10/11/17

"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Paul And Peter (2:6-19) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                        Paul And Peter (2:6-19)

INTRODUCTION

1. Paul's defends his apostleship in Galatians by recounting...
   a. His limited contact with the other apostles, in particular Peter
      - Ga 1:11-24
   b. Two episodes when he met with the apostles, especially Peter 
      - Ga 2:1-21

2. The relationship between Paul and Peter has often been
   misrepresented...
   a. That Peter had primacy over Paul (Catholicism)
   b. That they had doctrinal differences (Criticism)

[The Biblical evidence shows otherwise.  Both in Galatians and elsewhere
in the Scriptures, we note their equality and respect for one another.
From our text (Ga 2:6-19), consider first...]

I. PAUL'S VISIT TO JERUSALEM

   A. THE OCCASION...
      1. Paul, Barnabas and Titus had gone to Jerusalem by revelation
         - cf. Ga 2:1-2
         a. Likely the visit to Jerusalem described in Ac 15:2-4
         b. Though some think it may have occurred earlier - cf. Ac 11:
            29-30; 12:25
      2. Paul withstood pressure by false teachers - cf. Ga 2:2-5
         a. In a private meeting, he spoke with those "of reputation"
            (Peter? James?)
         b. False brethren sought to compel Titus to be circumcised
         c. Paul refused to yield to their demands
      3. Paul met with Peter, James, and John, who "seemed to be
         pillars" - cf. Ga 2:6,9

   B. THE OUTCOME...
      1. With those "who seemed to be something" (James, Cephas, John)
         - Ga 2:6-10
         a. They added nothing to Paul (made no demands, gave no
            instructions or authority)
         b. They saw that Paul had been given the gospel to the
            uncirmcumcision
         c. Paul recognized God's effective work in Peter's ministry and
            Peter's apostleship to the circumcision
         d. James, Cephas (Peter) and John perceived the grace given to
            Paul
         e. They extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul
         f. They asked only that Paul remember the poor, which he was
            eager to do
      2. Of the meeting together with all the apostles and elders at
         Jerusalem - Ac 15:6-29
         a. Peter related his preaching to the Gentiles, and their
            salvation without circumcision
         b. Paul and Barnabas related their ministry and God's working
            among the Gentiles
         c. James offered scriptural support, and then a letter to which
            all agreed
         d. The letter confirmed the ministry of "beloved Barnabas and
            Paul"

[Paul's visit to Jerusalem certainly illustrated that he and Peter were
in doctrinal agreement regarding the gospel they preached.  The nature
of their relationship is made clearer with...]

II. PETER'S VISIT TO ANTIOCH

   A. THE OCCASION...
      1. Peter played the hypocrite - Ga 2:11-13
         a. He had come to Antioch (some think this was during Ac 15:1;
            others think it was later)
         b. At first he ate with the Gentiles
         c. After certain men came from James, Peter withdrew and
            separated himself
         d. He feared those of the circumcision
         e. His actions encouraged other Jews to be hypocrites, even
            Barnabas
      2. Paul confronted Peter - Ga 2:11,14-19
         a. He withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed
         b. He rebuked Peter before them all, showing him to be
            inconsistent
         c. Paul's gospel (justification by faith in Christ, not by the
            works of the Law) vindicated by Peter, who normally lived
            like a Gentile himself - cf. Peter also, in Ac 15:7-11

   B. THE OUTCOME...
      1. Paul's equality with Peter demonstrated - Ga 2:11,14
         a. Paul had the authority to withstand him to his face
         b. Paul had the authority to charge him with hypocrisy before
            all
      2. Peter's respect for Paul undiminished - cf. 2Pe 3:15-16
         a. Peter later described Paul as "our beloved brother Paul"
         b. Peter acknowledged the wisdom given to Paul
         c. Peter recognized Paul's epistles as "Scriptures"

[Peter's visit to Antioch was not a happy occasion, but it did provide
an opportunity to illustrate the equality of Peter and Paul, and that
despite Peter's momentary lapse, his overall life demonstrated that his
gospel was the same as Paul's.  Finally, some thoughts regarding a
couple of...]

III. LESSONS FROM PAUL AND PETER

   A. THE COURAGE OF PAUL...
      1. We note the courage manifested by Paul in Jerusalem and Antioch
         a. Refusing to concede to pressure by false brethren
         b. Standing alone with even your closest brethren are led
            astray
         c. Having to rebuke a respected brother in Christ
      2. Paul's courage was motivated by faithfulness
         a. Faithfulness to the Lord whom he served
         b. Faithfulness to the gospel of which he was not ashamed - cf.
            Ro 1:16

   B. THE HUMILITY OF PETER...
      1. We note the humility manifested by Peter in his last epistle
         a. Not holding a grudge against Paul for his public rebuke
         b. Willing to publicly acknowledge Paul's wisdom given by
            inspiration
      2. Peter's humility was motivated by love
         a. Love for a brother in Christ
         b. Love consistent with what he himself taught others - cf.
            1Pe 3:8-9

