The God Of Love And Wrath by Allan Turner


The God Of Love And Wrath
by Allan Turner

Because He is love, some are inclined to think that God does not, and will not, become involved with punishment. Punishment, it is believed, is somehow inconsistent with love. We are told that if God were to inflict punishment, He would no longer be a God of love. Those who take this position exhibit their ignorance of both the character of God and the nature of punishment.
The God of the Bible identifies Himself as a God of love (I John 4:8) and a God of wrath, vengeance and punishment (Romans 1:18; II Thessalonians 1:6-9). Now, if God identifies Himself as being both a God of love and wrath, then who are we to argue with Him? Instead of arguing against it, we ought to try to understand how these two attributes coexist.
Wrath Is A Requirement Of Justice
When God executes wrath, vengeance, and punishment, it is only in a judicial sense that He does so. When God, as lawgiver, executes judgment, justice demands that one be either vindicated or punished, i.e., one receives either a “blessing” or a “curse” (cf. Deuteronomy 11:26-28; James 4:12). In this sense, punishment is retribution (viz., “the wages of sin...,” Romans 6:23) to vindicate Law and satisfy Justice, and is, consequently, an action based upon the principle of Righteousness (“It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” II Thessalonians 1:6).
Without reward and punishment, there is no justice. Without justice, there is no judgment. Without judgment, there is no law. Without law, there is no lawgiver. Finally, if there is no lawgiver, then there is no God like the one described in the Bible. Consider what the Bible has said on this: “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31); “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...” (II Corinthians 5:10,11a).
The Primary Design Of Punishment Is Punishment
Too often, punishment is thought to be remedial. In other words, many think the primary purpose of punishment is to make one better. Although it is true that correction or reform can be-—and in some cases is-—a residual effect of punishment, it has as its major objective the vindication of Law and the satisfaction of Justice. If this is not true, then our atonement through Jesus' vicarious death is eliminated. This ought to be obvious. If the punishment the Lord experienced on the cross was actually designed to make those who rightly deserved it better-—and not to vindicate Law and satisfy Justice-—then there was no way He could have experienced that for us. On the other hand, if punishment was designed to uphold Law and satisfy Justice, then it was possible for Christ to be “the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). This is exactly what happened. The vicarious death of Jesus on the cross made it possible for God to give those who actually deserved the punishment a clean slate as a result of their faith in His Son. Because Jesus paid the full price for our redemption, Justice was done (i.e., God remained just) and God was able to justify those who exercise faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25,26).
Punishment Is The Reward Of Unrighteousness
There is absolutely no reason why man cannot keep God's Law perfectly. The Bible makes no excuse for man's sinfulness. It simply teaches us that although man has the capacity to do so, he has not, does not, and will not keep Law perfectly, i.e., “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (cf. Romans 3:20, 23). Sin, we are taught in the Bible and know in our hearts, is not forced or coerced, but is clearly a voluntary action (James 1:14,15) committed by creatures of free will (Joshua 24:15), who will be judged by a just God Who will vindicate His Law (Deuteronomy 32:35; He-brews 10:30).
Punishment, then, is “the just recompense of reward” one receives for unrighteousness (Hebrews 2:2). Therefore, those who would make arguments against God's punishment of those who violate His law because such would make Him, in their opinion, less a God of love and more like a vicious ogre, fail not only to understand the character of God and the primary purpose of punishment, but they really fail to appreciate the most magnificent manifestation of God's love ever bestowed upon man-kind—the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son (John 3:16; I John 4:10).
Saved By Grace Through Faith
God's love, mercy and grace abounded unto us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. The sacrifice of God's Son was the only means whereby God, Who loved us, could save us from the punishment we all justly deserved. If man would but see his predicament (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”), he would appreciate what God has done for him (“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”), and there would be no misunderstanding of either God's love or His need to vindicate Law and satisfy Justice. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24,25).

"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Three by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                             Chapter Three


1) To understand the particulars of God's righteousness:  grace,
   redemption, propitiation, faith in Jesus, and justification

2) To see the difference between a law of works and the law of faith


As Paul continues to demonstrate the Jews' need of salvation, he 
proceeds to answer questions that he envisions protesting Jews might 
ask.  He explains the advantage of being a Jew, the faithfulness of God 
in spite of the Jews' unbelief, and the right of God to condemn the
unrighteousness of man even though it magnifies His Own righteousness
(1-8).  Though the Jews had the advantage of possessing the oracles of
God, Paul still concludes that the Jews as well as the Gentiles are in
sin and proves his conclusion by listing a series of Old Testament
scriptures that speaks to those under the Law (the Jews) as sinners
(9-19).  His conclusion:  a law (like the Law of Moses) could not save,
but only reveal the knowledge of sin; a point he will elaborate upon in 
chapter seven (20).

Paul now carefully begins to explain the "good news" of God's plan of 
salvation.  Apart from law, yet witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 
God's way of making man right through faith in Jesus Christ is now made 
clear, and made available to all who believe, whether Jew or Greek, for
all have sinned (21-23).

This justification of man is explained in terms of redemption, made 
possible through the blood of Christ, and offered to those who have 
faith in Christ.  It also demonstrates how God can be both "just" (who
takes seriously the sins of mankind) and "a justifier" (who is able to 
forgive sinners).  God is able to do this by offering Christ's blood as 
a propitiation to those who have faith (24-26).

This "justification" is a gift of God's grace to those who have faith, 
which prevents anyone from boasting as though they through the works of 
a law deserved it (27-30).  This does not void the need for law, but
rather meets the requirement of law (31).

OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan)


      1. In many respects (1)
      2. Especially in having the "Oracles of God" (2)

      1. Unbelieving Jews will not make the faithfulness of God without
         effect (3-4)
      2. God is right to be angry, even if "unrighteousness"
         demonstrates His Own righteousness (5-6)
      3. Though sin might increase God's truth and give Him glory,
         people will still be judged for their sins (7-8)

      1. Despite advantages, Jews like Greeks are under sin (9)
      2. Biblical proof (10-18)
      3. Application and conclusion (19-20)
         a. The Law condemns all, especially to whom it was given (19)
         b. Law cannot justify, but only reveal the knowledge of sin

      1. Apart from law, but witnessed by the Law (21)
      2. A righteousness through faith in Jesus (22a)
      3. For all who believe, for all have sinned (22b-23)
      1. Justification by grace through redemption in Christ (24)
      2. Jesus' blood offered by God as a propitiation through faith
      3. This demonstrates God's righteousness toward the one who has
         faith in Jesus (25b-26)

      1. Boasting on man's part is excluded (27a)
      2. For justification is based on faith, not deeds of law (27b-28)
      3. God is God of Jews and Gentiles, for He justifies both by
         faith (29-30)
      4. This does not void the need for law, but rather meets the 
         requirements of law (31)


redemption - "a releasing, a payment for a ransom; refers to being
              released from the guilt of sin by the blood of Christ"

justified - "a legal term, indicating a verdict of 'not guilty'; in
             regards to sin, he who is justified is not held
             accountable for his sins"

propitiation - "used to refer to an offering designed to appease; God
               offers the blood of Christ to appease for man's sins"

sin - "a missing of the mark" (Ro 3:23) -- "a breaking of the law"
      (1Jn 3:4)


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - The Jews' Need Of Salvation (1-20)
   - The Provision:  Justification By Faith (21-31)

2) What advantage was there in being a Jew? (2)
   - They possessed the revealed oracles of God

3) What comes through law? (20)
   - The knowledge of sin

4) What came apart from law? (21)
   - The righteousness of God (God's way of justifying sinful man)

5) Who has sinned? (23)
   - All have sinned

6) What is the gift of God's grace? (24)
   - Being justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

7) How is God appeased for our sins? (25)
   - Through the blood of Jesus Christ

8) How does man receive justification from God? (28)
   - By faith

9) How does "justification by faith" relate to the principle of law?
   - It does not void the need for law, but rather supports the demand
     of law

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                              Chapter Two


1) To see how people without a direct revelation of God's Will can
   still be lost

2) To see how people who may have a written Law from God are also in
   need of salvation


Having vividly depicted the condition of the Gentile world in chapter
one, Paul now addresses his comments to those who pass judgment on
others when they themselves are guilty of the same things (1).  He
points out that they are in danger of God's righteous judgment, who
"will render to each one according to his deeds" (2-6).  This judgment
will offer either eternal life or wrath and indignation, given without 
partiality, and the decision is based on whether one does good or evil 

To justify the condemnation of Gentiles who did not have a written Law 
(like the Jews), Paul affirms that the Gentiles could "by nature do the 
things contained in the law" and that their own consciences will bear 
witness of their guilt on the day of judgment.  In this way Paul 
demonstrated the Gentiles' need of salvation (12-16).

