[Karen] Welcome to this episode of I Believe Podcast! Today we are starting a series of podcasts around the Bible with special guest DM Johnson. Dave is an author, Bible enthusiast, and amateur scholar. Welcome Dave! Thanks so much for joining us today.

[Dave] Thanks, glad to be here.

[Karen] There’s a lot at stake in believing or disbelieving the Holy Bible. If Christianity weren’t true, it wouldn’t be important at all. But if Jesus  is who He claims He is—and we hope to show you that He is—it’s not only important we have this discussion, it’s pivotal. Everything significant in our lives hinges on the issue of the veracity of the Bible and Jesus’ claims, as well as the implications of those things. I mean, our understanding of ourselves, God, the universe, and the plan for our eternal progression and happiness.

That said, it’s pretty obvious that in the skeptical age we live in, there strident atheist voices reaching fertile minds and spreading doubt in God, Christ, scripture—people like Hitchins and Dawkins and Ehrman, for example.

As a result, there are more and more people who think that the Bible is not generally a reliable source of truth.  There are lots of objections and misconceptions out there that can make it difficult for a spiritual seeker to have faith in the Bible without feeling like they are naïve or ungrounded. And there are lots of popular-level books written that are questioning its credibility.

Our aim today is to talk with our guest, Dave Johnson, about the main reasons we think it is quite rational to have faith that the Bible is a reliable source of truth. Dave’s currently deep in study with some of the issues surrounding this topic because of some of the detailed research he’s doing for an upcoming book, which I’m very excited about.

So before we move on, why don’t you share with our audience your reasons for writing your book and how it’s come about?

[Dave] My reason for writing this book is, number one, I tend to be a guy that goes off of evidence. I believe that faith isn’t believing where there’s no evidence; I think it’s believing where there is evidence and putting our trust in that direction. I’ve always thought it’s interesting that generations ago we only had a few sources from which to get our information. But now, in the internet age, anybody can publish anything. So it’s really hard for somebody to sift through evidence for different matters. You have all of these different conspiracies and different things. When you start getting into issues around something like the historicity of Jesus Christ or the Bible, I just thought it would be fun to actually weigh that evidence and go through it.

Thy Word is Truth John 17:17

[Karen]  Well said. We’ll touch down today very briefly on eight compelling reasons why the Bible is a valid source of truth—and then do in-depth interviews with Dave on each one of these points. Some of these [reasons] include the extra-Biblical evidences of Jesus; the wealth of manuscript evidence; corroborating archeology; eyewitness accounts, and more. So if you’re straddling the fence, you’re in the right place today. Hope you’ll stay with us.

Most importantly, we invite you to not only consider what is being shared but to read the Bible for yourself and then ask God, after your due-diligence, if it’s true.

So Dave—Ready to dive in?

[Dave] I am!

1. Extra-Biblical Evidence

[Karen]  Let’s go through and overview each of these points. First, let’s talk about the fact that there is a good amount of corroboration outside the Bible for individuals in the Bible, including Jesus.  In fact, outside the Bible we have over 100 facts about Jesus that give us a storyline which is congruent with what we find in the New Testament [1]. It seems that some of our listeners might be surprised by that. Seems like there are lots of people who think the only documentation of Jesus is in the scriptures. Could you give our audience a brief outline of some of those sources, Dave, many of which come from Habermas’ great works like The Historical Jesus,  and The Case for the Resurrection?

[Dave] Yes, and one of the things that Gary Habermas does in The Historical Jesus is go through and talks about all of these facts, over 120 of them, from sources outside the scriptures. There’s another good book I like called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist that does a similar thing.

Some of those extra-biblical sources that we have—we have 42 sources on Jesus within the first 150 years [2]. A lot of people don’t realize that, but we have Roman sources, Jewish sources, Christian sources, what we would call patristic sources, or the early church fathers. We also even have pagan sources. We even have enemy sources—people who did not like Jesus—who say things about Him.  What we see is when we put those things together, we actually get a storyline that’s congruent with the New Testament. It’s interesting to point that out to people.

[Karen] Let’s move on to some of the people in the New Testament who are also mentioned in non-Christian sources.  Can you give us an example of one or two of those?

