(Proverbs 14:34)

(Taken from The Preceptor and reprinted in The Bulletin on May 13, 1990.)

When the drafters of the Declaration of Independence wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," they were writing of the kind of phaneros en autois ("evident in themselves") truths the apostle Paul was writing of in Romans 1:19. As a matter of fact, in Romans 1:20, the words tois poiemasin nooumena kathoratai ("by means of things that are made, are understood, being clearly seen") are the exact equivalent to "self-evident." Paul uses both of these phrases in the context of what men know naturally by natural revelation, apart from the special revelation revealed in God's Word. According to Paul, what can be known about God apart from the Bible is known by all men, because He causes them to know it. Therefore, all men are without excuse. But, although men know the truth, the Bible tells us they are bent on suppressing it in unrighteousness (cf. Romans 1:18). In other words, we can't expect our opponents to be honest. If they have to lie about this nation being founded upon the principle that there is a "law above the law" (i.e., God's law above man's law), then they will lie. For example, during the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution in 1987, I was appalled when, watching the proceedings on television, I heard the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance with "under God" left out.
This is made even more appalling when one considers that Thomas Jefferson, who a secularist would proudly call his own, is reported to have said: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?" Doesn't this sound like Jefferson thought the nation he was instrumental in founding ought to be a nation under God?
Furthermore, as recently as 1952, in Zorach v. Clauson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote, "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." If an extremely liberal Supreme Court justice can understand this, then why is it becoming so difficult for people to understand that ours is a nation that was founded by our forefathers to be under God? In truth, it would not be difficult at all if it were not for those who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
In Psalm 11:3, the question is asked, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Of course, when the foundations are destroyed, the righteous are made a prey of the wicked. Consequently, the very purpose of government is the protection of the righteous or law abiding. In other words, Government is ordained by God as a mechanical remedy against evil (cf. Romans 13:1-7). Thomas Jefferson clearly understood this principle, and so must we if we are to keep the "unalienable rights" endowed us by "our Creator." Jesus Christ is sovereign of the universe. Consequently, His law is above all laws and all men everywhere are subject to His authority. Many earthly authorities have not understood this. Consequently, they have not heeded the wise counsel of the psalmist, who said: "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way" (Psalm 2:11,12).
Currently, the political walls of atheistic communism seem to be crumbling. Perhaps we are privileged to be observing His divine providence at work in these matters. But, even if we are not, let the men and women of all nations soberly reflect upon the eminent advice of Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."
The reproach (i.e., disgrace and shame) openly being manifested in America today is indicative of the fact that we are quickly becoming a nation without God. Frankly, what this means is that the continued existence of this country is at stake. It may be that God usually judges individuals at the end of time, but the Bible clearly teaches that He judges nations in time. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul gives the four step decline in the history of the nation that forgets God:
  1. A nation rejects God,
  2. it turns to false religion,
  3. it becomes bogged down in immorality and violence,
  4. and then God judges it.
Consequently, a nation without God is a nation in serious trouble.
As a people (I'm speaking now of God's people), let us be actively engaged in doing justice and righteousness, and let us be praying that there is still enough salt left to preserve the blessings of God upon this nation.



                             Chapter Seven


1) To see how God can use others to comfort us

2) To understand true repentance:  what leads to it, and what is the
   evidence that it has occurred


Chapter seven begins with Paul summarizing his pleas to the Corinthians
made in the previous chapter.  Again he calls for spiritual purity, and
for "hearts wide open" (1-3).

Paul returns now to a point where he left off in chapter two, his
anxiety when searching for Titus (cf. 2:12-13).  After arriving in 
Macedonia, he finds him and the report Titus has from the church in 
Corinth is a source of great comfort and joy to Paul.  Indeed, even the
manner in which Titus was received by the Corinthians filled Paul with 
joy (4-7).

The Corinthians had received a previous letter from Paul with much
sorrow, but with a godly sorrow that led to true repentance.  Paul 
could see that, and he wanted them to know it was only out of care for
them he had written it (8-12).  Thus, the way they had received Titus
and Paul's letter, rendering quick obedience, gave Paul confidence in
the Corinthians (13-16).



      1. In view of the promises given (1a)
      2. By cleansing ourselves from all filthiness (1b)
      3. By perfecting holiness in the fear of God (1c)
      -- This is a summary of the plea found in 6:14-18

      1. To open their hearts for Paul and his companions (2a)
      2. For they have done no wrong to anyone (2b)
      3. Not said to condemn, but out of love (3)
      -- This is a repetition of the plea found in 6:11-13


      1. Paul's boldness made possible by his comfort and joy (4)
      2. Arriving in Macedonia, Paul was troubled (5)
      3. But God comforted him by the arrival of Titus (6; cf. 2:12-13)

      1. Titus bore good news of their repentance (7)
      2. Their repentance made him glad he had written the earlier
         epistle (8)
      3. He was glad their sorrow was that godly sorrow which leads to
         true repentance (9-10)
      4. The evidence of their godly sorrow (11)
      5. Even so, he initially wrote out of a desire to express his 
         care for them (12)

      1. Comforted in their comfort, he also rejoiced seeing the joy of
         Titus (13a)
      2. Titus' spirit had been refreshed by the Corinthians (13b)
      3. The Corinthians had lived up to the reputation Paul have given
         them (14)
      4. Titus grew in his love for them by the way they received him
      5. All this increased Paul's joy and confidence in the 
         Corinthians (16)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Paul's plea to the Corinthians (1-3)
   - Paul's comfort and joy (4-16)