Lest the Jews think their having the Law frees them from condemnation, 
Paul proceeds to demonstrate that they too are in need of salvation.  
Though they have the Law, their failure to keep it perfectly caused 
them to dishonor God and blaspheme His Name (17-24).  Introducing a 
thought he will expand upon later in the epistle, he points out that a 
true Jew is one who is circumcised in his heart, and not just in the 
flesh (25-29).

OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan)


      1. The inconsistent judge judges himself (1)
      2. The hypocritical judge is judged by truth (2)
      3. The foolish judge reasons poorly (3)
      4. The presumptuous judge treasures up wrath (4-11)
      1. Those who sin will still perish (12)
      2. The Gentiles DO have a law (13-15)
      3. Jesus Christ will judge accordingly (16)


      1. The Jewish self-portrait (17-20)
      2. The Jewish inconsistency and dishonor of God (21-24)

      1. Voided by transgressing the Law (25-27)
      2. The true Jew is one circumcised in the heart, in the Spirit


judgment - in some places, the idea is "discernment;" in other places 
           "condemnation" is the idea - the context must determine

wrath - anger (in God's case, a just displeasure in response to sin)

law - when preceded by the definite article "the" (in the Greek) it 
      usually refers to the Law of Moses, otherwise it may refer to the
      principle of law in general; there are exceptions, and the
      context must determine

by nature - "a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has
            become nature" (THAYER)

conscience - that faculty of thought which makes moral judgments
             (either excusing or condemning our actions); developed
             through training


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - The Gentiles' Need Of Salvation (1-16)
   - The Jews' Need Of Salvation (17-29)

2) Why is one who passes judgment without excuse? (1)
   - They are guilty of the same thing and so condemn themselves

3) How does God try to lead one to repentance? (4)
   - Through kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering

4) What is the reward given to those who do good?  To those who do
   evil? (9,10)
   - Eternal life to those who do good; wrath and indignation,
     tribulation and anguish to those who do evil

5) How will God judge those who do not have a "written" law? (14-16)
   - The law of their conscience will condemn them when God judges the
     secrets of their hearts by Jesus Christ

6) Without a "written" Law, how did the Gentiles know the difference
   between right and wrong? (14,15)
    - "by nature" (note the definition above); they are able to do the
      things contained in the Law, for they have the "work of the Law"
      written in their hearts

7) Why were the Jews in need of salvation? (21-24)
   - Through inconsistency and disobedience to the Law, they dishonored

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter One by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                              Chapter One


1) To be impressed with the all-sufficiency of the gospel

2) To see how God's wrath may be directed toward our society today


As is the custom in most of his epistles, Paul begins by extending
greetings and offering thanks.  Identifying himself as a bond-servant
of Christ, he mentions his apostleship and its mission in the gospel of
God concerning His Son:  to bring about the obedience of faith among
all the Gentiles (1-6).  Addressing the recipients of his epistle as
"all who are beloved in Rome, called as saints," he extends to them the
popular two-fold greeting of that day:  "grace" and "peace" (7).  He is
thankful for their well-known faith and reveals his desire to visit
Rome and to proclaim the gospel there (8-13).  The motivation behind
that desire is his sense of obligation and bold conviction that the
gospel is God's power to save (14-17).

The mention of "salvation" naturally leads to the need for all men to
be saved.  Paul begins to demonstrate this need on the part of the
Gentiles.  He explains that because of the Gentiles' failure to
acknowledge the eternal power and divine nature of God as revealed in
the world around them, and for their subsequent pride and idolatry,
they were therefore exposed to God's wrath from heaven (18-23).  This
wrath manifested itself in God simply letting them reap the fruits of
their vanity.  By giving them over "to uncleanness, in the lusts of
their hearts," "to vile passions," and "to a debased mind," the result
was such corruption that even those who knew better were caught in its
clutches (24-32).

OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan)


      1. His place in life:  servant & apostle (1)
      2. His story in life:  the gospel of Christ (2-4)
      3. His purpose in life:  to produce obedience based on faith (5)
      1. Paul's description of them (6-7)
      2. Paul's report of them (8)
      3. Paul's deep desire to visit them (9-10)
      4. Paul's reason and eagerness to visit them (11-15)

      1. Its respectability:  nothing to be ashamed of (16a)
      2. Its nature:  the power of God (16b)
      3. Its aim:  salvation (16c)
      4. Its scope:  for everyone who believes (16d)
      5. Its content:  the revelation of God's righteousness through
         faith (17)


      1. Wicked man stifling God's revealed truth (18-19)
      2. Wicked man despising the testimony of nature (20)
      3. Wicked man ungrateful and foolish (21-22)
      4. Wicked man given to idolatry (23)

      1. Giving them up to disgusting uncleanness (24-25)
      2. Giving them up to lesbianism and homosexuality (26-27)
      3. Giving them up to debased minds and all unrighteousness


gospel - literally, "good news;" in the NT it denotes the good tidings
         of the kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ (VINE)

grace - "favor, goodwill, lovingkindness;" as used in reference to
        God's favor toward man, it's freeness is stressed; i.e.,
        unmerited favor

faith - "trust, conviction;" produced by God's Word (Ro 10:17), it
        expresses itself through obedience and love  (Ro 1:5; Ga 5:6)

power - from the Greek word dunamis (from which derives "dynamite");
        "strength, ability"

righteousness of God - 1) God doing that which is right (cf. Ro 3:25- 
                       26); or 2) God's way of making one right with
                       Him (related to the concept of "justification," 
                       declaring one to be "not guilty;" cf. Ro 4:6-8)


1) List the two main points of this chapter
   - Introduction (1-17)
   - The Gentiles' Need Of Salvation (18-32)

2) How was Jesus declared to be the Son of God? (4)
   - With power, through His resurrection from the dead

3) What was the objective of Paul's apostleship? (5)
   - To bring about the obedience of faith among all nations

4) Why did Paul want to go to Rome? (11-12)
   - To see them and share in their faith together

5) To whom was Paul obligated? (14)
   - Both to Greeks and barbarians, both to wise and unwise

6) What is God's power to save? (16)
   - The gospel of Christ

7) Why is it God's power to save? (17)
   - In it the righteousness of God is revealed

8) What two invisible attributes of God are revealed in nature? (20)
   - His eternal power and Godhead (divine nature)

9) How does God express His wrath?  (24,26,28)
   - By "giving people up" to their own sinful passions

10) What one sin in particular is an indication that God's wrath toward
    man is in full force?  (26,27)
    - Homosexuality

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Introduction by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"


AUTHOR:  PAUL, the apostle (1:1)

PLACE OF WRITING:  CORINTH; as evident from the greetings of Gaius,
who lived at Corinth (16:23; 1Co 1:14), and of Erastus, who had
settled down there (16:23; 2Ti 4:20).  Also, Phoebe, who apparently
accompanied the epistle (16:1-2), was from the church at Cenchrea, a
"suburb" of Corinth.

TIME OF WRITING:  57-58 A.D.; while on his third journey (Ac 20:1-3),
just prior to his arrival to Jerusalem with the collection for the
needy saints (15:25-26; Ac 20:16; 24:17).

BACKGROUND OF THE CHURCH AT ROME:  Nothing is revealed in the New
Testament as to the start of the church in Rome.  It is possible that
visitors to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost following the Lord's
ascension were among the 3000 saved and later took the gospel with them
back home (Ac 2:10).  Or it could be that among those dispersed
following Stephen's death were some that went to Rome and preached the
gospel there (Ac 8:1-4).

The first we read of Christians from Rome is possibly that of Aquila 
and Priscilla, who along with all Jews were expelled from Rome by 
Claudius and were found by Paul at Corinth during his second journey 
(Ac 18:1-2).  After travelling with Paul to Ephesus and working with 
the church there (Ac 18:18-19, 24-26; 1Co 16:19), we find them back at 
Rome and hosting a church in their house (16:3-5).

From the greetings given by Paul in chapter sixteen, it appears that 
there were several churches in Rome meeting in various homes 
(16:5,14,15).  The names of individuals would suggest that the
Christians were primarily Gentiles, with a smaller number of Jews.

The reputation of the Christians in Rome was widespread; both their 
faith (1:8) and obedience (16:19) were well known.  For this reason 
Paul had long wanted to see them (15:23), with the goal of sharing in
their mutual edification (1:11-12) and to be assisted on his way to 
Spain (15:22-24).

PURPOSE OF WRITING:  Paul expresses in this epistle that he had for
some time planned to preach the gospel at Rome (1:13-15) and from there
go on to Spain (15:22-24).  Though he still had these intentions
(15:28-29), the spreading cancer of the "Judaizing teachers" which had
disrupted churches in Antioch, Corinth and Galatia was likely to make
its way to Rome.  To prevent this, and to assure that his visit to Rome 
would be a pleasant one (15:30-33), Paul writes:


In doing so, he demonstrates how the gospel of Christ fulfills what is
lacking in both heathenism and Judaism, thereby  effectively replacing
them as religious systems.  Such an epistle would arm the church at
Rome against those who would pervert the gospel or suggest that it was
inadequate by itself.