[Dave]  Yeah. We have people—John the Baptist, for instance, is mentioned by Josephus. James the brother of Jesus, Herod the great, Pontius Pilate, Agrippa—we have a bunch of different people. If you have your Bible right now handy, you can just pop open to Luke  chapter 3, and in the first couple of verses, there are eight people named who are also corroborated outside the scriptures.

A lot of people don’t know that there are over 30 people in the New Testament who we also see in extra-biblical documentation [3].

[Karen] I think that’s compelling, thank you.

2. Manuscript Evidence

There’s also lots of buzz and debate around people having tampered with the Bible. Exaggerated claims are causing a crisis of faith for a lot of people.

Recently I was reading Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus, and  I came across a quote I’d like to share which registers this pulse. This is actually an email that Lee had received.

Please help me. I’ve just read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus. I was raised in the church and I’m now 26 years old. This book has devastated my faith. I don’t want to be kept in the dark; I want to know what really is going on in the Bible and what I should believe, even if it goes against what I’ve believed since I was a little boy. Is Ehrman correct? [4]

I have to just say, that comments like this—recent cover pieces by news magazines and other things like that—underscore the weight of the issues we’re talking about and the tendency of some to read these things out of context or to trust sources without really vetting them. Can you kindly speak to that, Dave?

[Dave] Yes. The first thing I’d like to say is that Bart Ehrman is a very decorated and credentialed scholar. He takes a lot of facts that believers also know. Other scholars who believe in the veracity of the New Testament also know these same facts and come to a totally different conclusion. So it’s important to understand that just because I don’t agree with Bart Ehrman’s conclusion doesn’t mean I don’t respect his scholarship.

But Daniel B. Wallace is in the Lee Strobel book you mentioned—amazing read, The Case for the Real Jesus. I would recommend it to anybody. Wallace has credentials that rival Ehrman’s, and he’s done an amazing amount of work. He has a center, CSNTM, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. You can actually go online and see the evidence of this.

We know that there are all kinds of facts and data. I like to say, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”  We can look at the facts, then put them into context.

[Karen] Thanks, Dave.  And Daniel Wallace is amazing, I would just second what you said there. He’s world-renowned, and has been a consultant on  a lot of Bible translations and has done amazing things.

So let’s take a look at some of this. In Lee Strobel’s interview with Wallace, Wallace shares some significant points about the variants in the Bible, responding to this newly-caused firestorm  resulting from the popularity of Ehrman’s work. These things, like you said, have been known to scholars for a long time. Can you help set that whole concept in perspective, and share the findings of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts? And even share what a variant is?

[Dave] Yeah, let’s do that. First let’s put it into a broader context. Before we get into variants, let’s talk for just a minute about the evidence that we have.

One of the things that’s important for people to understand is you’ll hear a few different numbers out there when you start researching this. You’ll see that we have over 5800 catalogued manuscripts in the original Greek for the New Testament. You’ll also sometimes hear scholars use a number over 5600, I think—in 2012 the number was 5686. And the reason for the difference is that sometimes they’ll find two things [manuscripts] and they’ll realize, “Hey, this is actually the same manuscript,” and they don’t want to leave a gap in the cataloging.

Chart showing high number of NT manuscripts compared to other ancient writers.

But suffice it to say: that’s a massive amount of manuscript evidence that we have. It’s important, as we realize we have, on the average, 20 copies—and that’s a high average—of writers from antiquity. Plato, for instance— we have 7 copies of what he did. Aristotle—we have 49 copies. When you compare that with the thousands we have for the New Testament, it’s actually quite impressive.

The other thing that’s important as we go through this is to realize that—a lot of people might be familiar with Josephus or Plutarch—we’re waiting 800 years before we get any evidence or manuscripts from those authors. Whereas with the New Testament, we’re only waiting decades. Our earliest catalogued piece right now is from the Gospel of John, a section known as P52, and most scholars date that at around 125 AD. A lot of people think that John was written in 90 or 95 AD, so we’re only waiting a couple of decades. That kind of sets the stage for the variants.

