Are the copies of the New Testament Documents Full of Errors?

Here’s a video I threw together today addressing a question I received about the reliability of the copying process of the New Testament documents:

I think you might also like to watch the following videos on this topic:

Josh McDowell – How Many Manuscripts Are There?

Great Animation on the Reliability of Scripture (Must Watch)

Modern Day Worship Service Compared to 1 Corinthians 14

Check out this parody video of a modern day “contemporary” service:

What stood out to me in the video was the part that says, “And only one man has the answers.”  Many churches operate this way.  Only one person speaks to the congregation.  Only one person has the answers.  There isn’t time during the gathering to question that man, either in questioning for clarification or any confusion you have about what he is teaching or to question if what he is saying is in accord with God’s Word.  When he is finished speaking, there is no confirmation or affirmation of the message by those who heard it built into the service agenda/outline.

How does this common service outline of a “contemporary” service match what is found in 1 Corinthians 14?  How does a common “liturgical” or “traditional” service match what is found in 1 Corinthians 14?

I think we all need to read 1 Cor. 14 and pray over that chapter and the type of worship order that Paul describes. A lot of churches hold strong and firm to the part about not speaking in tongues unless there is an interpreter, and if there is speaking in tongues to not have more than 2-3 people do it, but completely skip the part about having more than one speaker (prophet) or the time for others to share revelations and other Scripture passages that affirm the message or correct it, as this video pointed out, in our modern day services, “One man alone has the answers.” It creates a be fed mentality and not a learn to feed yourself and feed others congregation.  We often times call our services fellowship, but is there much fellowship in them if everyone is facing forward and singing only what is told for them to sing, standing and sitting when told to do so, and communicating with one another only when told to shake hands and greet people, and only interacting briefly or none at all with the person who was up front teaching, while not knowing the individual needs of those around us, or being able to use our gifts of encouragement, prayer, teaching, generosity, prophecy, healing, and etc. unless we’re on the stage?

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Non-believers are probably used to Christians who respond in aggressive offense or angry defense when the legitimacy of the truths of the Bible and the Christian faith are questioned.   Judgment and hypocrisy might be all too familiar to them also.  I bet they haven’t experienced too many Christians who have openly revealed the vital point of the Christian faith with the encouragement for an open investigation.  How would a non-believer respond to such open honesty?  Would the invitation for investigation begin?  If it doesn’t, the person probably isn’t legitimately seeking truth , but such an encounter with a Christian who says, “here’s the heart of Christianity laid bare, if it’s not true, Christianity is dead; take your best stab against it!” might just be the proper field-work to gloss over some of the many Christian offenses the person has previously endured and prepare the way for a future, fertile encounter with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It’s important to remember that the end goal in this process isn’t just adding more adherents to the Christian religion.  The endeavor of sharing and defending the Christian faith is to spread the good news revealed in the Bible that God in the person of Jesus Christ has defeated death bringing what is the only way of salvation for mankind.  To defend Christian faith isn’t an intellectual sparring match in which the victor comes away saying, “There I proved that person wrong, even if they won’t admit it!”  This task instead is taken out of faith that the condemnation that comes from sin and the life in Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures is real.  Therefore sharing the Christian faith must be carried out in humility and timidity, showing love for the hearers of the Bible’s message, taking the time to patiently and kindly explain what sound evidence and reason there is to trust Jesus.  The hope isn’t for intellectual superiority, it is in prayer that through the proclaimed Gospel, Hell will lose a soul and the Kingdom of God will gain a saint.

The Vital Teaching of Christianity -that if it is not True Means Death to the Faith!

The Apostle Paul shows the jugular of the Christian faith in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:13-19: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Since Christ and his work is the center of Scripture, and the faith stands or falls on Christ’s death and resurrection, this aspect of the Christian faith should always be stressed when sharing the faith or answering the difficult questions presented against Scripture.

For example, someone recently started to ask me questions about believing everything in the Bible to be true, such as Noah building an ark to carry all the animals on earth or if someone could  really survive in the belly of a big fish for three days.  I said yes I believe these to be possible, and I said that fitting two of every kind of animal on one big boat could be explained and that it wouldn’t necessarily have to be supernatural to do so, but that none of those questions are the questions I would ask if I was going to test the truth-claims of the Christian faith.  I shared that I would always start with Jesus since he’s the center piece of the Christian faith, and that if there is good evidence that he did in fact rise from the grave, then I can trust Jesus’ claim to be divine and the acceptance of God would then make all the other questions readily explainable, since a God who can raise from death and create all things, surely could fill a boat with animals and have a fish prepared to transport a prophet.

What is the evidence for the resurrection?

There are three key strands of evidence which point to the resurrection.

  1. The Empty Tomb
  2. The Eyewitnesses of the Resurrected Jesus
  3. The Transformation of the Apostles

The first strand of evidence is the empty tomb.  Jesus was crucified and buried and on Sunday morning, the tomb was empty.  The tomb was guarded, which would have made stealing the body highly unlikely.  The apostles had no reason to steal the body and in fact the male disciples were hiding in fear of being crucified too.  If the tomb was truly not empty, the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees, and even the Romans, would have profited from producing body of Jesus Christ, but none of these groups did this when they certainly had the power and resources to find the body.  To disprove the resurrection, all a person would need to do is produce the bones of Christ.  No one has done so, even the people living at the time of the resurrection who could have easily produced this evidence.

