"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Concerning The Collection (16:1-2) by Mark Copeland


                   Concerning The Collection (16:1-2)


1. Among many churches of Christ, visitors are often surprised to
   a. That there is not a lot of passing the plate to "take up an
   b. A collection is taken only once on Sunday, the first day of the
   c. No collection is taken during other times, such as midweek
      services, or special events like gospel meetings (what some may
      call revivals)

2. The practice reflects a desire to follow the New Testament pattern...
   a. Not just in giving, but in every aspect of church worship
   b. To allow the example and principles found in the early church to
      guide us

[What exactly is revealed "Concerning The Collection" in the New
Testament?  With 1Co 16:1-2 as the text for our study, let's first
review the...]


      1. In the church at Jerusalem, the charity of its members was
         remarkable - Ac 2:44-45
      2. Their liberality continued for sometime - Ac 4:32-35
      3. Granted, there were extenuating circumstances that may explain
         why selling everything they had did not become normative for
         the church
      4. But they demonstrate the extent to which brethren were willing
         to go

      1. The church in Antioch took up a collection for the needy saints
         in Judea - Ac 11:27-30
      2. The churches in Greece took up a collection for the saints in
         Jerusalem - Ro 15:25-26

      1. Paul gave instructions to churches in Galatia and Corinth
         - 1Co 16:1
      2. A weekly collection, gathered on the first day of the week
         - 1Co 16:2

[Thus began a practice that remains to this day among churches of
Christ.  Note carefully now the...]


      1. It was "the collection for the saints" - 1Co 16:1
      2. It was "for the poor among the saints" - Ro 15:26
      3. It concerns "ministering to the saints" - 2Co 9:1
      4  It "supplies the needs of the saints" - 2Co 9:12

      1. As the church in Jerusalem cared for its own - cf. Ac 2,4,6
      2. As the churches in Antioch, Macedonia, Achaia, and Galatia
         cared for those in Jerusalem and Judea - cf. Ac 11, Ro 15, 1Co 

      1. Who were certainly worthy of their support - 1Co 9:3-14
      2. Paul received support from various churches - 2Co 11:8,9
      3. One can infer that such support came from the church treasury
         for needy saints
      4. As individuals who devoted their full service to the Lord,
         becoming dependent on others for support, they would certainly
         qualify as "needy saints"

[For the work of benevolence and evangelism, it has become customary for
the weekly collection to support what is the proper work of the church
(including edification).  Now consider the...]


      1. For it is more blessed to give than receive - Ac 20:35
      2. Cheerful givers who sow bountifully will reap accordingly
         - 2Co 9:6-7
      3. That they might have an abundance for even more good works
         - 2Co 9:8-11

      1. The needs of the saints are supplied - 2Co 9:12a
      2. They are filled with praise to God and longing for their
         brethren - 2Co 9:13-14

      1. Such liberality abounds with many thanksgivings to God 
         - 2 Co 9:11-15
      2. By the beneficiaries and those who witness it - ibid.

[Thus the collection for the saints has great potential for much good!
Lastly, let's review some...]


      1. On the first day of the week - 1Co 16:1
      2. The day in which disciples came together to break bread 
          - Ac 20:7

   B. HOW TO GIVE...
      1. Proportionately - as one may prosper - 1Co 16:2; 2Co 8:12-13
      2. Willingly - with a willing mind, according to what one has
         - 2Co 8:12
      3. Purposefully - with thought, as one purposes in his heart
         - 2Co 9:7
      4. Cheerfully - not grudgingly, or of necessity - 2Co 9:7

      1. The Macedonians - who gave sacrificially, beyond their ability
         - 2Co 8:1-7
      2. The Achaians - whose zeal stirred up many others to give 
         - 2 Co 9:1-2
      3. Jesus Christ - who though rich, became poor, that we might be
         rich - 2Co 8:9


1. The practice of a weekly collection continued after the apostles

   "On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country
   gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the
   writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then when
   the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts
   to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and
   pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and
   wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers
   prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people
   assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a
   participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those
   who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are
   well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is
   collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans
   and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause are in
   want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among
   us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is
   the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the
   first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and
   matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day
   rose from the dead." - Justin Martyr, First Apology (110-165 A.D.)

2. There is certainly good reason for it to continue today, for it is a
   a. With apostolic approval
   b. Free from coercion that often accompanies an appeal to give
   c. Sufficient to supply the church with the funds to do its work

When one properly understands what is revealed in the Scriptures
"Concerning The Collection", a Christian will truly give as they have
been prospered, with a cheerful heart and willing mind...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible Has Not Been Corrupted by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible Has Not Been Corrupted

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The image on the front cover of this month’s R&R is St. Catherine’s Monastery where Codex Sinaiticus was discovered by Constantin von Tischendorf in 1844.]
Many are those who insist that the Bible has been corrupted over time, that we do not really know which verses belong in the Bible, and that translation errors are so plentiful that we do not have the original message. Yet these allegations have been confronted and refuted time and time again. Apart from the Old Testament (which has been fully verified), a myriad of books over the years have masterfully demonstrated the integrity of the New Testament text, including such volumes as J.W. McGarvey’s Evidences of Christianity, Kurt and Barbara Aland’s The Text of the New Testament, F.F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture, Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament, F.H.A. Scrivener’s A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Sir Frederic Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Benjamin Warfield’s An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, and many others. Those who cast aspersions upon the integrity of the biblical text manifest either abysmal, inexcusable ignorance of the long established facts of the matter or deliberate bias. If the reader desires the truth regarding the authenticity and integrity of the Bible, the evidence is available—if the individual is willing to spend the time and effort to weigh that evidence and arrive at the proper conclusion (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Do we have the message that the original authors penned? The fact is that the books of the New Testament are the most extensively verified books of ancient history. The facts completely undermine and discredit any attack on the integrity and transmission of the Bible.


We know how the original New Testament books read because we have three surviving classes of evidence by which to reconstruct the original New Testament: Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic citations. The current number of Greek manuscript copies containing all or part of the New Testament now stands at 5,795. This amount of manuscript evidence for the text of the New Testament is far greater than that available for any ancient classical author. The time between the writing of the original books of the New Testament and the earliest surviving copies is relatively brief. Although no two manuscript copies agree in every detail, the degree of accuracy achieved by most scribes was remarkably high. The vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. Suitable solutions to these differences are detectable. Even if they weren’t, manuscript evidence is so prolific that the original reading is one of the extant options. Even those variants that some might deem “doctrinally significant” (e.g., Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11) pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness/certainty is unquestioned. We can confidently affirm that we have 999/1000ths of the original Greek New Testament intact. The remaining 1/1000th pertains to inconsequential details.
Additionally, a wealth of ancient versions provides further verification of the purity of the biblical text, including Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Old Slavonic, and others. Textual critics through history have steadfastly affirmed the value of these ancient versions in reconstructing the New Testament text. For example, Vaganay observed: “After the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the versions constitute the most valuable source for writing the history of this text” (1934, p. 28; cf. Vogels, 1923, p. 84—“The versions are very valuable for establishing the original text of the Bible.”). Though noting the limitations, the Alands admitted: “[T]he importance of the versions is substantial” (1987, p. 182).
The same may be said for the wealth of textual materials available via the so-called “Church Fathers,” i.e., early Christian writers who quoted, paraphrased, and otherwise alluded to passages from Scripture in their letters, commentaries, and correspondence. This latter source of information is so prolific that Metzger affirmed: “Indeed, so extensive are these citations that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86).
These contentions have been verified by the greatest textual critics and linguistic scholars of the past two centuries. Their conclusions have not become outdated, but remain as valid today as when first formulated. If the integrity of the text of the Bible was fully authenticated in their day, it remains so today. Consider the following statements by some of these world class authorities.

