Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trusting the Bible: Illustrated Summary of Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

The Latest Version
Josh McDowell in Evidence That Demands a Verdictlike C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianityexplains and defends the Christian faith without assuming his readers automatically trust the Bible. Lewis starts by examining the universal concept of right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe, and demonstrates step by step that what the Bible says is both true and compelling (each chapter summarized and illustrated here).  McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict provides solid historical and scientific evidences for the Christian faith, as I have discovered through years of experience, starting with my college years. It is a masterful collection of quotes in their context and in primary sources from experts in relevant fields.

"We are arguing that faith is ... a form of conviction, and is, therefore, necessarily grounded in evidence," says Benjamin Warfield, a renowned theologian from Princeton University (one of a plethora of the scholars cited in Evidence). Warfield was a specialist in apologetics, a branch of Christian theology that can be summarized by a single verse from the New Testament: "Be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). The Greek word translated "defense" is apologia so Christian apologetics are not apologies but defenses based on evidence.

What is the evidence for believing the Bible is true? This post  summarizes that evidence in what I hope is one useful chunk, but also I encourage you to read carefully for yourself any book or quote I highlight that makes a powerful impression on you. 
History vs. Myth 
People today find it easy to assume that believing the Bible is not appropriate in a modern, scientific age, figuring that its contents must be mythical. I grew up assuming that. So did the author of Evidence but years later, speaking in a world literature class, he responded this way when the professor correlated Greek mythology with the virgin birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: "There is an obvious difference between the events recorded about Christ in the Bible and the stories conveyed in Greek mythology that bear a vague similarity. The similar stories ... were not applied to real flesh-and-blood individuals, but instead to non-historical, fictional, mythological characters. However, when it comes to Christianity, these events are attached to the historic Jesus of Nazareth, whom the New Testament writers knew personally." The professor replied, "You are right. I never realized that before."

Here is a sampling of sober eyewitness reporting in the New Testament:
  • "We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).
  • "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes ... and our our hands have handled concerning the Word of life ... that ... we declare to you" (1 John 1:1-3).
  • "Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had a careful understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account" (Luke 1:1-3).
  • The risen Christ "was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present" (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  • The apostle Paul, making his defense in chains before a Roman governor and a Jewish king, said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:25-26).
C.S. Lewis remarked that if someone "tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour.... I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this." The Gospels and the others portions of the Bible are not myth, but are they reliable?

Testing the Reliability of Ancient Literature
Introduction to Research in English Literary History by Chauncey Sanders, a military historian, lists three basic principles of historiography:
  1. The Bibliographic Test
  2. The Internal Evidence Test
  3. The External Evidence Test
The Bibliographic Test is an examination of the way documents reach us. Since we do not have 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 currently existing copies? Here are basic statistics from greatest to less:
  • The New Testament: 24,970+ copies with a time gap from 50-225 years
  • The Old Testament: 223 from the Dead Sea Scrolls (copied between 300-100 B.C.) and over 1,000 copied later (virtually identical to the DSS)
  • The Iliad by Homer: 643 copies, 400-year gap
  • Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar: 10 copies, 1,000-year gap
  • Histories by Herodotus: 8 copies, 1,350-year gap
Sir Frederic Kenyon, who was the director and principal librarian of the British Museum, explains the statistics: "Besides number, the manuscripts of the New Testament differ from those of the classical authors.... In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as that of the New Testament.... Any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed."

The Internal and External Evidence Tests consider whether what was written is accurate. One legal expert describes the Internal Evidence of a text this way: "One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualified himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies." Another legal expert and biblical scholar, Dr. Gleason Archer, applied both Internal and External tests in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and observed, "As I have dealt with one apparent discrepancy after another and have studied the alleged contradictions between the biblical record and the evidence of linguistics, archaeology, or science, my confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture has been repeatedly verified and strengthened by the discovery that almost every problem in Scripture that has ever been discovered by man, from ancient times until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical text itselfor by objective archaeological information." Here is a summary of legal and literary principles for understanding apparent discrepancies in the Bible:
  1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.
  2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.
  3. Understand the context of the passage.
  4. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.
  5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages.
  6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.
  7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.
  8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact.
  9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.
  10. The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.
  11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.
  12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices.
  13. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.
  14. General statements don't necessarily mean universal promises.
  15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation.
External Evidence, as opposed to Internal, concerns sources apart from the literature in question that substantiate its accuracy, reliability, and authenticity. For example, several Roman and Jewish historians (including Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus) wrote about the death of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate and the persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero. Renowned archaeologists continue unearthing external confirmations of the Bible to this day, making statements such as these:
  • "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference" (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: History of the Negev).
  • "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history" (William Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine).
  • "Archaeology work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine" (Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones?).
Jesus' Affirmation of Scripture 
A chapter asking "Is the Bible from God?" in McDowell's The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict summarizes and expands on what we have covered so far: "The Bible is a reliable and trustworthy document. This is established by treating it as any other historical record, as, for instance, the works of Josephus or the accounts of war by Julius Caesar. On the basis of the history recorded by the Bible, we have sufficient grounds for believing that the central character of the Bible, Jesus Christ, did what He is claimed to have done and therefore is who He claimed to be. He claimed to be the unique Son of Godin fact, God in human flesh. As the unique Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ is an infallible authority." (If you are having problems with McDowell's reasoning here, I understand: I felt that way myself for many years. But since this post is on the Bible, not on Jesus, here is a link to pursue this point further: What C.S. Lewis Said about Christ to a Nation at War. If you are more an audio learner, this is a link to an apropos 20-minute radio broadcast: R.C. Sproul Broadcast re College Students and the Bible.)