The definition of a variant, or difference between these things [manuscripts], is and difference—a spelling difference, a wording difference—it can be “Jesus Christ” or “The Lord Jesus” or “Christ Jesus”—those all count as differences. It’s important to understand that 99% of these variants don’t have any effect on the meaning [5].

But we do have 200,000-400,000 variants. I’d just like to point out that the reason we have so many variants is because we have so much evidence. If we only had one copy, there’d be no variants. But a lot of people hear that number, and it really scares them, like you said.

The main thing to focus on is we have that [high number of variants] because we have so much evidence. We’re glad we have that evidence. There are many cases where we can have hundreds of documents that say the exact same thing, and six that have variants on just one word, when in reality scholars are very confident on what that word is [6].

Papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John

[Karen] Thank you for pointing that out. I think that’s very important for our listeners to understand and place that in context. I think it is interesting to point out here that the evidence on these manuscripts is growing. It’s already amazing. How much has the needle moved in terms of having more manuscripts and finding new ones?

[Dave] It’s interesting to point out: when they did the King James Version of the Bible [in 1611], they had basically 7 copies in the early Greek that they used, and the earliest was from the 11th century—after 1000 AD.

As of 2012, there were 5686 copies, at last count, in just the Greek. So you look at going from 7 to 5686—we’ve got exponentially more evidence. There’s sometimes a misperception out there that we’re getting further and further from what the apostles said, when in reality we have much more evidence, and we have far earlier evidence—centuries earlier, back to 125 AD. So we’re not getting further and further from the original, we’re actually getting closer and closer.

[Karen] And we’ll talk more about that in future podcasts.

So it looks like from what has been stated that the essential Christian doctrines regarding Christ’s divinity, atonement, and Resurrection are not placed in jeopardy from these variants, would you concur?

[Dave] I would. There are no central tenets, which you mentioned, that are in jeopardy. And we’ll get to some of those things where there was some corruption in terms of the scribal things [errors] that happened.  But yes, absolutely, there are no core tenets that are in jeopardy.

[Karen] Perfect. There is a remarkable overall internal consistency about the New Testament. I think Dave is highlighting this consistency.

3. Archaeology

Often times I hear people in apologetics or Biblical studies talk about archeology. It seems like sometimes people, both on the skeptical side and the apologetics side of things, overstate conclusions. While archeology doesn’t prove truth, it can provide us data that shows a historical corroboration. I think our listeners might think it was neat to hear some cases where skeptics denied some Biblical truth or data point, and then archeology was used to affirm in the Bible.  Would you mind sharing a few occurrences like that, including David?

[Dave] Sure. And there’s a bunch of these. I know you mentioned that you had recently read Cold Case Christianity, and J. Warner Wallace does a good job of pointing out some  of those things even just in the Gospels.

Some of the more famous ones that I like to cite include the Hittites. Skeptics had doubted—are they a literary invention, did the Hittites really exist—this kind of thing. In 1876, in Turkey, when they did some excavation, they found 5 temples, over 10,000 clay cuneiform tablets that had records of the Hittites—their names and all kinds of things. And then it came out that the Hittites existed [7].

As you mentioned, the same thing happened with King David. Skeptics for a long time asserted that King David wasn’t real, that he was a literary myth. And then they found an inscription in 1993, the Tel Dan inscription, and it said, “King of Israel, King of the House of David,” affirming the historicity of David [8].

It’s important, like you said, many people on the skeptical side will just deny almost anything. They’ll say, “This person and this other person have the same name—they must be the same.” And you have people on the other side saying, “Hey, I found a chariot wheel,” or things like the lost ark. So I like to point out that we need to come to things [evidence] where the broad consensus of scholarship can show that there’s historical corroboration with the Bible—where everybody more or less agrees.

[Karen] I think that’s true with physical as well as spiritual evidence. We could say that there are many who could hold the original in their hands and still doubt that the Bible is really true.

[Dave] Yes.

[Karen] But just know, as we’re talking here, that the Bible really can stand up to the questions you have, but ultimately you have to read, apply, and have the spiritual affirmation that the Bible is what it claims to be.

Thanks, Dave. would you also speak to Ramsay and share another example or two?

