Is the Jesus of the Bible Just a Legend? – Part 1

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Claims and Acts of Jesus, Reliable Documents | Leave a comment

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Is the Jesus of the Bible Just a Legend?

Is the Jesus we read about in the Bible the real Jesus or is that just a legendary figure that developed over time?  Some have said that the Gospels weren’t even written until 200 years or more after Jesus lived.  They say that the historical Jesus never claimed to be God and never did any miracles or rise from the dead.  He was just an ordinary man, though a good moral teacher.  Of course those kind of legendary things couldn’t have been written about the real Jesus while eyewitnesses to  his life were still alive.  So the church later embellished the claims and acts of Jesus hundreds of years later.  In effect, it is said by some, the 3rd or 4th century church created the Jesus that Christians have worshiped since.


So what about this idea? It’s possible it could have happened that way.  We certainly wouldn’t want to be worshipping someone who was just invented.  Is there evidence that shows that the Jesus of the Bible is really the Jesus of history?  This goes to the second and third points of the Case for Christianity I presented in my second post.


2-3 documents things of God

When Were the New Testament Documents Written?

There is good evidence that they were written in the first century.  See how the timeline inches back to the events written about.
  1. While it’s true that the earliest copy of a complete New Testament is from about AD 330, the earliest N.T. manuscript fragment is from the Gospel of John and it’s from about AD 125.  So John, which is usually considered to be the latest of the Gospels to be written, was written before AD 125.  (more about manuscript copies and dating next week)
  2. Early Christians, known as the Church Fathers, quote the New Testament.  Three of them, Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, writing between AD 95 and 110, quote or allude to 25 of the 27 New Testament books (including all four Gospels).  Further, since they were located hundreds of miles away from Palestine, the N.T. books must have been written significantly earlier than that to have reached them by then.
  3.  Most if not all N.T. books were likely written before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.  Jesus had predicted that the temple would be destroyed before that generation passed away.  So if you were writing about Jesus after AD 70 wouldn’t you mention the destruction of the temple to show his prophecy came true?  Besides that, the destruction of the temple was a huge event.  If it had already occurred, it’s very unlikely that the N.T. writers would talk about the temple as they do without mentioning it.  If someone wrote about the World Trade Center and didn’t mention the towers falling and almost 3000 people being killed, I’d be certain it was written before September 11, 2001.
  4. Many N.T. books were likely written before AD 62.  Luke, the historian, who wrote the book of Acts included many details of the early church, including the death of the martyr Stephen,the leadership of the church and the ministries of Peter and Paul.  So if Paul had already been executed by Emperor Nero (AD 68) and James, the brother of Jesus, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, had already been killed by the Jewish leaders (AD 62), don’t you think he would have included those important details? Yet he mentions neither.
  5. If Acts was written before AD 62, the Gospel of Luke must have been written even earlier, since Luke indicates in Acts that the Gospel was his “former” book.  What’s more, many believe the Gospel of Mark was the earliest gospel written and it seems that Luke quotes from Mark.  This would place the earliest gospel in the 50s or possibly even the late 40s.

The evidence is such that even the most liberal scholars place Paul’s first writings in the 50s and atheist John A.T. Robinson even says that most of the N.T. documents, including all four gospels, were written between AD 40 and 65.

They Were Written Too Early to Be Legends

The evidence is quite strong that the New Testament documents were written very early, within 20-30 years of the cross and resurrection.  They were written by eyewitnesses and at a time when other eyewitnesses would have refuted them if what they said wasn’t true.


We just passed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  What if within 30 years of his death some people started claiming that J.F.K. had done miracles, claimed to be God and rose again from the dead?  How far do you think that would have gone?  Eye witnesses would discredit that immediately.


And yet the evidence says that the church began when the Bible says it did, with the eyewitness testimony of those who were convinced they had seen the miracle working Jesus, risen from the dead. (Acts 2)


Sources: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Cold Case Christianity, Is the New Testament Reliable?

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Faith and Questions

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Case Making, Introduction, Questions | Leave a comment

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Faith and Questions

People come to faith in different ways.  I had grown up going to church but by my early teens I didn’t really see what it had to do with me.  It was just that boring thing you had to do on Sunday mornings.  I’m a geek and was into science and scifi and I figured that science would explain it all.  I didn’t really know if I believed in God at all anymore.  At the same time I didn’t really see a purpose for my life and it was pretty empty.

