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Therein lies the problem with the “fundamentalist” Christian.

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on September 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Therein lies the problem with the “fundamentalist” Christian.  There are so many versions of the bible, how can anyone in their right mind believe it to be the literal word of god?  Not that it doesn’t offer great spiritual insights and life lessons on morality at times, but the literal word of God?  Come on…….

Just as I thought. None of you good Christians have a clue…do you?
 

Here are some thoughts on several issues. To use the term fundamentalist Christian as a pejorative seems a bit excessive and misleading.

FUNDAMENT’AL, a. Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation. Hence, essential; important; as a fundamental truth or principle; a fundamental law; a fundamental sound or chord in music.

FUNDAMENT’AL, n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law or article, which serves as the ground work of a system; essential part; as the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Fundamentalist-a religious or political movement based on a literal interpretation of and strict adherence to doctrine, especially as a return to former principles the belief that religious or political doctrine should be implemented literally, not interpreted or adapted.

Christian

CHRISTIAN, n.

 

1. A believer in the religion of Christ.

 

2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ.

 

3. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

 

4. In a general sense, the word Christians includes all who are born in a Christian country or of Christian parents.

 

CHRISTIAN, a. [See the Noun.]

 

1. Pertaining to Christ, taught by him, or received from him; as the Christian religion; Christian doctrines.

 

2. Professing the religion of Christ; as a Christian friend.

 

3. Belonging to the religion of Christ; relating to Christ, or to his doctrines, precepts and example; as Christian profession and practice.

 

4. Pertaining to the church; ecclesiastical; as courts Christian.

 

Somehow I miss the connection between the actual meanings of the words and the pejorative sense that it is being used. If you want to accuse wrongheaded and insensitive people who can only indulge their pride by demeaning those who don’t believe as they do we should really call it for what it is, unchristian and usually the actions of (pseudo Christian) unbelievers. If we truly represent the risen Savior and we believe in the infinite personal creator God who is there then the behavior will follow the belief.

There are so many versions of the bible, how can anyone in their right mind believe it to be the literal word of god? 

As far being right minded you may have a point but indulge some “right mindedness” for a few minutes.

C. Sanders in Introduction to Research in English History, lists and explains the three basic principles of historiography. This book buy the way is a textbook for historical study of famous authors, like Shakespeare and Chaucer. The principles listed for correct historic study are practical guidelines for other ancient texts as well. These are the bibliographical test, the internal test, and the external evidence test. How well does the Bible do with these tests and will its reliability stand up to the same scrutiny and any other historical text.  

1A. THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST FOR THE RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

The bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts (MSS) and the time interval between the origi­nal and extant (currently existing) copies (Montgomery, HC, 26)?

1B. The Number of Manuscripts and Their Closeness to the Original

F. E. Peters states that “on the basis of manuscript tradition alone, the works that made up the Christians’ New Testament were the most fre­quently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity” (Peters, HH, 50). As a result, the fidelity of the New Testament text rests on a mul­titude of manuscript evidence. Counting Greek copies alone, the New Testament is preserved in some 5,656 partial and complete manu­script portions that were copied by hand from the second through the fifteenth centuries (Geisler, GIB, 385).

There are now more than 5,686 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions (MSS), and we have close to, if not more than, 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. In comparison, Homer’s Iliad is second, with only 643 manuscripts that still survive. The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the thirteenth century (Leach, Oh, 145).The following is a breakdown of the number of surviving manu­scripts for the New Testament:

 Extant greek ama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man in other languages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information for the preceding charts was gathered from the fol­lowing sources: Michael 1Velte of the Institute for New Testament Studies in Munster, Germany; Kurt Aland’s Journal of Biblical Litera­ture 87 (1968); Kurt Aland’s Kurzgefassle Lisle Der Griechischeri Hand­sclrriften Des Neven Testaments, W. De Gruyter, 1963; Kurt Aland’s “Neve Nevtestamentliche Papyri Ill,” New “1eslament Studies (July 1976); Bruce Metzger’s The Early Versions of the New Testament, Clarendon, 1977; New Testament Manuscript Studies, eds. Merrill M. Parvis and Allen Wikgren, University of Chicago Press, 1950; Eroll F. Rhodes’s An Annotated List of Armenian New Testament Manuscripts, Tokyo, Ikeburo, 1959; The Bible and Modern Scholarship, ed. J. Phillip Hyatt, Abingdon, 1965.

