|Of Mice and Men: Christopher Hitchens’ Death|
|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2011|
|Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men has its title taken from Robert Burns’ poem "To a Mouse" which observed, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry." This is particularly true for skeptics, especially at the end of life.|
Of Mice and Men: Christopher Hitchens’ Death, Falsifiability, Rationality and the Ultimate Apologetic: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
- And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Matthew 16:26, NLT)
Of Mice and Men
Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men has its title taken from Robert Burns’ poem "To a Mouse" which observed, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry." This is particularly true for skeptics, especially at the end of life.
Ironically, unaware of it, I began writing these words just a day or so after the death of the famous atheist and outspoken critic of Christianity (and religion generally, particularly Islam), Christopher Hitchens. He was an unbeliever whom many Christians had been praying for, including myself, even as many of us had been praying for that other most famous and notorious atheist, the late Anthony Flew, who converted at least to deism as explained in his book, There Is a God, which I have reviewed elsewhere.
The great American philosopher and poet Walt Whitman also once spoke of mice when he observed that "a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels." True enough.
One can never be certain about deathbed conversions, and one can always hope that before passing these famous atheists had opened their eyes to observe the mouse and everything it implied. Clearly, both had encountered enough debates with Christian scholars, some of whom were their friends, to have heard the gospel clearly and persuasively. It is also possible that in the end, both did bow the knee. In the case of Mr. Hitchens:
- Christopher knew that faithful Christians believed that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume.
As Douglas Wilson implies in his obituary, there is reason to believe, perhaps only if somewhat, that Christopher Hitchens may indeed have experienced a deathbed conversion, because he was apparently worried that it actually might happen. "The subject came up repeatedly, and was plainly a concern to him." (This might possibly have been true of Anthony Flew, but for different reasons.) One can but hope; I, along with many, always liked and respected Christopher from the interviews I saw with him, although I was unfamiliar with Dr. Flew. Thankfully, Christopher's own brother, Peter Hitchens was soundly converted from atheism, in the process writing, The Rage against God: Why Faith Is the Foundation of Civilization, a critique of his brother's book, God Is Not Great.) His brother’s influence as well may have had an impact upon Christopher. (And while we are on the subject of atheism, The "ILoveAtheists.com" website has a good concise summary of the arguments for the existence of God.
Unfortunately, the problem with skepticism is it's too bad to be true; it doesn't just seek the impossible task of once and for all disapproving (or destroying) Christianity but that it is, as Douglas points out, a universal solvent (such as relativism). Indeed, as Nietzsche observed, it wipes everything away from the horizon – including skepticism. The other problem of skepticism is that relayed by Robert Burns – their best laid plans often go astray. In their attempt to disprove Christianity, some become converted to faith in Jesus Christ in the process because, through their open-minded research, they find the evidence sufficiently persuasive. Christian history provides many powerful illustrations.
Regardless, Walt Whitman was observationally correct, more so than he possibly knew back in the 19th century before the truly startling discoveries of inner and outer space achieved today through God's common grace, known in this case as scientific research. Entire books have been written on the miracles that exist everywhere. The universe has literally trillions of miracles and marvels that, whether carefully or even carelessly observed stagger us, unbelievers included, although through repression of common sense and wonder, some can become bored even with the astonishments that exist around us.
I think of the stunning beauty on the island of Maui where I lived for over a decade, from eucalyptus trees with rainbow trunks to breaching whales and black, red and green sand beaches – spectacular scenery and natural magnificence everywhere. My first year on the island I did little more than praise God almost perpetually for the wonder of His beauty openly displayed everywhere I went. Throughout this life, everything from the smallest microcosm to the greatest macrocosm is stunning in its originality and miraculous character – from the remarkable bacterial flagellum to the miracle of the ovum, from the human brain to the most beautiful nebula.
Ironically, even a mouse is willing to tell us more about God than an unbeliever.
To be sure, in God's wisdom, this stunning world itself is what makes a mockery of the infidelity of modern skepticism and science and their lifeless religion of evolution, a decaying speculation that constantly robs God of the glory due Him alone. Indeed, to think that everything in existence arose simply by chance (a nonentity) from nothing at all is completely absurd and equivalent to stating that "nothing and nothing" created everything there is, which not only violates scientific law but common sense and what everyone knows is true: God exists and He created everything (Romans 1:19). Modern critics of Christian faith and materialistic scientists may choose to believe in a fairytale myth (naturalistic evolution) through deliberate misinterpretation or repression of data or indoctrination, but nothing will ever alter the miraculous nature of existence. As Whitman also observed in his poem "Miracles":
- To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
- Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
- Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same…
One of The World's Greatest Conversions from Skepticism
The apostle Paul was one of the most brilliant men of the first century, "trained thoroughly" under Gamaliel, perhaps the leading authority in the Sanhedrin of the first century and the grandson of the eminent Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder (Acts 22:3). He wrote almost 1/3 (31.57%) of the New Testament and his missionary journeys positively altered the course of Western civilization.
Yet he was one of the least likely men of that century to have become a Christian. His very training and nature predisposed him to see Jesus as a false Messiah – as God's enemy and as his enemy, which is why he tried with all his might to destroy the budding Christian faith. Look at how one of the finest historians of the first century, the physician Luke (who wrote of almost 30% of the New Testament), describes Saul's persecution of the Church: "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison" (Acts 8:3). "… Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples" (Acts 9:1). He "raised havoc in Jerusalem" against Jews who had believed in the Messiah. (Acts 9:21) The apostle himself later confessed that, "I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison" (Acts 22:4) and, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). He refers to "how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it" (Galatians 1:13). Saul of Tarsus was no small enemy of the truth.
Yet shortly this very same individual was an absolutely committed believer in Jesus Christ, preaching the gospel to the very people who once commissioned him to destroy the church. Throughout his life he underwent some of the most brutal suffering endured by a Christian. Imagine the kind of personal pressure he would have experienced and was forced to tolerate from the Sanhedrin and his own family and friends, not to mention everything else. (This is a reminder to us to remember to pray for our brethren around the world who experience similar ostracism and persecution when converting to Christianity from a hostile religion, whether Islam or any other.)
Thus, on what became the famous road to Damascus, Jesus Christ appeared to Saul personally, beginning his conversion. Saul's transformation alone has subsequently converted even noted skeptics to Christian faith (actually, many to most Christians are converted skeptics), such as the distinguished British politician and statesman Baron George Lyttelton (a descendant of the great jurist Sir Thomas Littleton), educated at Oxford and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury. Lyttelton wrote a lengthy volume, Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St Paul (1747), which none less than the noted historian Dr. Johnson believed one "to which infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer." This remains true to this day: even at his best, Dr. Anthony Flew couldn't come up with a better solution to the problem than the nonsensical idea of a "conversion psychosis disorder." Of course, no psychotic vision is capable of explaining the dramatic kind of conversion Paul encountered, given his past education, training and history. Is that the best skeptics can come up with?
Lyttelton and his friend, Gilbert West, had both agreed to once and for all disprove Christianity. West, also of Oxford, had assumed the task of disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ and became converted to Christian faith in the process. Lyttelton wrote to West in 1761, “Sir, in a late conversation we had together upon the subject of the Christian religion, I told you that besides all the proofs of it which may be drawn from the prophecies of the Old Testament, from the necessary connection it has with the whole system of the Jewish religion, from the miracles of Christ, and from the evidence given of his reflection by all the other apostles, I thought the conversion and apostleship of Saint Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity a divine revelation (emphasis added).
The Ultimate Apologetic?
Historical proofs 20 centuries old are hard to come by. Nevertheless, returning to the apostle Paul, less than 20 years after his conversion he penned 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, to my mind perhaps the ultimate Christian apologetic, for the reasons discussed below. (In Paul's declaration citated below I have placed in brackets relevant comments or themes.)
