Solid Evidence about Christ for a Skeptical World
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001|
|Is there any evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be? During the course of this article, Dr. Ankerberg will examine some of those claims and the evidence that backs them up.|
We’re talking about solid evidence about Jesus Christ for a skeptical world. And if you’re here tonight and you want to know what the evidence is, let me just take a five minute paragraph and then I’m going to get right to it. I’d like to clear up a couple of other matters.
When you start talking about Jesus Christ or religion, there are some people that say, “I don’t care. I’m an atheist. I’m an agnostic.” And I have to address those of you that might be in that category. And I’d like to try to get your attention, at least try to entice you, to motivate you, to come on over and look at the evidence. And I believe there’s a lot of evidence that I’m going to present to you in just a moment.
What do you say to the person that says, “John, I don’t want to listen; I don’t want to even look at stuff about religion or Jesus Christ because I’m an atheist.”
Very frankly, here’s what I would say to you. Please prove to me your point of view. What’s the evidence for being an atheist? I don’t think that you can be smart enough to be an atheist. Einstein said he had an I.Q. score probably of 204 or 206 and he thought there was a God. Well, why do I say that you can’t be smart enough to be an atheist? Well, what would you have to have in terms of evidence to be an atheist? An atheist says there is no God by definition. What do you need to know in order to prove there is no God? You’d have to have all knowledge. What is having all knowledge? Well, let me show you how little knowledge we have.
Right now, if I was to say to you, “You know what, you don’t know what’s happening behind you.” In other words, the person that’s behind you, can you tell me what they’re thinking? They might be looking at the back of your head and thinking what kind of a hairdo you’ve got out there. You don’t know what they’re thinking; or the person ten rows in back of you; or the person that’s in the building across the street. Or how about people that are over in Hong Kong or in Britain right now?
Put that in terms of God. What if God is behind you? What if God’s in the next building? What if God’s somewhere where you’re not? Do you have the information to say that he’s not there? Do you have all knowledge? If you say, “Well, I don’t think he’s on planet earth.” How about outside of planet earth? How about our galaxy? Maybe God is hiding behind some planet. Do you have information that he’s not there? And then scientists tell us that in our galaxy right now, traveling at the speed that our astronauts do, if you go about, say, 16-20 thousand miles per second, that’s not fast enough, you would not be able to get out of our galaxy in a space ship traveling that fast if you went all the way to 90 years of age, there’s not enough time for you to get out of our galaxy. It’s too far. So the galaxy is big. Do you know if God is out there? No, you haven’t got that information.
And then scientists tell me this, that outside of our galaxy there are trillions and trillions of other galaxies in this thing called the universe. And do you know, maybe God might be out there. Do you have the information about that? No. You don’t have that kind of information. You don’t have all knowledge so you can’t say there is no God. And most of the intellectuals realize that on campus today.
When a person says to me, “I’m an atheist,” usually I think of them in terms of, you’re a village atheist. You don’t know enough to come from that position someplace else. But then, after a person says he’s an atheist and he says “Well, I don’t have enough knowledge,” the best you can be is you can be an agnostic.
Now, what is an agnostic? An agnostic is a person that is brilliant in the area of not knowing anything. Thomas Huxley coined the term. It simply means you don’t know. You don’t know if there is a God. And that’s where the intellectuals are at. They say, “We don’t have enough information to say we’re an atheist, but the fact is, we don’t know if there is a God. If there’s the evidence, we haven’t seen it yet.”
Now, there’s two kinds of agnostics that I’ve met on campus. There is the ordinary agnostic. What’s an ordinary agnostic? The ordinary agnostic says, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if you’ve got the evidence, I’m open to seeing it.” Man, I love those kind of people. I just love them. If you are an agnostic and you are an ordinary agnostic that says, “I just haven’t seen the evidence yet, but I’m open to it,” you’ve come to the right place. You’ve come to the right place.
But then there’s the second kind of agnostic and that’s the ornery agnostic. Now, what’s an ornery agnostic? The ornery agnostic is the one who says, “Look, Ankerberg, I don’t know if there is a God but I know that you don’t know there’s a God.”