2) In view of the promises in the preceding chapter, what two things
   does Paul admonish us to do? (1)
   - Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit
   - Perfecting holiness in the fear of God

3) What plea does Paul repeat that was made in chapter six? (2)
   - Open your hearts to us

4) What was Paul's condition when he first came to Macedonia? (5)
   - His flesh had no rest, troubled on every side
   - Outside were conflicts, inside were fears

5) How did God comfort him in Macedonia? (6-7)
   - By the coming of Titus
   - By the consolation Titus had in the earnest desire, mourning, and
     zeal of the Corinthians toward Paul

6) What about the Corinthians' sorrow led Paul to rejoice? (9)
   - Their sorrow led to repentance

7) What is the difference between "godly sorrow" and "sorrow of the 
   world"? (10)
   - Godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation
   - Sorrow of the world produces death

8) Name seven things that demonstrated the Corinthians' godly sorrow
   - Diligence
   - Clearing of themselves
   - Indignation
   - Fear
   - Vehement desire
   - Zeal
   - Vindication

9) Why had Paul written to the Corinthians? (12)
   - That his care for them in the sight of God might be apparent

10) What gave Paul comfort and joy? (13)
   - The comfort of the Corinthians gave him comfort
   - The joy of Titus who had been refreshed by the Corinthians gave
     him joy

11) What had served to increase Titus' affection for the Corinthians?
   - Their obedience
   - How they received him in fear and trembling

12) What else gave Paul joy? (16)
   - The confidence he had in the Corinthians in all things

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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                              Chapter Six


1) To see how Paul's ministry commended itself to others

2) To appreciate the need for having "hearts wide open"

3) To understand the principle of "separation", and why we cannot be 
   unequally yoked with unbelievers


At the close of chapter five, Paul described himself as an ambassador
for Christ who pleads on God's behalf for people to be reconciled to
God.  With that thought in mind, he makes a special plea for the
Corinthians not to receive God's grace in vain, reminding them that now
is the time for salvation (1-2).

In the ninth and final description of his apostolic ministry, Paul 
focuses on the "approved" nature of his ministry.  Determined not to
give offense nor reason for blame, Paul has acted commendably.  This is
seen in the physical sufferings he has endured and the spiritual graces
he has displayed.  Even the conflicting reactions and reports by 
others, along with the various experiences described in a contrasting
manner, help to confirm that his ministry is "approved" (3-10).

At this point, Paul makes an appeal to the Corinthians.  With a heart
that is wide open to them, he begs for them to open wide their hearts 
to him as well.  Then he pleads with them not to be unequally yoked
with unbelievers, in order that they might receive the promises of
everlasting fellowship with God as their Father (11-18).



      1. Made by those who are God's co-workers (1)
      2. For the "day of salvation" spoken of in Isaiah 49:8 has 
         arrived (2)

      1. Giving no offense, he seeks to commend himself as a minister 
         of God in all things (3-4a)
      2. Physical sufferings endured as a minister (4a-5)
      3. Spiritual graces demonstrated as a minister (6-7)
      4. Conflicting reactions and reports by others toward him as a
         minister (8)
      5. Contrasting experiences as a minister (9-10)


      1. Paul's own openness towards the Corinthians (11)
         a. He has spoken freely (11a)
         b. His own heart is wide open (11b)
      2. The Corinthians likewise need to be open (12-13)
         a. They are restricted by their own affections (12)
         b. As a father pleads with his children, Paul appeals to them
            to reciprocate by being open to him (13)

      1. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (14-16a)
         a. Righteousness has no fellowship with lawlessness (14b)
         b. Light has no communion with darkness (14c)
         c. Christ has no accord with Belial (15a)
         d. A believer has no part with an unbeliever (15b)
         e. The temple of God has no agreement with idols (16a)
      2. Implications of the promise given to the temple of God
         a. As the temple of God, God has promised to dwell and walk 
            among us (16b)
         b. Therefore, we must be separate if we wish to be the 
            children of God (17-18)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The "approved" nature of Paul's ministry (1-10)
   - Paul's plea to the Corinthians (11-18)

2) How does Paul describe himself as he pleads with the Corinthians to
   not receive the grace of God in vain? (1)
   - As workers together with Him

3) Why was Paul so careful not to give offense in anything? (3)
   - So that his ministry would not be blamed

4) List some of the physical sufferings which commended Paul as a 
   minister of God (4-5)
   - Tribulations, stripes, imprisonments, tumults

5) List those areas where Paul demonstrated his integrity as a minister
   of God (6-7)
   - Purity, knowledge, longsuffering, kindness, sincere love, the Holy
     Spirit, the word of truth, the power of God, the armor of 

6) List the contrasting experiences Paul had as a minister of God 
   - Unknown, yet well-known
   - Dying, yet alive
   - Chastened, yet not killed
   - Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
   - Poor, yet making many rich
   - Having nothing, yet possessing all things

7) How does Paul describe his affection toward the Corinthians? (11)
   - His heart is wide open

8) What does he say about the Corinthians' affections toward him? (12)
   - They were restricted

9) What charge does Paul give concerning our relation to those in the
   world? (14)
   - Not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers

10) List the contrasting pairs that Paul uses to show the incongruity
    of believers being unequally yoked with unbelievers (14-16)
   - Righteousness vs. lawlessness
   - Light vs. darkness
   - Christ vs. Belial
   - Believer vs. unbeliever
   - Temple of God vs. idols

11) What is necessary to receive the promise of having God as our 
    Father who dwells among us? (17-18)
   - Come out from among them and be separate
   - Do not touch what is unclean

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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                              Chapter Five


1) To understand the basis for Paul's hope despite his suffering

2) To see what motivated Paul in his work as a minister

3) To appreciate the gospel as a "ministry of reconciliation"


As Paul continues describing the nature of his ministry, he explains
why he remains "hopeful" in spite of his suffering.  He knows that
should his "earthly house" be destroyed, there is a "house not made
with hands" that God has prepared for him.  For this he longs, being
confident because God has already given the Spirit as a guarantee.  So
while he must walk by faith, and not by sight, he makes it his aim to
be pleasing to the Lord, before Whom he knows he will one day stand to
give an account (1-10).

Paul then describes his "devotion" as it pertains to his ministry.
Motivated by his knowledge of the terror of the Lord, he persuades men.
He endeavors to serve God and his brethren in such a way that the
Corinthians will be able to provide a defense to those who judge only
by appearance.  Throughout it all, it is the love of Christ which
constrains Paul to live no longer for himself but for the Lord.  Unlike
his detractors, he no longer judges people based upon appearances, for
he knows that if one is in Christ, he is a new creation (11-17).

Finally, Paul depicts the work of God in Christ as one in which God is
reconciling the world to Himself.  Paul's own role is that of an
"ambassador for Christ", who has been entrusted with the "ministry of
reconciliation" so he might implore people on God's behalf that they be
reconciled to God (18-21).



      1. A house not made with hands, to replace the "earthly tent" (1)
      2. In this "earthly tent" we groan (2-4)
         a. Earnestly desiring to be clothed with the habitation from
            heaven (2)
         b. So as not to found "naked", and that mortality may be
            swallowed up by life (3-4)
      3. God has prepared us for this very thing, and has given the
         Spirit as a guarantee (5)

      1. Confidence... (6-8)
         a. Knowing that at home in the body means absence from the
            Lord, necessitating walking by faith and not by sight (6-7)
         b. Preferring to be absent from the body and present with the
            Lord (8)
      2. An aim to be well pleasing to Christ (9-10)
         a. Whether present or absent (9)
         b. For we must all be judged by Christ (10)

      1. Knowing the terror of the Lord, he persuades men (11a)
      2. He is aware both God and they know him well (11b)
      3. His desire is to so live in service to God and them (no matter
         what some may think of him) that they may find reason to glory
         in him (12-13)

      1. Constrained by the love of Christ who died for all, he now
         lives for Him (14-15)
      2. He ceases to make superficial judgments based upon appearance,
         even as he had once done with Christ (16)
      3. For one in Christ is a new creation, and all things have 
         become new (17)


      1. He himself has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ
      2. God has given him the ministry of reconciliation (18b-19)
         a. The reconciliation of the world is actually God's work in
            Christ (19a)
         b. The "word of reconciliation" has been committed to Paul

      1. As ambassadors of Christ, pleading for God and on Christ's
         behalf (20)
      2. For Christ became sin for us, that we might become the 
         righteousness of God in Him (21)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The "hopeful" nature of Paul's ministry (1-10)
   - The "devoted" nature of Paul's ministry (11-17)
   - The "reconciling" nature of Paul's ministry (18-21)

2) What did Paul know he would have if his "earthly house" were
   destroyed? (1)
   - A building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the

3) What was Paul's earnest desire? (2)
   - To be clothed with the habitation from heaven

4) What has God given us as a "guarantee" of the "life" to come? (5)
   - The Spirit

5) What remains our condition while we are "at home in the body"? (6)
   - We are absent from the Lord

6) What does our present condition require of us in our daily "walk"?
   - To walk by faith, not by sight

7) What is the desire of the "confident" Christian? (8)
   - To be absent from the body and present with the Lord

8) What is the aim of "confident" Christian? (9)
   - To be well pleasing to the Lord

9) Before what must we all one day appear? (10)
   - The judgment seat of Christ

10) What moved Paul to try and persuade men? (11)
   - Knowing the terror of the Lord

11) What motivated Paul to live for Jesus Christ? (14-15)
   - The love of Christ, who died for him

12) What is the condition of one in Christ? (17)
   - A new creation

13) Through Whom has God reconciled us to Himself? (18)
   - Jesus Christ

14) What two descriptive phrases does Paul use in reference to the 
    gospel that was committed to him? (18-19)
   - The ministry of reconciliation
   - The word of reconciliation

14) How has God reconciled us to Himself? (19)
   - By not imputing our trespasses to us

15) How does Paul view his role in this "ministry of reconciliation"?
   - As an ambassador for Christ

16) How is it possible that we can become "the righteousness of God" in
    Christ? (21)
   - God has made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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                              Chapter Four


1) To appreciate Paul's transparency and view of service

2) To understand why some people are so blinded to the obvious

3) To gain insight into why God allows His children to suffer

4) To glean Paul's secret for not "losing heart" (getting discouraged)


Paul continues his defense of himself and his ministry.  With such a
glorious ministry described in chapter three, he does not get
discouraged.  Instead he has renounced the use of deceitful tactics and
openly proclaims the truth (1-2).  If the gospel seems veiled, it is
only to those whom Satan has blinded so they might not see the light of
the gospel (3-4).  Paul is simply preaching Christ Jesus as Lord and
considers himself as a servant for their sakes.  He humbly realizes
that it is God who has shone in his heart so he might share that light
of the gospel with others (5-6).