- "For what I received [early oral tradition, received months after the resurrection] I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins [propitiatory atonement] according to the Scriptures [messianic prophecy], that he was buried [empirical data], that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures [messianic prophecy, empirical data], and that he appeared to Peter [empirical data; Peter had earlier denied knowing Jesus three times swearing an oath, placing himself under an eternal curse if he were lying, yet Peter became the most prominent apostle], and then to the Twelve [empirical data; all former skeptics]. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living [unparalleled, unique empirical data for such an event; falsifiability], though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James [former skeptic], then to all the apostles [all former skeptics], and last of all he appeared to me also [former hostile persecutor of the church], as to one abnormally born."
As humanities professor Dr. Louis Markos observes, "Nearly all scholars, whether liberal or orthodox, accept the Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians, which certainly dates to no later than the 50s." But more importantly, he goes on to point out that Paul's apologetic statement dates back to a creed "in the 30s… only a few years after the events it describes." In other words, these brief Scriptures reveal a well-known tradition that existed within two years after Christ's death and resurrection. But in fact, it would have logically existed within a few months, not years after the crucifixion which is why: "Gary [Habermas] said about James D.G. Dunn [PhD, DD University of Cambridge], ‘In his recent book Remembering Jesus that this passage (1 Cor. 15.3ff) wasn't just taught. It was already stratified. It was already put in this creedal form within months of the crucifixion.’" (See "12 facts" note 38)
This utterly destroys liberal and skeptical theology which teaches that the biblical Jesus was an invention of later disciples, or that, in various ways, they changed the historical Jesus into something he wasn't. Time constrains us all and there was clearly no time for that with Christological doctrine established so early.
In this earliest creedal declaration we find a number of key elements for Christian apologetics, all potentially falsifiable. Let's consider just four: reliable and yet startling eyewitness testimony (including living and formerly skeptical or hostile eyewitness testimony), historically and religiously unique messianic prophecy, and Christ's atonement and resurrection from the dead.
Clearly, a belief in the undeniable eyewitness nature of Christ's physical resurrection from the dead, His atoning death on the cross, and fulfillment of messianic prophecy were among the very earliest creedal and doctrinal/apologetic teachings of Christianity.
Let's consider these briefly:
Much is made today of the "unreliability" of eyewitness testimony, as in a car accident or crime scene where things happen so fast or emotions are so strained and fragile that it's only natural for witnesses to be uncertain or get things wrong. The problem is that the resurrection is of an entirely different order. No man on earth can mistake a dead man who has come to life, and therefore the eyewitness nature of the resurrection appearances is of a completely dissimilar nature. Entire books have been written on the credibility of the eyewitness testimony to Christ's resurrection and how it establishes the truth of the resurrection. Each of the four independent Gospels were predicated upon legitimate, indisputable eyewitness testimony. For example, see noted scholar Richard Bauckham’s (a fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburg) 500-page scholarly Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, demolishing form criticism and the equally discrediting the "finding the historical Jesus" endeavor, using the philosophy of epistemology, and proving beyond all reasonable doubt that the Gospels have valid and unimpeachable eyewitness authority, the highest possible standard for historiography. (The book is not perfect; but it clearly makes its point; Dr. J.N.D. Anderson's older classic Christianity: The Witness of History – A Lawyer's Approach is also worthy of note. Anderson taught at Cambridge University, was knighted by the Queen, a noted authority on Islamic law, and Professor of Oriental Laws, University of London and director of its Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.)
This unique credibility for such an unparalleled miraculous event is why both Jesus and the book of Acts (which emphasizes the early preaching and growth of the church), stress eyewitness testimony:
- "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact" (Acts 2:32).
- "You are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:48).
- "We are witnesses of this" (Acts 3:15).
- "And we are witnesses of these things…" (Acts 5:32).
- "We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem" (Acts 10:32).
Reliable and even inerrant eyewitness testimony in the New Testament is exactly what would be expected from the declaration of God incarnate Himself who promised the Apostles: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." (John 14:26; cf. 16: 13). Jesus is clearly referring here to the writing of the Gospels about Himself.
The Hebrew prophets could not have foretold the specifics of Jesus life in detail apart from divine inspiration. Numerous authoritative books exist on messianic prophecy, proving that Jesus alone was and is the Jewish Messiah – they demonstrate beyond doubt that only Jesus could have been the Messiah because only He fulfilled specific and detailed messianic prophecy. According to the prophecy in Daniel 9, the Jewish Messiah had to come at the precise time Jesus came. In other words, if Jesus was not the Messiah, there is no Jewish Messiah, and both Judaism and Christianity are demonstrably false religions.
Messianic prophecy is a topic often overlooked or neglected and because it is so important and so definitive for the divine inspiration of the Bible instead of placing the following references in a footnote, I would like to situate them here for the reader’s perusal:
– Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (see also his important: Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology)
– Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections
– Herbert Lockyer, All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible
– Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament,
– Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament
– Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic? (NAC Studies in Bible & Theology)
– Norman L. Geisler, Christ: the Theme of the Bible
– Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (On Daniel 9) 
– Paton James Gloag, The Messianic Prophecies
– Franz Delitzsch, Messianic Prophecies: Lectures
– Edward Hartley Dewart, Jesus the Messiah in Prophecy and Fulfillment, a Review and Refutation of the Negative Theory of Messianic Prophecy
– Alfred Edersheim, Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah (Classic Reprint)
– and, I would also like to mention John Ankerberg and my, The Case for Jesus the Messiah: Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists, a popular treatment (which includes the major prophecies in Hebrew).
There also many fine websites by both Christians and messianic Jews on messianic prophecy such as Messiah Revealed, which has a list of about 300 messianic prophecies (see "View Prophecies by Category, Index of All": http://www.messiahrevealed.org/; JewishRoots.net; for a good brief summary see Bible.org: http://bible.org/article/messianic-prophecies; or Jews for Jesus: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/answers/prophecy/evidence).
Messianic prophecy (along with biblical prophecy in general) is not only a proof of the divine inspiration of the Bible, it's also fun to study, indeed Jesus commanded its study.
Christ's Atonement & Resurrection and Yet More Impossibilities
The historic fact of the Resurrection makes the spiritual propitiatory atonement of Jesus Christ an historical fact as well because it is tied directly to plain, historical messianic prophecy (e.g. Isaiah 53; Psalm 22) and to Christ's own declarations to his disciples after His resurrection from the dead: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.… This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms [books have been written on each of these].… This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:26-27, 44, 46-48).
When we simply cite Psalm 16 & 22 and Isaiah 53, the three major Old Testament examples of Christ's death and resurrection, it's virtually like reading the New Testament. We see why Paul modeled part of his argument as to what he considered "of first importance" on that which was "according to the Scriptures" [i.e., Old Testament messianic prophecy], and why Jesus himself said that the entire Old Testament spoke of Him, as we noted above.
Consider Psalm 16:9-11, generally conceded a reference to the Messiah (emphasis added):
- Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Consider portions of Psalm 22:1-31 (emphasis added):
- Ps 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … Ps. 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: Ps. 22:8 “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Ps. 22:9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. Ps. 22:10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God…. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Ps. 22:13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. Ps. 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. Ps. 22:15] My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Ps. 22:16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled and a & a and is in and in me, they have pierced my hands and my feet [. Ps. 22:17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. Ps. 22:18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. Ps. 22:24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help…. Ps. 22:27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, Ps. 22:28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. Ps. 22:30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. Ps. 22:31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn—for he has done it.
Obviously, a book could be written commenting upon this Psalm alone.
Consider Isaiah 53 – this chapter in the "suffering servant" section of Isaiah (chapters 49-53) so closely parallels the life of Christ that no Jewish Rabbi, writer or scholar in 2,000 years has ever dealt successfully with this passage from their perspective (emphasis added) .
- Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
This may be considered the most profound Christological section in the entire Old Testament, so much so that no comment is required.