CONCLUSION

1. The relationship between Paul and Peter illustrates the power of
   Christ...
   a. To turn persecutor and persecuted into coworkers for the gospel
   b. To help brethren at odds work through their problems to become
      brethren beloved

2. While Paul and Peter had a different focus in their respective
   ministries...
   a. They served the same Lord, preached the same gospel
   b. One was not superior to the other, they were fellow-apostles in
      the kingdom of God

Rather than trying to find some perceived 'rift' between two faithful
apostles, may we use their examples to motivate us in our service to the
Lord and to one another...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=1744


Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Old Testament book of Psalms constituted the hymnal of the Jewish nation, containing a collection of 150 songs, laments, and praises by various authors. Since the Old Testament canon was very likely completed no later than 400 B.C. (Leupold, 1969, p. 8; cf. Archer, 1974, p. 440), and since the Septuagint is known to have been produced circa 250 B.C., the pronouncements in the Psalms predated the arrival of Jesus on the planet by centuries. Yet, within the sacred pages of the Psalms, scores of very detailed allusions pinpoint specific incidents that occurred in the life of Christ on Earth. These allusions constitute proof positive of the inspiration of the Bible.
For example, composed by David in the 10th century B.C. (Barnes, 1847, pp. 193ff.), Psalm 22 is unquestionably a messianic psalm—literally packed with minute details that forecast the death of the Messiah. In verse 18, the psalmist quotes Him as making the simple statement: “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” All four of the inspired New Testament evangelists of the first century A.D. allude to these incidental details that they report in connection with Jesus hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24).
While commentators typically report that Roman law awarded the victim’s clothes as spoils for the Roman executioners (e.g., Erdman, 1922, p.161; McGarvey, n.d., p. 725), others question the historicity of such a claim (e.g., Edersheim, 1915, 2:591-592). In any case, the soldiers that attended the cross consisted of a quaternion—four soldiers (Davis, 1870, 3:2651). Matthew and Luke state very simply that these soldiers divided His clothes and cast lots for them, with Luke adding “to determine what every man should take.” These “garments” (merei) likely included a head-dress, sandals, girdle, and outer garment (Robertson, 1916, p. 147). Apparently, according to John 19:23, the soldiers were able to decide ownership of these four clothing articles without gambling. If they were able to agree on consignment of the four articles—one clothes item for each soldier—why did they also cast lots? It is John who provides the added clarification:
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-24).
The tunic was indivisible and unique from the other clothes, and very likely more valuable. It stood alone as seamless and would need to be awarded to a single soldier only, rather than being ripped into four pieces. Hence, they agreed to gamble in order to decide ownership of the tunic.
Observe carefully that these four unnamed Roman military men, who just happened to be assigned crucifixion duty that day, and just happened to have charge of the condemned Jesus of Nazareth (who happened that day to wear a seamless tunic), were operating solely out of their own impulses. They were not Jews. They undoubtedly had no familiarity whatsoever with Jewish Scripture. They were not controlled by any external source. No unseen or mysterious force took charge of their minds, no disciple whispered in their ears to cause them to robotically or artificially fulfill a prophecy. Yet, with uncanny precision, words written by King David a millennium earlier came to stunning fruition—words that on the surface might seem to contradict each other: the clothes were to be divided into separate parts, yet lots would be cast over the clothes. Roman soldiers unwittingly fulfilled the predictions of ancient Scripture in what to them were no more than mere casual, insignificant actions associated with the execution of their military duty, in tandem with their covetous desire to profit from their victim by acquiring His material goods.
But that’s not all. The layers of complexity and sophistication of the doctrine of inspiration, like the layers of an onion, can be peeled back to reveal additional marvels. John informs us that the item of clothing, which necessitated the Roman soldiers need to resort to gambling to decide ownership, was “without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” Why mention this piece of minutia? What significance could possibly be associated with such a seemingly trivial detail? To gain insight into a possible explanation, one must dig deeper into Bible teaching. Since the Bible was authored by Deity, it naturally possesses a depth uncharacteristic of human writers. It reflects indication that its Author was unhampered by the passing of time or the inability to foresee or orchestrate future events. Such qualities are commensurate with the nature of divinity.
In 1500 B.C., God imparted the Law of Moses to the Israelites as the covenant requirements that would guide the nation of Israel through its national existence. This law included provision for the High Priest, the first being Aaron, the brother of Moses, commissioned by God Himself (Exodus 28). On the Day of Atonement (yom kippur), he alone entered the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle/Temple to make atonement for himself and all the people (Leviticus 16). Bible typology—another bona fide proof of Bible inspiration—portrays Jesus as our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 9:11; et al.). Very uniquely and critically, Jesus performs for Christians parallel functions to the High Priest that absolutely must be performed if we are to be permitted to be saved to live eternally with Deity in heaven.
Among the articles of clothing stipulated by God for the High Priest was the skillfully woven “tunic of fine linen thread” (Exodus 28:39). According to Josephus, this clothing item was seamless:
Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back (3.7.4:203).
Coincidental? Perhaps. Nevertheless, John went out of his way to flag the point. And the Roman soldiers gambled for the seamless tunic of the Messiah—a tunic that subtly signaled His redemptive role as the one to make atonement for the world in the very act of dying on the cross. The handling of the clothes of Jesus Christ on the occasion of His crucifixion demonstrates the inspiration of the Bible and the divine origin of the Christian religion.