Scholarly Verification of the Purity of the New Testament Text

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was a biblical scholar who taught Greek at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds, chaired the Department of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield, received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Aberdeen University, and served as the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester. He wrote over 40 books and served as Editor of The Evangelical Quarterly and Palestine Exploration Quarterly. Bruce declared: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the N.T. affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1975, pp. 19-20, emp. added). He also stated:
In view of the inevitable accumulation of such errors over so many centuries, it may be thought that the original texts of the New Testament documents have been corrupted beyond restoration. Some writers, indeed, insist on the likelihood of this to such a degree that one sometimes suspects they would be glad if it were so. But they are mistaken. There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament (1963, p. 178, emp. added).
Bruce further insisted:
Something more ought to be said, and said with emphasis. We have been discussing various textual types, and reviewing their comparative claims to be regarded as best representatives of the original New Testament. But there are not wide divergencies between these types, of a kind that could make any difference to the Church’s responsibility to be a witness and guardian of Holy Writ…. If the variant readings are so numerous, it is because the witnesses are so numerous. But all the witnesses, and all the types which they represent, agree on every article of Christian belief and practice (1963, p. 189, emp. added).
Bruce Metzger (1914-2007) was also a scholar of Greek, the New Testament, and New Testament Textual Criticism, serving as professor at Princeton Theological Seminary for 46 years. Described by prominent biblical scholar Raymond Brown as “probably the greatest textual specialist that America has produced” (as quoted in Ehrman and Holmes, 1995, p. xi), Metzger was a recognized authority on the Greek text of the New Testament. He served on the board of the American Bible Society, was the driving force of the United Bible Societies’ series of Greek Texts, and served as Chairperson of the NRSV Bible Committee. He is widely considered one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century. Concerning ancient versions, Metzger stated:
…even if we had no Greek manuscripts today, by piecing together the information from these translations from a relatively early date, we could actually reproduce the contents of the New Testament. In addition to that, even if we lost all the Greek manuscripts and the early translations, we could still reproduce the contents of the New Testament from the multiplicity of quotations in commentaries, sermons, letters, and so forth of the early church fathers (as quoted in Strobel, 1998, p. 59).
Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) was a British bishop, biblical scholar and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham and holding the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge. His colleague, Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), was an Irish theologian who served as a Professor at Cambridge. Together, they pioneered the widely recognized Greek text The New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881. They are still considered to be renowned textual critics. They forthrightly asserted:
With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament…there is no variation or other ground of doubt…. [T]he amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text. Since there is reason to suspect that an exaggerated impression prevails as to the extent of possible textual corruption in the New Testament…we desire to make it clearly understood beforehand how much of the New Testament stands in no need of a textual critic’s labours (1882, pp. 2-3, emp. added).
These peerless scholars also insisted: “[I]n the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writing” (p. 278, emp. added). They add: “The books of the New Testament as preserved in extant documents assuredly speak to us in every important respect in language identical with that in which they spoke to those for whom they were originally written” (p. 284).
Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) was a Professor of Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. He is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians. In his Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Warfield insightfully observed:
[S]uch has been the providence of God in preserving for His Church in each and every age a competently exact text of the Scriptures, that not only is the New Testament unrivalled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use, but also in the abundance of testimony which has come down to us for castigating its comparatively infrequent blemishes…. The great mass of the New Testament, in other words, has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no, variation (1886, pp. 12-13,14, emp. added).
Richard Bentley (1662-1742) was an English classical scholar, critic, and theologian who served as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and was the first Englishman to be ranked with the great heroes of classical learning. He was well-known for his literary and textual criticism, even called the “Founder of Historical Philology,” and credited with the creation of the English school of Hellenism. Here are his comments on the integrity of the New Testament text:
[T]he real text of the sacred writers does not now (since the originals have been so long lost) lie in any single manuscript or edition, but is dispersed in them all. ‘Tis competently exact indeed even in the worst manuscript now extantnor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost in them (1725, pp. 68-69, emp. added).
Marvin Vincent (1834-1922) graduated from Columbia University and became professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in the late 19thcentury. He is best known for his Greek analysis of the words of the New Testament in his Word Studies in the New Testament. Regarding the integrity of the text, he observed:
The vast number of variations furnishes no cause for alarm to the devout reader of the New Testament. It is the natural result of the great number of documentary sources. A very small proportion of the variations materially affects the sense, a much smaller proportion is really important, and no variation affects an article of faith or a moral precept (1899, p. 7, emp. added).
Sir Frederic George Kenyon (1863-1952) was a widely respected, eminent British paleographer and biblical and classical scholar who occupied a series of posts at the British Museum. He served as President of the British Academy from 1917 to 1921 and President of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. He made a lifelong study of the Bible as an historical text. In his masterful Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Kenyon affirmed:
One word of warning…must be emphasized in conclusion. No fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading. Constant references to mistakes and divergencies of reading…might give rise to the doubt whether the substance, as well as the language, of the Bible is not open to question. It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain. Especially is this the case with the New Testament. The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church is so large, that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world (1895, pp. 10-11, emp. added).
In his monumental The Bible and Archaeology, Kenyon further stated:
The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were writtenhas now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established (1940, pp. 288-289, emp. added).
Indeed, “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear of hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, faithfully handed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (1895, pp. 10-11).
Samuel Davidson (1806-1898) was an Irish biblical scholar who served as Professor of Biblical Criticism at Royal College of Belfast and Professor of Biblical Criticism in the Lancashire Independent College at Manchester. He authored many books on the text of the Bible. Referring to the work of textual criticism, Davidson concluded:
The effect of it has been to establish the genuineness of the New Testament text in all important particulars. No new doctrines have been elicited by its aid; nor have any historical facts been summoned by it from their obscurity. All the doctrines and duties of Christianity remain unaffected.… [I]n the records of inspiration there is no material corruption.... [D]uring the lapse of many centuries the text of Scripture has been preserved with great care…. Empowered by the fruits of criticism, we may well say that the Scriptures continue essentially the same as when they proceeded from the writers themselves (1853, 2:147, emp. added).
Frederick H.A. Scrivener (1813-1891) was a prominent and important New Testament textual critic of the 19th century. Having graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, he taught classics at several schools in southern England. His expertise in textual criticism is self-evident in that he served as a member of the English New Testament Revision Committee (Revised Version), edited the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis and several editions of the Greek New Testament, collated the Codex Sinaiticus with the Textus Receptus, and was the first to distinguish the Textus Receptus from the Byzantine text. In his A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Scrivener admitted:
[O]ne great truth is admitted on all hands—the almost complete freedom of Holy Scripture from the bare suspicion of wilful [sic] corruption; the absolute identity of the testimony of every known copy in respect to doctrine, and spirit, and the main drift of every argument and every narrative through the entire volume of Inspiration…. Thus hath God’s Providence kept from harm the treasure of His written word, so far as is needful for the quiet assurance of His church and people (1861, pp. 6-7, emp. added).
J.W. McGarvey (1829-1911) was a minister, author, educator, and biblical scholar. He taught 46 years in the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, serving as President from 1895 to 1911. He summarized the point: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1974, p. 17).
Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) was a prominent Founding Father of America. He served in the Continental Congress (1778-1779, 1781-1784), as its President in 1782-1783, and was the founding president of the American Bible Society. In his refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, Boudinot explained: “[T]he facts upon which the Christian religion is founded, have a stronger proof, than any facts at such a distance of time; and that the books which convey them down to us, may be proved to be uncorrupted and authentic, with greater strength than any other writings of equal antiquity” (1801, p. 239, emp. added). This Founding Father’s view of the purity of the text of the New Testament was the view of the vast majority of the Founders.
With all the kindness one can muster, these eminent, well-studied, competent, peerless scholars, whose expertise in the field of Textual Criticism is unsurpassed, are far more qualified and accurate in their assessment of the credibility, integrity, and authenticity of the biblical text than any alleged scholar or skeptic living today. Truthfully, God knew that the original autographs would not survive, and that His Word would have to be transmitted through the centuries via copies. The transmission process is sufficiently flexible for God’s Word to be conveyed adequately by uninspired, imperfect copyists. Indeed, the original text of the New Testament has been thoroughly and sufficiently authenticated.