THEME:  Romans 1:16-17

   "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the
    power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew
    first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of
    God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just
    shall live by faith.'"

In these two verses Paul states his confidence in the gospel and the
reasons for it.  The bulk of his epistle is devoted to explaining why
and how the gospel of Christ is God's power to save those who believe.

BRIEF OUTLINE (adapted from Dextor Sammons)



      1. The Need Of The Gentiles (1:18-2:16)
      2. The Need Of The Jews (2:17-3:8)
      3. The Universal Need For Salvation (3:9-20)

      1. God's Righteousness Through Faith (3:21-31)
      2. Abraham As An Example (4:1-25)

      1. Freedom From Wrath (5:1-21)
      2. Freedom From Sin (6:1-23)
      3. Freedom From The Law (7:1-25)
      4. Freedom From Death (8:1-39)

      1. God Chooses To Save Believers (9:1-33)
      2. Israel Chose To Trust In Their Own Righteousness (10:1-21)
      3. Both Jew And Gentile Can Have Salvation Through Faith







1) Who wrote the epistle to the Romans?
   - The apostle Paul (1:1)

2) From where was it written?
   - Corinth

3) What is the approximate date of writing?
   - 57 or 58 A.D.

4) What is the purpose of this epistle?
   - To set straight the design and nature of the gospel

5) Where is the theme of this epistle stated?
   - Romans 1:16-17

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Was Job a Real Person? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Was Job a Real Person?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In a single day, the patriarch Job lost all ten of his children, all of his livestock, and many of his servants. In chapter 1 of the book of Job, we learn that as one of Job’s servants was telling him about a group of raiders (the Sabeans) that had stolen all of his oxen and donkeys and killed all the servants tending to the animals (save him), another servant arrived even as the first “was still speaking.” This second servant told Job that a fire fell down from heaven and consumed his sheep and servants. Again, while this servant was talking, a third servant came and related to Job that another group of invaders (the Chaldeans) had stolen all of his camels and had killed all of the servants except him. Finally, while this third servant was talking, a fourth servant came and bore even worse news—Job’s ten children had all perished when a great wind struck the house and caused it to crush them. His seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, very large household, and ten children were all gone “in the blink of an eye.” And as if being stripped of his worldly possessions and children were not enough, Job’s body then became diseased from head to toe, his wife urged him to “curse God and die,” and the comforting counsel of his “friends” quickly gave way to judgmental accusations.
Based upon the extent of the physical destruction and mental suffering mentioned above, and upon the limited time frame in which it all occurred, some critics tend to doubt that Job was a real person. Rather, they think he simply was fabricated to teach a lesson about human suffering. Perhaps, they say, he is to be valued like such parabolic figures as the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), or the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21), but not like those who actually lived and died upon the Earth.
If Job were not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible apart from for the book that bears his name, those who claim he was not a real person might be able to argue their position more confidently. But the fact is, Job is mentioned in three different verses in Scripture (outside the book of Job), and in all three passages he is considered a real, historical figure.
The first two places his name is found (aside from the book of Job) is in Ezekiel 14, verses 14 and 20. In verse 14, the prophet stated: “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness, says the Lord God.” Verse 20 is worded nearly the same way: “[E]ven though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.” Ezekiel’s point in both verses was that the ungodly conditions in the land were such that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in that city, no one else would be saved. Ezekiel spoke of all three of these men as being real, historical people, not legendary characters. If one recognizes Noah and Daniel as being real people of history, then there is no reason to think otherwise about Job.
The last place the suffering patriarch is mentioned in Scripture (and the only time he is mentioned in the New Testament) is found in the latter part of the book of James. In 5:10-11 we read: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” Obviously, James was not writing through inspiration about an imaginary person. Rather, he considered Job as real as Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and as genuine as the Lord Himself.
Finally, that Job was a real person is stated explicitly by God within the book of Job itself. In his second “speech” to Job, God declared that the mighty behemoth was “made along with you” (40:15, emp. added). If Job were just a fairy tale-like character, God certainly would not have spoken as having “made” him.
Although admittedly much about Job remains a mystery (his race, exactly when he lived, who wrote the book that bears his name, where the Land of Uz was located, etc.), we can know that he was a real person who suffered in every way like you and me, and yet remained faithful to his God. Knowing that Job persevered through all his trials and tribulations gives us hope that we can do the same when similar trials come our way (James 1:2-4; 5:10-11).

Why Doesn’t God Just Appear to Us and Prove that He Exists? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Why Doesn’t God Just Appear to Us and Prove that He Exists?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Sometimes our unbelieving friends wonder why God doesn’t just appear to everyone on Earth and prove in person that He exists? Why doesn’t He show Himself to each generation of humanity so that everyone on Earth can see and hear Him and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is real? After all, according to the Bible, the Lord appeared “to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty” (Exodus 6:3), and He “spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). So why doesn’t He do the same for everyone else?
Christians freely admit that there are many specific things that we do not know about the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe, including why He does or does not do certain things. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). There is no way to know the mind of God unless He chooses to reveal some of His ways to us. Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, emp. added). So has God specifically revealed why He has not appeared to every human being in the history of the world to prove His existence to them? The fact is, God does not expressly address this question in the Bible; but He does reveal enough to us about Himself and His creation to draw the following conclusions. 
First, even if God directly appeared to and spoke with every person on Earth, not everyone would believe in Him. After all, God revealed Himself to mankind in the first-century (John 1:1,14), speaking like “no man ever spoke” (John 7:46) and working all manner of miracles, including walking on water, healing the blind, reattaching severed body parts with the touch of His hand, and raising the dead. Yes, even though, for example, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and came back from the dead Himself, many still did not believe in Him (John 11:45-53; 12:9-11)—they rejected Him despite the fact that He (God) appeared to them face to face.
In 2012, renown atheist Richard Dawkins was questioned about his unbelief in God. Specifically, he was asked, “What proof, by the way, would change your mind?” He quickly responded by saying, “That is a very difficult and interesting question because, I mean, I used to think that if somehow, you know, great, big, giant 900-foot-high Jesus with a voice like Paul Robeson suddenly strode in and said, ‘I exist and here I am,’ but even that, I actually sometimes wonder if that would….”1 Though Dr. Dawkins was interrupted, he clearly left the impression that even if God appeared to him, taking the form of a “giant 900-foot-high Jesus” with a mighty voice, even that encounter would probably not convince him.
Sadly, not only would many continue in their unbelief if God actually did appear to them, many more would reject His authority over them, even if they acknowledged His existence. Judas was among the closest friends and disciples of Jesus. He was the treasurer of the group. Yet, he was a thief who eventually betrayed the Lord. One might argue that Judas never believed (cf. John 6:60-71), which would only further validate our first point. But if he truly believed in Jesus as the Son of God, then he ultimately chose money over the Master; he chose sin over the Savior. He was not, and will not be, the last to make such choices. In fact, before any human being ever came to know God and subsequently reject His will, there were a number of angelic beings who did. They are created heavenly beings (Colossians 1:16) who knew (and know) God, but willingly chose to reject His will for them (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). So wicked and rebellious to the God of heaven did Satan become that he even tried to tempt God to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Make no mistake about it, in no way does acknowledging God’s existence directly translate into loving Him and submitting to His will (Matthew 7:21-23). In fact, atheist Dan Barker demonstrated such rebelliousness in the Butt/Barker debate when he stated that, though he believes God “doesn’t exist,” “[i]f there is a hell and if the atheists get to the end of their life and discover, ‘Yep, I was wrong, there is a God….’ Then I would say to that God…‘you go to hell…. You do not have my respect.’”2
Third, God has already given every accountable person on Earth an adequate amount of evidence to come to a knowledge of His existence. The very reality of a material Universe (which could not have sprung into existence from nothing; nor is it eternal),3 testifies to the existence of a Creator. “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4). In fact, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Since the time of Adam and Eve, mankind has been given the opportunity to see how “the things that are made” testify quite “clearly” on behalf of a powerful, invisible Creator. As the psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (19:1-4).
So why doesn’t God appear to every person on Earth to prove that He exists? The short answer is: “Because He, as the sovereign Ruler of the Universe, chooses not to.” We may not know all of God’s reasons for why He chooses not to appear personally to every person on the Earth throughout every generation, but in no way does such a decision on His part prove (1) that He doesn’t exist, or (2) that He is unkind and unfair. The fact is, God has always given man adequate evidence for His existence—so much so that any person who refuses to acknowledge His existence is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).


1 “Q&A: Religion and Atheism” (2012), ABC Australia, April 9, http;//www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm, emp. added.
2 Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), emp. added.
3 Miller, Jeff (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2786.
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Why Christianity? Why the Bible? by Kippy Myers, Ph.D.


