Blog Archive


Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

Powered by Blogger.
Showing posts with label textual criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label textual criticism. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Clarifying Objections against Bible Reliability

There's an old joke about a professor walking at his University and sees a young Christian from a small town reading the book of Exodus. "Praise God!" the youth exclaims, "What a miracle! God parted the Red Sea so Israel could pass through!" The prof decides to dispel the backwards beliefs of the yokel, telling him, "I think you're misinformed. Scholars have concluded that what you read as the Red Sea is really the Sea of Reeds. That area is really only covered buy a few inches of water, so the Red Sea wasn't really parted. Education has debunked that miracle, so there's nothing there to shout praises for."

The student sheepishly thanked the teacher for enlightening him to this new-found knowledge. Feeling a bit cocky as he began to walk away, the professor was surprised to suddenly hear the student exclaiming the greatness of God and his miracles all the louder. Turning on a dime, the lecturer quickly returned to the student and snapped "Didn't you believe what I said?"

"Yes sir, I did." answered the lad. "But then I kept reading and it says here that God drowned all of Pharaoh's army in those few inches of water. What a mighty miracle of God!"

Two Types of Charges against Scripture

Certainly one of the more persistent objections Christians hear to their faith is the Bible is untrustworthy. I've heard this charge raised in many different venues. Sometimes Christians will rush in to defend the Bible with stats and quotes, but this would be a mistake. As I've engaged skeptics in colleges and universities who question the veracity of the Bible, their objections are not monolithic. Different people have different objections to the Scriptures, and it is important that in conversation you address the specific objection in the objector's mind.

The first thing that I ask someone who claims the Bile can't be trusted is "in what way can't it be trusted? Can you be more specific?" This helps shape the conversation going forward so I know where to place my emphasis. Objections to the Bible come in one of two main categories: either doubting the accuracy of the text or doubting the fidelity of the accounts. Each category will need to be answered very differently. Let's take a look at both so you can more easily identify them.

Accuracy of the Text

When asked to be more specific, most people who make the claim that the Bible is untrustworthy will respond with a more specific objection. You may hear objections like these:
  • The Bible's been translated too many times
  • No original versions exist
  • It's been too long between the copies we have and when the originals were written
  • There have been too many changes to the text over time.
All of the examples above fall into the first major category, questioning the accuracy of the text. These kinds of objections may be answered by pointing to methods of textual criticism that show why scholars have a very high level of confidence that we can know what the original scriptures said. I've written on an easy-to-remember way to show that here. (The "translated too many times" objection is based from ignorance.) The accuracy of the New Testament text really isn't an issue for scholars, and the Dead Sea scrolls have demonstrated that the Old Testament text has remained reliably copied for thousands of years.

Fidelity of the Accounts

But textual accuracy isn't the only type of objection one may hear. You may also be confronted with objections like:
  • There are contradictions in the Bible
  • There was too much time between oral stories and when they were written down for legends to develop.
These charges are not questioning whether we have the right text, but whether the text accurately records the accounts as they happened. Answering charges against the fidelity of the scriptures requires a different approach. You may need to discuss how the Gospel accounts had to meet a high level of expectation as history or how archaeology has confirmed many of the biblical accounts. You may need to spend some time discussing just what they mean by "contradiction" and how different contradiction claims fail. You may even need to talk about why the Gospels offer a ring of truth as eyewitness accounts. Wherever your discussion leads, it will be a very different one than with someone who questions the accuracy of the text itself.

