Image by Arturo Rey

The Evidence for Jesus Christ

PDF Version 

Evidence for the Deity and Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

 

The evidence for the life and death of Jesus is very good, despite some prominent YouTube atheist/ sceptics attempts to tell you otherwise E.g. Aron Ra and Matt Dillahaunty, Aron Ra believing Jesus never existed  (1) and Dillahaunty being essentially unsure (2). I will endeavour to try and bring out the best evidence I think there is to show that:

  1. Jesus existed and died by crucifixion on the order of Pontius Pilate.

  2. Jesus believed himself to be the son of God and not a late embellishment.

  3. The disciples and a certain number of the women followers believed they saw Jesus after his crucifixion, despite every reason to the contrary.

  4. Hostile witnesses – James the brother of Jesus and Paul (Saul). James thought Jesus was crazy and is an eyewitness. Saul, had a promising career in the Sanhedrin, claimed to see Jesus’s resurrected body, and spoke with at least some of the disciples.

It seems necessary before we delve into this rewarding study, to face head-on the prominent view the Bible is somehow suspect and unreliable. The idea being that the Bible isn’t a source of reliable information, as; 1. There are too many inconsistencies. 2. The authors are biased and likely compared notes. 3. The Bible is self referencing, meaning it is like arguing in a circle. 4. The authors wrote decades after the event. 5. The authors of the Bible didn’t write historically accurately.

Do any of these objections carry any weight?

The simple answer is no!

But, before I continue, I do not wish to make this a dissertation, so I will try and make this as short as possible, referencing where possible and allowing the reader to do some research themselves, if they are dubious of the claims.

The burden of proof demanded on the Bible by atheists and sceptics a like would require that all ancient documents be destined to the scrapheap. For example, if we take the best comparison, Homers Iliad, we have under 650 known copies approximately 95% accurate, written 500 years after the original copy, the New Testament (NT) we have approximately 5,800 Greek, 10,000 Latin and 9,300 in various other languages, with the earliest Greek manuscripts being around 100 years after the event (from authors 1st writtings), being 99.5% accurate (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8). Even with these 100 years or so after the event, with the sheer number and the high fidelity of the copies, it is possible to get back to what the original would have said. What about other sources, are they any better?  Pliny the younger, contemporary with some of the disciples, has 7 known copies with the earliest being 750 years after the event.(3)

J.P. Moreland a professor at Talbot school of Theology at Biola University writes “apologists have often appealed to three general tests for historicity: the bibliographical test, the internal test, and the external test. The internal test asks whether the document itself claims to be actual history written by eyewitnesses...The external test asks whether material external to the document (in this case, archaeology or the writings of the early church fathers) confirms the reliability of the document. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to delve into the external test. But it should be pointed out that the New Testament has been remarkably confirmed time and again by external evidence. This is not to say there are no problems; but to the unbiased observer, little doubt can be cast on the statement that archaeology has confirmed the historical reliability of the New Testament”. (3)(9)(10) The bibliographical test we have briefly looked at in the way of comparison with the amount of manuscript evidence and copies we have, in terms of sheer copies and accuracy, makes the NT very favourable. Moreland continues “Too much can be made of this evidence, which alone does not establish the trustworthiness of the New Testament. All it shows is that the text we currently possess is an accurate representation of the original New Testament documents. Most historians accept the textual accuracy of other ancient works on far less adequate manuscript grounds than is available for the New Testament.

In this regard, the following statement about the New Testament by R. Joseph Hoffmann is naive: "What we possess are copies of copies, so far removed from anything that might be called a 'primary' account that it is useless to speculate about what an original version of the gospel would have included."

As I have shown, the copies of the New Testament are not far removed from the originals. Furthermore, Hoffmann is using the wrong sense of the term original as it is employed in historical investigation. As Louis Gottschalk points out, [A primary source] does not, however, need to be original in the legal sense of the word original – that is, the very document (usually the first written draft) whose contents are the subject of discussion – for quite often a later copy or a printed edition will do just as well; and in the case of the Greek and Roman classics seldom are any but later copies available.”(3)

This point is critical to the understanding of the topic, it isn’t necessarily the case we need the very original document written to establish its reliability and authenticity, as no ancient document has this provenance, and it would be ridiculous to demand so, especially when critics only apply it to the NT! A bit of consistency would be nice.

I think, therefore we have good grounds to allow the NT some credibility and grant it at least as “historical”.  

Other work, which establishes the historicity of the NT are:

  • Why are there differences in the gospels? : what we can learn from ancient biography by Michael R. Licona – Showing that the NT writers used the Greco-Roman style of accounting history and that ‘Spotlighting’ among others is used when describing events.

  • Evidence that demands a Verdict – life changing truths for a skeptical world by Josh and Sean McDowell – a treaties on the evidence as a whole.

  • The Resurrection of Jesus – A new historiographical approach by Michael R. Licona – Licona goes through in great detail what we can know historically about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, great refutations to some of the leading sceptics in the discipline and detailed research on each of the books in the NT.

  • The Historical Jesus – Ancient Evidence for The Life of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas – In depth evidence for the historicity, good refutation on the Jesus seminar hypotheses, invaluable insights on the creeds and primary sources.

