JESUS: THE ONGOING EVIDENCE

The second in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2012 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Jesus: The Ongoing Evidence

The original evidence for Jesus is his resurrection. His ongoing evidence is the Church, his Bride, and what she, by God’s Spirit, gives, in love, to the welfare of each other and the world. (Mk 2:19; Matt 25:1-13; Eph 5; Rom 7)

In Jesus’ day, world population was around 300 million. Today, it’s 7 billion. And 2.3 billion are Christians. The Christian population is rising faster than the world’s population is increasing. Since 1912, the Christian population has quadrupled, and Evangelicals and Pentecostals account for the fastest rate of growth – especially in sub-Sahara Africa and in the Asia-Pacific region. In America, 75 percent identify as Christian – that’s higher than in any other country. In Europe’s increasingly secularized society, the Christian population is in decline.

The second largest world religion is Islam, with 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Although Jesus’ followers cannot be equated with Western civiliza­tion as such, Western civilization was built from a Christian worldview and on a largely Christian cultural consensus. Without Jesus’ resurrec­tion, there would have been no Christian worldview, and therefore no Western civilization as we’ve known it and know it.

British social critic Theodore Dalrymple is an atheist, but he recog­nizes that, for atheists “to regret religion is to regret Western civiliza­tion.” Even Western atheism and secularism are reactions to Christianity – or, to its caricatures. They’re derivative and negative. So, without the resurrection of Jesus, Richard Dawkins would have neither his New Atheist hobbyhorse nor his fame. Does he know whom to thank? And, had Jesus not been raised from the dead, this weekend’s resurrection deniers in Durham would not be meeting there – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Without Jesus’ resurrection, there’d be no EC. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, we’d probably never have met each other. We’d certainly not be here at Ocean Grove; there’d be no Ocean Grove. There’d have been no Methodists to found Ocean Grove and the timbers of this chapel would have been used for some other purpose.

And, since Christianity gave rise to Western civilization, it also gave rise to America. America was never meant to be a theocracy, but as the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of what he saw here for himself in 1831: “There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”

Strange, how today’s smug secularists so easily assume that the world they know would be the world they’d know, whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. They imagine that things would be about the same as things are – except, we’d be safely “secular” and not have to put up with all these stupid Christians and all the terrible things that Christians have done and still do.

But, since human beings – created in God’s image – have always had an awareness of God as well as an awareness of estrangement from God, why do secularists not assume that they’d have been up against worse religion without Christianity? Religion is ubiquitous and unremitting. Are they historically naïve, illiterate, shortsighted? They seem to have no idea how bad things have been and are under other religions and even under atheist regimes of substitute religion.

At any rate, without Jesus’ resurrection, we’d have had a different world. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we’d have a different world. I’m not conjuring a counterfactual history, here. I’m stating facts of history, because facts don’t speak for themselves. And, without Christianity, I don’t mean we’d be missing merely the tremendous Christian influence on centuries of literature, music and art.

Remember that, when Jesus was asked to rank the very most important commandment, he quoted from the Hebrew scripture: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might ….” (6:5) Then, on his own, clearly assuming the prerogative of Almighty God, he added: “… and with all your mind.” (Mk 12:30) For nearly 2,000 years, this is what rational, Christian-indebted, Westerners have done in the science and technology that’s synonymous with West­ern civilization. Such is the ongoing intellectual, creative and cultural evidence for Jesus.

Listen to this from the co-editor of the 8-volume Cambridge History of Science: “No institution or cultural force of the patristic period [i.e., the first half dozen centuries after Christ] offered more encouragement for the investigation of nature than did the Christian church.” (David C. Lindberg)

In the 13th-century, Franciscan friar Roger Bacon was one of the earliest advocates of the scientific method. He saw God’s revelation as having been given in “The Book of Scripture” and in “The Book of Nature.” Bacon’s revolutionary ideas anticipated the scientific advance of the 17th-century. The physicist for whom Joule’s Laws are named said: “After the knowledge of, and obedience to, the will of God, the next aim must be to know something of His attributes of wisdom, power and goodness as evidenced in His handiwork.” (James Joule) The astronomer who discovered infrared radiation, the planet, Uranus, its moons and moons of Saturn, once quipped to his brother: “The undevout astronomer must be mad!” (William Heschel)