In sum: 1) the unimpeachable eyewitness nature of the multiple and varied resurrection appearances of Jesus from the dead, including to 500 people at once, to skeptics (really, of all the appearances, initially, who wouldn't be a skeptic?), including a former deadly and powerful persecutor of the church; 2) the divinely inspired, supernatural messianic prophecies that cannot be collectively refuted by anyone, proven by the fact that they stand 2500-3500 years later and 3) the historical nature of Christ's atoning sacrifice for sins predicated on messianic prophecy (e.g., Isaiah 53), His own prophetic teaching, and His physical resurrection from the dead collectively provide a virtual "ultimate apologetic" that skeptics and critics should consider opening their hearts and minds to, hopefully laying aside unwarranted biases and presuppositions, such as the irrational assumption that miracles never happen.
But there is more – the logical consequences of the resurrection in the life of the believing Jewish community, which quickly swelled to tens of thousands of people, of which we can only summarize examples below.
Not surprisingly, only Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead explains why the believing Jews immediately ended their animal sacrifices, something they had practiced for some 1500 years (vital to Judaism and a change otherwise impossible); altered the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday (to celebrate the resurrection, an impossible alteration apart from the resurrection); changed the entirety of their religious focus from law to grace (a religious and psychological impossibility apart from the resurrection); changed their actual fundamental theology (!) from monotheism to trinitarianism (another impossibility apart from the resurrection, for these were fiercely monotheistic Jews, a belief that was virtually inbred through severe divine judgments for idolatry); changed their belief from the Messiah being a political deliverer to a spiritual deliverer (inexplicable apart from the resurrection) and finally, believed what no one else on earth had believed up to that point – that a physical resurrection from the dead had actually occurred right then (something impossible to explain apart from the fact of it, as former Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright argues so persuasively in The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003) (See also, Michael R. Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach (2010.)
Let's try to bring a little bit of this home. Imagine President Ronald Reagan literally emerging physically from the grave today, during a ceremony honoring his achievements – appearing bodily in perfect health to hundreds of people right than and also to various groups of individuals over a period of two months, eating with them, conversing with them for hours, appearing to groups of people instantaneously in locked rooms, walking with them – and then bodily, physically ascending into the clouds in front of eyewitnesses! Imagine the unbelievable phenomenon and commotion it would cause. The news of this would spread like wildfire. Imagine at least a dozen supernatural miracles involved surrounding the event, as was true for Jesus (see below.)
Consider events like the following occurring upon Jesus death and imagine if something like this happened today upon the public death of the president:
- "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the [massive] curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Sonof God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)
Ponder this for a moment. Just after Jesus cried out his last words from the cross, "It is finished," [i.e., all sin has been atoned for], the magnificent blue, white, scarlet and purple veil of Herod's Temple was literally torn in two – instantaneously. This veil was apparently 4 inches thick, 60 feet x 40 feet, weighed 3-4 tons and took 200-300 men to hold it. The high priests would have been both horrified and terrified. There was a great earthquake that actually split rocks. Most amazing of all, many dead people were supernaturally raised to life and came out of the tombs, walking into Jerusalem "and appeared to many people." No wonder the centurion and the Roman guard were terrified. Who wouldn't be? But what could be greater proof that upon the cross Christ had actually conquered death? Talk about empirical evidence! As the apostle Paul observed in one of his public defenses, even King Herod Agrippa II (great grandson of Herod the Great) knew about these things because "none of this was done in a corner." “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do” (Acts 26:25-27).
Of course, this is 2,000 years ago and communication was largely by word of mouth; but nevertheless, events surrounding the life of Christ would have been widely discussed and disseminated, with hundreds and thousands of eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, miracles, teachings, death and resurrection – as well as the miracles cited above at the moment of his death. I think it's the plethora of miracles that shut everyone's mouth when it came to attempting to disprove Jesus resurrection in the first century.
Explaining the existence of the Christian church rationally and logically, apart from the Christian explanation, requires piling one impossibility upon another, impossibilities compounded upon impossibilities almost to the nth power. It's not just that Christianity doesn't make sense apart from the Christian explanation, it's that it could never have existed to begin with, and that the world itself doesn't make any sense apart from the Christian explanation. Of all the philosophies and religions in history, only Christianity explains everything and explains it the best. In 40 years of studying other religions and philosophies, I have yet to encounter even a minor competitor to Christianity, nor is there the possibility of one because it would be obvious if someone else like Jesus existed.
The Triple Hazards of Skepticism: Conversion, Life and Hell
Extending CS Lewis's trilemma we find that, unfortunately, skeptics face their own trilemma or, more precisely, triple hazard.
First, because biblical Christianity is absolutely true, if they examine the evidence carefully and honestly, they just may become converted to that which they formerly hated, as the apostle Paul. (Of course, that is also something wonderful, but it means skeptics must be careful to avoid certain facts and will constantly be faced with the weakness of their own position.) As former atheist and Oxford/Cambridge professor C.S. Lewis observed in Surprised by Joy, "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere -- 'Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,' as Herbert says, 'fine nets and stratagems.' God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous."
Second, they must suffer the natural, built-in consequences of their personal skepticism not just individually (Galatians 6:7, which everyone experiences), but knowing that they bear some very small part of the responsibility for the collective social consequences of skepticism as well (relativism, materialism, nihilism, solipsism, cynicism, meaninglessness, amoralism, atheism, humanism, etc.) – consequences that have destroyed millions of lives and families and probably resulted in the unnecessary deaths of at least 700 million people in the last century alone, primarily from the logical consequences of materialism/evolution (e.g., abortion) and Marxism/socialism.
Third, if skeptics never repent from their skepticism and turn to personal faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, they will, upon the moment of death, be forced to face God in judgment and spend forever in Hell, something that everyone therein residing fully acknowledge is perfectly fair and just. Obviously, if Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life" and no one comes to the Father but by him (John 14:6), then apart from Jesus there is no way, there is no truth, and there is no life.
Skepticism and its logical consequences are a truly high price to pay just to be skeptical, especially when it means living a lie, suffering the consequences, and, in the end having this proven beyond all doubt, indeed, proven for all time and eternity. Particularly when it requires discarding an eternity of indescribable joy as the other side of the price.
The fact that the creedal declaration in 1 Corinthians 15 can be traced to within a few months of Jesus' death and resurrection reveals that the basic doctrines of the Christian church were already clearly affirmed in the early 30s A.D. – the very earliest Christian doctrines are the same ones we have known for 2,000 years. And in 2,000 years no skeptic has ever been able to disprove even one of them. Surely that must speak volumes to those willing to listen.
The Uniqueness of Christianity: Why Only One God Exists
Most people are unaware of how unique Christian teaching really is. A small book could be written on the uniqueness of Christianity in contrast to all other religions.
Only Christianity teaches salvation as a wholly free gift received by God' s grace (unmerited favor) alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Every other religion that has ever existed teaches salvation by good works and personal merit.
Only Christianity has a doctrine of the Trinity, upon which everything in Christianity and life itself rests. In Judaism the ultimate reality is Unitarian/good; in Hinduism the ultimate reality is pantheistic/monistic; in Buddhism the ultimate reality is impersonal/pantheistic (Nirvana), polytheistic (Mahayana), or atheistic (Theravadin). In Islam the ultimate reality is Unitarian. But nowhere else do we find a Trinitarian God.
Only Christianity (and the religion from which it was derived) have an infinitely holy and righteous God. Apart from modern Judaism (which, incidentally, is not the Judaism of the Old Testament), all the other religions are also ultimately amoral or something similar, which isn't to say they can't have moral teachings, but it is to say there is a major problem here because of how they conceive ultimate reality. Only Christianity (and Judaism upon which it is based) have a God who is infinitely holy and righteous, although the two Gods differ in nature (Unitarian versus Trinitarian).
Regardless, neither of the above two teachings (salvation by grace alone, not works; trinitarianism) would have been invented by men because they never could have been invented by men. Never having been invented in some 10,000 years apart from divine revelation seems proof enough. They can only be found in one religion throughout history and are only adequately explained through divine revelation.