  • The case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ by Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona – A shorter book giving excellent evidence for the historicity of the Bible and examining worldviews.

  • Evidence for the Historical Jesus – Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith? By Gary R. Habermas – Goes through his famous “minimal facts" argument.  

Why is the Bible only 99.5% accurate? By this they mean, if the Bible is written by God, shouldn’t it be error free? It is important to define terms carefully, when a Christian says the Bible is ‘inspired’ or ‘written’ by God, we don’t literally mean God wrote it. We mean, God used mankind to deliver His word to the people, using language that they would have understood at the time. “Inerrancy is qualified as a characteristic of all that the Bible affirms, in all of its teachings. Many people, Christian and not, seem to think that inerrancy means that anything they read in the Bible must be free of error, according to what it appears to say, at first glance.”(11) So, we as ‘moderns’ need to remember the Bible is old, written by different authors,  in a culture and language that is alien to us, it is therefore,  important to understand the context it was written in, who it was for, why it was written and the understanding of their days. For example, when you watch the weather report, and the weather presenter says “sunrise at 07:55” or whatever, they don’t literally think the sun rises, it is an apparent observation, so we shouldn’t think the Bible is teaching us the sun literally rises to the earth.

There are errors in the Bible, but they are like what we call typos or spelling mistakes (12), the errors make no difference to any key doctrine of faith, as Bart Ehrman writes “Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions—he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not—we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement—maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands. The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” (13)

 

So, what about the internal evidence?

 

Before we look specifically at the Bible, I think it necessary to show some of the evidence that the Bible is of Greco-Roman style of history, as this isn’t what sceptics will typically allow or believe.  On page 20 of Michael Licona's work “Why are there differences in the gospels” he refers to some of the literary devices Plutarch would use in writing historical events,“

 

Transferal:  When an author knowingly attributes words or deeds to a person that actually belonged to another person, the author has transferred the words or deeds.

Displacement:  When an author knowingly uproots an event from its original context and transplants it in another, the author has displaced the event. Displacement has some similarities with telescoping, which is the presentation of an event as having occurred either earlier or more recently than it actually occurred. Plutarch displaces events and even occasionally informs us he has done so. In Cat. Min. 25.5, having told the story of Hortensius’s request of Cato that he be allowed to marry Cato’s wife, Marcia, Plutarch adds, “All this happened later, but as I had mentioned the women of Cato’s family it seemed sensible to include it here.”

Conflation:  When an author combines elements from two or more events or people and narrates them as one, the author has conflated them. Accordingly, some displacement and/or transferal will always occur in the conflation of stories.

Compression: When an author knowingly portrays events over a shorter period of time than the actual time it took for those events to occur, the author has compressed the story.

Spotlighting: When an author focuses attention on a person so that the person’s involvement in a scene is clearly described, whereas mention of others who were likewise involved is neglected, the author has shined his literary spotlight on that person. Think of a theatrical performance. During an act in which several are simultaneously on the stage, the lights go out and a spotlight shines on a particular actor. Others are present but are unseen. In literary spotlighting, the author only mentions one of the people present but knows of the others.

Simplification: When an author adapts material by omitting or altering details that may complicate the overall narrative, the author has simplified the story. Expansion of Narrative Details:  A well-written biography would inform, teach, and be beautifully composed. If minor details were unknown, they could be invented to improve the narrative while maintaining historical verisimilitude. In many instances, the added details reflect plausible circumstances. This has been called “creative reconstruction” and “free composition.”

Paraphrasing: Plutarch often paraphrased using many of the techniques described in the compositional textbooks.”(14) (citations removed)

Additionally, from page 119 -220 Licona, painstakingly goes through verses in the Bible that have apparent contradictions and showing that it parallels well within the Greco-Roman style of accounting history. Licona writes in the ending summary “We observed three types of chronology in the Gospels: floating, implied, and explicit. Lucian taught that the proper method for writing history is not to provide a collection of stories in a disjointed manner but instead to connect the stories like links of a chain, using overlapping material when possible. We observed Matthew doing this more than the other evangelists and Luke doing it least often, at least if we are thinking of linking events in a chronological manner. Luke may have instead preferred to link events thematically. On occasion, the explicit chronology presented in one Gospel appears in tension with the strongly implied or even explicit chronology presented in another Gospel. In most of these instances, it appears that one of the evangelists altered the chronology of an event. In some of these, the reasons for doing so can be plausibly surmised to produce a smooth-flowing narrative, highlight a point the evangelist desired to make, provide a contextual home for an orphaned story, or for reasons not apparent to us” he concludes “By the beginning of the twenty-first century, a paradigm shift had occurred. No longer viewing the Gospels as sui generis (i.e., of a unique genre), the majority of New Testament scholars had embraced the view of Richard Burridge and others before him that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography, as noted in our introduction. This genre permitted a degree of elasticity in how stories were reported... During the age when the Gospels were written, the finest historians and biographers did not practice writing with the same commitment to precision as us moderns. They wanted to tell a story in a manner that entertained, provided moral guidance, emphasized points they regarded as important, and paint a portrait of important people. If they had to adapt some details on occasion, it was permissible. Such adapting was not intended to distort the truth but to communicate it more effectively. Modern itinerate speakers, teachers, preachers, and even professors often do this in their lectures and homilies for emphasis or to make a point more clearly. In fact, most of us have done it for similar reasons when telling a personal story... One does not need to be a student of the late Roman Republic or the early Christian church to recognize that the two centuries spanning from 100 BCE through 100 CE must be regarded as two of the most interesting and world-changing centuries in all of human history. It is during this period that Jesus of Nazareth lived. His life could be said to have impacted world history in a manner that has been far more reaching than the life of Julius Caesar or any other person who lived during those years and perhaps at any other time. Our best sources about Jesus are found in the New Testament. The most comprehensive of those sources are the four Gospels. In them we learn how Jesus was remembered by many of his early followers.”(15) Given this evidence so far then, it seems that the NT at least should be considered history, as other ancient documents have been afforded historical, or we must condemn most, if not all ancient history to no more than myth and folklore status! As most ancient documents do not have as favourable assertion.