John Warwick Montgomery says that to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Tes­tament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament” (Mont­gomery, HC. 29).

 

The importance of the sheer number of manuscript copies cannot be overstated. As with other documents of ancient literature, there are no known extant (currently existing) original manuscripts of the Bible. Fortunately, however, the abundance of manuscript copies makes it possible to reconstruct the original with virtually complete accuracy (Geisler, GIB, 386).

Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, who was the director and principal librar­ian of the British Museum and second to none in authority for issuing statements about MSS, states that 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 in that of the New Testament. The books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century; the earliest extant manuscripts (trifling scraps excepted) are of the fourth century—say from 250 to 300 years later. This may sound a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earli­est manuscripts. We believe that we have in all essentials an accu­rate text of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it is based was written more than 1400 years after the poet’s death. (Kenyon, IITCNT, 4)

Kenyon continues in The Bible and Archaeology: “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” (Kenyon, BA, 288).

Dockery, Mathews, and Sloan have recently written, “For most of the biblical text a single reading has been transmitted. Elimination of scribal errors and intentional changes leaves only a small percentage of the text about which any questions occur” (Dockery, FBI, 176). They conclude:

It must be said that the amount of time between the original com­position and the next surviving manuscript is far less for the New Testament than for any other work in Greek literature…. Although there are certainly differences in many of the New Testament man­uscripts, not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading.” (Dockery, FBI, 182)

F. J. A. Hort rightfully adds that “in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose Writings’ (Hort, NTOG, 561).

I. Harold Greenlee states, “The number of available MSS of the New Testament is overwhelmingly greater than those of any other work of ancient literature…. The earliest extant MSS of the NT were written much closer to the date of the original writing than is the case in almost any other piece of ancient literature” (Greenlee, INTTC, 15).

Edward Glenny reports that

God has given us 5,656 manuscripts containing all or parts of the Greek NT. It is the most remarkably preserved book in the ancient world. Not only do we have a great number of manuscripts but they are very close in time to the originals they represent. Some partial manuscripts of the NT are from the second century A.D. and many are within four centuries of the originals. These facts are all the more amazing when they are compared with the preservation of other ancient literature (Glenn)’, “PS,” as cited in BVD, .95; see Aland, TNT, 72-84, for a description of the manuscripts of the New Testament. One of the most recent tabulations of NI’ manuscripts is in Kurt and Barbara Aland, eds. Kurzgef ste Liste der grieschen Handschriften des Nelsen Testaments (Aland, KLHNT]. This source lists the extant Greek manuscripts of the NT as 99 papyri, 306 uncials, 2,855 minuscules, and 2,396 lectionaries, for the total given above).W. F. Albright confidently informs us: “No other work from Graeco-Roman antiquity is so well attested by manuscript tradition as the New Testament. There are many more early manuscripts of the New Testament than there are of any classical author, and the oldest extensive remains of it date only about two centuries after their original composition” (Albright, AP, 238).

Lee Strobel, in a recent book (published in 1998), reports the latest count of Greek MSS as follows: papyri, 99; uncials, 306; minuscules, 2,856; and lectionaries, 2,403, for a total of 5,664 (Strobel, CC, 62-63). (Slight variations in counts may occur, depending on how small fragments were to be considered manuscripts, but the moun­tain of evidence gives the New Testament great historical credibility.)

 

Michael Welte of the Institute for New Testament Studies (Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat, institut Fur Neutestamentliche textforschung) in Munster, Germany, has conveyed the latest (as of August 1998) count of Greek MSS as follows: 109 papyri, 307 uncials, 2,860 minuscules, and 2,410 lectionaries, for a total of 5,686.

 

Glenny continues, citing comparative ancient documents: “No one questions the authenticity of the historical books of antiquity because we do not possess the original copies. Yet we have far fewer manu­scripts of these works than we possess of the NT” (Glenny, “PS,” as cited in BVD, 96).