God knew that the vast majority of the human race could not learn Greek or Hebrew. He knew that His Word would have to be read in translation in the language of the common people. The translation process is sufficiently flexible for God’s Word to be conveyed adequately by uninspired, imperfect translators. While some English translations may well seek to advance a theological agenda, generally speaking, most translations do not differ on the essentials. Most English versions convey these essentials: (1) what one must do to be saved and (2) what one must do to stay saved. As imperfect as translations might be, most still convey this basic information. This fact is verified by Jesus and the apostles’ own use of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text en vogue in first-century Palestine. Some think this translation was achieved by 72 Jewish scholars who were invited to Alexandria, Egypt roughly two and a half centuries before Christ. Though considered by scholars as an imperfect translation of the Hebrew, most of the direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint. Hence, the Bible gives implicit divine endorsement to the use of imperfect, manmade translations, further implying that God’s Word has been adequately transmitted down through the centuries via translation.
A host of books have been published over the years that discuss principles of Bible translation (e.g., Nida, 1964; Beekman and Callow, 1974; Ryken, 2009; Grant, 1961; et al.). All human languages share in common a variety of linguistic features that may be suitably utilized to transmit God’s meanings. The United Nations stands as an indisputable testimony to the fact that meaning can be conveyed from one language to another. Indeed, messages all over the world are effectively translated into different languages every day. Likewise, the meanings of the words, grammar, and syntax of the biblical (parent) languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek have been amply transferred to English Bible translations. Even when English translations differ with each other on any given passage, further study will enable the Bible student to ascertain the meaning(s) intended. As with the transmission of the Greek text, the translation process provides the individual with the possibilities when more than one meaning is possible. When all is said and done, one may confidently say that God’s message has been suitably transferred from the original biblical languages into English.


All languages are in a constant state of flux. Thus new translations are inevitable and necessary. But though the Greek text has been verified, and though we know that translation can be done accurately, how do we know that today we have God’s Word available since the translating has been done by many different people over several centuries? Answer: Because the history of English translation has been traced and verified. We know that the Hebrew and Greek texts were translated into Latin early on, and eventually began to be transferred to English in the 14thcentury. The hall of fame of great Bible translators in the English-speaking world verifies the accomplishment of this transference of God’s Word to the present: John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, John Rogers (the Matthew’s Bible), Richard Taverner, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Matthew Parker (the Bishop’s Bible), the King James Bible (1611), the English Revised Version (ERV—1888) and its American counterpart, the American Standard Version (ASV—1901), and the host of English translations that have appeared in the 20th and now 21stcenturies (cf. Lewis, 1991). We know the Bible has not been corrupted because we have the English translations generated through the centuries that enable us to examine and verify the text of the Bible. Coincidentally, even if we did not know English translation history, we can take the authenticated Greek text and make a completely new translation in English.


The evidence is available and it is decisive. Currently circulating copies of the Bible do not differ substantially from the original. Those who reject the Bible’s divine authority must do so for reasons other than their ability to know what God intended to communicate to the human race.
All human beings can know the truth and be saved. All can know that God exists and that the Bible is His Word. All can know that Christianity is the only true religion and that all must obey the Gospel of Christ in order to be forgiven of sin and saved. All can know that we must live the Christian life, worshipping God correctly, and living faithfully to God in daily behavior.


Aland, Kurt and Barbara Aland (1987), The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Beekman, John and John Callow (1974), Translating the Word of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Bentley, Richard (1725), Remarks Upon a Late Discourse of Free Thinking (Cambridge: Cornelius Crownfield).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Bruce, F.F. (1963), The Books and the Parchments (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Bruce, F.F. (1975 reprint), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Bruce, F.F. (1988), The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Davidson, Samuel (1853), A Treatise on Biblical Criticism (Boston: Gould & Lincoln).
Ehrman, Bart and Michael Holmes (1995), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Grant, Frederick (1961), Translating the Bible (New York: Seabury Press).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1895), Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper & Row).
Lewis, Jack (1991), The English Bible from KJV to NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), second edition.
McGarvey, J.W. (1974 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press).
Nida, Eugene (1964), Toward a Science of Translating (Leiden: E.J. Brill).
Ryken, Leland (2009), Understanding English Bible Translations (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).
Scrivener, F.H.A. (1861), A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, & Co.).
Strobel, Lee (1998), The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Vaganay, Léon (1934), Initiation à la critique textuelle néotestamentaire (Paris: Blond & Gay).
Vincent, Marvin (1899), A History of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (New York: MacMillan).
Vogels, H.J. (1923), Handbuch der neutestamentlichen Textkritik (Munster: Aschendorff).
Warfield, Benjamin B. (1886), An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament(London: Hodder & Stoughton).
Westcott, B.F. and F.J.A. Hort (1882), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper & Brothers).

Can God Do Everything? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Can God Do Everything?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Can God do everything?