And I say, “How do you know?”
He says, “I know.”
That’s the ornery agnostic. In other words, this is the person that says, “Whatever evidence you show me, my mind is already made up. You can’t persuade me.” That’s the ornery agnostic. Now, I’ve got a little story for you if you’re like that.
Did you hear about the man that thought he was dead? There was this young fellow that went around saying to everybody, “Hi, my name is_____,” and then he would say, “By the way, I’m dead.” Of course, that bothered his parents a little bit, you know. And so what they did was they took him to a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist said to bring the boy in and so they brought the boy in.
The guy gave his name and then he went on to say, “Well, doctor, I want you to know this. By the way, I’m dead.”
The doctor said, “I see what the problem is.”
And so he thought this fellow had this worldview, namely that he was dead. And he thought, I need to have one fact from the real world that’ll burst that false worldview. So he thought, “I wonder what it could be?” And he came up with the fact that dead men do not bleed. And so he thought, “I’ve got to persuade this young fellow who thinks he’s dead that dead men don’t bleed and then I can do a little experiment with him and show him that he’s not dead.”
So he gave him pathological textbooks. He took him down to morgue and cut dead bodies and showed him that they didn’t bleed. And after months and months of research, finally the young fellow said to the doctor, “Okay, doctor, you have persuaded me of the fact that dead men do not bleed.”
And the doctor thought, “I’ve got him, I’ve got him, I’ve got him.” He said, “Stick out your hand.” The kid stuck out his hand. The doctor took one of those little deals that you have in the doctor’s office, pricked his finger, and out spurted the blood.
And the kid looked at that and he says, “Well, doctor, dead men bleed after all.”
Now, that’s just to go and show you that if you hold on to something, a view, strong enough, that facts do not bother you, nobody can help you. Nobody can help you, but you’re in kind of a silly position. You’re the ornery agnostic.
Now, I hope that if you are an agnostic, if you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ, that you would be open to the evidence. That you would be like the ordinary agnostic that says, “Hey, if you’ve got something, show me.”
Alright, so let’s get down to the evidence. What is the case for Jesus? Why do you believe in him? Let’s define terms first of all.
What is Christianity? Christianity is not a philosophy, although it can be made into one. Christianity is not a system of ethics, although it certainly talks about what is right and wrong. Christianity is a relationship with a person that actually lived and Christianity stands or falls on whether this person did live, whether He said the things that He said, and did the things that He claimed. That person is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.
Now, if I was to give you the conclusion of where I’m going, where I think the evidence will take you, it would go something like this: This is who I think Jesus Christ is and how the evidence supports him. If I was to say to you, “Ladies and gentlemen, backstage is Jesus Christ. In a moment he’s going to come out here and he’s going to talk to you. But I want you to beware. When he comes out here, what he’s going to do is he’s going to look at you and he’s going to snap his fingers and this building is going to disappear. He’s going to look at you and smile and say, ‘Don’t worry,’ snap his fingers and the world will disappear. He’ll snap his fingers and the sun will go dark and the stars will quit shining and you and he will be standing in outer space together and Jesus Christ could smile, snap his fingers, and bring it all back together again.” Now, that’s who I think Jesus Christ is and that’s where we’re going.
You say, “Well, that’s not the Jesus that I know.” That’s the problem. It’s like the old TV show: “Will the real Jesus stand up.” We’ve got so many Jesuses being touted in America today, people don’t know which one to believe in or how to get to the bottom line. That’s why we have today in this month’s issue of Newsweek magazine a picture of Jesus on the cover again. Time and Newsweek, they usually run about two of these a year and again, the question is, what can we know about Jesus? Can we know anything about Jesus? Their idea is very, very little. I think they’re dead wrong and I intend to prove that to you tonight.