Science moved ahead on the Christian assumptions of devout Chris­tians – several of whom were monks, friars, priests and bishops. Their very names are a history of science: Paracelsus, Leonardo, Vesalius, Copernicus, Bacon, Grosseteste, Occam, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, Descartes, Pascal, Steno, Heschel, Newton, Leibniz, Priestley, Lavoisier, Dalton, Ohm, Faraday, Simpson, Pasteur, Mendel, Kelvin, Joule, Lister, Maxwell, Gray, Fleming, Planck, Lemaitre, Polanyi, Jaki, Sandage, Bar­bour, Collins, et al. And though many scientists today are atheists, they’re living on the leftovers of a Christian worldview, relying on the universal laws of the Lawgiver they don’t acknowledge. So be it. God sends His sunshine, rainfall and scientific laws on them all. (Mt 5:45)

The Astronomer Royal, astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, says he’s “a skeptic.” He says: “I have no religious belief.” Still, he says he’s “a ‘tribal Christian,’ happy to attend church services … to be nourished by the music and liturgy of the Church in which I was brought up.” Last year, he was awarded the world’s most lucrative prize, The Templeton Prize and a million pounds sterling, for “the questions he inspires” for spiritual progress. Rees observes that, although human brains can “grasp the counterintuitive mysteries of the cosmos and the quantum,” he’s aware that, “there seems no reason why they should be matched to every intellectual quest,” so, he suspects that, “we could easily be as unaware of crucial aspects of reality as a monkey is of the theory of relativity.” Might even this inkling relate to what Paul called our God-given awareness of God? Rees is quite critical of dogmatic atheists like Daw­kins. He calls for closing the “religion v science” debate. Dawkins calls him a “compliant quisling.”

It was a non-Christian, the mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead, who called Christianity “the mother of modern science.” He, too, noted that the origin of science required Christian theology’s “insistence on the rationality of God.” Without what he termed, this “inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles, the incredible labors of scientists would be without hope.” Physicist and philosopher of science Stanley Jaki agreed. Jaki observed that science was born and bred in the Christian West because that’s where it was understood that the natural world is “subject to a Mind and Lawgiver transcendent to it.” All of this is further ongoing evidence of Jesus.

Unlike Christianity, Islam failed to reconcile faith and reason. Some Greek works of mathematics, for example, were translated into Arabic in the Middle Ages. But, not only must Islamic science submit to the Koran, Muslim education is largely rote recitation and drill in the Koran. So, as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports: “Science in the Muslim world is now in a sorry state.” Says a Turkish-American physicist: “It’s dismal. If all Muslim scientists working in basic science vanished from the face of the earth, the rest of the scientific community would barely notice.” (Taner Edis) Islamic countries contribute only about 1 percent of the world’s scientific papers. In a UNESCO study of 20 countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, it was found that these countries spend only 0.34 percent of GDP on scientific research. … Islamic countries have fewer than ten scientists, engineers and technicians per 1,000 people. In the West it’s 140 per 1,000.

The ongoing evidence of Jesus is also represented in the history of sanctity of life, charity and mercy expressed in asylums and hospitals to care for widows and orphans, the sick and the dying. The history of the advocacy of dignity for women, children and laborers is more evidence. In the Roman world, early Christians rescued discarded children who were left to die of exposure, starvation or as food for wild animals. In pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures, women and children were and are the property of men. And hard work was and is what slaves, prisoners and debtors do. For many centuries, Muslims traded goods with African tribal leaders in exchange for millions of Africans they then sold as slaves to Christians in the West. But those evils were challenged and finally ended through Christian efforts, as was racial segregation. Yet slavery and human trafficking still exist under the protection of non-Christian regimes.