[Dave] Yeah. One of the interesting stories you’ll sometimes hear people refer to is that of William Ramsay. He was a scholar and archaeologist who was atheistic in his thinking and actually set out to disprove the Biblical account by using archaeology. What he did was the opposite. He went out and affirmed—“Wow, Luke is right in all of these cases.” He [Luke] gets 32 countries right, 34 cities, 9 islands, 29 kings from 10  nations [9]. He [Ramsay] actually ends up becoming a Christian and says that we’ve got to include Luke among the high historians [10].

We also have 84 historically confirmed eyewitness details in the second half of the book of Acts alone—things that are either confirmed by archaeological evidence or things that only an eyewitness could have known. Colin Hemer goes through and does an excellent job of documenting those in his work [11].

Also in the Gospel of John, we have 59 historically confirmed  or historically probable eyewitness details. Craig Blomberg has written an amazing book, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, which goes through that evidence [12]. These lists are also found in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Norm Geisler.

[Karen]  Those numbers, you can’t really ignore—they are significant. We should say, maybe on the side here, that if we could hold the original in our hands, many would still doubt, and if Jesus were here, many might still doubt.  But the Bible can stand up to these questions; for those who want to put the Bible to that kind of intellectual rigor, they can and we invite that. But it also must be read and applied, and that spiritual affirmation has to be sought.

4. The Historical Method

The archaeology and manuscripts are pretty empirical. I think people not familiar with looking at history would be interested to know how historians look at ancient documentation like this to make determinations as to the likelihood of something actually occurring in the past.

[Dave]  There are a few different principles—this has been one of the most fascinating points in researching my book—a few different principles that they [historians] use. One of the things, if you think about it for a minute, is they want, when you’re talking about an ancient record, you obviously want records that go back as early as possible to that source. You may hear, “Oh, this was thought up later, and it’s not as important.” So the first thing is early attestation. A quick example of that is in 1st Corinthians 15 verses 3 and following. There’s some credal material, an oral formulation, that a lot of scholars—even atheist scholars—date back to within 2-5 years of the crucifixion [13]. There are people, even on the radical left-wing of scholarship—some people out there may have heard of the “Jesus Seminar,” and they were kind of the media darlings and doubted a lot of things that Jesus said. Even people to the left of that, who said they were too conservative, accept this credal material by Paul as dating back very, very early [14]. So the first principle would be early attestation.

The second principle would be what they call the criterion of dissimilarity. In other words, when you see something that is not like the other things going around, it’s usually thought to be authentic. We have that with Jesus, with things like the Sabbath day changing [from Saturday to Sunday], and some of the other things that Jesus did were not the norm or the status quo [15].

Another principle we talk about a lot is called enemy attestation. When there’s somebody who is admitting something about you, or conceding a point, who is your enemy, who has no reason to change his or her mind or to say anything good about you. We see a couple of instances—Saul of Tarsus, Paul coming to be a believer; we have writings in the Talmud basically saying that Jesus was doing sorcery—it doesn’t say it in a good way—but it’s admitting that there’s something going on, there are miracles happening. We also have the writings of an early guy, Celsus. So enemy attestation would be another principle [16].

[Karen] Dave, In Turek and Geislers’ work, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, they discuss two other criteria to consider in assessing the Bible which I think are important—the criterion of embarrassment, and the notion that the Gospels are both uniform and yet divergent in the details shared. Can you speak briefly to those and provide an example of each?

[Dave] Yes. You mentioned the criterion of embarrassment, and a lot of Biblical scholars and historians talk about this. Where you have something that’s kind of embarrassing, and you would  never make that up. If you’re out there listening, I want you to think about this: everybody probably tells little lies all the time to make themselves look better. But would you ever tell a lie to make yourself look worse? Would you ever tell a lie to make yourself get a traffic ticket, or something like that? No—human nature isn’t that way. Scholars have realized that there are all kinds of things in the Gospels that are pretty embarrassing: the disciples not believing the women when they come back from the tomb; then they don’t even believe Jesus right when they see Him; Peter’s denial; Jesus calling Peter “Satan”; Jesus’ brothers not believing him; etc [17]. These speak to authenticity [18]. A lot of people talk about this principle of embarrassment: you wouldn’t make up something like that.

