In my previous post, “Can we really know the truth?”, I discussed the fact that it is popular in society today to think that truth is relative regarding religion or moral standards and that no one can know for sure what religion or moral standards are the truth. I then showed how such popular thinking does not hold up when tested. Thanks to lectures broadcast by Frank Turek on the NRB network, I summarized his proof that the truth does really exist when talking about religion and moral standards. Now I will summarize more proof Turek has presented to show that the truth that exists is found in the New Testament (NT).
Turek has come up with six forms of testimony that provide evidence to show the NT is true. He calls them the six E’s and they are as follows:
- Early testimony
- Eyewitness testimony
- Embarrassing testimony
- Excruciating testimony
- Expected testimony
- Extra-Biblical testimony
In pt. 1 of this post, I will cover the first three and in pt. 2 the last three.
Both secular and Christian historians agree on these two things that happened in the 1st century AD:
- The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.
- Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in the early 30s AD.
These two historical occurrences give us two points of reference covering a 40-year time span to help determine what happened in the NT and when they happened, including the writings of the NT authors. There are also reliable historic records to prove that Paul the apostle was killed in the mid to late 60s AD and that James, the half brother of Jesus Christ and writer of the book of James, was killed as a martyr by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem around the same time period as Paul’s martyrdom. James’ death is recorded by Josephus, the Jewish historian. Incidentally, James and his other brothers did not believe that their older brother could be the Messiah and even mocked him (John 7:1-9). So for James to die a martyr for the gospel means he must have experienced a life-changing event that totally uprooted his earlier unbelief about who Jesus was.
We know that the book of Acts must have been written about 62 AD based on, but not limited to, the following information:
- It does not mention the Jewish war with Rome that started in 66 AD.
- It does not mention the destruction of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem in 70 AD. As in the rest of the NT books (except Revelation), Acts is written with the understanding that the Jewish temple still exists.
- The book ends without mentioning Paul’s martyrdom or James’ martyrdom when it had already mentioned other martyrdoms such as Stephen and James, the brother of John. So Acts had to have been written before Paul and James’ martyrdoms.
- Acts also does not say anything about Peter’s martyrdom.
- It ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome.
As far as the other NT writings are concerned, reliable historical records and historians tell us that:
- 1 Corinthians was written in the mid 50s AD.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 recites a well-known creed that Paul wrote down and the creed is known to have dated back to before 40 AD.
- NT writings are a collection of written doctrines, oral histories, and creeds dating back to before NT books were written. (Note: Oral cultures and memorization were more important in ancient times and people did not have all of the distractions we do today that tends to degrade our esteem of oral traditions and memorization.)
- Since we know Luke wrote both Acts and the gospel of Luke, we know Luke’s gospel was written before 62 AD because in Acts 1, Luke refers to his gospel as his “former treatise.”
- It is agreed by many historians that the gospel of Mark precedes Luke’s gospel and that Matthew’s gospel precedes them both.
- All of Paul’s letters had to precede the mid to late 60s AD.
- All of the NT (except Revelation) was written before 70 AD since they don’t mention the destruction of the Temple apart from Jesus’ prophecy that it would be destroyed. The actual destruction of the Temple would have been used by them to confirm what Jesus prophesied.
The NT records key verifiable occurrences, which are the following:
- Luke interviewed eyewitnesses and provides verifiable timelines. For example, Luke 3 names actual rulers who were really in power during the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, which history proves was 29 AD.
- The book of Acts has at least 84 known historical eyewitness facts that have been confirmed by archaeological findings and historical writings. This includes Luke’s mentioning obscure rulers correctly, weather patterns are stated correctly, and ship soundings off the coast of Malta today match closely the measurements Luke states in Acts 27 before the shipwreck.
- The gospel of John states at least 59 historically confirmed or probable eyewitness details such as how many years it took to build the temple [John 2:20], the pool of Bethesda and its five porches [John 5:2], and the sea of Galilee also being called the sea of Tiberias [John 6:1].
- More than 30 people known to have existed before 70 AD as verified in secular sources and archaeological finds are named in the writings of the NT, including Caiaphas whose burial box was found years ago and Pontius Pilate whose name appears in the ruins of ancient Caesarea as being the “Prefect of Judea.”
- Details about crucifixion in the 1st century as mentioned in the NT have also been verified by archaeological finds.
Since the NT has proven itself extremely accurate about the most obscure and minute details about the 1st century, then it can obviously be trusted on the big things like all of the miracles that occurred, the moral standards it upholds, and the claims it makes on who Jesus is.
When you read the NT it is obvious that everything that happened was not neat and tidy nor were most of the people mentioned on their best behavior, but what is written is brutally honest. According to Frank Turek, if a text mentions things that are embarrassing to the writer, it’s probably true. After all, why would a writer lie about themselves to put themselves in a negative light to others? And why would a writer take the chance of ruining their own reputation if they were trying to win converts to a self-serving, deceitful cause?
Yet in the text of the NT we see screw-ups, arguments, and scandalous accusations galore–including the following:
- The disciples of Jesus were slow learners. Jesus had to repeat things over and over because they often didn’t get what he was telling them.
- The disciples were uncaring. They were mean to a group of little kids who wanted Jesus’ blessing, they fell asleep on Jesus twice when he asked them to pray with him, and they didn’t provide Jesus with a proper burial.
- The disciples were rebuked. Peter was called Satan by Jesus and Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians for Peter’s hypocrisy when he liked the Gentiles he was with one minute, but didn’t want to be seen with them in public the next. If Jesus and his followers were trying to conjure up a new religion, they could have easily made things up as they went along to accommodate everyone’s opinions instead of arguing.
- The disciples were cowards. Peter denied Christ three times, the disciples hid when Jesus was arrested, and the women turned out to be the brave ones who went to the empty tomb first and were the first ones to spread the news Jesus had risen from the dead. Usually men are quick to write their brave heroic exploits, but what man would make up a new religion and expect a large following if he tells how cowardly he and his associates are? So the accounts in the gospels must be true.
- The disciples were doubters. Even after a resurrected Jesus physically appears, some of them still weren’t sure he had risen.
- Jesus’ family members thought he lost his mind.
- His own followers deserted him when he taught them about figuratively eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
- His half-brothers didn’t believe in him.
- Jesus was thought to be a deceiver by his detractors.
- Jesus made the Jews so angry that they wanted to throw him off a cliff one time and wanted to stone him another time.
- Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed.
- He was crucified on a wooden cross, which to Jews is God’s curse.
If someone wanted to create a popular religion to make people feel good so they could have lots and lots of followers, these things would have never been mentioned. They were mentioned because they actually happened and since they actually happened, it is obvious the NT is telling us the truth since everything in it is the truth. Since it is the truth, Jesus is Lord, just like the NT says and he is the only one who saves, just like it says.
Source: Frank Turek, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist,” NRB Network broadcast, 12/28/09.
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–