F. F. Bruce, in The New Testament Document, vividly portrays the comparison between the New Testament and ancient historical writ­ings:

 

Bruce Metzger, in The Text of the New Testament, cogently writes of the comparison:

The works of several ancient authors are preserved to us by the thinnest possible thread of transmission. For example, the compen­dious history of’ Rome by Velleius Paterculus survived to modern times in only one incomplete manuscript, from which the editio princeps was made— and this lone manuscript was lost in the seven­teenth century after being; copied by Beatus Rhenanus at Amerbach. Even the Annals of the famous historian Tacitus is extant, so far as the first six books are concerned, in but a single manuscript, dating from the ninth century. In 1870 the only known manuscript of the Epistle to Diognetus, an early Christian composition which editors usually include in the corpus of Apostolic Fathers, perished in a fire at the municipal library in Strasbourg. In contrast with these figures, the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by the wealth of his material. (Metzger,TNT, 34)

F. F. Bruce writes: “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament” (Bruce, BP, 178).

Compared with nearly 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the following chart demonstrates the poverty of manuscripts of some other ancient documents. (Giesler GIB, 408). There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity!

 Comparison of copies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is much more material available to validate the first claim of bibliographical evidence. As you can see the historicity and veracity of the Bible is well founded and documented by major experts from years of scrutiny. 

 

2A. INTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST FOR THE RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

1B. Benefit of the Doubt

On this test John Warwick Montgomery writes that literary critics still follow Aristotle’s dictum that “the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself” (Mont­gomery, EA, 29).

Therefore, “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” (Mont­gomery, EA, 29).

Horn amplifies this, saying:

Think for a moment about what needs to be demonstrated con­cerning a “difficulty” in order to transfer it into the category of a valid argument against doctrine. Certainly much more is required than the mere appearance of a contradiction. First, we must be cer­tain that we have correctly understood the passage, the sense in which it uses words or numbers. Second, that we possess all avail­able knowledge in this matter. Third that no further light can pos­sibly be thrown on it by advancing knowledge, textual research, archaeology, etc…

Difficulties do not constitute objections. Unsolved problems are not of necessity errors. This is not to minimize the area of diffi­culty; it is to see it in perspective. Difficulties are to be grappled with and problems are to drive us to seek clearer light; but until such time as we have total and final light on any issue we are in no Position to affirm, “Here is a proven error, an unquestionable objection to an infallible Bible.” It is common knowledge that countless “objections” have been fully resolved since this century began. (42/86,87)

  1. Is the Document Free of Known Contradictions?

He was known around the seminary as the man who had learned over thirty languages, most of them languages of Old Testament times in the Middle Eastern world. Dr. Gleason Archer, who taught for over thirty years at the graduate seminary level in the field of biblical criticism, gives the following modest description of his qualifications to discern the meaning of difficult biblical texts:

As an undergraduate at Harvard, I was fascinated by apologetics and biblical evidences; so I labored to obtain a knowledge of the languages and cultures that have any bearing on biblical scholar­ship. As a classics major in college, I received training in Latin and Greek, also in French and German. At seminary I majored in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic; and in post-graduate years I became involved in Syriac and Akkadian, to the extent of teaching elective courses in each of these subjects. Earlier, during my final two years of high school, I had acquired a special interest in Middle Kingdom Egyptian studies, which was furthered as I later taught courses in this field. At the Oriental Institute in Chicago, I did specialized study in Eighteenth Dynasty historical records and also studied Coptic and Sumerian. Combined with this work in ancient lan­guages was a full course of training at law school, after which I was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1939. This gave me a thor­ough grounding in the field of legal evidences.

Dr. Archer, in the foreword to his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, gives this testimony about the internal consistency of the Bible:

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 itself—or else by objective archaeologi­cal information. The deductions that may be validly drawn from ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, or Akkadian documents all harmonize with the biblical record; and no properly trained evangelical scholar has anything to fear from the hostile arguments and challenges of humanistic rationalists or detractors of any and every persuasion.

Dr. Archer concludes, “There is a good and sufficient answer III Scripture itself to refute every charge that has ever been leveled against it. But this is only to be expected from the kind of book the Bible asserts itself to be, the inscripturation of the infallible, inerrant Word of the Living God” (Archer, EBl), 12).