[Karen] Right.

[Dave] Another principle is multiple attestation, which is pretty basic. Hopefully we don’t have just one source; we want to have many sources. And obviously the other principles we talked about before come into play as well: early sources, different kinds of sources. That’s what we get with the Gospels is those multiple accounts. It shows that there’s no collusion because we do see variances. But not on the core message of what’s being said. We have independent detail [19].

[Karen] The Bible just stands up to this kind of scrutiny.

[Dave] That’s right. One of the things I like to think—and it’s one of the points I make in my book—is that we can treat the Bible like any other book to show that it’s not like any other book. We shouldn’t have radical skepticism, but we can approach the Bible with scrutiny and show that it can stand up to these kinds of criticisms.

5. Gospels are Based on Eyewitnesses

[Karen] And that’s just it: it’s the revealed word of God. Let’s talk about the Gospels being based on eyewitness testimony. Having eyewitnesses is a big deal.

There is lots of hyper-focused criticism on the Gospels in terms of when they were written, and people who think there is no way that it could be from eyewitnesses, that it is legendary-type writing. As you go through this, can you explain the tangible reasons we can have confidence that they are based on eyewitness testimony? I think it would be good if we could also touch briefly on why it makes sense that we have the four Gospels we do in the Bible; we alluded to this before, but people hear lots about other Gospels in popular books like The Da Vinci Code and that kind of thing.

[Dave] I think as we take a look at the Gospels—and this is the approach I try to take in my book—we see that they deserve scrutiny because of what they’re claiming to be: historical accounts that contain the teachings of Jesus. They’re a common target of skeptics.

Basically, there is good reason and data that points to the fact that these [the Gospels] are rooted in eyewitness testimony.

We have Mark’s Gospel, which is said to be the account of Peter. We learn that from a church father named Papias, who was early in the church, and he’s been cited by Eucebius [20].  John and Matthew were both in the Twelve [Apostles], so they would have been eyewitnesses to Jesus.  And if you open up the Gospel of Luke and read the first four verses, he basically says that he went back and interviewed people; he wanted to give an orderly account. So we have two Gospels that are from eyewitnesses, and the other two Gospels are from people who knew or interviewed eyewitnesses [21].

I’d just like to point out for people who may be doubting, that there is no early evidence that explicitly says the Gospels were written by anyone other than these men [22].

[Karen] That’s a good point too. And this might be a good place just to highlight the difference between the Gnostic and the canonical Gospels.

[Dave] That’s one of the things that books like The Da Vinci Code try to really blur that line [between Gnostic and canonical Gospels]. What you’ll see is that there are other gospels outside the Bible, but they are not seen to be [historical]. Remember those principles we just discussed? They [Gnostic Gospels] are not early accounts. That’s why you see the difference. For those of you who have always wondered, “Well what about this, doesn’t this [manuscript] say this about Jesus?” We have a couple of rogue scholars that will try to date them early so they can maybe sell a book, but in general, the consensus of scholarship is that they [Gnostic Gospels] were not written in the First century. They are seen to be written much, much later. They give us a different, almost esoteric view of Jesus as if He was some kind of Greek philosopher or something like that. So it’s not arbitrary that these Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] were put in. They were from the earliest dates known to the Church.

6. Evidence Pointing to the Resurrection

[Karen]  Perfect. We’ll talk more about the Gospel of Thomas in another podcast. Let’s move on to the evidence which points to the Resurrection.

Before you go there, I just want to point out that I see so much discussion around this and attacks specific to the Resurrection. I remember writing to one of the founders of The Resurrection Summit several years ago—I don’t know if you remember that—but I was amazed at their unsupported claims, and just the direction of that whole event, to dismantle the reality of the resurrection. It seems kind of trendy—it seems like it’s the favorite place to attack for the critics when it comes to Jesus. To the Christian, Jesus authenticated His divinity and further showed who He truly was by his Resurrection. It is among the prime evidences of Jesus being the Son of God. Can you speak to that?

