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Bible Liar, Pants on Fire

The first misconception that we’re going to discuss is that the Bible was just made up, that it’s a lie, that it’s not real history. “It’s a book about moral goodness, but that stuff never happened.” A lot of people don’t think there even was a real Jesus of Nazareth. Others say, “Yeah he was a real person, but he was just a wise teacher. People made stuff up after he died.” Well, what’s the truth of the matter? Is there any reason for us to believe that Jesus actually walked the earth, performed miracles, was crucified, and rose from the dead? Because most objections to historical Christianity are aimed at Jesus and the legitimacy of the New Testament, that is where we’re going to focus our attention. An examination of historical accuracy of the entire Bible is not suited for a blog or one session at Armor.

We can talk about the Old Testament (OT), or the Hebrew Bible, for a hot minute though. Why not? The OT is actually one of the best texts we have for ancient history. In fact, despite minor disputes over small details (i.e dates for Joshua, or Saul), most historians and archaeologists don’t debate the OT as historically legitimate. Some doubt the supernatural stuff, but other than that it has been tested and holds quite true. The Abrahamic home of Ur has been excavated, the Hittite civilization has been discovered (which was doubted to have existed because the only evidence we had of them was in the OT), and there is now evidence that suggests the Hebrews really were in captivity in Egypt. Although this is debated amongst scholars, the Egyptian records tell us of the Habiru (slaves) who spoke Hurrian (Hurria would have been a kingdom Abraham would have went through), who worshiped Yahweh, worked on the Pithom and Rameses cities (same as the Hebrews in the OT), and the same pottery of the Habiru was the same kind of pottery found in Israel. They are discussed as a people who were known for their military organization and influence. They were even known at one point as mercenaries for city-states (kind of like David before he was king?) Now this is debated amongst scholars, but it seems to me that it is entirely possible that the “Habiru” were the Hebrews of the OT. One reason the OT is probably so reliable is the fact that Hebrew scribes believed the Scripture to be God breathed, so if you changed a single word you were violating God. They even spoke each word as they wrote it because they believed that there was real power in speaking God’s word. Because of this, the textual discrepancies between texts are few and far between, even more backed up by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For some evidence on Ur and the Hittites click here, on the Habiru click here and here, and on the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls here (there are better sources offline, if you want to learn more)

Now we’ll get into the hot topic: the New Testament (NT). But first, why is the NT so much more debated than the OT? I think this is an important thing to know, because it affects how seriously we should look at the evidence supporting the NT. The reason that it is so hotly contested is because if the NT really is true, there’s no other option except to radically change your life. If Jesus Christ really was the Messiah, was God in the flesh, died for our sins, and commanded you to follow him, then there is nothing more important to conforming to his will for our lives.

Let that sink in for a moment

If that didn’t make you stop for a second, you’re not grasping the weight of that sentence. Everything about your life has to change: your desires, your goals, your motivations, your priorities…everything (Well, not your favorite brand of underwear, but you know what I mean…I’m a Fruit of the Loom guy, myself). So now that you know why people are so for it and against it, let’s see what the evidence really is. Keep in mind, nothing can be proven (first rule of science). This is only a case of evidence, which asks you at the end whether or not it seems to be legitimate or rational.

The first piece of evidence for the NT is the fact that has the most extant manuscript evidence than ANY other ancient text- thousands more. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, and well over 8,000 5th century Latin translations (over 25,000 in all). It can only take a handful for historians to deem a piece of literature legitimate; it’s as if God was like “You want manuscript evidence?! I’LL SHOW YOU MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE!” So if you can’t find the NT reliable, you literally obscure all of the ancient period. But we wouldn’t want that. Now a good question to ask is, “OKAY, but how old are they?” Good question, astute skeptic. I’ve got a good answer. The oldest piece we have is the Rylands Papyrus (or P52) and it dates at 117-138CE, and its from the Gospel of John. It may sound late, but we have classical poem’s from people like Sophocles that were written 1,400 years later. Socrates never even wrote anything down himself, Plato and others wrote of him. And speakig of plato, do you think we have anything Plato literally wrote himself? We only have later copies. Scholars, however, have been able to reconstruct the past, and the consensus for the Gospels is:
1. Matthew- 68-73CE
2. Mark- 70-100CE (some say earlier)
3. Luke- 80-100CE (some say 110)
4. John- 90-110CE (some argue portions of it pre-date 70CE, he just hadn’t published yet)

Scholars also talk about the mysterious “Q,” (Quelle=source in German), that Matthew and Luke were said to have drawn on as a source, which would pre-date all of the texts. That means there was a text that could very well have been in existence as early as 50-65CE! If Jesus died around 30ish CE then that is a very close date. Why didn’t they write stuff right away? Why didn’t Jesus write anything? Well back then not many people were literate. So oral discourse was the preference, especially because Jesus was preaching to the poor and disenfranchised. Besides, what’s more believable, hearing someone tell a first-hand account of something or reading about it? The writings were probably published so late because the writers didn’t write until the very end of their lives, when they would no longer be around to tell people themselves.

If that’s not enough (which it usually isn’t for people), we have non-Christian authors that talked about Jesus as a very real person. Who?
1. Josephus (70-80CE): Talked about Jesus being a wise teacher, a supposed-miracle worker, was crucified, and had disciples
2. Tacitus (1-2 Century): Talked about how Jesus was crucified by Pilate, was a wise man
3. Pliny (108-109CE): Talked about Jesus/Christians in a negative way, and were bad for the empire
4. Lucion of Samosata (140CE): Talked bout how Christians believe the crucifixion of Jesus led to eternal life, and that Christians despised material things
5. Mara Bar-Serapion (70CE): Talked about the Jews executing a “wise king,” who had left behind teachings for his followers

“Why are these guys so important? They didn’t believe Jesus was resurrected or the Messiah.” True, but what it shows is that other people DID believe Jesus rose from the dead around the time of his death and soon afterwards. There was no time to pass for people to start making things up and creating a legend a long time after Jesus’s death. So Gospel accounts of what Jesus did and where he went can be found to be very reliable. That doesn’t prove he was God or that he could heal the blind, but it shows that people at least believed these things about him. In fact some people believed so much that they were giving up their lives and dying just because they believed this. Jesus was claimed to have been seen by over 500 people, people that would’ve still been alive when people were preaching about the resurrection to either deny or accept this claim. Why would the writers claim over 500 people? Isn’t that a LOT to lie about? What if one denied it? Wouldn’t that lose credibility? Maybe it’s because all of them actually saw him. Would you die for a lie? (There’s an argument called Lord/Lunatic/Liar, which I’ve already written on here, and info on other arguments are in the recommended reading at the bottom)

One last thing. Back then the dead coming back to life was not a believable concept. Most Greek philosophical thought believed that the material world, the physical world, was the lowest of the forms. The spirit form was higher, and closer to perfection. That’s why we’re so close to the ground, because we’re weighed down with matter. So if Jesus was a God, why would he come back in the flesh? That’s ridiculous, and it doesn’t make sense. So in order to completely change a Greek’s beliefs about what made sense and what was true, it would’ve taken a lot more than just a few pretty words; it would have taken something supernatural. Just because the people lived a long time ago doesn’t mean they were dumber than you.

So be honest.
What does the evidence look like to you?
Is it all just one big fat lie?

Armor meets at 6:30 in the CCV Shift offices

Recommended reading:
“The New Evidence for that Demands a Verdict” -Josh McDowell
“Mere Christianity” -C.S. Lewis
“Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament” -Jason David BeDuhn
“The Accuracy of the Old Testament” -John Duncan

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