Both Christians and atheists generally have assumed that if the God depicted in the Bible exists, He can do anything—since He is represented as being all-powerful. However, this assumption is incorrect. The Bible does not claim that the omnipotence of God implies that He can do anything and everything. In reality, “omnipotence” by definition does not, and cannot, apply to that which does not lend itself to power. Skeptics and atheists have posed queries that they feel nullify the notion of omnipotence, thereby demonstrating the nonexistence of God. For example, “Can God create a boulder so large that He, Himself, cannot lift it?”
Separate and apart from the fact that God is not, Himself, physical, and that He created the entire physical Universe, though He is metaphysical and transcendent of the Universe, the question is a conceptual absurdity. It’s like asking, “Can God create a round square or a four-sided triangle?” No, He cannot—but not for the reasons implied by the atheist: that He does not exist or that He is not omnipotent. Rather, it is because the question is, itself, self-contradictory and incoherent. It is nonsensical terminology. Rather than saying God cannot do such things, it would be more in harmony with reality to say that such things simply cannot be done at all. God is infinite in power, but power meaningfully relates only to what can be done, to what is possibleof accomplishment—not to what is impossible! It is absurd to speak of any power (even infinitepower) being able to do what simply cannot be done. Logical absurdities do not lend themselves to being accomplished, and so, are not subject to power, not even to infinite power (see Warren, 1972, pp. 27ff.).
Further, to suggest that God is deficient or limited in power if He cannot create a rock so large that He cannot lift, is to imply that He could do so if He simply had more power. But this is false. Creating a rock that He, Himself, cannot lift, or creating a four-sided triangle, or making a ball that is at the same time both white all over and black all over, or creating a 90-year-old teenager, or making a car that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside—to propose such things is to affirm logical contradictions and absurdities. Such propositions do not really say anything at all. Though one can imagine logical absurdities that cannot be accomplished, they do not constitute a telling blow against the view that God is infinite in power.
So, no, the concept of “omnipotence” does not mean that there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. While God can do whatever is possible to be done, in reality, He will do only what is in harmony with His nature. In fact, the Bible pinpoints specific things that God cannot do. For example, the Bible states unequivocally that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). He is a Being whose very essence entails truthfulness. Falsehood is completely out of harmony with His divine nature.
Another impossibility pertaining to God’s power is the fact that He shows no partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). He is “open and above board”—evenhanded—with all His creatures. He can be counted on to interact with human beings as He said He would. His treatment of us centers on our own self-chosen behavior—not on our ethnicity or skin color (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Samuel 16:7).
A third instance that qualifies the meaning of “omnipotent” is seen in God’s inability to forgive the individual who will not repent and forsake sin (Joshua 24:19; Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 6:15; 18:35; Luke 13:3,5). As great and as magnificent as the mercy and forgiveness of God are, it is impossible for Him to bestow forgiveness upon the person who does not seek that forgiveness by meeting the pre-conditions of remission. God is literally powerless to bestow forgiveness through any other avenue than the blood of Jesus and obedience to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16; 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; John 3:5).
The more one studies the Bible, examining the attributes and characteristics of the God depicted there, the more one is struck with (1) the inspiration of the Bible—since its skillful handling of such matters places it beyond the charge of successful contradiction, and (2) awe at the infinitude of God. Not one of the factors discussed in this article reflects adversely upon the reality of God’s omnipotence. But it is abundantly clear that a person may so live as to render the God of heaven incapable of coming to that person’s aid. It is imperative that every human being recognizes the need to understand His will and to conform one’s behavior to that will. It is imperative that every individual avoid placing self in the precarious position of being in need of that which God cannot do.


Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).

The Meaning of "Psallo" in the New Testament by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Meaning of "Psallo" in the New Testament

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

After failing to discover a biblical command, a binding example, or a necessary inference for the use of mechanical instruments in Christian worship, those who advocate the use of such music often (as a last resort) allege that the term psallo includes the use of instrumental music. Psallois the Greek verb translated “making melody” in Ephesians 5:19, and “I will sing” in 1 Corinthians 14:15. The noun form of this term, psalmos, appears in such passages as 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19, and Colossians 3:16. If one looks up psallo in a Greek lexicon, he probably will find the following definitions: to touch, pull, or pluck; to twitch the strings on a carpenter’s line; to pluck or strike the cords on a musical instrument; to sing praises. Upon reviewing these definitions, some claim that Paul’s use of psallo and psalmos implies the use of a stringed instrument in worship. They further assert that these words always convey the idea of instrumental accompaniment to singing, even if the instrument is not mentioned. Are they correct? If not, why not?
When one studies the etymology of this word, he will find that it is incorrect to say that every time psallo was used in antiquity, it meant to play an instrument. By studying reliable Greek lexicons (dictionaries) and various historical documents, one soon comes to understand that the term psallo has had a variety of meanings in different periods of its history. In fact, the evidence indicates that even before Christ came to Earth, psallo no longer meant to play instruments of music. Numerous scholarly sources could be cited to prove this point, but for the sake of space, three will suffice. First, Walter Bauer’s highly respected lexicon, revised by Frederick Danker in 2000, indicates that even in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament that appeared about 250 years before Christ was born), it “is usually the case” that psallo is translated as only “to sing” (2000, p. 1096). In Henry Thayer’s often-quoted Greek lexicon, he noted that by the time the events recorded in the New Testament took place, psallo meant “to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song” (1962, p. 675). Finally, E. A. Sophocles, a native Greek and for thirty-eight years a professor of the Greek language at Harvard University, declared (after examining a plethora of secular and religious historical documents) that there was not a single example of psallo ever used in the time of Christ that involved or implied the use of an instrument; rather, it always meant to chant or sing religious hymns (see Kurfees, 1999, p. 47).
When one wishes to know the definition of a word from times past, he must inquire as to how the word was used at any particular time in history. For example, when one reads the word “prevent” in the King James Version (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15), he must understand that this word does not mean the same thing it did when this version was first produced in 1611. Then, it meant “to go before; to precede.” Today, it means “to keep from happening; to impede.” The word “idiot” was used in the seventeenth century in reference to one “in a private station, as distinguished from one holding public office.” Today, it is used to speak of “an unlearned, or ignorant person.” Just as these English words once had meanings that now are entirely obsolete, the Greek word psalloonce meant “to pluck or strike the chords of a musical instrument.” But, before the beginning of the New Testament period, it had lost this meaning. In his well-researched book, Instrumental Music in the Worship, M.C. Kurfees noted that the word psallo never is used in the New Testament or in contemporaneous literature to mean anything other than to sing (1999, p. 45). The other meanings had entirely disappeared by the time the New Testament was written.
The fact is, however, even if this word had retained all of its original meanings (and the evidence shows that it clearly had not), the letters Paul penned to the Christians in Ephesus and Colossae specifically name the “plucked” instrument—the heart. Thus, a harp, piano, banjo, or any other kind of musical instrument is no more an integral part of psallo than the plucking of chicken feathers. The deceptive and misleading argument which suggests that in the New Testament psallo means “to strike the cords on a musical instrument” is false. It can be refuted simply by taking an honest look at all of the evidence available.