When defending your faith, asking clarifying questions is crucially important. Sometimes when challenged, people don't even have a focused objection in mind. They're just parroting back something they've heard. Challenging them to be more specific brings this out and it will tell you just how seriously they are taking their own claims. But if they do, you now have a better idea of how to approach the discussion and whether or not they're earnest in listening to a response.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Can You Trust the Bible? (podcast)

Christians hold that the Bible is God's revealed word given to us. But critics argue that the Bible was written by men and changed over the years to suit their purposes. Is there a way to tell? In this podcast, Lenny Esposito demonstrates how we can have assurance that the Bible is indeed the Word of God.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Who Wrote the Gospels - Evidence for Luke

Last week, I wrote about how the early church fathers provided testimony going all the way back to the disciples of the apostles themselves that the four gospels in our Bible were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. More specifically, we have very good evidence for both Mark and Matthew as being the authors of their respective gospels from the testimony of Papias and Clement. Today, I'd like to turn my attention to the authorship of Luke's Gospel. To begin, we can examine a different line of evidence: the internal corroboration of the Bible itself.

The place to start when investigating the gospel attributed to Luke is actually the book of Acts. We begin here because the author tells us that Luke and Acts are a two-volume set, written by the same person to the same recipient. The book of Acts begins, "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen" (Acts 1:1). This corresponds exactly to the opening of Luke's gospel where he writes:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).
Theophilus is addressed as the recipient in both accounts and the author claims to have direct access to eyewitnesses, thus scholars are agreed that the author of Luke is also the author of Acts.

The Early Authorship of Acts

The book of Acts records the actions of the early church and Paul's missionary journeys. Yet, the book stops rather abruptly at Paul's house arrest, yet before his trial in Rome.  We know from Clement's writings (about AD 95) that Paul was released from Rome and visited "the extremity of the West."1  This is most likely Spain, as Paul himself said he planned to visit there in Romans 15:24. So, why would the author of Acts leave out such a victory as Paul getting exonerated and released at his trial in Rome? The only reasonable explanation is the book of Acts was completed before Paul was freed. This means that the book of acts was written around AD 62, placing the author in direct contact with most of the apostles. This still doesn't point to Luke as the author, but it makes the author at least a contemporary of Luke's.

Luke Includes Himself in Acts

The biggest clincher in who authored Luke and Acts is the section beginning in Acts 16:10, where the author begins to include himself in the narrative. Up to this point Paul and Silas are referred to in the third person plural "they." Yet, at Troas, the pronoun switched to "we". When Paul and Silas were thrown in prison it switches back to "they" seemingly indicating that the author was not jailed with them. Yet, in Acts 20, when Paul and Silas come back to Troas, the "we" returns. Thus, the author traveled with Paul for some of his missionary journeys. Paul himself tells us that Luke was accompanying him, mentioning Luke by name in his letters (Col. 4:14, 2 Tim. 4:11, and Phil. 1:24). Irenaeus in the second century tell us that "Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by him," and in the earliest surviving writing after the apostolic writings (the Muratorian fragment, dated about AD 170) it states "The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to the [general belief]." 2

Given all the above, we know that the author of the Gospel of Luke:
  • Also wrote the book of Acts
  • Lived during the times of the events recorded in the Book of Acts
  • Accompanied Paul on some portion of his missionary journeys
  • Would have direct access to the apostles to interview them
  • Is intimate enough with Paul to be mentioned by him in his later years
  • Is claimed to be Luke by some of the earliest traditions.
Given all of these points, there are strong reasons to hold that the author of Luke is Luke, Paul's companion.


1 Hoole, Charles H. "The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians." Early Christian Writings. 1885. 15 Feb. 2015
2 Metzger, Bruce M. "The Muratorian Fragment." Early Christian Writings. 1965. 15 Feb. 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Who Wrote the Gospels – Testimony from the Church Fathers

In my interactions with skeptics, I've noticed a recurring trend. They take a certain pride being both skeptical and reasonable. They feel that the two go hand in hand; a person who doesn't question claims is vulnerable to believe anything. This may be true to an extent, but there are levels of skepticism that can be considered unreasonable and many times I find myself arguing with the very people who so proudly proclaim their rationalism demanding a level of proof that is simply irrational.

For example, take the authors of the Gospel accounts. We know that the four Gospels were not signed by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. This is not uncommon, as there were other popular biographies that were also anonymous when written. However, there are good reasons to hold that the Gospels were written by these four men. Let me begin by reviewing the historical tradition linking the four to the Gospel accounts.