Now, the fact is, how do we find out about Jesus? How do we come to any conclusion about him? And I want to start with you and say, I’m not going to approach this topic in the sense that I’m going to take the Bible as the inerrant, inspired Word of God. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, but I’m not going to start there. I’m going to start from a different basis. I’m going to say that Jesus Christ is a person that actually lived and I’m going to put it up on this basis: I’d like to ask you a question and I think you’ll see where I’m going. How many of you here tonight believe that Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States at one time? Would you put your hand up? Well, that’s great. How many of you that believe Lincoln was the President of the United States, how many of you met Lincoln personally? Would you put your hand up?
I remember I was at the University of Chicago and I was speaking to the student union there and asked that question and three guys were up against the wall in the back and they raised their hand when I said, “How many of you have met Lincoln personally?” They all waved their hand. These were graduate and doctoral students. And I thought, now what do I do with that? Then I saw they were smoking a little something and the smoke was coming up above their ears, and I thought, I understand how they met Lincoln.
Now let me say this: If you have never met Lincoln personally, how did you know he was the President of the United States? Well, you can remember one day you were awake in history class, right? And you can remember that the teacher was talking about some people that saw Abraham Lincoln, they heard what he said, they got his speeches both pro and con. People that loved him; people that hated him. They read about him. They wrote about what they saw. And that information has come down as historical information about Abraham Lincoln, and it’s solid enough for us to figure out that when he was actually, at the end of his life, he was in Ford’s Theater and he was shot by a gunman in Ford’s Theater instead of being in Peoria and slipping on a banana peel and dying. We understand the information. We can get to the bottom line because of the historical information.
Now, going back in history, there are other characters that you remember and you believe in, even though you have never met them. Do you remember Napoleon? Sure. Do you remember good old Charlemagne? Little foggy, but, yeah, he’s back there. And Julius Caesar, yeah. And right about the time of Julius Caesar, there’s another person that actually lived and his name is Jesus Christ. He’s an actual, historical figure. How do we know? Because there were people that wrote about him that both loved him and hated him; people that saw him, and there was information that came out about him that has come down to us as historical manuscripts.
Now, there were eight people that actually were eyewitnesses or claimed to be in touch with the eyewitnesses who wrote about Jesus Christ. Can you tell me the names of those authors? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—not Acts—Paul, Peter, James, the writer of Hebrews, okay? Now, the fact is, at least those men claimed to be witnesses or eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life. But as soon as you say that, people say, “But wait a minute. Aren’t those the disciples? Aren’t those the people that actually were his buddies? Didn’t they pad the case?” Well, that’s a good assumption. They may have but we can check them out.
For example, if we make the assumption that just because somebody was known and a good friend of somebody that they padded the case, what would you do if all the friends of John F. Kennedy that wrote about him? What would you do about all the people that wrote about Nixon or wrote about Carter? Because they were friends do you automatically say, “No. We’re going to outlaw those people. They can’t tell anything that’s truthful?” No, but we do check them. We do check them.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, the 15th edition, has 20,000 words listed to the person of Jesus Christ. And do you know what, there’s not even a hint in all of those words that he didn’t exist. That’s more words about Jesus Christ than any other person in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Why? Because those guys at the University of Chicago are such warm evangelicals and they just wanted to load up on all the stuff for Jesus? Come on! Every person that has ever lived in the first hundred years and wrote a book about the history of the first hundred years AD, whether they be Buddhist, Hindu, skeptic, agnostic, has had to include Jesus Christ. Why? Because he’s a real, historical person.
But now the problem is today, with that kind of information, we have scholars today, like the ones that you can read in Newsweek magazine, that say stuff like this. I’m going to give you the standard line that is taught at the universities of our country right across the board, unfortunately many of them Christians as well. This is what they’re telling your kids. And if you are high school or college students here and you haven’t had a course in Bible or as literature, the fact is that this will be the standard line that you will get when you get the course.
Professor Avrum Stroll at the University of Columbia made this statement. It was picked up in the Northeast and touted quite highly. He said, “Jesus probably did exist. But so many legends have grown up about him that it is impossible for scholars to find out anything about the real man. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John were written long after Jesus was crucified and provide no reliable historical information about him. It is almost impossible to derive historical facts from the legends and descriptions of miracles performed by Jesus.”
