Concept, recognizes a species as a distinct community of reproductively isolated

populations--sets of organisms that normally do not or cannot breed outside their community. In practice, this standard can be difficult to apply to organisms isolated by distance or terrain

or to plants (and, of course, fossils do not breed). Biologists therefore usually use organisms' physical and behavioral traits as clues to their species membership.

Nevertheless, the scientific literature does contain reports of apparent speciation events in plants, insects and worms. In most of these experiments, researchers subjected organisms to

various types of selection--for anatomical differences, mating behaviors, habitat preferences and other traits--and found that they had created populations of organisms that did not breed with outsiders.For

example, William R. Rice of the University of New Mexico and George W. Salt of the University of California at Davis demonstrated that if they sorted a group of fruit flies by their preference for

certain environments and bred those flies separately over 35 generations, the resulting flies would refuse to breed with those from a very different environment.

13. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils--creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.

Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups. One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx,

which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs. A flock's worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found.

A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus. Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus

helped to make that transition [see "The Mammals That Conquered the Seas," by Kate Wong; Scientific American, May]. Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years. Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.

Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies. They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds--it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features.

They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group. Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species,

he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.

Nevertheless, evolutionists can cite further supportive evidence from molecular biology. All organisms share most of the same genes, but as evolution predicts, the structures of these genes and their products diverge among species, in keeping with their evolutionary relationships. Geneticists speak of the "molecular clock" that records the passage of time. These molecular data also show how various organisms are transitional within evolution.

14. Living things have fantastically intricate features--at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels--that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.

This "argument from design" is the backbone of most recent attacks on evolution, but it is also one of the oldest. In 1802 theologian William Paley wrote that if one finds a pocket watch in a field, the most reasonable conclusion is that someone dropped it, not that natural forces created it there. By analogy, Paley argued, the complex structures of living things must be the handiwork of direct, divine invention. Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species as an answer to Paley: he explained how natural forces of selection, acting on inherited features, could gradually shape the evolution of ornate organic structures.

Generations of creationists have tried to counter Darwin by citing the example of the eye as a structure that could not have evolved. The eye's ability to provide vision depends on the perfect arrangement of its parts, these critics say. Natural selection could thus never favor the transitional forms needed during the eye's evolution--what good is half an eye? Anticipating this criticism, Darwin suggested that even "incomplete" eyes might confer benefits (such as helping creatures orient toward light) and thereby survive for further evolutionary refinement. Biology has vindicated Darwin: researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics. (It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.)

Today's intelligent-design advocates are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but their arguments and goals are not fundamentally different. They criticize evolution by trying to demonstrate that it could not account for life as we know it and then insist that the only tenable alternative is that life was designed by an unidentified intelligence.

15. Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.

"Irreducible complexity" is the battle cry of Michael J. Behe of Lehigh University, author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As a household example of irreducible complexity, Behe chooses the mousetrap--a machine that could not function if any of its pieces were missing and whose pieces have no value except as parts of the whole. What is true of the mousetrap, he says, is even truer of the bacterial flagellum, a whiplike cellular organelle used for propulsion that operates like an outboard motor. The proteins that make up a flagellum are uncannily arranged into motor components, a universal joint and other structures like those that a human engineer might specify. The possibility that this intricate array could have arisen through evolutionary modification is virtually nil, Behe argues, and that bespeaks intelligent design. He makes similar points about the blood's clotting mechanism and other molecular systems.

Yet evolutionary biologists have answers to these objections. First, there exist flagellae with forms simpler than the one that Behe cites, so it is not necessary for all those components to be present for a flagellum to work. The sophisticated components of this flagellum all have precedents elsewhere in nature, as described by Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University and others. In fact, the entire flagellum assembly is extremely similar to an organelle that Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, uses to inject toxins into cells.

The key is that the flagellum's component structures, which Behe suggests have no value apart from their role in propulsion, can serve multiple functions that would have helped favor their evolution. The final evolution of the flagellum might then have involved only the novel recombination of sophisticated parts that initially evolved for other purposes. Similarly, the blood-clotting system seems to involve the modification and elaboration of proteins that were originally used in digestion, according to studies by Russell F. Doolittle of the University of California at San Diego. So some of the complexity that Behe calls proof of intelligent design is not irreducible at all.

Complexity of a different kind--"specified complexity"--is the cornerstone of the intelligent-design arguments of William A. Dembski of Baylor University in his books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. Essentially his argument is that living things are complex in a way that undirected, random processes could never produce. The only logical conclusion, Dembski asserts, in an echo of Paley 200 years ago, is that some superhuman intelligence created and shaped life.