Students of the Bible are often troubled to find statements in the Bible that appear to contradict other statements in the Bible. For example, one of my associates had always wondered why the books of Matthew and Acts gave conflicting versions of the death of Judas Iscariot. Matthew relates that Judas died by hanging himself. But Acts says that as Judas fell headlong in a field “his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” My friend was perplexed as to how both accounts could be true. He theorized that Judas must have hanged himself off the side of a cliff, the rope gave way, and he fell headlong into the field below. It would be the only way a fall into a field could burst open a body. Sure enough, several years later on a trip to the Holy Land, my friend was shown the traditional site of Judas’s death: a field at the bottom of a cliff outside Jerusalem.

The allegations of error in the Bible are usually based on a failure to recognize basic principles of interpreting ancient literature. The chart below lists fifteen principles to help one discern whether there is a true error or a contradiction in the literature—in this case, the Bible. For further explanation of the principles, see my book, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pp. 46-51.

 

3B. Did the Writer Use Primary Sources?

Summary principles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The writers of the New Testament wrote as eyewitnesses or from first­hand information. The books of the New ‘Testament make claims such as the following:

Luke 1:1-3: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken 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 perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account , most excellent Theophilus.”

(2Pe 1:16 HCSB)  For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

 

(1Jn 1:3 HCSB)  what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

 

(Act 2:22 HCSB)  “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know.

 

(Joh 19:35 HCSB)  He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth.

 

(Luk 3:1 HCSB)  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,

 

(Act 26:24-26 HCSB)  As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, “You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!” But Paul replied, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I’m not convinced that any of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner!

 

The earliest preachers of the Gospel know the value of …first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again. “We are witnesses of these things,” was their constant and confident assertion.

 

3A. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST FOR THE RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

“Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves?” (Montgomery, HC, 31). In other words, what sources are there—apart from the literature under analysis—that substantiate its accuracy, reliability, and authenticity?

1 B. Supporting Evidence of Early Christian Writers outside the Bible Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History III.39, preserves writings of Papias, bishop of Heirapolis (1.u. 130), in which Papias records say­ings of “the Elder” (the apostle John, of whom, according to Trenaeus, he was a hearer):

The Elder used to say this also: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he (Peter) mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ, not, however, in order. For he was neither a hearer nor a companion of the Lord; but afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his teachings as neces­sity required, not as though he were making a compilation of the sayings of the Lord. So then Mark made no mistake writing down in this way some things as he (Peter) mentioned them; for he paid attention to this one thing, not to omit anything that he had heard, not to include any false statement among them.”

Papias also comments about the Gospel of Matthew: “Matthew recorded the oracles in the Hebrew (i.e., Aramaic) tongue.”

Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (.n. 180), was a student of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp, martyred in Al). 156, had been a Christ­ian for eighty-six years and was a disciple of John the apostle. Irenaeus wrote: “So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own particular doctrine” (Against Heresies III).

The four Gospels had become so axiomatic in the Christian world that Irenaeus could refer to it [the fourfold Gospel] as an established and recognized fact as obvious as the four cardinal points of the com­pass:

For as there are four quarters of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and as the Church is dispersed over all the earth, and the gospel is the pillar and base of the Church and the breath of life, so it is natural that it should have four pillars, breath­ing immortality from every quarter and kindling the life of men anew. Whence it is manifest that the Word, the architect of all things, who sits upon the cherubim and holds all things together, having been manifested to men, has given us the gospel in fourfold form, but held together by one Spirit.

Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews [i.e., Jews] in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure [i.e., their death, which strong tradition places at the time of the Neron­ian persecution in 64), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed clown to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a hook the gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on His breast (this is a reference to John 13:25 and 21:20), himself produced his Gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia.

Clement of Rome (c. .A.D. 95) uses Scripture as a reliable and authentic source.

Igncttirrs (A.n. 70-110). This bishop of Antioch was martyred for his faith in Christ. He knew all the apostles and was a disciple of Poly-carp, who was a disciple of the apostle John (Liplady, TIB, 209).