Danker, Frederick William (2000), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Kurfees, M.C. (1999 reprint), Instrumental Music in the Worship (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate), first published in 1911.
Thayer, Joseph Henry (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Jesus Christ--Unique Savior or Average Fraud? [Part II] by Kyle Butt, M.Div. Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Jesus Christ--Unique Savior or Average Fraud? [Part II]

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the February issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]


One important fact that cannot be ignored is that Jesus is the only historical figure Who fulfills the criteria necessary to justify, sanctify, and redeem mankind. No human’s creative mind concocted the narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. Human eyes saw Him, and human ears heard Him. He walked and talked—lived and loved—on the streets of real cities and in the houses of real people. His life is the only life of any “savior-god” that can be (and has been) thoroughly documented. As Stephen Franklin remarked: “[T]he specific character of Biblical religion and, thus, of Christianity stems from the priority given to the historical-factual dimension of the Bible’s basic teachings and doctrines” (1993, 17[1]:40).
Therefore, the story of Jesus Christ does not occupy a place amidst the pages of Greek mythology or ancient religious legend. But oh, how the skeptics wish that it did! As Freke and Gandy observed in The Jesus Mysteries:
Early Literalist Christians mistakenly believed that the Jesus story was different from other stories of Osiris-Dionysus because Jesus alone had been a historical rather than a mythical figure. This has left Christians feeling that their faith is in opposition to all others, which it is not (1999, p. 13, emp. added).
Indeed, skeptics would delight in being able to place the story of Jesus on the same playing field as the stories of other legendary savior-gods, because then the parallel stories easily could be relegated to myth, due to the fact that the stories cannot be verified historically. Trench wrote of such skeptics:
Proving, as it is not hard to prove, those parallels to be groundless and mythical, to rest on no true historic basis, they hope that the great facts of the Christian’s belief will be concluded to be as weak, will be involved in a common discredit (n.d., p. 135).
If infidels were able to create a straw man that could not stand up to the test of historical verifiability (like, for example, pagan legends and myths), and if they could place the story of Jesus in the same category as their tenuous straw man, then both supposedly would fall together. However, the story of Jesus of Nazareth refuses to fall. The stories of other savior-gods are admitted to be—even by those who invented them—nothing but fables (e.g., the Greeks realized that their fictitious stories were merely untrue legends that were totally unverifiable; see McCabe, 1993, p. 59). But the story of Jesus demands its rightful place in the annals of human history. Osiris, Krishna, Hercules, Dionysus, and the other mythological savior-gods stumble back into the shadows of fiction when compared to the documented life of Jesus of Nazareth. If the skeptic wishes to challenge the uniqueness of Jesus by comparing Him with other alleged savior-gods, he first must produce evidence that one of these savior-gods truly walked on the Earth, commingled with humanity, and impacted people’s lives via both a sinless existence and incomparable teachings. Humanity always has desired a real-life savior-god; but can any of the alleged savior-gods that have been invented boast of a historical existence any more thoroughly documented than that of Christ?
In addition, Jesus has a monopoly on being perfectly flawless. He lived life by the same moral rules that govern all humans, yet He never once made a mistake. The writer of Hebrews recorded: “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:15; cf. also 1 Peter 2:21-22). Renowned religious historian Philip Schaff wrote:
In vain do we look through the entire biography of Jesus for a single stain or the slightest shadow of his moral character. There never lived a more harmless being on earth. He injured nobody, he took advantage of nobody. He never wrote an improper word. He never committed a wrong action (1913, pp. 32-33).
Bernard Ramm commented in a similar vein when he stated of Christ:
There He stands, sinless. Whatever men may claim for being great, this is one thing they cannot. They may be brilliant or strong, fast or clever, creative or inspired, but not sinless. Sinless perfection and perfect sinlessness is what we would expect of God incarnate. The hypothesis and the facts concur (1953, p. 169, emp. in orig.).
Examine the stories of other savior-gods. See if they subjected themselves to the same rules as humans. See if they learned human nature and suffered unjustly, all the while never sinning with either their lips or their hearts. Try to find a savior like Christ who lived 30+ years on the Earth and yet never committed one shameful act. Norman Geisler summarized the situation as follows: “All men are sinners; God knows it and so do we. If a man lives an impeccable life and offers as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate we must take his claim seriously” (1976, p. 344). Jesus did “offer as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate.” As John Stott noted:
The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that He was constantly talking about Himself.... This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets Him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They were self-effacing. He was self-advancing. They pointed men away from themselves, saying, “That is the truth, so far as I perceive it; follow that.” Jesus said, “I am the truth; follow me.” The founders of the ethnic religions never dared say such a thing (1971, p. 23).
There is another important point to be considered, however. Who better to deny the fact that Jesus was perfect than those who spent the most time with Him? There is a grain of truth to the adage that “familiarity often breeds contempt.” Surely His closest friends would have observed some small demerit. Yet when we read the comments of His closest followers, we find that even they lauded Him as the only sinless man. The apostle Peter, who was rebuked publicly by Jesus, nevertheless called Him “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). One chapter later in the same epistle, Peter said that Jesus “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (2:22). Indeed, Christ even went so far as to invite anyone who dared, to convict Him of sin when He said: “Which of you convicteth me of sin” (John 8:46). No one alive in His day could convict the Lord of sin; neither can anyone today. However, when one begins to examine the lives of the other alleged savior-gods, it soon becomes evident that these “heroes” committed fornication with humans, allowed their sinful tempers to flare, and raged with overt jealousy. Every supposed savior of mankind besides Jesus had an Achilles heal. If any such “savior” existed (other than Jesus) who did not have a vice or a sin, his life certainly cannot be documented historically. And if any savior-god besides Jesus could be documented historically, his life easily could be proven to be laden with sin.