Suddenly it Made Sense

Then when I was a sophomore in high school I went to an event where the speaker explained what Christianity was really all about.  It wasn’t just some list of do’s and don’ts. He explained that God loved me and wanted to know me personally.  And though my sins (something I wouldn’t deny having) separated me from Him, God came to earth as a man, in Jesus Christ, and he died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins.  He did that  so I could be forgiven and have a personal relationship with him.

Suddenly the light bulb came on.  That’s why he died!  I had seen the cross at the front of the church my whole life but for the first time I understood why he came and why he died on it.

What’s more, he was alive again and wanted to know me!  It made sense and I prayed to receive Christ as my savior that night and my life has never been the same since.  I now had hope and a purpose.


But while what I heard was enough for me and moved me that night, I would come to have more questions.  How did I know this was really true?  Yes, it moved me and met a need but a lot of people have heard different religious messages and have been moved and have felt a need met.  So how do I know Christianity is true?  Islam presents a different way to God, as does Judaism, Hinduism and others.  For that matter, how do I know for sure there really is a God?

 It’s not enough that what I believe makes me feel good.  Is it true?  Because if it isn’t true, what good is it going to do me in the end?  And so I needed to examine the evidence.  Would Christianity stand up to examination?

 If you’re a Christian maybe you’ve had some of the same questions.  If you don’t happen to feel a need to examine your faith in this way, you should at least know that a lot of the people around you, that you want to share with, will have these kinds of questions.  They are looking  for satisfying answers to their questions.

Jesus and Evidence

Thankfully, from what I see in the Bible, Jesus is quite open to people examining the evidence for his claims.  He knows that most of us have a need to do so and he was happy to provide such evidence.

As Jesus went on through his ministry he became more and more clear in his claims to be God.  He even made the bold claim to be the only way to God the Father (John 14:6).  But Jesus knew that these claims were big and he didn’t just expect people to believe them just because he said so.  He provided evidence.

Jesus’ miracles backed up his claims.  He did things only God could do (healing diseases, giving sight to blind, enabling the lame to walk).  Further, Jesus appealed to people to believe on the basis of the evidence.  He said,

“Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

His miracles backed up his claims and then he died on the cross and after that provided the clearest evidence of all that he really is God.  He rose again from the dead and appeared to and convinced many people that he was alive again (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Having been convinced, the Apostle Peter faced the crowd in Jerusalem after this all took place and said,

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs,which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24)

Acts 17:31 says that God proved to the world who Jesus is by raising him from the dead.

God understand our questions and He welcomes them.  He isn’t threatened by them because Christianity stands up to examination.

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

The Case for Christianity

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Case Making, Introduction | Leave a comment

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

The Case for Christianity

Christianity shouldn’t be believed just because it’s what someone was raised with.    Someone shouldn’t be a Christian just because of some religious experience or because it makes them feel better.  That’s all well and good, but how do we know what’s true?  I believe a solid evidential case can be made for Christianity.

So what is this case?  I’ll give a brief overview of it in this post and then explore the evidence for each of the elements in more depth in future posts.  The case can be illustrated by these seven simple images.

 Images for Case

Let’s look at the seven points of the case.



The first point, illustrated by the image of the earth, helps to lay a foundation for the rest, but it need not be accepted from the start for the other points to make a convincing case.  The earth’s axis is included as it illustrates the fine tuning of the universe that makes life possible.  There are many, many factors of the earth and the universe that, if they were just slightly different, life would not be possible.  The odds of all these factors coming together to make life possible is too great for me to believe it just happened by chance.  This evidence and more points to an intelligent designer.



The second point deals with the New Testament documents, the Gospels in particular.  I don’t start by saying that they are the Word of God.  I simply state that by the standards of documents of antiquity, the Gospels are reliable historical documents.  Judging by the period of time between the events described and the earliest surviving copy, and the great number of copies, the Gospel documents are very reliable.  The evidence for the reliability of the New Testament is so great in comparison to other ancient documents, that if the New Testament documents are unreliable, there’s little of anything we can know about the ancient world.

Things of God


Next, all four of the Gospel accounts describe Jesus Christ doing things only God can do and claiming to be God.  While you may question if miracles are possible, I encourage you to keep an open mind and explore the evidence.  It’s never fair to make a conclusion before considering the evidence.  What’s more, in addition to the Gospel accounts, other ancient documents also make reference to the extraordinary things Jesus did.