Now, that’s the standard line at the university. That’s what they believe. That’s what you can read this month in Newsweek. Now, here’s what they’re saying. It’s like going to a party where you played that little game where you go to one person, let’s say I go up here into the balcony and I whisper into the ear of one of the fellows up there a sentence and I say, “Now, you turn to the next guy,” and he whispers it into the ear of the next person and it goes all the way around the room, all the way on the main floor and finally comes down here. And I say, “What was the sentence?” Now, you’ve played this game. What happens to the sentence? Goes bonkers, right? There’s no relationship between this and that.
So here’s what the scholars are saying. You see, Jesus actually lived and talked, and people saw what he did. But then it was passed on orally, word of mouth, to the next group of people and then it was passed on to the next group of people and it was passed on orally and the fact is that it went all the way down through the years. Bultmann and some others have said 200 years after the time that Jesus lived it was finally written down over here. And we all know, the fact is they were sincere, but this is why the story of Jesus is actually the story of the faith of the Church. You guys made it up as you were giving it. You didn’t hear it right or you added something or took something away and you passed it on. You were sincere, but you were sincerely passing along something that was wrong. And what is written down, we don’t know if this is myth or legend. We have a hunch that this is not history but it’s really the faith of what the people cooked up. So now that’s what they say and, of course, if that’s what happened, we’re in deep trouble.
The question is, is that what happened? What about this? What if we play the game this way. What if I go up in the balcony and I say to that young fellow, “Here’s the sentence,” and I whisper it into his ear. And after I whisper it into his ear I say, “Stand up and tell everybody.” Well, we’ve got a good shot at getting it absolutely 100% correct then, don’t we? What is the claim of the writers in the New Testament? I want to get a little academic on you. I’m not going to be easy here because they’re not going to be easy on your kids when they go to school and if you meet people that are coming out of school, this is the standard line. It’s very interesting.
I want to go, first of all, to what did the authors actually say in the book that they wrote? Have you ever seen why the New Testament writers, why they wrote their books? And again, I’m not taking it as inspired or inerrant, I just want to find out, as I’d look at Tacitus or Aristotle or anybody else, I just want to find out, “What did the guy say?” before I make a judgment.
Now, take your Bible and turn over, please, to Luke 1. Alright, now look, “Forasmuch,” Luke says, “as many”—underline the word many right off the bat—“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand”—notice, they didn’t do it just by mouth—“to set forth in order a declaration.” What is a declaration? The Greek word there is a narrative. It’s a written report. It’s a historical account. And Luke says, “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth a written account.” In other words, by the time he got there, there were already written reports circulating about Jesus. That’s very interesting, because the skeptics are saying it was all oral for the first 200 years. “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration”—notice what he’s going to talk about—“of those things which are most surely believed among us.”
What are “those things”? If you go to Acts 1, you will find there that again Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, as well as the book of Luke, his second book is Acts, and he says, “O Theophilus, the reason I wrote the former book”—which is this book we’re looking at right now—“is to tell you all the things that Jesus said and did in the land of Palestine.” Now, it’s very interesting. He’s saying, “I want to tell you about the things of Jesus’ life” —“those things which are most surely believed among us.” That is, that he’s absolutely certain took place, okay? And he says, take a look at it, “even as they delivered them unto us which from the beginning were [what?] eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” They’ve got two classes of people here. You’ve got “from the beginning eyewitnesses.” Who were they? They were the apostles, the guys that actually slept and ate with Jesus; traveled with him. They saw his ministry for his whole three and a half or four year ministry, okay? These were the fellows that knew everything that happened. Then, the other fellows, “the ministers of the word.” The Greek word here means “those who had just partial contact with Jesus.”
For example, in Luke 10, there are about 70 people that Jesus knows and sends them out personally to do business for him and tells them to come and report back to him. Those people were with him the whole time, but they were ministers of the Word; they had partial contact with Jesus but the contact that they had was accurate. They were eyewitnesses of that part. And Luke says you’ve got these two categories of people, “even as they delivered them unto us which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” In other words, those guys that had total recall of Jesus’ ministry, as well as partial, they were both writing accounts. Not only just talking it, but the fact is, they were writing it. He said, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding.” What is “perfect understanding”? The Greek there actually means to have carefully investigated everything about the life of Jesus.