The Testimony of Clement

While Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not sign their names to their Gospels, the church recognized them as the authors very early in its history. Eusebius, writing at the end of the third century specifically credits the four Gospels to those four writers. Of course, writing about authorship some 200 years after the Gospels were composed may lead people to wonder just how reliable that is. But Eusebius didn't make the connection himself. He quoted from earlier works such as Clement of Alexandria.

Clement of Alexandria lived 100 years before Eusebius and held that Mark wrote his Gospel, taken from the teaching of Peter. He also notes that this Mark is the one Peter mentions in 1 Peter 5:15 (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.15.1-2).1 He later states that Mark's writing of the Gospel happened while Peter was still alive (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.16.6).2

The Testimony of Papias

While Clement's writings bring us to within a century of the Gospels' composition, Eusebius quotes and even earlier source, the writer Papias. Richard Bauckham notes that Papias' writings, while composed probably around 110AD are reflections from his earlier investigations as he collected oral reports from disciples who sat under either the apostles' direct disciples or the apostles themselves. Bauckham notes "the period of which he is speaking must be around 80CE."3 According to Craig Blomberg, Papias states Mark, who served as Peter's interpreter, "wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord."4

Similarly, we have early support for the other authors as well. Blomberg notes that Papias tells us that Matthew wrote his gospel "alleging that he originally wrote the ‘sayings' of Jesus in the Hebrew dialect."5 Irenaeus, who lived just after Papias confirms that Matthew wrote his gospel and did so early: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church" (Against Heresies 3.1.1). Clement of Alexandria, in the same Eusebius passage where he confirms Mark authorship also confirms Luke and John's authorship of their gospels.

Next time, I will look at some additional reasons why he hold these four men as the proper authors of the Gospel accounts. For now, we can know that there is a strong chain of testimony linking these men to the Gospel accounts.


1. See this passage in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library digital version of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers at
2. Christian Classics Ethereal Library,
3. Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2006. Print. 14.
4. Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Second ed. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 2007. Print. 25.
5. Blomberg, 26.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Why You Can Be Confident We Have the Original Bible Texts

Earlier this week, I mentioned the Newsweek cover article entitled "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin" written by Kurt Eichenwald that set the text of the New Testament in its cross-hairs. There, I showed why the translation of the Bible we have today is not like a game of telephone, being translated from a translation from a translation.

But Eichenwald doesn't argue that multiple translations are the only problem in discovering the original text. He also mentions the fact that we don't have the original writings of the New Testament, but "hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times."1 There is a bit of truth to this claim. If the manuscripts from which we are translating the New Testament are themselves corrupt or wrong, then it really doesn't matter how well we have translated the text. We're simply translating an error. Let's examine this critique and see if it holds up.

First, it is true that we don't have the originals, or the first generation copies, or even the second generation. While we don't know just how many times the text was copied prior to the earliest copes we do have (called manuscripts), it is safe to say they are for the most part dozens of times removed from the originals. What makes things seem worse is the earliest pieces we do have are not large portions of text, but small fragments. For example, the earliest gospel portion is the John Rylands fragment (P52) that only contains part of John 18:31-33 on one side and John 18:37-38 on the other. The more complete manuscripts are from hundreds of years later.

Doesn't the fact that we are separated by hundreds of years from the originals to the copies we have cause concern? Actually, not at all. New Testament scholars—both Christians and skeptics—have the greatest confidence that we know just what the original authors wrote. How can this be? I can explain with an example: tracing my family's recipe for spaghetti sauce.

Nonna's Family Sauce

My great grandmother came to the United States from Sicily in 1921. With her, she brought a recipe for spaghetti sauce that her mother had cooked. She in turn taught it to her three daughters, of which my grandmother was one. My grandmother passed that along to her four children, including my mother. She taught it to my wife and my siblings and my wife taught it to my daughter-in-law. The other daughters passed the recipe onto their children who passed it to theirs as well.