REFERENCES

Archer, Gleason (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press).
Barnes, Albert (1847), Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005 reprint).
Davis, William (1870), Dictionary of the Bible, ed. H.B. Hackett (New York: Hurd & Houghton).
Edersheim, Alfred (1915), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, & Co.).
Erdman, Charles (1922), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press).
Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Leupold, H.C. (1969 reprint), Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Robertson, A.T. (1916), The Divinity of Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revel).

Evolution Can’t Explain “Smart” Plants by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3762


Evolution Can’t Explain “Smart” Plants

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Lisa Krieger recently wrote an article titled, “How Do Flowers Know to Bloom in Spring? Now Humans Know, Too.” She reported about research on flower blooming that is being done by plant molecular geneticist Jose Luis Riechmann from the California Institute of Technology, published in Science magazine. Riechmann’s research centers on the ability of flowers to know when to bloom to take advantage of the proper weather conditions to reproduce. It turns out that for plants to survive, timing is everything. As plant biologist Jorge Dubcovsky of UC Davis stated: “Flowering time is one of the most important traits in breeding because it affects the yield of crops. Too early and you are killed by frost; too late and you are killed by heat” (as quoted in Krieger, 2010).
Reichmann believes he has identified the tiny protein that is responsible for setting blooming in motion. The protein is named APETALA1, or AP1. This tiny wonder “regulates more than 1,000 genes” and “serves as the door that opens the way to flowering” (2010). Without this amazing protein, the plant world as we know it would not exist. The importance of this single protein becomes clear, when we realize that “almost everything we eat is a plant, or something that just ate a plant” (2010).
This petite protein poses a powerful problem for the theory of evolution. According to the theory, all plants and animals evolved over billions of years by chance, random processes that were not directed by any intelligence. Although evolution has been repeatedly shown to be false (see Butt and Lyons, 2009), research like Reichmann’s continues to add more weight to the fact that evolution is scientifically impossible.
First, it should be noted that no research ever done has shown us how random processes can produce a protein like AP1. Second, even if random processes produced AP1, which they cannot, how many times of trial and error would we need to grant the evolutionary process to allow it to finally strike upon the perfectly timed sequence to bloom? If the plants that were supposedly evolving bloomed at the wrong time, they would die or fail to reproduce. While that would be bad for those individual plants, it would also be devastating for the alleged evolutionary process, since evolution would have to start over trying to randomly assemble protein AP1after every failure. Since all evolutionary scenarios are imaginary, and not backed by real scientific evidence, it is easy to propound a scenario by which natural selection somehow “chose” the plants that happened to bloom at the right time and have the proper protein sequence. But in reality, the first wrong turn would have sent plant evolution (although there really is no such thing) back to the drawing board, as would each additional wrongly timed blooming.
In truth, there never have been millions of years of gradual, chance mutations and natural selections that produced the “intelligent” flowering plants that we see today. The intricate design of plants, as manifested by tiny proteins like AP1, testifies to the fact that an intelligent Designer created flowering plants. Plants “know” exactly when to bloom simply because, when God created them, He endowed them with the ability to perpetuate their kind. As Genesis 1:11 states: “Then God said, ‘Let all the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so” (emp. added).

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2009), “Darwin in Light of 150 Years of Error,” Reason & Revelation, 29[2]:9-15, February, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240057.
Krieger, Lisa (2010), “How Do Flowers Know to Bloom in Spring? Now Humans Know, Too,” [On-line], URL: http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_14803818?source=rss.