 

The evidence accepted by the majority of scholars.

 

1 Corinthians 15 – Is multiply attested by the majority of scholars for multiple reasons (16). And due to largely sceptical scholarly research the writings of Paul can be derived (arguably)  to within a few years of Christ’s death and resurrection.  As Gary Habermas writes “Critical scholars usually agree that this tradition introduced by Paul had a remarkably early origin. Joachim Jeremias calls it “the earliest tradition of all.” Ulrich Wilckens declares that the material “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.” Walter Kasper even states, “We have here therefore an ancient text, perhaps in use by the end of A.D. 30.” Most scholars who provide a date think that Paul received this creedal tradition between two and eight years after Jesus’s death, or from approximately A.D. 32 to 38. Even skeptics frequently agree. Gerd Ludemann thinks that “the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus . . . not later than three years after the death of Jesus. . . . [T]he formation  of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” Michael Goulder states that Paul’s testimony about Jesus’s resurrection appearances “goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” Thomas Sheehan agrees that Paul’s formula “probably goes back to at least 32-34 c.E., that is, to within two to four years of the crucifixion.” Such skeptical agreement is not rare. Those who comment generally think that Paul received this very early testimony either in Damascus or Jerusalem. While placing the event in Damascus would make it even earlier, the majority prefer the scenario that Paul received this material in Jerusalem. The main reason for this preference is Paul’s trip there, dated about three years after his conversion, when he went to visit Peter and James, the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:18-19). Both of these apostles appear in the list of Jesus’s appearances (1 Cor 15:5, 7). At a minimum, a number of scholars specify that wherever Paul received the material, the substance is Palestinian in origin. In an intriguing comment, C. H. Dodd proclaims, “At that time he stayed with Peter for a fortnight, and we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather.”...in Galatians 1:18, indicating that his visit with Peter may have constituted an investigative inquiry. William Farmer argues that Paul’s choice of this term signifies that he acted as an examiner or observer of Peter. In an older but still very helpful study that reaches similar conclusions, G. D. Kilpatrick translates this term in Galatians 1:18 as Peter’s attempt “to get information from Cephas.” Paul Bamett helpfully points out that the same word is used by ancient Greek writers like Herodotus, Polybius, and Plutarch, for whom it means “to enquire.””(17)( citations removed)

Let’s look at the scripture in question and see why they can make such a remarkable claim; (all scripture quoted is NIV)

1 Cor 15:1 – Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. Paul is saying here, I preached to you before and you guys believed.

1 Cor 15:2 – By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. What he preached was the gospel message, by it you are saved, believing anything else, you do so in vain.

1 Cor 15:3a – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Paul is passing on the message he received, which is of the upmost importance!   When did Paul receive this message?  Common consensus is that Paul meet with Peter (Cephas) and James the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:18) approximately around A.D 35 or 5 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection. How do they the get this date? Gary Habermas states “The common consensus of recent critical New Testament scholars provides the following data: Paul most likely received this material when he visited Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, in Jerusalem about 35 AD. How do they arrive at this year? Well, if the crucifixion was about 30, then scholars place Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus at just about one to three years later. He said in Galatians 1:18 (again, another of Paul’s authentic epistles), that he went away for three years and that, afterwards, he went to Jerusalem. That’s an average of two years before his conversion, plus another three years afterwards, which totals five years (2 + 3 = 5 years) later for this visit.

Now if Paul’s experiences came only one year afterwards, as some think, then that’s one + three = four years after the crucifixion. But 35 AD is a nice round figure. So you’ve got the cross at about 30, 1 Corinthians written about 55, and Paul’s oral teaching in Corinth about 51. He attested that he went to Jerusalem in approximately 35 and he explained that he spent 15 days talking with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus [Gal. 1:18].”(18)(20) Mike Licona says similar stating within “four to six years of Jesus’ crucifixion”(19) or A.D 34-36.