In China today, Christians protect women from state-enforced abortions. Elsewhere, Christians challenge abortion on demand and contend against enforced clitoridectomies that usually include destruc­tion of the labia, too. Christians ended thousands of years of painfully deforming practices in China and Japan, where the feet of women were bound and bones of their feet broken to force their feet to be no more than 3 inches in length – an alleged status symbol and a “turn on” for Asian men. Christians put an end to the Hindu obligation of suttee, the widow’s duty of self-immolation upon the funeral pyre of her dead hus­band. The literal meaning of suttee is “a good woman.” Christians also worked against the Indian caste system that, for hundreds of centuries, labeled and discarded people as “untouchables.” Christians have opposed the so-called “honor killings” of Muslim women. Christians extended education for women and voting rights for women.

Over 20 million widows are struggling for survival in sub-Sahara Africa because, when a husband dies, the widow inherits nothing and the husband’s relatives evict her from the house she’d shared with him. This has been tribal tradition in ancient animism down to today. Rwanda has had a corrective constitution since 2003, but it’s not being implemented on behalf of widows. So, American Christians have been intervening. For example, 200 of Rick Warren’s Saddleback network of 2,200 pastors in Rwanda are trained in the prevention of these land grabs. Such is the ongoing evidence of Jesus.

All of these endeavors were and are rooted in the teachings of Jesus and in Christian theology: God created all human beings in His image and, in Christ, is reconciling the whole world to Himself. Ancient divisions of race, ethnicity, tribe, gender, economics and social standing were challenged by Jesus and by his example of unconventional, coun­tercultural contact with women, children, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, Gentiles and other rejected and marginalized persons. Paul picked up on this, writing to Christians in Galatia: “There’s neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free and no male and female, for, in Christ Jesus, you are all one.” (Gal 3:28)

And EC’s good friend, the eminent philosopher, Nick Wolterstorff, affirms that, Western assumptions of human dignity, justice and concern for civil rights are based in the Bible and in Christian theology. Such is the ongoing evidence of Jesus’ love.

Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” (Mt 5:44) In contrast, and as a leading historian of the Middle East observes, loving one’s enemies is considered absurd and a “dereliction of duty” in Islam. (Bernard Lewis) The same is true in animism that can infect, with malevolence, every world religion – including Christianity. And, in atheist totalitarianism there’s no loving of enemies – whether the dictator is Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot or a Kim. Under such regimes, no dissident has ever or would ever be safe from entrapment, intimidation, sanctions, arrest without warrant, imprisonment without trial, torture and death.

Now, as I’ve indicated, Christians certainly have failed to live Jesus’ love and his call as regards loving all. We, ourselves, individually, fail at it every day, don’t we? Christians don’t hold to the doctrine of human depravity for no good reason. It’s not for nothing that we confess our sins. But, note carefully, when Christians confess sin, we’re to do it as Jesus taught us to do it: By asking for forgiveness as we forgiveas we love and care for the welfare of those who mistreat us. (Mt 6:12)

So, when people wrong us, when they spread false witness about us, our responsibility is to forgive them. There are, indeed, slanderous clichés about Christians. For example, those who are quick to blame Christianity for the sins of the Spanish Inquisition fail to note that, in that dark era, secular courts were so severe that prisoners tried to be tried in ecclesi­astical courts. Why? Only one percent of Inquisition trials ended in a death sentence. Now, this does not excuse the sins of the Inquisition. Those sins were sins against Christ as well as against others. Nonetheless, the historical context can explain something without ex­plaining it away. And the Crusades, too, committed atrocities. Many of these, though, were in retaliation for siege after siege of Islamic jihad that pushed across the Middle East and then into Europe, savaging, slaughtering or enslaving all who refused to submit to Islam. Whether on 9/11/1683 at the humiliating Gates of Vienna or on 9/11/2001 here in America or on 9/11/2012 at our embassies in Libya and Egypt – it’s been a continuing Islamic “holy war” for subjugation of all peoples. It’s believed to be the will of Allah. Again, the historical context can explain events without explaining them away. But, the Crusades nonetheless sinned against Christ as well as against Muslims.

But, whether old Christendom or the new Religious Right and Religious Left, a Southern Baptist theologian reminds Christians that, trying “to enforce our gospel the Caesarian way … only covers paganism in a Christian veneer.” He observes, “A religion that needs state power to enforce obedience to its beliefs is a religion that has lost confidence in the power of its Deity.” (Russell D. Moore) This insight, too, is the ongoing evidence of Jesus’ presence.