Only Christianity has revealed God to us because all other gods are false idols. "For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens" (Psalm 96:5). No other gods exist, only one God exists, the biblical God. For those who say some other God exists than the Christian God, I would ask, where is the evidence? Indeed, where is any evidence? Shouldn't people take note of the fact that apologetics is, almost exclusively a Christian enterprise? (Yes, Muslims also have apologetics, but they have been soundly discredited, particularly by former Muslims.) By definition, it is impossible to prove a myth and all non-Christian gods are myths. That is exactly what we find when we look at the "apologetics" of non-Christian religions: an impossible endeavor. Where is the evidence for the Hindu Brahman – or Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, etc? Or the Buddhist Nirvana? Or the Tao? Or any other ultimate concept in a non-Christian religion?
Only Christianity has a doctrine of the Fall of man, empirically validated day after day, in every life, around the world, throughout human history: there has never been a perfect man except Jesus. (For example, in Hinduism & Buddhism, individual personality or existence per se constitute the fall of man, which is why personality and existence are intentionally destroyed through alleged "spiritual enlightenment.") Indeed, if Christianity is correct in its belief in original sin, then only Christ's incarnation, atonement and resurrection can possibly be the solution – which means Christianity and it alone offers a solution for the most fundamental problem of humanity, the most fundamental problem in all human history. Again, the Christian doctrine of the fall of man is the most empirically verified religious doctrine in the record of humanity. If anything in life is true, it is this. And yet only Christianity offers the solution, an incredibly costly solution paid by the Father and particularly the Son, a price they were willing to pay. Yet people live every day of their lives as if God didn't even exist – when in fact he has given His own life for them. In no other religion does God historically actually die for human sin. Think a minute, if you were God, and an infinitely perfect Being in every sense, and the very people you lovingly created had ignored you all day long after everything you had done for them (life, happiness, pleasure, entertainment, family, on and on, not to mention providing for them the death of your one and only Son so they could inherit a free gift of eternal life), yet they continued to spurn you, even blaspheme you, wouldn't you be angry?
Only Christianity has an historical divine incarnation.
Only Christianity has a God of love, a God who "is love" (1 John 4:8, 16).
Only Christianity has a God who has demonstrated His love in space-time history. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
Only Christianity has extensive fulfilled prophecy.
Only Christianity has a Scripture that can rationally be defended.
Only Christianity has its founder resurrecting physically from the dead.
Only Christianity has its founder predicting such an event at least 15 times, forecasting in advance those who would kill him (Jewish leaders, Romans), the method of death (crucifixion), the specific time of physical resurrection (third day) and the place it would occur (Jerusalem).
Only Christianity has someone like Jesus, a figure utterly unique in world history.
Only Christianity has solid evidence from history, archaeology, science, linguistics, textual criticism, probability theory, fulfilled prophecy, correspondence to reality and much else proving that, among all the religions of the world, biblical Christianity alone is fully true. This is why all other gods are myths who do not exist: historical evidence definitively establishes the truth of the one true God and therefore all other claimed deities who oppose Him cannot exist by definition. Every other God people worship today opposes the one true God, logically meaning they are human inventions and myths. It is impossible by definition that there is more than one supreme God. Jesus' physical resurrection from the dead proved him an infallible authority and in that role He declared infallibly, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3).
Indeed, Christianity is the only world religion in human history that is truly historical and truly original, something underappreciated by most people, especially skeptics and critics who (as I once did as a skeptic), never examined, or fairly examined, the evidence for the truth of biblical Christianity. I only read things I liked, that supported what I wanted to believe. Only as a Christian did I learn to look at both sides.
Only Christian revelation and doctrine are tried directly to unique historic facts that can be proven or disproven: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The mythology of Hinduism and Buddhism and the ancient Greeks and Romans is well known. The few religions that have some basis in history, such as Islam, do not have their revelatory doctrines (the essence of the religion) predicated directly upon necessary historical events. Mohammed and every other founder of a religion could disappear overnight without changing the fundamentals of the religion. In contrast, Jesus could never be removed from Christianity without destroying it entirely. The difference is enormous.
Only the Christian religion has universal appeal. Not everyone on earth wants to be a secularist, communist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Sikh, Confucian, evolutionist, Mormon, atheist, Janist, Zoroastrian, etc. but, in their heart of hearts, everyone on earth does want and even yearns for (although they also rebel against it, because they are spiritually fallen), the essence and end of the Christian message, and Christianity is the only religion on earth, or in history for which this is true, because Christianity is a perfect fit with reality and gives men what they can find in no other religion. Being created in God's image and "not far from him," already "being enlightened" to a degree by Jesus, desiring more in life, ultimate meaning, ultimate love, the ultimate happy ending – all this and much more is found only in Christianity. And this includes postmoderns who toss out virtually everything
Only Christianity has a convincing explanation, empirically verified, and an eternal solution for the haunting problem of evil which illustrates that everyone on earth knows something is wrong with the creation. We never ask, "Why is there so much good in the world?" but "Why is there so much evil in the world?" because we intuitively sense that ultimate reality or God is good and that evil is the aberration. Only Christianity has a God who often (always, for all I know, at least in this life) turns evil into good (e.g. Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28) and, in the end, does away with evil forever because He is infinitely righteous and holy. Evil is a mystery and difficulty every religion and philosophy must deal with but far and away Christianity offers the best solution.
And we could go on– only Christianity has a Scripture which declares God created the universe ex nihilo or, out of nothing – God simply spoken it into existence, which is hardly a problem for being of infinite power. Only Christianity can make innumerable professions of its God such as in Hebrews 4:15 and many other scriptures. Only Christianity has the Bible the greatest book on earth, the greatest codebook, greatest love book, the greatest divine revelation in history – and the Bible itself is unique in about 20 separate categories. Only Christianity simultaneously affirms the value of the physical world (e.g. the flesh), while completely accepting the reality of the spiritual world.
In sum, biblical Christianity is truly unique and only biblical Christianity can be proved historically because of Jesus, again, the most unique Man in human history.
The Importance of Falsifiability
The noted philosopher Karl Popper has pointed out that a characteristic of a genuine and scientifically valid system is falsifiability -- the ability to be proven false. Thankfully, most false things can be falsified. However, examples of nonfalsifiable or partially nonfalsifiable systems include much of modern psychology (Freudianism, Jungianism, humanistic and transpersonal psychology), much of modern speculative science (the Big Bang theory, endless multi-universes and evolutionary theory – again, genuine science involves falsifiability), and some political systems such as socialism, although it also is partly falsifiable because it has never worked politically/socially; but theoretically, it can "answer" every objection). These systems of belief either can't be refuted by empirical evidence or proofs against them can be explained away, no matter how nonsensically. Basically, something is falsifiable if it is capable of being tested (verified or falsified) by experiment, observation, etc. The above examples are largely partially unfalsifiable in that although disprovable, an "answer" can be provided to every argument against them, however weak or silly. If you can't prove something as important as Christ's physical resurrection from the dead either true or false, what good is it?
Christianity, however, is clearly falsifiable in an absolute sense, not just partially, and this is key. In 2,000 years, with the best that the most brilliant critics and skeptics can throw at it, biblical Christianity has not only never been falsified, it has proportionately been strengthened, having survived and conquered all attacks.
Follow me as I develop my argument. Literally tens of thousands of people were alive who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ miraculous ministry. When Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, about 20,000 people were involved; further, the gospel writers often pointed out that (not surprisingly) "large crowds" and "very large crowds" followed Jesus. (Matthew 4:1; 21:8; Mark 4:1; 8:18-20 [cf. Matthew 14:21]) So there was no scarcity of eyewitnesses to Jesus miracles, to the contrary, tens of thousands of people saw them or heard about them. And the word spread from there. "Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:18-20) The Jewish leaders were clearly threatened: after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead subsequent to his being four days in the grave: "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:47-48).