As magnificent this "treasure" may be, he is simply an "earthen
vessel".  As such he experiences great suffering in his ministry, but
he knows that God allows it so that the "life of Jesus" (the power of
God) might be manifested in his mortal body by the way he endures it,
and that such grace from God might cause much thanksgiving to the glory
of God (7-15).  In addition, he does not lose heart because his inward
man is renewed daily by the knowledge that affliction is light and
temporary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits him, and
by keeping his focus on things which are unseen but eternal (16-18).



      1. Having received a glorious ministry by the mercy of God, Paul
         does not lose heart (1)
      2. He has renounced the hidden things of shame (2a)
         a. He does not walk in craftiness
         b. He does not handle the Word of God deceitfully
      3. But with open presentation of the truth he commends himself
         before all and before God (2b)

      1. If the gospel seems veiled, it is only the perishing who think
         it so (3)
      2. For their unbelieving minds have been blinded by the "god of
         this age" (4a)
      3. So that the light of gospel of the glorious Christ does not
         shine on them (4b)

      1. Preaching not themselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord and 
         themselves as their servants for Jesus' sake (5)
      2. It is God who has shone in their hearts so that they might 
         spread the light of the knowledge of God's glory revealed in
         Jesus Christ (6)


      1. The treasure of the gospel is in "earthen vessels", but this
         is so the excellence of God's power might be demonstrated in
         them (7)
      2. Examples of overcoming suffering (8-9)
         a. Hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed
         b. Perplexed, but not in despair
         c. Persecuted, but not forsaken
         d. Struck down, but not destroyed
      3. In this way, "dying for Jesus" gives them opportunity to
         demonstrate the "life of Jesus", which in turn blesses others
      4. Confident of the resurrection and ultimate glorification, he 
         knows that all things can be to their benefit, resulting in 
         thanksgiving and glory to God (13-15)
      1. He is not discouraged, even when the outward man is perishing,
         for the inward man is renewed daily (16)
      2. Affliction is light and temporary, compared with the eternal 
         weight of glory (17)
      3. His focus is on the unseen, on things that are eternal (18)

1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The "honest" nature of Paul's ministry (1-6)
   - The "suffering" nature of Paul's ministry (7-18)

2) Why does Paul not "lose heart"? (1)
   - Because of the nature of his ministry (cf. 3:7-18)

3) In renouncing the hidden things of shame, what two things does Paul
   not do? (2)
   - Walk in craftiness
   - Handle the word of God deceitfully

4) To whom is the gospel "veiled"?  Who has blinded them? (3-4)
   - Those that are perishing
   - The god of this age

5) Who does Paul preach?  How does he view himself? (5)
   - Christ Jesus the Lord
   - As their servant for Jesus' sake

6) How is the "light" that God has commanded to be shone in his heart 
   described? (6, cf. 4b)
   - As the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ
   - As the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God

7) How does Paul describe the gospel, and himself in comparison? (7)
   - As "treasure" in "earthen vessels"

8) What four examples does Paul use to describe how God's power had 
   worked in him? (8-9)
   - Hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed
   - Perplexed, but not in despair
   - Persecuted, but not forsaken
   - Struck down, but not destroyed

9) Why was Paul and others allowed to suffer for Christ? (10-11)
   - That the life of Jesus may be manifested in their mortal bodies

10) Who benefited by the things Paul suffered? (12,15)
   - The Corinthians

11) Why did Paul not "lose heart" when his outward man was perishing?
   - Because his inward man was being renewed daily

12) In what two ways does Paul contrast his affliction and the glory to
    come? (17)
   - Light vs. a far more exceeding weight
   - Momentary vs. eternal 

13) Upon what does Paul keep his focus? (16)
   - Things unseen, which are eternal

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Ancient Origins of Hinduism by Alden Bass