[Dave] Yes, it’s interesting, and you’re right. Nothing cuts at the divinity of Jesus like critiques of the Resurrection. For the skeptic, if they can dislodge the belief in the Resurrection, everything kind of falls for the Christian: Jesus quickly becomes just a wise man, or a failed prophet. Christianity fails without the Resurrection. The apostle Paul said it best when he said that if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, or futile, depending on which translation you go with [23].

[Karen] Now that we have established how important this is, let’s look at the evidence that points to the Resurrection. Dave, why don’t you just start with talking about the execution of Jesus or eyewitnesses, or whatever other evidences you would like to bring to the floor.

[Dave]  Yes. And there are some scholars out there who are known for being specialists in the Resurrection. One is Gary Habermas, another one is Mike Licona; N.T. Wright has some good things out there.

Gary Habermas put forth an argument that has come to be known as the “Minimal Facts Approach” to the Resurrection [24]. I like for people to think of the Resurrection in this way [25]. What he basically has shown is that there are five facts which are agreed to by the majority of scholars—even atheist scholars—which basically, when you put them all together, the “Resurrection hypothesis,” if we can call it that for a minute,  if you’re a skeptic or you’re not sure—just think about this: what other answer adds up these different facts and makes a story that doesn’t have to twist any of the facts to make it fit?

1. The first fact is the execution of Jesus. We have that from multiple sources. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association put out an article talking about that specifically. He was dead. And there have been other people try to say that maybe He didn’t die, but that [His death] is very well attested, and there are people all across the [religious] spectrum who see that Jesus died. So that’s the first thing.

2. The second fact is we have eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after his resurrection. And there are multiple eyewitnesses. That’s an important thing. And that’s something probably of all the things here—again, these [facts] are accepted by well over 95% of the scholars out there; Dr. Habermas has actually counted all the credentialed people who have written on this subject in the last 30 years—and everybody admits, yes, these people at least thought they saw something.

3. So we have: Jesus died, there were eyewitnesses,  and then we also have an embarrassing fact, which goes back to the principle of embarrassment: the conversion of Jesus’ half brother James. He was not a believer during the lifetime of Christ, and we know from [sources] outside the Bible that he was later martyred and died for his belief in the risen Christ. So here’s somebody who did a 180 [turn] and had no reason to do so.

[Karen] And what about the conversion of Paul?

[Dave] Yeah, Paul was another one [convert].

4. And this is the one [fact] that’s really hard for people to dismiss, because he had no motive to change. A lot of people say, “Well, this might have been wishful thinking,” but that’s not the case with Paul. He was putting the Christians in jail. He was consenting to their deaths. So here we have the conversion of Paul, which is an example of enemy attestation. So that’s a huge fact.

5. Another one is the empty tomb.

[Karen] Of course. Dogs didn’t take Jesus’ body; people didn’t steal Him. Can you speak to that please?

[Dave] It’s interesting when you read, even in the Gospels, you start to see it. Where they’re making up this story that the disciples stole the body, which wasn’t a very good story! But what are they basically saying? It wasn’t there. I heard one author say, “If you’re saying your dog ate your homework, you’re admitting you don’t have your homework.” They’re basically admitting they didn’t have the body, and if you think about it, they could have brought the whole thing [Christianity] down right then if they had just brought Jesus’ corpse out. But they didn’t because they didn’t have it.

I should state, too, that of these facts, this one [the empty tomb] is agreed to by about 2/3 or 75% of scholars—not as high as the other ones, but still when you take the facts as a whole, they’re powerful.

7. Undesigned Coincidences in the Bible

[Karen] Thanks, Dave. Let’s talk about a topic I think is powerful, and that’s the undesigned coincidences in the Bible. I think it might be a new concept to a lot of our audience. Can you define that and just give us an example of an undesigned coincidence?

[Dave] Yeah, these are something that I think is interesting because a lot of people, when they first look at the Gospels, immediately want to talk about all the differences, the “discrepancies” they see. Many people don’t realize that some of those “differences” that actually help. If you had everything the same in a court of law, they’d accuse you of collusion. They’d say, “You got together and cooked this [story] up.” But there are actually places—and we’ll get into more depth in a future podcast—[where differences prove the Bible’s authenticity].