Now, suppose the descendants of my Great grandmother all get together at the 200th reunion of her arrival and say, "we want to make the sauce, but we want to make sure that it is the exact sauce she would have tasted in Sicily as a little girl." Would such a feat be impossible? Not really. In order to find the original, all the families would write down their recipe as they now fix it. There would be more than a hundred copies of the recipe, and there would no doubt be variations in the ingredients, amounts, and preparation. However, because we have such a large collection, we can begin to compare them one to another.

We may notice that all the recipes use crushed tomatoes except for 20 which say tomato sauce. We also not the crushed tomatoes show up nearly unanimously in the recipes supplied by the older generations. It is a strong bet that crushed tomatoes is right. Secondly, we notice that one group of recipes call to use twice as much garlic in the sauce. But all of these recipes come from the family of one uncle who liked the strong taste of garlic. Another group tell us to add sugar, but that cousin was known to have a sweet tooth. Some are missing ingredients, others have the preparation steps reversed, and a few add meat. However, because we have so many copies, we can reasonably rebuild the original recipe. Those copies coming from the older generations are less likely to deviate from the original since they have gone through fewer iterations. Overall, though, the receipt they come up with is probably the one my great grandmother was served as a little girl.

Thousands and Thousands of Copies

Those who reconstruct the text of the New Testament do basically the same thing on a larger scale. They have many thousands of manuscript copies, partials, and portions from different places all over the ancient world. New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace places this in perspective when he writes:
Altogether, we have at least 20,000 handwritten manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic and other ancient languages that help us to determine the wording of the original. Almost 6000 of these manuscripts are in Greek alone. And we have more than one million quotations of the New Testament by church fathers. There is absolutely nothing in the Greco-Roman world that comes even remotely close to this wealth of data.2
This is why scholars today have a 99% confidence level that the text of the New Testament we have is what the original authors wrote.

I've only scratched the surface of Eichenwald's article; there are many more claims about the Bible he makes that fail to take modern scholarship into account. These two points, though, should give you confidence that his claims about no one today "has ever read the Bible"3 are unjustified. We do have the books as the New Testament authors wrote them. I would bet a plate of pasta on it.


1. Eichenwald, Kurt. "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin." Newsweek 23 Dec. 2014: n. pag. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
2. Daniel B. Wallace. "Predictable Christmas Fare: Newsweek's Tirade against the Bible." Daniel B Wallace. The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, 28 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
3.Eichenwald, 2014.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Is the Bible Reliable Since Its Been Translated So Many Times?

When Google's translation page first came out, some friends and I would have a little fun translating the web page of our employer from English into another language like French or Japanese. We would then copy that text and paste it back into the Google translator and let the computer try to recreate the English. The final result was awkward and would produce pretty comical phrasing, with words implying something completely different from the original message.

The reason we attempted such silliness is to try and intentionally confuse the translating robot. We knew that churning out a translation of a translation would force mistakes to be multiplied, a realization that takes no scholarship at all. Yet, this is the way many people assume the scholars responsible for our modern bibles have worked. Yesterday, a gentleman at my church said he had been in a conversation with a Muslim who said, "Your Bible has been translated so many times challenged by a Muslim on the validity of the Bible as it compared to the Qur'an." This isn't an uncommon claim and many atheists and non-believers have tried to make the same point.

Take the Newsweek cover story published just two days before Christmas entitled "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin." The article, which seems to take as its goal the undermining of biblical authority, is rife with inaccurate assumptions and misunderstandings about how biblical scholarship works. Interestingly, its very first criticism is at the problem of multiple translations. Author Kurt Eichenwald, under the heading "Playing Telephone with the Word of God," writes:
No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we've all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.1
That's the thinking that many people have. yet this perception is so incredibly wrong it takes my breath away. But Christians seem to not know how to respond to such accusations, as the question posed to the man at church shows.