Dembski's argument contains several holes. It is wrong to insinuate that the field of explanations consists only of random processes or designing intelligences. Researchers into nonlinear systems and cellular automata at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere have demonstrated that simple, undirected processes can yield extraordinarily complex patterns. Some of the complexity seen in organisms may therefore emerge through natural phenomena that we as yet barely understand. But that is far different from saying that the complexity could not have arisen naturally.

"Creation science" is a contradiction in terms. A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism--it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms. Thus, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts governing matter and energy, and it tests those descriptions experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such as quarks, to flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover--their definitions are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the existing framework of physics.

In contrast, intelligent-design theorists invoke shadowy entities that conveniently have whatever unconstrained abilities are needed to solve the mystery at hand. Rather than expanding scientific inquiry, such answers shut it down. (How does one disprove the existence of omnipotent intelligences?)

Intelligent design offers few answers. For instance, when and how did a designing intelligence intervene in life's history? By creating the first DNA? The first cell? The first human? Was every species designed, or just a few early ones? Proponents of intelligent-design theory frequently decline to be pinned down on these points. They do not even make real attempts to reconcile their disparate ideas about intelligent design. Instead they pursue argument by exclusion--that is, they belittle evolutionary explanations as far-fetched or incomplete and then imply that only design-based alternatives remain.

Logically, this is misleading: even if one naturalistic explanation is flawed, it does not mean that all are. Moreover, it does not make one intelligent-design theory more reasonable than another. Listeners are essentially left to fill in the blanks for themselves, and some will undoubtedly do so by substituting their religious beliefs for scientific ideas.

Time and again, science has shown that methodological naturalism can push back ignorance, finding increasingly detailed and informative answers to mysteries that once seemed impenetrable: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works. Evolution is doing the same with the riddle of how the living world took shape. Creationism, by any name, adds nothing of intellectual value to the effort.

Anonymous said...

So you are saying believing in the imaginary tree is as illogical as believing in a God we cannot see or touch. Such belief is illogical. But we cannot see or touch the laws of logic either my friend. How can you believe in logic then?

webmdave said...

First of all, you posted anonymously, so obviously we are not friends.

Yes, I am saying that believing in an invisible, immaterial, GOD and spouting how you know it exists because you can "feel it in your heart" is as illogical as saying I have an invisible tree in my yard.

Now, as far as "the laws of logic," yes, they are invisible too. That's because they are concepts that only exist in the mind of human beings. Now, if you want to acknowledge that your god is only a concept that exists in your mind, then I will accept the comparison as valid. If, however, you want to say your god is a living entity, then I reject the comparison as akin to the old apples vs. oranges cliché.

Make sense?

Anonymous said...

My name is Tim Shaw, so now we are friends. I only posted anonymous as I figured I had to subscribe otherwise. That is a hassle and it's nice your site allows comments without halting to fill out a form and reply to an e-mail first.

I understand your point, but I don't think it is apples and oranges at all. Not at all.
Okay--we agree that the laws of logic are invisible and in the minds of humans--but does logic actually *exist* is what I am asking you. If your logic (for lack of a better word) that God cannot exist as he is only a concept of the mind--just as logic itself is--than does that not mean your reasoning of this itself does not exist as well? Of course not. I posted--you responded. You logically reasoned an answer to my post. The word for such reason is logic and that reasoning exists. You are proof of it. Now I can't show you that logic in person, but we know it is there.
I would propose that logic does indeed exist--even though it is in our minds. Would you agree?

Now I walk out my front door and look at the word around me and know (yes, in my heart) that God made it. I know right from wrong as do you, and these concepts being our conscience are written in our hearts. I am assuming I speak for you here when I say we don't kill or steal or beat people up on the street. I know it was more than just generations of good parenting that taught us those concepts--that good and evil do exist as does logic and that we are born knowing the difference. The world over adheres to these concepts for the most part, despite all the wars and trouble. By and large we all morn when loved ones go and are happy when loved ones come. We know murder is wrong and love our families.
By logic I conclude that God made us all this way. I feel love and by logic conclude there is a power greater than I in my heart.Yes, it is a feeling, a reasoning, a knowing and best of all, a comfort. I know, I know, I sound like all the rest of them, but this is the truth.
Now, you may say that just because I have reasoned God exists though, does not mean he does. And you are right. But I am not the only one. And could we not say it does not prove he does not exist based on your reason? We just have two Mr. Spocks here being logical. How do we know then? All I can tell you is if God opens your eyes you do know, and there is comfort and peace there. Asking for proof of God is like asking someone draw a picture of logic. It can't be done but that does not mean they are not there.
But hey, if logic does not exist than maybe we don't either. And in that case, I would like to know if I am a figment in your mind or if you a figment in mine. : )

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