For example, with Herod. We read in one Gospel that Herod said this and this to his servants. And if you’re thinking about it, you’ll think, “How does the guy writing the Gospel know this?” Then if you open another Gospel, it says, “There were people from Herod’s house who were among us,” and things like that. So you say, “Wait a minute, these two guys weren’t even talking about that subject in depth, and coincidentally they totally explain the plausibility of [each other’s accounts].”

There are other ones you’ll hear about with feeding the 5000. One person [gospel writer] might say, “Over here there’s all these people, there’s green grass, and they’re in this town.” Then we find out later [from another Gospel] that Philip is from that town. And who does Jesus ask where to buy bread? Philip. Well, that makes total sense. He’s from there. So you link all these things together and they come up in 3D and make a plausible story [26].

8. Prophecies About Jesus

[Karen] Dave, let’s take a look at final item for today, and invite everybody back for the rest of these podcasts. It is the prophecies that talk about Jesus, which were written hundreds of years before He was born. As if we don’t already have enough to share. But let’s go into that.

Lots of times critics, when they’re trying to dismiss something claiming to be prophecy, will say that the prophetic statement was written later than the event, or things that were prophesied might have been actually orchestrated, by anybody. For example, couldn’t someone have ridden into town on a donkey—somebody could have read what a prophecy was and then gone and done that thing which was prophesied.  Can you quickly touch on those topics as you go through this, and maybe make mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls as you go?

Qumran, location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

[Dave] That’s a great point with the Dead Sea Scrolls. For years, people had postulated and thought, because they don’t believe that anybody can prophesy, that this all [prophecies] was just written afterwards. That’s one of the things the Dead Sea Scrolls gave us—empirical evidence which showed that these prophecies were written before Christ [27]. That’s powerful.

Then we get to the point that you made: couldn’t someone have just ridden in on a donkey, couldn’t they have orchestrated this event or that event? But if you start looking at more of the prophecies, you see a person can’t orchestrate where they’re going to be born; you can’t orchestrate the manner in which you’re going to die (I guess you could if you took your own life), but not if you’re getting executed. The blood line you’ll be born into, not having any bones broken—all kinds of different events that just can’t be orchestrated.

One of the things that’s quoted a lot by apologists is actually really interesting. Peter Stoner, a professor of mathematics, actually wrote a book and took just some of these prophecies [to examine]. He said, “I want to know what the mathematical odds that this [a prophecy] could just be fulfilled, by chance,” looking at the ones [prophecies] that couldn’t have been orchestrated. And it just is amazing. It’s totally, statistically impossible, mathematically prohibitive that someone could—just by chance—happen to have all of those things [events] happen [28]. That’s something people need to think about.

[Karen] That’s perfect. I’m glad we had this chance together to have a structured discussion around these topics. It is especially important for people who would like to believe in the Bible, but want to have some reasons to support their faith. Do you have anything else you’d like to add as we wrap up this overview on the reliability of the Bible as a source of truth and faith, Dave?

[Dave]  Yeah, I like to speak to people who maybe are on the fence because I’m somebody who has compassion for that. I like to think about evidence and these kinds of things. I just want to encourage you to be open-minded. Go where you think  the evidence takes you. If you’re just starting out and you don’t know how to treat the New Testament, you can just treat it as a set of ancient documents. You can walk through this evidence with us and see that there are really good reasons for believing.

If you haven’t read it [the Bible], and it seems complicated, I would recommend starting with the Gospel of John. It’s not hard to read, it’s got some really deep and profound teachings from Jesus, and it can touch your life. Jesus gives us an excellent moral framework, even if you’re someone who’s not religious. The Bible is incredibly important when it comes to how it’s shaped the English language, even down to the founding of our nation. It’s something that everybody should at least be interested in and investigate.

Closing remarks

[Karen]  Thanks, Dave. I think, just to second that and to say, there’s just  no other religious leader who claims what Jesus claims and whose life and death were as prophetically detailed and fulfilled. You know, I love what Ravi Zacharias said about the three tests for truth that you and I have talked about: that something has to have 1) logical consistency; 2) empirical adequacy; and 3) experiential relevance. With the Bible, we really have all three of those things.