Counting Up the Number of Translations to You

The first thing I emphasize when tackling the objection that we are somehow insulated from the real meaning of the Bible because of so many translation is to simply ask, "how many times do you think the Bible version you have has been translated from its original languages?" People are feign to guess, imagining perhaps ten, dozens, or more. The reality is that every modern Bible translation has been translated exactly once from the original Greek and Hebrew. Once. That's all. There is no "translation of translations of translations." Biblical scholars work directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts to create the English versions we have today. Eichenwald could have seen that if he had bothered to look at the prefaces to any Bible. Here's what the Translation Committee for Crossway, which publishes the English Standard Version states:
"each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text."2
Here's what the Lockman Foundation, who created the New American Standard Bible says:
The New American Standard Bible has been produced with the conviction that the words of Scripture, as originally penned in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, were inspired by God… At NO point did the translators attempt to interpret Scripture through translation. Instead, the NASB translation team adhered to the principles of literal translation. This is the most exacting and demanding method of translation, requiring a word-for-word translation that is both accurate and readable. This method follows the word and sentence patterns of the original authors in order to enable the reader to study Scripture in its most literal format and to experience the individual personalities of those who penned the original manuscripts.3
Here's what the NIV translation committee explained:
In 1965, a cross-denominational gathering of evangelical scholars met near Chicago and agreed to start work on the New International Version. Instead of just updating an existing translation like the KJV, they chose to start from scratch, using the very best manuscripts available in the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic of the Bible.4
And just to show that this translation approach is not something that only began recently, here's what the translators wrote in the preface to the original 1611 King James Version:
That out of the Originall sacred tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our owne and other forreigne Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; your MAJESTIE did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the worke might be hastened, and that the businesse might be expedited in so decent a maner, as a matter of such importance might justly require (emphasis added).5
Note that the translators state that they look at the originals and then look at other translations (the "many worthy men who went before us," such as Tyndale) to be better informed on their own word choice. Consulting existing translations is actually a benefit, as it adds more counselors to the translation efforts, not fewer. Yet, each and every translation begins and is compared against the original languages to ensure accuracy and compatibility. Your Bible, no matter which translation you choose, has been translated only one time, and straight from the original languages to English.


1. Eichenwald, Kurt. "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin." Newsweek 23 Dec. 2014: n. pag. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
2. The Translation Oversight Committee. "Preface to the English Standard Version." About ESVBibleorg. Crossway, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
3. The Lockman Foundation. "Overview of the New American Standard Bible." The Lockman Foundation. The Lockman Foundation, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
4. "The NIV Story." Biblica. Biblica, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.
5."King James Version Original Preface." BibleNetUSA, 2006. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Missing Gospels Make Me More Confident in the Bible

Howard Hughes was an icon both of American aviation and eccentricity. Hughes (later portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2004 biographic film The Aviator) was a groundbreaking inventor and pilot, setting multiple records for aviation1 and his business savvy made him one of the richest men in America. However, Hughes also suffered from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder2, especially a fear of germs which eventually drove him to be a recluse before he died in 1976.

Because Hughes had no children, and his aide testified that Hughes had mentioned a will, a search was conducted by Hughes' Summa Corp, which managed all of his businesses.3 Needless to say, Summa found a lot of potential benefactors who claimed to hold wills written by the eccentric billionaire. 4 It took come twenty years to sort those out and 34 years to finalize the estate he left behind.5

One such will was dubbed "The Mormon Will," which was delivered days after Hughes' death. reports it as:
A tattered yellow envelope, bearing a partly illegible Las Vegas postmark, was addressed to Spencer W. Kimball, president of the Mormon Church. Inside the first envelope was a smaller one that bore instructions written in a large scrawl. Kimball was directed to deliver the enclosed will to legal authorities in Clark County, Nevada. It was signed Howard R. Hughes.6
Although forensic science didn't have the technology we do today to examine the will, the will was deemed a forgery. The World of Forensic Science article explains why:
The will immediately became suspect because of the numerous spelling errors that filled its pages as well as suspect references. Hughes paid painstaking attention to detail throughout his life and never made vague statements. Dummar was suspected of forging the Mormon will, because no one could understand why Hughes would leave him one hundred and fifty million dollars or why the reclusive and germ-phobic billionaire would hitchhike. Dummar later admitted that his story was false. Lastly, lawyers who worked for Hughes found it inconceivable that he would have relied on a handwritten last testament. He had a deep fear that his handwriting could be forged and even tried to keep his signature secret.7