Pilate heard Jesus say: “My kingdom is not from this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus’ statement could never truly give legitimacy, encour­agement, aid or comfort to so-called “Christian” emperors, Inquisitors, Crusaders, Puritan politicos or the newer theocratic thugs of Left and Right.

The ways of coercion were not the ways of the one who wept over Jerusalem’s hard-hearted disbelievers, lamenting “O Jerusalem, Jeru­salem, you kill the prophets of God and stone those God sent to you! How often I’ve longed to gather your children to safety, as a hen gathers her young, but you were not willing.” (Matt 23:37) Coercion was not Paul’s way, either. Turned from the violence of his pre-Christian ways, Paul dealt with false teachers by turning them over to their own delu­sions, so that shunning might bring them to their senses. (I Tim 1:20; Titus 3:10) Far from coercion, Paul wrote to the Romans: “I could wish myself accursed from Christ” if, by my self-sacrifice, unbelievers would come to faith. (Rom 9:3)

The ways of coercion were not the ways of the best of the church fathers. Said Tertullian in the 3rd-century: “It’s a fundamental right, a privilege of nature, that everyone should worship according to his own convictions.” The Christian apologist, Lactantius, wrote in the 4th-century: “People cannot be forced to worship what they do not wish to worship.” Luther told the German princes – secular authorities – that they “should not forbid any to teach, believe or say whatever he wants to teach, believe or say – whether the Gospel or lies.” This is ongoing evidence of the non-coercive Jesus.

From the beginning, Christians placed importance on education and that emphasis continued and increased. By mid-19th century America, churches had founded 92 percent of all our colleges. Congregationalists had founded Harvard with this stated purpose: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main [purpose] of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ [who] is eternal life, (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ underneath, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Congrega­tionalists founded Yale, too. Baptists founded Brown, Presbyterians founded Princeton, Episcopalians founded Columbia and Methodists founded Northwestern and USC. Even some of what are now state uni­versities can trace their beginnings to Christian schools. Such is still more ongoing evidence of Jesus.

Apart from these ongoing and welcomed, but often obscured, links to Jesus’ resurrection – at least so far as the general public’s aware – is what, increasingly, secularists deride as Christian “proselytizing.” Proselytizing! – sounds so awful! Sort of sounds like prostitution, hmm? So, call it advertising, announcing, apprising, informing, inviting, en­dorsing, persuading, selling, giving a heads-up or making a pitch or a point! Who doesn’t “proselytize”? From the ads of Madison Avenue to the advocacy of MADD or GLAAD, from the HRC to the FRC, from Occupiers to Tea Partiers, Democrats, Republicans and even the New Atheists – they all proselytize. If you’ve ever been in an argument, you’ve proselytized and been proselytized. So, how is it that, when Christians do it, as Christians, it’s said to offend? It’s denounced as intolerant! The “offended” protest: “We won’t tolerate it!”

Well, Christians have always “proselytized” – it’s called evange­lizing, the sharing of God’s Good News. How could those first Christians not tell of this Good News? They’d seen the risen Christ! They’d been sent by the risen Christ specifically to share this Good News with the whole world. Yet, the world’s response never fails to include contempt – whether from early Temple priests or pagans and other religionists all over the world or from today’s smug and cynical secularists. There’s still disdain and even deadly retaliation. Of course there is! It’s the ongoing evidence of Jesus’ unwanted presence. As Jesus warned: “They’ll hate you because of me.” (Matt 10:22) “If they persecuted me, they’ll also persecute you.” (John 15:18)

Naturally, the Gospel is an offense to those who want to be their own gods and saviors, if, indeed, they admit to needing a god or a savior or that there’s anything about them from which they need to be saved. Still, through one persecution after another and to generation after generation, Christians have shared the ancient witness of the risen Christ and Life eternal.