Truth and Feelings by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=333


Truth and Feelings

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Many people in society contend that there is no absolute right way to do things. The idea is that one way might be right for you, but not for another person. Each person does what feels right to him, and that is right for him. This view says that your way is fine for you and my way is fine for me, and everyone does what he thinks is right. Each way is as good as another and none should be called the right way.
This idea is especially common in religion. The masses are content to believe that one religion is as good as another. Most think that as long as a person is sincere in what he believes, then that person is alright. According to this idea, the various religions, denominations, churches, and synagogues are all just different ways to get to the same place. Those who think this way do not believe that any one religion is the right religion. It might be the right religion or church for you, but it cannot be the right religion, because they believe there is no one right religion or church. Is this idea correct? Is there no real, absolute truth? Are all churches and religions just as good as another? Let’s see how this idea works in real life.
Suppose a math teacher places the following problem on the board for her class 2 + 2 = ____. She explains to her class that this is an all-or-nothing quiz. The correct answer is worth 100 points. A wrong answer results in a zero. Suppose a person feels very sure that the answer is five. In fact, suppose the teacher goes out of the room and the entire class votes that the answer is five. Furthermore, suppose the history teacher comes in while the math teacher is out, and explains that the answers three, four, and five should be acceptable as long as each student firmly believes that the answer he or she writes is right. Is any answer except four going to be right? Absolutely not!
Sadly, people do not see that the same principle applies to religion. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” In John 14:6, Jesus boldly stated: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It really is as simple as 2 + 2. There is only one way to heaven, and Jesus is it. This is hard for some people to accept, but it is the truth—the absolute, unchanging truth. All those people who are trying to get to heaven through Buddha, Muhammad, Judaism, or countless other religions will be lost if they do not turn to Jesus and do things His way.
It also is the case that many sincere people feel that they are doing right, but are not. The apostle Paul is a great example of this. Paul (whose name was first Saul) thought that Christians were wicked. He thought they were pulling people away from the true way to heaven that he believed was found in the Jewish religion. Because of this sincere belief, he persecuted the Christians. He obtained authority from Jewish authorities to throw Christians in prison. When Christians were on trial for their lives, Paul voted that they should be killed. He sincerely believed that he was doing what God wanted him to do. In Acts 23:1, while he was speaking to the Jewish leaders, Paul said, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Paul felt as though he was serving God, but he was not. In fact, he was serving Satan and fighting against God, in spite of his sincere motive. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong.
When Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, He told him that he was sinning (Acts 9). He instructed Paul to go into the city of Damascus where he would be told what he must do to get right with God. Saul believed Jesus, and did exactly as he was instructed. After Paul prayed and fasted for three days, a man named Ananias came to Paul and told him to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Paul was baptized for the remission of his sins, and was added to the one true church that belongs to Christ. Paul’s sincerity did him no good until he found and obeyed the truth.
In John 8:32, Jesus explained, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Later, Jesus explained that God’s Word “is truth” (John 17:17). We have been given God’s Word—the Bible. Jesus said that these words will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). At the Judgment, our lives will be compared to the truth found in the New Testament. If we have followed Jesus’ words, we will go to heaven. If we have not followed them, regardless of how sincere we were, we will go to hell.
North is always north, two plus two always equals four, and Jesus is the only way to get to God and heaven. Let us live our lives, not according to what “feels” right, but according to the truth that is found only in the Bible.

The Historical Christ--Fact or Fiction? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=187

The Historical Christ--Fact or Fiction?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Most children and adults easily recognize the name of Jesus Christ. Many even can recount the story of His life. Also easily recognizable are the names of Peter Pan and Rumpelstiltskin. And most people can relate the “facts” of these fairy tales as well. Is Jesus of Nazareth a fictional character who deserves to be included in a list containing mystifying magicians, daring dragon slayers, and flying boy heroes? The world-famous medical doctor and lifelong critic of Christianity, Albert Schweitzer, answered with a resounding “yes” when he wrote:
The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb (1964, p. 398).
In more modern times, former-preacher-turned-atheist Dan Barker has suggested that “the New Testament Jesus is a myth” (1992, p. 378). Are such views based upon historical evidence and therefore worthy of serious consideration? Or do they represent merely wishful thinking on the part of those who prefer to believe—for whatever reason—that Christ never lived? Was Jesus Christ a man whose feet got dirty and whose body grew tired just like the rest of humanity? Fortunately, such questions can be answered by an honest appeal to the available historical evidence.
What is a “historical” person? Martin Kahler suggested: “Is it not the person who originates and bequeaths a permanent influence? He is one of those dynamic individuals who intervene in the course of events” (1896, p. 63). Do any records exist to document the claim that Jesus Christ “intervened in the course of events” known as world history? Indeed they do.