As former skeptic Ralph O. Muncaster points out, people love to talk, just as they would have in Jesus day, especially about dramatic events, let alone controversial and supernatural ones. Because of Jewish messianic expectation in the first century, people would have talked about the miraculous birth of John the Baptist associated with Jesus birth (Luke 1:13-22); the supernatural announcement of Jesus birth (Luke 2:9-18); the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah by a respected Jewish Elder (Luke 2:27-33); the declaration that Jesus was the Messiah by a respected prophetess (Luke 2:26-38); the supernatural angelic warning given to Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt because of Herod's edict to kill all babies under two years of age (Matthew 2:13-16); about of the many miracles done by Jesus; the truly dramatic and unparalleled miracles surrounding the moment of Jesus death in Matthew 27:54, cited above; the miracle of the resurrection itself and the widespread commotion it would have caused; the large number of miracles performed by the disciples in the book of Acts and also recorded in the epistles of Paul and by others, supernaturally confirming the truth of the Gospel (e.g., Acts 2:22; 3:2, 6-10; 8:13; 19:11; Galatians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Hebrews 2:4) – not to mention additional things. As to the miracles of Jesus alone, most people have no idea of their extent and magnitude, unparalleled in human history, and that "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25).
Since we are but a week away from Christmas as these words are written, consider just one illustration the startling angelic announcement of Jesus birth – put yourself in the place of the shepherds and just imagine being there yourself during this truly dramatic encounter:
- That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:8-20)
When we add up all the remarkable miracles surrounding the birth, dedication, proclamations, preservation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, one perhaps gains an idea of why tens of thousands of people followed Jesus and why tens of thousands were convinced He was the Messiah – not to mention the dire threat he posed to the Jewish leaders, given their craving for power, His exposure of their hypocrisy and their concept of a messianic political deliver. The authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin was threatened, as was the foundations of Judaism itself, even potentially, the pax romana (the peace of the Roman Empire). That's why they demanded a Roman guard defend and protect the tomb:
- The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:62-66)
The Skeptic’s Impossible Task: Rationally Explain the Empty Tomb
Because of the tremendous nature of what was at stake in the first century, the Jewish skeptics and enemies of Jesus (the Jewish religious leaders) would have searched far and wide and long for the body of Jesus in order to disprove for all time the preaching of His resurrection from the dead, particularly since conversions to Christ were happening in the thousands almost immediately – they would have used every means at their disposal – meetings with the Romans, talking to family, friends, Jesus' disciples and acquaintances. Even members of the synagogue were probably conscripted to search high and low, every possible place where a body might have been hidden – and remember, after three days the stench could have been dreadful, so it's not like they had to find an actual hiding place, they just had to be in the general vicinity of the body.
Knowing that simply finding the body of Jesus could preserve Jewish leaders power and authority, not to mention the safety of historical Judaism would have meant that, quite literally, no effort would have been spared.
However they could never find Christ's body – because it was in Heaven. But search they did:
- "You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come" (John 7:34).
- "Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come" (John 8:21).
- Nevertheless, this was is all anyone had to do in order to forever prevent Christianity from coming into existence and disproving its claims once and for all:
Simply produce the body of Jesus.
What could be easier? Is there anyone today who couldn't find the grave of President Ronald Reagan – it would have been little different in Jesus' day.
Merely produce the body of a controversial, widely known and wildly popular public figure who died a very public death by expert Roman crucifixion before hundreds of eyewitnesses (both believers and skeptics), after different six trials, whose grave was well known to hundreds of people, guarded by a 16-man Roman guard (typically arranged four on each side of what they were protecting, but in this case all 16 probably in front of the tomb entrance), with a Roman seal, with a typical two ton stone rolled over it.
Each member of the Roman guard, incidentally, risked certain death by crucifixion for failing to adequately guard the body of Jesus and keep it safely entombed.
To my mind, the Gospels are clear that both the Jews and the Romans agreed to secure the tomb, and as we will see, both looked high and low for the body.
Further, the Roman seal upon the two ton grave stone carried the power and weight of the entire Roman Empire – it was a visible and most somber warning not to tamper with the contents of the tomb – anyone who did so also would die by the most horrible death of crucifixion, perhaps the worst way to die ever invented. The seal would have been positioned in such a way that any tampering with the stone would have broken the seal, and the perpetrators executed. (Rolling a two ton stone would have required more than one person.)
Rome evidently was also threatened by the resurrection and it was clearly a Roman guard, not a Jewish Temple guard that was stationed. Pilate was a Roman authority and he was the one the Jews went to in order to request a guard and that the tomb be secured. Otherwise, the Pharisees would have gone to their own people to request a Temple guard (which was also highly trained and would comprise some 10 men, who would also likely have faced death had the tomb been broken into.) Further, after the events of the resurrection, the Roman guard turned to the religious leaders themselves, not Pilate, clearly concerned their lives could be forfeited by returning to Pilate. They assumed reporting the event to the Jewish leadership was safer, and it was: "If this report [of the disappearance of the body] gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble" (Matthew 28:14). Were it a Jewish Temple guard, under the authority of the Sanhedrin, the consequences would have been immediate.
Remember, Rome had a history of tensions with the Jews who were fiercely monotheistic and hated the Roman yoke not only for its deification of Caesar and widespread idolatry, but their controlling the Jewish high priests, and their unjust taxation, especially from the Temple itself (the major wars and insurrections occurred between 66-135 A.D., proving the Romans had something to be concerned about). "At the beginning of the Common Era, a new group arose among the Jews: the Zealots (in Hebrew, Ka-na-im). These anti-Roman rebels were active for more than six decades, and later instigated the Great Revolt [66-70 A.D.]. Their most basic belief was that all means were justified to attain political and religious liberty."
Thus, any major challenge to traditional Judaism presented by a new Christian religion could upset the apple cart and bring problems Rome did not want or need – not at the simple price of finding a dead body. Remember also that Jesus did claim to be a King, He was charged with insurrection against Rome by the Jews, and He even claimed to be God incarnate, no small potential threat to Caesar and the people's allegiance to Caesar should this teaching of him become widespread. Clearly it was in Rome's best interest to find the body of Jesus if for no other reason than to keep the famed Roman peace. And if the Jews had considerable resources at their disposal to find Jesus' body, imagine the resources that the Roman Empire had at its disposal. Rome ruled the known world and so its resources were virtually limitless. They could also invoke capital punishment upon anyone who hid the body or conspired to do so.
"… the Romans leaders would have had every incentive to do everything they could have to locate the body of Jesus. Otherwise, a volatile dispute between the traditional Jews and followers of Jesus could ensue – and it did. This meant a threat to the Roman rule of Jerusalem and the surrounding territory." The first (of three) Jewish wars against Rome began in 66 A.D., and in the first, the Jews actually had modest success, only to be defeated later by a vast army of 60,000, with 100,000 or so Jews killed or sold into slavery. Over 1.3 million Jews perished at the end of the war in 70 A.D. under Titus when the massive Temple itself was destroyed, fulfilling Jesus prediction.
But the point is that the Romans themselves were motivated to search for the body of Jesus.
Given the information we cannot explain here, it would be virtually impossible for Jesus’ grave to have been broken into, apart from supernatural means, which was clearly the case (Luke 24:1-8). "No doubt the security precautions at Jesus tomb were widely known. [They could be seen by all passersby.] It would have been impossible for anyone to tamper with the tomb without the knowledge and approval of those charged with protecting it. Overcoming a Roman guard of 16 soldiers, moving a 2 ton rock, and breaking the seal – which would have meant certain death – all of these measures helped to ensure that the body of Jesus would not be disturbed without the Romans knowing about it."
To be sure, it would have been almost as easy as breathing for the Jewish authorities to casually walk over to the tomb of Jesus and produce His body, proving the disciples preaching of the resurrection false and forever preventing the rise of Christianity. The idea that the disciples actually stole the body (the first naturalistic and currently most prominent skeptical theory), and therefore intentionally lied about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and about personally seeing Him alive is the, to be blunt, dumbest skeptical response possible. (But if they won't accept Christ resurrection, it's the most credible theory they have.) Again, it was physically impossible for the disciples to conquer the Roman guard, an incredibly efficient fighting unit, more or less equivalent (in that day) to our modern Navy SEALs.