The Problem of Too Many Gospels

I bring up Hughes' will because it is remarkably unremarkable for human beings to create forgeries of items they feel will give them value, power, or prestige. Yet, when the topic of the New Testament comes up, there are those who feel that the Bible's restriction of official Gospel accounts to four is somehow a bad thing. They seem to take the position of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, where he puts the objection in the mouth of historian professor Teabing, who says "More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament."8 Such a claim is not simply wrong, but incredibly wrong. There were never any gospels other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ever considered for inclusion in the Bible. Ever. New Testament Scholar Craig Blomberg points to the book The Canon Debate, which holds every known list of proposed books for inclusion in the New Testament as evidence that such ideas are made up out of whole cloth.

However, one way I answer the objection that gospels were supposedly left out of the Bible is by responding, "Isn't that a relief!" It just seems to me that if the church fathers took the concept of the Word of God seriously, they simply wouldn't let in just any old written document claiming to be an account of Jesus' life, just hat the courts wouldn't let any old document claiming to be Howard Hughes' will stand as legitimate. And just as those examining the fake Hughes wills threw them out because of inconsistencies with the language used, questionable connections between Hughes and the benefactor, and actions that were out of character with Hughes, so too do these other Gnostic writings show inconsistencies in their theology, questionable associations with the eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry (these were forgeries written much later), and presented a Jesus that was completely unlike the one we see in the older, more reliable Gospel accounts.

So, is there a problem when we look at the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Truth, or others? No. If the Gospels are the word of God, then we should expect to see forgeries pop up after a certain amount of time. It's human nature. And because the forgeries and fakes were screened out of the Bible, we should have more assurance that those passing on the Biblical accounts of Christ took their jobs at least as seriously as the judges passing on a billionaire's fortune.


1. Lerner, Preston. "Howard Hughes' Top Ten." Air & Space Magazine. Smithsonian. Nov. 2004. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
2. Dittman, M. "Hughes's Germ Phobia Revealed in Psychological Autopsy." The American Psychological Association. The American Psychological Association, July-Aug. 2005. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
3. "Howard Hughes' Will." World of Forensic Science. 2005. As reproduced in HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2005. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
4. "Howard Hughes Estate Settled... After 34 Years." Living Trust Law Firm. The Law Offices of Jeffery G. Marsocci, PLLC, 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
5. Hudson, Kris. "GGP, Howard Hughes Heirs Settle Las Vegas Payment." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
6. World of Forensic Science, 2005.
7. Ibid.
8. Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2003. 231.Print

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Questioning the Bible

Jonathan Morrow may not be a name most people recognize, but the author of Think Christianity has shown that he is adept at taking front-line issues in defending the faith and making them accessible to a broad audience. He does this again in his latest work, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority. Here, Morrow delves into eleven common objections to the trustworthiness of not only the Biblical texts, but the general cultural understanding of the Bible as well, all written in a light, easy to understand style.

The book opens with a wonderful introduction addresses specifically to the Christian in the pew. Morrow sets the stage well as he notes that traditionally, pastors' sermons usually begin with the presupposition that the Bible is both accurate and authoritative. However, those concepts should not be so easily assumed, as the culture has become more and more secular, and therefore skeptical of those claims. In chapter one, Morrow next creates a broader foundation for his arguments by showing that faith may be built upon evidence, that the heroes of the Bible built their faith in just that way, and that we as modern Christians are also commanded to provide reasons for our own faith.