1 Cor 15:3b-8 – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. So, we can see that Christ death and resurrection is a very early teaching, which, scholars think can be sourced back to 30A.D, (17) this point is key! Paul is preaching what was preached from the eyewitnesses, namely the disciples and James the brother of Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15: 3-8 is one of the pre-Pauline creeds or formulas that gives, even critical scholars confidence to claim such early dates. Licona writes “Emerging from his three-year sabbatical in Arabia, we can imagine Paul wanting to complete his task by interviewing one or more of the people who had travelled with Jesus. There were no better sources for Paul than the Jerusalem apostles. There he would talk with Peter and learn about Jesus’ teachings. He would ask him what it was like to travel with Jesus. He would have the heavy theological discussions he so much valued during which he would share and hone his findings... If this is the occasion when Paul received the tradition, we may place the tradition within four to six years of Jesus’ crucifixion and, even more importantly, it comes from the purported eyewitnesses themselves” (19)

1 Cor 15: 9-11 – For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. Confirmation that both Paul and the apostles taught the same message, moreover, this is what they believed!  That Jesus, died, rose again and appeared to a number of eyewitnesses afterwards.

 

 

1 Cor 15:12-21 – But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. Confirmation of what was preached and explicitly mentions that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, we are liars, our faith is in vain, we are to be pitied more than all men! But Jesus did die and rose again. But Christ did rise and is what was preached by the first disciples and by Paul.

Analysis.

I think, I have successfully shown that Jesus did in fact die, and therefore lived, that we have eyewitness accounts of the purported resurrection. Paul, himself believed and saw the eyewitnesses and spoke with them. That Paul was in fact a hostile witness and persecuted the church! Paul claimed to have a post resurrection appearance and this can all be dated to within 5 years of the resurrection and plausibly the apostles taught this much earlier to the same year of the resurrection. Additionally, and possibly more importantly, we can do this with evidence critics will allow.

This, therefore, allows us to boost any claim from the gospel narratives, as; 1. The writings of Paul, teach a bodily resurrection, which was taught from the beginning by the Apostles. 2. We have eyewitness accounts from Peter and James that Paul heard and believed. 3. We have seen that ancient biography in the Greco-Roman era used liberties in reporting historic events, and the gospels are in the Greco-Roman style.

 

The Gospels.

 

The gospels are our best source for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As I have attempted to show, we have good evidence that earliest teachings of Jesus, is that he died, rose again and appeared to many of his followers. Moreover, we can show that this is based on eyewitness testimonies of key apostles and that Paul himself claimed he saw Jesus afterwards.

So, it seems that at least, certain claims that are written in the gospels can be given the status of reliable, even if a sceptic cannot accept the supernatural claims, as yet, they can at least agree the disciples believed they saw something.

So, what can be known?

Jesus spoke in parables:

The wise and foolish builders

Mt 7:24-27Lk 6:47-49

Two debtors

Lk 7:41-47

The rich fool

Lk 12:16-21

The servants waiting for their Lord

Lk 12:35-40

Barren fig tree

Lk 13:6-9

The sower

Mt 13:3-9,18-23Mk 4:1-9,14-20Lk 8:5-8,11-15

The tares

Mt 13:24-30,36-43

Seed growing secretly

Mk 4:26-29

Mustard seed

Mt 13:31-32Mk 4:30-32Lk 13:18-19

Leaven

Mt 13:33Lk 13:20-21

Hidden treasure

Mt 13:44

Pearl of great price

Mt 13:45-46

Drawnet

Mt 13:47-50

Unmerciful servant

Mt 18:23-35

Good Samaritan

Lk 10:30-37

Friend at midnight

Lk 11:5-8

Good shepherd

Jn 10:1-16

Great supper

Lk 14:15-24

Lost sheep

Lk 15:3-7Mt 18:12-14

Lost piece of money

Lk 15:8-10

The prodigal and his brother

Lk 15:11-32

The unjust steward

Lk 16:1-9

Rich man and Lazarus

Lk 16:19-31

Importunate widow

Lk 18:1-8

Pharisee and publican

Lk 18:9-14

Laborers in the vineyard

Mt 20:1-16

The pounds

Lk 19:11-27

The two sons

Mt 21:28-32

Wicked husbandmen

Mt 21:33-44Mk 12:1-12Lk 20:9-18

Marriage of the king's son

Mt 22:1-14

Fig tree leafing

Mt 24:32Mk 13:28-29

Man taking a far journey

Mk 13:34-37

Ten virgins

Mt 25:1-13

Talents

Mt 25:14-30

The vine

Jn 15:1-5

Jesus’s life, ministry, death and resurrection:

Heals a man having a withered hand (Capernaum)

Mt 12:9-14Mk 3:1-6Lk 6:6-11

Withdraws from Capernaum to the Sea of Galilee, where He heals many

Mt 12:15-21Mk 3:7-12

Goes up into a mountain, and calls and ordains twelve disciples (Galilee)

Mt 10:2-4Mk 3:13-19Lk 6:12-19

Delivers the “Sermon on the Mount” (Galilee)

Mt 5-7Lk 6:20-49

Heals the servant of the centurion (near Capernaum)

Mt 8:5-13Lk 7:1-10

Raises from the dead the son of the widow of Nain

Lk 7:11-17

Receives the message from John the Baptist (Galilee)

Mt 11:2-19Lk 7:18-35

Upbraids the unbelieving cities about Capernaum

Mt 11:20-30

Anointed by a sinful woman (Capernaum)

Lk 7:36-50

Preaches in the cities of Galilee

Lk 8:1-3

Heals a demoniac, and denounces the scribes and Pharisees (Galilee)