Elgin Moyer in Who Was Who in Church history writes that Ignatius “himself said, I would rather die for Christ than rule the whole earth. Leave me to the beasts that I may by them be partaker of God. He is said to have been thrown to the wild beasts in the coliseum at Rome. His Epistles were written during his journey from Antioch to his martyrdom” (Mover, WV1’WCII, 209).

Ignatius gave credence to the Scripture by the way he based his faith on the accuracy of the Bible. He had ample material and witnesses to support the trustworthiness of the Scriptures.

Polycarp (A.D. 70-156) was a disciple of John who succumbed to martyrdom at eighty-six years of age for his relentless devotion to Christ and the Scriptures. Polycarp’s death demonstrated his trust in the accuracy of the Scripture. “About 155, in the reign of Antonin115 Pius, when a local persecution was taking place in Smyrna and several of his members had been martyred, he was singled out as the leader of the Church, and marked for martyrdom. When asked to recant and live, he is reputed to have said, `Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He hath done me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?’ He was burned at the stake, dying a heroic martyr for his faith” (Moyer, WWWCH, 337). Polycarp certainly had ample contacts to verify the truth.

‘li11iuii (c. A.D. 170) organized the Scriptures in order to put them in the first “harmony of the Gospels,” the Diatessaron.

2B. Early Non-Christian Confirmation of New Testament History

Negative Bible critics charge or imply that the New Testament docu­ments are unreliable since they were written by disciples of Jesus or later Christians. They note that there is no confirmation of Jesus or New Testament events in non-Christian sources. Not only is this claim false, but as Geisler notes,

The objection that the writings are partisan involves a significant but false implication that witnesses cannot be reliable if they were close to the one about whom they gave testimony. this is clearly false. Survivors of the Jewish holocaust were close to the events they have described to the world. That very fact puts them in the best position to know what happened. ‘They were there, and it happened to them. The same applies to the court testimony of someone who survived a vicious attack. It applies to the survivors of the Nor­mandy invasion during World War IT or the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The New Testament witnesses should not be disqualified because they were close to the events they relate.

Geisler adds,

Suppose there were four eyewitnesses to a murder. There was also one witness who arrived on the scene after the actual killing and saw only the victim’s body. Another person heard a secondhand report of the killing. In the trial the defense attorney argues: “Other than the four eyewitnesses, this is a weak case, and the charges should be dismissed for lack of evidence” Others might think that attorney was throwing out a red herring. The judge and jury were being distracted from the strongest evidence to the weakest evi­dence, and the reasoning was clearly faulty. Since the New Testament witnesses were the only eyewitnesses and contemporary testimonies to Jesus, it is a fallacy to misdirect attention to the non-Christian secular sources. Nonetheless, it is instructive to show what confirming evidence for Jesus can be gleaned outside the New Testament. (Geisler, BECA, 381)

The references below are discussed in greater detail in my hook with Bill Wilson, He Walked among Us (McDowell, HWAU).

1C. Tacitus.

The first-century Roman Tacitus is considered one of the more accu­rate historians of the ancient world. He gives the account of the great fire of Rome, for which some blamed the Emperor Nero:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pon­tius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. (Tacitus, A, 15.44)

The “mischievous superstition” to which Tacitus refers is most likely the resurrection of Jesus. The same is true for one of the refer­ences of Suetonius below.

2C. Suetonius.

Suetonius was chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian (who reigned from A.D. 117-38). He confirms the report in Acts 18:2 that Claudius com­manded all Jews (among them Priscilla and Aquila) to leave Rome in A.I.49. Two references are important:

As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome” (Suetonius, Life or Claudius, 25.4).  Speaking of the aftermath of the great fire at Rome, Suetonius reports, “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a body of people addicted to a novel and mischievous superstition” (Suetonius, Life of Nero, 16).

Since Suetonius wrote of these events approximately seventy-five years after their occurrence, he was not in a position to know whether the disturbances were actually instigated by one named Chrestus or because of one by that name. He is probably referring to the dispute between the Jewish people as to the identity of Jesus.

There is enough information to establish the Bible for its claims, and its correctness. The real question has to be asked “Why don’t you believe the Bible is God’s inspired word?”