Why Christianity? Why the Bible?

by Kippy Myers, Ph.D.

Are religions of the world simply different expressions of the same thing? Is Christianity the counterpart to Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism, and do these religions merely “complement” one another? Is Allah the same deity as Jehovah, and is Jehovah the same as the Hindu god, Brahman? There are some who think that we are all trying to get to the same place, and simply call God by different names or approach Him in different ways. Thus, in the final analysis, the different approaches are coequal, and therefore equally acceptable to God.
The brief answer to these questions is a simple “no.” These religions are not the same truth in different wrappings. We can discern why by noting some of the radical distinctions at the very heart of these religions that show how completely distinct and unrelated they are. Of course, they have things in common (they are religions, they have deities, they have holy books, etc.), but this does not mean that they are equally efficacious, any more than a book with blank pages is equal to a book filled with good information.
Let me introduce an important term—“ontology.” Ontology refers to something’s being, essence, or nature. It has to do with what makes it what it is even after being stripped of all its unnecessary elements. Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are different ontologically. When you strip them of their coincidental characteristics and focus on what makes them distinct as religions, they are radically divergent. They are different by their very nature, even in their most basic elements. Their books, their concepts of salvation, and even their deities are wildly different from one another. Let us make a simple beginning by noting a few of their essential differences.


Individuals who claim to be members in good standing of one religion (whether Christian, Moslem, or Hindu) sometimes extend the hand of fellowship to those in other religions. That is, some express a willingness to accept people who remain in other religions as if they have their deity’s blessing. But for the most part, these open-armed well-wishers are viewed as heretics by the faithful followers because the holy books themselves, which form the very center of the religions, are not so accepting of one another. Can the follower be better than the “inspired” book from which he gains faith?
The Bible—For example, the New Testament clearly claims to be the only way by which a person can come to God (specifically, one must come through Jesus—John 14:6; 2 John 9; et al.). This establishes solid barriers against all who disagree with the person of Jesus depicted in the gospel accounts. Prior to New Testament times, Judaism carried the same policy. In the Old Testament, God always spoke against pagan religions and their followers. The religions of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Canaan, Greece, and others are roundly attacked, condemned, and described in great detail as false and devilish.
Obviously, simply calling something “god” and worshipping it does not mean that it is acceptable to the God of the Bible. Jesus said that they who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Amazing as it may seem to those who think that the God of the Bible approves of other religions, the apostles of Christ even condemned those in the Christian age who were going backward, trying to be saved by the Mosaic law, a religion that unquestionably centered on the same God as Christianity (Galatians 5:4). In addition, they even condemned their own Christian brethren if they were living wrongly (Acts 8:18-23; Galatians 2:11).
Thus, even if the different religions did comprehend the same God, worshipping the same God does not legitimize one’s religion or religious practices according to the Bible since the one true God must be worshipped properly, that is, as the Bible prescribes (Colossians 3:17). The Bible claims to be the uniquely acceptable religion before God, and specifically condemns any other as illegitimate. Whatever we say about Islam and Hinduism’s relationship to Christianity, we cannot say justifiably that biblical Christianity has any affiliation with them. Any superimposition of fellowship between them would be forced and unnatural.
The Koran—The Islamic holy book, the Koran (or Qur’an), claims to be the final word from God. It claims that the Bible was just a step in its direction, so the Koran is further and final revelation (Sura 4:161). Whereas the Bible says that the apostles would be led into all Truth, and although it condemns additional and different alleged revelations as false (e.g., John 16:13; Galatians 1:6-9), the Koran teaches that if a person has only the Bible, it is not enough because then he rejects the greatest prophet of all, Mohammed. Since the Islamic holy book condemns unbelievers, it condemns those who accept only the Bible.
Whereas the Bible says that Jesus was and is God, and is the only way to heaven (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:9), the Koran exalts Mohammed above Jesus. Mohammed explicitly says several times that Jesus was not God, but a prophet and apostle (Sura 5:79; 4:169, et al.). The apostle John, however, calls the teacher of this doctrine “the antichrist” and has a lot to say about his spiritual condition (1 John; 2 John; 3 John).
Speaking of misbelievers (which would most definitely include Hindus) who turn others from the path of God, the Koran says in Sura 13:34, “For them is torment in this world’s life; but surely the torment of the next is more wretched still—nor have they against God a keeper” and “the recompense of misbelievers is the Fire!” (13:35). Also, “Whosoever craves other than Islam for a religion, it shall surely not be accepted from him, and he shall, in the next world, be of those who lose” (Sura 3:79).
Mohammed claimed that his revelations came from God via a Heavenly Book from which all Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian revelations came. The Bible, however, teaches that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), which would be contradicted if all of these conflicting religions came from the same source. The Koran says that Moslems believe what was revealed to Jesus and the prophets, but this is incredible in light of the aforementioned facts in addition to hundreds of others left unmentioned here (Sura 3:78-79). Amazingly, Richardson says in his introduction to the Koran, “the Qur’an often contradicts itself as well as other scriptures. Allah, then, changes his mind and alters the text of the Heavenly Book accordingly (Surah 13:39).” Compare this with Jesus’ statements, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35), and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
Hindu Writings—Contradictions between the most basic doctrines of the Bible and the Koran could be multiplied, and the Hindu Vedic literature is widely divergent from these two. As different as they are, the Bible and the Koran have more in common than either has in common with Hindu writings. Vedic materials are something altogether different. The point here is that if the major religious books condemn and contradict one another on such fundamental issues, where does anyone get the idea that they belong together? If we believe any one of them, we must disbelieve the others. They cannot be related unless severely mutilated. They clearly are mutually exclusive. Since they so clearly do not affiliate, which, if any, is the right one?


The Koran—Islam is based entirely upon the secret, private experiences of one man. Mohammed regularly went alone to a cave and said that a Revealer delivered visions to him there. He later identified this person as the angel Gabriel. Only one person allegedly saw the angel. Only one person allegedly heard a voice. Only one person allegedly saw the visions. The only way to become a Moslem, then, is to take this one man’s word for it. We must believe a man who was kicked out of his home town, became a robber baron, led a pack of thieves in attacks on caravans, and then later returned to the city and took it by force. Compare the lifestyle and character of this man with that of Jesus Whom he claims to supersede, and see who is more worthy of belief.
The Bible—In vivid contrast to this approach of having to take one man’s word for an entire religion and basing one’s eternal destiny on one person’s private visions, the Bible is rooted and grounded in objective historical events—things many thousands of people beheld. Its specific times, places, people, and events can be located in history. Archaeology, ancient history, geography, literature, etc., corroborate its details. These give the Bible the ring of authenticity, and tie it to reality outside the mind of any single person or any group of people.
Because of this, the Bible has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a flow, a progression, a unity. It is very orderly and systematic. The Koran, however, is a very disjointed collection of many small apothegms called Suras. This is because Mohammed could not write and did not intend for his revelations to be compiled into a book. Richardson’s introduction to the Koran says, “It was addressed to the ear, not to the critical eye....” However, after Mohammed died and many began to question the legitimacy of his visions, believers gathered together the leaves, potsherds, etc., on which his sayings allegedly had been copied by some of his hearers. Someone later edited them and put them in a book format. Richardson says, “Apart from its preposterous arrangement, the Qur’an is not so much a book as a collection of manifestoes, diatribes, harangues, edicts, discourses, sermons, and such-like occasional pieces. No subject is treated systematically....” It certainly does not appear to be related to an alleged Mother Book from which the Old and New Testaments also were derived. The Koran’s sum and substance is very different from Scripture as Christians know it.
Hindu Writings—The holy literature of Hinduism encompasses many volumes, and is referred to as the Vedic literature. The most widely known is the Bhagavad-Gita, a small section of the much larger section, the Mahabharata—a huge work that has influenced Hinduism profoundly. It allegedly was composed over a period of eight hundred years (400 B.C. to A.D. 400), and supposedly tells the Sanskrit history of the ancient world. But as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says in his translation, the Gita is “the essence of Vedic knowledge.”
The high god in Hinduism is Brahman. In a sense, Brahman is the All, the infinitely embracing Everything—ultimate reality. In another sense, Brahman is a god composed of Brahma, Shiva (the one often pictured with four arms), and Vishnu. Each of these three has a basic personality and work. Brahma creates, Shiva destroys, and Vishnu preserves. Each has wives, sons (one of Shiva’s sons is the elephant-headed Ganesha), daughters, and a series of folklore-type adventures. Their consorts also are worshipped, so there is actually an indefinite number of gods. A Hindu expert will tell you that they often use the number 330,000,000 as a convenient way of describing how many are worshipped. The boundaries and eccentricities of Hinduism, therefore, are very loose, and there are many types and sects of Hindus. What ties them together seems to be their belief in Brahman and the pantheon of gods, reincarnation (the idea that after you die you are reborn into another life on Earth), karma (the law which says that if you were bad in this life you will have a difficult life in the next), and the Vedic teachings.
One of Vishnu’s avatars (incarnations) was named Krishna. He has been described as “an impetuous, violent, and erotic figure.” Krishna is the speaker and the hero of the Bhagavad-Gita, in which he is prince of a great dynasty. The Gita’s setting is a battle in which he is involved with relatives who are enemies of his kingdom. There is no way of checking whether these events actually occurred or if this is pure legend, since we have no record of the events outside the Gita itself.
Someone might respond, “But why is it better to be historical and checkable (like the Bible) than to be non-historical (like the Koran or Vedic writings)?” The real issue, of course, is that we believe we must be rational in regard to religion. Does anyone seriously suggest that we beirrational about it? If we are to be irrational, then what is the use of arguing rationally that we must be irrational? Why worry about persuading people that the major religions are all the same if it does not really matter? Actually, all of the world religions attempt to use reason and (with the possible exception of Buddhism) teach their adherents to use their minds in religion. Even though Buddhism tries to get its adherents to a point in meditation where they lose thought and feeling, it uses reason to teach them, to explain itself, and to get them to that point. The point is, should reason and proof be the “engine that pulls our train of life” or not? Should we not require proof for what we believe? If not, that would put us in the position of accepting every person who claimed a divine vision. The Bible both demands proof and provides it (Deuteronomy 18:20; Isaiah 41:21-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, et al.).