Mt 12:22-37Mk 3:19-30Lk 11:14-26

Replies to the scribes and Pharisees who seek a sign from Him (Galilee)

Mt 12:38-45Lk 11:16-36

Denounces the Pharisees and other hypocrites (Galilee)

Lk 11:37-54

Discourses to His disciples (Galilee)

Lk 12:1-59

Parable of the barren fig tree (Galilee)

Lk 13:6-9

Parable of the sower (Sea of Galilee)

Mt 13:1-23Mk 4:1-25Lk 8:4-18

Parable of the tares, and other teachings (Galilee)

Mt 13:24-53Mk 4:26-34

Crosses the Sea of Galilee, and stills the tempest

Mt 8:18-27Mk 4:35-41Lk 8:22-25

Miracle of the swine (Gadara)

Mt 8:28-33Mk 5:1-21Lk 8:26-40

Returns to Capernaum

Mt 9:1Mk 5:21Lk 8:40

Eats with publicans and sinners, and discourses on fasting (Capernaum)

Mt 9:10-17Mk 2:15-22Lk 5:29-39

Raises to life the daughter of Jairus, and heals the woman who has the issue of blood (Capernaum)

Mt 9:18-26Mk 5:22-43Lk 8:41-56

Heals two blind men, and casts out a dumb spirit (Capernaum)

Mt 9:27-34

Returns to Nazareth

Mt 13:53-58Mk 6:1-6

Teaches in various cities in Galilee

Mt 9:35-38

Instructs His disciples, and empowers them to heal diseases and casts out unclean spirits

Mt 10Mk 6:6-13Lk 9:1-6

Herod falsely supposes Him to be John whom he had beheaded

Mt 14:1-2,6-12Mk 6:14-16,21-29Lk 9:7-9

The twelve return; He goes to the desert; multitudes follow Him; He feeds five thousand (Sea of Galilee)

Mt 14:13-21Mk 6:30-44Lk 9:10-17Jn 6:1-14

Walks on the sea (Galilee)

Mt 14:22-36Mk 6:45-56Jn 6:15-21

Teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum

Jn 6:22-65

Disciples forsake Him (Capernaum)

Jn 6:66-71

He justifies His disciples in eating without washing their hands (Capernaum)

Mt 15:1-20Mk 7:1-23

Heals the daughter of the Syrophenician woman (Tyre and Sidon)

Mt 15:21-28Mk 7:24-30

Heals a dumb man (Decapolis)

Mt 15:29-31Mk 7:31-37

Feeds four thousand

Mt 15:32-39Mk 8:1-9

Refuses to give a sign to the Pharisees (region of Magdala)

Mt 16:1-4Mk 8:10-12

Cautions His disciples against the leaven of hypocrisy (Sea of Galilee)

Mt 16:4-12Mk 8:13-21

Heals a blind man (Bethsaida)

Mk 8:22-26

Foretells His death and resurrection (near Caesarea Philippi)

Mt 16:21-28Mk 8:31-389:1Lk 9:22-27

Is transfigured

Mt 17:1-13Mk 9:2-13Lk 9:28-36

Heals a demoniac (Caesarea Philippi)

Mt 17:14-21Mk 9:14-29Lk 9:37-43

Foretells His death and resurrection (Galilee)

Mt 17:22-23Mk 9:30-32Lk 9:43-45

Miracle of tribute money in the fish's mouth

Mt 17:24-27

Reproves the ambition of His disciples (Capernaum)

Mt 18:1-35Mk 9:33-50Lk 9:46-50

Reproves the intolerance of His disciples

Mk 9:38-39Lk 9:49-50

Journeys to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, passing through Samaria

Lk 9:51-62Jn 7:2-11

Commissions the seventy (Samaria)

Lk 10:1-16

Heals ten lepers

Lk 17:11-19

Teaches in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles

Jn 7:14-538

Answers a lawyer, who tests His wisdom with the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” by the parable of the good Samaritan (Jerusalem)

Lk 10:25-37

Hears the report of the seventy (Jerusalem)

Lk 10:17-24

Teaches in the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Bethany)

Lk 10:38-42

Teaches His disciples to pray

Lk 11:1-13

Heals a blind man, who, because of his faith in Jesus, was excommunicated

Jn 9

Teaches in Jerusalem

Jn 9:39-4110:1-21

Teaches in the temple at Jerusalem, at the Feast of Dedication

Jn 10:22-39

Goes to Bethabara to escape violence from the rulers (east of the Jordan)

Jn 10:40-4211:3-16

Returns to Bethany, and raises Lazarus from the dead

Jn 11:1-46

Escapes to the city of Ephraim from the conspiracy led by Caiaphas, the high priest (Judea)

Jn 11:47-54

Journeys toward Jerusalem to attend the Passover; heals many who are diseased, and teaches the people (Peraea)

Mt 19:1-2Mk 10:1Lk 13:10-35

Dines with a Pharisee on the Sabbath (Peraea)

Lk 14:1-24

Teaches the multitude the conditions of discipleship (Peraea)

Lk 14:25-35

Enunciates the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, prodigal son, unjust steward (Peraea)

Lk 15:1-3216:1-13

Reproves the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Peraea)

Lk 16

Enunciates the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Peraea)