Fourth, those same Gospel accounts also describe in detail how Jesus died by crucifixion and how he rose again from the dead.  The Gospels provide eye witness testimony of those who were convinced that the man they saw die rose again to life.  The resurrection of Jesus was key to their whole message.



Fifth, while it can be hard to believe that someone actually rose from the dead, I believe that after a full, open-minded examination of all the evidence, the explanation that best fits all that evidence is that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.  We’ll explore all this evidence in future posts and you can make up your own mind which explanation is most likely.

Jesus is God


Sixth, since Jesus claimed to be God and then he rose again from the dead, I think that backs up his claim pretty well, not to mention the miracles.  Anyone can claim to be God, but I only know of one who rose from the dead and changed the world because of that.  We’ll explore what Jesus claimed and the implications of that.



And then finally, seventh, if Jesus is God we can trust what he says, both about himself and about the Bible.  Jesus affirmed the Old Testament as the Word of God and he chose those who would be his eye witnesses and share his message with the world and he authorized them to give us the New Testament.  We’ll explore the evidence for this as well.


And so while I don’t think it’s extremely persuasive with many people to just state that the Bible is the Word of God, and so you should listen to it and follow it, I believe that from the case I’ve laid out, the evidence shows that Jesus is God and he affirmed the Bible as the Word of God and so for that reason we should listen to it, trust it, and follow it.  While many have different opinions of the Bible, and while there are a lot of different religious ideas out there, I’ll go with the one who rose from the dead.


Please share this with your friends with the icons below if you think it might be helpful.

Next time I’ll talk a little about how people come to faith and the questions most of us deal with at some point, including a little of my own story.  After that we’ll start digging into the evidence, covering just a little bit with each post.


Note: In presenting this case I am indebted to many who have presented such a case before me including Craig Hazen, Norman Geisler  and Frank Turek.  Also I’d like to thank J. Warner Wallace for the inspiration to start this blog.

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Reasons for Hope 315

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Case Making, Introduction | Leave a comment

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Why Reasons for Hope 315?

Life can be uncertain.  How do we know what’s really true?  One group says this, another group says that. So what’s a person to believe?  Through this blog and ministry I’m going to be sharing the reasons for the hope that I have in Jesus Christ.

Some people think that Christians believe what they do simply because the Bible says so, and since the Bible says it’s the Word of God, it must be true.  While I do believe the Bible is the Word of God and is true, I don’t think that you should believe that just because it says so.  Ultimately I believe what I do because I have examined the evidence and think there are solid reasons to believe what I do.

It’s because of those reasons that I have hope.  Through this blog I want to share some of that evidence with you.  You can consider it and make up your own mind about it.  I’ll be sharing what I see as the Case for Christianity.

The title for the blog comes from 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”.  That’s what I’m seeking to do.


Faith and Evidence

“But what does evidence have to do with faith?”, some of you might be asking.  “Isn’t faith believing in spite of the evidence, or the lack of evidence?  Why do you need evidence?  Shouldn’t you just have faith in God and not need such evidence?”

While that may seem to make sense and while God could have asked for such blind faith, that’s not what I see in the Bible.  I see a God who knows what we’re like as human beings and he’s happy to provide evidence to help us to believe.  What’s more, I see Jesus giving evidence to back up his claims time and time again.

Christianity is an evidential, historic faith built upon a man who lived about 2,000 years ago.  This man claimed to be God, died for our sins, and then backed up his claims by rising again from the dead.  It’s all based on that historic fact.  If that didn’t actually happen, our faith is useless.  The Bible says so (1 Corinthians 15:17).

This is what it says of Jesus after he had risen.  “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”  (Acts 1:3)

Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “Just believe because I say so.”  He provided them with evidence, many convincing proofs.  Then, having been fully convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, they went from cowering in a room in fear to going out and making the case for Christianity, often at great personal cost.  And the world was changed by what those eyewitnesses shared.


What’s Ahead?

Starting with my next post, in a few days, I’ll begin sharing the case for Christianity.  I hope you’ll join me.  If you’re a Christian I hope to help you to better understand the evidence for our faith.  We should not only know what we believe but why we believe it and be ready to share that with others.   If you’re not a Christian, or aren’t sure what you believe, I invite you to consider the case I will present and render your own verdict.

 I will be posting at least once a week, more often at the start.  If you don’t want to miss any posts you can use the subscribe page or just enter your email address in the subscribe section at the top of the right column.  If you have any questions or comments as we go, please contact me.

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail
« Previous   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8