The Bible—The Christian system centers on the fact that God has come to Earth in a physical body and made a one-time sacrifice for sin (John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-9). The Bible says that the salvation of mankind was accomplished only through this act and that apart from it, man would be hopelessly lost in sin (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7, et al.). The incarnation of the Word, along with His death and resurrection, combine to form the fundamental essential truth that defines Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Without it, Christianity would not exist.
Hindu Writings—In Hinduism, there is no requirement to escape from sin before judgment comes (Hebrews 9:27) because for the Hindu, there is no final judgment day. Rather, the Universe is eternal; we live here forever in different personalities, one lifetime after another. The goal is to gain release from being reincarnated. The incarnation and sacrifice of someone in Jerusalem plays no role at all in Hinduism. Hindus gain release from this cycle through individual observance of ritual, right thinking, and right acting. Everything we get in this life is what we deserve because of the way we lived in past lives (even though we cannot remember our past lives so as to learn to do better in the next one, we still suffer for them). If we are better in each successive life, we will climb the ladder of goodness until we finally achieve release and oneness with divinity and the Universe.
Thus, there is also no unique one-time incarnation of God because the Hindu god, Vishnu, has come in the flesh many times in a number of guises. Vishnu has visited Earth ten times as a deliverer (as Rama, Krishna, et al.). For example, the one to whom the Gita is directed is a warrior named Arjuna. One day Krishna is driving his chariot, and Arjuna says to him, “You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest” (10:12-14). In the section “Knowledge of the Absolute” Krishna says, “as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come” (10:26). He elsewhere comments, “This material nature is working under My direction.” Hence, he was allegedly deity in the flesh several times.
The Koran—Islam teaches that Jesus Christ was not deity, but rather one of the great prophets (see previous quotes). His death is not necessitated for redemption, and if He died on the cross at all, its purpose was definitely not to wash away our sins. Moslems believe that salvation is obtained through observance of the “five pillars” of Islam: recite the creed (which is basically, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”); pray five times daily while facing the holy city of Mecca; give alms to the poor; fast for an extended period each year; and once in your life make a pilgrimage to Mecca.


Hindus do not believe the Universe was created by God out of nothing. It is simply an eternal emanation from Brahman. It is illusory and must be escaped so that we may gain what is real, viz., oneness with the Universe and oneness with Brahman. Islam and Christianity think of this as blasphemy, for Jehovah is perfect in every way, and infinite in every attribute. A created being never could attain such a degree of being and certainly never could become God.
Hindu gods in their many thousands of representations are commonly worshipped by means of figurines and “idols” that are condemned by both Old and New Testaments (e.g., the first two of the ten commandments—Exodus 2:3-4). One of Mohammed’s primary goals was to condemn and destroy this practice.
Islam also says there is only one member of the godhead, Allah. Christianity preaches a trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18). Obviously, Christianity and Islam are as opposed to Hinduism on this matter as it is to them.


From this brief introductory study it can be seen that these three religions and their books cannot be equated. But the question remains, which one should we accept? I maintain that we should accept the Bible over other religious books because no book can amass the evidence for supernatural origin that the Bible can. No other book exhibits such profound evidence for inspiration. We should accept the Bible because:
  1. It claims to be from God. That in itself does not prove its claim, but the claim is something we should look for. Would God send His revelation anonymously?
  2. It is based in history, not in the subjective experience of one individual. That opens it to being tested. It can be proven or disproven.
  3. It contains the highest and purest moral teachings. They remain unsurpassed for their simplicity, applicability, and profundity.
  4. It contains prophecies that are made and fulfilled. They surpass the possibility of human or natural powers to foresee or bring about.
  5. It has a sublime unity about it in every way—doctrine, progression of thought, story line, theme, details, structure, etc.
  6. It is accurate in every way—historically, geographically, scientifically, etc. As diligently as skeptics have tried for centuries, there never has been one flaw or contradiction proven to be in the Bible that would establish that it is not what it claims to be. Yet, “to err is human.”
  7. It contains medical and scientific knowledge ahead of its time. The Bible did not partake of its contemporary medical and scientific ignorance.
  8. It has had an immeasurably profound impact on the world and always in a positive way whenever faithfully practiced.
  9. It has the best textual sources of any ancient book. That is, we can trace its history back to its beginnings more accurately, and with greater corroboration, than any major writing of the ancient world.
  10. It contains a reasonable view of God, man, and truth.
  11. It is indestructible. Its most powerful, rabid, and scholarly opponents have failed to do away with it.
  12. It always is current. Last year the Book of the Month Club asked 2,000 of its readers what book most influenced their lives. The Bible was number one.
  13. It addresses our fundamental questions about why we are the way we are, why suffering exists, where we came from, what our destiny will be, how the Universe began and how it will end, etc.
  14. It fulfills our spiritual, social, psychological, and emotional needs.
  15. It is incredibly brief, although it is set forth as a seminal book from the Creator. Men are notorious for their verbosity in such matters.
  16. It is based on the testimony of thousands of witnesses throughout its history.
  17. It portrays its heroes, flaws and all. It is unbiased in its treatment of history, unlike works of men praising their heroes.
On the other hand, the evidence for the inspiration of the Koran is based solely upon the testimony of one man, Mohammed. The same kind of “evidence” would make you a Hindu. Why accept Mohammed’s testimony and reject the Hindu testimony? Or, why accept the Hindu writings and reject the Koran? Both have essentially the same evidence in their favor. One cannot be proven to be any more legitimate than the other.
However, the preceding list includes just a few of the many very significant avenues that should be considered if a person is truly seeking to be open-minded about searching for truth among the world’s alleged books from God.
All religions are not the same. Their most basic doctrines readily contradict the others. However, there is one religion that is based upon a book that provides good reasons to be believed—unity and consistency of thought, high standards of thought and conduct, etc. Which should we believe?
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Kippy Myers holds an M.A. in philosophy and Christian apologetics from Harding Graduate School, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Dallas, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is an assistant professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee.]

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In all likelihood, most of you reading this month’s issue of Reason and Revelation already have made up your minds about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Truth be told, the majority of you probably believe that Jesus Christ lived on this Earth for approximately 33 years, died at the hand of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, was buried in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and miraculously defeated death by His resurrection three days later.
But there may be some of you who have lingering doubts about the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ. In fact, many people have much more than lingering doubts; they already have made up their minds that the story of the resurrection happened too long ago, was witnessed by too few people, has not been proven scientifically, and thus should be discarded as an unreliable legend.
Regardless of which position best describes your view of Christ’s resurrection, what we all must do is check our prejudice at the door and openly and honestly examine the historical facts attending the resurrection.


Determining whether Jesus Christ actually lived is something that must be established before one can begin to discuss His resurrection. If it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt that He did walk this Earth, then any discussion about whether or not He arose from the dead digresses quickly into an exercise in yarn stringing based on little more than guesswork and human imagination. Fortunately, the fact that Jesus lived is practically universally accepted. A host of hostile witnesses testified of His life, and the New Testament documents in intricate detail His existence. [Even if one does not accept the New Testament as inspired of God, he or she cannot deny that its books contain historical information regarding a person by the name of Jesus Christ Who really did live in the first century A.D.] The honest historian is forced to admit that documentation for the existence, and life, of Jesus runs deep and wide (for an in-depth study on the historicity of Christ, see Butt, 2000). Thus, knowing that Jesus Christ existed allows us to move farther into the subject of His resurrection.