Christ Was Unique in His Teachings

Not only have the specific details of Christ’s life come under allegations of plagiarism, but His teachings also have undergone intense scrutiny. Some have complained, for example, that Jesus’ teachings were little more than warmed over Old Testament concepts. In the feature article he authored on Christ for the March 29, 1999 issue of Newsweek (the cover of which was titled “2000 Years of Jesus”), Kenneth Woodward suggested: “As scholars have long realized, there was little in the teachings of Jesus that cannot be found in the Hebrew Scriptures he expounded” (135[13]:54). The non-Christian Jew and the skeptic frequently view Jesus as an ancient teacher Who borrowed much of His material from the Hebrew text that had been in existence hundreds of years before He entered the global picture, since many of His sayings can be traced back centuries to the Jewish psalmist David, the prophet Isaiah, and a host of other ancient Hebrew writers. Others have complained that Christ’s teachings had their origin in ancient pagan lore. Freke and Gandy suggested:
...[W]e discovered that even Jesus’ teachings were not original, but had been anticipated by the Pagan sages.... Pagan critics of Christianity, such as the satirist Celsus, complained that this recent religion was nothing more than a pale reflection of their own ancient teachings (1999, pp. 6,5).
Thus, if it is to be argued successfully that Jesus truly is unique in His teachings, the incontrovertible fact that He used a considerable amount of ancient Hebrew literature must be explained, and certain important dissimilarities must be made manifest (between either Old Testament material or that from previous pagan sources). Otherwise, we have merely another Jewish rabbi who knew both heathen sources and the Scriptures well—just as a host of other Jewish rabbis did.
In order to explain why Jesus employed so much Hebrew literature, we must understand His relationship with that literature. A statement from Peter’s first epistle is quite helpful in this regard:
Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto (1 Peter 1:10-11, emp. added).
Peter’s point of emphasis was that Christ was not just an interested reader of ancient Hebrew scripture; rather, He was its Author. He wrote the Jewish Old Testament through His Spirit that worked through the prophets. When He quoted Isaiah or Jeremiah, He neither copied their material nor plagiarized their truths. Quite the contrary, in fact. He simply quoted the texts that He personally had inspired and published through the ancient holy men. As the famous “church father” Tertullian wrote in his Apology, “There is nothing so old as the truth” (chapter 47). To suggest that Christ’s teachings were not unique because He quoted passages from the Old Testament would be like saying that the author of a particular book could not quote from that book in later lectures or publications, lest he be charged with plagiarism of his own material.
There are those, of course, who will discount the above argument by claiming that the New Testament has no authority to answer such questions. Thus, they will continue to claim that Jesus “borrowed” His ideas from the pages of Israel’s texts. If they wish to defend such a viewpoint, then let them find in the Old Testament any description of eternal punishment comparable to the one Jesus provided in Mark 9:42. Where in the Old Testament Scriptures do we find that it is more difficult for a rich person to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle? Where in the Old Testament is the idea of loving one’s neighbor developed to the extent that Christ described in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus of Nazareth did not merely regurgitate Old Testament passages, adding jots and tittles as He went along. Instead, He came to fulfill the Old Law, and to instigate a New Law with distinctive concepts and commands—a point the writer of Hebrews made quite clear when he stated: “In that he saith, ‘a new covenant,’ he hath made the first old. But that which waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away” (8:13).
Even though it can be proven that Jesus did not plagiarize the Old Testament, the battle for the uniqueness of His teachings does not end there. Traces of concepts that predate Christ’s earthly existence also can be found in His teachings. Earlier, we quoted from Augustine, who noted that Plato’s followers claimed Christ had copied their philosophical hero (except, they opined, that Christ was not nearly as eloquent). Further, rabbi Hillel, who lived approximately fifty years before Jesus, taught: “What thou wouldest not have done to thee, do not that to others” (see Bales, n.d., p. 7). Confucius (and a host of other ancient writers) taught things that Jesus also taught. From China to Egypt, a steady stream of pagans uttered things that Christ, centuries later, likewise would say. How, then, can the teachings of Christ be considered unique if they had been surfacing in different cultures and civilizations for hundreds of years before His visit to Earth? Perhaps this would be a good place to ask: What is the alternative? As Bales noted:
If Christ had been completely original, He would have had to omit every truth which had been revealed in the Old Testament, or which had been discerned by the reason of man. If He had done this, His teaching would have been inadequate, for it would have omitted many moral and spiritual truths (n.d., p. 21, emp. added).
Jesus came not to reiterate ancient truths, but rather to synthesize those truths into a complete unit. He embodied every spiritual truth the world had ever seen or ever would see. As Bales commented: “Christ embodies all the moral good which is found in other religions, and He omits their errors” (p. 7). In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul described Christ as the one “in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden” (2:3, emp. added). Christ’s teachings are like gold; tiny amounts can be found in almost every area of the world—from ocean water to the human body. However, in order for that gold to be usable, it must be collected into a mass large enough to refine. Christ is the “refining pot” of all knowledge and wisdom, wherein the dross of error is purged from the precious metal of divine truth. While tiny specks of His teachings emerge from practically every religion, they can be refined only when collected as a whole in the essence of Jesus the Nazarene. Stephen Franklin put it like this:
By providing echoes of Christian themes in every culture and in every religion, he [God—KB/BT] has given the entire human race some “handle” that allows them at least a preliminary understanding of the gospel when it is preached (1993, p. 51).
Furthermore, consider both the power and the authority evident in Christ’s teachings. Even His enemies were unable to refute what He taught. When the Jewish Sanhedrin decided to take action against Him and dispatched its security force to seize Him, those officers returned empty handed and admitted: “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46, NKJV, emp. added). When He was only twelve years old and His parents accidentally left Him behind in Jerusalem, they returned to find Him in a discussion of religious matters with the learned scribes, “and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).
The Jews had long yearned for a Messiah (“Christ”) Who would save and deliver them. The Samaritan woman Christ met at the well spoke of this very fact, to which He replied: “I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26). When Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas the high priest asked: “Are you the Christ?” His reply was firm: “It is as you said” (Matthew 26:63-64). He spoke with authority regarding the pre-human past, because He was there (John 1:1ff.). In the present, “there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). And He knows thefuture, as is evident from even a cursory reading of His prophecies about the building of His church (Matthew 16:18), the sending of the Holy Spirit to the apostles (John 14:26), and His many descriptions of His ultimate return and the Day of Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46, et al.). All of this, and more, explains why Paul referred to Him as “King of King, and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). No one ever possessed, or spoke with, the kind of authority with which Christ was endowed, which is why He taught: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Fraudulent saviors never claimed such, nor had their own enemies confirm such. Perhaps this is one reason why, in the feature article from Time magazine’s December 6, 1999 cover story (“Jesus at 2000”), author Reynolds Price wrote:
It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millennia but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth.... [A] serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire [and] who died in agony as a convicted criminal... (154[23]:86).
Mythical saviors never had such an assessment made of their lives.