HOSTILE TESTIMONY

Interestingly, the first type of records comes from what are known commonly as “hostile” sources—writers who mentioned Jesus in a negative light or derogatory fashion. Such penmen certainly were not predisposed to further the cause of Christ or otherwise to add credence to His existence. In fact, quite the opposite is true. They rejected His teachings and often reviled Him as well. Thus, one can appeal to them without the charge of built-in bias.
In his book, The Historical Figure of Jesus, E.P. Sanders stated: “Most of the first-century literature that survives was written by members of the very small elite class of the Roman Empire. To them, Jesus (if they heard of him at all) was merely a troublesome rabble-rouser and magician in a small, backward part of the world” (1993, p. 49, parenthetical comment in orig.). It is now to this “small elite class of the Roman Empire” that we turn our attention for documentation of Christ’s existence.
Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) should be among the first of several hostile witnesses called to the stand. He was a member of the Roman provincial upper class with a formal education who held several high positions under different emperors such as Nerva and Trajan (see Tacitus, 1952, p. 7). His famous work, Annals, was a history of Rome written in approximately A.D. 115. In the Annals he told of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in A.D. 64. Nero, the Roman emperor in office at the time, was suspected by many of having ordered the city set on fire. Tacitus wrote:
Nero fabricated scapegoats—and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome (1952, 15.44, parenthetical comments in orig.).
Tacitus hated both Christians and their namesake, Christ. He therefore had nothing positive to say about what he referred to as a “deadly superstition.” He did, however, have something to say about it. His testimony establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the Christian religion not only was relevant historically, but that Christ, as its originator, was a verifiable historical figure of such prominence that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!
Additional hostile testimony originated from Suetonius, who wrote around A.D. 120. Robert Graves, as translator of Suetonius’ work, The Twelve Caesars, declared:
Suetonius was fortunate in having ready access to the Imperial and Senatorial archives and to a great body of contemporary memoirs and public documents, and in having himself lived nearly thirty years under the Caesars. Much of his information about Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero comes from eye-witnesses of the events described (Suetonius, 1957, p. 7).
The testimony of Suetonius is a reliable piece of historical evidence. Twice in his history, Suetonius specifically mentioned Christ or His followers. He wrote, for example: “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbance at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius—KB] expelled them from the city” (Claudius, 25:4; note that in Acts 18:2 Luke mentioned this expulsion by Claudius). Sanders noted that Chrestus is a misspelling of Christos, “the Greek word that translates the Hebrew ‘Messiah’” (1993, pp. 49-50). Suetonius further commented: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief” (Nero, 16:2). Again, it is evident that Suetonius and the Roman government had feelings of hatred toward Christ and His alleged mischievous band of rebels. It is equally evident that Suetonius (and, in fact, most of Rome) recognized that Christ was the noteworthy founder of a historically significant new religion.
Along with Tacitus and Suetonius, Pliny the Younger must be allowed to take a seat among hostile Roman witnesses. In approximately A.D. 110-111, Pliny was sent by the Roman emperor Trajan to govern the affairs of the region of Bithynia. From this region, Pliny corresponded with the emperor concerning a problem he viewed as quite serious. He wrote: “I was never present at any trial of Christians; therefore I do not know the customary penalties or investigations and what limits are observed” (as quoted in Wilken, 1990, p. 4). He then went on to state:
This is the course that I have adopted in the case of those brought before me as Christians. I ask them if they are Christians. If they admit it, I repeat the question a second and a third time, threatening capital punishment; if they persist, I sentence them to death (as quoted in Wilken, p. 4).
Pliny used the term “Christian” or “Christians” seven times in his letter, thereby corroborating it as a generally accepted term that was recognized by both the Roman Empire and its emperor. Pliny also used the name “Christ” three times to refer to the originator of the “sect.” It is undeniably the case that Christians, with Christ as their founder, had multiplied in such a way as to draw the attention of the emperor and his magistrates by the time of Pliny’s letter to Trajan. In light of this evidence, it is impossible to deny the fact that Jesus Christ existed and was recognized by the highest officials within the Roman government as an actual, historical person.
Celsus, a second-century pagan philosopher, produced a vehement attack upon Christianity by the title of True Discourse (c. A.D. 178). In that vile document, Celsus argued that Christ owed his existence to the result of fornication between Mary and a Roman soldier named Panthera. As he matured, Jesus began to call himself God—an action, said Celsus, which caused his Jewish brethren to kill him. Yet as denigrating as his attack was, Celsus never went so far as to suggest that Christ did not exist.
Some have attempted to negate the testimony of these hostile Roman witnesses to Christ’s historicity by suggesting that the “Roman sources that mention him are all dependent on Christian reports” (Sanders, 1993, p. 49). For example, in his book, The Earliest Records of Jesus, Francis Beare lamented:
Everything that has been recorded of the Jesus of history was recorded for us by men to whom he was Christ the Lord; and we cannot expunge their faith from the records without making the records themselves virtually worthless. There is no Jesus known to history except him who is depicted by his followers as the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour to the World (1962, p. 19).
Such a suggestion is as outlandish as it is outrageous. Not only is there no evidence to support such a claim, but all of the available evidence militates against it. Furthermore, it is an untenable position to suggest that such upper class Roman historians would submit for inclusion in the official annals of Roman history (to be preserved for posterity) facts that were related to them by a notorious tribe of “mischievous,” “depraved,” “superstitious” misfits.
Even a casual reader who glances over the testimony of the hostile Roman witnesses who bore testimony to the historicity of Christ will be struck by the fact that these ancient men depicted Christ as neither the Son of God nor the Savior of the world. They verbally stripped Him of His Sonship, denied His glory, and belittled His magnificence. They described Him to their contemporaries, and for posterity, as a mere man. Yet even though they were wide of the mark in regard to the truth of Who He was, through their caustic diatribes they nevertheless documented that He was. And for that we are indebted to them.