So our hope here has been to illuminate that it [the Bible] is amazingly reliable, its core teachings are true, and are commendable for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And then to do what Dave did, which is to invite everybody to read it for yourself, to listen on, to inquire of God to determine its truthfulness. I witness to you that is indeed the word of God and a witness of Jesus Christ as Savior of the World, who is eternally invested in your destiny.

Thanks for joining us on I Believe Podcast. If you have questions or comments for Dave or myself, please visit us on site at ibelievepodcast.com, on YouTube, Facebook, or Google Plus. We’d love to hear from you. God bless you in your spiritual journey.

Additional Episodes:

How Can I Know Truth? If God Lives?

Christianity: What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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1. Habermas, Gary. The Historical Jesus, Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1996. 250.

2. Habermas, Gary & Michael Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004. 233.

3.  Turek, F. & N. Geisler. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004. 270.

4. Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

5. Wallace, Daniel B. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament Manuscript: Patristic and Apocryphal Evidence. 26-29.

6. Presentation given by Dr. Wallace: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-RMdXozi-Q, Accessed 21 Nov. 2013.

7. Price, Randall. The Stones Cry Out, Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997. 83.

8. The Tel Dan Inscription: The First Historical Evidence of King David from the Bible. Biblical Archaeology Society. 22 Oct. 2013. Accessed 16 Nov. 2013.

9. Ramsay, William M. St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982. 8.

10. Ramsay, William M. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915. 222.

11. Hemer, Colin J. The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990. Last 16 chapters.

12. Bloomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 69-281.

13. Evans, Craig A. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

14. Habermas, Gary & Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004.

15. Fabricating Jesus. 49-50.

16. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. 36-40.

17. Fabricating Jesus. 49.

18. Fabricating Jesus. 49.

19. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. 36-40.

20. Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. 3.39.15.

21. Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 25.

22. Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998. 24.

23. 1 Corinthians 15:17

24. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. 43-64.

25. Presentation by Gary Habermas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M. Accessed 2 Dec. 2013.

26. Additional Study: Presentations by Dr. Timothy McGrew and Peter J. Williams. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wUcrwYocgM; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5lt1pBMm8.

27. Radiocarbon test results from Lab of Zurich Institute of Technology, Williard Libby and AMS Lab.

28. Stoner, Peter W. & Robert C. Newman. Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press. 1958.

About karenrose
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.

2 Responses to “8 Points to Consider: The Authenticity of the Bible {Overview}”

  1. Excellent work, with great sources. Substantively, I agree with your conclusions. However good they are, in my view, your conclusions do not square well with the historical teaching of the LDS Church. In fact, beginning with Joseph Smith, LDS leaders have called into question not only the sufficiency of the Bible but essentially said it was corrupt. I think you’ve done well in showing this is not the case.

    The early Mormon leaders not only clearly thought the Bible was not enough, they sought to cast doubt on its very reliability. The very notion that we have the Holy Bible-Inspired Version (or Joseph Smith Translation) says much to this.

    But not only the JST tells us that Smith didn’t give the Bible the same reverence that you do. The 8th Article of Faith plants seeds of doubt in the Bible, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

    “…and who, in his right mind, could for one moment, suppose the Bible in its present form to be a perfect guide? No one can tell whether even one verse of either the Old or New Testament conveys the ideas of the original author” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 28).

    “Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors, many plain and precious things were deleted, in consequence of which error and falsehood poured into the churches. One of the great heresies of modern Christendom is the unfounded assumption that the Bible contains all of the inspired teachings now extant among men” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 82-83).

    “Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation” (Prophet Ezra Taft Benson, “The Keystone of Our Religion,”Ensign, January 1992).

    • Hi Bart, thanks for visiting and for your comment. The quotes you cite from LDS leaders are well-taken, and show the view that the Bible is imperfect. This is the reason we need to study the Bible with the Holy Ghost present. When we study the Bible, inviting the Holy Ghost to inspire us, we can receive a witness of its truthfulness. The Holy Spirit can also guide us as we study passages that may have been incorrectly translated, and can guide us to modern revelation that clarifies the doctrine. Thanks again for visiting!

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