Lk 16:19-31

Teaches His disciples concerning offenses, meekness, and humility (Peraea)

Lk 17:1-10

Teaches the Pharisees concerning the coming of His kingdom (Peraea)

Lk 17:20-37

Enunciates the parables of the unjust judge, and the Pharisee and publican praying in the temple (Peraea)

Lk 18:1-14

Interprets the law concerning marriage and divorce (Peraea)

Mt 19:3-12Mk 10:2-12

Blesses little children (Peraea)

Mt 19:13-15Mk 10:13-16Lk 18:15-17

Receives the rich young ruler, who asks what he shall do to inherit eternal life (Peraea)

Mt 19:16-2210:17-22Lk 18:18-24

Enunciates the parable of the vineyard (Peraea)

Mt 20:1-16

Foretells His death and resurrection (Peraea)

Mt 20:17-19Mk 10:32-34Lk 18:31-34

Listens to the mother of James and John in behalf of her sons (Peraea)

Mt 20:20-28Mk 10:35-45

Heals two blind men (Jericho)

Mt 20:29-34Mk 10:46-50Lk 18:35-43

Visits Zacchaeus

Lk 19:1-10

Enunciates the parable of the pounds (Jericho)

Lk 19:11-28

Goes to Bethany six days before the Passover

Jn 12:1-9

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the people throw palm branches in the way

Mt 21:1-11Mk 11:1-11Lk 19:29-44Jn 12:12-19

Enters the temple

Mt 21:12Mk 11:11Lk 19:45

Drives the money changers out of the temple

Mt 21:12-13Lk 19:45-46

Heals the infirm in the temple

Mt 21:14

Teaches daily in the temple

Lk 19:47-48

Performs the miracle of causing the barren fig tree to wither

Mt 21:17-22Mk 11:12-14,20-22

Enunciates the parable of the two sons

Mt 21:28-31

Enunciates the parable of the wicked husbandmen

Mt 21:33-46Mk 12:1-12Lk 20:9-19

Enunciates the parable of the marriage

Mt 22:1-14Lk 14:16-24

Tested by the Pharisees and Herodians, and enunciates the duty of the citizen to his government

Mt 22:15-22Mk 12:13-17Lk 20:20-26

Tried by the Sadducees concerning the resurrection of the dead

Mt 22:23-33Mk 12:18-27Lk 20:27-40

Also tried by a lawyer

Mt 22:34-40Mk 12:28-34

Exposes the hypocrisies of the scribes and Pharisees

Mt 23Mk 12:38-40Lk 20:45-47

Extols the widow who casts two mites into the treasury

Mk 12:41-44Lk 21:1-4

Verifies the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the unbelieving Jews

Jn 12:37-50

Foretells the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem

Mt 24Mk 13Lk 21:5-36

Laments over Jerusalem

Mt 23:37Lk 19:41-44

Enunciates the parables of the ten virgins and of the talents

Mt 25:1-30

Foretells the scenes of the day of judgment (Mount of Olives)

Mt 25:31-46

Anointed with the box of precious ointment (Bethany)

Mt 26:6-13Mk 14:3-9Jn 12:1-8

Last Passover, and institution of the communion

Mt 26:17-30Mk 14:12-25Lk 22:7-20

Washes the disciples' feet

Jn 13:1-17

Foretells His betrayal

Mt 26:23Mk 14:18-21Lk 22:21Jn 13:18

Accuses Judas of his betrayal

Mt 26:21-25Mk 14:18-21Lk 22:21-23Jn 13:21-30

Teaches His disciples, and comforts them with promises, and promises the gift of the Holy Spirit

Jn 14-16

Last prayer (Jerusalem)

Jn 17

Repairs to Gethsemane (Mount of Olives)

Mt 26:30,36-46Mk 14:26,32-42Lk 22:39-46Jn 18:1

Is betrayed and apprehended (Gethsemane)

Mt 26:47-56Mk 14:43-54,66-72Lk 22:47-53Jn 18:2-12

Trial of, before Caiaphas (Jerusalem)

Mt 26:57-58,69-75Mk 14:53-54,66-72Lk 22:54-62Jn 18:13-18,25-27

Tried by the council

Mt 26:59-68Mk 14:55-65Lk 22:63-71Jn 18:19-21

Led by the council to Pilate

Mt 27:1-2,11-14Mk 15:1-5Lk 23:1-5Jn 18:28-38

Arraigned before Herod

Lk 23:6-12

Tried before Pilate

Mt 27:15-26Mk 15:6-15Lk 23:13-25Jn 18:39-4019:1-16

Mocked by the soldiers

Mt 27:27-31Mk 15:16-20

Is led away to be crucified

Mt 27:31-34Mk 15:20-23Lk 23:26-32Jn 19:16-17

Crucified

Mt 27:35-56Mk 15:24-41Lk 23:33-49Jn 19:18-30

Taken from the cross and buried

Mt 27:57-66Mk 15:42-47Lk 23:50-56Jn 19:31-42

Arises from the dead

Mt 28:2-15Mk 16:1-11Lk 24:1-12Jn 20:1-18

Is seen of Peter

Lk 24:341Co 15:5

Appears to two disciples who journey to Emmaus

Mk 16:12-13Lk 24:13-35

Appears in the midst of the disciples, when Thomas is absent (Jerusalem)

Mk 16:14-18Lk 24:36-49Jn 20:19-23

Appears to the disciples, when Thomas was present (Jerusalem)

Jn 20:26-29

Appears to His disciples at the Sea of Galilee

Mt 28:16Jn 21:1-2

Appears to the apostles and upwards of five hundred brethren on a mountain in Galilee

Mt 28:16-201Co 15:6

Appears to James, and also to all the apostles (Jerusalem)

Ac 1:3-81Co 15:7

Ascends to heaven (Bethany)

Mk 16:19-20Lk 24:50-53Ac 1:9-12

Appears to Paul

Ac 9:3-1718:922:14,1823:1126:161Co 9:115:8

Appears to John on Patmos

Rev 1:10-18

Jesus claims to be Son of God:

Mt 11:2-6Mt 26:63-67; Mk 2:1-12; Mk14:60-62; Lk22:67-70; Jn4:25-26; Jn10:24-39

 

Jesus’s brothers didn’t believe him:

Jn 7:3-5, Mk3:21

 

As I have tried to show is the gospels are at least to be considered ‘history’ as other ancient documents have historical status. As a result, we have a list of claims about Jesus’s life, showing Jesus’s life, ministry in some detail but the ones I wish to focus on, are the ones regarding Jesus’s claims to be God’s son, as these are the most permanent to the issue at hand.

Mt 11:2-6 – When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

 

Mt 26:63-67 – But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.

 

Mk 2:1-12 – A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

Mk 14:60-62 – Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ,* the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

Lk 22:67-70 – If you are the Christ,*” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”

 

Jn 4:25-26 – The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

Jn 10:24-39 – The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,* tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all*; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods'*? 35 If he called them ‘gods,' to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God's Son'? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

It can be seen, we have good evidence that Jesus did, in deed, believing himself to be God’s son. We have good evidence, that Jesus told the Pharisees that he was the son of God, and claiming to be the Messiah on different occasions.  So, we have little evidence to claim Jesus never claimed to be God, nor, can it be claimed the gospel message is a later rendition of the apostles, due to the critically ascertained early date of Paul meeting the apostles and the gospel message being based on the resurrection, to as early as 30A.D.

A sceptic, may conclude on some grounds of methodological naturalism, that miracles are impossible on some kind of Humean argument. That miracles should be rejected out of hand as they would violate the natural laws or the suspension of the natural laws. However, this is mistaken, as it is universally understood that the laws only describe what normally happens not what cannot happen, or what is impossible to happen. We should judge the weight of the evidence and let the evidence lead where it may!

 

What then can we conclude?

Jesus, existed,  died by crucifixion, by the hand of Pontius Pilate, he was buried in a tomb, 3 days later, the apostles and a number of followers claim to see Jesus alive, individually and in groups. The apostles were radically transformed and as a result the known world was changed, by the gospel message.

What best explains this evidence? Is it just an elaborate lie? Did they all have group hallucinations? Or, is it, the narrative the apostles gave 2000 years ago?

Is it coherent to claim that 11 men, were able to orchestrate such an elaborate hoax? Steal a body, without anyone noticing, why claim women saw the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, when women’s testimonies weren’t acceptable in Jewish court, surely if it was a lie, they would make it as less complicated as possible? If they stole the body and then lied about the whole thing, why would they be willing to die for a known lie? Just ask yourself! Would you be willing to die for a fabrication of your making? Furthermore, why then make it a matter of faith? And why in Jerusalem a busy town!  Surely it would make sense to do it in the middle of nowhere, where people couldn’t easily check it out. As William Lane Craig writes “This explanation characterized the earliest Jewish anti-Christian polemic and was revived in the form of the conspiracy theory of eighteenth century Deism. The theory has been universally rejected by critical scholars and survives only in the popular press. To name only two considerations decisive against it: (i) it is morally impossible to indict the disciples of Jesus with such a crime. Whatever their imperfections, they were certainly good, earnest men and women, not impostors. No one who reads the New Testament unprejudicially can doubt the evident sincerity of these early believers. (ii) It is psychologically impossible to attribute to the disciples the cunning and dering- do requisite for such a ruse. At the time of the crucifixion, the disciples were confused, disorganized, fearful, doubting, and burdened with mourning-not mentally motivated or equipped to engineer such a wild hoax. Hence, to explain the empty tomb and resurrection appearances by a conspiracy theory seems out of the question.”(23)

As for hallucinations, how many times have you hallucinated? And how many times have you seen the exact same hallucination as the person next to you, at the same time? And only in a 40-day time frame? Moreover, it isn’t supported by scientific evidence, nor do any scholars hold to such a scenario. “Hallucinations are subjective experiences emanating from individual minds. As a result of their private nature, these occurrences are not collective or contagious. Since these private events cannot be shared, the same hallucination would not have been experienced by more than one disciple at the same time. Clinical psychologist and author Gary Collins summarizes this first problem: “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly are not something which can be seen by a group of people...Since an hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.”(21)(22) William Lane Craig writes in regards to this “The hallucination theory became popular during the nineteenth century and carried over into the first half of the twentieth century as well. Again, however, there are good grounds for rejecting this hypothesis: (i) it is psychologically implausible to posit such a chain of hallucinations. Hallucinations are usually associated with mental illness or drugs; but in the disciples' case the prior psycho-biological preparation appears to be wanting. The disciples had no anticipation of seeing Jesus alive again; all they could do was wait to be reunited with him in the Kingdom of God. There were no grounds leading them to hallucinate him alive from the dead. Moreover, the frequency and variety of circumstances belie the hallucination theory: Jesus was seen not once, but many times; not by one person, but by several; not only by individuals, but also by groups; not at one locale and circumstance but at many; not by believers only, but by skeptics and unbelievers as well. The hallucination theory cannot be plausibly stretched to accommodate such diversity. (ii) Hallucinations would not in any case have led to belief in Jesus' resurrection. As projections of one's own mind, hallucinations cannot contain anything not already in the mind. But we have seen that Jesus' resurrection differed from the Jewish conception in two fundamental ways. Given their Jewish frame of thought, the disciples, were they to hallucinate, would have projected visions of Jesus glorified in Abraham's bosom, where Israel's righteous dead abode until the eschatological resurrection. Thus, hallucinations would not have elicited belief in Jesus' resurrection, an idea that ran solidly against the Jewish mode of thought. (iii) Nor can hallucinations account for the full scope of the evidence. They are offered as an explanation of the resurrection appearances, but leave the empty tomb unexplained, and therefore fail as a complete and satisfying answer. Hence, it seems that the hallucination hypothesis is not more successful than its defunct forebears in providing a plausible counter-explanation of the data surrounding Christ's resurrection.”(23)

What is the best fit for the evidence? Could it be that the disciples actually did see Jesus after 3 days alive? It is beyond dispute that Jesus died by crucifixion, the Roman soldiers were expert killers. It is clear that the disciples saw something 3 days after his burial! Was it the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus, or just a vision?

 

As Sean McDowell states, it is ‘evidence that demands a Verdict’!  What do you choose?

 

References

  1. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/reasonadvocates/2015/11/03/jesus-never-existed/

  2. https://youtu.be/apS_679ru50

  3. https://www.bethinking.org/is-the-bible-reliable/the-historicity-of-the-new-testament

  4. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/11/25000-new-testament-manuscripts-big-deal/

  5. https://biblequestions.info/2019/12/07/how-many-new-testament-manuscripts-exist/

  6. https://biblequestions.info/2019/12/14/how-does-the-quantity-of-new-testament-manuscripts-compare-to-other-ancient-manuscripts/

  7. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript

  8. https://carm.org/about-the-bible/can-we-trust-the-new-testament-as-a-historical-document/1

  9. THE ARCHEOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT – The Mediterranean World of the Early Christian Apostles. Jack Finegan. Westview Press. 1981

  10. The Historical Jesus – Ancient Evidence for The Life of Jesus Christ.  Gary. R. Habermas. College Press Publishing Company. 1996. P171-186

  11. https://biologos.org/series/biblical-authority-a-biologos-conversation/articles/does-the-bible-contain-errors

  12. https://youtu.be/DB18or8bJ10

  13. https://christianapologetics.org/the-elusive-bart-ehrman-quote/

  14. Why are there differences in the gospels? : what we can learn from ancient biography. Michael R. Licona. Oxford University Press. 2017. P20

  15. Why are there differences in the gospels? : what we can learn from ancient biography. Michael R. Licona. Oxford University Press. 2017. P196-202

  16. “Why do scholars take this text so seriously? First of all, it’s from an epistle that is unanimously thought to be written by the Apostle Paul. Why is that? Well, as one scholar attested, we don’t even need to discuss Pauline authorship here because both the internal and external evidence for this epistle are so strong. Like what? Well, just prior to 100 AD, Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the Corinthians (about 95 AD). Then, just after 100 AD, Ignatius wrote seven brief epistles around 107 AD, and Polycarp wrote another one about 110 AD. These three men, writing nine short epistles, quote, cite, or refer to the book of 1 Corinthians approximately some 30 times, and do so just about a decade after the traditional close of the New Testament. That is an incredible amount of attestation from sources outside of Paul, all asserting Paul’s authority. These are just some of the many reasons that cause even skeptics to admit that Paul the apostle wrote this epistle.So when Paul presented the report here that he received from others, namely, that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day and appeared . . . .” [1 Cor. 15:3-4], he must be taken seriously. And scholars do indeed take him that way, too. Further, it is admitted virtually unanimously that Paul at least believed that he saw the risen Jesus himself, and that makes all the difference in the world.” “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith?” Gary R. Habermas. 2015.  www.garyhabermas.com/evidence

  17. The risen Jesus & future hope. Gary R. Habermas. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. 2003. P17-18.

  18. “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith?” Gary R. Habermas. 2015.  www.garyhabermas.com/evidence

  19. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Michael R. Licona. InterVarsity Press. 2010. P223-235

  20. The Historical Jesus – Ancient Evidence for The Life of Jesus. Gary R. Habermas. College Press Publishing Company. 1996. P152-162

  21. The risen Jesus & future hope. Gary R. Habermas. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. 2003. P10-11.

  22. Gary Collins, letter to the author, 21 February 1977.

  23. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/historical-jesus/jesus-resurrection/