TESTIMONY OF JESUS AMONG THE JEWS

Even though much of the hostile testimony regarding the existence of Jesus originated from witnesses within the Roman Empire, such testimony is not the only kind of hostile historical evidence available. Anyone familiar with Jewish history will recognize immediately the Mishnahand the Talmud. The Mishnah was a book of Jewish law traditions codified by Rabbi Judah around the year A.D. 200 and known to the Jews as the “whole code of religious jurisprudence” (Bruce, 1953, p. 101). Jewish rabbis studied the Mishnah and even wrote a body of commentary based upon it known as the Gemares. The Mishnah and Gemares are known collectively as the Talmud(Bruce, 1953, p. 101). The complete Talmud surfaced around A.D. 300. If a person as influential as Jesus had existed in the land of Palestine during the first century, surely the rabbis would have had something to say about him. Undoubtedly, a man who supposedly confronted the most astute religious leaders of His day—and won—would be named among the opinions of those who shared His rabbinical title. As Bruce declared:
According to the earlier Rabbis whose opinions are recorded in these writings, Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel, who practised magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said that he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people. His disciples, of whom five are named, healed the sick in his name (1953, p. 102).
First-century Judaism, in large part, refused to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of the God. Yet it did not refuse to accept Him as a historical man from a literal city known as Nazareth or to record for posterity crucial facts about His life and death.
Josephus is another important Jewish witness. The son of Mattathias, he was born into a Jewish upper class priestly family around A.D. 37. His education in biblical law and history stood among the best of his day (Sanders, 1993, p. 15). At age nineteen, he became a Pharisee. When Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman authorities, he was given command of the Jewish forces in Galilee. After losing most of his men, he surrendered to the Romans. He found favor in the man who commanded the Roman army, Vespasian, by predicting that Vespasian soon would be elevated to the position of emperor. Josephus’ prediction came true in A.D. 69 at Vespasian’s inauguration. After the fall of Jerusalem, Josephus assumed the family name of the emperor (Flavius) and settled down to live a life as a government pensioner. It was during these latter years that he wrote Antiquities of the Jews between September 93 and September 94 (Bruce, 1953, pp. 103-104). Josephus himself gave the date as the thirteenth year of Domitian (Rajak, 1984, p. 237). His contemporaries viewed his career indignantly as one of traitorous rebellion to the Jewish nation (Bruce, 1953, p. 104).
Twice in Antiquities, Jesus’ name flowed from Josephus’ pen. Antiquities 18:3:3 reads as follows
And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He led away many Jews, and also Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at first did not cease; for he appeared to them on the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him: and even now the tribe of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out.
Certain historians regard the italicized segments of the section as “Christian interpolation.” There is, however, no evidence from textual criticism that would warrant such an opinion (Bruce, 1953, p. 110). In fact, every extant Greek manuscript contains the disputed portions. The passage also exists in both Hebrew and Arabic versions. And although the Arabic version is slightly different, it still exhibits knowledge of the disputed sections (see Chapman, 1981, p. 29; Habermas, 1996, pp. 193-196).
There are several reasons generally offered for rejecting the passage as genuine. First, early Christian writers like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen did not use Josephus’ statement in their defense of Christ’s deity. Habermas observed that Origen, in fact, documented the fact that Josephus (although himself a Jew) did not believe Christ to be the Messiah (1996, p. 192; cf. Origen’s Contra Celsum, 1:47). However, as Habermas also pointed out, the fourth-century writer Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (1:11), quoted Josephus’ statement about Christ, including the disputed words. And he undoubtedly had access to much more ancient sources than those now available.
Furthermore, it should not be all that surprising that such early Christian apologists did not appeal to Josephus in their writings. Wayne Jackson has suggested:
Josephus’ writings may not have been in extensive circulation at that point in time. His Antiquities was not completed until about 93 A.D. Too, in view of the fact that Josephus was not respected by the Jews, his works may not have been valued as an apologetic tool (1991, 11:29).
Such a suggestion possesses merit. Professor Bruce Metzger commented: “Because Josephus was deemed a renegade to Judaism, Jewish scribes were not interested in preserving his writings for posterity” (1965, p. 75). Thomas H. Horne, in his Critical Introduction to the Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, referred to the fact that the main source of evidence frequently used by the so-called “church fathers” was an appeal to the Old Testament rather than to human sources (1841, 1:463-464). The evidence substantiates Horne’s conclusion. For example, a survey of the index to the eight volumes of the multi-volume set, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, reveals only eleven references to Josephus in the entire set.