Nor would the disciples risk death by crucifixion for what they knew was a lie. Thus, psychologically considered, their stealing the body was also impossible. Intentional deception is something the disciples would never have even considered because they were thoroughly defeated believers. Their Messiah had died the ignominious and scandalous death of crucifixion, proving scripturally that he was cursed of God (Galatians 3:13, which was literally true, although the disciples did not then understand the implications) – and therefore He could not possibly have been their promised Messiah (see Luke 24:21). So why on earth go to the incredible risk, trouble and waste of trying to make the world believe in a false Messiah? Further, in that, to a man, they were genuine skeptics of the resurrection when they first heard about it, they never even believed Jesus would rise from the dead in the first place. So they clearly never expected Jesus to be resurrected, despite His clear predictions. As Scripture makes clear, they did not understand His predictions. Why? Because their minds were clouded by a false portrait of who the Messiah would be and what He would do.
The disciples not only didn't understand Jesus predictions concerning his resurrection, they couldn't stay awake on the night of His betrayal, the majority didn't stand with Him upon his arrest, and during one trial, Peter denied Him three times under a solemn oath. When Jesus was actually crucified and died, all the disciples were scattered, depressed, confused and were resigned to returning to their previous vocations. Again, to a man, they were skeptical when they first heard about the resurrection.
So, why would this particular group of people conspire the impossible task of stealing the body from a Roman guard, foisting a lie upon their own Jewish people and the world itself that went against their own interests, against their moral character, against their Jewish heritage and then die for what they knew was a scam?
In addition what is often not considered is that the body would necessarily have had to of been stolen on a Saturday, the very Sabbath, when the Law severely limited work – in fact the law would also have prohibited stealing the body. The disciples, as devout Jews, would never have broken the law in this way, especially knowing they were attempting to deceive the entire Jewish nation about its Messiah. But the disciples also knew Jesus was dead – and what help was a false Messiah to the disciples or the Jewish nation? The only possible response, given the circumstances, was the simple acknowledgment that they had been wrong about Jesus. Further even had they accomplished the impossible and stolen the body, once severe persecution of the church began, which it did almost immediately, the jig would have been up. People won't undergo torture and death for what they know with absolute certainty is a lie and a sham, and historically, to a man, the disciples suffered great persecution and martyrdom. Put another way, people will die for a lie, but not for what they know with certainty is a worthless lie. Finally, if it was Jesus apostles who were behind the alleged plot to steal the body, why then would so many others who were not part of the plot claim to have seen Jesus alive after he was clearly crucified?
In sum, the idea that the disciples stole the body is simply one more impossibility, practically, religiously, morally, psychologically, socially and otherwise.
In addition, when Christian teachings were spread far and wide in Jerusalem, the most hostile of environments, hundreds or even thousands of people were still alive who could and would publicly refute what the disciples were claiming if it were false (as Jews living under the law, this would have been their ethical duty) – yet we don't have a single refutation of the disciples message, not one -- not a single disclaimer to the most startling, far-reaching and momentous message in human history. This alone should be considered historic in its implications had the disciples stolen the body or had Jesus been someone other than he claimed to be.
Hostile witnesses never emerged for one simple reason – the eyewitnesses that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 were still alive and living and working in Jerusalem, the very place Jesus rose from the dead. Again, the numerous enemies of the church would have included not only the Jewish leaders and thousands of skeptical Jews influenced by them, but the Romans as well who didn't want any trouble from a new Christian sect capable of taking peoples allegiance from Caesar. These people (and they must have been very numerous) did everything in their power to prove the Christian message false in any way possible. But they failed completely. They failed completely because the disciples' message was true and the combined weight of the Jewish and Roman interests were unable to prove it false.
In sum, the eyewitness appearances of Jesus after his resurrection from the dead, on multiple occasions to multiple groups, including 500 people at once; the inability of the numerous hostile enemies to produce the body or provide even a single credible counter explanation (ever), despite there being present at the very events; the existence of messianic prophecy as to a forthcoming atonement for sin and resurrection fulfilled in history only by Jesus Christ; the indisputable empirical nature of the evidence; the initial skepticism of all the apostles (read the resurrection accounts carefully); the perhaps unparalleled conversion of a hostile and former skeptic, the apostle Paul, and the potential ability to easily falsify the resurrection and Christianity itself (to name some salient points) together present a compelling case that Christianity alone is fully true.
Indeed, these are the same kinds of things that have been happening historically for 2,000 years – the conversion of skeptics, the appearances of Jesus Christ (e.g., occurring to thousands of Muslims today, albeit in visions, as with the apostle Paul), continuing fulfilled prophecy today, the continuing inability of skeptics to come up with any plausible explanation for the empty tomb other than the Christian one (in fact, critical theories cancel one another out), the continuing impact of Christ's atonement and resurrection in individual lives through regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, union with Christ and being raised to new life among billions of people historically, etc.
Conclusion: Only 1 Option
Here is a surprising fact. People – and that includes everyone on earth – have one and only one option as to belief about Jesus Christ. Technically, they have two options, but one is insane, so there's really only one option. When everything is boiled down, in the end, Jesus is either God incarnate or an insane babbler. There are no other options. The only problem is that no one, absolutely no one, can rationally believe Jesus is insane and so only one option remains. Jesus is God incarnate, precisely who He was prophesied to be (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2), claimed to be (John 5:18; 8:58), and powerfully demonstrated He was through His bodily resurrection from the dead. He "was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead…" (Romans 1:4)
And all this means that every one of us must listen to Him, for our own welfare, indeed our eternal welfare, giving to Him the obeisance (acknowledgment of superiority, deferential respect) and the glory that He is due.
To do anything else is illogical.
In other words, the classic trilemma of C. S. Lewis: Lord, liar, or lunatic (to which we could add legend) can be boiled down to Lord or lunatic because if Jesus was lying about the kinds of things He claimed (given their incomparable magnitude), He was by definition a lunatic. Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection at least 15 times in advance – this by itself would have caused him to be labeled insane unless He actually pulled it off. (Indeed, prior to the resurrection, His enemies did label Him insane, and even demon possessed, because He did miracles.) And we know he wasn't a legend because it's impossible that men could ever invent such a figure -- this would be a miracle equivalent to Jesus Himself. Besides, far too much historical evidence proves He existed and did and taught exactly what the New Testament says He did and taught – not only from Old Testament messianic prophecies which Jesus fulfilled perfectly, but from 27 separate historical documents in the New Testament (including four independent "biographies"), to massive and historically unique manuscript evidence, to a significant number of historical comments from historians, Jewish and secular critics and other ancient writers. To reiterate, it is a historic fact that Jesus taught and did what the New Testament says He taught and did.
To be sure, if these 27 (or 66) books weren't in a Bible and discussed only secular matters, there isn't a scholar or person in the world who would, based upon the manuscript and other evidence, doubt their authenticity even one iota. But once the demon of the supernatural appears, all bets are off and hang the evidence. Thankfully, no one is forced today to be subject to the tyranny of a radical atheist, materialistic, secular or liberal bias that won't look at evidence fairly and wants the Christian religion eviscerated from society.
Only Christianity makes sense of everything. My PhD is in comparative religion. No other religion makes sense of the world, nor does any other worldview. Look at any other religion or philosophy and see if it makes sense of the world. True, biblical Christianity (knowing the one true God who loves them, knowing the absolute truth) is not only what everyone needs, it's ultimately what everyone wants – it's the perfect religion. (More precisely, it's the perfect God and divine revelation; Christianity itself has been sullied historically by mostly false believers and the fact that even genuine believers retain a sinful nature.)
Skeptics and unbelievers alike, come to Jesus and inherit the most wonderful gift of all (eternal life) -- and the greatest Treasure in the universe (the infinitely perfect God Himself) -- to enjoy both Him and the eternal marvels, pleasures and rewards of Heaven forever.
There is either everything to gain or everything to lose, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36).