The Ancient Origins of Hinduism

by Alden Bass

The word Hindu originated, not as the name of a religion, but as a geographical marker. Hinduderives from the Sanskrit word for river, sindhu, from which the Indus River received its name. Sometime in the first millennium B.C., the Persians, who were then South Asia’s closest neighbors, mispronounced sindhu, and designated the land around the Indus River as hindu. Over a thousand years later, in A.D. 712, the Muslims invaded the Indus Valley. To distinguish themselves, they called all non-Muslims hindus; the name of the land became, by default, the name of the people and their religion (Schoeps, 1966, p. 148). Christians, upon entering Hindustan (as it was then called), committed the same error of reduction. From their perspective, the indigenous people were all idol-worshipping pagans, so they christened the Indians gentoo, a derogatory synchronization of “gentile” and “hindu.” Thus the name hindu originally was given by outsiders to denote a geographic territory, but through the encroachment of various other religious groups it came to encompass all native religions in South East Asia.
As the history of its name demonstrates, unity in Indian religion has been superimposed by outsiders, first by the Muslims, then the Christians, and much later by the British colonialists who through their censuses unintentionally reified the South Asian peoples under that banner. It has only been in the last couple of centuries that the Indian people have embraced the name Hindu as their own, though two Indians rarely use the word with the same meaning. Some scholars suggest that it is more appropriate to speak of “Hinduisms” than to risk giving off a false sense of unity.
The genesis of Hinduism is nearly as elusive as its contemporary definition. Unlike Islam, which began with Mohammed, or Judaism, which began with Moses, Hinduism has no founder, nor any traditional time or place of origin; it emerges from the jungle as a continually evolving religious system. Scholars debate the primary source of what would become the Hindu religion, though all agree that several cultures had an influence. Basham, Buitenen, and Doniger suggest that ancient Hinduism evolved from at least three antecedents: “an early element common to most of the Indo-European tribes; a later element held in common with the early Iranians; and an element acquired in the Indian subcontinent itself ” (Basham, et al., 1997). The oldest of these influences are the symbols and deities indigenous to the Indus valley, part of the ancient and abstruse Dravidian culture. Archaeologists date this magnificent society to the third millennium B.C., making it one of the oldest known civilizations. This early date also places the religion of the Indus over a thousand years before the writing of the Old Testament, in the time of the Patriarchal Age. If the archaeologists’ dating is correct, the Indus civilization was established soon after the Tower of Babel incident. The archaeological sites along the Indus have revealed many terra-cotta figures resembling gods and goddesses in the Vedic literature, some of which are still worshipped. Though religious figurines abound, temples inexplicably are absent from the Indus cities. Because the Indus valley script has yet to be deciphered, much of the Dravidian culture and religion remains a mystery.
The Christian must ask how the Hindu religion fits into the biblical narrative. Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity, and Buddhism derived from Hinduism; Hinduism is the only major religion lacking an adequate explanation as to its origin. No substantial texts exist beyond 1000B.C., and the texts after 1000 do not contain narrative. The earliest of these is the Rig Veda, which is nothing but a collection of praise hymns to the gods rather than the record of a people as in the Bible. Unlike western cultures, which tend to view time as a linear progression, the eastern religions generally reckon time to be cyclical. As a result, they emphasize the eternal over the transient and historical. Scholars are able to piece together the earliest Indian religion only through archaeology, clues in the later texts, and by extrapolating from existing traditions. Using these same resources, Christian scholars can reinterpret the available data so that the Hindu religion fits into a biblical scheme of world history. Reconstructing the ancient history of any civilization is tentative, however, and all such projects are educated speculations at best.
Bible believers would expect all civilizations to post-date the universal Flood, which destroyed every human save the family of Noah (Genesis 7). The peoples that sprang from Noah’s sons then spread over the Earth, though the Bible is silent as to when and how. Though it is possible that some colonies were established, the text indicates that most of the people stayed together in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:2), where they began construction on that fateful tower. The hubris of Noah’s descendents kindled the wrath of God, Who, after He had confused their languages, “He scattered them abroad over the face of all the Earth” (Genesis 11:9). Josephus wrote that “each colony took possession of that land which they lighted upon and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and maritime countries” (AntiquitiesI.v.1). From this point the Old Testament records the history of the children of Abraham; the events of the rest of the world can be known only through secular history. We must try to trace the origin of Hinduism back to an original belief in the true God—a belief passed down from the progeny of Noah. In a passage particularly descriptive of the Indian religion, Paul argues that the ancient Gentiles knew God, but they did not “retain their knowledge of God,” instead changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:28,23).
Evidence for the historical digression from the worship of Jehovah God to the worship of nature and nature-gods is found in the ancient texts and myths of South Asia. The earliest Hindu literature, the Rig Veda, speaks often of “the Creator,” of “the One,” a Great God over all the other gods. He is called Varuna, and is closely related to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazdā (“Wise Lord”) and the Greek god Uranus (Ourania). Though an insignificant sea god in the current pantheon, Varuna was a prominent god in the ancient system, and the subject of many hymns in the Rig Veda. Zwemer writes that Varuna is “the most impressive of the Vedic gods. He is the prehistoric Sky-god whose nature and attributes point to a very early monotheistic conception” (1945, p. 86). This god is an ethical god, capable of great wrath or merciful forgiveness of sins. Note this passage from the Vedas:
I do not wish, King Varuna,
To go down to the home of clay,
Be gracious, mighty lord, and spare.
Whatever wrong we men commit against the race
Of heavenly ones, O Varuna, whatever law
Of thine we here have broken through thoughtlessness,
For that transgression do not punish us, O god (Rig Veda VII.lxxxix.1-3).
Varuna is already on the decline by the time the Vedas were committed to writing; Indra, a warrior god, takes prominence in the later Vedic period. Yet even then, Varuna is qualitatively different from Indra and all the other gods that follow him in the Vedic literature; he is less anthropomorphic and more majestic (cf. Zwemer, p. 88). Other Hindu deities act like humans in the same way as the Greek gods, yet Varuna is above that. It would seem that this god embodies many of the qualities of Jehovah, albeit diluted and removed by many hundreds of miles and years.
The myths of ancient Hinduism likewise contain echoes of the distant past similar of Genesis. There are several different, though not exclusive, creation myths in the Vedas (and even more in later literature), but in one of the earliest writings, Indra is the maker of all. “Who made firm the shaking earth, who brought to rest the mountains when they were disturbed, who measured out the wide atmosphere, who fixed the heaven, he, O folk, is Indra” (Rig Veda II.xii.2). This version of creation by a personal god is more similar to the Old Testament account than to later Hindu formulations. Hammer remarks, “In the early creation myth Indra was seen as the personal agent in creation, bringing existence out of non-existence. In later speculation the ‘One God’, described in personal terms, gives way to ‘That One’—the impersonal force of creation” (1982, p. 175). As time passed and the true God was forgotten, the creation myths became more fantastic, involving giant snakes and four-mouthed gods growing out of lotus flowers (Basham, et al., 1997).
In addition to the creation myths, a story persists in the epic tradition (written between 300B.C.-A.D. 300) of a great flood. It was so great that “there was water everywhere and the waters covered the heaven and the firmament also” (Mahabharata III.clxxxvi). The hero of the story is Manu, who is analogous to Noah in the Hebrew story. One day a fish approached Manu and asked him for protection in exchange for a blessing (later tradition identifies the fish as the god Vishnu). Manu helped the fish, who gives him this warning:
The time for the purging of this world is now ripe. Therefore do I now explain what is good for thee! The mobile and immobile divisions of the creation, those that have the power of locomotion, and those that have it not, of all these the terrible doom hath now approached. Thou shall build a strong massive ark and have it furnished with a long rope. On that must thou ascend, O great Muni, with the seven Rishis and take with thee all the different seeds which were enumerated by regenerate Brahmanas in days of yore, and separately and carefully must thou preserve them therein (MahabharataIII.clxxxvi).
Manu alone survived the great flood, and from him the world was repopulated. The connection between the Hindu story and the Genesis account is strengthened by etymological ties between the name “Noah” and “Manu” (Sage, 2004).
The evidence from India’s earliest literary traditions reveals that Hinduism is a corruption of true religion. Though for most of its existence Hinduism has been an extremely pluralistic religion—being influenced by several cultures originally, and later by surrounding religions (Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity)—it appears to have grown out of monotheism. The renowned Sanskritist of Oxford, Max Müller, wrote: “There is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda; and even in the invocations of the innumerable gods the remembrance of a God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds” (as quoted in Zwemer, p. 87).