For most people, coming to the conclusion that Jesus died is not difficult, due to either of two reasons. First, the Bible believer accepts the fact that Jesus died because several different biblical writers confirm it. Second, the unbeliever accepts the idea, based not upon biblical evidence, but rather on the idea that the natural order of things which he has experienced in this life is for a person to live and eventually die. Once evidence sufficient to prove Christ’s existence in history has been established, the naturalist/empiricist has no trouble accepting His death. However, in order to provide such people with a few more inches of common ground on this matter, it would be good to note that several secular writers substantiated the fact that Jesus Christ did die. Tacitus, the ancient Roman historian writing in approximately A.D. 115, documented Christ’s physical demise when he wrote concerning the Christians that “their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus” (1952, 15.44).
In addition to Roman sources, early Jewish rabbis whose opinions are recorded in the Talmud acknowledged the death of Jesus. According to the earlier rabbis,
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 (Bruce, 1953, p. 102, emp. added).
Likewise, Jewish historian Josephus wrote:
[T]here arose about this time Jesus, a wise man.... 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 (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3).
The fact that Pilate condemned Christ to the cross is an undisputed historical fact. As archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi stated:
Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings such as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that...he [Jesus—KB] was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius (1995, p. 222).
It is at this point in our study that some would suggest that Hugh Schonfield’s infamous “Swoon Theory” should be considered. Schonfield (1965) postulated that Christ did not die on the cross; rather, He merely fainted or “swooned.” Later, after being laid on a cold slab in the dark tomb, He revived and exited His rock-hewn grave. Such a theory, however, fails to take into account the heinous nature of the scourging (sometimes referred to as an “intermediate death”) that Christ had endured at the hand of Roman lictors, or the finely honed skills of those Roman soldiers whose job it was to inflict such gruesome punishment prior to a prisoner’s actual crucifixion. To press the point, in the March 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association,William Edwards and his coauthors penned an article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” that employed modern medical insight to provide an exhaustive description of Jesus’ death (256:1455-1463). Sixteen years later, Brad Harrub and Bert Thompson coauthored an updated review (“An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”) of the extensive scientific evidence surrounding Christ’s physical death (2002). After reading such in-depth, medically based descriptions of the horrors to which Christ was exposed, and the condition of His ravaged body, the Swoon Theory quickly fades into oblivion (where it rightly belongs). Jesus died. Upon this, we all most certainly can agree.


Around the year A.D. 165, Justin Martyr penned his Dialogue with Trypho. At the beginning of chapter 108 of this work, he recorded a letter that the Jewish community had been circulating concerning the empty tomb of Christ:
A godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.
Somewhere around the sixth century, another caustic treatise written to defame Christ circulated among the Jewish community. In this narrative, known as Toledoth Yeshu, Jesus was described as the illegitimate son of a soldier named Joseph Pandera. He also was labeled as a disrespectful deceiver who led many away from the truth. Near the end of the treatise, under a discussion of His death, the following paragraph can be found:
A diligent search was made and he [Jesus—KB] was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.
Upon reading Justin Martyr’s description of one Jewish theory regarding the tomb of Christ, and another premise from Toledoth Yeshu, it becomes clear that a single common thread unites them both—the tomb of Christ had no body in it!
All parties involved recognized the fact that Christ’s tomb laid empty on the third day. Feeling compelled to give reasons for this unexpected vacancy, Jewish authorities apparently concocted several different theories to explain the body’s disappearance. The most commonly accepted one seems to be that the disciples of Jesus stole His body away by night while the guards slept (Matthew 28:13). Yet, how could the soldiers identify the thieves if they had been asleep? And why were the sentinels not punished by death for sleeping on the job and thereby losing their charge (cf. Acts 12:6-19)? And an even more pressing question comes to mind—why did the soldiers need to explain anything if a body was still in the tomb?
When Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Christ, the crux of his sermon rested on the facts that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. In order to silence Peter, and stop a mass conversion, the Jewish leaders needed simply to produce the body of Christ. Why did not the Jewish leaders take the short walk to the garden and produce the body? Simply because they could not; the tomb was empty—a fact the Jews recognized and tried to explain away. The apostles knew it, and preached it boldly in the city of Jerusalem. And thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem knew it and converted to Christianity. John Warwick Montgomery accurately assessed the matter when he wrote:
It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus (1964, p. 78).
The tomb of Jesus was empty, and that is a fact.


Regardless of whether or not one believes that Christ rose from the dead, one thing that cannot be denied is the fact His apostles preached that they saw Jesus after He physically rose from the dead. The New Testament book of Acts stresses this issue almost to the point of redundancy. Acts 1:22, as one example, finds Peter and the other apostles choosing an apostle who was to “become a witness” of the resurrection of Christ. Then, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter insisted in his sermon to the multitude that had assembled to hear him that “God raised up” Jesus and thus loosed Him from the pangs of death (Acts 2:24). And to make sure that his audience understood that it was a physical resurrection, Peter stated specifically that Jesus’ “flesh did not see corruption” (Acts 2:31). His point was clear: Jesus had been physically raised from the dead and the apostles had witnessed the resurrected Christ. [Other passages which document that the central theme of the apostles’ preaching was the bodily resurrection of Christ include: Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:2,10,33; and 5:30.] Furthermore, the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 (especially verse 14) verifies that the preaching of the apostle Paul centered on the resurrection.
Even Joseph McCabe, one of the early twentieth century’s most outspoken infidels, remarked: “Paul was absolutely convinced of the resurrection; and this proves that it was widely believed not many years after the death of Jesus” (1993, p. 24). The skeptical modernist Shirley Jackson Case of the University of Chicago was forced to concede: “The testimony of Paul alone is sufficient to convince us, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this was the commonly accepted opinion in his day—an opinion at that time supported by the highest authority imaginable, the eye-witnesses themselves” (1909, pp. 171-172). C.S. Lewis correctly stated: “In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection” (1975, p. 188).
It has been suggested by some critics that the apostles and other witnesses did not actually see Christ, but merely hallucinated. However, Gary Habermas had this to say about such a fanciful idea:
[H]allucinations are comparably rare. They’re usually caused by drugs or bodily deprivation. Chances are, you don’t know anybody who’s ever had a hallucination not caused by one of those two things. Yet we’re supposed to believe that over a course of many weeks, people from all sorts of backgrounds, all kinds of temperaments, in various places, all experienced hallucinations? That strains the hypothesis quite a bit, doesn’t it? (as quoted in Strobel, 1998, p. 239).
Indeed, the hallucination theory is a feeble attempt to undermine the fact that the apostles (and other first-century eyewitnesses of a risen Christ) preached the message that they really hadseen a resurrected Jesus.
The apostles preached that Christ physically rose, and those who heard the apostles verified that they preached the resurrection. Apart from what a person believes about the resurrection of Christ, he or she cannot deny (legitimately) the fact that the apostles traveled far and wide to preach one central message—“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).


As the list of facts continues, one that must be enumerated is the verified historical fact that the majority of the apostles suffered cruel, tortuous deaths because they preached that Christ rose from the dead. Documenting these persecutions is no difficult task. Fox’s Book of Martyrs relates that Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified (probably upside down), Thomas was thrust through with a spear, Matthew was slain with a halberd, Matthias was stoned and beheaded, Andrew was crucified, and the list proceeds to describe the martyr’s death of every one of the Lord’s faithful apostles except John the brother of James (Forbush, 1954, pp. 2-5).
Additional testimony comes from the early church fathers. Eusebius, who was born about A.D.260 and died about 340, wrote that Paul was beheaded in Rome and that Peter was crucified there (Ecclesiastical History, 2.25). [Exactly how and where Peter was martyred is unclear from history; the fact that he was martyred is not.] Clement of Rome (who died about A.D. 100), in chapter five of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, also mentioned the martyrs’ deaths of Peter and Paul. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, documented the death of James when he stated: “Now about that time Herod the king put forth his hand to afflict certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). The apostle Paul perhaps summed it up best when he said:
For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye have glory, but we have dishonor. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and we toil, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, even until now (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
Wayne Jackson correctly noted that “while men may die out of religious deception, they do not willingly go to their deaths knowing they are perpetrating a hoax” (1982, 2:34).
Some ill-advised attempts have been made to deny that Christ’s apostles actually died because of their belief in, and preaching of, the resurrection. For example, it has been proposed that the apostles died because they were political instigators or rabble-rousers. However, combining the high moral quality of their teachings with the testimony of the early church fathers, and acknowledging the fact that their primary task was to be witnesses of the resurrection, it is historically inaccurate to imply that the apostles suffered for any reason other than their confession of the resurrection. The fact of the matter is, the apostles died because they refused to stop preaching that they had seen the Lord alive after His death.