Making Sense of God's Wrath against Sin: And the Wonder of Its Eternal Removal
People generally today have little or no concept of God's wrath; they even recoil from it or respond harshly to it, probably because they sense its truth and fear the consequences. Knowing they are sinners, intuitively knowing God is just and holy, they naturally fear death, or rebel at the idea of divine wrath since its resolution is absolutely required. If people insist on being their own God, there is no room for another deity. The insistence can but lead to rebellion. Indeed, society is much the worse for it. If world leaders of the 20th century (e.g., Stalin, Mao, Hitler etc.), had a holy fear of God, and His wrath against sin – if they knew that one day they would stand before God and give an account of everything thought, said or done, probably 150 million people would not have died. (See Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God.)
Granted, no one can understand infinity, or an infinite being, or eternity, "little" hints of God in themselves. In part, that's the point. A God who is infinitely holy must respond with His anger, rage and punishment against sin (something infinitely beyond our comprehension), just as upon a finite, human level, we must also respond to evil with anger, rage and punishment individually or as a society. Being created in God's s image, even though spiritually fallen, we still sense outrage at true evil. It's when we rationalize evil or redefine it that we get into trouble.
Nevertheless, the real issue here is the nature of sin and the One against whom it is committed. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba (who became pregnant) and had her husband, his loyal soldier, murdered, he sinned directly against at least three people. (But the long-term consequences can't actually be traced to millions of people, a topic for another study.) However, in an ultimate sense, the primary and even only sin that David committed was made against God, as David himself recognized when he prayed in repentance, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge." (Psalm 51:4, emphasis added) The point is, comparatively speaking, in contrast to sinning against God, an infinite being, sinning against finite beings is almost nothing by comparison (as bad as it may be.)
In other words, as serious as sin is horizontally (men sinning against other men), it's virtually infinitely worse vertically (men sinning against an infinitely holy and righteous God). Just try and think through the implications at this point– isn't it logically true that a sin committed against an infinite being is actually worthy of infinite punishment, which for finite beings could only constitute a punishment that last forever, an eternal punishment? Everyone knows that killing a bug isn't the same as killing a baby and that the worth of the thing sinned against is proportional to the appropriate degree of punishment. That's the essence of a true system of justice, that the punishment fit the crime. In the ancient world and in many nations today, a man could lie to his wife and suffer few consequences. But if that same man lied to the King himself (given his authority, responsibility, power and status), he would literally forfeit his life.
When we sin before God, the consequences are, literally, infinitely worse, which explains not only God's wrath against sin, but the need for Christ's sacrificial death on the cross.
Because Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of God, the God-man, He was both undiminished deity and full humanity in one person. As such, He could fully represent man and yet, being divine, take the full divine penalty for sin in His own person – so that we would never have to.
In other words, Christ's suffering and death on the cross fully satisfied God's infinite wrath against human sin and paid the full price divine justice required and demanded – to an infinite degree. That's why it says: "God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He [God] did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded" (Romans 3:25-27).
God displayed much of His essential nature at the cross – e.g., His infinite love, mercy, holiness and justice – because it is impossible for an infinitely holy God not to punish sin. However, the Bible also teaches that "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16). In his infinitely loving nature and love for men, God punished Jesus in our place, instead of punishing us directly. Jesus willfully went to the cross as part of the divine plan to forgive human sin and freely allow people entrance into a glorious eternal Heaven, wonderful beyond words.
The only condition God requires of men is that they believe in what He has done – that He actually sacrificed His precious one and only Son to freely redeem willful and rebellious sinners into an eternity glorious beyond imagination. Each of us should be able to relate to this. We all can recognize on a human level the wonder and majesty of a man giving his own life for another, such as a soldier on the battlefield throwing himself on a grenade to spare his fellow soldiers, or parents sacrificing their own life for their child's. If each of us intuitively honors this kind of sacrifice at a finite human level, how much more should we understand and honor this kind of sacrifice on God's part – and understand fully God requiring that we honor that respect the same kind of sacrifice He accomplished for us, yet to an infinite degree, to save our own lives eternally. Again, to emphasize, a sacrifice made at an infinite level and at an infinite cost, a price beyond imagining, paid dearly by both the Father and the Son. In part, this was what God was getting at when he asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, to illustrate the future sacrifice of His own Son. God, of course, never actually permitted Abraham to go through with killing his own son, knowing full well that one day He would have to endure the sacrifice of the Son He has loved infinitely, forever.
Nevertheless, when we place personal trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, acknowledging what He did for us – i.e., that upon the cross He died for our sins – a wonderful and miraculous exchange takes place. First, we understand that God had placed all of our sins on Jesus and that He took the divine penalty due our sin in His own person. (Look far and wide throughout human history – you will never find such a teaching, or a God of such love.)
But second, because we have placed faith in Jesus, God justifies us or legally declares us perfectly righteous – unbelievably, as righteous as He and Christ are righteous. In other words, negatively, God forgives all of our sins, past present and future (Colossians 2:13 – all our sins were future at the time of the cross when Jesus died for them.) As result, from the point of faith onward, throughout eternity, there is "therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) This is why it says, and this is critical: "God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, the sinless Son of God somehow became sin and was judged in our place so that "in him" (through our spiritually organic union with Christ, which occurs at the point of faith), we actually become as righteous as God is righteous. This is the second unmerited and marvelous exchange: Christ's own righteousness is credited individually to our account– we receive His perfect righteousness as an entirely free gift. On a finite human level this is equivalent to 100% sinless perfection – not only are we sinless, but we are positively and absolutely righteous. In God's eyes, when we are seen through Christ, it's as if we have never sinned even once. Because at the point of faith in Christ, spiritually speaking, we have been organically united to Christ, we logically share in His essential righteousness, something that lasts forever. That's why the New Testament uses the phrase "in Christ" hundreds of times – 703 to be precise. The biblical doctrine of our union with Christ is a critical one and one far too neglected. Nevertheless, it is absolutely, wonderfully and gloriously true.
In sum, the believer in Christ never, ever – not even throughout all eternity -- has to worry about experiencing the wrath of God because Christ experienced it all and freely gave us His own righteousness: again, "God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore: "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9)
No one knows for certain where Christopher Hitchens, Anthony Flew and all the other departed skeptics and unbelievers are, but one can only assume the majority aren’t in Heaven in that deathbed confessions are rare. This does not necessarily mean more people will end up in Hell than in Heaven; it wasn't so for the Angels and it seems possible great multitudes of people might be saved during the Tribulation and perhaps even during the Millennium, eclipsing the numbers of the previously fallen spiritually. Speculation aside, all late skeptics and unbelievers are certainly somewhere, undoubtedly much to their surprise – and biblically only two options are possible. What this means is that the reader (if they are an unbeliever) now faces the single most important decision in their life, even throughout all eternity.
What do I do with Jesus?
This is why I, and every Christian on earth with me, ends this article with the following scripture:
- “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- ↑ John G. Weldon, "The New Atheists and Remembering a Notorious Atheists’ Prayer," (9 Parts);http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/The_New_Atheists_and_Remembering_A_Notorious_Atheists%E2%80%99_Prayer
- ↑ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Excerpt in Henry Clapp, "Contemporary Reviews: Walt Whitman", The New York Saturday Press, May 19, 1860 (2), The Walt Whitman Archive; http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/reviews/leaves1860/anc.00035.html
- ↑ Douglas Wilson, "Obituary: Christopher Hitchens Has Died, Doug Wilson Reflects: how to think about the death of the outspoken atheist," ChristianityToday.com, December 16, 2011; http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/decemberweb-only/christopher-hitchens-obituary.html?start=2)
- ↑ Ibid.
- ↑ See note 1
- ↑ "The Cumulative Case for a Personal, Infinite God," ILoveAtheists.com (just not their worldview); http://www.iloveatheists.com/about_us/cumulative-case-god; also see Apologetics315.com and footnote 1 above. For a good summary of apologetic books see: http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/11/recommended-apologetics-book-directory.html. For a good list of Christian apologists see: http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/06/100-christian-apologists.html
- ↑ Ibid.