Basham, Arthur, J.A.B van Buitenen, and Wendy Doniger (1997), “Hinduism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 20:519-558.
Hammer, Raymond (1982), “Roots: The Development of Hindu Religion,” Eerdmans’ Handbook to the World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sage, Bengt (2004), “Noah and Human Etymology,” [On-line], URL: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-083.htm.
Schoeps, Hans-Jachim (1966), The Religions of Mankind (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Zwemer, Samuel (1945), The Origin of Religion (New York: Loizeaux Brothers).

The Strongest Argument Against Mark 16:9-20 by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Strongest Argument Against Mark 16:9-20

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 has been the focus of much analysis and discussion over the years among textual critics and Bible scholars. While the academic interest of settling a fine point of textual criticism has been much belabored, it is important to recognize that the verses contain no teaching of significance that is not taught elsewhere. Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to Mary is verified elsewhere (Luke 8:2; John 20:1-18), as is His appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:35), and His appearance to the eleven apostles (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23). The “Great Commission” is presented by two of the other three Gospel writers (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-48), with both belief and baptism elsewhere pinpointed as prerequisites to salvation (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 22:16; et al.). Luke verifies the ascension twice (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). The promise of the signs that were to accompany the apostles’ activities is hinted at by Matthew (28:20), noted by the Hebrews writer (2:3-4), explained in greater detail by John (chapters 14-16; cf. 14:12), and demonstrated by the events of the book of Acts (see McGarvey, 1875, pp. 377-378). So, in one sense, the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 as it relates to knowing, with certainty, God’s will for our lives is superfluous. [NOTE: For a fuller discussion of the genuinness of Mark 16:9-20, see Miller, 2005.]
In ascertaining the genuineness of a textual variant, several factors are taken into consideration. The external evidence of age and geographical diversity of Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic citations are examined. Internal evidence is also weighed, taking into account transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities. The latter criterion centers on the style and vocabulary of the author in the book, as well as the usage of the author elsewhere and in the gospel accounts (cf. Metzger, 1978, pp. 209ff.).