The Good News was, at first, mainly shared by word of mouth, though it was also being written down. Eventually, the first witnesses were passing away, and Christians wanted to make sure that written records would survive for future generations. So, they collected Paul’s letters that circulated in the 50s, an early history by Paul’s traveling companion, Luke, and, of course, the Gospel’s early accounts known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It was a liberal scholar, John A. T. Robinson, author of 1963’s explo­sive bestseller, Honest to God, who contended for the earliest of dates for Mark, Matthew and John. He dated them in the mid-40s and dated Luke in the 50s. One of his reasons is that none of these documents mentions the trauma of the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd temple in AD 70.

His fellow liberals’ cynicism about his early dating was due to what he termed their “tyranny of unexamined assumptions [and an] almost willful blindness.” Renowned Bible scholar C. H. Dodd added: “Much of the late dating is quite arbitrary, even wanton, the offspring not of any argument that can be presented, but rather of the critic’s prejudice that, if he appears to assent to the traditional position of the early church, he will be thought no better than a stick-in-the-mud.” That anxiety is still real. In the political realities of academia, one must please those in positions of power or forget about finishing one’s doctoral program, let alone ever getting tenure.

But there’s something even more significant about the early dating and that’s the thoroughgoing Semitic setting of these four gospels. Says N. T. Wright: “The historicity of the Gospels depends, not on when they were written, but the historical plausibility of the picture they describe.” He explains: “The stories about Jesus are not … retrojection of early Christian ideas and experience back onto him” and they’re certainly not retrojection of dogma from several centuries later, as skeptics propa­gandize. Wright avers: “They fit within the world of Judaism, and yet are clearly explosive within that world. They make sense as the reason why there was a ‘Christianity’ in the first place, yet they are significantly different from what we find even in the letters [to largely Hellenic congregations from] Paul (our earliest written witness to Christianity). [These stories of Jesus] belong, historically, only in the time of, and to the person of, Jesus himself.” They show that, “Jesus was being heavily criticized by the guardians of the ancestral traditions because he was celebrating the kingdom [of God], not with the righteous and the religious elite, but with all and sundry – with the riff-raff, the no-goods, the down-and-outs.”

And, unlike the much later, but merely, alleged “gospels” of the Gnostic cults, each of these truly primitive Gospels is constructed as a preamble to a long narrative of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. The letters of Paul, too, are full of testimony about the crucified and risen Christ whom he’d met on the Damascus road while in persecuting pursuit of the first Christians.

What do the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say about Jesus? Contrary to what skeptics want them to say and contrary to what the later Gnostic “Jesus” is made to say, these early reports say what the writers and compilers of the oral tradition knew Jesus had said and what they knew Jesus had done. Their accounts of Jesus’ own words and deeds can be called, in a real sense, the autobiographical Jesus. He’s Semitic, not Gnostic. He’s rooted in Jewish history and culture. And yet, in this ages-old monotheistic Jewish culture, and literally overnight, his first Jewish followers received and preached the risen Jesus as God in flesh.

In his behavior and in his noting that “no prophet is without honor, except in his home country,” Jesus assumed the role of a prophet. (Mk 6:4) He behaved as a rabbi (a teacher) and accepted being called such. (Mk 9:5) On his own, he did what a priest did, declaring sinners “clean” and “forgiven.” (Mk 1:4; 2:5) In response to the imprisoned Baptizer’s confusion as to whether or not Jesus was, indeed, “the one to come,” he affirmed that he was messiah by noting the many ways that he was fulfilling Isaiah’s messianic prophesies. (Mt 11:2-6) Jesus’ major self-designation was “Son of Man,” the title of the one that scripture says comes, “as a son of man, from the throne of God, and is given authority, glory and sovereign power. All nations and all peoples of every language will worship him. His reign is everlasting.” (Dan 7:13f)

Caiaphas, Rome’s puppet high priest in Jerusalem, interrogated Jesus, asking him if he was, indeed, “Messiah, son of the Blessed One.” Jesus answered, plainly: “I am.” And Jesus went further than that. Again, referencing that messianic passage, he tells Caiaphas: “You will see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14:61f) Caiaphas knew what Jesus was claiming and saw that it threatened his own religious authority. So, with formal gestures of horror and disgust, he tore his religious robes and yelled: “We need no more witnesses. We have heard his blasphemy from his own lips!”