Many religious books, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and Hindu Vedas, claim divine inspiration, but none of those books contain predictive prophecy. One of the greatest ways Jesus affirmed the Bible was by fulfilling dozens of specific prophecies. Here are some of the most dramatic examples of what are called Messianic prophecies in chronological order:
  • Savior/Messiah Born of the Seed of Woman: This is the first prophecy in the Bible, uttered by God Himself in the Garden of Eden, foretelling  doom upon the Serpent/Satan after he brought death into the world: "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your  seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15). The New Testament explains, "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4). The Christian Gospel is the good news of the victory of Jesus the Christ or Messiah over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people. Only God could achieve that kind of victory, only man could die; Jesus is the God-Man who died and rose again on behalf of man so that death itself will ultimately die.
  •  Born of a Virgin: The Seed of the woman prophecy was a great mystery since people from ancient times knew human seed comes from the man. This Old Testament text points to the solution: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and the Lord shall call His name Immanuel, which means 'God with us'" (Isaiah 7:14). The New Testament informs us, "The birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit....Then Joseph kept her a virgin until she brought forth her firstborn Son" (Matthew 1:18, 25). When Mary asked how she could give birth since she was a virgin, the angel Gabriel told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
  •  Son of God/God the Son: The Child born of the virgin was called both the Son of God and Immanuel ("God with us"). In mathematical terms, Son of God = God the Son (but still one God: the Holy Trinity is NOT 1+1+1 but 1x1x1 = 1; see this post for more information: The Three-Personal God). Isaiah 9:6 prophesies, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Psalm 2:7 states, "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.'" After Jesus was baptized to identify with His people, "Suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:17).
  •  Seed of Abraham ... Davida Precise Bloodline: Just as a precise address will get a letter to one person out of all the people on the globe, so God supplied prophecy after prophecy to identify the promised Seed/Savior/Messiah of the world. To Abraham God promised, "In your Seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). Notice the first sentence of the New Testament: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. God did not say, 'In the seeds,' as of many, but one, 'In your Seed,' who is Christ," explains the apostle Paul (Galatians 3:16). Even the grammar is precisesingular, not plural.
  •  Born in Bethlehem: A few of the Messianic prophecies a person could possibly contrive to fulfill, but certainly not one's birthplace. Micah 5:2 states, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrahtah [there was another Bethlehem north in Galilee], though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." In the New Testament we learn that "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea."  When King Herod, prompted by the Wise Men, asked the religious leaders where the Messiah was prophesied to be born, they cited the Micah 5:2 text (Matthew 2:1-6).
  •  Heralded by a Messenger: Isaiah 40:3 predicts "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" The New Testament tells us that "John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!' For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah" (Matthew 3:1-3).
  •  Ministry of Miracles: Isaiah also prophesied that when the Messiah comes on the scene, "The eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy" (Isaiah 35:5-6). The New Testament commonly reports things like this: "Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of sickness and disease" (Matthew 9:35). Jesus Himself cited that Isaiah prophecy to establish His Messianic credentials when John the Baptist was languishing in prison and needed encouragement that all was going as God intended (Matthew 11:2-15).
  •  Entered Jerusalem on a Donkey, not a War Horse: If Jesus' goal was to fulfill the expectations and early assumptions of John the Baptist, the 12 apostles, and just about everyone else who knew about Messianic prophecy by driving out the Roman Empire and establishing a new kingdom with His followers in high places, He would have entered Jerusalem on a war horse, not a donkey. Jesus was aiming for something much bigger that affects all people at all times. He understood and fulfilled Zechariah 9:9-10: "Rejoice ... O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble and riding on a donkey's colt.... He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea." The precise timing of the Messiah's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His sacrificial death is predicted in Daniel 9:24-26 (written about 530 B.C.) to occur before the destruction of Jerusalem (which was in A.D. 70).
  •  Rejected by the Religious Leaders: The religious leaders preferred their kingdom to God's so they rejected the Lord Jesus, especially at His triumphal entry. "Although He had done so many signs before them," explains John's Gospel, "they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?... He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him'" (John 12:37-38; Isaiah 53:1, 3). Jesus confronted the religious leaders with their prophesied unbelief, citing Psalm 118:22: "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone'? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder'" (Luke 20:17-18).
  •  Betrayed by a Friend: Jesus said to His disciples at their Last Supper together, "Most assuredly I say to you, one of you will betray Me," a fulfillment of Psalm 41:9, "'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.' Now I tell you beforehand so when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He" (John 13:18, 21). At the end of every list of the 12 disciples in the Gospels is this ignominious name: "Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him."