Christ Was Unique in His Fulfillment of Prophecy

Surely, one of the most undeniable traits of Christ’s uniqueness was His fulfillment of prophecy. In his book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell discussed the fact that “the Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus” (1999, p. 168). Hugo McCord observed: “Testimony about Jesus was the chief purpose of prophecy. To him all the prophets gave witness (Acts 10:43)” [1979, p. 332]. Every prophecy in the Old Testament had to have been written at least 250 years before Christ appeared on the earthly scene. Why?
[The] Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—was initiated in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.). It is sure that if you have a Greek translation initiated in 250 B.C., then you had to have the Hebrew text from which it was written (McDowell, p. 168).
Indeed, the Old Testament—which had been written hundreds of years before Christ actually lived—foretold the minutest details of His life. The Prophesied One would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4) who was a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22), from the family of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Luke 3:34), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14), of the royal line of David (2 Samuel 7:12; Luke 1:32), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), in order to bruise the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:12).
The prophets had foretold His Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1-2), as well as the fact that a precursor would proclaim His arrival (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3). He would appear during the time of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:44; Luke 2:1), while Judah still possessed her own king (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 2:22). He would be murdered about 490 years after the command to restore Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian captivity (457 B.C.), i.e., A.D. 30 (Daniel 9:24ff.). He was to be both human and divine; though born, He was eternal (Micah 5:2; John 1:1,14); though a man, He was Jehovah’s “fellow” (Zechariah 13:7; John 10:30; Philippians 2:6). He was to be kind and sympathetic in His dealings with mankind (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21).
He would submit willingly to His heavenly Father (Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 53:11; John 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). He would be abandoned and know grief (Isaiah 53:3), and be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12). He was so betrayed (John 13:18; Matthew 26:15). He would be spit upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6; 53:5), and in death both His hands and His feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16). This is precisely what occurred (Matthew 27:30; Luke 24:39). The Scriptures foretold that He would be numbered among criminals (Isaiah 53:12), which He was (Matthew 27:38). He would be mocked, not only with scornful words (Psalm 22:7-8), but with bitter wine (Psalm 69:21). And so He was (Matthew 27:48). Although He would die and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57), His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33) and His flesh would not see corruption, because He was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:22ff.) and then ascend into heaven (Psalm 110:1-3; 45:6; Acts 1:9-10).
The previous paragraphs present an overview of just a fraction of the numerous predictions fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Time and again biblical prophecies are presented, and fulfilled, with exacting detail. Jeremiah wrote: “When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that Jehovah hath truly sent him” (28:9). Thomas Horne was correct when he said:
The book which contains these predictions is stamped with the seal of heaven: a rich vein of evidence runs through the volume of the Old Testament; the Bible is true; infidelity is confounded forever; and we may address its patrons in the language of Saint Paul, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish!” (1970, 1:291).
On Tuesday, prior to Christ’s crucifixion the following Friday, Jesus engaged in a discussion with the Pharisees, who made no secret of their hatred for Him. When Matthew recorded the scene in his Gospel, he first commented on an earlier skirmish the Lord had with the Sadducees: “But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together” (22:34). Jesus—with penetrating logic and an incomparable knowledge of Old Testament Scripture—had routed the Sadducees completely. No doubt the Pharisees thought they could do better. Yet they were about to endure the same embarrassing treatment. In the midst of His discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus asked: “What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42). They were unable to answer the questions satisfactorily because their hypocrisy prevented them from comprehending both Jesus’ nature and His mission. The questions the Lord asked on that day, however, are ones that every rational, sane person must answer eventually.
Both questions were intended to raise the matter of Christ’s deity. The answers—had the Pharisees’ spiritual myopia not prevented them from responding correctly—were intended to confirm it. Today, these questions still raise the issue of Christ’s identity. Who is Jesus? Is He, as He claimed to be, the Son of God? Was He, as many who knew Him claimed, God incarnate? Is He, as the word “deity” implies, of divine nature and rank?
The series of events that would lead to Jesus’ becoming the world’s best-known historical figure began in first-century Palestine. There are four primary indicators of this fact. First, when Daniel was asked by king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his wildly imaginative dream, the prophet revealed that God would establish the Messianic kingdom during the time of the Roman Empire (viz., the fourth kingdom represented in the king’s dream; see Daniel 2:24-45). Roman domination of Palestine began in 63 B.C., and continued until A.D. 476.
Second, the Messiah was to appear before “the scepter” departed from Judah (Genesis 49:10). Bible students recognize that this prophecy has reference to the Messiah (“Shiloh” of Old Testament fame) arriving before the Jews lost their national sovereignty and judicial power (the “scepter” of Genesis 49). Thus, Christ had to have come prior to the Jews’ losing their power to execute capital punishment (John 18:31). When Rome deposed Archelaus in A.D. 6, Coponius was installed as Judea’s first procurator. Interestingly, “the...procurator held the power of jurisdiction with regard to capital punishment” (Solomon, 1972, 13:117). Hence, Christ was predicted to come sometime prior to A.D. 6 (see also McDowell, 1999, pp. 195-202).
Third, Daniel predicted that the Messiah would bring an end to “sacrifice and offering” before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70; cf. Daniel 9:24-27 and Matthew 24:15). When the Lord died, the Mosaical Law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
Fourth, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2). It is a matter of record that Jesus was born in Bethlehem while Palestine was under Roman rule, before Judah lost her judicial power, and before the destruction of Jerusalem (see also Matthew 2:3-6; Luke 2:2-6).
The Old and New Testaments paint a portrait of Christ that offers valuable evidence for the person desiring to answer the questions, “What think ye of the Christ?,” and “Whose son is he?” In Isaiah 7:14, for example, the prophet declared that a virgin would conceive, bear a son, and name him “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (a prophecy that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ; Matthew 1:22-23). Later, Isaiah referred to this son as “Mighty God” (9:6). In fact, in the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah said he saw “the Lord” sitting upon a throne (see Isaiah 6:1ff.). Overpowered by the scene, God’s servant exclaimed: “Woe is me,...for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts” (6:5). In the New Testament, John wrote: “These things said Isaiah, because he saw His [Christ’s] glory; and he spake of him” (John 12:41).
Isaiah urged God’s people to sanctify “Jehovah of hosts” (8:12-14), a command later applied to Jesus by Peter (1 Peter 3:14-15). Furthermore, Isaiah’s “Jehovah” was to become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (8:14), a description that New Testament writers applied to Christ (cf. Romans 9:33, 1 Peter 2:8). Isaiah foretold that John the Baptizer would prepare the way for the coming of Jehovah (40:3). It is well known that John was the forerunner of Christ(cf. Matthew 3:3, John 1:23). Isaiah pictured Christ not only as a silent “lamb” (53:7), but as a man Who “a bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench” (42:3; cf. Matthew 12:20). Various biblical scholars have suggested that this imagery was intended to portray a leader Who,
wherever he finds men wounded and bruised by the harshness of life’s experience, or wherever he finds wounded and bruised consciences, whether among the Gentiles or in Israel, there he is most tender and delicate in the gentle handling of these souls (Leupold, 1971, 2:62; see also Oswalt, 1998, p. 111-112; McGarvey, 1875, p. 106).
Other Old Testament writers illuminated Christ in their writings as well. The psalmist suggested He would be known as zealous for righteousness (Psalm 69:9), that He would be hated without cause (Psalm 22), and that He would triumph over death (Psalm 16:8-11). Daniel referred to His coming kingdom as one that would “stand forever” (2:44). The prophets’ portrait of Christ was intended not only to foreshadow His coming, but to make Him all the more visible to people in New Testament times as well (see Bromling, 1991).
The prophets had said that He would be raised from the dead so that He could sit upon the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7). This occurred, as Peter attested in his sermon on Pentecost following the resurrection (Acts 2:30). He would rule, not Judah, but the most powerful kingdom ever known. As King, Christ was to rule (from heaven) the kingdom that “shall never be destroyed” and “shall break in pieces and consume all these [earthly] kingdoms, and...shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). The New Testament establishes the legitimacy of His kingdom (Colossians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25). The subjects of this royal realm were to be from every nation on Earth (Isaiah 2:2), and were prophesied to enjoy a life of peace and harmony that ignores any and all human distinctions, prejudices, or biases (cf. Isaiah 2:4 and Galatians 3:28). This King would be arrayed, not in the regal purple of a carnal king, but in the reverential garments of a holy priest (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6). Like Melchizedek, the Messiah was to be both Priest and King (Genesis 14:18), guaranteeing that His subjects could approach God without the interference of a clergy class. Instead, as the New Testament affirms, Christians offer their petitions directly to God through their King—Who mediates on their behalf (cf. Matthew 6:9; John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12,19-22). It would be impossible for the New Testament writers to provide any clearer answers than they did to the questions that Christ asked the Pharisees. Furthermore, no similar “savior” from mythology ever had his entire life prophesied, or personally fulfilled predictive prophecy (in whole or in part), like Jesus.