In other words, it means to track it down by research. Like doing a term paper: You gather all the information, then you write it. How did he do this? What he is saying is, “Look, you’ve got these written reports by other people that are both full-time people that were with Jesus, as well as the partial people. They wrote accounts. I’ve gathered up their reports.”
Then, “I didn’t just accept it.” The guy says, “Hey, I was with Jesus for this time, or I was over here and I saw Jesus do that.” Luke says, “I didn’t just accept that.” He says, “Having had perfect understanding,” which means investigating everything carefully, he went to those people that were the eyewitnesses and He cross-checked them. Did he have the opportunity? Sure. He was one of the traveling companions of the apostle Paul. And when Paul would see the apostles, he could go up to Peter and say, “Hey, you know this guy over here says such and such. You were there, Peter. Is that what happened?” And Peter said, “Yeah.” Check that one off.
He went around checking with the original eyewitnesses the information that he had. Then notice what he says. “It seemed good to me also having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus.” In other words, he’s writing an account to him. Why? “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.” He wanted to have certainty for them.
But two things I want you to see here. Luke burst the bubble of skepticism today by saying, “Look, this was not the oral tradition that came down through the Church hundreds of years; no, eyewitnesses who were both preaching, they were also writing down what they saw, and I was on the scene. I gathered that up and I checked it with other eyewitnesses and that’s the basis upon which I am writing my account, so you know, you might have certainty in knowing these events.”
Let’s see what else some of the fellows said. Take a look at 2 Peter 1:16. Now, here’s one of those from the first, from the very beginning eyewitnesses—one of the fellows that was there the whole time.
Do you remember when Martin Scorsese came out with his film The Last Temptation of Christ? I tried to get Scorsese and his movie company, as well as Bill Bright and some of the others that were trying to make a deal with them to not show that movie, to get together and do a television program. But the lines hardened up and so we couldn’t do it. So we went out to Hollywood and filmed the first filming out there and then took the reaction of people coming through the doors and we did a program on that. Blasphemous film. Part of that film, Scorsese has the disciples sitting around the fire. Took the same skeptical stuff you can see in Newsweek magazine.
- And what it is, Peter turns over to John and he says, “Hey, John”—see, Jesus has already passed off the scene; he’s dead—Peter looks over to John and says, “You know, we’ve got to preach to the people tomorrow. What could we have Jesus do?” John says, “Well, you know, they’d sure like to have Jesus do a miracle. What do you say we have him feed 5,000 people? That would kind of go over, wouldn’t it?” See, the disciples were cooking up what Jesus did. It’s the faith of the Church, not what Jesus actually did, is what they think.
They apparently never read what Peter actually said in his book. Here he is. Take a look. 2 Peter 1:16. He says, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables.” We didn’t make up the stories. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but we were [what? This word “eyewitnesses” keeps coming up] we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
Now turn over to 1 John 1:1-3. Here’s another apostle with him the whole time. By the way, Peter, who was an apostle, was an eyewitness, he wrote a book. How do you say this comes down a couple hundred years after him? In 1 John 1:1-3, six times—you can count them now and mark it in your Bible—he’s going to say, “We have seen” or he’s going to claim, “We have heard.” Now watch; here it is. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard” —that’s number one—“which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon.” The Greek word means scrutinize carefully.
“And our hands have handled….” Why did he say “hands have handled”? Because there was this crazy theory going around called Gnosticism that said that Jesus was a ghost, okay? You don’t touch ghosts. John says, “We handled him ourselves.”
“…the word of life, for the life was manifest, it was shown.” “We”—number four—“have seen it and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was shown or manifested unto us. That which”—here we go, number five—“which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that you also may have fellowship with us and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Go down to verse 5: “This then is the message which we have heard of him and declare unto you.”
