What Were the Disciples Saying About Jesus Prior to Writing the Gospels?

Last weekend I had the great honor of speaking several times at Southern Evangelist Seminary’s National Apologetics Conference. The highlight of my time there (aside from hanging out with my dear friends, Frank and Stephanie Turek) was the panel discussion where I joined Gary Habermas, Ted Wright, Joseph Bergeron, and Bryant Wood to talk about the historicity and deity of Jesus. We discussed the transmission of the New Testament documents and the period of time prior to the creation of these documents. The Biblical eyewitnesses didn’t immediately write down their observations about Jesus. Following the resurrection, many years passed before the first Gospel was penned. In this “tunnel period” between the resurrection of Jesus and the authorship of the first Gospels, the eyewitnesses communicated their observations orally. What precisely were the disciples saying about Jesus prior to writing the Gospels? Were their oral statements consistent with the Gospel accounts? How can we determine what they said about Jesus? As it turns out, we have an evidential record of the earliest statements about Jesus. They’re embedded in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
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God and the Big Bang

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:3

We’re going to take you on a little journey, all the way back to the beginning of the universe. Before this beginning, nothing material existed because the universe didn’t exist. When people today—scientists, philosophers, poets, theologians, or ordinary folks— think about how it all began, they are at a disadvantage because they weren’t there. Nobody was. Which is why the all the theories about how the universe got going are just that—theories.

Scientists try to figure out how the universe began by the process of discovery and measurement. Philosophers and poets use logic and art to describe what might have happened. Theologians attempt to explain the beginning by going to Genesis, the Book of Beginnings. In the first verse in this first book of the Bible, in a statement that is both simple and elegant, this explanation for the origin of the universe is offered:

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Before Amen: Q&A with Max Lucado

In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child.

Max took some time to answer a few questions about his new book and the nature of prayer.

Q: Your new book, Before Amen, gives readers a simple way to incorporate prayer into their everyday life. But it’s more than just creating a prayer wish list for God, it’s about learning how to experience a heart connection with God.
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Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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How Christian Case Making Impacts the Convinced, the Opposed, and the Undecided

I spoke to a group of students at The Ohio State University on Monday evening at the request of their Ratio Christi chapter director, Eric Chabot. If you aren’t familiar with Eric’s work, you probably aren’t following my Twitter feed, where I feature Eric’s blog often. Prior to the event, I had dinner with Eric, Pastor Matt Rawlings (another Case Making warrior you need to follow) and the infamous Wintery Knight (a giant among Christian Case Making bloggers). We talked about the importance of Case Making and shared stories of our experiences online.

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God Is Amazing

Everything changes when you see God for how He really is.

A little more than 15 years ago, as the 1990s were coming to a close, Bruce Bickel and I wrote a book called God Is in the Small Stuff. We must have hit a nerve, because the book has sold more than a million copies.

Fifteen years ago the world was a much different place. The Christian life was easy. You could relax and rest in the knowledge that God was interested in every detail of your life. No matter what you were going through personally, you could count on God’s involvement.

How times have changed. Over the last 15 years there has been a generational shift, a culture shift, a technology shift, a global political shift, and a faith shift that no one could have anticipated. Today’s world is massively different than it was in the closing years of the twentieth century. For one thing, there’s more hostility towards God now than there was then. In the view of many people—including many Christians—God is no longer great and powerful. Instead, He is ineffective and rather weak.

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Addicted to Busy

We are all spread too thin, taking on more than we can handle, trying to do so much—almost as if we are afraid that if we were to take a moment of rest, we might discover that all our busyness is covering up an essential lack in our lives.

But God never meant for us to be so busy. God desires for us to have rest and peace. In Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul, Brady Boyd, lead pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, shows you how to live a life that embraces stillness and solitude, so you can find the peace that God wants for you.

Brady took some time to answer a few questions about his new book.

Q: This book reflects your own journey from “chaotic, busy living” to a more restful and rhythmic life. How bad was your own busyness addiction?

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Does God Condone Human Sacrifices?

“Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the Land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:1-2).

 

Difficulty: Does God condone human sacrifices?

 

Explanation: At the time of this event, Abraham’s pagan neighbors sacrificed their children to their gods. On the surface it appears that God used his authority over Abraham and commanded him to do something that violated God’s own standard of morality. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

 

First, it is clear in other passages of Scripture that God is opposed to human sacrifices. “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). Repeatedly he made it clear human sacrifices were forbidden (see Leviticus 20:23 and Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). It is actually clear from the text that God’s point is that he does not want child sacrifice. This is why the passage begins by saying that “God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1).
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Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus

Skepticism related to Jesus of Nazareth generally takes one of two forms: those who don’t even believe He ever existed, and those who acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but deny He is God. The case for the Deity of Christ is centered on the Resurrection, but there are many other cumulative circumstantial factors to consider. I’ve written quite a bit about the Deity of Jesus, and I’ve assembled these articles to help you make the collective case. All these resources are available as downloadable PDF files:

1. The Conception of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity:
Articles related to the Virgin Conception of Jesus

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How Christian Case Making Turns “Free Riders” Into “First Responders”

I’ve been part of a first responder family my entire life. I was born while my father was in the police academy and grew up during his law enforcement career. Prior to his retirement, I entered the academy and my son was born. He watched me serve as a first responder as he grew up and then entered the academy as well; he’s been serving as an officer for several years now. I’ve listened to the stories of first responders (or told my own) for the past fifty-three years. I’ve learned an important truth about law enforcement first responders. There are no “free riders” in a police patrol car. When two officers are working together in a unit, there are no passengers. Each has a job to do. The driver obviously guides the unit, decides where the tandem will patrol, and is responsible for safely navigating the car, even during incredibly tense and difficult situations. But the officer sitting in the passenger seat is just as active and engaged as the driver; he’s not just along for the ride. He’s responsible for all radio communications with the station, is primarily responsible for the reports written during the shift, and is often the best set of eyes in the unit. First responder “passengers” can teach us something about our lives as Christians.

If you’ve been a member of a local church for any period of time, you’ve probably noticed twenty percent of the members serve actively while eighty percent usually enjoy the benefits of this service (the old 20/80 principle). There are many “free riders” in the church who are willing to attend but don’t seem to be engaged in much more than this. Well, I want to confess something to you: I am now part of that eighty percent. With my speaking and writing schedule, I am seldom at home on Sundays and when I am, I am usually unable to help out at church. I often feel lucky to be there at all. And there’s something else you probably already know: the twenty percent who are working hard to help out with the weekly service may still be unengaged in what they believe as Christians. Even though they are working hard, they still may not know much about Christianity. You can be a “free rider” even though you appear to be working hard.

So, what makes the difference between those who are coasting and those who are engaged? How can “free riders” become “first responders”? It all comes down to case making. Let me return to the analogy of first responder “passengers” to make the point. These officers may look like they are along for the ride, but they have an important role to play, just like those of us who may appear to be sitting in church pews:

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