Signpost Series

Signpost – Historical Reliability of the New Testament, pt. 2

(Sorry for the long time it took to post this article; I had some family medical AND computer problems this last week)

Previously, I outlined how the most reasonable conclusion about the dating of the Gospels was that they were written within 20 – 60 years after the events chronicled, and possibly even earlier.

In this post, I will tell you why I’ve concluded that the Gospels are not only historically accurate, but show evidence that they were written either by eyewitnesses, or are accurate documentation of events gathered from eyewitnesses.

First, a brief discussion of what seems to be one of most New Testament apologist’s favorite subject – archaeology.

There are many books and websites defending the Bible that adamantly proclaim that “Archaeology has proven the Bible to be 100% historically accurate” and an equal number from the opposing side declaring “there is NOTHING in archaeology that confirms the Bible, so we can discount all of it”.

Both sides are guilty of gross exaggeration. The truth of the matter is that archaeology, which is concerned with historical documents only as one of many kinds of artifacts which may be useful for dating other artifacts found with them can provide confirmation that people, places, or customs existed as depicted in the Bible, but historical confirmation can really only come from textual documentation. Therefore, archaeology can provide incidental support, but cannot be used to disprove or confirm the historical record except for the discovery of documents or text carvings that can do so. Continue reading

Signpost – Historical Reliability of the New Testament pt. 1

When looking at the historical reliability of the Bible, I’ll first concentrate on the Gospels since the accounts of the life of Jesus are the linchpin of the Christian faith. Falsify that, and everything else falls apart as well. Confirm the historicity of the gospels, and you cannot avoid the truth claims of the faith.

There are many attacks against the historicity of the gospels. The most popular today include the assertions that the gospels are a bunch of stories made up to deify a man who may or may not have actually lived in order to advance some nefarious agenda, that the gospels were written in order to solidify the political power of Constantine, or that the gospels are nothing more than a retelling of other savior myths. There are many others, but the vast majority of them depend upon an easily disprovable premise: that the gospels originate hundreds of years after the time that Jesus lived.

If it can be shown that it is reasonable to conclude that the gospel narratives originate early enough that they could have been easily disproven by eyewitnesses to the events, then these ‘late date’ based arguments are falsified, and the gospels must be taken as at least as accurate as other contemporary histories.

Continue reading

Textual Reliability of the New Testament

Last week, we looked at the reliability of the Old Testament text that we have; this week, we’ll look at the New Testament, and especially the Gospels. I’ll present the following measures by which we can make a determination of the reliability of the text:

1. The age and number of the available manuscripts
2. The amount of time between the original writing and the earliest known manuscripts.
3. The number and type of differences between available manuscripts
4. Citations or quotations of the NT from other early writers

While none of these alone may provide definitive evidence of the reliability of the text, I believe that the cumulative evidence is more than sufficient to give us reasonable proof that what we have is an accurate text. Continue reading

Signpost – Textual Reliability of the Old Testament

One of the most common objections to Christianity among academic crowd is “It doesn’t matter what the Bible says. We don’t really have any idea what the original manuscripts said anyway.” The reasoning goes something like this: The copies of the Biblical text that we have are just copies of copies and are so much newer than the originals that we can’t possibly know what the original writings actually were.

This week, we’ll address this idea by looking at how we can be reasonably certain that the Old Testament texts that we have today accurately present the content of the original manuscripts. 

Continue reading

Signpost – The Nature of God

This week, we’ll take a quick look at what we can determine about the nature of God based on what we can observe from the natural world, and next week jump right into what I consider the really exciting stuff! Much of the reasoning behind the foundational assumptions of this week’s Signpost has been explored in earlier articles in the series, so it might be a good idea to go back and do a quick review if you feel that you’re missing something.

The first thing we know about God is so obvious that it is often overlooked: Continue reading

Signpost – Design

For this installment of the Signposts series, I’ve chosen to start out with a frozen pizza. Stay with me, I think you will figure it out long before I get to the conclusion.

Let’s say you have a box of frozen pizza in your kitchen freezer. If you examine it closely and objectively you can determine quite a lot. For example:

-) The box is made of a light weight, inexpensive, fairly sturdy material. The cardboard construction also indicates that it is intended to be either discarded or recycled after use.

-) The graphics and text printed on the box give a lot of information about the contents – type, size, nutritional and cooking directions.

-) The dimensions of the box make it the most efficient size required to protect the contents from crushing or bouncing around inside the container during transport and storage.

Now, having determined all of that, I have one simple request. Without invoking forces outside the freezer, tell me how that pizza got there. Continue reading

Signpost – Consciousness vs Materialism

Along our road from atheism to Christian discipleship, the first stop is Theism, but before we even get that far, we must get to the point where even the possibility of a God is seriously considered.

We explored the road of absolute moral truth, and have seen that the existence of God is necessary for there to even be moral absolutes. But what if our atheist friend declares this road a dead end? What now?

Well, we back up and follow the sign reading “consciousness”.  Keep in mind that, I’m using the term ‘consciousness’ to describe the state of being self-aware.

Our naturalist friend, denying the existence of moral truth (even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary), will say that, according to his world view nothing exists but that which is material. The super (or extra) natural is simply a figment of imagination.

Darwinian evolutionary naturalism, as currently taught, says that all life evolved from undirected, random, natural processes and that everything that exists is a product and part of the natural, material world. Continue reading

Signpost – Moral Law, pt. 2

Last week, we established that there is absolute moral truth; this week we will propose the necessity of an absolute moral truth giver.

Without a transcendent source, moral truth cannot be anything other than subjective, and changeable. Since there are moral absolutes, there must be a source, and that source must be good, powerful and a person. In short, God.

=) The source of moral law must be powerful enough to enforce that law. The only being both good enough and powerful enough to do so must transcend both time and space in order to enforce a law effective for all people at all times.

=) The source of moral law must be good. Since it has been determined that moral law by definition is good, the source of that law must also be good. Because that source must be a person, it must be God. God is by definition good, so any being that is not good is not God.

=) God must be a person, as moral laws, like civil or criminal laws, can only be enforced by persons. Continue reading

Signpost Series – Moral Law

I’ve recently been asked to give a blueprint for how to present the Gospel to atheists, sort of a ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ or ‘Way of the Master’ approach to those who don’t even believe God exists, much less that the Bible is authoritative.

It isn’t that easy. The atheists that I know are a very diverse group in that they present a wide variety of objections to the existence of God. While most of the time, these objections are little more than a way to avoid dealing with the underlying emotional reasons for their stand, their stated reasons must be shown false before any meaningful look at the Scripture can take place.

So, instead of a blueprint, let’s take a ‘roadmap’ approach. The beginning point is atheism, and the endpoint is discipleship. While the goal is fixed, there can be a variety of roads to get there. I’ve decided to post an article each week detailing one of the major signposts on the map. I call it the Signpost series. Continue reading