The second reason sometimes offered as to why the disputed passage in Josephus’ Antiquitiesmight be due to “Christian interpolation” is the fact that it seems unlikely that a non-Christian writer would include such statements as “this man was the Christ” or “if indeed we should call him a man.” But while such might be unlikely, it certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility. Any number of reasons could explain why Josephus would write what he did. For example, Bruce allowed for the possibility that Josephus might have been speaking sarcastically (1953, p. 110). Howard Key suggested:
If we assume that in making explicit statements about Jesus as Messiah and about the resurrection Josephus is merely conveying what Jesus’ followers claimed on his behalf, then there would be no reason to deny that he wrote them [i.e., the supposed interpolated phrases—KB] (1970, p. 33).
It also should be noted that Josephus hardly qualifies as the sole author of such statements made about Christ by those who rejected His deity. Ernest Renan, for example, was a nineteenth-century French historian whose book, The Life of Jesus, was a frontal assault on Christ’s deity that received major attention throughout Europe (see Thompson, 1994, 14:5). Yet in that very volume Renan wrote: “It is allowable to call Divine this sublime person who, each day, still presides over the destinies of the world” (as quoted in Schaff and Roussel, 1868, pp. 116-117).
Or consider H.G. Wells who, in 1931, authored The Outline of History. On page 270 of that famous work, Wells referred to Jesus as “a prophet of unprecedented power.” No one who knew Wells (a man who certainly did not believe in the divinity of Christ) ever would accuse his account of being flawed by “Christian interpolation.” The famous humanist, Will Durant, was an avowed atheist, yet he wrote: “The greatest question of our time is not communism vs. individualism, not Europe vs. America, not even the East vs. the West; it is whether men can bear to live without God” (1932, p. 23). Comments like those of Renan, Wells, and Durant document the fact that, on occasion, even unbelievers have written convincingly about God and Christ.
Furthermore, even if the material containing the alleged Christian interpolation is removed, the vocabulary and grammar of the section “cohere well with Josephus’ style and language” (Meier, 1990, p. 90). In fact, almost every word (omitting for the moment the supposed interpolations) is found elsewhere in Josephus (Meier, p. 90). Were the disputed material to be expunged, the testimony of Josephus still would verify the fact that Jesus Christ actually lived. Habermas therefore concluded:
There are good indications that the majority of the text is genuine. There is no textual evidence against it, and, conversely, there is very good manuscript evidence for this statement about Jesus, thus making it difficult to ignore. Additionally, leading scholars on the works of Josephus [Daniel-Rops, 1962, p. 21; Bruce, 1967, p. 108; Anderson, 1969, p. 20] have testified that this portion is written in the style of this Jewish historian (1996, p. 193).
In addition, Josephus did not remain mute regarding Christ in his later sections. Antiquities20:9:1 relates that Ananus brought before the Sanhedrin “a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death.” Bruce observed that this quote from Josephus “is chiefly important because he calls James ‘the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ,’ in such a way as to suggest that he has already made reference to Jesus. And we do find reference to him in all extant copies of Josephus” (Bruce, 1953, p. 109). Meier, in an article titled “Jesus in Josephus,” made it clear that rejecting this passage as actually having been written by Josephus defies accurate assessment of the text (1990, pp. 79-81). Meier also added another emphatic defense of the historical reliability of the text in Antiquities concerning Christ.
Practically no one is astounded or refuses to believe that in the same book 18 of The Jewish Antiquities Josephus also chose to write a longer sketch of another marginal Jew, another peculiar religious leader in Palestine, “John surnamed the Baptist” (Ant. 18.5.2). Fortunately for us, Josephus had more than a passing interest in marginal Jews (p. 99).
Regardless of what one believes about the writings of Josephus, the simple fact is that this well-educated, Jewish historian wrote about a man named Jesus Who actually existed in the first century. Yamauchi summarized quite well the findings of the secular sources regarding Christ:
Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger that: (1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; (2) many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; (3) he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; (4) he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; (5) despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by 64 A.D.; (6) all kinds of people from the cities and countryside—men and women, slave and free—worshiped him as God by the beginning of the second century (1995, p. 222).

RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT RECORDS

Although the above list of hostile and Jewish witnesses proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus actually lived, it is by no means the only historical evidence available to those interested in this topic. The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the other 23 books that form the New Testament, provide more information about Jesus than any other source(s) available. But may these records be viewed as historical evidence, or are they instead writings whose reliability pales in comparison to other types of historical documentation? Blomberg has explained why the historical question of the Gospels, for example, must be considered.
Many who have never studied the gospels in a scholarly context believe that biblical criticism has virtually disproved the existence [of Christ—KB]. An examination of the gospel’s historical reliability must therefore precede a credible assessment of who Jesus was (1987, p. xx).
But how well do the New Testament documents compare with additional ancient, historical documents? F.F Bruce examined much of the evidence surrounding this question in his book, The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? As he and other writers (e.g., Metzger, 1968, p. 36; Geisler and Brooks, 1990, p. 159) have no-ted, there are 5,366 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in existence today, in whole or in part, that serve to corroborate the accuracy of the New Testament. The best manuscripts of the New Testament are dated at roughly A.D. 350, with perhaps one of the most important of these being the Codex Vaticanus, “the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome,” and the Codex Sinaiticus, which was purchased by the British from the Soviet Government in 1933 (Bruce, 1953, p. 20). Additionally, the Chester Beatty papyri, made public in 1931, contain eleven codices, three of which contain most of the New Testament (including the Gospels). Two of these codices boast of a date in the first half of the third century, while the third slides in a little later, being dated in the last half of the same century (Bruce, 1953, p. 21). The John Rylands Library boasts of even earlier evidence. A papyrus codex containing parts of John 18 dates to the time of Hadrian, who reigned from A.D. 117 to 138 (Bruce, 1953, p. 21).
Other attestation to the accuracy of the New Testament documents can be found in the writings of the so-called “apostolic fathers”—men who wrote primarily from A.D. 90 to 160 (Bruce, 1953, p. 22). Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Tatian, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius (writing before the close of the second century) all provided citations from one or more of the Gospels (Guthrie, 1990, p. 24). Other witnesses to the early authenticity of the New Testament are the Ancient Versions, which consist of the text of the New Testament translated into different languages. The Old Latin and the Old Syriac are the most ancient, being dated from the middle of the second century (Bruce, 1953, p. 23).
The available evidence makes it clear that the Gospels were accepted as authentic by the close of the second century (Guthrie, p. 24). They were complete (or substantially complete) before A.D.100, with many of the writings circulating 20-40 years before the close of the first century (Bruce, 1953, p. 16). Linton remarked concerning the Gospels:
A fact known to all who have given any study at all to this subject is that these books were quoted, listed, catalogued, harmonized, cited as authority by different writers, Christian and Pagan, right back to the time of the apostles (1943, p. 39).
Such an assessment is absolutely correct. In fact, the New Testament enjoys far more historical documentation than any other volume ever known. There are only 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, which is undeniably the most famous book of ancient Greece. No one doubts the text of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, but we have only 10 copies of it, the earliest of which was made 1,000 years after it was written. To have such abundance of copies for the New Testament from within 70 years of their writing is nothing short of amazing (Geisler and Brooks, 1990, pp. 159-160).
Someone might allege that the New Testament documents cannot be trusted because the writers had an agenda. But this in itself does not render what they said untruthful, especially in the light of corroborating evidence from hostile witnesses. There are other histories that are accepted despite their authors’ agendas. An “agenda” does not nullify the possibility of accurate historical knowledge.
In his work, The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable?, Bruce offered more astounding comparisons. Livy wrote 142 books of Roman history, of which a mere 35 survive. The 35 known books are made manifest due to some 20 manuscripts, only one of which is as old as the fourth century. We have only two manuscripts of Tacitus’ Histories and Annals, one from the ninth century and one from the eleventh. The History of Thucydides, another well-known ancient work, is dependent upon only eight manuscripts, the oldest of these being dated about A.D. 900 (along with a few papyrus scraps dated at the beginning of the Christian era). The History of Herodotus finds itself in a similar situation. “Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals” (Bruce, 1953, pp. 20-21). Bruce thus declared: “It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians” (1953, p. 19). As Linton put it:
There is no room for question that the records of the words and acts of Jesus of Galilee came from the pens of the men who, with John, wrote what they had “heard” and “seen” and their hands had “handled of the Word of life” (1943, pp. 39-40).

CONCLUSION

When someone asks the question, “Is the life of Jesus Christ a historic event?,” he or she must remember that “If we maintain that the life of our Lord is not a historical event, we are landed in hopeless difficulties; in consistency, we shall have to give up all ancient history and deny that there ever was such an event as the assassination of Julius Caesar” (Monser, 1961, p. 377).
Faced with such overwhelming evidence, it is unwise to reject the position that Jesus Christ actually walked the streets of Jerusalem in the first century. As Harvey has remarked, there are certain facts about Jesus that “are attested by at least as much reliable evidence as are countless others taken for granted as historical facts known to us from the ancient world.” But lest I be accused of misquoting him, let me point out that Harvey went on to say, “It can still be argued that we can have no reliable historical knowledge about Jesus with regard to anything that really matters” (1982, p. 6).
Harvey could not deny the fact that Jesus lived on this Earth. Critics do not like having to admit it, but they cannot successfully deny the fact that Jesus had a greater impact on the world than any single life before or after. Nor can they deny the fact that Jesus died at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Harvey and others can say only that such facts “do not really matter.” I contend that the facts that establish the existence of Jesus Christ of Nazareth really do matter. As Bruce stated, “The earliest propagators of Christianity welcomed the fullest examination of the credentials of their message” (1953, p. 122). While Paul was on trial before King Agrippa, he said to Festus: “For the king knoweth of these things, unto whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).
As the earliest apologists of Christianity welcomed a full examination of the credentials of the message that they preached, so do we today. These credentials have been weighed in the balance and not found wanting. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ did exist and live among men.
It is impossible to say that no one has the right to be an agnostic. But no one has the right to be an agnostic till he has thus dealt with the question, and faced this fact with an open mind. After that, he may be an agnostic—if he can (Anderson, 1985, p. 12).

REFERENCES

Anderson, J.N.D. (1969), Christianity: The Witness of History (London: Tyndale).
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Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Beare, Francis Wright (1962), The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon).
Blomberg, Craig L. (1987), The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Bruce, F.F. (1953), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), fourth edition.
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Chapman, Colin (1981), The Case for Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
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Durant, Will, ed. (1932), On the Meaning of Life (New York: Long and Smith).
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