Do you get the idea this guy saw something and heard something and that’s what he’s reporting? If that’s not what he meant, then what do you do with these words? That’s what the guy said.
Don’t stop there. Take a look at Acts 1:1. Look at what it says. Here’s that word, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles” now underline the words “whom he had chosen.” This is Jesus. “To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Go down to verse 1:8: “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you and ye shall be” what? He picked them out to be what? “Witnesses.” Now he sends them out and commands them “to be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
Did the guys do what they were supposed to do? Take a look at Acts 2:22. Peter says, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him”—now look what the next words say—“in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” Now, I’m throwing this in because they were preaching to other eyewitnesses. You have pro and con right in the same audience: people that loved Jesus; people that hated Jesus. That’s very important in understanding whether or not we’ve got a truthful account.
As F. F. Bruce at Manchester University said before he died, “You couldn’t have had these guys spreading fables if they’re preaching to other people that were at the events that could say, ‘Hey, that’s not right. We were there!’” They had to be very careful about what they were saying. And here you see Peter is challenging and saying, “What I’m talking about, you were there,” okay?
Now go to Acts 2:32: “This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we all are witnesses.”
Go over the Acts 3:14-15: “But ye denied the holy one and the just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you and killed the prince of life whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses.” There’s that word again.
Acts 4:19-20: “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.’” Now look at it. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” That’s why John was there, because those are the same words John just used over in his chapter.
Take a look at Acts 4:33: “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
Go down to Acts 10. This will be the last one, not because it is the last one but because the book is loaded with this kind of stuff. Acts 10, Peter says, “How God appointed Jesus of Nazareth,” that’s who we’re talking about, “with the Holy Ghost and with power who went about doing good and healing all that were opposed of the devil, for God was with him and we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they slew and hanged on a tree, him God raised up the third day and showed him openly, not all the people but unto witnesses chosen before of God”—Acts 1 said Jesus picked them out; here it says God picked them out, same thing—“even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead and he commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and the dead.” All I want you to see is the guys claimed that they were eyewitnesses. They claimed that they were eyewitnesses.
Now, the skeptics today say, “No, no, no, no. This thing came down hundreds of years later. But actually those theories are out of date. One of the reasons is because in Egypt they found a little portion of John 5 called the Ryland’s Papyri and there you’ve got about eight verses from the Gospel of John and it’s dated at 110 AD. And that’s a copy. So the fact is, how could they have written it if the book’s already in circulation? Those theories have been out the window now for a long time, but they’re being spread around by teachers that are past the archaeological discoveries. In other words, they’re not even up on the latest things that are coming out anymore. Or, they bypass them.
For example, when were the New Testament documents written and what difference does it make to know that we have accurate, historical information which is all I’m trying to get to tonight? How do we know these guys didn’t pull a fast one on us in the stuff that they put into these books? That’s what I want to get to. Well, listen to these dates.
William F. Albright was probably the world’s foremost biblical archaeologist before he died. He taught at Johns Hopkins University. William F. Albright looked at the New Testament documents and when he put a date on them he said this. In his opinion, every one of the books that you’ve got in your New Testament were written by baptized Jews, now listen, between the time of 45 to 75 AD—from Matthew to Revelation. He says it could be as much as 50 to 80. What does that do if Albright’s correct?
The fellow that wrote the book Honest to God, John A. T. Robinson, the bishop in England, who actually was part of the “death of God” movement, didn’t believe in God, was challenged by his friends to look at the dating of when these books were written. And he looked at it and wrote a book called Redating the New Testament. And in that he made the astonishing claim that Mark was written about 40 AD, and that all of the New Testament books were written before 70 AD. And more and more scholarship is going that way.
But here’s the point: If Jesus died—look at it now—if he died about 33-35 AD, right in that area, in the newsstands you had Mark out at 40 AD, and Matthew, Luke and John between there and 60 to 70 AD, that means within the lifetime of the people that had seen Jesus do the miracles and teach the things, when they were still alive—when Jesus passed off the scene, they didn’t all pass off the scene, they were still alive—and those books came out when they were still alive. That’s why F. F. Bruce says, “Look, they couldn’t have sold you a bill of goods because they were talking to eyewitnesses that were there.”