In his fascinating book, What If Christ Had Never Been Born?, D. James Kennedy discussed at length both the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His singular impact on the Earth’s inhabitants. In assessing that impact, Dr. Kennedy wrote:
...Jesus Christ has had an enormous impact—more than anybody else—on history. Had He never come, the hole would be a canyon about the size of a continent. Christ’s influence on the world is immeasurable.... Whatever Jesus touched or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life. Many people will read about the innumerable small incidents in the life of Christ while never dreaming that those casually mentioned “little” things were to transform the history of mankind (1994, p. 4).
Philip Schaff discussed Christ’s influence when he wrote in his book, The Person of Christ: The Miracle of History:
This Jesus of Nazareth, without money or arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times (1913, p. 33).
It has been said that Christ changed the course of the River of History and lifted the centuries off their hinges—a stirring verbal tribute that is quite apropos, considering the evidence. When unbelievers write books to challenge His deity, even they (albeit inadvertently) acknowledge not only His existence, but His uniqueness, when they place the copyright date in the frontispiece of their tomes, admitting that the volume was published in, say, A.D. 2001. That “A.D.” stands for Anno Domini—in the year of the Lord. No one dates time from Osiris, Dionysus, Hillel, or Confucius. But the entire inhabited world recognizes the designations of “B.C.” (before Christ) and “A.D.”
In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell listed seven things that people could (and should!) expect from the Savior of the world: (1) an utterly unique entrance into human history (prophecy and virgin birth); (2) the ability to live a sinless life—none of the Jewish heroes was presented as perfect, nor were the mythological heroes presented as viceless; (3) control over all the forces of nature—“Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41); (4) the capability to speak the greatest words ever uttered by human lips; (5) a lasting and universal influence on humanity; (6) the power to satisfy the spiritual hunger of mankind (see Matthew 5:6, John 7:37, 4:14, 6:35, 10:10); and (7) the ability to defeat both death and sin.
The simple fact is, Jehovah left no stone unturned in preparing the world for the coming of the One Who would save mankind. Through a variety of avenues, He alerted the inhabitants of planet Earth regarding the singular nature of the One Who was yet to come, as well as the importance of believing in and obeying Him. Humanity’s sins can be forgiven only by a sinless Savior. A mythological sacrifice can forgive only mythological sins, but Jesus truly is the Lamb of God “that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As Norman Geisler put it:
It is one thing to claim deity and quite another to have the credentials to support that claim. Christ did both. He offered three unique and miraculous facts as evidence of his claim: the fulfillment of prophecy, a uniquely miraculous life, and the resurrection from the dead. All of these are historically provable and unique to Jesus of Nazareth. We argue, therefore, that Jesus alone claims to be and proves to be God (1976, p. 339).


Who, then, is Jesus Christ? Is He a unique Savior, or an average fraud? The choices actually are quite limited—a fact reiterated by Josh McDowell when he titled one of the chapters in his New Evidence that Demands a Verdict: “Significance of Deity: The Trilemma—Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?” His purpose was to point out that, considering the grandiose nature of Christ’s claims, He had to be one of the three. As McDowell began his discussion, he presented for the reader’s consideration a quotation from the famous British apologist of Cambridge University, C.S. Lewis, who wrote:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (1952, pp. 40-41).
Lewis’ point needs to be explored. Consider, for example, the cover story of the March 27, 2000 issue of Newsweek, “Visions of Jesus.” In that issue, staff writer Kenneth Woodward penned the feature article, “The Other Jesus,” in which he defended the idea that the Jesus of the Gospels may not be the “real” Jesus. In fact, Woodward said, “the lack of extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus has led more than one critic to conclude that he is a Christian fiction created by the early church” (2000, 135[13]:53). But, Woodward admitted, “the Christ of the Gospels is certainly the best-known Jesus in the world. For Christians, he is utterly unique—the only Son of God” (p. 52).
One month later, in its April 17, 2000 issue, Newsweek’s editors ran in the “Letters” section a sampling of responses from readers. One letter was from a young lady by the name of Jennifer Rawlings of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who wrote:
I am a 17-year-old student, and I was disappointed by your cover story “Visions of Jesus.” It seems that Newsweek attempted to find a middle ground in presenting a view of Jesus as a character who could appeal to all people. But that is impossible. Either Jesus was in fact the son of God, as he claimed, or he was a lunatic. No one who claims to be the Son of God is simply a “good teacher”! Other great religions will never accept Jesus to be who he said he was. If they do, then they are not Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist. They are Christian (2000, 135[16]:17).
Apparently one does not have to be a distinguished Cambridge University professor (like C.S. Lewis) to understand what 17-year-old Miss Rawlings so eloquently stated in her simple-but-accurate reply to Newsweek’s “scholarly” approach. Jesus not only existed as a historical character, but also claimed to be God incarnate (John 5:17-18; 8:42; 10:30; 12:45; 14:7,10-11; 17:21-23; 19:7). He therefore cannot be viewed merely as a “good teacher” since, if His claim were false, He would have been either a liar or a lunatic. In Mark 10, the account is recorded concerning a rich young ruler who, in speaking to Christ, addressed Him as “good teacher.” Upon hearing this reference, Jesus asked: “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, even God” (Mark 10:18). So, is Christ God?

Was Christ a Liar?

Was Christ a liar? A charlatan? A “messianic manipulator”? In his book, The Passover Plot, Hugh J. Schonfield claimed that He was all three. Schonfield suggested that Jesus manipulated His life in such a way as to counterfeit the events portrayed in the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. At times, this necessitated “contriving those events...contending with friends and foes to ensure that the predictions would be fulfilled” (1965, p. 7). Schonfield charged that Jesus planned to fake His own death on the cross, but had not counted on a spear being thrust through His side. Thus, rather than recovering from His stupor, Jesus died unexpectedly. On Saturday evening, His body was moved to a secret place so that His tomb would be empty on the next day, thus leaving the impression of His resurrection and, simultaneously, His deity (pp. 161ff.).
In considering the possibility that Christ was little more than an accomplished liar, biblical historian Philip Schaff asked:
How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience, could an impostor—that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man—have invented, and consistently maintained from beginning to end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality? How could he have conceived and successfully carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence, moral magnitude, and sublimity, and sacrificed his own life for it, in the face of the strongest prejudices of his people and ages? (1913, pp. 94-95).
Furthermore, what sane man would die for what he knows to be a lie? As McDowell summarized the matter: “Someone who lived as Jesus lived, taught as Jesus taught, and died as Jesus died could not have been a liar” (1999, p. 160).

Was Christ a Lunatic?

Was Jesus merely a psychotic lunatic Who sincerely (albeit mistakenly) viewed Himself as God incarnate? Such a view rarely has been entertained by anyone cognizant of Christ’s life and teachings. Schaff inquired:
Is such an intellect—clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed—liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning His own character and mission? Preposterous imagination! (1913, pp. 97-98).
Would a raving lunatic teach that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Would a lunatic teach that we should pray for our enemies? Would a lunatic teach that we should “turn the other cheek,” and then set an example of exactly how to do that—even unto death? Would a lunatic present an ethical/moral code like the one in the Sermon on the Mount? No. Lunacy of the sort ascribed to Christ by His detractors does not produce such genius. Schaff continued:
Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound, is equally out of the question. How could He be an enthusiast or a madman who never lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of His Church, the destruction of Jerusalem—predictions which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original, so completely, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction (1910, p. 109).

Was Christ Deity?

If Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic, then the question He asked the Pharisees still remains: “What think ye of the Christ?” Is Jesus, in fact, Who He claimed to be? Was He God incarnate? The evidence presented here suggests that the answer to both questions is “Yes.” Could anyone, taking into account all the evidence, really suggest—and expect to be taken seriously—that He was merely an “average fraud”? We think not.


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