the Creator Revealed
By Dr. Thomas Kindell
Evolutionists sometimes argue that even though there appears to be so much evidence for intelligent design in the universe, it is all really just an illusion, because, if a Creator really existed, He would surely show Himself. So, they argue that because they can’t see the Creator, He must not exist. This argument may sound good at first, but, if you pause to think about it, we all believe in the reality of many things even though we cannot see them with our eyes. Gravity, magnetic fields, and radio waves are good examples. We can’t see such things with our eyes but we know that they exist because of their effects. In other words, we can’t see them but we know they exist because we can see what they do. Likewise, we can’t see God (Who is Spirit) but we can understand that He exists through the evidence of the universe He has created. (Romans 1:20)
Such evidence is not enough to satisfy many evolutionists. They insist that, “A God who cannot be seen is imaginary. Or, if He does exist, He is a worthless God and might as well be imaginary since He never chooses to reveal Himself in tangible form.” The following parable illustrates their argument:
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers...One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.” At last the skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?
This parable is a scathing indictment against all theistic truth claims save that of the Christian faith. For in Christianity we do not have merely an allegation that the “garden” of this world was created by a loving “Gardener;” we have the actual, empirical entrance of the “Gardener” into the human scene in the person of Jesus Christ. This entrance is verifiable by way of the historical fact of His resurrection.
The ultimate nightmare for thoroughgoing evolutionists is to have the Creator Himself show up, perform miracles of creation, and thereby demonstrate His Divine credentials for all to see. This is exactly what history tells us happened with the appearance of Jesus Christ! His impact on humanity was so great that it literally split history in two! Accordingly, to this day our calendars are gauged by the date of His birth.
The contention that the Creator really did enter into human history in the person of Jesus Christ is more than many evolutionists and skeptics can stand to hear. They seem to just close their minds at this point. Not only do they reject the massive historical testimony about Christ in the New Testament documents, some even go so far as to claim that Christ was just a myth or a legend. “He never really existed and there is no sound historical basis for claiming He ever existed,” they boldly assert. Facts, however, are stubborn things and the unimpeachable facts of secular history disseminate this pseudo-intellectual and inexcusably ignorant claim.
Not only do secular historians of first century antiquity confirm Christ as a literal person, their testimony even confirms the general historical outline of the New Testament. Consider the testimony of first century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus who wrote of Nero’s attempt to absolve himself of the guilt of burning Rome by falsely blaming it on the Christians:
Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the region of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also (Annals XV.44).
In Tacitus we have a great historian and a man of massive intelligence. Carefully observe that he used the name of Christ and assigned Him to the exact time and place he is given by the New Testament. There can be no question of Christ being a myth conjured up by Christians for Tacitus wrote this history.
The Jewish historian, Josephus, a contemporary of the apostles of Christ, gives many references to historical figures who are also mentioned in the New Testament documents. Historical scholar, F. F. Bruce, summarized this historical correlation:
Here, in the pages of Josephus, we meet many figures who are well known to us from the New Testament; the colorful family of the Herods; the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and the procurators of Judea; the high priestly families - Annas, Caiaphas, Ananias, and the rest; the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and so on.
Moreover, Josephus wrote of “the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James...” (Antiquities XX 9:1). An Israeli scholar, professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called attention to a forgotten Arabic text of Josephus apparently dating back to a period earlier than other known texts. Professor Pines quotes the Arabic version in a monograph which was published by the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1971. It reads:
Similarly Josephus, the Hebrew. For he says: “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah [another possible rendering from the Arabic: “thought to be the Messiah”] concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
It is quite probable that Josephus was early translated into a Syriac version, and the Arabic derived from that. Above all, this evidence sets Josephus, the Jewish historian, alongside the Roman historian Tacitus as another first century witness to the historical reality of the person Jesus Christ. As Dr. Norman Geisler has pointed out there are yet several other historical witnesses whose writings confirm the general historical witnesses and quotes them in his book Christian Apologetics:
Greek Satirist, Lucian
Roman historian, Suetonius
Pliny the Younger
Samaritan-born historian, Thallus
Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion
The Jewish Talmud
Dr. Geisler concludes:
Combining the above secular testimony to Christ, we get the following picture: (1) Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate at Passover time. (2) He was believed by his disciples to have risen from the dead three days later. (3) Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery and believed he was born of adultery. (4) The Judean sect of Christianity could not be contained but spread even to Rome. (5) Nero and other Roman rulers bitterly persecuted and martyred early Christians. (6) These early Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings, and worshipped Christ. This picture is perfectly congruent with that of the New Testament.
As the lawyers say, “The case rests!” The secular historical evidence is such that entirely apart from any Christian testimony, there can be no doubt at all that Jesus was a literal figure of history. In this regard, outstanding scholar F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchestor observed:
Some writers may toy with the fancy of a “Christ-myth,” but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the “Christ-myth” theories.
Dr. E. M. Blaiklock asks this penetrating question:
Why the unease over a historical Jesus? It cannot simply be a scholar’s zeal for truth. Julius Caesar is not thus dismissed, or his rather unsuccessful reconnaissance across the English Channel relegated to legend, despite the fact that our principal informant is Julius himself (in a book designed to secure his political reputation) and that confirmatory evidence of that campaign consists merely of a shield in the river at the Chelsea crossing of the Thames, a few lines in Cicero’s voluminous correspondence, and only a handful of later references.
It is difficult to lose from history one who has truly lived. Personalities appear and are listed confidently as real with little but a half-forgotten name, a profile on a coin, or a fragmentary inscription to authenticate their existence. The quarter of Alenader’s empire which lay toward the east in Bactria and India is known only from archaeological and numismatic records; many of its rulers are named and their actual existence unquestioned. Ancient history would provide similar illustrations of persons and events, slenderly documented, which provoke no great enthusiasm to refute and obliterate. Why this widespread desire to be rid of Jesus?
The answer appears obvious. If one acknowledges the existence of Christ one must deal with His claims that He is the Creator and the Savior of the world. Therefore, in an attempt to escape this accountability, some prefer to ignore the facts of history and sidestep the issue entirely by claiming that Christ was just a legend. And yet, this towering figure of history and His monumental claims cannot be so easily forgotten. As Dr. Blaiklock rightfully concludes:
Times change. Habits change. Nations and men disastrously forget their history. They never forget Jesus of Nazareth. He still inspires love stronger than death. No century has seen more martyrs than this. He still stirs the desire to be rid of His haunting challenge, to deny the claims that He ever was, or, if He was, to prove that He was not as His followers proclaimed Him. He is shown in rock opera and film as men strive to bring this extraordinary Person down to the common level. “Are You what You say You are?” they plead, then close their ears. But the answer remains the same.
Quite apart from the question whether the behests of Christ are acceptable or scorned, and whether that astonishingly documented story of the empty tomb is believed or disbelieved, it remains true that no responsible historian can dismiss the historical reality of Jesus...Jesus lived according to the proportions which the New Testament sets forth - no self-deluded, tragic failure, no invention of enthusiasts, but the most extraordinary being who ever trod the earth. Nineteen centuries of history have been influenced and penetrated by Him. As the brilliant Frenchman Ernest Renan, one of the forerunners of skeptical New Testament criticism and himself no Christian, remarked in a famous peroration, Jesus Christ has been “so completely the cornerstone of humanity that to tear His name from the world, would be to shake it to its foundations.” Most students of history would abandon their quest for truth if it could be proved that the record of events which affect almost two millennia arose from the naive delusions or criminal deceptions of a band of simple Jews, who created out of nothing native to their minds the whole transforming story.
And what of the New Testament? Should its massive historical data concerning Christ be rejected? Indeed it should if it fails to adequately pass the established tests used to evaluate all ancient histories. However, if the New Testament documents pass these tests then there is no legitimate reason to reject their explicit history of the life of Christ.
Military historian, Chauncey Sanders, lists three major tests used to establish the validity of ancient histories: the internal evidence test, the external evidence test, and the bibliographical test. The internal evidence test is concerned primarily with whether or not the history was given by eye-witnesses who published their testimony during the lifetimes of those who were contemporaries of the events described. The external evidence test asks if the historical document in question is, or is not, disqualified by contradicting well-established facts of history known from external historical sources or from archaeology. The bibliographical test examines the manuscript authority of the historical text based on the number of manuscripts in existence and their closeness to the original. When the New Testament documents are examined by these three crucial historical tests, we find that the New Testament not only passes all of them, but does so with tremendously higher honors than any other document from antiquity!
The Reliability of the New Testament
Because the New Testament provides the primary historical source for information on the life of Jesus Christ, numerous critics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have attacked the reliability of the New Testament documents. There has been a seemingly endless barrage of accusations despite the fact that these allegations have no factual historical foundation or have now been disproved and outdated by archaeological discoveries.
Commonly, these accusations are based on the erroneous conclusions of the German critic, F. C. Baur. Without adequate historical justification, Baur assumed that most of the New Testament documents were not written until late in the second century A.D. He alleged that these writings came basically from myths or legends that had developed during the supposed lengthy interval between the lifetime of Christ and the time these accounts were actually set down in writing.
By the twentieth century, however, historical and archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy and early dates of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of very early papyri manuscripts (the Bodmer Papyri II, the Chester Beatty Papyri, and the John Ryland Manuscript) bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date.
William F. Albright, who was the world’s foremost Biblical archaeologist and paleographer concluded:
All radical schools in New Testament criticism which have existed in the past or which exist today are pre-archaeological, and are, therefore, since they were built In der Luft [in the air], quite antiquated today.
Albright further declared: “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.” He reiterated this view during an interview for a well-known magazine: “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75).”
Well known historical scholar and lecturer, Josh McDowell further points out: “Many of the liberal scholars are being forced to consider earlier dates for the New Testament. Dr. John A. T. Robinson’s conclusion in his new book Redating the New Testament is startlingly radical [for a liberal]. His research led to the conviction that the whole of the New Testament was written before the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”
Sir William Ramsay is recognized as one of the greatest archaeologists of all time. He had been a student of the German historical school which taught that the Book of Acts was penned in the middle of the second century A.D. rather than in the first century. Having studied the claims of liberal critics of the Book of Acts, Ramsay became convinced that Acts was not a trustworthy account of mid-first century history and was accordingly unworthy of consideration by a serious historian. However, when researching the first century history of Asia Minor, he decided to examine the writings of Luke (the author of the Book of Acts) firsthand. Upon doing so he found that Luke recorded historical details with meticulous accuracy. He also found that many of the assertions of the liberal scholars he had studied were unsubstantiated. Thus his attitude about the Book of Acts gradually changed. He was finally swayed completely when archaeological and historical discoveries conclusively demonstrated that Luke had to be a first century writer and that certain details of his writing, first considered false, were finally proven to be true. Ramsay was forced by such facts to conclude that, “Luke is a historian of the first rank...this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Of all the archaeological finds in the middle east, not one can be said to unquestionably contradict the history recorded in the New Testament documents. On the other hand, literally hundreds of finds have confirmed the New Testament presentation, even in matters of minute detail. Archaeologist Joseph Free attested, “Archaeology has confirmed countless [Biblical] passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts.” The situation is well summarized in the words of distinguished Roman historian A. N. Sherwin-White concerning the writings of Luke:
For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming...Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.
The real irony of the situation is that nowadays professional historians accept the historicity of the New Testament. It is the liberal critics using unfounded philosophical and pre-archaeological assumptions who unjustly reject the historicity of the New Testament.
One of the favorite assumptions of the critics is that the New Testament history was passed on by word of mouth until it was finally written down long after the events occurred. They assume that the Gospel accounts took on the forms of folk literature (legends, tales, and myths) during the supposed lengthy interval between the time of the events and the time the history was actually set down in writing. In light of the evidence showing the New Testament was recorded primarily in the mid-first century, this presupposition of the critics is foundationless. The period of supposed oral transmission of the New Testament (as defined by the critics) is simply not long enough to allow the changes in the message which these critics have alleged. Noting the brevity of the time element involved in the writing of the New Testament, Simon Kistemaker, professor at Dordt College, wrote:
Normally the accumulation of folklore among people of primitive culture takes many generations; it is a gradual process spread over centuries of time. But in conformity with the thinking of the form critic, we must conclude that the Gospel stories were produced and collected within little more than one generation.
Though not a Christian, Paul L. Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, admitted: “Arguments that Christianity hatched its Easter myth over a lengthy period of time or that the sources were written many years after the event are simply not factual.”
Analyzing modern liberal criticism, William F. Albright wrote: “Only modern scholars who lack both historical method and perspective can spin such a web of speculation as that with which form critics have surrounded the Gospel tradition.” Albright then firmly concluded, “A period of twenty to fifty years is too slight to permit any appreciable corruption of the essential content and even of the specific wording of the sayings of Jesus.”
At this point many skeptics argue that although the evidence indicates the eyewitness accounts were recorded soon after the events, centuries of copying and recopying the text allowed much corruption and interpolation to significantly alter the original testimony. After all, stories abound of zealous monks in the middle ages who copied the New Testament, but in doing so, changed the text to fit their own ideals of who Christ really was. After so many centuries of handwritten transmission, how can we trust our present New Testament text to accurately deliver the original testimony? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess about this matter. This same type of question is asked about all histories from antiquity and the historical bibliographical test is used to determine the accuracy of transmission.
The Bibliographical Test
The bibliographical test involves an examination of the textual transmission by which historical documents reach us. That is, not having the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and the closest copies?
We can best comprehend the superior wealth of manuscript authority for the New Testament by comparing it with textual material from other notable literature of antiquity.
The history written by Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) is available to us from only eight manuscripts dated about A.D. 900. This is nearly 1,300 years after he wrote the original manuscripts. The manuscripts giving the history of Herodotus are likewise late and rare. None-the-less, as F. F. Bruce concludes, “No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.”
Aristotle penned his poetics around 343 B.C. and yet the earliest copy we possess is dated A.D. 1100. This represents nearly a 1,400 year gap, and only five manuscripts are in existence.
Caesar wrote his history of the Gallic Wars between 58 and 50 B.C. and its manuscript authority rests on only ten copies which are dated at 1,000 years after his death.
When it comes to manuscript authority from antiquity the New Testament leads all others by a staggering margin. After the significant early papyri manuscript discoveries which bridged the gap between the time of Christ and the second century A.D., an abundance of other manuscripts came to light. Today, over 24,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts are known to exist. In comparison, the Iliad has only 643 manuscripts and yet is second in manuscript authority after the New Testament.
The advantage in having such a vast abundance of manuscripts is that it makes it easy to compare manuscripts to decipher where and when any changes in the text may have occurred. Using this process (known as textual criticism) scholars have found that there is only one half of one percent of the New Testament in which there is any question of whether that part of the text was in the original - and none of that minute questionable portion has anything to do with any important Christian doctrine.
Number of Copies
100 - 44 B.C.
427 - 347 B.C.
Pliny the Younger
61 - 113 A.D.
460 - 400 B.C.
75 - 160 A.D.
480 - 425 B.C.
796 - 406 B.C.
480 - 406 B.C.
383 - 322 B.C.
384 - 382 B.C.
450 - 385 B.C.
40 - 100 A.D.
* Demotheses - All 200 copies derived from just one copy.
* Aristotle - No more than 49 copies of any one work.
The New Testament Greek authority, J. Harold Greenlee, adds:
Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of the ancient classics even though the earliest MSS. [manuscripts] were written so long after the original writings and the number of extant MSS. is in many instances so small, it is clear that the reliability of the text of the New Testament is likewise assured.
Dr. Norman Geisler summarizes:
Both the authenticity and the historicity of the New Testament documents are firmly established today. The authentic nature and vast amount of the manuscript evidence is overwhelming compared to the classical texts from antiquity. Furthermore, many of the original manuscripts date from within twenty to thirty years of the events in Jesus’ life, that is, from contemporaries and eyewitnesses.
The historicity of these contemporary accounts of Christ’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection is also established on firm historical grounds. The integrity of the New Testament writers is established by the character of the witnesses as well as by the quantity and independent nature of their witness. As to the accuracy of their reports there is support in general from the secular history of the first century and in particular from numerous archaeological discoveries supporting specific details of the New Testament account.
Sir Frederick Kenyon, who had been the director and principal librarian at the British Museum and second to none in authority for issuing judgments about manuscripts, concludes:
The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.
The application of the bibliographical test to the New Testament demonstrates that it has more manuscript authority than any thirty works of ancient literature combined. Adding to that authority the more than 100 years of intensive New Testament textual criticism, one can conclude that beyond any reasonable doubt an authentic New Testament text has been established.
The Messiah of Prophecy
Jesus Christ is truly unique. One major distinguishing characteristic of Jesus was His constant and empathic claim to be God manifest in human flesh. He consistently claimed to be the unique Son of God. Thus, He claimed oneness and equality with God the Father. Even His enemies fully understood His claims. They took strong exception to His statements, saying, “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God”! (John 10:33)
Jesus’ claim of deity is especially significant in light of the fact that the founders of the world’s other major religions did not make such a claim. Of course, anyone can claim to be God. However, the amazing thing about Jesus is that His claim of deity cannot be reasonably dismissed for, unlike any other man in history, He has the credentials to substantiate His claim. The two main credentials of Christ are His fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies and His resurrection from the dead.
Throughout history there have been about 40 major claims by men to be the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. But only one - Jesus Christ of Nazareth - appealed to fulfilled prophecy to validate His claims. In all, over 300 Old Testament prophesies were fulfilled in Christ.
Skeptics often question the legitimacy of the Messianic prophecies. Unwilling to accept the supernatural origin of the prophecies, they explain the prophesies explicit fulfillments in the person of Christ as the work of conspirators who merely wrote the prophesies at, or after, the time of Christ. To this allegation Professor Josh McDowell replies:
If you are not satisfied with 450 B.C. as the historic date for the completion of the Old Testament, then take into consideration the following: The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was initiated in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285 - 246 B.C.). It is rather obvious that if you have a Greek translation initiated in 250 B.C., then you had to have the Hebrew text from which it was written. This will suffice to indicate that there was at least a 250 year gap between the prophecies being written down and their fulfillment in the person of Christ.
Other critics claim the fulfilled prophecies were just a lot of chance and coincidences. “Why, you could probably find these same prophecies fulfilled in a number of famous men in history,” they retort. Yes, perhaps you could find one or two of these prophecies fulfilled in other men, but not all 60 of the major prophecies. In fact, if you can find any man (living or dead) who can fulfill only 20 of the major prophecies discussed in Messiah In Both Testaments by Fred John Meldau, the Christian Victory Publishing Company of Denver will give you a $1,000 reward. This is a nice sum of money. However, before any people expend any effort to try to cash in on this reward, I would suggest they take the time to read the book, Science Speaks, by Peter Stoner. In the forward of Stoner’s book, H. Harold Hartzler, of the American Scientific Affiliation wrote:
The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.
To demonstrate that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability, Stoner applies mathematical probability analysis to eight specific Messianic prophecies. In summation he says, “We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power.” To help us grasp the immensity of this probability Stoner illustrates it by supposing that:
We take 10 to the 17th power silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.
Now these prophecies were either given by inspiration of God or the prophets just wrote them as they thought they should be. In such a case the prophets had just one chance in 10 to the 17th power of having them come true in any man, but they all came true in Christ.
This means that the fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of those prophecies to a definiteness which lacks only one chance in 10 to the 17th power of being absolute.
Stoner then examines a total of 48 prophesies and says, “We find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophesies to be 1 in 10 to the 157th power. “This number is ten million, quintillion, quintillion, quintillion, quintillion times greater than the estimated number of atoms in the known universe. Suffice it to say that these fulfilled prophesies were definitely not the product of chance.
Another objection raised by skeptics is that Jesus deliberately attempted to fulfill the Messianic prophecies. Josh McDowell responds:
This objection seems plausible until we realize that many of the details of the Messiah’s coming were totally beyond human control. For example, the place of birth. I can just hear Jesus in Mary’s womb as she rode on the donkey: “Mom, we won’t make it...” When Herod asked the chief priests and scribes, “Where is the Christ to be born?” they said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:5). The time of his coming. The manner of his birth. Betrayal by Judas and the betrayal price. The manner of his death. The people’s reaction, the mocking and spitting, the staring. The casting of dice for his clothes. The non-tearing of his garment, etc. Half the prophecies are beyond his fulfillment. He couldn’t work it out to be born of the seed of the woman, the lineage of Shem, the descendants of Abraham, etc. No wonder Jesus and the apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy to substantiate his claim.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Fact of History
Some people flippantly dismiss the resurrection story claiming that, “It is not worthy of consideration because it can’t be proved scientifically.” The mentality that modern humanity has adopted is astounding! Somehow, many people in the twentieth century hold the opinion that if something cannot be proven scientifically, it is not true. Well, that assertion is not true! We need to understand the difference between a scientific fact and a legal-historical fact.
Scientific proof is based on the scientific method of repeatable experimentation and observation. Obviously, therefore, any event in history cannot be proved scientifically because it is impossible to repeat and observe historical events under controlled conditions in a laboratory. Accordingly, if the scientific method was the only way of proving something, you couldn’t even prove that you went to your job last week.
Legal-historical proof is based on showing that something is a fact beyond a reasonable doubt. By this method, a verdict is reached on the basis of the weight of the evidence. In other words, it is shown that there is no reasonable basis for doubting the decision. This depends on three types of testimony: written testimony, oral testimony, and exhibits (such as a rifle, a bullet, fingerprints, a diary, etc.). Using the legal method of determining facts, you could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you went to your job last week: Your friends saw you; you signed your name on dated material; your suggestions were noted in the minutes of the board meeting; the boss remembers talking with you.
The scientific method isn’t capable of answering such questions as: “Did Julius Caesar fight the Gallic Wars?”; “Was George Washington the first U.S. President?”; “Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?” Such questions are outside the realm of scientific proof. So, we need to address such questions within the realm of legal-historical proof. However, when we rely on the legal-historical method, we need to check out the reliability of the testimonies. We have already seen that the eyewitness accounts of the New Testament evangelists have been very accurately transmitted through history. Therefore, we must now apply the laws of legal evidence to the testimony of the New Testament evangelists to see if their testimony would withstand rigorous legal scrutiny in a court of law. In examining this question, I can quote no greater authority than Dr. Simon Greenleaf, famous Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University during the nineteenth century and one of the greatest legal minds in history.
Greenleaf authored a famous work entitled A Treatise On The Law of Evidence, (1842) which was so excellent that it is still considered by many to be the greatest single authority on evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure.
Although Greenleaf was adamantly skeptical of Christianity, some of his Christian law students challenged him to take his own treatise on the laws of legal evidence and apply its precepts to the testimony of the New Testament evangelists. Greenleaf accepted this challenge, thinking that with his knowledge of the laws of evidence he would easily debunk the testimony of the evangelists. However, much to his surprise, Greenleaf found the testimony of the evangelists to be irrefutable from a legal standpoint. As a result, Greenleaf was convinced that the resurrection of Jesus Christ had to be one of the best established facts of history and he thenceforth became an ardent follower of Jesus Christ.
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brewer said: “The existing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is satisfactory to me. I have not examined it from the legal standpoint, but Greenleaf has done so, and he is the highest authority on evidence cited in our courts.”
In 1846, while still Professor of Law at Harvard, Greenleaf authored a book entitled, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. In the following excerpt from this classic work, Greenleaf explains why the nature of the evidence compelled him to accept the resurrection as a legal-historical fact which was attested to by truthful witnesses:
The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, first, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience, and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances.
Let the evangelists be tried by these tests.
And first to their honesty. Here they are entitled to the benefit of the general course of human experience, that men ordinarily speak the truth when they have no prevailing motive or inducement to the contrary. This presumption is applied in courts of justice, even to witnesses whose integrity is not wholly free from suspicion; much more is it applicable to the evangelists, whose testimony went against all their worldly interests. The great truths which the apostles declared were that Christ had risen from the dead and that only through repentance from sin and faith in Him could men hope for salvation.
This doctrine they assert with one voice everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their Master had recently perished as a malefactor by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of His disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. Propagating this faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt and opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. One after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution.
The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the ground of their faith, and the evidences of the great truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them was, not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life or in the world to come.
Such conduct in the apostles would, moreover, have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others in our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations and infirmities as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of various understandings.
If then their testimony were not true there was no possible motive for this fabrication. It would have been irreconcilable with the fact that they were good men. But it is impossible to read their writings and not feel that we are conversing with men eminently holy, and of tender consciences, with men acting under an abiding sense of the presence and omniscience of God, and of their accountability to Him, living in His fear and walking in His ways. Now, though in a single instance, a good man may fall when under strong temptation, yet he is not found for years persisting in deliberate falsehood, asserted with the most solemn appeals to God, without the slightest temptation or motive, and against all the opposing interests which reign in the human breast.
If, on the contrary, they are supposed to have been bad men, it is incredible that such men should have chosen this form of imposture, enjoining, as it does, unfeigned repentance, the utter forsaking and abhorrence of all falsehood and every other sin, the practice of daily self-denial, self-abasement and self-sacrifice, the crucifixion of the flesh with all its earthly appetites and desires, indifference to the honor and hearty contempt of the vanities of the world; and inculcating perfect purity of heart and life and intercourse of the soul with heaven.
It is incredible that bad men should invent falsehood to promote the religion of the God of truth. The opposition is suicidal.
If they believed in a future state of retribution, a heaven and a hell thereafter, they took the most certain course, if false witnesses, to secure the latter for their portion. And if, still being bad men, they did not believe in future punishment, how came they to invent falsehoods, the direct and certain tendency of which was to destroy all their prospects of worldly honor and happiness and to insure their misery in this life? From these absurdities there is no escape but in the perfect confidence and admission that they were good men, testifying to that which they had carefully observed and considered and well knew to be true.
What is your personal evaluation of the evidence? What is you decision concerning the empty tomb? Upon examining the evidence from a judicial perspective, Lord Darling, former Chief Justice of England, concluded that “there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”
Christ is not just another religious leader. Unlike Budda, Confuscious, Mohammed, Krishna, or Zoroaster, Christ’s body is not rotting in the grave. He arose! His resurrection fulfilled prophecy and was the crowning proof of His claim to be the Creator God manifest in human form. Because He lives He is available and powerful to transform the lives of those who call on Him today. I know this with certitude not just because of the facts of science and history but because He changed my life! He freed me from a life of insecurity, rebellion, hatred, and bitter cynicism. Christ transformed me into a man full of security, peace, and, love. I no longer agonize over the crucial questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? What will happen to me when I die? I finally know my true identity and that my life has wonderful meaning and purpose. I am not just an accident - not just an animal. I was made in the image of God my Creator, which gives me tremendous value, purpose, peace, and a lasting security for through Christ I share a love relationship with God that will last for time and eternity.
The Ultimate Verdict - Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
Ultimately we must all give a verdict concerning the claims of Christ. Even an attempt to be “neutral” - to give no decision - is still a verdict which carries consequences for Christ said, “He that is not for me is against me” (Matt. 12:30). There is no middle ground.
Any man who claims to be God can have only three possible identities. If he knows his claims are false, he is a liar. If he does not realize his claims are false, he is deranged - a lunatic. Or, if he made the claims and verified his claims then he is Lord and God! These are the only three options possible because if Christ’s claims to be God were false then He had to be a terrible liar or a pathetic lunatic. Therefore those who reject His deity cannot salve their consciences by saying that at least they respect Christ as a great man and a great moral teacher. Christ never left the option open to respect Him as a teacher. He never intended to leave this option open. In light of Christ’s explicit claims to be the Creator, and the Savior of the world you must spit at Him and detest Him as a diabolical liar, or you must pity Him as a deranged lunatic or you must fall on your knees, submit to Him and worship Him as Lord and God. These are truly your only options. What will you do with the only man in history who not only claimed to be God but also displayed the credentials to validate His claim? What will you do with Jesus Christ
Reasons for Faith
Thomas Kindell D.Ph.Th.