The most persuasive piece of evidence that prompts some textual scholars to discount Mark 16:9-20 as genuine is the internal evidence. Though the Alands conceded that the “longer Marcan ending” actually “reads an absolutely convincing text” (1987, p. 287), in fact, the internal evidence weighs more heavily than the external evidence in the minds of many of those who support omission of the verses. Observe carefully the following definitive pronouncement of this viewpoint—a pronouncement that simultaneously concedes the strength of the external evidence in favor of the verses:
On the other hand, the section is no casual or unauthorised [sic] addition to the Gospel. From the second century onwards, in nearly all manuscripts, versions, and other authorities, it forms an integral part of the Gospel, and it can be shown to have existed, if not in the apostolic, at least in the sub-apostolic age. A certain amount of evidence against it there is (though very little can be shown to be independent of Eusebius the Church historian, 265-340 A.D.), but certainly not enough to justify its rejection, were it not that internal evidence clearly demonstrates that it cannot haveproceeded from the hand of St. Mark (Dummelow, 1927, p. 73, emp. added).
Listen also to an otherwise conservative scholar express the same sentiment: “If these deductions are correct the mass of MSS [manuscripts—DM] containing the longer ending must have been due to the acceptance of this ending as the most preferable. But internal evidence combines with textual evidence to raise suspicions regarding this ending” (Guthrie, 1970, p. 77, emp. added). Alford took the same position: “The internal evidence...will be found to preponderate vastly against the authorship of Mark” (1844, 1:434, emp. added). Even Bruce Metzger admitted: “The long ending, though present in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary” (p. 227, emp. added).
So, in the minds of not a few scholars, if it were not for the internal evidence, the external evidence would be sufficient to establish the genuineness of the verses. What precisely, pray tell, is this internal evidence that is so powerful and weighs so heavily on the issue as to prod scholars to “jump through hoops” in an effort to discredit the verses? What formidable data exists that could possibly prompt so many to discount all evidence to the contrary?
Scholars direct attention to “the presence of 17 non-Marcan words or words used in a non-Marcan sense” (Metzger, p. 227). Alford made the same allegation over a century earlier: “No less than seventeen words and phrases occur in it (and some of them several times) which are never elsewhere used by Mark—whose adherence to his own peculiar phrases is remarkable” (p. 438). The reader is urged to observe carefully the implicit assumption of those who reject verses 9-20 on such a basis: If the last 12 verses of a document employ words and expressions (whether one or 17?) that are not employed by the writer previously in the same document, then the last 12 verses of the document are not the product of the original writer. Is this line of thinking valid?
Over a century ago, in 1869, John A. Broadus provided a masterful evaluation (and decisive defeat) of this very contention (pp. 355-362). Using the Greek text that was available at the time produced by Tregelles, Broadus examined the 12 verses that precede Mark 16:9-20 (i.e., 15:44-16:8)—verses whose genuineness are above reproach—and applied precisely the same test to them. Incredibly, he found in the 12 verses preceding 16:9-20 exactly the same number of words and phrases (17) that are not used previously by Mark! The words and their citations are as follows: tethneiken (15:44), gnous apo, edoreisatoptoma (15:45), eneileisen, lelatomeimenon,petpas, prosekulisen (15:46), diagenomenou, aromata (16:1), tei mia ton sabbaton (16:2),apokulisei (16:3), anakekulistai, sphodra (16:4), en tois dexiois (16:5), eichen (in a peculiar sense), and tromos (16:8). The reader is surely stunned and appalled that textual critics would wave aside verses of Scripture as counterfeit and fraudulent on such fragile, flimsy grounds.
Writing a few years later, J.W. McGarvey applied a similar test to the last 12 verses of Luke, again, verses whose genuineness, like those preceding Mark 16:9-20, are above suspicion (1875, pp. 377-382). He found nine words that are not used by Luke elsewhere in his book—four of which are not found anywhere else in the New Testament! Yet, once again, no textual critic or New Testament Greek manuscript scholar has questioned the genuineness of the last 12 verses of Luke. Indeed, the methodology that seeks to determine the genuineness of a text on the basis of new or unusual word use is a concocted, artificial, unscholarly, nonsensical, pretentious—andclearly discredited—criterion.


For the unbiased observer, this matter is settled: the strongest piece of internal evidence mustered against the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 is no evidence at all. Consequently, the reader of the New Testament may possess far more confidence that these verses are original than is typically given by current textual critics.


Aland, Kurt and Barbara Aland (1987), The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Alford, Henry (1844), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1980 reprint.
Broadus, John A. (1869), “Exegetical Studies,” The Baptist Quarterly, [3]:355-362, July.
Dummelow, J.R., ed. (1927), A Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York, NY: MacMillan).
Guthrie, Donald (1970), New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, third edition).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), The New Testament Commentary: Matthew and Mark (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1978 reprint), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, second edition).
Miller, Dave (2005), “Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired?” Reason & Revelation, 25[12]:89-95,http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=572&article=433.

What is Bigger and More Incomprehensible than the God of Christians? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