Additional support for the resurrection is the eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Christ.  It’s important to note that no one witnessed the resurrection, since the guards were asleep, but that plenty of people witnessed the resurrected Christ on numerous occasions, walking, talking, cooking, eating, and drinking.  At one event he appeared to over five hundred people at once.

Building onto the eyewitness accounts is the transformation of the apostles.  At the time of Jesus’ death, the disciples are seen to have scattered in fear.  Peter tried to follow of Christ, but then denied him three times before the rooster crowed.  There are signs that they misunderstood Jesus’ role as the Messiah.  They thought he came to overthrow the Romans and setup the New Jerusalem.  With his death, their dreams were crushed; they were defeated.  What would have brought these scared, defeated men to become bold witnesses in the face of persecution of a proclamation that Christ rose from the dead?  Seeing the resurrected Christ in the flesh is what made this transformation possible.  They lived with such certainty that Christ rose from the dead and that they too would one day rise from the dead, that all of the apostles except one died a martyrs death.  Tradition states that Peter went so far as to say that he was not worthy to die in the manner of his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down.

Looking at the evidence of the empty tomb, the record of eyewitness accounts, and the transformation of the apostles all point to a resurrected Christ as being a very probable scenario to fit the evidence.

Could the empty tomb be the wrong tomb?

Some might claim that the tomb wasn’t empty, that everyone was looking at the wrong tomb.  This cannot be the case.  The Gospel accounts clearly tell who buried Christ: Joseph of Aramathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, and  Nicodemus, a Pharisee.  The Sanhedrin had a membership of only seventy leaders which would have made it easy to find Joseph, especially since it is given that he is from Aramathea.  Anyone who wanted to investigate the tomb in which he was buried and the manner in which he was buried could have went to Aramathea and found Joseph.  Likewise, Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a leader in the Jewish community, and could have been found easily for questioning too.  On top of telling us who buried Jesus, one Gospel account clearly states the exact location of Christ’s burial.  The correct tomb could have easily been found if the women and the disciples had the wrong tomb.  In light of this evidence we can trust that they had the correct tomb and that it was in fact empty.

What about grave robbers?

Jesus was crucified as being the King of the Jews.  Could people have robbed his tomb expecting him to be buried with riches?  No, it’s highly unlikely. The only item of value in the tomb, the burial shroud, was left behind.  Grave robbers would have no value in possessing a dead body.  Overcoming the guards would be unlikely as well, especially with nothing of value to gain.

Could the disciples have stolen the body and thus created a hoax of the resurrection?    The disciples were not expecting the Messiah to die, even though Jesus told them multiple times that he would.  The Jews as a whole had an understanding of a warring Messiah who would overthrow Rome and set up peace on earth.  Stealing the body of Christ doesn’t fit with the understanding of the Jewish Messiah.

In addition to this, the disciples would not have preached the resurrection of Christ to their death if they were the ones that stole the body.  They would not have died for a lie.  Some people might point out that Islamic suicide bombers die for a lie, but the difference is that the lie did not originate with the suicide bombers.  In the case of the disciples, if they had created a hoax by stealing the body of Christ, they would have known that they were dying for a lie.  In fact, nothing in their lives indicated that it would be false because they were not gaining earthly fame or money; they were despised, hated, and killed.

Jesus never died!

This is called the swoon theory.  The theory states that Christ did not die on the cross.  He was fainted and appeared to be dead.  The problem with this theory is that we know that Christ was crucified, even from sources outside of the Bible.  Crucifixion at the hands of the Romans was not a survivable ordeal.  Jesus was flogged before his crucifixion, and this alone killed some people due to the loss of blood.  Christ has nails driven through his wrists and feet, more blood loss, and the nails in the wrists would have crushed the median nerve which would feel similar to having the “funny bone” nerve  crushed.  The word excruciating comes from this event, meaning from the cross.  Death by crucifixion came from suffocation.  A Roman soldier stabbed Christ in the heart before taking him off the cross.  Why?  If Romans soldiers failed in their tasks of execution, the penalty for them would have been execution.  The Romans did not fail to properly carry out executions.  Jesus was certainly dead!

Even if Christ somehow made it off the cross alive, how would he have been able to remove the stone after his afflicted wounds at the hands of the Romans and having gone without water and food in the tomb?  Even if Christ somehow was able to remove the stone and overcome the guards, what physical state would he have been in when he revealed himself to the disciples?  He still would have been on the verge of death and likely to die at any moment.  This wouldn’t be the resurrection appearance the disciples would have needed to be transformed into the courageous witnesses they became.

This view also doesn’t account for the ascension.  If Christ did survive the crucifixion, did manage to roll away the stone, what happened to him after forty days from the resurrection if he did not ascend to heaven?  Where did he eventually die?  How could such a prominent figure disappear?  Clearly, this natural explanation for the empty tomb doesn’t seem probable and doesn’t match the evidence.