  •  Sold for 30 Pieces of Silver: Judas, once he realized Jesus wasn't setting up the kind of power base he wanted, "went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:14-15). That fulfilled Zechariah 11:12, "They weighed out for My wages thirty pieces of silver," the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32).
  •  Silent, Smitten, and Spit Upon:  Perhaps the most striking Messianic prophecy in the Bible is the entire chapter of Isaiah 53. Here it is in whole (Text of Isaiah 53) and in part: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:5-7). Isaiah 50:6 prophesies, "I gave my back to those who struck Me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out My beard. I did not hide My face from shame and spitting." Once Jesus was betrayed and brought before the religious leaders, "they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands" (Matthew 26:67). When He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered not a word to them or to Pontius Pilate, a fact that caused this Roman governor to wonder greatly (Matthew 27:12-14). Nevertheless, to achieve a temporary political peace, Pilate allowed Jesus to be scourged and crucified (Matthew 27:26).
  •  Hands and Feet Pierced: Psalm 22 was written 1,000 years before Jesus was born and 800 years before crucifixion as a form of execution was known to exist, yet notice how it reflects what we know Jesus experienced: "I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like broken pottery, and My tongue clings to my jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet. I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me" (verses 14-17).
  •  Crucified with Thieves: Isaiah 53:12 says that "He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors." The Gospels confirm that two robbers and insurrectionists were crucified with Christ, one on His right and another on His left.
  •  Prayed for His Persecutors: Isaiah 53:12 also tells us that "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." One of the recorded sayings of Christ on the cross is this: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
  •  Garments Parted and Lots Cast: Psalm 22 continues the scene of the crucifixion from Jesus' perspective: "They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots" (verse 18). Indeed, "the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said ... 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to determine whose it shall be'" (John 19:23-24).
  •  Side Pierced: The Lord tells the prophet Zechariah, "They will look on Me whom they pierced," thus affirming the incarnation of deity (Zechariah 12:10). John 19:34 informs us that one of the Roman soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear to confirm that death took place.
  •  Buried in a Rich Man's Tomb: Crucifixion victims were usually burned with the city's trash, but that didn't happen to Jesus. Isaiah 53 explains why from God's perspective: "He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days.... He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong" (verses 9-12). Matthew 27 tells us, "There came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph ... and [he] asked for the body of Jesus.... When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his new tomb" (verses 57-60).
  •  Resurrection from the Dead: "You will not leave My soul in Hell, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption," predicts Psalm 16:10. One of the many eyewitnesses of the risen Christ testified indeed that "His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31). Here is more evidence: "I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Peter, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present" (1 Corinthians 15:3-6, written about A.D. 55).
  •  Ascension into Heaven: Psalm 68:17 predicts the Messiah ascending to the heavens in triumph: "You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive." The Book of Acts records eyewitness testimony: "He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by [the apostles] during forty days and speaking of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.... They asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.' Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, two men stood by them in white apparel and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come back the same way you saw Him go up'" (Acts 1:3-11).
  •  Seated at the Right Hand of God Until His Triumphant Return: The New Testament tells us what happened next to the Lord Jesus Christ: "When He had by Himself purged our sins, [He] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). This fulfills Psalm 110:1: "The Lord said to My Lord, 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.'" Because God the Son did not regard equality with God the Father a thing to be grasped, He willingly "made Himself of no reputation,... coming in the likeness of men.... He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of deatheven death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:6-11). The Book of Revelation confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ will return soon on a war horse to bring a complete victory over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people. If you are one of them, you will believe His Word with confidence, enthusiasm, and gratitude.
  • On a concluding note, a mathematician computed the odds of just 8 of the above prophecies being fulfilled at 10 to the 17th power, or 1 with 17 zeroes after it. To help us comprehend that staggering probability, he illustrated it like this: "If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir then, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 10 to the 17th power silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all 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 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.... They all came true in Christ" (Peter Stoner, Science Speaks).
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