So lately, over the past week or two, I’ve been brainstorming and doing an absurd amount of research (which mainly consists of just scanning anything I find that gets straight to the point into reason and objectivity) into the Resurrection of Jesus. I even ordered “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell (I frankly disagree with his views on things such as the historicity of Adam and Eve) but his sections concerning Jesus, the resurrection, gospels, manuscripts, and contradictions piqued my interest. As I was reading through his section on “Resurrection, Hoax or History?”, I noticed that he mentioned several verses where Jesus predicted his own death/betrayal. The verses in question were:
1 Corinthians 11:23
Now I have come with the question, and this is actually one I’ve been thinking about for everything Jesus has said in the New Testament. How do we know that these weren’t things added in by groups such as the early church or the Authors themselves in order to fit a bias, and thus, serve no historical purpose? Do we have any ways to figure this out or is it a matter of faith? Were the verses about Jesus implying he was God and predicting his own Resurrection History or… Hoax?
I also have another question, do you personally think Josh McDowell is a good author to read on for the resurrection? I was thinking about ordering “Evidence for the Resurrection” but I wanted to see if I could find some opinions here on it first. Would you say his sources and explanations in his books (specifically ETDAV) are great, acceptable, bad, or somewhere in between?
Do we really know if Jesus said anything?
Edit: A lot of the research I’ve been doing has also been primarily on websites such as Britannica or Wikipedia (I’m aware Wikipedia may not be the exact best but to be honest, most of the subjects I’ve viewed on there had citation/bibliography for all they said. Whether there was hidden agenda behind the authors, I don’t know)
While I do not agree with him either on some things, overall, i think Josh McDowell does a pretty good job of arguing the plausibility. I am not a big fan of apologetics in general, as I do think that ultimately it is a faith issue and rational arguments are not going to get you there, no matter how good they are.
On the other hand, @Rave, there are some of us who already believe in the crucifixion, death, entombment, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but still appreciate the evidentiary support that Gary Habermas offers.
i can understand your concerns because of the seemingly conflicting scientific interpretations of our world around us, however, i would like to highlight something very important about apologetics and biblie doctrine that is of vital importance…it goes to the very credibility of the bible itself.
Lets look at the Sanctuary Service in Exodus and Leviticus.
Why were the Israelites given this service as a people after the exodus? Contrary to the beliefs of some, it was not a new thing. The sacrificial system had been in place for thousands of years…long before the Exodus. How do we know this?
Abraham sacrificed to the God in Heaven and he lived hundreds of years before the exodus
Noah sacrificed to the God in Heaven and he lived more than 1000 years before the Exodus
Cain and Abel sacrificed to the God in Heaven and according to the literal reading of Genesis (which ovviously some do not agree with), Cain and Abel (adams first two boys) lived more than 1000 years before the flood and well over 2000 years prior to the exodus
Ok, back to the Sanctuary Service…Why did the Sanctuary Service exist?
The Sanctuary Service is a reminder of the means by which the wages of Sin would be resolved. Satan caused this by claiming God was selfish and unfair in heaven. This left no option but for God to prove his own innocence and he Did this by dying for the sins of His own creation. If God could achieve this, then immediately the responsiblity would fall back on Satan himself…he would ultimately be proven wrong and thus he would become responsible for all of the pain and suffering that he caused throughout the ages. That is the entire point of the whole Bible.
Because Adam and Eve sinned, and every individual after them sinned as well, all humanity was condemned to die. No man can be saved from the wages of sin of his own accord. Mankind could never be redemed back to God unless someone without sin paid the ultimate price for sin (a sinner cannot make atonement for sin…remember as part of the service, the lamb brought to the sacrifice had to be perfect…without blemish is the proper term)
Also, the wages of sin is not absolved by the blood of sheep and goats (some may not realise this however read Hebrews 10:4).
The ONLY way that humanity is saved from the wages of sin is through the death of Christ (The Lamb of God) on the cross.
This is the entire reason why we were given the sanctuary service in the Old Testament. For thousands of years prior to the time of Christ, all who believed in God and followed His commands, participated literally in the sanctuary service and in addition to this, on one day each year, they celebrated the day of Atonement…the day in which the earthly sanctuary was cleansed and sin transferred from the Tabernacle to the Scapegoat (Azazeel). This goat was then cast out into the wilderness. This represents the final tranferral of the responsibility for all the sin of humanity to Satan himself. It is also why the millenium cannot be before the second coming of Christ. The transfer of sin from the Tabernacle to the scapegoat only happened when the priest left the sanctuary and went out to the entrace of the outer courtyard and laid his hands on the scapegoat. Christ, our heavenly high priest after the order of Melchizzadek does not leave the heavenly sanctuary until just prior to his second coming. (because he is in the sanctuary in heaven now…that is where he went to after his ascention to heaven).
Anyway, back to the point…
The earthly sanctuary service was a ritual that was real, it was performed daily by the israelite high priests…it cannot be an allegory because the founder of the service on earth came at the hands of Moses Himself and was performed by Aaron (Moses brother) and Aarons sons. It is impossible to ignore the apologetics of the Sanctuary Service and claim it is not relevant to Christianity…it absolutely is exactly why its a very important area of study.
This is also another reason why the evidence supports the ressurection of Christ…its because apologetically, it is very difficult to accept everything that came before Christs ressurection, everything that the apostles saw and wrote after his ascention (Paul is a very good illustration), and ignore the ressurection is also true. The consistency of doctrine throughout the bible is to accurate for the claims parts are true and parts are simply mythical stories or allegories. One has to take a theologically wholistic approach to scripture…and apologetically it is impossible to pretend parts of it that are written in a manner that are meant to be literal accounts of history (such as the ressurrection of Christ) are mythical or not real. To do so is to essentially discredit the entire writings and make it worthless…particularly if one truly understands the Sanctuary Service.
I would encourage those who have doubts to read the entire account of the
Sanctuary in Exodus and Leviticus, and also read the book of Hebrews. Study them deeply, they are vital in understanding the Gospel. If you do not understand why Christ came and died, the rest is useless/pointless.
The entire plan of salvation is explained in the Sanctuary Service. Please also do not forget, the earthly sanctuary is a copy of the heavenly sanctuary…and that is very important (and also why we must study the book of Hebrews)
I think the above is a good way to frame the question - as opposed to “How have the arguments of the book stood up?” Because, regardless of how well they’ve “stood” (and I’m not implying they haven’t successfully stood as truth claims - I remember largely accepting them myself years ago when I read the book), another important question to keep in mind is “how well do those arguments engage with current culture?” (And yes - on hearing that, the ‘relativism police’ have alarms blaring, as they rouse themselves into full emergency response mode.) My impression is that this approach to apologetics is largely seen as dated now (as in … yeah - this was your father’s Oldsmobile). Which isn’t to say the arguments don’t still have essential truth to be valued - and still have a needed influence, perhaps especially in getting somebody started toward understanding how Christian argumentation has developed. [i.e. - seeing it more now as an instructive history of apologetics rather than as a definitive last word that compelled seasoned skeptics.] It’s a lay approach probably found on more high school and young-adult shelves maybe than in the scholarly halls of theology. And that isn’t the ‘put-down’ that it may have sounded like to some. My recollected impression is that he was aiming more at a wider and younger audience more than for professors or prestigous theological libraries. Look more toward the likes of N.T. Wright if you want that (who I think might have significant overlap in some of the actual substance, but just written at a higher level.)
All that is just my way of saying that I think I would attend more to Josh McDowell as a current person, and his and his son, Sean’s more recent books - how they are engaging with current culture now. Because in many ways, the questions on people’s minds today are different than those asked a generation ago. It’s also a way of reframing the original question: “how true and sound were Josh’s arguments and truth claims” to add in a different question: “How true is Josh himself?” As with so many evangelical leaders these days, the proof is really in the pudding. Their actions and any lately revealed allegiances proclaim the real message of what they are about, and provide all the illumination that is needed regarding how much you should be hanging onto their words. Can you get fresh water from a salt water spring?
Josh would insist, in fine apologetic and philosophical form I’m sure, that it doesn’t matter where all the interests of culture have migrated, or even what kind of saint or reprobate he himself may have been lately; the answers to life’s persistent questions are still going to be the age-old truth that it has always been. And as a Christian, I agree with that - sort of. The last bit of it anyway, though I would say it very much matters where the current culture is, and yes - the messenger cannot be disregarded whenever we ponder a message. I bet Josh would agree with all that.
You might be interested in a now closed thread from some months back where we went through Myron Penner’s book “The End of Apologetics”. In fact I think he has some enegagement with Josh McDowell himself and has interviewed with him. Link to the thread below.
Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ is a book I would still recommend as an introduction to various subjects in Christian apologetics and the scholars who specialize in them. William Lane Craig was one of the scholars Strobel interviewed about the resurrection, and I went on to read Craig’s published debates with Crossan and Ludemann. An effective argument can be made that Jesus rose from the dead, but ultimately it is an argument based on the eyewitness testimony of another person.
Nowadays I like Craig Keener the most for NT scholarship and apologetics. Some things I disagree with him, but I really like how he handles the historical issues and he is a highly respected authority on cultural contextual stuff. Check out this video for an introduction:
As far as knowing about Jesus, consider the argument Peter makes in Acts 2:14-36. He concludes by saying “therefore know for certain” and based this on the testimony of the Old Testament, eyewitness testimony for the resurrection, and the self-evident testimony of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think the McDowells (at least from when I last looked into their stuff) are guilty of anything more than a bit of the typical exaggeration of the strength of the arguments they’ve put forward, and probably a fair bit too much straw-manning all skepticism directed against the approved narrative. And those sins are pretty common.
Guilty of anything more than exaggeration, leaps in logic, fallacious arguments, canonical bias, being uncritical of ideas you like, confirmation bias, etc.? I’m not morally condemning them. I don’t think the Mcdowells are liars or dishonest (I have no way of evaluating that) but you are putting their intellectual crimes very charitably. Yes those are extremely common when Christian apologists attempt history. Bad science is also extremely common when YECS do science. I am sure when many Christians listen to YEC preachers they think their teaching is reliable, accurate and scripturally sound. They, not being scientists, don’t know any better. It is the same with many Christians reading historical apologetics like NETDAV or The Case for Christ. It feeds their beliefs, tends to their insecurities and tells them what they want or even need to hear. I wonder how many young Christians–vibrant with faith, and eager to share the facts of the gospel–marched off to university, fully ready to buck the system, armed with NETDAV or Strobel’s The Case for Christ, only to be slapped silly with actual history? I was one of those who took the apologetical bait and fell hard because of it. The low blow is necessary and its why I try to write for those who have staggered out of this camp, feeling pretty lost. Truth is its hard to conduct legitimate research for anyone, myself included, in a polarized field when you aren’t a trained professional. Even then, professionals in Biblical criticism can’t hope to keep up with all the ideas, books and opinions circulating today.
For me the bias in conservative works is obvious. Look at all the conservative scholars in seminaries who think every (and that is the key word) NT book was penned by its namesake. Every miracle recorded about Jesus happened as written. Do you ever wonder why they always reach a positive historical judgment about ALL critical NT issues? If every judgment you ever make always favors tradition and historicity of Biblical works, regardless of whether your judgment is correct or not, you clearly have some bias guiding you. All this while they deny virtually deny tradition about every book outside the canon. Clearly faith is driving or masquerading itself as history.
NETDAV spends a good deal of time on textual criticism from what I remember. The simple fact is we have extremely scant textual evidence the first hundred or so years for all NT works and nothing for the OT for centuries IIRC.
 Take each book of the Bible (or just NT) and write them in a list.
 Next write down all that we know about their text from the first 100-150 years.
 How many verses do we actually have?
The idea that if we can’t trust the Bible textually we can’t trust the rest of classical history is nonsense that only preaches to the choir. Who cares? Who bases their life on a reconstruction of the text of Josephus or Tacitus? And why would anyone want to do this or base faith in the Bible on human ability to reconstruct it? The fact is that any rational historian is going to trust where the evidence leads them. If they cannot be certain of the textual stability and authorship of classical literature then they will tell you so. They do discuss these issues but Christian apologists are often not interested in reading what they actually write. You know how scientists in real studies always give probabilities or error bars or list limitations of their studies? In high academic research, historians always discussant vet their source material. That is what history is. Ken Sparks mentioned this. How conservative exegetes almost always caricature what critical scholars actually believe! It is a defense mechanism. Do Christian apologists actually think scholars don/t question the textual stability of a non-biblical work 10 centuries removed from its putative origin? I can assure you they do or simply work with the document because its all they have adding necessary caveats.
Comparing the Bible to ancient works is itself done in a misleading fashion. The fact that we have more evidence for the Bible than some other ancient works does’t mean much. A person with a net worth of $3,000 has more money than a person with a net worth of $10 but I would classify both as “broke.”
So what about the dark period when these texts were first written? Before they became authoritative and circulated widely, they would have been the most vulnerable to alteration? How can a complete paucity of evidence actually demand any verdict besides non liquet?
Its extremely disingenuous not to point out we have very little information for the actual, specific compositional history, transmission and dissemination of any NT work for 100 or more years after they were all thought to be written. A credit-card sized fragment of John (ca 100-200 AD and not 125 AD) showed up in Egypt? Wow.
Another simple fact is that a bazillion copies from the middle ages do not get us to the autographs. Copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies hundreds of years later do not get us there. Nor do they mean we should trust the book with our lives. And good textual critics know earlier is not even always better. A manuscript from the 11th century could be more accurate than one from the 2nd.
The idea that we can reconstruct the whole bible from church citations is also a nice party punch line of Mcdowell types. But ask yourself, is this from church fathers of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh centuries? How diverse are the earliest citations when the texts would be the most fluid? When you dig deeper and examine the claim it loses its force.
We certainly do have almost an embarrassing wealth of Biblical manuscripts and that is a good thing, but the evidence is always uncritically exaggerated and overstated. Especially for what the evidence is pushing towards. The field of textual criticism is also notorious in my opinion for drawing the most conservative of Christians. When you go for a phd into other programs much fewer remain conservative at the end.
I raised a good look into critical textual issues on this site also hosted here. These all show variable composition histories that should serve as a warning to textual critics.
And this is the most boring of all the subjects in the book. Even if we have an accurately transmitted bible from the autographs, this says nothing about the accuracy of its contents which I am sure the author would agree. An accurate copy of Shakespeare copies extremely well over the centuries is only that. It means nothing aside from the uncritical false sense of security some believers obtain from it. Only that the book was copied well enough to retain its message over time. If you were worried about that it could placate some doubts but it says nothing of the message in the book or the accuracy of its contents. There is also nothing remarkable or supernatural about the preservation of the Bible textually. A careful and unbiased assessment reveals the very human processed involved and many expected alterations and corruption.
If apologists exaggerate a rather docile textual criticism, imagine what happens when they try to convince us a man rose from the dead based on 2,000 year old hearsay? Or, if my memory serves me well, when Mcdowell regurgitates the horrifically bad “trilemma” which only has a footing if you assume Jesus actually said and did all the things the Gospel records and also that the later church’s interpretation of them is correct (full God full man). AKA, if you assume all the tenets of conservative Christianity are already true, then the trilemma has force. Plenty of people read the Gospels and do not immediately think Jesus claimed to be identical with God (who is God but God alone? oh he must have said it with a twinkle in his eye because we don’t like it otherwise)… Which Jesus? The contradictory historical Jesus of John and the Synoptics? The canonical Jesus of faith? We read all verses through the lens of 2,000 years of Christian history where clearly the trinity won. Jesus pronounced sins forgiven? Didn’t the Jewish high priest do that as well. Many things we take for granted do not necessarily have to be taken as “Jesus = full God” in scripture. The trilemma is meh. A fourth option is available. The church exaggerated the self claims of Jesus after believing he rose from the dead. I believe this happened. The record shows it in my opinion but at the same time, I believe it is true. For me the church came to understand the fullness of Jesus only after His death and the Gospels are not as interested in factual history or chronological narration as we are. It an open question to me how much the lowered and fully human Jesus even knew about himself.
But anyways, NETDAV is misleading. A decent INTRO to the NT like Raymon Brown’s or the New Jerome Biblical commentary would be better books to read for Christians interested in history. Both are mainline critical works very much sympathetic to Christian faith.
I would be interested in seeing supporting references to that claim as traditionally Christians had a rather unapologetic approach to the faith. They were largely “spoon fed”.
Modern evangelicals worldwide, particularly in the last couple of decades, have made apologetics a rather modern approach to defending their faith. It has become a very important method in “proving the bible” and its theology. I am not sure how one could conclude the opposite and make the claim it is outdated? Scholarly references to this claim would be of interest do you have any?
Faith and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest. Reason generally is understood as the principles for a methodological inquiry, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, or religious. Thus is it not simply the rules of logical inference or the embodied wisdom of a tradition or authority. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Examples of modern apologists…
Ravi Zechariah (died in one of the founders of modern apologetics who unfortunately also made a mockery of scholarly Christian ethics because it was found he was living a double life…however, his methods and motiviationals are of great value to the movement)
Dr James White (Southern Baptist)
Dr Brown (Messianic Jew)
Dr Frank Turek (Evangelical)
Greg Stafford (now a former Jehovahs Witness)
I think incarnation itself is as new as a covenant can get so yes. Jesus certainly wasn’t a modern OT literalist either as much as He based himself and his views in Judaism and its Sacred Scripture.
Re the ascension: Off the cuff without looking up the accounts or sources, the ascension is tougher. I believe Jesus appeared to his followers and is now in Heaven but are you talking about a specific singular ascension? Personally I find the gospels inconsistent on the location and nature of post-easter details. Were they all in Galilee watching as Matthew says? Were things more Jerusalem centric like in Acts? Did Jesus ascend shortly after his resurrection like Matthew and even Luke or was he around for 40 days (Acts). Yes, Luke and Acts were written by the same person but I am not sure the end of Luke is consistent with beginning of Acts. I think Luke got fancy with the whole Jersulaemn centric and 40 (forty is a special number) days of appearances. I’m disinclined to accept the Lucan version here. It looks like an attempt to write a proper, smoothed out version of history.
Did Jesus continually come and go? Are there multiple ascensions or was there one Ascension? Why is going up to the clouds heaven? There is no firmament but yes I still pray and think of up as heaven. Was it in Galilee? On a mountain a sabbath’s day from Jerusalem? I always thought there was one ascension but when I compared the gospel accounts directly the waters were very much muddied.
I am not interested in harmonizations attempts. You may accept them. I don’t here. I think there are conflicting details. We don’t have to agree but you asked and that is what I believe.
I have none … it was my speculation based on impressions and things I’ve heard. It could be off base.
I’m wasn’t thinking of the content of the claims themselves as outdated, but just the manner in which they’re presented or even just the issues raised. And again - this is only my speculation too, so I could easily just be plain wrong about it. But my sense is that much of our culture just isn’t as interested in pursuing these sorts of proofs as, say, a generation or three ago. That isn’t to say nobody takes this up any more. Obviously apologetics is still a thing or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I’m only suggesting it’s “less of a thing” than it used to be.
I worry when i read such things in a Christian community. Christians should never go down this pathway, it is one that produces a bad outcome…
For example, can i just highlight a gross misunderstanding of the above reference…its an absolute doozy of a stuffup by the author you cited…
We can also look at Hebrews 2:7 which uses the Septuagint in saying that “You have made them for a little while lower than the angels.” Psalm 8:5 actually says “Elohim” which means God. Hebrews also appears to make humans temporarily lower than the angels as a parallel to Jesus’s temporary incarnation. But this lower nature is eternal in the Psalm.
What the reference fails to understand is that the apostle is talking about the incarnation of Christ (God becomes man)! The bible makes absolutely no secret of this, it is part of the fundamental belief of Christiainty…we are saved when our maker becomes one of us (humbles himself), lives among us, and dies at the hands of His own creation! What the reference does not understand, the incarnation of Christ is permanent! Jesus never loses his incarnate self…that is one of the significant results of His incarnation. The above is not a textual error, it is simply an apostle adding their then modern theology to the prophecy made in Psalms and it is not wrong. Through the ministry of Christ, that was revealed to them and that is largely the same for all of the other apparent mistakes this reference has claimed about the new testament writers…he forgets, most of these writers lived with Christ and He gave them a fuller understanding of the Old Testament…one that was not corrupted by sin.
Bart Erhman (a former Christian) has tried for years to use this “textual errors” approach to explain his loss of faith. However, even he (an atheist) is fully of the view that Jesus Christ really existed…its the God part Bart has issue with but his loss of faith is tragic and in my view the reason why good apologetics are very important in our understanding of the Bible.
Apologists and even textual scholars have long discredited the argument “spelling errors” make the bible unbelievable. As a great example, the finding of the dead sea scrolls did not support that argument. Are there differences between modern texts and the scrolls? Yes of course, but the historicity, characters in the stories, essential theology and doctrines have all remained exactly the same. The writings are largely unchanged over 2000 years. The really exciting thing about finding the dead sea scrolls is that we have realised that God has protected his autograph even though it has been passed on throughout the first 1400 years after Christ with no printing press…Guetenberg invented it in the mid 1400’s (Pope Pius ii wrote a letter to Cardinal Carvajal about Gutenberg’s invention in 1455)
The point ultimately is this…
Christianity is essentially a lotto ticket. If you don’t play the game, you have zero chance of winning anything. One must believe and play otherwise…its kaput! It is a simple binary choice one has to make. The problem is, the Bible has defined some very specific guidelines on how to play the game of Christianity, if you do not follow the model exactly, you are cast out. So one does not have the option of stating “if you find God, come back and let me know and i will change my mind”!
There are plenty of references explaining the above, i suggest a very good place to start would be Dr James White, Dr Turek, and even a Old Earth Sympathiser Dr William Lane Craig.
I think Ehrman’s biggest issue is the problem of evil, for which no good apologetics exist.
That is an extreme simplification and assumes so many things. Are you suggesting Pascal’s wager? Taking a William James-like leap of faith? Denying reformed theology? Is accepting the Koran or Book of Mormon a lottery ticket? I think Brandon chance or crapshoot when you say that and it makes little sense to me.
I haven’t looked that closely at it, but it is something I believe, and was curious about your belief with Jesus after he rose from the dead. Thank you for giving me a few things to pay attention to next time I look into the accounts.
Wanted to toss this out there. If you’re in America and have a public library card the Hoopla app has that book as a free ebook. The app is free also. 10 free audio or ebooks a month. Plus tons that don’t count as one of the ten.
Vinnie, Pascals Wager is not an over simplifcation of the binary choice people must make when it comes to the Christian God., nor has the wager been proven false btw (and yet people keep using that as a response to my illustration of lottery ticket).
for those who are not fully aware of the wager (its never quoted in responses to my lottery ticket illustration…) here is the wager…
The wager stems from Pascal’s deep seated devotion to God and to Christianity. Pascal’s motives come from wanting to convert others to Christianity through logic and reason.
Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (an eternity in Hell).
The bible clearly makes the point in Revelation that God does not accept fence sitters whom it considers “luke warm”…it says “He will spew them out of His mouth”. We are either for or against Him…and yes, ultimately it is a leap of faith. It really is that simple.
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. (Pensées passage on Pascal’s wager)
I did a research project once focused on finding times down through history when an unbeliever set out using the judicial standards of his day to prove that Jesus could not have risen from the dead, to see what kind of cases they each made. Something I found out that surprised me is that at least as far back as 1100 A.D. there has been one legal scholar in almost every generation who, having set out to prove the Resurrection false, came to the conclusion that under their legal system there was sufficient evidence to “convict” Jesus of having come back from the dead – and as a result they abandoned their unbelief and became Christians, It was quite the list, with French, Spanish, German, Frank, Ibernian, African, Italian, English. Austrian, and others represented with a variety of legal systems (though seven out of the ones I just listed having systems derived from Roman justice).
I wish I still had the paper I wrote from that research, partly because it represents work that today would be done mostly on the internet; back then I had to physically go to libraries and go through the file cards and sometimes microfilm and several times inter-library loan, and typed up my second rough draft from hand-written notes, and inserted footnotes using sticky-notes and string and ‘magic’ tape, and so on – research back then was serious work – but mostly I’d like to have the bibliography I assembled.