Sir William Ramsay was a one-time unbeliever and world-class archaeologist. His extensive education had ingrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. But along with that scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (specifically the book of Acts). As Ramsay himself remarked:
[A]bout 1880 to 1890, the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts (1915, p. 38).
As could be expected of someone who had been trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view. He eventually abandoned it, however, because he was willing to do what few people of his time dared to do—explore the Bible lands themselves with an archaeologist’s pick in one hand and an open Bible in the other. His self-stated intention was to prove the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as recorded in the book of Acts. But, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. In fact, after years of literally digging through the evidence in Asia Minor, Ramsay concluded that Luke was an exemplary historian. Lee S. Wheeler, in his classic work, Famous Infidels Who Found Christ, recounted Ramsay’s life story in great detail (1931, pp. 102-106), and then quoted the famed archaeologist, who ultimately admitted:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the book of Acts—KB]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (Ramsey, 1915, p. 89).
In his book, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament,Ramsay was constrained to admit:
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense.... In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians (1915, p. 222; cf. also Ramsay’s 1908 work, Luke the Physician).
Indeed, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, is widely acknowledged as an extremely accurate historian in his own right—so much so that Ramsay converted to Christianity as a result of his personal examination of the preciseness of Luke’s historical record. It is of interest, then, to note what Luke himself wrote concerning Christ’s resurrection:
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-3).
What legitimate reason is there to reject Luke’s testimony regarding Christ’s resurrection when his testimony on every other subject he presented is so amazingly accurate? As Wayne Jackson noted:
In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable, in view of the fact that the political/territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change (1991, 27:2).
Other Bible critics have suggested that Luke misspoke when he designated Sergius Paulus as proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:7). Their claim was that Cyprus was governed by a propraetor (also referred to as a consular legate), not a proconsul. Upon further examination, such a charge can be seen to be completely vacuous, as the late Thomas Eaves documented:
As we turn to the writers of history for that period, Dia Cassius (Roman History) and Strabo (The Geography of Strabo), we learn that there were two periods of Cyprus’ history: first, it was an imperial province governed by a propraetor, and later in 22B.C., it was made a senatorial province governed by a proconsul. Therefore, the historians support Luke in his statement that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, for it was between A.D. 40-50 when Paul made his first missionary journey. If we accept secular history as being true, we must also accept biblical history, for they are in agreement (1980, p. 234).
The science of archaeology seems to have outdone itself in verifying the Scriptures. Eminent archaeologist William F. Albright wrote: “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition” (1953, p. 176). The late Nelson Glueck, himself a pillar within the archaeological community, said:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).
Such statements—offered 40+ years ago—are as true today as the day they were made.
Please note, however, that this argument is not being introduced here to claim that the New Testament is inspired (although certain writers have used it in this way quite effectively). Rather, it is inserted at this point in the discussion to illustrate that the books which talk the most about the resurrection have proven to be accurate when confronted with any verifiable fact. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt biblical accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and an open Bible, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians.


Maybe the New Testament documents are accurate when they discuss historical and geographical information. But what about all the alleged “contradictions” among the gospel accounts of the resurrection? Charles Templeton, who worked for many years with the Billy Graham Crusade but eventually abandoned his faith, used several pages of his book, Farewell to God, to compare and contrast the statements within the four gospels, and then concluded: “The entire resurrection story is not credible” (1996, p. 122). Another well-known preacher-turned-skeptic, Dan Barker, has drawn personal delight in attempting to locate contradictions within the four accounts of the resurrection. In his book, Losing Faith in Faith, he filled seven pages with a list of the “contradictions” he believes he has uncovered. Eventually he stated: “Christians, either tell me exactly what happened on Easter Sunday, or let’s leave the Jesus myth buried” (1992, p. 181).
It is interesting, is it not, that Barker demands to know “exactly what happened” on a day in ancient history that occurred almost 2,000 years ago? Such a request speaks loudly of the historical legitimacy of the resurrection story, since no other day in ancient history ever has been examined with such scrutiny. Historians today cannot tell “exactly what happened” on July 4, 1776 or April 12, 1861, yet Christians are expected to provide the “exact” details of Christ’s resurrection? Fortunately, the gospel writers described “exactly what happened”—without contradiction. Examine the following evidence.

Head-on Collusion

“Collusion: A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000, p. 363). Even if we never had heard the word collusion before, most of us still would understand the situation it describes. Suppose, for example, that five bank robbers don their nylon-hose masks, rob the city bank, and stash the cash in a nearby cave. Each robber then goes back to his respective house until the police search is concluded. The first robber hears a knock at his door and, upon opening it, finds a policeman who “just wants to ask him a few questions.” The officer then inquires, “Where were you, and what where you doing, on the night of February 1, 2002?” The thief promptly responds, “I was at Joe Smith’s house watching television with four other friends.” The policeman obtains the four friends’ names and addresses and visits each one of their homes. Every single robber, in turn, tells exactly the same story. Was it true? Absolutely not! But did the stories all sound exactly the same, with seemingly no contradictions? Yes.
Now, let’s examine this principle in light of our discussion of the resurrection. If every single narrative describing the resurrection sounded exactly the same, what do you think would be said about those narratives? “They must have copied each other!” In fact, in other areas of Christ’s life besides the resurrection, when the books of Matthew and Luke give the same information as the book of Mark, critics today claim that Matthew and Luke must have copied Mark because it is thought to be the earliest of the three books. Another raging question in today’s upper echelons of biblical “scholarship” is whether Peter copied Jude in 2 Peter 2:4-17 (or whether Jude copied Peter), because the two segments of scripture sound so similar.
Amazingly, however, the Bible has not left open the prospect of collusion in regard to the resurrection narratives. Indeed, it cannot be denied (legitimately) that the resurrection accounts have come to us from independent sources. In his book, Science vs. Religion, Tad S. Clements vigorously denied that there is enough evidence to justify a personal belief in the resurrection. He did acknowledge, however: “There isn’t merely one account of Christ’s resurrection but rather an embarrassing multitude of stories...” (1990, p. 193). While he opined that these stories “disagree in significant respects,” he nevertheless made it clear that the gospels are separate accounts of the same story. Dan Barker admitted the same when he boldly stated: “Since Easter [his wording for the resurrection account—KB] is told by five different writers, it gives one of the best chances to confirm or disconfirm the account” (1992, p. 179). One door that everyone on both sides of the resurrection freely admits has been locked forever by the gospel accounts is the dead-bolted door against collusion.

Dealing With “Contradictions”