- ↑ "Skeptics for the Christian Faith,";http://www.classicapologetics.com/special/skepfor.htm; HistoricalApologetics.org;http://www.awakeandamazed.com/id66.html
- ↑ For an unparalleled 17th year in a row named "The Best Island in the World" by discerning readers of the Condé Nast Traveler's magazine, "the world's premier travel magazine." Even in Hawaii Maui is known as "no ka oi" – the best: “The Magic Isle” Captures Highest Score of Any Destination in the World MAUI, Hawaii – For an unprecedented 17th time, “Maui, the Magic Isle” captured “Best Island in the World” honors in the 24th annual CONDE NAST TRAVELER Readers’ Choice Awards. With a score of 92.1, Maui was also voted “Best U.S. Island” (formerly “Best Pacific Island”) for the 21st consecutive year…. [In addition] Maui’s score once again surpassed all other top destinations globally beating out every “Best City” category winner…. More than 28,000 readers responded representing some 8 million individual votes…. The award was presented to [executive director, Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau Terryl] Vencl, by veteran actor Chris Noth (Law & Order, Sex in the City and The Good Wife) in a star-studded awards ceremony held in New York City last night. (Kelii Brown, MAUI IS “BEST ISLAND IN THE WORLD” FOR THE 17th TIME," October 11, 2011, VisitMauiBlog.com; http://visitmauiblog.com/2011/10/conde-nast-traveler-best-island-in-the-world-2011-award/)
- ↑ John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Darwin's Leap of Faith: Exposing the False Religion of Evolution. See also the excellent disproof of evolution by the skeptic of Christianity, Dr. Randy L. Wysong in The Creation Evolution Controversy. Hundreds and hundreds of similar books exist.
- ↑ "George Lyttelton, 1st baron Lyttelton," The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia [Britannica, 11th edition]; http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/George_Lyttelton,_1st_baron_Lyttelton; " George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lyttelton,_1st_Baron_Lyttelton
- ↑ American Antiquarian Society, Early American Imprints, No. 8909 (1639-1800 A.D.), p.3
- ↑ Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century, 2010, 166
- ↑ Ibid., 168
- ↑ For some improvements see: cf. Bob Pickle, "An Examination of the Chronological Difficulties of Hoehner and Ice's Calculations of Daniel 9's First 69 Weeks;" http://www.pickle-publishing.com/papers/harold-hoehner-70-weeks.htm
- ↑ Whether the Hebrew is ka'ari or karu the hands and the feet of Jesus may be considered pierced, even using the term "dug" which could easily imply pierced."The Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) that has been handed down to us reads ka'ari yadai v'raglai, which is literally translated "like the lion my hands and my feet." But given the awkwardness of the grammar (no verb) and the lack of sense, even Jewish versions vary in how they render the phrase (items in bold below are not in the original Hebrew of the MT)."like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet" (JPS 1917 & Soncino)"like lions [they maul] my hands and feet" (JPS Tanakh)"like [the prey of] a lion are my hands and my feet." (Stone Edition) http://jewishroots.net/library/prophecy/psalms/psalm-22/psalm-22-comments-from-hadavar-ministries%20.htm For further discussion of Psalm 22:16 see JewishRoots.net: http://jewishroots.net/library/prophecy/psalms/psalm-22/psalm-22-comments-from-hadavar-ministries%20.htm. For example: "There are pros and cons for every possible solution to the Psalm 22:16 controversy. Yet no matter how one translates it, the plain sense is unaffected. This psalm speaks of God's afflicted one, who in spite of his agony, declares God's name and calls Israel to be faithful to Him. In the passage in question, he is the victim of evil men who have him at the point of death. They do something to his hands and feet, though the nature of what's done is the crux of our discussion. Whether these hands and feet were bound, chained, disfigured, pierced, chewed on, or hacked off is irrelevant. The point is that God... "has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help." (Psalm 22:24 NIV)
- ↑ CF. Darrell Bock, Mitch Glaser (Eds.), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology; Robert B. Chisholm Jr., The Gospel According to Isaiah: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology
- ↑ Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Method; Norman Geisler, Miracles & the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles; CS Lewis, Miracles; Gary Habermas, In Defense of Miracles.
- ↑ John G. Weldon, "The Resurrection as Historical Fact?";http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/The_Resurrection_as_Historical_Fact%3F
- ↑ Agrippa's "almost" response is inconsistent with his terribly evil family tree and might possibly suggest is openness to Christ, unless declared sarcastically; cf. Kevin Probst, "Almost Saved but Entirely Lost;" http://nazareneblogs.org/kpprobst/tag/king-agrippa-ii/
- ↑ See note 25 And Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent for illustrations.
- ↑ "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 the 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 with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (Mere Christianity, 40-41)
- ↑ I have seen multiple reliable estimates of 150 million unnecessary direct & indirect deaths in the 20th century from Marxist and other materialist/atheist totalitarian regimes who refuse to fear God and the number of abortions globally in the 20th century has been estimated at 500-800,000,000 (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=501809; The center for bio-ethical Reform estimates approximately 42,000,000 abortions per year globallyhttp://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html. See also:http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/. See especially "Deaths by Mass Unpleasantness: Estimated Totals for the Entire 20th Century;" http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat8.htm#Abortions
- ↑ John G. Weldon, "Hell - Why It's Eternal and the Remarkable Ease of Entering Heaven," (3 parts); http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Hell_-_Why_It%27s_Eternal_and_the_Remarkable_Ease_of_Entering_Heaven
- ↑ Cf. Ralph Smith's Trinity and Reality: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Consider one reviewer at Amazon.com: "Smith deftly pulls the rug out from under everything that fails to confess the Trinity. He shows how the universe as it exists could only have come into being through the creative act of the Bible's Triune God, and could neither have resulted from a monadal deity such as that postulated by Judaism and Islam, nor from a pan-deity, many deities, or no deity. Similarly, divine revelation is shown to be possible only for the Triune God of the Bible, and love in human relationships and the very nature of human society can be accounted for only from a trinitarian perspective." See also Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
- ↑ There are scores of books: e.g. Former muslims, The Qur'an Dilemma Volume 1; http://www.thequran.com/Home/TQDilemma; Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim; http://www.formermuslims.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2969; Apostates of Islam: http://www.apostatesofislam.com/; Answering Islam: http://www.answer-islam.org; http://www.answering-islam.org/Fallacies/index.html; Answering Muslims: http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2011/04/muslim-dawagandist-refutes-quran-with.html
- ↑ See: J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy.
- ↑ For example, Mohammed could disappear without harming Islam because the Qur’an could have been revealed with similar consequences by anyone of similar nature: Mohamed is not essential to the Muslim religion and no Muslim doctrine is dependent solely upon historical facts that prove Muslim doctrines.
- ↑ Louis Markos, "The Return to Myth: Apologetics for Postmoderns," chapter 15 in Apologetics for the 21st-Century, 2010, 195-204
- ↑ See the list in John Ankerberg, John Weldon Handbook of Biblical Evidences.
- ↑ This list of miracles is largely taken from Ralph O. Muncaster, Examine the Evidence: Exploring the Case for Christianity, 408
- ↑ "The Great Revolt," Jewish virtual Library; http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/revolt.html
- ↑ Muncaster, Examine the Evidence, 393
- ↑ Muncaster, Chapter 25, "The Empty Tomb."
- ↑ Muncaster, Examine the Evidence, 391, from which some of the above material is taken.
- ↑ John Ankerberg, John Weldon The Case for Jesus Messiah: Proof That God Exists; 
- ↑ F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?; Richard Bauckham Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony; Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels; Mark D. Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
- ↑ E.g., Dr. Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (see: http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm for a summary) see also: "12 Historical Facts (Most Critical Scholars Believe These 12 Items," http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/garyhabermas.htm; Michael Gleghorn, "Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources," Probe Ministries; http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4223639/k.567/Ancient_Evidence_for_Jesus_from_NonChristian_Sources.htm; F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament)