1. Did Jesus Exist?
1.1. Evidence from Christian sources
2. Is the NT reliable as a historical record about Jesus?
1.2. Examples of evidence from secular sources
- The actual 27 New Testament documents and writings of the early church leaders (fathers)
- Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman Historian mentions that Jesus was the founder of the Christians and was put to death by Pontius Pilate. (Writing in 112 AD)
- Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian (born in 37 AD) mentions that Jesus' brother James was stoned after he was brought before a council assembled by Ananus.
- Thallus, one of the first Gentile writers, wrote to try and explain away the darkness that occurred when Jesus died. (Writing in 52 AD)
- Pliny the Younger, Governor of Bithynia, wrote a report on how he was killing both Christian men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should only kill certain ones. (Writing in 106 AD). Why would so many people die for someone that didn't exist?
- There is large documented support, both Christian and secular, for the historical existence of Jesus Christ. The Jesus-myth is groundless speculation contrary to all evidence, and totally without basis.
We should test the NT with the same criteria as all other historical documents
2.1. Bibliographical Test.
This examines the textual transmission of the documents i.e. Do we have accurate copies of what was originally recorded?
2.1.1. How many copies of the document are available and what variances exist between the copies?
2.2. Internal Evidence Test [Part A] [Part
2.1.2. What length of time is there between the original and our earliest existing copy?
- More than 24000 manuscript copies in multiple languages / translations. Located over a wide geographical area (Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy)
- Textual criticism (examining copyist errors, corruptions) finds that there are only minor variations (spelling, phraseology, etc.) and is able to state that we can be 99% sure that we have accurate copies of the originals. What's more, no core belief of Christianity is dependant on any textual variant.
Other classical manuscripts considered trustworthy: Iliad - earliest copy 500 years & 642 current copies. Pliny - 750 years & 7 copies. Plato - 1200 years and 7 copies. Livy - 350 years and 20 copies
- Several fragments have been dated within 50-150 years of the original documents. Several nearly complete NT manuscripts dating within 300-400 years of the original. In fact, there are 500 different copies of the NT that are earlier than 500 AD.
Additional evidence against the claim that there were purposeful changes: practically impossible, all copies and language versions agree in content, NT can be reconstructed from the early Church Fathers writings (quotes), no time for the falsifications to occur & no evidence to support this claim.
Is what was written credible / true?
2.2.1. The NT writers claimed to be eyewitnesses or to have interviewed eyewitnesses e.g. Luke 1:1-3. Some supporting evidence:
2.3. External Evidence Test
18.104.22.168. The dating of the NT
2.2.2. We can conclude that they were not lying / creating 'Gospel Fictions'
22.214.171.124. The writers display intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in AD 70 (Proper names, dates, cultural details, historical events, customs and opinions of the time)
- The Gospels were written between 40 and 100 AD (conservative / liberal scholars). But, after closer examination of the liberal scholar's dating, we find that there is no good reason to date them later than 70 AD.
- Paul's letters (which contain all the main claims of the Gospels) were written between 49 and 65 AD
126.96.36.199. The NT doesn't contain any anachronisms (i.e. it does not place any person, or event in a time where it does not belong; there are no errors in dates of events, circumstances or customs)
2.2.3. We can conclude that the NT doesn't contain myth
- Eyewitnesses (friendly and hostile) would not permit such a creation. Especially as the Gospel events were too well known.
- Why would the church have created such a difficult faith to follow
- Why are there no passages relevant to the later church
- How does one account for the presence of stories derogatory to the revered leaders of the early church?
- How does one account for the presence of stories derogatory to Jesus?
- How could this fabrication not only be accepted, but also motivate the followers of Jesus? They did not benefit from claiming that Jesus was God. They were ostracized, criticized, rejected, persecuted, hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions.
- It is a historical fact that none of Jesus' followers cracked under pressure and persecutions and admitted that their accounts of Jesus were a fabrication.
- If they lied, they carefully intertwined fact and fiction. There is great accuracy used in describing events, places and people (as confirmed by archeology)
- Paul specifically differentiates what is from him and what is from God. If you could simply add to what God said, why did he feel the need to clarify the difference?
- If suffering and dying for a lie, they would have had to go against everything Jesus and they themselves taught.
- The book with some of the world's highest standards and loftiest goals would have to have been composed by liars, frauds and deceivers.
- There is no evidence for the claim that they lied. It is an argument from silence - speculation without evidence.
2.2.4. The NT does not contain any contradictions (to remember when examining: difference versus contradiction, translation, use of language, context, 20th century standards, descriptions of God). Not a single supposed contradiction has ever been proved!
- The style is not that of myth. Unlike myth the NT has no overblown, spectacular, childish exaggerated events. Unlike myth it has psychological depth, and remarkable character depth and development. Unlike myth it is not verbose, in fact it has an economy of words. It is full of indications of eyewitness description.
- To be a myth, the writers of the Gospels must have invented the new genre of realistic fantasy 19 centuries before it was reinvented in the 20th century.
- There is not enough time for myths and legends to have been developed and incorporated into the Gospels. Several generations have to pass before the added mythological elements can be mistakenly believed as fact - instead there is only twenty years (50 AD's) before we find documented information about Jesus - containing all the main claims of Christianity!
- There is no evidence of the earlier 'non-mythic' layer
- The accounts include dozens details that could not have been known by someone not living in that time and place, and there are no second-century anachronisms.
- Who invented the myth and with what motivated. For until the edict of Milan in AD 313, Christians were persecuted and killed for their beliefs.
- First-century Jews and Christians were not prone to believe myths
- Eyewitness testimony would have refuted any myths
- The Bibliographical test has shown that we have accurate copies of the original documents i.e. mythic / additional elements were not added over time
- The writers specifically claim that they are not telling myths. If this is not true, then the writings must be a 'lie' not 'myth'
2.2.5. If God exists, then the supernatural (e.g. miracles) is possible i.e. we should not simply dismiss the NT because it contains accounts of the miraculous
Does other historical material confirm or deny the internal testimony of the documents i.e. other sources of evidence apart from the NT itself
2.4. Reliability Conclusion
- Extra-Biblical authors. Friends of John confirm the internal evidence.
- Martyrs. Numerous people, who were in a position to know the truth, were prepared to die for their faith
- Archeological Evidence has shown that the writers (especially Luke) were excellent historians and accurate in all their details.
- Historical-Geographical Evidence. Jesus seems to have done and said certain things in relationship to His surroundings.
- Jewish Cultural Evidence. The NT accounts are confirmed by historical knowledge of first-century Jewish culture.
The New Testament documents more than satisfactorily pass each of the tests of historicity. If we are to discard the New Testament as unreliable in its account of Jesus, then we must discard almost all ancient literature as being unreliable!
3. Did Jesus claim to be God?
3.1. Evidence (in addition to his claims in the New Testament)
4. Was Jesus who he claimed to be?
- The concept of Jesus as divine existed within at least 10 to 20 years of his crucifixion, and therefore likely to have been asserted by Jesus himself.
- The claims of Jesus to be God make sense of his trial and crucifixion (i.e. blasphemy)
- The early enemies of Christ would have declared that Jesus never made such claims
- A parallel movement, that claimed Jesus as merely a good teacher, would have emerged alongside Christianity
3.2. Jesus' use of Divine Titles
3.3. Additional claims to be God
- Yahweh - claiming the sacred Old Testament name for God. Yahweh means "He who is" or "I am"
- Son of God - claiming to be of the same nature as God, co-equal and co-eternal with God
- Son of Man - claiming to be the Messiah / King / Deliverer of the Jews. Used to proclaim his divine identity
- Lord - claiming to be "Adonai" - a term applied to God in the Old Testament
- Abba - referred to God as father - uniquely using the familiar word of closest intimacy
- People responded to these claims by wanting to kill Jesus as this was the punishment required for blasphemy
|· To be pre-existent
||"before Abraham was born, I am!" John 8:58
|· To be omnipresent
|| "and surely I am with you always" Matthew 28:20
|· To be omniscient
|| "you know all things … You believe at last!"
|· To be omnipotent
|| "All authority in heaven and on earth has been
given to me" Matthew 28:18
|· Should be worshipped
|| "And if anyone causes one of these little ones
who believe in me to sin…" Mark 9:42
|· Divine authority
|| To forgive sins , To have authority over the
laws of the Sabbath, That the elect and angels are his, To be
able to give authority over evil to others, To have authority
over all people
|· Word will outlast time
|| "my words will never pass away" Mark 13:31
|· To be sinless
|| "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" John
|· That all God has is his
|| "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine"
- said praying to God - John 17:10
|· To give freedom
|| "If the Son sets you free, you will be free
indeed" John 8:36
|· To send prophets
|| "Therefore I am sending you prophets" Matthew
|· To deserve highest loyalty
|| "Anyone who loves his father or mother more
than me is not worthy of me" Mt 10:37
|· To be equal with God
|| that a response to him is the same as a response
to God. John 15:23
that he is to be honoured to the same extent as God is honoured.
that to see him is to see God. John 14:9
that to know him is to know God. John 8:19
that him coming to the Jewish people was the same as God being
there. Luke 19:43
that he operates with and to the same extent as God. John 5:17
that he is directly equal with God. John 10:30-39
|That people's eternal destiny depends on their
response to him.
|| Mathew 7:21-23, John 8:24
4.1. He meant it non-literally, mystically
- He meant it non-literally, mystically (guru)
- He meant it literally
- It is false
- He knew it was false (liar, noble liar)
- He didn't know it was false (honestly mistaken, lunatic)
- It is true
Did Jesus claim to be God in a non-literal, mystical sense?
- He made a point of explaining his teachings to his disciples
- His claims (see above) do not lend themselves to the mystical, guru interpretation
- He claims to have come to fulfill the Old Testament not destroy it
- He had no way of learning eastern religions.
- He was Jewish and his teachings differ to the teachings of gurus / eastern philosophies.
- Public law & public scripture vs private, individual, inner experience
- God is distinct from the world vs we and everything else in the world is God
- God is a person vs individuality, selfhood is the supreme illusion
- Fill mind with thoughts of God & His Laws vs empty mind and become one with everything
- Time and matter are real created by God vs time and history are unreal, illusory
- God is an active initiator vs God is passive. We find him, not us
- God is moral, righteous, holy, hates evil vs God is amoral, has no will, law or preferences
- God will judge sin, results in separation vs no sin, no separation from God, no judgement
4.2. He meant it literally
4.2.1. It is false
188.8.131.52. He knew it was false
4.2.2. It is true
184.108.40.206.1. Was Jesus a liar?
220.127.116.11. He didn't know it was false
18.104.22.168.2. Was Jesus a noble liar?
- He had the wrong psychological profile
- There is no conceivable motive for his lie
- He could not have hoped that his lie would be successful
- How could he have invented and maintained the lie?
- If Jesus was only a man and claimed to be God, was He then an atheist himself?
- How did he manage to pass on high standards of truth?
- We would have to conclude that he was therefore a hypocrite, evil and a fool
- If he was so noble then why did he choose the ignoble method of trickery to get people to follow him?
- If he was so noble then why did He claim to be able to heal people when he could not?
- It would be much more difficult to get Jews to believe a human was God incarnate than it would be to get them to adopt morally superior principles
- Since his teachings were based on a true understanding on the Old Testament, what need was there to go as far as trickery and blasphemy?
- Why would Jesus forfeit his salvation for the sake of teachings (apart from his claim to be God) that were not that radical to first century Jews
- If Jesus' main concern was to get people into the kingdom of God, then this would have been the worst way to do it
- Who in history has gone to their death for the sake of something like this that they knew was a lie? (very different to cases e.g. noble people who hid Jews from the Nazis)
22.214.171.124.1. Was Jesus honestly mistaken?
126.96.36.199.2. Was Jesus a lunatic?
- Considering Jesus' claims, proof that he was mistaken would be clearly evident
- Where in history was there an honestly mistaken messiah who made the claims that Jesus did, and had the degree of success that Jesus did?
- No Jew could sincerely think that they were God
- How does one come to believe, or make a mistake of this nature? To actually believe that you are God?
- There is no evidence that Jesus did make such a mistake, or even doubted what he believed.
- To make the claims that Jesus did, you would have to be a lunatic
- Because the psychological profiles of lunatics and Jesus are opposite (egotism, inflexibility, dullness, predictability, inability to understand and love others as they really are, inability to creatively relate to others, unbalanced, paranoia or schizophrenia, rash, impulsive, lack wisdom - this is the polar opposite to Jesus)
- Someone with a 'divinity complex' would be incapable of sound rational thought on moral issues
- How could a lunatic maintain from the beginning to the end, the purest and noblest character known in history without and any indication of insanity?
- The reaction of others was not that of a reaction to a lunatic
- Someone with the 'divinity complex' would be obviously raving mad and thus incapable of influencing people.
- We would have to conclude that the expert of human nature who knew how to live the proper life did not understand himself properly
- It is possible as it has no internal or external consistencies
- It is probable as God could well have done this
- It works, having transformed lives
- It gives the greatest hope, and meaning and purpose to human life
- It is supported by the resurrection
- It is supported by Old Testament Prophecies
- The New Testament, which is highly reliable, supports this conclusion
- It is the only rational, honest alternative. Data and argument compel us to it
5.1. Four steps in the Christian journey
6. Additional Evidence for Jesus being God
- Mental belief that Christianity is true. That Jesus was who he claimed to be.
- Repentance. Turning away from the 'I'll do it my way road'. Away from a self-run, own-decisions life
- Faith. Accepting and receiving Jesus Christ as God, and Saviour (trusting Him to remove your sin; this was made possible by his death) and Lord (I'll do it His way) of your life. Putting a self-run life behind you, realizing that Jesus and the sin He died for should not both be in your life. Placing all your trust in Jesus to forgive your sins, thereby reconciling and establishing a relationship between you and God. Granting you eternal life with God
- Living the Christian life (growing and deepening your relationship, studying God's message (Bible), speaking to God (prayer), spending time with others that know God (church, fellowship), doing good works for God, and making decisions by asking what Jesus would do.
6.1. The Resurrection
7. Are miracles possible?
- Jesus died
- Jesus rose
- Jesus didn't rise
- The apostles were deceived (Hallucination)
- The apostles were myth-makers (Myth)
- The apostles were deceivers(Conspiracy)
- Jesus didn't die (Swoon)
6.1.1. Jesus died
6.2. Prophetic Evidence
188.8.131.52. Jesus rose
6.1.2. Jesus didn't die (Swoon Theory)
184.108.40.206. Jesus didn't rise
- There were many witnesses to the resurrection appearances
- The tomb was empty. The following supports this conclusion:
Otherwise how did Christianity start? Why didn't the authorities reveal the body? How did the disciples believe in the resurrection? And the burial story is one of the most historically certain traditions we have concerning Jesus (included in an old Christian formula, story lacks style of myth, there is no competing burial tradition, and the earliest Jewish arguments presupposes the empty tomb)
- How do we explain the existence of the New Testament writings?
- There is no other way to explain the origin of Christianity (the belief in a resurrection could not have been a result of Christian or Jewish influences)
220.127.116.11.1. The apostles were deceived (Hallucination Theory)
18.104.22.168.2. The apostles were myth-makers (Myth Theory)
- There were too many witnesses for them all to be hallucinating.
- Five hundred witnesses saw Christ together, at the same time and place
- The appearance of Christ lasted for too long to be a hallucination
- Hallucinations usually only happen once, except for the insane. This one returned many times to ordinary people
- Jesus acted like a real person
- Hallucinations do not eat
- The disciples touched him
- The disciples spoke with him, and he spoke back
- The apostles could not have believed in the hallucination of Jesus' corpse had still been in the tomb
- The Jews would have produced the body
- Hallucinations would not lead to belief in Jesus' resurrection
- The hallucination theory only explains the post resurrection appearances and not all the other data (empty tomb, rolled away stone, and inability to produce a corpse)
22.214.171.124.3. The apostles were deceivers (Conspiracy Theory)
- The first witnesses of the resurrection were women
- See previous reasons under ' We can conclude that the NT doesn't contain myth'
- The Jews never produced the corpse
- The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem - same time, same place, and full of eyewitnesses to the events - if it was a lie.
- The conspiracy would have been unearthed by the disciple's adversaries
- How did they come up with this lie?
- What sustained them? The only result of their lie was intense persecution. And throughout it all, not one admitted that it was a lie or deliberate deception
- If the resurrection was a concocted, conspired lie, it violates all known historical and psychological laws of lying
- Jesus could not have survived crucifixion
- The Roman soldier was sure that Jesus was dead
- Eyewitness testimony confirms a medical condition that results in death
- The body was totally encased in winding sheets and entombed
- The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples that Jesus was alive
- How were the Roman guards overpowered by a swooning corpse?
- How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb?
- If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go?
6.2.1. Common objections
6.2.2. Important Old Testament Prophecies about Jesus
- The prophecies were written at or after the time of Jesus.
Response: 450BC is the historic date, and in 250 BC a Greek translation was made.
- Fulfilled prophecy was deliberate.
Response: many were beyond the Messiah's control e.g. place, time and manner of birth; betrayal; death
- Fulfilled prophecy was coincidental
Response: Maybe one or two, but taken together, no one but Jesus could fill them all. The chance of just eight of the main prophecies being fulfilled in one man is 1 in 1017
- Born of a virgin
- Born in Bethlehem
- Preceded by a forerunner
- Entered Jerusalem on a donkey
- Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver
- Spat on and struck
- Crucified with other prisoners and made intercession for his persecutors
- Pierced through hands and feet
- Pierced through His side
- Soldiers gambled for clothing
- Buried in a rich man's tomb
- Would be resurrected
7.1. Arguments for the possibility of miracles
7.2. What about Science and Miracles?
- If God exists, then miracles are possible.
God would be all-powerful and able to work miracles. Nature is then open to the possibility of miracles. For if it is dependent on God for its existence, it is also dependent on him for whatever else he may want to do in it.
- Approach One: Science depends on observation and replication. Miracles do not strictly speaking fall into physical science, as they are by definition unrepeatable. The possibility of miracles is a philosophical question, not a scientific one. Science can only say that they do not occur in the ordinary course of nature, it cannot determine the possibility of their existence.
- Approach Two: A typical argument against miracles is as follows:
A closer examination of the flaws in this argument reveals a revised argument that actually supports miracles
- Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events
- Miracles are not constantly repeated
- Therefore, there is no scientific way to understand miracles
1. Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events
1.a. This repetition need not be a repetition of the event we are analyzing but only of other similar events e.g. scientific singularities include the Big Bang, Spontaneous generation of life, and macro evolution theories
2. Miracles are not constantly repeated events
3.b. Therefore, miracles need not be eliminated from the realm of scientific understanding. Moreover,
4. Constant repetition informs us that wherever complex information is conveyed there was an intelligent cause.
5. There are some scientific singularities (such as the origin of first life) where complex information is conveyed (the information contained in the first single cell which emerged on earth would fill a whole volume of an encyclopedia)
6. Therefore, there is a scientific basis for positing an intelligent non-natural cause for the origin of first life
And since this kind of singularity produced by a supernatural intelligent being would be a miracle by definition, then we have a firm scientific base for believing in miracles. Should someone protest that there is still a remote chance that life arose naturally i.e. intelligence resulting from a non-intelligent cause, non-living producing the living, which goes against uniform and universally available experience with no verified exceptions. You need only remind them that science is not based on flukes or anomalies, it is based on regularities and repetition
8. Does God exist?
8.1. The possibility.
Before looking at evidence to prove God' existence, it is important to determine if you are open to the possibility of the existence of God, and if not, why not? It is also very difficult to know that there is definitely no God, as you would need to have infinite knowledge!
8.2. Observational evidence for the existence of God
8.2.1. Anthropological research
When studying the origin and development of races, cultures, customs and beliefs of humankind we find that there is a universal belief in God. Even in the earliest histories and legends of all people around the world, the original concept was of one God, who was the creator - even in societies who are today polytheistic (more than one God)
8.2.2. Astronomical observation of design
The design characteristics of the universe are being examined and acknowledged. The degree of fine tuning is amazing and even the smallest of changes to these design constants / parameters would prevent the universe from supporting life e.g. mass density of the universe. Also examining parameters required for a planet to support life, one can safely conclude that much fewer than a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent of all stars will have a planet capable of sustaining advanced life. Considering that the observable universe contains less than a trillion galaxies, each averaging a hundred billion stars, we can see that not even one planet would be expected, by natural processes alone, to possess the necessary conditions to sustain life. Astronomers have thus discovered that the characteristics and parameters of the universe and our solar system are so finely tuned to support life that nothing less than a personal, intelligent Creator can explain the degree of fine-tuning.
8.2.3. The improbability of mere chance
Some hold to the view that, however unlikely, our existence did take place by chance. However, simply because we exist (are here), does not imply that our existence happened by chance.
Suppose a hundred sharp shooters are sent to execute a prisoner by firing squad and the prisoner survives. The prisoner should not be surprised that he does not observe that he is dead (i.e. that we don't exist). After all, if he were dead, he could not observe his death. Nonetheless, he should be surprised that he observes that he is alive. The prisoner could conclude, since he is alive, that all 100 sharpshooters missed by some extremely unlikely chance. He may wish to attribute his survival to an incredible bit of good luck, but he would be far more rational to conclude that the guns were loaded with blanks or that the sharpshooters all deliberately missed. That is, someone must have purposed that he should live. Likewise, the rational conclusion to draw from the incredible fine-tuning of the universe and the solar system is that someone purposed that we should live.
Also, if we examine all natural processes, we do not find spontaneous generation of anything highly complex and fine tuned. There is always intelligent cause! (see the argument for miracles). For example, the chance of amino acids randomly coming together in a human cell is mathematically absurd, like the chances that a tornado may blow through a junkyard containing all the parts of a 747, accidentally assemble them into a plane, and leave it ready for take-off. In fact the chance is so small as to be negligible even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole universe!
When one considers the intricacies of our life and universe, it is reasonable to think that an intelligent Creator provided for everything we need for life.
8.2.4. Our inherent sense of right and wrong
Our inherent sense of right and wrong cannot be explained by physical evolution, or material and biological substances. How do we explain a universal law in the conscience of all people that distinguishes between right and wrong (e.g. that courage, love, dignity are right and that rape and murder are wrong)? How do we explain that we see certain moralities as better than others (civilized vs savage morality e.g. that Nazi morality was wrong)? Rather this inherent sense of right and wrong points to a God behind the universe, who has put a moral law within us.
8.2.5. Origin of the universe
If the universe is the aftermath of an explosion (the 'Big Bang') then sometime in the past it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning then there must be a Beginner. For this reason many scientists initially, for example Einstein, did not want to accept the 'Big Bang' theory. Many other theories have been proposed (eternally existent, hesitating, steady state and oscillating universe) but all these models, apart from the Big Bang theory have evaporated in the face of new measurements and discoveries. Even Einstein gave grudging acceptance to the necessity for a beginning, and to the presence of a superior reasoning power.
8.2.6. The beginning of time
In 1968 and 1970, Stephen Hawking, George Ellis and Roger Penrose extended the solution of the equations of general relativity to include space and time. They discovered that space and time must have also had an origin, that time is finite -thus pointing to a universe that began. We are now left in need for a cause, a beginner - God.
8.3. Philosophical arguments for the existence of God (SEE NOTES)
8.3.1. Pascal's wager
8.3.2. Cosmological Arguments
8.3.3. Psychological Arguments