The word is more than a moral guidepost or a collection of some ancient stories that give us a good guideline for treating others and being good people. You see there is a narrative in the Bible that bears studying and believing. The Bible is 66 books, written over 1500 years by 40 authors that speak as one voice about God, man and our relationship. You see the personal God who is there wants a restored relationship with man whom He created. The Law explains how we were judged and the penalty for disobedience.  We used to be normal in the garden and we had fellowship with the personal God who is there. He offered us everything we needed and promised us everything we could want. But God allowed for this creature he created with a personality to have a freedom of will. The personal God who is there didn’t use magic, or machines he allowed the creature to choose non-love or love. The creature man was deceived because he didn’t believe and was an eyewitness to God’s personal friendship and provision. The temptation was to be like God himself and we have fallen for the same lie in every heart that rejects His offer of a restored relationship since. You see if we have told one lie that makes us a lair, if we have taken one thing ever in our life we are a thief, if we have ever looked at someone and lusted after them we are either fornicators or an adulterers, if we have ever misused the name of God are blasphemers. The Bible says that none of these is fit for the Kingdom of God. The stain of sin is on us and we are judged guilty before a just God who is there. Christianity says man is now abnormal – he separated from his Creator, who is his only sufficient reference point – not by a metaphysical limitation, but by true moral guilt. As a result he is now separated from his fellowman, and from himself. Therefore when man is engaged in sin (evil or cruelty) he not being true to what he was initially created to be. Sin (evil or cruelty) is a symptom of abnormality and a result of a moral, historic, space time Fall.

(Rom 1:18 MKJV)  For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

(Col 1:21a MKJV)  And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works….

 (1Co 6:9-10 HCSB)  Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.

How do we respond to the call of the Holy Spirit and His revealing our sinful nature we inherited from Adam? If we are separated from the personal God who is there, what next and if we stay in our abnormal separated state what next?

 

If I may use some small selection by Jonathon Edwards:

it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor…..

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. —

 

(Rom 10:3 HCSB)  Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.

 

(Rom 3:23 HCSB)  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

(Rom 6:23 HCSB)  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

(Rom 10:9-10 HCSB)  if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.

 

How do we approach God if we want to restore this relationship and become normal for the first time in our lives? This scripture and others of those who approach the personal God who is there seem to have a common prayer like the one the prodigal son prayed and David in the Old Testament

 

(Luk 15:21 HCSB)  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 

(Luk 18:10-14 HCSB)  “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people–greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me–a sinner!’I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

If we bow our knee and our self to the God who is there, praying “thou will be done” He responds “So be it welcome home”. If we stiffen our knee and our neck proclaiming my will be done He responds “ Let it be so.” We receive the just reward our will has provided.

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  1. I was witnessing to a Ph.D. student in chemistry this week, who had similar questions. Instead though, he said that the Bible has some good advice, but he liked to selectively choose which passages he liked, compare to various other religions, and weed out the stuff that didn’t make sense to him. In the end though, his view was that religion was a means to control unintelligent people who can’t rationally make decisions for themselves; there is no sin just change which is neither good or bad so there is nothing that Jesus can save him from; he is basically a good person who lives his life by the motto to be kind to everyone and the golden rule; morality is relative; and he sees his life going in a good “overall” direction despite very minor sins like getting drunk every night and having uncommitted relationships with multiple partners.

    His question to me was: Do you think I’m going to hell? Along with my personal testimony, I replied that he was unaware the immense danger of sin and that he would have to come to terms with the realities of the world, such as the imminent danger of sin in his life. We as humans are not in control of reality itself, despite a desire to have control over it. I also gently demonstrated various logical fallacies that he was committing, which I think was helpful in implying to him that he was not being rational.

    Likewise, I think Chris below has placed himself in control of what is and is not the truth based on unsubstantiated arguments and fallacious reasoning. His reasoning is erroneous because he commits the common fallacy of Ad Hominem (see http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/). He immediately launches an attack on Christians by saying “fundamentalist,” in which he really means to say bigot, because fundamentalism was really a 20th century movement emphasizing the literal interpretation of the Bible or those beliefs found therein. As the website states, the Ad Hominem fallacy of logic is as follows:

    Person A makes claim X.
    Person B makes an attack on person A.
    Therefore A’s claim is false.