They must have been tripping!

I recently had this natural explanation given to me in an apologetic discussion.  I mentioned that when people hallucinate, they don’t generally see the same hallucination.  From his previous hallucinogenic drug experiences, he agreed with this point.  He also agreed that different people in different locations over a period of time don’t see the same hallucination.  This goes against what is historically depicted by the eyewitnesses in the Gospel accounts, in which he was seen by various people, multiple times, in different locations.  He was not only seen but touched and people interacted with him in conversation and everyone from these encounters came away with accounts that weren’t contradictory.  These encounters with the resurrected Jesus don’t match the description of a hallucinogenic experience amongst people.

In addition to these details, hallucinations are derived from ideas and images which already exist in a person’s mind.  This is crucial to the matter at hand, because the disciples had no comprehension of a dying Messiah that would come back to life.  Nothing in their consciousness or their unconsciousness would have led to a hallucination of a resurrected Christ, much less amongst so many people.

Conclusion

The empty tomb, the eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and the transformation of the Gospels are best explained by the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In addition to these strands of evidence for the resurrection, external sources by Jewish and Roman historians complement, instead of contradict, the Gospel accounts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

 

What is apologetics?

What is apologetics?

Apologetics comes from the Greek word, apologia, which means defense.  Building a case for or defending a certain position of thought or belief is called apologetics, and a person who supplies the defense is called an apologist.  There are many different types of apologists.  Every religion can have its own apologetics.  This blog deals explicitly with Christian apologetics.

What is required for apologetics?

Apologetics is a difficult branch of Christian study.  It requires a working knowledge of many branches of Christian theology (read “What is Theology”).  For example, before a defense for the Christian faith can be given, the apologist would need to know Christian doctrine inside and out in order to know if the objection being raised against Christianity is even against a true teaching found within the Bible.  The apologists would then need to be able to correct the misunderstanding in biblical teaching from the scriptures in a way that the objector will understand.  Sometimes the misunderstanding comes from not knowing the full context of that passage within its chapter or book or within the Bible as a whole, which would require Biblical Theology.  Other times the misunderstanding might arise from a lack of knowing the cultural context, historical context, literary type, or the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, which would require Exegetical Theology to resolve the doctrinal misunderstanding behind the objection.

The Apologist would need to know Historical Theology, which deals with the history of the church and church movements.  This might be necessary to know in order to answer objections to the church’s involvement in the Crusades, or objections that there isn’t satisfactory archeological proof to back up the Bible’s claims.

The study of Philosophy from different worldviews would be necessary to understand and relate to the mindset of anyone an apologist might meet.  Philosophy is good for the apologist too, because it helps the apologist build reasons for the Christian faith based on reason and logic, so as to be able to make a defense for the existence of God without needing to use the Bible.  This is important because if someone doesn’t already value the Bible as the Word of God or agree with its historical reliability then it has no authority or reason to be trustworthy to that person.

Pastoral Theology is also necessary in apologetics.  Many people may offer objection after objection and hear answer after answer but never come to faith, not because the answers weren’t satisfactory for their intellectual yearning, but because of another issue in their life: a vice or lifestyle they refuse to give up, growing up in an abusive Christian family, hurtful words from a pastor or church member, or some other personal issue apart from “head knowledge” objections to the Christian faith.

A Christian apologist must also study other religious faiths. It’s important to be able to show that you care enough about a person to take the time to learn and understand what he or she believes without only having the agenda of changing his or her believes to yours.  Also, some religions might have similarities in beliefs, teachings, and practices as Christianity, and if so these similarities might be good starting points to create a bridge to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s also good to know what other religions teach so that the prevalent teaching that all religions are at their core the same, or that they all are just different ways to the same end, can be countered by actually showing the specific differences that make them each truly unique.

A good knowledge and following of pop culture is helpful for apologetics.  Television shows, movies, music, and art all tend to present a certain worldview or philosophy in life.  Evidence of this is the current fad of putting out books with titles such as The Philosophy of South Park, The Philosophy or Star Trek, and The Philosophy of the Simpsons.  Being aware of the religious imagery, ideas, and philosophy of the people an apologist interacts with is key to initiating religious conversations in a way that is not as confrontational and in fact natural – it’s simply talking about issues brought up in a movie.

Important to Remember

Apologetics is not purely an academic, “head” practice but it is also very a “heart” practice.  Apologetics is very much related to being considerate and polite when presenting the teaching of the Christian faith and always handling the objections to the faith out of love for the objector.  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV).

It’s important to remember that apologetics does not save a person’s soul.  God saves people, all three persons of the Trinity – the Father through sending his Son and accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jesus in offering himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the Holy Spirit through creating faith in the hearts of men.  Christians should never lose sight of this, so that we remain ever humble and in prayer through all apologetic efforts, trusting that it is the Spirit at work in us to bring others into faith in Christ.

Finally, no Christian is off the hook when it comes to apologetics.  “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia – a defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).