What is Bigger and More Incomprehensible than the God of Christians?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In a recent TIME magazine article, wherein senior staff writer David Van Biema interviewed renowned atheist Richard Dawkins and theist Francis Collins, Dawkins made a comment about the existence of God that revealed a serious flaw in his case against Creation and Christianity. Although he believes the idea of “a supernatural intelligent designer” is “refutable,” he speculated, saying, “If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed” (quoted in Van Biema, 2006, 168[20]:55). Thus, every “God” ever conceptualized by mankind is simply too small and too comprehensible for Dawkins.
It certainly is the case that gods of various religious groups of the past and present have lacked size and intelligence. The gods of ancient Egypt were exposed as counterfeit when the God of Israel demonstrated His superiority over them. He brought 10 plagues on Egypt, executing judgment “against all the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4), that (among other things) man might “know that Jehovah is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11, ASV). In Elijah’s day, Jehovah God revealed His supremacy over Baal on Mount Carmel when He sent fire down from heaven, totally consuming Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18:20-38), while the sacrifices of Baal’s prophets lay quiescent. Then, “[w]hen all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God’” (1 Kings 18:39). Furthermore, the millions of Hindu gods of the past and present also lack sufficient magnitude and intelligence. They are lifeless, powerless, man-made idols that both atheists and theists rightly refuse to acknowledge.
To conclude, however, that no one from any religion has ever proposed a God that is of adequate size and mystery is simply untrue. What about the God of the Bible? Considering that approximately two billion people on Earth claim to believe in this God (see “Major Religions...,” 2005), Dawkins no doubt had the God of Christians in mind when he said, “If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.” What (or Who) could be larger, mightier, and more incomprehensible than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God that Christians worship and serve?
The God of the Bible is omnipresent. The psalmist proclaimed: “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me (139:7-10,NASB). Try as he might, no one can hide from God (Jeremiah 23:23-24). He is everywhere. His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3). “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but allthings are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13, emp. added).
God not only is omnipresent, He also knows everything. Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The psalmist declared that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (44:21) and that “His understanding is infinite” (147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether (139:1-4).
God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). There is nothing outside of the awareness of God. What’s more, at the end of time, He “will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, emp. added).
Perhaps the most awesome attribute of Jehovah is His unlimited power. He is “God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1). Nothing is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14). As Job confessed to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (42:2, emp. added). By simply speaking, God can create that which is visible from that which is invisible (Hebrews 11:3; cf. Genesis 1), and can turn the physical into the celestial (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). He can turn water into wine simply by desiring it to happen (John 2:1-10). He can miraculously heal a paralytic by merely willing it to “be done” (Matthew 8:13). He can raise a man from the dead simply by commanding him to “come forth” (John 11:43). The God of Christians is omnipotent.
What more does Dawkins need from a god? By definition, the God of the Bible could not be any bigger, more powerful, or more intelligent than He already is. Jehovah is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. In addition, He is eternal (cf. Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 102:27; Revelation 1:8). He is from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). What could be “bigger” and “more incomprehensible” for finite humans to grasp?
Nothing is bigger than God. Nothing is more powerful than God. And no one can rationally fathom a being more intelligent than God. As far as being “a whole lot more incomprehensible,” the psalmist addressed God’s unfathomable intelligence, confessing that “[s]uch knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (139:6, emp. added). God said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.... 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). Centuries later Paul praised the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” exclaiming “[h]ow unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33, emp. added). Indeed, there are “the secret things” that “belong to the Lord our God,” which we will never know this side of eternity, and perhaps not even on the other side (Deuteronomy 29:29). Thankfully, the one true and living God did reveal a substantial amount of information about Himself through nature, and much more through the Scriptures (Romans 1:20; Deuteronomy 29:29), that we might “have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
The God that the prominent, militant atheist Richard Dawkins said would exist, “if there is a God,” actually does exist. Sadly, Dawkins and millions of others simply have “refused to have God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28, ASV), for which “they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).


“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2005), [On-line], URL:http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html.
Van Biema, David (2006), “God vs. Science,” TIME, 168[20]:48-55, November 13.

When Did Job Live? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


When Did Job Live?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


When Did Job Live?


Neither the book of Job nor any other book of the Bible indicates forthrightly when God’s servant Job lived upon the Earth. Furthermore, no biblical genealogies with chronological information, such as that found in Genesis 5 and 11, help in approximating the century in which Job lived. Nevertheless, various clues within the book of Job seem to indicate Job lived sometime after the Flood, but long before the time of Moses.
First, Job’s postdiluvian status seems apparent from a question Eliphaz raised in his final speech. While accusing Job of wickedness, Eliphaz asked: “Will you keep to the old way which wicked menhave trod, who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood?” (Job 22:16, emp. added). As Wayne Jackson noted: “That this is a reference to the Flood of Noah’s day is almost universally conceded by scholars” (1983, p. 58).
Second, that Job was a patriarch who lived prior to the time of Moses, and probably closer to the time of Abraham, seems evident from the following facts:
  • Like other patriarchs of old (Genesis 8:20; 12:7-8; 31:54), Job, as the head of his family, offered up sacrifices to God (Job 1:5; cf. 42:8). In the book of Job, there is no mention of the Levitical priesthood, the tabernacle, the temple, the Law of Moses, etc.
  • Unlike Israelite law, where the family inheritance was passed on to daughters only in the absence of sons (Numbers 27:1-11; 36:1-13), Job gave his daughters “an inheritance among their brothers” (Job 42:15).
  • Job’s material wealth was measured, not in money, but in the amount of livestock he owned (Job 1:3; 42:12), which is more characteristic of patriarchal times.
  • Finally, that Job lived long before the time of Moses seems evident by the fact that the longevity of his life is more comparable to the long lives of the patriarchs who lived around 2200 B.C. The book of Job reveals that Job lived long enough to marry, become “the greatest of all the men of the east” (1:3), and then witness his first 10 children reach at least the age of accountability (1:5), and probably much greater ages (cf. 1:13,18). Then, after suffering greatly, losing all of his children and his material wealth, God blessed Job with 10 more children and twice as much wealth (42:10-13). The book of Job then concludes: “After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days” (42:10-17, emp. added). Thus, it would appear that Job lived well into his 200s or beyond. Interestingly, the Septuagint testifies that Job died at the age of 240—an age more comparable to the ancestors of Abraham (e.g., Serug, Abraham’s great-grandfather lived to be 230—Genesis 11:22-23).


Jackson, Wayne (1983), The Book of Job (Abilene, TX: Quality Publications).

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


The Historical Christ--Fact or Fiction?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

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


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


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


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


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


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