    Chris argument can be stated as follows:

    Christians claim that the Bible is the truth.
    I say Christians are bigots who believe a book that is highly variable in translation, anyway.
    Therefore Christians are false.

    You may also notice that he launches a personal attack at the end of the argument by saying “come on…” In his argument, he is not being rational, because he has not substantiated that the variability in the Bible translations causes a significant difference in the truth of the Bible. You may ask him to elaborate in greater detail, and also explain the nature of language and its relation to knowledge. For example, examine the following statements:

    I am having a bad day.
    A bad day has come upon me.

    These two statements convey the same knowledge, though the style of the sentences are different. You may also suggest that though words themselves have intrinsic faults in expressing actual reality regardless of language , the reality of existence is not changed by the words. Chris cannot change the reality that Jesus died in place of us. Like many, he is unable to grasp this knowledge because of the paradigm shift into phenomenological views of existence (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/#2). But maybe bringing this truth into understanding by relating it to the person that loves him the most in life could help. You could say imagine that you committed murder and ran from the police. When the police couldn’t find you, your father turned himself in and was sentence to life in prison for you. You could ask him: How much love do you think your father had for you?

    Is that appropriate in conveying the love of God? What does everyone think?

    Ben

  2. My firend Pat forwarded this to me so I posted it.

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for the info, it was interesting. But once again, seems pretty unconvincing to me. The entire document explains that the bible was hand copied, thousands of times, centuries after the fact, by relatively uneducated people compared to today. I am sorry, but that doesn’t exactly make me certain that it is factually translated, let alone that the very first one, hundreds of years after the events occurred, was correct in the first place. He also uses the Shakespeare argument a lot, the only problem with that is people don’t justify their hatred for gay people by something that Shakespeare supposedly said, for example. Or slavery, or selling your daughter into sex slavery, or many of the other horrors of the bible. Not to mention, he never really addresses the whole Constantine issue, where the bible was basically edited and rewritten to allow more control over people, including the invention of Christmas and Easter.

    Bottom line for me, you can believe whatever you want, and I would hope your beliefs make you a better person. I don’t buy it. My critical mind and what I feel to be true in my heart doesn’t allow it. And, until the big three organized religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, stop killing and hating people in the name of their one true God, I will stick with believing what I believe, there is a God, and none of you get to claim it as only your own.

    If you are interested in expanding your critical thinking, I recommend “The God Delusion”. Just a scientific argument for what you just posted. Probably will not change your mind, it didn’t change mine, but is good to question your beliefs, in my opinion.

    PS. Just so you know, the next book I am reading is “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It is a philosophical book in support of Christianity………..

  3. My response
    Richard Dawkins recently had to adjust some of his rhetoric it’s basic premise obviously is contrary to theism and Christianity in particular. Hey if I could convince anyone the personal God who is there needs to be their God I would venture into areas I don’t belong. I have some more information, concerning the veracity and historicity of the Bible but until we acknowledge that the personal God who is there defined Himself to us and we come on His terms (hence why He is God) then this only an effort in intellectual one upmanship there are a lot of smarter people than me. The fact that people search for meaning in anything other than the personal God who is there confirms the scripture.

    Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
    Rom 1:17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.
    Rom 1:18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,
    Rom 1:19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.
    Rom 1:20 From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.
    Rom 1:21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.
    Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools
    Rom 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
    Rom 1:24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.
    Rom 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    Rom 1:26 This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural.
    Rom 1:27 The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.
    Rom 1:28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.
    Rom 1:29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,
    Rom 1:30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
    Rom 1:31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.
    Rom 1:32 Although they know full well God’s just sentence–that those who practice such things deserve to die–they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.
    Reread and saw an issue, the point of the information was the Bible was written, by eye witnesses, and attested to by others who knew the facts, it wasn’t centuries is was within forty years, and the education level of at least 2 of the writers surpasses most of us. Luke, was a physician and has been called by many who study antiquity one of the better historians. Paul was a classically trained Pharisee who responsible for over 70% of the writing of the New Testament wrote and spoke at least 3 languages, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The question in response to the Constantine issue I suggest a cursory look at the Anti-Nicene fathers, who I have read several, Clement , Mathetes, Polycarp friend and disciple of John, Ignatius who also wrote a commentary on the early scriptures, Barnabas, Papias, Justin, Martyr, Irenaeus just to mention a few. This is called the redaction issue and the information I supplied concerning the veracity of the early scriptures is covered it was basically, wholly or slightly revised. The Nicene council was most concerned with a Hersey involving, homoousias, ousia, Marcion, and Arianism. The council published its final document The Nicene creed as its purpose for meeting. Easter was celebrated the first Sunday after Pentecost by the disciples because the when Jesus rose from the dead. The Christmas issue is later in church history and involves the Roman church and the magisterium . Check my blog about slavery I had covered this with someone else. The God Delusion by Dawkins is interesting but he falls on the sword of the 2nd law of logic, the law of non-contradiction and he doesn’t live out his presuppositions personally, no one can if they disavow a personal creator God who is there can. Even John Paul Sartre committed the fatal flaw of syntheses and signed the Algerian manifesto. You woiuld spend far better precious reading time with Francis Shaffer- The Trilogy, some systematic Theology books and the 10 volume set The Anti Nicene Fathers.

    People live out their beliefs to accuse those who don’t is proper, many through have claimed a belief in God behaved horribly and God says He will judge them in eternity. The real question is about God Himself, if you can form a God that makes you happy we call that idolatry. God describes Himself, and how we are to come to Him on His terms not ours. I don’t claim anything I accept His claim of sovereignty, justice, and love. If I could make a personal god he would be a weak selfish and powerless god, what was I thinking man does that we call it humanism man centric thinking. Reread the last part of the post we are referring to and this points to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the personal infinite creator God who is there.

  4. Some more thoughts for our friend, I have been tied up supporting my wife and her family with my mother in law and her infirmity. You mentioned your god and my fear of her. I must admit at first I was taken back as I fear only the one true eternal infinite creator God who is there.

    (Deu 4:35 HCSB) You were shown these things so that you would know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides Him.

    (Deu 4:39 HCSB) Today, recognize and keep in mind that the LORD is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other.

    You see my God is a God of history, rocks and dirt. The Bible has been and continues to be challenged by those much more intelligent than me and it has yet to be discredited concerning the historical information contained in it. So the logical next step is the author must be who He claims. Any system that presents itself must try to answer two great phenomena of the universe and man. In other words, we are talking about objective truth related to reality and not just something within our own heads. There are good and sufficient reasons to know why Christianity is true-and more than that, that is the Bible’s insistence. The Bible’s emphasis is that there are good and sufficient reasons to know that Christianity is true, so much so that we are disobedient and guilty if we do not believe it. The Christian system (what is taught in the whole Bible) is a unity if thought. Christianity is not just bits and pieces- there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence. When we turn to the Bible, the Bible says that on the basis of God’s created world and on the basis of who we are, there are good and sufficient reasons to know that the Biblical answers are true. The Bible claims are rooted in history (His story) we have the uniqueness of man. We also have the reality of the universe and its having an existence and a form. The Bible is not “just a religious book”; the Bible is rooted in space-time history and speaks of the totality of reality.

    What is our reason for being?
    Why are we here?
    What is the basis for morals?
    What is the basis for law?
    Are there any final answers?

    When people refuse God’s answer, they are living against the revelation of the universe and the revelation of themselves. They are denying the revelation of God in who they themselves are.

    (Col 2:8 HCSB) Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

    (Tit 1:15-16 HCSB) To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.

    You see Jesus makes a claim like no other ever has. He claims to be the only way. And actually seeks us to make us His own.
    (Joh 14:6 HCSB) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    (Luk 19:10 HCSB) For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

    You see the only fear I have has been answered through Jesus Christ and his atoning death and redeeming resurrection.

    (Luk 12:4-5 HCSB) “And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!

    My God is a just God my penalty for disobedience death! I stand judged and condemned by the law. Then He paid the penalty for my disobedience and made me a new creature. No other has ever done that! Love so divine Love so real Love that changed my soul. I have eternal life with the person of that Love. My reason for being to glorify God, my purpose to Worship Him, my basis for morals, how I came to be, and my final answers all wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.

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