Once the foundation is established, Morrow moves into the question of the historicity of Jesus and the historical nature of the Gospels themselves. The former topic is key as the "Jesus as myth" movement many atheists propose seems to be gaining ground today, particularly via spurious Internet sources. Chapters 4 through 6 focus on the collection of texts that make up our New Testament, first showing that the Gospel accounts were chosen neither frivolously nor, as books like The Da Vinci Code would assert, to advance a certain political agenda. Morrow discusses the problem of forgeries that were identified and then shows why the biblical gospels cannot be considered forgeries themselves. H ends this section by showing why the modern New Testament text itself is a reliable copy of what the original authors wrote.

Once the biblical texts are confirmed accurate, the next question would be do they match with reality? While we may have the original texts, that doesn't mean they tell the truth or are giving us real knowledge. Morrow now answers these objections in the next three chapters, which deal with claims of Biblical contradictions, the claim that the Bible is unscientific, and the charge that the Bible is prejudiced or backwards compared to our modern morality. The last two chapters are reserved for issues focused on Christian application of the scriptures.

Overall, the book offers some really great tools to help the reader not only understand but implement the content. Chapters are short and the content is broken up by subheadings every page or two, creating bite-sized ideas that are easy to take in. There are not a lot of illustrations, however every chapter is summarized at its end with its "three big ideas", tips for how you can explain the main points of the chapter within a conversation, as well as a couple of resources that allows the student to dig deeper into that chapter's topic.

One key point is that there are three appendixes at the back of the books, which could really be three additional chapters. While not really fitting into the main scheme of questions that challenge the Bible's authority, they still touch on key issues that help establish the Bible as the authoritative word of God. While the writing style is conversational and friendly, each chapter is properly sourced, with the footnotes found at the back of the book.

As Morrow notes in his last appendix, today's youth are not taking the Bible as seriously as previous generations. Because of the growing secularization of the culture, the anti-institutional attitudes that pervade the younger generation, and the increasing onslaught of skeptics and atheists, Christian kids today have more confusion about the authority of Scripture than ever before. Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority goes a long way in quelling those doubts and reestablishing why trust in the Bible is a rational position to take. Morrow has given the church a gift in this book. I recommend it highly for youth groups, personal study, or simply general edification. You may be surprised—it could even answer questions you didn't know you had.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Debunking 'Bible Secrets' Television Shows

Every year before Christmas and Easter, the media turns to stories about religion to try and boost their audiences. Like clockwork, the History Channel has just begun a series titled "Bible Secrets Discovered". This is the latest in a genre (including "The Bible's Buried Secrets," "Jesus Family Tomb" and others) that seeks to publicize some novel scriptural understanding that undermines the Bible's credibility. Are their charges true?

Below is a four-part audio series plus a two page downloadable PDF outline where I show how these 'Bible Secrets' shows engage ins a bit of misdirection to achieve their goals. More P.T. Barnum than true scholarship, when examining the facts thoughtfully, one can quickly see why these shows present an emperor who has no clothes.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Should the Gospel accounts be taken as history or as propaganda?

Should the Gospel accounts be taken as history or as propaganda? Many skeptical textual critics have treated the gospel accounts as guilty of being unreliable historically simply because the main message is religious in nature.  Is this a fair way to treat the documents?  Are the Gospels guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty? Dr. Craig L. Blomberg comments on where the burden of proof should lie when assessing the historical truthfulness of of the Gospels.

"Once one accepts that the Gospels reflect attempts to write reliable history or biography, however theological or stylized their presentations may be, then one must immediately recognize an important presupposition that guides most historians in their work. Unless there is good reason for believing otherwise, one will assume that a given detail in the work of a particular [ancient] historian is factual. This method places the burden of proof squarely on the person who would doubt the reliability of a given portion of the text. The alternative is to presume the text unreliable unless convincing evidence can be brought forward in support of it. While many critical scholars of the Gospels adopt this latter method, it is wholly unjustified by the normal canons of historiography. Scholars who would consistently implement such a method when studying other ancient historical writings would find corroborative data so insufficient that the vast majority of accepted history would have to be jettisoned."

Blomberg, Craig L. Historical Reliability of the Gospels.
(Downers Grove, Il.: IVP Academic, 2007). 304.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
Check out more X