Of course it will not be possible, in these few paragraphs, to deal with every alleged discrepancy between the resurrection accounts. But I would like to set forth some helpful principles that can be used to show that no genuine contradiction between the resurrection narratives has been documented.
Addition Does Not a Contradiction Make
Suppose a man is telling a story about the time he and his wife went shopping at the mall. The man mentions all the great places in the mall to buy hunting supplies and cinnamon rolls. But the wife tells about the same shopping trip, yet mentions only the places to buy clothes. Is there a contradiction just because the wife mentioned only clothing stores, while the husband mentioned only cinnamon rolls and hunting supplies? No. They simply are adding to (or supplementing) each other’s story to make it more complete. That same type of thing occurs quite frequently in the resurrection accounts.
As an example, Matthew’s gospel refers to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” as women who visited the tomb early on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1). Mark cites Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as the callers (Mark 16:1). Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women” (Luke 24:10). Yet John writes only about Mary Magdalene visiting Christ’s tomb early on Sunday (John 20:1). Dan Barker cited these different names as discrepancies and/or contradictions on page 182 of his book. But do these different lists truly contradict one another? No, they do not. They are supplementary (with each writer adding names to make the list more complete), but they are not contradictory. If John had said “only Mary Magdalene visited the tomb,” or if Matthew had stated that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the only women to visit the tomb,” then there would be a contradiction. As it stands, however, no contradiction occurs. To further illustrate this point, suppose you have 10 one-dollar bills in your pocket. Someone comes up to you and asks, “Do you have a dollar bill in your pocket?” Naturally, you respond in the affirmative. Suppose another person asks, “Do you have five dollars in your pocket?” and again you say that you do. Finally, another person asks, “Do you have ten dollars in your pocket?” and you say yes for the third time. Did you tell the truth every time? Yes, you did. Were all three statements about the contents of your pockets different? Yes, they were. But were any of your answers contradictory? No, they were not. How so? The fact is: supplementation does not equal contradiction!
Also fitting into this discussion about supplementation are the angels, men, and young man described in the different resurrection accounts. Two different “problems” arise with the entrance of the “holy heralds” at the empty tomb of Christ. First, exactly how many were there? Second, were they angels or men? Since the former question deals with supplementation, I will discuss it first. The account in Matthew cites “an angel of the Lord who descended from heaven” and whose “appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28:2-5). Mark’s account presents a slightly different picture of “a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe” (16:5). But Luke mentions that “two men stood by them [the women—KB] in dazzling apparel” (24:4). And, finally, John writes about “two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (20:12). Are any of these accounts contradictory as to the number of men or angels at the tomb? Factoring in the supplementation rule, we must answer in the negative. Although the accounts are different, they are not contradictory as to the number of messengers. Mark does not mention “only a young man” and Luke does not say there were “exactly two angels.” Was there one messenger at the tomb? Yes, there was. Were there two as well? Yes, there were. Once again, note that supplementation does not equal contradiction.
Were They Men or Angels?
The second question concerning the messengers is their identity: Were they angels or men? Most people who are familiar with the Old Testament have no problem answering this question. Genesis chapters 18 and 19 mention three “men” who came to visit Abraham and Sarah. These men remained for a short time, and then two of them continued on to visit the city of Sodom. The Bible tells us in Genesis 19:1 that these “men” actually were angels. Yet when the men of Sodom came to do violence to these angels, the city dwellers asked: “Where are the men that came in to thee this night?” (Genesis 19:5). Throughout the two chapters, the messengers are referred to both as men and as angels with equal accuracy. They looked like, talked like, walked like, and sounded like men. Then could they be referred to (legitimately) as men? Yes. But were they in fact angels? Yes.
To illustrate, suppose you saw a man sit down at a park bench and take off his right shoe. As you watched, he began to pull out an antenna from the toe of the shoe and a number pad from the heel. He proceeded to dial a number and began to talk to someone over his “shoe phone.” If you were going to write down what you had seen, could you accurately say that the man dialed a number on his shoe? Yes. Could you also say that he dialed a number on his phone? Indeed you could. The shoe had a heel, sole, toe, and everything else germane to a shoe, but in actuality it was much more than a shoe. In the same way, the messengers at the tomb could be described accurately as men. They had a head perched on two shoulders and held in place by a neck, and they had a body that was complete with arms and legs, etc. So, they were men. But, in truth, they were much more than men because they were angels—holy messengers sent from God’s throne to deliver an announcement to certain people. Taking into account the fact that the Old Testament often uses the term “men” to describe angels who have assumed a human form, it is fairly easy to show that no contradiction exists concerning the identity of the messengers.
Perspective Plays a Part
What we continue to see in the independent resurrection narratives is not contradiction, but merely a difference in perspective. For instance, suppose a man had a 4x6 index card that was solid red on one side and solid white on the other. Further suppose that he stood in front of a large crowd, asked all the men to close their eyes, showed the women in the audience the red side of the card, and then had them scribble down what they saw. Further suppose that he had all the women close their eyes while he showed the men the white side of the card and had them write down what they saw. One group saw a red card and one group saw a white card. When their answers are compared, at first it would look like they were contradictory, yet they were not. The descriptions appeared contradictory because the two groups had a different perspective, since each had seen a different side of the same card. The perspective phenomenon plays a big part in everyday life. In the same way that no two witnesses ever see a car accident in exactly the same way, none of the witnesses of the resurrected Jesus saw the events from the same angle as the others.
Obviously, I have not dealt with every alleged discrepancy concerning the resurrection accounts. However, I have mentioned some of the major ones, which can be explained quite easily via the principles of supplementation or difference of perspective. An honest study of the remaining “problems” reveals that not a single legitimate contradiction exists between the narratives; they may be different in some aspects, but they are not contradictory. Furthermore, whatever differences do exist prove that no collusion took place and document the diversity that would be expected from different individuals witnessing the same event.


Based on historical grounds, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has as much or more evidence to verify its credibility than any other event in ancient history. Unfortunately, this evidence often gets tossed aside by those who deny the possibility of miracles. Using a strictly empirical approach, some have decided what is, and what is not, possible in this world, and miracles such as the resurrection do not fall into their “possible” category. Since they never have seen anyone raised from the dead, and since no scientific experiments can be performed on a resurrected body, they then assume that the gospel resurrection accounts must have some natural explanation(s). In an article titled “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection,” Richard Carrier embodied the gist of this argument in the following comment:
No amount of argument can convince me to trust a 2000-year-old second-hand report over what I see, myself, directly, here and now, with my own eyes. If I observe facts which entail that I will cease to exist when I die, then the Jesus story can never override that observation, being infinitely weaker as a proof. And yet all the evidence before my senses confirms my mortality.... A 2000-year-old second-hand tale from the backwaters of an illiterate and ignorant land can never overpower these facts. I see no one returning to life after their brain has completely died from lack of oxygen. I have had no conversations with spirits of the dead. What I see is quite the opposite of everything this tall tale claims. How can it command more respect than my own two eyes? It cannot (2000).
Although such an argument at first may appear perfectly plausible, it encounters two insurmountable difficulties. First, there are things that took place in the past that no one alive today has seen or ever will see, yet they still are accepted as fact. The origin of life on this planet provides a good example. Regardless of whether a person believes in creation or evolution, he or she must admit that some things happened in the past that are not still occurring today (or at least that have not been witnessed). To evolutionists, I pose the question: “Have you ever personally used your five senses to establish that a nonliving thing can give rise to a living thing.” Of course, evolutionists must admit that they never have seen such happen, in spite of all the origin-of-life experiments that have been performed over the last fifty years. Does such an admission mean, then, that evolutionists do not accept the idea that life came from nonliving matter, just because they never have witnessed such an event? Of course not. Instead, we are asked to consider “ancient evidence” (like the geologic column and the fossil record) that evolutionists believe leads to such a conclusion. Still, the hard fact remains that no one alive today (or, for that matter, anyone who ever lived in the past) has witnessed something living come from something nonliving.
Following this same line of reasoning, those who believe in creation freely admit that the creation of life on Earth is an event that has not been witnessed by anyone alive today (or, for that matter, anyone else of the past, except possibly Adam). It was a unique, one-time-only event that cannot be duplicated by experiment and cannot currently be detected by the five human senses. As with evolutionists, creationists ask us to examine evidence such as the fossil record, the inherent design of the Universe and its inhabitants, the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Biogenesis, etc., which they believe leads to the conclusion that life was created at some point in the past by an intelligent Creator. But, before we drift too far from our primary topic of the resurrection, let me remind you that this brief discussion concerning creation and evolution is inserted only to establish one point—everyone must admit that he or she accepts some concepts from the distant past without having personally inspected them using the empirical senses.
Second, it is true that a dead person rising from the dead would be an amazing and, yes, empirically astonishing event. People do not normally rise from the dead in the everyday scheme of things. Yet, was not that the very point the apostles and other witnesses of the resurrection were trying to get people to understand? If Jesus of Nazareth truly rose from the grave never to die again—thereby accomplishing something that no mortal man ever had accomplished—would not that be enough to prove that He was the Son of God as He had claimed (see Mark 14:61-62)? He had predicted that He would be raised from the dead (John 2:19). And He was!
Those first-century onlookers certainly understood that a person rising from the dead was not natural, because even they understood how the laws of nature worked. As C.S. Lewis explained:
But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say “They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.” This is nonsense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he “was minded to put her away.” He knew enough about biology for that.... When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened; they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (1970, p. 26).
The apostle Paul underscored this point in Romans 1:4 when he stated that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The entire point of Christ’s resurrection was, and is, that it proved His deity. As I stated earlier, most people who deny the resurrection do so because they refuse to believe in a God Who performs miracles, not because the historical evidence is insufficient.


When dealing with the resurrection of Christ, we must concentrate on the facts. Jesus of Nazareth lived. He died. His tomb was empty. The apostles preached that they saw Him after He physically rose from the dead. The apostles suffered and died because they preached, and refused to deny, the resurrection. Their message is preserved in the most accurate document of which ancient history can boast. Independent witnesses addressed the resurrection in their writings—with enough diversity (yet without a single legitimate contradiction) to prove that no collusion took place.
The primary argument against the resurrection, of course, is that during the normal course of events, dead people do not arise from the grave—which was the very point being made by the apostles. But when all the evidence is weighed and it is revealed that the apostles never buckled under torture, the New Testament never crumples under scrutiny, and the secular, historical witnesses refuse to be drowned in a sea of criticism, then it is evident that the resurrection of Jesus Christ demands its rightful place in the annals of history as the most important event this world has ever seen. To quote the immortal words of the Holy Spirit as spoken through the apostle Paul to King Agrippa in the great long ago: “Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).


Albright, William F. (1953), Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Bruce, F.F. (1953), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), fourth edition.
Butt, Kyle (2000), “The Historical Christ—Fact or Fiction?,” Reason & Revelation, 20:1-6, January.
Carrier, Richard (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/1b.html.
Case, Shirley Jackson (1909), “The Resurrection Faith of the First Disciples,” American Journal of Theology, pp. 171-172, April.
Clements, Tad S. (1990), Science vs. Religion (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Eaves, Thomas F. (1980), “The Inspired Word,” Great Doctrines of the Bible, ed. M.H. Tucker (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching).
Edwards, William D., Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer (1986), “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 256:1455-1463, March 21.
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