Now, I want to give you historical connection tonight with this, okay? It’ll also tell me how old you are. I want to show you what I’m trying to get at tonight. How many of you here, you remember exactly where you were at, you remember who you were with, you remember what you were saying when you heard these words: “The President of the United States has been shot,” talking about John F. Kennedy. How many can remember exactly where you were? Sure. Doesn’t take long. Do you remember watching Jackie Kennedy come off that airplane with her pink dress splattered with the blood of the President? Do you remember seeing Lyndon Johnson put his hand up in the airplane, solemnly, his face haggard, taking the oath of office? Do you remember how the nation shut down and just, I mean, everybody was dragging. We watched the casket being rolled through the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue going down the way, the horses carrying the casket of the President that was flag-draped? We watched John-John and Caroline walking down the street and they got down to the gravesite and John-John ripped our hearts out by going to a salute. There was his dad. Remember that? Just a few sentences and you can bring back the very emotions that you had.
But now, what if somebody came along and said, “You know, here’s how Kennedy really died. Here’s how he died. There was an Indian standing on the street in Dallas, and he had a bow and arrow, and he took the bow, shot the arrow and got Kennedy right in the head and that’s how he died.”
You would say, “No, that’s not how it happened.”
Why? Because you were an eyewitness via television or maybe you actually were on the streets in Dallas.
I was speaking at the First Baptist Church in Dallas and I was going through this and it was one of those whirlwind schedules where you just kind of traveled the country and I was talking along and all of a sudden the place went absolutely dead quiet. I thought, “What did I say? What did I say?” And I realized, I was only two or three blocks away from where Kennedy had been shot, and the very people I was talking to, many of them had been there and they were replaying it in their mind. They were eyewitnesses.
Now, Oliver Stone, he came out with this movie trying to reconstruct how Kennedy was shot. How did they dispel what he was saying? They went to the eyewitnesses. They finally got the doctor to come out and say, “No, no, no. Here’s the way it actually happened.” The eyewitnesses were there and they said, “This is not how it happened. This is how it happened.”
So people just can’t manipulate historical facts, especially when the eyewitnesses are still alive. Now, how long ago was President Kennedy shot? 1963. It’s ‘93, so that’s 30 years, 31 years ago that happened, and you can still recall vividly where you were at, what was going on. You have not forgotten. Nobody could pull a fast one on you.
The books of the New Testament came out 15, 20, 30 years after Jesus passed off the scene and they came out among the eyewitnesses who were still alive. And if anybody was going to pooh-pooh these accounts, if anybody was going to say these are not right, they should have done it then. But they didn’t.
You remember Mark 2. What happened? Jesus is in a meeting and these guys ripped up the roof and they let down a fellow that had never walked. And Jesus looked at the fellow that had never walked and what did he say? “Your sins be forgiven.” Why didn’t he just say “Be healed”? Well, immediately when Jesus said, “Your sins be forgiven,” in the room the religious leaders were there, the place was jammed out. The religious leaders said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that.” Why? What was happening?
Josephus talks in his Antiquities about a fellow by the name of Theudas—not an everyday name. And Theudas claimed to be God’s messiah and he was going to have to do a miracle, okay? So he, to do his miracle, went down to the Jordan River. Got down the Jordan River and he had this big crowd of Jews there and he said, “Part, Jordan!” Nothing happened. And he shouted at the water for four hours. And when nothing happened, they had a rock party and they killed him, okay? It’s a very dangerous thing to claim that you’re God’s Messiah or God’s Son and be a false one. That’s blasphemy.
Jesus said, “Your sins be forgiven.” The religious leaders said, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Only God can forgive sins. Who do you think you are? God? Come on! That’s blasphemy.” And all of a sudden they thought they were going to have another rock party.