The Baptist and Caiaphas were not the first to hear such claims from Jesus. Says Evans: “Earliest Christianity regarded Jesus as Messiah and as Son of God, I think, because that is how his disciples understood him and how Jesus permitted them to understand him. In short,” he says, “we have a significant number of people who knew Jesus and who knew those who knew Jesus. We have an unbroken chain of transmission from the time of Jesus himself on through the first century and on into the second and third centuries and beyond. We have writings from people who knew Jesus (one or two of the Gospels, perhaps also the letters of James, Jude and I Peter) and from people acquainted with the original family members and disciples of Jesus (such as Paul, probably Papias and perhaps also Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp).”

Writing to Christians at Philippi, Paul includes an earlier hymn that hails Jesus in such shocking terms that it can be accounted by nothing less than the shockingly joyous intervening variable of Jesus’ resur­rection. In easily memorized rhythmic prose, these meticulously mono­theistic Jews had been worshipping the Nazarene as the equal to God, the essence of God, who nonetheless, emptied himself, becoming a human being – literally a “son of man” – to die on a Roman cross. And then – and then – to be raised up from death and gifted by God with the designation of “LORD,” God’s personal, ineffable, unspeakable name above every name so that at the name of Yeshua / YAHWEH, every knee in the universe would bow, all the tongues of the cosmos would confess: “Jesus is LORD” to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11)

Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, assuring them that he’d received the revelation of Christ from the risen Christ, himself. (1:12) He writes to Christians at Corinth, telling them that he’d also learned about the earliest disciples’ experience of Jesus. And the wording he cites from those earliest followers sounds creedal, suggesting that, as early as the late 30s and 40s, Christian faith already had been formulated in very familiar phrasing, no doubt for both liturgical and pedagogical purposes. Even reference to Peter as, Cephas, his Hebrew name, is kept in the cited passage. Paul writes: “I handed on to you, as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, then he appeared to more than five hundred believers at one time. Most of them are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born out of due time, he appeared also to me.” (I Cor 15:3-8)

Paul notes, as he had to Galatians, of Corinthians who were denying Jesus’ bodily resurrection. He says that, if they’re right, our faith is futile, and we’re still perishing in sin, more to be pitied than anyone. (I Cor 15:16-18)

Some always have vested interest in denying the resurrection – Temple priests, Paul before he met the risen Christ, old Greeks, steeped in a radical distinction between Form and physical, modern materialists and atheists, etc.

In 56, Paul again wrote to Corinthians: “In Christ, God was recon­ciling the world to himself.” (II Cor 5:19) He amplified on this theme, using Hebrew idiom that conflates “sin” and “sin offering” when he adds that God made Christ Jesus, who had no sin of his own, “to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” This high Christology is from the one who, in God’s name, had persecuted Chris­tians. His radical change can be attributed to nothing in his cultural milieu. As with the others, it was his meeting the risen Christ that was convincing and life changing.

In February, at the University of North Carolina, over 1,000 students and others attended a debate on the question: “Is the Original New Testament Text Lost?” Sponsored by The Ehrman Project, it pitted UNC professor Bart Ehrman against Daniel Wallace, Dallas Seminary biblical text scholar. It was the third time these two men debated each other on the Gospel texts.

Wallace noted: We have sixty manuscripts from the first 200 years after the composition of the New Testament. That’s three times the manuscripts for the average classical author in 2,000 years. We have “20,000 in various languages, and about a million quotations of the [NT] from the church fathers, reaching back as early as the first century. And these thousands of manuscripts come from all over the Mediterranean region, showing that no early conspiracy to conform the manuscripts to one text-form existed.”

In debate, Wallace quoted Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus, where even Ehrman admits that no essential belief is affected by the 40,000 variants among the manuscripts. Wallace reports: “Bart had said … that the bloody sweat passage in Luke 22:43f was not part of Luke’s Gospel originally and … I agreed. In my closing statement I pointed out that this presupposed that Bart knew what the original text of Luke was saying.” Wallace concludes, then: “Even Bart ultimately has to claim that the original wording is available to us.”

We have a trustworthy Word of Good News. Let’s hear it. Let’s read it. Let’s study it. Let’s do it.

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