Now, it’s very interesting. The skeptics say Jesus never said he was God. And Jesus, in Mark 2, if he realized that these guys were about ready to stone him and they had misinterpreted him to think that he actually had the power to forgive sins, he should have said, “Oh, guys, wash my mouth out. Cancel that last statement. I’m not saying I’m God. Goodness’ sakes!” But he didn’t say that.
What did Jesus say? They said, “This is blasphemy!” He asked them a question, he said, “Let me ask you this: Which is easier for me to do in this situation: ‘Your sins be forgiven’ or ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
Let me ask you: What would be the easiest thing for Jesus to say in that situation? Well, listen what the situation is. They’re saying, “Jesus, you are claiming to be God and you’re a phony. But anybody that comes and claims to be the Messiah or claims to be the Son of God, they’ve got to do a miracle. That’s what the prophets said. You’ve got to do a miracle. So Jesus, you’re trying to pass on us a phony miracle to back up your phony claim that you’re God.” If that was true, what would have been the easiest thing for Jesus to do in that situation if he was not God and he was a phony? Would it have been to say to the fellow that had never walked, “You’re healed, go on home”?
If you were in that position and you had no power, would you say to a guy that’s never walked, “Fellow, get up.” Because what’s going to happen? The guy’s not going to get up. And then what’s going to happen? They’re going to stone you right on the spot. So you don’t want to say that. You want to say the other statement that Jesus made.
What was the other statement? You want to say, “Now, look at this. Watch this, everybody. I’m God’s Son. I’m the Messiah. Now, watch this, I’m going to give you a miracle. Are you ready? Watch Lymon over here. He’s never walked before. Watch this. You’re healed!” Well, he doesn’t get up then you’re dead. But if you say, “Watch this. Your sins are forgiven. Did you see that? No, you didn’t see that. So if I say, “Hey, his sins are really, really, really forgiven,” you say, “That’s a lousy miracle, Jesus. We can’t see that. That’s why you’re a phony. That’s why we know you’re not God.” That’s what they were saying. And Jesus said, that would be the easiest thing if I was like you think, namely a phony. That would be the easiest thing for me to get out of the situation with my life is just to say, “Here’s the miracle. Your sins are forgiven.” And walk out of here because you couldn’t prove it one way or the other.
But did you ever read what Jesus said? He says, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say unto you, ‘Take up your bed and walk,’” and the man got up and walked out in front of all of them and they were all amazed. And Jesus was saying, “Look, when you see this thing that you can understand, that you can see, namely this man walking, you’ll know that I can do this other thing that you can’t see, namely, forgive sins.” To me he was saying, “Folks, I’m God,” and pushing it right in their face.
You know what’s fun is that came out in the first book that was on the newsstands, the book of Mark, according to the skeptics. What’s fun is that the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, were sitting right in the audience. If that was on the newsstands five, ten, fifteen years after the time that Jesus passed off the scene and those religious leaders were there, they could have said, “That never happened; we were there.” But nobody said that.
And that’s why we know we’ve got accurate, historical information about Jesus. These books came out too early. They came out by people that claimed to be eyewitnesses.
But I want to close on this thing tonight. Maybe you’re getting the idea, we have information about Jesus in history—you can’t walk away from it; it really happened—by eyewitnesses. Jesus, in Mark 2, claimed he could forgive sins. When we get to heaven there’s only going to be one person with an “S” on their sweatshirt and that’s Jesus. He is the Savior. Remember what the angel said at Christmas: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is”—did they put your name there? —“which is Christ the Lord.” Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. He is the one that can forgive sins. He is the only one that can forgive sins. If your sins are going to be forgiven, he’s the only one that can do it. It doesn’t happen any other way. He went to the cross; he died on the cross; he paid for the sins of the world. He was put into a grave; he arose the third day. He’s in heaven now. He’s living. He sent out his eyewitnesses of those events to say it happened and go and tell them that if they want to have a relationship with God, if they want to be forgiven, they can have it immediately. It’s free. It’s grace. “I’ve done all the work. I’ll change your life. I’ll put the Holy Spirit of God in your life.”
And that’s how the Church started and it spread across the world and it’s come down to this day and we’re preaching the same message.
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